"An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one."

A man named Charles Horton Cooley said that.

I have no idea what Charles Horton Cooley looked like, so New Neighbor No. 8 will have to stand in. I hope Charles won't mind.

My mother once said:

"You're famous to me!"

Although it was a sweet, mother-like thing to say, somehow it didn't necessarily make me feel more successful.

F Minus, Tony Carrillo

Occasionally I'm forced to do something as an artist that makes me really nervous. This week it was submit a sketch with a proposal. Drawing is my artistic Achilles' Heel, and nothing makes me more afraid that someday I'll be kicked out of the club.

Well, drawing AND talking about art. I think because I don't have an art degree, I haven't learned to converse with the proper amount of artsy B.S.

But take heart, would-be and wannabe artists everywhere, because today I have some

Friday Fun for Everyone!

It's PIXMAVEN, a little gem that will generate all manner of artistic baloney for you to say when you need to sound educated in the art criticism arena.

All you do is submit a 5 digit number, and the site strings together some phrases from a bunch of numbered nonsense that can be applied in any art situation to virtually guarantee success.
By inserting my childhood zip code, for instance, I was able to come up with this:

"It's difficult to enter into this work because of how the reductive quality of the sexual signifier verges on codifying the remarkable handling of light."

How many times have I wished I'd said that?

And my old Seattle zip code yielded this:

"As an advocate of the Big Mac Aesthetic, I feel that the mechanical mark-making of the biomorphic forms brings within the realm of discourse the eloquence of these pieces."

When's my next gallery opening?
Or is it time for a new artist statement?

Or maybe I should have generated a smart-sounding explanation of my dumb-looking sketch before I sent it in . . .

All I know is,
success may finally be
within my grasp!

Pearls Before Swine, Stephan Pastis


Thursday's Itty Bit of Food for Thought . . .

Take a commonplace, clean and polish it, light it so that it produces the same effect of youth and freshness and spontaneity as it did originally, and you have done a poet's job."

--Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) French writer/filmmaker

It doesn't have to be a spectacular idea, but you should follow at least one notion every day to see where it leads.

Could be just a train of thought bound for an unfamiliar destination,

a doodle destined only to be hidden under the paperweight on your desk,

or a seed from a packet bearing no particular picture or description.

I -- If

D -- Denied

E -- Eventually

A -- Atrophy

S -- Strikes

Flip the switch and allow your brain to shine a little every day.


It's Wednesday, and I'm just wondering . . .

If you open the freezer and a Lean Cuisine falls out and hits you on the foot, is it paranoid to assume that the universe is trying to send you a message?

Possible messages may include:

a) The obvious one (you sort of admitted this to yourself when you purchased the Lean Cuisine)

b) A need to start buying less ice cream because the cartons are taking over all available freezer space (but wait -- could that mean you need to eat MORE of the ice cream to free up space?!)

c) A need to clean out the freezer

d) All of the above

Upon consideration, it seems that the answer could depend on several factors:

1) How long ago did you purchase the Lean Cuisine? (Can you even remember the last time you ate something that could be considered "lean"?)

2) How long ago did you purchase the ice cream? (Because hopefully you did not purchase all those cartons recently -- that would definitely point to an addiction that may require intervention.)

3) How long since you cleaned out the freezer . . . if ever?

The good news is, when frozen food hits your foot
you are automatically
icing the injury as it occurs.

I have no answers -- just throwing out a philosophical question.

But if the next fortune cookie fortune I get involves dieting or personal injury, I'm going to know something's up.


Too Big For Tuesday . . .

Usually, that is.
But thanks to

Small Works' Itty Blog Bits

we're bringing the biggest ideas down
to a more manageable size.

And the question to consider today is:

What is Art?

It's a big concept, but it's no match
for my handy dandy

which explains it like this:

See? Perfectly simple.

It's just so easy to over-think these things.

F minus, Tony Carrillo

So in case you've been wondering whether that project you're slogging away on is ever going to be considered "art," I think we've found the answer.

Once and for all.

Any other questions while I have the book out?

Monday means it's:

Itty Blog Bits!

The question to ask yourself is,

How old is old??

As old as your mother?

As old as the things in an antique store?

Not necessarily. Except that for my kids, the things in the antique store are sometimes the same age as their mother . . . . which is both sick and WRONG.

I usually eschew "vintage" items that are of my same "vintage" -- just a little matter of principle, since the old rule for antiques used to be 100 years, then it got shortened to 50 awhile back, and now (with the advent of "retro") there seems to be no definition whatsoever.


I'm just saying . . .

But I had to buy this the other day:

When I opened the cover and it said "copyright 1974", I almost put it back without looking further. But once I started to thumb through the pages, I was simply delighted.

Garrison Keillor paid homage to

"the sheer beauty of ordinariness"

in his column last week, and that's all I can think of
to describe this dandy little volume.

Whoever did the writing obviously wanted to be a poet but ended up working for Western Publishing instead -- it happens . . .

Because many of the definitions seem to be glittering little gems of found poetry, complete with charming "Golden Books" illustrations of course.

What could be lovelier?

So I'll leave you with one to enjoy and consider on this
beautifully ordinary Monday:


Because I'm not sure there's a lot
of lady-like potential in her:

New Neighbor No. 6, Goofy Pig-Tails Girl

Maybe some braces would help?

Ta-ta until Tuesday!


Note: Actual contents may vary. . . (and may include leftovers, which are still delicious and satisfying so stop turning up your nose.)

I know, I know . . . I gave an "up next" at the end of Wednesday's post, and if anyone actually read to the end, they will be expecting something that resembles the teaser.

So I'm going to include the info I promised, but like life, some days my posts want to go somewhere different from where I originally intended.

Next week I'm going to kick off

"Small Works' Week of Itty Blog Bits".

There's a lot going on in Hinckleyville right now -- some major painting projects and house re-arranging, plus someone's got to take care of the stitching that's supposed to be taking place in the studio.

But luckily, Dear Reader, I have all kinds of delightful tidbits that haven't found their way into my regular posts but that would be just perfect for an itty bitty blog snack.

So instead of 3 posts, I'm going to post one delicious little tidbit every day of the week!

I hope that you'll enjoy the new format and that I'll get some work done for a change. (We'll probably both be glad for me to take a blabbing breather -- let's be honest because we're friends.)

Now I'm going to save my promised "vintage find" for Monday's post, and turn my attention instead to one of my favorite topics,
Nancy Drew.

Again, you ask???

Yes, again . . . because it's such a fitting end to my two weeks of book babble! And because I got the swellest present ever from my good friend (the exquisite embroiderer) Flannery yesterday.

She stopped by the studio to stitch a little, have show and tell, take me to lunch and deliver surprise gifts.

(Don't ask me what I did to deserve such a slice of heaven --
it was just a good Thursday, despite my undeserving nature.)

One of the gifts was a set of Nancy Drew postcards.

30 of them!

Each a different cover!

A few were the newer covers,

which was fun since I don't own many of those at all. Most of my books are the 1950's - 1960's editions.

But the most delightful surprise was that many of them were pictures of the old original editions.

I own only a few of those, and only one has the illustrated dustjacket (sort of) intact. So I've never seen the original covers.

It was a timely gift since I've been cruising around the web just this week and managed to locate 3 1960's copies of titles I haven't read. (They're just waiting in a shopping cart for me to hit "order", which I fully intend to do!)

I've been on a Nancy Drew hiatus for several months now,
but feel that I'm ready for a booster shot.

And surely I would be remiss to let my reading recommendation posts pass by without giving a plug for everybody's favorite amateur sleuth!

What was I thinking?

So if you've read it already, I'll see you on Monday . . .
but if you haven't, I hope you'll enjoy this reprise of
"The many reasons I've never quit reading Nancy":

I have at times, I must admit
(and who hasn't),
daydreamed of being Nancy Drew.

That's what I do when I get a little too stressed -- I don't know why reading Nancy Drew books is comforting to me, but I have loved them ever since I started borrowing them (as many as I could without being a pest) from my neighbor Ann's older sister (sorry -- seems some of mine still say Marybeth on the inside cover . . . would you like them back?)

That must have been sometime in the early 1970's. I read as many as my neighbors owned, then I bought as many as I could earn the money for myself. In the 1990's, I read my complete collection (it is quite large -- stolen or purchased as a child, and collected as an adult) to my two younger daughters, who loved them as well.

Last year I re-read them all (getting ready for a wedding and art shows definitely calls for Nancy!) and now I'm skulking around used-book websites trying to buy some new anti-stress tonic in the form of previously un-read Nancy Drew.

I have some from the original series, the 1930's editions.

I love these best because the descriptions of the clothing, the social life, and the manners exhibited are just a marvelous study in a bygone era. Wonderful college weekends at Emerson, debutante balls, amateur theatric productions . . .

And 1930's Nancy was truly blazing a trail -- a respected amateur sleuth traveling the countryside in her convertible when all the other girls her age were getting married to their high school sweethearts.

1950's Nancy Drews are the next best thing -- still quaint but peppered with all kinds of 1950's "hip" language and even more girl-power.

Nancy strings Ned Nickerson along with ease and charm; he is always waiting in the wings to save the day. He respects Nancy even though he secretly wishes she would settle down and marry him, I'm sure. Athletic George and pleasingly plump Bess are a wonderful foil for Nancy's intelligence and thirst for adventure. One sometimes wonders what George and Bess would do if they weren't gallivanting around the globe with their friend.

In the 1970's they rewrote the original stories and updated them -- tragic but some of them are still acceptable.

Nancy's hair got longer and was no longer described as "titian," I guess because 1970's girls wouldn't have the slightest idea what "titian" was. Bess was still overweight, but the 1970's books were more likely to make her feel bad about it -- the "pleasingly" was dropped from the "plump".

Now that I've thought about it a little, here are my reasons Nancy Drew relieves stress:

1) Things always turn out in the end. There is no mystery too great, no situation too dire, no villain too sinister for Nancy's remarkable pluck and insatiable curiosity to overcome. Even when death and destruction seem imminent, rescue is sure and just a page away.

2) Nancy has an unlimited supply of resources. Her charge accounts are never-ending, her convertible is always the latest model, full of gas and ready to road-trip, her friends are bountiful and devoted.

3) In addition to being smart and brave, Nancy is fantastically beautiful. And worst of all, she's the kind of beautiful person you just can't hate because she's so gosh-darn nice.

4) Having Carson Drew for a father is like having a get-out-of-jail-free card at her immediate disposal no matter where she goes. Just mention the name Carson Drew and watch the doors open.

5) The police are always willing to drop whatever else they are working on and spring to Nancy's aid in any way she may request (this is because of her amazing reputation as a successful amateur sleuth, which they have tremendous respect for).

6) Athletic George (with her short haircut!) and pleasingly-plump Bess both not only have favorite boyfriends, but are also always able to find dates wherever the girls go. Of course Nancy gets first-pick of the boys, but everyone has a happy and willing dance partner. And Nancy never worries about offending Ned because she knows he will forever wait for her.

7) Handsome boys always come in threes.

8) Although Nancy's mother died tragically when Nancy was 3, kindly Hannah Gruen is everything a girl could ask for in a mother hen. She is just as comfortable fighting off an intruder with a lamp or her handbag as she is baking a scratch lemon meringue pie on a moment's notice for Nancy and her friends. Every home should come equipped with a Hannah Gruen.

9) Nancy is truly at home in the world. She'll travel anywhere, talk to anyone, try anything, and everywhere she goes there is a new friend and a new adventure waiting to greet her.

So I guess it's no wonder I still love to read Nancy Drew.
And even imagine I am Nancy, sometimes . . .

Now if I could just get a piece
of Hannah Gruen's
lemon-meringue pie . . .

See you Monday!


And now . . . a few last picks from my bag of book tricks:

Who better to introduce the last
few selections of fun than New Neighbor #9:

Scary Clown Guy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I just don't have that much control over how the facial expressions turn out. I only hope the person who is getting this piece wasn't planning to use it in a child's room -- I'd hate to provide the genesis of future therapy bills.

After all this serious talk about serious books,
I guess it's time to wind up Small Works' Summer Reading Recommendations with the kind of books that won't tax your brain one bit more than is necessary to operate your eyes --

Some tasty little visual treats in book form seem to me to be just the thing for a summer afternoon. Especially if there's a cold diet coke handy as well.

I was at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago just killing a little time skulking around the art section when this little gem caught my eye:

and I immediately had to purchase 2 (two!) of them, with no guarantee that I won't be needing more.

I may be the last person on the planet to board
the Marc Johns bus,

but I'm certainly happy I hopped on before he left the station.

The thing I love most about his work is that it seems to be completely effortless.

Like he just sat down and did a little doodling every morning before work, or something.

The best work often seems to be so, doesn't it?

For all intents and purposes, he does just about exactly what I do except he does it so very well and so very simply . . .

it makes me wonder why I spend all my time making zillions of tiny stitches when I could just jot my ideas down, add a little watercolor, and have ART.

But of course, I can't draw . . . and I'm not Marc Johns . . . and my ideas probably need the support of all those little stitches to hold them together.

I'd highly recommend this little prize -- one for your own desk or coffee table and one for someone you love (Amazon has the best price on it! Sorry, B & N.)

And no summer reading list would be complete
without my favorite annual July treat:

The CA Illustration Annual never disappoints, and it's on the newsstands now.

I've been collecting the Illustration Annuals for about 10 years, and it's amazing to me how the percentage of work that's digital has grown exponentially over the decade.

Most of the work doesn't look that much different -- but I couldn't help thinking that being a working artist is morphing at warp speed into something that requires a different skill set entirely.

I'm not sure how I feel about the proliferation of digital art. I was talking to my two artist daughters about it at lunch yesterday, and they both seemed to agree that in some ways a lot of art has become less impressive because there's very little of the "how'd they do that??!!" factor left.

Jody Hewgill, an illustration for "Tender Morsels . . . a magical story about the beauty and brutality of a woman's relationship with a wild bear-man."

But the thing I love most about the Illustration Annual is that I not only get to see a great picture, I get an explanation of the concept behind it. I love understanding how someone's brain got
from point a to point b --

Jon Reinfurt, an illustration for "Harmony Finally . . . an article that compares the abilities of three conductors competing for the same job."

the telling of an effective visual story --

Steve Adams, "Want to escape?" Some situations make people want to flee.

ideas without words.

Natalie Pudalov, from the series "Flea Dreams"

Lastly, Hannah and I were cruising through Half Price Books the other day and we happened upon this hardcover beauty for $9.99:

Design gold mine! Ka-ching!

The jacket blurb says: "'Decorative Ornament'" by Owen Jones is a magnificent new edition of his classic 'The Grammar of Ornament.' First published in 1856, this essential illustrated reference has been a source of inspiration for hundreds of artists, designers, and architects, from William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement to Frank Lloyd Wright. . . . More than one and a half centuries after its publication, this vital reference continues to stand as a ravishing, authoritative, and encyclopedic survey of great decorative design."

The illustrations are amazing, the colors lustrous (including a lot of metallics) -- for anyone interested in design, it's like having more than 2350 patterns at your fingertips to educate and inspire.

It's taken up residence on my desk.

I hope you've enjoyed Small Works' book tour -- I've already heard from someone who is reading "Art & Fear," and I'm thrilled to hear it.

It means that my work here is done.

Up next: a peek at my latest vintage acquisition,
and a preview of coming attractions for
"Small Works' Week of Itty Blog Bits."

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