Thursday, September 22, 2016

Living Waters Undulate, Inundate, and Facinate Artists

"Skudeneshavn Norway" 20 x 16 Oil on canvas
It’s always hard to get ahead of the curve. Just when you think you’re pulling forward, someone or something pulls the plug on you.  Last week it was a leaky roof. Our place is about 17 years old, and one by one, the houses around us have been getting new tile roofs. Now it’s our turn.

Once the water gets through, however minimal, the damage above has already occurred and wood rot begins. We’ve repaired three fascias’ already, and there may be more. But that’s “water under the bridge.” (I couldn’t resist).

When our family lived in Kansas City, we battled water continually. Except for a bedroom for our teenage son, the leaky parts of the basement had prevented us from refurbishing it.

Finally we found a solution to the crack that ran diagonally down one wall. A friend who repaired swimming pools slathered it with a rubber adhesive that sealed any leaks. We were ecstatic.
"Arabesque" 18 x 14 Oil on canvas
After several dry months went by, we painted and laid carpet in our new family room. The children and their friends finally had a place to hang out. And then the spring rains started up with a vengeance. We held our breath, but the patch held.

The rains continued; one of the heaviest downpours in K.C. history. The front window well filled and flooded into the basement, and then another and another. We started a bucket brigade, but couldn’t keep up with the water filling the wells back up again.

We ended up taking out our soggy new carpet and replacing it with area rugs that could be rolled up in a hurry and put away. We dug trenches around the wells and added pipes to draw the water away. We slanted the front yard so the water wouldn’t come towards the house. Alas, nothing worked. A hard rain could still wipe us out in a matter of minutes simply by filling up the window wells.

"Egret Reflections" SOLD/Prints available.
Water is one of the necessities of life we cannot live without. We fear it. We’re drawn to its sparkling surfaces and its shadowy depths. Without water we would perish; and yet, we have difficulty controlling its unpredictable movements and enormous strength.

Recent flooding this summer in the Midwest brought back so many memories. Artists try to capture the violence and beauty of water; its serenity and peace.

How do you make reflections both in the water and on top of it? Small wavelets on the surface create white netting in the sunlight. Depth changes color. Clarity demands a different technique to indicate a translucence that depicts the sandy or rocky bottom below. 

Painting water requires practice. Once you get the hang of it, brushing on water is fun and addictive. 

Water droplets seem almost impossible until you realize that you have to get away from the canvas before they appear realistic. When you learn how to make them, you have to learn when to stop. Too many of them may give your canvas the look of poke a dots.

"Kelly's Rose" (A rose heavy with rain water) 16 x 12 Acrylic on Panel
It is easy to get carried away as you get better and better at painting lakes, seas, oceans, rivers and puddles. Samples of my own work throughout this blog illustrate how you get better at painting water with practice.

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
Joseph Chilton Pearce

I chose the following three artists to demonstrate their personal techniques for water paintings done in acrylics.

Marion Boddy-Evans shows you how to paint water droplets 

Lori McNee has the best suggestions for painting different types of water 

Mark Waller shows you the fine details and colors that make up the ocean’s surface.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How you Look at Clouds may determine how you Paint them

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse , Skudeneshavn, Norway"  Acrylic on canvas
I once heard that unless your clouds are the center of interest, don’t paint what you see – paint what people expect and want to see clouds look like. In other words, don’t allow the clouds to “steal the show.”

I’ve had to work at clouds. Landscapes sometimes overwhelm me. I always do better focusing on portraits and close-ups of details. But I want to do better. I love to study cloud formations and enjoy their beauty.

What do you see in the shapes of clouds? I see teddy bears and turtles, and fat round babies. I see enormous faces from different places. My imagination depends on what kind of day it is.

Judy Collins saw things in the clouds around her (inspired by Joni Mitchell’s words):

“Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun they rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all.”

If you want to catch Collins singing, watch this video. 

Is there a right and a wrong way to paint clouds? Some people think so. I did not get into a juried show once because the judge did not like my clouds. I've since tried to improve upon them.

"Beach Buddies II" 20 x 16 oil on canvas
Two different artists below show you two very different techniques. One starts with the “lights” and makes small circles, adding the darks later. The other starts with the darkest darks making odd rather than defined shapes. Both agree that the results should suggest transparency.

Tim Gagnon likes to create fluffy cumulus clouds.

Mark Waller, the artist below, believes that clouds should be made up of random shapes. Like Gagnon, he believes that paint should be applied gently and loosely. “Little circles” should come after not first, and be defined by the dark straight edged underpinnings.

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse, Skudeneshavn, Norway" a close-up view 20 x 16 acrylic on canvas

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An Artist must have "True Grit" and Know how to Use It!

My husband and I were searching for a movie on Xfinity; a cheap vintage one.  We settled for a 1969 John Wayne movie “True Grit” because my husband had never seen it. We were delighted and pleased with our choice. Good old fashioned values, humor, and the simplicity and perfection of John Wayne. What more could you want?

Curious afterward about the meaning of “grit” I discovered that it referred to courage, resolve, and strength of character; a perfect description of the main character who was determined to do something important for her family and for her dead father. Her quest was difficult and unpleasant, but she met each obstacle unafraid and with true grit.

That word grit stuck in my craw for days afterward. Another definition was “loose particles of sand, stone, salt, etc.” Things I had already used in some of my paintings along with paste and fiber. My purpose was to add texture and interest.

In my mixed-media painting “Broken” I used a fibrous paste to create the texture of a cement wall, and added shapes and symbols popular in the Sixties to look like graffiti. In addition I dipped a torn newspaper article of recent disaster into liquid paste and applied it in appropriate places. 

My drawing of mother and child was left untouched until acrylic color had been added over the background and then wiped off to reveal the symbols. The figures were then painted in oil.

“Moonlight Magic” began as an experiment in texture and various colors that were mixed with fibrous paste. When it was dry I began applying various shades of blue, wiping off raised parts with a cloth to allow some of the under painting to show through. 

I had no idea what the finished canvas would look like, but I kept moving and adding paint until I had the look I wanted. Raised areas defined the final color and design.

“Auburn Nights” (shown in my last blog) was the re-purposing of an old oil canvas I was dissatisfied with and had put aside. 

Wanting to engage in frugality and needing a rough surface to define the windy unpredictability of fall weather, I painted over the canvas in reds and browns. This is a simple canvas and didn’t take long to finish. 

I did most of this painting free-hand with brush and paint. I decided that if it wasn’t perfect, I would not go back over it, but let the canvas speak for itself. I think the texture beneath the surface added to the feeling I was trying to create.

“Queen of Diamonds” is a statement in textures, shapes, and angles mixed with a bit of realism. I knew from the first that I wanted a Harlequin theme to highlight and accent the figure as center of interest. Whether I was successful or not remains in the eyes of the beholder.

A Studio Silver Creek artist shows you step by step how to create a textured background using paste and shapes: 

Watching Michael Lang paint is a religious experience. When he starts slapping on simple inexpensive acrylics you’re never sure what it’s going to look like, but he does. His technique is hypnotizing. Using a combination of brushes, cloths, fingers, a squeeze bottle of white paint and a spray bottle of water, he dips and dabs until his masterpiece is finished.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bring it, Grab it, and Sell it now!

"Auburn Nights" 16 x 20 Oil on canvas, available @ 
Neatness has its drawbacks. I find that “out of sight, out of mind” is what happens when I over-organize. Items or projects that have deadlines also must be near at hand and visible forcing me to critique them often, and to make necessary changes when ideas are fresh on my mind. 

If my schedule doesn’t permit, I at least make a note or use white charcoal to highlight the adjustments on canvas. Knowing where your gear is stashed away is another matter. When I sell something, I want to know exactly where my weigh scale is and my packing materials so my turn-around time is cut short.

Having a specific place for drawing papers, pencils, markers and charcoal makes it easier to capture an idea before it gets away instead of wasting precious moments scrounging for the things you need.

These same tools will assist you when you want to make quick edits or adjustments on a painting. If you are forced into hunting for the right object, you may forget what you were going to change in the first place.
"Fall in Apple Valley" (MN) acrylic on silk, available @ 
Everyone has their own unique way of working. The important thing is to keep working. I find I’m a little rusty after summer travel and vacations, plus this past year ill health impaired my ability to keep doing the things I love. I’m hoping it’s like riding a bicycle, but it’s not. Practice is the byword that keeps those brush strokes fresh and intuitive. 

Now I’m playing “catch up.” Plus I’ve always believed in going that extra mile. Using the best products to create and then adding in something special makes satisfied customers smile which turns them into repeat buyers.
Painting by Julie Paschkis
One of my favorite artists and authors is Julie Paschkis. She knows all about going beyond what is required. She once took a Spanish class in order to illustrate a book for Spanish speaking children. Words are used as design tools to enhance the learning experience. 
Her artwork is so joyful it literally jumps off the page. 

You’ll enjoy her web site:

A video allows you to meet the artist as she shares her work: 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fellow Travelers Represent you, me and the Average Joe Blow

"Auburn Nights" 16 x 20 Oil on Canvas, framed
I saw a lot of colorful people on our vacation; first in the airplane, and then at the places we visited. What stories they could tell. And yet, we are all so alike. As we worried about our plans to deplane and whether to stay on board or go out for an hour to walk, eat and relax.
The woman a few seats down expressed the same concerns. 

The catch, we all agreed was the required removing of our luggage from the plane and then having to again re-board. We all made a group decision to escape for awhile in exchange for waiting in line a brief time before reclaiming our original seats.

Across the aisle, a man in his sixties captured my attention as he read an actual book rather than a Kindle. How did he read such small print? His gray hair was pulled back in a ponytail hanging down his back. His face was covered in a scruffy short beard and mustache; a new retiree perhaps heading for Florida?
"Window on Pine Island" 16 x 20 Oil on WrappedCcanvas
A red-headed young woman on my right hovered over a hand-held device playing a game. She didn’t say a word the whole flight. Finally she buried herself in a shroud of covers and went to sleep for the duration. When she awoke, I was stunned to see that her lips and jaw protruded far beyond how the average young girl might look. Later, my husband described her as looking “old for her age.” When it was time for her to leave, my heart went with her.

On the airplane, people of all colors, shapes and sizes laughed, talked, slept or read; each adapting peaceably to their surroundings. In this setting, it was hard to imagine that any would seek war or choose to maim, kill, or jeopardize the safety and well-being of others. And yet we read about this happening almost every week. We wonder about the mind-set of those who are capable of such atrocities.

"Blending In" Acrylic on Canvas
(We saw a few of these in Redwing, MN)

We are always on guard. When the airplane finally puts up its wing-flaps and the craft slows, we breathe easy that we’ve almost made it. Prayers of gratitude are mumbled. The passengers collectively brace themselves as the plane hits the runway. They apply imaginary brakes together and sigh when the plane makes its way to the gate.

For the length of this flight, the people have smiled politely at one another, gone out of their way to be courteous and respectful, even assisted with luggage when necessary. Where are the violent protesters and the mobs that create chaos and harm to law enforcers and business owners? Where are the bullies who wreak havoc on others? Who ignites the spark that sets off a chain reaction of destruction? What is their agenda?

My friends it is lawbreakers, gangsters, international syndicates, terrorists; and unfortunately, our local, state and national officials. For their own nefarious purposes, they set ablaze communities, instill fear and anger, destroy law and order to gain power over people, and the control of city and national power structures. 

When the party is over, they scatter like rats. Disguised as innocents, they offer money and support as they feign ignorance over cause and effect. And they get away with it! Not only do they play deaf and dumb, but they blame someone or something else for the carnage.

There are stories to be told, all right. But the tales are not about average people who go about living their lives in peace; who work and play, travel and contribute to society and in their neighborhoods. The bigger story is about corruption in government, about power-hungry ideologues who seek world dominance, and about why the people who elect them are willing to ignore their dishonesty and the stench that goes on right under their noses.

"Americana" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas, in barn wood frame

Monday, August 8, 2016

Vacation Musings bring Insight and Patience

This morning I had my first cup of coffee on our son-in-law's deck in Minnesota. It was in the mid-70s with a slight breeze. Exhilarating after leaving Fort Myers 95 degree 90% humidity. We had to take a breather from the heat, so headed for Minnesota's cooler and breezier climes. Here the weather may change in an instant, but for now it is intoxicating.

We're on the go so much that I haven't been in one place long enough to blog. Today we're going to spend some time with my husband's great grandson Marcus. We haven't seen him, except for photos, since he was a few months old. Now he's walking. The family was eager for us to see their new home.

After 13 years in Fort Myers, my husband wants to move back to be near family. Now we've added house hunting into the mix on the condition that we can sell our villa. My online life is not affected in any way except for the transition periods, and the reason why this blog and others are super late.

Since my own children are scattered across the country, where I live does not seem to matter. The only change will be that they must visit us rather than have us fly out to see them. Aging does have its disadvantages. But more than getting older, ill health this year has cut a big swathe across my extracurricular activities.

We all have ups and downs in our lives no matter what age. How we handle the crises that come to us will determine whether we allow circumstances to get us down or to serve as a stimulus to our malcontent which motivates change.

Degas taped his paintbrushes to his arthritic hands so he could continue painting. Beethoven lost his hearing, but could hear the notes in his head and continued composing.

Countless other artists and musicians have overcome obstacles to create beauty with their feet or teeth. They have been blind and limbless, but have gone on to become famous using their internal gifts in spite of their disabilities.

Fall in Apple Valley, MN, water color on silk

Why not you? Why not me? You are more than the imperfect body you have been given. Your spirit and soul reign supreme. Your gifts are eternal and intrinsic to who you are. Don't give up on life just yet. Discover the power you have within. Test your limits. If you believe in a higher power harness your dreams to something greater than yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Symbolism in True Form is meant to Jar

India Rising Series -- "The Lost" acrylic on canvas
Definition: Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal.

“Symbolism developed new and often abstract means to express psychological truth and the idea that behind the physical world lay a spiritual reality. The emphasis is on expressing emotions, feelings, ideas, and subjectivity rather than realism.

“The work of symbolists is personal and expresses their own ideologies, particularly the belief in the artist's power to reveal truth. Symbolists take the ineffable, such as dreams and visions, and give it form.”
Michelangelo's "Finger of God"
In her book “Experimental Painting; Inspirational approaches to mixed media art” Lisa L. Cyr writes: “When one is free from inhibitions and preset expectations, the door opens for that spark of brilliance and magic to come through. Spontaneously and without effort, a highly imaginative world known only to the artist begins to reveal itself.”

Many symbolists combine "religious mysticism, the perverse, the erotic, and the decadent. Their subject matter is typically characterized by an interest in the occult, the morbid, the dream world, melancholy, evil, and death.”


Here are a few recognized symbolist painters and visual artists, which include Gustave Moreau, Gustav Klimt, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Jacek Malczewski, Odilon Redon, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Fantin-Latour, Gaston Bussière, Edvard Munch, Félicien Rops, and Jan Toorop.

Color and the way it affects mood is often used to create a message or sharp response in the viewer, but we’ll discuss color in another blog. Today artists are free to use alternative styles by combining conventional approaches with innovation. There has been a modern day revolution of sorts in the way art is created and presented.

The artist Cyr, quoted earlier, calls this inventive approach “reinterpret, reinvent, and redefine.”

Below are some helpful Youtube videos.

 Jake Baddeley - Symbolist painter  

 The Symbolist Paintings

Sometimes Impressionism and Symbolism overlap