A “gregarious hermit” is an oxymoron I sometimes call myself. It’s absolutely true and has been for years. I spend 80% of most days happily alone painting and writing and the rest of my time excited to connect with other people.
Social distancing and quarantine during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic allow for all of us to be more inward-focused. Many of my creative friends concur the lack of distraction can be a boon for creativity. For instance: This weird, scary time the world is experiencing inspired me to think how I might create something to help children be happier and less anxious as we struggle through it and eventually triumph.
After Cullman city and county schools closed in March, I thought about all the life lessons my parents, Ben and Ruby Johnson, who were Cullman-area school teachers, would have been sharing at home. I decided to create a couple of cartoon animal friends who would speak playful but reassuring lessons in a weekly media series. So, thanks to The Cullman Tribune, Chirp, a blue bird, and Flit, a blue butterfly, came to be “Friends During These Times.”
Because the color “blue” is calming, I find I’m painting with it a lot during this stressful period. Picasso’s famous “Blue Period” works were solemn, but mine are filled with optimism and positivity.
Chirp & Flit needed to be adorable characters kids would enjoy. After I made the original sketch, I took it to talented graphics designer Morgan Wooten, of Cullman’s Office Depot print shop, and asked her to add what I call her “SMD–Special Morgan Darlingness.” The results are more darling than I could have ever done without Morgan’s collaboration. Friends tell me their children and grandchildren are enjoying darling Chirp & Flit, and the friends are, too.
Other “creative collaborators” on this project include friends like Renee Welch (Smith Lake Community) and Laurie Johnson (Birmingham) who have suggested timely life lessons for Chirp & Flit to share. Also, Laurie, a talented wordsmith, has helped proof my copy before it goes to Wendy Sack, the gifted editor of The Cullman Tribune. (Readers will remember Laurie’s delicious, original recipes from the “67-County Alabama Garden Party” series, which recently won first place, Best Human Interest Column for The Cullman Tribune in the 2020 Alabama Press Association Media Awards.)
It takes a village to raise children, and that’s especially true during this worldwide pandemic. We welcome Tribune readers to suggest ideas for “Chirp & Flit: Friends During These Times” to share.
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