playing deck challenge

On October 10th, 2017 I challenged myself to create a tiny painting on the back of a playing card every day for 52 days.  I posted my journey on Instagram in order to hold myself accountable.

The playing cards will be on display and for sale for the month of August at Myer Street Gallery.

Opening reception August 5th, 2018 5:00 pm- 8:00 pm

959 Myers Street, Richmond Virginia.


My biggest struggle as an artist is self discipline. To work on  this, I am challenging myself to create on tiny painting a day for the next 52 days. This first one is inspired by the work of @tascott You should go stalk his art if you are unfamiliar with his work! 


Day #2 of my self discipline challenge. Pretty straight forward one as bunnies have consumed my illustrative life…


Card deck painting #3 is a tribute to a hero of mine. 


Playing card #4 goes out to the amazingly talented men of @illteratelight who put on an incredible performance last night at @thecamelrva. If you haven’t seen them live yet, you are certainly missing out. Also, special shout out to @joey_wharton for the reference photo. I have wildly talented friends. 


Playing card #5 is both a portrait of my favorite human @pariahcarey69 and a summary of how I feel after finding out my health insurance is doubling in price…


Playing card #6 is a shout out to my temporary home of Nashville. While I lived there I found a lot of dead flies in my house and set them up on the window sill so they looked like they were dancing. Which is a normal cool thing to do in Tennessee – I was super popular with a ton of friends… 


Playing card #7 goes to every time you were told to smile. To every time you were made to feel small. To every time you got excited because you thought you were making new friends, only to find out all you were wanted for was sex. For every time you were made to feel shame for what you were wearing. For every time you were called a slut. For every time you felt a shiver up your spine in response to an unwanted touch. For every grope. For every squeeze. For every day your lips couldn’t speak about what happened. For every year your tongue refused to form the words. For every night you tossed and turned trying to burn out the memory. To every woman who has set any or all of the things – it is not your fault. It never was. It never will be. 


Playing card #8 is a reflection on eye contact. A couple years ago I decided I wanted to be better about making eye contact with everyone I interacted with. So I practiced it every day until it became second nature. I think it’s a great way to show respect and to acknowledge that every person across the counter, every server, every student, and every teacher is equally human. Today I was acknowledging the other side of this. I still think eye contact is important  but I also understand that a lot of people suffer from social anxiety and that this seemingly simple act can be wildly intimidating. What’s more intense than looking straight into someone else looking straight into you?


Playing card #9 goes out to @piknikrva – the reason I fell a little behind on my deck challenge which made me feel pretty shitty about myself all day… Anyways PikNik just opened on main street in RVA and they have incredible flavorful food and amazing cocktails, including the pictured “Browns Island” which is bourbon infused with black pepper corn, rosemary, clove, anise, cinnamon, orange zest, and local honey which is then barrel aged with peach lemon hibiscus tea. Yes the cloves on the peel are then torched and yes it’s insanely good. Staying up until the wee hours to get #10 done. Sending love to all my fellow late night artists.


Playing card #10 goes to my favorite little monster, Eevee. When I took this photo I had no idea the role this munchkin would play in my life or how important of a person her owner, @fostersnails, would become to me. So here’s to Alex & Eevee, beautiful bundles of happiness and fun, I love and miss you both so much every day and smile to think of boydle bee jones (@r0ckysm0m spelling?) squinting in the Florida sun. 


Did this one very quickly before running out the door. Playing card #11 goes out to the smell of cedar burning, the sound of Jon Steward monologuing, and the taste of Breyers icecream with crushed up pretzels. To being awoken way past bed time by an astronomy nerd, eager to share the wonders of the night sky. To bat watching amongst sparkling fireflies on the hill. To a jewish mother adorning the house with Christmas figurines and staying up late to set up scavenger hunts with jelly beans and Easter baskets. To Dr. Seuss on the big blue chair. To Ringo and Laika. To the smell of lilac and basil and the sounds of the creek flowing, the crickets chirping, and coffee brewing. To every little thing that imbued my childhood home on Fox Harrow Lane with such wonderful magic. 


Card #12 goes to all my dead drawings. To every doodle on a bar napkin. To every quick pen design on the back of a receipt. To every quick sketch on my bedside table in the middle of the night with the hopes of remembering what it was supposed to be once my mind has left the land of dreams. To all my ink creatures who received a little whisper of life – but not the full breath that would have transformed them into something tangible. To each one of the hundreds of ideas I have a day that floats in and right back out of my mind. Here’s to you. This tiny painting is a recreation of an ink drawing I did in school that I always felt I never gave enough life to. 


Playing card #13 goes out to Tucson, Arizona. To tamales and people-sized cacti. To fever dreams and a brush fire in the sand. To a home cooked meal and bright colored wigs to usher in the new year and celebrate the closing of the last. To hanging dried peppers and sunsets that draw the breath right out of you. To how vivid the memories of the place are, despite the brevity of the time spent there.


Playing card #14 goes to mornings when your bed just feels too good. When the air is cold but the sheets are warm. When the calls of your daily responsibilities are muffled under layers of cotton and down feathers. Here’s to the head-to-toe stretches, the sliding of a pillow between your legs, and the pulling up of the blanket, securing you into your cradle of comfort away from the world. 


Playing card #15 goes out to @bigthiefmusic’s album Capacity. It has become one of my favorite albums of all time It is beautifully earnest and unique. Find some quiet time to yourself, brew up a good cup of coffee or tea, and listen to it in totality. 


Playing card #16 goes out to all the lives you could have lived. To every job you didn’t take. To every person you didn’t date. To every lease you almost signed. To every club you didn’t join and sport you didn’t play. To every path you turned away from and all the versions of yourself you will never be. I frequently pass this bike for sale on Roseneath and wonder about the path it could take me on and the people it would bring me to.


Playing card #17 goes out to one of my favorite artists, @jeneeharrison_art Forever inspired by her wickedly powerful women and beautifully intricate details. She’s also my favorite artist I have ever collaborated with. This is my tiny painting take on her most recent finished drawing. Check out her page and buy some of her work!  


Who’s excited? #18


Playing card #19 goes out to People’s Blues of Richmond. Looking forward to some spooky rock n roll at @thecamelrva tonight! Also I am avoiding playing card subjects that involve tiny text from now on…


I’m playing catch up on my daily challenge (again) so it seems right for playing card #20 to go out to being human. Today’s painting is for every time you stubbed your toe. For every time you cut yourself shaving. For every time you ran your hip into the edge of a table, chair, door knob, banister – what haven’t I ran my hips into? For every forehead bump, paper cut, rug burn, and bit tongue. For every scratch, scrape, scab, and scar, and the stories behind them. here is to every battle wound. To the messy beautiful life you lead and the body that takes you through it – wearing each and every bruise like a badge of honor. 


Playing card #21 goes out to the king of Halloween, Tim Burton. This tiny painting is a recreation of Tim Burton’s artwork “Ramone.” I about died the first time I saw it – one of my favorite artist’s tribute to one of my favorite bands. When I have my playing card show I am gonna find a Ramones/Burton fan to gift this to.


Playing card #22 goes to the face you make when you realize Halloween is o ver for another year.


Playing card #23 goes out to one of my favorite of my older drawings, “embrace your curves”. I drew it during the period in my life that I was learning to live my body for the first time – stepping away from disordered eating and body dysmorphia toward positive body image. A lot of this positive change was achieved through yoga and learning to think of my body as the many muscles and bones that make it useful and powerful, instead of an over-sexualized symbol and representation  of my worth as defined by men. To anyone, male or female, struggling with body image issues, my love and support goes out to you. 


I am sorry that you had a bad day. I am sorry that you are hungover and sleep deprived. I am sorry that your ex treated you like shit. I am sorry that you never got close enough to woman as a person to learn that she is jus that, a person. I am sorry that you feel let down by life. I am sorry that you don’t love yourself like you should. I am sorry that you have a fragile ego. But at the end of the day, just for myself, fuck you for taking that shit out on me. Playing card #24 ladies and gentleman. 


Playing card #25 goes out to all the lady friends I made today, and those I grew closer to thanks to @peaceandfluidity. You wonderful women, of moonlight magic and macabre, inspired me deeply with your kindness and willingness to be vulnerable and open.


Playing card #26 goes out to memorable conversation with strangers. To every time the mundane conversational “script” melts away and for a moment you connect with the human behind the societal role. So here is to random guy behind the counter of a toy store who always dreamt of having a house with a kit cat clock in every single room. That’s so specifically weird and amazing.


Playing card #27 goes to @andrewzizk (and everyone who reached out to me on Instagram today) for relighting the fire under my ass for this project. Thank you for reminding me that this is in fact a challenge – and that on nights where the last thing I want to do is paint, I still need to get out my supplies and put something out there, even if it’s not my best. So here is a painting of a cool mandolin/face sculpture I found at a tobacco shop around the corner from Blues Alley. I’m exhausted from a stressful two weeks but am looking forward to refocusing my energy on illustration, painting, and yoga. Much love to everyone following along with me on this journey. 


“God or nature or the universe or whatever the fuck, created this anxiety ridden paranoid cokehead that thinks that everyone wants their acorns. Nobody wants your acorns. Nobody else in this world eats acorns. Only you. that they hide them everywhere  and they’re so fucked up on coke that they can only find 2 out of every 10. Squirrels plant trees.” – Sarah Silverman.

Playing card #28 is for the squirrels.


Playing card #29 goes out to this amazing color palette that makes everything look good. Painting til I drop. 30.jpg

Playing card #30 isn’t particularly poetic or thoughtful – strawberries are just my favorite food and I love the shapes people’s bodies make when they skateboard.


I think language is incredibly enchanting. It is reflective of how complex and messy and full of history humans are. One of my favorite things is when I come across a word I do not know. Today I learned the word “elytra” which refers to the hardened forewing of certain insect orders that protects the wings used for flying. I also learned that there is an “order’ of insects referred to as “the true bugs” which I find super entertaining… playing card #31


I honestly had zero desire to paint tonight. So here is a very quick delirious homage to some of my favorite creatures of the night. Any of my fellow festival painters know how much moths love the lamps that light our easels. Or how one might find a specific spot on our canvas and decide to make it their home for the night, How many times have I left a spot unpainted for fear of disturbing a moth’s peace? And how many moths have I incorporated into paintings out of my inability to ignore their perfect modeling? Playing card #32, not my best but it’s done.


When you are trying to eat healthy and the icecream is just staring at you like,    ” you are getting hungry, verrrrry hungry.” Playing card #33 goes to this addictive sweet treat.


Playing card # 34 goes out to fairy tales. To treacherous quests, adventures, mishaps, courageous feats, and the battles between good and evil. To bubbling cauldrons, charmed amulets, secret maps, and fighting for love, revenge, and honor. To witches, knights, trolls, goblins, nymphs, mermaids, dragons, great beasts, and tiny fairies. To all the tales passed down through the years and those stories still being woven. To the enchanting worlds that entice us and awake the childlike imagination that lays dormant during our daily grind.


Playing card #35 is a satanic pussy. Idk that’s what manifested tonight…


No excuses, I bit off a little more than I could chew this week and missed a couple days of my challenge. I guess that’s why it is called a challenge… back on track today for playing card #36. Here’s to sporadic trips with friends. To quickly  throwing your life into a backpack and hopping in the car. To swapping stories and long talks about human societal patterns. To singing along to the radio and taking in glimpses of the passing scenery. To the freedom of the open road and the camaraderie of those who share it.


Playing card #37 goes out to the coolest dad around for putting together Richmond’s Last Waltz this past Friday. People were packed in The  Camel like sardines in order to be a part of the magic of this special event. I am so honored to know so many of the musicians who not only put on incredible performances, but also perfectly recreated the community vibe of the Last Waltz. So here’s to you @marleycubwilson for having a beautiful idea and putting in the hard work to bring it to fruition. You are quite the lady. Also props to @gabiiigabs for catching this moment of the cheesing barefoot beauty.


Playing card #38 goes out to social anxiety. I think everyone experiences it and everyone handles it differently. When I am nervous in a social situation my first reaction is to start talking a lot. I have no control over the words spilling from my mouth and sometimes do not even agree with the things I am saying. While you might think I am being self centered, my brain is busy yelling at my tongue to politely shut the fuck up. Thank you to the many strangers and acquaintances  who have humored my dizzying rambles. If you are self conscious about your social anxiety, remember that being human is absolutely ridiculous and we are all crazy. 


Playing card #39 goes to every time I’ve stared a second too long. To every time I was tracing the edge of your cheekbone instead of looking into your eyes. To every palette I’ve mixed in my mind out of the colors of your skin in the light and in shadow. To every freckle not speckled by the end of my detail brush. To every potential contour of a jawline. To every shape created and destroyed as your head turns with the conversation. For every face I’ve sketched in my mind and for every time I have longed terrible for the photographic memory necessary to revive the image later in my studio. 


How to get followers on your Instagram art page. Playing card #40


Playing card #41 goes out to a day of gratitude. A day with brutally dark roots, but incredibly bright branches. A day to catch up with family and reconnect with childhood friends. A day for weird traditions. A day to relish in the silence of good food. A day to turn off the daily grind and enjoy all that you have been given and all that you have earned.


Playing card #42 goes out to the record junkies. To everyone who is too broke for proper groceries but still finds money to buy their favorite artist’s new albums. To the front row dancers, the band tee wearers and the sticker collectors. Here’s to all my vinyl addicts who find their medicine in music. This painting was inspired by an old work by Polish artist Sainer who was one of the two men who created the Strawberry Jam mural in Richmond.


Playing card #43 goes out to rising to challenges. To doing the things that don’t  come naturally to you. The things that take twice as long and frustrate you like hell along the way. Feet are the only part of the human body I cannot draw without references and it drives me crazy. But what’s the point of pursuing any art if you aren’t always working on getting better at it? So here’s to one day being able to do this without looking at anything.


Playing card #44 goes out to the other half of myself. Although I am currently pouring most of my energy into my art career, I owe so much of my happiness and drive to the years I’ve spent teaching yoga. I will forever be grateful for @thenestyoga for allowing me the freedom to develop my own teaching style and for connecting me with such amazing students and teachers. I mis @stephjesteadt and all of my beautiful Nest family every day,


Playing card #45 goes to every time you are driving in the car alone and witness a breathtaking sunrise or sunset. And you have that moment where you really want to capture it. To share it. But you know that it might be dangerous to try to take a photo while driving and even if you managed that, the photo would never do the real thing justice. So you accept that you can’t share this moment. This moment is just for you. And you enjoy the shifting colors and lights and the reminder of how small your problems are, and how devastatingly beautiful the natural world can be.


Playing card #46 goes out to one of my new favorite artists @ayla.palermo              I think her photography is incredibly unique and powerful. This painting does not do justice to the stark beauty of the reference photo I stole from her so be sure to check out her work!


Playing card #47 goes out to my favorite part of the human skeleton. I often incorporate large exaggerated hips in my art. For me they are a symbol of the womanhood that was thrust upon me far before I was ready to take on that social role. I often joke that I never grew into my hips – because I frequently run them into the corners of my world. They rarely are without bruises. My preoccupation with hips followed me into my path teaching yoga. I began to notice the differences in my students’ hips and how this affected the way they stood, moved, and reacted to the postures. I love that hips are unique to each individual and that the skeletal anatomy creates such beautiful positive and negative shapes.


Playing card #48 goes out to one of my favorite artists, @kvn.sbo  His paintings are amazing and he is having a first friday show tomorrow from 6-9 at @barcode_rva Go check out his work. Thankyou @samuelrrichardson for the awesome reference photo.


Playing card #49 goes out to every house plant I have ever killed. To every time I overwatered, under-watered, knocked over in the car or neglected completely. My desire to have beautiful green leafy housemates is outweighed by my guilt over the pile of empty pots on my balcony. Switching to more indestructible plants for the future.


Playing card #50 goes to my favorite hidden gem in Virginia. To bonfires under the sparkling night sky. To the pure bliss of dogs running across the dam, free of their leashes, to dollar tree blow up rafts, supporting the slow swaying of sunbathers. To wildflowers, swallowtail butterflies, and salamanders hiding beneath the rocky floor. To crystal , cool mountain water that wakes you up to your core. Here’s to Lake Switzer and all the people who have basked in its beauty with me. 


Playing card #51 goes out to my favorite pair of shoes. I’m not one to tread lightly, in fact I stomp heavy through this world. I hold in high regard every pair of boots that cling a little tighter to life. THe ones that withstand the dancing, jumping, tripping, and dragging. The ones that survive the dirt, sun, rain, and paint. Here’s to the unsung heroism of a sturdy pair of shoes and the experiences they can walk you through. 


The final playing card is my greatest challenge. Perhaps the reason I saved it for last. I loathe self portraits. The last one I did I painted four years ago and I feel uncomfortable every time I look at it. I thought that this challenge would be all about building discipline – a stronger work practice. It ended up being so much more. I think I have finally learned how to tear the walls down between the art within my mind and those that view it. To allow myself to be vulnerable and human. To open up. So to everyone who has followed along, your support is incredibly moving and inspiring.

Thank you for letting me lay my cards out on the table.





Joker #1 goes out to mom. I cannot begin to imagine where I would be without this inconceivably supportive woman. This painting is based off of my favorite photograph of her. I never understood how someone could create such a stirring moment of beauty and strength with their body alone. I dream of achieving through art the same capacity for expression that she creates through painting with her body.


Joker #2 goes out to the good things coming. To the new found confidence I feel in art creation and the eager electric buzzing running through my fingertips at the thought of future painting. To the long nights ahead. To the many cups of coffee and tea. To the sounds of Star Trek and audio books droning out my anxious thoughts. To cultivating mania into something productive and tangible. To new connections within this growing Richmond community and the forever fight that is chasing this ridiculous dream.