Mar 18, 2017

Doesn't Everyone Need Their Own Dragon?

I've always been fascinated with Illuminated Manuscripts - those ancient scrolls and books with arcane and exotic hand painted letters. It's easy to get lost in manuscripts with those large first letters full of endless twists of decoration and bursting with people, animals, and creatures of no known origin but a monk's imagination.

Secluded away in the Scriptorium, (the monastery rooms dedicated to that craft), the scribe's task was copying letter after letter after letter, hour after hour, with precision and faithfulness to the script, with only the flourish of a serif as relief. The hope of adorning the page with some glory of creative freedom had to be pined for, dreamed of, and fought for. And imagine, if your patron requested not only color, but that it be done with gold paint? Jealousy and envy were no doubt common sins among the talented, and no doubt competitive, holy brethren.

Who doesn't look at these collections of Ornate Letters and zero in on their own initials? How many times do you feel cheated - your letter doesn't have the cool animal or exotic decoration? Who wants that as a Monogram? The hope is finding one you at least like, if not love. Birds, O.K.; Lions, neat!;  a really fabulous twist and curl of decorated cord? All right. And to discover that any of your letters has a Dragon? Holy Grail!

But how often did that happen?

That was my mission: Everyone should have their own Dragon.

You can see the development of Dracoserific, my font full of Dragons here

or see the full Parade of Dragons right here:

Mar 7, 2015

Art isn't for sissies.

Art isn’t for sissies.
bleeding type saying art isn't for sissies

All glory? All the time? Really? 

There it is - the Mess. Once a promising piece of creative fun, now it’s sitting, waiting on your desk - and there’s nobody to fix it but YOU.

Look, you can see it across the room from here.

Worse, YOU made the mess, with the best of intentions, pushing against the limits of your abilities  - and you found precisely where those limits lie.

And maybe you blew by some experience you already had under your belt. Oops - Damn. Why? Why did I do that? How did I let that happen? Great, I’ll be taking that psychological spiral inwards (and downwards) as well.

Where’s that flagellation stick?

You’re facing another learning curve – and you made it yourself! Ah, the joy of intense analysis, pragmatic assessment, and once the shame subsides, a plan – well, an idea of a plan.

There’s a process of decisions that must be made, some slowly with deliberation and care, and more that must come rapidly, in that uncharted space between experience and intuition.

And now all you have to do is wade in. It feels like waiting for the trapeze to swing toward you so you can throw yourself out into mid air to catch it.

Yeah, I can’t imagine why fear’s an issue.

And, as usual, there’s no net.

This is the time I envy the computer artist. Throw out that nasty layer - Click - easy. Enlarge it so it’s bigger and easy to see - Click. Duplicate the image and try out your brilliant idea – click, click, label, and save. I do some computer artwork, too, so I know this; I do this, but when it comes to creating my art I still prefer the Original, the genuine “hard copy”, the REAL piece of physical creativity that stains my nails and strains my aging eyes, my temper, and my temperament.

So, I’ve even asked for this. (Sigh.)

And Time, the looming disciplinarian, regardless if there’s a deadline set, still judges, “You STILL haven’t finished?” He stares at you; he stares you down, and ticks away in angry increments.

Why do people struggle with creating?

Ha! It’s a war in there. And you’re on your own.

So if you are creative, and still working at it,  know in your soul you've got more courage than it looks like from the outside. After you lick your wounds, grieve the losses, and regret the errors,  - get up, assess the battlefield, plan a strategy, grab your armor, your weapons, and go back after it.

Just being back in the swing of it is victory. And this time, Serendipity may be yours, and the mess will prove to be nothing more than a learning curve.

Funny, how the scars never seem to show.

Jan 10, 2013


I started playing with beads at about the same time I worked with crayons. The common thread linking them is color and texture, and working with either medium still involves focus and design. 

Making beads has always been a hobby, a way to relax with something 3D: beads and thread that I could hold in my hands as opposed to skimming over the surface of a canvas with brushes and pencils, or hovering over illustration board with the airbrush, never touching the image in progress.

I had always made jewelry for my Mom, my sister, some friends, and myself. My mom in particular, preferred my jewelry to any gift I might give her, so I always made certain to make some for her birthday and Christmas. Sometimes those dates were the only reason I had to justify playing with beads during a long busy spell of illustration work.

The year she died left me with no one anticipating my efforts. At Christmas, I finally had the excuse of making my sister’s gift, and as I got out my beads I realized how much I missed it, and how much I missed her.

Someone once told me that beadwork is grief work: focus on one thought at a time, just as you place one bead at a time. The solitude and introspection is worthy of any meditation, with the comfort of following a reliable pattern. As the design is set, your hands can simply follow the process while your mind is free to follow wherever your thoughts might lead. 

That Christmas an avalanche of beadwork pored out of me. The work shifted and changed, it seemed to open up and become more of an avenue of expression. It was no longer tied to my mom; it was mine, her Christmas gift to me.

I now have an Etsy shop.

Thank you Mom.

Aug 4, 2012

Why A.K.A. ZooLN?

I’ve always struggled with signing my name.

It took years to feel “worthy”—after all, if you sign a piece of artwork, you ARE an artist, and who are YOU to call YOURSELF an ARTIST, and so on and so forth till you realize, finally, after years, that it’s O.K. -really, -to sign your work -AND let it be seen -in PUBLIC. (It really is a psychological growth issue, not uncommon to lots of creative types.)

And while all that was spinning in my psyche, I was wrestling physically with my signature, which, like my handwriting, is about as out of control as my drawing and painting is under control.  I prefer pencil on paper or illustration board with tooth. Don’t give me some skinny pen to slide across some slickery piece of paper—I feel like a duck on ice.

Signing my name became a painful task. I had to contrive ways to make it work, or close my eyes, sign, and tell myself I didn’t care that it looked hideous. I could spend hours dredging up the courage for the attempt, and hours trying to “de-hideous” it.

And especially when I was painting in oils, signing my name began getting seriously tedious: my name is loooong and starts with an "S", which is a real mess to do in oils.  I remembered back to my childhood, watching "Zorro" as the masked, caped hero in black silks deftly sculpted an effortless "Z" into a drape, a wall, or the bad guy's shirt, and thought, Hmm... "Z"s are soooo much easier. 

And yeah, there was college:

I have a fabulous friend from college who (because she is highly creative herself) always played with people's names. So, instead of Sue, I became "Zoo".  And it didn’t take much to transform “Ellen” to “L N” among my college friends.

– So-- I sign the oil paintings (and just about all of my work now) as ZooLN (Sue El-len). Its quicker, less angst-ridden, and, most important of all, it looks cooler.

Aug 3, 2012

Yes, I'm having fun with this!

What more could I want? It's great to see my art on a doggie's t-shirt!!

Don has a Cafe Press site now, too!!

I’ve been working with Don’s images as well. (I'm getting better and better with Photoshop.) So he now has a CafĂ© Press site of his own:

It’s really cool to see new ideas emerge from the original art. And it’s fun to revive some of his older designs from his black and white speckled past. 

You can go directly to his website (New and Improved!!) here: