Evil Happiness – Evil #1

What is evil?

I really like this quote because it explains very succinctly why so many atrocities happen in the world. People want to believe in demons and devils, evil people purposely doing evil things. But in my experience, and in my reading of history, biography and sociology, this is not true. People almost never are attempting to do evil. What they are attempting to do is find happiness.

Intent vs Effect

But wait, isn’t that completely perverse? Yes it is. And that is why it is important to understand.  Evil doesn’t come from evil people. Evil comes from (in most cases) normal people doing things they think will make them happy.  Take for example the illustration above. Is the drunk driver who plows down a group of pedestrians intending to do evil? No, he or she is not. They are attempting to feel good. Are they doing that in the right way and will it really make them feel good? No, it won’t. But that is not the point. The point is their course of action is driven not by a desire to do evil but by a desire to be happy. It is intent vs effect.

When Point of View Matters

Let’s take another example that isn’t quite as clear-cut.  A white southerner in the US likes to drive around with the confederate flag waving from his car. His intent, in his mind, is to celebrate his proud heritage. Celebrating that makes him happy. But the black southerner seeing the car drive by doesn’t see a symbol of a proud heritage, he sees a terrible heritage. One filled with 250 years of slavery and violence against his ancestors and another 100+ years of segregation and oppression after that. That flag symbolizes evil to him, not happiness. Who is right?  I know what my answer would be.

Complete Evil

So, when is evil just plain old evil? After all, even Lucifer thought what he was doing trying to basically overthrow God was for the good, right? So if the originator of Evil in the stories of old illustrates this point, then what example of evil doesn’t?  Hitler comes to mind, right? But in his mind and the minds of his followers they were pursuing the corporate happiness of their people. All the evil they did, if they were even able to admit there was any evil, was in service of their happiness. That tells you how perverse and twisted the mind can become.

Looking at Ourselves

That is why it’s never enough to go by a person’s intent. Their intent, at least their stated intent, will never be to admit to evil. They will ALWAYS rationalize their behavior and say it’s about something else.  That is why one must always look at effect even more than intent. If the effect is evil, that is what matters.  THAT is what one has to look at in their heart if they truly want to be devoid of evil. It’s not easy because it demands looking at self in a raw and unflinching way. But it can be done.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

The full quote is, “No man chooses evil because it is evil, they just mistake it for happiness, the good he seeks.” – Mary Shelley, 1797-1851, English writer

An interesting note: Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, one of the most succinct examples of someone thinking they are doing good when in fact they are doing evil. I read it a few years back and while it has a very dated and florid style to it, it’s well worth a read.


Church and Art – Comparative Religions

Beyond the Spiritual

In many ways beyond the spiritual (is there something beyond spiritual?) becoming a Christian has defined my life. I became ‘born again’ in 1976 in LA, right at the height of the Jesus Freak movement. I started going to the first Vineyard Christian Fellowship, got baptized in the Pacific Ocean and stuck with non-denominational churches and college fellowship groups all through my college years.  I met my first wife, Kathy, in a college fellowship group, that brought me in contact with her family, who included the single best example of living the true Christian life I’ve ever come across, my father-in-law Dwight Johnson.  Boy, did I learn a lot from that man, I am so grateful for him.

© Elliot Erwitt

Judgment and it’s Offsets

An interesting clarifying moment for me came when I went to art graduate school in Michigan in 1980. One the one side I was in a very intensely free and creative environment at school. On the other I was attending a Baptist church my wife and I had found near where we lived. And what did I find? Both groups tended to be a bit judgmental of the other, no doubt about it.  But the art group, in spite of their liberality, were the more judgmental of the two, by far. I thought long and hard about why that was. What I discovered as I watched the two groups was, that in spite of the judgmental elements in the teachings at church, there was an even stronger element that offset that (at least in that church and the other churches I had attended), and that was teachings of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility, patience, kindness, and love.

Now, I don’t mean that no one in the art group had any of those traits, of course they did. But as a group they did not have any focused or guided attention paid to those things. i In this case, it was a very intensely judgmental art atmosphere. We were there to refine our art and that happened by putting it in the fire of judgment. But there was no teaching or guiding on the part of the main professor I had, nor the other professors I came in contact with, that offset that with the qualities I mentioned above.

Judgment #1 – © 2017 Marty Coleman

Both Can

Many decades have passed since then and I’ve been in the art world and the church world both for all those years. I like both worlds, and there are things I don’t like about them. Church can squash creativity and free thinking like it’s nobody’s business. But the art world, as odd as it sounds, can do the same. The church and art worlds can both make you feel like you don’t belong.  They can both define the world and culture around them as unacceptable because it doesn’t fit their idea of healthy or happy. They can both be so sure of themselves that they feel superior and enlightened compared to everyone else.

Cross and Dagger – © 2017 Marty Coleman

Best of All

What are you suppose to do in that situation? What I reach for is to be the best of both as best I can. But how does one do that? By practicing. Just as my artwork is better because I practice it, so is my heart, my mind and my actions in all of life when I practice those things I mentioned above; mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility (ok, not always good at that) patience, kindness, and love. It also means I practice judgment. Practicing judgments causes me to use it less, not more. It helps me to discern between pre-judgment, a judgment from a place of ignorance and a judgment from a place of insecurity and defense, and the more powerful and good limited judgment based on observation, evidence and necessity.

Art and Witness – © 2017 Marty Coleman


You don’t get better at something without practice. If you don’t want to get better, then…sorry, you still have to practice because you can’t even maintain your skills without it. This is true of creativity and spirituality and indeed, any quality of character you want to have in life. Finding a way to be inspired to practice any these things is one of the essential tasks of a successful life.

What do you think?

Nude Being Drawn – © 2017 Marty Coleman


Being Blown Away – Discovery #5

Creative Flow

Recently I had a person ask if I ever have a creative block. I said no, and went on a bit about why. But I this quote explains my way of thinking perfectly.

  • “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” – Chuck Close

That is what happens with my napkin drawings, with my sketchbook drawings, with almost everything I do creatively. In this drawing I started with the quote. In my napkin drawings the quote is my inspiration point. It is the one that causes something to occur to me.  In this case I was on live streaming video talking to some people and thinking out loud about what an illustration of this drawing might entail. The act of visualizing love and war led me to imagine what the participants’ thoughts might be. Then I had my aha moment of the lover and fighter saying almost the exact same thing. But I wouldn’t have come up with that just by sitting around waiting. It was the act of creating the drawing that caused the prompting of my mind.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“In love we discover who we want to be. In war we discover who we are.” – Kristen Hannah, American author of ‘The Nightingale’ which I highly recommend. Interestingly enough, her FAQ page has a very telling statement at the bottom, similar to Close’s quote above.

  • “Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of writers come and go — published and unpublished — and what I’ve learned is that the ones who make it keep writing no matter what. When life is tough, they write; when the kids are sick, they write; when rejections pile up, they write. Are you seeing a pattern? That’s really what this career is ultimately about. Showing up at your computer day after day to hone your craft. Of course you should take classes and read other peoples’ books and study as much as you can, but none of it can ever take the place of daily work.”




Advantages of Being Disorganized – Discovery #4

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Forgetful Rememberings

I consider myself to be average level forgetful. Not terrible, but not an iron-clad rememberer either.  BUT…just now I remembered I have to be sure to get program shirts for two participants in my running program, something I forgot yesterday.  I also have remembered 3 times overnight that I need to bring the car in today for a check up, something I forgot in between those rememberings. I also have forgotten where I have put my gloves or glasses or something, only to find them in a pocket of a coat I haven’t worn in a month.


But does that mean I am disorganized? Not really. It means my organization works well in some ways and not well in others.  How does it work well? By having visual reminders. Being an artist, I am all about the visual. If I have a visual signal I more often than not will know what it is I am supposed to be doing, where something might be, when I should be somewhere.  Once again, it is iron-clad, but it is reliable. That is why I like having a calendar, writing notes to myself, leaving things out where I can see them.

How does it not work well for me?  When I put something out-of-order and don’t give myself a way to later clue myself into what it is I did. This could be wearing a jacket I barely ever wear and leaving my gloves in them when I take it off.  It means scheduling something that barely ever happens, like a dentist appointment or car check up, and thinking I will just miraculously remember it a month or six months later. That’s not going to happen.

The Ultimate

Of course the ultimate rememberer for me would be an assistant. Then THEY would be the ones who would have to figure out some kind of trick to remember all the things I need to remember!

How do you remember well?

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.” – A. A. Milne, 1882-1956. English author primarily known for his ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ series of children’s books.

The Greatest Obstacle – Discovery #3

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Sunday School Question

We had an interesting question asked of us in Sunday School this week (adults call it ‘community group’ but I like Sunday School).  The question was this:  Tell us of a time you changed your mind about something.

The answers were all over the map, from the profound to the trivial. Linda’s was changing her mind about discomfort. She used to hate being uncomfortable and avoided exercise. Then she realized it is always temporary and she can get through it, so she has changed her mind.  Mine was changing my mind about what it means to be white. My paradigm about this shifted changed when I read the book, ‘Between the World and Me’ by Te-Nehisi Coates.  Another person said he had changed his mind about many social issues, going from being socially conservative to being more liberal.  Another person said she had changed her mind about salads and vegetables, having hated them and now liking them. That may seem trivial but I don’t think it is because it will have profound consequences in her health and life.

I thought of this question when I came back and finished drawing this napkin. Discovery is often about changing your mind about something. You believe something, maybe subconsciously and unspoken or maybe not, and then you discover something new and it changes your mind.

The Threat is You

The problem, as this quote suggests, is that discovery won’t come, and certainly won’t be initiated, if you already think you know something so surely that you aren’t willing to contemplate something that would threaten it. Without the willingness to discover, to be enlightened, to consider ideas uncontemplated, you must have a certain level of security and you must have a certain level of interest in something beyond yourself.

It is a very sad, pitiful and especially worrisome when the person unable or unwilling to discover new things is in a position of power over others.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel Boorstin, 1914-2004, American historian and Librarian of Congress.


Hidden Discoveries – Discovery #2

Man, is this ever an odd one! When I start with a quote I don’t understand very well I usually end up with an illustration I understand even less. Then again the quote is about things hidden and not understood so … never mind, it totally makes sense to me now.

“We discover in ourselves what others hide from us and we recognize in others what we hide from ourselves.” – Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

It’s No Accident – Discovery #1

While I was drawing this napkin one of my many millions of live streaming fans said, “If this is true then an accident isn’t an accident at all”. At which point I ordered a ban on this person and had them deported. No, just joking. What I really did was every so gently explain why this person was so egregiously wrong. I then finished the drawing, came into my office and scanned it, then started writing this commentary.

However I had real work to do (work that makes me almost minimum wage I will have you know) and put this aside after writing the first sentence above. I came back to it this morning and can’t remember her reasoning anymore. Probably because it was so non-sensical but maybe because I am old and senile. Anyway, I remember something else she said and I am going to effectively rebut that instead.

She said, “That would mean the first person who saw fire discovered fire”. I said, “No, you are wrong” and deported her. Wait, I already said that joke. Ok, what I really did was say, “No, the first person who found a USE for fire discovered it. It’s not just seeing something that is the discovery, it’s knowing what to do with it that is.”

At that point she bowed down in front of me and pledge eternal faithfulness to my intellectual superiority. Or she said “pfffft” and we moved on to talking about the new shades I had just put up. I can’t remember now.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, 1893-1986, Hungarian-American Physiologist. He is the discoverer of Vitamin C.

This original drawing is for SALE and you should buy it! Or, you can always by a print of it for much cheaper.

But & And – A Short Short Story

But and And

She was stuck in the middle of somewhere but wasn’t sure where that was and that made her feel lost and scared but she did like her shirt and how her necklace matched her hair but she was self-conscious about her freckles because it was so weird that she had only three of them in each location on her face and she did like her new eyelash extensions that she had never used before but were given to her by her friend who she thought she might see so she wore them but now she doubted it because she didn’t know where she was even though she knew she was somewhere and then her ears started burning bright red which was not usual because she was usually blue but it made her look around and she saw a teepee in the distance not far from a big city that only confused her because she knew she had somewhere to go now but wasn’t sure where because they both looked attractive and both her ears were burning meaning both places were talking about her so she decided to wait and think about it some more.

The End

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – Success #5

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When it is Good

There is a funny tradition in running. It is that when you run a race you can wear your medal all day long, no matter what you do. Go to lunch? Wear it. Go to the gas station? Wear it. Whatever you do, it’s cool. We also think it’s sometimes cool to bring your medal to show others, perhaps to work or school the next week, or maybe to a gathering of friends who you think might like to see it. Yes, it’s a form of boasting and us runners are ok with that. We like telling the world what we have done. Partly it’s for the ego strokes and partly it’s because we want to encourage others. When we have end of the season parties runners will often wear whatever medals they have won during that time period to show others. We will tell people how we did, good or bad. Often the ‘bad’ races make for much more interesting stories.  Sometimes there is a ‘humble brag’ moment. That’s where you tell how bad you did, but oh, by the way, you had a personal record in spite of that. All of it is fun, supportive and communal. We all get it.

When it is Bad

What we don’t do is wear our medals every single day. We don’t tell people we ran this or that race again and again and again. We don’t try to one up each other by interrupting a story to tell that we went faster than they did or farther. We don’t demean or diminish other’s success no matter if is greater than or less than our own.  We don’t try to make ourselves look better than we are.  We don’t ignore others when they tell their stories of success. We know that we are all rooting for each other.

When it is Ugly

It is not often this happens but when it does, it is ugly. That is when a runner is so insecure that they lie about their accomplishments. Worse yet, when they cheat to achieve them. That is why there is nothing worse in the running community than when someone takes a shortcut in a race to appear to have a better time.  That level of dishonesty and deception shows a deep level of insecurity and immorality.  That person has been poisoned with the delusion that appearing to be something makes it so.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is it makes you farther from being what you want to appear to be. It is ugly, it is hurtful and it is counter-productive to the progress of anyone who indulges in it.

More and Less

The same is true in any field. In politics, academia, business, creativity, etc. The more you obsessively boast of your success, the less success you will actually have.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Sir Arthur Helps, 1813-1875, English Writer – Interesting read about his life in this and other articles.


The Woman at the Motel – A Short Short Story

The Woman at the Motel

A woman named Nancy at the Del Mar Motel who has 3 kids and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses & always reads the sports section because her dad was a high school football coach who talked about her son with ADHD & Tourette Syndrome whom they adopted from the next town over in Orange County and took to Hawaii on his 6th birthday and hoped he didn’t think he would always get trips like that and who is trying to think ahead about real estate for her kids’ future.

The End


Drawing and story by Marty Coleman

The Claims Upon You – Success #4

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In mining a person stakes a claim to a plot of land, registers it with the mining office and then mines it. What they find is theirs. In relationships some people do the same thing. The jealous boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse, the micro-managing boss, or the needy friend all stake their claim to you. You become entrapped in their claim and your life is no longer your own. You are doing what they want you to do how they want you to do it. It is absurd and maddening.

Society’s Claims

But there is another sort of claim made upon us that is harder to figure out. For example, this morning I heard a report about a woman who was complaining about her company because her boss made her wear high heels to work. She wore flats one day and got in trouble because the dress code called for heels. Is it an ‘absurd, maddening claim’ or is it a reasonable one?

Which is Which?

I work at Fleet Feet as a coach. They want me to wear their products when I am coaching, not the products from other stores. That is a fair claim upon my employment. However, if Fleet Feet required that I wear only short sleeve shirts when I run, even if it is freezing outside, that would be absurd and maddening, as well as dangerous.

The same is true of the woman in heels. If she works for a company manufacturing or selling high heeled shoes then requiring her to wear them would not be absurd. If she works for a company where everyone wears a uniform and that uniform includes heels for women then it might be ok or not, depending on how necessary the heels are, how harmful they may be to wear over long periods of time, etc. But if they are simply wanting her to wear them for no other reason but that some guy at the top thinks women look better in heels than in flats, that would be absurd and maddening. It is also sexist.

Fighting It

How do you fight it? The number one thing is stand firm from the very beginning of the relationship or job. That way you become known as someone who everyone else knows will resist allowing absurd and maddening claims to be laid upon you. Two caveats though; First, remember, not all claims upon you are absurd or maddening and second, if you are too serious or angry about it all the time then you will be seen as contentious and hard to get along with, even by those who agree with you. Having a sense of humor and a light touch in what you say and do can go a long way to both appealing to those who are claiming you and resisting them at the same time.

Then you will be a success on your own terms.

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Christopher Morley, 1890 – 1957, American writer and journalist. “There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it.”


The House of Dumb – Success #3

The House of Dumb

Here are Dick and Jane,
Prince and Princess of their Domain.
They have fans galore.
They are admired and adored.

They travel the world in luxury,
Never stopping to think or worry.
Their servants take care of this and that
Even their crowns (which they call hats).

They went to school but learned not a thing
Of common sense or reasoning.
They didn’t have to because they told,
Their daddy had a big billfold.

One day they were marching right,
Loving being in the light.
When they ran into something they didn’t see
A sign that read ‘you’re lousy.’

Dick and Jane thrashed in rage,
Like animals in a terrible cage,
That the crowd and daddy had allowed
The sign to be in the way somehow.

They demanded it be taken away,
To an ugly field and burned today.
Their daddy did as he was told
And Dick and Jane, on they rolled.

They learned nothing from hitting the lousy sign,
And thought their life was simply fine.
But one day their money did go poof,
And where it went there was no proof.

Then their daddy died and went away,
And none of their fans wanted to stay,
Now that the money and glamour were gone,
On Dick and Jane they would not fawn.

Dick and Jane never knew why,
They were no longer adored to the sky.
All they knew was they were poor,
And had to open their own doors.

Dick and Jane got old and grey,
And never went out to march or play.
They died one day in mid-July,
Never knowing they lived a lie.

Writers told the story later,
Of Dick and Jane and all their haters.
They became known as being from,
The very last of the House of Dumb.

The End

Drawing and poem © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Bill Gates, 1955 – not dead yet, American businessperson and philanthropist.  – “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”



If you are an artist then playing with line and color is a great way to experiment with ideas. You aren’t trying to accomplish something grand ,even if you end up with something grand. You are simply enjoying creating playing. No pressure, no expectations, no stress. One of the great things about this freedom is that it allows your creativity to flourish. As a result you can very easily end up with something pretty cool.
I have been playing with image making on my ipad mini for a few years now. I started by making digital portraits and eventually that led to overlaying patterns on top of the portraits that I would then play with. Eventually I started just playing with the patterns minus the portraits. This is what you see here.  Let me know what you think!

Finishing the Journey – Success #2

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My Achilles Surgery Journey So Far

Leaving the Port

I recently had Achilles Tendon surgery to get rid of some nasty bone spurs in my left heel.  It was 6 years in the making before I actually made the decision to have the surgery. It was actually pretty easy for me to not only decide to do it but to actually have the surgery. All I had to do was lay back and let it happen.

Leaving Sight of Shore

The time immediately after the surgery wasn’t that hard either. I went home, rolled around on my little knee scooter for 4 weeks in a cast. It was annoyingly inconvenient and painful now and then but it wasn’t really hard. Then I got out of the cast and got in a walking boot for two weeks. That was a bit harder because I was meeting resistance, I was pushing the heel a bit and it was not happy about it. It meant more pain and more worry. But it still wasn’t that hard. I was restricted by the boot in what I could do and the pain level was high enough that I could pretty easily tell when I had gone too far.

On the Open Sea

And now it is 10 weeks after surgery, the boot is off and it has become harder. Why? Because my willingness to actively work on the recovery is front and center. I have no external restrictions, only my own judgment of how far to push, when to pull back, when to push again.  It’s all up to me, even if I do have advice from a Dr. and help from a Physical Therapist. And what is helping me decide all this? Having my home port in mind. What is my final destination?

Entering the Port

My final destination is to be back to running healthy and run a marathon by the one year anniversary of the surgery. That is the port I am sailing for. That is how I will know if my voyage has been successful.  Now, the truth is I could be blown off course by something beyond my control and have to recalibrate that goal. That is always the case in any endeavor. But I am not overly worried about things I can’t control. What I am focused on is what can I control? I can control my dedication to reaching my goal and I can control the actions I take to reach them.

While every step is important, knowing your final port of call is really critical because otherwise it’s very hard to gauge if you are being successful in your endeavor or not.  It also becomes V]very hard to want to go through the pain and unexpected setbacks that are always apart of a substantial journey without a positive goal ahead.

So, set your sails and prepare for that journey you want to take. You can do it!

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-1887, Congregationalist Minister and Abolitionist



People on the Street – London and Paris

Street Photography

One of my favorite things to do when I go on vacation is street photography, meaning not photos of streets, but photos of the action on the street. It really means action most anywhere; in stores, at famous monuments, etc. The only defining factor is that it is spontaneous and, for the most part, not posed.

In the early summer of 2015 my wife Linda, daughter Caitlin, and I went to London and Paris. These are a selection of the photos I took on the streets of these two amazing cities. Each photo I think captures an essence of the moment in a way that staged photos can’t. After each photo I have given some ideas of what I was looking for and what you can also look for when you do street photography.


Selfie Kiss at Versailles  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

The main thing about street photography is you have to be ready. No fumbling, no settings, no focusing even. You have to get that shot as if it’s a breaking news story, right now right there. In this case I had already noticed her bright red (and long) fingernails so I was attuned to her.

I also knew there was a rare empty space not filled with people behind her and watched for a moment to see if something interesting might compose itself. And when she raised her arm I knew what was coming and raised my camera.

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Stripes  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Street photography is about visual stimulation. Your eye drives the process and you have to respond quickly. The decision-making has to be immediate or the moment has passed. In this case I already had my finger on the shutter button as I happened to see this woman with the bold striped dress coming towards me. I didn’t think about it I just pushed the button.

The other thing about street photography is the fun of not really knowing what you captured. The stripes were interesting, yes. But getting the other striped shirt and the person walking right between them was fun to discover later and it’s what makes the photograph as a whole visually stimulating to me.

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Standing Nudes, Sitting People  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Juxtaposition is a key element in the commentary in much street photography. The interaction between people, objects, environment, and light add to the visual conversation.

In this case the verticality and solidity of the sculptures played off the very slack and loose poses of the sitters. I loved the humorous juxtaposition of their poses and of the nudity vs clothing so I pushed the button.  If you notice, the camera is not up at my eye level. I had it around my neck hanging to my stomach and took the photo from there. I could have chosen to raise it up, it wouldn’t have bothered me to be seen taking the photo, but having the sitters be midway between the sculptures was key to the composition and feeling of the image so I kept the camera at waist level.

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Bride and Locks  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Doing street photography means you are always looking for great angles. Sometimes that means you have to imagine what something would look like from a different angle from the one you are at. Keeping the camera at your face and thinking that is the only image available limits your choices considerably.

In this case there was no doubt I was going to take a photo of this bride on the bridge full of locks. The question was what angle would best tell the story? There was way to much clutter in the image when I was standing up so I squatted down very low and put the camera even lower, almost to the ground, to get the shot.  This is one of the reasons an articulating screen at the back of the camera is essential to street photography, so you can see very low or very high.

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Two Sisters and a Ceiling  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Not only is what height your camera is at something to consider, but where it is pointing as well. To limit yourself to only pointing forward or slightly up or down means once again you are limiting yourself and the possible images you can get.

Here I, along with thousands of others, were looking up at the ceilings in Versailles. But what I saw wasn’t just the ceilings but everyone else taking photos of those same ceilings. I angled my camera from my waist directly up to catch that phenomenon.  In this photo I was walking quickly and just barely caught these two women out of the corner of my eye. I turned, snapped and moved on. I didn’t know what the image looked like until well after we were done with the tour and on the way back to Paris on the train.

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Bride and Groom at Notre Dame  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

In street photography something unexpected is always just around the corner. The best shots aren’t always going to be in main areas of tourism or activity. They more likely will happen as you are walking to or from those areas. Having your camera on and ready (and with the lens cap off!) is critical. I can’t tell you how many photos I have missed in my life because of one of these reasons.

Having your camera set to multiple photos at one time is also key. In this case, I saw the bride and groom walking down the street and kept my finger on the button until just the right time and then held it down. I got about 3-4 shots and was able to choose the best one from the bunch as a result.

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Place to Kiss  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

When we walk around a city we see the fluidity of time and motion. As a result we often don’t see examples of anticipation. But the still photograph from the street can often capture just that right moment.

Here these two people were drinking and talking and flirting, all the while seeming to hem and haw about the funny sign right next to them. I got the feeling they wanted to kiss but weren’t sure how to go about it, especially when there was a sign directing them to do so!

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Four Portraits at the Musée d’Orsay  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

When you do street photography you are going to get motion. And motion means blur. This is not a bad thing. Blur is a tool of expression. It expresses movement, action, direction, energy. Don’t reject an image because of it but instead evaluate how the blur may help the image.

There is usually no more static place in the world than a museum. But people walk around them all the time and that means movement. Here I was able to capture a bit of both the action and the static at the same time. I had a number of other shots from right around this same moment, but this was by far the best because the blur of the woman in the stripes on the far left balanced out the strong and isolated image of the nude by Renoir on the right.

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The Singer and the Thames  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Isolation is another important element in street photography.  Isolation means visual power and weight and it can be used to tell a story.

On the banks of the Thames in London I was watching the hundreds of people go by before I went in to see the Tate Modern Museum.  This singer with his small speaker and music machine was entertaining the crowd. But all I saw was him alone next to this giant river. I set myself up to capture an image that showed how I saw him in the midst of the crowd.

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The Fascinator  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Style is everywhere on the street. Ignore it and you miss a million fantastic shots. Find it and you will have a never-ending well of ideas and opportunities.

While we were in London we took the train into a certain station to transfer.  When we got off we started seeing an unexpected amount of men and women dressed to the nines. I mean they were really going all out. If it had been on a weekend night it would maybe make sense. But this was at 9am on a weekday morning. What was going on? I didn’t know, but I knew I was going to have my camera ready to go. This woman was walking by with panache and purpose and I immediately angled myself to make sure I got a photo as she passed.

Later we discovered it was the Queen’s Day at the races and everyone was going to the station to travel out to the track.

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The Woman at the Seine  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

In staged photos we most often will see a lot of people smiling.  But staged smiling usually only says one thing. What is great in street photography is to find true expressions that aren’t staged. That are a result of a person’s true feelings coming out.

Here that feeling is sublime joy and happiness. It can be felt in much more than just the Mona Lisa smile she has. It’s in everything her face and body is doing.  Always be ready for that moment where you are capturing true feelings because those are what will let people know as much about a place as any monument or building.

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Mannequin and Walker  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Street photography can get very personal. People can see you take photos, some think it is a violation, others couldn’t care less and you don’t know who will react how. If you believe in capturing the life of the street you have to be bold and courageous to do so. Sometimes that means you have the opportunity to ask permission but other times you do not.

I was walking near our Airbnb apartment in Paris early one morning, on my way to the cafe where I had been drawing each morning when I saw this scene. I was focused on the mannequin in the window with the sunrise reflecting off the building when this woman walked by. She had been looking down at her phone but looked up right as a took the shot.  She was past me in a second and that was that. I don’t know what her emotions were about seeing me as I was taking pictures and I am not assuming I know. But I had to have the courage to take the photo without knowing that.

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Seeing Versailles  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Bold graphic elements are everywhere in street photography. Windows, doors, people can all be seen not as what they are but as formal devices to frame or direct an image compositionally.  This is especially true if you are going to shoot in Black and White or are thinking in terms of BW when you later work on the image.

I didn’t see an image of Versailles here. I saw an image of how Versailles is to be seen.  Finding a set of elements composed so they show a third person’s view is something for which you should always be on the look out. It tells a story much more effectively than just a photo of a place.

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Escalation  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

Lines direct one’s vision. Finding those lines and using them to create mystery or wonder is one of the joys of street photography.

We were headed down into the London Tube and I was standing behind this elegantly styled woman. All I could see were all these lines converging behind her and really wanted to capture that. Once again I simply took the photo from where the camera was hanging around my neck.  Being low created a giant black shape in the middle of the image. We know it is her but visually it’s a void, allowing one to imagine what is behind even more than imagining her.

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The Poser in Paris  –  © Marty Coleman 2017

People are always posing for something. Street photography allows you to capture when people are posing, not for you, but for someone else.

We took a walk along the banks of the Seine and what caught my eye first was the profound geometry everywhere. The lines were formal and abstract and I was trying to find just the right combination of elements when I saw this woman posing for a caricaturist.  She leant just the right amount of warmth and humanity to the otherwise severe composition so I took a number of photos. This one, with her gaze going completely off camera, was the one that really expressed how I saw Paris at that moment.

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So, there you have it. A little tour of London and Paris. It’s probably a lot different from what you would find among tourist photos. But maybe these photos give you a different understanding of the two cities. One that is more about the mood and feeling of a place than a recitation of its monuments and objects.  That is what street photography can do for you and your appreciation for a place.  It is also what it can do for others who see the photos, giving them an idea of what it’s like to be in and around a city, to feel they know a place at a more intimate level.

Give street photography a try, you won’t regret. And by all means let me know how it goes and let me see some of your photos!


Each of these photos is for sale. Price is $50.00 plus shipping.  Please contact me at marty@napkindad.com if you are interested. Give me the name of the piece and we can go from there!  I can receive payment and ship internationally.

Believe It! – Success #1

Who do you think you are?  

Why do I ask this? Because you won’t ever become someone you don’t think you are.  Don’t think you are an artist? You won’t become one.  Don’t think you are able to start or run a business? You won’t start or run one.


So, how do you become something you are not? To answer that question you have to answer this one first, ‘how do you come to believe you can be that person?’ My first wife, Kathy, was never very confident about herself and her abilities. But by the time we had our three daughters and they were in or reaching school age, Kathy had received her teaching credential and had taught for a few years. She also had been around a number of families at our church who home schooled their kids for a number of years. The combination of the two experiences plus her own comfort with our children led her to believe she could home school our daughters, which we did for 3 years.

In other words, she had faith that she could get it done. She gained that faith by education, observation, and experience.  I think those three elements are the keys to achieving your great goal.

  • Education – In most, but not all, cases, learning is key to giving yourself the confidence that you can do or be something. It might be formal training or it might be you self-teaching online, but learning more and more about the area you want to explore always helps, if not for you, for those who you must persuade to trust you in a future endeavor.
  • Observation – When you look around you, you can see things being achieved. How is that happening? What skills, behaviors, attitudes and connections to these achievers have?  Being aware of what others have needed to succeed will help you do the same. While in much of life it is not good to compare yourself to others, it is good in other ways.  This is one of them. Now, you may find that the comparison is unflattering to you. BUT then again, you might find it is favorable, or maybe it is irrelevant.  The point is, do not be afraid to evaluate how you stack up to others in this endeavor.  Self-criticism and self-knowledge of where you stand is essential to moving forward.
  • Experience – Sometimes when we look at biographies of achievers it seems this step is skipped. For example, Cheryl Strayed walked the Pacific Coast Trail and wrote about it in her memoir ‘Wild’. She had ZERO experience hiking but she did it, right?  Nope. She actually only did one day without experience. The second day she had the experience of the first day under her belt. Yes, to truly do it right she should have had a lot more experience, but to say she had none for the journey is to ignore what you learn along the way.  So, yes it is possible to start with no experience. But it is impossible to get half way with none and certainly impossible to finish with none.  The key is to be aware of the experience as it happens, to learn from it so you can immediately apply it, sometimes within minutes or hours of starting on a task.

These three things are what you need to become who you want to become and to do what you want to do.

So, start gathering them up and go for it!

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“Faith that the thing can be done is essential to any great achievement.” Quote by Thomas N. Carruther.

This original drawing or a print are available for purchase. Matte and frame are also available.

Resolutions – 2017

And be specific and be quantifiable and be actionable and be realistic and be something you actually want to do!

Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote by Charles M. Sheldon, 1857-1946, American Congregationalist Preacher and leader of the Social Gospel movement.

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”

I Like Commercialism – Christmas 2016


I like Commercialism because I like presents. I like buying presents for my family and loved ones. I like sending them, bringing, them, opening them, sharing them. I like thinking about what to get and I like discovering cool things to get while I am going to get what I planned to get.


I like making presents too. But if I don’t make them that is ok. I like buying presents other people made and giving them. I like buying manufactured presents as well, since they are made by people too.


I like wrapping presents so they look nice under the tree and in the lap of the person who is about to open it.  I like the look on their face when they see something they weren’t expecting but are happy to get. I think it is funny to look at that same face when they get something they weren’t expecting and aren’t happy to get but are faking it.


I like getting presents. I like seeing what people thought I would like. I like trying on new clothes and sweaters and stuff to see if they fit and then showing them to the rest of the family. I like when my family does that as well. I like the funny items I get that are completely useless and would never be bought but for Christmas. I like how completely ridiculous they are, and how funny.


I think gift giving is love and if we focus most of that in one season, it’s fine by me. If that means much of the economic world revolves around that season, that is fine by me too.  It’s going to revolve around something and gift giving is as good a thing as anything else in my book.


It’s easy to say ‘I hate the commercialism of Christmas’.  But do you hate the gift giving of Christmas? If you don’t hate the gift giving than maybe it’s time to see the commercialism in a new light. The light of your love for those you give gifts to. I like to think of it like that.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Hamilton Wright Mabie, 1846-1916, American Essayist and Lecturer

Intelligent Life – The Universe #2

Science Fiction

Funny how Science Fiction always shows aliens coming here who are way more advanced than we are.  But if they were so advanced so as to be able to get here, wouldn’t they be advanced enough to know they would be wading into a big mess and avoid us? I am being funny but for a purpose.

Our point of view is always that we are the most intelligent thing around. But in science fiction we often assume more intelligent beings out there somewhere. But doesn’t that assume they are learning the same things we are in roughly the same order? But how do we know that? And, more importantly, how do we know what it is we don’t know yet?

Intelligent Predictions

The answer is, we don’t. There are predictors that sometimes can be somewhat accurate in the short term (meaning 10-100 years) but beyond that time frame the organic evolution of our science, technology, society, etc. is simply not predictable with any level of certainty.  I mean, think about it, who could have predicted 500 years ago that we would have communication devices in our pocket that could send pictures through the air? Or that we would discover that other animals on earth have very complex and sophisticated social and communication structures coming close to our own in many ways? Or that there are microscopic life forms in and on our bodies that we can’t live without?

So, yes, there might be ‘intelligent’ life forms out there, but how and why they are intelligent is probably not something we have even guessed at yet. And that allows us to keep thinking creatively about it, but it should also keep us humble about what we think might be out there as well.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008, British Author

The original drawing or a print are available for purchase.  Matte and frame are also available.

Allowing Our Purpose – Universe #1

Purchase the original drawing | purchase a print | available framed!

The Immature Purpose

The immature among us like to divide things into extreme categories.

A simplistic religious person wants to see anyone who doesn’t believe in a personal God as having no purpose. They want to feel sorry for them because it meets their need to feel enlightened and special. They have  a purpose from God and these other people don’t.

A simplistic non-religious on the other hand wants to see a religious person as living under an illusion of purpose. They want to feel sorry for them because it meets their need to feel intellectually superior.  Their existence and happiness is enough of a purpose and those other people are woefully deluded.

The Mature Purpose

The mature among us are willing to admit that the complexity of life doesn’t lend itself to dividing things up so neatly.

A complex religious person will admit that while they believe they have a purpose directed from God there are many times they don’t know that purpose. They also will admit that that purpose is constantly evolving as they grow. It might be growth in terms of age and experience or perhaps growth in their spiritual relationship with God.  They will also admit that not knowing their purpose in life at every single moment is not critical to their success in life. There are great mysteries they admit to and are willing to live with that.  They also will learn that to judge others’ journey of finding purpose (or not) is not one of their purposes in life.

A complex non-religious person will admit that while they are often satisfied with their purpose simply being to exist and be happy, there are other times they doubt and wonder about that, and are sometimes drawn to see if their might be more than that. They will also admit that they sometimes admire the surety with which a religious person feels their purpose so strongly. They will realize that just as they are on their journey of finding purpose (or not) so others are as well and it’s not their purpose in life to judge other people’s journeys.

Where are you in your search for purpose (or not)?

Drawing, quote and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com


Time for Friends – Friendship #6


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The Napkin Kin

I do a lot of live streaming video. I have a regular group that views and contributes. They are called the Napkin Kin.  New people come in every day as well. Many of them become part of the group.  But there is a particular brand of person who comes in to the broadcasts who never become part of the group. Who are they? They are the ones who demand I connect with them immediately. They tell me to follow them on Instagram and on Snapchat and on Facebook and on whatever other social media site they can think of.  The insistently demand I go take a look at their portfolio or pictures or stories and get back to them.  They also might be the type who wants to know my opinion on something like the recent election.

Self, Self, Self

I am immediately put off by these people. I will be nice to them but if they continue I call them out.

I speak directly to them and say, “You haven’t taken one second to get to know me or the others in this broadcast. You haven’t contributed to the conversation. You haven’t asked questions or listened to what is being said. You have no idea who we are or what we are about and yet you want me, and the rest of the group, to immediately drop what we are doing and go look at your sites.  You want us to be your friend and yet you haven’t done anything to warrant us wanting to be that for you. Let’s start over. You come in again and pay attention. Find out what is going on in this broadcast, introduce yourself, and in general get to know us.  Then, as that is happening, we will naturally get to know you as well. It won’t take long since we are a friendly and curious bunch.”

And that little speech actually works sometimes.

Mutual, I’m Sure

And isn’t that true in our in-person lives as well?  I certainly am wary of someone who befriends me just for the purpose of getting something from me or wanting some attention from me. But, as just happened this morning while I was writing this, if someone I already know comes to me requesting a favor or asking a question, I am enthusiastic about helping them out. I am not talking about helping a stranger. I am talking about investing in someone who is obviously only pursuing the friendship for their own gain.

Building mutual care and concern is how friendships grow, not by sucking a virtual stranger’s attention for selfish ends.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Ethel Barrymore,  1879-1959, American Actress


The Poem About My Senses


The Poem About My Senses

I have a poem in my head,
Not fancy or complete.
Actually pretty basic,
mundane but pretty sweet.

Don’t know what it’s all about,
That’s the point of it I think.
But I know It’s sort of funny,
And includes the color pink.

It includes the smell of coffee,
And maybe the passage of time.
I don’t really remember,
But it’s simple in it’s rhyme.

It has an image of windows,
With sun filtering the air.
That flows all around me,
And lands on my hair.

There is a taste of a croissant,
Somewhere in the verse.
And the texture of an almond,
as it falls into my purse.

That’s all I remember,
Of the poem within my head.
It makes me glad to to be alive,
Instead of being dead.

Drawing and poem © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

This drawing was done at the Glenpool, Oklahoma Starbucks.

It is available for purchase, either the original for $100.00, or a print for $25.00


Making and Keeping Friends – Friendship #5


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The Other Thing I Did

While I was drawing on napkins for my daughters back in the 90s I also was doing something else. I was saying goodbye to them at the door. Each day I would say pretty much the same thing. I would say I love you then I would say “Don’t forget, Make good friends and keep good friends.”  Why I came up with that particular phrase, I don’t know. But I would say it every day.  And I meant it.


What I wanted for them was a growing, vibrant community. A community doesn’t happen without friendships, a growing community doesn’t happen without new friendships and a vibrant community doesn’t happen without diverse friends. That is why I said that to them.

The Purpose of Diversity

When I say diverse, I don’t mean you have to have a rainbow of skin colors to prove it. I think that would help but only insofar as it’s an outward visual of what is an internal diversity. In other words, the important thing isn’t that your friend has dark brown, red, orange, alabaster or freckled skin. What is important is that you are experiencing, at least some of the time, a person with a life experience different than yours. A life experience you can learn and grow from knowing AND that your friend can benefit from by knowing you.

Courage Over Fear

How do you gather such friends? Yes, by going out into the world. But that isn’t enough. You have to go out into the world with courage and an open heart or else you will simply be carrying your fear around with you and will miss meeting those new friends.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote by Yours Truly


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