Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Party’s Over – it’s Time to Call it a Day

"And all that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic / framed in a recessed red boxed frame!
We’re back! (Sounds like Jack Nicholson in the Shining) The morning after the long drive home, we went for our usual three mile walk. It felt sooo 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 had of them since that time. They are such delightful 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.

"Bob White" 11 x 14 matted print ready to frame 
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 my husband 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 in 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 counter tops. New appliances are being delivered on Friday to replace our old, rusted out ones. What a difference it will make!

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box recessed frame
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. I have a canvas, and in my next blog I’ll show you what I have in mind. 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. Can you help? I would like to paint some product signs that are no longer in use.

I first 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 want to add some more vintage style artwork to my repertoire of retro paintings. Those were created using old sheet music covers as a jumping off place for my compositions. This time around, I thought the old signs would be fun.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Delays, Blackouts, and No Internet Connections

"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic canvas
Yes, I’m “On the Road Again” and my blog is late because sometimes I’m stranded where there is no Wi-Fi or online connections. Family concerns and adorable grandchildren have called me away. I hope you’ll stick with me until I return in a few days.

Before we left, we watched the All-Star baseball game on television between the National and American Leagues. We had to. It was in Minneapolis our long time home and the place where we met. Like fools we searched the bleachers for family and friends, an almost impossible fete. Don’t get me wrong. We love Fort Myers. But in our heart of hearts we’re always searching for home.

Meet another young girl and fellow artist who is always thinking of home. When Akiane was born in 1994 she came “trailing clouds of glory,” as Wordsworth gemmed, “from God who is our home.”

Even at the age of two she spoke of light-filled people, friendly faces, and colorful beauty not seen on this earth. To express her thoughts and feelings to her mother, she painted and drew portraits and landscapes that can be seen on her web site. Those memories which most of us forget at birth, seemed to stay with Akiane.

"First Daffodil" acrylic on canvas
Her portrait of Jesus was selected by another young boy who was featured in the book and movie “Heaven is for Real.” When his parents asked him what Jesus looked like and showed him the familiar pictures that most churches use, he said “No.” every time.

When he saw the painting of Jesus that Akiane had painted clear across the globe, he said: “That’s him. That’s Jesus.”

Was the boy coached? You’ll have to read the book or view the movie to judge for yourself. But as far as Akiane goes, the impossibility of that happening is near impossible. Akiane’s mother was an atheist. She thought her daughter was having dreams or using her big imagination.

Over the years, because of her daughter’s conviction and God-given talents, she became a believer in Christ.

 Currently, Akiane’s work can be seen online and at Mardel. Here is a link to her gallery: 

Don't skip the video at the end... it really is a "must see".!  

"Looking Outward" mixed media, real window/glass, acrylic canvas behind

Friday, July 11, 2014

We learn from our Mistakes, even when we repeat them

"Flash Dance" was not juried in, but continues to be one of my favorites!
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 left handed 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 to go down an up escalator, especially under stress, and 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.

"The Perfect Ending" was not juried in, but continues to be popular online.
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 line diverge in ways to capture the viewer’s attention and lead them through pathways you’ve created, exciting things happen. Energy, emotion, and pure delight emerge and create sensations that effect lasting impressions. This is the mark of perfection and success.
"Home at Last" was not juried in because they didn't like the frame.
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've had a few paintings rejected in juried competition that 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.

"The Pose" a barred owl on my daughter's porch. (Acrylic on canvas)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Avoiding Tight Places to Save Face

"Moody Blues" 18 x 14 oil on canvas
My son, Sidney, had a curious and active mind. Most of his teachers appreciated this, but some of them didn’t. He was a wiggly and energetic child who could get into mischief unless his exuberance was channeled.

As a mother, I answered his endless questions, provided him with library books and special activities that gave him plenty of exercise. He also needed enough freedom to explore, but definite parameters so he didn’t endanger himself or others.

One day I heard sirens blasting through our quiet neighborhood. Not seeing a fire truck, I whispered a "Thank  you, Lord" 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'd 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.

"Beach Buddies" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
We’re all guilty of putting ourselves in a tight spot when we’re in a time crunch. Sometimes, like my son, 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.

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas
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 were 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 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.”

"Hey, Coconut, Mon!" mixed media on canvas
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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Next Time, Allow Yourself some Wiggle Room!

"Twitters and Twigs" 11 x 14 Oil on canvas / framed
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.

"Brown Thrasher in Sunlight" 16 x 20 mixed media
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.

(Work in progress:  Florida Panther on woody palm frond; a mask when completed.)
I must conform the head to fit the constraints of the mask.
The porous wood drinks up paint like a sieve! It will require layers, and layers
of paint. The final coat will be varnish; inside and out.
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.

(One of my mask models)
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.

(Another one of my mask models)
Angry Florida panther. Golden eyes with green reflections.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Remodeling Blues have put a Crimp in my Plans

"Arabesque" oil on canvas
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 keeps 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.”

"Release -- my Trail of Tears" mixed media on canvas
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. My son had given me "A Joseph Campbell Companion" several years ago, and the quotes are profound and stick in your mind.

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 new and 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 deterred. How about you?
"The Perfect Ending" acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Develop the “Moleskine” Habit – an Endless Supply of Ideas!

"Namesake" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas
Why these flowers were ever called “Tiger” Lily in the first place I was unable to discover. Since they're 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 unusual curled back petals. The drawback was that the flowers are small when compared to a tiger or even a tiger’s head. With my head full of sparks and a passion to paint, I took brush in hand and had a blast with this flamboyant portrait.

This is how creation 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 the start of an idea deserves at least some space on paper to nail it down.

"Namesake work in progress" The first laydown of paint to canvas."
I’m a big fan of those delightfully small “Moleskine” books for jotting down inspiration or sketches.  I save every tiny binder! I review my notes from time to time to make sure there are no "big fish that got away." When one fresh 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 down 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 almost 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.

"Namesake work in progress -- placing the flowers"
“Dick doesn’t need me to be here with him nor at every appointment; but I know if I were in his shoes, I'd 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. The following 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 inspiration. If you haven’t developed the habit yet, it’s never too late to start!
"Flash Dance" 16 x 20 oil on canvas