Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I don't mean to be catty, but . . .

"Playing Dress-Up" 16x20 oil on canvas (acrylic underpainting)

When I was a child, I loved cats. In good weather, I brought home every stray cat within walking distance. My mother was patient and supportive. She placed a litter box in a recessed nook on one side of our big kitchen and indulged my love for cats, at least for awhile. The only rule was: one cat at a time.
I enjoyed cat ownership. I dressed each furry friend in my doll's clothes and pushed it around in my doll buggy. The strays were so hungry for attention and fondling that they never complained, even when made to wear a bonnet tied under the chin.

I lavished each cat with affection, but there was something abhorrent about having a litter box in the kitchen. While I was eating my breakfast, the cat was always doing its business in the litter box. Maybe that's why every winter, without fail, the "cat-in-residence” managed to disappear. Mother would claim it wandered off or got lost, but I began to suspect that each cat I brought home was never going to stay for long.
I can't really blame my mother. We lived in a small upstairs apartment with no utility room and a teeny-tiny bathroom that caused grownups to lean inward with the eaves. The kitchen was the only room wide enough to accommodate the "box;" a name my mother said with disdain.
When I grew up and had a home of my own, a cat was given to our oldest son as first prize in a soap box derby for Cub Scouts. It was a wild little thing that scaled my draperies like Mt. Everest, leaving a trail of claw tracks and snags in its wake. He clawed his way up my sofas, my chairs, my bedspreads, and, as a last straw, up the kid's arms and legs. The product of a feral cat's litter we decided. We never knew for sure. We returned our wild kitty back to the giver of the gift (adequate punishment, don't you agree?).
"Madison Morgan" from "Madison Morgan, when Dogs Blog" by Pam Torres
After that we became dog owners. As the children grew up, we enjoyed several canine lifetimes. It was while we owned a white and tan Shih Tzu named Pooky that a beautiful black cat with white socks came to live with us. My daughter dubbed him Demetrius.
We had no sooner gotten attached to him when we discovered that her younger brother was terribly allergic to cats. “Deme's” fur caused our son's skin to break out in bright red patches, followed by bouts of hay fever and asthma. Needless to say, the cat had to go. I cried like a baby when we had go give him away, but I didn't miss those patty-paw footprints all over my kitchen counter tops; a habit I was never able to break him of, even when I sprayed him with water.
"Winston" 11x14 oil on canvas
Today I admire cats from afar. They're beautiful, they're soft, they're cuddly, and they belong to someone else. A friend's cat brought her a gift in my presence: a tiny gray mouse that he laid at her feet. As I watched the blood trickle out on the floor, I remembered those unsanitary patty-paws on my kitchen cupboards. I determined then and there that I was a dog person, and I've been one ever since. I don't mean to be catty, but...
(Repeat of a blog from 2009)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Take the Plunge; Dive into Your Work and Believe in Yourself

I’m a slow learner. I have to hear something many times before it “clicks,” and I finally understand. I have to paint many mistakes before my eyes actually see the object I’m struggling to paint. Mastering the art of painting, at least for me, has been a long and arduous journey.

Perhaps it seems that way because we don’t see how other people struggle behind the scenes. All we see is the finished product. We don’t know how many hours it took to paint that masterpiece. We sometimes wonder at the asking price, thinking it may be a tad high. Rarely do we know the time and effort that went into the project.

"Sand Cranes at Twilight"  24x30 mixed media canvas
I’m currently preparing for a show and trying to determine the price to put on my own paintings. First, I must consider the commission charged by the gallery, additional charges for credit card use, etc.; the cost of framing and materials, the amount of time and effort. By the time I consider the demands of the marketplace, my time is almost negligible!

I’m wondering if the show is really worth my efforts, and yet without publicity and advertising we remain at a standstill. There is satisfaction in seeing one’s work posted in a gallery. There is joy in making sales, even though, in the beginning of an artist’s career, it isn’t much.

"Window on Pine Island" 16x20 oil on wrap canvas
I’ll be participating with hundreds of other artists in the Art Council of Southwest Florida at Coconut Point. The location is good. The people are fantastic. Part of the fun of working with different leagues and galleries is the joy of meeting new people and making lasting friendships
Sure, I’ll give it a go. It’s all part of the adventure. You can’t just dip your toe in your profession or in the marketplace; eventually, you must take the plunge. Leaving your career to chance isn’t an option.

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse -- Skudeneshavn Norway" 16x20 acrylic
If you don’t give your dreams all you’ve got, you may as well hang them up to dry and let them wither on the vine of past regrets.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Posting Online doesn’t guarantee Success

"Sand Crane Dreams" mixed media on canvas (Done free-hand with brush to create dream-like images)

When friends learned that I had been selling online, they were all determined to follow my lead. I was delighted, because I wanted them to feel that element of success when you overcome your fears, conquer the inevitable learning curve of uploading photos correctly, and then seeing your paintings online.

News Flash! It does not stop there! You can’t just prepare a website or blog and hope for the best. You must “work the territory.” What does that mean exactly? You must take advantage of all the apps and opportunities available on each particular website.

"Barred Owl Posing" 16x20 acrylic on panel
If there are contests, you must enter as many as you can. Then you must vote in those contests. If you join a group (I’ve joined many), you must participate in the discussions, comment on other people’s paintings, and generally get to know the artists that are out there. If you develop some relationships, this will bring you votes, a visual platform, and other opportunities to display your paintings.

Many an artist has paid to have someone prepare an elegant website, only to abandon it and leave it to chance. If there are no links or interactive tools to ask questions or make comments, people go away disappointed. Sure they may see your work, but if it’s difficult to find out the information they are looking for, they may never come back.

"Jack's Roses" oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available!  Done almost entirely by free-hand brush drawing
An artist must still stay active in their home community. If people know you, and become familiar with your name or your work they are more likely to go to your website when shopping for artwork. Collector’s also become familiar with your name as they float from gallery to gallery.

Marketing is a 75% proposition, with a 25% ratio of time for painting. It sounds impossible, but it’s important if you ever want to sell. I never thought I’d sell an original online, but I’ve sold four this past year. Some of those paintings continue to make money through print sales online.

This time ratio means you have to work faster and harder at production. I’m becoming better at drawing with a brush and seeing clearly the painting I want to make in my mind before I begin. I still use models and photographic references, but I’m able to do much of my drawing on canvas free-hand with a brush. The exciting colors and forms that develop intuitively make it a joy to complete.
(8x10 canvas)
"in progress" sorry about the shadow! I painted an acrylic background and have to decide what to put on it!
Marketing is a very slow and upward process. The secret is to “never give up” and “never give in,” even when you get discouraged.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Fun may turn into Halloween Horror

 When my children were younger; we had a large, legal filing box filled with costumes. Each year new costumes were added after every holiday. There were Halloween costumes, wigs, noses, and masks; and there were school play costumes, patriotic costumes from neighborhood Fourth of July parades, and pilgrim’s costumes to celebrate our two son’s birthdays that fell during the Thanksgiving holiday.

This box grew more popular each year as the number of costumes grew. The neighborhood kids loved them as much as my own children. The costumes were used year round, even in the summer when the kids wanted to play “dress-up.” Photographs over the years have documented the fun they had.

Most of the costumes were homemade; and many of them were easy to make. We had Indian costumes complete with moccasins and feathers. Colonial costumes in red white and blue, and a British Beefeater complete with a fur-topped hat that was once worn when it was in style.

My favorite costume that every toddler in the family wore was an old white pillow case that draped over the child and fell to the ankles. Ears were tied with string to make floppy rabbit ears. A face was a round circle so the child’s face could smile through. A cotton tail was glued on the back in the appropriate spot.

This costume was harmless and funny back in the days when mom and dad took turns walking their children through friendly neighborhoods. I miss those days. Rarely do I see children in our neighborhood on Halloween. Most of them attend costume parties at their churches or schools, or the local shopping mall where store owners distribute candy. It’s a dangerous world we live in.

In today’s world, some of those imaginary goblins and monsters are real, preying on the innocent and unsuspecting. Every few weeks, a small child disappears from our neighborhoods, sometimes even plucked from their own beds while the family sleeps. We must find a way to stop this atrocity. Our children are not only the future of the world; they are our pride and joy. Each one is precious!

Evil is real. Satanic powers are real. If we are to protect the future and our children, we must find ways to eradicate evil, rather than celebrate it! 

Everyone loves being scared or pretending to be afraid of Horror shows and Haunted Houses. But does it really end there? Even here in Fort Myers there is a Zombie Festival this weekend where people dress up in gore, win prizes, and drag their half-dead bodies through the streets. Hundreds of people look forward to participating in it, but it’s not my “cup of tea.” I only hope the influence of that evening will not reap negative consequences.

Have a safe Halloween everyone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Painting what Matters – an artist’s love; a Buyers Delight

My friend Emma was a joy to be around. She was inquisitive and inspiring. She filled the room with grace and charm.
"Emma's Birthday" 11x14 pencil drawing on Bristol
 I drew this picture of Emma after her 94th birthday and presented her with this drawing on her 95th celebration. She was thrilled. She loved it so much that it was hung on the wall in her bedroom where her cherished family photos were displayed.

Emma passed away on Oct. 12, three and a half weeks before her 97th birthday. I had circled the calendar on Nov. 7 to be sure I remembered it. She will be missed!

"Mother and Child" 9x12 drawing (my daughter after her 1st daughter)
Artwork is long lasting. I know Emma’s family will treasure this drawing for many years to come. Her passing made me ask myself the question: “What will I be remembered for?” Will my paintings leave a positive impression on people? Will they uplift, warm the heart, or please the eye long after I’m gone?

There’s a lot of wild, unusual, even grotesque artwork out there, and some that bend the line between beauty and pornography. There are buyers out there for almost everything. Have you ever asked yourself: “What do I want to be remembered for?” Or do you consider only what will sell in the marketplace?

We all need to butter our bread. We need to pay the rent and make a living. But if we sacrifice our values or our reputation for the sake of art alone, where will it lead? Where will it end?

"Does this hat make me look fat?" 9x12 drawing (Zoe on her first birthday)
The focus of your life and your art becomes the standard by which you live your life. Every artist must choose the God of his or her life, whether a temporal material God that brings out the worst in us, or a Heavenly God that inspires the best in us. Life must not be degraded in any case. Life and the living of it is a hallowed and joyous experience if lived well. 

Emma lived her life well. She served her church and community. She served her friends and neighbors. Rest in peace, Emma dear; the best is yet to come!

Featured Artist;
Stan Prokopenko and one of his marvelous videos. Watch him on YouTube and learn how to draw marvelous portraits! "How to Draw a Nose Step by Step."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Does Fear have a Strangle Hold on You?

First Place winner in PanAmerican Alliance juried competition

This is the month when spooks, goblins, superstitions, and zombies celebrate the hidden fears and foibles we normally bury. Costumes and disguises parade as evil to ward off evil.

In reality, we all harbor secret fears that are sometimes disabling. Psychiatrists have names for these phobias. Some people overcome them through faith in God or a power greater than themselves. Others struggle a step at a time to unchain the demons within.

Second Place winner in PanAmerican Alliance juried competition (colored pencil)
I was talking about fear with my daughter, who is having difficulty finding employment. Each interview becomes more mountainous and treacherous. She finds reasons for not following through with an appointment: “They won’t hire me anyway. They’ll find some reason why I’m unsuited. I can’t go through it again.”

I feel for her, but at the same time she can’t remain frozen in time. “Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you really want to do,” I told her. “Don’t let fear control your life. If you do, you’ll regret it forever.”

I try to live by that advice myself. We all have to get out there and show the world what we’ve got. It may not be as good as someone else. It may not be as flashy and flamboyant, but it’s unique and represents who we are.

One of the greatest barriers to self-appreciation is making comparisons between yourself and another person. Because of insecurity or lack of self-confidence, the other person’s accomplishments always seem greater than our own. Our talents and skills pale in comparison. So why do it? Why compare yourself with others at all?

Progress is made and skill improved when we compare our last efforts with our present efforts. Compete with yourself until you feel more confident, and then you can comfortably compete with the world. It works for Olympic athletes. It works for pianists, writers and performers.

I look back over the years at how my work has changed and improved, and I’m clearly amazed. Don’t discount yourself; move ahead with the belief that you will get better. You must get better. Natural law predicates it. Practice and repetition do make a difference (your mother was right!).

My blog contains photos from a PanAmerican Alliance juried competition in Cape Coral. I attended, but did not show any of my work.

Featured Artist
Shijun Munns  was born and raised in Foshan; an old town in the South of China. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and “numerous pets.”
“I look at the world with an artist’s eye, and a poet’s heart,” Shijun said. Her work definitely reflects this. Link

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Perfect Way to Deal with Anger – Paint it!

 The Alliance for the Arts capitalized on the “angst” that divides people in this current political season. They sponsored a juried competition titled: “State of Mind: Politics 2012.” It isn’t the first time they’ve used a political theme, and it won’t be the last. But judging from the crowd on opening night, the strategy is still working.

I was fortunate to be selected for the show. Although I wasn’t one of the winners, I was the only one who represented the chaos in the Middle East. In my blog is a sampling of the diversity of subject matter and materials that were used.

Today, politics seems to be played like a football game; each side cheering for their side at all costs. In the past, more people seemed to vote for the person, rather than the party. At least, I did. I’ve been an independent, a democrat and a republican, depending on who's running. Now it seems that people support the party rather than the person, and choose to ignore voting record or the past of their own candidate. Instead of offering solid policies and solutions, there is more slander and mud throwing.

Historically, this has always been so, but the ugliness today is right in our faces and the values once cherished are no longer in play. In the show, it was interesting to see how artists expressed these concerns.

Putting your anger and emotion to canvas is invigorating and healthy. It allows an artist to express his inner turmoil and share either a vision or a torment with his or her audience. Van Gogh had so much suffering and discouragement in his life. He allowed people to see his anguish, his joy, his exultation and pain in a style that today is considered brilliance from an  unfettered imagination.

If you have joy or pain that eats away at your heart, try expressing it on canvas instead of burying your soul under a pillow of tears. Discouragement comes to all of us.

I painted a scene of two brothers on the beach watching the sun go down. I wanted it to have a magical feel, one that was almost fanciful and full of wonder. I submitted my painting to a critique group and they literally slaughtered it! There were so many criticisms; I had trouble absorbing them all. Only one person gave constructive criticism. I printed out her suggestions and kept them.

What happened to the painting? I was so ashamed of it I put it in a box with a protective cardboard over the top along with other stored canvases. I quickly forgot where it was. I opened that box several times over the course of the next year, but the cardboard I’d placed on top of the painting created a false bottom.

A year later, I found that painting and finished it according to the constructive criticism I’d received. Ironically, not only the first version of the painting that was critiqued, but the final version sold prints from the digital images online. I consider this a valuable lesson. Listen to your own heart and paint what you love. If you receive criticism, weigh it carefully. Take what is of value and blow the rest away!

Please share your experiences with critique and the value of belonging to an art league with us.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cyber-rattling – the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

"Hey, Coconut, Mon!" 18x24 mixed-media on canvas
We’re all eager to start them. We want our own public space in the sun to share our personal trivia or our hopes and dreams. Millions of blogs attest to that fact. But what happens when the enthusiasm fades, a blogger moves to another space, or just leaves his or her audience hanging as weeks turn into months and months into years?

We have clogged search engines and the skeletal remains of countless blogs hanging in the pathways of cyberspace. I was amazed as I searched for viable art blogs how many of them have not been updated in months; some for more than three to five years!

Amongst the casualties were new mother blogs, created by first time mothers who wanted to share the miracle of birth and their amazing adventure into motherhood. Others wanted to share a wonderful vacation with humorous stories and full-color photos. But when the vacation excitement fizzled, the dazzle of motherhood wore off, so did the blog.

"Day Dreams" 9x12 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints Available
Many blogs are started with good intentions, but they fail miserably when the blogger realizes there is no substance. There are no long-term goals. There was a beginning, but no ending. The blogger had no vision for the purpose of his or her blog or the discipline to finish it.

Clanking around this wasteland, I still found some good information, an interesting fact or two; but it required an investment of time to find that juicy fruit, that bright star among the scattered bones of defeat. Some bloggers move frequently from space to space, leaving their old blogs behind like bread crumbs to lead their followers back home. Some links failed, leading me on a wild goose chase. 

With all the apps and gizmos out there, I sometimes have difficulty uploading my own updates, especially in the evening hours. The large sites like Facebook and Twitter become unpredictable, and double tweets or failed tweets happen on occasion.

"Playing Dress-Up" 16x20 mixed media on canvas
Abandoned bytes and cyber debris join other waste materials in the heavens. Our Satellite Station over the years has dropped scraps and junk that still circles the globe endlessly polluting the atmosphere. Our oceans are filled with garbage and the ghostly remains of plastic bags. Japan’s Tsunami debris floats around the globe, butting up against foreign shores and introducing them to alien species.

Our “throw away” society continues to add to our mountain of debt and our growing landfill piles. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would find a way to clean up this wasted space or manufacture things that would last? If our economy is so bad, why do so many people throw thousands of pounds of food in the trash each year? Solutions not rhetoric is what we need. Suggestions anyone?

"With These Hands, Wonder" oil on 18x24 canvas

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Five More Things from Milton Glaser’s Book

"Skudeneshavn Norway" 16x20 Commission SOLD (Prints available)
I have never done anything in my life the easy way. Art is no exception. After spending half my life marrying young, raising six children, working as an office manager and then a free-lance writer/consultant, I came to art in my thirties. Unable to finish college because of my children’s university expenses, I struggled on my own with the help of the Public Library and some inspirational art teachers.

My interpretation of the “10 Things I have Learned—The Secret of Art” by Milton Glaser continues.
"Inset Kirke" Original Sold (prints available)
Glaser’s book seems to be designed for those who had the money and encouragement to attend University and study abroad. It is designed for those who plan from the start to pursue a career in art or design. But there are things every artist can learn from his observations:

1.    Style is not to be trusted. Life is not static. It is in constant flux and usually unpredictable. That’s what you never want your style to become; predictable. If it does, your buyers will get bored; your work may become dated and obsolete. Glaser’s example was the famous bull painted by Picasso. Several versions were made, each a variation of the other beginning with realism and ending up with abstraction and a simple line. Each was unique, each a different style by the same artist.

Glaser’s point? “Anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the present moment (zeitgeist). What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? How do you respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose?”

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse--Skudeneshavn, Norway" 16x20 Acrylic on canvas

  1. How you live changes your brain. This statement almost sounds Biblical; “as a man thinks in his heart so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: “A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” Drawing each day changes the brain. Repetition and programming improves cognition. Your actions may literally change how you see things.
  2. Doubt is better than certainty. “You just have to know what to compromise,” said Glaser. “Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you.” My interpretation: Being open and teachable is more important than being right all the time.
  3. On aging Glaser said: “It doesn't matter!” I’ll go with that!
  4. Tell the truth. If you’re in business, and art is a business, you must stand by your product, your word, and your promise. When you accept a commission or a project, you should seek to fulfill it. Customer satisfaction should be uppermost in your mind. You should go beyond what is expected and offer your customer some additional incentives for buying from you; free cards, a copy of preliminary sketches of the painting, or other gifts of appreciation. Never deceive a customer if you want a repeat customer.
"Egret Reflections" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)
Featured Artist:
Kandy Cross, a teacher of art and art history who has since been fortunate enough to live near the sea, visit many of the places written down on her bucket list, and paint within the Mediterranean and Caribbean-inspired areas visited across the globe. Shown is the painting “Boats at Burano” and a link to Kandy’s online gallery.