Translate

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beyond the Highways and Byways – a Journey of Heart and Soul

"Arabesque" oil on canvas
The above canvas was painted from a pond near my home. The birds were those I see fluttering in and out almost every day; the great egrets and the snowy egrets. Herons come frequently as do anhinga and the little blues (small herons); but I wanted white birds against the dark water.

When someone told me that my work reminded them of the Highwaymen of early Florida, I thought it was a backhanded insult. The Highwaymen were unschooled black people who taught themselves to paint and then sold their wares on the cheap to tourists driving along the roadways and trails.

 For the most part, I was a self-taught artist much like them. Finally, their work has gained the recognition it deserves. According to their web site, “The Florida Highwaymen Artists” were the start of Florida's contemporary art tradition, and are credited for the beginning of the "Indian River School" art movement.
“They developed their own individual techniques and captured waterscapes, back country marshes, and inlets the way they once were before recent tourism developments.

“From the beginning, there were people who collected Florida Highwaymen art and paintings. However only in recent years has the recognition of their skill and their story caused their paintings to skyrocket in value.  In 2004, twenty-six individuals were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame as "Florida Highwaymen."


To read their names go to this link:  http://www.floridahighwaymenpaintings.com/highwaymen_artists

Artists who work hard for their degrees and accolades often resent the success of those who are less educated than they . The work of self-taught artists as they struggle to improve their skill through error and practice is sometimes looked upon with a critical eye and disdain. Like the highwaymen of the past, these artists may not have the funds or wherewithal for supplies let alone education.


I became acquainted with an African artist who asked if I could purchase some brushes and send them to him. He had been painting on brown paper bags for lack of a canvas. Some use wood from nearby palm trees or they paint on shells or other natural surfaces from their environment.

Painters in Iraq and other war torn countries face the same difficulties. Yet their artwork is vibrant, sometimes shocking, and unquestionably moving. When will we mature enough as artists to recognize that art is communication? It represents who we are, what we feel and what we have experienced.

Art can teach us about other people in a way that words cannot. Whether it’s the beauty we see that we wish to share, or the pain and anguish of a broken world, or the loss of a loved one. 

How we experience art tells us a lot about ourselves. Do we recognize beauty for what it is or does our critical eye keep us from hearing the message? Are we able to see beyond cultural barriers into the soul of another? Do our prejudices produce a wall instead of a door? Do we see the “thorn on the rose” rather than the bloom?

"Window on Pine Island" Oil on wrapped canvas.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Grass always feels Greener Between your Toes

"Looking Outward" 3-D acrylic on glass window
with canvas behind, dog between.
The days of summer are behind us unless, as my husband says, “You live in the Tropics.” If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re still enjoying it and walking bravely where others fear to tread. When I first encountered the lizards, snakes and other vermin running across my pathway, I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk barefoot in the grass. I was still plagued by memories of Washington where the morning after a mowing the velvet grass was covered with dew and mammoth snails that came out of hiding. After the sight of them, I never allowed my virgin feet to walk through that grass again! 

Children never think about “What Lurks Beneath.” They run barefoot, tumble and roll in the sweet smelling carpet without a moment’s hesitation. They’re uninhibited. I have to hand it to them. There’s something about walking barefoot on a green lawn or plunging your feet into warm soft sand that brings you closer to the earth and fills your heart with greater appreciation for the simple things of life.


 The people who garden here in Florida are covered from head to toe. Not only are there boots on their feet, but they wear hats, gloves, and long-sleeved shirts even in the heat of summer. You never know what’s going to jump out at you.
 
One of our land stewards at church came running inside after he’d poked his head into a dumpster. A wasp or bee stung him on the nose, and being super allergic, he was in a panic. After dousing his nose in cold water, he took off like a flash for a dose of epinephrine.

My fear of spiders goes way back to a near-death tangle with a brown recluse. I was hospitalized for ten days, had gangrene and serious blood poisoning. It’s no wonder that I’m always looking out of the corner of my eye for anything creepy and crawly.
 
So, you see, while you’re complaining about the cold up north and the impending snow, perhaps my sorry lament has made you feel better. While I’m swatting mosquitoes, you’re enjoying the crisp and colorful fall leaves. I’m sweeping palm frond seeds off my porch for the second time today, but you may be witnessing that first gentle coating of white sparkling snow.


 

It’s all relative of course. The grass is always greener in somebody else’s front yard. If we take time to appreciate the here and now, we’re the better for it. Smell the roses when they’re blooming. Enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot. Taste the snowflakes while they’re clean and untouched. Enjoy the sunshine – bless the rain. Live your life to the fullest.


"Sea Breeze" acrylic on 2" deep wrap canvas



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The War on Football and the Racial Tension it Creates



The pressure is on! Outside forces are coming into Florida and demanding that Florida State University’s football team, The Seminole’s, take off their jerseys and remove their warrior insignia as the team’s logo. They are trying to bully Florida by dragging us back into the racial prejudices of the past inciting tension and conflict in the process.

These self-proclaimed authorities are coming into our communities, neighborhoods, and states telling us what is best for us. We no sooner got them “out of our bedrooms,” but now they’re coming back; pushing their noses under our tents and into our homes.


As a Floridian, I am angry. The Seminole Indians are a part of our history and culture. They contribute to our state’s economy. They are a proud and beautiful people and we are proud to represent them as the warriors they are. 

Today, Floridians are proud to have them as part of the fabric of our lives. Most of our cities, towns, counties, lakes and rivers use Seminole names, as do many of our streets. Sure you can find some who would balk, but I think the majority of people who make up the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida are proud of their FSU's Seminole team. Why do outsiders come in only to stir up trouble? This is “political correctness” gone amok.

If you want to test this belief, put it on the ballot in Florida. See how many people support Florida State’s Seminole football team as it is currently designated. What right do outsiders have in telling Floridians what they can and cannot do? Who are these liberal police who cross the country and make decisions based on their own ideology and not ours?

"A proud Seminole family in native costume"
If you’d like more information on The Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, plus a history lesson, here is a link to the Tribe’s online website: http://www.semtribe.com/

From a press release published by the FSU Office of News and Public Affairs:
“On Aug. 21, 1957, the Seminole Tribe of FL was established through a majority vote of Florida’s Seminole Indians. This vote gave the Seminoles federal recognition as a self-governing tribe with a constitutional form of government. The Seminole Tribe of FL now has almost 3,000 members living on five reservations across the peninsula at Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee and Tampa.

“The Seminoles work hard to be economically independent. Tourism and gaming profits pay for infrastructure and schools while citrus groves, cattle agriculture, aircraft production, tobacco sales, land leases and aquaculture are other significant sources of revenue.

“Having persevered through two centuries of adversity the Seminole Indians of Florida have earned the right to call themselves “the unconquered people.” Their indomitable spirit is one that Florida State University proudly seeks to emulate in all of its endeavors.

"Seminole Artwork"
"more Seminole designs"

“Today, the Seminole Indian Tribe participates in many campus activities. Florida State University is proud of its longstanding cooperative relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole people have suffered many hardships and injustices, but they have remained brave, dignified and proud. The Seminoles are unconquered. They symbolize what we hope will be the traits of all of our graduates, including our student athletes.”

"Seminole Football"
So far this Season the FSU Seminole’s remain undefeated. They proudly wear their Seminole jerseys in spite of the outside threats from the few.

 

It is time for all American citizens to stand up to the nonsense of allowing other people (unelected and self-appointed) to decide what’s best for individual states and communities

(work-in-progress:  "Sea Swirls" the last in my Sea Series

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cyber-rattling – the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

Every now and then, I like to repeat a blog from the past when I think it's relevant. Reading a blog with a catchy title like "Stop Doing Art" made me think of it.

The creators are burned by the glut of artists and wanna-be-artists who "clutter" the airways with too much art and most of it bad. I don't know what they've been sniffing, but their arrogance is off-putting to say the least. What I'm seeing is the replacement of good art with photography and digital art. Yes, they are art, too. And I agree that they require skill, but there's just something about the smell of paint and canvas that that can't be duplicated through any other media. So here goes:

"Namesake" acryllic on canvas
We’re all eager to start them. We want our own public space in the sun to share our personal trivia or our hopes and dreams. Millions of blogs attest to that fact. But what happens when the enthusiasm fades, a blogger moves to another space, or just leaves his or her audience hanging as weeks turn into months and months into years?

You end up with clogged search engines and the skeletal remains of countless blogs hanging in the pathways of cyberspace. I was amazed as I searched for viable art blogs how many of them have not been updated in months; some for more than three to five years!

Amongst the casualties were new mother blogs, created by first time mothers who wanted to share the miracle of birth and their amazing adventure into motherhood. Others wanted to share a wonderful vacation with humorous stories and full-color photos. But when the vacation excitement fizzled, and the dazzle of motherhood wore off, so did the blog.

"Tickles from God" acrylic on canvas
Many blogs are started with good intentions, but they fail miserably when the blogger realizes there is no substance. There are no long-term goals. There was a beginning, but no ending. The blogger had no vision for the purpose of his or her blog or the discipline to finish it.

Clanking around in this wasteland, I still found some good information, an interesting fact or two; but it required an investment of time to find that juicy fruit, that bright star among the scattered bones of defeat. Some bloggers move frequently from space to space, leaving their old blogs behind like bread crumbs to lead their followers back home. Some links failed, leading me on a wild goose chase.

With all the apps and gizmos out there, I sometimes have difficulty uploading my own updates, especially in the evening hours. The large sites like Facebook and Twitter become unpredictable and double tweets or failed tweets happen on occasion.

Abandoned bytes and cyber debris join other waste materials in the heavens. Our Satellite Station over the years has dropped scraps and junk that still circle the globe endlessly polluting the atmosphere. Our oceans are filled with garbage and the ghostly remains of plastic bags. Japan’s Tsunami debris floats around the globe, butting up against foreign shores and introducing them to alien species.

Our “throw away” society continues to add to our mountain of debt and our growing landfill piles. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would find a way to clean up this wasted space or manufacture things that would last? If our economy is so bad, why do so many people throw thousands of pounds of food in the trash each year? Solutions not rhetoric is what we need. Suggestions anyone?
"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas
All Carol's artwork can be found at Anfinsen Arts Alive

Friday, October 3, 2014

Beetles and Bargains and Duds, Oh, My!

Drawing "Great Egret" pencil
You want to get a good deal – everyone does. You shop around, compare prices, and look for the best buy. If a larger project is needed, you get bids or estimates, at least you should. What you probably don’t do enough of is compare quality.

When I started my family, it was imperative that I save money and shop wisely. Being inexperienced, I sometimes chose an item based on its low price. I discovered sooner than later that my bargain wasn’t so great after all. In fact, it was a dud. Our family started calling these misbegotten finds “bδrgains.” I learned the hard way that you truly “get what you pay for.”

Your purchase may seem sweet at first, especially if you saved money. But if you want something to last, you can’t always take the cheapest product offered. Don’t get me wrong, there are quality items frequently on sale. These are the jewels floating on a sea of choices. When you find them, you should eagerly snatch them up if your budget allows.

"Cafe' Costa Rica"  12 x 12 acrylic on canvas (SOLD) prints and giclees available
On that same note, why do people expect quality artwork to sell cheaply? Yes, I’ve seen some beautiful canvases cranked out using spray paint and fingers; a sign that the artist is trying to produce something inexpensive so he can earn money quickly. Will the artwork surpass the buyer’s expectations? Will it last more than a lifetime? Maybe. Will the artist be able to sell enough “street art” to make a living? Debatable.

When we demean our artwork by pricing it alongside other bargain basement items, we reduce not only its current value, but its intrinsic worth. The education of the artist and his or her innate talent and acquired skills are belittled and undervalued; and once the price is set, it may be difficult to ask for more.

"Broken" mixed media on 11 x 14 canvas (SOLD) giclees and prints available
Just as there are graffiti artists who have tremendous talent and an obvious love for creating art. A street artist’s skill may be obvious to any passersby. People may watch and admire. They may be truly amazed at what they see. Some will see star potential and buy, but others will hesitate because of the lowly backdrop the artist has chosen for his demonstration.

In the same way that artwork presents best in a frame, the surroundings you choose to show off your wares may cast doubts on a potential buyer’s mind. Will they see a hidden gem in the midst of nearby muck and mire? Or will the asphalt and concrete be a turnoff?

Once I bought some soup beans on sale and eagerly took them home. I opened the first bag and washed the contents in a colander under running water. All of a sudden the beans came alive! Black beetles scurried to the surface trying to breathe. I was horrified. After examining the bags, I decided that several others contained these creepy crawly insects. I returned them all to the store where I’d purchased them. They gladly gave me my money back rather than allow the hideous bugs to escape.


Realtors have a saying: “It’s all about location – location!” The same is true for fine art. How you present your work says a lot about who you are and how you see yourself as an artist. Do you want to appear cheap or classy; as a professional or a novice? Image counts in dollars and cents.
(Coconut Point Art Gallery) -- Bonita Springs, FL

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fantasy World of Cartooning

"Sea Nymph" 24 x 18 acrylic on wide wrap canvas
I’m a fan of Shark Tank on CNBC where entrepreneurs show their wares and try to convince the Sharks (investors) that they’re worthy of their financial support and expertise.

Several artists have won favor. Take the guy I call the “Cat Man.” He started drawing caricatures of cats that caught the eye of his fans. After one year, he was making over $100,000 a year online selling prints! That’s not chicken feed.

Two investors supported his dream to expand and continue to produce winning drawings that could be produced on clothing lines and essentials. Very few artists achieve this kind of phenomenal success. I can name a few, but most are associated with a cartoon, a book or a comic strip character. I’ve never witnessed this jump to stardom from one single drawing.

(work in progress #1)
We all wish that was us! We doodle and dream. We scribble and play hoping that one day our attempts will touch the right audience. The Cat Man struck a chord in the hearts of every cat lover in the world (and there are many). Knowing the market and playing to its wants and needs is key to finding your niche.

Animals are adorable especially when they’re young and even in maturity they are regal. Those we make our pets, no matter what species, are fondly loved and cherished. But let’s face it, dog and cat owners lead the way, and people are usually either cat lovers or dog lovers; they are rarely both.

When I was an art student, I fantasized about making a storybook with the main character called the “Butterfly Princess.” Somewhere along the way, I lost her in my scramble to have a family and earn an income. I think of her often, but the passion and the vision of her has faded with time.
(Work in Progress #2)

In order to capture the moment and secure the identity of each cartoon or sketch, you must not only nail your image down early, but draw several variations until you get it right. Unless you do, each drawing will be somewhat different. It’s not as easy as you think to make a recognizable character that is repeated in different scenarios over and over again. The skill requires repetition and patience.

A fairly new cartoon in the comic pages of the newspaper is called “Zits” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. I thoroughly enjoy the escapades of the teenage son who frustrates his parents and rampages through the strip each Sunday. The drawings are loose yet recognizable. The storyline hits close to home, even though my teenagers have long since left the nest.


Another winner is “Pearls before Swine” by Stephan Pastis. The character of rat is edgy and psychotic. The naive and gullible pig reminds me of me. The storyline is a little weird; but then again, so am I. The humorous dialogue and spot-on drawings keep me coming back time after time.


That’s what all artists wish for: an adoring audience that keeps coming back for more. Now there’s an aspiration you can hang your dreams on!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

As we sow, so shall we reap to enjoy the Fruits of our Labor


When a seedling is planted, it sends its roots deep into the soil not only for nourishment and moisture, but for strength. The hidden roothold acts as an anchor to secure the young plant as it sends new shoots skyward. Without roots, a tree would topple. The rootage underground is usually as wide as the upper foliage.

During violent storms, a tree may still fall if its strength is surface deep either from too much above ground watering, or from layers of sand, clay or rock below.

How deep do your roots go? Are they scrawny and weak from too much surface ease and lack of effort? Have you nourished your foundation with study, practice and knowledge or did you skim over the top and hope for the best? True success is a result of how strong and how deep your convictions and passions go.


The same is true of faith. Weak faith (hope) is easily toppled by the storms of life. Lack of knowledge is usually “found out” under duress. Plagiarism can fool others once or twice; but if you’re caught, your career is usually over.

Alex Haley wrote a wonderful book called “Roots” that resonated with the American people and still does today. But many scholars, including black researchers and learned professionals believe it was more a book of fiction than of truth, and that Haley sought to change the historical accuracy about slavery.

The practice of slavery goes way back to ancient times. Both blacks and whites were once slaves in many cultures and countries. The African Continent enslaved other blacks that had different tribal connections and sold them into slavery. The owners were both white and black.

(Whether it's true about Haley or not, I was enchanted
by the book and television series!)


Haley’s book was moving and entertaining, but it does not pass the sniff test where history is concerned. The fury and the passion that surrounded the books and plays that Haley’s work inspired is beginning to fade.

Roots that go deep and are anchored in truth outlast the test of time. They withstand hearsay, tribulation, scoffing and popular opinion. Their branches go deep and keep the underpinnings from wavering. Character becomes resolute and authenticity an unchanging reality. Confidence increases. Gifts are mastered and used in positive ways. True success is a natural outgrowth and never becomes top heavy or ego inflated. 

Like a tree that is solid and grounded, there is balance and equanimity. People flock to it for shelter and protection. They bask in its beauty and serenity; this my friends is the maturity of the true artist. They do not need to flaunt their achievements. Their accomplishments speak for themselves. First they reap, and then they sow; and the fruits of their labor testify of their success.

"A Joyful Heart" 11 x 14 pastel drawing; Prints available @ http://carol-allen-anfinsen.artistwebsites.com