The Look Book


Every artist has that inevitable task of putting together the portfolio. The look book if you will. I remember way back in high school getting the low down on how to assemble the monstrosity of a portfolio to show to potential learning institutions. It was black, bigger than me, with a zipper that ran around the edges. Not the most convenient nor inviting forms of display. It certainly didn’t beckon one to look inside. Nonetheless that was the way back in the day.

Time rolled on, jobs poured in; I was now a mural artist. Big blank canvases with the permission and a pay check to paint away. It was a wonderful messy job and it paid the bills for myself and my newborn son. Those works of art were captured on film and put into a plastic protective photo album. Nothing fancy, after all I was always found with paint somewhere on myself. It was kept in my brush bag. For every mural job came onlookers interested in my work and seeing what else I could create. Out came the painted photo album. Today I can’t imagine doing that kind of work again. It was very difficult especially with a baby at my side. It paid the bills and I paid my dues so it goes… par for the course of being an artist.

After that I took years off from art. Laziness is what I attributed it to, wasting my talents. In actuality I had a very rare heart condition that is usually detected and corrected in infancy. My aorta was completely shut. For those in the medical profession that may be reading this and saying, that is not possible, I assure you I can back up what I am proposing as a medical miracle. No more no less. There is no medical reason why I survived past 7 days of life, never mind being 34 with two children. I underwent massive open-heart surgery and took a year to recover. I sill have a few kinks to work out but lets face it, I am simply not in the mood for a second open-heart procedure. To put it bluntly….open heart surgery sucks.

Okay, so here we are a year later. With a brush in my hand a couple tubes of old oil paint and nothing but olive oil and a dusty canvas standing in front of me. I must of stood there for an hour. It had been so long and I felt so lost and far behind my artistic goals. I prayed often, not in the conventional sense but just conversationally. So I said I don’t know what to do. And the answer was simple…..just paint something, don’t concern yourself with technique or brush strokes or anything like that…..just paint. So I did paint….it was the most personal piece to this day and will never be shown. It is my version of my heaven. It is where I go in my mind whenever I am too ill to physically move forward in this world. It is my own personal oasis where everything I can not do here I can easily do there. Everyone should have one. It is most comforting. I can honestly say that for at least 14 years of complete bedridden illness, it saved my sanity and kept me fighting as I do to this day.

Let’s move on…..for a year after that first painting I experimented with all types of things on canvas. I had built up quite the collection of fine art gallery ready pieces. But the question lingered…what to do with them. I remember so clearly the day, the place, and the overwhelming sadness of having this accomplishment and not one clue as to what to do with them. All I wanted was for them to be seen; that was all. Above my bed hung one of my pieces as a headboard. As I lay there in tears I lifted my hand behind my head and just felt it. The old beads and crystals swirling in a most beautiful pattern. A treat for the eyes but in that moment I found it to be a treat to touch. Then the answer came as it always does, right on time,……I bet blind people would love to view these. Bingo!!! Within minutes I had it all planned out. One month later I was exhibiting my pieces to the blind convention in Harrisburg PA. The president of the PBA came up to me and said…”I have not had sight since I was 5 years old, but, when I touched the portrait of the boy I got a image in my mind. Keep up the wonderful work you’re doing.”

I have to pause here to say how amazing it is to have accomplished something that was considered impossible and the mere idea was laughed at by many. I managed to put an image into the mind of a man without sight. For each and every person that touched my pieces all walked away with an image but no two were ever the same. Every painting took on a new view depending on the mind that was processing the touch of the piece. My greatest show of this blind exhibit, The Hopscotch Hands on Exhibit for the Blind, is one I was unable to attend. With the van full of my work on my way to the Bergen Performing Arts Center I had to pull over and dial 911. I had been feeling awful for a while but no one in my area could figure out the cause. Within 20 minutes in the hospital I was diagnosed with endocarditis-a heart infection. I would be in the hospital for quite some time. The show went on as planned. My brother and his friends rallied and got the paintings there and hung them up. The Blind Boys Of Alabama were having their concert there along with my show. I was elated. I didn’t care that I was not there. I was on the phone and I got to read all the comments in the mailing list book from the attendees. Thankfully the show had such a great response the gallery asked if I would mind extending the show for an additional 6 weeks. That was exactly how long I was to be on IV antibiotics. It worked out perfectly. When I showed up to pick up my work I had to laugh and cry at the same time. I got to see it and it filled me with tearful joy and my brother had hung some of the pieces upside down. It was wonderful and still makes me smile as I write this. The greatest show I never attended.

bridal look book

Now this endeavor absolutely required a professional portfolio. A sleek black 12×24 photo album with the black lined plastic pockets. You can find them in any fine art store or catalog. I put all my newspaper clippings, painting and pictures of my exhibits carefully arranged. I was so proud of my work.

Unfortunately I hit another speed bump and it lead to 8 years of illness. Surgeries, infections, more surgeries, and next thing you know years spent in bed seem never ending. Yes I spend many hours in my very own heaven. How else does one cope?

I began making smaller things that I could make on a tray or my lap. Mostly just for myself, a purse for my doctor visits and tiny gifts for the nurses that took care of me at my hospital stays. I even made myself a very elegant eye mask. Sleeping in the hospital is….for lack of a better word….a bitch. I say if you’re going to be ill be fabulous doing it, whenever possible. I started having breaks in the stream of diagnoses and would have a week or two when I felt pretty well. I would work like crazy, making as many pieces as possible. One day I kept saying I am going to sell these. That one day came about 2 years ago. My daughter opened a shop on Etsy and started selling my creations. She wants so badly to go to college and this was a way I could help her accomplish that.

We did better than expected in that first year and I am still not fully recovered. The final diagnosis has been made and it isn’t the best news to say the least. So I work as hard and as fast as I can to create pieces that have already been made in my own heaven. Each and every one I already made in my mind, now it is just a matter of bringing them to life. I have so many yet to make and will continue regardless of my physical limitations for my mind has no limits. My ideas are not even my own, they are gift given to me during my visits to heaven.

So why the title Look Book?   Your look book or portfolio, if you prefer, not only holds your art pieces.  It, in fact, holds pieces of your heart, soul and your life’s purpose.   So choose it well.  After all it is your legacy bound together in a single book.

Well, the time has come to compile the creme da la creme of my work and assemble them into a album. Not just any album as it turned out. I certainly could have Marelled a store bought one or just did another presentation in a long sleek black number. After all, it is the way it is done. Then I stumbled upon Dragos. There are no coincidences in life and the people we meet along the way are a part of a bigger plan. Even if that person happens to be all the way from Romania. The minute I saw his work I knew he was the one to make my portfolio. My Look Book. Captivating is how I would describe the leather hand bound covers he creates. The work of an old world master. He only uses tools he has made and takes great pride in the details. To be honest I was so in awe by the cover I didn’t even give much though to the rest of the album. But, Dragos sure did. I was going to do a post of his work when the album was done but today I received pictures of the inside. Just the pages blew me away. What he has started was a book worthy of heavenly creations. I will proudly post the finished album but I couldn’t wait to show what he has done thus far. I am to write back to him to tell him how I like how it is coming along. I am just going to send him the link to this post.

Without further ado, I give you Man Dragos….An absolute Master of Book Binding.