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Darkness and Light

Join me on this exploratory trip down memory lane, with its potholes and traffic jams, by way of a self-portrait art from 1991. This quickly executed scrawl on graphed notebook paper encompassed so much of my life experience in one sentence: It’s taken me 21.5 years of seeing this face to even get this far. “This face.” It’s almost like it was one of multiple faces, or maybe not even my own image. Read on for my interpretation of the drawing, 28 years later, and how my perception and individual experiences influenced my personal philosophy.

Join me on this exploratory trip down memory lane, with its potholes and traffic jams, by way of a self-portrait art from 1991. This quickly executed scrawl on graphed notebook paper encompassed so much of my life experience in one sentence: It’s taken me 21.5 years of seeing this face to even get this far. “This face.” It’s almost like it was one of multiple faces, or maybe not even my own image. Read on for my interpretation of the drawing, 28 years later, and how my perception and individual experiences influenced my personal philosophy.

Self portrait, Susan Hicks, 1991

An Impromtu Self Portrait

This self portrait drawing was the result of sheer procrastination. I was studying abroad in Germany and was a bit fed up with studying Hegel. Not just Hegel’s philosophy, but Hegel in German. Daunting. I drew this from my reflection late at night in my huge dorm window, with my head between the drawn curtain and glass. I call this a win, in hindsight, considering I hated even seeing myself in the mirror. Maybe looking out into darkness helped me see.

When everyone has this idea of what you’re “supposed to be,” how can you see yourself clearly? It can rob you of your individuality. The notion that “this is how it is, and you are not to do, or be otherwise” provides a sickening, dim, artificial light of a million tones and impossible angles if your individual truth is not already in line. I loved the view of the dark night from that window, on the many nights I was robbed of sleep from anxiety and stress.

Art and Perception

This thing of seeing yourself. An artist’s perception is key to their art – both external and internal. The more you can see flows into what you let others see through your art. I had seen art history classics in books and magazines, and had visited my share of top art museums in the US, London, and Munich. In my hometown the local art scene favored colonial gardens. I was more satisfied with abstract masters, art films and videos, and art connected to music; album covers, concert posters, fan art. I admittedly hadn’t seen much outside of family trips other than school, church, and limited campus forays by the age of 21. I did see myself every day to tidy up, but only briefly.

Self representation failed me. I knew I absolutely did not fit the trappings of a “proper Baptist woman,” but that was the eternal pressure – the eternal hellish pressure. How can you see your actual self when you are constantly discouraged or even banned from being it? The proper Baptist woman face is one with a never failing smile, or at least pleasant expression. This is demanded. In many cases, that face was a lie, on my part and on the part of many others. In hindsight, others seemed to trust their perception of this.

Yes. I’m Different.

I am….. different. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have distinct values which I vehemently uphold for myself, without demanding them of others. I have no patience for bullshit in the guise of externally proving how good and righteous you are, or keeping up with the spiritual Joneses. Spiritual peer pressure is inexcusable to me. I’m apparently so different that every push and prod, jamming me into the expected societal mold was akin to hacking “me” into bits.

Creativity other than for “sacred” ends was seemingly the most irritating thing I could possibly do. It was once vehemently stated “Why should you get to be an artist? I wanted to be a musician and didn’t get to!” How dare I? Nonetheless, I have an undefined faith. As much drama and illness as I’ve been through and face daily, I don’t give up. There’s a reason for getting through, but I’m not sure it’s teachable, law driven, or precisely written in a book. Maybe I got that from staring into the dark.

Noel

Art was my religion. Art and music. Color. Sound. Expression. Individuality. That brought me peace. Integral to my being. Born to be. Peace. Noel. Love. That’s what religion claims to promote and provide, but in my almost featureless congregation I often felt surrounded by exclusion, prejudice, and staggering narrow-mindedness. Somebody once said something about “well meaning, but highly misdirected people.” So many things that were said to be in the name of LOVE were so damaging. Sheep. Flock. Not known to be very concerned with the notion of the individual.

Born to Be

Born to. I wasn’t really supposed to be born anyway, as a 2 month early premie. If I bucked the odds that way, maybe it was more MEANT to be that I’m here than the other way around. This is my argument to myself. It so often seems the opposite. Was it that early birth that put me behind the 8-ball healthwise? Did it stack the deck for friction and unaccepting attitudes in my family?

Or was it like a trained professional once counseled me? – Keeping a child from being what they are is profoundly damaging. Whatever the thing about being a musician was, yeah. Profoundly damaging.

Damage. Not seeing yourself clearly. Self-perception. The individual. Darkness. Hegel.

I Like This Now and So Does Somebody Else – A Dream

Melasdesign meditation art as featured on RedBubble.

Melasdesign art “I Like This Now,” featured on RedBubble.

A personal favorite work of mine got featured on RedBubble. Read all about it. Meditation as inspiration makes pretty things. You can buy it too.

Windy Day in Tucker County

Welcome to my little expose on my latest abstract landscape painting in acrylics called “Windy Day in Tucker County.” I’ll discuss my ideas and inspiration for the mountain setting windpower theme, materials used, color choices and a new direction in my work that is a return to what I’ve always loved to do. I’ll also touch on creating art as a disabled person.

Welcome to my little expose on my latest abstract landscape painting in acrylics called “Windy Day in Tucker County,” currently for sale in the Melasdesign Handmade Shop. I’ll discuss my ideas and inspiration for the mountain setting wind power theme, materials used, color choices and a new direction in my work that is a return to what I’ve always loved to do. I’ll also touch on creating art as a disabled person.

Windpower in the Mountains

This painting is an imaginary view of the moutain tops in Tucker County, West Virginia. Love it or hate it, the windmills on the mountains are an impressive view along a beautiful Appalachian landscape. I have always loved them, since my first glimpse of one in the Thomas Dolby video on the then great MTV for the song “Windpower” in 1982. That video is nowhere to be found (by my searching), but have a listen to that piece of synth pop gold below.

I’m fascinated by energy created through nature’s motion, from hydroelectricity to wind power. It is non-evasive and works with Mother Nature’s natural talents. The technology involved is also impressive. I’ve had the opportunity to stand within about 30 feet of the base of a wind turbine, and it’s simply mesmerizing. In the way Paul Klee painted “Revolution of the Viaducts” I have pondered creating a “Revolution of the Windmills.” We’ll see.

Pros and Cons of Windpower

As for “clean energy” vs. coal, I prefer clean energy, but it also would have been very proper not to have green energy politicians throw out a policy that fueled the statement “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” According to the linked article, the policy idea being addressed in that comment was going to deal with bringing new economy / jobs into coal areas.

Love them or hate them, windmills are ever present along the peaks around Thomas, West Virginia.

With that prideful gloat, Ms. Clinton stated in part that existing coal economy would be replaced with jobs in the new economy. I have the impression that part of the proposal was never actually acted upon. Not to single Ms. Clinton out, this political posturing happens on both sides, and is so rarely backed up for the benefit of the “little guy.” This is a HUGE problem in US politics, clear across the board.

Coal is / was indeed a way of life, and a way of life that people survived from. Modern mining is requiring less and less workers due to new technology. That is making even the open mines need fewer workers. Windpower, which is wonderfully clean and generates so much energy, needs even less manpower than the diminishing manpower needed for mining. It’s all a huge conundrum in my mind, and like so many things, I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all of this work for everyone.

Painting While Disabled

I love to paint. I do not do it nearly as much as I’d like to for 3 reasons. First of, I battle two neuro-muscular disorders, currently bizarrely opposite in effect; One (Myasthenia Gravis) leaves me unable to move through weakness and the other leaves me so stiff and spasm ridden that I can’t move in a relaxed, non-jerky manner. Yayy.

On the days when I can paint at all, I love to paint. Painting is not cheap, so if my muscles are misbehaving, it’s also not worth trying to paint much, because of the cost of potentially wasted materials. This is a reason digital media, from Photoshop to drawing apps, have been so great to use. Thirdly, stockpiling stretched canvases takes a lot of space. I did not have any outlets to show, store, or even sell my original paintings. Now I am proud to offer Windy Day in Tucker County in my own Handmade Shop. Thankfully that is becoming a possibility. Listen to the video end for a bit of news on that subject.

View this post on Instagram

My first “untaping” video. 🙂 The big reveal is an exciting thing for an artist, so I thought it would be a great way to “premiere” my latest work “Windy Day in Tucker County.” Hear my thoughts on and inspiration of the painting and get a bit of news about where I’ll be offering my art for sale in person this Memorial Day weekend Saturday. How do you like it?⁣ ⁣ PS – Artwork will be posted for sale in the Melasdesign Handmade Shop. Stay tuned. ?bit.ly/HandmadeShop⁣ ⁣ #melasdesign #handmadeshop #untaping #video #art #painting #landscape #windpower #windmills #wip #reveal #contemporaryart #artspringwv #mountains #tuckercounty #thomaswv #wva #artist # #artwork #instaart #artoftheday #creative #fineart #modernart #color #instaartist #acrylic

A post shared by Melasdesign | Artist | Brand (@melasdesign) on


I am not a trained painter and have only learned about paint and mediums through experimentation and reading about mediums online. I was really happy to have some good conversations with the kind folks at Plaza Art Fairfax about what to use to get the visual effects I wanted in a way I could manage with my style and capabilities. On my last visit, the big pro-tip was my introduction to Posca Markers. Due to my neuro-muscular disease(s), I struggle with fine control of fine brushes and was always aggravated at attempting to make good lines the way I can when I draw.

I had gone into the shop that day aiming for acrylic inks (which I had just read about), but I found they were for true traditional “pen and ink” techniques. Happily, I was directed to the Posca paint pens. For my own purposes, these are sooooooo much nicer than sharpies or craft store level paint markers. My only unknown at this point is whether they have the tendency to dry out like a lot of paint pens. The pro tip for that: Store them lying flat (and I read that the tips can be soaked over night in water too). I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Blue Skies and Prismatic Clouds

Color: I wanted this painting to be semi-realistic, but not boringly so. It has a bit of fantasy to it, so I had fun with the colors. I didn’t have any concrete idea of anything when I started, other than peaks and turbines. I love the playful aspect of art and how paintings develop. I had started with a fairly normal blue sky with clouds, but my mind went to a beautiful day in Thomas, West Virginia where the small white clouds were low against the bright blue sky and the wind was fraying their edges and even making some grow larger before my eyes with prismatic effects within. A wonderful delight to see. From that angle, there is a lot of personal inspiration in this painting, from the landscape of Tucker County to the sky above.

Melasdesign Handmade Shop - Original 8x10 painting for sale by artist - Windy Day in Tucker County
Windy Day in Tucker County – Signed 8×10 painting in acrylics on heavy cotton bond paper.

Lastly, I have decided to get away from always painting on stretched canvas. This is for several reasons. The “on paper” format will be more mail-friendly, show and shop friendly, and should give potential customers more freedom in their framing and presentation choices. I’m also working on creating more “small” paintings for the same reasons. If you are interested in buying this original art for yourself, visit: or stop by my booth at the ArtSpring Festival Art Market in Davis, WV on May 25, 2019.

What to Expect During IVIG Induction Treatment

If you’ve had this treatment suggested for Myasthenia Gravis, it’s likely that lesser treatments are failing you. Typically, Mestinon and / or steroids might not work, or be outruled. This treatment can be a big step for MG patients, as it requires a hospital stay for the blood antibody serum infusion. Thoughts of chemotherapy may come to mind. Scary! Here I will outline my experience undergoing the initial IVIG introduction, and give pointers for getting through follow up treatments.

If you’ve had this treatment suggested for Myasthenia Gravis, it’s likely that lesser treatments are failing you. Typically, Mestinon and / or steroids might not work, or have been out ruled. This treatment can be a big step for MG patients, as it requires a hospital stay for the blood antibody serum infusion. Thoughts of chemotherapy may come to mind. Scary! Here I will outline my experience undergoing the initial IVIG introduction, and give pointers for getting through follow up treatments.

What is IVIG?

IVIG is short for Intravenous Immunoglobulin. Simply put, it is the part of the blood with antibodies made into a serum, and mixed in a liquid suspension. This serum is administered by IV to the Myasthenia Gravis patient. The treatment is used for other diseases too, Lupus being one. Different diseases require different infusion dosages and intervals, but the procedure is as follows. Each treatment is thanks to one thousand to fifteen thousand blood donors who supply this precious commodity which the immunoglobulin is extracted from. Thank you donors!

Why is a hospital visit necessary?

If you are at the point of receiving IVIG for Myasthenia Gravis, it is likely that lesser treatments are no longer working for you. Some patients are in crisis and are started on this regimen. Others may be having symptoms that are becoming a great hinderance to life, bad enough to reach for “bigger guns.”

I was first suggested the treatment when I began to have to rely on a shopping scooter when out and about in stores. A cane was no longer practical. I delayed the decision, because of the expected 5 day hospital stay for the initial series of infusions. I don’t recommend this. If you’ve gotten this far, there is too much potential for things to go further south. 5 days in a hospital will rarely ever “just fit” into any of our busy schedules. I honestly couldn’t bring myself to commit to the hospital stay, for many reasons on top of this. It is daunting.

A hospital stay is necessary, so that the patient is in an observed medical environment while administration rate and tolerance are determined. It is not entirely predictable how the patient will react to the treatment. Things like blood pressure issues (high or low), headaches, and dizziness may occur. IVIG is a very thick liquid, so stroke might be an issue. Please be sure to have your doctor discuss these things (and any other factors I might have omitted here) with you. Myasthenia Gravis can actually get a bit worse during or shortly after the initial treatment. Yet another reason not to let things get too far gone before you even start your IVIG regimen.

When I was started on IVIG, I was in crisis and had a direct trip from the emergency room to the Constant Care section of the hospital. The ward had a “no fall” policy, so I was not permitted to leave my bed without help. “Constant Care” was a fitting name. There was contant monitoring, blood and stats testing, adjustment of IV flow, breathing measurements, and staff checking by. It was a mind-blowing whirlwind of introductions and action. At night there were 3 check-ins, but otherwise I had as much privacy as you can get in a hospital, given my ward set-up.

What does an IVIG treatment feel like?

I am happy to report that the material being infused does not burn, hurt, or cause any sensation in particular. You may get a Saline taste in your mouth. I had complete loss of appetite during the initial treatment sessions. Try to get food in before you start. Even if you are starving, you may be left with no appetite shortly after the drip begins. It IS important to keep energy up with a decent amount of food when already very weak with symptoms.

If you hate needles, sorry folks. With any luck you will have a chance to specify which arm you prefer for your IV. If you can’t talk when you are rolled into the ER, or have a sneaky med tech and are not asked this, “dems da breaks.” The needling doesn’t stop with the IV insertion. You’ll get blood thinner shots every 2 hours or so in the fattiest part of the arm. They sting, but I’ve had worse. The shots are given during night checks as well as during the day. I was black, blue, and yellow when I left the hospital. I have not received these shots in follow-up home treatments.

IVIG is pre-treated with Tylenol and Benadryl, to ward off potential headaches. I did have headaches a few days in care and my blood pressure was all over the place, when I usually run low. The headache was pretty intense. Now that I am better off, I am usually more woozy from the Benadryl than anything else. Although I usually power through this, I did have had the odd treatment or two at home where I was left laying my head on my desk with a bit of dizziness.

In 10 months of tri-weekly treatment, I have had a few cases of minor nausea and have not yet found how to keep my digestive system from being generally tetchy. In the hospital at night I had a few instances where I felt like a bucket by the bed might be warranted, although I did not actually vomit. If you do become nauseated in the hospital, there is medicine called Zofran that works well. The downside is that it causes constipation, so be as brave as you can without. Now, in home treatments, I tend to get combination constipation and strangely loose bowel on the days of and day or two following treatment. There may be a feeling of churning guts.

Tips for a More Comfortable IVIG Treatment

Drink water. Drink. Drink. Drink. As I stated above, IVIG is very thick. This means the body has to work a lot for it to flow through the veins. The more you drink, the less headache you’ll have, and I find my digestion is much happier during and after. Drinking a lot during treatment will help you avoid dehydration during and in the first day or 2 after treatment. That, in turn, makes your whole body happier.

If you are a hard stick (this is the Queen of Hard Sticks writing), drink plenty of fluids including a warm beverage before treatment. A shower of some warmth beforehand can also help, if your condition permits you. A heating pad around the arm beforehand also helps raise veins to the surface. I find the sicker I am, the harder my veins are to deal with. There are also differences in catheter quality. Your home nurses will be happiest with hospital quality sticks, as some home care providers seem to skimp on this material.

Another practical tip is one I insist upon anyway for mental health, and general positivity. If possible, keep yourself mentally occupied during treatment. It’s way too easy to sit and dwell on your lot in life when you have an infusion catheter stuck in your arm. Be thankful you’re getting the treatment and distract yourself. I chose to draw during my induction week. That creation ended up in 2 pieces. “Drip Drip Drip IV” is the design below.

Drip Drip Drip IV Throw Pillow from Melasdesign as sold on RedBubble
In a hospital room devoid of color, I created this design.

My last tip is from hard experience. I have been extremely lucky in having what I feel is a great home infusion company. I had much different experience with home physical therapy. My “therapist” was not only very inappropriate, but was even visibly intoxicated once. He bragged often about what a wonderful physical therapist he was, insisting he never opened a book in PT school. <insert many question marks here>

I ended up cancelling his services by contacting his coordinating office. He texted and called for days after sounding like a problem ex-boyfriend, begging me to start back up. Before that point, when he called in sick for a stretch, I had a very hard time getting someone to come out at all. None of this is helpful when you are fresh out of the hospital from crisis. I’m sure none of this stress helped keep me from being hospitalized again 4 weeks later. If you have a bad feeling about any home care professional, CANCEL THEM and tell your doctor. The stress of such caregivers will not help your MG improve. A good doctor will put a note in to the hospital that this company be avoided.

June Celebration Leggings - Ornate pattern fashion in bold jewel colors from Melasdesign
Pattern created by further developing “Drip Drip Drip IV” into “June Celebration” after my first post IVIG induction recreational outing.

If you’re this far, I wish you all the best. I will be honest in saying I have not gotten back to pre-crisis strength yet, but I did not die and have not been bedridden after a point. As I started typing this, IV in arm, I was on a 2 week long down-swing after a hot February day that had led to breathing problems again. By the second day of treatment, this had normalized and I started feeling much more human.

This process was initially combined with starting the drug Cellcept. More on my own experience using Cellcept plus information on Mestinon in my next post. Subscribe for notifications in your inbox. Thanks for reading. Stay strong.

The Philosophy of Kindness

Look at my self portrait. What is this philosophy of kindness? Perhaps it was how I was raised, or my late mother’s genes, but one thing I always try to do is see the good in others. I do my best to be kind and helpful when I am in the position to, even with folks I may only encounter once. I have met many wonderful people this way. Usually kindness is returned, even if only through a smile that tells everything.

Haters Gonna Hate – A Self Portrait

Haters Gonna Hate - Self Portrait - Susan Hicks - 2019 Reprise
Quick self portrait in reaction to endless misperceptions of others.

Look at my self portrait. What is this philosophy of kindness? Perhaps it was how I was raised, or my late mother’s genes, but one thing I always try to do is see the good in others. I do my best to be kind and helpful when I am in the position to, even with folks I may only encounter once. I have met many wonderful people this way. Usually kindness is returned, even if only through a smile that tells everything. I think back on how even small kindnesses in my own life truly helped in the end, even when I didn’t always recognize them at the time. Sometimes this philosophy backfires, but that’s life.

As shown in my self-portrait from 2017, this approach often gets wildly misconstrued by folks who haven’t cared to know me well. Read the writing in the drawing and note the contradictions. People see what they want to see. Read the quote on the right from Ralph Waldo Emerson and know where I stand. A huge part of the “something” that I am involves my philosophy of kindness. A bit of the rest is covered in Forced Restart. My likeness above is distorted. That is a goal of most who criticize. It impresses me that these criticisms came through in the expression of my own shape in this drawing.

My Motives

My motive in being openly complimentary about things I’m truly excited about is an attempt at spreading some positive notions in a currently overtly negative world. I feel it bitterly necessary when so many people senselessly beat others down. Of course I don’t like everything, but I try to encourage and appreciate what is good. There IS actually good in the world.

If I do feel the need to criticize, I still try to be kind, or even clever. My mom’s philosophy strikes again. What good does it do to dwell on negatives? I am not perfect myself. Nobody is. I do not believe we are meant to be. Imperfection is often beautiful in and of itself. Seeing the world this way is a survival technique. Seeing “beauty” is crucial. 

I am willing to overlook others’ imperfections and interact with people I see a spark in. By the same token, I defend solidly against manipulation by those who might be false or even aggressive. Manipulative kindness is not true kindness. This gal believes in truth.

Philosophy of Kindness

In life, you must *somehow* see good and beauty, or your spirit will die. The negativity you project will very likely come back to you in an even bigger dose. If you only see negatives your life will be negative. You must also know yourself to see the true beauty in others. That can be an excruciating process, but it is worth it in the end. That is life.

“Just” a Fan

As an art and music geek, I am curious. I love talking process, simply because it is so fascinating. If anything is spiritual for me, it’s music. As far as teachings go, the Golden Rule is imperative. In truth, everybody approaches things in their own way. Everybody must also find their own way. My favorite experiences as an artist have been the sharing experiences with many talented individuals who I admire. 

I try to operate with humility. Do I believe I’m “all that”? No, nor do I want to be. I do what I do with my art, and if it resonates with someone, all the better. It’s another part of my philosophy. From that angle, I am truly an art fan and a music fan. I am much more likely to cheer on others’ work by word of mouth or social commentary than exclusively drawing attention to my own efforts.

My own efforts are self-driven to provide inner balance in the face of ugliness projected, spewed out, and grinned at by the world. Sometimes I add beauty through my own artistic process. This process lets me more readily concentrate on the good around me. It gives me focus rather than letting me become consumed by the misfortunes and ill influences I face.