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A Response to Bigotry

There has been a lot of horribleness in the news lately. There have been shootings, bombs, vehicular homicides…. The amount of violence, especially in places long considered safe has been overwhelming. The thing that hits us the hardest, though, is the undercurrent of racism and bigotry that has risen to the surface.

Many people are shocked that not only do these ideas persist, but that they are so strongly held. They can’t understand how, in a world that is so connected that one group can so hate another that they would call for a shutdown of their rights. And indiscriminately cause their deaths. It is enraging to watch it all happen. And it is frightening to be a member of not one, but several of the groups being targeted.

I am a Black, queer woman who is part of a mixed race couple. This doesn’t feel like a safe climate for me and my wife. There are those around me, ready to take up arms, to do battle. They are on the front lines at protests. They send calls to action to the powers that be, beseeching them to do the right thing and pass legislation to combat what feels like the rising tide of hatred and bigotry. These are the warriors, and we need them.

Five years in the Marine Corps have taught me that I am no warrior. I am an artist, a creator. As such, direct confrontation doesn’t work for me. My medium is subversion. I want to make people think, to reconsider their positions. Tell a person they are wrong, and they get instantly defensive. Tell a person a story, and they cannot help but look for themselves in that story.

I started to tell the stories of women from all races, nationalities, and walks of life through my series Women Behaving Badly. I want people to see themselves in those stories, to consider how they may be like those women, and think differently about women in general. Originally, I aimed these stories and this art at women and girls. I wanted to inspire them to be more than they thought they could be. Now, I see that these pieces can become a vehicle to combat an ideology that puts people into a box with an incorrect label in order to stop them being their full selves.

To quote the Netflix series The Get Down, “when you know better/ then you gotta do better/ each one teach one/ come together”. Warriors, stay on the front lines, we need you there. But, if like me, you know you don’t fit in a the front, we still need your help. Spread art, spread knowledge, spread the stories that tell of our mutual humanity. Reach out with your heart.

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What I Learned from Doing Festivals – Part 2

When participating in art festivals, especially the outdoor ones, you’re going to need a tent. Tents provide shade from the sun and protection from the elements. They also clearly mark the boundaries between your space and that of your neighbors. There are many tents out there, so choose the one that best suits your needs. Wal Mart and sporting goods stores have really inexpensive ones designed for use in your backyard, however these don’t come with walls. During inclement weather, you want to protect the contents of your tent.

Personally, I prefer to buy a tent that was made especially for festivals. These already come with walls that fit the frame. You can zip them down in bad weather and at the end of each day of a weekend long festival. They are more expensive than the backyard variety, but worth the investment. Mine is on the cheaper end of the spectrum. My walls are a thin, but functional nylon. I have seen others that are made of a heavier canvas, but so far mine does the job.

Now let’s talk about weights. One of the challenges of having your tent walls down is that sometimes your tent turns into a kite. The walls fill with air from the wind and your tent can blow over or blow away. My tent came with these sandbags, but at the moment of truth, they were no match for Mother Nature. After scouring the blogs, one solution came up again and again: PVC piping filled with concrete. The great thing about concrete is that it is really heavy without taking up much space. Have you ever seen how small a 50 lb. bag is? I had some fierce wind to contend with at the Black Arts Festival. Because of these bad boys, my tent held its ground.

The last thing I want to talk about is securing your walls. The cool thing about tent walls is that you can choose how many to keep down during a show. They zip at the corners, so you can keep the back down while the front and sides are rolled up for access and air flow. Now, the problem with my tent is that the velcro straps it came with are practically useless. The slight breeze makes them lose their grip. At the hardware store I found this industrial strength velcro. With one small square in each corner, I can secure my wall right to the tent post. That thing is going NOWHERE!

This velcro also comes in handy for the walls you roll up. I cut some strips of canvas and stuck a piece to each side. Using four of these per corner, I was able to snugly secure the walls to the top of my tent. These straps release quickly so that when the rain does come, my art is in minimal danger.

If you liked this post, please let me know in the comments below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. And stay tuned for Part 3: Putting Together the Display. Also, stay posted for photos. I didn’t have a chance to set up and take more, so I’ll have mini posts as time goes on.

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Battling Unconscious Biases with Art

I may have mentioned this before but I love listening to podcasts. My list seems to grow every month as more, interesting series come to my attention. I stared listening to Radio Lab a few years ago and it was like my gateway drug. Podcasts allow me to insert information into my brain while I am working and inspire me to apply new concepts to my art.

It was through podcasts that I learned of some of the women I painted or my Women Behaving Badly series. I heard their stories, learned of their deeds and asked myself, why have I never heard of these women before? So, I set myself to the task of using my art to teach others. I felt as though I had finally found my purpose.

Listening to Hidden Brian today, I heard an episode which added to my motivation. The topic of the episode was unconscious bias as it relates to women, particularly women in leadership roles. Women who have the “masculine” traits necessary to be seen as good leaders are often considered overbearing and unlikable. When women display the expected “feminine” traits of being caring and compassionate, they are assumed to be weak and incompetent. The podcast calls this the “double bind”. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

The end of the podcast suggests that if we are to get women out of this double bind situation, we need to change society’s perception of women. I have chosen to showcase women in history as my way of changing that perception. I highlight women leaders, inventors and healers of nations. Not only do they inspire me, our society needs to see them as contributors to who we are. We need to let go of our unconscious biases and see value in the feminine.

Check out this episode of Hidden Brain to learn more. And go to my Women Behaving Badly blog to learn more about the series.

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Creator Spotlight: Urban Arkanum

Despite how we are portrayed in movies, we artists do not exist inside a vacuum. Often, we are surrounded by other creative individuals whose work inspires and encourages us to be our greater selves. We discuss concepts, techniques, and tools. We critique each other’s work. Artists have the ability to look at styles completely different from our own and have those styles inform how we approach our newest project.

I have long been a lover of comic books. I see them as the perfect marriage of the written word and the image. A beginner in the art of sequential storytelling myself, I am intrigued by those who are able to blend story and art so seamlessly. I have recently joined a group of such individuals who create comics and graphic novels. Their tales range from sci-fi to slice of life, fantastical to personal.

And then there’s Urban Arkanum. When the owner and founder Anubis Heru-Cole and I met, he was pushing his clothing line: ancient Egyptian symbols emblazoned in gold and silver on t-shirts and hoodies. As we got to know one another, he shared with me his plans to write a graphic novel. It would be an Afrocentric fantasy story about kings and gods. Of course, I was intrigued. This is not the kind of story I usually come across in my perusal of bookstores and comic shops.

The world is falling apart. A massive horde of genetically engineered creatures systematically stalk and terrorize the people of the planet.  Their only aim seemingly, to hunt and kill every last hue-man. Fortunately the powerful Kingdom of Avaris has the military might to thwart this evil menace.  But there is more at stake, environmental weather anomalies have begun to surface and cause substantial damage to the planet.  A young prince and three unlikely heroes must join together to find an ancient artifact that can bring balance back to their world. In the midst of conflict and danger lurking around every turn, will they find the artifact in time?

Don’t miss the action packed Sci-fi/Fantasy Acid of the Godz, created by Anubis Heru and Theo Wilson. Comic book Illustrated by Ryan Best.

I am happy to report that not only is the project underway, it is gorgeous! Check out the pages below and follow Acid of the Godz on Facebook and Instagram.

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The Last Painting of the Year

Happy New Year everybody! That’s it, 2016 is over and it’s time to ring in 2017. It has been a wild ride, full of ups and downs, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. As we move into this new year, it helps to reflect, but let’s not forget to look forward.

This is the time of year to set goals. January is when we change the things we don’t like about ourselves and improve upon those things we love about ourselves. I have never been good about making and sticking to resolutions. I find that plans have a way of changing or falling through if there is no accountability.

The thing that works for me is setting a theme for the year. Last year’s theme was “Growth”. I worked to grow my business and grow the relationships most important to me. I think this year’s them will be “Learning”. There is so much information that I put into my head on a regular basis, but to be honest, it doesn’t all stick. This year, I want to be more intentional with my learning so that I actually retain the information I take in.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Realistic Portraits course with Jason Seiler on Just doing the first couple of lessons has showed me where I have become complacent with my art. Doing the assignments will (hopefully) make me more deliberate with my artwork and help me improve my skills. With any luck, that deliberateness will leak into other aspects of my life, making me a better person as well as a better artist.

What is your theme for the new year? I’d love to hear what motivates you!

Harriet Tubman watercolor study.
Eye watercolor study – my last painting of the year
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The Dream Client

Many freelancers like to talk about their nightmare clients, those people who seem not to know exactly what they want but will happily tell you that you’re doing everything wrong. These folks have little respect for the time and effort you are exerting on their behalf. They ask for re-dos and redesigns of work you both approved but balk at the extra fees you charge for that extra time.

That’s one end of the spectrum. The other end is the Dream Client. The Dream Client knows exactly what she wants and communicates  it well. She is open to your input, but will not blindly follow or reject your suggestions. If, during the creation process, she sees something she doesn’t like, she lets you know and is specific about her needs. This client has great respect for your time and for your skill. She won’t haggle over the price of your work or drag her feet when it’s time to pay.

Best of all, Dream Clients come back for more.  Not only do they purchase from you again and again, they tell their friends and bring you more business. I am so grateful for all of the Dream Clients I have so far. I hope to find many more.

If you are interested in becoming one of my Dream Clients, I am taking orders for the Holidays. Be aware, if you or your loved one lives outside of the state of Colorado, allow for shipping and place your order before December 6th. If you are in the Denver Metro area, you have until the 12th to order.

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Life Drawing – Practice, Practice Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friend Mike Rosenbaum, a caricature artist here in Denver. He and I had gone to school together, but haven’t hung out in a long time. We immediately made plans to catch up. He told me about this life drawing session at the Lakewood Cultural Arts Center, so we headed over there on Thursday.

Life Drawing in a Nutshell

If are an artist and you have never been to a life drawing session, I highly recommend that you go regularly. I hadn’t gone in over a year, but it came back pretty quickly. Different sessions have different formats, but the basics are:

  1. Short gesture drawings, usually 1-five minutes per pose
  2. Longer poses, about 10 minutes or so
  3. Slightly longer poses 20-30 minutes each. Here the model is usually seated or reclined, though some will stand.
  4. Long poses of 40 minutes to 2 hours. For the longest of these, the model will take a break at the halfway point to rest, then resume the pose to the best of his/her ability.

The session I went to last week had about five 1-minute poses, five 5-minute poses, one 10-minute poses and four poses that were between 20 and 30 minutes long. One minute per pose is a harrowing pace if you’re not used to it. It is, however, essential. If you can figure out the pose at one minute, with 20 or 30, you will have so much more time to work in the details. This makes it all worthwhile, to me.

The Results

Below are the drawings I did last week. One is missing because I gave it to the model. Sometimes they will take art in lieu of tips, though tips are encouraged as well.

Thanks for stopping in! Don’t forget that this Saturday is the Meet The Artist reception for Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library. I will be there from 2:30 -4:30 pm to answer any questions you have about the art and the series.

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A Custom Portrait for Someone You Love

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A Little Different – Burmese Food in Denver

Hey Everyone,

I have mentioned my wife Marin in a few of my posts now. I want to let you know a little about her and what she does.

My wife is brilliant. Just after graduating from college, she applied for and received the Fulbright Grant. If you don’t know about this, it is crazy hard to get, especially on the first try and especially for those who are not already Grad students. She used this grant to spend a year and a half in China researching their food culture. Did I mention she speaks fluent Mandarin? Did I mention she was brilliant?

When Marin came home, she started volunteering for this organization that works with refugees in Aurora. Through that organization, she met Zin Zin, a young Burmese women who is as passionate about cooking as Marin is about eating. They formed a partnership, teaching nutrition classes to other Burmese refugees who did not know what to do with the items at the food share. Not all vegetables are created equal.

Burmese Village

That partnership has turned into a deep friendship which has culminated in Marin’s efforts to help grant Zin Zin’s wish to open Denver’s first Burmese restaurant. Together, they are hosting a five course Burmese Dinner to raise funds for Zin Zin’s restaurant. Follow the link below to learn more and to get your seat at the table. I am one of the lucky few who gets to eat Zin Zin’s cooking regularly. As she builds her catering business and eventually gets her own space, you could be as lucky too.

Burmese Village, the fundraising dinner will be on

November 12th 6-9pm
at the Spring Institute
1373 Grant St

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Ready for Tonight

Good afternoon! I’m getting a late start again, but with good reason. I was off getting a fresh hair cut so that I can be pretty for the panel tonight. This evening’s event is Women in Literature. The three women I have invited to speak, Robyn Vie-Carpenter Brisco, Jennifer Kincheloe and Cassi Clark, will be talking about their new books, what got them into writing, and whatever other topics come up.

Join us tonight at:
Coffee at The Point
710 26th Ave
Denver, CO

From 6-8pm

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The Importance of Exercise

Good Morning Friends of Afro Triangle! I decided to take the weekend off and waited until today to post. I think I’ll stick to this trend. On the weekends, I generally prefer to sleep in, so posting first thing in the morning sometimes interferes with my other plans for the day.

In any case, I want to talk to you about exercise. I know, this seems a strange subject for an artist. Don’t you just sit around and paint all day, I hear you asking? Yes. And that’s kind of the point. The human body was meant to move. Our muscles don’t like to be sedentary.  Sitting and painting, or sitting on the computer all day without getting up are bad for the body. Such inactivity causes the body to have bad habits which result in injury when you finally do move.

Last week was insane for me. I moved from my studio in Boulder to my studio in Denver, hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday, spoke in a panel on Thursday and sold art at a Poetry Night on Friday. I was actually still moving studios all the way through Friday, then unpacking Saturday and Sunday. It was a lot of physical and mental work. Without regular exercise, I would be wrecked right now!

These days I do Capoeira two-three times a week, and that’s enough for me. Some of you might need more exercise, some of you less. You have to listen to your own body. And keep in mind, I’m not advocating weight loss or “getting in shape”. I just mean body maintenance. Get your heart rate up, get flexible, get moving. I have two panel discussions this week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. You bet I’m going to get enough sleep and get some exercise!


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Good morning Afro Triangle friends. Today begins a week of transitions. I am starting the move to my new studio today. I get to box up all my belongings, assessing what I actually need and what I’ve been hanging onto “just in case”. Somehow, I always find a bunch of things I don’t use. Then I get rid of them. And months later I wonder where they got to. It happens almost every time I change up my style.

I actually move into the new space tomorrow. I am so excited! There will finally be enough room for my festival tent AND my finished paintings. My in laws will be happy to have that part of the garage back. Most importantly, I will be able to take meetings in the middle of the day and still work in my studio. Until now, meeting with people meant giving up on studio time because of the commute.

After moving , I get to transition into my role as hostess. Tomorrow night is the Women in STEM panel discussion, the first of several for the month. I will be at Coffee at The Point with my four panelists. Click here for the blog post about the speakers. The talk starts at 6 PM I, so I have to get cleaned up and ready by 5:30.

By Thursday, I go back to setting up the studio. But somewhere in there, I transition into businesswoman. Being self employed means constantly setting up that next paying gig. There are emails, phone calls, meetings and negotiations. I am only now starting to embrace it. Truth be told, I would rather be painting in my studio.

It’s going to be a busy week. I hope I can share some of it with you.