Better Late Than Never: 2015 Resolutions Update

I intended to have two updates posted by now, but the best laid plans and all that jazz…

OK, so let’s get this part started. In previous resolutions posts, I noticed that I tended to be down on myself when I didn’t do well on a goal (which was often!). So now, I’m taking a cue from Sunflower Paperie and posting both my successes and areas of improvement.


1. Cook a healthy meal once per week

Successes: Shoprite from Home has helped tremendously in this area! Each week (or nearly), I sit down with the hubs, and we decide what we need for the coming days. We still buy cookies and such, but we buy a bunch more fruit and healthy snacks since we don’t have to putz around the produce aisle anymore. This has also helped us save money in the long run since we have a fairly steady supply of good food options, so we don’t eat out as often. One of my favorite meals we’ve made this year is roasted pork loin with roasted red potatoes. YUM!

 Areas of improvement: I need to plan meals better. While my snack options have improved, meals have not overall. I was using a meal planner at the beginning of the year. I think it’s time to bust it out again!
Not as healthy, but totally yummy!

Not as healthy, but totally yummy!


2. Meditate once per day

Successes: This has taken different shapes throughout the past eight months. I downloaded the Headspace app, which helped a lot. I also got a devotional that I like and have been (fairly) consistent with reading it. I’ve also noticed that I meditate better at night. I’m trying to meditate first thing in the morning, but perhaps my rhythm is better later in the day.

Areas of improvement: I fell out of rhythm with the app and am trying to get back on track. I need to make it a priority. Overall, this is probably the habit I need to make a priority the most. My iPhone tends to get in the way. Perhaps instead of opening up Twitter first thing in the AM, I should open up Headspace. If only there was an app for that….

3. Work on art once per week

Successes: I have tried more types of art so far this year than any other in recent memory, so that’s a huge win! I’ve taken part in a few art challenges and have gotten to know quite a few great people through Instagram and Twitter. Given that my word for the year is “gather,” this area has been a big success in that I’ve “gathered” a lot of practical art tips, art friends, and prompts.

Areas of improvement: I tend to work in bursts. I’m super prolific for a few days, but then I may not create anything for a few weeks. In the long run, this may just be how I work, but I do want to create the habit of a steady creative practice.

4. Read 60 books

Successes: I’m a little over halfway on my goal! So far, I’ve read 33 books and am 55% done with my goal. I’m pretty happy with where I am. I’ve read fairly broadly. Some titles that stick out to me include The Night Circus, The Fire Next Time, and Raising My Rainbow.


Photo courtesy of Google Images

Areas of improvement: Goodreads says I’m three books behind, so I suppose I should catch up. I also haven’t read any books I own nor have I finished any ARCS I’ve received. I think I’ll make more of an effort to read at least one book in each of the aforementioned categories in the next 4.5 months.

5. Keep a steady writing practice

Successes: One of the bullet points I listed in this area was to celebrate the publication of my chapbook, which I did to the fullest! I did a bunch of readings all over New Jersey from April through June. The crowds were fabulous, and I saw so many familiar faces. I loved talking about my process and sharing my work with others. I also recently signed up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts, which arrive every day to my inbox. They’ve provided great inspiration, and I wrote a poem with one of the prompts that I’m pretty sure is a keeper!


Areas of improvement: Other than celebrating my chapbook, I haven’t done much writing (other than that keeper poem). I have tons of ideas, but I’m not making time to write them down. Much like the meditation habit, I need to be more conscious of making my writing (and art) practice a regular habit. I’m just not quite sure how to do that, but I’ll brainstorm some strategies :)

How about you? What is one goal you are working on this year/month/week? What have been your successes and areas of improvement?

Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model


Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.



After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!



The teacher and a student



The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?

Who Writes Better?: A Battle of the Sexes

The fine folks at Grammarly (a grammar checker) were kind enough to share the following infographic with me. I wanted to share it with y’all because I think it’s an interesting debate. What defines “good” writing anyhow? Is it the characters? Plot? Description?

Checking out my Goodreads list reveals that so far this year, I’ve read six books written by women and four books written by men. The thing is, I don’t really pay attention to the gender of the person writing; I tend to focus more on the type of content or plot I’m interested in at the moment. But my statistics would say I prefer women.

Hmmm, what do you think? Are women or men better writers?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Artist Spotlight Follow-Up: Chris Ernst

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

My personal fave piece of the exhibit! (Photo courtesy of Beth Colletti)

About one month ago, I posted an Artist’s Spotlight on Chris Ernst. This is a follow-up post featuring one of his local NJ exhibits.

On February 5, his exhibit “Urban Pop: 1989-1990” opened at the TrentonWorks Art Gallery in Trenton, NJ. As soon as I walked in the door, I could feel the the good, old-school vibes. Bel Biv Devoe was playing, and among the crowd, I found Chris talking it up with some of the art admirers.

When I walked around to look at the pieces, I found a nice sampling of varied styles. Sure, Chris tends to specialize in pop art, but he also does landscapes, as shown below.IMG_1438

The colors and repetition of the circles were particularly intriguing.

True to the title, the exhibit largely featured work that related to late-80s/early90s pop. Among my favorites were the paintings of Edward Scissorhands, Janet Jackson, and the 8-bit Nintendo controller.IMG_1434 IMG_1433 IMG_1437

I wasn’t the only one taking photos either. Many folks observed the paintings with great interest and took their phones out to snap a few shots.


All in all, it was a great evening filled with laughter, mingling, and, of course, great art. Congrats to Chris on a spectacular opening!

10917441_880186758669570_6535571835046484453_n IMG_1435

All paintings shown are for sale. To get in touch with the artist, Chris Ernst, you may either reach him via Facebook, e-mail (cernstart [at] gmail [dot] com), or Instagram.

An Imagined WA (Workaholics Anonymous) Meeting

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

(Note: This post is the first of it’s kind for me—I wrote it in about five minutes. No editing. No nothing. Stream of consciousness. Makes me nervous, but I trust this is a safe place to let some of this out.)

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I’m a workaholic.

(All: Hi, Michelle).

It might be the result of being the only child of a single parent or just beginning my life with a type-A personality, but I tend to work myself to death. No one asks this of me—I demand it of myself.

And yet, as I get older, I realize I can’t keep up the frenetic pace. I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up break-neck speed. But it wasn’t until my husband said, “I’m worried about you” that I was willing to admit that it was my schedule and the pressure I put on myself that was the problem.

This means taking on less work. This means less money, which, as a former welfare recipient, honestly scares the shit out of me. I don’t ever want to rely on the system again. But that can’t be synonymous with not relying on those closest to me.

Yes, it means less of what I’ve grown used to, but what else might it mean? More free time for sure. More time to write, to make art, to sleep (oh, glorious sleep!). More energy for my students. More time with my husband. More reading. Kinda makes the old adage “Less is more” take on a whole new meaning.

Its tough redefining who you thought you were. I thought I was the perpetual happy-go-lucky person, then my depression worsened. I thought I was a type-A person through and through. I think it might be true to a certain extent, but it’s wiping me out. It’s wrecking my health.

I’m scared. I’ve been here before. But all the scary steps I’ve taken in the past have paid dividends, though not always right away. I have to trust (God, myself, the people in my life) that this will also turn out OK.

For the Ice Cream Connoisseur

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I recently came across a nifty infographic, made by VanMonster, that details the evolution of the ice cream van. As an ice cream connoisseur, this was super interesting to me. I’ve thought a lot about the evolution of ice cream, but not the mode in which it was delivered to me as a child—the van with the ever-playing jingle. Enjoy the infographic.

Did you learn something new from this infograph? If so, post below!

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Artist’s Spotlight: Chris Ernst


I’m delighted to introduce you to Chris Ernst, pop art painter extraordinaire! I met Chris in December at a craft fair put on by The Center for Contemporary Art. His work is so funky fresh and innovative. So without further ado, here’s Chris!

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Chris Ernst: I have been a constant doodler for as long as I can remember.  I completed a few paintings in high school and knew it was a passion I would eventually follow but I first took a ten year break between college and grad school.  Once I graduated I began to pursue painting more seriously.  It wasn’t until 2011 before I really dove into painting and it wasn’t until 2013 before I actively began pursuing selling my art.  Now I can’t imagine a future without drawing/painting/creating.

Bruce Buns 1.1

Bruce Buns 1.1 – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: What first inspired you to art?
CE: I think it probably started with my grandfathers.  Both were woodworkers and one was an illustrator to boot.  During the period of their lives when I knew them they were both at a point where they could concentrate on their passions.  I remember being amazed at my paternal grandfather’s work ethic – he would disappear for hours in his workshop.  I remember being very inspired by the process and care he put into the wooden banks he would create.  From a personal standpoint, I vividly remember being given a drawing assignment in the fourth grade and immediately tackling one of the hardest assignments available.  It was of a church steeple and I went all in – making sure I captured all the details, including every shingle.  The accuracy wasn’t there but the scope and fearlessness were evident.  I remember it was chosen as a work of the month and placed on display in the school.  My mom, who has always nursed my creative impulses, was so excited to see it in the school hallway and eventually framed the piece.  It is still hanging in my old bedroom.  All around it was a very exciting experience and something I can look back on and say, “That was the spark. . .”

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?
CE: Acrylic painting is by far my favorite medium at the moment.  I love the immediacy of it and I am a huge fan of color so the wide palette is something that is very appealing.  I have also begun working on turning more of my drawings into paintings over the past year.  I am a big fan of lines and seeing them evolve from a simple pencil drawing to ink to an acrylic painting is a process I can study over and over.  I took my first screen printing class about a year ago and have enjoyed that as well.  There is something about being able to run 20 prints in a row that really speaks to the pop artist in me.

Mario Muertos

Mario Meurtos – Acrylic – 24″ x 24″ – 2015 (it will debut at my solo show at Trentworks)

As far as future mediums are concerned I have a solo show opening at a great gallery called Trentonworks.  The show is called “Urban Pop: 1989-1990” and it will be up in the gallery from February 2nd – 28th with an opening reception at 6 PM on Thursday, February 5th.  I have been working with a team to bring some pieces alive three-dimensionally, more as an installation, so I am super psyched to see how that ends up.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
CE: I believe in the deconstruction of pop art through the process of human fabrication.  The original inspiration for my process came from studying Andy Warhol during a high school art class.  Early in his career he would take an image, project it onto canvas, trace it out and then hand paint it.  As he moved along he got into screens and then had engineers and was removed from the process from a technical perspective.  However, I am inspired by that nascent period when he was still painting.  I believe that capturing the “artist’s hand” adds to each piece, from the slight imperfections to the balancing of colors.

Of course, the artist’s hand doesn’t touch the work without the original inspiration.  Lately I have been finding my inspiration in tons of influences from my childhood – everything from early 90s skate graphics to Star Wars to early hip hop.  My favorite pieces of the past year have combined something from these early influences with my own personal flourish, most often through the abstraction process of hand drawing and then painting the image I am chasing.

Tongue Tied 1

Tongue Tied – Acrylic – 40″ x 30″ – 2014 (currently up at VAM Art in Metuchen)

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
CE: I had to look this up because I keep a pretty detailed journal.  I knew immediately which work it was but wasn’t sure on the time to complete.  The winner is “Tongue Tied”, a 40” x 30” acrylic painting I completed in 2014 that is currently on display at VAM Art in Metuchen through the end of March.  It started off as a doodle at work and grew from there.  When all was said and done it was 30 hours of work and I was tired of painting but love the outcome.

RO: You’re part of a collective called Fresh Milc. What is it like to be part of an art collective and how has that influenced your art?
CE: MILC started off on a lark.  I was with a group of friends at a club in Brooklyn and there was another group there with matching t-shirts.  We were a little jealous so we decided to create our own.  I crafted a painting and then we turned that into a vector and eventually our own t-shirt.  We liked the process so much we decided to press up a bunch and sell them.  MILC was born.

The impact has been twofold.  First of all, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some great friends, thanks for everything, Noah, Adrian, Bobby and Laron.  Sorry, I just had to give them a shout out.  Having them as a soundboard and fellow crafters of our vision has been an inspiring experience.


MILCy Doom – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

The second impact has been finding our mascot, MILCy D, as a muse.  As Warhol had his celebrities and Campbell’s soup cans I have MILCy.  I have completed well over twenty paintings of him at this point and launched close to a dozen t-shirt and sweatshirt designs with him.  Speaking of which, I need to get cracking on our Spring 2015 t-shirt.

RO: In addition to being a part of Fresh Milc, you are a staple in the New Jersey gallery and art fair circuit, including the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the Center for Contemporary Art’s Holiday Boutique. What would you say is the most important lesson (or lessons) that you’ve learned about the business side of art as a result of participating in these ventures?
CE: I was a business major in school and have always believed Warhol’s adage of “good business is the best art”.  So I have never had an issue with the “art vs. business” conversation.  If people see something they like and want to own it that is a beautiful thing, regardless of the impetus behind the creation.

The biggest lessons I have learned center on having multiple price points for your work and knowing your audience.  In particular, it is important to have price points that can provide an entryway into your art.  Being accessible from a pricing perspective is important to generating interest at fairs.  If you are priced too high it is a non-starter.  Knowing your audience is also very important.  You list two great examples in the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and the CCA holiday boutique – two very different crowds.  Knowing your set up and which works are most likely to appeal to the appropriate crowd are important.  Of course, one of the most rewarding experiences is having work that is universal and sells to both crowds.

S&M - Acrylic - 12" x 12" - 2014

S&M – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014

RO: I noticed that much of your work is in the pop art genre. What drove you toward this style of painting?
CE: It is a style of art that has just appealed to me aesthetically and, the more I delve into it, from a philosophical standpoint as well.  Warhol laid the philosophy but I think Roy Lichtenstein is the perfect embodiment.  His work with benday dots is pretty close to perfect but I also get the mindset.  I look at all the punk band stickers that are plastered on the stop sign outside the Court Tavern in New Brunswick and I just think it is fantastic – those stickers will wear and eventually fade away to only be replaced by the next layer of stickers.  It is disposable and permanent at the same time.  I love that.

RO: Is there a subject you have yet to approach/wish to approach in the future?
CE: Right now I am in grind mode prepping for my solo show at Trentonworks so it is hard to think what is next after the very next project.  I have another installation in Jersey City in March and I am hoping to incorporate a Jersey rock theme.  I will be doing different variations of a logo from an 80s punk band called The Circle Jerks but with a Jersey twist.  After that I am not sure, maybe do a series of more abstracted paintings and some political work.  These feel like nice touch points but will probably get thrown away once I have my next job in front of me.

DOC 1 (8 Bit Bullet)

8 Bit Bullet – Acrylic – 12″ x 12″ – 2014 (it will be in an upcoming show at Blank Canvas Gallery in New Hope, PA)

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
CE: Great question – three things immediately come to mind.  At home I have a wooden bank and a jewelry box that were in my grandfather’s workshop when he passed away.  They mean a lot.  At my parent’s house in Manasquan I have a truck bed made by my other grandfather.  It is in a bit of disrepair but I can’t wait to have it refinished and let my kids use it.  I also have several Christmas ornaments that my fiancée made and I love bringing them out every year.  Oh, do handwritten notes count?  I have a lot of those that mean a lot to me and provide me strength and encouragement.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
CE: Invisibility, but I wouldn’t desire it for any nefarious reasons.  I am just curious.  I would love to be a fly on the wall for important meetings – what is a presidential cabinet meeting like?  How are NFL draft choices really made?  What about important NASA meetings?  I think it would help me win more bar arguments.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
CE: A lesson I have learned is to have a great support system.  My fiancée Jamie is a great co-creator, sounding board and all around positive force.  I wouldn’t be where I am at without her or my family.

Also, some advice I have found along the way from some other folks.  Jack Kerouac wrote “what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict” about writing and I think it applies to art.  Also, and I am paraphrasing, but one of the guys from Vampire Weekend used to get hung up on criticism.  But then he realized when people don’t like something they will just move on.   You don’t play music or look at art you hate over and over. But if they love something it will stick with them forever.  Art is like that.

Frank N Furter

Frank-N-Furter Has a Posse – Screen Print – 11″ x 8.5″ – 2014

Thanks for sharing your art and your insight, Chris! Love your style.

If you’d like to follow Chris and his art on the web, check out his Facebook, Instagram, Etsy shop, and blog. And if you’re in the area, come out to his solo show reception at the Trentonworks Art Gallery on Thursday, February 5 from 6 – 8 pm!