Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Artist Statement: My Journey

My art
So much to say and where to start. I guess I’ll start at the beginning. It all began with my grandmother. She taught me needle art. Art was everywhere, but just a part of life. I drew in charcoal. My father painted, my mother drew in pencils.
I loved needlework. I embroidered and cross stitched. I made Christmas presents for everyone. I made my own cross stitch patterns. I’m sure that everyone was tired of my craftiness. My sister has one of the few remaining originals. I made it for her wedding. It has a Pegasus on it since she always loved those winged horses. What I loved most about needle work, was the pattern and design forming out of nothing off the white canvas. You start with something white and slowly the design emerges from the void.
Tole painting was the start of my major focus on art and crafts. I loved to paint on wood. I actually owned a band saw and cut my own pieces. You can never find exactly what you want at a craft store.
When I moved to southern California, I went to a clay day at my cousin’s studio. I had no idea what that was; I went to connect with my family in a strange new place. Who knew that it would be the discovery of my artist self? I found my medium. I loved it! I took classes. I made my own designs. I loved to see the figures come out of the clay. Once again, I have found a medium that allows me to create something from out of the void. This time I create in three dimensions.
I’m pulled to the human form. My soul is called to help others. I helped form a volunteer program of doulas for the Sutter Davis Hospital. It was important to me that low income women could receive assistance during the birth of their children. Everyone deserves to have a helping hand to gain confidence in their abilities.
Times change and stay the same. I still connect with the power of birth and mysteries of a woman’s soul. As an artist, I sculpt this power into clay. The human form of a woman speaks to me. A woman has the most powerful muscle found in the human body yet it is surrounded by softness and curves. The power is hidden from sight. The strength must be felt underneath the softness.
I love the flow of muscle and skin. Clay is a fluid medium that flows and solidifies into strength.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Preventing Bullying

Preventing Bullying

Zero tolerance for bullying behavior policies sounds like the answer. We will not tolerate a bully harming our children. Get rid of them. Expel them. Send them to other schools. Zero Tolerance sounds good, but is it effective.

The simple answer is no. As early as 2004, the American Psychological Association stated that “existing research indicates that bullying at school may be significantly reduced through comprehensive, school-wide programs that are designed to change norms for behavior (Olweus, 1993a; Olweus, 1993b; Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999; Whitney, Rivers, Smith, & Sharp, 1994)”. Unfortunately, as Dr. Kalman, a nationally certified school psychologist, states “everyone loves the idea of going after bullies”. Regardless of the evidence showing that zero tolerance doesn’t work, we hold to the belief that this policy will provide protection for our children.

So what do we do?

In a word-prevention-

Again research has shown that prevention is the best course for changing the behavior of bullies. The Violence Prevention Task Force recommends the following strategies:

·         primary prevention strategies targeted at all students,

·         secondary prevention strategies targeted at those students who may be at risk for violence or disruption,

·         tertiary strategies targeted at those students who have already engaged in disruptive or violent behavior.


There is no fast fix for bullying. The prevention must be long term and comprehensive. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program works on four fronts: school level, classroom level, individual level, and community level. We all must help curb bullying.


Why doesn’t Zero Tolerance work?

The American Psychological Association’s Zero Tolerance Task Force conducted a survey and found that Zero Tolerance Policies are ineffective and create more problems than behavior modification programs. Removing the bully from the school only reduces violence for that day. The long term effect is more violence. “Rather than reducing the likelihood of disruption, however, school suspension in general appears to predict higher future rates of misbehavior and suspension among those students who are suspended.”  In fact, suspending children leads to higher school dropout rates and other adverse outcomes. Not a good thing.


The Task Force also found that Zero Tolerance Policies are developmentally inappropriate due to the immaturity of teens. They are not yet able to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. They cited research in neuroscience that shows the brains of youth are not yet fully developed into adult patterns.


Zero Tolerance is a one size fits all solution for a complex problem. Under Zero Tolerance, the victim who fights back would be suspended along with the bully. Complex issues need solutions that attack the problem from multiple directions. Don’t be tempted to take the easy route. Education and behavior modification are the best ways to address bullying behavior.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Man in the Arena

    “The Man in the Arena” is quoted every year on my son’s wrestling banquet program. I love that the coach is praising the attempt. He speaks to the courage it takes to be on a wrestling team. While it is a team sport, it is only you and your opponent on the mat. All eyes are on you. You stand or fall alone.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blodd; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt
Excerpt from the speech “Citizen in a Republic”
April 23, 1910
   I think that the stand or fall is true for all of us-no matter what we do. Some of us take the stand and go out into that arena. We try and try again. For artists and authors, our arena is just as public as those wrestlers. We stand up and say look here is my effort. It is so hard to remember that it is not the critic who places value onto your work. You must have the fortitude to know that everyone sees things differently and that critic may not see your way. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person may point out the faults and the next may praise your work.

    How do you feel about your effort? Does it speak to you? Are you proud? Do you love your art? You should have enthusiasm, love, and devotion to the art that you make. It is an outlet for your creativity. Never let the fear of a critic stand in your way. Remember you are not a timid soul who hides in the crowd. You had the courage to place yourself front and center. You stand in the harsh light. You have taken a risk. Raise your head with pride and return to the arena. Never give up; never surrender.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Classic Plot Conflicts


The plot of the story is the path the action takes. All plot revolves around conflict. Each protagonist wants something. He struggles to achieve his goals. He may struggle against an external force or an internal force. Who he is under pressure from is where the plot comes in. Each type of conflict leads to a different type of story.


  1. Man vs. Nature

When man is in conflict with nature, he is trying to survive. There is some kind of natural disaster. An example of this plot can be found in the movie, The Perfect Storm. The fishermen ignore the storm warnings and then have to deal with the fury of nature. The element of this plot that makes it interesting is that there is no conscious thought on the part of nature. The events just happen.

  1. Man vs. Man

When a man (hero) is in conflict with another man (villain), all kinds of interesting things can happen. Both sides of the conflict can make choices and changes to the plot line. Each person has motivations and desires.

  1. Man vs. Machines/Technology

Man is the instrument of his own destruction. Man has created something that comes back to create conflict. A great example of this is Battle Star Galactica. Those Cylons really want to create a bit of conflict. 

  1. Man vs. The Supernatural

Any time you have a ghost, vampire, monster, you have man vs. the supernatural. A normal man has to battle a being that has superhuman abilities. The rules for this conflict must be set up within the story. As long as the author doesn’t violate his own rules, the story flows. There must be rules and the supernatural being must have a weakness or there is no hope for the protagonist to succeed. Examples of this fatal flaw in the supernatural being would be wooden stakes or silver bullets.

  1. Man vs. Self

This plot is internally focused. The protagonist is in conflict with some aspect of himself. The hero is going through a transformation and needs to change his outlook or way of thinking. This conflict takes place within the character’s mind. The character in this plot usually has major changes happen in his outlook on life. A good example of this one would be Batman. He’s really conflicted in a Dark Knight kind of way.

  1. Man vs. God/Religion

When man has conflict with his religion, it can be a version of man against society. Religion is a manifestation of the societal norms. The conflict can bring in a supernatural aspect if it brings in a god or other spiritual supernatural being. The Iliad and the Odyssey are examples of this type of conflict.


Friday, March 1, 2013

The Villain

We all know the villain as the opposite of the hero, but what does that really mean? Is a villain inherently evil? Must they always do the wrong thing? How does an author create valid and believable antagonists?
The first thing to consider is that the villain doesn’t think of themselves as evil or bad. They are just reacting to their environment and making judgments about the actions that will create the outcomes that they desire. A villain is the hero of his own story. He doesn’t know that he is the villain. He has valid reasons for doing the things that he does.
A true villain is a wounded human being who has goals and aspirations that make sense. A monster isn’t born; he is made. Examples of this abound, Darth Vader was once Anikan Skywalker. His wounds created his decent into immorality. He had his reasons.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature is made from recycled parts. How could he be anything but ugly? However, that was only his outward appearance. Inside, he was innocent and curious. He had the desire to connect with others. Unfortunately, Victor Frankenstein rejected his creation. Victor introduced the wounds to the creature’s spirit that created the villain. The creature wanted nothing more than to be loved; that unrelenting desire is what drives the story.
He doesn’t have to be more intelligent or stronger than the hero. Making a mistake is where he will fail and the hero will prevail-or not. In Frankenstein, the creature is stronger, faster, and arguably more intelligent than Victor. The creature aka villain wants a partner for his life and to live in isolation and peace. He does evil and immoral things to reach that end.
Memorable villains are always complex creations. They have desires and goals that arise from their wounded spirits. Are you the hero or the villain? Only the end of the story can tell.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who is a Monster?

As I was reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, I thought about the question-what defines a monster?
From the movies, we look at the creation as the horrible abomination. We label this new life created from grave yard pieces as the monster. Victor Frankenstein is the noble scientist; a victim of a science experiment gone wrong. This version is far from the vision of Mary Shelley.
But really, who is the monster? When he was first created, the creature was innocent and intelligent. He didn’t know that he was different. He was left alone by Victor who ran away from his responsibility to a new life. It was Victor’s treatment of him that created the angry and vengeful spirit-the monster was born from neglect. The creature became a monster in response to the reactions that his creator showed him. He internalized the horror
Victor started out to defeat death. He wanted to create a world where no one would die. Wow, I wonder how that’s going to turn out. He is a genius who has used his talent unwisely. Nature will see that he is punished for his vanity. Unfortunately, the innocent creation pays a high price for Victor’s mistake.
The dictionary isn’t much help. It just says a monster is any creature that is so ugly or monstrous as to frighten people. That’s not much help. That could describe anything. Also, ugly really shouldn’t be an aspect that defines a monster. Really, beauty is in the eye of the beholder which implies that ugly is too. Shouldn’t a monster be more universal than that? Monsters are all around us. They hide in the shadows. They try to blend into the background because when we see them-we will do something about them.
A second definition talks about a person who excites horror by wickedness or cruelty. Now, that is a definition that we can work with.  It is horrifying when a person goes out and causes random harm to others. We know a monster when we hear about them. But what if they are just frightened people making mistakes.  The Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters are due on Maple Street”, comes to mind. The fear that the neighborhood felt had to be directed somewhere. Each event had to be blamed on someone. The person blamed had to be on the street. They couldn’t imagine that the events could be coming from an unseen force. Having someone to blame made them feel a little more in control.
Since we all can feel fear and act irrationally, do we all carry the monster within us?