Friday, July 29, 2022



Most movies are entertaining in the moment and then disappear from our thoughts, but others leave a lasting impression. The 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, made me think of ways I could pay it forward too. A local hospice organization has offered just such an opportunity. 

The choice of hospice is often a difficult one to make. I first experienced hospice services at the end of my father-in-law's life. He was in a hospital and was moved from active patient care to hospice rooms. He died shortly after. My mother-in-law also was placed in hospice at the skilled nursing facility where she lived. Again, the service provided the loving care that was needed at the end of her life.

When I read that one of our local hospice groups wanted artists to submit small works of art that could be displayed in a hospice patient's room, I jumped at the chance. Here was one way I could pay it forward. The artwork they requested needed to be as small as 4 inches by 4 inches and easily displayed.

The first time I brought artwork to them a few years ago, the hospice volunteers were so appreciative of my work that I vowed to continue to support them each year when they asked for more art. COVID intervened; but this year Hope Hospice is back collecting small art pieces again, with a more definitive set of guidelines for the work they will accept. Because many of their patients have some level of dementia, the artwork needs to be representational, not abstract. The Hope Hospice program gives artists a way to bring a little bit of brightness and joy to someone at the end of their life. I hope other hospice services have picked up on this program so that artists in different parts of the country can pay it forward too. 

In memory of two cousins, Todd Heimdahl and Shelley Grant, who passed away this year.

To read or submit artwork to Works of Hope, click here.

Friday, July 22, 2022



Photo by Bill Slavin

Did you know the make and model of every car on the road when you were growing up? 

I wanted to share with you the story my husband, Bill, the photographer, has to tell about the cars on the road when he was young. 

WHAT CAR IS THAT?  by Bill Slavin

Every drive with my dad was a non-stop quiz on the make, model, and year of every car on the road. The '54 Chevy Bel Air at the Danville Car Show this past weekend transported me back to my nine-year-old self, riding shotgun with my dad.

The wind wing was open on both sides, to ventilate my dad's ever-present cigar smoke. We didn't need the windows down. "The wind wing was enough," he said. It wasn't unusual for me to wait in the car, with the cigar in the ashtray, while he did a quick errand. Lots of smoke. It wouldn't pass muster today.

I grew up in cigar smoke. I was shocked to discover in college that smoking a cigar is nothing like smelling the aroma. Smoking, for me, was disgusting, though I really tried to make it work during my college years. Yet, I still find the aroma pleasant even today. (Just don't smoke one in my car!)

My dad was a Buick man. Middle of the road--not too aggressive like a Chevy--and not as ostentatious as an Oldsmobile, and never a Cadillac. The Buick had an understated business-like class.

My dad was always on the road as a sales engineer for General Electric and the Buicks were upgraded every few years. The local dealer would leave a new car in the driveway and ask my dad to give it a try and let him know what he thought. "Take your time. No rush."

Photo by Bill Slavin

One of my chores was to keep the Buick clean and waxed. This often included removing the disgusting black oil that was regularly sprayed on our road in Decatur, Illinois. First, I cleaned off the road oil,  then two coats of wax, then I cleaned the windows to remove cigar film.

Removing road oil became an opportunity for me to earn extra money around our neighborhood. I learned how to remove the black gunk with generous amounts of turpentine and brisk rubbing--a dirty and arduous process--especially around the wheels. Then, I would clean and wax the bottom panels to their deep, rich, original color. It was hard work that generally took several hours but the results were brilliant.

Then it was hard for the customer (always a neighbor) to decline a wax job on the entire car. It would not look good to have the underside shining and the top...not so much. I don't remember how much I was paid, but it always required the customer to think real hard before reluctantly saying yes to the cleaning...and then checking often on my progress. I was thrilled to get paid for what I did at home for free.

Those neighbors were probably playing with me, now that I think of it. Waxing was fun for me because it was so easy, and I could see the result immediately. Every car glowed. I still enjoy waxing a car myself.

Do these photos trigger any car memories for you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by Bill Slavin

Click here to see all of Bill's car photos  

Friday, July 15, 2022



Stamps, like National Geographic magazine with its distinctive yellow cover and encyclopedias, used to be prized by families. We had a stack of the magazine in our home that we could all browse through to learn about other cultures. We had two sets of encyclopedias and my sister and I had stamp albums to be filled with stamps from all over the world.

I would leaf through magazines as a kid seeking the ad section with postage stamp sellers' sites. I could buy an envelope of worthless stamps that I could adhere to my album pages. I found the stamps fascinating because they gave me a little bit of each country's history in a 1/2 to 1-inch rectangle. I could then go to the encyclopedia or the National Geographic magazine to find out more. With the Internet, we have expanded our ability to find this same kind of information. Even the Nat Geo magazine is available on the web.  But what about all the stamps? With people using texting and emails, will we see the end of stamps in our future? Maybe all those worthless stamps I collected will have monetary value after all.

When I was collecting them and found a promising ad in a magazine, I  attached four quarters to a card and sent off my order. I picked up the mail every day in anticipation of receiving my bounty. In the back of my mind was the one valuable stamp that I knew about: The Inverted Jenny, a stamp with an engraver's mistake that put a bi-plane upside down on the stamp. The stamp is now one of the most valuable in the world, last selling for $1.3 million. The Inverted Jenny never arrived in our mailbox, but each stamp that I received opened up another world to me.

I spread the stamps out on a table and looked at the images of queens and kings, presidents and dictators, heroes, and other symbols of the country's history, culture, and economy. Many of the stamps are beautifully designed pieces of art just like the latest stamp to commemorate the passage of Title IX.

I rummaged through the loose stamps, found their correct spot in my album, and attached them to the pages. When I was a teenager though, I closed the album and stuck it in my closet, the album forgotten till we cleaned out our parents' house. I unearthed the stamp book tucked in a box of childhood treasures.

By that time, I had also accumulated U.S. commemorative stamp sets and stamp sets from our time in Japan. I saved them to give to our son. They now sit on a high closet shelf along with my stamp album and the album that belonged to my father-in-law. One of those small bits of family history that is so hard to discard. I kept a few envelopes of duplicate stamps that I use in mixed media art. I stick them randomly on the blank pages of an art journal and then incorporate them into my drawing. Art within art suggests a journey.

Friday, July 8, 2022


Watercolor gets me in its clutches sometimes, rattles me around, turns me upside down, and fills me with doubts. I recently looked at a painting I did when I first came back to practicing watercolors. I thought to myself: this looks better than what I am doing now. Once I let go of that drop-into-a-big-hole thought, I went through my portfolio and picked out pieces that I still like -- no matter when I created them.

I built my art skills on a Bauhaus foundation with its simplicity, use of clean lines, bold graphic design, and interesting use of positive and negative space. I designed this poster as a tribute to an Olympian a long time ago.

I have also experimented with an all-over design with one part highlighted to tell the story of the piece. Even with all the busy-ness of the flowers, your eye is drawn to the face in the red square.

I've played with abstract forms, changes in value, and thick and thin lines. I discovered that a circle helps to pull a design together. I use circles often in my work.

I've kept the idea of simplicity as a dominant expression in my art, but I've also experimented with lots of texture as I did in the painting of the boat.

I still think of what I do as practice. I have a lot of different techniques and materials that I can employ.  Arlo Gutherie, who wrote the song Alice's Restaurant during the Vietnam War, continues to sing that tune to appreciative audiences. He says he enjoys singing it because the audience responds so well to the memory of it. I think of the outside world and how it isn't always easy to move forward in your life, to work to change, and continue to grow. I put my brush in my paint and try again.

Friday, July 1, 2022


Photos by Bill Slavin

The other day a writer friend sent me a copy of her essay about finding hope at a school graduation. It was beautifully written, published in the Jewish Weekly, and filled me with hope. Children are our hope, aren't they?

Coincidentally for this week's post, I had planned to write about the word Hope after re-reading some of my writings that I included in a sketchbook for the Brooklyn Art Library. I thought once again how often we writers think of similar themes during a week, especially one like last week that has been filled with such controversy and despair and we find stories within ourselves that are uplifting and full of hope.

Since 2017 my thoughts about hope have changed. With the advent of Trump, we, as a country and as a people, have entered into a world far more divisive and extreme. We have become more aware of the underbelly of United States history, and that we are not as exceptional as we have told ourselves we are. We have a core that is hard and cruel but often sprinkled with doses of goodwill. We have yet to address what the promise of America means. When I see young people speaking out, I have hope.

Photos by Bill Slavin

This week I needed to find glimpses of hope. Images such as shimmering sunlight, crayons skipping across the page, a bird flying with twigs in its beak, ready to build a nest, and grass growing in the cracks of pavement reminded me of the meaning of hope. I thought of the joy of several friends and family who have new babies in their lives.

I added one more idea to that list: long marriages. I look across the breakfast table at Bill. We've been married for 51 years. We can still smile at each other. We've been together through medical events, working long hours while acquiring advanced degrees, volunteering at non-profits, and celebrating friendships in Mountain View, Danville, Tokyo, and Paris. We've owned numerous cars including my PT Cruiser and the Blue Bomber, and sailed and skied together. We've jogged through our neighborhoods and met friends for coffee. We spent some of the best years of our lives raising our son, who has grown into a kind, thoughtful person (despite having us as parents!)

We had our ups and downs in our marriage. We learned to adjust to our differing habits and quirks, but we always knew how deep our love for each other has been. We tended two sets of parents through their last days, made decisions about their care, and brought treats to their caregivers since we saw how hard their jobs could be. We gardened, took photographs, drew, painted, and discussed politics and other issues of our day. Sometimes we leave each other messages. We've been married a long time, and are still surprised by how much history we have lived through, and still want to try new things, but we are quieter now. Sitting outside, listening to the chatter and caw of birds, and watching wildlife is a mutual pleasure. In a long marriage, there is always hope.

Photos by Bill Slavin

Four Good Things of Hope:

You can read Meta Pasternak's essay as published in the J Weekly here:


The organizers of the 2022 international calligraphy conference that was canceled because of COVID, worked with Kuretake, a Japanese art supply company to donate over $22,000 in art supplies in part to David Douglas High School in Portland, Oregon. It has the largest student body in Oregon and its students speak over 47 different languages. 


Watch this video from Holstee showing how to make a letterpress poster with a polymer plate. The poster is Holstee's manifesto and is worth reading:


Check out the sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library and help them recover from a disastrous fire: