Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Cup of Tea – the Perfect Fix for What Ails You

From an early age, I learned that tea was meant for wellness. We drank herbal teas to soothe the stomach, calm the nerves, or to give us energy. If there was an ailment, my mother would find a remedy via tea.

While still in bed following a bout with flu, she’d bring me tea and toast. After barfing in the toilet or a bedside bucket, it was heavenly!  The buttery homemade toast tasted scrumptious dunked in tea. She tried to slow me down as I gulped and chewed, but I felt on the brink of starvation. 

I wanted more, but she made me wait to see if I could hold it down. While I rested, my imagination exploded with pictures of my favorite foods, things a sick stomach would never tolerate like watermelon, summer corn, hot dogs, peaches and ice cream. When my tea finally came for  the second time, I knew I was "all better."

Mom not only loved tea, she loved the cups. She collected fragile china cups with floral designs and classic patterns. She displayed them in a glassed cupboard so that everyone could see them. When friends or relatives came to visit, she’d pull out the fancy cups and fill them to the brim with their favorite tea. If she knew ahead that they were coming, her baking would greet them with aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I have always enjoyed watching the BBC on PBS. Tea is a staple in British comedies and reminds me of home. It’s a cure all for the ills that plague mankind and the answer to almost every problem.

At Christmas time our celebration would not be complete without reading: “A Cup of Christmas Tea” by Tom Hegg and illustrated by Warren Hanson. The story is about a man who drags his feet about seeing an old aunt during the holidays. She recently had a stroke and walks with a crutch. He dreads seeing her in this predicament. After reluctantly paying her a visit, it is he that is repaid with her gift of love and a “Cup of Christmas Tea.”

Everything seems right as rain over a good cup of tea. Its calming warmth cheers the heart and heals the mind. Even the tea bags can soothe swollen eyes after a good cry or shrink puffy eyes after a raucous night out. Moreover, people can paint with this stuff. Beautiful portraits and scenes come alive when painted with various strengths of tea. The result looks much like watercolor.

I once wrote a blog about painting with coffee which is essentially the same process. Most people use instant coffee because it is cheaper. The secret is to pour boiling water over the coffee to make various color strengths. The same holds true for tea. By pouring boiling water in several cups with tea bags you can create color tones depending on how much water you use to dilute the color.

I swore I’d try it, but I still haven’t gotten ‘round to it. I hope this inspires some of you to give it a try!

Painting with Tea

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Toe-Tapping through Life -- Keeping Time with the Music

The Poinciana trees are in bloom. The "Snowbirds" and tourists miss these beauties.
There is a rhythm to life. It starts in the womb with the beating of two hearts: the mother’s and the infant's. The cadence continues even when the two separate. The constant heartbeat within provides a backdrop for the rest of life.

Some people are out of sync with this life drum. They don’t connect easily with other people. Their thoughts are sometimes scattered. Their internal clock and brain are always at odds with each other. Their relationships are few. They sometimes drive as if they were the only ones on the road. In much the same way, they crash and bump through life until someone or something stops them.

I’ve met people like this. My heart goes out to their aloofness as they try to fit into a society that hears a different drummer and walks to the tune of conformity. They walk a narrow line. Some grow into genius-hood. Others into insanity crashing down the walls that separate them from others as if to say: “Here I am. Look at me! See who I am.”  If they can’t win the game of life by ordinary means, they will do it in some other way.

(Those green buds will bring more red flowers. Exquisite!  Notice their fine, fern like leaves)
In the past few weeks, televised news has shown some of these “misfits” involved in killings and shootings. So many people are hurt by the few who simply don’t fit in. Within their confused minds they experience confusion, emptiness and pain. They go through life unnoticed by most of us until it is too late.

Why am I writing about this subject in an artist’s blog: because gifted people sometimes feel alone and apart. If they or their work are not getting noticed, they feel unneeded and unwanted. Failure is a word to be feared instead of a stepping stone for growth.

"Mother's Day Gift Roses" to brighten my life. (more below)
We all must fail. It is an inevitable part of life. But if we take that failure and examine it, turn it over, digest it and try to discover the hows and why’s we may gain some clarity. Avoiding mistakes the second time is easier with hindsight illuminating our choices.

There is no shame in failure, unless its cycle is repeated over and over again without changing attitudes or behavior. Life is a puzzle. Not all pieces fit the way we expect them to. Surprises and abnormalities are the “norm,” if there is such a thing as normal.

Don’t give up on yourself. Hang on with your fingernails, if you must. Grab a hold of someone else’s coattails if it keeps you going a little while longer. There is no shame in needing help. We all need a mentor, a friend, a counselor. Struggle makes us stronger even if it’s unpleasant. Hope gives us a reason. Faith keeps us anchored to something bigger than ourselves.

(The whole bouquet -- different light, different colors. forgive the bananas!)
It is only when we give up on these last three things: struggle, hope, and faith that our life begins to fray at the edges. Reach out before that happens! Reach out to help someone else. You may be their last best hope. They may be yours.
"Mother's Day Gift flowers -- Hydrangeas"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Foibles, Inhibitions or Plain Old Fear – The Show Must Go On!

"Para-sailing Roseate Spoonbill" watercolor drawing
I’ve been working this week, filling in for a friend who is on vacation. The next few weeks will be hectic, to say the least. But push forward I must! As a result, my paintings will not get done as soon as expected, but there are other ideas waiting in the wings.

I have only painted one rooster and love the magnificence of these fine creatures. Their color and regal splendor fascinate me. Each has a definite personality. You can see it in the glint of their eyes and in the way they proudly strut their stuff to an adoring throng of chicks.

"Star Billing" mixed media on wrapped canvas
A rooster is a male at its best. A "cock of the walk." Not only are they showy, they can sing in their own unique way as they wake us in song: “Here I am world!”

I plan to do some drawings called “Cockadoodles to Crow about” (If I don’t get plagiarized first). But instead of using ordinary color, I want to use the henna designs from India that I showed you a few blogs back to fill in their wings and tail feathers.

Ideas are the lifeblood of artists and writers. They come and go and we must nail them down before they get away. I’m consumed by ideas every moment of every day. I have difficulty answering questions or following a conversation, especially if I’m interrupted in thought (Just ask my husband!).

Egyptian lure, clothing, and sculpture intrigue me. I want to explore some paintings and drawings, but then my personal sensibilities slap my hand and say: “no, no, no!” Why is that? Why do we allow our inhibitions, our religion or our squeamishness to come between us and the inspirational vibes that sent them in the first place?

I’d be curious if any other artists or writers run into these same barriers; these self-induced walls of fear?

Since I love to draw people, I thought I’d like to do some “discreet” boudoir drawings or paintings; but again my prudish conscience holds me back. 

On the light side, I tell myself, that God created everything and it is all good and beautiful. Perhaps it depends on the way we handle the subject. We can make lewd artwork not only by what we draw or paint but how. The how is the overriding question.

How we compose or position the human body can make the difference in how it’s perceived. The model’s pose and facial expression can change the mood and influence people’s reaction. Is he/she smirking or flirting? Is the work seductive? Is the model a temptress or a shy virginal innocent? Suggestive angles may verge on the pornographic. These unlikely positions may titillate some people while offending others.

Each time a canvas or idea is conceived, we must grapple with our choices while fighting our inner demons or angels. The battle rages on until the canvas is confronted and the paint begins to run. After that we cannot stop ourselves. The show must go on!

"The Neptunes -- Golden Girls" acrylic on panel

Monday, May 19, 2014

Owlish Eyes make Smart Girls Look Chic

(I've been wearing glasses for about three years now. Before that, I wore contact lenses)
It wasn’t that long ago that people said “men never make passes at girl’s who wear glasses.” Pity the girl who believed that saying because her self-esteem was sure to plunge.

Now career women everywhere wear glasses whether they need them or not. Glasses give the impression that #1 (moi) is ready to be promoted! Wearing spectacles makes a girl look serious and hard working. Glasses are trendy and classy. Magnifiers like “Foster Grants” add a fashion flare; the more pairs the better.

In spite of the availability of laser surgery or lens implants, more people are wearing glasses than ever before. When I got my first pair as a child, I was mortified. I’d already been sitting in the front desk at school. Now what would they think when I walked in with a pair of these?

For awhile I got the usual “four-eyes” and “nerd” comments all of which I’d dreaded and expected; but hey, for once in my life I could see! 

I remember how clear the mountains looked. I could even see sagebrush! The clarity of my new world was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing.

Still I felt ugly and self conscious. To make matters worse, the boy I loved had fallen for a girl without glasses; one that was athletic and well coordinated. I felt clumsy and awkward. In those days, my feet grew faster than the rest of me. I was called skinny, and big foot -- now this?

During the summer I worked in the fields for money like all farm kids did in my community. After picking beans all morning in the hot sun, we gathered around for lunch in the cool shade of -- you guessed it, beans. One of the older boys threw me a smile and said “You have beautiful eyes.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “How can he see my eyes when I’m wearing glasses?” I wondered.
Instead of saying thank you, I ducked my head in embarrassment and wished I could swivel like a corkscrew through the earth. I still remember his compliment even today. Whenever I feel insecure or unworthy, I reel in his comment and savor it once again.

(My first ever portrait when my Dad was a younger man.)
Painting or drawing glasses is fun. It adds another dimension to a person’s personality. One of my very first portraits, a simple sketch of my father, shows him wearing glasses. Some artists prefer to show the person without glasses. But if that’s how most people are used to seeing that individual, you’d better know how to draw glasses realistically.

The following YouTube video is the best I’ve seen for how this should be done. It’s also in one of my favorite mediums: pastel. Expertly drawn by “Agnes” this short video is a treat to watch. When it’s over try adding glasses to your next portrait; go on, give it a shot!  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is that Tired Feeling really Boredom?

(work-in-progress "Tickles from God" a rainy day painting)
There are times in our lives when we feel drained, empty, and fatigued like we have nothing else to give. Instead of slacking off, what we may need is a new project. Once we’re slapping on the paint, everything else seems small and insignificant.

Do what you love, take time for yourself, and your engines start running again; full speed ahead. Just when you think you’re tired and overworked, you may actually be bored and need to shake things up a bit. That’s what my latest work-in-progress did for me. I was having trouble finishing my rain painting: “Tickles from God,” and I needed something more difficult and exciting.

I enjoy painting close ups, not only of people, but of nature. Flowers, fruit, leaves, birds and animals call out to my wild side and put me in touch with the earth. Like an itch that needs to be scratched, I long to walk barefoot again without wincing in pain. I want to dig a hole in my garden and bury a new plant that will add a bright touch of color in an obscure spot.

"Lady in Waiting" 14 x 11 oil on canvas (SOLD)
Prints available

I want to get my hands dirty. I want to feel the warmth of the soil under my fingernails. Of course, since I moved to Florida I’m a tad squeamish about the lizards, snakes and spiders. Having almost died from the bite of an eight legged brown recluse, I now wear garden gloves and the sensations are muted. Still the experience provides me with an impetus to get back to nature and painting.

My latest work-in-progress titled: “Namesake” came to me in a moment of reverie thinking about the beautiful lilies in Minnesota. Tiger lilies have always been my favorite perennial, and the thought of combining the flowers with a tiger was irresistible.
(work-in-progress: "Namesake" will add tiger lilies)

Other ideas churning around in my head have to do with the wonderful henna paintings Indian women do on their bodies before marriage. These intricate drawings are not permanent, but they adorn the wearer with Lacy motifs that exaggerate the beauty of a woman’s body and the fragile lace of the wedding dress. 

Artists are using these same techniques to embellish images with colorful designs that add an abstract quality to the finished piece. Female cancer patients are adorning their shaven heads with these patterns which just goes to show you that "bald can be beautiful!"

I hope you enjoy these videos:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Are you a Busy Worker Bee, a Drone, or a High Flier?

"The Dance" 9 x 12 pastel drawing
I hadn’t heard the word kerfuffle in years; so when it tumbled from an attractive newscaster’s lips, I chuckled. People of “little import” cause kerfuffles. They try to make a big stink out of nothing, but end up looking foolish themselves.

These kerfuffler's stir people up whenever and wherever they can, but their arguments fall flat for lack of evidence or interest. Afterward they slink away only to come back again and again to stir the waters of confusion and uncertainty. Their efforts never amount to anything more than the proverbial hill of beans, but the resultant anxiety they cause to the target or victim may last long after anybody else remembers.

These trouble makers reside in almost every profession or walk of life. Their voices are usually louder than the rest and their complaints often influence the uninformed or the angry. Instead of contributing positive solutions and inspiring cooperation, they try to divide and conquer. Their agenda is usually selfish and their goal is power and destruction. Sometimes they win and sometimes not.
"Serena Shines" 9 x 12 pastel drawing
I’m generalizing, of course. Most of us have probably caused a kerfuffle or two in our lives. Seldom are things black and white. But there is something to be said for those who do all the work and hold onto their views in spite of the haranguing of others. They plod along faithfully and patiently, and provide input only when their asked or to smooth ruffled feathers. They add consistency and strength to any group or team.

High fliers bring talent and skill to the table, but they can’t be bothered with details. They are long-range planners with a wide overview. Their contributions bring direction and purpose. But as soon as you ask them to roll up their sleeves and help, they are off on another tangent, planning the next big event. Their calendar is always full.

"A Young Ronald Reagan" 9 x 12 pastel drawing
The point is, it takes all kinds of people to run a business, manage a corporation, or provide leadership in our communities and in our world. We can either be the workers who help move things along or we can try to hinder the progress of others. We can be the drones who eat off the fat of the land (or the hive), or we can use our talent and skill to form alliances and shape ideas.

Some people are motivators. They challenge and inspire others to share their gifts and join in the cause. This person is the key to making any combined effort or project enjoyable and worthwhile.

Cooperation ensures a positive outcome. If you have a leader who can motivate others to action, productivity is higher, job satisfaction is increased and success becomes a reality.

"Maestro" 9 x 12 pastel drawing

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

That’s my Story and I’m Sticking to It!

"Skudeneshavn Norway" Commissioned painting SOLD, Prints available. Sold Print in May.
I have a long list of paintings I want to create. Whenever I get an idea, I quickly jot it down. Some of these gems blossom and some wait in the wings; never to become more than a fleeting wisp of ethereal brain matter.

Many good ideas are beaten down with the big stick of apprehension or common sense. Do I really want to do anything so risque? Would anybody buy such a painting if I did create it? These are the kinds of nagging fears and inhibitions we are told to avoid. They are the pitfalls that drag us into the dark abyss of self-doubt. They make us question our ideas, our inspiration and skill even before we get our ideas off the ground.

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse; Skudenshavn Norway" 20 x 16 acrylic on canvas (Sold Print in May)
We are our own worst enemy. We sabotage ourselves at every turn. First we’re too young and inexperienced; and then when we gain knowledge and skill, we chastise ourselves for not being “at the top of our game.” We ruthlessly compare ourselves to others. We’re not smart enough, good enough, or skilled enough. Someone else is always better.

Finally if and when we reach some semblance of success, we wax melancholy, worrying that perhaps we’ve already reached our mediocre pinnacle. We fear that our encroaching age may make us obsolete or irrelevant.

We humans are so predictable. We want to be this unique and special gift to humanity, but we give up before we’ve even gotten our big toe wet in the gene pool of competition and exposure. We not only fear failure, we fear success.
"Egret Reflections" 8 x 10 oil on canvas SOLD; Prints available
When was the last time you truly believed in yourself and in your ability to not only complete a project, but to fill that empty hole inside where your unfulfilled dreams reside? What is trust but an innate belief in one’s worth?

Does the seed question that it will eventually germinate, blossom, and reproduce? No. It simply does what it was born to do: grow, develop and bloom. The same things we were created to do. We were born to grow, develop and bloom. But rather than nurturing our hopes and dreams, we smother them with insecurities.

The seed sprouts because it is created to grow upward, forever searching for the light. Our fears are born in darkness and by constantly looking inward to measure whether we’re happy or not. Instead of reaching up to our source of strength and inspiration, we become self focused.

Dreams must be outward focused. We reach out and up trusting that we are capable of better things because we are “gloriously and wondrously made.”

An intense desire to share our vision of life with others can pull us out of ourselves and stop the unfruitful tail spin of self-defeat. When you love your craft and trust in your own inner passions, the thrust will automatically bring you fulfillment and completion.
(Solo show at our club house -- shorter hair!)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Those Inevitable Signs of Aging: Cellulite, Age Spots, and Wrinkles!

"Emma" a drawing I did for her 93rd birthday
The ugly truth is out! Unless you have a bank account like Jane Fonda or Cher, eventually you’re going to fade, rumple and sag. The time will come when you can’t hide your age behind a Mu Mu or a Caftan. Bye and bye gravity takes its toll.

The idea for this article came to me while I was ironing. It’s a chore I hate and one I do as little of as possible; but, hey, the fashions of spring and summer seem to require a good press in spite of the “no fuss” labels.

If there's any compensation for pressing out those wrinkles, it has to be the upper arm exercise required to push my outdated steel steam iron across my tottering ironing board. They’re both almost as old as I am.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel drawing
When elephants get wrinkled and leathery it’s quite fashionable. Their tough skinned outer wrapping protects them from assault and predators. Unlike human beings, the oldest elephants in the herd are given respect and power. They’re not ignored or put out to pasture just because their old.

Older people are difficult to draw or paint. Some artists use lines for wrinkles which makes them harsher and more unattractive than they need to be. Shading will produce a more subtle result. By highlighting the highest skin areas on either side of the shading, you get a softer wrinkle.

"Pansy's Pride" 9 x 12 pastel drawing
My husband and I recently had our photograph taken. The photographer asked us if we’d like a “touch up.”

“How much?” I asked him.

“$60,” he quipped; “but it will remove spots, wrinkles, and even the sag under your chin.

Humph, I thought to myself. The proofs looked pretty good to me. 

“I want my children and grandchildren to recognize me,” I said as I added a disgusted “No, thanks!”

Why are we so afraid of aging? Why do we treat our seniors and middle-aged population as if they were no longer worthy? No longer capable of holding a job?  

We should equate aging with wisdom. Knowledge and experience are nothing to sneeze at.

I’m saddened by our youth obsessed culture. The young and the beautiful seem to live from one high to the next either drug induced or through exaggerated self adulation. The newspapers record their escapades and their fall as if none of it really matters, but it does.

We only have one life to live. I for one am trying to make the most of it – wrinkles, sags and all!

(My sweetie and I "warts and all!)