November 30th, 2016
A wood stork went fishing in the pond behind my villa. She waded out only a few inches, her gangly legs stilt-like above the surface of the water.
Thinking her fishing expedition would require time and patience, I turned away; but a flash of white from the corner of my eye brought me back to the window. Sure enough, the wood stork flew in my direction across the water, over the golf course and into my backyard.
The fish in her bill was a large sunfish; a prize catch. She held onto the squirming fish, struggling to get it down. With each swallow, her throat expanded. I worried that she'd bitten off more than she could chew. Like a mother hen, I fretted that she’d choke or worse yet, die from over consumption.
I must admit, I can relate. My own eyes are sometimes bigger than my stomach, and I often dish up much more than I can eat. Humans are not alone in this. Seagulls have been known to stuff themselves so full they must regurgitate. But when they’re done, they go back for seconds and thirds.
A Burmese python running loose in the Everglades tried to swallow an alligator. The python’s eyes were bigger than her stomach; and to make matters worse, the alligator was prickly going down. The bite, the python’s last, proved fatal. The snake's lusty appetite was too much of a good thing. She literally exploded before her feast was over. Forgive me if I'm glad.
Once an endangered species, alligators are battling for their lives again. The indirect cause is man. Burmese python's brought to Florida from Southeast Asia as pets are the alligator’s number one problem. What would you do with a pet that has grown from one foot to almost 20 in a just few short years? Not wanting to euthanize a favorite pet, owners are releasing them into the wild. Not a good idea!
What happens when a 15 to 20 foot snake is set free in a lush tropical climate? They find others of their kind and multiply. Hungry Burmese pythons are devouring the food that indigenous reptiles and animals need for survival. They are eating already endangered species like mangrove fox squirrels and the endearing wood storks. They are competing for food with other threatened species like the eastern indigo snake and, of course, the alligators. But isn't there enough food to share? Not by a long shot.
The pythons are foreigners to Florida; they have no natural predators. They literally breed and feed unhampered by any natural enemies. That is until the Florida Fish and Wildlife department stepped in and declared open season on their removal. Each year, a special hunt is held to rid the everglades of these unwanted snakes. Anaconda, another encroaching pest, is included in this special shoot out.
Hunters from all over the world, eager to use their snake hunting skills participate. Once the snakes are caught, they will be killed either by machete or shot gun. If this makes you squeamish, consider this: the U.S. population imported approximately 144,000 Burmese pythons over the last five years. The hunt's kill represents only a drop in the bucket.
I'm cheering for the hunters on this one, and hoping that the Burmese python has taken its last bite out of Florida's fragile ecosystem.
November 30th, 2016
In the 60s, I saw with my own eyes the stunning perfection of the most famous sculpture of all time: The Pietà.
According to Wickipedia, “In 1964, The Pietà was lent by the Vatican to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair to be installed in the Vatican pavilion. People stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse from a conveyor belt moving past the sculpture. It was returned to the Vatican after the fair.”
I was on that conveyor anticipating my first glimpse of the well-known sculpture. The display had blue floodlights giving the white marble an aura of holiness. When it appeared, I was breathless and in awe of this magnificent work by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The memory has stayed in my mind as if it were yesterday. The work of art’s spiritual aura made indelible marks on my soul. Great art will do that!
“Made in 1498-1499, the Pietà is a world-famous work of Renaissance sculpture housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome.
The sculpture, in Carrere marble, was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.”
When you see the grandeur of something up close and personal, your perspective is changed forever. I sat on a gymnasium floor with a crowd of hundreds listening to Louie Armstrong when he was in his prime. Trumpet in one hand, handkerchief in the other, he crooned for over an hour, took a break, and then crooned for another hour. We sat spellbound swaying to the music. We came to dance, and we melted at his feet savoring each familiar, throaty phrase.
On that same floor, I whirled with my future husband to the “Big Band” sounds of Less Brown and his Band of Renown. For most of us, this was our first experience listening to a live orchestra of singers and performers. Our tiny college town was graced by many famous performers. On that same dance floor, Margaret Whiting and Peggy Lee serenaded us. It wasn’t so much the fame that surrounded these singers, but the quality of their performance that sent tingles up my arm. Here were voices of pure perfection, smooth as honey and always on pitch. Remarkable talent witnessed first-hand.
The exquisite thrill of hearing live music or watching performers on stage surpasses any recorded performance by far. When the Army/Navy Marching Band played a concert in our town I was very young, but I will never forget. Bouncing on my seat, listening to the trumpets, trombones and percussion instruments made me a believer. Truly, seeing is believing!
I’d love to hear of your experiences witnessing a live performance or a famous work of art. Please share with us!
April 9th, 2016
There is a rhythm to life. It starts in the womb with the beating of two hearts: the mother’s and the infants. The cadence continues even when the two separate. The constant heartbeat within provides a backdrop for the rest of life.
Some people are out of sync with this life drum. They don’t connect easily with other people. Their thoughts are sometimes scattered. Their internal clock and brain are always at odds with each other. Their relationships are few. They sometimes drive as if they were the only ones on the road. In much the same way, they crash and bump through life until someone or something stops them.
I’ve met people like this. My heart goes out to their aloneness as they try to fit into a society that hears a different drummer and walks to the tune of conformity. They walk a narrow line. Some grow into genius-hood. Others into insanity; crashing down the walls that separate them from others to say: “Here I am. Look at me! See who I am.” If they can’t win the game of life by ordinary means, they will do it in some other way.
In the past few weeks, televised news has shown us so many killings and shootings. So many people hurt by the few who simply didn’t fit in. Within their confused minds, experiencing confusion, emptiness and pain, they went unnoticed until it was too late.
Why am I writing about this subject in an artist’s blog: because talented people sometimes feel alone and apart. If they or their work are not getting noticed, they feel unneeded and unwanted. Failure is a word to be feared instead of a stepping stone of learning.
We all must fail. It is an inevitable part of life. But if we take that failure and examine it, turn it over, digest it and try to discover the whys and why not’s we may gain some clarity. Avoiding mistakes the second time is easier with hindsight illuminating our choices.
April 9th, 2016
I hadn’t heard the word kerfuffle in years; so when it tumbled from an attractive newscaster’s lips, I chuckled. People of “little import” cause a kerfuffle. They try to make a big stink out of nothing, but end up looking foolish themselves.
These kerfuffler’s stir people up whenever and wherever they can, but their arguments fall flat for lack of evidence or interest. Afterward they slink away only to come back again and again to stir the waters of confusion and uncertainty. Their efforts never amount to anything more than the proverbial hill of beans, but the resultant anxiety they cause to the target or victim may last long after anybody else remembers.
These trouble makers reside in almost every profession or walk of life. Their voices are usually louder than the rest and their complaints often influence the uninformed or the angry. Instead of contributing positive solutions and inspiring cooperation, they try to divide and conquer. Their agenda is usually selfish and their goal is power and destruction. Sometimes they win and sometimes not.
I’m generalizing, of course. Most of us have probably caused a kerfuffle or two in our own lives. Seldom are things black and white. But there is something to be said for those who do all the work and hold onto their views in spite of the haranguing of others. They plod along faithfully and patiently, and provide input only when their asked or to try and smooth the ruffled feathers of others. They add consistency and strength to any group or team.
High fliers bring talent and skill to the table, but they can’t be bothered with details. They are long-range planners with a wide overview. Their contributions bring direction and purpose. But as soon as you ask them to roll up their sleeves and help, they are off on another tangent, planning the next big event. Their calendar is always full.
The point is, it takes all kinds of people to run a business, manage a corporation, or provide leadership in our communities and in our world. We can either be the workers who help move things along or we can try to hinder the progress of others. We can be the drones who eat off the fat of the land (or the hive), or we can use our talent and skill to form alliances and shape ideas.
Some people are motivators. They challenge and inspire others to share their gifts and join in the cause. This person is key to making any combined effort or project enjoyable and worthwhile. Cooperation ensures a positive outcome. If you have a leader who can inspire others to action, productivity is higher, job satisfaction is increased and success becomes a reality.
Where do you fit? Your placement says a whole lot about where you’ll end up on the corporate or creative ladder.
March 20th, 2016
There are scenes that almost jump out and grab you, and you know you have to paint them or write about them. At other times there may be only a vague inclination that you’d like to try something new and so you go with it. Either way you must ask yourself: “What am I trying to say? What am I trying to illustrate or express?
Every painting tells a story or expresses a feeling or impression. You are taking your viewer on the journey with you. Where will you take them and how? What is the most important thing you want to show them? How will you help them navigate through the barrage of color and detail?
Is your message soft or loud? Do you want to jar them from complacency or coddle them into submission? What is the end result you want? Will you think big and dream large or will you softly suppress your message to a whisper? All of these questions should preferably be answered before you begin. Then again, the painting itself may be a question that only the viewer can answer.
Painting, writing, or any art form is anything but dull. The innuendo is everywhere. The subtleties should sparkle with ingenuity and the canvas or stage should reflect your skill and spontaneity. When your story becomes contrived or too controlled people will be aware of it even though they may not be able to say what it is that bothers them.
Instead of holding your imagination at bay or choking it with too much control, unleash it. Your knowledge and skill will roam freely and thoughtfully allowing you to tell your story. Where will your journey end? When will your tale be finished?
Someone once said your work is finished when you can no longer find any place to improve it. I think it ends even before that. There’s a fine line between spontaneous freshness and belabored brushwork. Hard straight lines draw far more attention than a small swipe of color that goes a tad too far or is allowed to blend into the background.
Paint is forgivable. Wipe it out if it displeases you. Paint over it and smooth out the flaws. If the first layer of paint captures your vision, avoid a second. Let that part stay and embellish around it bringing depth and richness to your scene.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you want to try something new, do it. You can always wipe it out and paint over it. This practice will keep your nerves under control. I know when I do commissioned work I’m always more tense worrying about if the buyer will be pleased. When I paint for myself, the brush strokes are more fluid and unhindered.
Above all, enjoy yourself. If you’re not, you’re in the wrong business.
February 6th, 2016
I have a long list of paintings I want to create. Whenever I get an idea, I quickly jot it down. Some of these gems blossom and some wait in the wings; never to become more than a fleeting wisp of ethereal brain matter.
Many good ideas are beaten down with the big stick of apprehension or common sense. Do I really want to do anything so risqué? Would anybody buy such a painting if I did create it? These are the kinds of nagging fears and inhibitions we are told to avoid. They are the pitfalls that drag us into the dark abyss of self-doubt. They make us question our ideas, our inspiration and skill even before we get our ideas off the ground.
We are our own worst enemy. We sabotage ourselves at every turn. First we’re too young and inexperienced; and then when we gain knowledge and skill, we chastise ourselves for not being “at the top of our game.” We ruthlessly compare ourselves to others. We’re not smart enough, good enough, or skilled enough. Someone else is always better.
Finally if and when we reach some semblance of success, we wax melancholy, worrying that perhaps we’ve already reached our mediocre pinnacle. We fear that our encroaching age may make us obsolete or irrelevant.
We humans are so predictable. We want to be this unique and special gift to humanity, but we give up before we’ve even gotten our big toe wet in the gene pool of competition and exposure. We not only fear failure, we fear success.
When was the last time you truly believed in yourself and in your ability to not only complete a project, but to fill that empty hole inside where your unfulfilled dreams reside? What is trust but an innate belief in one’s worth?
Does the seed question that it will eventually germinate, blossom, and reproduce? No. It simply does what it was born to do: grow, develop and bloom.
The same things we were created to do. We were born to grow, develop and bloom. But rather than nurturing our hopes and dreams, we smother them with insecurities.
The seed sprouts because it is created to grow upward, forever searching for the light. Our fears are born in darkness and by constantly looking inward to measure whether we’re happy or not. Instead of reaching up to our source of strength and inspiration we become self focused.
Dreams must be outward focused. We reach out and up trusting that we are capable of better things because we are “gloriously and wondrously made.”An intense desire to share your vision of life with others can pull you out of yourself and stop the unfruitful tail spin of self-defeat. When you love your craft and trust in your own inner passions, the thrust will automatically bring you fulfillment and completion.
February 6th, 2016
The ugly truth is out! Unless you have a bank account like Jane Fonda or Cher, eventually you’re going to fade, rumple and sag. The time will come when you can’t hide your age behind a MuMu or a Caftan. Sing the bye-bye blues baby because gravity takes its toll.
When elephants get wrinkled and leathery it’s quite fashionable. Their tough skinned outer wrapping protects them from assault and predators. Unlike human beings, the oldest elephants in the herd are given respect and power. They’re not ignored or put out to pasture just because their old.
Older people are difficult to draw or paint. Some artists draw lines for wrinkles which make them harsher and more unattractive than they need to be. Shading will produce a more subtle result. By highlighting the highest skin areas on either side of the shaded fold, you get a softer wrinkle.
My husband and I recently had our photograph taken. The photographer asked us if we’d like a “touch up.”
“How much?” I asked him.
“$60,” he quipped; “but it will remove spots, wrinkles, and even the sag under your chin.
Humph, I thought to myself. The proofs looked pretty good to me.
“I want my children and grandchildren to recognize me,” I said as I added a disgusted “No, thanks!”
Why are we so afraid of aging? Why do we treat our seniors and middle-aged population as if they’re no longer worthy? No longer capable of holding a job?
We should equate aging with wisdom. Knowledge and experience are nothing to sneeze at.
I’m saddened by our youth obsessed culture that lives from one high to the next either drug induced or in exaggerated self adulation. The newspapers record their escapades and their fall as if none of it really matters, but it does.
We only have one life to live. I for one am trying to make the most of it – wrinkles, sags and all!
October 22nd, 2015
I delight in painting children. There is such a freshness and openness in their faces. No masks to hide emotion. No walls to put distance between them and us. Their innocence invites us to experience life anew as we once did when we were children.
My latest painting took me much longer to complete because of health issues. I didn’t want to clutter the background with details that would take the viewer’s eyes away from the center of interest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of “busy” paintings. I like to spend time wandering through a scene and taking it all in. Restaurants, unusual rooms, people involved in talking or working are some of my favorites.
But there are times when the main event can get lost in too much detail. One of my favorite artists is K. Henderson who knows how to use detail to her advantage. She works in oils but also uses watercolor and illustrates a journal that she shares with others.
Kay is a naturalist, artist and photographer. She travels extensively to areas such as Alaska, and as far away as Manitoba, CAN. Her dialogue and her web site are well worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with her body of work.
Here is a link to her Indian portraits: http://khendersonart2.blogspot.com/
This painting is another good example of an innocent child surrounded by the detail I love to paint.
I do a lot of photography in making painting and composition decisions. I file them away and review them when I'm looking for a certain detail or subject. Photographs can preserve memory. When you add it to a quick color sketch the scene you captured days or weeks before can quickly come to mind.
October 22nd, 2015
After I did the blog on painting food, I thought that it was sad that we couldn’t actually smell the tempting deliciousness on each canvas. That got me wondering if anyone had ever tried pairing a fragrance or scent with a painting.
I did a Google search and was amused to find many pages devoted to the subject. In this case, instead of being tied to food, the subject matter featured was either artwork of well known brands of perfumes, or they were of flowers. Much to my surprise, my painting “First Daffodil” and my peach rose “Lady in Waiting” were featured on page three of that search.
Still I wondered if anyone had ever tried to create actual scents to highlight a canvas’s sensuality. I did find a teaching tool for toddlers using paints and imitation flavoring. For instance, the color purple would have a grape scent, and the color red would have a cherry or strawberry scent. It was a very tactile experience and a wonderful teaching tool.
Then I discovered that a group of adult artists are actually doing it – adding fragrance to paints. On the blog for Fremont Heights Art it said this: “Scented paintings, a new concept in the world of art created by us, taking our work in an entirely new direction, ever heard of or even seen a scented painting? Various fragrances infused in paint bringing the work to "life" creating a sense of being in the painting actually smelling the environment. Handmade fragrances fused into our handmade works; one of a kind. There are no reproductions of any scented paintings made.
“For example, imagine a female figure painting infused with a handmade lavender fragrance. As you view the painting, the lavender gently emanates from the figure giving you the sense of the female wearing a perfume. The fragrances can take up to weeks to create and then infuse into each individual color used in the painting. The painting itself can/may take more than a month to create. These paintings will be priced much higher due to the intense labor it takes to craft these interesting works, but well worth the time, wait and money. The methods and recipes for creating the fragrances and infusing them into the paints will not be revealed in any shape or form. Paintings start at $10,000. Get yours now!”
Check them out at this link http://www.fremontheightsart.com/scented_paintings
Museums have featured scent before. Thinking that “fragrance” is an art unto itself, they began creating sconces or wood pieces to compliment the scent. Viewers would actually push a button and a scent would be sprayed out and waft them with mist that brought images into their minds.
I don’t know if this will catch fire or if it’s just an anomaly in the world of art. The most common paintings that came up during my search were of flowers, or of people smelling them. A few sites focused on animals which are known for their keen sense of smell. Sometimes a humorous play on words showed a painting titled “Horse Scents” rather than “sense.”
At any rate, watch for this unusual art form to see if it catches fire in the art world. Some people may hope that it does, literally.
September 10th, 2015
If your paintings could talk, what would they say? I think mine would want me to set them free! They would want me to let loose instead of trying to control every move. We’ve all been taught to think carefully before we make a brush stroke and to know what we’re going to do before it happens. But that creates anxiety doesn’t it? If you’re like me my hand begins to shake and I stress over “getting it right.”
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” Jon Barrie, author of Peter Pan from Jan. 2015 Woman’s Day.
Those doubts tighten your muscles, the flow of paint, and the release of energy that makes your painting exciting. Having a well thought out plan is one thing. Allowing spontaneity to occur and to alter your initial composition is when the “magic” happens.
“A watched pot never boils.” When you keep too tight a rein on every stroke, every composition, or you over-analyze your progress, you may miss out on something enchanting and remarkable. Let it happen! Just do it.
If your paints could talk, what would they say? Mine would be angry with the disorganized mess, with the damaged caps from using a nut cracker to get them off, and the crimped twisted tubes, etc. A neat freak I’m not! I get so caught up in painting I sometimes forget that a neater pallet and a more organized paint box would actually make my job easier.
Recently I subscribed to Eric Maisel’s “Sunday Newsletter: Emotional Healing”. With my free subscription, Eric had a free gift: “The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever” by Eric Maisel, 2011 all rights reserved.
I’m going to share with you the first 10 tips on Eric’s list.
1. Be consistent in showing up. Getting to your creative work only once in a while won’t keep it alive. Make “routine” and “regularity” sacred words!
2. Who knows how many artists fail because the light that shines through them is refracted in a thousand directions and not concentrated in a single beam? Pick projects and complete them! It is not really possible to work on a thousand things at once.
3. One of the best ways to help yourself create every day is to craft a starting ritual that you begin to use regularly and routinely. When your ritual becomes habitual you will find yourself moving effortlessly from not creating to creating.
4. Make the following pledge: “I will do some creative work every day, if only for fifteen or twenty minutes.” Honor your pledge for the next two weeks and spend fourteen consecutive days creating.
5. Looking for only the perfect time to create? Forget about it! You are always in the middle of something so it is right in the middle of things that your creating must also happen.
6. Even small amounts of time can be used for creating. Do you make use of fifteen minutes here and twenty minutes there?
7. Are you good at capturing your own creative thoughts? Or do you let them slip away by telling yourself that they weren’t really all that good or all that important? Stop that! Start right now doing a better job of capturing and recording your ideas.
8. You must reckon with your own character. Creativity requires curiosity. Are you curious enough? Creativity requires risk-taking. Are you willing to risk? Creativity requires energy. Can you marshal and unleash your energy? Creativity requires patience. Have you cultivated that quality? Turn yourself into the artist you need to be!
9. Telling our truth can bring us pain and get us into trouble, but worse pain and worse trouble await us if we keep silent. Tell your truth—carefully, artfully, and courageously!
10. Say yes to your creative work! Avoid maybe like the plague. Maybe is a state that takes you right to the edge of meaninglessness. Maybe plays to your weaknesses, your anxieties, and your doubts. Maybe frustrates you and disappoints you. Avoid the maybe trap!
If you want Eric’s free gift of “97 creative ways to keep working” sign up for his Sunday newsletter “Emotional Healing” or email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org