Friday, November 30, 2012

Tools of the Trade – are they Necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A Perfect Ending" 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Childrens’ Picture Books may Inspire and Encourage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhausted ibis after a long migration.

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

Inez practices flyiing in the field; sometimes she falls.

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

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

Hard Copy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Peddlers of Optimism and Hope

"Dainty Diva" 24 x 20 OIL on Canvas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks Strengthens Family, Faith, and Patriotism

"Americana" acrylic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Red Canopies" by Heidi Nadon

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Good T.V. Commercials may Motivate and Teach Us

"Hibiscus Glory" commissioned 16 x 20 OIL on canvas SOLD

Today many T.V. commercials are far from boring. Spontaneous belly laughs result from watching people like us make complete fools out of themselves in order to sell product. Watching these commercials unfold is not necessarily a waste of time. There are lessons to be learned.

Good commercials have several traits in common. These same principles make any product or presentation better. Even artwork gains an interactive response through these techniques.

"Blending In" 16 x 20 Acrylic in Barn-wood Frame $300

·        Perfect execution: This goes without saying. But how many times do we hastily spew something out or slap on the paint without giving it our best? From the first brush stroke to the last, your purpose your vision must be perfectly clear, perfectly executed, perfectly understood.

(Photo from a contact in Uganda)

·        Timing and Flow: If a commercial is too long or it’s difficult to follow, we change the channel or turn away. If the music or dialogue catches us from the start and carries us easily to the end, they have us! Now apply that to your product or painting. Does your composition pull people in? Does it take the viewer on a journey through color, line and form? Do viewers want to stay and experience? Did you grab them from the start?

"Work in Progress"

·        Succinct: Gets right to the point. There’s no convolution or meandering; no vague or misrepresented “bunny trails” or side tracks. Of course, I have seen successful commercials that come in from the back door and then give you a surprise ending; but often they lose viewers before the final climax. Likewise, a product or painting should have a clear center of interest.  It should get right to the point and express its function and intention.

"Hey, Coconut Mon!" 14 x 18 mixed-media on canvas $500 (acrylic underpainting)
·        Clear Message: Commercials want to “wow” you into buying. They must motivate you quickly, clearly, and successfully. If the message is too subtle or hidden between the lines, it may be funny, but does it sell? If you’re left wondering who the sponsor was or what they were advertising, the commercial has failed. With a painting, the message or story must at least suggest that something has happened or is going to take place. Subject matter must at the very least stir emotion or provoke feelings of energy and excitement.

·        Purpose: Commercials want you to buy. Sometimes they only want you to remember their product name so you’ll at least give their brand a try. Repetition, songs, and humor do this in a powerful way. Does your product or artwork have a purpose other than to please yourself? Are viewers able to connect with your vision? Is your purpose simply self-expression or is it entertainment? Do you want your artistic expression to appeal to others on a higher level or are you satisfied with simply making a statement? Know thyself and your paintings will have a purpose.

·        Motivation: On what level does your product or painting relate to others? If you can answer that question, your painting will likely motivate someone to buy. The purpose of the preceding steps was geared toward motivation:  motivation to watch, motivation to enjoy, motivation to buy.

Looking at your artistic creations as products gives you a clear path to follow for success. After all, we can’t create in a vacuum, and unless we’re able to share our artistic vision with others, we are unfulfilled.
"Kelly's Rose" 12 x 16 OIL on Board $250 with white frame
Lesson Video – “How to Draw a Water Droplet
Sponsored by FineArtEbooks on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Working at the Cooperative Art Gallery

Yesterday it was my turn to work in the Art Council of Southwest Florida’s new art gallery at Coconut Point. This Season, we have a new location; one that should be busier. The day after a holiday (Veterans Day), however, was slower than watching paint dry.

We had only 18 customers, and most of them were other artists curious to see the work of their peers and to inquire about the possibility of joining our organization. No sales were recorded, but the day was filled with conservation and enlightenment.

I’m amazed with the ingenuity of individual artists. The gallery represents an array of subject matter and styles that almost overwhelm the visitors. It is truly exciting to be a part of this exhibit.

I’m a people person at heart. As a free-lance writer and consultant before I became an artist, my job was to interview people. This skill has stayed with me, and I truly enjoy getting to know what makes people “tick.”

"IN PROGRESS -- Next Stage"
Each person, regardless of where they come from or who they are, has an interesting story to tell. Some have painful stories that show up in the kind of art they pursue. Others are shy and have difficulty verbalizing how deeply they feel about their artwork and skill.

I listened attentively to two such men who were soft-spoken, and modest in spite of being well-known and extremely talented. Writers are somewhat similar. All of their expression goes directly from the head and heart to paper. They are often reticent to speak in public and shy in personal relationships. Sometimes success overcomes these feelings and sometimes not.

"Moonshines" 18x24 mixed media on canvas
My most interesting customer was a transvestite who donned a wig and the dress of an older woman. He seemed perfectly comfortable with who he was. He used his large hands when he talked, and didn’t disguise his booming male voice. He spent about an hour with us talking about the artwork, sharing his own life as an artist, and expressing interest in joining our network.

Artists come in all shapes, sizes, colors, races, and styles. But there is one thing we all have in common: the way we see the world in color, shape, and form; and a shared love for expressing our vision.

"Through her Eyes" 9x12 pencil sketch from live model

Friday, November 9, 2012

Giving Yourself Permission to Fly

"Arabesque" 14x18 oil on canvas
Do you notice how often you hold yourself back with negative thinking? “I’m not good enough. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself. Others may think I’m weird. Who am I to compete with the “pros?” And on and on, we tear ourselves down.

When we let ourselves go, when we “let it all hang out,” so to speak, we acknowledge that we trust our own instincts and ideas. We give ourselves permission to try, to experiment, and to create what is uniquely ours. This requires boldness and courage on our part. But there is no other way.

"Anhinga in Paradise" 16x20 watercolor
If we want to excel, to soar, and to release the grandeur that is in us. We must let go of fear, doubt, and dependency. We must stand alone and seek our own place in the sun. We must value our own opinions and ideas at least as much as we value others.

Skill cannot be increased if we decrease the motivation behind it. We add fuel to our dreams when we fan the flames of confidence and hope. Strength comes gradually as we forge ahead in spite of fear. We keep working toward our goal, letting go of the things that weigh us down or hold us back.

"Loggerhead Shrike in Springtime" 16x20 acrylic on panel
The adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” may be old, but the concept is still fresh and new. We must pick ourselves up after we fall or fail, and try again. Repeating this behavior over and over again will eventually lead to success.

Hard work, blood, sweat and tears are still the only way to achieve anything worthwhile. If you take the easy way out or cheat on the principles, you end up hurting yourself.

A friend of mine had a mentally disabled child.  She started standing and walking before she learned to crawl. There were many things she did “out of order” and her brain had devised alternative patterns that slowed down and impeded her mental development.

Volunteers came in each day to work with the child. They moved her young legs across the floor and taught her how to crawl. They worked with her hands, and played games to provide new patterning for her brain.

"Berry Christmas" 16x20 acrylic on panel
In God’s wisdom, a person must learn to crawl before he can walk. He must learn to read before he can gain knowledge. He must practice before he can play or perform.

These are the same patterns and “models” for success. Developing skill is difficult, but it is essential. Talent is a plus. Love and desire are important components. But practice and hard work are the wings on which we fly.

"Sandhill Cranes at Twilight" 24x30 mixed-med on canvas
Featured Artist
Light & shadow video by Stan Prokopenko

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Old Home Week at the OK Corral

 Monday I delivered four paintings to the Art Council of Southwest Florida’s Coconut Point Gallery. It was like “old home week” as artist’s renewed their friendships and shared their latest artwork.

There was a twinge of hope and excitement in the air. It is “Season” in Southwest Florida. That means the return of the “snowbirds;” those tourists that return each year and add billions of dollars to Florida’s slumping economy.

A grand opening Friday night with a wine and cheese reception will kick off six months of opportunity and continuous showing for the artists. The location is even better than last year: between Panara Bread, hopping with activity, and the World Bazaar.

Each artist volunteers at least one day a month for retail sales. The best part is a new nook by the window where artists can paint during the down hours and attract curious passersby while catching up on projects.

Artists are an odd lot. There is an unexplained camaraderie that forms bonds, even though we’re all very different. Artists see the world differently. Our perceptions and thoughts are colored by this strange obsession we have with color, form, and texture.

When I was younger, I wondered why I was so fascinated by nature and by the turns and twists of the human form. This interest has led me first into freelance writing, and then into the art world. Portraits, though difficult, are one of my favorite things to paint; followed by animals and birds in particular.

The next few months will be a whirlwind of activity moving from gallery to gallery and getting to know other artists in the community. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The world is a sometimes a frightening place. There are extremes and contradictions everywhere you look. Exquisite beauty contrasts with pain and ugliness. Violence occurs often in conjunction with bursts of kindness and gentleness. Deception and trickery abound, and the gullible, the innocent are often caught in this web of seduction which later becomes a prison of self-inflicted chains or victimized suffering.

The world we artists paint may be ugly, truthful and real, or it may depict the softer side of innocence and beauty. What we paint becomes our signature; our style. What we paint eventually defines us.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Your Name is Your Brand – Protect it at all costs!

"Collecting Sea Shells" 8x10 acrylic on panel

What’s in a Name? Ask a person who has had his identity stolen, and he’ll say everything! Ask a person who has just had her name dragged through the mud in error, and she’ll tell you how hard it was to regain her reputation.

A small business or corporation will tell you that name recognition is everything! They spend billions of dollars on advertising and marketing techniques to find the right brand for their market. Then they defend that brand name even if they have to go to court.

Men have their names for a lifetime. Women change their names, sometimes several times, before the end of their lives. But times are changing.

"Military Regatta"
I vowed I would never go through that hassle again, but yesterday I found myself sitting across a desk in the Social Security office to do just that. I did not change my name when I married my husband, and vowed I never would. People know me as his wife and they use his name, but legally, my name was my own.

We all have our reasons. As I told my husband yesterday, once you start a name change, you start an avalanche that keeps on going. Your name affects your will, your inheritance or that of your children. Your name is on census records, voting records, bank accounts, magazine subscriptions, medical records. Your name is your identity. When you change it, the world becomes topsy turvy, at least for awhile.

"Regatta" 18x24 acrylic on canvas (work-in-progress)
An artist’s name is his brand. Although, I have an artist friend who signs her paintings “Hope,” even though that isn’t her real name; that will become her brand, for better or worse. 

Name recognition is paramount in selling a product or yourself. Your name is linked to your reputation. They are inseparable. This combination becomes your character and affects your references and your repeat business. What’s in a name? Everything! Protect it at all costs.