Saturday, July 30, 2011

Favorite Artist #4 – Pierre-Aguste Renoir

In my dining room, I have a large framed print of Renoir’s “Dance at LeMoulin de le Galetta.” After spending so much time with this painting, is it any wonder why Renoir is one of my favorite artists, and why I like people present in my paintings?

Renoir's life (1841-1919) was not always easy. There were times when he didn’t have enough money for paints (I can relate). What he did have was a hunger to paint, an appreciation for beauty, and a love affair with life. He celebrated beauty wherever he found it. He especially loved to paint feminine sensuality.

He used vibrant light and saturated color. He enjoyed focusing on people in intimate or candid moments of their lives. After his marriage, many of his paintings focused on his wife and children.

With his friend Claude Monet (another favorite of mine), he painted plien air near his home (1860s). As they painted light and water, they discovered that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them. Today that effect is known as “diffuse reflection.”

I love Renoir because his paintings always seem to be in motion. They are always about activity and vibrant life. Even when there are no people about, he paints the leaves quaking in the wind or the streams gurgling and bubbling as they tumble over meadowland. He was a “tender and sensitive” artist who painted not only what he saw, but what he felt.

He shifted focus and style during his lifetime, and I’m doing the same thing. I’m putting more drama, story, and energy into my paintings. Like Renoir, I find people to be the most interesting creation of all.

With These Hands -- Hope by Carol Allen Anfinsen

I have interspersed my paintings with his. He is more an impressionist than I am, but his spirit, his love of light and energy have been a great influence on my work.

Americana by Carol Allen Anfinsen

Leap of Faith by Carol Allen Anfinsen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Favorite Artist #3 – Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (09/15/1847 – 03/06/1986), a feminist in her day; considered a “modernist” by some, and most certainly an original. One of the few artists whose career was celebrated before her death at age 98 in 1986.

Born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin where she experienced the flamboyance of nature firsthand, she chose to represent nature as an insect might observe it in gigantic proportions. As a self-made naturalist, she liked to examine the intricate parts of nature responsible for life, for attracting insects, and where the color and detail were centered.

Later she dissected these parts into rainbow colored splashes of paint in curving, sweeping gestures. These abstracts drew as much attention as her floral paintings.

At the height of her popularity, O’Keeffe moved to Northern New Mexico and claimed the American Southwest as her home. This part of the nation has become known as “O’Keeffe Country.”

The sights in and around the Southwest were seen on her palette: the reds and browns of the desert, the blockie shapes of the rocks and hills, the adobe churches, the flora and fauna of the desert floor. Nothing missed her gaze. And everything she painted drew attention from art critics and an adoring public who appreciated the simple things she celebrated.

"Flash Dance" by Carol Allen Anfinsen

I’ve interspersed some of my paintings with hers. It is obvious her artwork had an influence on me. From my “Flashdance,” the orange hibiscus turning and burning in the sun, to the giant yellow flower “Hibiscus Glory,” the focus is always on the center of life and energy.

"Hibiscus Glory" by Carol Allen Anfinsen

O’Keeffe well deserved the accolades she received. Some day I may try an abstract piece and it may reflect her influence. Stay tuned!

"Blending In" by Carol Allen Anfinsen

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Favorite Artist #2 – Jean-Honore’ Fragonard (1732-1806) France

A Young Girl Reading

Although this painting is part of the “Rococo” period, it is anything but frivolous. The young girl is enraptured by her book. She has a serious look on her face. Her mind is soaring with vivid scenes of her own imagining.

True to its Rococo roots, the rest of the painting is flamboyant and colorful. The painterly ruffles on the dress, the folds in the gown and pillow are expertly done. It is obvious that Fragonard enjoyed painting them with curved gracefulness, elegance, and flourish.

According to once source” in “Young Girl Reading” Fragonard depicts a young woman on the brink of leaving behind quiet domesticity for an exciting life outside her walls; a life which she only imagines and knows through books.”

Another painting of a young girl reading illustrates this same kind of energy and promise. Many of his paintings seem to capture the feminine spirit and its yearnings. He seems fascinated by femininity itself and the power of “feminine wiles.”

Women during this time period had few choices open to them. They were expected to marry young, bear children, and spend their time in service to their families. For a brief period of time, the affluent were able to study or travel until the time that they entered into an “arranged” marriage.

Each painting tells a story. Fragonard’s sets up a narrative, and we are drawn into the story he depicts; our mind tries to fill in the blanks. This is exactly what all successful paintings do.

As with my last blog, I have interspersed my own paintings some of which may reflect the influence of Fragonard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Favorite Artists -- #1 Mary Cassatt

Someone remarked that some of my paintings reminded them of Mary Cassatt, the renowned painter (1844-1926). I was flattered, of course. She’s probably one of my all time favorite artists. Our styles are different, but has she influenced my work? I’ll let you be the judge as I share painting’s of Cassatt alongside my own (a daring risk).

Our personalities certainly have many things in common: Cassatt was feisty, independent, restless, and determined. She was impatient with conventional teaching and accepted styles (I’m always bucking the system and the traditions). She formed her own opinions and kept her eye out for fresh opportunities; always receptive to new approaches. These attitudes brought her opposition and struggle for recognition from the “art establishment.”

Cassatt was more inclined to paint women and children than men. Dega was one of her favorite artists and he inspired her (as he does me). She wrote of him:

“How well I remember nearly 40 years ago, seeing for the first time Degas’ pastels in the window of a picture dealer on the Boulevard Haussmann. I used to go and flatten my nose against the window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.”

Cassatt grew as an artist and began making on-the-spot sketches and studies which gave her finished oil paintings the same spontanaeity as the quick sketches done in pastel and drypoint. She had a freedom of color and brush stroke that added energy to her artwork, but she was always careful with detail where it mattered most.

Her endearing and enduring portraits drew me in and inspired my own paintings. I’ve discovered that without people, my landscapes seem hollow and empty. People give life to life. They are the reason for nature itself. I’m at my best when a painting includes people, even if the painting’s message is one of saddness or darkness.

Next blog, I’ll discuss another favorite artist and include a peak at my latest works-in-progress.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chinese Fortune Cookies May Send Bad Habits on the Run!

I wish I’d collected all the fortunes I’ve gleaned from my Chinese cookies over the years. There’s a lot of good wisdom in those crunchy sweets. My latest: “It is a silly fish that is caught twice with the same bait.”

How often we are “caught with the same “bait” by repeating our mistakes over and over again. We blame our behavior on “force of habit.” It’s hard to undo bad habits and replace them with good ones, but it’s not impossible.

According to experts, it takes about three weeks (or a month) to break an old habit and develop a new one. That’s 30 days, seven days a week, 24 hours a day to stop doing something you’d really like not to do like eating too much, wasting time, indulging in entertainment that pulls you down spiritually, etc.

Water follows the course of least resistance. I think that’s how we get trapped in the first place. We take the easy way out, the shortcut, and pretty soon a bad habit is entrenched in our behavior. How can we shake ourselves up and be open to try new ways of doing things?

Reverse course. When you begin with the thought that prompts a negative or careless behavior, do an “about face” and start something different; even if it means going for a walk, making a telephone call, or doing something uncharacteristic like eating an apple instead of that chocolate bar.

When you don’t feel like writing, working or creating, sit down to the computer anyway and begin typing anything: thoughts, ideas, gobbledygook. Before you know it, one thought leads to another, and you break the bad habit of “stalling” and “killing time.” That’s exactly how this blog was written.

In the meantime, my new “work in progress” has been sitting on the back burner for a long time. Inspiration for this painting comes from a 1.5 x 1.5 inch snap shot that when blown up is extremely fuzzy. But I wanted to paint it anyway. I haven’t decided my treatment of this painting, but I’d like it to represent learning and a child who is on the brink of life and discovery.

My quick acrylic study is not detailed, but I’m thinking of incorporating symbols in the background that represent the written word, and perhaps other symbols that stand for mathematics and music; still forming in my mind. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does This Hat Make me Look Fat?

A drawing of my granddaughter on her first birthday. I gave her a pink ruffled bonnet, and she spent the next few minutes trying to get it off. I did manage a few photos before she succeeded. I followed this drawing up with an oil painting, but failed to take a photo of it before it got away from me.

“It takes money to make money.” You’ve probably heard this saying all of your life, and it’s true; even in the blogosphere. To get your blog noticed, you sometimes have to join a site and pay for more publicity. To get your art noticed, you have to enter contests, join web sites, and definitely paint something unique and different.

Canvases cost, paint costs, and all the mediums and additives that create beauty are going up in cost. As artists, we’re also competing with reproductions, and warehouse artwork where a photographic print is spruced up with some dashes of oil paint to give it the illusion of an original oil painting. The cost: $45 to $75 compared to an original work of art anywhere from $300 to $1,000. Given this economy, which would you buy?

Still it’s in our bones, our guts. To stop painting would be to deny that “high” we get when paint flows, artistic vision meets reality and magic happens. This rush of passion and emotion is what keeps an artist painting even when demand is dried up. If we’re lucky, someone will like what we do. We may win a juried contest. A collector may see our potential and the money reverses from outlay to income.

In the meantime, we stack our paintings in closets, under beds, in a few stores and hotels who will have us and hope for the best. If we sell a few prints or cards, we feel lucky.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

“The Lost” – A New Painting Completed

This is a real turn in another direction for me. Instead of painting only what I see, I’m painting more from my heart and from inspiration. Although I had some photographic references, the composition, the symbolism and the artistic expression are totally mine. It has been a freeing experience.

I have always found the beauty in people of other races and their cultures. When you get to know people one-on-one, you appreciate their uniqueness and goodness. I’ve also been intrigued by the legends, myths, and beliefs that propel a person’s choices and create marked differences in human beings, their motivation and behaviors.

In an earlier blog, I shared with you the legends of crows in India as “harbingers of death.” I researched this after reading a story about a man who was remembered by a flock of crows, year after year.

I learned that “house crows” as they are known in India are somewhat grayer in color than their American counterparts. I wanted to lend as much accuracy to my painting as possible, even though it was based mainly on imagination.

I’m sharing a few more of my solely “imaginative works” with you. These are illustrations from my book: “Inez Ibis Flies Again; The Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave up.” A book icon in the right-hand column will take you to a sneak preview.

An e-book is also available FREE at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Uneventful July 4th

What do you do on the 4th when you have a “bug,” a stiff neck, and no energy? You apply heat alternating with ice over the next few days, and wait it out.

My husband was a good sport, and waited with me. We had a “virtual” celebration watching clips of local parades and celebrations. We had our own “virtual” poolside barbecue, courtesy of the Food Channel, yum, while we scarfed down leftovers and junk food, and slurped our “virtual” Bloody Mary’s (sans alcohol) made of V-8 juice.

Signs of the 4th were “virtually” everywhere! The snap, crackle and pop of neighborhood bottle rockets and firecrackers went on all day and into the night. We watched Macy’s Fireworks display on one channel, and “A Capitol Fourth” on another. The veterans, the faces of the children, the patriotic music uplifted us as we slumped and settled in like couch potatoes.

When they played and sang “Amazing Grace” I wondered where the protests were from the ACLU and the Atheists, but the crowd cheered afterward and the show went on. America truly is the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.” Our Christian roots will never be forgotten. They must not be forgotten. Our freedom comes from God not from the government. We must protect it with our very lives if necessary.

Statue of Liberty

My virtual holiday may have been uneventful, but it was far from boring. What I saw, what I witnessed and heard gave me hope for a better tomorrow.

The photos in today’s blog are of children and grandchildren celebrating July 4th in their own special ways.