Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Don't tell me it's February -- I only blinked!

Forgive the lateness of this blog. We’re getting our home ready for sale, which has included a new roof (finished yesterday), a new paint job that demanded a power wash and couldn’t be done until the tiles were on the roof; so one delay after another.

We’re also “staging” the inside of our villa and removing clutter, extra furniture, and photographs and paintings from the walls. Patching and repainting means that what comes down must be boxed away in the garage.

I’d forgotten that moving requires several months to complete on both ends. I haven’t been able to do any artwork; in fact, most of my tools have been packed away already. By the time I get to writing on my blogs, I’m either too tired or I’ve lost my ability to focus. If you bear with me, I’ll start up again after everything is finished.

Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy some photos I took from our office window. A “Great Egret,” part of the Heron family and probably only a year or two old, came sauntering down our front walk-way looking for its evening meal.

Lizards were the main dish. I could tell, because every few steps, the egret would stop and freeze to appear invisible. After a few minutes, he’d relieve his neck by swaying it back and forth, and then take a few steps before again freezing into position. All the while, his eyes were keenly watching for a lizard to move.

The reptiles were as smart as their prey. As soon as the egret gave up and walked away, they came out of hiding. We will miss living in our Tropical paradise.

Valentine's Day is coming up so be sure and check out the cards on my web site:

My Etsy store will be open until after Valentine’s Day. At that time, my shop will "go on vacation" until we get to our destination. Some of my artwork and some vintage pieces are on sale for the occasion. Here is a link: Anfinsen Art on Etsy

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Winter’s Art is Mysterious, Complex, and Still Unexplained

Several years ago, my eldest son gave me a book for Christmas called “The Snowflake – Winter’s Secret Beauty,” written by Kenneth Libbrecht and photographed by Patricia Rasmussen.

I was fascinated by the enlarged microscopic photos, but even more intrigued by the fact that scientists even today cannot fully explain why no two snowflakes are alike or how each is created with such specificity.

Quoting Libbrecht, “The wonder of snowflakes is how they are fashioned into such complex and symmetrical shapes with no blueprint or genetic code to guide construction. How do they develop into such intricate structures? Where is the creative genius that designs the never ending variety of snow-crystal patterns?”

I’m a believer and a “Creationist” so I’m perfectly content knowing that God our Father created the earth and everything in it.  The Lord God enjoyed creating such beauty for us and used eternal mathematical principles to mold and shape our universe.

Libbrecht explains that “Crystalline branches form around a nucleus of microscopic dust, creating a one-of-a-kind design. Because it weighs next to nothing, a snow crystal may take hours to fall – finally landing where photographer Rasmussen’s amazing micro-photography can capture the fleeting beauty and complexity of nature’s art.

“Rain does not produce snowflakes. Rain simply turns into frozen water becoming sleet. A frozen raindrop does not become a patterned snowflake with ornate patterning and symmetry. Snowflakes are the product of a rich synthesis of physics, mathematics, chemistry and temperature. No two are alike, but their uniqueness is soon lost on the ground where they clump together into formless lumps of ice.

Henry David Thoreau said in 1856: “How full of the creative genius is the air in which these (snowflakes) are generated! I should hardly admire them more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.”

As a kid, I loved folding paper and seeing how intricately I could cut out a flake with my scissors. Usually my stars had four points or eight. Our class would decorate our windows with the many patterns each student had made. In retrospect, these simple designs were a far cry from the intricate patterns that fell on our tongues at recess.

A man by the name of Wilson Bentley, a farmer from Vermont, photographed a real snowflake in 1885 by attaching his microscope to his camera. Snowflake photography became his lifelong passion. In the course of 46 years, he captured more than 5,000 snow-crystal images on the old-style glass photo-graphic plates and scientists and hobbyists have been photographing and studying them ever since.
Have you ever paused to study the intricate designs and patterns that land on your lapel when a blizzard occurs? The fluffy, large flakes that fall during a massive storm are not as detailed or crystallized as the ones that fall during colder weather. The big ones melt quickly because they are full of ice water.

Einstein wrote “What I Believe” in 1930: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Next time you find yourself complaining that it’s bitter cold or that you’re home-bound, bundle yourself up and get outdoors with a magnifying glass. Study the exquisite beauty found in those ice crystals that fall as snowflakes. Use your eyes to appreciate and see. Awaken your imagination to the miracles that exist around you.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Deck the Halls and other Traditions

Every year after the Christmas decorations are up and the tree is glistening in all its glory, I play my favorite CD that was purchased at a Christmas pageant called “Child of the Promise” written and produced by Michael & Stormie Omartian. My husband also purchased an album because we were not yet married, and we each wanted our own copy.

Hearing Bible verses sung by Donna Summer, Steven Curtis Chapman, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith, to name a few, really gets me in the mood for Christmas.

After my divorce from my children’s father, and the scattering of my children to the far corners of the U.S; I was left feeling shattered and broken. I had always loved this Holy holiday, but after this I could barely deal with Christmas. When the last two were gone, I stopped decorating altogether. It brought back too many precious, but painful memories.

It wasn’t until I met my current husband 16 years ago that I finally began to celebrate Christmas in baby steps. 

My dear husband helped me to heal. He stood by me, cared for me, and restored my faith in myself and in my God.

I remembered those long ago years when I filled up the empty spaces in my heart with work and good deeds. I Decked the Halls to excess, and cooked up a storm for friends and family. I started so many new traditions each year that I could hardly keep up with them. So in looking for a topic for this blog, I decided to forewarn you: beware of what you start. It has to be done each year (others will demand it), and what you add makes your annual job get bigger and bigger.

My traditions started with the making and decorating of a Gingerbread House. Of course, the children plastered the house and yard with so many candies that the roof became top heavy, but that was part of its charm. After Christmas, they looked forward to smashing the house and eating the candy-covered pieces. I also rolled out gingerbread men for ornaments at the same time.

Then there was the making of doughnuts for our Christmas morning breakfast. I prepared cake doughnuts and risen ones that were frosted and sprinkled with coconut, slivered almonds and candy. I served these with slices of orange for nutrition and home-made eggnog. We never worried about salmonella back then. I guess we were either lucky or blessed.

I also baked various cookies and arranged platters for some of our friends. One couple said it was the prettiest tray of cookies they had ever seen. Of course, their praise gave me incentive to widen my list and bake some more. I also loved to make mini poppy-seed cakes for gifts and family, and special breads like stollen, and muffin sized cherry cheese cakes.

We lived in Kansas City and had incorporated local menus into our holiday traditions.  Barbecued brisket was a favorite, along with the usual trimmings, cheesy potatoes, green beans cooked with ham bits and onions, fresh whole cranberry relish, crab dip and a shrimp cocktail that was made to be drunk in a cup. I cooked so much that in my “old age” I cannot even bear to read a recipe let alone cook one.

Now I’m apt to buy some or most of our traditional meals unless my husband decides to cook his favorite stuffing for a turkey. He does almost all of our cooking, anyway. Whenever I risk a foray into the kitchen my nerves start to frazzle and all the work I did in the past comes barreling back like a bad dream rather than a cause for rejoicing.

But the most important parts of our family traditions have stayed with me. After our Christmas Eve banquet, we’d gather together dressed in our robes and towels and read from the Bible re-creating a live Nativity Scene. 

I can still see the number of new babies in our household that played the part of baby Jesus over the years. A child would progress from baby Jesus to angel, and then to Shepherd. The older ones played Joseph and Mary.

When I listen to “Child of the Promise” it brings those images back, in a good way. There are times when I wish I could have my children all with me once again. I loved the hours spent rocking in their grandfather’s old chair. Drying tears, comforting sorrows, bandaging skinned knees and all the other motherly services performed of which I never grew weary. Each task was special in my heart. 

Imagine rocking the Christ Child?  I treasure the words to my favorite Carol “Mary did you know.”

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am

Oh Mary did you know?

An old favorite by Kenny Rogers and Winona Judd

A more modern version with Pentatonix:  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Painting the Faces of Misery – Capturing Emotional Pain

Many years ago, I was shopping for groceries. My gut felt raw as I floated around the store in an “out-of-body” trance. I was going through a difficult divorce, and felt empty and forlorn.

There were no relatives nearby where I could seek comfort. I was completely alone. My heart was broken. A clerk, seeing only the superficial face I put forward remarked, “My god, can’t you at least smile?”

I must have looked pretty bad. My first thought was that he had no idea what I was going through. I was certainly in no condition to smile or talk. I tried to fake a smile, but it was impossible. I was in misery and I couldn’t hide it. His remarks had made me feel even worse.

My crooked smile, lopsided eyes, and fun-house features were simply revealing my inner emptiness and utter brokenness.

Later when I became an artist, I realized that you can’t paint misery and hurt unless you understand the underlying emotions that caused the pain in the first place.

For example, grief after a loved one’s death is different from the shattered grief of divorce. 

In a good marriage there are fond memories and the loss can be shared with friends and loved ones who knew well our partner or spouse. After a divorce, you don’t want to share the failure and the tragic details with anyone.

"Brokenhearted" 9 x 12 Pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame
Anger between loved ones is different from that between strangers or friends. The emotions cut deeper. The fragility of ego and insecurity add to the exploding feelings. There is often far more to lose. The relationship hangs by a thread unless you can get past anger’s unpredictable course. Forgiveness is almost mandatory. The anger with others is sometimes quickly forgotten. There is no intimacy or long-held expectations that stretch the ties that bind.

Try to create studies of people’s emotional reactions. Distinguish the simple breakdown between different kinds of anger and pain.

These subtle differences may slightly change the tilt of the mouth or a wrinkle in the nose. Emotions may be altered only by pushing one eyebrow upward to change an expression. Glassy eyes may add to the sadness. Body language and the way the hand is used to cover up what others see adds another dimension.

Practice will make these changes better over time. Be observant and find out what happens when slight movement gives your markings life and nuance. Your scenes will have more energy and drama; your story on canvas will become more dramatic, more interesting, and definitely more real.

"Serena Shines" Pastel on Bristol, matted
person’s face is like a road map of the life they’ve lived and the things they’ve experienced. Once you have mastered unhappy faces, go on to those of joy and passion.

The decisions you make about “center of interest” must be made before you put one brush or pencil to canvas; where the face goes so goes the body. Every emotion portrayed must agree with the body language expressed.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 Patel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The People have Spoken; it is Time for Acceptance

This was a tempestuous election. I think the media was responsible for fueling most of the misinformation and angst. Their failure to report the truth, and to manipulate polls and push their own bias rather than straight reporting caused much of what’s happening in our streets today. In any case, those who lost are displaying sour grapes as they gnash their teeth in disgust like naughty, spoiled children.

Whether these agitators are professional protesters paid to stir up trouble is in question. Many of them come from other places and are being transported to different areas. I can understand their disappointment, but I do not excuse their violence and property destruction. Protesting is one thing; rioting or breaking the law is quite another.

Before the election of Donald Trump, Hillary’s campaign message was “We will build bridges not walls.” Now that the election is over, I ask, where are those bridges? Was this just hyperbole? What I’m seeing in the streets looks more like “Our way or the Highway.”

Brute force should never be used to get your own way. Have you ever seen conservatives riot and destroy? And when did liberals stop defending “free speech” except for themselves? When did the press start publishing opinions and stop reporting the news?

In times like these, artists need to be more productive not less. How would you paint chaos? What colors would you choose to explain violence, protest, and hatred: black, red, orange, and white?

Would you illustrate politics using angry reds with shades of bittersweet? Would your depressed psych slather on rainy grays and blue blues to represent your sadness? Wouldn’t it be great in our divided world if people could express their anger or sorrow in words or in artistry instead of unproductive and destructive demonstrations that only add fuel to the fire?

"Victims of War" 24 x 18, Mixed Media on canvas

When the Iraq war was at its peak, I chose to illustrate my feelings on canvas. Who are the real victims in the wars that are usually started by men? The women and children. My purpose was to show how history, especially in the Middle East has a tendency to repeat itself, over and over again.

Most fighting in the Middle East begins as religious wars between Sunni and Shiite. Why the U.S. inserted itself into these cultural wars was never fully explained. Was it to help the people become a democracy? At least that would have been a noble endeavor. No. the real reason was likely oil; and efforts to protect our own selfish interests.

Driven by men with big egos these wars have lasted far too long and seem to have no end. The countries have dissolved into terrorism and vicious hatred toward their liberators viewing them instead as captors.

Many called President Obama the “Divider in Chief” because he spawned racism and created an underbelly of lawlessness. Now the Left’s protesters are blaming Trump for the division simply because he won. We are not a democracy, but a republic, friends. As in sports, the best team or man always wins. This is the will of the people. Trump won by a landslide. He has been given a “mandate” and the will of the people must be respected.

When the infighting in Iraq was at its peak, I painted “Prayer Circles” out of respect for those around the world who worship in this way. Respect, tolerance and understanding are the hallmarks the left espouses at least until they lose. Come on people – you are better than that! Get a grip.

"Prayer Circles" 24 x 18 Acrylic on canvas

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bamboo is Strong; Resilient and Exotic

In Florida people often refer to bamboo as cane. There are so many varieties, that one word “cane” manages to cover them all.

For artists bamboo is more than a building material or a symbol of good luck. Bamboo has become the exotic favorite in paintings signifying well being and a good and prosperous life; more than that its jointed stalk is not only sturdy, but uniquely oriental in nature. Chinese and Japanese paintings almost always include a smattering of bamboo and sometimes include a Panda bear or two since bamboo is their main diet.

Indigenous in many parts of the world bamboo cane is used to construct houses, provide privacy and fencing, and in the construction of lasting dinnerware, utensils and furniture. In numerous countries, bamboo is the key ingredient to peaceful domesticity and protection.

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant; between two or three foot a year. The coverage is thick and vibrant providing a tall privacy hedge within two or three year’s time. This fast growth can also be controlled by pruning and purchasing clumping varieties. Some types grow vine-like strands across the ground that allows the bamboo to spread.

Many artists vary the existing colors to lend a bit of magic and aura to the finished painting. Examples in this blog of actual photos and artwork show the depth, design and creativity of each individual artist. I have toyed with the idea of creating a canvas of my own, but haven’t yet decided how to give it my own personal flavor. 

You may want to design your own unique original. There are myriad examples found on fabrics and textiles. Tommy Bahamas’ exquisite patterns on men’s shirts often use a palm frond motif along with hibiscus flowers and/or bamboo stalks and leaves. The Tropical and exotic when combined create sensational color and movement.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sea Glass – There’s Magic in the name and Romance in its History

What is sea glass?  Where is it found? Why do so many colors end up together in one location? What can you do with the beautiful gems you’ve found?

Before you get all excited about gathering some for yourself, be aware that many beaches restrict taking any glass away. And some of the best places to find glass are out of the way locations that may be difficult to reach.

The following site explains where this glass comes from and how long it takes to make the smooth rounded pieces that people seek.

The Colors of Sea Glass
Where Do They Come From?

...Just where do the colors of beach glass come from? Sea Glass is simply old glass products that were thrown into the sea, but, "Sea Glass is JUST GLASS, like Diamonds are JUST ROCKS"©

It takes decades for broken glass to "become" sea glass.
If you think about it, the common colors of sea glass, Green, Brown & White are still in wide use today......Rarer colors of sea glass are pieces that the color has not been made or used commercially for many years.

“We have broken the colors into rarity categories, it is a general rule and not to be carved in stone (or glass!) as certain colors can be found more readily in some areas. For Example, lavender glass can be a rarity in some areas, yet abundant in Maine & Canada; but hardly ever found in the islands. Next time you're in an antique shop or flea market, look at the glass items and see if you haven't found a piece of glass this color!

“By The Sea Jewelry is proud to offer the finest Genuine Sea Glass Jewelry in just about every color of sea glass in the world! This glass knowledge is based on 28 years of collecting and decades of researching the origins of our glass.”

The rough and tumble journey back and forth in tide water creates rounded corners and a smooth surface. The colors become almost translucent. If you find some in a shop or from an artist, check it out carefully to make sure it is real sea glass and not fake. The color and clarity can give you clues.

Google has a wonderful search bar where you can find just about anything. They have a guide to show you where to find sea glass, a book on how to tell if it’s real, and items that are made from this precious glass. Remember that what makes it valuable is the origin of the original glass, and the years it took to tumble it into a smooth, clear stone.

GOOGLE LINK: All about Sea Glass

There is a difference between fresh water glass and sea glass that is made smooth and beautiful by the salt water. According to the following link, there are also legends attached to this fascinating wonder of the world. Sailors long ago thought that the blue ones were mermaid tears that spilled ashore.

For some more history and help with identification, go to:  Glass Beach Jewelry  

This remarkable gift from the sea can be yours for a price, unless you’re lucky enough to find one of those hidden coves where the tides have come and gone for hundreds of years. Many of these pieces will still be in a state of development. Their edges may be sharp; their size may be small, and their shape odd.

But if you persevere, you may find a colorful stone that possesses that clear see-through sparkle. If the color is rare and the size is large you may have the beginnings of a treasured necklace or the centerpiece of a priceless mosaic table.