Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out -- This one's for me!

"Through her Eyes" 9 x 12 quick sketch of live model
I used to think my ex mother-in-law was an old fuddyduddy. She was a rock hound, of all things, who spent precious time polishing stones. She also made fragile sand paintings inside of bottles that disappeared in a heartbeat if one of them got pushed over. She spent hours in her garden. Her house was an absolute dust bowl!

On a positive note, her grandchildren adored her and gathered around in joyful anticipation when she started one of her “projects.”

I thought of her the other day as I gathered still more poinciana seed pods to add to my collection. “Have I reached that predictable time of life,” I wondered, “when simple things seem much more precious than the purchased junk we usually settle on to clutter our lives?”

Out of guilt, I did try to neaten up my seed collection; more for those who would look askance at my seldom used dining room table which is now covered with beautiful “finds” from the fields and walkways where I exercise.

"Mother and Child" 8 x 10 print
My ex mother-in-law had it right. She would rather spend her days in the garden and out in nature than cleaning a house that grows dusty each day and needs to be cleaned again and again to keep it pristine. She was part of a culture that believed frivolity and self-indulgence were sinful. Artistic endeavors were frowned upon.

In her day, she may have been a frustrated closet artist. Her stone jewelry and sand paintings were cherished by many. She emptied her heart into each piece and used her fingers to create things from nature that others may have considered useful and practical. 

There was no guilt in leaving her cleaning behind to work in the garden, to cull the weeds that needed tending to or the people at church or in her family who needed her. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” she’d been taught and so hers were busy all the day long.

I feel closer to her today than I did back then when she scrutinized my habits and frowned upon those times of relaxation as if they were sinful. Today, at long last, I understand her. I feel a kinship with her yearnings; probably many of them unfulfilled. She would never have admitted it, but she was an artist in her heart of hearts.
"Siesta" drawing with digital color
The wasted moments of our lives do go by in a heartbeat. Soon we all grow old and in the looking back we wonder what we’ve missed? In hind sight, the tender moments spent with a child are far more precious than the accolades of others that are fleeting and fickle. The ticktock of the clock sounds louder with age, and we wish we could squeeze every drop of laughter and sunshine into that place within that holds them dear.

Now I watch the dust settle and rise on the furniture and the baseboards while I capture some fleeting thought that may burgeon into a masterpiece that only I can see. I listen to the critics and hold my tongue. Imperfect, they imply, but before me I see yesterdays trail of tears melting onto canvas or paper in a colorful crescendo of joy.

Eat your heart out, I think quietly; this one’s for me!
"Release -- my Trail of Tears" 24 x 30 canvas (side panels available)
Below is the most amazing works of art you’ll ever see. It seems like a secret the artist wishes to reveal to you piece by piece.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

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

"Para Sailing Spoonbill"
Ideas are fragile. They come and go. If you don’t lock them down, they can disappear forever.
I used to keep a small notebook in my car for jotting down ideas driving to and from work. The only problem was, I could only write while I was sitting at a stoplight. So I thought I’d get a recorder and verbalize my thoughts, but I’m not a verbal person. I have to digest ideas and chew on them before I write them down in order to give them expression.

Fleeting thoughts are sometimes incoherent, nonsensical gibberish, but the gems within may grow and multiply whereas the losers fester for awhile and then dead-end into Never Never Land.

"Flamenco Flamingo"
When I lived alone, I burned candles in the bath, in my bedroom, and anywhere else I needed a glimmer of hope and light. Even with dinner, I’d fix myself something special and light a candle to make the dining experience last. Then one day, I became dangerous. I struck a match in the bathroom and the tip of it broke off landing on my nightgown. The flames were frightening. Luckily the sink was near enough to douse myself with water and put the flames out.

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

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

Poster created from the book: "Inez Ibis Flies Again"
That experience has come back to haunt me again and again. How powerful and unpredictable that tiny light became once it was ignited. Ideas are like that. They shine but for a moment and then like gossamer wings they fly away unless we kindle the flames that brought them in the first place.

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

Nature also inspires me. I have a vivid imagination and always think I see something different in my ordinary surroundings: an ugly face created by the stub of a limb or the bark of a tree, a small bush that looks like a huge spider; I’m weird, I know.

(The following illustrations are also from the book: "Inez Ibis Flies Again")
Artists do see things differently. We see shapes and color and because of this, the ordinary turns into the grotesque, the scary, or the fantastic in a blink.

Some of my ideas are so clear I can see them come to life in my mind. Others are mere hints or suggestions that require coaxing and fuel to keep them going. Like the end of a lighted match, I never know where my ideas will end up.

The cartoon illustrations in this blog came from seeing the humor in the way certain creatures move or behave. (Note, this is a repeat of a blog in 2010.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Developing Sheen and Luminescence; the Illusive Art of Mixing Color

"Fuchsia Fantastic" acrylic on 18 x 14 canvas
My latest project above, is finished. I do wish I could have achieved a better “hot pink.” There are so many variations of red, and when you add a touch of dark blue and a small dab of white sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes not. I wanted the painting to be seen as a whole and not have a bright color jump out and grab you, so maybe the compromise I made works best. I’ll let you be the judge.

"work in progress" hot pink!
One of the most complex colors to paint is white. If you’ve ever spent time in a paint store trying to select a white hue for your walls, you know what I mean. We currently have an off white color on our walls. I chose a sample square of “Marshmallow White” to make some touch ups. Ooooops! My color choice showed up grayer and darker on the wall.

I have another sample of “Antique White” which I’ll try next. I’m hoping this will be a match. There is a slight undertone of gold in the mix rather than gray.

Trying to paint white on a canvas is quite another matter. White isn’t just white. White reflects the colors you have in your painting and may essentially mirror every color in the rainbow. White is neither a primary color, nor a secondary or tertiary color. It is considered an achromatic color “of maximum lightness,” according to Ora Sorenson in her article “A Rainbow of White” in “the Artist’s magazine,” Jan./Feb. 2009.

“White is not the absence of color but a combination of all colors in the visible spectrum in equal proportions,” said Sorenson.

(Notice how the white costumes reflect every color in the painting and seem to glow from within)
When painting an all white composition, each element of white must differentiate itself from the one next to it in order for it to reveal its shape and appearance. Using a distinct set of complimentary colors in the shadows and contours of each object such as red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange, not only separates forms, but adds a luminous quality to the finished piece.

Another method of adding distinctness is through glazing. Once the painting is dry, adding a simple glaze of color over each object can add a glow and a hint of color. Contrasts and highlights can also add depth and interest to an all white painting.

(Notice how the white feathers reflect the water and lily pads)
Using too much white in the mixing of color can sometimes be overkill. Colors may look pasty and lifeless. But if white is the main color in your composition, play it up big and make it take on a life of its own as it shimmers and reflects from within all of the colors it actually contains.

Don’t be afraid of white. Use it sparingly in mixing colors, but turn it into something splendid when you use it as one of the main players.
(The whites in this paiinting reflect the colors that surround each object)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Creating the Perfect Composition; it’s all about Focus

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas
In art circles, creating a center of interest, relies on “the big three:” dominance, contrast and repetition. Not surprisingly, viewers will look at a painting in the same way they read a book from left to right. It’s ingrained in our schooling and in the way we were taught. The walls of caves were painted from the left, and printed pages throughout history were printed using this innate formula.

It’s only natural then that people will start their perusal of a painting from the left. The best designs not only have a lead in on the left but from several different vantage points. The secret to a successful composition is moving from one point of entry into the painting and around the entire scene. An interesting painting keeps the eye continually moving. If the eye stops at all, it should be on the “center of interest” or the focus of the entire piece. Movement creates energy and excitement.

"Hey, Coconut Mon" mixed media on canvas (the boy is off-center and many of the background parts are blurred)
Contrast and a few well-chosen highlights will emphasize this focal point and continually draw the viewer’s eye back for the impact it makes and the enjoyment it creates. A strong focal point leaves a lasting impression that may influence the reputation and popularity of the artist perhaps even impacting sales.

In an artist’s attempt to create a dramatic center, there are also dangers. If the composition or design components lead the eye automatically to the center we end up with a “bull’s eye” composition. Essentially the eye does not wander through the painting but is trapped in the middle. A Center-focused painting is boring. The eye is locked in and the painting becomes static and uninteresting.

(This painting could have been much better by removing the chest of drawers. The uneven height
and the interesting outline of the figure, buggy, and cat would have been more interesting.
As it is, the eye is locked into a clump in the middle)
You can avoid this death trap by placing your center of interest off-center. Make sure there are enough uneven edges and lines to create interest. Check out the negative space around your focal point. Are the shapes interesting? Are the lines and values leading the eye on an interesting journey to your central focus? By analyzing your composition early on, you can avoid some of the pitfalls.

Another simple device for creating memorable paintings is the principle of “balance.” Do all elements in your painting look the same? Do they all scream out for attention or do some of the parts fade into the background. Having parts of your painting downplayed is called “subordination,” another device for making the center of interest dominant. These contrasts in value and subordination add depth to an otherwise flat painting.

"With These Hands -- Hope" acrylic on canvas (Notice how the background figures are fuzzy
and faded? The focus is on the girl trying to make a basket and her challenger)
Creating out of focus elements may also increase the contrast between the center of interest and the less important parts of a composition. Photographers use this design concept by blurring an otherwise overpowering background so that the focus is clearly on the focal point.

"With these hands -- Love"  (This painting could be improved by adding more shadows, thus giving it depth)
I have made many mistakes over the years, learning the hard way the importance of these timeless truths. Once understood, setting up the perfect composition using these design elements becomes easier.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Artistic License – from the Poetic to the Absurd

"Easter Lily" photo of my own potted plant!
Authors and fine artists must take risks when it comes to making a statement. They can only harness their passions and intentions for so long and then they must either step over the line or die trying. Today we call it “cutting edge.” In the past it was viewed as a daring attempt at expose’ to flaunt the accepted norms of society.

I attended the movie “Noah” with these thoughts in mind: "How far is Hollywood willing to go to exert their artistic powers over the Word of God?”

In a normal collaboration, the author is consulted on all points where the Producer or Director differs on presentation. Did the collaborators consult with the author of the Holy Bible? Did they meet with leading Christian leaders about their decisions or ideas or check them against accuracy?

"Bird of Paradise Bloom" (an amazing flower)
Apparently, not! The story of Noah was tweaked in dozens of places. For those who may have thought the Book of Genesis was legend before will surely believe that it is now. The movie included a taste of Science Fiction, a change in all the characters and their roles, and a distortion of the actual plot. Unfortunately, the smattering of truth displayed was overshadowed by a bizarre rendition of the truth and a lack of faith and obedience by the stalwart figures like Noah as represented in Genesis 6 (KJV).

Mystically, the animals were all put to sleep by a magic potion Noah himself concocted and not by the power of God. In Hollywood’s mythical version, the characters did not have to feed the sleeping animals which made it easier for Hollywood moguls to grapple with logistics.

In actuality, Biblical verse 21 of chapter six states that Noah was commanded: “And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for you and for them (animals) Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”
"Fan Palm" in our neighborhood
Noah’s obedience to God doesn’t sound like a man who would willingly kill his own fictional newborn granddaughters as soon as they were born does it? In Hollywood’s twisted version of Noah, there was little food to eat anywhere, so how could they gather up any food?

Hollywood’s ark was also a strange affair and did not follow the constraints that Noah was given in Genesis 6:14-16 (KJV), neither alike were the number and sex of the only people saved on the ark. Fictional characters replaced Biblical ones, and instead of Noah releasing the raven and the dove at the appropriate time, it was his wife. Ham trudged off without a wife after they landed leaving behind his mother and father, a younger brother, and brother Japeth, his wife and two daughters.

I’m supposing that in order to preserve “political correctness,” females in the story were more vocal and performed many tasks usually performed by men of that day. Yes, I’m on a tirade; but how far is artistic license allowed to go?

"Sea Grape" Their deep roots are vital in protecting our coastline from erosion.
Will Noah’s Ark be a box office winner or a big loser? When we attended there were fewer than 10 people in the audience. When it was over there was no applause or standing ovation as in the most recent uplifting movies or Christian films.

Hollywood is trying to hang its hat on the countless successful Biblical and Christian productions in the last few years. Their own titles have been less well attended and the market for sleaze and violence is slipping. They are trying to mimic the formulae without the substance. The proof will be in the pudding.
(Copse of southern pine and small lake surrounded by dried up "alligator or flag grass")

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Success is a Lonely Walk we must take by Ourselves

"Siesta"  8 x 10 original drawing (reminds me of Key West!)
Being an artist is a lonely pursuit. Remembering what you know and putting it into practice requires self-motivation, skill and continued study. I’ve known artists who are professional students. They constantly take classes, but never quite get beyond the stage of exploration. They think that the next great class will surely make the difference between success and failure and in their ability to paint that perfect painting. Sadly, it never happens.

Only you can develop your brush strokes and style. You may learn value and color, you may understand another person’s technique and recommendations, but unless you continually practice your brush strokes and develop your own process for painting, you’ll be stuck.

"The Neptunes -- Octoband"
Plugging away and working while everyone else is at play is difficult. In order to climb, you must put in the time. It is by doing that we learn. We can read every book on the planet, and take all the classes available to us, but if we don’t put into practice what we have learned, our dreams of success remain in limbo.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers"
The biggest hurdle for most artists is finding time and space. Don’t wait until all your ducks are in a row. Don’t put off painting until you have the ideal space or allocated chunks of time. Delays are excuses. They keep us from making commitments.

Robert Genn’s twice-weekly newsletter is being done by his daughter, Sara, in his absence. Sara shared this gem a few days ago:

“Here's my version of English author and illustrator Neil Gaiman's Eight Rules for Writing. I've modified them for painters:

1. Paint.

2. Put your first stroke down and move on with another stroke. Work your strokes and let your strokes work you.
3. Stop the painting before you think you should.
4. Put your painting aside and start another painting.

5. Always keep in mind that you are your own best critic.

6. Perfection in painting is probably not possible. Excellence in painting is for people who appreciate the poetry of your soul.
7. Your style is what you're doing academically wrong. Radicalize yourself -- you only have one life to show you've got style.

8. You need to paint with enough assurance and confidence to know you can do whatever you like. So paint your story and make painting your life. Be honest with yourself about your progress. Always try to do a better job than you did the day before. I'm not sure there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”

And finally another quote from Gaiman’s book: "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes," says Gaiman, "Because if you're making mistakes... you're Doing Something."

That’s all we can really do, friends. We can keep on making mistakes, and sometimes we may get lucky. (Below: work in progress "Fuchsia Fantastic #1, #2)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Small Island Packs a Huge Wallop

(Our Ferry to Key West)
On Wednesday; I left my paint brushes and canvases behind to join my husband and our friends on a one-day trip to Key West. When we arrived at Fort Myers Beach it was still bright and early. Too late we discovered that others had beaten us to the punch. There were only a few seats left on the boat as we boarded.

After four long hours of bobbing and bouncing across the water, meeting new people and watching a movie, we arrived. We decided to take a train ride around the island to orient our sea legs and find out what the island had to offer. Big mistake! After our two-hour journey, we had only 3.5 hours left to eat and get back to the ship.

We enjoyed a magnificent lunch and friendly chatter only to discover we were running out of time. We didn’t make it back to tour Earnest Hemingway's home or the Harry S. Truman domain. We learned that an overnight stay is a must if you’re going to really experience Key West. We heard the night life is unbeatable!

We learned that the island has no water supply and depends almost entirely on rainfall which is captured in huge tanks. Because of the moisture, tin roofs are being replaced with stainless steel. Most of the island is very old and has a rich history. The newer areas are located on the boardwalk that frames the harbor where new restaurants are in abundance.

Key West was once a wild life preserve. The locals had their own livestock as well. Today Chickens and roosters are protected on Key West and run wild everywhere. I tried to snap a photo, but they are also very fast!

The island is much smaller than I anticipated. Most people rent mopeds or bicycles for getting to and from work or for sightseeing. If we do get back, we definitely would stay overnight. During “Season,” however, the average rate is $279 per night and up. We were told there were two cheaper hotels, but I’m sure they were booked solid.

The weather is always temperate. The restaurant we ate in had no air conditioning, but had ceiling fans which brought the exotic air in from the open windows and doors. The food was excellent. Prices are inexpensive to moderate during the day and somewhat higher at night.

There is a large artist population and gays have put their stamp on the community. One hotel boasted “all men,” while a restaurant/museum suggested that “clothes are optional.” They may have been making reference to the bathing suit and bikini clad patrons or they may have meant what they said. Since we had no time to explore, we never found out.

What I will always remember are the tropical plants, colorful flowers, and unusual trees. Above all else, the exquisite tropical blue waters have left their imprint on my artist’s heart and soul forever.

   Molly the Fun Dog gave me this award! Copy and give to your favorite bloggers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Innocence Lost -- a Long Ago Glimpse into the Past

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas, Prints available
I came from a small town where doors were left unlocked, people waved and chatted over fences, and children were allowed to roam the streets at will. In winter, I walked a few miles across town to ice skate, returning in the dark of night, never worrying about the shadows or the fruits of my overzealous imagination.

My innocence was shattered one evening at the movie theater. The woman who sat next to me called my attention to a stranger’s arm that dangled over the back of his seat.

“You’d better watch him,” she said in a hateful tone. “You never know what they’ll do.” She pulled her purse close to her, keeping it a safe distance from the stranger’s limp hand.

To this day, I don’t remember the movie. I was terrified the whole time, checking the foreigner’s hand, making sure he didn’t touch me. Had he done something to the woman, I wondered?  Was she upset because he was different; an Iranian student, a foreigner to our town?

"Blond Boy" 11 x 14 oil on canvas, prints available
It was dark when I left the theater. I usually skipped home, knowing my mother would have supper waiting. Attending a movie and walking home alone at night had never bothered me before; but that evening, everything changed.

I heard footsteps clicking behind me. When I turned, it was the man in the theater. Fear overtook me, the fear born of one woman’s hatred and my own insecurity. I walked as fast as I could. When I quickened my pace, he quickened his, or so it seemed.

I reached the safety of home several yards ahead of him. He took no notice, but continued his nightly walk, likely returning to his own apartment. But if he had gained on me, what then? Prejudice breeds fear.

So does the influx of strangers and the changing dynamics of a diverse and growing population. That year a baby sitter returning home from a job was murdered on her own front porch and time stopped. Our safe structured world was shattered.  People started locking doors. Parents were more cautious about letting their children go out at night. Our town changed. The whole world changed.

(Illustration of "Cooper" from "Madison Morgan,
when dog's blog")
The culprit was a young man, a troublemaker who had recently come to live with his aunt and uncle.  Bouncing from one home to another, he finally landed in a place that offered hope and love. He hadn’t meant to kill her. 

He only wanted to talk to her, perhaps kiss her, but her frightened screams wouldn’t stop. He covered her mouth a little too long, and then it was too late. He fled in fear. The town not only mourned the girl, but the sad young man who never had a chance.

Foreigners, who first drew suspicion, breathed a sigh of relief and went back to minding their own business. Others covered up their misplaced blame with excuses, and life was never the same.

Perhaps your home town was much like mine. Society has, indeed, changed. Now our children and grandchildren are no longer safe in their front yards. Walking to school is risky. Parents prefer driving their children to school rather than sending them on the bus. The roadways are crowded. The traffic outside the school grounds is backed up for blocks. The innocence of yesteryear is gone forever.

If you are interested in having a portrait done from a photograph, contact the artist for details and an estimate.

"First Daffodil" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas