February 13, 2018 § 2 Comments
“Be of love a little more careful than of anything.”
~ E. E. Cummings
Ah, Cupid. Fickle, passionate, God of Love whose darting arrows don’t always hit the target … we celebrate you nonetheless, along with the eternal stuff of poetry and song, and hearts that beat a little faster.
Some celebrate you with devotion to the whispering of sweet nothings and a worship of chocolate and roses. For some it’s more bitter-pill than joyful-tonic. Others may simply prefer to spend the day with their cats. (I get that.)
I can count a few especially thoughtful, romantic Valentine Days. But as the story goes, those went all wrong in the end (beware the man who writes you poetry, a friend once told me…), so I turn instead to unscathed memories of shared Valentines from grammar school, or the hand-made kind we gave to our parents, with big red construction paper hearts and white lace around the edges, filled with unabashed adoration. And those we give our own children marked with a thousand x’s and o’s.
And yet, even considering a sour dose of romantic cynicism, I am a true believer in love. I don’t mean the love-you-think-is-love that hurts. I mean the fact that love heals, love lifts, love binds, love seeds and nourishes and shines a light; love enhances, love honors. Every task we do, every word we utter, every hand we shake, is better if there’s love in it. Love is the purpose. Love is the cause. Love is the root of all good that ever was or will be.
So let sweethearts swoon. Let the day be thick with roses and chocolates for all who’ve ever felt the exultation – or the sting – from Cupids’ arrows, all who’ve felt their heart swell, their color blush, their energy soar and their selfishness cease in the face of unbridled love.
And with or without a “Valentine”, maybe we can share a little extra heart today. For self, for others, for your pets, for your garden, for your books, for your bicycle, for your favorite chair. Even for the guy trying to make a left turn on a busy street. Raise up the heart quotient all around.
Celebrate love. Read some literary candy (a selection included below for you and your cat to enjoy). Give someone a cupcake. And smile, because – despite or by means of Cupid – love still exists in this mad world.
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX), Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
18th Sonnet, William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43), Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Love’s Philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
January 28, 2018 § 2 Comments
Thirty-three years. Practically vintage. Possibly even fossil material. (yikes – let’s stick with “it’s a good long time”.) But maybe thirty-three years in business is worth something. A pat on the back. An acknowledgment. A bit of reflection. So here goes.
January, 1985. Think Madonna, Whitney, Aretha, Sting. Think “Back to The Future”, “The Breakfast Club”, “The Color Purple” and “Out of Africa”. Think Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat. Think dance clubs. Think big hair and huge earrings and shoulder pads, leggings and high-tops and high-waisted pants.
And a young woman at a drawing table dreaming big dreams. Conjuring. Plotting.
So it was that Saxton Illustration & Design began in a small apartment in Chatham, NJ with a spark of an idea, a sweep of unexpected boldness, a love for freedom and a sack full of creativity (and some clients in her pocket; she wasn’t entirely reckless). It’s traveled far since then.
Countless designs for boatloads of clientele, hundreds of drawings and hundreds of pencils, pens and tubes of paint, miles of paper, an intimacy with tight deadlines and working round the clock, branding and more branding, words and more words, an endless array of pencil points, several Macs and four books later – it’s been quite a ride, full of plot twists, feasts and famines, joys and frustrations; all of it.
There was also the discovery of my love for tea. There was Center Street. Brainstorms with Kevin. Collaborations with Glenn. Magic with Leona. Lunches with Milton. Angie’s with everybody. The Midtown Direct. A brief stint with the mob. Art shows. Paper samples. There was Kenya, Egypt, Scotland, England, Germany, Venice. Jose and Yoko. Mary and Pete. Barnes and Noble. Sabbatical in Sedona. Motherhood. Lasting Friendships. A richer relationship with the Universe.
And while it’s evolved from t-squares and triangles and rubber cement to my first little Mac (then another and another…), from printing presses to screens, fax machines to email, brochures to websites, floppy disks to clouds, postcards to blog posts to facebook and instagram … my rules are the same: : 1.) Listen well. 2.) Stay current. 3.) Be reliable. 4.) Always do your best.
So there you have it. Except for one more thing. Having taken a few more leaps since 1985, I’ve learned that creativity never goes out of style, nor does it stand still – I’ve learned that it’s a restless and demanding master, and I its humble servant.
January 2018. Think Hip-Hop. Think Netflix. Think Street Art and Online Galleries. Think leggings and high-tops (yes, they’re back – just be thankful the shoulder pads aren’t.)
And the girl at the drawing table? Older, but still dreaming, conjuring and plotting. 😉
PS: You can see a bunch of my work at saxtonstudio.com, where there are also links to my books, Facebook pages, Instagram, etc.
July 4, 2017 § 2 Comments
In May 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. A year later, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, establishing an official flag for the new nation:
“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
However, between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several legislations that changed the shape, design and arrangement of elements on the flag, eventually settling on extra stars and stripes to reflect each new state. This broad span of time without specific guidelines resulted in a variety of design interpretations – which, in a way, also reflects the deeply rooted sense of freedom so cherished by Americans. The expressions were rich and proud, evolving into the flag we pledge allegiance to today.
Carrying that theme of evolvement forward, in 1986 I discovered a beautiful book by Kit Hinrichs, called “Stars and Stripes” – a compilation of exceptionally creative American Flag images created by some of the finest graphic artists of our time. I found it absolutely delightful, and a great tribute to the creativity and talent that abounds amongst us – and the creative freedom we’re able to enjoy in this great land of the free and home of the brave.
Below are just 13 samples of the many ingenious designs from that book honoring our American flag. Enjoy, and Happy Birthday USA!
all images copyright of creator
May 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
With Europe on my mind, and my daughter studying in Spain, I’m reminded of my fascination with Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Known for his engineering genius, there are so many elements at work in his work that he bursts the seams of any one title – except perhaps that of artist, whose buildings were his canvas representing a treasure trove of design and unbridled creativity. You look at them and think “How….???!”
Revered worldwide as one of the most important modernist style architects, Gaudi lived from 1852-1926. “Over the course of his career, Gaudi developed a sensuous, curving, almost surreal design style which established him as the innovative leader of the Spanish Art Nouveau movement. With little regard for formal order, he juxtaposed unrelated systems and altered established visual order. Gaudi’s characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration from other avant-garde artists.”
To view Gaudi’s work is to see “thinking outside the box” at whole new levels. His extraordinary examples, many of which reside in Barcelona, are movement and dance; they’re sugar-laced monuments with creamy frosting; they’re marshmallows and gingerbread, sand-castles, stone, glass and iron; they’re original, dramatic, striking blends of angle and color.
I marvel at the boundlessness. Fantastic. Illogical. Stunning.
April 4, 2017 § 1 Comment
“I say, ‘Get me some poets as managers.’ Poets are our original systems thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obligated to interpret, and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world runs. Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow’s new business leaders.”
– Sidney Harman, CEO Multimillionaire of a stereo components company, from Daniel H. Pink,
Be still my heart. April is National Poetry Month, and all the world is celebrating poetry’s glories. Well, maybe not the whole world, but surely as it runs in my blood, I can revel in the fact that poems and poets get a broader spotlight.
So I hope you’ll read some. Write some. Sing some. Because the world needs poetry – if only to remember to savor things like words and feelings and moments; if only to soften the rough edges or roughen the soft ones. Because, whether beautiful or raw, simple or complex, poetry has the power to reveal and re-shape our emotions; to know expression differently; to connect with the human experience.
I’ll leave you with this gem for now. You can expect more poetic sharings to come.
March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
Some St. Patrick’s Day inspiration, a few quick strokes on a paper scrap, and my lucky pencil is born.
Now, if only I were Irish and found me a pot o’ gold. (Or maybe the leprechaun comes first. Or is it the rainbow?) Until then, pencil lead will have to do, with a four-leaf clover for good measure and a favorite Irish blessing for you. Cheers!
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
March 4, 2017 § Leave a comment
I cheated on this one. It’s not actually one of our book club books, but I’m going to recommend that it become one – because if you take love, art, World War II and the south of France and put them together in novel form, it’s an almost guaranteed win for me.
In Lisette’s List, Susan Vreeland transports us to the years between 1937 and 1948 – from the onset of war, to an increasingly distressed French countryside, to the war’s aftermath, to Paris, to the rebuilding of hearts and souls and cultural treasures – and in the process, composes what amounts to a kind of lavish love letter both to art and to Provence. Known for her art-based novels (A Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Forest Lover among my personal favorites), perhaps affection was her intent; if so, she succeeded.
With imagined conversations involving Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall, and main character Lisette’s passion to “learn what makes a painting great”, with the tragedies of war and the luxurious, natural beauty of southeastern France, Lisette’s List paints a feast of color, tones and textures, lovingly framed by a well woven story that’s beautifully blended with a rich cast of characters. Added bonus: you might never look at a painting quite the same way.
January 22, 2017 § 1 Comment
Women are amazing. And millions of us joined together as one yesterday, in a triumphant display of sisterly solidarity, to protest… what exactly? I may ruffle some feathers here, but I’m missing something.
Here’s my just-one-person-in-a-sea-of-people perspective.
I’ve made my own way. I started my graphic design and illustration business when I was 27. I’ve raised my daughter as a single parent. Did being on my own make it harder? Absolutely! As a fairly private person, this is not a card I’ve often laid on the table, nor admitting that there have been times I’ve been on my knees wondering how it’d all work out. But going it alone didn’t stop me, nor did being a woman stop me. I didn’t feel I’d been gypped. It was my path. I went the distance. I’ve worked hard. I might do some things differently but I’d do it again. And maybe all that makes me a strong woman. It also had the side effect of strengthening my belief that we, as women, should support one another.
My daughter has said, “but Mom, not everyone is like you.” And that’s true – not everyone grew up free from the idea that a woman was somehow less than; not everyone grew up believing that she could be many things, that she wasn’t “just” anything. Not a homemaker or a wife or a mother or an astronaut or an artist or a teacher or a star Olympian. She could be and do whatever she wanted. No one said to me, “you can’t do that”.
All of this was a big deal in shaping my beliefs, and I do understand that not everyone had what I see as my good fortune. But it did allow me to see that girls – you – we – are amazing! And along the way of life I’ve met tons of truly wonderful women. Some have husbands and families, some do not, some work, some do not, some are on their own, some have support. And not all – perhaps not even most – had my kind of childhood. But a lot of us have reached the point where we realize we’re a pretty awesome species. We’re smart. We’re savvy. We’re compassionate. We’re creative, We’re nurturing. We’re strong. We’re survivors. We’re thrivers. We’re warriors. We’re angels. We all have different strengths and different weaknesses. We struggle mightily here and succeed wildly there. We are flawed and we are perfectly amazing.
We also appreciate those who paved the way before us. The voting revolution happened, the sexual revolution happened, women “broke the glass ceiling” in corporate America, women own businesses, we have freedom over our bodies. There are women world leaders. Women in the military. If anyone still isn’t getting equal pay for an equal job, demand it, fight for it. Nothing happens overnight, nor are things perfect, but history can attest to the enormous strides that have already put us in a position to do as we please. We’re a far cry from the Patriarchal societies that persecuted wise women and healers, or that relegated women to second class citizens with few rights and no voice. We’ve come a long way.
And so I loved the idea of yesterday’s unity. I’m just not sure what it was meant to achieve. Was this about “women’s rights”, “human rights”, or outrage about the election of someone you can’t stand? Was it about fear? Because the way I see it, we in America, in perhaps the entire first world, have it pretty good. What rights are we lacking? One glimpse at some less-fortunate countries shows us that women there have a much rougher go of things than our well-fed, well-clothed, freedom-to-protest selves could possibly imagine. They are the ones who know fear. They are the ones who need women’s rights issues taken by storm.
I’m looking for some sense here. Maybe, in the end, what the marching achieved was simply this: a wave of sisterhood. And that’s a good thing in and of itself.
I’m all for acknowledging concerns, giving them voice, lending a hand. Joining together for causes we believe in. Supporting one another. Stepping up, reaching out, knowing that the feminine is divine and strong and powerful. Claiming and embracing that goddess within ourselves and radiating our beautiful, fierce, gentle, wise spirit into the world. Continuing to share, teach, grow, and rise. Holding heads high. Believing you can.
But not complaining. Because, while our work is not done, we are already amazing.