March 24th, 2015
As an artist, I’ve thought a lot about that statement. What is it that makes me create and why do I do it? Perhaps my answers will also be yours:
An artist wants to share what touches him or her visually and emotionally, and may find it difficult to impart these feelings in any other way.
An artist has a driving passion to put down on paper or canvas the experiences in his or her heart and soul that would either cause them to explode in joyful ecstasy or painful agony if not expressed. Artists and writers often share these same passions, but articulate them through different mediums.
We all have a need for intimacy, some people more than others. When someone views an artist’s work it is like inviting them to share an intimate moment of our personality and perspective on life.
An artist may create a mini-story, a glimpse into the human soul, a taste of the human condition, or they may take us on a wonderful adventure either through realism or exciting plains of color and movement. The viewer may virtually walk the terrain of uncharted territory, explore the shape and form of facial structure, and fathom in a new way the miracle of life, the struggle of humanity, or the joy of rebirth.
By altering line, angle and space through color, light and shadow, an artist controls the mood and mind of the viewer and leads him or her on an intimate journey around the canvas and back again to the focal point or center of interest. Viewers are rarely aware of the invisible companion who leads them from one point to another as the story unfolds. When the onlooker experiences pleasure, happiness, or darkness the artist has done his or her job.
“So this is what old age brings?” an observer may comment on seeing an unfulfilled wastrel lamenting over his fateful actions.
“That’s exactly how I felt when I was dancing,” says another, as they sway in their mind and remember the cadence of drums, sand, and the smells and sounds of the Caribbean. You brushed this scene onto canvas using your own fond memories where they lingered playfully in your mind waiting for you to give them life and breath.
Fulfillment happens when the artwork is finished not when it’s viewed, commented on, or sold. As artists we rarely get to see or know the experience of the viewer or whether they perceived your art in the same way as you created it. Once you have “put it all out there,” you have done your part. The rest is up to chance, fate, or destiny. For some of us, it is a blessing from God for which we are eternally grateful and joyful.
March 24th, 2015
Waiting is frustrating. It’s boring. When nothing seems to be happening, our nerves frazzle with despair, doubt, and fear that our dreams will never be fulfilled.
Patience is a virtue. We’ve heard that most of our lives. Americans are not patient people. We want satisfaction now! If we don’t get what we want right away, we often turn to something else. We become distracted and we lose our focus.
Many of us throw in the towel too soon, long before our dreams can be fulfilled. There’s something to be said for not only hanging on, but for being willing to do whatever it takes, including waiting for that brass ring to appear. When it does, will we be ready to grab hold of it and soar or will we be off somewhere sulking in forgetfulness?
Opportunity disguises itself in many forms. Sometimes she comes in a whisper. At other times she is coy and secretive. She flirts with our senses and flutters on the peripheral edges of awareness. If we’re not careful, we may miss her altogether. Opportunity rarely hits us over the head. We must seize her before she gets away.
That’s where patience comes in. If success depends on “being in the right place at the right time” then we need to wait for her there and continue to prime our pump so-to-speak. We need to keep our skills sharpened and our drive intact. We need to be ready to pounce when a winning break presents itself.
Entrepreneurs will tell you of the heartache and time invested in getting a business off the ground. If you watch Shark Tank at 8 p.m. EST on CNBC you’ll get to witness some people’s hopes come crashing down and others go on to gain partners and investments. The major factor in failure is sometimes presenting an idea or a business model too soon. Impatient to show their babies and proud of their early achievements, they inflate the potential of the business without any proven success. Even before a patent has been issued they’re parading their wares as if they’ve already succeeded.
Patience, scouting the territory, knowing the competition and proving that your business model works signals you are ready for success. There’s no other way. If you try to shortchange this process and think that there’s some magic shortcut to fame and fortune, you may end up missing the golden opportunity that awaits those who are prepared.
March 24th, 2015
Every year there is a stir of excitement when the Ghost Orchids bloom at the Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. Here’s a quote from their web site:
“Drawing attention from near and far as the largest ghost orchid discovered so far. It has delighted us every year since its discovery with multiple bloomings throughout the summer. It has been in bloom since late June this year producing 20 flowers by the end of July and so far three of these first flowers were pollinated resulting in 3 new seed pods!
“On July 23 R.J. Wiley photographed the Super Ghost which showed that the orchid had formed many new buds, and on August 9th he photographed it again with 11 flowers. The Orchid typically produces flowers on and off throughout the summer.”
Because of all the attention, artists have been adding the orchid to their jewelry and print designs creating series and themes. The white ghost has become quite a celebrity. People are flocking to the area to see what has now been dubbed the “Super” Ghost Orchid. And who can blame them with news write-ups like these from the Naples Daily News (7/09/09):
"People are fascinated by orchids, and the ghost orchid is one of the rarest specimens," said Ed Carlson, executive director of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. "The appeal of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ghost orchid is that it is visible from our public boardwalk, and this particular plant has a history of displaying multiple flowers at once and blooming multiple times in succession, which gives people more of a chance to get to Naples and see it.
“The ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza lindenii) is an extremely rare, epiphytic orchid that grows without leaves on the trunks of trees in a small concentrated area of Southwest Florida. The plants are usually only visible to intrepid adventurers who must hike through hip deep water in the area's cypress, pop ash and pond apple sloughs to reach them. The ghost orchid, preyed upon by poachers, was the subject of bestselling author Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief and the subsequent movie Adaptation.”
According to Wickipedia “The ghost orchid is native to Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas. Other common names include palm polly and white frog orchid.
“Pollination is done by the giant sphinx moth, the only local insect with a long enough proboscis to pollinate the flowers and access the extremely long nectar spur. In this regard it may be said to be the America's answer the Madagascar orchid Angraecum sesquipedale, which led Charles Darwin to predict that a long-tongued species of moth would be found to fertilize it. Years later the moth responsible was discovered: Morgan's hawk moth Xanthopan morgani. The larvae of the giant sphinx moth feed on Annona glabra (pond apple), the same trees the ghost orchid is typically associated with.”
January 31st, 2015
My husband is a hummer. Sometimes it can drive me crazy, especially if he hums when he’s nervous. At other times, it’s his way to stay calm as he moves through his chores (It's almost always the same tune).
People use music for a variety of reasons. We were in Home Depot the other day and an employee belted out a welcoming song and invited us to have a great day. The first time I heard him, I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed.
I’d forgotten all about him until a return trip to the store and the sounds of singing reminded me of his presence.
“Oh, you’re the singer.” I teased him to ease my own discomfort.
He smiled, waved and continued to sing a happy tune. His playfulness was infectious. In fact, I couldn’t resist. I walked back to him and shook his hand warmly between both of mine. In my exuberance, I felt like giving him a hug, but refrained.
Later in the day, we met another young man behind a deli counter. While he sliced our Swiss cheese and Virginia ham, and offered us generous samples, he told us how much he loved working there and serving his customers. He didn’t have to tell us it was obvious. Not only was he asking questions and making sure that we got exactly what we wanted, but he gave us a dose of happy wrapped in a smile.
Both of these men change lives every day. How rare it is to find people that are not only uninhibited, but full of joy
When my oldest son was three years of age, he had a way of holding his hands together when he was super happy and didn’t know how to express it. His dad and I called it the “fullness of joy” stance. His hands were awkwardly twisted, but they seemed to say what his words could not.
After I painted my tiger painting “Namesake,” I was reminded of a poem I’d heard long ago about a tiger burning bright. I did an online search and found William Blake. Because he was a man of great faith, I suspect he was a man who experienced deep happiness.
His muse was openly acknowledged: “I am under the direction of messengers from Heaven daily and nightly.”
Here is his famous poem “The Tiger”
TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
What “Tiger” is burning brightly in your life? Where do the influences come for your art? Do you tap into the dark side or the light? What triggers your passion to create?
January 31st, 2015
When we’re young, we test the rules and skirt the ragged edge of danger. We experiment. We try on different styles and personalities. Some of us flaunt the rules and go into the unknown only to reap the consequences of our experimentation. But for most of us, somewhere along the way, we settle into what seems right and comfortable.
Don’t you wish that for a brief moment you could step out of the present paradigm and slip into another? Do you wish you were more daring and less predictable? A few days ago I decided to give it a go. I had a vague notion of what I wanted on canvas. I made no sketches. I didn’t even test the waters of my idea.
I started to brush. It felt good! I slathered on paint and let my muse lead me. Swept along by intuition, I dabbed on color and highlights. Now I’m letting it rest while I contemplate my next step. Will the canvas require more changes? Probably. What will I do if it’s an utter failure? I’ll likely paint over it and start again. We all need to have that feeling of freedom. You know, when you just allow what you have learned and what you yearn for to take over?
If your idea doesn’t bloom and grow, it doesn’t matter. You are experimenting with ideas, shapes, color and texture. The context is the story we are trying to tell. My current work-in-progress was inspired by my love for palm trees and my fondness for living near the ocean and the Gulf Coastal areas.
The colors are those that I live with every day. I hope I can find the right combination of dazzle and sizzle to make my creation work. I’m calling this piece: “Sea Breeze” because that’s exactly what’s happening as the soft warm air flows across the Gulf through the palm fronds and into my world.
Take time once in awhile to leave your comfortable habits behind and open yourself to discovery. Switch things up. Change your usual canvas size. Go bigger (or smaller). Use a larger brush. Try a new color combination on canvas. Add a collage or two and a smattering of design in the background. The point is to do something different from the norm.
I recommend these books. They will not only inspire you, but dare you to experiment and then show you how: “Experimental Painting” by Lisa L. Cyr; “Art Revolution” by the same author, and “Journeys to Abstraction” by Sue St. John.
If you discover something new about yourself in the process, please share it with me. I’d love to hear what happened when you crossed over into that ethereal place where things of wonder are created and magic happens!
January 12th, 2015
I received an email from a friend that was a copy of an Obituary printed in the London Times. If you haven’t read it, you may enjoy its wisdom as much as I did:
“Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
“- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- And maybe it was my fault.
“Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
“His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
“Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
“It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
“Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
“Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
“Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
“Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.
“He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing
“Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”
How can we apply these gems of wisdom to our own lives?
Reason tells us that to own a business requires sacrifice, endless hours of time, dedication and devotion to duty. Skill building and education are a given. Late nights, early mornings and weekends may be required to give it all we’ve got. Marketing and exposure are part of the deal. Exhaustion and singleness of mind may put us through a financial and emotional wringer. Failure looms overhead like a whip driving us even harder.
Common sense reminds me that I have a family and outside commitments. I must make trade-offs and weigh my options. The things that matter most shouldn’t suffer at the hand of things that matter least. Youth is here for a short time; we cannot bring it back. We must find a balance and do our best. Priorities must be set. We must find the middle ground.
Success beckons us from the wings. If we can’t find it in eight hours, by golly, we’ll give it 10 hours or 12. This is our business. Our baby! The kids will just have to sacrifice football camp and dance lessons. Some day they’ll appreciate it! Once I get over this first hurdle, I’ll have more time. But then another hurdle comes and we’re at it again, consuming valuable funds and precious time.
January 2nd, 2015
We’re back! The morning after the long drive home, we went for our usual three mile walk. It felt so good! I was delighted to see that the Bob Whites had returned. They were flooded out four years ago, and this is the first glimpse I’ve seen of them since that time. They are such delightful little birds.
Seeing The Bob Whites made me determined to create a canvas for them. I had done a drawing some time ago, and now I want to permanently honor these adorable birds. In one blog, I told you how my husband had learned to imitate their cheery whistle “bob bob white.” If we didn’t see them, he’d whistle their call and soon they would answer. They had a warm interchange back and forth until we tired of the game.
Before we left Fort Myers, they had pruned our bushes and trees. It looked like a war zone! This time of year, the neighborhoods begin to look like a jungle, and in some areas they were starting to. Upon our return, we were pleased to see that our street was neat and back in flower. The pruning had made the leaves grow back super thick and green.
Our new remodeled kitchen welcomed us home. There are still things to do, but it was great to see the glistening shine of new paint and granite countertops. New appliances are being delivered on Friday to replace our old, rusted out ones. What a difference it will make!
It was good to visit with friends and family in Georgia, but I’m eager to get back to painting. It almost feels like Christmas. The anticipation is "killing me. This time around, I’m working on an abstract design with a tropical flare. I also have some vintage canvases in mind. I tried to search for “discontinued products,” but didn’t find what I was looking for. I would like to paint some product signs that are no longer in use.
I thought of “Hires” root beer which has technically been discontinued except in Utah where they still sell Hires root beer kits to make a homemade brew using dry ice for the bubbles. I have tasted this mix and it is excellent!
I would like to add some more vintage style artwork to my repertoire of retro paintings. The ones I created were modeled from old sheet music covers as a jumping off place for my compositions. This time around, I thought the old signs would be fun.
January 2nd, 2015
I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated with myself. I seem to learn everything the hard way. “Why can’t you do it right, the first time,” I chide myself. “Why does it have to be so doggone hard?”
Not until I’ve done something more than a few times do I get the hang of it. I’m a left hander by nature and birth, but was forced into using my right hand. My brain never adjusted. I have frequent bouts throughout the day where I reverse things during the thought process. I know I’m supposed to turn on the right front burner of the stove, but when I’m finished with the action, the back left burner is turning hot.
It happens more than I care to mention. I’ve been known to try going down an up escalator, especially under stress, and I reverse numbers or text in my head when I’m working on a newsletter. Luckily the errors are glaring when I print out a proof copy.
And why is it so easy to overlook a composition fluke or the way an object overlaps and turns to create shadow? Because artwork is really about teaching people how to see, including me. Some people are more detailed than others. There are not only intellectual choices to be made, but intuitive ones that come from experience.
Beginning artists should not give up because the learning curve is long. Over time, you will master the techniques and foundational skills that make the difference between novice and professional. Even seasoned artists make mistakes. But they have weathered the storms of criticism and error. They have found ways to accommodate mistakes and have discovered dynamic artistic surprises in the process.
When the confluence of color and texture diverge in ways to capture the viewer’s attention and lead them through pathways you’ve created, exciting things may happen. Energy, emotion, and pure delight emerge and create sensations that leave lasting impressions. This is the mark of perfection and success.
Remember, if you’re not excited by your creation, it isn’t likely anyone else will be, either. On the other hand, if you are able to harness your passion and express it on canvas, others will feel it, too, and be drawn to the vibrancy of your vision.
Don’t worry about the canvases that go unsold, or the ones you may paint over. It’s all part of the experience. Nothing needs to go to waste. Watercolorists often cut out small portions of a ruined painting and frame petite ones that sell well on the market.
I have had a few paintings rejected in juried competition that have later sold. I continue to sell prints from the originals. It’s all in the “eye of the beholder.” If you feel strongly about what you’re doing, eventually other people will feel it and become buyers.
December 24th, 2014
My son, Sidney, had a curious and active mind. Most of his teachers appreciated this, but some of them didn’t. He was a wiggly and energetic child who could get into mischief unless his exuberance was channeled
As a mother, I answered his endless questions, provided him with library books and special activities that gave him plenty of exercise. He also needed enough freedom to explore, but definite parameters so he didn’t endanger himself or others.
One day I heard sirens blasting through our quiet neighborhood. Not seeing a fire truck, I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t on my street. It was some time later before I discovered just how close that emergency vehicle had come.
No sooner had I wiped the relief sweat from my forehead than the telephone rang. It was the mother of Sid’s friend saying my son had used their laundry chute as a slide, and gotten his leg bent under him. He was stuck solid in the middle where they couldn’t reach him so she called 911 and a fire engine had come to the rescue. Not only did the firemen disassemble the laundry chute, but they hung around long enough to calm the panicked boys and give them a lesson on safety.
We’re all guilty of putting ourselves in a tight spot when we’re in a time crunch. Sometimes we take too many risks or we’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s only one way out of messes like that. Change the terms or the conditions. If that’s not possible, make the best of working with what we have.
If you’re stuck with an impossible deadline, explain to your buyer why it is impossible to meet it. If you wait until the deadline passes and then break the news, you’re likely to come across as someone who can’t keep their word, or worse undependable. If you break it to them early on, you may save face and regain their confidence.
Know your client. If this is a person you’ve never worked with before, do your homework. Ask as many questions as possible to determine their preferences and what they expect. If you’re commissioned to do a watercolor portrait, explain to them that there is very little room for alterations. Oil is malleable and, therefore, much easier to change or manipulate. Giving the customer periodic “sneak-previews” is also a way to nip dissatisfaction in the bud.
If you’re afraid to give the client too much say (or control), especially in the beginning; you may have to pay later. Remember how difficult it is to put on your clothes after taking a hot shower, especially in the summer when you’re as wet after your bath as you are before?
If you’re a woman, it’s almost impossible to squeeze your damp body into a girdle or that pair of skinny jeans. How many times have you flopped back on the bed to flatten your tummy and zip up the flap? That’s how a client may feel if their pushed into a corner (or up a tree) and they have no say over what happens to their money which is essentially how they view “your baby.”
You see the project as your livelihood, your inspiration, your creation. But unless you bring your buyer along with you and help them see your vision, you may end up in a tight place trying to get a frustrated customer to pay for your work.
No doubt, there are unreasonable people who make too many demands. There are times when you have to sacrifice quality to please someone else’s vanity or ego. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice a future client because of yours.
December 24th, 2014
When I ask a salesperson if they have any wiggle room, I’m really saying “Are you willing to make a deal?” I’m hoping he or she has the authority and the willingness to give me the best price possible and at a much lower cost than the current offer.
The tables are turned, of course, when I’m on the selling end and a client is paying me for a product or service. Wiggle room can be anything from extending a deadline to outlining expectations. The more information I can get about what is wanted, what is expected and when, the better I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations.
Having adequate time and space to complete a project is essential. Rushing either the execution or the required drying time may be hazardous if not fatal to the final outcome. Just because a customer demands something on a given date doesn’t mean it has to happen. Helping them adjust to realistic goals and objectives is part of your job as artist and director.
Many businesses get into trouble when they over promise and under deliver. Explaining why things may take longer in the beginning saves a lot of hassle and stress. Clearly understanding a client’s vision and what they hope to achieve may alleviate unnecessary delays or revisions. It’s not just your reputation that’s on the line, but everyone else who has a part in the planning and decision making.
Honesty goes without saying. Integrity is the backbone of any company’s success. Positive feedback and repeat business are the lifeblood which ebbs and flows between capital expenditures and profits. It’s a balancing act between the needs of both owner and client.
As I used to tell my children when I roped them into helping me stuff envelopes for my pet projects; “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” They soon learned that it was in their best interests to humor me now if they wanted a favor later. Reciprocal agreements make everybody happy.
The outcome of any negotiation should be a give and take of mutual need. If I don’t have to sacrifice profits and my standing as an artist, I’m more willing to work harder to provide you with the finished piece in time for your special anniversary or birthday. The customer, in turn, must plan far enough ahead to provide you with adequate time for completion. If the artist is always on the losing end, the final product suffers.