Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Far are you willing to go?

Most people, including you, have an internal guide to keep them from doing something they’ll regret. Some call it “conscience.” But what happens when these safeguards snap? Could you, would you follow a dangerous path or engage in a lawless immoral act?

All over the country sad individuals are exploding into evil extensions of themselves. Rather than denying impulsive or outlandish thoughts, they are giving into unbridled passion and letting it play out without weighing the consequences.

Imagination becomes so real that they get caught up in the excitement of the moment. Sane people control their thoughts. Insanity indulges lawlessness and danger without regard to conscience or societal pressure. There are no red flags or warnings to protect them from wrongdoing. They have completely crossed over from reality to depravity.

Half the population thinks that stricter gun laws or banning guns altogether is the answer. The other half says “guns don’t kill people, people do,” as if the guns are blameless. However, the first thing a runaway government does is to take control of and remove the only means of self-protection the citizenry have. That’s why “the right to bear arms” is in the Constitution.

While the “people” and their elected leaders fight over this principle, the rest of us wait in fear for an answer. Some will decide to buy and carry before the privilege is lost, while others hang back in fear waiting for some crazy to “strike again.”

Artists are engaging in the battle through posters, political cartoons, illustrations and commentary aimed at one side or the other. But these campaigns don’t take into consideration that these “variations on a theme” are in complete opposition to the Constitution. We need to take a closer look at why these gun incidents are happening, who is committing the atrocities and where?

Most of the shootings have occurred in “gun free” zones. The shooter knew that there would be no opposition to his attack and no other guns on the scene, at least until the police arrived. Many of the shooters had a history of mental illness. And some of them were jihadists converted by Isis online.

All of these people managed to obtain guns anyway; some through illegal means and others through regular channels and “quickie” permits with careless background checks.

Most of these shooters were seeking recognition. They got noticed, all right, but it may not have been the kind of attention they were seeking.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Past is not gone Forever – “What Goes Around Comes Around”

"Americana" 16x20 acrylic on canvas
“Made in the U.S.A.” is a new mantra touted by many upstart entrepreneurs these days. They not only want to feature local artists and their skills, but to keep the money circulating in our own country. This new trend seems to be catching on as citizens watch their jobs and their dollars fly overseas to make some other country rich. 

Yes, the cost of producing products in America is more expensive, especially in light of the big push by the President and some in Congress to raise the minimum wage. This would only add fuel to the “flee America” model. When small business owners and corporations have to increase wages, absorb health care costs, new taxes and over regulation they are more apt to do business where the cost of doing it is less.

But there’s a catch. While I was searching for USA companies, I found that some of them were only assembled here. One dog food manufacturer’s product was considered unsafe because the ingredients were actually obtained in another country, hence, uninspected. So if you’re looking to buy American products, do your research first.

"Star Billing" mixed media on canvas
Still, for the good hearted people who really want to help our country and its people out, it's worthwhile to scout these companies out and take a look at their products. I can say this from experience: “Artist’s who create in America, usually sell their artwork right here in the homeland.” Of course, there may be exceptions. It is up to you to become informed.

With worries about GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), more people are growing their own food. This includes raising chickens and rabbits where zoning allows, growing a vegetable garden, planting fruit trees, strawberries and raspberries. Some brave souls have even left the urban life altogether for life in the country raising goats, llamas, or buffalo. 

I’m not that brave, but I would like to grow some of my own vegetables and fruits. In our gated community, the closest I’ll come is to growing strawberries and tomatoes in appropriate pots on my patio or in my small flower beds.

Watching wildfires burn up precious land in the West, and floods destroy huge swaths of land in the heartland makes you realize that American grown food could also become scarce if crops are either destroyed or not planted in the first place.

It’s reassuring to know that a return to the basics and a simpler way of life could relieve us of short-term famine or hunger. My last blog about painting with food products also provided a solution if your budget makes it difficult to buy art products. Even brushes can be homemade and could add a surprising twist to your finished artistic products. 

The watchword is not to succumb from fear when the going gets rough. Use your creativity to supply your needs and wants and perhaps supplement your income if necessary. The saying “Where there’s a will there’s a way” served our parents and grandparents well. Perhaps it will also save the day for you and your family.
(All artwork is for sale from the artist or at Carol's online Gallery  )
"Sunshine" 11 x 14 acrylic (Sunflowers in a garden can provide nutritious seeds for health!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Thrifty Aftists are Thinking Outside the Box and Reducing Costs!

(Might be messy, but it's easy clean-up and safe for toddlers --
They can even taste as they go!)
If you want to know how the economy is really doing, take a look at how artists are surviving in a climate where the buyer's focus is on necessities.

Giulia Bernardelli from Italy paints with food: the ice cream that drips from a cone is used to create mini portraits; coffee is splashed onto a sheet of paper or a canvas and imagination visualizes the scene hidden within the brown watercolor. Preconceived notions are cast aside as the artist tries to see what is there. These inexpensive materials are bringing Bernardelli recognition for the artwork’s unusual and entertaining qualities.

David Zinn, a Michigan artist is using chalk on the sidewalks and construction sites of the city to draw attention to his artwork. Of course, the weather could wash his drawings away, but he seems not to worry. Residents look forward to seeing his comic scenes and they will remember who he is. If you haven’t seen his work, you’re in for a treat:

Creation David Zinn
David Zinn is an artist from Michigan. He runs around all day 
in the streets of Ann Arbor,  with street construction, cracks, 
etc. on the road with chalk to create a lot of street fairy tales.                                                      
David Zinn's most famous creation was undoubtedly a little 
monster called Sluggo. Sluggo has a green body and long,
round eyes, it and its partners have also become a small
street in Ann Arbor unique scene.                                                     
More food art:

Please share your ideas on reducing costs of artwork while publicizing your skills.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blacker than Coal – the Mysterious Crow

I’m at it again, getting myself involved in another historical fiction and having difficulty putting it down. At first glance, I thought “here we go again.” The book is called “Crow Hollow” by Michael Wallace, who already has more than 20 books under his belt; and in this book, he focuses on the colonizing of America and the early “Indian Wars.”

I’d already read a similar book about Puritans and the harsh conditions they not only lived under but created for themselves with their strict adherence to rules and a code of ethics that was punishable by law. In their efforts to be “good and pure,” they became harsh, judgmental and mean-spirited. I was hesitant to start another book along these same lines, but the design cover with a crow combined with the title hooked me!

“Crow Hollow” is exciting, filled with intrigue, romance, and a concoction of unusual characters who take you on a breathtaking ride into Indian Territory including a smattering of languages and dialects. Their ability to survive in the virginal wilderness of North America was woven expertly into the story making the reader a witness to the making of history.

I’m also intrigued by the superstitions surrounding crows or ravens as they are called in many countries. Perhaps because of their inky blackness and their human-like noises, crows have strong connections to folklore and to different cultures around the world.

In India, it is believed that crows come to take away spirits after someone dies. My painting “India Rising – the Lost” depicts a starving street urchin being taken up by the crows of India that are somewhat grayer than their American counterparts.
"India Rising -- the Lost"  24x18 acrylic on canvas
And from the web site “The Spirit Keepers” some additional information:

 “These remarkable Crows and Ravens have roles in legends and myths worldwide. Their wisdom, intelligence and flying powers were used by Ancient Gods and Kings. These birds and the tales surrounding them also played a role in the day-to-day lives of people.

“In many mythologies because of their similarities, the Crow and Raven are often mixed up, and in the telling of their myths and legends; one frequently takes the place of the other.  Like the Raven, the Crow was considered a messenger of the gods, and is associated with the sun,  weather, longevity, beginnings, bad luck and death.  Crows are also associated with the visible and invisible worlds, and was considered a bird of omen and prophecy.  Because of its intelligence and cunning, the Crow was also seen as a trickster, and many believed that fairies turned into Crows in order to cause mischief.

“Spirit of the Crow...

Role: Carrier of Lost Souls into Light
Lesson: To Understand the Shadow within
Element: Air
Wind: West ~ The Quest within
Medicine: Shape shifting
             Keywords: Carrier of Souls. Shadow Within. Sentinel. Shape shifter.”

In “Crow Hollow” the author Michal Wallace named a place in his book after them and endowed these large intimidating birds with grisly properties. He provided juxtaposition between the hallowed crows and their Native American counterparts by mirroring the savagery that both were equally capable of and which actually occurred in Crow Hollow.

The excerpts from “The Spirit Keepers” web site should also pique your curiosity. Below is a video to show you how smart they are and a direct link to The Spirit Keepers where you will find a list of crow superstitions and their origins.

Read more at The Spirit Keepers

Sunday, July 12, 2015

America doesn’t need Major Surgery; She needs Forgiveness to Heal her Wounds

(Here's my main model, my granddaughter)
I’ve decided that it’s very hard to think creatively when you don’t feel well or you’re in pain. Some may say that getting your imaginative juices off your own problems and onto something fun makes them better. But if you’re miserable, it’s not going to cut it for long.

The good thing is I’m starting “one week after surgery” on Monday, and it can only get better from here. People tried to make me feel better before surgery by saying it was going to be a “snap” and comparing it to the old way of incise, cut and mend. I suppose their right. But arthroscopic surgery is still surgery. Once my body gets the message that it’s so much better this way, maybe my bowels and my stomach will come along for the ride.
(I'm going to change direction of her eyes, make them lavendar and purple)
I had an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair a few years ago, but I’ve yet to forget the weeks and months of physical therapy it took to get me back to normal. Sure the incisions cover less ground so the healing is quicker, but the reason for surgery, repairing a tear or removing an organ still takes a lot of internal healing and re-directing before things get back to normal.

I’m still trying to function creatively in the mean time. I had a request from my granddaughter who is a working girl, an actress, and a creative person in her own right. She wants to use her favorite color purple in various shades to enhance a living room dominated by grays, whites and black.

(I may use black or purple stripes on her costume?)
Using a portrait of her with a Harlequin theme seemed like the winning combination. I haven’t had any feedback from her at this point in time, so I’m winging it until I do. I’m also continuing to work on my India family portrait which was interrupted by my surgery.

A lot has happened in the news of late, one of them being the removal of the South’s Confederate flag. Living in Florida has somehow immunized me against what the flag stands for to some people. For me as an artist, it was a colorful statement of the South’s unique heritage.

I worry that this decision will have a domino effect on everything else that reminds us of something we don’t like. Will statues of the Founding Fathers be tampered with because they once owned slaves?

Sometimes history is a good reminder of what we stand for and of who fought beside us. Black soldiers fought side by side with Yankees in the Civil War and with other American’s in the Revolutionary War. African Americans have also risen to great heights in every other war we’ve conducted.

(Love black 'n white checks -- a checkerboard?)
Arguments should represent not just one side in a debate, but both sides.  Before we start changing history, let us remember what Dylan Thomas penned long ago to his father who was going blind: “Do not go gentle into that dark night” lest we “throw out the baby with the bath water,” or cut America’s nose off to spite her face.”

(Lower quadrant of drawing --- my shadow on canvas)

Top upper quadrant of drawing. Working Title:  "Queen of Diamonds"

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Man’s Inhumanity to Man – When Power Corrupts

"With these Hands -- Wonder" Oil on acrylic underpainting
It's the 4th of July; Independence Day, and I'm going to repeat a blog in memory of the veterans and troops throughout the years who have fought for our freedom. My inspiration came from reading “Unbroken; a World War II Story of Survival,” by Laura Hillenbrand. In that blog, I mentioned that it was hard for me to read more than a few chapters a day. 

The material is so raw, so cruel and emotional that I had to quit reading in order to regain my composure. I’m not a crier; people who know me know that I don’t cry easily, especially in front of others. But I will tell you this. While reading this book, my eyes filled with tears and my heart experienced the agony of shared empathy.

As POWs, these men tried to retain their dignity as human beings under cruel and inhumane circumstances. Struggling to maintain scraps of freedom their defiance kept them going. Their bodies would be starved and beaten. They would be forced into submission, but their souls, their attitudes and minds would soar above on silent prayers of hope and endurance.

Their struggles reminded me of this passage from the Book of Job in the Bible: “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it. My conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:6 NIV)

Educators always refer to the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler as the worst example in history of human degradation and deprivation. And well they should. But its relevance has been broadcast on the wings of a political agenda labeled “Anti-Semitism.” Yet the fact that thousands and millions of Soldiers suffered under the tyrannical hands of the Japanese in the brutal POW camps is little known. Why? Because the power of the elite has deemed America an “Imperialist” country and these facts do not suit their political agenda.

(first great granddaughter)
I went to Wickipedia hoping to find some historical and accurate information. To my surprise their main focus was on the Japanese Internment Camps in the US and Japanese POWs where the prisoners were treated humanely compared to the treatment of US prisoners in Japanese camps. This is how history has been manipulated for political purposes.

Most of the US and Allied POWs in Japan died from starvation. They became slave labor and worked long hours on rice or seaweed broth having neither protein nor vegetables. They suffered preventable diseases such as beriberi and scurvy. These valiant men helped each other, protected each other; and when they could, shared what little food they had in order to keep their buddies alive. 

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers,” Karl Barth a theologian of the 20th century once said. Those who survived were sometimes hourly on their knees.

These prisoners were beaten daily, beaten for pleasure, and if they were officers or men of stature beaten extensively. They were coverless and barefoot in winter; their bodies covered only with shreds of cloth that were once the clothing they wore when captured. International law regarding Prisoners of War was ignored. The Red Cross dropped food supplies in the camps, but the Japanese guards horded them for themselves or sold them on the black market.

Sadly, their suffering and torture in the POW camps was overshadowed by the “bomb” that finally made Japan stand still. How do you stop a tyrant? How do you bring down the planes raining bombs on your own soil and stop an aggressive enemy intent on conquering the world? How do you stop a bully with an arsenal who is out to cleanse the world of unwanted races, ethnicities, or religions? How do you stop a mad man, a dictator from implementing his hatred?

During the course of the war, Japanese civilians also suffered as their country began to collapse at war’s end. A quote from the book states: “Near the end of the war, the civilians (not the guards or hierarchy) were in shocking conditions. The limbs of the adults were grotesquely swollen from beriberi; a condition the POWs knew well. Their children were emaciated…But Japan was a long way from giving up.”

The Japanese considered “surrender” shameful, and they were prepared to fight to the end at all costs. They had also decided that no prisoners would be released to their allied forces. They intended to kill every last one. Hundreds of POWs were shot and dumped in the nearby jungles. There were few options open to the POWs for escape or rescue.

There’s another side to the story. What enemy would warn their adversary of an upcoming attack? American B29s “showered leaflets over 35 Japanese cities warning civilians of coming bombings and urging them to warn others and to evacuate. “But the Japanese authorities punished those who had leaflets or who gave them to their neighbors and tried to warn them. Two of the cities warned and mentioned in the leaflets were Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Today, my blog is long. This war, this book has deeply affected me. I am incensed by “man’s inhumanity to man.” Sadly, those who served our country, who suffered and endured, were forgotten to satisfy a contemporary ideology intent on promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. It has taken America several decades to honor those who served in the World War II arena. There are very few of them who still remain.

To add insult to injury, those surviving American heroes were insulted once again when the “mock government shut-down” denied them passage into the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. that was built specifically to honor them. 

I am ashamed of our leaders in Washington. I am outraged at how they toy with our lives and tinker with the greatest thing we have going for us: our Constitution. May God bless America. She needs it now more than ever!