Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Laid Plans often end-up Topsy-Turvy

"Three Juvenile Blue Jays" pencil drawing
There’s always a big “let down” after the holidays. The stress and excitement which builds and then climaxes is over. The tension is released, the fun is gone, and the aftermath of pine needles, discarded wrapping paper, and clutter smacks us with reality.

The best cure is to look forward. Focus on goals and plans. Lift up your spirits by remembering what makes you tick and what provides motivation in your life. Eliminate regrets. We can’t change yesterday, but tomorrow is like fresh fallen snow. What will your imprint be? What mark do you want to leave and how will you express yourself on this pure clean slate?

We all need a fresh start. We need to have purpose and vision in our lives. The New Year is a perfect opportunity to have both. Shame or guilt strangles hope and enthusiasm. Leave it behind and step into the future free from shackles, doubt and fear.

If you can’t walk alone, get help! We all need something to anchor our souls and give us strength. A friend, a mentor, may help you cross over into the realm of possibility. Education can provide knowledge and self-confidence. Skills can be increased through practice and persistence.
My husband’s granddaughter has not only completed her college degree, she is in her third year of dental school. Her goals are clear; her determination is strong. She shared that out of her class, several people have dropped out. So close, yet so far from their goal. To quit that close to the finish line is sad. How many of us stop and get discouraged before we reach our goals.
The New Year provides us with the opportunity to eliminate “could have beens” and “would have beens” from our lives and our vocabulary. Don’t end up looking back on your life and saying “what if” I had done this, or “what if” I had done that. 

As Coach Lou Holtz once said, “Just do it!” He went on to say: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

Happy New Year everybody and forgive this late blog. My computer was down for a few days, but now we’re back!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here comes the New Year: “We hereby Resolve to. . .”

"And all that Jazz"  11 x 14 acrylic on panel, framed

I can feel it coming: when the celebrating is over, discouragement sets in. A look back reminds me of how many goals were unmet, of how much more I have to learn,  and of how "average" my skill level is when compared to those I admire and try to emulate.

After beating myself up with this big stick, I feel even worse. And yet I do it over and over again at the beginning of each New Year. Why do my dreams, my aims always fall far short of their target? Is it really this hard or is it only a negative state of mind that wraps its tentacles around my slumping creative soul?

Am I alone in this or is it symptomatic of our times? Tomorrow I will give myself a good swift kick in the psych and get on with the business of creating. But for now I will lick my wounds, snack on junk food, and hope that the sun will shine.
"Lucky Lady" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel w/real card, framed
Goals can be 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 the same 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. As long as we’re improving our skills, having fun, and dreaming the dream, we’ll achieve our purposes and desires. One of my goals is to create better compositions. I found this lesson plan for children that was perfectly suited to my diminutive brain.

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel, w/glitter, framed
The 4 main elements of composition are:
*Picture area: This is the surface within the four borders of your picture that is used for the drawing or painting. The picture area will help you determine placement of objects, and how big they should be.

*Depth: This is the illusion of distance or a third dimension. Depth creates a three dimensional effect, making objects feel closer, or further away. The finished result will not appear flat on the paper or canvas if depth is created.

"Vamp on a Ramp" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel, w/feather & glitter, framed
*Line: The line or direction the viewer's eye takes to go through the picture. The objects or forms within the picture should lead the eye to the focal point. When art is viewed, most people will begin in the bottom left corner, and continue through the picture to the right. A good composition will not allow the viewer to keep going right, all the way off the page. The viewer should be lead back into the painting in a flowing motion.

*Value: This is the lightness, or darkness of an area, or a shape within the picture. It is also used to create the over-all feel of the picture.

"Yes, Sir, that's my Baby! 11 x 14 acrylic on panel w/glitter, framed
Tuck this lesson away and use its simple message to critique your own paintings. In the meantime, please “LIKE” my Fan Page on FaceBook. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Best tutorial on hair made simple and easy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trauma in America – a Time for Introspection

"Broken Hearted" 11 x 14 Pastel Drawing on Bristol

 In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT, people around the country are in a state of panic. Some want stronger gun controls. Others want to ban guns altogether, but let’s look at some facts.

Norway, a socialist country that bans guns, lost 78 people, most of whom were children, at the hand of a gun-toting terrorist, a man with a cause. There was not one person on that island who had a gun or who could defend him or herself. They went down without a fight; innocent victims all.

"Moody Blues" 14 x 18 OIL on canvas
We must not rush to conclusions or rashly amend or change our Constitution in a moment of panic. Once guns are banned or the Constitution is changed, we can never get them back. We will never be able to protect ourselves from terrorists, intruders, or our own government which is why the pilgrims came here in the first place to flee oppressive government, and why immigrants throng to our shores or cross our borders illegally, risking life, limb, and deportation. Our freedom is at risk when the real problem is not guns, but people.

A rush to judgment is never wise. History of the past century shows us that a majority of shooting incidents have been caused by the mentally ill. Perhaps instead of banning guns, we should look at how we recognize and treat the mentally ill among us. Where is the support system that provides a safety net for these people, who happen to be our fellow citizens, family members, or neighbors?

"With These Hands -- Hope" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
Changing laws makes far more sense than changing a Constitution that has helped us become the greatest nation on earth for the past 200 plus years. Let’s be better neighbors and friends. Let’s reach out to those closest to us and see that they get the help and treatment they need. Before we rush to judgment, let’s examine our options.

Please share your thoughts with us. No matter how you feel, we should all express our views to our Senators and Congress men and women.

"Innset Kirke" Norway, 11 x 14 OIL on canvas SOLD (Prints available)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don’t let Juried Competition turn You into a Coward

(My fellow-artist and friend, Grace, with her watercolor entry)
Entering your work in a juried competition can be intimidating, especially if you’re a self-taught artist. Almost everything you’ve drawn or painted has come from grueling trial and error, and done while comparing yourself to artists with several degrees tacked onto their names or who may have studied abroad.

Ironically, there are many successful self-taught artists. A degree doesn’t guarantee success nor does it immediately make you an artist. In either case, the same principles hold true: practice, practice, practice.

(Third Place in Juried Competition) "With These Hands -- Love" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
One basic difference between them is that a solid art education provides a foundation that gives the artist an edge. Knowing why a painting works and understanding the building blocks of structure and execution is half the battle. In the end, success is determined by vision, skill, and persistence.

I’ve seen many discussions online about the value of juried competition. Is it worth the money, the time, and the possibility of rejection? The consensus seems to be that it’s rarely worth the money or the 35-40% commission charged for a sale. The value seems to be in promoting the name and the skill of the artist (assuming that they get in the show), and the benefits of adding a “win” to your resume. The odds of winning are somewhat better than winning a lottery, but not much.

(2nd Place Winner -- Juried Competition) "With These Hands -- Wonder" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
Depending on the judge or juror of the show, your artwork is subject to their particular whims, likes and dislikes, and their own education and past influences. Rejection is somewhat subjective. Even in Art Leagues, I’ve found that the preferences and styles of each artist are effected by teachers in their past.

The thing that bugs me is that if we listened to these voices and followed their suggestions or objections rigidly, we’d all start dishing out artwork in the same dull way without innovation. There would be no Van Gogh’s or Salvador Dali’s; there would be no Thomas Hart Benton’s or Picasso’s.

I love what Andy Warhol said: “Art is what you can get away with!” If we’re always worried about conforming to the rules, or doing something in a particular way, art would become static.

"Fish Market" 18 x 20 Acrylic on canvas
For an artist to stand out, to be unique and to create his or her personal style then risks must be taken; experiments must be tried, rules must be broken. Aah, you say, but first you must know all the rules before they can be broken. Agreed, but the risk is that in sticking too closely to accepted forms and norms you may never get beyond the “copy cat” stage of accepted artistic behavior.

I’m a rebel in my heart of hearts. I’ve always defied fads and fashion. I’ve always created my own style because I couldn’t afford to follow current fashion. What I discovered, even in high school, was that I could create fashion trends by wearing what I had with confidence. Soon others would be wearing something similar.

"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media on canvas SOLD (Prints available)
The same holds true for artists. Confidently create your own personal vision and you’re bound to be successful.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What drives your engine, propels your motor, and keeps you going?

"Brown Thrasher in Sunlight" 16 x 20 acrylic on panel

We are all like boats, bobbing around on an ocean called life. Sometimes the sea is calm, and sometimes it’s frantic with overwhelming waves of anxiety and trouble. Sometimes we are crushed by grief, by loneliness or failure. We may be overcome by tragedy, death, or guilt. The only way to steady the boat is to have an anchor; a tool, a mission, a purpose or a hope to hold onto.

These items are the opposite of their replacements: addiction, escapism, self-indulgence. Why are they different? Because tools stabilize our lives when the waters get rough. A mission or a purpose keeps us from capsizing, drowning, or giving up.

"Sandhill Cranes at Twilight"  24 x 30 acrylic on canvas
Faith is another component that many people want to ignore. Faith is simply a belief in something larger than yourself which gives you strength and stability. If your faith is anchored on a solid foundation of knowledge and truth, you can withstand the outside forces that come up to battle against you; the “waves,” as it were, of difficulty and rejection.

“I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.” Ronald Reagan

"Americana" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
The same holds equally true in our own lives. If we leave our higher power, our anchor on a shelf, how can it help us?

Many people have enough faith and trust in themselves that they feel no need to go beyond their personal or extended knowledge. I’ve often admired people like this who have greater ability and greater strength than me. I’ve also seen these seemingly confident and talented people crumble over things I consider trivial.

I’d really be interested in finding out what gives your life strength and purpose. Your suggestions and your perspective might help someone else.

"Robin Hood" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas in barn wood frame
To get you started, here is a story about someone we all know: Lady Gaga; just click the link, and then please come back:

Featured Artist
I’m sharing a video from Jon McNaughton, a magnificent artist, who illustrates the meaning of Christmas with his gift.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let’s Face it – Rejection Hurts

"Anhinga sunning himself"

I took three paintings down to the art gallery thinking I was going to make an easy exchange; replacing those that didn’t sell for fresh replacements. Wrong! The gallery has gained so many new artists that they are more critical and discerning than ever before.

I left one there, and took two home; the one deemed unfit for lack of a frame, and the other for the “wrong” frame. The remaining paintings (four plus one) will have another chance to sell in the coming month.

"Anhinga in Paradise" 16x20 watercolor
The hurting hole in the pit of my stomach driving home reminded me that no matter how many paintings or prints an artist may sell, the hurt of rejection never gets any easier. For that reason, I decided to repeat a blog I did last spring that some of you may have missed. I feel it’s worth repeating:

We all have our babies: those wonderful concepts we develop in our minds and create on paper or canvas to present to the world. But what happens when those adorable children land with a thud on the floor of reality?

(Photo from friend in Uganda)
Let’s face it. Criticism hurts. And critique? “A rose by any other name would hurt so deeply” (forgive the pun). Pride is a wall we use to protect ourselves. When negative comments bump up against that wall, our ego becomes bruised. Afterward, we lick our wounds and patch the crumbling brick and mortar making it higher, stronger and more impenetrable than before.

But even though they hurt, we must take a look at well-intended barbs and examine what was said and why:
  • Did the comment or critique come from someone I trust?
  • If their suggestions were applied, would it make my project better?
  • Were the comments meant to be hurtful or helpful?
Drawing on canvas

After weighing and evaluating each point of view, we are better prepared to make a decision. We can take the criticism at face value and try to incorporate it into our thought process, or we can ignore it and stubbornly go on our merry way; building our wall of resentment higher and stronger.

Learning from our mistakes is difficult. Rejection hurts; criticism stings. It requires swallowing our pride and forging ahead in spite of negative comments. If we allow the critique to offend us and dampen our spirits, we may become the loser by succumbing to self pity. We may allow ourselves to get discouraged and sabotage our own efforts to make our dreams a reality.

"in progress" acrylic
Personal vision is as unique as our fingerprints. No two people are alike. No one can see what is in our mind and heart. Perhaps the criticism of others arouses our own insecurity and lack of self confidence? If that’s the case, we need to rally our own inner cheering squad to remind us of what we wanted to achieve in the first place.

A grain of salt can irritate an open wound, but it may also inflame a new determination to clarify our goals. If nothing else, critique sharpens our focus and causes us to evaluate how we communicate our vision to others.

"Sunset on the Nile" 22 x 28 acrylic on canvas
Critique Carol’s vision on her online gallery @

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tools of the Trade – are they Necessary?

In my villa, I still use my laundry room for smaller paintings.

J. K. Rowling wrote “Harry Potter” on napkins at work before she became published; at which time, she had the money to buy the proper supplies. Many artists use recycled objects and materials to recreate beautiful one-of-a-kind keepsakes that turn into sales. Beginners and upstart entrepreneurs often improvise and get by until they are established.

We can’t always buy the things we want or think we need before taking the plunge into fulfilling our dreams. Have you heard the expression “grasping at straws?” Those “straws” just might provide the vehicle you need for “lift off.”

One artist began decorating boxes with original art to mail to family and friends. The recipients were so delighted that a light bulb went off in his head. He began designing boxes with creative designs to sell on the Internet. He currently has a successful business simply by starting where he was, and making do with what he had.

Improvising is a budget-wise word that allows us to keep one foot in reality while testing our ideas in the realms of possibility. Watch the children in your life. They have turned improvisation into a science. If they want a house, they simply use whatever they have on hand: a box, a card table, a blanket draped over two chairs, etc. They don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect tools.

"Work in Progress" acrylic on canvas -- see how it changes!
My first brush carrier was made out of an old pillow case. I folded up the wide hem, stitched the edges, and sewed several pockets into the newly-defined border. The brush handles fit nicely in the pockets. I rolled the packet up and tied it with string for storage and travel; cheap, simple, easy!

Another inventive artist filled a box with empty toilet paper rolls and empty paper towel rolls, taping them together until they were tightly wedged inside. This became her brush holder until she could afford to buy something better.

"A Perfect Ending" 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas

My point is: don’t allow money, perfection, or pride to get in the way of your dreams. Do whatever it takes to make your wishes come true. If you are willing to work hard and to set goals, eventually you’ll have the money to buy whatever you need to further your career.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Childrens’ Picture Books may Inspire and Encourage

Illustrations for children are more than colorful, pretty paintings. They are tools for education, celebration, and fun. They are a means for teaching children how to deal with serious issues in their lives where the outcomes are frightening or unknown. Children’s illustrations may also take the edge off of sadness and pain by providing an outlet for fun and whimsy. They can reassure a child that there is balance, beauty and harmony in the world.

That’s why I created “Inez Ibis Flies Again; the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up!”
People don't normally name the birds and animals they encounter, but after watching a white ibis for over six years, I simply had to. Inez was the name that I gave her. 

What was it that made her stand out? First of all, she had a bad limp that made it difficult for her to keep up with the other ibis as they foraged for food. And secondly, she came back to our neighborhood again and again, to the same side street, and has for over six years. Why, we’re practically family!

 Today she had two young ibis with her, sporting the brown feathers of youth. Her second family, although I suspect there may have been a third. I was happy to see them, even though they are skittish around humans. When there are long absences, I worry about her. She is usually gone when she has a clutch, but always returns.

One day I was out walking and spied the remains of an ibis. Nothing but a ball of white tail feathers, a beak, and the legs and feet. I was beside myself, thinking it must have been Inez for she doesn't move as quickly as the others.

Today I saw a hawk devouring a white feathered bird in the field and again I worried. There were precious snowy egrets flying about, it could have been one of those; or it could have been a cattle egret. There are many in the field where the cattle graze. When I finally saw Inez and her chicks, I was overjoyed.

I imagined that Inez may have been hit by a car.

Exhausted ibis after a long migration.

Inez is a courageous ibis. She has regained her wing strength and flies as well as the others now, but the limp remains. I admire her for keeping on in the face of a crippling disability. I thought about the countless children in our world who suffer in the same way. That was my motivation for writing and illustrating this picture book.

Inez practices flyiing in the field; sometimes she falls.

When Inez finally "lifts off" she feels freedom
"Wheee, this is fun!"

If you know a child who needs encouragement and the will to "keep on keeping on," please take a look at “Inez Ibis Flies again.” Samples are available at both of these web sites:

Hard Copy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Peddlers of Optimism and Hope

"Dainty Diva" 24 x 20 OIL on Canvas

New apps and sites are popping up everywhere. Each one promises to do more for your business than the last. I’ve tried them all. Most of them are free, at least in the beginning. The success of the app seems to be in proportion to how much you are willing to spend on your dream.

Many social networks are selling something that will make them richer while depleting your budget. Few deliver what they promise. Many of the sites I’ve tried have already petered out; unsuccessful in their attempts to make “the sale.” There’s always a gimmick or a hook to reel you in, but not enough to permanently keep you.

"Flash Dance" 16 x 20 OIL on canvas
What they offer is optimism and hope. “Try us and we’ll bring you oodles of customers.” “Try our service for 60 days and we’ll bring you 1,000 new hits.” If your hope is still there after 60 days, there’s a charge; but you may be willing to fork out a few dollars per month to keep your dream alive.

Peddlers of hope tie into our gullibility. They, too, have a dream but they’re counting on you to make it come true. So we bite! We take the bait and run with it, hoping that eventually we’ll make up for our losses. After all, “it takes money to make money,” or so we’ve heard.

"With These Hands -- Hope" 16 x 20 OIL on Acrylic underpainting
Our insecurities add insult to injury. We begin to believe the network hype. We’ve bought into it before when we try a new product or test a new theory. We’re sold when our hopes and our vulnerabilities meet at the tipping point. It’s like a global game of chance. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You follow me, I’ll follow you. You befriend me and I’ll befriend you. You look at my stuff and I’ll look at yours.

If we’re lucky, that rare interested person comes along and takes the time to look at our wares. They may even consider buying. A purchase here or there keeps our dreams alive, and we’re off chasing rainbows on the next latest and greatest app or social site.

"With These Hands -- Love" 24 x 18 OIL on canvas
Time is a valuable commodity. How we use it and where will determine our own personal success. Connecting with the appropriate online audience and with targeted customers is the key. 

We must be shrewd as well as friendly. We must learn to weigh the value of each opportunity. Otherwise we may end up spinning our wheels in a kaleidoscope of schemes and distractions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks Strengthens Family, Faith, and Patriotism

"Americana" acrylic

Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on the purpose of our life and to focus on the things that matter most. When we’re caught up in the rush of life and the stress of the daily grind, we forget how lucky we are to live in a “land of plenty;” a land of opportunity and freedom.

A Japanese immigrant and entrepreneur once said: “If you can’t make it in America, you can’t make it anywhere.” He indicated that all you have to do is have a dream, and be able to work hard.
"Sand Crane Dreams" 18x24 mixed media
We may wonder what has happened to that dream as we look at the state of the nation. People expect things. They want government assistance and government handouts. The things we used to work for in my generation are now expected as “rights.” Lady Liberty is bankrupt and weary. She has sheltered so many “tired and poor” that her coffers are empty; her debt is escalating beyond reason.

In a decade, will we be owned by China or the Muslim world? Will our sanctuaries and hallowed places be desolate or overrun? Must Israel experience another Holocaust at the expense of another tyrant before America recognizes how close she has come to losing all she fought for in the beginning?

"With These Hands -- Wonder" 16x20 OIL on acrylic underpainting
Take time this Thanksgiving Day to thank God for your blessings. Recognize your dependence on him and ask for forgiveness for neglecting the principles that made America great. If you can’t, then America will reap what she has sown. We have become a slothful and a sinful Nation. It will be God’s wrath not “global warming” that will destroy us. Greed, pride and arrogance will be our downfall.

Forgive me for waxing my deep felt concerns for our Nation. This Thanksgiving I hope we all pray: “God Bless the United States of America.”

"India Rising -- the Found"  18x24 OIL on acrylic underpainting
For my friends in other lands and countries across the globe: Be grateful for your blessings. The God of us all is a loving God, easy to forgive, eager to bless.

Featured Artist;
My friend, Heidi Nadon, a Canadian water colorist: 
“There are two teachers who influenced me greatly,” Heidi said. “Both are watercolor instructors. The first, David McKee, was responsible for instilling my particular preference for the medium and for encouraging me to pursue my interest in painting; the second, Art Cunanan, taught me how to paint loosely as well as how to paint in acrylic. I admire both artists' teaching style: encouraging me with their critiques, and inspiring me with their demonstrations.”

"Red Canopies" by Heidi Nadon