Mental Health Awareness 2/6

It’s time to reclaim reality from the media and pharmaceutical companies.

Mental Health Awareness Tenn Depression Kitten8.3 out of 10 American teens do not have depression. It’s healthy and normal to feel down when bad or sad things happen.

More info: National Institute of Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness 1/6

It’s time to reclaim reality from the media and pharmaceutical companies.

Mental Health Awareness Adult Depression Cat9.33 out of 10 American adults do not have depression. It’s healthy and normal to feel down when bad or sad things happen.


More info: National Institute of Mental Health

What does WIP mean?

What is WIP?
Your curiosity has been rewarded. :)

WIP, (W.I.P and plain old wip, too) is an acronym for Work In Progress. It’s most often used by artists and people in other creative work to designate that a piece – be it a painting, a snippet of computer code, a dress or a bookshelf (to name just a few things) – isn’t finished. Usually (but not always) when a WIP is presented, it’s at least completed enough so that the intended final result is obvious or can be perceived fairly easily.

Artists et al, publish WIPs for many reasons; sometimes because they’re impatient and want to share what they’re working on; sometimes to get feedback or direction if they’ve come to a trouble spot; sometimes to get encouragement to finish a piece, or to be let off the hook and told it’s not worth the time and effort to carry on.

There are as many reasons as there are works of creation, adaptation and invention.

Thanks for stopping by!
WIP Arts*

*Named so because progress always requires work, and in art (as in life) there is always something to be learned, something to be improved and something to strive for. :)

MAG Art in the Park

MAG Art in the Park 2015The McKeesport Art Group is hosting a FREE community Art in the Park event on Saturday, October 10, 2015.

FREE classes include:
Crafting with Kids (8+) from 10-12
Intro to Colored Pencils (12+) from 10-12

Lunch Break from 12-1, $3 Hot dog, chips & drink, or $4 Kielbasa, chips & drink
Intro to Anime Cartooning (12+) from 1-3
Creative Finger Painting (16+) from 1-3

There will also be an Affordable Art Sale with original artworks being sold for $25 or less!

Register for classes or to sell your art by emailing Jan at jacat99ATaolDOTcom

Bring the entire family and explore your creativity by attending this free community event!

Patriotism Day Art in the Park


Patriotism Day Art in the Park 2014WIP Arts along with the McKeesport Art Group and the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center will be presenting an Art in the Park event on Sunday, September 7, 2014, from noon to 7 PM.

Art and craft vendors will be on hand to sell creative works and community organizations will be providing family-friendly arts and crafts activities. The Heritage Center Museum will be open and entertainment will be hosted at the Heritage Center.

Musical performances include Luis Castillo at 1 pm, MoneyPenny Band at 3 pm and TBA at 5 pm.

There will also be a Patriotism Parade through Renziehausen Park at 6 PM and a performance by the the River City Brass Band at the Lion’s Band Shell directly across from the Heritage Center at 7 pm.

Art & Craft Vendor Application – still only $20!: Patriotism Day Vendor App
Community Group Application – free for groups providing an activity: Patriotism Day Community App

Patriotism Day Art in the Park – Sunday, September 7, 2014. Noon to 7 PM – McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, Renziehausen Park, McKeesport, PA 15132


WIP Arts at the MAG Show May 16th-18th

WIP Arts McKeesport Art Group Show 2014

WIP Arts will be participating in the 56th Annual McKeesport Art Group Spring Show May 16th through 18th, 2014 at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport, PA.

WIP will be hosting a display of Digital & New Media works  – no entry fees, no commissions –  artists’ demonstrations and musical performances. We’ll also be presenting the 3rd WIP Arts WANT IT? HAVE IT! free art giveaway!

Interested artists can contact WIP Arts via Facebook or email Submission deadline is May 14.

This event is free and open to the public. Festivities begin at 5 pm, May 16th with the opening reception. Hours are Friday, May 16th 5-9 pm, Saturday, May 17th Noon-8 pm and Sunday, May 18th Noon-6 pm.


Art and performances by John Roulic, Nikki Noll & Emmy Boczar, Charlie Reed, Trevor O’Brien, Rich Ermlick, Mango West, Anthony Horner, Jim Platts Rhythm Innovation, Dewey Gurall, Glass Kissin Creations by Beth Larosa, Nick Romeo, Charleigh Box, Abbie Cypher, Mose Berymon, Luis Enrique Castillo Jr., Ashcroft, the Ad-libbing Digital Poet, Paul Bowers, Lucas Hay, Effect of the Letter, Heather Kropf, Janice Catalogna and more!

Artwork Sale thru March 9th!

Purchase WIP Arts artwork now through March 09 and get FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING! Offer available on WIP Arts Art Prints, Stationery Cards, iPhone & iPod Cases, iPad Cases, iPhone & iPod Skins, Laptop & iPad Skins, T-shirts, Tank Tops, Hoodies and Tote Bags. You must use this link to get the FREE shipping:

Act quickly, the promotion expires March 09, 2014 at Midnight Pacific Time.

WIP Arts Suburban Graffiti SALE

Rickert & Beagle: A Bookstore Transformed – Christine M. Soltis

After 16 years of being known in Pittsburgh as Eljay’s Used Books, a new name and ownership has swept into this quaint little place. Chris Rickert has paired up with fantasy author Peter S. Beagle of The Last Unicorn (and many other great titles) to further this store in its evolution towards the new Rickert & Beagle Books.

Chris Rickert of Rickert & Beagle Bookstore

To celebrate the bookstore’s changeover and grand reopening in January 2014, I took a moment to conduct an interview with owner Chris Rickert. A down to earth, intelligent and well-informed owner with a lust for literature, there are few others who hold her passion for the tale. Read on to learn more about the transformation and eccentricity you can expect to embrace at Rickert & Beagle Books.

Rickert & Beagle Bookstore

Christine M. Soltis: Tell us the steps you took that led from your beginning of working for
Eljay’s leading into your current position as owner.

Chris Rickert: When Joseph-Beth Booksellers closed a few years ago, I thought I would have to go to work in a office, which I didn’t want to do at all. My friends Frank and Louise were about to relocate Eljay’s to Dormont and asked me to help them out. Helping them pack the old store up turned into helping set up the new store, and then I started volunteering a few days a week. In March of 2012, I became part owner of the store and took full ownership on September 1st of this year when Frank and Louise retired.

Rickert & Beagle Boostore Books

CMS: Tell us how you came to partner with Peter S. Beagle.

CR: Peter has been my favorite author for decades, and I’ve worked for him and his publisher, Conlan Press for a while now. Peter has been in the store on each of his visits to Pittsburgh, and when I told him I was the sole owner he was interested in being involved more directly with the store, plus we like the way our names sound together.

CMS: As a young business owner, what is the most challenging aspect of stepping up to the plate and running the store without a partnership from the previous owners who raised the store since its inception?

CR: It’s actually not as tricky as I thought it would be. Since I was a partner in the original store I had a long time to meet regular customers, learn how Frank and Louise did everything and ask tons of questions. It was intimidating to take over the accounting and taxes, but I have learned a lot in the last two months and it’s going pretty well.

Rickert & Beagle Sci-Fi Aisle

CMS: What differences do you anticipate during the changeover from Eljay’s to Rickert & Beagle? Can we expect a similar bookstore dynamic or should we anticipate a sudden change?

CR: I think that customers will notice that I like to organize sections a little differently than Frank did and I plan to increase the number of new books and local author titles we carry, but we’re still just as weird as Eljay’s ever was.

CMS: In one sentence, describe the new Rickert & Beagle. Be as wild and wacky as you want.

CR: Perfectly Strange, Strangely Perfect.

Rickert & Beagle Bookstore Bookcase

CMS: Name a bookstore that has a similar atmosphere to Rickert & Beagle. Let us set the scene for new visitors and what they can expect when they walk in.

CR: That’s tough! I hope that the store will have the same atmosphere as Peter’s books: magical, eclectic and a lot going on behind the scenes, drawing from a huge number of sources for inspiration.

CMS: What would be the theme song or songs for the new store?

CR: Probably something by The Decemberists.

CMS: Which novel and/or genre do you think would be perfect to do a book to film adaptation set on location at Rickert & Beagle?

CR: I would love to see a murder mystery set here, books make great weapons.

CMS: Tell us about some of the types of events, charitable ones, writers meetings and so forth that you have coming up or are regularly scheduled.

CR: Every other Tuesday, we host a writer’s critique group called Write or Die, we used to host a monthly crafter’s social night and as soon as my personal schedule settles down we’ll be bringing that back. On most Saturdays, we host local authors for reading and signings, and during the first weekend of January we’ll be hosting a big re-naming celebration with all our customers, Peter and some of our musically inclined friends.

Rickert & Beagle Collectibles & Gifts

CMS: Please include any additional information you want to bring out, including other items you may sell at the store or events you accept. Feel free to include contact details.

CR: We carry a jewelry and art line by Cat Mihos, who makes great things out of salvaged comic books (you can see her work at under “Kitty’s Treasures” and my own lines of monster dolls and lace and crocheted jewelry. I’m also working on bringing a few local artists’ prints into the store.

Also, we offer a few additional services to book lovers: We can order new, used and hard-to-find books for customers. Customers who place pre-orders for books before their release date get a store credit to spend in the store too. Customers can also bring their hardcover books in for use to add an archival mylar sleeve to the dust jacket.

I hope to put together a website people can shop soon, but in the meantime you can browse a large part of our collection here: Thanks Christine!

Chris contact information:
Eljay’s Books
3233 West Liberty Avenue, 15216
(412) 344-7444
on Twitter: @EljaysBooks
or browse our on-line store at:

Take a moment to stop by one of the best old and new bookstores in the Pittsburgh area and celebrate the grand reopening in January 2014!

If you know of any persons or events that deserve attention in our local community, feel free to message Christine M. Soltis through her Facebook page SolsticeNightSky Productions

The Cover – Madison Hawthorne

The phrase “Art is all around us” is true. It is no more apparent than in the cover. Design. Everything has a cover from movie boxes to board games. Companies spend millions of dollars each year paying both digital and traditional artists to create designs for them. They spend this money because the cover is the first thing you see and thus the first thing you judge when looking at and making an assessment about something. In comics this is no different.

In comics there are many ideas as to what makes a good cover but I find that the best covers reflect what happens inside of the comic. With a cover you can give an introduction to characters you will meet in the book as well as insight into the plot without having to read a thing. Often knowing where your comic is to be displayed is important in your design, especially the background. Generally light colored backgrounds are the norm because the are eye-catching. However, often if a cover designer knows his comic will be placed with a lot of light colored books they will use a dark background so as to stand out against that. In my own comic I try and take this approach as well. Take a look at some of the different designs for covers. Can you tell what might happen? And who the characters will be inside the book?

Madison Hawthorne King of Sweden Cover

Madison Hawthorne is a comic enthusiast and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Madison’s comic “King of Sweden” is available at

Freestone Exploration – Rusty Lofgren

By chance an old gated dirt road was opened for access along a particular unnamed freestone stream in west, northern, east, southern Pennsylvania, and a fellow fisherperson and I traveled this dirt road to see what we could see.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 4

Nature stood around us and we enjoyed being a part of it. We saw a pile of bear scat the size of a seat cushion, birds a-plenty, and even spooked a doe in a field along this dirt road.

Way down around the corner, up and over the mountain, then back down again and into a ravine we stumbled upon a tributary to this particular unnamed freestone stream whose beauty was something to behold.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 5

We stopped to enjoy the sights and sounds of this little mountain run, and only wondered the number of brook trout it held.

Our fly rods we kept in the car, and probably for the better as this tight run would require magnificent precision casts just to land a fly in the water and get a good drift.

Tempting, yes, but sometimes it is best to just look.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 1


After this respite we headed back to the main stream and geared up for some freestone fishing.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 2


Several casts were made and a couple of fish hooked, but it didn’t take long for me to notice something that prompted me to lay my rod down and take a looksee.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 3

A stone wall was built by someone back in the day along the banks of this stream, and I could only wonder why. Probably for some sort of logging purposes, and thoughts of when the wall was created ran through my head. It may had been as old as the 1800s, and could have helped aid in transporting lumber down this creek. Or maybe it was older?

Perhaps it was built for military purposes for one of those old wars that were fought on the soils of this country. Hard to say, but it looked pretty interesting, and I was intrigued.

Eh, no fish to talk to for me on this trip. They were there, just “not in the mood to converse”.

Rusty Lofgren Freestone 6

No worries, though. It was fun to look around.

Rusty Lofgren is a photographer, videographer and writer in Pittsburgh, PA. Rusty’s portfolio and contact information are available at LeafBranch Studios and his new book Penna Fly Fishing Seasons is available on

Artists from the Underground: Lee Bradford – Christine M. Soltis

This past spring, I met Lee Bradford at the annual Horror Realm Convention held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA. She stopped by our table a few times and spoke to us about her work. When I saw her artistic tarot deck depiction of “The Hermit” on Facebook, I truly realized the talent behind this young woman. Since then, Lee and I have discussed the way women are sometimes treated in the arts and I even commissioned her work for book cover art. All artists have their own particular style and the dark nature of Lee’s creations will do nothing short of please your eyes. Take a moment to read the interview below to find out a little bit more about another fantastic woman in the arts.

Christine M. Soltis: Please start out with a mini bio about yourself:

LB: Hi, hey, hello! My name is Lee Bradford and I’m from South Bend, IN. I’m an artist and a writer with a degree in Animation from Ball State University, which unsurprisingly hasn’t gotten me particularly far, but that’s art for you. I have a tendency to dive into a lot of big projects all at once, thinking  “hey, that could be fun” and then getting to the end of it and wanting to tear my hair out. Such projects include: a comic series, a series of adult novels, and a tarot deck. I have actually finished… one of those things. But should you ever hear me say “I’m bored”, you now know that you have every right to yell at me for not working on one of my many projects.

Lee Bradford The Sweeney Tarot

CMS: What is your favorite piece of artwork you have created?

LB: Apart from The Sweeney Tarot, picking a favorite piece is like trying to pick a favorite child. But of my most recent work, I think the piece that deserves most of my respect is a character drawing I did of Naal. I learned new skills while working on it, and I think that that is an important aspect of any piece that you do: that you take away something from the experience that you didn’t know before. That, and he’s simply a beautiful creature.

CMS: We already know that you are a spectacular artist. Do tell us about the tarot deck you created, along with the inspiration, purpose and expectations for making it.

LB: Well, I first started getting into Tarot when I went to college and my friend Jason was very into it. So he taught me the story of  The Fool and what all the symbols mean, how to read them, a bit about their history. When my dad found out about my interest in Tarot, he gave me the deck (Rider-Waite) he used in college.

And apparently I am very good at reading them, but I digress.

After learning a few things about the occult, I’m not ashamed to say that a few things left a sour taste in my mouth. Wait, we need to back this fun-bus up for a minute. Hold on tight because this is a long one.

South Bend is a very diverse city. People often think of it as being ‘mostly-white’ because of Notre Dame, but those people are not actually from South Bend. We have tons of cultural festivals (ranging from Pow-wows to Serbian festivals, and I would probably guess that if there was a majority population in the part of town I work at, it’s Latino. So I grew up not perceiving white people as a majority. As a result, the characters that I write reflect that sample demographic: a handful of white people and then a lot of people from different cultural backgrounds.

Additionally, to get a little personal, I am part of the LGBTQ community. My characters reflect that, as well. Inadvertently, I sort of developed a very diverse cast of characters.

And to push this even more, I am a non-trad Pagan. This means that my personal faith does not coincide with an existing tradition, and that my faith is built upon beliefs that I hold personally. You would not be able to find information on my faith in a book that I did not write myself.

Given all this information, there are some things in the occult and pagan communities that are very alienating to me. Many tools, such as Tarot, are based on the Kaballah (Jewish Mysticism), and so their images are based in that symbolism. In more modern forms, there’s also a predisposition to use Wiccan imagery, another religion that I am not a part of. So in one part, my purpose was to take a step back from the cultural and religious imagery. I wanted to make this something that a person could use even if they don’t believe in the supernatural. In this sense, the tarot becomes a psychological tool: a means to put the thoughts in your brain into a visual form. In this way, the religious stigma is lifted slightly to allow people who are curious but afraid more room to ease into it.

Lee Bradford The Sweeney Tarot

That is the religious portion of it. But what was much more alienating to me in a lot of occult/pagan imagery was the focus on thin, white women. I felt that it was unfair, and in books that described the meanings of the cards, you see very strict gender norms and I will just come out and say it: racism. A person of color is usually only depicted in a court card if the person in the court card has a note of violence or stubbornness. Every other case is a white person.

What I wanted to see was more representation of the diverse world that I live in. That is why my Lovers card is two women, my Two of Cups is a polyamorous trio, Chariot is a man in a wheelchair, some of my Queens are male, Kings are female, women are warriors, men are emotional, and most of the couples are interracial. One of the recurring characters is even a transwoman.

As for inspirations, all of the characters depicted are characters from stories that I’ve written. It didn’t really intend to happen that way, it just sort of did. I started drawing The Fool, and he became Garrett so I just nodded my head and said ‘sure.’ You’ll actually see recurring characters throughout, which carries another layer of interpretation. For example, if you have a spread that has a lot of Felix in it, its indicative of a person with a good heart, ambiguous morals, and terrible decisions. A spread with Evie would indicate themes of confidence and becoming the person you would like to be.

Expectations (oh wow… I’m still talking) were really that I would have a deck that suits me. I never really intended it to get as far as it did, but as I posted my works in progress online, people started saying “I will buy your deck” and I knew that I had to finish it.

CMS: What kinds of troubles or conflicts have you experienced as a young (and even female) artist with such innovative works?

LB: Well, I am not going to lie: I live in a spare room at my parent’s house, making little above minimum wage. Art business is always slow-going when you’re young and its like feast or famine. Which often means putting yourself in public places where you are subject to ridicule. For me, this means comic book conventions.

Lee Bradford The Sweeney Tarot

Conventions are great, really they are. I love meeting people and hearing about what they’re working on. But there is this problem in the genre, and maybe you have heard of it, about ‘fake nerd girls.’

It was my hope, being quite female and a comic book artist-and-writer, that my presence at conventions would be met with curiosity and intrigue by male patrons. That they would be inclined to ask questions about the subject of my comic books.

My hopes have been thoroughly dashed, however. The majority of commentary, when someone picks up a card for my ongoing comic book about brotherhood and cannibalism is reduced to “It’s probably about boys kissing.”

It is my experience that women in the art and writing world are more subject to ridicule, that we are sequestered to one and only one genre: romance. And there is nothing inherently wrong with romance, but to think that it is an inherently female trait is rather backwards when traditionally it has been the man who initiates a relationship and not the woman.

And I feel that romance, because it is considered a woman’s subject, is also seen as lesser and maudlin by comparison to the genre of horror or science fiction. People turn their noses up at it, and I personally feel that the femininity of it is the reason for that.

This often leads to people speculating why a woman would enjoy writing or reading something that is not traditionally feminine. Clearly they must be seeing some romance in the genre that isn’t there (I am totally into HP Lovecraft for the steamy sex scenes; definitely), or they are writing fan fiction about the characters or they are just trying to attract attention (a personal favorite) from men. It doesn’t occur to them that a woman might enjoy something for the same reasons a man does. And I think that is ridiculous. The purpose of a convention is to meet people who like the same things you do and bond over that, not squabble over who is the better fan. A recent article on the statistics of con-goers stated that 49% of people in nerd cultures are women, and yet women are treated as rare or mythical creatures and must be approached with much skepticism.

But, alas: though I might scream from the rooftops that I deserve the same respect as any man in my field, I still watch as they pick through my work to find its feminine qualities to set me apart from my otherwise equals. Any hint of romance is a black mark on my record because I am a woman, even if it is overlooked when written by a man.

And it is ridiculous. It is for this reason, amongst others, that I go by an androgynous name. If a person were to stumble upon, they would say “hey, his stuff is pretty good.” I take a small amount of pride in the fact that I can pass for masculine online at first glance. It is one part a survival technique and one part rebellion. I am not my gender. I am my art. That is the way that it should be.

But apart from the issues that come from being a woman in a field predominated by a male bias, the challenges I face are pretty much what one might suspect for a person just starting out: sometimes my workload doesn’t seem like it yields enough success to be worth the fight. But the fact that I keep doing it, despite my relative obscurity as of yet, bespeaks to me a kind of poetry: I could have quit a thousand times over by now if I were not actually in love with what I do.

Lee Bradford The Sweeney Tarot

CMS: What are your inspirations, future artistic plans and endeavors?

LB: As I said, I am co-writing a book series (These Corpses of Men) with the lovely Jamie Selner. Oh, you know… end of the world. Zombies. Man-eating sirens. Giant bird demons. Possession. Pretty much all the bad things that could happen to four people and then make one of them a witch. Gonna be good times.

Currently, though, we are taking a break from working on These Corpses of Men so that we can do a tactical analysis of the publishing world (getting our names out there, putting out some short stories, saving people, hunting things. The family business.)

I’m working on some in-universe comic books to go along with the series, which is kind of like if you took Warehouse 13 and Torchwood and deep-fried them in an eggroll, lightly seasoned it with Dresden Files, and dipped it in Cthulhu mythos.

Oh dear lord, what am I NOT inspired by? Poe, Lovecraft, Florence + the Machine, Supernatural, Dresden Files, pre-Crowlean mysticism, Goosebumps, that guy on the street that asked me for a dollar, A Clockwork Orange, TS Eliot, holidays, not-holidays, made up days, Welcome to Night Vale… I have to carry several pads of paper around so that I can write down something someone said at the grocery store that seems like it could be the basis for a short story and make sketches out of something that I saw out of the corner of my eye. I go back into old notebooks from years ago and come across some random paragraph with a hardly-visible sketch of what appears to be a hound with moose antlers and suddenly it’s got a whole section in my grimoire of weird stuff I saw in a dream. Being creative is never, ever dull!

CMS: How can your fans help spread the word about your work? Feel free to list work-related contact details.

LB: Hooray, the part where I get to write my own plugs! If you’re on tumblr, you can bug me over at

For those of you who are trying to avoid being distracted for five hours and therefore are not on tumblr, you can find updates about our book series at [You must sign into Facebook.]

And if you’re into tarot and want to buy yourself a deck where people will look at you in utter awe, you can purchase the Sweeney Tarot here:

Artist Lee Bradford

And finally, if you want to bug me about a commission, feel free to send me an email at

If you know of any persons or events that deserve attention in our local community, feel free to message Christine M. Soltis through her Facebook page SolsticeNightSky Productions


Comic Toning vs. Shading – Madison Hawthorne

Hello all sorry for the delay I had some computers issues.

I went to Dragon-Con, unfortunately I do not have any pictures to show from the art gallery as they were not allowed. However, I was able to sit down and talk with comic artist Dusty Higgins, the artist of Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and Knights of the Living Dead. One of the things that we talked about was the digital art medium as Knights of the Living Dead was his first comic that he had done completely digitally without inking or sketching on paper first.

We spoke specifically on whether to screen tone or shade when doing black and white comics. With Pinocchio Vampire Slayer Dusty used screen tones and with Knights of the Living Dead he used shading. If you are not familiar with “screen tones” it is a tool used on art programs that makes shading quicker and easier by creating a large blanket of dots or cross hatched lines. This produces the desired shading effect without having to actually color and shade each page. Many artists will use this to reduce cost for black and white pages. Because shading a black and white page often takes the same time as using full colors which many artists charge a different rate for.

Often screen tones work fine especially when high quality printing is done, but sometimes they can leave a little to be desired. In general I feel the toning style does not matter if the story is great and the rest of the art is clean. Here are some examples of screen tones vs shading in black in white, which do you prefer?

Comic Toning

Comic Shading

Also you can check out Dusty’s work at

Madison Hawthorne is a comic enthusiast and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Madison’s comic “King of Sweden” is available at

Nature, Nude and Nationality – Photo Meander by Rusty Lofgren

Red Roof Barn - Rusty Lofgren

On my way for a hike in the woods at a new favorite spot in Western Penna, camera in the passenger’s seat, I happened upon this old red roofed barn, white washed wood sides, and the brushed clouds behind it. It looked like a painting to me as I drove by. I glanced at the rear view mirror to make certain no truck or car was behind me on this back country road, and all was clear so I hit the brakes in my little mule and backed up a bit to take a few photos through the windshield. It wasn’t until I made it back home after my hike that I noticed the blue and purple flowers along the fence that add a touch of color to the lower left of the image, and this one of the group stands as my favorite. Sometimes you get lucky.

Wings on a Wire -Rusty Lofgren

Pointing my camera to the sky at this group of swallows yielded a bunch of fun pictures of these birds flocking to a wire near a favorite barn in Central Pennsylvania. Not much luck in these pictures. The birds seemed to have a pattern of flying away and then coming back, so I just pointed the camera towards the electrical wire, waited for the birds to circle around then return, and let auto focus and the camera do the rest. This one I titled ‘Wings on a Wire’.

Night Reflection on the Allegheny - Rusty Lofgren

Few things in life are perfect, if any, but the reflection on this river water in our great city of Pittsburgh is something to behold. Soooooooo, I’d rate this image on the water a 9 out of 10. About as high of a rating as I’d give anything in life…

Painting - Rusty Lofgren

A great friend from college, Luke Scott, took pictures of me naked while standing on a teacher’s desk in a classroom at college while two dudes stood watching. Friends would joke, “Huh, I’ve never done that before… Nope, never stood naked in a classroom with two dudes looking at me”, they would joke.  Not me.” Those photos were shown at an art show at college and created a little stir amongst my friends at college, but I didn’t care a bit about that. Supposedly Luke wanted to say that we all have nightmares about standing naked in a classroom. Who is ever made to do that? He painted a blue painting of one of those photos and I promised him that I would always hang it in my home. The problem was those eyes that he painted of me were always watching me no matter where I stood in the room and it sort of weirded out people. Surely they recognized the art in the painting, but where do you put a piece like that in a home? And who is ever made to stand naked in a classroom is what I recently thought, so I added a little color to this old painting, put shades on the eyes, and did a little voodoo with some yellow and coral reef colors to brighten up this blue piece. To be honest, I was just working a little voodoo, and having good fun with paints.

Crest Rod - Rusty Lofgren

The rainbow trout swam without hesitation back into the stream shortly after its close-up.

The rod’s silk guide-wrap colors were picked from a framed family crest shield that has hung on the walls in the home I grew up in since my childhood, the apparent crest of my Swedish last name, but their’s no real confirmation of any of that. Something someone in the family found in an art store or something.

My friend from Oregon, on his fishing visit to Penna last year, and while he was at my home before I sent him back to the west, suggested that I use those colors for my bamboo rod after seeing the family crest hanging on my wall. I had no real idea what to choose as colors for the rod I intended to purchase that year, and so the crest’s colors seemed better than a great choice.

The rod was originally named “The Family Crest Rod” by the rod maker, based on the photo of the family crest I sent him. When the rod maker later learned that I am only 25% Swedish by blood, ‘The Family Crest Rod’ quickly became known as “The 75% Impostor Rod” among a certain circle of persons.

In time I hope to find family crests of my other three blood nationalities, and make a collection of four separate bamboo rods, each properly named in the series: “The 75% Impostor Rod(s) – 01, 02, 03, and 04”.

“The 75% Impostor Rod – 01” proudly rests above the fish in the photo.

Blue Boat - Rusty Lofgren

A blue boat upside down on a dock left me wondering who its owner was, when it was last used, and if it still floated. If it was used of late, and if so, to where were they floating? I’m not much of a sailor, but thought that this blue craft was intriguing. It stood as a good prop for forthcoming maternity pictures of a great couple whose wedding I photographed last July.

Duck - Rusty Lofgren

This duck struck a pose, and it worked for this image at the same nearby lake. I took this photo before the expecting couple arrived at the same lake where the blue boat sat. I knew enough to arrive early to look for good photographic places, and the blue boat was one of them. This duck didn’t make it into the maternity pictures, but in this still water and with some cool sunlight, it stood as my favorite of the webbed footed birds that morning. There were plenty of those, and my jeans were a little dirty from duck poop after sitting on the lawn to take the photo. Fun fun, but all for the photo.

West Branch, PA - Rusty Lofgren

My first fly fishing buddy, who shares the same life long passions for the pastime as I do, visited me after I graduated from college in New Jersey in 1995, and together we made a trip to the West Branch of the Delaware River that separates New York from Pennsylvania that August. After a five hour trip north we met a couple of great old timers at a local watering hole who directed us to a safe spot to camp for the night before fishing. The next morning, those same fellas were right in front of our camp the following morning and made us coffee. We headed out to fish that morning, and I took one photo on this trip, the one included below. There was fog coming off the water that morning, and with an old film camera loaded with slide film, I took one image of my friend wading out towards the split in the river to fish along the island. Then a funny thing happened (sort of) that evening after we fished. My buddy left his waders on the back of his car and they fell off at some point on our way to a local fly shop to gear up with flies and leaders.

We continued to fish the following day, and my buddy coldly waded to a rock that sat in the middle of the river, and stood on this rock to stay dry and fish from (the rock is only on the original slide image now)… The things one can do with computers these days. I should had left the rock in this image, but the stupid perfectionist in me Photoshopped it out. Since I had that image scanned and removed the rock, I’ve learned that nothing in life is perfect. Despite not personally landing a fish on that trip in 1995, it stands as one of my all time favorites as I stood in the water just watching my friend cast from his rock in the middle of the river and land fish consistently. Maybe that trip was perfect/not sure.

Twelve years later in 2012 we met for the first time since I last saw him on that 1995 trip to the West Branch. Great to reconnect, and great to see an old friend. Despite the 12 years that had past, it felt like fishing together back in 1994 and 1995, and for a day it brought back a lot of things. I took my camera that day to Penns Creek but didn’t take a single photo despite the show off monster trout jockeying for position for the fall spawn. We tried everything to hook onto one of those monster trout that were leaping out of the water as his golden retriever, so well trained, sat on the bank watching, but never entering the water, just watching curiously. My buddy’s rainbow trout looked pretty good along with a brown trout he landed, compared to the small mouthed bass that I landed. We had a good laugh over our lack of fishing success that day and shared a couple of beers over dinner like old times. The spawn was just late that year, and once again, a day of good fun that I keep close to my heart. Maybe that trip was perfect too.

Rusty Lofgren is a photographer, videographer and writer in Pittsburgh, PA. Rusty’s portfolio and contact information are available at LeafBranch Studios and his new book Penna Fly Fishing Seasons is available at


Alfonso Velez – Rusty Lofgren

Alfonso Velez – “Love” from LeafBranch Studios, LLC on Vimeo.



Alfonso Velez has been a musician all his life, has a clear voice and message that resonates, and writing abilities that prove he is a true wordsmith and poet. I’ve had the honest pleasure of knowing Alfonso since 2006, and the video above is an original number he performed way back in 2006 in my old apartment in Washington, DC. He knows music, and has taken his talents to another level. Check out his new rock band called AV on Facebook or Twitter. He is currently rocking out New York City with frequency and power. Alfonso does what he wants, plays what he wants, and sings about what he wants and what he feels on any particular day. I love him for that.

Alfonso Velez – “Stars and the Moon” from LeafBranch Studios, LLC on Vimeo.



Not much to say about this number performed by Alfonso Velez in 2010 other than the man being interviewed and performing this song has nothing but love for the world. We are alike in more ways than one, and though he’s Mexican and I’m a mixed European breed with no Mexican blood in me, sometimes I honestly think that we are related. He is a great friend, and I’m glad I bootlegged this song on a trip to DC in 2010.

Rusty Lofgren is a photographer, videographer and writer in Pittsburgh, PA. Rusty’s portfolio and contact information are available at LeafBranch Studios and his new book Penna Fly Fishing Seasons is available at

New WIP Writer – Rusty Lofgren!

Welcome the newest WIP contributor, Rusty!

Rusty Lofgren

Rusty Lofgren was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1973.  He graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in 1995 with a double major in English and Biology.  After living in Washington, DC for ten years, he moved back to Pittsburgh in 2006 to focus on his photography, video work, and his writing.  Having circled the world in his travels, he is an old soul who wants nothing more out of life than to have good fun creating art, and to forever hear the music of the clear, cool streams and rivers of the world.

Rusty’s portfolio and contact information are available at LeafBranch Studios and his new book Penna Fly Fishing Seasons is available at

Great Comic Action Panels – Madison Hawthorne

Hello ALL WIP Readers.

This will be my first article as I gear up for Dragon-Con in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. If you don’t know what Dragon-Con is, it is a convention for sci-fi fantasy, comics, manga, anime and all things that are awesome. I will be filling you in on the convention after I have attended. Because I will mostly be spending my time in the comics area of the convention I thought I would touch on what makes a good fight scene in comics. More specifically what I feel the artist needs to do make a good action scene. Take a look at some of my favorite action pages, below.

Pacing: When I see an action scene, to me there is nothing worse than a fight that is not paced well. Sometimes an artist crams so much action into the page that the scene is over before it starts. Or on the other hand the artist stretches every single movement out so that scene drags on and on. It is important the artist captures the important points of the fight and is able to convey the emotions in the fight. That is what is most important in pacing a fight scene.

Comic Action Panel 2
Movement: Because comics are done in pictures it is important that speed lines and other additions are added to each panel so the action is easy to follow.

Comic Action Panel 1
Background: Background is important because it brings clarity to the fight, if people are jumping around or moving in a scene then the background should adjust. Often the background does not vary enough, so it looks the entire fight takes place within 8 square feet.

Comic Action Panel 3
Those are the three things that I feel are most important when making a fight scene.

Madison Hawthorne is a comic enthusiast and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Madison’s comic “King of Sweden” is available at

New WIP Writer – Madison Hawthorne!

Madison Hawthorne, King of Sweden; Last Bloodline

Madison Hawthorne, King of Sweden; Last Bloodline

Madison Hawthorne was born in 1985 and grew up in Pittsburgh, PA where he got his degree in business at Duquesne University. He grew up reading comics and appreciates the artwork involved in the process. He started writing his first Novel at the age 16 and has been writing ever since. He was awarded a chance for a Fellowship with the AWC Performing Arts Center in Pittsburgh because of his work on King of Sweden. Madison’s comic is published by DMP and is available in digital format on

The Little Book Fair, Bloomfield – Christine M. Soltis

Little Book Fair, Bloomfield

Little Book Fair, Bloomfield

Walking into any new event is certain to send butterflies bustling in your belly, especially for writers and comic artists who require the reclusive calm of creation during the inception of any work. Pittsburgh, PA certainly has its share of artistic events, many of which range from one extreme to another. Generally, it seems easier to find either individual author signings or large conventions dedicated to horror or sci-fi than anything in the middle. But sometimes, you can find a rare gem of an event such as The Little Book Fair, which consisted of that fine level of “in between.”

Bloomfield Community Center

Bloomfield Community Center

The four hour literary event was held on August 2, 2013 within the Bloomfield Community Center, which is a red brick building on North Pacific Avenue that appeared hidden, since its entryway faced a closed-off street. Outside the red brick venue, was the simultaneous celebration of the Unblurred Gallery Crawl. Here, outdoor tents and tables were sprawled across the road, full of additional local artists and food vendors. But once you left the Unblurred Gallery, stepping inside of the Bloomfield Community Center meant being transported to another world where books alone still reigned.

Little Book Fair 2013

Little Book Fair 2013

Inside the Little Book Fair, the setup offered a single room filled with 40+ vendors. Rectangular tables were situated in nearly a dozen rows with couches and tables also framing the wall space. Chap books, novels, comics, artistry and more were for sale as artists mingled with crowds and each other, given the ability to passionately discuss the hard work they spent countless hours, days and years of their life creating. The crowd was a rather decent size with people of all ages that moved in a stream-like manner, with many stopping to see the work at each table and even purchase items. Many visitors were excited about the event and simultaneously surprised because they had not heard of it beforehand. I would oftentimes comment that we need more events like this in Pittsburgh. As a writer, I am certainly one to insist that books are still very much alive and have not become extinct.

Little Book Fair 2013

Little Book Fair 2013

Juan Jose Fernandez, who set up the Little Book Fair also did so in a surprising manner. Most events require that table vendors pay a fee to sell their wares. The Little Book Fair did not do this, making it a very unique force in the area. On top of that, its four hour evening slot offered visitors the ability to stop by after work and kept vendors from spending a full work day worth of time in the same place. These characteristics caused the intrigue that brought me to cover the event. Many of the artists also seemed to know one another, creating a literary alliance that was fascinating to view. If you missed out on it, be sure to visit and Episode 8 to see some brief video footage of the event.

Christine Soltis at The Little Book Fair

Christine Soltis at The Little Book Fair

If you want to help ensure that books are not extinct or if you know of an artistic event that needs covered for WIP Arts, visit SolsticeNightSky Productions & Radio on Facebook and send a message.

New WIP Writer – KC Stangl!

Please welcome KC Stangl on board as a new WIP writer! KC will be contributing articles and stories from the perspective of a recent transplant to Pittsburgh. Get a feel for his work by visiting his new blog The Herb Garden, and Other Life Lessons.

KC Stangl

KC Stangl

KC Stangl grew up in an Army family, spending his early years in Paris, France, Washington, DC, and finally State College, PA, where he graduated from high school, and entered the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA on a Navy ROTC scholarship.

Commissioned as an Ensign, US Navy, in 1979, he spent 8 years as a Naval Flight Officer, with duty stations all over the West Pacific and Indian Ocean. Upon leaving the Navy, he began a career as an acoustic sonar engineer for the Navy Dept., working in the Philadelphia area, Southern Maryland, and retiring, after 31 years of service, as an adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington DC.

He recently relocated to Pittsburgh, to reunite with his high school sweetheart, and is pursuing a writing career. He is also a musician, playing guitar and singing at various open stage venues, and hopes to pen a few original songs as well. His maternal grandfather, a professional chef, inspired a lifelong love of cooking, and his first attempt at a blog focuses on that, while providing some, hopefully, thought provoking reflections on life, love, and the challenges of finding meaning in everyday events, decisions, and actions.

New WIP Writer – Christine M. Soltis!

WIP Arts is pleased to introduce a new contributor! Christine will be writing about the arts and culture scene in the Pittsburgh area. Check out her bio and work below. Welcome, Christine!

Christine M. Soltis

Christine M. Soltis

Christine M. Soltis’ deepest passion is in fiction writing and has been for over ten years. She has written dozens of books, including several non-fiction international co-creations. Many of her novels can be accessed via In addition, she is co-writer on various film scripts and does freelance writing, including scientific topics.

She is also a monthly contributor to the horror site, Ravenous Monster and now, WIP Arts. In the past, she has contributed articles to various magazines including The Globe, The Front Weekly, Verdure Magazine, The Yahoo Network, and In 2011, she was an exhibitor at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

In addition to her writing, she made her acting debut in A Chemical Skyline, which was an Amazon best-seller for monster horror. In 2012, she lived in Los Angeles, California and was able to take part in a 15 minute, nationally syndicated courtroom drama that aired on Fox and the CW network, among others.

For her first degree, she attended Point Park College for Broadcasting and worked in newsradio for a decade. Christine has completed her Masters of Science in Environmental Studies, which has heightened her appreciation for Earth and science.

Besides releasing books, Christine has begun a journalistic/arts “webisode” via SolsticeNightSky Productions, which features science, travel, artists and events in the local area. These episodes can be found on YouTube at

Amazon Link: