When Life Gives You Oranges: chat+video w artist Uzo Njoku by da-AL


Books + Art = Happiness

Dear readers, that’s why, when I learned of Uzo Njoku through Bust Magazine (a lifestyle/feminist publication started in 1993), I thought of you. Many of you are novelists like me, most of you writers and creatives, and lovers of books.

"When Things Fall Apart," by Uzo Njoku: "My favorite book by Chinua Achebe."
“When Things Fall Apart,” by Uzo Njoku: “My favorite book by Chinua Achebe.”

Her self-published coloring book, “The Bluestocking Society,” launched the statistics-turned-art-major a couple of years ago when she was a 22-year-old college student. It’s filled with images and facts about all sorts of wonderful women throughout history. She also offers free printable coloring pages.

Uzo moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to the United States as a child. Here’s a writeup about her by the University of Virginia, and here’s another by their news magazine.

"When Life Gives You Oranges" by Uzo Njoku: "I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist."
“When Life Gives You Oranges” by Uzo Njoku: “I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist.”

Along with Uzo’s comments on these paintings, what follows are the answers she kindly emailed back to me…

Question: How does being bi-cultural play out in your day-to-day life and influence your art? And in terms of how you regard your own loveliness and potential?

Answer: Being in the middle of two worlds gives me more content to work with. My work addresses important issues such as identity, duality and spirituality, yet is approached with a particular openness snd beauty. The themes addressed in my work stem directly from my life experience as a female artist living and working between cultures, and yet the aim is to show how a single person’s ‘double vision’ can produce images that possess much wider social effects by collapsing racial and cultural borders.

"Stretch," by Uzo Njoku: "Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern."
“Stretch,” by Uzo Njoku: “Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern.”

Question: Many of my readers (myself included) are struggling creatives. How do you juggle making art, marketing, fulfilling orders, and attending university? How did you initially let people know about your amazing coloring book? How do you continue to expose people to your art?

Answer: Everything I have done starts from my friends supporting me. Constantly telling others about my work and word-of-mouth helping to spread the news. A lot of artists don’t have a business mindset, and I believe that is how a lot of them do get exploited initially. I took an arts administration class in college, and that really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes. This helped me understand more what it takes for shows to happen and the right people to reach out to.

I studied Statistics in college before switching over to art, so by nature, I am a very technical person. I see numbers alongside art a lot and understood when it was time to pay a marketing personnel to run ads when I released a new product on my website. I don’t really know exactly what to advise people because everyone is different, but I learned everything from Google and YouTube videos. So a lot of research.

"Strangers," by Uzo Njoku: "I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything."
“Strangers,” by Uzo Njoku: “I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything.”

Question: How has the horrific politics of late as well as the pandemic affected you and your work?

Answer: I am not a social artist, so I do not create art based on political events. But in regards to Oluwatoyin passing away, I feel it was my duty to beautify her image because I know a lot of media outlets would try to show her in a negative light. A good amount of the sales during this period I have been able to donate out to small BLM groups and artists struggling during this pandemic.

Artist Uzo Njoku in her studio.
Uzo Njoku in her art studio.

Question: How do you find and choose your marketing personnel?

Answer: My marketing personnel reached out to me. He had been following me for years and felt that he could reach new customers for me. Basically, anyone who understands how to market on Social Media is an asset.

Question: What are one or more mistakes you see artists making business-wise most often?

Answer: I would say the biggest mistake is forgetting to follow up on business taxes when tax season comes by. It can bite you if you’re not careful. Also, you need to get into the habit of having a second pair of eyes look at contracts with you, whether they are those of a family member, a friend, or a professional.

Dear reader, if you didn’t do what you do now, what would farm oranges…or what?…

Vids n Welcome Extraterrestrials! w Guest Blog Post by Alien Resort


Stephen Hawking, in this April 10, 2018 interview for Smithsonian Channel. It was one of the last times he appeared on-camera. His message was that we (Earthlings) need to colonize another planet.
Stephen Hawking, in this April 10, 2018 interview for Smithsonian Channel. It was one of the last times he appeared on-camera. His message was that we (Earthlings) need to colonize another planet.

What do you think about, regarding whether we’ve got roommates on this galaxy other than our fellow Earthlings? Not that I contemplate extraterrestrial folk often, but when I do… I don’t give them much thought…

On the other hand, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking maintains that I should — and so should you! He advised that some might be hostile — and that we need to start our planning sooner than later (and what’s that on his lapel?)…

Some experts argue that that we have no reason to worry that the other inhabitants of the heavens might make slaves, indentured servants, mincemeat, or whatnot of us. This authority says we should double our efforts to contact them…

Never mind all that. Forget about Star Wars (SW fans, see this post)… There’s no need for nonsense such as science, neither astronomy nor guesses and such, any longer! Thanks to the infinite reach of the blogsphere, now we can peer into the day-to-days of the aliens (and why don’t we care if they’re the legal type?) on Alien Resort via their transmitter/cartoonist/blogger, David Davis. The lives (often comical, always humorous and clever) of the immigrants is told in the form of comics. The E.T.’s website, Dans Cartoons to the Rescue, includes a developing story homepage with blog post updates. Moreover, an on-site Alien Resort Museum displays the stranded voyagers when they’re published in local (meaning on Earth) newspapers.

The little (I think) guys of Alien Resort have a now-defunct “GoFundMe forcefield’ to wage against their nemesis, Beacons of the Night.
The little (I think) guys of Alien Resort have a now-defunct “GoFundMe forcefield’ to wage against their nemesis, Beacons of the Night.

Alien Resort by David Davis

A preface from Alien Resort blog-lord David Davis:

I was a character in the early days of the story when, in about 2017, I reached out to Coy and the others through Craigslist for help in making my comics. I was arrested in 2019 for the offense of hiring illegal aliens and imprisoned on the mainland. I am still in jail, awaiting trial. The residents of Alien Resort taught themselves to make the comics on their own, thanks to the organizational capabilities of Captain Plucky and the humor of resident comedians Deadpan and Lmao. And it is true that due to the decline in the newspaper business, they no longer sell as many comics as they used to, but they’re doing okay thanks to the benevolence of their landlord, the king of the archipelago. If anyone’s in charge, it’s Coy.

Alien Nation cartoonist David Davis.
Alien Nation cartoonist David Davis.

Onward to the real story, direct from the mouth(?)(s?) of the residents of Alien Nation:

My name is Coy. I crash-landed my spaceship over three hundred years ago on an island in the North Pacific Ocean. Eventually, Plucky came to rescue me, but she got stranded too. Along with two comedians, also extraterrestrials, we are the residents of Alien Resort.

A picture of Coy, spokes-alien for Alien Nation.
A picture of Coy, spokes-alien for Alien Nation.

We knew nothing about Earth when we first arrived. We didn’t know if Earth was inhabited until we began picking up radio signals. Our next big step was when Plucky built an internet transceiver. We found out that our island was owned by a king; we contacted him, and he’s been very good to us ever since.

The residents of Alien Nation offer an interesting perspective of life on Earth.
The residents of Alien Nation offer an interesting perspective of life on Earth.

A few years ago, we got a job. An Earthling by the name of David Davis writes comics for newspapers. He proposed to send us scripts, which we would rehearse and assemble into the final form to send to editors.

Everything went well until a group called the Beacons of Night protested that we shouldn’t be allowed to make comics for newspapers. They say we’re stealing jobs from Earthlings. Their slogan is Earthlings Unite, and they’re continually trying to figure out ways to undermine us.

Alien Nation's residents are multi-cultural -- they come from a variety of planets!
Alien Nation’s residents are multi-cultural — they come from a variety of planets!

Up until the coronavirus outbreak, we were conducting an Alien Resort Island excursion for a cruise line. I was the guide, which was hard at first because I have issues that make it hard for me to speak in public.

The folks of Alien Resort are colorful, to say the least.
The folks of Alien Resort are colorful, to say the least.

One of the comedians, Deadpan, is in a relationship with Plucky. They both have issues too, which are shared in the blog posts. Readers can participate in the comments section and converse directly with us. Except with Lmao, that is. He’s the other comedian, and he’s usually off climbing a tree or polishing his nails.

Dive in — share your ideas about extraterrestrials…

Books forever! Guest Blog Post: Book Art w Video by Cecilia Levy


What do books mean to you? For me, the very sight of pages bound together conjures adventure, romance, joy. A book suggests an imagined memory of what a heaven-on-earth it would be to occupy the hugest reading room ever! In such a place,  librarians are sure to work at a great library that houses fiction (like my soon-to-be-published “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat” novel) and non-fiction, both revered as sculptures as well as media for knowledge. The magic of books is such that, once published, every book should continue to live endlessly.

Artist Cecilia Levy resides in the small Swedish village of Sigtuna, between Stockholm and the university town of Uppsala. Her art ensures that printed pages are neither discarded nor forgotten. In her hands, they are reincarnated, given three-dimensional lives as exciting as their first ones!…

Cecilia Levy, artist, working in her studio, Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, 2019. Photographer: Stewen Quigley.
Cecilia Levy, artist, working in her studio, Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, 2019. Photographer: Stewen Quigley.

“Paper Art” by Cecilia Levy

Cecilia Levy creates sculptural objects in paper, using old book pages, wheat starch paste, and papier maché technique.

Her work is exhibited internationally and is included in private and permanent collections, including the Swedish National Museum.

In 2017, her public art commission, “In Fusion – Contemplation Pieces,” was installed in the main entrance to Stockholm’s New Karolinska University Hospital, NKS, twenty plinths displaying over twenty-five of her unique paper sculptures.

Her home in Sigtuna, her studio at Ateljéföreningen Hospitalet in Uppsala, she’s a member of Konsthantverkarna in Stockholm, where her pieces are sold.

"Companion," teacup and strainer, 2018.
“Companion,” teacup and strainer, 2018.

I have a background in graphic design and bookbinding, and paper has always been my medium. I make sculptural objects in paper, using book pages. I only use old books, up until the 1960s. They have the paper quality, layout, and typography that I appreciate.

"Longing," mocha set, 2020.
“Longing,” mocha set, 2020.

Old book paper is a fragile and delicate material. It carries several narratives at the same time, both in content and regarding the passage of time. My works reflect this, the fragility of life. The pieces reflect my personal stories and memories. This is a mocha set called “Longing.” It’s a replica of a set given as an engagement gift from my grandfather to my grandmother.

"Chapter One," thistle, 2015.
“Chapter One,” thistle, 2015.

Visible traces from the passage of time, marks from previous owners and readers, paper quality, color and typography, holes in the binding, wrinkles and dog ears, olden expressions and spelling, and the (sometimes) odd content. All of these are all characteristics I value and are what determine my choice of working material. Every single piece of paper is chosen with care.

"Hobo – Homeward Bound," boots, 2012.
“Hobo – Homeward Bound,” boots, 2012.

My different pieces represent different sides of me. I often use everyday objects, those found at home, or in thrift shops. These Hobo Boots are special to me. They are appealing to the eye. They were fun and pleasing to make, yet they also have a serious underlying message about homelessness and poverty.

"Coltsfoot and Artichoke," medicinal plants for a public commission, 2017. Photographer: Alvaro Campo.
“Coltsfoot and Artichoke,” medicinal plants for a public commission, 2017. Photographer: Alvaro Campo.

My 2017 public art commission, “In Fusion – Contemplation Pieces,” was installed in the main entrance of Stockholm’s New Karolinska University Hospital, NKS. In all, twenty plinths held over twenty-five unique paper sculptures. I was inspired by folk medicine, especially plants and herbs that can be used for infusions, in other words, herbal teas.

The title of the commission is a play on words that indicates a fusion between art and folk medicine. “Contemplation” is used, in a sense, to look at/be aware of/be exposed to. It’s an essential term within philosophy and theology. People coming to a hospital are often anxious and worried. My hope is for visitors to halt for a while, and to let their minds wander.

Here’s a video of Cecilia at work.

Reach her at +46 706 54 39 65 – or at her site here – or at her Instagram here – or at her Facebook here – or here.

What do books mean to you?…

Guest Blog Post: How well do you know your hometown? by Nina Zee


My Los Angeles, much as I adore it, is an urban sprawl that takes effort to get around in. Busses take forever to get from one stop to the next, our new-ish subway system doesn’t go to nearly as many places as I’d like, and our freeways are clogged round the clock. Do you take the time to get to know all that your city has to offer?

Born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and a decided globetrotter, blogger Nina Zee is on a mission; to inspire travelers to create dream trips using tips from her vast experience. Here she shows us around her home city, Atlanta, Georgia…

Blogger/world traveler Nina Zee.

“How well do you know your hometown?” by Nina Zee

Until last year, I know the answer for me was not very well! While I had lived in Atlanta for most of my life, I did not explore it or really venture downtown. Heck, most of it really was not that safe. But thanks to us getting the Olympics in 1996 and other development since then, like the Beltline, it continually becomes a great place to wander aimlessly.

Like most others, I was busy going to school, getting married, building a career, raising puppies, creating a dream home, and just living life in general. We would head downtown to see NHL hockey, but when that was gone, we no longer had a reason to go to that corner of town.

When people would come to town, we would head to the aquarium, the largest in the western hemisphere, and Centennial Olympic Park, but that was about it.

Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia.

My New Year’s resolution in 2019 was to fall in love with my new hometown. I made a list of the top things to see and do. Every time we did some new, like going to Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the Dragon Con parade, or Ponce City Market, I fell more in love with it.

Lucky for me, our street art scene is busting at the seams.

Street artist Greg Mike’s Atlanta Braves mural.

After spending most of the year visiting sites around town and attending events, I can proudly call myself an Atlantan. It is amazing what seeing it through a new pair of eyes can do for you.

I dare you to explore your city like a tourist and not fall in love with it!

Even though you live someplace, do you really explore it? Do you know it like the places you visit?

Let me know.

Nina Zee

Dogs Fly, Books, Unsung Art, Vistas, Dolphins in Los Angeles! by da-AL


Having people stay over is the best time to get to know my sprawling Los Angeles better! This month we had the bonanza of double guests. I’m kicking myself (metaphorically) for botching photos of some family, so please envision cheery faces between all these shots…

Pasadena’s lovely Norton Simon Museum (of art), is modestly sized yet dense with treasures! Pablo Picasso apparently made the women in his life miserable, which may explain why this one finds sweet refuge in her book…

Woman with a Book, 1932, Pablo Picasso of Spain, oil on canvas.

I knew about Edgar Degas’ captivating ballerina sculptures (the Norton also features some of those), but not that he created atmospheric monotypes…

Autumn Landscape (L’Estérel),1890, Edgar Degas of France, monotype in oil colors on heavy cream-colored laid paper.

Unsung artists sing out! There’s a special place in my heart for ‘unknown’ artists, given my current status as a not-yet-published novelist. In this work by a lesser-known painter, this hat maker might be more content reading a book, no?…

The Milliner by Valere De Mari of the U.S., 1917, pastel on wove sketch pad paper.

Reading Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winner “The Goldfinch,” which sets an amazing portrait of a little bird at its core, put me in the mood for Dutch art. Unknown artist(s?) committed these masterly tulips to paper for a tulpenboek, a.k.a. a humble flower catalog…

Branson, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.
Root en Geel van Katolikn, c. 1640, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper.

Animal lovers, join me in a swoon at this visual paean to dogs! Note the proud master’s coat of arms on the collar, his ‘country house’ in the background…

Aldrovandi Dog, c. 1625, Giovanni Francesco Barbiere (a.k.a. Guercino) of Italy, oil on canvas.

Griffith Park is as wonderful for the park itself as it is for the views. You met this part of my family first here

My year ‘round Valentine and moi in front, Angela and Kim in back, with the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair, and grand Los Angeles behind us.

Our doggie barely touched the ground, she had that much fun at Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach. Thank you, Justin, for your many many good works, including getting the city to okay this canine paradise. As for dolphins, dear reader, your imagination is needed — every dang many times those amazing creatures surfaced only yards from us, they eluded my photography. All the same, they were breathtaking!!!!!…

See the joyous dog in flight, visualize the dolphins cavorting, ignore the oil rigs in the background…

What sight do you most wish you could have photographed?

Textile Protest, Alt-Reality Animation, Nature Dreams: MOLAA by da-AL


The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, is a great way to spend a rainy day with visiting family!

What a delight to visit MOLAA with Angela!

On display were arpilleras — textiles sewn by the women of MEMCh (Movement for the Emancipation of the Chilean Woman) to protest the 17-year-long fascist regime of Agosto Pinochet. The dictator seized control of Chile with the backing of United States President Nixon in 1973 and further support of later U.S. President Bush’s family. (More about the exhibition here)…

Bullets rain down on seekers of justice in Chile…

Women had to be creative to get word out about the killings…

“Children search trash cans for bread.” “Not everyone has running water.”

Books are burned…

All are forced to worship the dictator…

Dreams, politics, and beauty merge in the art of Argentine artist Matias Duville

Transcendent and political art by Argentine artist Matias Duville…

Award-winning animation was also on display — the alternative worlds created by Quique Rivera, a Puerto Rican animation artist, sculptor, photographer, and film director. His sculptures such as these…

Quique Rivera sees things differently…

His underwater world is like no other…

…created videos such as these! Also, more about the Museum of Latin American Art is here and here and here.

Where’s your favorite place to take visitors?…

Inspiration at the Getty Museum Los Angeles by da-AL


My honey, me, Angela, and Kim took a tram up to see the Getty Center.

Having family over to visit is an opportunity to see my own city through new eyes. It’s the best kind of stay-cation! We took them to visit the Getty Center (which shouldn’t be confused with the Getty Villa)…

The Getty Center offers amazing views.

The first area we visited was their gardens…

Getty Center gardens with the Getty’s amazing travertine architecture.

What could be better than art featuring a cat lover?…

Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1747.

And what’s more manly than manly royalty showing off his 64-year-old dancer legs in tights?…

Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701.

Which is happier do you think — horse or rider?…

Angel of the Citadel by Marino Marini, 1950.

Mercury is a god of things good and bad and everything in between, so it stands to reason that his shadow would be as interesting as he is…

Mercury by Johan Gregor van der Schardt, 1575.

All this art was made me hungry…

Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1782.

The sun began to cast long shadows across this Getty fountain — we were inspired to make our own art!…

Our great day at the Getty made us want to dance!…

so we danced…

and danced…

and danced!

It was a perfect way to end the day!…

Sunset at the Getty is spectacular!

What inspires you?

Guest Blog Post: Mesmerizing Mandalas by Graham A. Stephen


Photos blossomed into digital mandalas for Graham A. Stephen, a North Wales-based photographer, blogger, and self-described “seeker of beauty in the ordinary.”

His photo blog is here and his resulting mandalas blog is here. Below he’s allowed Happiness Between Tails to share with you a few of his mandalas…

Mandala #11 – Plant. Created from a wide-angle shot taken in 2015 of a potted succulent at Plas Cadnant – the restored gardens of a 19th-century manor house on the island of Anglesey in North Wales.

 

Mandala #75 – Fungus. The original image for this mandala was a photograph of some shelf fungus taken in 2018 at Bodnant Garden – an 80-acre National Trust property in Conwy county, North Wales.

 

Mandala #78 – Scuttle grate. Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron in Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire – an area of great industrial historical note – houses the original artefact featured in this mandala. The W. S. Scott Morton Patent Scuttle Grate appeared in the Coalbrookdale Company’s 1902 catalogue. The decorative grate had a coal scuttle on either side of the fire. The exhibit was photographed in 2015.

 

What entrances you?…

The Kelpies of Scotland by da-AL


Usually, I start out telling of a vacation sequentially — we arrived here, then there, and so on…

Amazing from any angle: The Kelpies of Falkirk, Scotland, by sculptor Andy Scott.

But for our spring trip to the United Kingdom, I’m beginning with the most unexpectedly jaw-dropping.

The delight of The Kelpies!! Driving between Glasgow to Edinburgh, they loom from the highway.

We were lucky for a spectacular sky of turquoise and popcorn clouds.

But any backdrop would be mysterious and magnificent with a foreground of these colossal creatures.

Label them horse heads if you will. In person, they’re far more.

The closer we got to them, the more magical they were. It didn’t matter what side we viewed them from.

From any angle, they bordered nature and the supernatural. Here’s more on The Kelpies and their sculptor Andy Scott, and an explanation of what kelpies are.

Here we are among The Kelpies!

Here’s about our visit to jam-packed London and the British Museum Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3, bubbly fun at Bath, and Avebury, and Stokesay Castle, and Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater.

Has a sculpture ever spellbound you with its marvelousness?

For fun’s sake by da-AL


Spanish wax napkin origami of Flamenco (Sevillana) dancers.
By Eekiv – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19924480

Surfing about the net while I’ve been editing my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” I found this and thought you might enjoy it too — for all the time I spend writing via my computer, I still love paper! And dance! And travel! And cafes in Spain! And creativity!…

And more cuteness! Here’s my dear doggie before our walk…

My dear doggie before our walk. Photo by Khashayar Parsi.

And here she is when we went out and encountered this uplifting chalk art!…

“Stand here & think about someone you love.”

“You are loved.”

Do you love writing, paper, dancing, foreign cafes, creativity, and cuteness too?…