In the back of my mind, I still get bent out of shape that I’m not painting more regularly.

In the front of my mind, I’m appreciating how great this sun blob is and I’m cool, because chill out.

Maybe my real “work” is less about the quantity of paintings and drawings that I can show off before they gather dust in the basement and more about trying to share my weirdness so that you can feel comfortable with yours, too.

If I create a painting that makes you imagine or feel or I share the fact that I like to stand in sun blobs or hold my toes with my other toes or dance around like I am literally the world’s most accomplished ballerina when I’m home alone and invite you to do the weird or unexpected thing you want to do too and you DO it? Maybe that’s the point of me as an artist/creative person/human.

However successfully or unsuccessfully I’ve executed it, the motivation behind my creative work has always grown from the desire to inspire people to get into themselves and to dig and notice and go beyond the parts of ourselves that make sense and see what’s there. Open up a little intentional space in time where we’re free to let our brains go wherever they want without judgement.

A dog park.

Basically I’m trying to create an off-leash dog park for your brain.

Like, how great does it feel to let an excited dog off the leash? You feel the anticipation because you know your dog is feeling the anticipation and you get to bestow this amazing gift of freedom and joy and watch him take off like a maniac.

What if, for 5 minutes, we let our brains off the leash and just imagined the wackiest thing we’d ever like to do and we didn’t even care how possible or impossible it was and we just thought it and loved it and congratulated ourselves for daring to dream bigger than we think we deserve and then we stood in a sun blob because we wanted to and then got back to work, because reality is still a thing, but so are our dreams.


Lately, for reasons that I’m still internally investigating, I have been asking myself the question, almost daily, “Am I doing what I should be doing?”

It’s a familiar anxiety and my mind chatter is like this:


“There’s limited time in this life. We’ve got to MAKE THE MOST of the time we have! We’ve got to MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT! We’ve got to BE what we’re supposed to BE and not waste any time BEING THAT! You know, Laura, the longer you indecisively flop back and forth, the more precious time you’re wasting and the less your life will mean, IN THE END.”


Dun dun DUN!


In the end.

My preoccupation with The End and how or what I’ll feel about my life at that time plays into my thoughts frequently these days.

I am so afraid that I’m going to be a (hopefully) super old and wrinkly lady (hopefully) dying peacefully in her bed that’s (hopefully) situated in the middle of a large, sun-filled room with white curtains blowing easily in the warm spring breeze and the walls are light blue and all of my favorite things are around me and all of my favorite people are there and they’re smiling at me and holding my hand and playing with my hair because I love that… Except underneath all of the peace of this idyllic death situation that I’ve imagined for myself, I’m scared that I’m going to be WRACKED WITH GUILT BECAUSE I DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT!!!!!!!!






And on top of that, I probably would have lived longer if I had eaten fewer family-sized bags of salt and vinegar chips in one sitting.

Plus the SUGAR!!!!!


Stuff like that.

I guess to be fair to this future, anxiety-plagued self, I have to put out the reassurance now that I currently don’t regret a SECOND of Nashville and Rayna Jaymes is like, seriously, *heart eyes*. Moral compass of the world. Rayna the Fair Queen of All. Defender of the Underdog. Ultimate Bad Guy Out-Smarter. High Priestess of Artistic Integrity. Ally to Women Everywhere.

We’ve gotten way off course here, but I’m not upset about it.

Anyway, this feeling of being in limbo, of not being sure that I’m where I’m supposed to be in the big picture sense, is not something I’m hoping to come to terms with in this one little post.

But it is something that is asking for a lot of my attention lately in a way that I can tell I’m being asked to grow. To expand beyond my current and self-inflicted “Indicators of Life Worth” criteria and investigate the now a little more.

Step 1 of this investigation is going to be to stop thinking about it so freakin’ much. I walk around my house wracking my brain. “What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? Huh? Like, HUH?!” That has not been working.

Step 2 is going to be to get in touch with what is excellent about right now. Three things in the Gratitude Journal every day.

Step 3 is to be quiet more often and let things come to me instead of analyzing and asking and pushing for every answer.

And Step 4 is going to be to start a new piece of art about it.

If ever there was a place to dig around in muck and uncertainty and unclear thoughts, a painting is that place.

Tally ho!


exclamation: tally-ho
1. a huntsman’s cry to the hounds on sighting a fox.
noun: tally-ho
1. an utterance of this.
2. (historical) a fast horse-drawn coach.

The surprise of it

“If you know what you are going to write when you’re writing a poem, it’s going to be average.”

Derek Walcott



A friend heard a poem on the radio and emailed it to me this morning.

It was “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott.

Since I wasn’t familiar with him, I did a little research and came across several of his quotes, including the one written above, which got me thinking.

Two nights ago, I was having a conversation with some friends in our basement studio. I was describing my painting process and how I never really know what a painting will end up looking like when I start. The forms that emerge as the painting comes together are always a fun surprise. An “Oh! Who knew that was living in my brain?” kind of thing.

That is to say, I rarely “know what I’m going to write when I’m writing a poem”.

I’ve had several (self-proclaimed!) “brilliant ideas” for paintings. I’ve got sketchbooks scattered with brainstorms and messy sketches and suggested color palettes for pieces that I want to make. Roadmaps to creating the perfect piece. In the midst of fleshing out these brainstorms and plans, I feel like a total freakin’ genius, to be honest.

But I rarely ever make or even start those pieces.

And I think this quote opens my eyes a little as to why.

For me and the work that I make, stepping up to a canvas is making the decision to open up, let something come out, and then to be very curious about what that something is all about. After all of this time, I have learned that I am just the middle man. I’m the hands that can get that something out into the world. I do not decide the something. I only have to pay attention and have a conversation with it.

In other words, painting, for me, is not about having a road map that I follow and force and strive to follow. Painting is about the conversation that happens during the process.

For example:


“I am thinking about the ways that traumas are passed down from generation to generation and the healing that can happen when we dig into the core of those traumas.”

I start to paint something that resembles a wound.

“The important thing about this is really the digging into that wound. It’s not stitching it up and trying to fix it, but it’s about understanding the ugliness of that wound so that we can heal it from the inside out.”

I use colors that reference blood and skin and insides.

“So often, we stitch things up, heal the skin around that wound, and never learn about what’s inside. I’m thinking about the imagery of an open wound with stitches that have been loosened on either side.”

I paint in the stitches.

“I’m noticing that this “wound” is also looking like a land mass surrounded by water on three sides. A peninsula. That makes me think about an area of the world that personally has been the root a lot of pain in my family, which is also a peninsula. I’m starting to recognize the specifics of the pain that I have been thinking about and they are coming out of me without me even trying.”


And it goes on like that. Back and forth. Put down some paint, get curious about what is happening and what it has to do with that core idea of the trauma and healing, and respond with more paint.

Eventually, it gets to a point where the image is resolved and I feel settled when I look at it.

Even when the painting itself is jarring or colorful or sharp or aggressive, when it’s resolved, that inner conversation is quiet. I’ve learned something about myself or the human condition and I’m standing in front of a painting that has seemingly come out of nowhere.

That’s the surprise of it!

And that’s not to say that I still haven’t created a final product that can be judged as “average”. But the process was exceptional and meaningful.

Many of us love to plan, to organize, to prepare, and to know what we’re in for ahead of time. When I remember the many parallels between my art practice and my life, I’m always reminded to become a little more curious about what is instead of forcing myself down a path of what I think should be.


Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Sir Derek Alton Walcott (1930-2017) was a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.


Say and feel






Fun Facts with Laurel


Some Facts About Laurels, Both Mountain & Otherwise:

by Laura Mustio and The Internet

Fact 1

Native Americans used mountain laurels to make spoons! As a result, if you find yourself engaged in casual, yet stimulating, conversation with one of these floral beauties, feel free to call it by its nickname… Spoonwood.

In the wild, conversation with a mountain laurel might sound something like this:

You: “Damn, Spoonwood! You’re looking gorgeous and also poisonous to several mammals including humans today! Is it true that I’ll experience depression, vomiting, frequent defecation, weakness, paralysis, and eventually death if I eat you?”

ML: “Yes!”


Fact 2

Mountain laurels are poisonous.


Fact 3

Laura is the feminine form of the Late Latin name Laurus, which meant “laurel”.  Further research has also revealed that the name was “borne by the 9th-century Spanish martyr Saint Laura, who was a nun thrown into a vat of molten lead by the Moors.”


The Takeaway:

It’s mountain laurel season! Avoid vats and get into the woods.


I Googled it and it wasn’t a real term, so I’m coining it now.


Self-fatigued, adj : 1. Being, just, totally tired of yourself, you know? 2. Seriously, why can’t you just get it together? Remember the other day when you kind of had it together? What happened to that? 3. Look at the life So-and-So is living right now. It looks exciting. Remember when you used to be exciting and fulfilling all kinds of potential and now…? Well… do we even need to say it? Look at you… 4. It’s getting really old, you know. These same faults, popping up over and over again. It’s like, perfection already! Chop chop! What’s the hold up?!


Today, I feel really tired about my faults. Sometimes I can throw some energy and positivity at them and see them as the beautiful chips and cracks and blemishes that they may be, but sometimes I get antsy and bored and lazy and negative and anxious and apathetic and bothered all at the same time about them. Today is that kind of sometimes.

My brain feels muddy and I feel disappointed in myself, but I wanted to start writing from these swimmy, gross brain spaces. To try and sort through them, maybe, but also to see if anyone out there relates. To see how other people deal with the negative aspects of themselves and still manage to shine. And I guess to also not treat these feelings with such secrecy.

That’s why we all get wistful-faced and glarey-eyed while scrolling through our Instagram feeds, right? Because the curated version of other people’s lives makes us feel jealous and inadequate and we’re knifing our personal joy right in the heart while we continuously compare our lives to theirs.

I mean, no one’s actively posting on Facebook about what a shitty job they did as a human today. So we feel like we’re the only ones to ever fall short of our potential or pick a fight with someone we love about something really really stupid like whether their decision to get takeout in a styrofoam container will lead to the complete and final collapse of the environment once and for all. For example.


Today, after receiving the billionth solicitation email from a-company-that-shall-not-be-named, after I’d requested several times to be removed from their list, I wrote a strongly worded email. You know what the rep’s response was? She told me that I was “thoughtful and thorough” in “ripping her a new one.”

My initial response? “Victory! She thinks I’m thoughtful and thorough! I have so many talents! I’m like a beloved and fair queen ruling her kingdom with justice and grace! Stick with me, employee lady!” My subsequent response? “Is this really an area of my life in which I’m proud to excel?”

On one hand, yeah. I communicated my points effectively. Their company was being obnoxious. On the other hand? I could stand to take it down a few notches. Somewhere in the back of my mind, an old lady I’ve never met named Ruby is yelling, “Pick your battles, girl! Occasional takeout and semi-frequent unwanted emails were stupid battles!”

Ruby is so old and so wise. And in case you need a visual, she’s wearing an all pink sweatsuit and white socks with frills around the cuffs.

Anyway, I know I’m imperfect. And I can cohabitate with those faults, fine. But how do I make our living situation less unpleasant?

How do I find peace within myself when those reoccurring faults sometimes seem to take up so much space?

How does an I-like-to-think-“recovering”-but-maybe-not-as-recovering-as-I-would-have-hoped Perfectionist still love herself and kick ass, despite her downfalls?

Those are rhetorical questions unless you have some answers for me.

At any rate, I’m going to go do the dishes, go to sleep, and hopefully wake up with a cleaner brain, ready and motivated for world domination in the category of “Sucking Less Than I Sucked Yesterday”.

Happy sleeping,



Late-evening sun. Orange burning light sparking through the trees. The summer breeze and the branches and the light move together and the air is warm.

Earlier today, I was scratching out to-do lists. Taking breaks to suck down social media. Fused into screens. Opening styrofoam containers with condensation inside the lid. Half-heated and eaten and still screen scrolling, but I’m trying to chew 20 times per bite and drink more water, which will hopefully reinvigorate the brain cells that are wasting away as I browse @theslutwhisperer’s instagram feed. Right? (How did I even get here?)

But tonight, I’m breathing enough. And I am enough. And life is slow and I get to notice it.


The light sinks lower and the fireflies start to wander between the brick streets and the patches of overgrown city grass that my neighbors and I call “front yards”.

A car rolls by, grinding and crunching and bouncing over those bricks, and the windows are rolled down and the music is loud and the air is still warm and I’m still breathing enough.

The metal porch chair is leaving cross-hatched imprints on my mostly-bare legs and if I could retell these moments with a great, scratchy black pen and a blank sheet of paper instead of a screen, I would.

From my brain to yours…

For the past year, I’ve been “meaning to get back into blogging!” 

I loved sharing my travels and experiences and sometimes nonsensical art-blabber through the INITIRIC blog, but kept putting off bringing this blog to life after I landed back in Pittsburgh. Mostly because I no longer thought my life was exciting enough to write about.

Oh, and also because I spent a large portion of the past year dealing with some pesky depression, which would explain the Debby Downer attitude in regards to my “life excitement levels”.

Oh, and ALSO because I fell in love with an upstanding young gentleman/artist/scholar and let’s be honest. Love is the most glorious time suck.

But anyway. I’m just going to put on my nicest pair of “This is as good a time as any” pants, throw out the need to consistently present the world with something mind-blowing, and just get back into it.

I sincerely welcome you, Whoever’sreadingthis, to step into my brain this Tuesday. 


Harlequin 3

“Harlequin Brain Space”, 2013


Today, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, I’m thinking about women. 

I think about women a lot actually. Because I’m trying to figure out how to be a really great one. I’m also trying to get over my fear of the pretty and successful ones. And I’m trying to stop hating on the ones who are different from me.

Is anyone else in this boat with me?

Anyway, this afternoon I was thinking about women and, more specifically, about what a vast variety of exceptional ones there are enlightening my life.

My life is overflowing with so many perfectly imperfect examples of awesome women who remind me that it’s totally and gloriously acceptable to be confident in my own unique self. Because there’s a seat of value for all of us.

I don’t necessarily have anything outstandingly wise to say in response to this revelation, I think I just wanted to throw some gratitude out into the universe.


To the adventurers and the new-seekers,

To the grace show-ers and the peaceful hearts,

To the unashamed-f-word-sayers,

To the mothers, the wives, the girlfriends, and the confidently single,

To the life-questioning and the unknown-embracing,

To the take-on-the-world and content-where-I-am-ers,

To the lovingly honest,

To the inner-self explorers,

To the trying-to-be-better-and-failing-and-succeeding-in-interesting-combinations,

To the strength-focused,

And to every variety in between.

Thank you!

Thank you for being beautiful examples of real and for creating a freeingly (spellcheck says that’s not a word?) diverse narrative of what it means to be a women.

I’m going to end this with something that I personally wish I heard from myself daily in the hopes that you’ll appreciate hearing it as well:


You are valuable, and seen, and perfect in your imperfection. 


Happy Tuesday!