Saturday, April 27, 2013

Strike a Match, Burn a Candle, Light up the World

"Moonshines" 18x24 mixed media on canvas
Ideas are fragile. They come and go. If you don’t lock them down, they can disappear forever.

I used to keep a small notebook in my car for jotting down ideas driving to and from work. The only problem was, I could only write while I was sitting at a stoplight. So I thought I’d get a recorder and verbalize my thoughts, only I’m not a verbal person. I have to digest ideas and chew on them before writing them down in order to give them expression.

Fleeting thoughts are sometimes incoherent, nonsensical gibberish; but the gems within may grow and multiply, whereas the losers fester for awhile and then dead-end into Never Never Land.
"First Daffodil" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
When I lived alone, I burned candles in the bath, in my bedroom, and anywhere else I needed a glimmer of hope and light. Even with dinner, I’d fix myself something special and light a candle to make the dining experience last. 

Then one day, I became dangerous. I struck a match in the bathroom and the tip of it broke off landing on my nightgown. The flames were frightening. Luckily the sink was near enough to douse myself with water and put the flames out.

I decided either I was getting flighty or the matches were being manufactured differently from before. A few days later, I struck a match in the bedroom to light my bedtime candle, and again the match tip broke off landing on my dresser scarf. The flames ignited instantly, swallowing up everything in sight before I could smother it with a wet towel.

From that point on, I eliminated candles and matches from my bath and boudoir routine. Whether it was the cheapness of the match sticks or my own clumsiness made no difference. I couldn’t afford to burn myself up over anything as silly as a candle.

That experience has come back to haunt me again and again. How fragile and unpredictable that tiny light became once it was ignited. Ideas are like that. They shine but for a moment and then like gossamer wings they fly away unless we kindle the flames that brought them in the first place.

Where do my ideas come from? Some are inspired by past experiences. Others by books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen, or simply by the way light shines on a certain object in a new way.

Nature also inspires me. When a roseate spoonbill comes in for a landing, it looks like it's almost sitting. I couldn't resist the humor of putting one in harness in a parasail; hence, "parasailing spoonbill!"

I have a vivid imagination and always think I see something different in my ordinary surroundings: an ugly face created by the scar of a cut limb or the bark of a tree, a small bush that looks like a huge spider; I’m weird, I know. Artists do see things differently. We see in shapes and color and because of this, the ordinary turns into the grotesque, the scary, or the fantastic in a blink.
Some of my ideas are so clear I can see them come to life in my mind. Others are mere hints or suggestions that require coaxing and fuel to keep them going. Like the end of a lighted match, I never know where my ideas will end up.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Painting Perfect Hair is a Harebrained Idea

Work-in-Progress -- "First Daffodil" 16x20 acrylic on canvas

Imagine that – painting hair can be both difficult and satisfying. To illustrate:  my “work-in-progress” at this stage, simply looks messy. Finding the right color is also tricky. In my efforts to add lightness, my basic color turned somewhat gray, muddy even. I will have to rectify that with warmer tones.

Of course, there is no such thing as perfect hair or there wouldn’t be the expression “bad hair day!” If you study the way hair frames the face and falls, you’ll see that to get the hair right, you have to get the shape of the head in proportion first. Once you have that down, block in the shapes of dark and light hair that follows the contours of the head. The more uneven these light shapes are the better.

"With these Hands -- Love" 24x18 mixed media on canvas
The next step in the painting process is painting the strands of hair or the shapes of hair that stand out or seem separate. Texture comes last of all as you fill in the strands and shapes with the “illusion” or appearance of hair. Getting the right color and texture is a matter of practice, trial and error.

For some reason, I find painting texture easier on birds and animals than I do on people. Perhaps because I’m not quite so obsessed with getting every hair or strand of feather and fur right. The patterns must be correct, but the individual strands of hair, not so much. Capturing the sunlight glistening from hair and contrasting that with shadow makes the fur or hair look realistic.

"Raccoons at Sunrise" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
Because of the way people and animals move, their covering is constantly changing. Don’t worry that you don’t get it exactly like your initial photograph or drawing. As long as it looks realistic, it will ring true.

Sometimes a painting can get slightly off as we apply paint. Paint is malleable. It changes and moves depending on the tool or brush we use and the medium we choose.

 I use a ruler to see how much my painting has enlarged from the original drawing. Has the width on either side of the face changed from the hair to the outer eye? Has the width of the nose between the eyes changed? When these distances increase, the shape of the head will change and throw the hair proportions off as well.

Once you fix the proportions, the hair will begin to take shape and form. Some people are genius when it comes to hair. Don’t be upset that yours doesn’t fall into place as you think it should. Practice does make perfect. In order to move beyond self doubt and floundering, keep attacking the problem until you find a modicum of improvement. Learn from your mistakes and you will become a better artist.

"Day Dreams" 11x14 oil on canvas

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Joy of Creating Something you Love

"The Dance" 9x12 Pastel on Bristol
Whether it’s an article, a work of art, or a product, we can all relate to that feeling of pleasure and accomplishment that creation brings. Something of ourselves enriches the finished work and adds a sparkle of originality and freshness.

That’s why we keep doing what we’re doing. We want to repeat that feeling. We have something inside of us that will burst unless we share it. The more spontaneous and responsive we can be to whatever it is that drives us, the more authentic our voice becomes. Soon, our offerings are recognizable. Each new creation has our signature.

"Sand Crane Dreams" 18x28 mixed media on canvas
It takes years of craftsmanship to reach that level and a stiff upper lip and spine to get beyond the barrage of negative feedback we may encounter. If our style veers from the current norms, we are open to criticism. Some people “won’t get us.” Others are quick to criticize saying we have gone too far outside the box or outside the lines of accepted behavior. But we keep on doing what we’re doing, even though at times we weep inside.

Andy Warhol did. Picasso did too. Many, many others have tuned out the voices and listened to their own unique beat, going beyond the limits, knowing they were open to criticism but doing what their inner voice demanded anyway.

"With These Hands -- Hope" 16x20 mixed media on canvas
It takes courage to pursue our dreams when all we get is criticism. A few encouraging words can send us soaring, and keep us going for weeks at a time. When the darkness descends, review every accolade you’ve ever received, every accomplishment, every fine thing you’ve ever done in pursuit of your goals. Treasure these thoughts like gold. Bury them in your heart and cherish the memories.

Some day you will rise again. Something will click. New determination will descend from the heavens. Your star will shine and pull you from your pity party into new heights of achievement.

Fellow creators are cheering you on. Our united voices will pull you from the ashes of self defeat and give you the push you need to face exposure and criticism once again. Never give up. “The best is yet to come!”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Favorite American Beauties Re-Captured

Long ago, I purchased a book that has cheered me up, inspired me, and given me some goals to aspire to. The title: “American Beauties; Women in Art and Literature” with photos of paintings and artwork from the National Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian Institution, Edited by Charles Sullivan.

I wish I could share the entire book with you. Works of art are matched with literary selections which make the viewing of the piece more interesting and complete. The purpose of this collection is to illustrate beauty “broadly defined” of American women.

“The Girl I Left Behind Me” was painted by Eastman Johnson sometime in 1870-75. It is an oil on a 42x347/8 canvas. The painting was illustrated with an anonymous song by the same name.  Energy is created by the wind and the ocean where wave’s crash and tumultuous skies roll past the young girl who is standing on a cliff longing for her lost love.

The next painting by Theodore Robinson 1887 is called “At the Piano; oil on 16.5x25.25 canvas. It is paired on the page with a poem called “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

…”Who through long days of labor, and nights devoid of ease, still heard in his soul the music of wonderful melodies. Such songs have power to quiet the restless pulse of care, and come like the benediction that follows after prayer. . . And the night shall be filled with music, and the cares that infest the day, shall fold their tents like the Arabs, and as silently steal away.”

No artist can compare to John Singer Sargent for the painting of portraits. Here is Elizabeth Winthrop Chapman following her marriage in 1898. The porcelain skin color of the period and the expectations for women to be delicate and refined are captured here.

Harry Siddons Mowbray’s painting “Idle Hours, 1885” Oil on 12x16 canvas portrays women as having too much time on their hands. Ezra Pound’s poem “An Immortality” is used as illustration:

“Sing we for love and idleness, Naught else is worth the having. Though I have been in many a land, There is naught else in living. And I would rather have my sweet, Though rose-leaves die of grieving, Than do high deeds in Hungary to pass all men’s believing.”

The women in the painting would probably flutter and faint seeing today’s women “bring home the bacon,” “cook the bacon” all while pleasing a husband and taking care of the children, the laundry, and the home. They never dreamed of “role reversal” or men who would be willing to share the responsibilities.

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite artists. Her “Sara in a Green Bonnet” 1901, oil on 16x13.5/8 canvas captures the impish smile of the mischievous girl behind all that frippery.

Lara Wheeler Waring’s portrait of “Anna Washington” who was most likely “hired help” in 1927 is an oil on 20x16 canvas. The poem “Old Mary” by Gwendolyn Brooks was used in illustration:

“My last defense is the present tense. It little hurts me now to know I shall not go Cathedral-hunting in Spain nor cherrying in Michigan or Maine.”

The painting captures the look of resignation and longing in Anna Washington’s face. We feel for her. We want to wrap our arms around her and comfort her.

My own pastel painting "Tansy's Pride" shows a more confident woman who is not only self assured, but comfortable in her own skin. Prints are available for purchase at 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Roll with the Punches and Come out Fighting

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 Pastel

Stuff happens! Calamity is waiting in the wings – it’s a given. The only thing we can’t determine is when. My most recent scrape happened with an innocent and perhaps ignorant download of a so-called “preview” of Microsoft Windows 8.

That decision cost me $300 in Tech Support, and a loss of all of my programs, many that were near and dear to my heart. I still have an icon on my desktop called “removed programs.” I can’t restore them, and so they remain as a testimony to a download gone bad.

"Broken Hearted" 9 x 12 pastel
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Windows 8 speed and functionality on the web. What I didn’t like was that it devoured, consumed, and completely took over my computer. My backup didn’t even work and I lost precious photos and files. When I called Microsoft, they said the download may not have been theirs (it worked well?). The only remedy: re-install Windows 7 or purchase Windows 8 and move on.

In my book, that’s blackmail. If you have to sell product by corrupting unsuspecting “previewer’s” current systems, you’re either desperate or dishonest. In either case, I received no help or assistance from Microsoft and “recovering” my computer to its original manufacturer’s state has cost me precious time, money and valuable material.

"Raccoons at Sunrise" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

In the middle of the crisis, I was amazed that I didn't fall apart. I think I would have several years ago. In this case, I just plugged along day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, handling one crisis at a time.

What’s the difference; maturity perhaps? A solid marriage and my inner faith in God? The realization that it’s “out of my hands?” All of the above, I suppose. When the world is in chaos around us, knowing that “this too shall pass” never hurts and allows us to be at peace when everything else is in turmoil.

Yes, Stuff happens and when circumstances are out of our control we must “let go” and wait patiently for things to resolve themselves. There’s no point in “losing it” or giving in to fear, anger, or our inner child. Life goes on and we must pick ourselves up and try again.

Thank you for waiting patiently while I try to fix these problems. My blog has been late and my painting time has suffered. But life marches on and so will I.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Working in the Gallery a Labor of Love

Yesterday I worked in the Art Council of Southwest Florida Co-op Gallery at Coconut Point. At least once a month, displaying artists volunteer their time and talents to keep the gallery running. I've shared with you before some of the lovely paintings and some of my experiences.

This is a Batik painting.
May marks the end of "Season" and many "Snow Birds" have already left for northern climes. The gallery has gone from 125 artists to 45 which gives you a picture of how we will operate through the summer. This is the first year that we have stayed open year round. Summer hours will be four days a week on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A spectacular six months of operation netted enough profits to keep the gallery open through the summer and gave encouragement for all of us to continue our efforts. Each month, paintings and artwork are changed out so that fresh and interesting work is new each month. All work is juried in by a qualified panel. The only criteria is that submitting artists must belong to a local art league; there are several to choose from in every locale
New artists are constantly joining our ranks so the gallery continues to have a cutting edge feel. Coconut Point has proven to be an excellent location. This upscale neighborhood is continually growing. Yesterday I met a German shopper who spoke little English and two shoppers from Northern Florida who had driven down to shop at this locale

The variety and quality of the artwork surprises and impresses almost everyone who comes into the gallery. New home owners are looking for something distinctive and memorable to decorate the interior of their homes. In addition to sculpture and artwork, there are trendy items such as dolls, and jewelry.

A mermaid collector purchased a doll that had just arrived. Keeping the gallery well stocked is becoming a challenge. Each artist is allowed to replace items sold so even though the turnover is great, sold items are replenished usually within a day

.I hope you enjoy the most recent artwork on display in this blog. I appreciate your patience as I get up to speed on Windows 8 and recover the old programs I need to do do my blog justice.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Are you Cynical or just Realistic? Consumed by Negative Thinking, or just Practical?

Cards or prints are available on Etsy or Carol's web site

I've prided myself on being an optimist most of my life. But when my husband confronted me yesterday, I wondered.

"Cascade has a new dishwasher soap guaranteed to take out water spots," he said, with a hopeful look in his eye. "We should try it!"

"Right," I said. "You know, what that really means is a new package, a smaller size, and a higher price."

"You're so cynical," he chided. "Where's your faith?"

"I'm a realist," I answered. "I see evidence on the grocery shelves. We're paying more all the time and getting less. New product simply means that change is afoot."

Cards, prints, and posters available on Etsy and Carol's web site.

"Lucky Lady" 11x14 mixed media in Red Boxed frame on Etsy or email Carol
We remained at odds on this one. My husband has led a sheltered life, lived in the same place (until he met me) and is not only trustworthy, but perhaps too trusting.

I, on the other hand, have lived in many different states, traveled widely, and have learned from the "School of Hard Knocks" to be less trusting and less gullible than I used to be. I'm keenly aware of the many pitfalls in the game of life.

As a friend warned me many years ago: "Carol, there is evil in the world. Not everyone is good, trusting, and helpful."
"All that Jazz" 11x14 acrylic in Red Boxed Frame at Etsy or Carol's Web Site
My religious background and Christian faith declared that "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." I truly believe that everyone has worth and value. I've always been color blind, disability blind, and culturally blind. I've fought to defend those beliefs sometimes with caution to the wind.

But "truth and reason" are wonderful teachers. Yes, there is evil in the world, and some people will do anything for sex or money. Do I trust advertisers? A resounding, no! Do I trust anyone to give me advice or truth? No! Do I still give people the benefit of the doubt? Yes, I still do. I am still a "cockeyed optimist" at heart. I still believe that people are essentially good (until they prove me wrong).

"Shimmie Shake" 11x14 acrylic in Black Boxed Frame at Etsy and on Carol's Web Site
Today, I'm more aware of the red flags of warning. Today, I trust my gut instincts, and I trust in God's will implicitly. If it feels wrong or if I'm uncomfortable, I accept that as a warning to exercise caution or to flee. I accept the fact that not everyone is honest or has my best interests in mind. Trust is not something you give away. Trust must be earned!

Doggone it, I wish the world were a safer, better place in which to live; but sadly, it's all we've got. So as they say in Florida, "You take care, ya' all!"

"India Rising -- the Found"  18x24 mixed media
NOW 50% off due to small puncture in canvas that has been repaired

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Choose your Preference: Experienced, Mature, or Seasoned Professional?

"Release" 24 x 30 mixed media on canvas. (Currently adding two smaller side panels)

The “Old Masters” offered artists the fundamentals of drawing, painting, and envisioning. Today we shun the label “old” preferring “mature” or “seasoned” to describe our depth of Professionalism, whether as an athlete, a writer, a musician or an artist; it’s all in how you look at it.

In reading the “Life of Pi” this statement caught my eye: “Life can either be a dry, yeastless factuality, or the better story.”

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to be the “better story!” I want everything I do to reflect what I am and who I am. I want my voice to resound with truth and clarity. I want my paintings to sing, my words to dance, and my vision to connect with others. I want to live my life with passion and enthusiasm.

Still, in comparison to the Masters, I’m a novice. I’m still a student learning from my mistakes, and struggling to become better.

"Cafe Costa Rica" acrylic on 20 x 20 canvas in floating frame
In an article written by J. Thomas Soltesz called: “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” posted in the April 2007 issue of “the artists magazine,” this truth hit me square in the face. “To me,” Soltesz said, “the most important aspects of painting are to be able to see, remember what you see, and have the skills to reinterpret what you see in unique and beautiful ways.”

I try to do this, but sometimes my efforts are met with frustration and the risk of being misunderstood. Many of my landscapes have an abstract quality that veers from realism. Some traditional artists are taken aback and offended; others see the vision or the feeling I’m trying to convey. In taking risks, we all face the dilemma of exploring new ground on the cutting edge, or of caving in to safety by producing what everyone else is doing.

"Sunset on the Nile" 24 x 30 acrylic on canvas in silver frame
I acknowledge that I sometimes go out on a limb. I try something different and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But we have to try! Like many self-taught artists, I fell into a few traps in the beginning.

Soltesz goes on to say “Simplicity is key: It’s the simple color changes and blending of edges that ultimately determine whether the painting works or not. For example, the experienced painter tries to see what he can leave out of a painting to make it successful, while the beginner puts everything in.”

Does this sound familiar? He continues: “Know where you’re going. See the painting already complete on the canvas before you start. Richard Schmid is the master of what I call ‘realism out of abstraction,’ which he describes the way the retina actually sees images, focusing on one area of contrast and making the rest an abstraction.”

"Kelly's Rose" mixed media on wood panel
When I read this article, it was like Thomas was speaking right at me. Another concern I have is that my portfolio is too diverse going from serious portraits to contemporary paintings to illustrations and cartooning. I was so pleased to read his closing comments:

“Always challenge yourself to explore new avenues to avoid falling into a rut.” Amen!

Ace Hardware has a new sales slogan: “Find Your Soul Paint.”  I’m making it my own in reverse: “Paint Your Soul.”