Artist's Blog - Green Hair Chronicles
One artist's observations on being different,
running a card company, and life in general.
This is actually a backup of the live blog at: http://greenhairchronicles.blogspot.com/
Saturday, January 10, 2007
They Met in Paris
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a
then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you,
Paris is a moveable feast."
- Ernest Hemingway
Ulla came to Paris from Germany in January, 1954 at the age of
22. She wanted to escape the constant reminders of World War II that surrounded her in her
home land. She had been under bombardment since she was seven.
moving constantly, and unable to attend school regularly.
Mika came to Paris from Yugoslavia to
escape the new communist regime. In his home land, friends had
disappeared after speaking out against the new government. He
arrived in France on a student's visa and was given political asylum by
the French government.
Ulla lived cheaply in Paris. She
rented a "chambre
de bonne" (formerly a maid's room), and ate at the student cafeteria at Sorbonne University.
It was during one such inexpensive lunch that she met Mika. They fell in
love and lived together in Paris for the next two years. Ulla edited and typed
Mika's thesis, and in 1956 he got his PhD in Economics.
They had both already applied for visas to this
country before they met, and his arrived before hers, so Mika set
sail for America. Seven months later Ulla got her visa as well, and
she arrived in the U.S. in December, 1956. That month, they were
married in City Hall in Manhattan, They became naturalized US
citizens, lived in New York City for the rest of their lives, and raised two
More about this at: They
Met in Paris
A tribute to my parent's adventures,
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Life and Death
"Time is life."
- William Bond
I got the quote above from William Bond's book
"Home-Based Catalog Marketing, A Success Guide for Entrepreneurs" one
of the many business books I read when I was starting my card company. In
it, he stressed the importance of time management and of acting quickly on your
Personally, I prefer to think: "time is the medium of
life," because time and life are in no way interchangeable, yet life would
not exist without time and change. Just as paint and canvas are the media
of my paintings: my paintings would not exist without the canvas that supports
them, and they would not be paintings without the paint I have applied to the
canvas. Without the passage of time, we would never be born, grow into
adults, or die.
Today is my mother's birthday. If she had lived, she
would be 74 today. But she died in August, 2004.
Although it was over a year ago, I still think of her often, and still miss
her. The void her passing left in my life is still fresh. She always
took the time to listen to me and be supportive, even if she could not
understand what I was talking about. More about her at: Eulogy
for Ursula Markovich.
As I write this, my father lies dying in a nursing home in
Maryland, and the end of a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. I drove
down to see him earlier this week, and was shocked at his appearance. He
looks pale, frail and skinny, and much older than his 81 years. Now he is
very different from the strong, healthy, intelligent man I depended on during my
childhood and early adulthood. He no longer eats, drinks, or opens his
eyes. The nurses told us that hearing and touch are the last senses to go, so my
sister and I talked to him and rubbed his arms, hoping that would provide some
When I look at the lives of my parents, and the beginning of
the life of my son, I have come to think of life as a bell curve in time.
We start out helpless, completely dependent upon others, and with no idea about
what's going on in the world around us. If we live long enough, many of us
wind up helpless, completely dependent upon others, and with little idea of
what's going on in the world around us. If we are lucky, in between we get
several decades during which we are capable of not only taking care of
ourselves, but also going beyond that to accomplish goals or take care of
others. As I am now in that capable phase, I try to make sure to take time
out to do those things that are important to me, like spending time with my son
and working on my art. And I am thankful to have this time today, because
I cannot count on tomorrow. In life, the only thing we can really count on
P.S. My father died on December 14, 2005. He was
married to my mother for over 48 years when she died, and they were very
close. When he died on her birthday, I felt that they were somehow
cosmically connected to the end.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Guess and Go Management
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has
genius, power, and magic in it."
When I decided to start a card company, I had no experience running a
business (unless you count renting out part of my house), and I knew
nothing about the greeting card industry. I knew neither now to get my
artwork printed as cards, nor how to sell them once they were printed. I
had no proof even that they could be sold. I only had a vaguely remembered
observation from an art fair a decade before that it was easier to sell
lower priced things than higher priced things. That, and an intense desire
to make a living from my artwork (hopefully), or at least get it out of
So I guessed, and I went forward. I comforted myself with my positive
feedback loop theory: if I objectively evaluated the results, kept what
worked, changed what didn't work, and tried again and again, eventually I
could make it happen; assuming, of course, I had infinite time. The first
card I printed featured the painting above, Mindscape II, a painting which
has always received complements. It's still one of my best-selling cards.
(More about this painting at http://claudiam.com/Paintings/DetailPages/DetailMindscape2.htm)
Guess and go management makes for many mistakes. The fact that time, and
its' co-dependent: money, are not infinite, is a constant concern. I have
learned the hard way about managing too much inventory and trying to break
into a field populated by big established players. I've had to do more
work than I could have imagined possible to accomplish the simplest thing,
only to find out that it's not the right thing to do in the first place.
But it's taken me places I never expected to go, and it's forced me to
rely on myself instead of whatever corporation was currently employing me.
Now, I question everything. Perhaps I even question it too much, hence the
Along the way, I found that my positive feedback theory has yet another
flaw in addition to the infinite time assumption - I can't ever really do
an objective evaluation of anything I care about as much as my art. But
I'm still ready to guess and go because it's much more interesting than
Friday, December 02, 2005
"I had to get over my fear of running through the world naked and
learn to say, 'Take me or leave me.'"
- Steven Spielberg
Creating and then exhibiting a painting makes me feel like that Spielberg
quote. I use my paintings to explore and understand my feelings and the
world around me. Whenever someone else views them, I wonder if they can
see exactly what I was thinking when I created that painting. At times, I
wonder if they can even see more that I can see, and can see something
about me that I don't even know myself. Of course it's also possible that
they interpret my imagery completely different than I had intended, and
see something I never even thought of.
I have paintings in two separate exhibits at the moment: my painting, Joy
At Any Size, is exhibited at part of the Art League of Long Island's
Member exhibit in Huntington
(above, more about this painting at
And I have two paintings hanging in Northport Art Coalition's Village Hall
Art Exhibit (my
paintings are on the left and right: on the left is Confined (http://claudiam.com/Paintings/DetailPages/DetailConfined.htm)
and on the right is First Try (http://claudiam.com/Paintings/DetailPages/DetailFirstTry.htm).
Very different paintings - I guess that's why they separated them.
The first few exhibitions I did made me very nervous. I was as anxious for
feedback (preferably positive) as anyone, and I felt I had something to
prove as an artist. But exhibitions never give me as much feedback as I
expect, so I am quite a bit calmer about it all now, and exhibiting
regularly has become part of my everyday life. Now I am more surprised
when I actually do get a comment, which inevitably brings me back to the
moment when I created the painting in question. And luckily, most of the
time when people make the effort to comment, it's because they have
something good to say. The same is true for my green hair. People who
don't like it pretend it doesn't exist.
Friday, November 25, 2005
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
- Anais Nin
I get asked this question a lot, especially by people who knew me before I
started coloring my hair green, about a year ago. The short answer is,
"to look different." The long answer is at: http://claudiam.com/AboutMe/GreenNewYear.htm
In 2001 I painted this painting called "Breaking Free." (More
about this painting at:
) At the time, I had just decided to go against the advice of everyone
around me and stop pursuing my engineering management career to pursue
full time what I have always wanted to do - my art. I had been painting
seriously all of my adult life, and twice before I took time off between
jobs to pursue my art full time, but I had dropped all of the leads since
the last time and I knew I would be starting cold. But by the time I
painted this, I knew I was going to go for it, for as long as humanly
I must admit, management paid better, but I love what I'm doing right now,
and I know I will always have what I create this way. No one (except
myself) can cancel a project mid-stream and throw my work away. And four
years later, here I am, still at it, putting my art on cards: http://www.claudiampublications.com/
These days, my advice to anyone who asks is, "pursue your dream"
and/or "be yourself." Life's not long enough to do both that and
what others prescribe. I feel lucky to know what my dream is, and even
more so to be able to pursue it.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Green Hair at the 9/11 Site
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
- Thomas Jefferson
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or
that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only
unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American
- Theodore Roosevelt
I got those two quotes from an art exhibit in downtown Manhattan that I
saw after visiting the 9/11 site with two friends. The exhibit, "A
Knock at the Door," was on view at the South Street Seaport Museum from
September 8th to October 1st, 2005, and was organized by the Lower Manhattan
Cultural Council. It showed some artists' reactions to the post-9/11 world. It included a pile of rubbish
left behind after the terrorist taskforce harassed an artist for several
weeks for working with biological material (a large pile mostly of pizza
boxes and gatorade bottles). But my favorite was a straight jacket made
from an American flag called "The (Un)Patriot Act."
It was a welcome change of perspective after I got one very nasty look
from a woman at the 9/11 site, which I can only attibute to my green hair.
As if my hair somehow dishonored the tragedy. But in reality, my defiant
hair color honors freedom. When I read about oppressive cultures,
it make me appreciate the freedom I have here even more, including the
freedom to adopt a totally unnatural hair color.
Here's a photo of me and my friend Brecht at the 9/11 site, photo by Eric
Pivnik, my friend who suggested visiting this site in the first place.
Now does that look threatening to you?