Category: purposes and ponderances

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

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

Shaking it off like a stunned squirrel.

Whimsical Squirrel wildlife contemporary painting by BZTAT
“Squirrel” Painting by BZTAT

Around my home, there are a number of trees that are a playground for a family of squirrels. These squirrels are amazingly busy little acrobats, scampering up and down the trees and jumping from limb to limb all day long. 

One day, as I was coming out my back door, one of the smaller squirrels fell from a high branch right in front of me. The poor thing lay motionless in the dirt, blinking but not moving. I gasped, frightened that it would not get back up. Selfishly, I thought, “I don’t want to watch it die.” It felt wrong to leave it there all alone, though.

So I stood still and I watched it for a moment.

Slowly, the squirrel started to move its head. Its belly heaved with heavy breathing. Then the legs moved a little, and the creature lifted itself up. It walked slowly over to the trunk of the tree it had fallen from. It jumped onto the trunk. Then it hopped up to a branch.

On the branch, the squirrel “shook it off”, checking itself to make sure its body was still working. Then, the squirrel scampered back up to the higher branches, chasing after another furry acrobat.

Squirrels work and play without a net below to catch them when they fall. When they fall and get the stuffings knocked out of them, it is not certain that they will recover. Thank God this one did. When squirrels get back up, the reality of knowing that they could fall again doesn’t seem to stop them. They go right back to doing what they were doing before they fell.

I feel a bit like that squirrel right now. I feel a bit stunned, and I feel like I have had the stuffings knocked out of me. I am on the branch trying to “shake it off”, and I am checking to see if I am in working order.

Once I get my bearings, will I go back to doing what I was doing before the fall? That’s what squirrels do, but is it what people do?  Hmm.

Losing my furry pal Brewskie Butt has really knocked the stuffings out of me. I lost a companion, and a muse. It was a relationship that was unique, and I can’t replicate it with my other cats, even though I love them very much. There was just something special between Brew and me.

Maybe its because I shared the uniqueness of that relationship with people around the world in the early days of social media. Maybe its because the creativity that he inspired in me took me to places I never though were possible. Maybe its because he awakened an entrepreneurial spirit in me, and together, we went on an amazing creative journey that defined me as an artist.

Or maybe its just that I miss his silly self and his furry body next to me.

It occurs to me that the span of Brewskie’s life covered the time frame that launched my career as an professional artist. He came to me towards the end of my career as a mental health counselor, and he has been with me the whole time that I have explored my creativity in a professional realm. He was with me when it was all fresh and new and adventurous, and his character gave me great material for exploring the creative realms of social media. He made marketing my business fun, because it was all about telling our story.

Now I am left with this creative enterprise that he helped me build, and I confess, I am not exactly sure where to take it from here. Unlike the squirrel, it is not so clear a path to find the higher branches of my tree to go back to doing what I was doing before the fall. How do I do this without my Brew?

Social media is not so much the frontier that it once was when it was all new and Brewskie was delighting people throughout cyberspace with his silly antics. I have established myself as an artist, so forging that path has become a bit routine as well. The business side of entrepreneurship is a struggle for me. I still love painting as a professional artist, and I still enjoy connecting with people through social media. I do miss exploring new frontiers, though. 

Brewskie and I scampered about the interwebs like my squirrels scamper about through the trees around my home. The internet was our playground. We did it without a care in the world, and without a net, until it just wasn’t the same tree anymore. 

Now he’s gone, and I am stunned, and I am trying to “shake it off”.

We follow patterns in life. My pattern is to pick myself up after setbacks, and ultimately find new adventures to explore. Sometimes I retrace old steps, and sometimes I embark on new travels. I am sure that my pattern will re-emerge once I shake this off. A new adventure will come my way, and my artistic enterprise will find new heights.

For now, though, I think I will just sit on this branch for awhile and reflect on the last one.

What a grand adventure we had together, Brewskie and me.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

The painting above is for sale – learn more here.

 

This one’s for you, Brew. Miss ya dude.

Brewskie Butt Custom Cat Portrait Painting by Artist BZTAT

In December of 2008, a cat started tweeting on Twitter. He tweeted about many things, but his favorite thing to do was tell stories about his human companion, who was an artist. He became the spokescat for his artist companion’s burgeoning arts business, and he also became a worldwide advocate for the Canton Arts District. He tweeted about his everyday cat adventures, and he tweeted about some, well, shall we say, extraordinary misadventures.

Brewskie Butt First Tweet
@BrewskieButt’s First Tweet

That cat’s stories on Twitter became so beloved, his birthday was celebrated on Twitter in the first official 24 hour #PawPawty. He made many friends around the world in subsequent #PawPawties and other cyber adventures, and he became quite the internet sensation. He launched his human’s art business, and he brought many pet portrait commissions her way.

That cat was Brewskie Butt and his human companion was me. Although his stories in cyberspace were quite fanciful, I assure you, Brewskie Butt the cat was every bit the character that the stories revealed.

Brewskie Butt (AKA The Brew) was a real cat who came to my home in 2004. A friend at work brought him to me after he had been rescued on the side of the road by a school teacher friend of hers. The first night I had him, he stuck his nose into my freshly poured beer and he started drinking, earning his name by rights in an instant.

Brewskie was ornery, obnoxious, pugnacious, nosey and annoying at times. He was also loving, curious, humorous and the biggest presence in the room no matter who was in the room with him. Although he was a huge presence, he also had a way of sharing that presence, making everyone around him feel welcome. 

I am sad to say that Brewskie is not in the room anymore.

Brewskie went to the storied Rainbow Bridge yesterday. He had been suffering from pancreatitis since January of this year, and he declined rapidly over the past week. I cannot tell you how much his presence is missed here in my home.

I really miss that ornery, obnoxious, pugnacious, nosey, annoying, loving, curious, humorous cat who was the biggest presence in the room no matter who was in the room with him.

Brewskie Butt GraveThe Rainbow Bridge for me is in Dellroy, OH. I used to live in a cabin there years ago, and my friend who owns the property allows me to continue burying my pets there. Brew’s body, and spirit, rests next to that of his former nemesis Slick, and those of Bub and the original Beezie.

I am not sure how to move forward without my buddy Brew. He has been such a big part of my life for 13 years. I owe him a lot, because, without his presence, I don’t know if I would have explored the creative depths that I did with him by my side. I know I will come back around, but, for now, I feel pretty lost without him.

I have painted, drawn and digitally mastered many artworks of Brew through the years. I even created a picture book and a coloring book with an artistic character based on him. But I never created a serious portrait of him. I have painted serious portraits of many of his cyber friends, but I have not seriously depicted the huge impact that he has had on my life in an artwork.

So a few days ago, when I realized that the end of our wonderful time together was near, I started painting a Premiere Portrait of Brew. I began painting it at home, with him sitting next to me, then I finished it in my studio today after he was gone. It was both the hardest, and the easiest, painting I have ever painted.

I often paint portraits of pets for people who are going through the experience of losing a pet. I want them to know that, when I paint their pet’s portrait, I feel with them, and I try to translate that love that they feel into the portrait. I have to be authentic with that experience. I know their pain, because I am living it too. It is the sweetest pain, because it is the sweetest love – that human animal bond. 

Anyway, this one is for you Brew. I have loved you with every ounce of my being, even when you were annoying the crap out of me. I miss you dude. Life will never be the same. 

But life is so much grander because of your having been here.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Many times Brewskie shared this song and video on Twitter with friends to comfort their loss of a beloved pet. I know he has many friends, and I wanted to share this with you to comfort your loss as I deal with my own private sadness.

“Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

Prayer for September 11, 2001

Prayer for September 11, 2001 drawing by BZTATPrayer for September 11, 2001

Dear God,

Today a part of my land

And a part of my people

Was reduced to a cloud of

Smoke, rubble and dust.

As the pain and dust linger,

Please help me to join hands

In peace, not rage,

With other spirits

Who seek to rise above.

 

I wrote this prayer in my journal on September 11, 2001. I created the drawing a couple of months later. It took me awhile to to recover my artistic balance after my world was so seriously shaken that day.

Each year, I post this prayer and drawing here on my blog in hopes that peace will overcome the rage that fills the hearts of many.

I am still hoping.

We always say we will never forget. My hope is that, someday, we will arise as we remember.

Today, 15 years later, I again join hands with kindred spirits. I remain hopeful.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

 

Why #Imwithher.

Hillary Clinton #imwithher art by artist BZTAT
Art by BZTAT

I don’t often get political on this blog. Most of my artwork revolves around pet themes, so my writing here typically follows similar paths.

Today I am changing my norm. It is a historical day, and I feel that my art and my words need to acknowledge it.

It is a historical day because, for the first time in history, a woman has been nominated by a major political party as their candidate for president of the United States.

Let that sink in. A woman has been nominated by a major political party as their candidate for president of the United States.

She has been reviled. She has been castigated. She has been falsely accused of everything under the sun. She has been publicly humiliated for deeply personal family problems, then, ironically, she has been criticized for clinging to her need for privacy.

But she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

I have followed Hillary Clinton for many years. I have held admiration for her stands on healthcare, worldwide women’s rights, gun rights and many other issues. I was a therapist for children for 20 years, and I personally saw the impact of her efforts to get healthcare and other needed services for families. I cherished my copy of “It Takes a Village” for its wisdom and its prescience.

I have not liked everything about Hillary, but she has been on the correct side of the values and issues that matter most to me for a long time. She served as a United States senator and as the United States Secretary of State with honor and dignity. She managed to work with disparate parties to get things done on a national and a world stage. These are no small accomplishments.

Despite all that she has done, she has faced unbelievable criticism. Her motives have been questioned, and because she has done so much, she has been criticized for being an “insider”. Although her accomplishments have been awe-inspiring, her voice is considered “shrill” by some, and thus, her oratory skills have been pilloried.

But she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

Hillary has had an upward climb for everything she has gained. Even though she may have had privileged access in some circumstances because of her FLOTUS role, she has faced fierce opposition at every turn. She has endured criticism that no male candidate would ever face, yet she has continued to stand tall and march on.

Yes, she is a politician. Yes, she is an insider.  But as such, she has built coalitions and led people towards mutual goals. As much as we may despise it, that’s what it takes to create lasting change on a grand scale.

Hillary Clinton fits no ideal in the minds of Americans. She is a 69 year old woman who bears the scars of battle and carries the girth that most women gain as the years pass. She wears awkward pantsuits, and she sometimes fails to fuss up her makeup and hair. She is not “human enough” for some flashy TV commentators, and she is not hip enough for the Twitterverse.

But over time, she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

I like Hillary, because she has fought long and hard for causes that matter. She has absorbed herself in the details that most of us disdain, because someone had to do it, and because she was good at it. She has not led with her own personality as some would like her to do, rather, she has led by mobilizing others towards important concerns. She has focused on what mattered, and not on prettying herself up for the cameras.

Whatever her motives, and whatever her purposes, Hillary has worked tirelessly for the common good. As opportunist as some may call her, she has earned more grief than she has gained pleasure or undeserved power. Even so, she has a track record of accomplishment that few can match.

Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she is not the Claire Underwood character from House of Cards that she has been portrayed to be. She is not a conniving and selfish female caricature whose singular focus is power. Whatever her motives, she has committed herself to service, and she has many people standing by her and thanking her for it.

And despite all, she has prevailed. And #imwithher.

Hillary Clinton has faced down the bitterest of critics and she is still standing. Not only is she still standing, she is continuing to fight for what she believes is right. She is uniquely talented with the political skills that perhaps we all hate, but the ones that it takes to get things done. Lets not be naive. Our next president needs to be able to work within the system our founders created, and she needs to be able to enlist the support of others to do it.

That is why #imwithher, and why I am committed to helping her to prevail in November.

I feel strongly about Hillary Clinton as a candidate on her own merits. My desire to see her win the presidency, however, is heightened by the frightening possibility of her opponent winning. In my 54 years on this earth, I have never before witnessed a candidate presenting danger to the presidency like Donald Trump does. I have disliked candidates before, and I have feared the directions that their policies might take us. But I have never seen a candidate whose behavior is so reckless and whose ideas are so far away from our country’s values.

Hillary Clinton MUST prevail in November. 

#Iamwithher. I hope that, even if she is not your ideal candidate, you will find it within yourself to vote for her to.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Is art a luxury or is it something we need right now?

heart rainbow painting by Artist BZTATIt would seem that enjoying art during the tumultuous times that we have experienced in recent days would be a luxury. Is art a luxury?

There is so much anguish and so many deep seated problems facing our culture right now. How does enjoying art fit with that?

First of all, art is not just for enjoyment. Art is a part of our culture – the expressive part – that gives image and voice to shared experiences.

Art can raise awareness and rally people to a cause. It can give us iconic images that reveal the nuances of an issue, and it can point out the incongruities in our purposes and actions. Without creative expression, social movements would likely blow away in the wind.

Even so, enjoying art simply for the sake of enjoying it is not frivolous either.

We need reprieves from the strife. Sometimes we need to turn off the news and enjoy quiet beauty to refresh our sense of goodness in the world.

And sometimes, buying a piece of art during a time of important change can bring more meaning to the moment when you look back upon it in the future.

Artist Gwen Seemel says art is not a luxury at all. In fact, it is an essential part of who we are, and we cannot live without it. I agree with her.

We spend considerable amounts of money on many things that are not absolutely necessary for survival. Because we consider these things as part of our daily lives, though, we do not consider these expenses frivolous. Cable TV. Video games and mobile apps. Stylish cloths. Home decor. Gardening and lawn care. Alcohol and snacks. The list goes on and on. We spend lots of money on a variety of items that we do not absolutely need.

But how often do we buy original art?

We experience art regardless of whether we purchase it outright. Often we consume art via television or other mass market publishing outlets to get our creativity fix. It costs more to buy original art directly from an artist, though, so we consider it a luxury.

Why is it more necessary to purchase things that are mass produced by corporations than it is to buy authentic creative expressions from an independent artist?

Watch the video below and see if you still think art is a luxury. And think again before you pass up that artwork you really love but think it is too much of a luxury for you.

The painting above is for sale. Regular price is $100, however, you may purchase it for $75 for a limited time. Discount ends Friday, July 15 at 12:00 AM EDT.

“Heart” $75.00 Acrylic Painting on Wood 12″ H x 16″ W US Shipping – $25 Intl – $45

Buy Now USA Shipping (Use button below for International):




Buy Now International Shipping:




See other paintings by BZTAT for sale here.

Art is not a luxury. from Gwenn Seemel on Vimeo.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

“Officer Down!” Police Dog takes a bullet for his human comrades.

Jethro, a canine police officer who was shot in the line of dutyUPDATE: Sadly, Jethro took a turn for the worse and he succumbed to his injuries on January 10, 2016. He died a hero and saved the lives of his fellow human officers. Funds raised in his name will go towards making other canine officers safer as they perform their duties in our community. RIP Jethro. 

In Canton, Ohio, we value our canine police officers as much as we do their human counterparts. Canton’s police dogs are local heroes, and they have more than earned that status.

As a city whose population is shrinking, Canton has urban crime rates that rival those of much bigger cities. Our safety forces are seriously underfunded and their numbers are truly inadequate for the needs, so canine officers are frequently called upon to intervene in very hazardous situations. This weekend, one of our canine heroes, Jethro, was struck down in the line of duty, and there are few dry eyes in Canton as a result.

Jethro was shot in the line of duty as he chased an armed burglar. The burglar unloaded a series of bullets intended for human officers and Jethro was struck as he chased the criminal down. He literally took the bullet for his human comrades. Despite being shot at least 3 times, Jethro survived, but he is not out of the woods yet. He is being monitored closely and being provided round the clock care at the Stark County Emergency Veterinary Clinic.

(Jethro’s human partner returned fire, as did other officers, and the burglar was wounded and apprehended.)

Most medium to large cities have canine officers, and they perform a critical service for our communities. These animals often go into situations where it is unsafe for human officers to go, and they can be placed in very risky situations. We need to ensure their protection as much as we possibly can, as they are extremely important to our communities’ safety. Many communities lack the resources to do that, though. Canton is one of them.

Although Canton has bullet proof vests for its canine officers, they are old and heavy, and they are rarely used. Jethro was not vested at the time of his shooting.

We now know that we need to improve our protection for our valued canine officers. We are sorry we didn’t do it before, Jethro, but we are doing it now. Local community leader and dog blogger Beth Philly of DOGGIES.COM has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to cover Jethro’s vet bills and to purchase new vests for all of Canton’s canine officers. If you would like to contribute, we would love to accept your donation.

Jethro’s story has touched a nerve in Canton, and it is spreading well beyond Canton’s city limits. When an animal is injured through an act of bravery, it brings us to our knees. Officers from Police Departments across the country have bent a knee and shared prayers and well wishes for Jethro. So have concerned citizens from all over the world. I am told that the parking lot of the Stark County Emergency Veterinary Clinic is full of emergency vehicles with officers standing vigil in the clinic’s lobby for Jethro.

My art is dedicated to celebrating the human/animal bond, and never before have I witnessed such a story about that bond.  I have decided to create a Premiere Pet Portrait Painting of Jethro to celebrate his bond with his community and his fellow officers. The portrait will be given to Officer Ryan Davis, Jethro’s handler, and his family, who considers Jethro a pet. The bond between Jethro and Officer Davis rises to dimensions beyond the traditional human-pet relationship, and the community’s love for Jethro takes on a whole new dimension. How could I resist the artistic challenge of creating this awesome creature’s portrait?

I will post again about Jethro’s story and the progress of his portrait. You can learn more about his entry into the Canton Police force here, and you can contribute to the GoFundMe campaign here. Follow the DOGGIES.COM blog for updates on his condition and medical progress.

Let’s all hope that Jethro has many adventures still left ahead of him.

 

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Adult Coloring Books – Hope or Hype?

Artist BZTAT's Color Me Cats Adult Coloring Book page sample
Sample Page from “Artist BZTAT’s Color Me Cats Coloring Book”

Google the words “Adult Coloring Books” and you will find a plethora of results. First you will see zillions of coloring books for sale on Amazon, Etsy, Barnes and Noble, Michaels, etc. Then you will find a number of trending news stories on the topic. There is a lot of interest in adult coloring books these days for a number of reasons.

Psychologists and wellness gurus have linked adult coloring to “mindfulness” and myriad other psychological benefits. Coloring is said to help anxious adults relax, and some experts claim that coloring can be as therapeutic as meditation and yoga. Coloring taps into our childhood instincts towards “play”, the experts say, and it gives us permission to release our apprehensions around adult obligations for a moment, allowing us to “de-stress” from our stressful lives.

Is it for real? Can coloring a line drawing in a book really do all that? Do adult coloring books offer great hope for our stressed out population of grown ups, or is it just a bunch of hype?

I haven’t seen any hard evidence or research on the benefits of coloring on the psyche, but I have no reason to dispute it either. As a former clinical counselor, I recognize that there is great value in simple acts of creativity that require focus but not commitment, and coloring provides that value. It allows people to be creative without the pressure of performance towards an outcome, and that can be relaxing and comforting to many people.

Most non-artist adults that I encounter enjoy creative experiences, but they tend to be hyper-critical of their abilities to draw. Coloring an existing image in a coloring book offers them the joy of creating without the apprehension of having to draw something themselves, and it can be a fun way to unwind. Adult coloring books typically have more complexity in the images than children’s books do, and they have less juvenile themes to make them more interesting and challenging. The challenge is not stress inducing, though, so it holds one’s interest without causing frustration.

Coloring can be relaxing and, thus, it can be therapeutic. I suspect that some of the over-the-top claims are more marketing than they are clinically significant tenets, but there is no harm in adding coloring to your wellness regimen. It is no panacea, and it won’t fix society, but it won’t hurt anything either.

Truthfully, there are some people (myself included) who do not succeed with other forms of relaxation and mindfulness. Personally, I am like the Aflac Duck when I attempt yoga and meditation. I am awkward and self conscious with such mind and body practice, and it does not fit my style. We all need to find what works for us, and if coloring does that, then I say go for it.

If nothing else, Coloring can be a fun thing to do, whether it is therapeutic or not, and that is value enough. It was fun for us as children, so why should we stop doing it when we grow older?

I created my Artist BZTAT’s Color Me Cats Coloring Book because my fans and collectors asked me to. Each one had a different reason for wanting a BZTAT coloring book, but whatever the reasons, I have found it to be a fun new way to share my work with others. If it is therapeutic for some, then that just makes it more fun.

In answer to the question, “Hope or hype?” I say, who cares? What difference does it really make? Relax, enjoy and surrender to the process if you so desire. You just might have a bit of fun.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Order Artist BZTAT’s Color Me Cats Coloring Book here!

 

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Isis and Joan, Black Cat with woman in Hospice care
Isis and Joan

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” ~Alfred Lord Tennyson

We first met Joan through her mission to find a home for her beloved cat, Isis. Joan knew her life was coming to an end due to liver disease, and she wanted to make sure that Isis would be cared for after she left this world.

We knew when we first met Joan that we would lose her soon, but that didn’t matter. We wanted to give her the love of a lifetime in the short amount of time that she had left.

And that we did.

My good friend Dorian of Your Daily Cute first brought Joan and Isis to us through a plea for help on Facebook. Dorian had heard of Joan’s plight through an email from a rescue group who had been contacted by Joan. Joan was desperately looking for a home for Isis, as she had been forced to enter a hospice center for her own medical needs. Dorian jumped into action by alerting her expansive social network, and soon people from all over the world were sending love and help.

The first step was to find a temporary foster home for Isis, which happened relatively quickly. Then the search for a permanent home began. Eventually Isis did find a new home with a loving caregiver.

But the story did not end there.

We were all charmed by Joan and her sweet cat. Through a Facebook group, Dorian kept us updated on both Isis and Joan’s progress as she and other friends who lived near the hospice began to visit and develop a deep friendship with Joan. Isis visited as well, bringing great joy to this frail but spirited woman. Although many of us could not visit ourselves as we were too far away, we sent gifts and cards and messages of love to bring this woman the love she deserved.

"Isis" black cat digital pet portrait by BZTAT
“Isis” – digital pet portrait by BZTAT

My gift was this digital portrait of her sweet Isis, which I am told she kept by her bedside.

Dorian wrote about her experiences with Joan and Isis in this article for Catster. Many others shared the story on their blogs, and the national media picked up the story in numerous articles.

We all fell in love with Joan from afar, and we all hoped a miracle would happen so that we could keep our new found friend here on earth with us.

Sadly, the miracle we had hoped for did not happen. We lost Joan today. She left this world at 4:08 am with Dorian and and another friend holding her hands.

I have never met this woman in person, yet I am bereft with tears. We knew we would lose her, but no one wanted to. And now that we have, it hurts deeply.

Still yet, her final wish to find a home for her dear Isis was answered. And in the process, she found a worldwide family who loved and cared for her to the very end. We should all be so lucky. What more of a miracle does one need?

I have always believed Tennyson’s words to be true. Although loving someone, even through the virtual world, eventually hurts, it is certainly worth much, much more than what we give to it.

I know that I am a better person for having a connection to Joan and Isis and Dorian and everyone else who has joined Joan’s family. Thank you if you are among that family.

We often hear about how social media can bring out the worst in people – terrorism, cyber bullying, criminal flash mobs, etc. The stories where social media brings out the BEST in people maybe more silent and less headline grabbing. The story of Isis and Joan, though, proves to me that people are good, and they are loving, and they bring that out in social media in a much more profound way than the more negative aspects of humanity ever could.

Thank you Joan. Thank you Isis. Thank you Dorian. Thank you everyone else who has given and been a part of this human and feline drama. I love you all.

Whatever heaven is for you, Joan, I hope that it can bring you some of the peace and joy that you have brought to us. You have found the Rainbow Connection – someday the rest of us will find it too.

 

 

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

Want a portrait of your pet? Learn more here!