ivymentor

An open letter to my incredible, new, creative mentor.

Dear Ivy –

You may be six years old but the other night you taught me more about creativity in two hours than I learned the entire time I was at school.

You taught me that…

The sun does not have to be in the top left or right hand corner of a picture. It can be on the bottom if you’re looking at it reflected in water.

Guacamole is a great substitute for green paint and it spreads rather nicely.

A regular old HB pencil can last for hours and hours and doesn’t need a battery or recharging.

Every restaurant has sheets of white paper in the office if you just ask with a big smile.

If there is an obstacle in your way, such as a glass of water, just draw around it and incorporate it into your picture.

People look at cell phones more than they look at original art.

A drawing of a cat can be turned into a drawing of a dog if you use a pen to…fluff up it’s hair, mess with its ears, pop in a couple of teeth, add a collar, and add a wagging tail.

You can explain what your art represents by saying, “Look at me,” to the viewer to get their full attention while you discuss your work.

You don’t need expensive markers, pens or paints to make a powerful, moving, artistic statement.

Beauty is in the eye of the pencil holder.

If the picture you’re making isn’t working, throw it over your shoulder and start again even if you’re in a restaurant.

A heart does not necessarily have to have a perfect ‘heart’ shape. It still means love.

You don’t have to sign your name in the bottom left or right corner of your picture. Slap bang in the middle is perfectly fine.

A paper airplane can fly backwards if you throw it hard enough. (We made and decorated a paper plane and I was trying to show you how to throw it but you told me I was wrong and you insisted on throwing it backwards. You were right. You threw the plane into the air. It arced up backwards and then gently eased forward gliding comfortably past a number of tables and almost flew into the kitchen.)

You also made me realize that It is possible to illustrate a portrait on a plain ol’ white napkin.

Can’t wait for my next lesson.

Love you.

Trevor

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This selfie with my sweet, inspirational and wonderful mom Carmel reminds me of the deep bond and unconditional love we share. (And the fact that I’m going to see her in less than three weeks for her birthday.)

It also reminds me of a very difficult time when I was a little boy growing up in South Africa.

It was in the middle of the night and I was sicker than I have ever been in my life. I had Glandular Fever which Dr. Berghaus was worried might develop into Rheumatic Fever.

I was as sick as a dog.

I had actually been confined to bed for a few months.

The dangerously high fever, that caused severe nosebleeds (and kept me in a pool of sweat for days) took great pleasure in creating horrific swirling hallucinations that scared me and made me mumble incoherently.

During that time I woke up in the middle of one night with an extremely high fever and felt so awful that I thought I was actually dying. My throat was parched and I had a terrible headache from dehydration.

I was frantically screaming for my mother from deep within my soul but all my mouth could do was groan. (I still have nightmares of trying to scream but no voice will come out.)

My parents were just a few rooms away and I wanted my mom to hold me because I didn’t want to die by myself.

I was petrified because I was trying desperately to cry out to my parents but they could not hear me groaning due to the terrific Transvaal thunderstorm that was brewing outside.

The fever rendered me so lame that I could not even drag myself out of bed.

It was an awful feeling.

The wind was wrestling with the bushes outside my window and the corresponding shadows on the wall looked like creatures from hell coming to take my life.

I squeezed my eye shuts, trying to get the images away.

Suddenly I knew something was in my room. I could just feel it.

I opened my eyes in a panic.

A shadow moved away from the wall and loomed over me.

I heard a soft whisper that mingled with the leaves rustling outside.

I could not hear what the voice said.

I did not want to hear what the voice said.

It was a hissing whisper and I was too afraid.

But the whisper came closer and closer and suddenly I could hear it clearly in my ear.

“It’s okay. It’s okay my boykie. I’m here.”

It was my mother.

I suddenly felt a cool cloth on my forehead and a glass of cold water in my hand.

I sipped the refreshing water letting it sooth the fire in my throat.

My mom fluffed the pillows, straightened the sheets and took the glass of water and placed it on the bedside table.

Then my ma did the sweetest thing. She climbed onto the bed and put her arms around me.

And lay with me.

And comforted me.

“It’s okay my boy.” She whispered in my ear. “Let’s try to sleep.”

My mom was sleeping next to me when I woke up to a deep blue Johannesburg sky outside my window. Her face was so sweet and caring and looked so peaceful as she slept.

I wanted my heart to be bigger so I could love her more.

I cuddled in closer to my ma and gently closed my eyes knowing everything was going to be okay.

And it was.

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During my weekly travels, I often gaze out of the plane window and stare at nothing. Nothing but the airport staff scurrying about, frantically trying to move bags from one impatient plane to another.

The scene is always the same but the day is different. It’s almost like Groundhog Day over and over again. I see people wearing orange vests, with orange headphones moving orange cones and using orange glow sticks to guide planes here and there and everywhere.

Except for last Monday. My view changed.

An announcement alerted us to the fact that the Southwest Airlines plane next to us was bringing home the body of a twenty-four year old female soldier.

In solidarity with the girl’s family who stood waiting at the hearse, the passengers on my flight shed many tears. With hands to mouths, palms on hearts, audible gasps and whispered prayers, we paid respect to the family through those little plane windows.

As the scene unfolded, one man, sitting across the isle from me, saluted during the entire dignified transfer as the flag-draped coffin was moved by the honor-guard from the aircraft to the waiting hearse.

I was in two minds about taking this picture out of respect for the family, but I decided that sharing the image would help us remember that we are still at war and young heroes are still out there putting their lives on the line for us. I hope this young twenty-four year old woman will not be just a footnote in the local paper. Only the forgotten are truly dead.

Talking of footnotes, I later tried to find out more about what we had seen at the airport and perhaps find the girl’s name to add to this post. But alas I found nothing except for countless and completely valueless articles, tweets and twits discussing Kanye West being bankrupt, Kim Kardashian posting nude pictures of herself on Instagram and other political drivel that is clouding our precious time on this planet.

How lost we are.

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One thing I have learned from my author and artist friend Danny Gregory is that every day matters. In fact his best-selling book, ‘Everyday Matters’ is one of the only books I’ve ever read multiple times.

In his book Danny talks about how he began to view every day differently after his wife Patti became a paraplegic after fainting and being hit by a train in a New York subway station. Their son, Jack, was only ten months old at the time.

During Patti’s rehabilitation, Danny began to record the things he saw around him in a journal. He drew everything he laid his eyes on, even his breakfast. That journal eventually became an incredible book and a blog phenomenon.

Patti was my mentor. I e-mailed her stories and every picture I ever drew or photographed. Her feedback and encouragement was so inspiring and comforting. Both Patti and Danny taught me how to actually see the things I was looking at.

Sadly sweet Patti died a few years ago, about eight years after her accident. I miss her every time I capture something I’d like to share with her.

This morning was no different.

I was sorting through some photographs (included in this post) that I have taken since her passing, mostly with my iPhone. I decided to post them for Patti just in case there are some artsy angels hanging around my place.

If so, I hope they will alert her to my post because I know she’s probably extremely busy doing wonderful things out there in the universe.

Patti collected friends for a hobby and I’m so glad, and grateful, that she collected me while she was here.

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Lily

Portraits of Hope:

Over the last five years I have been taking photographs of children for a book and a show I hope to put together one day called Portraits of Hope:

Meet Lily.

I met her on a dull, dreary, rainy day during a visit to a children’s hospital in Washington, DC.

It was one of those foggy mornings with a grey, uncomfortable, mist heavily draping itself around the shoulders of umbrella carry people wearing long dark coats and woolen scarves.

On the wet pavement, soggy, dead and dying autumn leaves lay depleted and silently spent, reflecting the last dying embers of the fall colors they were once admired for. Their day in the sun gone. Their existence now only acknowledged by the soles of city shoes.

Although I discarded my coat and umbrella at the entrance, I still carried the dull, grey weather into the hospital with me. It hung heavily on my shoulders. Its long, damp, sodden train dragged itself behind me. Pulling on me. Making me feel like I was walking in water.

I felt uninspired and quite melancholy.

Until I walked into Lily’s room.

I expected to find a sad child in the middle of chemotherapy.

Instead I found sunshine.

Bright, warm, enthusiastic, hopeful, sunshine. The light was emanating from Lily’s broad, infectious, grin.

What a sweet, happy kid.

“Why do you have such a big smile on your face?” I asked.

“Because I’m done with chemo today,” she said, chuckling.

She looked at me and her whole face lit up.

“Done!” She said. “No more until tomorrow.”

I am glad I had my camera with me to capture the moment that day. Because, to me, her smile is what hope looks like.