Y2 Art Resolutions: #13-Tiny Creatures

Y2 Art Resolutions is the second year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

When I began working these exercises again,  I figured a series was emerging. But yesterday, after “creature in contemplation,” I saw only sea vegetation in  my next sketch. The floating flowers caught my imagination with their whimsy. When I searched for creatures, I could find none.  Since the marker colors were getting tiresome, I figured that my theme was shifting and decided it was time for more nuanced color. Then a surprising thing happened. Lady Bugs showed up. After I worked the watercolor, I brought the study into the Tayasui Sketches program and used the pen and pastel tools.

I like this. I like the gentle nature of the piece and the subtle softness of the palette and unpretentious presence of the tiny critters.


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Villa Lucci-Day 78: No bunnies for Easter

A new travel adventure begins. This series chronicles the migration from Ohio to a new life at Villa Lucci in Mazomanie, Wisconsin.

The wild and the hiding.

As if on cue, the past week heralding the beginning of calendar spring, critters began to appear. Guess I had been in Cincinnati long enough to forget that creatures in the north migrate or hibernate. To my disappointment, the bird feeders set out the first to weeks of March were untouched — until this week. A bluebird landed on the rail outside my studio the third week of February, so I was surprised not to see anyone else until this week.

There were three cardinals on the field side of the woods today. Ruby finches and sparrow have been at the feeders. Blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, and crows, of course. Over St. Pattie’s day weekend, a flock of 23 turkey hens trotted across the soybean field followed by a fat tom who obliged us with a show of his fan. Pretty impressive.

There is a “Caddy Shack” situation developing atop the retaining wall surrounding the villa deck. A rotund ground hog has been taunting me with a full-faced stare before plunging down one of two huge tunnels. I have already begun to channel Bill Murray. Two days ago, I took two log sections from the dead oak I had felled last fall. One of them literally disappeared from sight down a hole which will need more work. The other is standing half in and half out. We’ll see how long that lasts.

An aside to the critter commentary–I inherited the two barn cats (Cupcake and Pumpkin-sister and brother) that were original residents of the Villa. img_0484As a reminder, I was given a substitute cat the day after I moved in. Guiliano is a story unto himself, but suffice it to say, he is a bit rough around the edges and does not play well with others. To date, the barn kitties and Guiliano have not “cottoned” to each other. No violence but plenty of hissing and inhospitable behavior.

I bring up the matter of the cats as they are here on a Villa Lucci “working grant” for rodent control. So far, I see a lot of posturing but only evidence of one lone mouse that Guiliano set out for display the first week he was here. He and I had a heart to heart about the ground hog earlier in the week and I saw them squaring off yesterday–but no follow through. It is my personal opinion that Guiliano has an identity crisis and really sees himself as a dog.

All this way too much back story for the simple truth that I have seen no bunnies at Villa Lucci. That seems unnatural given that Easter is Sunday, but I have a solution to the problem. Literally, a solution.

Easter and the Villa Lucci Test Kitchen.

I decided to color eggs with natural dyes. I’ve discovered new used for red cabbage, chili powder and onion skins. I knew about onion skins earlier, but didn’t realize how img_0566-1beautiful those eggs are. Red cabbage gives you blue and chili powder gives a lovely orange. I think the eggs are the prettiest I’ve ever made.img_0567-1

And now, the bunny solution. If you give me enough time, I can be ridiculous in any setting. Yes. I have Peeps-infused vodka brewing for Easter martinis. Sounds vulgar but appealed to the “party planner” in me. Stay tuned for whether it is drinkable.


The rest of the story.

Besides the kitchen adventures, the villa has welcomed guests about every two weeks. Work continues on the braided art rug and baby afghan. Rescued furniture is waiting for the workshop and sewing studios that are gradually being completed in the midst of unpacking and dealing with what’s inside.

Stay tuned for more pictures and stories from the villa life. In the meantime, happy spring, happy easter, happy passover–just happy.


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The Villa Lucci Life-Day 28: The inn opens, a gig, and a gold medal

The Villa Lucci Life chronicles the continuing creative adventures of an artist, nomad, and proprietress of an “Italian villa” art studio set in Wisconsin.

Transitioning from a traditional working life.

January 26th was my last day as a full-time federal employee. My colleagues and staff provided the perfect segue to a new life — testaments that my work had made a difference, tokens of appreciation and affection, a few tears and surprises of the best kind.

Some of my people have worried that I might struggle with leaving a highly stimulating and fast-paced job. All evidence to the contrary. Indeed, today, I am grateful that there is nothing on my calendar. In the 28 days since I left traditional work, I have had two band gigs, nine days of overnight guests, five days of lounging in the Florida sun with family, an outing collecting free furniture, and negotiating the purchase of three rugs for my beautiful hickory floors.


Tending Villa Lucci has been a creative labor of love.  Homemade pasta, biscotti, and crackers–festive entertaining. Then there’s the Olypmics.

Am I bored, lonely, lost, or unhappy. Not remotely. The biggest story opening this new era of blogging, is not about me or Villa Lucci–but the “2018 Miracurl.”

The Olympics. My magnificent obsession.

My children, family and close friends know that there is probably no bigger Olympic devotee than moi. Indeed, every Olympics the television runs 24/7. Yes, I even had cable reinstalled during the RIO Olympics since that was the only way I could feed my addiction.

This magnificent obsession started long ago. I’m not sure exactly when. Somewhere along the way, the watching the Olympics became tied to knitting.

FullSizeRender-10Don’t ask me how. My first vivid recollection was knitting a Norwegian patterned hat for the Kane County 4-H Fair during the 1968 Grenoble, France games when Jean Claude Kiley stole my heart and Peggy Fleming became the skating golden girl. I’ve knitted through every winter Olympic games since and even some of the summer ones. During RIO, I knitted two baby afghans. I digress. Knitting has not yet been added as an Olympic sport, but curling has.

For years, my sons and I have talked about going to the Olympics as a family. This year, Thomas made it. And, it is a great story.

The Olympics and “The Mustache.”

As the parent of adult children, I have logged many hours with the friends of my kids. We lived only blocks from the elementary, middle, and high schools while they were growing up. Our house became a club house of sorts especially for boys. Sure there were birthday parties and the Christmas Caroling Party, but there was often an extra kid at the dinner table and later during the slumber parties and marathon strategy games out in the treehouse. I enjoyed the boys’ friends. They were largely clever, witty, charming, and mostly good-mannered people. As with all mid-sized humans, they came with various characteristics of a wide nature. When scanning the world of children, I thought (whether true or not), that my kids (by and large) attracted and hung out with creative, clever kids like them. Every once in a while, I would wonder where life would take these children. One is an actor working in Cincinnati until May. Another is a comedy scriptwriter for television in Hollywood. Some have found their niche. Others are still searching. I never saw any of them as Olympians. And, yet, that is what Matt Hamilton has become.

What I knew about him as a kid and know now about Matt is that he has a big personality and sweet, happy disposition. He had nice manners and picked out a sweet wife. He and Jenny are good friends of son Thomas and Thomas’ significant other Cassie. Matt and Jenny lived with Thomas and Cassie before they got their own house last year. When staying with Thomas and Cassie, I had a chance to catch up with their lives. Matt’s curling career was often discussed. He was low-key about accomplishments, but Thomas filled me in on milestones that pointed to the Olympics.

Last fall with big excitement, Thomas and Cassie told me that Matt and his sister, Becca (close friend of Cassie’s), would be part of the US Olympic Curling team–and they had decided to go to the PyeongChang to cheer them on.

I admit a bit of concern about having the kids go to South Korea given the tenuous political climate. (Philip was in Tokyo and I was in Singapore during the fall missile flyover.) But told him to keep his head down and hoped he would purchase his souvenirs.

During PyeongChang, I lived the Olympics vicariously through Thomas and Cassie. After their 18 hour flight, I messaged him that I was sad not be be there but glad he was being able to share this unique and amazing experience with his friend. Thomas messaged back that he always thought his first trip to Asia and the Olympics would be with me. Maybe the first summer Olympics, Thomas.

As an Olympics junky, I watch things I would not otherwise–luge, skeleton, long track skating–and curling. Last week, I did something I’ve never done before during the Olympics–I signed up for a free week of HULU and got up at 12:30am to watch a curling match. Not just any match. The gold medal. I saw Thomas and Cassie in the crowd. I saw Becca sitting with Ivanka and the King of Sweden. I saw the US Men’s Team win and I saw Matt and his mustache awarded the gold medal. In full disclosure, tears often come during the medals ceremonies, especially if I know the sacrifices an athlete has made or challenges they have overcome. But there were big tears for the hometown boy and his mustache amidst a bit of disbelief over the 2018 “miracurl.”

How life can change in a day. Thomas says that Matt is acting on Broadway today, will reprise his appearance on Jimmy Fallon, and is being interviewed for an athletic journal. Tomorrow, he rings the stock exchange bell, will appear on the Today show, and drop the puck at the NHL classic. Savor the moment, Matt.


Curling postscript.

Perhaps the biggest irony in all this is that 38 years ago I was a curler for a brief period. It was during my career with the Swiss and Austrians at The Swiss Colony in Monroe, Wisconsin. I dated a curler who talked me into couple curling. My friends gave me a hard time about “Swiss bowling” but I enjoyed learning about something I’d never knew existed. I chuckled when they built a curling rink in McFarland. Thomas’ prom was held there and I sang there at the Larson House Chocolate Benefit in 2016. I’d have laughed if you told me my kid’s friend would be an Olypmic Curling gold medalist. Another life lesson. Be careful how you judge and be open to possibilities.




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A Villa Lucci Christmas

The valley is quiet this Christmas Eve morning. A soft and gentle snow is slowly dusting the deck as I look out at the red chinese lantern on the iron deck table. A light white mantle lays across the jutting rock wall lacing its way under the curling limbs of the Burr Oaks. Simon Mulligan is playing jazz renditions of Christmas classics from the great Steinway Hall in New York City. Today, there will be an open house at a dear friends’ house and tonight I will make dinner for other dear ones and play Monopoly. The boys come tomorrow morning — and that will make Christmas complete.


There have been holiday surprises and all the things that make Christmas magical. It is hard to imagine that a holiday could be better but for peace on earth–another year’s resolution to do my part. Details to come, but to my friends and family far and wide . . . merry Christmas Eve from Villa Lucci.

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Day 11 Villa Lucci: Morning has broken.

A new travel adventure begins. This series chronicles the migration from Ohio to a new life at Villa Lucci in Mazomanie, Wisconsin.


Seven days ago the movers arrived bearing my life in an Atlas van. I have posted one blog in the chronicles and have two others started, but I don’t those episodes can come later. I want to be true to a promise I made myself when I left Cincinnati–I want to be better at being “in the moment.” In this moment, it is 7:19am on a Wisconsin school day morning. A yellow bus is turning down Carter Road which run in the middle of Spring Valley which Villa Lucci overlooks. Only a half hour ago, I took a cup of Creme Brulee coffee and headed downstairs to let Guiliano Grigio I (another new addition to my life and the villa–more later) in from his night work as a rodent control expert. We had a brief discussion about appropriate places to sharpen his claws and I settle into my Snooty Fox club chair in time to watch a blush of pink signal the beginning of the day.

Morning has broken.

As in so many good things, the morning glow lasted only minutes but motivated me to venture into the chill of this late autumn morning. I wanted a photo from the porch to catch dawn without the grid of window panes. I appreciate the rich and oppulent colors of fall, but the joy is always tinged with the knowledge that the dead greys of winter are just footsteps away.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found more beauty in the forlorn late fall and winter landscapes. But the beauty of this valley has me actually excited about the cold part of the year. Already I have seen a storm roll in from the North and an icy frost glazing the trees and glittering on the stems left from the soybean harvest. Once February comes, I will be done with my job in Cincinnati and devoted to preparing and opening my studios here. I won’t have to travel in harsh weather unless I want to. That changes things.

The fall planting.

Earlier in the fall, I brought legacy plants from Mt. Muchmore. My mother’s irises from the farm. My irises from the McFarland house. Kathy’s dwarf irises. Lilies of the valley from Becky. Seed from the beautiful deep yellow yarrow Sue gave me a year ago. Seed pods from the Carrie Catalpa and my exquisite yellow Baptista. I transplanted the rhizomes and dried the seed. Come January, I will launch my nursery in the new laundry room and see if my seed produces.

Bonnie brought two bags of daffodils that came from the garden of one of her studio ladies. Though it was 50 yesterday, the earth above the rock wall surrounding the deck was too hard for negotiating 200 bulbs. Instead, I planted them close in 5 of the 8 big planters that the movers more than reluctantly brought her from Cincinnati. The pots sit in full view of my porch, writing room and bedroom. They will be a glorious welcome to my first spring at the Villa. Next fall, I will naturalize them into the garden above the rock wall.

My Wisconsin people.

At 10am, I will meet Bonnie in town to search for a unique buffet with plentiful storage for my new studio/dining room. This is the biggest reason for moving back to Wisconsin. Saturday I drove 30 minutes to see my son, Philip, and watch the Badger game with Kathy. Sunday, Bonnie dropped in and son, Thomas, and Cassie came for dinner. These and other of my first people, are my children and oldest, dearest family and friends. I don’t have to wait for a quarterly visit of a half hour as I am traveling through–I get to have them in my day to day life . . . impromptu coffee, spontaneous picnic, impulsive road trip.

I will miss my daily encounters with my Cinci people, but know they will sally forth to the new world of Mazomanie. And cannot wait to have them renew acquaintances of my first people and make new friends with and at the Villa.

There are many other stories about what has happened in the last 11 days, but that will come . . .





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Day 1: Villa Lucci

Life can change completely in 11 months. Mine has. Some by choice, some by circumstance. Since my last post, I sold the house my kids were raised in, traveled to Florida, San Francisco, Cologne, spent 9 weeks in physical therapy for a back problem, Tokyo, Singapore, and many trips to WIsconsin. I’ve  co-written a chapter for a college text, designed and led a symposium, chaired an international Multimedia festival, participated in an organizational restructuring, sold my house in Cincinnati, and bought Villa Lucci. I moved here two days ago.

Villa Lucci.

There is quite a story here, but it will have to wait for a day or two. The movers are here!

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Y3 Art Resolutions: Mothering creativity

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

After a four month hiatus (which I will explain at a later date), Mother’s Day may not be an obvious occasion at which to pick up this blog dedicated to art and creativity. But not so surprising thinking of my creative mother and celebrating the first Mother’s Day without her. So, this entry is dedicated first, to her, but also to the wonderful women I know and know of (and even a few men) who care for and nurture others — who mother creativity — who make our lives fuller for the inventive and loving ways they make us fly — for the artists who merge art and mothering.

Merging artist and mother.

Surely I was lucky to have an artistic mother with great creative skills. Even at a young age, I knew she was not ordinary. With no money, she managed to build an attractive home, memorable and plentiful meals, clean pressed clothes in good condition, and unusual and extraordinary gifts. Mom’s sweat equity went into amazingly decorated cakes, beautifully constructed graduation dresses, rehabilitating garage sale figure skates and transforming milkman delivery baskets into dolly beds. When I interviewed her for a graduate project and asked her to define creativity, she told me, “Creativity is making something from nothing.” At that, she was a master.

For those of us who have also lived our professional lives as creatives, the merging of art and motherhood is symbiotic. In the same way we look at our children’s different gifts and grow, push, guide and celebrate them–those of us committed or professed to the practice of creativity and the importance of art must do the same for ourselves and each other. And, we do.


A brief history and a call to action.

Like most major holidays, Mother’s Day has become commercially important. But, early Mother’s Days began as events that leveraged and focused on caring and nurturing society.

Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother’s Day to be celebrated each year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women. It continued to be held in Boston for about ten years under her sponsorship, but died out after that.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother’s Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. Ann Jarvis had organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to improve health and cleanliness.

As mothers, now as much or more than ever, we need to revive a Mother’s Day where we collectively and actively use our intuitive insights and innate maternal talents to heal and lead. This will take, first, the ability to see a world that is different. And, secondly, it will take a commitment, hard work, and creativity to use these skills to create a better world for our children and theirs. This is my charge to all mothers this Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day and art resolutions.

With that unceremonious and significant “ask” out of the way, let me wind back to connecting Mother’s Day to art resolutions. I wanted to show all those things that are related to both —  growing, spring, beauty and legacy. And, I wanted to know why the second week of May was chosen to celebrate.

I couldn’t find a history for selecting the date, but it has always made sense to me. Many mothers garden. Mine did out of necessity as did others– done to nourish the family.  But there was also a pleasure in well-tended rows and tall, healthy plants. As women, many of us enjoy the process of planting a seed and watching it grow, change, and bloom. As spring is the season of birth and beginnings, symbolism is ever present. Why are our connections with our mothers and children so compelling? How could they not be? We began in them.

Beyond the symbolism of birth, the garden and flowers have everything to do with our natural appreciation for beauty. Flowers also connect us to our strongest sense — smell. For me and I suspect for others, flowers are also connection to our pasts, especially legacy flowers that grandmothers handed down to our mothers who handed them down to us. The scent of lilacs will always remind me Carrie Scott’s beautiful deep plum french lilacs at the farm in Lafox and Grandma Pierick who loved them dearly. Peonies remind me of my mother who cut them each spring from the long hedge in Lafox and put them on the table in long necked cranberry glass vase, a wedding gift used only on special occasions and during peony season.

So my art resolution for this day is in gathering a bouquet of the ways flowers have inspired and enhanced my life. Beginning with a bouquet I received from Thomas and Philip yesterday and joined by a carafe I painted inspired by birthday bouquet from Philip, flowers from the Mt. Much more gardens–red peonies (like my favorites from LaFox), duotone violet irises from the McFarland house, white irises from Mom’s house,  Siberian irises I bought for Muchmore. Though they were not flowers, we had a huge plot of rhubarb in the garden at LaFox. Commemorating it is my favorite of my Mother’s pies–rhubarb custard make in the Vermont pie plate given by my dear sister of choice and mother of my god-twins, Rosemary. Finally, a photo a garden of Be a, a master gardener, dear friend and mentor, and grower of yet another generation of wise, wonderful and creative women.


To the people in my life– the sons, the family, the sisters of choice, the friends and dear ones who work to find the right thing to say, who stand by me in good and bad times, who push me to achieve my full potential, who love me unconditionally, who complete the mothering without the mother. I thank you with the fullest of hearts.

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Y3 Art Resolutions: #6 Geisha-The final act?

Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.

Tonight, Geisha is channeling Matisse. She is in full regalia–make up, parasol, technicolor kimono. Though I used the watercolor simulation for paper in the digital painting program, it never looks the same or as unique as true watercolor. But this is a wonderful way of trying out different combinations and placement of color without destroying the original. Since this is likely to become a larger scale painting or print, this has been a satisfying exercise and I have ideas from all versions.

They are so different and have separate personalities. I like that. Like music, they are different movements of an orchestral suite. Though she is fully executed in color, I still feel there are things to work out. We will see what Geisha whispers this weekend.


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