Chaos and Course Corrections – Getting Lost in a Chaotic Cultural Crisis

"Chaos" abstract painting social commentary by BZTAT

Bill walked up to me in my tent at the Canton First Friday Art Walk, and he reached out his hand towards me. “Are you Vicki?” he asked. I replied that I was, as I awkwardly shook his hand, a bit surprised because most people refer to me as BZ in my art circles.

“I have been looking for you,” he told me with a reserved sort of eagerness. “Didn’t you used to have a blog?”

“I still do have a blog,” I told him, “although I haven’t written in it for a long time.”

Bill proceeded to tell me that he had found my blog online at some point, and that he had read a post I had written about the Canton Arts District. He said that the post helped him understand the movement to utilize the arts to help revitalize downtowns, and it helped him understand the potential hazards of gentrification. He had wanted to meet me for a long time.

I don’t know exactly which post he was referring to – I have written a few on the topic – but the fact that it had been of such value to him startled me. I often wonder if, 1) anyone reads what I write, and, 2) if anyone cares about it if they do read it.

I used to write a lot. I don’t do it so much anymore.

It isn’t because of laziness that I stopped writing. It isn’t writer’s block either. I stopped writing on purpose.

In the past, I wrote down ideas that I wanted to share with others because I had something to say, and because I thought I had a unique perspective that could benefit others. I still have a lot to say, and my perspective is still sage in some respects. I wonder, though, does sharing my perspective benefit anyone? Hmmm.

Let’s face it. The internet has made it possible for anyone to share an opinion about anything in an instant with millions of people. Cottage industries have developed out of making internet stars of people who post images and videos of gratuitous junk. Prospering from impulsive outrageousness is big business, making intelligent reasoning seem quaint. Trolling and harassment tends to destroy any opportunity for civil dialog. Propaganda and conspiracy theories dominate our cultural landscape with a ferocity that squelches any legitimate debate.

What room is there in this chaotic ethos for an artist and writer who carefully considers her world and comes to thoughtful conclusions? Can I even come to any thoughtful conclusions when our present day culture is so tumultuous and upended?

My dearth of writing of late has been a course correction of sorts.

Previously, my art and my blogging was an intentional course of commentary on the world around me. I was marching towards understanding, and I was sharing my discoveries along the way. Something changed on that path, though. Somewhere on that journey, it became clear to me that the sort of understanding that I had been seeking was no longer a reachable goal.

All I was discovering was chaos. Nothing was understandable. The things that mattered to me previously seemed either irrelevant or insignificant, or they no longer made sense to me. When nothing made sense, writing no longer seemed apropos to me on any topic.

How does one chart an intentional course of commentary, when you can’t even find your way through the mist?

I honestly had no answer to that question. So I changed course. As I floundered in my course of seeking meaning and purpose in my life, I stopped sharing literary commentary.

My circumstance could be called a “midlife crisis” or some other function of age. I am getting older, and that does change the way you experience things. I believe this is bigger than an individual emotional upheaval, however. Our world is in crisis, not just me. My reaction to that crisis is my path, as I have always been one to reflect upon the bigger picture in my life as an artist. It is both a gift and a curse.

Could a new course correction be coming?

Bill and his daughter at Canton First Friday

Something changed in that moment that Bill walked into my art tent. The fact that he had sought me out because my words in a previous commentary had been meaningful to him – well, that shook me up. He helped me see that holding back my thoughts serves no one, especially if there are people wanting to consider them in their own life journeys.

Writing right now is painful. It does not flow. It does not conclude. Everything is up in the air and hard to grasp with a definitive statement. Is that enough reason not to do it? Or is it reason enough to summon new energy within myself to find a new course?

 I live each day of my life by my motto, “Life is an adventure!” I try to approach each new experience as something to be explored and not just endured. Some adventures are not enjoyed, but the exploration reaps benefits, nonetheless. I need to keep reminding myself of this.

Thanks for stopping by my tent, Bill. I am glad that you found me. And thanks to anyone else who has happened to have found this piece of writing. Share your own thoughts, if you wish, in the comments below.

Perhaps your thoughts might trigger a new direction for my adventurous journey.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

There’s something fishy going on here…

Muskellunge Brewing Company Fish painting menuThe irony is not lost on me.

I am known most for my paintings of cats, so taking a turn and painting a series of fish paintings is a bit, well, ironic.

I suspect that my cats rather enjoy the paintings, however.

Why did I paint a series of fish paintings?

Cat drawing with Muskellunge BeerIt all started a couple of years ago when my friend Frank asked me to design a logo for him for a brewery that he was, at that time, in the early stages of developing.

I had made a drawing of his cat Musky, named after the Muskellunge fish, and he wanted the fish in that drawing to be part of the logo.

 

 

 

Here is the logo:

Muskellunge Brewing company logo

After designing the logo, Frank asked me to create an art sign with the logo on it:

Frank is a scientific sort of guy. He came to brewing beer through the science of it. Working in the pharmaceutical industry for years, he developed a keen awareness of scientific methods and chemistry, and he began brewing beers in his basement. He decided to extend his basement hobby into a professional endeavor. Fascinated by various species of freshwater fish, he named each of his beers after a different fish.

In keeping with his fish theme, Frank commissioned me to paint a sign for each of his beers and the corresponding fish to serve as a menu board in the taproom of his brewery.

I enjoyed the creative challenge of painting actual species of fish in my semi-abstract contemporary folk art style. It was a challenge, simulating the textures and colors of fish using my bright colored palette, and also doing the lettering in my layered technique. (You can see the in process photos for each painting on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.)

The brewery and artwork were recently featured in this article in the Akron Beacon Journal, where I talked about the creative process:

“I have a technique of laying the paint and that makes an interesting texture and that’s what these are,” BZTAT said. 

BZTAT is known for creating colorful pet portraits in pop art and contemporary folk styles. Freshwater fish presented a particular challenge. Freshwater fish aren’t exactly known for their bright colors, which the artists uses. Silver gray anyone?

BZTAT describes freshwater fish as “drab.”

“I am constantly challenging myself to make not just a portrait and not just a pretty picture for somebody but also something that could stand on its own as a valid artwork,” BZTAT said. “And the fish are kind of a new challenge for me which I’ve been enjoying. I’ve never really painted fish before.”

Not to say she and fish are strangers. She grew up in a household with fish tanks and exotic fish, and loved watching them.

“They are just interesting visually,” BZTAT said.

Muskellunge Brewing Company‘s taproom opened this past week to rave reviews (Follow Muskelluunge Brewing Company on Facebook and Instagram). The beer, and the fish painting/signs were a big hit! If you are in the Canton area, I hope you will stop in, sample some of the finest craft beer in Ohio, and see the artwork. The brewery is located at 425 5th St. NW Canton, OH 44702.

I would not recommend that you bring your cat, though…

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

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Random Conversations in a Chaotic World

Random Conversations - Digital Art by BZTAT
“Random Conversations” Digital Art by BZTAT

People are talking. A lot.

Wherever you go, there are random conversations going on about the state of the chaotic world in which we live.

You may want to pretend that these conversations are not happening. But you can’t. You just can’t.

Even if you try, you cannot avoid the reality that the earth’s axis has shifted metaphorically, and people are not going to be silent about it. 

People are talking. The question is, is anyone listening?

I noticed these two gentlemen who sat down across from me today at a local restaurant where I had camped out with my laptop to do some work. It is a common thing to see older men hanging out at local fast food joints, espousing their opinions on the state of things. Something about these two men intrigued me. I took their photo and played with it a bit with some digital filters, creating an artwork that captured a moment of conversation.

I pondered about the idea of the artist as participant observer as I considered them from a disengaged distance.

One man proudly wore a hat that let me know he had served in a war that ripped our country apart many years ago. “He has seen a lot,” I thought to myself. His posture and gaze away from his companion suggested a hesitance, while the other man was perched and engaged, seeking some kind of validation from his friend for his desire to pontificate.

His friend apparently failed in giving him that validation, as he soon sought it from me. I was no longer disengaged.

What started as a commentary about the ferocious snow shower outside quickly evolved into a discussion about global warming, armed teachers in schools, gun violence in general, young people and technology, etc.

I shared my thoughts. He shared his. I listened. He listened. We were not that far apart in our general thoughts about things. He thought arming teachers was the stupidist thing he had ever heard. He didn’t “believe in global warming”, but he did think that our polluting the environment was connected to “this crazy weather”. He agreed that we needed to look at creating jobs for the future instead of trying to bring back jobs that are now obsolete.

He seemed to believe that young people and their focus on technology, however, were responsible for all things evil in the world. He shared a belief that all young people were on drugs and that they were destroying the world with technology. 

He listened when I shared a different view, and despite some obvious biases, I think his perspective was broadened a bit. Even so, his brusque comments led to a young African American couple who were sitting nearby to abruptly move to a table out of earshot from us.

That saddened me.

The conversation ended as randomly as it started. I had to take a call from my mechanic, and the men left while I was on the phone. I likely won’t see them again. Still yet, the conversation stays with me.

Where do these conversations go? Do they solve anything? Am I different for it? Is he?

Did I miss an opportunity to connect with the couple who apparently felt pushed away? 

What does his friend think? He did not shared his thoughts with me.

What is the role of the artist in chaotic times like these? Observer? Participant? Documenter? Pontificator? Where does the artist begin to express her thoughts, her aesthetic, her passions, her fears when everything she knows is upended?

Hmmm.

Just hmmm.

I guess I will start with random conversations. You?

Prints of the image above are available. Contact BZTAT for information.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have a new cat!

CALICO CAT kitten digital pet portrait by Artist BZTAT
Digital pet portrait of Ellie by Artist BZTAT

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you no doubt have noticed that I recently rescued a small kitten. I have posted several photos and videos of her, so it would be hard not to notice.

The kitten entered my life on Small Business Saturday (11/25/17), which turned into a complicated mess of a day for me. I awakened that day to the realization that I had forgotten to lock my back door before bed, and the wind had blown it open. When I did a cat check, all in my furry brood were still inside – except for Who (yes, my cat’s name is Who). The great outdoors had beckoned, and my incorrigible Maine Coon had answered the call.

Who’s disappearance completely disrupted my plan of spending the biggest shopping day of the year for small businesses at my studio in the Canton Arts District. I had planned to meet customers and do painting demos. Instead, I spent the day looking for Who under bushes, in crawl spaces, in the field across the way, etc. I even cased out a large groundhog hole, thinking he may have crawled in there. It was all for naught. There was no Who in sight.

As evening approached and a cold chill came on, I began to feel desperate. I knew Who could not survive on the city streets in the cold. I called a friend who had live traps and decided to try to entice him in.

Soon after I set the first trap, it snapped. I threw a covering over the trap to calm the beast inside. When I pulled back the covering, though, it was not Who inside. A small calico kitten, instead, was thrashing about inside the trap. 

She looked to be about 3-4 months old – too young to release back to the streets on her own, really, but possibly over the age for successful socialization with humans. What was I to do with her?

CALICO CAT kitten
Ellie Cat

As I contemplated what to do, my neighbor knocked on my window and pointed at my door. When I opened the door, Who casually sauntered in as if nothing had happened. Upon reflection, it was almost like he had known this kitten needed help and had staged the rescue himself.

A friend agreed to let the kitten stay in her garage, and later, her enclosed porch, while we decided what to do with her. We put her in a large dog crate so that we could assess her socialization potential. First impressions were rough. She snarled and hissed and smacked at us viciously through the crate. We feared that she may have passed the age where she would be accepting of human contact.

I have been here before, though, with cats. Mia Meow, too, had been resistant to humans at first.  

I remembered a quote from one of my most favorite movies of all time – Contact. In the movie, a father had given his precocious daughter a ham radio, and he had encouraged her to take small steps towards achieving her goal of reaching people around the world. “Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.” he said. As she grew older, the words “Small moves, Ellie. Small moves,” became a prophetic refrain as she struggled to let things evolve in her life instead of forcing them to be.

Taking small moves with a cat, such as letting her sniff your hand and explore your scent; slow blinking to reduce her sense of threat; and putting food in your hand for her to overcome barriers; helps her to realize humans are OK. Eventually, the kitten started rubbing her cheeks on my hand and she allowed me to pet her. Then she agreed to sit in my lap and kneaded her paws as if making biscuits. It took time, and many small moves. But the kitten is now quite comfortable with me and my friend, and she seems to enjoy human “contact”.

As friends have followed her progress on social media, the big question everyone seems to want an answer for is, “Are you going to keep her?”

CALICO CAT kitten
Ellie with Dr. Amanda

I have held off answering that question for a number of reasons. First of all, as a self employed artist, finances are not predictable, and I wasn’t sure that I could afford taking on a new cat. There are lots of expenses to taking on a new pet, and I was still paying off bills from Brewskie’s care from his final days. Second, I wasn’t sure my heart was ready for a new cat after losing Brew.

Friends helped me cover her veterinary expenses, though, for which I am eternally grateful. And after putting so much effort into socializing her, the kitten found a spot for herself in my still aching heart.

So yes. I AM KEEPING HER. 

CALICO CAT kitten
Ellie on my lap as I write this post.

I have named the kitten Ellie after the character in the film Contact, Eleanor Arroway. I am grateful to have her here to remind me that I need to take small steps and let things evolve in my own life.

She is now living in my home, although she is still being kept separate from the other cats. The process of introduction will be a series of small moves as well, as she acclimates to being a part of a family of fabulous felines. Stay tuned to see how the story evolves.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

What’s on BZTAT’s Easel? Simon the Church Cat.

Simon the Church Cat Pet Portrait by Artist BZTAT
Simon the Church Cat Pet Portrait by Artist BZTAT

It is rare that an artist gets the opportunity to paint the portrait of an animal who holds a very important job. I recently was granted that opportunity.

Meet Simon, the caretaker and chief greeter of the Church of the Advent in Boston, MA.

Simon has kept residence at the Church of the Advent since July of 2012, and a parishioner, Julianne Ture, documents his antics on Facebook and  Instagram. He is the latest in a long succession of church cats at the church.

He takes his job very seriously, as you can see in the slideshow photos below.

Painting Simon’s portrait was a bit of a challenge for me. I wanted to capture his personality, as well as express something about the spiritual environment that is his domain.

It is a study in contrasts. His countenance is a mixture of mischief and pride, both stately and comical at the same time. His domain, on the other hand, is very regal with beautiful woodwork and ceremonial furnishings. Behind the scenes, Simon keeps the office in working order, and he manages the church’s recycling program.

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You can see that Simon is a very busy cat. He is very friendly as well, and he is very observant of the job description that was developed for his predecessor Jeoffry. I wonder…are there lint rollers hidden in the sacristy to keep the vestments and pillows free of Simon fluff?

Cat portraits are always fun for me to paint, but Simon’s was an extra special treat. I hope someday to meet this amazing beast. Thank you, Julianne, for sharing Simon’s antics in cyberspace, and thanks for the opportunity to paint his portrait!

See other Premiere Contemporary Custom Pet Portrait Paintings here and learn about commissioning a portrait of your pet!

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

*Slideshow photos by Julianne Ture

Today’s “Drawing a Day” – “Happy Thanksgiving!”

"Happy Thanksgiving!" Drawing by BZTAT
“Happy Thanksgiving!” Drawing by BZTAT

I took a break from my “Drawing a Day” project for a few days, as, I confess, I got a bit busy with other things. I am back with a drawing today, just in time to show my thanks to those who follow my artwork year round. Thank you for being a fan, a friend, a collector or occasional enjoyer of the creations that I share here.

I hope you and your family have a warm Thanksgiving full of love, light and color!

For an artistic challenge, I am making a drawing every day in November. Each drawing will be placed for auction on here on my blog. These drawings will be fun images that will make nice gifts for the upcoming holidays. I have done “Drawing a Day” projects before, and they have been a lot of fun!

You can follow each day’s drawing by by subscribing to my my blog or by following my posts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Minimum bids will be low – you just might get a great artwork for a bargain!

Today’s drawing is of my cat Mia Meow and a Turkey, each eying the other warily. Friends can come from the most unlikely places, right? The drawing is drawn with Prismacolor Pencil on black paper. I hope that you like it! 

Thanks for following along all month and for bidding on the drawings!

By the way, let me know what you would like to see me draw the rest of the month in the comments below. I am open to suggestions!

Here’s the info about the drawing:

5″ x 7″ Prismacolor Pencil Drawing by artist BZTAT 

Comes with an acid free mat ready for a 8X10″ frame.

Leave bids in increments of $5 below in the comments section.

Minimum Bid $20 USD

Shipping: $5 USA $15 International

BUY NOW OPTION: You can buy this piece now for $35 as long as no bids have been made in the comments below. Simply write BUY NOW in the comments and I will send you an invoice via Paypal which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Highest bid at 10:00 pm EST on Thursday 11/23/17 wins the piece.

Winning bidder: I will send an invoice via Paypal to the winning bidder which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for USA shipping.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Today’s “Drawing a Day” – “Elephant Elegance”

"Elephant Elegance" Drawing by BZTAT
“Elephant Elegance” Drawing by BZTAT

Killing an animal just because you can only proves how small you are. Allowing the trophy hunting of elephants, as the Trump Administration has just done, further illuminates how much a farce our country’s leadership is. I am incredulous at how heartless and self serving this administration is. I cannot help but allow it to influence my art.

I celebrate the beauty and wonder in nature, and the elephant is one of the most wondrous of God’s creation. I hope from the bottom of my heart that reckless policy and hateful humans do not allow them to disappear.

For an artistic challenge, I am making a drawing every day in November. Each drawing will be placed for auction on here on my blog. These drawings will be fun images that will make nice gifts for the upcoming holidays. I have done “Drawing a Day” projects before, and they have been a lot of fun!

You can follow each day’s drawing by by subscribing to my my blog or by following my posts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Minimum bids will be low – you just might get a great artwork for a bargain!

Today’s drawing “Elephant Elegance” is drawn with Prismacolor Pencil on colored paper. I hope that you like it! 

Thanks for following along all month and for bidding on the drawings!

By the way, let me know what you would like to see me draw the rest of the month in the comments below. I am open to suggestions!

Here’s the info about the drawing:

5″ x 7″ Prismacolor Pencil Drawing by artist BZTAT 

Comes with an acid free mat ready for a 8X10″ frame.

Leave bids in increments of $5 below in the comments section.

Minimum Bid $20 USD

Shipping: $5 USA $15 International

BUY NOW OPTION: You can buy this piece now for $35 as long as no bids have been made in the comments below. Simply write BUY NOW in the comments and I will send you an invoice via Paypal which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Highest bid at 10:00 pm EST on Saturday 11/17/17 wins the piece.

Winning bidder: I will send an invoice via Paypal to the winning bidder which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for USA shipping.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Today’s “Drawing a Day” – “Nevertheless Lady Liberty Persists”

"Nevertheless Lady Liberty Persists" Drawing by BZTAT
“Nevertheless Lady Liberty Persists” Drawing by BZTAT

Lady Liberty, a beacon in a chaotic world, stands tall as a welcoming symbol of freedom to people around the world. She has been challenged many times by turbulent trends in our national and global culture, perhaps more in contemporary times than ever before. Still, yet, she persists, as do our country’s values of freedom and hospitality to all people.

There are some who seek to change those values, some of whom have great power. They are trying desperately to squelch those who challenge their efforts. Nevertheless, Lady Liberty persists, as do I, and many others, in the quest to preserve and protect the values for which our country stands.

For an artistic challenge, I am making a drawing every day in November. Each drawing will be placed for auction on here on my blog. These drawings will be fun images that will make nice gifts for the upcoming holidays. I have done “Drawing a Day” projects before, and they have been a lot of fun!

You can follow each day’s drawing by by subscribing to my my blog or by following my posts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Minimum bids will be low – you just might get a great artwork for a bargain!

Today’s drawing “Nevertheless Lady Liberty Persists” is an image of the Statue of Liberty, standing strong amid a chaotic background, a symbol of liberty and persistence.  I hope that you like the drawing! 

Thanks for following along all month and for bidding on the drawings!

By the way, let me know what you would like to see me draw the rest of the month in the comments below. I am open to suggestions!

Here’s the info about the drawing:

5″ x 7″ Prismacolor Pencil and Marker Drawing by artist BZTAT 

Comes with an acid free mat ready for a 8X10″ frame

Leave bids in increments of $5 below in the comments section.

Minimum Bid $20 USD

Shipping: $5 USA $15 International

BUY NOW OPTION: You can buy this piece now for $35 as long as no bids have been made in the comments below. Simply write BUY NOW in the comments and I will send you an invoice via Paypal which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Highest bid at 10:00 pm EST on Friday 11/16/17 wins the piece.

Winning bidder: I will send an invoice via Paypal to the winning bidder which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for USA shipping.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Today’s “Drawing a Day” – “Red Flower”

"Red Flower" Drawing by BZTAT
“Red Flower” Drawing by BZTAT

For an artistic challenge, I am making a drawing every day in November. Each drawing will be placed for auction on here on my blog. These drawings will be fun images that will make nice gifts for the upcoming holidays. I have done “Drawing a Day” projects before, and they have been a lot of fun!

You can follow each day’s drawing by by subscribing to my my blog or by following my posts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Minimum bids will be low – you just might get a great artwork for a bargain!

Today’s drawing is of a red flower sitting cheerfully in the grass, drawn with Prismacolor Pencil and marker on matboard.  I hope that you like it! 

Thanks for following along all month and for bidding on the drawings!

By the way, let me know what you would like to see me draw the rest of the month in the comments below. I am open to suggestions!

Here’s the info about the drawing:

4.5″ x 6.5″ Prismacolor Pencil and Marker Drawing on matboard by artist BZTAT 

Leave bids in increments of $5 below in the comments section.

Minimum Bid $15 USD

Shipping: $5 USA $15 International

BUY NOW OPTION: You can buy this piece now for $25 as long as no bids have been made in the comments below. Simply write BUY NOW in the comments and I will send you an invoice via Paypal which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Highest bid at 10:00 pm EST on Thursday 11/16/17 wins the piece.

Winning bidder: I will send an invoice via Paypal to the winning bidder which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for USA shipping.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT