Wednesday, February 18, 2009

! ! ! 100th Post ! ! !

One hundred posts. Wow!

I can't believe I'm up to 100. I started this blog while visiting my parents in Puerto Rico in 2007. I wanted someplace to share musings gathered during my 2-hour, twice daily commute between New York City and Connecticut, something to show for all that time besides naps and office work. I also needed a place to answer frequent frightened questions from friends, family and friends of friends who were about to brave the Big Apple. 

Science fiction author Spider Robinson once observed that God is an iron, since He/She freely indulges in irony. Shortly after starting Commuter's Journal, I was laid off from my job in Manhattan and discovered I needed surgery. The combination ended seven years of long days on Metro North. But it also gave me the opportunity to embark on a new journey, a more profound one I think, and become part of the community of online artists. 

So the commute continues, this time on a higher plane. And I thank all of you for traveling with me awhile. You have made the journey more than I could possibly have hoped for. 

Here's to the next 100 posts. L'chaim!

These illustrations were created 18 years ago for a children's book written by my friend Nan Lundeen. Unfortunately, the story of a little black dog and her bear friend never sold, but it was fun to see these again after so long.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Let it Out and Let it In

May your heart take wing this Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Attention Big Bang Theory fans!

I just found the coolest T-shirts on the Web. Cool enough for the costume designer on The Big Bang Theory. Honest!

For those of you who don't know The Big Bang Theory, it's a sitcom about four physics nerds and the pretty girl who lives across the hall. You can guess the premise -- they're geniuses but can't function in the real world. She's an ordinary mortal but has more common sense than the bunch of them combined.

Forget the trite premise. This show ROCKS. Really. It's fast, witty and clever and two of the characters -- roommates Leonard and Sheldon -- wear the coolest T-shirts. In fact, there's an excellent Web site that sells them called Sheldon's Shirts

But the amazing shirts you see here are from a different Web site that I'm excited to tell you about. (Top, Squid Count by akoelle; above, pink roses by LysD.) It's called Design by Humans and features the designs of hundreds of artists. Not only can you buy shirts, you can join them and submit your designs or just sign up and vote for your favorites. But be forewarned, you can spend all day happily browsing.

These shirts may even be too cool for Leonard and Sheldon. But they're not too cool for you. What a great way to rock your inner nerd!

EDIT: Whoops! I forgot to mention that my favorite nerds are on CBS Mondays at 8 p.m.

Happy 15th of Shevat!

I hope you all had a Happy Tu B'Shevat.

Never heard of it? It's often called the Jewish Arbor Day, since traditionally we plant trees. But it would more accurately be called the Birthday of Trees, since the holiday evolved as the way to mark when a fruit tree is mature enough for harvest. Most people don't realize that trees were of such importance in early cultures that there are laws in the Bible to protect them.

In recent years, some Jewish congregations have begun a special Tu B'Shevat Seder. (A Seder is a symbolic meal that is eaten in a particular order.) It includes four cups of grape juice, starting with white grape and progressing to purple, to symbolize the move from the barrenness of winter to the promise of fall harvest. 

There are also two plates of fruit, the first plate is fruit with large seeds, such as avocados, dates and olives, to symbolize big dreams and big accomplishments. The second plate is fruit with small seeds, such as carob, figs and pomegranates,  to recognize the importance of small, generous actions. And there are almonds, which mark spring in Israel with an abundance of blossoms, and remind us that sometimes the hardest tasks have the sweetest reward.

With apologies to the groundhog, it is Tu B'Shevat that restores my spirit with the hope of spring. Hope your Tu B'Shevat was great. 

Happy Birthday, Trees! 

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I once complained to a friend that February was the Danny DeVito of months -- short and mean. Then I went and had a baby on her birthday on the last day of February and suddenly, the month was transformed.

Now every February I am guaranteed a Valentine, a companion with whom to visit the folks in Puerto Rico if I can afford to go, and a celebration to plan and anticipate. And I've even come to realize that February has its own icy beauty and Danny DeVito is a great family man, actor, producer and director. Someone I wouldn't mind my February baby emulating.

Isn't it amazing what a little change of perspective can do for you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Leaf Motif

So once again, I'm late to the party. Serves me right for being so dissatisfied and waiting until the last minute. And then there's the little matter of the offspring commandeering the computer for the-middle-school-research-paper-that-would-not-end. Including a 20-minute "discussion" as to why his mother is old because she still says "footnote." Harumph!

But I digress.

As I started to import photos to show you for my choice of shape, it dawned on me that I had more than one or two examples. Dozens more. Holy cow, Michelle -- how did you know we get obsessed when we don't even realize it ourselves? 

My choice, obviously, was leaves. In keeping with making my own tools, I basically fell back on three things. One was some birthday wrapping paper with this cool leaf pattern. Which inspired this. 

And this.

But I wanted to go a step further. I've been admiring Lotta Jansdotter's work lately and started to cast about for an inexpensive printmaking technique. Then, one day while I was wandering too far from the toothpaste aisle at my local Target, I noticed some fun foam sheets. It dawned on me -- fun foam is cheap, easy to cut and takes impressions with a pen or pencil. In fact, it reminded me of a printmaking technique done in elementary schools using those styrofoam meat trays. Just the thing for simple printmaking.

Once home, I cut and scored my shapes, then applied paint. First with a sponge roller, later with a chip brush. (I prefer the brush's streakiness.) After placing the stamp on the surface, I burnished with it my brayer. 

Some stamps I applied directly to the page.

Others were printed then cut out for collage elements. (See top of post.) Then I decided to do a little paper cutting. Some free-form.

Some symmetrical by cutting a folded piece of paper.

The same shape, applied differently becomes a petal. Well, you knew that.

So why leaves you ask? Simple. A plant will generally have one basic "style" of leaf, but repeat it endlessly in all sorts of variations to create a greater work of art. Why not follow the genius of Mother Nature?

Now if she could only tell me how to speed up middle school research papers.