Windy Day in Tucker County

Melasdesign blog artist Susan Hicks - Colorful abstract contemporary landscape art

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.

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. Thankfully that is becoming a possibility. Listen to the video end for a bit of news on that subject.

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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. ?⁣ ⁣ #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

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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.

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.

When Halloween Got Wyrd

Melasdesign Halloween DIY Outdoor Witch Scene Blog - Wyrd Sisters - Homemade

Making a Halloween Witch Yard Display

It’s nice to meet someone who loves Halloween as much as yourself. It’s also great if they too have dreamed of creating a DIY, homemade Halloween yard display. Better still if they are a gifted creator. Fantastic if their talents work complimentarily to your own. This was the experience which ultimately led to a magical Halloween featuring a staging of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters, witches from literature.

Setting the Scene

I had been already been thinking about decorating for Halloween, but the plot thickened when I was approached by Thomas, West Virginia native Andria DiBacco. The concept was simple: Create a scene featuring the trio of witches known as The Wyrd Sisters as created by British writer Terry Pratchett, also known as Sir Terence David John Pratchett. His title surely indicates his stature in British literature.

He created this trio as a comedic fantasy partial coven, loosely representing the Maiden (the green Magrat Garlick), Mother (the bawdy Nanny Ogg), and Crone  (stern Granny Weatherwax) female symbols and added overtones of Macbeth. His writing is stylistically similar to movie scripts of the beloved comedy troupe Monty Python. He’s not afraid to throw a punch and is wickedly funny.

Halloween DIY Yard display based on Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters
Homemade Terry Pratchett Wyrd Sister witches for a DIY Halloween yard display.

The Do It Yourself Concept

When Andria approached me about making the scene, I believe she already had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do. It would be something new in Tucker County. With a surplus of currently unused chicken wire (there were once chickens up the hill) and old PVC piping formerly used for same, she had a ballpark idea. Determining the figures’ poses and final stability was a dual task, and my husband lent multiple  tools.

I was given the task to make the faces and hands. My as-of-late unused polymer clay supply was revived, and my assortment of acrylic paints opened. I had never sculpted a face before, and my portrait work was mainly limited to drawing cat and dogs. I was excited to tackle the Wyrd Sisters likenesses as a first portraiture attempt. See close-ups of my modeling and painting in the short video below. We had the initial vision of our DIY Halloween display.

Creative Minds Don’t Always Think Alike

That’s no biggie when working in the creative realm. Read “A Philosophy of Kindness” to be clear on my own life philosophy, and a part of the reason I joined in with this project.

In the case of our creative process, our differences were a great thing. I feel the two of us compliment each other nicely with ability and style. Andria’s technique for creating the chickenwire armatures for the Wyrd Sisters figures was different than what I would have suggested, but it worked out wonderfully. The witches took impressive form. I am used to felting garments where no sewing is needed. Andria has the mind of a tailor. There was a lot of wire to clip and fasten, so we both pitched in.

Tasks, Materials, and Sources

We brainstormed on how to cover and clothe the figures, and a sort of landscaping cloth was chosen as the material of choice. We needed something that was lightweight and preferably waterproof. Thomas weather is very erratic and can waver to extremes. Imagine my surprise when the basic covering turned into full fledged dresses, plus divine hats for two of the witches in Andria’s hands. For Nanny Ogg, we used thrift store clothing.  No need for a tailored look there. I made amulets of polymer clay. Andria had made suitably witchy potion bottles with hand lettered calligraphy to help set the scene. A DIY Halloween had been on her mind.

DIY witches for Halloween from side view
How would Halloween be complete without witches?

The thrift store did indeed come in handy, and I recommend shopping there for your DIY Halloween activities. Thank goodness for B-thrifty. Not only was there witchy clothing a plenty in September, but the perfect wig for the Maiden, and sundry Halloween decorations to scatter about and upcycle were also scored. Instead of buying black cloth for a black light banner, a black duvet cover was chosen at a high discount. Dollar Tree was also a preferred destination.

I found the perfect used buttons, lace trim, and long pins for fastening, plus the fabric for face and necks at Fabric Place Basement. The gracious owners were getting used to me squeaking in at the last minute for Halloween fixings, and never hesitated to quickly help me find what I needed. Next year I promise to get the hours straight. We tried to avoid store-bought  main props, but the Spirit of Halloween was helpful for lighting, cobwebs, and a really cool cat. It’s also terribly fun to visit when getting in the Halloween mood.

Halloween do it yourself witch yard display
Witchy figure of character Nanny Ogg in snow prior to Halloween.

While Andria was feverishly working outside, I respected my health (see blog topic Myasthenia Gravis) and worked indoors in the unseasonably warm September weather. I modeled the three faces and painted them to character. There was a bit of drama with cracking during curing, but it was mended in the end. Then was the issue of affixing the “masks” to the head armatures. The technique applied gave extra stability to the heads in addition to the sturdy PVC “skeletons,” and helped keep Nanny Ogg’s noggin from being battered off in the wind one night. She was kinked strongly at the neck, but that was reparable. I have become a true believer in E600 adhesive. The Wyrd Sisters witches were pummeled in the wind and rain, and as the picture above shows, even snow. Our girls survived through sturdy construction and deft ground attachment.

We had no idea what kind of weather to expect on Halloween night. The weather in 2018 has been extremely unpredictable.

Handy Friends

While looking forward to making faces, I dreaded making the hands. A friend had the perfect how-to suggestion. I am not going to give away the secret method of sculpting, but you might have caught a glimpse of the WIP in the video above. We couldn’t believe we were hanging out on Saturday night making hands. I had to confess that I’ve often been very guilty of weekend “arting” vs. socializing. This was a happy mix of the two. Between that and goofing off with the wigs I bought, there was a lot of laughing.

Halloween 2018 Thomas West Virginia - DIY witch created by neighbors
Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett, DIY witches.

Apropos hair, Wyrd Sister Granny Weatherwax’s strands were bought at an “ethnic beauty supply,” (uuughh. awful description) where the cashier somewhat incredulously asked if I was going to try braiding. I didn’t quite have the nerve to state my purpose, and found the only gray hair in the shop. I brainstormed a bit, and found a satisfactory method to affix the locks. Andria then styled the long silver strands perfectly, which was quite a help to this traditionally shorter coiffured gal.

Mother Nature Helped Too

In prep for our DIY Halloween, the Monongahela National Forest offered its wood for the brooms, as procured by Andria, who had a specific location up trail in mind. The forest is a wonderful resource for hiking and adventure in Tucker County, West Virginia. While we stripped branches, our pups made themselves comfortable beds of the discarded leaves on a day that was finally temperate enough for me to enjoy the much missed outdoors.

Wyrd Sisters Scene Halloween 2018 - a dog helped
Somebody insisted his view not be blocked.

Otherwise I worked inside on the Wyrd Sisters’ faces and hands, but there was also a spooky soundtrack to make, and I had my heart set on making my house haunted. I had my first experience with track mixing and combined many free Halloween sound files from with some spoken Wyrd Sisters dialogue. My cauldron sound was said to be convincing. The dialogue I chose and additional groans, howls, and creepy sounds gave added effect. Have a listen to the churning bubbles and more in the wrap up video at post end.

Artists, Nurses, and Actresses

With the Wyrd Sisters cauldron and audio completed, it was time to haunt. I have only recently begun experimenting with video, and had only made animated shorts using still images thus far. Tongue-in-cheek video Dry Cleaner Horror is my favorite example thus far, using a Dream Series illustration and putting it into action. We needed something more for our ghosts in this DIY Halloween event.

Andria and I became actresses – not as Wyrd Sisters characters, but ghosts in the house that would peer out of the windows on Halloween night. I gave direction and shot a simple video on my phone. Then I edited the footage to the extreme for a blurry, ghostly effect. I was thinking of horror films from Fritz Lang’s classic Nosferatu to more recent visual effects of modern ghost chillers. I was creating my own lore for our DIY Halloween.

There was another helper too. A home healthcare assistant kindly obliged me for some shots of clawing hands. Through crafty editing, it turned out to be pretty spooky. She was nurse number two, with Andria first in line. My part was being a bit of a magical spook. Andria was the trapped soul peering out the window before striking a ghastly pose. As a final touch, I added a few of my own graphics of macabre and skulls, plus flashes of different colors to move the theme along.

Some found this startling. That’s called winning.
Homemade Halloween

After a lot of DIY work and much anticipation (including both televised and printed news pieces in Tucker Country, West Virginia, featuring Beth Spencer’s expert photography), it was Halloween at last. We made final adjustments, and there were still pumpkins to carve. I found out exactly why my mother advised me as a child never to use a baking pumpkin as a jack-o-lantern. It’s an exercise in futility. If you succeed at all (as Andria did), it will probably require supporting toothpicks for the parts threatening to fall out. Imagine carving a spaghetti squash – no solid meat.

While we were finishing up the whole DIY display on Halloween afternoon, a black cat came to visit. Definitely a sign that we were doing something right. I just wonder which witch’s familiar it was. Maybe it had come to check out Greebo, Wyrd Sister Nanny Ogg’s cat. In the end, my little black familiar (Elsa the dog) chased it away. She was also insistent upon staying with us for the festivities and even made some new dog friends. With little time to spare, Andria and I dashed inside to change and then “it was on.”

Halloween - DIY Elder Witch in Light and Fog with Cauldron
A Halloween night filled with fog, light, and magic.
Family, Friends, and Townsfolk

As the sun started getting low in the sky in Thomas, and visitors started appearing. The littlest ones arrived first. Many were making their maiden trick-or-treat voyage. Baffled and wide eyed, they didn’t hesitate in the least about grabbing candy. A boy and girl who chose to run, not walk, the entire length of the long, hilly street, with their chaperone following behind in his truck tickled us to death. They were definitely going to burn off those candy calories in advance. Respect. I got a huge giggle from the brother and sister who debated whether their mom actually knew “us witches” when she told them to go down the road to get candy. The world changes so much, but kids are still kids. Thank goodness. For me it made all the DIY Halloween work well worth it.

Trick-or-treaters on Halloween 2018 in Thomas, West Virginia
The first lucky candy recipients on Halloween evening, 2018

There were characters of all sorts including a mummy, scarecrow, and my favorite howling werewolf ever. A policeman was on the scene, and as appropriate, a little witch. She looked delighted when I asked her to join our coven. ….. our literary coven, to be clear.

Andria got plenty of help at the cauldron when she began posing as Wyrd Sister Nanny Ogg, leaving the DIY figure to the side. She beckoned the children, asking to throw them in. In the end, they helped toss in frogs and snakes. Whew! I got the impression that some had watched a lot of cooking shows.

My biggest personal achievement resulted when I begged one visitor to watch my “cousins” in the window. They jumped in surprise when a “ghost” appeared. Maybe I do have a future in horror. Nobody noticed Andria taking the place of the Nanny Ogg figure and sitting like a statue. She knew just when to spring into action. Listen to choice crowd reactions in the video below.

Is that a real person in there?????” / “Look! It’s a witch!!!” / “That’s my worst nightmare!!!!!!!!

Halloween Visitor

Not only did we have young first trick-or-treaters at our DIY Halloween extravaganza, but we also treated Thomas school’s Chinese teacher Mr. Duh to his first ever Halloween. China doesn’t celebrate the holiday, so I hope we gave him a proper introduction. Welcome to the US and good luck. Thank you for educating our children, and perhaps creating more curiosity about the world around them.

Halloween Night – Hick or Treat – Wyrd Sisters

Halloween Night Footage – Wyrd Sisters Witches DIY Yard DisplayWatch this short video, then get all the gory details at much fun! 🖤 An artful offering on Halloween. 🖤

Posted by Melasdesign – Artist Susan Hicks on Sunday, November 4, 2018

Many Thanks

Andria and I were grateful for the outpouring of appreciation and enthusiasm that we encountered from the first day on. We started the actual staging three weeks prior to Halloween and added elements up to the day of. Curious folks would drive by, or stop, admire, and turn around. It was amazing and encouraging to see huge smiles and many thumbs ups. I cannot speak for Andria, but that made it all worth it for me, even before the event. The gracious input and reactions received on Halloween night was extremely rewarding. It’s so rare to hear unbidden “thank you’s” for something purely creative.

Special thanks to Brian Hicks for his patience, support, transportation, and tools. Thank you to Beth Spencer for coming out and supporting our cause with beautiful photography. Dora Clemons, we couldn’t have wigged out properly without you. Thanks for lending a hand.

Thanks to our trick-or-treaters: To Jimmy Wilfong, his family, and pups – we might consider Pepsi next year (wink, wink); The Cooper girls, my first candy recipients; the Clavengers and Ponickvars who came out; the enthusiastic teachers of Davis-Thomas Elementary School; Shanna and Aldean Pennington, our expert policeman and polite jack-o-lantern extinguisher; and lastly,  Tyler Elliot, Heather Carr, and Owen with their gaggle of nighttime visitors.

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What to Expect During IVIG Induction Treatment

Living with Myasthenia Gravis Blog - Things to Know About IVIG - Melasdesign Blog - Susan Hicks

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

I Repeat - Melasdesign Blog- Philosophy of Kindness - self portrait, artist, surviving Myasthenia Gravis with art

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.

Political Art vs Pet Portrait

Trump vs Yorkie from Melasdesign - Political satire art and pet portrait.

Which do you prefer? Political satire in art concerning President Donald Trump (“My Trump Fantasy” aka “Resisting the Urge”), or the cuddly cuteness of Chewie the Yorkshire Terrier’s pet portrait?

Welcome to my summary of the end of 2018 – a year so screwed up I can hardly look at the rest. I’ll touch on earmarks of the dramatic year and spotlight a new piece of political satire (Donald Trump art) and a photorealistic Yorkie pet portrait. Both of these genres are becoming audience favorites for fans of me, artist Susan Hicks.

 After honing my drawing, graphic design, social media, ad design, and handmade artisan (metal clay) skills heavily in 2017, continuing the trend regularly in 2018 didn’t quite go as I might’ve desired as an artist, or simply a normally functioning person. I was not alone.

A Year of Di-SAS-ter Political Satire in Art

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First there was website hell. I had to phone my hosting service with just about every site update of my own, and each software update from their end. My initial build is *still* not complete. A shop is yet to come. Taking a break for some Trump political art was actually a satirical relief from *that* chore.

WordPress was shifting and changing in fast progression upping a new block based builder called Gutenberg. The trickle-down effect into the plug-ins that run the show was like an earthquake.  Everything was constantly updating and often breaking. An artist needs time to create, and I was consumed with battling a technical monster. An artist who doesn’t create loses revenue and a little sanity.

Then there were the national tensions evident for every US resident, expanding from vicious social media and news in the aftermath of an election that was deplorable on *both* sides. The last “new acquaintance” in misery was myasthenic crisis, which nearly killed me.

Sadly, so many people in my close circle had fantastically bad years too, and the more I ask around, the more I find folks having the same bad luck. I feel for you all!!!!!!! – SO, what follows is a bit of a look at my Trump political art and pet portrait work, which is always what gets me through the bad times.

My Trump Fantasy – Political Satire in Art

Despite all the medical adventures (and misadventures) I suffered in 2018, despite all the people drama on the internet and closer, despite technology hating me with every circuit involved, and despite so many having an awful year, one thing overshadowed the 365 days; something of odd color (to even non-artistic types) and little content.

I donned my political satire artist cap and created the work below entitled “My Trump Fantasy.” Also known as “Resisting the Urge,” it’s up for sale on RedBubble and Society6. This political art is about our current President Donald Trump specifically, and is not accusatory of those who voted for him (unless they actually do find themselves embodying any of the not-so-charming characteristics scribbled in below). Voting is a right and a duty, and I congratulate anyone who takes the time. Just as voting is such, speaking out with art (even Donald Trump art) is also a right and a duty for those inclined. The rest should be fairly self-explanatory. At the very least, I do not feel he embodies my own philosophy

My Trump Fantasy - on RedBubble from Melasdesign - political satire art vs. Trump
I’ve had the idea for a year. It was finally time.

As far as the cartoon goes, I’d had the idea since I created my well received design “Alternative Facts”  (Society6 / RedBubble), but at that time (a year ago) it would have been too soon to begin its creation. The “Alternative Facts” design shows redacted text with “Make Америка Great Again,” showing “America” in Cyrillic. 

This artwork is available in my RedBubble collection “Taking a Stand” on many fine merchandise items from posters to fashion. You may also purchase it in the other art-to-product Melasdesign shop on Society6.

Melasdesign on RedBubble - Alternative Facts T-shirt
Political Satire in Art from Early 2017 – On Shirts and More

I suspected what is now coming to the forefront in the news even before the election, but needed to wait for the predictable to actually happen and be reported. Now we read, and wait. This has been a crashing rollercoaster of an administration.

When the time came to draw “My Trump Fantasy,” (see it on S6 too) it was a nauseating experience. Even so, I felt it my duty to create this political satire art of Trump. The guy just isn’t very pretty! Yes, it really was necessary to use quite a bit of orange to get his face and hair looking anywhere near correct. That part had me giggling. It was a sort of giggle, gag, giggle, wretch experience.

Now a Cutie – Meet Chewie

But enough ugliness! Onto a much more pleasing subject, by my way of thinking. My other final project of the year was a photorealistic pet portrait drawing of Chewie, an adorable teacup Yorkshire Terrier. Using a photo on screen for visual reference, I declared the drawing done after about 22 hours drawing time. Wasn’t it a great model pic?

Chewie the Yorkie - Yorkshire Terrier Pet Portrait by Melasdesign as sold on Society6
Finished after 22 hours.

When my eyes work with me, and my hand control is normal, these are examples of my abilities.

The drawings in this post are achieved thanks to availability of an Android platform tablet computer with pressure sensitive stylus combined with the inexpensive and the wonderful drawing app ArtFlow, which gives me the ability to step backwards and “ignore” any wild mistakes in muscle control of from distorted vision.

You can easily get your own print or pillow (or, or, or) featuring Chewie. It’s called “Chewie the Adorable Yorkie” on RedBubble or “Chewie the Yorkie” on Society6.

A Turn of Events

The good news as of January 2, 2019 is that a good deal the folks close to me suffering their own dreadful years have already had (at least temporary) reprieves from their drama of the last year, and I heard several positive turnaround stories in dealing with folks out and about on January 1. So fingers crossed for us all.