Friday, August 30, 2013

Are Holidays blurring together or am I just seeing Double?

"Kayla" enjoying her squash, surrounded by pumpkins.
I recently got an announcement for a Christmas project and I haven’t even planned for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Do you ever see your life just whizzing past; the constant hubbub of what to buy and when turning your calendar pages into an animated blur?

Of course, it’s necessary to plan ahead. But why can’t we ever just enjoy the moment. Writers and artists especially must work six months in advance; so must retail markets to stock their shelves and plan their staff far in advance of any sales.

September is “back to school” and the harvest season. Fall leaves and apples dot advertising pages. Halloween and Thanksgiving appear on the same shelves and eventually get crowded out by the upcoming Christmas Season.

"Americana" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas in barn wood frame
But who am I to deny pleasure and profit to anyone? If I’m slow to get on board or always playing catch-up, I have only myself to blame. It does seem that we hurry from one event to another with little time to enjoy the moment.

When my boys were young, they spent every summer building a spook alley in our basement. They created crawl through tubes out of blankets and boxes. They placed dishes of slimy spaghetti in strategic places, and used flashlights to transfigure innocent faces into ghoulish creatures. What else they did is best left to the imagination.

I wasn’t small enough to crawl through their maize, but they were convinced that each year’s spook alley was better and scarier than the last. The Ring Leader of each year’s project was the “King of Creep,” my son, Sid. He had decorated his own bedroom with the remains of cicada shells pinned to his cork ceiling tiles; would that I could fall asleep under such crunchy canopy.

"Sand crane's Dreams" 18 x 24 mixed media on canvas
What is it about being scared and horrified that people love? I’m a wuss when it comes to horror films. I’d rather not see them. But when I was a child, I reveled with everyone else as mummies and zombies crept from under slime and out of caves to attack our heroes. We screamed with delight and shuddered with fear; the scarier the better.

Maybe it’s an age thing or the “feminization” of our culture. Today on Halloween we see cute little carved pumpkins with grins and missing teeth. Costumes, along with the usual array of goblins and witches, come in a range of harmless monsters like Shrek and Casper.

Of course, zombies have made a comeback. Zombie festivals are making waves throughout the country. Adults who felt deprived in their youth for having missed those early horror films are the first to don a costume and bloody make-up for the thrill of parading down the streets in hopes of scaring someone.

"Raccoons at Sunrise" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas in barn wood frame
Now is the time to gather together your ideas for crude cards and pitiful paintings to celebrate the season. Black is in and pastels are out. The Season was originally devised to scare evil back into hell. It was called “All Saints Eve.” It was not a day to celebrate evil, but to put it back in its place.

If we’re lucky, perhaps we can make it a day and evening of harmless fun. When did the evil pranks begin, the putting of razor blades into apples, and the destruction of property and people? Keep your kids safe and enjoy the day. Use your art creatively to scare and frighten, but do it wisely and in good conscience.

Featured Artist:
Shijun Munns from Atlanta, Georgia. Here is a link to her post:   Followed by her painting: "Blue Boat in the Bay"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Developing a Unique Style and Vision

"Moonshines" 18x24 abstract acrylic on canvas
Are you guilty of comparing yourself to someone else and then thinking you’re not as talented or as skilled? Do you try to copy others work; not just to learn, but because you fear your ideas are not good enough?

Welcome to the world of self-defeat where you beat yourself up with the disapproving eye of a parent until you feel so inadequate that fear reigns free; where the unique perspective that lives within you disappears little by little: death by drowning.
"India Rising -- The Lost"  18x24 acrylic on canvas
When you drown out your own voice by dumping negative thoughts and distorted impressions over your psych you end up retreating in shame, embarrassment and disappointment.
In order to defeat “self-defeat,” you need to eliminate the following thoughts and words from your vocabulary:

"Americana" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
1.    What will other people think?
Who cares what they think? There are as many opinions in the world as there are people. Since no two people think alike and seldom agree, your opinion is likely to be different. Embrace that difference! It is what makes you stand out in a world of sheep. Be bold. Be courageous. Be yourself! Listen and evaluate what others have to say, but give your own voice equal value.

"Star Billing" mixed media on canvas
2.    I’ll never be as good as Joe or Joan Blow?
Why would you want to be Joe or Joan Blow in the first place? Their unique style belongs to them. Your unique style is embedded in your DNA. Your fingerprints, your eyes, your experiences belong only to you. They have made their mark upon you. Don’t regret your past. Bring it forward. Remember it, use it, bring it into your work and allow it to effect what you do. Show your stuff!

3.    Success is out of reach – I’m not good enough!  Baloney!  Perhaps the problem is “failure to drive.” What are you willing to give up for success? Are you putting in your time? Many less talented people achieve success because they are willing to work for it. Skills require dedication and practice. When you’re ready to give something up in order to achieve something greater, you’re on your way to achieving success.

Sometimes we must be willing to fail in order to succeed. We must make a fool of ourselves and face the music of stepping forward in order to develop courage and stamina. Failures are stepping stones that can propel us forward and lead us upward. Don’t allow failures or mistakes to defeat you. Instead, defeat your fears. Don’t be afraid to put your unique stamp on everything you do. Eventually it will pay off.

"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sadness is a Part of Life; Death is Inevitable

My sister was my hero. For almost 40 years she battled Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). She was in a wheel chair for the last 20-25 of those years. In all that time, I never heard a complaint or a negative word. She remained optimistic with her faith intact.

When people would visit, it was they who went away uplifted. Her laughter and bubbly personality never wavered in spite of her disability. When her speech began to falter, I remember sitting with her hoping to understand what she was trying to say. I began a game of charades to help her express what was on her heart. This resulted in a raft of giggles from both of us until I finally discovered her meaning.

“Thank God my sister is still in there,” I remember thinking.

The last time we were together I wasn’t so sure. By this time she was almost comatose. Her large eyes stayed open. What I thought were tears of joy at our meeting were only her body’s response to moisten her eyes. Her skin was radiant and wrinkle free. She had not a gray hair on her head. How could she be so ill and look so beautiful?

I decided it was her spirit shining through. The nurse fed her a noontime lunch with a syringe filled with nutrients which she inserted into Jean’s feeding tube. This caused her breathing tube to bubble and froth as she took air in and out. I wiped the spittle from her mouth with a towel and felt honored to be able to do this for her, helping her through this arduous humiliating ordeal.

Somewhere inside did she recognize me and know I was there? I hope so. I had only been home a few days when I received a call that she had passed away. Had she held on long enough to see me? So many close calls had come and gone. She was in and out of the hospital on the brink of death throughout the past 20 years.

I will miss her. I miss the beautiful person she was and the person she continued to be through all the ups and downs, the falls, the concussions, the broken ribs that occurred as she fought to stay upright on her own. I will miss her courage and her optimism. She fought a good fight. She remained faithful and true. Those who knew her and loved her were the better for having known her.

We are not alone. People notice us wherever we go even though we may not know it. We influence for good or bad everyone around us; a small act of kindness, an encouraging word, a warm hand reaching out to comfort do not go unnoticed. The gifts of the soul are simple and free, but they last forever.

She is in a better place. I imagine her dancing and singing and doing all of the things she was prevented from doing; a prisoner of her horrible disease. Sing Jean!  Dance Jean, rejoice and be glad for the Lord your God shall shelter you from all pain and sickness.

Artist of My Soul

O Lord of light, of form and hue,
   Who has created all things new,
Create in me, from shapeless clay,
   An instrument on which You play.

God of the dance that planets tread,
   Who walks beside and soars ahead,
O let me move to worship Thee,
   Come, Holy Spirit, dance with me.

God of the Living Word, Poet of Time,
   Teach me Your words
   in Your cadence and rhyme.

O Lord of beauty, Lord of art
   Who gives a song for every heart,
Carve out my life, reshape and mold,
   And be the Artist of my soul.

(He hath put a new song in my mouth.
 Psalm 40:3 NIV)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Risk taking is not for the Faint of Heart

"Release" 24 x 30 center of a triptych in mixed media

Putting yourself out there can be intimidating. Stating your opinions boldly for others to see takes chutzpah.  Allowing others to see your mistakes so they may learn from them is a courageous thing to do.
"Sandhill Crane" 8 x 10 acrylic

In today’s online world a nobody can turn into somebody. The exposure may backfire or it may open doors. The possibilities are endless; the choices crucial. Without planning, the results may be devastating.

"Release" Panel 2 of triptych, in mixed media

How many times do we hear on the news that someone is caught by police online breaking the law? When people express their views or choose to do something illegal online, they are fooled into thinking they are anonymous. It’s easy to hide behind a computer or telephone screen. Like the child who thinks “if I can’t see you, then you can’t see me,” these people take foolish risks to gratify their insatiable lusts.

Ironically, the most successful blogs, YouTube videos and posts are those from simple people doing what they love. When we intentionally plot and plan to make money to satisfy selfish greed, people see right through it. They feel used and manipulated.

Openness and honesty shines through. I watched a young boy sing his heart out and win the judges over. The son of a single mom, he (they) desperately needed the money, but their hearts were in the right place. His talent and openness won over the judges and the audience. Either you’ve got talent or you’re a fraud. Honesty wins hearts.

"Regaae Night" first draft 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas
Some people are adept at “faking it.” Others are great at B.S. This front may work in the beginning, but over time the sizzle fades and the yawns begin. Being genuine isn’t a skill you can learn, it is part of who you are. Being genuine is in your DNA. People are drawn to you because they can relate. Trust is built on relationship not showmanship.
"Regaae Night" in-progress acrylic
Featured Artist
Today's featured artist is Michelle Wiebe from Alberta, Canada. Wiebe is "balancing an emerging art career with a Pastoral call." I was enthralled by her painting: "Turkish Woman Cooking" below. Also attached is a link to her blog.Michelle Wiebe

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seeing is believing and not seeing is Foolishness

It’s been two years since I had my eyes checked. I sometimes think the reason I like to paint with bright colors is because my eyesight is growing dim. The beginnings of cataracts are clouding my eyes, and my invisible bifocals slip down on my nose while I paint. Getting old is not as fun as some people make it out to be.

You’re only as young as you feel, people like to say. But what happens when you’re not feeling as young as you used to feel? Ah, now there’s the rub.

"Blending In" Acrylic on canvas
I was overjoyed to find that my eyes are relatively in good health, and I don’t need to see the doctor for one year. All my fretting was for nothing. My husband, on the other hand, is having to redo his cataract surgery in a few weeks. In this light, I couldn’t help but think of all the expressions we use every day pertaining to sight.

We say someone is “looking beyond the mark” when they worry too much about the future and not enough about the present.

We say someone is “short-sighted” when they fail to plan ahead.

Wisdom is often compared with sight, as in understanding. When we gain understanding, we can see truth clearly.

Most art instructors agree that what they really teach their art students to do is how to see. Being able to focus and see what is rather than what we think is there is a matter of re-training your eyes to ignore your brain’s perceptions.

"Pelican Pointe" 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas. Recently SOLD 20 x 24 Print on FAA
The brain has a tendency to fill in missing pieces for us, much the same way a computer is programmed to finish or fix a misspelled word. It has been proven that we can read a sentence of consonants without the vowels because our brain fills in the missing letters.

Truth is a lot like that. We must learn to examine what is actually there, but also call into play our sixth sense or gut instinct. Sometimes we know something is true and we ignore it. 

Why do we ignore truth: because of preconceptions that have been taught to us
by our parents or teachers and because of ingrained habits or traditions. 

Thinking clearly for ourselves requires searching, learning, studying, and something many people call “heart” knowledge; another term for gut instinct.

Seeing with an artist’s eye requires focus, study, and practice. Gaining an understanding of how things are made and how they work together helps to define form, shape, and movement.
Learning to see what is instead of what might be or could be is how professional skill is developed. Innate talent helps, but the knowledge is out there for all of us to use and better ourselves.
"Brown Thrasher" 16 x 20 acrylic on panel in decorative barn wood frame

Friday, August 9, 2013

Persistence Eventually Pays Off

"Hey, Coconut Mon" Currently on display at ACSWF Gallery at Coconut Point
Giving up is easy. Getting discouraged is human. Persistence is the gold that separates the “men from the boys” and what distinguishes the earnest from the whiners; the strong from the weak.

There’s a fine line between persistence and stubbornness. Have you ever known someone who never gives up, even when the odds are against it; even when others tell them there is little chance for success? Yet in spite of that, they continue to beat their head against a stone wall hoping that persistence equals skill and talent.

Sometimes there’s a break through, and against all odds they manage to succeed. Many a mediocre person rises to the top on sweat and tears alone while seemingly super skilled people slip into oblivion. Networking and marketing skills prove once again that “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” It’s not how talented and skilled you are, but how diligent and persistent you are.

(On display at ACSWF Gallery at Coconut Point)
It’s the way of the world. When remarkable talent receives recognition, we are pleased. We hate to see real talent go unnoticed. But sadly, sometimes even outstanding talent is hidden from view for lack of exposure. Competition has never been greater. Technology has accelerated the “learning curve” of yesteryear. Today’s entrepreneurs and artists are better equipped and more knowledgeable than ever before.

There’s a level of desperation in people on the social and business networks. One artist was so eager for a sale that she fell for one of the oldest cons on the books. She agreed to accept a personal check for payment of one of her artworks. When the check arrived, it was three times more than the asking price. She checked with her bank and they agreed to hold the check.

The artist then went to the police. She told them that during their exchanges, she had noticed that each time the buyer contacted her, they called from a different location. On the final call, the buyer had requested that she send them a check in the amount of the overage. Of course, she didn’t comply. The only thing she ended up losing was her self-esteem, but she felt humiliated and disappointed.

It’s a terrible experience to be scammed. I try to avoid it at all costs. I use only PayPal. If someone refuses to use it or loses interest in buying because of this requirement, that’s my tip-off that the buyer is illegitimate. 

Being a tenacious seller is important. Persistence usually does pay off. But in today’s world, it pays to work smart: if it feels or sounds “too good to be true,” it usually is.

(All paintings currently on display at the ACSWF Gallery in Coconut Point Mall.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ruts Vs. Routines and the “Smarts” to know the Difference

I love routine. I always have and I always will. Routine gives me security. Routine makes me feel safe and helps me develop habits that keep me on track. Staying on task helps me accomplish what I set out to do.

Routines are delightful because you do them without thinking. They become automatic. I know that at a certain hour of the day, I will paint. I will write. I will carry out my dreams come “hell or high water!”

My husband knows never to interrupt me when I’m painting. He knows I never answer phone calls when my hands and elbows are dripping in acrylic paint. If friends call, they go into voice mail. The world literally goes on hold when I’m at canvas working with fast-drying acrylics.

If my husband chooses to converse with me, he may get a growl in return. If my agenda changes either by crook or necessity, I’m not a happy camper. I may even have a temper tantrum of disproportionate proportions. My day becomes lop-sided. The monster within comes out. I feel betrayed, cheated, and forlorn; oh, woe is me and a pox on everyone’s house.

If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this tirade, you now know the difference between routines and ruts. Routines are good “if” they help you stick to your goals and enable you to get your work done. Routines become “ruts” when they hold us prisoner and don’t allow us to be flexible. Without flexibility you can kiss creativity goodbye.

Ruts can entrap us, hold us, and make our lives miserable. The first time I went cross-country skiing it was late in the season. Hard, icy tracks were molded on the pathways.  As long as you stayed within their boundaries, it was smooth sailing. Get out of the grooves and you went sailing into the trees. That is exactly what I did when I came to my first turn. The ruts were so deep that you literally had to jump and twist to make the turn. Not something a novice like me could do.

(New work in Progress: "Reggae Night" first layer drawing w/edits)
Ruts stifle creativity. Spontaneity is also a critical component. Awareness and objectivity need to be in control 24/7. Creative thinkers must be good observers. They must be willing to adjust when opportunity knocks. Inspiration is a product not of time or mind, but of heart and soul. The door must always be open. The spirit must always be prepared to receive.

Go ahead and plan your schedules and routines. Set your goals and work toward them; but leave yourself an opening for the unexpected, the priceless moments with loved ones and family, and the sudden impulses that may flutter suddenly on your window sill or whisper in your ear in a moment of reverie.

"Tansy's Pride" 9 x 12 Pastel on Bristol
Here are a few tips:
·         Routines guide our way.
·         Ruts hold our feet to the fire.
·         Routines allow movement and growth.
·         Ruts exhaust us and make us feel like slaves.
·         Routines involve familiar tasks and a safe place to explore ideas.
·         Ruts become rigid trails that lead us nowhere.
·         Routines let us experiment without criticism.
·         Ruts are monotonous black holes that go nowhere.
·         Routines ground us while our mind soars.
·         Ruts create anxiety and worry.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What I Learned as a Kid Playing Jump Rope

I am turning this painting "Release" into a triptych by adding two other panels.
Yes, it’s true. Many of the things I needed to know in life, I learned while playing jump rope. Let me explain.

I learned how to merge. Do you notice how many people simply don’t know how to do this with discretion? There are the bullies who drive into traffic like a bat out of you-know- where, always expecting that an opening is waiting just for them. Sometimes they make it, causing people like you and me to stomp on our brakes or swerve into dangerous congestion. Or they slam on their own brakes and wait. By the time an opening appears, their car is at a standstill.

In-progress first panel
Then there are the turtles; the terrified ones who creep up onto the ramp, afraid of whizzing cars and trucks. They don’t have enough speed to merge in, and so they sit with a trail of cars behind them. These are the people who, when they were kids, either never played jump rope, or were never good at it.

They were the ones who stood and watched the rope go around and around, and when the time was right, they stood there as immobile as slugs. If they finally found courage to jump in, they were so out of sync that they tripped on the rope – game over.

It’s all about rhythm. There are signs that alert a jumper when the time is right: the tapping of the rope on pavement, the height of the rope when it’s time to jump in. It’s all about gut feel and the rhythms of life; moving when the time is right and taking turns.

In-progress first panel.

I call it tact. Some people naturally have it. They must have been jump rope pros! They seem to know when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut.  They sense when another person is tense or angry. They are in tune with other people’s feelings and the rhythms and patterns of human speech and emotion. Unlike their opposing counterparts who blurt out insulting remarks without thinking. Tacky!

They are the ones who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for anyone else’s safety. They are the shoppers who push past others waiting in line, crashing into them like bumper cars. They are impatient. They think having to wait is for wimps. Anger propels them. They don’t have time for games unless they can win. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that prefaces every action. They are bulldozers in human form.

Cooperation is another skill I learned while relieving a “turner.” Holding a rope in one hand and a second rope in the other, I learned to cooperate with the person on the other side. We turned each rope inward in perfect harmony; first one, and then the other. Turning the rope also gave me a chance to serve my fellow jumpers.

And when it was my turn to jump and everyone sang:
“Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear touch the ground,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear, stick out your tongue,” etc.
My Coordination was enhanced as I exercised.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any obese kids in my classroom. The games we played at recess kept us agile and active. Kick ball, volley ball, hop scotch, jump rope, etc. provided movement, exercise, and friendships as we formed teams and worked together for a common purpose.

Completed "Release Panel 1" 12 x 24  acrylic
Patience was another virtue we at least tasted while we waited with 35 other classmates for our turn to jump. When we all sang together: “I love coffee, I love tea, I love sugar and it loves me. I love salt and pepper!” We cheered on the jumper as the rope tapped faster and faster; a surge of anxiety in our bellies as we waited for our own turn to jump. What did we learn?  How about adjusting to changing tempos, new faces and rhythms? We learned about endurance. The kids who outlasted other jumpers were the winners.

As everyone sang: “Carol and Lee sitting in a tree: k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Carol with a baby carriage;” I never dreamed, as I jumped and blushed, that one day I’d have six children. Our chants were always about life, and they paved the way for future expectations of romance, family and careers.

"An Open Book" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas -- Prints available.
When we tripped on the rope or failed to match the turners speed, we picked ourselves up and tried again. We learned to adjust to added pressures and new environments that helped us as adults. For example: my first day, on a new job, in a new city, I had to pack up for a move to a new office across town. At the time, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in for. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As I packed up the old files, I studied and reviewed them. When they were unpacked, I knew how I would file them and where. I knew which ones were active, and which ones could probably be archived. I learned how to cooperate with my co-workers. There’s nothing like the strain of a move to highlight personality and temperament. You find out a lot about people when they’re working under pressure.

"Moody Blues" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
You find out a lot about people by waiting in lines and driving down the highway. You find out who knows when to merge and who doesn’t. And you discover discourteous people who refuse to move left, even when they can, to allow someone else to enter the highway. I swear these people never jumped rope.

If I had my way, jump rope would be a part of every Drivers Ed. Class; maybe even part of college prep. or on-the-job training.  Who knows, there might be fewer accidents on the road and more teamwork on the job. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?