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Les Accessories

So here’s a day when so much has happened! Most importantly, I had my first meeting with my mentor, artist John Ross Palmer. We decided to paint together, which was great fun, and we made a collaboration piece (above). The painting is for sale, with both our signatures on it, and costs $90 if you’re interested.

The lesson of the day for me, as an artist, is still slowly sinking in. One thing I want to learn from John is how to strike the right balance between the merely suggested and the neatly detailed elements of a painting. It’s something that he does extremely well in his art, and which I admire greatly. His advice to me: paint a lot, and it will come. I guess it has to do with what my date and I were talking about the other night too: How do you know when something is done? In both art and love it can, at times, be difficult to tell, yet overdoing it, in both, can be as bad, if not worse, than leaving things unfinished. Maybe Coco Chanel was on to something: The last accessory you’ve put on to complete an outfit is too much. Take it off. The final line you wish to add (I was dying for one more contour to that woman scrambling through her closet), don’t draw it. That last letter you wish to send your former lover, don’t send it. Less is more. Or is it? Do some affairs require a final song, some outfits a flower pinned to a lapel, some paintings a few extra touches?

And to add more complexity to a life full of such decisions, here’s one more: Do you buy a house for its magic? Do you buy it because it’s close to the beach and has its original ceilings? Do you buy it because you love the green leaves of palm trees as seen through its windows, its claw-foot bathtub, and the crown molding in the room with the chandelier? Do you buy it because its ghosts speak to you? Do you buy it because you can?

Or do you try to still the questions in your mind, all questions about art and love and houses, and go see your paintings hanging at the new location of Kitchen Chick, then go to a party at Maceo’s, go for a long walk with your friend and peek inside the old Customs House, only to end up later in front of the house with the chandelier in the dark wondering about the same old things, wondering if maybe its ghosts and yours might enjoy a playdate as you soak in the claw foot tub and try to wash away all your angst and your worries?

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Today was cold and in the morning it rained. The fog of a dream I didn’t quite want to wake up from didn’t leave me all day. I was out of coffee. I whipped up some instant coffee I’d bought for the hurricane. With a lot of milk it wasn’t half bad, but my tiredness never went away. It went with me to drawing class, stealing my joy. The class, frankly, hasn’t quite been what I was hoping for. The other students like to play with various media, to play with shapes and squiggles. I want to learn how to draw the human form. Today I really wanted to learn how to do hands and feet. I wasn’t interested in dipping sticks in ink and doodling. I left class early and went for a walk. It was wet and the trees around the Menil looked like sad brown piles of coiled roots and branches. The Menil is about to close for a whole year for renovations. I contemplated going inside. Instead I went and had Vietnamese vermicelli noodles. Then I walked back to the Watercolor Society. Class was over and everyone was setting up for life drawing. I like life drawing better. It’s more useful to me. Today the model brought a mask. I liked that, but I couldn’t produce anything I was excited to show to anyone. So later, much later, at home, after cooking something healthy, after starting the dishwasher, after completing my dreaded annual review for work and emailing it, I sat down and drew a baby bird hatching out of an egg. It reminded me that birds are dinosaurs and that cheered me up, but just briefly. Tomorrow, I’m hoping, will be a better day.

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Fish Bone

Fish bone

Beautiful and bare

Lying abandoned on the sidewalk

Carrying salty pleasures

And stories of the sea.

I’ve wanted you for days.

I’ve drooled and pulled

On the leash with which

I attach

My human to my mighty body

So as not to lose her.

I’ve wanted you so bad.

I’ve dreamt of you at night.

Fantasized, wondered, longed, and plotted.

What can I say?

I’m a covetous bitch!

I’ve agonized at the thought

Of another dog

Getting you.

I’ve waited,

Casting covetous glances

Each time I saw you

Shining there


On the sidewalk

Your smell

Inviting me.

Today finally,

Oh joy of joys,

I held you

In my powerful jaw

For a second

I will always remember.

You were mine, mine, mine

But were you really?

“No!” said the human,

That jealous little bitch!

“No no!”

Yet she didn’t dare

Insert her dainty paw into my mouth

Because, to be honest,

I bit her once,

Bit her hard,

Cracked her tiny bird-like bones

The way I was hoping

To crunch you

Between my teeth.

She shook me,

That stubborn beast,

Untrainable breed,

Crazy monster

That she is!

She shook me and I dropped you

Piece by piece.

She dragged me


But at least I know now

No other dog can have you.

As for me

She fed me

Diet dog food.

And it was good.

So good

I even wondered

Why crave the thrill

Of the forbidden

When you have

A good life here

At home?

Am I perhaps a treacherous bitch?

I licked the human’s finger,


And I resolved to love her

Despite her many flaws.

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Best Day Ever

I had such a fun day today in my Escapist studio working on my very first assignment! The painting is coming along nicely though I’m not ready to reveal it yet.

When I went home to feed the biggest dog in the universe I also sat down and painted some antique silverware inspired by my friend Margaret Doran’s Instagram feed.

The best days, for me, tend to be the ones when I like what I painted and when I feel like I got a lot of good work done.

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Be the Dragon

I drew this Chinese dragon in homage to my dog because she so fierce (and she kinda looks like one with those round popping eyes and her underbite!). But I also drew it because I wanted to feel fierce myself and in the morning I was feeling somewhat faded. It was probably nerves. Today was my initiation ceremony at John Palmer’s studio where I stood with the other Escapists, two wonderful ladies I’m already very fond of (AVM Hawkins and Paula Hawkins), and took the Escapist pledge. (There is a fourth of us too, Nabarupa Bhattacharjee, but she is currently in India and will join us in May). Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney gave a very moving keynote address in which she said some of the things I deeply believe in: that we can all get along even when we disagree and that art will help heal some of the current divisiveness in our country and the world. Representative Al Green attended the initiation as well and I was honored to meet him and receive a celebratory fist bump! We all got photographed more than I’ve ever been in my life (including the time I was a bridesmaid at a wedding in Kentucky, and they take that shit seriously!).

Of course, the question was, who would show up for me? I do have a tendency to eschew ceremonies of any kind, and if I ever do attend I usually don’t have family and such joining because #expatlife #rollingstone #girlwhomovesalot. I’m thrilled to report my cat curator friend who doesn’t like to go out because she’s part feline showed up wearing a beautiful shirt with the most exquisite print of cats. Of course, I recommended her services to the District Attorney. I’m so proud of her cat sitting business and also I just love talking to people about cats. You should try it sometime!

The other person who showed up for me was Mitch Cohen, owner and organizer of the First Saturday Arts Market, and a bona fide Houston art world celebrity. He suggested I take a picture of the floor in my studio so I can have before and after shots when the year is up. And so I did because I recognize good advice when I hear it.

I suppose my dog would have loved to come support me too but she too fierce to go out in public. That’s why I drew her as a Chinese dragon. I think she digs that.

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“When do you know a love story’s over?” I asked.

“You just know,” he said. “It’s like a painting. You know when it’s done.” I liked the metaphor.

I’d spent a very satisfying day in my new art studio with much hope that the painting I’m currently working on will eventually feel “resolved.” I decided it needed a scrappy coyote sitting in a corner. The image just came to me and I connected it with the coyote I saw in the summer, on East Beach in Galveston, the one that appeared as an omen of truths I knew but was unwilling to accept. Coyotes have very strong symbolism. They are shape shifters. They signal transformation. I figured a coyote would go well with the hellebores blooming out of a green heart.

Also, I got pink paint on the floor of my Escapist studio. It’s something I wanted to do very much.

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The Chrysalis

Best moment of my day: Having John Palmer take my picture as I was prepping a panel in my new studio next to Bobby the dog who seems to love me truly. The building that contains the Escapists’ studios and a gallery for us to show our work in is called the Chrysalis. I’m glad I got in there today and started working on my first Escapist project.

Also, I got a haircut and got the Italian boots I bought three years ago in Amsterdam resoled and looking fabulous. I am so ready for the initiation on Sunday!

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There is a tradition my witch friend taught me which involves holding on to the Christmas tree, a green beacon of hope to remind us of nature eventually coming back to life, until the Gaelic feast of Imbolc. Imbolc marks the beginning of spring. And guess what? Imbolc is today. Bye, Christmas tree!

Of course, it’s not lost on me how stars and symbols align. Yesterday I had my first Escapist meeting on a night with a magical full moon, and then the next day marks the start of spring, a new beginning, things blooming, coming back to life.

I have an idea for my first Escapist project that involves, among other things, flowers that bloom in late winter and early spring. I decided I really like hellebores. And of course, I came to like them even more when I learned that they’re part of the ranunculus family.

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A Magical Year Ahead

The full moon is upon us. I made this calendar to mark the beginning of a very exciting time in my life. Today we had our first meeting with John Palmer and his partner, Ryan, and I finally got to meet the other Escapists! There are three of us here in Houston (and one in India!). We got to see our studios. Yes, we get studios and gallery space! Mine has paint smears from Hugo Perez, a painter whose bold colors and texture I love, and from my friend Chuck Redick who was an Escapist last year and who introduced me to the program and all of the wonderful opportunities it entails when I crashed a collector’s party this past summer. Yes, sometimes I stumble upon things and the Universe shows me the way. I believe in synchronicity and magic. I also believe we create opportunities for ourselves by being who we are and going places uninvited. Or rather by being adventurous and curious and open. I was well received at the collectors party. I knew I’d stumbled upon a good crowd. And tonight too, the energy was positive and welcoming. Our small Escapist class bonded and I could feel genuine enthusiasm and warmth.

My day, before making it to the Escapist meeting had not been entirely uncomplicated. I’d struggled in drawing class this morning and almost left before the life drawing session. My friend had to encourage me not to quit. “You’re a damn bull,” she said. “You’re strong.” I liked that. I love being surrounded by this kind of support, by people who encourage me to push through when the going gets tough. We all have the tendency to jump ship on occasion, but perseverance tends to pay off. I’m glad I stayed for the life drawing session after my morning drawing class. The model was beautiful and she held poses with grace. Also, I think I’m getting better. It’s a slow process, but it’s worth it.