Sunday, November 17, 2013

You are an artist

Zebra in Colour by Jeannie Hart - Prints Available.

There are several things I found out about myself while travelling through parts of the UK. One thing I realised was that I could draw. I know that's a bit funny, an artist who thinks they can't draw. However, there is a fine line between thinking you can be an artist and being an artist.

The first step to being an artist, is to have some sort of talent. The second step though, is much harder. It requires faith that you have something worth showing to other people. And the third step is where you have to sit back and say aloud that you are an artist.

It took me a long time to realise that other people do actually like my artwork. On one hand, I always tell people, "don't care what other people think. Make art for you." And I honestly believe that in that first step you need to say this, make it your mantra. It will help guard you in those early days when you are still developing your art form. However, their does come the time when you must step outside the studio and show your work. I've found that in those early days of rejection from every gallery, that you have to realise that your art, whatever it may be is not everyone's cup of tea. The nice thing is that there is this wonderful thing called the internet--where people can showcase your art and connect with others who like your brand of wonderful. To this day I have still, not sold a single piece of artwork in my home-town. This makes me a bit sad, and when I'm at home, I have a hard time saying that I am an artist. But the third step, when you have to sit back and say aloud that you are an artist--is hard.

The first time I said I was an artist--as in that was my profession I prefaced it with, "I guess I'm a professional artist, I mean--not really." This is where support from your support network really helps. My most trusted friend looked at me and this was the following conversation:

"Jeannie, do people pay you for artwork."

"Well, yes--but it's not really artwork--it's all commercial stuff, graphic novels and stuff. I'm not a real artist"

"Do they pay you in real money?" he asked.


"Then you are a real artist."

And I just stood there in the doorway thinking about what he said. Someone, several people in fact were paying me to do artwork for them. It may not have been my version of art, but you know what? It required my talent, my eye, and a point of view that only I had. After that day, I proudly say, "I am an Artist."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part three

Part One : Part Two

Standing and walking back to the small market, where travellers sell their trinkets—back to the coach depot. A juice bar, which looks out over the station is perfect for the short wait. I order something to justify me sitting in their window. I giggle. I laugh. The man behind the counter laughs and giggles too, all it is, is a smoothie, why are we laughing so much? I hand him a few quid. He hands me a very cold, blended cup of deliciousness.  Heading to the long table, I look out. People step off busses, some coming home and some going on vacation. The old couple: taking that long awaited trip they always promised to do, once their kids were grown—at least that’s the story I invent for them as they step onto the bus for London Heathrow.  There are a handful of young lovers. Me being almost thirty, just smile at them, remembering what it was like that first time I fell in love. I watch as he kisses her on the cheek, they wrap up into each other like corresponding yen & yang. That kind of love, that naïve young “we are the only ones in the room” love I’ll never get back—I’ve buried that hope too deep after the last time.

My phone beeps, time for another picture. Every day, at the same time I take a picture, my way of chronicling my travels over the last year.   I lift my phone, take a selfie, and look over the brim to see my A. Our eyes meet and my thoughts of lost lovers melt from my mind.

I guess I should give you a description of A. On this day the sun was shining, a rarity I’m told in England, so his blonde hair gave off just a hint of red. Though, he’ll claim anything other than him having any sort of ginger in his hair. “It’s a dirty blonde!” he’d say. The blue oxford shirt he wore, sleeves rolled to his elbows, fitted him ever so nicely. And as he ducks into the shop his smile is so wide it’s contagious. If you saw him on the street, I’m not sure how you’d feel. For me, my heart beats a little faster, and my vision tends to blur around the edges. I always say, if I were to write him into a novel, he would be the perfect villain, one you’d never see coming. So calm, sweet, quiet, yet powerful, I can always see his mind working behind those oceanic coloured eyes.

“How was the trip?” I ask.

“Long. And I travelled so light this time that I didn’t even bring my Kindle, so it was bit boring too. Thankfully I had you to text!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!”

A. laughs, “there’s no need for you to be sorry! It was my fault.”

“But I am, I mean, I can be empathetic for you.”

“Okay,” he chuckles, “you can be sorry for me.”

“Are you hungry? I’ve been sipping on this,” I shake the now empty plastic cup, “but I’m sure you’re probably hungry by now.”

“I could eat. What’s around here?”

“No clue.”

“But you’ve been here for a whole two hours more than me! Are you not an expert by now?”

I laugh, “no.”

“But what have you been doing?”

I reach into my purse and pull out the heavily used Moleskin notebook. I hold it up.

“And? Let me see what you drew.”

“Well, I was sketching one of the churches,” I open the notebook, flipping through the pages to find the few ink sketches I drew earlier.

A. leans in as I point. “I love this,” he says and points to the church window detail only to laugh a few seconds later pointing at the birds, “and this is where you said sod it, I’m adventuring!”

I laugh so hard because it is true. We sit and chat for a bit but before long, his belly starts to talk and we decide: it’s time for food.

For a Thursday afternoon, Oxford has a lot of people. I don’t do well with a lot of people. Well, to be fair, I fear getting separated from my party in a crowd. Chalk it up to one really bad experience in San Francisco during a parade where at one point, I had to seriously contemplate how a person was sitting on a fire-hydrant. We talk as we dodge through the crowd. But I can feel myself being overwhelmed. I grab the back of his shirt, cloth between my fingers just below the curve of his shoulder blades and tug. He stops and turns. “I can’t handle the people. Let’s get Pret and find somewhere away from this. Is that okay?” A. nods and we step into Pret a Manger to pick up some sandwiches. A few more quick steps and we duck down into an alley just to see where it led.

“Is this better?” he asks. I nod. “I’m not sure where this ends up though; I’ve never been in Oxford before.”

“It’s fine, getting lost is one of the best parts of a new city.”

A. laughs, “I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.”

“It is! You get lost. Find your way back out. You see the most interesting things this way, and you’ll always know where to go after that.”

The alleyway opens up to a street with one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. One of the Oxford colleges with a stone gate that ran the length of the road, every ten meters or so a small wooden door with large metal rivets set inside the stone. We both stopped. I took out my phone and snapped a picture. A. says, “Okay, I love Cambridge. But Oxford has better architecture.”

“See, you wouldn’t have found this if we didn’t get lost.” And then I realise, I have an iPhone. “Oh! I’m so stupid sometimes! We can find a park.” Within a few clicks, Google Maps was running, “just on the other side of that wall is a garden,” I said. We walk up to one of the wooden gates, “let’s see.”

“I don’t think we can go through those,” he said.

“No harm in trying.” My hand wraps around the warm metal, black smithy moulded iron which sunlight touched all day. I push. It doesn’t budge. A. laughs.


“Well, according to this,” I show him the map, “if we just follow the street and stay to the right we should run into it.”

It however, was not just a garden, nor just a park. It was the Botanical Gardens of Oxford. I may be a writer, however, years of writing post-apocalyptic science fiction stories does not prepare one for describing something so beautiful. We walk along the river chuckling at the punters. Without the tall buildings around us the wind blows through my clothes. I shiver.

“We should sit in the sun,” he says.

I agree and we find a place, just off the path overlooking a massive field of dancing green grass. When the wind blows, it almost looks like ocean waves. We sit. I sit slightly closer than I probably should to A. I blame being cold. Though, I can also blame the fact that he is so attractive.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part two

Continued from Part One

I step on the bus, feeling like that toddler, full of energy and a sense of wonder. I’m going to Oxford! Finding a seat, I settle in and send a text: I’m on the bus! See you in a few hours!

“I am too! Only, I think I’m on the bus two hours behind you,” is the text I received. You see, this trip to Oxford was a twofold excitement packed day trip. Not only am I going to see one of the places I’ve wanderlusted over, but it is my second official meet up with this guy I’d been talking to for about a month.

An hour-and-a-half passes as I watch the changing landscape. It’s amazing how beautiful this country is. Of course me, from sunny southern California, where I’m surrounded by swaths of brown and yellow, the lush greens a luxury and constant reminder that I live in a desert populated with golf courses, I’m always in awe of how green the United Kingdom is. Before long the bus slows and signs for Oxfordshire become more frequent. Streets narrow and every turn is like I’m turning down a random road of history. The X5 bus twists into the Oxford terminal and everyone departs.

I’m no tourist. My camera is not around my neck while I consult maps of where I am. I pack light and move between people who gawk at the undeniable beauty. My greatest ability is to get lost and forever remember the roads taken to get back. But how lost can you get when Oxford is a grand total of seventeen square miles compared to my home town of roughly one-hundred-fifty square miles. Sure that area of Oxford contains 150k people but people you can navigate around.  And I do. I navigate through the crowd and make my way into the open market. I know I have two hours before A’s bus shows up.

The sights of old cities always enchant me. No matter where I go, what country I’m in (other than America) the juxtaposition of old and new gets me every time. Oxford is no different. Tall stone carved buildings that tower over an open market of Indian tapestries, carved wooden statues, and the smell of fresh kebabs which permeates the air from the taco truck style street vendor.  And while I don’t look like a tourist I’m always out of place. Today I get awkward stares from the vendors I assume because I’m overdressed. I’m always overdressed though, so I’m used to it. Leather leggings and a peacock coloured fitted dress seems right at home to me but in the land of sophistication and academia it must scream artist.

Wandering from the market to one of the lesser populated areas I find myself leaning against the wall where I start to sketch the church across the street. It’s beautiful the glass so meticulously crafted with each panel cut and set within an iron worked diamond pattern. The stone cut around each glass window with various depths of what looked like flower petals—stone which was at least an arms-length deep. Here bikes line the streets as the main mode of transportation and everywhere there are signs which read ‘for student access only’.

I turn my gaze upward towards a particularly high steeple and sketch the gothic architectural details when a flock of birds fly from a nearby rooftop. It takes me by surprise, not because it is frightening or anything, but because I stop and realise: I’m in Oxford. This is Oxford. I know I shouldn’t be all gaga over it but, I am. I put away my sketch book and take photos so I can paint them later. I want to live in the moment. To be present and enjoying the day, to burn into my memory the sights and sounds rather than to have my nose down and pen in hand.

My phone vibrates the text reads: I’m about 30 mins out! I smile and start walking towards the station, once more I am way too early. Instead of lingering I turn and wonder, finding a canal just a few steps away. It’s hidden a bit. The streets cross over with bridges made of stone or iron and trees hide the banks from view. Only the flats that butt against the canal’s edge have a view worth paying for. However, pedestrian paths run along every canal and this one just so happens to have benches dotting the canal’s edge. Sitting on the green painted bench I look over the gentle moving canal. I’m vibrating with energy as it hits me…it’s not just Oxford, I think it’s also that I’ve given myself permission to like someone. And he’s just about to show up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I found my heart in Oxford: part one

It started as innocuous as an early morning phone call to the taxi company—being car less in England has yet to dismay my travel plans. With my hair still in a bun, wet from my ‘night before’ travel routine I dress and wait the 10 minute eternity for a car to show up. There is a car honk and I say goodbye to my host.

“Have a great day in my old stomping ground,” he said as I wave and run out the door. I am too excited. It’s Oxford. I get to go to Oxford.

The drive to the bus station is short but filled with conversation. I’m overflowing with glee. “It’s a beautiful day,” I say. “I hope the weather holds,” I say. The cab drivers smiles and asks where I’m from and an obligatory conversation of why are you here begins.

“Where are you off to today?” the man asks in a strong Ukrainian accent.


“What’s in Oxford?”


“Oh? What kind of research?”

“I’m an artist—I’m researching the town for a comic book I’m working on.”

With that simple statement his interest peaks. There is a barrage of questions thrown in my direction. All of which I answer until we turn into the National Express Coachway terminal. We exchange coins, I give five pounds and he returns fifty pence and we say our goodbyes. My ticket is printed and I’m ready to hop on the bus, only, I’m entirely too early. I take a seat in the airport style coachway. Apparently it was remodelled just before I moved to England. Everything is still new and shiny. People seated in birch and steel, modern moulded semi-uncomfortable chairs.

Putting in my headphones, I turn on Spotify and bounce my black leather and fur lined boot to the beat. Looking at my phone a whole three minutes had passed.  I check into Foursquare and tweet out, “I’m going on an adventure—Bilbo style!” Friends tweet me back. The X5 with Cambridge on the side of the bus rolls in, I know the bus going in the opposite direction to Oxford is not far behind. From within my bright mustard yellow purse I withdraw a small mirror and red lip stain. A little girl with braided pigtails looks up at me. She came from nowhere. I smile. She points to her lips with adorable petite fingers. I laugh, “You want me to put lipstick on you?”

The little girl nods and her pigtails bounce. I laugh, “I don’t think your mom would like that.” She points to her lips more. I glance up to see my bus pull in. “I’m sorry sweetie, I’ve got to go. My bus is here.” And with all of the energy a toddler can have she bounded away towards her mum.

I step on the bus, feeling like that toddler, full of energy and a sense of wonder. I’m going to Oxford! Finding a seat, I settle in and send a text:

I’m on the bus! See you in a few hours!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cambridge: a love story

Not going to Cambridge or Oxford while in England, is like going outside at night and not looking at or for the moon. For a long time, both places have had so much importance in my life that when the opportunity to visit Cambridge came up, I had to do it.

I’ve secretly wanted to go to the University of Cambridge for as long as I can remember, but always thought it was just out of my reach due to my upbringing. An over-abundance of people telling me college was not as important as the afterlife—that I should spend my youth helping people instead of wasting money on something which is not guaranteed to propel you forward in life. That coupled with a relaxed attitude toward education in general led to a belief that I couldn’t get in even if I tried. My first year of High School (or college if you’re reading this from the UK) and last ended the same, with close to straight A’s. Looking back, I probably could’ve applied if I hadn’t been so jilted by my upbringing.

Still, with alumni that inspired such creativity in me, individuals like Isaac Newton, Jane Goodall, and Alan Turing, Cambridge’s name alone inspires a level of creativity, that when I stepped out, onto the grounds of Parker’s Piece, I was not quite ready for what I was filled with. Winding alleyways of cobblestone dotted with embedded bronze emblems, tight corners in which I could see my characters run through or away from. Buildings that while they were between two to four stories looked like skyscrapers with carved stone piercing the clouds above. And yet, a delicate lace-work of stone carving within the structures themselves served as a gentle reminder of sophistication, which still roams through the town. I had to withhold myself from taking pictures of everything. I had gone with full intention that I would sketch the world I saw, the beauty which a long time lover’s eyes could finally see. I walked for hours burning images into my brain. The way the water rippled around the gentle bridges over the River Cam. How the trees would sway and heavy branches of spring blossoms kissed the earth, refreshing their souls with the lapping of the river’s edge. And the smells—fresh cut grass—a clean crispness that clears the mind of all other things, leaving only the purist of pleasure behind.

Walking along the River Cam from Queen’s college to the Museum of Technology and back, sights of colourful Narrow Boats docked with potted plants sunbathing on the roofs made for quiet conversation between myself and my companion. However, the ruby, jade, and sapphire floating homes, in which swans and ducks paddled around, made me wonder if this was the sort of place I might want to settle in. A place where culture and tradition runs deeply through its veins and yet a great beer and good company is never farther than a leisurely stroll. It’s not London and oddly, I like that. And while, someday I might go back and finish my Master’s in Fine Art, possibly at Cambridge—I’m glad that I can view this wondrous place though experienced eyes and not that of a budding student. I can fall in love with the history and the now without wanting to prove to the world that ‘I’ matter.

My next adventure, one that I hope to share soon, is Oxford.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Mid-Atlantic Life

It’s been a little over two months since I’ve crossed the pond and settled into some sort of routine. Furthermore, it’s been almost a month since I’ve added a post here. Thankfully the two do go together. I’ve been surprisingly busy. While on one hand I’ve been able to free up time to do what I want, art—the other hand has been busy exploring and finding a routine that helps keep my mind from missing the sunny valley’s and warm weather of California.

Today though, my hosts asked what type of coffee I wanted. “An espresso, Siciliano, Americano?” And feeling, while the sky is a bit grey, my eyes a bit watery from yesterday’s wind, nostalgic; I chose the Americano. But when it came time to fill my single espresso with water I said stop not quite at the Americano fill. “That’s more of a Mid-Atlantic,” they said. Which sums up how I am feeling, I’m still halfway between two countries.

Of course there is a huge difference between visiting another country and actually living in another country. Thankfully, I have built-in friends with my hosts. They’ve been absolutely wonderful in this transition period, especially the few days when I spent them in bed. It was just too cold to move. I’m used to cold weather, but this was a different kind of cold. It was a cold that seeped into your bones and grabbed on with frosty fingers, which no amount of hot showers could shake loose.

Still though, in that time I managed to do some artwork. My mind is slowly working out the twists that have been tied up for years in logic driven work environments. And while the logic is still there, the need to be business savvy I find that the artistic drive which fuels all of my endeavors, coming into its own. The brushes in which I dip into my ink pot soul are wielded with more mastery than I can ever remember. A trust is forming within these skills that normally I’d wash away as a hobby, but now—as more people are actually purchasing my work—I can see that this is quite possibly what I am meant to do.

Another day, another step into a closer routine of artistic pleasure and business success, each day a clearing of cobwebs and negative thoughts, all the while trying to figure out if this ‘Mid-Atlantic’ lifestyle is one that I want, or if it’s just an experience that will help fill my soul with love, life, and experience.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

London - I love you

It’s 6PM on a Monday night and I’m in London. Outside I can see the peak of the spherical, blue building named The Gherkin Building. Next door, or really across the street is The Women’s Library, though I do not see anyone sitting at the tables from my 7th floor window. I only know what it is because that is what Google Maps told me.  Google Maps is my constant companion in this city. With one headphone in my ear and walking directions whispered softly it gives me more confidence than a paper map. Though don’t worry, I do have one of those as well.  I’ve always hated looking like a tourist, even if that is what I am.  I told one of my hosts this morning, “who would’ve thought that in the course of 6 months I would’ve traveled to London as often as I have.

I love London. I love the Underground. I love how easy it is to get wherever you want to go. Yet in this city, I find myself doing the same things that I did while I lived in California. The hotel has an excellent restaurant which I sat in and read all the day’s news. While exploring I found an excellent Thai Restaurant. Coffee. Tea. The conveniences and small luxuries that I loved while living downtown allowed me to have. The difference is that while I may be one in 8 million people, that is 7.5 million more people that I get to watch. Observation is a wonderful thing for a writer and an artist.