Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What do Artistic People create and why do they do it?

"Home at Last" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
As an artist, I’ve thought a lot about that question. 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.

Artists have a driving passion to put down on paper or canvas the experiences in their hearts and souls 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.

"First Daffodil" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas; model Kayla Dahm
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 them 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.

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas
“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. As an artist, you brushed this scene onto canvas using your own fond memories where they lingered playfully in your mind waiting for you to give them the breath of life.

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 our art in the same way as we created it. 

Once we have “put it all out there,” we have done our 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.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel (The feathers replicate the petals, which is how I
saw this scene and painted it.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ode to a Loggerhead Turtle – Antiquity in Fluid Motion

A large loggerhead turtle was released on the beach yesterday after a long rehabilitation effort to make it well and strong. I shudder to think of the thousands of dollars this cost taxpayers.

On the other hand, I’m humbled by the familiar story called “The Star Thrower:”

“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

“She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

“The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

“The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”

— Adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren C. Eiseley
"Window on Pine Island" oil on wrapped canvas
It would be wonderful if we could save all the hurting children in the world and all the abused animals. What an enormous job for one person! But we can save the ones that are nearby. We can contribute to organizations that do the work for us. We can help our family, our neighbors, our friends and community.

That noble loggerhead turtle was valiant in facing the elements and the wide blue-green Gulf to transition back into the wild. I worried that our efforts to save him would be in vain. What danger awaits him out in the deep? Will he find his way back home? Although he was tagged for identification, we may never know.

"Pelican at Rest" oil on canvas; prints available
If we were to question every effort to help a living creature, a person, a child because the end result was unknown there would be little good done in the world. We help because we must. It’s called compassion, empathy and character. If we cease to act on these divine qualities that reside within us, the world would become a savage and brutal place.

Nature ravages earth's population enough without our adding fuel to the fire. This morning on our walk I saw a baby bird sprawled on the sidewalk. The storm of last night had blown him from his nest. He was a wet wilted pile of feathers; neck and legs outstretched in rigor mortis where he’d fallen. The sight brought back all the times I’d tried to nurse a baby bird back to life and failed.

The future is a blank slate. We can’t stop doing good things just because we don’t know if it will change the outcome. You or I could step off the curb tomorrow and that would be the end of us. Fearing the unknown is part of human existence. But that knowledge shouldn’t affect how we live our today's. 

For that reason, I’m going to assume that the loggerhead released into the ocean finds its way back to a wonderful existence where it may live for another 100 years. Marvelous creatures they enshrined with dignity and mankind’s history imprinted on their backs.
"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas

Monday, September 1, 2014

Come on -- Let's Fly Away, Mini-vacations that Soar!

A Key West sunset from Key West Express jet-powered vessel
On Labor Day we got up early, traveled to Fort Myers Beach with some friends, and walked on the damp sand before breakfast. The air was cool and the sea breeze gave us an appetite.

Disciplined regulars were already jogging and walking when we arrived. A few seashell hunters scoured the crashing waves as they spilled over the sand. Hotel and restaurant owners opened their doors and swept the remains of white sand from their stairways and sidewalks.

When businesses opened at 8 a.m., we dined at the Island Grill and watched beach goers gradually fill in the empty spaces with their colorful towels and chairs. The Key West Express, a jet-powered liner, bounced across the water with at least 350 people on board who were eager for their exotic adventure. Soon wave runners were powering through the blue-Green waters and white sailboats meandered past the pier a few hundred feet away from us heading into the Gulf.

"Sea Nymph" work-in-progress first drawing and wash. There is some foreshortening going on and I will need
to make sure her knee area looks like it's going back and layer the fins in the front.
I love these “mini-vacations.” Only a 45 minute drive from home, and we feel as if our world and the stresses that go with it are left far behind. Sometimes we make a day of it. We bring our beach towels and blankets and have one of those refreshing naps enveloped in the warmth of the sun. 

August is not the best time of year to languish. The heat can overwhelm you before you are even aware. I noticed that most beach goers were bouncing in the water and the dance between blanket and waves kept getting shorter and shorter as the sun crossed the morning sky.

My grandpa's Stereoscope early 1900's
Many walked their dogs and others played with them in the water in spite of the fact that there were “No Dogs Allowed” signs everywhere. Signs that were never enforced. 

Puppies were plentiful. We petted a few yippers and nippers. A large black dog and its owner played fetch in the water with a tennis ball. By the time we were ready to leave, several children were half-way through building their sand castles.

I will be selling this on my Etsy Shop: 
Three pelicans flew over us heading for the pier where they dive bombed for fish and tried to steal the bait from fishermen’s lines. One year when we were walking on the beach a floundering pelican twisted in fishing line was being rescued by two men who were patient enough to untangle the mess the bird had gotten himself into.

I have 228 photo cards from 1895 to 1905;  early US states, Early MN Nicollet Ave.
Old Norway, Palestine, and other.
A pelican looks fairly small flying overhead or sitting on the grey piling, but when his wings are outstretched as this one's was, his wingspan and long pocketed bill dwarfed the two men who were trying to save him.

Seagulls will also battle fishermen for their catch and doggedly attack and tug at a fish until it is safe in the creel.

At 10 a.m. we made our way home. The beach was getting crowded and the humidity was rising. We carried our memories home along with the sand that stuck to the bottom of our shoes. We were already planning our next mini-vacation!

(Old Norway photo cards, one side)

Photo cards run from $3-5 each.
Total cards = 228
Stereopticon $ 55 plus shipping

Michael Buble -- Come Fly with Me!

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 Clothing)
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.