Deconstructing the Avant Garde: Ed McCartan’s Art Retrospective

When my dad moved into the nursing home, I didn’t think an art show would be possible. I shelved the idea of a gallery opening. His amazing work has only been shown publicly at outdoor art shows once or twice, more than fifty years ago. He has always been a humble man and he remains unrecognized for a large body of artwork created during his lifetime.

Ed McCartan Self-portrait

Ed McCartan’s self-portrait.

Then Hospice took over. They came up with an idea to do a retrospective at the nursing home where he is living, the Evansville Manor, a few blocks from my parents’ house in Evansville, Wisconsin. Danny and I had to go.

Drawing had helped my dad with the transition into the nursing home. He would sit in the window of his small room and sketch from photographs or from a book of animals. A few weeks before the show, he stopped drawing.

Ed McCartan Art show 2

Dad and Mom.

My mom had framed many pieces over the course of the last year. He had forty paintings to show. We set them up in order from earliest to latest work. Continue reading

Introvert or Extrovert? Maybe You’re an Ambivert.

We all know people who are so shy, we have to pry words out of their mouths. The whole room goes quiet when they begin to speak. We call them introverts. Other people can talk to anyone in any social situation. We label them extroverts.

introverts and extroverts

Introverts and extroverts are polar opposites, so how can we be one or the other? My eyes roll with every debate. Introvert or extrovert? GAH! There’s a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between them. It’s the perfect place for another personality type called, ambiverts. I would guess it comes from the Latin word ambi – both and verts – green. Both green? No. That’s probably not right.

In order to understand this new personality type, we need to review what we know about introverts and extroverts.

Introverts are reflective and happier alone with their thoughts. They energize through being by themselves. They stress out in social situations. If they do go out, they are exhausted afterward.

Continue reading

A Passionate Lifetime


Imagine living without the internet, television, or electricity. It’s hard, right? My dad, Ed McCartan, grew up in such a place; A farm located miles away from the closest town, Lake Five, Wisconsin. He went to school in the classic one-room school house and graduated, the only one in his class. Although he is quick with a smile and a joke, it’s possible his shy manner came from this isolation. Somewhere along the line, he discovered art. He bought a motorcycle and commuted to Milwaukee to attend the Layton School of Art. Continue reading

My Project Unveiled For All To See. Yikes!

I’ve sent out all of my greeting cards, so it’s time to unveil my project. I’m so nervous. I hope you like it.

Every year an idea comes to mind which becomes a sketch and then transforms into some kind of 3-D popup creation. I know what you’re thinking. Most people don’t even take the time to buy and send ready-made greeting cards. I keep telling myself, “This year I will simplify.” HA! I don’t know the meaning of the word, “simplify.” Two things about me never change: I was born sunny-side up and I love challenges. “Bring it on” should be my middle name, but it’s not. It’s Mary which is pretty dull in comparison. Don’t tell mom. Her first name is Mary.

The front is very similar to last year’s. Take your complaints to Yelp.

So here it is. Drum roll please…………….

Front of card

Ta da!

Here are the innards skinnards. Now you can imagine how weird they would have looked with duplicated drawings. That was a close one! Continue reading

Twinkle, Illustration, and Elves

oh christmas tree

I’m ready for the next project on my long list. It’s my absolute favorite. Can you guess?

Nope. I’m not wrapping presents. I always leave that chore until the last minute. I’m not hanging the stockings. NOTE TO SELF: I need to buy sticky tack. I’m not writing my letter to Santa. I’m playing with my new Apple computer right now! I don’t need another thing. I’m not stringing popcorn or making ornaments or running out to the mall to finish my Christmas shopping. I’m done. I’m not running to the grocery store. Not my favorite thing at all although I will take my new fangled warmer jammer list next time.


2006 Christmas card. Continue reading

Leave a Comment and Win!

constructing Christmas

I’ve been busy drawing, cutting, pasting and folding this year’s Christmas card. I think I’ve listened to almost every corny holiday movie between the Lifetime and Hallmark channel.

Every year has its challenges. In the past, I sent out my cards after more than sixty hours of work and they boomeranged back for more postage! Last year I had to add extra postage for weight. This year I thought I had it handled, but the post office was closed, so I couldn’t check the weight. I was about to throw them in the mailbox, then I decided to take them home just in case.

homemade Christmas cards

Some of my older cards. The newer ones are popups. Continue reading

What Twins, Who Inhabit My Brain, and NaNoWriMo Taught Me

boy and girl fighting 2

When I decided to write a novel for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, I had no idea if I could. You see, a five-year-old child inhabits my brain and can throw quite the tantrum. If I don’t want to do something, she sends waves through the entire length of my spine which becomes rigid. Then she starts chanting, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to! I DON’T WANT TO!” This screaming fit is usually accompanied by the stomping of feet and the transformation of ordinary household objects into projectile missiles. Continue reading

Why I Joined the Madness

I’m an obsessed idea freak, by that I mean, once I get an idea in my head I have to accomplish my goal. It drives me nuts until I do. After talking about it, visualizing, and then calculating the best route, I keep my eye on the prize gleaming at the finish line. I’m sure it has something to do with the challenge and enjoying the creative aspect of the work, but I believe it has a lot more to do with achieving sparkly goals.

door with stained glass

In the past, I visualized a stained glass window, and then took a class and constructed five. I visualized angels or birds flitting and floating on my ceilings. Then one snowy Sunday afternoon, I pulled a ladder from the garage and painted them. It gave me enormous satisfaction to create something out of nothing.

ceiling with angels

Since this has always worked with art projects, I wondered if it would work with writing. Continue reading

Discovering Blurred Lines and Booty Calls

Everyone has sung the wrong lyrics to songs, but I shouted the lyrics to a particular hit all summer at clubs in New Orleans, two weddings and fund-raiser not knowing why I got such strange looks. First of all, I thought Blurred Lines was called For a Good Time. I haven’t loved a song for dancing this much since INXS’s What You Need and you know I love to dance.

I knew controversy surrounded the video since Robin Thicke’s wife divorced him after it was released. I had heard there were topless dancers, but I lost my boobs last year and I love and appreciate real ones since mine are now 100% fake. I thought, Big deal.

A DJ played the song during an outdoor festival last weekend and I sang along as usual. Then I turned to my husband, Danny and said, “I have got to learn the lyrics to this song.” I tried to keep from dancing, but it was tough. After the song played in my head Sunday, I sat down on Monday and checked out the unedited video.

Here’s the unrated version I found offensive. WARNING: Naked boob alert for those of you at work. You may want to watch the tamer version at the bottom of the article.

Oh. My. God. Okay. So I used to draw naked people all the time in college and I appreciate women and men’s bodies, but coupled (bad word choice?) with the offensive lyrics, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. (Sorry. I couldn’t help myself). It was all about gratuitous sex and booty calling. Hey babe. You want to get lucky? It’s bartime.

“I know you want it.” So I knew that part of the song and I get that they’re naked and strutting across the stage like they want it, but what about the singers? They’re in the background staring, ogling, and fully clothed like they’re in a strip joint. My mind begged the question, what’s the message of the song? Hot girls get laid?

Did you notice how the models looked directly into the camera? It reminded me of this painting equally popular and controversial. Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass raised eyebrows and the ire of the community when it was unveiled in 1863. We’ve come a long way baby, or have we?

t_Manet - Luncheon on The Grass 1863 Continue reading

Disaster Area in My Rear View

Decades ago, I played with a three-way mirror while my mother tried on dresses. It seemed magical to study my profile and the  curly back of my head. While standing in my Mary Janes and appraising my rear view, I must have thought, “Good enough.”

Self portrait - Susie Lindau (McCartan) 1

I always thought the back of my head resembled this self-portrait painted in college.

Flash forward years and many hairstyles later:

While leaving the physical therapist last summer, the receptionist practically leapt over the counter and tackled me. “You have a hole in your head!” She shouted. Everyone in the waiting room looked up from their cell phones and magazines. They shook their heads in disgust.

“What do you mean?” I replied. Continue reading

The First of Many Wild Rides

Impulse and risky choices have taken me on all kinds of adventures. This story epitomizes who I am.

After graduating from college, I struggled to find illustration jobs. Every month or two, I drew promotional advertisements for an upscale women’s clothing store where I worked selling clothes. The intermittent opportunities paid a meager wage. I made more money selling clothes than drawing them.

Esprit Girl

Then, I had a brilliant idea. Madison, Wisconsin is only a few hours away from Chicago, so I took the Van Galder Bus to the Merchandise Mart. I hoped to find a few businesses willing to pay me to draw their clothing and accessories.

With an art portfolio held tight in my hand, I knocked on doors all day, but only found one interested company. I showed the owner my drawings and paintings. She picked a purse from a pile on a table and said, “Draw this one.” She handed me a #2 pencil, a piece of typing paper and escorted me to her desk. She and her staff watched as I drew. Perspiration dripped from every pore on my body. Somehow, I managed to finish. She smiled and paid me $10.00. It covered less than half of my bus fare.

Purse Illustration

I took the elevator down to the lobby and stepped into the chilly spring air. After reorienting myself, I made my way to the bus stop. I thought about my career choice and if it would be worth it to travel to Chicago again.

While I stood shivering on the curb with my back against the Lake Michigan wind, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and a thirty-something, unshaven man in a light jacket and jeans asked, “Are you waiting for the bus back to Madison?” Continue reading

Ice Castle Photos and an Interview with Its Creator Brent Christensen

After exploring Breckenridge’s breathtaking Ice Castle, I searched for the artist behind this magical place. I contacted Brent Christensen, the founder of Ice Castles, who also built them in New Hampshire and Utah this winter.

Breck Ice Castle 22

Take it away Brent!

“I’m the artist and designer of the layout at each of our three locations, but I rely heavily on our many well-trained, hard working, dedicated employees. Each of our sites took about 4 weeks of working 12-16 (hour) days.  Our Breck site has about 10 full and part-time employees, New Hampshire about 15 and Midway (Utah), about 20.”

Breck Ice Castle 20

Fire and ice. Continue reading

The Big Reveal, DIY and a Message

After almost sixty hours, my annual Christmas cards are done. Whew! I smiled while dropping them into the mailbox and imagined my friends and family opening up my little art project. Time is at a premium and many don’t even send store bought cards. We live in an electronic age where communication is at our fingertips. We make contact through texts, tweets and Facebook. Very few pick up the phone and actually talk to people anymore. Everyone is too busy.

I am a dinosaur in today’s world. I plodded through the week while drawing, printing, cutting, and pasting. My gift to others is not just about the card. It is about the love  and time it takes to create them. Each one  took over 45 minutes. Yep, That was a little overboard. Thanks to Timethief, I have a wealth of new ideas for next year and promise to start in July!

The Process:

First I decide on an activity. My family is found skiing in many of my cards, but I wanted to come up with something unique for 2013. It has been an exceptional year in some ways, but I was derailed by breast cancer. When I thought of the concept, Dancing on 2013’s Grave, I laughed out loud!

Yes Wild Riders. I am ready to dance once again. Did you miss me?

First I sketch my ideas. Once I have a workable drawing, I use tracing paper and a marker for a final copy. I  hope to capture the likeness of everyone. I only draw once a year, so I am always a little nervous when I start. Sometimes the illustration just works like this year when it only took two hours. Other times, I find it challenging to recreate the shape of the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and the jawline. There’s always some printing involved. Thank God for the invention of the inkjet. I used to run back and forth to a commercial printer in a neighboring town to get the pieces camera ready.

2013 drawing Continue reading

What Will You Do with the Bonus?

Thanksgiving is a few days away. Can I help you up from the floor? There is a reason why it has crept up so fast. November 22nd is the earliest date possible. The holiday is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. Every once in a while, another Thursday sneaks in. The good news (and you can usually count on me for that), is there are also five weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Yay!

That means we will have several extra days to prepare for the holidays.

There will be…

…time for shopping.

Continue reading