Fighting Denial and Deceit

Watch Rep. Dennis Kucinich confront an MD who claimed that "the Canadian health care system is worse than the US's."

Way to go Dennis!

Too bad the Media cannot hold these guys accountable like Kucinich did in the video above.

Instead our American media likes to present itself as an "umpire" between "the rival sides" - as if they both had "truthful evidence" behind them. That is a BAD policy and does not serve us.

The US is the only major industrialised country that does not provide regular healthcare to all its citizens. Instead, we are required to provide for ourselves - and 50 million of us can't afford the insurance.

As a result, 18,000 US citizens die every year needlessly, because they can't access the care they require.

The Republicans want to defend the existing system. Politicians and fringe "grassroots protest groups" are given massive sums of money by the private medical firms who benefit from the deadly status quo.

But they can't kill health care reform honestly so they have to invent lies to make any life-saving extension of health care sound depraved.

Maybe it's because I know more "starving artists" than most, this issue is keeping me awake nights. I see and hear the suffering around me and it is heartbreaking.


If I could think of a way to paint this subject I wouldn't have to talk about it so much.

“The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
- Senator Paul Wellstone

Please call your CongressCritters & Obama now (and at least once a week) to demand a strong public healthcare option!

House and Senate
(202) 224-3121

The White House
(202) 456-1111

And tell them your story. Pressure from the people is the only way to make it happen.


Translation from Latin: "To the Stars Through Adversity."

If you could sum up Teddy's life in a nutshell, that motto would do it.

I lived in Massachusetts from 1961 until 1990. Like many of his constituents I knew Senator Ted Kennedy.

He was a man who had no limits to his compassion. And he often spoke from his great big heart.

We could always count on him and his staff to deal with our problems when we had no place else to turn. He really cared about the "little guy" and worked hard for us.

I lost my hero today and I'm crying.

"...the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
- Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009

So let's re-commit ourselves to achieving the thing that mattered most to him: Quality, affordable health care for every single American.


...did you know that Ted Kennedy loved to paint?

The times when I've met him, he was always smiling. I'd like to remember him in this happy way with his wife Vicki.

He took up painting in earnest after his Nephew John died.

The oil painting above depicts the Cape Cod home of his parents, Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

For the cover of Cape Cod Life, he painted this picture of himself and and his wife aboard their yacht "Mya."

As a wedding present, Kennedy painted a still life of daffodils in oil.

"We were reading the William Wordsworth poem "Daffodils' and the last two lines are: "And then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils,' and it was so wonderful and romantic and Ted said that he wanted to paint me a picture of daffodils and he did."
- Victoria Reggie Kennedy

I'd love to take a peek at that one.

The Idiosyncrasies of English

It's been a long hot Summer, my paint is still acting "funny" and I am finding that I need frequent laugh breaks to maintain my sanity.

So just in case that you do too....

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "where's the self- help section?" she said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

If a deaf child signs swear words, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

Is there another word for synonym?

Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"

What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Why do they put braille on the drive-through bank machines?

How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

Does the little mermaid wear an algebra?

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?

If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word 'lisp' to have 's' in it?

Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

If you spin an oriental person in a circle three times, do they become disoriented?

And my personal favorite:

Can an atheist get insurance against acts of god?

Ms. Information

I got yet another viral email saying that the Health Care System in the UK is "bad."

Well they fibbed - it just isn't.

The UK Health Care System is a whole lot better than what we have. We have to struggle with greedy, unaffordable, unreliable and unethical insurance companies.

Wake up Americans!

If you think you already have "good" health insurance - just wait until the sad day when you really need it and they refuse to deliver.

Call your Representatives, Senators and the White House to weigh in on this issue if you want a Public Option - just like Medicare that every Senior currently enjoys.

"Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
- Jesus, as reported in Matthew 25:40

So why am I not hearing any of those heretofore outspoken Christian Fundamentalist voices filling the airwaves in charitable support of this no-brainer?

Over 45 million people are uninsured and have no access to health care.

And the #1 cause of home foreclosure is overwhelming health-care debt.


Each of us must be willing to speak out - loudly and often - to be heard over the shouting insurance-sponsored mobs that intimidate town hall meetings across the country this Summer.

Now that I got this irritating thing off my chest, I'm hearing the easel call me . . .

Why Didn't I Think of That?

What a fun piece this would be in an artist's studio!

I was searching the internet for something else...but found this little piece of visual candy instead.


This is the Designer, John Nouanesing

Follow That Dream

"...dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present."
- Robert Conklin

A colleague sent me this:

"I'm reading a book called The life and letters of Pytor Ilich Tchaikovsky and wanted to share something from it with you."

"Did you know that Tchaikovsky wrote the attached letter at 23 after deciding to leave a cushy job and pursue music full time?"

"So dream away, and dream often, and dream big. And never let anyone talk you out of your dreams."
- Neale Donald Walsch

In his book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell maintains that 10,000 hours is a magic number where people pass from obscurity to fame and fortune.

Long ago my own "impossible" dream was merely "to make a living with a brush in my hand." This idea was "really impossible" because I was a single mom with two children to support - but I did it anyhow and became a sign painter.

Ultimately this path led me to become a portrait painter.

I trusted that hard work and spending my time painting would make up for any talent I lacked. And I had the firm belief that a "teacher would appear" when I was ready to learn.

This blog is part of my payback to others who need to learn the lessons I can teach about painting...I trust that you'll find me if you need me.

How to Cope with a Really Bad Photo Reference

Bad reference photos happen and this is about how you can begin to make the best of it...

In a perfect world, I would only work with a great photo reference like the one below of Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. I took it in my studio with only a single source of light (like the light the Old Masters used).

Without any tweaking, this particular photo reference tells me pretty much what I need to know in order to paint Sara.

Obviously a good photo helps to make a good painting....the better the photo, the better the painting can be.

Then there are the problem reference photos we must work with because nothing else is available.

With the miracle of Photoshop, you may not need to resort to my "Studio Stress Reduction Kit."

The little boy in the picture below is four and his mother wants to paint him at this particular age.

And alas, he has now grown up or my first suggestion would be for her to take another photo using a single source of light.

He's obviously a cute little guy but a reference like this is generally a nightmare. Here are some ways to allow yourself to "see" what you need to "see" in order to paint a decent portrait based on a poor photo reference.

(Note that I am not bothering to crop this into any other composition.)

This is the original full color photo.

This is the same photo desaturated (i.e., changed into Greyscale) in Photoshop. Color can confuse the eye and seeing value is most important here.

This is what I call the "Ansel Adams" approach to seeing a photo (above). This technique can sometimes salvage a poor photo or even make a mediocre photo look sensational:

Make a Layer in Photoshop. I used a Gaussian Blur Filter (12 pixels on this one) and adjusted the Brightness/Contrast to +15/+15.

Then fade this layer to about 35% and flatten the image. The result can sometimes give you a soft and glowing effect with softer transitions from light to shadow - much like an Ansel Adams photograph (tough to see here - sorry).

Here's another way to look:

I posterized a copy of the original grayscale photo to 5 levels above. I'm looking for pleasing patterns of light and shadow here - and a good solid abstract composition.

Posterized at 13 levels, you can see a more precise map of the distribution of value from highlight to deep shadow.

In this detail of the face, you can see where the centers of light are to be found and observe how light flows over the form.

A posterized detail of the arm shows how light plays on the form.

This is a close up detail of the unaltered face.

Sometimes we must paint what we know - and not merely what we see.

So I took some liberties to mess with reality below:

Photographs tend to clump values on both ends of the scale.

Therefore I reduced the contrast between the teeth and the inside of the mouth so it will end up looking more "normal" in the painting.

(Unless the subject is a small baby, I don't know any professional portrait artist who will paint an open mouth).

This is an eye detail of the face above showing how I added light to the iris and moved the highlights up. In a painting, this will make the eyes look more "real."

The source light comes from the upper right and the light (not highlight) reflected in the eyes is an opportunity to get the "color" right.

Note that under the clear lens of the eye, the iris is shaped like a shallow "concave dish" whose opposite rim catches light.

Also, I raised the existing highlights in the eye. This is a portrait painter's trick to make the child look "more intelligent" in the final painting.

Note that I always add highlights in the eyes after the surface is dry. It's easy to make someone look googly-eyed and it usually takes me a couple of tries before I get it right.

I like the option of wiping off the paint without wrecking the entire freshly-painted eye.

"Shrink the head" and read about why I do this. Because this is a child and his head is proportionally large, I don't shrink it very (much as shown above).

Painting plaid and other complicated patterns isn't as hard as you think. I added the Photoshop Gaussian Blur filter to make the light underneath the pattern easier to see.

First you will need to paint the cloth beneath the pattern and get the light and shadow right. Then paint the pattern.

I do hope this helps....