Monday, December 27, 2010

To the Yellowfish Life

christine sullivan - 30 x 30"

When you slow down, really calm your inner chatter and open your eyes...all of your other senses follow...and you find yourself in the yellowfish zone of life. Here you remember what life was like when you were a kid lying in the recently mown grass, gazing at the clouds of summer while cicadas buzzed in the fields and time stood still - you were filled with the innocent courage and wisdom of life and stood only to blow the seeds off the dandelions and make a wish. 

Well it is still there, waiting for you. Just open the door and stand there a minute. Just stand there and close your eyes against the sun until you hear the bend of the branches in the wind and acknowledge, just for a minute or two, this wonderful world we are privileged to live in. The earth we are privileged to share. And watch as your creative soul expands and your heart fills again with the possibilities you once held dear. 

No matter where your passions lie or if you have yet to find yours  - all it takes is the commitment to stop for a minute and appreciate what is in front of you. And to listen to your heart and follow it. 

I wish you all the best that life offers in the coming year and am confident this is the year you get closer to feeding your own passions. You can do it. Just quiet yourself and listen.

- cs

Friday, December 17, 2010

Creative Gift Giving

Like many others we scaled down our gift giving to better donate more of our time and dollars to local charitable organizations and to be secret santas to those that really need our help. But there is even a greater gift that everyone can afford. And that's a visit, a call or a note from you. Please remember to stop by or call someone you know that is living alone or going through the holidays alone or suffering in any way. If you don't know someone personally, why not call a few friends and go visit your local children's hospital or senior assisted living center and sing a few Christmas carols in the lobby or just sit with them and visit awhile.

That said, creative gifts from the heart are always appreciated. Make something. Bake something. Or give something be it small or large that is hand made, made locally or a gift that encourages the creative spirit. Here are just a few suggestions along with a list of great online stores. Hohoho!
Yours in the creative life - cs
Art books for children - In the Garden With Van Gogh (photo at top of this post) is one of my favorites but there are about a dozen in the series. They make for great reading before bed time with kids of all ages (infant to age 8 or so). Check out your local bookstore or favorite online book site.

For your creative friend(s) who may need a nudge - Creative Time and Space. This is not one of the typical books on how to find your creative self it's for the person that already is there but is juggling with how to find the time and space to feed their passions. Again ask for it at your local bookstore or try
Here's another book filled with ideas to fuel a creative life. Can be a gift for someone at work or for an entire family. Living Out Loud can be found at your local bookstore or at

So many of my friends and readers live near the water and I so love this salt and pepper shaker set hand made by Kala Stein. You can find it at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery store or online at under regional crafts.

I believe giving the gift of art to yourself or someone on your list is a wonderful way to help your local artists and home town art community as well as the local economy. Here are two suggestions but please take a few minutes to stop by your local art gallery to say hello - you may just find a small works and/or holiday sale going on:

  Wayfaring Strangers (above, 24 x 48") is a wonderful piece 
by Palm Coast, FL artist JJ Graham at Hollingsworth Gallery 

or you can help the international cultural art exchange by purchasing 
cuban art out of Jensen Beach, FL like the above print  
Calle Marina Baja by artist Jose Aquilera Vicente

If you haven't listened to David Whyte's poetry or lectures before than you're in for a treat. How many days do we go through robotically? What to Remember When Waking is a 6-hour "learning course" on living with more attention and intention. You may find this at your local Barnes and Noble or download it immediately on iTunes and I recommend visiting his website

And here are just a few sites (click on each to go there) I like for creative shopping...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Changing Geography

The colors, scents and shapes of our local geography, most especially that of our youth, leave their lasting impression on our souls. For some it’s the tall buildings of the city or high peaks of New Hampshire that bring comfort and a feeling of home. For others it’s the wide open expanse of a loam rich river valley or the rolling surf of the ocean. And yes, our personal geography changes as we move and travel across this small planet but the geography of our youth is always there.
For me it was the fields of corn and rolling rural farms of upstate New York. The numerous shades of ochres and deep greens of corn tipping in the summer breeze; indian yellows, deep reds and violets swirling in the gusts of fall; all levels of deep earthy browns and greys in the dead of winter; and the bright greens, yellows and pinks pushing out of the ground and emerging from tree limbs in spring. These images plus the unique scents like that of low tide on Cape Cod during those short vacation weeks each summer when we were out in the world pulling clams from the shores of the salt water Mill Pond in East Orleans. 
So now that I’m painting I often get asked the question - why landscapes? And most recently - why all those “windmills?!” Well the why landscape is easy. As a kid I was “kept” outside as many good parents would do and later in college I was a geography major (with a minor in art, I flip flopped between the two and almost had a double major) and immediately identified with the definition of geography, “the relationship between man and the land.” So it has always been at the top of my list of passions. Maps. Hiking. Rock collecting as well as climbing. The ocean life. The skiing life. And always, always looking up at the clouds. It’s within the very beat of my heart when I pick up a brush and I’m challenged to learn how to communicate these feelings and memories that churn within into beautiful and passionate images. A tall order and I’ve just begun to scratch out her surface.                                

As to those funny looking windmills. Well, this is the new image shaping my local geography. At least where I now spend my summers. You see them now while driving through northern Pennsylvania, across upstate New York and in and around various spots in New England. Sometimes you are just numbingly driving on the Mass Pike back towards Albany when you come around a bend and there on top of a hill above you is this REALLY TALL wind turbine just slowly turning in the wind. Same is true on our many drives between Elmira and Rochester and on the east side of Syracuse in Cazenovia. They are like tall totems living on old dairy farms and they make me feel the exact same way I felt when I first visited the big city of Boston - I couldn’t stop looking up with amazement and joy! 

c.sullivan - 48 x 48" work in progress

Yes it’s a  controversial topic. Some think they are ugly, an energy band aide and don't want them "in their backyard." Yet many of these wind farms are now on the local chamber of commerce websites as one of their “featured tourist attractions” because of their beauty and many flock there to take pictures and visit them as if they are giant garden sculptures. At least that's how they make me feel. I want to sit and stare at them as if at a museum.  Financially it’s a win-win for the farmers and local governments. Just like cell towers and the tall power lines before them. But regardless of your opinions on wind turbine farms they are now a part of our new geography and I am attempting to capture this sea-change (or better yet geographically hill-change). Just give me about four more months and see where it leads...


Friday, October 29, 2010

What's Really Underneath the Hood

c. sullivan, oil on canvas, work in progress

The crisp air and distinct angles of the sun in fall harkens back to a time in my youth when I bought a tired looking 1972 MGB convertible. It wasn't my first car but it was the first car I bought with my heart...and a few thousand dollars I had scrimped and saved. That first summer together the car was in a body shop out in apple country. The "garage" was actually an old barn. I would ride out there to check on her often and by fall she was ready to ride. Fresh paint (porsche red no less). Lots of bondo on her sides (body work) and duck tape around her wires in the trunk that needed wiggling to ensure the lights would work.  

From then on I would spend the weekends out on the winding, back country roads and drink in the farm fields and river valleys surrounded by hillsides blanketed with rich color. The air, filled with the competing scents of just tilled earth and decaying wet leaves, would blast through my hair and all my troubles would jump out and be taken away. I was home out there in the farms and hills. They were my refuge. My solace. They seemed to represent permanence and gave me a sense of history needed in a young and quickly passing life. Even the old decaying ones half hidden in the overgrown fields spoke to me.

Now I find myself back out there...maybe for much the same reasons but in a more practical convertible, though she's still fun on the corners. And in the studio I always lean towards painting farms and find I am wanting to paint her barns, too. And apples. And old farm machinery. Things that are red. Old. Leaning. And in so doing I am peeling back layers of memories I forgot I had. And from this is coming a turn in my work. It teaches me that when you have a strong passion for your subject matter it will show through in your work. I'm not sure you can properly capture its soul if you haven't really spent time living in their shadows. 

I am excited to be on this journey and to see where these new open roads will take me and as always remember to spend time feeding your creative passions, too. It is the only way to truly live. Brush on!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walk and Truly Sea Beauty

Cnidaria Scyphozoa Aurelia by Maddie Sullivan

We were cuddled on the couch watching TV not really noticing the sweet, soothing sound of the waves and the sharp angled rays of the late afternoon sun. It was high tide which doesn't leave much sand to walk on. At least not flat sand I whined. My daughter pushed me and off we went.

We hadn't seen each other for awhile and it was an easy discussion to catch up in between dipping our toes into the bathtub-like sea and commenting on why a peculiar bird stood with it's left leg tucked up inside it's belly and his beak burrowed within it's right wing feathers. So we tried to stand the same way and surely appeared as if we were trying to "walk like an egyptian."

As we made the turn to head back our face's were met with a stiff breeze and we tucked our chins into our necks and strolling more quickly started to notice a fish here and there jumping out of the water. Then a wave curled and the sun revealed to both of us at the exact same time an entire school of fish within it. DID YOU SEE THAT?!? AMAZING!! Look at all the FISH!?! We stood there mesmerized and pointing as our vocal chords made excited sounds on and off.  Then another loud LOOK!?! as we saw a large sand shark lurking just near the break water under the fish and then just as quickly disappeared. We looked at each other and squealed, SHARK!

Mullet Surfing by Maddie Sullivan

After about ten minutes we thought we'd seen it all and started to walk away when more motion caught our attention and this time it was dolphin. Now there are always dolphin on our beach. Usually they swim in small families of three or four but here, today, right there in front of us was the largest pod of dolphin we had ever witnessed. There were at least twenty. Maybe more. Many were doing the job of circling the fish while the others were enjoying an easy dinner. We were again caught in the moment.

We noticed without speaking the way the low setting sun caught the shine of the dolphins bodies as they surfaced, jumped and spun around. The way the water no longer was one color or tone but carried with it the colors of its very life from within. Nothing stays still, energy and beauty and life exploded at us and we knew we were witnessing something truly special and our smiles were as wide as ever. I noted the date. October 15, 2010. Try to remember this date I muttered. It is a good day. It is warm, sunny and life abounds. Drink it in.

We all have those days when our job, be it in its most general sense a teacher or a student, seems to be filled with the mundane needs of human survival and impedes our ability to appreciate the actual moments passing us by. And sometimes, to help us with perspective, we just need to take a walk (and no it doesn't have to be on a beach) to really stop and see the beauty that surrounds us. Love. Light. Life. The openness, breathing in the fresh air and then the ease of it all stays with us as we return to our lives, our couches yawning as our body truly relaxes and we drift back carrying the beauty with us. The yellowfish of life. Walk on!

P.S. I've added a must-watch video called, "Why Beauty Matters" - to the right on my blog. check it out.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Join Me In The Sketchbook Project!

Journaling is so therapeutic. The same is true of sketching. Sketchbooks are a place to extend thoughts into doodles, drawings, reference paintings, collage and project ideas as well as a way to capture the look or mood of the day.  I just learned of an art project that involves both and anyone in the world can join in by choosing a theme and a Moleskine book ($25). It's called the Art House Co-Op Sketchbook Project 2011 and all you do is draw and/or write about that particular theme and send it back. I just signed up - you should join me!

This is the fifth year for The Sketchbook Project put on by the Art House Co-Op, a New York City artist co-op that is home to more than 20,000 artists from all over the world and known for putting on large-scale projects that are open to everyone from anywhere as a way of encouraging creativity for both the professional as well as new and emerging artists. The cool thing is after you send back your book it tours around the US (nine cities thus far) with all of the other cool sketchbooks and ends up living in the Brooklyn Art Library where everyone can view it just by looking through the card catalog and pulling it off the shelf. 

A quick glance at the more than 1,100 entries from last year show the door is truly open for interpreting the chosen theme and the only restriction is to keep to the size of the book. Again everyone is encouraged to enter and there are discounts for groups such as classrooms and the like (not restricted to educational groups).  So friends, relatives and fellow artists - here's the nudge, a cool idea and a little thing called a deadline to give ourselves a push to be part of what could build to be the largest interactive art scene to tour the country.  Sign up now and start creating your Sketchbook! Or share this post with others in your area that you think would like to be a part of The Sketchbook Project. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Put A Foot in It!

c. sullivan - "Coming Home" 24" x 24"  Oil on Canvas

I don't know if I'd call it a right of passage but I had a complete meltdown in the studio last week. There I was in the yellowfish zone for hours when, putting some finishing touches on a 2'x 4' landscape, I just exploded in anger. The culprit? A was cleaning up some detailing with a rag while unknowingly the other end was pulling a huge glob of red paint over a large area of just finished white. ARRRRGH!?!?!? I followed that up with loud choice cuss words. Then I froze. It all happened so quickly. So uncontrollably. And I felt so defeated and then, standing there with my foot in my mouth, I realized my fellow artists had stopped to stare at me in silence. Sigh. I fell into my chair and immediately apologized as my face turned red and my rag bunched up in my hands. I bent over and let out a long sigh and began removing the red line when...NOOOoooOOOOO!?!?! You guessed it. I did it AGAIN!?! The scream that came out was even bigger than before. As were the cuss words. Sigh. Okay. Now you can start laughing. And well so can I,,,now. But at the moment I wanted to toss out the entire piece and was actually mumbling under my breath something like, "Painting Sucks!!!" ...only backwards...and threw my rag in the trash and stormed out.

I always run to mother nature for help in these situations and she was ready for me. Large thunderheads  were racing by as the tips of the trees bobbed. I started talking to myself. Focus! Get a grip! What is wrong with you?! Tired? Yeah, ok. But what else? It took me some time to calm down when I realized that during the last half hour or so I was working ahead of myself. It's hard to explain. It's kind of like in golf when I find myself actually thinking about how easy the putt will be after I knock this nine iron shot down the flag's throat and then blindly swing and watch surprised as the ball goes left and...into the water!?! Can you relate??

Well I decided I better get back in there, get back up on that horse and show the painting who's boss. Funny thing is not only did I easily clean up the careless marks I ended up making a few other changes and decisions and the painting is now the better for it. And to be honest, so am I. I'm not sure I can say that I am happy that it happened but it was a huge learning experience.
c. sullivan, "Harvest" 24" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Everyone tells you to take your time with your art. To step back often and allow the painting to have it's own integrity. To build up its history. To allow the painting to take on a life of its own. And it does happen, at least when you get out of your own way. I guess every once in awhile putting your foot in it can actually teach you something worth while. At least it did for me. Brush on!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Souls of September

No matter how many Septembers I come face-to-face with I am still caught off guard by her ability to sneak up on and then smack me in the head. You know the feeling. It seems summer has just arrived and then you notice out of the corner of your eye that school supply aisles started to pop up and then just as quickly appeared windswept and toppled. Then you are driving down the highway when you notice the car that just sped by you is filled to the brim with personal belongings and instantly you find yourself remembering that first trip off to college or that big move you made for a new job. And there you sit with your thoughts when that BIG September question drops in your lap, "Where is time going and why can't  I slow--it---dowwwwnnnnn?!?"

So here we are in September. Our faces in the strong winds thinking about our lives, our past, those we have lost and try to wrap our heads around the fact that another year is almost over. Then it's September 11th. And that feeling knots within our heart as we ache for all of the souls lost on this fateful day. Then without being asked we find the strength to raise our internal and external American flags and share our grief as well as our pride with our family, our neighbors and friends near and far. Let us never forget.

And I imagine lots of remembering and reflecting is taking place in many home towns across our great country and here in Palm Coast it is no different as local artists donated works created to honor first responders, soldiers and those lost on September 11th to the Flagler County Art League's new art show entitled, A Hero's Call which opens today with a reception from 4 - 7pm. They are also celebrating their new home at City Walk in Palm Coast just a few doors down from Hollingsworth Gallery where you can catch their amazing show entitled, Music is the Muse and relax with family and friends at the encore artist reception from 5 - 9pm.

What a great way to remember and honor all heroes working both here and abroad than by getting out and enjoying great art and conversations with friends, family and fellow artists. See you there!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ready for Another Art Reality Show?

Whether you liked Bravo TV's recent show, "Work of Art" it appears art in reality tv is taking hold as Ovation TV premieres "Art Race" tonight at 8pm ET.  I couldn't find a complete synopsis on their website so here's the show episode description, 
"Two artists have 40 days to make it across the country. The catch? They have no money; the only currency they'll be permitted to use is their artwork. This episode introduces our contestants, sculptor Ben Sargent, who attempts to earn his first bit of cash with a triptych created outside Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, and classical painter Kenny Harris, who does some pet portraiture to earn money for the first leg of his trip." Hmm. I wonder what they are racing for? Will they get their own show? Stay tuned...

But hey wait a minute...why watch this when I'm living my own art reality show, right? So yes, it's so wonderful to be back at Hollingsworth Gallery and the teaching studio - definitely feels like home. The notable changes that have taken place in just a few short weeks are nothing short of amazing and most notable is the new work of J.J. Graham (!!!) and the gallery's current show, "Music is the Muse" has some of the best artwork I've seen in years. Please, if you live in the area, you must stop by and see it for yourself and hey - they say now is a great time to invest in art so buying a piece or two is something to consider...if you can swing it.

Speaking of amazing, stop-you-in-your-tracks easily and quickly we forget the beauty that surrounds us every day!?! Today, after my gallery visit and first class where I learned a really cool new way to make mono prints, I made a quick stop at Wal-Mart before heading home. While I was racing out into the parking lot with the usual M-O of just looking down at my feet while dodging carts, cars and teems of people (and trying to remember where I parked) something made me stop in my tracks and look up. The sky and clouds above me were as if an alien space ship had arrived and decided to hover over us. The clouds were so HUGE and the colors and shapes and the movements surreal and seemed so close - I wanted to stand on my tippy toes and run my hands across them! I tried to capture the moment with my cell phone camera (see above) but without a panaramic lens it just doesn't do it justice.

Oh well, I am so happy to be back home here ocean-side and can see a long chain of dark, menacing but amazing mountainous clouds passing by and I now know where much of the inspiration for my paintings comes if I didn't know...I guess I just didn't remember. Or maybe these cloud formations are due to tropical storm Danielle building out in the Atlantic? Hmm...better go check the weather channel. Java! 
P.S. Take a moment and go outside and look up! And if you have clear skies tonight, check out the full moon. 
P.S.S. Just learned I do have Ovation TV....watching Art Race! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Strength of Weeds

Cracks in Our Cement, watercolor, c sullivan

I was walking Lucy yesterday and while stopped to let her nose explore the base of a tree I looked down and was struck by the beauty of the shapes and colors of a large slab of cracked cement before me. The large patch of exposed dark earth was riddled with all number of small, crumbling, off-white cement pieces while a few dark green weeds popped through creating a beautiful and natural man vs mother nature composition. It made me ponder on our own personal cracked cement created mostly in a similar manner as our soul is most exposed through the prism of our foibles and within them also shines our unique and wonderful beauty.  

This thought was going through my head in the studio yesterday and while I couldn't quite accomplish what I set out to do while looking at the pieces now there are a few weeds popping out at me, pushing me to continue. Sometimes that's all we need. I hope you are able to see the beauty within your own cracked cement and remember to praise the strength in the glorious weeds shining through. Java!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ocean's Morning

Ocean's Morning, Watercolor, 12 x 12" , c. sullivan

It has been too many days since I have written of the sea....
It has been too many days since I have written...
It has been too many days since I have...
It has been too many days since...

I have taken part in the ocean's morning. 

It calls to us: Wake up. Wake up to the magic that is around you. 
All that is within you. Hear it?

"Every speck of dust has a marvellous soul, but to understand it, one must recover one's religious and magical sense of things." Joan Miro

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Get Out and Experience Art, Experience Life

"At Ausable" by Christine Sullivan, Watercolor, 17 x 17"

It's been fifteen years since I played with watercolor, eight weeks since I had a paint brush in hand and never since I have painted out of doors. Yet I was invited by one of my best friends, a talented artist and the person responsible for pulling me into her art classes in high school, to join her up in the Adirondack Mountains for a weekend of plein air painting.  Lori assured me this would be a low-key plein air group (true) led by a woman artist eager to share her knowledge with others (very true) at a wonderful location (OMG the sights and sounds of Adirondack State Park reminded me of Ireland) and then she added quietly that there are a few challenges to painting outdoors (try black flies, mosquitos and no where to pee for starters). But all in all she assured me we would have a lot of fun together so off we went.

We learned a few things about painting, a few more about each other and I think it's fair to say we learned a lot more about life in its most splendid and colorful details. And that's a good thing. Actually, it is the thing.

So many times we are blind to the honest beauty that sits beside us. Those few yellow wild flowers standing tall on a strip of grass lining a dark parking lot can vanish or appear based on how open we are. But even when you are in one of the many wonderful playgrounds here in the US of A it is still sometimes difficult to see, to really see where you are. Sure when you look upward you appreciate the tall mountains lined by clouds or when you look down into the moving water of a bending stream you say to yourself, wow that's really cool. But you still have to give it more time. The it that is. The orchestra that becomes at once so very loud and extraordinarily quiet. The hum, the babbling, the shine all working together for your attentive eyes. After awhile you tend to creep off by yourself even when you are standing still. And that's when the magic starts to happen. And all things become one and you find yourself in the yellowfish of life and your painting starts easily working all on its own. Thanks, Lori! And to all, give it a try. You just might find your own quiet orchestra.

The Bridge at Boggs Falls by Lori McCall, Watercolor 14 x 18"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Palm Coast, FL - The New Center for Contemporary Art

There are many ways to look at fate. Accidental. Transcendental. Spiritual. But in the small city of Palm Coast, Florida - a location closely aligned with the natural cycle of life being the winter destination to a great number of migrating birds, birthing whales and yes, sun seeking peoples - there grows a number of talented local artists who, themselves transplanted from larger cities or towns and/or foreign countries, have found each other through Hollingsworth Gallery at City Walk. Is it fate?

J.J. Graham, resident artist and gallery owner, is not sure what to call it but knows for sure that Palm Coast is the up and coming center for contemporary art in the Southeast. This Saturday he opens a new show that is sure to prove the point and potentially give him and the city the right to say that time is now. Abstraction: A Group Exhibition highlights the work of twenty-three contemporary artists living in the greater Palm Coast and Central Florida (including Orlando) area and represent, "the finest compilation of quality contemporary art I have ever witnessed," says J.J., "I am confident that art lovers & collectors alike, including those that don't necessarily think they are looking for abstract art, will immediately be struck by the amount of beauty and color in this show and find themselves envisioning these hanging in their own homes."

The show opens this Saturday, June 12 at 6pm with a community and artist reception that invites art lovers & critics alike to explore the exciting work as well as meet the artists in a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. A great evening out with your friends that promises to delight and inspire? Absolutely. Owning a piece of this new contemporary art scene? It just may be fate. See you there!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dr. Seuss: The Man, Artist and fellow Yellowfisher

Today is the 50th anniversary of the children’s classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss and being of sound yellowfish mind and body what better time to take a few minutes to look at the life and art of Dr. Seuss. It states on that, “Seuss single handedlyforged a new genre of art that falls somewhere between the Surrrealist Movement of the early 20th Century and the inspired nonsense of a precocious child’s classroom doodles.”

His life is a fascinating one. But we shouldn’t be surprised by that however in reading over his biography I saw a life lived in the yellowfish zone - be it while he was working as an illustrator for a magazine, in the advertising department at an oil company, developing short animated films for the war efforts, writing his chldren’s books, painting and sculpting his own fine art or simply tending to his garden...he saw art in everything and reading it is a great reminder to us all that being true to yourself and working hard at something you are passionate about is what it’s all about. Enjoy!
The following excerpt is from the Dr. Seuss Art website at Please visit the site for the full biography as well as to see the many images and photographs.

Childhood Yes, there really was a Dr. Seuss. He was not an official doctor, but his prescription for fun has delighted readers for more than 60 years. Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Ted”) was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father, Theodor Robert, and grandfather were brewmasters and enjoyed great financial success for many years. Coupling the continual threats of Prohibition and World War I, the German-immigrant Geisels were targets for many slurs, particularly with regard to their heritage and livelihoods. In response, they were active participants in the pro-America campaign of World War I. Thus, Ted and his sister Marnie overcame such ridicule and became popular teenagers involved in many different activities.

Despite some financial hardship due to Prohibition, Ted enjoyed a fairly happy childhood. His parents were strict, but very loving. His mother, Henrietta Seuss Geisel, had worked in her father’s bakery before marrying Ted’s father, often memorizing the names of the pies that were on special each day and ‘chanting’ them to her customers. If Ted had difficulty getting to sleep, she would often recall her ‘pie-selling chants’. As an adult, Ted credited his mother “for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it” (Morgan, p. 7).

If you’ve never seen a photograph of Dr. Seuss, you probably picture him as a young child or a grandfatherly gentleman. You may not have considered his robust years as a college student.

Ted attended Dartmouth College and by all accounts was a typical, mischievous college student. According to Judith and Neil Morgan, co-authors of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel and personal friends of his, “Ted grew to respect the academic discipline he discovered at Dartmouth—not enough to pursue it, but to appreciate those who did” (Morgan, p. 28). He worked hard to become the editor-in-chief of Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine.

His reign as editor came to an abrupt end when Ted and his friends were caught throwing a party that did not coincide with school policy. Geisel continued to contribute to Jack-O, merely signing his work as “Seuss.” This is the first record of his using the pseudonym Seuss.

Graduation from Dartmouth was approaching, and Ted’s father asked the question all college students dread: what was Ted going to do after college?

Ted claimed to have been awarded a fellowship to Oxford University and the elder Geisel reported the news to the Springfield paper, where it was published the following day. Ted confessed the truth—Oxford had denied his fellowship application—and Mr. Geisel, who had a great deal of family pride, managed to scrape together funds to send him anyway. Ted left for Oxford intending to become a professor (he couldn’t think of anything else to do with an Oxford education). It would be the first of many turning points in his career.

Sitting in his Anglo-Saxon for Beginners class, his doodling caught the eye of a fellow American student named Helen Palmer. Helen suggested that he should become an artist instead of a professor. He took her advice and eventually, he took her hand in marriage as well.

Early Career

Judge, Standard Oil/Advertising
Marriage and career, however, did not come quickly. Ted needed to earn a living before he could think of a life with Helen. He decided that he could make a living as a cartoonist, and was thrilled when one of his submissions was published in The Saturday Evening Post. His work caught the eye of the editor for Judge, a New York weekly, and Ted was offered a staff position. Many of the characters from these sketches resemble the more-familiar characters of his books: Horton-esque elephants, turtles that look like Yertle, and Nizzard-like birds.

Standard Oil recognized Ted’s talent—or at the very least, his obsession with Flit, the pesticide Standard was manufacturing at the time—and offered him a job in their advertising department. Flit’s competitor, Fly-Tox, offered Ted a similar contract and in true Ted Geisel form, he flipped a coin to make the decision. As a result, the phrase “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” was introduced into the American vernacular (Morgan, p. 65). In all, Ted spent over 15 years in advertising, primarily with Standard.

World War II
While Ted was not an advocate of war, he knew that war against Japan and Germany was imminent. Ted contributed anywhere from 3-5 urgent political cartoons each week to PM Magazine, considered by many to be a liberal publication. Despite the steady work from PM, however, Ted wanted to contribute more to the war effort.

At 38, Ted was too old for the draft, so he sought a commission with naval intelligence. Instead, he wound up serving in Frank Capra’s Signal Corps (U.S. Army) making movies relative to the war effort. He was introduced to the art of animation and developed a series of animated training films, which featured a trainee called Private Snafu. At first, many balked at the idea of a “cartoon” training series, but the younger recruits really responded to them. The Private Snafu assignments that Ted oversaw included scripts set to rhyme (Morgan, p. 109).

Ted also contributed to two Academy Award-winning films during his stint as a soldier. Few copies of the films under their original titles remain (Your Job in Germany and Your Job in Japan), and it is unknown as to whether any copies of the Oscar-winning remakes, Hitler Lives and Design for Death, respectively, exist. (Morgan, pp. 118 –120, and Cohen).

Ted was still contributing to Life, Vanity Fair, Judge, etc., when an editor at Viking Press offered him a contract to illustrate a collection of children’s sayings called Boners. While the book received bland reviews, Ted’s illustrations were championed; he considered the opportunity his first, official “big break” in children’s literature (Morgan, p. 72), and another turning point in his career.

By this time, there was no question that Ted could make a living as an illustrator and cartoonist—but he also enjoyed writing. While traveling on the luxury liner Kungsholm, Ted became bothered by the rhythm of its engines. At Helen’s urging, he applied the incessant rhythm to his first children’s book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

Though Mulberry Street is a delightful peek into the vivid imagination of a child, publishers in 1937 were not receptive; in fact, Ted presented his manuscript to 27 publishing houses and received 27 rejections. Discouraged, Ted literally bumped into an old Dartmouth friend who happened to work at Vanguard Press, a division of Houghton Mifflin. His friend offered to take the manuscript and illustrations to show them to key decision-makers. Vanguard wound up publishing Mulberry Street, which was well received by librarians and reviewers.

His next career turning point was in response to Rudolf Flesch’s book and John Hersey’s article, both entitled Why Johnny Can’t Read; the premise for both article and book was that children’s books were boring. Hersey was outraged with the current primers, calling them “antiseptic” and the children in them “unnaturally clean.” He called for illustrations “that widen rather than narrow the associative richness the children give to the words,” and concluded that the work of artists like Geisel and Walt Disney would be more appropriate (Morgan, pp.153-54).

So in an unusual act of “sharing” an author, Houghton Mifflin and Random House asked Ted to write a children’s primer using 220 new-reader vocabulary words; the end result was The Cat in the Hat. Houghton Mifflin reserved textbook rights and Random House reserved retail/trade rights. While schools were hesitant to adopt it as an “official” primer, children and parents swarmed for copies.

Though Ted’s road to children’s books had many twists and turns, The Cat in the Hat catapulted him from pioneer in children’s literature to definitive children’s book author/illustrator, a position he has held unofficially for many decades since.

A doodler at heart, Ted often remarked—with a twinkle in his eye—that he never really learned to draw. His school notebooks often included bizarre creatures that framed sporadic notes he had taken in class.

For over 60 years, Dr. Seuss’s illustrations brought a visual realization to his fantastic and imaginary worlds. However, his artistic talent went far beyond the printed page, as in his Secret Art works – the paintings and sculptures he did at night for himself that he rarely exhibited during his lifetime. Seuss always dreamed of sharing these works with his fans and had entrusted his wife, Audrey, to carry out his wishes once he was gone. Audrey, too, believed the work deserved further recognition and that Ted himself would one day be evaluated not only as an author, but also as an artist in his own right.

In 1997, this dream was realized when The Art of Dr. Seuss project was launched. For the first time in history, collectors were able to see and acquire lithographs, serigraphs and sculptures reproduced from Geisel’s original drawings and paintings. In her introduction to the collection Audrey Geisel wrote, “I remember telling Ted that there would come a day when many of his paintings would be seen and he would thus share with his fans another facet of himself – his private self. That day has come. I am glad.”

This historic project has opened the world’s eyes to the unique artistic talent of Dr. Seuss and, as such, galleries, museums and collectors have helped make Audrey Geisel’s promise, and Dr. Seuss’s dream, a reality.

Now, just 15 years after Ted passed away, these artworks have toured to leading galleries and museums across the world, establishing Seuss as a significant artist of the 20th century. Today limited edition prints and sculptures of Dr. Seuss artworks can now be found at galleries along side the works of Rembrandt, Picasso and Miro.

When Ted needed to clear his thoughts or relieve creative block, he often took an afternoon walk through his garden. Ted considered gardening and tending to his trees other art forms altogether, and his work in this “media” created a soft, pastoral setting.

According to Ted, however, his greatest work wasn’t a particular book or lavish gardens. Ted considered his greatest contribution to be the Lion Wading Pool at Wild Animal Park in San Diego, which he donated around 1973 (Dr. Seuss from Then to Now, p. 80).

Click the link here to read the rest of the biography: Dr. Seuss Biography

Images are copyright Dr. Seuss Properties, Photography by Phillip Ritterman.

Happy World Oceans Day 2010!

One of the privileges of living on or near the ocean is the ability to witness the various cycles of our unique wildlife. Here is a photo essay, taken yesterday by a neighbor, of a loggerhead turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs. I've added information about the loggerheads. What a great way to celebrate World Oceans Day especially in the midst of the devastating BP Oil spill. Enjoy! 

Once loggerhead turtles reach breeding age, approximately 9 - 10 
years old they come back to the same beach where they were born !
The nesting period ranges from May to August with incubation 
times varying between 45 and 90 days and the average for Florida 
around 60 days.
Once they lay the eggs, usually fairly close to our dunes, 
volunteers drive the beach in a small beach jeep (like a golf 
cart with beach tires) each morning to locate, mark and check 
on the nests. These dedicated folks are called "The Turtle Patrol"
Heading back to the water is a slow process and will be the 
same path the baby turtles will take when they are born, usually 
at night and approximately 60 days from now.
They use their flippers not only to swim but to bury the 
approximately 100 eggs. Nests are often lost to predators such 
as raccoons, dogs and ghost crabs as well as shoreline erosion. 
Loggerheads are the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world 
and grow to about 200 lbs with a approx life span of 30 yrs. 
Loggerheads are known to nest between 1 and 4 times per 
season at intervals of approximately 14 days.
Florida loggerheads’ migratory path follows an enormous 
circular current system known as the North Atlantic gyre. 
Water in the gyre is relatively warm, and food is abundant. 
But outside the gyre, conditions are less favorable, and 
turtles that stray from the route often die from the cold.
Working in Florida, scientists have found what they 
believe is the strongest evidence yet that baby loggerhead 
turtles "read" the Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate 
the massive clockwise current that sweeps the northern 
Atlantic Ocean.
Loggerheads feed on mollusks, crustaceans, fish and other 
marine animals.
A slow swimmer compared to other sea turtles, the loggerhead 
occasionally falls prey to sharks, and individuals missing flippers 
or chunks of their shell are not an uncommon sight.
However the loggerhead compensates for its lack of speed 
with stamina - for example a loggerhead that had been tagged 
at Melbourne Beach, FL was captured off the coast of Cuba 
"To me, one of the great wonders of the world is that baby 
sea turtles enter the ocean and then swim across the Atlantic 
and back all by themselves," said Dr. Kenneth J. Lohmann, associate 
professor of biology at UNC at Chapel Hill.

Friday, June 4, 2010


"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." 
Dr. Seuss

June 8th is World Oceans Day. It's the undersea version of Earth Day and has been growing over the past few years and for 2010 the celebratory plans took it up a notch as The Ocean Project joined forces with Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss? Well it just so happens that June 8th is also the 50th anniversary of the Dr. Seuss children's classic, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish so they got together and developed fun family educational events that are taking place this weekend.

And who would have ever fathomed that this would be overshadowed by the world's worst oil spill in history. I'm certainly having a hard time celebrating as I sit here stunned at the news and photos while BP Oil continues to gush into the Gulf.  But then again, maybe it's a good thing. I mean it is by far the largest wake up call to date so what better time for us to learn what we can do to help as well as how we can help our oceans in general be it along the shores of our own beaches or how we interact with and impact all waters on land and sea. 

I perused the World Oceans Day events list and found many fun family events taking place today and throughout the weekend. They range from celebrity book readings at bookstores in California, to large family oriented events in Boston at the wharf to educational presentations about our oceans ecosystems and even training for the Great Annual Fish Count. Then I noticed a few events surfacing in Florida that are focused on the BP Oil spill and what we can do to help. Here are two examples: 

Plan for the Worst - Expect the Best! 
Join together with Palm Beach County Florida residents at Boynton Beach Inlet Park on June 22nd to learn what you can do to help Florida's coastal communities and species prepare for the impact of the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

July 25, 2010 - Jacksonville, FL - meeting to organize "Kick the Slick" = A 12-hour benefit spectacular with live music and a silent auction of original art and other treasures with all proceeds going to benefit the most urgent needs arising from the tragic Gulf Coast oil slick.

Isn't it amazing how in the midst of tragedy it is in our very nature to pull together and find some good. Even as reports today confirmed the oil slick will reach the Pensacola beaches any day now I have a feeling that most if not all of the local events in our country will go on as planned with some changes and in some form or fashion will now include discussions about and information on ways we can all help.

So how can we help? It starts with you and me. Information. Education and pulling together. Take a look at the links below as well as in your local event listings for events taking place near you and then tell a friend or better yet bring a friend. And if you don't have one think about organizing your own "Kick The Slick" event. 

Oh, and as to the Dr. Seuss 50th anniversary - if you don't have your own copy of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to read on June 8th head out to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of the special Random House 50th anniversary edition. It's sure to be a collectors item. 

Yours in the ocean and yellowfish life.

Relevant Weblinks:

"The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
Howard Zinn (1922-2010)