NYC Diary : Love vs Alzheimer's Part ll

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When we arrived for the second day with Suzanne, you could see she was very tired. Our prior day of excitement had taken it's toll on her, so we started off slowly. The decor in the facility where Suz is staying is pink, VERY pink. Suz and I both are not fans of pink, at least not in our living spaces, so Barb and I brought in some vibrant color, including one of Suzanne's older paintings. It really spruced up the place!

I took out the sketch pad, this time we had brought colored pencils for Suz. She looked at the pad and closed her eyes. "Suzanne, do you remember how we drew together yesterday?"

"Yes." Her eyes opened.

"Do you want to do it again today?" 

"No." Her eyes closed again.  

It was not something I was going to force, so instead I took off her shoes, trimmed her toe nails and gave her a foot massage. This gave her a chance to rest a bit and then she seemed more engaged, so we took her outside for the first time since fall.

We were able to take pictures of the three of us with the beautiful spring flowers. Suz seemed to really enjoy every moment of our time outside. She and I got pretty silly, we danced and sang like "Disney Princesses." 

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We took her back to her room to play some music. Another improvement to the room was a portable CD player and a stack of her CDs. First we played Marvin Gaye. She did not really respond to it, so I showed her all of the CDs and she chose the opera singer, Andrea Bocelli. I was not sure she was listening until song #6 and she began to passionately hum along, her face twisting with emotion. Her sister thought it was too much, was making her too sad, but I disagreed. Opera IS emotion. It is supposed to move you and I thought that anything that brought Suzanne out of herself was a wonderful moment. 

I will spare you the details of the heart-wrenching goodbyes. It was a beautiful and very emotional visit. My time with Suz has really started me thinking about being an artist and what it means when you lose the ability to express yourself. That is something I will address in a future post. Too much to process right now.

NYC Diary : Love vs Alzheimer's

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When I was about 16, I spent a week in Philly with this beautiful woman. Suzanne is my Step-Dad's second cousin, but more importantly she is an artist that inspired me to follow my creative path. She too loved a good adventure and took on the responsibility of an entire warehouse building in rougher part of town. She proceeded to renovate it into lofts, living in the middle loft space while renting the upper and lower floors to artists. I can not count the hours I spent fantasizing how I would move to Philly and live in her amazing building! During that early visit, she took me to a giant cemetery and Edgar Allen Poe's house, both at my request. She also took me to NYC for the first time. That day was spent gallery hopping and concluded with a glass of white wine in a little corner bar. That was the best glass of wine ever!

Years later I returned with my husband and friend to see Suzanne, who was again the most gracious host. Fast forward further to another visit with my husband, but this time it was different. Suzanne was still living in that building, but she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It was the early stages and mostly presented itself in fleeting moments of confusion or repeated stories. 

Since that trip I kept planning to get back, but life continued to be distracting. A lot has changed for Suzanne over those years and the disease continued to progress. When I finally prioritized a trip to see her, I wondered if I had waited too long and if the Suzanne I knew was still there.

Today I joined her sister, Barb, on a visit, and as I watched Barb touch the shoulder of a woman watching TV I thought to myself, 'That can not be her.' I approached as Barb told her Amy was here to visit and she turned to face me. This woman was too tiny, too frail to be my Suzanne, but then those blue eyes, eyes who pupils were so terribly tiny, focused on me and she lit up! Yes, this was the woman I had idolized for so many years, and she recognized me! I had prepared myself for this not to be the case and not to take it personally, but to my relief she knew exactly who I was and it made her very happy!

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We spent the day with her and Barb said it was the most engaged she had seen her in quite some time. We looked at family photos, old and new, and I showed her my current art projects. Barb had tried to get Suzanne to continue with her art, but she refused. Today, I had my 11"x14" sketch pad with me and I put it on her lap. She took the pencil, made a tiny check-shaped mark and whispered, "I can't," then closed her eyes. I started doodling and talking about how we were just playing around, no big deal. She would open her eyes, look at my marks, examine the paper and close her eyes again. Then I remembered how Alzheimer's patients responded positively to music. I tried the Talking Heads at first, with little response, and then I tried The Beatles. As the music played, she stirred, then her eyes opened and she began to move her hand. She pressed down hard, breaking the lead several times before getting the feel for the pressure, and then she wrote. Just a little here and there, snippets of lyrics, a mark or two and statements like "this is it" and "what I don't know." At one point we drew a bit together, just simple shapes, but it was more than she had done in a long time. Her eyes would close and I would tap the paper to the beat of the music and she would return for another mark. 

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I have so much respect for her sister. She works full-time while struggling to sell that beloved warehouse building to financially support Suzanne. After today's visit, Barb and I brainstormed ways to improve Suzanne's space and a few possible techniques to engage her and continue the progress we saw today. More on that tomorrow!

NYC Diary : Ready to Rock!

Dear NYC Diary, 

The day has arrived. Soon I will be boarding a plane for my NYC adventure! In preparation, I have downloaded a photo collage app called Photo Grid, which does nifty things like faux magazine layouts, grids and stitch photos together like the one of my fur babies. I have packed the necessities: headphones, iPad charger and 11"x14" sketchpad for Wish Squish drawings, into my one back pack. Since Monday's adventures require traveling from Long Island to the upper west side with a pit stop at Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses, I decided to pack as light as possible. Of course, I want to be practical as well as fashionable, so I have three pairs of shoes and numerous clothing options jammed into that little, and now rather heavy, black bag. New York City, let's rock!

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NYC Solo Adventures

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By the end of this week, I will be departing the plane to start my solo NYC mini tour. In the past few years, I have been traveling solo more often. Mostly these trips have consisted of travels to see family in AZ or Chicago and some solo day adventures in Pittsburgh. I love traveling with my husband and I look forward to the trips we have planned, but there is something intriguing, and slightly terrifying, about traveling by yourself.

The main motivation for this trip is to visit a beautiful artist, Suzanne, who showed me her art world when I was only 16, and convinced me that my artistic path was a true one. Now almost 25 years later, that artist is plagued by Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Of course, I do have a support system in NYC, generous people who are opening their doors and showing me around the city, but there will be several occasions that I will be navigating the city on my own whims.  My plan is to do a daily journal reflecting on aspects of this adventure, the art world, health, and making wishes come true. Have you made your wish yet? 

Spring Adventures

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your artwork is get out of the studio. Our destination on this beautiful spring day was Hills and Dales, part of the Five Rivers MetroParks system. The highlight of the hike was this amazing stone tower, which has many names, including Lookout Tower, Witches Tower, or Frankenstein’s Castle. After several failed attempts, I conquered the tower and now I can return to the studio, victorious! 

Marketplace of the Mind : Studio Images

The front entry of the Fairview High School.

The front entry of the Fairview High School.

School crest. 

School crest. 

This six-by-six foot beast, Marketplace of the Mind, is a commission from the Reimagining Works project, a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library and the Dayton Art Institute. The Kuosi Elephant Mask and Fairview High School were the inspirations for this playful acrylic on linen painting. View the entire proposal in this POST. 

Final scale drawing. 

Final scale drawing. 

Shield leaves will repeat around the border. 

Shield leaves will repeat around the border. 

Fairview mascot, the Bulldog, will adorn the corners.  

Fairview mascot, the Bulldog, will adorn the corners.  

See the canvas come together in this POST. 

See the canvas come together in this POST

Getting the image transferred was no easy task. See what it took in this POST. 

Getting the image transferred was no easy task. See what it took in this POST

Concentrating on straight lines. 

Concentrating on straight lines. 

Filling in the color. Note: the center of the leaf form will remain raw linen, sealed in clear gesso. 

Filling in the color. Note: the center of the leaf form will remain raw linen, sealed in clear gesso. 

Surrounding the babies in tiles inspired by the Fairview HS fountain. 

Surrounding the babies in tiles inspired by the Fairview HS fountain. 

My set-up for creating the time lapse movie. 

My set-up for creating the time lapse movie. 

Making progress.

Making progress.

So many dog jokes *insert here*. Each dog will have a different look and personality. 

So many dog jokes *insert here*. Each dog will have a different look and personality. 

Starting the elephants. His one eye is a bit wonky, so I plan to fix that a bit later. 

Starting the elephants. His one eye is a bit wonky, so I plan to fix that a bit later. 

Progress as of April 2015.

Progress as of April 2015.

Finishing up the side patterns. 

Finishing up the side patterns. 

The Illusionist : Studio Images

Formerly titled Transformation. This painting was playfully started as an expansion of my left leg tattoo, but has developed as a way for me to think about the fragility of both health and beauty. 

The initial sketch on panel. 

The initial sketch on panel. 

Ti supervises the addition of color. 

Ti supervises the addition of color. 

Bringing in a tiger. 

Bringing in a tiger. 

And then two.

And then two.

Floating tigers symbolized both freedom and being out of control. 

Floating tigers symbolized both freedom and being out of control. 

Playing around with the flames. Too heavy and static before. 

Playing around with the flames. Too heavy and static before. 

This painting at home with my special lap warmer. 

This painting at home with my special lap warmer. 

Live painting at Clash in the Oregon District.

Live painting at Clash in the Oregon District.

Live painting at the Dayton Racquet Club.

Live painting at the Dayton Racquet Club.

More major changes. 

More major changes. 

Transforming the former floating woman. I liked the idea of her being the smoke. 

Transforming the former floating woman. I liked the idea of her being the smoke. 

She is also a loose interpretation of a self-portrait. 

She is also a loose interpretation of a self-portrait. 

A closeup of the new hands with funky rings. 

A closeup of the new hands with funky rings. 

Yet another attempt at the flames. 

Yet another attempt at the flames. 

A new focal point. 

A new focal point. 

Now I have decided to take out the second tiger and reevaluate the composition

Now I have decided to take out the second tiger and reevaluate the composition

Adding silver foil.

Adding silver foil.

Ink Well : Studio Images

Work in progress. This painting is 28" x 38". More images can be found on my Pinterest Board for this painting. 

The phases of the Pokeweed plant. It starts with the delicate white flowers, transitions into the green pods and then to the rich, dark berries. Native Americans used to use this North American plant for inks.

The phases of the Pokeweed plant. It starts with the delicate white flowers, transitions into the green pods and then to the rich, dark berries. Native Americans used to use this North American plant for inks.

The sketch to scale, then I use carbon paper to transfer it to the panel.

The sketch to scale, then I use carbon paper to transfer it to the panel.

Starting with a wash of magenta, or more specifically, Liquitex Quinacridone. 

Starting with a wash of magenta, or more specifically, Liquitex Quinacridone. 

The muses for this piece, sisters Hayden and Paige. Photographed in my backyard with the other muse for this piece, Pokeweed. 

The muses for this piece, sisters Hayden and Paige. Photographed in my backyard with the other muse for this piece, Pokeweed. 

Starting work on Paige. My thoughts with her character is that she represents the past. She is connected to the white flower phase of the Pokeweed plant, so I want to try to make her as light and white as possible. 

Starting work on Paige. My thoughts with her character is that she represents the past. She is connected to the white flower phase of the Pokeweed plant, so I want to try to make her as light and white as possible. 

Getting the details in her face. This is a still from the time lapse video I am creating while working on this painting. 

Getting the details in her face. This is a still from the time lapse video I am creating while working on this painting. 

The first bits of color, the Cheshire Cat returns...but not for long. 

The first bits of color, the Cheshire Cat returns...but not for long. 

Beginning Hayden's face. She represents the future and she will be bold, inspired by the final phases of the Pokeweed. 

Beginning Hayden's face. She represents the future and she will be bold, inspired by the final phases of the Pokeweed. 

I just did not like how the cat was sitting in this space. I knew it from the sketch, but I just kept telling myself to keep with it. He may return in a different location. 

I just did not like how the cat was sitting in this space. I knew it from the sketch, but I just kept telling myself to keep with it. He may return in a different location. 

Getting playful with the background. I want this piece to be a mix of what I have learned from working on the Wasp in a Wig and Identification Series. Tightly detailed, yet loose and playful. 

Getting playful with the background. I want this piece to be a mix of what I have learned from working on the Wasp in a Wig and Identification Series. Tightly detailed, yet loose and playful. 

Boo assists with the tracing paper for a second cat. 

Boo assists with the tracing paper for a second cat. 

A silly mini movie from "Ink Well" that shows a drawing of a feline who did not make the cut into the final painting. 

The cat is replaced by a hybrid Bonsai/Pokeweed tree. 

The cat is replaced by a hybrid Bonsai/Pokeweed tree. 

My supervisor keeps me on task. Not 100% on her face. Changes to come. 

My supervisor keeps me on task. Not 100% on her face. Changes to come. 

Starting to develop her new face and hairstyle. 

Starting to develop her new face and hairstyle. 

A new friend!

A new friend!

Getting some definition to the hairdo. 

Getting some definition to the hairdo. 

Some work on the feathers and starting the necklace. 

Some work on the feathers and starting the necklace. 

Making some progress on the tattoos. 

Making some progress on the tattoos. 

Library Proposal Explained : New Lebanon

This is my recently submitted proposal for the the Reimagining Works project, a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library and the Dayton Art Institute, for the New Lebanon branch. The selection panel will make their decision on this project by April 20, 2015. Check out my first successful proposal in this POST.

The response to this work by friends was very interesting because they felt it was completely different from my typical artwork. I see it differently, because I work with a lot of patterns, plant forms and line work, so this seemed very true to me, just simplified. 

The response to this work by friends was very interesting because they felt it was completely different from my typical artwork. I see it differently, because I work with a lot of patterns, plant forms and line work, so this seemed very true to me, just simplified. 

The design came first and then the concept followed. This is also typical of how my artwork develops. Often the full concept presents itself as the discussion between myself and the imagery evolves. The digital close-up was created in Pixelmator using clip art found online. 

The design came first and then the concept followed. This is also typical of how my artwork develops. Often the full concept presents itself as the discussion between myself and the imagery evolves. The digital close-up was created in Pixelmator using clip art found online. 

I am a sucker for glittery surfaces. 

I am a sucker for glittery surfaces. 

My goal with this project was to keep it under $4,000, since the budget for this location was $20,000 total for 2-5 artworks. I was able to do this by keeping the imagery fairly simple and by using prefabricated materials. 

My goal with this project was to keep it under $4,000, since the budget for this location was $20,000 total for 2-5 artworks. I was able to do this by keeping the imagery fairly simple and by using prefabricated materials. 

Example of my more abstract work which I thought would better relate to this proposal. 

Example of my more abstract work which I thought would better relate to this proposal. 

Library Proposal Explained : Brookville

This is my recently submitted proposal for the the Reimagining Works project, a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library and the Dayton Art Institute, for the Brookville branch. The selection panel will make their decision on this project by April 20, 2015. Check out my first proposal in this POST

With these submissions, I wanted to create work that interests me in terms of imagery and also challenges me to present new materials or techniques so that each proposal is true to my style, but does not immediately appear to be created by the same artist. This is important because I hope to receive several of these commissions. 

With these submissions, I wanted to create work that interests me in terms of imagery and also challenges me to present new materials or techniques so that each proposal is true to my style, but does not immediately appear to be created by the same artist. This is important because I hope to receive several of these commissions. 

 I had to contact several companies that specialize in laser etching to get an idea of what was possible and what it would cost. 

 I had to contact several companies that specialize in laser etching to get an idea of what was possible and what it would cost. 

Budget broken down. 

Budget broken down. 

I am showing older work in this proposal to show how I have worked with various wood surfaces. 

I am showing older work in this proposal to show how I have worked with various wood surfaces. 

The technique I am proposing is one that I have used to decorate many of the functional objects in my house. 

The technique I am proposing is one that I have used to decorate many of the functional objects in my house. 

Bio revised.

Bio revised.

Brief resume revised. 

Brief resume revised. 

Pool of Tears : Studio Images

This painting is 28"x16". This is another in the series Wasp in a Wig: Paintings Inspired by the Writings of Lewis Carroll. Excerpt from Chapter II: `I wish I hadn't cried so much!' said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. `I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That WILL be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer to-day.'

Painting sketch.

Painting sketch.

Blocking in color. 

Blocking in color. 

Defining the birds and some values. 

Defining the birds and some values. 

Starting the purple rocks. 

Starting the purple rocks. 

More rocks and water. 

More rocks and water. 

Something seems to be missing. 

Something seems to be missing. 

The Cheshire added a nice touch to the narrative. 

The Cheshire added a nice touch to the narrative. 

Working from the photos I took at the Field Museum of Chicago. 

Working from the photos I took at the Field Museum of Chicago. 

Detail of face. 

Detail of face. 

Detail of Cheshire. 

Detail of Cheshire. 

Detail of hand. 

Detail of hand. 

The finished painting. 

The finished painting. 

Junc Yard : Studio Images

This painting is a part of the Wasp in a Wig Series and measures 24" x 36". Inspired by Chapter 5 of the second book, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. This painting shows Alice transformed into a goose and the White Queen as a sheep. The scene explores the concept of "loss of innocence" and I have illustrated this with a young oyster bringing her new beau home to meet Mom while the walrus looks on as well as with the discarded toys. 

A base of blue and the start of some Scented Rush.

A base of blue and the start of some Scented Rush.

Establishing some ground and the boots.

Establishing some ground and the boots.

A few crabs and some coral. 

A few crabs and some coral. 

Adding more definition to the values. 

Adding more definition to the values. 

I felt like the composition was lacking, so I am adding in a Mock Turtle (cow) using tracing paper to see the placement. 

I felt like the composition was lacking, so I am adding in a Mock Turtle (cow) using tracing paper to see the placement. 

Once I liked the placement, I used transfer paper to get the image on canvas and then started painting. 

Once I liked the placement, I used transfer paper to get the image on canvas and then started painting. 

Detail of the Mock Turtle.

Detail of the Mock Turtle.

Detail of crabs and boots. 

Detail of crabs and boots. 

Detail of oyster family. 

Detail of oyster family. 

The finished painting. 

The finished painting. 

The Madness : Studio Images

This painting is from the Wasp in a Wig Series and measures 14" x 24". A different kind of tea party. 

I had to cut up the sketch to get the composition the way I wanted it before transferring it to canvas. 

I had to cut up the sketch to get the composition the way I wanted it before transferring it to canvas. 

Blocking in colors. 

Blocking in colors. 

Does he look like Elton John? You are not the first to think that, but it is my friend, Charlie. 

Does he look like Elton John? You are not the first to think that, but it is my friend, Charlie. 

Detail from the time lapse video. 

Detail from the time lapse video. 

Detail of the Hatter. 

Detail of the Hatter. 

Detail of Baby Bear. 

Detail of Baby Bear. 

Detail of Cheshire. 

Detail of Cheshire. 

The finished painting. 

The finished painting.