My BYOB tour of Pittsburgh – that’s “B” for botany, birds, and bugs!

One Mission. Two Months. 12+ Paintings. Hundreds of new friends (with 2, 4, and 8+ legs). Thousands to thank.


Self-directed residencies are like cooking classes (stay with me) – they have a habit of leaving you exhausted, proud, and wanting to do more without always appreciating the work that everyone around you put in to make it possible.  Thank you to the organizations, businesses, friends, family and broader Pittsburgh community for making it possible for me.

For those playing a bit of catch up, my summer artist residency project was fairly simple: 1. Suffocate myself with birds, bugs, and botany, and 2. translate it each day into a pattern, print, or fine art work . I’m happy to report that both objectives were successfully met, plus loads of additional perks. Here are a few highlights:

1. Meeting scientists – Spending my days with ornithologists and entomologists selecting behind-the-scenes bird and insect specimens made for a huge boost in my creative output. Hearing these experts talk about their work and studying their collections flooded my brain with ideas for the paintings that lay ahead. And as word spread about my project, other scientists introduced themselves, which led to opportunities such as touring the amphibian and reptile collections at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Who knows, exotic frogs and reptiles might soon make an appearance in my work.

A tray of Red-legged Honey Creeper specimens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History entomologist John Rawlins poses with a Brahmin Moth. He jokingly calls this his “mad scientist” face.


2. Lunching in good company – I didn’t think there would be such a response to the open invitation for people to come join me for lunch wherever I was painting on a given day. Yet, nearly everyday in July and August an artist, interior designer, retail shop owner, scientist, or just about anyone you can imagine accompanied me for my afternoon break to learn more about the residency.

I made all of my lunch dates pose for an obligatory photo, including these two – illustrators Molly Thompson and Gregg Valley.


3. Painting from floral arrangements made specifically for my artwork – Stephanie Kirby of Blue Daisy Floral Designs hosted me at her beautiful shop to paint her signature arrangements. She took my paintings-in-progress-patterns when I arrived and used them as the basis to create custom arrangements. It was such a fun collaboration! Another perk was installing enlarged prints of my artwork in Stephanie’s bridal consult room – check them out if you are in the area.

Stephanie Kirby’s floral handiwork and my painting of her bouquet. The painting is a work in progress.
Painting from fresh floral arrangements after installing my work in Stephanie’s bridal consult room.


4. Makin’ the news – Fortunately, this project garnered some media attention. I was interviewed on CBS’s Pittsburgh Today Live, and Alexandra Oliver wrote an article about my work for Pittsburgh Articulate.

On the set of Pittsburgh Today Live with host Brenda Waters.


5. Befriending budding artists and scientists – One thing I didn’t see coming was the fact that my residency schedule overlapped with peak summer camp season. Between the hours of 10am and 2pm-ish, I was regularly surrounded by swarms of curious elementary students.  Questions flowed like the juice boxes, but the sticky fingers were worth it because of the many endearing conversations I had similar to this synopsis of a chat with six year old Nora – Her: What are you doing? Me: Painting a moth. Her: That’s really good. Me: Thank you! Her: [long thoughtful pause] Do you want to be friends? Me: Of course!



6. Getting better at what I do. On my last day at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I decided to be a glutton for punishment and paint a Brahmin Moth. After an entire day of painting nothing but this single mind-numbingly detailed specimen, I sat back, looked at the fruits of my labor and thought, “I think it’s fair to say I’ve become a better painter.” Practice makes perfect.

A real Brahmin Moth specimen and my own painted version of it. The painting is a work in progress.


What’s next? There’s talk of a show of all of the finished paintings – stay tuned for details. In the meanwhile, mark these bigger events on your calendar where you can buy prints of my residency paintings, as well as scarves, pillows and other products printed with these works:

All 12 of the paintings from my residency together. Several are still works in progress.

If you’re hungry for more visual eye-candy from this project, I regularly posted photos from the project to my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

I’m exhibiting in London!

London Happy Hour

Big news!   I’ve made a legitimate crossover as an international artist.

Soon I’ll be exhibiting the painting above at my first group show in London at Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern).   The exhibition, titled “London Lives,” will run from September 9th through the 19th.

This competition was announced in the Guardian newspaper, which certainly attracted a large number of entries.   Nonetheless I have been selected among a short list of 100 artist invited to exhibit their work AND I’m one of just over 20 being awarded a prize (the specifics of which will be announced at the private opening).   It’s certainly quite an honor.   If you’re in the area, please come and see the show.

I must give a huge “thank you!” to the painting’s owner, Cat Scott (an amazing artist and illustrator) for letting me borrow it for the exhibition.   I promise to return it to you dinning room soon, Cat.

Although the original is obviously not up for grabs, prints and greeting cards of the painting are available here on my ImageKind account.

Building People Power

Barack and Michelle Obama
8″ x 10″ oil on canvas, $350 ($50 donated to Kentucky Jobs With Justice)

By guest writer, Attica Scott, Kentucky Jobs With Justice Coordinator

I’m in DC this inaugural weekend and thinking about what this moment in history means. For two days, I sat in meetings of the National Organizers Alliance thinking about how Obama’s election is helping to advance our movements for human rights and social justice. When I see the future first family, I see community and culture. But then I walk outside and I see overwhelming amounts of fanaticism and I get concerned about what we are building power for.

Are we creating an environment that will set up Obama for failure? Will we turn our backs on him when he cannot solve all of our problems like toxins from nuclear weapon waste being dumped into the water supply of towns in New Mexico and causing cancer to its residents? Or are we building a new kind of power that demands that those of us who consider ourselves organizers hold Mr. Obama just as accountable as we do all other elected officials?

As a non-profit organization, we at Kentucky Jobs With Justice cannot engage in partisan politics. But that means we need to intensify our electoral organizing year-round in a way that says to folks that we need you involved on the regular. That we are moving from this “moment” to building “movements.”

I think that what this moment means is that we are called to rebuild and redefine community organizing. Rebuild in a way that maintains the enthusiasm that was created during the Obama campaign and acknowledges that organizing takes many different forms. Redefine in a way that recognizes the complementary nature of new forms of on-line organizing and deep-rooted ways of building relationships. It is up to us to do the hopeful work that leads to change in our communities every single day.

Kentucky Jobs With Justice
1800 W Muhammad Ali Blvd, Suite 2E
Louisville KY 40203
Check us out on MySpace

DONATE NOW at to support economic justice & workers’ rights

Countdown to ‘Champions 4 Her’

I have spent at least the past six months coordinating the street art festival for an upcoming umbrella fundraiser for 10 Louisville nonprofits. One week from today (Saturday, June 21), ‘Champions 4 Her‘ walk/run will launch its first year at Waterfront Park.

Initially, I was asked to scout and hire an internationally renowned madonnaro (street painter) to set the festival apart from the plethora of other walk/runs in the city. I loved the idea, but immediately thought of the truly unique opportunity the concept of a street painting festival afforded clients of the 10 organizations we were raising money for. I agreed to find a feature artist for the event to draw in the media, but pitched the additional idea of having each of the beneficiary partner organizations create their own amateur street paintings depicting how their respective nonprofit assisted women and girls in our community.

The idea was not hard to sell, and soon I was also hiring a team of local artists to guide the novice nonprofit participants through the process of a creating a roughly 8′ x 12′ chalk pastel painting in one day.

I saw a lot of wide eyes as I sat in on the introductory meetings between the art teams and the artist they were paired with. This is the first time many of the participants have been to exposed to the visual arts on this level. Working with a full-time professional artist has really expanded their perception of the abilities of the arts to impact a community.

Within a few weeks I was getting concept sketches of each group’s final design. It has been such a treat to get photos in my email inbox and snail-mailbox of the art they’re designing.

You can support these wonderful organizations by registering yourself or a team to do the walk/run, or just come by and see the art in action.

I did of course hire a feature professional artist for the main street painting. Her name is Tracy Lee Stum and she will start on her piece the Wednesday before the event. Feel free to stop by Waterfront Park during the day to see her at work. She (and the other street paintings) will be in the parking lot in front of Joe’s Crab Shack.   See you June 21!

Cookies for a cause

12″ x 12″ oil on canvas, $400
See all artwork available for sale.

I although I missed it this year, I got an update from my friends at the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana on the outcome of last week’s Dessert First. Over $35,000 was raised at the box-o-cookies-meets-gourmet-ambrosia-sampling. 600 folks with a serious sweet tooth browsed and indulged in treats from 27 local restaurants.

The “Golden Whisk Award”-winning Tagalong cheesecake (a creation of The Jefferson Club) is a clear reminder of why I decided not to utilize my free press pass. Of all the Girl Scout cookies my family bought when I was a kid, Tagalongs were the only ones that ended up getting stashed in my sock drawer to keep my brother from downing them before I got my share. My willpower would have been out the window. This is my contribution to the cause 😉

The Painting Activist has squeezed into the spotlight again

The Courier-Journal recently ran an article about this new, brilliant, lyrical product sprouting from a dearly loved local coffee chain in Louisville, Heine Brothers Coffee.

As Starbuck’s continues to lose its unique, personal touch and bulge into the Walmart of caffeine, small cafes like Heine Brothers are seizing the opportunity to replicate large-scale successful practices for their mom-and-pop style patrons. For example, I’m sure you’ve seen all the Starbuck’s items sold at the counter aside from products that belong in your mouth, like CDs from their own music label, Hear Music. Heine Brothers has teamed up with sonaBLAST! records to promote up and coming indie rock artists on their own compilation CD. I had the good fortune of blanketing the cover with one of my paintings (and therefore mentioned in the article).

In the Heine Brothers spirit of exclusively using fair trade beans and sending staff to Latin America on Habitat for Humanity projects, this CD is more than another way to make a buck. $1 of the $10 album is being “donated to a fair trade organization, whose goal is to help marginalized producers of any type goods compete on an international scale.”

The CD is available in all Heine Brother store and Ear-x-tacy. There is also talk of Amazon, iTunes, and other independently owned coffee cafes around the country. I’m honored to be a part of it.

Instant Karma

Here’s musical form of art-meets-activism you should know about:

Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur,” the new global “Make Some Noise” project from Amnesty International, seeks to mobilize millions around the urgent catastrophe in Darfur, Sudan. It combines the power of John Lennon’s music recorded by some of the world’s best-known artists, together with cutting-edge forms of instant activism enabled by Internet and mobile technologies…

Yoko Ono generously granted rights to John Lennon’s entire solo songbook to Amnesty International…to use as the centerpiece of this project and to inspire and invigorate a new generation of human rights activists…

More than 50 musical artists, including U2, Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Green Day, Ben Harper, and Aerosmith, have joined this international effort that combines John Lennon music, technology, and human rights activism.

I found the album on Rhapsody today and had to share it with you.   If you’re interested in buying it, here’s a link to the cd at Amazon.

World Fair Trade Day 2007

It is indeed World Fair Trade Day.   If you’re in Louisville, head over to Just Creations on Frankfort Ave to celebrate by letting the kiddos paint a clock while you stock up on cool fair trade goods, and get your face painted.   I would be there myself to paint your face, but alas, I’m in Chicago learning how to be a better blogger (I really do love you!).

Not leaving the couch on your day off?   Shop for fair trade products online (ah, the beauty of the internet).   One of my favorite fair trade companies (which is a supplier for Just Creations by the way) is Ten Thousand Villages.   Remember, tomorrow is Mother’s Day and there are loads of excellent gifts for mom at your local fair trade retailer.

100 Wise Women

Myself and 99 other “wise women” heard Kentucky State Auditor, Crit Luallen, speak this morning at a “One Hundred Wise Women” breakfast.   I had planned to post a quote of inspiration from some popular philosopher, poet, or visionary from antiquity.   After hearing Crit speak, I instead decided to share with you what I found inspirational about her talk.

Given the nature of her work, Crit is inundated with statistical information about the state of Kentucky.   A very large portion of this information is terribly depressing.   I hope I have this wrong, but I swear I heard her say that 3 in 20 students in the state will graduate from high school (please, please correct me on this if my ears heard incorrectly).   In spite of such dismal facts about our state, Crit has forged on and devoted much of her self to affecting change.

Crit highlighted three crucial characteristics imperative for strong leadership that fully resonated with me that I’m sure you will appreciate as well:


All three especially remind me of traits becoming evermore important as things heat up on the campaign trail.   Kentuckianas will vote for governor later this month and, of course, presidential candidates are revved up like we’re voting tomorrow.

Happy Derby!


18″ x 36″ oil on canvas, $600 ($20 donated to ReRun)

Unfortunately, it looks like today’s Kentucky Derby weather is not going to be as picturesque as in this painting. Good luck to all the infield troopers braving the elements unprotected. You’re sure to get wet, you won’t see much of the horses, you certainly won’t get a glimpse of our esteemed guest, the Queen of England, but drink enough mint juleps and I doubt it will matter.

We greatly appreciate the fast four-legged athletes for bringing us this day when bourbon is an appropriate ingredient in just about anything, and it’s okay to sport a hat requiring a 3 feet circumference area for clearance in a crowd. This glamorous phase in the life of racehorse is brief though. The average horse will live for 25-30 years and a racehorse will reach the peak of its career at year 2 or 3. Not all thoroughbreds get spend the rest of their days procreating the world with little derby-winner-wannabes. That leaves a lot of ex-racehorses in need of a permanent barn to call home.

ReRun is a New Jersey based nonprofit finding adoptive owners for many of these horses. It’s the perfect charitable organization to feature today. A $50 donation will be made to ReRun from the sale of this painting (although I’ll be sad to see it go as it’s one of my favorites).

Happy Derby to you!

Fillies and Lilies

Here’s a quick sketch from my seat at the Oaks yesterday (this is the race the day before the Kentucky Derby when “fillies run for the lilies”).

After the races I was off to the star studded Mint Jubliee Gala benefiting the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. I donated a painting, yet to be completed (or even started for that matter), for the silent auction. The winning bidder will get a painting of last night’s event. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see it as well.

Happy Earth Day!

16″ x 20″ oil on canvas
See all artwork available for sale.

I was planning to post my Earth Day painting on the 22nd after mulling over whether the 20th or the 22nd was the official date. Wikipedia claims US Senator, Gaylord Nelson, declared the 22nd of April as the day of environmental awareness, but after Good Morning America celebrated Earth Day this morning, I decided it’s best to be early rather than late.

This painting, of The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, is a natural fit to remind you of the healthy type of landscape we are all striving to preserve. I’m encouraged by the huge amount of attention climate change has been getting from a combination of factors such as political campaigning, to incentives for saving money with energy efficient innovations.

The simplest first step in playing your part is calculating your own contributions to global warming/carbon emissions by heading over to and adding it all up. The website walks you through various actions you can take from there, including the option to pay to offset your carbon emissions.

Happy Earth Day!

Love and condolences to the survivors of the Virginia Tech murders

Yesterday’s murders at Virginia Tech marked a massive loss, which quickly rippled through the media and touched us all.   Catastrophes like this catch you in the middle of a mundane task that you will now remember as “what I was doing when…”   I hope strong support from friends, family, and colleagues in this community quickly work to reestablish peace and confidence so that we don’t learn to watch over our shoulders even in a place as safe a classroom.   Vigils and ceremonies are a natural first step to untarnish the negative ambience.   When Kyle Haywood was murdered outside my front door last year, the next day’s vigil calmed and cleansed the spot where we all stood, and where he was shot.

To some degree, my heart also goes out to the perpetrator, Cho Seung-Hui.   I can’t imagine the horrid state of existence the young man must have lived in to feel compelled to act this way.   Surely few of us have known such pain where murder and suicide, seemingly, are the only remaining options.

Whether supporting those now bearing the burden of the aftermath, or reaching out to someone on the same path as Cho Seung-Hui, we can never love too much.

Julian Bond to speak tonight in Louisville

Where will I be in 2 hours?

“Julian Bond (a younger version sketched above, front and center), chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will deliver the University of Louisville’s first Anne Braden Memorial Lecture and open a new institute named in her honor.

Bond, NAACP board chair since 1998, began his activism during his college days as founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He served more than two decades as a Georgia legislator and is a teacher, writer and speaker.”

April 4, 5:30 p.m.
Brown and Williamson Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
Admission is free and open to the public

Come and join me. If you ask nicely, I might sketch you 😉

Derby do-gooders

24″ x 38″ oil on canvas, $700

It’s that time of year again. Derby is just around the corner so pull out the frilly hat and high heels (or the body paint and beer funnel, depending which side of the track you’re on). If you’re not a Louisvillian, this is the time to become one, if only for the first weekend in May.

Where there is reason to celebrate, charity events and fundraisers will follow! Here’s a list of events sure to entertain as well as fill your good deed quota for a day:

  • The Mint Jubilee, benefiting the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. This premier derby bash is where visiting celebrities (plus me!) wine, dine, and raise money to fight cancer. I’ll be auctioning a painting yet to be completed, of the event itself. Also being auctioned is the saddle of last year’s Derby winner, Barbaro.
  • Louisville Uncorked is having their own, invitation only (email me if you’re interested), Thunder over Louisville event. It’s called “Thunder over the Ballet” since it will be held at, and benefit, the Louisville Ballet. I know from experience, Louisville Uncorked knows how to throw a great party.
  • The historic Brown Hotel will be hosting two events Derby Eve: The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft will have their Oaks Brunch, and later that night, the black tie Derby Eve Gala will benefit the American Lung Association.

This is better than Christmas!

Don’t forget, you can purchase prints of this and more of my equine paintings here.