Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters

Outdoor Art Studio in Montecito, CA


This is both a personal blog and an artist blog, for it is the experiences, thoughts, reflections, convictions and people of an artist's life that influence an artist's work.  A body of artwork chronicles  the story of an artist as an individual.  While many entries may not even mention art, they make up the person behind the art.


Living transparently-- openly, quietly, honestly and hopefully courageously, and always, always moving forward.  I have been, and always will be growing, even when there are steps backward.  Since 2004, when the sun rose over the Colorado Rockies, I knew this was what I was to do---to give back that which I learn.  I’m certainly no wiser than anyone else, but I humbly allow God the opportunity to use my mistakes and learning to help others, if that is His desire for my story.  Therefore, this photo journal and blog chronicles my journey, beginning mid-life, and celebrates the heroes and loved ones in my life.  Often, they are one and the same.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.


I don't know if it's the cooler temperatures, making for cosier quiet mornings, or the first changing of the leaves that always rustle up a desire to write.  I suppose I'm every bit as much a writer as I am an artist. They ebb and flow, rivelets crossing and recrossing through life in different strengths—a flowing tapestry of sorts, each one informing and inspiring the other.  The "true" writer or artist may say that I am in fact committed to neither, because to follow one path is to take away from another so that I am able to do nothing well.


Be that as it may, it is who I am....artist, writer, historian, poet, teacher, traveler, expolorer.  If that means that I am not a "true" artist or writer, so be it.  Whose definitions are those anyway?  Words and ideas formulated by those who feel the need to justify their existence.....yes, I'm laughing, for I am doing to same here with this discourse.


As I stand pensively, a little uncertainly, in the Autumn of my life, I watch the sun rise in great rayed splendor over the red rock buttes stretched out before me.  I've traded the Pacific Ocean for the Virgin River, the sea skies for the desert ones.  Even though I'd lived in Santa Barbara for 40 years, I knew I would never be able to retire there.  Too expensive, too frenetic for me.....too perfect.  Who can stand the monotony of paradise for long?!  I say that tongue in cheek.....sort of.  I think I ran out of inpiration there, however.  I needed a new palette...a new story...a new canvas.  One can't grow without change. 


Even if change is painful.  Even if change has been thrusted upon oneself and not directly chosen.  Or perhaps, because of it. Through tragedy and heartache, I've witnessed great compassion, strength, perserverance, grace, dignity and beauty in the ones I love.  I've experienced huge, unanticipated blessings from God.


God gifted me with a new teaching job as an Art Teacher at an amazing school. In an age when employers are easing the "older" employees out, and choosing younger employees to take their place, this school really saw me and valued my experience that I bring.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job.  I can't wait to get up in the morning and go to work!  Watching children discover their creativity and imagination, and eventually their skill, brings me such joy and fulfillment.  For me, that is when I am closest to God, our creator.....when I am creating and when I see children create.   ...."Created in His image---the image of the ultimate creator."  Everyday I awake and I pray that I will show love and encouragement, joy and inspiration, patience, grace, gentleness and sensitivity to each of my students, that they might grow in their creativity and love for life and others.


So, while I am not as nimble as I once was, and my vision and hearing are waning a little, my heart and spirit soar through the painted vermilion and ochre landscape, watercolor waters of the Virgin River, and pastel clouded skies, and I try to help my students learn to communicate through their own art, and I am working to find my new voice through my own art as well.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

 Art by BJ Keith can be found at

"Keithinsky" 36"x36" oil on gallery-wrapped canvas by my mother, BJ Keith.


This painting is an example of what I would call my mother's "cleanse the pallatte" paintings. She's been a professional artist for close to 40 years, and even she would be the first to say she doesn't yet have a set "style."  She is forever creating, DAILY creating, almost obsessively making art.  As she ages through her 70's now, the obsession grows exponentially.  Throughout the past 15 years, she'd get through 3-5 large paintings in a similar genre, LOVES them...invariably says "THIS is what I've been trying to express all this time!"  Then a month later, she's bored with them and experiencing "artist's block".  To break it, she appropriates the style of a master, because she can't stand to let an hour, much less a day, go by without putting paint to canvas.  She reminds me of those Irving Stone books I read about the lives of Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy, or Van Gogh in Lust for Life, or Camille Pissaro in Depths of Glory, three of my all time favorite stories, all signed by the author when I heard him speak in a small reading at Westmont College in the early 1980's.

Her artist's version of "cleansing the pallette/palette" is exemplified in the above case by going to Kandinsky, and in the following case it was Picasso.  

"Kiethasso" 36"x48" oil on gallery-wrapped canvas by BJ Keith.

These aren't really the names of the paintings, but my silly names for them. Unlike mom, I do like words!  I think she spent so many years of having to name the 1000's of metal sculptures she did, that she's sick of it.  Now they're just numbered paintings in numbered collections!


As soon as she's finished with one of these "cleanse the palette paintings," she shoots out of the starting gate, racing through her next series of paintings that "finally express what she's beeing trying to say!"  My God, she inspires me so!  Intimidates me as an artist, yes, but inspires me like no other!


Lately, I have had artist's block...or just fear, whatever.  The result is the same.  A blank yawning canvas.  It stands there, mocking me.


So the lesson for me here, is JUST PAINT!  It doesn't matter what it is, or even if it is any good or not.  Just paint.  Inspiration will come, or it won't, but it surely won't come if you don't paint!  



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.  No one has permission to use this text, unless quoted and attributed to the author, to write about the art of or artist, BJ Keith.



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.



All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

The Candelabra I created to honor Dr. Steven Cook  1942-2016 on his 75th Birthday and "Re-Birthday"  February 12, 2017


It was 5:30 a.m. when I met Steve.  Oh, I’d seen him over there in the corner of Xanadus Bakery (Montecito, CA) most mornings, gabbing and arguing with the novelists, screen play writers and actors, but this morning he stopped and sat down at my table and said, “Every day I see you writing and drawing in that journal of yours.  So what’s your story?  Do you want to be a writer or an artist or hide in your journal?”  That was like Steve, I'd come to learn; cut to the chase.


It was 1981, and I was finishing up at Westmont College.  I’d noticed him on campus previously only because our family car had also been a circa 1970 Blazer with the same giant Stagger Block tires, only Steve’s was a sooped-up and lifted, sans muffler and roll-barred Chevy beast, which roared into campus each morning.  You’d have to be blind and deaf to have missed his entrance at 7:35 each day!


He threw down the gauntlet, “Enroll in my writing class this summer and let’s see what you’ve got.” This wasn’t idle talk.  It was a demand and a challenge to test my mettle, and I’m not one to back down from any challenge. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.


It was the only class I’d taken from Steve, and it was after I’d already graduated and had been working full time at Westmont, but he became my mentor and the most influential professor and inspiration in my life to this day.  I still have the paper I wrote and had been required to read aloud, “Back Country Symphony,” when he scowled at me long and hard across the wide expanse of the class discussion table in Reynolds Hall and said, “What the heck are you still doing at Westmont?  You should be writing.”


A summer or two later, he and his wife, Terri, moved me into their home, where I lived for a number of years, and Steve mentored me in writing, art, boys and life.  I was one of the very first of what Terri likes to call “Steve’s girls,” but I think she understood that I needed a father figure who loved, encouraged and supported me, because I was a little adrift.  They set me up with a drawing table in my room and a typewriter and told me to write and paint.  He taught me about art history, contemporary art, as well as literature, necessarily including Kafka, Potok, & T.S. Eliott, his favorites in the 1980’s.  He was the first person in my life who really saw me and had shown faith in me, seeing the gifts God had placed in me.


Steve became my second father.  He entrusted me with things that were important to him and while they were in England, the year Ian was born, and he let me drive his truck and take care of his treasured bonsai trees.  I felt so cool in his Blazer, but I must have killed all 20 of those little trees by the time he returned.  I remember being terrified that he would yell at me and turn me out, and I know he was very disappointed, but he taught me the love of a father, and instead of retaliating, he made me Ian’s godmother.


I let him down there too, as it really wasn’t until my early 40’s that I understood the role of a godmother, but he assured me all the while that he’d made the right choice and that my consistent prayers for Ian through the years were the very best way to support him.  I didn’t fail in that at least.


We’re all born into a family, but if we’re really lucky, we’re especially chosen by others to be a member of their family. Steve and Terri chose me.  Well, Steve chose me and Terri probably initiated a big discussion as to why (wink), and then she totally embraced me into the family!  By now, they must have a giant family.


They have guided me through my teaching years, marriage, parenting, divorce and grappling with spiritual, emotional and intellectual issues. Steve taught me to cook spicy breakfasts, and Terri taught me the value of drinking chlorophyll and green tea. I rejoiced with them when Ian learned the first word Steve taught him, “Kierkegaard.”— Only Steve!! I love and trusted Steve because he never minced words, but he did it with love and humor.


I've always related to and appreciated Steve's honest grappling with God.  He was continually a seeker, and while his faith was deep and true, all of the methods and trappings handed him (and me) by others were suspect.  I truly feel God honored Steve's honesty and humility in seeking answers.  It made Steve approachable for those of us misfits and rifraff of modern society, those hurt, abused and disenfrachised seekers ourselves.  God used Steve in our lives in profound ways, and for that I will always feel undeservedly blessed. 


Steve and I still met at 5:30 a.m. on and off over the past 35 years, where he mentored me on my writing and art, and of course, my relationships.  Luckily, I didn’t follow all of his advice on the latter!  He did teach me what to expect and look for in a man and how to value myself the way God did.  He and Terri taught me how to be the best kind of writing teacher and art teacher. One of my last conversations with Steve, after my 26-year teaching career, started with his question, “So are you done hiding in the classroom yet and ready to summon the guts to get out there and be the writer and artist God intended you to be?”


In many ways, Steve and I struggled with the same kinds of demons.  I have no doubt that his challenges and exhortations were as much for himself as for me.  Like Steve, I've been told I was gifted with the ability to write or paint, but instead of taking the risk and putting my own out there, I chose to teach others to do so successfully.  Does this mean we failed in living up to our potential or were/are we doing exactly as God intended with the gifts He bestowed us?  It's a question I will ask Steve when I see him again.


(Steve went on to live with Jesus in December 2016, and while he will be dearly missed, I know I will see him again one day, when we are all whole physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I look forward to that reunion!)


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

Kelvin Grandy Grant Sept. 8, 1958 - Sept. 14, 2016


Yesterday I discovered I'd lost a dear, dear friend and past fiancé of many years, Dr. Kelvin Grandy Grant. I've never met a man more driven to give back to the world—on top of having a doctorate in agronomy and a juris doctorate, he gave his time and heart to teaching young people, establishing several scholarships for others to attend college, serving our country in the armed forces, serving his community as a city commissioner and President of the Farm Bureau, he was a scientist who cared for and understood farmers and was also committed to helping others regain health as a physical trainer. He loved his daughter, Nisaa, to the ends of the universe and back, he and I raised our daughters through the teen and college years together, supporting one another and our daughters through our collective, hard-earned wisdom of learning from our mistakes.


I'm sorry we never seemed to get our corn rows lined up parallel, finding our way back to one another, as we'd always told each other we would.  Just 2 weeks ago he'd told me that he would always love me to his dying day.  My heart breaks now.


I know he'd be upset that all of this didn't fall on a year or month or day that was a multiple of 5, an endearing OCD personality trait of his. Well, dear one, we were connected for beautiful 10 years, so perhaps this will have to suffice.


I will deeply miss his "just do it", "hard work and clean living" mantras in our conversations. I am a better person for having had Kelvin as a close friend for so many years. (This is a painting I did of him a number of years back, now willed to dear Nisaa.) I will miss you, Maize Farmer.


All photos and text used in this blog are copyrighted by Author of this website, unless otherwise indicated, and permission is required to use any image or text.

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