Skip to content

Posts from the ‘People Who Inspire’ Category

What Are You Reading?

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

Do you sometimes find yourself in a book slump?  You could have a truckload of books at your disposal, but just can’t seem to find the right one?

That was me at the end of this summer.  I was stuck in a rut and searching for a good book to pull me out of it, but nothing seemed to work.  What I often find, after these slumps have passed, is that I discover a multitude of books to feed my craving.  Then the problem becomes finding time to read them.

Currently, I have a rotation of three wonderful books on my nightstand, each very unique and satisfying.  If I could read them all at once, I would!

The Road to Wellville

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle

The first is T.C.Boyle’s The Road to Wellville.  I really enjoy this author.  He has a dry wit about him, and I often imagine him telling the story with a wink.  His stories lean towards exaggeration and sometimes fall into the extreme.  (I’ve also read his book Tortilla Curtain, which has more of a social justice slant, but was equally satisfying in it’s extremism.)

This novel tells the story of the real life character, Dr. John Harvey Kellog, best known as the creator of cornflakes; but in this novel it appears as if he would rather people remember him as the purveyor of healthy living.

It centers around his Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI, which he runs with precise attention to detail using his holistic methods of nutrition, enemas, and exercise.  Many of his methods are highly experimental, and his vegetarian concoctions are enough to drive any Vegan back to carnivorism!

There are a cast of quirky characters surrounding him:  a married couple who attend the sanitarium and begin to stir up trouble, as well as a group of “gentlemen” who arrive in Battle Creek to promote their new breakfast cereal, backed by Dr. Kellog’s estranged son, George- who is up to no good!

T. C. Boyle’s novels are like riding a roller coaster.  They begin with a series of wild twists and turns, followed by a gripping climax and free-falling ending.  I must admit, I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but from all the book reviews I’ve read, it promises to be quite a ride!

What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz

Next on my nightstand is the nonfiction title What are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz.

The author is a former board director of the Tate Gallery in London, and now a commentator for the BBC.

I find his take on art refreshing, not stuffy and pretentious like many art history books I’ve read.  The author is a little geeky (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and academic, but his tone is friendly and he seems to revel in showing us all the hidden nooks and crannies of the modern art world.

There is a plethora of art, artists, and the stories behind them crammed into this novel.  I would hate to be a student forced to remember it all.  But I’m not, and therefore can let it all run through my brain, grasping at interesting bits and pieces.  (Which are abundant!)

What I have been enjoying the most is how he ties everything together.  He gives brief historical references and reveals how the artists are interconnected; what the artwork meant to that moment in time and how it is still relevant today.

My copy also has full-color plates of some of the art mentioned throughout the book.  I’m glad I decided not to buy it on my Kindle!

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed sinking my teeth into the historical novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  It feeds into my obsession with the English and, in particular, the fascinating King Henry the VIII!  (Are you like me?  Have you streamed the BBC miniseries, The Tudors?  Love.)

This is one of the most well-written books I’ve read in a rather long time.  I feel as if the author is weaving a tapestry as she writes.  The characters slowly begin to emerge with each scene, in rich threads of dialogue, innuendos, and description.  Yet, the author is very cunning and only bestows enough to leave one wanting more.

That, coupled with the fact I know some of the history behind the characters and their eventual demise (i.e.: when King Henry falls madly in love with Anne Boleyn, I know it won’t end well!) makes this a page-turner!

That this novel is written from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell makes it even more fascinating.  Thomas Cromwell, you may recall, became one of Henry VIII’s closest confidants and a devious conniver of the royal court.  He started off as the son of a blacksmith, so his journey to prosperity is quite captivating; and Hilary Mantel’s portrayal of his developing talents and skills to become so powerful is masterful!

Ahh, how I love to read!  Yet often I only manage to squeak in a few pages at the end of the day.  I need a book club where everyone gets to read what they want, dishes out recommendations, and keeps each other accountable.  (i.e.: makes sure we are all reading!)  Would you like to join it?

What are you reading and what is your favorite book from the past 6 months?  (and what is it about?)  I’d love to hear your book recommendations and add them to my list.  Perhaps I can prevent my next book slump from happening!

Have an Engaging Week!

Music Transforms My Art And Soul

Led Zepplin's Thank You

Drawing based on the song Thank You by Led Zepplin- from my 365 music project.

The other day I had a hankering for some REM

I discovered REM in high school.  They were my 1st concert, and there is something sacred about attending your first concert. (Being dragged by your parents to a Engelbert Humperdink concert doesn’t count!)

I spent a glorious morning painting my son’s room while listening to old REM songs (never quite got into their later music after the Monster album), reminiscing about high school, and my 1st few years of college.

REM will always remain close to my heart for being there for me in those formative years.  They will always transport me to another time and place.

365 drawing based on the song Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede

365 drawing based on the song Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede

Music can also transport me to a place I’ve never been.  Yesterday I went for a run and allowed my music to randomly select itself.  (Which meant there were a few Christmas songs in the mix * Mental note- take Jingle Cats off my playlist!)  Solea, a Miles Davis song from his Sketches of Spain album began to play.

In my mind it was a hot, sultry night in a spanish hacienda, and an old romance story was playing itself out.  I’m not sure of the characters or what was happening, but I could definitely see a Frida Kahlo sort of woman with dark hair piled high on her head and ruby red lips.

The trumpet was intoxicating and nuanced.  Miles Davis wielded his trumpet as an artist paints with a brush.  Amazing, what a great musician can do with an instrument!

It actually wasn’t the best song to run to,  but I’ll give it a pass since the music filled my mind and soul.

You Tube of Miles Davis playing Solea from the Sketches of Spain Album

This past June I began a new 365 project.  In attempt to keep my creativity flowing, even through the dry periods when I’m unable to paint (Like much of the summer while the kids were home!), I decided to attempt a drawing a day based on a song I’m listening to.

While I can’t say I’ve been consistent (aka: not daily like I had hoped), my sketchbook is slowly filling and I’ve found this exercise to be quite freeing.  It also gives me an excuse to listen to music.  Really listen.

What I’ve found is that I’ve been given a deeper appreciation of musicians as artists and my artwork has become a sort of tribute to their work.  I’m not sure if my art is what they imagined as they play (if they imagine art as they play?), but it sure has meaning to me.

Audioslave's Be Yourself

365 drawing based on the song Be Yourself by Audioslave

Every color, line, or dash I create pertains to something I’ve heard or felt as I listen.  The swoops, the circles, and the scribbles correspond to a repetitive measure, a soft refrain, or a loud, raging line to a song.

The best thing about this exercise is that I feel disinhibited as I draw.  No one needs to see them unless I choose to share.  (I do share every once in awhile, especially on my Instagram account.)

Cure's Boys Don't Cry

A 365 drawing based on the song, Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure

Music has become another vehicle to express myself, even though I am not a musician.  It continues to transport me and inspires my creativity.  It strikes a nerve within me (a reference to an old blogpost on music) and I am grateful to use the gift of sound to feed my art.

How does music feed your soul?  What song transports you to another place and time?

Have a Harmonius Week!

Evolution of a Painting: Banyan Tree Series- Part 1

References for Banyan Tree Paintings

Drawings and Photos that went into creating my Banyan Tree Paintings- Shown here as a work in progress

Its been waaaaay too long since I’ve shared my painting process!

I should know since it has been way too long since I’ve actually been able to paint.  But not for long- 1 more week until the kids are back to school!!

Once that happens, I may have to go into hibernation to create more work and catch up on my business.  Don’t worry, I’ll leave you with my Banyan Tree series.

I’ve decided to break this post up into 2 parts.  Part 1 will be a is my trip to China last year (where I discovered Banyan Trees) and a crazy story that explains why I created a separate page on my website for archived posts from a previous blog.

I think I’ll start with the blog explanation first.  (Those of you that subscribe to my newsletter may have heard part of this story already- I hope you’ll stick around for the juicy bits!)

Not too long ago I had a blog on another, non-Wordpress site.  It was named after my one of my favorite artists, Marc Chagall.  I called it “The Flying C_____. ” (Except it didn’t have a ____ after the C!  There is a reason I am being careful about repeating his name, as you shall see..)  He was an early modernist artist and his style and use of colors had been a large influence on my art up to that time.

Screen Shot of The Flying hippo

A Screen Shot of my previous blog with a name change to prevent any more legal trouble.

I had created my previous blog while I was in the process of rediscovering my creativity and forging my art career.  This was a very exploratory period for me, and my blog reflected it.  It began with many starts and stops, but as time went on, I became more confident and my blog started to reflect it.  I even began to gather a small but loyal following.

That all changed one day when I received an email from a law firm in Paris, representing the artist’s family, asking me to Cease and Desist from using my blog title and domain.

Once I verified that this was for real, I was caught with two emotions.  A part of me was flattered that I was singled out by the The Artist’s family (Chagall passed away in 1985) and part of an international exchange.  I was honored to be contacted by them, even though I knew I was a peon, just getting in their way.  I couldn’t help but feel a little star struck!

The other part of me was frustrated.  There was no doubt in my mind that I would comply, but that didn’t change the fact that the blog name was on all my business cards and marketing materials.  Luckily, my business name had nothing to do with my blog name, or I would have been in real trouble!

Then there was the problem of what to do about my blog.

I could have just created a new blog on the same site and redirected everyone there, but I knew that I needed a website and it would only be logical to include a blog into that site.  My problem was, I had to give myself time to create a new website and blog- And I couldn’t publicly tell anyone why I was doing it because of the pending Cease and Desist!

So I stopped writing blog posts and attempted to lead my followers to my new website, which was still a work in progress (with construction dust flying everywhere!)  It was not the seamless transition that I had hoped for, but I did the best I could.

There is a point to this story– There were some darn good blog posts on that previous blog site, some of which I’d love to link to when I talk about certain topics.  (Like the Banyan Trees!) But these links are hard to do with a now blocked site.

But I think I’ve found a way.

I still have access to that closed site (Now called The Flying Hippo, to avoid any further confrontation!) and was able to carry over relevant blog posts to a new page on my current website called Archived Posts.  This is an imperfect process and I’m still working on the formatting, but if you read my blogposts: My Travels to the Other Side of the World and Back and Finding Inspiration in China you’ll understand why I felt they were important to my story.

Again, please excuse the appearance of these blog posts as I try and work out all the formatting bugs!

Banyan Tree on side of Railroad Tracks

In my previous blogpost, Finding Inspiration in China, I describe the fascination I have for Banyan Trees.

They’ll explain about my trip to China last summer and the Banyan Trees that I encountered there.  Then it will make much more sense next week when I explain my paintings based on them.

I hope you don’t mind the extra reading!

Join me next week as I delve into how I created my Banyan Paintings and what I envision for them in the future.  Also. let me know what you think about this crazy story and if you have any suggestions on how I could better link the 2 blog sites together.

Until then, Have an amazing week!

A Summer of Discoveries

Sunset over Rocks

Some say Fall or Spring is their favorite season (and a few even claim Winter!).  As for me, Summer is where my heart belongs.

I seem to feel much more alive and open in the summer- almost like a desert flower that blooms after the rainy season when all the conditions are ripe.  I feel more relaxed and exposed to experiences and discoveries that come my way.

So what have you discovered this summer?  I’m glad you asked!

1. People are fascinating.

I’m sure this is something I’ve already known, but its really begun to emerge these past few months.  I’ve bumped into a few extremely intriguing people lately and its made me hunger for more encounters like them.

I met a woman on my trip out West who was trying to climb the highest peak in every state. Recently, a fellow artist who photographs my work explained how he began an art exchange with a group in Japan.

Dartboard against orange wall

I met a fascinating woman at a local Irish Festival last weekend who shared her love of playing darts and how she met her husband at a competition.

I now realize why we were always one of the last families to leave after mass on Sundays, when my mother began talking to other parishioners. I have become one of those people. My children outwardly groan when they see me bump into a friend at a grocery store.

Sorry kids- people are just too fascinating. Hopefully you’ll understand someday!

2. Let go of expectations.

August has rounded the corner and I have only achieved a fraction of the projects I had planned for the summer.  Rather then let this eat away at me, I’ve come to a few realizations.

Getting ready to paint

The tarps are up and the hardware is down, yet I still haven’t painted the boys’ rooms.   Upate- Painting has begun!

I’ve realized that the reason things haven’t been achieved is that I’ve had a fun summer with the family.  We’ve swum, bowled, vacationed, visited local fairs and festivals, and eaten at open air restaurants.  We’ve done summer!

Isn’t that better then crossing all the to-dos off my list and missing out on all the fun?

But it hasn’t stopped me from feeling guilt for not crossing off those to-dos.  Next summer I think I’ll make a bucket list instead of a to-do list so that anything I accomplish will be a bonus!

3. Keep the creative gates open.

I’m in the post-vacation, pre-school mode and have had little time to be creative.  But this summer I have a lifeline.

I began a new 365 project in June. I vowed to create a drawing every day based on a song I was listening to. Have I succeeded? Not quite, but often enough so that it has become something I either do or at least think about doing every single day.

Drawing in my 365 music sketchbook

A drawing in my daily 365 sketchbook based on the song, Happy.

My paints will have to wait just a little while longer.  But at least I have my sketchbook to carry me through!

4. Connect.

I’m so glad I was able to see my sister (actually, my half sister) in Colorado while were we were vacationing out west. We actually hadn’t seen each other since our Dad died 3 ½ years ago! But It was a hurdle to make it happen. We had to dodge a few miscommunications and juggle our schedules.

Family gathering in restaurant

My sister’s 4 kids and my 3 made for a very rowdy reunion, but it was fun to reconnect!

Those 2 hours at the pizza parlor (driving the poor waitresses crazy with our combined 7 loud and rambunctious kids!) made a world of difference to our distant relationship. We were able to reconnect.

Just last weekend my brother and his family came up for a last minute visit. Again, connections were strengthened as the cousins romped around the backyard and the grown-ups caught up at the dining room table.

Family is a blessing. There are many differences among us, but blood is a powerful bonding agent!

5. Deadlines make things happen.

This seems counter-intuitive to letting go of expectations, but some things needed to get done this summer and deadlines made it happen.

In fact, the reason you’re able to read a new blog post from me just about every week (except when I snuck off on vacation!) isn’t because I always feel inspired to write. I wish it were the case and I’m sorry to say that it’s not! It is because I have a self-imposed deadline.

The same goes for just about everything else that I’ve managed to achieve this summer. I have good intentions, but unless I give myself a deadline, it doesn’t get done. It’s a fine line- relaxing expectations yet creating deadlines. I guess it all boils down to priorities.

A list of things to do on a computer

I recently discovered the program, Todoist, and love it’s versatility and simple format.


There are only a few weeks left before the kids go back to school and the summer season ends, at least in our household. My plan is to make the best of the time we have left and enjoy it to the last drop.

How about you? What discoveries have you made this summer?

Have an enchanting week and enjoy your summer while it’s still here!


Which books have chosen you?

The wand choosing Harry

The wand chooses Harry

I’ve been waiting for this moment for many years.

Both the boys have been disinterested.  I thought for certain one of them would come around to it.  But my youngest daughter has revealed her adventurous side and agreed…

to allow me to read Harry Potter to her!

We have only just begun our semi-nightly ritual of reading, side-by-side, under the covers by the dim light of her lamp. (I must change that bulb!)  Harry has just found out he is a wizard and is on Diagon Alley getting his school supplies to start at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tonight we read of the pageantry that is involved with choosing a wand.  Or rather, allowing the wand to choose it’s owner.  Fascinating! Of course, Harry’s wand is very unusual, made of holly and containing the feather of a rare phoenix bird.

As I tucked the kids in and came down the stairs to write this, I thought of those wands simultaneously with the books that I wanted to write about.  I wondered, what if there was a connection?  What if books chose the reader?

Of course, there really isn’t any magic involved to it.  But still, it often does seem like books find a way of reaching us where we’re at in life and revealing the truths beyond us.  Or maybe it’s just me.

But, just for arguments sake, let’s suppose that the books on my nightstand have chosen me.  What do they reveal?

Bill Bryson's, The Lost ContinentThe first book  is actually something I’m rereading from about 18 years ago.  It’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson.  There’s no denying it, I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan.  I discovered him as an expat living in London and at the time, he was too.  He wrote this book about journeying back to the states and I devoured it in a homesick stupor.

I chose to reread this book now because my family and I are about to go on a road-trip this summer and I wanted to prep for some of things we might come across.  But of course that’s not exactly what I’m getting out of it.

What I’m getting out of it is how he speaks of the memories of traveling in his youth.  He talks of going back to places he used to frequent and finding them changed.  I can relate.  I’ve moved around a bit and am always startled when my memories don’t match what I experience when I return.

He also reflects about his father, and how they would travel.  Funny stories of the frugal hotels they used to roll into and where they would make pit-stops.

It made me remember my own dad and how we’d make the trek from our home in Wisconsin to his home in Kentucky every summer after my parents divorced.  Now that my Dad has passed away I find myself scrutinizing each of my memories with him, and road trips were a big part of our time together.

Who could have guessed that the 40 year old me could have gotten a whole other layer of this book that the 20 year old me couldn’t?

This book chose me!

Ron Suskind's book, Life Animated

My Kindle version of Life Animated (along with T.C. Boyles, Tortilla Curtain- which is next on my reading list!)

Another book I just discovered is Life, Amimated: A story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism by Ron Suskind.  I had caught the tail end of an interview with the Pulizer- Prize winning journalist as he talked about this book on NPR.  I was intrigued and ordered it for my Kindle.

I was intrigued because I have a son with autism who is obsessed with Disney, just like the author’s son.  And, like the author, we have struggled to find ways of helping him to communicate beyond that narrow scope.

What I wasn’t prepared for when I began reading was how Disney permeated all the boy’s thoughts and emotions and yet, gave him another language in which to express himself.  The family used (and is still using) Disney to communicate with their son and allowing him to explore his feelings through it.

It made me wonder if this is an avenue we could further explore with our son.  We are patient in listening to him discuss Disneyworld and all the rides he wants to create for his own Disneyville (a Disney park he is proposing to build in Cleveland someday!), but do we use this language of his to delve deeper into his own psyche?  It’s hard to say.

Again, this book chose me!

I could keep going with the books that have reached inside and tugged at my soul, and maybe in the future I will.  But, for now I’ll leave you with those two recent examples.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  What books have chosen you?

Have a Wonder-filled Week!

%d bloggers like this: