Monday, June 30, 2014

Remodeling Blues have put a Crimp in my Plans

"Arabesque" oil on canvas
My husband and I decided that putting new cabinets in the kitchen and vanities/sinks in the bathroom was a must this year. The original woodwork was a slapdash effort by the builder 20 years ago to come in under budget and on deadline. We were not aware of this until my husband put storage cabinets in our garage and discovered that the inexpensive white laminates sold by Home Depot were the exact same ones as in our kitchen and bathrooms.

Our project was supposed to start one week ago, and we’re still waiting. Living out of suitcases and boxes is much like camping out. We’ve also been eating a lot of T.V. dinners and dining out. Finding space and time to paint has been difficult.

I appreciate the inspiration I continue to glean from all of you, and from the late Robert Genn and his daughter Sara who keeps up their traditional newsletter. These two quotes were my favorites:

"Where you struggle, there lies your treasure." (Joseph Campbell)

Think about this! The things you work the hardest for are usually worth more to you than the simple enjoyable pleasures that last only a short time. Trying to master a new skill, a new language, or working on a relationship that you recognize as important is worth the effort and the tears because the final product or result will be priceless!

Where does your treasure lie? What do you put the most time into? When you’re finished, will you be a stronger and better person than before? This is a good measuring stick or criteria from which to build. “Where you struggle, there lies your treasure.”

"Release -- my Trail of Tears" mixed media on canvas
I devoted one of my paintings to Campbell for this quote: “Art is the Set of Wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.” The painting: “Release – my Trail of Tears” was a real metamorphose of color and emotion for me. My son had given me "A Joseph Campbell Companion" several years ago, and the quotes are profound and stick in your mind.

Here’s another beauty: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." (Richard Bach)

When we fail, we see it as a disaster. Like the caterpillar, we may think our life, our career, our romance is over. But if we’re patient, if we’re willing to try again, we may discover something new and wonderful! A fragile butterfly may emerge from the ashes of our defeat and lift us into new spheres of possibility. 

I’ve had to face a lot of obstacles recently. My career has been in a slump and one crisis has replaced another in my efforts to gain a foothold. Life may slow me down, but I will not be deterred. How about you?
"The Perfect Ending" acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Develop the “Moleskine” Habit – an Endless Supply of Ideas!

"Namesake" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas
Why these flowers were ever called “Tiger” Lily in the first place I was unable to discover. Since they're covered with brown spots, why not Leopard Lily? I got so caught up in thinking about this I wanted to do a painting called “Namesake” and dedicate it to a ferocious tiger.

The stamens on the lily look somewhat like fangs and the tawny color of a tiger certainly blends nicely with the orange lily’s unusual curled back petals. The drawback was that the flowers are small when compared to a tiger or even a tiger’s head. With my head full of sparks and a passion to paint, I took brush in hand and had a blast with this flamboyant portrait.

This is how creation happens. We go from point A to point B which opens up a kaleidoscope of options and threads. My advice: never let a brain flash get away! Even the start of an idea deserves at least some space on paper to nail it down.

"Namesake work in progress" The first laydown of paint to canvas."
I’m a big fan of those delightfully small “Moleskine” books for jotting down inspiration or sketches.  I save every tiny binder! I review my notes from time to time to make sure there are no "big fish that got away." When one fresh idea is used, either in a blog or a painting, I draw a faint line diagonally through it and put “ok.”

Personal anecdotes also become a part of the history. I wrote this down when my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer: “Today is Dick’s CT scan. We watch people come and go. Some are pale and sick looking; I suspect the results of Chemo.

“Unexpectedly, a friend from church comes in and sits nearby. He’s having a scan before undergoing surgery on his nose. Skin cancer is a common problem in our sunshine state. It appears that almost everyone with a diagnosis of cancer undergoes a scan to be sure the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body.

“You can see the fear and concern written on people’s faces. Somehow you never think it’s going to happen to you or someone you love.

"Namesake work in progress -- placing the flowers"
“Dick doesn’t need me to be here with him nor at every appointment; but I know if I were in his shoes, I'd want him to be with me. It’s a question of support; a show of love and empathy. We will get through this together. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Thankfully, my husband’s cancer had not metastasized. After 45 radiation treatments and many follow up appointments, he has stayed cancer free for the past three years. The following notation in my Moleskine kept me on track: “Don’t worry about bad things that haven’t happened yet. It will save you a lot of anxiety.” This quote was taken from a novel I read called “The Shoemaker’s Wife.” 

Committing your ideas and meaningful quotes and information to paper is a lifelong habit that will provide a lifetime of inspiration. If you haven’t developed the habit yet, it’s never too late to start!
"Flash Dance" 16 x 20 oil on canvas

Saturday, June 21, 2014

That’s Quite a Mouthful for a Boa

"Release, Panel 1"
A wood stork went fishing in the pond behind my villa. She waded out only a few inches, her gangly legs stilt-like above the surface of the water.

Thinking her fishing expedition would require time and patience, I turned away; but a flash of white from the corner of my eye brought me back to the window. Sure enough, the wood stork flew in my direction across the water, over the golf course and into my backyard.

The fish in her bill was a large sunfish; a prize catch. She held onto the squirming fish, struggling to get it down. With each swallow, her throat expanded. I worried that she'd bitten off more than she could chew. Like a mother hen, I fretted that she would choke or worse yet, die from over consumption.

"Wood Stork Reverie"
I must admit, I can relate. My own eyes are sometimes bigger than my stomach, and I often dish up more than I can eat. Humans are not alone in this. Seagulls have been known to stuff themselves so full they must regurgitate. But when they’re done, they go back for seconds and thirds.

A Burmese python running loose in the Everglades tried to swallow an alligator. The python’s eyes were bigger than her stomach; and to make matters worse, the alligator was prickly going down. The bite, the python’s last, proved fatal. The snake's lusty appetite was too much of a good thing. She literally exploded before her feast was over. Forgive me if I'm glad.

Once an endangered species, alligators are battling for their lives again. The indirect cause is man. Burmese python's brought to Florida from Southeast Asia as pets are the alligator’s number one problem. What would you do with a pet that has grown from one foot to almost 20 in a just few short years? Not wanting to euthanize a favorite pet, owners are releasing them into the wild. Not a good idea!
"Release, Panel II"
What happens when a 15 to 20 foot snake is set free in a lush tropical climate? They find others of their kind and multiply. Hungry Burmese pythons are devouring the food that indigenous reptiles and animals need for survival. They are eating already endangered species like mangrove fox squirrels and the endearing wood storks. They are competing for food with other threatened species like the eastern indigo snake and, of course, the alligators. But isn't there enough food to share? Not by a long shot.

The pythons are foreigners to Florida; they have no natural predators. They literally breed and feed unhampered by any natural enemies. That is until the Florida Fish and Wildlife department stepped in and declared open season on their removal. Each year, a special hunt is held to rid the everglades of these unwanted snakes. Anaconda, another encroaching pest, is included in this special shoot out.

Hunters from all over the world, eager to use their snake hunting skills participate. Once the snakes are caught, they will be killed either by machete or shot gun. If this makes you squeamish, consider this: the U.S. population imported approximately 144,000 Burmese pythons over the last five years. The hunts kill represents only a drop in the bucket.

I'm cheering for the hunters on this one, and hoping that the Burmese python has taken its last bite out of Florida's fragile ecosystem.

"Hey, Coconut Mon" mixed media on canvas

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seeing is Believing; Quality and Professionalism Ring True

In the 60s, I saw with my own eyes the stunning perfection of the most famous sculpture of all time: The Piet

According to Wickipedia, “In 1964, The Pietà was lent by the Vatican to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair to be installed in the Vatican pavilion. People stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse from a conveyor moving past the sculpture. It was returned to the Vatican after the fair.

I was on that conveyor belt anticipating my first glimpse of the famous sculpture. The display had blue floodlights giving the white marble an aura of holiness. When it appeared, I was breathless and in awe of this magnificent work of art by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The memory has stayed in my mind as if it were yesterday. The statue's spiritual aura made indelible marks on my soul. Great art will do that!

“Made in 1498-1499, the Pietà is a world-famous work of Renaissance sculpture housed in St. Peter's BasilicaVatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome. The sculpture, in Carrere marble, was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.”

"Dainty Diva" mixed media on canvas (SOLD) prints available
When you see the grandeur of something up close and personal, your perspective is changed forever. I sat on a gymnasium floor with a crowd of hundreds listening to Louis Armstrong when he was in his prime. Trumpet in one hand, handkerchief in the other, he crooned for over an hour, took a break, and then crooned for another hour. We sat spellbound swaying to the music.
We came to dance, and we melted at his feet savoring each familiar, throaty phrase.

On that same floor, I whirled with my future husband to the “Big Band” sounds of Less Brown and his Band of Renown. For most of us, this was our first experience listening to a live orchestra of singers and performers. Our tiny college town was graced by many famous performers.

Margaret Whiting and Peggy Lee serenaded us within the walls of that same cultural center. It wasn’t so much the fame that surrounded these singers, but the quality of their performance that sent tingles up my arm. Here were voices of pure perfection, smooth as honey and always on pitch. Remarkable talent witnessed first-hand.

"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas
The exquisite thrill of hearing live music or watching performers on stage surpasses any recorded performance by far. When the Army/Navy Marching Band played a concert in our town I was very young, but I will never forget. Bouncing on my seat, listening to the trumpets, trombones and percussion instruments made me a believer. Truly, seeing is believing! 

I’d love to hear of your experiences witnessing a live performance or a famous work of art. Please share with us!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chasing Perfection – is it a Wild Goose Chase?

"With these Hands -- Love"  24 x 18 oil on canvas
We all want the perfect life, the best husband or wife, wonderful children, and a great job. If you’re a creative, you also want a bestselling novel, a T.V. series, or a show in a prestigious gallery. That perfect project is almost within reach, you can feel it in your bones, if only you can find the right combination of skill and good luck.

If you don’t believe this is true, take a look at recent sales of self help books. As people chase after their dreams and unrealistic expectations, these books continue to fly off the shelves. Their banquet of promises serves up redemption (of career and soul) with a helping of hope for the hopeless. Their combined themes provide a dose of inspiration and a jump-start of motivation. 

But there’s one thing these novella's leave out: the work involved in becoming “all that you can be” is up to you. You must do the work. You must practice every day. The grueling effort to succeed must be done by you. When you close the book, you are alone.

"With these Hands -- Hope" mixed media on 16 x 20 canvas
I gave up on perfection long ago when I discovered that it was impossible. We mere humans are simply too fallible. We’re programmed for failure, and we must accept this. Failure does not mean the end of anything. For some it is the beginning if we pick ourselves up and try again. Our success should not be dependent on what others think or say, but on what brings us joy and satisfaction.

Some people defy logic and become successful in spite of criticism or failure. Why? Because of their drive and their love for what they do. When they fall, they get back up. They face their demons and try again. Their tenacity may seem foolhardy to some, but it is what gets them up in the morning.

That perfect novel or perfect painting does not exist, anyway. In fact it is the slight errors, the overlaps, the imperfections that give artwork its “painterly” effects. Only beginners strive for perfection trying to make the lines perfect and straight. The seasoned artist is satisfied with illusion, energy and emotion. Once you give up trying to be perfect, that blend of relaxation and looseness takes over and guides your brush intuitively.

In the beginning we must learn the steps that lead to perfection and know the rules that govern our craft. After that, we must joyously create in order to express the passion within. If we are lucky (or blessed), our journey will include not only mistakes and possible failures, but moments of clarity that will make our efforts worthwhile. 
"With these Hands -- Wonder" mixed media on 18 x 24 canvas

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You ain’t seen nothing ‘til you’ve seen murrine

A glass dish using the murrine technique.

Glass Artwork has been around for centuries. But murrine is a 4000-year-old glass technique that dates back to the ancient Middle East. 

According to Visual News: “Using long rods of glass cane, intricate patterns can be built into a loaf like form, only revealing the hidden details when a slice is cut off. While you’ve probably seen the technique used in patterned glass work at your local art gallery, you’ve never seen the astounding level of detail achieved in these reinterpreted paintings from Loren Stump."

I was so impressed with his work; I decided to feature him in my blog. Amazing was my first reaction. When I finally saw the incredible detail in each piece, I could only say “Wow!” Stump’s work truly has that wow factor.

As a native of Sacramento, California, Loren Stump’s career began over 41 years ago as a stained glass artist. In 1993 Loren discovered his natural talents with glass in molten form. Self-taught, he quickly mastered advanced shaded murrine, intricate sculpture, and paperweight encasement. One innovative technique Loren is known for is the manipulation of a two dimensional murrine sliced into a three dimensional form.

Mr. Stump is also showcased for his large scale lamp work, sculptures made of soft glass, and masks. Loren’s progressive methods and expertise, along with the use of his own inventive tools, keep him in demand as a remarkable glass artist and instructor. Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Loren is known for sharing his wisdom openly as an entertaining, patient, and tireless instructor and demonstrator.

Loren’s incredible artwork has been displayed or is currently on display at the Corning Museum of Glass, The Ertz Israel Museum, and the Kyokei Fujita Glass Museum.

Link to view Loren Stump’s incredible glass artwork:

Another master glass blower Davide Salvadore can be seen at work here:

The Corning Glass Museum has a series of videos not only on murrine, but on glass blowing in general that are both interesting and educational. Here is their link:

Monday, June 9, 2014

My apologies for the trouble with my blog

Malware has corrupted the cover page of my blog. Do not click on it!  I have tried to remove it in settings and blocked it in Adware without success.  I cannot get help from google, blogspot, or any other sources.

If any of you out there can help me, I'd appreciate it!  I can temporarily block it, but then my blog does not load properly. Your suggestions and help are welcome!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Presence of Good and Evil

"Painting of Judas Iscariot"
If you are like me, you form a strong opinion after meeting someone for the first time. Unfortunately, our impressions are not always accurate, yet we remember these fleeting feelings for longer than we care to admit. These vague notions may affect our dealings with that person even after we get to know them better.

I’m embarrassed to say that my first introduction to a person is sometimes shallow and in total disregard for their true character and nature. Once I get to know them on a personal level, I’m surprised that I allowed superficial values to interfere with our relationship.

Another painting of Judas
Each person gives off an aura that we can feel. If we judge them on appearances, we may miss the totality of their personality. I remember after my mother’s passing, I sometimes felt her presence when I walked into a room long after she was gone.

This aura either creates an instant bonding between two people or it does not. What we are and who we are can be felt by others. Our lives have an impact on the people we love and associate with while the presence of strangers may project either good or evil.

Have you ever felt the dark awareness that you were being watched or followed? Did the hair rise on your arm? Did fear hit you in the pit of your stomach? Whether you can see them or not is beside the point. Their presence was felt. 

Children are good at measuring evil and feeling when it is near. At the same time, they are innocent and may not listen to their own feelings but yield to authority without making any protest. That's why it's so important that we protect them.

Gut instinct is there to protect us. It is developed through experience. It's trying to tell us something about our environment. Traditionally, women have downgraded these feelings more than any other gender. They have been taught to “play nice” and to disregard angry or negative feelings. Thankfully, this style of femininity is changing. The deep and instinctual reactions we experience are there to keep us safe from harm or abuse. We should trust them!
Another artist's version of Judas
Men seem to be keener at recognizing a threat. They are built physically and emotionally to retaliate when confronted. We hear about the “dumbing down” of America. There is also an effort to emasculate males. Mothers are over protecting their sons and teaching them to back down rather than to stand up for one’s self.

While this sounds good in the short term, the long term results may have devastating effects on the family and the nation. If people lack the courage and skill to defend themselves or their loved ones, they become victims. If people cower in fear, they can be overtaken. If goodness is no longer strong it caves in to evil, and what kind of world would that create?

Over the centuries, artists have painted these opposition forces. Their artwork has provided a stark contrast between light and darkness, good and evil. Their portraits portray the struggle each person faces from within. Their choices illustrate the physical transformation of the flesh as it succumbs to wickedness.
In contrast, here is a face without guile, a face radiating from "A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 pastel on Bristol
If you doubt that change, check out the police online files and see the alteration of a person’s face who has gone down the road of addiction. Signs of aging rapidly increase, teeth loosen from gums, hair falls out, wrinkles appear even in the young, the heart is weakened and hardened. 

The famous paintings of Judas in this blog depict the presence of sorrow, shame and evil. The portrait above reflects goodness and happiness.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maya Angelou – Woman if Distinction

There have been many tributes over the past few days, but I can’t let Maya Angelou’s passing go without voicing my own accolades. Even if you didn’t agree with her politics, you have to agree that her spirit and message were magnificent.

As a young woman, I read her prose, books and poems in awe. Their clarity and strength had a great impact on me. She had music in her heart and in her poems. Her words danced across the pages and her ideas echoed in my heart like a song.

Rather than repeating what many of you have read over the past week, I thought I’d share the words that others have said about her. I’m using my local newspaper “The News-Press of Southwest Florida” and reading from the “Views” section, Letters to the Editor. Here are the words of a few locals:

“On May 28, the world lost a poetic legend . . . I remember listening to her read ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ the poem she read at the Inauguration of Pres. Bill Clinton. This has become one of my favorite poems. Poems like ‘Still I rise’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’ became an anthem for women all over the world. . .The quote I remember the most which has influenced my life is:

"This is your life, not your grandmother, not your mother, not your grandfather, not your father but your life and you can do whatever you want to do with it." The world has lost a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, and a poetic legend all in one.” Fred Atkins, (News Press Editorial Board citizen member) Fort Myers

“Her quotes are real, and they can be applied to everyday life. I live by many of her quotes, one being, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Oftentimes we look for a reason why we can’t do something, now I look for the reason why I can.

“Maya Angelou lived her life to inspire others and I am thankful to be one of them. I took from her the quote ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ . . . She will be missed; I’m so glad our paths have crossed.” Larry Hart, (Lee County Tax Collector) Fort Myers

“A bird rising and singing after being down is one of Maya’s signature metaphors, prevailing in two of her most famous works, ‘I know Why the Caged Bird sings’ and “Still I Rise.” The metaphor haunted me for two years until one day I wrote:

A Secret Poem in Everyone
"A secret poem in everyone!
Reluctant inner bird
Awaiting clear permission
To let its song be heard --
Or for a moment resonant
With timbre all its own
To open wide the cage inside
And free that special song.

“Thank you, Maya Angelou, for your poetry, presence and inspiration. You shall rise always in our thoughts and memory.” Joe Pacheco, Sanibel

"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media on canvas
“In addition to Maya’s wide canon of work, she penned several books for children. A classic is ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me at All’ (1993). Written in spare poetry, a series of triplets deal with emotions and fanciful imaginings of childhood:

            ‘Shadows on the wall
            Noises down the hall
            Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

“The book is illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose impressionistic paintings are held in galleries throughout the world including the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach.” Lee Bennett Hopkins, (award winning children’s writer) Sanibel

Maya herself once said: “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

Maya is now dancing and singing with the angels, praising God as she did throughout her lifetime. Surely her goodness will be rewarded and her gifts to the world will be treasured and remembered forever.

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas / framed