Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Those who Suffered, Those who Died

The winds of change are fickle. The tides of arrogance and ignorance eventually meet history head on. The fate of the few who manage to stay afloat during the process are finally recognized. Louis Zamperini is one of those. 

I was so pleased to hear that a movie was being made to honor him and the millions who died on our behalf during World War II. I met Louis in the pages of a book long before the above ad came out in People Magazine. Laura Hillenbrand had charmed me with her novel about “Sea Biscuit” so I ordered her second book on Kindle: “Unbroken; a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” Little did I know what was in store for me?

I’m not finished reading it yet. I find it difficult to stay on its pages for more than an hour at a time. The emotion is raw and intense. Tears fill my eyes at the horrors I’m witnessing through the perspective of Zamperini and the other pilots who worked side by side to fight our enemies. I am shocked, stunned, and horrified by their suffering.

"Looking Outward" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas and distressed window frame
How did they survive? Louis was a former Olympic runner, which kept him fit, so by the time he was drafted as a fighter pilot, he was strong. He’d already overcome many obstacles in his life which helped him focus on solving problems and weathering difficulties.

The author was able to interview Louis and a few remaining vets from that time period. She also read his diaries and written accounts. In my opinion, this should be required reading for every high school student. Many of our youth don’t recognize or understand the sacrifices that were made on their behalf. They shout for their “rights” and sometimes spit on their flag ignorantly adding injury to injury on those who suffered and died for them.

Louis’ story will be brought to the forefront by Director Angelina Jolie, shown with Zamperini in the above photo. I will definitely see this movie. The book alone, prompted me to write this blog. We must not; we cannot forget those who gave their lives for our freedoms.

"Americana" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas
 I highly recommend this book and I’m sure the movie will measure up to the complex circumstances in which these heroes fought in our names. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stress Busters and Biz Builders

"Raccoons at Sunrise" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas, framed
In the real world, stress is real. We battle traffic. We quarrel with a spouse or a teenager. We juggle schedules. We face deadlines, and we fight our own demons all at the same time. How do you keep all the balls in the air without losing your grip? How do you keep "The House that Jack Built" from tumbling down?

If I had "the" answer, we'd all be cured. The fact is that none of these outside forces are ever going to change. The only permanent change comes from within. For believers, faith in God gives them the determination and the strength to carry on. For some people, physical activity helps them let off steam. For others, various relaxation techniques can take the edge off.

"Wasatch Mountains" acrylic on rice paper, 8 x 10
As a child, I had my own special escape plan; a world of my own created in a wooded area not far from my house. I lived in Bremerton, Washington where the Hemlock and Cedar trees climbed like "Jack's Beanstalk" far into the heavens. My friends and I made our own "hide-out" hidden within the bushy undergrowth. We used leftover linoleum slabs for the floor and the rest was left to our imaginations.

In my mind, this glorious quiet place was a wondrous castle where anything was possible. I became brave and daring within its walls. I had super powers and super human strength. The older kids dared me to jump on the thick rope swing and sail across the deep gully to the other side. I sat on the twisted knot as they pulled the rope back, and back, and back again.

"Sand Crane Dreams" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas
When they let go, I sailed into space. I was conquering new worlds on the brink of discovery. The wind whistled in my ears. The gully beneath was dark and forbidding, but I was unafraid. Clutching the rope, I felt an incredible sense of freedom. My mother came in time to see me leave the safety of the ledge. Her shouts and her fears diminished my fun, but the thrill lingered on long after I'd had my bottom spanked for taking such a risk.

What can I say? I've always been a risk taker. When fears engulf me, I return to that special place where I experienced freedom and clarity. I take myself there when I'm stuck in a rut or I need a kick in the pants to get creating again. Too much stress is a bad thing, but just enough keeps me on the edge of creating something wonderful!

To see Carol's special creations, go to:  

"Fall in Apple Valley" 8 x 10 acrylic on rice paper
"Waste Not Want Not" Tip of the Day
Next time you damage a wonderful watercolor painting by creating a dark unremovable smudge or by blending a color that ends up looking like mud, don't throw it away! Take a small 4x6 or 8x10 mat and place it over different parts of your painting. Sometimes a beautiful mini-picture emerges. Cut it out and turn it into a print or a greeting card. If nothing else, tear your painting into strips and give the strips away at art shows as original book marks. People will be impressed, and everyone loves a free give-away! 

Acrylic and oil paintings can be treated in this same way by using online photo programs. Crop the good parts and turn them into prints or greeting cards. Don't let anything go to waste. If worse comes to worse, sand off and repaint an old canvas that didn't sell and start again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I Yam What I Yam, What I Yam, and You’d better believe it!

"Popeye and Olive Oil" Salt and Pepper Shakers, excellent Cond. 1980 KFS, Inc. 
Learning to accept yourself and to love yourself is the hard won struggle of life. Thanks to good old Popeye we discover that self acceptance is the first step to overcoming weakness and triumphing over evil. Forgiveness of one’s self for past mistakes brings peace and happiness.

There is strength in self acceptance. By giving ourselves as much room to grow and make mistakes as we give others, we gain strength to overcome our own weaknesses. It is only when we learn to love and accept ourselves that we learn how to give love to others.

"Inlaid Puzzle" Jaymar, Shows Popeye eating his Spinach to prepare for Brutus in the background.
Our prisons are full of people with low self-esteem and self loathing; people who never experienced unconditional love and acceptance. Self acceptance is not wallowing in a life of crime and degradation “because this is what or who I am.” Self acceptance is recognizing our humanity and being patient with ourselves as we overcome weaknesses, temptations, and human frailty. In other words, we give ourselves "room to grow."

Popeye embraces all of that as he stumbles through life open to anything and everything. He is naive. He is trusting. He turns a blind eye to evil (Brutus) and unwittingly becomes evil’s “patsy.” He fights for truth and justice for his true love, Olive Oil (or is it Oyl?), and for his Sweet Pea.

"Popeye Spinach dish" (for trinkets or candy), with lid. 1990 KFS, Inc.
Like Robin Hood, he fights for the poor, the downtrodden, and the weak. He is a muscle-packing hero weakened only by his failure to eat his spinach. When I was younger, my father convinced me that I could be as strong as Pop-eye if only I’d swallow that green, slimy stuff on my plate he called spinach.

Later in life, a grandson’s imitation of the Sailor Man, prompted my fascination with everything Popeye. Somehow collecting Popeye memorabilia brought my father closer. I can still see him reading Popeye comic books for fun and relaxation after work.

"Popeye and Olive Oil" Twister dolls large; perfect condition, KFS, Inc. BRONCO CD, 1978
When Dad came home, he was covered in welder’s black from head to toe. But once he’d had his bath and “supper,” he’d relax in his chair with the comics. His favorites: Dick Tracy, Alley Oop, and Popeye in that order. Dad helped weld the Alaskan Pipeline, using Arc Welding which later proved detrimental to his health.

"Large Olive Oil with movable arms and head" 1991 KFS, Inc.
made in Philippines
Five men where he worked ended up with Parkinson’s disease from using the Arc Welding equipment. None of them were blood relatives. Research concluded that their Parkinson’s was a direct result of using the equipment. Later, other welders wore the proper protection which provided some measure of safety.

"Olive Oil" hand puppet, 1/31/57 PERFECT

Thanks to my father and later my grandson, Dane, I started my own Popeye collection until space and several moves curtailed that pastime. My small collection will soon be for sale on my Etsy site at

"Matchbox Character Series N213" 1980 KFS, Inc. made in Hong Kong; Logos worn off
Here is a Popeye feature about Popeye and Alababa and the 40 Thieves. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Virtual Reality can’t Touch us or Taint us. Or can it?

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol
Public Broadcasting recently aired a delightful British Comedy called “Last Tango in Halifax.” I enjoyed the feature immensely. The story revolved around an older couple who met, fell in love, and planned to be married. The catch? They each had their own complex past, their own children and spouses and grandchildren each with their own unique problems, quirks, differences, and weaknesses.

What impressed me at stories' end was that Halifax was a lonely and harsh environment that isolated people from each other. The characters, in spite of all their flaws, were lovable, sometimes desperate, and always unpredictable yet supportive of each other, at least in the beginning.

I wept along with the characters. I felt their pain and their weakness as they bungled their lives simply by being human. As a person of faith, I couldn’t help wondering if the absence of faith was a character flaw and the reason for their downfall. They struggled against life without any spiritual structure or foundation to guide them or hold them together.

"Tansy's Pride" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol
And yet they survived. In the end, they even triumphed as they overcame their shallow self absorbed inclinations to reach out and embrace those they loved. Rising above their petty and sometimes jarring differences, they brought their bouquets of forgiveness to the simple table that life had dealt them.

What matters most in life usually triumphs, if we let it. We can rise above the cheap and tawdry leavings of this clumsy imperfect existence and replace our shallowness with humility, hard fought forgiveness, and hope.

People in the end are worth the effort. There is dignity and hidden gold even in the worst of us, and surely in the best of us. Pure evil does exist, but at what point is the soul condemned or the door closed? The eleventh hour? The twelfth?

"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media SOLD
What binds us is our humanity; our need for love and companionship. This alone is the Godly part of our nature and must be nurtured and acted upon if humanity is to survive. Without it, we will incinerate ourselves in a global frenzy.

Keep the candle burning, friends. If the light of love and goodness goes out, our world will be very dark, indeed.

"With these Hands -- Hope"  16 x 20 mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Artist’s and Writer’s Block (Repeat of a blog from 3+ years ago)

(Photo from a friend in Uganda)
If you're a creative person, it's inevitable that at some point in your career or avocation you're going to bump up against a blank wall. The feeling can be frightening, even devastating, but it doesn't have to keep you down.

Over the years I've discovered a few things that may trigger these events. I'll share some of my thoughts with you, knowing that your trigger's may also be different from mine. For whatever it's worth, here are my top four:

(Putting the drawing in place)
  1. Fatigue and lack of sleep. I know, it sounds simplistic, but you can't create in a sleepless fog. When your tail is draggin' so is your mind. Your perspective gets out of whack, and life seems sadder, badder, and meaner. When you wake up refreshed, you're ready to tackle almost anything. Get your Zzz's.

  2. Depression. This is a real deep-down feeling of helplessness and worthlessness. This baby will pull you into a downward spiral that has no end. Mild depression is a part of life's ups and downs, but clinical depression can drag you into a dark abyss where life has no meaning. Get help!  If the cause is a bad marriage or an abusive relationship, get out!

  3. Low self-esteem. A few negative words or harsh criticism can throw you for a loop. We can say "sticks and stones," and believe that words can never hurt us, but they do. Bullies can knock the wind out of your creative sails. Personal failure can push you flat on your back. The only answer is to grab hold of a power bigger than yourself and get up again. Quit worrying about what other people think. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters.

  4. Lack of exposure. Sometimes we need to shake things up a little. Get out and experience life. Change the scene. Surprise yourself -- do something new. Try something you've never done before. I'm not suggesting going overboard and getting yourself into trouble. I'm only saying get out of the house. Go somewhere different. Try to see the world with a new perspective. Get some fresh air!
"Hey, Coconut Man" mixed media on canvas
I remember my first art show after letting my skills and brushes lie dormant for many years. I was terrified. How would people react to my artwork? How would they view my lame attempts to restore those lost years when my own self-esteem was slumping?

I muttered a prayer, something like "Oh, Lord what am I doing? What if I look like a fool?" A warm feeling and an encouraging thought came to me: "Give it a try--you might be surprised."
On that simple note, I displayed my paintings. I know some of them were pretty awful, but not all. Two women, I swear they were angels in disguise, bought one of my paintings right off. That sale gave me the confidence and the courage I needed to keep on keeping on.

"Twirling" Charcoal sketch (Drawing quick sketches releases my imagination.)
And there you have it: my secret formula for getting out of a "funk."  Next time you can't think and your mind's a blank, start writing, start painting anyway; anything--anything at all. Pretty soon the blood will get moving and you'll push right past that blank wall. Of course, a little prayer never hurts!
(Below is my favorite sketch "Siesta" done purely from imagination)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

“Shit Happens” and Somebody Somewhere Experiences their Last Straw!

Third Place Win in Juried Competition for "Swamp Angel" oil on canvas
There are shows, and then there are shows. On the plus side, I had an opportunity to display my Popeye collection which is rare. The bazaar was seeking artwork, antiques, collectibles, and high-end used clothing and household items. The rules stated, “definitely not garage sale items.”

Second Place win in Acrylics for "Kindred Spirits"
Of course, whenever you make a rule, there are at least five people who will bend it or break it. It’s hard to place artwork next to a table that has used items for sale under $5. 

By the end of the show, a few vendors decided they’d rather give their stuff away than take it home. That made the situation even worse!

The artists who did participate will likely not come back. One jewelry maker remarked that she usually sells $600 to $1000 at one of these shows. She sold only $100.

There were more than 45 tables. Our hopes were high. But competition always makes or breaks a show. There were three other shows going on simultaneously in the area. These were also rummage sales that attracted a different clientele where people expect to pay a little and get a lot.

My own story was even sadder. I had a mixture of Popeye memorabilia and low-cost art. I thought, at the very least, I’d be advertising my portrait skills. I sold a few Popeye pieces and drew an interested fun loving crowd to my artwork.

 A gentleman took my card and said he’d be interested in talking to me about buying the whole Popeye collection. From experience, I know that usually means a bargain for him and a loss for me.

Could our show have been more successful in November by tapping into Christmas and holiday buying? Perhaps. Did the word bazaar throw people off? Were they expecting more bargains similar to a rummage or garage sale?

With many people out of work and low on cash, the timing may have been off. In a good year things could have been different. It’s hard to believe that in America, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we are in decline; not only financially, but morally and spiritually.

To make matters worse, my husband ran errands while I was preoccupied and someone backed into his car. It was more than a ding. The at-fault-driver was in a truck which suffered little or no damage. Our car was dented in the fender and the door. My husband was 2/3 out of his parking spot, and she backed right into him. Did she have blinders on her eyes?

She claimed she was worried about the other driver she saw who was waiting for her spot. Impatience, stress and carelessness cause most of the accidents in our society. She was guilty of all three. At any rate, the support of friends and the camaraderie of fellow artists saved a weekend that could have been a total loss.

When we got home, I had a nice nap to sleep off my anxiety, and my husband warmed up some killer enchiladas that he’d made a few days before. It’s always the simple things in life that get us through the bad times. A smile, a hug, a thoughtful gesture can make up for so much when things go wrong.

My favorite Fall tree: the "Golden Rain Tree." Following spikes of yellow flowers seed lanterns form.
I wish some of my FB friends and social connections would remember that the next time they reply to a message or a comment. I’ve experienced some mean-spirited and ugly remarks recently because of political anger or someone who doesn’t agree with my faith or with something I’ve said. Civil disagreement is expected and deserved. But name-calling or saying that someone would be better off dead or buried is quite another.

If the world were only a nicer place, there wouldn’t be so many lonely and unhappy people out there who later become a forgotten statistic because someone somewhere vented their anger or became an ugly bully without regard for someone else’s feelings.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Will Libraries be Obsolete in 2020 and beyond?

"An Open Book" acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)
I haven’t checked out a library book since I purchased my Kindle a few years back. I must say, my experience was a refreshing change. I’m more at home in a library than anywhere else in the world next to a paint store or an Office Depot.

I love the smell of books, the excitement of having the world at your fingertips, and the thrall of people with the same sense of drama. Today was no exception. Our library is adjacent to the local high school, and is home to a poor but diverse community.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas SOLD (Prints available)
On this Saturday, every computer, every chair, every table was filled with students and adults reading magazines or searching for books, and parents helping their children find books for themselves. Movies were being checked out in abundance. Non-fiction books seemed more popular than fiction.

I was struck by how vital a library is to a community; especially one with few resources. I sensed that this weekly or monthly trip to the library was an exciting part of each family’s agenda. Eager smiling faces added to the vibrancy that filled the building.

I waited in line with my books: two on pastel techniques, and two on general basics; my way of taking a refresher course in between regular painting sessions and classes. A woman next to me said, “Oh, you’re an artist, too!” Then she proceeded to tell me all about the class she was taking and how she picked up some books to reinforce what she was learning.

"Victims of War" mixed media on canvas
I hope the public library will always be with us. It meant so much to me as a child. I’d walk a few streets on my own and spend the whole afternoon in its warm embrace reading books, sniffing their wonderful pages, and settling into an imaginative world that took me from my small town roots into an adventure with other worlds and cultures.

In some regions, they are already phasing out the library as we know it. Books are being replaced by computers and digital books. You can download books and never have to return them. It seems to be catching on.

I’m sad for the children who will never experience what it feels like to curl up with a real book and smell the wonder of its pages. As a child, I’d sneak a flashlight into bed. After my mother left the room, I’d read under cover for as long as I could. When she discovered my secret, the magic ended, but not my love for books.

"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas; Uganda
That day in the library, I was happy to see parents and children who still had the excitement of books written on their faces. They renewed my hope in America and in the world. Hunger and thirst for knowledge is a good thing. I hope we never lose it!

The freedom to ask questions and search for answers is what keeps us alive and thriving. Without it, we would become puppets of the state and emotional zombies unable to appreciate a world of wonder and beauty.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol; man from Uganda

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hoping for the Winds of Change – Let her Blow!

"Kayla looking through a glass door" (My next painting)
Here I am, preparing for two shows at two different locations and still missing two other possibilities in the process. When “Season” arrives here in Florida, there is never a dull moment.

I did manage to paint today. I had wanted to finish this project before a show on the 12th, but I may not pull it off. Actually, the toddler, my great granddaughter, on the front of the glass holding her “blankie” is finished. This is another example of making flat glass and wood look like cloth; soft and delicate with shadows and highlights.

"Glass surface -- work in progress"
I decided to add paw prints on the underside. Because the dog is lower, he must reach up to her. My original drawing was of a larger dog, and I had to paint over him. Now I will add a smaller dog to the canvas and then the canvas will be finished.

The project is mixed media because I am using both oils (on the glass), and acrylics on the canvas which will be attached on the backside of the window frame. At least this project is unique.

"in progress -- canvas will be attached to back side of window" (still needs dog.)
Tomorrow, I am setting up a show at the Public Library with our League to provide culture for the community. It’s a fun way to interact with students and interested adults. Last year we added several new people to our group. At the same time, we artists have other artwork hanging on the walls of the library that will be judged. At the end of the month, prizes will be awarded.

When opportunity knocks, I usually try to take it. But this has been an unusual year full of death, illness, and necessary trips. My coping skills were tested. When I talk with my online friends and artist community, I am sensing that they, too, have difficulties that interfere with their hopes and dreams.
"First drawing of Kayla"

We all want to be successful. Success takes money. Juried shows require entry fees. Continuing education is expensive, but important. Supplies and materials are going up in price. I shopped at several stores looking to buy odorless turpentine. The cost blew my mind ($30 a quart). I ended up with a gallon of odorless mineral spirits (thanks to WalMart) for $12.49. 

I love to paint. I enjoy creating something out of nothing. But there are fewer buyers than there were yesterday or even last year. If we can all hang on just a little longer, maybe the climate will change. 

When Mary Poppins blew into town, it was on the winds of change. We can only hope.

"Winston is the model for my dog"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Veils throughout History have Concealed, Tempted and Deceived

Veils have been with us almost since the beginning of time. Certainly they had religious significance. For example, in the Biblical story of Salome, Jezebel’s daughter, Salome danced with seven veils to seduce her father so she could ask for the head of John the Baptist. John had criticized her mother’s marriage to wicked King Ahab who had unlawfully taken his brother’s wife.

 In the Book of Genesis within the Hebrew Bible, the story goes that Jacob was tricked into marrying the homely Leah instead of his beloved Rachel, because Leah had hidden her flaws behind a veil.

Tradition had it that the groom could not lift the veil and look upon his bride until after they were married. When Jacob found out it was Leah, he honored her, but continued to love Rachel. He worked for her another seven years before she became his 2nd wife.

The Bridal veil has always provided a sense of mystery. A veil declared that the woman was spoken for; she was forbidden to any but her betrothed. It was also believed to be a holy covering.

A veil separated the Holy of Holy’s in the temple where only the High Priest could go to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. The veil in the temple signified it was forbidden to go beyond that point. The veil protected what was within and anyone without authority could be killed for crossing the forbidden barrier.

One of the most celebrated paintings of the Italian Renaissance by Raphael is “The Woman with the Veil (La Donna Velata),” c.1516 This irresistibly beautiful portrait was once considered the most famous painting in the world. Completed circa 1516 – four years before Raphael died at age 37 – the painting has had a profound influence on artists and writers both of his day and since. Not only is it beautifully painted, but a myth of intrigue envelops the work: there is a long-held belief that the sitter was Raphael's lover and muse.

Raphael developed in this portrait his own idea of female beauty and deportment. The sitter’s veil indicates that she is married, while the sleeve conveys both opulence and, in abstract terms, the sitter’s hidden but complex psychology. She appears as a model in many of Raphael's most important works.

“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer uses a veil to portray the young girl’s modesty and innocence.

"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas
The painting of fabric has always intrigued me. If done well, the illusion is so perfect that the viewer must touch it to see if it’s real. The creation of folds is a result of the undulating movement of the cloth as it rises and falls. Highlights are placed on the highest points, and shadows on the most recessed. Pulling the brush in the direction of the fold rather than vertically creates roundness.

"India Rising -- the Found" mixed-media on canvas
Many cultures and religions use veils and coverings to protect from harsh weather, provide concealment and modesty, and to create mystery and beauty.