Please Help Me Focus On Empathy


The image above is from a large mural drawing I created in 2007 called Empathy, designed in a Cybernetics class with Paul Ryan, during my studies for a media arts MA at the New School. I thought I would like to design a cybernetic system for empathy, as an antidote to all the negative systems in our society: racism, sexism, etc. I decided to use sense connected memories to highlight our commonalities, rather than our differences.

I asked my classmates to send me their sense memories, and the drawing was my artistic interpretation of them. In the wake of the terrible events in Charleston, I would like to return to this idea, and create something new.

I would love your involvement. If you would like to participate, please use the comments form on this blog to answer the questions below. I won’t publish your name with this work unless you specifically ask me to, and you can identify your answers by question number, please.

1. What sounds like love?

2. What tastes like joy?

3. What looks like indifference?

4. What smells like home?

5. What feels like despair?

{please answer whatever comes to your mind, nothing is right or wrong}



According to the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, Empathy means to feel into another person’s biological processes, perceptions, emotional states, and their kinds and forms of consciousness in order to assess their feelings. Further, empathy means not only assessing another’s affective communication, but using one’s assessments in order to be eventually helpful to another person’s communication development. Empathy also means having a purpose to help others with their struggles, their problems, their goals, etc.*

In considering creating this art, I also found interesting the words of Gregory Bateson, who said: “…the question to be asked of the given work of art becomes: ‘What sorts of correction in the direction of wisdom would be achieved by creating or viewing this work of art?”**

We all perceive our world through five senses; taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing. (There are, of course, those who are impaired in one or more of those senses; this exercise allows for differing sense ratios.) The input we receive from our senses is the information that we store about our world; we create memories through them. I hope that my aesthetic interpretation of sense memories might cross over the gaps that exist between people, bypassing the artificial barriers that can be created through language based, so-called “rational” forms of communication. And in the process, perhaps create some empathy.

This project is only a one small idea in a very large world. I am not naive enough to believe it will solve our problems, but I hope it might open up a conversation. And maybe that’s enough.

À coeur vaillant rien d’impossible. – Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.

(French proverb.)


*(In Press, 2009). Empathy. In Littlejohn, S. & K. Foss, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Sage Publ.

**Gregory Bateson, Steps to An Ecology of Mind (University of Chicago Press, 1972) p. 147.


[It may take me a little time to process the answers I receive, and come up with a visual interpretation, but I will post it here when I do!]

 Thanks to everyone who has already responded!




New Yorkers Demonstrate in Solidarity With Baltimore



Demonstrators gathering in Union Square park

On Wednesday evening, I heard that there was going to be a rally in support of the people of Baltimore, in Union Square park in New York City. I decided to go over and see what was happening. When I first got to the park, it seemed like a normal spring afternoon. People were out enjoying the weather, playing music, hanging out, enjoying the warm air. Then someone with a bullhorn walked by, drawing everyone to the northwest side of the park. I followed along, and found the scene above. For those of you who don’t know what happened, a young African-American Baltimore man named Freddie Gray died while in police custody, the latest of several of these tragic events to happen in our cities in recent months. As of now, there are several conflicting reports about what exactly happened. (Read an overview HERE.) There have been protests and riots in Baltimore, resulting in a 10 pm city-wide curfew for the past three nights. The demonstration in Union Square was in support of the people in Baltimore, and also calling for an end to what seems to be an unending storyline of these kinds of incidents.


A woman calls out for justice

There were many people holding up signs of all kinds: Freddie Gray Matters! STOP Police Brutality! End the School to Prison Pipeline! Black Lives Matter! and more. The park was getting crowded, and we were penned in by the barricades the police had set up around the park perimeter. They also lined up around the perimeter, watching the proceedings with mostly stoic faces. Different people, such as the woman above, got up on a small platform and spoke passionately about the need to examine the system and not be silent. About the need for a change. The crowd chanted and yelled out, and a man with a bullhorn called for everyone to move together, walking in pairs out of the park, and across 17th Street to 6th Avenue.



This man was busy making signs for the crowd with a stencil and spray paint, the two people behind him were deep in conversation. As the crowd moved toward 17th Street, I followed along.


People marched along 17th Street, heading west toward 6th Avenue. They were yelling, cheering, and chanting slogans as they walked. Police lined the sides of the street, standing almost at attention. There were several police in suits, talking into walkie talkies, and more police were arriving to line the streets.


I was in the midst of wall-to-wall people, walking about half-way to Fifth Avenue, when I felt the push. Rows of police with riot helmets were pushing the crowd in the opposite direction, back towards the park. There was some struggle a few feet ahead of me, I couldn’t see exactly what was happening but there were people pushing back with their hands up as the police pushed forward. I jumped out of the street, down into a basement cubby entrance to a restaurant, and kept drawing.  The shoving became more animated and people were yelling on both sides of the divide. A young man ran by and shouted out- “Things are about to get REAL in New York, everybody better calm down!” I was worried about the same thing. There was a loudspeaker giving warning: “This is the New York City Police Department. Please be advised, if you walk on the street or roadway, you may be charged with disorderly conduct and placed under arrest.” People started moving back towards the park, but many people did not, and the police began arresting them.


Police arrest and carry out protesters from the street.


gray_demonstration_6 gray_demonstration_9And people lined up against the side of the street, directly facing the police who lined up just inside the curb.



Pretty soon the police had divided the demonstrators into different areas, some back in the park, others on 17th Street sidewalks, still others further down on 18th Street. They came out in full force, and they cleared the streets and sidewalks, forming a triangle at the northwest end of Union Square.

gray_demonstration_10Then a truck full of metal barricades pulled up, and many more cops were put to work setting them up all around the area, to control the crowd. By now most of the demonstrators had left, with mainly groups of college aged kids left running around trying to get past the barriers. And within about 15 minutes, the demonstration was over and Union Square became again, a place for walking dogs and eating artisanal iced cream. There would, thankfully, be no riot in New York tonight, but hopefully, the voice of dissatisfaction with the status quo had been heard.

gray_demonstration_11Personally, I feel so sad and angry that this is happening in our country. Something has to change, but at times like this it’s hard to see how. I don’t think you can lay the blame solely at the feet of the police; despite these terrible stories, there are decent cops on the streets too. My grandfather was a cop, and he was one of the kindest, most loving men I ever knew. Neither can you put all of the blame on young men caught up in a system that too often leaves them hopeless and without recourse, by labeling them thugs. These protests are not happening without cause. When you read some of the statistics of a city like Baltimore you quickly recognize that there are glaring inequalities in our country, economically and otherwise, that can’t be ignored. It was interesting for me to realize, as an urban white woman, that even at the point when the police in riot gear were moving forward aggressively, I did not fear them at all. Certainly during the evening, when the shoving and yelling was at its height, I felt my adrenaline rise. But it was fear at what might happen if emotions got out of control on both sides – not fear of what a police officer might do to me. All of my life, I have seen the police as my protector in dangerous situations. I can’t imagine seeing those who are supposed to protect me as a threat, or imagine what that must feel like.

I certainly don’t have the answers, I’m just trying to draw things like this as they happen. I do feel though, that Americans need to examine a society which seems to produce this same situation over and over again, and take a better look at the inequalities in our system. This starts long before a young African-American man and a white police officer exchange eye contact. And this will keep happening, as long as we all continue to look away.



For Nepal


A Prayer Tree for Nepal


The recent 7.8 earthquake to hit Nepal is a tragedy of huge proportions. In response, the illustrators of Studio 1482 have created art to raise  money on behalf of the victims. This fundraiser is our effort to support the international appeal for funds by CARE, a leading humanitarian relief organization. We’ve selected CARE because we believe in their commitment.

For each donation of $50 or more to CARE, you will receive a hand-signed 13″ x 19″ limited edition print from one of the Studio 1482 illustrators. The first four people to donate $1482 receive a signed original of their choice (while supplies last).

Above is my piece: A Prayer Tree for Nepal. Prayer flags are a tradition in Nepal and Tibet. It is thought that as the air brushes over the flags, sometimes hung in trees, the blessings go into the universe, and can bring harmony and healing. It is my hope that by helping provide aid to the victims of the earthquake, thousands of whom are now homeless, we can help the wave of healing and restored harmony to the people.

To participate: please go to CARE ( and click on DONATE NOW. When you receive your CARE receipt via email, forward that email and your choice of illustration print to (Please note: only the last four digits of your credit card number will be visible on the receipt.)

To view all of the art to choose from, please visit the post on One Drawing A Day HERE.

Once we receive the confirmation email, your print or original art of choice* will be sent to you. Please allow up to two weeks for delivery. Thank you for helping us to CARE.



American Illustration

vl_seattleHappy to announce that the image above was awarded by American Illustration to be included in the Chosen category in their most recent illustration competition. It was one of 215 from 9175 submitted, makes me feel good. Thanks, AI!

The illustration, of the Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is part of a large campaign that I recently completed. More on that later…


Scooter at the Society

Had a great time drawing the surrealistic fashions of Scooter LaForge at the Society of Illustrators the other night. Lots of great patterns, hand painted fabrics, outlandish shapes, and fun eighties-inspired graffiti looks. Scooter himself was pretty down-to-earth, funny, and smart; so that helped too. He described his fashion influences as a mixture of Elsa Schiaparelli and Basquiat, what a great mixture! Julia and I enjoyed talking with him and Sailor Moon, one of the models, after the event on the F train. Scooter’s style brings me back to the gritty funkiness of the 1980s East Village, and I was having a blast soaking it in.


Scooter LaForge Fashion, Aviator Girl

I call this one Aviator Girl: Great goggles, a bit Mad Max inspired, perfect for lounging around in a club near Delancey Street. The clunky black patent leather platform boots add to the effect, and come  in handy for high-stepping over corner puddles and occasional subway rats!


Scooter LaForge Fashion, Tartan Girl

Tartan Girl comes complete with surrealistic red and black sequined inner tube, perfect for an impromptu swim in the East River.


Scooter LaForge Fashion, Waif Girl

Waif Girl puts Kate Moss to shame. Love the slouchy pose and scrunchy clothes. Sailor Moon did a fabulous job modeling this one.


Scooter LaForge Fashion, Orange 1

This orange kimono-inspired look is more on the romantic side, without sacrificing the mixture of shapes and patterns. The look was complemented with eye-popping orange platform boots and a bright blue hat. Arielle modeled this one, and looked fantastic doing it. Check out the long eyelashes.


Scooter LaForge Fashion, Orange 2

Here is is again. Love the lattice-worked chartreuse pattern stockings.


Scooter LaForge and Anelle Miller

At one point Scooter came out and posed with Anelle Miller, the Executive Director of the Society. What a fun night, and the clothes are fantastic. I did a lot more drawings, too many to post!

You can see more of Scooter’s  fashions in his exclusive collection for Patricia Field HERE.

I was there with friends Despina Georgiadis, Julia Sverchuk and Greg Betza.

Check out their blogs as I’m sure you’ll see some of the gorgeous drawings they did there.

Inspire Yourself!

I was at home yesterday, on St. Patrick’s Day, having taken the day off, as it’s my birthday. I had decided to spend the day doing a little spring cleaning. My thought was, I would prepare myself for the upcoming year, and (also) for the rest of my life. A lot of emotional pressure to put on to cleaning out a closet for sure, and I was getting stuck in the rubble of clothing discards. I was feeling very sad as well, missing my beautiful sister, who moved on to another (better) place without me this year. I didn’t understand how to celebrate my birthday without her. As I was sitting on the couch in a funk, I received a happy birthday text from a friend and fabulous artist, SiYeon Lee. She said that she and a few other friends were going to draw ‘my’ parade – the Patty’s Day parade, and that they had been inspired to do so by my reportage work, currently exhibited in the Artists for Art Gallery in Scranton. I thought, why aren’t I inspired by my work? And decided to go out and draw the parade a bit myself.

As soon as I got off the train on Fifth Avenue, the sounds of bagpipers hit me like a green wave. What a familiar sound! I came around the corner, and saw a cacophony (can you SEE a cacophony?) of Irish faces and blue eyes marching along. I love the eclectic feel of it, and it’s really funny, but the Patty’s Day parade for me is always about those faces…

st-patty's-parade-2-2015Smiling, winking, laughing, and feeling proud – those faces all feel so familiar. I am of 3/4 Irish descent, after all. I recognized the emotion – the twinkle in the eye no matter what – the sense of humor against all odds – such a singular Irish trait, and so very much like my sister. I smiled to myself, thinking that she would like it that I was there, and not moping at home on the couch. It was fun to draw these guys and see the American flag turned Irish for a few hours on Fifth Avenue in NYC. What a great way to get out of my own way for a little while.


st-patty's-parade-5-2015This parade is very much like a family party – as many people marching on Fifth Avenue as people watching them go by. It is not uncommon for parade spectators and parade participators to know each other, and it feels at times like a small community in the midst of a major metropolis. There isn’t a lot of spectacle in the way of floats or sparkles, just a lot of Irish New Yorkers saying, hey, we’re here and proud to be so! And why not? Irish immigrants built half of this city, after all.

st-patty's-parade-6-2015I love the Irish step-dancers, the young girls with their starched Celtic dresses and their starched pony tails. They remind me of my own 8th birthday party, when my friend Mary taught us all what she had learned of the Irish jig. What fun! The properness of it all mixed with the silliness, this crazy combination that is so familiar to me, (and what I am missing so much about my sister Patty), is here marching through the city. I’m so glad I’ve come.

st-patty's-parade-7-2015And the bagpipes keep coming! You can’t even begin to count them, more and more, so military – after all, the phrase ‘fighting Irish’ doesn’t come from nowhere – and so fantastic. I give up trying to identify them individually and just draw a bunch of pipes moving down the street as a unit. As a clan, if you will.


I work my way down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as it seems like this is the backdrop and the heart of the entire parade. The crowd is beginning to thin out a bit, and as it does, the packs of young drunken men are beginning to stand out. And I am also smelling something green that isn’t the grass of the Emerald Isle. Time to head home. But as I am about to turn the corner to go downstairs to the subway, I see him – a real live leprechaun! I can’t NOT draw this man, so proper and so full of joy. He seems to be twinkling with a little bit of Irish magic.


And so, another year of my life goes by, and once again I am reminded on my birthday of the importance of my heritage and the importance of my future. Inspire yourself towards the future, but bring the past along for ballast. And keep those close to you right by your side, always.

Great day, great lesson.

People in Environment Workshop!


If you will be in Scranton, Pennsylvania this Saturday, March 7th, please come by to the Artists for Art gallery for a day of art! This drawing, above, is one of about 25 pieces of reportage illustration that I will be exhibiting at the gallery, along with art by the talented illustrators Chris Spollen and Kevin McClosky. Chris Spollen will be conducting a hands-on workshop from 10 am to 1 pm, and I will be leading a reportage workshop: People in Environment, from 3:15 to 6:15. There will be an artist talk by Tim Butler from 2 -3 pm.

The opening of the Artists for Art exhibition is tomorrow evening, March 6, from 6 – 9pm.

So if you’re nearby, come on out! And thanks to Ted Michalowski for his help making this exhibition happen.

Show in Scranton

1If you will be in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Friday evening, March 6th, please join us at the Artists for Art gallery for the opening of this exhibit, featuring my reportage work, and the work of two other talented illustrators, Kevin McCloskey and Chris Spollen. The reception is from 6pm to 9 pm, would love to see you there! And on Saturday, March 7th, stop by for the AFA Afternoon of Art, including workshops by Chris Spollen and myself. The Artists for Art gallery is located at 514 Lackawanna Avenue, in Scranton PA. Click HERE for more info!

brooklyn_bridgeBrooklyn Bridge, NYC, drawing made for Brooks Brothers, New York, one of the illustrations that will be in the exhibit.



Drawing at the Society

This past Thursday evening, Greg Betza, my friend and colleague from Studio 1482, invited me to go with him to the weekly Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators in NY. The theme was the Hunger Games, and while I am not necessarily up on the latest movie, I have step-daughters, so I have definitely seen the first movie, and have a little info of who Katniss is. (I liked the first movie, by the way, and the storyline too.)

Anyway, I was kind of cocooning in my studio that day and thought, well maybe this is a good excuse to get out a little bit! Plus, the event was organized by Ted Michalowski, the courtroom illustrator who has been a good friend to the studio.

Anyway, it was a fun evening – thought I’d share a few drawings…

for Patty

For Patty_2

Please consider a donation to Gilda’s Club Westchester, or to Support Connection, two organizations that helped my sister so much.

Thank you, Veronica

a member of Studio 1482