Monday, February 21, 2022

PORTRAITS by Shirley Keller


From left to right: Levi, Skye and Ford Jones, and Granny.
The event is to celebrate the marriage of Skye and Molly Jones, Long Beach, CA. 
 I sat at a table with their grandfather Buddy, step-grandmother Lori, daughter-in-law Carla, and granddaughter Annie Mae. The grandsons grabbed both hands and pulled me up a step to a chair, sat me down, and posed behind me for the official photographer. 
JOY! That is the only word that comes close to what I was feeling. 

As the pandemic became a reality of life in isolation, I was contacted by family who lived in the Bay Area. Some of them lived in a retirement community that held art classes for elders. Artists taught classes in not only retirement communities but in hospitals and full time care homes.The organization that sponsors these classes is Arts With Elders.  

The fear of the contagious virus was every where. The classes moved from in person to zoom to keep artists and students safe. The wonderful side effect was that someone like me who lived in other cities, or even other states, could join the class from where ever they are.

Darcie O'Brien is our talented and knowledgeable artist and teacher. When I think of her the first word that comes to mind is compassion. Her students range from people who spent lifetimes doing art in one form or another, to people like me who came to art very late in life and did not have a history of formal artistic education. Her encouragement, critiques that feel like hugs, pushes us so gently we do not even realize we've been pushed, until we look at a piece of art we accomplished and are astounded that we actually did something new in nature for us.

This blog post is about a recent assignment in the Arts With Elders zoom class: to do a self-portrait. That began a process that I have become obsessed by - attempting portraits of my children, grandchildren, children-of-the-heart, and daughter-in-laws. Below are the results in progress.

I began with pencil. And then added designs around edges with ink. At some point I realized I am having problems with hand-eye coordination. Photography captures the exact person, but I am not interested in doing that with drawing. If I could just catch the essence of why I love that subject, that would be more than enough. So a more cartoon style began to emerge. I love the look of black ink on white paper, so after doing the pencil drawing to my satisfaction, I then applied ink to the work. I also love dots, so where I could use them I did. We had an assignment to try out zentangle design work, thus developed the edges of the drawings. The last couple of pieces craved colored pencil. It remains to be seen how that develops.

Self Portrait by Shirley Keller ©2021
Pencil on drawing paper.

Annie Mae Jones by Granny ©2021
Charcoal, pencil and ink on drawing paper

Drake Jones by Granny ©2021
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Richie Jones by Mother ©2021
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

JP Jones by Mama ©2021
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Levi Jones by Granny ©2021
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Levi Jones by Granny ©2022
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Ford Jones by Granny ©2022
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Ford Jones and Gillianne Litvack by Granny ©2022
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Skye Jones by Granny ©2022
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Molly Jones by Granny ©2022
Pencil and ink on drawing paper

Carla Jones by Mother ©2022
Pencil and Ink on drawing paper

The Winner by Mother ©2022
Pencil, ink, colored pencil on drawing paper
Richie and Carla took kids to Montana. They held a fly fishing contest. Carla is bragging about her catch and release making her the winner.
Carla and Brigid by Mother-of-the-Heart ©2022
Pencil, ink and colored pencils on drawing paper

Photographs are taped to my work shelf that I plan to draw. Andrea, my daughter-in-law is next. I found an amazing picture of Molly I will attempt. Annie Mae and I roomed together at the wedding reception and I took a picture I cannot wait to draw. Drake and his girlfriend Cloie sent me a photo that is on the list. I have a couple of sons-of-the-heart that have grown children and I will include them in future drawings. And two very important daughters-of-the-heart and their families must be included. So this post is to be continued.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Donkey Song is Published on Amazon.

The Donkey Song

                                                 A Novella Inspired by a True Story

By Shirley A. Blair Keller, Author and Artist

Illustrated by Gary Williams in paperback and Kindle 2021

Derrick Johnson has dreamed about traveling for years. Finally, he was on his way. Before he left the mainland for Hawaii, Derrick stops in San Francisco to visit a childhood friend, Julia Chaplin. Torn between their new found love and his desire to travel, they make a decision. If their love is real, it will endure the separation.

What neither of them could know, the universe has other plans…

Shirley Keller's favorite place to be: Spirit Hill Meditation Garden and Art Studio, where the creative energies have the day. Keller's art work grew out of her love of writing, which she does every morning. The Donkey Song is her second published book. She lives with her husband and parakeet in California.

Gary Williams is the artist for the cover of The Donkey Song. Williams is a semi-retired businessman who has been drawing and painting since the age of six. He describes his style as eclectic. He is a self taught artist and to the extent that his work pleases, his gratitude rests in the lap of The New York City Public Schools System. He lives with his wife and fresh water fish in Florida.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The FBI: As I Knew Them As A Child, And Updated

The last of the FBI files for my stepfather, and mother, arrived. As I went through the papers, I remembered how my parents thought communism would solve the social inequities they fought so hard against. But, when discovering the horrors of the real Stalin, they were disturbed. Their focus always had been on ending segregation in America, so they joined Civil Rights groups and were activists for the remainder of their lives. Most of the FBI paperwork reflected that change.

    The FBI wasted tons of money, year after year, following my folks. A form appeared on top of each year. The manager of their cases filled out this form requesting funds for the coming year, or termination of the case. To quote him, "The Mosley's do not show behavior that would over throw the government of the United States, therefore I recommend ending these cases." Hoover ignored the recommendation and signed off on one more year anyway - 42 years against my pop and 32 years against my mother.

    Hoover, and his lawyer Roy Cohn, were such bad characters, spending their time figuring out ways to intimidate and threaten and control people from nobodies like my pop, to Presidents of these United States, and got away with it for 50 years.

    Informants were more than likely friends of our family. Intimate details I recognized through out the reports could only be known by people close to us. Page after page of blacked out names, over years. Reporting on my parents at meetings about integrating a local skating rink, or police brutality in the integrated neighborhood where we lived, or protests over wars, or stop sign fight where needed because a child was killed by a car. The agents even appeared in my high school classroom, scaring my teacher and classmates. They tapped our phone. They followed us every where we went. Abuse of power at its weirdest, but not violent, thank goodness.

    Now I find myself defending people who are the FBI agents of modern United States, 2021. The Trump administration denied the 2016 election was interfered by Russia. The Republicans lined up behind him to defend the idea that the election was not meddled with and called the accusation a hoax. It doesn't seem to matter how many people who worked in National Security through the FBI, CIA, or Justice Department, or how many Congressional committees interviewed government officials, even the military, who testified that Russia did indeed try to mess with our election, the Trump administration said it didn't happen, and a third of our country still believe him.

    Another election took place in 2020, but this time adding violence to the mix. Instead of a peaceful transfer of power, which is a hallmark of our democracy, on January 6th, 2021, the Trump people incited a violent mob to stop the Electoral College from certifying the fair election for the new President, Mr. Biden. More people voted in that election than in our history, in the midst of a pandemic, no less. The loser, Trump, cried foul and created The Big Lie. 

    I am stunned at this turn of events when I find myself rooting for the FBI team. During my childhood, the very same Republican party that led the Un-American Activities Committee to root out those they accused of defending Russian values, are now defending Russia and the Big Lie. My mind is boggled.

    One of my new heroes is a man named McCabe. He was an FBI agent, I kid you not. He was apart of the process that led to the discovery that the Russians were interfering in our 2016 election cycle. He told the truth when congressional committees asked asked him details about the interference. Instead of being treated as a hero, former President Trump had him fired just a day before McCabe's retirement. 

    I saw this happen to a father of my best friend from childhood. This time the FBI were the tyrants. His livelihood destroyed, and even sent to jail, because of the abuse of power. All you had to do was call a person a communist and his reputation destroyed with no proof needed. All the former President had to do was call the Russian investigation a hoax and he destroyed McCabe's reputation and took away his retirement from a lifetime of work. 

    This week in June, 2021, the media exposed secret spying of Trump and his so-called justice department, on reporters, Trumps own lawyer, congress members and their families, including a child. Ah, brings me back to the good old days of my childhood. Shades of the likes of Roy Cohn, who had the morals of an alley cat.

    The day McCabe's retirement benefits are rightfully given back to him, retroactively, is how I dream it. I will then consider this mind-boggling time to be woking its way to a better path. I will conjure up the memory of my parents and point out to them, justice does prevail, eventually. And those that tried to overthrow our government this very year, including the former guy, before our very eyes, will be held accountable because there is a new group of people in government, like my folks, who have the capacity to care about other people, and will right as many wrongs as they possibly can.

    A system without good people cannot do good work. That is my conclusion.

Friday, January 29, 2021

WOOD AND DOTS - Jim Zeissler and Shirley Keller partnership 2020-21

 If you see anything described below, give me a call at 559-561-3463 and if it is still available, we can discuss price and how to get it to you. I ask customers to pay for shipping, if needed. And if you are within reach I have been known to deliver in person.


Jim Zeissler made this table with repurposed wood. He gave to me to paint dots. I used the heart theme he used as design for table. Took around two weeks to paint. It is the first piece to be finished in our new year of 2021. As I painted I thought of LOVE and HOPE for this new year to end pandemic. I thought of LOVE and HOPE that the new administration will be able to address so many problems they face all at once, with grace and competency.

My husband grabbed this piece to display his plant in our living room. I smile.


The piano stool was the first piece Jim brought to me to paint. It sold within minutes of being posted on Facebook. I didn't even get to appreciate it. :) 


Black backgrounds I learned to love in the Arts With Elders. "Do not be afraid to try all colors, especially black," said Darcie.

BROWN BOX - Sarah's birthday gift

10X6X4 Wooden box made by Jim and painted by me. 


Found a home very quickly after posting on Facebook.

This piece was commissioned for color and hanging posts. 



Both of these welcome signs began years ago when Jim found the metal welcome signs some place in his travels. He had no idea what to do with them, nor the time to do anything with them if he had an idea. So they lay in a pile in his workshop for years until he recently retired. He decided to play with wood and these two beauties are the result, using recycled wood from another pile.

Rectangle box awaits a home. Kellogg Monkey Flowers live along highway 140 into Yosemite Valley during spring according to the Wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley  by Laird R. Blackwell. We have other colors of monkey flowers in our foothills but my eye caught these and couldn't resist. 

This half table was made by Jim, and I painted it. This is one of my most favorite pieces so far. Then I always feel that way with the last piece I made. Turquoise is my favorite color and the black background pops it so beautifully, I guess I cannot help loving the piece. Dots used to make areas that remind me of beaded jewelry.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Art with Words 2020

APRIl 2020  Chapter One:  The Beginning

Back in the 1980's I attended an exhibit at the Oakland Museum. There was a woman who painted in oil, adding words to her pieces. But you could not read her words because she scribbled them. I liked the overall paintings but wished I could read her words.

Later, I attended College of the Sequoia's to take a Calligraphy class. I did not think of myself as an artist, but I did write in journals every morning, and out of those writings came stories of my growing up. I dreamt of a quilt. At close range, I realized it was not made of cloth, but of collages, each illustrating chapters that I'd been writing. The next morning I began to make what I call Ink Quilts. I was doing art, just not thinking of myself as an artist. 

At some point I re-married, and we bought a home in Three Rivers. A studio was built in what as a garage type room outside of our house. It became my home away from home. Eventually, I made friends with local artists, joined their groups, and began to show what I had done over time. I began to think of myself as a person who came to art late in life. My artist friends did art starting from when they picked up pencils. Many went to college and have degrees in art. Most became teachers of one kind or another, able to support themselves and afford to do art in their spare time because making art as a living is very hard. I know only one woman who has done it, art her only job, and raised four children by herself. An amazing feat. To compare myself with her seems wrong headed. Still, I sell the work I make. I keep my comparisons to myself. I've published a book out of the stories I began to write in the 80's, that contain the ink quilts I've made over the years. I am also published in a book of short stories. Amazon Kindle Direct published both books. Self publishing turned out to be the best way for me to see my own book on the shelf. It is not traditional publishing and secretly I am not sure it really counts, although it has been a way for even famous writers to keep control of their rights by publishing themselves. I call my self an author now.

At the beginning of 2020 I realized words were more important to me than ever. I showed up to Women's Marches, marches to protect immigrants, marches for voting rights and more. The signs I made reflect the bottom line for me: Words Matter. Truth Matters. A choice of words demonstrate good governing. Words say whether you represent all of the people. A new determination to produce art that reflects the kind of country I want to live in sent me to the studio.

Maria Gaston (my daughter) and me Shirley Keller at a march in Visalia Ca.

Words Matter      16x16           Shirley Keller

My favorite medium at this time is dot art. I use recycled items as a canvas. This is a Ford plastic hubcap found in the streets and given to me by a friend. Ford is also my grandsons name. It was the first piece of art I did this year of 2020 to combine words and dot art. The words are Truth Matters and Words Matter. I am struggling to find ways to say how I dislike the tone and direction our country has taken. So I search for the positive.

At some point, Yokohl Valley owned by a private party, was to be developed into a 29,000 person town, on a two-lane back road. This land has enough water for the existing ranches but to add thousands of people would mean they'd have to get water from some where else. The rumor was they bought a thin piece of land up to one of the rivers in Three Rivers, and would pipe water to this new location. So the 2600 plus or minus people who live up there would not have enough water to exist. It made no sense.

A bunch of artists got together to have an art show to share with the Central Valley how beautiful Yokohl is, how much wild life comes and goes all year long, especially Spring and Fall during migration events. There were others more scientific who presented papers and proof that this was not a good idea, but we artists hoped we aided their efforts.

2008 the economy crashed. Since it was clear buying houses was probably not going to happen, the project was delayed. As of today, April 2020, Yokohl Valley is the same empty space for wild life to enjoy along with the livestock that live on the various ranches. Lately, I heard the owners changed their minds and decided not to build. I have no idea if we made the difference. I suspect the economy did the trick. And now, even as the economy was fine, COVID-19 has hit us all across the globe. So the birds and critters live on. Spring flowers fill the valley in abundance. I am glad.

eyes on Yokohl Ink Quilt  2007-2020 16x26     Shirley Keller

I started eyes on Yokohl Ink Quilt over a dozen years ago. This piece is a clay mono-print, a little known medium. It is made on a tray of clay and transferred on to remay, a cloth used to line suits in the good old days. The colors are made with liquid slip (powdered clay mixed with water) and stains of various colors. It is a time consuming, labor intensive medium, to make with as many available tools as a kitchen might have. The piece had no dots in the beginning. But as it hung over the years in my studio I felt drawn to add dots. I worked on it for two more years at every art fair I attended until I felt it done this year, and I consider it an Ink Quilt. The joy I feel every drive through Yokohl Valley I hope comes through this piece to you.

A Taste of Gibran       Shirley Keller    14x14 Plastic Toyota Hubcap

The third piece I did is a hubcap. I used my favorite color turquoise to create the base. The quote I used is from Little Prince:  Art as you want it, not perfect. Courage.  Such a gentle way to tell people like me to be brave, and just do it. Don't think about what others will think. Paint with brush or toothpick and see where they take you.

April 2020 Chapter Two: Dot Art and Covid-19

Each morning I wake up, head to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. I use a Melita type coffee holder that I put a filter in, add freshly ground coffee that my husband generously makes for me every morning, and watch it drip, drip into my cup. The holder was made by my friend Anne Brown. She does ceramics alongside the South Fork River in this little hamlet called Three Rivers. Part of the joy of watching the dripping coffee is to see not only Anne's skill as a thrower of pots, but her love of the setting in which she throws the ceramic pieces comes through in every piece. Turquoise, black and brown glazes beautify this perfectly formed filter and before I even taste the coffee I can smell its perfection.

I head back to bed, pull out my journal, time and date it, and begin to write for as long as I have something to say. Sorting through ideas I've picked up the day before, trying to find my own mind on every issue between my husband and me, the world and it's problems, and especially now, with COVID-19 causing suffering everywhere, and yet here I am, cozy in bed, trees blowing outside, birds chirping, pond bubbling, and I am content. How do I put my life together with knowing how many are suffering in so many places around the world? The death toll in this country is now into the 40,000's in a matter of weeks.

The Studio is my next stop after doing a few chores in the house. My studio is in an outbuilding that used to be a carpentry shop. When my parents died and my siblings divided up the results of their life, one wonderful gift was that I was able to hire my son's company to transform this space into this studio. I spend from 10 to 5 pm most days. Yesterday I made gift cards. Today I will work on  this blog, edit a friends chapter from a book she is writing, and maybe even have time to work on another chapter in my own novel.

Tree of Truth  by Shirley Keller and Kahil Gibran: Acrylic paint, Black Ink 11x14

How do I make art that doesn't add more ugly to an already very ugly time? Start with a tree, possibly oak. Flowers are blanketing our hillsides. Poems grow into this tree. Kabril Gibran loves trees as much as I do.

Trust Matters
Truth Matters
Trees Trust Truth

Trees are poems
The earth writes
Above the sky
Kabril Gibran

Today, April 21, 2020, 42,000 people have died in a matter of weeks. What is important now for those of us who have not become ill with COVID-19, is pretty simple. "Stay home. Keep well. Don't end up in our hospitals," said a nurse from Missouri. 

COVID-19 Ink Quilt by Shirley Keller  Acrylic paint, Black Ink, 11x14

One of the most notable heroes is Dr. Fauci.  STAY HOME. WASH HANDS. SOCIAL DISTANCE. I heard you Doc. And that is what we are doing. Nurse Jessica said, "Do your part." Okay Nurse Jessica. I hear you. A minister in a Southern church was a wise soul: "Jesus rode an ass. Keep yours home." Thank you Sir, for your wisdom, and for the chuckle.

Patterns  by Shirley Keller  Acrylic and Black Ink    14x11

And then this quote appeared from G.E. Hardy, a serious mathematician who I'd never heard of. Why would I? I avoided all things called math. "A Mathematician, like a painter, or poet, is a maker of patterns." A light bulb went off. I wish I had realized this when very young and numbers were beginning to be taught to me. Patterns I get. I wrote down the quote and have saved it for what I did not know. Now you can see what I did with it, patterns of my own, done with toothpicks and paintbrush.

Character by Shirley Keller and Ralph Waldo Emerson Acrylic and Black Ink  11x14

When I was in college was the first time I met Emerson through his essay Self Reliance. Later I moved into a community, Synanon, and discovered its basic tenant was from the same essay. Once I decided to mix words with dot art, Emerson was sure to be included. "Character is nature in the highest form." In this time of COVID-19, watching the behavior from the President of the United States, who said, and I quote, "I am not responsible," in comparison to the doctors and nurses on the front line in hospitals across our land exemplify the quote perfectly. "Character is the only rank."

Septmeber 2020: Chapter Three:  Art With Elders - The Pandemic Continues

Georgia's Fear by Shirley Keller and Georgia O'Keefe 2020  Acrylic, 11x14

After I began to live in isolation because of the pandemic, a friend invited me to join an art class online. It is hosted by artists who work for Arts for Elders out of San Francisco. Their mission is to teach art in retirement communities, mental hospitals, and other community places that house people who might not be exposed to the art experience. When Covid-19 hit our country the artists regrouped and came up with online workshops. That opened it up to people like me that do not live in their county. The group I joined now has people from Arizona, Colorado, Three Rivers, CA (me), added to the original folks from a Vallejo retirement home that used to do these classes in person. 

This piece was inspired by a class. Our teacher, Darcie O'Brien, suggested we find a favorite artist, pick a piece to copy, and use watercolors to explore our own painting. I did one. Watercolors are not familiar to me, so it really was an experience to accomplish the task. I was so pleased, I tried it again on canvas paper, in acrylics which I really like, and then couldn't help myself, turned it into a dot art piece with words to be added the the body of work with dots and words. I used Georgia's own words that expressed exactly how I feel as I explore creativity. "I've been terrified my whole life. It never stopped me." Georgia O'Keefe.

Joy by Shirley Keller and Ralph Waldo Emerson 2020 Acrylic and Decoupage and Collage, 16x16

Emerson wrote an essay entitled Nature. Living in cities for years, I began to realize I no longer wanted too. I kept hearing Emerson's point, living where nature impinged on my life daily, became extremely important. The details of how I accomplished that are many. But I did end up here on Spirit Hill where nature does impinge on us daily. Yesterday, while Bruce was meditating before dawn, emerged a huge bear, walking across our patio, alongside our pond. We have years of surprises of visits by critters, insects, birds, and more. JOY is the result. A dream come true. 

This piece I decided to use photographs I have taken over the years of all whom we met because we live in Three Rivers. I even made ceramic ladybugs. Decoupage helped me attach to the recycled hubcap, and finished off with the dots I love to spend time placing, one at a time.

Little Prince on Art by Shirley Keller 2020  Acrylic, 14x14

My favorite color is turquoise. I sprayed this hubcap. I had kept a quote from Little Prince because it expresses what happens to me as I explore my creative process, no matter the medium. "Art as you want it not perfect. Courage." I start a piece. Never feel confident. Take a deep breath and take one step and then the next. Mistakes are made. But I just include, and when a piece is done I am surprised. All worked out. Not perfect, but satisfied.

The Iris and Math by Shirley Keller 2020  Photography, Acrylic, Ink, decoupage, 11x14

Photography was where I started when I finally had a studio to work in. I used the series of flowers taken over the years from all around my little town. I read a book about a man from India, Ramanujan. He was born very poor, and was a terrible student. He did have a mother who told him how smart he was. He worked on math problems on his own. And ended up a student in Oxford College. His short life in England, broke my heart, the isolation because of racism, the bigotry all around him. In the meantime his genius was being expressed in work he did for his mentor. Some of his work is being used in the space program this very day. The man whose book I read expressed how like an artist Ramanujan was, finding patterns to design his math, much like artists find patterns to express on canvas. So I created patterns with Iris', dots, and Ramanujan's words. In my heart they are linked. He died very young of disease that the poor are vulnerable too. I honors his memory.

Memory Garden by Shirley Keller 2020 Acrylic on canvas, 11x14

One medium I love to work in is clay. I attend a weekly workshop in Three Rivers. Louise Fisher is the owner, and friend. She gardens her property with beautiful flowers. One scene has captured me over the years and brought my camera to capture. It changes every year depending on the flowers she plants. I now have a series of beautiful photographs I make gift cards out of. These iris' are from that spot. 

In the same week after we had stopped meeting to play with clay because of the pandemic, our friend and fellow artist, Marn Reich died. Not of Covid-19, but cancer. A week later, our friend Louise's husband committed suicide. Grief became the cloud we all lived under. Louise was devastated. Our latest assignment in the Arts for Elders was to learn how to do landscapes with acrylics. I took my photo of Louise's most beautiful spot in her garden. Of course the dots had to be applied. And then I realized the grief I felt over the loss of Marn and Mitch could be expressed, so I added them. One day Louise told me she was having a very bad day. I showed up at her place and gave her this piece. Joy filled her face. 

Spirit Hill Sign by S. Keller 2020, Acrylic, Spray Paint, metal recycled DirectTV antenna 30x20

Someone gave me the DirectTV antenna. I took one half of it and made this sign for the Spirit Hill Meditation Garden & Studio.

Takes Time by Shirley Keller and Georgia O'Keefe 2020, acrylic on canvas 11x14

The Art with Elders assignment was to pick an artist and piece of art to copy in some way but this time use acrylics. I found a carnation Georgia O'Keefe painted. I wanted to try my dot art to do this project. Since the beginning of 2020 I had been working on mixing words and art, so I added Georgia's words to this piece.  " see takes time like to have friends take time." Her words match my experience and inspires the desire to continue creativity.

September 2020  Chapter Four: Black Lives Matter as Pandemic Continues

Love and Justice by Shirley Keller 2020 Acrylic and spray paint, 14x14

Black Lives Matters enforces in me the necessity to continue keeping our eyes open that justice is not equal in our country. Every time we turn around another Black person is murdered by a police person in very questionable situations. Police are not held accountable as a rule. 

Senator Cory Booker said in an interview, "What does love look like? Justice." That hit my heart where love begins and when I picked up this hubcap and I had to do something with this concept.

I am not objective. I have two Black sons, and a daughter from El Salvador background, and a White daughter of the heart. I want the law of our land to handle all my children equally. It does not at this time, nor has it in my life time. I want that to change before I die. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.

Below are the people who I consider my best art of all.
JP Jones and Family: Skye, JP, Andrea, Ford and Levi
Son # Two Born in 1965

Richie Jones Family: Drake, Annie, Richie and Carla
First Son Born in 1962

Delia Nora Keller Born 1990
Adopted at birth
I became her stepmother in 1996

Maria Gaston, daughter of the heart - Beginning 1976.

Art With Elders Share Day
March 27, 2021

                                        Rumi Says and Pandemic, by Shirley Keller, acrylic on 12x12 canvas
                                        Words and Dots Series

We will have a session to share with family and friends, and one another, our favorite piece in our Art With Elders class. I invited my granddaughter Annie Mae. She is 19, in college, but studying at home because of the pandemic. She and I have been sharing books for years. Of all my family she is the most interested in my art process, although she is not interested in doing art. She wants to become a lawyer in environmental law, at least for now. We will see how she designs her life. She is a close friend of mine and wants to attend our sharing class. I admit surprise. My family has gone to an art show or two that I was in. They are glad I am enjoying my life but not that interested. So to have her even say she will show up is exciting. And she says her mother might come too! Her mother has her own mother and aunt in class, too. They are the ones who invited me to join. So this could be quite a day. My share is Rumi Says.

Rumi Says and Pandemic was inspired by the recognition that I was actually feeling blessed by the shut down. Most everyone I know named it as suffering and difficult. But, I found a freedom from responsibility to be active in community. I spent time in my studio day-after-day without interruption, glorious. Project after project was produced. And then guilt hit me. So many suffering and dying. Today we are over 550,000 + deaths from Covid-19 and counting still. Vaccinations are ramping up because a competent government who cares about our lives took over. The production of vaccines and the delivery mechanisms were not developed at all from the last White House. All they cared about was keeping power and subverting the best election we ever had and in spite of much voter suppression, more people voted in this past election than ever in our history. Anyway, like I said, I'd begun to feel guilty that isolation and disease provided space for me to create and I had loved every minute of it.

As happens in life, if you pay attention, a quote appeared when I needed it most. "A little while alone in your studio will prove more valuable than anything else that would be given to you," said Rumi. What a blessing. I gave the guilt up and made this piece of art instead. I hope Rumi forgives me for replacing his general word with studio.  

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Podcast and more

I went to Fresno and did another podcast. The link is above to see it.

This time I talked about my artwork and how I became an artist. I mentioned newly published book, too. But mostly talked art and 1st Saturday. 

Since this coming month, July 6th, we have a Fresno foodie joining 1st Saturday, and this podcast shows mostly to Fresno residence I thought talking about her made sense. Thu Duong-Pace specializes in Vietnam food taught to her by her mother. She and her daughter dedicate their food business to her: Lotus Blossom. You can see a picture of her and her daughter ready to feed anyone who shows up. She describes herself and family in poetic terms. I think you will her part on our blog. Her location and times and more images of her food can be found on our blog:

I cannot wait to taste her food. I admit to being tired of the American and Mexican food ONLY in Three Rivers. A few of us have spent time fantasizing having more choices here and to my surprise we get a call from Thu. She drives from Fresno to offer this wonderful choice to all in Three Rivers. I sure hope people take advantage of this opportunity for a taste treat.

As a matter of fact, if you are reading this within driving distance of Three Rivers, come join us from where ever you are. Lot's of art around Three Rivers to enjoy. Follow the map you pick up at the Historical Museum in the center of Three Rivers, the building behind the Paul Bunyan statue. My studio along with others open, as well as the Art Center with many artists. And if you must, there are plenty of restaurants that will feed you hamburgers! :) Ice cream and candies at Reimer's, still delicious.

Slowing down some because of a back issue, attending physical therapy and making that a priority for now. Using time in studio to learn more about the Internet and how to use it to help sell books. Amazon has a way to make an author website called Author Central. It is fun to figure out. Biography, photos, videos, and so much more to learn about each author. 

Enough for now. Be in touch soon.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Podcast and Video Interviews of Shirley Keller May 2019

Interviewing for my book "But What About The Children?" is a new experience. One venue was a podcast which is an audio interview. The Interviewer also has an Instagram page that is linked from podcast to Instagram and linked back to podcast. I sent her photos of the book, ink quilts and other artwork I have done, and she posted those on Instagram. That forced me to join Instagram if I was to see what she did. Confusing but I did it, or at least I think I did. So many have told me Facebook is out of interest to young people. They only like Instagram. I will bet by the time I feel comfortable using Instagram, the young will find another venue to love. I  can barely keep up!!! HA!

Jessica Delgado was the young woman who interviewed me. I met her at the mechanics shop of her husband, Emmanuel Delgado. They have three children, two boys and a girl, lovely kids. Emmanuel took the kids to the Children's Museum while Jessica interviewed me. What a dear heart she is. She is the future generation and when I left felt so hopeful for the future of our world. I keep meeting people in their 20-30's who think, ask questions, are open to differences, are excited to participate in their interests. They all have cell phones, and yes, look at them often. But when I am talking with them they put the cells down. She was so interesting I couldn't stop asking questions about her, her family and back ground, and her point of view about many topics. I had to remind myself, she is working on the podcast and I should focus.

The link below is to Visalia's Podcasts. You can download Visalia's Podcasts from any where you get podcasts, for free. She does a new one each week, and they are posted Friday evenings.

The second interview was done in Fresno, Tower District for Central Valley Talk: Artists & Authors section. Carol Love Forbes did the interview. When she asked me to sit down next to her I found myself staring at a very large microphone. She had one in front of her. There was a desk with computers, cameras, and more, hiding a young man who did the filming, computer work, and editing.

Carol told me something was wrong with her. She was having trouble focusing and seemed really concerned. She did me a favor. As soon as she finished talking all my nervous worry about not remembering my name let alone to do a good job about my book disappeared. I kept an eye on her, and if there was a sign that she seemed off, just continued with the book, hoping we were ok. Since seeing the clips below, I could tell the difference in her that she wasn't as sharp as her normal interviews. I watched at least 20 of them in preparation for coming  to be interviewed. But nothing serious emerged. Maybe she was just tired, and has done this so much, you cannot be perfect every single time. I was grateful to have had the experience and it all worked out.

The three links below are the same interview, but at different social media sights. I recommend seeing the YouTube one unless you like the other two sights.

The above link is YouTube post for Central Valley Talk Radio-Artists and Authors.

The above link is a Twitter post for Central Valley Talk Radio - Artists & Authors Interviews.

The above is the link to Instagram where the Interview by Carol Love Forbes is done for Central Valley Talk.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Eileen Brilliant's Celebration of Life May, 2019

Farewell to Spring

May 11, 2019
Celebration of Life for Eileen Marie Gavin Gates Brilliant
February 8, 1934-March 18, 2019
Spirit Hill - Home of Bruce and Shirley Keller in Three Rivers, CA
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

The Celebration was planned by Veronika Kelley, Eileen's most wonderful daughter. Her two children Trevor and Chloe were present, as were cousins, family of the heart, and friends.

Buddy Jones Welcomed everyone, and of course, had his butt drum and played along with the bubbling pond and wind chimes, and rustling of leaves in the trees. One of the guests remarked later that the chimes stopped when Buddy played, then he'd slow and listen, and the chimes returned, then he played and they stopped, and so on. 

Shirley Keller and Carol Jean James told stories of their friendships with Eileen. Carol Jean lived in the same neighborhood as Eileen, babysat for Veronika, and was Mentored and then later became an adult friend with Eileen. Shirley began friendship when their children were 3 years old and have spent a lifetime in friendship, both in and out of Synanon.

Many  shared stories of friendship which must include laughter because being a friend of Eileen's it is mandatory, as well as the hikes in hills covered by wildflowers that we were all taught to revere, as she did. And life has a way of bring tears and since Eileen had more experience in that area than most, she taught many of us how to deal with tough times, and to not just survive, but thrive.

Those of us who were very close over the last few years know the care Larry gave to Eileen as her illness progressed. We express our gratitude and love for him and know he will restart and continue his life "carrying the love he learned how to express from Eileen being herself," to use his words.

Heather Edwards used her talent and love of flowers to add special touches to the celebration. She made two amazing bouquets with sunflowers, roses and more. But the bouquet that touched me the most was the small batch of Farewell to Spring she placed in a blue glass vase. She stopped along the Lake on the way to our home to pick these flowers. She knew first hand the love Eileen had of the wildflowers and on one hike described Eileen as bending down, picking one Baby blue-eyes flower and kissing it, explaining to Heather this was her favorite of all the wildflowers. Heather, when invited to this Celebration, planted baby blue-eyes with the hopes to share them with us on this day. But they refused to grow. Wildflowers do seem to want to be wildly grown. So she stopped for the Farewell to Spring along the lake and shared them instead. It was like having Eileen here with us in person.

Actually, some of us felt she was. The weatherman had for days predicted stormy weather for the entire weekend. But what we got was sun, wispy clouds blown through the blue sky by a gentle breeze. So a story started of Eileen confronting Mother Nature and making sure the weather was as we needed it to be, so all who came, 40-50 souls, would be able to enjoy the outdoor deck, to the sounds of the bubbly pond, wind chimes, and rustling leaves.

I'd say goodbye to Eileen but I know from loosing loved ones that I can play with her any time I want. That memory helps us keep friends and family with us and can be recalled, sometimes planned, but most of the time at the crazy moments of our life. She is always welcomed in my heart. So I refuse to say goodbye.

Memory Garden of Shirley Keller, Spirit Hill, Three Rivers, CA

When Veronika called to suggest the Celebration for Eileen be held at our home, it was because she and my son, JP, had a conversation about ashes and what to do with them. My mother asked to be sprinkled here, Karen Harvey is partially sprinkled here, and Anthony, my nephew, is here also. Bruce named our property Spirit Hill from the day in 2002 we landed here. So it seems the name is turning into more than just a name. We host people to meditate, to appreciate art, and now multiple Celebrations for friends who died seem to happen here. 

The ashes of Eileen though have another plan. Larry and Veronika will go to a Lake in July, near Reno, that is covered in wildflowers at that time of year being higher elevation. And that is where her ashes will land, among the flowers she loved. 

I had to do something for myself. Eileen has been apart of any major anything in my life since Richie was 3. Many conversations of taking care of each others children if one of us should die before they were grown took place. Veronika calls me Mom#2. This loss is big for me. So I planted a Redbud for Eileen instead of her ashes, in the Memory Garden that has been developing over time. Rocks painted with beloved people's names on them, sculpted masks to represent various people, etc. And now a Redbud we hope will bush out, grow, and flower in the Spring. With Bruce's help with his amazing green thumb, I am sure will be beautiful.