Once upon a time, when I heard the word “poppies”, the song Dr. Demento used to play would run through my head. You know, this one.

Recently, however, I learned that poppies were a metaphor for soldiers fallen in war – a poetic representation of blood on the battlefield.  And the Existential Blues didn’t play in my head anymore.  I began to think about that metaphor. I began to think about how poppies are prolific.  I began to think about how gardeners call desirable plants that grow where they are not planted (or tended) “volunteers”.  And a picture grew in my head.

I painted the picture below for a fund-raising auction to support a wonderful non-profit, cooperative preschool – Lakewood United Methodist Preschool, aka “LUMP”.  All of my sons have gone there.  This painting is titled “Volunteers / We Stormed the Beaches at Normandy”.  You can’t really see it unless the light is just right, but in the sky is a letter from Winifred to Henry and in the grass is Henry’s reply.  This is an exchange of letters I imagined between a soldier and his wife during WW II.  I hope you like it.

Mixed media on canvas - prepared for LUMP fund-raiser
Volunteers / We Stormed the Beaches at Normandy





A friend asked if she could buy a painting from me, asked me to paint her a picture – an image from nature, abstracted, but representational.  A sort of abstract representationalism has long been my default style (since my education is in music and the sciences, I have no idea if that’s an actual style or if I made it up).  I was excited to give this a go.  It had been a long time since I painted….much of anything.  I did a lovely watercolor of R2D2 for my oldest son’s 6th birthday, and even that was 4 years past. I painted a beloved companion for a cousin’s then fiancé, now husband. I goofed off a bit to try to make a decent cover for my novella (I am not a book cover artist), and tried to do something with my old work.  As much as these things brought me joy, they didn’t bring me the ecstatic centering peace of “painting” that I rediscovered when I started this wide open commission.

The paintings I’ve since completed were inspired by Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park in Caddo Parish, Louisiana and Moundville Archeological Park in Moundville, Alabama.  These were places I visited with my husband and sons this summer, amazing places, on our-annual cross-country trek to see my Mom and (extended)family.  Colorado is breath-taking, but like many people, I find places unlike the beauty right in front of me are more likely to trigger inspiration.  So, I painted two paintings, one each, inspired by these lovely and fascinating places. They were meant to be companion pieces. Images of pathways, in nature and in life.  But they are not companions.  They refused.  Louisiana was exuberant and wild.  Even an ancient archeological site in Alabama was well-groomed and stately.  These paintings are stretching to even be friends.

The image my mind made when I talked to my friend is still in there – pushing to get out. This is a wonderful feeling, one I’ve not felt in years. I will paint that image. First I have to find the right place in the real world to work from. It might be in my backyard.  But it might not. And so, I am not just compelled to paint but to walk through the trees.  What wonderful feelings.

I am not sure what I think of the paintings I’ve completed, but I am happy to have completed them. I don’t know if my friend will want these, but I am happy to find out. I don’t know how I am going to squeeze this back into my life, but I know I will.  I am also interested in how this will play out stylistically and in what I paint. I always best enjoyed painting people and could not “feel” landscapes. Now that I am older, I can feel the landscapes…and I think I will “feel” the people more deeply. How exciting to find out.

Sadly, there’s not a decent camera in my house, excepting a manual Pentax made in 1983, so these photos are not true to colors or texture…but if I’m going to share my thoughts, I ought to share images too.  What places or ideas inspire you? If you have stopped doing something you love because “life” got in the way, what would it take for you to find your way back home?


DSC07311 DSC07309


So, my editor-friend will likely have my early reader book back to me soon.  It’s almost summer and her primary gig as a stay-at-home Mom is going to be ramping up soon.  I know I will likely have nothing to do with illustrations if I am successful in finding an agent – and publisher – for this book.  But because I am me, I am illustrating the home copy.  I am planning for black and white drawings for “in chapter” illustrations and colorful paintings as “end tags” to each chapter.  Here’s the first one I’ve finished.



It started when I was pretty young.  I’d sit for hours, painstakingly sketching images from National Geographic, albums, personal photos…  My sister has many of those sketches.  Most are lost to time.

Decades ago, when I started showing my work, I was constantly advised to loosen up my style.  A friend recently commented that he didn’t realize I could do realism.  I guess I loosened up already.  Or maybe I just got lazy.

Since I’ve been unabashedly “saving” the less embarrassing poem and songs from my past, I thought it might be fun to “save” a few of my remaining sketches too.  Though the paper was getting crumbly, a few of them scanned well enough.

This one is of a very glamorous friend of mine from highschool.  Why yes, I did go to highschool in the ’80s.  Why do you ask?


Another old one…circa 1992.  All of this is actually happened…



a poem by d.b. mcneill


I am on your doorstep

in my dream


if you can

disappoint me in the right direction


Under here


There is still more

but wordless


The magician spins

diamonds from her eyes

It’s only rain


Thunder breaks

I awake



there is a man

shouting shut up

at the sky