Painter of the mystical, otherworldly, sensual, and whimsical.

I'm a painter living and working in the beautiful finger-lakes region of Western New York State. I am also an avid gardener and nature lover, so the lush green rolling hills, gentle streams, and majestic lakes that surround my home in this world often appear in the fantasy worlds of my paintings.

Many of the pieces draw inspiration from folk tales, myths and legends. These "teaching tales" were what drew us together around our hearth-fires for centuries, and I believe those stories still carry power.

I enjoy looking at these ancient tales, through my eyes, and painting what I see, no matter if it's beautiful or disturbing. But what's more fun is when others can see those same paintings and find something within of value that speaks to their soul directly. I do not plan for this, but am honored when it happens, and, oh, yes, do love hearing about it every time that it happens. It reminds me that maybe we are not so different after all.

Glad to meet you, and please enjoy the paintings!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Have Yourself a Leyendecker Christmas

"Artists to Watch Out For" is one of the favorite things that I do for the Blogosphere.  It's my gift to the world, and my way of sharing historic and contemporary art and artists that I love but that you may not have seen in a standard college art class... and if there's one that says "20th Century Christmas," it's J.C. Leyendecker.

I'm not alone.  When fellow painter and blogger Clinton T. Hobart listed his favorite Christmas illustrations, I saw three different Leyendeckers made the list, with one earning the added distinction: "one of my favorite illustrations ever." A realistic painter himself, Hobart writes, "J.C Leyendecker has always been my favorite for Holiday Illustration."

Leyendecker's impact on the Golden Age of Illustration is immeasurable.  His influence on the later Norman Rockwell is something often forgotten by history. Saturday Evening Post cover illustration was almost synonymous with this man until Rockwell followed in his footsteps.  The entire opus of his life's work includes over 300 covers for the Post alone...  Obviously, the holiday covers are a very small tip of a giant iceberg.

 This Flickr Collection is copyrighted, but enjoyable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


St Luke, Portia. "Clever Fox." 2008. Mixed media on paper. Original available.

"Has anybody here seen Kelly?" 
~ C.W. Murphy, (Music and Lyrics) 1908.

The husband opens the Yuletide cards from that day's mail.  The envelope is the nondescript "holiday red" of every card this season... but my eyes light up and I start giggling like an 8 year old chasing a Siberian Husky in a blizzard.  Husbeast looks at me.  The eyebrow ...happens.

"It's from Cookie!" I shriek.  Yes, I'm 8 all over again.

"How do you know.?"

"I'm psychic!  I always know!"

Eyebrow grows steely.

"IT'S A FOX!!!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

19 Acts of Kindness, plus one.

Image by Google Images

Yesterday, I had the joy of sharing a great find called "the Best Drug of All," by Craig Arthur James.  This gem is a beautiful reminder of the subtle power to be found within arms reach, every day, through the simplest acts of kindness.  I love this stuff.

Let me put it in perspective:  it's so cold outside that the air feels like a thousand tiny knives stabbing into your flesh, and you know the only way to make them stop is to get someplace warm.  The commute to work can be deadly if you haven't practiced the skill of driving on slick roads.  The dark feels endless, and spring is only a promise held in the heart.  Depression kills. So, yes, I love this stuff, not only because I'm a sap and a romantic, but also because it gives me hope and a little extra faith in humanity.  "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt (att.)  

Maybe an angel knew that I needed just a little extra encouragement today, and so these 19 more ways to light that candle found their way to me.  So much joy and love!  Does the cold and dark of mid-winter bring you down, too?  Maybe you'll find a way to smile (and send ripples of happiness out to others around you!) with these 19 Peculiar Acts of Kindness by Tanya Lee Markul.  For a nice, even 20, please, for me, encourage others to do the same, and keep it going.

Remember the umbrella story from the Best Drug of All, and understand that compersion (ie: joy because of another person's joy, or sorrow over another's sorrow) is part of what ties us together as a human tribe. Why keep this precious gift to yourself?  It's not limited, it will neither wear out nor deplete with repeated use. In order to light a candle for another, one was lit for us first. Each lights the next. When enough glow together, the collective power can light and warm an entire church. I've seen it, felt it, and it's still magical to me.

It's as magical as human compassion... or two umbrellas, in the right hands, on a rainy day.  Now it's your turn. Keep it going!  

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best Drug of All

Artwork by Ralph Solonitz

Give a man with a warm soul, like Craig Arthur James, two umbrellas, and the miraculous will happen. His short story, "The Best Drug of All," published at Screwball Universe City, reminds me of the goodness to be found in the simplest deeds, often within arms reach. Being a superhero or a miracle worker so rarely requires powers beyond those of mortal men. Sometimes, it's something as simple as an umbrella on a rainy day.

To love is to be vulnerable

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
~ C.S. Lewis
For more love, and 21 Lessons They Didn't Teach You in School, check one hell of an entertaining online creative hub, "celebrating the Art of Being Alive," Rebelle Society.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Well-earned Salute to Pin-Up Art

Above: Illustration by WWII-era French pin-up artist Romain Hugault,
for Michael Malak's forthcoming collection of pin-up art, "Wings of Angels". 
The is Model Caitling Litzinger.

My thanks to 
Dennis Coppinger for sending this one my way.  Facebook's "the Pinup Files" is a real treat for fans and collectors of pin-up art. I love the vintage, but was so thrilled to see the top-notch work from contemporary artists  Authentic, well-done... With an aesthetic that grew out of the era before silicon and special effects. This is how I imagine the ideal "Venus..." What a great collection! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Wisdom of St. Therese

My kind-hearted neighbor, bottle-feeding rescued kittens in the Spring of 2013.

"There is no artist who does not like his work praised, and the Divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not stop at the exterior, but penetrating even to the inmost sanctuary which He has chosen for His dwelling, we admire its beauty."~St. Therese de Liseux, ie: Theresa, "of the Little Way," Story of A Soul, Chapter I

Great video: God's Gonna Cut You Down (The Boondock Saints)

"What's done in the dark will be brought to the light..." ~Johnny Cash

"And Shepherds we shall be, for Thee, my Lord, for Thee."

"Do not kill, do not rape, do not steal. These are principles which every man of every faith can embrace." ~Boondock Saints

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Love for John Donne's "Broken Heart"

Poet and satirist John Donne, a contemporary of William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, is a long-time personal favorite. I feel his work has an intensity that remains unmatched to this day. This piece sings to me. 

The Broken Heart 
 He is stark mad, who ever says,
That he hath been in love an hour,
Yet not that love so soon decays,
But that it can ten in less space devour;
Who will believe me, if I swear
That I have had the plague a year?
Who would not laugh at me, if I should say,
I saw a flask of powder burn a day?

St. Luke, Portia. "Melancholia."
Ink on paper with digital color.
Ah, what a trifle is a heart,
If once into love's hands it come!
All other griefs allow a part
To other griefs, and ask themselves but some;
They come to us, but us Love draws,
He swallows us, and never chaws:
By him, as by chain'd shot, whole ranks to die,
He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry.
If 'twere not so, what did become
Of my heart, when I first saw thee?
I brought a heart into the room,

But from the room, I carried none with me:
If it had gone to thee, I know Mine would have taught thine heart to show

More pity unto me: but Love, alas,
At one first blow did shiver it as glass

Yet nothing can to nothing fall,
Nor any place be empty quite,
Therefore I think my breast hath all
Those pieces still, though they be not unite;
And now as broken glasses show
A hundred lesser faces, so
My rags of heart can like, wish, and adore
But after one such love, can love no more.

~ John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Go outside, look at the sky!

Imagine if you got a call from a buddy to check the sky outside...
I'm so glad they took pictures.
For more photos from this amazing experience, click here.

Artist to watch out for: Rogan Brown.

Above: Brown, Rogan. "Seed."

Artist to watch out for: Rogan Brown.  Yes, I can enjoy the "wow" of the intricate layers of cut paper that Rogan Brown uses, but his work has its own power that shines through.  For me, this is evocative design at its finest and the non-representational as it should be: pure form shows that it can compel the imagination, without declaring itself to be anything more than shape, line, depth, repetition... humble cut paper, and so much more. MSN compiled this great slide-show collection, with still more joy to be found at the artist's website, "Paper Sculptures."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Counsel for the Sincere Seeker

Hear, grown woman, the child in your eyes
just put the skipping rope down.

Hear, grown man, you put this serious mask just yesterday on.
With respect for the inspiration of the ancestors,
I say this only once,

for we should never meet each other like this again.
This is a dream! An illusion.
The self you assume you are is a dream image.
A clear distinct personality.
Just as the movie star projected in shimmering light on the silver screen, you, too, are a projection.
The light of a star exploded long ago in time of yore, the movie star long gone.
Walk out of the cave of Plato, leave the movie theater.
I know !!… It is a captivating movie, one you do not let go.
But the captivity that binds you is as illusionary as the movie.
Lose yourself in the movie,
become one with it and discover that your illusion consists of pure suffering.
Just as a table is made of wood, your dream is made of suffering.
O, sincere seeker, through the whole world you find monks, nuns, beggars, and hermits
who jingle bells, beat drums and gongs, blow horns, and cry out to wake us up.
To warn us that our illusion consists of pure greed, of burning passion for suffering.
Forget, forget your illusion, turn around, turn back to the place woven for the time.
Wake up, break the endless confusion that men teach each other.
Eternity is now, and now is eternity.
Hereafter does not exist.
There is only the eternal and forever lasting moment of now.
An egoless now, no I to attach to it.
Who, what, where you are or should you be.
What would you do with a self?
Ah, to give a name, confirm, affirm, captivate, and try to affix the illusion.
~And that is an illusion indeed!~

Zen has become a comfort, in the way that the rhythmic praying of the rosary was before.  Allowing time for daily meditation has allowed my mind the time to find stillness, without judgement or criticism.  Zen never denies God's grace, and never ridicules me for feeling "the deep magic" (~ C.S. Lewis) as an undeniable force in my life. All it asks is for me to release that, if only for now, and allow it to rest. In this, the deep magic can live alongside a deep peace.  I don't need to be the ideal of enlightened perfection... Like raku pottery or lovingly mended kintsugi ceramics, the irregularities that critics condemn as flaws are cherished because of the unique beauty they add and the story they tell.

Irony or paradox, but while Zen allow joyful acceptance of my own truth, it prevents hanging too much identity on it.  Whether I see myself as that intentionally imperfect raku pot, warped before I was ever fired, or the ["sweetly broken"][] kintisugi, Zen reminds me perception is limited and distorted to the point that it might as well be complete illusion.  There may be no "imperfection," at all... or each of us might be a hot mess. What matters is that it does not matter."Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." - Richard Bach
"Convictions create convicts." ~ R.A. Wilson

Meditation is a daily practice, minutes to learn and a lifetime to perfect, but I am enjoying the journey.  

Daihonzan = Head Temple (of) Suiren-Ji = the Soto Zen school where this was written.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kittens, and their use in Repelling the Devil

A kitten is licking my face.

My eyes aren't open yet, but I know it's morning. I also know it's going to be a bad brain day. Hold perfectly still, don't move, don't twitch, wake up slowly, take stock of every sensation. My mind is screaming, but, apart from a snoring husband, the giant cat sleeping between us, and the tiny face-licker, nobody else is here... nothing threatening, anyway...  It's safe to move. Move slowly.

I stretch. Giant sleeping cat stretches, too, and snuggles further into me. Does he know it's a bad brain day? Can he feel, maybe smell, the chemicals that nature already released inside my skull? Is that why he's here? Not important right now. Open your eyes, dammit. Breathe deeply. You're stronger than your biochemistry. Ask yourself, “What do I have to do today?”

Not fail. Not completely fail. At Life.

The devil pulls the chair out from my drawing table and sits down. He looks pretty comfortable.

“Just here to help,” he says “You're planning out your day, and that's being productive, healthy and functional. My friend, you're trying to take control of that brain before it takes a hold of you. So, what would you say 'not fail' includes?”

Rectify all of my past wrongs, accomplish everything today that I need to accomplish, and anticipate everything that could go wrong in the future so that nothing ever will. Today. By the end of today. Yes, that's what the world would expect.

The Devil slowly lights a cigarette. “What if you fail at this, too?”

My brain shudders like it's been hit by a blast~wave, and I close my eyes. Of course I'll fail at this... but my mind is on fire, and there is no sense of reason. All I know is that I have to fix everything in the world, today, right now, and, dammit, it's just not possible.

I never want to open my eyes again.

I keep my eyes closed, but it's too late. The other fuzzballs have seen movement. They know they can play with me, and, with feline-single-mindedness, attack my face in licking and purring. Do they know it's a bad brain day? Could they tell before I opened my eyes, like I could?

They're still licking my face. I can't concentrate on anything else. This is perfect, since the Devil hates to be ignored. (Pride...) Focus on the kittens, you can do this. Nothing else really matters right now. This is pure joy. Know that even if you feel that you've failed everybody else in the entire world, you saved the lives of each of these tiny fuzzballs, and watched them grow into beautiful young cats who see you as the source of all love and safety in the world.

You. Yes, you, right now.

Gently displacing kittens, I sat up and put my feet on the floor. Lying in the muddle of the open doorway into the hall was my copy of  the Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle.

I looked at the kittens, now jumping off of the bed and racing each other to the door. They're known for moving stuff, but it's usually hair-ties and favorite toys, not books. Besides, kittens can't read. Pure coincidence. Coinci-Dance? Synchronicity? Does it matter, if the message is good? Take what works, throw the rest out.

The Power of Now is a favorite book, but maybe I need to remind myself of the book's message; maybe read it again. I can't atone for everything in the past, nor can I possibly anticipate everything in the future. I can not possibly accomplish everything that I would, ideally, want to accomplish, in one day. I can only handle one day, and that's today, one moment at a time. I can handle Now, and, right now, that's going downstairs and making sure these little creatures have everything they need.

I'm the source of all love and safety in the world, remember? I've never failed them. They believe.

This is the power of unconditional love. While I may never completely understand the science behind it, a pile of kittens is one of the best tools in my toolbox for fighting a bad brain. A wise, kind woman told me once, “If God is love, animals are angels.”

Yes, I just repelled the Devil with the power of kittens... The anxiety and self-loathing that pulls us away from the unconditional love in the heart of the universe was sent away because, right here, right now, none of that matters. A stupid idea, if it works, isn't stupid. Holy water? I suppose, from a certain point of view, all life is mostly water. The most sacred holy water is the blood flowing through a beating heart that lives because of you and loves you completely. Purr on, little brothers and sisters. Lick my face every morning for the rest of your life. You're a gift from something greater than myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Lavender Bush

An unseasonably warm afternoon in an unseasonably warm October meant that I had a perfect day for transplanting a few treasured garden plants into containers.  When gardening became much more than a hobby, I felt it was OK to openly admit it's therapy. Non-gardeners may not understand why I feel pride in a lavender bush.  Lavender is slow-growing, and can be fussy, but years of love and care allowed it to grow into the beauty it is today.

It's possible for lavender to survive, and even thrive, in a container, if cared for properly.  I'm the sort of plant geek that views this as a challenge, and the possibility of having a container of lavender growing indoors is too good to pass up.  Indoor container gardens have added cheer to many long winters up here in the Great Lakes, so I'm not a stranger to growing things in flower pots (as well as recycled plastic bottles and yogurt tubs, as needed.)   Urban gardening means making the most of what you have, and I've seen enterprising souls create truly ingenious solutions.

Part of this, though, speaks to a more urgent need:  mobility.  The modern economy has created a class of techno-gypsy, and sometimes you need to pull up stakes, without much warning.  The old tribal dreams of  a family plot of land with an herb garden or an idyllic farmstead become something that must be grasped loosely.  We do not know that "this land" will be our children's children's for ten generations to come.  It's a rare family that could guarantee it for the next five.

Yet, some ancient part of us needs to touch the earth, and to see one season follow the other.  We need to know that there is continuity so that we can have belief that life will continue.  Without that, hope looses plausibility.  We do, in fact, need to "put down roots," if only so that we can be reassured, every spring, that the blossoms will come back.  Thankfully, humanity invented clay pots, so that roots and the life they generate can be carried, moved, protected, and allowed to grow wherever it needs to.  While Mother Nature has a lot of great ideas, I really have to give some credit to human ingenuity.

Were we meant to live with the constant uncertainty of modern life any more than lavender is meant to live in a container?  A better question is can we.  The best answer I can give is, "Some can do it better than others, some break and die, but many have thrived."

200 million years of emotional life can't be denied.

Has anybody noticed it's much easier to paint when you have no desire to go near to a computer? Right now, the outside world is a scary place, and computers are windows (HA!) to the outside world. Like most mammals, I react to panic by withdrawing further into my own social unit.

Paint is comfortable and happy, and my friends know how to avoid my triggers, meaning the things that we already know will set me off. This is great for managing times of stress. Experience has taught that a great thing for times of stress is avoiding, triggers, For example, I already understand that the compulsively following the 24-hour news cycle can lead to the sort of weird, compulsive, anxiety-ridden behavior of an addict, and, frankly, there are people who are paid far more than I am for those migraines.

Knowing that this is not my problem, and understanding that it's OK to step away from the monitor, is a powerful tool for controlling stress. I love all of you. Children of Earth, please work this out. You are above my pay-grade.

The most amazing thing I have learned this week was just how significant emotion is in our thinking process, once we really analyze the brain on the meaty-bits level. The science of the brain is a favorite "geek" of mine, but I understand not everybody shares it, so let me just give a link. This article by Stephen T. Asma has given me a great deal to think about.

The animal/ emotional part of our brains is much bigger, older, and more powerful than we tend to give it credit for. Vastly.

"After you spend time with wild animals in the primal ecosystem where our big brains first grew, you have to chuckle at the reigning view of the mind as a computer" ~Stephen T. Asma 

By giving myself larger blocks of time intentionally away from the computer and the possibility of news and its constant panic, I can reduce stress. By allowing myself a larger block per day to just do what I love and paint, I increase joy. By doing both, I can give myself an immeasurable gift. I'm not sure if I can stay with it, but I am willing to keep an open mind.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

For the women who are difficult to love

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

by Warsan Shire
(for more of her work, please click here!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Schizophrenic who Painted Cats

Finding Louis Wain has been my "You Are Not Alone" of the week. 

Louis Wain's deeply fascinating life and resulting body of work provide a surprisingly intimate view into the perceptions of the schizophrenic mind.  Remember, he lived between 1860 and 1939, in an era when the study of psychiatry was in its infancy. However, watching the progress of his life's work is to watch the process and "degeneration" of the mind that results from this "chronic mental disorder."

His early work is remarkably realistic.  Whimsical., creative, and fun, yes, and, to a point, these are "realistic" cats... or, at least, recognizable as cats by the average child.  Since childrens' books show cats behaving as human beings, I won't say that "furry art" is strange. In addition, "Reynard the Fox" appeared in English literature in 1481, so I can't even claim that Louis Wain invented this.

Above: "Katzenklub" by Louis Wain

According to the website End of the Game, "Wain was always fascinated by cats, but when his wife was diagnosed with cancer, he started drawing them in silly situations to amuse her. His drawings grew in popularity and were featured on greeting cards and in magazines and newspapers. Life was good, that is until his wife died of said cancer and he started to lose control of his mind."

Above: "Snow" by Louis Wain

Current research shows that a schizophrenic usually doesn't truly "loose their mind" because of a specific incident.  It's a more reasonable guess that Louis' earliest symptoms begin manifesting in adolescence. According to the Mayo Clinic, "In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the teens or 20s. In women, schizophrenia symptoms typically begin in the 20s or early 30s. It's uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than 45."

Put bluntly, by 45, the symptoms have become noticeable a long time ago.  These days, if you're a schizophrenic, I'd really like to hope somebody has noticed and begun to get you the help you need before age 45.  Given how much more bearable life can be with the right mix of lifestyle changes and good meds, I'd like to hope anybody with this could get help as soon as possible.  However, this was a different era, so Louis wasn't actually diagnosed until 57.  
 The chances that there was an "onset of his disease at 57," are highly unlikely.  Looking at the work that was created before that diagnosis, I feel it's possible, even easy, to see beginning to show that slow slide long before he was actually diagnosed.

Above: "Katzen 1" by Louis Wain
Below: Louis Wain's images as they are frequently presented in psychology text books.

This is the point where psychologists become interested, and both psychology textbooks and the internet abound with images of Louis Wain's "schizophrenic cats."  Popular history tells us that he believed he was just painting cats until the end of his life.  End of the Game's article, "Schizophrenic Cats," is a good, short read, even if I feel their understanding of schizophrenia is limited.

It's been so wonderful to look at the world that through the eyes of Louis Wain. What he left behind feels like a note from the universe telling me, "You aren't the first person to feel this way, and you won't be the last. He looked into the void and saw this.  Imagine what you can do."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Upcoming Show: Rochester Erotic Arts Festival (REAF)

Above: "Wrapped." by Portia St. Luke 2003. (Pen and ink.)
One of the pieces invited to be displayed at the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival

The good news is that I've been invited to have three pieces displayed at the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival (April 5-6, Rochester, NY). This international juried exhibition, now in its fourth year, seeks out “high quality original works that are creative, erotic and thought-provoking.”

I loved being part of the experience last year, and I loved reading this reviewer's take on last year's exhibit.

The pieces that are selected for the coming exhibit include "Astarte," "AutumnFairy," and “Wrapped.”  My deepest gratitude to Graeme Fletcher for his help and “hand-holding” in what was a very intimidating process. His experience in the art world and consummate professionalism were invaluable. I couldn't have done this without him.

Do you want to be part of the party? The "Hotel REAF discount" is available through March 25th for $109 per night, plus state and local taxes (currently 14%). [Click here for more information.]

Even if you are not near the Rochester, NY area, and have no way to be able to make it to this festival, virtual hugs to all of you who sent love and great advice. I read through all of it (even if I did not respond to each one individually.) The encouragement I've received from the community here has really allowed me to have the confidence to try taking my work as, specifically, as an erotic artist to another level, and I'm grateful to each of you who has played part in that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Gospel of Thomas

When you click on the links in the article, they brings you to transcripts of both "the Gospel" and "The Acts" of Thomas.  The gospel isn't really much longer than a pamphlet, and the entire "Acts of" wouldn't stretch longer than a novella. Given the amount of trouble and controversy this legendary Gnostic text has generated across the last 2000+ years, it seems to me to be fairly light reading.

The Kingdom of God is within You - Luke17:21: The Gospel of Thomas in Aramaic / Syriac, 37 AD