Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Motivates and Inspires You to Take Action?

What inspires you these days: A book or an author; a famous sports figure or an actor; a remarkable hero, a friend, an unusual painting?

Nature inspires me; the miracle of seed, growth, and transformation into something extraordinary, edible, nutritious or just plain beautiful. Whatever causes you to pause, to contemplate, or to turn your head may be the beginning of a great idea.

From the book “Transform: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships, and Life . . . One Simple Step at a Time," the author, Jeff Haden wrote: “In the dictionary ‘idea’ is a noun. Idea really should be a verb because an idea is not real until you turn your inspiration into action.”

How many opportunities have you missed because you failed to act on your ideas? Sometimes it boils down to laziness or an unwillingness to put in the needed effort.

(These seeds inspire me. The inside is exquisite!)
I heard Mark Cuban say on the CNBC show “Shark Tank,” “If you’re not willing to work 24/7 to build your business, you won’t make it.”

How motivated are you to succeed? What pushes your buttons? For some it’s money, pure and simple. For others it’s a need to feel important or to be involved in a cause bigger than themselves. Family is an important reason for many; the drive to keep the family afloat and to provide every opportunity for their children.

Self-fulfillment and satisfaction is a great motivator for a large segment of the population. Creating something out of nothing or turning a basic idea into something meaningful is just as important as any monetary gratification.

(I gather up a few of these each year, just so I can watch them open and unfold.)
In the March Better Homes and Gardens this quote caught my eye:  “Inspiration is everywhere – Add a touch of fabulous!”

Making your own life “fabulous” or someone else’s is pretty high on my list of perks. My husband gave me these lovely roses for Valentine’s Day. I love roses, especially red ones. I photographed them because I also love to paint them for practice. I don’t sell many paintings of roses, but painting them has given me experience in shading, shape, subtle changes in value and delicate brushwork. Roses inspire me to paint.


So do People. The landscape of the figure, the detail in the face and hands inspire me to improve my skill. Right now I’m juggling the differences between oil and acrylic and how dramatically their unique features demand color and application changes.

With acrylics, skin color goes on darker and the brush strokes bolder. With oils, it is possible to portray silky smoothness and seamless movement from one color to the next. I switched from oils to acrylics not by desire, but for health reasons. I’m never completely satisfied with the look of acrylic portraits. It’s an acquired taste, and an expert development of skill that makes all the difference.

(This painting has an acrylic underpainting and was finished in oils.)
You can achieve an almost oil-like appearance with acrylics, but it requires many layers of paint to achieve. Patience is the key. Once you have reached the look you desire, leave that area and go onto the next. Overworking can ruin that just put-down freshness that enlivens a canvas.

(This painting was done in acrylics. The smooth skin is a result of subtle color changes and layering.)
Passion defines those who are inspired and those who are not. Don’t paint something just because you know you can do it. Pour into your paintings only those scenes or images that you are passionate about. Because you love what you are doing, others will fall in love with the result. 

Life is like that, too. Fall in love with your life by being passionate about what you do. If the people you are around drag you down and make you sad – choose different friends. Don’t get involved in causes that are nothing more than “busy work.”  Without the passion and the drive, you’ll end up feeling overworked and frustrated. Love what you do, and do what you love!
(I would love to paint this half-opened bud!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Magical Hot Air Balloons Send Us Soaring and Set us Down Easy

The last time I rode in a hot air balloon, I was in my twenties. I remember being surprised at how hot it was up there. Our pilot kept a constant watch on the gas levels and the flame which filled the hollow balloon with a blast of heat. The exhilaration of gliding over the pasture land below was well worth the fee we paid for the thrill.

I’ve had a fascination with these colorful “envelopes” ever since. Every year in Missouri, balloonists gather with their gondolas and designer aircraft to share their enthusiasm with other balloonists. When they all take off, it’s a breathtaking spectacle that is both remarkable and unforgettable.

According to Wickipedia, the hot air balloon is the “oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. Are they safe? Today’s balloons have an envelope that is not sealed at the bottom, the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the inlet of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material.

“Beginning in the mid-1970s, balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape remains popular for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.”

Shortly after 9/11 I attended a hot air balloon show at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. All planes were still grounded, including these magnificent aircraft. We walked from one gondola to another greeting the owners and admiring their colorful envelopes that were inflated and ready to fly. Sadly not one balloon was able to launch that day.

In the interim, we were fortunate enough to witness a marriage ceremony of two balloonists. They had met during a balloon conclave, fell in love, and wanted to share their wedding day with the friends who enjoyed the sport as much as they did.

Photographers and artists have discovered the magic and have tried to capture this fascination on canvas and in print. Through imagination and skill, these flyers have managed to make good use of “hot air” unlike many of their counterparts who use it to “B.S.” a crowd in hopes of impressing others or of making a sale.

With an inflated sense of self, these human bulldozers push their way to the top, to the head of the line, or any place where they feel they can shine. The illustration at left shows where their hot air comes from. 
  • The red balloon is filled with hubris from an inflated ego. 
  • The bottom balloon reeks of pride, especially from being green with envy. 
  • The plump orange balloon is inflated with arrogance and a sense of self-importance. 
  • The white balloon at the top is ready to pop from too much bragging. 
  • The last balloon is bloated from exaggeration and excessive gloating over their own skills and talents. They are really blue and lack self-confidence.

 If your personality or profile contains these poisonous gases you should try to get rid of them! they interfere with your ability to listen to others and to learn from your mistakes. But there is still hope.

Take a dart or pin and pop these pesky pimples of disgrace. Replace them as soon as possible with humility, self-confidence, hard work, and honesty. 

Once you do that, you’ll be ready to take advice, share the limelight with others, and pursue your goals independent of the opinion of others.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Photographs and Sketches May Refresh Your Last Great Idea!

"The Cook" 11x14 acrylic on canvas
I delight in painting children. There is such a freshness and openness in their faces. No masks to hide emotion. No walls to put distance between them and us. Their innocence invites us to experience life anew as we once did when we were children.

My latest painting took me much longer to complete because of health issues. I didn’t want to clutter the background with details that would take the viewer’s eyes away from the center of interest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of “busy” paintings. I like to spend time wandering through a scene and taking it all in. Restaurants, unusual rooms, people involved in talking or working are some of my favorites.
"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas
(When I did this painting, an artist friend scolded me for putting in too much detail -- I ignored her. The
painting did get in a juried gallery so I was pleased!)
But there are times when the main event can get lost in too much detail. One of my favorite artists is K. Henderson who knows how to use detail to her advantage. She works in oils but also uses watercolor and illustrates a journal that she shares with others.

Kay is a naturalist, artist and photographer. She travels extensively to areas such as Alaska, and as far away as Manitoba, CAN.  Her dialogue and her web site are well worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with her body of work.

Here is a link to her Indian portraits:  

This painting is another good example of an innocent child surrounded by the detail I love to paint.
"An Open Book" mixed media. Prints available.
I do a lot of photography in making painting and composition decisions. I file them away and review them when I'm looking for a certain detail or subject. Photographs can preserve memory. When you add it to a quick color sketch the scene you captured days or weeks before can quickly come to mind.
(the first slap of paint on canvas)
(I was going to reflect a beater but changed my mind)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sensory Encounter -- Access to Museums and Galleries for the disabled

Every grade school usually has a time for experiencing the arts. Most of us can remember the fun of finger painting: how it felt, slimy and cool to the touch; how it smelled, and some of us even how it tasted. We learned the basics of creativity and how to cover the slick white paper with fingerprint smears in less than five seconds flat

Learning is always enhanced when we stimulate our five senses with color, sound, smell, taste and touch. For hundreds of years, the art experience has only been for the few.  It has only been in recent years that museums, art galleries and nature have been made available for the sensory impaired and the disabled.

My first exposure to a tactile garden prepared specifically for those who were blind was in Minnesota. Here the seeing impaired visitor was able to touch and smell the leaves, petals and stems without fear of being pricked by a thorn. Some plants were there specifically for the tasting. Walkways were kept unobstructed and safe so people could walk, use a wheelchair or sit down to rest.
Unfortunately, most museums don’t allow touching of sculptures and galleries discourage the touching of paintings because the oils from our skin may eventually leave a soiled mark that promotes disintegration. People are generally curious and want to touch areas of sheen and smoothness or patches that look rough even though it may be an illusion. Today more and more cities are opening sensory gardens and museum areas where disabled children and adults may enjoy acoustics, music, fragrance, light, and texture.
(Seeing impaired students are allowed to feel texture)

 From "Magical Gardens for the Blind, Deaf, and Disabled" The Daily Beast, by Elizabeth Piciuto

 “When I walk into the Stephen Knolls School’s greenhouse, cheerfully bright even on an overcast day, the humidity frizzes my hair into a delirious halo. The school’s principal, Kim Redgrave, is explaining the school’s gardening program to me when three boys who are maybe 10 to 12 years old join us. Two of them are in wheelchairs. The third walks unsteadily, led by a grown-up holding his hand. I try to catch the eye of this third boy, but he plops down onto a stool and avoids my gaze. I turn to one boy who rewards me with a giant, hammy smile.

“They are here to measure their plants,” explains their teacher. From the looks of the seedlings in their plastic pots, the boys have planted their seeds just a few weeks ago, and they are growing vigorously.

“Just a few years ago, I hate to admit that in my total ignorance of disability, I would have assumed that these boys were barely aware of their environments. More attuned, I now see how all three boys become absorbed in their plants’ progress.
“Reams of research demonstrate that gardens and plant care can help students with disabilities develop crucial knowledge, skills, emotional regulation, and self-reliance: those with less intensive disabilities, more intensive disabilities, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities. Even children without disabilities, for that matter, experience the same benefits. 
“Spending time in gardens can reduce the need for medication in children with ADHD,” Sachs pointed out, even after walks that last just 20 minutes.
“As a result of this research, there has been a growing movement to include what are known as “sensory gardens” in many schools for children with disabilities, as well as many botanical gardens in children’s hospitals. Sensory gardens are gardens that are designed not only to be accessible to people with disabilities, such as having winding paths appropriate for wheelchairs, but to “systematically and sensitively nourish the five basic senses,” says Amy Wagenfeld, professor of occupational therapy at Rush University and one of the authors of the forthcoming bookTherapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Such gardens provide opportunities to see, smell, touch, listen to—and sometimes taste—plant life and garden fixtures, such as scented herbs, smooth river rocks, or velvety lamb’s ears.” 

“In a workshop using scent in art, I learned that the same scent can smell differently if given a different label, such as cheese or vomit; or by changing the color of lights in an olfactory art sculpture from red to blue. In the round table "Putting Theory into Practice," several museum curators and educators, spoke about personalizing the museum experience and creating multisensory exhibits. John Bramblitt, an artist who lost his sight, had to find new ways to do his art again by using other senses and art materials. He brought in some of his paintings, where I was able to feel the contrast of a smooth plastic background and the raised ridges of his acrylic paint.

“The last day of the conference, I went on a verbal description and touch tour at the Whitney Museum, led by Danielle Linzer, where we viewed an abstract painting, "The Magnificent," by Richard Pousette-Dart, which we were able to touch after donning silk gloves. I was amazed by the amount of texture I could feel on the painting, which I was unaware of when I just looked at the piece.” 
 Japanese sensory museum 
Opening of the exhibition "Sensory Journey" , conception and paintings by Silvana Di Martino, photos by Michel Versepuy and music soundtrack by Denis Barbier. in Paris 2011 the 13th of October. at the space Altura near La Bastille.

The exhibition presents a new concept, "the synaesthetic exhibition". What is a synaesthetic exhibition, you might ask? Well, it is a physical experience of sensory signals interacting with each other (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustative). 
By simulating sensations, other senses are awakened and brought to life. The paintings were meant to be touched and observed.
Most museums and art galleries have “do not touch signs” everywhere. Try it and you’ll find a docent or guide looking over your shoulder “Do not touch the paintings,” they warn which is why these sensory gardens, galleries and museums are catching on everywhere.

You’ll enjoy this video. “Good Mythical Morning” “Don’t Touch the Art.” \Gotta’ love these guys! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Painting Fragrances – Horse Sense or Common Scents?

"uuuuuumh -- Lilacs" Barbara McGeachen
After I did the blog on painting food, I thought that it was sad that we couldn’t actually smell the tempting deliciousness on each canvas. That got me wondering if anyone had ever tried pairing a fragrance or scent with a painting.

I did a Google search and was amused to find many pages devoted to the subject. In this case, instead of being tied to food, the subject matter featured was either artwork of well known brands of perfumes, or they were of flowers. Much to my surprise, my painting “First Daffodil” and my peach rose “Lady in Waiting” were featured on page three of that search. Still I wondered if anyone had ever tried to create actual scents to highlight a canvas’s sensuality.
"Lady in Waiting" oil on canvas (SOLD)
I did find a teaching tool for toddlers using paints and imitation flavoring. For instance, the color purple would have a grape scent, and the color red would have a cherry or strawberry scent. It was a very tactile experience and a wonderful teaching tool.

Then I discovered that a group of adult artists are actually doing it – adding fragrance to paints.

On the blog for Fremont Heights Art it said this: “Scented paintings, a new concept in the world of art created by us, taking our work in an entirely new direction, ever heard of or even seen a scented painting?  Various fragrances infused in paint bringing the work to "life" creating a sense of being in the painting actually smelling the environment. Handmade fragrances fused into our handmade works; one of a kind. There are no reproductions of any scented paintings made.

"Fragrance" Dorina Costra
“For example, imagine a female figure painting infused with a handmade lavender fragrance. As you view the painting, the lavender gently emanates from the figure giving you the sense of the female wearing a perfume. The fragrances can take up to weeks to create and then infuse into each individual color used in the painting. The painting itself can/may take more than a month to create. These paintings will be priced much higher due to the intense labor it takes to craft these interesting works, but well worth the time, wait and money.  The methods and recipes for creating the fragrances and infusing them into the paints will not be revealed in any shape or form. Paintings start at $10,000. Get yours now!”

"First Daffodil" acrylic on canvas
Museums have featured scent before. Thinking that “fragrance” is an art unto itself, they began creating sconces or wood pieces to compliment the scent. Viewers would actually push a button and a scent would be sprayed out and waft them with mist that brought images into their minds.

I don’t know if this will catch fire or if it’s just an anomaly in the world of art. The most common paintings that came up during my search were of flowers, or of people smelling them. A few sites focused on animals which are known for their keen sense of smell. Sometimes a humorous play on words showed a painting titled “Horse Scents” rather than “sense.” 

At any rate, watch for this unusual art form to see if it catches fire in the art world. Some people may hope that it does, literally.