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Words need pictures/pictures need words

As part of a content partnership with Nola Studiola, a collaborative online platform from Alison Barker, in which various artists curate the site with their own content for month-long "residencies,” we will feature monthly “dispatches” from Nola Studiola's artists. This month, NolaVie's own longtime contributor, artist and writer Carol Pulitzer, takes the helm at Nola Studiola.

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In 1956, the days of truly live television, a big TV hit called Queen For A Day had three women pour out their tragic life stories and compete for the answer to their prayers, a queenly red velvet robe, a seat on a throne, a bunch of long stemmed roses – not to mention a glittering crown. Usually they would sob their way through the telling. The winner was chosen by the audience via an “applause meter” at each seat and oh, the tears! The clapping! The huge emotion! The stories were so compelling, so sad, that I sat with millions of others, mesmerized and misty eyed. These were the uber-prosperous 1950s.

Imagine nowadays, whole cities would be competing for which was in a more desperate situation.

Speaking of millions, in the same era there was another wildly popular show called The Millionaire, which was equally theatrical, but the stories weren’t real. Each week, the fabulously wealthy and secretive John Beresford Tipton, Jr. would have his executive secretary, Michael Anthony, deliver $1 million to an amazed recipient. The interesting part of the story was what happened after the money was delivered. Humans just seem to love stories about other humans (and to see pictures of dogs and cats being themselves).

I think every life is filled with events that are stranger than fiction, so no wonder we find our lives interesting.

Stories are great, but for me, stories beg for pictures, and vice versa. So when I do art it usually includes words.

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I designed greeting cards and spot illustrations for magazines and newspapers, perfect vehicles for words and pictures. Then I started illustrating on canvas using my old Singer Sewing machine. I would set all the knobs to zero as if I were darning a hole in a sock, then move the canvas around using the black thread to draw images and words, stitched cartoons. I made a couple of stitched books too, always incorporating words.

Carol on curating Nola Studiola: When Alison asked me to curate Nola Studiola for September I was flattered and very intimidated by the previous wonderful posts. I did what writers do and sat down for many days, and threw up all over the page with whatever words and thoughts arose. Eventually some themes emerged: books, words and pictures, what my writing roots are. In the writing of this I realized how crazy it is to spend my precious time clipping and filing. Especially other people’s artwork. Even if I stood at a table next to David Hockney and followed him stroke for stroke, his stroke would look like David Hockney and mine would look like mine. So best thing to do is be true to my particular voice. And that’s what I’ve done here.

Carol Pulitzer is an award-winning writer and illustrator. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine Magazine, and Country Living among others. She writes and illustrates super short stories at her Little Theatre blog ( littletheatre1.com ) and can be contacted at [email protected]