Friday, January 27, 2012

Ideas are Seeds Longing for Their Turn in the Sun

So why do ideas get away so quickly never seeing the light of day? Because most of the time, we ignore them or forget to write them down. They slip away unnoticed as silently as dandelion fuzz in springtime.

(Sketch for Illustration -- on Canvas / will oil paint)

Add our own insecurity and some of our ideas seem just plain silly. We pooh pooh them before they get off the ground. We wonder if we’re off our noodle. We dismiss our ideas and give them labels like lame, stupid, or crazy. We’re afraid of using others for a sounding board for fear they’ll discourage us or make us feel foolish.

Drawing of an Idea for Abstract Scene

But one day, we take that daring leap of faith. We peel off our complexes and fears like yesterday’s banana skin. We go with the flow; enjoy our unfettered, unclothed artistic nature, and we fly! We turn ourselves inside out and expose ourselves to criticism and critique. Joy begins when our greatest fears are exposed for what they are: foolish! We step into the light and enter the ranks of “professional.”

Work-in-progress -- Acrylic under painting on canvas

I’ve been doing my share of floundering and exposing. I’ve been trying out new mediums, new subject matter and revealing my weaknesses and strengths. A blog is a public space and you are my critics and fans. If my journey has helped you, entertained you, or given you courage I’m pleased.

My blog contains works-in-progress that explore different aspects of my artistic journey. My goal is to paint from my heart and imagination more, and from photographs less. I’m not here to copy or to change, but to create. I’m taking a journey inside myself in order to be more open, more experimental, and more willing to take risks.

1st coat of oil paint -- work-in-progress

Some of my work may flop, and some of it may succeed. Discovery is a “wild child” that dances, bumps and grinds to the cranial surface from the depths of heart and soul. We as artists must “step out” and let our inner child reign free in order to achieve our dreams.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Enjoy What You do and Success Will Follow

Do you believe the above statement? Do you truly believe that if you have a passion for your work, if you enjoy doing what you’re doing that success will follow? If you don’t, then perhaps you should change course. Why? Because enthusiasm shows. Passion resonates. Enjoyment promotes health, longevity and determination.

With These Hands -- Wonder

Let’s face it. If you’re work has become a drag, something’s wrong. You need a new angle, a fresh perspective. Try something new, even if it’s short term. When you come back to what you’re doing, you may see things differently.

We all need to take a break once in awhile to recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries. It might be as simple as going to a movie, reading a good book, or exercising. Yup, that old demon exercise gets your cells producing, returns health to your body, rejuvenates your soul, and gets your blood flowing.

With These Hands -- Hope

Christian churches talk about the blood, the saving blood of Jesus Christ. I firmly believe a long healthy life depends upon the blood. Every organ and cell in your body requires nourishment pumped by the blood. As we age, our blood transport system slows down and may get clogged up with plaque and fat. Without blood to renew us, vitality diminishes and cells wither. Exercise, especially walking briskly each day, keeps the blood pumping.

I have osteoarthritis. When I get up in the morning, my feet and legs are stiff and I feel three times my age. Even though it’s painful, I take my morning walk. The first block or two seem sooo long. My limbs bark at me, begging me to quit. But I know from experience, that if I keep on trucking, in another ten minutes, I’ll feel young again.

With These Hands -- Love

Why is an artist blogging about exercise? Because everything on this earth benefits from exercise or practice. Repetition builds either good habits or bad. If you repeat good habits long enough, success is sure to follow. I must “practice” my artwork each day or lose touch with the motivation and knowledge that inspires me. I may even forget what I learned yesterday or the day before and have to relearn it. Persistence, practice and follow through pay off!

When the blood flows through your body, you may have a break through, and what you’re doing may give your life new meaning. You may not have a “come to Jesus” moment, but you may have a physical and spiritual rebirth through practice, determination, and hard work.

Carol’s online gallery is packed with examples of her passion for life and color.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Be Daring – Experiment! Join the “Art Revolution”

Lisa L. Cyr’s first book: “Art Revolution; Alternative Approaches for Fine Artists and Illustrators” is a wonderful way to rev up your artistic engine. Cyr’s book is filled with examples, techniques and ideas featuring many different artists. The book motivates, excites, and inspires me every time I pick it up.

I also have her second book: “Experimental Painting; inspirational approaches for mixed media art.” If you’re already familiar with faux techniques and collage, this book will merely springboard you to your own experimentation.

"Release" -- 24x30 mixed media

Above is my first “exploration” titled “Release.” I know I will get better as I gain more confidence. My recent workshop with Art Cunanan made me realize just how “tight” my brush work has become from drawing and painting portraits using oil paints as my main medium. Although I was pleased with the bright colors I used in my watercolor, it was evident my brushwork and approach were far too precise; at least to suit Art.

Sample close-ups within the painting

I’m hoping that a few experimental paintings will help me focus on imagination more and fundamentals less. My featured painting has been an evolution of ideas. The first draft included a monkey, a woman, and a different phrase by Joseph Campbell. My goal was to have a painting within a painting; but the overall effect made the painting look like an “origins of man” theme and the interior orchid looked overtly sexual as if being compared to a woman. Campbell’s verse was: “Ohm..the sound nature makes when it’s pleased with itself.”

This could have made an interesting painting, but was not the statement I wished to make. The second draft used this verse from Campbell: “Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglements.” Using this verse made the painting’s title obvious: “Release;” and for me it was a release.

I was able too use the same “jungle” theme with vines, hints of leopard and gold leaf, and butterflies to represent the “wings” in Campbell’s statement. Using Cyr’s instructions, I first applied butterfly pictures using a medium gel gloss directly on the colored surface and then applying it to the canvas. A brayer and my fingers, pushed the print color onto the surface. A few minutes later, I lifted the paper up and pale images were left behind. In some areas, I left them as they were, and in others, I livened up an edge, or added a touch of color.

I also used modeling paste on the gessoed canvas before adding any paint. I wanted some of the vines to be three-dimensional. I also applied modeling paste to a fern leaf and pressed it on the canvas for a raised leaf effect. The interior painting also has a frame fashioned with modeling paste and lace. Gold leaf and acrylic finished it off.

I wanted a clear contrast between the wild jungle background and the beautiful wild orchid in the frame. I used acrylics on everything but the interior portrait which was finished in oils and glazes.

I’ve taken shots of some of the detail in the painting so you may see what it entails. The 24 x 30 mixed-media painting is available on my online gallery @

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Frame or not to Frame, That is the Question?

And all that Jazz

I belong to a network called LinkedIn and participate in various discussions with other art professionals. Most of the chit chat is ongoing, and artist’s type in their opinions, links, and advice which is viewed and shared by all.

One recent discussion involved framing. Should artwork be framed before showing? There were as many different opinions as artists. Some felt that it was imperative to frame, not only to protect your work, but to present it in its best light. Others, from their own experience, found that customers often prefer to select their own frames and often discard the one the artist has so carefully chosen.

Lucky Lady

Mixed opinions circulated on wrapped canvases. Traditionalists thought wrap around art was tacky; younger more “edgy” artists thought it perfectly acceptable, and that it was preferred by their buyers because it made the artwork more affordable. Apparently, purist attitudes have gone the way of the economy.

I have done both. 50% of my artwork is framed and 50% is unframed; but more and more, I’m leaning toward painting the edges, and allowing the client to choose whether they want it framed or unframed. If the choice is framed, I help them in their selection if they wish and I point out that the painting would cost anywhere from $100 to $200 more (depending on the cost of the frame) if a frame were included. I’ve found this actually helps clinch the sale.

Shimmy Shake

The matter of fragile watercolors and pastels was discussed. If you’re going to show them, they must as a matter of necessity be framed, and properly. A mat that allows breathing room (space between the glass and the painting) is needed. Transporting these fragile works from show to show requires the utmost care.

Vamp on a Ramp

I enjoy doing pastels, but I seldom frame them. I follow in the footsteps of another pastel artist who folds newspaper sheets around each fragile pastel and stores it flat. Apparently, the news print from modern presses does not rub off on the painting. My images are also stored and displayed online. If a buyer chooses to purchase an original, I would price it to include the matting, framing, and shipping.

Each artist has his or her own specific preferences learned from their own personal experience. As in most creative work, there is never a right way and a wrong way. There is a unique perception and a preferred way of working for each artist. We shouldn’t be so opinionated that we can’t learn a thing or two from others. I prefer to have an open mind so I may weigh and evaluate my options and then choose accordingly.

Yes, Sir that's my Baby!

I work best when I’m not limited by the opinions and decisions of others. I feel hand-cuffed when all the parameters are rigid and demanding. Teachers and professors in long standing sometimes get in a rut. They teach as if there is only one way to approach a problem or to execute artwork – their way!

No wonder we as artists find it difficult to have a fresh idea or style? No wonder we find it difficult to stay “loose” when what we’ve learned comes back at us in memory replay over and over again. Every artist should listen to their own voice and build confidence in their own abilities. Trust your instincts! Let your own muse guide your hand and imagination. Let your own unique style emerge. Let “Jack out of the box!”

The mixed media paintings on this blog are available unframed or in colorful red, black, and gray boxed frames. See Etsy link in right-hand column.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Workshop by any Other Name

Inspiration and fun highlighted a demonstration by the renowned artist Art B. Cunanan, a water colorist from the Philippines who lives in Ontario Canada. Once longing to be a comedian, Art’s wife, Lu, suggested he stick to painting. A professional oil and acrylic painter at the time, Art moved into watercolor for the freedom it provided for spontaneity. His secret? “You must plan ahead!” He paints for the “light,” which requires leaving areas of the canvas unpainted where you want and need the most light.

“Loose” is his watchword and Art slathered watercolor paints on a dry canvas with vigor and imagination. Using plenty of water and a mop brush or “rigger,” Art places color first in sky areas, using his favorite cobalt blue wash, but only in certain areas. He leaves some white spaces for clouds or light.

Working his way down the canvas, Art splashed in some yellow near the “eye line” Art prefers to paint plein air and from his imagination. For our demo he worked from a photograph so we could see how he applied his interpretation of what he saw to the canvas. Using only a few light pencil marks to define negative space and light, he worked loosely around those parameters.

The rigger brush provided a point when he needed detail, but mostly he washed many different colors over areas of the canvas, leaving them unblended; a splash of alizarin here, a touch of yellow ochre there. He never uses green, but prefers to add cerulean blue to areas of yellow mixing them on canvas to make green. He stressed that too much time on a canvas produces overworking and “tightness.”

Masterful at what he does, he wrapped up a beautiful finished painting in about 40 minutes as we sat with our mouths hanging open. For a beach painting, he also spattered some droplets of color to add texture to the sand and some finer shadows. He stressed that colors should appear in different areas all over the canvas to provide continuity.

Cunanan added people to scenes with simple shapes and the stroke of a brush tip. Two legs were single strokes of a different color (no feet or detail). A head was a simple dab of paint. What brings the people out and makes them viable along wiith other details? Art uses a touch of white gouache on the shoulders and head. His people look realistic and add to the energy and interest of the painting.

I will be taking a full day workshop from Art next week while he is here in Fort Myers. In the Spring he has workshops in Spain and Italy. In the summer, Cunanan teaches workshops in France. Of course, he teaches in his beloved Ontario where he is more familiar with painting snow scenes than beach scenes and pine trees more than palm trees.

Please go to Art’s web site and enjoy his wonderful energetic portfolio

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh, That I had a Crystal Ball or a Genie in a Bottle

"Sand Crane Dreams" -- Oil on canvas

I shopped for groceries today. Several items I normally buy had shrunk, literally; going from one pound to 13 ounces, in some cases, plus the boxes and packages were smaller. Even cans had decreased from 12 oz. to 11 or from eight oz. to six.

When I checked out my items, the cashier tried to hit me up for another contribution; a good cause, of course, but please! I felt like saying “I’ll leave that to the fat cats,” but I didn’t.

"Anhinga in Paradise" -- Watercolor / framed

Producers, manufacturers, and especially Wall Street seem to have gotten terribly greedy of late. If an artist, a writer or a small business raised their prices that steeply that often, nobody would buy. Even now, people seem to expect more for less, including more profits which is why they have to disguise those changes in weight and substance through smart packaging. Where will this lead and how will it end?

Makes you wish for a crystal ball. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what to choose and what to buy to keep more money in your pocket? It’s impossible to outsmart Wall Street. Even Romney, who is supposed to be “squeaky” clean has millions of dollars invested overseas; the Cayman Islands, Swiss banks, etc. Why? To avoid the taxes that you and I must pay. He’s a Wall Street guy first and foremost, and has made billions at the expense of others.

It’s so easy to point the finger at someone else rather than take responsibility for your own actions. It’s all right to line your own pockets, but let anyone else try to do it and the profiteers cry foul. Okay so I’ve got election jitters and I’m venting my wrath. But only two States have voted in a Primary, and the powers that be are ready to declare a candidate, discounting the votes and desires of the other 54 States.

"Americana" -- acrylic on canvas

They shoved McCain down Republican’s throats last year and now they want to shove Romney down our collective craws this election cycle. Whatever happened to the “people’s choice?” Whatever happened to the America I know and love.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Teacher’s Influence may Last Forever

Amaryllis in candy cane stripes
(original photo)

You may have read about my grandfather in my biography, but to know the man was to love him. He had more granddaughters than grandsons and he made each one of us feel important.

For decades, he was a sixth grade teacher who had an influence on the entire community and on the cities and towns wherever he taught. When he died, his funeral was crowded with former students and teachers who knew him well and remembered him fondly.

As our grandfather, he made us feel special, and we wanted to please him. He admired his granddaughter's shiny bouncy ringlets. We would quicken our steps when he was nearby so our curls would bob even harder.

Hibiscus Glory - oil on canvas

Grandpa helped us practice perfect posture by placing books on our heads as we walked to keep our spines straight and strong. Even now when I catch a glimpse of myself with shoulders slumped, grandpa whispers in my ear reminding me to pull my shoulders back and stand up straight.

His love of the dance made winter days indoors a fest of delight, at least for most of us. We learned “The Hokey Pokey,” the “Grand Right and Left” and any other music that not only stressed rhythm but self control and coordination. He helped prepare dance festivals for schools and churches that were performed on a nearby football field. “Peter Cotton Tail” was one I remember, and dancing the Maypole with hundreds of dancers and poles scattered across the field with a myriad of bright costumes and multi-colored streamers.

Blending In" -- Acrylic on canvas

Having a male teacher who enjoyed dancing kept the boys in line. Some of them even enjoyed the experience. When it came to biology, grandfather’s first love, the boys witnessed his tough side. He loved spiders and snakes and made them a part of our curriculum. We handled them, learned how vital they were to the ecosystem, and lost our fear as we got to know and understand them better.

Acrylic under painting -- work-in-progress

One Fall we gathered monarch caterpillars from the milkweed plants outside our school yard and placed them in glass canning jars. We fed them and watched each of them form a chrysalis. When Spring arrived, we observed their struggle to break out and dry off their fragile wet wings. Grandfather allowed the butterflies to flutter freely about our classroom, but most of them flew to the windows bouncing against the glass until they grew tired.

Finally, they settled on the window ledge letting us approach them if we wanted to and curiously crawling up our hands and arms with their tickly prickly feet. During recess, we fed them sugar water from jar lids. I’ll never forget the wonder of watching an orange and black butterfly sit on my palm and unroll its long proboscis to drink the life-giving water.

"Moody Blues" -- oil on canvas

When the time came for their release, we opened up the windows and our butterflies flew to freedom. We yearned to bring them back as they fluttered upward tinting the sky with orange. We would never be the same.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Please Your Painter’s Palate with a Creative Pot of Soup

I can't help myself. When the calendar reaches January, my mind conjures up images of winters past with snow and blowing cold. Even though I live in Florida, come January I get that "rumbley in my tumbley" for a crock full of homemade soup.

NEW Pastel -- "A Joyful Heart"

I love soup. I know it's not a guy thing, and nothing like real meat and potatoes, but it's user friendly. No matter what you put in the pot, it comes out smelling and tasting like fine wine or the best in epicurean cooking. And when you're done, you feel like you've accomplished something.

Some people have a tradition of serving black-eyed peas on New Year's day. I love black-eyed peas; but alas, my stash was gone, and we ended up with pea soup. My Swedish grandmother made the best pea soup on the planet. She fried a small pork chop for each bowl, added parsnips, celery, carrots and onions for a feast of Kings.

Many people have never heard of parsnips, and I haven’t seen any on the market here. They taste ever so sweet and yummy when fried in butter. This adds a richness to the pea soup that potatoes can’t.

My next painting -- provided by online Pastor friend from Africa

When I traveled throughout Germany and Austria many years ago, I noticed that pea soup was a staple. Instead of a pork chop, each bowl had a sausage floating. I felt right at home. This was the kind of fare I grew up on. My American friends searched everywhere for a McDonald’s to satisfy their craving for a hamburger while I lapped up my soup like a contented Cheshire cat.

Drawing is transferred to 11x24 canvas

In winter, soup warms your bones. In tough times, it fills your stomach. When there are many mouths to feed, you can thin and stretch soup to fill every hungry mouth. People, who turn their noses up at leftovers often slurp down every scrumptious bite of a flavorful soup; no matter that the ingredients may be leftovers hidden between stirs of a bubbling pot of melding flavors.

Soup is like life itself: a pinch of this, a dab of that, some bittersweet, some sugar, some spice mixed together with faith, hope and love. Simmering through the highs and lows, the combination becomes the essence of a life well lived; a life remembered.

Work in Progress -- "Release" (acrylic underpainting)
A painting withiin a painting

Is it any wonder that my favorite channel is the food channel? I believe people who can participate in “The Iron Chef” or decorate cakes with sculpted roses and present their dishes in royal style can match any artist's creativity. Come to think of it, the soup I’m cooking today is giving me inspiration. I see colorful shapes forming, values changing, and my imagination soaring just like it did over my alphabet soup when I was a kid.

Have you got brain freeze? Are your creative pipes stopped up with cold slush? Get back to basics and warm up with a bowl of hot homemade soup. Happy New Year everybody!

Note: The "work in progress" above has evolved from when I introduced it several blogs ago. Originally I had a monkey and another quote, but it gave the entire piece a "human origins" feel, and that was not my intention. I like the new quote by Joseph Campbell which gives the painting a more creative feel: "Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglements."  I will use oil painting on the orchid in the frame and anywhere else I feel the canvas needs a pick-me-up. The final piece will be titled: "Release"