Category Archives: VICKIE MARTIN ART


On July 24, 2023 I embarked on a QUEST to do a collage a day for 28 straight days. I started out knowing each collage would be based by an individual song, as is all my art. After all, depending on who you listen to, there are estimated to be between 82 and 200+ million songs on the planet at any given time.   That’s a bigger number than there are rivers and mountains in the world (in case you are wondering, rivers and mountains on the planet adding up to about 1.3 million). Can you think of a better way to find inspiration?

What did I learn?  I learned how to maintain consistency, to choose quality over quantity, and to express myself without using words.  It wasn’t just about cutting and pasting paper, it was a lesson in planning, and finding inspiration within a song that told a story. 

I'll Fly Away 5x7 collage matted 8x10

I’ll Fly Away, collage 5×7

WEEKS 1 and 2:  In the first two weeks I began with a list of songs I put together that told a story. Each morning I picked a song then took a walk after reading the lyrics of the song. I thought about how to translate the lyrics and the back story of the song into visual cues. I learned to embrace quirkiness and I suddenly realized I was having FUN! It ruled my creativity and I found new ways of using images. BUT – after 14 days I realized I needed more structure.




Rainy Days and Mondays 5×7 collage


WEEK 3: I was on the verge of  hitting the proverbial creative block. I needed more structure in choosing the songs I was using. So – what should I do? I decided to use the days of the weeks as the springboard for choosing a different song each day. 




Beethoven’s 9th


WEEK 4: I chose songs that were about a specific color. BUT – I ended the entire quest with what I feel is the most magnificent piece of music ever written – Beethoven’s 9th. My research expanded to studying synesthesia – which is the fancy name for when you experience one of your senses through another. Some examples include tasting words or linking colors to music. My research had begun to expand. I was becoming more resourceful – viewing every day images differently than before. There was a feeling of playfulness, spontaneity and curiosity that was not as apparent to me before.


What other things did I learn or do?

  • I bought better scissors
  • I began using an exacto knife for more intricate cutting
  • I totally reorganized my studio
  • I gave away a lot of old collage material – they no longer served my needs

Here are a few more images from the month of collage.

I have decided to repeat this exercise once a quarter for one week instead of four. The next week will be the week of September 23 – the first day of fall!   Want to join me?  Do you have any requests for a song, preferable about fall or the colors of fall? Let me know!




If you know me, you know I am a reader and a walker. When I looked through the books I read in 2022 (78 – not a record), I was amazed that less than 10% of the books I read were art related. So – 2023 is my year to devote more of my downtime to art. (more…)


I have been asked why I used a woman in the artwork I created inspired by the song “COME DANCING”. Well, there is a reason. 

The seemingly happy catchy song was written by Ray Davies in 1982 and recorded in 1983. His sister’s  visit to  England (she had emigrated to Canada) happened to coincide with Ray Davie’s 13 birthday. He had begged his parents for a Spanish guitar, to no avail. Rene stepped in and got it for him (his first guitar!). 

Then she did what she always did when she was in town – she called her friends to go dancing that night. So – off she went to the Lyceum ballroom. But, she suffered a fatal heart attack, as a result of a childhood bout of rheumatic fever.

“Rene had died dancing in a ballroom in London in the arms of a stranger….Coming back from Canada, where she’d emigrated, to die.   Really, and again, being a source of inspiration…She gave me my first guitar, which was quite a great parting gift.” Ray Davies

Finding stories like this are one of the reasons I love working on this series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”. I also learn to play each song on the piano.

COME DANCING ©2022 Vickie Martin, 8×10 collage on paper

I usually do a collage using research materials I collected for the painting. Look closely at this collage. You can see where I hand wrote the beats for the tricky timing in the opening!

You can read more about the series and my quest for the series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?” series HERE. Each piece I create is inspired by a song that I also learn to play. Why? to bring awareness to dementia, because music is the last memory, the one thing you will keep.

They put a parking lot on a piece of land
When the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local palais.
That’s where the big bands used to come and play.
My sister went there on a Saturday.Come dancing,
All her boyfriends used to come and call.
Why not come dancing, it’s only natural?

Another Saturday, another date.
She would be ready but she’s always make him wait.
In the hallway, in anticipation,
He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration.
He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week
All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek.

Come dancing,
That’s how they did it when I was just a kid,
And when they said come dancing,
My sister always did.

My sister should have come in at midnight,
And my mum would always sit up and wait.
It always ended up in a big row
When my sister used to get home late.

Out of my window I can see them in the moonlight,
Two silhouettes saying goodnight by the garden gate.

The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried.
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died.

Now I’m grown up and playing in a band,
And there’s a car park where the palais used to stand.
My sister’s married and she lives on an estate.
Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait.
She knows they get away with things she never could,
But if I asked her I wonder if she would,

Come dancing,
Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
Don’t be afraid to come dancing,
It’s only natural.

Come dancing,
Just like the palais on a Saturday.
And all her friends will come dancing
Where the big bands used to play.

If you have a favorite song you’d like to see represented, I’d love to know.


This is a continuation of my quest to create a piece of art inspired by a song beginning with every letter of the alphabet. You can read about it HERE.

I always do a “deep dive” into the song, learning as much as I can about the story behind it, even learning to play it on the piano – and this is a great song to play because it is written in the gospel tradition.

Written in 1970 by Paul Simon and it is one of the Simon and Garfunkel’s biggest hits, even becoming their signature song. It won five Grammy’s in 1971, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Simon insisted Garfunkel sing this song (a decision he later came to regret).


BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER, 20×20 Mixed media ©2020VickieMartin

What was the inspiration for the song? When Simon heard the southern gospel group Swan Silvertones 1959 song “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep”.  The line “I’ll be your bridge over deep water / if you trust in My name”  jumped out at him. In a rare interview with Dick Cavet in 1970, he said “I think that must have subconsciously influenced me, and I started to go to gospel (chord) changes”

The line “like a bridge over troubled water” is a metaphor for someone living through a tough time, and “I will lay me down” refers to the sacrifices made to find a way through them.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, ©2008 ink, charcoal, crayon on paper, 15×18

In the third verse, the line “Sail on silver girl / Sail on by / Your time has come to shine” shifts the rhythm and the mood changes. Simon later revealed it was a reference to his then-wife. But many interpret it being focused on someone who needs help during a difficult time.

It is important to remember the times in which it was written. In 1969 America was in turmoil. Viet Nam, Nixon, and the country was still dealing with the loss of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. This was a song that was needed for the times. In fact, It continued to be an uplifting anthem in bad times. In 2005, Simon and Garfunkel reunited to sing it to help raise money for those affected by Katrina.

In the past 50+ years, everyone from Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, The Jackson Five, Peggy Lee, Johnny Cash and more, with Aretha Franklin winning a Grammy for her cover in 1972.


Bridge Over Troubled Water, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board @2020 Vickie Martin

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Check out the story behind AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH here.



“Dear Viewer”  If you are reading this, I am dead. There is a Great War coming. You may have a few years until your planet is rubble. I estimate 163 years.”

This wasn’t even in a controversial book!

 In January and February, I finished 18 books!  However, three of the books I read were not only rereads, but were easily read in one afternoon.  AND all three of them are “banned books”.

THE LITTLE PRINCE – by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

MAUS I and II – by Art Spiegelman


My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson –  The book opens with several short stories that culminate in the novella MY MONTICELLO. Set in possibly the all too near future the characters are fleeing violent white supremacists from Charlottesville. Led by Da’Naisha who is a young Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. So, of course, they end up at Monticello.  This book popped up on several the best books of 2021 lists (most notably Obama’s and NPR’s). For me, once I got into the rhythm of the stories, I was hooked! 

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendon Slocumb  – I couldn’t have said it better than the review below by the Washington Post. 

“When I opened Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel, The Violin Conspiracy, I was immediately transported to a place I’d never been, surrounded by characters I’d never met. In the crowded world of fiction, that’s no small accomplishment. . . . Slocumb has orchestrated an engaging and suspenseful story about an aspiring musician and his great-great-grandfather’s violin. . . . The Violin Conspiracy is so wonderfully written, especially its descriptions of music, that at times I questioned whether I was reading or listening to a concert. “

AMERICAN  DIRT by Jeanine Cummins –  Lydia and her eight-year old son become instant migrants when a tell-all story her journalist husband writes about the head of a local drug cartel is published. When her entire family is murdered at a quinceanera, she and her son begin riding the trains that slowly make their way north to the United States joining countless people on the same journey for different reasons. Yes, there has been alot of controversy stirred up about this book, but it made for a very spirited discussion in one of my book clubs. We unanimously agreed it is a book that people should read.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig – I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this book is both whimsical and magical. When Nora gives up (her cat has died, she has lost her job and more) and take some pills, she finds herself in a library at midnight. And – it’s not just any library – it’s her library. It’s a perfect pandemic read and shows the reader that the little things in life are important too, and it is important to learn to love yourself as you are.


WISH YOU WERE HERE by Jodi Picoult – If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, this book is for you. Diana is an art associate at Sotheby’s planning a trip to the Galapagos with her boyfriend, a doctor. When the pandemic hits, Diana goes on the trip alone. Her luggage is lost, there is little internet and the hotels are shut down. Going out of her comfort zone, she connects with a local family and rediscovers her artistic side. But – there is an unexpected twist you probably won’t see coming. You may find it enchanting, or you may feel cheated. 


A SMUGGLERS GUIDE TO GOOD MANNERS: A TRUE STORY OF TERRIFYING SEAS, DOUBLE-DEALING AND LOVE ACROSS THREE OCEANS by Kenny Ranen – You see, I know Kenny and I have heard some of these stories. The book is exactly what the title says – Sailing, sharks, and smuggling, oh my!!! What more do you need? In fact, I’ve spent time on Sara (in port being refurbished), and as far-flung as some of these stories are, I can vouch they are true. 

If you want to see what else I have read, check out my GOODREADS page.  I don’t review the books, but I do rate them.

AND – I’m always happy to recommendations! Bring ’em on!









For the last several years I have been creating art that is inspired by a particular song. Why? To bring awareness to dementia, because you NEVER EVER lose you musical memory. This was inspired by my mother’s dementia and noticing the effect music had on dementia patients. The reason this is happens (without getting all scientific) is because the place where music is stored in our brains is the last place affected by dementia. Music  is often referred to as “THE LAST MEMORY”.

 Several months ago I declared a quest to create work that is inspired by a song beginning with every letter of the alphabet, documenting the journey as I go. (You can read it  HERE. )

The first song for my quest is AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH.  To get inspiration for the painting not only do I listen to several versions of the song and learn to play it on the piano, I also research the story behind the song.

I always “assumed” this song was about finding a great love. Did you? If you did, we were both WRONG!

The song was written by Nicolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson in 1966 hoping it would be their ticket to join Mo-Town.

In 1962, Nick Ashford moved to New York City after graduating high school to become a dancer. When this didn’t work out, he ended up homeless. Meanwhile, while still in high school, Valerie Simpson was singing in a choir in Harlem. One day Nick showed up there, basically looking for a hot meal. And, you know what happened next – right? Valerie persuaded him to join their group.  They eventually began collaborating, and in Valerie’s own words, “Nick was the perfect mouthpiece for my melodies, and my piano inspired his lyrics. It was an easy relationship.”  

Nick had already written the lyrics for this song. He said the words came to him while walking the city, worried about whether he could stay in NYC. He noticed the buildings along the park looked like mountains, and these lyrics came to him:

“Ain’t no mountain high enough/Ain’t no valley low enough/Ain’t no river wide enough/to keep me from getting to you.” So, the “you” was not a love interest, it was SUCCESS.

As you can see, I put texture on each piece and while listening to several versions of the song, I handwrite the lyrics directly on the canvas. This is my way of really meditating on the piece.

The next thing I do is to get the piano music and start playing.

To create the mountains, used canvas I reclaimed from old paintings, which gave it the kind of texture usually found in nature.

To add more texture, I played around a little with fire (I guess I was in that kind of mood that particular day).

I love to experiment and try new things, but I always keep the spirit of the song in the forefront. While I cover up the lyrics, I always have them, along with the sheet music, close by.

Here is the resulting image. If you look closely, you can see the images of city buildings in the mist on the right.

AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH, ©vickiemartin2021 24×18 mixed media on canvas

Here are more interesting facts about the song:

  • Dusty Springfield wanted to record it, but Ashford and Simpson felt it was their ticket to Motown (it was, it was recorded on the Tamla label, which was a division of Mo-Town).
  • Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell recorded it in 1967 becoming a Top 20 hit on the Billboard charts (#2 on the R&B Charts).
  • The Supremes recorded it as a duet with The Temptations.
  • Ashford and Simpson produced Diana Ross’s first solo album, of which this song was the 2nd song released from.
  • All of the music and background vocals were recorded before Diana recorded her part. She was able to hear it while recording it.

ONE FACT ABOUT DEMENTIA: Dementia is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States for older people. Some estimates rank as high as third in older people, behind only heart disease and cancer. AND THERE IS NO CURE.

What’s up next in my quest? Since I’ll be traveling to a song that begins with a “B”, I’m going to a BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER.






I don’t make New Year’s resolutions (too rigid with too many rules). As an alternative, I choose a WORD OF THE YEAR. Why? I believe having a word that you can concentrate on all year will bring clarity and focus (FOCUS was my Word of the Year for 3 years!).  Even AARP advocates chasing a Word to concentrate on!

I have been really doing “the work”, but it is time to see some results. That is why I chose the word ACTION. Action is defined as the process of doing something in order to achieve something.

BUT – this year my word has a double meaning. If you aren’t familiar with my artwork, every piece I create is inspired by a particular song that I also learn to play on the piano. WHY? I want to bring awareness to dementia, as your music memory is one thing you will NEVER lose.

Moon River

Moon River, 30×30 mixed media ©vickiemartin2021

Choosing  this word has another connotation for me. My father rebuilt pianos, and maintaining or rebuilding the “action” of the piano was a big part of his job. The ACTION is the heart of a piano. 

In short, it is the mechanism that causes hammers to strike the strings when a key is pressed. 

By using the word ACTION for “my word”, the action I take must be in harmony with my overall goal  – to create artwork inspired by music to bring awareness to dementia.

Do you have a word of the year? It isn’t too late!!! You can start with asking yourself what can you use more of, or what could you use less of.






In case you aren’t familiar with my reading quest, I am currently reading a book written by someone from each state in the United States.

 I read not one, but two books written by Sarah Smarsh from Kansas. Born in rural Kansas, she grew up on farms in small towns. Her family moved frequently and she attended eight schools before reaching ninth grade. Attending the University of Kansas, she received her MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University (not a small feat!).



This is not only a powerful but a very relevant book. As Smarsh says “You can go a very long time in the country without being seen.” 

Born into a family of farmers, she traces her family through five generations of teenage pregnancies – her mother was just 17 when Sarah was born.

During her childhood, in the 1980’s, family farms were going under – sometimes a victim of foreclosure, but also often the growth of giant agribusinesses. Her father began taking any job he could get, roofing, driving semi trucks and even disposing of poisonous industrial chemicals – one that almost killed him, resuting in years of debilitating psychosis.

The family was living below the poverty line, while at the same time considering themselves middle class. She writes:

“That we could live on a patch of Kansas dirt with a tub of Crisco lard and a $1 rebate coupon in an envelope on the kitchen counter and call ourselves middle class was at once a triumph of contentedness and a sad comment on our country’s lack of awareness about its own economic structure. Class didn’t exist in a democracy like ours, as far as most Americans were concerned, at least not as a destiny or an excuse. You got what you worked for, we believed. There was some truth to that. But it was not the whole truth.”

If there is an underlying question that begs to be answered, it is how did Smarsh get out?

How did a member of the sixth generation end up with a graduate degree from Columbia, a down payment for a house, and a memoir that is nominated for the National Book Award?  There is no single answer, even she doesn’t know if herself. She suggests she had supportive male role models – her father and grandfather – in a family where many women were prey to dangerous men. She abstained from teenage pregnancy – but she was talented and worked hard. Going to the University of Kansas on a merit scholarship, she also had three jobs lined up – this is the only thing that made college possible for her.

Is it a rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy?  Could be, because she proves that poverty is not the result of laziness and bad choices, and the American Dream is not always possible for even those that work hard. 

Not a political book, she does point out most of her family are Republicans, which for them is a matter of pride, even if it means they are voting against their best interests. 

“People on welfare were presumed ‘lazy’, and for us there was no more hurtful word.”

When she is admitted to college on a federally funded program for minority, first-generation, and low income students, she found the handful of those in the program called themselves “White Trash Scholars”.

This is not a sentimental book, but she makes a powerful point that much of the “American World” has taught them they are disposable.


It seems as if the second book would be a perfect fit, but actually I read this book first. 

SHE COME BY IT NATURAL, Dolly Parton AND THE WOMEN WHO LIVED HER SONGS – While Sarah Smarsh was growing up in poverty, she heard songs by country female artists  telling powerful stories of life, hard times and surviving. It was a language among the women – and no one said it clearer for them than Dolly.

This was originally published in a four-part series for THE JOURNAL OF ROOTS MUSIC. Smarsh feels Dolly’s songs have validated women who are invisible – the “trailer trash” women who are struggling. Dolly began singing on the front porch of her family home,  achieving stardom in Nashville – a world managed by powerful men. Along the way, she managed to found both a self-made business and philanthropy empire, in her own terms. Go Dolly!



Dodge City is the REAL Windy City in the US – average wind speed is 14 MPH

Kansas really is as flat as a pancake as it was compared topographically to an IHOP pancake.

White Castle – the first hamburger chain was started here. Weirdly, there are no White Castles in Kansas at this time.

The amount of wheat grown here would stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean from Kansas.

The helicopter was invented in Kansas.


Next I travel to Kentucky and then Louisianna – and I have my books picked out for these states. But then I travel to the “M” states (of which there are eight!).

If you have requests for the authors from the remaining states – let me know!








As a reader, I am familiar with quests as a literary device (think of the knights of the round table or Odyseus).  In fact, I started my own reading quest a few years back.  But, I had NEVER considered applying a quest to my goal with my art work until I listened to Alyson Stanfield, founder of Art Biz Success.

During a recent talk on Instagram, Alyson began speaking of “legacy projects”, which is what I realized at that time applies to me. If you aren’t familiar with my work, all of my art is inspired by a particular song that I also learn to play on the piano. 

BUT THEN, she pulled out the book THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT, FINDING THE QUEST THAT WILL BRING PURPOSE BACK IN YOUR LIFE by Chris Gillebeau. I thought “Wait, I have that book” and walked to the bookshelf and pulled it out. 

SO – I looked at the book with new eyes. Oddly, the timing was strange. I had just finished a painting that had two tiny horses appear on the horizon, so it became a painting inspired by the song “THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM” from Man of LaMancha about Don Quixote, one of the most famous questers of all time!

It seemed as if the Universe was urging me to DO IT.  But – do what?  I needed a little more information to do a proper quest. There are certain things the “quester” (ME) must identify. Below is the list I came up with along with the actions I will take.

  • There must be a goal – I will paint a painting inspired by a song that represents every letter of the alphabet and I will also learn to play it on the piano and write a blog about each song. 
  • There must be an end point – I will complete this by the end of 2021.
  • It must present a challenge and sacrifice – In order to complete this by the end of 2021, I must stay focused and not deviate from my path.
  • It must be driven by a calling – I use music in the context of art to ultimately bring awareness to dementia. Why? Because your music memory will stay intact when all other memory is gone.

Today I’m declaring my quest that will be finished by end of the 2021. There is another reason to approach my art series this way – this give me structure to move forward.  

SO – my first step is to pick a song beginning with the letter “A”. Three pop up immediately for me, “AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH”, “A WHITER SHADE OF PALE”, and “APRIL IN PARIS”.  I don’t know which song I will choose at this point – but I will continue moving forward in the alphabet.

Back to my reading quest, I am reading a book by an author from each state. The last book I read was by Bill Bryson for Iowa, and you can read the blog here

This idea of the quest came from, as I mentioned above, Alyson Stanfield. If you are an artist, I highly recommend you look her up, from podcasts, training, blogs, just a wealth of information. Click here for the link to her page for SOCIAL MEDIA VISITORS

Follow me on my quest, subscribe to my blog and keep up with the songs I paint for every letter of the alphabet and the symbolism I use, and the stories many songs tell.

Do you have a favorite song that you think would make a great painting? Below are a few example of paintings I’ve already done.



AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH, ©vickiemartin2021 24×18 mixed media on canvas

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER, 20×20 Mixed media ©2020VickieMartin

Click below for the stories behind other songs used for inspiration:



banner for quest


As I am reading around the United States (reading a book by an author from each state) I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate book to read for Iowa than THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID by Bill Bryson.

This book is not just entertaining, it is laugh out loud funny.  Bryson was born in the middle of the 20th century (1951) in the post war years. His father was a well known sports writer for THE DES MOINES REGISTER. As the same time, his mother was the home furnishings editor at the same paper a job, ironically it was a job so busy she rarely had time to practice domestic arts at home.  The title of the book is from an imaginary alter-ego Bryson invented for himself as a child, giving himself the ability to vaporize people with heat vision when he felt powerless while sincerely believing he was from another planet. 

Told through the eyes of a child, there isn’t a shred of malice anywhere in the book. He reports on many of the events that were happening at the time, like the development of the atomic bomb (which seemed more entertainment than a threat), frozen foods and television.

As it moves into his junior high and high school years, he begins smoking, drinking and stealing, never getting caught. You see the moment he meets Stephen Katz (remember him in other Bryson books, most notably A WALK IN THE WOODS). Bryson ends the book with these lines, “What a wonderful word that would be, What a wonderful world it was. We won’t see its like again, I’m afraid.” But, at least he’s written this book and it allows us to visit this world from time to time.


The machine that slices bread was invented here – so this is where the first sliced bread was.

The Trampoline was invented here – along with the Eskimo Pie.

The house pictured in the painting AMERICAN GOTHIC is located here.

The day the music died happened at Clear Lake, Iowa.

25% of the state’s electricity is generated by wind.

Iowa is the only state that is bordered by two nagivable rivers – the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers!

Next I’ll be traveling to Kansas and I’m reading two books by the same author. If you have a favorite author from any remaining state – I’m happy to take suggestions.