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That is quite a mouthful

November 30th, 2016

That is quite a mouthful

A wood stork went fishing in the pond behind my villa. She waded out only a few inches, her gangly legs stilt-like above the surface of the water.
Thinking her fishing expedition would require time and patience, I turned away; but a flash of white from the corner of my eye brought me back to the window. Sure enough, the wood stork flew in my direction across the water, over the golf course and into my backyard.

The fish in her bill was a large sunfish; a prize catch. She held onto the squirming fish, struggling to get it down. With each swallow, her throat expanded. I worried that she'd bitten off more than she could chew. Like a mother hen, I fretted that she’d choke or worse yet, die from over consumption.

I must admit, I can relate. My own eyes are sometimes bigger than my stomach, and I often dish up much more than I can eat. Humans are not alone in this. Seagulls have been known to stuff themselves so full they must regurgitate. But when they’re done, they go back for seconds and thirds.

A Burmese python running loose in the Everglades tried to swallow an alligator. The python’s eyes were bigger than her stomach; and to make matters worse, the alligator was prickly going down. The bite, the python’s last, proved fatal. The snake's lusty appetite was too much of a good thing. She literally exploded before her feast was over. Forgive me if I'm glad.

Once an endangered species, alligators are battling for their lives again. The indirect cause is man. Burmese python's brought to Florida from Southeast Asia as pets are the alligator’s number one problem. What would you do with a pet that has grown from one foot to almost 20 in a just few short years? Not wanting to euthanize a favorite pet, owners are releasing them into the wild. Not a good idea!

What happens when a 15 to 20 foot snake is set free in a lush tropical climate? They find others of their kind and multiply. Hungry Burmese pythons are devouring the food that indigenous reptiles and animals need for survival. They are eating already endangered species like mangrove fox squirrels and the endearing wood storks. They are competing for food with other threatened species like the eastern indigo snake and, of course, the alligators. But isn't there enough food to share? Not by a long shot.

The pythons are foreigners to Florida; they have no natural predators. They literally breed and feed unhampered by any natural enemies. That is until the Florida Fish and Wildlife department stepped in and declared open season on their removal. Each year, a special hunt is held to rid the everglades of these unwanted snakes. Anaconda, another encroaching pest, is included in this special shoot out.

Hunters from all over the world, eager to use their snake hunting skills participate. Once the snakes are caught, they will be killed either by machete or shot gun. If this makes you squeamish, consider this: the U.S. population imported approximately 144,000 Burmese pythons over the last five years. The hunt's kill represents only a drop in the bucket.

I'm cheering for the hunters on this one, and hoping that the Burmese python has taken its last bite out of Florida's fragile ecosystem.

Seeing is Believing and Quality and Professionalism Ring True

November 30th, 2016

Seeing is Believing and Quality and Professionalism Ring True

In the 60s, I saw with my own eyes the stunning perfection of the most famous sculpture of all time: The Pietà.

According to Wickipedia, “In 1964, The Pietà was lent by the Vatican to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair to be installed in the Vatican pavilion. People stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse from a conveyor belt moving past the sculpture. It was returned to the Vatican after the fair.”

I was on that conveyor anticipating my first glimpse of the well-known sculpture. The display had blue floodlights giving the white marble an aura of holiness. When it appeared, I was breathless and in awe of this magnificent work by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The memory has stayed in my mind as if it were yesterday. The work of art’s spiritual aura made indelible marks on my soul. Great art will do that!

“Made in 1498-1499, the Pietà is a world-famous work of Renaissance sculpture housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome.
The sculpture, in Carrere marble, was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.”

When you see the grandeur of something up close and personal, your perspective is changed forever. I sat on a gymnasium floor with a crowd of hundreds listening to Louie Armstrong when he was in his prime. Trumpet in one hand, handkerchief in the other, he crooned for over an hour, took a break, and then crooned for another hour. We sat spellbound swaying to the music. We came to dance, and we melted at his feet savoring each familiar, throaty phrase.

On that same floor, I whirled with my future husband to the “Big Band” sounds of Less Brown and his Band of Renown. For most of us, this was our first experience listening to a live orchestra of singers and performers. Our tiny college town was graced by many famous performers. On that same dance floor, Margaret Whiting and Peggy Lee serenaded us. It wasn’t so much the fame that surrounded these singers, but the quality of their performance that sent tingles up my arm. Here were voices of pure perfection, smooth as honey and always on pitch. Remarkable talent witnessed first-hand.

The exquisite thrill of hearing live music or watching performers on stage surpasses any recorded performance by far. When the Army/Navy Marching Band played a concert in our town I was very young, but I will never forget. Bouncing on my seat, listening to the trumpets, trombones and percussion instruments made me a believer. Truly, seeing is believing!

I’d love to hear of your experiences witnessing a live performance or a famous work of art. Please share with us!

Keeping Time with the Music Toe-Tapping through Life

April 9th, 2016

Keeping Time with the Music Toe-Tapping through Life

There is a rhythm to life. It starts in the womb with the beating of two hearts: the mother’s and the infants. The cadence continues even when the two separate. The constant heartbeat within provides a backdrop for the rest of life.

Some people are out of sync with this life drum. They don’t connect easily with other people. Their thoughts are sometimes scattered. Their internal clock and brain are always at odds with each other. Their relationships are few. They sometimes drive as if they were the only ones on the road. In much the same way, they crash and bump through life until someone or something stops them.

I’ve met people like this. My heart goes out to their aloneness as they try to fit into a society that hears a different drummer and walks to the tune of conformity. They walk a narrow line. Some grow into genius-hood. Others into insanity; crashing down the walls that separate them from others to say: “Here I am. Look at me! See who I am.” If they can’t win the game of life by ordinary means, they will do it in some other way.

In the past few weeks, televised news has shown us so many killings and shootings. So many people hurt by the few who simply didn’t fit in. Within their confused minds, experiencing confusion, emptiness and pain, they went unnoticed until it was too late.

Why am I writing about this subject in an artist’s blog: because talented people sometimes feel alone and apart. If they or their work are not getting noticed, they feel unneeded and unwanted. Failure is a word to be feared instead of a stepping stone of learning.

We all must fail. It is an inevitable part of life. But if we take that failure and examine it, turn it over, digest it and try to discover the whys and why not’s we may gain some clarity. Avoiding mistakes the second time is easier with hindsight illuminating our choices.

Are you a Worker Bee a Drone or a High Flier

April 9th, 2016

Are you a Worker Bee a Drone or a High Flier

I hadn’t heard the word kerfuffle in years; so when it tumbled from an attractive newscaster’s lips, I chuckled. People of “little import” cause a kerfuffle. They try to make a big stink out of nothing, but end up looking foolish themselves.

These kerfuffler’s stir people up whenever and wherever they can, but their arguments fall flat for lack of evidence or interest. Afterward they slink away only to come back again and again to stir the waters of confusion and uncertainty. Their efforts never amount to anything more than the proverbial hill of beans, but the resultant anxiety they cause to the target or victim may last long after anybody else remembers.

These trouble makers reside in almost every profession or walk of life. Their voices are usually louder than the rest and their complaints often influence the uninformed or the angry. Instead of contributing positive solutions and inspiring cooperation, they try to divide and conquer. Their agenda is usually selfish and their goal is power and destruction. Sometimes they win and sometimes not.

I’m generalizing, of course. Most of us have probably caused a kerfuffle or two in our own lives. Seldom are things black and white. But there is something to be said for those who do all the work and hold onto their views in spite of the haranguing of others. They plod along faithfully and patiently, and provide input only when their asked or to try and smooth the ruffled feathers of others. They add consistency and strength to any group or team.

High fliers bring talent and skill to the table, but they can’t be bothered with details. They are long-range planners with a wide overview. Their contributions bring direction and purpose. But as soon as you ask them to roll up their sleeves and help, they are off on another tangent, planning the next big event. Their calendar is always full.

The point is, it takes all kinds of people to run a business, manage a corporation, or provide leadership in our communities and in our world. We can either be the workers who help move things along or we can try to hinder the progress of others. We can be the drones who eat off the fat of the land (or the hive), or we can use our talent and skill to form alliances and shape ideas.

Some people are motivators. They challenge and inspire others to share their gifts and join in the cause. This person is key to making any combined effort or project enjoyable and worthwhile. Cooperation ensures a positive outcome. If you have a leader who can inspire others to action, productivity is higher, job satisfaction is increased and success becomes a reality.

Where do you fit? Your placement says a whole lot about where you’ll end up on the corporate or creative ladder.

Finding your Voice what are you trying to say

March 20th, 2016

Finding your Voice what are you trying to say

There are scenes that almost jump out and grab you, and you know you have to paint them or write about them. At other times there may be only a vague inclination that you’d like to try something new and so you go with it. Either way you must ask yourself: “What am I trying to say? What am I trying to illustrate or express?

Every painting tells a story or expresses a feeling or impression. You are taking your viewer on the journey with you. Where will you take them and how? What is the most important thing you want to show them? How will you help them navigate through the barrage of color and detail?

Is your message soft or loud? Do you want to jar them from complacency or coddle them into submission? What is the end result you want? Will you think big and dream large or will you softly suppress your message to a whisper? All of these questions should preferably be answered before you begin. Then again, the painting itself may be a question that only the viewer can answer.

Painting, writing, or any art form is anything but dull. The innuendo is everywhere. The subtleties should sparkle with ingenuity and the canvas or stage should reflect your skill and spontaneity. When your story becomes contrived or too controlled people will be aware of it even though they may not be able to say what it is that bothers them.

Instead of holding your imagination at bay or choking it with too much control, unleash it. Your knowledge and skill will roam freely and thoughtfully allowing you to tell your story. Where will your journey end? When will your tale be finished?

Someone once said your work is finished when you can no longer find any place to improve it. I think it ends even before that. There’s a fine line between spontaneous freshness and belabored brushwork. Hard straight lines draw far more attention than a small swipe of color that goes a tad too far or is allowed to blend into the background.

Paint is forgivable. Wipe it out if it displeases you. Paint over it and smooth out the flaws. If the first layer of paint captures your vision, avoid a second. Let that part stay and embellish around it bringing depth and richness to your scene.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you want to try something new, do it. You can always wipe it out and paint over it. This practice will keep your nerves under control. I know when I do commissioned work I’m always more tense worrying about if the buyer will be pleased. When I paint for myself, the brush strokes are more fluid and unhindered.

Above all, enjoy yourself. If you’re not, you’re in the wrong business.

That is my Story and I am Sticking to It

February 6th, 2016

That is my Story and I am Sticking to It

I have a long list of paintings I want to create. Whenever I get an idea, I quickly jot it down. Some of these gems blossom and some wait in the wings; never to become more than a fleeting wisp of ethereal brain matter.

Many good ideas are beaten down with the big stick of apprehension or common sense. Do I really want to do anything so risqué? Would anybody buy such a painting if I did create it? These are the kinds of nagging fears and inhibitions we are told to avoid. They are the pitfalls that drag us into the dark abyss of self-doubt. They make us question our ideas, our inspiration and skill even before we get our ideas off the ground.

We are our own worst enemy. We sabotage ourselves at every turn. First we’re too young and inexperienced; and then when we gain knowledge and skill, we chastise ourselves for not being “at the top of our game.” We ruthlessly compare ourselves to others. We’re not smart enough, good enough, or skilled enough. Someone else is always better.

Finally if and when we reach some semblance of success, we wax melancholy, worrying that perhaps we’ve already reached our mediocre pinnacle. We fear that our encroaching age may make us obsolete or irrelevant.

We humans are so predictable. We want to be this unique and special gift to humanity, but we give up before we’ve even gotten our big toe wet in the gene pool of competition and exposure. We not only fear failure, we fear success.

When was the last time you truly believed in yourself and in your ability to not only complete a project, but to fill that empty hole inside where your unfulfilled dreams reside? What is trust but an innate belief in one’s worth?

Does the seed question that it will eventually germinate, blossom, and reproduce? No. It simply does what it was born to do: grow, develop and bloom.
The same things we were created to do. We were born to grow, develop and bloom. But rather than nurturing our hopes and dreams, we smother them with insecurities.

The seed sprouts because it is created to grow upward, forever searching for the light. Our fears are born in darkness and by constantly looking inward to measure whether we’re happy or not. Instead of reaching up to our source of strength and inspiration we become self focused.

Dreams must be outward focused. We reach out and up trusting that we are capable of better things because we are “gloriously and wondrously made.”An intense desire to share your vision of life with others can pull you out of yourself and stop the unfruitful tail spin of self-defeat. When you love your craft and trust in your own inner passions, the thrust will automatically bring you fulfillment and completion.

Those Inevitable Signs of Aging

February 6th, 2016

Those Inevitable Signs of Aging

The ugly truth is out! Unless you have a bank account like Jane Fonda or Cher, eventually you’re going to fade, rumple and sag. The time will come when you can’t hide your age behind a MuMu or a Caftan. Sing the bye-bye blues baby because gravity takes its toll.

When elephants get wrinkled and leathery it’s quite fashionable. Their tough skinned outer wrapping protects them from assault and predators. Unlike human beings, the oldest elephants in the herd are given respect and power. They’re not ignored or put out to pasture just because their old.

Older people are difficult to draw or paint. Some artists draw lines for wrinkles which make them harsher and more unattractive than they need to be. Shading will produce a more subtle result. By highlighting the highest skin areas on either side of the shaded fold, you get a softer wrinkle.
My husband and I recently had our photograph taken. The photographer asked us if we’d like a “touch up.”
“How much?” I asked him.

“$60,” he quipped; “but it will remove spots, wrinkles, and even the sag under your chin.

Humph, I thought to myself. The proofs looked pretty good to me.

“I want my children and grandchildren to recognize me,” I said as I added a disgusted “No, thanks!”
Why are we so afraid of aging? Why do we treat our seniors and middle-aged population as if they’re no longer worthy? No longer capable of holding a job?

We should equate aging with wisdom. Knowledge and experience are nothing to sneeze at.

I’m saddened by our youth obsessed culture that lives from one high to the next either drug induced or in exaggerated self adulation. The newspapers record their escapades and their fall as if none of it really matters, but it does.

We only have one life to live. I for one am trying to make the most of it – wrinkles, sags and all!

Photographs and Sketches may Refresh your Last Great Idea

October 22nd, 2015

Photographs and Sketches may Refresh your Last Great Idea

I delight in painting children. There is such a freshness and openness in their faces. No masks to hide emotion. No walls to put distance between them and us. Their innocence invites us to experience life anew as we once did when we were children.

My latest painting took me much longer to complete because of health issues. I didn’t want to clutter the background with details that would take the viewer’s eyes away from the center of interest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of “busy” paintings. I like to spend time wandering through a scene and taking it all in. Restaurants, unusual rooms, people involved in talking or working are some of my favorites.

But there are times when the main event can get lost in too much detail. One of my favorite artists is K. Henderson who knows how to use detail to her advantage. She works in oils but also uses watercolor and illustrates a journal that she shares with others.

Kay is a naturalist, artist and photographer. She travels extensively to areas such as Alaska, and as far away as Manitoba, CAN. Her dialogue and her web site are well worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with her body of work.

Here is a link to her Indian portraits: http://khendersonart2.blogspot.com/

This painting is another good example of an innocent child surrounded by the detail I love to paint.

I do a lot of photography in making painting and composition decisions. I file them away and review them when I'm looking for a certain detail or subject. Photographs can preserve memory. When you add it to a quick color sketch the scene you captured days or weeks before can quickly come to mind.

Painting Fragrances Horse Sense or Common Scents

October 22nd, 2015

Painting Fragrances Horse Sense or Common Scents

After I did the blog on painting food, I thought that it was sad that we couldn’t actually smell the tempting deliciousness on each canvas. That got me wondering if anyone had ever tried pairing a fragrance or scent with a painting.

I did a Google search and was amused to find many pages devoted to the subject. In this case, instead of being tied to food, the subject matter featured was either artwork of well known brands of perfumes, or they were of flowers. Much to my surprise, my painting “First Daffodil” and my peach rose “Lady in Waiting” were featured on page three of that search.

Still I wondered if anyone had ever tried to create actual scents to highlight a canvas’s sensuality. I did find a teaching tool for toddlers using paints and imitation flavoring. For instance, the color purple would have a grape scent, and the color red would have a cherry or strawberry scent. It was a very tactile experience and a wonderful teaching tool.

Then I discovered that a group of adult artists are actually doing it – adding fragrance to paints. On the blog for Fremont Heights Art it said this: “Scented paintings, a new concept in the world of art created by us, taking our work in an entirely new direction, ever heard of or even seen a scented painting? Various fragrances infused in paint bringing the work to "life" creating a sense of being in the painting actually smelling the environment. Handmade fragrances fused into our handmade works; one of a kind. There are no reproductions of any scented paintings made.

“For example, imagine a female figure painting infused with a handmade lavender fragrance. As you view the painting, the lavender gently emanates from the figure giving you the sense of the female wearing a perfume. The fragrances can take up to weeks to create and then infuse into each individual color used in the painting. The painting itself can/may take more than a month to create. These paintings will be priced much higher due to the intense labor it takes to craft these interesting works, but well worth the time, wait and money. The methods and recipes for creating the fragrances and infusing them into the paints will not be revealed in any shape or form. Paintings start at $10,000. Get yours now!”

Check them out at this link http://www.fremontheightsart.com/scented_paintings

Museums have featured scent before. Thinking that “fragrance” is an art unto itself, they began creating sconces or wood pieces to compliment the scent. Viewers would actually push a button and a scent would be sprayed out and waft them with mist that brought images into their minds.

I don’t know if this will catch fire or if it’s just an anomaly in the world of art. The most common paintings that came up during my search were of flowers, or of people smelling them. A few sites focused on animals which are known for their keen sense of smell. Sometimes a humorous play on words showed a painting titled “Horse Scents” rather than “sense.”

At any rate, watch for this unusual art form to see if it catches fire in the art world. Some people may hope that it does, literally.

Building Habits that make Painting Daily Automatic

September 10th, 2015

Building Habits that make Painting Daily Automatic

If your paintings could talk, what would they say? I think mine would want me to set them free! They would want me to let loose instead of trying to control every move. We’ve all been taught to think carefully before we make a brush stroke and to know what we’re going to do before it happens. But that creates anxiety doesn’t it? If you’re like me my hand begins to shake and I stress over “getting it right.”

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” Jon Barrie, author of Peter Pan from Jan. 2015 Woman’s Day.

Those doubts tighten your muscles, the flow of paint, and the release of energy that makes your painting exciting. Having a well thought out plan is one thing. Allowing spontaneity to occur and to alter your initial composition is when the “magic” happens.

“A watched pot never boils.” When you keep too tight a rein on every stroke, every composition, or you over-analyze your progress, you may miss out on something enchanting and remarkable. Let it happen! Just do it.

If your paints could talk, what would they say? Mine would be angry with the disorganized mess, with the damaged caps from using a nut cracker to get them off, and the crimped twisted tubes, etc. A neat freak I’m not! I get so caught up in painting I sometimes forget that a neater pallet and a more organized paint box would actually make my job easier.

Recently I subscribed to Eric Maisel’s “Sunday Newsletter: Emotional Healing”. With my free subscription, Eric had a free gift: “The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever” by Eric Maisel, 2011 all rights reserved.

I’m going to share with you the first 10 tips on Eric’s list.
1. Be consistent in showing up. Getting to your creative work only once in a while won’t keep it alive. Make “routine” and “regularity” sacred words!

2. Who knows how many artists fail because the light that shines through them is refracted in a thousand directions and not concentrated in a single beam? Pick projects and complete them! It is not really possible to work on a thousand things at once.

3. One of the best ways to help yourself create every day is to craft a starting ritual that you begin to use regularly and routinely. When your ritual becomes habitual you will find yourself moving effortlessly from not creating to creating.

4. Make the following pledge: “I will do some creative work every day, if only for fifteen or twenty minutes.” Honor your pledge for the next two weeks and spend fourteen consecutive days creating.

5. Looking for only the perfect time to create? Forget about it! You are always in the middle of something so it is right in the middle of things that your creating must also happen.

6. Even small amounts of time can be used for creating. Do you make use of fifteen minutes here and twenty minutes there?

7. Are you good at capturing your own creative thoughts? Or do you let them slip away by telling yourself that they weren’t really all that good or all that important? Stop that! Start right now doing a better job of capturing and recording your ideas.

8. You must reckon with your own character. Creativity requires curiosity. Are you curious enough? Creativity requires risk-taking. Are you willing to risk? Creativity requires energy. Can you marshal and unleash your energy? Creativity requires patience. Have you cultivated that quality? Turn yourself into the artist you need to be!

9. Telling our truth can bring us pain and get us into trouble, but worse pain and worse trouble await us if we keep silent. Tell your truth—carefully, artfully, and courageously!

10. Say yes to your creative work! Avoid maybe like the plague. Maybe is a state that takes you right to the edge of meaninglessness. Maybe plays to your weaknesses, your anxieties, and your doubts. Maybe frustrates you and disappoints you. Avoid the maybe trap!

If you want Eric’s free gift of “97 creative ways to keep working” sign up for his Sunday newsletter “Emotional Healing” or email him @ ericmaisel@hotmail.com

Foodies who Love to Paint, and Artists who Paint what they Eat

August 22nd, 2015

Foodies who Love to Paint, and Artists who Paint what they Eat

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.

Let it all Hang Out or Let it Go

August 22nd, 2015

Let it all Hang Out or Let it Go

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.

What Every Woman Wants Baubles Bangles and Beads or is it

June 5th, 2015

What Every Woman Wants   Baubles Bangles and Beads  or is it

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.

Nail it Down Make it Clear Let it Happen

June 5th, 2015

Nail it Down   Make it Clear   Let it Happen

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!

Natural Wonders can Supply a Tapestry of Beauty

May 2nd, 2015

Natural Wonders can Supply a Tapestry of Beauty

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.

Balance and Harmony Keep a Composition or a Design in Check

May 2nd, 2015

Balance and Harmony Keep a Composition or a Design in Check

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.

Know the Territory and Use Benchmarks to Map your Progress

April 25th, 2015

Know the Territory and Use Benchmarks to Map your Progress

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.

Light Reveals Darkness Provides a Contrast

April 25th, 2015

Light Reveals Darkness Provides a Contrast

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.

Your Stuff and Nonsense may turn into a Firebrand

April 11th, 2015

Your Stuff and Nonsense may turn into a Firebrand

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.

The Fantasy World of Cartooning

April 11th, 2015

The Fantasy World of Cartooning

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!

What Artistic People Create and Why They Do it

March 24th, 2015

What Artistic People Create and Why They Do it

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.

The Waiting Game do not Discount Its Importance

March 24th, 2015

The Waiting Game do not Discount Its Importance

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.

This is one Ghost Thousands of People Believe in

March 24th, 2015

This is one Ghost Thousands of People Believe in

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.[6]”

http://youtu.be/ca--GgEe2Zg

Fullness of Joy Where does it come from

January 31st, 2015

Fullness of Joy Where does it come from

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?

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

January 31st, 2015

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

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!

Knee Jerk Reactions Demand Common Sense

January 12th, 2015

Knee Jerk Reactions Demand Common Sense

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.

The Party is Over Time to Call it a Day

January 2nd, 2015

The Party is Over Time to Call it a Day

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.

We learn from our Mistakes

January 2nd, 2015

We learn from our Mistakes

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.

Avoiding Tight Places to Save Face

December 24th, 2014

Avoiding Tight Places to Save Face

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
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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.

Next Time Allow Yourself some Wiggle Room

December 24th, 2014

Next Time Allow Yourself some Wiggle Room

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.

Remodeling Blues have put a Crimp in my Plans

December 24th, 2014

Remodeling Blues have put a Crimp in my Plans

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?

Develop the Moleskine Habit an Endless Supply of Ideas

December 15th, 2014

Develop the Moleskine Habit an Endless Supply of Ideas

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!

Quality and Professionalism Ring True

December 15th, 2014

Quality and Professionalism Ring True

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!

Chasing Perfection is it a Wild Goose Chase

December 15th, 2014

Chasing Perfection is it a Wild Goose Chase

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.

The Presence of Good and Evil

November 2nd, 2014

The Presence of Good and Evil

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.

Maya Angelou Woman of Distinction

November 2nd, 2014

Maya Angelou Woman of Distinction

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.

Toe Tapping through Life Keeping Time with the Music

October 28th, 2014

Toe Tapping through Life Keeping Time with the Music

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.

The Show Must Go On

October 28th, 2014

The Show Must Go On

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!

Owlish Eyes make Smart Girls Look Chic

October 11th, 2014

Owlish Eyes make Smart Girls Look Chic

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!

http://youtu.be/Vi-WlxIEv3o

Is that Tired Feeling really Boredom

October 11th, 2014

Is that Tired Feeling really Boredom

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!"

Are you a Busy Worker Bee a Drone or a High Flier

October 11th, 2014

Are you a Busy Worker Bee a Drone or a High Flier

I hadn’t heard the word kerfuffle in years; so when it tumbled from an attractive newscaster’s lips, I chuckled. People of “little import” cause kerfuffles. They try to make a big stink out of nothing, but end up looking foolish themselves.

These kerfuffler’s stir people up whenever and wherever they can, but their arguments fall flat for lack of evidence or interest. Afterward they slink away only to come back again and again to stir the waters of confusion and uncertainty. Their efforts never amount to anything more than the proverbial hill of beans, but the resultant anxiety they cause to the target or victim may last long after anybody else remembers.

These trouble makers reside in almost every profession or walk of life. Their voices are usually louder than the rest and their complaints often influence the uninformed or the angry. Instead of contributing positive solutions and inspiring cooperation, they try to divide and conquer. Their agenda is usually selfish and their goal is power and destruction. Sometimes they win and sometimes not.

I’m generalizing, of course. Most of us have probably caused a kerfuffle or two in our lives. Seldom are things black and white. But there is something to be said for those who do all the work and hold onto their views in spite of the haranguing of others. They plod along faithfully and patiently, and provide input only when their asked or to smooth ruffled feathers. They add consistency and strength to any group or team.

High fliers bring talent and skill to the table, but they can’t be bothered with details. They are long-range planners with a wide overview. Their contributions bring direction and purpose. But as soon as you ask them to roll up their sleeves and help, they are off on another tangent, planning the next big event. Their calendar is always full.

The point is, it takes all kinds of people to run a business, manage a corporation, or provide leadership in our communities and in our world. We can either be the workers who help move things along or we can try to hinder the progress of others. We can be the drones who eat off the fat of the land (or the hive), or we can use our talent and skill to form alliances and shape ideas.

Some people are motivators. They challenge and inspire others to share their gifts and join in the cause. This person is the key to making any combined effort or project enjoyable and worthwhile. Cooperation ensures a positive outcome. If you have a leader who can motivate others to action, productivity is higher, job satisfaction is increased and success becomes a reality.

That is my Story and I am Sticking to It

September 2nd, 2014

That is my Story and I am Sticking to It

I have a long list of paintings I want to create. Whenever I get an idea, I quickly jot it down. Some of these gems blossom and some wait in the wings; never to become more than a fleeting wisp of ethereal brain matter.

Many good ideas are beaten down with the big stick of apprehension or common sense. Do I really want to do anything so risqué? Would anybody buy such a painting if I did create it? These are the kinds of nagging fears and inhibitions we are told to avoid. They are the pitfalls that drag us into the dark abyss of self-doubt. They make us question our ideas, our inspiration and skill even before we get our ideas off the ground.

We are our own worst enemy. We sabotage ourselves at every turn. First we’re too young and inexperienced; and then when we gain knowledge and skill, we chastise ourselves for not being “at the top of our game.” We ruthlessly compare ourselves to others. We’re not smart enough, good enough, or skilled enough. Someone else is always better.

Finally if and when we reach some semblance of success, we wax melancholy, worrying that perhaps we’ve already reached our mediocre pinnacle. We fear that our encroaching age may make us obsolete or irrelevant. We humans are so predictable. We want to be this unique and special gift to humanity, but we give up before we’ve even gotten our big toe wet in the gene pool of competition and exposure. We not only fear failure, we fear success.

When was the last time you truly believed in yourself and in your ability to not only complete a project, but to fill that empty hole inside where your unfulfilled dreams reside? What is trust but an innate belief in one’s worth?

Does the seed question that it will eventually germinate, blossom, and reproduce? No. It simply does what it was born to do: grow, develop and bloom. The same things we were created to do. We were born to grow, develop and bloom. But rather than nurturing our hopes and dreams, we smother them with insecurities.

The seed sprouts because it is created to grow upward, forever searching for the light. Our fears are born in darkness and by constantly looking inward to measure whether we’re happy or not. Instead of reaching up to our source of strength and inspiration we become self focused. Dreams must be outward focused. We reach out and up trusting that we are capable of better things because we are “gloriously and wondrously made.”

An intense desire to share your vision of life with others can pull you out of yourself and stop the unfruitful tail spin of self-defeat. When you love your craft and trust in your own inner passions, the thrust will automatically bring you fulfillment and completion.

Those Inevitable Signs of Aging Cellulite Age Spots and Wrinkles

August 9th, 2014

Those Inevitable Signs of Aging Cellulite Age Spots and Wrinkles

The ugly truth is out! Unless you have a bank account like Jane Fonda or Cher, eventually you’re going to fade, rumple and sag. The time will come when you can’t hide your age behind a MuMu or a Caftan. Bye and bye, gravity takes its toll.

The idea for this article came while I was ironing. It’s a chore I hate and one I do as little as possible; but, hey, the fashions of spring and summer seem to require ironing in spite of the “no fuss” labels.

If there is any compensation in pressing out those wrinkles, it has to be the upper arm exercise required to push my outdated steel steam iron across my tottering ironing board. They’re both almost as old as I am.

When elephants get wrinkled and leathery it’s quite fashionable. Their tough skinned outer wrapping protects them from assault and predators. Unlike human beings, the oldest elephants in the herd are given respect and power. They’re not ignored or put out to pasture just because their old.

Older people are difficult to draw or paint. Some artists draw lines for wrinkles which make them harsher and more unattractive than they need to be. Shading will produce a more subtle result. By highlighting the highest skin areas on either side of the shading, you get a softer wrinkle.

My husband and I recently had our photograph taken. The photographer asked us if we’d like a “touch up.”

“How much?” I asked him.

“$60,” he quipped; “but it will remove spots, wrinkles, and even the sag under your chin.

Humph, I thought to myself. The proofs looked pretty good to me.

“I want my children and grandchildren to recognize me,” I said as I added a disgusted “No, thanks!”

Why are we so afraid of aging? Why do we treat our seniors and middle-aged population as if they’re no longer worthy? No longer capable of holding a job?

We should equate aging with wisdom. Knowledge and experience is nothing to sneeze at.

I’m saddened by our youth obsessed culture that lives from one high to the next either drug induced or in exaggerated self adulation. The newspapers record their escapades and their fall as if none of it really matters, but it does.

We only have one life to live. I for one am trying to make the most of it – wrinkles, sags and all!

The Unleashed Mind in an Untamed World

July 25th, 2014

The Unleashed Mind in an Untamed World


Someone once said: “The basis of good art is drawing. If you don’t know how to draw, you’ll never become an artist.”
The question is do you believe that? And if you don’t, what is the basis for your opinion?

Throughout the years there have been many artists and creators who have won the test of time and their work still charms audiences today; artists that could not only draw, but were masters of illustration and animation.

Popeye was launched in 1929 debuting in a minor role in the comic strip “Thimble Theater.” Within two years, Popeye was the star of the strip. In 1933, Popeye became such an instant icon that spinach consumption in the US went up 33 percent during the 1930s many years before I was born. I became hooked on Popeye through my father who loved to read comic books after a long day at work.

In 2004, Popeye celebrated 75 years of being loved and adored and is still going strong. I discovered Popeye collectibles in the early 90s, and by then there were others who purchased and stashed away their favorite King Features characters. Today my collection sells on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AnfinsenArt

Other illustrations, comic books and cartoons I loved as a kid were created by Walter Lantz: Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Wally Walrus to name only a few of the characters that danced across the movie screen and cavorted through the pages of my personal stack of comic books.

Here is a Link to one of my favorites: Walter Lantz 1947, Frederic Chopin – “Musical Moments” with Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda.
http://youtu.be/gZ6sdMUmIFA

In those days, kids traded comic books. Those with the largest horde were envied. Horror comics and movies were also adored. On Saturday morning at the movie theater we screamed and shuddered through the horror flicks. Frankenstein, Zombie mania, and Abbott and Lou Costello kept us wide-eyed and glued to our seats.

As an illustrator, Walter Lantz was way ahead of his time. Before Political Correctness came along to modify and tame, Lantz created without inhibitions or guilt which was typical for the age. Today, some of his early cartoons are banned for their racial content and stereotyping. But even this cannot take away from the magnificent characters and stories he created. Taken in its totality, the career of Walter Lantz proves that the man was a genius, way ahead of his time.

Walter Lantz 1947 Overture to William Tell on YouTube
http://youtu.be/VKKR4JJMqoQ

The creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, illustrator Johnny Gruelle, endeared earlier generations to the magic of toys coming to life while their owners slumbered. Even today, many parents have introduced their children to these red-headed rag dolls. In 1970 at the height of their popularity, an animated film called “A Musical Adventure” enchanted children everywhere. A short YouTube clip highlights a scene where the toys awaken from their slumber.

http://youtu.be/vQXlAi_-nW4

Balancing Act Meeting the Demands of Personal Choice

July 7th, 2014

Balancing Act Meeting the Demands of Personal Choice

Sitting at the salon waiting for a haircut made me lament the amount of time it takes for pure “maintenance.” Not only do we spend hours keeping our body’s clean and our fingernails and toenails trimmed and polished, but we spend time each week exercising, eating, and sleeping.

I know, I’m being anal (it’s what I do best!). The thing is where do we draw the line? Where do we find time to do what we love; to write, to read, to paint, to draw? Add to that composite the demands of a job and family and you get my point!

The key is learning to use your limited free moments wisely. Snatches of time can be used for birthing ideas, drawing on a potential canvas, or jotting down a few words or sentences in the rush as they come to you. My best ideas have actually come to me while driving, ironing, or fixing a quick meal.

I keep a pen and paper handy in every room in my house. I have a moleskine notebook in my purse, in the car, and where I watch Television. I use them constantly, even on the go. As I was running errands today, I jotted down the word “maintenance” as an idea for this blog. Afterward, the movie “When Harry met Sally” flashed forward. The film is a timeless classic that illustrates beautifully the principle of high maintenance, and low maintenance. The crux of the matter is that we’re all high maintenance, only about different things.

I use a certain product that only Sephora sells. Another “must” is found at Ulta several miles away. If I were less picky, I might be able to compromise and save money on gas and time; but as I said, I’m high maintenance. Most of us want the best for ourselves, even though we could sacrifice and scrape by with something less.

Normally, I hate to shop. Oh, I love to spend, but I hate to try on clothes. I’d rather order an outfit online and hope for the best than struggle in and out of my clothes on a hot muggy day in Florida.Choices. That’s what it’s all about. I would rather wear my grungy paint clothes any day than worry about shopping for a new outfit that I may wear some of the time.

I really get into my groove when I’m slapping paint around. I’ve ruined more clothes thinking that I’ll take a few swipes at a canvas before running to a meeting or a dental appointment. My stack of paint clothes has grown the past few months from two outfits to five. My husband would call that high maintenance. I say, whatever it takes to keep on painting and keep on trucking to do what you love!

Eat Your Heart Out this One is for Me

June 12th, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out this One is for Me

I used to think my ex mother-in-law was an old fuddy duddy. She was a rock hound, of all things, who spent precious time polishing stones. She also made fragile sand paintings inside of bottles that disappeared in a heartbeat if one of them got pushed over. She spent hours in her garden. Her house was an absolute dust bowl!

On a positive note, her grandchildren adored her and gathered around in joyful anticipation when she started one of her “projects.”
I thought of her the other day as I gathered still more poinciana seed pods to add to my collection. “Have I reached that predictable time of life,” I wondered, “when simple things seem much more precious than the purchased junk we usually settle for to clutter our lives?”

Out of guilt, I did try to neaten up my seed collection; more for those who would look askance at my seldom used dining room table which is now covered with beautiful “finds” from the fields and walkways where I exercise.

My ex mother-in-law had it right. She would rather spend her days in the garden and out in nature than cleaning a house that grows dusty each day and needs to be cleaned again and again to keep it pristine. She was part of a culture that believed frivolity and self-indulgence were sinful and artistic endeavors were frowned upon. I suspect she may have been a frustrated closet artist in her day. Her stone jewelry and sand paintings were cherished by many.

She emptied her heart and used her fingers creating things from nature that may have been considered useful and practical. There was no guilt in leaving her cleaning behind to work in the garden, to cull the weeds that needed tending to or the people at church and in her family who needed her. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” she’d been taught and so hers were busy all the day long.

I feel closer to her today than I did back then when she scrutinized my habits and frowned upon those times of relaxation as if they were sinful. Today, at long last, I understand her. I feel a kinship with her yearnings; probably many of them unfulfilled. She would never have admitted it, but she was an artist in her heart of hearts.

The wasted moments of our lives do go by in a heartbeat. Soon we all grow old and in the looking back we wonder what we’ve missed? In hind sight, the tender moments spent with a child are far more precious than the accolades of others that are fleeting and fickle. The tick tock of the clock sounds louder and we wish we could squeeze every drop of laughter and sunshine into that place within that holds them dear.

Now I watch the dust settle on the furniture and baseboards while I capture some fleeting thought that may burgeon into a masterpiece that only I can see. I listen to the critics and hold my tongue. Before me I see yesterdays trail of tears and frustrations melting onto canvas or paper in a colorful crescendo of joy.

Eat your heart out, I think quietly; this one’s for me!

This Artists Heart is at one with the Earth

June 2nd, 2014

This Artists Heart is at one with the Earth

I was a tomboy growing up. I preferred monkey bars or playing cowboys and Indians to playing with dolls. When my mother couldn’t find me, I was usually up a tree, literally. I viewed every tree as a challenge that must be conquered.

My favorites were the mulberry trees that grew near our street. I’d straddle a branch and stuff my face with unwashed mulberries until their semi-tart taste had satisfied my sweet tooth. When someone walked beneath me, unaware of my presence, I felt all knowing and powerful.
From up here, I could see into adjoining yards. I knew who was home and who wasn’t. It was a hiding place where childish secrets could be discovered and shared later when the time was right. It also gave me space and time to ponder the wonders of the world and my place in it.

In those days I often ran around in my underpants, especially on hot summer days. Once while helping my mother with the ironing, I burned an elongated triangle on my mid-section. That was the last time I ironed without being fully clothed.

The next day, dressed in a sun top and a pair of shorts, the burn now covered with a still-wet scab, I climbed a wide-spreading oak tree. By this time my legs were so long it was easy to step from one branch to another and scale to the highest gnarled branches. In the process of climbing, I scraped my midriff against the rough bark peeling back the scab and revealing a seeping red sore. The pain was excruciating. I scrambled down so fast I turned my ankle when I hit the ground running for comfort and a bandage.

I once scaled a tree so high I was afraid to come down. My mother’s younger sister scolded me at the foot of the tree and demanded I come down the same way I went up. Although we were close in age, she was my aunt, and loved to Lord that over me. If I didn’t do what she said, she was sure to tattle to my mother.

I don’t know what happened to the girl I once was? Later in life, I was afraid of heights. I wonder now if the scolding’s and threats I received put a fear in me that later I associated with heights? At any rate, as a teen I climbed to the top of a water tank and was then afraid to descend the ladder and come down. This was the first time in my life I’d been afraid of heights.

I cured myself of my fears by rock climbing, repelling and experiencing a zip line. I discovered that as long as I focused on the rock face (my goal), I was unafraid.

I continue to love the splendors of nature. There’s nothing like the scent of fresh pine mingled with frying bacon and potatoes or fresh caught fish on a crisp morning in the mountains. I celebrate still the wonder of God’s glory in every sunrise and sunset. I rejoice as an artist in the beauty I’m privileged to paint.

Balancing Act the Demands of Work

June 2nd, 2014

Balancing Act the Demands of Work

Sitting at the salon waiting for a haircut made me lament the amount of time it takes for pure “maintenance.” Not only do we spend hours keeping our body’s clean and our fingernails and toenails trimmed and polished, but we spend hours each week exercising, eating, and sleeping.

I know, I’m being anal (it’s what I do best!). The thing is where do we draw the line? Where do we find time to do what we love; to write, to read, to paint, to draw ? Add to that composite the demands of a job and family and you get my point!

The key is learning to use your limited free moments wisely. Snatches of time can be used for birthing ideas, drawing on a potential canvas, or jotting down a few words or sentences in the rush as they come to you. My best ideas have actually come to me while driving, ironing, or fixing a quick meal.

I keep a pen and paper handy in every room in my house. I have a moleskin notebook in my purse, in the car, and where I watch Television. I use them constantly, even on the go.

As I was running errands today, I jotted down the word “maintenance” as an idea for this blog. Afterward, the movie “When Harry met Sally” flashed forward. The film is a timeless classic that illustrates beautifully the principle of high maintenance, and low maintenance. The crux of the matter is that we’re all high maintenance, only about different things
.
I use a certain product that only Sephora sells. Another “must” is found at Ulta several miles away. If I were less picky, I might be able to compromise and save money on gas and time; but as I said, I’m high maintenance. Some of us want the best for ourselves, even though we could sacrifice and scrape by with something less. Normally, I hate to shop. Oh, I love to spend, but I hate to try on clothes. I’d rather order an outfit online and hope for the best than struggle in and out of my clothes on a hot muggy day in Florida.

Choices. That’s what it’s all about. I would rather wear my grungy paint clothes any day, than orry about shopping for a new outfit that I may wear some of the time. I really get into my groove when I’m slapping paint around. I’ve ruined more clothes thinking that I’ll take a few swipes at a canvas before running to a meeting or a dental appointment.

My stack of paint clothes has grown the past few months from two outfits to five. My husband would call that high maintenance. I say, whatever it takes to keep on painting and keep on trucking to do what you love!

Grab a Brush and let the Healing Begin

May 26th, 2014

Grab a Brush and let the Healing Begin

Why is art one of the most popular methods used in healing? We certainly don’t need more artists in the world. What is it about the practice of touching brush to canvas that heals the soul?

My conclusion is the “focus” that painting requires. The very act pulls you out of yourself and takes you on a journey of line, color, texture and form. Feelings are given life and anguish melts into fluid that is pushed and pulled into a heartfelt story.

There is beauty in the finished product. Discoveries are made about one’s self. Inner turmoil is released and anger spent. As paint flows, tears run. The horrifying and ugly are confronted and expressed. Unspoken words are visualized and controlled rather than running wild in the fear worn caverns of the mind.

Afterward the cleansed heart heals, the pain dissolves, and the artist is refreshed. Is it any wonder that people want to take up art to see what they’ve been missing?

That’s exactly how I began to paint many years ago. A friend, knowing that I was depressed and struggling with a growing family and a difficult marriage suggested I join her in a neighborhood class taught by an artist in her basement studio. I tagged along, not knowing what to expect.
It was love at first brush. I found my niche! And in the process, I lost myself completely in each canvas. In the process, my self-esteem blossomed, my coping skills increased, and I never looked back.

For some, healing begins with music. I met a wonderful woman who heals with her guitar and a song. She visits hospitals, rest homes and other areas where suffering is paramount. Her comforting melodies have helped terminal patients get a grip on their illness and passing. She has increased hope in the hopeless.

We have all witnessed disabled children make great strides around animals such as horses and dogs. They overcome fears, gain self-confidence, and feel better about themselves. The warmth of touch and connecting is a key component. Discover your passion and begin the healing!

Symbols Signatures and Signs

May 26th, 2014

Symbols Signatures and Signs

Advertisers use symbolism to help viewers relate to their products and to help them remember. Their purpose is to “endear” their wares to potential buyers. It seems to work. Who can forget Apple’s logo: the apple with the bite taken out of it, or Target’s red bulls eye, or McDonald’s golden arches. We look for these symbols on the highway when we want something to eat. We file these symbols away in our minds and think of them when it’s time to shop or to make a purchase.

On my morning walk, I saw a parked car with a small chrome fish on the trunk. Immediately, I recognized the owners as Christian, at least in name and desire to share their beliefs with others. According to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes.

According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger on the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. The fish was formed from the Greek word: Ichthys. The lines for the word form an actual fish outline. Current bumper-stickers and business-cards use of the fish hearkens back to this practice.

According to the Huffington Post, Religious symbols are a way to unite members of a common faith tradition, and to indicate to others the religious tradition they represent. Take their quiz and see how many symbols you can identify.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/20/religious-symbols-signficance_n_3964458.html

Artists place their signatures on every painting. Some of them are unique and unlike any other. Sometimes a symbol is created that becomes that artist’s trademark; remembered and identified. A few famous artists’ signatures have become classics. We recognize them in an instant.

And who can forget the signs of the Zodiac. Even though many frown on the practice of using horoscopes or signs to predict life events, they are all around us and difficult to avoid. The use of these signs is condemned in the Bible, yet I’ve known many Christians who playfully peak at their daily predictions and then quickly forget them.

Many famous people, even Presidents and their wives have been known to rely on them for decision making or to predict a bad time. Personality traits are identified for each sign and almost anyone can see themselves in their birth month.

As a marketing ploy, having an identifiable logo or sign can promote your business. A trademark that people recognize or a name that evokes feelings of satisfaction is a real plus!

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.

http://youtu.be/gSw4CLV14sQ

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.
http://vimeo.com/85667492

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:

http://youtu.be/sDH4mzsQP0w

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.

How is your Painting Libido

February 13th, 2014

How is your Painting Libido

Some artist’s are making a big splash. They are non-conformists doing things their way. Not afraid of criticism or worried about “staying in line,” they follow their gut instincts; and in the process, they’re making money. Wish that were you?

Self taught artists probably have more daring. What have they got to lose? But there are artists who get bored by the tried and true methods of the past and just want to make waves. They want their art to sizzle and sing. They manage to push the envelope to the outer limits.

Don’t get me wrong. These artists have already proved themselves in traditional ways. They are color and value experts who wave the brush expertly and intelligently. They also follow trends. They understand that what’s popular today may not be hot tomorrow. They have found a way to capitalize on the here and now in hopes of making some money and it seems to be working.

I watched a street artist use nothing but spray paint and window scrapers as a brush. The work was not as crude as I’d expected. He layered colors from light to dark, and while still wet, expertly scraped off top layers to expose the light. Shapes formed. Buildings appeared. Different sized palette knives and scrapers exposed a cityscape and a sunset. The end result was breathtaking.

His “street art” was produced quickly and expertly. The wrapped canvas paintings sold like hotcakes! People were intrigued. They were in awe as landscapes and city streets appeared in living color. The canvases were affordable and inspiring. This artist had found a way to tap into the pulse of the buyers who lived and worked in the city.

Who is your audience? Does your work appeal to the culture and clime of potential buyers or are you focused on your own drumbeat drowning out the sounds of the marketplace? Do you live in a seaside community or a rural farm area? Do your buyers hail from suburbia or Harlem? Who do you want to reach? How do you want to touch them or influence them? Does you work have universal appeal or is it specific?

These are questions every artist needs to ask before proceeding with a work. If you paint only to please yourself, you may have only an audience of one.

Virtual Reality cannot Touch us or Taint us or can it

January 25th, 2014

Virtual Reality cannot Touch us or Taint us or can it

Some time ago, Public Broadcasting aired a delightful British Comedy called “Last Tango in Halifax.” I enjoyed the feature immensely. The story revolved around an older couple who met, fell in love, and planned to be married. The catch? They each had their own complex past, their own children and spouses and grandchildren each with their own unique problems, quirks, differences, and weaknesses.

What impressed me at stories end was that Halifax was a lonely and harsh environment that isolated people from each other. The characters, in spite of all their flaws, were loveable, sometimes desperate, and always unpredictable yet supportive of each other, at least in the beginning.

I wept along with the characters. I felt their pain and their weaknesses as they bungled their lives simply by being human. As a person of faith, I couldn’t help wondering if the absence of faith was a character flaw and the reason for their downfall. They struggled against life without any spiritual structure or foundation to guide them or hold them together. And yet they survived. In the end, they even triumphed as they overcame their shallow self absorbed inclinations to reach out and embrace those they loved. Rising above their petty and sometimes jarring differences, they brought their bouquets of forgiveness to the simple table that life had dealt them
.
What matters most in life usually triumphs, if we let it. We can rise above the cheap and tawdry leavings of this clumsy imperfect existence and replace our shallowness with humility, hard fought forgiveness, and hope. People in the end are worth the effort. There is dignity and hidden gold even in the worst of us, and surely in the best of us. Pure evil does exist, but at what point is the soul condemned or the door closed? The eleventh hour? The twelth?

What binds us is our humanity; our need for love and companionship. This alone is the Godly part of our nature and must be nurtured and acted upon if humanity is to survive. Without it, we will all incinerate ourselves in a global frenzy. Keep the candle burning, friends. If the light of love and goodness goes out, our world will be very dark, indeed.

Artists and Writers Block

January 18th, 2014

Artists and Writers Block

If you're a creative person, it's inevitable that at some point in your career you're going to bump up against a blank wall. That feeling can be frightening, even devastating, but it doesn't have to keep you down.

Over the years I've discovered a few things that may trigger these events. I'll share some of my thoughts with you, knowing that your trigger's may also be different from mine. For whatever it's worth, here are my top four:

1. Fatigue and lack of sleep. I know, it sounds simplistic, but you can't create in a sleepless fog. When your tail is draggin' so is your mind. Your perspective gets out of whack, and life seems sadder, badder, and meaner. When you wake up refreshed, you're ready to tackle almost anything. Get your Zzzzzs.

2. Depression. This is a real deep-down feeling of helplessness and worthlessness. This baby will pull you into a downward spiral that has no end. Mild depression is a part of life's ups and downs, but clinical depression can drag you into a dark abyss where life has no meaning. Get help! If the cause is a bad marriage or an abusive relationship, get out!

3. Low self-esteem. A few negative words or harsh criticism can throw you for a loop. We can say "sticks and stones," and believe that words can never hurt us, but they do. Bullies can knock the wind out of your creative sails. Personal failure can push you flat on your back. The only answer is to grab hold of a power bigger than yourself and get up again. Quit worrying about what other people think. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that counts.

4. Lack of exposure. Sometimes we need to shake things up a little. Get out and experience life. Change the scene. Surprise yourself -- do something new. Try something you've never done before. I'm not suggesting going overboard and getting yourself into trouble. I'm only saying get out of the house. Go somewhere different. Try to see the world with a new perspective. Get some fresh air!

I remember my first art show after letting my skills and brushes lie dormant for many years. I was terrified. How would people react to my work? How would they view my lame attempts to restore those lost years when my own self-esteem was dragging?

I muttered a prayer, something like "Oh, Lord what am I doing? What if I look like a fool?" A warm feeling and an encouraging thought came to me: "Give it a try--you might be surprised."

On that simple note, I displayed my paintings. I know some of them were pretty awful, but not all. Two women, I swear they were angels in disguise, bought one of my paintings right off. That sale gave me the confidence and the courage I needed to keep on keeping on.

And there you have it: my secret formulae for getting out of a "funk." Next time you can't think and your mind's a blank, start writing, start painting anyway; anything--anything at all. Pretty soon the blood will get moving and you'll push right past that blank wall. Of course, a little prayer never hurts!

Will Libraries be Obsolete in 2020 and beyond

December 15th, 2013

Will Libraries be Obsolete in 2020 and beyond

I haven’t checked out a library book since I purchased my Kindle a few years back. I must say, my experience was a refreshing change. I’m more at home in a library than anywhere else in the world next to a paint store or an Office Depot.

I love the smell of books, the excitement of having the world at your fingertips and the thrall of people with the same sense of drama. Today was no exception. Our library is adjacent to the local high school, and is home to a poor but diverse community. On this Saturday, every computer, every chair, every table was filled with students and adults reading magazines or searching for books, and with parents helping their children find books for themselves.

Movies were being checked out in abundance. Non-fiction books and films seemed more popular than fiction. I was struck by how vital a library is to a community; especially one with few resources. I sensed that this weekly or monthly trip to the library was an exciting part of each family’s agenda. Eager smiling faces added to the vibrancy that filled the building.

I waited in line with my books: two on pastel techniques, and two on general basics; my way of taking a refresher course in between regular painting sessions and classes. A woman next to me said, “Oh, you’re an artist, too!” Then she proceeded to tell me all about the class she was taking and how she picked up some books to reinforce what she was learning.

I hope the public library will always be with us. It meant so much to me as a child. I’d walk a few streets on my own and spend the whole afternoon in its warm embrace reading books, sniffing their wonderful pages, and settling into an imaginative world that took me from my small town roots into an adventure with other worlds and cultures.

In some regions, they are already phasing out the library as we know it. Books are being replaced by computers and digital books. You can download books and never have to return them. It seems to be catching on. I’m sad for the children who will never experience what it feels like to curl up with a real book and smell the wonder of its pages. As a child, I’d sneak a flashlight into bed after my mother left the room. I’d read under the covers for as long as I could. When she discovered my secret, the magic ended, but not my love for books.

That day in the library, I was happy to see parents and children who still had the excitement of books written on their faces. They renewed my hope in America and in the world. Hunger and thirst for knowledge is a good thing. I hope we never lose it! The freedom to ask questions and search for answers is what keeps us alive and thriving. Without it, we would become puppets of the state and emotional zombies unable to appreciate a world of wonder and beauty.

Veils throughout History have Concealed Tempted and Deceived

December 12th, 2013

Veils throughout History have Concealed Tempted and Deceived

Veils have been with us almost since the beginning of time. Certainly they had religious significance. For example, in the Biblical story of Salome, Jezebel’s daughter, Salome danced with seven veils to seduce her father so she could ask for the head of John the Baptist. John had criticized her mother’s marriage to wicked King Ahab who had unlawfully taken his brother’s wife.

In the Book of Genesis within the Hebrew Bible, the story goes that Jacob was tricked into marrying the homely Leah instead of his beloved Rachel, because Leah had hidden her flaws behind a veil. Tradition had it that the groom could not lift the veil and look upon his bride until after they were married. When Jacob found out it was Leah, he honored her, but continued to love Rachel. He worked for her another seven years before she became his 2nd wife.

The Bridal veil has always provided a sense of mystery. A veil declared that the woman was spoken for; she was forbidden to any but her betrothed. It was also believed to be a holy covering.

A veil separated the Holy of Holy’s in the temple where only the High Priest could go to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. The veil in the temple signified it was forbidden to go beyond that point. The veil protected what was within and anyone without authority could be killed for crossing the forbidden barrier.

One of the most celebrated paintings of the Italian Renaissance by Raphael is “The Woman with the Veil (La Donna Velata),” This irresistibly beautiful portrait was once considered the most famous painting in the world. Completed circa 1516 – four years before Raphael died at age 37. The painting has had a profound influence on artists and writers both of his day and since. Not only is it beautifully painted, but a myth of intrigue envelops the work: there is a long-held belief that the sitter was Raphael's lover and muse.

Raphael developed in this portrait his own idea of female beauty and deportment. The sitter’s veil indicates that she is married, while the sleeve conveys both opulence and, in abstract terms, the sitter’s hidden but complex psychology. She appears as a model in many of Raphael's most important works.

“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer uses a veil to portray the young girl’s modesty and innocence.

The painting of fabric has always intrigued me. If done well, the illusion is so perfect that the viewer must touch it to see if it’s real. The creation of folds is a result of the undulating movement of the cloth as it rises and falls. Highlights are placed on the highest points, and shadows on the most recessed. Pulling the brush in the direction of the fold rather than vertically creates roundness.

Many cultures and religions use veils and coverings to protect them from harsh weather, provide concealment and modesty, and to create mystery and beauty.

You are invited to my latest Art Show

December 3rd, 2013

You are invited to my latest Art Show

December art show: “The Human Spirit – a Celebration of People and Places.” In my paintings, I choose to emphasize the goodness and light that exists in small and simple things, in ordinary people, in the lives they live and the choices they make.

If you’re in Fort Myers, Florida in December, I hope you can come. A reception will be held Friday evening, Dec. 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Arts for Act Arcade Gallery on First Street, between Jackson and Hendry. I’ll be there with other displaying artists.

Arts for Act holds auctions and uses the commission from the sale of art to fund services for abused women and their children. Many local artists support this gallery and also participate as volunteers. Please call 239-337-5050 for information or check out their web site at http://www.artsforactgallery.com

Start Today with a Clean Page and Enjoy the Moment

December 1st, 2013

Start Today with a Clean Page and Enjoy the Moment

A few days ago, I received a pocket calendar for 2014. I flipped through its blank pages like a “deer panting for water.” The days were glistening white; unmarked by crowded schedules, important appointments, or family birthdays and anniversaries.

My current calendar looks like Graffiti on steroids. Black ink saturates each page with notes, people’s names, important events, telephone numbers, commitments and activities. In addition, medical problems and emergency appointments have filled its pages during this past year. Critical junctures like weddings, flight plans, vacation dates and art shows have recorded important information adding to the chaos.

The white calendar pages remind me of blank pages yet to be written. It’s always gratifying to catch a glimpse of the future, unmarred by what is to what may be.

In the past as a writer/consultant, I did write with a pen; the transition to keyboard was difficult. I also typed manuscripts on an old Smith Corona using carbon paper between the sheets; six copies, to be exact, which had to be erased one by one if I made an error.

Now the spell check on my laptop does the work for me. I have learned to create at the keyboard; the wonders of modern technology. What next? I’ll probably speak my mind into my ipad or droid and the text will appear magically on the screen. Others are doing it, why not me?

Next to a blank calendar, a new white canvas excites me just as much. Having a clean virginal surface, spotless and free from brush strokes, gives me “a tingle up my leg,” as Chris Matthews would say.

Each new day should give us that same exhilarating feeling. Yesterday’s mistakes and stresses can give way to hope and the opportunity for a fresh start. As Scarlet O’Hara said in “Gone with the Wind,” “Tomorrow is another day!”

Things always look better on the other side of a good night’s sleep. Once refreshed, we gain objectivity and perspective. We can distance ourselves from yesterday’s pain. Of course, some things take time. But each new day brings us closer to closure. If bitterness doesn’t take off our edge, we become wiser and stronger.

Is it possible to create our future by having a positive vision of ourselves? Can we mold the possibilities and our potential for success by controlling what we write on those blank pages?

Forget about yesterday. Who and what do you want to be? As the saying goes: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life;” shape it as you would a fine sculpture. Mold it, smooth it, work it with your hands, and explore its possibilities. Let go of yesterday and live in the exquisiteness of today.

Waiting for Godot is another Means of Procrastination

November 25th, 2013

Waiting for Godot is another Means of Procrastination

One of the Newsletter’s I subscribe to comes from the artist, Robert Genn. He suggests that we shouldn’t wait around for “inspiration.” We should just dive into our work and see what happens. Sometimes waiting for the “muse” or that perfect idea is another form of putting off the actual work.

Some people think if they pay enough money for “the perfect web site;” the one that generates “thousands of viewers,” their careers will take off and they will begin to sell.

In actuality, it isn’t how much money you spend, it's how much actual time you spend on marketing and promoting your work. If one site fails, just beginning another won’t necessarily cut it if you’re not putting in the time. Marketing and promoting take as much work as the actual creating and implementing stage. Without promotion your creative work sits around with only one viewer: you!

I’ve discussed fear before. Fear is paralyzing. Fear can also be another form of procrastination. The news caster Robin Roberts recently dealt with a severe form of cancer. How did she beat it? Robin said: “When fear knocks, let faith answer the door.”

She believed in herself, she believed in the power of God, and she faced her fears courageously and beat them down with faith and the “sword of God’s word.” Fear can be overcome. Human will is powerful, but there is a higher power than ourselves that can help us overcome fear, weakness, and the frailties of human nature.

When fear knocks, we need to rally all the support systems available to us. We need to jump into the pool of the unknown and beat off the sharks with every ounce of strength we can muster. Waiting for Godot or some magical super hero, who can save us from our work, just doesn’t cut it. However, if we do our part and “put in the time,” eventually the powers that be will reward our efforts.

Being successful isn’t for the “faint hearted.” We must struggle with our adversaries; some of which are self-inflicted. We battle with physical limitations, spiritual weaknesses and with time.

As an employee, as a wife and mother, I used a “To Do” list every day. I noticed that now that the children are gone and I’m retired, I’ve stopped using one. My days have become loose and unstructured. I think about what needs to be done, but somehow I don’t quite get to them.

I purchased a tablet with bold red letters: “To Do.” The page is divided into two columns; each line ending in a check box. The first column says: “Do it Now.” The second column says: “Do it Later.”

Since I started using this organized way of using my time wisely, I’ve accomplished at least three times as many projects as before. A warning should come with the check list: too many items on the Do it Now column will cause exhaustion by day’s end. I need a warning like that. I’m a Type A personality who keeps going so I can check off every box.

As a result, I divided the page in half. One page actually lasted me all week as the interruptions of meetings, appointments, and phone calls kept me from doing my tasks on schedule. Being a slave to your list is almost as bad as not doing your tasks at all. Flexibility is mandatory.

Once the jobs were checked off, I was exhilarated. I circled those chores that remained or were more difficult so I wouldn’t forget them. This process turned out to be a great way to define my goals more clearly. It gave me an overview of my week and helped me to hone in on my priorities.
Magically, my To Do list eliminated my fears and procrastinations. I had a clear picture of what needed to be done and I methodically did them without wasting time on “how” or “why” or “when?” I was so focused on checking off those boxes, I followed my list’s directions without even thinking.

Who said I couldn’t set goals? Who told me I didn’t have time? Where did that voice come from that said I didn’t have enough talent or skill? Oh, I remember. It was the person I was before I started my To Do list. Try it! See if it smacks your fears and self-defeating behavior right out of the park!

Beware the Seagulls have Landed

November 17th, 2013

Beware the Seagulls have Landed

In my last blog; I discussed the positives and negatives of different leadership styles. I’m going to continue that discussion. When running a business no matter how large or small, leadership is key to success. Whether your employees are relatives or part time helpers, your leadership provides direction, policy, and consistency.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs develop their own leadership styles. Several years ago, the term “Seagull management” became jargon for a boss who rarely made an appearance, but when he or she did, they “flew in, shit all over everyone, and then flew out.”

I’m sure we’ve all had bosses who fit that description. Rather than being helpful and open to suggestions, they dominate, make an appearance, and criticize and complain about what’s going on, even though they are never around to supervise and keep things on track.

We can laugh at this and appreciate the humor, but we must make sure that this isn’t us. The people we work with deserve to know that they are appreciated and needed for their efforts. It is far better to create a team that works together for the good of the business than an isolated group of people who feel at odds with one another.

Several years ago, I had a boss who was abrasive, domineering, and critical. No matter how hard I tried to be a good employee, he found fault with everything I did. He’d bark if I walked into his office while he was on the telephone, even though the message I quietly laid on his desk was important. He’d question my decisions and my work. I was constantly berated in front of others.

I must admit, I wasn’t singled out by any means. He barked and grumbled at everyone. He was absolutely the most disagreeable and bombastic person for which I had ever worked. After a year, I found another more suitable job. The poor man couldn’t keep employees, and he couldn’t seem to change.

Creative professionals require isolation in order to produce. Since networking is paramount to their success, creative people learn to cooperate with others mainly to further their own self interests. Even though artists and writers compete on some level, they also need each other to stay abreast of changing trends, to research information and interview people, to learn about new venues and opportunities, and to retain objectivity in their introverted profession.

We are all leaders. Whenever you represent your business, your product or your style, you become a leader. The traits of good leadership will build lasting relationships, increase sales, and validate your professionalism. Good leaders are also good followers. Flowing easily between the two roles is vital in building a network of friends, clients, and mentors.

What is your Style of Leadership and how does it affect Others

November 8th, 2013

What is your Style of Leadership and how does it affect Others

Parasites prey upon other living things. They feed upon the life-giving properties of their host in order to sustain their own life. Some people imitate this behavior by sponging off their friends and relatives or by eating up their precious time.

This can be done overtly through wireless media or in subtle ways that may subvert our efforts to succeed. In either case, we may find our plans sabotaged, our designated time devoured, and our energy sapped.

In my neighborhood, a parasitic plant called a strangler fig can destroy grown trees if allowed to grow unattended. One of their favorite victims is the palm tree, especially cabbage palms. Of course, palms are not really trees at all, but members of the grass family. They are hollow inside, and flexible. When hurricane winds blow, the palms bend and sway. I’ve seen a few palm tops lopped off in a gale, but this rarely happens.

The danger in strangler figs is that they wrap tightly around the trunk and steal nutrients from the host. At the top, they grow a thicket of leaves around the trunk that hinders the palms flexibility. Instead of weathering hurricane winds, they end up snapping or being uprooted from the weight of the fig leaves.

Negative thinking is a lot like this. It wraps its pitiful arms around us; makes us feel sorry for ourselves, and then breaks us when we’re most vulnerable. Like strangler figs, negative thinking chokes off optimism and confidence. If we allow it to get a stronghold on us, we become weak and needy. Not a good position for success.

Sometimes we allow others to do our negative thinking for us in the form of criticism or by allowing them to take over our creative thought processes. Our own ideas are belittled, crushed and blown away by their bombastic arrogance.

Recognizing our friends from our enemies is vital for survival. Having positive influences in our lives can curtail the strangling effects of people who use their power to put others down. Positive criticism, on the other hand, focuses on our strengths and encourages growth while minimizing error. It motivates rather than negates.

Recognizing the difference between the two styles of leadership can help us overcome any negative effects, whether we’re on the giving or receiving side of the equation.

Frustration and Outrage over Rising Costs

November 2nd, 2013

Frustration and Outrage over Rising Costs

My last foray into an art store for needed supplies gave me “sticker shock!” I was in need of Turpenoid (odorless turpentine) to use as a paint thinner and brush cleaner. The price had escalated by 50% since my last purchase! I left empty-handed hoping I could find something cheaper elsewhere.

Mineral oil was my next choice, but it too had gone up in price. The end result when mixed with paint and applied to canvas is also less than satisfying; any suggestions?

For the last two years, I’ve been painting with acrylics to relieve my allergy symptoms, save my lungs from toxic odors, and to keep my skin chemical free. I also use acrylic surgical gloves while painting to protect my skin even further.

My latest project required going back to oils for painting an image on glass. I was also eager to use up some of my long-forgotten oils that are beginning to harden in their metal tubes. I was overwhelmed by the fumes. First, my eyes began to water. And even though I vented the room with a fan, the feel of my lungs suggested that irritation was effecting my breathing as well.

As I grumbled at the price increase in Turpenoid, and ranted at the “Environmentalists” and the cost of added regulations on our profession, I had second thoughts as I used these toxic materials. It was too late to change to water-based oils; I had to begin what I’d started.

In the Government’s efforts to protect us from our own stupidity (and theirs), the cost of food is also increasing at a rapid pace because of additional information required on labels. For example, my favorite “Smart Balance” margarine was for sale in brand new packaging. This is code word for increased pricing. Sure enough, they are selling two ounces less product for the same price as two ounces more in their older packaging.

Manufacturers are really selling us packaging. Packaging that is more expensive than the food it contains. And we as consumers seem to buy it up pretending it will make our lives easier, happier, and cleaner ignorantly unaware of this new “shell game.”

People who are more familiar with the land and the process of growing things understand this better than anyone; although, many farmers are also being scammed on the other end by being paid less money for their products. Corporate farmers and landowners are having the last laugh because most are subsidized by the government.

Many families would like to return to the land and grow some of their own produce, but neighborhood restrictions sometime make that impossible. Patio gardening is the next logical step. Growing tomatoes and squash in used tires lined with plastic and filled with potting soil or planting in small spaces is one option. My brother-in-law harvested zucchini, cucumbers, and summer squash all from this method.

I hope we don’t end up like people in many socialist countries: waiting in one long line to buy a loaf of expensive bread, and in another for vegetables, and another for coffee, milk or tea. The only way to prevent this scenario is to remain self sustaining and free from government intrusion and control.

The Nanny State cannot provide us with freedom and independence. When supplies run out, the government will not be able to fill our empty and gnawing stomachs. In fact, government bureaucrats may very well become hoarders of the goods and services produced by the few for their own selfish purposes.

(I'm selling my Popeye Collection on Etsy. Shows you how desperate I've become!)

Who is more Qualified the Graduate or the Gifted

October 24th, 2013

Who is more Qualified the Graduate or the Gifted

A debate is ongoing in LinkedIn about this question: “Do you need a degree to be a successful artist?”

The initiator of that question was not necessarily supporting this idea, but simply generating discussion. She even suggested that perhaps amateurs and those less educated should stay out of the market and away from art shows. She wondered if just anyone who applies paint to canvas should be allowed to call themselves an artist.

This topic got my blood and that of others to boil. For one thing, the insinuation disregards innate talent, self-education obtained through taking classes, and the hours of practice and skill obtained through one’s own efforts.

Even though a good art education gives you a wonderful foundation and a solid infrastructure of knowledge to hang your hat on, rarely does someone begin a successful career the minute the miter board comes off and the gown is retired.

My journey was long and hard fought. While raising six children, my time was not only limited, but so was the money. Extra funds went into piano lessons and athletic activities for the children. When I had more time, the extra money went into their college educations.

I had an insatiable appetite for learning. Since we made many trips to the Public Library in those days, selecting books I could read to my children and those they could read on their own, I checked out books for myself, and read those I couldn’t while we were there.

I know from previous experience that in classes at university, your mind may wander, and you may get distracted. You prepare for tests rather than for life. When you’re self-taught, the motivation is a driving force from within. It’s a hunger that propels you from one step to another. To say that this kind of learning is inadequate or invaluable is like saying that life itself is a waste of time.

Every experience we have, every piece of knowledge we retain and remember is valuable and adds to the enormous amount of information a person obtains over a lifetime. Additionally, when the mind is focused on the prize, or the subjects that are loved, information is hungrily consumed and digested. Skills are developed through diligent practice and painful but revealing error. Time is used wisely because to waste it would corrupt the passion that is a driving force.

To say that we have no right to practice what we’ve worked diligently to achieve is ludicrous, with or without acquired credentials. Someone remarked that in order to call yourself a Doctor, you must have paid the price or you can’t practice medicine. If you don’t have a law degree, you cannot then become an attorney. Does art then fall into this same category?

The detractors have a point, to a point. But in the arts, innate gifts and hard work trump all. There is something to be said for obtaining a degree. It tells the world that you spent time and money to gain knowledge in your field. A diploma allows you to teach with authority.

But a bird doesn’t fly until it flaps its wings and leaves the nest. And what about those child prodigies you see on “America’s got Talent?” How does a 13 year old child sing like a professional without training? How does an artist touch the hearts and minds of viewers without a degree?

The soul is the instrument upon which God plays. Who can explain beauty except from personal perception? Who can measure inborn talent in the quest for perfection? To limit the scope of who has a right to perform and when is to stifle all that we cherish about free speech and self fulfillment.

Singing in the Rain and ReLiving My Fair Lady

October 18th, 2013

Singing in the Rain and ReLiving My Fair Lady

Creating art becomes a challenge this time of year in Florida. It is in fall and winter that the art scene comes alive. Finding time to create artwork, on the other hand, is limited. Art Shows, juried competitions, and transporting paintings to and from different locations takes precedence.

My last show took place at Hotel Indigo in downtown Fort Myers. In conjunction with the local “Art Walk” we tested this location for accessibility and walking traffic. An evening downpour put a real damper on things, but drove traffic into the hotel for cover. This location is a hot spot for wining, dining and dancing. It also draws local artists, art organizations and a sophisticated crowd of theater goers.

I did find the location of the hotel difficult for loading and unloading paintings. After the show, my husband drove around the block ten times before he found a spot in the driving rain where we could load up my paintings for the return trip home. Whether I give Hotel Indigo another shot is up for grabs based on this inconvenience.

Sales were minimal, but it is only September. Season runs from October through March. We used September as a “dress rehearsal” for the formative months. I did enjoy the good food at the Italian Bistro and at Ichiban, both located within the hotel commons.

My artwork was on display in an interior room off the main hallway. During down times, I did a sketch, read my Kindle and visited with other artists. The location was excellent for lighting and temperature. We were also located close to the restrooms which put a smile on every woman’s face.

Bumping into casual crowds, women in spiked heels and evening gowns accompanied good looking men in dark suits and ties heading for the hotel’s wining and dancing on the third floor. After an unexpected downpour, these same patrons hailed a cab or waited for the valet to bring them their car.

People huddled under the portico and under rows of black umbrellas. I was reminded of a scene from My Fair Lady after the theatre scene on a street in London. Crowds here were equally wet. The melancholy wail of a saxophone drifted outward from the lobby. The mixed crowd that exited gave him tribute by dropping bills in a jar; a knee-jerk reaction for leaving early.

The evening wasn’t a total loss. Yes, a few of my cards and my biography were ruined by rain drops, but by and large everything else made it without damage. A potential buyer showed interest in portraits and in one of my paintings. I can only hope this may lead to something. After all, hope is the sustenance that propels artists to keep on painting and participating in shows.

Awash in Color Electric with Energy

October 15th, 2013

Awash in Color Electric with Energy

My blog title perfectly describes “change-out” time at the Art Council of Southwest Florida Cooperative Art Gallery at Coconut Point. On the first Monday of each month, new paintings are brought in and paintings which have not sold are changed out. There is always excitement in the air and congeniality as artists chit chat, get caught up on the new art scene and the latest gossip.

ACSWF is a juried gallery, and each piece must be judged by a reviewing board who determines which paintings will stay and which must go. The criteria are strict and demanding.

Some artists “play it safe” with predictable scenes and styles. Others take risks to see how far they can push the envelope sometimes ending up on the losing side. The disheartened take their heavy burdens home and hope that next month will be different.

I am one of those risk takers. I like to experiment. Sometimes I get lucky, and sometimes I’m disappointed. I stretch myself and challenge myself as much as possible. I like to try different techniques and enliven my palette. There is a certain light or glow I seek that emanates from my paintings. Until I have achieved that look and feel, I am not satisfied.

Every artist that submits artwork in any form is hopeful that theirs will qualify. The gallery is filled with amazing pieces awaiting the thumbs up from the judges. It is a learning process. The judging is a combination of objective analysis, based on the skill and knowledge of the judges, and their subjective opinions of style and taste.

I have sold several pieces online that were rejected by a judge at one point or another in my career. Beauty truly is in “the eye of the beholder.”
Critics are everywhere from the “man on the street” to your favorite aunt Mildred. Everyone has an opinion and they’re all too eager to share it with you. “Why did you do this?” someone once asked me. When I said, “I felt like it.” They didn’t know what to say?

Those little stabs hurt just the same. After all, each painting, each creation is your new baby. You’ve conceived it, nurtured it, and given it life. Who are they to question your motives or your creative license? Still we must be willing to learn from those who have more experience than us. It is a slow and painful process.

How does an artist or any professional deal with the “slings and arrows of fortune?” We must develop thick skin. We must turn our hurts and sensitivities into tools for learning. This is part of the proverbial “learning curve.” We brush off our hurts and try again. Each time we do this, we become a little tougher, a little less sensitive. We weather the storms of life and we forge on. Not because we have to, but because to stop would be to die. Not literally, of course, but spiritually. If we allow others to deter us from doing what we love, we die a little each day.

Believing in yourself and your ability to learn is the biggest hurdle you will overcome. The Cartoonist for Shoe said it so well: “We have met the enemy and he/she is us.”

Our enemy is not the critics, the judges, or our family and friends, it is us. When we give into fear and disappointment, we are the losers. When we face our enemy and the challenges that come to us, we become strong, weathered, and fierce.

Persistence Eventually Pays Off

October 6th, 2013

Persistence Eventually Pays Off

Giving up is easy. Getting discouraged is human. Persistence is the gold that separates the “men from the boys” and what distinguishes the earnest from the whiners; the strong from the weak.

There’s a fine line between persistence and stubbornness. Have you ever known someone who never gives up, even when the odds are against it; even when others tell them there is little chance for success? Yet in spite of that, they continue to beat their head against a stone wall hoping that persistence equals skill and talent.

Sometimes there’s a break through, and against all odds they manage to succeed. Many a mediocre person rises to the top on sweat and tears alone while seemingly super skilled people slip into oblivion. Networking and marketing skills prove once again that “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” It’s not how talented and skilled you are, but how diligent and persistent you are.

It’s the way of the world. When remarkable talent receives recognition, we are pleased. We hate to see real talent go unnoticed. But sadly, sometimes even outstanding talent is hidden from view for lack of exposure. Competition has never been greater. Technology has accelerated the “learning curve” of yesteryear. Today’s entrepreneurs and artists are better equipped and more knowledgeable than ever before.

There’s a level of desperation in people on the social and business networks. One artist was so eager for a sale that she fell for one of the oldest cons on the books. She agreed to accept a personal check for payment of one of her artworks. When the check arrived, it was three times more than the asking price. She checked with her bank and they agreed to hold the check.

The artist then went to the police. She told them that during their exchanges, she had noticed that each time the buyer contacted her; they called from a different location. On the final call, the buyer had requested that she send them a check in the amount of the overage. Of course, she didn’t comply. The only thing she ended up losing was her self-esteem. She felt humiliated and disappointed.

It’s a terrible experience to be scammed. I try to avoid it at all costs. I use only PayPal. If someone refuses to use it or loses interest in buying because of this requirement, that’s my tip-off that the buyer is illegitimate.

Being a tenacious seller is important. Persistence usually does pay off. But in today’s world, it pays to work smart: if it feels or sounds “too good to be true,” it usually is.

Are Holidays blurring together or am I just seeing Double

September 29th, 2013

Are Holidays blurring together or am I just seeing Double

I recently got an announcement for a Christmas project and I haven’t even planned for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Do you ever see your life just whizzing past; the constant hubbub of what to buy and when turning your calendar pages into an animated blur?

Of course, it’s necessary to plan ahead. But why can’t we ever just enjoy the moment. Writers and artists especially must work six months in advance; so must retail markets to stock their shelves and plan their staff far in advance of any sales.

September is “back to school” and the harvest season. Fall leaves and apples dot advertising pages. Halloween and Thanksgiving appear on the same shelves and eventually get crowded out by the upcoming Christmas Season.

But who am I to deny pleasure and profit to anyone? If I’m slow to get on board or always playing catch-up, I have only myself to blame. It does seem that we hurry from one event to another with little time to enjoy the moment.

When my boys were young, they spent every summer building a spook alley in our basement. They created crawl through tubes out of blankets and boxes. They placed dishes of slimy spaghetti in strategic places, and used flashlights to transfigure innocent faces into ghoulish creatures. What else they did is best left to the imagination.

I wasn’t small enough to crawl through their maize, but they were convinced that each year’s spook alley was better and scarier than the last. The Ring Leader of each year’s project was the “King of Creep,” my son, Sid. He had decorated his own bedroom with the remains of cicada shells pinned to his cork ceiling tiles; would that I could fall asleep under such crunchy canopy.

What is it about being scared and horrified that people love? I’m a wuss when it comes to horror films. I’d rather not see them. But when I was a child, I reveled with everyone else as mummies and zombies crept from under slime and out of caves to attack our heroes. We screamed with delight and shuddered with fear; the scarier the better.

Maybe it’s an age thing or the “feminization” of our culture. Today on Halloween we see cute little carved pumpkins with grins and missing teeth. Costumes, along with the usual array of goblins and witches, come in a range of harmless monsters like Shrek and Casper.

Of course, zombies have made a comeback. Zombie festivals are making waves throughout the country. Adults who felt deprived in their youth for having missed those early horror films are the first to don a costume and bloody make-up for the thrill of parading down the streets in hopes of scaring someone.

Now is the time to gather together your ideas for crude cards and pitiful paintings to celebrate the season. Black is in and pastels are out. The Season was originally devised to scare evil back into hell. It was called “All Saints Eve.” It was not a day to celebrate evil, but to put it back in its place.

If we’re lucky, perhaps we can make it a day and evening of harmless fun. When did the evil pranks begin, the putting of razor blades into apples, and the destruction of property and people? Keep your kids safe and enjoy the day. Use your art creatively to scare and frighten, but do it wisely and in good conscience.

Learning is a Never Ending Journey

September 20th, 2013

Learning is a Never Ending Journey

You will never “arrive.” Get that thought out of your head. If you’re not learning, if you’re not growing and adding to your knowledge, you are backsliding.

Sure experience, and technique once mastered, gives you an edge. But if you don’t stay on top of current trends and a changing audience, you become stagnant.

Just ask an artist in their seventies or eighties. You can quickly become irrelevant if you fail to adapt to the changing world around you. Businesses rise and fall when a company fails to keep abreast of current trends and customer demographics. Skills weaken and change if they’re not being used. If you allow yourself to get rusty and out of shape, no amount of salesmanship can pull you from a neglectful slump.

Consider your vocation, your avocation or career as a lifetime endeavor. You never arrive because you’re always striving to become better. Your competition is not with other artists, but with yourself.

This dynamic creates enthusiasm, joy, and satisfaction. Nothing can compare with the feeling of mastering something new. Life is never dull because there’s always the next hurdle to overcome, the next goal to reach, and the excitement of reaching a new level of skill.

Achievers never quit. Their journey is a process not a destination. Discovering new layers of themselves brings them success automatically. Their goal is not fame, but self mastery. When all the elements of success are in place, recognition comes automatically.

Timing is another key. When opportunity strikes, the achiever will reach out and grab it. This is not the time for procrastination or self doubt. The golden ring doesn’t come around often. Be alert to opportunity when it comes. Don’t let fear keep you from reaching out. If you do, there may be no second chances.

Developing a Unique Style and Vision

September 16th, 2013

Developing a Unique Style and Vision

Are you guilty of comparing yourself to someone else and then thinking you’re not as talented or as skilled? Do you try to copy others work; not just to learn, but because you fear your ideas are not good enough?

Welcome to the world of self-defeat where you beat yourself up with the disapproving eye of a parent until you feel so inadequate that fear reigns free; where the unique perspective that lives within you disappears little by little: death by drowning.

When you drown out your own voice by dumping negative thoughts and distorted impressions over your psych you end up retreating in shame, embarrassment and disappointment.

In order to defeat “self-defeat,” you need to eliminate the following thoughts and words from your vocabulary:
1. What will other people think?
Who cares what they think? There are as many opinions in the world as there are people. Since no two people think alike and seldom agree, your opinion is likely to be different. Embrace that difference! It is what makes you stand out in a world of sheep. Be bold. Be courageous. Be yourself! Listen and evaluate what others have to say, but give your own voice equal value.

2. I’ll never be as good as Joe or Joan Blow?
Why would you want to be Joe or Joan Blow in the first place? Their unique style belongs to them. Your unique style is embedded in your DNA. Your fingerprints, your eyes, your experiences belong only to you. They have made their mark upon you. Don’t regret your past. Bring it forward. Remember it, use it, bring it into your work and allow it to effect what you do. Show your stuff!

3. Success is out of reach – I’m not good enough!
Baloney! Perhaps the problem is “failure to drive.” What are you willing to give up for success? Are you putting in your time? Many less talented people achieve success because they are willing to work for it. Skills require dedication and practice. When you’re ready to give something up in order to achieve something greater, you’re on your way to achieving success.

Sometimes we must be willing to fail in order to succeed. We must make a fool of ourselves and face the music by stepping forward to develop courage and stamina. Failures are stepping stones that can propel us forward and lead us upward. Don’t allow failures or mistakes to defeat you. Instead, defeat your fears. Don’t be afraid to put your unique stamp on everything you do. Eventually it will pay off.

Ruts Vs Routines and the Smarts to know the Difference

August 28th, 2013

Ruts Vs Routines and the Smarts to know the Difference

I love routines. I always have and I always will. Routine gives me security. Routine makes me feel safe and helps me develop habits that keep me on track. Staying on task helps me accomplish what I set out to do.

Routines are delightful because you do them without thinking. They become automatic. I know that at a certain hour of the day, I will paint. I will write. I will carry out my dreams come “hell or high water!”

My husband knows never to interrupt me when I’m painting. He knows I never answer phone calls when my hands and elbows are dripping in acrylic paint. If friends call, they go into voice mail. The world literally goes on hold when I’m at canvas working with fast-drying acrylics.

If my husband chooses to converse with me, he may get a growl in return. If my agenda changes either by crook or necessity, I’m not a happy camper. I may even have a temper tantrum of disproportionate proportions. My day becomes lop-sided. The monster within comes out. I feel betrayed, cheated, and forlorn; oh, woe is me and a pox on everyone’s house.

If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this tirade, you now know the difference between routines and ruts. Routines are good “if” they help you stick to your goals and enable you to get your work done. Routines become “ruts” when they hold us prisoner and don’t allow us to be flexible. Without flexibility you can kiss creativity goodbye. Ruts can entrap us, hold us, and make our lives miserable.

The first time I went cross-country skiing it was late in the season. Hard, icy tracks were molded on the pathways. As long as you stayed within their boundaries, it was smooth sailing. Get out of the grooves and you went sailing into the trees. That is exactly what I did when I came to my first turn. The ruts were so deep that you had to literally jump and twist to make the turn. Not something a novice like me could do.

Ruts stifle creativity. Spontaneity is also a critical component. Awareness and objectivity need to be in control 24/7. Creative thinkers must be good observers. They must be willing to adjust when opportunity knocks. Inspiration is a product not of time or mind, but of heart and soul. The door must always be open. The spirit must always be prepared to receive.

Go ahead and plan your schedules and routines. Set your goals and work toward them; but leave yourself an opening for the unexpected, the priceless moments with loved ones and family, and the sudden impulses that may flutter suddenly on your window sill or whisper in your ear in a moment of reverie.

Here are a few tips:
• Routines guide our way.
• Ruts hold our feet to the fire.
• Routines allow movement and growth.
• Ruts exhaust us and make us feel like slaves.
• Routines involve familiar tasks and a safe place to explore ideas.
• Ruts become rigid trails that lead us nowhere.
• Routines let us experiment without criticism.
• Ruts are monotonous black holes that go nowhere.
• Routines ground us while our mind soars.
• Ruts create anxiety and worry.

Two Minute Sketches Push you to the Brink

August 12th, 2013

Two Minute Sketches Push you to the Brink

If you’ve never done it, now is the time to start! If you want to become adept at drawing people or doing portraits, “quick studies” offer a way to focus on what’s important.

Beginning with gesture and motion, focusing on the way a person’s body leans and moves is critical if you want your images to look vibrant and alive rather than just plastic replicas of sticks or flat copies of people. Gesture is what makes each image unique. Exaggerating those gestures makes for a more interesting pose.

Once gesture and movement are identified, then form comes easily. The form makes the figure three-dimensional. Here the weight of the image and the likeness are developed. Completing your gesture sketches with more fully developed drawings of form gives you a foundation on which to build a likeness and imaginative scenes with interesting characters.

Practice makes perfect. At first, my sketches were out of proportion. As I became better, the proportions were more natural. Sometimes I had to slow my drawing hand down to the same level as my brain. I’m hoping my brain will soon catch up to my hand.

Portrait studies can be done in the same way. The purpose of these quick studies is to force you to see shapes and values before getting into the details. Unless the foundation is solid, the details will still look flat or cubist. If that’s what you want, great! But if likeness and a portrait is your goal, your details need to be placed on accurate solid forms.

The greatest painting of your Life is Waiting

August 6th, 2013

The greatest painting of your Life is Waiting

An artist suggested that all paintings begin as puzzles. You have an idea of what you want to do on canvas, but once you start to fill in the shapes and the shadows, the painting takes on a life of its own. The shapes sometimes change, new colors are added, the canvas, the puzzle, is not resolved until the final brush stroke.

I, on the other hand, must do a little more planning or my paintings may end up as muddy globs. I do think there is magic involved when an artist intuitively follows his or her muse to solve the puzzle and is willing to make gut-inspired changes and additions. As an artist matures and becomes more skilled, this “magic” happens more and more.

Our lives are somewhat like a giant painting. We start out with a blank canvas, and we tentatively explore our options as we go along. Our footsteps leave a trail, a pattern of personality and choices; a splash here, a drop there, a wide sweep of self-gratification, timid accents of color as we test the waters of independence and freedom of choice.

Along the way, dark shadows and jagged lines form regrets and pitfalls. Circles of inspiration and poignant highlights show us the way forward and guide our paths into the higher realms of confidence and success.

The finished painting is waiting for us out there in the ethereal chambers of consciousness. We mix and dab continually, trying to make sense of our composition. Life, indeed, is a puzzle. Knowledge and practice sharpen our focus and reveal the things we truly believe and hope for. The final stroke, when it comes, may be a complete surprise or it may be a fulfillment of everything leading up to this point.

As with life, when a painting is finished we will know it. Every act, every thought, every choice will signify its completion. When there is nothing else to change or add to, we lay down our brush. So it is with life. When we have completed what we were born to do, we will slumber.

A Technique that Helps to Create Flawless Line Drawings

August 1st, 2013

A Technique that Helps to Create Flawless Line Drawings

I like to put people in my paintings. When a painting or landscape doesn’t include people, they come up missing in my book. I find that peoples’ expressions and body language contribute to a scene and “round out a paintings’ story.”

The more I paint, the more this holds true for me. I find I’m more engaged in the painting and have more passion when a few lines and shapes form a character and become real before my eyes.

Design also fascinates me, although, I’m not very good at it. I like to incorporate unusual background designs that have a subtle impact on the story I’m trying to create. The secret is to make them compliment the subject or center of interest without dominating it. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.

A painting should also have magnetism; a component that draws the viewer’s eye into the scene and around the composition. Once, I got so carried away with this principle that I led the viewer right off the canvas and into La La Land. I didn’t recognize my mistake until someone pointed it out to me. I recently took a class on “letting go.” The purpose was to encourage “loose” brush strokes and to allow your imagination to fly. My imagination flew, all right. Right off the page!

There’s something to be said for “control,” and knowing what you want to see on canvas. Portraits especially require a steady hand and even strokes of brush or pencil. Scratchy, broken lines make a drawing look weak and tentative. Lines that give the appearance that they know where they’re going and where they’ve been, are strong and definitive.

If you’re not sure if a line is accurate, don’t put it down on paper. Wait until you’re sure the placement is correct. Wave or draw a shadow line over the paper to test the distance and the dimensions without making a mark. If your shadow or “ghost” line seems accurate, place your unbroken line with confidence and freedom.

Learning a new technique or genre takes time and patience. Making mistakes and recognizing them is just as important as being perfect. Sometimes we get lucky the first time, but continued practice is certain to improve your work over time.

Solving Knotty Problems the Sailors Way

July 24th, 2013

Solving Knotty Problems the Sailors Way

Jewelry makers understand the necessity of tying secure knots that secure the placement of beads on a strand and strengthen the finished product. Knots are not only functional. They are beautiful. A singular knot, if well done, can serve as the focal point of a piece of jewelry, clothing, or work of art.

Decorative knots have been around for many years, but the knots from which they came were the result of need and invention. Sailors created different types of knots for different uses. Modern-day campers can relate to the shifting motion of a ship on the ocean as their motor home or trailer careens down the road. Tying things down and securing them with a knot that is secure yet can be undone quickly is extremely important.

Sailors used knots to secure fragile things from breakage. They kept their wood dry by knotting wood pieces together and hanging them. When the ocean billowed over the edge of the ship, the wood was tied safely above.

The “monkey’s fist” was a large knot that was used as a weight and tied to another rope, that the longshoremen used to pull the ship into the dock. Now used as a decorative knot, the monkey’s fist is solid and attractive. Knob knots were used for drawer handles, for stanchion rails to whip the horses, or at least scare them into going faster.

One of the most important books today in the arena of decorative arts is an old maritime book called “Marlinspike Seamanship.” If you would like to see samples from this book or get one for yourself, go to www.marlinspikes.com

A popular craft today that uses the same knotting principles from this book is called “Paracord,” and uses parachute cord instead of rope for its lightweight qualities and strength. Paracord bracelets are the current fad, especially for runners and bicyclers who like their bright fluorescent colors to warn drivers and others of their presence.

The Boy Scouts have used knots as a Merit Badge since their inception. Knots are used for tying down a tent, securing a boat, hanging up supplies to keep them off the ground, and for securing a clothes line to dry out wet clothes. Knot tying prepares Scouts in the event that they were lost in the wilderness and needed to stay safe and protected. Knowing how to make a shelter by tying branches together or to provide a make-shift stretcher to drag an injured friend is a valuable skill.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced the frustration of trying to tie a square knot and ended up with a granny. Right over left works when you’re not tying a bow, but if you want to place a bow on top, left over right first works best.

How many times have you tied your dog to a tree or a post, only to find that he’s wriggle away from your slip-shod slip knot? It pays to master the art of knot tying. The next time you try to tie something up; instead of swearing like a Sailor, learn how to tie knots like one!

Do Definitions Restrict an Artists Work or Provide Opportunity

July 17th, 2013

Do Definitions Restrict an Artists Work or Provide Opportunity

In a marketplace flooded with artists and a decreasing number of buyers, it’s no surprise that style matters. Affordability often moves decisions, but having a unique flare or approach may make the difference between recognition and sales.

Many artists are using other methods to get noticed. Texture and color are the number one drivers. Jewels and gem stones are being placed on paintings to catch the eye and emphasize a theme. Metalics added to the paint draws the viewer and adds a sheen or glint to the finished painting. Because of this, the fine line between arts and crafts is blurring as more artists’ label their work: “mixed media.” When glitter or pizzazz is added to a painting, one wonders which genre the canvas falls under?

A recent announcement for a juried show stated: “Medium is open (No crafts please). An artist may question what this means? Interpretation of what makes a canvas or a multi-media board cross over the line into crafts is often a subjective call.

Tattoo art is becoming a legitimate art form as more buyers choose to wear their artwork or use it to make a statement. The artists creating and designing in this genre are finally being recognized for their caliber of artwork. Many of their designs and drawings would make stunning paintings, canvases and wall art.

Illustrators and cartoonists are equally skilled. Their work is cutting-edge, exciting and flamboyant. Technology is heightening the impact of digital enhancements that combines with original artwork in a way the Old Masters never envisioned nor imagined.

Adjusting to these changes is every artist’s challenge. We can either get left in the dust or accommodate the fluctuating art scene and rise to the occasion. Today’s artists must adapt and grow to meet the ever changing market.

Make Time your Friend not your Enemy

July 13th, 2013

Make Time your Friend not your Enemy

Get a group of people together and their number one problem is time, or the lack thereof. It isn’t a lack of ideas. It isn’t money, although, this is a restricting factor. What concerns small business owners the most is time. Every decision that is made is concerned with time: what it’s worth, how to set priorities, where to focus it for optimal growth. Marketing alone requires enormous amounts of time, and without a product, there is nothing to sell.

A novice once asked me for detailed information on what it cost me to do a painting. He divided it into parts: supplies, paints, canvas, tools, and time spent in the actual painting. This picayunish breakdown was designed to belittle me and other artist’s work with little regard to the years it takes to perfect a skill or the knowledge required to assimilate what one sees and to interpret it on canvas.

I gave him a simple mathematical tool he could use to weigh simple costs: Multiply the size of the painting, add any overhead costs the artist may have (leased space / gallery, etc.), and add the cost of a frame. This exercise at least gives you a basis from which to judge. Add into the equation, the artist’s background and notoriety and the worth of a painting is much easier to appreciate.

To reduce a painting to a dime-store print or a knock off which has been photographed on canvas and then given a few swipes of paint is an insult. This is not a serious buyer, but a person who wants something for nothing. Walk away!

Some people get overwhelmed when they see the big picture and know all the work that must be done to be successful. If this is you, try to slow down and take one piece at a time. A child doesn’t learn how to walk all at once. Neither does success come without a series of mini-steps and hurdles to overcome.

Focus on one thing at a time:
• Prioritize your work list in order of importance
• Do as much as is humanly possible in your 24 hour day
• Don’t neglect your health or there will be no business
• Small increments of time are better than nothing
• Use down time for planning, organizing your thoughts, and creatively solving problems. When your body is at rest, your mind can take over.

I mentally paint even when I’m not at the canvas. Sometimes I solve problems in this way. At other times, an idea completely changes and moves in another direction. By the time I’m able to actually work at the canvas, I can move ahead quickly with confidence. Use your time wisely and it can be an asset not a liability.

A Salute to Our Veterans

July 6th, 2013

A Salute to Our Veterans

I remember vividly where I was on 9/11, do you? I stood with my fellow co-workers in front of a large-screen TV and wondered what was happening to our country? We watched in horror and disbelief as the replay showed a plane plowing into the first Twin Tower. In shock, we witnessed live another plane crashing into the second. This couldn’t be happening.

At the time, my two sons were in New York. One lived in lower Manhattan with his wife; they both worked on Broadway. The other son worked between the Twin Towers and CitiGroup. Where were they now? Cell phone use had been cut off due to the emergency. My anxiety was in overdrive. I prayed.

Eventually, one son managed a communication from NY to California. The person in CA called his wife who lived in CT and I learned that he was okay. He was scheduled to meet that day on the 8th floor of the second tower, but the meeting had been moved to another location. We later learned there were many small but mighty miracles going on all over the city that limited the usual number of people who were supposed to be in the Towers that day.

Thankful that my boys and their families were safe, I rejoiced with other people who had been spared, and offered up prayers for those who hadn’t. Americans joined hands and hearts, praising God and showing their patriotic colors, but not all. Even in those dark hours, there were some who ridiculed “those flag wavers,” and blamed American Imperialism for the event. It was our fault. We deserved it for allowing such desperation and poverty in the world in the first place.

Unfortunately, those naysayers are still with us. The hate-America-crowd never seems to get tired of bashing the success and hard work of others or demeaning American values that are held dear by many.
My own father was a welder who took pride in repairing the ships that were damaged during World War II. He worked on the Arizona, the Missouri, and many of the ships prior to and after Pearl Harbor. As a child, we lived in government housing in Bremerton, Washington. Sailors, soldiers, and patriotic workers were part of our everyday lives. We took pride in their service and in their accomplishments.

My Danish grandfather and his Swedish wife traveled all the way to California during World War I to work for the war effort. Papa worked in a factory as a welder, and Mama sewed clothing and uniforms for the soldiers and their families. They kept America’s factories running while the men were away fighting a war to preserve our freedoms. God forbid that Hitler should come here! People everywhere worked together for the good of America: the last bastion of freedom on the earth!

Papa and Mama came to this country via Ellis Island. They were proud, hopeful, and legal. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and carved out a life for their posterity. When you put down my flag and put down my country, you’re trampling on everything my ancestors fought and died for. These freedom loving people would give you the shirt off their backs, and they often did because it was the right and honorable thing to do. They earned their success through their own blood sweat and tears.
Several years ago, I was between jobs and feeling down and out. I had a medical background, so I managed to get an interview with the VA hospital where I lived. I was unprepared for the feelings that overwhelmed me when I walked through those double front doors.

People in wheelchairs, old people, people on crutches, many with limbs missing coming and going down the hallway and gathering in the foyer. Flags and photos were everywhere. A feeling of reverence, and yes, despair, permeated every smell, every corner, every water-filled eye. I didn’t get the job, but I left a changed person.

I was so overcome with gratitude that I wanted to shake every hand, kneel at every knee, and hold every trembling, frightened person I passed and say: “Thank you;” but it seemed so inadequate! I was living my life with the hope of opportunity, whole, well, and free because someone here in this hospital and elsewhere in America gave up an opportunity, a limb, a loved one, a life of security for me.

God bless the men and women everywhere who serve our country! Thank God for the men and women in past generations who sacrificed their lives so that you and I can hope, and breathe, and choose our dreams. Freedom lives because somebody died—for you!

Gum Shoeing Your Way to Success

July 2nd, 2013

Gum Shoeing Your Way to Success

In years gone by, detectives were referred to as “gum shoes.” The nickname stuck because they wore rubber or crepe soled shoes as they stealthily crept into dark shadows to pursue a suspect. Gum shoe cops were thorough and diligent. Their persistence didn’t let up until “they had their man.” Failure was not an option. Their stick-to-itiveness led to their success.

When I first stumbled onto the term “gum shoe,” I thought of the time I’d stepped on a glob of bubble gum in a parking lot. Try as I may, that hunk of pink refused to come off of my shoe and followed me in florescent strings across the hot asphalt. Much like a trail of toilet paper that sticks to your shoe and betrays where you’ve been, the things we do in life, the places we go and the choices we make leave a trail of evidence behind us. Some might call that trail character; others may refer to it as reputation. Our chances for success get better and better as our trail of credits and experience become stronger and more reliable.

Sometimes even with our best efforts we “stick our foot in it.” After all, we’re only human. When I was a kid, I remember how smart and independent I felt at times. A real “know it all,” my mom would say.

One summer I was playing with my older cousins in my aunt’s pasture. They were showing off, stomping on crusty cow pies. They were fearless daredevils, or so I thought. Their secret was to choose only those pies that were “seasoned” or dry. Well, I wasn’t going to let them out do me. Although I was only five, I began stomping with the best of them. Unfortunately, I was wearing a shiny pair of black patent leather shoes with white stockings and lace cuffs.

My first cow pie, crumbled successfully so I tried another. On the second thrust, my foot sank into warm, mushy green poop right up to and over my pristine lace stockings. Shock and awe crushed my confidence and sent me running to mother for help.

We all get in over our heads (or our socks) at times. Here’s how to avoid it

• Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
• Know beforehand what your client expects
• Never assume anything; be specific, and ask questions
• Plot realistic deadlines and timelines
• Keep your client updated on progress
• Evaluate your time and money expenditures carefully
• Make your aim “customer satisfaction,” your target “repeat business”

Natural Found Materials make Artwork Zing

June 22nd, 2013

Natural Found Materials make Artwork Zing

I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of artists. When budgets are tight, they still manage to find a way to create art. A fantastic artist by the name of Mark Powell creates meaningful portrait drawings on old envelopes and photographed legal documents free for the taking.

Dropped palm fronds are the creative backdrop for another artist who turns them into fish, mermaids, and lion heads. The dried leaves become fins, swishy fish tails, or miens in her adept hands.

Linda, fell in love with “pine straw” and creates unusual baskets, wall hangings, and sculpture by twisting and weaving natural and stained strands together. The bottoms of some baskets are lined with bean pods from the Poinciana tree. Sturdy as leather, the pods add functionality to her pieces.

Collage artists create interesting textures and shapes by using natural materials in their designs. There are two ways to creatively capture these items on canvas: the first is to apply paint to the underside of the object and then press it on canvas or paper; and the second is to lay the objects (i.e. leaves, flowers, sticks) on the background and spray paint over it. When the items are removed, the shape of the items remains in outlined form and transparent color. This treatment makes an incredible under painting for portraits or abstract pieces.

Jewelry artists sometimes use natural materials like seeds, bark, and dried peelings in their designs; threading them together with crocheted strands. I purchased one of these lovely pieces; however, the only drawback is what I call “natural deterioration.” Some of the items crumble over time and shed on my clothing. The necklace itself still looks lovely, but my shirt or blouse ends up covered with pepper-like dust.

I once purchased a homemade pen for my son’s birthday. He’s a genuine environmentalist and a dedicated recycler. I thought he would enjoy the pen which was made of recycled wood from an old fence post. The finished wood had a wonderful grain and was polished to perfection. Other woods the artist used came from old barns, railroad ties, and demolished houses.

I’ve often admired the leaves and the fruit of a tree in our neighborhood, but have yet to identify it. The leaves look like that of the water oak, but the clusters of seed pods do not fit the description in my Audubon book. When the pods burst open, they form a flower. At the center are red berries. If any of you can identify this tree, I’d really appreciate your feedback. Although the sidewalk below ends up covered with red berries and broken pods, I managed to collect a few before they were broken. The pod forms a flower when it opens and when left to dry, the petals became hard and woody. The tree is messy, but beautiful!

Cut Yourself Loose every which way but Down

June 4th, 2013

Cut Yourself Loose every which way but Down

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again: success is all about networking, networking, networking! The necessity of connecting the seller with the buyer and the advertiser with the consumer goes without saying. Plus your product must be available in as many different locations as possible.
I have an account on Zazzle where I’ve sold several small items and T-shirts from some of my drawings. The earnings are small, but it is gratifying to know that my cartoon characters are used and enjoyed.

Placing your artwork in several venues is not only smart, it’s vital to get your name out there. Making connections with as many people as possible is the only way to move your career along. I show on Etsy, Red Bubble, Fine Art America, and have two more sites in the works in addition to my blog.

Explore different sites, and place your articles and images where you get the most bang for your buck. I find the most difficult part is finding the time to paint or draw each day. Marketing takes a big hunk out of my week, and I’m sure out of yours, too. Without marketing, there are no sales, no exposure

Like most artists, I have more ideas than I can ever paint. Storage is another problem: how and where to store your canvases and artwork so they are protected from the elements and from close proximity with other images. I’d love to hear your ideas!

One solution is to have as many of your paintings in galleries and shows as possible. I keep a record of where each image is placed, its cost, and how long the painting will be at that location. Sometimes a venue may be long, such as a placement at a company or a restaurant. At other times, the venue is limited to one month. Keeping your artwork visible and active is essential if you want sales and exposure.

Membership in more than one Art League or with charitable organizations that use art to raise money provides more opportunity for visibility. I got an email a few days ago from one such gallery sponsoring a “membership show” in the coming month. Never let an opportunity slip from your grasp; work harder and smarter in order to have enough artwork in your inventory to participate.

Teachers should Nurture, Enlighten and Protect their Students

May 31st, 2013

Teachers should Nurture, Enlighten and Protect their Students

I come from a long line of teachers, and take pride in having five teachers in our family today. I revere teachers and respect their profession. As the mother of six children, I had a lion's share of parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings. Over the years, I've seen good teachers and bad teachers.

Ms. Morrell was my English teacher; a stern spinster, and the butt of jokes and complaints from her students. But without her, I may never have become a writer. She knew her stuff! She was firm, but patient. She insisted on good behavior and was a hard task master when it came to grammar. And she could see past the jeers and bluster of her students.

She encouraged me to enter the school's literary contest and I won. She saw in me what I couldn't see in myself. I remember her to this day, not as the frumpy spinster with the stern look, but for what she taught me: lessons that stayed with me throughout my life.

Mr. Holmstead was my History teacher; a fun-loving man who walked a shaky line between likability and control. Somehow he managed; not because of classroom rules or rigid authoritarianism, but through his own charisma and passion for his subject.

Whether you liked history or hated it, you were bound to love how Mr. Holmstead told a story. He captured your attention and made history seem relevant and wondrous. The test questions were easier to remember because of the performance and the theatrics he tied to each fact. Those who thought history was boring were in for a big surprise.

By noon, Mr. Holmstead already had a five o'clock shadow. By the end of the day, his tie had been loosened, his jacket hung on a chair and his sleeves were rolled up. We loved history because he loved history. His teaching was infectious.

And then there are the not-so-great teachers. I met one of them at a parent teacher conference. She was irritated by my energetic son. "He fidgets too much at his desk," I was told.

"And why does he fidget," I asked? Turns out my son finished his work before the other students and then he became a distraction. He even turned over his paper and doodled on the back (imagine that!) making his worksheet messy and dirty (the nerve).

By the time I finished listening, I knew there was nothing I could say or do to change this teacher's mind. I did suggest that she give my son another sheet of paper to doodle on while he waited, but she refused, saying that she didn't have time to cater to one student. Oh the "mind is a terrible thing to waste!" (Negro College Fund Slogan)

Here is the flip side to that story. In my son's sixth grade year, he had a teacher named Mrs. Bush. The children loved her, not because she was lenient or friendly, but because they knew what to expect from her. Her discipline was consistent; her style full of expectation and follow through.
My son was still the same wiggly, talkative child, but she used that enthusiasm to their mutual advantage. When he sat fidgeting after finishing his work, she showed him how to use the classroom camera. He took pictures of designated materials under her supervision. And wouldn't you know, the envious other children began to work harder to finish their work so that they could use the camera.

At one point, during their study of China, Mrs. Bush showed him a tiny picture of a Chinese dragon and challenged him to see what he could do with it. She gave him some brushes and paints and turned him loose on the classroom window. By the end of the day, he had completed a giant, colorful dragon; an exact replica of the original drawing.

That painting amazed not only me, but the entire school. Mrs. Bush saw a glimmer in my son and harnessed his active mind and body; a true modern-day miracle worker. Teachers like this never scream for recognition or pay, but they deserve it. They simply do what they do best: teach children. I say God bless them!

More on Art Shows

May 31st, 2013

More on Art Shows

I'm not a fan of art shows.
• They're hard work.
• They take lots of muscle.
• They require lugging heavy paintings and supplies long distances over bumpy terrain and several trips in the process.
• The weather is unpredictable.

At one show, a violent storm blew up, whipping our tents and frames into a frenzy. We grabbed our paintings and ran for cover as the rain drenched us. Our outdoor venue turned into an indoor one. We greeted our guests with hair plastered to our heads, and water dripping from our soggy clothes.

At an outdoor mall show, a gust of wind whirled through the plaza knocking over a large framed piece of mine that hit the pavement and cracked an expensive frame. But there are trade-offs; like the camaraderie of like-minded artists who share their dreams and their love for creating things of beauty. And there are people who show up to admire our work and give us incentive to continue.

As my friend Kelly, the photographer and creator of "The Sorry Gardner" said: "It's not about the plants." And for we artists: "It's not about the money." If it were, we'd all be rich.

Another trade-off: I get to share my picture book creations and illustrated stories and cards with my fans. I can share one with you here through the magic of the internet. Click on the link for a FREE sneak preview.









Strike a Match, Burn a Candle, Light up the World

May 20th, 2013

Strike a Match, Burn a Candle, Light up the World

Ideas are fragile. They come and go. If you don’t lock them down, they can disappear forever.

I used to keep a small notebook in my car for jotting down ideas driving to and from work. The only problem was, I could only write while I was sitting at a stoplight. So I thought I’d get a recorder and verbalize my thoughts, only I’m not a verbal person. I have to digest ideas and chew on them before I write them down in order to give them expression.

Fleeting thoughts are sometimes incoherent, nonsensical gibberish; but the gems within may grow and multiply, whereas the losers fester for awhile and then dead-end into Never Never Land.

When I lived alone, I burned candles in the bath, in my bedroom, and anywhere else I needed a glimmer of hope and light. Even with dinner, I’d fix myself something special and light a candle to make the dining experience last. Then one day, I became dangerous. I struck a match in the bathroom and the tip of it broke off landing on my nightgown. The flames were frightening. Luckily the sink was near enough to douse myself with water and put the flames out.

I decided either I was getting flighty or the matches were being manufactured differently from before. A few days later, I struck a match in the bedroom to light my bedtime candle, and again the match tip broke off landing on my dresser scarf. The flames ignited instantly, swallowing up everything in sight before I could smother it with a wet towel.

From that point on, I eliminated candles and matches from my bath and boudoir routine. Whether it was the cheapness of the match sticks or my own clumsiness made no difference. I couldn’t afford to burn myself up over anything as silly as a candle.

That experience has come back to haunt me again and again. How fragile and unpredictable that tiny light became once it was ignited. Ideas are like that. They shine but for a moment and then like gossamer wings they fly away unless we kindle the flames that brought them in the first place.

Where do my ideas come from? Some are inspired by past experiences. Others by books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen, or simply by the way light shines on a certain object in a new way. Nature also inspires me. I have a vivid imagination and always think I see something different in my ordinary surroundings: an ugly face created by the stump of a limb or the bark of a tree, a small bush that looks like a huge spider; I’m weird, I know.
Artists do see things differently. We see in shapes and color and because of this, the ordinary turns into the grotesque, the scary, or the fantastic in a blink.

Some of my ideas are so clear I can see them come to life in my mind. Others are mere hints or suggestions that require coaxing and fuel to keep them going. Like the end of a lighted match, I never know where my ideas will end up.

Painting Perfect Hair is a Harebrained Idea

May 18th, 2013

Painting Perfect Hair is a Harebrained Idea

Of course, there is no such thing as perfect hair or there wouldn’t be the expression “bad hair day!” If you study the way hair frames the face and falls, you’ll see that to get the hair right, you have to get the shape of the head in proportion first. Once you have that down, block in the shapes of dark and light hair that follows the contours of the head. The more uneven these light shapes are the better.

The next step in the painting process is painting the strands of hair or the shapes of hair that stand out or seem separate. Texture comes last of all as you fill in the strands and shapes with the “illusion” or appearance of hair. Getting the right color and texture is a matter of practice, trial and error.

For some reason, I find painting texture easier on birds and animals than I do on people. Perhaps because I’m not quite so obsessed with getting every hair or strand of feather and fur right. The patterns must be correct, but the individual strands of hair, not so much. Capturing the sunlight glistening from hair and contrasting that with shadow makes the fur or hair look realistic.

Because of the way people and animals move, their covering is constantly changing. Don’t worry that you don’t get it exactly like your initial photograph or drawing. As long as it looks realistic, it will ring true.

Sometimes a painting can get slightly off as we apply paint. Paint is malleable. It changes and moves depending on the tool or brush we use and the medium we choose. I use a ruler to see how much my painting has enlarged from the original drawing. Has the width on either side of the face changed from the hair to the outer eye? Has the width of the nose between the eyes changed? When these distances increase, the shape of the head will change and throw the hair proportions off as well.

Once you fix the proportions, the hair will begin to take shape and form. Some people are genius when it comes to hair. Don’t be upset that yours doesn’t fall into place as you think it should. Practice does make perfect. In order to move beyond self doubt and floundering, keep attacking the problem until you find a modicum of improvement. Learn from your mistakes and you will become a better artist.

The Joy of Creating Something you Love

May 9th, 2013

The Joy of Creating Something you Love


Whether it’s an article, a work of art, or a product, we can all relate to that feeling of pleasure and accomplishment that creation brings. Something of ourselves enriches the finished work and adds a sparkle of originality and freshness. That’s why we keep doing what we’re doing. We want to repeat that feeling. We have something inside of us that will burst unless we share it.

The more spontaneous and responsive we can be to whatever it is that drives us, the more authentic our voice becomes. Soon, our offerings are recognizable. Each new creation has our signature. It takes years of craftsmanship to reach that level and a stiff upper lip and spine to get beyond the barrage of negative feedback we may encounter. If our style veers from the current norms, we are open to criticism. Some people “won’t get us.” Others are quick to criticize saying we have gone too far outside the box or outside the lines of accepted behavior. But we keep on doing what we’re doing, even though at times we weep inside.

Andy Warhol did. Picasso did too. Many, many others have tuned out the voices and listened to their own unique beat, going beyond the limits, knowing they were open to criticism but doing what their inner voice demanded anyway. It takes courage to pursue our dreams when all we get is criticism. But a few encouraging words can send us soaring and keep us going for weeks at a time. When the darkness descends, review every accolade you’ve ever received, every accomplishment, every fine thing you’ve ever done in pursuit of your goals. Treasure these thoughts like gold. Bury them in your heart and cherish the memories.

Some day you will rise again. Something will click. New determination will descend from the heavens. Your star will shine and pull you from your pity party into new heights of achievement. Fellow creators are cheering you on. Our united voices will pull you from the ashes of self defeat and give you the push you need to face exposure and criticism once again. Never give up, friend. “The best is yet to come!”

Roll with the Punches and Come out Fighting

April 30th, 2013

Roll with the Punches and Come out Fighting

Stuff happens! Calamity is waiting in the wings – it’s a given. The only thing we can’t determine is when. My most recent scrape happened with an innocent and perhaps ignorant download of a so-called “preview” of Microsoft Windows 8.

That preview has cost me $300 in Tech Support, and a loss of all of my programs, many that were near and dear to my heart. I still have an icon on my desktop called “removed programs.” I can’t restore them, and so they remain as a testimony to a download gone bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Windows 8 speed and functionality on the web. What I didn’t like was that it devoured, consumed, and completely took over my computer. My backup didn’t even work and I lost precious photos and files. When I called Microsoft, they said the download may not have been theirs. The only remedy: re-install Windows 7 or purchase Windows 8 and move on.

In my book, that’s blackmail. If you have to sell product by corrupting unsuspecting “previewer’s” current systems, you’re either desperate or dishonest. In either case, I received no help or assistance from Microsoft and “recovering” my computer to its original manufacturer’s state has cost me precious time, money and valuable material.

In the middle of the crisis, I was amazed that I hadn’t fallen apart. I think I would have several years ago. In this case, I just plugged along day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, and handling one crisis at a time. What’s the difference; maturity perhaps? A solid marriage and my inner faith in God? The realization that it’s “out of my hands?” All of the above, I suppose. When the world is in chaos around us, knowing that “this too shall pass” never hurts and allows us to be at peace when everything else is in turmoil.

Yes, Stuff happens and when circumstances are out of our control we must “let go” and wait patiently for them to resolve themselves. There’s no point in “losing it” or giving in to fear, anger, or our inner child. Life goes on and we must pick ourselves up and try again.

Thank you for waiting patiently while I try to fix these problems. My blogs have been late and my painting time has suffered. But life marches on and so will I in the end.

In Transition

April 7th, 2013

In Transition

I downloaded Windows 8 for preview and now I'm not able to use my old Microsoft Word and many other links. I hope it's temporary. Please check out my blog and my artwork @ http://carol-allen-Anfinsen.artistwebsites.com

p.s. the photo is a shot near my home in Fort Myers. Beautiful sunset!

Paint Yourself a Hot Cup of Coffee and Enjoy the Brew

March 23rd, 2013

Paint Yourself a Hot Cup of Coffee and Enjoy the Brew

My Grandson owns a coffee shop online and one in the Great Northwest called “Café Solace.” The beans are from Costa Rica, and there are many choices and blends that are absolutely delicious! On a recent trip there, Bryce took a photo of the coffee beans growing. I was so enchanted by the color and the variation of shapes; I envisioned a painting in the works.

“You paint it,” grandma, “and I’ll put it in my shop,” he challenged. And so my painting began.

Most ideas come from random things like this: a photo that catches our eye, a scene outdoors that takes our breath away, an emotional sequence of events that stays with us long after the event is forgotten by everyone else.

Some ideas come to us in dreams; others through the gift of a vivid imagination. I’ve shared with you before my fascination with my bathroom floor and the varied shapes and images created from dripping water and bare feet. Some of these have actually ended up as parts of paintings.

Memories from childhood also inspire many paintings, especially when paired with the children we encounter in our own lives. I wish I could live long enough to paint all the cherubic faces I’ve observed and admired over the years
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Inspiration can also come from others. I’ve run a few contests on my blog with the offering of a print as the prize. Although there’s no money to be made, a contest draws audience hence potential buyers. In addition, the entrants have already given the artist permission to use their material, so anything submitted is fair game. Several adorable paintings and potential paintings have come from this source.

Contests serve a purpose, but they usually have a price. Sometimes they cost you more than you get in return. On the other hand, you get to know some wonderful people and oftentimes make lasting friendships. If you regularly have contests, make the competition challenging and fun and the prizes nominal. In that way, people will have fun and you won’t have a great outlay of cash.

Newsletters and, of course, blogs reach out to people in a way that advertising can’t. I must admit, I haven’t focused on a newsletter, thinking my blog may serve that purpose. I find the interaction and participation in many online artist sites has been the biggest boost to getting noticed.

Above all, have fun doing what you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy slapping paint around and honing your skills in a competition against yourself, you should hang up your brush. In order to bring joy to others, you must bring joy to your work.

Here’s a link to my grandson’s online Coffee shop: http://www.cafesolacecoffee.com

Painting is about Communicating

March 20th, 2013

Painting is about Communicating

I viewed an abstract painting yesterday in the Red and Blue Group at Fine Art America. I was so drawn to the bright colors and shapes, I had to analyze my feelings to see why I was so compelled to linger?

The composition was stunning. A red, red-orange background with subtle splashes of light was broken up by blue shadow in varying shades of intensity. Each shape was interesting in and of itself. The stunning mixture of contrasts and highlights was complex and interesting. The illusion of depth and texture was created. First my mind wanted to analyze it, and then simply admire the feeling I got while floating through the brightly lit space from form to form. Whatever the artist was trying to say may be an enigma, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sometimes a beautiful painting just is; an enjoyment of color, form and shape with no other ulterior motive. At other times the artist has a specific reason for wanting to share a story, an attitude, a cause, or simply a feeling.

Most of my paintings communicate the goodness and worth of the human soul, and the beauty in our natural world. To communicate this, I sometimes exaggerate color or light until I feel the painting expresses my message. It would be unnatural for me to attempt to communicate a negative or mean-spirited theme or image; weakness and vulnerability, yes; but not hatred, arrogance, or evil.

We all have our own vision of what we want to communicate. We may not always recognize what it is we are trying to say until the painting is almost finished. When we slap on that final dab of paint, we should know intuitively the ways we are connecting with the viewer.

Since reaction is subjective, our message may be received differently from what was intended. Not to worry. If the viewer is pleased then we have reached them none-the-less.

A change can never replace rest if rest is what is needed

March 9th, 2013

A change can never replace rest if rest is what is needed

My mother-in-law used to say: “A change is as good as a rest.” It might have been for her, but for me with my brood of six, sometimes change didn’t cut it. What I needed big time was a rest from the numerous demands on my time and the physical demands of mothering, cooking, and cleaning.

People hate to admit it, but there are times when rest is just what the doctor ordered. So instead of involving ourselves in more activity and “busyness,” we need to relax and turn down the volume of our lives.

Meditation is almost a lost art. In today’s world we are seldom unplugged. Noise and confusion descends upon us from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night. And sometimes the momentum keeps us awake when we should be asleep. Our minds never stop. The wheels keep turning and our nerves keep twitching long into the night.

That’s why vacations were invented. A real vacation should separate us from distraction, stress, and worry. Mini-vacations will do in a pinch. My husband and I went with friends to relax on the beach. We chose an isolated spot and just sat for hours chatting, smelling the ocean air, watching wave after wave collapse on the sand. When we returned that evening, I felt like I’d been on vacation. I was totally into the moment. I felt relaxed and revived.

The other day I suggested we attend a movie I’d wanted to see. As I told my husband: “I need to get out of myself.” There’s nothing like a good movie to pull you out of a funk.

Creative people are driven by their passions. And let’s face it that can be exhausting at best. If we don’t take a breather every now and then we’re in danger of burn out. Poor health can also affect stamina. If you want to work at the peak of your performance, the first place to start is with your physical and spiritual health. While it’s true that pain and sorrow may add meaning and purpose to your work, the reverse is equally true: vibrant health, self esteem and positive thinking give you the power and energy you need to be productive.

Balanced living and setting priorities is the only way to achieve happiness and success. If you are driven to succeed but you neglect your family or your health, the results will eventually stall your efforts. Pay attention to the signs. If your tail is dragging and your mind feels like it’s full of cotton, take some time off to relax, reassess, and refill your creative juices. When you come back you’ll feel recharged, refreshed, and changed.

Walking that Fine Line Between Sanity and Guilt

March 2nd, 2013

Walking that Fine Line Between Sanity and Guilt

When people find out you’re a writer or an artist, all of a sudden you become very popular. Everyone has a project or a need that only you can fill. Little by little these small favors and obligations eat away at your private time until you have no hours left at all for you.

I’ve wedged myself into that scenario many times. Not that I don’t enjoy serving my community, my church, and my neighbors and friends. But I’m beginning to bewail my own projects that sit on the side lines because I either don’t have enough time to accomplish anything, or I’m too darn tired to start.

I’ve had two projects going for the past several months. One is sitting on my kitchen table and taunts me whenever I walk by. Because of it, we haven’t used our table for eating or playing games in months. The other is in my art room in a half-finished state. I look at it several times a day and imagine what needs to be done next, if only I had the time.

I am web master for my church, and also do their newsletter among other assignments and things that always come up; a brochure here, an advertisement there, tickets designed with a special theme, a special program, a Committee Chair. Since I enjoy doing these projects, I have only myself to blame and my desire to serve the Lord.

Then there’s the added business of participating at the gallery. Every artist who shows there must work there, at least once a month. Participation in Art League activities is also important for publicity and networking. Never let opportunities to show your work pass you by! Pay back is sometimes required. I’ve been helping one league work on a memorial for their church that allows us to paint in their facility every Wednesday. Their generosity sometimes requires little favors like the wall mural done last year of Noah’s Ark in the children’s Sunday school. This year, it’s a memorial of a precious child who died.

Balance is the key, but sometimes I walk so close to the edge that I topple off. Add health problems or a crisis and Humpty Dumpty comes falling down. How do you handle the difficult dance between necessary activities where time-tables are set in stone and your personal goals that demand consistency in order to succeed?

If at all possible, a fluid schedule is best. Failing that, you must be as rigid with your private activities as you are with those that cannot be changed. If ever you are to fulfill your dreams, you must give equal time to them.

Some people give up when the demands of children and family overwhelm the minutes and the hours in a day. They put their dreams on a shelf for another day. After all, you only have children once. Learning how to benefit from and use snatches of time is a better way.

I used to take a notebook with me while chauffeuring the children to school, music and dance lessons, or extracurricular activities and practices. I was able to write stories and articles by using these “snatches” of time. It is more difficult for an artist, but not impossible. Small sketch books and watercolor pads with aqua crayons can keep you focused on plien air drawings or portraits of people while you wait. Having supplies in your car and planning ahead can make all the difference.

Learning how to say “no” is another way to protect your precious time. If you really want to say “yes” at least you’ll know it was your decision, not theirs.

The Wounded Warriors within our Ranks

February 22nd, 2013

The Wounded Warriors within our Ranks

There are hundreds of outstanding artists who either have a disability or work at what they love with debilitating pain or discomfort. If that describes your circumstances, I want to hear from you.

Artist’s have much to share with each other. When the darkness comes and the pain cripples or the heart is grieving, welcome relief comes when we share our stories with others and reach out to someone else in need.

My arthritis is making it more and more difficult to paint or draw. And now stomach issues prevent me, at least for a time, from taking pain meds. I’ve purposely kept on typing because it keeps my fingers loose, but I’m limited to shorter and shorter times.

After a short time at the keyboard, my hands cramp up and stiffen into a claw and I can’t move at all. I will say that once I’m painting, I forget the difficulty and get lost in this marvelous thing we call art. I’m still limited, and work in two-hour sessions, but I keep on keeping on. When I start to feel sorry for myself, I think about those artists who paint with their teeth or their feet. These great souls of courage persevere in spite of their disabilities. Art is therapy. Art is depth and feeling. Art is the expression of faith, gratitude and pain. Art captures the details that others miss and examines or exaggerates their complexities and simplicities.

Van Gogh is one of the best examples of a troubled artist who continued to paint his vision of nature; his vision of life. His struggles and emotional pain clarified the world he painted and made it all the more poignant for us.

Degas tied his stiff arthritic fingers to his paint brushes and continued to work up to his death. His works are timeless. He poured out energy, tears, and heart into every brush stroke.

Scars tell us where we’ve been. They also remind us of past sorrows and tragedy. Sometimes Army buddies compare wounds and talk about their battle scars and shared trauma. Scars are the visible testimony of their shared anguish and pain.

Some wounds are invisible to others. Their pain is felt deep within the human soul. The scars left behind are not easily shared, and other people doubt that they exist at all. These wounds are the most devastating because our sanity is questioned; our experiences are belittled or denied. We have no physical wounds to show others. These internal scars go deep. They are slow to heal. Sometimes the pain goes unnoticed or ignored for a lifetime and affect our relationship with others.

How do you see grief; except for a sad countenance? Grief that is held in too long may cause ill health. Unshed tears may prolong the healing. Without an outlet or a voice, the spirit may be crushed to the breaking point. Thank God for art. Truly God has led me through it (pain) and around it.
Professionals should wear any physical and emotional scars like a personal badge of courage. Use your pain to help others see the world through your eyes. Create like your life depended on it because it does.

A Damaged Canvas is Tragic but not the End of the World

February 17th, 2013

A Damaged Canvas is Tragic but not the End of the World

I had made up my mind. I was going to enter a favorite painting in a juried gallery. All it needed was a frame; one that would complement the colors in the painting without being distractive. I had a framer already in mind, who never disappointed me.

I pulled out the canvas from a box it shared with two other paintings, and horror of horrors there was a screw sized hole in the canvas. Sometime, either in transport or storage, the canvases had been weighed down by enough weight to cause a puncture. Lesson learned: Always have sufficient cardboard or materials between each painting so this never happens!

Could I repair the canvas; absolutely! Was its value compromised? Unfortunately, yes. I found several web sites on instructions for repair, but I also discovered that once a canvas is damaged, most collectors don’t want it. In addition, even if you could find a buyer; you must declare the damage (or ruin your reputation if discovered), and the price of the painting must be slashed by at least 30-50%. If that doesn’t push you into protecting those precious original creations, I don’t know what will.

Here are a few remarks from a helpful site and a link:
“The worst possible course of action in the event of damaging an art piece is for the artist not to tell the buyer, repair the problem, and hope the buyer doesn't notice. If the buyer does happen to discover the repair at some point down the road, ask about it, and find out the hard way what happened, that will pretty much ensure the end of any relationship between the two of you. And now for some facts about how the condition of a work of art impacts its value...

“Condition is a paramount consideration in any decision about whether or not to buy-- both from the dealer's and collector's perspectives. Original untouched condition is best by far. In fact, unless a work of art is excessively rare or important in some way, many experienced dealers and collectors won't even consider adding it to their collections or inventories if condition is anything less than perfect.

“But wait; there's more. Approximately 100% of dealers and collectors will tell you that a work of art with repaired damage is worth less than a comparable work of art in perfect original untouched condition.

“. . . People are less interested in owning art that has been damaged at some point in its existence than they are in owning art that's in perfect original condition. It's precisely that simple and no more complicated.”

http://www.artbusiness.com/how_to_options_fix_repair_return_damaged_art.html

If you’re still intent on repairing the canvas, you must declare that it has been damaged, and the price better be discounted. We all make mistakes, but this one we have to live with!

If you want to forge ahead and fix the canvas, at least for yourself, here are some links to help you. The following site Suggested pasting the back of the canvas with another piece of canvas to reinforce and aid in appearance. Use a pallet knife to paste and flatten under the spacer bars.

I discovered after I’d repaired my small hole that I had done all the right things. I’d applied a small piece of canvas on the back with adhesive, and put modeling paste and gel on the front side over the hole. It worked well because the hole was where a worn stone wall appeared. Paint wouldn’t even be required, but I will still add the needed acrylic with a dry brush to avoid any shiny appearance.

If you want specific help and details, the following sites are helpful!

http://www.gainsboroughproducts.com/patching_vs_lining_article.html
http://www.wikihow.com/Repair-Canvas

Never Leave Home without your Camera

February 12th, 2013

Never Leave Home without your Camera

Winter in Florida means a chance to see Manatees. They swim up the Orange River where warm water flows from the huge Florida Power & Light plant (FPL). A lovely park has been erected in their honor and thousands of residents and tourists flock there when the temperatures plunge to see these wonderful creatures.

At first glance, they look like humongous baked potatoes. Further scrutiny reveals a flat elongated tail and two dorsal fins closer to the snout. On females, a teat is located in the dorsal area where suckling’s feed after birth.

Manatees can stay submerged for long periods of time, so people wait expectantly for one to lift its large snout above water for a gulp of air. They can also be seen swimming up river leaving gentle swirls of water in their wake. A small patch of exposed back may crest the water as they move. Spotting an actual manatee swimming upstream brings squeals of delight from the crowd.

I’ve seen some beautiful paintings of these aquatic mammals, but I’ve never had the desire to paint them. On the other hand, I witnessed a flock of white pelicans that took my breath away, but I had no camera. These I would love to paint. I’m told that there are swans in Florida, but I’ve never seen one.

An artist should never be without a camera. If you’re like me, the times you have your camera, nothing happens. On the days you leave your camera home, wildlife is everywhere! I’m opposed to painting from photographs of others unless I have their explicit permission.

I have followers on Facebook from different countries. I was given permission to use their personal photos as they are not photographers or artists. I have done this for my India Rising Series, and for my African Series. When you can’t travel yourself, it’s the next best thing to being there.

If you use online photos or the artwork of others for inspiration, make certain you turn that painting into something uniquely yours. Change the pose. Change the color or composition. Don’t outright copy anything. If you do, you’re breaking the law.

I visited an artist blog recently where the author complained that someone had taken a photo of her painting and copied it authentically. If that were a writer, they could be charged with plagiarism. Copying old masters and declaring that you did is one thing. Stealing the ideas or paintings of someone else is downright criminal. If a person can’t fly by the seat of their own pants – they shouldn’t fly at all.

The New Craze Painting on Glass

January 22nd, 2013

The New Craze Painting on Glass

I’ve actually tried it. I painted a pelican on glass using acrylic paints. On the underside of the glass, I painted the water and some clouds. When it was dry, I cut blue cardstock for the backing and added a frame. It wasn’t the most exciting painting I’ve done, but I was delighted with how the paint adhered to the cold glass and how easy it was to paint feathers and details.

Glass painting has become a popular hobby. From painting wine glasses to adding a personal touch to pottery or plates, artists and craftsmen are discovering how easy it is to paint on glass.

I’ve also used mirrors which work the same way and there’s no need for a backing. If you want to add a tropical touch in a bathroom, or a vintage flare in a kitchen, painting on a mirror or the glass doors of a cupboard is fun and rewarding. The surface is cold and allows the paint to “gel” rather than run. Fine detail stay put and the results are stunning.

Painting on glass is a plus for artists because it makes affordable items for sale at boutiques and art shows. The designs can be more sophisticated than a stenciled pattern and you can make them original by adding an original twist that makes the artwork distinctive.

Painting on floor tiles which are naturally cold benefits from the same principles; the tiles are heavier than a canvas, but smaller. Sticky tabs for hanging can be placed on the back, and they make delightful mini canvases. I’ve not only painted on tiles, but I’ve printed some of my drawings and designs on decal paper and used medium gel to secure them in place. Adding another coat or two of gel makes a nice glossy finish
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If you want a frame, simple modeling paste can be swirled or twisted around the edges and covered with a glossy paint. I personally like white on white so that my painting or decal stands out. If you haven’t tried painting on glass, you should. It’s downright fun and satisfying.

Adding Zing to Your Composition

January 18th, 2013

Adding Zing to Your Composition

Since the composition of a painting is critical to the overall success of a painting, I’m adding a few more helpful tips. There are essentially three basic types of composition; each creating a different effect: Sedate, Alert, and Dynamic. Your choice will determine how your audience feels when they view your painting.

Sedate compositions focus on horizontal planes and lines; typical of pastoral scenes and calm seas. This type of composition lends a certain peace and stillness to the composition.

Alert compositions arouse our emotions and stimulate energy through predominantly vertical lines amidst horizontal planes. Waves on a wild sea, for instance create a tremendous amount of energy contrasting with the receding smooth outflow of water. Mountains erupting from horizontal planes of farmland create push and pull contrast and energy.

Dynamic compositions go a step further, creating interest, unease, and energy through diagonal lines and shapes. This can be done in many ways, including bending sails in the wind, making a surreal painting of leaning buildings, or simply bending grasses and flowers heavy with blooms.

Tips for enhancing the integrity of your painting:
Preserve the authenticity of your brush strokes. When applying paint: put it down, leave it be. Deliberate brush strokes give your painting a feeling of authority and professionalism.

Don’t skimp on paint. Beginners often paint timidly; apply too little paint until there are few indications that the paint was applied with a brush at all. Use enough paint so that your painting benefits from the full color and light of the pigment used.

Style determines color and line preferences and how you apply paint. Some artists like a smooth finish, especially on portraits. Others like to see color separation and brush work. The more you work with different types of paint and techniques; you’ll find the method that suits your style and taste.

The Best Laid Plans often end up Topsy Turvy

January 15th, 2013

The Best Laid Plans often end up Topsy Turvy

There’s always a big “let down” after the holidays. The stress and excitement which builds and then climaxes is over. The tension is released, the fun is gone, and the aftermath of pine needles, discarded wrapping paper, and leftovers smacks us with reality.

The best cure is to look forward. Focus on goals and plans. Lift up your spirits by remembering what makes you tick and what provides motivation in your life. Eliminate regrets. We can’t change yesterday, but tomorrow is like fresh fallen snow. What will your imprint be? What mark do you want to leave and how will you express yourself on this pure clean slate?

We all need a fresh start. We need to have purpose and vision in our lives. The New Year is a perfect opportunity to have both. Shame or guilt strangles hope and enthusiasm. Leave it behind and step into the future free from shackles, doubt and fear.

If you can’t walk alone, get help! We all need something to anchor our souls and give us strength. A friend, a mentor, may help you cross over into the realm of possibility. Education can provide knowledge and self-confidence. Skills can be increased through practice and persistence.

My husband’s granddaughter has not only completed her college degree, she is in her third year as a dental student. Her goals are clear; her determination is strong. She shared that out of her class, several people have dropped out. So close, yet so far from their goal. To quit that close to the finish line is sad. How many of us stop and get discouraged before we reach our goals.

The New Year provides us with the opportunity to eliminate “could have beens” and “would have beens” from our lives and our vocabulary. Don’t end up looking back on your life and saying “what if” I had done this, or “what if” I had done that. As Coach Lou Holtz once said, “Just do it!” He went on to say: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

Resolutions I hereby Resolve

January 4th, 2013

Resolutions I hereby Resolve

I can feel it coming: when the celebrating is over, discouragement sets in. A look back reminds me of how many goals were unmet, of how much more I have to learn, and of how "average" my skill level is when compared to those I admire and try to emulate.

After beating myself up with this big stick, I feel even worse. And yet I do it over and over again at the beginning of each New Year. Why do my dreams, my aims always fall far short of their target? Is it really this hard or is it only a negative state of mind that wraps its tentacles around my slumping creative soul?

Am I alone in this or is it symptomatic of our times? Tomorrow I will give myself a good swift kick in the psych and get on with the business of creating. But for now I will lick my wounds, snack on junk food, and hope that tomorrow the sun will shine.

Goals can be elusive. Our good intentions are sometimes not enough in the face of reality and circumstance. The point is to move on. Don’t beat yourself over the head with the same dead stick. Instead, turn it into a paint brush. Like an old friend, pick up where you left off and begin again.

Progress is made one step at a time, not in leaps and bounds. As long as we’re improving our skills, having fun, and dreaming the dream, we’ll achieve our purposes and desires. One of my goals is to create better compositions. I found this lesson plan for children that was perfectly suited to my diminutive brain.

The 4 main elements of composition are:
*Picture area: This is the surface within the four borders of your picture that is used for the drawing or painting. The picture area will help you determine placement of objects, and how big they should be.

*Depth: This is the illusion of distance or a third dimension. Depth creates a three dimensional effect, making objects feel closer, or further away. The finished result will not appear flat on the paper or canvas if depth is created.

*Line: The line or direction the viewer's eye takes to go through the picture. The objects or forms within the picture should lead the eye to the focal point. When art is viewed, most people will begin in the bottom left corner, and continue through the picture to the right. A good composition will not allow the viewer to keep going right, all the way off the page. The viewer should be lead back into the painting in a flowing motion.

*Value: This is the lightness, or darkness of an area, or a shape within the picture. It is also used to create the over-all feel of the picture.
Tuck this lesson away and use its simple message to critique your own paintings. In the meantime, please “LIKE” my Fan Page on facebook. Thanks and Happy Holidays! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fan-Page-AnfinsenArt/322282160080

Lets Face it Rejection Hurts

December 29th, 2012

Lets Face it Rejection Hurts

I took three paintings down to the art gallery thinking I was going to make an easy exchange; replacing those that didn’t sell for fresh replacements. Wrong! The gallery has gained so many new artists that they are more critical and discerning than ever before.

I left one there, and took two home; the one deemed unfit for lack of a frame, and the other for the “wrong” frame. The remaining paintings (four plus one) will have another chance to sell in the coming month.

The hurting hole in the pit of my stomach driving home reminded me that no matter how many paintings or prints an artist may sell, the hurt of rejection never gets any easier. For that reason, I decided to repeat a blog I did last spring that some of you may have missed. I feel it’s worth repeating:

We all have our babies: those wonderful concepts we develop in our minds and create on paper or canvas to present to the world. But what happens when those adorable children land with a thud on the floor of reality?

Let’s face it. Criticism hurts. And critique? “A rose by any other name would hurt so deeply” (forgive the pun). Pride is a wall we use to protect ourselves. When negative comments bump up against that wall, our ego becomes bruised. Afterward, we lick our wounds and patch the crumbling brick and mortar making it higher, stronger and more impenetrable than before.

But even though they hurt, we must take a look at well-intended barbs and examine what was said and why:
• Did the comment or critique come from someone I trust?
• If their suggestions were applied, would it make my project better?
• Were the comments meant to be hurtful or helpful?

After weighing and evaluating each point of view, we are better prepared to make a decision. We can take the criticism at face value and try to incorporate it into our thought process, or we can ignore it and stubbornly go on our merry way; building our wall of resentment higher and stronger.

Learning from our mistakes is difficult. Rejection hurts; criticism stings. It requires swallowing our pride and forging ahead in spite of negative comments. If we allow the critique to offend us and dampen our spirits, we may become the loser by succumbing to self pity. We may allow ourselves to get discouraged and sabotage our own efforts to make our dreams a reality.

Personal vision is as unique as our fingerprints. No two people are alike. No one can see what is in our mind and heart. Perhaps the criticism of others arouses our own insecurity and lack of self confidence? If that’s the case, we need to rally our own inner cheering squad to remind us of what we wanted to achieve in the first place.

A grain of salt can irritate an open wound, but it may also inflame a new determination to clarify our goals. If nothing else, critique sharpens our focus and causes us to evaluate how we communicate our vision to others.

Do not allow Juried Competition to turn You into a Coward

December 27th, 2012

Do not allow Juried Competition to turn You into a Coward

Entering your work in a juried competition can be intimidating, especially if you’re a self-taught artist. Almost everything you’ve drawn or painted has come from grueling trial and error, and done while comparing yourself to artists with several degrees tacked onto their names or who may have studied abroad.

Ironically, there are many successful self-taught artists. A degree doesn’t guarantee success nor does it immediately make you an artist. In either case, the same principles hold true: practice, practice, practice.

One basic difference between them is that a solid art education provides a foundation that gives the artist an edge. Knowing why a painting works and understanding the building blocks of structure and execution is half the battle. In the end, success is determined by vision, skill, and persistence.

I’ve seen many discussions online about the value of juried competition. Is it worth the money, the time, and the possibility of rejection? The consensus seems to be that it’s rarely worth the money or the 35-40% commission charged for a sale. The value seems to be in promoting the name and the skill of the artist (assuming that they get in the show), and the benefits of adding a “win” to your resume. The odds of winning are somewhat better than winning a lottery, but not much.

Depending on the judge or juror of the show, your artwork is subject to their particular whims, likes and dislikes, and their own education and past influences. Rejection is somewhat subjective. Even in Art Leagues, I’ve found that the preferences and styles of each artist are effected by teachers in their past.

The thing that bugs me is that if we listened to these voices and followed their suggestions or objections rigidly, we’d all start dishing out artwork in the same dull way without innovation. There would be no Van Gogh’s or Salvador Dali’s; there would be no Thomas Hart Benton’s or Picasso’s.

I love what Andy Warhol said: “Art is what you can get away with!” If we’re always worried about breaking the rules, or doing something in a different way, art would become static.

For an artist to stand out, to be unique and to create his or her personal style then risks must be taken; experiments must be tried, rules must be broken. Aah, you say, but first you must know all the rules before they can be broken. Agreed, but the risk is that in sticking too closely to accepted forms and norms you may never get beyond the “copy cat” stage of accepted artistic behavior.

I’m a rebel in my heart of hearts. I’ve always defied fads and fashion. I’ve always created my own style because I couldn’t afford to follow current fashion. What I discovered, even in high school, was that I could create fashion trends by wearing what I had with confidence. Soon others would be wearing something similar. The same holds true for artists. Confidently create your own personal vision and you’re bound to be successful.

Peddlers of Optimism and Hope

December 17th, 2012

Peddlers of Optimism and Hope

New apps and sites are popping up everywhere. Each one promises to do more for your business than the last. I’ve tried them all. Most of them are free, at least in the beginning. The success of the app seems to be in proportion to how much you are willing to spend on your dream.

Many social networks are selling something that will make them richer while depleting your budget. Few deliver what they promise. Many of the sites I’ve tried have already petered out; unsuccessful in their attempts to make “the sale.” There’s always a gimmick or a hook to reel you in, but not enough to permanently keep you.

What they all offer is optimism and hope. “Try us and we’ll bring you oodles of customers.” “Try our service for 60 days and we’ll bring you 1,000 new hits.” If your hope is still there after 60 days, there’s a charge; but you may be willing to fork out a few dollars per month to keep your dream alive.

Peddlers of hope tie into our gullibility. They, too, have a dream but they’re counting on you to make it come true. So we bite! We take the bait and run with it, hoping that eventually we’ll make up for our losses. After all, “it takes money to make money,” or so we’ve heard.

Our insecurities add insult to injury. We begin to believe the network hype. We’ve bought into it before when we try a new product or test a new theory. We’re sold when our hopes and our vulnerabilities meet at the tipping point. It’s like a global game of chance. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You follow me, I’ll follow you. You befriend me and I’ll befriend you. You look at my stuff and I’ll look at yours.

If we’re lucky, that rare interested person comes along and takes the time to look at our wares. They may even consider buying. A purchase here or there keeps our dreams alive, and we’re off chasing rainbows on the next latest and greatest app or social site.

Time is a valuable commodity. How we use it and where will determine our own personal success. Connecting with the appropriate online audience and with targeted customers is the key. We must be shrewd as well as friendly. We must learn to weigh the value of each opportunity. Otherwise we may end up spinning our wheels in a kaleidoscope of schemes and distractions.

Good TV Commercials Motivate and Teach Us

December 10th, 2012

Good TV Commercials Motivate and Teach Us

Today many T.V. commercials are far from boring. Spontaneous belly laughs result from watching people like us make complete fools out of themselves in order to sell product. Watching these commercials unfold is not necessarily a waste of time. There are lessons to be learned.
Good commercials have several traits in common. These same principles make any product or presentation better. Even artwork gains an interactive response through these techniques.

• Perfect execution: This goes without saying. But how many times do we hastily spew something out or slap on the paint without giving it our best? From the first brush stroke to the last, your purpose your vision must be perfectly clear, perfectly executed, perfectly understood.

• Timing and Flow: If a commercial is too long or it’s difficult to follow, we change the channel or turn away. If the music or dialogue catches us from the start and carries us easily to the end, they have us! Now apply that to your product or painting. Does your composition pull people in? Does it take the viewer on a journey through color, line and form? Do viewers want to stay and experience? Did you grab them from the start?

• Succinct: Gets right to the point. There’s no convolution or meandering; no vague or misrepresented “bunny trails” or side tracks. Of course, I have seen successful commercials that come in from the back door and then give you a surprise ending; but often they lose viewers before the final climax. Likewise, a product or painting should have a clear center of interest. It should get right to the point and express its function and intention.

• Clear Message: Commercials want to “wow” you into buying. They must sell you quickly, clearly, and successfully. If the message is too subtle or hidden between the lines, it may be funny, but does it sell? If you’re left wondering who the sponsor was or what they were advertising, the commercial has failed. With a painting, the message or story must at least suggest that something has happened or is going to take place. Subject matter must at the very least stir emotion or provoke feelings of energy and excitement.

• Purpose: Commercials want you to buy. Sometimes they only want you to remember their product name so you’ll at least give their brand a try. Repetition, songs, and humor do this in a powerful way. Does your product or artwork have a purpose other than to please yourself? Are viewers able to connect with your vision? Is your purpose simply self-expression or is it entertainment? Do you want your artistic expression to appeal to others on a higher level or are you satisfied with simply making a statement? Know thyself and your paintings will have a purpose.

• Motivation: On what level does your product or painting relate to others? If you can answer that question, your painting will likely motivate someone to buy.

The purpose of the preceding steps was geared toward motivation: motivation to watch, motivation to enjoy, motivation to buy. Looking at your artistic creations as products gives you a clear path to follow for success. After all, we can’t create in a vacuum, and unless we’re able to share our artistic vision with others, we are unfulfilled.

Old Home Week at the OK Corral

December 3rd, 2012

Old Home Week at the OK Corral

Monday I delivered four paintings to the Art Council of Southwest Florida’s Coconut Point Gallery. It was like “old home week” as artist’s renewed their friendships and shared their latest artwork.

There was a twinge of hope and excitement in the air. It is “Season” in Southwest Florida. That means the return of the “snow birds;” those tourists that return each year and add billions of dollars to Florida’s slumping economy.

A grand opening reception with wine and cheese will kick off six months of opportunity and continuous showing for the artists. The location is even better than last year: between Panara Bread, hopping with activity, and the World Bazaar.

Each artist volunteers at least one day a month for retail sales. The best part is a new nook by the window where artists can paint during the down hours and attract curious passersby while catching up on projects.

Artists are an odd lot. There is an unexplained camaraderie that forms bonds, even though we’re all very different. Artists see the world differently. Our perceptions and thoughts are colored by this strange obsession we have with color, form, and texture.
When I was younger, I wondered why I was so fascinated by nature and by the turns and twists of the human form. This interest has led me first into free-lance writing, and then into the art world. Portraits, though difficult, are one of my favorite things to paint; followed by animals and birds in particular.

The next few months will be a whirlwind of activity moving from gallery to gallery and getting to know other artists in the community. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The world is a sometimes frightening place. There are extremes and contradictions everywhere you look. Exquisite beauty contrasts with pain and ugliness. Violence occurs often in conjunction with bursts of kindness and gentleness. Deception and trickery abound, and the gullible, the innocent are often caught in this web of seduction which later becomes a prison of self-inflicted ignorance or victimized chains.

The world we artists paint may be ugly, truthful and real, or it may depict the softer side of innocence and beauty. What we paint becomes our signature; our style. What we paint eventually defines us.

Your Name is your Brand protect it at all costs

November 24th, 2012

Your Name is your Brand protect it at all costs

What’s in a Name? Ask a person who has had his identity stolen, and he’ll say everything! Ask a person who has just had her name dragged through the mud in error, and she’ll tell you how hard it is to regain her reputation.

A small business or corporation will tell you that name recognition is everything. They spend billions of dollars on advertising and marketing techniques to find the right brand for their market. Then they defend that brand name even if they have to go to court to protect it.

Men have their names for a lifetime. Women change their names, sometimes several times, before the end of their lives, but times are changing.
I vowed I would never go through that hassle again, but yesterday I found myself sitting across a desk in the Social Security office to do just that. I did not change my name when I married my husband and vowed I never would. People know me as his wife and they use his name, but legally, my name was my own.

We all have our reasons. As I told my husband yesterday, once you start a name change, you start an avalanche, a domino effect, that keeps on going. Your name affects your will, your inheritance or that of your children. Your name is on census records, voting records, bank accounts, magazine subscriptions, medical records. Your name is your identity. When you change it, the world becomes topsy turvy, at least for awhile.

An artist’s name is his brand. Although, I have an artist friend who signs her paintings “Hope,” even though that isn’t her real name; that will become her brand, for better or worse.

Name recognition is paramount in selling a product or yourself. Your name is linked to your reputation. They are inseparable. This combination becomes your character and affects your references and your repeat business. What’s in a name? Everything!

Posting Online does not guarantee Success

November 16th, 2012

Posting Online does not guarantee Success

When friends learned that I had been selling online, they were all determined to follow my lead. I was delighted, because I wanted them to feel that element of success when you overcome your fears, conquer the inevitable learning curve of uploading photos correctly, and seeing your paintings online.

But “News Flash!” It doesn’t stop there. You can’t just prepare a website or blog and hope for the best. You must “work the territory.” What does that mean exactly? You must take advantage of all the apps and opportunities available on each particular website.

If there are contests, you must enter as many as you can. Then you must vote in those contests. If you join a group (I’ve joined many), you must join in the discussions, comment on other people’s paintings, and generally get to know the artists that are out there. If you develop some relationships, this will bring you votes, a visual platform, and other opportunities to display your paintings.

Many an artist has paid to have someone prepare an elegant website, only to abandon it and leave it to chance. If there are no links or interactive tools to ask questions or make comments, people go away disappointed. Sure they may see your work, but if it’s difficult to find out the information they are looking for, they may never come back.

An artist must still stay active in their community. If people know you, and become familiar with your name or your work they are more likely to go to your website when they’re shopping for artwork. Collector’s also become familiar with your name as they float from gallery to gallery.

Marketing is a 75% proposition, with a 25% ratio of time for painting. It sounds impossible, but it’s important if you want to sell. I never thought I’d sell an original online, but I’ve sold four. And now some of those same paintings continue to make money through print sales online.

This time ratio means you have to work faster and harder at production. I’m becoming better at drawing with a brush and seeing clearly the painting I want to make in my mind before I begin. I still use models and photographic references, but I’m able to do much of my canvas free-hand with a brush. The exciting colors and forms that develop intuitively make it a joy to complete.

Marketing is a very slow and upward process. The secret is to “never give up” and “never give in,” even when you get discouraged.

The Economy is getting Better Oh Really

November 4th, 2012

The Economy is getting Better Oh Really

Two more galleries in downtown Fort Myers are closing. The monthly Art Walk has been a huge success for shops and restaurants, but it has drawn more art admirers than buyers; a definite sign that the economy is still in a slump.

Some galleries are doing better than others. The ones located on the main thoroughfares adjacent to shops and restaurants are holding their own which indicates it’s all about location, location!

I personally have done better online than I’ve ever done in a show. The audience is larger and more widespread. When you’re in a booth on the street or a gallery, viewers and buyers must come to you. If the weather is bad your audience is limited. If you have a local fan base, you may get “sympathy” buyers who purchase a few cards or prints to butter up your ego, but token sales do not pay the rent.

My major sales have come either from commission or by contact from a buyer who has viewed my artwork online. I don’t have to haul my paintings to a site and worry about scratches or damage. I don’t have to set up a display. I don’t have to battle the wind, the heat or the rain. I’ve met some wonderful people who were looking for something specific and found me through their own personal search.

Don’t get me wrong. If the timing and location are right, I’ll battle the elements with the best of them. But if I had my druthers, I’d take selling online any day. Yes, there is something to be said for personal contact. When a buyer sees and talks with the artist before a purchase, it makes a personal connection that may lead to repeat sales and a friend. However, in our technological savvy world, emails and Skype can do the job just as well.

The most important part of any transaction comes in keeping your word and delivering what you promise. Promptness and follow through trumps the handshake of yesteryear and confirms your professionalism. Then as now, quality still holds the key to repeat business and devoted followers.

p.s. Yes, I'm displaying my paintings "live" at the Art Council of Southwest Florida, Coconut Point, Nov. through May 2013. I'm able to display four different paintings each month over the next six months. Wish me luck!

Cyber Rattling the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

November 2nd, 2012

Cyber Rattling the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

We’re all eager to start them. We want our own public space in the sun to share our personal trivia or our hopes and dreams. Millions of blogs attest to that fact. But what happens when the enthusiasm fades, a blogger moves to another space, or just leaves his or her audience hanging as weeks turn into months and months into years?

We have clogged search engines and the skeletal remains of countless blogs hanging in the pathways of cyber space. I was amazed as I searched for viable art blogs how many of them has not been updated in months; some for more than three to five years!

Amongst the casualties were new mother blogs, created by first time mothers who want to share the miracle of birth and their amazing adventure into motherhood. Others wanted to share a wonderful vacation with humorous stories and full-color photos. But when the vacation excitement fizzled, and the dazzle of motherhood waned, so did the blog.

Many blogs are started with good intentions, but they fail miserably when the blogger realizes there is no substance. There were no long-term goals. There was a beginning, but no ending. The blogger had no vision of the purpose for his blog or the discipline to finish it.

Clanking through this wasteland, I still found some good information, an interesting fact or two; but it required more time than I expected to find that juicy fruit, that bright star among the bones of defeat.

Some bloggers move frequently from space to space, leaving their old blogs behind like bread crumbs to lead their followers back home. With all the apps and gizmos, I sometimes have difficulty uploading my own updates, especially in the evening hours. The large sites like Facebook and Twitter become unpredictable and double tweet or fail to tweet on occasion.

Abandoned bytes and cyber debris join other waste materials in space. Our Satellite Station over the years has dropped scraps and junk that circles the globe endlessly polluting the atmosphere. Our oceans are filled with garbage and the ghostly remains of plastic bags. Japan’s Tsunami destruction floats around the globe, butting up against foreign shores and introducing alien species.

Our “throw away” society continues to add to our mountain of debt and our growing landfill piles. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would find a way to clean up this wasted space and manufacture things that would last? If our economy is so bad, why do so many people throw thousands of pounds of food in the trash each year? Solutions not rhetoric is what we need. Suggestions anyone?

Lucky Charms Rituals and Zany Work Habits

October 22nd, 2012

Lucky Charms Rituals and Zany Work Habits

When people live alone, often the first thing they do when they come home is to turn on the sound: T.V., music, radio. They check text messages, voice mail, email, anything to break the silence, the emptiness.

When people live with a spouse, partner or roommate, they relish their space. Private moments give them needed time and aloneness. After a busy day at work, the rush of silence and quiet that greets them as they open the front door offers a sense of relief and peace. Even the bathroom may provide much needed solitude if others are nearby.

Where we are in our lives dictates our choices and preferences. I once knew a woman who had two young children. As an aspiring writer, she sat under a hair dryer to compose so the noise of her children playing and jabbering would not distract her.
With a bustling family, my time alone was a hot soak in the bath. I could read, jot down ideas for articles, or simply enjoy that brief time alone when the family was asleep or away.

Now rejuvenation comes via creating. I can lose myself completely with brush in hand at a canvas or with keyboard beneath my fingertips. Solitude is precious if I can find it. Most of us have to settle for the peripheral noises in the next room or over our heads as we seek to express our dreams or expose our inner demons.

Even sleeping is a ritual that engages preferences unique to each of us. My son-in-law and his family require overhead fans or plug-in fans to provide “white noise” that muffles whatever sounds might be happening around them. The whir of the blades creates virtual lullabies that whisper them to sleep.

Some artistic people have rituals they perform before starting a new project:
• Wearing of a favorite shirt to help them think
• Drinking a cup of coffee or tea to get their blood fired up
• Special background music in some cases, silence in others
• Writing at dawn in their pajamas while their brain is fresh
• Chewing gum or smoking a cigarette while they think
• Saying a simple pray or chant to open the mind up
Sometimes these rituals help us get in touch with the muse, and sometimes they do not. But if we believe that they help, they probably will.

Even baseball pros have a number of tools they employ for good luck. Rubbing a special coin or a good luck piece builds confidence. Wearing a favorite pair of socks worn in a winning game may help performance. We all use whatever little gimmicks or tricks we can come up with. If we believe that they will help, they usually do. For people of faith, prayer seems to hold the key to inspiration and success.
Do you have any winning habits or rituals that help you work? Do you have a good luck piece that calls the muse? Please share your great ideas and thoughts in the comments.

Finding your lost imagination

October 14th, 2012

Finding your lost imagination

“Use it or lose it” is an expression we’re all familiar with. We don’t always associate it with imagination, but it’s certainly true. We’re born with curiosity and imagination, but somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, we lose it. Unless we allow ourselves to dream and fantasize throughout our lives, we risk becoming stodgy and stale; heaven forbid! A plunge into the realms of literature is a sure cure.

One of my favorite reads is the “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. Don’t let the 1943 copyright put you off. This classic still rings as true today as it did when it was written.

“Like a spoon full of sugar,” the pages melt on your tongue exuding words that capture childhood fancy and wisdom. Once again, you become a child. You think like a child. You see like a child. Your observations become acutely aware of the foibles that being a “grown up” entails. The simple drawings are lessons in and of themselves.

“I showed the grown-ups my masterpiece,” the little prince said, “and I asked them if my drawing scared them.” They answered, “Why be scared of a hat?”

“My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Then I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so the grown-ups could understand. They always need explanations….they advised me to put away my drawings and apply myself to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why I abandoned, at the age if six, a magnificent career as an artist.”

My favorite part of the whole story is when the little prince meets a fox. He has never seen a fox before. “Come play with me,” the little prince proposed. “I’m feeling so sad.”

“I can’t play with you,” the fox said. “I’m not tamed.”

“What does tamed mean?”

“It’s something that’s been too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means, ‘to create ties’…”

“‘To create ties?’”

“That’s right,” the fox said. “For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…”

By the time you finish reading this book, you remember what it means to be a child on the brink of discovery. You become wise beyond your years. You grasp the meaning of relationships and the importance of simple things. You see things through the eyes of a child and your imagination is set free!

The next time you get stuck on empty and your creative juices are sluggish and slow, pick up a favorite book or classic and restart your engines. For me it’s like a mini-vacation that inspires and refreshes. My perspective is altered; my enthusiasm is fired up, and I’m ready to meet the world head on.

When Hope hangs by a Thread

October 9th, 2012

When Hope hangs by a Thread

As we grow older, we realize that everyone has a story to tell. While we are all unique, we are not immune from problems and difficulties. Eventually, we all experience similar sadness, unemployment, weaknesses, and crises; no one escapes.

Sooner or later, each new day presents challenges that prevent or deter us from doing what we really want to do. We may ask the question: what do I do next? Do I let go and plunge into self-pity or nothingness, or do I continue to hang on with my fingernails until the crisis passes? That choice makes all the difference.

I was once asked by a friend what do you do when life gets you down? My answer: I put one foot in front of the other and I keep on going. Thank goodness for routine that keeps us grounded. We get up. If we have children, we prepare breakfast and send them off to school. We work, we shop, we pray, we keep on keeping on. To quit would mean accepting failure and defeat.

We eliminate self pity and instead focus on the positive forces in our life: the love of family, the goodness of God; and the fact that in spite of difficulties, we have food on the table and a roof over our head which others may not. We cling to what we do know, instead of dwelling on the unknown. We live in today and the simple things that may bless our lives: sunshine, raindrops, music, faith, laughter, the touch of a child, the kiss of a loved one. If we’re lucky, we may capture these fleeting moments on canvas and paint the best painting of our lives.

Time does not stand still. Tomorrow a phone call may come that will change your life. An e-mail or a letter may thank you for a time or words long forgotten. “No man is an island,” said the poet, John Donne (1572-1631)

No Man Is an Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Each of our lives touches another in profound ways we may not even remember or notice. Each life is precious. When the darkening clouds of disappointment and pain overshadow us, we must hold on to life. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) That’s another way of saying that sorrow and pain do not last forever. We must hope and live for a better tomorrow.

Leaving Your own Unique Imprint on the World

September 29th, 2012

Leaving Your own Unique Imprint on the World

In the past century, the discovery and use of DNA has transformed not only our thinking, but our ability to distinguish one individual from another; a critical piece of the crime scene puzzle. Fingerprint recognition, which can easily be distorted or changed, has taken a backseat to DNA that cannot be altered and is specific to each individual person.

DNA, the pupils of the eye, the fingerprints make each of us pretty unique. Add to that our physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup; the influences of environment, culture, personality, family, ancestry and genes, and each person has unmistakable characteristics that separate him or her from the rest of the pack.

Some people, including governments, would like each of us to succumb to a “pack mentality.” They want us to fit us into little boxes they can label, compartmentalize, manipulate, and tax. Governments in some parts of the world have been successful at doing this; still, the freedom lovers, the pro-active doers and thinkers rise to the top and clamor for “liberty or death” (Patrick Henry).

We must never become a part of the “pack,” especially a group that can be swayed, hypnotized, manipulated, or threatened. If we lose our God-given uniqueness, we lose our freedom. Artists and performers must not be hog tied into conformity or submission. To do so would be to lose our voice, our identity.

What makes us special is not only our talent and skill, it is the way we think, dream, and achieve. Freedom of speech, freedom to create and build must never be suppressed, unless that liberty begins to corrupt or restrict the freedom of others.

Why am I waxing philosophical? Because I believe that each of us leaves an imprint on the world. From the time we are born until the time we die, we either make the world a better place to live in or we destroy it bit by terrible bit.

The choices we make each day are the predecessor’s of tomorrow’s outcomes. We can choose to become a part of a destructive force (the pack), or we can choose to think and act in ways that leave a positive if not jarring influence on others to wake them up from their complacency.

As professionals we talk about “making our mark on the world,” but if our focus is not anchored in truth and individualism, the result may be collectivism. We may find that our freedom and individuality are owned by the State. Artists of all stripes must protect individual liberty at all costs in order to preserve our freedom to make a difference.

Holding your own in a Competitive World

September 28th, 2012

Holding your own in a Competitive World

I’m currently reading “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield; a quick entertaining read that helps an artist confront his demons. I’m reading it partly for inspiration and partly for needed motivation.

The premise of the book is that most of us find every excuse under the sun to avoid pursuing what we really love. Why? Because of fear: fear of success, fear of work, fear that we’re inadequate and doubts in our own abilities. We “pull the plug” whenever we get close to our dreams, sabotaging our own efforts to achieve success.

Failure becomes a mindset. Negative thinking becomes our mantra: “we’re not good enough, talented enough, smart enough, or hardworking enough to succeed.” When we receive criticism, we fold. When other activities and voices, the “rat pack” of our lives dumps on us, we “pull the plug.”

We follow after the crowd. We want to fit in. We want to appear normal when actually we’re not. We’re driven by the beat of a different drummer. It calls to us from time to time, but we put it off; feeling guilty that we’re different or that we want something more than just keeping busy and being swallowed up by insignificant trivia.

I’ve been putting off a new painting. I had images and visions in my mind, but I just couldn’t find the right composition to pull things together. I put it off. I didn’t even tone the canvas. I had feelings, but no loud voice telling me what to do. The painting was inspired by a photo of a woman praying in a war torn area of the world. She represented the horrors of war.

What propelled me to finally begin? I simply forced myself to put brush and paint to canvas and lay on some color. I wanted texture, and I wanted words. Although we all want peace, we continually involve ourselves or others in confrontation, arguments, war. “History repeats itself” became my theme. Sometimes all you need is action.

Steven Pressfield listed the qualities “that the professional possesses that the amateur doesn’t:
1. The professional shows up every day
2. The professional stays on the job all day
3. The professional is committed over the long haul
4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real”
There were other qualities he listed and countless suggestions and advice. I recommend the book to artists of every stripe.

Connecting the Dots Making Your Art Relevant

September 14th, 2012

Connecting the Dots Making Your Art Relevant

I’ve talked about the importance of networking as you make your way in your career, and the importance of getting your artwork seen and your name recognized. But there’s another side of the networking coin that’s even more important. It’s called connecting.

What’s the difference, you might ask? The focus of “connecting” is your audience. Who are you painting for? Do you paint only for yourself or do you have something to say? Who do you want to say it to? It’s all about finding your voice as an artist and connecting with your audience.

This takes networking, a critical step in marketing, to a whole new level. It means connecting with people in a new way, not just visually, but emotionally and intellectually. It’s about making your artwork memorable, recognizable, and desirable.

This last step may take years for an artist to develop. What is it about you and your perceptions and attitudes about life that make you unique and different? How can you incorporate this originality into your voice so that you may connect with like individuals or buyers? Do you want to make a statement or do you just want to paint pretty pictures?

I’ve asked myself that question many times. I watch what sells, and I know that a big part of it is painting pretty scenes with dynamic colors that catch a person’s eye, whimsy, or the décor of their living room. Sadly, this may make a sale, but unless there is something else to grab the mind and heart of the viewer, it is quickly forgotten in the stream of other things in life and in art that grabs for our attention.

If we want to make our mark, our voice has to speak volumes about us as individual artists. Depth of soul, depth of character, and a unique perspective says as much about us on canvas as does the skill we use in applying paint, composition, and structure. Success and recognition come when we finally make that connection!

Do not put your eggs all in one basket

September 3rd, 2012

Do not put your eggs all in one basket

Years ago, a retirement adviser suggested I diversify my portfolio. “The secret to success,” he said, “is to avoid putting all your assets into one basket.”
He was right. It still didn’t stop me from losing money when the tech bubble burst. My mutual funds were heavily invested in technology. And it didn’t stop me from losing money when my AOL stock tanked. His advice did teach me a valuable lesson: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

It works for artists, too. We must diversify our portfolio and adapt to market changes. A recent visit to some art galleries and consignment stores underscored the need to stay abreast of the changing tastes of a younger upscale market; one that is being pinched by the current economic climate.

I saw smaller pieces, smaller canvases, and artwork being applied to craft items: Magnets, plates, glasses, boxes. And jewelry was plentiful. Tourists who must fly back home are looking for gift items that will tuck easily into a suitcase. Artists must adapt and make these “bread and butter” items in order to bring needed cash into their resource bank.

Recycled items were numerous: Palm fronds elaborately painted with shiny enamel to look like fish, jewelry made with seeds and natural items, Paper Mache sculpture, etc. I saw an Indonesian artist online creating wonderful artwork on Styrofoam cups, probably for lack of money for supplies. Extraordinary skill and talent cannot be kept down, even by money.

I force myself to paint “pretty little things” when what I’d really like to paint is serious, controversial paintings with possible political undertones; but who buys that? Still, if we paint what we love, eventually someone else will love it, too; or so I’ve been told.

I don’t know about you, but when I get discouraged, I’m less creative. When I try to “make myself” create, I come up against a wall. When I stay positive and stay busy, I’m more likely to come up with more ideas than I can use. Don’t give up. Adapt, change and find new avenues for your artwork and your creativity.

Ever had a Broken Heart is it Real or Imaginary

August 30th, 2012

Ever had a Broken Heart is it Real or Imaginary

Down through the ages, writers and artists have tried to describe the pain one feels when a heart is broken by sadness, abuse, or neglect. A tale told in our community was “Cipher in the Snow.” A story about a young boy who had been kicked around from foster home to foster home, had trouble in school, and was labeled as a zero – a nothing by teachers and peers!

The child collapsed in the snow not having the strength to board a school bus. No causes could be found for his demise. The author of the story said the boy “died of a broken heart.” There are many people like that in our homes and communities. People who do not receive the love they so badly deserve and need. Our Nation, our world cries out for this kind of love, but it seems to be missing
.
Some people treat their dogs better than they do the people in their lives. Some people also mistreat their pets. The world is dying for lack of love. There is more self-centeredness and self-hatred than love; more violence and lashing out.

I saw a person I once loved for the first time in many, many years. Changes of age and personality made it almost impossible to recognize him. But when I saw his profile, I knew. This was the person I had loved, the person who could turn his back on me so easily; who ignored me and neglected even to kiss me goodnight or to say goodbye when he left in the morning; a non-communicative spouse who spoke only to criticize or berate.

When that moment of recognition came, I felt a stabbing pain in my upper heart followed by the swift squeezing of a fist in the lower chamber. What it was I did not know. A heart attack, I wondered? Immediately I felt like crying, and had to leave the people around me. Later I surmised that I had experienced a broken heart. I never realized it could be so physical.

I have a blog titled: “My Brush with God,” because God is love. I want my paintings and my artwork to reveal the love that God feels for all his people, even those who may not believe in Him or who act contrary to His will. Some people may think I’m a kook! Well, let them. I prefer to see the good in all cultures, races, and people. I choose to elevate the people I paint and see them as God sees them. We are all imperfect. We all have faults. If we could unlock the good that is in most of us, we would find the secret to world peace and personal contentment
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Call me a cock-eyed optimist if you will; my paintings will continue to reflect this optimism, this love of God, this benevolent higher power that is full of compassion and grace. Would to God we had more of this love in our world!

Ever had a Broken Heart is it Real or Imaginary

August 30th, 2012

Ever had a Broken Heart is it Real or Imaginary

Down through the ages, writers and artists have tried to describe the pain one feels when a heart is broken by sadness, abuse, or neglect. A tale told in our community was “Cipher in the Snow.” A story about a young boy who had been kicked around from foster home to foster home, had trouble in school, and was labeled as a zero – a nothing by teachers and peers!

The child collapsed in the snow not having the strength to board a school bus. No causes could be found for his demise. The author of the story said the boy “died of a broken heart.” There are many people like that in our homes and communities. People who do not receive the love they so badly deserve and need. Our Nation, our world cries out for this kind of love, but it seems to be missing
.
Some people treat their dogs better than they do the people in their lives. Some people also mistreat their pets. The world is dying for lack of love. There is more self-centeredness and self-hatred than love; more violence and lashing out.

I saw a person I once loved for the first time in many, many years. Changes of age and personality made it almost impossible to recognize him. But when I saw his profile, I knew. This was the person I had loved, the person who could turn his back on me so easily; who ignored me and neglected even to kiss me goodnight or to say goodbye when he left in the morning; a non-communicative spouse who spoke only to criticize or berate.

When that moment of recognition came, I felt a stabbing pain in my upper heart followed by the swift squeezing of a fist in the lower chamber. What it was I did not know. A heart attack, I wondered? Immediately I felt like crying, and had to leave the people around me. Later I surmised that I had experienced a broken heart. I never realized it could be so physical.

I have a blog titled: “My Brush with God,” because God is love. I want my paintings and my artwork to reveal the love that God feels for all his people, even those who may not believe in Him or who act contrary to His will. Some people may think I’m a kook! Well, let them. I prefer to see the good in all cultures, races, and people. I choose to elevate the people I paint and see them as God sees them. We are all imperfect. We all have faults. If we could unlock the good that is in most of us, we would find the secret to world peace and personal contentment
.
Call me a cock-eyed optimist if you will; my paintings will continue to reflect this optimism, this love of God, this benevolent higher power that is full of compassion and grace. Would to God we had more of this love in our world!

When Paintings Sing and Images Dance

August 23rd, 2012

When Paintings Sing and Images Dance

Before I begin a painting, I see a finished product in my mind. I know how I want it to look, what colors I want to use, and almost everything about it. So why does it change as I go along? In the grip of creating and expressing, unexpected things happen. Happy coincidences occur with the swipe of a brush or an addition of color.

A dash of pink or coral in one place ends up in the wood on a bird house or the branches, making an ordinary painting sing! Subtle changes in form or line create unusual negative shape. Playful brush strokes end up giving a painting more fluidity, more energy. Each element becomes part of a whole that creates cohesiveness, consistency and energy.

I’ve written about the “evolution” of a painting before; but each time it happens, I’m still amazed with the process. I shared with you how the images I see on my bathroom floor in the wet or dry imprints left after a shower inspire ideas. Seeing a “Whirling Dervish,” I did some preliminary research and made my first sketch.

When I transferred the drawing to a larger canvas (18x24), I was struck by how symmetrical it was. I looked at some reference photos I’d found online, and made a second drawing over the first with charcoal. That way, if I changed my mind, I could easily wipe off the charcoal and go back to the first penciled sketch.

I liked the second drawing better. There were no scimitars, but the irregular negative space was much more interesting. Variation in size and position of the prayer dancers, contributed more energy and eye flow. The finished painting is titled "Prayer Circles."

We are Fighters and the Battles we Fight are Real

August 15th, 2012

We are Fighters and the Battles we Fight are Real

Every day we fight fatigue, interruptions, resistance, competition, and our own ineptness. If you think I’m joking, I’m not.

Sometimes we hit a stone wall so strong and so deep that we can’t get past it. We bang our heads on it for awhile and then give up. Maybe we try again tomorrow. If we keep batting our heads or our fists against an obstacle, maybe it will go away. Usually it doesn’t. If you’ve reached this point in your life, don’t give up just yet. There may be “light at the end of the tunnel.”

What are the possibilities?
1.You could climb over the wall. Earthly walls, like most obstacles are rarely sky high. Most of them are created in our own minds or by outside forces we feel we have no control over.
2.You could go around the wall. It may cost you extra time, and perhaps more education, but your efforts will pay off if it helps you reach your goal.
3.Knowing that the wall represents the circumstances of your life that prevent you from being productive means you must find a way to remove it, go around it, or look at it as another challenge that must be overcome. The last thing you want to do is allow the wall to stop you from doing what you want to do in your heart of hearts.

I’m not usually a gambler, but there was one time in my life when I sat in Reno, Nevada, and poured nickels down the throat of a slot machine. I was determined I was going to win. I was afraid if I left someone else would take over my machine and reap what I’d delivered.

I went through $35 that evening with nothing to show for it. Some machines are rigged to pay up, and some are not. My inability to move, to get past that wall froze my common sense (brain freeze). A move to another machine, a change in thinking or attitude could have helped me get past this slump.

I’m not telling this story to encourage others to gamble. I’m just saying that sometimes in life we hit obstacles. Instead of finding ways around them by weighing our options, and asking ourselves: “what’s the worst that can happen?” We let fear freeze us into a position of banging our heads against problems rather than trying to solve them.

If there’s a nagging problem or wall in your life, find another way around it or you’ll end up sitting in the same place stalled; frozen by inaction in much the same way as I froze into a losing position in Reno. Sometimes we just have to get off our “duffs” and move! We have to climb out of a rut, over a hurdle, and into the light of common sense and self-discovery.

Spring Green Lime Green and Fern Green are Hot

August 13th, 2012

Spring Green Lime Green and Fern Green are Hot

In the 70s, I had a hallway that had light green walls, white baseboards and door, and a black table. Flipping through a current “Better Homes and Garden” magazine, I discovered the same colors being used teeming them up with hot pink accessories or watermelon.

Trends come and go; they also get revived and recycled. The problem is, so does taste in fashion and art. Instead of buying art for aesthetic reasons or because of how it makes us feel, people buy art to decorate a room or add a pop of color. It has always been so. Our day and age is no different. At least there is a reviving interest in the arts, if only for its ability to shock or entertain. Street artists and their messages of activism and boldness are exposing more people to art and its impact on political action.

Chalk artists spend hours on three-dimensional “pop” art that is often a singular experience enjoyed by few. Temporary by nature, better ways are being found to save and preserve these artistic expressions by housing them in covered walkways and on interior walls. Acrylic paints enable bigger and broader coverage that is changing the urban scene and filling it with hope and color.

Artist Joe Bucci, who combines impressionist and expressionist styles was featured in the June “the Artist Magazine.” I was impressed with his colorful landscapes and his use of vibrant color.

Speaking about the changing art scene down through the centuries, Joe said: “one thing hasn’t changed: in order for a visual statement to become art, it must have an abstract quality. It’s not enough that a painting be a picture of something—it must communicate via composition, shape, color, rhythm, line, texture, mass and planes (visual or ‘plastic’ elements).

“The skill that causes an outstanding artist to rise above the pack is not the talent to draw or paint objects, but the ability to see relationships between those visual elements mentioned above.”

Our Shrinking Economy our Rising Debt

August 5th, 2012

Our Shrinking Economy our Rising Debt

Everything is shrinking! Literally. My income, my stature, the size and quantity of the things I buy and what I can afford. Everything is shrinking but the price.

Like you, I’m paying more for less. My favorite things have gone from 8 oz to 7 oz to 6 oz or less in just a few months. A few packages stayed the same size, but the contents were less. I’m afraid It’s only the beginning!

I purchased some canvases the other day and instead of being .5 inches in depth, they’d shrunk to almost .25. Rather than fitting nicely into a frame or serving as a wrapped canvas painting, they leave gaps and spaces; they look cheap and skimpy.

Many artists are turning to treated hard board or plywood; still, framing is a difficult task. The prices for quality canvases have doubled while the sales price of a finished painting has remained the same. The cost of renting space has gone up to 40% commission. The artist receives 60% barely covering the cost for materials let alone time. Add to that cost a frame, and you see what I mean.

Is it worth it? I don’t know, but it’s what I do. Just when I think the economy is getting better, another one of my favorite businesses, restaurants, or products goes out of business. On the surface, things seem the same, but there’s an undercurrent of unrest. Everything is changing. Stores are being built as others are being boarded up. Hope rises in the midst of fear and failure.

We can only “keep on keeping on,” as my mother used to say. We put one foot in front of the other and hang on, despite the economic climate or the plight of those who risk everything and fail.

Hope is eternal the Bible says. We hope for better things, and we act as if they are possible. It’s how we survive. We hope for a better tomorrow as we wipe the tears of grief from our eyes and move on. What more can we do?

Do not let distractions and loose ends unravel your life

July 29th, 2012

Do not let distractions and loose ends unravel your life

In a previous blog, I told you that two art galleries had closed in downtown Fort Myers. The good news is that two more have opened in their stead. The art community is not giving up just yet!

As a member of Arts for ACT, I will display two paintings in August. During the month of September, I will present approximately 25 paintings in the middle gallery keeping me busy throughout the summer.

Several paintings are in the works, including one for Christmas to be used in flyers and programs for a church-sponsored “Live Nativity.” Summers are not as quiet as they once were in Fort Myers. Full-time residents work to keep the art community alive during the off season; and with fewer people, more calamities and causes vie for my attention.

Case in point: It’s summer, so why do I feel like I need a vacation? I can’t seem to say “no” to people and programs I love. Before I know it, I’m tied up in so many activities I have difficulty getting to my own projects.

Reminds me of a loose thread I pulled the other day. I thought it would snap and that would be the end of it. Instead, the unraveling began. I pulled it through the fabric to the backside and tried to secure a knot, but the knot popped through the loose weave in an unsightly lump. I poked it through again and tried to tie a bigger knot. Before I knew it, I’d lost control and unraveled enough thread to make a hole.

Life seems like that sometimes. We allow too many loose ends to consume our thoughts and our time. We need to reassess our goals and focus on our priorities before our “best laid plans” are completely undone by inconsequentials.

I realized I’ve allowed myself to “float” through each day rather than follow a plan. I’ve permitted “other things” to keep me from painting. I’m producing less by doing more favors, requests, and work for other people. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in volunteering and serving my church, my community, and my friends. But if I allow that to consume all my spare time, I’ll have little leftover for me.

I was brought up to believe that “creative work” was a waste of time. It’s been a constant struggle between the things I “should” do and the things I want to do. I try to remember that talent and imagination are gifts that must be nurtured and used in order for them to grow. Since these gifts bring joy to others, they are equally important to the requests and assignments others give to us.

My goal for the coming month: stay focused. Schedule time for myself to flourish and bloom. Join me in assessing your own needs and following your dreams!

Everything is always about the Money

July 24th, 2012

Everything is always about the Money

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of curious people wanting to know how much I earn as an artist. When I was honored with a feature, including links and recognition, it was the same: “Did you get paid?” Somehow if I didn’t, I got screwed; forget the advertising and network opportunities.

Yes, it all boils down to money in the end. The difference between an amateur and a professional is not only the amount of time the artist spends working; it’s that he gets paid enough to “quit his day job.”

I haven’t reached that point yet, but that’s not why I paint. I paint because I have to. On a recent vacation, I sketched my daughter-in-law in 30 minutes and she was thrilled with the finished product. I was able to draw from a live model and get some extra practice in my down time. She had an original sketch revealing how others see her. It was a win win situation although not a nickel changed hands between us.

Don’t get me wrong. When I sell an original painting I’m thrilled; not only am I richer, I’ve opened up space for yet another canvas. When I sell prints off of an original, that’s a plus! That’s like interest from the original investment of time and money.

We artists are a little kooky. We can’t see the sky without envisioning color and brushstrokes. A tree is not just a tree; it’s a series of negative spaces joined by curved and extended lines. The trunk is examined for various color and the grooved lines or smoothness distinctive to each individual species.

At family gatherings I not only see the people I love, I model their faces with imaginary brushstrokes, shapes and color. I spot artistic faces in a crowd and I’m off and running. I can’t paint or draw all of the finished paintings I’ve created in my head while traveling in a car or bus.

What makes a true professional? Attitude! I am an artist. I am a writer. These two gifts are intertwined in my soul and both are meant to be used. If I make others happy, if I make others think or question their own motives and attitudes in the process, I have been successful whether money changes hands or not!

Networking Plus Collaboration Equals Recognition

July 20th, 2012

Networking Plus Collaboration Equals Recognition

My oldest daughter, Pamela Torres, has written a middle-grade book. When she asked me to illustrate it, I was thrilled. Pam also writes book reviews for middle-grade authors, and has a following of writers, authors and publishers.

Collaboration adds another network of viewers and is a wonderful way to gain recognition and make connections. I have recently been asked for permission to use my painting: “With These Hands – Wonder” on the cover of “Natural Awakenings Magazine” in August. I’ll keep you posted on this opportunity.

In September, I’ll be one of the artists featured at Art for Acts Gallery in downtown Fort Myers. Part of the money from any sales goes to help abused women in the area by providing a safe harbor for wives, mothers and children. I’m proud to be a member of this Gallery.

I joined the “Pan American Alliance for Art, Culture, and Industry, Inc.”, and automatically became a member of the Art Council of Southwest Florida and connected with its associated members. This has opened doorways for shows, features, and juried contests. The greatest benefit is exposure to the community and networking opportunities with other artists.

Don’t be afraid to “put yourself out there.” After the first time jitters wear off, the excitement of participation and sales will boost your confidence. Instead of thinking “I’m not sure if I’m good enough,” say: “I think I can; I know I can,” like “The Little Engine that could!”

You are capable of fulfilling your dreams. One step at a time, take each opportunity as it comes and prove to yourself that you’re competent, dependable, and capable. Like any good salesman, a person in the business of selling himself and his products or services soon learns that the word “no” isn’t so bad. If that’s the worst thing that can happen to you, be mature enough to face it.

Getting beyond “no” and realizing that you’re strong and capable is half the battle. From there, things can only get better!

Do not promise what you cannot deliver

July 13th, 2012

Do not promise what you cannot deliver

If you’re in business, and art is a business, you must stand by your product, your word, and your promise.

A neighbor was interested in having a dog portrait done of her Schnauzer. Some years ago, she had sent a photo of her dog and the cost for a 9x12 painting to a T.V. artist. His prices were right, the timing was right, but the artist was clearly immature and unprofessional. She waited, and waited. When she did not hear back, she called the station. Turns out, the artist had received so many orders, he felt overwhelmed. Rather than focusing on getting the job done, he chose to take the money and run. What could have been a profitable and successful endeavor, turned out to be a failure and a loss for everyone.

The artist became a criminal because he cheated his customers and failed to return their money. Building a profitable business requires integrity, follow through, and honesty with your customers. Giving back more than you give is sometimes necessary.

My husband recently transferred a family heirloom to his oldest son, who carries his name as a Jr. A wood carving done in the 1800’s by his great great Norwegian grandfather was passed on from father to son, father to son, and now to my husband’s son. The wood carving is titled “David’s Anointing.”

The family has a history of serving in the ministry. Wherever they have lived, they have enriched the community by starting churches, ministering to the poor and needy, passing out Gideon Bibles, and serving in community outreach programs. This carving illustrates a rich heritage of faith.

When my husband received the carving from his father, he promised it to his oldest son when his children were grown. A bout with cancer gave my husband a sense of urgency in keeping this promise. The carving will be passed on to a grandson by the same name when he is older. What a rich family history and treasure this great great grandfather has provided for his family.

Promises are important. When we accept a commission or a project, we should seek to fulfill it. Customer satisfaction should be uppermost in our minds. We should go beyond what is expected and offer our customers some additional incentives for buying from us; free cards, a copy of preliminary sketches of the painting, or other gifts of appreciation.

There are enough scammers in the world and plenty of illegitimate businesses. Don’t be one of them!

When Opportunity Knocks do not let it Knock you

July 8th, 2012

When Opportunity Knocks do not let it Knock you

We recently drove through what other people had described as a “bad neighborhood.” According to them, crime had skyrocketed in “that part of town,” and it wasn’t a place you wanted to stay for long. Since we couldn’t avoid it in order to get to our destination, we forged ahead.

What makes one neighborhood welcoming and pleasing and another one not? Why did people here look for opportunities to commit acts of violence and lawlessness while other communities worked together to improve their lot?

In one community, people preyed on one another and looked for victims they could overpower or subdue. In the other, people found ways to work together to make everyone’s life better. By all outward appearance, I could not tell the difference between them. The houses were similar, the lawns were green; older neighborhoods can be deceiving.

It reminded me of long ago when I sold Avon products. All the houses were similar. All the doors I knocked on were in essentially good neighborhoods. When the doors were opened, it was another story.

The interiors of many homes were almost empty. People were literally sleeping on the floor. They had scraped money together to buy a house, but they could barely afford to keep it. Some people were rude and indifferent, others polite and welcoming. I hated lifting my hand to ring a bell or knock on a door. I never knew if I’d be greeted by an angry face, a snarling dog, or a slammed door.

Thank goodness we don’t have to go door to door today. The world has become far too dangerous and unpredictable. Why, I wonder? Is poverty too simple an answer? Does ethnic diversity put people at odds with their neighbors or does it encourage cooperation? Does lack of character and integrity influence people’s behavior more than believed?

We all have choices. One person works to improve his or her lot in life, and another seeks to get as much as he can without regard for the overall good. A freelance writer and friend chose to work under her hair dryer so her young children wouldn’t disturb her concentration. I chose to be available for my children and allowed frequent interruptions or I worked into the night.

When the children’s market went from fantasy to realism, I was like a fish out of water. The sleaze market became hot and romance novels were on the cutting edge. I stuck it out in education and because of it, also became an artist. I made less money, but I stuck by my principles.

Pastor Joe Stowell wrote: “I discovered early in my ministry that my children were not impressed with the books I wrote, titles I had, or places I spoke. They craved my time and attention, the provision for basic needs, a love that patiently forgave, and the creation of a safe place for them to grow and mature.”

We all look to others when our neighborhoods are bad, when our schools fail to teach our children, and when our government runs rampant with corruption and crime. We must ask ourselves: What did I contribute to the current problem or situation. Have I done all that I could do to change the present and the future? Have I believed everything I’ve been told or did I do my own homework and get the facts? Am I capable of making wise choices or have I allowed my moral compass to slip and my integrity to bend with popular opinion?

Are we providing a spiritual foundation for our children to anchor their lives to or are we letting them swim in the polluted waters of self-gratification and an attitude that if it feels good or looks good, it must be all right?

Character is formed through the choices we make. Like those empty houses and the doors I knocked on as an Avon representative, our bodies become like empty shells devoid of conscience and discernment . Our nation, our world needs people willing to stand up for truth and goodness. The time is now.

Facing the Wind in Times of Trouble

July 2nd, 2012

Facing the Wind in Times of Trouble

I visited my daughter in Texas recently. Her husband is stationed at Fort Hood and is now in Afghanistan. I had visited them before; but on this trip, I focused my artist’s eye on the lookout for possible paintings.

The Lone Star State is all they say it is: “Big!” You can drive for hundreds of miles; thousands, and still be in Texas. My son-in-law’s jeep has a silver star on each hub cap. He’s a Texas boy, born and bred, but with Irish heritage. He’s the only blue-eyed, red haired Irishman I know with a Texas drawl.

There’s so much history in Texas. I wanted to stop and snap photos of antiquated windmills, dilapidated barns, museums, oil pumps, bayous, bogs, cowboys, cattle ranches and the “piney woods,” but we had a timetable. Our radio station blared cowboy music 24/7. My favorite refrain: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

A story in the “Daily Word” last month talked about the old Texas windmills; how in order to pump water, they had “to face into the wind.” This is a lesson many people have yet to learn. When problems come, they run away; either literally or by escape losing themselves to drugs, sex, or food addictions.

If we could face the wind like these stalwart prairie soldiers do when troubles come, we’d all be better off. If we met our problems head on instead of running away, or drowning them in more sorrow and pain, we would endure. Of course, a little faith in a higher power never hurts.

Some of these windmills have been standing for hundreds of years. They have weathered tornadoes, droughts, blistering sun and abuse, yet still they stand.

A motel where we stayed in Oklahoma had a storm with straight line winds that put the fear of death in our bellies. The whistling of the windows sounded like the proverbial oncoming train, and we covered our heads and prayed. The next day as the storms moved northeast, the sky was filled with rolling clouds and spectacular form and color. The highway didn’t allow for camera stops, and I hoped my brain could remember the sights I witnessed.

At one point, I remember thinking “horses of the apocalypse.” Surrounded by a ring of swirling and fantastic clouds, my imagination could see horses rearing on their hind flanks, and others standing their ground. Oh, how I longed to stop and take out my camera!

The Chickasaw Indians and the Shawnees have casinos in the area. I thought of their ancestors circling the white men and soldiers on horseback from the rims of the surrounding red cliffs. An abstract painting began to form composed of cloud patterns, Indian motifs, feathers from their headdresses and from the hawks that awaited their prey.

Titles swirled in my head: “Sky Lights” or “Prairie Skies.” I created not on canvas but in my head. Scenes flew before my eyes. Whether they will stay in memory long enough for me to capture them on paper is another matter. Getting out of our own environment once in awhile can jar us from our complacency. It can open up new worlds of inspiration. Whether I actually capture and paint these memories or use my notes is inconsequential. I will never be the same again!

How You Work Tells a Lot about your personality

June 27th, 2012

How You Work Tells a Lot about your personality

I took a portrait painting class in oils. The technique was classic. Using a live model, we first coated the canvas with a film of oil and burnt umber. Then we proceeded to wipe out form and light.

Before I knew it, I had “wiped out” a head, a body, arms, and the light areas on the model’s skirt. It was a marvelous experience except for one thing. The teacher used her own method for getting inspired and to ramp up her energy.

I don’t know about the other students, but I found it difficult to focus on this new and difficult experience. The teacher’s loud, blaring music distracted me and made it hard to concentrate. What I learned that day is that one person’s method of working is another one’s madness.

On day two, another problem occurred. We came back to finish our portraits, but other people had used the same classroom, and our easel’s had been moved. Only one student had thoughtfully marked the place and the angle of her easel with blue painter’s tape. The rest of us fought to find and duplicate our same vantage point.

The live model was also in a new position. As a result, we had to start over wiping out afresh and delaying the process of our work. The only thing that hadn’t changed when we came back was the music. My irritation turned into anger as the music ragged on my already raw nerves.
The only thing I had to show for the class was an unfinished painting that never got finished, and a complete distaste for trying the wipe out method again.

We all have our own unique ways of working. Some artists enjoy listening to classical music while they work; others like jazz or soft rock. I turn on talk radio which turns into “white noise” as I lose myself in the painting. For me, classical music which I love is to absorbing and interesting and forces me to listen to it instead of painting.

One artist friend likes to paint in the nude. She finds it freeing and unencumbered; there are no spotted paint clothes; no need to sweat or have a sleeve mess up a fresh brushstroke. Creative work is tedious and personal. The more you recognize what “turns you on” or what unleashes your wild muse the better.

I’ve also found that choosing the right approach or piece of music that fits the painting adds to its authenticity. Does the painting require a soft touch and a delicate balance? Background music that influences these emotions and feelings could make a difference in the outcome. Does the painting demand looseness and bold energetic brushwork? Listening to a Russian composer may give you the push you need.

Find what works for you and once you’ve found it, stick to it, whether it’s listening to the blues, the news or working in unadorned silence.

The Final Details Key to a Memorable Painting

June 22nd, 2012

The Final Details Key to a Memorable Painting

When I first started painting, I’d get so excited once the drawing and under painting were finished. Even more excited when the first real coat of paint; the sky, the background items filled the canvas. “Why, I’m almost done:” I foolishly replied.

What I’ve learned since is that after the canvas is covered, the “real work” begins. Artwork isn’t a flash in the pan. You don’t slather a few coats of paint on and call it a day. Professionalism appears near the end, at the point a novice thinks his painting is finished. Most artists will attest: “It’s all in the details.”

The difficult part of any painting is the small and subtle brushwork that makes a canvas zing. It may be added coats of glaze that deepen color or thin films of paint to get smoothness. Chosen wisely, these areas create more depth, value, and selected highlights. Like the polish on an apple, the final details add sheen and realism.

Sometimes artists have clever ways to accomplish some of these tasks. In researching how to paint fish scales, I found that many sculptors of decoy fish actually use wedding veil fabric and spray paint through it with silver to spot the fish. They use another piece of veil, moving it a fraction, to spray another area with gold. The detailing is incredible.

Other fish painters may independently paint the scales, either dotting or using semi-circles of overlapping paint. An artist can gain knowledge by researching online or through practice and determination.

Visiting a fish market is a real plus. Better yet, buying a real fish and studying it, painting it makes a remarkable difference. One artist did just that. When the fish she bought started to stink, she’d buy another until she had the effect and detail she wanted in her painting.

Depending on the desire and style of the artist, the lighter the touch of the brush and the more spontaneous, the fresher and more energetic a painting appears. To achieve both detail and freshness requires forethought and practice.

The first water droplets I painted took me several tries to get it right. Luckily, I was using oil. Each time I made a mistake; I’d swipe off the droplet and start again. I soon learned to use less paint, outline the droplet first, shadow second, and then add the highlights as a final touch.

It is so much fun that the real skill comes in knowing when to stop. If you’re not careful, the whole canvas could be filled with droplets. The kicker is that a few well placed droplets make a stunning statement. Too many, and the painting shouts with noise and the droplets become distraction.

It’s the subtle additions that make all the difference: increased contrast to make the center of interest “pop;” a few well placed highlights; color intensity in areas to guide the eye through the painting. At the point when you think your painting is finished, it may just be the beginning of a long and thoughtful process that in the end will make your artwork memorable.

Are You a Neat Freak or do You Thrive in Organized Clutter

June 9th, 2012

Are You a Neat Freak or do You Thrive in Organized Clutter

I pride myself on being organized. I had to be with six children! I prepared meal plans so I wouldn’t have to think about “what’s for dinner?” A monthly meal plan gave me an edge. Shopping smart and planning ahead kept our meals on time and within budget
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Over time, I did give up on having our home look like “Better Homes and Gardens.” I learned to tolerate a lived in look; cleaning only once a week. I ignored what happened in between because I valued my time, and it was impossible for me to do anything more.

I became an avid list maker. I found that once I put it on a list, I could forget about it. The worry and the guilt were “out of sight and out of mind.” It cleared my head. I looked at my list at the start of each day and checked off my priorities. No worry. No fuss.

Of course, there was always the unexpected pushing some items to another day. For the most part, these lists kept me in line. I took classes, I was a free-lance writer, and I was active in my church and community. I have found over the years that too much neatness can kill creativity.

I’m not knocking organization. I’m just saying that organized clutter, for me, is the best way to manage stress and to meet deadlines. Take my desk. It’s never clean. There are small piles (organized piles) everywhere. Each one represents a different project. When someone comes to visit, I arrange the piles in orderly fashion, but they stay! Like fingertip files, I know where to look when I need something.

My guest room/art room is the same way. I have organized piles on the bed, in the closet, and behind the door. The difference between the desk and my art room is that everything disappears and is moved to another area for the duration of guests when necessary.

My palette is no different. To another painter, it may seem sloppy and disorganized. But to me, I know exactly what I need and want at any given moment. When I use acrylics, I place out only the paint I think I’ll need for a specific purpose or it dries out. With oils, I’ll put out more paint. I don’t organize my palette as well as some artists do. I do place light colors on one side and medium to dark on the other. But by the time I’m through painting for the day, there is no definition, anyway.

I mix and match. I take swipes of different colors, mixing on the canvas when appropriate. I’ve watched other artists paint; their “neatness” is amazing. Their clothing or cover-ups, their arms and faces are clean. They wipe their palette of residue and to separate piles of paint. Neat. Neat. Neat.

When I’m through painting, I may have splotches of color on my nose, my arm, and my clothes. I lose myself in painting. My imagination soars when I’m unfettered by rules and restrictions from the “how to” experts.

Some people may see a big mess, a desk in disarray or an unworkable palette. I see organized clutter ready to be turned into something magnificent and memorable.

Back to Your Roots an Exploration

June 7th, 2012

Back to Your Roots an Exploration

What do you think of when people say “roots:” that it’s time to recolor your hair? That your newly planted vegetable garden is bursting into life? Or do you think of your child’s stubbornness when he or she plants those tiny feet firmly on the ground and shouts “No!”

For many of us the word roots means family: the people who have gone before us (ancestors) and the people who will come after (descendants). A wonderful new program on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is called “Roots.” Produced and directed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. the show “explores race, culture, and identity through the genealogies and family histories of famous people. The ‘who we are’ and ‘where we come from’ is at its core.”

The show is scheduled on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST. We have been enjoying it for several weeks at our house. It’s amazing to see that as we go back in time, we are all connected in some amazing ways. It touches my heart to see people find their roots, understand themselves better, and gain a new appreciation for those who have gone before. The show is emotional, surprising, and climactic. When the trail of family is exhausted, DNA evidence reveals additional information on country of origin.

My love for painting Norwegian scenes comes from my own Scandinavian roots in Sweden and Denmark, and my husband’s strong Norwegian ties as a direct descendant. His family comes from Stavanger and Skudeneshavn. Some of his ancestors were buried at the old Innset Kirke. His great, great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper for many years at Vikeholmen.

The family loves to tell the story of the beautiful nude young woman who would swim in the waters around the lighthouse. Eventually they were married. That’s one way to catch a husband! I would love to get a hold of more information on the lighthouse and how long his great great grandfather cared for it. I have two versions of the lighthouse that I’m going to paint. Of course, the original lighthouse is no longer there. An electronic machine has taken its place, but the area is still as beautiful as ever.

In Sweden, my great great grandmother baked pastries and sweets before sunrise and then sold the tasty treats on the city streets. She did this for many years. One of her jobs as a young girl was to fill the vinegar jar with vinegar, a precious commodity, from a neighboring farm.

Returning one day, she decided to shorten her walk by cutting through a pasture. Unfortunately, a bull ruled the grounds and decided to charge her. The vinegar jar was broken as she ran to climb over the fence. She received a sound scolding from her mother when she got home.

It’s fun to go back in time and research one’s family, if only for the stories. Better yet, gather the stories while your relatives are living. Their courage and strength in the face of difficulties is food for inspiration. Even if one generation fails you, there is always another one that may surprise and enlighten.

Books open doors and minds with hope and renewal

June 2nd, 2012

Books open doors and minds with hope and renewal

I’ve always been an avid reader. From the moment I discovered the Public Library and got my first library card, I’ve been in love with books; only now I have a Kindle, and I download my favorites.

Still, there’s nothing like the smell and touch of a good book. They open up the world to a whole new dimension of thought and feeling. Books expand our knowledge and build empathy for other human beings and other cultures. Books make us weep and feel the pain of someone else’s life and circumstances. Books build bridges.

I was in Sixth grade when I read “Les Misérables” for the first time. Some critics view it as a “sappy” novel, but what do they know. The book and the Broadway play have charmed audiences for generations. The words and the music touch people’s hearts. The story breaks through our crusty exterior and gives us an outlet for our own pent up frustrations.

I adored “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. People in my church had more or less banned it from their reading lists deeming it too vulgar and too filled with curse words to be of any value. I heard their disdain long after I’d already read it and loved it.

I went back to the book and read it a second and a third time. I loved it even more after each reading. Sure enough, the swearing and the vulgar language were there. I was reading about poor farmers and transients in the 1930s at the height of the biggest depression in history. They were not just hungry, they were starving and destitute. They were uneducated, poor, and desperate.

What I gleaned from this book changed my life forever. I discovered that it was the women who held everything together. When their men had lost their jobs, their livelihood and their self-esteem, the wives, mothers, and sweethearts lifted them up and encouraged them. The women scrounged for food and sustenance. They nurtured their children and cast out fear. They gave their loved ones hope and a belief that things would get better.

The last chapter clinches Steinbeck’s theme. A starving woman has lost her baby. She is filled with grief and engorged with milk, the wellspring of life. She weeps. She stumbles to find her way in a dark world. The first person she sees is a man sprawled on the ground in the last grips of starvation. She lies beside him and offers up her breast, the last vestige of nourishment within miles. He takes of this life giving fountain and the book ends reminding us of the cycle of life and women as the life givers and nurturers of society.

The book is classic! To have missed reading this book because of words and actions I or others may not have approved would have been tragic. My life was lifted and enlarged by the reading. I gained a new appreciation for my own significance as a mother of six children and for women everywhere and the contributions they make to the home, the family, and to the world.

Books are the doorway through which blind men pass and then they see. Books open up our eyes and our minds to the promise of our own potential. God bless the writers who enlarge our spirits and our minds with the fruits of inspiration. And God bless the artists who do the same.

We are at war no ifs, ands, or buts

May 30th, 2012

We are at war no ifs, ands, or buts

According to the press and the wordsmiths on television, we are at war: a war on women, a war of words; a cultural war pitting one set of values against another in order to prove who loves God or Jesus the most. On top of that, we have the age-old generational gap, and the traditional war against the sexes. Whew!

It makes me tired even to think about it. The arguments make a mockery of real war, don’t they? The wounded warriors who return home missing limbs or strapped to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives should put us all to shame. They fight for our right to argue and fight. They fight to keep the enemy from our shores. They fight to preserve our way of life and to allow people freedom of choice without censure.

Since when did our country become so divided, or has it always been so? Good versus evil started with rebellion in the realms of Heaven and continued in the Garden of Eden. The war of good versus evil has been with us since the dawn of mankind and shades of gray challenge our choices every day.
We are gripped by the bite of a political war with opposing factions claiming their right to the proverbial throne. One side claiming they are more intelligent and informed than the other, while the “other” side proclaims they are on the side of “right” by virtue of their Biblical values which many boast, but few actually live.

The media pushes us into a frenzy, father against mother, sister against brother, neighbors lashing out at neighbors. I’ve had people “defriend” me on Facebook because they didn’t agree with me. What happened to dialogue? What happened to discussion and debate? What have we become?
We really need to take a look at ourselves and our priorities. We need to channel our anger and hatred into positive outlets. We pray for world peace while we argue and battle over facts, figures, and policy. There will never be peace until we have peace within. Until we are tolerant of others and compassionate about differing points of view, peace on earth is only a dream.

What does this have to do with art? Art mirrors life and humanity. If we continue to cannibalize our own, destroy character, and push the limits of behavior to unhealthy extremes we will always be at war: at war with each other, at war with ourselves, and at war with God. Our art, our books, our paintings, our theater will become more grotesque as evil and pain overtakes us. Yes, we are at war, and we are the enemy.

Art is the Priceless Expression of the Soul

May 25th, 2012

Art is the Priceless Expression of the Soul

What is the fine line that separates art from pornography? Can you feel it? Sense it? What is vulgar to one person may be beautiful to another. I was surprised and excited when I took my first class drawing with a live model. I blossomed! My linear ink/brush drawing won first prize in an art show.

I took my sketches and drawings; my prized paintings, to a family reunion and shared them with relatives. My excitement waned as shocked and appalled faces looked back at me. They were not only “not impressed,” they were disgusted.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, my relatives had never had much exposure to art. What they saw and felt was shame for the exposure of the human form. I was crestfallen. Every emotion and skill I had discovered in myself was frowned on by those who knew me. My best was not good enough. I was viewed with disdain.

Did that deter me? Yes, for awhile until I rediscovered myself and the beauty of all God’s creations, including the human body.

During the transformation of the German people under the leadership of Hitler, Heinrich Heine made this observation: “Where books or art is burned, they will in the end, burn people.”

We must protect our freedom of expression. In China they cannot use the internet freely or speak freely. Sometimes in government’s efforts to control and protect, they end up extinguishing freedom. Just like blowing on a lighted candle, they diminish the light of truth and the power of the individual to choose.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by famous artists: Enjoy!

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college- that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" Howard Ikemoto

"The more horrifying this world becomes, the more art becomes abstract." Paul Klee

"Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us." Roy Adzak

"A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places." Paul Gardner

"A line is a dot that went for a walk." Paul Klee

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." Pablo Picasso

"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso

"It takes a very long time to become young." Pablo Picasso

"There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun." Pablo Picasso

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures." Henry Ward Beecher

"It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else." Henri Matisse

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way-things I had no words for." Georgia O'Keeffe

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Georgia O'Keeffe

Sold an Original

May 17th, 2012

Sold an Original

It's always gratifying to sell an original canvas from FAA. Love selling the prints, but an original puts you in direct contact with the buyer. Putting out your own invoices and mailing product gives you more of a sense of running a small business, which we are.

Anyway, it is a nice feeling!

Mind over Matter Imagination is at the Heart of it

May 12th, 2012

Mind over Matter Imagination is at the Heart of it

I’m working on some illustrations. Aside from the story line, I’m creating purely from imagination. The more I create, the better it gets! The secret is to see clearly an image of what you want to paint or draw. In this way, an artist breathes life into a painting by creating real characters that seem almost alive.

There is great freedom in creating this way. Sometimes I need a model or a photo to see how an elbow or a knee looks when it’s bent at a certain angle. Or I may want to capture a frown or a surprised face and verify how that emotion shapes the human face. Are there wrinkles around the eyes? Does the mouth form an “o” shape?

My imagination seems to be working overtime. I’m seeing faces and forms on our bathroom floor caused by water marks and the path of the sunlight as the day progresses. I try to draw these faces quickly before they get away.

Having a sketch book at hand when you’re not at your work station makes the job easier. As a writer, I learned to have a moleskin notebook with me wherever I went. I’m still a note taker, jotting down my first impressions of a subject. Later, my descriptions turn into drawings.

The most important treasure an artist has is his imagination. It is a living and breathing thing that needs to be nurtured, coaxed, and used in order to thrive. By doodling a little each day, your imagination can be teased and coddled into being creating artwork or characters that may be fleshed out into something more substantial.

Many abstract paintings have faces, images, and forms tucked away in places that bring an intense interaction with the viewer. These images may be from collages or strictly from imagination. They bring a human element into the work that becomes personal and intimate.

The more you use your imagination, the freer your brushwork will become. Loose brush strokes add energy and vitality to an otherwise static painting. By learning to visualize your subject matter, you’ll be able to create something truly original. Even a painting done from a photograph can take on a life of its own when you allow your mind to run wild and your heart full control over your paint brush.

Dreams Light a Fire Beneath us Reality Grounds us

May 8th, 2012

Dreams Light a Fire Beneath us Reality Grounds us

Exercising imagination is critical to the artist’s life. Whether you write, perform, paint or draw, working from research and knowledge is not enough. An artist must interpret, design, and create. An artist’s work must represent his unique perspective on the world.

Artist’s need buyers, teachers, supporters, lovers, friends, and constant inspiration for their work. Knowing who you are and what you think about things is critical. Having opinions and knowing why you have them brings clarity and purpose to your work. Everything an artist sees, hears, and learns becomes a stepping stone that leads to creation.

In order to grow, we must have our feet grounded in reality. We must make logical and conscious decisions every day concerning our finances, our basic needs, and the people we interact with. Constantly flowing between the living and a fantasy land or a dream world of our own making definitely poses problems.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in creative mode, my friends and loved ones may literally have to drag me away. They may have to repeat themselves often as I escape into la la land. I may seem moody and aloof at times. I may appear distant and detached from their needs and wants.
Finding a balance between these two worlds is critical to an artist’s survival. Supportive people who share our dreams, or at least understand them, can make all the difference. Knowing us, caring about us requires effort, patience, and maturity.

The artist must also learn to compartmentalize his life in order to find balance between the realities of the here and now, and the need to make a living; between living within your means, and recognizing that others have important needs, too.

“No man is an island,” said John Donne (1572-1631). Writing a series of devotionals for Christians, he spoke about a bell that rings not only to call the preacher but the congregation to come. The importance of Donne’s concept is also expressed in other religions, particularly Buddhism.

“…No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

And it tolls for me. It tolls for you. We’re all involved with mankind. As artists our greatest joy is in giving back to humanity, to the world we love our personal take and interpretation of it.

Build a Shine from Within or Slather Gloss on Top...Your Choice

April 30th, 2012

Build a Shine from Within or Slather Gloss on Top...Your Choice

When I first started painting, the glow I wanted to shine from my artwork escaped me. Why didn’t my paintings sparkle? Why didn’t they seem “alive?” I painted a shiny coat of gel or “Liquin” over the top to revive the paint. It still didn’t work.

What I later discovered is that the “glow” comes from within; caused by the differing values and contrasting colors. Coats of sheen on top can never make up for what is missing beneath the surface.

A perfect example of this is my latest painting: “Sunset on the Nile.” A friend had told me she loved painting on grey because the top coat seems to “pop.” I had always used light colors such as yellow ochre or alizarin crimson for the under painting. Experience had taught me that inner light is created from within. But what did I do? I went against my personal inclination and slathered on gray gesso. After all, my painting was an evening scene, and there were clouds in the sky. Perhaps a grey under painting would work.

What happened later reinforced my first theory. The grey under painting worked like a sponge absorbing all the light. No matter how many coats of eye-popping color I placed on the canvas, eventually it got lost in the grey and became dull and dark. I put on several coats of color and glazes to make up for the light being swallowed up by the darkness.

Moral of this story? Once you learn or discover a truth, don’t let fads or someone else deter you from what works, at least for you. Now when I see a lacquered or varnished painting, It’s always suspect: was it purposefully done, or is it there to make up for lost luster?

I admit I’m not a fan of shiny art. The one exception is when working with metallics. The natural glow of metallic pigment may add a unique and sophisticated touch to an otherwise ordinary painting. Even better is the placing of paint directly on a metallic surface so that the frame and background become part of the painted surface.

Putting a gloss gel or gloss varnish on a painting is almost like placing a glass over the canvas. The reflections are almost as bad, and you must stand in a certain place to avoid the glare that distorts the painting. I personally love the matte finish of natural pigments and bold brush strokes. But it’s a matter of personal preference.

Personal taste is what art boils down to. We all see things from our own prism of preconceived notions and experiences. What attracts one person deters another. Thank goodness there is room for all types of art in the cultural spectrum.

Childrens Artwork What can it Teach us

April 25th, 2012

Childrens Artwork  What can it Teach us

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the artwork of children. It’s raw, emotional, and bold. Children’s thoughts link directly to their hand and arm movements; unfettered, unedited, open and joyous.

Their enthusiasm is unequalled. What they depict often mirrors their emotional health which is why psychologists use art as a tool to measure and investigate what’s going on in a child’s life.

Art can also be good therapy, allowing innocent minds and hearts to depict what the mind and heart can’t possibly express. This wordless vocabulary of vibrant color and terrifying images reveals what a child’s simple words cannot. Their drawings and paintings help us reach a hidden place within where healing can begin.

Children’s artwork may help us get in touch with our own emotions. Their efforts may teach us about communication and help us to explore our own inner turmoil. The freshness and innocence they posses can teach us about trust and openness. Children’s art may expose our own inhibitions and allow us to take that bold step into freedom of expression, unafraid.

Children don’t worry about reality. If they feel like painting a dog blue, they will. If they want to outline forms in black or red, they will. Their vivid imaginations are unlimited in scope and open to every possibility. They have no preconceived notions. They don’t have the drumming of “don’ts” and “do’s” playing in their heads. They grab a crayon or brush and execute, allowing the mood of the moment to dictate where their inner feelings and thoughts will take them.

Uncensored, yet at the same time innocent, their drawings may seem provocative or outlandish. Children have no sense of shame or remorse until it is taught to them or they experience it through their parents or peers.

Children can be cruel at times. They haven’t learned how to harness their feelings. They say what they think, and they act out what they feel. Children are wild and untamed until they are nurtured, molded and taught. Sometimes the teaching may curb their attitudes and actions; it may also cause them to sneak and to hide.

As adults, we must maintain certain decorum. We must live by the rules in a rigid society. If we could dig beneath the layers of masking and conformity and allow the inner child to run free, we’d all be better off for it. If we could run naked (at least in our minds) and once again feel the urgency of life, of love, and of beauty and capture this in our work, the freedom and flow would definitely affect our artistry.

Here are two great sites to explore children’s artwork:
http://www.kidsdidit.com/
http://www.zona-pellucida.com/kidsart-thumb.html


Illustrators of Childrens Books the Best of the Best

April 21st, 2012

Illustrators of Childrens Books the Best of the Best

It has been said that illustrations are literature, even without the words. With or without text, illustrations may sharpen a child’s perception, stimulate imagination, and make them aware of their surroundings. Add humor which increases a child’s enjoyment or attachment to a book, and this connection may last a lifetime.

Some of the finest artists in the world are illustrators of children’s books. Pictures that appeal to children must be colorful, oftentimes humorous, detailed, and depending on the purpose of the book and the age level of the child full of imagination and wonder.

Illustrators for children must think outside the box and appeal to the senses. It requires a highly sensitive nature and an ability to laugh at life and the paradoxes within it. Life is not always as it seems. There are inconsistencies and incongruence’s that don’t often make sense. Turning these situations into fun and seeing them in a new light may make a child’s life seem less threatening.

I remember as a child relishing the colorful paintings in a favorite book and studying every detail. I loved finding new things I hadn’t discovered before. Details are important. Every element placed in an illustration adds information and delight to young readers.

Repetition helps desired information sink in and may add some fun as a child discovers that an animal he has just learned about is hopping or bouncing from page to page. By the time the book is finished he has learned a new name, recognizes a new animal, and has interacted in play across the pages.

Artwork for older children may be more detailed, more sophisticated. The artwork and text may deal with more complex feelings like fear, separation, loneliness or death. Once children are able to deal with these emotions, they are ready to face their fears head on and enjoy scary illustrations with imaginary monsters and treacherous journeys that the hero or heroine always conquers successfully.

Illustrations for children are more than colorful, pretty paintings. They are tools for education, celebration, and fun. They are a means for teaching children how to deal with serious issues in their lives where the outcomes are positive. Children’s illustrations may also take the edge off of sadness and pain by providing an outlet for fun and whimsy. They can reassure a child that there is balance, beauty and harmony in the world.

Most illustrators create from imagination and allow their minds to run wild while they explore the essence and the purpose of a story line. Their unharnessed minds become childlike as they answer the “what ifs” and “how comes” through line, color, and movement. Characters are fashioned, actions are defined, and stories unfold in unique and carefully planned ways.

Too often unrecognized, illustrations and paintings prepared for children contain some of the most remarkable and amazing artwork produced in the world.

Find your Inner Voice your Power and Free Fall

April 16th, 2012

Find your Inner Voice your Power and Free Fall

I enjoy watching American Idol. It’s fun to witness frightened, insecure wanna-be’s grow and develop before your eyes. It’s miraculous to see what happens when someone with potential is provided with money, opportunity, and support. Their skills increase. Their confidence blossoms. And they prove to themselves and others that they have what it takes to succeed.

In a recent competition, one of the contestants was advised that she “over thinks” her performances. She concentrates so much on the technicalities of singing, and in trying to implement what her coaches and teachers have taught her that she still hasn’t left her “comfort zone” after weeks of competing.

One of the coaches said to her: “Once you’re on that stage, you have to ‘let go.’ You have to free-fall.” This is good advice for any artist or performer. Once you step on that stage, you must execute through feeling and intuition what your heart knows. Your hand, your voice, your instrument will automatically follow.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “It’s all about confidence; trusting and believing in your inner voice. I was hoping Tom Petty’s song “Free Falling” would illustrate this point, but it didn’t. In Petty’s song, he dumps a nice girl with good values and lives the wild life as he “free falls” to his destruction.

I prefer to link the “free falling” process to “soaring” beyond our limits. Free falling should elevate us beyond the rules, structure and dogma of what we’ve learned and take us to a higher plane. Free falling should be the consummate experience of opening our wings and letting the essence of the moment carry us to a higher place.

“Free falling” is like flying. The hardest part is taking that first step. It truly is a spiritual experience similar to letting go of what you can see, touch and hold, to embrace the unseen, the invisible, the heart and soul. Free falling is akin to faith in a power greater than yourself; a faith that transcends time and space.

Once you experience this feeling you will never be the same again. It’s the “stuff” that makes performers stars, fine artists successful, and writers remembered. Free falling people create the unexpected, surpass expectations, and win the hearts and minds of their peers.

Achievement comes when your purpose is identified and your mind and heart work together toward fulfillment. If you’re currently holding back out of fear or insecurity, take that “leap of faith.” Free fall into the arms of God and fulfill your destiny.

Reality may be Harsh and Ugly at Times

April 11th, 2012

Reality may be Harsh and Ugly at Times

We have a terrible problem with mold and mildew in the Tropics. We go through gallons of bleach in the same way that most people do milk. We scour our sidewalks and driveways with bleach. We use it in our sinks and toilets. We set our air conditioner at a certain level, even when we’re gone, just to keep the mold from taking over our belongings.

I can smell mold and mildew in the air when I step outside on humid days. It stings my nose causing my allergies to flare up. Don’t get me wrong. I love living in Southwest Florida. It’s beautiful, alive with wildlife, flora and fauna; but the mildew reminds us of the realities of living in a tropical climate.

The same could be said about art, and the reasons why some people don’t like political art. It may be that it reminds them of the harshness of reality instead of taking them into a sweet world of beauty, fantasy, and make believe.

Professional artists often enjoy jarring an audience from their predictable assumptions. They use their art to prick the conscientiousness of the viewer. They choose to show the reality of life, the one bubbling beneath the surface that most people want to ignore; ugliness like hunger, poverty, hatred, and violence. And yet this kind of art may actually move people into taking action which is what the artist hoped for when he envisioned his painting.

Reminds me of the alligator we saw this morning on our walk. At first, we thought it was floating debris, but the elongated shape at one end made me suspicious. We walked to the edge of the lake to get a better view. The water and the sunlight revealed ridges across the head and back, and soon the familiar bulging eyes appeared. No sooner did we get a good look than the gator plunged beneath the surface of the water.

Did the ducks and marsh hens realize what was lurking beneath the still idyllic water? Were the ibis, the egrets, the herons and anhingas aware of the danger in their midst? How many times do we, like these swamp creatures, choose to go about our lives ignoring the dangers that lurk beneath the surface of our surroundings, in our government and community?

If art can provoke others to act for the greater good or to become aware of dangers then by all means do it! If an artist can expand our compassion, enlarge our point of view, or create a dialogue then by all means do it!

Art is not only meant to be “fluffy,” entertaining, beautiful and inspiring. Art and artistic commentary may educate, uplift, shock, or motivate. Art that does this may have long lasting effects. Once the critics, like ravenous crows finish picking its bones, the artwork will stand because its message is universal and eternal.

What if you could have anything you wanted in the World

April 7th, 2012

What if you could have anything you wanted in the World

If you could choose anything you wanted, what would it be? To the cancer ridden person, it would be health. To someone who recently lost their job, it would be employment. To a widow, it would be comfort and peace of mind.

We all have different wants and needs. What we choose at any given moment has more to do with what’s going on in our life than anything else. Many people long for and wish for money or material wealth; but when obtaining the prize, some become practical, thinking of paying off debt, helping to pay for a loved one’s medical needs, or saving for the future. They use common sense and good judgment.

Others sacrifice integrity and honor to get what they want, either by pushing others aside or by stealing and cheating to reach their goal. The happiness they seek is a delusion. They end up looking over their shoulder and living on the edge of fear and never feel the gladness they expected.

Wish lists and dreams motivate us and keep us going, but the actual prize seldom brings the happiness we expect. Satisfaction and joy in life usually come from our own efforts. Sweat and hard work are good for us. When you mop your brow after a strenuous workout, you know you’ve given it your best. When rewarded for effort, you know that your hard work was not in vain.

I’ve made it a habit to compete with myself; always trying to accomplish something better than before. If I feel I’ve succeeded, I’m happy. This kind of happiness doesn’t come from applause, rewards or money, it comes from within.

Internal gratification lasts long after the money has been spent or the awards are buried in a drawer. It is the feeling of knowing that you’ve done your best with the gifts that have been given you. It is your own personal reward for being true to yourself. So pat yourself on the back and be grateful for life’s blessings!

Do You Believe in Angels

April 3rd, 2012

Do You Believe in Angels

Do you believe in angels? I do. The Bible mentions angels many times including this favorite passage: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2 KJV)

After taking a long hiatus away from art to work full time and obtain health benefits for my family, I took the plunge. I started painting again and went to my first show in years with some artist friends. I was terrified.

I prayed. I clenched my teeth and the steering wheel as I drove to location. Should I proceed and risk making a fool out of myself or turn around and go home?

“You might be surprised,” a voice inside my brain said. “What have you got to lose?” Indeed, I thought and proceeded to the show.

No sooner had I set up table than two women came on the scene, almost out of nowhere and made a beeline for my painting. They were chattering away in Norwegian about my painting and in measured English asked the price. I told them and they indicated they would have to get cash.

When they left, I was open-mouthed. I kept the painting on display not knowing if they’d return or if it was all a dream. The women seemed linked as a pair, walking and moving in unison. An hour later, they returned with cash. They bought the painting and then literally disappeared from the scene. I never saw them again.

I did wonder if they were angels sent to encourage me when I might have given up. At any rate, I have had similar experiences in my lifetime. God uses people to help us and encourage us. Are they angels? Who can say? Yesterday I had such an experience.

I was once again at an art show. It had been a long day. Although many people had enjoyed my work, even laughing at my cartoon posters and looking at my cards and paintings, no one had purchased. I was next to a jeweler, and the women seemed to flock to the vendor’s affordable and dazzling wares.
By the end of the day, I felt like a failure. Perhaps my work wasn’t good enough. Perhaps it was time to “really retire” and quit painting altogether. I couldn’t help but mull these thoughts over as I sweated in the scorching heat and sun.

A moment later, a large woman confined to a wheelchair came slowly toward my paintings. She seemed hypnotized by them. I was sitting in the shade nearby and watched as she examined each one. When she took my biography and business card, I made my move and introduced myself.

Turns out she was with the “blind artists” in another booth at the fair. Imagine, partially blind, and having the courage to paint and show your wares. We shared stories. She told me how much she liked my work and that I was an inspiration to her. My work had given her a reason to keep painting. It made my day!

Was she an angel? At that moment in time she was to me. I didn’t have to struggle with a disability. I could see! I was so uplifted and encouraged by this woman that the time I’d spent feeling sorry for myself now seemed wasted.

Do you believe in angels? They’re everywhere! Perhaps you’ve been an angel to someone else, and you didn’t even know it. I better understood why I enjoy painting people. Each one is a miracle in their own way, struggling with enormous problems, often feeling separate and alone.

We are woven together, this “family of God.” How precious are these connections, and how fine the threads that bind us; ties that may so easily be broken in an imperfect world.

I Paint to get my Groove on

March 27th, 2012

I Paint to get my Groove on

I admit that I’m “technically challenged.” Unlike my younger sister who can wire and change an outlet switch, fix a toaster, and repair a toilet; I’m a complete idiot when faced with anything that requires a screwdriver, a key, pliers, or a drill.

No wonder I faced with trepidation my first day as a volunteer at the Southwest Florida Artists Co-operative; temporarily located on Fashion Drive at Coconut Point. Of course, I was depending on my co-worker to take care of anything major. Joan was a pro. She worked there at least once a month. She would have the store open and ready when I arrived. Not!

Traffic obstacles made her almost an hour late; I had opened and greeted three customers before she arrived and not without some grief and hair pulling. First off the power box was locked, or so I thought. The teaching demo a few days ago indicated that it would be open as in "open."

I misread the instruction sheet, and interpreted “the back wall” to mean literally the back wall, not the back wall of the utility room so I set off the security alarm in the dark, mistaking it for the Muzak box. Mall Security rescued me from my stupidity and set things straight before any customers arrived. When Joan finally set foot on the premises, I don’t think she found my escapades the least bit amusing.

It was a very long day what with only 27 people coming in and out. The curious artists and novices searching for ideas sparked lengthy stays and conversation. Two customers came in and out to avoid a spontaneous cloud burst. Boring!

We took turns going for lunch, and wouldn’t you know when Joan was gone, I spilled part of my soup over the counter when I jumped up to greet three customers. Luckily the tax sheet was covered in plastic. I was wishing I could hide my humiliation and frustration as I mopped up the mess. In spite of that, I sold a ceramic plaque of Fort Myers beach and managed to write up the cash sale.

The best part of the day involved a newlywed couple from Canada (I could tell by the glow on their cheeks) who bought a gift for the host parents and a lovely necklace for the bubbly wife. They were also interested in one of my paintings and took my business card when I told them they could order prints online. When I closed up for the day, I breathed a sigh of relief as I headed out into traffic.

Art is Celebration and History in the Making

March 23rd, 2012

Art is Celebration and History in the Making

When I sold my painting “Broken,” the buyer said it reminded her of the people she saw in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. The mother and child in the painting inspired her and renewed her compassion for the people there and for their hardships
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There are as many reasons to buy art as there are people. Some people buy a work of art for the tranquility it gives them in a chaotic world. Some choose something humorous that makes them smile. Others walk on the dark side and select something provocative to jar the sensibilities and promote conversation.

Art arouses in us the unspoken words of the heart. Yet, there are those who view art as frivolous and unnecessary; an added expense we could probably do without. These people absorb like sponges, unaware of the affects that art produces in their life.

God is the master painter of the universe. To be unappreciative of art is to deny the beauties of nature that surround us. After all, it is God’s world we artist’s try to capture, with all the emotions and feelings that life evokes. For centuries man has tried to conquer time and space; to mold it and bend it in our own image. Nature inspires us and challenges us. People reach out to us in a way that deepens our appreciation for the inevitable pain and suffering life brings and for the joy that sometimes bears fruit.

Art reminds us of who we are. It’s a looking glass into the past and the future. Like the painted pictures on cave walls, art records history and events. It enlightens our journey and reminds us of what has been. It was the sketches and notes in the Lewis and Clark journals that recorded their discoveries and experiences. It was the stories and drawings in war diaries that illustrated the horrors of war. It was the diaries of pioneer men and women who recorded their struggles and sorrows as together they built a fledgling nation.

We must never forget. Writers have written countless pages to record these events and the sacrifices incurred. One canvas may capture it all by depicting the toil and suffering in the faces of those early warriors in a visual setting of struggle that surpasses imagination.

The Arts have the potential to degrade us or uplift us. It provides broad commentary on the state of our nation and world; and yet, art is minute enough to focus on individual character and perspective.

We must keep the arts alive for future generations; to offer hope and light, to record history and monumental changes in society. Artists are witnesses of and recorders of the present. We must participate in life and celebrate the process.

Artists Co-op a Solution to Cost and Exposure

March 16th, 2012

Artists Co-op a Solution to Cost and Exposure

Renting space in a cutting edge mall is expensive, using an empty space free is even better; the perfect set-up for an artists "co-op.” Volunteers staff the Gallery including hosting visitors and handling retail sales. A wine, cheese and champagne reception on opening night attracts additional visitors using refreshments supplied by participating artists. What’s not to like?

When the Co-op sponsored a juried competition I wanted to be a part of it. Eager participants could enter four works of art for $25; cheap and affordable. With enough participants, the moneys reaped would help pay for electricity. What a great way to network and get more exposure!

Another group of artists host a “wine and painting” event each week where artists and would-be-artists bring a bottle of wine and a project to paint. A teacher is available for help and questions. The three hour session costs $45. Friends are made, a party atmosphere is created, and everyone has fun.

When our neighborhood had a block party, my artist friend and I held an “Art Walk” before the event. People in our area were already familiar with this activity, and were curious to see our work. It was a big success for both of us. I sold my painting: “Broken” and a few cards. Interest was also shown in some of my other paintings. Who knows, this neighborhood network may lead to additional sales.

Some of our Pan American members are showing artwork in local law, accounting, and dental offices; a great way to form alliances within the community. Later this year, the Alliance will be painting a mural for the Children’s Regional Library. This is our way to thank them for allowing us to paint and demo our work twice a month in their facility.

Entrepreneurs of every stripe need to work together in this economic climate. The key to the future and to future sales is to form alliances not only online, but through community organizations and public facilities. Opportunities for artists are everywhere. You just have to look for them and be willing to participate when opportunities arise.

Whatever You Call it Critique or Criticism it Still Hurts

March 10th, 2012

Whatever You Call it Critique or Criticism it Still Hurts

We all have our babies: those wonderful concepts we develop in our minds and create on paper or canvas to present to the world. But what happens when those adorable children land with a thud on the floor of reality?

Let’s face it. Criticism hurts. And critique? “A rose by any other name would hurt so deeply” (forgive the pun). Pride is a wall we use to protect ourselves. When negative comments bump up against that wall, our ego becomes bruised. Afterward, we lick our wounds and patch the crumbling brick and mortar making it higher, stronger and more impenetrable than before.

But even though they hurt, we must take a look at well-intended barbs and examine what was said and why:
• Did the comment or critique come from someone I trust?
• If their suggestions were applied, would it make my project better?
• Were the comments meant to be hurtful or helpful?

After weighing and evaluating each point of view, we are better prepared to make a decision. We can take the criticism at face value and try to incorporate it into our thought process, or we can ignore it and stubbornly go on our merry way; building our wall of resentment higher and stronger.

Learning from our mistakes is difficult. Rejection hurts; criticism stings. It requires swallowing our pride and forging ahead in spite of negative comments. If we allow the critique to offend us and dampen our spirits, we may become the loser by succumbing to self pity. We may allow ourselves to get discouraged and sabotage our own efforts to make our dreams a reality.

Personal vision is as unique as our fingerprints. No two people are alike. No one can see what is in our mind and heart. Perhaps the criticism of others arouses our own insecurity and lack of self confidence? If that’s the case, we need to rally our own inner cheering squad to remind us of what we wanted to achieve in the first place.

A grain of salt can irritate an open wound, but it may also inflame a new determination to clarify our goals. If nothing else, critique sharpens our focus and causes us to evaluate how we communicate our vision to others

Perspective a Demon That Defines Reality and Depth

March 6th, 2012

Perspective a Demon That Defines Reality and Depth

I have an artist friend who is an expert on perspective. She can spot an error in someone’s painting immediately. She has no trouble with her own artwork because perspective comes so naturally to her.

Others of us must work at it, study it, and practice it before it finally “kicks in.” I am one of those people. Perspective has been a struggle for me. I remember as a child drawing boxes and three dimensional objects in school. I don’t remember discussing how that relates to eye level, center of interest, and perspective.

Some things come naturally to an artist, and some things don’t. Learning from one’s own mistakes and practice are great teachers. Helpful critiques from fellow artists may also save you from making any glaring mistakes. Had I found the following videos early on, I might have “caught on” sooner, rather than later.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpCwVHXvyQk&feature=related

The lessons are so simple and so easily explained, I wanted to share them with you to save you from learning late as I did. There are many helpful tutorials on YouTube. These are two that make understanding perspective a snap! I hope you enjoy them. Perspective is a tool that gives a painting depth, life, and reality. Although, I must admit some of my favorite abstract and modern art pushes perspective to the edge and pokes fun of it.

http://youtu.be/WQj57V8v4pI

I adore paintings where the buildings are curved and seem to be tipping over. These are the quirky things that can be done once you understand perspective well enough to “bend the rules.”

To All the Friends I have known and loved

March 1st, 2012

To All the Friends I have known and loved

Do you believe that there is only one right relationship, one perfect painting, one right way to live your life, one opportunity that when lost is gone forever? If you do, you’d better change your perspective. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is this: life is a struggle, and it can be downright grungy and gritty in the trenches. But if you hold on to your faith and your identity, it will get better.

Once there were people in my life who scolded and criticized every word, every action until I didn’t know what to do to please them or to make them happy. These were the spear throwers, the dagger stabbers, the poison arrows of envy, and hatred. It’s impossible to feel loved when you’re constantly under attack, when the eyes that look at you are filled with disgust, loathing, or anger and soon you begin to hate yourself.

I’ve also learned that love doesn’t always last even though you want it to. Why? Because there are no perfect people; but just as you can love another child, even though your “quiver” or your house may be full; you can always find room in your heart for another child or for someone else.

I’m grateful for the people who have come in and out of my life. Even though the relationships were not perfect or even healthy, I learned something treasured from each of them. I not only learned things I didn’t know about myself, I learned fresh ideas and discovered new things that made me who I am today. I’m thankful for each friend and for each person who has ever touched my life, even in a small way.

Barbara Streisand sang: “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” For the first time in my life I know exactly what she means. We not only need each other and depend on each other; we add something unique and special to everyone we meet and them to us.

I treasure the friend who taught me about fire stations, and fire engines, and instilled in me a love for antique cars. I will never see another auto show or ride in a classic car without thinking of him.

I treasure the friends who loved me for who I am. With them, I didn’t have to be self conscious. I didn’t have to walk on eggs, or be afraid of offending them anymore than they could offend me. Acceptance not approval is what makes us truly happy. To hear someone laugh at my fractured jokes, or tolerate my irritating habits and still love me is a blessing.

Feeling that you’re attractive and beautiful even without makeup – now that’s something! It isn’t what’s said, it’s the smile on the face and the glow of love in the eyes. When you are loved you know it deep down inside. You can tell when someone is genuinely pleased with you or not.

The friends and lovers who take us back when we’ve been quick tempered or sad remind us of our frail humanity. Friends keep us humble, and bring us joy. Today, I’m thankful for all the friends I have known, and for those who will yet come into my life.

Pacing Yourself for Success

February 26th, 2012

Pacing Yourself for Success

Last night I was supposed to attend a demo by well-known artist Charles Miano at the Alliance for the Arts. But after a very hectic week, what with doctor appointments and other classes, I ended up with a migraine and nausea. Feeling wobbly, and fearful of driving with my meds, I copped out in favor of rest.

Our world contributes to stress and illness. We grapple with technology, social networking and traffic in order to compete and meet deadlines. Today, marketing takes more time than the actual doing or producing; but without product, we have no business.

We make choices about what to do, and decisions about what to ignore. Often times, it’s our families, our children and our spouses who get left behind. Sometimes our neglect spills over into other areas of our life, and we fail to feed and enrich our spiritual side. How do we get out of this rut, this viscious cycle that drops us to our knees and flattens us on the couch or bed?

We must get our priorities in order. We must remember what’s important. Without health, we have no life. If we neglect family, divorce can face us down the road and our children may suffer. Without a spiritual foundation, we may as some professionals have done, take our own life or suffer mental breakdown.

We need to treat our body and our inner self with the same care and respect that we do our career and family. Here are my solutions to help alleviate stress:

• Trust in yourself and believe in yourself. You have honed your skills. You are a professional. Relax and know that you are capable of doing your work, and meeting your goals and deadlines. Don’t allow yourself to stress and worry about the outcome. Be positive!

• Trust in your muse, your God or higher power. He wants you to succeed. He wants your happiness. Inspiration will come because you have prepared your mind and heart to receive it. Trust that ideas will come to you. Exercise your belief and faith. Do your part by allowing this power into your heart. Clear your mind to receive what is yours.

• Focus on your higher priorities and trust in God to take care of the rest. Don’t allow nagging thoughts of “should dos” to interfere with your calm determination. Press forward with the duties at hand. Deal with “one crisis at a time.” That’s all any of us can handle, after all.

When the time comes for you to pour out your soul on paper, canvas, or product, go with the energy flow. Don’t worry! Inspiration will come because you have trusted, waited, and fulfilled your higher priorities. You are ready to receive what you were meant to receive. Your heart will soar, your fingers will move, and you will know that your muse, your God is alive and well.

Confucius Say Be not Simply Good be Good for Something

February 16th, 2012

Confucius Say Be not Simply Good be Good for Something

The title of this blog came out of a fortune cookie from P.F.Chang Restaurant. I liked my fortune so much I kept it in my billfold. I found it today, and thought of all the other Confucius sayings that have affected my life.

I was one of a million contestants that used to enter jingle contests when they were still in vogue. I actually belonged to a “Contest Club” that encouraged and helped aspiring writers compose winning entries. The Club held their own contests as well. In one, entrants were to caption a cartoon of an old man and an old woman dancing. My winning entry was: “Confucius say much motion in old rumbleseat make vely big back fire!”

I won a Jello contest with 25 words or less. The punchline was: …Jello makes me the “wizard of aaahs.” Minor prizes kept me going. I won blenders, carving knife sets, toasters, and other paraphernalia. The friend who invited me to join their club won a race horse. She soon discovered just how much a race horse costs to feed, to house and to train. Which “just shows to go ya:” be careful what you wish for!

Of course she sold that filly for a sizable profit which made entering the contest worthwhile. Gone are the days of winning because of skill to turn a phrase or coin a name. Today people are awarded for how many entries they can enter. Entries equal profits for a manufacturer or retailer. The more you buy, the better your chances to win, even though the rules say otherwise.

I discovered this with a Publisher Clearing House contest. They made me feel I was getting closer and closer until by mistake they sent me two entries, one with a misspelling of my name. They both said the same thing and they pressured me to buy. Even when I called in, they were more interested in selling me product than answering my questions.

Reminds me of a Reader’s Digest contest years ago. A contest that was exposed for their deception in leading entrants into believing they were final winners. I discovered this sham when my mother told me she thought she was one of their winners. As it turned out, so did I. Gullible, gullible, gullible are “we the people.”

Today we’re in another election cycle, and by what I hear and read, people are still as gullible as ever. Will the best person win? I doubt it! Unfortunately the prize often goes to the one who has the most money to spend (buys the most product), or offers a prize for support (bribery?). It sounds like the old contest shell game at work, to me. Either way we take our chances and go with our gut feeling.

It’s what I do as an artist. I sold my painting: “Broken” because I was willing to give my friend a break if she purchased the painting same day. The painting was worth more, but so was my customer. Confucius say: satisfied customers walk away happy; buy again in future.”

Oh, the Artists Life is the Life for me

February 14th, 2012

Oh, the Artists Life is the Life for me

I’ve been a Popeye fan since childhood. My father, an avid comic book reader, mimicked the “old salt” whenever he could. My mother reminded me to eat my spinich so I’d be strong like Popeye; however, I preferred Olive Oyl’s lanky svelte figure.

Popeye’s favorite song charmed me: “Oh, the sailor’s life is the life for me,” tooted on his pipe which was loaded with spinich. I loved that song and the crazy cartoon characters like Wimpy, Brutus, and Sweet Pea that cavorted over the comic book pages or on the big screen. I started collecting Walter Lanz memorabilia in adulthood.

Why am going down memory lane as I drive to downtown Fort Myers on an artist’s errand? I found myself singing one of those old dittys, and then replaced the words with: “Oh, an Artist’s Life is the Life for me!” (We artists are a little weird!)

I wasn’t alone, either. Friends from the Pan American Alliance were looking for space where we may exhibit, and we made the rounds of potential locations. We’re already “joined at the hip” with the Art Council of Southwest Florida that includes such entities as the Alliance of the Arts, Art League of Fort Myers, and the Naples Art Assoc., but we were looking for space to highlight our group and Pan American artists.

This morning we were painting publicly at the Regional County Library to expose the arts to the community, recruit new members, and provide cultural inspiration for the people. Over the next few months, we will be busy with art shows, juried shows, and workshops. I’ll give you the details as they occur.

Sometimes it seems I take one step forward and two steps back. But progress is being made. Next week I’m participating in a demo sponsored by Golden Paints and Pan American members will receive a free packet from Golden. These little perks keep me whistling, humming, and singing: “Yes, the Artist’s Life is the Life for me!”

Ideas are Seeds Longing for Their Turn in the Sun

February 11th, 2012

Ideas are Seeds Longing for Their Turn in the Sun

So why do ideas get away so quickly never seeing the light of day? Because most of the time, we ignore them or forget to write them down. They slip away unnoticed as silently as dandelion fuzz in springtime.

Add our own insecurity and some ideas seem just plain silly. We pooh pooh them before they get off the ground. We wonder if we’re off our noodle. We dismiss our ideas and give them labels like lame, stupid, or crazy. We’re afraid of using others for a sounding board for fear they’ll discourage us or make us feel foolish.

But one day, we take that daring leap of faith. We peel off our complexes and fears like yesterday’s banana skin. We go with the flow; enjoy our unfettered, unclothed artistic nature, and we fly! We turn ourselves inside out and expose ourselves to criticism and critique. Joy begins when our greatest fears are exposed for what they are: foolish! We step into the light and enter the ranks of “professional.”

I’ve been doing my share of floundering and exposing. I’ve been trying out new mediums, new subject matter and revealing my weaknesses and strengths. A blog is a public space and you are my critics and fans. If my journey has helped you, entertained you or given you courage I’m pleased.

My blog contains works-in-progress that explore different aspects of my artistic journey. My goal is to paint from my heart and imagination more and from photographs less. I’m not here to copy or to change, but to create. I’m taking a journey inside myself in order to be more open, more experimental, and more willing to take risks.

Some of my work may flop, and some of it may succeed. Discovery is a “wild child” that dances, bumps and grinds to the cranial surface from the depths of heart and soul. We as artists must “step out” and let our inner child reign free in order to achieve our dreams.

SOLD Original Painting

February 11th, 2012

SOLD Original Painting

Our street had a "block" party, and my artist friend and I decided we would have an "art walk" prior to the dinner and festivities. We both sold cards, prints, and I sold my original painting titled "Broken," a mixed-media 11x14 work, framed.

Try it in your neighborhood! It works.

Be Daring Experiment Join the Art Revolution

February 1st, 2012

Be Daring Experiment Join the Art Revolution

Lisa L. Cyr’s first book: “Art Revolution; Alternative Approaches for Fine Artists and Illustrators” is a wonderful way to rev up your artistic engine. Cyr’s book is filled with examples, techniques and ideas featuring many different artists. The book motivates, excites, and inspires me every time I pick it up.

I also have her second book: “Experimental Painting; inspirational approaches for mixed media art.” If you’re already familiar with faux techniques and collage, this book will merely springboard you to your own experimentation.

Here is my first “exploration” titled “Release.” I know I will get better as I gain more confidence. My recent workshop with Art Cunanan made me realize just how “tight” my painting has become from drawing and painting portraits using oil paints as my main medium. Although I was pleased with the bright colors in my watercolor, it was evident my brushwork and approach were far too precise.

I’m hoping that a few experimental paintings will help me focus on imagination more and fundamentals less. My featured painting has been an evolution of ideas. The first draft included a monkey, a woman, and a different phrase by Joseph Campbell. My goal was to have a painting within a painting; but the overall effect made the painting look like an “origins of man” theme and the interior orchid looked overtly sexual as if being compared to the woman. Campbell’s verse was: “Ohm..the sound nature makes when it’s pleased with itself.”

This could have made an interesting painting, but was not the statement I wished to make. The second draft used this verse from Campbell: “Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglements.” Using this verse made the painting’s title obvious: “Release;” and for me it was a release.

I was able to use the same “jungle” theme with vines, hints of leopard and gold leaf, and butterflies to represent the “wings” in Campbell’s statement. Using Cyr’s instructions, I first applied butterfly pictures using a medium gel gloss directly on the colored surface and then applied it to the canvas. A brayer and my fingers pushed the print color onto the surface. A few minutes later, I lifted the paper up and pale images were left behind. In some areas, I left them as they were, and in others, I livened up an edge, or added a touch of color.

I also used modeling paste on the gesso covered canvas before adding any paint. I wanted some of the vines to be three-dimensional. I also applied modeling paste to a fern leaf and pressed it on the canvas for a raised leaf effect. The interior painting also has a frame fashioned with modeling paste and lace. Gold leaf and acrylic finished it off.

I wanted a clear contrast between the wild jungle background and the beautiful wild orchid in the frame. I used acrylics on everything but the interior portrait which was finished in oils and glazes.

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

January 25th, 2012

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

I belong to a network called LinkedIn and participate in various discussions with other art professionals. Most of the chit chat is ongoing, and artist’s type in their opinions, links, and advice which is viewed and shared by all.

One recent discussion involved framing: Should artwork be framed before showing? There were as many different opinions as artists. Some felt that it was imperative to frame, not only to protect your work, but to present it in its best light. Others, from their own experience, found that customers often prefer to select their own frames and often discard the one the artist has so carefully chosen.

Mixed opinions circulated on wrapped canvases. Traditionalists thought wrap around art was tacky; younger more “edgy” artists thought it perfectly acceptable and that it was preferred by their buyers because it made the artwork more affordable. Apparently, purist attitudes have gone the way of the economy.

I have done both. 50% of my artwork is framed and 50% is unframed; but more and more, I’m leaning toward painting the edges, and allowing the client to choose whether they want it framed or unframed. If the choice is framed, I help them in their selection if they wish or and I point out that the painting would cost anywhere from $100 to $200 more (depending on the cost of the frame) if a frame were included. I’ve found this actually helps clinch the sale.

The matter of fragile watercolors and pastels was discussed. If you’re going to show them, they must as a matter of necessity be framed, and properly. A mat that allows breathing room (space between the glass and the painting) Is needed. Transporting these fragile works from show to show requires the utmost care.

I enjoy doing pastels, but I seldom frame them. I follow in the footsteps of another pastel artist who folds newspaper sheets around each fragile pastel and stores it flat. Apparently, the news print from modern presses does not rub off on the painting. My images are also stored and displayed online. If a buyer chooses to purchase an original, I would price it to include the matting, framing, and shipping.

Each artist has his or her own specific preferences learned from their own personal experience. As in most creative work, there is never a right way and a wrong way. There is a unique perception and a preferred way of working for each artist. We shouldn’t be so opinionated that we can’t learn a thing or two from others. I prefer to have an open mind so I may weigh and evaluate my options and then choose accordingly.

I work best when I’m not limited by the opinions and decisions of others. I feel hand-cuffed when all the parameters are rigid and demanding. Teachers and professors in long standing sometimes get in a rut. They teach as if there is only one way to approach a problem or to execute artwork – their way! No wonder we as artists find it difficult to have a fresh idea or style? No wonder we find it difficult to stay “loose” when all that we’ve learned comes back at us in memory replay over and over again. Every artist should listen to their voice and build confidence in their own abilities. Trust your instincts! Let your own muse guide your hand and imagination. Let your own unique style emerge. Let “Jack out of the box!”

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

January 25th, 2012

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

I belong to a network called LinkedIn and participate in various discussions with other art professionals. Most of the chit chat is ongoing, and artist’s type in their opinions, links, and advice which is viewed and shared by all.

One recent discussion involved framing: Should artwork be framed before showing? There were as many different opinions as artists. Some felt that it was imperative to frame, not only to protect your work, but to present it in its best light. Others, from their own experience, found that customers often prefer to select their own frames and often discard the one the artist has so carefully chosen.

Mixed opinions circulated on wrapped canvases. Traditionalists thought wrap around art was tacky; younger more “edgy” artists thought it perfectly acceptable and that it was preferred by their buyers because it made the artwork more affordable. Apparently, purist attitudes have gone the way of the economy.

I have done both. 50% of my artwork is framed and 50% is unframed; but more and more, I’m leaning toward painting the edges, and allowing the client to choose whether they want it framed or unframed. If the choice is framed, I help them in their selection if they wish or and I point out that the painting would cost anywhere from $100 to $200 more (depending on the cost of the frame) if a frame were included. I’ve found this actually helps clinch the sale.

The matter of fragile watercolors and pastels was discussed. If you’re going to show them, they must as a matter of necessity be framed, and properly. A mat that allows breathing room (space between the glass and the painting) Is needed. Transporting these fragile works from show to show requires the utmost care.

I enjoy doing pastels, but I seldom frame them. I follow in the footsteps of another pastel artist who folds newspaper sheets around each fragile pastel and stores it flat. Apparently, the news print from modern presses does not rub off on the painting. My images are also stored and displayed online. If a buyer chooses to purchase an original, I would price it to include the matting, framing, and shipping.

Each artist has his or her own specific preferences learned from their own personal experience. As in most creative work, there is never a right way and a wrong way. There is a unique perception and a preferred way of working for each artist. We shouldn’t be so opinionated that we can’t learn a thing or two from others. I prefer to have an open mind so I may weigh and evaluate my options and then choose accordingly.

I work best when I’m not limited by the opinions and decisions of others. I feel hand-cuffed when all the parameters are rigid and demanding. Teachers and professors in long standing sometimes get in a rut. They teach as if there is only one way to approach a problem or to execute artwork – their way! No wonder we as artists find it difficult to have a fresh idea or style? No wonder we find it difficult to stay “loose” when all that we’ve learned comes back at us in memory replay over and over again. Every artist should listen to their voice and build confidence in their own abilities. Trust your instincts! Let your own muse guide your hand and imagination. Let your own unique style emerge. Let “Jack out of the box!”

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

January 25th, 2012

To Frame or not to Frame That is the Question

I belong to a network called LinkedIn and participate in various discussions with other art professionals. Most of the chit chat is ongoing, and artist’s type in their opinions, links, and advice which is viewed and shared by all.

One recent discussion involved framing: Should artwork be framed before showing? There were as many different opinions as artists. Some felt that it was imperative to frame, not only to protect your work, but to present it in its best light. Others, from their own experience, found that customers often prefer to select their own frames and often discard the one the artist has so carefully chosen.

Mixed opinions circulated on wrapped canvases. Traditionalists thought wrap around art was tacky; younger more “edgy” artists thought it perfectly acceptable and that it was preferred by their buyers because it made the artwork more affordable. Apparently, purist attitudes have gone the way of the economy.

I have done both. 50% of my artwork is framed and 50% is unframed; but more and more, I’m leaning toward painting the edges, and allowing the client to choose whether they want it framed or unframed. If the choice is framed, I help them in their selection if they wish or and I point out that the painting would cost anywhere from $100 to $200 more (depending on the cost of the frame) if a frame were included. I’ve found this actually helps clinch the sale.

The matter of fragile watercolors and pastels was discussed. If you’re going to show them, they must as a matter of necessity be framed, and properly. A mat that allows breathing room (space between the glass and the painting) Is needed. Transporting these fragile works from show to show requires the utmost care.

I enjoy doing pastels, but I seldom frame them. I follow in the footsteps of another pastel artist who folds newspaper sheets around each fragile pastel and stores it flat. Apparently, the news print from modern presses does not rub off on the painting. My images are also stored and displayed online. If a buyer chooses to purchase an original, I would price it to include the matting, framing, and shipping.

Each artist has his or her own specific preferences learned from their own personal experience. As in most creative work, there is never a right way and a wrong way. There is a unique perception and a preferred way of working for each artist. We shouldn’t be so opinionated that we can’t learn a thing or two from others. I prefer to have an open mind so I may weigh and evaluate my options and then choose accordingly.

I work best when I’m not limited by the opinions and decisions of others. I feel hand-cuffed when all the parameters are rigid and demanding. Teachers and professors in long standing sometimes get in a rut. They teach as if there is only one way to approach a problem or to execute artwork – their way! No wonder we as artists find it difficult to have a fresh idea or style? No wonder we find it difficult to stay “loose” when all that we’ve learned comes back at us in memory replay over and over again. Every artist should listen to their voice and build confidence in their own abilities. Trust your instincts! Let your own muse guide your hand and imagination. Let your own unique style emerge. Let “Jack out of the box!”

A Workshop by any Other Name

January 20th, 2012

A Workshop by any Other Name

Inspiration and fun highlighted a demonstration by the renowned artist Art B. Cunanan; a watercolorist from the Philippines who lives in Ontario Canada. Once longing to be a comedian, Art’s wife, Lu, suggested he stick to painting. A professional oil and acrylic painter at the time, Art moved into watercolor for the freedom it provided for spontaneity. His secret? “You must plan ahead!” He paints for the “light,” which requires leaving areas of the canvas unpainted where you want and need the most light.

“Loose” is his watchword and Art slathered watercolor paints on a dry canvas with vigor and imagination. Using plenty of water and a mop brush or “rigger,” Art places color first in sky areas, using his favorite cobalt blue wash, but only in certain areas. He leaves some white spaces for clouds or light.

Working his way down the canvas, Art splashed in some yellow near the “eye line” Art prefers to paint plien air and from his imagination. For our demo he worked from a photograph so we could see how he applied his interpretation of what he saw to the canvas. Using only a few light pencil marks to define negative space and light, he worked loosely around these parameters.

The rigger brush provided a point when he needed detail, but mostly he washed many different colors over areas of the canvas, leaving them unblended; a splash of alizarin here, a touch of yellow ochre there. He never uses green, but prefers to add cerulean blue to areas of yellow mixing them on canvas to make green. He stressed that too much time on a canvas produces overworking and “tightness.”

Masterful at what he does, he wrapped up a beautiful finished painting in about 40 minutes as we sat with our mouths hanging open. For a beach painting, he also spattered some droplets of color to add texture to the sand and some finer shadows. He stressed that colors should appear in different areas all over the canvas to provide continuity.

Cunanan added people to scenes with simple shapes and the stroke of a brush tip. Two legs were single strokes of a different color (no feet or detail). A head was a simple dab of paint. What brings the people out and makes them viable and the other details? Art uses a touch of white gouache on the shoulders and head. His people look realistic and add to the energy and interest of the painting.

I will be taking a full day workshop from Art next week while he is here in Fort Myers. In the spring he has workshops in Spain and Italy. In the summer, Cunanan teaches workshops in France. Of course, he teaches in his beloved Ontario where he is more familiar with painting snow scenes than beach scenes, and pine trees more than palm trees.

Please go to Art’s web site and enjoy his wonderful energetic portfolio @ http://www.artcunanan.com

A Teachers Influence can Last Forever

January 15th, 2012

A Teachers Influence can Last Forever

You may have read about my grandfather in my biography and artist’s statement, but to know the man was to love him. He had more granddaughters than granddsons and he made each one feel important.

For decades, he was a sixth grade teacher who had an influence on our entire community and on the cities and towns wherever he taught. When he died, his funeral was crowded with former students and teachers who knew him well and remembered what he taught them.

As our grandfather, he made us feel special, and we wanted to please him. He admired our shiny bouncy ringlets. We would quicken our steps when he was nearby so our curls would bob even harder.

He helped us practice perfect posture by placing books on our heads as we walked to keep our spines straight and strong. Even now when I catch a glimpse of myself with shoulders slumped, grandpa whispers in my ear reminding me to pull my shoulders back and stand up straight.

His love of the dance made winter days indoors a fest of delight, at least for most of us. We learned “The Hokey Pokey,” the “Grand Right and Left” and any other music that not only stressed rhythmn but self control and coordination. He helped prepare dance festivals for schools and churches that were performed on a nearby football field. “Peter Cotton Tail” was one I remember, and dancing the Maypole with numerous poles scattered across the field and a myriad of brightly dressed dancers holding onto multi-colored streamers.

Having a male teacher who enjoyed dancing kept the boys in line. Some of them even enjoyed the experience. When it came to biology, grandfather’s first love, the boys witnessed his tough side. He loved spiders and snakes and made them a part of our curriculum. We handled them, learned how vital they were to the ecosystem, and lost our fear as we got to know and understand them better.

One Fall we gathered monarch caterpillars from the milkweed plants outside our school yard and placed them in glass canning jars. We fed them and watched each of them form a chrysalis. When Spring arrived, we observed their struggle to break out and dry off their fragile wet wings. Grandfather allowed the butterflies to flutter freely about our classroom, but most of them flew to the windows bouncing against the glass until they grew tired.

Finally, they settled on the window ledge letting us approach them if we wanted to and curiously crawling up our hands and arms with their tickly prickly legs. During recess, we fed them sugar water from jar lids. I’ll never forget the wonder of watching an orange and black butterly sit on my palm and unroll its long proboscis to drink the life-giving water.
When the time came for their release, we opened up the windows and our butterflies flew to freedom. We yearned to bring them back as they fluttered upward tinting the sky with orange. We would never be the same.

Please Your Painters Palate with a Creative Pot of Soup

January 8th, 2012

Please Your Painters Palate with a Creative Pot of Soup

I can't help myself. When the calendar reaches January, my mind conjures up images of winters past with snow and blowing cold. Even though I live in Florida, come January I get that "rumbley in my tumbley" for a crock full of homemade soup. I love soup. I know it's not a guy thing, and nothing like real meat and potatoes, but it's user friendly. No matter what you put in the pot, it comes out smelling and tasting like fine wine or the best in epicurean cooking. And when you're done, you feel like you've accomplished something.

Some people have a tradition of serving black-eyed peas on the New Year. I love black-eyed peas, but alas, my stash was gone and we ended up with pea soup. My Swedish grandmother made the best pea soup on the planet. She fried a small pork chop for each bowl, added parsnips, celery, carrots and onions for a feast of Kings. Many people have never heard of parsnips, and I haven’t seen any on the market here. They taste ever so sweet and yummy when fried in butter. This adds a richness to the pea soup that potatoes can’t.

When I traveled throughout Germany and Austria many years ago, I noticed that pea soup was a staple wherever we went. Instead of a pork chop, each bowl had a sausage floating. I felt right at home. This was the kind of fare I grew up on. My American friends searched everywhere for a McDonald’s to satisfy their craving for a hamburger while I lapped up my soup like a contented Cheshire cat.

In winter, soup warms your bones. In tough times, it fills your stomach. When there are many mouths to feed, you can thin and stretch soup to fill every hungry mouth. People, who turn their noses up at leftovers often slurp down every scrumptious bite of a flavorful soup; no matter that the ingredients may be leftovers hidden between stirs of a bubbling pot of melding flavors.

Soup is like life itself: a pinch of this, a dab of that, some bittersweet, some sugar, some spice mixed together with faith, hope and love. Simmering through the highs and lows, the combination becomes the essence of a life well lived; a life remembered.

Is it any wonder that my favorite channel is the food channel? I believe people who can participate in “The Iron Chef” or decorate cakes with sculpted roses and present their dishes in royal style can match any artist's creativity. Come to think of it, the soup I’m cooking today is giving me inspiration. I see colorful shapes forming, values changing, and my imagination soaring just like it did over my alphabet soup when I was a kid.

Have you got brain freeze? Are your creative pipes stopped up with cold slush? Get back to basics and warm up with a bowl of hot homemade soup. Happy New Year everybody!

The Holiday Aftermath -- a Kick in the Teeth

December 30th, 2011

The Holiday Aftermath -- a Kick in the Teeth

It’s a “down” time of year: that ebb between the hoopla of celebration and the impetus of New Year’s madness. We pause. We evaluate what has been and what will be. It is a somber time. Some people get depressed after the letdown of holiday’s end.

Stress has been building; epectations have not always been met, and we slide into that slump known as “Twixtmas.” Maybe we return gifts to recoop our losses. Perhaps we spend a little more to lift our spirits and take advantage of even lower prices only to regret it later. But when all is said and done, we’re a little wiser, a little closer to the true meaning of Christmas. We’ve put up with crazy relatives and learned a thing or two about tolerance, forgiveness and understanding. Besides, buying something for someone else has enlarged our spirit and given meaning to our own self-centered lives.

But for some, tragedy strikes in the context of life and death. The turmoil of every day living takes its toll. Accidents happen. New babies are born as others are taken in the midst of our singing and merriment. Such a tragedy struck my dear online friend; a Pastor whose beloved wife was taken from him as he held her in his arms on Christmas Eve. His faith is strong. He will prevail because life goes on.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35-39 KJV)

My own sadness pales in comparison. I’m sad the festivities are over, and that I’ll have to take down the holiday decorations. The ornaments will be boxed and put away, the house and my life will get back to normal, and all will be well again.

With the dawning of a new year on the horizon, we can only hope and pray that, indeed, there will be peace on earth. But as the song reminds us: “peace begins with me.” God Bless you, my friends, and may the new year bring you joy and happiness.

Carol Allen Anfinsen Artist Statement

December 22nd, 2011

Carol Allen Anfinsen Artist Statement

Thanks to my grandfather, a former biologist and teacher; my uncle, a former professor of entomology at Berkeley; and my father, a fly fisherman of great reknown; I was born an environmentalist, a lover of nature, and a lover of God’s remarkable handiwork.

I believe there is spirit, voice and emotion even in inanimate objects, but especially in living things. I have a wild imagination. I envision each object, each life speaking out; no, shouting out to me. I try to portray nature as honestly and beautifully as I see it. Sometimes I exaggerate color and movement so others may share what my inner life sees and feels.

Portraits are a favorite of mine. The slightest crinkle in a nose or the twinkle in an eye can tell volumes about a person’s personality. Faces are as varied as the flowers in springtime; as deep as the roots of a tree or the depths of an ocean. I hope viewers will experience awe and joy when they look at my paintings.

The Eyes I Hide Behind

December 19th, 2011

The Eyes I Hide Behind

We never see ourselves as others see us. I recall when I was 12 years old picking beans with a group of kids for a local farmer. During our lunch break, a teenage boy looked over at me and said: “You have beautiful eyes.”

I ducked in embarrassment. I was wearing eye glasses for the first time. I felt self conscious and ugly. How could he see my eyes when I wore glasses, I wondered? The adage “boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” rang in my ears.

I’ve long since outgrown any qualms over wearing glasses, and I’ve reached the stage where I’m not too concerned with what other people think. I like being myself. I enjoy my own company, and I’ve learned you can’t please everybody. In spite of that, I still feel insecure when I’m working on a painting and another artist looks over my shoulder and question not only my motives, but my vision.

After having to explain myself and getting negative feedback in return, I stress out for days. My creativity flies right out the door! All of a sudden the idea that excited me seems to fragment and disappear to the fringes of my brain. I feel inadequate and inept. Later these feelings are replaced by anger; not necessarily at my peers, but at me for being so insecure that I allow their opinions to affect me in a negative way.

We all go through this. An artist friend expounded that she wanted to become another Georgia O’Keefe. Unthinkingly, I blurted out: “You’re not that great!” A thoughtless, tactless statement meant as a joke that ended up hurting her. This negative remark had sunk into her psych and continued to dig at her insecurities for weeks until she talked to me about it.

I was stunned. The remark, or at least its intent, was not meant to hurt. “What a rotten thing to say,” I said. “That’s what I thought,” she admitted. We cleared the air. Artists are such vulnerable people, me included. We flinch at a glance or a twitch of a nose. We boil and bubble in our own sensitive juices. Perhaps that’s what makes us artists in the first place. We are sensitive creatures who not only observe the details in nature; we empathize and scrutinize the depths and the heights of its meaning. We feel, we watch, we execute form, shape, and line to capture what our emotions tell us.

Many people in our world walk around wearing a mask. They hide themselves from the rest of the world, while we (artists) wear our hearts on our sleeves. We hang our emotions, our pride, and our anger on a canvas and hope other people will like us and our view of the world. When they don’t, we retreat, we sulk, and we nurse our wounds until the muse pulls us from our reverie.

These are the eyes I see the world through. I’d love to hear your views and share your dreams.

Take Advantage of Free Courses and Demonstrations

December 16th, 2011

Take Advantage of Free Courses and Demonstrations

NorthLight Books recently offered a free drawing demo online to promote the artist Sandra Angelo and an upcoming course on the basics of drawing. I decided to link in and see what she had to say.

Viewers were allowed to type in questions and the artist would respond. Here are the highlights:

o Do you use your fingers or a “stump” to shade your drawing?
o “No. You can’t get subtle changes in value. It’s okay when you’re working with pastels or charcoal, but not with pencils.”
o “It is better to use the range of pencils available to you in a set. Don’t stick with a 2B; add other pencil grades when you need something darker. Make gradual changes in the shading using a different pencil.”
o “If you want subtle changes, use a softer touch. If you want an “impressionistic” style, let the lines show through.

Sandra uses the “grid” method for enlarging photos for a drawing. “If you have a lot of detail,” she said, “use a smaller grid.”

Her favorite paper? White. She likes to utilize the paper underneath for the highlights.
Does she like “tooth?” She prefers smooth paper for her drawings. That doesn’t mean that you must use it, but for her delicate shading, smooth paper works best.

Does she use fixative on her drawings? Only when she’s sure the drawing is complete. Once fixative is put on, you can’t erase or make changes.

She discussed storing your drawings in an archival sleeve. She adheres archival foam core to the back and a matt on the front. The matt serves to keep the paper away from the glass once it is framed. The glass should shield out UV rays which fade.

Brown archival paper is placed on the back of the drawing over the frame to keep out moisture. The greatest enemies to paper is light, moisture, and insects.

Was the class helpful? Absolutely. How many times do we forget what we have learned and need an occasional reminder. How often do we miss something in class that may be critical to our success? I draw mainly to create a map for my paintings, but even this requires accuracy, perspective, and composition skills.

I urge everyone who wants to improve their lives and their professional careers to engage in “continuing education.” If the costs are a deterrent, do as I did and take advantage of the freebies that are out there.

Drawing the Soul

December 10th, 2011

Drawing the Soul

I remember many years ago, when I was taking classes at the community college where I lived, one of the artists asked me to go out sketching plein air with her. So that Saturday, we met at a local park, sat our butts down on the grass, and began to draw.

Our subject was a large oak tree with sprawling branches. In class we were drawing a nude model using ink and a brush and. I seemed to excel at this, and won first prize for my ink linear drawing. But trees? Not so much!

I looked at her beautiful detailed drawing and wondered why on earth I ever thought I could draw. Her style was remarkable; her vision accurate and sure. My eyes had not yet been opened to detail of this kind. I was ashamed of my efforts next to hers.

What is the point I’m trying to make? Learning to draw, to see, is a gradual process. There is a learning curve that takes years to master; practice, practice, practice!

Although some people have innate abilities, most of us have to learn these skills. Before I took my first oil painting class, I had no idea if I had any talent at all, or if I could even do it. I am ever grateful that I took that first class or I may never have discovered I could become an artist. When people tell me they can’t paint or draw, I tell them “How do you know? Have you ever tried?”

Trial and error is what it’s all about. If you discover that you have a love for the process and the miracle of the outcome, you’re an artist. If you keep trying and refuse to give up because of the drive and hunger in your soul, you’re an artist. If there’s nothing you’d rather do than sketch and doodle, you’re an artist. If you adore the process of slapping paint on canvas and are hypnotized by color, you’re an artist.

The best decision I ever made was to get back to canvas and brush. It allows me to speak through color and form the things that are in my heart, but are difficult to put into words. I am a writer and have been doing that since I was a child. I struggled to pare my words down and to find just the right words to say what was in my mind and heart.

Art is much the same way, but it is a visual medium. Instead of describing what you see and feel, you illustrate it. It is as intuitive and magical as the process of writing. One feeds the spirit through words, the other through color, shape and form; both important arts that feed the soul of mankind.

Serving the Community

December 4th, 2011

Serving the Community

Our art league tries to offer our skills to the community and to share our talents with others. This month, we did just that: We hung our artwork in the Regional Public Library for others to enjoy. On Saturday we brought six each more paintings and had a reception in the library's conference room.

Our paintings were also part of a juried competition. I was happy to hear that my painting: "With These Hands--Love" won third place! Part of a three-part children's series, this particular painting was executed with love and has brought me a great deal of joy.

Is There a God? Is Faith tangible? Can an Artist Reveal it?

November 30th, 2011

Is There a God? Is Faith tangible? Can an Artist Reveal it?

We all want to feel fulfilled. We search endlessly for a life of joy and happiness. We begin this quest at birth, taking our first steps and exploring all avenues. At times we slip through the cracks; the slippery ways that wind into the dark places of the soul. We suffer, we feel pain, we change our route, our habits, our focus.

If we succeed, we explore the higher ways bathed in light and knowledge. We reach for all we can be. We stretch our thoughts and skills to capacity. If we persist, we truly do learn to fly.

“When I have come to the edge of all the light I know,
And I must step out onto the edge of darkness,
I must trust that one of two things will occur;
Either there will be something solid to stand on or
I will be taught to fly.” Patrick Overton

“Jump!” Joseph Campbell

For some people, jumping into the arms of a living, loving God is the answer. The struggle, the reach for achievement becomes easier when they are bathed in the light of faith born from trust and relationship.

For others, it is a higher power fashioned in their own creation that allows their spiritual and creative imagination to soar. We all must find our own way in much the same way that smoke traverses upward toward its final destination in air and space.

“The courage to trust process means believing in magic, having a vision and following it, letting the imagination play, letting go of the controls…” Claudia Bepko and JoAnn Kreston “Singing at the Top of Our Lungs

That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to stretch, to go beyond my knowledge and skill to create something new and different. I’m forging ahead with a belief that I will achieve my goal.

Currently I’m trying to create character and personality. I’ve been drawing faces from my imagination; faces expressing different moods and emotions. My goal is to create a unique and original character. I hope I will find her out there somewhere. Capturing emotion in a drawing or portrait brings me joy. And sometimes in my search for what I want, I end up with something totally unexpected!

“After all, we cannot know what we are going to express. What is really creative is bound to be a surprise because it is something we couldn’t have thought of. This is the thing we resist the most. We want to know where we are going, why we’re doing it, and what it is going to give us. We want to know it all. To be creative means becoming more familiar with being a little lost. If we are always full of what we want to do, there is no room for the new. Michell Cassou, Artist, “Life, Paint & Passion”

Sandhill Cranes on the Chopping Block

November 26th, 2011

Sandhill Cranes on the Chopping Block

“On October 11, members of the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee voted unanimously, by a 7 to 0 vote, to approve a plan to allow sandhill crane hunting in the Bluegrass State. With this final approval, Kentucky will join thirteen other states in which sandhill cranes can be properly and scientifically managed through hunting.”

In spite of the efforts of many environmentalists, the approved sandhill crane hunting season is expected to begin December 17. Land east of the Mississippi has not seen sandhill cranes hunted in more than a century due to a decrease in the species’ population. Over the last three decades their population has grown more than 300 percent and Kentucky’s wildlife experts and biologists called for a hunting season that will help manage and conserve the species.

Many environmentalists believe in managed hunting to control a species, but in this case, the concern is that the sandhill cranes will be endangered once again. Their anxiety is over the accuracy of the increased numbers sited.

Do they eat them after being shot? Many of them do, and it is supposed to taste like any other game bird. From the killing of one large bird, only the breast meat is edible. Could I eat one? Never! That would be like Fern eating Wilbur in “Charlotte’s web.”

They live in our neighborhood. One used to knock on a neighbor’s back door and he would feed him seeds from his hand. This same bird would tease another neighbor’s dog by getting up close to the screened lanai. They adopted a friendly attachment to each other.

I have watched their babies toddle across the golf course out back. We see the same pairs mate and come back year after year. Shooting these beautiful birds is tantamount to killing a friend. I understand that sometimes hunting is a necessary evil, but please, not in my backyard.

My completed painting: “Sandhill Cranes at Twilight” shows the body plumage; characterized by varying shades of gray. “In many areas, wild Sandhills preen iron-rich mud into their feathers creating a deep rusty brown hue which lasts during spring and summer. As fall advances, these rusty feathers molt and the birds return to their grayish appearance. In some regions, however, iron-rich mud is absent and the birds appear grey all year. The forehead and crown are covered with reddish skin. Face, chin, upper throat, and nape are white to pale gray. Adults have a white cheek patch. Legs and toes are black. In general, males and females are virtually indistinguishable but within a breeding pair, males tend to be larger than females.

“All cranes are omnivorous. Sandhill Cranes are generalists and feed on a wide variety of plant tubers, grains, small vertebrates (e.g. mice and snakes), and invertebrates such as insects or worms. Sandhills find these foods in uplands and in shallow wetlands. Like most cranes, flightless chicks forage primarily on a diet of insects and other protein filled foods during their early stages of rapid growth. The Sandhill's tendency to feed on plant tubers creates conflicts with farming. Sandhill Cranes are adept at probing in the ground and finding planted agricultural seeds such as corn. When large flocks of cranes feed on planted fields, the damage they cause to an unprotected crop can be severe enough to force the farmer to replant the entire field.” www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/id.

This is the main reason for the crackdown. Farmers were losing their valuable crops to cranes. Scientists have developed a new technique for treating the seeds before they are planted. The cranes dislike the taste of the treatment so leave the seeds untouched, but first they forage for them and for other things under the soil causing damage. Some farmers have had to replant entire fields because of the destruction.

On a side note: “All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, as well as wing flapping. Though it is commonly associated with courtship, dancing can occur at any age and season. Dancing is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and thwarts aggression, relieves tension, and strengthens the pair bond.”

Gifts that Keep on Giving

November 22nd, 2011

Gifts that Keep on Giving

During a difficult period in my life, my friend Alice gave me a prayer plant. “It will remind you of where your strength comes from,” she said. Sure enough, every evening as the sun went down, the prayer plant extended its leaves upward. I was reminded to turn to God more often, and I also remembered my friend.

When a move across country forced me to leave the plant behind, I photographed it. Sometime later, I created an oil painting of the plant sitting beside a garden glove and a trowel. The painting still hangs in my kitchen. Whenever I look at it, I remember my friend and her reminder to reach up in times of need. Her priceless gift of love was simple and inexpensive, but never forgotten.

With the approach of Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn once again to the gift giving season. If you’re like me, you’re already worrying about money, and how you’re going to buy school supplies and gifts. Expectations are high and everyone from the postman, your child’s teacher, your coworkers, your church friends and neighbors ends up on your shopping list.

One low-budget year, I gave my friends a small Christmas cactus. The plants were only $1.50 each; some even had blooms. A couple women accepted their plant reluctantly, complaining that they didn’t have any luck with plants; the rest accepted their gift graciously and seemed to be pleased.

Over the next few years, I was surprised by their reactions. Each time I saw one of these women, she always gave me an update on the status of her plant. When I visited in their homes, I was shown how well their plants were doing. Some struggled to keep their plants growing just for me. Eventually most if not all of the plants bloomed. As the women cared for their plants, they remembered my gift. The perky green cactus became a symbol of our friendship, and a gift of love that kept on giving.

We don’t all have green thumbs like my mother. She had the largest, healthiest plants in the neighborhood. Her African violets were the envy of many. My dad was equally talented and had the most prolific raspberry bushes, peas and tomatoes around.

My former father-in-law was well-known for his garden and for his love of plants. When you walked into his home, you entered a jungle. Wandering Jews, philodendrons and ivy wrapped around the room and crawled over and under the other plants. When a grandchild skinned a knee or got sunburned, grandma quickly broke off a leaf from one of grandpa’s nearby Aloe Vera plants. The soothing gel washed over their pain and tiny tears were wiped away.

He had a wonderful garden as well. Neighbors, relatives and friends were recipients of his beautiful Shasta Daisies, iris and gladioli bulbs. These gifts of love became living connections between the people that came in and out of his life.

If you’re not into plants, there are other ways to share your talents and your love. My 97 year old friend Dorothy bakes bread and cakes for those she loves. She called me the other day and thanked me for sending her one of my thank you cards.

Since I’m an artist, I turn my drawings of birds and animals into greeting cards and add ribbons and feathers for color. Other cards are created by printing copies of original paintings. Dorothy told me she had 11 different cards from me lined up in front of her. “Every time I look at them,” she said, “I think of you.”

Another elderly friend complained when I’d forgotten her birthday: “I missed getting one of your beautiful cards,” she said. I didn’t realize how much my inexpensive gifts of love had meant. There have been many recipients of my cards over the years. It is my way of telling people that they’re worth the extra time it takes to create a personal card and message just for them.

Creating the Illusion of Reality

November 15th, 2011

Creating the Illusion of Reality

Ingres, a great French painter, said “How you paint depends on how you draw.”

He was so right! Drawing is the basis of every good painting. However, today artists must close the time required to paint in order to make any headway on profits. Most artists have developed sophisticated means to shorten the gap between conception, implementation, and development. Many use projectors to duplicate quickly their image to the exact size of the canvas, even from original drawings. Some enlarge their image and print it out in tiles on their home computers.

The grid method still remains a popular tool to enlarge and transfer photo images to canvas. Still you can’t ignore the fact that knowing the elements of drawing and being able to use them well enhances any painting. Consider the drawing as the framework upon which all other components hang: composition, center of interest, color, line, form, and shape, both positive and negative.

Knowing how values work and where to shade to create form is vital. Creating a story, a portrait or a scene on canvas requires the knowledge of how to model to create the illusion of reality. If done well, the viewer fills in the missing pieces automatically with his brain.

The finished painting doesn’t have to be a direct copy of the original photo or drawing, and every line and shape doesn’t have to be filled in, only suggested. Creating a masterpiece is a balancing act of knowledge, skill, imagination, and risk. Doing something daring or risky is sometimes the only difference between the mundane and the magical.

Take it to the Next Level

November 9th, 2011

Take it to the Next Level

Just when you’ve found your niche and you feel comfortable doing what you’re doing; take it to the next level. That’s right! Complacency can kill you; or at least your creativity.

Once in awhile, we all need a “jump start.” We need to change things up and try something new. Like an old time revival, an occasional boost of energy and renewal are necessary to keep our work and our lives humming. If we cruise along in neutral, or on empty, our work slows to a lifeless stop.

Enthusiasm is the life blood of creativity. Taking time to rest and rejuvenate is as important as the work itself. Adding spark to our creative batteries is crucial. Here’s how:

• Take a class to refresh your knowledge or learn something you may have missed
• Participate in an art group or league and rub shoulders with other artistic people
• Stretch yourself: enter a contest and compete with “the big boys & girls”
• Visit online and local art galleries for inspiration and the current trends
• Take a walk down memory lane and steep yourself in the “Masters”
• Try a new media or method; experiment
• Take a sabbatical from your normal routine; do something different
• Take your camera and spend some time being inspired by nature
• Change the scenery; explore new things and places
• Have fun doing what you’re doing; if your work becomes drudgery, it will look and feel that way

After a change or a rest, you may be surprised at how excited you are to “get back to work.” Even if it’s the back to the “same old same old,” you’ve given yourself a boost and recharged your creative energy. The work at hand will seem fresh and new again. The results will show!

Power Trip the Artist as Creator

November 4th, 2011

Power Trip the Artist as Creator

Nothing excites me more than putting a few lines and a little paint on canvas and watching them come to life. Talk about power!

I will tell you that when this “miracle” happens, I bond with my painting. The people, the animals, even the vegetation become a living thing that I have lovingly nurtured into existence.

When my skill level fails me, or my efforts don’t succeed, I mourn the death of each one as surely as if they had died; not physically, but viscerally. Of course, in reality, I simply wipe out what failed and try again.

The wonderful thing about being creator on canvas is that you can start again, even when you make glaring mistakes. Oil paint especially is very forgiving; watercolor, not so much. Acrylic can be easily painted over, and pastel may be erased.

At last, when the elements of imagination, skill, and experience come together the feeling is magic! You’ve managed to transmit that breath of life onto canvas. Whether it’s a bird in flight, a child making a discovery, or the blending of colors and shapes in an abstract; when the final brushstroke is made fulfillment occurs.

It usually takes years of practice before that miracle happens. But happen it will if you keep on drawing and painting. Why do people give up so soon or submit to negative thoughts that drive them into oblivion? The worst offenders can be stated in two paragraphs:

1. They compare themselves to others and think they will never achieve or be as good as someone else. The secret is they could if they’d practice, not just every day, but for as long as they live. The hard work and efforts of others is rarely seen, but their success reflects years of effort.

2. They become impatient for results and give up too soon. How soon is too soon? Only eternity can say. We may never know what we could have been until it’s too late to do anything about it. In light of that, we must use the gifts we have to the best of our ability. What more can anyone ask?

Doodles for Noodles Equals Imagination

October 28th, 2011

Doodles for Noodles Equals Imagination

That’s right! Doodles are good for your brain. People who make a habit of “doodling” when they are at rest, increase imagination and brain power. An artist friend shared this advice from a former teacher. Her brain was in freeze mode, and she wanted to know how to unfreeze it and unleash the powers of creativity.

I tried to get back to my doodle past. I remember making circles and squiggles on my telephone lists and scratch paper, but aside from that I don’t recall anything spectacular.

Last night, I decided to doodle while watching TV. It seems my scrawls have become more complex and sophisticated. I drew children’s faces, boxes, leaves, and an idea for another painting.

I’m making a pact with myself to keep up the doodling process. Who knows, maybe something good will come from it. I prefer looking at real people or photographs and sketching from them, but that has little to do with imagination. The goal of making squiggles and swirls is to stimulate your imagination; to create something totally new and different.

While drawing and doodling, I came up with another pastel called “Ronnie and Rex,” a drawing of a younger Ronald Reagan with his favorite King Charles spaniel.

I also completed two watercolor paintings that were done on rice paper, but I’m not sure I would ever do this again. Nonetheless, it was fun and it stimulated my imagination. The point is to stretch your skills and expand your knowledge so that when you come back to your preferred medium it will feel new and wonderful again (at least comfortable).

I consider this meandering pure play, but it also provided relief and release when I found myself in an impossible rut. Try it yourself and share your experiences here!

A Fascinating Twist on the Turban

October 22nd, 2011

A Fascinating Twist on the Turban

My “India Rising” Series gave way to a wonderful exploration of Indian culture and traditions. The question I ask myself is this: “Is the featured painting today an end to my India series?” I have no idea. My research has already entranced me with India’s colorful images of elephants adorned for festivals and celebrations.

In the last painting of the series, “Prince of Thieves,” I placed a turban on the “ring leader” knowing that the turban is recognized in India as a symbol of honor and respect. And what thief or vagabond doesn’t want respect from his followers?

Contemporary turbans come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be very large or of moderate size depending on region, culture, and religion. Turbans are worn in India to signify class, caste, profession, or religious affiliation; some can be very elaborate.

Some turbans are adorned specifically for special occasions or just for fun. Almost any color may be used, although white is the most traditional. Pink turbans are worn in the spring to celebrate new growth and productivity. Red is a harvest color and is used by farmers and the working class. But in today’s India, the colors are often chosen simply because they “match” the outfit worn.

India has “come a long way, baby,” and Vogue Magazine’s Indian issue showed models on the runway wearing various versions of the turban or “pagri” an Indian word for turban or headdress. Some of the head wear was bejeweled and some plain. Bollywood, India’s version of Hollywood, features the best in up-to-date fashion and Indian tradition.

Many communities hold turban wrapping contests to keep the spirit of the turban alive. Different lengths are required, and the contestants take their strips of cloth and wrap them around their heads. The first one finished is the winner: the longer the cloth length, the bigger and higher the turban. Many varieties of cloth, color and patterns are used. The style and height of the turban varies between rural areas and the teeming cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai.

I also found a plethora of information on YouTube that was done by BBC TV for PBS. The link below is the 1st in the series. There are two series, one with 24 videos, the other with approx. 17. I hope you will explore the interesting country of India.

http://youtu.be/CFz1HUt-cSU

Looking Beyond the Mark--a Positive Definition

October 15th, 2011

Looking Beyond the Mark--a Positive Definition

When you have a blog, a website, and belong to several social networks, you become a target for junk mail. Spam and viruses invade your inbox. Your name ends up on countless mailing lists. Today I received a magazine called “Beyond the Bean” a resource for soybean farmers and distributors.

Now I know for certain that I’ve never grown soybeans, not even in a pot. I’ve even been allergic to soy, depending on which form it takes. So how did I end up on their mailing list? Deception. Someone told somebody else, who told somebody else, that I was a prospect for their literature (or propaganda as the case may be).

I thumbed through their magazine. Interesting stuff here. What hurts their bottom line? Government regulations that choke and devour profits and production. What else eats into profits? Bad roads and inadequate transportation (infrastructure); no kidding. If you can’t ship product, you can’t sell. If you can’t deliver, people won’t buy. UPS calls it “logistics.”

Reminded me of the difficulty we artists have in getting name recognition and getting our work noticed. In my last blog, I told you I entered a juried contest. Alas, I wasn’t accepted, and I’m still feeling guilty using my poor grandma’s portrait to enter a contest about repurposing garbage.

Knowing local judges and what they like or dislike is key to acceptance. When you’re new in the game, the rules and regulations are difficult to grasp until you enter a few contests and become familiar with the judges.

Rules and regulations are important criteria, but they often mean different things to different people. When we look “beyond the mark” as my title implies, we are sad, but not deterred if we lose. As the adage says: “It’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

What do I do when I lose? I dust myself off and start again. I do not quit. I do not stop. I keep my eyes on the prize, which is the joy of knowing that I’ve done my best. I compete with myself most of the time. I try to make each painting better than the last. Do I always succeed? No! It’s usually two steps forward, one step back. But I will never quit until there’s at least one foot in the grave. And that my friends is “looking beyond the mark.”

Entering Contests -- is it Worth the trouble

October 6th, 2011

Entering Contests -- is it Worth the trouble

Of all the things I've painted over the years, I've loved the birds as much or more than anything else. I loved listening to the birds outside our upstairs window when I was a child and should have been taking a nap. I loved rescuing them when one fell from a nest. I adored watching them hop across the grass and escape into the air with a flutter when I tried to catch them. I wanted to be a bird. I even dreamed about flying: foreshadowing or symbolism; perhaps? But through the years birds have found their way into my paintings.

This painting of a mother robin and her brood I titled "Robin Hood" and the painting recently won "honorable mention" in an FAA online juried contest. Not a big win, but I was pleased because robins are one of my favorite birds.

Robin’s are not particularly fussy about where they build their nests. I’ve seen a nest cradled in a wreath on someone’s door, and a nest wedged between a light fixture and the bricks on a friend’s front porch.

My friend watched over the nest like a mother hen; protecting first the blue green eggs that appeared, and then the tiny newborns that followed. Each time he stepped out on his porch, the mother robin swooped over his head and dive-bombed him to protect her nest. Little did she know that he was a staunch ally.

The robins’ precarious nest-building habits are not without risk, and many a nest topples to the ground following a strong windstorm. But when it comes to parenting, robins are seldom outmatched.

A New Series in Progress -- India Rising

September 30th, 2011

A New Series in Progress -- India Rising

I didn’t imagine when I finished my painting “The Lost” that it would end up being the first in a series. What happened between that last stroke of paint on canvas and my decision to do another?

I was haunted, not only by the abandoned street urchin, but by images of thousands of children roaming the streets of India, homeless, hungry, abused and diseased.

India is a colorful, fascinating country. It is a contrast of beliefs and values between the “chosen” and the cast off. The people are beautiful, intelligent, and forward thinking, yet their customs and traditions bind them to old belief systems that threaten individual growth and enlightenment. The few that find it, I call “The Found,” the name of my second painting in the series.

The third painting, “Prince of Thieves” came from an article I read about how the abandoned children form families; the older taking care of the younger. To survive, they scrounge in garbage cans for food or steal. As they grow older, this thieving becomes organized and the innocence of childhood is lost forever.

Many of the children are sold into the sex trade or use sex as a way to earn money for food. With no one to care for them, disease is rampant, and the street waifs quickly go downhill.

With extra money, most turn to drugs for brief moments of release from pain and loneliness. To my horror, one cheap drug they turn to is “white out” that little bottle of white correction fluid we use to cover errors on paper text. White out is poured into a cloth and little by little is sucked into the mouth of the user.

With their small mouths covered in white, they eventually join others who laugh and walk like drunken sailors until they crash on the pavement and sleep. In some locations, the streets are covered with sleeping urchins. To make their plight worse, others steal what little they have while they’re asleep.

I hope my paintings not only capture the beauty of India, but the sadness of a people trapped in the past while trying to reach the brass ring of the future. Those who make it are to be admired and respected.

Fighting the Critics and the Inner Demons

September 25th, 2011

Fighting the Critics and the Inner Demons

Do you ever feel “fragmented” as if everyone wants to take a bite out of you. I was reminded of this feeling upon receiving a phone call this morning asking me to collect funds in our neighborhood for a good cause. There are many good causes. I receive several calls a week asking for donations or services. My mail box is bombarded with favorite “causes” and charities asking for funds. A part of me wishes I could give to all of them., but I can't.

Expectations, another demon that lectures me each day about should haves, could haves, and would be comparisons between who I am, what I’m not, and the people I use as a measuring stick. Women are especially vulnerable to this kind of attack because we are brought up to be caretakers of family, church and society. That ‘s not a bad thing, but it can eat up hours of time if we’re not careful.

Artists can’t afford these conversations of the mind nor take any action on them. If we do, we’re dead in the water. Our work (which is our life) is put on hold, and we fill our days with non essentials to please those invisible others: the critics and the judges of talent and time.

If I sound philosophical it’s because I just finished reading: Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art; Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” Most of those battles are won in the mind and heart, and most of the enemies we battle come from within.

The book can be read in one day. It must be read and re-read to absorb the hidden truths therein. Although, I don’t agree with everything Pressfield said, I did find much truth and common sense. I’ve always felt, as he does, that inspiration and truth are out there for anyone to latch onto if we are in tune with the “spirits, the muses, the powers” that create and guide the universe.

I can’t remember how many ideas I’ve had for stories, illustrations and paintings that never materialized except in my head. And then I learned later that someone else had taken my idea and run with it, sometimes at great financial success. Why? Because they “sat down and implemented it or worked at it.”

There’s a small window of opportunity between success and failure. The person who plods along regardless of the critics, the sarcasm, the “it can’t be done” thinking is the one who wins. We must keep on keeping on even when all around us say we are wasting our time.

“Creative work is…a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” –Steven Pressfield

Moving Beyond The Limitations of Reality

September 16th, 2011

Moving Beyond The Limitations of Reality

A Sculptor chips away at a block of stone struggling to unearth the life within. Painters “chip” away at a blank canvas, but instead of removing they are adding-to using brush strokes, color, form and shape.

“Chipping” away symbolizes toil, tenacity, and consistency; the work involved is seeing a vision with clarity and moving toward its completion. Chipping away applies to removing doubts and negative vibes that block the flow of ideas.

“Clarity of vision” implies more than making a good likeness or replica of nature. Vision goes beyond interpreting what the eye can see to discovering what the spirit alone may fathom. Vision requires self-examination:

• Am I painting a child at play or am I trying to capture trust, the innocence of childhood, the thrill of discovery, or the wild imagination of an unfettered mind?
• Am I trying to represent, as realistically as possible, a bird in flight or the feeling of freedom and lightness?
• Am I simply painting a landscape or am I painting a memory, a reverie or the lost feeling of time and place?
• Am I simply experimenting, or am I trying to push beyond what I see and express my vision in abstract terms using line, color, and emotion?

An artist must learn to see beyond the bounds of reality in order to elicit unexpressed feelings, conflicts, and questions from the viewer. Through this interaction the viewer experiences vicariously what the artist has seen, experienced, and wishes to share. The finished artwork calls out to the viewer in much the same way that a person or place calls out to the artist. A bonding occurs. The viewer is refreshed, the artist fulfilled, and both gain a deeper understanding of the human condition.

A living work of art may transcend the bounds of time, place, and experience and, therefore, change lives. On a simpler level, art may entertain, enchant, or enthrall. The true power of an artistic mind and heart is seldom recognized, and rarely unleashed. When it is, the very soul trembles.

The Buyer One Reason Why Artists Paint

September 8th, 2011

The Buyer One Reason Why Artists Paint

Some artists want to be the next Salvidor Dali, or Thomas Hart Benton. Others look to gallery representation in well-known salons worldwide. The rest of us ply our trade and hope to produce something meaningful or beautiful that will please those who buy or commission our work.

In some elite circles, painting for the public taste by producing paintings of flowers or pretty landscapes is frowned upon. Perhaps these lucky few have achieved their dreams without having to struggle through the hungry years of making ends meet. In either case, we all love the adoration that comes when we paint something that is pleasing to someone else.

I recently sold an original painting of my “Egret Visits Goldfish Pond.” The buyer loved the bright colors in the painting, but she was anxious about the transaction. I was a “nervous Nelly” wrapping it carefully, and hoping it would arrive safely. I tucked in a few cards as a thank you for her purchase. I hovered and prayed over that shipment until it arrived. My happiness was complete when she expressed its safe arrival and her pleasure in the finished product. One of “my babies” had found a good home.

Every painting I’ve done via commission has been a labor of love; an effort to please the buyer. A favorite pet, a prized flower, a dear grandchild, a landscape of a beloved homeland brings joy to the recipients. When you’ve not only met their expectations, but exceeded them that is fulfillment in and of itself.

I may never achieve the recognition or fame that others seek, but I’m using my talents and skills to make others happy. What better way to serve others and to earn money at the same time?

I would paint even if there were no buyers. Every time I complete a canvas, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m not competing with anyone but me. I love the thrill of seeing my skills grow and get better over time like fine wine.

Learning to Adapt in a Changing World

September 3rd, 2011

Learning to Adapt in a Changing World

How do people grapple with fear, anger, frustration, disease, death and destruction? In this climate – who thinks about art? Unless, and that’s a big “unless,” art helps people to deal with these immediate frustrations?

This is our time artists. If we can calm, humor, and make people feel happy by looking at our work, they will buy. If we can brighten a dark spot, enlighten a tired mind, or enrich a saddened life, our work is important. Now is the time to document history, lay waste hypocrisy and bare it to the core. If we can make people question, doubt, or take action because of something we’ve said in subtle strokes of pen or brush; we can make a difference.

I’ve always had a preference for vintage furniture and décor, thinking that it came from calmer, gentler times. But history refutes that idea. The recent hurricanes in America were repeated back in 1954 and 1955, and before that, and long before that. Weather is cyclical and repeats itself every 30 years or so. Governments rise and fall. New diseases come and new medicines to eradicate them. Nothing stays the same.

People are resilient. Inner strength is born and nurtured in difficult times. Faith in God is restored. Purpose and responsibility are ignited and life goes on.

One of my favorite novels is “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck. Why? Because after reading the book three times, I realized the importance of women to society as the nurturers, the life givers, and the hub of family life and the nation. Women held their men together when they lost their jobs and when the family had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. They encouraged, they prodded, they offered hope, they gave sustenance.

Artists and writers can offer this same hope and encouragement. Perhaps the question is not “who thinks about art at a time like this?” but “artists and writers were made “for such a time as this.” (Est 4:14 KJV)

Painting is Only Part of an Artists Work

August 25th, 2011

Painting is Only Part of an Artists Work

Color, brushwork, empty canvases waiting for a splash of paint and inspiration; these are the basic elements of painting. What happens after that determines the success or failure of the artist.

In order to sell, to be seen, to attract buyers, an artist must also excel at marketing, social networking, making connections in the community, and pricing. Serious questions that demand accurate answers:
1. What does a 16x20 acrylic or oil go for in the marketplace?
2. How much less should I price my work until my name and style become known?
3. I’ve heard that ½ the price of someone better known is a guide. But if I start too low in the beginning, will my artwork appear cheap?
4. I want to have high expectations, but will I price myself out of the market before I get started?

Like walking a tightrope, an artist must balance his or her time, balance the budget, balance the time spent painting and the amount of money involved in the finished product all while keeping an eye on the competition.

Getting your work out there is key; advertising, showing your wares, networking, and getting to know as many vendors as possible.

Help us Save Floridas Sea Turtles

August 18th, 2011

Help us Save Floridas Sea Turtles

It’s sea turtle nesting time in Southwest Florida. For some people that means an inconvenience and a nuisance. Beaches have restricted areas flagged and protected. Residents with beach homes don’t have full access to their own property. And all outdoor lighting along the shoreline must be turned off at night.

Why all the fuss? According to Kevin Lollar of the News Press, “It’s really complex to try to predict trends for sea turtles. They’re a long-lived species. They don’t nest on an annual basis. They don’t reproduce until they’re 30 years old.” Many species are not only threatened, they are endangered.

The beaches are kept dark and unlit so the hatchlings won’t get confused. Instinct directs them toward the light, in this case the sea. If the inland lights distract them, they are apt to go in the wrong direction and die.

To make matters worse, the beaches where sea turtles have been nesting for centuries, loggerheads being the most common species, are now populated by thousands of tourists and local residents.

Sea turtle mating season runs from May 1 through Oct. 31. Females crawl ashore at night, dig a hole in the sand, lay their eggs then cover the nest with sand and head back into the Gulf. Their leathery ping pong ball sized eggs are in danger of being crushed, eaten by birds, raccoons, skunks, and crabs. If they make it to the water after hatching, they’re also in danger of being eaten by sharks, tarpon, snappers, eels, catfish, and dolphins, to name a few.

Their existence is fragile. The balance of power in whether they live or die now rests with us. These beautiful sea creatures need our protection.

The Controversial Thomas Hart Benton

August 9th, 2011

The Controversial Thomas Hart Benton

My list of favorite artists could go on and on. But how could I leave out Thomas Hart Benton? For almost 20 years, I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, where Benton spent his later years. I admired his paintings in federal and state buildings and in museums. If anything, he was a visual historian who recorded the lives of the ordinary and simple people who struggled, built and forged this great land we call America.

One source described it perfectly: “Benton’s fluid almost sculpted paintings show everyday scenes of life in the United States of America.” That fluid, sculpted look is what drew me to his paintings. There is so much fluidity that your eye literally flows through his paintings and undulates over each figure and scene.

Born in Neosho, Missouri in 1889 to an influential family of politicians and powerbrokers, Benton rebelled against his father’s hopes for his political future. Instead, he chose to develop his interest in art. As a teenager, he worked as a cartoonist for the Joplin American newspaper, in Joplin, Missouri. He then studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later in Paris at the Académie Julian.

Along with Grant Wood, Benton was at the forefront of the Regionalist Art Movement where he primarily painted the Midwest. In his later years, he taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. The scenes he painted were of poor farmers and laborers, factory workers and slaves picking cotton. He admitted he was a Socialist at heart and in politics left leaning. His style and subjects represent those beliefs.

Benton married an Italian immigrant Rita Piacenza whom he met while teaching for a brief time in New York. She was one of his art students. She returned with him to Kansas City where they were married for 53 years. When Benton died, Rita joined him 10 weeks later.

His canvases are a portrayal of history and a moving drama of a lost way of life. He captured form and enjoyed exaggerating not only the ebb and flow of life, but of the figure and the land.

New Painting An Open Book

August 6th, 2011

New Painting An Open Book

It is only when you finish a painting that you realize it’s a process. Up until then, you have several visions dancing through your head, and each one seems viable until you face the canvas.

My model is my granddaughter, Amelia, sitting on a settee in sunlight reading a book. Sitting in her white tights and pink leotard, I was struck by her feminine pose against the white wicker. What I didn’t love was the slanted sofa and the difficulty in painting the wicker which I felt might actually take away from the child.

Then I thought it would be wonderful to have a simple background and seating with swirls of letters and numbers going under her, around her and over her; leading into the painting, around the figure, out and then back in again by her feet. It would have been fun, but again would take away from the child.

I ended up placing her on a window seat so that the light from the window would capture the center focus: the face, the act of reading, the hands and the book.

I first did a basic acrylic drawing in burnt umber. Then I did a second more detailed under painting in acrylic. My final layers of oil paint solidify form and color. I let the original under painting show through in appropriate places: the window, the curtains, the seat, etc. I love this technique because it gives a more three-dimensional look to the finished painting, and produces a softness in the overall product.

Favorite Artist No. Four Pierre Aguste Renoir

August 3rd, 2011

Favorite Artist No. Four Pierre Aguste Renoir

In my dining room, I have a large framed print of Renoir’s “Dance at Le Moulin de le Galetta.” After spending so much time with this painting, is it any wonder why Renoir is one of my favorite artists, and why I like people present in my paintings?

Renoir's life (1841-1919) was not always easy. There were times when he didn’t have enough money for paints (I can relate). What he did have was a hunger to paint, an appreciation for beauty, and a love affair with life. He celebrated beauty wherever he found it. He especially loved to paint feminine sensuality.

He used vibrant light and saturated color. He enjoyed focusing on people in intimate or candid moments of their lives. After his marriage, many of his paintings focused on his wife and children.

With his friend Claude Monet (another favorite of mine), he painted plien air near his home (1860s). As they painted light and water, they discovered that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them. Today that effect is known as “diffuse reflection.”

I love Renoir because his paintings always seem to be in motion. They are always about activity and vibrant life. Even when there are no people about, he paints the leaves quaking in the wind or the streams gurgling and bubbling as they tumble over meadowland. He was a “tender and sensitive” artist who painted not only what he saw, but what he felt.

He shifted focus and style during his lifetime, and I’m doing the same thing. I’m putting more drama, story, and energy into my paintings. Like Renoir, I find people to be the most interesting creation of all.

Favorite Artist No Three Georgia OKeeffe

July 31st, 2011

Favorite Artist No Three Georgia OKeeffe

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (09/15/1847 – 03/06/1986), a feminist in her day; considered a “modernist” by some, and most certainly an original. One of the few artists whose career was celebrated before her death at age 98 in 1986.

Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin where she experienced the flamboyance of nature firsthand, she chose to represent nature as an insect might observe it in gigantic proportions. As a self-made naturalist, she liked to examine the intricate parts of nature responsible for life, for attracting insects, and where the color and detail were centered.

Later she dissected these parts into rainbow colored splashes of paint in curving, sweeping gestures. These abstracts drew as much attention as her floral paintings.

At the height of her popularity, O’Keeffe moved to Northern New Mexico and claimed the American Southwest as her home. This part of the nation has become known as “O’Keeffe Country.”

The sights in and around the Southwest were seen on her palette: the reds and browns of the desert, the blockie shapes of the rocks and hills, the adobe churches, the flora and fauna of the desert floor. Nothing missed her gaze. And everything she painted drew attention from art critics and an adoring public who appreciated the simple things she celebrated.

It is obvious her artwork had an influence on me. From my “Flash dance,” the orange hibiscus turning and burning in the sun, to the giant yellow flower “Hibiscus Glory,” the focus is always on the center of life and energy.

O’Keeffe well deserved the accolades she received. Some day I may try an abstract piece. Who knows, it may reflect her influence? Stay tuned!

Second Favorite Artist Jean Honore Fragonard

July 28th, 2011

Second Favorite Artist Jean Honore Fragonard

French Artist Jean-Honore’ Fragonard (1732-1806) is best known for his painting: "A Young Girl Reading." Although this painting is part of the “Rococo” period, it is anything but frivolous. The young girl is enraptured by her book. She has a serious look on her face. Her mind is soaring with vivid scenes of her own imagining.

True to its Rococo roots, the rest of the painting is flamboyant and colorful. The painterly ruffles on the dress, the folds in the gown and pillow are expertly done. It is obvious that Fragonard enjoyed painting them with curved gracefulness, elegance, and flourish.

According to once source” in “Young Girl Reading” Fragonard depicts a young woman on the brink of leaving behind quiet domesticity for an exciting life outside her walls; a life which she only imagines and knows through books.”

Another painting of a young girl reading illustrates this same kind of energy and promise. Many of his paintings seem to capture the feminine spirit and its yearnings. He seems fascinated by feminity itself and the power of “feminine wiles.”

Women during this time period had few choices open to them. They were expected to marry young, bear children, and spend their time in service to their families. For a brief period of time, the affluent were able to study or travel until the time that they entered into an “arranged” marriage.

Each painting tells a story. Fragonard’s sets up a narrative, and we are drawn into the story he depicts; our mind tries to fill in the blanks. This is exactly what all successful paintings do.

My Favorite Artists

July 25th, 2011

My Favorite Artists

Someone remarked that some of my paintings reminded them of Mary Cassatt, the renowned painter (1844-1926). I was flattered, of course, but I have to say she’s probably one of my all time favorite artists. Our styles are different, but she influenced my work. In my second blog @ http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com I compare some of my paintings with hers (a daring risk)!

Our personalities certainly have many things in common: Cassatt was feisty, independent, restless, and determined. She was impatient with conventional teaching and accepted styles (I’m always bucking the system and the traditions). She formed her own opinions and kept her eye out for fresh opportunities; always receptive to new approaches. These attitudes brought her opposition and struggle for recognition from the “art establishment.”

Cassatt was more inclined to paint women and children than men. Degas was one of her favorite artists and he inspired her (as he does me). She wrote of him:

“How well I remember nearly 40 years ago, seeing for the first time Degas’ pastels in the window of a picture dealer on the Boulevard Haussmann. I used to go and flatten my nose against the window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.”

Cassatt grew as an artist and began making on-the-spot sketches and studies which gave her finished oil paintings the same spontaneity as the quick sketches done in pastel and drypoint. She had a freedom of color and brush stroke that added energy to her artwork, but she was always careful with detail where it mattered most.

Her endearing and enduring portraits drew me in and inspired my own paintings. I’ve discovered that without people, my landscapes seem hollow and empty. People give life to life. They are the reason for nature itself. I’m at my best when a painting includes people, even if the painting’s message is one of saddness or darkness.

Chinese Fortune Cookies May Send Bad Habits on the Run

July 22nd, 2011

Chinese Fortune Cookies May Send Bad Habits on the Run

I wish I’d collected all the fortunes I’ve gleaned from my Chinese cookies over the years. There’s a lot of good wisdom in those crunchy sweets. My latest: “It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.”

How often we are “caught with the same “bait” by repeating our mistakes over and over again. We blame our behavior on “force of habit.” It’s hard to undo bad habits and replace them with good ones, but it’s not impossible.

According to experts, it takes about three weeks (or a month) to break an old habit and develop a new one. That’s 30 days, seven days a week, 24 hours a day to stop doing something you’d really like not to do like eating too much, wasting time, indulging in entertainment that pulls you down spiritually, etc.

Water follows the course of least resistance. I think that’s how we get trapped in the first place. We take the easy way out, the shortcut, and pretty soon a bad habit is entrenched in our behavior. How can we shake ourselves up and be open to try new ways of doing things?

Reverse course. When you begin with the thought that prompts a negative or careless behavior, do an “about face” and start something different; even if it means going for a walk, making a telephone call, or doing something uncharacteristic like eating an apple instead of that chocolate bar.

Before you know it, one thought leads to another, and you break the bad habit of “stalling” and “killing time.” That’s exactly how this blog was written.

Does This Hat Make me Look Fat

July 14th, 2011

Does This Hat Make me Look Fat

This is a drawing of my granddaughter on her first birthday. I gave her a pink ruffled bonnet, and she spent the next few minutes trying to get it off. I did manage a few photos before she succeeded. I followed this drawing up with an oil painting, but failed to take a photo of it before it got away from me.

“It takes money to make money.” You’ve probably heard this saying all of your life, and it’s true; even in the blogosphere. To get your blog noticed, you sometimes have to join a site and pay for more publicity. To get your art noticed, you have to enter contests, join web sites, and definitely paint something unique and different.

Canvases cost, paint costs, and all the mediums and additives that create beauty are going up in cost. As artists, we’re also competing with reproductions, and warehouse artwork where a photographic print is spruced up with some dashes of oil paint to give it the illlusion of an original oil painting. The cost: $45 to $75 compared to an original work of art anywhere from $300 to $1,000. Given this economy, which would you buy?

Still it’s in our bones, our guts. To stop painting would be to deny that “high” we get when paint flows, artistic vision meets reality and magic happens. This rush of passion and emotion is what keeps an artist painting even when demand is dried up. If we’re lucky, someone will like what we do. We may win a juried contest. A collector may see our potential and the money reverses from outlay to income.

In the meantime, we stack our paintings in closets, under beds, in a few stores and hotels who will have us and hope for the best. If we sell a few prints or cards, we feel lucky.

Picking the Bones and Other Superstitions

July 8th, 2011

Picking the Bones and Other Superstitions

From the time that crows started picking the bones of dead people during the “black plague,” both crows and ravens have been the brunt of superstition and fear. Labeled “harbingers of death,” “bringers of doom,” and “murderers,” crows have never outlived their bad reputations.

In mythology and folklore, crows are said to carry off the spirits of those who are dieing or are near death. This belief called out to me when I saw this struggling street urchin from India. Was he near death? Had he been too long without food? The possibility of a painting began to emerge.

I did some research. In India, crows are considered “messengers of death” Where they are called “house crows.” Unlike their cousins in the U.S., they have gray feathers on the scruff of their necks and underbellies. House crows are gregarious, unafraid of humans, and dependent on human habitation.

An American citizen, who rented an apartment in India, moved a screeching nest of crows from his front porch to a nearby tree. Each time he left his apartment, the angry crows bombarded him with pecks and squawks. After a few months, he moved back to the States and didn’t return to the apartment until a year later.

The crows still remembered him and squawked and bombarded him whenever they got the chance. Crows are an intelligent bird and can recognize individual human faces and remember them even after a year’s time. I doubt any of us could remember an individual crow’s identity.

Hindu scripture mentions crows as descendants of evil spirits and demons (believed to come from Kakasure, a demon in the body of a crow.) They are still considered a negative omen.

I wanted to use the crow as a symbol of death in my painting of the young street urchin. I titled this painting “The Lost.”

There are thousands of homeless children roaming the streets of India. Diseased and showing signs of starvation, they are often abused, kidnapped or used in the sex trade. God bless each and every one of them.

Love at First Sight

July 5th, 2011

Love at First Sight

I fell in love with paper somewhere between third and sixth grades. I remember the excitement of making that first mark on a white sheet and wondering where it was going to take me, either to capture a vision I saw in my head, or to write a few words hidden within my heart. It was magic!

My first visit to a public library was love at first smell. There is nothing like the fragrance of books, paper and binding material to draw the creative muse from the shadows. I literally sat at a table and sniffed the pages as I read my way through several children's books. A kind, and rather concerned librarian assisted me in getting my first library card. It was heaven!

But aside from "The Bobbsey Twins," "Nancy Drew," and "The Five Little Peppers," it was eighth grade before I read a real novel: "Les Miserable’s." From there I discovered the classics and the great artists in history. I lugged stacks of books home from the library each week, and I snubbed my nose at the coloring books mother purchased, requesting, instead, clean white paper.

I still like the smell of paper, and tremble with anxiety before each blank page or canvas. It's all about discovery; learning about yourself, and exploring the world around you. Using simple tools like pencils and pens, brushes and paint, paper and canvas, you can change lives. Heck, you can change the world!

Through the Eyes of God

July 3rd, 2011

An incredible look at a young artist who at four years of age, still remembered being with God. She has been painting him ever since.

Things Every Artist Needs to Know

June 23rd, 2011

Things Every Artist Needs to Know

Painting is a process. We perfect our skill as we practice our craft: mixing colors, choosing the right brush, understanding the principles of drawing and composition, etc.

Here are some important things I’ve learned along the way:

Never put your coffee cup beside your turpenoid jar.

Don’t correct a small flaw in a painting before going out for the evening. A flaw turns into a major change, into an overhaul.

Don’t participate in an art show on a windy day. A damp oil painting attracts a lot of dust and gravel when the wind blows. Choose your infrastructure wisely: an easel turns into a toothpick under stress; even an expensive frame cracks and splinters when it hits the pavement.

If you’re into impressionism and paint outdoors (plein air), where you sit matters! If in a field or meadow avoid the cowpies, the fire ants, the clusters of burdock. Trees make wonderful shade, but they also house a menagerie of problems. (use your imagination!)

There’s always a price to be paid for success. When you spend more time on your craft:
The house gets cleaned less
Meals are less appetizing and more frugal
You go out to dinner more and entertain less
Your closets are filled with painting supplies
Finished paintings are stacked in boxes under your bed
You have more painting clothes than regular clothes
Your friends tend to be artists
Your husband or significant other is becoming impatient
You wish you had more time, but you don’t

And so it goes……..

Summer is a Time to Explore

June 20th, 2011

Summer is a Time to Explore

I recently attended a Twins baseball game in their new stadium. It was amazing! Right in the heart of Minneapolis, this huge stadium of bright green turf nestles between tall skyscrapers and towering glass.

We had dinner at the Lion’s Pub, and afterward walked the short distance to the game. The entrance to the stadium is an extension of the sidewalks that merge at the site. Lovely baseball statuary marks the pathway which takes your breath away as you enter and see the baseball diamond below.

This experience brought back treasured memories of other vacations that continue to bring me pleasure when I remember. One summer, our family camped and hiked in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado and had some unforgettable experiences.

Hiking under the speckled shade of aspen and pine, we stumbled across an old abandoned mine. We warned the children to stay away from certain areas as we explored the surrounding terrain. The ground cover spread out before us like a tangled carpet of green. When we got closer, the vines revealed ripe red strawberries growing wildly in the underbrush.

We munched their sweetness until we were full. Their abundance surprised us, and we kept picking until we had filled a straw hat with our bounty. The next morning, I made strawberry jam for our pancakes. Our excursion was a lesson in survival for our children and a revelation of God’s plentiful goodness.

The next day we traveled southward on a dirt road that would eventually connect to a main artery leading into Utah’s southern parks. Again nature revealed her bounty to us. We discovered blueberries creeping over the hillsides on either side of the road. We stopped to enjoy a few, and ended up filling a pail with enough berries for blueberry syrup the next morning. It was great fun. I felt like a pioneer woman, braving the elements and the wild; depending upon God’s grace for food.

On another camping trip, I’d forgotten my skillet. When it came time to make breakfast, I learned how to improvise. After our fire had burned into coals, we placed a large, smooth river rock on the embers. When the rock was hot, a piece of aluminum foil was laid on top. I fried bacon, eggs, and pancakes on the hot foil. I felt like an Amazon woman, strong and capable. After fighting the rain, digging ditches to divert its path away from our tent, I could handle anything! No city girl here.

Have a good summer everyone! Make memories! And don’t be afraid to explore and experience the beautiful world we live in.

Summer is Upon Us

June 11th, 2011

Summer is Upon Us

BLURB BOOK PREVIEW










And yes, I have a plan. During the summer months, I try to do more plein air sketching and painting. I try to sharpen my drawing skills, and sometimes I make plans to illustrate a book. Two summers ago, I wrote and illustrated “Inez Ibis Flies Again, the Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up.” I published it independently through Blurb, and also created an e-book through Smashwords, but it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped.

Unfortunately, thoughts of summer make me feel lazy. I remember as a kid spending hours making hollyhock dolls. My friend and I chose the most perfect flowers we could find. Turned upside down ithey looked like a dancer’s skirts. The small green stubs that secured the petals became heads. Sometimes we’d cap a petal on top securing it with a toothpick. Another toothpick became the arms sticking out just below the head. We made several, and played for hours with our dancing, twirling, array of dolls.

Hollyhocks also make wonderful honey bee traps. My friends and I would wait for a bee “heavy with nectar and slow to fly” and trap him within his polleny den. We could feel the angry vibrations of his wings against our fingertips. Once we had dropped our flowered trap into a glass jar and popped on the lid, we felt brave and ready to try again. When we grew tired of this game, we opened the jar and watched the bees fly to freedom. Children can spend hours doing this, unless, of course, they’re allergic to bee venom.

People seldom grow Hollyhocks anymore. They’re considered “old fashioned.” I tried it a few summers back in memorium. It was a disaster. Hollyhocks are disease and insect prone, and somehow the memory of their beauty was flawed by the vermin crawling on them. They are still lovely at a distance.

And yes, I have a plan. During the summer months, I try to do more plein air sketching and painting. I try to sharpen my drawing skills, and sometimes I make plans to illustrate a book. Two summers ago, I wrote and illustrated “Inez Ibis Flies Again, the Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up.” I published it independently through Blurb, and also created an e-book through Smashwords, but it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped.

Unfortunately, thoughts of summer make me feel lazy. I remember as a kid spending hours making hollyhock dolls. My friend and I chose the most perfect flowers we could find. Turned upside down ithey looked like a dancer’s skirts. The small green stubs that secured the petals became heads. Sometimes we’d cap a petal on top securing it with a toothpick. Another toothpick became the arms sticking out just below the head. We made several, and played for hours with our dancing, twirling, array of dolls.

Hollyhocks also make wonderful honey bee traps. My friends and I would wait for a bee “heavy with nectar and slow to fly” and trap him within his polleny den. We could feel the angry vibrations of his wings against our fingertips. Once we had dropped our flowered trap into a glass jar and popped on the lid, we felt brave and ready to try again. When we grew tired of this game, we opened the jar and watched the bees fly to freedom. Children can spend hours doing this, unless, of course, they’re allergic to bee venom.

People seldom grow Hollyhocks anymore. They’re considered “old fashioned.” I tried it a few summers back in memorium. It was a disaster. Hollyhocks are disease and insect prone, and somehow the memory of their beauty was flawed by the vermin crawling on them. They are still lovely at a distance.

New Painting BROKEN

June 6th, 2011

New Painting BROKEN

Have you noticed that tragedy either brings out the worst in people or the best? Our nation, in fact the world, has experienced one tragedy after another these past two years: floods, fires, tsunamis, earth quakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, cancelled plane reservations, power outages, lack of food and water, you name it!

And what has come out of this pain and suffering? Goodness; the strength of human character, the kindness of one person helping another, the humbleness of unspoken prayers and those coming from the heart.

I’ve long wanted to capture these faces and feelings in a painting. I wanted to do something different; somewhat experimental. I didn’t know if it would work as I expected. I wanted to capture the pain and suffering on the faces of victims who have suffered pain, endured loss, and who feel broken and lost by their experiences.

Every day we hear stories of crimes, of evil actions with disastrous results. We wonder if there is any good in the world. And then disasters of great magnitude come along and the plain and simple people of the earth are lifted to the forefront. Their goodness inspires us and reminds us that basically, most people are good.

We suffer with them. We cheer them on and admire their courage. They become role models in a world where what is taunted and exposed is fame, fortune, glamour, and evil. Our faith in God and in humanity is strengthened as we watch from our safe untouched living rooms. Some of us will pray for the victims; others will donate money and time. Still others will physically leave the safety of what is familiar to lend a helping hand. The best in us comes to the surface, and “all’s right with the world,” once again.

Welcome to all Newcomers and Old Friends

May 31st, 2011

I'd like to share my new works with you:


Art Prints

What Do I have to Offer

May 29th, 2011

What Do I have to Offer

Every person asks themselves the question: "What do I Have to Offer?" at one time or another. We compare ourselves to the competition and wonder if we’re up to the task. Oftentimes, we allow fear to essentially blow us away. We give up. We quit. We turn our backs on our God-given talent and let the pressures of life interfere with our dreams.

Kathy Davis a well known artist of greeting cards once said that her own self-doubt almost derailed her. A former art teacher with big dreams of designing greeting cards, she’s now one of the biggest names in the business, according to the Ladies’ Home Journal.

“There’s always someone better than you,” Kathy says. “At some point, you just have to say, ‘That’s OK, I still have something to offer.’”

Ain’t it the truth! Like you, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the talented artists our there. But we can’t let that stop us from throwing our own hat into the ring. Each person has a unique vision of life and the environment. We see things through our own perceptions and experiences. I may not have as much education or experience as someone else, but I may be able to add a new twist or variation on the tried and true methods of the past that will make me stand out. Why not?

An old friend’s mother took up skiing in her sixties. “I looked at everyone else on that slope,” she said, “and I thought, if they can do it – why not me!” Indeed!

You are as good as anyone else, and you have your own special flare. Why not you or me? If we have the will and the desire, we can make it happen. Dreams give us hope. Hope drives our purpose. Faith in God and in ourselves makes it all possible. Believe!

The Patterns of our Lives

May 19th, 2011

The Patterns of our Lives

Designers and artists are constantly looking for new patterns, shapes, and textures. Some search for patterns already created in hopes of adding a new twist or variation. The local fabric store is one place to look for these designs. Fabrics and textiles are replete with dizzying dots, chunky checks, and sizzling swirls. An artist friend of mine creates beautiful paintings based on these designs or the ideas they produce.

Others look to nature for inspiration. Studying the patterns and variations in nature is vital, especially for painters of realism. Every plant, every tree has a specific design, color and texture. Insects, fish and animal life have stunning differences; their markings, shapes, and colors provide a wide array of patterns and designs. The bark of a southern pine, for instance, is red and rough. The bark of a gumbo limbo is smooth. Leaves vary in size, shape, and color. Nature can provide an endless supply of inspiration for an observant artist.

Even the patterns in our own lives can be a source of inspiration: the everyday traditions that link the past with the present; the habits that form patterns of routines; the way we communicate with each other or show affection; the interactions with others; our sacred and ceremonial celebrations. All of these form patterns that not only make wonderful memories, but may form the basis of a beautiful painting.

Study and observation can arouse our senses and open up a whole new world of possibilities. Notice the differences in grains of wood from one type to another: maple vs. walnut, cherry vs. oak. Try to identify different species of butterflies and moths. Experiment with trying to mimic their color and design. Count the number of petals in a flower, a daisy, a hibiscus, a lily, etc. Take a moment to study each stamens size and shape and the patterns at the center. Be observant!

If you’re a portrait artist, watch what happens when someone smiles. Where are the crinkles, the dimples, the creases around the eyes and nose? See how different everyone’s ears are, but yet similar in structure. Notice how emotion changes the lines of a face. See how light and shadow can play up these emotions or make someone appear serious.

Capture those observed patterns on canvas in your own unique way and each painting will tell a unique story. The secret is to pull the viewer in with a “why?” a “what if?” an “I wonder?” or a “wow.”

Painting the Moody Blues

May 13th, 2011

Painting the Moody Blues

The model for my new painting has a delightful personality and more moods than “Carter has pills.” (Boy does that date me!) I’ve used her before, and hope that her mother, and grandmother, will allow me to paint this wonderful child again.

When I saw a bored photo of her, I knew I wanted to capture her moody countenance on canvas. Cool colors like blue, purple, and gray can capture this mood. I knew that contrasting warm colors, especially complementary colors, would heighten tension and interest.

As we all know, if you wait until you’re in the mood to start something, you probably won’t. If your performance depends on mood alone, then your skill and preparation mean nothing.

Discipline requires an artist or any professional to keep going regardless of how you feel. Performance requires self-confidence and faith in yourself. If you make yourself “go through the motions,” even when you don’t feel like it, your “e-motions” will soon catch up. It’s hard to maintain a negative mood when your body is moving, and your blood is flowing.

When life gets rough (and it usually does), I simply put one foot in front of the other and keep going until the chaos, the trauma, the problem or mood passes. The familiarity of the brush, the sweep of colorful paint on canvas pulls me from my slump and into the world of imagination.

Trust in yourself and in your God or higher power. Trust builds strength. Strength overcomes weakness. The present weight that darkens your spirit will fade like clouds on a summer day. The sunshine in your soul will shine again.

Old Photographs, Instant Replay

May 1st, 2011

Old Photographs, Instant Replay

Surrounded by old photographs, my past envelops me with a sudden rush of remembrance. Here we are family and friends captured in a brief, fleeting moment singled out from the countless hours, days, and weeks that make up our lives.

How happy we look smiling for the camera. How hopeful for the future as we pose here together, frozen for eternity in a fraction of a second and the flash of a camera. One click and an infinitesimal moment is recorded for posterity. Tomorrow’s pain and unfulfilled promises are unforseen, unanticipated.

Photographs are given far more importance than they deserve. We use them to document our lives; perhaps even to define us. Then when relationships crumble and children move on into adulthood with their own lives and preoccupations, the frozen images smile back mocking the reality of what is now – what is today.

The life we once had -- was it dream or illusion? Who are these people smiling at us now – these people caught in a millisecond of time?

Photographs wear with age, their brightness fades and their corners become tattered and yellowed; but the images continue to smile at us as they did long ago when the shutter closed and captured one shared smile, one shared space, one microcosmic second in a lifetime.

We have all changed since those first pictures were taken. We are older, and perhaps wiser. Photographs provide proof that we have lived, but they can never tell others who we really are. Photographs are, after all, only superficial shards of the life we leave behind.

Playing Dress Up

April 25th, 2011

Playing Dress Up

The girl in the painting could have been me as a child. I brought home stray cats as fast as my mother could tastefully get rid of them. But some of them, she let me keep.

Stray cats are a ravenous bunch. They crave both food and affection. I adored lavishing them with both. Their dependence on my goodness gave me an omnipotent power over their well being. Their growing dependence gave way to my every whim.

I preened them as a parent would wiping their noses and brushing their fur. They obediently submitted when I dressed them in doll clothes, covered them with blankets, and gave them rides in my doll buggy. Of course, I wanted to dress the part so my mother’s old blouses and hats fit the bill. If mother were in a good mood, jewelry and high heels were added to the mix. I clomped around the house in seventh heaven.

Not wanting my own dolls and stuffed toys to feel neglected, I made a chart and a schedule so that each one had a turn snuggling in my arms at bedtime. It took a whole month to get through that list. I was devoted to “my brood”.

This painting is a tribute to those lost memories, to childhood, to wild imagination and lost innocence. Throughout my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com, preliminary sketches show stages of my progress. A painting is a succession of changes and refinement; a process, if you will.

The finished painting is now on my online gallery where prints, giclees, and greeting cards may be purchased: http://carol-allen-anfinsen.artistwebsites.com

Please share your childhood dreams or experiences in the comments section. Thanks!

Running on Empty

April 17th, 2011

Running on Empty

Every now and then, we all run into a wall, either of our own making or because of circumstances: health and time constraints, personal obstacles, an awareness that we need something; a jumpstart, a class, some inspiration.

I have reached that point. My tail has been dragging and I don’t even feel like creating, let alone blogging. The weather is largely to blame. This time of year tourists and spring breakers flood the area with teeny bikinis and exhaust fumes escaping from cold winter doldrums of their own.

But this year, instead of our usual mild temperatures, the tourists were slammed with a blast of summer heat and humidity. The beachgoers are loving it; but by afternoon, I’m feeling like last year’s petunias. If this is a foreshadowing of summer’s tropical onslaught, I’m in trouble along with the other “locals” who are drousy and disoriented by the early heat and the sudden temperature changes. We went from comfortable lows and highs in the sixties to highs in the 90s with 75% humidity in a matter of days!

The effect is an uptick in sweat and heat exhaustion, and a downturn in energy level. I seem to be sleeping longer and accomplishing less. To fill in the gaps while I regain my stamina, I did some quick, silly Easter sketches. I find humor helps dissipate the doom and gloom. I can only post one here.

If you haven’t visited my art website http://carol-allen-anfinsen.artistwebsites.com, you may find my illustrations entertaining. They were prepared for the book “Inez Ibis Flies Again, the Story of a Courageous Ibis who never Gave Up.” You can click on the book icon in the right hand column of my other blog for a free preview. http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com

Random Thoughts, Tidbits and Truisms

April 12th, 2011

Random Thoughts, Tidbits and Truisms

Life is made up of small bits of knowledge, built up over time; increments of learning that cling together and form a picture, a memory, a smattering of trivia and truth.

Where does this knowledge come from? Everywhere! Yesterday, I was taking my walk and there on the sidewalk was a crawdad, miles away from the nearest pond, struggling along on the dry pavement. On closer inspection, the poor crustacean had only one front claw. The right one had been torn off.

Like a detective, I formed a scenario in my mind: the crawdad had likely been picked up at the pond by a feeding ibis or egret and carried to a waiting nest. In transport, the struggling crawdad had literally escaped and lost a claw in the process. Sadly, being miles from any water, he’ll probably die looking for his “home sweet home.”

Speaking of which, we have two martin houses in our neighborhood. As soon as March 1st rolls around, they appear and stay for almost three months. I’ve heard it’s difficult to attract them. My two neighbors seem to be pros at it. But tell me, if you could choose between a dingy motel with last year’s leavings or a clean room in a luxury suite, which one would you choose? There’s no such thing as a dumb bird!

Somewhere I read that “drones make more noise and are more in a hurry than the bees, but they make no honey.” I’ve known people like that. They scurry around, bark and bluster at everyone they meet, and when they’re finished you can’t see the results of their presence nor what they’ve accomplished. It’s called “Seagull Management.”

I read the other day that a town in Ohio is changing their annual Easter egg hunt to a spring egg hunt because they don’t want to be exclusive or offend anyone. If we continue down this road, pretty soon we won’t recognize any holidays or religious celebrations at all. What we’re doing is cutting off the roots that give human beings a sense of history and personal identity. We’re cheating them out of their cultural and religious traditions.

Remember Alex Hayley’s epic “Roots?” We all need them. Without roots we become lost in a maze of merging cultures, man-made religions, and changing values. We lose our identity and the things that make us unique. Instead of thinking on our own, we adopt “group think” and the values of others. We become puppets, manipulated by the whim of those in charge.

And now back to art. I read a couple of my old “tweets,” and thought they were quite revealing:

“A blank canvas dares the artist to defile its virgin face. One brush stroke unleashes a vision of intensity that doesn’t stop until the artist’s passion is vanquished.”

“It is a ritual, painting; a dance in the mind of an artist that ends only when the visual statement comes to fruition on canvas.”

And so life goes . . .

Do You Tie Yourself in Knots

April 2nd, 2011

Do You Tie Yourself in Knots

I do it all the time. I stress over a project or painting and feel I’m not up to the task. Before I know it, I’ve tied myself into a bundle of nervous insecurity.

Oh, I know the drill. I’ve read all the self-help books, spouted the mantras and prayers, and given myself the countless pep talks geared to pull you from a tail spin. But I’m also an expert on dismissing them.

Take my latest painting on the left; a "work in progress." It's of a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s clothes. I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. I had so much going on in my mind that I wanted to do with the painting that I became overwhelmed with the details. So I took it to my art league last week; truly feeling inadequate for the job.

Thanks to a team of like-minded artists who gave me a pep talk and an intellectual kick in the butt, I regained the necessary “spunk,” if you will, to continue this enormous task.

One of my favorite artists on facebook is Suzi Kahler of “It’s all in the details.” She thrives on painting and detailing even the smallest items. When she’s finished, her paintings never look too busy because she skillfully weaves every detail into her plan. Aha! My first clue: taking time to relax, reassess and plan.

Sometimes pressures of time and urgency drive us into forging ahead when we’re not ready. A painting is like fine wine. It needs to age and mellow for awhile in our mind’s eye before we can see our image clearly enough to define it on canvas.

I’m not knocking “going with the flow” and the feeling of the moment. But before that happens, we need to have a sense of what it is we want to accomplish. Sure it’s vital to open ourselves up to surprises and inspiration, but we must stay grounded in the things we’ve already learned. Knowledge and experience are the foundation that allow your brush and your imagination to soar.

So next time you tie yourself in unrealistic knots. Step back and re-evaluate where you’ve been and what you’ve achieved before pressing forward. You might be surprised at the end result!

If I Could Put Time in a Bottle

March 29th, 2011

If I Could Put Time in a Bottle

We’d all like to capture time and dispense it when and where we choose. As the song says: “There never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do…”

I live in Florida. What that means, especially in “season,” is that overnight guests are part of our lives from Jan. through April. The current economy and gas prices have made this season an exception; none-the-less, when it happens, I must hide, store, and box my art supplies and painting messes for the duration.

Of course, this makes preparing for my blog a real challenge. I can’t have wet paintings lying around. My art room is turned back into a guest bedroom. The kitchen table has been cleared off for actual meals. The dining room table where I perform my photo shoots with tripod is cleared off. My comfy T.V. lounging spot is devoid of crossword puzzles, notebooks, magazines, and the Kindle I use to read books during commercials.

If I sound like a pig, I apologize. I happen to be one of those people who likes to keep everything nearby so I can nail down ideas before they get away. I can’t function with an organized desk top or everything in its place. I’ve tried that. The result was an inability to stay on task or remember what I was into. When I needed something, I couldn’t recall where I put it, let alone find it!

I call my “stuff” organized clutter. It helps me stay focused, and keeps me productive with all my wheels in gear, even when I’m resting. I’d like to strangle time, if I could, especially when it gets away from me. I want to shove the time genie’s engorged head back into its bottle until I’m good and ready to end my day.

But when all is said and done, we spend time doing the things we love, the things we must, and the things we feel we should do. If we’re able to produce a magnificent painting or a best-selling novel in between, it’s a miracle.

If we’ve cheered someone up, helped a fellow human being, or created strong family ties along the way our priorities are in place. Who can ask for more?

Religion in Art and Why it Endures

March 22nd, 2011

Religion in Art and Why it Endures

I recently read two disparate articles on the subject of religion and art. One author said the only reason religion became part of art history is because it was forced upon artists by the Popes and Kings of former generations in order to decorate their cathedrals and sanctuaries. He contended that Leonardo De Vinci, Michael Angelo and others would have painted other subjects if it were not for the money and the power of the ruling class at the time.

The author went on to say that if religion were such a driving force in the world, why don’t we see it in cave drawings of ancient times? Because cave men, he said, used art in a practical way: as communication to record what they saw and felt, to indicate danger, the cycles of the seasons, and the experiences and movements of their nomadic society.

Although, this may be true to a point, others contend that emotions such as joy, beauty, and hope are also recorded on cave walls, and comprise people’s spiritual hunger and nature. The second author believes this to be true. He links anything of beauty and inspiration to the fabric of a communities’ religious and spiritual life as expressed through art. The first author is obviously a skeptic or unbeliever, the second a believer; which illustrates once again that religion and art are subjective, and that there is truth in both points of view.

I have never painted a religious scene, or so I thought; but by the second author’s definition, several of my colorful and joyful paintings probably express my deep spiritual roots even though there are no iconic or obvious religious symbols. This may be the year to change all that.

I’ve noticed that religious art seems to sell well and at a steady pace. With Easter coming, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. The obvious starting point for me is the Easter Lily. I’ve always loved their white symbolic purity. Why not?

The last time I had an Easter lily in my house, its overpowering perfume made my allergies flare into a rage. I finally had to place the plant outside, but not before snapping some wonderful photos. I’ve wanted to paint a lily ever since. This may be the year of the lily. Today, I share an Easter painting: "He Lives."

WildLife--How to Tame it on Canvas

March 16th, 2011

WildLife--How to Tame it on Canvas

Most of my wildlife paintings and drawings come from real-life scenes I’ve photographed. I usually make a quick sketch or a more developed one before I incorporate it into a painting. I also study the birds and wildlife and get more information online about their living habits and behaviors.

I’ve seen some people plop a bird or the hint of an animal into a scene as an afterthought, and sometimes it either looks out of place or out of proportion. I heard one artist comment that a former instructor told her that people in the distance of a painting could be made lifelike by turning their torsos into small carrots. Sounds like a winning idea since too much detail brings the figures closer. The focus of people or wildlife should be on the outward shape not the details, depending on where they are placed on the canvas.

I try to get photos that cover a particular animal’s seasonal colors, feathers or fur. It adds to the realism. If you’re going to feature a heron or egret in spring, then you’d better add the extra feathers and plumes of the mating season. In fall and winter, backdrops would be more drab, the plumage or fur more ordinary.

Unless the artist is doing an edgy or unconventional piece, placing a bird or animal in its natural environment is vital. Research and personal experience is the key. Taking an animal and putting it into the wrong environment or background is like painting a fish out of water. Again, there’s a time and a place, depending on the purpose of your painting. Abstracts, whimsy, or fantasy is a whole different subject.

Practice, practice, practice makes perfect! Sketching and drawing frequently makes you aware of the subtle nuances that create character and believabilty. It’s a lifelong habit that enriches credibility, and keeps your paintings and drawings fresh and alive. Even drawing and sketching caricatures is not only fun, but it can help you define all the details that make an animal unique.

The drawings and illustrations in my blog are good examples of how I use all of these principles in creating a painting.

Take Heart in Simple Pleasures

March 12th, 2011

Take Heart in Simple Pleasures

We can’t change the world, but it will change us if we let it. The turmoil and chaos can and will affect us; so people, beware!

It’s difficult to remain calm when everything around us is changing, and around the globe the grip of panic and turbulence is everywhere. The only thing we can do is forge ahead; our dreams and our life purpose intact.

What creative minds have to offer is exactly what the world needs now. There may be no market, and our financial returns may be small, but there is a void in the world that must be filled with beauty, curiosity, happiness and thoughtful insight.

Sometimes I think we (meaning me) watch too much news. According to newscasters, society in general seems ready to crash and burn. Daily routines can stabilize our momentum and give us quiet place to rest. This morning on my walk the mating and nesting birds were exultant. The air was filled with song. New blades of grass were filling in winter’s bare spots with brilliant greens.

I stopped to watch a Cyprus nursery where several herons watched over their nests. Two small beaks lifted from one nest and small wings began to flap. Soon they would be fluttering from branch to branch learning how to fly before leaving home.

In the pond, I counted seven “fish nests” in the shallow waters. Over each nest, a fish swiveled its silver body back and forth to ward off other fish and prey until her spawn emerge. All was peaceful on the home front. “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world,” I thought. Whatever happens on the news, around the world, or even next door, cannot change this “inner” peace. We can – we must find solace in simple pleasures.

What Holds Us Back Fear of Failure or Success

March 3rd, 2011

What Holds Us Back Fear of Failure or Success

A fellow artist told the story of a friend who at 19 years of age won an art competition. The judges and her mentors raved about her work and suggested that she continue in this field. They encouraged her to push herself a little further and delve into the possibilities of a career as an illustrator.

Sadly, from that day forward, the young woman never picked up a brush again. If she were going to fail, she preferred to fail sooner than later and on her own terms. Now at the age of 62, she wonders what she may have missed. She’s considering taking some art classes just to find out.

Was she really afraid of failure or was it success that had her on the run? Sometimes the work and effort to succeed is the real issue that people grapple with. Perhaps her fear of success was greater than her fear of failure? Perhaps she doubted her own ability to succeed or to produce consistently?

We all experience these feelings every time we put brush to canvas. At my first art show, my worst fear was that I might make a fool of myself; that my inexperience and lack of knowledge would shine through to the experts and make me out a fool. After berating myself for negative thinking, I uttered a brief prayer. Afterward I thought: “Try it! You might be surprised. What have you got to lose?” I sold a painting to two Norwegian tourists within the first 30 minutes of that show, and I’ve never looked back.

The worst thing an artist, a writer, or any professional can do is hammer or belittle him or herself. The world will criticize our efforts enough without us adding to the chatter. We must listen to the beating drum of our own dreams and aspirations. We must take the roll of “cheerleader” and “coach” not brow beater and skeptic.

We must never fear success. Failing is a small price to pay for knowing we have at least tried. The real tragedy is always wondering what we could have been; could have achieved if only we hadn’t quit or given up.

Leap of Faith

February 27th, 2011

Leap of Faith

Here is the painting revamped. See earlier blog titled: "Reincarnation--a Painting Reborn." I moved the egret to the left, covered up the egret that was placed in the middle (error in composition), and brightened up the color temperature. I hope you like the change!

A Painting Recreated

February 27th, 2011

A Painting Recreated

In a previous blog, I showed you a painting that I was less than satisfied with. Looking back, I probably should have moved the egret to the left and quit; but once you begin brushing paint on -- it's no holes barred. For better or worse, here is my revamped painting called: "A Leap of Faith"

Reincarnation -- a Painting Reborn

February 23rd, 2011

Reincarnation -- a Painting Reborn

Painting is a process not a destination. You have a plan, a vision, but the creative mind and hard work either make a mess or magic; if a mess, an opportunity to create something else as equally beautiful.

An FAA artist recently sold a painting of two beautiful koi fish; striking white and red koi on a dark background. The artist admitted that the original painting had been of two Flamenco dancers dressed in red, but that the end result was less than satisfying.

The real magic occurred when the artist’s eye saw the potential to create something totally different. Accidents happen, sometimes for the best. I’ve discovered some unique and amazing color combinations by chance and experimentation. I prefer to mix my colors on canvas (except for skin tones). You get some interesting, eye-popping mixtures on canvas, and sometimes you get mud. Learning what works and what doesn’t is important.

What if I make a mistake? I simply wipe the paint off quickly and start again before it dries. Currently I’m reworking some of my old no-sale canvases and analyzing why they were not successful. Sometimes the reasons are small and I’ll see potential for reworking them. The painting featured today is one of those. I’m showing the original, and in another blog, I'll upload the "reborn" painting.

The original version has an egret perched on the forward bridge rail smack dab in the middle of the painting. Why I didn’t notice that in the beginning is beyond me. I covered up the egret with river water and placed a new egret more to the left. This decision gave me a new title for the painting: “Leap of Faith.”

The original painting seems blah, to me. I’m trying to pump up the temperature of the colors by adding more yellow and pink to the mix. By the time I’m finished, the painting will have a richer glow and a more interesting composition (I hope).

What I learned is this: never give up on a painting. There is always hidden treasure waiting to be found. Some of the most unique and beautiful abstracts have come from this source. So next time you have a failure of any kind, remember: it’s not the end of the road. It may be just the beginning.

Come with Me on a Short Tour

February 18th, 2011

Come with Me on a Short Tour

Welcome to a promotional video produced for a gallery show where I was featured. I had six paintings in the show.






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February 15th, 2011

Inez Ibis Flies Again by Carol Allen Anfinsen, Written and Illustrated | Make Your Own Book

Edgy Art is Here to Stay

February 7th, 2011

Edgy Art is Here to Stay

Take heart artists! Some paintings are selling these days, and most of them are “edgy.” If that’s a new term for you, you’re not alone. My first experience with this novel art form was when I saw two paintings gobbled up by art collectors; one a blue labrador retriever, and the other a calico pit bull. The odd-color themes are not only being played out in animals, flowers and birds, but in landscape and seascape compositions. Humor is also part of the mix, and labels like “whimsy” or “fantasy” no longer cut it.

“Edgy” is perhaps the best way to describe artists who push their creativity beyond the bounds of traditional realism in style, color, and medium. It’s funky, groovy, and extremely popular right now. The colors are bright and bold; the lines are hard and well-defined and design elements play a large role in adding texture, patterns, and interest.

Sometimes humor plays a large role either in the title or through a play on words or elements in the painting. Edgy paintings become huge conversation pieces and the focal point of interest in any room by virtue of their commanding color or design. But is it really any different from the “Modernist” movement in the last century?

Henri Matisse and Joan Miro come to mind. Matisse's "Blue Nude" would look completely comfortable among the new “Edgy.” They certainly meet that definition; most of the modern and contemporary artists of the last century do. On this basis, will Edgy remain a viable art form or will this popular trend become yesterday’s fad? Will the public continue its current love affair, or will they grow tired of Edgy’s outrageous, sometimes nonsensical tirades?

I toy with the idea of trying the genre, but I’m torn between following fashion or sticking with what I know and do best. Still, the craze continues to catch on and the sounds of “ca-ching” are pulling me in that direction. I’d love to hear your opinions and feelings on the subject.

A Wine and Cheese Event

January 23rd, 2011

A Wine and Cheese Event

Painters and Artists League at Gateway (PALS), held a Wine & Cheese this month for the community; an event where we could show our artwork and mingle with friends and neighbors. In addition to serving wine, shrimp and appetizers, cheese was the featured dish.

Speaking of cheese, Roquefort was once my favorite. Now its substitute Blue Cheese is being used instead in most restaurants. My children called these cheeses “stinky feet” cheese. Their favorite, of course, was the chewy mild cheese that squeaked on their teeth as they chewed. We bought “squeaky” cheese in bite-sized pieces from a local dairy and brought it home in plastic bags. My kids were also big on “wrapped” American cheese slices and string cheese which my boys used to ape a walrus by sticking it up their noses.

Goat cheese is one of my favorites, but it’s hard to get good quality; some are simply too strong. I swear I can smell the hair and body oil of the goats I fed on my aunt’s farm years ago. Other goat cheeses are mild with a wonderful tang. Goat cheese pizza with sun dried tomatoes is the ultimate yum of blended flavors.

Cheese is a satisfying food. Probably because it’s fattening. Creamy Edom cheese covered in red casing melts on the tongue and tastes even better with a glass of bordeaux. Cheddar, the all time favorite, goes with everything and is a staple for casseroles and sandwiches.

When my daughter was taking a French class, she insisted on eating everything French. Her favorite cheese was the creamy “Alouette” brand on teeny-tiny toast. We purchased French cookies and candies; tried French recipes and dined on French cuisine. I gave her my ultimate support hoping her enthusiasm would remain high and her grades would do likewise. I wasn’t disappointed.

Mice like cheese, too, even better than the dog food they came after in my garage. They are also clever. Whenever I put a mound of cheese on a trap, the little suckers manage to nab the cheese and run off scot free. One thief got his retreating tail “caught in the wringer,” but I didn’t have the heart to kill him. I lifted the spring and off he scampered. So much for brutality.

If you’re a parent of teenage boys, you know the expression “cut the cheese” which my boys said and did often. I refer to this period in their lives as the “anal stage;” when banter with friends and each other is filled with burps, laughter and other words involving bodily functions. In family photos when the cameraman (usually Dad) barked “now say cheese,” he usually got more than he bargained for.

In Honor of Martin Luther King Day

January 17th, 2011

In Honor of Martin Luther King Day

In my “With These Hands” series, I chose a young African American girl for this painting. I used the title: “Hope” because it represents the spirit that helped African Americans survive and endure many years of injustice and persecution.

I was at a Larnelle Harris concert on Saturday evening. His amazing voice and colorful stories were not only entertaining they were inspiring. I’m grateful for the many African Americans who have and still do contribute their time and talents to make our country great.

Martin Luther King’s message of love and peace is sorely needed today. Why do people continue to hate those they differ from? We can’t even discuss political policy. If we have a difference of opinion, our conversation disintegrates into hate speech. The media seems to encourage this anger. Instead of reporting the news, they are spewing opinion and encouraging hatred.

At least on this day when we honor a great man, let us do as he did, and join hands in fellowship and love. Let us forgive each other more and criticize less. Let us fulfill his dream and stand as equals and Americans. Like the young girl in the painting, let’s hope and pray for a better tomorrow.

Kellys Rose

January 8th, 2011

Kellys Rose

I love roses! They’re old-fashioned. They come in many unique variations: floppy, ruffled, exquisite and perfect. Above all, they are fragrant.

Whenever I’m seated at a restaurant with a white cloth on the table and a live rose as the centerpiece, the first thing I do is “wake up and smell the roses.” Once that ever-pleasing scent wafts up my nose, the rest of the meal is delicious -- no matter what I’ve ordered.

If that makes me a romantic, I’ll accept that handle. The rose calls out to every feminine bone in my body, and to every primitive instinct I’ve ever had. No wonder it’s the flower of choice to say: “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” and “you’re the one – the object if my affection and desire.”

There’s something so elegant and sophisticated about a rose. And sensual. Remember the movie “American Beauty” with Kevin Spacey and the imagined red petals surrounding his love object; red petals representing her innocence and his lust in one glorious vision of vibrancy and life? The blood red rose symbolized all of this as it wound its thorny stems around the characters, extracting droplets of emotion, pain, and self-awareness.

I like that no two roses are alike. Their thorny disposition doesn’t deter me, though. In fact, some of my favorite people are a bit prickly until you get to know them. Once past that bristly barrier, they are pure mush; good-hearted and immensely satisfying.

I love to paint roses, too; but I’m still learning the intricacies of their sensual beauty and uniqueness. I’m grateful to Kelly Bell for allowing me to paint from a photograph she took that inspired me. In an earlier blog http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com), you can see the first coat of paint applied to a 12x16 treated masonite board. It was a lot of coats and glazes later before I had the look and feel I wanted.

As in all paintings, this is my “interpretation” of Kelly’s photo, along with my personal skill (or lack thereof). When you compare the painting and photograph, you can see that both are beautiful in their own right. They are just different: different media, different light, different focus. But both equally beautiful; Kelly’s because she has captured something real on film and preserved its original beauty forever.

Kelly’s photograph was purposely out of focus so the details eluded me. I filled in the gaps with imagination and my own personal take on the photo.

A Christmas Shrub -- Give me a Break

January 1st, 2011

A Christmas Shrub -- Give me a Break

My December issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” got me into the Christmas spirit, until I saw a photo-list of shrubs to plant for Christmas color. After reading their suggestions, I was enraged. More and more, I’m becoming at least a “conservative” environmentalist.

I’d like to share my article which appeared last year titled: “The Brazilian Pepper Tree Saga” by Carol Allen Anfinsen at http://Blogz.Org.Ning/Profile/blogs/ The painting is of a mocking bird, in the branches of one of these “bushes” eating the berries. They do love them, and guard their territory from other birds.

The Brazilian-pepper tree, alias Christmas-berry tree or Florida Holly, is an attractive shrub that sprouts red berries part of the year, grows tall, and spreads wide. When I first moved to Florida, I enjoyed watching the wide variety of birds that fluttered in their branches. So when the landscape crew attacked them with machetes and axes, I was enraged. Had we come to this in our obsession for perfectly trimmed hedges and weed free lawns, I thought?

Yes, I would later acknowledge, the Brazilian-pepper bushes were beginning to take over the hedgerow, and their absence meant that I could now see the field behind where cows grazed with cattle egret; but what about the birds? Hadn’t the pepper trees been food and refuge for the brown thrashers, the cardinals, the northern bobwhites and robins, the local mocking birds?

Before I launched into assault mode, I did some reading and investigating; turns out, that attractive Brazilian pepper is considered “one of the worst exotic pest plants” in the State of Florida. Wouldn’t you know!

Brought here from Brazil in the 1800s, the plant was used as an ornamental for its beautiful red berries and shiny green leaves. Deceivingly charming, the plant is part of the poison ivy, oak and sumac family that many people are allergic to. When crushed, the leaves smell like turpentine and can irritate the skin, nose and lungs. No wonder my allergies had flared up in Florida.

Why is the plant so prolific, I wondered? Bingo: “the pepper grows well in poor soil and shade,” and spreads wildly when the conditions for growth are optimum – plenty of sunshine, plenty of rain. Birds and raccoons find the berries delicious and spread the seeds through their guano and scat.

How is that a threat to Florida?
• The pepper tree shades out native plants
• The pepper destroys foraging areas for herons, egrets and other water birds
• The pepper’s roots get so thoroughly tangled up with mangrove roots that it’s impossible to uproot them
The beautiful Brazilian-pepper is on Florida’s “do not plant” list, and its “sale is against the law.” And I thought it was a harmless shrub; if looks could kill.

Today I smile as I walk past the hedgerow. Young leaves are sprouting, filling in naked branches replenished by sun and space. The peppers are sprawled out behind them; roots exposed, leaves withering, on their last gasp. A few yards south, a fence with a stand of pepper trees grows rampant; the property of another developer who will eventually face the removal of this encroaching invader.

Better Homes & Gardens is way off base encouraging the planting of these bushes. They will eventually spread, overcrowd, and destroy the natural vegetation in your yard. Find something better to plant! Please.

Holiday Cheer and Christmas Traditions

December 21st, 2010

Holiday Cheer and Christmas Traditions

No matter where you live in the world there are unique customs and traditions that mark holiday and religious celebrations. In this blog, I’m sharing some of mine with you, and I invite you to send me yours. I’ll feature them here or you may add them to the comments.

As a Christian, I celebrate the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem many generations ago. On Christmas Eve, our family reads the story of his birth from the book of Luke in the New Testament.

When the children were younger, we actually performed the story in our bathrobes with towels tied onto our heads using one of Dad’s old neckties. Having six children in our family, there was always a baby Jesus for the manger at some point in time.

Before there were packaged gingerbread houses, I made the pieces from scratch and the children decorated the house. They didn’t look like the magazine version, but the children loved them. After Christmas, they delighted in breaking the house down and eating their favorite parts.

We had our celebration dinner on Christmas Eve Scandinavian style. We followed the Kansas City tradition serving barbequed beef brisket, augratin potatoes, baconed green beans, and fruit salad.

On Christmas morning, the children sat on the stairway until each child had arrived. Then they ran for their Christmas stockings. Afterward, we all took turns opening one present at a time. It made the thrill last a little longer.

Breakfast was homemade doughnuts, eggnog, and sliced oranges. The doughnuts were fried a few days before. The caked ones were dunked in sugar, and the raised doughnuts were dunked in either white frosting or chocolate and sprinkled with coconut or slivered almonds. They were frozen to keep them fresh until Christmas morning.

These memory building traditions are what binds families together long after the celebrations are over. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Dainty Diva

December 7th, 2010

Dainty Diva

I almost called this painting: “Amelia at the Barre.” When I saw my granddaughter in her beautiful costume, I knew I had to paint her. Not only did she awaken my love for the ballet and for the energetic works of Degas׳, but her picture brought back so many memories.

As a child, I wanted to become a dancer. From the first moment I saw a ballet, I loved the grace and power of the dance. I begged and pleaded with my mother to take lessons. I wanted to take both tap and ballet, but it was too expensive for our family budget. Finally, she agreed to ballet because I could begin in my stocking feet.

The only teacher nearby was Movita Cardon whose husband owned several stores in town. She had a wonderful studio in her basement with a grand piano that she pounded on as she shouted out commands. When we didn’t perform well, she would stop playing and give us a demonstration until we got it right.

I loved every moment of class, but sadly, my dancing days were numbered. One family crisis after another forced me to stop and then start my lessons over and over again. After each interruption, I’d get behind the other students requiring extra help and class time. Eventually, I was moved to another class with kids I didn’t know to begin again.

The final straw came when my uncle died; and I was pulled out again, this time for keeps. In spite of my pleadings to go back, my mother’s answer was a firm “no.” In our household, the word “no” had grave finality. Once that word was laid down, no amount of pleading could ever change it, even if you dared ask.

For months, I watched from the chairs reserved for parents as Ms. Cardon put her students through their paces. I imagined I was dancing with them: first position, second position, third and fourth with pliés in between; fifth position, pas de bourres and jetés.

At some point, I became a distraction and Ms. Cardon asked me to leave. She was never rude, but implied that her open back door was for students only. She suggested I come back for lessons and said they had missed me. I smiled and thanked her as I climbed the stairs for what I knew was the last time.

There is something about the ballet that still calls out to me. When I was raising my family I loved to dance and jokingly called it “exercise” when my children made fun. Deep down inside, I was living the dream I was never meant to have.

Times are Tough for Everybody

December 4th, 2010

Times are Tough for Everybody

When money is tight, and the economy is hurting, artwork is the last thing people think about. It was and always has been a luxury item; something people buy after food and rent.

It’s not a staple. You don’t need it to survive. When all is said and done, art is the last thing you consider buying after all your bills are paid. That is if you have any money left at the end of the month. With unemployment at an all-time high, these factors have increased ten-fold.

I shared some “starving-artist” recipes with you awhile back, and joked about how that phrase goes in and out of fashion, depending on the economy. Today it’s not a joke, and competition between artists is getting ugly.

There are many “wanna be” artists out there; people who hang up their shingle thinking they might make some extra cash when times are tough. Doodlers and drawers come out of the woodwork and offer their wares at next-to-nothing cost. People are getting hungry and desperate. The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing greater.

I didn’t intend to make this a doom and gloom piece, but it seems to be heading that way. Even normally successful businesses are being hurt. Government policy, unsavory business practices, and greed have brought us to our knees. Like you, I’m waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Our economy needs us to go on a spending spree, but most of us are tightening our belts. After all, it was our money taken from us through taxes that got us into this mess in the first place. And now they’re asking us to give them more. If we managed our personal budgets the way the government manages our tax dollars, we’d all be living on the street.

This holiday season, I wish each of you cheer, blessings, and the faith in yourself necessary to get you through this. I’ll need the same. If we pull together, support one another, and help one another, somehow we’ll get through this. Merry Christmas everybody!

Anhinga in Paradise

November 24th, 2010

Anhinga in Paradise

Here is a recently posted painting called: “Anhinga in Paradise.” The anhinga in the painting is a female. How do I know? Because the females have a buff colored head, neck, and chest while the males are black in those areas. The male has a larger wingspan, but this female is fairly large and is probably not a spring chicken or a juvenile.

Anhingas have no oil in their wings as most water birds do. This allows them to dive deeply for fish without having trapped air in their feathers slow them down or hold them back. The down side is their feathers are heavy and wet when they come to the surface. That's why they appear to be sunnning themselves as they spread out their wings. In actuality, they are drying their wings off before they take the plunge again and repeat the exercise. These birds have a voracious appetite, and can clean out a small lake or pond in a matter of days or weeks.

My artwork is not completely realistic by choice. I prefer to celebrate nature and exaggerate the colors and the beauty that sparks my imagination -- not that nature isn’t beautiful just as she is; but I like to force the viewer to see nature in another dimension.

For example, when most people look at a palm tree that’s all they see. An artist sees the lavenders, greens and blues in the shaded areas, and the pinks, and warm grays on the sunlit ones. I enjoy exaggerating the tones of tropical blues and aqua hues in the fronds and the way these colors change with light and shadow.

I sometimes like to emphasize the shapes of leaves and petals and the way they appear to turn, as if they’re in motion. You can see some of these examples on my FAA gallery.

Green and Mean or Kermitesque

November 14th, 2010

Green and Mean or Kermitesque

Long before the words: “Feng Shui” or its premise came to America; I was the Queen of Green: a nature lover at heart and most alive when outdoors or surrounded by green and earthy wood tones. I experienced first-hand the effects of green as a healer and stabilizer.

In the 70’s, I was the first one on board with my olive shag carpet, my polyester green pant suit, and my olive green appliances. Back then, “going green” meant you colored your life with the stuff. Recycling was still an idea in some hippie’s head, and hadn’t caught on yet.

Unlike my mother, I had to earn my current green thumb through trial and error. I killed more African Violets with kindness than I care to admit. But I was a whiz kid at philodendrons and spider plants, and I was determined to fill every sunlit corner of our home with living color. When silk plants made their début, I breathed a sigh of relief and dotted my interior spaces with no-brainer color.

My mother still held her own, bragging about her 10 year old violet, and a philodendron that was musically speaking: “15 going on 16.” She teased me about my menagerie of “fake,” and dubbed me the “flower” lady. But I wasn’t intimidated. I still held my own as the green queen with yards of olive green carpeting the floors, adorning the kitchen, and draped and hung over every inch of my avocado loving body.

In this blog I’m sharing a green, blue-green painting with you. The color green means perseverance, patience, growth and healing. Green is related to work, wealth, and career. In my opinion, green is nature at its best.

Make a Statement. Go Orange.

November 4th, 2010

Make a Statement. Go Orange.

I don’t know about you, but orange always makes me think of food; you know carrots, oranges, squash, and especially pumpkins in the Fall. Blue is the Complement of orange. Use blue in a room or as sky in a painting along with orange and both colors will pop; each adding zing to the other, bringing out the best in each color.

That pizzazz may be why orange is one of the friendliest colors on the palette. It’s made from two Primary colors: the sunshine color yellow, and the bold and daring red. Designated as a Secondary color because it doesn’t exist unless mixed, orange and everything it touches becomes outgoing, self-confident, competitive and successful. Wear it or use it and test the reaction. Flaunt it and see what happens! Orange is a real attention getter.

That’s why road work and construction signs, vests, hats, and gear are made in shouting orange. You can’t miss them! Orange is like a dose of caffeine – great in the office where you want to be productive or on playroom walls where energy and action are the order of the day. Bad on a bedroom wall unless you enjoy sleepless nights.

Orange is often called the “social” color because it encourages lively conversation and good times. Think of your last cookout, the smoldering orange embers, the fruit punch sunsets afterward. Orange is the color of life and vitality. Splashes of orange can brighten the world and provide a delicious visual twist in a painting.

Me and My Shadows

October 23rd, 2010

Me and My Shadows


Shadows – they follow you wherever you go. They reflect your size and shape, but they aren’t you. The sun and the ebbing twilight distort your shadow as the hours tick by. Indoors, shadows cast by a lamp or an overhead light are blurred by distance and movement.

In a painting, cast shadows are critical. They help define light source, the time of day, and the illusion of reality. In varying shades of gray, shadows enhance the colors they absorb and help to tell a story. The shapes and forms they create add interest and viability.

Without shadows in a painting there would be no folds in clothing, draperies, or hillsides. Faces would be flat and uninteresting. There would be no smile lines, form or depth; no indicators of age or character.

In life, we fear the unknown shadows and flee from the dark ones within that remind us of our failed humanity. Capture these craters of the soul and you have a novel or an artistic masterpiece. Shadows, after all, give us character and add the twists and turns of body and soul that bring out the best in us as we touch the hem of Heaven, or the worst in us as we sink to the depths of Hell.

An overweight relative lost a sizable amount of weight. When I saw her, I said: “You look like a shadow of your former self,” thinking I was paying her a compliment; but the next time I saw her, she had gained all the weight back.

Apparently, my comment brought out her feelings of insecurity, and she reverted back to her “former self.” Her weight defined the person she thought she was; the person she knew and felt comfortable with so she fled back into the shadows of her former weight where she felt safe and secure.

For better or worse, shadows reveal the truth in all of us and in art.

A Spatter of Good Intentions

October 4th, 2010

A Spatter of Good Intentions

I have some white knit Capri pants that I love. They have a pocket on one thigh for coins and they hug my hips snuggly making me feel sleek and thin under a Tee. So why can’t I find them? I search frantically through my drawers as the clock ticks incessantly. I’m running late and don’t need this added stress. And then it hits me! They’re in my closet bone yard; a cloth mound where all such clothing ends up eventually.

I remember donning them on the day of their death; I never meant to have a full paint session. I was only going to “fix” a spot on canvas with a ragged edge, a missing shadow, a flaw I’d seen after my last session. I only meant to dab a little paint here and a swipe there; but before I knew it, I was in full mode and totally unprepared wearing my favorite pristine pants.

There are other favorites in my plot of threads like a straight legged pair of Levi jeans that my sweetheart nicknamed “biker chic,” and a peach shirt with white stripes by Liz Claiborne that was purchased in the bargain rack especially for a peach skirt by the same name.

There are other things in my closet graveyard that I’m not so fond of: the shorts and tops I purchased because I couldn’t resist a bargain, and then find the flaws only after I get back home. The checkered shirt given to me by an ex-daughter-in-law where the checks never match up when you button the shirt. But hey, nobody’s perfect, especially me!

I was the kid in school with the scuffed shoes, and the ink on my arm or shirt because I doodled and daydreamed my way through high school. I was the uncoordinated, gangly teenager who “car hopped” or waitressed for extra money and sometimes spilled the goods on me while carrying a tray.

I was an accident waiting to happen; uncoordinated and lacking in grace, I stumbled through life. Even now I must wear a bib while eating spaghetti or look out! You know the expression: “She wears her heart on her sleeve?” Well, I wear my life on my chest; just ask my friends as I spit-wash the toothpaste from my shirt or a speck of make-up that’s spattered in embarrassing places.

And that brings me back to that paint spattered clothing on my closet floor: discarded like old remains, peeled off in layers like the skin of an onion; my own personal bone yard. I still pick through its remains (they bring back memories). I wear them when I paint (I’m recycling!). If my husband asks me about it, I say: “Hey, I’m saving the earth.”

Fall in Florida

October 4th, 2010

Fall in Florida

Last spring I featured some pictures in my blog of the Poinciana tree, a lovely import from the West Indies that produces brilliant red flowers each year. Today I’m sharing photos of the Golden rain tree, an elegant beauty that produces yellow cones of flowers in the fall, followed by salmon colored seed pods. Some of you may know it as the Chinese flame tree or varnish tree.

We can thank Thomas Jefferson for importing this tree from China in 1809 and Thomas Edison who introduced the Golden rain tree to Florida’s landscape at his Winter Estates.

The leaves of the Golden rain tree are beautiful in their own right, composed of small green protrusions on either side of a green stem (pinnately compound). Lacy in appearance, the leaves provide a fern-like backdrop for the blink-bright flower cones and the papery Chinese lantern pods that follow. Even though they are an eye-catcher, these trees are considered an “invasive exotic” because the seed pods can sprout and produce small trees faster than lightening, or at least faster than their deciduous neighbors.

Each fall, I look forward to seeing these trees go through their cycle of green, yellow, and salmon. While I was taking these photos, a great egret and a wood stork shared common space as they foraged together at a nearby pond. I may use these scenes in a watercolor painting.

Why Art Why Now

September 27th, 2010

Why Art  Why Now

I love that Ford commercial where the masculine trucker, Mike, walks out and says: “People ask me, Mike, why Ford? Why Now?” In a last ditch effort to keep Ford afloat and truck buyers buying, Ford is still pitching woo in spite of a lagging economy and a less than stellar sales forecast. Do the words “bail out” have everything to do with it?

If we could only apply this principle to artwork, perhaps more artists would be successful. Why Art? Why Now? Let me summarize:

• From the first doodles on cave walls, humans have had a need to express themselves, to communicate, and to illustrate their world view; whether for future generations or for their own self gratification.

• Graffiti is just another form of cave writing for the urban generation trapped within cement walls yet eager to mark their territory and beautify their environment. Is it art? Unquestionably.

• From their early beginnings, people have yearned to interpret what they see and feel, and to get it down via brush strokes or pen scratching.

• Art defines life; it defines us.

• Art brings the outdoors inside. It captures our imagination and our inner longings.

• What else can art do? If nothing else, it can brighten up a corner, make a personal statement about us, and provide us with a sense of tranquility or comic relief.

• Art may become an investment, part of a collection or an heirloom over time that may enrich future generations.

Art is probably the last thing you buy when you’re financially hurting, and the first thing to go in a downturn or recession. Yet its value is intrinsic by nature and difficult to define. How do you measure serenity, cheer, contentment, curiosity or mental stimulation?

Art appeals to the best in us and sometimes to the worst. It captures our hopes, inspires our imagination, and challenges us to think, to dream, or to ponder the relevant, the absurd, and the profound. I don’t know about you, but my life would be bleak without the influence of art from the past and the present.

Consider a life without romance; a life without the dimension of color, nuances, changes and new perspectives. The spoken and written word reveals and enlightens, but the unspoken revelations on canvas speak volumes to the yearnings of the heart. They conjoin the very soul to participate in a silent celebration of life.

Today, please celebrate my ode to flower art. I love to exaggerate color and the twists and turns of petals and leaves. My flowers are not meant to be authentic representations of nature, but celebrations of them:

“Flash Dance” my orange hibiscus reminds me of pinwheels turning, burning in the sun the way their petals overlap. If you want to read more or see more, please go to Carol's blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

Fall is in The Air

September 24th, 2010

Fall is in The Air

Fall has always been my favorite time of year: the turning of leaves, the delicious first bite of a Jonathan apple fresh-picked from an orchard. Cider newly made, corn shocks, hay rides, a pot of chili on frosty nights and toasty memories of bonfires, wiener roasts, and fun.

In Florida, except for the intense muggy heat of summer, it’s green and glorious year round. Without the changing seasons, it can also lead to monotony. In today’s blog, I celebrate fall, Oktoberfest, and new beginnings.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to be in Germany during Oktoberfest. It was fabulous! I stayed in Rüdesheim, a quaint romantic town along the Rhine River. The entire city was bedecked in hanging baskets overflowing with bright red geraniums. The surrounding emerald hills were spattered with the reds and gold’s of autumn and made a colorful backdrop.

Beer halls were bursting at the seams with overly happy customers. Steins were clinking, foam was sloshing, and hearts and voices sang loudly with the “Oompa” bands which played both day and night. In honor of Oktoberfest, here is my 30 min. meal for “starving artists” and anyone else that hates to cook and doesn’t have the time or money.

For all of you who thought you knew what “Starving Artist” meant, I’ll give you another definition: “An artist who spends so much time painting he or she doesn’t have time to cook!” Unless, like me, you have a husband (or wife) who does the cooking so you don't have to.

Here is a “Starving Artist” recipe that is cheap, quick, and brainless.

Sausage Casserole:
1. In a large casserole dish, slice potatoes and onions to the three-fourths mark. Moisten with about ½ C. chicken stock.
2. Microwave for about 10 min. or until the potatoes are just tender.
3. Slice Kielbasa sausage rounds over the top. Microwave for another 10 min.
4. Cut a head of cabbage into wedges. Place wedges around the top of the dish and drizzle with butter. Cover and microwave another 10 min. or until the cabbage is just tender.*

*Another option is to use sauerkraut (I prefer Bavarian with caraway seeds) in place of the cabbage (or you can use both if there’s room).

All of these wonderful flavors blend and become a mouthwatering dish; a complete meal in one large casserole. Have a swig of beer and enjoy Oktoberfest!

New Painting With These Hands Hope

September 11th, 2010

New Painting With These Hands Hope

Hope is a bird flying on the upward thrust of a ball. Will the thud of pigskin on metal send the ball hurling outward in a disappointing loss? Will the ball circle the rim and teeter on the brink of success or failure? Or will there be the triumphant swoosh of a clear shot? All this the player can imagine as the ball is released into the unknown.

This is the third painting in my “With These Hands” series, titled “Hope.” The young basketball player is transfixed, and everyone’s eyes seem to galvanize on the moment. The clock is ticking, her team members play defense and wait. The fans cheer in anticipation. She’s focused. Half-whispered prayers rise upward moistening the eyes and the palms.

At that moment, the wheels of motion grind to a halt. In her mind’s eye, everything is happening in slow motion. In reality, she knows that decisions are made in a split second. She knows that accuracy is predetermined by hours of practice doing hoop shots in countless layups on court and at home pounding the driveway until bedtime. She’s ready. Will hope bring fulfillment?

A painting truly does have a life of its own. I felt the vibrancy of this young girl from the start. I wanted to breathe life into her and be the instrument in sharing her dreams and hopes with you. If you enjoyed this painting, I am pleased.

Shimmy-Shake and Compromises

September 6th, 2010

Shimmy-Shake and Compromises

I wanted to get this painting up and running on Friday, but it was more complicated than that. In the process of “catching up” after my vacation, I discovered some unresolved issues at my church where I’m a web master.

To make a long story short, I spent hours on the phone on two different days, only to discover a much needed program had expired. In the meantime, in my absence a logon password had been accidently corrupted, and we had to get a new one with resultant changes in our domain server.

Anyway, details aside, I refused to “rush the brush,” and so my blog is late. With all that’s on your agenda this weekend, perhaps you won’t mind.

When my mixed media painting was finished, I realized I had no shadows of the figures coming from the direction of my light source. I debated with myself over that for a long time. Did I really want to smear shadow over those wonderful checkerboard floors? But then again, it would provide me with a better spot for a visible signature.

This piece is the third mixed media painting in my “Roaring Twenties” series. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed painting them.

Getting back to acrylics and drawing was a refreshing change from my usual oil paintings. I had more freedom, I could experiment and I had a great time! It also worked well with my busy travel schedule over the past several weeks.

I have some exciting ventures coming up. In conjunction with Gateway Artists, I will begin displaying at Mervil Design Center in Naples starting in October. Mervil is a new art gallery marketing to the interior design trade, serving more than 300 affiliated design professionals. I will have three paintings on display every three months.

I also have membership with the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs, and will begin a portrait refresher course in October under the tutelage of Richard Kirk artist and author of “Painting a Portrait.” Next week I’ll return to my “With These Hands” series and complete my oil painting of “Hope.”

Today’s mixed media painting is titled: “Shimmy-Shake.” You may also see it on Facebook at AnfinsenArt and on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com

The Dancing 1920s

September 2nd, 2010

The Dancing 1920s

Paint pigments are of the earth making paint a living thing that can perform magic. The quality of any artwork is in direct relationship to the skill with which the artist applies the paint to canvas.

Imagination and style separate one artist from another. Mixed with an artist’s own unique experience and point of view, a message is created that breathes life into the finished work. This message is the artist’s own interpretation of what he or she sees, but there are other forces at work:

• Motivation. What motivates an artist to paint something in the first place? The answers are as varied as the artists themselves. It could be something as simple as a droplet of water on a leaf or the crinkles on a child’s nose to an emotional trauma, physical pain, or an arousal so deep it must be captured on paper or canvas.

• Composition. Coupled with interpretation, the center of interest or focus of any given artwork is not only a question of principles taught and used down through the ages, but what appeals to the artist’s own sensibilities, and how the artist portrays that vision on canvas.

• Choice. Not only choice of subject matter, but of equipment, color, and tools. Whether to use a palette knife vs. a brush; whether to go “mixed media,” oil, or watercolor and every other variation in between. And whether your vision or interpretation can best be captured through a painting, a sculpture or through apparel, textiles, or jewelry.

Because the act of creating artwork is a living, breathing thing, it is fluid; always changing and sometimes unpredictable. The drawing forms a map that guides the artist through a labyrinth of choices. But on the journey, the artist may find that the roadway is off and something needs to be added or changed.

The painting itself – that first brushstroke on canvas doesn’t cement the artist’s vision or choices. The paint as part of the earth it comes from may be pushed and pulled or covered up if necessary. It isn’t until the painting takes on a life of its own that the artist may step back and say: “It is finished.”

I hope you enjoyed my “work in progress.” Soon I’ll have the finished mixed media artwork ready for you.

Inspiration from Home

August 20th, 2010

Inspiration from Home

A recent trip to Minnesota, reminded me of the scenes that inspired my painting: “Americana.” Since I’m in between paintings, I thought you’d enjoy seeing the motivation behind the painting: a combination of nostalgia, history, and emerald green farmland that goes on forever.

The Holtz farm in Eagan, MN, represents all of that. The farm is maintained by the City of Eagan’s “Friends of the Farm” that includes people in Eagan and the surrounding areas. The summer gardens are planted and weeded by willing neighbors who reap the benefits of fresh produce in season.

In nearby neighborhoods, old fences laden with honeysuckle and morning glories are a common sight. Hollyhocks stand like welcoming soldiers on parade and provide a nice backdrop for the flowers. Cows and horses graze in long pasture grass and are mirrored in nearby duck ponds that in turn reflect Minnesota’s clear blue skies.

The song birds I enjoy seeing in Florida fly to Minnesota during the summer months so its “old home” week when we’re on vacation. The weather is a constant reminder that I’m not in Florida. One day it’s hot and muggy, and the next blowy and cool; even brisk. Minnesota’s weather is always in a constant state of flux.

When we’re in Minnesota, a trip to the Mall of America is a must. The three stories of unique and unusual stores keep us walking and shopping for hours. The Mall is a good place for family members with children to meet. The Nickelodeon Center with its myriad rides and roller coasters is a big hit. While the children are entertained, the adults can visit and catch up on family gossip.

The sight of a flock of Canadian geese is always a welcome sight. Although, in many quarters, the geese are viewed as a nuisance, they still remind me of home.

SEE the photos that inspired me on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.com/

Retro Gone Wild

August 13th, 2010

Retro Gone Wild

Let’s face it; life isn’t always “peachy keen,” even though we’d like it to be. I didn’t get my second illustration finished, but I did get a drawing on the panel that is really “spiffy.” So if you’re not too “hotsy totsy,” you can take a peek.

You can compare it to the original below. In my opinion, it’s the “cat’s meow!” My own rendition will have a new twist when it’s finished. The song title: “Yes, Sir! That’s my Baby” is one of the most famous Tin Pan Alley songs by writer Walter Donaldson, the Dutch American composer and Gus Kahn, the Jewish American lyricist. The song was written at the height of the Charleston craze.

Speaking of the Charleston, here’s a YouTube link for a wonderful glimpse of that era:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3svvCj4yhYc&feature=related

To see the rest of the blog and the original music cover, go to http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

The Roaring 20s and all that Jazz

August 10th, 2010

The Roaring 20s and all that Jazz

I wasn’t around in the roaring twenties. I wasn’t even a gleam in my daddy’s eye. In fact, he was barely a glimmer himself. But I’ve always viewed the 1920s era as fun, lively, and provocative.

And then there’s the jazz—born out of sorrow, etched in the grips of pain, and lifted by hope. The music itself cuts right to the chase and pierces my heart to the core. Sensual, soothing, and awash with tales of grief and woe; the horns wail with sexual vibrato. Black and white keys are fingered first tentatively and then raucously like a kitten at play running, pawing, tickling the ivory and the ebony.

Listeners sway in the moonlight or play the sounds as background to intimate foreplay. Clarinets wrap around them like warm steam, soaking through their flimsy cover of inhibitions and prudish pride. Raw, earthy, and wonderful, the sounds are an integral part of our culture and American history, right up there with country music and bluegrass. In some quarters, you can hardly tell the difference.

To read more about my plans to do 1920s artwork and for links to jazz on YouTube and elsewhere go to my blog: http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

Were You Always an Artist

August 6th, 2010

Were You Always an Artist

I get that question a lot! The answer is "no;" but the truth is that my latent talent must have been simmering just below the surface.

Before I learned how to paint and draw (or should I say: before an art instructor taught me how to see?), I used my sewing machine to design wall hangings, pillows, and pictures. When you have a creative bent, it will always find a means of expression in one form or another. Without an outlet, frustration ensues.

Some people love to cook and entertain. Their food presentations rival that of any sculpture or work of art. Some people express themselves through writing, through dance, or through athletics.

There are many ways to express yourself and your feelings. Your individual reactions to the things around you shape your own personal perspective on life. Combine that with your own unique and varied experiences, and you have the basis for developing a personal style.

To read more or to see additional, fun "pink flamingo" art, go to: http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

Painting is a Process

August 3rd, 2010

Painting is a Process

The dictionary defines process: “as a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result or end; the result of growth.” Sounds a lot like Life, doesn’t it?

My “in-progress” painting is also a process. First the pencil sketch on canvas, and then the acrylic drawing I showed earlier on my Blog. Today, I’m sharing the first applications of oil paint that further define the figures and the action. When my painting is finished, I want the center of interest (the girl holding the basketball) to literally “pop” off the page. I want her emotions, her thrust, her drive, her hopes captured for a nana-second in the mind of the viewer.

Before the painting is finished, I will have brushed on several layers of oil paint to refine the details and produce the needed “glow” that defines my style. This painting is the third painting in my “With These Hands” series. The title “Hope” says it all.

To see the preliminary drawings and acrylic base, please go to http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

When Lightning Strikes Look Out

August 1st, 2010

When Lightning Strikes Look Out

When Lightning Strikes--Look Out!

Florida is the lightning capitol of the world. Yes, really! Every year, lightning strikes and kills more than one unwary tourist who pooh poohs the seriousness of the threat. “Just one more shot,” they think as they swing their driver for the last time. Believe you me, when the golf siren sounds, you’d better run for cover.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. Whoever “they” are is all wet. One man in Florida has been hit by lightning three times and lived to talk about it. We have our own sad tale to tell.

Over the last seven years, we’ve lost two TV sets and one computer to the unpredictable forces of lightning; even though our house is grounded, and we use surge protectors everywhere.

Take last night. There was not a cloud in the sky except off in the east. The sun was shining brightly, and only a few thunderheads rumbled in the distance. Then Zap! Our TV lost its signal. The static roar was deafening! This is our second TV to “bite the dust.”

I unplugged my NEW wireless computer, and hoped for the best. Two years ago, I wasn’t so lucky. My surge protector didn’t protect and my computer died, even though it was turned off. I replaced the hard drive through a friend only to replace it earlier this year.

To read more....Please go to my blog at: http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

NEW PAINTING Beach Buddies

July 26th, 2010

NEW PAINTING Beach Buddies

"Beach Buddies" the painting is finished. To refresh your memory, here are two “in progress” shots of the initial acrylic drawing and washes and the first oil paint application. Compare them to the finished painting above (on my blogspot blog).

The scene of the two boys brings back memories. We took our own children to the nearby lakes and beaches whenever we traveled. As a family, we waded, we swam, and we hunted for seashells.

My most favorite beach of all time; although, it may have been BC (before children), was La Jolla Beach north of San Diego. This beach had a great impact on my fantasy rendering of Beach Buddies

When we still had five children at home....(Story continues at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com)

Unwind with the Comics

July 24th, 2010

Unwind with the Comics

When my dad came home after a long day at work, he sat in his favorite chair and devoured the comic books: “Bugs Bunny,” “Donald Duck,” “Daffy Duck,” “Alley Oop.” Dad was a welder and worked physically hard in addition to driving long distances to and from work each day.

I thought comic books were for kids, and I’m sure I smart-mouthed his actions. My mother in his defense said: “You should read more comics yourself; it might help your sense of humor.”

I considered both of my parents. . .Continue the ilustrated story on my regular blog: http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/

Americana fast fading away

July 5th, 2010

Americana fast fading away

I grew up around farms like the one depicted in my 16x20 acrylic painting: “Americana.” Farms where chickens, hollyhocks and morning glories were allowed to run wild, and gates and front doors were left wide open to welcome neighbors and friends. America’s prairies were dotted with family farms like these, and with hard-working farmers bent on eking out a living and feeding America’s burgeoning population.

Today these farms have been replaced by co-ops and corporate farmers with vast wealth and acres of crops; mostly corn, wheat, sugar beets, sorghum, cotton and soybeans. Down home friendliness and hospitality have been replaced by electric fences or security guards.

“We’ve come a long way, baby, but where are we going? Foods from all around the world are on American tables. The few family hold-outs sell produce at local farmers markets and at roadside stalls.

If you’ve never tasted home-grown tomatoes, radishes and beans you’re missing out. The sweetness of sun-ripened fruits and vegetables is unequaled. If you want to see a miracle—plant a seed (or a seedling). Watch your seedling grow and ripen before your eyes. Pluck it at its peak of perfection. Sink your teeth into succulent heaven! Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the gifts of God. Experience pride and a sense of accomplishment; grow something beautiful or edible—yes, you can!

When or if financial hardship comes knocking, you’ll know how to take care of your own needs. You’ll be able to feed your family. You won’t have to depend on Uncle Sam or anyone else to put food on your table.

Now is the time to practice the art. Yes, growing healthy beautiful food is an art, and a skill we may all need to acquire if we’re going to survive the rough years ahead!

Pelicans in the Jaws of Disaster

June 28th, 2010

Pelicans in the Jaws of Disaster

Brown pelicans, once endangered, are now at risk again; this time from the BP oil spill. Like many of you, I am sickened by the photos coming out of the Gulf.

Pelicans also battle for survival with fishermen who call them “pesky” and compete with them for some of the same fish. Many of these anglers carelessly leave their fish lines behind tangled in the mangroves, estuaries and waterways where pelicans live and breed. Some of these birds succumb in a fatal death struggle to escape the lines wrapped around their wings and feet.

I have observed these fascinating birds; painted them and drawn them. They may be awkward on land, but their patterns in flight are elegant and graceful. Their feeding dives are ruthless and straightforward when they spot a mullet’s scales shimmering beneath the water’s surface.

Living near the coastal waters of Southern Florida, I not only worry about the pelicans, but the other wildlife that abounds here: sea turtles currently nesting on our beaches, herons, egrets, ibis, gulls, wading birds, dolphins, manatees, alligators, crocodiles and countless other seabirds and animals. I’m afraid the oil may reach our shores, and it could be deadly for them all, including the hundreds of brown pelicans that call these waters home.

Our fabulous seafood, harvested, caught, and eaten in our wonderful restaurants, our entire way of life will slowly and steadily come to a screeching halt if we don’t find a way to stop this man-made disaster. Yet, all it seems we can do is pray.

You may want to read my article: “Mangroves at Risk—an Oily Predicament”
By Carol Allen Anfinsen at http://Blogz.Org

Star Billing

June 22nd, 2010

Star Billing

I finished my "rooster" painting. The progress of this mixed media piece was tracked on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/ I used a photo I received from a friend for inspiration. Her daughter is a vetrenarian who has a pet rooster named: "Chicken Nuggets." He was so adorable, I had to paint him. This is not my usual style, but I had fun.

I first sketched what I wanted and then transferred it to a 14x18 canvas. The background and the drawing were done in acrylics. The sketch and the acrylic undercoat are shown on my blog. I finished off the rooster and bale of hay with oil paints. That layer added depth and made the colors pop. I am adding this painting to my gallery.

Newest painting completed

June 8th, 2010

Newest painting completed

The latest painting in my "With These Hands" series is still wet, so the shine created some white specks and glare where it shouldn't. I will take another photo before uploading it to my gallery. This 18x24 canvas is oil over acrylic, and will be titled: "With These Hands--Love."

I ran a contest on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/ and the winner became the model for this painting. Is it a perfect likeness? No. Did I capture the spirit of love between a daughter and her dad? I hope so.

Your comments or suggestions are always welcome; there is still time for a tweak here or a brush there. I tried to turn this into a "universal" painting rather than a portrait. I hope I've achieved this.

Save the Beaches

June 4th, 2010

Save the Beaches

This oil spill has all of us on the Gulf in a tizzy! We're hoping it won't reach our beaches, and we're praying for Louisiana and Pennsecola. The beautiful ocean and the beaches are the reasons we moved here, that and the weather. There's something so peaceful about azure blue water and the snowy white feathers of sea birds.

I saw a pelican on TV covered in oily slime and my heart went out to it. I think this may be a wake up call for America. We should be drilling in other places where the potential for disaster is much less. It's fine to say "go green," but what do we do in the meantime? And so we wait. May they find a way to stop this disaster before the mangroves and wetlands are completely destroyed.

Work in Progress 2

May 27th, 2010

Work in Progress 2

This is the second work in progress on my "With These Hands--Love" painting. Now I will begin layering and molding the lighter values and the details. The little girl needs some lighter values in her hair and some fine-tuning of detail. I will move to her hands next and complete them. Her dress will come after.

The daddy in the painting will require some skin tone lightening and highlights, but I don't want him to dominate the painting or take the focus away from the child. Little by little, the figures will come to life and the little girl's love for her daddy will dominate the scene.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the prize winner of my contest will receive a free print of the completed painting; ordered and shipped through FAA. The runners up will each receive a free card of the completed painting; ordered and shipped via FAA. If you would like to see the entire sequence from start to finish, please go to my blog at http://anfinsenart.blogspot.com/

Your comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome.

Work in Progress 1

May 27th, 2010

Work in Progress 1

I ran a contest on my blog at http://anfinsenart.blogspot.com/ for a model in my "With These Hands" Series. I selected a winner and posted the photo on a previous blog at FAA. This is the first "work in progress."

I started the painting by using a process called "wipe out" to give the background some color and to block in the figures. After the "wipe out" process was completed and dry, I plotted in the details and painted a permanent drawing on the canvas. I like "wipe out" for solidifying form and composition. The process works best with a live model, but it also works on a photograph.

I will post the second work in progress 2 on the next blog.

Contest Winner for Next Series

May 27th, 2010

Contest Winner for Next Series

I decided to run a contest on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/ I was looking for a model for my next painting in the "With These Hands" Series. The photo on this page is the winner selected by me. She will receive a free print as a prize, prepared and mailed by FAA from this site. I have been showing a "Work in Progress" on my blog, and decided to share that with you here before the painting is completed.

There were two runners up who will receive a free card of the completed painting; prepared and mailed by FAA from this site. I may or may not use their photos as subject matter for the third in the series.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Now I Am Doing the Happy Dance

May 10th, 2010

Now I Am Doing the Happy Dance

I sold a card of this painting last month, and a print yesterday! It's my turn to do the happy dance! This young cowgirl is the first in a series of childrens paintings I call "With These Hands." I dubbed her "Wonder."

I ran a contest on my blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/ and have models for the next two in the series. I love to paint people, animals and birds over landscapes; that's where my passion is, I guess.

FYI to all new artists. I was a member of FAA for seven months before I made my first sale.

Yes, I am a Copycat

May 9th, 2010

I had to try the new technology! How great is this?


Art Prints

More about Art Shows

May 8th, 2010

More about Art Shows

I'm not a fan of art shows.
• They're hard work.
• They take lots of muscle.
• They require lugging heavy paintings and supplies long distances over bumpy terrain and several trips in the process.
• The weather is unpredictable.

At one show, a violent storm blew up, whipping our tents and frames into a frenzy. We grabbed our paintings and ran for cover as the rain drenched us. Our outdoor venue turned into an indoor one. We greeted our guests with hair plastered to our heads, and water dripping from our soggy clothes.

At an outdoor mall show, a gust of wind whirled through the plaza knocking over a large framed piece of mine that hit the pavement and cracked an expensive frame. But there are trade-offs; like the comradery of like-minded artists who share their dreams and their love for creating things of beauty. And there are the people who show up to admire our work and give us incentive to continue.

But as every artist knows: "It's not about the money." If it were, we'd all be rich!

If You Cant Beat Em Join Em

April 28th, 2010

If You Cant Beat Em Join Em

A not-so-great photo of me--my apologies! This is me at my current event: Gateway Country Club through the month of May. The one good thing is they're having an open house and big BBQ shebang this weekend, so even though it's not "season," and many of the snowbirds have gone home, there will still be traffic.

Our league took down our paintings from the building downtown; only three sales thus far for three months of exposure. A bleak sales picture. I've thought about that a lot. We were downtown, waiting for "lookers" to come to us. In my current venue, I am literally taking my wares to the customer; hence, my title: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Maybe that's the secret to success!

I no sooner got my display set up, than I had some admirers. One especially interested party, picked up a bio and a business card. A league member who displayed in April seems to have a strong lead for murals. A gentleman who has a bare-walled home he just purchased, and he wants to spruce it up. I'll keep you posted on the results of our display at Gateway over the next few months.

Art as Therapy

April 23rd, 2010

Art as Therapy

My husband's neice is an art therapist at Belview Hospital in New York. Troubled individuals in her care find release for their feelings in non-verbal ways. They use paints and brushes to express what words can never say. Art provides a voice for their pain and a tool for their healing.

Psychologists have used this same technique in helping abused children find a voice. Children don't always understand what is happening to them, nor do they have the words to express such trauma. But they are familiar with crayons and paper. As they illustrate a memory and make it real, they put to rest the frightening images and nightmares that wake them up at night.

Writing this blog made me think of Van Gogh, an artistic genius with a nervous temperament and a deep emotional personality. His one desire was to make people happy by creating something of beauty. But he suffered from bouts of insecurity and self doubt. He also had what many believe to be epilepsy.

When his friend and fellow artist Gauguin came to live with him, Van Gogh took a razor to him in an epileptic fit and ended up cutting off his own ear. After that incident, Van Gogh spent some time in an asylum and was later released. After only two months, he shot himself "for the good of all."

His greatest and most inspiring works were produced in less than three years of his life. He was driven by a passion for the beauty he saw all around him. The vibrant colors, the textures and the energy were excruciatingly moving to him.

I remember admiring a resplendent sunset one evening. What I experienced was so deeply felt that I literally felt pain. I could not find the words to express the beauty I saw. Those are the times I am grateful to be an artist.

A skilled artist can pull you into a work of art and their message reverberates within even though we don't understand the why or the how. Art is good therapy for both the artist and the viewer.

Learning Curve

April 14th, 2010

Learning Curve

There is definitely a curve in learning how to draw and paint well. Not only is practice involved, but learning from professionals who have been there--done that. I want to thank my first art teacher (I've forgotten her name). A professional art educator and artist in her own right. She taught classes in her basement each week, and I was an avid student.

She taught me how to see, especially how to focus on shape and form, and the tricky details of foreshortening. She taught me how to prep a canvas, and how to plan a composition and paint it in oils. Everything I learned from her became the basis from which I work even today.

I also learned through classes at junior and technical colleges. I discovered my favorite medium was brush and ink. I liked the stunning effect of black on white (or sepia). I won my first art contest with a linear drawing of a nude. I started the painting at the top of the figure and continued my stroke until the ink was dry. A first prize ribbon graced my efforts in the art show.

I learned how important live models are to the drawing experience. The freedom I felt in those classes gave me a new life and a purpose. Overwhelmed by personal problems in those days, I literally found an escape hatch. When I was painting and drawing, nothing else mattered. I was lost in a world of my own making. I felt in control of my circumstances and my art.

Sometimes I struggle with writer's or artist's block. I freeze up. I lose my self confidence. I become analytical and critical of both my skill and my execution. At those times, I try to get back to the freedom I felt as a student when it was all about "discovery" and learning. I didn't worry about whether something was good or bad or whether it was in correct form or perspective. I just let my imagination fly and my spirits soar.

There is a learning curve in doing anything correctly., but there's also a choice. Plug along methodically and practice your art as a pianist does his scales by rote, or enjoy the ride: experiment, play, enjoy the freedom, savor the moment.

My oil on acrylic painting "Flash Dance" was an experimental painting. I let myself go. The colors are wild, the leaves and petals have a somewhat fanciful feel. I wanted the flowers to literally dance before your eyes like pinwheels.

Golf Club Event

April 8th, 2010

Golf Club Event

I will be displaying a few of my paintings at the Gateway Golf and Country Club during the month of May. The display is in their lobby and space is limited, but the exposure is good. Most Snowbirds will be gone by then, but it's better than nothing.

I would also like to invite you to my regular blog at http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com Become a fan! Follow me. Drop by and leave a comment. Thanks to all!

Stress Busters

March 28th, 2010

Stress Busters

In the real world, stress is real. We battle traffic. We quarrel with a spouse or a teenager. We juggle schedules. We face deadlines, and we fight our own demons all at the same time. How do you keep all the balls in the air without losing your grip? How do you keep "The House that Jack Built" from tumbling down?

If I had "the" answer, we'd all be cured. The fact is that none of these outside forces are ever going to change. The only permanent change comes from within. For believers, faith in God gives them the determination and the strength to carry on. For some people, physical activity helps them let off steam. For others, various relaxation techniques can take the edge off.

As a child, I had my own special escape plan; a world of my own created in a wooded area not far from my house. I lived in Bremerton, Washington where the Hemlock and Cedar trees climbed like "Jack's Beanstalk" far into the heavens. My friends and I made our own "hide-out" hidden within the bushy undergrowth. We used leftover linoleum slabs for the floor and the rest was left to our imaginations.

In my mind, this glorious quiet place was a wondrous castle where anything was possible. I became brave and daring within its walls. I had super powers and super human strength. The older kids dared me to jump on the thick rope swing and sail across the deep gully to the other side. I sat on the twisted knot as they pulled the rope back, and back, and back again.

When they let go, I sailed into space. I was conquering new worlds on the brink of discovery. The wind whistled in my ears. The gully beneath was dark and forbidding, but I was unafraid. Clutching the rope, I felt an incredible sense of freedom. My mother came in time to see me leave the safety of the ledge. Her shouts and her fears diminished my fun, but the thrill lingered on long after I'd had my bottom spanked for taking such a risk.

What can I say? I've always been a risk taker. When fears engulf me, I return to that special place where I experienced freedom and clarity. I take myself there when I'm stuck in a rut or I need a kick in the pants to get creating again. Too much stress is a bad thing, but just enough keeps me on the edge of creating something wonderful!

Artists and Writers Block

March 24th, 2010

Artists and Writers Block

If you're a creative person, it's inevitable that at some point in your career (or hobby) you're going to bump up against a blank wall. The feeling can be frightening, even devastating, but it doesn't have to keep you down.

Over the years I've discovered a few things that may trigger these events. I'll share some of my thoughts with you, knowing that your trigger's may also be different from mine. For whatever it's worth, here are my top four:

1. Fatigue and lack of sleep. I know, it sounds simplistic, but you can't create in a sleepless fog. When your tail is draggin' so is your mind. Your perspective gets out of whack, and life seems sadder, badder, and meaner. When you wake up refreshed, you're ready to tackle almost anything. Get your Zzzzzs.

2. Depression. This is a real deep-down feeling of helplessness and worthlessness. This baby will pull you into a downward spiral that has no end. Mild depression is a part of life's ups and downs, but clinical depression can drag you into a dark abyss where life has no meaning. Get help! If the cause is a bad marriage or an abusive relationship, get out!

3. Low self-esteem. A few negative words or harsh criticism can throw you for a loop. We can say "sticks and stones," and believe that words can never hurt us, but they do. Bullies can knock the wind out of your creative sails. Personal failure can push you flat on your back. The only answer is to grab hold of a power bigger than yourself and get up again. Quit worrying about what other people think. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters.

4. Lack of exposure. Sometimes we need to shake things up a little. Get out and experience life. Change the scene. Surprise yourself -- do something new. Try something you've never done before. I'm not suggesting going overboard and getting yourself into trouble. I'm only saying get out of the house. Go somewhere different. Try to see the world with a new perspective. Get some fresh air!

I remember my first art show after letting my skills and brushes lie dormant for many years. I was terrified. How would people react to my artwork? How would they view my lame attempts to restore those lost years when my own self-esteem was dragging?

I muttered a prayer, something like "Oh, Lord what am I doing? What if I look like a fool?" A warm feeling and an encouraging thought came to me: "Give it a try--you might be surprised."

On that simple note, I displayed my paintings. I know some of them were pretty awful, but not all. Two women, I swear they were angels in disguise, bought one of my paintings right off. That sale gave me the confidence and the courage I needed to keep on keeping on.

And there you have it! My secret formulae for getting out of a "funk." Next time you can't think and your mind's a blank, start writing, start painting anyway; anything--anything at all. Pretty soon the blood will get moving and you'll push right past that blank wall. Of course, a little prayer never hurts!

Free Book Preview--click On Title

March 20th, 2010



Inez Ibis Flies Again by Carol Allen Anfinsen, Written and Illustrated







The Creative Mind at Work

March 15th, 2010

The Creative Mind at Work

Artists and writers are complicated people, albeit strange. They see and hear things that others sometimes miss; hence they enlighten and uplift society in countless ways.

Being both a writer and an artist makes me a little weird, I guess. I can see the darn'dest things from almost nothing. Take this morning. I was thinking while staring at a shag carpet, and bingo--the head of a fox emerged through the shag; the loops turned into wildflowers. A fox sniffing flowers--now that would make a great illustration!

When my tile floor gets all smudgie, reminding me it's time to mop, I see all kinds of freakish characters, both man and beast. I tell myself I'm going to draw these elusive characters before they melt away, but I never do. Some of these figures are nothing more than illusion. If you take your eyes off of them for a second, they vanish or are replaced by other shadowy characters.

If this makes you nervous, don't worry; When the imaginary critters start talking to me, I'll let you know. Until then, what I've described is a perfectly normal occurrence in creative minds. It's also a result of changing light patterns and shifting shadows.

Cloud formations are another means of creation. I can see things that most people ignore. And yes, as a child I spent hours looking for dragons and sea monsters in the billowing sky above me.

A towering pine tree in my front yard also caught my attention. The branches spread out over a sea of dead grass I wondered who might inhabit its dark recesses. How did they live? What did they look like, and especially, were they evil or friendly?

The cartoon illustrations on my web site are a good example of my most recent "flights of fancy."

My Friend Inez

March 12th, 2010

My Friend Inez

People don't normally name the birds and animals they encounter, but after watching one ibis for over six years, I simply had to. Inez was the name that I gave her. What was it that made her stand out? First of all, she had a bad limp that made it difficult for her to keep up with the other ibis as they foraged for food. And secondly, she came back to our neighborhood again and again, to the same side street, and has for over six years. We're practically family.

Today she had two young ibis with her, sporting the brown feathers of youth. Her second family, although I suspect there may have been a third. I was happy to see them. They weren't as happy to see me as they are skittish around humans. When I don't see Inez for a long time, I worry. She is usually gone when mating and nesting, but always returns.

One day I was out walking and spied the remains of an ibis. Nothing but a ball of tail feathers, a beak and the legs and feet. I was beside myself, thinking it must have been Inez for she doesn't move as quickly as the others. Today we saw a hawk devouring a white feathered bird in the field and I worried. There were snowy egrets flying about, it could have been one of those, or it could have been a cattle egret. There are many in the field where the cattle graze. When I saw Inez and her chicks, I was overjoyed.

Inez is a courageous ibis. She has regained her wing strength and flies as well as the others now, but the limp remains. I admire her for keeping on in the face of a crippling disability. It makes me think about the countless children in our world who suffer in the same way. That was my motivation for writing: "Inez Ibis Flies Again, The Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up."

If you know a child who needs encouragement and the will to "keep on keeping on," please take a look at my picture book. Samples are available at both of these web sites. Celebrate E-Book Week!

Ebook http://smashwords.com/b/8340
Hard Copy www.blurb.com%252Fbookstore

Art Walk Fort Myers

March 6th, 2010

Art Walk Fort Myers

Here are some shots of the gallery where our art league has paintings on display from February through March. The glare of the windows made it difficult to get a good picture, but you get the idea. Several paintings have been sold from this location. A 15 year old artist who won a U.S. stamp wildlife competition sold his duck painting, and we were cheering him on. He started taking lessons when he was only eleven. It's never too early, never too late!

My newest painting from my "With These Hands" series titled: "Wonder" will be displayed through the month of March. It is now posted on my FAA gallery as well. We all have had a great time and made many new friends. If you're in Fort Myers, check us out at the building on the corner of Hendry and Ponce de' Leon Plaza.

New Series -- With these Hands

February 26th, 2010

New Series -- With these Hands

I'm usually reluctant to show an unfinished painting, but in this case I wanted to introduce a new series of paintings I'm planning. The photo is the first in the series titled "With these Hands -- Wonder." As I've told you in my blog, I paint in my utility room on top of my appliances. The painting is a 24x18 canvas so I prop it over the back of the washer and use it as an easel.

Because of this, the photograph is off kilter and the lights glare, but you can get an idea of what I have in mind. The hair is noticeably missing or faded because I lost it while putting shadows on the face and neck. The cowboy hat is complete, more or less, and so is the face. I am finishing the hair in this session and will complete the hands and several other details. My loyal photographer (my husband) had another engagement, so these still photos are all that I could manage.

Other paintings in the series will include "With These Hands -- Comfort," and "With these Hands -- Working," at least I think so at this point in time. Your ideas would be welcome. I have always been fascinated by people's faces and especially their hands and how they use them to work, to play, to create, to explore. My series of paintings will be a tribute to the positive ways people's hands are used to make the world a better place. Since I love the innocence and beauty of children, this little cowgirl became the first in the series.

I will keep you posted on my progress and share with you my "Wonder" painting when it is completed.

Bless the Baby Birds

February 19th, 2010

Bless the Baby Birds

He was pink, blind and featherless when I saw him lying in the bright spring grass. His three-inch body brought back a rush of memories, and I was eight years old again, looking down on another fragile newborn.

The bird had fallen so far from the nest that I convinced myself its mother would never miss him. With a modicum of shame, I scooped the tiny body into my cupped hands. I would nurse him back to health and become his protector. In turn, he would be my friend, my pet. He could perch on my finger, and I would teach him how to do tricks. He could sing for his supper. Surely mother would let me keep him.

She shook her head when she saw him, a bad omen; but I grew hopeful when she gave me an empty matchbox. I stuffed the box with tissue and laid the bird gently on the soft white sheets. His head wobbled back and forth as he struggled to get up. His dark swollen eyes were sealed shut; the hungry beak outstretched in a perpetual state of readiness.

Mother went for the “crumb jar;” the kind you fill with leftover toast or stale bread until there are enough pieces for meatloaf or crumbs on a casserole. We moistened a small chunk of bread in warm milk, and I dropped soggy snippets into the bird’s open mouth while mother left to prepare dinner.

My clumsy attempts at feeding lasted until the tantalizing smells from the kitchen and the clatter of dishes drew me away. It was nearly bedtime before I remembered my newfound friend.

Skipping to the back porch, I half expected birdsong in greeting. Instead, I slammed into a solid wall of silence. I couldn’t breathe as I peered into the matchbox. The bird’s too-large head lay at an odd angle against the white tissue, his pale colored beak open -- unmoving. The bread I had pushed down its throat earlier was lodged like a gummy wad of dough. I yelled for mother.

She came quickly with tweezers in hand. “He’s too weak to swallow,” she said, making one final attempt to remove the dough from the tiny gullet. “He’s not breathing.” And then seeing my tears, she added, “It’s not your fault. He’s too young, that’s all. His eyes aren’t open. He has no feathers.” In spite of her words, I cried. Sad lesson learned -- end of story, or was it?

Returning to the present and my adult moorings, I studied the baby bird at my feet. If I left him here, a neighbor’s cat or a hungry hawk would devour him. Worse yet, a bicyclist could crush him unawares.

Impulsively, I scooped the tiny bird into my hands. I would give him a second chance and perhaps redeem my childhood guilt in the process.

I am being catty but...

February 15th, 2010

I am being catty but...

When I was a child, I loved cats. In good weather, I brought home every stray cat within walking distance. My mother was patient and supportive. She placed a litter box in a recessed nook on one side of our big kitchen and indulged my love for cats, at least for awhile. The only rule was: one cat at a time.

I enjoyed cat ownership. I dressed each furry friend in my doll's clothes and pushed it around in my doll buggy. The strays were so hungry for attention and fondling that they never complained, even when made to wear a bonnet tied under the chin.

I lavished each cat with affection, but there was something abhorent about having a litter box in the kitchen. While I was eating my breakfast, the cat was always doing its business in the litter box. Maybe that's why every winter, without fail, the "cat-in-residence” managed to disappear. Mother would claim it wandered off or got lost, but I began to suspect that each cat I brought home was never going to stay for long.

I can't really blame my mother. We lived in a small upstairs apartment with no utility room and a teeny-tiny bathroom that caused grownups to lean inward with the eaves. The kitchen was the only room wide enough to accommodate the "box;" a name my mother said with disdain.

When I grew up and had a home of my own, a cat was given to our oldest son as first prize in a soap box derby for Cub Scouts. It was a wild little thing that scaled my draperies like Mt. Everest, leaving a trail of claw tracks and snags in his wake. He clawed his way up my sofas, my chairs, my bedspreads, and, as a last straw, up the kid's arms and legs. The product of a feral cat's litter we wondered? We never knew for sure. We returned our wild kitty back to the giver of the gift (adequate punishment, don't you agree?).

After that we became dog owners. As the children grew up, we enjoyed several canine lifetimes. It was while we owned a white and tan shih tzu named Pooky that a beautiful black cat with white sox came to live with us. My daughter dubbed him Demetrius.

We had no sooner gotten attached to him when we discovered that her younger brother was terribly allergic to cats. Deme's fur caused our son's skin to break out in a bright red patches, followed by bouts of hay fever and asthma. Needless to say, the cat had to go.

I cried like a baby when he left., but I didn't miss those patty-paw footprints all over my kitchen counter tops; a habit I was never able to break him of, even when I sprayed him with water.

Today I admire cats from afar. They're beautiful, they're soft, they're cuddly, and they belong to someone else. A friend's cat brought her a gift in my presence: a tiny gray mouse that he laid at her feet. As I watched the blood trickle out on the floor, I remembered those unsanitary patty-paws on my kitchen cupboards. I determined then and there that I was a dog person, after all, and I've been one ever since. I don't mean to be catty, but...

Love Notes

February 12th, 2010

Love Notes

Valentine's Day is upon us. T.V. ads bombard us with ideas for gifts of love and the way love should be rewarded; schemes are rampant, manipulation games are playing, and the "fix is in." Okay, so I'm being cynical. But are gifts of love important? Are declarations of love meaningful? Do actions really speak louder than words?

When I was an optimistic young wife, I tucked small notes of love into my husband's lunch box. I wanted to brighten his day, and let him know that I loved and appreciated him. Sometimes I taped small notes of gratitude to his shaving mirror, hoping to boost his spirits before he went off to work for the day.

He never acknowledged them. To this day, I don't know if he appreciated my love notes or, if in his mind, they were foolish drivel. Once I asked him if he got them. He didn't respond. A few weeks later, I asked him again. Still no answer. When I asked him again a few weeks later, he responded angrily: "Yes, I got them -- what do you want me to say?"

So much for romance. Needless to say, I stopped writing notes. These non-interactions formed the basis for our "non-communication" style which escalated into rounds of verbal abuse and silent treatments throughout our marriage. Each day climaxed painfully with him turning his backside to me without a kiss or a "goodnight" before going to sleep. It's no wonder that eventually our marriage crumbled.

Are love notes important? Are expressions and actions of love important? You'd better believe it!

The Bible tells us that we love God "because he first loved us," and gave himself for us (died for our sins) so that we could return to our heavenly home. The first and greatest commandment in the Bible is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength," and to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," on this commandment hangs all the laws and the prophets. In other words, this command trumps all others.

The Bible itself is full of "love notes" from God. Like a loving parent, these loves notes (Espistles) teach us, warn us, and express God's love for us his children. Prayers are our love notes to God, expressing praise, thanksgiving and need. "God is Love," and love is an eternal principle.

Love is meant to last. But like an unwatered garden, love shrivels and dies without cultivation, tenderness, and care. So is Valentine's Day important or is it just "foolish drivel?" You decide.

An Art Show that Flopped

February 8th, 2010

An Art Show that Flopped

Proud of our paintings that were hanging in the windows of the Harlowe Gallery, the members of Gateway Artists were saddened when they got rained out on Fort Myers weekly Art Walk. On Saturday, with a break in the weather, we headed for Ponce d'Leon Plaza with our prints, cards, and small paintings. The rain was gone, the sun was trying to shine, and we were positive.

Unfortunately, the wind a mighty enemy still, swept down the plaza turning the alleyway into a shrieking wind tunnel. We shivered, we held down our wares and tried to smile at artgoers who were more interested in finding a safe haven from the wind than looking at art.

This is the way of artists. You work hard. You gather your best efforts together hoping for some recognition or a sale, and you mostly return home with neither. If you're lucky, sometimes a referral is made. Sometimes a painting is filed away in someone's mind or they pick up a business card and later remember, but this is an uncommon occurrence.

As for myself, most of my sales have come via commissioned artwork or by word of mouth when someone likes my work. Why do I persist? Why does any artist keep going? Because to stop would be to stop breathing or living. The need to express the passion you feel about life and the beauty around you is life itself to the artist. The same holds true for a writer. You can stop for awhile. You can put your passions, your thoughts, your ideas aside for a time. But do it long enough, and these emotions come bubbling to the surface either in anger, desperation, or depression.

Art is its own reward. You feel satisfaction and accomplishment when a work of art is completed. If others enjoy your work that's a bonus. If you make a living at it, you've arrived! It is the same satisfaction I get from writing my blogs. I've only been at this for a few months, and I don't know how many people are stopping by, but I do enjoy reaching out and sharing my thoughts and my artwork with you.

So if you ask me if I'll do another artshow or write another blog, the answer is a resounding yes, because I must. If you're a writer or an artist you'll understand.

There are trade-offs

February 1st, 2010

There are trade-offs

While the rest of the nation hunkers down for more blizzards and freezing rain, those of us in Florida are content with a few extra blankets on the bed or a warmer jacket when we go outside. Fifty degree weather feels pretty cold to those of us who live here year round. Try enduring the 95+ heat in summer with 80%+ humidity, and you'll know what I mean.

This is the time of year when the cyprus trees turn brown and shed their feathery green leaves. And except for the golf courses and watered lawns, the grass turns into dry stubble and the fire danger rises. By mid March the smell of smoke and the blinding haze on the highway makes us wish for those muggy days of summer when the rain blesses us with a daily drenching.

My first year here, I was amazed to see the live oak trees shed their leaves and be replaced with bright green foliage within a matter of days. There are no Fall leaves to speak of, no diamond studded hoarfrost to adorn the trees or dust the ground. And snowmen? "Forget about it;" except for the blow-up kind that smile like foreigners on decorated lawns at Christmas time.

But as with all good things -- there are trade-offs. My husband and I joke around and call Florida "paradise," and 9 months out of the year it is. Floridians are spoiled by almost perfect temperatures and mild conditions, but the three slightly imperfect months can ruin it for some of people, and mar Florida's wonderful reputation for others.

When three hurricanes ripped through Florida a few years ago and two of them doubled back on us, many scrambled for northern points, never to return again. We weathered the storms; glad to be alive when they were over. The extent of the damage was a few uprooted trees for us, for other people, roofs were blown off, houses were destroyed, and hope was lost when insurance companies played a game of semantics and refused to pay for water damage and the resultant mold.

My favorite squirrels that nested in our cabbage palm for three years and produced nine babies in the process lost their home. Our faith in God was tested. Our love for each other was strengthened. Frankly, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. What can I say -- there are trade-offs!

Starting and Finishing

January 23rd, 2010

Starting and Finishing

It's easy to start something new; a relationship, a romance, a life, a story, a painting. It's not so easy to finish. My computer is filled with half finished stories. My closet shelves are overflowing with supplies and half finished projects that died from lack of desire or the will to complete them.

Trying to succeed in the middle of real life living is not easy. The hard work of doing -- of sticking with something to the bitter end is difficult when the motivation and passion get sucked right out of you by stress or lack of money. Beginning is always easy. Starting over is hard. Finishing is even harder, but there's nothing like it.

Finishing a project, a painting or a story brings with it a great sense of accomplilshment, pride and satisfaction. sort of like the delicious feeling of finishing a dream in the quiet realm of half sleep before waking up, when the power to change the ending is still in your hands.

Please view my "finished" book at www.blurb.com%252Fbookstore
or my e-book at http://smashwords.com/b/8340

Making Plans

January 23rd, 2010

Making Plans

I don't know which is more fun, the excitement of making plans or the actual participation in an art show event. Our art league is abuzz with plans ranging from serving cocktails or margaritas to what we should wear as we scramble to put the finishing touches on paintings that will vie for people's attention and pocketbooks.

Trying to start a new league in a new location has been difficult. The turnover in artists has been significant. At last, we have enough cohesive members for the quantity and the quality necessary for an impressive show. Downtown Fort Myers will be awash in artists from all over the world, but we will blend in with the best of them and share our talents and our hearts with the community.

Please join us at Ponce d'Leon Plaza and Hendry (near Centennial Park) for Art Walk, February 5-6, and every Friday and Saturday throughout the month of February.

One Step at a Time

January 20th, 2010

One Step at a Time

I moved to Florida to avoid cold weather as did many others. A few nights ago we had the coldest night on record, and our power was out for almost four hours. This would have been a piece of cake when we lived up north; but now that our blood has thinned, we felt that cold like a knife.

Sitting by candlelight wrapped in blankets does have its advantages. If nothing else, it helps put your life into perspective. You think about and pray for those who are less fortunate, for those who experience cold and hunger on a regular basis; and then gratitude sets in to warm your heart like a furnace.

Let's face it, life is hard; some of the time if we're lucky, and most of the time if we're not. The one thing we can change is how we perceive it. When we try to face our problems head on, and tackle them all at once, they can overwhelm us. They can beat us down in a minute. But if we tackle "one crises" at a time, we eventually "see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The first house I owned after I left home had a cement floor with tile on top. In the winter that floor was freezing cold. The kitchen and hallway had black and white squares that were so yellowed with age and wax build up I was afraid we'd have to tear it up. Instead, I decided to scrape the yellowed wax off which turned out to be a daunting task.

I used a razor blade, and hand scraped each tile in the 12 x 16 kitchen and extended hallway. Overwhelmed can't describe how I felt. I decided not to worry about how long it took or when it might be finished, and focus on the task at hand. I set a goal of scraping four tiles a day -- that was about one square foot. On good days, I tackled more. Using that simple formula, I completed the kitchen and hallway in just a few months.

That lesson has always stayed with me. When you tackle one crises at a time and you focus on a goal, a blank canvas doesn't seem so daunting. A child's wedding or a community program for which you are responsible doesn't have to overwhelm you. One day, one hour, one moment, one piece, one square or four; the work gets done, not just talked about, and a nasty habit or addiction can be overcome.

Find out how the real Inez Ibis (photo above) overcame her difficulties at http://smashwords.com/b/8340 or www.blurb.com%252Fbookstore

Life Lessons

January 18th, 2010

Life Lessons

Nature is a good teacher. When a spider's web is torn down either through weather or malicious intent, it rebuilds. When an ant hill is crushed or flooded by rain, the ants work together to rebuild it, grain by grain, lifting more than twenty times their weight in the effort. Even after devastation by forest fire, nature starts over. Nature begins again.

Why do we humans expect any less? Of course tragedies happen, homes get destroyed, marriages crumble, but we are resilient; and like nature's creatures, we can start again.

Perhaps it's complacency on our part that lulls into thinking nothing bad can or should ever happen to us. Perhaps it's thinking that we know it all, and that we deserve much more than we get that hinders our ability to plod along without complaint when the going gets tough.

My life changed drastically many years ago. I was floundering in a sea of contradiction and emotional confusion. If there was a way to rebuild the shambles of my life, I couldn't see it. Outwardly I kept things together, but inwardly I was drowning and gasping for relief.

And then it rained. It didn't just rain, it poured. The downpour flooded our lawn and filled the window wells. Our basement had recently been renovated and repaired so we were safe from ground leaks, but the basement windows were another matter. We scrambled outside and began bailing water from each and every window. Through the glass, our newly laid carpet seemed to mock our efforts.

Drenched to the bone, heaving bucket loads of water out as fast as it came in, I was energized. I gave the crises every ounce of physical strength I could muster. At last I was dealing with an enemy I could see -- the rain, and I was fighting back. Even though it turned out to be a losing battle, I was exhilerated.

The carpet was lost, at least a major portion of it. And we had a major lawn excavation ahead of us, but I felt whole. If I could fight this battle and remain standing, then I could fight the unseen battles within. Like nature, I would stand my ground and begin again.

NEW Ebook and PICTURE BOOK

January 14th, 2010

NEW Ebook and PICTURE BOOK

Announcing a NEW Ebook and childrens picture book titled: "Inez Ibis Flies Again," the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up.

COPY THE LINKS AND PASTE INTO YOUR BROWSER:

http://smashwords.com/b/8340 and
www.blurb.com%252Fbookstore

Samples of pictures are in my artgallery -- galleries tab under "Illustrations."

Ibis Fortitude and Book Announcement

January 14th, 2010

Ibis Fortitude and Book Announcement

Ibis fortitude
A white Ibis with a crippled right leg lives in our neighborhood. She hops about on her good leg and drags her useless limb behind her. Like all Ibis, she pokes at the ground with her long curved bill foraging for food. Her bill is extremely sensitive to movement as she zeroes in on snails, lizards, crayfish and frogs.

Sometimes a flock of Ibis join her and they move from one lawn to another. She struggles to keep up. She watches the other ibis fearlessly cross the street while she waits, unsure. She seems on the brink of crossing. She hops out a few inches, hesitates, but then returns to the safety of the grass. I suspect an inconsiderate motorist is the reason for her fear and for the crippled leg.

One day I saw her fly away with a colony of Ibis. I couldn’t see her among the flutter of wings. Up there, she soared like any other ibis – glistening white against a cloudless blue sky. I thought I’d never see her again, but in a few days she came back.

For almost six years she has returned to the same place by the side street. Perhaps she comes to mourn the loss of a mate since ibis are sometimes monogamous, or perhaps to mourn the loss of her leg. I worry about her. I wonder about her pain. Could I catch her? Could I help her? Could the leg be repaired?

My concern turns to relief when I see her foraging with another Ibis that has stayed behind. They move as one over the grass. When her newfound friend flies to a nearby pond, she joins him, flying with grace and precision. Together they probe the muddy bank with their long red bills searching for food.

Watching them together, I feel relief. Perhaps she has found her prince charming -- the one who accepts and overlooks flaws. Perhaps they will mate and produce perfect young; sharing parenting responsibilities together, her small imperfection only an inconvenience in the greater scheme of life.

For a picture of the “real Inez,” and a picture book titled: “Inez Ibis Flies Again©, the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up;” go to these links:
Ebook http://smashwords.com/b/8340
Hard copy www.blurb.com%252Fbookstore

SAMPLES OF PICTURES ARE IN MY "ILLUSTRATIONS" GALLERY.

Creativity where and how

January 7th, 2010

Creativity where and how

A question I'm often asked is "where do you get your Ideas?" Mine come from many places, but most come from inside my mind and heart when inspired by a "trigger:" a response to someone, somewhere, or something (an object, surroundings, a memory).

To put it another way, ideas can come from anything, anytime, anywhere. The secret is awareness. I try to be on the lookout always for something that will click inside my head or my heart that has substance and the potential for growth. A springboard, if you will.

My best ideas come when my hands are busy and my mind is left to wander. I try to keep a notebook in my purse, in my car, in my bedside table so I can jot down those fleeting ideas before they "get away." When people still ironed clothes, my best ideas came while pushing out wrinkles; a snippet of dialogue, a visual, a conflict. My family worried that I was in a stupor or disconnected from them, but I was really in the realm of imagination solving problems, creating dialogue, visualizing scenes for the corporations and photographers I worked with

I know that If you sit and wait for big ideas to come to you, they won't. Go after them by living your life, keeping busy, and staying alert. If you go on "auto pilot" for awhile, and people think you're crazy, tell them you're out chasing rainbows or that next big idea.

My greatest enemy is me

January 5th, 2010

My greatest enemy is me

It happens every New Year. When the celebrating is over, discouragement sets in. A look back reminds me of how many goals were unmet, of how much more I have to learn, of how technically challenged I am when it comes to computers, and of how "average" my skill level is when compared to those I admire and try to emulate.

After beating myself up with this big stick, I feel even worse. And yet I do it over and over again at the beginning of each new year. Why do my dreams, my aims always fall far short of their target? Is it really this hard or is it only a negative state of mind that wraps its tentacles around my slumping creative soul?

Am I alone in this or is it symptomatic of our times? Tomorrow I will give myself a good swift kick in the psych and get on with the business of creating. But for now I will lick my wounds, snack on junk food, and hope that the sun will shine tomorrow.

Human nature or stupidity

January 3rd, 2010

Human nature or stupidity

The new year is a good time to re-evaluate who we are and where we're going, but sometimes the process elicits more questions than answers.

For instance, why do we worry about the environment: is it getting warmer, is it too cold, are the polar bears starving, are the oceans rising, is the air clean enough? And then we use our bodies as a garbage dump for every toxic element we can shove down our collective throats (or veins) in the name of fun, stress, popularity, intoxication or thrill seeking without regard to how it poisons and pollutes our internal environment.

Why do we blame society, the government, or the world when politicians (or sports idols) are caught cheating and crime gets a little too close to home? Don't we sometimes lie just a little, or speed when we think we can, or take a few pencils and papers home from the office, or delve into taboo behavior when no one is looking?

Why do we keep insisting that a little infidelity, a little pornography, a few indiscretions can't hurt, and then we're surprised when a friend or a neighbor suddenly goes berserk and shoots someone, hurts someone, or rapes someone? Remember the adage "what goes in, must go out?" What we put into our bodies or our minds will, whether we like it or not, effect a result.

Like a woodpecker pounding away at a tree, if we do it long enough, often enough, and hard enough eventually we'll get a hole. Bad habits and wrong actions have that same effect. They keep on Chipping away at us, weakening our resolve and our willpower until we lose all sense of who we are or what is happening to us.

It isn't the environment, or "global warming," or "climate change" that needs our attention. It's the "heart of darkness" that lurks within each of us. Input equals output. In the coming year, let's use balance, moderation, and common sense to change the world, the environment, the government, and our own health and well being.

Happy New Year goals

January 1st, 2010

Happy New Year goals

This painting is an oil on 16x20 oval canvas. I would never do an oval canvas again. For one thing, it is difficult to hang straight. For another, frames are difficult to find, and buyers even more difficult.

I really like this painting. It's a take on "Window on Pine Island" in my gallery. I use it here as a symbol for the past year. Today (New Year's Day), I cleaned out my desk and my files. I'm gearing up for the new year and want to do a series of paintings called "With these Hands." I want to show how people use their hands to make the world a better place, i.e. hard working hands, helping hands, gentle hands, caring hands, etc. A little glimpse of life through the wrinkled, careworn hands of age, and the discovering hands of youth that depict hesitancy and then wonder.

Any suggestions or ideas are welcome. The difficult part will be finding the right models and pictures. I may have to turn to my family again, and beg for their patient indulgence.

Just a note that I am now on Twitter and Facebook (AnfinsenArt or Carol Allen Anfinsen). Please share your New Year's goals with me.

What is for dinner

December 29th, 2009

What is for dinner

I can't help myself. When the calendar reaches January, my mind conjures up images of winters past with snow and blowing cold. Even though I live in Florida, come January I get that "rumbley in my tumbley" for a crock full of homemade soup.

I love soup. I know it's not a guy thing, and nothing like real meat and potatoes, but it's user friendly. No matter what you put in the pot, it comes out smelling and tasting like fine wine or the best in epicurean cooking. And when you're done, you feel like you've accomplished something.

In the winter, soup warms your bones. In tough times, it fills your stomach. When there are many mouths to feed, you can thin and stretch soup to fill every hungry mouth. People who turn their noses up at leftovers, slurp down every sumptuous bite that is hidden between stirs of a bubbling pot of melding flavors.

Soup is like life itself: a pinch of this, a dab of that, some bittersweet, some sugar, some spice mixed together with faith, hope and love. Simmering through the highs and lows, the combination becomes the essence of a life well lived; a life remembered.

Is it any wonder that my favorite channel is the food channel? I believe that people who can decorate cakes with sculpted roses, create flavorful recipes, and present with style can match any artist's creativity. Come to think of it, that soup is so colorful I see shapes forming, values changing, and my imagination soaring just like it did over my alphabet soup when I was a kid.

Got brain freeze and painter's block? Get back to basics and warm up with a bowl of hot yummy soup. Happy New Year everybody!

For the love of paper

December 23rd, 2009

For the love of paper

I fell in love with paper somewhere between third and sixth grades. I remember the excitement of making that first mark on a white sheet and wondering where it was going to take me, either to capture a vision I saw in my head, or to write a few words hidden within my heart. It was magic!

My first visit to a public library was love at first smell. There is nothing like the fragrance of books, paper and binding material to draw the creative muse from the shadows. I literally sat at a table and sniffed the pages as I read my way through several children's books. A kind, and rather concerned librarian assisted me in getting my first library card. It was heaven!

But aside from "The Bobbsey Twins," "Nancy Drew," and "The Five Little Peppers," it was eighth grade before I read a real novel: "Les Miserables." From there I discovered the classics and the great artists in history. I lugged stacks of books home from the library each week, and I snubbed my nose at the coloring books mother purchased, requesting, instead clean white paper.

I still like the smell of paper, and tremble with anxiety before each blank page or canvas. It's all about discovery; learning about yourself, and exploring the world around you. Using simple tools like pencils and pens, brushes and paint, paper and canvas, you can change lives. Heck, you can change the world!

A walk through Bethlehem

December 20th, 2009

A walk through Bethlehem

Every December our church and some generous volunteers, put on an unconventional nativity titled "A Walk through Bethlehem.". The characters are asked to read the Christmas story as found in Matthew, and a script suggesting possible action and dialogue, and then they improvise before a live audience. You never know what the characters will say on any given evening. You never know how the touring audience of 10-15 people in a group will react.

A hunched over beggar stands outside Bethlehem's walls. He asks for mercy and pleads for shekels. This year an adorable guest asked her father for money and then skipped over to drop it in the beggar's bag. Another child attending for the third year had brought a gift for the baby Jesus. When the child approached the stable, he tiptoed up to the manger and wished the baby Jesus "Happy birthday." He kissed the babe's head, and placed his gift beside the swaddling clothes.

My first year as a volunteer, I played an innkeeper. My job was simply to complain that Bethlehem was brimming with people there to pay taxes, and that I had no room for anyone, especially these new visitors. After all, I had just turned away a mother with child, riding on a donkey. That first year, I thought the presentation was a bit "hokey." A little too informal for my taste. After all, I had been involved in a real pageant with a cast of hundreds, and professional actors and directors. Surely, this little play by a local church could have no impact or make no impression on the community. But I was oh so wrong.

This year I was a greeter; able to listen and observe the adults and children who walked through the grass past the wooden props of sheep and donkeys, past the wooden scenery that I had helped to paint a few years earlier. I saw the wonderment in the eyes of the children. I heard adults express their gratitude at how much they looked forward to their "Walk through Bethlehem" each year, how it renewed them and prepared them to celebrate the birth of their Savior. And I felt the spirit that can only come in a simple stable, with simple people who in humility welcome the birth of God's Son.

Merry Christmas everyone!

p.s. the drawing "Mother and Child," is my daughter and her 2nd child.

Art Walk and Gallery Showing

December 18th, 2009

Art Walk and Gallery Showing

ANNOUNCING I will be in an art show on Patio De Leon in downtown Fort Myers on Saturday, January 2, 2010. I will be showing on Friday, Feb. 5, 2010 on that same plaza in a gallery window for Art Walk and for the entire month of February along with members of Gateway Art League.

Dogs and green beans

December 15th, 2009

When I lived in Kansas City, we had a backyard garden of sorts. We grew tomatoes, peppers, radishes, lettuce and squash. But the main staple of our garden was green beans. I was ever so proud when we had enough to can (if I wanted to), and enough to share with friends and neighbors. That is until we adopted two stray dogs we named Lady and Buttons. Adorable dogs that someone had dumped near the highway. My husband rescued them and brought them home for the kids.

Lovable and as cute as their names; Lady was a brown and white water spaniel, and buttons a solid black mix that we guessed as part terrier and part mutt. The kids loved those dogs, but I could never get them to take responsibility for their care. The dogs had never been housebroken, so we kept them mainly in the garage and in our big backyard. We weren't prepared for what happened next.

Over the course of the summer, our bean patch produced in abundance. When the dogs chased off the squirrels, I was delighted. After all, the squirrels had eaten the budding cantaloupes and my starter tomatoes, and sometimes they took big bites out of the older ripe ones. We had also battled crows and blackbirds that circled around to peck and poke. They were one reason why we had switched from corn to green beans.

When the beans were ready to harvest, I marveled at how many there were and how quickly they had grown. I was pleased with our efforts, until I washed them in the sink. Every sticky green bean, every fuzzy green leaf was covered with dog hair. While Buttons and Lady had romped through the garden scaring off birds and critters, they had left a trail of dog hair behind them.

I never could scrub all the hair off those beans. We finally had to give up on gardening all together. To this day, I marvel when I see a neat backyard garden, wondering what their secret to success is? Your comments are welcome.

Emmas Birthday

December 13th, 2009

Emmas Birthday

Emma is a delightful person. She has spent a lifetime raising her children and serving her community and church. That's where I met her, and worked with her on the newsletter committee for several years. We still consider her a member of the group, even though she seldom particip