No Name

The year is 1964. I am a sophomore at Southeast Missouri State College. I live on the third floor of wing C in Dearmont Hall, one of the four women’s dorms on campus. Dearmont is a quadrangle, which means it has four three-story wings, or buildings that are connected to form a square with a courtyard in the center.

I laugh because it’s sorta like a prison. At night they lock the doors and there are alarms. No one can go in or out. Except sometimes on Sunday nights one of the men’s fraternities will come and serenade us in the courtyard but we can only see and hear them by looking out our windows and they have to leave as soon as they stop singing, because boys are never allowed anywhere in the dorm except on Visitor Days which only happen a few times a year.

My scholarship for academic achievement covers my tuition and part of my dorm fees, which includes meals in the dorm cafeteria. Except on Sunday evenings. Sometimes my roommate and I make do by heating up canned soup in our electric popcorn popper. Sometimes we just have popcorn. But my roommate has gone home for the weekend and I think maybe I can afford to eat at Wimpy’s. I have almost six dollars in my piggy bank!

I have a chem test tomorrow morning on the periodic table, whatever that is, but I can cram for that after hours and I’m starving! I’m also in the mood for a little adventure.

Wimpy’s is a burger joint on the main street near the campus. I think the name of the street is Broadway but there are so many other things to remember as a student and I can walk from Dearmont to Wimpy’s without having to remember the street name. I mean, who really cares what the name of the street is? Cape Girardeau is a pretty small town and I can walk just about anywhere in a half hour or less.

Wimpy’s is a student favorite and it’s crowded tonight, because none of the dorms serve food on Sunday evenings. I find a stool at the counter by the window. All the seats at tables are filled with students – some reading or studying while they eat, others enjoying the casual friendly atmosphere – girls giggling and watching cute guys and guys strutting around trying to look cool, cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouth, looking to see if the girls are watching them.

After I finish my burger and fries and skip the coke because water is free, I walk out the front door and notice that there is a faint sound of music coming from the basement. The stairs are just to the right of the exit and I usually pay no attention, but the music is strange and I am curious. I walk slowly down the stairs and the music is clearer and even stranger. The door at the bottom of the stairs is painted black and the words on the door in white block letters say “NO NAME.” That makes me smile. Isn’t “No Name” a name? The door is open, just a crack and I peek in cautiously. What if this is a private party and I’m just walking in like I was invited? But no one stops me and I’m looking around to see if there’s anyone here that I know. Nope. I don’t recognize anyone.

All the walls inside the room are also painted black and a single bare light bulb hangs from the ceiling over the black painted wooden platform stage near the wall to my left. On the other side of the room are half a dozen small simple tables with chairs, also painted black, where students sit listening and watching intently. There is no chatter or flirting or socializing in this room. It’s quite a contrast to the scene upstairs.

The young man on the stage sits on a stool playing a guitar. The light bulb casts an eerie glow on the musician’s face. A device on his neck supports a harmonica, which he plays when he finishes a verse to the unfamiliar song he is singing.

Who is this guy? Maybe he announced his name before I came in? Everything seems very strange and mysterious. I’m used to love songs. Love me Tender. I can’t stop loving you. Only Love can break a heart, only Love can mend it again. But then Chubby Checker came along and suddenly us girls were allowed to get up and dance without sitting there waiting for some guy to ask us. So many times I sat on the sidelines waiting while the music poured through me, making my muscles itch and twitch and wanting to just move to the music. Still, some people look at you weird like there’s something wrong with you if you dance without a partner. Us girls who weren’t popular, who sat there waiting, we were called “Wallflowers.” Not out loud, of course, but we knew what the popular kids were thinking.

But this music isn’t a slow dance or a love song of a fast dance, twisting, jitterbugging song. It’s different.

I sink slowly into a chair at the table nearest me. If I take my eyes off him I might miss some of the words . . .

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’ “

“The times they are a changin'”

What does that mean?

I don’t know anything about politics. I mean, yes. I memorized the qualifications for being a president, or senator or congressman. In fifth grade I memorized all the presidents, in order of the years they served. I was tested on all the “great” wars, where they were fought and who the important people were who commanded them. I memorized a lot of other stuff too, but once the test was over I forgot it.

There’s a “Young Democrats” and a “Young Republicans” club on campus. I don’t see much difference in them. For all I know they might be another fraternity or sorority only these clubs are made up of both girls and boys and some of them seem to get pretty worked up about whichever side they’re on. But mostly, as far as I can see, it’s just another reason for friends to hang out together.

A couple of days ago I heard some kids talking about stuff going on in California. It seems there’s a war in a place called Viet Nam and there are some people in California called “Hippies” who don’t like the idea of us getting involved. It has something to do with fighting the communists to protect our country. It’s just too complicated for me to understand. I think war is an awful thing because I don’t understand why people have to fight anyway. Why do we have to kill people to keep people from killing people?

I don’t recognize any of the people here. I sneak looks at them to see if I can figure out what they think of all this. Their faces reveal nothing. They just watch and listen. Have they heard this style of music before? His voice is not very beautiful and his face bears no emotional expression. This is nothing like the music on American Bandstand. Not even anything like the Beatles.

I like Peter, Paul and Mary, but they have very pleasant voices. Some of my friends play guitar and we go out by Cape Rock sometimes and build a bonfire and sing folk songs. I haven’t learned to play a guitar yet but I learned to sing harmony when I was in high school choir and I love it when all our voices blend in the night air and the fire lights up all those beautiful faces, singing our hearts out.

“The times they are a changin’ ” What does this mean?

The dorm doors lock at 9:00 tonight. And I have a chemistry test at 8:00 tomorrow morning. I hate chemistry! I hate memorizing all those chemical elements and I don’t even know what they’re for! And I hate going to an 8 o’clock class! It’s so hard to stay awake! But they told me I had to take chemistry in order to get a minor in home economics which they thought I would need in case I decided to be a fashion designer. I just want to be an artist, whatever that is. I’ve yet to meet one. I’ve never even seen a painting by any of my art teachers. I had a class in art history last semester, but all those artists are dead. I don’t remember hearing about any of them that got a major in art at state college before they could be an artist. Some of them learned to be an artist by being an apprentice to another artist who knew more than they did. I don’t think they do that any more. I wonder how I could find an artist who I could apprentice to?

I finally walk to the black door, taking one last look behind me to memorize all the details of this haunting scene.

During the 10 minute walk back to the dorm I keep hearing those words –

“The times they are a changin’ ”

Maybe if I watched the news, I’d know what he was singing about.

Back at the dorm I sign in and walk through the lobby where couples are exchanging long passionate good night kisses. The lights flash. Only five minutes before the guys have to leave and the doors are locked and alarmed until tomorrow morning at 7:00.

I walk by the TV in the lobby and wonder if the News will be on soon. But no one really ever watches it even though it stays on most of the time. Sometimes the guys wait in the chairs by the TV for their dates to come down from their rooms, and some people study in the chairs by the TV.

At home my Dad watches the news every night when he gets home from work so he knows what’s going on in the world. But I never liked that. He wanted everyone to be really quiet when the news was on. And everyone had to be in bed by 9:00 so he could go to sleep and be ready to get up at 4:30 to make the hour and a half drive to McDonnell-Douglas where he inspected airplanes that they made there.

No one on my floor has a radio, that I’m aware of, but everyone has at least one record player in their room. I’ve made up my mind that I will go to the record store tomorrow when my classes are over and see if I can find that music I heard at No Name.

I grab a towel and washcloth, my shampoo and soap and make my way to the shower room at the end of the hall. Back in my room I put my hair in brush rollers and cover them with a curler bonnet and sit in my bed for a while cramming for the chem test.


I finished my chemistry test in a hurry this morning. I’m pretty sure I aced it. Now I can forget all those stupid abbreviations for names of things that do something important but I don’t know what. And I’m pretty sure they don’t have anything to do with me being an artist. I have an hour before lunch and I’m on my way back down to Broadway where there’s a great record store with bins of records to sort through.

There are so many bins to sort through. All I have to go on is that one line that constantly keeps playing in my mind – “The times they are a changin'” And this is it! But the guy on the cover? That’s not the one I saw at No Name last night. But I’m buying this record! It’s expensive. But I’m buying it. Two dollars and sixty-nine cents! Exactly how much I have left after eating at Wimpy’s last night!

This whole thing is a miracle! Everything from my roommate going home, to going to Wimpy’s to eat, to hearing the music downstairs – even the name of the place where the guy was singing! No Name! It’s all a miracle and I’m going back to the dorm now to find out what this is all about and where it will lead me next.

I will listen to this record until I understand every word of every song on this album.

My Memoir: “Life is Art” ~ Judi Cain

(Outline version in celebration of my 77th Birthday)


For the past 16 years, I have talked about, thought about, and even written snippets of my Memoir. I’ve had a very adventurous life so far, and I have stories to tell! I believe they are stories that will inspire and entertain. During the past few weeks, the realization that I am not really 40-something, as my mind wants to believe, but I have actually lived 77 years! And this has made me want to celebrate in a way that I have never done before. I want to celebrate the Joy of Life and my connection with the Ultimate Creator through appreciation of the Gift of Creativity.

One of my lucky numbers is 77. So is 44, the year of my birth. And 11, and 22, 33, 55, 66, 88, 99, 111, 222 . . . . and so on, to infinity. Oh! And 13 is also one of them! Having a lot of lucky numbers gives me many reasons and occasions for celebration!

The first plan I had for my 77th birthday was to create an event on Facebook and invite all my friends to join me at Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park in Southwest Gainesville on the afternoon of my birthday. We would have met in the center of the park where there is a big coral rock, surrounded with a circle of somewhat smaller rocks. We would all stand in a circle around the circle of rocks and be very still and quiet and listen to the sounds of Nature until we could be in tune with it – until we picked up on the Rhythm of the Universe.

I would have brought the two baskets full of rhythm instruments that I’ve collected through the years – maracas, tambourines, rhythm sticks, and lots of others I’ve found at craft shows and thrift stores, the most interesting of which is a zydeco tie that one plays with a thimble!

The baskets of instruments would be placed on the ground in the circle, and as each person felt the rhythm of Nature, they might pick up an instrument, or perhaps they might have brought one with them. Or they might simply start snapping their fingers, or clapping, or humming softly. We would continue to accompany the sounds of the birds, the rustle of the leaves, the soft whispers of the wind, the vibrational sounds of locusts and all the other subtle sounds of Nature, and gently accompany Her rhythm with our own.

Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park, Gainesville, Florida

But then there’s Covid. And Covid ruins everything!

So I have decided instead, to write an outline of my Memoir to share on my birthday as a celebration of the wonderful life I am living.

And for anyone who likes the original idea of the Celebration of the Rhythm of Nature, I invite you to find your favorite place in Nature, wherever you are, around 4:00 pm (Florida time) on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, (or any other time you feel so inclined) and listen to the sounds and the rhythms of Nature and celebrate your own creativity in whatever way seems most appropriate with the knowing that we are doing this together, even though we are not gathered in the same location.

You may feel inspired to sing, or play instruments, or write a song or a poem. Or you may want to draw or paint or sketch or take photos. Or you may feel inclined to dance or meditate or pray or just look at and listen closely to all the miracles of Nature that surround us and connect us.

My cat, Stitch and I will be on my back porch, surrounded by a wonderful cathedral of trees, at that time. And if you can’t make it at 4:00, any time will do. We’ll still be connected!

Memoir notes Part 1: In the beginning

(This is not intended to be an actual memoir, rather an outline and notes relating to my path to become an artist)

Down on the farm 1946 – 1952

My early childhood was the happiest time of my life. I said this to my Mother once and she said those years that were so happy for me were the hardest years of her life. I am grateful for the sacrifices my parents made, but I feel so fortunate to have lived in that little two-room shack, with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no plastic toys, and no distractions from my connection with Nature. My toys were dirt and sand and flowers and seeds and moss. I got to walk the cow path every day to bring the cows from the pasture. We waded across the small creek that flowed behind our house and watched the birds build nests in the trees. I was thrilled to have a brand new pack of eight Crayolas on the first day of school, and the opportunity to draw whatever I wanted on the back of my spelling papers – after my lessons were done.

I was taught to draw a house by drawing a rectangle topped by a triangle on each end of the top, the triangles connected with a line at their tops. I was taught to draw a tree by drawing a brown rectangle with a green circle on top. I was allowed to color pictures that were mimeographed in purple lines on plain white paper. I was not allowed to waste paper by drawing on a clean sheet. I was allowed to draw on the back of my spelling test – the only one that didn’t have school work on both sides. I was taught to be very careful, to stay in the lines, color in one direction and not to “scribble.” I was told not to press too hard with the crayons or I might break them. I was taught to carefully peel the paper back when the point started to flatten, but not to peel too much of the paper away – that the paper protects the crayon from breaking. That box of crayons had to last all year!

I always got my assignments done as quickly as possible, so that I could draw “pretty pictures” while waiting for the others to finish their assignments. The teacher looked over my shoulder and said “You might be an artist when you grow up.”

I didn’t know what that meant. “What is an artist?”

Moving to the city, then to a small town 1952 – 1956

Then, when I was ready to begin 4th grade and my little brother was ready to start school, the world became larger. My Dad accepted a job at Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa. Being a peanut farmer was not working out. He wanted more for his family. He liked to say that we moved from “two rooms and a path, to three rooms and a bath.”

It was a traumatic change for me. I was so disappointed that it was not at all like the Dick and Jane second grade reader book, in which they lived in tall buildings waved at each other through windows and talked to each other with tin can and string “telephones.” There was no cow path to walk, no stream to wade in and no flowers to pick. There were streets and sidewalks and a little park about 3 blocks from our house with swings made of chains and a metal seat instead of rope chains and a wooden seat like my Dad hung from a tree at our place in the country.

The school I went to in fourth grade was huge compared to the little white school house I attended in the country. There, we had one teacher, in one room for the first 3 grades – all 18 of us! In the new school, in the “city” there was only one teacher for the entire fourth grade! And my brother, a “boomer” was in one of three first grade classes!

It must have been traumatic for my parents, as well, because half-way through the school year, my Dad found a little house to rent in Collinsville. It meant a longer drive every morning for him to go to work, but everyone was happier in the small town.

The school was much smaller and I was eager to make new friends. I remembered that when I was in first grade I learned to sing a couple of songs by “Little Jimmy Boyd.” The teacher liked my singing so much that she asked me to sing at the Christmas program. I sang “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus,” and “The Angels are Lighting God’s little candles.” Mom made me a pretty. light blue satin floor-length dress, with little pink ribbon roses on the scalloped collar. I sang on the stage all by myself and I was only six years old!

On rainy days, when we couldn’t go out for recess, I sang all the songs I knew for the class. Singing made everyone happy, even on rainy days, so all the kids liked me and that made me happy. I also drew pictures and gave them to my classmates. Sometimes someone needed help with spelling or arithmetic and I loved helping them and they liked me when I helped them. It was so nice to make new friends.

The school photographer came and took photos of each kid in the school. I copied my brother’s picture on the back of my spelling paper and soon my classmates were asking me to draw their pictures. I got lots of practice copying photos and the teacher told me that I might “be an artist someday.”

I didn’t know what an artist was, but I knew that she meant that I was a “good drawer,” which is what my classmates told me.

In Collinsville, my Mom found a little church for us to go to on Sundays and she made friends with a family who had a girl my age and two boys who were closer to my brother’s age. Our families got together on Wednesday nights and my Dad and Thurman could watch boxing on the black and white TV. My Mom and Tommie would make dinner and all us kids would play outside until dinner time so we wouldn’t be too noisy while the boxing match was on.

We went to church every Sunday morning and it was so much fun to be in Sunday School class with my new best friend, Bryanna.

During the sermon we had to be very quiet and my Mom let me bring my Cyd Cherisse paper dolls with me so I could make paper doll clothes for my “pretty girl” paper dolls. The little old ladies who sat behind me and watched me draw the frilly clothes told me after church “You’re going to be a fashion designer when you grow up!”

I didn’t know what a fashion designer was, but I liked the sound of it.

Our sixth grade teacher was always my favorite. Every day after lunch she read to us from Mark Twain’s books. She started with Huckleberry Finn, one chapter each day, and then Tom Sawyer. That was my first introduction to literature and I was hooked! It was much easier to go to the library in this little town than it was in the other places we lived.

And Mrs. Carroll started a 4-H Club for the 6th graders and with Mom’s help I learned to sew. I was also in 4-H club in the first four grades. My first project in first grade was a head scarf. The fabric was carefully measured. It had to be exactly square. I learned to pull one thread out on the measure line and the space where the thread had been was where it would be cut, nice and straight. When all four sides were perfectly squared, the next step was to pull more threads to make a fringe on each edge. The next project was a white cotton men’s handkerchief. Once again threads were pulled to make the handkerchief perfectly square. Next each edge had a 1/8″ fold, which was pinned, then ironed to stay in place. Then it was folded again to 1/4″ to complete the hem. Again, pinned in place and ironed, then slip-stitched (each stitch had to be exactly the same length) and the corners were perfectly mitered. I won a blue ribbon on both projects at the state fair! But all that was first grade.

In sixth grade I made a fully lined, two piece wool suit, with a kick-pleat in the straight skirt. It also won a blue ribbon at the state fair. But I hated wearing it because the wool was itchy on my skin. I was told that sewing skills were important in case I wanted to be a fashion designer. I thought “If this is what being a fashion designer is – all those tiny stitches, and measurements? Then I don’t want to be one.”

But we had a black and white tv and I discovered Jon Gnagy. On Saturday mornings he taught me to draw. I learned some things about drawing basic forms, shading and perspective. I didn’t have any art materials except a number 2 pencil, and notebook paper, but I learned a lot with what I had. That year for Christmas Santa brought me a Jon Gnagy drawing kit with real drawing paper and real charcoal and a book of drawings to copy so that I could learn his techniques! When all the paper was gone I drew on paper bags and wrapping paper and of course, the clean side of my school papers. I used every last crumb of the charcoal sticks.

Just as we were starting to feel at home . . .

Moving to Missouri

Junior high and high school 1956 – 1962

I’m not sure how it happened, but we were going to move again. It had something to do with Douglas Aircraft merging with McDonnell Aircraft and my Dad had accepted a job in St. Louis. The job started before school was out so Mom, my brother and I stayed in Collinsville and Dad went to St. Louis and started his new job. He stayed in an apartment in St. Louis until he found a house for rent in Pacific, Missouri, a small town about 35 miles west of St. Louis on Highway 66. We moved soon after school was out. It was a quiet little family neighborhood and we spent the summer getting to know our neighbors.

Then it was time for school to start. I would be in 8th grade and I would have to make new friends. Maybe I would even get to have an art class?

On the first day of school, I was so excited. Mom had made me a new navy blue taffeta circle skirt and I wore a white blouse with pretty lace on the bodice. I wore two can-cans under the skirt so it stood out nice and full. Mom went with me to the principals office to get me registered and the principal walked me upstairs to the 8th grade classroom and introduced me to the two 8th grade teachers – Mr. Edington and Mrs. Kase. Everyone in the class stared at me as I walked in. Mrs. Kase introduced me to the class and told me to be seated at an empty desk in the back of the room. As I walked down the aisle toward my seat, my taffeta skirt rustled and the crinolines made it take up the whole aisle and knock papers off desks as I passed.

Rabbit McPherson said “Hey! Your skirt’s too short.” Another boy said “God! You’re skinny!”

Everyone laughed.

I could feel my face burning and tears forming. I was well liked at all my other schools. Why were these boys being so mean to me?

“It’s ok.” I thought. “Once they get to know me, they’ll like me. When they see how smart I am and I can help them with their homework and I can draw pictures for them and I can sing. Then they’ll like me.”

You can imagine how that worked out! I made friends with some of the girls, but the boys were not even interested in being friends.

Adolescence is a hard time. Especially in a new school where your classmates, most of them, have known each other since first grade. And I was the new girl. Tall, skinny, brainy (we didn’t use the word nerd yet) and awkward. I didn’t know any dirty jokes to share on rainy day recesses. I didn’t even understand what they were saying! I was a loser!

And I still didn’t get an art class!

But I did get a oil paint-by-number set. I had never seen a real oil painting before and the kit included real oil paint in tiny little cups with numbers on the top. I painted the scene exactly as the instructions directed, matching the numbers on the canvas board picture with the numbers on top of the caps. And was thrilled to discover that when the painting was complete, there was still enough paint left over for me to make a painting!

I salvaged the side of a cardboard box and began to paint. The oil soaked into the cardboard leaving a powdery smear on top, which fell off when oil was dry. It was so disappointing. It never occurred to me to paint over the paint-by-number canvas! That would have felt disrespectful somehow.

(NOTE TO SELF: This is supposed to be an outline for my Memoir! I’ll add more stories later!)

High school will be better?

Pacific High school – 1959 – 1966

I really hoped that High School would change the atmosphere or change me. I made good enough grades to please my parents. But I was careful not to make the best grades. I found out that I wouldn’t be able to take art until 11th grade and 12th grade. I sang alto in the choir. It would have been cool to be a cheerleader, but they were selected by vote and no one would vote for the tall, skinny, brainy girl.

I took Home Economics and was president of the Future Homemakers of America, local chapter. I got the role of an old lady in both the junior and senior plays, powdered grey hair and all. That gained me a little acceptance, because the cool kids were in the plays. I did most of the designing and decorating for the Junior prom. But I didn’t have a date. I drew a picture of the dress I wanted for prom and my mother made it exactly like what I drew. I copied more of my friends school pictures. I wanted to be a majorette in the marching band, but you had to play in instrument with the band. The music teacher told me they needed someone to play the sousaphone. I tried. But I was too skinny to carry it around so I learned to plan the glockenspiel (or bell lyre.) After a year of playing the glockenspiel in the marching band, I was finally eligible to be a majorette!. I had been teaching myself to twirl a baton since junior high and I finally made it!

And finally, my junior year I had my first art class! I couldn’t contain my excitement! The first assignment was to find a picture in a magazine that we’d like to paint or draw. Then we could copy it on typing paper. So during those two years of art class I drew and painted, copying magazine photos and my friends’ school pictures. I got to use clean sheets of typing paper! We drew with pencil and charcoal and colored pencils. And I painted with watercolors – not the kind in tubes, but the kind you buy at Woolworths in the craft aisle.

At our senior awards assembly, Mr. Davis, the art teacher presented me with the Senior Art Achievement Award. When I went up to receive the award he said “I am so pleased to present this award to you, Judi. And please, go into art education. It’s so rewarding!”

A few minutes later Mrs. Leiweke announced that I had also won the Senior Home Economics Achievement Award. She said “I’m so pleased to present this award to you, Judi. And please, go into home economics education. It’s so rewarding.”

Everyone laughed.

I assumed it was because everyone knew that I was going to be an artist.

A couple of days later, not long before graduation, Mr. Henderson, the guidance counselor called me into his office. “Judi, what do you want to do with your life?” I was shocked! How did he not know that I was going to be an artist? So I gently reminded him. “I want to be an artist!”

Mr. Henderson shook his head sadly. “Your parents can’t afford to send you to art school. You have a scholarship to state college. You can go there and major in art.”

“But what if I want to be a fashion designer?” I asked.

“Then you should take home economics classes too.” He advised..

So I did.

Southeast missouri state teachers college 1962-1966

My parents drove me to Cape Girardeau in the fall of 1962. I moved into a women’s dorm, Dearmont Hall, third floor. My roommate was a junior, majoring in elementary education. After Mom and Dad got me all settled in they went home and I was officially a college student.

I made friends with some of the girls on my floor. One of them wrote poetry. I was amazed! I didn’t know that there were any people who actually wrote poetry. You see, we never opened our literature books in high school. They stayed in the locker all year while we learned grammar rules from a grammar workbook. I loved hearing her read her poems so much that I went to the library – a huge old gothic building that had thousands of books on every subject, all easily accessible through the Dew Decimal System.

Soon I was writing poetry of my own. But that’s another story for later.

I met with the scheduling counselor and signed up for Drawing One, Design One, Honors English (because of all the grammar experience) Algebra One, Chemistry One (necessary to be a home economics minor) Recreational Games (for physical education) and history of some kind. I don’t remember.

My scholarship only covered tuition and part of my dorm fees. My Mom sent me some money she made from sewing and alterations, and I got a job as a waitress at Tony and Pat’s Italian Restaurant for seventy-five cents per hour. I worked there on evenings and weekends. There are some good stories about that experience.

I took as many art classes as I could after signing up for the required courses.

In honors English our first assignment was “Write a half-sheet critical analysis of John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony.” He might as well have been speaking Russian. I stayed after class to ask him. He patiently explained. And I fell in love with literature. I made an A in the class and ended up with a double major in Art and English, with a minor in Home Economics.

There are many stories to tell about those four years.

Toward the end of my senior year, as graduation was getting near, the Dean of Women Students called me to her office for a conference.

“Judi. You have not signed up for Student Teaching!” She said.

“Oh! But I don’t want to be a teacher!” I laughed. “I want to be an artist!”

“Oh my!” she said. “I hope you understand that you are at a State Teachers College. If you don’t student teach, you will not be able to graduate.”

So I signed up for student teaching.

My assignment was in DeSoto Public School, High School Art. She was an amazing teacher and I loved working with her and learned more from her than in any of my classes in college.

And she was moving, so I was offered the job to replace her for the next school year!

I’m a teacher!

Teaching in Desoto, missouri public school 1967 – 1969

I was the only art teacher in the system. I was to teach Grades 7 though 12. Each student got one hour of art per week. There was no art offered to elementary students. There were seven class periods in a day. They asked me to teach freshman English for two of those periods. That’s how important art was.

(There are stories to tell about my experiences while teaching here, as well about my experiences when not teaching. I was beginning to make art on my own. I was beginning to feel like a real artist)

Charlie and the motorcycle trip

A romantic beginning to my first marriage. He said he was an artist.

We bought a 750 BMW and a small tent, sleeping bags and leather jackets and helmets and rode from Missouri to Los Angeles, camping in National Parks along the way. We visited our friends in L. A., then rode up the coast into Canada, across 3 Canadian Provinces, then down into Yellowstone National Park. We met so many amazing people and saw incredible things. So many stories to tell about this 3 month adventure in the summer of 1969.

Seven years of teaching in missouri public schools. 1966- 1972

Leaving missouri in a vw van, heading to Florida to be a “real” artist. 1973

Quit my teaching job, sold everything except what fit in the van and headed to Florida in October of 1973. Lived in the van in campgrounds. I brought with me the first “real artist” I had ever met. He’s a genius! We finally found an art show in Key West and entered his first six wood carvings in that show. Found out about another show in Titusville and went there. I did $5.00 pastel portraits in the campground to make money to pay campground fees.

While in the campground, waiting for the show in Titusville, we met a group of traveling artists from California who did art shows in shopping malls. We didn’t do the Titusville show. Instead, we joined up with them and did shows from Florida to Maine, camping in the mall parking lots and showing and producing our work in the mall. They already had a portrait artist traveling with the group, but she worked in pastels, so I could join if I worked in watercolors. So I did. (Some great stories relating to these adventures.)

Blew an engine in the middle of the 7-mile bridge on the way to Key West.

Found an abandoned dog in the KOA campground in Homestead. She lived with us for 15 years.

We needed a bigger place to live so we bought a school bus that had been converted to a motorhome. Left the van at his dad’s place in Mississippi so we’d have a vehicle to do art shows there after we finished the Florida Mall tour.

Rebuilt the VW engine using “The Idiot’s Guide to VW Repair.”

Bus blew the transmission on the NY Freeway, somewhere in northern NY.

Broke down in Miami in a friend’s apartment parking lot. Sold the bus and rented an apartment.

Got jobs working for an amazing couple who had a wholesale craft supply business in the height of the macrame’ frenzy.

(There’s so much more, but my eyes are burning and I have to stop. Tomorrow is my 77th birthday. This outline will continue. I will work on it every day until it’s completed, if I live that long. I will be adding photos and more stories.)

Life is Art!

“I Love Cedar Key” Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas

“Where do you work?”

“Oh. I don’t work. I have adventures!”

“Are you retired?”

“Sometimes I get tired. So I rest so I’ll be ready for the next adventure.”

“I mean what do you do for a living?”

“I look for miracles while I’m having my adventures.”

“No. I mean how do you support yourself?”

“I have very good legs. Yes. They are old, but they still support me very well. It’s a miracle, isn’t it?”

“Ha! Ha! I mean how do you make money?”

“Oh! I don’t make money! I think that’s illegal, isn’t it? I think the U.S. Treasury is the only one allowed to do that!”

“Ha! Ha! I mean how do you get money to pay your bills?”

“Oh! Sometimes people give me money. It’s almost like they know when I need it! It’s a miracle!”

“What? They just give you money for no reason?”

“No! Of course not! Ha! Ha! They give me money for showing them miracles.”

“Really? How do you show them miracles?”

“Lots of ways. Sometimes I put paint on a canvas and allow my hands and my eyes to be the tools for the expression of Creative Energy. When I quiet my Ego-mind and allow the expression to flow freely, without judgment, the result is a visual representation of a miracle! It may be the expression of joy or Love or wonder in the eyes of a beautiful Soul, whether human or another species. Or it may be the expression of the glory of Nature in a delicate flower, or a magnificent tree. Or a river or a mountain or a woodland path. Or it could be the flow of colors and shapes and lines and forms and textures that remind us on a spiritual level of how universal and powerful Creative Energy is. It’s all a miracle and miracles are everywhere! Always there if we only take the time to really look!”

“Oh. So you’re an artist?”

“Yes! We all are! And we get to choose how we want to express our appreciation of miracles! Some of us make music, or make poetry or tell stories – no matter what media we use, we’re making souvenirs of miracles we’ve found or that we are experiencing even as we create. And we share them with others so that they will remember to always be having adventures and looking for miracles. I always put a lot of Love energy into everything I make so that the person who needs it will recognize it when they see it. Sometimes when they see it they like it so much that they want to have it with them so they can feel that way every time they look at it. And that’s why they give me money. And the greatest miracle is that we are always provided with what we need when we live in appreciation for, and communion with Nature and the miracles that invite our purest expression of them.

You know we were created in the Image of the Ultimate Creator, right?”

~Judi Cain

“Energy Elements” Acrylic and polished stones on 24″ x 18″ Canvas Private Collection

Every Painting Has a Story: Stephan the Cello Man

copyright 2017 Judi Cain


“Stephan the Cello Man”

Acrylic on 30″ x 24″ Canvas

In the Spring of 2016 I was participating in the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, an outdoor Art Festival in beautiful Cedar Key, Florida.  The weather was perfect and there was a steady flow of people enjoying all the amenities of the festival, food, music and art.  I was especially enjoying conversations with people who walked into my booth.  I loved learning what they saw in my paintings and telling them about my discoveries and processes.

Evelyn Snyder introduced herself to me and we had a great conversation about the Energy Paintings and she finally told me that she was the curator of exhibits for the Larimer Gallery in Palatka and asked me if I would like to have a show there.  I told her I would love to come and visit the Gallery and see how my work would fit there.  We exchanged phone numbers and she went on her way to see the rest of the show.

No more than fifteen minutes passed before a Stephan entered my booth and we also had a deep conversation about art and painting and music and creative energy.  We exchanged cards and he left to see the rest of the show.

The next week I called Evelyn and we arranged to meet at the gallery.  It’s only about an hour and a half drive from where I live on quiet roads through the countryside.  I was amazed when I saw the gallery.  It had once been a library and the Arts Council turned it into an Arts Center.  The layout included a curtained stage where theatrical productions were performed, a large room in the center with a magnificent vaulted ceiling, and two other large rooms with big windows, benches where visitors could relax and enjoy looking at the art, and plenty of wall space for hanging works of art.  There is also a kitchen and serving area, perfect for art receptions.   

The vaulted ceilings provided interesting acoustics and I asked Evelyn if we could have live music at the reception.  I immediately remembered that Stephan had told me that he played the cello.  Evelyn agreed that it would be a good idea to have cello music.  We set the date for Friday, June 10, 2016.


Larimer Arts Center

Palatka, Florida

So I contacted Stephan and was so excited that he was available and agreeable to playing at the reception.  


Stephan played beautifully during the reception, accompanied by his friend Frog, who played an instrument he made called the “Nightingale.” While they were playing, I was talking to other guests at the reception about Creative Energy. I had brought a blank 16″ x 20″ canvas and assorted paints and brushes and invited all the guests to put their brush strokes and their personal energy into the painting – it would be a “Collective Energy Painting” which I would finish after the show concluded.

When I stopped talking Stephan called me over to where he and Frog were playing. He said “See that painting over there?” as he pointed to one of my Energy Paintings on display. “This is how that painting sounds.” he said and improvised a beautiful melody on his cello that did, indeed, sound the way the painting appeared to me. Then he played an entirely different melody that reflected another painting. This interaction was so inspiring to me that I decided in that moment that I wanted to make a painting that was a visual representation of the music that he was playing.

A few weeks after the reception I learned that Stephan and Frog would be playing at the Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville. I took my camera and went to the Plaza and took several photos that I would use as reference for the painting I would make.

As you can probably see, I chose the first of these 3 photos as the primary reference for the painting.

Stephan and Frog played again at another reception at the Larimer Arts Center in November of 2019. He also played at my reception at the SL8 Gallery in downtown Gainesville in September, 2019 when I gave him the painting.


Nannie, Watercolor on 16″ x 20″ d’Arches Cold-pressed Watercolor Paper

When I was a little girl, in southern Oklahoma, my Nannie (Mom’s Mom) didn’t have a radio. But she would intuitively stand outside and watch the clouds. She would say “I bet we’re going to have a storm.” And she would watch.

Sometimes they came in the afternoon, but mostly at night. When the lightening lit up the clouds, she would watch. And she would suddenly say “Let’s get to the cellar. There’s a big one coming.” Down the clay steps, into the cellar we would go, Nannie the first one in, lighting the kerosene lamp so we could see. Daddy shut the cellar door, pulling on the rope attached to the inside center brace of the corrugated metal door. The rope was for holding the door shut when the winds picked up. Sometimes it took all the grown-ups to hold the door!

The cellar smelled of dampness and earthiness, two cots with pillows and blankets to sit on, next to the shelves filled with jars of canned tomatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas and pickled beets, and bins of potatoes, and onions hanging  from the ceiling logs. (When the hole for the cellar was dug, logs were placed close together over the top of the hole, then all the dirt that had been dug out of the hole was piled in a mound on top of the logs.)

I had a box of Crayolas and an Indian Chief tablet to keep me busy, but what I loved most was the stories that the grown-ups told. Stories about the old days, “when your Mama was a little girl . . .” But even as Nannie told her stories, she had one ear listening to the wind. Finally she would say “I think it’s about done. I’ll check and see.” Up the clay steps, pushing up on the metal door, peeking cautiously out, she could tell us in a minute if we could go back into the house, or “we better wait a bit. It still smells a little stormy out there.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Today’s the day that Mama and James and I are going to see Nannie! I am so happy about that, because I haven’t seen her since way last week, and I sure do love her. Mama said “We have to leave early before it gets too hot.”

            So after we eat some biscuits and gravy and pickled beets for breakfast, and after Daddy let the cows out, to go to pasture, and then he slopped the hogs and chopped some fire wood and waved to us as he went to work in the peanut field; and after Mama threw out the leftover biscuits for Daddy’s coon dogs to eat, and after she drew fresh water from the well, and fed the chickens and gathered the eggs, we are finally ready to go.  

We set out walking down the section road in front of our house. James is stomping on the ruts in the road and stirring up little clouds of red dust. Mama warns him that he should not do that or he’ll wear himself out before we even get started and then looks at me and winks and says “And we’d really rather not have to get that dust all over us! Isn’t that right, Judi?” And I was so glad she said that.

Mama said Nannie will meet us at Ambert’s store which is on the corner where her road and our road cross.

            The sun is already hot and Mama says to James, who is already whining, “Let’s see if we can make it to that big old shade tree up there. Do you see it? Can you see that big stretch of shade there in the road?” And I could see it!   I couldn’t wait til we got there because I was already sweating and James was still whining, “Carry me, Mama. I’m tired. I’m hot. Carry me Mama.” James is only three years old, but I’m a big girl and I don’t need to be carried. I’m almost six now and soon I’ll be big enough to go to school!

            Mama says we should be thankful for the shade tree, and that God always gives us just what we need. She said “Just listen to those locusts singing. They are certainly thankful for that old pin oak tree. And don’t you think the birds are thankful too?”   James listened to what she said and started whining again. “I’m thirsty Mama.” I am thankful that Mama thought to fill a Mason jar full of fresh well water. She put it in a little sack and fastened it to my dress sash so nobody had to worry about carrying it. And I don’t mind at all because Mama has enough to carry when James gets too tired to walk.   After we all have a little sip of water, we’re ready to start walking again. There are two more shady spots between here and Ambert’s store.

            We keep on walking and then resting in the shade and pretty soon I can see Ambert’s store up ahead and there’s Nannie standing out by the gas pump waving at us! I run as fast as I can so I can be the first to get a hug and James has already climbed down from Mama’s arms and is trying to keep up with me. We’re so lucky that Nannie has two arms and knows how to hug us both at the same time!

            “Let’s go sit on the porch and catch our breath,” Nannie says. And Ambert is standing in the door grinning from ear to ear. “How about an ice cold pop?” he says as he reaches into the ice box and pull out three bottles of Coca Cola, snaps the caps off and hands one to Mama and one to Nannie and one to me. We can all share with James because he’s too little to have one all by himself.   The bottle is still dripping with ice cold water and it feels so good when I put it up to my face to cool me off. I never had a Coca Cola before. It’s a lot sweeter than ice tea, and it burns my mouth a little – in a good way.

            Mama and Nannie are laughing and talking – they’re so happy to see each other and that makes me happy too. James is sitting in Nannie’s lap and I jump down off the porch because I see lots of brand new pop bottle caps, just laying there waiting for me, all shiny and orange and red and green and silver! Last year Mama helped me put some on a piece of crochet thread and we put them on our Christmas tree and it was so beautiful! We also picked up chewing gum wrappers and very carefully peeled off the silver part so we could make them into icicles for the tree.

            Mama tells me I can put the bottle caps in the sack with the water jar because we’re about ready to go and I might lose them if I carry them in my skirt.

            Me and Mama and Nannie and James are all holding hands as we head on up the road to her house.

I can tell we’ve almost made it to Nannie’s house because I can see the bridge. It’s how we cross the creek. And even cars can cross the creek on this bridge because there are boards for their tires to go on that are on top of the ones that go from one side to the other. I don’t know why they left big cracks between the boards, because they make it very scary to walk! If I’m not careful I might get my foot stuck in one of those cracks! But it’s also fun because you can look down and see the water, way down under your feet. But you mustn’t get too close to the sides though, or you might fall down in the water and then you might hurt yourself!

            And on the other side of the bridge I can see Nannie’s house! We don’t have much farther to go! And then we get to walk through those little paths between the hollyhocks and larkspurs and poppies and zinnias and marigolds! “Can I pick a bouquet, Nannie?”   “You surely can.” She says, and we’ll put it in a mason jar so we can look at them while we’re eating dinner. I picked a mess of black eyed peas this morning, and okry, and fresh ripe tomatoes. We’ll fry up that okry and I’ll make a pan of cornbread and we’ll just have ourselves a dinner fit for a king!”

            I just love the way Nannie’s eyes crinkle and sparkle when she talks.



If Life is a Game . . .

Rules: Systems, policies, laws, conventions, regulations, decrees, statutes, imperatives, canons, tenets, doctrine, directives, strategies, guidelines . . .

            We spend our days trying to find out what The Rules are, deciding which ones apply to us, figuring out how we can follow them, break them or change them, interpreting them to suit our own beliefs, being surprised to learn that someone else interprets them differently, forgetting why the rules were made in the first place, (but still following and defending them,) protesting about the fairness or unfairness of the rules, learning what happens when we break them or change them, and making up our own. We worry about what will happen if we unknowingly break a rule. Is there a rule that will protect us from someone who might take advantage of our ignorance of the rule. After all, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

            “Not me,” the Rebel proclaims. “I don’t follow anybody’s rules.”

            See what I mean?

            If I invite you to play in my sandbox did I forget to mention that since it’s my sandbox, you have to play by my sandbox rules?

1. No throwing sand. 2. No bringing your cat in, especially if his litter box is dirty. 3. You can’t come in when I’m not here. 4. You can’t invite other people without asking me first. 5. I can make up other rules or change them whenever I want to.

If you accept my invitation did you remember to tell me what the rules are for the honor of your presence?

1. You have to treat me special because I’m your guest. 2. Your rules don’t apply to me because I’m special. 3. If you don’t post the rules, they don’t exist. 4. I can make up other rules or change yours whenever I want to. 5. There are other rules that rule your rules.

            There are rules our parents taught us: for our own safety and survival, for their convenience, for your own good, because it’s always been a rule in our family, because what will people think?, because it’s God’s rule, because it’s the law, because I said so . . .

There are social rules for how to be acceptable, (which are subject to change depending on who we’re around and what their rules are): How to eat, talk, dress, how much to weigh, when to bathe, how to treat other people, how to be a good citizen, student, friend, neighbor, child, mother, father, wife, husband, grandparent, boss, employee, politician, teacher, taxpayer, artist. If I can make up my own rules and persuade enough others that my rules are right, I can make everyone subject to my rules — I can rule the world! (At least until someone else convinces enough people that their rules are better than mine.)

            There are people who write books about rules. Some make their career creating rules “for the people,” while some earn their living by enforcing the rules. There are rules that allow us to fire, sue, incarcerate, punish, shame, shun, divorce, “Baker Act,” or even end the life of someone who breaks the rules. There are also rules that prevent us from being too harsh with those who break our rules. We may get someone to defend us and convince enough others to agree that we didn’t break the rule, or that the rule didn’t apply or maybe there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that a rule was broken or that there was ever a rule in the first place.

            There are rules for how to punctuate and construct a sentence. There is a rule for writing that (as I interpret it) dictates if you use the word rule too often you might be breaking the rule of excess repetition.

            Each morning we decide (consciously or not) whose sandbox we’re going to play in. The costume I wear that fits the rules for work does not fit the rules for church, or the rules for Goth club, or the rules for the costume party, or the rules for the beach, or the rules for a meeting with my attorney. If I wear the wrong costume, I risk judgment, ridicule, or banishment. Some are blatant and established: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” “It’s our policy.” “We recommend . . ” “Black tie…” “Come as you are…” “Casual attire.” “No sneakers.” “Coat and tie required” “Clothing optional,” “wear a mask” while others are implied: “Doesn’t she look like a slut?” “A little overdressed, don’t you think?” “Who’s he trying to impress?” “They’re just trying to get attention.”

            Some spend their days challenging universally accepted rules. At first they are ridiculed and shunned, but if they succeed in defying the rule, they become our heroes because they make it possible for us to fly like a bird, walk on the moon, dive to the depths of the oceans, or send sound waves through the air, around the world and into outer space instantly.

            We adhere unconsciously to the rule that dire consequences will follow if we put sugar into the gas tank of our cars, while regularly putting it into the bodies of our children. (There’s no rule against that! … is there?) We both may agree that it is against The Rules to ingest drugs, but your definition of “drugs” may not be the same as mine. Does your definition include alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, chemicals, (artifical colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives) and chemically refined, “fast” or “convenience” “foods.”

            Oh, it makes me so weary I just want to go and live by myself in the woods. Of course it would have to be my own property, subject to the zoning rules, and I would have to pay property tax, which would require some kind of income on which I would have to pay income tax. And I would have to hire someone to prepare my taxes so I don’t have to pay too much. That would require more income and I would have to have appropriate clothes to wear to work. I would have to buy the clothes because I don’t have time to make them since I’m so busy working and I guess I’d better get a car and buy some gas . . . Oh, by the way, they just passed a new rule that says the land I live on is protected because it’s next to a protected area and I have to get a lawyer to help me find out if it’s ok for me to build a house because the one I built myself is not up to code.

WARNING:  This document is protected by U.S. and international Copyright rules.

Creative Energy Flow . . .

Every painting has a story

“Floral Essence” Acrylic on 16″ x 20″ Canvas

The above image is how the painting looked after it was finished.

I wrote the following post on Facebook as the painting was evolving:

“Thank you for letting me share my joy of “energy” painting with you. Last night I was aching to start a new one. Working on “realistic” paintings can sometimes get tedious and I want to play!

I selected a 16″ x 20″ canvas and covered the entire canvas with Titanium White Chroma Interactive acrylic. This is so I don’t get bogged down later, trying to fill in places that have no paint. Next I chose my current favorite color: Alizarin Crimson, squeezed it from the tube directly onto a #10 Bristlon filbert brush.

I try to keep my my mind free – in a playful mood, feeling the paint flowing onto the canvas, watching how it mingles with the white, playing with many different brush strokes, feeling the resistance as the brush pushes and pulls the paint on the canvas, loving the many values of pink as they appear, adding a little more paint to the brush, pushing, pulling, dabbing, twisting the brush to see what happens. I like what I see so much that I want to stop – to not “ruin” what is already there.

So I challenge myself: Pick a color, any color, don’t think about it. So I grab a fat new tube of Naples Yellow! A rich, soft, whipped-buttery, somewhat muted yellow. Practical Mind says “Oh no! Yellow and Crimson will make a muddy orange-brown when you mix them!” Child Mind says “Lets see what happens!”

More playing with brush strokes, paint squeezed directly onto the brush, no cleaning the brush between colors. “More white!” Child Mind says, and the play continues. (All this takes place with the canvas on my lap, while I sit in my recliner chair, Stitch Kitty sleeping on the foot rest.) I get up to place the canvas on the easel so I can see what we’ve done, and Stitch thinks it’s time to eat.

When I return from feeding him, I am seeing the painting for the first time.

I look at it, the way we look at clouds, looking for recognizable forms. I turn the canvas horizontal and look again, and turn it again until I have studied it from all four angles, seeing different forms, shapes, and lines each time. Each time, the painting seems to ask for green – not a bright green, but a rich deep green – olive green. Again, same brush, not cleaning the brush between colors, filling in the spaces. Now the canvas is filled with paint.

I took this photo because I like it the way it is now – 3 paint colors plus white, about 45 minutes of paint application, about an hour of studying the canvas.

Image may contain: plant, flower and food

How do I know it’s not finished? I’ve learned to “listen” to the paint. As I look at it, study it, it will tell me what to do: “Follow this line. Add this color. More contrast. If I “listen” it will tell me what to do and it will tell me when it’s finished. So far, I see flowers, but I try not to get too locked in to what I want it to be, because I might miss something even better that will be revealed as I follow the energy of the painting. It’s so much fun!!! Try it! You’ll like it! It’s cheaper than therapy!

Isn’t it interesting that I could never repeat this same painting, even if I wanted to, even if I used the same colors and the same process.

Because Creative Energy, like a river, is always flowing.

A Tale of Three Paintings: An Energy Painting, and two Portraits

“Water” Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Cradle Board –
Winner of the 2015 “Old Florida Festival of the Arts” Poster Contest

In 2016 I entered this painting “Water” in the Cedar Key “Old Florida Festival of the Arts” poster contest. The theme for that year’s poster was “It’s all about the Water.” I loved the theme and I was inspired!

I love doing Creative Energy paintings so I grabbed an 11″ x 14″ cradle board. (It’s a rather new surface for painting – a firmer surface than stretched canvas. It’s a thin, flat piece of fine-grain birch panel, supported by wood framing. The surface is prepared with gesso for archival, acid-free paint application.)

I used Atelier Interactive Acrylics and covered the surface with cerulean blue, with a few dabs of other water-inspired colors – some greens, ultramarine blue and turquoise and titanium white for variety in value. The colors were placed randomly, with no pre-planned image in mind – only the thought of Water. Little dabs of paint squirted directly from the tube and some quick brush strokes to blend and spread the paint randomly onto the surface. Eventually the circle shape revealed itself and all I had to do was clean up the edges to emphasize the shape of the circle. I hung the piece on the wall and studied it, turning it in different directions until I saw something that wanted to be developed, amazed that the shapes evolving were so representative of the theme. And this is how this painting directed me towards its completion.

Then I entered it in the poster contest. The winning image would be used for the poster for that year’s festival, as well as the t-shirts that would be sold during the festival, and post cards used to promote the festival. You can only imagine how excited and honored I was to learn that I had won the contest!

At the time I was a member of the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery and as a full-time member I worked 3 days a month, as all the members took turns keeping the gallery open. The “Keyhole” is located in a beautiful building on 2nd Street in Cedar Key and was purchased, and later donated to the City by one of the founding members of the Keyhole, under the condition that it always be used for the Arts in Cedar Key. The Cedar Key Arts Center was formed and is headquarted on the second floor of the building and all of the members of the co-op are also members of the Arts Center, as well as other artists who live and/or support the arts in Cedar Key.

I was working my shift one day, soon after learning that my painting had won the poster contest. There was a special exhibit in the Arts Center featuring local men artists. The theme for the show was “It’s a Guy Thing.” That day artists were bringing their work in to be part of this special exhibit. When Kevin Hipe came downstairs, the minute I saw him, I knew I must paint his portrait! I introduced myself and asked him if I could take his photo and paint his portrait, and he obliged.


Kevin Hipe, Cedar Key Artist. Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas

I went home that day and immediately began the portrait of Kevin, and finished it two weeks, just in time to take it with me for Kevin’s approval when I worked in the Keyhole again. He seemed to be pleased with the painting and I asked him if I could show it at the festival and he agreed, and then went around the village telling his friends to come in and see his portrait. (Kevin works in several media: Oil on Canvas, Collage and Assemblage.) Here’s a link to an interesting story I found about him:


Travis Parks, Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas

Later that day Travis Parks came in to see Kevin’s portrait and he asked if he could take it to the library across the street to show it to his friend Molly, who manages the library. When he returned with the painting he stood shyly by the counter, telling me how much he and Molly liked the painting. “No one has ever painted my portrait,” he said.

I considered that an invitation! “I would love to paint your portrait!” We went out to the courtyard and I took several shots of him. Travis is well-known to everyone on the island. One of his murals graces the wall on the opposite side of the courtyard from the building that houses the Keyhole co-op and the Arts Center. He told me that he spent several summers in Hawaii painting murals for big hotels there. Many more of his murals can be seen on buildings around the island. Here’s a link to an article about Travis’ art:

After I finished painting Travis, I started photographing every artist who came into the Arts Center while I was working a shift at the Keyhole. I decided it would be fun to paint as many of them as I could before the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, where I would display them along with the original painting that would be featured on that Festival’s T-shirts, Posters and other promotional material.

My next blog will tell the story of the other artists’ portraits I did for this Festival.

Kaleidoscope Mind

This entry is in honor of my friend Bobby, who asked me to paint this painting for him, based on a poem he wrote: “Kaleidoscope Mind.” I was honored that he trusted me to make his thoughts and words visible. Unfortunately, Bobby passed away not long after I finished his painting. Rest in peace, Bobby.

“Kaleidoscope Mind” 2016
Acrylic on 16″ x 20″ Canvas

This is what Bobby said when he asked me to make this painting:

“I put my thoughts on paper, but never on canvas. I hope you can paint my thoughts. I wish I had your talent. As for my depression, it is mostly under control. Had a huge setback when I lost Joan. Some of my writings are being used at a hospital in St. Louis, so I feel like I’m helping someone.”

This is his poem:

“Kaleidoscope Mind”

by Robert Ritchey
Thoughts racing through an endless sea of disbelief. 
Unable to stop the blurred images chasing through your mind 
on a collision course with uncertainty. 
Heart pounding like a thousand drums 
beating to a song of desperation. 
Clutching at straws, 
unable to grasp at what seems like a last chance of sanity. 
The ticking of a clock, 
one second closer to the feeling of despair. 
Time flying by, 
like the pages of a calendar 
in a whirlwind of emotions. 
And as quickly as it began, 
reality is returned . . . 
The feeling of tranquility,
restored by the small white pill. 
The pill than changes the colors 
in your Kaleidoscope Mind."

This is what he said at the end of the poem:

“Note: This is my interpretation of an anxiety attack, and the medicine use to overcome it. The medicine only helps for a while. And you can’t quit taking it. I think the road to complete sanity is just a big never-ending circle.”