Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fantasy World of Cartooning

"Sea Nymph" 24 x 18 acrylic on wide wrap canvas
I’m a fan of Shark Tank on CNBC where entrepreneurs show their wares and try to convince the Sharks (investors) that they’re worthy of their financial support and expertise.

Several artists have won favor. Take the guy I call the “Cat Man.” He started drawing caricatures of cats that caught the eye of his fans. After one year, he was making over $100,000 a year online selling prints! That’s not chicken feed.

Two investors supported his dream to expand and continue to produce winning drawings that could be produced on clothing lines and essentials. Very few artists achieve this kind of phenomenal success. I can name a few, but most are associated with a cartoon, a book or a comic strip character. I’ve never witnessed this jump to stardom from one single drawing.

(work in progress #1)
We all wish that was us! We doodle and dream. We scribble and play hoping that one day our attempts will touch the right audience. The Cat Man struck a chord in the hearts of every cat lover in the world (and there are many). Knowing the market and playing to its wants and needs is key to finding your niche.

Animals are adorable especially when they’re young and even in maturity they are regal. Those we make our pets, no matter what species, are fondly loved and cherished. But let’s face it, dog and cat owners lead the way, and people are usually either cat lovers or dog lovers; they are rarely both.

When I was an art student, I fantasized about making a storybook with the main character called the “Butterfly Princess.” Somewhere along the way, I lost her in my scramble to have a family and earn an income. I think of her often, but the passion and the vision of her has faded with time.
(Work in Progress #2)

In order to capture the moment and secure the identity of each cartoon or sketch, you must not only nail your image down early, but draw several variations until you get it right. Unless you do, each drawing will be somewhat different. It’s not as easy as you think to make a recognizable character that is repeated in different scenarios over and over again. The skill requires repetition and patience.

A fairly new cartoon in the comic pages of the newspaper is called “Zits” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. I thoroughly enjoy the escapades of the teenage son who frustrates his parents and rampages through the strip each Sunday. The drawings are loose yet recognizable. The storyline hits close to home, even though my teenagers have long since left the nest.

Another winner is “Pearls before Swine” by Stephan Pastis. The character of rat is edgy and psychotic. The naive and gullible pig reminds me of me. The storyline is a little weird; but then again, so am I. The humorous dialogue and spot-on drawings keep me coming back time after time.

That’s what all artists wish for: an adoring audience that keeps coming back for more. Now there’s an aspiration you can hang your dreams on!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

As we sow, so shall we reap to enjoy the Fruits of our Labor

When a seedling is planted, it sends its roots deep into the soil not only for nourishment and moisture, but for strength. The hidden roothold acts as an anchor to secure the young plant as it sends new shoots skyward. Without roots, a tree would topple. The rootage underground is usually as wide as the upper foliage.

During violent storms, a tree may still fall if its strength is surface deep either from too much above ground watering, or from layers of sand, clay or rock below.

How deep do your roots go? Are they scrawny and weak from too much surface ease and lack of effort? Have you nourished your foundation with study, practice and knowledge or did you skim over the top and hope for the best? True success is a result of how strong and how deep your convictions and passions go.

The same is true of faith. Weak faith (hope) is easily toppled by the storms of life. Lack of knowledge is usually “found out” under duress. Plagiarism can fool others once or twice; but if you’re caught, your career is usually over.

Alex Haley wrote a wonderful book called “Roots” that resonated with the American people and still does today. But many scholars, including black researchers and learned professionals believe it was more a book of fiction than of truth, and that Haley sought to change the historical accuracy about slavery.

The practice of slavery goes way back to ancient times. Both blacks and whites were once slaves in many cultures and countries. The African Continent enslaved other blacks that had different tribal connections and sold them into slavery. The owners were both white and black.

(Whether it's true about Haley or not, I was enchanted
by the book and television series!)

Haley’s book was moving and entertaining, but it does not pass the sniff test where history is concerned. The fury and the passion that surrounded the books and plays that Haley’s work inspired is beginning to fade.

Roots that go deep and are anchored in truth outlast the test of time. They withstand hearsay, tribulation, scoffing and popular opinion. Their branches go deep and keep the underpinnings from wavering. Character becomes resolute and authenticity an unchanging reality. Confidence increases. Gifts are mastered and used in positive ways. True success is a natural outgrowth and never becomes top heavy or ego inflated. 

Like a tree that is solid and grounded, there is balance and equanimity. People flock to it for shelter and protection. They bask in its beauty and serenity; this my friends is the maturity of the true artist. They do not need to flaunt their achievements. Their accomplishments speak for themselves. First they reap, and then they sow; and the fruits of their labor testify of their success.

"A Joyful Heart" 11 x 14 pastel drawing; Prints available @

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Are you a Girl Scout – always Prepared? Are you ready to Live a Little?

I had a surgical procedure recently which made it difficult to get my blog out on time. I hate when that happens! The only thing a person can do is to go with the flow and hope for the best.

while I convalesce, I’ve been doing more reading. Old treasures lodged in my bookcase dusty and forgotten. One of my favorites is a small book of stories and poems edited by Sandra Halderman Martz called “If I had my life to live over... purchased along with another winner “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” also edited by Martz.

Usually found in artsy gift shops, these books are a delight to read and ponder. Nadine Stair wrote the forward for the first book. Her good advice inspired me:

"Tickles from God" acrylic on canvas
“If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. . .  If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.”

From the same book, Barbara L. Thomas penned a lovely poem called “A Weaver”

   a disturbing
choosing the

the pattern
    should continue
the shuttle

and rose from
    the loom
            clothed in
 beauty of her


The poem is not only artfully constructed it captures the inner soul of the weaver and her thought process as she places thread over thread in a colorful expression of her passion.

Artists inspire and encourage one another. Yes, we’re in competition, but we can also appreciate what is different from our own personal style. For instance, when I buy jewelry, I prefer to buy from an artist rather than a retail store. The jewelry is unique and I usually find something unusual that becomes a conversation piece.

For my birthday this year, my daughter and her husband gave me a beautiful necklace from Carrie’s Creations on Etsy. A family tree is surrounded by six circles each representing one of my children. The bright blue stones are eye popping next to the black wiring.

Another daughter gave me a long leather beaded bracelet that wraps the arm and fastens in place. Of course, I had to buy an outfit that would set both of them off. Amazing things happen when you have the jewelry in hand first and then search for an outfit to compliment the whole ensemble. I chose a white "Hot Cotton" two-piece outfit with earthy colors.

I rarely purchase art prints from someone else (I have enough of my own). I do advertise other artist’s work on my blog, however, and enjoy touting the successful artists that are out there by linking to their web sites. Inviting other artists to do a guest blog is another way to share the limelight and help your followers and fellow bloggers at the same time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What do Artistic People create and why do they do it?

"Home at Last" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
As an artist, I’ve thought a lot about that question. What is it that makes me create and why do I do it? Perhaps my answers will also be yours:

An artist wants to share what touches him or her visually and emotionally, and may find it difficult to impart these feelings in any other way.

Artists have a driving passion to put down on paper or canvas the experiences in their hearts and souls that would either cause them to explode in joyful ecstasy or painful agony if not expressed. Artists and writers often share these same passions, but articulate them through different mediums.

We all have a need for intimacy, some people more than others. When someone views an artist’s work it is like inviting them to share an intimate moment of our personality and perspective on life.

"First Daffodil" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas; model Kayla Dahm
An artist may create a mini-story, a glimpse into the human soul, a taste of the human condition, or they may take us on a wonderful adventure either through realism or exciting plains of color and movement.

The viewer may virtually walk the terrain of uncharted territory, explore the shape and form of facial structure, and fathom in a new way the miracle of life, the struggle of humanity, or the joy of rebirth.

By altering line, angle and space through color, light and shadow, an artist controls the mood and mind of the viewer and leads them on an intimate journey around the canvas and back again to the focal point or center of interest.

Viewers are rarely aware of the invisible companion who leads them from one point to another as the story unfolds. When the onlooker experiences pleasure, happiness, or darkness the artist has done his or her job.

“So this is what old age brings?” an observer may comment on seeing an unfulfilled wastrel lamenting over his fateful actions.

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas
“That’s exactly how I felt when I was dancing,” says another, as they sway in their mind and remember the cadence of drums, sand, and the smells and sounds of the Caribbean. As an artist, you brushed this scene onto canvas using your own fond memories where they lingered playfully in your mind waiting for you to give them the breath of life.

Fulfillment happens when the artwork is finished not when it’s viewed, commented on, or sold. As artists we rarely get to see or know the experience of the viewer, or whether they perceived our art in the same way as we created it. 

Once we have “put it all out there,” we have done our part. The rest is up to chance, fate, or destiny. For some of us, it is a blessing from God for which we are eternally grateful and joyful.

"Blending In" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel (The feathers replicate the petals, which is how I
saw this scene and painted it.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ode to a Loggerhead Turtle – Antiquity in Fluid Motion

A large loggerhead turtle was released on the beach yesterday after a long rehabilitation effort to make it well and strong. I shudder to think of the thousands of dollars this cost taxpayers.

On the other hand, I’m humbled by the familiar story called “The Star Thrower:”

“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

“She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

“The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

“The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”

— Adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren C. Eiseley
"Window on Pine Island" oil on wrapped canvas
It would be wonderful if we could save all the hurting children in the world and all the abused animals. What an enormous job for one person! But we can save the ones that are nearby. We can contribute to organizations that do the work for us. We can help our family, our neighbors, our friends and community.

That noble loggerhead turtle was valiant in facing the elements and the wide blue-green Gulf to transition back into the wild. I worried that our efforts to save him would be in vain. What danger awaits him out in the deep? Will he find his way back home? Although he was tagged for identification, we may never know.

"Pelican at Rest" oil on canvas; prints available
If we were to question every effort to help a living creature, a person, a child because the end result was unknown there would be little good done in the world. We help because we must. It’s called compassion, empathy and character. If we cease to act on these divine qualities that reside within us, the world would become a savage and brutal place.

Nature ravages earth's population enough without our adding fuel to the fire. This morning on our walk I saw a baby bird sprawled on the sidewalk. The storm of last night had blown him from his nest. He was a wet wilted pile of feathers; neck and legs outstretched in rigor mortis where he’d fallen. The sight brought back all the times I’d tried to nurse a baby bird back to life and failed.

The future is a blank slate. We can’t stop doing good things just because we don’t know if it will change the outcome. You or I could step off the curb tomorrow and that would be the end of us. Fearing the unknown is part of human existence. But that knowledge shouldn’t affect how we live our today's. 

For that reason, I’m going to assume that the loggerhead released into the ocean finds its way back to a wonderful existence where it may live for another 100 years. Marvelous creatures they enshrined with dignity and mankind’s history imprinted on their backs.
"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas

Monday, September 1, 2014

Come on -- Let's Fly Away, Mini-vacations that Soar!

A Key West sunset from Key West Express jet-powered vessel
On Labor Day we got up early, traveled to Fort Myers Beach with some friends, and walked on the damp sand before breakfast. The air was cool and the sea breeze gave us an appetite.

Disciplined regulars were already jogging and walking when we arrived. A few seashell hunters scoured the crashing waves as they spilled over the sand. Hotel and restaurant owners opened their doors and swept the remains of white sand from their stairways and sidewalks.

When businesses opened at 8 a.m., we dined at the Island Grill and watched beach goers gradually fill in the empty spaces with their colorful towels and chairs. The Key West Express, a jet-powered liner, bounced across the water with at least 350 people on board who were eager for their exotic adventure. Soon wave runners were powering through the blue-Green waters and white sailboats meandered past the pier a few hundred feet away from us heading into the Gulf.

"Sea Nymph" work-in-progress first drawing and wash. There is some foreshortening going on and I will need
to make sure her knee area looks like it's going back and layer the fins in the front.
I love these “mini-vacations.” Only a 45 minute drive from home, and we feel as if our world and the stresses that go with it are left far behind. Sometimes we make a day of it. We bring our beach towels and blankets and have one of those refreshing naps enveloped in the warmth of the sun. 

August is not the best time of year to languish. The heat can overwhelm you before you are even aware. I noticed that most beach goers were bouncing in the water and the dance between blanket and waves kept getting shorter and shorter as the sun crossed the morning sky.

My grandpa's Stereoscope early 1900's
Many walked their dogs and others played with them in the water in spite of the fact that there were “No Dogs Allowed” signs everywhere. Signs that were never enforced. 

Puppies were plentiful. We petted a few yippers and nippers. A large black dog and its owner played fetch in the water with a tennis ball. By the time we were ready to leave, several children were half-way through building their sand castles.

I will be selling this on my Etsy Shop: 
Three pelicans flew over us heading for the pier where they dive bombed for fish and tried to steal the bait from fishermen’s lines. One year when we were walking on the beach a floundering pelican twisted in fishing line was being rescued by two men who were patient enough to untangle the mess the bird had gotten himself into.

I have 228 photo cards from 1895 to 1905;  early US states, Early MN Nicollet Ave.
Old Norway, Palestine, and other.
A pelican looks fairly small flying overhead or sitting on the grey piling, but when his wings are outstretched as this one's was, his wingspan and long pocketed bill dwarfed the two men who were trying to save him.

Seagulls will also battle fishermen for their catch and doggedly attack and tug at a fish until it is safe in the creel.

At 10 a.m. we made our way home. The beach was getting crowded and the humidity was rising. We carried our memories home along with the sand that stuck to the bottom of our shoes. We were already planning our next mini-vacation!

(Old Norway photo cards, one side)

Photo cards run from $3-5 each.
Total cards = 228
Stereopticon $ 55 plus shipping

Michael Buble -- Come Fly with Me!