Meeting Cher & FNMS

One day, when I was around around 15 years old, my Mom was surfing around the internet, curious to see if there was anything out there about Nager Syndrome, since finding that sort of thing on the internet was something fairly new to us.  She came upon a website called FNMS.org . We were all surprised to find an actual group on such a rare syndrome. The only other person I ever met with Nager Syndrome, that I can recall up to that point, was a child much younger than I, in a waiting room at a hospital, called “Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters“, in Norfolk Virginia. We had been seeing a plastic and craniofacial  surgeon there by the name of Dr Magee, co-founder of Operation Smile. He was a very nice man and I liked him very much. He helped make a difference in my life, even if the last surgery he helped perform with another surgeon did not end up well.

Mom spent a lot of time talking to the founder of Foundation for Nager & Miller Syndrome. Margaret was extremely supportive and happy to help us be part of the FNMS community. When I was 17 years old, the next conference came closer, and we both went together to Atlanta, Georgia. That years conference was held in combination with Children’s Craniofacial Association, the organization Cher helps support. For either organizations, the conferences are held at a different place around country, about every other year. I remember not talking to too many people, because I was still an extremely shy person. But I did open up to just a few. And I do have a few memorable moments. It was during dinnertime and there were a few guest speakers discussing life as someone “different” and their life’s stories. I remember a man describing how he met his wife and I remember listening very intently and curiously. His name was David Roche. David helped start something called “Love At Second Sight”. I think it was inspired by how his wife initially responded towards him when she saw him for the first time, and then fell in love with him at second sight.

Another highlight of that evening was meeting a very special guest. We all were not sure if she would really come, but Cher did. And Cher was extremely kind and gave her time to each table and person who wanted to meet and talk to her. My mom and I were sitting with a group of other ladies with their kids and Cher came over and sat between my mom and someone else. What’s funny is everyone was too nervous and star struck to talk to her…  except for my mom, who asked her all sorts of questions (no, I don’t remember what questions they were). Mom spoke to her like Cher was any other person. Cher was not dressed up as a performer and it was nice to see her *normal* side. And she’s much smaller in person. In the end, I got arm in arm with Cher as we got our photograph taken together. And that was so cool. Then before we all knew it, she disappeared and was never seen again at the conference that year.

Cher & I in Atlanta, Georgia, June 2001

It was a very interesting experience. Mom and I talked about it a great deal afterwards. We kept in touch with FNMS and some people from CCAKids, and, after a long while, life went on. I could no longer remember everything that happened or everything I felt or thought, as it usually happens with time passing further away.

Sixteen years have passed since then. FNMS continued having their own conferences every other year in different parts of the US. Then the 2017 conference was coming up and it was to be held in of all places, Boston, Massachusetts. Up to this point, I pretty much chose not to go to the conferences. Not because I wasn’t entirely interested. I think it was in part because I was still lost in my own world of trying to figure out life, the future, goals. I kept making excuses whether they were legitimate or not. But now, there was no way I could say no, considering it was only one state away from where I live, in New Hampshire.

And so I went. Except this time I was there by myself. My Dad drove me to the hotel and left after saying his hello and goodbyes. As much as people were concerned and felt a bit sorry I didn’t come with any other family members or friend with me, I honestly did not mind and completely understood why no one chose to come with me. Basically, I’m an adult. I don’t need my mommy or daddy tagging along with me for a trip. If I can have that opportunity to have that bit of independence, then I will have it. That’s not to say I never want to go with anyone ever on any trip. But just this once at least. Usually when I am with someone, people talk to that person over me, whether it is a discussion about me or not. My family is very sensitive to that and wanted to give me that sense of confidence to handle things on my own. I appreciated that. It can be very easy to just let someone else do the talking for you if they are right there. I feel that because my parents weren’t there, adults paid more attention to me and what I had to say. Kids saw me as an adult with Nager Syndrome on her own. Maybe that makes a difference in some way.

Rather than give you an overly in-depth review of the things that happened (I’ll admit it, I started to do that when I realized………. who the heck will want to read that?? Go ahead, laugh :p), I will give you the highlights and my overall thoughts on things that stood out to me and what I took away with it.

When I arrived that first evening, I had a sense that this was somehow going to be an important conference. Over the past 16 years I’ve gone through quite a bit and have changed quite a bit. This seemed like the next step into something new in my life. It felt so strange seeing the younger kids with Nager & Miller Syndrome, mostly Nager, all in one big room. It brought me back to my own childhood and the things I experienced then. It gave me the chance to reflect on it a bit more than usual.

Most of the kids and adults with Nager or Miller Syndrome, and their siblings or family members

The first highlight for me would be sitting in for the geneticist researchers. That was purely optional. You either attended that, or hung out with the others playing with toys, or doing arts and crafty things. I had never been to a geneticist discussion before, so I sat in for it. It was pretty interesting. A lot of technical talk about how they found the genes for various genetic conditions and their goals and where things are for Nager and Miller Syndrome. I’m not sure I’d sit through another one, but I’d be happy to hear updates on them finding anything in relation to the syndromes. My impression of one of the lead doctors/researchers of the Syndromes that led the discussion, was that he spoke to us like we were all children rather than adults having the ability to understand. But I do know he was given business cards and websites to check out by some people who were born with either Syndromes (myself included). And I think now he has a better understanding just how different we all are. Some have intellectual challenges, some not so much. It can be easy for many to assume that is part of the Syndromes.

Afterwards, there was a man who I noticed had a fancy DSLR camera. I didn’t really know who he was, but he was there to take pictures of everyone who had Nager and Miller Syndrome. We each had our own moment of a professional photography session with him. Although it didn’t hit me right away just how much of a professional photographer he was until later. I’ve had professional photography photos shoots done of myself before, years ago. I felt terribly awkward ha. I didn’t really feel awkward this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m at a different point in my life, or he is just that good of a person and photographer to make anyone feel at ease and themselves. It could be a combination. What I do know is that he took the best photos of me that I’ve ever seen in a very long time. I see the photos he took of me and I think: “Wow, I look… beautiful in these photos…. *slightly shocked*” The photographer is named Rick Guidotti. He did a talk, accompanied by video and photo slideshows, discussing about what he does, his reasoning for doing it, and how it is effecting the lives of those he photographs. I loved it. It was probably one of my favorite parts of the conference. He has a theme about celebrating the beauty of genetic diversity and changing how people view those with genetic physical differences, even within ourselves. There is a phrase that he uses that just says it all: “Change how you see, see how you change.”

Here are two of my personal favorites from Rick Guidotti:

Another event that stood out to me at the conference was a documentary that we watched called Logan’s Syndrome . He and his sister were both born with Miller Syndrome, which I think is even more rare than Nager Syndrome, which is saying a lot. It was, and is, a really good film. It struck me with how different perspectives and upbringings can shape our outlook on life. Not everyone has that strong support group or strong family ties others might have. Thankfully times have changed since the 80s/90s and there’s a better support system around. But I just can’t imagine my Dad doing what his dad did. I think that was the saddest part of the documentary. Logan’s Syndrome recently won the award for best feature documentary at the Carmel International Film Festival, so it’s awesome to see the word getting out about Logan’s Syndrome. If you can get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

Me with Bridget (Left) and Erica (Middle). Bridget and Erica were both born with Miller Syndrome.

There was a trolley ride around Boston that was pretty fun. It was neat seeing certain places of history. The only downside to the ride was that it was sort of difficult to hear what the person over the intercom was saying, thanks to some teenagers who were chattering about whatever behind me… I have a hearing aid that hears everything all at once so that was hugely distracting. And slightly annoying. But I just listened to the guy talking about history as best as I could. The teens weren’t aiming to be distracting, so I don’t blame them for being teens hanging out together. I found the ride on the way back to the hotel to be a bit more pleasant, personally.

On the last night we had the annual Dinner Dance. It was pretty fun. Food was delicious and desert was a chocolatey goodness. One of the adults, born with Miller Syndrome, performed a few piano songs and it was really great to listen to him play. One of the songs David Gonzalez played was dedicated to the founder of FNMS, Margaret Hogan, who passed away a few years ago. They had a DJ who was okay. He played a lot of music I don’t think most kids knew. I didn’t know half of the songs and well… I ..  I think some DJs think they have to be *EXTRA* kid friendly to us sensitive delicate people. It was slightly hard getting in the mood to let loose ha. But not only that, I feel supremely awkward dancing in public. I wouldn’t even call what I did on the dance floor *dancing*. Just swaying back and forth in all awkwardness. But I know part of that is because when you dance, you truly express yourself openly. So far, I feel most comfortable when my cat is my audience haha. I do love to dance when the song moves me right. I don’t know, maybe someday I’ll push myself out there.

Dressed up for the Dinner Dance for the last night of FNMS Conference

There was a group discussion for teens and adults with the syndromes to hang out and talk away from everyone else. The point of it was to talk as openly as possible without worrying about what others without syndromes, others like our parents, thought. We could talk openly about things in our lives. It was interesting. Slightly nerve-wracking though, because we were in a white meeting room with a large table and swivel chairs, and everybody… most people, were pretty shy and quiet while letting the social worker do most of the talking. I’m not sure having a social worker there helped as much as the people who planned it thought it would. I think it only made people clam up more. Myself included. I do better one on one. Bigger crowds just depends on the atmosphere and who they are. It almost felt like we were in high school having a special meeting instead of simply hanging out in a relaxed chill-out room just talking to each other about life. It didn’t even have to be the kind where one person at a time talks. I think that’s a bit too intimidating for people who are typically very shy around strangers.

After the teens and adult hang out

Even with all of that criticism, I think we all got something important out of it. I know I did. I came away with a new sense of understanding that, the way I am, is not so unusual as I thought it was. I am slow at getting things done and accomplished. It takes longer for me to do things. I can’t help it. And that’s okay. Because I am not alone in that. It is a common thread among us. Another common thread is how quiet our voices are. Some of us even sound kind of similar. Many of us tend to write things down by pen and paper or by phone or tablet. Most people used their phones. Phones and tablets are so much nicer to use than the clunky communication devices because they are small and common in life. I tried using a communication tablet device when I went to college in the first half of the year. But I just couldn’t see myself lugging that heavy thing around, along with my art books and supplies, when I could just write it down faster (this was before I got my own phone, and even now, I go back and forth between phone tapping or writing on paper). Many of us have a similar way of walking and moving about. We have different arm lengths, shapes, and finger digit numbers. Some are not affected as much, while others are mild to greatly affected. Those of us who are mildly to greatly affected are always looking for the easiest, quickest ways of doing anything in life that many would find quick and easy. Many of us had food texture sensitivity. Most of us couldn’t handle hard or crunchy food. In fact, one thing I quite enjoyed about the conference was the type of food they offered. Most of it was soft food. There was some crunchy, but most of it was soft. I thought I was being overly sensitive and picky at home because there were just certain types of textures that I just do not feel comfortable eating even if they are soft. But after the conference, it felt, I guess, natural, or normal. Many of us struggled with how to make friends or how to deal with people who stare or gawk at the way we look. We realized… I realized, that we are more alike than we realize. But we are also our own unique selves. Since the conference ended, we have continued communicating with each other.

There was one last thing that seemed to be a common thread that I didn’t see until someone pointed it out at the last dinner. Many of us born with Nager & Miller Syndrome have that creative heart. Whether it be in music, dancing, singing, writing, photography, or painting/drawing. I think part of that reason is the desire for people to see far beyond what they initially see. I know for me, growing up, I always used my artwork as a gateway to open a dialogue with anyone who was interested in talking to me. Doing that enabled me to open up more easily. Although I did go through a period where I was tired of using my artwork to *prove my worth*, because I felt like I was more than just how amazing it was that I could do this sort of artwork, given the way I look to people. I had to learn to let that go and to stop concerning myself with what others think of me or my artwork so much. Eventually, I did sort through that and now I am back to enjoying and sharing a passion and love for what I can do with the world around me. It is also another way to express what is it in my heart.

Finally, what I came away from the conference was that we tend to try so hard to be *normal*, like every one around us, that we feel like the awkward person in the room, or family. But when we reach out to one another, or get to know someone born with something similar to yourself, you realize you don’t need to try so hard to be something you are not. Do what you can with the best that you can, and don’t stress out over it.

Some of the FNMS Family

Adventures of Little One

One commission I had this year was of a cat named Little One. This one was particularly special to do because it was my first Cat Commissioned piece. I’ve done cat paintings before, of my cats Micah and Rain, but never of others’. Not because I didn’t want to. But I just hadn’t been asked to do one, until Little One came along. I was usually asked to paint dogs. The pet parents of Little One happen to be fans of Mr. Rain, who follow him on Facebook. I share my artwork on his page along with his silliness and stories.

This painting ended up being a tremendous challenge for me, more so than I thought. I made the first mistake of not doing what I did with previous watercolor paintings: Test Mini Painting. Starting it out like that helps me to figure out what I should, and should not, do with the official painting. Instead, I went in headfirst into the official painting. In the end, I just was not happy with it. I got up to this point before I realized…. Ok this is not working out….

My first painting attempt that failed. I was not happy with it.

The first issue I had with it was the window. The original photo has a window behind him. And I thought it would add an interesting source of light. But in the end it was throwing me off. If the light is behind a subject, the back and outline would be brighter than the foreground subject. And that just won’t do to shine a light on the main subject. You want him to stand out. The window was just too distracting for me. The second issue I had was the overall color of the kitty boy himself. He was turning into a cartoon character with bold colors and that didn’t feel right. Was he an orange kind of cat? Sure. But not THAT orange. I had two photos to work with of him in that pose. One was the actual photo I was using, and the other was the same setting in a different perspective. The problem I ran into was that each photo had a different color saturation. The main photo was more bold and color saturated than the other one. I had a hard time determining which was the true color of Little One. Plus I made the mistake painting in the whites of his fur, instead of trusting the whiteness of the paper instead. It just all around looked amateurish to me.

I don’t want to give someone something I am not happy with. So I decided that I needed to start over, from the very beginning. Jo, the pet parent of Little One, was gracious enough to be open to starting over. I needed clarifications on the true color of his fur, his eyes, favorite colors (which I ask everyone), if it was ok if I did this or that instead of where I was going before. She was very helpful in providing the details I needed. The original photo was a bit blurry and super-flashed, so I needed as much information as possible, however small it was.

Now I was armed with all that I need to know for sure. I had several references, provided by Jo, of cats with similar eye colors, as it was difficult to get a clear idea of his eye color in the original photos. My favorite eye reference photo was the very bottom photo of the floofy orange cat in the below photo collage. It just seemed to be the best reference for the eyes. The second photo in the above photo, where he is looking to the side, turned out to be more true to his fur color, so I had to continuously refer to that to keep myself as consistent as possible. The kitty in the below photo with the tie is also of Little One, but with fur that was cut short, which revealed a lighter undercoat.

This time, before starting the official second painting of Little One, I did a mini test. I was not trying to do a complete mini test painting. Just until I got the point where I had a plan of how to go about painting this kitty boy. I felt more confident about this new direction, and set out to start over on the second painting.

As you saw in my first painting, I had selected a blue background. I thought having a cool color would go well against the warmth of the overall colors of the painting. So I continued on with that concept into the second painting.

But the more I worked on it, the more something bothered me. And I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly, until I took a step back and later took a glance. Then it came to me. Oh, the background color feels out of place! Oh shoot lol. No way I was going to do a third painting of Little One :p So I had to figure out how to turn the cold wall into a warm wall. I tried out various things that didn’t do very much. But after awhile I decided to just jump into it and start adding a warm grey/pale brown diluted color tones in watercolor and polychromos colored pencils. It turned out more like a….warm grey with a ting of blue glow…? Which ended up being the right call since grey was Jo’s favorite color haha (which I knew ahead of time, but I kind of forgot until I was almost finished with the painting…). I wasn’t even thinking about that when I went in that direction, so it’s kinda cool how it worked out in the end. It also made Little One stick out more, I think. It gives it a warm cuddly feeling that was almost lost with the cool of the blue.

“Little One”
9.7×13.1 inches
Traditional Mixed Media painting using Faber-Castell polychromos colored pencils, Sennelier watercolors, Sennelier soft pastel chalks, and a Uni-ball Signo UM-153 gel pen on Cold Press paper.

While I was painting Little One, I was also recording videos of myself painting. I had to fiddle around with finding the right spot to position a tripod and learn to let go of that awkwardness of ‘being watched’ on video. I normally stop to take photos of my progress and make a slideshow of it, but I got tired of stopping every few minutes to take a photo, so I decided it was time to solve the video footage mystery. The videos I took of me painting Little One aren’t that great, but it was a good learning experience. After finishing Little One, I started doing some research and, mostly on YouTube, I learned how people record themselves doing artwork, or how-to videos like in cooking or crafts or unboxing stuff. It was actually pretty cool and ingenious. I ended up getting a tripod that offered more flexibility in movements and reorganized my work-space that is more efficient and feels more like an artist work-space that I can focus in. I had a hard time with that before. So, maybe you’ll see a different kind of art video from me someday. I make no promises 🙂

Jo and her husband were very very happy with it, especially when they saw it in person. What do you think of the painting of Little One?

 

Mr Rain doing his own bit of critiquing. I wonder what he’s thinking………

Showing Off At The Library

Last year, I had the honor of showcasing some of my artwork for public display for the first time ever. That’s right, my very first Art Show!

From November to the end of December 2016, I displayed 5 pieces of original traditional art pieces. Having never done this before, this was quite a learning experience. But a fun one. Having an art show to prepare for forced me to finally find an affordable cost saving way to frame my artwork. Because of this, I discovered a way to frame something not just for artwork for future art shows (hopefully!), but also for those who commission artwork from me in the future. I now use a frame less sort of framing design that has a foam backing, acrylic sheet, and something to hold it all together. Acrylic sheets are not as fragile as glass sheets. They have a far less likely of a chance to crack when being shipped to its’ destination, or if it were to fall. It is also lighter and easier to cut. And of course has UV protection. I personally love the frame-less look. The appearance of floating on a wall. It’s simple, but beautiful. And the person could hang it up right away without waiting to have it framed.

Also upon my research into framing, I have learned that big art shows prefer the acrylic sheets over glass because of how fragile glass can be. I imagine it can be quite stressful if an artwork were to fall and crack the glass!

If someone in the future prefers a different frame they could always easily take the frame a part and put it in something more fancier. The clips hold everything together very tightly so there is no need to glue the artwork onto the foam board.

Here is what it looked like hanging on the walls at the Library:

When I went to go pick up my artwork at the end of my Show, the ladies who worked there were quite happy to meet me. I was told that people who came to the library loved my artwork. It was a big hit with everyone. Most of them adored the fox and the kitten paintings the best. I had left a stack of business cards (in a homemade box to hold them in) and… maybe more than half were gone? It was nice to hear what people thought, because I hadn’t really heard of any sort of reaction, except for the person in charge of the Show. Of course, I left whatever remaining business cards at the library jusssttt in case. Some others, who were at the library doing different things, were pretty excited to meet the artist behind the pieces hung on the walls. It was fun, even if I was a little shy (It’s a work in progress).

I want to thank my friend Amy for  encouraging me to sign up and for the person in charge of the Local Artist Show, Eric, for letting me showcase my artwork 🙂

I hope to do it again someday!

Two Years Of Change

The last time I wrote a blog, or really did anything productive on my website, was on August 22, 2014. A lot has changed since then.

The first change was the loss of my best fur buddy cat, Micah. He passed away just three weeks after my last blog post. It was an extremely difficult time and life was no longer the same without him. We had a very tight bond. Not having another cat around at all never felt right. It felt lonely. Having a pet in your life does so much and to suddenly be without that feels more devastating and lonely.

Year 2015 was spent researching the different kinds of cats out there and then waiting until I could pick the kitten up. Waiting was soooooo hard. But so worth it. July 31rst, 2015, I met a stunning miniature puma, a ruddy Abyssinian boy kitten, who was quite scared and unsure of the car ride. The whole way home, the only way he would stop meowing was when I had a comforting hand on him, or near him, in his cat carrier that I used to use for Micah. Having an Abyssinian is so fun. I cannot believe how smart he is. They don’t have the nickname *Abyssilians* for nothing!

Meet Rain, on our ride home, when he & I first met

I spent the next few months enjoying my new kitty and getting to know him, and vice versus. Savoring his kittenhood, because I knew it would be gone in a flash.

I would love to incorporate Rain into my blog posts, I feel he could teach us a lot about pet health and behavior (and adventures). Should I mix it in my blog posts with my artwork posts? Have a separate Blog Site for Rain? Or just create Rain Centered Blog Postings on my website here? There’s so many options! I would love to hear your thoughts about doing this, and what way you believe would be preferable.

Most of  year 2016 was spent figuring out what to do with my artwork. I didn’t really want to focus mainly on greeting cards. Sure, I’ll do them when I create something card-worthy. But it’s so much pressure trying to create something specifically for a greeting card. I get overwhelmed and then it makes me not want to do anything. It doesn’t bode well when I try to work like that. In the end, I taught myself how to paint in watercolor with mixed media. I studied various YouTube artists, their techniques, advice and tools that they used. I was able to try it out for myself last summer in small studies and I fell in love with how detailed I could get. Pastel paintings are fun, but there are some aspects of it that makes me…. Kind of lag on working on an art piece in pastels, which isn’t a good thing especially if it is a commission! Some things I find difficult and trying are applying pressure to the sanded paper board when I transfer a drawing. Or when I rub my fingers to death on the sanded pastel board. And how dusty the air gets around me as I use the pastel chalks. So, it’s a beautiful medium, but I needed to find an alternative. And I did. And I love it. I love that the amount of details I can get in a painting seems far more effective than with using straight up pastels. And it is so fun to mix different art mediums in one art piece. I can still use pastels in the paintings, but mostly to make it pop out a bit more. It’s mainly touch ups near the end. For those who have been following my artwork over the years, I hope you notice a difference in my traditional artwork.

So far, I have completed two paintings in watercolor mixed media and one illustration in color pencil mixed media. I will be posting separate blogs that will go into a bit more detail about them, but you can watch the videos of them here. Each video has a song in it (in case you are at work, need to turn the volume up or down, or need to use headphones or something). They are all fairly short in time length. Posted in the order of creation. Be sure to watch in HD!

“Baby Rain”

“Dancing Snowflakes”

 “Hazel Puppy”

Let me know what you guys think!

I am open to doing artwork for people, commissions. If you know someone who would be interested, or maybe if you yourself are interested, send them my way by email or let me know!

~Sarah

The Worth Of A Life

First, if you have not read this, do so now. It is what this blog post is about: Richard Dawkins says fetuses with Down’s Syndrome should be aborted Okay, you read all that? All set? Here we go: I get that this is a personal choice and that people will ultimately read more

You Should Really Read This

And not just this! Oh noooooooo-!

If you’ve been following along, last time I showed you pictures of two torn up teddy bears, with scarcest of information about them. (see previous blog post for more info)

So here we go:

Back in mid-May I was confronted with the opportunity to design something for someone. Something I never thought I’d ever get the chance to do. At least not anytime soon. It was also an opportunity for me to really flex my artistic muscles with Manga Studio 5.0. And man did it ever!
Ok so I’ll just stop torturing you now and tell you what it was:

It was a cover design foorrrrr…. A book! And not paper type book, but an e-book.

And here I present to you the creation:

 (click to view larger image, then larger on bottom right of the image)

My Soul To Keep

“My Soul To Keep”
Photoshop CS4 & Manga Studio 5.0

This is a memoir about a woman who went through a great deal of things in her life time, starting from when she was only a child. As you can tell from this cover picture, it was not always a happy childhood….

First, I worked on it in Manga Studio. Then I did the rest of the drawing part (most of it) in Photoshop. After I finished the drawing, I colored the entire thing in Manga Studio 5.0.

The most challenging part of drawing this, for me, was the wheelchair. Aside from the fact that I don’t normally do mechanical subjects in my artwork, I had to be sure I used the right sort of wheelchair Gracie Lea Silverwood used when she was a child (Ah! There it is! That’s what GLS stood for!). I had to get the right perspective, the right angle, the tiny little details of what made the wheelchair, the wheelchair. And the sizing differences, between the chair, the child, and the teddy bear, taking into consideration what her body type was at the time, going through what she went through. I admit the wheelchair was a bit intimidating to work on. There were so many details to pay attention too!

I also used references of her from when she was younger to how she looks today, taking note of the features that made her who she was and is. Gracie has informed me, since the publishing of this e-book, that people who have known her the best, say that this depiction of the little girl looks just like her. Even the scenario she is depicted in resembles familiar memories.

I also had to get a feel for the emotion behind the overall story. Gracie told me a number of stories from her childhood and even some from her young adult life. I got a sense of what she had to deal with. Gracie already had a general idea of what she wanted as a cover, she just needed someone to make it come to life. I wanted to really capture the emotion felt during her childhood years. The teddy bear is also very significant. But I won’t tell you how. You must read the book in order to find out for yourself!

I truly hope I was able to capture the strong emotions and messaging of the story of Gracie’s childhood. It’s not always something that can be so easily done! Let me know what you think! And while you’re at it….

You can buy the e-book directly from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Click on either of these icon images to go directly to the e-book.

Amazon USAAmazon Canada As you can see from the USA and Canada sites, it’s already gotten rave reviews! Yyyayyy!

Note: Even if you do not have a Kindle, but you have either an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet you can still read it via the Kindle App (Google Play has a free Kindle App) or you can read it directly on the computer through the Amazon website. So you’ve got options!

This book cover was a tremendous challenge. But a welcomed challenge. I feel like I learned a great deal. I’m so glad I had this opportunity! :}

Here is a synopsis of the story:
Most little girls dream of tea parties and playing with dolls. Their biggest worry is making sure Mommy or Daddy chase the monsters out of their closets and out from under their bed. However what happens when your own Mother is the monster, instead of the arms of love and safety? “My Soul to Keep” is the story of Gracie, a disabled little girl who, from day one, knew she was an unwanted child, just trying to survive and avoid her mother’s daily abuse. All the while, she struggled to hide her pain from the outside world.

I hope you all get a chance to read this inspiring story! And feel absolutely free to share this around! 😀

~Sarah

A Preview of the Big First

Hello Everyone,
How was your summer? Hopefully it was a great summer! Today marks the official start (via calendar) of Fall! And as much as I do like being warm, I lovvvvveee fall. And if you live around New England I think you’ll understand why. :}
My summer was pretty busy…
For the past several months, I have been hard at work to create something very important, something pretty big, I think. It will be one of those “firsts” in accomplishing something one could only dream of, as an artist. For that project, I have created three drawings & paintings. Well, one drawing, two paintings, to be exact. The drawing is, as one can see, a logo of a somewhat torn Teddy and toy blocks.

(click  to view larger image)

STK Logo“STK Logo”

Photoshop CS4

The next image is of a digital painting I did in Photoshop. This is a bit out of the box of what I normally tend to do so I personally find this portrait of the teddy bear eerily cute and disturbing. And for good reasons, aside from the appearance.

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Innocence Left To Keep

“Innocence Left To Keep”

Photoshop CS4 & Manga Studio 5.0

So why the torn up teddy bears? What does STK stand for? What does GLS stand for? Well, I guess you’ll have to wait and see the next time you hear from me! ;D
Also, I will have some other news to share with you. But I will save that for next time.
I hope you enjoy these pictures and have had a great summer!

~Sarah

Tyler & Other Things

I recently finished a new art piece, simply titled “Tyler”. It was first commissioned to me late last year after someone saw a drawing portrait I did, in charcoal, of my brother and my now sister-in-law, on Facebook. She knew, in general, that she wanted a portrait done of her fiancee’s dog. It was just a matter of choosing the right photo that would make the great painting. There was one with Tyler’s owner, sitting next to him near the water one day at their favorite beach. It was his favorite photo. The problem was the subjects were too far away from the camera for me to feel comfortable about using it as a painting piece. Then I saw a close up of Tyler that showed, I thought, his personality very well. Sure, there was a person right next to the dog, but I could take her out in the painting. So after we agreed to use that photo and what size it would be and such, I started the picture.
Believe it or not, the toughest part about painting this one was the water.. Maybe I did not have the right amount of various colors to choose from, or something.. But I seemed to have difficulty getting the right color. It was blue green, brownish, blue, grey… A mix! AAAHH! In the end, I think it turned out quite well. After working on the sky, the water, the sand (in that order), I worked on the main subject – Tyler! It was fun watching him come to life right before my eyes. One of the last things I painted before doing the finishing touch ups was his tongue. It literally started out as a purple tongue. It tickles me to think that. Maybe it’s the art geek inside me haha. I just love how it stands out from all the yellow, brown, and blue colors.

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Tyler

“Tyler”
28 hours
Soft Pastel Chalk on pastel board size
18 x 24 inches
Completed 02/28/13

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Tyler Vs Tyler fb

Tyler Vs Tyler

Also I completely forgot to share this outside of Facebook but I did two other paintings last year. One was a homemade gift exchange with my sister for Christmas. She made me an afghan of my choice of colors, while I did a painting (of her choice in subject and size).
Sister wanted a willow tree in autumn, with certain favorite colors and certain favorite flowers (I chose to portray hydrangeas, which is perfect for fall/autumn). Time of day was up to me. And she liked streams. The rest was up to me to figure out on how to portray her “simple” criterias.

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The Willow Tree

The Willow Tree

About 20 hours in soft pastel chalk on board size 24 x 36 inches

Completed on the morning of Christmas Day 2012 (it was a challenging picture………).

The other piece was a personal painting that I needed to express myself with:

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Fall-Fairy-Sketch For Web

Morning Dance For Web

“Morning Dance”
Soft Pastel Chalk on paper board about 15 by 12 inches

Completed 11/20/12

When I drew the fairy and came up with the concept, I was feeling down about stuff. I just felt like I just wanted to be free and dance… Dancing can be freeing.
So, she is dancing from the dark, into the light. Light as a feather (well, maybe almost hehe).
Arms stretched out behind her, wind blowing her away. It must be a freeing peaceful experience, full of color and life.

Sorry to all those who don’t follow me on Facebook! It just completely passed my mind heh. Well so now you can see two others I have done last year.

So I know I don’t exactly have a Portfolio spot on my website. You would have to sift through my blog in order to see the artwork I have done so far and I don’t think that makes it very enjoyable (unless you like doing a lot of reading…). One of these days I will redo my website (yesssss I want to redo again haha…) and have a straight up spot to showcase the art. I’ll probably still use the Blog, but it will be nice to have the artwork in one organized place, you know?

 

If you notice, on the right side of the website, there is a website called DeviantArt.com. Some of you may already know about it, but others, not so much. It’s mainly a place for artists, beginner or professional, to share, and sometimes sell, their artwork. If you want to comment on a picture you need an account (it’s free to sign up). It’s not quite necessary to sign up if you already follow me on Facebook, since I post the same things on there anyways. Just, for now, it’s more convenient to have a portfolio on there for my website. You can even see some very old pictures I’ve done when I was first dabbling in the world of digital art (uh, yeah, I’ve come a lonnnggg way haha). Just click on “Gallery” next to “Profile” to see my artwork (next to PetraRaain). And click on each picture for a bigger view and info, if I wrote anything on them.

Of course, you can still comment directly on here if you wanted to. Just to give you some options that’s all.

 

I don’t plan on updating or changing my website again, though, until I figure some things out in my life. I might be going through some major changes. But, I won’t know if it will actually happen until I take the big step in really finding out if it’s the right thing to do or not. I’m not quite sure if I am ready to share it with the entire world just yet…. I think I should wait until I have some solid answers first. Why bring it up if I don’t actually do anything about it? That’s what I think. It’s kinda a scary thought, but it will bug me for the rest of my life if I don’t try. Just so I can never say to myself “What if I tried?” as I get older. Some of you already know what I am talking about, as I’ve only shared it with a few close friends and family.

As far as future artwork is concerned: I am opened to do a commissioned piece. It does not have to be strictly animal. It can be people, or people and animals, or something fantasy or… Anything…. Until I get another commission, I will be working on other personal projects that I have in mind to paint.  A lot of it is redoing old pieces (to make them better) or finishing concepts that have come from inside, whatever the reasons they are, or things or people who have inspired me to express myself in a certain way.

I hope the start of 2013 is going well for you all.

Til next time….

A Warm Snowy Christmas

Quick thing: I have created an Official Artist Page on Facebook if you would like to Follow my Art^^ It’s called: Art Of Sarah Leone

Years ago I took a quick snapshot photo of my cat with my first digital camera. I loved it and always wanted to do something fun with the photo. I found his pose rather striking, despite the poor photo quality.  He just looked so completely happy and content at that very moment. And so, Thanksgiving weekend I got the inspiration to paint a picture version of the photo, with a bit of alterations as you’ll see at the end.

I will be selling this as Christmas cards at Lucy’s Art Emporium and on my online stores via Etsy. Link to the store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Raain/

Oh! By the way, Credits to the music are in the YouTube Description underneath the video on  the YouTube site. Just in case you wanted to know who they were.

Let me know what you think!

Be sure to watch it in High Def (under Change Quality)! You’ll be able to see colors and details better.

Video is about 4 minutes, 20 seconds; so not too terribly long.

Merry Christmas!!

A New Way of Photoshopping

First off, I finally added the Share and Like features on my site. So if you like something like you would on Facebook, click Like at the bottom of each blog post. Or, if you want to Share one of my blog posts anywhere, where you might have an account at, click one of the Share Icons, also at the bottom of each blog post (right above Like and Send). Same goes for my YouTube videos. There is a Share button at the bottom of every video, where there is a Twitter, Facebook and More icon.

I know most of you know this already, but for those who don’t…..

…Now that that is settled…

Earlier this year I embarked on a journey to draw something different. At first, it was mainly for the fun of it, to relax my art brain. But after I finished the initial drawing part of it, I decided I would use it to try something different with Photoshop. I’ve always felt my painting skills in Photoshop (or most art computer programs) were quite lacking. So I spent about a week just finding and watching video tutorials from different artists, with different styles of going about things. After that, I felt ready to try things out…. Well, I don’t know about you but, so far, I have seen a big difference!
Now, I could explain further as to how this helped me and what I was doing before this but, I think I will save that for when I really finish this. Plus there’s the whole *I’ve got to watch this!* feeling you get when you find out I have a new art video! ;D
This is the first time I have made a video that shows me drawing/coloring/painting a picture. So, it’s a mixture of photos and video (mostly video though). But don’t worry, this time it goes by really fast. A three hours video recording time dwindled down to 6-7 minutes worth!
Oh yeah, and this is inspired by a friend that I know online. I took note of his interests in mind and came up with this. I hope you like it! And let me know what you think!^^