Another Death in the Family

I have only cried three times when learning of a celebrity’s death: Nora Ephron, Robin Williams, and David Bowie.

Losing Nora was like losing your favorite aunt. She was the one with a real knack for telling stories about her life that taught you something important and also made you laugh. Aunt Nora wouldn’t sugarcoat it — Harry and Sally were not supposed to end up together because that never happens in real life — but she’d still give you hope that maybe, when it’s the right Harry and the right Sally, it can work. And sometimes fate will lead you from Baltimore to Seattle to the top of the Empire State Building for an improbably beautiful story to tell your grandkids. She made you feel cared for. She talked to you like a real person from the time you were little. You always felt like an equal with Aunt Nora.

Losing Robin was like losing your favorite uncle. He was the one that talked so fast you could barely keep up and had you laughing so hard you’d forget to breathe. Sometimes, he made others uncomfortable with one of his jokes or his personal demeanor, but not you. Not you and your cousins. Uncle Robin was everyone’s favorite uncle, and somehow he made each and every one of you feel like the favorite niece or nephew. He’d remember something funny or important you said quietly to yourself, years ago at an awkward Thanksgiving, when you thought no one was listening. He’d encourage you when you didn’t know you needed encouraging. Uncle Robin smiled at you like he knew a really wonderful secret about you that you hadn’t discovered yet.

Losing David was different. David wasn’t your uncle. David wasn’t your aunt (although on occasions, he may have seemed that way depending on how he dressed). He wasn’t a father, grandfather, brother, son.

David was your second cousin.

He was the one you only met a few times in your life. Second cousins aren’t at every event, but there are special times when you get to meet them. It’s always a little weird, because you know you’re relatives and have very important people in common in your lives, but you barely know each other. You would hear about that “cousin David” from time to time, probably from your parents, saying something like, “Oh, cousin David’s reinventing himself again!” or “David’s gotten into cocaine again,” or “I hear your cousin David’s in a band now.”

You might have been friends on facebook, but you didn’t really talk. He always seemed a bit too cool, too above anything you’d have to say. You didn’t want to bother him with mundane things. Your other relatives might have thought him really weird, but you liked that weirdness. He was bold with his strangeness. And the thing was, on those rare occasions you actually saw him as opposed to just listening to his latest song he posted on his website, you realized he was oddly normal, too.

He was quiet. He preferred laughing at Uncle Robin’s jokes and Aunt Nora’s stories instead of talking about his newest album. David liked to have personal conversations instead of half-assed superficial chitchat with a group. He surprised you in the way that Uncle Robin did by remembering something you had said when you thought no one was listening. It was always something philosophical, something you thought you couldn’t talk about with everyone else. Maybe you couldn’t. But David wanted to talk about it.

Your conversations were always too short because everybody else wanted to talk to him, too. So you’d just stalk his facebook and see what he was up to and listen to his songs and think, “Wow…what a cool person I have in my life.” You couldn’t believe you were related — hell, you couldn’t even believe you were the same species. But there he was, being weird out in the world and being normal with you. That mystery, that strange dichotomy of characters he played, that haunting look on his album cover with the beautiful laugh you remembered from the last family gathering…all of that made you want to get to know him more.

“One day,” you’d think. “One day, I’ll get the guts to go see him. One day, I’ll just be chill and ask to meet up and hang out. One day, I’ll really get to know my cousin David.”

It was always one day.

A lot can happen in one day.

Losing David was hard because there was so much more you wanted to know. There was so much more you wanted to say. It wasn’t fair when you lost Aunt Nora or Uncle Robin. It was shocking and horrible each time. But you didn’t expect this one to be just as shocking and horrible. Some part of you thought your cousin was going to live forever. You couldn’t say why. It was just this gut feeling, this idea that he would always be around — that even though he was older than you, he’d still outlive you by at least a few centuries. 

Maybe he’d leave the world in a spaceship. Maybe he’d shape-shift into another identity. Maybe he’d do something you couldn’t even imagine if you tried. Your weird, somehow famous and somehow normal second cousin David was always going to be extraordinary in everything he did, and then he died in an ordinary way. It didn’t make sense.

Second cousins are strange. They’re family, but they have a lot of different branches on their own family tree. Sometimes they’re people you get to know so well that you don’t consider them any more distant than a first cousin or sibling. Sometimes, they’re people you never get to meet. Even then, a loss is felt. A family member has died.

You go to a bar or maybe just your living room to reflect on that. Family, but non-immediate family, is gone. Aren’t we all non-immediate family in the end?

You ask for or make yourself a custom drink he always had at those rare family gatherings. Or maybe it’s just something that reminds you of him. Or maybe it’s the drink of choice when you’re in a state like this.

Just to yourself, you raise your glass to the man you knew and never knew at the same time, the man who had made you feel acknowledged and appreciated even if it was only for a few moments at a time and you never got to thank him for it, the man whose weirdness let you explore your own, the man you promised yourself you’d get to know and now he’s gone so you listen to all the songs you didn’t listen to before.

Here’s to everyone’s second cousin, David Robert Jones: the man with a lovely and ordinary name with an equally lovely and extraordinary alter ego known as David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Man Who Sold the World, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the Thin White Duke, a piece of a Tin Machine, an Outsider Earthling, The Elder Statesman, and a Starman from a Blackstar, waiting in the sky.


For the first time ever, I participated as a vendor in a craft / art fair! I was accepted into the 2015 Malvern Blooms Festival back in February, and on May 3rd, I got to debut my wares:

Hamiltonian Designs booth at Malvern Blooms 2015

Hamiltonian Designs booth at Malvern Blooms 2015

I am so proud of how it all turned out and incredibly grateful to my amazing mother who helped me set everything up, to my friends who visited my tent, to my boyfriend for supporting me as I crafted my guts out, and to every single person who stopped to admire my work - you are all beautiful rock stars!


My first love is traditional art. Digital is wonderful and gives me so many opportunities to work on pieces I wouldn't know how to do with handheld tools, but paints and pencils and papers and their enigmatic scents drive me wild.

I recently moved and had to take down my artwork from my apartment walls in the process. Before gently putting these away, I had to take a shot of two of my favorite explorers: William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. If I could draw their adventures all day, I would.

If only we learned more about them in schools. It's usually a couple days of: "Thomas Jefferson sent these two guys across the country with Sacagawea and they came back and reported on what they saw. Things were tough, but they did a great job." How about the fact that only one person in their team (there were more than just these two guys) died, and that was from appendicitis? Pretty amazing for a multi-year trip across uncharted territory in harsh winters. What about Sacagawea's teenage spirit and interest in joining them? She was pregnant when they met, not carrying the papoose from the get-go like we see in paintings. And why do we never talk about Lewis getting shot in the ass by one of his own men, thinking he was an elk? That's just hilarious.

Lewis and Clark: beautiful derps whose faces I need to draw more.

the Muses

I've kind of started art journaling. I say "kind of" because I'm more experimenting with techniques and images than "journaling" my thoughts or feelings, but I suppose the creative process in book form would count as a type of journal anyway.

I'm drawn to mixed media and collage work and how they can tell a story. I saw an ad in Harper's Bazaar that just felt dark and perfect for some sort of piece. I used a gel medium to transfer it into my book, and was both disappointed and pleased with the results. Disappointed since not as much transferred as I intended, but pleased with the opportunity to fill the space with other images and patterns. Void gave way to characters.

I have yet to replace my scanner, so below is a photo of the piece.

The full text reads: The Muses are not goddesses. They do not inspire beauty. They run the freak show.

Buster Keaton: Steampunk Adventurer, Part II

I realized as I was updating my gallery and character design pages that I hadn't included this little gem of Steampunk Keaton I had made:

I've also worked some more on a previous illustration of him. I added more color / shading to certain portions and included a detail on his right index finger. When Keaton was young, he lost the tip and first joint of his finger in an accident and hid that from the camera whenever he could. I figure if the steampunk world I've put him in can fix his broken neck, then he also gets a snazzy metallic upgrade to his hand.

Buster Keaton: Steampunk Adventurer

Ever since I first watched Buster Keaton, I have been in love with his work (and his face). Sometime in the last year, I was listening to Steam Powered Giraffe and realized their songs would work on so many levels with Buster's filmography and interests. Buster was a totally gear-oriented person. The first thing he did when he saw a film camera was take it apart and put it back together, just so he'd know how it worked. I think he would have a great appreciation for the Steampunk genre.

Looking at a profile of Buster, I quickly drew the above sketch. I felt like I needed to see what he would be like as a steampunk hero. Goggles were an absolute necessity, but I later knew that he couldn't possibly cover both of his eyes all the time. His eyes were the most expressive part of him and covering them would be a crime. I then used Photoshop to attach the hat of Rabbit from Steam Powered Giraffe to Buster's head in place of his usual porkpie hat:

I like that. I like him having a fun hat and optional goggles. But that hat doesn't quite fit him and maybe having a semi-permanent monocle might be interesting. Going back to my initial concept sketch, I wanted to include more gears and technology on his actual person. Buster actually broke his neck while filming Sherlock Jr. but never realized it. He was lucky that it was such a small fracture that he only thought he had an awful headache after slamming the back of his head against a railroad track. It was only years later after getting an x-ray that a doctor asked him when he had broken his neck. He realized it must have been during that shoot. What if the fracture had been more severe? What if he needed medical or mechanical attention? In a steampunk world, I think he'd have some interesting gears, metal braces, and pipes keeping everything put together and connected. 

But where does this steampunk Keaton go? And how does he get around?

In his airship The General, of course.

I'm still not 100% sure where Steampunk Keaton is going. The General goes with the wind, but Buster always has his poor heart set on some lovely girl. Typically, he's heartbroken.

"Honeybee" is what plays when he flies off into the sunset, wondering whatever happened to his love.

Boys Clubs

I've been looking in different places to see who publishes illustrations. I love when there's a fun and insightful cartoon to go along with an article. With each illustration I found, I noticed something: every single credit belonged to a man.

In The Hollywood Reporter, this is not so shocking. The film business is heavily male-dominated, so why would I expect a news publication on film to hire more women? But Glamour - really, ladies. This is a magazine by women and for women. I'm not going to seriously discuss the merits of any of its articles (some pieces are good and sometimes you just need some fluff), but with the few illustrations they have, they consistently hire men. Why is that?

The thing is, I see so many female indie comic artists. There are so many illustrators and creative ladies out there, but the guys are the ones getting all the attention, profits, and name recognition. In my limited knowledge, I can only think of two successful newspaper comic strips drawn by women: Cathy  and For Better or For Worse. Now think of the most popular comics and you'll find they were all drawn by men: Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Peanuts, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Garfield ... the list goes on and on and on.

And it's great for those guys. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side are my two favorite comics of all time. Bill Watterson is one of my artistic and storytelling role models. But where are the women? Not just on the comics page or in magazine article accompaniment drawings, but wherever illustrators, artists, and creative types of any sort are featured?

Wayyyyy back in the day, women were expected to know how to draw and draw well. They were also expected to be crafty and know not only how to sew for practical purposes, but also how to needlepoint and other "artsy" things. However, despite all these women taking their art lessons and taking them seriously, only the men were "real" artists. We hear about the same women over and over, like Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keefe and Frida Kahlo, because (1) not many gained popularity, and (2) not many people feel like doing the research on lesser-known female artists, let alone attempting to educate anyone about them. 

It's sad how in schools, girls are still expected to be "artsy" and boys are expected to avoid such things. Girls like art class, boys like gym. Girls like theater, boys think it's "gay". Girls like home ec, boys like wood shop. Yet the most well-known artists, actors, and cooks are men. Not women.

And the same thing goes for writing.

As I wander down these career paths and out of corporate culture, I just sit here and wonder, "What gives?" And I welcome the insight of any artists. I really am curious about the state of women in these industries.

Comfy Chair Storytelling

I love drawing people (see my gallery for proof), but I need to remind myself to draw more scenery just for the sake of a non-people art. This chair with its adjacent cup of tea just looks so comfy to me. Whenever I'd look at other artists' images of empty rooms or spaces, I always imagined a character off screen, ready to come in at any moment. I picture someone searching the bookshelf for their favorite comfort book (I truly believe there are such things as "comfort books" as much as there is "comfort food") and then coming back to settle into this super-soft armchair for a calm afternoon.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I might not have a thousand to say now, but I'm sure there's a story in every image.