Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time -- Illusive Thief that Sucks the Life Out of Life

Insett Kirke -- Norway

I’ve written about time before, or the lack thereof; how it gets away from us, pushes us, stresses us out, and strangles the life out of us. Recently, I experienced a different phenomenon. A time warp, perhaps, where time literally seemed to stand still.

I had several appointments that day and knew that planning was essential to pull it off. I got up early, allowing plenty of time for my toilette and the time it would take to travel to my first appointment. In the end, I had an hour to spare. I retrieved important e-mail and checked my blogs. Thirty minutes left, amazing.

Eager to arrive on time, I set the timer on the stove to be sure distractions wouldn’t delay my “best laid plans.” Then I read. I luxuriated on my leather sofa and read. Each time I looked at my wrist watch it seemed that time was holding back, just for me. The adage “a watched pot never boils” was true!

I was reminded that with God “one day is like a thousand years” from an eternal perspective. This brief experience had made me reflective. So this is what it’s like to have an eternity of time? Each moment becomes precious and fully lived without escaping into nothingness. I wanted this experience to last forever. I felt in control.

I read another two pages and then the timer went off with a loud bleating beep, beep, beep. My usual response when this happens is to call: “Coming Mother,” a hearkening back to my belligerent childhood and the rebelliousness of youth.

The rest of the day was pretty much swallowed up with errands and appointments, but I did notice that in between there were moments of supreme calm when I could snatch some reverie and soul searching. When you are “clock watching,” it’s amazing how many pages you can read in a few minutes, how many miles your mind can travel into imagination and escape to creative realms where seconds seem like hours.

Personality Sketch

Next time you feel like you don’t have time to study, to read or to paint, turn yourself into a clock watcher and see how it slows down your life. After all, time is a man made thing and we are eternal beings who balk at control and the pacing of our lives.

“Your sacred space is
where you can find yourself
again and again.” Joseph Campbell

Of course, planning ahead helps. So does organization. But in those “in between” moments you really are in control. What will you do with those found minutes and seconds? Will you waste them or discount them as being too little to late?

“One great thing about growing old
is that nothing
is going to lead to anything.
Everything is of the moment.” Joseph Campbell

We only have one life to live. Throw out negative thinking. Refuse its entrance into your brain. Dwell on what you can do right now, in this precious moment. Live!

Yesterday is already gone. Dismiss it from your mind, and move on. Tomorrow and its blessings or problems are unknown. Live in the moment. View your life as eternal and treat yourself with the utmost respect. We humans are as fragile as butterflies. We come and go in a whisper. Cherish each moment!

“To live in a sacred space
is to live in a symbolic environment
where spiritual life is possible,
where everything around you
speaks of exaltation of the spirit.” Joseph Campbell

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is There a God? Is Faith tangible? Can an Artist Reveal it?

We all want to feel fulfilled. We search endlessly for a life of joy and happiness. We begin this quest at birth, taking our first steps and exploring all avenues. At times we slip through the cracks; the slippery ways that wind into the dark places of the soul. We suffer, we feel pain, we change our route, our habits, our focus.

If we succeed, we explore the higher ways bathed in light and knowledge. We reach for all we can be. We stretch our thoughts and skills to capacity. If we persist, we truly do learn to fly.

“When I have come to the edge of all the light I know,
And I must step out onto the edge of darkness,
I must trust that one of two things will occur;
Either there will be something solid to stand on or
I will be taught to fly.” Patrick Overton

“Jump!” Joseph Campbell

For some people, jumping into the arms of a living, loving God is the answer. Their struggle, their reach for achievement becomes easier when they're bathed in the light of faith born from trust and relationship.

For others, it is a higher power fashioned in their own creation that allows their spiritual and creative imagination to soar. We all must find our own way in much the same way that smoke traverses upward toward its final destination in air and space.

“The courage to trust process means bellieving in magic, having a vision and following it, letting the imagination play, letting go of the controls…” Claudia Bepko and JoAnn Kreston “Singing at the Top of Our Lungs"

That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to stretch, to go beyond my knowledge and skill to create something new and different. I’m forging ahead with a belief that I will achieve my goal.

Currently I’m trying to create character and personality. I’ve been drawing faces from my imagination; faces expressing different moods and emotions. My goal is to create a unique and original character. I hope I will find her out there somewhere. I’m sharing some of my doodles and sketches with you. Capturing emotion in a drawing or portrait brings me joy. And sometimes in my search for what I want, I end up with something totally unexpected!

"Broken Hearted" -- Pastel Drawing

 “After all,we cannot know what we are going to express. What is really creative is bound to be a surprise because it is something we couldn’t have thought of. This is the thing we resist the most. We want to know where we are going, why we’re doing it, and what it is going to give us. We want to know it all. To be creative means becoming more familiar with being a little lost. If we are always full of what we want to do, there is no room for the new." Michell Cassou, Artist, “Life, Paint & Passion”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sandhill Cranes on the Chopping Block

“On October 11, members of the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee voted unanimously, by a 7 to 0 vote, to approve a plan to allow sandhill crane hunting in the Bluegrass State. With this final approval, Kentucky will join thirteen other states in which sandhill cranes can be properly and scientifically managed through hunting.”

Sandhill Cranes at Twilight

In spite of the efforts by many environmentalists, the approved sandhill crane hunting season is expected to begin December 17. Land east of the Mississippi has not seen sandhill cranes hunted in more than a century due to a decrease in the species’ population. Over the last three decades their population has grown more than 300 percent and Kentucky’s wildlife experts and biologists called for a hunting season that will help manage and conserve the species.

Do they eat them after being shot? Many of them do, and it is supposed to taste like any other game bird. From the killing of one large bird, only the breast meat is edile. Could I eat one? Never! That would be like Fern eating Wilbur in “Charlotte’s web.”

Sandhill cranes live in our neighborhood. One used to knock on a neighbor’s back door and he would feed him seeds from his hand. This same bird would tease another neighbor’s dog by getting up close to the screened lanai. They adopted a friendly attachment to each other.

I have watched their babies toddle across the golf course out back. We see the same pairs mate and come back year after year. Shooting these beautiful birds is tantamount to killing a friend. I understand that sometimes hunting is a necessary evil, but please, not in my backyard.

My completed painting: “Sandhill Cranes at Twilight” shows the body plumage; characterized by varying shades of gray. “In many areas, wild Sandhills preen iron-rich mud into their feathers creating a deep rusty brown hue which lasts during spring and summer. As fall advances, these rusty feathers molt and the birds return to their grayish appearance. In some regions, however, iron-rich mud is absent and the birds appear grey all year. The forehead and crown are covered with reddish skin. Face, chin, upper throat, and nape are white to pale gray. Adults have a white cheek patch. Legs and toes are black. In general, males and females are virtually indistinguishable but within a breeding pair, males tend to be larger than females.

“All cranes are omnivorous. Sandhill Cranes are generalists and feed on a wide variety of plant tubers, grains, small vertebrates (e.g. mice and snakes), and invertebrates such as insects or worms. Sandhills find these foods in uplands and in shallow wetlands. Like most cranes, flightless chicks forage primarily on a diet of insects and other protein filled foods during their early stages of rapid growth. The Sandhill's tendency to feed on plant tubers creates conflicts with farming. Sandhill Cranes are adept at probing in the ground and finding planted agricultural seeds such as corn. When large flocks of cranes feed on planted fields, the damage they cause to an unprotected crop can be severe enough to force the farmer to replant the entire field.”

This is the main reason for the crackdown. Farmers were losing their valuable crops to cranes. Scientists had developed a new technique for treating the seeds before they are planted. The cranes dislike the taste of the treatment so leave the seeds untouched, but first they forage for them and for other things under the soil causing damage.

On a side note: “All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, as well as wing flapping. Though it is commonly associated with courtship, dancing can occur at any age and season. Dancing is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and thwarts aggression, relieves tension, and strengthens the pair bond.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Christmas Shrub? Give me a Break!

I’d like to repeat an article here which I published near Christmas time last year titled: “The Brazilian Pepper Tree Saga” by Carol Allen Anfinsen ( originally at http://Blogz.Org.Ning/Profile/blogs/ ).

The painting is of a mocking bird in the branches of one of those “bushes” eating the berries. They do love them and guard their territory from other birds.

The Brazilian-pepper tree, alias Christmas-berry tree or Florida Holly, is an attractive shrub that sprouts red berries part of the year, grows tall, and spreads wide. When I first moved to Florida, I enjoyed watching the wide variety of birds that fluttered in their branches. So when the landscape crew attacked them with machetes and axes, I was enraged. Had we come to this in our obsession for perfectly trimmed hedges and weed free lawns, I thought?

Yes, I would later acknowledge, the Brazilian-pepper bushes were beginning to take over the hedgerow, and their absence meant that I could now see the field behind where cows grazed with cattle egret; but what about the birds? Hadn’t the pepper trees been food and refuge for the brown thrashers, the cardinals, the northern bobwhites and robins, the local mocking birds?

Before I launched into assault mode, I did some reading and investigating; turns out, that attractive Brazilian pepper is considered “one of the worst exotic pest plants” in the State of Florida. Wouldn’t you know!

Brought here from Brazil in the 1800s, the plant was used as an ornamental for its beautiful red berries and shiny green leaves. Deceivingly charming, the plant is part of the poison ivy, oak and sumac family that many people are allergic to. When crushed, the leaves smell like turpentine and can irritate the skin, nose and lungs. No wonder my allergies had flared up in Florida.

Why is the plant so prolific, I wondered? Bingo: “the pepper grows well in poor soil and shade” and spreads wildly when the conditions for growth are optimum – plenty of sunshine, plenty of rain. Birds and raccoons find the berries delicious and spread the seeds through their guano and scat.

How is that a threat to Florida?

• The pepper tree shades out native plants

• The pepper destroys foraging areas for herons, egrets and other water birds

• The pepper’s roots get so thoroughly tangled up with mangrove roots that it’s impossible to uproot them

The beautiful Brazilian-pepper is on Florida’s “do not plant” list, and its “sale is against the law.” And I thought it was a harmless shrub; if looks could kill.

Today I smile as I walk past the hedgerow. Young leaves are sprouting, filling in naked branches replenished by sun and space. The peppers are sprawled out behind them; roots exposed, leaves withering on their last gasp. A few yards south, a fence with a stand of pepper trees grows rampant; the property of another developer who will eventually face the removal of this encroaching invader.

Nurseries or home & garden magazines are way off base to encourage the planting of these bushes. They will eventually spread, overcrowd, and destroy the natural vegetation in your yard. Find something better to plant! Please.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

During a difficult period in my life, my friend Alice gave me a prayer plant. “It will remind you of where your strength comes from,” she said. Sure enough, every evening as the sun went down, the prayer plant extended its leaves upward. I was reminded to turn to God more often, and I also remembered my friend.

When a move across country forced me to leave the plant behind, I photographed it. Sometime later, I created an oil painting of the plant sitting beside a garden glove and a trowel. The painting still hangs in my kitchen. Whenever I look at it, I remember my friend and her reminder to reach up in times of need. Her priceless gift of love was simple and inexpensive, but never forgotten.

With the approach of Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn once again to the gift giving season. If you’re like me, you’re already worrying about money, and how you’re going to buy school supplies and gifts. Expectations are high and everyone from the postman, your child’s teacher, your coworkers, your church friends and neighbors ends up on your shopping list.

One low-budget year, I gave my friends a small Christmas cactus. The plants were only $1.50 each; some even had blooms. A couple women accepted their plant reluctantly, complaining that they didn’t have any luck with plants; the rest accepted their gift graciously and seemed to be pleased.

Over the next few years, I was surprised by their reactions. Each time I saw one of these women, she always gave me an update on the status of her plant. When I visited in their homes, I was shown how well their plants were doing. Some struggled to keep their plants growing just for me. Eventually most if not all of the plants bloomed. As the women cared for their plants, they remembered my gift. The perky green cactus became a symbol of our friendship, and a gift of love that kept on giving.

We don’t all have green thumbs like my mother. She had the largest, healthiest plants in the neighborhood. Her African violets were the envy of many. My dad was equally talented and had the most prolific raspberry bushes, peas and tomatoes around.

My former father-in-law was well-known for his garden and for his love of plants. When you walked into his home, you entered a jungle. Wandering Jews, philodendrons and ivy wrapped around the room and crawled over and under the other plants. When a grandchild skinned a knee or got sunburned, grandma quickly broke off a leaf from one of grandpa’s nearby Aloe Vera plants. The soothing gel washed over their pain and tiny tears were wiped away.

He had a wonderful garden as well. Neighbors, relatives and friends were recipients of his beautiful Shasta Daisies, iris and gladioli bulbs. These gifts of love became living connections between the people that came in and out of his life.

If you’re not into plants, there are other ways to share your talents and your love. My 97 year old friend Dorothy bakes bread and cakes for those she loves. She called me the other day and thanked me for sending her one of my thank you cards.

Since I’m an artist, I turn my drawings of birds and animals into greeting cards and add ribbons and feathers for color. Other cards are created by printing copies of original paintings. Dorothy told me she had 11 different cards from me lined up in front of her. “Every time I look at them,” she said, “I think of you.”

Another elderly friend complained when I’d forgotten her birthday: “I missed getting one of your beautiful cards,” she said. I didn’t realize how much my inexpensive gifts of love had meant. There have been many recipients of my cards over the years. It is my way of telling people that they’re worth the extra time it takes to create a personal card and message just for them.

Carol’s drawings and paintings are on her gallery at  and

Friday, November 11, 2011

Creating the Illusion of Reality

Ingres, a great French painter, said “How you paint depends on how you draw.”

He was so right! Drawing is the basis of every good painting. However, today artists must close the time required to paint in order to make any headway on profits. Most artists have developed sophisticated means to shorten the gap between conception, implementation, and development. Many use projectors to duplicate quickly their image to the exact size of the canvas, even from original drawings. Some enlarge their image and print it out in tiles on their home computers.

The grid method still remains a popular tool to enlarge and transfer photo images to canvas. Still you can’t ignore the fact that knowing the elements of drawing and being able to use them well enhances any painting. Consider the drawing as the framework upon which all other components hang: composition, center of interest, color, line, form, and shape, both positive and negative.

Knowing how values work and where to shade to create form is vital. Creating a story, a portrait or a scene on canvas requires the knowledge of how to model to create the illusion of reality. If done well, the viewer fills in the missing pieces automatically with his brain.

The finished painting doesn’t have to be a direct copy of the original photo or drawing, and every line and shape doesn’t have to be filled in, only suggested. Creating a masterpiece is a balancing act of knowledge, skill, imagination, and risk. Doing something daring or risky is sometimes the only difference between the mundane and the magical.

Share your time saving ideas here! Carol’s finished paintings are @

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Library -- One Size Fits All

When we struggled to raise six children and provide them with music lessons, athletic activities, and a good education, I never dreamed that would mean I couldn't finish mine. But reality held a different answer. Without the library, I may never have become a writer or an artist. It was my lifeline and my access to opportunity.

That's why I was pleased when a juried competition opened up for the PanAmerican Alliance and our skilled and talented artists. I'm sharing some photos from that show with you. The winners of that competition will be announced at an awards ceremony on Dec. 3 at the library. If you’ve followed my work, perhaps you can find mine.

Being an artist is expensive. There are many choices to make and mediums to purchase: linseed oil, turpenoid, oil paints, acrylic paints, modelling and mixing mediums, watercolor paints and paper, pastels and paper, brushes and tools, canvases and panels. All of these amount to "infrastructure" for the artist and are necessary components for turning professional.

I just purchased a package of pastel color shapers. The list price was $39.99. I went around the aisles several times before I realized it was do or die. I had to have them. The results of my recent works with fuzzy unclear details were good examples. Luckily a friend gave me an online coupon for 40 percent off which made my decision easier. I paid $16.00 for the shapers, and felt good about my decision.

There are other ways to save money: artist friends who throw in the towel and want to get rid of their painting supplies, garage/yard sales, stores like 2nd wind for artists, i.e. Act 2 in Fort Myers, sometimes e-Bay, etc. And don't forget the library; a great source for learning material. Used book stores may be the answer when you want to own a book.

Many artists use house paint instead of acrylic for large canvases. Squeeze bottles used for hair color can be washed and saved for painting use when you want a straight-edged trim on a petal or stem or for fancy scroll work. Being creative isn't limited to composition and design, it's a great way to develop your own personal style and to lend a new twist on a vision or idea.

How do you save money? Please share your ideas with my readers!

Today, I'm sharing a "work-in-progress" inspired by a photograph I shared with you earlier of two sandhill cranes foraging at dusk (below). I first made a drawing, and now I'm putting in an acrylic base. I will use oil paint on the cranes and for detail and highlights. Stay tuned!

I loved this photograph because of the blue tones reflected on the crane's wings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Take it to the Next Level

Just when you’ve found your niche and you feel comfortable doing what you’re doing; take it to the next level. That’s right! Complacency can kill you; or at least your creativity.

Once in awhile, we all need a “jump start.” We need to change things up and try something new. Like an old time revival, an occasional boost of energy and renewal are necessary to keep our work and our lives humming. If we cruise along in neutral, or on empty, our work slows to a lifeless stop.

Enthusiasm is the life blood of creativity. Taking time to rest and rejuvenate is as important as the work itself. Adding spark to our creative batteries is crucial. Here’s how:

• Take a class to refresh your knowledge or learn something you may have missed

• Participate in an art group or league and rub shoulders with other artistic people

• Stretch yourself: enter a contest and compete with “the big boys & girls”

• Visit online and local art galleries for inspiration and the current trends

• Take a walk down memory lane and steep yourself in the “Masters”

• Try a new media or method; experiment

• Take a sabbatical from your normal routine; do something different

• Take your camera and spend some time being inspired by nature

• Change the scenery; explore new things and places

• Have fun doing what you’re doing; if your work becomes drudgery, it will look and feel that way

After a change or a rest, you may be surprised at how excited you are to “get back to work.” Even if it’s the back to the “same old same old,” you’ve given yourself a boost and recharged your creative energy. The work at hand will seem fresh and new again. The results will show!