A look into the inspiration behind the work.

Jayhawk Fans at Old Chicago

Jayhawk Fans at Old Chicago by Michelle Leivan

An evening with good friends, new beer to try, great food to eat and an exciting game to watch at Old Chicago Topeka is always something worth experiencing. Last Wednesday night (1/9/2013) Chuck and I were looking forward to joining members of our Kansas Trivia League rivalry “The Brew Crew” to enjoy an evening of “Kill the Keg Introduction Goose Island” which offers the chance to try a few new beers from a single Brewer.  Although we see these people nearly every week, we seldom get the opportunity to enjoy their company, because of course during the game we don’t spend time connecting because competition is stiff and quite serious.

The evening  started out with an enjoyable flight of three new tasty beers (Goose Island Brand: Sofie, Bourbon County Brand Stout and Matilda – all fantastic beers) and ended with the Jayhawks pulling a losing game against Temple University into a tie at one second to go and eventually securing the win in overtime. I was fascinated with the social phenomena of people talking at the screens and encouraging their team to make the tie happen. Then some had already given up hope, “Oh, man I wouldn’t want to be on that team the day after losing in ‘The Phog’. They will certainly know the true force of the warning ‘Beware all who enter”.  The mood was tense and during those last few moments everyone in the bar was riveted to the screens, then when the tie shot was made, the entire bar exploded with excitement. 

In this piece are my husband Chuck Leivan and one our trivia rivals, Sarah Carver, enjoying those last few moments at our table and in the background you can also see the Old Chicago manager, Todd, behind the bar drawn to watch the tense moments just before the tie happened.  A memorable evening with our own competition both drawn into a fever pitch intensely as highly competitive teams strive in the final moments a seemingly evenly matched game that harvests every eye in the establishment making every witness a fan.

P.S. Here is my critique of the three beers we tasted that evening:

Sofie is light and airy blonde but it is not an air headed blonde because it has a citrus body and goes down smooth like a good brew should.

Bourbon County Brand Stout OMG this is like eating the finest steak prepared perfectly! This brew has wonderful eyes and a whiskey mouth that will have you Begging for more!

Matilda which waltzes with your palette, teasing and pleasing with full flavor with subtle citrus overtones and a drinkability to satisfy.

Stop by Old Chicago soon to check out these great beers.

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Simplicity of Christmas 2012

Filled with nostalgia of Christmases long ago, this new painting was inspired by the desire to rekindle in my memory those simple traditions that seemed to make Christmas a wonderfully magic time of the year. The anticipation of a holiday from school, the buildup of wintery arts and craft projects that always got hung on the children’s place of honor, the refrigerator (you always knew Mom loved your work when it got hung there for all to see.) Then finally the ceremonial hanging of the stocking in expectation that Santa couldn’t have possibly noticed the new crayon mural on your bedroom wall or if he did, it didn’t get you on his “naughty” list. The excitement was always palpable and even the household animals seemed to notice a difference with the cheer of the season.

Then as I grew up and became a parent, the enchantment of Christmas was renewed through my son’s eyes and then later my nieces and nephews. Now that my son is a young adult, still single and with no foreseeable grandchildren on the way, I have found myself quite nostalgic about the season, missing the simple things that made the holiday special.

I am embarrassed to admit that last year, we spent little time preparing for Christmas – it came and went, our one ornament being a “cartridge in a bare tree” won at a white elephant gift exchange for my husband’s co-workers. Many of our gifts were sent in the mail to relatives who have scattered across the country and with my son– still living with us, but busy with his own busy agenda.  We didn’t even fit in the traditional collection of seasonal DVD’s (A Christmas Story, Nat’l Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc.) We simply let the magic fade and time just marched on filled with the everyday and ordinary.

To fill that void this year, I offer this new piece. Some of my family says it looks like one of my grand nieces, however, as I painted I could see reflections of myself in the chubby face staring back at me and I started to get melancholy. Then I began to think, maybe, just maybe, it could be that little girl I always wanted and will get in the future as a grandchild (I can wait 10 years for that) – and I can spoil her rotten  by sneaking around as Santa Clause and make sure her little stocking is bursting at the seams. The true reward will be, enjoying once again a child’s sense of joy and wonder about the holiday through the young and the young at heart.

I hope this will bring to your mind the nostalgia and it will help you to remember the simplicity of Christmas rather than the hustle bustle that can overwhelm the thrill we once experienced as children.

Please post your own nostalgic Christmas story in the comments. I would love to read them.

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September First Friday - Paint Topeka, Celestial Correspondence and the Figure

There will be three locations to see my work during the September First Friday Art Walk in Topeka and another one day event in Kansas City!


Paint Topeka!

 The piece above "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" and "Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market" are my pieces accepted as one of over 50 artists entered SouthWind Gallery's latest plein air art competition, Paint Topeka, and hit the streets on Saturday, April 28, 2012, to capture the allure and beauty of our city. We think you'll be "wowed" by the artistic talent and the diversity of the Topeka scenes the artists chose to paint along with the publication of SouthWind Gallery's newest book  that features the art and artists of Paint Topeka.

The exhibit and sale of the paintings will open during Frist Friday Art Walk Friday, September 7, 5 - 8:30 pm. An awards ceremony for the top three winning artists will be held that evening, with many of the  participating artists in attendance to talk about their inspiration and their artwork and available to sign the new art book. To buy the book online or to preview the show go to www.SouthWindArtGallery.com

Celestial Correspondence by Michelle Leivan
Brought to you by Sinnen & Associates and SouthWind Gallery
921 SW Topeka Blvd
Opening Sept. 7th, 5-8:30 pm  and throughout September 2012 during business hours 8 am - 5 pm M-F.

Swinnen & Associates Law Office Atrium Gallery, 921 SW Topeka Blvd. Open First Friday Art Walk (5-8:30 pm) and during business hours (8 am - 5 pm M-F) through September. The new location at 921 S.W. Topeka was constructed between 1860 and 1880, and the structure at 917 S.W. Topeka perhaps 20 years later, he said. Owner of the building, Benoit Swinnen has arranged for an atrium, with skylights, to be constructed between the buildings. Swinnen has partnered with SouthWind Gallery in Topeka to feature art from a different up-and-coming artist in the atrium during of Topeka’s monthly First Fridays Artwalks.

Works by local artist Michelle Leivan's series “Celestial Correspondence” will be on display in the atrium during September’s First Friday Art Walk.
Click Here to learn more about the series.

"The Figure" at Foole's Dream Studio

833 1/2 N. Kansas Ave.  Topeka, KS

Wed-Sat: 10 am - 5:30 pm and First Friday 5-8:30 pm.

Several figurative artists present their works at Foole's Dream Studio. For my work,  I have 4 figurative pieces on exhibit.  Each of these paintings is a study in the human form, color and composition created during a single two hour sitting in the Open Session Life Drawing Sessions that I coordinate at Washburn University. Each session consists of 2-five minute poses, 2-ten minute poses, 2- 15 minute poses and 3-20 minute poses, there is no specific direction given to the model except for the time constraints. Many of these works include something from each of the 9 poses presented by the model. The challenge is to compose on the fly to come up with a successful visually interesting piece. CLICK HERE to see more of my figurative work.

Then later in September - my figurative work will be featured at for one night only!


September 20, 2012 | 8 pm - Midnight

Uptown Theater | 3700 Broadway St.,  Kansas City, MO

21+ | Cocktail Attire | $10 in advance | $15 at the door

RAW events are multi-faceted artistic showcases. Each event features a film screening, musical performance, fashion show, art gallery, performance art and a featured hairstylist and makeup artist. These artists are all local, hand-picked talent who have been chosen to feature at RAW.

RAW events feature a cash bar for cocktails while you enjoy the night. Dress code is cocktail attire, so dress the occasion and get ready for an artistic circus of creativity!

Get your tickets in advance for only $10 at

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Paint Topeka Plein Air Exhibit and Book

Today I would like to share that my  artworks "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" and "Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market" have been selected for exhibition in the Paint Topeka Plein Air Exhibit! Paintings produced from this event also will be featured in the upcoming art book, Topeka: A Great Arts Town!, published by SouthWind Gallery.

Opening Reception Activities & Awards Ceremony

The Paint Topeka art exhibit will open September 7, 2012, during the First Friday Art Walk, from 6: 00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Activities will include an Artists' Reception, a special recognition ceremony for the winners of the Paint Topeka competition and a book signing. In addition, all artists' names and artwork will be posted on the SouthWind Gallery web site.

The Mission: To Paint Topeka. The Topeka Plein Aire Paint out presented by SouthWind Gallery.  Over 60 painters met on Saturday, April 28th at 6:00 a.m. at the Ramada Inn for breakfast and then they converged on Topeka and created paintings of our town. I was one of them and this little piece "Coffee and Conversation at the Flying Monkey" is my entry for the competition. All the artists wore a tangerine colored ball cap so they could be identified all over the city. All of the pieces will be juried and the accepted pieces will be published in a fine art book "Topeka: A Great Arts Town."


When thinking about Topeka, it seems to me the community is best reflected by the people who live, work and play throughout the city. I chose to paint the new coffee shop the Flying Monkey along with two college students who were out enjoying a bit of coffee on the early Saturday morning. "We just stopped in to talk before we went to work-out." one of the girls said. 


Unlike many of my paintings in this series, I did not know these two girls prior to asking if they could be my subjects, I also promised that they would not be readily identifiable - I'm just an artist stalker - randomly choosing people to paint. But my trusty tangerine colored ball cap with the SouthWind gallery logo helped to legitimize me. The two girls knew one of another artist participating! It was an interesting experiment on my part as well, not knowing the girls there was less pressure to make sure they reflected the personality I knew they had, instead I was free to impress my own imagination about who they were and so, like the viewer, I was forced to create my own story about them. 


They were as agreeable as anyone could expect and I am sure that my quick photograph has been long forgotten about on that sunny spring morning. However, there is no doubt in my mind that their memory will be sparked when they begin hearing about the new exhibition in September during the First Friday Art Walk.

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Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market

Raks Sha'abi at the NOTO Saturday Market

This piece for me is both nostalgic and celebrates my new achievements. In the nostalgic department, I am not unfamiliar with belly dancing as I took several classes during my husband's first deployment and choreographed a dance for him when he returned. Since then, I have had an appreciation of the art which is wonderfully feminine and alluring. As for the present, last Saturday, I exhibited 11 artists in my Art Print Express booth at the NOTO Saturday Market (a new venue for artists in the NOTO Arts District north of the river in Topeka, Kansas). If you look carefully you will see my booth in among the background vendors. It was that weekend that I took advantage of the Irie Blu troupe performance to capture my friend Cyreigna in action and to place her at the Saturday Market.


The term "Raks Sha'abi" refers to a belly dance style that is "dance of the people". This seemed an appropriate name for this piece even though the dancer works in the American Tribal Belly Dance Style. Many locals will recognize the Cyregina in her belly dancing regalia because she regularly performs in public venues such as the NOTO Saturday Market. She has also posed for my Open Life Drawing Sessions at Washburn University with her full costume, sometimes even bringing her dancing props such as a Scimitar (a curved Middle Eastern sword) balanced on her head - it is always a fun and lively event when she models. 


Cyreigna is also Owner/Director of Irie Tribal Dance Co., a Fatchance® Bellydance Sister Studio...Irie Tribal, is derived from the Rastafarian saying, 'Irie,' which stands for 'I Respect I Eternally,' and is a word that conveys hope and happiness--exactly the emotion Cyreigna endeavors to create.


Irie Tribal Dance Company is an all-inclusive Dance company that offers not only classes in American Tribal Style® Bellydance, but also tribal costuming. They believe that no matter what type of dance you do, as long as you are true to self and others everything will indeed be Irie, (a word that conveys hope and happiness).

While trying to open more eyes, hearts, and doors in the Auburn/Topeka area, Irie strives to portray themselves in a positive light and give back to others....Dancing for those can't dance for themselves....Dancing is the most unselfish thing we can do...That is why we smile, that is why we dance. It brings us joy to see joy in others!

The performing Troupe, Irie Tribal consists of Cyndi (Cyreigna) and Amy (Miriam)
Irie Tribal Dance Company students are known as Irie Blu. They are taught pure ATS® as Carolena intended.

To purchase the piece  or explore my other pieces go to my website

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McCoffee Council

McCoffee Council

There are so many important things that happen to us on a daily basis and often times we get into the habit of just taking those seemingly daily events for granted. I regularly go to coffee with my Dad and his "cronies" several times a week. I started out reluctantly, thinking that I wouldn't have much in common with a bunch of old guys. How wrong I was, this morning diversion in my day has become a ritual that I look forward to and regret when other things keep me from being able to join them. At first I didn't understand them, they would talk to each other in no way any woman would dare to talk to another woman and expect to remain friends. The best way to describe their banter is the scene in "Grand Torino" with Clint Eastwood when he walks into the barber shop with his young mentor and begins to talk to the barber. (For those who haven’t seen the movie, at the end of this post is  a rundown of the dialogue.) As you watch the movie, you understand that Walt and Barber Martin in "Grand Torino" love each other and Walt also loves Thao or we wouldn't see this scene. Never the less, that scene would play in my head for the first month that I joined them and stayed pretty quiet until I figured out the rules. 


Ok, so my guys aren't quite that crass but you get the point. It took me a while to assimilate to their banter. We’ve had discussions as lively as the use of barbed wire to scratch that itch you can't quite reach and not to forget it is also useful for hemorrhoids, to the healing benefits of dog licks to heal a pesky wound that is slow to heal. It is often like sitting in a council dedicated to saving the world. They always tell me that I'm the best looking of the group - how can I pass up that ego boosting opportunity? With all kidding aside, they have become wonderful mentors with wonderful life stories and wisdom that you would not expect to be found at a McDonalds. They are my guys and I love them and miss them when I don’t see them. 


Last July my husband, son and I traveled to Austin, TX to go see my brother-in-law who had just returned for leave from a tour in Iraq. One morning during that trip we stopped at McDonalds for a quick breakfast. There in the back of the restaurant was another group of guys not all that dissimilar to these guys, enjoying their coffee and discussions to save the world. I was tempted to walk up to them and simply sit down at the table and explain that I had left my coffee group guys back home and that I missed them so could I please join them for a while. There is no doubt in my mind that they would have welcomed me and made me feel at home. Had it not been for my present company (my son would have been mortified) and the urgency to get back on the road I would have and enjoyed every second of it. That realization in a foreign place was the seed that germinated into this painting. I wanted to paint my guys in their everyday environment shooting the breeze and easily laughing at something someone said. You may not know them, but yet you do, because all you have to do is walk into any McDonalds or corner Cafe across the nation, in the morning between 6 and 10 and you too can find your very own McCoffee Council. 


Scene from Grand Torino as quoted by the IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1205489/quotes


Walt Kowalski: Now you just gotta learn how guys talk. You just listen to the way Martin and I banter it back and forth. You OK? You're ready? 
Thao Vang Lor: Sir! 
Walt Kowalski: Alright let's go in... 
Barber Martin: Perfect! A Polak and AND a Chink! 
Walt Kowalski: How ya doing Martin, you crazy Italian prick? 
Barber Martin: Walts! You cheap bastard! I should have known you'd come in, I was having such a pleasant day! 
Walt Kowalski: What'd you do? You ruse some poor blind guy out of his money? Gave him the wrong change? 
Barber Martin: Who's the Nip? 
Walt Kowalski: Ohh... He's a pussy kid from next door. I'm trying to man him up a little bit... You see kid, now that's how guys talk to one another. 
Thao Vang Lor: They do? 
Barber Martin: What, you got shit on your ribs? 
Walt Kowalski: Now you go out and come back in and talk to him like a man, like a REAL man. Come on! Get your ass outta here! Come on back now. 
[to Martin
Walt Kowalski: Sorry about this. 
Thao Vang Lor: What's up ya old Italian prick? 
Barber Martin: [pointing rifle at Thao] Get out of my shop before I blow your head off, you goddamn dick sucker! Go! 
Walt Kowalski: Jezus Christ, Holy Shit! Hehe. Take it easy, take it easy! 
[to Thao
Walt Kowalski: What the hell are you doing? Have you lost your mind? 
Thao Vang Lor: But that's what you said. That's what you said men say. 
Walt Kowalski: You don't just come in and insult the man in his own shop! You just don't do that. What happens if you meet some stranger? You get the wrong one, he's gonna blow your gook head right off! 
Thao Vang Lor: What should I have said then? 
Barber Martin: Well... why don't you start with... eeehm... Hi or Hello... 
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, just come in and say... eeeehm... Sir, I'd like a haircut if you have the time. 
Barber Martin: Yeah, be polite, but don't kiss ass. 
Walt Kowalski: In fact you could talk about a construction job you just came from and bitch about your girlfriend and your car. 
Barber Martin: eeeehm... Son of a bitch, I just got my brakes fixed and eeehmm those son of bitches really nailed me, I mean they screwed me right in the ass! 
Walt Kowalski: Yeah, don't swear AT the guy, just talk about people who are not in the room... eeeh... you could talk about your boss... eeeh... making you work extra time when there is bowling night. 
Barber Martin: Right, or... eeeh... my old lady bitches for two goddamn hours about how... eeeeh... they don't take expired coupons at the grocery stores. And the minute I turn on the fucking game, she starts crying how we never talk! 


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It's been a while since I blogged, it's funny how life seems to take over. I started a series of portraits and there are several of them in my "People I Know" series category. This is my newest piece in that series and it features my niece in a daydreamy pose. It makes me think about clarity of morning thoughtfulness. I was so excited to get this piece painted because it was a wonderful pose and the lighting was just right to capture her character. I hope you enjoy it.

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