“I’m sorry, call 911, take care of the dog, don’t come in the bedroom.”


Too many Veteran suicides and Deana was one of them…

“I’m sorry, call 911, take care of the dog, don’t come in the bedroom.”

These were the words written by Laurel Martorella’s daughter.

These words were quoted in an article posted on NPR, Battling Depression And Suicide Among Female Veterans.

These were words that rattled my bones and made me sick to my stomach.

I was compelled to paint Deana’s portrait and share her mother’s story.

I know that suicide rates are high in our military culture, and over 20 every single day? It’s too much. It’s hard to understand. I don’t believe our Vets really want to die; I believe that they just want the pain to go away.

Deana Martorella was too young to leave her family and deserved so much more. I am doing what I can to help bring more awareness and educate others but more importantly, I want to help our Vets in pain and also their families.
So that I can process struggles in life, I paint, I create and I make art. Art helps me heal and helps me feel closer work through my thoughts.

Laurel Martorella is Deana’s mother and provided me permission to share her story. She and her family and friends have founded The Deana Martorella Memorial Scholarship Foundation and she also wants to fight the suicide crisis.

“…it is our desire to use Deana’s story to help spread awareness and in turn possibly lead others to seek help. Deana seems to have a way of reaching out to others to let them know she is with them…I hope you feel her love and support as well… I know she is grateful. Seeing the number 22 (her soccer #) and dragonflies are her ways to let us know she is near. Thank you for all you do.” Laurel Martorella

The Deana Martorella Memorial Scholarship Foundation.


Deana’s story…..from her mom.

We don’t always know what is going on inside our child’s head. We like to think we are doing what is right for them. Apparently, I missed some signs along the way. For now, that is my truth.

Deana was my fourth child out of five wonderful children. She brought new and exciting things into our family. She was the “Italian” child with dark hair, strikingly beautiful dark brown eyes and had a darker complexion than her siblings. As a child, she was happy and bubbly and enjoyed and excelled at both her schoolwork and athletics. Outdoors brought her great joy and she spent many years as a girl scout, learning and appreciating all that being outdoors gives anyone who takes the time to enjoy Gods beauty.

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Deana was a beautiful person inside and out but I can’t help feeling that she never really realized that. Not because people didn’t tell her or show her how they felt…I just don’t think she believed it herself. She touched so many peoples’ lives in so many different ways. From her love of learning, soccer, the Marine Corps, physical fitness training, always on the hunt
for a good bargain, or just everyday thoughtful things to brighten a person’s day.

She wasn’t an easy person to understand. She had her struggles. But when she found something she was passionate about, the sky was the limit.

Deana excelled in high school. She graduated 6th in her class but was somewhat a loner. She had very few close friends but those friends were very dear to her and remained in her life. She loved learning and reading. She always had a book close by. She played the trombone, held records in track and even played basketball. But the sport she loved the most was soccer. She played soccer for many teams…and loved every minute of being on the field.

She went to college a year and like a lot of people struggled to find her way. She went to live with her sister in Texas for a while before returning home to attend another year at college. Deana then decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. She said it was the best decision she ever made. She graduated from boot camp the top of her class and had the highest PT score for both the male and female warriors. Her MOS was in Intel and she was stationed at Camp Lejeune. She fell in love with North Carolina. She loved the Corps and was chosen to do a tour with a FET (Female Engagement Team) in Afghanistan. She didn’t tell me a lot about what went on over there but she said she saw the world differently after that. After a failed marriage she moved and rented a house. Someone set her house on fire and she lost everything. That experience left her terrified. She left the Marine Corps a Sgt. after completing 5 years of service. She wanted to become a Physical Fitness trainer and had enrolled in the University of North Carolina to pursue a degree in Kinesiology. During her exit from the military, she was diagnosed with PTSD. She never shared this information with me. How I wish she had.

She worked 2 jobs to support herself. She was a good person. Deana had some really super great friends who were always there for her. She also had some people who were not so supportive. Deana had some ups and downs and like many, she made some not so smart choices. She always owned up to everything and tried to move forward…even with her faults I always felt she was moving forward. We talked often and I always told her how special she was and how proud I was of her. I suppose she only told me bits and pieces about how she felt. Her being so far away made it difficult for me to truly understand. I’m not sure even she understood.

Image may contain: 1 person, standingThey tell me her PTSD was combat-related in combination with the house fire. She was speaking to a pastor and had accepted Jesus the Sunday before her death. The day she died she went to the VA and spoke to a counselor and I was told they also saw no evidence to be concerned about. No one did. All her friends and family that spoke to her felt she was focusing on making good decisions about her future. We were all wrong. That’s the thing about PTSD. You need help to sort things out and to learn coping skills. All it takes is some kind of trigger to cause the person to act irrationally. I was honored to visit with those who were active in her life in North Carolina. They gave me the insight into the wonderful person that she was to them and told me many kind ways in which she touched their lives.

It has taken me days to write this. Even typing the words, my daughter committed suicide, brings me to uncontrollable tears. I will never again see or hear from my sweet child. The heartache consumes me on a daily basis. I am a mother and a fighter and I have decided to honor such an amazing woman by helping to promote PTSD and suicide awareness. 22 Veterans commit suicide every day. A fact I did not know until I lost my daughter. It is my mission to help others be aware and seek help for themselves or those they love.


We Are Strong Community Mural Project

I so enjoy facilitating community art projects and fortunately have the opportunity to host another workshop this summer at the Interfaith Community Service with their Haven’s House homeless clients. Human Development students taught by Dr. Eliza Bigham at CSUSM is hosting this project with me.  I take the role of coaching, inspiring and guiding our students as they encourage homeless individuals to create art with them.  One individual told me today that he should do more art like this. He shared he’d served time in prison and spends a lot of time in courtrooms but is looking to create art as a way to unwind and deal with the stress.

We are only on day two of the project and will continue it next week but so far, the project is progressing nicely.

Participants shared that they like the bright positive colors and it makes them feel energized.  The conversations shared among the group is fascinating and I learn so much about others and what they endure in their lives.

Stay tuned as the project evolves…IMG_6665

Wonder Woman is a State of Mind

If you know me or follow my work, you know I work full-time during the days and then paint like there’s no tomorrow by night.  I always have several collections in the progress but one collection I’m currently working on is painting random female faces reminding that ALL women can be Wonder Women regardless of their color, size, weight, class, race, ethnicity, beliefs, or cultural background!




Healing through the Arts – Train the Trainer instructed by Marilyn Huerta

CSU Palliative Institute Healing through the Arts Registration!

I’ve always used art as a tool to help me connect, communicate and to cope with difficult times in my life and now that I know and understand the power of the arts, I share this knowledge with others.

You too can learn to use art to help you and then learn how to use art to help others. If you’re interested, sign-up for my next Healing through the Arts – Train the Trainer course hosted by the CSU Palliative Care Institute.  We offer a simple 6-week online course and no art experience is necessary. Visual art projects are as simple as scribbling, doodling, collage making and working with mixed media but you’ll also learn more about yourself and how art helps others.

Sign up quickly before for next course fills up, it begins on Feb. 7, 2018.

CSU Palliative Institute Healing through the Arts Registration!

Saluting Heroes this Veteran’s Day and Mural painted for the family of Hero Rodney Buentello


by Marilyn Huerta

I remember hearing the story about retired USMC MSgt Rodney Buentello who sacrificed his life while saving the lives of two teenagers in June of 2016.


I am happy to have been asked to paint this mural and it will be presented to the Buentello family this upcoming Veteran’s Day weekend at the All-Star Vets Softball Tournament. The softball fundraiser will honor our heroes and donations will be used for a scholarship named after Rodney Buentello.

All Star Vets is taking Veterans to new heights and is connecting military and families through the transformative power of sports. Learn more about this amazing programs and how you can be a part of it or support it!

All Star Vets Salute 2 Heroes Charity Softball Tournament




Remembering Tom Petty – I Won’t Back Down

Lyrics by Tom Petty
Artwork by Marilyn Huerta
Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down

Remembering Community Arts Outreach

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Going down memory lane with just “some” of the important creative community outreach projects I facilitated or co-facilitated with fellow artists, community colleagues and friends. Thanks to all of you who has been working with me on bringing so much art outreach to our communities! Check out this slideshow and see how much you’ve been a part of. These are just a few of the many projects we’ve completed. So much more work to do, to help others connect, communicate and cope! Life goes on…

Bad As* Women Art Expo 2017


This 2nd Annual art expo was another huge success! My artwork titled “Princess” was transformed into a promotional poster and not only did I participate as an artist but I also got to coordinate the live painting session with a beautiful model as our subject.  Participants ranged in ages, experience, backgrounds and cultures. It was wonderful to work with such a diverse population.  I look forward to being part of this again next year, if not sooner!






18238671_10154527358432543_4002407421770326427_oIt was great hanging out with good ol’ friends and co-workers from The Upper Deck Company. We practically grew up as young adults in the 90’s. Real friendships never die.


Huge group of talented artists participated in this great exhibit!


A few of my artworks in the exhibit.


Photos from the live painting session.