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Letter 9 - Ben Cicatti Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

To Ben Cicatti
Illustrator of my first book, Pablito and the Speckled Bear.

Dear Ben:
It was such a coincidence to meet you one day on Mountain Drive.  I had run that road for years, probably 16 or more years. For the last four or five years, maybe longer, I had followed the changing images of the iron heart sculpture.


My friend, Michelle, and I would often share e-mails advising each other that the mysterious artist had once again secretly changed the illustration over the course of a few days.  There was always something new.  A hummingbird.  A dove.  An octopus.  A row of corn.  An oyster shell with a pearl.  Obama’s face the night after the election.  It was always a thrill to see something new.

Months went by and I never once witnessed anyone taking down or replacing the sculpture for its transformation.  On a run one day, I stopped to see another artist, Andy Johnson, who happened to be at the bottom of his driveway on Mountain Drive.  I asked him, “I am so curious about the artist who paints the heart sculpture.” He laughed, surprised that I didn’t already know you, and at that moment it was like you magically appeared and were standing next to Andy.  I complimented you and asked to meet with you as a potential illustrator for my children’s picture book, Pablito and the Speckled Bear.  From there, we met a number of times and over the course of a few years we slowly began to work together.  You originally created five illustrations for Pablito and then we took a break.  Then you created another five.  Your images continually improved as you enhanced your style.  We were close to having a full set of illustrations to self-publish Pablito.

Then the infamous, November 13th Tea Fire.  You were home with your daughter, Chloe, that night and just about to meet your wife, Michelle.  The fire came fast and with such fury that many of us had so little warning, so little time.  You had little Chloe.  I thought about you, Michelle and Chloe many, many times after the fire and wanted to do something for you.  Coincidentally, my younger son, Peter, was also working on his own Spanish version of Pablito along with his own illustrations.  I did not have enough of your illustrations so I blended the illustrations to surprise you and your family with an actual book.  

Ben, I am so honored to have you as an artist in my life.  The heart sculpture was more sentimental than I can even begin to tell you.  It is only now that I can share with you the epiphany I had one day while running on Mountain Drive.  One day, I stopped.  I completely halted my run as I was heading home.  I had noticed piles of branches, bushes and mountainside scrubs. The fire department had come to do their annual clearing and seemed to make the sides of the road look worse rather than better.  A bulldozer had come and completely destroyed a section.  Rocks were exposed.  The hillside looked bare, naked, but what was missing was the heart sculpture.  It had been there for years attached to an iron rod, a welded heart about the size of a honeydew melon.  I later learned it was you who periodically removed the sculpture to repaint its sides.  

For months the image was white with an outline of a dove in flight.  A dove.  Peace.  Yes, it was a sign.  How could I bring more peace into my life.  Then the image changed.  I loved to run by and see a hummingbird, a quail, a woodpecker, an oriole, or even a neighborhood lorikeet.  But it was the hummingbird that I felt was my animal totem.  Just like the hummingbird, my energy carried me from place to place, from project to project - always on the go, always seeking the center of the perfect flower to gather sustenance. Like a hummingbird on a long journey, I was always willing to take risks.  Never a dull moment.  The hummingbird propelled me to believe in my dreams.  I couldn’t believe my own power of intention. I wanted to write; I wanted to write children’s books, my own novel, magazine articles.  Your art helped me to manifest my dreams.

I am honored that you have worked with me over the years to produce the illustrations for Pablito and the Speckled Bear.  With your art on my laptop and with the disk, I knew that Pablito would become a reality.

I close by thanking you for being a part of my dream to produce a book for young children – a story not unlike what many children witnessed on the nights of our Santa Barbara fires.  Pablito is a coming of age story about a boy who overcomes his fears to challenge himself and recognize that he can and will succeed.

Ben, I wish you and your family incredible success, happiness, love and joy and most of all peace in the years to come.  Thank you for sharing your talents with all of us on Mountain Drive and the greater Santa Barbara community

Take good care,


PS: Just this week, the week of April 9th as I finish this letter to you, I noticed that your illustrations grace the cover of the

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