Thursday, April 28, 2011

Photographs – Instant Replay

Surrounded by old photographs, my past envelops me with a sudden rush of remembrance. Here we are family and friends captured in a brief, fleeting moment singled out from the countless hours, days, and weeks that make up our lives.

How happy we look smiling for the camera. How hopeful for the future as we pose here together, frozen for eternity in a fraction of a second and the flash of a camera. One click and an infinitesimal moment is recorded for posterity. Tomorrow’s pain and unfulfilled promises are unforseen, unanticipated.

Photographs are given far more importance than they deserve. We use them to document our lives; perhaps even to define us. Then when relationships crumble and children move on into adulthood with their own lives and preoccupations, the frozen images smile back mocking the reality of what is now – what is today.

The life we once had -- was it dream or illusion? Who are these people smiling at us now – these people caught in a millisecond of time?

Photographs wear with age, their brightness fades and their corners become tattered and yellowed; but the images continue to smile at us as they did long ago when the shutter closed and captured one shared smile, one shared space, one microcosmic second in a lifetime.

We have all changed since those first pictures were taken. We are older, and perhaps wiser. Photographs provide proof that we have lived, but they can never tell others who we really are. Photographs are, after all, only superficial shards of the life we leave behind.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Completed Painting – “Playing Dress Up”

The girl in the painting could have been me as a child. I brought home stray cats as fast as my mother could tastefully get rid of them. But some of them, she let me keep.

Stray cats are a ravenous bunch. They crave both food and affection. I adored lavishing them with both. Their dependence on my goodness gave me an omnipotent power over their well being. Their growing dependence gave way to my every whim.

I preened them as a parent would wiping their noses and brushing their fur. They obediently submitted when I dressed them in doll clothes, covered them with blankets, and gave them rides in my doll buggy. Of course, I wanted to dress the part so my mother’s old blouses and hats fit the bill. If mother were in a good mood, jewelry and high heels were added to the mix. I clomped around the house in seventh heaven.

"In Progress"

Not wanting my own dolls and stuffed toys to feel neglected, I made a chart and a schedule so that each one had a turn snuggling in my arms at bedtime. It took a whole month to get through that list. I was devoted to “my brood”. This painting is a tribute to those lost memories, to childhood, to wild imagination and lost innocence.

Throughout this blog, preliminary sketches show stages of my progress. A painting is a succession of changes and refinement; a process, if you will.

The finished painting is now on my online gallery where prints, giclees, and greeting cards may be purchased:

Please share your childhood dreams or experiences in the comments section. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green, Groovy and Fabulous!

Downtown Fort Myers sparkles like a queen on prom night. A recent makeover has turned the “City of Palms” into a hub of artistic expression, music and theater. Upscale shops and restaurants beckon locals and snowbirds to the tantalizing smells, toe-tapping sounds, and show-stopping eye candy displayed in glittering shop windows.

One of those gems is attracting urban traffic by its unique and trendy mix of eclectic jewelry, clothing and art. The boutique features fun, green and eco-friendly items with a groovy edge. The owner, Lisa Boucher, knows her stuff. The shop is arranged to draw the curious, the playful, and the serious collector. If you can’t find it –Lisa will get it. She invites you to come and explore the unusual, the exciting, and the unique created by local and global artisans.

 Visit her onlline gallery at and find out why everybody’s talking about her collection of jewelry, clothing, handbags, accessories, sculpture, wall art, home décor, gifts and more. Then come downtown and see for yourself an expanded reportoire of delightful choices to suit every taste.

Currently, I have four paintings on exhibit there. I’ve scattered them throughout this blog along with photos of Lisa’s shop.

You could spend hours browsing and exploring “Green ‘n Groovy” and still see something new by the time you were finished. The location on First Avenue next to the Arcade has ample street parking close to all of the action.

Downtown Fort Myers River District is a delightful place to shop and have lunch or dinner. The new ambiance of orange tile roofs, brick sidewalks and lamplights sport a wide array of shops, restaurants, and a vibrant night life. The more than 16 art galleries in the area, activities such as “Art Walk,” and live entertainment is pumping new life into the downtown area. Live music on Ponce De Leon plaza adds a lively touch of local flavor.

Next time you think of jewelry, art or fun, think “Green ‘n Groovy.” Shop downtown Fort Myers and discover for yourself the fabulous bevy of boutique and artistic wares. You won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Featured Artist: Elena Kapustina

Most artists dislike diverting attention away from their own art, but there comes a time when a blog (and an artist) need a refreshing change.

I came across the Russian artist, Elena Kapustina, and felt I had to share the beauty of her artwork with you. Her style represents how I feel and how I would like to paint. I love the figure and the face in paintings, but don’t want to do portraits and prefer impressionism to realism both in landscape paintings and in portraying animals and birds from nature.

Elena was born in Ryazan, Russia. In the period 1984-1989 she studied in the Ryazan state pedagogical institute. After graduating from the institute she worked at school as a teacher of drawing and was the head of the Fine art studio. Working with children, Elena found her original style. She takes an active part in many regional exhibitions. Many of her artworks are in private collections of Russia, Spain, Italy, the USA, and Germany.

The beauty of life and the joy of living is what Elena expresses in her canvases. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do. The link below provides you with another look at her work. Inexpensive prints are also available.

The quality of these digital copies can't compare to the original paintings or prints. They still show Elena's beautiiful style.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Running on Empty

Every now and then, we all run into a wall, either of our own making or because of circumstances: health and time constraints, personal obstacles, an awareness that we need something; a jumpstart, a class, some inspiration.

I have reached that point. My tail has been dragging and I don’t even feel like creating, let alone blogging. The weather is largely to blame. This time of year tourists and springbreakers flood the area with teeny bikinis and exhaust fumes escaping from cold winter doldroms of their own.

Aaaaah -- Spring!

But this year, instead of our usual mild temperatures, the tourists were slammed with a blast of summer heat and humidity. The beachgoers are loving it; but by afternoon, I’m feeling like last year’s petunias. If this is a foreshadowing of summer’s tropical onslaught, I’m in trouble along with the other “locals” who are drousy and disoriented by the early heat and the sudden temperature changes. We went from comfortable lows and highs in the sixties to highs in the 90s with 75% humidity in a matter of days!

A Star is Born                     
The effect is an uptick in sweat and heat exhaustion, and a downturn in energy level. I seem to be sleeping longer and accomplishing less. To fill in the gaps while I regain my stamina, I did some quick, silly Easter sketches. I find humor helps dissipate the doom and gloom. I hope you enjoy them!

Buy me -- Buy me!

I Found it -- I Found it!

If you haven’t visited my art website, you may find my illustrations entertaining. They were prepared for the book “Inez Ibis Flies Again, the Story of a Courageous Ibis who never Gave Up.” You can click on the book icon below in the right hand column for a free preview.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Learning Curve – It’s Essential

                          Jan Ellen Atkielski
Some people expect to be professional artists as soon as they get their fine arts degree. It doesn’t work that way. Nothing happens over night. There is always a “learning curve.”
Of course, there are those who are gifted with talent and the ability to see at a young age. But most of us have to improve our skills over time. Combine practice with continuing education, and you have a winning formula. I’ve photographed one of our guest speakers, Jan Ellen Atkielski, who spoke to our art league about marketing, goal setting, preparing portfolios and statements, and how to exhibit. There are many components to continuing education. This is one of them.

Diane Carmen and Bonnie Wolff

I’ve always claimed that my first art teacher didn’t teach me how to paint, she taught me how to see. But I’ve discovered since that the learning continues. Just when I think I’ve overcome the tendency to fill-in-the-blanks with my brain, I pull the same stunt again. The perfect example: I submitted one of my paintings to an online critique at FAA. I sensed something was wrong with the painting, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was or how to resolve it.

Pat Papa

Boy did I get critiqued! It is a humbling experience, to say the least. There were those who for the sake of showing off their skills nit-picked to the point of over-kill. At that point, I was ready to dump my painting altogether.

Jan and Annie St. Martin

Then there were the serious artists who really wanted to be of help, but they were somewhat timid. The rest were extremely helpful. One person showed me what I’d missed in my original photo and one other artist nailed it by pointing out what had been bothering me from the first: a glaring discrepancy that the others skirted around to avoid embarassing me. I’ll share their critique and painting 1 and 2 on one of my future blogs and get your input.

Learning to draw and to paint is difficult. If you’re really serious about it, you must sketch, draw, or paint every day. Using a variety of media is important until you find one you know and love. Practicing various brush techniques can help you use the right brush in the right place when it’s needed. Knowing how to mix colors and make values is critical. I’m still having trouble with values and perspective, but I know it will come with practice.

I enjoy doing quick sketches like this young girl playing soccer. I like to capture the energy of movement and then carry that forward in a painting. Is my sketch perfect? No! Her head is a little too large and her extended arm was too long. When I shortened it, I lost some of the detail. I do think I nailed the foreshortening of her legs as she manuevers the ball, but you be the judge.

Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up. No matter what your skill or profession, there is a learning curve. You can’t get away from it. If you want to be successful bad enough, you will achieve your goals!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rainy Day Blues

Today, the Painters and Artists League of Gateway (PALS) had planned a special trip to Sarasota to visit the Salvadore Dali Art Museum. I planned on filling my blog with photos of Salvadore paintings and facts about his life. I have long admired his edgy style and delightful use of space and color.

All of us were looking forward to spending the day together exploring art galleries in the Sarasota area and getting to know each other better. But alas, a severe weather warning and impending rain broke soon after we left and sent us scampering closer to home. But what started out as a disappointing day turned into one of discovery.

We headed over to Bell Towers, a local shopping mall, where a new art gallery called “Gallerie Unique” had recently opened. President Shelby Ward was our gracious hostess. She allowed us to linger, study and enjoy her collection of artwork from both local and international artists such as Carol McArdle, Art Fronckowiak, Laurie Snow Hein, Neil Walling, Echo Chernik, Richard Johnson, Tadeo, Jennifer Vrane, Ken Miduch, and Ed Takacs to name a few.

Tucked under a black and white striped awning a few steps across the black and white checkered tiles from a small coffee shoppe, Gallerie Unique was anything but quaint. An air of sophistication and professionalism captured our attention as we moved into the gallery.

The variety of artists represented and the wide range of offerings was a delightful surprise. Well placed rack lighting captured the highlights and brushwork of each artist’s unique style showcasing color and detail that might otherwise have been missed.

Afterward, we discussed the artists and their work at a local restaurant called Mimi’s, and then drove to The Alliance for the Arts on McGregor Avenue. Who said you can’t vacation at home? We had a wonderful day exploring Fort Myers wonderful art community.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Random Thoughts, Tidbits and Truisms

Life is made up of small bits of knowledge, built up over time; increments of learning that cling together and form a picture, a memory, a smattering of trivia and truth.

Where does this knowledge come from? Everywhere!

Yesterday, I was taking my walk and there on the sidewalk was a crawfish miles away from the nearest pond, struggling along on the dry pavement.

On closer inspection, the poor crustacean had only one front claw. The right one had been torn off.

Like a detective, I formed a scenario in my mind: the crawdad had likely been picked up at the pond by a feeding ibis or egret and carried to a waiting nest. In transport, the struggling crayfish  had literally escaped and lost a claw in the process. Sadly, being miles from any water, he’ll probably die looking for his “home sweet home.”

Speaking of which, we have two martin houses in our neighborhood. As soon as March 1st rolls around, they appear and stay for almost three months. I’ve heard it’s difficult to attract them. My two neighbors seem to be pros at it. But tell me, If you could choose between a dingy motel with last year’s leavings or a clean room in a luxury suite, which one would you choose? There’s no such thing as a dumb bird!

Somewhere I read that “drones make more noise and are more in a hurry than the bees, but they make no honey.” I’ve known people like that. They scurry around, bark and bluster at everyone they meet, and when they’re finished you can’t see the results of their presence nor what they’ve accomplished. It’s called “Seagull Management.”

I read the other day that a town in Ohio is changing their annual Easter egg hunt to a Spring egg hunt because they don’t want to be exclusive or offend anyone. If we continue down this road, pretty soon we won’t recognize any holidays or religious celebrations at all. What we’re doing is cutting off the roots that give human beings a sense of history and personal identity. We’re cheating them out of their cultural and religious traditions.

Remember Alex Hayley’s epic “Roots?” We all need them. Without roots we become lost in a maize of merging cultures, man-made religions, and changing values. We lose our identity and the things that make us unique. Instead of thinking on our own, we adopt “group think” and the values of others. We become puppets, manipulated by the whim of those in charge.

But let's get back to art. I read a couple of my old “tweets,” and thought they were quite revealing:

“A blank canvas dares the artist to defile its virgin face. One brush stroke unleashes a vision of intensity that doesn’t stop until the artist’s passion is vanquished.”

“It is a ritual, painting; a dance in the mind of an artist that ends only when the visual statement comes to fruition on canvas.”

And so life goes . . .