Sunday, October 30, 2011

Power Trip – the Artist as Creator

Nothing excites me more than putting a few lines and a little paint on canvas and watching them come to life. Talk about power! I will tell you that when this “miracle” happens, I bond with my painting. The people, the animals, even the vegetation become a living thing that I have lovingly nurtured into existence.

My next pastel drawing of Baby Soren

When my skill level fails me, or my efforts don’t succeed, I mourn the death of each one as surely as if they had died; not physically, but viscerally. Of course, in reality, I simply wipe out what failed and try again.

 Doodle of a woman

The wonderful thing about being creator on canvas is that you can start again, even when you make glaring mistakes. Oil paint especially is forgiving; watercolor, not so much. Acrylic can be easily painted over, and pastel may be erased.

At last, when the elements of imagination, skill, and experience come together the feeling is magic! You’ve managed to transmit that breath of life onto canvas. Whether it’s a bird in flight, a child making a discovery, or the blending of colors and shapes in an abstract; when the final brushstroke is made fulfillment occurs.

Doodle of a Bald Man
It usually takes years of practice before that miracle happens. But happen it will if you keep on drawing and painting. Why do people give up so soon or submit to negative thoughts that drive them into oblivion? The worst offenders can be stated in two paragraphs:

1. They compare themselves to others and think they will never achieve or be as good as someone else. The secret is they could with practice, not just every day, but for as long as they live. The hard work and effort of others is rarely seen, but their success reflects years of committed time.

2. They become impatient for results and give up too soon. How soon is too soon? Only eternity can say. We may never know what we could have been until it’s too late. In light of that, we must use the gifts we have to the best of our ability. What more can anyone ask?

Plien air poolside

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Doodles for Noodles Equals Imagination

That’s right! Doodles are good for your brain. People who make a habit of “doodling” when they are at rest, increase imagination and brain power. An artist friend shared this advice from a former teacher. Her brain was in freeze mode, and she wanted to know how to unfreeze it and unleash the powers of creativity.

I tried to get back to my doodle past. I remember making circles and squiggles on my telephone lists and scratch paper, but aside from that I don’t recall anything spectacular.

Last night, I decided to doodle while watching TV. It seems my scrawls have become more complex and sophisticated. I drew children’s faces, boxes, leaves, and an idea for another painting. I’ve included them here, although, I wouldn’t want to show them to many people.

I’m making a pact with myself to keep up the doodling process. Who knows, maybe something good will come from it. I believe I prefer looking at real people or photographs and sketching from them, but that has little to do with imagination. The goal of making squiggles and swirls is to stimulate your imagination; to create something totally new and different.

While I ponder this process, I’m inserting paintings from my last exercise in doing something different. I also prepared another pastel called “Ronnie and Rex,” a pastel drawing of a younger Ronald Reagan with his favorite King Charles spaniel.

The watercolor paintings were done on rice paper. I’m not sure I would ever do this again, but it was fun while it lasted. The point is to stretch your skills and expand your knowledge so that when you come back to your preferred medium it will feel new and wonderful again (at least comfortable).

I consider this meandering pure play, but it also provided relief and release when I found myself in an impossible rut. Try it yourself and share your experiences here!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Art Shows: are They for the Birds or do They Feather Your Nest?

Today I had an art show at the Alliance for the Arts in conjunction with their Fall Family Fest (the reason I'm late in getting my blog up). We had a great time, but there were more lookers than buyers. I met many interesting people, however, which made it all worth while.

Since it was an outdoor festival, we were grateful for the wonderful weather. A few breezes kept us on our toes, but all in all it was a great day.

This "Pair" won 1st Prize -- Construction Waste

I'm sharing some of the photos I took of our group and of the "Repurposed Trash" juried competition that was featured in a previous blog. One member of our group got in the show, but did not win a prize. Considering every piece was made out of trash, the show had a surprisingly classy and sophisticated look.

2nd Place -- Time Piece
This beautiful "Time" scultpture used all waste materials

It appears from the judge's choices that she went with an "industrial" theme. This gave the entire show a congruency that was both attractive and appealing.

3rd Place -- made of plastic cigarette wrappers.

The festival showcased musicians, dancers, and theatrical solos and performances. Activities for the kids included a "doodling" tent where they could create their own paintings, jewelry making and face painting.

The most popular artist there, and the only one making money I might add, was an artist making quick portraits with markers. She charged $10 each or $50 on canvas. She was fast, artistic, and fun. Not bad for a $10 souvenir.

Other artwork in the show.

I found a brand new I-phone in a case on the ground. I turned it into the front desk and waited. Sure enough a grateful doctor came to claim his lost phone. He just bought it and had never used it before.

This piece was done by Parker Harlowe, a member of our group.
"Bird of Paradise"

One of our own artists saw one of her pottery fish walk away from the tent in the hands of a child and his mother. She chased them down and asked for the fish back. They complied. We wondered if the mother was teaching her child how to steal or if the theft was purely accidental. I suppose we'll never know.

Swordfish made out of Palm Fronds -- Beautiful!

Six hours of time, hours of labor and money in each painting, and no sales; how do you feel about art shows these days? Are you having any success or is it better to focus on the web and online sales? Love your feedback!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sometimes a Change is as Good as a Rest

I’d finished my “India Rising” series, and I was totally drained. I needed to rejuvenate my creative juices before plunging into my next painting. I have two large canvases: both 24x30, and I haven’t for the life of me figured out what to paint.

I’m “Jonesing” for something with exotic flowers, a beautiful woman, and monkeys (go figure!). I may continue with India as my theme, or move into Jamaica or other parts of the Caribbean.

Another intriguing idea would be a young child, an innocent with a savage lion or beast and a passage of scripture; something about the “lamb shall lie down with the lion,” from Isaiah, or “a little child shall lead them,” from the New Testament. It will be fun to see which way my fantasies lead me.

But for now, the adage: “a change is as good as a rest” has given me a sense of relief.

While I change pace and wait for the muses, I’m “playing.” I’m doing two watercolor landscapes; a different ball game for me. The base of these paintings is rice paper. I’ve also dripped candle wax on the mountain scene that will eventually turn into white flowers. The corner of this painting is totally unfinished. Both pieces have had only the first coat of water color put on so I have a drawing or composition to work with.

The other project I’m working on is another pastel drawing. I love the medium and decided to do another celebrity: former President Ronald Reagan with his King Charles Spaniel, Rex. I love pastel so much, I’m thinking of adding pastel to the watercolor pieces to give them a bit of zing.

When you reach your creative limit, how do you deal with it? Do you go on vacation? Do you get depressed and mope for awhile? Or do you do as I do: change course and do something completely different? Love to hear how you cope.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Fascinating Twist on the Turban

My “India Rising” Series gave way to a wonderful exploration of Indian culture and traditions. The question I ask myself is this: “Is the featured painting today an end to my India series?” I have no idea. My research has already entranced me with India’s colorful images of elephants adorned for festivals and celebrations.

In the last painting of the series, “Prince of Thieves,” I placed a turban on the “ring leader” knowing that the turban is recognized in India as a symbol of honor and respect. And what thief or vagabond doesn’t want respect from his followers?

Contemporary turbans come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be very large or of moderate size depending on region, culture, and religion. Turbans are worn in India to signify class, caste, profession, or religious affiliation; some can be very elaborate.

Some turbans are adorned specifically for special occasions or just for fun.

Almost any color may be used, although white is the most traditional. Pink turbans are worn in the Spring to celebrate new growth and productivity. Red is a harvest color and is used by farmers and the working class. But in today’s India, the colors are often chosen simply because they “match” the outfit worn.

India has “come a long way, baby,” and Vogue Magazine’s Indian issue showed models on the runway wearing various versions of the turban or “pagri” an Indian word for turban or headdress. Some of the head wear was bejeweled and some plain. Bollywood, India’s version of Hollywood, features the best in up-to-date fashion and Indian tradition.

Many communities hold turban wrapping contests to keep the spirit of the turban alive. Different lengths are required, and the contestants take their strips of cloth and wrap them around their heads. The first one finished is the winner. The longer the length of the cloth, the bigger and higher the turban. Many varieties of cloth, color and patterns are used.

The style and height of the turban varies between rural areas and the teeming cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai. I’ve shown you a variety of these styles in this blog.

I also found a plethora of information on YouTube that was done by BBC TV for PBS. The link below is the 1st in the series. There are two series, one with 24 videos, the other with approx. 17.
I hope you will explore the interesting country of India.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Action Packed Paintings Add Punch

I’ve always loved action photographs and drawings. When painted, the skill of the artist determines whether or not movement and action has been rendered successfully. The difficulties in doing this may be lessened by the viewer. If lines and values have been executed properly, the viewer fills in the details.

My drawing of Serena Williams was complicated by the fact that this was my first time using Pastels. It took me awhile to get used to the scratchy surface of the chalk, and the importance of rounding off the edges to create a drawing surface. Details were difficult, and the sharpness of the edges where I wanted sharpness was difficult. I think once the pastels have worn down they will be easier to work with.

I love the vibrancy of pastels. They seem to glow in a way that regular paint doesn’t; although, it is possible to create glow with the right contrasts. I like the portability of pastel. They are messy, so they make wonderful traveling companions when drawing or painting plien air. I look forward to doing that in the near future when the drumming heat in Florida returns to winter temperatures.

I chose to do one copy of Serena in Sepia tones. It gives the drawing a different “flavor” than the colored one, and focuses on the actual lines and shapes that were used.

Beginning artists should spend as much time drawing as in painting. I know my eye suffers when I get lazy in drawing. For instance, my first drawing of Serena had her with a crease in her lower arm where I thought her elbow should be. I got the pastel work finished and still hadn’t noticed it until I photographed it for my blog and web site. How did I miss such an important stroke?

It’s obvious her elbow is hidden behind her clothing. The foreshortening in that arm may have fooled my mind into thinking there was a crease rather than a curve at that point. Luckily, pastel can also be forgiving, and I lightened the area before taking new photographs.

As I stated in my last blog: “One step forward, two steps back.” The important thing is to keep on keeping on. Forge ahead, and soon you’ll begin to see things that deluded you in the past.

My childrens book: “Inez Ibis Flies Again, the Story of a Courageous Ibis who never Gave Up” was fun to illustrate. The action drawings were done in pencil, ink, and watercolor pencils. Afterward, I blended in water with the areas I wanted filled in on the figures and background.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Looking Beyond the Mark

When you have a blog, a website, and belong to several social networks; you become a target for junk mail. Spam and viruses invade your inbox. Your name ends up on countless mailing lists. Today I received a magazine called “Beyond the Bean” a resource for soybean farmers and distributors.

Golden Rain Tree -- Yellow flower cone stage

Now I know for certain that I’ve never grown soybeans, not even in a pot. I’ve even been allergic to soy, depending on which form it takes. So how did I end up on their mailing list? Deception. Someone told somebody else, who told somebody else, that I was a prospect for their literature (or propaganda as the case may be).

Golden Rain Tree -- Salmon colored papery seed pods

I thumbed through their magazine. Interesting stuff here. What hurts their bottom line? Government regulations that choke and devour profits and production. What else eats into profits? Bad roads and inadequate transportation (infrastructure); no kidding. If you can’t ship product, you can’t sell. If you can’t deliver, people won’t buy. UPS calls it “logistics.”

Reminded me of the difficulty we artists have in getting name recognition and getting our work noticed. In my last blog, I told you I entered a juried contest. Alas, I wasn’t accepted, and I’m still feeling guilty using my poor grandma’s portrait to enter a contest about re purposing garbage.

Knowing local judges and what they like or dislike is key to acceptance. When you’re new in the game, the rules and regulations are difficult to grasp until you enter a few contests and become familiar with the judges.

Rules and regulations are important criteria, but they often mean different things to different people. When we look “beyond the mark” as my title implies, we are sad, but not deterred if we lose. As the adage says: “It’s not if you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

What do I do when I lose? I dust myself off and start again. I do not quit. I do not stop. I keep my eyes on the prize, which is the joy of knowing that I’ve done my best. I compete with myself most of the time. I try to make each painting better than the last. Do I always succeed? No! It’s usually two steps forward, one step back. But I will never quit until there’s at least one foot in the grave. And that my friends is “looking beyond the mark.”

Forgive Carol’s morbidity and check out her bright and lively paintings @

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Entering Contests -- is it Worth the trouble?

Of all the things I've painted over the years, I've loved the birds as much or more than anything else. I loved listening to the birds outside our upstairs window when I was a child and should have been taking a nap. I loved rescuing them when one fell from its nest. I adored watching them hop across the grass and escape into the air with a flutter when I tried to catch them. I wanted to be a bird. I even dreamed about flying: foreshadowing or symbolism; perhaps? But through the years birds have found their way into my paintings.

Robin Hood by Carol Allen Anfinsen

This painting of a mother robin and her brood I titled "Robin Hood" and the painting recently won "honorable mention" in an online juried contest. Not a big win, but I was pleased because robins are one of my favorite birds.

Robin’s are not particularly fussy about where they build their nests. I’ve seen a nest cradled in a wreath on someone’s door, and a nest wedged between a light fixture and the bricks on a friend’s front porch.

My friend watched over the nest like a mother hen; protecting first the blue green eggs that appeared, and then the tiny newborns that followed. Each time he stepped out on his porch, the mother robin swooped over his head and dive-bombed him to protect her nest. Little did she know that he was a staunch ally.

The robins’ precarious nest-building habits are not without risk, and many a nest topples to the ground following a strong windstorm. But when it comes to parenting, robins are seldom outmatched.

This win inspired me to enter another contest sponsored by The Alliance for the Arts of which I'm a member. My entry titled: "The Seamstress" was entered yesterday in a juried competition. The chances of winning are slim, but the thrill and fun in playing the game makes it worthwhile. Entering contests gets your name out there, and in this business -- it's all about name recognition.

My own grandmother was the model. The theme of the contest was: "repurposing trash." I used sewing scraps, plastic bottles, feathers, lace, plastic spoons and other things to incorporate "trash" into my painting (I hope my grandmother, looking down from on high, will forgive me!)

My friend and fellow artist, Lili took these photos for me as I'd forgotten my camera (that doesn't bode well!). Our art league had several hours of fun as we created these trash-to-treasure paintings.