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Guide to Dancing Infographic (for the dance-phobic)

Guide to Dancing Infographic

Here’s something just for fun. A guide for the chorophibic (that’s a fear of dancing, obviously).

Helpful for anyone recovering from strict fundamentalist religious culture (like me), the extra-macho (opposite of me), those who have had a bad experience with hips, and anyone else who’s ever had a panic attack just prior to attending a wedding.

Time to face those fears, guys! Get out on the floor and start bobbing your head and tapping your feet. Just keep those hips in check.

Pete Seeger’s Banjo

Pete Seeger's Banjo

Download Free Print: Pete Seeger’s Banjo

Pete Seeger will always remain one of my personal heroes. It’s not his political activism that necessarily draws me to him, but rather how much he valued the things in life that really matter; how he truly believed you can change the world by getting people to sing together. I admire his commitment to working people and human rights, but it is his 70-year marriage that places him above others who I respect, into a special group of those I aspire to be.

Every time I hear him speak he manages to say something so wise it moves me instantly and stays with me permanently.

I once heard him say the happiest people he’s met are those who are hurting in some way.

At the time I was hurting pretty bad, and it was incredibly moving to hear someone else who understood how on earth I could be so completely happy.

Strong Odors Favorite Albums 2013

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

With new albums in 2013 from favorites Arcade Fire, Neko Case, Avett Brothers, Vampire Weekend, and (after a 17-year wait) Mazzy Star, my list is relatively predictable, but hopefully there are at least a couple surprises in there too.

I’d imagined a new Churchill album on the list this year, but sadly it seems to have landed in musical purgatory after the band disintegrated last summer…

What was your favorite album this year?

You can subscribe to the 2013 playlist on your favorite streaming music service:

Forgiving Artists

Forgive Artists

New illustration for an article on what level we can or should forgive artists known to have taken advantage of young girls.

I have been totally excited at the prospective release of J.D. Salinger’s unpublished works, but then I learned of his relationship with 14-year-old Jean Miller.

What should our position as fellow artists be toward those among us who are guilty of violent, exploitative, oppressive behavior toward teens? Should we boycott Roman Polanski? What if all the accusations against Woody Allen are true?

Or must we find a way to separate the man from the art? To appreciate and enjoy a film without regard to the character of its creator?

Old & New Project: Turning Points Highlights


Round 3 of Old & New Project came to a close today. It’s been another fantastic set of contributions from artists all over the globe.

Like any good parent, I don’t like to choose favorites among my offspring, but there were a handful in this round (all contributed by female artists by the way) that impacted me for one reason or another.

1. Gideon Meets the Lord by Ciara Panacchia (above)

This piece, though simple, has tons of emotion wrapped up in it without feeling melodramatic. That’s an extremely difficult thing to pull off for an illustrator, so the way Ciara does it here is truly impressive.

Another reason this image resonates so strongly with me personally is because I have a boy named Gideon in my family, and he—like his namesake—is up against all odds, yet consistently inspiring each of us with his capacity to do great things.

Sales from Ciara’s piece go to charity.


2. Jonah Thrown Overboard by Melanie Matthews

One of my early reservations about the Turning Points theme was that we’d be including more popular Bible stories than past rounds. Both Jim and I have always been drawn to and enjoy sharing more obscure passages with many who may have never realized they were contained in the Bible. So when it came to perhaps the most illustrated passage ever from the Old Testament, I couldn’t help but be a little nervous we’d be publishing more of the same old thing.

While writing the familiar story of Jonah, I tried to focus on what may have been his greatest Turning Point (he had several), and it seemed to me the moment he confesses his flight and volunteers to be thrown overboard is pretty critical to the whole tale.

When Melanie Matthews delivered this piece (all the way from Australia, no less), my fears were relieved. She somehow managed to demonstrate one of the most visually exploited stories in all history in a fresh, new and fabulous way. The look of relief on Jonah’s face as he watches the sun break through the clouds and the storm subside, totally unaware of the gaping jaws below is totally priceless, and should go down as one of the great “Jonah and the Big Fish” illustrations ever.

Sales from Melanie’s piece go to charity.


3. A Man of Unclean Lips by Sophia Foster-Dimino

Every once in a while, I’m so excited about one of our contributing artist’s agreeing to be part of the project, they can’t possibly live up to my expectations. After discovering Sophia this past year when her Bram Stoker “doodle” was featured on Google’s home page, I secretly thought there was no way she was going to create something as awesome as I hoped she would… but she did.

I honestly had to stop to catch my breath after seeing this for the first time, but what makes it even more fabulous is Sophia’s thoughts on her design process—which demonstrates so beautifully exactly why  including athiests among all the other variety of faith backgrounds contributing art to Old & New Project has been so important to Jim and I since the beginning.

Sales from Sophia’s piece go to charity.


4. Samson by Alexandra Beguez

I have to admit, I faced a bit of a dilemma when Alexandra delivered this piece. The story I’d written on Samson was specifically about his spirit breaking in prison and reaching out to God in his first moment of real weakness. There was no mention of the lion carcass or honeycomb at all.

But this design was so awesome!

It was so good, in fact, I edited my story a bit to include a few phrases hinting at this lion-and-honey episode. I can’t say exactly what it is about Alexandra’s piece that moves me, but I love Samson as a “regular guy,” as opposed to the stereotypical Schwarzenegger-type, and her use of high-contrast reversed color is totally unique and surprising.

Sales from Alexandra’s piece go to charity.


4. Saved by a Harlot by Julie Frey

Rahab’s is one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. Not only does it beg the provocative question, “what exactly were those spies doing in her house?” but I feel prostitutes are easily the most misunderstood and misrepresented biblical characters  (particularly in the western church).

I was really excited to see how Julie handled Rahab’s story. She focused on the woman’s redemption in the scarlet cord, but made sure to include the more scandalous but important facts surrounding the story (however appropriately left in the shadows).

Sales from Julie’s piece go to charity.