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.
August 22, 2017 § 2 Comments
I’ve been super busy lately, which has created somewhat of a buffer between me and the mad, mad world out there, but not so much to be unaware of what a disaster it seems to be in many ways. It’s troubling, disheartening, frustrating, shocking, sickening and feel-angry-worthy. It gets you riled up.
But then I go out to run some errands and I’m reminded how good people can be. Yes, mine is a small slice of the world, and a pretty nice slice, but people are people and you never know what they’re going through, and I try to be nice to whoever I meet. And guess what? They’re usually nice back. Or they’re nice first, maybe catching me off guard if I’m lost in my own thoughts.
Oh, there are the idiots too, and I can’t say a few choice words haven’t slithered off my tongue (often – well, usually while driving – slamming the steering wheel at the same time). But tonight, they were all good. There was no sense of the hate we hear so much about; none of the prejudice and disrespect we’re lead to believe exists on every single corner. Not even a hint of the ugliness rampant in the news was on display. No trepidation. Nobody looking for a fight. No chips on shoulders. No judgment. None of the divisiveness we see everywhere on social media. There was just the friendly, gay part-time sales clerk; the french-accented saleswoman, black woman and a waspy woman who as a team went above and beyond to help me for a product that wasn’t in their department; a salesgirl wearing a hijab laughing with coworkers. A Latin-American saleswoman helped me pick out the perfect product, walked me to my car (each of us carrying part of my purchase) as we bonded in that rare instantaneous way over a brief conversation that left us both feeling uplifted. Later at the grocery store, a black man and I smiled and said hello as we passed. I admired the beets an Indian man was buying, who then told me about wanting to make a drink he had in Brooklyn called “Beet, Pray, Love” (side note: I love that!). The young white male checkout guy couldn’t have been nicer.
There are a lot of good people in the world. Let’s remember that.
And I’m guessing that this little snippet of my day could have been anyone’s snippet, so let’s remember this reality – because yes it’s a big fat mess out there, and there are some really awful, ugly, maybe even evil, people; there’s no denying it, no pretending otherwise. But I think we would do humanity a favor by recognizing the good, by being the good, appreciating the good, and broadcasting it loudly. Because it kinda seems to me that whoever shouts the loudest wins – or, perhaps more truthfully, they’re given the most attention, and then we’re all walking around troubled, disheartened, frustrated, shocked, sickened and angry – and what the hell does that do besides keep ugliness stirred up?
No, “being nice” will not solve the world’s ills, and I’m the first to admit that sometimes a stronger hand is necessary. And true, compassion and kindness may only touch a few people – but that’s a helluva good place to start. Moods can be contagious. Group consciousness is not a joke. Let’s raise the bar. Raise the conversation. Raise the spirit. Let’s raise each other up.
August 6, 2017 § 10 Comments
“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.”*
Not the jump-out-of-an-airplane kind of adventure. Not diving with sharks, and most definitely not (ever) climbing anything resembling Mt. Everest.
No, this is an adventure of heeding the voice that shouts “go that way!” when staring at one of life’s crossroads.
Sometimes we listen to that inner voice. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it takes a while for the message to get through.
Well, I’ve been listening. For quite a long time now. And despite its ever-growing volume, I, naturally (as any rational person might), had plenty of perfectly tidy reasons for resisting what I’ll call the calling of my soul. Things like: It’s not practical, not sensible, it might be lonely or I might fail. And those things may be true. But no degree of stewing or planning, and certainly no length of talking about it, lessened the feeling that I was being led somewhere else, and that a leap of faith was required. Reasonable or not, resistance was futile. It was time to answer the call. To say “yes”. Period.
And with that realization – that acceptance – my anxiety and indecision fell away. Poof! The “where” became clear; I would go back to the southwest. It’ll be my Sedona: Part II. Confirmations appeared. Synchronicities. Opportunities. Details began to align. Amazing.
So. I’ll soon be trading tree-lined suburban streets for red rocks and cactus. Shingles for adobe. Manhattan’s high-rises for big wide skies. With my sensible list out-maneuvered by a relentless yearning for greater creative expression, I’m full-tilt trusting my gut and hoping the universe has my back.
Of course, yes, there’s a stack of bittersweet that comes with it. I’ll miss being close to the sea. I’ll miss my Japanese maple and tending my sweet English garden out front. The swings hanging from a big old oak tree. Copious amounts of tea and conversation shared with friends. Hot fudge ever present on the stove. (Wait. Actually, that probably won’t change.) Walls that expanded and rooms that comforted. This is the home where I raised my daughter, my heart filled to overflowing. Twenty of the more than thirty years of my graphic design business happened while here. Books were born into the world. Paintings were made. Heartaches healed. Joys. Tears. Laughter. Magic. If a house could love, this one did. Some of my best years lived here, so there’s been some “good-bye” that’s had to happen.
But I’m reminded that nothing is permanent. I’m reminded that a spirit denied becomes cranky and impatient. I’m reminded that we must, indeed, be true to ourselves.
And as I leap across Joseph Campbell’s proverbial chasm – it could be my imagination, but – it almost seems the universe is dancing. A new chapter begins; adventures await.
* Advice given to a young Native American, noted in Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth”.
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.