Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Contrast Reveals Truth and Clarifies what’s Important

Thinking back to grade school, the kids who stand out in my mind, are not the popular or good looking ones whose faces I have long since forgotten, but the ones who were different. Even in memory, I can see them clearly. Back then, I felt their pain and even imagined that I could feel their awkwardness and aloneness.

My sense of fair play demanded that I do something about it. I decided to befriend each of them in turns. I got permission from my mother to walk home with Gail to play for about an hour and then walk back home.

My parents were poor by most standards. At the time, we lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother’s home. My dad didn’t own a car. Each day, he walked to and from the Caterpillar Tractor store where he repaired and maintained rental machinery. In our small town, income levels were low, and most people lived simply.

Gail, on the other hand, had a house and a yard with a swing in it. Dirty gray stucco that hadn’t been painted in years gave the house a somber look. There were no flowers or shrubs. When we finally made our way inside, I was shocked at the barren rooms.

We looked through the cupboards for something to eat, but the shelves were bare. A dry piece of cake with mildew sat on the counter top. Gail’s parents were not at home and the house gave off an empty lonely vibe. There were no toys to play with except the swing outside so we ended up playing outdoors.

When I got back home our small apartment seemed like a castle. Cheerful colors welcomed me and the sound of my mother's singing while she cooked made me smile. The simple soup and bread we had for supper seemed like a feast after the barren offerings of Gail’s existence.

The contrast between our homes re-defined the word “poor” for me. Gail's home expressed a poverty of spirit and a shortage of amenities. I would never again view myself or my family as lacking in anything.

Over the next few weeks I went home with Alice, a student who had a visible disability. She was a polio victim as a toddler; as a result, her left arm and leg were shorter. Alice limped in a funny hop bounce way that made her arms bob with each step. Everyone made fun of her, except me.

She had six other brothers and sisters. It was obvious from the moment I stepped inside their large old fashioned home that she was loved. There were games, giggles, and a relaxed easy-going ambiance that made time fly. Alice’s life was already full. No wonder she was able to handle the nasty remarks from her peers. The wisecracks didn't shake her world.

Lorraine was a bed wetter who sometimes had accidents in class, especially when she was listening to a story. In the silence of the room her accidents sounded like raindrops on our wooden floor. The janitor was quietly invited to our room and mopped up without noise or distraction. The teacher (my grandfather), continued the story without dropping a beat. The intrusion went unnoticed.

Lorraine was embarrassed, of course, but she never said a word. If she could have stopped wetting her pants, she would have. Most of her classmates felt sorry for her. A few twittered and teased, but most accepted her as she was.

Diane was taller than most girls her age which made her feel ugly and conspicuous. She hunched her shoulders in a grotesque slump to make herself appear shorter. Eventually her posture became permanently cemented for life.

Diane was funny, friendly and likable. It was easy to overlook her rounded shoulders once you got to know her. I was posture conscious. My grandfather had encouraged his granddaughters to walk with books on their heads and their backs straight so Diane’s rounded stance was a constant irritant to me. Her mother never said a word about it knowing it would make her feel even more self-conscious. Her unsightly hump made me want to stand even straighter.

When you are different from others life can be cruel. My heart goes out to those children who are bullied or made fun of because they stand out.

In a painting, contrast defines and highlights the center of interest. The differences in shape, value and color makes the objects jump out at you: dark against light, round against rectangular, bright against dull. A composition becomes interesting or impressionable because of these contrasts.

It’s too bad we don’t view people in the same way. The ones who catch our eye, or are unique would be seen as beautiful rather than nonconforming or odd. The differences would be viewed in a new way; much like a highlight or an unusual shape catches our attention and pulls us into a painting.

"Raccoons at Sunrise" (the last drink before bedtime), 20 x 16 acrylic on canvas

Monday, June 20, 2016

You can make a Difference if you don't Give Up

"Tansy's Pride"
In addition to loving books written about the Depression Era and World War II, I enjoy novels about slavery, especially from the perspective of a slave. Once immersed in the heartaches and hardships that come out of these historical time periods, you can better relate to the families that came after and those in the present day.

Everyone has a different memory of the same event. There were courageous and honest people who helped others and made their own lives count, and there were shallow people whose actions were hateful and spiteful. There were those who committed monstrous acts of violence and treachery that can only be called evil.

In the book "On to Richmond 1861-1862" The second book in the Civil War series written by Ginny Dye, the slave Rose asks her mama "How do you endure? How do I endure, Mama?" Her mother answered: "by going around every obstacle and embracing every hard time as if it were a friend carrying you to your final goal." Talk about positive attitude.

Reading opens up your world. You can gain understanding of other peoples and races. You can learn new skills. Education may expand your thinking and change the way you see your life. With knowledge comes responsibility. Your capacity to change your circumstances and conversely change the world becomes tangible. You can make a difference!

I taught myself to do many things while I raised six children. Each week we selected 10 books from the library that they could share. I also chose a few for myself. I studied writing, I read plays, I created scripts. I went on to study art in all of its forms. I experimented. I grew. I hungered to learn. I think my children caught my enthusiasm because they were full of never-ending questions.

If you're feeling trapped and think that you don't have the time or money for classes or that you'll be stuck in the same rut for the rest of your life, think again. You have it in your hands to create the life you want.

Think creatively. Reach out for help. Don't give up just because your life doesn't fit in with the pattern of others. Like the slave Rose learned from her mama, "embrace every obstacle, every hard time as if it were a friend carrying you to your final goal."

Nothing worthwhile is easy. You've probably heard that many times. It's easy to give up. You give into your fears, your imperfections, your lack of self-confidence. But you don't have to! Your state of mind determines where you go in life and how you end up. Take the reins of your thoughts and accomplish what God intended for you.

Norman Vincent Peale a famous Pastor and the author of many motivational books wrote this challenge in "Positive Thinking for Every Day of the Year:"
"Are you going to live all your life and never feel the presence of God?"

I issue a similar challenge. Are you going to live the rest of your life never feeling the exhilaration of overcoming weakness or the power that comes from self-control? Be in charge of your life. Don't succumb to indifference, laziness or fear.

The painting below is the first coat of paint on a gesso board. You can still see the white gesso show through in come places. I will show this work-in-progress over the next few weeks.
(Work in Progress)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Violent Weather can Affect your Plans Whether you Like it or Not!

Pusan, Korea, hotel
June 1 through November 15 is not “summer” here in Florida, but “Hurricane Season,” which means we have a torrent of rain almost every afternoon and a few violent storms; some of which are hurricane proportion and some not.

When I lived in Seattle, the drizzle in winter was called “six months of wet.” The other six months were relatively mild and beautiful. The trade-off was exquisite weather half of the year. I could live with that.

When I was visiting Pusan, Korea one fall, the residents reminded us it was “Monsoon Season.” We stayed in one of the oldest hotels on the top floor. Our windows overlooked the bay and the ocean. Our only saving grace was the fact that the hotel had survived many years of violent weather and was still standing.

A monsoon did rip through one of the nights we were there. The next morning there was damage all around us, but the hotel had withstood. We went to Hunan Bay and saw destruction in many quarters and along the beach. I guess luck was with us on that trip.

 They were selling silk worm larvae (worms) that people purchased and took away in brown paper lunch bags so they could munch them on the beach. Some of the larvae was smoked, but in either case we were not buyers.

Later, we took a wild taxi ride into Seoul. Today it is a huge modern city, but outdoor markets still thrive. If you stand at one end of the city, you can see open-air stalls as far as the eye can see. 

North Korea is only a few miles across the border from Seoul. While we were there college students were rioting and demonstrating for the North. My parents were terribly worried about us; but as it turned out, we saw a crowd of no more than 50 people. The photographers had made the scene placed in newspapers around the world look like a mob of hundreds.

Since that time I’ve always been skeptical of the reports in the news. They usually hype up the violence and problems and make them look larger and worse than they actually are.

Cheju do Island
We also traveled to Cheju do Island to see some of the damage from the monsoon. Luckily most of the island at that time was farmland.

These little statues are everywhere on Cheju do. They represent good luck.

During another trip to this same Island, my son married a Korean girl whose father was a building contractor. They were wed on the island of Cheju do in a hotel her father had built. First they had a traditional marriage in her parent’s home, and then a contemporary wedding on Chejudo.

Does the weather affect the artwork in these Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries that experience monsoons on a yearly basis? Definitely! Not only did I find many photographs, but fine art that clearly represents the turmoil and angst that accompany violent weather.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How many Untold Stories are Still Out There?

(Potential model?)
Just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, a shadow catches your eye; your point of view or perhaps the time of day makes everything seem fresh and new. A ray of sunlight illuminates radiant color; and wham, you know you have to paint that scene or, at the very least, capture this feeling on camera.

Now you’re hooked, pursuing that elusive dream; hoping that this canvas will make a difference not only in your life, but in those who view it. Is the process of art addictive? Could you stop these urges even if you wanted to?

When your vision is complete, and you’ve rendered that last brush stroke are you satisfied? Is your thirst quenched or are you left wanting more? Does the smell of wet paint and turp cling to your nostrils like an aphrodisiac? Don’t fight the feeling. You’re an artist (you know who you are). Go with the flow.

When I meet with my artist friends there’s one thing on which we all agree. We walk on the weird side. We think with our eyes, and our gut instinctively guides our hand. We see life differently than most people and that sets us apart; sometimes even alienates us from family and others.

Not all of us are so driven. Some artists try to quell that constant beating of their senses in order to fit in and lead semi-normal lives working, raising children, involving themselves in a thousand mundane activities in their neighborhoods and communities. Those who do dedicate themselves to an artistic profession are usually teachers, commercial artists, illustrators who have found fulfillment in working for others.

The few who do break the mold may soar on their ability to create and tap into the dreams of others. They are leaving their mark in the world and managing to make a living at the same time. With effort and determination, this could be you.

Yes, this is what black bears do in your neighborhood!
I had one of those moments yesterday. My husband and I were talking and he was facing the window. “There’s a bear,” he said.  I turned quickly. My eyes opened wide. A medium-sized black bear was sauntering past our screened-in porch. I went for the camera. By the time it was in hand, the bear was long gone.

“It isn’t likely he’ll come back,” I said, leaving the camera on a nearby coffee table. About an hour later, here was the bear lumbering past our porch going back to where he’d come from. By the time I grabbed the camera, he was gone. This is the first time in 12.5 years that we’ve seen a bear in our back yard. Now there was a story. Sadly, the painting that got away.

My next canvas I’m going back to what I love; painting the world’s people. I haven’t narrowed it down completely, but I’ve been looking for inspiration in the flavor of Mexico. My visit to San Antonio, Texas reminded me of how colorful the culture of the people is and how beautiful their faces.

I’ve been searching for poses and ideas online. A few samples are inserted. Continue to watch this blog for that first sketch and the work-in-progress to follow.


Friday, June 3, 2016

What takes more Time? Creating or Marketing? When is Enough Enough?

"Belly Dancer" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel with beads
According to the experts, if you’re doing your job, you spend more time on marketing and social networking than actual creating. No wonder I’m always behind! Add to that computer problems, maintenance, inventory and you’ve set yourself up for failure.

But somehow it all comes out in the wash. You do what you have to do when you must. There’s no other way and little other choice. You keep plugging along finding ways to progress, to get attention, and to make connections.

I must admit networking has never been my strong suit. Grinding away hour after hour on social networks or advertising sites is not fun, at least for me. I find the payback is small and somewhat unmeasurable. If you decide to go all out, the costs may exceed your current income.
"Reggae Night" 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas
I know, “you have to spend money in order to make money,” (or so they say); but there is a limit. Eventually, financial reality rears its ugly head and demands its due. At some point, you have to pay the piper.

There are more people out of work than the government is willing to admit. I swear they fudge the numbers. Each week they come up with something and then revise it a few days later while no one’s watching. Our southern borders are so holey that most of the low-end jobs are taken by illegal aliens.
Those jobs used to be filled by college kids trying to earn tuition. Unable to find work, they are forced into borrowing money from the government. My own children are still paying on outstanding loans even though they’ve been out of school for more than 10 years.

We can’t keep bailing out the world’s people and its children. We are near twenty trillion in debt, and yet we offer protection, food, clothes, and goodies to everyone with a hand out, no matter where they are or where they come from. This endless train of money is a dream that will collapse. It is inevitable.
"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media on canvas
I’ve always stressed doing whatever it takes to get ahead and be successful, but there comes a point when common sense must force you to ask the needed questions:
  • Who is paying for this free-load of stuff?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • What will it cost you long-term?
  • When the gravy train runs out, what then?
  • If the government controls everything, how long before freedom goes?
  • What has happened to other Socialist Countries over time?
  • Wouldn’t you rather have a good job than no job at all?
  • If the government takes most of your salary, what else can they take?
  • When are you going to say enough is enough?

"Teach a man to Fish . . ." (Old Chinese Proverb)
"Fish Market" 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas