Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Native American Tribes in Florida -- Past and Present

One of the reasons I started making palm masks was the original history behind them. Each Native American tribe that lived in Florida had a distinct artistic style and most have been preserved in nearby museums.

The Calusa were featured in Sunday’s “Special to the News Press” with the accompanying photos from Sanibel Historical Village on Sanibel Island. Curator Theresa Schober proudly watches over the displays that visually interpret the life and experiences of the Calusa Indians on a day to celebrate their contributions to Florida.

Schober has been an archaeologist and cultural resource consultant in south Florida since 1998. Most of the Calusa artifacts come from archaeological digs. If you are interested in more information visit or call 239-472-4648.

The Calusa Indians did not farm like the other Indian tribes in Florida. Instead, they fished for food on the coast, bays, rivers, and waterways. The men and boys of the tribe made nets from palm tree webbing to catch mulletpinfish, pigfish, and catfish.

The Calusa are considered to be the first "shell collectors." Shells were discarded into huge heaps. Unlike other Indian tribes, the Calusa did not make many pottery items. They used the shells for tools, utensils, jewelry, and ornaments for their shrines. Shell spears were made for fishing and hunting.

Shell mounds can still be found today in many parts of southern Florida. Environmentalists and conservation groups protect many of these remaining shell mounds. One such site is Mound Key at Estero Bay in Lee County (Theresa Schober has been instrumental in restoring Mound Key). 

The mound’s construction is made entirely of shells and clay. This site is believed to be the chief town of the Calusa, where the leader of the tribe, Chief Carlos lived. 

Archaeologists like Schober have excavated many of these mounds to learn more about these extinct people. Artifacts such as shell tools, weapons, and ornaments are on display in many Florida history museums and in the Sanibel Historical Village’s Calusa room.

What happened to these fierce sailing Indians? The Calusa tribe died out in the late 1700s. Enemy Indian tribes from Georgia and South Carolina began raiding the Calusa territory. Many Calusa were captured and sold as slaves.

In addition, diseases such as smallpox and measles were brought into the area from the Spanish and French explorers and these diseases wiped out entire villages. It is believed that the few remaining Calusa Indians left for Cuba when the Spanish turned Florida over to the British in 1763.

The Seminoles were not originally a single tribe. They were an alliance of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia natives that banded together in the 1700's to fight the European invaders, including people from the Creek, Miccosukee, Hitchiti and Oconee tribes. Later the alliance became even closer, and today the Seminoles are a united sovereign nation, even though their people speak two languages and have different cultural backgrounds.

The Seminole Nation has five different reservations in Florida, but all of them are governed by the same tribe. Big Cypress Indian Reservation is the largest, but the Hollywood Reservation is where the seat of the Seminole government is located.

There were many tribes over the ages in Florida. If you’d like to find out more, here is a library link to discover what books have been written for each tribe.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There is Art and then there is Art

FINAL "Egrets and Mangroves" 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas; original in barn wood frame
Because the appreciation of art is subjective and personal, it is difficult to define what is and what isn’t. There are standards and elements that may be judged in one way or another; but here again, the perspective of the judge is also a personal opinion call.

I admire people who experiment and risk all in their creative journey. Sometimes you don’t know what will work unless you give it a try. In art and fashion I hate the claim that “One size fits all.” They never do! That one size may drown a small person or embarrass those who are too large.

Painting styles and techniques are never the same either. New artists may copy their teacher or the masters until they discover what works best for them. But you never will if you don't explore on your own the possibilities.

One such experimenter was Charley Harper, Illustrator. Some of his bird artwork was presented on Antiques Roadshow in Iowa a few weeks ago. The owner was amazed that at auction the suggested going price was between $12,000 to $24,000 each. 

According to the Roadshow expert, Harper’s work is a “hot” item. His style blends in well with today’s contemporary straight lines and patterns. On Charley’s professional web site we learn that:

“Charley Harper's unique minimalist approach is unmistakable. From his groundbreaking mid-century illustrations for Ford Times Magazine and Golden Books and his impeccably composed posters for the National Parks and other wildlife organizations, to his whimsical serigraph and giclée prints, Charley Harper's art is a beloved treasure and an inspiration to an entire generation of artists and designers.”

In a style Harper called "minimal realism", Charley Harper captures the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements. When asked to describe his unique visual style, Charley responded:

"When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don't see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures.

"I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lays the lure of the painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe."

He contrasted his nature-oriented artwork with the realism of John James Audubon, drawing influence from Cubism, Minimalism, Einsteinium physics and countless other developments in Modern art and science. His style distilled and simplified complex organisms and natural subjects, yet they are often arranged in a complex fashion. On the subject of his simplified forms, Harper noted:

"I don't think there was much resistance to the way I simplified things. I think everybody understood that. Some people liked it and others didn't care for it. There's some who want to count all the feathers in the wings and then others who never think about counting the feathers, like me."

The results are bold, colorful, and often whimsical. The designer Todd Oldham wrote of Harper, "Charley's inspired yet accurate color sense is undeniable, and when combined with the precision he exacts on rendering only the most important details, one is always left with a sense of awe."

Charley, on numerous examples, also went outside the medium of graphic art and included short prose poems for the artwork he made. We can learn so much from Harper's life and illustrations. Whatever you decide to do as you develop your artistic style, enjoy it and love what you do!  (I decided to add my tiger painting below as it's a similar composition as Charley's but in a far different style)

"Namesake" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Capture those magic moments before they get away!

I’m usually a “hang in there” kind of person. I stayed in a 30 year marriage long after I knew that things were never going to change, and I endured a miserable job even after I discovered the boss was a manic depressive chameleon. He ran hot and cold, but always impatient and mean.

I’m not a quitter, and I can always be depended upon to do my job. But when daily circumstances become stressful that’s the time to pull back and re-examine what you really want in life. Can you relate?

I’ve always been able to juggle my schedule and keep several things going at once, but suddenly I’m feeling more overworked than usual. I’m finding fewer hours for creative ventures so instead of trying something unusual, I'm sticking to a painting of birds because they give me peace and I find them beautiful.

"Brown Thrasher" 20 x 16 acrylic in barn wood frame

We all go through this hassle each day: deciding how to spend our time, and what  comes first the chicken for the table or the golden egg for the bank? Our well-planned days seem to unravel before us, and we run from one endless pursuit to another. Our “to do” list outgrows the available minutes we have to spend. We start feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.

Surprise! It isn’t more speed, more arms or more time we need it’s a slowing down of our mind and our attitudes. Instead of trying to cram more “stuff” into fewer hours, we need to savor the ones we have.

Did you know that when you ratchet down your fast pace and live in the moment, it seems like time moves at a slower pace? When you delight in each bite of food, rolling it over on your tongue, chewing it purposefully and immersing yourself in its flavor that extra five minutes you spend actually seems like 15?

"Fuchsia Fantastic" 18 x 14 Acrylic on canvas
When you rein in your usual tendency to forge ahead, pause and enjoy a child’s smile, your spouse’s goodbye kiss, a neighbor’s wave, the new fallen snow or the freshly mowed lawns of your neighbor’s. Notice that your body relaxes. Instead of frazzled nerves and a churning stomach, you’re in the moment. More than that, you’re in command of your mind and emotions. You’ve mastered the art of self-control.

If it were only this easy! I know it’s a constant battle. But wanting to gain mastery over your life is a virtuous desire. I dropped some activities thinking I was going to get on top of things, but I took on more responsibilities instead to fill the void. If you really want to have more time for the things you enjoy, avoid this trap!

Pacing and balance are our two greatest allies. Life has a rhythm that helps us sense when things are off and when they’re not. By nailing down the moments and reveling in each passing second, we lay claim to our dreams.

Monday, March 14, 2016

There’s “Nothing new Under the Sun”

"Reggae Night" Acrylic on 18 x 24 canvas (Won Special Recognition, see below)
I was watching a PBS fundraiser featuring music from the Eighties.  All of the colors and geometric patterns of today were alive and well. No matter how advanced and contemporary we believe we are, as the ancient Biblical prophets said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV):

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

In most cases, everything has all been said and done before. Our challenge as creators and artists is to take the ideas from the past and remake them into something fresh and exciting. Even contemporary science and technology has its basis in history. Researchers and engineers always build upon the foundation of knowledge and facts established before them.

These molecular building blocks join the past to the present and create promise for the future. You can use these same principles in creating something different and forward thinking from what has worked before. They used to call it “thinking outside the box.” Now they are suggesting we get outside and look within at the interior and find different ways to relate, to see, to think.

(Work-in-Progress "Egrets and Mangroves)
Your own personal perspective generates the diversity and originality of thought that gives you an edge over those who came before you. Your unique skills and experiences shape how you express yourself and define your style. Whether you look within or explore exterior planes, there may be something vital and cutting edge in what you discover.

Being alert to opportunities and emerging trends gives you a head start. There are openings almost everywhere you look. Social media advertises jobs, creative connections and links that may lead to something promising; but along with those ads come risks.

I’ve received an abundance of spam and damaging email links over the past few months; most touting opportunities for jobs or products promising success. Even my medical records were tapped. The up-to-date ways physicians now communicate with patients are being used for profit. I was shocked that my email had been sold to other health advertisers and that the medical portals I once considered sacrosanct were up for grabs.

"Great Egret" 11 x 17 watercolor
Put your own name in a search bar and see how many times it comes up in places you never knew existed. Everywhere you post, comment, and “Like” links back to you. Be alert to scams, dead-end postings and emails. If you have any doubts at all, don’t click on them. They may transfer you to a site where you will be spammed or worse. 

My blog was shut down for several weeks last year from a code I picked up by clicking on one of those links. It took me weeks to track down where the code was embedded on my system. My LinkedIn friends gave me the necessary information to find it and shut it down.

In spite of that there are legitimate sites you can trust and several online contests which prove beneficial. One such place is located at this link: where I am entered in their March 2016 competition for “Faces.”

I won an “Honorable Mention” for my painting “Reggae Night” shown above, and several weeks of Special Recognition along with other winners at this site: Give it a go!

Here are some other verified and authentic contest sites you may want to try:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Silent Warriors, Mentors, and Friends

"Sandhill Cranes at Twilight" 24 x 30 Oil on Acrylic background
You know them. They are "silent warriors" who encourage and support you regardless of gain. Some people call them mentors; others call them friends. These guileless helpers get involved out of the generosity of their hearts.

They are the shoulders you cry on when things go wrong. They help you to see the best in yourself and ignore the negative. They give you hope. They help you stay on track and sometimes hold your feet to the fire.

"Sandhill Crane" 8 x 10 oil on acrylic
These silent warriors are you and me, and sometimes complete strangers put in our path to help us. They are humanity in all of its glory and imperfections. Warriors who give us courage to rise again when we are defeated and strength when we are weak. They help us see the truth when our eyes and our judgment may be impaired.

I hope you have a few warriors on your team; a life guard to reach out and pull you from your drowning thoughts. Someone to share your grief or your failures; your joys and successes.

Like angels, they come to us in a time of need and rescue us from ourselves. I have had several in my lifetime. Some who were not aware of the importance their words or actions were at the time. In their own way, they were my saviors; caring people who touched my life in profound ways.

Warriors may inspire you, warn you of danger, and ignite your creativity. They provide you with heightened self-awareness reminding you of all that is good and beautiful. They silently imprint their mark upon you and leave you better than you were before.

Who could ask for more? An important component in a joyful and successful life is gratitude. Giving thanks to those around you, praising God for the good that comes into your life enlarges your soul. Ingratitude, on the other hand, leaves you empty and alone. Gratitude is the best networking tool you have at your fingertips. It takes only a few words. If it comes from the heart it gives you a measure of authenticity.

(I love cranes and water birds so much,
I'm going to do another painting)

These invisible threads accumulate over time and provide unforgettable connections. People always remember an insult or a slam, but they rarely forget a kindness or a compliment. They may not recall the specifics, but they will always feel good around you and want your association.

Authentic people are so rare these days. If you are true to your word and your actions, the accumulation of positive vibes will eventually result in success. 

Feedback is a measure of how well you are doing. Results are a physical manifestation of your efforts. The saying "what goes around, comes around," was said for a reason. It is true!