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Doing What Makes Me Happy

July and August 2018
Okay, here’s the thing, don’t judge me, I play solitaire to cope when I’m stressed and when I want to distract myself. When I have just told off my Dad. When my art projects are at a stand still and unresolved. For the art stories as yet unwritten with a deadline looming. For the things I can’t get to. For the endless mind blurring, joy sucking, smoke filled valley that we have lived with for most of July and all of August. Day after day. For the first time, since living here (thirty five years) I am thinking I need to have a “Grab & Go Bag” of essential documents, treasures, photos, food, and survival gear, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. What do I take? What is necessary besides the family and the animals? The terrible fire in Redding, California has made us all think that this could happen here. It’s a worry and a stress.

The smoke kept me indoors. I admit I had a bit of cabin fever. Though I spend my time in my studio I can’t work on my monoprints in process. I just can’t think clearly enough to concentrate on these pieces. I blame the smoke.

When I am not playing solitaire to forget about the smoke or the other things I do to distract myself. I look around my studio and see things that I have collected or saved, intending to finish them one day. Well that day has come. I am dipping old paint brushes, that I have been saving for years, in paint and hanging them up to drip and dry. I have no idea why I am doing this, except that it makes me happy. No other reason what so ever. I am trying not to judge myself. Life is hard, I can’t go outside. My friends are traveling, getting away from the smoke. I can’t leave because I am teaching the next two weekends and the classes are full.

I spy some figurines in my studio. Some are broken or have been given to me by friends or inherited from my mother. I have the idea to switch their heads. I think to myself “what would people think if they saw me cutting the heads off little figurines” Yep she’s finally completely lost it. But I am enjoying myself. I love switching the heads on these figurines. I have saved them from a boring life and re-purposed them. A change of mind. A different point of view. And like the paint brushes, I am doing it because it makes me happy. No other reason and this is reason enough.

The Altered Figurines have taken over my studio and now they have their own life. I have created little books for each of them. And will be showing them at the Art Center for first Friday September 7th 5 to 8. They will only be on display for a short while so I hope you will be able to come and see them.

The smoke finally cleared and so did my head, I was able to finish all of my new monoprints and mixed media pieces for the Art Center. Yay!

Summer What Summer?

or My Migrainal Summer

or Death walks beside me while life swirls around me.

My youth and the energy of youth is gone. I simply was too busy to notice. I seriously don’t know how this happened. One day at a time. Imagine that. But it was so fast. Zoom, here I am older. People die, life goes on end of story. I am here for a limited time. Time is not on my side and there is so much to accomplish.

I forget to breathe. Slow down and breathe. I am breathing in, I am breathing out. I am moving through my life with a sense of urgency. Can I accomplish what I want to accomplish in the time I have left. People are depending on me. What if I die before I am ready? I think more often than not, death happens when you are right in the middle of something. I will die sooner – or later. Until then, “I gotta get’er done! And because of my family of origin, I am determined not to fail, even if it kills me. I once heard Jean Houston say, “There is work to do!, You can rest when you’re dead”. I have succeeded in getting a lot done. Oh, I have been able to do it, but there has been a cost. I have been determined to save the world with my art. Yes, this is true. It is that big and important to me. In my heart this is what drives me. Yes, I believe what I teach- “What I create may be crucial to what the world needs now”. I must do all I can. When I am gone will any of it matter, anyway? These are my thoughts since my migrainal summer began.

On July 6th, I have a blinding migraine complete with the light show. I felt hit by lightning. I was at a point of completion with my latest project. My job was done, the show was hung, all my ducks in a row, and I was on my way to the spa for a relaxing pedicure when it slammed me.Oh I got my pedicure, I wasn’t about to reschedule. That’s what I am talking about. I can’t just stop and say no, I have to follow through and finish what is on my list even though I really can’t breathe well and all my nerves are on the outside of my skin. I am suddenly vulnerable and want to cry and go lay down in a dark and quiet room until it passes. I’ll just sit here with my sunglasses on and calm myself and pretend this isn’t happening. I can’t speak because if I do I will sob. I manage to get her done and get home and lay down.

Mostly I feel like my world is crashing. I can’t think clearly and I feel like I am dying. Visions of moments in my life are coming to me. I remember friends who are gone. I think to myself “it will be okay if I die”. I will be alright as long as Costello, my dog who died seven years ago, is there to meet me and Randy too, my brother/friend who died thirty four years ago. I can see them clearly waiting for me. I think, Jeeze, I gotta get up and quit these thoughts. I think I just need to do something normal. I am okay I am fine. This is just a migraine.

Oh, that same night we have tickets to Spam A Lot, a Monty Python play. I am not going to waste my money by not going. No one that I know can go nor do I have the where with all or the clarity to find some one. It was my idea and Don won’t go without me. I have never sat through a play with sunglasses on until now. I had to put toilet paper in my ears to quiet the sound. I don’t remember the play. I was stupid to go. I wish I had stayed quiet in my bed. The toilet paper got stuck in my ear and Don had to use a flashlight and tweezers to pull it out of my ear. I am in tears. Three days later I am feeling a little better and I decide to go to an open house. It was nice with wonderful food and great company. At the open house a photographer was taking photos and using a flash, lots and lots of flashes. At first I was annoyed and then I realized I was starting to have acute migraine symptoms. I don’t remember the drive home. This is bad. Oh my god I am wondering, have I been cursed? Seriously.

Now weeks have gone by and it has been filled with doctors visits, medications and supplements and body work. My tests are normal. But I am not right. It is like my body hasn’t come back on line. I am worried and every other day I am panicked and uncertain if I will survive this. I am told that erratic blood pressure will do this. Oh and did I mention the ringing in my ears that has escalated to a high pitched alarm the past two weeks? Yeah, it’s really bad.

August 21 2017. Eclipse day. I am told that it is a good day to pray. I pray for us all. I pray that the change that is upon us will ultimately be a good change. May our hearts turn toward our common relationship as humans and earth beings, stewards of all life. We all want to belong. We want clean water, safety, kindness, good livelihood, enough food, community, the arts, imagination and dreams for our children to realize. Freedom to love and freedom to be, all without fear. Everyone is deserving.

On a personal note;

At this point, I am six and a half weeks into this migraine. It has unhinged me. I walk as if on thin ice, carefully, so as not to unbalance my fragile grip on recovery. The constant ringing in my head is like an alarm that I cannot turn off. On the outside I look the same but on the inside I am on a roller coaster of anxious emotions, barely able to keep my heart steady. My ground is shifting. I am in a tippy canoe on a river of vulnerability. When I am in the thick of it I cannot think clearly or make decisions. To calm myself I lay on the couch and through a tall window I watch the cottonwood leaves shimmer in the sunlight and move in the breeze. I am holding on to this focal point and life line to this present moment right here right now where there is only this and – I – am still – Denise.

In these six weeks I have been unable to print or do new work. When the fog periodically lifts I am able to work on pieces already in process it soothes my soul and massages my weary nerves. Art has always been my life line, my breathing tube, my voice, my connection. I am my art. My art is me. I surrender over and over. As I draw I pray that it relaxes my blood flow. Take me inside the image, heal me, and help me get through this uncertainty.

I pray for myself to find my way through this sluggish adventure. I imagine if Gaia (the Earth) her self was in distress, which I believe she is, if we could hear the distress, it would sound like the high pitch ringing in my ears and head. It may not be a coincidence that my body is going through this during the time leading up to the alignment of the eclipse. There is so much upheaval in our country and the world. And in my body a re-alignment is taking place. My intention is to see it through. To embrace my new super power of sensitivity, with kindness and love. To get through this as gracefully as I can.

I feel that my work telling stories and bringing images forth is not yet complete. I hope it is not yet my time to die, though, this is what it feels like. My wish is to flow, to release, to move with ease, to relax, and let it be and let it go. I will not hold the overwhelm in my body any more. Perhaps this is a great ending. (“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”. Lao Tzu) May I embrace the new pathways being built within me. Letting go of what no longer serves me and my well being. May I know a balanced health and renewed vigor. Please may this ringing in my head ease up.


A few days after the eclipse I begin to feel better. I am so much better now (knock on wood). Though I have had some set backs and some terrifying side effects from medications. I am a little shell shocked by the whole ordeal, but grateful to be my nearly normal self again. I am making the choice to rest when I need to instead of constantly powering through. I realize that it shows little respect for myself when I constantly crank it. Even though the migraine forced me to rest and heal, I have been choosing to allow myself time if I want it and in doing so it has expanded my sense of time. Weird huh, but true. I feel like I have more time now that I am moving through my life at a less urgent pace.

The 9 week migraine took me on a sight seeing journey through my life and let me look at the possibility of my death. This journey led me eventually to the threshold of love for myself and my life as it has been, and as it will be. Today the migraine or the possibility of the migraine walks beside me, to my left, behind my field of vision. But I feel its presence as a reminder to take my time and slow my pace. I am filled with gratitude for every moment of expanded time allotted to me. A gift.


July news

The summer is heating up and so am I. With exhibits and shows coming up for me in the fall I have quit teaching to devote my time to creating new work. I have been obsessed with these small portraits that will be shown at the Art Center for July. I have enjoyed carving them and creating monoprints from the carved stamps. The colors are rich and satisfying. These portraits are light hearted studies of characters that have shown up in my work in the past. Light hearted images are just what I need right now. They cheer me up. This is what I want to put out into the world, a little bit of good happiness and a smile.

I have been working on larger pieces for my exhibit at Hanson Howard Gallery here in Ashland in October. Although who knows, I may do some more animal portraits from the characters in my book. My book “Drawing On The Dream” is scheduled to be available for purchase at the Hanson Howard opening. My fingers are crossed that there will be no delays with the book.

I will be participating in the Ashland Open Studio Tour October 14th and 15th.

I will be showing new work at the Roby King Gallery on Bainbridge Island in November.

Last but not least is my annual Studio Sale November 18th and 19th.


Whats Up – The Honest Truth

Every thing I am creating in the studio these days is about taking care of our earth home and honoring the creatures and humans who live upon her. I am worried about our future. I am creating healing images because this is what I do when I am heart sick. It is as if my images are trying to cheer me up, to give me hope, letting me know that it will be okay, eventually. Lots of Bears are entering my dreaming.

I turn to Bear wisdom. Bear symbolizes the state of our world to me. She is the steward of the threshold of something new. He is the keeper of the Earth’s wild soul. She is the path finder. He holds the knowledge and the memory of the ancient stones. Bear dwells in the hidden cave deep within my animal heart, nurturing and strong. Bear is ever present in my work right now. For this I am grateful. I need the grounded strength of Bear on a daily basis as I look upon the world and wonder how to keep my faith in humanity with regard to the deeds they do and do not do.
Even though I am a worrier I am also a warrior – of magic and imagination. I will not let go of what I want to see in the world and what I believe is possible for our future. I will continue to create as much beauty and kindness and love as I can. I am aware of how important it is for me and all of us to keep working even when we don’t feel like it. I will also continue to stay informed and sign petitions and call my representatives too. We must all keep our voices strong and advocate for what we believe.I dreamed last night that I was displaying my art work at the Oregon Country Fair (like I use to do) I walk away from my booth and when I come back there is a bald eagle digging with its talons in the dirt floor of my booth and as I try to see what she is doing I see a crow digging there as well. I have no idea what they are trying to find or perhaps they are burying something. Maybe it is a treasure that I might uncover later in my art work. I love animal dreams.

Autumn 2016

It has been a beautiful Fall here in Southern Oregon. We have moved into our beautiful home that is now attached to my studio. The studio has a new paint job and a new roof. I think I have finally gotten rid of all the construction dust.
I was wiping dust off my rollers for my demonstration during the Studio Tour a few weeks ago. Since then I have been working toward my annual sale. I am pleased to say that I will have lots of new handmade books and new originals and a few new magnets and cards too. I was a little worried because building our house and moving was all consuming. I didn’t work in my studio from May to mid October. Right now I am in full swing. It feels great.

It was not easy for me to be away from my art for so long. My art work is my soul work in the world. When I am not doing my work i definitely feel ill at ease and un-grounded. All is well now.

I will have some new work at the Art Center for this First Friday.

I am showing work at Hanson Howard Gallery and the Art Center here in Ashland, OR. You can always call for an appointment at my studio, Kester Studio or email me.
I am exhibiting my work at Snow Creek Gallery in Mt. Shasta, CA. and Roby King Galleries in Bainbridge Island, WA.

I am working with White Cloud Press to publish my book “Drawing On The Dream, finding my way by art”. It should be out next summer. I just gave them a fully text coded version, whew!, it’s hard work to get a book out in the world.

Musings 11/ 2015

I attended a Martin Sexton concert a couple of days before the Ashland Open Studio Tour. I am a long-time fan of Martin Sexton’s music and I have seen him perform several times over the years. All of the other times I’ve seen him paled in comparison to this concert in our local Music Recital Hall. When he came on stage by himself I was struck by how happy he was to be performing in this venue. What I noticed was that he was totally present with us. He seemed to let go and sink into being right here right now, letting everything else fall away, letting all worries or concerns go, to allow himself to be a conduit for a musical creative art form radiating from his heart and soul.

He seemed so comfortable in his body. His guitar seemed to be a part of him, not a separate instrument.I was witnessing an artist in his element creating magic in the present moment. The audience was right with him, totally present and somehow a part of the creative shape shifting quality of his music. This was my experience. He was creating something new right before our eyes. I was witnessing the healing power of music from a master musician. I was very inspired and moved by the shared musical gifting, mind altering, and healing ability of Martin Sexton’s art. I felt that I was in the presence of a modern day mystic.

On occasion while making art I have had the experience of letting go of everything and stepping aside allowing something altogether new and magical to occur. The trust in myself, in my abilities, in the process of creating art, and of course the years I have invested in this practice, have honed my relationship and my connection to and with something that is at the same time bigger than me and also of me, yet it is not me. It is mysterious and true.


What I am getting at is that Martin Sexton showed me how it is done:
Be present. Be comfortable in your body and your abilities. Let go of any preconceived ideas of how it should be. Step aside of yourself. Stepping aside is the key that opens the door to the possibility of magic. The open door allows your muse to be in relationship with you, showing you that you are not in this creative act alone. Receive the gift, honor the gift, and give the gift away.


I was inspired by Martin and was able to be in alignment with myself and my processes all weekend so that I could allow lots of art work and conversations and demonstrations to happen during the studio tour. The monoprints that came through were such a gift to me. I saw the shape of the image in the ink with three random swipes of the palate knife. The people watching saw it too. It is rare to have the images show up so easily. I know a gift from the universe when I see one.

It happens to me sometimes when I am making art, or teaching, or doing demonstrations. There is no time to work out ideas. I have to be present. I have to trust and allow. I can’t be in my head. I have to be in my heart. I have to let go of control. I have to step aside and open a door and invite what will be,

to be.


Gaea Walking

She is one of those older women, you know, a “free spirit” who is always picking up strays. She helps those who are damaged in one way or another. No one knows that she is the Earth Goddess in human form walking among us doing what she can to restore wholeness and repair the broken. What if Gaea does her work through the hearts and hands of women and men-the ones who are willing to be “free spirits” and commit acts of kindness for any who are in need of a little help. What if Gaea is us walking?



monprint with acrylic paste, bees wax on wood  16 X 26 $850.00  2015


Obsessed With Writing


As many of you know most of my art pieces have poems or stories that go with them.
I can’t help it. The writing is part of THE process of making art for me. The
art work comes before the writing 99% of the time. The stories started way
back in my career. I believe it began with dream journaling which is a way
of dialoguing with the dream characters. I have been doing dream work since
I was a child. The writing or dialoguing has always helped me to understand
my feelings in my dreams. I would also draw dream characters and figures to
help me understand my dreams on a deeper level. This is where my business
name comes from- Drawing On The Dream.
Some times while I am working on a piece of art the image will begin to
speak to me. As I work I am starting to get an idea of what this piece is
about. You see, I do believe that the art is its own self. It does not
belong to me. It has a life of its own. It has its own destiny. I am in
partnership with the art. I depend on the art to tell me what it is about.
When I am pretty sure the art work is finished I hang it up on my studio
work wall and begin to write while gazing at the art. I am the scribe
writing down what I hear. Sometimes the titles are enough. The art says what
it wants to say in the title. The rest of the time the art has a lot to say.
This can take days and even weeks to fine tune the art dialog into the
finished stories. This is not the art’s fault that it sometimes takes so
long. It is my own lack of language and writing skill. My goal is to
translate into English the depth of art language including metaphor,
symbology, sadness, and humor. I hone the stories until it feels right and
resonates in my heart and feels true.Even though I sometimes struggle with the writing to get to the finished
product is an integral part of my work in the world. These stories want
to be told.