Sunday, December 10, 2017

Art for Advent 2017: Second Sunday

Continuing his 2017 Seeing Art History series for Advent, Dr. James Romaine examines for this second Sunday in Advent Henry Ossawa Tanner's painting The Holy Family (1910), noting, in particular, the artwork's composition and use of light. The oil painting resides in the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan.

Dr. James Romaine, Professor, Lander University; Lecturer on Faith and Visual Arts; Author

Thought for the Day

To write so that a hungry man /
might think it’s bread? //
First feed the hungry man, /
then write so that his hunger /
is not in vain.
~ Ryszard Krynicki

Quoted from Ryszard Krynicki’s Poem “How to Write?” in Piotr Florczyk’s Review of Krynicki’s Magnetic Point: Selected Poems, 1968-2014 (New Directions, 2017), Trans. by Clare Cavanagh, in World Literature in Review, November-December 2017, page 86

Ryszard Krynicki, Polish Poet of the ‘New Wave’, Editor, Publisher, Translator

Clare Cavanagh, Professor of Slavic Languages and Lteratures, Northwestern University

Piotr Florczyk, Poet, Essayist, and Translator

Piotr Florczyk on FaceBook

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Art for Advent 2017: First Sunday

Dr. James Romaine's Seeing Art History series presents for this first Sunday in Advent Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Annuciation, an 1898 painting visualizing the Virgin Mary's moment of spiritual transformation, when the angel Gabriel tells her that she will bear God's Son. The painting, which Tanner entered in the 1898 Paris Salon exhibition, resides in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Dr. James Romaine, Professor, Lander University; Lecturer on Faith and Visual Arts; Author

Thought for the Day

. . . Love is the finest of silences, . . .
~ Jaime Sabines (Trans. W.S. Merwin)


Quoted from "The Lovers" by Jaime Sabines, as Translated by W.S. Merwin, in The Essential W.S. Merwin, Edited by Michael Wiegers (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), page 30

Jaime Sabines (1926-1999), Mexican Poet

W.S. Merwin, Poet, Translator, Environmental Activist, 2010 Poet Laureate of the United States

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thought for the Day

I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.
~ Antonio Porchia (Trans. W.S. Merwin)

Quoted from Voices (2003) by Antonio Porchia, as Translated by W.S. Merwin, in The Essential W.S. Merwin, Edited by Michael Wiegers (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), page 16

Antonio Porchia (1885-1986), Argentinian Poet

W.S. Merwin, Poet, Translator, Environmental Activist, 2010 Poet Laureate of the United States

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Time of Thanksgiving (Poem)

A Time of Thanksgiving

The trees have removed their branches' bracelets;
          that clanging of falling leaves has ceased.
Cold has swept in on nature's stiffest brush,
          preparing us for the harder ground to come.

          In such days grown short in time's own hands,
we lack for light beyond our cut-short shadows,
          listen for this year's presidential proclamation,
in gratefulness await the pardoning of yet another

          turkey. Soon enough we'll gather round our tables,
grip hands in prayer perfected for the holiday,
          pass our plates forward in answer to the question,
light or dark?

          Pumpkin pie will satisfy the traditionalist (there's
always one), and someone later call for coffee, bored
          caffeinated children coralling the cat in the corridor
as mother and daughters retreat to the kitchen, their men cheering

          or berating the fast or fatal final move down left field.
Once the last drop of Pinot Noir is washed down, the glasses dried,
          the chatter will turn to Black Friday specials and old debates
about buying local. No one can wait for the Christmas sales.
© 2017 Maureen E. Doallas

Please enjoy once again these poems of Thanksgiving:

"Tradition" (November 28, 2013)

"Called to Thanksgiving" (November 22, 2012)

"We're used to giving" (Escape Into Life, November 23, 2011)


"November, and the pollen" (November 12, 2013)

And this, because as I wrote then, "Thanksgiving does not exist only on a November day. . .":

"Uncommon Community" (November 16, 2009)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thought for the Day

Cover Art

Freedom is a foreign feeling housed in an overused word —
nothing of life can be taught by anything less than living....
~ Nicelle Davis


Quoted from Nicelle Davis's Poem "An Etymology Lesson" (Section VII) in Her Excellent Chapbook Elephants (Business Bear Press, 2017), page 24. The wonderful illustrations in the chapbook are by Cheryl Gross. 

Nicelle Davis, Poet, Performance Artist, Instructor

Cheryl Gross, Writer, Illustrator, Motion Graphic Artist

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

John Wentz, Untitled No. 8, 2017
Mixed Media on Wood Panel, 16" x 12"
Copyright © John Wentz


It is with great pleasure that I introduce in today's Artist Watch column at the online arts magazine Escape Into Life the work of award-winning painter John Wentz.

John, who was born and raised in San Francisco's Bay Area, has pursued his interest in art since age 6 and now exhibits not only in his hometown but throughout the United States and internationally. 

Today's Artist Watch offers images of eight of John's recent mixed media works, all from his summer 2017 solo exhibition, "Navigation Unknown", at Hashimoto Contemporary. Also included are John's Artist Statement, a brief biographical profile, and links to John's galleries and social media sites.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Marie Craven's & Lucy English's 'Quiet Sounds'

From The Book of Hours, the film poem collaboration of Lucy English and Marie Craven, comes the beautiful Quiet Sounds.

The video concept and editing are by Marie Craven; the poem was written and is read by Lucy English. Carol Blyberg provides the images; the sounds come from Freesound.

Lucy English on FaceBook and Twitter

Marie Craven on FaceBook and Twitter

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thought for the Day

I believe fear is kind of an evil twin to faith. Whereas faith is
the evidence of things unseen and the substance of things
hoped for, fear is also the evidence of things unseen, but 
the substance of things not hoped for. . . creating
 art is a step of faith. . . .
~ Joe Sutphin

Quoted from Ned Bustard's Interview "Doodles from Hutchmoot" at CIVA [Christians in the Visual Arts] Blog, October 24, 2017

Joe Sutphin, Writer-Illustrator of Children's Books 

Joe Sutphin on FaceBook and Instagram

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Short

Today's short is the book trailer for Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years (Farrar Strauss & Giroux, October 24, 2017), the story of Nelson Mandela's years as president of South Africa. The book draws on Mandela's memoir, the unfinished draft of which was completed by South African writer Mandla Langa at the request of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Graca Machel, Mandela's widow, contributes the prologue to Dare Not Linger.

Read an excerpt from Dare Not Linger.

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

(My thanks to the FSG blog Work in Progress for the video link.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Interview with Artist Donna Z. Falcone (Part 2)

Interview with Artist Donna Z. Falcone
Part 2

Cover Art for A is for Azure Written by L.L. Barkat
and Illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone

Yesterday, in Part 1 of my in-depth interview with emerging artist Donna Z. Falcone, illustrator of the recently published T.S. Poetry Press title A is for Azure (2017), an alphabet book, I discussed with Donna her background as an early childhood educator, her career change, her personal views of creatives and art-making, and the media, tools, materials, and techniques she uses in her artistic practice. Today, Donna and I talk specifically about her artistic collaboration with author L.L. Barkat — how that project came to fruition and what it has meant to her — and how she created the ink-on-tile illustrations for the book. Donna shares some first reactions by adults and children to the book and also lets us in on her dream artistic project. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length. All ink-on-tile images are courtesy of T.S. Poetry Press or the artist.)

Maureen Doallas: How did your collaboration with writer and poet L.L. Barkat come about?

Donna Z. Falcone: After my mother Pat died (in April of this year), I shared with L.L. and a few team members at Tweetspeak Poetry some photos of artworks I had created as an act of prayer and meditation while Mom was in hospital 1,000 miles away. L.L. was inspired to create a children's book around these paintings. She worked up a few sample pages, which included a dedication to Mom, and once my travel and Mom's funeral were behind me, shared them with me. She wondered if I liked her idea [of combining my artworks with her text to create an early reader], and asked if I wanted to work with her to make the book a reality. Of course, as you know, I said yes. 

Consequently, my decision resulted in my painting Poppies for My Mother as She Lay Dying becoming the letter "A" in A is for Azure, as well as the cover selection. A second artwork, You Are My Sunshine, became the letter "T", for "Tangerine". [Paintings for all the other letters in the alphabet followed, as Donna explains elsewhere in our interview.]

The Letter A: Azure
(Selection from A is for Azure Illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone)

The Letter T: Tangerine Sun
(Selection from A is for Azure illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone)

MD: What about the project proposal appealed to you?

DZF: I was deeply moved by L.L.'s desire to create this book; by its dedications to my mother and L.L.'s daughters — these felt like art in my heart, with so many connections overlapping; and because the project was both beautifully conceived and excruciating to undertake. I sensed immediately that this project was going to become very important as I moved through a period of fresh grief, and that it would always give me a beautiful place to land when moving in and out of my aching for Mom. It's difficult to make sense of these two realities: one, that Mom would have loved this book and, two, that the book would not exist but for Mom's death and absence. The project forced me to walk with and embrace two completely incompatible ideas. That's very powerful, and it is unanswerable. That is life. That is art.

MD: What are some ways that you worked with the author to make the 58-page A is for Azure?

DZF: This collaboration was such fun! At first, L.L. asked me to upload all my images, which I provided on pages of thumbnail snapshots. From those L.L. selected the paintings that would work with her concept, matching each one to a letter of the alphabet. This step then showed us what letters were unaccounted for.

L.L. next sent me color swatches, each paired with a color name that coincided with the necessary letters of the alphabet. Many of these were completely new to me, and some were familiar but not as color names. This collection of swatches revealed a kind of "to-do list" of paintings, though with no particular subjects in mind. My goal was to "paint something beautiful"; L.L. would know the right painting for each letter when she saw it. It was a fascinating, creative leap of faith, our quest; I would paint something and e-mail the image to L.L., and she would let me know if it worked or not.

MD: For A is for Azure, you created ink-on-tile illustrations. Describe what that artistic process entails (for example, how did you learn of the process; what materials do you use; how much time does it take to create a single illustration using that process; what happens if you make a mistake).

DZF: The process is very fluid, which is not meant to be a pun. Because alcohol inks are so free-flowing, when I am using them, I have to think journey, not destination. During this project, I started to think of the inks as my friends and, on some level, resorted to asking them what they wanted to do. As my experience using them grows, I am learning how to use brushes to nudge the inks in a certain direction or to smooth out a line but, mostly, I don't use tools directly with the inks.

I am fascinated by the way an ink moves and interacts with other inks on a tile. I do a lot of dripping and then move the ink back and forth by tipping the tile in one direction and then another, or spinning the tile quickly on my lazy Susan while I drip ink from its bottle. One of my favorite ways to move ink is with forced air — I created my own machine for just that purpose! It's a funny-looking gadget made from a reverse-engineered hand-held vacuum, a long rubber hose, and my mother's old cake tip! I created the grasses and stems in the book's cover image from the bottom up, using forced air to blow the ink across the tile. Oh, that was such fun!

Fire is another process that I like to use, though I get nervous telling people that I use open flames because they can be dangerous and I don't want anyone to try this process unsupervised. (Please, don't try this at home, folks! Not without proper training!) I created the poppies for the book's cover using flames on red ink. 

I don't worry about making mistakes. I use the unexpected turns a painting can take to learn more about the inks and the process I'm using, and my resistance to the inks' nature. 

Because the medium contains alcohol, it dries very quickly, which means I need to work very quickly. Maybe that's why I like the process so much; there is not a lot time for wringing of hands! Sometimes I think I am finished with a piece only to change it a dozen more times before I am really finished.

I imagine that the way I interact with the inks and tiles feels like paired improvisational dance must feel: if suddenly there is a leg in your right hand, well, you just keep moving with the music. The more synchronous you become, the fewer mistakes are made because every step is part of the whole.

When I paint a  tile that I don't particularly want to keep, I wash it off, although I am doing that less and less these days because I've learned that these are the tiles others want. . . as with bananas [see explanation below]. . . or the painting for "C", for "Cranberry". I washed off that tile as soon as I took a photo of it and, as it turns out, this became one of L.L.'s favorite pieces of mine. The expression "One man's trash is another man's treasure" applies perfectly.

MD: What influenced the style you used to illustrate L.L.'s text?

DZF: Because I didn't know what L.L. was looking for in each illustration, other than color, I felt free to just keep creating in my own style and, based on her feedback, adjusting. It was a leap of faith, to simply begin and see what happened on each tile. L.L. was very supportive of my process, which seemed to fit well with hers. My sense was that we both were seeking inspiration through our collaboration, trusting that the work would all come together if we stayed true to our own styles.

It was very important to maintain an attitude of playful exploration, as opposed to searching for a particular thing. In fact, when I was trying over and over again to re-create a particular painting of bananas that L.L. had seen in my old photos, which no longer existed, I found it impossible! The only existing image was blurry. But L.L. really loved those bananas and wanted them for the letter "Y", for "Yellow". After several attempts, frustration began to creep in—this was not a direction I wanted to go. . . in frustration, I mean. I decided to "let go" of the bananas for a while and play with the color yellow. When I stopped trying to "force bananas", the word "lemon" popped into my head and that color soon found its way onto a 6" x 6" tile. When I sent L.L. a photo of my lemon via e-mail, she wrote back within minutes, telling me she really loved  that lemon. Attached was a photo of the page for "Y": "Y is for Yellow. Hello, Yellow!" I have shared this little story with a group of kindergarteners, who thought it was very funny that a bunch of bananas could become, in fact, a lemon!

Sunflowers by Donna Z. Falcone

MD: How many illustrations did you create for the book? Did any particular color-word present a challenge to you as illustrator?

DZF: I created six new paintings. The painting for "Y is for Yellow" had us going bananas for a while but that for "I is for Iceberg" stands out as the most difficult to do. An interesting shade of blue, the color was hard to hold in my mind and difficult to find in available inks. The image for the painting for this page in the book went through several iterations, including several versions of nests of birds' eggs, an actual iceberg, dragonfly wings, and ocean waves. Eventually, a stream flowing through a pine forest caught L.L.'s imagination and I created "I is for Iceberg, an Iceberg stream." That was the last image we needed for the book.

It wasn't until A is for Azure was published that I finally saw L.L.'s beautiful words assembled with every painting. To this early childhood professional, the book was perfect. As an artist, I was thrilled. As a grieving daughter, I found it such a tender tribute. 

MD: Of all the illustrations you created, which are your favorite(s), and why?

DZF: My favorite painting is H is for Heliotrope. The colors are striking and the tile, a 10" x 14" vertical tile in "real life", has a majestic look to it. A trio of heliotropes standing tall, with one off to the left, possibly only having just bloomed. . . it reminds me of the artistic women in my family: my mother Pat, my sister Peg, and me. Three in a row. . . I'm not sure who that is peeking in but I think it's I, since my mother and my sister have been artists for as long as I can remember and I am what is called "a late bloomer".

The Letter H: Heliotrope
(Selection from A is for Azure Illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone)

The painting for the letter "A" in A is for Azure — is another favorite, because it started the whole project and began as a prayer for Mom just two days before she died. To me, this is her painting, as is "T is for Tangerine". The latter was painted hours before Mom died. . . I still 1,000 miles away. I felt that I could be with her in art and maybe, in a way, I was.

MD: The alphabet book includes, among other supporting materials, a color key. What makes the color key, an unusual addition, necessary?

DZF: L.L. took great care to provide children with novel and beautiful words representing many different colors. Those words may be unfamiliar to most of us (they were were to me), and the subtle differences among the various shades of a color, let's say yellow, are important. The colors brass, yellow, and xanthic are all related, for example, but definitely are not the same. The key provides parents and children with necessary guidance in how to pronounce each word and encourages readers to seek out the subtle color differences, all this in one place. Precision matters; it adds another layer of authenticity and challenge to the experience of reading the book. People have made a point of telling me how grateful they are for this page at the end of the book, for putting to rest any guessing about how to say a word.

MD: There are innumerable children's alphabet books on the market. What makes A is for Azure stand out from other such books, including those you might have used or recommended in your earlier role as educator?

DZF: As I mentioned, A is for Azure is an alphabet book to experience, not simply read. For example, there are color-coded letters embedded in the text on every pair of pages. Children instinctively grab the color from the first letter of the color word, which is also the first word on the page, and scan the opposite page to find its match.

MD: How did your background as an early childhood educator best serve your work on this project?

DZF: My love of children is what served me best. Since the author's concept was her own, it did not influence me. I was not aiming for "children's art"; I was simply aiming for "beautiful".

MD: What was your first reaction on seeing the book in print for the first time?

DZF: When my copy arrived in the mail, I opened it via "LIVE on Facebook". I was overwhelmed by its beauty and the synchrony of each and every page. When I read the dedication to Mom, I cried.

Another thing I did "LIVE on Facebook" was pronounce incorrectly the word "azure". When I realized my mistake, I was mortified. . . but only for a few seconds! I laugh now when I tell this story, because it really illustrates the need for that color key at the end of the book.

MD: Have you witnessed children's reactions to the book, and especially to your illustrations?

DZF: When my sister shared the book with my four-year-old great-nephew, he had the most satisfying reaction: he turned the pages one by one, saying "ooooooo" followed by "wow!" Yes, that is the best review ever!

When I read the book aloud to a first-grade class, the children became very excited every time we came to a letter that was at the beginning of their own name. One little boy proudly informed me that if the word "denim" started with a "v" it would be "venom"! Those children were very excited.

MD: If you were trying to persuade children's parents to purchase the book, what would you say?

DZF: I would assure parents that this is a book that even they will learn from, so reading it will not be boring! I also would tell them that their kids will be so empowered by knowing all the really cool color words. Just imagine whipping out A is for Azure at Grandma's, turning to the page with the word "xanthic" on it, and pointing to the image of a yellowish golden moon.

MD: What have you learned from your collaboration on A is for Azure and how might that influence any future artistic project?

DZF: It's important to do the things we don't know how to do. It's also important to seize opportunities when they arise instead of waiting for the perfect time and proper mood. Taking such an approach gives me a lot of courage and freedom; it's an invitation to think bigger than I'm used to thinking.

MD: Can you share any information about your next art project?

DZF: I have just been invited to offer a full gallery show at a local museum and art gallery. The show  [see Save the Dates! below] is to be titled "From Azure to Zaffre" and will feature all the art from the book in either its original form or as gallery-quality reproductions.

Zaffre Feathers by Donna Z. Falcone

While it's true that I have no idea how to put on a gallery exhibition, it's also true that I never knew how to be an illustrator before this project. If we always only do the things we have done before, we will never do anything new! Life is too short to be landlocked by my own insecurities. The only way I have found to overcome my insecurities is to challenge them by doing the very thing I never thought possible.

MD: Imagine and describe your dream art project.

DZF: I have unlimited funds and unlimited space. I create alcohol ink images that are transferrable to large panels of clear glass and hang the panels in front of an enormous window. The light carries the images downward, where they appear on the floor, or over to a clean white wall. As the sun crosses the sky, the images shift and move. All the colors of the inks call out for light—that is where the magic is.

(Ironically, the inks are not light-fast, which is why, in this dream, the images are transferrable.)

Imagine! If I could fill a room with that kind of light. . . well . . . I would probably cry.


Donna Z. Falcone hails from the small town of Spencerport, New York, which she describes as "up north on the Erie Canal, complete with towpath and a lift bridge." She and her husband Joe, who met in graduate school, are the parents of two sons and caretakers of "our rather large dog 'Gruffy' who suffers from the delusion that he is a Pomeranian." They have moved their family hither and yon—first to the warm(er) clime of North Carolina and then to Tennessee. After five years in the South, in 2000, they decided to relocate again, and packed up their belongings and headed to northeast Pennsylvania, where they spent the next 16 years until, faced with an empty nest but a still-to-fill dog bowl, Donna and Joe headed off with Gruffy to plant a few new roots in South Georgia. Their now-grown children are content to "hold down the fort" in Pennsylvania.

Donna's work in early childhood education spanned 30 years and four states. In 2009, when Lyme disease and multiple co-infections "brought my career to a screeching halt," she turned to her "earlier love of writing" and gave her dreams of becoming an artist room to develop and grow. 

In addition to creating visual art with "a playful splash of alcohol inks and paint," Donna has published poetry in Poetry Nook (Vol. 3), When Women Waken (see "If Hearts Had Handles", Issue 3), Every Day Poems, and Her work also has appeared alongside that of other artists at the Websites for Inanna House (see "The Works of Donna Falcone", November 2013), Makes You Mom, and Tweetspeak Poetry blog. Now "living far south of Atlanta," Donna takes "my chocolate dark, my coffee light, and my tea touched by stevia. As for wine, please make mine Merlot," she adds.

Donna blogs at Painting Goodbye. Also see The Brighter Side: Living with Lyme.

Donna Z. Falcone on FaceBook

Sign up for the artist's newsletter, Inky Updates from Donna Z. Falcone. She'll be offering demos, classes, and more.

A is for Azure at TweetSpeak Poetry

Save the Dates!

Donna's solo exhibition, "From Azure to Zaffre", is planned for September through December 2018 at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College's Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village, Tifton, Georgia, part of the University System of Georgia. Planning for the exhibition, which you won't want to miss, is underway. It promises to be a very special event for children.

On Zazzle. . . .

A variety of products bearing some of the artist's and author's favorite images are available to purchase from the Zazzle Store, including:

2018 A is for Azure Calendar



Playing Cards


Also of Interest. . . 

Stuart Taylor, "A is for Azure: Tifton Artist Works on Children's Book", Tifton Gazette, September 21, 2017

L.L. Barkat, "Learn to Read! Beautiful Art for a Predictable Sentence Chart", TweetSpeak Poetry Blog, August 4, 2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Interview with Artist Donna Z. Falcone (Part 1)

Interview with Artist Donna Z. Falcone
Part 1

Cover Art by Donna Z. Falcone for A is for Azure 

Debut illustrator Donna Z. Falcone collaborated with writer and poet L.L. Barkat to create for T.S. Poetry Press the children's alphabet book A is for Azure (2017). Curious about her professional and personal transformation from childhood educator to artist, I invited Donna to do an in-depth interview with me via e-mail, to discuss both her new career and, more specifically, her artistic collaboration with L.L. (I know both women.) Donna graciously responded in the positive. In today's post, she and I explore her background, her personal views of creatives and art-making, her media, tools, and techniques, and other more general aspects of art. In Part 2, we talk about Donna's project with L.L. Barkat and how it came to fruition, as well as possible future art activities. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length. All ink-on-tile images are courtesy of T.S. Poetry Press or the artist.)

Maureen Doallas: Donna, you have a background in early childhood education. You now devote your time to art-making and are the illustrator of the recently published T.S. Poetry Press title A is for Azure, a children's alphabet book. What got you interested enough in art to change careers?

Donna Z. Falcone: My career change came about because of unfortunate circumstances. After 30-plus years as an early childhood educator, I found myself forced out of both classroom and workplace because of long-misdiagnosed Lyme disease. Ongoing physical constraints and relapses prevented me from returning to teaching.

During a difficult, sometimes nearly hopeless, period of treatment and recovery, I began dabbling and out of that grew my art-making. I spent my days on the sun porch of our family home in Pennsylvania learning about web design, poetry, photography, and, eventually, alcohol inks and tile-painting. Once I began using the inks (more about that later), I found it impossible to stop.

The Letter C: Cranberry
(Selection from A is for Azure Illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone)

MD: What did your experience as an early childhood educator reveal to you that you subsequently have applied to your art?

DZF: In a way, being a childhood educator laid an important foundation for my own artistic process. Having learned the value of freedom in creative endeavors, which I had guarded vehemently for the young students and children in my care and having worked with teachers to get them to do the same, I got to experience for the first time in my life what such freedom could do for me—and it was wonderful!

Who knew that in all the years I concerned myself with children's readiness, I secretly was developing my own?!

MD: Have you studied art formally or are you primarily self-taught?

DZF: I am mostly self-taught, although I have found some wonderful artists online and in the physical and virtual communities I frequent who are more than happy to share their knowledge, especially about the use of alcohol inks, an unusual and relatively unknown material. We learn from each other.

MD: What comes to mind when you hear the word artist, especially as it applies to you?

DZF: I think of someone who brings forth something unique and soul-touching. . . someone who immerses herself in the act of creation almost all the time. . . who not only creates art whenever she gets the chance but who, even when she is not physically making something, is thinking about art, whether while seeking out other artists, noticing the play of light, wondering how this shade or that tone can be created, or developing new ways to use a medium. Anyone dedicated to the practice of art elevates her skill level to the point of outgrowing it and then wanting to do more. . . pushing the material to grow with her.

MD: Who is your favorite artist or children's book illustrator and why?

DZF: Hands down, my favorite illustrator is Eric Carle. His work is so free and bold, colorful and creative. I really love his mixed media, how he uses collage and paint. His work is abstract, and that appeals to me, too.

MD: Do you think children are natural artists and, if yes, do you think that makes your job as illustrator of a children's book any more challenging? In what ways?

DZF: Well, not exactly, which may surprise you, given my career in early childhood education; however, I do think children are naturally creative and that they are natural explorers of whatever they happen to find in their surroundings.

I believe deeply that art materials should be available to children in all learning environments and in multiple ways, so that children can use them to make discoveries. Art materials are tools, as important as, if not more important than, anything else in the classroom. When art materials are made available, children might discover that they love to create with paint or clay or collage or, over time, find out that art-making's not for them. They might be drawn to different creative endeavors, which is wonderful. They might, for example, develop an intense interest in human anatomy; it's not difficult to see how experiences with form, color, shape, layering with paint, sculpting with clay, or running yarn through glue and affixing it to pieces of wood and paper tubes can support appreciation of the intricacies of how muscles, bones, and nerves all layer and connect beneath our skin. You see, even if a child is deemed "very artistic," his focus might shift and change over time but still be supported by or underlie his early discoveries through art. As my son once so eloquently put it, at the ripe old age of 8, "Mom, just because I'm good at something doesn't mean I have to be it."

The Letter H: Heliotrope
(Selection from A is for Azure Illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone)

MD: Do you make art a daily practice, at a particular time of day, for a set number of hours, for example, or whenever inspiration strikes? Do you need to work in particular conditions (for example, alone, in quiet) to make your art?

DZF: I don't make art every day, although I am always working on art in my mind, while learning something new, or when involved on a project that has emerged because of my art-making. For example, currently, I am not in the studio because I am preparing for my first juried art show and sale. There is a lot of work in that; it just goes with being an artist.

There are times, however, when I work in my studio every single day for weeks or months!

When I am making art, I prefer to work in one of two environments: in perfect quiet or with music, usually soft, meditative music with no lyrics, playing in the background.

One of my favorite times to paint is before the sun comes up, when I maybe light a candle or  two and set music to playing softly (for example, music such as Native American flute players perform).

A rigid commitment to create art every day leaves me feeling confined and pressured. Allowing myself the freedom to create or not create is, I think, central to my desire to return to my studio and become immersed for a while.

Now, none of this is to say that an idea doesn't sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night, making me drag myself out of bed and into the studio. That happens, thankfully! It's one of the most exciting times for me to create!

MD: What most inspires you to make art?

DZF: Sometimes my mood drives me and I turn to inks to express myself; mostly, however, it's the simple drive to create and play that inspires me to make art. Sometimes I'm curious about materials or want to experiment with something that has popped into my head. . . can it do this? What will it do if I do that?

MD: What does your art-making space look like?

DZF: My art space is color-stained and comfy!

Art-Making Space of Artist Donna Z. Falcone

My formerly white plastic folding table is covered with streaks of ink and smears of acrylic paint, and I like it that way. It reminds me that I can do whatever I want in this space.

My inks are organized meticulously by color (in ROY G BIV fashion) on two multi-tiered storage racks intended for use as nail polish holders. I've stacked clean ceramic tiles of various sizes on a table to my right, within arm's reach, and filled bins with extra materials on the table beside my inks. Also near to hand are a lighter for burning ink, a spray bottle, a glass eye dropper, a large white plastic bottle filled with 91 percent alcohol, and, for extra-messy experiments, rubber gloves. A lazy Susan (which I swiped from my spice cabinet) sits in the center of all this, waiting to hold and turn any new tile artwork I'm making. A bright red sofa covered in pillows (it opens up to a bed for company) gives me a nice place to stretch out and rest, think, or listen to music.

MD: What media and techniques do you use regularly?

DZF: Although I am learning how to sketch and draw, I have never been very interested in realism. My mother was a very talented artist whose flower and nature paintings were exquisite and so realistic. But, for me, I love inks, because they invite me to work and play with their properties. The flow of ink and the way it behaves while I'm tile-painting are magical.

To create my artworks, I generally use fire (yes, real flames), forced air (from a hand-held vacuum that I've reverse-engineered), centrifugal or other forces (I use that old lazy Susan I swiped from my spice cabinet), and gravity to move inks around on tiles. I sometimes use brushes to coax an ink to travel in a particular direction or to add a bit of detail but mostly my pieces seem to come into being without my using any real tools at all.

MD: Do you have an art mentor or someone who champions your art-making?

DZF: I am truly blessed to having such loving support for my art, starting with my husband Joe, who, by providing encouragement, feedback, and ink(!) — we laugh when I tell him he is my chief financial investor — definitely champions my art-making.

My sister is directly responsible for introducing me to alcohol inks. She kept sending me little pictures of tiles she had painted when she first discovered this magical medium. It's as if she had been sitting on my shoulder and telling me, "Come on. . . try it. . . you know you want to!"

My parents also have been very supportive. As I noted earlier, my mother was a beautiful artist — A is for Azure is dedicated to her and to L.L. Barkat's two daughters.

And writer L.L. Barkat? She has been instrumental to my artistic life. It was her ongoing support and enthusiasm that led to A is for Azure in the first place. 


Donna Z. Falcone hails from the small town of Spencerport, New York, which she describes as "up north on the Erie Canal, complete with towpath and a lift bridge." She and her husband Joe, who met in graduate school, are the parents of two sons and caretakers of "our rather large dog 'Gruffy' who suffers from the delusion that he is a Pomeranian." They have moved their family hither and yon—first to the warm(er) clime of North Carolina and then to Tennessee. After five years in the South, in 2000, they decided to relocate again, and packed up their belongings and headed to northeast Pennsylvania, where they spent the next 16 years until, faced with an empty nest but a still-to-fill dog bowl, Donna and Joe headed off with Gruffy to plant a few new roots in South Georgia. Their now-grown children are content to "hold down the fort" in Pennsylvania.

Donna's work in early childhood education spanned 30 years and four states. In 2009, when Lyme disease and multiple co-infections "brought my career to a screeching halt," she turned to her "earlier love of writing" and gave her dreams of becoming an artist room to develop and grow. 

In addition to creating visual art with "a playful splash of alcohol inks and paint," Donna has published poetry in Poetry Nook (Vol. 3), When Women Waken (see "If Hearts Had Handles", Issue 3), Every Day Poems, and Her work also has appeared alongside that of other artists at the Websites for Inanna House (see "The Works of Donna Falcone", November 2013), Makes You Mom, and Tweetspeak Poetry blog. Now "living far south of Atlanta," Donna takes "my chocolate dark, my coffee light, and my tea touched by stevia. As for wine, please make mine Merlot," she adds.

Donna blogs at Painting Goodbye. Also see The Brighter Side: Living with Lyme.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

McKayla Robbin's 'we carry the sky'

Cover Art

Charleston, South Carolina poet McKayla Robbin is the author of the 2016 debut collection we carry the sky. Recently, poems from Robbin's book were used in a short film by producer-director and actor Elizabeth Massucci and made the subject of a feature by Elizabeth Flock at the PBS Newshour. Here is the film:

McKayla Robbin

McKayla Robbin on Instagram

Elizabeth Masucci

(My thanks to Poetry Daily's November 6, 2017, newsletter for the link.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thought for the Day

Our darkness breathes more deeply in the dark.
~ Bruce Bond

Quoted from Bruce Bond's Poem "Lamella" in Poetry, November 2017, page 127

Bruce Bond, Poet; Professor of English, University of North Texas at Denton; and Classical and Jazz Guitarist

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Witch Rhyme: An Acrostic

Witches on Broomsticks 
from The History of Witches and Wizards (1720)

Witch Rhyme: An Acrostic

Catch a broom and ride it high
On Halloween no witch be shy
Sail past moon in pointy hat
Trick the Devil silence black cat
Use spells malignant powers too
Magic potions among covens new
Early out and late back in
Swift spectral shapes toward Salem spin

2017 © Maureen E. Doallas

Some of my other Halloween poems:

"Bloodlust" (Acrostic) (2016)

"All Hallow's Eve" (2013)

"Witches' Wine" (2012)

"Mary Shelley Writes in Her Bedroom" (2011)

Also see "Monday Muse Asks Did You Know?" and "Facts, New or  Not: Halloween Edition".

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Thought for the Day

If you never ever close your eyes, you won't grow.
~ Yannis Ritsos

Monochord #88, Quoted from Yannis Ritsos, Monochords (Tavern Books, 2017), Trans. Paul Merchant, p. 24 (This wonderful book of 336 one-line poems is in both Greek and English.)

Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990), Greek Poet

Paul Merchant, Poet and Editor/Translator

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Short

On October 22, I headed to downtown Washington, D.C., to see the Renwick Gallery's remarkable exhibition "Murder Is Her Hobby: Francis Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death". Occupying the gallery's first floor, the exhibition, which continues through January 28, 2018, features Glessner Lee's miniature composites of true crime scenes; dollhouse-size, the models are incredibly exacting in detail and a true test of one's observational capacities (one look is enough to understand why the models are still used to train homicide detectives).

Susan Marks, a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter who has already made one film about Glessner Lee, Of Dolls & Murder, will be at the Renwick on November 18, when she will screen and talk about her second film about Glessner Lee, Murder in a Nutshell: The Frances Glessner Lee Story (2017), the trailer for which appears below. I hope to be there.

Sarah Zhang, "How a Gilded-Age Heiress Became the 'Mother of Forensic Science'", The Atlantic, October 14, 2017.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday's Three on Art

Today's Thursday Three brings you a trio of art-related videos. The first two shorts are part of a series of seven films titled The Audacity of Christian Art, which addresses the thought-provoking question, "How do you paint a figure who is fully human and fully divine?" The series from the National Gallery, London, is narrated by Dr. Chloe Reddaway, the museum's Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Curator in Art and Religion. The third short looks at the subject of art valuation.

✦ Part 1 is "The Audacity of Christian Art: the Problem with Christ".

✦ Part 2 is "Christ Is Not Like a Snail: Signs and Symbols".

✦ If you've ever wondered how paintings are valued, What Makes Art Valuable? (Documentary Guru) tries to answer the question.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Thought for the Day

A life is a thing you have to start
~ Solmaz Sharif

Quoted from Solmaz Sharif's Poem "Beauty" at Freeman's Channel, Literary Hub

Solmaz Sharif, Award-Winning Poet, Stanford University Lecturer

Solmaz Sharif at Graywolf Press

Zinzi Clemmons, "The Role of  the Poet: An Interview with Solmaz Sharif", The Paris Review, July 27, 2016

Alexander Nazaryan, "The Weird and Beautiful War Poetry of Solmaz Sharif", Newsweek, November 6, 2016

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Short

You fear what you don't know.

So many recent events have pushed the war in Syria off the front pages, as is the nature of "news". It's important we keep some part of our attention there, because of the continuing loss of life and because of our government's determination to shut out those in need of America's help. Should you harbor doubt, please watch this short documentary, To Breathe Free, from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance:

To Breathe Free from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Redd Walitzki, The Butterfly Catcher (Detail), 2017
Oil and Mixed-Media on Laser-Cut Acrylic Panel
30" x "40"
© Redd Walitzki


It is a great delight to showcase today the sensual paintings of Redd Walitzki in my Artist Watch column at the online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

Currently a resident of Seattle, Washington, Redd was born in Germany and produces mixed-media works influenced by the rococo ornamentation of her native Bavaria, nature, and ideas about high-fashion, technology, and fleeting beauty. Primarily a figurative artist, Redd takes deep pleasure in experimenting with artistic media, techniques, and technologies that push the boundaries of her creativity.

For today's Artist Watch, Redd has provided six images from her "Stranger Than Earth" series of paintings, as well as three close-up images that reveal details that viewers might otherwise miss. In addition, you will find Redd's Artist Statement, a brief biography, and a list of social media.

Redd's wonderful paintings can be seen from November 18 through December 3 in the group show "Lush" at Bein Art Gallery in Brunswick VIC, Australia.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'The Island' (Videopoem)

"The Island That Is Hard to Find in English" is a poem by  British-Jamaican poet, spoken-word artist, educator, and editor Raymond Antrobus. It is read by Antrobus in the video below, which was animated by Maya Horton. The subtitles are by Phillip Louden-Carter and the music by Jonny Whalton.

Antrobus, a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow, is the author of the chapbook To Sweeten Bitter (Outspoken Press, 2017), Shapes & Disfigurements of Raymond Antrobus (Burning Eye Books, 2012) and, forthcoming, his as-yet-untitled debut collection about deafness, the Diaspora, and language, which is to be published by the London-based Penned in the Margins.

Raymond Antrobus on FaceBook

Raymond Antrobus Profiles at Brain Mill Press and Poetry Foundation

(My thanks to Peter Hayoe and Helen Dewbery for the link to the short.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thought for the Day

You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the
space in between is trust and love.
~ Louise Bourgeois

Quoted as Epigraph in Sharon Salzberg's Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection (Flatiron Books, 2017), Chapter 24, p. 279

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), French-American Sculptor

Sharon Salzberg, Co-Founder, Insight Meditation Society; Author, Teacher

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Short

Readers may recall my May 2016 post that introduced the remarkable photographer Kirsty Mitchell. Recently, Mitchell's Wonderland came to the Paine Art Center and Gardens museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin (the show continues through October 29), where Mitchell made a short showing the gorgeous installation and some of the visitors she met.

This second short relates some of the preparation for the exhibition, which presented 19 of Mitchell's large, wholly unforgettable pieces (the series numbers 74 images):

An additional "bonus" video:

For more installation shots, see Mitchell's blog post about the exhibition.

Kirsty Mitchell Website

Copies of Mitchell's Wonderland book (2nd edition) are available for purchase. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Gratitude (Poem)


The lemons in lemonade
remind me

of daffodils and forsythia
in daddy's dusty greenhouse,

and the dappled glitter of the sun
in its slant over Chicago.

I could celebrate it—
the single bluet

that makes lunch an odyssey
of tastes, plums not too green

to plunder, the cool water
in the red urn flowing oceanic,

better than the blackberry wine
so beloved by Beyonce.

In a cathedral of the imagination,
there are no impediments,

no one is bored, and the albatross
isn't a burden to any sailor.

Persimmons nevermore go missing,
nor snowy owls ply their dialect

like a drunken skunk.
Whereas, in gratitude, I hustle

to welcome the buzz
of the humble fly in paradise,

its canto as phenomenal as the kaddish
of the raven, or maybe the nightingale.


In creating this found poem, I used a selection of words from a FaceBook post by Kaveh Akbar about the words poets "own". That post (originally a tweet) turned out to be a great prompt. (Also read Kaveh's post at Literary Hub.)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Thought for the Day

. . . our bodies measure distance in bed.
~ Alyssa Kelly

Quoted from Alyssa Kelly's poem "Unforgivable" in "When You Have Forgotten Sunday: The Love Story" in The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks (The University of Arkansas Press, 2017),  p. 215

Alyssa Kelly, High School English Teacher, Poet, Singer-Songwriter

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Waiting Rooms at Mandalay Bay (Cinquain)

Waiting Rooms at Mandalay Bay

The heat
in the desert
unseams clothes, sears silence.
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Waiting rooms

© 2017 Maureen E. Doallas

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Two Tarfia Faizullah Poems (Videopoems)

In the video below, produced for Voluble/Los Angeles Review of Books, Tarfia Faizullah reads two of her poems: "Feast or Famine" and "Love Poem Ending With the Eye of a Needle". The music is by Brooklyn Shanti and Robin Sukhadia; editing is by Shanti. Footage for the second poem is from Sita Sings the Blues.

My thanks to Poets & Writers for the link.

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of the forthcoming Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf Press, March 2018). Her debut collection was Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).

Tarfia Faizullah Profiles at Academy of American Poets and Poetry Foundation