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Most of my days begin with the battle of creative expression; do I head for the mouse first and draft a chapter or two, or grab a brush and finish a painting? Physically it isn’t a difficult choice, as my loft space is divided in halves; one side dedicated to drawing and painting, the other where the writing takes place.

Some days I let my muse guide me, others, I ask my dog to choose the side he prefers at the moment. It’s only fair as my writing often celebrates the canine-human bond. 

I’ve worked as a fine artist since 1989, so a few years ago, when people heard that I’d taken up writing, they’d assumed I’d be an illustrator as well. To them I continue to explain that I’m a painter, mostly landscape, and illustration is a very different animal. Also, up until recently, authors didn’t typically illustrate their own work (in fact, the two rarely even communicated to keep each one’s unique vision intact), although currently there’s an increased call for author/illustrators.

Recently, however, wondering how I could combine words and image in my own creative projects, I received a fortuitous call from the Program Director of a local arts guild. She’d heard about my paintings that incorporate vintage postcards, and my books, and asked if I’d give a presentation for their annual membership dinner in November. They’d even pay and feed me and allow me to sell books. Who could refuse?  I said, “yes,” then hung up, grasping the challenge of my audience; talented well-known artists. 

Because it’s a story that originates in New Jersey, I’ve decided to focus on Around the World in 1909: Harriet Fisher and Her Locomobile, (American History Press – 2014) a fun and informative book about the first woman to drive around the world. It’s filled with inspiration, history, travel and even pets!

For this event, I’ve created Postcard Paintings featuring three destinations in Harriet’s history-making journey; Paris, Lake Como, Italy and Japan. Time doesn’t allow for Fisher’s tour of Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, China, and back through the American West, but hopefully they’ll appear in subsequent presentations.

For the past several years, I’ve addressed historical societies, elementary schools, women’s clubs, a university association and although each event has focused on a different book, many people want to hear about the story behind the book, or seek encouragement to write one of their own.

Although my interest in writing and painting was evident early on, my official Path to Creativity began at age 30 when I left a great job in the entertainment industry, traveled to Italy for a painting course, returning home a Full-Time artist. Fifteen years later, after taking a writing course, I began composing short stories and drafted my first book. I believe that the discipline and professionalism gained in the corporate world in my 20s has helped me to structure my writing and art life. It hasn’t been an easy or straight-forward path, but I always tell those who ask for advice to think of a goal as a journey filled with small steps and to keep learning and form alliances with those who share your vision. 

My journey goes on. Currently, I’m “barking up” new projects, and my story of Teddy (our foster-to-forever dog) will be featured in an Anthology published by the Baker Publishing Group in Fall 2018. It’s always good to have several projects in the works because the path to publication has many twists and turns. And of course, it never hurts to surround yourself with great family members, friends and to have a loyal dog (or any loving pet) curled up at your creative feet, no matter what side of the studio your creative muse, or dog, dictates.

So, if you invited me to present at your next event, what would you ask, or like to learn? Please leave a comment, or reach me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. 

Happy musing! Here are the images for my presentation (all are 8 X 10 – acrylic paint on mat board. All postcards are originals from 1909-1914).

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Paris – postmarked 1914

 

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Lake Como, Italy – postmarked 1909

 

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Japanese garden – 1910

 

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Enter a caption – Flip side with postal markings.

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“Ted, White and Blue – Patriotic Paws”

Five years ago today, we said farewell to our beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hooper. Named for the Matt Hooper character of  the blockbuster movie Jaws, she really did drive the boat, our house, our lives.

On a cold night in the winter of 2010, “Hoop Girl” was sitting by my feet at the moment I happened upon something called National Dog Week, a quirky yet poignant Canine American Holiday established in 1928. I fell in love with its colorful history, and began writing a biography about its Founder, Captain Will Judy, chronicling its unique, roller coaster-like legacy. In doing so, a new career was launched, and five books later, I’ve never stopped writing.

Alone with Hooper during the last moments of her life, I had an odd request. I whispered in her ear, “When the time is right, please send Dad and I a special new dog friend, and if possible please send one that likes other dogs and is calm, cool and collected.”

It seemed like a strange way to say goodbye to a loyal and loving companion, but in true dog-like fashion, within five months, my heart-felt request was granted when we fostered a little black and white Havanese-mix named Teddy.

Teddy came to us like a bright light in a bleak post Hurricane Sandy landscape. He wasn’t intended to stay, but stay he did, and has brought us much happiness. “Steady Teddy” couldn’t be any more different than “Hyper Hooper”. And unlike Hooper, Teddy adores other dogs. Now, with us for nearly four years, Teddy sits by my feet and inspires me to keep on writing, in fact, a story I wrote, based on his arrival in our lives, will be part of an Anthology released by the Revell Publishing group in October 2018. When the editor titles the book, I will let you know!

And another interesting thing happened with the Tedster by my side. I revamped my art studio and did something I’d wanted to do for a very long time, paint my first pet portrait. The painting of Teddy featured above, draped by the American flag, brings my creative life full circle, and reminds me why I continue to write about dogs and history, or anything else that inspires me. It also captures the spirit of National Dog Week that was established to encourage a collective and thoughtful period when we are mindful of all the ways dogs enrich our lives.

 

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Hooper, Ready for Her Close-Up

There are many exciting things going on in the Creative Front, and we’re working hard and visualizing some good days ahead; creating during challenging circumstances when the sun is temporarily hidden by fleeting clouds; welcoming the positive influences and encouragement from a dog that’s been sent to help makes it all worthwhile. That’s the ultimate gift.

The 89th Observance of National Dog Week will be celebrated the week of September 25th this year!

On Saturday, my husband, Rich, had the honor of transporting Old English sheepdog, DJ, and his owner, Beverly Barbaz, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to Manhattan for DJ’s debut at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Rich drove DJ, and his “Mom,” to their hotel just a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden.  According to him, dogs had invaded the sidewalks, and hotel lobbies of New York City.  All kinds of dogs greeted him upon his arrival, including a “party-mix” Portuguese water dog that sashayed right past him.  Hooper’s snout was out of joint because her dad didn’t get its “pawtagraph.”

On the official website for the Westminster event, there is a beautiful watercolor that has been made into a poster for this year’s event.  In it, a woman in a car (circa  the 1940s), transports her dog past a back drop of several others, including to my pleasure, a big black and white Portuguese water dog, complete with its big goofy expression.

This week marks the 134th annual occurence of this prestigious dog show.  This year, 170 different breeds will be judged.  Officially, there are seven Breed Groups judged at the Westminster show, however, there is also a group of “dogs in waiting” that occupy an eighth group knows as “Miscellaneous.”  Even if DJ is deemed best in his breed, he is up against unusually stiff competition in the Herding Group.  This year, two new breeds were welcomed into this group, the Norwegian Buhund, and the Pyrenean Shepherd.   Also making its debut, is the Irish Red and White Setter, in the Non-Sporting Group.

DJ’s handler is Gail Bodisch, of Deja Blu Old English Sheepdogs in Poughquag, New York.  Hopefully, after Gail is finished with her hard work at this event, I can talk to her about the crucial bond that exists between a dog and its handler.  Rich related to me how excited, and happy, DJ was to see Gail in New York City. 

On the subject of dog handling, an item in a Spartanburg, South Carolina newspaper, written by Lee G. Healy, tells how a local boy from that area, 12-year old Zakery Slater, will become the youngest handler in the junior category to ever appear at the Westminster Show.  Zak will be showing his Bernese mountain dog, Kaz, tomorrow.  Zak qualified for this honor by achieving 10 first-place wins in one year’s time.   Will Judy, the founder of National Dog Week, would have been proud of this young man.  Captain Judy, and much later, Captain Arthur Haggerty knew that by working together, a young person, and their dog, can learn the importance of team work, discipline, and even, as in this case, lead youths to consider career options that involve animals, and their care.

Another way to honor dogs is to celebrate them in art.  Our “seasonal neighbors,” down in Big Pine Key, Florida, Rick and Diane, recently sent the above photo of a portrait of their dogs, Koda, and Logan.  Logan was recently adopted by Diane and Rick, after the passing of their beloved shepherd, Dugan.  Koda, also an adoptee, is now five years old.  Their friend, artist, Steven Hall, presented them with this beautiful portrait just the other day. 

And we look forward to meeting Logan, soon, as we will be traveling down that way on Thursday.  Posting will continue as we journey south, through St. Augustine, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Weston, and finally to the Keys.  Last year I was informed that more best selling books were written in the Florida Keys than anywhere else.  I sure hope that’s  true, because I hope to be completing most of my National Dog Week book while I am down there….Stay tuned while I get those “ruff” drafts in shape!

I’ll let you know how sweet “little” DJ made out in New York.

It has come to my attention, I have not properly introduced myslef.  My name is Lisa Begin-Kruysman and some people might know me by my artwork, not my writing (yet).

I grew up in Hackensack, NJ, and I have had the good fortune to claim many great places as temporary home, or hang out. For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in a beautiful wooded waterfront community in Ocean County (NJ) with husband, Rich, and 8 year old Hooper, the dog. 

Before living this peaceful life, I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, working as a recruiter for what was called then, Home Box Office, Inc.  I had an office, with a view of Bryant Park and even an assistant, all before turning 30! What did I do? I resigned, traveled to an art school in Italy and came home to become a full-time artist.  Some days I think of what could of been, but then I look out my studio window, at my dog, and hubby  and wonder no more! Living by the water,  isn’t too shabby!

My work focuses on vintage postcards incorporated into paintings. You can learn more about this at my website, www.postcardart.us. My work is rewarding, collaborating with clients to create that perfect gift, busy at arts events almost every weekend in the summer and fall.  As you might guess, some of my favorite postcards are those featuring dogs.  Of course, I intend to use some of them in my book project.

As a creative person coming off the holiday high, the new year is a scary place.  With commissioned work almost complete, future shows weeks away…(and freezing temps) it is hard to stay motivated.  Writing has been a perfect remedy, a way to keep focused.

I just have to say a thank you to my “kid” sister, Manette Loudon. She has been invaluable to me, helping with this Blog, for instance.  I am a noted techno-klutz, and she has been my Blog coach.  My sister likes dogs, but if there was a National Horse Week, she would be saddling up and blazing the trail.

When we were 14, and 13, respectively, my parents whisked us away from Hackensack, to Boulder, Colorado, for a year.  Six of us and a toy poodle made the trek in a station wagon.  Along the way, just 2 hours from our destination, our car was flattened by a double wide.  The car was totalled, but we all miraculously survived.  Did I mention, my parents hadn’t secured a home base for us in Boulder? So carless, and temporarily homeless, we entered Boulder in a police cruiser!  Oh, but here is the “funniest” part, in the middle of all of this, my sister asked my parents if she could have a horse when we got to Boulder.

Long story short, within 48 hours, we had rented a beautiful ranch house on North Broadway, just a few miles from Colorado University where my dad would work.  The house came equiped with a few acres and, conveniently, a stable for a horse.  After the first day of school, my sister arrived home, horse in hand.  A beautiful half Arabian, half quarter horse named Muna del Adrienne.  The horse had been abused and in need of safekeeping.  My sister was happy to oblige. She spent a memorable 10 months with that horse, they were inseperable.  It was a sad day for all when we returned east and had to say good-bye to Muna.

I tell this story because it highlights the power of creative visualization and faith, (okay, maybe some luck). But at this time of year, it is a nice memory for me, and a lesson for everyone that it doesn’t hurt to think big.

Manette, by the way, is a talented documentary producer, her documentaries on serious subjects like the overmedicating of our children and our autism epidemic have won awards at the Hoboken and Key West Film festivals, among others.

And a I would just like to wish my niece and god daughter, Roxy  a Very Happy 15th Birthday up there in snowy New York state.

258 days to National Dog Week!

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”