Guest – Minimalist Artist Wanda Dean

Minimalist Artist Wanda Dean

I have enjoyed viewing the Vincent van Gogh paintings posted on FaceBook over the last few months. Several of them remind me of the work of Wanda Dean. Wanda is a fantastic artist and friend I met in Western New York State. She also happens to be my wife’s aunt.

I’m fortunate to have one of her pieces hanging on my wall. I’ve asked her to tell us a bit about her work. I was surprised to find that she faces some of the same issues artists of the written word face. One surprised me. Like our characters, she must be on the watch to see where her brushes take her.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist? As a small child, I was always drawing and being creative, which continued until I started studying Art seriously around 1980. I was fortunate to have studied under Many wonderful mentors through the years, such as Cole Young at Bonaventure University, Fred Lipp, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, Catherine Nelson, Alfred University Art Professor, and Thomas Buechner, a master artist from Corning, NY. These mentors helped me get where I wanted to go in my work. I took a critiquing class for many years at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester with Fred Lipp. Because of this class, I decided I wanted to be a minimalist painter and to stop painting when I’ve’ said’ everything I wanted to say about the painting.

What mediums do you work in? My paintings are all done with alkyds and oils. I also work in charcoal, watercolor, and acrylics for other projects.

Please tell us a few words about the painting posted here. Along my daily walk, one day, I noticed the dark tree trunks against the bright oranges and golds of the foliage. The strong lights and darks just struck me, and I immediately went to my studio and started the painting. In all of my work, I start with an idea, but I carefully watch what my paint is doing on the canvas, and it dictates my next move. In other words, the painting’ tells ‘me where it wants to go, and I follow that lead. As I am working on a painting, I constantly watch to see what is working or not working.

Where do you work? I work in my studio for the most part but start some of my work on site.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to work by? I work with music for the most part, but there are times I like it silent. I listen to instrumental music only: Boch, George Winston, Una Mattina, Liquid Mind, and others.

Do you name your work? If so, what is your process for naming? Naming my work is not easy. I study the piece, and usually, a title comes to mind.

If you could have painted any work (one that someone else has already painted,) which one would it be? Why? Mark Rothko is a Minimalist painter, and I would love to paint any one of his works, but No. 10 is one of my favorites. His luminous paintings have such a sense of space and light. His minimal paintings just let you go on you on the journey as few elements are distracting. I strive to continue to be more minimalistic because of Mark Rothko. I take out things that detract me from getting the special feeling that I want.

Everyone, at some point, wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? I wish I would have been a student in a fine arts program at a University, and gotten an MFA

What’s your biggest pet peeve? Being interrupted when I am working in my studio.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Food, Art supplies, and books

What’s on the horizon for you? Just being able to keep learning and painting.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your paintings? I  am fortunate to have a husband that supports my work and respects my need to have the time to paint. I love discussing art with my artists’ friends or those who appreciate art. While I do enjoy being social, I need to have lots of time to be alone. I need privacy.

Where can we see your work: Wannie311 on Instagram


  1. Thonie Hevron

    Mike said it well. I noted similarities to my writing process. Great interview!

  2. Michael A. Black

    I found it interesting how many things she said resonated with me as a prose artist. I never realized how similar painting and writing are, from getting an idea and then allowing it to develop on the canvas or the page as you work to fulfill your particular vision. This was a fascinating interview.

  3. Wanda Dean

    Thank You. I am honored that you ask me to be a guess artist!

    I enjoyed thinking and answering the questions about my work.

    It is always enjoyable to discuss art , whether it be painting, writing, music, sculpting etc.
    with artists and those whom appreciate it.

    My favorite quote is:

    “Art is that which, otherwise would be left unsaid”. I think about this often and remember one of my mentors who made me promise I would remember it. His name was Cole Young, and sadly he died at a young age.


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A Perfect Balance of Mystery, Romance, and History

A few readers commented that when I posted this article from Kirkus Reviews, it was much too small to read.


  1. Mike Sloan

    George is a personal friend who I have known for many years through your law enforcement association, and I offer this honest review which he has already seen.

    I have always been in awe of anyone who can write a novel of any kind. Personally, I could never conceive of an idea that would maintain people’s interest for more that a few pages, let alone over 300.

    I finished this book recently, and have to say I was duly impressed.

    Although this type of book would not be my pick if I was browsing the airport shops looking for reading material for a trip, I will definitely recommend it to my friends.

    While I would not put this book into a category that will likely attract a lot of men, or the ‘nail bitter you can’t put it down’ category, I was continually drawn back, when time was available, to see what was going to happen next.

    I think your characters were great, and it was very easy to follow their various relationships with one another. And while I am no historian by any means, your knowledge imparted regarding the time period seemed very accurate and interesting.

    The only let down for me was the ending, but I won’t say more so as not to create a “spoiler” for those who have not yet read your book. That is not to say there was a problem with it, but it was not what I was expecting.

    Again, fantastic job, and I look forward to your future endeavors.

  2. Thonie Hevron

    This is a terrific review of your work, George! It’s coming up next on my TBR list.

  3. Dan Oates

    All you have to do is turn it sideways and the it is, easy to read. And I’m glad I did, it sounds interesting George, I’ll buy a copy. Not normally my genre, but I’ve been widening my field of vision lately.


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A perfect balance of mystery, romance, and history.

The Kirkus Reviews arrived earlier this week along with a pleasant surprise, The Mona Lisa Sisters is shown on Page 170. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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The Mona Lisa Sisters is on the way!

The Mona Lisa Sisters

I am happy to announce that my debut novel was released on Amazon today. If you ordered the e-book, it should be in your Kindle library.

Thanks to all of you that pre-ordered the e-book or the printed version. I look forward to hearing your comments.


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  1. Kathy Ornelas

    Just finished The Mona Lisa Sisters, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Wonderful character development, and I really enjoyed the historic and location references. I’ve been to some of those places, so could really imagine Lura and the girls there. A really nice adventure for everyone in the story.


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Our guest today is Mark R. Clifford

A Proud fourth-generation San Franciscan, Mark is the second-born in an Irish Catholic family of seven, making him a self-proclaimed expert in the pseudoscience of birth order characteristics. He served in the Marine Corps infantry for ten years and as a Police Officer for over a quarter-century. TYPHOON COAST tells the story of what haunts him.

In the Marines, he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Mark received Special Operations training while attached to the 3d Marine Division in Okinawa and was operating in the Philippines in 1991 during the historic eruption of Mount Pinatubo. His law enforcement career was equally eclectic. He rose to the sergeant’s rank and served in a myriad of assignments to include SWAT and undercover narcotics.

Mark still calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. He and his wife have been married for almost thirty years and have raised three beautiful children. He has written for the San Jose Mercury, Contra Costa Times, San Leandro Times, and read his works at the famous Cody’s Books in Berkeley.


Mark, we have a few questions about TYPHOON COAST and your writing history. To begin with, what genre or genres do you write in? I work mainly in adventure fiction, magical realism, and historical fiction.

Please tell us a bit about your book.

Ten-year-old Trent McShane watches in horror as his beautiful young mother is swept away from California’s Typhoon Coast into the unforgiving wild blue Pacific, never to be seen again. Lost and bewildered, Trent falls under the spell of class clown Eddie Thompson, who has a wanderlust for treasure hunts—in particular, the infamous World War II Golden Lily Treasure, buried on the other side of the ocean, deep in the wild green Philippine jungle.

Together, Trent and Eddie follow childhood illusions of grandeur through San Francisco, then become men in the vast Philippine mountains. Mount Pinatubo explodes with apocalyptic fury, but does it take the Golden Lily Treasure with it? Eddie and Trent are not alone in the hunt. The trillions in treasure could afford the US government incredible power in international affairs and bankroll the nation’s black operations. It’s all fair game.

Typhoon Coast is a rollicking ride through 1980s San Francisco, through the vibrant eyes of a boy who loses his mother, and then his innocence. In the jungles of the Philippines, in the 1990s, that boy becomes a man, falls in love, and begins a lifelong quest for a mythical treasure trove hidden in the canopy. Magical realism and romanticism merge with the hard, cold reality of a Marine’s life to reveal a glimpse into how the imagination conspires to keep us dreaming.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? After twenty-six years, I retired from police work as a Sergeant on June 1st, 2020. Sadly, I watched a massive mob loot and burn the town I served from one end to another. I had friends die on those streets. Friends become disabled; their dreams cut short. Police officers live many lifetimes. It is common to live a lifetime in one shift—all a single life’s emotions wrapped up in a unique tour.

I lost a friend and fellow writer on those streets. He was savagely gunned down. As I folded the flag over his coffin, I promised I’d write a novel. I started soon after.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? Sharing my work with the world was always part of the plan. As the writing process ended, the marketing began. I quickly realized that the publishing industry was changing, and I had to make my luck.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? Next step! I am not the smartest guy. But I am stupidly ambitious. I found a guy (now friend) who wanted to give indie publishing a shot. I put the magic on paper, and Greg put his spell on the computer. It was a joint operation, and we were pretty proud of Typhoon Coast the day she was born.

Where do you write? I write from where I am in life. I went from being an altar boy and an Eagle Scout to being a Marine and a cop. I work at my computer in the family room every morning at 6:30. Writing is not a discipline for me; writing is something I serve.

I reach for my hot cup of black coffee in a military veteran mug that my kids gave me for Christmas years ago. The computed screen glows in a dark room. My dog sleeps on the couch behind me. I like quiet; however, I don’t need it. Technically, I was not a true feral child raised by wolves, but I’m Irish-Catholic, and I was the second oldest in a family of seven children—I got peace like I got stigmata.
The world is still quiet at six-thirty—a treat.

I remember my dreams from the night before. I still dream about the jungle and the streets. The concerns of the day will begin in a couple of hours. At six-thirty, the story I serve weaves itself into the rules of my craft. I am its servant.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? Henry David Thoreau wrote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” I will never claim that Typhoon Coast is an autobiography. On the other hand, every single detail has a pure life nexus. A writer must write from a place they know.

Sadly, at twenty-six, I was wealthy beyond imagination.

The Philippines is a nation of 7,641 islands and just as many spectacles. June 1991, I was a Marine stationed on Luzon, the chain’s largest island, where fate had ushered me to a front-row seat to an epic adventure. While enduring the fatigue of jungle patrol, I’d befriended a Filipino selling machetes. He’d disclosed to me the suspected whereabouts of a treasure trove rumored to be near the top of the now-infamous Mount Pinatubo.

There is much history about this legendary Golden Lily Treasure, as well as intrigue behind its origin. My new cohort and I soon took a jarring jeepney ride, to board a slow-sinking banca boat that ferried us back to the boonies, where we footslogged toward Pinatubo’s Vesuvius splendor, to unearth our riches in Luzon’s lawless wilderness.

Treasure hunting is rousing. I don’t need to bother you with the intricate details of how the machete man read a series of etchings in rocks, or how we avoided a bottle as if it was a landmine because the Japanese filled Saki bottles with deadly gas to protect the cemented entrances from looters. But we’d found the sealed cave! I could smell the perfume of my soul within…that undeniable fragrance of one’s hopes and dreams. The bigger problem was staying alive to claim it. However, in the end, it didn’t matter. A few days later, I was back on filthy jungle patrol. I tasted the unmistakable lure of treasure that had seeped into my nose and caked to the back of my tongue, as I watched Pinatubo’s cataclysmic eruption blow 500 feet of its summit twenty-two miles into the wild blue yonder.

Typhoon Coast was inspired by the second-largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century, which blew my life of opulence to oblivion. I have since raised a family and was a cop for more than twenty-five years. I plan on writing two more books based upon the adventures of Typhoon Coast’s main character, Trent McShane. We will follow his life of dramatic happenstance, as he is plucked off his beat and back into the Marines, seizing opportunities to right his life’s tragic wrongs on the trail of a high-stakes mission.

Describe your process for naming your characters? One of the biggest problems with man is that we name everything we see! A “name” is a label that simplifies very complicated things. For example, “Man” is a word that reduces a person’s biology, psychology, genetics, and personal history to three letters. I have lost lots of friends whom I immortalize throughout Typhoon Coast. Their loved ones will recognize them.

Real settings or fictional towns? Why? Create a world that your reader will understand and do it early. I learned something important about storytelling as a young cop. I’d lose my audience at body number two in a multiple homicide story. It wasn’t that I couldn’t tell a dramatic tale; it was that the subject matter was just too remote for a reasonable person to grasp. Now try telling a story about being buried alive in quaking cataclysmic volcanic eruption while a typhoon raged outside. An actual apocalypse that blackened out the sun. They just can’t connect. As a result, I create composite settings and situations to better reach my reader. They are not looking for me. I’m looking for them.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? I rarely read for pleasure today. I write. I do read voraciously to see how others have written. I have bookshelves uniformly fitted with tattered books that profoundly influenced my inner writer. Drum roll…. The best book I ever read (and recommend to fellow artists) …. Ready for the big reveal?

Answer: The Moon and Sixpence is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, told in episodic form by a first-person narrator, in a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker who abandons his wife and children to pursue his desire to become an artist.

BUT! Don’t run out and buy it. It’s available through my website and Amazon.

What’s in the future for you and your writing? To continue to write, of course. A story can be told from many perspectives.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? Stay tuned for Barbary Coast: Fly from Evil to be released in 2021!

Website and/or blog links:


  1. Lynn Hesse

    The dream of treasure and dangerous adventure can’t be beat as a plot starter. Thank you for sharing how your life influences your writing. “Police officers live many lifetimes. It is common to live a lifetime in one shift—all a single life’s emotions wrapped up in a unique tour” expresses what I was trying to explain to a longtime civilian friend.


    Another book to be added to my must read stash.

  3. Thonie Hevron

    This is a fascinating post. I want to know more about the book (I’ll read it) and the author! Great stuff, George!


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