August 22nd, 2015
We all love to eat. Food is the essence of family get-togethers and camaraderie. Dining is our point of caring, celebrating, and nourishing those we love. There is an intimacy in eating together and sharing succulent morsels of exquisitely prepared food in the warmth of family and friends.
Food is also survival. It is life. Food is pleasure. It’s not only pleasing to the palate, but to the eye. Good cooks and chefs are as creative as any artist. Their finished products look like works of art.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Artists from past to present have recognized the richness of color and the distinction of form that food presents. Photographers and advertisers have been aware of its beauty for a long, long time. Artists are again turning to the variety and fun that food can provide. In recent years, there has been a revival of sorts in the painting of everything scrumptious.
Today many artists are using their culinary skills in designing and presenting food as art. Their tantalizing compositions literally look “good enough to eat.”
If you want to know what’s trending in the world, check out Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. In all likelihood, food is playing a major part. Recipes are being tried and shared as never before. People are concerned about nutrition, gluten, lactose, fats, and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).
Our food sources are not only at risk, but more people have allergies and food sensitivities than ever before. I’m lactose intolerant and, in addition, was forced to restrict myself to gluten free products. People in general are focused on eating healthy foods.
Even that staple golden honey is at risk. In a Monsanto AD recently, the discussion centered on endangered honey bees. Without honey bees, some of our most nutritious fruits, vegetables and nuts would not be pollinated.
Farmers rely heavily on honey bees in order to grow a crop. When the Biblical heroes talked about wanting a land “of milk and honey,” they knew how important these creatures were to the production of good things to eat. Even here in Florida 80% of the orange groves are pollinated by honey bees. Without them there would be no oranges and no honey.
Beginning artists often focus on food in learning about color and form. Still life works with fruit is popular in practicing shape, shadow, and light. This is a wonderful way to experiment and branch off into cubism and abstraction. Pick up a brush and try it! The results may be delicious.
August 22nd, 2015
In the process of making goals and plans, I’m reading two books that I would highly recommend: The first is “Transform: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships and Life: One Simple Step at a Time” by Jeff Haden, a motivational style book filled with great suggestions. And the second is “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover that contains practical advice on how to make things happen.
For example, Jeff Haden directs: “Do little things differently.” We usually think our goals should be larger than life and that we need to “eat an elephant” in order to really accomplish anything. Precisely why we give up too soon and don’t fulfill our dreams leaving us feeling discouraged and disappointed.
But if we do small things first and feel a sense of accomplishment, we are more likely to keep going. Even better, if we try to do those “little things” in a different way, we may develop style and flare. We will stand out from the crowd. Haden’s theme is probably a new twist on the old “Think outside the box.”
Nir Eyal provides a real study guide, discussing the importance of devising a “trigger” designed to “hook” your audience/buyer into “Action” by offering “variable rewards” for their initial “investment” of time and money; all designed to increase “retention” (of customers) and get them into the buying or reading habit. Of course, the study is much more detailed than this, but you get the picture.
Most of us have allowed things to slide during the holidays, and now it’s time to get back to work! I know I’m dusting in places that haven’t been touched in weeks. Bits of glitter and pine are nestling into my carpets and will probably catch my eye for many weeks to come.
I’m intent on cleaning out the cobwebs in my head, the contents of my desk and the inside of my closets. Like Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen,” I’m determined “To Let it Go – Let it Go” as I cleanse the house of clutter and excess. My jammed closets will finally get relief as this “saver and hoarder” is determined to purge or perish!
Always preparing for “hard times,” I hold on too tightly and too long to things that have already served their purpose. Even my older paintings have probably brought me to a higher skill level and deserve to be retired and given a fresh coat of paint and a new perspective.
Whatever it is in your life that you’re trying to unleash and bring into focus, I hope you’re successful. At the very least, you should enjoy the process.
June 5th, 2015
I may be the odd woman out, but jewelry is not my cup of tea. Topping an outfit off with a smashing pair of artist-made earrings is more my style. Expensive gaudy jewelry is not.
I prefer an understated look. I was never into ruffles. They make me feel silly. I prefer simple classic lines that enhance my comfort and put me more in touch with the person that I am.
We all have different tastes, likes and dislikes. We are each uniquely created. In the same way that our fingerprints and eyes are not alike, so our preferences in food, music and clothing vary. The same goes for artwork. None of us will ever see the same thing. One painting may draw us, the other may repel. That’s how the “power of the purse” works, and why certain things appeal to a broad spectrum of people while another style is less popular.
The buying public is also fickle. Discrimination is often based on current trends and popular opinion. Someone once said “We are a nation of sheep.” In most instances we are. Still, there are ways for an artist to move past that shallowness. We can acquire a “universal” appeal that extends beyond the bounds of personality, culture, and tradition. Certain subjects have broad appeal such as family, love, hope, fun, dancing, merriment, shared experiences, and familiar landmarks. I’m sure there are many others.
A mother and child will usually arouse warm sentiments. A child learning or experiencing something new for the very first time is another appealing delight. Animals and especially pets touch a soft spot within almost everyone. Suffering, pain and sorrow strike a chord that vibrates the very soul. Any action whether joy, hate or anger that captures the human condition can be related to by many people.
The skill of an artist in relating these universal truths to others in a way that is visually exciting and moving can make the experience have even more impact. Familiar shapes and hues arranged in such a way as to lead the viewer on an eye-opening or emotional journey is another way of revealing our shared humanity.
When the common things that surround us are portrayed, others can relate. Illustrate the simple beauties of the earth, and in the eyes of the viewer their value is elevated and appreciated. Patterns and textures that replicate nature’s vast chromatic surface add another layer of “simpatico” that reaches out to others.
Wise use of space or sparseness of color may also emphasize aloneness, emptiness, or baroness in a way that detail and color could not; emotions that most of us associate with loss, devastation, and tragedy, which we all experience at some point in our lives. The more universal appeal your artwork contains, the greater the chances that you’ll be successful.
June 5th, 2015
The title: “Nail it down, make it clear and let it happen” is good advice whether you’re a fine artist, a performing artist or a writer. If you don’t nail down those ideas, they may scamper away forever. A brief note, a sketch, a few notes on a blank staff or a melody that gets stuck in your brain are sure to bring your thoughts back for testing.
Good ideas need to be tested. Either they blossom or they don’t. If they seem to go nowhere, they are probably just wisps of imagination. If your idea sticks and mushrooms into viable substance, it may later explode magically.
Now you’re ready to take that sketch, that idea and develop it on paper or canvas. Make your vision as clear as possible. What your inner eye sees must be understandable to others. Giving your idea clarity becomes your first draft or your “working model.” Once you have it nailed down and made it visibly clear, you’re ready for the next step.
At this point, being fluid is the key. If you’re too rigid, your efforts will become stiff and unbending. When that happens, your idea may become trite or stagnant. Freedom to float around the edges and let your inspiration lead you is crucial. Gut instinct and the willingness to take a risk or a daring leap is what separates a good artist from a great artist.
Acting or creating in a daring way is scary. You’re thinking, “Am I on the right track?” “What if this turns out to be a bad idea?” What will other people think?”
Self doubt is your worst enemy. Fear can keep you from discovering what’s just under the surface and within your grasp. Don’t get “stuck on stupid!” Believe that you are just as good as the next person in bringing a conception to fruition. Obviously training and skill assist you in this journey and make it easier to bring your passion to life.
When I started my artist blog, I wanted it to be different. Sure I was interested in featuring my art and enticing people to go to my online galleries, but I was in hopes of more. I wanted to inspire other artists with high aspirations to overcome their fears and to succeed.
My purpose was to motivate people not only to be better human beings, but to trust in their own inner voice. It’s sad when people give up. Even those who have become a success often give in to self-induced doubts fearing that they’re not good enough to be “up there.” If you can hold on until you get past those dark days, there is usually a light, a glimmer of hope at the end.
What a shame to give up just weeks, days, hours, minutes before the light dawns and you see your way clear to turn your dreams into reality. Plant your feet on a solid foundation, dear friend, and give life all you've got!
May 2nd, 2015
I’m a saver, a scrounger, and a lover of nature. If there’s an unusual seed or leaf out there it ends up in my house.
When we were in Phoenix for my grandson’s wedding, a black twig caught my eye as we were out walking. My son thought it was a twig of seeds from a beechnut tree. Although they were black from the cold winter mornings, the pods had dried perfectly, showing a split that revealed the empty seed pockets inside. I brought it back in my suitcase. It still adorns a table in my living room.
A few months ago, I spied a large palm frond. The leaf is usually cut while it’s still growing on the tree, but in this case, the remaining woody husk had already bleached out in the sun and the green had long since disintegrated. I took it home and brushed it off, sprayed it with Raid and left it for a few days. After washing it off, I began the search for what was hidden inside.
The shape was a little off, but I turned my woody palm into a Florida panther that will one day hang on someone’s wall. Another recent find is awaiting its face. I know from experience that many coats of paint are required to satisfy this thirsty wood. After its identity is know, I will seal both front and back with coats of varnish to give it sheen and a long life.
If I had my “druthers,” I would decorate my home with accessories only from the natural world of nature. One of the loveliest Christmas trees I ever saw was a simple long-needle pine that had only pinecones and bright red velvet bows on its branches. The students who decorated the tree could not afford expensive ornaments or trim and had used what the surrounding terrain had provided. The smell from that pine was a gift from Heaven!
One February, when we lived in Phoenix, I dragged home the woody branches of an old Joshua tree that had died in the desert. I loved the way its branches told a story of strength, dignity, and endurance. I placed it in my flower garden by the back fence. When I shared this story with friends, they had to see it.
When I showed them the cactus I had embellished with pride and an artist’s vision, I saw their faces slump. Their expectations were higher than the reality they saw. “Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.” We must remember this as we put paint to canvas to reveal our inspiration and imagination. Nothing is ever what it seems to be. We all see things through our own prism of experience.
I’m always saddened by people who rush by and can’t see the color and richness that abounds right under their noses. A car commercial showed the manufacturer’s pride and joy racing over the Sahara desert. They wanted you to focus on the car and its tremendous speed and agility. As for me, I scanned the rolling hills of sand, the flowing ripples of each dune and saw a masterpiece of serenity, texture and rhythm. The car I barely noticed.
Some people may never give your artwork the nod. They don’t know that you have struggled and nursed into existence and new life. They may view askance your efforts to capture a singular shape or a few grains of sand on a canvas skillfully layered with values of monochromatic color and harmonious blends.
We keep painting because that’s who we are. We convince ourselves that the joy of overcoming will one day triumph. But what if it doesn’t? My friend, what better way to spend your time than in pursuit of perfection? The brush grows lighter with use. The joy of creation is mother’s milk to the suckling artist. We indulge. We drink. We become.
May 2nd, 2015
I know an art teacher who also owns an art store. One day he showed me his paintings that were hung around the entire shop near the ceiling. He used these in classes for examples and demonstration.
“My paintings used to go so fast, I couldn’t keep any hanging,” he said. “Now I can’t sell any of them.”
The paintings were stunning landscapes of Florida scenes and of the Gulf; traditional compositions that once “brought a hefty price,” he complained.
Today “wild is in.” Even the works of amateurs are being bought up if they are unusual, colorful, and a tad weird. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the times and our confused and undisciplined society. Anything goes as long as it entertains and dazzles the eye; fads that may in time become the new “norm.”
Finding the right balance is a real dilemma every artist grapples with. Keeping one foot in the real world and the other in the solid traditions of the past is a struggle. When you allow yourself to push against the outer limits, or by way of contrast show restraint, a judgment call must be made based on each artist’s level of experience and training.
I enjoy the humor that many artists are using to invite people into their perspective. There are so many fearful and chaotic events happening at home and around the globe to cause anxiety. Some “comic relief” is healthy and relieves stress. Conversation pieces that cause laughter rather than thoughtful reflection may be just what the doctor ordered.
Tactile paintings: pop art, half art and half craft invite us to touch and examine. Critics lament that this practice degrades and gives real works of art a tawdry and cheap appeal. But they are selling none-the-less because they’re affordable and fun.
Trends come and go. What is in fashion today may be gone tomorrow. Artists must learn to adapt to the changing scene and create a unique and appealing style that sets them apart from the rest; keeping in mind that the classics, the centuries old tried and true methods of the past have weathered the test of time and will endure.
Vibrant color is a significant part of this new genre. From the book: “Color Design Workbook” by Adams Morioka and Terey Stone, the authors’ state: “Color is a visual language in and of itself; it can attract the eye and focus attention on the intended message in the work. Color can be used to irritate or relax, encourage participation or alienate. Advertiser Josef Albers remarked that “Whether bright or dull, singular or complex, physiological or psychological, theoretical or experiential, the persuasive power of color attracts and motivates.”
Also from the book: “As humans, we seek balance, especially in terms of color. For example, when exposed to a particular hue, our brains seem to expect the complementary color. If it is present, the combination looks vibrant. If it is absent, our brains tend to produce it to form a balance.”
These very reasons alone explain why one painting is chosen over another. Although people see colors in different ways, they almost always choose that which is pleasing to the senses.
April 25th, 2015
If you live around water or near the ocean, you’re probably familiar with channel markers. They warn you about shallow water and keep your boat in safe passage until you reach the deeper water. Sometimes these signposts protect wildlife such as manatees. Every year many of these creatures are killed or scarred for life by boat rudders and propellers.
In life and in business, there are also markers of achievement and professionalism. You often hear motivational speakers talk about the importance of “channeling your mind and your energies” to achieve success. The term “harnessing” your mind was used in much the same way to encourage previous generations to aspire to great heights.
Beginners are impatient to “get to the top.” They often take risks to get their work out there and to get noticed before they have mastered basic techniques. Those who have made it often say “don’t play it safe.” They recommend breaking rules and boundaries in order to draw attention; but it’s one thing to take risks, and quite another to go beyond the “channel markers” or guiding principles that have already been established for your success.
“But don’t achievers push beyond the boundaries in order to stand out,” you may ask? “Do you always do the safe and predictable thing or do you gamble on your gut instincts?”
Most educators advise “Until you know and understand the territory and the essentials stay within the recommended procedures until you’ve mastered them.” After that, you’re on your own. Only you will know when that time comes.
In the weather business, forecasters use benchmarks to compare past turbulence with current patterns. For instance, in November of 1976, they had a “long drawn out winter,” similar to happened this year around the country. A benchmark is a standard used to measure activity and progress.
Professionals can use benchmarks to track their own personal improvement. Self confidence and instinct increase when you tackle difficult projects and complete them to your own satisfaction. Others you respect may also provide insight and suggestions that add to your level of skill and mastery.
Observing how “others have done it” over the years can serve as an example. Even copying to learn is a great lesson in self-mastery and enlightenment. The masters can give you a blueprint for success. If you study their early paintings and compare them to later works, you’ll see how they nail down the rules first and then they fly!
Until you know the subject and the fundamentals stay within the tried and true methods. Once you’ve mastered them, you own them. They are yours to stretch, push, manipulate, and wow.
April 25th, 2015
I was intrigued by a recent study about people’s fears. It was done broadly (worldwide) to see if there were any differences in race or culture. The conclusion was that what people fear most, no matter who they are or where they come from, is darkness. I wondered if fear was a part of us at birth or if it’s simply human nature to fear what we do not understand or that which is unknown? For whatever reason, the study concluded that most people, and especially children all around the world fear darkness.
As a Christian, this set my spiritual wheels turning. Scripture declares that every person “that comes into the world” is born with the light of Christ in his heart. (John 1:9 KJV) It would only make sense then that coming from our creator God “trailing clouds of glory,” as Wordsworth put it, we would be afraid of the dark which has always represented evil.
Believers hunger and thirst for light in much the same way that all living things reach for the light. A seedling pushes through the dark earth in search of the life-giving light of the sun that will nourish it and feed it as it grows. Even the lowest of animal forms seeks out light for warmth. On any given morning in Florida, my sidewalk is filled with lizards that crawl out of their dark havens to warm themselves in the light.
Snakes slither from their dark holes in much the same way. They become intoxicated and lethargic as they drink in the warmth of the sun seemingly blinded by the brightness. You can walk right by them and they barely notice.
Darkness is often used as a reference to evil, and good is portrayed as light. Darkness can also be seductive and intriguing. It is more difficult to ignore sin and temptation in the darkness. We are deceived into thinking that darkness somehow hides or “covers” our sin. Light reveals and exposes truth and evil. No wonder we run from the light when we feel guilty or “bad.” No wonder people, especially children, fear darkness because it leads us into the unknown and may cause us to do bad things.
Darkness also has its own beauty: a starlit sky, the moon glowing through wisps of clouds, the skylights of a city sprinkled across the landscape. Darkness provides contrast. In a painting it’s all about the light. The tiniest glow of light against a dark canvas looks even brighter. If the whole composition were light, the objects would appear flat and uninteresting. It is the contrast in color and intensity that gives a painting life.
How an artist handles the play between light and darkness, shadow and value changes tells you a lot about his or her style. Some like subtle changes and soft values. Others passionately splash color boldly and provide luminous eye-popping light that defines shape and creates depth. In this way darkness can define space and provide a backdrop for light making it glow with luminescence.
The subject of the composition and its treatment determines whether evil is present or perceived. The color red may also indicate evil if the images are coarse and vulgar. A red rose may also appear holy and beautiful if the petals are delicate and soft. Treatment has as much to do with how evil is perceived as darkness itself. Study the Masters and see how they contrast light against darkness. Analyze your own reaction to it to see if the painting registers somber, illuminating, inspiring or degrading. Your response indicates the power of darkness to reveal the essence of goodness or of light.
April 11th, 2015
I have a file on my computer called “Stuff” where I put down ideas for blogs and articles. I get a one-word idea, and then ramble on with it to see if it has substance. Some of my one or two word ideas really take off; others fizzle out after one or two sentences. When that happens, I do some research on the subject to see what turns up. If I’m lucky (or blessed), I find a plethora of information. If there’s nothing, or the word has a negative connotation, I go back to square one.
One such word was “firebrand.” I loved the sound of it rolling off my tongue. I had a few ideas on which direction I could take it, but then I actually looked the word up: Firebrand, “One that creates unrest or strife; urges crowds to riot (I certainly didn’t want that!); progressively promotes a cause – an agitator.” I didn’t like that definition either.
But the more I thought about it, I decided that was exactly the word I wanted to write about. I liked this description: “One that creates unrest or strife.” Artwork is supposed to cause people to think, to push them to analyze and cause unrest or strife from within. Fine art is supposed to change us in some way, either to shake us up and help us see another point of view or to inspire us and motivate us.
Most people think of art as beauty. I was sitting in a relative’s living room this weekend admiring a painting on the wall. Actually, it was very bland. The background colors were light ochre, beige and tan. A dark brown tree and its naked branches spread across a yellow cast sky. The scene was a perfect balance of simplicity. I felt peace. Instead of blaring color the artwork’s still presence blended in with the background and décor which was what it was intended to do.
I realized that I’m a firebrand kind of person. I want to make a statement. My paintings don’t want to blend in or stay in the background, they are more conversation pieces. They either draw you or repel you, depending on your point of view. I have difficulty painting fluffy pretty scenes. I’ve had to master this technique and by the time the canvas is finished, I’m bored and eager to move on.
We each have our own style, but there’s one thing that we must all agree upon: without skill, passion and conviction, the final work may look and feel like a puddle of paint.
The word firebrand also describes the hot iron that burns a rancher’s name on his or her cattle. Artists must create their own firebrand that becomes recognizable; a signature that is unique and represents not only the artist’s name, but a clue as to his or her style. I wish I’d created something more unique than just my first initial and last name. I’ve seen some very clever logos that are remembered and admired. If you’re just starting out, I recommend creating something different. Make it simple. Make it memorable. Then when your fans see something of yours, they’ll recognize it in an instant.
Use your “firebrand” to create unrest, strife, or simply a tranquil experience that people will buy and treasure for many years to come.
April 11th, 2015
I’m a fan of Shark Tank on CNBC where entrepreneurs show their wares and try to convince the Sharks (investors) that they’re worthy of their financial support and expertise. Several artists have won favor. Take the guy I call the “Cat Man.” He started drawing caricatures of cats that caught the eye of his fans. After one year, he was making over $100,000 a year online selling prints! That’s not chicken feed, my friends.
Two investors supported his dream to expand and continue to produce winning drawings that could be produced on clothing lines and essentials. Very few artists achieve this kind of phenomenal success. I can name a few, but most are associated with a cartoon, a book or a comic strip character. I’ve never witnessed this jump to stardom from one single drawing.
We all wish that was us! We doodle and dream. We scribble and play hoping that one day our attempts will touch the right audience. The Cat Man struck a chord in the hearts of every cat lover in the world (and there are many). Knowing the market and playing to its wants and needs is key to finding your niche.
Animals are adorable especially when they’re young and even in maturity they are regal. Those we make our pets, no matter what species, are fondly loved and cherished. But let’s face it, dog and cat owners lead the way, and people are usually either cat lovers or dog lovers; they are rarely both.
When I was an art student, I fantasized about making a storybook with the main character called the “Butterfly Princess.” Somewhere along the way, I lost her in my scramble to have a family and earn an income. I think of her often, but the passion and the vision of her has faded with time. In order to capture the moment and secure the identity of each cartoon or sketch, you must not only nail your vision down early, but draw several variations until you get it right. Unless you do, each drawing will be somewhat different. It’s not as easy as you think to make a recognizable character that is repeated in different scenarios over and over again. The skill required takes repetition and patience.
A fairly new cartoon in the comic pages of the newspaper is called “Zits” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. I thoroughly enjoy the escapades of the teenage son who frustrates his parents and rampages through the strip each Sunday. The drawings are loose yet recognizable. The storyline hits close to home, even though my teenagers have long since left the nest.
Another winner is “Pearls before Swine” by Stephan Pastis. The character of rat is edgy and psychotic. The naïve and gullible pig reminds me of me. The storyline is a little weird; but then again, so am I. The humorous dialogue and spot-on drawings keep me coming back time after time.
That’s what all artists wish for: an adoring audience that keeps coming back for more. Now there’s an aspiration you can hang your dreams on!