Thursday, March 29, 2012

”What’s Love got ta’ do, got ta’ do with it?”

Photo from contact in Uganda

 The words in the title are from Tina Turner’s greatest hit. “What’s love got to do with it?” Why, everything, Tina!

No matter what we give our heart or our time to, if we have the passion and the love, we’re bound to be successful. Why? Because what we love we give our devotion to; we give it our all.

Bert Sugar, prolific author and promoter of life and boxing, loved what he did. But that wasn’t always the case. Sugar started out as an attorney and then worked in various professions before he started doing what he loved: boxing. When he started writing about what he loved, and engaging in the technical aspects of the sport, his success soared. He died a few days ago doing what he loved.

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

Successful artists or professionals have one thing in common: passion. Their love of what they do drives them to produce more and more of what they love. It skyrockets them to success, but not over night. The path to success requires blood, sweat and tears and the willingness to accept criticism, anger, and hatred; especially if your work has a political intent. One artist comes to mind: a Utah artist named Jon McNaughton.

The Los Angeles Times calls McNaughton’s work “junk” because they disagree with his ideas and his politics:

"Titled "One Nation under God," the earlier hack propaganda seems content to pretend that the United States is a Christian nation, with Jesus as the law-giver. (Weirdly, a figure identified as James Madison stands directly behind the Constitution, even though Madison famously rejected any religious sanction for government authority.) A professor of constitutional law who knows that America was instead founded as a secular nation, one where the freedom to practice any religion or no religion is fundamental, would probably blanch if he saw it.”

McNaughton’s response is a quote from Washington:

"I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion." (from the Magna-Char ta (constitution) of our country.)

You may or may not agree with McNaughton or with the L.A. Times. But to say that McNaughton wasted paint and canvas and that his work is “junk” is an atrocity in my lowly opinion. He is a superb illustrator who is being “vilified” for differing with the political agenda of “some of the people,” but not all.

It is interesting to note that the L.A. Times and their ilk were fond of the urine soaked painting of Christ that received rave reviews by the "left."

"He Lives!" -- 16x20 mixed media
When you follow your heart and mind, your work and your opinions may not be popular. You may be labeled a “hack” and your product called “junk.” So were the works of Van Gogh and many of his contemporaries who dared to speak out and to create what they felt strongly about.

Do you have the courage to stand up for your beliefs, or will you succumb to popular opinion and the forces of power? Freedom in art and expression must never be suppressed, especially by government or the media that serves that government. The perfect example of this is in Iran, and Russia, and Venezuela, and in Cuba to name a few.

"Americana" 16x20 acrylic
America is the world’s last Bastian of freedom. What will you do to preserve and keep it alive?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Do You Believe in Angels?

"Sandve, Norway," oil on canvas

Do you believe in angels? I do. The Bible mentions angels many times including this favorite passage: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2 KJV)

After taking a long hiatus away from art to work full time and obtain health benefits for my family, I took the plunge. I started painting again and went to my first show in years with some artist friends. I was terrified.

I prayed. I clenched my teeth and the steering wheel as I drove to location. Should I proceed and risk making a fool out of myself or turn around and go back home?

“You might be surprised,” a voice inside my brain said. “What have you got to lose?” Indeed, I thought and proceeded to the show.

"Skudeneshavn, Norway," 16x20 Commission (Sold)

No sooner had I set up table than two women came on the scene, almost out of nowhere, and made a beeline for one of  my paintings. They were chattering away in Norwegian, and in measured English asked the price. I told them and they indicated they would have to get cash.

When they left, I was open-mouthed. I kept the painting on display not knowing if they’d return or if it was all a dream. The women seemed linked as a pair, walking and moving in unison. An hour later, they returned with cash. They bought the painting, a rendering of the coastline of Sandve, Norway. Afterward, they literally disappeared from the scene. I never saw them again.

I did wonder if they were angels sent to encourage me when I might have given up. At any rate, I have had similar experiences in my lifetime. God uses people to help us and to encourage us. Are they angels? Who can say? Yesterday I had such an experience.

"Tansy's Pride," 9x12 Pastel

Once again,  I was at an art show. It had been a long day. Although many people had enjoyed my work, even laughing at my cartoon posters and looking at my cards and paintings, no one had purchased. I was next to a jeweler, and the women seemed drawn to the vendor’s affordable and dazzling wares.

By the end of the day, I felt like a failure. Perhaps my work wasn’t good enough? Perhaps it was time to “really retire” and quit painting altogether? I couldn’t help but mull these options over as I perspired in the scorching heat.

A moment later, a large woman confined to a wheelchair pushed slowly toward my paintings. She seemed hypnotized by them. I was sitting in the shade nearby and watched as she examined each one. When she took my biography and business card, I made my move and introduced myself.

Turns out she was with the “blind artists” in another booth at the fair. Imagine, partially blind, and having the courage to paint and show your wares. We shared stories. She told me how much she liked my work and that I was an inspiration to her. My work had given her a reason to keep painting. It made my day!

"A Joyful Heart," 9x12 pastel

Was she an angel? At that moment in time she was to me. She reminded me that I didn’t have to struggle with a disability. I could see! I was so uplifted and encouraged by this woman that the time I’d spent feeling sorry for myself now seemed wasted.

Do you believe in angels? They’re everywhere! Perhaps you’ve been one to someone else, and you didn’t even know it. I better understood why I enjoy painting people. Each one is a miracle in his or her way, struggling with enormous problems, often feeling separate and alone.

We are woven together, this “family of God.” How precious are these connections and how fine the threads that bind us; ties that may so easily be broken in a fallen world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What if you could have anything you wanted in the World?

Photo - from contact in Uganda (Nile River)

If you could choose anything you wanted, what would it be? To the cancer ridden person, it would be health. To someone who recently lost their job, it would be employment. To a widow, it would be comfort and peace of mind.

We all have different wants and needs. What we choose at any given moment has more to do with what’s going on in our life than anything else. Many people long for and wish for money or material wealth; but when obtaining the prize, some become practical, thinking of paying off debt, helping to pay for a loved one’s medical needs, or saving for the future. They use common sense and good judgment.

Drawing & under painting on 22x28 canvas

Others sacrifice integrity and honor to get what they want, either by pushing others aside or by stealing and cheating to reach their goal. The happiness they seek is a delusion. They end up looking over their shoulder and living on the edge of fear, never feeling the gladness they expected.

Wish lists and dreams motivate us and keep us going, but the actual prize seldom brings the happiness we expect. Satisfaction and joy in life usually come from our own efforts. Sweat and hard work are good for us. When you mop your brow after a strenuous workout, you know you’ve given it your best. When rewarded for effort, you know that your hard work was not in vain.

Beach Buddies II

I’ve made it a habit to compete with myself; always trying to accomplish something better than before. If I feel I’ve succeeded, I’m happy. This kind of happiness doesn’t come from applause, rewards or money, it comes from within.

Internal gratification lasts long after the money has been spent or the awards are buried in a drawer. It is the feeling of knowing that you’ve done your best with the gifts that have been given you. It is your own personal reward for being true to yourself. So pat yourself on the back and be grateful for life’s blessings!

Beach Buddies

The paintings in this blog include a photo scene from a friend in Uganda that I will title: “Sunset on the Nile.” I’ve included a photo and my first drawing in acrylic on a 22x28 canvas. I’ve also included “Beach Buddies II” a revised canvas. The overly big wave in the first version (“Beach Buddies”) threatened to capsize the boys, and I chose to revise what I could. Your comments are welcome.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Retail is not my bag; Painting Gets my Groove on!

I’ve admitted many times that I’m “technically challenged.” Unlike my younger sister who can wire and change an outlet switch, fix a toaster and repair a toilet; I’m a complete idiot when faced with anything that requires a screwdriver, a key, pliers, or a drill.

No wonder I faced with trepidation my first day as a volunteer at the Southwest Florida Artists Co-operative; temporarily located on Fashion Drive at Coconut Point. Of course, I was depending upon my co-worker to take care of anything major. Joan was a pro. She worked there at least once a month. She would have the store open and ready when I arrived. Not!

Traffic obstacles made her almost an hour late; I had opened and greeted three customers before she arrived and not without some grief and hair pulling. First off the power box was locked, or so I thought. The teaching demo a few days ago indicated that it would be open.

I misread the instruction sheet, and interpreted “the back wall” to mean literally the back wall, not the back wall of the utility room so I set off the security alarm in the dark, mistaking it for the Muzak box. Mall Security rescued me from my stupidity and set things straight before any customers arrived. 

When Joan finally set foot on the premises, I don’t think she found my escapades the least bit amusing.

It was a very long day what with only 27 people coming in and out. The curious artists and novices searching for ideas sparked lengthy stays and conversation. Two customers came in and out to avoid a spontaneous cloud burst. Boring!

We took turns going for lunch, and wouldn’t you know when Joan was gone, I spilled part of my soup over the counter when I jumped up to greet three customers. Luckily the tax sheet was covered in plastic. I was wishing I could hide my humiliation and frustration as I mopped up the mess.  In spite of that, I sold a ceramic plaque of Fort Myers beach and managed to write up the cash sale.

"Raccoons at Sunrise" -- acrylic on 16x20 canvas

The best part of the day involved a newlywed couple from Canada (I could tell by the glow on their cheeks) who bought a gift for the host parents and a lovely necklace for the bubbly wife.

They were also interested in one of my paintings and took my business card when I told them they could order prints online. When I closed up for the day, I breathed a sigh of relief as I headed out into traffic.

I’m in between paintings right now, but I’ll have something new for you shortly. We’re dealing with some family medical issues that require time and attention.

"Star Billing" -- 14x18 mixed media on canvas

I’m also repainting some canvases that I wasn’t overly pleased with. I’m going to see if I can salvage the time and materials and turn them into something wonderful Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Art is Celebration and History in the Making

Original Photo of Anhinga at Lakes Regional Park

 When I sold my painting “Broken,” the buyer said it reminded her of the people she saw in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. The woman and child in the painting inspired her and renewed her compassion for the people there and for their hardships.

There are as many reasons to buy art as there are people. Some people buy a work of art for the tranquility it gives them in a chaotic world. Some choose something humorous that makes them smile. Others walk on the dark side and select something provocative to jar the sensibilities and promote conversation.

Anhinga in Paradise -- watercolor

Art arouses in us the unspoken words of the heart. Yet, there are those who view art as frivolous and unnecessary; an added expense we could probably do without. These people absorb like sponges, unaware of the affects that art produces in their lives.

God is the master painter of the universe. To be unappreciative of art is to deny the beauties of nature that surround us. After all, it is God’s world we artist’s try to capture, with all the emotions and feelings that life evokes. For centuries man has tried to conquer time and space; to mold it and bend it in our own image. Nature inspires us and challenges us. People reach out to us in a way that deepens our appreciation for the inevitable pain and suffering life brings and for the joy that sometimes bears fruit.

Sand Crane Dreams -- mixed media

Art reminds us of who we are. It’s a looking glass into the past and the future. Like the painted pictures on cave walls, art records history and events. It enlightens our journey and reminds us of what has been. It was the sketches and notes in the Lewis and Clark journals that record their discoveries and experiences. It was the stories and drawings in war diaries that illustrated the horrors of war. It was the diaries of pioneer men and women that teach us who they are and about their struggles and sorrows as they built a fledgling nation.

"Americana" mixed media -- The way it was

We must never forget. Writers have written countless pages to record these events and the sacrifices incurred by our predecessors. On the other hand, one canvas may capture in a visual setting those early warriors; their struggles surpass imagination.

The Arts have the potential to degrade us or uplift us. The Arts provide broad commentary on the state of our nation and world; and yet is minute enough to focus on individual character and perspective.

We must keep the arts alive for future generations; to offer hope and light, and to record history and monumental changes in society. Artists are witnesses of and recorders of the present. We must participate in life and celebrate the process.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Artists’ Co-op; a Solution to Expense and Exposure

Renting space in a cutting edge mall is expensive, unless you do it as a team in a “co-op.” Volunteers staff the Gallery including hosting visitors and handling retail sales. A wine, cheese and champagne reception on opening night attracts additional visitors using refreshments supplied by participating artists. What’s not to like?

When the Co-op sponsored a juried competition I wanted to be a part of it. Eager participants could enter four works of art for $25; cheap and affordable. With enough participants, the moneys reaped will help pay the rent! What a great way to network and get more exposure!

Another group of artists host a “wine and painting” event each week where artists and would-be-artists bring a bottle of wine and a project to paint. A teacher is available for help and questions. The three hour session costs $45. Friends are made, a party atmosphere is created, and everyone has fun.

When our neighborhood had a block party, my artist friend and I held an “Art Walk” before the event. People in our area were already familiar with this activity, and were curious to see our work. It was a big success for both of us. I sold my painting: “Broken” and a few cards. Interest was also shown in some of my other paintings. Who knows, this neighborhood network may lead to additional sales.

Some of our Pan American Alliance members are showing artwork in local law, accounting, and dental offices; a great way to form alliances within the community. Later this year, the Alliance will be painting a mural for the Children’s Regional Library. This is our way to thank them for allowing us to paint and demo our work twice a month in their facility.

Entrepreneurs of every stripe need to work together in this economic climate. The key to the future and to future sales is to form alliances not only online, but through community organizations and public facilities.

Opportunities for artists are everywhere. You just have to look for them and be willing to participate when opportunities arise.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Whatever You Call it: Critique or Criticism, it Still Hurts

Robin Hood

We all have our babies: those wonderful concepts we develop in our minds and create on paper or canvas to present to the world. But what happens when those adorable children land with a thud on the floor of reality?

Let’s face it. Criticism hurts. And critique? “A rose by any other name would hurt so deeply” (forgive the pun). Pride is a wall we use to protect ourselves. When negative comments bump up against that wall, our ego becomes bruised. Afterward, we lick our wounds and patch the crumbling brick and mortar making it higher, stronger and more impenetrable than before.

Babies Need Attention!

But even though they hurt, we must take a look at well-intended barbs and examine what was said and why:
  • Did the comment or critique come from someone I trust?
  • If their suggestions were applied, would it make my project better?
  • Were the comments meant to be hurtful or helpful?
After weighing and evaluating each point of view, we are better prepared to make a decision. We can take the criticism at face value and try to incorporate it into our thought process, or we can ignore it and stubbornly go on our merry way; building our wall of resentment higher and stronger.

Meadow Lark

Learning from our mistakes is difficult. Rejection hurts; criticism stings. It requires swallowing our pride and forging ahead in spite of negative comments. If we allow the critique to offend us and dampen our spirits, we may become the loser by succumbing to self pity. We may allow ourselves to get discouraged and sabotage our own efforts to make our dreams a reality.

Personal vision is as unique as our fingerprints. No two people are alike. No one can see what is in our mind and heart. Perhaps the criticism of others arouses our own insecurity and lack of self confidence? If that’s the case, we need to rally our own inner cheering squad to remind us of what we wanted to achieve in the first place.


A grain of salt can irritate an open wound, but it may also inflame a new determination to clarify our goals. If nothing else, critique sharpens our focus and causes us to evaluate how we communicate our vision to others.

Critique Carol’s vision on her online gallery @ 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Perspective -- a Demon That Defines Reality and Depth

"Shimmy Shake" 11x14 mixed media

I have an artist friend who is an expert on perspective. She can spot an error in someone’s painting immediately. She has no trouble with her own artwork because perspective comes so naturally to her.

Others of us must work at it, study it, and practice it before it finally “kicks in.”  I am one of those people. Perspective has been a struggle for me. I remember as a child drawing boxes and three dimensional objects in school. I don’t remember discussing how that relates to eye level, center of interest, and perspective.

"Moonshines" 18x14 mixed media

Some things come naturally to an artist, and some things don’t. Learning from one’s own mistakes and practice are great teachers. Helpful critiques from fellow artists may also save you from making any glaring mistakes. Had I found the following videos early on, I might have “caught on” sooner, rather than later.

The lessons are so simple and so easily explained, I wanted to share them with you to save you from learning late as I did. There are many helpful tutorials on YouTube. These are two that make understanding perspective a snap! I hope you enjoy them.

Some of my own paintings are sprinkled throughout this article; examples of the use of this tool. Yes, perspective is a tool that gives a painting depth, life, and reality. Although, I must admit some of my favorite abstract and modern art pushes perspective to the edge and pokes fun of it.

"India Rising -- the Found" 18x24 mixed media

I adore paintings where the buildings are curved and seem to be tipping over. These are the quirky things that can be done once you understand perspective well enough to “bend the rules.”