Artist draws on hopeBy Stephanie Kendrick
WHEN Vivian Greene asserts everything in life is a gift, it's not out of naivete.
The creator of Kisses cartoons and greeting cards has maintained a grateful spirit despite experiencing a great deal of loss in her life.
She lost long-time love Toby Stone to cancer. She lost 18 years worth of work when Hurricane Andrew hit her Florida headquarters. And she lost virtually all of her remaining possessions in the process of shipping them to Hawaii.
Her response? "I'm invincible. I have so much love in my life. What is the rest of this stuff?"
Not that it has been easy, said Greene, but she has a blessing to show for each loss.
Greene, who launched Kisses in 1971, used what she learned from Stone's life and death to write "Good Mourning," a book on grieving published in 1989. She recently followed up with "Mourning Glory."
When Hurricane Andrew wiped out the business that had made her a millionaire by the age of 26, she saw it as an opportunity to take off in another direction. "I said, 'I'm just going to go to Hawaii and do this.' "
She'd been thinking about the move for a while. "I think my heart was here long before me," said Greene, who was drawing haku-like garlands on her characters before she'd ever heard of the lei.
And the latest loss, of her personal property, has given her new insight into the generosity of the people around her.
"The help I get is just absolutely priceless," said Greene. "What I've really learned is nobody can take away what's really mine."
Local attorney Michael Lilly, a friend and fan for five or six years, described Greene as bright, artistic and extremely energetic. "I think probably her greatest gift is her creativity," he said.
Greene presented him with an oil painting she'd done depicting a bewigged judge with a kid standing in front of him whose suspenders had popped off and pants had fallen to reveal underwear adorned with hearts. The caption is "legal briefs."
"It's all in this lovely, delightful, caring sort of way. There's nothing negative about it," said Lilly. "It's all kolohe.
"She has these delightful little characters that are children and they're so much like all of our children. So when you read them you're identifying your kids in her characters."
GREENE recently added a line inspired by her new home, called Island Kisses.
She created 10 designs to test the market and they seem to be doing well, said Greene.
A card with a world-family theme has keiki of different nationalities surrounding a globe with Hawaii at its center. That one is sold out.
Another popular card has a hula dancer on the cover with the text, "I'm here and you're there, don't you think one of us is in the wrong place?"
Greene designed the cards to appeal to locals and visitors.
Unity Bookstore on Monsarrat Avenue carries "Good Mourning" and plans to add Greene's cards after moving to a new location on the Unity campus this summer.
Bookstore manager Robert Bright thinks the lightness and spirituality of Greene's work explain its appeal.
"People respond to it," he said.
Greene would like to create an art center in Hawaii and plans to buy a home here once her finances are straightened out. She is in the process of suing the shipping company that lost her belongings.
"Hawaii has been very good to me," she said. "Since my business is so artistic and spiritual, I think this is one of the best places on the planet I could be."
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