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?…

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?

Beauty of Brisbane, Australia by da-AL


Up, down, inside and out, Brisbane is an arty city!

Note: Here in the U.S., ‘museums’ can have art, science, and sometimes both. In the States, ‘galleries’ are just for buying art. However, in Australia, science goes into a museum and art goes into a gallery that maybe sells, maybe doesn’t.

Brisbane, Australia, dazzles the senses indoors and out. Though we only had a day there, several sights were a short walk apart. After meeting some beasts, we strolled to the Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA), where there’s sooo much wonderful art!…

“Albert and Vincent” 2014, by Vincent Namatjira is from the north of S. Australia, here with his artist grandfather.

“Dingo Dreaming” 1978, by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Pintupi people of Australia.

“Triptych: Requiem, Of Grandeur, Empire” 1989, by Gordon Bennett of Queensland, Australia.

“Untitled (HNDFWMIAFN) 2017, by Daniel Boyd, Dudjla/Gangalu people, Australia.

“Stucco Home” 1991, by Howard Arkley of Victoria, Australia.

“Love a Teacher” 2018, by Simon Gende, Kuman people, born in Papua New Guinea.

“Death Adder” (right), “An Aboriginal family” (top), “The Southern Cross and the Coal Sack (the Wanamoumitja brothers spearing Alakitja)” bottom, 1948, by Groote Eylandt Community, Anindilyakwa people, Australia.

“Majority Rule” 2014, by Michael Cook, Bidjara people, Australia.

“Utopia Panels” 1996, by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Anmatyerre people, Australia.

Brisbane was a wonderful day in our vacation that began New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. The second half of our vacation was in Australia, starting with Gold Coast, where we met terrific family, observed these exciting birds — and these too, hiked breathtaking views, enjoyed delicious eats at the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, saw soem of the beasts of Brisbane, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

What art museum means the most to you?…

Guest Blog Post: Antique and Vintage Photos by Val Erde


Val Erde’s sensitive and artful photo coloring truly brings history to life. Based in the U.K., she kindly contributes this for you to see…

Dog in garden before and after. Photo coloring by Val Erde

In my blog I show the colouring work I do on my collection of antique and vintage photos. I’ve been an artist all my life and have been doing these photos since I had my first pc and graphics program. I usually colour photos of people, though I have a few that include dogs and cats, but this is the first in a long while that I’ve done just of a dog. I hadn’t intended to colour it, but well… look at it. Wasn’t it barking calling out for colour? Or, more likely, food.

“Please give me a treat. Anything will do, really. Maybe something you’re eating? I like your food. I like everyone’s food.”

I haven’t a dog so have to rely on photos for colour references and as I don’t know what breed it is, I’m not sure I got this one right. I suspect it’s a bit of lots of different things. Well, doggy things, anyway.

So… any ideas what sort of dog it is? And – the dog aside, can you by any chance identify the flowers to the right? The ones on the left are roses, that I know, but the rest – what the heck are they? To me the blossoms look like Cosmos, but the leaves are wrong. Anyway, to be safe, I coloured the innards yellow and the outtards (yes, I know) varying shades of pink. But they could be anything really.

There’s more to do on this photo but I decided to call it a day. Well, actually, I’ve called it a dog.

Do come and visit me at my blog, Colouring The Past.

My thanks to Da-AL for inviting me to guest blog!

Part 2: Tehran Visits The Louvre by da-AL


Abbas Kiarostami, (Iran 1940-2016)
Look twice at the folks in the foreground.

Art bridges cultures and makes us see differently (that’s why the first of my novels-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”)  — look again at these art photos by Abbas Kiarostami, a noted Iranian film producer/director/screenwriter, poet, and photographer.

In his photos, Kiarostami examines the relationship between art and visitors. He shot them at the Louvre, between 1996 and 2012.

My husband happened to visit Iran’s National Museum and generously returned with these photos. Hover over them for descriptions and click on them to see full-sized. Look closely — the people in the front are observers like us…

How do you view art?…

See Part 1: The Louvre visits Tehran by da-AL

Part 1: The Louvre visits Tehran by da-AL


Art bridges cultures…

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus
Wedding of Greek deities: Thetis and Peleus (Italy 50BC – 50AD)

Art museums often lend each other masterpieces. This year, however, marked a first — a large-scale show by a major Western museum in Iran! The world’s largest museum, the Louvre, proudly calls it, “…an outstanding cultural and diplomatic event for both countries.”

The Louvre contributed fifty masterpieces for “The Louvre at Tehran” to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Iran’s National Museum. Meantime, back in France, The Louvre exhibited, “The Rose Garden: Masterpieces of Persian Art from the 19th Century, on Qajar dynasty Iran.”

Lucky for us, my husband happened to be in Tehran to snap these photos for us. The art spanned centuries. Hover over the pictures for descriptions and click on them to see full-sized.

What does art mean to you?

See Part 2: Tehran Visits The Louvre by da-AL to see the contemporary art photos of Abbas Kiarostami, a noted Iranian film producer/director, screenwriter, poet, and photographer.

Sneak Preview of My Friend’s Art Show by da-AL


Be a model with me on April 16!

Here I’m goofing off while my fine artist friend Connie DK Lane fits some of her designs for her upcoming show, “Bravura.” Too shy to model? Visit us anyway. Connie’s art will be displayed the entire week.

Bravura” in Connie’s exact words: A large number of hand-made anthropomorphic forms made out of latex rubber, a simulation of apparels for all genders, will be displayed throughout the window case, from support devices, ceiling, and walls. The opening on April 16 will feature a live fashion show where students and audience members are invited to model the unique latex clothing forms and walk within the window passageway.

When: Opening show April 16, art exhibit runs through to April 20, 2018

Reception: April 16, 4-6pm — performance at 5pm

Where: Cerritos College Fine Arts, 11110 Alondra Blvd., Norwalk, CA 90650

Parking: $2 on-site for entire day.

Here’s the first post about Bravura Here’s one about one of Connie’s previous shows and here’s Connie’s website.

Here’s when the show took place!

My Friend’s Art Show by da-AL


Art lovers — join me at artist Connie DK Lane’s show, “Bravura.” She’s asked me to be one of her models. You can be one too!

Bravura” in Connie’s exact words: A large number of hand-made anthropomorphic forms made out of latex rubber, a simulation of apparels for all genders, will be displayed throughout the window case, from support devices, ceiling, and walls. The opening on April 16 will feature a live fashion show where students and audience members are invited to model the unique latex clothing forms and walk within the window passageway.

When: Opening show April 16, art exhibited until April 20, 2018

Reception: April 16, 4-6pm — performance at 5pm

Where: Cerritos College Fine Arts, 11110 Alondra Blvd., Norwalk, CA 90650

Parking: $2 on-site for entire day.

Here’s a previous post about Connie’s art and here’s her website.

Here’s  the pre-show ‘getting ready’ post. Here’s the performance.

Magic: Leonardo da Vinci Journaled and Affirmed by da-AL


Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503–05/07)‍ —‌ Louvre, Paris, France
Mona Lisa aka La Gioconda (1503–05/07)‍ —‌ Louvre, Paris, France

When Leonardo da Vinci died, the amazing all-things Renaissance man who changed the world forever as an engineer, a scientist, an artist, a sculptor, an architect, a chef, and a bazillion other things — his final words amounted to the effect of, “Forgive me for not having accomplished everything I set out to do.”

Let us learn a bit from this super achiever!

According to, the book, “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day,” by Michael J. Gelb, da Vinci …

  1. Was never without pen and notepad to log his fancies.
  2. Kept diaries — many, many of them!
  3. Wrote affirmations.

The Vitruvian Man (c. 1485) Accademia, Venice, by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be
The Vitruvian Man (c. 1485) Accademia, Venice, by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be

Two da Vinci affirmations:

“Obstacles do not bend me.”

“I never tire of being useful.”

Simply looking at affirmations use to rile me. My inner cynic rankled, “Nope, no you don’t!”

But my response changed after a friend mentioned how he works at truly feeling affirmations. Lo and behold, that made all the difference! I’m still often my own worst enemy — but stop-affirm-feel often turns things around. “I want, I want, I want it now and I’ll never have it,” hushes a bit …

How about you? What works and doesn’t work for you?