Sunday, November 22, 2015

Maximize your Imagination and Capture Ideas Wherever you Find Them

(Sumo Wrestlers between rounds)
I used to wonder where the wild critters came from in fantasy and horror movies. Now I know. They are inspired by the real world and a vivid imagination.

When I am out walking with my husband, he sees leaves, trees, and flowers, while I see strange creatures waiting for me up ahead or hiding in the shadows; shapes of animals that would seem very comfortable on the pages of a Dr. Seuss book or a in a Jurassic Park flick.

I can't help myself! I see faces and budding cartoon characters in the plush shadows of carpet and in the loops of shag rugs. I always say I'm going to create a painting from one of them some day, but the images are quickly forgotten. Why? Because I forget to jot them down.

Well this time, I decided to hold myself to my promise. A shag throw rug was my canvas, and in it I saw a large Japanese face; but not just any face, a cubist shaped face that only a mother could love. 

I saw vivid and bold colors in orange reds and browns with accents of blue and green. I knew I wanted Japanese lettering, and I took it a step further and imagined the words of a recipe scrawled across this abstract scenario.

After sketching a very quick rough idea of what I wanted, I began to do my research. I ended up with a Sumo Wrestler for a model because I had clearly seen his ebony "topknot" right there in my shag carpet.

I am still putting the pieces of this composition together. What I didn't know at the time was why a recipe, and why a Sumo Wrestler?  Then a lightbulb went on in my head! The title of my painting would be "Stir-Fry." It paired nicely with what wrestlers do as they twist and turn their bodies together and slam them down on the matt.

Now if I can just see my vision clearly enough to paint what I desire. For me, ideas are the fun part of creating. I can see what I want in my head, but sometimes my skill level hasn't quite reached that pinnacle of perfection. I hope in the next few weeks you will enjoy this creative ride with me!

Yasai Itame

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ginger, minced
5 oz (150g) pork, thinly sliced and cut small
7oz (200g) cabbage
4oz (120g) bean sprouts
1/2 carrot
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper
1/4 -1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce

1.    Cut cabbage into 2" squares, and cut carrot, onion, and green pepper into thin slices.
2.   Put oil, garlic, and ginger in a wok, and heat at medium heat. After the wok is hot, add pork and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring until brown.
3.  Add vegetables, turn to high heat, and cook stirring constantly until vegetables wilt (but do not over cook).
4.   Add salt, pepper, soy sauce to taste, mix, and remove from heat to serve.

Making Japanese Stir-Fry 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gum Shoeing Your Way to Success – Rules of Engagement

"Auburn Nights" oil on 20 x 16 canvas
In years gone by, detectives were referred to as “gum shoes.” The nickname stuck because they wore rubber or crepe soled shoes as they stealthily crept into dark shadows to pursue a suspect.

Gum shoe cops were thorough and diligent. Their persistence didn’t let up until “they had their man.” Failure was not an option. Their stick-to-it-iveness led to their success.

When I first stumbled onto the term “gum shoe,” I thought of the time I’d stepped on a glob of bubble gum in a parking lot. Try as I may, that hunk of pink refused to come off of my shoe and followed me in florescent strings across the hot asphalt.

Much like a trail of toilet paper that sticks to your shoe and betrays where you’ve been, the things we do in life, the places we go and the choices we make leave a trail of evidence behind us. Some might call that trail character; others may refer to it as reputation. Our chances for success get better and better as our trail of credits and experience become stronger and more reliable.

Sometimes even with our best efforts we “stick our foot in it.” After all, we’re only human. When I was a kid, I remember how smart and independent I felt at times. A real “know it all,” my mom would say.
(First lay-down of paint)

One summer I was playing with my older cousins in my aunt’s pasture. They were showing off, stomping on crusty cow pies. They were fearless daredevils, or so I thought. Their secret was to choose only those pies that were “seasoned” or dry.

Well, I wasn’t going to let them out do me. Although I was only five, I began stomping with the best of them. Unfortunately, I was wearing a shiny pair of black patent leather shoes with white stockings and lace cuffs.

My first cow pie, crumbled successfully so I tried another. On the second thrust, my foot sank into warm, mushy green poop right up to and over my pristine lace stockings. Shock and awe crushed my confidence and sent me running back to mother for help.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel;
We all get in over our heads (or our socks) at times. Here’s how to avoid it:

1.  Don't promise what you can’t deliver
2.  Know beforehand what your client expects
3.  Never assume anything; be specific, and ask questions
4.  Plot realistic deadlines and time lines
5.  Keep your client updated on progress
6.  Evaluate your time and money expenditures carefully

·         Make your aim “customer satisfaction” and your target “repeat business”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Information Overload – Opinion, Hype or T.M.I.?

(This is Peaches, and I'm going to paint her portrait)
I have read and written about the book “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck at least four times. After the first reading, I was captured by that generation and the “Great Depression” era. Since that time, I’ve read both fiction and nonfiction books on that time period. 

After my first experience, a high school student at my church was bewailing the fact that “Grapes of Wrath” was required reading that year. She called it a filthy book, and said that the language was coarse and trashy. She didn’t understand why she had to read that kind of a book, anyway.

Her remarks prompted my second reading of Steinbeck’s novel. What on earth was she talking about? I didn’t remember any bad language. The book had inspired me and aroused my sympathy for the plight of the hungry and poor.

As I flipped through the pages, I was stunned. Sure enough, there were enough four-letter words on every page to make a sailor blush. Why had I not recalled such “filth” on my first reading? Perhaps because I was so caught up in the lives of the characters and their very real story.

By the time I finished the book, I loved it even more. So much so that I quickly forgot the student who disdained reading it and her remarks. The whole book is full of symbolism about life, about the roles of men and women in society, and the desperation that comes when everything you ever depended upon is gone.

When the husbands and fathers were jobless and down on their luck, they leaned heavily on their women who gave them strength and propped up their sagging egos. The mothers succored their children, managed to find things for them to eat, and gave their families hope. They were the backbone of society.

(Work in Progress "Peaches 'n Cream") The drawing and first layers of acrylic paint.
In the final chapter, the loose ends are connected in the cycle of life. A woman loses her baby because of poor nutrition. Broken and unresponsive, she wanders away from her family. Her breasts are engorged with milk, and she doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. At wits end, she comes across a man on the ground at her feet who is dying from hunger. Many men went without food so that their women and children could eat.

The forlorn woman lays down beside him and gives him her milk-swollen breast; the only sustenance she has to offer. By this we know that not only will he live, but that they both will survive to witness another day’s struggle.

"Bella Bellissimo" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas (SOLD), but prints available.
Steinbeck recreates the Garden of Eden showing the dependence of male and female on each other, and in society’s ongoing battle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Great literature and great art cannot be picked apart by focusing on that which is taken out of context. Without the whole there is no meaning nor purpose. How and what you remember when the last chapter is read is the measure of a book. It will rise and fall not on a useless hunting and pecking exercise, but on how well it is judged through the eyes of history and truth.
"Winston" Portrait of a Westie (SOLD) prints available. (mixed media)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pros and Cons of Control – when Enough is Enough

(A good example of "controlled" looseness)
We all like to feel in control of our lives, but some things are simply unpredictable. This year, travel and medical problems and procedures made it difficult to keep my blogs up to date on a regular basis. The interruption into my routine of writing and painting brought to mind the catch-all phrase emphasized in the movie Forrest Gump “Shit Happens.”

When this chaos affects. me and you, our projects and paintings may get messed up; and sometimes they turn into mud.  Almost every aspect of artwork must be supervised and controlled meaning that you should have some idea what you want to say, how you’re going to say it, and a visual image of how you want your composition to look.

(Yes, the artist knew what he or she wanted, but left room for creativity)
Even when you loosen up and release your tight grip on the brush, you are still in control. Taking a feathery fan brush and holding it loosely doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. I watched Lynne Pittard expertly push her oil paint with the tip of a fan brush softly and lightly; lifting as she finished each stroke. Lynne left behind perfectly separated sea grass in her wake. When she wanted to indicate seed, she simply pushed slightly downward (See YouTube video below).

The brush dangled loosely in her fingers as she moved the creamy oils with gentle persuasion. Although her touch was light, she remained completely in control because she knew what she was doing.
(Expressive Control -- A vision and a plan without rigidity)
Clouds can be made in much the same way making them look wispy and fluffy. Control comes in when you understand the feeling you wish to create and exactly where the clouds are needed. Keeping the paint smooth and flowing assists in the process. But if you get too carried away, the clouds may take center stage rather than settle into the background. Let’s face it. There is fun and pleasure in applying paint to canvas. But if you get lost in the process, you lose your overall vision and focus.

Certain techniques such as glazing require a soft touch. Waves that rise and fall spilling frothy foam over translucent layers must be executed with a gentle hand; but in every case, the artist is still in control.

The secret to a successful painting is to make it look effortless, as if the paint has been laid down with a feather rather than labored over or overworked. In order to do this your vision must be clear. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so rigid that unexpected splashes of color or shape are withheld because they weren’t part of your original plan.

Style dictates how brush strokes are laid down. Bold colors and broad swashes of paint help tell a different story. I have a new painting in mind that will require this approach. I personally believe the diversity in our world is beautiful and the people in it have unique individual stories to tell. Cultural differences may also require a bolder brighter touch.

Somewhere I heard the expression: “Let it happen.” If that’s a bit too unstructured for you, then have at least a concept or a story that must be told. Sometimes simple is enough.

Lynne Pittard's "sea grass" tutorial:

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.