Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall!

I have one last sliver of summer to share before we move on to FALL!:

One night in August, my dad sent me this photo so he could brag about the delicious, summer-y dinner he and my mom made…

one night in August, my dad sent me this photo to brag about the delicious dinner he and my mom made.

How tragic that I was not there to partake in the feast. So naturally, to console my lobster-lovin’ self, I did the next best thing…Lobster & Corn

…and drew it.

The end.

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The Button Jar

ink and watercolor button illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Buttons”, ink and watercolor

4 years ago, my husband and I — newly engaged at the time — received an early wedding present from a friend. This friend (a true gentleman and scholar) was about to leave for Liberia on a Peace Corps mission and wasn’t going to make it to our wedding. In a grand gesture of heartfelt congratulations, he gave us one of the greatest gifts ever. He gave us…

…the button jar.The Button Jar

Brace yourselves, you know what’s coming: metaphors. Oh how I love them!

Man, oh man, the button jar is great. Who can resist a collection of colorful round things?! But it’s more than just a shiny vessel of visual delight. It has become, in my mind, a symbol of home. Of OUR home — my husband’s and mine — and the life that we are building together.

It’s a jar of buttons, but it’s also a jar of memories. Some are small, some are big. Each one is colorful in its own poignant way.

It’s a jar of possibilities and hope. There are many ways one could use those buttons — it’s a jar full of potential! It’s like our future and all the adventures ahead.  It’s filled with unknown and wonderful things that will make us stronger and bring us closer.

It’s a jar filled with all the tiny, special moments — from the mundane to the spectacular — that accumulate, day after day, year after year, and make this a truly blessed life.

I bring this up now because, since moving into our first HOUSE, it seems like we’ve been adding a lot of button moments to our jar. It’s been a new and exciting adventure, and it’s fun tackling this “home owning” thing together. There are buttons for the peaceful nights that we’ve plunked down, exhausted, on the couch and listened to the crickets chirping through the open windows. There’s a button for the afternoon that we dismantled the clothes dryer, and one or two buttons for the almost daily trips to Home Depot. There are buttons for the lights that don’t work yet and buttons for the neighbor’s dogs. There are lots of buttons, so I won’t list them all.

I made the ink and watercolor drawing above (which I’ll turn into a print and put on Etsy as soon as I unearth all my printing supplies from the chaos that is my unfinished new studio) simply because the buttons were colorful and cute. They were calling out to me amidst the disorder of half-unpacked boxes and post-moving clutter, begging me to draw them. In retrospect, of course, I see that, like most other things I make, this is a documentary drawing, helping chronicle my life.

Yes, life. Ain’t it great?

It sure is. Bye!

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To be an unassuming chronicler of life

Artists — be they writers, photographers, painters, musicians, or other – have different goals and reasons for why they create. Some claim their craft is a way of bringing fantasy to life, or of probing the subconscious.  Others say they make art to express specific ideas, to explore certain topics, or to give a voice to the voiceless. Some want to make the world a more beautiful place. And many don’t know why they create, they just know that “they must”.

I’ve slowly been making my way through the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, I came across some words about the poet Mark Strand that really hit home for me.

“Patiently watching and listening to events unfolding around him, alternating between passionate involvement and sardonic detachment, [Strand] has found the pattern that best fits the predilections of his consciousness: to be an unassuming yet precise chronicler of life.”

“His craft” Mikkahily says “is to express in arresting and accurate language what he has learned from witnessing life”.

“Some artists get so involved in their creations that they lose their appetite for raw experience, but Strand welcomes ordinary life—puttering in the yard, having meals with the family, going on hikes, lecturing, even shopping.”

After all, “…the enterprise of writing makes sense only within the context of a broader, more mundane reality.”

Ah, to be a chronicler of life. Yes. That’s what it is.

Mundane, patterned, repetitive, unpredictable, beautiful, heartbreaking, changing, simple, complex, amazing life. I want to draw it all. Every day, forever.

Fall Walking - Crunching on Leaves

An old fall-y watercolor and ink illustration from my Illustration Friday days. It reminds me of back-to-school. Fall — such a poignant season of life!

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

 

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

– Mark Strand (Keeping Things Whole)

 

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Art Show Follow Up: Making Faith a Habit & Other Things I Learned

As you might remember, last Thursday, I participated as a featured artist at “REVEAL”, RAW Boston’s summer showcase for artists, designers, photographers, stylists, and musicians. I’m happy to report that it went well and that it was worth all the effort I put in to my preparations for it. And now…it’s over, which means I can get back to MAKING stuff! (I’m very excited about that). But since the show experience warrants some reflection, please bear with me as I devote just one more post to talking a bit (okay, maybe a lot) about it.

my booth

my booth

racks of prints for sale

racks of prints for sale

So…the showcase was a great time! I felt good about the work I showed and how I represented myself. I had the pleasure of talking to other artists and exchanging valuable insights. (I have to say, it felt particularly good to be able to pass on some helpful tips to people who are going through things that I have gone through myself! Turns out I’ve learned a few things over the years!) The whole experience – from the weeks spent in preparation to the final take-down – was full of personal growth and learning.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  1. Anxiety and fear are inevitable, but I can make room for them without losing sight of the larger picture. Okay, I know it wasn’t the Emmys or anything, but even so, I was very nervous about the event. I felt angsty from the very beginning, when I found out that I would be participating. My nervousness peaked the day before the show, when I had to repeatedly tell myself that “I know I feel like I’m going to die right now, but it is just anxiety, and I don’t have to freak out about it.” During the weeks before the show, this anxiety popped up a lot, but instead of fighting against it (and feeling bad about it, wishing it would go away, and generally feeling like a pathetic speck of a person) I decided to accept it as another part of the game. Whenever I felt stress pressing down, I reminded myself that there were infinite ways that the show could play out, and since I have no ability to know or control the future, I would just do what I thought was best, have faith, and keep my mind open to the possibility that good things might come out of it. And surprisingly, the day OF the event, I felt fine! For one thing, I had the comfort of knowing that I was well prepared. But also, my mind was in a good place after spending so many weeks practicing faith, openness, and positivity.
  2. People are shy. We are all insecure about something. It’s a funny dynamic — the insecure artist and the insecure viewer, side by side, feeling awkward. I think people are afraid to talk to artists about their work because they don’t want to “say the wrong thing” or sound like they “don’t know anything about art”. But I’m not going to judge you for “not getting it” or for never taking some dumb art history class. And I don’t make art with the expectation that you’ll see it the way I see it. I want to hear what it is that you see! — how does it make you feel? What stories does it conjure up, what does it remind you of? I LOVE it when people tell me what my work means to them. It fuels the drive to keep making stuff. It satisfies the “longing-for-connection” aspect of being creative. And it reveals amazing things about the diversity of human experience.
  3. And artists are shy, too. Instinctually, I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to impose myself on them while they look at my work, or dare to assume that they find it engaging in any way. But I suspect that, more often than not, people appreciate hearing the artist tell the story behind their work, even when the story isn’t linear or…much of a “story” at all. (i.e. “I did this before getting dressed to go to my friend’s wedding…I needed to do something creative and it just sort of came to me. I started drawing a whale, because whales need to be drawn, and then of course I realized it should be wearing a sweater.”) I like to see the humanness of other people’s artwork. It helps me feel connected to the work and to the artist. Showing viewers that the work is a process — that it’s a living thing — opens doors for communication. Then the artwork isn’t just a final “product”, but instead acts as a jumping off point for a richer connection. Art is made with time, energy, brains, and countless unexpected external influences. It’s a very human expression of divergent thinking and the way we make associations in our minds. When people understand that, it makes art less “intimidating”, less inaccessible. It’s all just another opportunity for connection!
  4. People really like dogs. My illustrated dog prints are always a big hit, and they are the most frequently bought items in my Etsy store. People always comment on them. But surprisingly (and I’m okay with this!), no one bought any dog prints at this show. Dogs are a personal thing, I guess. Everyone wanted it to be THEIR dog.
  5. My experiences have taught me lessons that are worth passing on to other artists! For example: Finding a good way to make prints of their artwork seems to be a VERY common struggle for artists. Which company should you use? How can you ensure that the print quality is excellent? How much are you willing to PAY to have prints made? I make all my prints myself. I am so happy with my Canon Pixma printer – it is getting old now, but it does a MARVELOUS job making high quality prints that I’ve been able to sell all over the place. Sure it took a lot of trouble-shooting (and a lot of frustration!) to get the print quality just right, and I had to test a lot of different papers before I found one I liked, but I eventually established a system for making prints that I am proud of. Now, I have no problem telling people that it is worth it to invest in a printer and good paper and to take the time to learn to make prints in-house.
  6. The human digestive system is very…emotional. I had no appetite the whole day of the show, and had to force myself to eat regular meals so I wouldn’t pass out at the event. For dinner before the show, I made sure to eat the blandest of sandwiches (a tough thing, because I love me some SPICE), but I STILL got indigestion! My mom saved the night with the emergency Rolaids she found in her purse (she’s my hero). And then, of course, as soon as I got home and put on my PJ’s, I found that I was starving! It was the sweet, sweet release of tension leaving my body, and so…I celebrated with ice cream and chips 🙂
  7. I’m not the only person who needs to retreat and recharge. The day was long – set up started at 1 and the event wasn’t until 7 PM. I certainly wasn’t the only artist there who needed to take 5 minutes to sit in the car and regroup before the show.
  8. That one should not be in such haste to pack up and beat the traffic at the end of the show that one leaves important things behind. Bye-bye extension cords. Bye-bye print racks. (On the other hand, if that’s the hardest lesson I had to learn that night – not to leave stuff behind — then all-in-all, I’d say it went quite well!)
  9. And finally, I was reminded of this very humbling and mind-blowing truth: I am tremendously blessed to be in the situation that I am in. I’ve had the support of my family, my husband, and my closest friends for my entire life. No one (other than the occasional stranger) has ever tried to convince me not to pursue art. When I have my doubts, my parents and my husband are the ones who tell me to have faith and keep going. They’ve always given me the space, time, and freedom to create. They’ve been patient and understanding. They’ve helped me with projects, shows, buying materials, and growing a business. They’ve prodded me to challenge and stretch myself and to take the next step when it’s been time to do so. They’ve spread the word to others, and they’ve helped open doors. They’ve been so generous – I’ve never had to live off of government cheese or go it alone. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing this. It takes a village, as they say.

To my husband, and to my parents: I’m sorry that all I can ever do is say thank you, and that no matter how many times I say it, it will never be enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And with that, I bid you, good day. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show. It meant a lot to see you there and have your support!

Oh, and Happy September, yo.

"Hey Shorty" sunflower illustration

a sunflower sketch for September

 

 

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Upcoming Art Event: “REVEAL” August 25th

Busy busy busy. Packing, moving (Saturday is the big day! New house, here we come!), and getting ready for next week’s RAW Boston art show, “REVEAL”. You can still buy tickets! Click the link above to buy directly through my artist page. Even if you can’t attend, you can still show your support by buying a ticket anyway. The funds will directly support me and my participation in the show.

I finished up making all my prints for the show this week. There will be some excellent ones for perusal and purchase 🙂

And now, though I’d love to something insightful or funny, I must instead close up shop for today and go to bed. Packing is laborious, moving is a marathon, and I need to get enough sleep if I want to avoid burning out before it’s all done.

Here’s some pictures from the past week, at least:

Seagull print for "REVEAL"

Seagull print for “REVEAL”

more prints for "REVEAL"

more prints for “REVEAL”

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas...

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas…

quilt sketch close up

quilt sketch close up

Looking forward to writing more involved posts (AND MAKING NEW ARTWORK!!!) once all the busyness has died down! All the same, thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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Looking for Rainbows

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou, Letter to my Daughter

A rainbow landed on my painting

A rainbow landed on my painting

work in progress - watercolor "chipped paint" painting (nothing like painting paint!)

work in progress – watercolor “chipped paint” painting (nothing like painting paint!)

I saw a lot of rainbows this week – both indoors and outdoors. They came from rainstorms, sprinklers, and window prisms, and each was a welcome gift of hope and joy. The more I payed attention and looked for rainbows, the more I saw them.

A lot of things in life seem to work like that — you see what you choose to see. So why not choose to see rainbows?

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don't. But it's still a rainbow, and that's the real treasure, anyway.

Sometimes, at the end of a rainbow, you find a pot of gold. And sometimes you don’t. But it’s still a rainbow, and that’s the real treasure, anyway.

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How to Provoke a Shark Attack (Happy August)

I like August. Things feel calmer; the days, more meaningful.

Perhaps it’s the realization that summer’s end is in sight, that explains the sense of peace that descends upon me. Once August hits, it suddenly feels so natural – so obligatory even – to slow down and enjoy the moments that remain. The crickets seem louder. The sunsets seem more vivid. I settle into an easeful rhythm and let myself appreciate the natural pace of things. Time with family, meteor showers (check them out on the eve of the 11th!) – August is for savoring these things.

Which is exactly why, for the next few weeks, I’m going to keep it short here on the blog. I’ll probably have some pictures to share, and a thought or two, here and there. But I won’t be as wordy as usual. (I’m sure you’ll appreciate my brevity as much as I will. I think I’ve been talking too much, lately).

But before I go, I have a few more things to say about August:

For many people, August means one thing: the Shore (that’s the beach, to all you non-Jersey folks). Every August, when I was growing up, about half of my friends would disappear for a few weeks to go a’summering at the Jersey Shore. Those of us who remained in town spent our days at the community pool, eating candy, re-reading Harry Potter, and discussing the summer reading assignments that we hadn’t done yet. I didn’t mind not being a shore-kid. I’m afraid of sharks, you see.

I know, sharks are a supposedly silly thing to fear. But c’mon — those TEETH! I prefer to swim in water in which I can see my toes.

Anyway, I must have sharks on the brain because I made this during breakfast the other day. I call it “How to Provoke a Shark Attack”:"Sharks are Flabby"

And with that, I bid you Happy August. Be safe, be well, and don’t go insulting any sharks.

 

 

 

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Learning to Honor “Creative Time” Despite a Busy Schedule

This is turning out to be a summer full of good things. Art shows, a Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park (thus fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing a Beatle in REAL LIFE!!!), celebrations with family and friends (weddings, birthdays, togetherness, oh my!), and…(drum roll please)…buying our first house!our first home (birdhouse)

Yay! I’m SO excited about the house. We’ll start making our move over the next few weeks. Planning has been in full swing and soon it will be time to tackle the PACKING. Let’s be honest: moving, as exciting as it is, is also a lot of work. But I look forward to making this place home – a place that, over time, will undoubtedly become special as we live, work, grow and play there. We are very blessed, and I am mightily grateful, indeed.

Meanwhile, I’m also busy preparing for another exciting event: the upcoming art showcase, REVEAL. Making and matting prints, pricing everything, figuring out display and marketing logistics, gathering all my materials, writing statements…show prep ends up taking more time than one might think.

Prints for Upcoming Show

making prints

Interspersed amongst the many tasks of moving and show prepping are an upcoming wedding and a few family get-togethers. So many good things. Good things that all demand time, energy, and commitment.

So…all is well and I’m happy as a clam, right? Well…to be honest, until recently, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Well, not really overwhelmed, actually, but just sort of…dead inside. Empty. Detached. If I wasn’t feeling numb, then I was feeling anxious about my responsibilities and annoyed about having to attend to them.

Which in turn, made me feel bad because…aren’t I supposed to be happy about all these good things? How can I be so ungrateful? Not only that, but compared to other people, my load seems pretty small. Other people constantly juggle more things than this. What’s wrong with me? (blah blah, broken record, so typical)…

But! I’m feeling better now. What changed? My attitude, of course!

It occurred to me that there were 2 things in particular that were getting me down. Things that, once identified, I realized I could change:

  1. I was holding on to exceedingly high personal expectations. “I am going to be SO flawlessly prepared to showcase my artwork and impress everyone. And I’m going to get all my work done for the show before THIS weekend, so that I can focus on moving and my other commitments in the weeks following.” “I am going to ROCK this move – I will be so organized with the packing that it will be stress-free and painless. I’m going to clean our apartment so well that the landlord isn’t even going to have to clean it before the next people move in. That shower is going to glisten!” And “I’m going to be the best wife/daughter/sister/aunt/friend during all the get-togethers. I’ll be present for every single moment and full of energy, too.”
  2. I was not allowing myself any time to do CREATIVE work. In pursuit of perfectly executing the expectations listed above — preparing for the show and organizing for the move — I couldn’t justify taking time to create NEW things.  It seemed like a selfish luxury, something that should be “backburner-ed” until all the hustle has died down.

Obviously, such high expectations (issue #1) are a real trip-up. You know how, growing up, “they” always encouraged you to “do your best?” in every situation? Well, that’s always been kind of a killer. Theoretically, my best could always be better, right? I could always sacrifice more to go the extra mile…maybe forgo sleep, or dinner, or sanity. There’s simply no gauge for what “my best” really is and it’s a shaky ideal to aim for.

Once I realized I was thinking that way, I remembered something my husband has pointed out to me numerous times. If I change the focus from “doing the best” to “doing something meaningful”, it’s a lot easier to move forward. “Perfect” is not the goal. The goal is to be engaged and connected to what I am doing, to do MEANINGFUL work – work that I can feel proud of doing, for which I don’t feel ashamed claiming ownership, and work that connects me to the people and the experiences at hand.

That second issue, though — the need to honor my “creative time” — that took a little longer for me to get comfortable with. How can I justify telling people that I need to be alone this morning so that I can sketch out some fuzzy creative ideas that are dancing around in my brain? Surely, I don’t really need that.

But if there’s anything I know about myself, it’s that when I stop creating for a period, I begin to feel detached and dead. Over and over again, I’ve had to relearn the importance of honoring my “creative time”. It’s no small thing. A mere 30 minutes of drawing/painting/sketching can rejuvenate my sense of vitality and restore my desire to interact with the world. It’s wonderful, and it’s an easy thing to do! In the grand scheme of things — of all the strategies out there for keeping oneself afloat — it’s not a very demanding thing to do.

Even so, I had to hear it from someone else’s before I was willing to reclaim my “sacred” creative time. In the book “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention”, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says: “Perhaps the most difficult thing for a creative individual to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness experienced when, for some reason or another, he or she cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels one’s creativity drying out; then the whole self-concept is jeopardized.” He goes on to say “When the person is working in the area of his or her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss.”

YES! I know what he’s talking about! When I experience that bliss, I see things with greater clarity. My senses turn back on and I feel whole. When I feel whole, I can connect with life — I can connect with YOU — and act with more grace, conscientiousness, and intention than when I cut myself off from creative pursuits.

And now, instead of tying this all up with a nice concluding bow, I’m going to call it finished and go put my words into action by taking 20 minutes to draw before it’s time to cook dinner.

Oh, but one more thing. Grandma, if you’re reading this: hi! I love you. Just wanted to say that.

Ok, bye.

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A Tiny House Pattern, and some Praise for Technology

I’m glad I live in the age of technology (is that what we call it?). Sure, it can be distracting. We fall off cliffs while catching Pokemon. We drop our phones in the toilet. We can’t sit through a 22 minute tv show without looking something up on Wikipedia. (Excluding the Pokemon example, by “we” I actually mean “I”).

But we’re also communicating, sharing, connecting, teaching, and learning! Without the ease of the internet, I wouldn’t have known where to turn for tips on pattern design. Who knows if the local library would have had books about it? Thanks to Amazon, I ordered a book and it got here the next day. Thanks to the generous teachings of bloggers and YouTubers, I watched videos on how to better use tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. And thanks to social media, I felt encouraged to keep making stuff after people reacted positively to my work.

Another nice perk of technology? Digital textile printing! As Kimberly Kight says in her (very helpful) book A Field Guide to Fabric Design:

“As you read this, fashion and textile design pioneers, newly freed by digital technology from the restrictions imposed by mass production–namely, limitations on the number of colors and the requisite use of pattern–are completely changing the notion of what a fabric print is.”

Fabric design, Kight, says, is entering the “territory of fine art.” Which means we all get to me more creative — and DRESS more creatively, too!

Anyway, here’s a pattern I made so that I could practice some new tricks that I picked up. These houses were definitely inspired by the wonderful colonial architecture that is so common here in Massachusetts. And because I tend to be excessive and am a nut about color, I’m sharing several versions of it with you:

Tiny Houses - WhiteTiny Houses - PurpleTiny Houses - GrayTiny Houses - Lavender

Which color do you like the best? I think the gray one would make a great bow tie. And the dark purple one…it just makes me happy.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend, and steer clear of Pokemon-inhabited cliffs.

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New Website + Upcoming Art Show

Friends! My new portfolio/professional site is launched! You can click on the “portfolio” menu option on this page, and the link will take you to my portfolio site. Now you can see samples of my best work, organized by category and easy to browse through! Hooray. Check it out! Eventually I’ll synch it up better with this site, add an e-mail sign up, and work out the remaining little details, but for now, I’m happy it’s functional and easy to look at.

BIG NEWS! Last week I got a nice surprise when I was invited, out of the blue, to be a featured artist in RAW Boston’s upcoming Art showcase “REVEAL”. RAW Boston is part of RAW Artists. Here’s what their website has to say about them:

Raw is an international organization run by artists FOR artists. It’s mission is to provide independent artists within the first 10 years of their creative career with the tools, resources, and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity. Raw ventures to provide the platform for artists to be seen, heard, and loved. Their showcase events feature indie talent in visual art, film, fashion design, music, performance art, hair and makeup artistry, and photography.

On August 25th from 7-11 PM, I will be showing and selling originals and prints, alongside many other talented Boston area artists, at Mixx 360 in Malden, MA. Tickets are $20 and you can buy them here! The event will have live music and art performers, a fashion show, an art show, craft and artisan vendors, drinks, and much more. I’m excited to go and meet other young artists and to see the fruits of so much creative labor. It’s usually quite inspiring to be around passionate people who are doing what they love.

I have to thank my husband and everyone else who has been encouraging me, from the start, to keep sharing my work online and beyond. It is because of all the sharing (on Behance, Instagram, Etsy, etc.) that opportunities like this have started to arise. If you have something you’re doing that you feel is worth sharing with the world, DO it. This is a great time to be an artist.

I recently met a local photographer, the multi-talented Joey Phoenix, who is going to take photos of some of my larger work so I can get prints made for the show. While digging through my stockpiles to find the stuff I want her to shoot, I found this old gem (I’ve shared it before, but…it’s worth another share because it makes me smile):

Albrecht Durer and Renoir's Cat

It’s a remnant from college. I combined an Albrecht Dürer self-portrait and a Pierre Auguste Renoir painting to make Dürer holding a cat. I think it would make great prints, but I don’t know what the legal boundaries are on works like this, since I essentially just copied the paintings of two of history’s great masters.

I’ll admit it: more than once, in moments of self-doubt/existential crisis, I’ve considered shifting gears and focusing on painting “regal” cats. I’d build up a body of work of classical, Napoleon-esque felines looking heroic with columns and ruffled collars and all that. But someone else is already doing that, and who am I kidding, I wouldn’t be able to focus on such a small sliver of subject matter for very long.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Love to you all. I hope summer is treating you well.

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