Family & Friends & Ampersands…our greatest holiday gifts

Family & Friends includes my cats!

#75 Family & Friends
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First, to my own family & friends:

I love you, I appreciate you, I respect you,
I enjoy you, I thank you.
But most of all, I love you.

About this edition

I got the idea for AmperArt #75, Family & Friends, featuring our friend the fun & fabulous ampersand, about a month ago, after a friend & a family member came to my rescue. More on that later. (Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Roz.) 

Family & Friends is a very special AmperArt title to me & hopefully to you. I went through several iterations to bring you a meaningful, elegant piece that you might want to send to others with your own sentiments, or frame for your family room (or Family & Friends Room) wall. It was issued for Thanksgiving 2014, but let’s face it, Family & Friends are timeless.

First, you’ll meet my own family & friends (including my pets, of course). I am blessed with a loving family &  friends that are the very best. That includes you, too, my awesome readers & subscribers—you’re my AmperArt family!

Then, you’ll see how the Family & Friends edition was created. In response to several requests from subscribers who want to see how I create AmperArt, or how I even choose a topic, I’ve explained the process in the next section. (This particular Family & Friends piece posed several challenges even though the design is quite simple. It’s a perfect example of why each AmperArt piece can take 20 hours or more.)

My own family & friends

I am blessed with a wonderful family:

Mom & Dad (both gone but always in my heart)—both of my parents are the definition of integrity.

My sister Roslyn & my brothers Andy & Robyou are the epitome of love, friendship, honesty and generosity. You’ve always been there when your eccentric black sheep of a brother needed a helping hand or a hand-out. Thank you.

Mary Ann, you helped me get my very first van so I could start my business. You took care of us kids when Mom nearly died. And today you comment on every one of my AmperArt pieces. You’re very special to me…cuz you’re my favorite cuz.

My friends are so plentiful there probably aren’t enough gigabytes on the server to list them all, so I’ll mention the oldest and dearest, in the order they came into my life: Gary R, Gary S, Joe R (we’re talking elementary and junior high on those three), Lande WGregg & Jill, Mardy D, Deborah T, Lisa S (& later Sean), Jim B (if it weren’t for him I’d still be designing with a T-square), Mark H (& later Crystal), Pat B, Tara K, Marty K, Sandy J, Denis W, Jeanette F. Those who have departed, whom I miss dearly: Gilbert (the one & only!), Joe F, Preston H.

My furry family: Tiger, Bulldog, Donald (yes, a duck), Woofer (my very best friend for sixteen years), Briquette, Amos & Andy…and my current awesome creatures, Jeepers & Bebe.

I feel like I’m at the podium for the Oscars! Well, you see, that’s what my family & friends do for me.

Now back to what inspired this piece: Last month I had a serious circumstance, and between my best friend Joe Rinaudo and my best sister Roslyn (she’d be my best sister, I’m sure, if I had a dozen but she too is the one & only) they did something for me as a complete surprise, saving me from being homeless for the second time in my life. Immediately I thought of combining “Family & Friends” into one piece of art—to me they are often one and the same. My brothers & many friends & even a few clients have also helped me in need—tremendously. If I didn’t have to get this sent out right now I’d tell you about those Family & Friends experiences, too. Instead, I’ll come up with some new ideas to illustrate those episodes in future editions.

How this project began…and wouldn’t end

This Family & Friends piece encountered so many obstacles and morphed through so many changes I figured it’s the perfect example to explain how I create my AmperArt pieces. (more…)


#60 Precious & Adorable

C'mon, look at the camera!

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I had been wanting to feature animals, specifically pets, in an AmperArt piece for a long time.
A special event inspired me to create what you see here.

A birthday party to help homeless animals

In Augsm_arvee_robinson_1ust I was invited to a “milestone” birthday party for my friend and professional speaking coach Arvee Robinson (that’s her, the pretty lady in the picture).

Arvee always does things with pizazz, flair and the most upbeat attitude. But what she did for her birthday took me by surprise, and really warmed my heart. Besides a grand party with fabulous food, dancing, and a magic show, Arvee themed it with dogs and cats to double as a fundraiser for H.O.P.E., a rescue and rehab for homeless animals. (More about H.O.P.E in a moment.) Arvee even had “doggie bags” which were full of swag for our pets. And she helped me select the breeds for this AmperArt piece–she once had a siamese and a pug.

I told you Arvee was amazing, right? Besides throwing a birthday bash to help homeless animals, she is an incredible professional speaking coach who rivets her audience–and shows them how to do the same. Arvee presents several free speaking seminars a year, holds intensive speaking workshops to help polish our skills, and offers several great products to train speakers via cd and downloads. If you have a product or service, see how you can bring in a flood of new business, just by visiting her website–and sign up for her incredible, free weekly videos:

Want more? Arvee Robinson is also the founder of the Christian Women Speakers Movement, where her goal is to help other speakers overcome the fear of “bringing God to more stages.” She asks,

“Are you afraid you might be unpopular if you bring God to the secular stage?” 

She once was, she says. Read about this special group at

 Helping Our Pets Everyday

HOPEcalendarAt Arvee’s birthday party I had the honor of meeting Margaret Coffman, the founder of H.O.P.E.–Helping Our Pets Everyday. Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? I told her I would definitely spread the word about her very special foundation, where Margaret and volunteers have compassionately saved hundreds of precious animals from abandonment, starvation and death. She has cared for animals her entire life.

Please visit to adopt, volunteer, donate, or just be charmed! Their 2015 calendar is available, shown in the picture.

Big pets, too

Just look at these amazing photos. Who says we can’t all get along? These pictures are on Ron Levy’s Inner Alignment Method website, where Ron shows how you can discover your life’s magnificence. I urge you to read about Ron’s enlightening exploration of life for over 50 years, in his blog.


Production notes:
Original size: 10×15 inches
Program: Photoshop
Fonts: Minion, Futura
Ampersand: Futura (modified)
Siamese: Bonzami Emmanuelle /
Pug: Copyright: Kitch Bain /


#74 Creak & Quake

AmperArt 74 Creak & Quake

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Greetings, mortals.

This morbid installment of my AmperArt series could have been entitled “Crypt Doors & Tombstones” but I chose the just-as-eerie verbs over the nouns “Creak & Quake.” These words are all from the first stanza of Grim Grinning Ghosts, the theme song permeating Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion. 

Truth be told, I’m still only 99% sure that the song starts with 

“When the crypt doors creak & the tombstones quake…” or
“When the crypt goes creak & the tombstones quake…”

Why? Because after visiting several websites to make sure I got the lyrics right (even though I’ve heard the song hundreds of times, it’s not embedded into the skull like “It’s a Small World”) there were discrepancies. The first site which sounded like an official lyrics site is what threw me off: It read “…goes creak” which was surprising, as I’ve always heard, so I thought, “When the crypt doors creak…” The original songwriters—Buddy Baker, melody, and lyrics by Xavier “X” Atencio, the Disney legend—were listed, along with dates and other information.  So I figured that was what they wrote, and everyone just adapted what they thought they heard. 

Until I visited a few more sites. Everywhere else the song goes “…doors creak…” which sounds so much better; is part of the Disney fans’ venacular; and what I chose to use in my piece of artwork. (It’s probably the correct choice.)

William Shakespeare & his poem, Venus & Adonis, influenced the title of the Haunted Mansion’s theme song:

Look, how the world’s poor people are amaz’d
At apparitions, signs, and prodigies,
Whereon with fearful eyes they long have gaz’d,
Infusing them with dreadful prophecies;
So she at these sad sighs draws up her breath,
And, sighing it again, exclaims on Death.
‘Hard-favour’d tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean,
Hateful divorce of love,’—thus chides she Death,—
Grim-grinning ghost, earth’s worm, what dost thou mean
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he liv’d, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet?

The tombstone and graveyard in this piece really do exist: The Granary Cemetery, Boston, Mass. Well, almost. The top and borders of the tombstone are authentic (except for the iconic “D” under the skull); I elongated the entire monument and replaced the somber inscription with silly lyrics. So much for reverence. I wish to give credit to an incredible photographer, whose image I came across on the Internet and used as reference for this piece. Her name is Della Huff. Her photography is spectacular. See it at I had no idea such morbid tombstones actually existed. The graveyard, though heavily distorted by my twisted mind, is among many wonderful photographs I found at

listen up!

As much as I detest innacuracy (why can’t others do a little research like I did, even though it took longer than the artwork?) it led me to several interesting haunts:

I discovered alternate, highly entertaining versions of Grim Grinning Ghosts; a great video for the kids (and the grown-up kids); and of course it was hauntingly wonderful to hear the original soundtrack again (where I could swear they enunciate “doors”). Here are those sites:

Turn off the lights and turn up the sound:

Entertaining a capella from VoicePlay:

Here’s the original soundtrack followed by a cool alternate version (which seems to have been produced by James Presley) and some of the beginning and ending narrative:–Ms

The kids will enjoy this singalong video: (I like it very much myself.)

And something really entertaining — spooky at first with organ and choir, then wildly zany with unique voices, and all sorts of other sounds…produced by James Presley:

Production notes:
Original size: 10×15 inches
Program: Photoshop, Illustrator (for the dingbats)
Fonts: Willow, Eccentric, Harrington
Ampersand: Harrington (line shadow added)
Tombstone & graveyard  reference: Granary Cemetery, Boston, Massachussetts, USA

Della Huff is the photographer whose tombstone photo was used for reference and sampling by the artist. See her spectacular fine art photography at  Della’s original photo that made this AmperArt piece possible:
Graveyard background: mbdezines Image modified so extensively it does not resemble the original photograph…but the background would  not be “authentic” without this photographer’s contribution.
Artist discovered that crypts do have doors at:
Music and lyrics sites visited for reference:–Ms

H u r r y  b a c k . . .


#29 Success & Nothing Less

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Download to print special size for Balboa students’ notebooks: 8.5 x 11 inches

AmperArt #29, Success & Nothing Less, was inspired by Balboa Elementary School, for it is their motto, and it’s where I learned my abc’s, in Glendale, California. (It’s also where I learned the difference betweens it’s and its.)

The typestyle is Aachen, same as used on their school signage. The ampersand is derived from the Z in the team’s name, Blazers. The colors used in this edition are, of course, the school colors.
The phrase was made famous by Snoop Dogg on the show Entourage where he said, “Success and nothing less, man!”

One of my favorite quotes about success is by Jack Canfield: “If you love your work, if you enjoy it, you’re already a success.” I guess I’m a success then, for I love creating AmperArt and all my other graphic design.

That and many other quotes on success can be found here. And there’s a Facebook page called SuccessAndNothingLess.

The Leona L. DeSimone Award

I have always been grateful that I went to three tremendous public schools, all in the Glendale, California Unified School District: Balboa Elementary, Toll Jr. High and Herbert Hoover High School. I even went to Glendale Junior College but didn’t learn much there as I was already more focused on running a graphics business.

It was at Balboa School, during 4th Grade, that I lost my father to emphysema. I was the oldest of four, with a sister and two brothers. Our mother struggled, I mean really struggled, to clothe and feed us, holding down a job at a lunch counter in a vitamin store. Somehow she always had time for us kids and made sure we were to school on time, and helped us with our homework. All the while putting up with tantrums from me, the spoiled firstborn.

I’ll never forget seeing Mom cry when money was short, counting pennies to feed us, going without dinner herself. Or walking five miles to work in the blazing heat when the buses went on strike.

We didn’t have much money but I don’t think there was a family in Glendale any richer than ours with love.

Several years ago my sister Roslyn set up an annual scholarship at Balboa Elementary, in our mother’s name, for a deserving student (especially if their family was in similar circumstances that ours was in), and each year one of us siblings presents the award.

I was honored to present the scholarship at the end of the 2012 school year to a special student who was also raised by a single mother, and who came to school early and stayed late to work on the computers, since the family could not afford their own.

Upon arriving at the school for the presentation, I discovered the school motto is “Success & Nothing Less” so of course that would be an upcoming AmperArt piece.

This year’s Leona L. DeSimone Scholarship recipient is a shining example of one who aspires to achieve the very meaning of her school’s motto, “Success & Nothing Less.”

Production notes:
Original size: 20 x 30 inches
Program: Illustrator
Font: Aachen
Ampersand: hand-drawn, based on school team lettering

If you’re an ampersand fan subscribe to AmperArt here to receive future AmperArt editions. They’re always fun & fabulous & free. Subscribers also receive special bonuses.



#68 Knife Fork & Spoon

68 Knife Fork & Spoon

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This edition should be titled “Larry & Susie” because what these people stand for is far more significant and inspiring than a little piece of artwork with an ampersand in it. But since Larry’s treasure to me inspired this work, I did make it as special as I could (and learned a couple new Photoshop effects in the process).

 Before I proceed with their stories, here’s an invitation to attend Susie’s “Use Me & Abuse Me” party between Wednesday, October 24, 2014 and until all the guests have left or are passed out, which is several days later, where she invites you to shamelessly plug your own website or blog. Go there right now and join in the fun, but don’t forget to come back here. If you miss this party, subscribe to her blog and you’ll get an invitation to the next one.

Mention your own blog or website at Susie’s
“Use Me & Abuse Me” party:

Like I said, this edition is about  two very special people, both of whom I admire greatly for their courage, faith, and inspiration; both of whom I met online somehow; and both of whom I’ve never met in person…but I feel like they’re my next door neighbors.


I’ll start with Larry, because he’s the inspiration for this AmperArt piece. A few years ago my brother Andy gave me very designer-style Mickey Mouse coffee mug, which I love and use every single day (unless I need just a tiny jolt, then I grab my smaller coffee mug from The Original Pantry, oldest restaurant in Los Angeles–just so you know, I purchased the mug; had to, as I examined a case of 60 to find the perfect printing). I thought it would be cool to have a Mickey Mouse coffee spoon, not thinking I’d actually find one. Well, I did, on ebay, from this guy named Larry who I knew was going to send me a spectactular piece after a couple conversations with him. He really wanted me to be happy! And when it arrived–happy I was! For a moment my kitchen was the happiest place on earth! Not only is it the classic “old” Mickey, the spoon is a real teaspoon size, perfect for a cup o’ joe, it’s in excellent conditon, and states the copyright is owned by that revered name of old, “Walt Disney Productions.”

So Larry really made me very, very happy with that spectacular, collectible masterpiece that I stir my coffee with every single day, no matter which mug I use.


Larry also subscribed to AmperArt, and always leaves a nice comment.

We began communicating, and what an inspiration this man is.

What a battle Larry has gone through, having contracted an entire body worth’s of cancer from serving our country for over 20 years–in the proximity of Agent Orange. He’s told me horror stories that are out of a sci-fi movie, but unfortunately he really lived them. He’s been in and out of the hospital dozens of  times for cancer treatment, each time pulling something else out or treating this or radiating that. I was shocked to find out that this poor guy was only the same age as me, when the description of his health has him sounding 80 years old.

But don’t let him hear you or me call him “poor guy,” because just like Susie, Larry lives life to the fullest. He’s a fighter, a believer, and says he wouldn’t trade his life in for anything. He says he’s been in some awesome places, thanks to the service, that people only dream about. And if you enjoy my AmperArt, you can thank Larry: he says each one brings him so much joy, there’s no way I can stop doing them. That sure makes me feel good, too.

Larry is in and out of the hospital almost constantly. And although today he said things are looking positive and he’s feeling better (he says he hopes it’s not a dream), I urge you to please pray for this gentleman. He has been an inspiration to me, and I’m sure to everyone who knows him. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you:



Susie Lindau is a self-professed wild child, and she has her readers in stitches with each and every story on her highly entertaining blog.

Then last year she endured a double mastectomy, and without missing a beat she laughed and joked throughout the entire ordeal, educating, enlightening and  inspiring others with unbelievable spirit. That overwith, Susie continues to write about all her incredible adventures that are daring, amazing, and even silly. But always fun. And wild. There’s even a photo of her double implants on her website. Check that out.

If you haven’t already, join the party at Oh, and about the midnight curfew…not so, Susie’s guests party into the wee hours and even for days afterwards.

These are two very special people, and I could write a lot more about each of them. But I have a party to crash…


Production notes:
Original size: 10×15 inches
Program: Photoshop
Font: Goudy Oldstyle bold
Lace pattern: (many exquisite Photoshop patterns and excellent instructions on how to install them)
Antique silver cutlery: / photo by martinak
Special thanks to Mike McHugh at for tutorial on bending spoons with the Photoshop Puppet Warp tool.
No dinnerware was harmed in the making of this art.