Tuesday, January 28, 2014

False Starts and Weak Promises Keep us from Finishing the Race

"A scene from my backyard. A great egret fishing."
In my guest closet is an unfinished quilt, a box of ideas for future paintings, and some amateur canvases that I’ve painted over waiting in the wings. I have an online folder titled: “To Paint” with saved photos, sketches, and ideas I don’t as yet feel passionate about. All are immobile. I'm hoping I'll get inspired and catch the spark that will burst into fire when the time is right.

Third prize ribbon for "Swamp Angel" at juried show.
It’s easy to start something. It’s not so easy to finish. We all have unfinished dreams, goals, and projects that never reach their conclusion. There are many reasons for this: we burn out, we lose the vision we had in the beginning. Sometimes we run up against obstacles that prevent us from finishing: ill health, financial problems, lack of education, emotional crises, etc.
Several ibis sneak in behind to forage on the outer perimeter of the lake.
Commitment is a promise we make to ourselves. Those uncompleted goals and unfinished projects that fill unused spaces in our homes and in our minds lack our commitment. Somewhere along the way, we lost our passion; we lost our drive. Like mirrors, they shine in the dark corners of our hearts and reflect back only our failures.
It’s time to turn those “dark hearts” into windows of opportunity. There must have been a reason those sad projects remained unfinished. Perhaps they were diversions from your real goals, the ones that capture your passion and lead to their completion?
A flock of cormorants, two woodstorks and a heron join the feathered throng.
It’s time to clean house! Don’t let those partially finished items drag you down. Paint over them, give them to someone else, or toss them out! A Fresh start will give you a clean slate to re-think your goals and your commitment. If these discarded dreams don’t grab you and inspire you then turn to something else that does.
Change is refreshing. It shakes things up and turns them on end. But before you make a clean sweep be certain that you know what you want and where you’re going. If you don’t, you’ll become a backslider and end up filling the empty places in your heart and home with more of the same.
This heart-shaped collectible is on sale on E-Bay. Search Popeye Collectibles; AnfinsenArt

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Walking in the Shoes of the Masters and Trail Blazers

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 1st in the Neptune series 11 x 14 acrylic
Sometimes the most mundane things can trigger the subject for an article. While I was mulling over what to wear Friday night, my eyes fell on my choice of shoes. The weather was colder than usual in Florida, and I was lamenting the fact that all I had were sandals; a result of living in southern climes where the weather is usually warm year round.
I found a closed-in pair of black patent tennis shoes which should have been the end of that; but instead, I thought about shoes for the rest of the day. Not my shoes mind you, but those of others: the people on this earth and those who have gone before us who leave behind their achievements, their example, their courage, strength and love.
Work in Progress "The Neptunes -- Golden Girls" 11 x 14 acrylic
How do I fill the shoes of my mother, for instance, who had more courage in her little finger than most people have in a life time? Or the shoes of my sister, who struggled with multiple sclerosis a major part of her life, yet never complained and always had a smile on her face?

I don’t know about you, but the master painters of yesteryear have left behind some rather large shoes that artist’s of today, including me, must fill. Who is your inspiration? Who do you try to emulate?

Some of us get distracted by glitter and glitz. We jump into the shoes of the bombastic, the bully, or the billionaire’s expensive and glamorous Cesare-Paciotti’s trying to imagine what it would feel like. There’s not a “Techie” alive who doesn’t want to become another Bill Gates. But do you really want to experience his cancer, his pain?

We all have our lone walk to the end of our days. Our path is unknown. It may be rocky and filled with terror. The harder we struggle, the more apt we are to get blisters and calluses. Our shoes may become worn and dusty. We look “at the other guy,” and we think his road, his load is easier to bear. Not!
An American Indian proverb goes like this: “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.” Sometimes we think we know a person and what his or her life might be like, but unless we walk in their shoes, we can only guess. We fail to see their heartache and pain.

The trail blazers who go before us can show us how to persevere. They can enlarge our vision and teach us skills. They can inspire us to emulate them, follow them, and walk in their footsteps, but we can never fill their shoes nor replace them. We must forge ahead on our own two feet in our own uniquely soiled shoes.
Many years ago, I wrote a short play for the youth of our church called: “In the Shoes of the Master.” In the script, a teenager is trying to choose what kind of shoes he will wear and what kind of life he wants to live. The shoemaker represents the seductive snares that we all encounter as we make choices.

Of course, in the beginning the young man chooses a pair like the rock star he admires; his female counterpart selects a pair that shimmers and shines. At this point in their lives, it is all about the fame, the money, and the sizzle.
As the play progresses, the youth experience some of the downfalls of their choices. They suffer crudities, experience failure, and come up against hurdles they don’t know how to overcome. They want new shoes (or a new life). When they go back to the shoemaker, they see on the shelf a pair they failed to notice before: a dusty, worn-out pair of sandals. In this instance, the shoes of Jesus Christ “the master” of life.

Our choices are not always this clear. We stumble, we fall, and we pick ourselves up. History can teach us who and what to emulate. Experience can show us those things that outlast time and prove to be of great worth. Choose which moccasins you want to wear and make your own footprints in the sand.

"The Neptunes -- Octoband" 11 x 14 acrylic

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Innovate or Placate? Experiment or Languish? How’s your Painting Libido?

Some artist’s are making a big splash. They are non-conformists doing things their way. Not afraid of criticism or worried about “staying in line,” they follow their gut instincts; and in the process, they’re making money. Wish that were you?
Self taught artists probably have more daring. What have they got to lose? But there are artists who get bored by the tried and true methods of the past and just want to make waves. They want their art to sizzle and sing. They manage to push the envelope to the outer limits.
Don’t get me wrong. These artists have already proven themselves in traditional ways. They are color and value experts who wave the brush expertly and intelligently. They also follow trends. They understand that what’s popular today may not be hot tomorrow. They have found a way to capitalize on the here and now in hopes of making some money and it seems to be working.
I watched a street artist use nothing but spray paint and window scrapers as a brush. The work was not as crude as I’d expected. He layered colors from light to dark, and while still wet, expertly scraped off top layers to expose the light. Shapes formed. Buildings appeared. Different sized palette knives and scrapers exposed a cityscape and a sunset. The end result was breathtaking.
His “street art” was produced quickly and expertly. The wrapped canvas paintings sold like hotcakes! People were intrigued. They were in awe as landscapes and city streets appeared in living color. The canvases were affordable and inspiring. This artist had found a way to tap into the pulse of the buyers who lived and worked in the city.
Chloe Morris Sketchbook
Who is your audience? Does your work appeal to the culture and clime of potential buyers or are you focused on your own drumbeat drowning out the sounds of the marketplace? Do you live in a seaside community or a rural farm area? Do your buyers hail from suburbia or Harlem? Who do you want to reach? How do you want to touch them or influence them? Does your work have universal appeal or is it specific?

These are questions every artist needs to ask before proceeding with a work. If you paint only to please yourself, you may have only an audience of one.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Unleashed Mind in an Untamed World

"Popeye on trinket dish, with lid"
Someone once said: “The basis of good art is drawing. If you don’t know how to draw, you’ll never become an artist.”
The question is do you believe that? And if you don’t, what is the basis for your opinion? 
Throughout the years there have been many artists and creators who have won the test of time and their work still charms audiences today; artists that could not only draw, but were masters of illustration and animation.
"Olive Oyl" hand puppet 
Popeye was launched in 1929 debuting in a minor role in the comic strip “Thimble Theater.” Within two years, Popeye was the star of the strip. In 1933, Popeye became such an instant icon that spinach consumption in the US went up 33 percent during the 1930s. I became hooked on Popeye through my father who loved to read comic books after a long day at work.
In 2004, Popeye celebrated 75 years of being loved and adored and is still going strong. I discovered Popeye collectibles in the early 90s, and by then there were others who had purchased and stashed away their favorite King Features characters. Today my collection sells on Etsy:

Other illustrations, comic books and cartoons I loved as a kid were created by Walter Lantz: Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Wally Walrus to name only a few of the characters that danced across the movie screen and cavorted through the pages of my personal stack of comic books.
Here is a Link to one of my favorites: Walter Lantz 1947, Frederic Chopin – “Musical Moments” with Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda.

In those days, kids traded comic books. Those with the largest horde were envied. Horror comics and movies were also adored. On Saturday morning at the movie theater we screamed and shuddered through the horror flicks. Frankenstein, Zombie mania, and Abbott and Lou Costello kept us wide-eyed and glued to our seats.
As an illustrator, Walter Lantz was way ahead of his time. Before Political Correctness came along to modify and tame, Lantz created without inhibitions or guilt which was typical for the age. Today, some of his early cartoons are banned for their racial content and stereotyping. But even this cannot take away from the magnificent characters and stories he created. Taken in its totality, the career of Walter Lantz proves that the man was a genius, way ahead of his time.
Walter Lantz 1947 Overture to William Tell on YouTube

The creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, illustrator Johnny Gruelle, endeared earlier generations to the magic of toys coming to life while their owners slumbered. Even today, many parents have introduced their children to these red-headed rag dolls. 

In 1970 at the height of their popularity, an animated film called “A Musical Adventure” enchanted children everywhere. A short YouTube clip highlights a scene where the toys awaken from their slumber.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When you feel “Used Up,” Reach out -- Look up

"Swamp Angel" 16 x 20 oil on canvas
That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling of late: used up. I can blame the flu that bogged me down and left me in a puddle of self-pity, or I could take the advice of Julia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way” and “Heart Steps; Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life.”
According to Julia’s publisher: “Heart Steps is Cameron’s key to open the door to a more creative world; grounded in her personal methods of inspiration . . . this book is a powerful, practical, and intimate guide to ever-expanding productivity.”
In Julia’s own words, she discovered that “God, or “Mind,” was deeply, personally interested and interactive in our lives – if we would just speak the word that opened the door that opens the heart.”
"Leap of Faith" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
So begins her step by step book of prayers and inspiration. Some people prefer to call their inspiration a “muse;” others the “Universal Spirit.” Practical people simply call it God. Whatever works for you, Cameron’s guide to inspiration is sure to motivate you to get in touch with a power greater than yourself.
She begins by quoting Sonia Choquette: “The Power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it.  Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Behind every word flows energy.”
Self declarations and positive statements said aloud to motivate the brain and in turn modify attitudes and actions is not new. This type of “behavior modification” has been around since the 60s and 70s. What is new is Cameron’s attempt at using it to enrich what she deems “the creative life.”
"Robin Hood" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
There is much to be gained from her book. My only objection is that she skirts timidly around the premise that there is an actual God, who is our creator, and cares enough about us to want our success and happiness. Our belief hangs on a thread of fear and doubt that if removed can open our minds to the endless possibilities that the universe holds. If we can tap into that, who can stand against us or hold us back?
Julia Cameron is a teacher, a poet, a playwright, fiction writer, and essayist; she has extensive credits in film, television, theater, and she is an award-winning journalist. If anyone could tell us how to tap into creative powers she could.
“The refusal to be creative is an act of self-will,” Cameron says, “and is counter to our true nature. When we open to our creativity, we are opening to God’s good, orderly direction. As we pursue our creative fulfillment, all elements of our life move toward harmony.
“As we strengthen our creativity, we strengthen our connection to the Creator within. Artists love other artists. Our relationship to God is co-creative, artist to artist. It is God’s will for us to live in creative abundance.”
Link to Cameron's Home Page: 
"Vikeholmen Lighthouse" Skudeneshavn Norway 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas $300

Friday, January 10, 2014

Self-confidence supports and propels, but is it enough?

"Hibiscus Glory" 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available
I was struck by the comments of my favorite artist and blogger Robert Genn in his last newsletter.
“A recent issue of the New Yorker Magazine had a cartoon titled "Faith-based cooking." The example they gave was a faith-based tuna casserole. "I got the recipe from the Internet," says a frazzled woman holding up her dish. "We didn't have any tuna so I used yesterday's leftover Chinese takeout. It should still be okay". 
"The cartoon reminded me of a friend who painted only one painting in his entire life. He was a businessman--a very successful one--who told me he didn't know anything about painting but that he had it in him to paint a magnificent one. I bought him everything he needed, including a giant canvas I primed for him. "I don't actually know what I'm doing," he admitted, "but I have faith I can do it and faith will be enough".

"Blending In" 12 x 16 acrylic on panel in barnwood frame
Genn continues: "The painting, long since lost to posterity, was pretty bad on most levels. It was done after Botticelli's Venus except there were many more Venuses. It was so bad that ordinary people had trouble looking directly at it. It was so bad I don't think a top notch New York art dealer could have got a bid on it. 
"To be fair to my friend, when he was not making money he often traveled to the great art museums. He could talk authoritatively about Caravaggio, Daumier and David--three of his favorites. But when it came to the art of drawing or mixing a sophisticated grey, he was running on a low tank of faith. 
"Now you know I'm not one to debunk faith. Strength of purpose and human confidence arise from it. Without faith, no one would take a chance on anything. But faith has to be built on some greater knowledge, some understanding of ingredients, things that actually interact and work with one another and methodology that has, if not provable, likely results. Throwing in yesterday's Chinese takeout to make a tuna casserole just won't cut it.”

"Home At Last" acrylic on 16 x 20 panel
Robert Genn is a master. He knows what he’s talking about. Wanting something is one thing. Actually accomplishing or mastering a skill is another. Wishing will never replace the constant effort of practice, learning and knowledge. Pretending may make us feel good, but in the end the prize goes to those who actually run the race, struggle to overcome, and then win.
If you’re putting in your time, don’t be discouraged. There is always a learning curve and darkness before the dawn. Don’t wave the white flag of defeat just yet. Keep at it and eventually you will achieve your dreams!

"Kelly's Rose" 12 x 16 oil on board

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Movements Come and Go but Others have Staying Power

Some call it folk art, others prefer primitive or naive art; still others attach mod-sounding names onto it like pop surrealism or steam punk. Each is unique; but according to art critics and those “in the know,” are concocted from the same pot of sub-standard stew called Lowbrow Art.
Who are these authoritative judges who condemn a movement before it even gets out of the box? I call them “elites” who promote the exclusivity that keeps art in a privileged category for the few. Thank goodness these labels don’t apply to everyone. Today, lowbrow artists and their followers are finally getting noticed and their work is showing up in well-known galleries across the globe.
When you think of lowbrow art what comes to your mind? I usually think of science fiction, comic book illustrations and tattoos in that order. Why has it become so popular? Because it appeals to the masses either for its humor, sarcasm, or brashness.
Wickipedia writes: “Museums, art critics, mainstream galleries, etc., have been uncertain as to the status of lowbrow in relation to the fine art world, and today it has been largely excluded - although this has not stopped some collectors from buying the works. Some art critics doubt that lowbrow is a "legitimate" art movement, and there is thus very little scholarly critical writing about it. The standard argument of critics is that critical writing arises naturally from within an art movement first, and then a wider circle of critics draws upon this writing to inform their own criticism.”
Wikipedia’s definition is already becoming outdated as digital artists get wider exposure on the Internet. Their statement also reveals the blatant snobbery that exists in the art community. There, I’ve said it!
This attitude reminds me of the Emperor who stood stark naked before a circle of his peers while his tailors declared that, indeed, the Emperor was dressed, and his accouterments were exceedingly fine in order to cover up their own uncertainty and incompetence.
Many lowbrow artists are self-taught, which further alienates them from the world of museum curators and art schools. The educated, the elite, have the power to designate who will be seen, supported and exposed while the truly avant-garde continue to push the envelope and explore new means of expression literally under the radar.
This is one of my favorites! Well done.
Will elitists get left behind in the coming age of advancing technology? What do the critics say about these new genres? Will popular opinion and dollars weigh in? Love to hear your opinions!   Check out this Fabulous  Trailer New Wave of high-tech art and animation.
The New York Times said of an exhibit in the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: “At first, surrealism and popular culture seem to be oil and water. Surrealism mines dreams and the unconscious, while pop culture is concerned with surface and commonplaces. But in recent years they have been brought together in exhibitions concerned with proving that high and low are related."[12]Kirsten Anderson, who edited a second book called Pop Surrealism, considers lowbrow and pop surrealism to be related but distinct movements.[13] However, Matt Dukes Jordan, author of Weirdo Deluxe, views the terms as interchangeable.

Featured Artist
Abril Andrade Griffith In a world that moves fast, few things in life have the ability to make one stop and take a deep breath; few things allow you to become lost in a dream. The art of Abril does just that. Being transported into a wonderland, there is a sense of whimsical innocence paired effortlessly with creepy delusion.

Abril is well known all over the world for her cute, dark, abstract intense work. Her work can be found internationally in tattoo shops, galleries, and private art collections. Abril has been featured and published by major magazines. A link to her gallery on Fine Art America is beside her featured painting.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kitschy, Kitschy Koo is no Longer Baby Talk – It’s a Meme

"The interior of a Mexican Restaurant" Kitschy or Cool?
The term “meme” has been around since 1976; yet, for some of us, it feels brand new thanks to the Internet. The word, first coined by Richard Dawkins was used to describe the behavior of genes. Later he referred to the internet’s use of meme as “deliberate and altered;" In other words – a high jacking of the original content or idea. #stolenstuff 

Pronounced meem, this term refers to any idea, style, action which spreads, often as mimicry, from one person to another on the Internet. Like a plague or a disease, a meme may take the form of an image, hyperlink, video, picture, website or hashtag. Even an error or misspell can become a meme that catches on and spreads until it becomes popular and accepted usage.

"Kitschy" or Flashy?
I’ve seen it in the art world. A popular composition or theme gains momentum when it is shared and soon there are countless variations or knock-offs from that first original idea. Like rabbits, these alterations spawn additional copycat versions earning the title of “kitsch.”

What exactly is kitsch? In the 19th century it was art that conveyed exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama or “camp” if it was humorous or ironic in nature. Today kitsch is simply tacky or in bad taste. The word “gaudy” is sometimes used to describe work that is calculated to have a popular appeal. But beauty and worth are both in the eye of the beholder. "One person's trash is another man's treasure," so who's to judge? #Lovemyjunk 

Kitsch is not a new word. Originating in Munich, Germany around 1865, it described any artwork that was cheap, popular, and marketable. That still holds true today. The reason artists resort to kitsch in the first place is because it’s fun, quick, and lucrative. Kitsch brings in the cash and butters the bread.

Kitschy or Catchy?
Critics argue that the essence of kitsch is imitation. The purveyors are merely copying the beautiful and the popular to make money, but the good and substantial part of the work is missing.

Kitsch becomes “cliché” when it is overused to the point of losing its original appeal. Salvador Dali once said: “The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

Ironically, Dali stole that phrase from Gèrard de Nerval who said: “The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile.”

"Couldn't resist adding an Internet joke." #nothingpersonaldear
The old fashioned game of “Whisper” where you passed a secret from one ear to another seems minuscule compared to the scope of the “world wide web” of today’s Internet. Like the flash of a speeding bullet, ideas, artwork, and photographs race across cyber airways adding fodder to meme, kitsch, and consequently the trash that ends up in our inbox. #damspam 

The Jewish culture has long had a word for this aberration: “Schlock” which refers to something shoddy, cheap or inferior. In this day and age of information overload, perhaps we should use more discretion in our choices and focus on quality not quantity. We’ve all heard this before, but does anyone ever follow this advice? #turnsadeafear 

Stay tuned for a discussion of an art movement known as “Pop Surrealism” and why some consider this a “lowbrow” alternative.

mixed media -- "That's my Baby"