The Middle

There are so many shows out there that I haven’t gotten around to watching, and “The Middle” is one of them. I was asked to paint this set and was honestly quite unprepared to because I really like to know a show first, at least peripherally, before committing to a project. I never feel fully connected with a set if I’m not familiar with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to watch this show at all and was feeling a bit unsettled by the prospect of starting this project until the buyer revealed to me why he wanted it in the first place.

I have painted a lot of sets for fans of the movie or TV show but I never feel like I have the right to ask them “why.” A lot of them share with me the reason, which is always a bonus so when I’m painting the pieces, I can think about it and hope I capture the essence that had made them fans in the first place. Most of the time the buyers’ connection to the show is a happy one, but this one story was quite sad. It was about loss and loneliness and “The Middle” helped bring this person out of whatever sadness he was experiencing at that point in his life. I can’t help but feel a little weepy while painting (but it may also be from the fact that my shoulder and elbow is now rebelling against all the unreasonable exertion I’ve been putting into them in full force), but I enjoyed every minute of creating it.

The Hecks is: Mike, Frankie, Axl, Sue Sue, and of course Brick. Apparently there are 9 seasons of this show…something for me to binge during my upcoming sojourn back to the USA!


Back to Reality

I recently took a much-needed holiday from both my life and work. The timing couldn’t have been better as I was able to traverse my way from the West Coast to the East with a few stops in-between, attending weddings and piano recitals, family reunions and hanging out with my best friends, all of whom I have known for several decades. I got to tickle babies and take older children shopping while instilling in them the best ways to navigate through the choppy waters of life. I got to get into the field again to do actual research for an upcoming project (David Bowie Is exhibition anyone?) and ate my way from New England to NYC. There were some revelations as to who I am in the great scheme of themes that’s nothing short of shocking but a simple DNA test (in which my mother has gladly agreed to take) should sort things out. I spent some time in the hospital as well, visiting, not as a patient, and got to work on the embroidery project I started a year ago and haven’t been able to complete. All in all it was a very well-rounded holiday although I can’t say I had done any R and R as half the time I was running around, trying to make every minute of my trip as meaningful as I could make it.

The Twilight Zone

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

The Twilight Zone is hands down my favorite show in the world. I used to look forward to New Years Eve where I could cover myself with fleece and binge watch every episode straight into the new year. Even when I was older and was expected to show up at events and parties, I still made a point to beeline for a TV and take in at least an entire season’s worth of the eerie tales from another dimension.

I have to admit I’m both a bit thrilled and saddened by the fact that all the Twilight Zone eps are readily for streaming nowadays and I can indulge in my New Year’s eve extravaganza at any time. But it isn’t the same, naturally. I did, however, jump for joy when I was asked to paint some of the old favorites from the show, though, and was grateful that I could watch dozens of episodes while painting it!

There is something so timeless about good ol’ black and white. But this set was done in technicolor.

Some details:

We’ve got the Mystic Seer from “Nick of Time” featuring a couple stuck in a small town restaurant and a pagan napkin holder; the Gremlin from “A Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” The Kanamit from “To Serve Man,” and the little space man from “The Invaders.”


Arrested Development

I find that, over time, if I want something badly enough, it’ll present itself to me sooner or later. I just have to put it out into the universe and let the Great Being sort it out for me. Such is the case with this set.

I’d been wanting to do “Arrested Development” for a while now. When it was first on the air, I had been losing faith in television programming and was toying with the idea of getting rid of my set and pick up a new hobby. But the Bluths came along and showcased the kind of family dysfunction that I adore and I kept my TV and was glad the Television Gods have heard my prayers. The cancellation of the show was upsetting, but that’s another story altogether. In short, I was asked to paint the Bluths (plus Maeby’s boyfriend Steve Holt to round out the set of 10s), I could hardly keep myself from purchasing a ticket to NYC and hugging the buyer in person.

This is a massive set of 10 dolls (large to small) featuring George Michael, his Dad Michael, Buster, GOB, Lindsay, Tobias the Never Nude, Maeby, George, Lucille, and Steve Holt.


Reno 911!

This was, and always will be, my favorite show in the world. It also made me realize I would never A. Be an actor and B. Be an improv comic…not that I ever have aspirations to do either since I’m more of a “behind the scenes” kind of person. I’ve painted Reno 911! a long time ago and was happy I had some time now to revisit it. Painting this set brought up some really happy memories, such as while waiting for an ex-boyfriend to get ready for a night out on the town, I watched half an episode for the first time and knew right then and there I would be a lifelong fan; hosting a girl’s night in with my bestie and the two of us laughing so hard that mops and cleaning products had to be brought out halfway through the viewing.

Ghost World Theme and Variations

Back when I was a studious piano student (albeit not a good one), I was often tasked with learning composers’ many “theme and variation” compositions. At the time I often wondered why anyone would want to do that, write different versions of the same core theme, but now I get it. I’ve been asked to paint a few dozen Ghost World sets, which can get a bit monotonous, but I find that if I paint something slightly different after a long day, my sanity can be saved.


This one features Enid Coleslaw and her friend Rebecca who are attending Seymour’s record party.


And this one is simply all about Enid Coleslaw in a ton of retro vintage thrift shop (I’m assuming) clothes.

Some close ups:


It’s mad to think working on something like this can save my sanity, but it’s true.


This set was painted a few years ago, right around the time when I met Alvin, Buenaventura. He was a giant in the graphic novels/comics publishing and from what I heard about him, he was the force behind a lot of the successful comic book artists out there today (Think BoJack Horseman). I not only had the pleasure of working with him, but I was fortunate enough to break bread with him when the hubs and I were in San Francisco. He had offered to give me a gallery show, which I turned down due to my overwhelming work schedule. It was a gesture I appreciated to no end because it showed how much he believed and supported me. It was why I was really devastated when I found out he has passed away. Ghost World had been our connection and I am dedicating this set to him. May you continue to shine wherever you are, Alvin.

A Belated Christmas Present

Due to a huge amount of projects scheduled, bad Auntie Ms. Irene wasn’t able to send my niece and nephew their Christmas presents until January. Yes, they call me Auntie Ms. Irene. I feel bad, but I was told their Christmas tree was laden with presents enough to ease their pain from Auntie Ms. Irene’s seemingly callous neglect. I painted the two of them at their current age and added little trinkets to symbolize some of their milestones that year.

It’s somewhat bittersweet to learn that my niece has outgrown her Disney Princess/Frozen obsession and her favorite color is no longer pink but black. My nephew has joined a soccer team and has been tasked with the job of a goalie. Together they’d moved to a new house, something I was able to identify with when I was their age. Merry Christmas, kids!

My Favorite Murdery Podcast

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to watch my stories and/listen to audio books while I’m in the sweatshop, toiling away. One of my secret indulgence is putting on one those tawdry made-for-tv Lifetime movies, a habit I developed back in my college days when I used to watch them while trying to crank out painting assignments for classes. In those days my brother and I had lived together in a very hip and happening part of Greenwich Village so there would always be a stream of people coming in and out of our place so until my parents very kindly bought me a little TV set for my room, I hadn’t been able to watch movies like “When No One Would Tell” starring Fred Savage and DJ from Full House and “Face of Evil” starring a very blonde Tracy Gold, without interruptions. Imagine my joy to find such gems on YouTube now, pretty much doing the same sort of work as I did back then, but now I could watch these movies in peace. Naturally, with the amount of time I put in at the work table, I pretty much exhausted the entire library saved on my YouTube watch list in a few short months’ time and was low key freaking out about how to keep my sanity in tact whilst painting.

Thankfully, my illustrator friends came to the rescue and recommended some podcasts they thought I would be interested in and I am addicted. My favorite by far is My Favorite Murder, featuring two gals discussing murders with a comedic overtone. Listening to them have gotten me through some seriously harsh hours at my work table and, in my spare moments, I cranked out these two lovely ladies, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.

If you’re familiar with this popular podcast, you’ll recognize Elvis the cat and his cookie as well as a nod to Karen’s vocal styling at the beginning of every show. Just for fun, each doll is filled with various murder-y weapons including little bottles of poison.

As much as I enjoyed listening to them discussing a variety of murders, the subject matter does tend to get a bit intense, so I would switch on over to “The Baby-Sitters Club Club” podcast featuring two young men in their 30s talking about the seminal classic pre-teen books penned by Ann M. Martin. That particular podcast is not something I can listen to while painting detailed stuff because I’d be too busy doubling over laughing.

Wonder Woman is the 1000th Set

Nine years ago around this time I ordered two sets of blank nesting dolls—one was to be a gift for my hostess when I was in Japan a few months earlier and the other was a just-in-case-I-messed-up-the-first-one. I’ve never painted nesting dolls before and wasn’t sure how I would feel about repetition. I mean, that’s the reason why I never took children’s book illustration seriously even though that had been my concentration at SVA. The first set went all right and I wanted to paint another one. And another. And another. 1000 sets later and I’m still going at it.

For a few weeks I was low-key anxious, wondering which set would become the 1000th, as I normally work simultaneously on 4-6 sets daily. When it became clear that Wonder Woman, one of my favorite movies last year, was to be the one, I immediately decided to give up my sugar-free diet for the day and made some cake to celebrate. I’m regretting the cake now, but thrilled about how the set had turned out.

I started painting these dolls at the dining table, wondering if I could ever make a living at it. Turns out I can’t, really. But it does provide me an ample opportunity to meet with people from around the world and hone my craft to a very sharp point on a daily basis. To quote the friend who had gotten me on this path: “When you love what you’re doing, you got it all, man.”

Memorial Portrait Doll

My 2017 ended on a sad note. Shortly before Christmas my landlord passed away. I am fortunate enough to be one of the very few people who is actually fond of their landlord and his family. Paul was one of the first people that I’ve met when I moved to Australia who had shown me nothing but kindness. When I informed him that I was trying to make a go at the babushka game, he immediately pulled a few strings and connected me with people he thought might help me. He had been, apart from fixing things when they broke down, exceptionally helpful, which made me think of him as my fairy godfather.

I felt awful that the only reason why I  painted a set of him and his family is under these sad circumstances. It is the one thing I know I can do for his family after all the kindness they’ve shown the Hubs and myself through the years.

He was an incredible man with an exceptional family. Thank you, Paul and Sharon, for everything.