Friday, January 29, 2010

kids helping kids (and you can too)

I've been busy this week making art to help the children of Haiti. No, not the new painting... my very talented brother-in-law Marc asked if I'd help design a CD for a benefit fundraiser for the Children of Haiti this Sunday in New York. Of course I said heck yes!

The benefit is called Kids Helping Kids. It's a family show, and looks like it's going to be loads of fun! The CDs will be available at the show at The Bowery Poetry Club on Sunday afternoon, January 31. If you are in the area and want to go, it certainly looks as though A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All. Check out all the acts and more details here.

Of course, me being me, I couldn't make just one version of the cover.... here's the one they chose, followed by the other two covers. I'm curious to know: which cover would make you most likely to buy it and donate money to kids in need?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last chance to see my watercolors at the library

There are only a few days left to get to the Westfield Memorial Library and see some fairies up close and personal! I'll be taking down all the artwork this weekend to let some other lucky artist hang her work up.

For those of you not in the area, the lovely people at the library graciously recorded a short movie so you can pretend you're there, having a walkthrough. Grab a book and settle in a comfy chair for the full effect.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Me and Mr. Spock

I've mentioned a mindshift for 2010 - and this year, I have a mascot.... more like a mentor. His name is Spock. Mr. Spock.

You see, this is the way I usually tend to process things:

I'm not even exaggerating here, I wish I was. So now, by thinking WWSD (What Would Spock Do?), instead of freaking out and completely losing it, I'm taking my cue from the pointy-eared one and will first process things with my head instead and let sheer logic consume the over-emotion I would normally react with.

My parents seem delighted with this (Dad thinks it's hysterical), but Paul was sort of horrified. "Don't you think you have to be careful not to swing too far the other way?" he cautioned. I shook my head at him. "Not possible."

And really, my hope is that the Spock-ness will tame the feelings-monster so that everything will even out more like this... (which on some reflection bears a strong resemblance to the flickr logo):

So now when I something goes amiss, instead of throwing up, I channel Spock. I do what needs to be done, explain to myself that I have done everything I can and there is no need to worry about it further, and busy myself with something else and put it out of my mind altogether. Do you think this would work for everyone? Heck no. But so far, it's working for me.

Live long and prosper, everyone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

one of those days

Hello, toasty ones. It's turning into one of those days, or possibly weeks. I do have good things to post, and I promise they're coming soon. Hang in there with me.

I leave you with this song, which has been in my heart all this week. Please give someone you love a big hug today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

painting for haiti relief (part one)

With everyone else in the world, I'm struck by the news from Haiti and the desperate desire to be able to do something, however small, to help. In the past, I've auctioned two new paintings for charity and donated all of the proceeds to help those in need. It's time to get out my trusty paintbrush again.

Here are three sketches - I know I want to paint something calm and peaceful, and to me trees show strength, safety, and stability. Right now I'm leaning towards sketch #2 but I figured I'd show a little bit of the creative process too.

Anyone else have a preference one way or the other?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

remembering Rich

It's been a year today since Rich died, and I think it's finally sinking in.

I started working for Rich fresh out of school, showing up for my interview in a grey suit and a magenta tshirt and hat, lugging the world's heaviest box portfolio. I wasn't sure if this was the job for me, since I was going to leave at any moment to become a puppeteer (note how that still has not happened), but Rich encouraged me to stick around and that we'd work around it when it came up.

I have never met someone who was as encouraging as Rich. Nothing would delight him more than to be someone's mentor, to pass along what he knew, to buy a print/hire someone/send you something out of the blue because it reminded him of you. When I sang in an a cappella group, not only did I get days off for gigs, but he set up a whole school assembly at his children's elementary school so we could sing there too. He bought artwork - mine and of other artists - to support them, and he pretty much had a standing order for my Christmas cards each year so he could send them out. Books and CDs would be sent to my house because they were written by someone with twins who lived in Rome, or because the singer loved Fred Astaire too, or because Rich was in a generous mood.

Rich was pretty much always in a generous mood - he didn't let people take advantage of him, but he always shared whatever he had. He started up PRI and it became so much more than a job - it was a family. (I am so proud to say that it still is.) He supported numerous charities - he wasn't the kind of person who would talk about helping. He just did it. He encouraged creativity like mad and if the company did well, it would always come back to you too.

Could he be infuriating and drive me up the wall at times? Of course! You don't know someone for 15 years and not have times like that. (In all fairness I'm sure I had my days too.) I'm thinking of one time in particular when he blithely told a client over the phone that I was a whiz at a program I had opened once. I was jumping up and down, waving my arms and signaling "No no no no no!" and he kept smiling and getting details about the project that would be due in two days' time. When he hung up the phone, I said, "Are you crazy? I can't do that!" and he said, "But of course you can! I have faith in you." And wouldn't you know it, it was done on time and it was great - but I never would have attempted it for myself without that shove.

Right before Rich died, we were gearing up for my 15 year anniversary at PRI. We had celebrated 5, and 11 (I think I was having the twins around 10) and he was gleefully planning something HUGE. As much as it pains me, I really do not like to be the center of attention and was known for running out of my own bridal shower in horror that it was all about me. He wanted to invite anyone we'd ever known together, and have a big celebration that I was really not comfortable with. One day I explained all of this to him, and he got sort of pouty. But the next day he was back to his old self. "I figured it out!" he said. "It's not going to be about you at all. It's going to be about me!"

"Oh really," I said. "And how do you figure that?"

"We will be celebrating my genius in hiring you 15 years ago!" And after that, it was referred to as "his" party, to his delight.

Except he wasn't able to be there for it. And my heart still hurts thinking about it.

I could write for days about great Rich memories. About things that made me laugh. (The clamp he put on his head. The cat he put on his head. "Crackers not part of soup! Pepper part of soup!") About how we would talk almost every single day. About how he would always say "love you, kiddo," because he wanted to make sure I knew. And I would say "love you right back" because it was so true. About how he'd been there for most of the biggest things in my life, and did whatever he could to make them special or easier for me (he even read at our wedding). About how much we both loved the Beatles and could go on and on about music we loved. About the big PRI weekend we had down the beach because he wouldn't take no for an answer and insisted everyone and their families go to LBI for the weekend so we could all be together.

And I could go on and on about the things that hurt. The anniversary party he wanted so much for me where I kept looking for him and could feel him there like a presence. The first client meeting without him where I sobbed the minute the door closed behind me when I was back home. Missing his birthday. Having the first-ever new hire at PRI who didn't know Rich, and was never going to get to meet him. The PRI holiday party where again, I felt him there and wished with all my heart he would physically be there with us. Looking at his Skype window and hoping he'd somehow IM me with some crazy video or song he had to share with me so we could sing it together.

The biggest comfort I felt after he died was that he knew how very much I loved him, because I told him all the time. :) And meeting people at the memorial service, people would say, "Oh, you're Elena? He loved you!"

I still love you, Rich. And don't think that's going to stop any time soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

music therapy

I haven't had much of a chance to write about the group I've been singing with for almost a year now. Yes, I hear you say - what? You've been in a group for a year and never thought to mention it? That's just how my life's been going lately. Not too many chances to write about lots of things, even if they are important.

Music's always played a very important part of my life. For a while, I was out of circulation (ahem - three kids in two years), and then was invited to come to sing harmony at whatever Mass I could make it to. And I did - with one baby on my hip and two hanging onto my pants legs - and then that sometimes got to be too much, too.

This past year, a friend of mine started up a small group at her house, of women from our church who were all (a) good singers/musicians (b) learned music quickly (c) happened to be moms with young kids, and as such (d) couldn't make any of the regular rehearsals for choir practices. There are five of us, with kids ranging from 18 months to preteen. Over the past year, we've gotten to be great friends and have gone from tentative arrangements from the hymnal to serious "wish list" music. One of the moms calls our weekly rehearsals "music therapy" and she's so right - it's such an amazing thing to sing again with fast learners who are always on pitch and up for a challenge! I've established my position as "the one who likes to sing the strange parts nobody else wants." :)

And that's why I'm so excited as we are approaching Lent again, to start lining up music we love. Godspell songs. This song from my folk group days - and it hasn't properly felt like Easter without it. And we've just started this one, which is so incredibly exciting to me because we can actually do it justice:

Here's hoping that if you are in a place of being on hold in your art right now - especially if it's because of family obligations - that grace is coming your way and you will be able to get back to it soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

a giraffe (and a half, to make you laugh)

Continuing the reveal of finished Christmas paintings, Angela's giraffe and baby. Eating leaves, as per her art direction, she was very firm on that.

I've enjoyed painting giraffes in the past... check out this one and this one (both on paper bags, for some reason).

(Throwing this into the Illustration Friday queue as well for "Wilderness". Hi i-Fri-ers!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

it's like lightning

I've been super-remiss on posting the in-progress paintings as I went along, but once it got to crunch time, I had to just paint as much as I could, whenever I could. You know how it is.

If Lambey was my favorite painting, this was my least favorite. I'm pleased with the way it came out in the end, but getting there was like pulling teeth.

For some reason, doing Samus was pretty easy - maybe because body armor is more forgiving to paint than a car? There were smaller bits? I'm not sure why, because I figured since they were both computer-generated colorful metallic surfaces I should be able to do a car pretty easily. But no. Maybe it was the extreme foreshortening, maybe it was the fact that Samus's armor was fragmented and Lighting has long stretches of shiny red, or that Samus is pretty un-charismatic and not only does Lightning scream "look at me!" every boy under the age of 7 knows everything about him already.

I think that once I started to add a little texture here and there - the tires, the end of the car, the lights - it started to come together. What matters is that Peter loves it, and that's the only part of it I really care about.

Mr. McQueen, are you ready for your closeup?

Friday, January 08, 2010

daylight come and me wanna go home

My brother sent this to me today and made my whole week! We used to watch this on channel 13 back in the day and I've been searching for it in vain online since. At last I was able to show this to my kids! Previously, I've acted it out for them, including running back and forth to different rooms, locking myself out, and pretending to dive through the window.

This is a classic. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I'm finally getting to post all the paintings I did as Christmas presents! (As opposed to last year, where I forgot to scan in any of them until after they were wrapped and I had to settle for snapshots of the happy recipients.) This is hands-down, my favorite of all the Christmas paintings.... Sophie's Lambey.

Anyone who knows Sophie knows that Lambey goes pretty much wherever she goes, except to school. :) He's been stuffed and re-stuffed, loved until his yellow gingham heart and embroidery have all worn away, and though his eyes are a flat black, he manages to keep a wise and patient look about him. When Sophie had surgery at 10 months, she came home and threw herself on Lambey and hugged him like mad, and that's how we knew for sure he was The One. When Sophie had surgery this past summer, Lambey got his own hospital bracelet and was allowed in the O.R. with her while she got anesthesia. Lambey is the real deal.

My challenges for Sophie's portrait of Lambey: well, first of all, it's Lambey. I had to get him just right. He doesn't officially have a mouth, but he has a very sweet expression all the same and I wanted to make sure I caught that. The dent under his nose could be a dent... or a tiny, sweet, smile.

I also was under time constraints - so this painting was completed, from original drawing to finished painting, in one day. A weekday, when I am ferrying kids around and have a regular day of work and make dinner and all that.... I still don't know how I pulled it off, but it's my favorite one so far.

The painting below is from 2005 (or possibly earlier?), when Sophie didn't have hair down to her waist and her big-girl two front teeth and a backpack full of books for first grade yet.

But she did have Lambey.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

bloom where you're planted

2009 has been a very frustrating year, and very sad in parts too. I'm actually pretty happy to see it go.

Someone commented recently that everything seems to go right for me and we live in some wonderful fantasy world, and I said, "Oh, no! We're very real, I promise." But it's true that I tend not to post when we are either so busy I can't sit down, or things are especially crazy, or I really don't want to document what's going on because this isn't private and my family may not appreciate it. For instance, for about two months straight a certain small member of my family was throwing massive tantrums on a regular basis that included kicking, hitting, and biting, mostly all directed at me. They lasted for HOURS sometimes, and left me a sobbing mess on the floor when they were over. (Do you all really want to hear about that kind of thing?) I was living through it and didn't feel the need to rehash it here. I try to keep this site as real, and as inspiring, and whine-free as possible. So some days (and weeks) I choose not to post.

In any case, the end of the year always brings introspection: the need for a plan, a resolution, a change for the coming year, renewal. Well, not much is going to change in my life right now just because it's the new year :) - I still have a family that needs me very intensely right now and a lot of people who depend on me. I was getting incredibly frustrated at plans falling through, by feeling like nobody in the world could care less about my artwork, about failing to get big jobs/noticed/book deal, not that I actually tried to do any of that, never mind the fact that I would be stretched so thin that I wouldn't be able to do my best work anyway... And on a snowy morning last week when I had a quiet hour to myself, I realized what needed to change: my attitude. I prayed, and I cried, and I prayed some more, and the words came directly into my mind:


So right now, this is not the time for me to illustrate a book. Or to have a licensing deal. Or get an agent. And that's okay. It's time to step back, and breathe, and maybe even enjoy my life instead of fighting every step of the way and being frustrated and upset at coming up short. Because really, I have so very much.

I have a wonderful husband I love with all my heart.
I have amazing children that I would like even if they weren't mine. :)
I have an extended family that is so supportive and loving.
I have a day job making art, with people that are like family to me.
I have a house to live in, food to eat, warm clothes to wear.
We are healthy.

I'll still paint, make prints, do crafts, but I'm going to stop beating myself up for not doing or being MORE right this second. I know my day, my book, my artwork - is going to come.

And I can wait for the promise of that.