Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

"Hey, Coconut Mon!" mixed media on canvas
When we’re young, we test the rules and skirt the ragged edge of danger. We experiment. We try on different styles and personalities. Some of us flaunt the rules and go into the unknown only to reap the consequences of our experimentation. But for most of us, somewhere along the way, we settle into what seems right and comfortable.

Don’t you wish that for a brief moment you could step out of the present paradigm and slip into another? Do you wish you were more daring and less predictable? A few days ago I decided to give it a go. I had a vague notion of what I wanted on canvas. I made no sketches. I didn’t even test the waters of my idea.
Work-in-Progress "Sea Breazes" acrylic on 30 x 24 wrapped canvas
I started to brush. It felt good! I slathered on paint and let my muse lead me. Swept along by intuition, I dabbed on color and highlights. Now I’m letting it rest while I contemplate my next move. Will the canvas require more changes? Probably. What will I do if it’s an utter failure? I’ll likely paint over it and start again. We all need to have that feeling of freedom. You know, when you just allow what you have learned and what you yearn for to take over?

If your idea doesn’t bloom and grow, it doesn't matter. You are experimenting with feelings, shapes, color and texture. The context is the story you are trying to tell. My current work-in-progress was inspired by my love for palm trees and my fondness for living near the ocean and the Gulf Coastal regions.
I added more color, but did it work? More contemplation!
The colors are those that I live with every day. I hope I can find the right combination of dazzle and sizzle to make my creation work. I’m calling this piece: “Sea Breezes” because that’s exactly what’s happening as the soft warm air flows across the Gulf through the palm fronds and into my world.

Take time once in awhile to leave your comfortable habits behind and open yourself to discovery. Switch things up. Change your usual canvas size. Go bigger (or smaller). Use a larger brush. Try a new color combination on canvas. Add a collage or two and a smattering of design in the background. The point is to do something different from the norm.

I recommend these books. They will not only inspire you, but dare you to experiment and then show you how: “Experimental Painting” by Lisa L. Cyr; “Art Revolution” by the same author (see Youtube fideo below), and “Journeys to Abstraction” by Sue St. John. 

If you discover something new about yourself in the process, please share it with me. I’d love to hear what happened when you crossed over into that ethereal place where things of wonder are created and magic happens!
"Window" oil on oval canvas

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stop the Knee Jerking – It’s Time for Common Sense!

"Vikeholmen Lighthouse" Norway; 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas
I received an email from a friend; a copy of an Obituary printed in the London Times. If you haven’t read it, you may enjoy its wisdom as much as I did:

 “Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
  • “Knowing when to come in out of the rain; 
  • Why the early bird gets the worm; 
  • Life isn't always fair; 
  • And maybe it was my fault.  
“Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

“His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

“Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

"Innsett Kirke" Norway from long ago; oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available
“It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

“Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

“Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

“Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. 

“Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

“He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing

“Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”

"Skudeneshavn Norway" 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available
How can we apply these gems of wisdom to our own lives?

Reason tells me that to own a business requires sacrifice, endless hours of time, dedication and devotion to duty. Skill building and education are a given. Late nights, early mornings and weekends may be required to give it all I've got. Marketing and exposure are part of the deal. Exhaustion and singleness of mind may put me through a financial and emotional wringer. Failure looms overhead like a whip driving me even harder.

Common sense reminds me that I have a family and outside commitments. I must make trade-offs and weigh my options. The things that matter most shouldn’t suffer at the hand of things that matter least. Youth is here for a short time; we cannot bring it back. We must find a balance and do our best. Priorities must be set. We must find the middle ground.

Success beckons me from the wings. If I can’t do it in eight hours, by golly, I’ll give it 10 hours or 12. This is my business. My baby! The kids will just have to sacrifice football camp and dance lessons. Some day they’ll appreciate it! Once I get over this first hurdle, I’ll have more time. But then another hurdle comes and I'm at it again, consuming valuable funds and precious time.

Common sense measures expenditures against actual sales. What have I spent and what did I get for it? Is the business costing me more than I’m taking in? The adage “It takes money to make money” can only go so far. At some point I must take my losses and reassess my goals, my options. Would an online business give me more “bang for my buck?”

Ego makes it hard to quit. Failure is not in my vocabulary. I fight the inevitable. I struggle on when I should turn back. I see my family floundering and I don’t know what to do. If I give up, my financial dreams and theirs go out the window. 

Common sense cuts to the chase. Either the business is working for me or it isn’t. How much time and money is enough? The only failure in failure is not seeing when it’s time to quit. The ending may also be a beginning of something else. Once my head clears, the pieces to the puzzle fall into place. Solutions materialize. Anxiety dissolves. Mistakes clarify the changes that must be made. Life is a process.
"Anhinga in Paradise" water color, matted and framed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Party’s Over – it’s Time to Call it a Day

"And all that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic / framed in a recessed red boxed frame!
We’re back! (Sounds like Jack Nicholson in the Shining) The morning after the long drive home, we went for our usual three mile walk. It felt sooo good! I was delighted to see that the Bob Whites had returned. They were flooded out four years ago, and this is the first glimpse I’ve had of them since that time. They are such delightful birds.

Seeing The Bob Whites made me determined to create a canvas for them. I had done a drawing some time ago, and now I want to permanently honor these adorable birds.

"Bob White" 11 x 14 matted print ready to frame 
In one blog, I told you how my husband had learned to imitate their cheery whistle “bob bob white.” If we didn’t see them, he’d whistle their call and soon they would answer. They had a warm interchange back and forth until my husband tired of the game.

Before we left Fort Myers, they had pruned our bushes and trees. It looked like a war zone! This time of year, the neighborhoods begin to look like a jungle, and in some areas they were starting to. Upon our return, we were pleased to see that our street was neat and back in flower. The pruning had made the leaves grow back in super thick and green.

Our new remodeled kitchen welcomed us home. There are still things to do, but it was great to see the glistening shine of new paint and granite counter tops. New appliances are being delivered on Friday to replace our old, rusted out ones. What a difference it will make!

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box recessed frame
It was good to visit with friends and family in Georgia, but I’m eager to get back to painting. It almost feels like Christmas. The anticipation is "killing me. I have a canvas, and in my next blog I’ll show you what I have in mind. This time around, I’m working on an abstract design with a tropical flare.
I also have some vintage canvases in mind. I tried to search for “discontinued products,” but didn’t find what I was looking for. Can you help? I would like to paint some product signs that are no longer in use.

I first thought of “Hires” root beer which has technically been discontinued except in Utah where they still sell Hires root beer kits to make a homemade brew using dry ice for the bubbles. I have tasted this mix and it is excellent!

I want to add some more vintage style artwork to my repertoire of retro paintings. Those were created using old sheet music covers as a jumping off place for my compositions. This time around, I thought the old signs would be fun.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Delays, Blackouts, and No Internet Connections

"Tickles from God" 24 x 18 acrylic canvas
Yes, I’m “On the Road Again” and my blog is late because sometimes I’m stranded where there is no Wi-Fi or online connections. Family concerns and adorable grandchildren have called me away. I hope you’ll stick with me until I return in a few days.

Before we left, we watched the All-Star baseball game on television between the National and American Leagues. We had to. It was in Minneapolis our long time home and the place where we met. Like fools we searched the bleachers for family and friends, an almost impossible fete. Don’t get me wrong. We love Fort Myers. But in our heart of hearts we’re always searching for home.

Meet another young girl and fellow artist who is always thinking of home. When Akiane was born in 1994 she came “trailing clouds of glory,” as Wordsworth gemmed, “from God who is our home.”

Even at the age of two she spoke of light-filled people, friendly faces, and colorful beauty not seen on this earth. To express her thoughts and feelings to her mother, she painted and drew portraits and landscapes that can be seen on her web site. Those memories which most of us forget at birth, seemed to stay with Akiane.

"First Daffodil" acrylic on canvas
Her portrait of Jesus was selected by another young boy who was featured in the book and movie “Heaven is for Real.” When his parents asked him what Jesus looked like and showed him the familiar pictures that most churches use, he said “No.” every time.

When he saw the painting of Jesus that Akiane had painted clear across the globe, he said: “That’s him. That’s Jesus.”

Was the boy coached? You’ll have to read the book or view the movie to judge for yourself. But as far as Akiane goes, the impossibility of that happening is near impossible. Akiane’s mother was an atheist. She thought her daughter was having dreams or using her big imagination.

Over the years, because of her daughter’s conviction and God-given talents, she became a believer in Christ.

 Currently, Akiane’s work can be seen online and at Mardel. Here is a link to her gallery: 

Don't skip the video at the end... it really is a "must see".!  

"Looking Outward" mixed media, real window/glass, acrylic canvas behind

Friday, July 11, 2014

We learn from our Mistakes, even when we repeat them

"Flash Dance" was not juried in, but continues to be one of my favorites!
I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated with myself. I seem to learn everything the hard way. “Why can’t you do it right, the first time,” I chide myself. “Why does it have to be so doggone hard?”

Not until I’ve done something more than a few times do I get the hang of it. I’m left handed by nature and birth, but was forced into using my right hand. My brain never adjusted. I have frequent bouts throughout the day where I reverse things during the thought process. I know I’m supposed to turn on the right front burner of the stove, but when I’m finished with the action, the back left burner is turning hot.

It happens more than I care to mention. I’ve been known to try to go down an up escalator, especially under stress, and reverse numbers or text in my head when I’m working on a newsletter. Luckily the errors are glaring when I print out a proof copy.

"The Perfect Ending" was not juried in, but continues to be popular online.
And why is it so easy to overlook a composition fluke or the way an object overlaps and turns to create shadow? Because artwork is really about teaching people how to see, including me. Some people are more detailed than others. There are not only intellectual choices to be made, but intuitive ones that come from experience.

Beginning artists should not give up because the learning curve is long. Over time, you will master the techniques and foundational skills that make the difference between novice and professional. Even seasoned artists make mistakes. But they have weathered the storms of criticism and error. They have found ways to accommodate mistakes and have discovered dynamic artistic surprises in the process.

When the confluence of color and line diverge in ways to capture the viewer’s attention and lead them through pathways you’ve created, exciting things happen. Energy, emotion, and pure delight emerge and create sensations that effect lasting impressions. This is the mark of perfection and success.
"Home at Last" was not juried in because they didn't like the frame.
Remember, if you’re not excited by your creation, it isn’t likely anyone else will be, either. On the other hand, if you are able to harness your passion and express it on canvas, others will feel it, too, and be drawn to the vibrancy of your vision.

Don’t worry about the canvases that go unsold, or the ones you may paint over. It’s all part of the experience. Nothing needs to go to waste. Watercolorists often cut out small portions of a ruined painting and frame petite ones that sell well on the market.

I've had a few paintings rejected in juried competition that later sold. I continue to sell prints from the originals. It’s all in the “eye of the beholder.” If you feel strongly about what you’re doing, eventually other people will feel it and become buyers.

"The Pose" a barred owl on my daughter's porch. (Acrylic on canvas)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Avoiding Tight Places to Save Face

"Moody Blues" 18 x 14 oil on canvas
My son, Sidney, had a curious and active mind. Most of his teachers appreciated this, but some of them didn’t. He was a wiggly and energetic child who could get into mischief unless his exuberance was channeled.

As a mother, I answered his endless questions, provided him with library books and special activities that gave him plenty of exercise. He also needed enough freedom to explore, but definite parameters so he didn’t endanger himself or others.

One day I heard sirens blasting through our quiet neighborhood. Not seeing a fire truck, I whispered a "Thank  you, Lord" that it wasn’t on my street. It was some time later before I discovered just how close that emergency vehicle had come.

No sooner had I wiped the relief sweat from my forehead than the telephone rang. It was the mother of Sid’s friend saying my son had used their laundry chute as a slide and gotten his leg bent under him. He was stuck solid in the middle where they couldn’t reach him so she'd called 911 and a fire engine had come to the rescue

Not only did the firemen disassemble the laundry chute, but they hung around long enough to calm the panicked boys and give them a lesson on safety.

"Beach Buddies" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
We’re all guilty of putting ourselves in a tight spot when we’re in a time crunch. Sometimes, like my son, we take too many risks or we’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s only one way out of messes like that. Change the terms or the conditions. If that’s not possible, make the best of working with what we have.

If you’re stuck with an impossible deadline, explain to your buyer why it is impossible to meet it. If you wait until the deadline passes and then break the news, you’re likely to come across as someone who can’t keep their word, or worse undependable. If you break it to them early on, you may save face and regain their confidence.

Know your client. If this is a person you’ve never worked with before, do your homework. Ask as many questions as possible to determine their preferences and what they expect. If you’re commissioned to do a watercolor portrait, explain to them that there is very little room for alterations. Oil is malleable and, therefore, much easier to change or manipulate. Giving the customer periodic “sneak-previews” is also a way to nip dissatisfaction in the bud.

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas
If you’re afraid to give the client too much say (or control), especially in the beginning; you may have to pay later. Remember how difficult it is to put on your clothes after taking a hot shower, especially in the summer when you’re as wet after your bath as you were before?

If you’re a woman, it’s almost impossible to squeeze your damp body into a girdle or that pair of skinny jeans. How many times have you flopped back on the bed to flatten your tummy and zip up the flap? That’s how a client may feel if pushed into a corner (or up a tree) and they have no say over what happens to their money which is essentially how they view “your baby.”

"Hey, Coconut, Mon!" mixed media on canvas
You see the project as your livelihood, your inspiration, your creation. But unless you bring your buyer along with you and help them see your vision, you may end up in a tight place trying to get a frustrated customer to pay for your work. 

No doubt, there are unreasonable people who make too many demands. There are times when you have to sacrifice quality to please someone else’s vanity or ego. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice a future client because of yours.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Next Time, Allow Yourself some Wiggle Room!

"Twitters and Twigs" 11 x 14 Oil on canvas / framed
When I ask a salesperson if they have any wiggle room, I’m really saying “Are you willing to make a deal?” I’m hoping he or she has the authority and the willingness to give me the best price possible and at a much lower cost than the current offer.

The tables are turned, of course, when I’m on the selling end and a client is paying me for a product or service. Wiggle room can be anything from extending a deadline to outlining expectations. The more information I can get about what is wanted, what is expected and when, the better I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations.

"Brown Thrasher in Sunlight" 16 x 20 mixed media
Having adequate time and space to complete a project is essential. Rushing either the execution or the required drying time may be hazardous if not fatal to the final outcome. Just because a customer demands something on a given date doesn’t mean it has to happen. Helping them adjust to realistic goals and objectives is part of your job as artist and director.

(Work in progress:  Florida Panther on woody palm frond; a mask when completed.)
I must conform the head to fit the constraints of the mask.
The porous wood drinks up paint like a sieve! It will require layers, and layers
of paint. The final coat will be varnish; inside and out.
Many businesses get into trouble when they over promise and under deliver. Explaining why things may take longer in the beginning saves a lot of hassle and stress. Clearly understanding a client’s vision and what they hope to achieve may alleviate unnecessary delays or revisions. It’s not just your reputation that’s on the line, but everyone else who has a part in the planning and decision making.

Honesty goes without saying. Integrity is the backbone of any company’s success. Positive feedback and repeat business are the lifeblood which ebbs and flows between capital expenditures and profits. It’s a balancing act between the needs of both owner and client.

(One of my mask models)
As I used to tell my children when I roped them into helping me stuff envelopes for my pet projects; “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” They soon learned that it was in their best interests to humor me now if they wanted a favor later. Reciprocal agreements make everybody happy.

The outcome of any negotiation should be a give and take of mutual need. If I don’t have to sacrifice profits and my standing as an artist, I’m more willing to work harder to provide you with the finished piece in time for your special anniversary or birthday. 

The customer, in turn, must plan far enough ahead to provide you with adequate time for completion. If the artist is always on the losing end, the final product suffers.

(Another one of my mask models)
Angry Florida panther. Golden eyes with green reflections.