December 24th, 2014
My husband and I decided that putting new cabinets in the kitchen and vanities/sinks in the bathroom was a must this year. The original woodwork was a slapdash effort by the builder 20 years ago to come in under budget and on deadline. We were not aware of this until my husband put storage cabinets in our garage and discovered that the inexpensive white laminates sold by Home Depot were the exact same ones as in our kitchen and bathrooms.
Our project was supposed to start one week ago, and we’re still waiting. Living out of suitcases and boxes is much like camping out. We’ve also been eating a lot of T.V. dinners and dining out. Finding space and time to paint has been difficult.
I appreciate the inspiration I continue to glean from all of you, and from the late Robert Genn and his daughter Sara who is keeping up their traditional newsletter. These two quotes were my favorites:
"Where you struggle, there lies your treasure." (Joseph Campbell)
Think about this! The things you work the hardest for are usually worth more to you than the simple enjoyable pleasures that last only a short time. Trying to master a new skill, a new language, or working on a relationship that you recognize as important is worth the effort and the tears because the final product or result will be priceless!
Where does your treasure lie? What do you put the most time into? When you’re finished, will you be a stronger and better person than before? This is a good measuring stick or criteria from which to build. “Where you struggle, there lies your treasure.”
I devoted one of my paintings to Campbell for this quote: “Art is the Set of Wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.” The painting: “Release – my Trail of Tears” was a real metamorphose of color and emotion for me.
Here’s another beauty:
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." (Richard Bach)
When we fail, we see it as a disaster. Like the caterpillar, we may think our life, our career, our romance is over. But if we’re patient, if we’re willing to try again, we may discover something wonderful! A fragile butterfly may emerge from the ashes of our defeat and lift us into new spheres of possibility.
I’ve had to face a lot of obstacles recently. My career has been in a slump and one crisis has replaced another in my efforts to gain a foothold. Life may slow me down, but I will not be defeated. How about you?
December 15th, 2014
I was unable to discover why these flowers were ever called “Tiger” Lily in the first place. Since they are covered with brown spots, why not Leopard Lily? I got so caught up in thinking about this I wanted to do a painting called “Namesake” and dedicate it to a ferocious tiger.
The stamens on the lily look somewhat like fangs and the tawny color of a tiger certainly blends nicely with the orange lily’s backward folding petals. The only thing was the flowers are small when compared to a tiger or even a tiger’s head. With my head full of ideas and a passion to paint, I took brush in hand and had a blast with this flamboyant portrait.
This is how creativity happens. We go from point A to point B which opens up a kaleidoscope of options and threads. My advice: never let a brain flash get away! Even a spurt of inspiration deserves at least some space on paper to nail it down.
I’m a big fan of those delightfully small “Moleskine” books for jotting down thoughts or sketches. I save every binder! I review them from time to time to make sure there are no “big fish that have gotten away.” When one idea is used, either in a blog or a painting, I draw a faint line diagonally through it and put “ok.”
Personal anecdotes also become a part of the history. I wrote this when my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer: “Today is Dick’s CT scan. We watch people come and go. Some are pale and sick looking; I suspect the results of Chemo.
“Unexpectedly, a friend from church comes in and sits nearby. He’s having a scan before undergoing surgery on his nose. Skin cancer is a common problem in our sunshine state. It appears that everyone with a diagnosis of cancer undergoes a scan to be sure the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body.
“You can see the fear and concern written on people’s faces. Somehow you never think it’s going to happen to you or someone you love.
“Dick doesn’t need me to be here with him nor at every appointment; but I know if I were in his shoes, I would want him to be with me. It’s a question of support; a show of love and empathy. We will get through this together. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Thankfully, my husband’s cancer had not metastasized. After 45 radiation treatments and many follow up appointments, he has stayed cancer free for the past three years. This notation in my Moleskine kept me on track: “Don’t worry about bad things that haven’t happened yet. It will save you a lot of anxiety.” This quote was taken from a novel I read called “The Shoemaker’s Wife.”
Committing your ideas and meaningful quotes and information to paper is a lifelong habit that will provide a lifetime of ideas and inspiration. If you haven’t developed the habit yet, it’s never too late to start!
December 15th, 2014
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 moving past the sculpture. It was returned to the Vatican after the fair.”
I was on that conveyor belt anticipating my first glimpse of the famous 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!
December 15th, 2014
We all want the perfect life, the best husband or wife, wonderful children, and a great job. If you’re a creative, you also want a bestselling novel, a T.V. series, or a show in a prestigious gallery. That perfect project is almost within reach, you can feel it in your bones, if only you can find the right combination of skill and good luck.
If you don’t believe this is true, take a look at recent sales of self help books. As people chase after their dreams and unrealistic expectations, these books continue to fly off the shelves. Their banquet of promises serves up redemption (of career and soul) with a helping of hope for the hopeless. Their combined themes provide a dose of inspiration and a jump-start of motivation.
But there’s one thing these novella's leave out: the work involved in becoming “all that you can be” is up to you. You must do the work. You must practice every day. The grueling effort to succeed must be done by you. When you close the book, you are alone.
I gave up on perfection long ago when I discovered that it was impossible. We mere humans are simply too fallible. We’re programmed for failure, and we must accept this. Failure does not mean the end of anything. For some it is the beginning if we pick ourselves up and try again. Our success should not be dependent on what others think or say, but on what brings us joy and satisfaction.
Some people defy logic and become successful in spite of criticism or failure. Why? Because of their drive and their love for what they do. When they fall, they get back up. They face their demons and try again. Their tenacity may seem foolhardy to some, but it is what gets them up in the morning.
That perfect novel or perfect painting does not exist, anyway. In fact it is the slight errors, the overlaps, the imperfections that give artwork its “painterly” effects. Only beginners strive for perfection trying to make the lines perfect and straight. The seasoned artist is satisfied with illusion, energy and emotion. Once you give up trying to be perfect, that blend of relaxation and looseness takes over and guides your brush intuitively.
In the beginning we must learn the steps that lead to perfection and know the rules that govern our craft. After that, we must joyously create in order to express the passion within. If we are lucky (or blessed), our journey will include not only mistakes and possible failures, but moments of clarity that will make our efforts worthwhile.
November 2nd, 2014
If you’re like me, you form a strong opinion after meeting someone for the first time. Unfortunately, our impressions are not always accurate, yet we remember these fleeting feelings for longer than we care to admit. These vague notions may affect our dealings with that person even after we get to know them better.
I’m embarrassed to say that my first introduction to a person is shallow and in total disregard for their true character and nature. Once I get to know them on a personal level, I’m surprised that I allowed my first impression to interfere with our potential relationship.
Each person gives off an aura that we can feel. If we simply judge them on appearances we may miss the totality of their personality. I remember after my mother’s passing, I sometimes felt her presence when I walked into a room long after she was gone.
This aura either creates an instant bonding between two people or it does not. What we are and who we are can be felt by others. Our lives have an impact on the people we love and associate with while the presence of strangers may project either good or evil.
Have you ever felt the dark awareness that you were being watched or followed? Did the hair rise on your arm? Did fear hit you in the pit of your stomach? Whether you can see them or not is beside the point. Their presence was felt. Children are good at measuring evil and feeling when it is near. At the same time, they are innocent and may not listen to their own feelings but yield to authority without making any protest.
Gut instinct is there to protect us. It is developed through experience and is trying to tell us something about our environment. Traditionally, women have downgraded these feelings more than any other gender. They have been taught to “play nice” and to disregard angry or negative feelings. Thankfully, this style of femininity is changing. The deep and instinctual reactions we experience are there to protect us from harm or abuse. We should listen to them!
Men seem to be keener at recognizing a threat. They are built physically and emotionally to retaliate when confronted. We hear about the “dumbing down” of America. There is also an effort to emasculate males. Mothers are overprotecting their sons and teaching them to back down rather than to stand up for one’s self.
While this sounds good in the short term, the long term results may have devastating effects on the family and the nation. If people lack the courage and skill to defend themselves or their loved ones, they become victims. If people cower in fear, they can be overtaken. If goodness is no longer strong it caves in to evil, and what kind of world would that create?
Over the centuries, artists have painted these opposition forces. Their artwork has provided a stark contrast between light and darkness, good and evil. Their portraits portray the struggle each person faces from within. Their choices illustrate the physical transformation of the flesh as it succumbs to wickedness.
November 2nd, 2014
There have been many tributes this past year, but I can’t let Maya Angelou’s passing go without voicing my own accolades. Even if you didn’t agree with her politics, you have to agree that her spirit and message were magnificent.
As a young woman, I read her words in awe. Their clarity and strength had a great impact on me. She had music in her heart and in her poems. Her words danced across the pages and her ideas echoed in my heart like a song.
Rather than repeating what many of you have read over the past months, I thought I’d share the words that others have said about her. I’m using my local newspaper “The News-Press of Southwest Florida” and reading from the “Views” section, Letters to the Editor. Here are the words of a few locals:
“On May 28, the world lost a poetic legend . . . I remember listening to her read ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ the poem she read at the Inauguration of Pres. Bill Clinton. This has become one of my favorite poems. Poems like ‘Still I rise’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’ became an anthem for women all over the world. . .The quote I remember the most which has influenced my life is: ‘This is your life, not your grandmother, not your mother, not your grandfather, not your father but your life and you can do whatever you want to do with it.’ The world has lost a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, and a poetic legend all in one.” Fred Atkins, (News Press Editorial Board citizen member) Fort Myers
“Her quotes are real, and they can be applied to everyday life. I live by many of her quotes, one being, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Oftentimes we look for a reason why we can’t do something, now I look for the reason why I can.
“Maya Angelou lived her life to inspire others and I am thankful to be one of them. I took from her the quote ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ . . . She will be missed; I’m so glad our paths have crossed.” Larry Hart, (Lee County Tax Collector) Fort Myers
“A bird rising and singing after being down is one of Maya’s signature metaphors, prevailing in two of her most famous works, ‘I know Why the Caged Bird sings’ and “Still I Rise.” The metaphor haunted me for two years until one day I wrote:
A Secret Poem in Everyone
‘A secret poem in everyone!
Reluctant inner bird
Awaiting clear permission
To let its song be heard --
Or for a moment resonant
With timbre all its own
To open wide the cage inside
And free that special song.’
“Thank you, Maya Angelou, for your poetry, presence and inspiration. You shall rise always in our thoughts and memory.” Joe Pacheco, Sanibel
“In addition to Maya’s wide canon of work, she penned several books for children. A classic is ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me at All’ (1993). Written in spare poetry, a series of triplets deal with emotions and fanciful imaginings of childhood:
‘Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.’
“The book is illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose impressionistic paintings are held in galleries throughout the world including the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach.” Lee Bennett Hopkins, (award winning children’s writer) Sanibel
Maya herself once said: “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”
Maya is now dancing and singing with the angels, praising God as she did throughout her lifetime. Surely her goodness will be rewarded and her gifts to the world will be treasured and remembered always.
October 28th, 2014
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 go unnoticed until it is 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.
October 28th, 2014
Ideas are the lifeblood of artists and writers. They come and go and we must nail them down before they get away. I’m consumed by ideas every moment of every day. I have difficulty answering a question or following a conversation, especially if I’m interrupted in thought (Just ask my husband!).
Egyptian lure, clothing, and sculpture intrigue me. I want to explore some paintings and drawings, but then my personal sensibilities slap my hand and say: “no, no, no!” Why is that? Why do we allow our inhibitions, our religion or our squeamishness to come between us and the inspirational vibes that sent them in the first place?
I’d be curious if any other artists or writers run into these same barriers; these self-induced walls of fear? Since I love to draw people, I thought I’d like to do some “discreet” boudoir drawings or paintings; but again my prudish conscience holds me back. On the light side, I tell myself, that God created everything and it is all good and beautiful. Perhaps it is in the way we handle the subject. We can make lewd artwork not only by what we draw or paint but how. The how is the overriding question.
How we compose or position the human body can make the difference in how it’s perceived. The model’s pose and facial expression can change the mood and influence people’s reaction. Is he/she smirking or flirting? Is the work seductive? Is the model a temptress or a shy virginal innocent? Suggestive angles may verge on the pornographic. These unlikely positions may titillate some while offending others.
Each time a canvas or idea is conceived, we must grapple with our choices while fighting our inner demons or angels. The battle rages on until the canvas is confronted and the paint begins to run. After that we cannot stop ourselves. The show must go on!
October 11th, 2014
It wasn’t that long ago that people said “men never make passes at girl’s who wear glasses.” Pity the girl who believed that saying because her self-esteem was sure to plunge.
Now career women everywhere wear glasses whether they need them or not. Glasses give the impression that #1 (moi) is ready to be promoted! Wearing spectacles makes a girl look serious and hard working. Glasses are trendy and classy. Magnifiers like “Foster Grants” add a fashion flare; the more pairs the better.
In spite of the availability of laser surgery or lens implants, more people are wearing glasses than ever before. When I got my first pair many years ago I was mortified. I’d already been sitting in the front desk at school. Now what would they think when I walked in with a pair of these?
For awhile I got the usual “four-eyes” and “nerd” comments all of which I’d dreaded and expected; but hey, for once in my life I could see! I remember how clear the mountains looked. I could even see sagebrush! The clarity of my new world was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing.
Still I felt ugly and self conscious. To make matters worse, the boy I loved had fallen for a girl without glasses; one that was athletic and well coordinated. I felt clumsy and awkward. In those days, my feet grew faster than the rest of me. I was called skinny, and now this!
During the summer I worked in the fields for money like all farm kids did in my community. After picking beans all morning in the hot sun, we gathered around for lunch in the cool shade of -- you guessed it, beans. One of the older boys threw me a smile and said “You have beautiful eyes.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “How can he see my eyes when I’m wearing glasses?” I wondered.
Instead of saying thank you, I ducked my head in embarrassment and wished I could swivel like a corkscrew through the earth. I still remember his compliment even today. Whenever I feel insecure or unworthy, I reel in his comment and savor it once again.
Painting or drawing glasses is fun. It adds another dimension to a person’s personality. One of my very first portraits, a simple sketch of my father, shows him wearing glasses. Some artists prefer to show the person without glasses. But if that’s how most people are used to seeing that individual, you’d better know how to draw glasses realistically.
The following YouTube video is the best I’ve seen for how this should be done. It’s also in one of my favorite mediums: pastel. Expertly drawn by “Agnes” this short video is a treat to watch. When it’s over try adding glasses to your next portrait; go on, give it a shot!
October 11th, 2014
There are times in our lives when we feel drained, empty, and fatigued like we have nothing else to give. Instead of slacking off, what we really need is a new project. Once we’re slapping on the paint, everything else seems small and insignificant.
Do what you love, take time for yourself, and your engines start running again; full speed ahead. Just when you think you’re tired and overworked, you’re actually bored and need to shake things up a bit. That’s what this painting did for me. I was having trouble finishing my rain painting: “Tickles from God,” and I needed something more difficult and exciting.
I enjoy painting close ups, not only of people, but of nature. Flowers, fruit, leaves, birds and animals call out to my wild side and put me in touch with the earth. Like an itch that needs to be scratched, I long to walk barefoot again without wincing in pain. I want to dig a hole in my garden and bury a new plant that will add a bright touch of color in an obscure spot.
I want to get my hands dirty. I want to feel the warmth of the soil under my fingernails. Of course, since I moved to Florida I’m a tad squeamish about the lizards, snakes and spiders. Having almost died from the bite of an eight legged brown recluse, I now wear garden gloves and the sensations are muted. Still the experience provides me with an impetus to get back to nature and painting.
My latest work titled: “Namesake” came to me in a moment of reverie thinking about the beautiful lilies in Minnesota. Tiger lilies have always been my favorite perennial, and the thought of combining the flowers with a tiger was irresistible.
Other ideas churning around in my head have to do with the wonderful henna paintings Indian women do on their bodies before marriage. These intricate drawings are not permanent, but they adorn the wearer with lacey motifs that exaggerate the beauty of a woman’s body and the fragile lace of a wedding dress.
Artists are using these same techniques to embellish images with colorful designs that add an abstract quality to the finished piece. Female cancer patients are adorning their shaven heads with these patterns which just goes to show you that "bald can be beautiful!"