Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paint Yourself a Hot Cup of Coffee and Enjoy the Brew

My Grandson owns a coffee shop online and one in the Great Northwest called “Café Solace.”  The beans are from Costa Rica, and there are many choices and blends that are absolutely delicious!  On a recent trip there, Bryce took a photo of the coffee beans above. I was so enchanted by the color and the variation of shapes; I envisioned a painting in the works.

“You paint it,” grandma, “and I’ll put it in my shop,” he challenged. And so my “in-progress” painting began.

Most ideas come from random things like this: a photo that catches our eye, a scene outdoors that takes our breath away, an emotional sequence of events that stays with us long after the event is forgotten by everyone else.

"First preliminary paint drawing -- work-in-progress"
Some ideas come to us in dreams; others through the gift of a vivid imagination. I’ve shared with you before my fascination with my bathroom floor and the varied shapes and images created from dripping water and bare feet. Some of these have actually ended up as parts of paintings.

Memories from childhood also inspire many paintings, especially when paired with the children we encounter in our own lives. I wish I could live long enough to paint all the cherubic faces I’ve observed and admired over the years.

"Moonshines" mixed-media on 18 x 24 canvas
Inspiration can also come from others. I’ve run a few contests on my blog with the offering of a print as the prize. Although there’s no money to be made, a contest draws audience hence potential buyers. In addition, the entrants have already given the artist permission to use their material, so anything submitted is fair game. Several adorable paintings and potential paintings have come from this source.

Contests serve a purpose, but they usually have a price. Sometimes they cost you more than you get in return. On the other hand, you get to know some wonderful people and oftentimes make lasting friendships. If you regularly have contests, make the competition challenging and fun and the prizes nominal. In that way, people will have fun and you won’t have a great outlay of cash. Are any of you game to name the work-in-progress below?

"Work-in-Progress -- Acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas
Newsletters and, of course, blogs reach out to people in a way that advertising can’t. I must admit, I haven’t focused on a newsletter, thinking my blog may serve that purpose. I find the interaction and participation in many online artist sites has been the biggest boost to getting noticed.

Above all, have fun doing what you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy slapping paint around and honing your skills in a competition against yourself, you should hang up your brush. In order to bring joy to others, you must bring joy to your work.

Here’s a link to my grandson’s online Coffee shop:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Painting is about Communicating -- What are you trying to say?

"Kindred Spirits" 24 x 30 mixed-media on canvas
I viewed an abstract painting yesterday in the Red and Blue Group at Fine Art America where the above painting was featured. I was so drawn to the bright colors and shapes, I had to analyze my feelings to see why I was so compelled to linger?

The composition was stunning. A red, red-orange background with subtle splashes of light was broken up by blue shadow in varying shades of intensity. Each shape was interesting in and of itself. The stunning mixture of contrasts and highlights was complex and varied. The illusion of depth and texture was created. First my mind wanted to analyze it, and then simply admire the feeling I got while floating through the brightly lit space from form to form. Whatever the artist was trying to say may be an enigma, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

"Day Dreams" 9 x 12 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available.
Sometimes a beautiful paintings just is; an enjoyment of color, form and shape with no other ulterior motive. At other times the artist has a specific reason for wanting to share a story, an attitude, a cause, or simply a feeling.

"African Fish Market" 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas
Most of my paintings communicate the goodness and worth of the human soul, and the beauty in our natural world. To communicate this, I sometimes exaggerate color or light until I feel the painting expresses my message. It would be unnatural for me to attempt to communicate a negative or mean-spirited theme or image; weakness and vulnerability, yes; but not hatred, arrogance, or evil.

"Moody Blues" 14 x 18 mixed media on canvas

"Broken Hearted" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol
We all have our own vision of what we want to communicate. We may not always recognize what it is we're trying to say until the painting is almost finished. When we slap on that final dab of paint, we should know intuitively how we will connect with the viewer.

Since reaction is subjective, our message may be received differently from what was intended. Not to worry. If the viewer is pleased, then we have reached them none-the-less.

"With These Hands Hope" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is a change as good as a rest? Not if rest is what you really need.

My mother-in-law used to say: “A change is as good as a rest.” It might have been for her, but for me with my brood of six, sometimes change didn't cut it. What I needed big time was a rest from the numerous demands on my time and the physical demands of mothering, cooking, and cleaning.

People hate to admit it, but there are times when rest is just what the doctor ordered. So instead of involving ourselves in more activity and “busyness,” we need to relax and turn down the volume of our lives.

Meditation is almost a lost art. In today’s world we are seldom unplugged. Noise and confusion descends upon us from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night. And sometimes the momentum keeps us awake when we should be asleep. Our minds never stop. The wheels keep turning and our nerves keep twitching long into the night.

That’s why vacations were invented. A real vacation should separate us from distraction, stress, and worry. 

Mini-vacations will do in a pinch. My husband and I went with friends to relax on the beach. We chose an isolated spot and sat for hours chatting, smelling the ocean air, watching wave after wave collapse on the sand.

When we returned that evening, I felt like I’d been on vacation. I was totally into the moment. I felt relaxed and revived.

The other day I suggested we attend a movie I’d wanted to see. As I told my husband: “I need to get out of myself.” There’s nothing like a good movie to pull you out of a funk.

Creative people are driven by their passions. And let’s face it that can be exhausting at best. If we don’t take a breather every now and then we’re in danger of burn out. Poor health can also affect stamina. If you want to work at peak performance, the first place to start is with your physical and spiritual health.

While it’s true that pain and sorrow may add meaning and purpose to your work, the reverse is equally true: vibrant health, self esteem and positive thinking give you the power and energy you need to be productive.

Balanced living and setting priorities is the only way to achieve happiness and success. If you are driven to succeed but you neglect your family or your health, the results will eventually stall your efforts. 

Pay attention to the signs. If your tail is dragging and your mind feels like it’s full of cotton, take some time off to relax, reassess, and refill your creative juices. When you come back you’ll feel recharged, refreshed, and changed. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Walking that Fine Line Between Sanity and Guilt


When people find out you’re a writer or an artist, all of a sudden you become very popular. Everyone has a project or a need that only you can fill. Little by little these small favors and obligations eat away at your private time until you have no hours left at all for you.

I’ve wedged myself into that scenario many times. Not that I don’t enjoy serving my community, my church, and my neighbors and friends. But I’m beginning to bewail my own projects that sit on the side lines because I either don’t have enough time to accomplish anything, or I’m too darn tired to start.

I’ve had two projects going for the past several months. One is sitting on my kitchen table and taunts me whenever I walk by. Because of it, we haven’t used our table for eating or playing games in months. The other is in my art room in a half-finished state. I look at it several times a day and imagine what needs to be done next, if only I had the time.

I am web master for my church, and also do their newsletter among other assignments; things always come up: a brochure here, an advertisement there, tickets designed for a theme, a special program, a Committee Chair. Since I enjoy doing these projects, I have only myself to blame and my desire to serve the Lord.

Then there’s the added business of participating at the gallery. Every artist who shows there must work there, at least once a month. Participation in Art League activities is also important for publicity and networking. Never let opportunities to show your work pass you by!

(In Progress Mural for church)
Pay back is sometimes required. I’ve been helping one league work on a memorial for their church which allows us to paint in their facility every Wednesday. Their generosity sometimes requires little favors like the wall mural done last year of Noah’s Ark in the children’s Sunday school. This year, it’s a memorial of a precious child who died.

(One of the artists whose husband died was also added to the mural. She is a church member there)

Balance is the key, but sometimes I walk so close to the edge that I topple off. Add health problems or a crisis and Humpty Dumpty comes falling down. How do you handle the difficult dance between necessary activities where time-tables are set in stone and your personal goals that demand consistency in order to succeed?

If at all possible, a fluid schedule is best. Failing that, you must be as rigid with your private activities as you are with those that cannot be changed. If ever you are to fulfill your dreams, you must give equal time to them.

Some people give up when the demands of children and family overwhelm the minutes and the hours in a day. They put their dreams on a shelf for another time. After all, you only have children once. Learning how to benefit from and use snatches of time is a better way

(In Progress mural -- more refining & detail are necessary)
I used to take a notebook with me while chauffeuring the children to school, music and dance lessons, or extracurricular activities and practices. I was able to write stories and articles by using these “snatches” of time.

It is more difficult for an artist, but not impossible. Small sketch books and watercolor pads with aqua crayons can keep you focused on plein air drawings or portraits of people while you wait. Having supplies in your car and planning ahead can make all the difference.

Learning how to say “no” is another way to protect your precious time. If you really want to say “yes” at least you’ll know it was your decision, not theirs. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What does it take to achieve “Star Power?”

I have taken the “Artist’s Magazine” for several years. Each issue is treasured; read and revered. My stack of magazines has grown into a sizable pile. The time has come to box them and put them away, at least for awhile.

My husband said: “You should pitch them. You’ll never read them again.”

“I can’t,” I told him. "They’re valuable! I’ll give them away to another artist or art organization before I throw them away.” And I meant what I said.

These magazines have inspired me, taught me, and given me hope. They’re like old friends. I shall miss them; but, never fear, I’m still a subscriber. I just have to make way for the new.

I confess, I held a few issues back, the ones that focused on portraits; my first love. I also found a few issues in my art room that are currently being used for guidance as I add some special effects to a new painting. I swear half of my art education has come from the pages of art magazines. I read each issue cover to cover when it arrives, and then earmark the places I want to re-read.

I’ve also checked out countless art books from the Public Library. Often renewing them again, or taking them out at different times as needed until I have gleaned enough knowledge to master a skill or an area of unfamiliarity.

I’ve discovered that a teacher can only teach what he or she already knows. Sometimes what you learn in art classes is how to paint using someone else’s preference or style. Granted there are universal rules and truths that govern the practice of art in general. A good teacher will include these in every teaching session. 

These “tricks of the trade” may also be learned through self study. Don’t shrug off self-instruction as a waste of time. This procedure, this process can be equally as valuable as live instruction. We can learn from others mistakes, take advantage of the marketing skills and the observations that professionals have already experienced without ever leaving home.

I’ve entered a few contests in my time; won a few and lost many. My dream: to show up on the pages of Art Magazine. It’s a long shot, I know. What does it take? One of the judges explained it this way:

“After reviewing thousands of flowers, landscapes, pastoral scenes, and seascapes they all begin to look alike. Anything that stands out at all or that is unusual or unique grabs my attention.”

“It isn’t just being an odd-ball that draws the attention of the judges, but that certain something called Star Power.”

"India Rising -- The Lost" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas
 I’ve never forgotten her statement. Star power is like the frosting on a cake, the sizzle on a steak, or the sparkle in the eyes of someone who loves you. You’ll know it when you see it, and there’s nothing like it.

Don’t give up until you find what makes your style and your message stand out above the rest. Success is not a destination, it’s a journey of a thousand miles, hundreds of canvases, and hours of painstaking labor.

"India Rising -- The Found" 18 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Wounded Warriors within our Ranks

"Broken Hearted" 11 x  14 pastel on Bristol

There are hundreds of outstanding artists who either have a disability or work at what they love with debilitating pain or discomfort. If that describes your circumstances, I want to hear from you.

Artist’s have much to share with each other. When the darkness comes, the pain cripples or the heart is grieving, welcome relief comes when we share our stories with others and reach out to someone else in need.

My arthritis is making it more and more difficult to paint or draw. And now stomach issues prevent me, at least for a time, from taking pain meds. I’ve purposely kept on typing because it keeps my fingers loose, but I’m limited to shorter and shorter time periods.

"Moody Blues" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
After a short time at the keyboard, my hands cramp up and stiffen into a claw and I can’t move at all. I will say that once I’m painting, I forget the difficulty and get lost in this marvelous thing we call art. I’m still limited, and work in two-hour sessions, but I keep on keeping on.

When I start to feel sorry for myself, I think about those artists who paint with their teeth or their feet. These great souls of courage persevere in spite of their disabilities. Art is therapy. Art is depth and feeling. Art is the expression of faith, gratitude and pain. Art captures the details that others miss and examines or exaggerates their complexities and simplicity.

"Broken" 9 x 12 mixed media on panel SOLD; prints available
Van Gogh is one of the best examples of a troubled artist who continued to paint his vision of nature; his vision of life. His struggles and emotional pain clarified the world he painted and made it all the more poignant for us.

Degas tied his stiff arthritic fingers to his paint brushes and continued to work up to his death. His works are timeless. He poured out energy, tears, and heart into every brush stroke.

Scars tell us where we’ve been. They also remind us of past sorrows and tragedy. Sometimes Army buddies compare wounds and talk about their battle scars and shared trauma. Scars are the visible testimony of their anguish and pain.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol
Some wounds are invisible to others. Their pain is felt deep within the human soul. The scars left behind are not easily shared, and other people doubt that they exist. These wounds are the most devastating because our sanity is questioned; our experiences are belittled or denied. We have no physical wounds to show others. These internal scars go deep. They are slow to heal. Sometimes the pain goes unnoticed or ignored for a lifetime and affect our relationship with others.

How do you see grief; except for a sad countenance? Grief that is held in too long may cause ill health. Unshed tears may prolong the healing. Without an outlet or a voice, the spirit may be crushed to the breaking point. Thank God for art. Truly God has led me through it (pain) and around it.

"Sunset on the Nile"  22 x 28  acrylic on canvas
Wear any physical and emotional scars like a personal badge of courage, friends. Use your pain to help others see the world through your eyes. Create like your life depended on it because it does.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Damaged Canvas is Tragic, but not the End of the World!

(Sold several prints from this painting the last three months) "Beach Buddies;" 16 x 20 mixed media

I had made up my mind. I was going to enter a favorite painting in a juried gallery. All it needed was a frame; one that would complement the colors in the painting without distracting. I had a framer already in mind, who never disappointed me.

I pulled out the canvas from a box it shared with two other paintings, and horror of horrors there was a screw sized hole in the canvas. Sometime, either in transport or storage, the canvases had been weighed down by enough weight to cause a puncture.

Lesson learned: Always have sufficient cardboard or materials between each painting so this never happens!

(This painting has sold more prints than any others) "With these Hands -- Wonder" mixed media
Could I repair the canvas; absolutely! Was its value compromised? Unfortunately, yes. I found several web sites on instructions for repair, but I also discovered that once a canvas is damaged, most collectors don’t want it. In addition, even if you could find a buyer; you must declare the damage (or ruin your reputation if discovered), and the price of the painting must be slashed by at least 30-50%.

If that doesn’t push you into protecting those precious original creations, I don’t know what will..Here are a few remarks from a helpful site and a link:

“The worst possible course of action in the event of damaging an art piece is for the artist not to tell the buyer, repair the problem, and hope the buyer doesn't notice. If the buyer does happen to discover the repair at some point down the road, ask about it, and find out the hard way what happened, that will pretty much ensure the end of any relationship between the two of you. And now for some facts about how the condition of a work of art impacts its value...

(This commissioned painting is still selling prints) "Skudeneshavn Norway" 16 x 20 oil on canvas
“Condition is a paramount consideration in any decision about whether or not to buy-- both from the dealer's and collector's perspectives. Original untouched condition is best by far. In fact, unless a work of art is excessively rare or important in some way, many experienced dealers and collectors won't even consider adding it to their collections or inventories if condition is anything less than perfect.

“But wait; there's more. Approximately 100% of dealers and collectors will tell you that a work of art with repaired damage is worth less than a comparable work of art in perfect original untouched condition.

“. . . People are less interested in owning art that has been damaged at some point in its existence than they are in owning art that's in perfect original condition. It's precisely that simple and no more complicated.”

Never put your coffee next to your turp!
If you’re still intent on repairing the canvas, you must declare that it has been damaged, and the price better be discounted. We all make mistakes, but this one we have to live with!

If you want to forge ahead and fix the canvas, at least for yourself, here are some links to help you. The following site Suggested pasting the back of the canvas with another piece of canvas to reinforce and aid in appearance. Use a pallet knife to paste and flatten under the spacer bars.

I discovered after I’d repaired my small hole that I had done all the right things. I’d applied a small piece of canvas on the back with adhesive, and put modeling paste and gel on the front side over the hole. It worked well because the hole was where a worn stone wall appeared. Paint wouldn’t even be required, but I will still add the needed acrylic with a dry brush to avoid any shiny appearance.

If you want specific help and details, the following sites are helpful!