Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Walk on the Wild Side

I’ve never been to Africa. Wilderness parks and my own neighborhood provide a glimpse of wildlife. All I have to do is put on my walking shoes, grab my camera and head out the door.

On my journey, I’m also looking for palm masks which eventually drop from the Queen palm tree. My hope is that it won’t be damaged by the fall or partially rotting from too much moisture. The possibilities expressed in the unique shape and markings of these masks lead me into the far realms of imagination.

I may see a golden panther waiting there or a grizzly baboon with a blue nose. Sometimes a chunky contemporary face beckons my brush to let go and have fun.

I’m also surrounded by ideas and the creatures I may pass on my morning walks: an armadillo, a coyote, or even a black bear. There are herons, egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, Sandhill cranes, eagles, hawks, ospreys and feral pigs just to name a few. They all become inspiration for paintings, illustrations or masks.

With Halloween coming up, one of them may even end up in black and orange. The woody masks must be treated with care. As they dry out, hairline cracks may form in the wood. The grain is so porous that it soaks up layers of paint. The hairy dry strands that fringe the edges sometimes get bumped off as I work.
(This is odd shaped and contemporary)
(Could make a funny face?)

People love to wear masks. Children enjoy the game, too. We like to become something we’re not or pretend that we’re a celebrity or a monster. Our real feelings are usually hidden behind a frozen face that refuses to give any clues as to what we’re thinking. But during this one time of year, we put on a new face and “let it all hang out.”

Politicians wear a mask while campaigning; but once the election is won, they forget their promises and become just another “Washington Insider.”

Lovers may wear a mask in the beginning of a new relationship. Looking our best, showing only those traits that we feel might be acceptable. If the bond is solemnized too soon, the “coming out party” may be a shock or at least a jolt of reality.

Caught up in the glitter and dazzle of romance, the nitty-gritty everyday struggles are masked. Once the make-up is off and the real you comes forth in all its fury plus a boat load of attitude, the feel-good veneer of the honeymoon period is gone. Some couples come crashing down only a few weeks or months after the marriage.

For those unwitting spouses, the fall is long and deep. For couples with children, the entanglement may take longer. Often in the bloom of initial romance, the red flags are ignored or not revealed. Dishonesty becomes a giant hurdle that can’t be overcome.

(This very large mask could end up a fish or . . . )
(a funny-faced baboon or water bird?)
What do you think?

It’s great fun to wear a mask when a mask is called for on Halloween, at Mardi Gras time or during other annual celebrations. But all bets are off when the masks come off. An old saying comes to mind: “Lasting love is not about finding the right person, it’s about being the right person.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Unbroken Wild West Still Invites Exploration and Adventure

I grew up in what is sometimes called “The Wild West.” We went camping and traveling throughout Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon. Parts of the West are still as they were when Lewis and Clark and the early pioneers traveled for the first time over this rugged terrain.

In our travels, one of my favorite places was Taos / Pueblo, New Mexico. I still have a turquoise necklace I purchased from a Native American artist for $50. I fell in love with the artist community and the prolific galleries that dotted the streets. My dream was to return to live and work there. But you know how that goes.

According to a travel guide: “Taos is art. Art is everywhere: on the walls, in the streets, in the landscape and architecture. There are more than 80 galleries, museums, two major art festivals, several film fests, a Poets and Story Tellers festival, and four music fests.”

The grandeur of the mountains invites tourists and artists in summer and fall, and skiers in winter. The history of Taos is replete with Native American lore, an actual Pueblo village, and details about famous artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, D.H. Lawrence, John Marin, Andrew Dasburg and many others.

The broad sweep of rugged hills and jagged mountains provides year round recreation that has increased both the size and scope of Taos along with a rise in the cost of living. But a visit is well worth the experience.

When the word “wild” comes to your mind what does your imagination conjure up? The word itself makes me think “feral, uncontrollable;” not a good thing if you’re trying to harness your skill to describe in words or artwork what you see. 

Writers and artists must think in images. If you can’t visualize your subject matter, you can’t describe it or illustrate it.

Wild is one of the reasons people throng to Taos. Uninhabitable spacious vistas go on and on for what seems like forever. The color, the fusion of value and space is intoxicating.

I have a love affair with deserts. Teeming with life and color in the springtime and then withering to prickly dry sagebrush and cactus through the scorching heat of summer. Tumbleweeds blow across the roadways and line fences with woody entwined growth. They roam across the desert orchestrated by the wind in a primordial gracefulness; rolling and tumbling, following least resistance.

Taos gets under your skin. The brilliant sunsets, Native American colors and sounds, the howl of a wolf or coyote, the fresh air caressing your skin, filling your lungs. Prickly cacti needle you into submission. The stalwart saguaro look almost human in the evening shadows.

This lovely verse from the Poet Society’s Jillena Rose describes it well:

by Jillena Rose

Bones are easier to find than flowers
in the desert, so I paint these:
Fine white skulls of cows and horses.

When I lie flat under the stars
in the back of the car, coyotes howling
in the scrub pines, easy to feel how those bones
are much like mine: Here is my pelvis,
like the pelvis I found today
bleached by the sun and the sand. Same
hole where the hip would go, same

white curve of bone beneath my flesh
same cradle of life, silent and still in me.

(Poem copyright ©2011 Jillena Rose all rights reserved)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Self Portraits are the Most Revealing of All

An artist named Abbey's self portrait
I haven’t done one yet, but I believe that when artists create their own personal self-portrait you can learn a lot about them. Drawing from their internal psych and emotions, they skillfully illustrate not only outward appearance, but personality strengths and flaws.

You’re probably familiar with some of the “famous artist” self-portraits. When lesser known artists add their own portrait to the mix, their unique style and preferences make them standout.

Self-portraits can also be used as a trademark that represents who you are and what you have to offer. People enjoy seeing an artist’s interpretation of themselves and how it relates to the style of their work.

In the latest Republican debate, the candidate’s facial expressions were telling. Only time will tell who comes out on top of the heap.

There was a back and forth between Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina over a comment Trump had made earlier about her “face.” “Have you seen that face,” he chided? “It’s not Presidential.” Later he backed off of those comments.

Gustave Courbet, "The Desperate Man"

Fiorina did not outright blast The Donald. Instead she came up with a fantastic commercial showing ordinary women’s faces concluding that they had great things to accomplish. She also verbally jabbed him at the debate saying “The women in America knew exactly what your meaning was,” and the audience applauded.

Carly Fiorina fires back!

Politics! Trump said after her remarks “I think she’s a beautiful and a wonderful woman.” Did Carly accept his attempt at graciousness? Absolutely not. The eye darts were flying. Most of the audience thought his comments were patronizing and insincere. Which just goes to show you that actions speak louder than words.

Trump’s body language and expressions showed that he is perfectly at ease with who he is in spite of his brash and at times insulting comments. He is confident that he knows how to get things done and that he will be successful.

Lucien Freud, Reflections, self-portrait

Next to body language, faces are the most expressive part of the body. There are some people who know how to put on a happy face even when they’re not. Some can show no emotion whatsoever which makes it easy for them to get unnoticed and unrevealed.

Beware of reading too much into body language or facial expressions. Some people (con men and women) are especially good at making themselves seem just like you and me. 

Follow your gut instincts. If something doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t.
Don’t take people at their word either. Make sure you follow through with requests for identity and references. A telephone call to a friend or neighbor may just secure your safety and your money.

Rembrandt, self-portrait
Allowing people off the street into your house just because they have a flashy business card and a friendly face is foolish. Tell them you were expecting company or that you must leave for an appointment and ask them to come back another day. 

This cautious attitude pays off in politics as well. Take your time to assess a candidate over time. Do some research. The truth is somewhere in the middle as opponents may try to negate their competition. We have a lot at stake this year! Do your homework and then get out and vote!  If you don't vote, please don't complain later that you’re upset with the outcome.

Diane Edison, oil, self-portrait

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Enemy you Know is usually better than the One you don’t

#hopeful in India, 24x18 acrylic on canvas
I have a curious mind. As a writer, I delve into various subjects and interview interesting people as I pursue a story or simply to satisfy my curiosity. Friends and relatives caution me about going in the wrong direction; but what I’ve discovered is that I become even more self-assured in the anchor that holds me to reality and truth.

In my moves and travels around the world, I’ve gained a sense of appreciation for all human beings. The majority are simple, good-hearted people who just want to live their lives in peace. By the ongoing turmoil and the natural disasters that occur many have far more struggles than they can handle or even deserve.

Giving life meaning and purpose is important to many. Participating in a good “cause.” Helping a neighbor or friend. Feeling good about yourself at the end of the day. These simple pleasures ranked high on their “satisfaction” list.

In the oncoming weeks, American’s patience will be tested again by the influx of 10,000 Muslim refugees. Less than three years ago, we were asked to welcome 1.8 million immigrants under the age of 31 from Mexico. The so-called “Dream Act” or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program. Created to suspend the deportation of this sizable influx of illegal Mexican runaways.

America is a sinking ship. We are nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt to a powerful communist regime that could annihilate us if they so choose. Now we are asked to accept an even greater burden while over 50% of our own citizens are on welfare. American debt keeps rising, our own people are hurting and now we are expected to do the "humanitarian” thing and bring more people aboard.

To politicians, these “potential voters” are desirable cargo. Made me think of those Titanic survivors who clung to their life rafts. Extra people tried to get aboard, but the rafts would sink losing all. There were simply not enough rafts to support any more people. Hordes of people drowned. A few survivors were left to tell the tale.

The discussed refugees are also from countries that have repeatedly sworn not only to hate America, but to destroy her. Diabolical as it is, most nations and  countries are usually destroyed from within. Inviting our enemies to slowly take over our country is not the same as feeding them and sending them first aid supplies and help. Think about it. Saudi Arabia won’t take these refugees into their country, even though they are of the same ethnic background.
"Prayer Circles" oil on acrylic background
History and current affairs around the world have shown us that their intentions are not “peaceful.”  They have affected the freedoms of every country where they have infiltrated. No I am not advising hatred. What I am saying is that we should offer them food, clothing, health assistance and protection, if necessary, but leave them in their homeland.

We should also encourage other Arab nations to invite these refugees into their tents and living rooms. Perhaps if we had left well enough alone in the first place, Isis would not have taken over the Middle East. Sometimes the “enemy you know” is better than the enemy that rises up to take over the void.
"Belly Dancer" 11x14 acrylic on canvas

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Do you believe in Subliminal Messages?

"Queen of Diamonds" mixed media on 20x20 canvas
During the 60s and 70s, people looked for “conspiracy theories” and evil in almost everything: text books, novels, advertisements, political innuendo and subtleties. Truth was becoming nebulous and personal; "What is true for one person may not be true for others."

Personal superstitions contributed to this fever and a growing disbelief in absolutes. Well, guess what? They’re still doing it today and in much the same way. I viewed an analysis of an automobile commercial that was supposedly pumping out subliminal messages big time. There was talk about the devil, global governance, and how we were all being dragged into the abyss because we're a captive “couch potato” society.

I don’t know whether their conclusions are true, false, or absolutely ridiculous, but I will try to watch and listen more carefully to what I see, read, and how I become involved if only to be aware of the influences that surround me each day.

(I received ideas from these "Harlequin photos/prints above)

I admit, I grew up in a protected environment. For the most part, my upbringing included these admonitions: “Look for the good in all people; Accept people the way they are, and Don’t be judgmental.”

This advice has served me well even though, in the beginning, it made me somewhat naive and trusting. I learned the hard way that there is evil in the world, and that there are people out there who would take advantage of you to satisfy their own needs.

It's good to be aware of this fact, but not to the point of disabling your ability to enjoy people and to experience trust and love in a close circle of friends. Sometimes that means walking a precarious line between doubt and clarity. Experience provides the added ability to “trust your gut (intuition)” and to live without fear.

Some people search for truth in convoluted and confusing ways. They trust in authors and writers they may not know anything about. Instead of going to people they trust and asking for advice, they put their life in the hands of complete strangers.

("My Granddaughter served as my model)

Instead of looking back at what has happened in the past, they struggle to interpret what is going on today. I will say this about those who believe in God and in the truth of the Holy Bible: they seem to be more anchored. They allow absolute truth to guide their decisions.

If that isn’t you, please share with us here what “anchors” your life and makes you feel secure and confident in your decisions. It would be great if advertisers, authors and artists would share how you feel about the power of subliminal messages. Do they work?

Above all, make your life count for something. A life with “meaning” is filled with joy, peace, and accomplishment. How you achieve this becomes your own personal journey of discovery.

("Loved these eyes!  Decided to add them to my painting)

Friday, September 4, 2015

The New Art – Tactile, Wearable, Inscribed and Interactive

"Kindred Spirits" acrylic on canvas

A young woman that sits beside me in church on Sunday is emblazoned with tattoos on her arms and legs. One Sunday before service, she noticed my colorful cross necklace that a friend had purchased for me in Italy. She admired it, and I told her I was an artist and that a friend had given me the necklace as a gift.

She promptly stood up and began to show me the tattoos on her arms of which she was very proud. They were artistically done and I commented on their intricacy and beauty.

Once the service started, I had difficulty harnessing my spiritual attention as I gazed at the people sitting in the aisles ahead of me whose garments were colorfully and explicitly designed. I even got out a paper and pencil so I could sketch in quickly the ones that I thought would make stunning abstract art pieces with modifications and color changes. 

Artists can relate how hard it is to focus when you’re surrounded by artistic distractions.
Online galleries are adapting to the new trends. People who may not want to buy an expensive painting, seem willing to purchase a T-shirt or a pillow with that same painting printed on the surface. Smart phone covers, cards, and household wares are being embellished with art.

Now people don’t have to spend more than their budget allows to enjoy stunning artwork. They can purchase basic needs that are splashed in color and their favorite artist’s work.

Some artists have expanded their exposure via clothing, towels, and kitchen wares.
In a rocky economy, these outlets provide secondary income that may increase an artist’s popularity. Unfortunately, not all artwork lends itself to this marketplace, and some artists are changing their style for dollars and more accessibility. For those artists who are willing to make those compromises and changes, there is money to be made.

Adapting to a volatile market is key. Sadly many artists lag behind every new trend. Keeping up to date is difficult if your passion and style don’t lend themselves to fads and whims that fluctuate with a fickle public. Testing the waters with your own vision will at least keep you on the buyer’s radar.

For a look at "The Best Wearable Art, go to this link:  Wearable Art