Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning to Adapt in a Changing World

I was going to do a blog about pattern and focus on what an artist sees when they look at nature; i.e. an observer may only see “bark” and blow it off. An artist sees lines, ridges, shadows, and color; not just browns and tans, but lavendars, blues, pinks, and oranges.

Brown Thrasher

I planned to take photos and show examples of how I interpret what I see on canvas. I still may at a later time, but today with all the anguish in the world from riots, financial crises, revolutions, and natural disasters I wondered who cares?

Raccoons at Sunrise

How do people grapple with fear, anger, frustration, disease, death and destruction? In this climate – who thinks about art? Unless, and that’s a big “unless,” art helps people to deal with these immediate frustrations?


This is our time artists. If we can calm, humor, and make people feel happy by looking at our work, they will buy. If we can brighten a dark spot, enlighten a tired mind, or enrich a saddened life, our work is important. Now is the time to document history, lay waste hypocrisy and bare it to the core. If we can make people question, doubt, or take action because of something we’ve said in subtle strokes of pen or brush; we can make a difference.

I’ve always had a preference for vintage furniture and décor, thinking that it came from calmer, gentler times. But history refutes that idea. The recent hurricanes in America were repeated back in 1954 and 1955, and before that, and long before that. Weather is cyclical and repeats itself every 30 years or so. Governments rise and fall. New diseases come and new medicines to erradicate them. Nothing stays the same.

The Lost

People are resilient. Inner strength is born and nurtured in difficult times. Faith in God is restored. Purpose and responsibility are ignited and life goes on.

One of my favorite novels is “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck. Why? Because after reading the book three times, I realized the importance of women to society as the nurturers, the life givers, and the hub of family life and the nation. Women held their men together when they lost their jobs and when the family had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. They encouraged, they prodded, they offered hope, they gave sustenance.

Artists and writers can offer this same hope and encouragement. Perhaps the question is not “who thinks about art at a time like this?” but “artists and writers were made “for such a time as this.” (Est 4:14 KJV)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Buyer – One Reason Why Artists Paint

Some artists want to be the next Salvidor Dali, or Thomas Hart Benton. Others look to gallery representation in well-known salons worldwide. The rest of us ply our trade and hope to produce something meaningful or beautiful that will please those who buy or commission our work.

In some elite circles, painting for the public taste by producing paintings of flowers or pretty landscapes is frowned upon. Perhaps these lucky few have achieved their dreams without having to struggle through the hungry years of making ends meet. In either case, we all love the adoration that comes when we paint something that is pleasing to someone else.

I recently sold an original painting of my “Egret Visits Goldfish Pond.” The buyer loved the bright colors in the painting, but she was anxious about the transaction. I was a “nervous Nelly” wrapping it carefully, and hoping it would arrive safely. I tucked in a few cards as a thank you for her purchase. I hovered and prayed over that shipment until it arrived. My happiness was complete when she expressed its safe arrival and her pleasure in the finished product. One of “my babies” had found a good home.

Every painting I’ve done via commission has been a labor of love; an effort to please the buyer. A favorite pet, a prized flower, a dear grandchild, a landscape of a beloved homeland brings joy to the recipients. When you’ve not only met their expectations, but exceeded them that is fulfillment in and of itself.

I may never achieve the recognition or fame that others seek, but I’m using my talents and skills to make others happy. What better way to serve others and to earn money at the same time?

I would paint even if there were no buyers. Every time I complete a canvas, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m not competing with anyone but me. I love the thrill of seeing my skills grow and get better over time like fine wine.

The paintings in my blog today were all purchased by happy buyers. Some of them were sold as prints and cards, and others were commissioned or the originals were sold after the fact.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer in a Nutshell

I had a plan. In May, I was going to draw all summer long. I was going to put my canvases and paints on hold and focus on drawing and illustrating.

In June, a trip to Minnesota cut two weeks from my schedule and, afterward, left me with a virus, a stiff neck, and a chest cold. I scratched June from my timetable.

Oh, but I had July that fun outrageous month of fireworks, parades, hot dogs and ballgames. A plethora of activities gobbled up more time than Rip Van Winkle. On August 23, I realized my drawing board was blank. I had completed three paintings in the interim, but pristine sheets of Bristol paper were still awaiting my inspiration and saturation.

So I purchased a set of pastels. I hoped they might start a flame of action and fulfill my longing to pair pencil and pastel in a contemporary composition. By the end of August, the cellophane wrapping still clung to the box.

Like New Year’s resolutions, goals can be as elusive. Our good intentions are sometimes not enough in the face of reality and circumstance. The point is to move on. Don’t beat yourself over the head with a dead stick. Instead, turn it into a paint brush. Like an old friend, pick up where you left off and begin again.

Progress is made one step at a time, not in leaps and bounds. Remember the adage: “Life is not a destination, it’s a journey?” As long as we’re improving our skills, having fun, and dreaming the dream, we’ll achieve our purposes and desires.

We’re an impatient people. We want our cake, and we want to eat it, too. We expect problems to be solved in the space of a nightly sit-com. We want to churn out a painting a day or we’re unsatisfied. We want to live out our dreams without having to work for them.

I doubt the likes of a “Sistine Chapel” or a marble “Pieta” could be produced today. We make murals and monuments with spray paint and cement, with house paint and paper mache. Will our offerings last? Will they stand the test of time? It is anybody’s guess. Does our work fulfill us? That is the question. If it does then perhaps that is enough.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Mini-Promo That's Easy to Create

A mini-book is a great way to advertise with galleries and customers. A mini porfolio for review and reference. Check it out!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some Things are Worth Repeating

I was thrilled when I sold two Sandhill Crane prints from my painting. I decided to paint another one using a different composition and color. Did it work? Hardly! I ended up painting a surrealistic painting that I called "Sand Crane Dreams." I tried this experiment once again, and realized you can never really duplicate a painting. The muses intervene, and soon you're off on a totally different tangent, but certainly having more fun.

Stories are another matter. People love retold stories. Repetition not only gives them a second life, sometimes the story even gets better. Here's one from two years ago.

That's Quite a Mouthful
A wood stork went fishing in the pond behind my villa. She waded out only a few inches, her gangly long legs stilt-like above the surface of the water.

Thinking her fishing expedition would require time and patience, I turned away; but a flash of white from the corner of my eye brought me back to the window. Sure enough, the wood stork flew in my direction across the water, over the golf course and into my backyard.

The fish in her bill was a prize catch. A large sunfish, I decided. She held onto the squirming fish and struggled to get it down. With each swallow, her throat expanded. I wondered if she’d bitten off more than she could chew. Like a mother hen, I worried that she’d choke or worse yet, die from over consumption.

I must admit, I can relate. My own eyes are sometimes bigger than my stomach, and I often dish up much more than I can eat. Humans are not alone in this. Seagulls have been known to stuff themselves so full they must regurgitate. But when they’re done, they go back for more.

A displaced python (there are many here in Florida, brought from other countries and released as unwanted pets) tried to swallow an alligator. The Python’s eyes were bigger than her stomach; and to make matters worse, the alligator was prickly going down. The bite, the python’s last, proved fatal. The python’s lusty appetite was too much of a good thing. She literally exploded before her feast was over.

Knowing what your limits are is wise, and the adage “don’t bite off more than you can chew,” is good advice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Painting is Only Part of an Artist’s Work

Color, brushwork, empty canvases waiting for a splash of paint, and inspiration; these are the basic elements of painting. What happens after that determines the success or failure of the artist.

Lucky Lady

In order to sell, to be seen, to attract buyers, an artist must also excel at marketing, social networking, making connections in the community, and pricing. Serious questions that demand accurate answers:

And All That Jazz

1. What does a 16x20 acrylic or oil go for in the marketplace?

2. How much less should I price my work until my name and style become known?

3. I’ve heard that ½ the price of someone better known is a guide. But if I start too low in the beginning, will my artwork appear cheap?

4. I want to have high expectations, but what if I price myself out of the market before I even get started?

Shimmy Shake

Like walking a tightrope, an artist must balance his or her time, balance the budget, balance the time spent painting and the amount of money involved in the finished product all while keeping an eye on the competition.

Vamp on a Ramp

Getting your work out there is key. Advertising, showing your wares, networking, and getting to know as many vendors as possible. I have recently joined RedBubble at the following link:

That's my Baby

I have also joined Arts for Act Gallery in downtown Fort Myers. Please view my profile and artwork:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

NEW Painting in the Works

The Original "cropped" Photo.

I enjoyed painting the homeless boy from India; the one where the crows, the  "harbingers of death," were taking him into the “next life.”

I wanted to do another painting, and so begins a new series. The first painting was called "The Lost." This new painting will be called: "The Found"

A group of women in their colorful clothes are meeting in a hidden corner of a street; not to gossip or to shop, but to pray. I hope I can capture their feelings and countenance.

Christians are few in India and many must quietly seek each other out, and find places to worship. Hopefully this will change as time goes on. India is an interesting culture. The people are beautiful and intelligent. Their country is vivid and alive with color and activity. I hope this is not the last painting I do of this beautiful country. I have friends there who often share their stories and photos with me.

Acrylic Burnt Umber Brush Drawing

First Acrylic Underpainting

I'm including the painting "The Lost" being the first in the series so you may see where I'm headed. At this point in time, I don't know how many other paintings there will be. Normally, I have at least three paintings in a series.

Please check out my web site @ and you can also find me on Red Bubble @

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Help us Save Florida's Sea Turtles

It’s sea turtle nesting time in Southwest Florida. For some people that means an inconvenience and a nuisance. Beaches have restricted areas flagged and protected. Residents with beach homes don’t have full access to their own property. And all outdoor lighting along the shoreline must be turned off at night.

Why all the fuss? According to Kevin Lollar of the News Press, “It’s really complex to try to predict trends for sea turtles. They’re a long-lived species. They don’t nest on an annual basis. They don’t reproduce until they’re 30 years old.” Many species are not only threatened, they are endangered.

The beaches are kept dark and unlit so the hatchlings won’t get confused. Instinct directs them toward the light, in this case the sea. If the inland lights distract them, they are apt to go in the wrong direction and die.

To make matters worse, the beaches where sea turtles have been nesting for centuries, loggerheads being the most common species, are now populated by thousands of tourists and local residents.

Sea turtle mating season runs from May 1 through Oct. 31. Females crawl ashore at night, dig a hole in the sand, lay their eggs then cover the nest with sand and head back into the Gulf. Their leathery ping pong ball sized eggs are in danger of being crushed, eaten by birds, raccoons, skunks, and crabs. If they make it to the water after hatching, they’re also in danger of being eaten by sharks, tarpon, snappers, eels, catfish, and dolphins, to name a few.

Their existence is fragile. The balance of power in whether they live or die now rests with us. These beautiful sea creatures need our protection.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Controversial Thomas Hart Benton

My list of favorite artists could go on and on. But how could I leave out Thomas Hart Benton? For almost 20 years, I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, where Benton spent his later years. I admired his paintings in federal and state buildings and in museums. If anything, he was a visual historian who recorded the lives of the ordinary and simple people who struggled, built and forged this great land we call America.

One source described it perfectly: “Benton’s fluid almost sculpted paintings show everyday scenes of life in the United States of America.” That fluid, sculpted look is what drew me to his paintings. There is so much fluidity that your eye literally flows through his paintings and undulates over each figure and scene. Of course, these images are fuzzy so I encourage you to search him out and view the paintings firsthand.

Born in Neosho, Missouri in 1889 to an influential family of politicians and powerbrokers, Benton rebelled against his father’s hopes for his political future. Instead, he chose to develop his interest in art. As a teenager, he worked as a cartoonist for the Joplin American newspaper, in Joplin, Missouri. He then studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later in Paris at the Académie Julian.

Along with Grant Wood, Benton was at the forefront of the Regionalist Art Movement where he primarily painted the Midwest. In his later years, he taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. The scenes he painted were of poor farmers and laborers, factory workers and slaves picking cotton. He admitted he was a Socialist at heart and in politics left leaning. His style and subjects represent those beliefs.

Benton married an Italian immigrant Rita Piacenza whom he met while teaching for a brief time in New York. She was one of his art students. She returned with him to Kansas City where they were married for 53 years. When Benton died, Rita joined him 10 weeks later.

His canvases are a portrayal of history and a moving drama of a lost way of life. He captured form and enjoyed exaggerating not only the ebb and flow of life, but of the figure and the land.

As before, I have interspersed some of my paintings with his. Please enjoy Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Completed Painting: “An Open Book”

It is only when you finish a painting that you realize it’s a process. Up until then, you have several visions dancing through your head, and each one seems viable until you face the canvas.

My model is my granddaughter, Amelia, sitting on a settee in sunlight reading a book. Sitting in her white tights and pink leotard, I was struck by her feminine pose against the white wicker. What I didn’t love was the slanted sofa and the difficulty in painting the wicker which I felt might actually take away from the child.

Then I thought it would be wonderful to have a simple background and seating with swirls of letters and numbers going under her, around her and over her; leading into the painting, around the figure, out and then back in again by her feet. It would have been fun, but again would take away from the child.

I ended up placing her on a window seat so that the light from the window would capture the center focus: the face, the act of reading, the hands and the book.

I first did a basic acrylic drawing in burnt umber. Then I did a second more detailed under painting in acrylic. My final layers of oil paint solidify form and color. I let the original under painting show through in appropriate places: the window, the curtains, the seat, etc. I love this technique because it gives a more three-dimensional look to the finished painting, and produces a softness in the overall product.

I hope you enjoy the finished painting: “An Open Book” The original is for sale by contacting me, and prints, greeting cards and giclees (wrapped canvas prints) are available at