Nativity Revisited

nativityrevistedLast night I was invited by a dear friend, Mrs. Moore, to Black Nativity Revisited put on by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. I had a little problem with the “revisited” in the title. Why was it there? Isn’t it the reason for the season? However, as the night progressed, it became so important.

I left late in the dark to a crowded freeway headed to a part of Oakland I didn’t know. When I stopped for a red light, a homeless man appeared out of the darkness right up at my car window with a palms together begging. I was taken aback and tried to explained through my tightly shut window and locked door that I couldn’t reach my purse, didn’t have any cash in my pockets. I just couldn’t help him. There were cars lined up behind me. I didn’t have time for this, I thought.  I was going to be late. As the light turned green, he signaled he understood and backed away into the night.

When I finally reached the church, I was greeted warmly and let in to the performance held in the sanctuary. I couldn’t completely settle down to enjoy the jubilant  performance. The beggars face haunted me on and off throughout performance of the Christmas story.  I revisit the Nativity story every year. It doesn’t change. I do it to honor and celebrate this glorious gift from God. But on this night, it changed for me.

During the performance last night the phrase “no room at the inn” was spoken and sung I don’t know how many times . It’s repetition, though, called upon me to rethink about the beggar I had just left on the street. Had I not just refused him entrance into my life? Why didn’t I roll down my window? Why didn’t I make the extra effort to reach for a couple of dollars? Why didn’t I just stop, let the cars behind me wait, and give something to this man in need. Some would try to ease my conscious by saying I was a woman traveling alone at night. But I didn’t feel threaten. He didn’t approach me in hostile way, made no movements that indicated I should be weary. He just want some help. I turned him away like the inn keepers in Bethlehem. I had no room for him.

I read somewhere, long ago, that the people who come into your life which  you find most frustrating or disturb your day to day existence, are there to teach you something; most likely something about yourself. Last night that beggar came knocking on my door, and like the inn keepers in Bethlehem on that most holiest of nights, I turned him away. The inn keepers, that turned Mary and Joseph away, missed being there when a miracle occurred. They missed  seeing Emmanuel, Jesus, Son of God, Comforter and Prince of Peace. What had I missed by not giving a minute two more to a beggar?

Or, maybe, I didn’t miss out.  Maybe I got to play a part in the retelling of the nativity story.   For the beggar reminded me to keep my inn open. To remember that we all are walking miracles brought into this world to give it something special of ourselves. I revisited the nativity. I learned I am part of the nativity; that I live it everyday. Last night I was an inn keeper. Today I might be a shepherd, tomorrow one of the three kings. That the next person I meet might have lesson for me. Whatever part I play, giver or receiver, I must keep my heart open and greet everyone as though they might hold a message I need to hear. And sometimes, slow learner that I am, I might have to be revisited again and again to get the point.

Merry Christmas to all, and may you be open to the miracles that surround you.


Tension for Illustration Friday


















Tension? Let me tell you about tension.

Graduation angst is all over the faces of my high school seniors.  Like deer caught in the headlights, they see the near future rushing towards them, and it is finally hitting them that life is about to change.  They’re experiencing the tension of leaving that safe forest of daily school routine and taking those tentative steps of crossing the highway of life into adult hood. Being part of the lucky class of 2013 might be adding to the tension.

The piece above is actually my example for my students final art project.  The theme is facades, and they have all the PhotoShop skills they’ve gained this year to use to make their pieces.  I’m excited to see what their interpretations will become.

I’m finding that I really like working in pencil, and then scanning that drawing into Photoshop.  Sometime I begin directly in PhotoShop, but after teaching how to use the program all day, I really miss the feel of traditional media. To be able to combine the two is so freeing as I can manipulate my drawings endless with no fear of corrupting the original.

Tension for Illustration Friday

Myth for Illustration Friday


Joseph Campbell’s books, the Power of Myth and The Hero With A Thousand Faces come to mind  from this weeks prompt from Illustration Friday.  I strongly believe we all follow the the path of the archetype hero.  We walk the stages of the myth story as described by Campbell. Whether it be the stage of leaving home to begin a quest or meeting the trickster that will divert us from our adventure, our life paths seem to be headed towards a goal. We illustrators draw these stages over and over again in hopes of helpings our viewers to get closer to their goals.

At the present I think I am at the end a conflict stage in my quest.  It’s been a year of struggles. Only now am I becoming more aware of the treasures I have gain from walking my path.

I began this piece last June when summer vacation began.  Freed from the responsibilities of teaching high school students, I had time to sit down and draw.  I started out doing the deletion technique on bristol board using ground graphite.  I attacked that sheet of bristol board. What started out as a giant scribble transformed into a jungle of vines entangling my hero; stopping him, holding him and not letting him move forward.  I think my subconscious was trying to work out my real life frustrations. I had been dealing with the death of my mother and the tasks of taking care of my 87 year old father. And like my hero, stuck and not moving forward, I had to learn to pause, breathe and just let go of trying to hold it all together. When I did, things began to settle down and I could handle things much better.

Isn’t it always that way with a tangle? You can’t fight it into order, you got to let go first.

Once the pencil drawing was done, I let it sit for a few months. Only last Friday when I learned that myth was the Illustration Friday prompt, did I look at it again. To finish it off, I scanned it into PhotoShop and with my new Wacom tablet started adding color. I’m still amazed at the fine quality of line and control the Wacom stylus gives me. I would have been fearful of trying to add color to the graphite drawing, but on the computer I stay tangle free. My quest is complete.

Myth for Illustration Friday


If life is a circus, then we all stand suspended on a tight rope between our next act and the consequences it may produce.  In our hectic lives these days it seems we only have time to act and not ponder the consequences like we should.  If we could only slow down and take a moment to just think things through a bit more those consequences would so different.  We need more balance between action and thought.


Secret for Illustration Friday

Have you ever just started drawing and just went with whatever came up, like random shapes or squiggly lines? You let it develop it’s own life.  It might look like a Rorschach test for a while. Then it morphs into images that you recognize, but your don’t know what they’re doing together. Still you just let it flow.  You keep working at it, finding patterns and forms you want to develop.  The composition develops with focal area and subordinate elements.  Then, just about when you’re done, you get it.  You see the connection from what you’ve be making to what’s going on in your life.  It’s like you’ve been sitting going over and over a dream that you’ve had when all of a sudden the symbolism becomes clear.  You get it.

That’s didn’t happen with this piece.  It’s still a secret.  Why are there angels? I don’t know.  Where he is pulling her to? I don’t know.  Why is she holding back? What is she about to see?  You tell me.  I painted this piece a couple of years ago.  I’m still wondering about what’s going on with the two of them. Maybe, like dreams  that fade as morning wanes into the afternoon,  too much time has passed, and I’ll never know. Some secrets are never revealed.


Secret for Illustration Friday