My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Fourteen-year-old Computer Genius, Liver and Masterpieces

Okay, what do all these things have in common? Just wait ‘til you hear.

Let’s start with liver. Many people love it. I don’t. I mean I really don’t. My mom prepared it every conceivable way in hopes that I’d be converted.

It didn’t work. By the time I was ten, just bringing a piece on a fork toward my mouth would summon the herky-jerks. She gave up and from then on, I got to eat beets instead. What’s the tie there? Well, they’re both natural sources of iron – which I needed since I was slightly anemic.

So with that history in mind, I’d like to take you to one of my favorite and one of my worst memories. My father is Sheryl Bodily and he’s a professional Western artist. (Google: Sheryl Bodily, art, and click on images to see his paintings.) His art studio was in our home, so he was always there. It was a wonderful way to grow up. I was horrified to find out that other kids’ dads were gone most of the day. Dad was always there to talk to and he liked to take us kids, one at a time, to art shows with him.

It was my turn. We drove to Kalispell, Montana, to this beautiful, expensive home high on a hill. It overlooked much of the Flathead Valley. I was impressed. It wasn't often that art shows were held in a home. Usually it was in a gallery. Lots of cars were parked in their circular driveway. More people were coming.

We walked into the house filled with people: men in suits, ladies in dresses and heels. A vast front room spread out with a baby grand piano at the center. Artists stood by displays of their paintings and Dad led me over to his. It was right by the refreshment table. I smiled over a delectable variety of hors d’oeuvres.

The pretty hostess came over to welcome Dad and me. She was very nice and invited me to help myself to a treat. Oh, joy!

While she and Dad talked, I struggled to decide what I wanted. I finally chose a cracker loaded with cheese, with olive slices and garnishes on top. It was beautiful, but the cheese spread was strangely brown. I didn't care. Hey, I was a ten year old. I was hungry. And I wasn't about to waste time taking a dainty bite. My back was to everyone anyway, so no one would know.

Nope. This isn't me. She's too young and she's taking a very dainty bite.
As I undaintily crunched down, liver paste flooded my mouth. Pate! I gagged just as the hostess asked my father what he considered his masterpieces.

I felt his hand on my head as he answered, “My children. They are my masterpieces.”

Ack! Another gag was building. My eyes were watering. I had no idea what to do. If I held still another second, the gorgeous refreshment table was going to get sprayed with something very unappealing.

I knew they expected me to turn around and beam. I wanted to. I’d have given anything to go back ten seconds and take the strawberry, my second choice. But I drew a deep breath through my nose and swallowed it all. Mom would have been proud. Shards of cracker cut my throat. My stomach jerked.

Tears streaming, I faced the grown-ups.

“Aw,” the hostess said, no doubt touched that I was crying . . .

Sorry. I don’t remember the rest.
But I do remember the incomparible complement our father paid us. And now, I agree. Our children are our masterpieces!

My fourteen-year-old masterpiece is a computer genius. He was the one who pulled my artwork into the background of this blog. He set up the galleries. He went in and tweaked the settings, using bizarre programming lingo, so that it would do just what I wanted. He’s been doing this for years – figuring out all sorts of programming, web design, power points and other high-tech stuff.

I could bust my buttons, I’m so proud of him. He’s a walking, computer-genius masterpiece! Thanks a million, son!
And thank your lucky stars that I'll never try feeding you liver.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Picture Worth 97,000 Words

Okay, I have another wonderful obsession. Words. Mental pictures created from letters on a page.

Words construct worlds, break hearts, take you into deepest Africa, or into the mind of a deranged physicist bent on going back in time to kill the apostle Paul (Transgression, by Randy Ingermanson – it’s very good).

Words teach us math, history, science, or how to fold a dollar bill into a hammerhead shark (okay, you need pictures to go along with that one).

Words are magic! I love writing. I love reading – novels, magazines, the internet and mail. Oh yes, lovely mail. In fact snail mail brings me one of my favorite magazines each month: the National Geographic – not to be confused with the National Enquirer. Slight difference there.

The pictures NG chooses complement and enhance their articles. But several times now, I’ve found a photo that freezes everything. It captures my attention, my imagination, and I’m hungry to know the story.

One memorable one is the June 1985 picture of the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula.

I couldn’t get over this young girl’s eyes. They were scared, furious, and if she was a snake, you’d want to jump back ten feet, quick. I couldn’t wait to read the article. I wanted to draw her – capture a bit of that look. I grabbed my supplies and sat down to draw. While I did, my mind tried to fill the gaps in her story. I wanted to know everything. What I couldn’t find, my mind teased and turned, making things up. Words streamed through like a stiff April breeze. I loved it!

Then it happened again. June of 1997. (June is a very good month!)

Anyone who knows me knows I have this thing for anything tropical. Another wonderful obsession. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it soon. But back to the subject.

I had tucked this one away, then rediscovered it a bit ago. This cover is another show-stopper. A girl, the epitome of a Tahitian beauty, looks back over her shoulder. She’s in shadow, except for a pencil-thin silhouette along her features. Behind is a hint of a blue-gray cloud. Maybe a storm’s coming. Why is she looking back? Why is her body turned so sharply? It couldn’t be comfortable standing like that. Is she turning away from something? Is she afraid of the past? Does she have regrets? (Sorry. My curious mind can be a scary place.)

I flip to the article. Her name is Heiata Roomataroa (can anyone pronounce that?). And that’s all. It’s an article about pearls. It’s good – I like pearls, especially black ones. But the human story isn’t there and I want to know more. So I make it up. And I draw her picture. I can’t show it, because I drew it too close to the original. I don’t want to infringe on copyrights, so I won’t post it here. But come to my house anytime and I’ll show you.

So what is the story? A Polynesian beauty turns from the past, but can’t completely break away? What if she’s abducted, forced into modern-day slavery, has a life that’s far from her dreams? She’ll need a last-gasp chance to make it right. What if, while in a coma, her soul goes to a metaphysical purgatory where she’ll find a way to fix things? (I know. It’s called ‘proteinated-chocolate high from too many peanut M&M’s’.) What if she meets a guy? I start writing and the story takes me into another dimension. It’s crazy and oh, so fun. I explore. I laugh. I sigh. I make funny faces while trying to describe their expressions. I even cry. This is my fifth novel and it never gets dull.

One picture made 97,000 words come out of the ozone. It’s a miracle! I’m ready to do it all over again. Soooooo . . . where’s my next issue of National Geographic? Darn, I forget. It won’t be June.

Enough about that. Have you seen a picture that grabbed you by the throat?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Wonderful Obsessions

I don’t like art. I LOVE it. I love everything about it. There’s nothing like going into a museum or gallery or art show and getting a visual picture of someone else’s imagination. It makes me think. It brings back memories. It scares me out of my flip-flops. And then I’m inspired.

I go home and start a new piece of my own artwork. I love the smell of sharpened pencils and brand-new Strathmore drawing paper. I love the feel of waxy Prismacolor pencils gliding across the paper, creating a rainbow or a waterfall or a face. My breathing slows. My thoughts mellow. It’s a happy place, but it’s also filled with adventure. I love trying hard subjects or new mediums and going through the learning curves and, after several failures, finally making something I’m happy with. Artist’s high!

Yes. This is a wonderful obsession!

Most people have at least one – or two or three. Happy people do. I highly recommend them.

Disclaimer (before you get mad): There are Less-Than-Desirable Obsessions (LTDO’s). They lead to less-than-desirable circumstances. I don’t want to go there.

Let’s just go for the good ones, ones that make the people you live with smile, and hopefully improve their world. After all, your obsession will be shared by your loved ones whether they like it or not.

It should NOT replace your loved ones. They don’t like that very much.

So, if you’re not sure about which kind yours is, you can do a simple ‘honey test’. As in, “Honey, what do you think about me collecting Brazilian poison-arrow frogs?” or “Honey, remember how I always wanted to paint blazing fire down the side of your car?”

If you get a smile or raised eyebrows, it’s usually okay. A frown, an “Uhnnnn . . .”, or “Are you out of your addled mind?!”, will tell you that you’re heading right into LTDO territory. If you want to keep that loved one, you might want to reevaluate.

However, when you find one that works: blood pressure goes down, smile-lines go up, and life is the creamy citrus frosting on a seven-layer cake.

I know someone who raises seahorses. I had no idea they were that tiny or fragile. A friend a few houses down has the greenest thumb and the most beautiful flowers that I’ve ever seen. There are biker dudes and babes, coin collectors, dancers, gourmet chefs, and yes, (shudder), even people who read the National Enquirer. If you willingly pay for and read more than one, that would definitely be walking the LTDO line – unless your loved ones like it, too. Then I guess you’re okay? Maybe? I dunno. You might not want to tell anyone else about it. You might not want to invite people over. You might want to get a new obsession. Quick.

So, here we are. You know one of mine. I’d love to hear about yours. (And if you really do like the National Enquirer, I apologize.) What is your Wonderful Obsession? What do you like about it? Please post a comment. You'll make my day!
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