#79 Love & Be Loved, a Valentine’s poem


Love & Be Loved

#79 Love & Be Loved
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This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Dear Ampersand Lover,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A lovely poet inspired my 2015 Valentine’s AmperArt piece. In fact, her poem actually contains an ampersand. Her poem’s title is also my AmperArt title: Love & Be Loved.

How blessed
We are
To love
& be loved
For love is
God’s work
in our hearts

The poet’s name is Samanthi Fernando. She is a California Poet who writes inspirational & spiritual poetry.

Her writing is remarkable. I am not a huge poetry fan, but what Samanthi writes—& the way she writes—touches my heart. Her way with words is compelling, succinct, crisp, modern. (I like modern.)

Visit Samanthi’s blog, where she’s written lots of poetry. You don’t just read her poetry, you feel it. The photography in the headers is all hers, too. Just like her writing, her visual composition is stunning. (If you don’t think the Valentine’s header measures up to the rest, don’t blame it on Samanthi. I contributed that one.)

Fall in love with Samanthi Fernando’s poetic ministry of hope & healing at http://starsafire.starrayz.com/wordpress/


If you find aesthetic beauty in this AmperArt piece, you can thank Samanthi for that as well. She introduced me to rose gold, which she says is very popular in fashion & decor right now. (I should know this stuff.) I find it a valuable addition to my list of favorite colors. I prefer silver over gold. Silver is light, crisp, modern, where gold is heavy & old (just sayin’). However, silver just doesn’t convey the richness of gold, & that’s where rose gold comes in. Contemporary, inviting, & rich.

The locket was originally silver, so I sampled some accessory photos (thanks, Tiffany) & layered the new color over the silver, turning the heart into rose gold. I wish I could do the same to everything—I mean for real. Every piece of aluminum, stainless steel, pewter & even my silver Crayolas—open up Photoshop & turn them all into real gold! (On second thought, leave the Crayolas alone.)

I LUV U candyheartI LUV U

In development, an earlier version of the artwork had a candy heart where the pendant is. I wanted something that said “I love you.” What better than those iconic hearts! I tried “I LUV U” but that was too frivolous. In fact, I felt the candy heart itself was frivolous and too “candy pink” for such a beautiful poem, which required a sophisticated design. I brokenheartedly (not really, but it is the theme here) decided to sacrifice the words “I love you” for a more elegant image. I found several beautiful pendants with gold & silver & gems…then I found this. A silver pendant, beautifully hand-tooled in an organic hammered finish, with the words “I love you” in several languages. The perfect piece!

That is, until Samanthi commented on its color, silver. No, it wasn’t the rich color I had conceived for that element of the artwork, but that’s the color it was, & gold would actually clash with the other colors of typography and background. Then she asked if I had could possibly make it rose gold. Yes, I’m sure I could—if I knew what rose gold was. She directed me to a few examples & voila! Rose gold is the perfect color for the locket and for the poem!

That just goes to show…you can teach an old designer new tricks!

Wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day.
Love & Be Loved

 chaz sez ...


To Roslyn, Andrew & Robert:

I love you!

Actually, the heading this time should say “Charlie sez…” because that’s what I’ve always been to my sister & brothers, and to my very oldest friends. (I acquired the name “Chaz” in my drinking days…I was called “Chaz the Spaz.” Some of my artsy friends liked it so I kept it. Easier to write, too. In fact, I can’t even properly pronounce my given name, “Charles,” named after my Sicilian grandfather, Carlo. Though I detest being called “Charles”—too formal!—I like the fact that it offers so many options, such as “Chuck,” “Charlie” & “Chaz.” My sister calls me “Char.”) I do digress. Chaz the Spaz.

Just the other day I was thinking, sadly, about the fact that as my brothers & sister are getting older (me too—I’m the oldest) we see each other less frequently. I’ve moved 100 miles away & one of my brothers is planning to move overseas. Plus, my sister is kept busy with work, kids and grandkids. And my other brother is miles away and busy, too.

We’ve always been close as a family, and I am extremely grateful for that. It hurts to hear when families are torn apart. I think we stick together partly in honor of our great parents who bestowed immense love upon us; and also just because we respect and love each other a great deal. Although I don’t deserve much respect for all the fuck-ups I’ve pulled in my life, endlessly asking my family to bail me out or lend me money (lend?). Still, we stick together.

But at the same time, it seems we’ve physically been drifting apart.

I cherish all the trips we took as kids to visit our uncles and cousins (on my dad’s side, just a few cities away; our mother’s family was in Indiana, several states away). My parents’ siblings were all very close, and they visited each other frequently—by long distance telephone calls if not in person. I felt the warmth among them, the love.

When will it be too late, I was wondering recently, when one of us is gone before we all got together as a family again? It was a very sad thought.

Well, a happy thought came in as a text a few days ago. It was a message from my sister—wait, let me find it so you can read it yourself…

Hey there Brothers,  i am hoping the 4 of us can get together for dinner on either February 6 or 8.  I spoke to Rob awhile ago and I told him it would be great for just the four of us to “manga” (is that spelled right) together.  I will cook Mom’s spaghetti snd meatballs with all the fixins.  Rob is in so hope u two can join.  It will be a De Simone Happy New Year dinner!  ♥♥♥♥♥ Roz


I even have Mom’s spaghetti bowl to serve our main dish :)

I felt an immense warmth reading that. I felt our closeness. I felt…love & be loved. I look forward to this dinner very much. Yes, the dinner itself, as Roz is a fantastic cook and if she can pull off just a smidgen (one of Mom’s words) of what our mother would have made, it will be a real feast. (I’ll bring the Italian cookies.) Note: Our mother was full German, but Daddy made sure she could cook Italian, and mama mia she could!

By the way, Roz,  it’s spelled “Mangia!” and you gotta shout it and use your hands.

Even if just peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were served, being with the best sibling friends that I grew up with for the past 60 years is one joyous occasion I’m really looking forward to. I miss them very much as the kids we once were (okay, they’d say I am still the same irresponsible childish brat).

I am very happy to tell you, my AmperArt friends, how much this occasion means to me. I wanted to make some sort of profound statement at this very special dinner without sounding too pompous or sappy, but thanks to you, my readers…I think I just said it. Hopefully my brothers & sister will open this AmperArt & read it.

So, whether it’s “Char” or “Charlie” or even “Chaz the Spaz”…I want to say I deeply love, & I know I’m loved by, my incredible sister & my two magnificent brothers.

UPDATE: Dinner was magnificent! My sister outdid herself. After the antipasto, the Italian appetizers, olives, meats & cheeses, as well as Italian cookies & breadsticks, there was hardly enough room for the spaghetti, meatballs & sausage. But we managed to stuff quite a bit down, as it was so incredible to taste “Mom’s spaghetti” again. Then there was dessert: cannolis, cheesecake and gelato. Plus an Italian almond nougat candy which doubled as a charming placeholder.

There was still one more course: the family gathering itself: just my sister, two brothers & myself. We laughed, reminisced, played trivia games like who could remember all the streets in order to the left and right of our house—a good test for senility. We all discovered, or were at least reminded, of events in our childhood we’d forgotten about, and some we never knew.

This meant more to me than the typical holiday feasts. That night was a lot of fun & a lot of food, but it didn’t end when we departed. I still feel the warmth and love that my sister & brothers brought to that special evening, and to my childhood, and to our family as a whole. I know our parents would be very proud that we have stayed so close as a family.

My deepest gratitude and love to Roz, AJ & Robbie (the names they had as kids).

Love & Be Loved…absolutely!

Production notes for #79 Love & Be Loved:
Original size: 10×15 inches
Program: InDesign, Photoshop
Font: Eras
Ampersand: A silver pendant turned into solid rose gold, thanks to Samanthi’s fashion sense
Poem: Samanthi Fernando, starsafire.starrayz.com/wordpress/
Pendant: Андрей Гивель (Ukraine photographer, aka Trionis), 123rf.com
Background: vectortuts.com
Reference for rose gold hue: Tiffany (where else?)

For professional graphic design, please visit Desimone Design.

Desimone Design

#68 Knife Fork & Spoon

68 Knife Fork & Spoon

Click to view full-size or download hi-rez image for gallery-quality printing and framing.
This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

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: Ljvsfc@aol.com



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 susielindau.com. 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: obsidiandawn.com (many exquisite Photoshop patterns and excellent instructions on how to install them)
Antique silver cutlery: 123rf.com / photo by martinak
Special thanks to Mike McHugh at creativesweettv.com for tutorial on bending spoons with the Photoshop Puppet Warp tool.
No dinnerware was harmed in the making of this art.

#61 Father & Daughter

Click to download hi-rez image

Click to view full-size or download hi-rez image for gallery-quality printing and framing. 
This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

I wish my sister could have experienced that special occasion called the “Father-Daughter Dance” when she was in elementary school, but our father died from emphysema when she was 7 years old. The father-daughter dance, also called “Father & Daughter Dance,” “Daddy Dance,” or “Dad & Daughter Dance,” is usually held in 5th or 6th grade.

According to this article,

The first strong male bond girls have is with their father’s and this event teaches young girls what it means to be treated with love and respect.  The goal is that father’s will continue to be positive role models and that these girls will have healthy relationships as teens and adults as a result.

Fortunately, my sister did have a positive childhood and married a wonderful man who proudly took his daughter to their Father-Daughter Dance . . . or should I say, she took him?

One last thing about this AmperArt piece, is that our dad was a barber, so I selected a lock of my sister’s brunette hair (via computer graphics) as the ampersand. Daddy would have surely been proud of her hair.

listen up!Shoebox Letters: a precious gift for Father’s Day

I had the privilege of setting the type in a very special book for author Clayton Brizendine. This book is a collection of actual letters written from daughters to their fathers. It is pure raw emotion, stating everything from admiration to fun times to bitter upsets, but always mentioning love.


Shoebox Letters: Daughters to Dads

Every review is 5 stars, including mine:

I didn’t buy this book, and I didn’t read it as a normal person would. I set the type.

As I was designing this book for the author, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the experiences the daughters relayed about the dumb things their dads would do, and found myself sobbing at tear-jerking moments of deep love and bonding, or of loss and hurt. The most endearing part was retouching the precious old photographs and placing them next to words that described the daughters’ most cherished moments with their dads. Finally, in proofing the text, I did read the entire piece front to back, and it was a truly astonishing compilation of letters that range from the greatest love and devotion and pride for fathers to sorrowful accounts of resentment and brokenness. Every letter, however, does express a love of some sort for each dad from his daughter.

Clay Brizendine’s profound essay for each set of letters—and his passion for enlightening his readers, showing how to heal and bond relationships through the power of letter writing—makes this book a real joy to read and to learn from. This is the ultimate Father’s Day gift.

Finally, in working with Clay I have realized he is truly a man of character, honest and sincere, and wishes most of all to give his readers an enlightening, entertaining and memorable experience.

This could have gone to press sooner, if tears hadn’t clouded this designer’s workspace.

Am I promoting Clay’s book? You bet I am! This book  is one of the most precious gifts you could give your dad this Father’s Day, whether you’re a teen, mid-age or a senior daughter yourself. There’s bound to be a story that both of you relate to.

Read all the moving testimonials, or order a copy for your dad, here.

To all fathers, Happy Father’s Day. And to my sister and brothers, you turned out real good, even without a dad for most of your childhood. (Fortunately, our family was rich with friends and relatives who stepped in when needed. Thanks especially to Gilbert. He deserves his own AmperArt piece!)

Original size: 20×30 inches
Programs: Illustrator, Photoshop
Font: Vladimir Script
Bow image: www.hawaiikawaii.net (a blog by a student in Sweden about “kawaii, unicorns, flamingos, rainbows, and cupcakes…cute and fun in any shape or form”)
Hair color reference: www.latest-hairstyles.com (My sister’s a brunette; I think I got the color pretty close.)