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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Helpers Ring in the Holidays (Success Tips for Team Leaders)


Non-profits and small businesses often depend on volunteers to “make the Season bright.” You may get a group of happy, good-hearted people who willingly and freely give of their time; but sometimes you end up with a bad apple or two. When that happens, it takes skill and patience in order to mend fences and hurt feelings
.
No one likes to be told that their work is deficient or that they are too slow, especially when they’re getting paid zilch! Appreciation and tact go a long way. It seems that in every group, there’s a “know it all;” a person who understands exactly “how things should be done” and when.

The leader (that’s you) must know how to keep that person on task and divert attention when necessary to keep things running smoothly. Encouraging cooperation, and making a tense atmosphere fun is all part of a team leader’s job description.

(Wolf in Sheep's Cloothing)
When volunteers get hot under the collar and sharp words start flying, a wise leader knows when to insert himself or herself to stop trouble before it happens. Taking a busybody aside and thanking them for their insight can allay hurt feelings. When they sense that you’re aware of their keen observation skills, you can remind them that volunteers are here, not because they have to be, but because they want to serve. Their efforts should always be welcomed and acknowledged.

Many of us hire helpers during the busy holidays to get our projects out the door on time. These assistants may be friends, strangers, or family members who work for free. The same rules apply, perhaps even more so, when you’re close to the staff. A pleasant working atmosphere removes the tension between family members who are caught between rigid deadlines and their own hectic lives.


Put a group of people in a room, give them work to do, and there’s bound to be petty squabbles. In the beginning, allow people to work out their own rhythms and procedures. Insert yourself only if the “rage” level rises. Staying ahead of problems and anticipating needs requires tact and gut instinct. 

If you are prepared in advance by having your project organized and well defined, there will be fewer mistakes and less resentment. Having a happy and successful holiday depends entirely on what you bring to the table in the way of vision, preparation and leadership.

"Serena Shines" 11 x 14 Pastel matted and ready for framing

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rev Up those Engines --- ‘tis the Season!

"Kayla learning to feed herself"
If ever there were a good time to sell, it has to be from September through February. Each holiday trips quickly over the heels of another as the gift giving season draws near, and more product is sold during these few months than during the rest of the year put together.

I always tell myself I’m going to prepare early, and then I don’t. How do you get in the spirit of celebration six months in advance? Unemotional, logical retailers know the importance of stocking inventory for the seasonal rush. We should all take a tip from their play book!

Sometimes I allow competition to discourage me from creating Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas cards. I save my old cards from the previous year solely for ideas; but somehow, they never leave the drawer where they are stored.

(Chris and Lyla at Christmas)
I gloat over the online cards and kick myself for not following suit. Unfortunately, my passion-o-meter is running low. Without excitement for what you’re creating, the results usually fall flat.

I’m sure that the best remedy is to imagine and invent “while the iron is hot.” That means designing in your head while drinking hot cider or cutting fresh apples for a pie. The sights, smells and sounds of frivolity and fun just might be the edge you need.  You’ll stay ahead of the game and be ready for the upcoming season.

Then again, many people (like me) get depressed over the course of the holidays. The children are gone, the grand kids live far away in other parts of the country. I actually breathe a sigh of relief when the holidays are over. Give me routine and structure any day of the week. I’m fine with that. I’ve always been a workaholic. I thrive on stress and busyness.


I used to bake enormous batches of cookies and doughnuts and freeze them for giving away later to neighbors and friends. My creative drive was all used up in the process of making and baking. My own children helped frost the raised doughnuts I made. They loved dipping them in colored sprinkles, slivered almonds and coconut.

We made a gingerbread house together each year. The children placed small spiced gumdrops of red and green on the frosted roof and sprinkled red cinnamon candy on the white sugar snow. Their favorite part of the candy house was playing wrecking ball on the day after New Year’s. They smashed and devoured the crunchy pieces of frosted cookie until they were stuffed.


Traditions bind us to each other. They remind us of our humanity and sameness. Joy gives birth when we honor those sacred ceremonies and share them with others. If I could capture that special feeling in a box, I’d have a winner!

In the meantime, I’ll continue to grapple with my self-inflicted quandary and hope my muse doesn’t take a much-needed vacation.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Waiting Game – don’t 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 goals 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.

"Does this Hat make me Look Fat?"  11 x 14 pencil drawing
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 that 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.
"Dregs of Winter" charcoal drawing available in print

Monday, August 11, 2014

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.”

(the ghosts appear to have legs; looking like frogs!)
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]

YouTube Video showing giant sphinx moth pollinating a ghost orchid.



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Mark are you Leaving on Earth for others to Follow?

"Sea Breeze" 30 x 24 acrylic wrapped canvas
People are so predictable. When the forest fires rage along the highways and hinterlands, we pray for rain. And what do we get? A deluge! Then we pray for the rain to abate, and the interior once again grows ripe for lightening strikes and more fires. The cycle of nature and of our whims is relentless.

In nearby Naples, flooding has contaminated waters and inundated roads, lawns and ditches. Tow trucks are having a heyday pulling vehicles from low lying areas and storm drains. Firemen are busy in the dry season, and auto shops and insurance companies thrive when it’s wet. When the citizens mourn, somebody always makes a good living.

Work-in-Progress #1
 Summer brings red tides and algae blooms both of which are toxic and dangerous. Every season, no matter where you live has its challenges. When summer is gone and the fear of hurricanes disappears, there are frosts to contend with that threaten orange trees and winter crops. We humans must adapt to changing environments and learn how to cope.

All of this is normal, even though, for us, it may be the first time we’ve experienced such drastic ups and downs. 


Work-in-Progress #2

History reminds us that there were similar or worse storms to face by our ancestors. Pioneers in early America fought off wolves and wild animals when they settled. They fought crop damage, hailstorms, fire and flood just as we do. But they pushed on, in spite of the pain. They lost much, but they started over. During their short lives their accomplishments overwhelm us.

Our forebears paved the way for all of us to achieve and aspire. 


Work-in-Progress #4

Famous American artists recorded the emotions and importance of what was happening around them: Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, John Whistler, Grant Wood, Georgia, O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton, and Andy Warhol  to name only a few.

Looking back we may see the whole rather than the nuance or out-of-context parts of the story. History can teach us about ourselves and about the truth of our lives. Facts separate themselves from fiction and provide a clearer picture of what was rather than simply innuendo.
Artist Winslow Homer
Artist Winslow Homer
Artist Edward Hopper
What will your generation’s history tell others about you? Will your achievements offer hope and promise to those who come after? Are you setting a firm foundation that will provide guidance and strength for others to follow? Will the coming America be better than the last century? Are you building bridges to the future or stumbling blocks?

Artist John Singer Sargent

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fullness of Joy – Where does it come from?

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas
My husband is a hummer. Sometimes it can drive me crazy, especially if he does it when he’s nervous. At other times, it’s his way to stay on task as he moves through his day.

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.

"A Joyful Heart" 11 x 14 pastel on bristol; matted and ready to frame
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 that 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 “fullness of joy.” Although his hands were awkwardly twisted, 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.

He openly acknowledged his muse: “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?




The Bible had an early and profound influence on Blake. It would remain a lifetime source of inspiration, coloring his life and works with intense spirituality.

One of the most traumatic events of William Blake's life occurred in 1787, when his beloved brother, Robert, died from tuberculosis at age 24. At the moment of Robert's death, Blake allegedly saw his spirit ascend through the ceiling, joyously; the moment, which entered into Blake's psyche, greatly influenced his later poetry. The following year, Robert appeared to Blake in a vision and presented him with a new method of printing his works, which Blake called "illuminated printing." Once incorporated, this method allowed Blake to control every aspect of the production of his art.

While Blake was an established engraver, soon he began receiving commissions to paint watercolors, and he painted scenes from the works of Milton, Dante, Shakespeare and the Bible.

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?

Tiger LIly

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

"Hey, Coconut Mon!" mixed media on canvas
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.
Work-in-Progress "Sea Breazes" acrylic on 30 x 24 wrapped canvas
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 move. 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 feelings, shapes, color and texture. The context is the story you 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 regions.
I added more color, but did it work? More contemplation!
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 Breezes” 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 (see Youtube fideo below), 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!
"Window" oil on oval canvas