Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to Your Roots; an Exploration

"Fish Market" 18x22 acrylic on canvas

What do you think of when people say “roots:” that it’s time to recolor your hair? that your newly planted vegetable garden is bursting into life? Or do you think of your child’s stubbornness when he or she plants those tiny feet firmly on the ground and shouts “No!”

For many of us the word roots means family: the people who have gone before us (ancestors) and the people who will come after (descendants). A wonderful new program on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is called “Roots.” Produced and directed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. the show “explores race, culture, and identity through the genealogies and family histories of famous people. The ‘who we are’ and ‘where we come from’ is at its core.”

The show is scheduled on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST. We have been enjoying it for several weeks at our house. It’s amazing to see that as we go back in time, we are all connected in some amazing ways. It touches my heart to see people find their roots, understand themselves better, and gain a new appreciation for those who have gone before. The show is emotional, surprising, and climactic. When the trail of family is exhausted, DNA evidence reveals additional information on country of origin.

"Innset Kirke" 11x14 oil on canvas  SOLD

My love for painting Norwegian scenes comes from my own Scandinavian roots in Sweden and Denmark, and my husband’s strong Norwegian ties as a direct descendant. His family comes from Stavanger and Skudeneshavn. Some of his ancestors were buried at the old Innset Kirke. His great, great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper for many years at Vikeholmen.

The family loves to tell the story of the beautiful nude young woman who would swim in the waters around the lighthouse. Eventually they were married. That’s one way to catch a husband!  I would love to get a hold of more information on the lighthouse and how long his great great grandfather cared for it.

Work-in-Progress -- Vikeholmen Lighthouse underpainting

I have two versions of the lighthouse that I’m going to paint. Of course, the original lighthouse is no longer there. An electronic machine has taken its place, but the area is still as beautiful as ever.

In Sweden, my great great grandmother baked pastries and sweets before sunrise and then sold the tasty treats on the city streets. She did this for many years.

Drawing for 2nd Vikeholmen Lighthouse painting 16x20 on canvas

One of her jobs as a young girl was to fill the vinegar jar with vinegar, a precious commodity, from a neighboring farm. Returning one day, she decided to shorten her walk by cutting through a pasture. Unfortunately, a bull ruled the grounds and decided to charge her. The vinegar jar was broken as she ran to climb over the fence. She received a sound scolding from her mother when she got home.

It’s fun to go back in time and research one’s family, if only for the stories. Better yet, gather the stories while your relatives are living. Their courage and strength in the face of difficulties is food for inspiration. Even if one generation fails you, there is always another one that may surprise and enlighten.

"Skudeneshavn, Norway" oil on 16x20 canvas  SOLD

The "old wooden village" above can be entered by land or water. Many festivals occur in the bay and people arrive by boat.

I hope you've enjoyed my completed African acrylic painting: “Fish Market,” my other Norwegian paintings, and my “works in progress.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Books open doors and minds with hope and renewal

"An Open Book" 16x20 mixed media

I’ve always been an avid reader. From the moment I discovered the Public Library and got my first library card, I’ve been in love with books; only now I have a Kindle, and I download my favorites.

Still, there’s nothing like the smell and touch of a good book. They open up the world to a whole new dimension of thought and feeling. Books expand our knowledge and build empathy for other human beings and other cultures. Books make us weep and feel the pain of someone else’s life and circumstances. Books build bridges.

I was in Sixth grade when I read “Les Misérables” for the first time. Some critics view it as a “sappy” novel, but what do they know. The book and the Broadway play have charmed audiences for generations. The words and the music touch people’s hearts. The story breaks through our crusty exterior and gives us an outlet for our own pent up frustrations.

"Through her Eyes" drawing

I adored “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. People in my church had more or less banned it from their reading lists deeming it too vulgar and too filled with curse words to be of any value. I heard their disdain long after I’d already read it and loved it.

I went back to the book and read it a second and a third time. I loved it even more after each reading. Sure enough, the swearing and the vulgar language were there. I was reading about poor farmers and transients in the 1930s at the height of the biggest depression in history. They were not just hungry, they were starving and destitute. They were uneducated, poor, and desperate.

"Emma's Birthday" Drawing

What I gleaned from this book changed my life forever. I discovered that it was the women who held everything together. When their men had lost their jobs, their livelihood and their self-esteem, the wives, mothers, and sweethearts lifted them up and encouraged them.

The women scrounged for food and sustenance. They nurtured their children and cast out fear. They gave their loved ones hope and a belief that things would get better. The last chapter clinches Steinbeck’s theme.

"Mother and Child III" Oil Brush Drawing 12x16 framed

A starving woman has lost her baby. She is filled with grief and engorged with milk, the wellspring of life. She weeps. She stumbles to find her way in a dark world. The first person she sees is a man sprawled on the ground in the last grips of starvation. She lies beside him and offers up her breast, the last vestige of nourishment within miles. He takes of this life giving fountain and the book ends reminding us of the cycle of life and women as the life givers and nurturers of society.

The book is classic! To have missed reading this book because of words and actions I or others may not have approved would have been tragic. My life was lifted and enlarged by the reading. I gained a new appreciation for my own significance as a mother of six children and for women everywhere and the contributions they make to the home, the family, and to the world.

"Broken" 11x14 mixed media, framed SOLD

Books are the doorway through which blind men pass and then they see. Books open up our eyes and our minds to the promise of our own potential. God bless the writers who enlarge our spirits and our minds with the fruits of inspiration. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Day of Networking, Culture, and Culinary Fun

Glenn Gunderson "Cypress Swamp #2" painted on wood

It’s always fun to try a new restaurant. Christof’s on McGregor has renovated one of the older homes in Fort Myers and turned it into a fine dining experience. They’ve modified the huge wraparound porch adding tables and chairs for an outdoor dining area. The front lawn and spreading oak trees provide shade for a new outdoor patio with tables.

Inside, wood floors and a classy interior create a sophisticated ambiance. Separate dining areas promote privacy, and a well-stocked inviting bar welcomes diners and encourages mingling and conversation. The food is excellent.

I met some women friends and we gathered in a separate dining area where we could actually hear one another. We discussed among other things portraits. People are always curious about my art and what kind of paintings I create

Deborah Mitchell, "Bearing Witness" mixed media

I had completed a drawing of one of the women’s two grandchildren a few years ago. She showed me their pictures and how they had grown. It was amazing that these teens still resembled the children I drew so long ago. The drawings seemed to come to life. It was a great networking lunch, and several women expressed interest in having a portrait done of a favorite pet or spouse.

"Day Dreams" (my granddaughter)

I love doing portraits. I enjoy including people in all of my paintings. Somehow, the canvas seems empty without them. I do want to do more landscapes, but I know I will always want to paint people or pets; living and breathing things that have a life of their own.

"Blonde Boy" (my grandson)

"Dainty Diva" (another granddaughter 'ballerina' )

After our luncheon, I popped into the Alliance for the Arts to see their latest sculpture exhibition. Again, the focus of the competition was to use either recycled materials or items from nature that could be incorporated into the artist’s work.

Friday, May 18, 2012

We are at War -- no ifs, ands, or buts!

"India Rising -- the Lost,"  mixed media

According to the press and the wordsmiths on television, we are at war: a war on women, a war of words; a cultural war pitting one set of values against another in order to prove who loves God or Jesus the most. On top of that, we have the age-old generational gap, and the traditional war against the sexes. Whew!

It makes me tired even to think about it. The arguments make a mockery of real war. The wounded warriors who return home missing limbs or strapped to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives should put us all to shame. They fight for our right to argue and fight. They fight to keep the enemy from our shores. They fight to preserve our way of life and to allow people freedom of choice without censure.

Since when did our country become so divided, or has it always been so? Good versus evil started with rebellion in the realms of Heaven and continued in the Garden of Eden. The war of good versus evil has been with us since the dawn of mankind and shades of gray challenge our choices every day.

We are gripped by the bite of a political war with opposing factions claiming their right to the proverbial throne. One side stating they are more intelligent and informed than the other, while the “other” side proclaims they are on the side of “right” by virtue of their Biblical values which many boast, but few actually live.

"India Rising -- the Found," mixed media

The media pushes us into a frenzy, father against mother, sister against brother, neighbors lashing out at neighbors. I’ve had people “defriend” me on Facebook because they didn’t agree with me. What happened to dialogue? What happened to discussion and debate? What have we become?

"With these Hands -- Hope," mixed media

We need to take a look at ourselves and our priorities. We need to channel our anger and hatred into positive outlets. We pray for world peace while we argue and battle over facts, figures, and policy. There will never be peace until we have peace within. Until we are tolerant of others and compassionate about differing points of view, peace on earth is only a dream.

What does this have to do with art? Art mirrors life and humanity. If we continue to cannibalize our own, destroy character, and push the limits of behavior to unhealthy extremes we will always be at war: at war with each other, at war with ourselves, and at war with God. Our art, our books, our paintings, our theater will become more grotesque as evil and pain overtakes us. Yes, we are at war, and we are the enemy.

"Broken," mixed media -- SOLD

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Art is the Priceless Expression of the Soul

Work in Progress -- acrylic drawing 18x24 canvas

What is the fine line that separates art from pornography? Can you feel it? Sense it? What is vulgar to one person may be beautiful to another. I was surprised and excited when I took my first drawing class with a live model. I blossomed! My linear ink/brush drawing won first prize in an art show.

I took my sketches and drawings; my prized paintings, to a family reunion and shared them with relatives. My excitement waned as shocked and appalled faces looked back at me. They were not only “not impressed,” they were disgusted.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, my relatives had never had much exposure to art. What they saw and felt was shame for the exposure of the human form. I was crestfallen. Every emotion and skill I had discovered in myself was frowned on by those who knew me. My best was not good enough. I was viewed with disdain.

Did that deter me? Yes, for awhile until I rediscovered myself and the beauty of all God’s creations, including the human body.

Work in Progress -- "Fish Market--You Buy?"

During the transformation of the German people under the leadership of Hitler, Heinrich Heine made this observation: “Where books or art is burned, they will in the end, burn people.”

We must protect our freedom of expression. In China they cannot use the Internet freely or speak freely. Sometimes in government’s efforts to control and protect, they end up extinguishing freedom. Just like blowing on a lighted candle, they diminish the light of truth and the power of the individual to choose.

Work in Progress, 18x24 canvas, Fishmarket
Here are some of my favorite quotes by famous artists: Enjoy!

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college- that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?"
Howard Ikemoto
The more horrifying this world becomes, the more art becomes abstract.
Paul Klee
"Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us."
Roy Adzak
"A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places."
Paul Gardner
"A line is a dot that went for a walk."
Paul Klee
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
Pablo Picasso
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.
Pablo Picasso
It takes a very long time to become young.
Pablo Picasso
There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.
Michelangelo Buonarroti
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your
attitude. Don't complain."
Maya Angelou
An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."
James McNeill Whistler
"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."
Henry Ward Beecher
It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.
Henri Matisse
I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.
Henri Matisse
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way-things I had no words for.
Georgia O'Keeffe
Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
Georgia O'Keeffe
"The source of genius is imagination alone, the refinement of the senses that sees what others do not see, or sees them differently."
Eugene Delacroix
"I am an artist… I am here to live out loud."
Emile Zola
"Painting is easy for those that do not know how, but very difficult for those that do!"
Edgar Degas
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
Edgar Degas
"No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination."       Edward Hopper

"Hey, Coconut Mon" (part of my African series)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Copyright Infringement, Fraud, Chaos and Lawlessness

Sand Cranes at Twilight

If it were a perfect world, there would be no crime. Artists and musicians could post their work without fear that copyright laws would be broken and original materials copied and resold without their knowledge. Payments to Pay Pal, banks, and credit card companies would be safe from hackers. How did we get in such a mess? Poverty? Greed? Envy? Or are there are so many people in the world that the odds are against us?

Every society has a code of ethics or values they choose to live by. Laws provide structure, and policemen enforce those laws. But what happens when a majority of people look the other way or become offenders themselves? We have chaos. I think we’re on the brink of it now, even here in America. We already have chaos around the globe.

In the past, many ascribed this behavior to indifference or prejudice. So those in authority tried very hard to “level the playing field” hoping to eliminate envy and strife. But instead of getting better, things eventually got worse. Why is that? Because if you don’t earn or work hard for what you get, you want more and more of the good life without putting in the necessary blood, sweat and tears that’s normally required.

"Sandhill Crane"

People have grown flaccid and soft. A young man was recently interviewed on television. He said he wanted to make $80,000 a year because he felt he deserved it.  He’d earned a degree, and would not take a penny less. Thus he remained unemployed.

I think I deserve to get paid at least $1,000 for each of my paintings, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get it. First I must become known, and then I must prove that I can meet the demands of the marketplace and the desires of my clientele. Wanting something is far different from deserving. The reality of our current employment situation is that the marketplace determines what we are worth, not ourselves or the government.


We've already watched Greece crumble and fall. We've seen France win an election through empty promises, and Spain is following their lead. What happens when we try to please and appease everyone? We end up pleasing no one. This philosophy may win elections and create dictators such as Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, but it destroys freedom of choice. So does theft and dishonesty. Until we begin to clean up our own hearts and our own yards, the world is going to that proverbial “hell in a hand basket.”

Look in the mirror people. What do you see? An honest face full of integrity and honor, or a mask of pretense? Do you see a person who plays the two-faced game of appearances at all costs, and then turns his or her back on his fellow human beings or cheats when no one is looking?

"Anhinga in Paradise"

We all seem to live in fear these days. Will our identity be stolen? Will our work and our livelihood be at risk through someone else’s greed? If I were to run an ad I would say: “Wanted a person of integrity who lives what he believes.” We all need to “fess up and fly right.” Our future depends on it!

If you would like to sign a petition to protect copyright laws and artists, click here:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mind over Matter – Imagination is at the Heart of it!

"Shimmy Shake" 11x14 mixed media

I’m working on some illustrations. Aside from the story line, I’m creating purely from imagination. The more I create, the better it gets! The secret is to see clearly an image of what you want to paint or draw. In this way, an artist breathes life into a painting by creating real characters that seem almost alive.

There is great freedom in creating this way. Sometimes I need a model or a photo to see how an elbow or a knee looks when it’s bent at a certain angle. Or I may want to capture a frown or a surprised face and verify how that emotion shapes the human face. Are there wrinkles around the eyes? Does the mouth form an “o” shape?

"Moonshines" 18x24 mixed media

My imagination seems to be working overtime these days. I’m seeing faces and forms on our bathroom floor caused by water marks and the path of the sunlight as the day progresses. I try to draw these faces quickly before they get away.

Having a sketch book at hand when you’re not at your work station makes the job easier. As a writer, I learned to carry a moleskin notebook with me wherever I went. I’m still a note taker jotting down my first impressions of a subject. My descriptions later turn into drawings.

"Lucky Lady" 11x14 mixed media

The most important treasure an artist has is his imagination. It is a living and breathing thing that needs to be nurtured, coaxed, and used in order to thrive. By doodling a little each day, your imagination can be teased and coddled into being creating artwork or characters that may be fleshed out into something more substantial.

Many abstract paintings have faces, images, and forms tucked away in places that bring an intense interaction with the viewer. These images may be from collages or strictly from imagination. They bring a human element into the work that becomes personal and intimate.

"Release" 24x30 mixed media
The more you use your imagination, the freer your brushwork will become. Loose brush strokes add energy and vitality to an otherwise static painting. By learning to visualize your subject matter, you’ll be able to create something truly original.

Even a painting done from a photograph can take on a life of its own when you allow your mind to run wild and your heart full control over your paint brush.

(The above pictures are part of a two-page spread in my children's book: "Inez Ibis Flies Again")

The book is about how to deal with a disability and moving into self acceptance:

"I know a place where heron feed," she offered, encouraged by Will's thoughtfulness. "Would you like to go?"

"I'm there," Will said as he lifted his wings against the twilight.

Inez forgot all about her leg as she made ready to fly. She didn't notice the limping and the hopping before take off. She was beyond happy, and Will was her friend.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Here comes Summer! Are You ready?

I’m working on something that I can’t share with you right now; illustrations that will be used in the publication of a book. You may have noticed the repetition of paintings in my blog. Please bear with me until this project is over.

The tourists and “Snowbirds” have gone back home. The streets are once again accessible; the stores half empty (or is it half full?). Our Co-op Gallery at Coconut Point in Bonita Springs has come to an end. Our President, Marsha Bisson, shared this “thank you” with the members:

Dear Fellow Artists,
I would like to thank all of you for your part in making the Coconut Point Co-op Art Gallery into such a successful gallery, both sales wise as well as artistically. We sold over $9000 in artwork this year!
The quality and beauty of the artwork offered by all of you provided a professional and varied selection for our customers. Visitors to our gallery, both buyers and lookers, made so many positive comments about the artwork and the gallery, that next year we'll be having them write them down so we can share them with all of you!
Meeting the artists is such a positive experience for buyers. There were a lot of occasions this year with sitters selling their own work on the days they sat. It's a win win for both! And, again, congratulations and thank you to both Donna Elliot and Pat Papa who, in one, day-sold over $1300 in artwork!!! A great job!

And thank you all for your cooperation in gallery sitting and selling. . .

A triumphant ending to a wonderful winter season!

"Pelican Bay" oil on canvas

Year-round residents like us enjoy summer in spite of the heat. There are specials on dining out: two for ones, and lower prices.  The restaurants and store owners welcome our business. We enjoy the perks, but we also miss our friends and neighbors. By June our streets resemble a ghost town.

This is the time of year when I catch up on my dreams and the projects that have been waiting in the wings. Maybe even plan a vacation. My husband and I have only each other to converse with across the table in our favorite restaurants; an opportunity to renew our friendship and catch a movie or two to rekindle the former fires of dating.

"Flash Dance" oil on canvas

Summer should be a time for renewal; a time when neglected relationships are nurtured and revitalized; a time to enjoy the moment and the minutiae. The smell of charcoal and grilled burgers waft on the air currents mixed with jasmine and gardenia. Our hibiscus and Mexican Petunias are “blooming their hearts out” while we swelter in shorts and bare feet
The beach beckons us to enjoy the water and the sand unfettered by the winter crowds and “spring breakers.” There’s nothing like walking along the beach in the early morning hours or just before the sun goes down in the evening turning the sky a pinkie, orange lavender.

"Beach Buddies II" mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dreams Light a Fire Beneath us – Reality Grounds us

Exercising imagination is critical to the artist’s life. Whether you write, perform, paint or draw, working from research and knowledge is not enough. An artist must interpret, design, and create. An artist’s work must represent his unique perspective on the world.

Artists need buyers, teachers, supporters, lovers, friends, and constant inspiration for their work. Knowing who you are and what you think about issues is critical. Having opinions and knowing why you have them brings clarity and purpose to your work. Everything an artist sees, hears, and learns becomes a stepping stone that leads to creation.

In order to grow, we must have our feet grounded in reality. We must make logical and conscious decisions every day concerning our finances, our basic needs, and the people we interact with. Constantly flowing between a living reality and a fantasy land or a dream world of our own making definitely poses problems.

"Raccoons at Sunrise"

I don’t know about you, but when I’m in creative mode, my friends and loved ones may literally have to drag me away. They may have to repeat themselves often as I escape into la la land. I may seem moody and aloof at times. I may appear distant and detached from their needs and wants.

Finding a balance between these two worlds is critical to an artist’s survival. Supportive people who share our dreams, or at least understand them, can make all the difference. Knowing us, caring about us requires effort, patience, and maturity.

The artist must also learn to compartmentalize his life in order to find balance between the realities of the here and now, and the need to make a living; between living within your means, and recognizing that others have important needs, too.

“No man is an island,” said John Donne (1572-1631). Writing a series of devotionals for Christians, he spoke about a bell that rings not only to call the preacher to come, but the congregation. The importance of Donne’s concept is also expressed in other religions, particularly Buddhism.

“…No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

"Sand Crane Dreams" 
And it tolls for me. It tolls for you. We’re all involved with mankind. As artists our greatest joy is in giving back to humanity, to the world we love, our personal take and interpretation of it.