Monday, September 5, 2011

Running Towards A Dream

A year ago, my shop ROCKANDROLLHART became a reality.

It always exisited, somewhere in my mind..a place where i kept all those illustrations and ideas that i would do "someday", and time went by.

It took a moment last summer, when i realized how happy i was as i was completing a drawing that a client had commissioned of Jimi Hendrix. In the zone, listening to Hendrix, blasting on the player and I realized i could open a second shop, just for work like this..indulge my creative whims and get lost in the process of celebrating what i and art.

So here we are , a year later and the shop has evolved from only rock and roll caricatures, to funky women's portraits, and psychedelic art and recently, my new love, fantasy art.

To thank all of my fans, those of you that enjoy and collect my work and to welcome those of you new to my shop, I'm offering a SALE ITEM AND a GIVEAWAY.

I usually sell 4 of my blank Rock and Roll caricature greeting cards for $9. from today , 9/5 until the end of September, you will recieve 6 cards for $9 (plus shipping) choose from any of the prints in my shop..rock and roll, funky women, or fantasy fairytale art. These will make a great holiday gift, teacher appreciation gift, or as some of my customers do..put them in a frame and keep them for yourself.

For the's easy..just go to my Facebook page and become a fan, then leave a comment here on my blog.. you must do both please..i'll pick a winner at random at the end of the month and send them a surprise 8.5 x 11" print from my shop, to say thank you for celebrating with me.

It's hard to believe that my new child is a year old..time flies when you love what you do and get to share it with the wonderful people like all of you that i have had the pleasure to meet.

ROCK ON!!! Leslie

Saturday, July 23, 2011

From beginning to end

Every time i get an urge to create a new drawing, it's almost finished before i even get it onto paper.

The art is something that i can sometimes"see" perfectly colored and formed in my mind. Some pieces start as an idea..a sweet photo of my dog Rosie, a feeling about the 60's that i get when i hear a particular song, a little notation on a post it note, a sketch that i did after having to pull over when i was driving brcause i was afraid that i would lose the drawing i was thinking about.

And so when those swirls of color and pencil lines begin to intrude in the day to day rolodex in my brain, i get excited. Sometimes as i refine a pencil sketch, the art goes in a different begs for an emphasis in the line work, or a brilliant burst of color..or just a line drawing that comes from my hand to the paper just as i want it..with no need to fix or fret over how i need to make it right and allow it to rest for all time as it is formed (this is VERY RARE!).

But the part that amazes me is reaching that moment when i know that the work is just is and i'm able to let it go because i know that i have made it as close to the perfection that each illustration deserves..that it is as "me" as i can give it and now it will represent me as it goes off into the world.

Most pieces start in pencil..refined a few times to get the composition on the paper that i'm looking for..i usually end up covered in pink eraser shavings. After the drawing is where i want it, i place it on my lightbox, and cover it with the type of paper my finished art will be on. When the box is turned on, i can see my original pencil lines and then "paint" over them on the fresh paper with color and outline..this way you don't get dirty pencil marks from the traditional way of copying by tracing, nor do you get away from the elegance of the original lines by drawing over them..sometimes , even a few milimeters of re-drawingcan change the whole look of a show you some examples i've attached the original and finished art on some of my prints.

The Little Witch was one of those rare pencil drawings that just worked from start to finish..i knew exactly how she would look when she was done. The "Magical Night" print was a custom piece done from very specific instructions and a request to illustrate someone's experience with a mouse that she wanted illustarted as if it were from a child's storybook...this went thru several drafts until it felt as special to me as her experience. The "Art Deco Girl" was finished just this past Tuesday night. I was watching the Yankees and suddenly wanted to draw..i just sat down and she evolved 30 minutes later as a sketch and i was compelled to finish painting her before i went to bed...i couldn't wait until she was finished.

For me the process of creating these pieces of art that people buy for their homes is such a humbling experience. It would almost be enough to just make them and have them as a testament of what i do. The idea that people want to own them, that people enjoy them, that people want to hang them in their homes,or share them with their friends, or collect my art is almost more than i can brings me so much joy to know that i exist in another form for many different people in many different places and no matter what, I will go on even after i'm gone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Living in the Material World

The alternate universe to the usual day to day running of my online shops and selling to stores across the country, is doing murals.

It's like another world, where i'm bizarro Superman and everything is backwards.

You go into people's homes and stand in front of a blank wall, and suspending time and fear, you begin to paint. The first couple of times that i did this i thought , as i was painting "Am I insane? What if i make a mistake? What if they hate it? You can't erase a wall!! I need to leave..if I just go out the door, they can't make me come back.." Once the screaming in my head subsided, I was able to finish. But the fear is always there..You're in someone's home..the most private space there is in their world, and what you do is something that they will have to live with and you better get it right.

One of the first murals i ever did was for a couple that had just had their first baby..they asked me to a John Lennon themed wall in their nursery with his whimsical characters. I agreed to do it in one day because they were having a party the next day (people do this ALL the time!) I told them the price, gave them a sketch and the next weekend, began the job..I got there at 7 am and painted thru lunch til 5:30, and they loved it. The mom handed me an envelope and the husband helped me load my car and we hugged and said goodbye and just before i drove away, i looked in the envelope..there was $25 in it!! I laughed, thinking that it was a joke and walked up to the house and rang the bell.."Very funny," i said laughing and the mom said "why?"

"Well you gave me $25 and we agreed on $500" "NO" she said I never would have paid that kind of money.." (Lesson #1..after that job, i learned to always get the estimate signed and half the balance before i started work) After about 40 minutes of my yelling and embarassing her in front of their neighbors and the husband threatening to have me arrested and me threatening to go in and paint the wall black..they threw $200 at me and slammed the door.

Once when i was painting a mural, the mom said "You're almost finished..I have to go to the ATM to get the rest of your money..the baby is sleeping and i'll just be gone 10 minutes" before I could say "no!!!", she left and of course the baby (who was two) got up and seeing me and no mommy started to scream and continued for the next hour and a half until mommy came back from her mani/pedi..i charged her an extra $100 for babysitting.

I was painting two rooms in a beautiful house for two exceptionally, physically obnoxious twins..i don't say this lightly..these devil children terrorized me the entire time i was there, smacking me in the back, throwing around my supplies, as the mom said "aren't they adorable?"..finally i had to barricade myself in one of the rooms and threaten not to finish the job unless she took them out of the house. When she had her third child and asked me to come back, i was too afraid to go..really afraid..of two 7 years was like the Omen.

One job, a very detailed transportation themed 4 wall job had to be done over a weekend. The morning of the first day, the husband and wife started to fight..he was cheating, she was crazy, she was cheating, he was paranoid..yelling, breaking dishes and then one of them would come in "Do you need anything? Water? Coffee?" And then they'd start again..the first afternoon, she came to me for some therapy..crying while I painted ..what should she do? I 've sort of touched on how hard it is to create in someone's home, and to be able to focus and bring their vision to's even harder when you are giving advice to a stranger..even harder when the husband comes into the room and makes a pass at you from behind while you are painting a helicoptor, (which became a hot air balloon, 'cause my brush went nuts)

Or the time that i started to paint a Pooh mural for a young couple and the mom asked if she could watch.."Sure" i said even tho it's a little difficult to concentrate with someone sitting behind you , asking questions about why you're using that big brush instead of the little one and wouldn't it be better if the blue was yellow and why is Pooh bigger than Piglet? At one point, I turned around and there were 5 people in the room, eating , drinking coffee and watching me..and then her mother -in - law said "Why are you paying this woman to paint? We could have gone to Target and gotten some stickers"
Of course , there have been clients that welcomed me and cooked for me and treated me like where i have painted rooms for each new child and repainted as they outgrew their nurseries and became big kids. And those are outstanding memories, just like my more "unusual" clients.

Sitting here at the computer it suddenly feels good to be safe in my Omen twins, or babysitting, or audience, or backache, or husband ambush....but in spite of the basic insanity of mural work, it's very special to be able to create the vision that some one sees in their mind and thinks enough of you to have you place it on their wall..sometimes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Would You Do If I Sang Out Of Tune?

I was working yesterday, painting and i had some cd's playing and i realized that the music i had picked was exactly how i felt.

You know what i mean..good mood..happy music..sad mood..sad music.

And as i was chair dancing to "Stayin Alive" by The BeeGees (don't judge me!!), i started thinking about how we're all affected by those little bits of a song that bring us back to a place or time in our lives.

After i heard "I Saw Her Standing There" (Beatles)..i put my barbie doll in a box..childhood was over..and it is such a clear memory to me now, that it could have happened yesterday. The doors "Light My Fire".. my first bad boy infatuation..with Jim Morrison and the guy i had a crush on that summer. Beach Boys? SUMMER!! you smell the beach, the ocean, i can hear my friends laughing on a blanket next to me. When i hear "Sugar Magnolia" by the Grateful Dead, i remember waking up in the Fillmore East (a concert venue on the Lower East Side in NYC) realizing that i had slept thru the first show and my curfew and my mother would kill me. Joe Cocker? I was at Woodstock, and we were so far away that the artists were specks on the stage..but the news came up the rolling waves of people that he was onstage..everyime i hear "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends", i feel damp, tired and happy. When i hear "Sarah Smile" by Hall and Oates..i remember being pregnant with my first son, Joshua..when i hear any song from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA", i think of my younger son, Ben who was a toddler and obsessed with the album (that's what we called them back in the day!)..not suprisingly, Springsteen is one of his favorites even now..And almost 9 years after my husband's untimely death, music brought me back to the world..Paul, the man i began to see, gave me a set of Coldplay CD's a gift because i loved the song "Yellow"..The first time i heard that song it broke apart the pain in my heart.

The beauty of music to me, is the way it shapes our lives in a subtle way's there part of the moment like a whiff of fragrance, that comes back to you ,years later like a friend saying hello. I think that's why i opened "RockandRollHart"..Music is so much a part of me, i doubt that i could live without it..why would anyone want to?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Groundhog Day

i woke up this morning and had my first cup of coffee and read the paper and laughed at the idiot politician and his need to share his underpants pictures.

and i went online and answered my mail and convos and shared some stories with friends and promoted my work and got into the studio at 10 am and started to paint..and stopped to research the justin bieber bank that i was painting (no, i am not kidding) and then i had to peek at my mail and then went back to the bank and then it was time for lunch..but i had to finish something before i stopped to eat, so i painted a wipes case and went downstairs and hated all the lunch choices , so i made more coffee and read the paper and laughed about an idiot politician who thought that paul revere was warning the british.

and i went upstairs and painted justin and then i went online and answered some mail and convos and did some research on a new group of caricatures that i want to do and then finished the bieber bank.

and then i started a step stool and while the name was drying finished another wipes case, and realized that i had to order some inventory and was on hold with a supplier til i realized that i had listened to the same music for so long that i was humming a tune that i had never heard before.

so i finished the step stool and it was time for dinner.

and after dinner, i went upstairs and went online and answered some email and convos and shared some comments on facebook and promoted my work and realized that i couldn't remember what day of the week it was. i am living the movie "groundhog day".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Becoming part of the Family

I think one of the things that i like best about my StymiepieStudios shop is the special occasion work people request. Baby showers, birthdays,recitals, graduations..what ever moment that they choose to celebrate in their lives, when they ask me to create something for that special day, it's an invitation into their lives.
I don't take it lightly..i think it's kind of an honor to be asked to become part of a memory that lasts long after the party is over, and i'm always touched and pleased by the thank you's and sharing of stories about the gift giving.
There's one lady that has asked me to make a bank for each new grandchild..(fortunately she has 7 children,,I LOVE HER!!) and each one has to be as unique and special as the new child that is to receive it. She is thoughtful and specific and it is a fulfilling collabrative effort every time.

And one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces was a gift that a customer asked me to make for a new baby, to memorialize the child that the family had recently lost. That's how the "Memory Star" frame evolved.

A grandmother asked me to make a volleyball bank for her granddaughter who was going to college, the first time she would be away from home..she felt that the bank would make her feel "at home", and it probably makes her think of her Gram and home each time she looks at it.

The "Art Fund" bank was from one teacher to her retiring colleague, hoping she could finally save for all of those treasures she wanted....we had a lot of fun deciding that i would do famous works of art on her bank. It made me laugh to paint my versions of the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and even Michaelangelo's pieces on a piggy bank!

When my customers' return to my shop, i always feel like we have become part of this large extended family..they rely on me to create that perfect gift for the person that is so special to them..i appreciate their making me important in that way..and so we go..on and on..and on. Every piece i create is special to me in that way, 'cause i know that once it reaches that shelf or the top of a dresser or the corner of the room belonging to the person it was made for, it becomes part of their lives, and the memory of the day it was made to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Facing The Fear

Everytime i sit down at my drawing board i feel a mixture of confidence and terror. I'm sure that this is what performers feel as they walk out on stage..sure , i'm not Lady Gaga or Sting facing 22,000 screaming fans at Madison Square Garden, but it's probably close to that.

You know that you are good at what you do and you trust your ability but each new piece, each new caricature, each new design takes courage to put down on paper.

I see them before they not like the Sixth Sense, I don't see "not drawn people" but close to it..these designs, characters are formed in my mind and my hand struggles to bring them to life , with each nuance and contour..which can cause extreme frustration when my hand refuses to a bad child on a playdate..sometimes my brain and hand work as one..and when that happens it's sweeter than anything i can describe, it's sublime..but when they don't compliment each other . no amount of trying or working can make it's like sexual chemistry..either you feel it or you don't.

There have been a lot of instances when i've been about to start a mural in someones' home that this feeling of excitement and terror hits matter how good i feel about the project, no matter how much research i've done or countless times i've painted the design, each time is the first time. you stand in front of this clean , blank wall and think (not a good idea right before you try to be creative) "What if i mess this up? What if this time i can't do it? Of course i can do it, they hired me to do it..i can draw anything ,..i"ve done 400 murals..what's wrong with me? why did i think i could draw a horse on a trampoline..or a chicken in a ballet costume or a bunch of cats fishing?" and just as i'm about to start , the client comes in and says "Do you mind if i sit and watch while you work?" "No, i say (as i'm screaming inside) i love when people keep me company"..and i start to paint.

I try to remember those days when i'm ready to begin something new..that you summon the courage and the talent and the sense of yourself and you go out there in front of 22,000 screaming fans and sing your heart out, and you do it to prove that you're brave enough to do it again and again. Even when you fail, you win, cause you get to do what you love.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tryng To Swim Upstream

So here we are..all trying to carve out a little piece of web real estate. Each of us unique in our own creative way , we compete in this internet wasteland, hoping to reach the person that just at this very moment is desperately searching for us.

It's like being on some bizarre dating trot yourself out, with photos and witty comments, giveaways and contests..will you win their hearts? Will they "call" again?

And you always think that if you could just get some exposure or that one "lucky break", everything will change.. just one stroke of luck and you'll sell a million pictures, quilts, magnets, crochet dog hats, paintings of asparagus..well, what ever it is that you create, right? Well i don't wanna be the person that bursts your bubble or destroys your dream..but here's what happened to me in the last four months, and you might have noticed that i'm not a household name..or NOT noticed..that's the point!!

There's this great guy that i know and he knows EVERYBODY, i mean EVERYBODY!! When i started producing my rock and roll caricatures he said.."Hey. give me a few of those, i know some guys that might like them.." and he went out to dinner with some of his buddies and the next time i saw him, he gave me an order for my Ringo caricature.."Yeah, Ringo's manager loved it, so he bought one and he's taking it to L.A this weekend to give it to him"..and he said it so nonchalantly, like someone saying "hey, i like fries..can you pass me some?" My reaction? Beside the supreme adrenalin rush, was....RINGO? ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME????? i thought.."this will change my life..Ringo will call and he'll want one for Paul, and of course he'll want to meet me and have dinner and talk about my fabulous hair....BUT, i digress. That was four weeks ago..and even tho i do check my messages, Ringo has not called..neither has Paul. I'm thrilled that he has a piece of my art, but so far we haven't shared hair product secrets.

A site that i work with recently invited me to participate with a goodie bag item for the MTV MOvie Awards, to be given out to the pregnant and new mommy celebrities at this June's ceremonies..EXCELLENT!! i was thrilled, and started on the enormous task of handpainting 50 wipes cases with original designs in a week..and while i painted i fantasized..who would get one? Kate Hudson? Jessica Alba? Mariah Carey? And then they would discover my shop, and decorate their baby's room with a stymiepie cart full of products. It was only after i sent them out that i realized that most celebritys don't change their babys' diapers..the nannies now i'm hoping that the nannies visit my shop..i'm equal opportunity..WELCOME NANNIES to the famous and semi- famous!!

And then there was the INC. magazine photo announcement was posted on Etsy that the magazine was having a photo shoot that would include 100 of the artisans that were able to show up in NYC at a loft, and accompany an article on their shops and Etsy. The opportunity of a lifetime!! I got there, filled out a questionnaire about myself and my stores..filled with insight and humor..had my picture taken by a mad photographer who LOVED my hair (hahaha) and in the weeks that followed, as i frantically searched every Barnes and Noble in a 25 mile radius for the magazine, i thought.."This is it!! People will read about me and connect and the sales will pour in!! How will i keep up? How many banks do they expect me to paint in a week? I'll need help..!!" And then the magazine came out.....and actually could hear the crickets, it was so quiet in my shops. The article was about the founder of Etsy, and there was a two page spread with our faces in 1" x 1" squares with our names underneath. No shop names, no witty or insightful comments, no info. Just an article on the guy who started it all , who doesn't seem to be having a problem with money.

So here's the point of all this... I'm beginning to realize that there will always be great opportunities filled with potentail but the magic is inside each of us..we will create the lucky breaks by never giving up on our dreams. I will keep a candle burning in the shop window for Ringo and all the pregnant famous ladies but i'll remember to believe in myself.
Now, i have to go out and buy some Lottery tickets, cause i have a really good feeling ..feeling lucky..OH!! did i tell you that Bethenny Frankel has one of my wipes cases and a print?......what if she stops by? i should make coffee....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stumbling toward Nirvana

I've been at this now for two that is. And the one true thing that i have learned is that i will always be confounded by the nature of the business that we are in..running a business on the internet.

i tumble, and tweet, i flickr and kaboodle, i 'm mashable and facebookable..i blog and i comment and it seems like the only thing i don't have time for is creating.

i love what i do, and i consider myself so lucky to make a living this way..i just never realized that 90% of my time would be spent promoting, listing, retweeting, and liking ..and just when you finish, it's time to do it again! Because this baby needs to be fed CONSTANTLY.

A typical day? well. we online business owners don't work 9 - 5..we work til we can't sit in the chair anymore..or our hands get numb from typing,drawing,painting,crafting..i for one, have invested heavily in Mineral Ice..i smell like menthol all the time, but i can move my neck.

Get up at 7..check your shop(s), relist , restock, convo your customers..promote on the threads, on your team sites..check links, get lost jumping from link to link, blog to blog..reading articles that tell you "how to" as you get lost in the countless steps and maze of adding counters and rss feeds and changing tags so that you get the most out of your SEO. Honestly, once i was in the midst of reading the third link on how to do something and i had absolutely no idea of where online i was, or what the language was that i was reading or what i had originally wanted to do, because it all seemed so complicated..i would like to think that i am a smart person, but a lot of this process brings me to my knees. I have developed a new repetoire of curse words.

Check your email
Go to comments, staus updates, wonder why EVERYBODy has more fans than's like a party that everyone's been invited to but you, and then you get the invitation, but you don't know how to get there and when you finally get there..everyone has gone to another party.

Start a new blog post..i stopped writing for awhile coz there was no time, but i missed it so now i try to write once a week and feel guilty coz there's still no time.

Hit twitter, reply to messages , check out followers, follow some more people and wonder if any of them ever visit my shops

Start to get hungry and realize it's 11:00 am..and time to renew some items in my shops..should i check the mail?

Now mind you, i have orders waiting to be painted , but the seductive quality of this constantly changing and morphing online entity calls me.."hey, what if a customer has a question? what if you got an order?what if you got "liked, tweeted,kaboodled,linkedin (insert your addiction here)?"

There are days that i feel like I've achieved my goal..i'm a business owner, in control, growing and learning, as my business moves forward.
And there are days like these, when i feel like there's a test today that i didn't study for and boy ,are my parents gonna be pissed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Room To Grow

Creating a unique room for your child should be a fun experience, whether it's for a new baby's nursery or transitioning an older child to a "big kid" room. But a lot of parents freak out, unsure of what to do. And it is hard..what if this teeny little bundle is a jock or a ballerina or a rock and roller or a constuction worker? Well ,take heart. There's a relatively easy way to decorate without spending a fortune, and a lot of directions to go in.
When i do a mural , i usually try to talk new parents out of a "baby theme" like Winnie the Pooh or a character theme (anything Disney, Sesamee Street, cartoon character) cause it costs a lot (very labor intensive) and the little one will outgrow it very quickly. There's nothing like your 8 year old telling you that her room is for babies..i've seen grown women cry as they paint over Snow White and Cinderella.
Instead , trust your instincts, the same way you created an environment in your home. If you like soft colors, use them in your child's room, or vice versa with bold , bright colors.
And a themed room can be great fun..if you and your significant other are into sports, it's likely that johnny will like them too. into dance? music? nascar? decorate with a few cute items (piggy bank, frame, wastebasket, hamper) that won't break the bank, ( no pun intended) and when little susie hits puberty and paints her room black, it won't be that hard to move on.
Believe me, decorating a kid's room is much easier to deal with than puberty. Been there..barely lived thru i color my hair for a reason.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A House Divided

Lately, a lot of people have been requesting banks for their kids or nieces or godchildren that distinctly show their personalities. No, not the kid's personalities ..the people doing the buying!
It's so much fun to get to know the people that visit your shop. It's almost like meeting them in person as they start to explain why even tho the gift is for their best friend's new baby, and the best friend LOVES the Jets, would i please make a NY Giants bank . "Why?", i ask.."Because that baby can't grow up loving that pathetic team."
Recently, i had a request to create a bank with the Red Sox on one side and the Yankees on the other ..Mom was from Boston, Dad was from New York and they couldn't agree on a team for the new baby. I laughed iike crazy when the mom wrote to thank me and said that every time she went in the baby's room, she turned the bank around to the Boston side..and always found it on the New York side the next time she went in!
I guess the best part is i get to be part of the generational handing down of sports teams from parent to child..part of the family legacy that people take very seriously..but i can't help but wonder ..what if little reggie or serena decide on a team of their own? Well, you have the piggy bank, start saving for therapy.