"Lover's Embrace" - Anniversary Piece - Celebrating 2 years of Creating Art.

When the gift of art came to me suddenly in June/July of 2017, I had to find a way to create what was newly in my brain. The colors and the shapes that were moving about demanded to come to life. They came as vector cats (cool cats) and through blips and blobs on my new digital canvas. The gift was there then … but time and practice has refined the gift over the past two years as my tools and methods continue to increase. This piece, “Lover’s Embrace”, is a more refined celebration of the “blobs” that I placed on canvas.

“Lover’s Embrace” celebrates four pairs of figures, face to face - front to front - and a simple sensuality passing between them. Embracing, engaging in different levels of space through position and perceived movement. This is my two year anniversary piece.

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“Boomerangs and Blobs” was my introduction into working with composition and various color palettes (this one was Eames - MCM). I was just learning my way around the canvas and it was exciting and fun. This was my very first abstract work in June/July of 2017.

“Boomerangs and Blobs” - this was the first abstract I did. I had fun guiding the pen across the tablet and learning my way around composition.

“Boomerangs and Blobs” - this was the first abstract I did. I had fun guiding the pen across the tablet and learning my way around composition.

"Unafraid" my reflections and inspiration.

Sometimes an inspiration comes so swiftly and dramatically to me that I have to bring it to life and do it with urgency - this one woke me up this morning after I had been working on it for several days. The title spoke to me and came instantaneously as inspiration much in the same way the symbolism did. So what does this piece say to me? Here is what I feel.

Central to “Unafraid” is the sublimated image of a lion’s head - the male with his large mane and staring straight into my soul. The Lion of Judah. The lion is not completely obvious, but He can make His presence known if you spend time looking at the work. The lion for me is symbolic of strength and courage, of protection and guardianship - of my spirituality and my daily walk. The Lion of Judah sits amidst abstract floral structures that carry themselves across layers on the canvas (moving from right to left and forward to back). They are symbolic of a planting and “blooming” … and in their depths are found the strength of the lion sitting with patience and keeping watch. Being planted and blooming amidst obstacles and walls and challenges and chaos. This is my meditation and the spirit in which “unafraid” was created.

In all of the stages of my life, the planting and blooming amidst the most chaotic and challenging of circumstances … the lion and all He symbolizes sits there quietly, keeping watch and lending all the courage and assurance I need. He assures me that I am not alone and that my courage, much like my art, has origins outside of me.

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Virginia War Memorial Inagural Exhibit - Four Curated Pieces from "The Red Dot Artist"

Truly one of the greatest honors of my life - besides serving my Country. This is another way to serve.

I was approached by the Director of The Virginia War Memorial and asked to submit artwork for an Inaugural Exhibit running from 11 September 2019 through 31 January 2020. The attached are the pieces chosen from my wide array of work.

This was the note I received from the Director after he approached me through Facebook Messenger and visited my website. I’m so humbled by this opportunity! The stars are aligning and God is good.

“Diana,

Amazing! Looking through your website is like walking through an exquisite gallery of colors, shape, and mood. Lots of “ooo’s” and “aaaaah’s” coming from the folks gathered around my computer screen.

I’d agree that 30x30 prints on metal would be a great fit, both for the size of the gallery and potential sales.

Looking through your site, we came up with four favorites. I have attached them to this. …”

The rest of the note was more legalese regarding the exhibit and commissions, etc.

The Virginia War Memorial is amazing!!! A quick blurb from their “about” page:

“The Virginia War Memorial is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s premier monument, museum, and educational center honoring the memory of all Virginians who demonstrated a willingness to serve and fight to defend the United States from World War II through today. 

Through educational outreach, exhibits, documentary films, and patriotic programming, we strive to continually educate students of all ages and backgrounds on the experiences of those who served and their families on the homefront. 

The Memorial's Museum, the Shrine of Memory, and the Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center serve as one of Virginia's best resources for educational programming regarding American history from the birth of our nation to the present. The Virginia War Memorial regularly hosts a variety of school programs, both on and off site, lectures, exhibitions, seminars, and ceremonies to fulfill our mission:

Honoring our Veterans, Preserving our History, Educating our Youth, and Inspiring Patriotism in All.”

Featured in a Local TV Story in Sarasota (SNN)

My art journey has taken some cool turns lately and one of them was a random contact from a local Sarasota reporter named Jessica Lang from a station called SNN. (Suncoast News Network). This morning she came and interviewed me. Over the past couple of days I have heard from people on Twitter and Facebook that this little piece has been shown on their local news stations! I’m so happy about that and hope it can inspire others to keep on trying and moving forward. Thank you Jessica for putting together and helping to inspire hope through part of my story.

https://www.snntv.com/story/40621550/multiple-sclerosis-relapse-turns-a-disabled-army-veterans-disabilities-into-artistic-ability

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Donations and thoughts ...

I just had one of the greatest honors in my lifetime! I received the letter below after making the donation of my “Majestic” artwork to the Tampa James A Haley VAMC SCI (spinal cord injury) unit. The piece will be placed in the USO Room where spinal cord injured Veterans go to play and rest. It will be on display with a nameplate. That absolutely humbles me to my core. I don’t know how else to explain it. Truthfully, i have probably given as much art away to charity as I have sold it. It feels so good to do - and it’s the right thing to do - my art begs to be used for good. Truth be known though I have to sell it in order to give it away. But I thought, what if I took donations in order to fulfill donations to various charities? Make sense? Almost like an Art Grant program. Art is something that lives outside of me and works through me. My art feels mystical and beautiful. It certainly feels way beyond any natural ability I possessed. That’s how I know that the car is being driven by something else - apparently that something else lives in my brain and made an emergence in 2017. It’s a gift I have to cherish and nurture - I have to continually learn. It’s a gift that begs to be given away. What good is art - especially in digital form - if it can’t come to life in the physical form?

I’m going to sleep on it …

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Majestic

Brain Injury, MS and Art

Sometimes life becomes art. This piece is geometric and modern but I felt called to create something very meaningful and more personal. A piece that would evoke a strong, visceral response from the onlooker and me. Each time I see it, I sense something different.

“Brainstormed” (the name itself has it’s own meaning to me) came naturally. This chaotic piece is filled with so much meaning. Having a greater understanding of that tells me that my art is going deeper, deeper within the abyss of human existence - of my own existence and existential search for meaning. There is so much to the story in this piece. I’m part of a special club (not by choice but by happenstance and accident) - it’s the “Disabled Veteran” club - and I am part of a subset of this special club as a “spinal cord injured” Veteran with Multiple Sclerosis (I am a functional quadriplegic) and a traumatic brain injury patient due to my motorcycle accident while in the Army. The TBI is different than my MS, it came long before MS showed itself to me. Sometimes I don’t know what is what - and it actually doesn’t really matter at this point. I am coping, and coping well.

So much here. I’ll leave it for your own interpretation - I already have mine - I’m learning that that is what art is all about.

“Brainstormed” - it means so much to me.

“Brainstormed” - it means so much to me.

Artsy Fishing - Time shared with my Twin Brother Michael

I have a twin brother (5 siblings in total) and his name is Mike. He’s known by “Mike D” in fishing circles because he has a fishing show called Lunkerville. Yesterday 30 April 2019 a show aired on CBS Sports where he taught me how to fish. I hadn’t fished in 43 years and it was so much fun! :) Back in February, Micheal came to spend the weekend. We fished and chatted and enjoyed time as brother and sister.

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Life has changed a lot since we last fished together over 40 years ago. We have taken our lives in different directions but still have that “twin” thing going. Perhaps NOT as strong as being an identical twin but definitely a connection there through blood and exhibited through some of the same, little habits. It’s neat to see and discover. I am discovering more about my siblings and it feels like meeting perfect strangers sometimes. Since I went off to Army bootcamp a day after turning 18, I haven’t settled home too much and have been on the move with marriage and career. I’ve moved in parallel with my siblings. It’s been great beginning to get to know them. It may seem strange that we don’t know each other that well (as I see it anyway) but my life involved leaving home when I turned 18. I never really went back. Time passes very quickly.

While Mike was filming, he asked me what I do now, as a retired person. I’m an artist. Who knew? Who would have imagined it! The truth is, I had always hoped to take music somewhere. Years consumed with drumming, voice and guitar made music seem like the most natural progression of artistic expression in my life. Not so, MS decided to put a big ole halt on that! First it was spasms in my hands affecting Flamenco guitar lessons I was taking, then spasms in my legs effecting bass drum timing and finally a paralyzed right vocal chord affecting the voice I was trying to use. Even if I was a super stellar musician with no physical disability, I always demanded continual lessons of myself in the disciplines I wanted to pursue. Continual practice and play. Some of the best parts of my life up to this point involved being a musician in different groups and performing. If things had been 100% for me, I would be continuing to grow as a musician and performing somewhere. God had different plans and I found my new artistic self as a digital visual artist. The blend of artistry and technology. Perfectly me.

The episode featured two pieces of my art in a quick flash … and I threw the RedDotArtist URL in there sheepishly (I felt like I was cheating somehow. lol).

What a wonderful time! I so appreciate my Twin and getting to know him a little better.

“Beautifully Shattered”

“Beautifully Shattered”

“Majestic” Wall Display

“Majestic” Wall Display

Mike and Diana - Twins

Mike and Diana - Twins

"Colliding Thoughts" Experimental Abstract

One of the first purely experimental pieces I have done - from start to finish. This piece represents the collision of a fractal swirl and a photograph. Afterwards, I moved with the spirit and created something that brought me somewhere between a wakeful and dream state.

“Colliding Thoughts” represents the acquisition, learning and use of more tools and software applications.

“Colliding Thoughts” - a fractal and photographic collision.

“Colliding Thoughts” - a fractal and photographic collision.

You can purchase an open edition of this piece on metal 20” x 28" - $350 shipped in the US. Please contact me if interested. thereddotartist@gmail.com

Vision Changing More Rapidly - living life with vertical lines.... Fresnel Prisms

This is a long one - catharsis.

I have disabilities that effect me head to toe but are not typically noticed because I don’t allow them to be … I like stealth.

I’ve been told my disability looks invisible. I think a lot of people look at me - my non-VA primary doctor and others especially - and they never see visibly what I have brewing inside neurologically from head to toe. I like it stealth except when I get an infection and a spiral of MS symptoms exacerbate from said infection - queue the token respiratory infection which just seem to love me. The thought of catching something and entering that spiral sometimes governs my desire to want to interact with the world - I find myself more reclusive just to avoid lots of people. I’m ok with that. It’s pretty much who I’ve always been. An introvert with chronic illness = even more introversion. I have to continually learn and relearn how to be patient with myself and how to be comfortable interacting with others day to day. Some days are perfect, some are not. That happens to everyone. It is absolutely one of life’s hardest lessons - especially with a disease process that can effect mood. While it doesn’t take my optimism away … it tests it.

It’s funny, a friend recently expressed to me “MS IS A BASTARD” and to that I add, so is TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). They are both bastards. But in the bastardness came the gift of art. So my optimism paid off and I was able to discover the gift that art has given and the abilities that have come to light. That’s progress and a wonderful gift to me. Art provides distraction and companionship when talking with people just won’t suffice.

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Today I went for a measurement related to longstanding diplopia (double vision) and went to a special practitioner in my Neuro-opthalmologist’s office in Sarasota, FL. This Allied Health professional was called an “Orthoptist”. In my almost 30 years of seeing neuro-opthalmologists, I have NEVER heard of this practitioner or measurement (where have you been these past 30 years, Rikki?). After multiple visits because of running into stuff with my elbows and decreased acuity and an apparent increase in double vision, the orthoptist was able to give me some relief by tricking my brain with the addition of a Fresnel prism to my left lens (this is a crutch to trick my brain and it is working). The results after almost a day are miraculous to me! But someone asked me this question and I ask myself the same thing. How will it effect my art? I don’t know! I really have no idea. I DO know that I seem to have an increase in hand-eye coordination! I can see a straight line for what it is and my hand can follow a straight line with the introduction of a prism. The lines I draw pencil to paper can be straight now and I can perceive them that way too. Case in point, I actually folded some laundry and got it right the first time - almost military precision. It sounds silly - but that is huge. I have hated folding laundry for years because I don’t see the folds and corners correctly. My military self needs those straight lines and precision, my eyes weren’t seeing them that way and would never comply. A series of fold, unfold, refold, unfold and then passing it along to my wife for precision. Ugghh. But that is a huge element and it could definitely effect my art!!!

Since 2015, my vision has continued to decline at a more rapid pace than it ever has, I’ll address these next sentences like I am talking directly AT a couple things (it’s weird, but it’s therapeutic for me). Here goes in my sarcastic voice:

“Thank you Keratoconus and thank YOU TOO my 4th (trochlear) cranial nerve for screwing up my eyes. Also, thank you again, “Mr. Motorcycle Helmet”, for saving my head when I was 18. You were the only thing between me and the pavement. The people who recovered you never allowed me to see the damage you sustained. They told me it was pretty bad and described it to me - I don’t remember much at all. I don’t remember much of anything from 9 months of hospital and rehab. When I hit my 30’s and in full stride of my career - the BASTARD decided to peek in, enter and make a home.” I’m venting … it’s good to vent sometimes. Life is a confluence of MS and TBI for me - sometimes it is hard to distinguish them.

35 lbs heavier and uncontrolled neurogenic bowel at the time (what a goofy smile - LOL). Since I couldn’t make the changes myself, the disease process forced my hand.

35 lbs heavier and uncontrolled neurogenic bowel at the time (what a goofy smile - LOL). Since I couldn’t make the changes myself, the disease process forced my hand.

Multiple hospital stays ranging from 6 to 16 days since Summer 2018 = total lifestyle changes. I can’t really control the disease process but I can control me and how i feel about myself. I feel very content and at peace.

Multiple hospital stays ranging from 6 to 16 days since Summer 2018 = total lifestyle changes. I can’t really control the disease process but I can control me and how i feel about myself. I feel very content and at peace.

Well, here I am, vision corrected in a way that it has never been for 30 years. It isn’t crystal clear by any means - in fact the prism makes the left eye cloudy and blurry BUT, I am not seeing double. After so much “hostpitaling” over the past year and a half, I am on a new journey to be healthier and make conscious heaklthy choices. There are things within my control and things out of my control. I’ll work with the things I can change.

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“Enlightenment” my Fractal Hybrid version of an eye.

“Enlightenment” my Fractal Hybrid version of an eye.

I am thankful for a gifted and perceptive Neuro-Opthalmologist who had the perception - Dr. Marc Levy, Sarasota Retina Institute (and he is the staff eye doc for the Tampa Bay Rays!!!) - I’m planning to deliver a little print to his office as a “thank you”

"Majestic" - Entering it into the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition

I recently made the decision to enter “Majestic” into the 2019 National Veterans Creative Arts Competition. A few weeks ago, I was struggling over my decision regarding what piece to choose and on what medium? As it turns out, Majestic” had not made it’s way out of my creative consciousness yet. It still had a couple more weeks left to brew in the depths of my soul until things materialized. I have no better way of explaining art’s expression through me - it just happens spontaneously and feels instinctual. It’s a cool and very new feeling. Even music (drums and guitar mainly) never felt this natural or easy.

“Majestic” just felt right for this competition. Even if this piece does not make it to the National level, it will be on display in the Spinal Cord Injury Clinic at the James A. Haley VA Hospital - that’s a very humbling prospect. I feel very blessed in the journey and honored to have a voice.

Update 13 May 19 (RIP, Dad - 10 yrs) - the piece made it to the National Level but did not “place”. It will be on display at the Straz Center in Tampa, FL with other artists’ pieces. I’m making arrangements to donate this piece to the Tampa Veterans Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Center. I can think of no better honor.

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“Majestic” this piece is the ultimate expression of serenity to me.

“Majestic” this piece is the ultimate expression of serenity to me.

2019, here I come! Ending 2018 with "The Pearl of France"

My final piece of 2018 was a seaside town on the French Riviera called Menton. I titled this piece “The Pearl of France” - a title Menton is known as. I’ve never traveled to France before but am always enamored and amazed by some of the beautiful and colorful buildings on the hills throughout Europe. This piece captures so much of what I love when looking at a photograph and trying to find and express the best interpretation for me. Something that captures little details, like the blue sailboat cover or the two sided lighthouse - both painted and bare. Clouds moving in and a steeple that reaches towards the sky. Non-abstract pieces are more of a rarity … but I wanted to do something special to close out 2018. “The Pearl of France” is the piece that shuts the door on this year and ushers in a new one.

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Perception - I see things a little differently!

I learned something when I examined this picture today and I think it might shed a little light on the way my brain processes and could be a look into why I developed artistic ability through brain injury - maybe this gives an inkling.

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"angst" and the 'Mysterious Lady' - an artistic expression of my alter ego

What do you see when you look at this piece? Is it the eyes, the hands the lips? All those things more readily visible if you look for them. Is it the abstract mask removed from her face featuring her eyes and nose more prominently but tipped on it’s side? That is there too if you can find your way to it. She removes the mask and reveals that person deep inside. What about the scribbles on her lips, coming out of her mouth?

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“Art” - the Amazing ‘Benefactor’

Art has given me hope, new meaning in life, and an almost bottomless wonder and fascination with a never ending curiosity. There are enough of all of these things to take me throughout my lifetime and help me move forward in a happier and more engaged way.

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