“There’s no place like home,” says Dorothy as she

clicks her ruby red slippered-heels together.  A place

she found rather dull once upon a time now holds all

she could ever wish for.  I know how she feels—I can

be like the cat who wants to be let out, and then back

in, and then back out…and then back in.  The home

should be a place of refuge and safety which waits for

you at the end of a day’s travels.  A home can be a

refuge, but it can also be a place of celebration,

mourning, anticipation, or desolation.  What makes

the difference?

A home is much like a tiny universe, where there are

forces that push and pull against each other.  Those forces usually come in the form of family members, roommates, or

friends.  We all contribute to the environment that fills the space, and the same physical house can change atmospheres

entirely with a new set of inhabitants.


Growing up, I lived in a cookie-cutter

apartment complex.  Each unit was

identical to the next, yet a unique

family lived in each one.  We all

watched the same t.v. shows, ate the

same basic kind of food, and played

with the same Barbies and Fisher Price

toys, but I can remember visiting my

friends with the same walls as I had.  It

was a completely different world in

each apartment—as if there was an

internal, invisible home inside of the physical structure.house5

My great grandmother built her house with

her own two hands after her husband died.  I

usually don’t know the history of homes I

see, and so one of my favorite things to do is 

stroll through streets of historic homes and

make up stories for each one based on their

aura.  The older homes are mysteriously fun,

with their worn charm and trustability, made

sturdy with fine craftsmanship and unique


One of the best dreams I chouse2an recall

was one where I was walking

through a plaza, laughing with my

family and surrounded by

mansions on all sides.  The

structures were lovely; however,

the happiness came from the

people that encompassed me.  I

decided that the dream was my

interpretation of heaven, and that

the afterlife will be a very lonely

place without loved ones to share my home with.

5 Ways to Use Art as Therapy


     Recently, my Pinterest app told me that adult coloring books are trending right now.  I knew they existed, but I hadn’t realized they were now outrageously popular.  Of course, being an artist myself, it didn’t surprise me; however, I did begin to wonder what it is about coloring that appeals to the mind.  I’ve begun looking into art therapy and the benefits it provides to people dealing with all sorts of illnesses and trauma.  According to one study, “professionals are beginning to recognize the role that creative arts play in the healing process; increasingly, arts in medicine programs are emerging throughout the United States and worldwide (Ganim B. Art and Healing: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind and Spirit New York, NY: Three Rivers Press; 1999)”.  To be honest, we are all dealing with issues that could use therapy—and perhaps this new coloring book fad came about because of art’s fun, non-threatening ability to help heal and soothe a troubled mind.  In addition to coloring books, I’ve come up with 5 ways to use art as therapy.

1.  Make abstract art to express emotions.

Sometimes, as a viewer, it can be challenging to appreciate an abstract painting.  Splotches of color, pattern, and fragments of lines and shapes can seem devoid of meaning and hard to connect with.  Yet these pieces can become the most powerful when a description of the piece from the artist is provided.  What was going on in the mind of the individual while they were creating what stands before you?  When we lose the requirement to make things looked “real”, we gain a new freedom to delve in and discover our own personal universe.  We make the rules, and with no boundaries—social or scientific—can hold us back.  We can use this picture to help us find the words that perhaps were held back by the conventional world. Here is a link for an exercise to address the feeling of grief: http://www.recover-from-grief.com/art-therapy-activity.html

2.  Use representational art to express gratitude for the world around you.

Have you ever tried to draw someone?  It’s hard.  Even if you can get the face to look like an actual human face, you still have to make it look like a certain person.  But as you stare hard into that face, you begin to see the tilt of the nose, the soft wrinkles around the eyes, and the curving of the lips—you begin to appreciate those features.  The more landscapes I paint, I become more aware of the color and composition that lies all around me in the natural world.  The term “grounding” refers to a practice used for people during panic attacks, where the individual goes through a series of actions to help them connect with their present surroundings.  Taking in one’s surroundings at a representational level helps us become one with our world in a purely positive way.  Here is a basic tutorial for drawing the face:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbRMCgtcchw

3.  Use process art to calm the mind.

This is where the coloring book comes in.  Most of the adult coloring books these days deal with intricate patterns reminiscent of Middle Eastern patterns, which are generally based on flowers and swirls.  When the mind needs something gentle and relaxing, this is the perfect thing.  Simple clay molding can have the same effect, especially when making pinch pots or anything that has a particular process and uses specific tools.  Collaging can be a nice way to collect all of your favorite things and arrange them in a notebook to be recalled at a more troubling time.   Here is a link for some great coloring books:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/coloring%20books%20for%20adults?sourceid=H000000012&st=SEM&sid=BNB_DRS_Home+Gift+2014_00000000&2sid=Google_NON_p&sourceId=SEGoS27234&k_clickid=416×27234

4.  Use creativity and imagination to gain contact with your inner child.

Finger paint!  There’s nothing more exciting than getting your hands dirty.  Some of my favorite activities as a child included flinging paint with toothbrushes, tie dying shirts, building sand castles and nests out of mowed grass…art encompasses a wide range of materials.  Just be creative.  Weave your invention in to what you cook, how you dress, at the parties you throw, and especially into the activities you plan for your children and loved ones.  We never grow too old to try new things, and variety is the spice of life.  If you need help starting or have any ideas to share, go to www.pinterest.com.

5.  Use artistic journaling as an outlet.

Another new thing that I’ve noticed around the Internet is a new form of journaling.  It involves using sketches, color, creative writing, and collage to give a more visually interactive account of daily events and emotions.  It’s like taking a novel with no pictures or anything noteworthy and transforming it into a vibrantly illustrated tale.  The sky is the limit here—use magazines, crayons, and paint to illustrate what you’re talking about, or just show us a few of your favorite things.  For more ideas, check out






Last Christmas, I made a series of nativity-based paintings.  They each focused on a character

or place foremost on the stage of the Messiah’s birth.  For this year’s holiday season, I’ve

focused the theme on angels.  Combining this theme with the Nativity simplified the characters

to Mary and the baby Jesus in order to make plenty of room for the heavenly hosts.  I kept a

open, nebulous sky to reference the home of the messengers that brought news before and

during the miraculous event.  The angels helped Mary to understand that she was a chosen

vessel.  They explained to Joseph Mary’s delicate state in order to prevent misunderstanding.

They heralded the birth to the shepherds.  These hosts remained close to Christ during the

hardest times of His life, including being tempted by Satan in the wilderness and bearing the

sins of all in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Angels played a crucial role during His ministry, and

they still play an important role in our lives today, whether they come in the form of mortal

beings or loved ones since departed.








painting of a boy swimming with goldfish

Imagination–it’s usually something people get rid of at a certain age, mostly because there’s a point at which people are expected to become practical.  Our society expects us to be responsible and deal with the situations at hand instead of spending time lost in daydreams.  Then why do we encourage people to use it so much at the peak of mental development during childhood?  Is it just to keep kids busy?  The other day while camping, my friend and her son were setting up their tent.  They had brought a mattress the same size as the tent, and once it was blown up, they couldn’t get it to fit in the door!  As the adults were on the verge of throwing their hands up in the air, the boy simply and quietly suggested they put the mattress underneath the tent.  And it worked like a charm.  Children have the ability to think outside the box because they haven’t yet required themselves to “grow up” and think the way everyone else does.  If we are so concerned with problems at hand, wouldn’t the best solution be to make our minds creative enough to think of solutions?  I think we’re starting to wake up to the possibilities of using our imaginations, judging by the excitement and investment involved in developing virtual reality.  Perhaps the missing link is making these inventive thoughts cooperate with our practical world.

In this painting, a young boy swims through a school of goldfish of his dreams.  The pool is just a setting for whatever he can think up.  He’ll spend endless hours of his childhood lost in play, preparing himself to take on the responsibilities of an adult.  Hopefully he’ll keep hold of his whimsical ways of thinking and make himself a better father, a better worker, and more able to contribute to the innovation of his society.

Understanding a Circular Citrus Grove

Awhile back, I put some orange trees in a couple of different works, although my dream is to have an entire kitchen where I can paint citrus trees all over the walls.  Their warm, orange and yellow spheres glow among cool greens and remind me of sunny places where it’s warm enough for fruit to grow. I really loved making them, mainly because the bright colors combined nicely with the collage texture underneath.  I wanted to use an entire painting to focus on them see what kind of meaning I could find through their usage and placement.

Orange Tree

For some reason my mind automatically saw them circling a reflective pool of water.  Most of the time I don’t really know why I come up with things, so it’s good for me to take some time explaining myself.  Lately, I’ve been obsessed with nature, particularly it’s majesty that comes from naturally living up to the measure of its creation without any hesitation, which we as humans constantly struggle with.  Orchards are symbolic in nature and can represent life in terms of a master gardener taming and taking care of the plants that fall within his stewardship.  Thinking about my circular orchard, the plants take on a reverence as they respectfully circle their life source.  The plants are cared for and productive, indicating that someone cares enough to work among them, and in turn the burgeoning fruit shows gratitude towards a master who provides them with food, water, and protection.


The trees symbolize people who understand the importance of give and take, of gratitude, and how important it is to recognize where one stands in relation to their fellows–as a servant, steward, producer, and contributor.


Peacocks and Hieroglyphs


I’ve always had a fascination with hieroglyphs.  Perhaps it’s the way they connect to a long-gone society that all we have to guess at is what they’ve left behind.  Once my brother bought a book that taught you how to decipher hieroglyphs; it was an exciting thought, but I honestly liked them better as a mystery.   The paintings and relief sculptures intrigue me the most–they’ve capture the entirety of a culture with all its religious, political, and mundane features in a two-dimensional masterpiece.  It’s what we artists try to do every day.




My goal leans towards making hieroglyphs of my own that perhaps someone down the line will be able to guess at.  So we’ll start with a big part of my life.  I work at the Food and Care Coalition.  It’s very fulfilling helping people who’ve fallen on hard times, which is probably why I’ve been there for so long.  We’ve recently opened the transitional housing units aimed at getting individuals off the streets and into jobs and homes of their own.  These lovely flowers hang out right next to the two big dumpsters out back of the facility.  I’ve made that walk too many times to count, but these flowers by the garbage create a great parallel that encompasses this great place.  The poor can sometimes become a curse word or an eye sore that a community wants to be gone.  There can be extensive complaints about tax money going to welfare, or about people bringing about their own misery, and believe me, sometimes I can be the worst critic after a long day of enforcing rules against rough manners.  Luckily, I’ve been reminded time and time again about the beauty that comes from this population.  They are humble, and each has a story.  Those who volunteer time and means do it with very little recognition.  They come with open hearts.  There is so much gratitude to go around–every day I witness a sanctification process amidst mashed potatoes, and with any kind of fortune, both of those things rub off on me and my apron.



Those flowers, along with the peacock, allowed me to study using white in my work.  It’s something I’ve avoided up until now, and this color is allowing new levels of contrast.  It acts as an undercoating for the flowers, allowing the orange and white to glow and compete with the underlying blue tones.  The peacock is one of the rare times I’ve just used straight white to such a large degree.  The white spindly feathers in the tail lend structure to the textured ground underneath.



What does the final product say?  It can be taken as a commentary on one of my virtue/vices that I recently went head-to-head on.  I often feel like this peacock:  gazing longingly at lovely blossoms while a hunter scatters a flock right behind my back.  My search for truth and beauty can sometimes make it hard to face the not-so-beautiful realities.  Lately, I’m learning to let the truth guide me through the unpleasantries, and I notice that it’s during these times when the truth is defined with the most clarity.















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