Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reality Shows can teach us about Survival (Tooth and Nail!)

(An old Norwegian photo showing my husband's great grandfather's land)
I’ve watched a few reality shows in my day. After awhile, I get tired of the arguments, the scheming and the pettiness. But if that’s your cup of tea, you may like the cutting edge changes coming up next season.

The Discovery channel is pushing the envelope with “Naked and Afraid” where the participants mirror savages, except without the loin cloths. If the forbidden jungles are not enough, these survivors are baring it all in an attempt to get more ratings and viewers which may end up mushrooming into a popular new trend.
(1840 Solbulck -  Norway) family photos
You never know what the reaction of viewers will be. I remember showing my nude drawings to relatives at a family reunion years ago. I was so proud! One of my drawings had won first prize in the linear category. It was a brush and ink drawing of a live model where the brush had never left the page from the first touch to paper.

I expected a compliment, perhaps even praise for my amazing prize-winning fete. Instead, I got hushed and whispered reactions. People were embarrassed. They glanced down or turned away. I was shocked by their reactions of what I conceived as a beautiful work of art. 

Some viewers of the new reality shows may have the same feelings of disgust or rejection. While nudity may be a ploy to grab attention and get new viewers, the show actually has a different purpose. Pitted against the most stark and difficult surroundings imaginable, the real focus is not the challenge of nature, but the difficulty in juggling human relationships.

(Fjords -- Norway photos taken 1995)
That’s the case in almost any undertaking: marriage, divorce, friendships, neighbors and
co-workers, parents and youth. Take it a bit further by delving into art leagues where people jockey for position pitting artistic genius against talented newcomers and you have a recipe for angst, envy and failure.

The battle is to the fittest and the prize (sales) often goes to the best marketer, the most prolific painter, or the most outspoken. The fact that fresh talent is discovered and newbie’s have a platform to show their wares is often a pleasant byproduct.
(Port City -- Norway; family photo taken 1995)
How do you handle stress? Do you have good communication skills or do you have prickly rough edges that others may have to negotiate. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a talented artist. You must learn how to sell your art and push your talent without ruffling other people’s feathers.

"Twigs and Twitters 11 x 14 oil on canvas

Friday, February 21, 2014

Roll with the Punches and Live in the Moment

Work in Progress -- Black-eyed Junco  Oil on Canvas (white marks / edits)

I completed reading the book: “A Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani; a delightful tale which takes place in the Alps of Italy. I was intrigued by this story having traveled to this area and experienced the beauty and the people of that region first hand.

I wrote down the advice given to the young bride, a key character in the story, because I knew it was a golden nugget of truth: “Don’t worry about bad things that haven’t happened yet. It will save you a lot of anxiety.”

We all tend to worry about the things we fear and the events that we suspect are inevitable. We waste time and effort fretting about those things that we cannot control most of which never happen. If we followed the advice of the author, and stopped worrying about “bad things that haven’t happened (or may never happen), we’d be a lot better off.

I was told this was a walnut tree, but they don't develop a real nut???
I’m reminded of an experience I had years ago when I was in charge of a Hawaiian dinner that was being held outdoors. On the ground, we had colorful cushions placed around lengths of white butcher paper that served as a table cloth. Fresh flowers adorned the paper at intervals. Barbecue grills were set up for cooking, and leis were given out to each guest.

A former resident from Hawaii provided music and dancing while the food was cooking. What could go wrong? And then a rain storm moved in quickly and forced us inside. We pulled the barbecue grills under the eaves, gathered our cushions, flowers, and table adornments indoors and improvised things from there.

Initially, I thought I might come “unglued” and fall apart the stress was so great, but I didn’t. With the help of others who pitched in to help, we ended up having a glorious time. I learned how important it is to be adaptable. When fear and a crisis threaten to shake your sanity and your coping mechanisms, go with the flow. Roll with the punches and deal with one crisis at a time. Of course, a sense of humor never hurts either.

If you can identify this tree / nut, please give me feedback!

I was amazed and grateful at how forgiving other people can be in a crisis and how willing to pitch in and help when the “going gets rough.”

This is a close up of the "pod" as it grows on the tree; notice the shape of the leaves.
Being flexible and adaptable reminds me of the principle behind a rubber band. It’s a simple tool that we use all the time to bind things together. It will stretch and adapt as needed; but only to a point. Its flexibility may be tested if pushed too far. When we press it beyond its capability, a rubber band will snap. But it will expand and grow if we ease it slowly and carefully; a simple lesson in how to adapt in a crisis.
Another "work in progress" with editing marks; 11 x 14 oil on canvas

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cachet Ole’ – Have you got it?

I was watching CNBC’s “morning bell” while I had my first cup of coffee. They were discussing “Apple’s” slide and whether it was still a good investment. The answer was “yes,” because Steve Job’s and Apple have “cachet!”

In other words, Apple continues to have street cred; their past performance and standing ushered in a new era of distinct technology that still has clout even though Steve Job’s is no longer a part of the company.

Every business, every entrepreneur strives for that same kind of recognition. They compete and develop a style they hope will distinguish them from the rest. The familiar apple with the bite/(byte) out of it certainly became a memorable staple in our economy. But this was not Apple’s first logo.

According to the article “From the Evolution and History of the Apple Logo: “The original logo depicted Isaac Newton sitting under a tree, an apple dangling precipitously above his head. The phrase on the outside border reads, “Newton… A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.”

“The multi-colored Apple logo was in use for 22 years before it was axed by Steve Jobs less than a year after his return to Apple in 1997. In its place was a new logo that did away with the colorful stripes and replaced it with a more modern monochromatic look that has taken on a variety of sizes and colors over the past few years. The overall shape of the logo, however, remains unchanged from its original inception 33 years ago.”

The plain monochrome logo was sophisticated and looked more classy than trendy on the laptops and I-pads. The new logo stuck and has been in use since 1998.

I use two of my most popular paintings as logos. Other artists have unusual signatures that are designs unto themselves which they use to sign their paintings. 

Recognition is a slow upward climb. Staying power, clout, and cachet are built over time and must be earned. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Before you move forward, you sometimes must look backward

"Innset Kirke, Norway" 11 x 14 Oil on Canvas SOLD (Prints available)
History is our infrastructure. It provides the foundation that steadies and grounds us. Where we come from gives us added information about our physical characteristics, about our likes and dislikes; our weaknesses and strengths.

My family has a history of musical talent. Two of my grandfathers were violinists and composers. An uncle and his family were musicians and played musical instruments and sang for the community.

This musical talent skipped over my generation. My children, on the other hand, are not only gifted in this area they are music teachers, and their children are excelling in music and the arts.

"Skudeneshavn, Harbor, Norway" 16 x 20 oil on canvas SOLD (Prints available)
My father was artistic at heart. In his limited spare time, he drew portraits of people and animals. He loved to doodle. Unfortunately, earning a living for his family kept him away from home and from drawing most of the time. I think my love for drawing and painting came from him.

My husband’s family came from Norway. His great grandfather carved a beautiful family emblem that has passed from one generation to the next. Another grandfather was a lighthouse keeper who loved the ocean and the beautiful Fjords of Norway.

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse" Skudeneshavn, Norway, 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
I painted some of these scenes for members of the family and have sold prints, cards and originals to other Norwegians around the country. I’ve heard many artists complain that they don’t know where to get ideas. Have you ever thought about looking backward? Find out where your ancestors came from. What were their customs? Where did they live? There may be ideas just waiting for you to find them.

Sometimes the simple, unexplored objects that surround us become beautiful paintings simply because the right artist saw something unique and shared his or her vision on canvas. Examining the detail, emphasizing the way sunlight glistens from an object or the way it casts a shadow may be enough to inspire a work of art.

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse" (close-up) Skudeneshavn, Norway 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
There is a walnut tree not far from us. After a recent rain storm, one of the encased nuts had dropped to the ground and shattered, but the nut was still intact held within the other half of its covering and still attached to the original twig. Its maple color and layer of skins was a work of art. I carried it home, and today it nestles in a basket of finds on my dining room table.

There is beauty all around. Look behind at what links you to the past. Look ahead at what draws you to the future. Celebrate!

"The Neptunes -- Golden Girls" 11 x 14 acrylic on canvas (3rd in The Neptunes Series)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dark Secrets about Black, the Color Artists Fear

(black background on this oil painting) "Sandhill Crane" 
A myriad of artists on LinkedIn argued over, under and around the use of the color black. Most were taught not to use black at all, but to mix their own shades from other colors.
Renoir called black “the queen of all colors.” Black is loved. It is feared. Most artists prefer mixing their own black rather than using it straight from the tube. Color combinations such as yellow and purple or other premixed combinations and Payne's gray are more subtle. 
According to one of my favorite artists, Robert Genn, “black works as a darkener because it’s near chromal neutrality does not sully the color it grays. While scorned on a few snooty palettes, black is the loyal friend that helps make other colors look more brilliant than they are. Wise artists do not say derogatory things about black.”

(black background) "Sunshine" oil on canvas
Here’s the real scoop (according to Genn):
1.       "Lamp black is a pure carbon pigment made by burning oils and collecting the soot from flues. It's one of the oldest manufactured pigments.

2.      Ivory black, originally made from burning real ivory, is now a bone byproduct of the slaughterhouse.

3.      Mars black is an iron-oxide product that in many ways is more stable than the other blacks. It does not effloresce, maintains total integrity in oil and water-based media and, to my knowledge, is the only paint that's magnetic."

(I used Payne's gray and a light purple in the highlights) "With These Hands--Love" 24 x 18 mixed media
Genn continues: “Give black a chance. A challenge is to work with only black and white for a day. After a week one begins to feel the brilliance of black. As seasoned artists have found out, if it works in black and white, it works.

“Try the method of grisaille--a monochrome painting executed in shades of gray. Used as an under-painting, grisaille was first popularized by the Northern Renaissance artists. These days, using bright white grounds and a range of grays, full value can be had by glazing with acrylics or other media. In painting, black is mother of learning.”

I did my own grisaille mini-paintings in a class on portraiture. I was amazed with the results at how life-like the models and forms appeared. It’s a great way to learn about value and shading.

(I had more difficulty with this one in the class. You can see it's not as fresh and loose as the first one)
“Timid souls use Payne’s Gray” Genn wrote. I gulped as I read this since Payne’s is my color of choice. 

Well, this timid artist is going to “break out.” I’m going to test the waters and use more black. If Genn is right, Mars black seems like the better choice.

"India Rising -- the Lost"  24 x 18 mixed media on canvas (I used Ivory black and Payne's gray)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Catchy Tunes and Titles become the Springboard for Ideas

Father and daughter welcome new baby
Artists, Small business owners and entrepreneurs are getting hoarse trying to hawk their wares in an overcrowded marketplace. As they vie for attention, their petulance is showing up in ads, and in their names.
“Angry Orchard” is a new brand of apple juice “with a bite!” If that isn’t feisty and in your face, I don’t know what is? Let’s hope their bark is as good as their bite.
“Wild Dolphin” is a start up company that is capitalizing on the sugar and citrus products grown nearby to make rum. It’s a perfect fit. Tours and samples lure customers to taste and see if this isn’t the best rum made anywhere!
"Does this hat make me look fat?" 11 x 14 pencil drawing
“The Purple Dragon” capitalizes on Mahjongg lovers in the area who want to make new friends and play the game they love. Of course, Chinese Dragon’s, especially purple ones, create a fun environment where winning is not only based on skill, but the luck of the draw.
Names do make a difference. The title of a book certainly attracts attention. And yet fine artists seem reticent to name their paintings preferring that the viewer draw their own conclusions. The thinking is that the artist doesn’t want to influence a viewer’s perception or imagination. Whether this is a good practice or not is still being debated on social media.
Personally, I enjoy knowing what an artist has used as a title. I try to envision what he or she had in mind when they created the piece. Sometimes I see their vision and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t stop me from looking and wondering.
"I Stand on the Brink" 8 x 10 pencil drawing
I also enjoy letting my own fantasy run wild through the forms, shapes, and colors on a canvas. If done well, the painting will lead me through a labyrinth of contrast and values that are interesting and exciting. In my opinion, a title just gives the viewer a nudge and a head start.
Search engines find your blog titles much easier if they have some length and substance to them. Understanding “catch words” and trends can help bolster your topics. Words in headings that have fire, sex, red, wild, or sizzle seem to attract readers. Hit songs with fire in their title have become instant hits. However, overuse of any hot word or phrase becomes old and tired in a twinkling on the web.
It’s fun to create catchy titles. Sometimes the titles I create actually give me an idea for a future painting or a themed series. In your spare time write down those catchy titles and save them. See if they don’t become a springboard for creation.
"Guess Whoooo?" 8 x 10 pencil drawing

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Faith, Family, Community and Work – Nothing Else Matters!

Cute enough to paint -- Amelia the Cook! (my granddaughter)
Have you ever tried to plug up a leak? No matter how hard you try, if there’s a weakness, the water (or air) will find a way to escape. My bicycle tire had a minute leak so small we couldn’t find it; but sure enough, by the time we were half-way to our next destination, the tire was flat. Slowly but surely, the air, under pressure as the tire revolved, pushed out from a tiny hole.
Like air, Water finds the place of least resistance and flows where gravity pulls it. Under enormous and unending pressure, a dam requires constant monitoring to ensure that it holds back millions of tons of water weight. A leak can weaken it to the point of destruction.
Liken the water and air pressure to Passion. If you have it, you can’t stop it! The same principle applies to all living things. A seedling fights to obtain sunlight. It will bend and twist and elongate in order to find its energy source, its power. In the same measure, if you have the passion to excel in your field of endeavor, nothing but your own negative thinking can stop you.
Proud as a Peacock!
A Winter Olympian was asked by a Reporter about competition and how her team handled stress? When problems arise, how do you respond?
Her answer: “We’ve done it before. We know how to do it. We try to stay focused and that kind of takes the pressure off.”
Creative people need to adopt this same kind of fearlessness. When failure or negative thinking wedges itself into your normal routine remember that “you’ve done it before. You can do it again and stay focused!
An Earned Taste!
If you’re passion doesn’t drive you and it isn’t as powerful as your need for water or air, get inspired. Find time to think and dream. Restore your imagination and creativity by feeding your empty vessel. Fill yourself so full that eventually you’ll “spring a leak” if you don’t sing, write, paint or work.
"Dainty Diva" a 20 x 24 oil on acrylic under painting of Amelia a few years ago.
I recommend a YouTube video called “The Secret to Happiness” presented by Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute. Happiness is all about building your life not your career. “Don’t spend your time obsessing about the ‘great big splash’” Brooks recommends. “People who are happy in their work feel they are creating something of value and serving others.”
Get inspired. Watch this short film:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Addictions that Drive us -- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

"Lucky Lady" 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame 
We hear a lot about addiction these days. Marijuana is being legalized in many states. Drugs are now consumed by more young people including children, much to their detriment. Despicable people are lacing those drugs with exceedingly harmful substitutes in order to make more money; the most recent a varnish derivative that rots you from the inside out.
Because of that, the word addiction conjures up thoughts of poison, destruction, and a world swirling out of control. Under the right circumstances, food can become an addiction. Obesity destroys health and sometimes relationships. Self-indulgence, sexual addictions and any number of habits that become all consuming may lead to disease, crime, and lack of self-control.
"And all that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame
But not all addictions are bad. Forming good habits protects us from the bad ones. Habitual routines that keep us on track can protect us from destructive diversions. Goals, structure, and a plan can help us overcome bad influences that keep us from fulfilling our dreams.
Choice plays a vital role. With the goal of learning, we can add educational experiences that keep us involved and interested in life and living. Instead of watching porn which sucks us down into a dark hole, we can select films that highlight our highest aspirations with heroes and heroines we want to emulate.
"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box frame
Life spirals downward when we indulge in self-pity and self-gratification. The only way to yank ourselves from this trap is to turn our attention outward, away from ourselves. Not only do we end up helping others, but we help ourselves.
For fine artists the adage to “paint every day” occupies thought and action. But once you get in a “bad patch” it’s hard to be creative. Going it alone as many creative’s do only exacerbates the problem. Reaching out for help or reaching up to a power source greater than your own is the only answer. 
Once you get past the demons, you can start over. Plan your days and set your goals. Be determined. Don’t let anything, especially your own pity party get in the way of your dreams. Even if you don’t become “King of the Hill,” you’ll at least derive great satisfaction from doing what you love.
Retro paintings afeatured are available in prints or framed originals
"Yes, Sir, that's my Baby!" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box frame