Monday, December 21, 2009

Austin Skyline

I was hired by the wonderful Austin based Phan Law Firm, P.C. to design a holiday wine label. I'm posting the illustrated silo of the Austin Skyline that was part of the design solution.

I've been in Austin just long enough to have a strong opinion about what to include and what to omit. I especially wanted to included the Ann Richards' Bridge and Lady Bird Lake, which I hadn't seen in many other silos.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Visiting Everyone at Christmas Time"

My mom was ready to go last night.

Me: "So you feel good, do you want to give me an idea for the blog?"

Mom: "That sounds good, the blog....'the blog,' is that how you say it 'the blog?'"

Me: "Yup, that's right, 'the blog' or 'a blog.'

Mom: "Well since we are getting ready for the holidays, how about trying to get to see everyone around the holidays? We just got a card from Ann and she said she'd like to get together, and we haven't really seen her since just after Al died, and my friend who has MS worse than me right now, her husband has cancer."

My mom is the big Christmas card sender of the family. She sits in her wheelchair at the head of the table and painstakingly fills them out and as Christmas draws closer you can see the double doorway behind her slowly fill with cards she has received in return. They seriously run out of room by the end of the season.

As she has lost her ability to write with her right hand, she has learned to write with her left and eat with her left, and she has also cut back to signing her and my dad's name on the card, instead of their names and a note.

I'm pretty good at forging my mom's signature, I remember practicing it. I would write it at her request on my late to school notes and when using her credit card while shopping for her if she wasn't feeling well. Signing her name felt like pretending I was her. While I got pretty good at it, it's never quite the same as when she signs it. I will miss her handwriting when she can no longer write.

I did a few variations of this illustrations idea. They almost look like snowflakes. I imagined the dot in the middle as the visitor, an aerial view, and dots going out to where her loved ones lived.

I did one for me, my dot is at the bottom of the page (Texas) and I thought there wasn't anyone below me that I knew and would want to see and then I remembered that my friend Andres is in Uruguay. So his line runs off the page.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Telephone Game

Sometimes when I call home my sister is there, visiting or watching my mom. I love talking to my parents but my sister's input from the background often ads a special zest to the conversation.

A few weeks ago, I called and my mom was telling me how much weight my dad had had lost on his post surgery diet.

Mom to me: "You should see your father, he's down to nothing, he's hardly eating."

My sister from the background: "He looks the same."

Mom: "What? he's lost like 20lbs."

Sister: "Maybe 5."

Art Personified

Before my life as a university designer, I was an editorial designer in NYC. My favorite job was working at "Travel and Leisure Magazine" as an Associate Art Director. I worked for the brilliant creative director, Pamela Berry and with a group of young hip artists who were as fun and kind as they were talented. Editorial design remains my favorite to this day. I've been blessed because while working for The University of Texas at Austin a few magazine projects have fallen to me. I'm posting designs from one of my projects: "Philanthropy at Texas."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Double or Nothing"

Sometimes when I call my parents they are solving a disagreement with a bet. My dad will say, "Wanna bet?" He'll bet my mom $20 million over any seemingly insignificant fact, that neither of them will give an inch on. It could be the color of something or something someone said. Sometimes I'll call home and ask my mom how much she owes my dad, and he'll yell from the background "54 million!" He always lets her go double or nothing, that's how the numbers get so high, but every so often she's right and I'll call and she'll suddenly owe nothing! My mom says its good to be silly in a marriage.

It took me a while to come up with a visual for this, but here it is, "Double or Nothing."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bear! Happy Holidays, BEVO!

I started working as a university designer back in 2000, the first 6 years were spent at Brown and I'm now at UT. Every year there is either a birthday or holiday card design needed for the President. Here is this year's UT holiday party invitation shell and a few birthday cards from my my days at Brown.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

BEVO Rock Star, University of Texas at Austin, Longhorn

What else would the UT Austin BEVO be but a ROCK STAR! He is after all in the live music capital of the world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BEVO Football Fan, University of Texas at Austin, Longhorn

Every year I produce some holiday card illustrations for the President's office of UT. This one is from a few years back. Today, my boss gave me back the rights to the ones they never used. The University of Texas's mascot is the longhorn, in this illustration I've turned him into a football fan, probably at a homecoming game. He's drinking cocoa and wearing a scarf. You can tell I was still new to Texas and Texas weather, I dressed him for a homecoming game back east.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Austin's New Skyline, Frost Bank, 360 Condo, and Seaholm Power Plant II

Here is the second of my paintings from my two hours of free time on Sunday. I noticed as I was leaving at 3:30 that the light was just getting dramatic enough to help me make heads and tales of the skyline.

My daughter has been sick on and off since October 7th and I've just gotten my fever and flu symptoms today. I can only pray this means we will have some sickness out the way this winter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Austin's New Skyline, Frost Bank, 360 Condo, and Seaholm

Painting makes my brain hurt.

I painted "en plein air" yesterday for the first time in a long time. It was like an out of shape person trying to jog and play chess at the same time.

Some folks I know focus a lot on the loss of old Austin, and while I am always a big fan of the classic, and will forever miss the original Las Manitas, I have a great respect for some of the new buildings that make up the new Austin sky line. They sometimes remind me of NYC. I mean this as a compliment.

In this painting I've got a piece of Frost Bank, the 360 condo (which reminds me of the Chrylser Building), and three stacks from the old Seaholm power plant (which is the bit of old Austin that reminds me most of Providence). Texas meets NYC meets RI...

I was sitting there on the side of the Lamar bridge painting, getting a sunburn in October, chasing away bees and red ants, using a brush that was just a little too big for my tiny canvas, wondering why I put myself through this suffering. There was no way anyone could pay me enough to make all this worth it.

Today, as I went back to my day job as a graphic designer, and completely romanticized my paint out, I hit me that I wasn't doing it for the money.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"4 Awful Awfuls"

October 7, 2009

Mom: "We went to Newport Creamery and had "Awful Awfuls." Dad had two and Pam and I each has one. Dad had chocolate and Pam and I had coffee, no Dad had 2 coffee and I had coffee and Pam had chocolate."

Dad from background: "They were buy one get one free."

Rhode Island has seriously tastey ice cream. I know this because Austin's selection does not compare. The Newport Creamery in Rhode is a sort of diner/restaurant/ice cream shop chain, where you can get ice cream all year round. They serve a seriously good shake, called an "Awful Awful" (awful thick, awful good). Rhode Islanders love that kind of humor, as a kid I thought it was genius. We mostly frequented the Newport Creamery in the mall, and it was like Santa came early, as they always gave you any extra shake that wouldn't fit in your glass.

The illustration has all 4 of my favorite flavors, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. It sounds like they have expanded their selection. I object.

Happy Birthday Mom, Surf n Turf Style

This post is from the night of my mom's birthday, she and my dad went out for a nice dinner at "Remington House" in Warwick, RI. It's totally cute, on the bay, in a historic inn.

There are very few restaurants they can go to alone, as many have separate bathrooms for men and women. I've thought that it would make sense for true handicapped accessibility that there be always be a bathroom option for folks with a handicap who require the assistance of their opposite sex partner.

Mom: "Tonight your father and I went out to dinner for my birthday, I didn't want to go, but then he talked me into it. We had a nice time. I got surf n turf and my steak was bigger than his! and he just got a steak."

Totally unrelated:

Mom: "I would put baby powder in my hair, after working till 7 o'clock Friday night at Aunt Lou's restaurant, to hide the smell of the restaurant, so I could get to the Hendricken mixers by 8."

Me: "Did someone teach you to do that?"

Mom: "No, I think I just made it up?"

Interesting, I remember trying this myself, as a kid for some reason.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Invite a Cat and Mouse to Tea

It's true, your cat and mouse do so long to be invited to tea.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Anniversary, 38 years, October 2, 2009

Tonight is my parent's 38th wedding anniversary. They went out for dinner, Italian food. My mom is feeling down and didn't have anything for the blog.

Her words to me last night were spoken quietly, accompanied by an insecure laugh, "What do you think I just sit around all day coming up with ideas?" I guess I had kind of thought she might. And I could tell she looked forward to feeling better and working with me again.

The following is one of my favorite love stories, from the day before my parent's 37th anniversary, October 1, 2008.

Last year, my mom almost died of pneumonia. Her stay in the hospital with late stage MS was incredibly stressful on her and my dad and the hospital staff.

What few people realize, myself included until this experience, is that when you are in the hospital, in order to receive the care needed, you must be able to communicate your needs with the staff. I knew based on a near death experience with my pop in the hospital, that having an advocate could be the difference between life and death. But I couldn't have imagined how ill equipped hospitals were to deal with patients with memory and independence complications.

While in the hospital, my mom was unable to lift her head. And due to over 40 years with MS she was in this situation with short term memory loss, and some dementia. So, she would forget little things like how to work the TV, and big things, like how to ring the nurse.

She would tell the dietician she had a test scheduled and that she wasn't supposed to get dinner. The dietician would take her on her word, my mom is quite convincing, and cancel her meal. But there wasn't a test.

We would stay with my mom at the hospital all day until we had to leave at 8 o'clock when visiting hours were over. After leaving, we would get calls from my mom panicking that she couldn't get a nurse. We would try to walk her through how to find the button, but often the button was moved. Sometimes someone would move even her phone and cut off the only thing she could remember, her home phone number. I had flewn in from Texas and nothing was as stressful as leaving her in the hospital for the nights alone.

When she couldn't stay in the hospital any longer, they discharged her to a nursing home. They took her there by ambulance and my dad met her there. My sister had researched the best nursing home, called ahead to get her therapy with a family friend in that nursing home. I was back in Texas.

Here is a piece of the call I got from my sister on October 1, 2008, one day before their 37th anniversary.

"YOUR father took her home! They called the police! He won't be able to take care of her. She hasn't been able to even lift her head for 3 weeks, she still has her cath in!"

I phone home.

"Hi, Dad."

"Well I don't know if it was the right thing to do, but I took your mom home. The nursing home was too hot, and she doesn't do well in the heat, and we waited for 2 hours and no one greeted us, and your mother didn't want to stay there. I wheeled her outside to get her some cool air. And I realized as I was standing there that she hadn't seen the new roof, that they put on while she was in the hospital, so I asked her,

'Want to go see the new roof?'

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Italian Rice Pie"

I was searching for an Italian Rice Pie recipe online, because it would be epic to get a hold of my mom's/pop's, and found this amazing blog entry. I hadn't thought to write in my mom's accent, it's genius.

"I would go over to your grandparent's house to make the crusts, and pop would do the fillings, he took care of his mother when she was sick and did all the cooking as a kid, his brothers and sisters did nothing, he always knew how to cook everything. When he married your grandmother, he had to teach her how to cook, she was 16 and didn't know how to boil water."

"I think I have a vague memory of that, I remember sitting in the den watching TV and non's kitchen table full of all the things which needed to be moved from the counter to roll out the pies, and it all seemed very serious."

"The crust is very diffrent for the italian rice pie, you use butter instead of Crisco and add vanilla or almond extract. It's a sweeter crust. Some people put maraschino cherries and pineapple. I like it without."

"Pop seriously loves his rice pie."

"It's really important when you make the dough not to use your hands, that's how it gets too tough." They have a tool you can buy, but I always used a fork and a knife for mine."

This illustration is of my non and pop's basement, I spent every holiday until I was at least 22 in their basement. It's fully furnished, which means nothing to a Texan. My pop has a full kitchen down there, with wood panelling, he did all the work himself. I remember lots of brown and orange, brown walls, orange carpet. The italian rice pie is on the little table my non would set up and serve dessert from.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Me Making all the Pies for the Holidays" Rhode Island, 1978

I spoke to my mom tonight and she was ready to go with a topic. She said she had been thinking of many. She started to suggest something fun that families can do together and that started her talking about cooking together.

"Maybe baking cookies, chocolate chip or peanut butter? Maybe baking a pie? How about... me making all the pies for the holidays?"she asked.

"Great idea!" I told her.

My mom was the best pie crust maker in our family. She made all the holiday pies until she lost her ability to stand long enough to roll the crusts. My dad helped her for a few years and even took over for a while. I tried twice—after years had passed since she rolled a crust—to have her instruct me.

The first year we tried to make a crust together, my mom and I used a bad can of Crisco. It had been left in the cupboard probably since the last pie she made. I was not aware of the age of the Crisco, my mom on the other hand "did think it smelled a little funny, but figured it would be fine." We served our chocolate cream pie that Thanksgiving and immediately almost everyone knew that something had gone horribly wrong. I turned to my mom for some explanation and she said something to the effect of, "I was worried about that." At which point my brother-in-law looked up from his empty pie plate and asked "worried about what?" My sister quickly razzed him, "You didn't taste anything funny about the pie?" Needless to say, my sister, dad, and I are much better about checking dates on food now.

The next time my mom and I tried to make a pie together was for Christmas. I relied on my mom for the recipe. We got the pie to my aunt and uncles, I was very hopeful—after all I bought the new Crisco myself— as my Nonnie, who always did the pie cutting and serving, went to cut our pie first. She suddenly looked to me in a panic as she absolutely could not get the knife to go through the crust. I got very mad at her for not "trying hard enough." It took my trying to cut the pie myself to accept our failure, and apologized to my non. My mom and I had forgotten one ingredient—water.

Don't worry though, my most recent pie crust experience was a success. I made it with my 4 year old. We signed on to watched an instructional video and got an actual recipe. I spent much time thinking back to the disfunction of my first two pies, pre-internet.

Now back to my mom. I asked her to tell me more about her ability to make a delicious crust. Here's what she said.

"I didn't learn to make a crust until I married your father (age 21). I had cooked meals for my whole family growing up by age 10 and was always a baker, but I never tried crusts. Your dad used to make 50 thousand pies when he worked with his dad at Valley's." (Valley's Steak House, was by the airport in Warwick, RI. My grandpa Edge was the baker there, my dad a baker and grill man, my mom a waitress, and her mom, my non, a waitress/hostess/matchmaker. It's there that my parents met, there that my dad asked my non for my mom's phone number and there that my mom said to her mom, "don't you ever give that guy my number." The rest is history. I ate there before they closed it down and actually have a visual memory of the kitchen and my grandpa baking there.) "I thought if your dad could do make a pie so could I," she continued. "And so I tried to make a crust, he came home from work and found me with a crust that wouldn't cook and walked me through all he knew. It took me a while to get good, but I finally got the feel of it and then it was really easy. I made all the pies for the family on the holidays because my crusts were the best. My crusts tasted great because I used Crisco and not lard."

As for this little illustration, I have a photo on my desk of my mom, my sister, and me. I'm maybe 4. I used this photo as a guide to my mom's face. I put her in my favorite shirt of hers, the grey bunny shirt, and as I painted it, I saw how young she was when she had me, how gorgeous, how passionate about a clean house and delicious pies. I understood as I did when she was in the hospital last year, how much her presence ads to my parents' house. She was not a playful mom when I was young, but she was always busy making a stable environment for us. In the painting she is maybe 26, 10 years younger than me right now, and yet to me, I will never be as old as she was then and I'll also never have a brown fridge.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Texas Sky September 20, 2009 6 p.m.

I was enjoying Sheila Vaughan's paintings today, and was a bit in awe of her beautiful surroundings. It started me thinking...if I love the Texas sky so much, I best paint it a little while I'm here. This is the view from the upper deck of my home.

Missing the Sky, Texas

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Missing the Ocean, Rhode Island

A friend at work told me about the "Sara, Plain and Tall" books, and the beautiful way a woman from Maine misses the ocean when she moves to Kansas, but then misses the prairies when she returns to Maine.

I have lived in RI (West Warwick, and Narragansett), NYC (Manhattan and Brooklyn), and now Texas (Austin).
I've tried to consider what visual I love most in each of the places.

West Warwick, RI: the old mills
Manhattan, NY: The Chrysler Building
Brooklyn, NY: The Brooklyn Bridge
Narragansett, RI: the ocean
Austin, TX: the sky

I realized tonight that the Texas sky saves me from claustrophobia, the same way the ocean provides extra breathing room in RI, and interestingly enough they are almost an exact visual flip of each other. I would simplify Rhode Island into a tiny sky and an endless ocean, while in Texas the sky never ends and it almost dwarfs the land.

I think it is good to experience living other places, but it is hard to miss things and feel whole any one place once you have moved around.

"A Nice Day with a Sunday Aid"

My Dad had a commitment this Friday night, so a new aid came in and stayed with my mom. They had a nice time together and did much talking.

So when I called tonight, and asked my mom for a topic she said, "Well, let's see, maybe having a nice night with my aid."

This painting represents a harmonious conversation, the blue line represents that which always separates people, no matter how close they feel. But I chose colors from the same family, calming like a sunset, with peaceful lines.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flower Tempest in Warm Colors

Well, my mom did some screaming today. She used to scream a lot when I was a kid, but not as much with late stage MS. I asked her what she wanted me to blog about today and she said, "mommy was bad today." I had no idea, with all the screaming I heard as a kid, that my mom thought it was anything other than an appropriate response when feeling anger.

This was a painting of flowers and I painted over it with colors and patterns of anger and confusion.

"Our Bedroom with Blue Paint"

One thing that bothers my mom as much as her weight is things that don't match, clothes, rooms, anything. My parent's bedroom currently has green wallpaper, blue/gray rug, and pink curtains. My dad is thinking of getting rid of their wallpaper through out the house and painting the walls. My dad wants to do the den first, my mom wants him to do the bedroom, because as she says, "atleast the den matches."

For this day's entry, she asked me to paint a picture of her room with her blue walls, instead of green wallpaper. I may try this as an acrylic as well, to really get the colors.

My parents have old spanish style furniture. One thing I thought was funny, was that I remember all the details about their room from my dusting chores on Saturday mornings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mom by Kim and Kim by Mom, Kent Hospital, RI

I'm posting something very dear to me. Last year when my Mom almost died from pneumonia, I rushed home to be with her in the hospital. As she was getting better, my Dad would watch my daughter while I visited her. On one of our visits, I sketched her, and asked her to sketch me. She is often to self conscience to draw, but not that day.

"Your Bathroom"

When we got on the phone tonight (Saturday, September 12, 2009, I'm late posting) my Mom was happy. She was out of her depression, as I had hoped was happening with her talking the night before. She was telling me how bad it's getting talking to her Mom, my Non, who has Alzheimers. My Dad joined in from the background to explain, "There's a lot of 'you knows' and 'the things.'" My Mom burst out laughing. "We are so getting so bad." she laughed.

My Mom's short term memory loss from her MS and my Non's word loss from the Alzheimers, make basic communicating hard. I talk to my Mom almost every day and my Non 3 times a week. Their brain illnesses manifest very differently in conversation.

I asked my Mom if she had ideas for the project. She said she had thought of one during the day, but she forgot to write it down. I asked if she wanted to think of a new one. She was more than happy to.

"Maybe something about missing you, I know we already did that, how about your bathroom?"

"My bathroom?" I asked.

"Or your house? I don't know what it looks like where you live. I know you've sent pictures, but I can't picture it." she explained.

I liked the idea of the bathroom, so I painted my favorite one, without all the stuff on the counter, the way I like it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rainbow Wish

When my Mom gets depressed she gets quiet and when she talks her voice is small. When she is starting to come out of her depression she starts to talk a little. Tonight, she began our phone conversation in a small voice, almost rambling. It was comforting to hear her thoughts without pause, I much prefer it to silence.

"I'm so bad." she started. "I've got to get out of this depression." "I hate this disease. I've had it for so long." (over 40 years) I'm lucky I'm still walking. But I can only do 2 laps I used to do 10 but when I'm depressed I don't push myself."

We talked about the cruise our family took when I was 16 and she could still walk. How while on the Island of Haiti, on the walk back to the boat from lunch, she got so over heated that she suddenly lost her ability to walk. My Dad had to carry her a long way and it was very hot. I can picture it in my mind and would have painted it tonight, except I thought to ask her one more time, for a topic for our art project, after weeks without one.

I heard her hesitate and then like rain after a Texas drought.

"Ummm, she said in a whisper, "a rainbow is that it? a rainbow in the sky, a sign of life going on, sign of god, rainbow coming up, god's with you shining over you in his rainbow. my neck is cramping it's my personality right now dad says he'll do all the worrying, I have something to worry about I can't walk, I can't do crap, I'm numb in my hands, I'm numb in my feet, I'm not a normal person, I'm getting fat and I haven't been on the scale."

Watermelon for Summer

My Mom has been depressed for a few weeks now. Too depressed to give any painting topics. She says she is not creative.

I told her my daughter and I were eating watermelon. She commented that she loved watermelon and hadn't had any yet this summer. She talked about her Dad always having a big watermelon in his second fridge downstairs and how they would eat it out back. I stayed at my Non and Pop's this summer and it's true he did still keep a large watermelon in the fridge downstairs all summer. You have to love that kind of consistency.

My Dad walked in from grocery shopping during our talk, so I reminded her to ask him to get some the next time he went to the store. With her short term memory loss, she had already forgotten.

"Honey." she said. "Next time you go to the store can you buy me some watermelon?"

"Sure Babe," he answered without hesitation. "You want some watermelon, I'll get you some."

It must be hard to be so reliant on another person, but they manage it pretty well.

She never officially asked me to paint a watermelon, but the beauty of this project is that I get to talk to her and remember things even when she is too depressed to be creative.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Side Note

I sent print outs of the collaboration project thus far to Rhode Island, for to my Mom. They got it in the mail today. My Dad read it and really likes it. My Mom said it's really nice. Dad said he was learning new things. He pointed out some typos, and a few factual errors. Thanks Dad. For instance, he did the icing and stinging in the API therapy, and my Mom didn't ride horses from Warwick to Goddard Park, she rode in Warwick and Goddard Park. It never hurts to have more eyes.

My Mom was laughing at the end of the phone conversation over something my Dad said. I asked her what it was, but she was laughing too hard to speak. My Dad shouted from the background, "when she's done she doesn't plug it in and then it has no power when I need it." They were in the bathroom brushing their teeth together getting ready for bed. When he went to use his power tooth brush it was out of juice. My Mom thought that was hysterical.

"Coffee not Chocolate"

My Dad is home from the hospital. My sister and her 2 kids were staying at the house this week, while my Dad recovered. I spoke with them everyday, it sounded like a hard week for everyone. I had thought we might go to help, but didn't in the end. My daughter is still packed and ready (her decision). My Mom and I did not work on the project last week, there was too much going on.

I finally spoke with my Mom today about the project. She is depressed again, 16 days after the end of her last tour. She said that she is always depressed, which is not always the case, but when she is down she can't be convinced otherwise.

I could not get a direct art request from her. Somehow though, we started talking about chocolate.

"I don't like chocolate." "I know most women do." "I must get it from my father, he doesn't like chocolate either." "I'm not a chocolate person (insert yuck face visual here, I know she made it, even when I can't see her). "I like coffee better."

"Maybe I'll paint coffee ice cream?" I said.

"That sounds good." she said

This painting shows exactly how my Mom orders her ice cream, small in a cup with a sugar cone on top. My Mom's M.S. has taken away many things, one thing is eating ice cream from a cone, but that doesn't mean, she can't get one on top.

Later in the night I called back, and told her I posted the coffee ice cream painting, my Mom added, "Coffee is a Rhode Island thing."

She makes an important point. They make coffee syrup in Rhode Island for your milk. So in school you could get a plain, chocolate, or coffee milk at lunch, and at Burger King you can order a Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, or Coffee shake. Most families keep a bottle of "Eclipse" coffee syrup in the fridge. Frankly, the rest of the country is missing out.

"Get Well Soon"

On this night of the "mom collaboration," my Dad was in the hospital. My Mom wanted to go see him but there was no way to get her there (they are short on hands with me in Texas). My sister had my Mom write him a letter so she could bring it to the hospital when she went that night.

The painting is my take on their imposed separation. My Dad is represented by the medical bed and my Mom by the wheel of her wheel chair.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Lonely and Missing You"

On this night I asked my Mom what she was thinking of for our art project. Here is how the conversation went.

Me: "Have you thought of an art topic for tonight?"

Mom: "Hmmmm, maybe lonely, or missing you."

Me: "I can paint that."
"And what would you like to say about that?"

Mom (giggling, because she isn't usually this direct): "I don't want to say I HATE it..maybe dislike, no...wish it were different." "I don't like you living so far away."

I decided to paint these little dots that represented me and my Mom. Sitting in dots about the size of our two states, on a world that showed only us. Tonight is the night before my Dad gets a sudden heart procedure, nothing like two big things making me wish I was in RI right now.

"I haven't been in the pool once this Summer"

On this night my Mom asked for a painting of a pool with people around it. I managed a painting of her parents' pool. Which she misses swimming in very much. I somehow got her in my Non and Pop's pool about 10 years back. Their yard is all cement and colored stones, and stairs (8 to the pool). The last time I took her to the pool, she could walk further with her walker and I could get her up and down stairs alone. I remember trying to figure out how to, get her close to the pool with leg brace and a bathing suit, how to get her to sit on the ground so to lift her in the pool. I remember feeling very smart and proud for a second and then realizing I wasn't positive I could lift her out, or get her standing again should we manage that part. Luckily it all worked out.

My grandparents' pool is a paradise. I'll still owe my Mom her a painting with the people around the pool, she is very social, this must be the pool lonely without her.

"I used to ride horses as a kid"

I am always so happy to hear that before my Mom was wheelchair bound, she got to ride horses, all over Warwick, back when it was farm land and not a big set of malls. I asked her for a topic on this night and she started telling me the story of riding horses. It's one of those stories that a loved one tells over but over and you don't really mind. This project, has me asking some new questions and getting some new details on all the stories.

Here is the story, "I used to ride horses with my friend Chris, she lived by the Crow's Nest and we would ride over where Apex is, back then, there wasn't anything there." Nonnie didn't like her though and made me stop being friends with her. She ended up becoming a nurse, so how bad could she be?"

I wonder how bad anyone could be who rode horses with a girlfriend.

My mom explained tonight that they also used to ride down to Goddard Park along the train tracks. She thought the horse was brown.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mr. Dog Dog Dreaming of Fish

This was inspired by collaboration #2 (Dog Dreaming of Flight). I see maybe a dog series, or a dog children's book...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Let's Go Back to the Diner" North Kingstown, RI

This is Day 7 of the mother/daughter collaboration. What I hadn't told you was that for the first 6 days, my mom was completely depressed and not really wanting to continue living. Tonight, I called and she was, "Happy Patty," as my Dad calls her. I'm sharing this now because my Mom asked me to document how she was depressed and now she is "up." I'm not exactly sure when it started, but for at least 4 years, my Mom has had to deal with cyclical depression. Almost like clock work, her disease has her depressed for 2 weeks and then up for 2. It's something we still haven't gotten used too.

Tonight when I mentioned her needing to give me my topic of inspiration, she said happily, "Hmmm, a topic?" She thought about her first dog, Sandy, and then excitedly said, "Let's go back to the diner days." This is when she was a teenager and my Aunt Lou and my Grandparents had restaurants on the same street in North Kingstown, RI. "Your Aunt Lou's Restaurant was a gold mine, and your Grandmother closed her's down after a year, because she didn't want to compete with her sister."

I used to dance as a kid in my Aunt Lou's Restaurant (The Dutch Door), and customers would buy me gifts. My Aunty Lou would take me to the beach to fly kites and to Goddard Park to ride ponies and leave my Mom and Non working. It was awesome.

I have no memories of my Grandparent's diner. All I know is that it was called the "Kingstown Diner," (thank you again google image search, this may be the actual diner) and my grandpa was the chef, he had an oyster bar and clam cakes and chowder for the beach goers, and from what he says, a bunch of house wives would drop off their empty pots in the morning to be filled by him with dinner for the night. That way their husbands would think they had been cooking all day. He loves telling that story. Based on this diner website, diners were actually invented in RI, to feed blue collars working the night shift.

I told my mom about the movie "Julie and Julia," she's up beat enough to want to get out of the house and see a movie. She said, "we should do a blog, then they could do a movie about us, you in Texas and me in RI." I said, "We are doing a blog." "That's great." she said.

Tonight, she was so loud with excitement on the phone that at one point after she said another, "That's a great idea." my Dad's ears perked up and I heard him say in the background, "What's a great idea? All great ideas go through me. " Those care givers are too funny.

Bee Nap-py -ping

Tonight, my Mom chose a bee. This bee is full and happy and napping on his flower.

We got talking about her API Therapy (bee therapy) that she and my Dad bravely tried/endured for 6 months. "It was crazy," she said. "You could hear the bees buzzing in the hall closet." My Mom had heard reports that being stung by bees could decrease MS symptoms, and for 6 months she was off all medication. My Dad would mark the spot to be stung with marker, put ice on the chosen spot and pull an unlucky bee from the jar with medical tweezers and place it on my Mom, the bee would sting her and die. My Mom mentioned storing the jar of dead bees next to the live ones, I'll have to check with my Dad on that one. I'd like to apologize to the bee universe on behalf of my whole family if that did happen.

One night my Mom insisted she could do it herself, she was home with my sister. I was living in NYC. She let all the bees loose, and as she says, "your sister wanted to kill me."

I thought for the first time, how sad a fate it is for the poor medicinal bee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where to? Pontiac Lemans, Rhode Island, 1979

Day 5 of collaboration with Mom.

I called to tell my Mom we sold a painting (Dog Dreaming of Flight, collaboration day #2), she was excited and would take no credit.

Today's painting post, she asked for a painting of our family dog Fluffy. We talked about Fluffy and how he used to jump up in the back window of my Mom's Pontiac (thank you google image search). My sister and I were always without seat belts waving to the cars behind us, or swearing at the bad drivers in Italian (we didn't know we were swearing at the time). My Mom at her tallest was 5'1" and you couldn't see her head when she was driving.

This painting shows many things that I miss from childhood: my Mom driving us around, her playboy bunny grey t-shirt, our dog Fluffy, driving in a car with the windows open, cars without bucket seats, and metal bumpers.

My husband informs me that RI was behind the times with seat belt safety and that they did wear seat belts in the 70s in California.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wild Pink Beach Roses

For today's art collaboration my mom said, "maybe a flower." I asked, "What color?" "Pink." she replied. "In a vase?" I asked because she was never that fond of flowers. "No, wild." she answered. So here they are wild pink roses, that happen to bloom by the beach in Rhode Island.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rhode Island, Narragansett Beach in Winter from the North Pavilion

Before we moved to Austin, my family and I lived a few miles north of Narragansett Beach. It is my favorite beach. I learned to surf there at age 22. We were able to enjoy it for a while this summer, when we spent 3 weeks with my family in RI. This painting is done from a video still of the beach two winters ago. My husband and I had taken my daughter there to see snow on the beach.

My mom asked yesterday, on day three of her collaborating with me on this blog, for a beach painting. And thanks to her request, I've managed to paint a painting that I have wanted to paint for two years. It's of my husband and our daughter at the Narragansett Beach North Pavilion (a great spot to look for surf, by the break just south, off the pine trees.)

My mom as I've mentioned is mostly house bound due to her MS. I asked her why the beach? She said, "I miss the beach, and getting a tan." "The beach is one of many the things I miss."she continued. "Dad says I don't have olive skin any more, but I think I do." I told her I was sure she still had olive skin.

When I was young, getting a "nice tan" was almost a full time job for my mom, who is half Italian. As her MS progressed she had to stop any sunning, because when she got too hot, she would lose her ability to walk.

There are very few Italian Americans in Austin. And a few people here have commented on my olive skin. It has been a great compliment to this english watered down version of my beautiful mother. When I tell her folks down here think I have olive skin, she laughs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dog Dreaming of Flight

It's day 2 of my collaboration with my mom in RI. Yesterday, she asked for bird art, later I learned she was imagining a flying bird. Today she asked for a dog, so I combined the flying birds with the dog. I think the dog is dreaming of flight as is my mom. Our dog fluffy lived till he was almost 19 years old, following my mom everywhere. They were very close and I'm sure he was staying alive to be with her because she had an illness. He died over ten years ago. My mom still got around with her walker then, but had already lost her ability to drive safely, so she was house bound often. Tomorrow, she has asked for the beach.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bird in Winter Singing of Spring

I've decided to collaborate with my mom in RI on this art blog for as long as she'll agree.

My mom has only seen the internet a handful of times, so she may never see this, only hear of it. She has been ill with Multiple Sclerosis for 36 years, she was diagnosed while carrying me. She would tell you she can't draw, although I saw promise when teaching her a few lessons. I miss her terribly when I am in Texas. This collaboration is an attempt to connect with her on a new and meaningful way, while being 2000 miles away. Her disease has her feeling down this week, so all I could get her to agree to, was giving me a topic to work on. As we hung up the phone last night, she said, "I don't know, a bird?"

The bird I've posted is based on a description of a Japanese wood cut, that I cannot find an image of, so I've created my own image. I told my mom this morning that I illustrated a bird and how much I enjoyed her topic choice, she said, "Birds are beautiful, flying so free in the sky." She spends almost all of her waking hours in her wheel chair, sitting very still. I think I should paint her a flying bird. As for tonight's topic, she said quietly, "a dog?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homegrown Heirloom Tomato on a Manmade Purple Red Apron

I love combining things from nature with manmade plastic kid things. This is my third painting that incorporates these two types of items. I finally bought myself some lights. I find that I get the best contrast for a still life, when I paint in the dark with two spotlights. As a kid, my friend and I used to love to draw in the dark without any light and then turn on the light and see what we made.
$50 +s/h