Friday, October 30, 2015

Straddling the Line between Traditional and Innovative

(I decided to add jewels and pizzaz to my baby elephant) It will soon be on sale in my Etsy Shop:
The canvas is a woody palm frond from Florida.
When my youngest two were teenagers, I took them to a movie they were eager to see. I was prepared to be bored; but as it turned out, I was anything but. Although the humor was warped and risqué for its time, I laughed aloud in spite of myself. “Wayne’s World” was another daring leap by Mike Myers, a Saturday Night Live comedian and innovator who brought the word “bodacious” into common usage.

Myers illustrates that In order to succeed, you must take risks. You either expose your “soft under belly” leaving yourself open to criticism, or you conform to accepted norms and techniques never allowing your vision to see the light of day. 

I received an email from a friend that said “Some days you’re the top dog, and some days you’re the hydrant.” Watching the Republican CNBC debate on Wednesday night brought this saying to mind. 

“Talking Heads” were ready with their fiery darts and jabs to take down the candidates, but the tables were turned as the candidates fired back. The media ended up with mud on their faces for asking “gotcha” questions, and the candidates were cheered for answering the questions that should have been asked.

Sometimes you have to go beyond the comfort of “fitting in” by daring to do something different and innovative. Entrepreneurs must follow their gut instincts to stand out. They go above and beyond expectations. I came across a great web site designed to motivate and inspire entrepreneurial thinking.

The 12 Greatest Innovators of all time

These innovators were at first ignored then criticized, but they were not deterred. There is a learning curve to greatness. You have to be willing to make mistakes and let others witness them in order to get the experience and the skill necessary to overcome them.


(The two canvases here are a sample of how different editing and photo programs change the color of paint. The canvas on the right is the true color and the one below has been given a purplish hue. This is a work-in-progress and an attempt to recycle a canvas.)

For your enjoyment
Mike Myers went on to do the Austin Powers series and to continue to make people laugh. I don't know what he's into these days, if you have a current update, please share them here. 

Below is the trailer for "Wayne's World" and another clip of well-known quotes from the movie that will be remembered for a very long time.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What do you Desire and Why?

"Pumpkin Surprise" an old-fashioned pastel on textured paper
Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered how you ended up in this particular place at this special time on earth? Or are you filled with regrets? Whether for good or for evil, your experiences and mistakes have come from the yearnings and desires of your heart. You may laugh and say “The devil made me do it;” but in reality, you got what you wanted. Perhaps you even wished for something that turned out terribly wrong.

These are the scenarios that end up in books, in paintings, and on stage and screen. The writhing pain and the tears of a broken heart make great viewing. But in reality, they shatter lives and burn relationship bridges. We are moved watching emotion on screen or observing it through visual arts. Seeing angst and frustration or lust and desire moves us because we are all subject to these same feelings and passions.
"Broken Hearted" pastel on textured paper; matted and ready to frame
Failure and sorrow are part of the human condition. When written about or illustrated, we may weep or feel pain vicariously. Our own weaknesses and desires help us to relate to the fallen. The courageous and brave inspire us to overcome and achieve. There is no better way to reach people than through the arts and through spiritual enlightenment.

The Bible, still a best-seller in 2015, is the greatest work of literature and truth of all time. The Book of Proverbs illustrates so clearly the consequences that follow our careless actions. Psalms is full of the sorrow that follows sin and of the hope and forgiveness that exists for those who seek God.

Today fantasy, horror, and evil are the preferred fair by a majority of T.V. viewers and moviegoers. Suspense, espionage, action are all at the top of the list. Artwork has trended toward colorful, fun and humorous or unusual and quirky. Inspired by new technology, the scenes can be edited and enhanced heightening the tension for viewers.

Three-D is even more spectacular than it was back in a long-ago era. Using the latest software and sound, the thrill of actually walking in the footsteps of the characters is now possible. People are becoming satiated and overstimulated to the point of numbness.

Simple pleasures and experiences are no longer a draw. If something doesn’t terrify us or fulfill our lusts we turn to other venues. Is there a point of no return? What happens, God forbid, if some terrorist or enemy triggers gridlock or cyber blackness? What happens when someone clever and evil pulls the plug?
"India Rising -- The Lost" acrylic on canvas
The world is full of what ifs. What if mothers and fathers spent more time with their children? What if children returned home and discovered how much their parents really cared about them?

I raised my children without smart phones. When our television burned out we had nothing else. How did we fill the gap? We read together Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” We read Treasure Island and The Jungle Book. We put on plays together, the older children reading for the younger. It may sound boring by today’s standards, but a wild imagination is even better than watching made-up stories and manipulated tragedies on screen. 

My boys made their own spook alley in our basement that was not only fun, but super creepy in the dark. They shared the adventure with all of their neighborhood friends who then wanted to make one for themselves or add to the existing one my boys had created.

Some precious "grands" getting ready for Halloween
We had a night in the kitchen called “cooking class.” The kids learned how to make jello and muffins, and to follow a recipe. My 12 year old daughter made homemade bread. Her younger brother became an expert at making cream puffs for his boy scout troop.

Cook up some memories for your family during the next round of holidays before your children are too old to enjoy them or participate in them. Happy Halloween!
My grandsons and a friend carving out pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

True or False: Unsigned paintings usually sell for less?

Why is a signature so important?  It provides authenticity to the painting, recognition for the artist, and identification if a question of "is this the genuine article?" comes up. The artist’s signature on a painting is as if the artist is guaranteeing that this is his or her own work. Call it the artist's own personal advertisement. In addition, an unsigned work leaves an opening for forgery or perhaps a “bait ‘n switch” to occur.

I was doing some online research recently when I came across one of my paintings in a collection. Luckily it was signed, but still open for someone else to download a copy. Since none of us can prevent this sort of thing from happening, we are vulnerable to theft. Many social sites do not have encryption available on their sites to safeguard your artwork.

I’ve also had my blog columns lifted and placed on someone else’s blog without my permission. Sometimes they give you credit and sometimes your name is so small that viewers may assume that the owner of the blog wrote the article. Your intellectual property is at risk even though you declare that copyright laws are in place. This puts every artist, writer, and musician at the mercy of those who must police this kind of plagiarism.

"Brown Thrasher" 20 x 16 oil on canvas 
Sometimes an unsigned painting may be recognized by the style of the brush marks and the subject of composition. Professional galleries and authorized experts may be qualified to make that determination; otherwise, it’s just guesswork. Be sure you obtain an authorized person or gallery to verify the work for you.

One such gallery is Rehs Galleries, Inc. I’ve taken the liberty of quoting or paraphrasing from their newsletter archives, August 2006:

“Do your research. Many so-called experts only claim they are experts” For that reason, Rehs advises that when you purchase a painting you should buy one that is signed so that your painting will be easier to sell in the future and there will be no doubts as to its authenticity.

"Sand hill Crane, foraging" oil on panel
Why on earth wouldn’t an artist sign a painting?

  • They may have simply forgotten.
  • The painting may have been part of a collection that was not for sale at the time.
  • If the artist normally signs his or her paintings, the one without a signature may be an anomaly and may not retain its value unless authorized by a gallery or a professional in this field.
  • Be consistent in how your signature looks; it should be recognizable.
  •  A buyer may request that the artist sign on the back of the painting, instead.
  • After the death of the artist, an Estate Stamp may be used to identify unsigned artwork.
If you would like to read more from this article, connect to this link: Rehs Galleries, Inc.

True or False: Unsigned paintings usually sell for less?

Answer:  False.  If the painting is either “Estate Stamped” or authorized by an accredited authority, the painting will retain its value.

Want some suggestions on where and how to sign your paintings. Here are two simple videos that stress what’s important:

1.    Use a small liner brush
2.    Use soft color to blend in with the painting
3.    Acrylic paint that puddles, but does not run
4.    Avoid “center of interest” side
5.    Don’t let signature distract

The videos below help illustrate these key factors.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Are you Uninhibited or Style Conscious?

"Prayer Circles" Acrylic on 24 x 18 canvas
We always wonder if our personal artwork presents a style that is unique and recognizable by others. The answer is yes. Even though your style may be imperfect and perhaps full of “beginner’s” mistakes or careless errors, your style is evident in almost every painting.

Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield, describes it this way: “Style is a characteristic or group of characteristics that we can identify as constant, recurring, coherent, etc. that is identified with an individual.”

And from the late Robert Genn: “Each artist’s uniqueness and individualism brings endless variations. The dynamism invites the “keeping-in-mind-God” to play a part in the work’s evolution, enriching the process. The job becomes an intellectual as well as a technical and emotional exercise. The idea is to stretch your brain so your act of art is your very own.

There are also designated types of art that differentiate themselves, one from another. For instance, impressionism, realism, surrealism, expressionism, painterly, folksy, primitive, abstraction, etc. Most of us learned about these different genres in school. But within each category, there are definitive components such as the compositional elements, the brush strokes; are they flamboyant and wide, or detailed and soft?

"#hopeful in India" Acrylic, 24 x 18 canvas
And what about color? The hues and values chosen and the way they have been applied are all recognizable; even the lines and shapes and how they’re rendered are unique to each artist. Your style is a combination of the mediums, techniques, and subject matter you choose. It’s the extra things you do to distinguish your work from other artists.

As you gain experience, your work evolves. Your colors become more sophisticated. The composition more interesting and leading. Increased subtleties and innuendo begin to tone down the brasher elements and enhance the message. The painting becomes a soft-spoken message from your heart that is both appealing and convincing.

You the artist become an expert at playful seduction and illusion. There are often multiple messages that beckon and coalesce into one cohesive center of interest. You begin to sense where and when intensity is needed to mirror your own passion. You triumph when this melding of heart and soul on canvas are transfixed in the viewer’s mind long after they have left the scene.

Some may be riveted in place, studying the twists and turns of your color and vision. This may not happen overnight. This evolution of style is like giving birth. The process may be long and hard, but you know it will eventually happen. The struggle to overcome and to achieve has been done before by all those who profess to be artists.

"Fish Market" Acrylic on 24 x 18 canvas
Is it worth the intensity of emotion and the grief of failure? Is climbing to the top of Mount Everest ever worth the risks? Only those who reach the top may feel exultation. The building blocks you leave behind (those crass unfinished canvases, those embarrassing compositions and tacky mistakes) litter the highways and byways of your history and become the building blocks of your destiny. It is not over until you lay down the brush and either give up or give in to the overwhelming hold artistry has on you.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Give your Idea Context, and People will Get it

"Self-Portrait" 11 x 14 Pastel on paper, textured
Nir Eyal the author of “Hooked” How to Build Habit-forming Products discussed the importance of putting things in context. He tells the story of world-class violinist Joshua Bell who decided to play a free impromptu concert in the Washington D.C. Subway Station.

If you’ve ever bumped into someone and you know you’ve seen them before, but you can’t remember where, this is what Bell was up against. Bell regularly sells out venues in Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for $100 per ticket. But in the D.C. subway, he was someone people may or may not have known, and he was playing out of context.

Joshua Bell’s incredible music fell on deaf ears. In the eyes of passersby with a built-in agenda and time constraints to catch a subway, he was no better nor worse than the fiddle players who leave a hat or a violin case on the ground for gratuities of pity or generosity. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world.

Eyal excuses the people by saying: “The mind takes shortcuts informed by our surroundings to make quick and sometimes erroneous judgments.”

That’s why when you have something important to say, or you want to make an impact with your product or artwork, put yourself and your image in context. Each painting tells a story. A poor composition will lead people on to another painting, your article won't be read, and your product may not be sold if they are not relevant to participants.

Exposure is good. Many remarkable musicians and artists do free concerts in the park, or show their artwork for a good cause. Tell your story in pictures, in dance, and in words. Tell your audience what you’re going to talk about or do, show them later in action, and then summarize what you’ve shown them or told them about.

Put your life and your words in context. Make it relevant by drawing your viewers (or listeners) into your story and by giving them a reason to get involved. Think of audience interaction as a circle. The venue, the excitement starts with you. The story or the heart of your composition takes people and leads them through your scene. When participants complete their journey, you are waiting for them again to thank them for coming and inviting them to return.

The circle signifies completion. Not all roads lead to Rome as in the past, but the experience will leave a positive impression that may lead to future sales. As Joshua Bell discovered, it’s better to put your work in context (the proper setting) than to take people by surprise in a strange environment.

Of course, if you’re a complete unknown, entertaining people in a receptive corner of your world may be advantageous. Just be sure that your “debut” doesn’t get trumped by too many distractions.
"Baby Elephant" Palm Frond Mask from Queen Palm
The before is below. I was sure I could see a baby elephant in this woody find of nature.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

From Fairytales to Shakespeare, a World of Fantasy at your Fingertips

(Scene from Repunzel)

When my daughter was three, she learned how to dress herself. She changed clothes so often, I was ready to tear my hair out seeing her clean clothes scattered across the floor. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to look different, but that she hated the feel of the clothes in the first place.

Her favorite complaint: “These clothes are dumb!” She couldn’t stand the itchy scratchy touch of fabric and seams against skin. Had she the choice, she would have preferred dancing around in her Birthday suit. Thankfully she got over this stage, but remained an emotional and temperamental prima donna. Today she is a sensitive and caring artist, mother and teacher, which explains all.

Artists feel life on a deeper level than most people. They see beyond what is actually there and delve below the surface to find the treasure that lies within. Their sensitivity may make their life and that of others difficult, but it also pays dividends in the outcomes that result. Certainly the artist is rewarded with a greater sense of joy and fulfillment.

If this makes you hard to live with so be it. You don’t need to apologize when your attention escapes into the Netherlands to join Pan. You are temporarily absent in mind and body, that’s all; you’ll return shortly. You’re not hard of hearing, either. You simply have one foot in reality and the other in the world of fantasy; always asking “What if?” and “Why?” turning your exterior world into unique creatures and landscapes shaped by your imagination.

As a child I was big on reading fairy tales by Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. I literally entered a land of enchantment. I was there, walking the cobbled streets, hand-in-hand with my favorite characters. I could clearly see the colors, hear the sounds, and smell the smells of each adventure.

Being into your work is a requirement for success, but somewhere between birth and death we lose our sense of magic. We cease to “make-believe.” When the here and now is such harsh reality, we forget how to “suspend” belief in order to enjoy the present. Some people never do. You know them. They pick apart dramatic scenes in movies, finding errors in plot or photography. Instead of settling back to enjoy the ride, they put on their critic’s hat and blast away ruining it for everybody else.

As adults, Shakespeare provides a secondary world of make-believe. Tense, dramatic, and emotional the stories tell us about real people with tragic problems. Once your ear becomes attuned to the rhythm and flow of Old English dialogue, you soon forget the unfamiliar cadence of poetry and succumb to the voice of character, story and action. Stretching your interests and abilities can only add to the drama in your artwork and in your ability to think and to dream.

I hope you enjoy the stories and tutorials below: Bend with the will of the script and allow it to live and breathe in you. Allow yourself into the character’s minds and let them shape your thoughts and your dreams.

A tutorial and analysis:

Did you ever feel like an "Ugly Duckling" growing up? Guess what, we all did! The following video is dedicated to all "Ugly Ducklings" everywhere who have since grown beyond their insecurities.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Re-Purpose -- Another Word for “Solution”

(I did a painting of my grandmother from World War II, working in a factory. Then
I "re-purposed" it for a juried show on the subject. A real make-over!)
Politicians who flip-flop like to say they “evolved” in their thinking and defend their right to change their minds. Actually, almost everyone embraces different philosophies and ideologies as they go through life trying to figure out who they are and what they believe.

I was once a Democrat, then a Republican, and now lean towards Independent or Libertarian in my preferences. The state of the nation and the world often dictates how we feel rather than devotion to one party or the other.

(a broken stained glass window was given new life.)
Businesses often transform themselves when they see sales slipping backwards and their bottom line turning red. They look at the competition and realize that in order to succeed, a do-over is required. These same problems may signal a merger between a stronger, but similar entity.
(Old colored shutters are used to spruce up this room)
Many companies examine their operations and decide a good house-cleaning is necessary. To cut costs, they may eliminate waste or lay-off non-productive or unneeded employees. They may find new ways to function or to re-purpose unsalable goods and dead inventory.

I’m attempting to do the same. I’m trying to operate smarter and to re-use old canvases that have been taking up space. If there’s anything that breaks down a business, it’s having too much inventory on hand. I’m cleaning up and paring down. If something isn’t popular or profitable, I’m ready to paint over it or pitch it out.
(Old Phone Books make an unusual table or sculpture)

As we age, we may want to do a make-over on ourselves. Sometimes we slip into old habits that aren’t productive. We may be trying to appear cutting edge, but we or our logo and products seem outdated.

Sometimes we need to start from the inside out. What is at fault is not our methods or our product it’s us. We’re failing to do the required marketing. Perhaps we’re plagued by negative thinking that holds us down and discourages success. Health problems may also come into play. Whatever the excuse, it is pulling us back from being successful.

I love to read. It is sometimes difficult to tear myself away from the latest novel or non-fiction book. In addition, I like to learn new techniques. Online classes and local ones are important, but they also cost time and eat up profits. In addition, I spend time online researching ideas for my blogs or for a new painting. My days are full, and marketing and social media take up a good portion of time. According to some experts, marketing should take up to at least 75% of your working day. That leaves very little time for creating and writing.

We all have choices that either keep us on track or distract us. Only you can decide what those things are. Unless you get rid of the distractions it is highly unlikely that you will figure out how to keep your business up and running profitably and productively.