Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Take on Milton Glaser's book: “10 Things I have Learned—The Secret of Art”

"Victims of War" 18x24 mixed-media on canvas
Reading is as important as marketing to an artist or any professional. Learning must be continuous; including the taking of classes as well as the viewing of other artist’s work, and studying materials from the library.

Another word for “reading” is “remembering;” at least that’s my opinion. Study brings back the things you’ve learned and forgotten. Milton Glaser’s book of “10” things” helped me remember. Here is my take on his list.

"in-progress painting"
  1. You can only work for people that you like; looking back, I’d have to agree. My best work came out of friendly, cooperative relationships. There are some people you can never please. They are never satisfied. They can’t communicate what it is they want, and whatever it is, you can’t supply it. When the work is finally approved, all are left with a feeling of dissatisfaction and frustration.
  2. If you have a choice, never have a job; an obvious deduction. Not all of us are so lucky. We don’t always have that choice. Offering imaginative ways to find time and money would have been more helpful. Glaser’s reasoning is that you need to dedicate real time and effort if you’re going to be successful. I think if you continually work at it, you’ll eventually reach your goal step by step. Then you will have that choice to dedicate yourself full time.
  3. Some people are toxic avoid them. Well said! Toxic people pull you down, discourage you, and eat up valuable time you could be using to fulfill your own dreams. Toxic people poison the very air you breathe. They are unhealthy to be around and they make you feel bad about yourself. They consider what you’re doing a waste of time. Avoid them, leave them, or ignore them as much as possible.
  4. Professionalism is not enough. From Glaser's point of view, if you work as a "professional" you become fixed into a style or mode. You're afraid to take risks. You begin doing things in the same old way, cranking out signature pieces that are recognizable, but may become boring. Within the professional parameters, you must explore, take risks, and grow.
  5. Less is not necessarily more (just enough is more). I like detail. I have had artist chums who have said “well you can have too much detail!” Who’s to say when enough is too much? Only the intuitive artist or professional knows when a project is finished. If your gut tells you when you’re finished, put down the brush or pen, but not before.
"Sunset on the Nile" 22x28 mixed media canvas
I will continue my take on Glaser’s final five points in my next blog. Milton Glaser is a modern renaissance man — one of a rare breed of intellectual designer-illustrators, who brings a depth of understanding and conceptual thinking, combined with a diverse richness of visual language, to his highly inventive and individualistic work. Here is a link if you would like to read more about Milton Glaser:

Featured Artist;
Cathy McClelland from rural Australia. Her painting “Tap Dance” below shows the delight and whimsy with which Cathy views the world. “I’m a farmer’s wife that loves to create paintings of what I have seen and experienced in my daily life,” Cathy says.

Cathy McClelland Fine Art | Facebook

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Maelstrom over Political and Religious Art

"Prayer Circles" 18x24 acrylic canvas
 The Middle East is ablaze with hatred, anger and revenge. Their beloved Osama Bin Laden is dead, the perpetrators of 9/11 are hailed as heroes, and an evil plan which began in Benghazi and spread, destroyed an American Embassy and murdered four people including the Ambassador who was sodomized and brutally beaten before his death.

After discovering, via our own Presidency, that an amateur video was produced in July, the violence increased and spread like a cancer. The video gave them another excuse to burn the American Flag and continue their religious tantrum.

The flip side of that coin shows the contrast between a democratic society and a theocratic one. According to “The Gothamist” (see link below): “The Controversial representation of religious figures and objects has been inciting all the rage these days, and New York-born artist Andres Serrano's work "Piss Christ," which will be on view as part of an exhibition of the artist's work in Midtown next week, is no exception. The piece—a photograph of a crucifix soaked in the artist's urine—was condemned by Staten Island Representative Michael Grimm yesterday, who compared it to Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Islam film that has set off a rash of rioting and violence in the Arab world over the past few weeks.

"India Rising--the Found" 18x24 mixed media canvas
"As a Catholic, I find 'Piss Christ' to be vulgar and offensive, just as many in the Islamic world found 'Innocence of Muslims' to be highly offensive," Grimm said on Friday, according to the Grimm also railed at the Obama administration (surprise!) for not stopping the (private) Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art gallery on W. 57th Street from displaying the work. "The Obama administration's hypocrisy and utter lack of respect for the religious beliefs of Americans has reached an all-time high," he said. "I call on President Obama to stand up for Americans' values and beliefs and denounce 'Piss Christ' that has offended Christians at home and abroad."

And, though Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out in an op-ed piece today that "Piss Christ" did not incite rioting like Innocence of Muslims did because the Arab world is on the brink of revolution, other Christian groups have also compared Serrano's work to the film, and are shaking their fists at Obama for not being more outraged. "It seems like we have a protected class for Muslims as well as some other segments of our population," Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told Fox News. "But when it comes to Christians, it's an all-out war." 

Hasn't Stephen Colbert been pointing that out for years? 

"Inset Kirke" 16x20 oil on canvas (original SOLD) Prints available
If you would like to read more of this article, go to the following link:

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the two incidents show a clear contrast between Islam and Christianity.

“You won’t have to worry about a mob of people storming the gallery after Sunday school lets out,” Perkins told Fox News. “Christ has been the subject of attacks for 2,000 years – as have his followers. As Christians, we have learned to turn the other cheek.”

Perkins said the lack of response from the White House over the “Piss Christ” display provide an unintentional recognition. “It’s recognition of the contrast between Christianity and Islam,” he said. “You don’t have to plead with Christians not to riot and burn and storm buildings simply because they are offended. That’s the difference. That’s why Christianity moves nations forward and Islam moves nations backwards.”

As for the display – Perkins said it’s being held in a private gallery – without taxpayer funding.
“They have their freedom to do what’s wrong,” he said. “That’s what’s great about America.”

How do you feel about religious art? Political art? Your comments and opinions are welcome!

Featured Artist
Ron DiCianni, whose painting “Spiritual Warfare” has sold the most prints of any of his paintings; in fact, tens of millions globally. Featured is a video of DiCianni’s commissioned work featuring the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Finding your lost imagination

 “Use it or lose it” is an expression we’re all familiar with. We don’t always associate it with imagination, but it’s certainly true. We’re born with curiosity and imagination, but somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, we lose it.

Unless we allow ourselves to dream and fantasize throughout our lives, we risk becoming stodgy and stale; heaven forbid! A plunge into the realms of literature is a sure cure.

One of my favorite reads is the “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. Don’t let the 1943 copyright put you off. This classic still rings as true today as it did when it was written.

“Like a spoon full of sugar,” the pages melt on your tongue exuding words that recapture childhood fancy and wisdom. Once again, you become a child. You think like a child. You see like a child. Your observations become acutely aware of the foibles that being a “grown up” entails.

The simple drawings are lessons in and of themselves: “I showed the grown-ups my masterpiece," the little prince said, "and I asked them if my drawing scared them.” They answered, “Why be scared of a hat?”

“My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Then I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so the grown-ups could understand. They always need explanations….they advised me to put away my drawings and apply myself to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why I abandoned, at the age if six, a magnificent career as an artist.”

My favorite part of the whole story is when the little prince meets a fox. He has never seen a fox before. “Come play with me,” the little prince proposed. “I’m feeling so sad.”

“I can’t play with you,” the fox said. “I’m not tamed.”

“What does tamed mean?”

“It’s something that’s been too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means, ‘to create ties’…”

“‘To create ties?’”

“That’s right,” the fox said. “For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…”

By the time you finish reading this book, you're a child again on the brink of discovery. You become wise beyond your years. You grasp the meaning of relationships and the importance of simple things. You see things through the eyes of a child and your imagination is set free!

The next time you get stuck on empty and your creative juices are sluggish and slow, pick up a favorite book or a classic and restart your engines. For me it’s like a mini-vacation that inspires and refreshes. My perspective is altered; my enthusiasm is fired up, and I’m ready to meet the world head on.

Featured Artist
Lyn Olsen is a self-taught artist whose style is impressionistic and whose focus is on marine life, nature, and contemporary paintings. A link is posted below with a painting called “Silver Sailing.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lucky Charms, Rituals, and Zany Work Habits

 When people live alone, often the first thing they do when they come home is to turn on the sound:  T.V., music, radio. They check text messages, voice mail, email, anything to break the silence, the emptiness.

When people live with a spouse, partner or roommate, they relish their space. Private moments give them time and aloneness. After a busy day at work, the rush of silence and quiet that greets them as they open the front door offers a sense of relief and peace. Even the bathroom may provide much needed solitude if others are nearby.

Where we are in our lives dictates our choices and preferences. I once knew a woman who had two young children. As an aspiring writer, she sat under a hair dryer to compose so the noise of her children playing and jabbering would not distract her.

With a bustling family, my time alone was a hot soak in the bath. I could read, jot down ideas for articles, or simply enjoy that brief time alone when the family was asleep or away
Now rejuvenation comes via creating. I can lose myself completely with brush in hand at a canvas or with keyboard beneath my fingertips. Solitude is precious, if I can find it. Most of us have to settle for the peripheral noises in the next room or over our heads as we seek to express our dreams or expose our inner demons.

Even sleeping is a ritual that engages preferences unique to each of us. My son-in-law and his family require overhead fans or plug-in fans to provide “white noise” that muffles whatever sounds might be happening around them. The whir of the blades creates virtual lullabies that whisper them to sleep.

Some artistic people have rituals they perform before starting a new project:
·         Wearing of a favorite shirt to help them think
·         Drinking a cup of coffee or tea to get their blood fired up
·         Special background music in some cases, silence in others
·         Writing at dawn in their pajamas while their brain is fresh
·         Chewing gum or smoking a cigarette while they think
·         Saying a simple pray or chant to open the mind up

Sometimes these rituals help us get in touch with the muse, and sometimes they do not. But if we believe that they help, they probably will.

Even baseball pros have a number of tools they employ for good luck. Rubbing a special coin or a good luck piece builds confidence. Wearing a favorite pair of socks worn in a winning game may help performance. We all use whatever little gimmicks or tricks we can come up with. If we believe that they will help, they usually do. For people of faith, prayer seems to hold the key to inspiration and success.

Do you have any winning habits or rituals that help you work? Do you have a good luck piece that calls the muse? Please share your great ideas and thoughts in the comments.

Featured Artist
Lisa.C from Poissy, France; her humorous and endearing style is a mixture of collage and art nouveau. As a professional artist and illustrator, Lisa is able to capture a long ago time and place while seeming to be cutting edge. Check out Lisa’s web site!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

When Hope hangs by a Thread

Dorothy and Emma celebrating their 95th Birthdays!!
 As we grow older, we realize that everyone has a story to tell. While we're all unique, we are not immune from problems and difficulties. Eventually, we all experience similar sadness, unemployment, weaknesses, and crises; no one escapes.

Sooner or later, each new day presents challenges that prevent or deter us from doing what we really want to do. We may ask the question: what do I do next? Do I let go and plunge into self-pity or nothingness, or do I continue to hang on with my fingernails until the crisis passes?

That choice makes all the difference. I was once asked by a friend: "What do you do when life gets you down?" My answer: "I put one foot in front of the other and I keep on going."

Thank goodness for routine that keeps us grounded. We get up. If we have children, we prepare breakfast and send them off to school. We work, we shop, we pray, we keep on keeping on. To quit would mean accepting failure and defeat.

We eliminate self pity and instead focus on the positive forces in our life: the love of family, the goodness of God; and the fact that in spite of difficulties, we have food on the table and a roof over our head which others may not.

Kiara's Tea Party
We cling to what we do know, instead of dwelling on the unknown. We live in today and the simple things that may bless our lives: sunshine, raindrops, music, faith, laughter, the touch of a child, the kiss of a loved one. If we’re lucky, we may capture these fleeting moments on canvas and paint the best painting of our lives.

Time does not stand still. Tomorrow a phone call may come that will change your life. An e-mail or a letter may thank you for a time or words long forgotten. “No man is an island,” said the poet, John Donne (1572-1631)

No Man Is an Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. 
Each of our lives touches another in profound ways we may not even notice or remember. Each life is precious. When the darkening clouds of disappointment and pain overshadow us, we must hold on to life. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.(Psalm 30:5) That’s another way of saying that sorrow and pain do not last forever. We must hope and live for a better tomorrow

"Raccoons at Sun Rise" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
Featured Artist
Suzi Kahler whose work is strongly influenced by the Impressionists, particularly Van Gogh and Monet. She is noted for her distinctive style and direct approach to applying paint, her attention to composition, and emphasis on light, color, and details. She strives to provide the viewer a glimpse into a different way of seeing ordinary (and sometimes extraordinary) things.

"Aspens" 20x16 acrylic on wrapped gallery canvas

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Leaving Your Unique Imprint on the World

(at work on "With These Hands--Wonder" 18x24 oil on canvas
In the past century, the discovery and use of DNA has transformed not only our thinking, but our ability to distinguish one individual from another; a critical piece of the crime scene puzzle. Fingerprint recognition, which can easily be distorted or changed,  has taken a backseat to DNA that cannot be altered and is specific to each individual person.

DNA, the pupils of the eye, the fingerprints make each of us pretty unique. Add to that our physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup; the influences of environment, culture, personality, family, ancestry and genes, and each person has unmistakable characteristics that separate him or her from the rest of the pack.

"India Rising--the Found" 18x24 mixed media canvas
Some people, including governments, would like each of us to succumb to a “pack mentality.” They want us to fit us into little boxes they can label, compartmentalize, manipulate, and tax. Governments in some parts of the world have been successful at doing this; still, the freedom lovers, the pro-active doers and thinkers rise to the top and clamor for “liberty or death” (Patrick Henry).

We must never become a part of the “pack,” especially a group that can be swayed, hypnotized, manipulated, or threatened. If we lose our God-given uniqueness, we lose our freedom. Artists and performers must not be hog tied into conformity or submission. To do so would be to lose our voice, our identity.

"India Rising--Prince of Thieves" 16x20 mixed media canvas
What makes us special is not only our talent and skill, it is the way we think, dream, and achieve. Freedom of speech, freedom to create and build must never be suppressed, unless that liberty begins to corrupt or restrict the freedom of others.

Why am I waxing philosophic? Because I believe that each of us leaves an imprint on the world. From the time we are born until the time we die, we either make the world a better place to live in or we destroy it bit by terrible bit.

"Blending In" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
The choices we make each day are the predecessor’s of tomorrow’s outcomes. We can choose to become a part of a destructive force (the pack), or we can choose to think and act in ways that leave a positive if not jarring influence on others to wake them up from their complacency.

As professionals we talk about “making our mark on the world,” but if our focus is not anchored in truth and individualism, the result may be collectivism. We may find that our freedom and individuality are owned by the State. Artists of all stripes must protect individual liberty at all costs in order to preserve our freedom to make a difference.

Featured Artist
Sam Randall, Brisbane, Australia: “I am a self-taught visual artist based in Brisbane. I have recently made the huge decision to pursue being an artist full time. My previous career was as a Children's Therapist where art and creativity were a key foundation to my practice. I have always needed to be in a creative role or I get bored and dissatisfied.”

"Flora Montage" by Sam Randall

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Holding your own in a Competitive World

"Dainty Diva" 20x24 oil on canvas

 I’m currently reading “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield; a quick entertaining read that helps an artist confront his demons. I’m reading it partly for inspiration and partly for needed motivation.

The premise of the book is that most of us find every excuse under the sun to avoid pursuing what we really love. Why? Because of fear: fear of success, fear of work, fear that we’re inadequate and doubts in our own abilities. We “pull the plug” whenever we get close to our dreams, sabotaging our own efforts to achieve success.

Failure becomes a mindset. Negative thinking becomes our mantra: “we’re not good enough, talented enough, smart enough, or hardworking enough to succeed.” When we receive criticism, we fold. When other activities, voices, the “rat pack” of our lives dumps on us, we “pull the plug.” 

"Home at Last" 16x20 acrylic on canvas

We follow after the crowd. We want to fit in. We want to appear normal when actually we’re not. We’re driven by the beat of a different drummer. It calls to us from time to time, but we put it off; feeling guilty that we’re different or that we want something more than just keeping busy and being swallowed up by insignificant trivia.

I’ve been putting off a new painting. I had images and visions in my mind, but I just couldn’t find the right composition to pull things together. I put it off. I didn’t even tone the canvas. I had feelings, but no loud voice telling me what to do. The painting was inspired by a photo of a woman praying in a war torn area of the world. She represented the horrors of war.

"War Torn" 18x24 work-in-progress
A work-in-progress is posted today, but I’m not finished with it yet. I haven’t captured the feeling of pain I want in her eyes or face. Her skin color is not defined and her hands blend in with the background. There is much work left to do.

What propelled me to finally begin? I simply forced myself to put brush and paint to canvas and lay on some color. I wanted texture, and I wanted words. Although we all want peace, we continually involve ourselves or others in confrontation, arguments, war. “History repeats itself” became my theme. Sometimes all you need is action.

Steven Pressfield listed the qualities “that the professional possesses that the amateur doesn’t:
  1. The professional shows up every day
  2. The professional stays on the job all day
  3. The professional is committed over the long haul
  4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real”
There were other qualities he listed and countless suggestions and advice. I recommend the book to artists of every stripe.

Featured Artist
Jon McNaughton is probably best known for his political art. As a skilled muralist and painter, Jon began turning political when he saw what he felt was a “downward slide in the American Way of Life, a disregard for the Constitution which has made America great, and a blatant disregard for the rule of law.” You may not agree with McNaughton’s political POV, but it is hard to argue with his skill as an artist.

Love it or leave it, political art is here to stay.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Connecting the Dots – Making Your Art Relevant

"Beach Buddies" mixed media on 16x20 canvas
I’ve talked about the importance of networking as you make your way in your career, and the importance of getting your artwork seen and your name recognized. But there’s another side of the networking coin that’s even more important. It’s called connecting.

What’s the difference you might ask? The focus of “connecting” is your audience. Who are you painting for? Do you paint only for yourself or do you have something to say? Who do you want to say it to? It’s all about finding your voice as an artist and connecting with your audience.

This takes networking, a critical step in marketing, to a whole new level. It means connecting with people in a new way, not just visually, but emotionally and intellectually. It’s about making your artwork memorable, recognizable, and desirable. It means connecting to your buyer.

"With These Hands -- Love" 18x24 oil on canvas; framed
This last step may take years for an artist to develop. What is it about you and your perceptions and attitudes about life that make you unique and different? How can you incorporate this originality into your voice so that you may connect with people? Do you want to make a statement or do you just want to paint pretty pictures?

I’ve asked myself that question many times. I watch what sells, and I know that a big part of it is painting pretty scenes with dynamic colors that catch a person’s eye, whimsy, or the décor of their living room. Sadly, this may make a sale, but unless there is something else to grab the mind and heart of the viewer, it is quickly forgotten in the stream of other things in life and other competitive art that grabs for attention.

"An Open Book" 16x20 mixed media on canvas
If we want to make our mark, our voice has to speak volumes about us as individual artists. Depth of soul, depth of character, and a unique perspective say as much about us on canvas as does the skill we use in applying paint, composition, and structure. Success and recognition come when we finally make that connection!

Featured Artist
Magal Nagar was born in New York, and at age 9 her family relocated to Israel. At the age of 18, Magal fulfilled her two-year Israeli military obligation, assisting with the operations of a kibbutz (communal settlement). It was during this period, inspired by nature in the rural mountain setting of Southern Israel, that Nagar found her gift and passion for painting. Indeed, through exploration with color, she had achieved her own intuitive, unique form of self expression and inner peace.