Perky is a lifestyle choice,” my dad will occasionally say.

And, by golly, this man lives by his words. He whistles while doing the dishes. When I broke one of his Ancient Egyptian relics (while pretending I was a helicopter, obviously) he mused that ‘kids will be kids.” I even once heard him impersonate Elvis going through puberty to get my mom to laugh. And I’ve only seen him lose his cool once – the day I carelessly tracked dog poo onto his freshly-cleaned carpets.

When you grow up in this type of environment…becoming a tortured artist isn’t really a viable option.

Not that I didn’t give it a shot. I once spent a few weeks crafting a dark, moody and introspective self-portrait – full of surly colors and jagged edges. You won’t see it here on my website because it’s still sitting half-finished in the closet. Yeah, I just couldn’t get that into it.

So, I’m ready to make a declaration.

Here it is. My pet portraits are peppy. They’re happy, and sweet, and (dare I say it) sometimes even cute. Depending on who I’m painting, my work can also be mischievous, soulful, inquisitive, lazy, regal, sensitive, sly, wishful, dignified, or ridiculous. But never sad, never dark, and never angry. And I’m okay with that.

I’m okay that these portraits don’t express my deepest fears for humanity. That they aim to make you smile instead of making you question the world you live in. Not that there’s anything wrong with dark, disturbing art. In fact, some of my most meaningful memories have been visiting humankind’s greatest artistic masterpieces in museums around the world.

It’s just that real art doesn’t have to be dreary; it just has to be honest.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to surround yourself with color, texture, and images that bring back happy memories (and saving the darker stuff for the art museums.) It doesn’t make you less interesting. And it certainly doesn’t make you less profound or less real.

It just makes you, well, perky. Which is just fine by me.