Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for June, 2012


Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Today, a flower of a different sort.

This week somehow, Super Mario Bros came up, and I was talking about how I’d seen these patterns where you can make MarioBowserBobOmb, and the Fireflower.

And my friend stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Wait. You know a lot about Super Mario Bros. I didn’t expect that.”

When I asked why he said it was because I was such a girl.

I’m still not sure what he meant, but I thought I should clear this up. I like Mario. I think Peach is a wimp and needs to fight her own battles. Or she at least needs to help her man out a little instead of standing there with a worried look on her face.

And I don’t think being a girl makes a difference at all.

44 to Ballard

Monday, June 25th, 2012

It was a bad day. I was frustrated with my painting, my studio mate had hurt my feelings, Chris was away and I was lonely. It was pouring rain and I had just missed my transfer by mere seconds, so I had to wait 20 minutes on the next bus, which was late, of course.

I got on and managed to get a seat up front by the window. I was feeling sorry for myself and looking out the window when he got on at the next stop.

I’d seen him around. When the weather was nice, he walked up and down my street most days. I figured he lived in the neighborhood, since I knew there was a group home for mentally disabled adults.

The first few times I saw him, I was intimidated. Even in August he wore a long dark coat with the hood pulled over his face. He always seemed a little on edge, so I gave him plenty of space. But then I caught a glimpse of his eyes, and realized he was just scared. So I started making a little more effort.

When I saw him on the sidewalk or at the bus stop, I’d smile and say, “Good Morning.” The first time I did it, he nearly jumped out of his skin. Gradually he got used to me, but the best I’d gotten from him so far was just a startled, haunted stare.

But that day on the bus, he pulled his hood back to shake the water out of his hair, and I caught his eye. I remember thinking, “If I can get him to smile at me, then this day might actually turn out okay.”

So I smiled.

And he stared. Then looked away.
But a few seconds later, I caught him looking at me out of the corner of his eye. So I smiled again.

And he stared a little longer. Then he pulled his hair over his face.

But on the third try, he didn’t look away. Something in his face changed, and for just a tiny second the corner of his mouth turned up.

Many times I doubt myself. I doubt that I’m good at what I do, or that I make a difference in the world. But when I think about that moment on the bus, I know that I was doing something right that day.

It turned into a good day after all.

26 Fremont to Downtown

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The hardest part of this week has honestly been narrowing down the stories. I have so many good “bus stories.” Chris says that I have “Crazy Person Please Talk to Me” tattooed on my forehead in ink only they can see.

I think it’s probably the smile. It’s gotten me into trouble more than once, as you know.

But it’s also made me a few friends.

One friend was especially memorable. In my head I called him Mr. Miyagi, because he looked so much like that character from The Karate Kid.

He and I caught the same bus every morning at 6:55am heading downtown. At that time of day, most people are reading or sleeping– it’s a pretty quiet bus. I always had my knitting, which is also often an invitation for unusual conversations.

But Mr. Miyagi accomplished two goals at once on the bus. He picked up litter and made friends. There were always newspapers left on the bus, and he’d find one, rip it in to pieces and make origami cranes, or flowers, or frogs. Then he’d walk down the aisles handing them out to anyone who’d make eye contact.

I built up quite a collection.

I think most people were annoyed, but I loved riding the bus with him. I loved seeing him take the trash and make something lovely, then reach out to other people with his creations.

“Cranes.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. SOLD

14 Hawthorne

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The bus is often late, sometimes inconvenient, but never boring. The best example of this was a particularly crazy day where I had to do a bit of fast thinking and I was grateful for the kindness of strangers.

As I boarded one day and found an empty seat, I made eye contact with a lady across the aisle and I smiled at her. (I can’t help it– it’s a habit.)

She said, “Whatchoo smilin’ at?! If you gone smile at me, the you better tell me a joke.”
Oh dear. I’d already attracted enough attention, but I rose to the challenge. “Uh… Okay. Well… Why did the tofu cross the road?”

She crossed her arms and grumbled, “I dunno. Why?”

“He wanted to prove he wasn’t chicken.” Said with a big smile. Long pause.

“That ain’t funny. That’s STOOOOPID.”

A voice from the back of the bus piped up, “I thought it was funny.” (I was so thankful for that voice.)

Then the driver, “I thought it was funny, too.” The lady behind me patted me on the shoulder in encouragement, and when the grumpy lady got off at the next stop, I heard even more laughter and kind words directed towards me. As I got off at the transit center, the driver said,”You had an eventful ride– but you handled it better than most. I see her on this route a lot. She’s a crazy one.”

I replied, “Yes, but everyone else was awesome. And how boring would it be if I’d just been in a car by myself. I love the bus.” And I do.

“I’m no Chicken.” 4×4 Oil on Panel. $95

75 Cesar Chavez Blvd

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Another thing I love about the bus is the community I find there. Being on the bus reminds me that people are kind in a way that I tend to forget when I’m on my bike or in a car by myself.

For example, one day last spring I encountered all the joys of riding the bus in one interaction. I was at the crosswalk when the my bus pulled up at the stop across the street. I’d been waiting for the light and a chance to cross for several minutes, but realized I was going to miss the bus.

I gave up and threw my hands in the air, but the teenager next to me said, “No, we’ll make it.” We bolted across the street and reached the bus door just as the driver pulled away. I was ready to give up, but he said, “I’ll catch him at the next stop!”

He ran ahead to Belmont and made it to the stop with plenty of time. I was a half-block behind, and he stood and held the bus to make sure I’d make it as well. I ran up, he moved to let me on first and I paid my fare, when I realized he wasn’t getting on. He waved and smiled– I yelled “Thanks!” but I’m not sure he heard me. He’d gone to all of that trouble just for me. I was so grateful.

“Kindness.” 4×4 Oil on Panel. $95

15 Belmont

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Choosing to live car-free is one of the things I love most about my life. Not just because I love my bike, or because I don’t have to worry about parking, but because I learn so much about the world on the bus.

And I get to live some good stories, too.


Janet is one of my favorite bus drivers. She drives the line 15 which connects downtown Portland to the transit center and the airport. I see her a lot.

I have a little ritual every time I get on the bus. First, I use the iPhone app to see how many minutes I have before it arrives. Then I watch it approach and I start smiling. Because even if I can’t see the driver,  I know they can see me. And I figure their job is hard enough that they deserve as many smiles as I can spare.

While I’m waiting, I try to figure out if I know the driver. And Janet is easy to spot. She’s in her mid-fifties, with platinum blond hair that you can see from blocks away. But the thing that makes her bus stand out is the skateboard balanced against the dashboard and the windshield.

Janet takes her skateboard everywhere. She uses it for exercise on her break at the end of her route. When she’s driving, she talks about shoes, politics, recipes, and the history of Portland with anyone who will listen. She gives away candy on Valentine’s Day and her birthday.

I love it when I see that skateboard in the window, and when I see Janet open the doors, because I know I’m going to hear a good story.

“Line 15.” 5×7 Oil on Panel. $105


Monday, June 18th, 2012

I carried white roses on my wedding day. But it wasn’t so simple.

Our family friend, Vicky did the flowers for the wedding. Her flower shop also held the contract for decorating the airport every Christmas. And since we got married in December, she let me help put up Christmas trees in exchange for flowers.

We decorated eighteen trees that weekend. Honestly, I’m not sure I was that much help, but I had good intentions. And as we hung ornaments and strung lights, Vicky asked what I wanted. And I knew exactly.

“I want white roses. And no Baby’s Breath.”

We talked through the options, and she explained that some white roses tend to look green, so technically I wanted a very very light pink rose. And she suggested Caspia– a tiny blue flower that symbolizes constancy. And since white roses stand for joy and new beginnings, they’d make a perfect wedding bouquet.

Later, my mother tried to convince me that Baby’s Breath was prettier, but Vicky defended my choice. And I remember seeing her beaming face as I began to walk down the aisle holding the flowers she made for me.

550 words per minute

Friday, June 15th, 2012

I read a lot. As a kid, I set up a library in my walk in closet and eventually made it all the way through the So-Sz volume of the World Book Encyclopedia.

So it was only natural that I make a book. And since so many people have joined us here since the book’s beginning, I realized I needed to get everyone on the same page. (Ha! A book metaphor– I crack myself up!)

A few people emailed with questions, which makes me think that there are others wondering the same thing.

What is the book about?

It’s 100 of my favorite paintings and stories from this daily painting project. It’s also the story of how I became a real painter.

Why $45? That seems like a lot for a book.

It’s 100 full color paintings– the printing was pretty expensive. But it’s also more than just a book. It’s better described as a portable gallery. Most of these paintings have sold, and live in homes all over the world. This is the only way to see them.

Also, this book is a limited edition. Every one is signed and numbered by me.

Is that  a photograph of your palette on the cover?

Nope. It’s actually one of my paintings. Thanks for the compliment.

The book is available here. Can I send you one?

In art school, when I was feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about my skills. I’ll pile up a stack of books and paint. The exercise of painting books was good for my perspective skills, and good for checking in with myself. I’d pay attention to what worked and what didn’t. As it got easier, my confidence grew. Books are good for me like that.

And this brings me to today’s painting. I couldn’t help it– yesterday’s stack of books were so much fun, I decided to change the lighting and move them around and paint them again.

“Anchor.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. $140

P.S. Over the past few days, you’ve helped introduce my newsletter to dozens of new people. Thanks!! Seriously, the best thing you can do to help me is tell other people about my work.

Here’s the link if you still want to do that.

4 pages of possibility

Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Some people liked field day in elementary school, but my favorite days were Scholastic Book Fair days. Carts full of books would appear in the school library and I’d attempt to look at all of them. The week before, they’d send home a little catalog listing all the books available. I’d check off my favorites, then my mom would make me narrow it down by at least half.

If every student had been like me, those fundraisers could have funded cancer research or a 5th grade trip to the moon. The Scholastic salesman was thrilled to see me walk in.

But I was thrilled too. I was getting something I loved. Something that I would look at for a long time. Something that made me happy.

My hope is that’s what happens here, too. Yes, this week is a “fundraiser” of sorts, but I think it’s a win/win for everyone. Your support helps me do something I love, and you get something you love too.

This brings me to one more thing that you can do to help. Lots of you have emailed this week telling me how much you love the paintings, and how you wish you could afford one right now, but you just can’t. I get it. Totally. (I’m an artist after all.)This is one of the reasons I created my book. So many people wanted to experience the paintings, and this was a way that they could do it without breaking the bank.

So perhaps today is a book fair day for you– you’d get something you love with 100 of my favorite paintings and stories from the last couple of years, and you’d be supporting my work, too.

You can buy it here.

“Scholastic.” 5×7 Oil on Panel. SOLD

P.S. Over the past few days, you’ve helped introduce my newsletter to dozens of new people. Thanks!! Seriously, the best thing you can do to help me is tell other people about my work.


Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
I’m thinking of this week like the Fund Drives on Public Radio. Some people hate them, but I actually find them to be more interesting than the usual programming sometimes. Normally everything is so scripted and formal, but it’s kind of nice to hear the personalities of the radio hosts as they improvise and talk about what the station needs to keep going.
I’m trying to do the same thing this week. I’m being a little more open and a litte more transparent with you. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating to ask for help.

And I know that like fund drive week, some of you may tune me out or even unsubscribe. I’m okay with that. I know that there are enough of you out there to do and will support me.

And I’m grateful.

There are a few things you can do to help. Do you have a painting in mind that you want to see in your house? I’d love to talk to you about a commission.

And once again, the first (and best) thing you can do to help me is tell other people about my work.

Today, can you share my newsletter with your Facebook friends?

Even better, can you forward one of my stories to someone? Tell your coworkers about my paintings over lunch? Tweet about my work? Here’s the link to copy and paste:

I’ll be back tomorrow with more ideas and ways you can help.

“Public Radio.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. $115

P.S.  A few people have asked how they can buy one of the paintings. It’s very simple: just email me– the link is in the column on your left.