Wednesday, June 13, 2012


MARIA THE HUTIA'S JOURNEY.  Maria the hutia, a small brown furry rodent, rides the back of Myrtle the sea turtle. Maria shares the ride with Launa, the iguana. Amber, the long-tailed tropic bird flies overhead with Maret and Garret, Bahamian parrots. Art by Hallelujah Truth

Hallelujah for JOURNEY, for the hills and valleys that LIFE graciously gives us so that we may THRIVE as we go down under submerged in darkness and discover ways to climb to its exhilarating sunlit peaks. These travails and triumphs are the PILGRIM’S JOURNEY, on which disappointment and failure play just as an important role as joy and success in LEARNING. Yet in the yin-and-yang balance, there is such great FUN in celebrating the SUCCESS. I write to you today at the beginning of June 2012 from the MOUNTAIN TOP of my SOUL. Hallelujah!

I have just SUCCESSFULLY completed 29 illustrations for a children’s book written by Ron Shaklee to teach the children of San Salvador, Bahamas, about the endangerment of their precious habitat through the journeys of the little known and almost extinct Bahamian hutia. These children of San Salvador are the future stewards of the farthest island on the Bahamian platform. It is approximately 180 miles from Nassau, one of the Bahamian islands most visited by tourists.
THE MAP OF MARIA THE HUTIA'S JOURNEY. This map of Maria's journey is the very last image for Ron Shaklee's story, "The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia." It is the culmination of my achievement in learning how to draw. Here I celebrate the characters in the book and the feeling of Maria's journey.  Although there are no hutias on San Salvador, I included the island in an inset on the bottom right hand corner of the map. If it weren't for the Gerace Research Centre, which has brought scientists to its shores for the past 30 years, we wouldn't have this educational scientific story. Art by Hallelujah Truth

At its great distance out at sea, San Salvador used to seem remote from the busy world with its commotion of extensive harvesting of marine life, tourism, and pollution. But dear FELLOW PILGRIMS, we are all connected, and the WORLD IS ONE. Even the health and longevity of San Salvador’s coral reefs, sea turtles and fish, bird-nesting grounds, and a nearby cay with a unique species of iguanas are now being threatened by all of this human activity, including the rising ocean temperatures. The coral reefs of San Salvador are dying, the grouper, conch, and crayfish are being harvested at breeding times or before they mature, the endangered turtles are hunted and eaten. Nature’s abundance is limited! The children of San Salvador can learn more about their precious natural environment through stories like Ron Shaklee’s and thus become protectors of it. The equation is simple:

Humans caused the damage; therefore, humans must own up to the responsibility to make amends, to heal the EARTH before it is impossible to do so.


As the illustrator of Maria the hutia’s story, I JOURNEYED with this furry brown rodent  and shared her SOJOURN of loss and recovery. She is swept away by the ocean from her undeveloped island home where her species thrives only to discover that Bahamian hutias are unknown to other animals and do not exist on other islands. Four years ago in 2008, I said, “YES,” to illustrating “The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia,” and proceeded to step away from my CREATIVE HOME, painting in acrylics on wood to an unfamiliar territory of using pencils, micron pens, India ink, gum erasers, photographs, reference books, the internet, and watercolor, tracing, and graphite papers. You could say I, like Maria the hutia, was lost at sea.

At the time that I began to illustrate Maria the hutia, I did not draw. I did not use paper. I did not look outside myself. In fact, as a Georgia visionary folk artist, I painted from my inner visions and night dreams, often finger painting the genesis of my images. From my perspective as an artist who honors and celebrates Jungian archetypes and the exploration of the subconscious, I believed that to realistically “copy” the LIFE surrounding me did not hold value—“Why not take a photograph?,” I would ask. How could I illustrate Ron Shaklee’s story about Maria the hutia with its cast of real life animal characters in economical to publish black and white pen and ink images and still be me, HALLELUJAH TRUTH?
FROM ACRYLIC ON BOARD TO PEN AND WATERCOLOR PENCIL ON PAPER.  I made the decision to redo the cover art. The painting in front of me is the very first image of Maria the Hutia's journey that I made 4 years ago. This photo shows that I used it for inspiration to "color" the black and white image I had created in pen.  This second piece of art for the cover is the second only Maria image that I have put in color. (photo by Chiboogamoo)

THE NEW PROCESS. Before Maria the Hutia, I would see an image in mind and feel it in my heart and begin painting with my fingers. For Maria, I learned to study images from photos, books, and the internet. I made pencil drawings and worked with them to create designs that resonated with my mystical sense of balance and beauty. Then, using graphite paper, I transferred the image onto paper. Finally, I used micron pens, usually a size 5 tip, to make the image permanent, along with India ink. (photo by Chiboogamoo)

Just like Maria the hutia, as I TRAVELED away from the familiar, I had to engage the help of others to show me how to find my way HOME. Without the use of a map and only through exploration and the help of Myrtle the sea turtle, Amber the long-tailed tropicbird, Launa the iguana and others did Maria the hutia succeed in returning home. As a visionary artist operating as an illustrator, there was no map for me either. I wanted to CREATE from a CENTERED HOME PLACE, but there was no pre-existing route. However, there were numerous PEOPLE. That’s right PEOPLE, who appeared magically to assist me whenever in whatever I needed.

Sandy Voegeli showered me with numerous photographs that she had taken as a master diver from San Salvador. Ron Shaklee sent me a list of ideas that he felt would be suitable to illustrate. He suggested the use of pens in varying tip sizes. Jacq Marie Jack spent countless hours with me, providing me with children’s storybooks, books on using pen and ink, books with beguiling patterns, and beloved visual artists. Then when my images were completed in pencil, Jacq Marie counseled me on how to improve their compositions and perspectives, something as a self-taught artist I had little knowledge of. My brilliant companion and husband, Chiboogamoo, who is also a talented artist, assisted me so frequently the placement of a line or the technical aspects of scanning or photoshopping that we have lived Maria’s journey for these four years (Thank you honey!). There were numerous others who offered help and provided encouragement. How SPECTACULAR! How COMFORTING to know that when we PILGRIMS commit to a vision, PROVIDENCE steps in and helps us in unforeseen ways!

SANDY VOEGELI'S PHOTOGRAPAHS. These are a few examples of Sandy's photos that were key in my portraying the characters in Maria's misadventures. Here you see Launa the Iguana, Rupert the Nassau Grouper, and Myrtle the Sea Turtle. 

Ron Shaklee's Sketch of Maria's Journey
JACQ MARIE JACK'S LIBRARY.  Over the four years of working on the illustrations for Maria the Hutia, these books photographed here are a small sample of the books loaned to me by my friend and fellow artist Jacq Marie. Her constant resourcefulness and support kept me buoyant during my JOURNEY INTO THE UNKOWN.

A JOURNEY of four years is coming to an end for me as we prepare to bring “The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia” to press. Maria gets lost. Before she can return home, she must learn how to survive and make friends in the UNKNOWN. This is our MISSION in life dear FELLOW PILGRIMS. During our lives, we get lost many times, but together with others we will find the HOME we are looking for. As a visionary artist, I have expanded my way of BEING. I am now also an illustrator, one who can look outside her inner self at the large lovely world and find kind generous SOULS who will share the JOURNEY with me. Hallelujah!

As I finish SOUL BLOGGING with you today, I have ask:

Can we JOURNEY together to heal the EARTH? Can we explore unmapped avenues to amend the damaged environments and the vanishing sea life?

Anything is possible when we are united in effort. That’s Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me about your JOURNEY. What have you lost and recovered?


Beverly Cassell, founder of the Artist Conference Network (ACN) died on June 10, 2012. This innovative, imaginative artist, who created a national coaching community for the arts, has touched many peoples’ lives deeply and profoundly. She will be missed but not forgotten. Thank you Beverly! Without you, I would have never JOURNEYED this far in my CREATIVE SOJOURN. I would not have illustrated “The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia.” I would not have gained mastery of pen and ink.
Beverly writes about MASTERY in the beginning of our Artist Conference Network handbook:

Some place within us all, aliveness stirs with innocent mischief. In this embarrassingly child-like place resides the source of our authenticity, our uniqueness, our sweetness, our vision, our maximum potential power. As we align our skills with our full creative power and vision, we gain access to mastery. In mastery, the target is hit before the arrow is released.

Beverly! I know you are in the presence of the GREAT WORLD SOUL and gaining mastery in that realm already!

I will close with a quote that Beverly has us read at every Artist Conference Meeting. It is one that I have referred to indirectly in my blog above about how we are supported in our JOURNEYS:

…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. (from W.H. Murray)

CAT ASSISTANCE. Tao has provided steady support for my artistic endeavors since joining our household in December 2011. Here he supervises the making of the final image, the map of Maria the hutia's journey.


  1. What a wonderful blog about your journey along with Maria the Hutia! You are an artist, illustrator and creative visionary – a pilgrim taking me along on your artistic path. Thanks, Ruth.

  2. It has been a long and wondrous journey for you with "Maria," and how exciting and gratifying to see it coming closer to its end and return home! May you be swept out to sea more often, riding the waves and enjoying the support of friends along the way.