An Incredible Tale

This story began in 2017 when I happened upon the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. I, like most of the world, sat spellbound watching this brutal dystopian society’s chilling story delivered, as if through a lens of a Johannes Vermeer’s painting.

I went on to listen to the Audible recording of the book, narrated by Clare Danes. I wondered if I would be disappointed. Ticking off things the series already covered. Perhaps frustrated with the differences. But I was moved by the language the author Margaret Atwood used. It would be elegant almost poetic words smashed against harsh realities of this dystopic society.

Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaids Tale”

I was enthralled, so I set out to consume all forms. I watched the 1990 movie by the same name. I found it pretty 80s-rific, but I appreciated that they gave it a happy ending.

Somewhere in all this, I was given an old paperback copy by my friend, and co-worker, Carol Mason. Before it was put up safely up on a shelf, my then one-year old teething daughter gnawed on the edge of the book and tore out some pages.

Books are sacred to me, and destroying them is blasphemous. In its current unfortunate condition, I decided to use it in a new art piece that I had percolating in my brain.

Over the course of a year I tore apart the book and dyed pages. Though I hadn’t completely flushed out the composition I knew I needed the various shades of the following colors:

Red: cherry juice, ink and clothing dye

Skin Tones: coffee, marker, clothing dye and bleach

Black: ash, charcoal, ink and marker

It was a process with a learning curve. Once dyed, I had to dry them and keep the flat. Cookie drying racks worked well but they also left lines. As I worked with the various materials, I felt like a witch making magic.

Once the dying was complete the pages did sit around for a bit. As a mom of two little people, the stars had to align for me to make what I lovingly call “messy art”, because I know once I begin I’ll be consumed.

I began in earnest in August of 2018.

As it is with art-making, I was singularly focused once I began, but this particular medium takes time and patience since there are layers of paint, paper and modge-podge. Altogether, I estimate that it took a month to come together.

“The Handmaids” by Jody Parmann

The dyed pages from the book were especially important to the overall message. It’s a protest piece. Women in Gilead were not allowed to read or write.

It’s composition is deliberately reminiscent of the iconic “Wicked” poster. I wanted to highlight the idea that the words women’s use with each other a double-edged blade. They have the capacity cut deeply, as with gossip, but also have the power to lift women up.

Support from honorable women have made all the difference in my life. My girlfriend JillIan Harmer helped me get out of an abusive relationship. Her friendship made me feel worthy of love and kindness. Another friend, Tara Russel’s influence helped me choose a path of honor when I could have easily chose not to. I wanted to know I deserved her friendship and respect. I wanted to be a better human like her.

I got lucky that these women came into my life when I desperately needed them. They were the voice in my ear, “Nolite Bastardes Carborundum.” Translation: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

Today, I’m blessed with a wonderful husband, amazing children, a livelihood I love and girlfriends that bring lightness and laughter to my life. I’ve come very far from the broken girl I once was.

The finished piece hangs at the Raven Café and I sell prints of it.

Raven Café, Port Huron

The Book Keeper, in Sarnia, ON, owned by my friend Susan Chamberlain (daughter of my other dear friend, Carol Henry) also stocks prints of “The Handmaids”.

Fast forward to summer 2019 when I see that The Book Keeper is hosting a Margaret Atwood author event. I reserved a ticket post haste and twenty-four hours later it was sold out.

There was discussion that they might sell prints of “The Handmaids” at the event, but ultimately the decision was made that only books should be sold at an “author” event.

Five months later the day of the event arrives, and my Facebook messenger pops up. It’s Susan telling me that she’s going to gift a framed print of my piece to Margaret Atwood after the event and she’s wondering if I would get up and say a few words about it…

I am one of the 75% of the population that has a fear of speaking in public. I am content to sit in the audience and don’t aspire to perform. I appreciate those who can and do. They’re a magical breed. My husband is one those people.

I ask Susan via messenger “How many people will be there?”

“Not many.”

“Only 700.”

Despite my terror, I didn’t take long to agree to do it. It was such an incredible honor to be asked and what an opportunity to share my art with people.

While I’m sure Susan felt like her offer was last minute, it was actually perfect timing. Afterall, it was just going to be a short speech – so I had time to prepare, but not too much time to be nervous and over-think it.

I practiced the speech out loud by myself. I felt ridiculous.

It was at this point I recalled that my husband (one of those magical performing humans) had told me on more than one occasion that he thinks I’d be great on NPR’s “The Moth”. High praise from him. He thinks I can do this.

My girlfriend Gwyn Atkinson-Lewis and I drove over to Sarnia together. On the way, she assured me that I’d do great and said “You deserve this. What an affirmation of your talent.” To which I replied, “Mostly I feel like I’m incredibly fortunate to know Susan and Carol (on so many levels).”

We met up for dinner with our friend Carol. I let them read what I’d prepared and they said it looked good.

Sitting in the front row I thought for sure my mind would be lost in mental preparation, but Margaret Atwood’s wit and sense of humor were such, that I was completely engaged right up until I was called up on stage.

I prefaced my speech with the fact that public speaking was not my thing and that I’d been asked only that morning to speak AFTER Margaret Atwood, so I’d be doing my best…

I’m from Port Huron (across the river) and as a female citizen of the United States my hope is to inspire women to support each other in these uncertain times that we live in. Women’s rights, much like American democracy as a whole, are at risk of being undermined by the current Trump administration.

The original piece was made from the actual pages of the book “The Handmaid’s Tale”. They were dyed with cherry juice, coffee, charcoal, ash, ink and marker. I considered how the written word had become illegal in Gilead and used it as an ironic medium. I then collaged the pieces together in a composition that, to me, is reminiscent of the iconic promotional poster for the Broadway musical “Wicked”.

My thought is that the words women use with one another are a double-edged blade- they have the ability to cut deeply (such as with gossip) or to lift each other up. When women are oppressed in societies or their freedom threatened, I can see only one way forward for us. We must stand together. Lift each other up. Nolite bastardes carborundurum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

The audience of 700 cheered.

Women stopped me to take pictures with me.

Americans commiserated about the Trump administration.

People told me that I did well up there.

Amidst all that, I asked Margaret Atwood if she’d sign the original for me. She graciously obliged.

It was an incredible night two years in the making.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, two days later Margaret Atwood shared this photo on her Instagram account.

Instagram Post


A Return

My recent Bitty Baddy “Rose the Hat” is a return to an old practice of mine. As a kid my favorite people to draw were the ones I read about in my books. The author’s words would paint a picture in my mind and I would go on to draw their characters as I imagined them.

I recently read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and I was moved by his description of Rose the Hat.

– A cloud of black hair

– A top hat precariously perched on her head in an angle that defies gravity

– Slanted blue eyes

– Pale skin

– Incredible beauty

So here she is as a Bitty Baddy, because even she wasn’t born bad.

Bad Bawd

Do you know this bad bawd? Back up, do you know what a “bawd” is? It’s a woman in charge of a brothel. A female pimp.

Lydia Quigley is one bad bawd in the Hulu series “Harlots” and the depravities she facilitates are nothing short of monstrous, but before you judge her, consider the following quote from season three…

“My father took my innocence when I was 7 years old. The procession of men began with him. I became what those men made me. A vessel of pain and in response I wrought that pain on everyone who crossed my path.”

Lydia Quigley, Harlots

So here’s my question… Is villainy born of trauma, somehow less evil? Or are bad beginnings no excuse for bad behavior?

#lydiaquigley #badbawd #villain #bittybaddies #harlots

The Magic of Comic Cons

I’ve done art shows, and I’ve done craft shows, but comic cons are my favorite because parents get to be kids with their kids!

Side by side, you’ll see offerings that appeal to 5 year olds and 50 year olds. You see parent/kid cosplays. They frolic about with glee as they pass a stall with Pokémon and then one featuring Freddy and Jason. They share stories of their youth as they come across playthings they had when they were a kid.

It’s beautiful. It’s downright magical.

Tinker Bell: Child Killer

Tinker Bell has become one of Disney’s most important branding icons for over half a century, and is generally known as “a symbol of ‘the magic of Disney'”.

This is ironic because she’s technically is an attempted murderer. In the beginning of Disney’s Peter Pan she orchestrated a plot to kill a child! Specifically she told the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy out of the sky. Yikes!

Yes, yes, I know she came correct by the end of the movie… sacrificing herself to save a Peter Pan. Does that equate to redemption, I think not.

You see, in modern society, attempted murder carries the same punishment as a completed murder (without the possibility of the death penalty).

This qualifies Tinker Bell as a Bitty Baddy in my book.

Fret not, Tinker Bell lovers, she could probably plead insanity. J.M. Barrie describes the extremes in her personality are due to the fairy’s small size which prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time, so when she is angry she has no counterbalancing compassion.

Would the defense work in a court of law?

Making Memories

I think I started making art as a way of generating a more ideal reality. My childhood was amazing in some ways, traumatic in others.

To me, art is magic.

Recently my aunt sent letters my dad had written her when I was a kid. He died when I was seven, so reading them was more precious than gold.

This part brought tears to my eyes, because I remember these nights.

I keep a journal of my memories of my parents, and other people’s memories of them. My husband thinks I’m super sentimental. I suppose I am, but I think it comes from losing a parent so young – because my sister Sarah is the same way.

This illustration is for us. I know we both wish this memory had been captured.

Goth Guts

As an awkward mousy teenager in high school, I was curious about the shiny happy popular girls who always seem to have it together. They had perfect hair, perfect clothes, the perfect boyfriend to go along with their perfect lives.

It was the goth kids I really admired though. I respected their audacity to stand out in high school. To me, who did her best to blend in and disappear, those kids had guts.

My husband, who I did not meet until after high school said he imagined I was a goth girl in high school, and I was, but without the clothes, black makeup or good taste in music.

Horror Hailey is a goth fashion guru. I’m a follower of her Instagram feed. Here she is as a Bitty Baddy.

Instagram @horrorhailey

The 100

Well I didn’t make my Kickstarter goal, but alas all is not lost. Here’s what I learned.

  • I have incredible people around me who are willing to support my crazy art ideas!
  • I’ve learned how to set up a Kickstarter (this was my first).
  • I know the ins and outs of self publishing.
  • People love my spawn almost as much as I do.
  • There is interest and a coffee table book.

My plan for the future is to revisit the coffee table book idea when I have reached 100 Bitty Baddies. I’m currently at about 55, so some time next year be on the look out for a new Kickstarter.

Special thanks to all of the lovely people who pledged and shared the Kickstarter. You’re a wonderful amazing humans and I am so blessed to know you.

Terran Empire Publishing
Catherine T. O.
Serena K
William D. H.
Trina K-A.
L. Williams
Tim H.
Jeremy Y.
Michael S. S.
Jade P.
Carol R.
Joshua L.
Colleen C.
Troy D.
Margaret S.
Sarah J.
Darrel H.
Syed H.
Tara R.
Robert P.
Andrea D.
Patricia S.
Michelle D.
The Creative Fund
Sunny Brewer
Anonymous (2)

The MARVELous Mrs. Obama

It was 2008 when I first heard the name “Barack Hussein Obama” and my reaction was “Yeah right! No way does a name like that get elected president.” I did not have faith that my countryman would see beyond a name that rhymed with Osama and included the name of Hussein (because of Saddam Hussein).

Against all odds he became the democratic nominee. I was inspired. I was the aunt to a biracial girl (who I doted on) and girlfriend to a American born Bangladeshi man. I was personally invested in electing our first African American president.

I drove the local Republicans nuts by bringing a life-size cut out of Barack out to dinner with me more than once in the weeks before the election. I anxiously watched the results come in and I was filled with hope when my country elected Barack Hussein Obama as our 44th president.

During his 8 years in the White House I felt safe and secure with him at the helm.

I loved Michelle’s mantra “When they go low we go high.”

I was equally disappointed and scared when the United States elected the amoral misogynistic reality star Donald Tump as our 45th president.

I literally mourned for days as I felt like my countrymen failed me by not seeing how thoroughly unfit he was to be president.

Since that November day I anxiously read the news every evening, trying to be vigilant in my role as a citizen.

Recently I read Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” I was moved to tears more than once. Listening to her words I felt a kinship to a fellow mom, professional woman and optimist who wants to believe humanity is more good than bad.

The memoir covers her life from a young girl doting on her dolls, to the moment as the first black First Lady leaving the White House after Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

To me, the Bitty Baddies Art series is a examination of villainy. What causes it. It’s motivations. It’s path.

In reading Michelle Obama’s book I found a hero. A woman that I admire for her dislike of politics, but willingness to serve anyway when called to.

It just so happened that I was driving by an American flag when Michelle Obama said these words (via Audible)…

I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last ten years has done little to change that. I continue to be put off by the nastiness—the tribal segregation of red and blue, this idea that we’re supposed to choose one side and stick to it, unable to listen and compromise, or sometimes even to be civil. I do believe that at its best, politics can be a means for positive change, but this arena is just not for me.”

People who become leaders out of necessity I believe are the most true to their post. They’re less likely to be swayed by the power or the fame to act as anyone other than who they are.

Her words in that moment made me look at the American flag differently. It’s segregated blue with stars butted up against the red and white stripes. Not mixing, not melting together as perhaps they should be.

This is the image that sprang to mind.

Thank you Michelle Obama for answering the call with incredible grace and dignity. You’re a true hero.

Taking a chance…

Once upon a time I went to a Supernatural convention. I was underwhelmed and rather disappointed. I chalked it up to a learning experience and realized actors can be rather cranky.

As a hardcore introvert, the thought of the masses all wanting to engage and a piece of my energy sounds hellish. Who wouldn’t be cranky?

On the first evening of the Motor City Nightmares convention I approached an actor about getting an autograph. As a vendor, I was trying to get it done lickety split so I could get back to my booth. The actor was less than gracious as I approached. He was chatting with another actor and told me to come back.

I didn’t go back.

To me the experience is much more important than the ink on the page. The negativity of the encounter soured me to attempting to get any other autographs.

Fast forward – last day, near the end of day I decided to take a chance and get Clive Barker to sign my Bitty Baddies Pinhead before he left. Afterall, when would I ever have the opportunity again?

I’m so glad I did. He was kind, engaged and even asked me to email him my NIGHTBREED piece.

I sensing a trend.

Creators = Kind

Actors = Asshats