On Being Irish, Lucky and Green

March 16, 2016 § 6 Comments

week64.peace_celtic3

It’s upon us yet again – the day of dance and drink, and feasting on Irish bacon and cabbage, all to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Of course, I’m always a little conflicted about whether I should be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not fully Irish, you see, but I love potatoes, ballads and Liam Neeson’s accent, so maybe some of that counts a little.

I’m not all that lucky either, at least when it comes to things like winning at lotteries or blackjack ~  except for the time my sister and I, restless after being cooped up in a very, very long car ride, went looking for four-leaf clovers on a remote North Carolina mountainside (because what else do you do when you find yourself in a field of clover?). To our surprise, we both found one. Then we found more. And more! And then we started finding 5-leaf clovers, and even some 6-leafers! This was magical, I’m telling you straight out. I’ve not seen a single four-leaf clover before or since (much less the five or sixers). So maybe this just means there’s always a bit of luck along the way if we take time to notice.

As for being green, well sure, it’s a great color that comes in a slew of shades, but I can’t say I’m fond of green beer. I do love green vegetables, though, so maybe that counts. My eyes are sometimes green. And I’m sure that some Leprechauns are green, but not all of them. And this is all quite confusing, so maybe we should just leave the whole being green bit to Kermit.

Then of course, there’s the name. Are we sure, really sure, it’s all about St. Patrick? … or might there’ve been a wee slip of the pen when writing St. Patricia. Hmmmm. :  )

Speaking of… Saint Pat was actually born in Roman Britain (way back in the fifth century), but apparently was kidnapped at 16 and brought to Ireland to work as a slave. (I did not know this!)  He escaped (phew!), but returned to Ireland in later years, bringing Christianity with him, appealing to both the Roman Catholics and the Irish Protestants of the land. (No small feat in Ireland… so I’m guessing he must have been charming, as well as devout.) In the process, he also elevated the status of the shamrock, by using its three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on March 17, in the year 461. Patrick has endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity.

And with all that said, it’s back to work ~ perhaps wearing a spot of green, feeling lucky, and dining on spuds with a whisper of an Irish blessing in my ear … whether any of it counts or not.

…………..

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.

…………..saxton.potato.guiness.

 

saxton_week29.52weeksofpeace

 

Sorry Cupid, I Have Plans with My Cat

February 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

Valentines’s Day isn’t for everyone, and Cupid doesn’t always hit his mark.

For some, yes, there’s devotion to the whispering of sweet nothings, and the worship of chocolate and roses. But for some it can feel more like a bitter pill than a joyful tonic.

Others may simply prefer to spend the day with their cats. (Yeah, I get that.)

Regardless of how one feels about it, Valentine’s Day has a long history celebrating perhaps the most important, and often misunderstood, human condition: love.  And love will not be ignored. Poets write about it, songs are sung, paintings are painted. Endlessly. From the beginning of time to its last breath.

Whether it’s romantic love, or family love or friendship love or self love, love is what matters most. I don’t mean the love-you-think-is-love that hurts. Or the heartbreaks or the losses. I mean the fact that love heals, love lifts, love binds, love seeds and nourishes and shines a light; love enhances, love honors. It’s the root of all good that ever was or will be.

So spend the day however you like; just try to do everything, big or small, with a spirit of love. Your heart will be glad.

And while you’re at it, here are some classic paintings you and your cat can enjoy. Happy Valentine’s Day.❤

1. Dance in the Country PierreAuguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919) 1883 oil on canvas *Paris, Musée d’Orsay. *Photograph © Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY. *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Dance in the Country / Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1883

 

The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute-1

The Kiss / Gustav Klimt, 1909

 

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Cupid and Psyche as Children / William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1889

 

The Fisherman and the Syren / Frederic Leighton, 1858

 

El_Beso_(Pinacoteca_de_Brera,_Milán,_1859)

The Kiss / Francesco Hayez, 1859

 

Noon - Rest from Work (after Millet) / Vincent van Gogh / 1890

Noon – Rest from Work (after Millet) / Vincent van Gogh, 1890

Patience and Process

January 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

saxton_patience.child

Everything’s got a process. The seasons, falling in love, solving a problem, making a meal, setting sail, etc.

So, too, with art.

With design, it’s largely a mental process. One word, one image, one “sense” can set off a cascade of ideas for the mind to siphon and distill, then execute with the clean tools of my Mac. (Not like the old days of things like rubber cement, and amber sheets for separating color, which I readily admit not missing at all.)

With illustration, it’s both a mental and physical process – lining up my tools, making physical sketches, conjuring ways to illustratively express different concepts and then execute, still, for me, primarily by hand.

With painting, it’s almost purely a physical process – brushes, paints, canvasses – along with a great deal of heart. There’s not a whole lot of “figuring” things out. The act of painting takes the lead, as opposed to the mind taking the lead.

And then, sometimes, the process – any process – gets clogged. There’s a setback. Things happen – often things that are out of our control (although, most of life is [out of our control], despite what we might like to think… but that’s another talk, for another time.); acts of God and so forth.

A few years back there was a huge flood in my studio. Took a few months to get my design and drawing stations in workable shape, which was key. Next would come the painting area. But time went by, and went by. The task was daunting, and I was busy writing and illustrating Dragons* in between client work.

Still, the canvasses whispered. Then they called. Then they shouted.

Finally, with some help, I cleared the space enough to feel I could answer their longing, incessant chatter, and right away felt better. Chomping at the bit, I would designate Saturday’s as painting day (other days were welcome, but this would be an agreed-to arrangement between me and paint). Yes! All was lining up.

So. On the appointed day, I clear off some last things from the table beside easel #1, clean it like new (a little lemon oil does wonders), grab a favorite old oversized shirt, a paint rag and one of the many not-so-patiently waiting images already engraved in my mind’s eye.

Just a few more things moved aside uncovers my marvelous palette, which I see, to my imminent dismay, is loaded high with caked on paint remnants. I decide it’s a work of art in and of itself – but will not do for squeezing fresh paints over all its hills and dales, nor sweeping a brush through assorted nooks and crannies.

And thus ended my first day of renewed painting. The mood cut short by a crusty old palette, and the need for a new one.

Initially frustrated, I soon realize it’s just part of the process. Making ready, preparing the space. There’s a ritual to it – shirt or apron, rags, the gathering and oozing of colors, the first strokes of the brush – and I hadn’t yet gotten to the place I’d been before, where ritual flows, all “set and ready” for when the spirit moves and chunks of time move with it.

Patience child, you’re almost there. Trust the process.

In the meantime, even more inspiration was uncovered by my delightfully messy palette (especially the underside – who knew?!) – just in case I needed any more.😉

saxton palette / topside

saxton palette / topside

saxton palette / underside

saxton palette / underside

 

* Side note: “Book of Dragons” is officially almost here. I have my advance copy in hand! The rest will arrive …. soon, and you’ll be among the first to know.

What Inspires You

January 24, 2016 § 4 Comments

saxton_snowy.steps

We just finished up a big round of snow here in the Northeast. Great buckets of it swirling like a mad dance – not a soft, dreamy snowfall, but an angry, wicked one – piling up a few feet of fluffy white by the end. Today saw lots of digging out and some requisite complaining. But I have to say, I love a good storm. Always have. As long as one is safe and cozy. I find them marvelously inspiring.

Which got me thinking about inspiration in general, and being interviewed a few months back by a delightful young woman for her college art & design thesis. I almost always enjoy an interview, and this was no different. There were, naturally, the expected questions: what you look for when hiring, how you got started, etc. But my favorite question by far was, “What inspires you?” Because what doesn’t? Really, I told her, just about everything. But what exactly?

It’s true I’ve traveled a great deal – I lived in Germany as a child, I’ve leaned on the Great Pyramids and dined atop the Eiffel Tower, slept in hammocks in the Yucatán and picnicked on a sprawling red tablecloth laid out on Kenya’s Maasai Mara. New York City has been a stone’s throw away most of my life, as has the sea, mountains and farms – so, no doubt all of these experiences have piled up an almost gluttonous visual feast in my memory banks – but the other truth is that I can find just as much inspiration stepping out my door onto a freshly shoveled step, or a cracked walkway shaded by an overabundant smoke bush, or a beautifully designed book cover, a great photo, a well-crafted film, a thunderstorm, a child’s drawing, an old barn, the spokes of a bicycle wheel, the human face, gorgeous architecture, great athleticism, excellence in anything, shadows on snow. I can be inspired by a random slant of light, pages of striking prose or what comes in dreams. It can be a conversation, or something overheard on the train, a character in a story, or a character in real life. It can come “out of the blue”. It can be the act of simply looking up at the universe and falling into its wonder. It comes from the sky. The wind. The earth. Fire. Stones. Flowers. Rivers. Mountaintops. Birds. Dragons. All of it. All of life’s endless bigness, beauty and mystery, where there are more textures, tones, colors, moods and designs than one could begin to imagine. It’s a vivid palette from an endless well.

Now, I know some may say this artist or that artist inspires them, or this style or that style, or maybe that they’re driven by social causes or a desire to make particular statements. But really, whatever moves you inspires you. And being moved doesn’t always involve epiphany or deep emotion – sometimes, yes – but it’s fundamentally about what makes your mind light up and your heart quicken just a bit, taking you out of the mundane into enthusiasm and possibility. Sometimes, you can’t actually put a name to it.

So, if you keep your ears, eyes and heart open, feeling inspired isn’t that tough. Maybe it’s about what you do with it. Whether you let the flame flicker out or you jot it down, draw a line, pick up a brush, play a note, make a plan. Because inspiration is kind of a two-pronged arrangement – it loves to seed, and it loves to be watered with action. When you can hold onto the inspiration once the work of it begins, there lies some real power.

A Plethora of P’s: (the final eight)

January 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.

– ♥ –

Wa-la! Here are the final eight of one hundred P’s in my “Plethora of P’s” series. But how did it come to be, and why the letter P, you might ask? With the original intention of creating an alphabet, I soon found my mind overflowing with “P” words – most of which were falling in line with my beliefs in Positive Thinking – add to that my own name beginning with a P – and well, one thing led to another and yet another series was born. I suppose it was “inspired”, as most of them are – from where I’m not exactly sure, but if it’s fun, positive, and allows me creative freedom, I go with it.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed them.🙂

 

#93: PotteryP_pottery

Pottery has the admirably dual qualities of beauty and functionality. Designed at the discretion of the maker, each piece is essentially a vessel of creativity – figuratively, through artistic expression and simultaneous usefulness in a variety of practical ways – and symbolically, representing the womb; the carrying, giving and nurturing of life. 

– ♥ –

#94: Planets

P_planets

If one wants to be awed, all one needs to do is look up at the night sky. What’s there is unfathomable – billions (upon billions?) of stars; planets within universes within galaxies within more galaxies. Distances the mind can not comprehend. Possibilities of life – similar or very, very different –  in far, far, far away places.  Star Trekkian ships and Star Wars-like creatures are only fantasies, but … are they? Beyond our sky, beyond the stars and beyond the planets lies the truly Great Unknown, and amazement on an enormous scale.

– ♥ –

#95: Parachute

P_parachute

Here’s to safe landings!

– ♥ –

#96: Prolific

P_prolific

Abundantly fruitful. Profusely productive. Being prolific can as easily be a vineyard, a garden or a tree, as a poet, an artist, mathematician or scientist. There are no bounds, just rich creation.

– ♥ –

#97: Paperclip

P_paperclip

Perhaps the most talked about invention ever, and one that needs no explanation. (But, who DID invent the paperclip?)

– ♥ –

#98: Poppy

P_poppy

Ah, the alluring poppy. Its brilliant bursts of color and tales of mysterious concoctions make the poppy, all in all, a happy flower to behold.

– ♥ –

#99: Perspicacity

P_perspicacity

noun
1. keenness of mental perception; vision, insight, acumen. 
Keep your mind sharp and kickin’. Bend and stretch those mental muscles! Read. Do crossword puzzles and number games. Play scrabble. Study things. Ask questions. Listen, a lot. Stay curious. Always, stay curious.

– ♥ –

#100: Puppies

P_puppies

Because just the thought of puppies makes most people smile.🙂

……………………

(See all 100 Plethora of P’s here)

Peace, Love and Santa

December 20, 2015 § 2 Comments

Sleighbells. Snowmen. Bright red bows and brown paper packages. Reindeer on rooftops, stockings and candy canes, holly and nutcrackers. Angels singing. Hope. Goodwill. Peace. Love. Santa.

Yes, Santa Claus.

My daughter doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. She’s practically a full-fledged adult now, so has long put aside childish thinking. I, on the other hand, do believe in Santa (and I’m considered not just practically, but an actual, full-fledged adult, if you go by years on the planet). She, naturally, thinks I’m kidding. “Oh, Mom…”

But I do. I believe.

Granted, I’m not sure he wears a jolly red suit and drives eight flying reindeer over all the world on a single night. Nor am I convinced that he comes down chimneys. There are lots of questionable details. But is Santa merry? Is he generous? Kind? Loving? Do his eyes twinkle? Does he light up hearts on Christmas Eve? I say yes. And we sure could do with more light in this world.

Santa Claus, with a whole lot of helpers, shares not just toys, but hope, and goodwill, and peace, and love.

Santa is goodness. Santa teaches the joy of giving. (And receiving, it’s true.) He’s ingenious. He’s magical. Knowing Santa is believing in something unbelievable! Something you can’t see. Something bigger than you. Something bright. Something miraculous. Santa Claus, you see, is a lot like faith.

So, yes, I do believe. And I tell you this – beyond the shopping, the wrapping and cooking and crowds; beyond the fuss, beyond frustrations or the too much or too little, lies magic. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I feel it each and every year, some time during Christmas Eve – a spark? a glow? the settling of hoofs on rooftops? – that fills the spirit with comfort and joy.

I wish you that comfort and joy. I hope you’ll be merry. I hope you’ll be glad. And I hope you eat all the cookies you want. (But do leave some for Santa…!)

……………….

Here are a few designs to get you in the holiday spirit, if you’re not already there. 

be.merry

choosejoy

falalalala

peace_ornament

saxton_peaceonearth

rudolph.antlers

 

 

Gifts to Inspire

December 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Here’s my collection of offerings for the holiday season!

And I’d just like to say that igniting imaginations and bringing smiles to young and old is an honor and one of my greatest pleasures. My deep thanks to all of you who’ve helped keep these books alive and appreciated! I hope they’ll delight many new hearts this season. Blessings to all – Patricia

4books.xmas.15

 

 

(All products are also individually listed on my Shop page. Happy Holidays!)

Twelve Months of Flowers

December 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

If only it were true. Unless you count holly berries, there’s really not much in the way of floral color in northeast winter months.

But “Twelve Months of Flowers” can be had via art prints, from the series published in 1730 by renowned British horticulturist and author Robert Furber. Mr. Furber’s name is highly attributed to these exquisite prints, and while I’m grateful that he had the insight, substantial research and knowledge (and, no doubt, the funds) to produce the collection, I’m mostly interested in the artistry.

We had two of these prints hanging in our dining room during my growing-up years – one May, one November, the months of my parent’s birthdays. Admired by all, they adorned a modest space with a rich, subtle elegance, (and now that I think of it, may have had an influence on my own interest in drawing things botanical) ~ but in all those years, while we probably did, I don’t remember talking about the artist. Regardless, for some reason they lodged in my mind’s eye today ~ so I went looking.

First of all, they are hand-colored engravings, produced by English engraver Henry Fletcher from paintings of Flemish-born artist Pieter Casteels . (They also produced an equally stunning second series, Twelve Months of Fruits.) Each work is a glorious detail of plants in seasonal bloom, with each plant numbered, and, at the time, a list of the corresponding names. More than 400 plant species were featured. This was no small project.

And so a few centuries later, I thank them ~ all three of them: Furber, Fletcher and Casteels ~ for their fine, luscious collaboration of study, talent and skill. They are so beautiful, I might even venture to call them a labor of love. But that’s what art is.

TwelveMonths1_sm

TwelveMonths2_sm

TwelveMonths3_sm

TwelveMonths4_sm

TwelveMonths5_sm

TwelveMonths6_sm

TwelveMonths7_sm

TwelveMonths8_sm

TwelveMonths9_sm

TwelveMonths10_sm

TwelveMonths11_sm

TwelveMonths12_sm

Art and Tragedy: 11 Art Works from 9/11

November 19, 2015 § 7 Comments

Recent global events have been a harsh reminder of the savagery that exists in our world and how that brutality can, and does, infiltrate our daily lives. It is far-reaching and unfathomable; its senseless wreaking of horror and devastation is wearisome.

Our hearts ache, we mourn deeply. We are sickened. And yet, we have no choice but to carry on with our lives – life, by nature, urges life – and for us mere mortals, our battle cry might even be to “carry on”, to refuse to live in a state of fear. But we really don’t stop grieving for today’s, yesterday’s, or any tomorrow’s that may carry this awful weight of sorrow, anger and frustration.

And we don’t forget. It’s like a hard line drawn in time: Before and After. Here at home, every time an act of terror succeeds in killing, events from 9/11 come roaring back into our minds, like an unwanted but necessarily indelible imprint.

As such, I’m also reminded how the artists of our time process these events – and I’m particularly reminded of the 9/11 ten-year-anniversay retrospective exhibit I was honored to share with some remarkable artists on September 11, 2011; each artist contributing their awareness of the time as well as contributing to a broader, long-term healing.

Some of the art lifts us, inspires us. Some carries deep symbolism. Some fearlessly ensures we don’t forget. Some recounts and catalogues. Some of the artists are quite well-known, some are not. All are gifted statements and expressions from the heart.

A friend recently suggested I post some of that art again. I can’t say exactly why, but it seemed a good idea. I chose 11 pieces, simply because the number feels right, to honor the artists, and in some way the victims, and all who care to make a difference in this world of ours. (For all artists’ works from the 9/11 retrospective and full descriptions, you can view the online catalogue, here,).

And I say yet another prayer. That good wins. That love wins.

richard

 

joel

 

carole

 

duda

 

jose1

 

patricia

 

ultra

 

milton

 

nemat

 

yoko

 

jose2

 

Prayers for Paris

November 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

saxton_peace.paris

Prayers for Paris – and all the world. For the madness to end. For good over evil, for light over dark, love over fear. For peace and compassion to dwell in the hearts of humanity.

Life is precious. Terror needs to stop.

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