Thursday, April 28, 2016

Disconnect the Unimportant and Connect with the Source

"Stained Glass" 12 x 16 acrylic and glaze on canvas
I didn’t win the “Faces of Humanity” competition this year. In fact, I didn’t even make it to Honorable Mention. When you take a gander at the winners, you will see why. The stiff competition was marked by the best of the best! The quality of artists up and coming is a good omen for the future, and a reason to celebrate art in all its glory and richness.

The seven winners scattered throughout this blog will amaze you. The high caliber of the sponsor is indicative of the obvious mastery of the arts by the winners. There is a nice variety of medium, styles, and depth. A link to the winners is at the end of this blog. I encourage you to go there and see all of the artwork and the types of contests and opportunities that is provided.
First Place
My humble “Stained Glass” piece is finished. I don’t know why I felt compelled to do this 12 x 16 canvas? But sometimes you need a break from your regular routine to vary the pace and the style. Like a musical phrase, trying something totally different is sometimes refreshing.

I will forewarn you that my painting days are limited. My hands and fingers are going stiff on me. They spasm and freeze into weird shapes after I type or paint for even short periods of time. Perhaps when some of my other medical issues are resolved, I will get my second wind.
Second Place
I love those stores that sell exercise equipment and athletic wear and supplies. “Second Wind” is the name of one successful chain that makes the most of this niche. Everything and everyone deserves a second chance. When you feel let down, think about ways to revive your spirit and your stamina.

I find reading in my off times stimulates my will and desire to start again. Observing the strength of others vicariously can sometimes shame us into seeing our petty problems and challenges as minor and insignificant. Even if we must “guilt” ourselves into trying again, at least it gets us back in the saddle.

Third Place
Fourth Place
Many years ago, Norman Vincent Peale wrote a small book titled: “Positive Thinking for Every Day of the Year.” I read one page every day that corresponds with the current date. Yesterday I read a related story about T. E. Lawrence of “Lawrence of Arabia” fame.

“Lawrence took a few of his Arab friends to London. What interested them the most was the faucets in the bathroom.

“Watch, Lawrence said, “All you have to do is turn that thing on and you have all the water you want!”

When it was time to leave, Lawrence discovered that they were trying to remove the faucets. “What are you doing?” he questioned.

“We will take these back to the desert,” they said. “We will never lack for water.”

Fifth Place
Sixth Place

Seventh Place
“Lawrence had to explain to them that the faucets had to be attached to a source of water in order to work.”

Peale completed the story: “Sometimes we do the same thing. We try to get a flow from faucets that are not attached.”

Are you feeling empty inside and lack purpose and direction? What is the source of your strength and creativity? It’s time to get connected!

Link to "Art Competition" Winners: 

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Joy of Creating Something you Love

"Bella Bellissimo" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas (SOLD)|(prints available)
Whether it’s an article, a work of art, or a product, we can all relate to that feeling of pleasure and accomplishment that creation brings. Something of ourselves enriches the finished work and adds a sparkle of originality and freshness.

That’s why we keep doing what we’re doing. We want to repeat that feeling. We have something inside of us that will burst unless we share it. The more spontaneous and responsive we can be to whatever it is that drives us, the more authentic our voice becomes. 

Soon, our offerings are recognizable. Each new creation has our signature.
It takes years of craftsmanship to reach that level and a stiff upper lip and spine to get beyond the barrage of negative feedback we may encounter.

"Kelly's Rose" 12 x 16 oil on masonite board
If our style veers from the current norms, we are open to criticism. Some people “won’t get us.” Others are quick to criticize saying we have gone too far outside the box or outside the lines of accepted behavior. But we keep on doing what we’re doing, even though at times we weep inside.

Andy Warhol did. Picasso did too. Many, many others have tuned out the voices and listened to their own unique beat, going beyond the limits, knowing they were open to criticism but doing what their inner voice demanded anyway.

It takes courage to pursue our dreams when all we get is criticism. But a few encouraging words can send us soaring and keep us going for weeks at a time. When the darkness descends, review every accolade you’ve ever received, every accomplishment, every fine thing you’ve ever done in pursuit of your goals. Treasure these thoughts like gold. Bury them in your heart and cherish the memories.

"Hibiscus Glory" 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD) (prints available)
Some day you will rise again. Something will click. New determination will descend from the heavens. Your star will shine and pull you from your pity party into new heights of achievement. Fellow creators are cheering you on. Our united voices will pull you from the ashes of self defeat and give you the push you need to face exposure and criticism once again. Never give up, friend. “The best is yet to come!”

We all need cheer-leading at times. Usually the only one cheering is us. The pursuit of greatness or completeness is a lonely journey. I'm still working on my stained glass painting trying to decide if this is number one or the only one. I seem to do better with my portraits.

(Work in progress) I'll continue and finish up with glazes.
Exposure is the key that eludes many of us. We beat our brains out in social media, but all we hear is our own heartbeat. 

Competition combines the beating of a thousand wings fluttering at the same time. Are your feet tethered to the constricts of time and doubt or are you dancing free? Let go, my friend. Join the throng. Explode into your greatness!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This Tropical Tree Calls Out to Me

(If allowed to ripen, the seedlings grow to the size of a small pear)
I put a call out online long ago for help in identifying this tree, rather the seed from that tree. I had admired its shape, intriguing interior, and the possibilities of using it in some artistic way. Sadly, I never got a response.

Then Lo and Behold, an article in our local community paper had the answer. Written by Anita Force Marshall I found out all I ever wanted to know and more. Anita is the head gardener at the Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings Resort ( She lives on Sanibel Island and has been writing gardening articles for many years. Her biography is lengthy and I won’t include it here.

(The pear-shaped seedlings are smaller if they fall off too soon)
The photographs in this blog are mine. The name of this mysterious tree is “West Indian Mahogany.” There was a time when wood from these trees was shipped back to Europe to make fine mahogany furniture, beginning in the 16th century which explains why they are so rare here now. 

They are deciduous trees that are indigenous to Florida. I fell in love with their seeds and couldn’t help bringing them home to see them ripen. 

They open slowly, but once they begin, you cannot stop them. Believe me, I have tried. First spraying the small pear-like casing with hair spray, and then with glue to see if I could slow down or inhibit their outburst.

Inside the seedlings are layered looking much like the grain on a fine piece of wood. The outer shell separates into wooden petals. They are so intricate and beautiful you want to save them at that stage, but you can’t. They simply must explode as they are meant to do.

(I put the small outer pear, and the lower one opening inside a dish of dried decor)
In Marshall’s article, she describes the Pros and Cons of these wonderful trees:

“Pros: Small leaves great for natural soil amendment, drought tolerant, attractive canopy, full sun, attractive bark, salt tolerant, may inspire more outside naps, fast growing, wildlife attractor, native plant, perfect niche for orchids.

“Cons: Daily clean up of wooden fruits, pollinator attractor, may have to invest in a comfortable hammock, may tire of neighbors asking for the pears on your tree, kaboom look out for wooden grenades.”

(The outer wooden petals are beginning to fall off)
The great thing about these 40 to 60 foot tall trees with their massive gnarly grooved trunks and deep textured bark is that they are hardy with little or no pests and diseases. Thank you Anita Force Marshall for the answer to a question I’ve had for almost ten years!

Also in this blog is work-in-progress that I hope to turn into a stained glass painting of sorts. The composition is difficult to see in these photographs, but I think you get the idea.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Recognize who you are and Go with the Flow

I adore vintage leaded and stained glass windows. My latest painting was inspired by them. Additional ideas came from a fabric design incorporating yellow and blue. These are Swedish colors from my mother’s heritage and cemented my vision. I’m currently working on the composition and will share it with you in my next blog.

This week, the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4 was commemorated. Because of this, my featured artist is Kevin Cole, a recognized African American abstractionist who uses symbolism and color to convey his message.

Imagine using all of your anger and your pain to create something meaningful and beautiful. Using the bright colors of Africa and the symbolic representation of a noose in the form of a man’s necktie, Cole expresses the anguish he felt when he stood beneath a large tree where slaves were once hanged in great numbers when they tried to exercise their newfound right to vote. Dressed to honor the occasion, the ties they wore were used to hang them.

In many of Cole’s works, the symbolism deepens in what Kevin calls “mapping.” Slave families were split apart and sent to other plantations. Cole maps their travels in three-D shapes and symbols using the same colorful ties, tools and weapons they were beaten with if they tried to escape.

Some of Kevin's stories end up as paintings done in broad swathes of emotion and detail. Cole’s work sizzles. According to The Artist’s Magazine where Cole was featured in the September 2013 issue, “Cole’s work has a musicality born from the background of popular music, jazz, and blues that keeps Cole moving around his studio.”

Cole credits his rise and success to a former “high school teacher (Terrance Corbin) who spotted his nascent talent, and many others who encouraged him along the way, first in college and then in graduate school in Illinois.

“Art professor and mixed media artist Kevin E. Cole was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on January 19, 1960 to Jessie and Sam Cole, Jr. He received his B.S. degree in art education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1982; his M.A. degree in art education a year later, and his M.F.A degree in drawing from Northern Illinois University in 1984.

“Cole began his art career as an art teacher at Camp Creek Middle School in College Park, Georgia in 1985. At the same time, he also became an adjunct professor at Georgia State University’s School of Art and Design where he remained until 1998. In 1990, Cole was chairperson of the visual and performing arts magnet program of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia until 1994. Later, in 2003, he became the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Westlake High School where he created the school's first arts program.

“Cole’s artwork is well known for including imagery of neckties as symbols of power and emphasizes the relationship between color and music, particularly jazz, blues, hip-hop, and gospel. He incorporates patterns and textures from traditional African cloths to speak to human conditions and behaviors.

“In 1994, Cole was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a fifteen story mural celebrating the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The mural took two years to create and was a little over 800 square feet. He has been featured in Who’s Who in Education and received the Award of Excellence for Public Art by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.” 

Below Cole tells his own story and shares the inspiration for his collective works:

Kevin Cole’s personal online web portal follows if you would like to see and hear more: 

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.