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Laughter is often the Best Medicine prescribe it for yourself

May 2nd, 2014

Laughter is often the Best Medicine prescribe it for yourself

It’s true! You can’t be sad or angry when you’re laughing. When you laugh, you feel better – it’s a given! So why don’t we do it more often?

We get in a hole that we can’t dig ourselves out of. When everything looks bleak, we shut ourselves off from the very things or people that could help us. We need a hand out and a hand up, but our pride prevents us from reaching out.

The cure for what ails us is close at hand, but our grief and gloom can’t see it. If this describes you, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. Everyone has these moments when they feel lost and in the dark. We all face disappointment and unhappiness. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and laughter can ease the pain.

Comparing your plight to someone else’s may help you see beyond the present moment. Look around and analyze how other people handle trials and tribulations. How do they cope? Where does their courage and faith come from? You can always find another person with larger failures, greater pain and physical limitations than your own.

Here is a man who was homeless for most of his life; a man who wrote beautiful poetry. Finally, someone saw the beauty in his soul.

If you’re life is going well, you could be that person who reaches out to help someone else. If more people would do this, less heartache, drug overdoses or suicide attempts would occur. We are our brothers and sisters keepers. Unfortunately an introverted selfishness has crept into our society. You can feel it when you’re shopping, driving on the highway, waiting in lines at the grocery store, interacting with strangers in public places.

Are you the one who cuts other people off on the road? Do you race past others and elbow your way to the front of the line? When was the last time you allowed someone else to go before you? It’s surprising how much better you feel about yourself when grace and courtesy become the norm instead of a rarity.

Stress busters are just that: they’re actions taken by you that pull back the driving forces of your life. When you slow down and enjoy the moment instead of racing to the finish, your food tastes better, people become more likeable, tension is gradually released and the world looks bright again.

We all live on the same planet. We breathe the same air. We have the same needs and wants. Isn’t it time we tried to make this earth more peaceable and user friendly? Why not crush evil and incivility with kindness and faith. Let’s crawl out of our dark holes of self-centeredness and welcome life with new joy and purpose.

Reality Shows can teach us about Survival Tooth and Nail

April 25th, 2014

Reality Shows can teach us about Survival Tooth and Nail

I’ve watched a few reality shows in my day. After awhile, I get tired of the arguments, the scheming and the pettiness. But if that’s your cup of tea, you probably like the cutting edge changes this season.

The Discovery channel is pushing the envelope with “Naked and Afraid” where the participants mirror savages, except without the loin cloths. If the forbidden jungles are not enough, these survivors are baring it all in an attempt to get more ratings and viewers and may end up mushrooming into a popular new trend.

You never what the reaction of viewers will be. I remember showing my nude drawings to relatives at a family reunion years ago. I was so proud! One of my drawings had won first prize in the linear category. It was a brush and ink drawing of a live model where the brush had never left the page from the first touch to paper.

I expected a compliment, perhaps even praise for my amazing prize-winning fete. Instead, I got hushed and whispered reactions. People were embarrassed. They glanced down or turned away. I was shocked by their reactions at what I conceived as a beautiful work of art. Some viewers of the new reality shows may have the same feelings of disgust or rejection.

While the nudity may be a ploy to grab attention and get new viewers, the show actually has a different purpose. Pitted against the most stark and difficult surroundings imaginable, the real focus is not the challenge of nature, but the difficulty in juggling human relationships. That’s the case in almost any undertaking: marriage, divorce, friendships, neighbors and co-workers, parents and youth.

Take that a bit further by delving into art leagues where people jockey for position, pit artistic genius against talented newcomers and you have a recipe for angst, envy and failure. The battle is to the fittest and the prize (sales) often goes to the best marketer, the most prolific painter, or the most outspoken. The fact that fresh talent is discovered and newbie’s have a platform to show their wares is often a pleasant byproduct.

How do you handle stress? Do you have good communication skills or do you have rough edges that others may have to negotiate. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a talented artist. You must learn how to sell your art and push your talent without ruffling other people’s feathers.

Roll with the Punches and Live in the Moment

April 20th, 2014

Roll with the Punches and Live in the Moment

I completed reading the book: “A Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani; a delightful tale which takes place in the Alps of Italy. I was intrigued by this story having traveled to this area and adored the beauty and the people of that region.

I wrote down the advice given to the young bride, a key character in the story, because I knew it was a golden nugget of truth: “Don’t worry about bad things that haven’t happened yet. It will save you a lot of anxiety.”

We all tend to worry about the things we fear and the events that we suspect are inevitable. We waste time and effort fretting about those things that we cannot control most of which never happen. If we followed the advice of the author, and stopped worrying about “bad things that haven’t happened (or may never happen), we’d be a lot better off.

I’m reminded of an experience I had years ago when I was in charge of a Hawaiian dinner that was being held outdoors. On the grass, we had colorful cushions placed around lengths of white butcher paper that served as a table cloth. Fresh flowers adorned the paper at intervals. Barbeque grills were set up for cooking, and leis were given out to each guest.

A former resident from Hawaii provided music and dancing while the food was cooking. What could go wrong? And then a rain storm moved in quickly and forced us inside. We pulled the barbeque grills under the eaves, gathered our cushions, flowers, and table adornments indoors and improvised things from there.

Initially, I thought I might come “unglued” the stress was so great, but I didn’t. With the help of others who pitched in to help, we ended up having a glorious time. I learned how important it is to be adaptable. When fear and a crisis threaten to shake your sanity and your coping mechanisms, go with the flow. Roll with the punches and deal with one crisis at a time. Of course, a sense of humor never hurts either.

I was amazed and grateful at how forgiving other people can be in a crisis and how willing to pitch in and help when the “going gets rough.”
Being flexible and adaptable reminds me of the principle behind a rubber band. It’s a simple tool that we use all the time to bind things together. It will stretch and adapt as needed; but only to a point. Its flexibility may be tested if pushed too far. When we press it beyond its capability, a rubber band will snap. But it will expand and grow if we ease it slowly and carefully; a simple lesson in how to adapt in a crisis.

Certain Behaviors are Imperative to Success others not so much

April 16th, 2014

Certain Behaviors are Imperative to Success others not so much

Don’t underestimate the power of selection. Seemingly insignificant choices made each day can have an enormous affect not only on the present moment, but on future outcomes.

• Take oversleeping (or under sleeping). Both may have an effect on productivity and performance. If we begin our morning sluggish and late, time constraints put us in a crunch by the end of the day which increases stress. The hours get away from us. We miss deadlines. These delays on a regular basis keep us from achieving our goals and cast tainted shadows on our reputation.

• Appetites, or what I like to call “instant gratification,” also include any bodily passion indulged to excess such as over eating, compulsive sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. These uninhibited passions are like road blocks on the pathway to success. We become undisciplined, uninspired, and out of control. No wonder those who reach their pinnacle often let their guard down and fall into oblivion. Appetites, if not contained, can be destructive.

• Time wasters in disguise like playing games when we should be working, and talking or texting excessively on the phone may eat up hours of time. Watching too much TV or surfing the internet instead of completing a project or meeting a deadline. Indulging in pastimes that are addictive, such as viewing pornography or gambling may eventually eat up income, time, and could put an end to your career altogether.

• “So little Time, too much to do” rings true for many of us. We’re afraid to set limits for our family and friends. We fail to put the “At Work” sign on our door or on our lips. We’re afraid to say “no,” and we get over involved with “busy work” that keeps us from our goals. Especially when you work at home, people think you’re not working. The only way to diffuse this attitude is to extinguish it! Be polite, but observe your policy consistently.

Sure we all need R&R time. We can’t burn the candle at both ends, although some of us try. We need to have fun. We need to experience pleasure and joy. But when our fun or addiction keeps us from our dreams or life-long goals, we need to examine if their worth it.

Self control and discipline are not just words our parents invented. They are universal truths that if followed will bring lasting peace and contentment.

Dark Secrets about Black the Color Artists Fear

March 24th, 2014

Dark Secrets about Black the Color Artists Fear

A myriad of artists on LinkedIn argued over, under and around the use of the color black. Most believe black is taboo and should never be used, preferring to mix their own.

Renoir called black “the queen of all colors.” Black is loved. It is feared. Most artists prefer mixing their own black rather than using it straight from the tube.

According to one of my favorite artists, Robert Genn, “black works as a darkener because it’s near chromal neutrality does not sully the color it grays. While scorned on a few snooty palettes, black is the loyal friend that helps make other colors look more brilliant than they are. Wise artists do not say derogatory things about black.”

Here’s the real scoop (according to Genn):
1. “Lamp black is a pure carbon pigment made by burning oils and collecting the soot from flues. It's one of the oldest manufactured pigments.

2. Ivory black, originally made from burning real ivory, is now a bone byproduct of the slaughterhouse.

3. Mars black is an iron-oxide product that in many ways is more stable than the other blacks. It does not effloresce, maintains total integrity in oil and water-based media and, to my knowledge, is the only paint that's magnetic.”

Genn suggests: “Give black a chance. A challenge is to work with only black and white for a day. After a week one begins to feel the brilliance of black. As seasoned artists have found out, if it works in black and white, it works.

“Try the method of grisaille--a monochrome painting executed in shades of gray. Used as an under-painting, grisaille was first popularized by the Northern Renaissance artists. These days, using bright white grounds and a range of grays, full value can be had by glazing with acrylics or other media. In painting, black is mother of learning.”

I did my own grisaille mini-paintings in a class on portraiture. I was amazed with the results at how life-like the models and forms appeared. It’s a great way to learn about value and shading.

“Timid souls use Payne’s Gray” Genn wrote. I gulped as I read this since Payne’s is my color of choice.
Well this timid artist is going to “break out.” I’m going to test the waters and use some black. If Genn is right, Mars black seems like the better choice.

Catchy Tunes and Titles become the Springboard for Ideas

March 18th, 2014

Catchy Tunes and Titles become the Springboard for Ideas

Artists, Small business owners and entrepreneurs are getting hoarse trying to hawk their wares in an overcrowded marketplace. As they vie for attention, their petulance is showing up in ads, and in their names.

“Angry Orchard” is a new brand of apple juice “with a bite!” If that isn’t feisty and in your face, I don’t know what is? Let’s hope their bark is as good as their bite.

“Wild Dolphin” is a startup company that is capitalizing on the sugar and citrus products grown nearby to make rum. It’s a perfect fit. Tours and samples lure customers to taste and see if this isn’t the best rum made anywhere!

“The Purple Dragon” capitalizes on Mahjongg lovers in the area who want to make new friends and play the game they love. Of course, Chinese Dragon’s, especially purple ones, create a fun environment where winning is not only based on skill, but the luck of the draw.

Names do make a difference. The title of a book certainly attracts attention. And yet fine artists seem reticent to name their paintings preferring that the viewer draw their own conclusion. The thinking is that the artist doesn’t want to influence a viewer’s perception or imagination. Whether this is a good practice or not is still being debated on social media.

Personally, I enjoy knowing what an artist has used as a title. I try to envision what he or she had in mind when they created the piece. Sometimes I see their vision and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t stop me from looking and wondering.

I also enjoy letting my own fantasy run wild through the forms, shapes, and colors on a canvas. If done well, the painting will lead me through a labyrinth of contrast and values that are interesting and exciting. In my opinion, a title just gives the viewer a nudge and a head start.

Search engines find your blog titles much easier if they have some length and substance to them. Understanding “catch words” and trends can help bolster your topics. Words in headings that have fire, sex, red, wild, or sizzle seem to attract readers. Hit songs with fire in their title have become instant hits. However, overuse of any hot word or phrase becomes old and tired in a twinkling on the web.

It’s fun to create catchy titles. Sometimes the titles I create actually give me an idea for a future painting or a themed series. In your spare time write down those catchy titles and save them. See if they don’t become a springboard for creation.

Faith Family Community and Work Nothing Else Matters

March 8th, 2014

Faith Family Community and Work Nothing Else Matters

Have you ever tried to plug up a leak? No matter how hard you try, if there’s a weakness, the water (or air) will find a way to escape. My bicycle tire had a minute leak so small we couldn’t find it; but sure enough, by the time we were half-way to our next destination, the tire was flat. Slowly but surely, the air, under pressure as the tire revolved, pushed out from a tiny hole.

Like air, Water finds the place of least resistance and flows where gravity pulls it. Under enormous and unending pressure, a dam requires constant monitoring to ensure that it holds back millions of tons of water weight. A leak can weaken it to the point of destruction.

Liken the water and air pressure to Passion. If you have it, you can’t stop it! The same principle applies to all living things. A seedling fights to obtain sunlight. It will bend and twist and elongate in order to find its energy source, its power. In the same measure, if you have the passion to excel in your field of endeavor, nothing but your own negative thinking can stop you.

A Winter Olympist was asked by a Reporter about competition and how her team handled stress? When problems arise, how do you respond?
Her answer: “We’ve done it before. We know how to do it. We try to stay focused and that kind of takes the pressure off.”

Creative people need to adopt this same kind of fearlessness. When failure or negative thinking wedges itself into your normal routine remember that “you’ve done it before. You can do it again" and stay focused!

If you’re passion doesn’t drive you, and it isn’t as powerful as your need for water or air, get inspired. Find time to think and dream. Restore your imagination and creativity by feeding your empty vessel. Fill yourself so full that eventually you’ll “spring a leak” if you don’t sing, write, paint or work.

I recommend a Youtube video called “The Secret to Happiness” presented by Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute. Happiness is all about building your life not your career. “Don’t spend your time obsessing about the ‘great big splash’” Brooks recommends. “People who are happy in their work feel they are creating something of value and serving others.”

Get inspired. Watch this short film:

Addictions that Drive us the Good the Bad and the Ugly

March 1st, 2014

Addictions that Drive us the Good the Bad and the Ugly

We hear a lot about addiction these days. Marijuana is being legalized in many states. Drugs are now consumed by more young people including children much to their detriment. Despicable people are lacing those drugs with exceedingly harmful substitutes in order to make more money; the most recent a varnish derivative that rots you from the inside out.

Because of that, the word addiction conjures up thoughts of poison, destruction, and a world swirling out of control. Under the right circumstances, food can become an addiction. Obesity destroys health and sometimes relationships. Self-indulgence, sexual addictions and any number of habits that become all consuming may lead to disease, crime, and lack of self-control.

But not all addictions are bad. Forming good habits protects us from the bad ones. Habitual routines that keep us on track can protect us from destructive diversions. Goals, structure, and a plan can help us overcome bad influences that keep us from fulfilling our dreams.

Choice plays a vital role. With the goal of learning, we can add educational experiences that keep us involved and interested in life and living. Instead of watching porn which sucks us down into a dark hole, we can select films that highlight our highest aspirations with heroes and heroines we want to emulate.

Life spirals downward when we indulge in self-pity and self-gratification. The only way to yank ourselves from this trap is to turn our attention outward, away from ourselves. Not only do we end up helping others, but we help ourselves.

For fine artists the adage to “paint every day” occupies thought and action. But once you get in a “bad patch” it’s hard to be creative. Going it alone as many creative’s do only exacerbates the problem. Reaching out for help or reaching up to a power source greater than your own is the only answer.

Once you get past the demons, you can start over. Plan your days and set your goals. Be determined. Don’t let anything, especially your own pity party get in the way of your dreams. Even if you don’t become “King of the Hill,” you’ll at least derive great satisfaction from doing what you love.

False Starts and Weak Promises Keep us from Finishing the Race

February 24th, 2014

False Starts and Weak Promises Keep us from Finishing the Race

In my guest closet is an unfinished quilt, a box of ideas for future paintings, and some amateur canvases I’ve painted over waiting in the wings. I have an online folder titled: “To Paint” with saved photos, sketches, and ideas I don’t as yet feel passionate about. All are waiting for me to get inspired and to catch the spark that will burst into fire when the time is right.

It’s easy to start something. It’s not so easy to finish. We all have unfinished dreams, goals, and projects that never reach their conclusion. There are many reasons for this: we burn out, we lose the vision we had in the beginning. Sometimes we run up against obstacles that prevent us from finishing: ill health, financial problems, lack of education, emotional crises, etc.

Commitment is a promise we make to ourselves. Those uncompleted goals and unfinished projects that fill unused spaces in our homes and in our minds lack our commitment. Somewhere along the way, we lost our passion; we lost our drive. Like mirrors, they shine in the dark corners of our hearts and reflect back only our failures.

It’s time to turn those “dark hearts” into windows of opportunity. There must have been a reason those sad projects remained unfinished. Perhaps they were diversions from your real goals, the ones that capture your passion and lead to their completion?

It’s time to clean house! Don’t let those partially finished items drag you down. Paint over them, give them to someone else, or toss them out! A Fresh start will give you a clean slate to re-think your goals and your commitment. If these discarded dreams don’t grab you and inspire you then turn to something else that does.

Change is refreshing. It shakes things up and turns them on end. But before you make a clean sweep be certain that you know what you want and where you’re going. If you don’t, you’ll become a backslider and end up filling the empty places in your heart and home with more of the same.

Walking in the Shoes of the Masters and Trail Blazers

February 18th, 2014

Walking in the Shoes of the Masters and Trail Blazers

Sometimes the most mundane things can trigger the subject for an article. While I was mulling over what to wear Friday night, my eyes fell on my choice of shoes. The weather was colder than usual in Florida, and I was lamenting the fact that all I had were sandals; a result of living in southern climes where the weather is usually warm year round.

I found a closed-in pair of black patent tennis shoes which should have been the end of that but instead, I thought about shoes for the rest of the day. Not my shoes mind you, but those of others: the people on this earth and those who have gone before us who leave behind their achievements, their example, their courage, strength and love.

How do I fill the shoes of my mother, for instance, who had more courage in her little finger than most people have in a life time? Or the shoes of my sister, who struggled with multiple sclerosis a major part of her life, yet never complained and always had a smile on her face?

I don’t know about you, but the master painters of yesteryear have left behind some rather large shoes that artist’s of today, including me, must fill. Who is your inspiration? Who do you try to emulate?

Some of us get distracted by glitter and glitz. We jump into the shoes of the bombastic, the bully, or the billionaire’s expensive and glamorous Cesare-Paciotti’s trying to imagine what it would feel like. There’s not a “Techie” alive who doesn’t want to be another Bill Gates, but do you really want to experience his cancer, his pain?

We all have our lone walk to the end of our days. Our path is unknown. It may be rocky and filled with terror. The harder we struggle, the more apt we are to get blisters and calluses. Our shoes may become worn and dusty. We look “at the other guy,” and we think his road, his load is easier to bear. Not!

An American Indian proverb goes like this: “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.” Sometimes we think we know a person and what his or her life might be like, but unless we walk in their shoes, we can only guess. We fail to see his heartache and pain.

The trail blazers who go before us can show us how to persevere. They can enlarge our vision and teach us skills. They can inspire us to emulate them, follow them, and walk in their footsteps, but we can never fill their shoes nor replace them. We must forge ahead on our own two feet in our own uniquely soiled shoes.


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