I believe that we all have seasons of the soul, just as nature has its seasons. As artists, we lie fallow sometimes, waiting for the time when a seed will fall into the cold soil, take hold and begin slowly to grow into something we can till and nurture and maybe even harvest. Our lives don’t always run according to plan. Dreams die, friends grow old and leave us, bodies let us down, we lose heart and begin to doubt ourselves and even our own worth. I call those the dark nights of the soul. And then something happens. A friend offers an encouraging word, someone lifts us up in an unexpected way, even an encouraging word comes from a stranger, and we are up and running again. . John 1:5 says:”The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” As a creative person, you have that light within you. Look for it, because it is there, and the darkness cannot overcome it!
To my dismay traveling is becoming more challenging with every birthday. Father Time has a way of reminding you that long journeys, if not impossible, are definitely more challenging. For many years, my lifelong partner and I would gather up the kids, pack a ton of snacks and head out in the camper at daybreak, enjoying long hours on the highways and byways and spending happy times in parks and campgrounds, waking to the smell of woodsmoke and bacon, swimming in creeks and lakes, making memories. When we retired, I packed my paints, many treats (because what you consume on a trip doesn’t count), and went West, Northwest, South and Southwest, Alaska, Sedona, Florida, Maine, and as many places in between as we could afford. I am so glad we did. When Uncle Arthritis comes to live with you, long hours on the road are simply not as much fun. I write this not to complain, but to encourage you to go now, as you are able. If you have always dreamed of seeing Alaska or the Southwest or any other part of our beautiful world, go! Go now and make those memories because when you no longer feel like making that long trip, your journey will live on in your memory. So many times when we’re sitting on our deck sipping a glass of wine, Dear One will say: “Do you remember that snowy night in Tennessee?” or “That sunset in Oregon was pretty special , huh.” We live in an amazingly beautiful world. Turn off those electronics, get out and see those sights. They’ll be with you always! This painting is no longer available, but I hope you enjoy it and my memory.
It is my sincere belief that a day spent painting outdoors does not count against your allotted time on this earth. I believe the Master Timekeeper just smiles and turns your clock back a day when you spend it in the shade of a huge old cypress tree on the bank of a Texas Hill Country creek. Today my friends and I loaded up our paints, some crackers, salami, apples and cheese (and a few M & M’s, but who’s telling?) and headed out to the Blue Hole in Wimberley. This lovely little park right at the edge of town, is exquisite! With the kids in school and the water too cold to swim, it’s the perfect spot to sit and reflect, if you’ll pardon the pun. We spent a delightful few hours just enjoying the quiet and the peace. I hope you like my little study. It is available online at:http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/s-e-bland/beside-the-creek/631084
A South Texas sunrise always feeds my soul. Even a cloudy, foggy, rainy day is full of promise, but I especially love the sunrises when we have color. Once a friend told me she’d never seen a yellow sky. That evening, we had a storm, followed by the most beautiful yellow sunset I’d ever seen! Whether, red, orange, yellow, purple, even a bit of turquoise dawns outside my window, I’m waiting for it. This little piece, done in pastels, reminds me that no matter how dark the night, morning will come. And if you’re lucky, it will be gifting you with all the colors of a Master Painter. Look for it and remember to be grateful for those good things of life we often take for granted! This little 8 x 10 is available on my new gallery page: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/763871
I don’t recall my teachers complaining about my lack of attention or day dreaming during class when I was a child. Perhaps this is an art I have perfected after years of putting in long hours at clerical jobs or in business looking forward to retirement. There is something wonderfully freeing in the knowledge that the day is yours, and looking at all the possibilities each day holds. I like to tell my students that the first step toward that long awaited dream trip is just that: Dream it! When I had only been painting for a couple of years, I dreamed of an artist residency in Santa Fe, where the demands of work and family could be set aside and I would be free to study and paint without interruption. I knew my limitations, but the dream persisted. I began saying, “what if?” I knew the chances were not all that favorable, but I began to dream and then to scheme! If I applied whenever I saw an opportunity, maybe things would happen in my favor. Sure enough, to my surprise, I was offered a two month stay in a gallery and atalier in New Mexico, rent free! I asked for and received a leave of absence from my job, kissed my husband goodbye and took a leap of faith. It was an amazing learning experience. If you have something you’ve always wanted to do, some place you’ve always wanted to go, do it! Stop making excuses and letting common sense take away your dreams. Life is only given to you once, so find a way to make those good things happen. You will not be sorry. This painting is available through my gallery:http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/762418
I’ve spent some time recently memorizing some of my favorite Scriptures. Psalm 23 gave me a bit of trouble trying to remember which verse came before or after the next. To my great delight I realized before the Shepherd leads me beside the still waters, He makes me to lie down in green pastures. Isn’t that neat? Before I do anything else, I get to rest! And I get to eat! I don’t know what or if you have a faith, but I do know as an artist, you share some of my weaknesses. One of them is the challenge of creating when the energy evaporates. There are ways to revive that creativity, but sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to lie down in those green pastures. If your muse has run off with a traveling salesman, let me encourage you to take a little time away. If your dreams seem far away, give yourself a little “downtime” – Find yourself some green pastures, pull back from “30 paintings in thirty days,” take a deep breath, and rest. You’ll come back ready to meet your deadlines and wrap up those projects with renewed energy. At least it seems to work for me! This little reminder is available at my gallery: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/s-e-bland/green-pastures-/628204
I’ve often thought when I see a tree standing alone, could a tree be lonely? When all the leaves have fallen off and there’s nothing left but a dead branch or two, does it feel the loss? Standing alone in the middle of a field, do memories of sweet green new growth make that tree yearn for days gone by? Or does that tree just bask in the freedom to stand tall, feel the wind and the sun and rejoice in the knowing that despite it all, with roots reaching deep into the good earth, the tree still stands. This painting is available on my new gallery site: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/758816
There’s an old saying that goes: “You can’t teach without learning.” I think that is true.
A while back I was teaching at a local crafts store and one of the students asked me how to paint a wave. Knowing that I had a lot to learn, I visited a number of instructional sites and found there really was a formula for how to paint that wave breaking. I won’t fill up your time with a step by step, but I will advise you to do a search and find some good how-to’s on line. This one came out pretty well, and my students enjoyed the exercise. So did it! So, if you want to learn something try teaching. There’s always more to art than you ever imaged! Just show up and you’ll find something new, all the time! Thank you, Lord, for the internet! By the way this painting is acrylic on watercolor paper and is available at my new gallery: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/758356
It seems to me in all the chaos of this world, the differences of opinions, the way we deal with one another, that we have lost something very precious: our civility with one another. Though we come from many different directions and our skins are many colors, our faiths, or lack thereof may be oceans apart, still one fact remains. We are all on the same journey. No matter from whence we come, or where we end up, we will travel together. Wouldn’t it be nice if on your journey and my journey., we might walk together, pause a while, and become friends? That’s my wish for you today, my fellow sojourner. At the end of the day, we will face the end of the journey. Let it be in peace. “Sojourners” is available on my new web site: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/757902
Living in the Texas Hill Country was always a dream of mine, and I’ve been delighted since we moved here several years ago. The friends and neighbors, the rivers and streams, the sunrises and sunsets have all been delightful and thrilling. Still, this land-locked person loves and misses the cool salty air from the ocean. We’ve made numerous trips to the Gulf, the East Coast, the West Coast, Alaska, and points in between, but on a warm autumn day my thoughts still head to the ocean. I love the smell, the sounds, the breeze and the excitement of watching each new wave break on the rocks. I’m playing with pastels for the first time, and had a good time painting this small work. Hope you like it, too. It is available at my new gallery: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/s-e-bland/on-the-rocks/626656.
The sun is going down over my green valley. I’ve been to church, made the customary visit to the nursing home where my brother in law resides, had a nice long nap, and now that Sunday evening feeling is coming to visit.. You may know that feeling – not exactly sad, but a bit nostalgic for what was and is no longer. Memories come flooding back, thoughts of people and places that have meant a lot to me, and I feel grateful for what has been, but also a need for just a little bit more. Ever had that feeling? As the birthdays pile up, I realize how really blessed I have been. I’m also greedy. I want just a little bit of a second servicing. When that feeling comes over me, I usually put on some music, pour a cup of coffee or glass of wine and dream. Today the dream is to make one more trip – maybe take some buddies, pack up my easel and go – to paint beside the ocean, watch the sun go down and appreciate the beauty that is our homeland. Come along with me, if only in your dreams! This large painting is available at my new gallery: <a target=”_blank” style=”padding: 5px; font-weight: bold; color: #1e477a;” href=”http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/s-e-bland/day-is-done/626530″>Buy with PayPal</a>
In my classroom, we have one very firm rule: you must have fun! I tell old and young alike that if you can’t have fun why waste your time? Life is short, chaotic, full of challenges, doubts and fears. Why ever would you bring that into the studio? Colors, textures, forms, lines, brush strokes, what’s not to like? Approaching a blank canvas should be like sitting down to a huge banquet in your honor – the food is ready to be placed before you, and you dive in with anticipation! Why should you not approach your art with the same sense of awe? Nobody else in the whole universe holds your ideas, your dreams, your inspiration. Having a bad day? Paint it out in dark colors! Having a good day? Put it down for everyone to see and rejoice with you. Being creative is one of the finest gifts The Creator could give you. Take advantage of it, and remember to feel the joy. That’s my word of wisdom for today!
One of the joys of being an artist is the journey. You have this lovely blank canvas and you begin to play with colors and shapes, textures and ideas, and things begin to happen! This piece began with an exploration of mediums, modeling paste, iridescent paints and several paint overs. Students in my studio made suggestions – some were helpful, and the women of my tribe appeared. The client who bought this kept saying: “More bling! More bling!” So in a spirit of playfulness, we gave it more bling. I hope you like this piece as much as I do.
This week I’ve been playing with various backgrounds to see how my lilies look surrounded by white space, foliage and now gold acrylic. I’m fascinated at the effect of green watercolor over gold, then blotted away, giving a lacy appearance. I’m going to play with this idea. That’s what it’s all about: “What if?” This painting is available at my new gallery, (http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/755881)
Painting white flowers on a white background can be a challenge. Add to that, white paint is not a part of a watercolor palette, so I’m spending a little time experimenting with various ways to make my lilies speak for themselves. How’s about those greens? I challenge my students to reserve the white in various ways, whether it be masking fluid, resist or background color. We’ll try several ideas in the studio and see what happens. By the way this piece is available!
To many of us, finding inspiration is not always easy. We don’t always stroll into our studios with a clear plan. It’s very nice to know exactly what we’re going to paint, and some of us try to find our prompts, or ideas, in magazines, photos on the Internet, or even our imaginations. It’s really nice on the rare occasion when a friend will trigger your imagination. This happened recently to me. I’d been painting every day for a month and was frankly running out of ideas. One of my friends told me she’d love to see some Calla lilies. Cool! For the next several days I plan to paint a number of pieces . I hope you will enjoy them with me. This piece is available at my new gallery on http://www.dailypaintworks.com, under artist S. E. Bland.
For most artists, I think, there are periods of inspiration when we can hardly paint fast enough. During those times, we feel eager to get to work, champ at the bit when life interferes, and just can’t do enough. Then there is the fallow time. Your muse has taken a vacation, and not only do the ideas disappear, so does the inclination. For the inexperienced artist, this can be terrifying! Where is that enthusiasm, the self confidence, the excitement? The trend these days is the challenge: Paint a painting a day for 30 days. Post a painting daily, they say, because practice makes perfect! I’m not sure that is always true in every case. While I certainly gained new skills and some degree of self confidence, I have come to realize that just as a farmer lets some of his fields lie fallow, sometimes we need to slow down, let the thoughts lie dormant for a little while, be quiet and listen for direction. Showing up doesn’t always mean to keep busy. Sometimes it just means to trust that when the time is right, your ideas will return. Stand back and enjoy what you have created. Wait for it. It will return, I promise.
Do you like chocolate? So do I, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate with nuts, chocolate with coconut, coffee mocha, chocolate ice cream, you name it, chocolate is my favorite vegetable! However, if I could never have another lemon crisp cookie, or strawberry shortcake, or a pineapple upside down cake, I would not be happy. When I took an art marketing course I was told: “Your work is all over the place. Find one medium and one subject and stick with it! Paint a cohesive body of work and stick with it.” Well, I’m sorry, but that does not work for me! I want to do seascapes, landscapes, still life, portraits and when I grow up, people! I want to play with oils, watercolors, pastels, acrylics, chalk and pen and ink. Being creative means to try all of it. For me it means trying to learn something new all the time. I enjoy getting comfortable with one subject and one medium. Then I want to move on. If you like honing your skills with oils, go for it. If you find more excitement in exploration, go for that! In our classroom we may study color theory for a while, then move on to drawing, or composition, or watercolor. The wondrous thing about what we do is, we learn! We explore, we make messes, and we learn. I hope you do that too!
You just never know where a painting is going to take you! A few years ago, a group of artists were invited to turn little wooden boxes into altars for a show benefiting a good cause. I had previously painted the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi of Frijoles Canyon, so decided to replicate that scene for my altar. The tiny ladder was made of twigs from my yard and I had woven the tiny basket just for fun a few years before. As I was laying out this little diorama, a friend found a hummingbird nest and egg in his yard and brought it to me. I still think it’s one of the finest pieces of work I ever did. Maybe I had more than a little help!
When I started painting portraits a few weeks ago, I found images that seemed to tell a story. This photo, entitled “Homeless,” spoke to me. I can’t tell you why. I’ve always had a home, food, clothes and some degree of security. Maybe it’s my Southern Methodist upbringing, but I felt early on that if my neighbor was hungry, I was supposed to share my meal with him. For a while I didn’t see a lot of that in my homeland. “If he’s hungry, let him get a job!””I worked hard for my money, why shouldn’t he?” Never mind the fact that many of our mentally ill are untreated, families torn apart by violence, old, sick and unable to care for themselves, many of us have turned a blind eye to these people. That has changed a little, I think, since the devastating storms have rolled across our nation. More and more on the social media, I see offers to help one another, folks with a whole lot willing to give quite a chunk to see others taken care of. And I think that’s a mighty fine thing!
When challenged to post a painting every day, most of us would feel a wee bit intimidated. If you’ve been painting quite a while, you have a stash of work to fall back on. But when challenged to paint a new piece every day, then you begin to feel the challenge! Doing something in the studio every day requires showing up! It means you have to find a subject, make the time amid the meals, the laundry, the regular classes and chores that each day brings! There are benefits. You learn to budget your time. Maybe the dishes or the laundry can wait a little while. You work a little faster, settle for quick studies and learn a lot about the media you have chosen. For instance, pastels are very very messy and you learn to live with colorful fingernails. You learn your cat is very fast when she throws herself down on a pool of pastel dust, and she does not clean easily or willingly. You learn a watercolor floral can feel downright relaxing after trying to get eyeballs even in a pastel portrait. Best of all, though, is you learn! And that is enough.
As much as I look forward to a cool autumn, it just hasn’t made an appearance. In fact, our deck is not at all appealing, with the temperature reaching ninety three degrees this afternoon. The joy of being an artist is that I can go to the beach, create a snow scene, or remember with fondness a special morning near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Driving down the mountain, I was caught up in the moment by the light shining through the brush beneath the trees. We stopped and took some photos, and I just couldn’t wait to capture this setting. It’s still one of my favorite memories. I hope you enjoy this one also. I like to remind my students to hang onto those memories. They’ll come back to bless you when you need them the most!
If you are a creative person you are going to experience moody days. Somebody cut you down, hurt your feelings, said something unfair, maybe unknowingly, and there you are, down in the dumps. I don’t know about you, but for me, it definitely affects my creativity. Like a child, I sulk, I withdraw, and suddenly self confidence disappears. To make art requires a certain amount of optimism: maybe this time I’ll make something good, or true, or beautiful. Over and over I tell myself and my students, when you are down, the only way to go is up. If your paintings are muddy, try drawing, or cutting and pasting, or even pouring the paint to see what happens when the colors run together. This little piece began on such a day. I was hurt by a comment a friend made. I wasn’t going to paint at all, but decided to pour some paints on the paper when slowly some figures emerged. Fascinated, I got out my gold acrylics and embellished them. I saw pilgrims walking along, the mother evidently pregnant. I called it “EXODUS” and proudly framed it. The moral to this little story is, just show up. Paint a while and if nothing happens paint some more. If you want to make art, you’ll just keep painting until you do. I promise!
Most of us have led fairly sheltered lives, and for that I am grateful. For some however life is much more challenging. Lost jobs, mental illness, domestic abuse, things happen. When I was painting this woman I saw the broken and grimy fingernails, the look of determination and the strong arms that will move mountains for her loved ones. I knew such a woman, and while her story is not mine to tell, I will share my deep admiration for a mother who hid her children away from danger and lived homeless for quite a while to keep them safe. Yes, she was homeless, but she never gave up and she never gave in. Her strength will not be forgotten. This piece is available through my gallery at http://www.dailyworks.com.
Most of us carry memories of someone special, perhaps an aunt, a neighbor or just some distant relative. They seemed ancient to us as children. At gatherings they loved to tell the stories of our people. They knew things, stories our parents had never heard or wanted to forget. Sometimes they buttoned their clothes in random order, or they may have lacked a bit of grooming, but as children we seemed to gravitate to them. My Aunt Ila was one of those. She wasn’t much for housecleaning, but the smell of fresh bread permeated my senses when I hit her back door. In all the time I knew her I never heard the word: “No.” Her life was hard but she and her husband took in my widowed Granny and five children, and helped them through the Depression with grace and love. This painting is in honor of Auntie, the Storyteller. I hope you have a memory of someone like that too!
I have had children in my classroom from four to ninety four, and it’s the young ones I enjoy the most. They are not judgmental or hypercritical. They paint and draw, color, cut and paste, and just enjoy the journey. Nobody tells them that shade of green isn’t true to the color of the cat they just painted. In their eyes it’s a happy color and that’s what matters. I wish more of us would do that. Why not paint a tree with purple leaves, or a pink cow munching on blue grass? One of my adult students, painting plein aire on a beautiful spring day, decided to do her entire piece in oranges and purples. It was lovely! So the word today is look at the world through the eyes of a child. Being creative means to free up those rules that restrict us. Color that sky yellow and see what a day brightener that can be. Don’t forget to have fun along the way. Life is full of dark colors. Lighten it up a bit! By the way, this painting is available at http://www.dailypaintworks.com. Under artists, type S. E. Bland and you should be able to visit my gallery!Thank you for following me.
Sometimes if we’re lucky, good things happen. A couple of years ago I fell and broke my arm. In desperation I did a series with my left hand, called “Broken Wing Series.” I’m pretty sure I posted this back then, and I apologize for bringing it up again. The reason I do is because like you, I need reminding that where we are today is not necessarily where we’ll be tomorrow. We may be discouraged or down in the dumps, but the morrow may yield better results. Be kind to that artist within. Cut yourself some slack. Take a break. Show up tomorrow with a fresh attitude. You may surprise yourself with some really good work and won’t that be fine!
For an artist, a bad mood can morph into a fair painting. I have been in a snit for a couple of days. Things have not gone my way and like a moody kid, I’ve wanted to crawl in the bed and pull the covers over my head. For a little while I’ve enjoyed my own pity party and wondered why nobody brought me presents. After a while it occurred to me things could have been much worse. In fact the things bothering me were largely in my head. I let problems grow much larger than they should have, and fertilized that garden of doubt with organic thoughts. Then I remembered a couple of years ago when I broke my arm in two places. Determined to paint anyway, I did a series called “The Broken Wing Series,” and I think some pretty neat work evolved. Maybe like me you have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. If you tend to get down in the dumps and stay there, I recommend you find a quiet spot and start counting your blessings. Life’s not always a bed of roses, but there’s generally a bright spot to be found, if you look for it. And almost always a friend who cares. For that I am most grateful.
Disclaimer: This is not a self portrait. “Granny” is an image I found and painting her toothless grin made me smile. I need to smile. In the life of an artist there are days, sometimes several in a row, when we wonder why are we doing this? We could be sitting under a palm tree somewhere sipping a mint julep. Instead we are huddled over an easel muttering insanely and accomplishing nothing! This has been one of those days. Despite my promise to publish a new painting every day, today’s work will never be proudly displayed. In fact it might be fuel for my chiminea and that mint julep sounds better all the time.
After running errands all morning I really looked forward to a little studio time. I put some Patsy Cline on the boom box, poured a nice iced coffee and set to work. Two hours later I have a painting of a blue eyed monster. One eye is bigger than it should be, her sweet smile has turned into a snarl and I’m pretty sure the demons of doubt are dancing gleefully. What’s an artist to do? I’ll share what I plan to do. I am burying today’s work face down, grabbing a good book and walking away. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll try again. And if it isn’t right, I’ll lay it aside and come back another day. There’s no use beating up on myself. I gave it a try. I just have to accept that there are days like this. The milk will spill, the cake will fall, the cat will throw up on the carpet. Get over it, I tell myself. Stomp off in a snit and come back tomorrow. See you then, maybe!
A few years ago our local art guild started an art program in a local nursing home. For five years volunteers gathered in the facility’s dining room to mix paint, hold brushes and share love and laughter with folks who didn’t have a lot of color in their lives. Some of them couldn’t remember what they had for lunch but they surprised themselves with artwork that awed and thrilled their families. We had an annual art show for them and framed their best work. Some of these folks were in their 90’s!
I thought of that recently when a grandchild suggested we take a pastel workshop. I was not interested in pastels. I’ve worked in oils, acrylics and watercolor and felt sure I’d be wasting my time. A chance to spend time alone with someone I loved was irrestibible, however, so I found myself signing up and making supply lists. For twenty years I’ve told myself I couldn’t paint portraits, and I certainly was not comfortable with a new medium!
I’d also told my students for twenty years that they should be open to new experiences. So I backed into it with a bit of trepidation.
What I learned was, it’s never too late for an artist to grow, to explore and to learn new things. Opening ones self to new skills, new tools and techniques is a grand adventure. I highly recommend it. If you are five or ninety five, the world is full of a wonder of things. Go out and try some of them. You may surprise yourself!
Some of my best evenings are spent sitting on my deck with my husband of sixty one years, playing “Remember when?” Because we grew up in the same town we share some common friends. He is older than I which I gleefully remind him, and we didn’t go to school together. Still, we have history. We remember the good teachers, the people who meant something to us, and we play at remembering Main Street, our old grade schools and common experiences. Looking back with fondness fills a void created when the former generation passes away. It softens the edges of grief and pain, and the happy memories cancel out the not so good ones. However, it seems to me that older people need to remember that there is tomorrow. The past is gone and tomorrow isn’t here yet, so maybe what is important is right now! That hummingbird at my feeder, the hibiscus which finally bloomed, the sunset after a shower, these are memories in the making! It’s good to pull open that drawer full of memories, and it’s good to look forward to the future, but let’s remember that we are here, now, and if we look for it, good is here too. Take the time to visit a friend, smell the flower blooming right outside your door, or hug somebody near you. Today belongs to you. Enjoy it!
I’ve been told there are people who drift gracefully into old age. I won’t be one of those. It aggravates me deeply when I rise planning to do a dozen things and after half an hour my body says “How’s that working out for you?” The back aches, the knees grow weak, and I spend half the day resting up for the other half. I’m learning to paint portraits, something that has always intimidated me. I find as I look for images, I don’t seek out the youthful, pretty face. Although I admire healthy glowing skin and love the innocent face of my great grand baby, I want to paint the stories I see in every wrinkle, every lined face I paint. Why is that? I live in a neighborhood of mainly senior citizens. Most of us are retired and we adore the children who’ve moved into our church community, but it’s the friends who have been there, done that, that I hang out with. For one thing, we share experiences. Most of us have lost family, some have lost mates. A few unfortunates have buried a second spouse. Nevertheless, they go on. We laugh together, cry together, lift one another up when we fall, and we do fall. We have learned what is worth fighting for and what is not, we aren’t ashamed to call on one another when necessary, and we have learned to appreciate every sunrise, every loved one, and even every breath. Life is so precious. Go out and tell someone how much they mean to you. You’ll be glad you did.
I believe at some point all of us have asked the question: “What difference does it make?” Maybe someone disagreed with that great idea you had. Or the opinion you just expressed was shouted down. There’s a lot of that going around. A writer may have just gotten the rejection slip on the novel that took months to write. Your dearest friend didn’t like the color of the sky on the painting you just finished. Like a deflated balloon, poof! You’ve been shot down. I believe that only those who never try will not share that experience. If you want to smell the sweet smell of success, you must surely inhale your share of failures. Just as little grains of sand wash out to sea, so also are they carried back in with the tide. And they make a difference. Maybe they become an island or a sandbar, or a castle for a happy child to build. Those little grains of sand have no idea which crab might build a house among them, but they have a reason for being. So do you. Whether you are growing okra or zucchini to share with your neighbors or teaching Sunday School, buying groceries for a neighbor or making a beautiful piece of art, your time and talents make the world a brighter place. Try to remember that. You are here for a reason. In some way, every day, you do make a difference . Enjoy that thought!
I am very sad to confess that despite painting for twenty years, I still worship at the feet of the God of Not Good Enough. Over and over I advise my students to trust their instincts, to listen to the positive thoughts encouraging them and to ignore others who throw out discouraging words. That is good advice and I wish I’d committed it to memory. I ran across this painting recently and I thought, “Wow!” “What happened to this one?” Then I remembered. I was in a dark place and someone made a remark that enforced my doubts. I reacted quickly and painted over this. Granted the painting that replaced it was a very nice one, and I’m proud of it. I may have never thought of this one if I hadn’t browsed through old photographs. For some reason when it popped up I regretted my decision to lose it. It might have been a really neat piece. Instead it fell victim to the NGE monster. I let my lack of self confidence make my decision for me. I hope that doesn’t happen to you. Whatever you are painting, singing, writing, thinking, it’s yours! It has value! Give yourself permission to appreciate your own work! It has value because it is yours! Don’t let someone else set your value. You are you and there is nobody else like you. That the plan. Own it.
Hurricane Harvey has moved on and is now dealing misery to those folks over east of us. We on the dry side are wiping our brows, happy to have dodged the bullet. Many of our friends and loved ones are not so fortunate. Recovery will be a long time coming. We read stories of terrible losses, rescues, neighbor helping neighbor, and amazing deeds of courage. The stories coming out of the storm zone tell of unselfish acts of people of all races, colors, sexual orientations and faiths laying aside their differences to help one another. .What is so amazing to me is that so many of those who have lost so much are able to express their gratitude. They are grateful despite loss of homes, cars, treasures they have worked hard for. Still they find reasons to be grateful. Maybe we need to do the same. Grateful that another day will dawn. Grateful for loved ones still near us. Grateful for the clean fresh air we breathe. Just grateful!
I believe we all at some time need to stop. Just quit working, quit thinking, quit trying and just stop. We’ve given it the best we have, we’ve worried and done everything we know how to fix the situation and we realize finally that there is nothing more we can do. That’s when we need to give it up and find that quiet place, that place apart, where we can be still and let the world revolve around us. It is in those still moments, those times of introspection and listening that we find our peace. The cacophony of our world, the anger and despair, the pushing and the shoving, that’s not what it’s all about! What really matters is how we care for one another, how we listen and respond to the needs of those around us. As I’ve seen the flood waters rise, I have seen human kindness rise higher. I know that we are tired, even those of us who are dry and safe. Because we’ve seen loved ones in danger, old friends lose everything, neighborhoods and memories wiped out, we grieve for them, and we’d like to go back a week and wipe out all that’s happened. We cannot. We can only go on, one day at a time. And we go on together. We see that color, race and religion no longer matter. Our concern for one another makes us stronger and we realize we are not alone. That’s the message. We can’t erase what has happened, but together we will face tomorrow. And the sun will rise. And so will we.
The storm has moved on, the sun is shining, and for most of us life will go back to normal. For all those unfortunate people affected by Hurricane Harvey, it will be a long tough struggle. For days we’ve been glued to the television screen, hoping and praying for loved ones and being amazed at the force of nature. Who would believe more than four feet of rain over a few days time? We’ve wept along with friends whose homes are so badly damaged they may never return. We’ve seen favorite vacation spots blown away and we’ve wondered would it ever end. What has been noted over and over, though, is the kindness, the sharing, the rescues and offers of food and shelter for people of all races and religions.
My son was in danger for a while, and we’ve been relieved to hear they are o.k., but I can’t help thinking of all those who are not all right. I’m seeing a wonderful outpouring of generosity from all over the country, and somehow I know our people will survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to help one another dry out, pick up and start again. Because that’s what we do. God bless us, every one!
Water is so refreshing. Standing on the shore smelling the salty air, feeling the spray hit your face, ah! There’s nothing like it! But muddy boiling flood waters in your home? Not so nice! I’ve been heart broken for friends and family in Houston this week, fighting desperately to protect home and pets from the rage that is Hurricane Harvey. I’m helpless to do anything from 200 miles away and the news reports are sickening. I lived in Houston for forty years, and I have many friends and family there. For that reason I want to do something to help. I’m putting “Peace Be Still” up for raffle. Every penny I raise goes to the Salvation Army. On October 1, I’ll draw a name and the lucky winner walks away with one of my favorite paintings. Tickets are $10, and there’s no limit to the number of tickets you can buy. Please join me in helping our neighbors in Houston!
Hurricane Harvey has been hanging over Texas for three days and the devastation is unbelievable! We here in the Hill Country have had a lot of rain, but folks east of here are in real distress. We’ve been glued to the television and praying continually for those who’ve lost everything in this disaster. Nature can be merciless. To all our loved ones and friends , our prayers and love surround you. Be safe!
My mama loved flowers. Her irises, gladioli, zinnias, lilac, hollyhocks and dahlias were a source of joy and graced the altar at our little church many Sundays during my childhood. She was also a meticulous housekeeper. I’m afraid I inherited none of those genes! My friends won’t even let me near their silk flowers because I’ve caused even them to wilt. That’s why I’m grateful to be able to recreate these memories in watercolor. I’ve begun showing them on dailypaintworks.com. They are up for auction this week and next. Hope you enjoy them!
The most exciting words an artist can hear are: “Is this for sale?” Appreciation is wonderful and we are delighted when someone admires our work, but the real shot of adrenaline comes when someone says “I want it!” There are long dry spells when the creative juices begin to sour and we wonder why we do this (as if we have any control over these muses!) We show up and we work through debilitating moments of doubt. We fight off the “never good enough” demons and we use our paintbrushes like weapons to overcome that lack of confidence. And then one day a miracle happens. Someone wants our work! I don’t believe an artist ever wants to sit down and create just to sell. We paint or draw or photograph primarily because we must. Good days or bad we feel the need to try new things, to explore and say “what if?” We never know if our work will languish in the attic and be sold in an estate sale when we’re gone, but we keep on showing up. And then that amazing moment comes! Someone, not a friend or relative helping out, but that amazing someone we never met, likes our work! And it feels so good! I tell my students to paint what makes them happy because they may be looking at it for a long time. Still, it’s really neat to tell my friend at the post office that I’ve sold another painting.
if one is lucky occasionally a painting will be sheer joy. When I accepted the “Painting a Day” challenge, I knew inspiration could be a problem. Not so on this day. Sunflowers seemed to beckon to me and this one was fun from beginning to end! Not only did it it seem to paint itself, it sold almost immediately after I finished it. Thanks to a lovely patron it is going to live in London! I’m happy to plant a sunflower on English soil.
As I painted this one, I kept thinking of Psalm 23, where the phrase “He leadeth me beside the still waters” kept running through my mind. When we grow fearful, when the world spins out of control and the chaos threatens to overwhelm us, it is so comforting to know that there are still waters we can rest beside, if only in our hearts. I hope you find your still waters today.
Sometimes you just have to trust your intuition. I’ve been wanting to paint a rose up close and personal. When I began, I was afraid it wouldn’t work out. I had a beautiful blob but it did not resemble a rose! I tell my students to trust themselves and don’t give up, so decided to follow my own advice. After a while the petals began to reveal themselves little by little. I’m glad I stuck it out. A rose is a rose, after all!
I have discovered that it is possible to paint every day! It isn’t easy, with classes scheduled, meals to prepare, a husband who needs a little nurturing, a very demanding old lady cat, and a few civic duties. It is doable, however, and the rewards are amazing. Not only did I become better acquainted with new techniques and media, I learned I am still capable of learning! After twenty years of painting I find I can’t wait to see what each new day will bring! I’m very grateful to those collectors who bought my work, and look forward to new growth in the future. My advice to my students: just show up. Something will happen. Learning will take place and you may surprise yourself!
It’s Sunday morning in South Texas and already promising to be hot and dry. I dream of far away, cool lakes and mountain air. It’s not so easy to get there any more, but in my studio I can go anywhere. This piece, going up tomorrow for auction on dailypaintworks.com, cools and calms like a tall glass of iced tea. Enjoy!
July in South Texas is, to say the least, hot as forty hells. It takes about five minutes outside to convince me there are better places to be – like a cool air conditioned studio. Looking for inspiration I accepted a 31 day watercolor challenge. Now watercolor is not my area of expertise. In fact for a long time I refused to teach it. Remaining in my comfort zone seemed the wisest course of action. Boredom pulled me out of that zone, and for the entire month I did a watercolor every day. Guess what? I grew to like the entire process, from sketching my subject to selecting the colors, seeing how easily they blended, posting them on social media, and selling a good number of paintings for the first time in months! It appears I should have followed my own advice and just shown up! More later about how much I am beginning to appreciate my own advice and why.
As we packed up and headed home, I was so glad we took this opportunity to see a part of America we hadn’t seen. Now I have 689 images to inspire me. I hope I can paint a few of them and do justice by them. So long, Downeast Maine!
You’d think as time goes by, the memories would begin to fade, but coming home just seems to help me look back with fondness to the beautiful places we saw. Bar Harbor is about 90 miles south of Lubec, and we drove down to spend our last four days exploring Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island.
Bar Harbor is very busy. In fact, other than eating there and buying a few groceries, I chose to avoid it as much as possible. One exception was an excellent brunch at Two Cats Restaurant. With a beautiful garden as the front lawn, they served one of the most generous and delicious breakfasts I found. In fact, it was at least twenty four hours before either of us could think of food. Mostly organic food, the presentation was beautiful, and it’s easy to see why the place was packed every time we drove by. Jordan’s, a well established restaurant up the street, is famous for its blueberry pancakes and muffins. We managed to weave our way through the masses (literally) of bicycles, cars, delivery trucks and zany pedestrians several times, just to sample the food there. Our waitress, a young woman from Kiev, held us spellbound with her description of life year round on the coast of Maine. But I suppose coming from the Ukraine, a Maine winter was a breeze to her. For a flat-lander from Oklahoma now living in South Texas, thoughts of cross country skiing and wearing snowshoes to go out for a walk really sparked my imagination!
Even though we much preferred the natural beauty of Acadia National Park, we did enjoy the harbor and the old inns and hotels clustered around the bay.
This sailboat offered a view that I enjoyed, and I would have liked to take a short cruise, maybe all the way down to Boston, if they’d offered it. A half hour ride around the bay just wasn’t that appealing.
Most days, we preferred driving all over the island, pulling out at every vantage point and taking photos of the cliffs, the rocks, and the beautiful blue water. One of my favorite spots was Thunder Hole.
During high tides the water rushes into this spot, and it roars and sounds like thunder. It merely gurgled when we were there, but I still found it beautiful. I also discovered I didn’t like tourists very much, even though I was one – there was this one man who popped up in every photo. I sort of wanted to throw a rock at him, but restrained myself. They frown on such things in our national parks.
Probably my favorite time of all was sitting on the rocks near Otter Cove, pulling out my little watercolor kit and just trying to capture the shadows on Otter Cliffs. I probably will never forget that hour sitting in the sun, hearing the roar of the surf and feeling at perfect peace.
We wanted to see the lighthouse at Bass Harbor and spent a pleasant morning driving up and across the island. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of fog!
Next, the view from Cadillac Mountain and a Happy Hour Sunset Cruise. Lots of inspirations for paintings, for sure!
As all good things must come to an end, so our visit to New Brunswick and Campobello Island had to end. I think one of the most important things to take away from a cherished vacation is the sense of awe – the wonder that our land is so beautiful and so amazing! I encourage my students to seriously plan their dreams – to follow through on those things you’ve always wanted to do! As we grow older, God willing, we will have wonderful memories of parks we have visited, far away places we finally got to see, and those memories comfort us. Dream it and then scheme it, y’all! You’ll never regret it. So, as we drive across the Roosevelt Bridge and back into the United States, here are a few of my cherished memories.
The lovely old churches with a cemetery up the hill, being mowed by a red headed teenager.
The rocky shoreline and our time spent trying to capture it on canvas:
If you are one of those folks who don’t like to write but love looking at old photos, greeting cards, clippings or recipes, an envelope journal may be just the thing for you. I played around with marbling papers and found I had an abundance of old envelopes. Browsing YouTube videos, I was delighted to find some instructions for making an envelope journal. I gathered about a dozen envelopes, studied the detailed suggestions for binding them together and then made a little paper packet to hold them. Since these were going to hold my mementos, I raided my jewelry box to find the perfect pin to embellish the front of my journal. Now when I run across a greeting card, invitation or photo I want to store away, I tuck it into one of the envelopes in my journal. On a rainy day, I can pull my little book off the bookshelf and remember a special time or place.
Your journal doesn’t have to be special in terms of fancy envelopes. Even old Christmas card envelopes, pretty birthday or note cards will do. Google “how to make an envelope journal” and you’ll be amazed at how creative you become. And that box full of old photographs suddenly is organized and easy to look through. I’m very fond of mine and enjoy having a cuppa with my precious memories!
During the past six months, I’d say most of us have made some major changes. To occupy our time, some of us have cleaned closets (not my favorite activity.) Lots have turned to gardening, baking, watching endless hours of television, and in general gazing into space wondering what has happened to our lives.
For me, it’s been a time of discovery and exploration. For some reason painting has been elusive. The idea of painting large canvases which aren’t going anywhere soon just doesn’t appeal Quite by accident, I discovered an old sketchbook, made in 1999 while I was in Gatlinburg Tennessee at an artists’ residency.
I can’t describe how much I enjoyed looking at some of those little sketches and reading some of the notes I had jotted down about my surroundings. I once thought that keeping a journal was a rather egotistical practice. Who had time or really cared to read about what was going on in my life on any given day?
When I looked through that old sketchbook for a few minutes I was able to relive a time that I won’t ever see again! I could feel the same emotions, hear the same sounds in my mind and experience the same happiness I felt on that day. How cool is that?
Suddenly I realized that although I had been writing for a long time I hadn’t thought of it as “journaling,” and now it seems everyone is keeping some kind of journal. Not you, you say? Do you keep a record of your income and expenses? Do you keep a log of your gas mileage? That’s a journal of sorts. Do you read a newspaper or magazine? That’s a journal too. Look it up in a dictionary and you will find the definition of a journal can be a record of events, a listing of financial transactions, a photographic documentation of your grandchild’s growth or last summer’s vacation. Today’s journals run the gamut from beautiful leather bound diaries, art books, envelope journals, sketchbooks, recycled books and even a funky new trend, called a junk journal.
Feeling completely blocked from painting in my studio and no longer holding classes, I turned to making journals. I have so enjoyed this craft that I want to share it with others. Journals are not just for writers. They’re great for holding favorite recipes, old photos, artwork, letters and precious memories.
I’ll try to share some ideas that might inspire you to try this fascinating craft of making books and some of the links that will give you ideas. Hope you’ll join me! Please feel free to ask questions, comment or chat in the comments below. Thanks for dropping by!
We’ve all been led into a new normal during this challenging time, and I have realized how much we need each other if we’re to come out on the other side with some degree of sanity. For weeks and months, like the rest of you, I’ve spent this time without family, friends, familiar routines, I don’t like it. But I like living, even in these challenging times. And I’ve used the time to learn many new interests that I am beginning to share with my students as we cautiously begin to gather again in smaller groups, observing the safety practices recommended by those who hopefully know what they are telling us.
I’m coming from a time of uncertainty. Who isn’t? My husband will soon celebrate his 85th birthday. After a fall, I’m now stuck in a wheelchair waiting for a knee replacement. Our lives like so many others have changed, but so many other things remain the same. We live in a neighborhood where friends help one another. My students are still eager to learn new things, and thanks to YouTube I’ve been experimenting with new art projects, making books and journals, trying new techniques and praying that together as a nation, we’ll be able to sort through the craziness and make sense out of this chaos.
My focus has shifted a bit. I’ve become a little more introspective, a little more philosophical. After all, we are in our senior years, my husband and I. We’ve lost some friends, seen some changes, had a lot of time to reflect. You may see that in my pages, but if you like sharing the life of an artist, join me and let’s travel along together. I have some things to show you!
There’s a hymn that I’m reminded of: “…for the beauty of the earth, for all gentle things and mild….”
On this, our third day driving down Highway 101, we were in Depoe Bay, Oregon. The fog had just lifted and as we pulled out in one of the many scenic overlooks, we heard shouts. Someone had spotted whales breaching! What a gift! All nine of us raced down to the edge of the cliffs to catch glimpses of the whales as they blew. We had never expected to catch sight of them, and we were all amazed that after a day of fog and drizzle, even some showers, the sun broke through just in time for us to enjoy this gift. We were completely enthralled.
Folks from dry Texas, where we’d been enduring days of 100 degree weather, felt blessed at the cool weather and the sight of these amazing creatures not 50 yards away! We could not have chosen a better time. It seems we were just in the right place at the right time. Over and over during our journey, we felt incredible joy and awe.
Some in our group spotted baby seals when the fog lifted momentarily. Others explored sea caves and grottoes and brought beautiful shells and flowers for others to enjoy. Travel is not always easy. For some it is quite challenging. It is easier to sit home in your easy chair and feel comfortable, but for those willing to risk it, our country has many treasures to reveal. No matter one’s age or physical infirmities, there are places of incredible beauty that one will never forget. If you’ve always wanted to go somewhere special, I encourage you to find a way. This land of ours is just so amazing, and you will cherish those memories forever, I promise! Hopefully some new paintings will emerge.
Our ages range from 59 to 80 (am I really the oldest?) and we are on our way. Casting doubts and fears aside, we have one goal: to have a good time. We had our mannies and pedis (except for Drew), colored our hair,
grabbed our coffees and descended on Austin airport. Southwest Airlines took it all in stride, literally. We felt like royalty as we passed through the gates headed for our first stop, Oakland. Looking out the windows I think of the Scripture verse that says we are made a little lower than the angels. I am always awed to be above the clouds, and the mountains below look like crinkled folds of cloth.
We try to determine: “Is this the Rio Grande” or “Are we over the Grand Canyon?” As artists we are already dreaming of that next painting and we wish someone could tell us what town lies thirty thousand feet below us.
We have time to grab some lunch before our flight to Portland, and arrive in time to pick up our vans to head on west to the coast. We’re feeling mighty fine as we clear Portland’s traffic and drive past farms that look like picture puzzles. I wish we’d stopped for photos. The rolling hills, clouds falling below the mountains give us a preview of the week ahead. Stopping to shop for groceries and dinner, we explore Tillamook.
Too late to tour the factory, we settle for a delicious dinner before the final lap to Oceanside. Our oceanfront home, The Anemone House, is incredibly beautiful and roomy. To sleep with the window open to the roar of the ocean, we are in Paradise.
Photo courtesy of Fon Thayer-Ulrich
Earlier this year on my 80th birthday, a group of my friends surprised me with a fun-filled celebration of life. Known as THE ART CHIX and THE DUDES, our group is composed of amazingly creative people who paint, draw, sculpt, write and drink a little wine together now and then. We talked about how we had dreams of far away places and how we’d like to see some of those beautiful places together. When I went home I realized it was time to put those dreams into action.
I realized I would not always be able to go and do what I wanted, so I began to look into a trip with my friends to the Pacific Northwest. I’d visited Oregon several times and really wanted to share that beauty with my fellow artists. You need to realize I’m not terribly young nor am I agile. I have an 83 year old husband who needs lots of care and I almost believed my travel days were over. Just for fun I began to say – “what if?” Going on line, I started looking for lovely places on the coast that a group of us might rent. I began to ask my friends if they’d be interested, hoping one or two might travel with me, provided my best friend and husband were cared for. My beloved children stepped forward and said, “Do it, Mom! We’ll care for our Dad.” And so we began to dream it and then scheme it, which is my motto.
Before I knew it, eight artists committed to join me and our plans began to grow.
I won’t deny I had moments of doubt, but as the days flew by, the excitement began to grow. I really felt more and more confident that this might happen. For nine months we dreamed and schemed. We had planning parties, shared ideas and goals and wondered if this might really happen. I prayed for direction and was reassured by Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Tomorrow, the team begins to scheme….
I’m pleased to check another item off my bucket list! Among my many dreams has always been a desire to write a book. This one, just released, is full of original watercolors, acrylic and pastel paintings, more than fifty of them, which I did over the past year. As a bonus I’ve added some reflections and home spun wisdom you might enjoy. Some you’ll recognize from previous blogs. The book is available from Amazon.com, or if you contact me I will send you a signed copy.
That being said, I’m moving into a new focus. In the past, art has been my first love and will continue to draw me (pardon the pun), but events over the past months have led me to want to dig a little deeper. Without apology I want to share my faith. As I age, I like to think I’ve learned a bit, and now and then I believe sharing those thoughts might be helpful. So if you can use a bit of the old lady’s philosophy, feel free. I’ll share as they come along and hope you’ll gain a little from these insights.
I’m planning an art retreat in September for my Art Chix and a Dude, and wanting a minimal amount of supplies. I like the convenience of watercolor, but it can be challenging. I decided to try gouache, and boy do I like it, for lots of reasons. First, it’s opaque, so you can paint over your mistakes. Second, even 24 hours later, you can put a wet brush to your dry palette and pick up nice juicy color. Economical! The colors blend beautifully so you don’t need a ton of paint. It flows easily, thin or thick. Cleanup is easy. If you make a miscue, it lifts with a damp brush. I’m liking it so much I think I’ll paint a sample a day. Anybody want to pick up some art work at a bargain price? 5 x 7 matted for an 8 x 10 frame. Lovely colors, new every day,!
In preparing for today’s class, I was pondering over the fact that some of us were having trouble with our plein aire paintings. Searching the Internet soon revealed I’d been leaving out one very critical piece of advice. Every workshop teacher I’ve ever had has begun each session with a thumbnail sketch – sometimes more than one. Lazy and eager to get into the fun part of putting paint to the canvas, I had let slip this most important step. It was an “aha” moment. For those viewers who are raising a questioning eyebrow, a thumbnail sketch is a small study, usually about two inches square. The artist can draw a quick outline in pen or pencil, indicating what’s important in the piece, where it will fit in the picture, and indicating where the light, medium and dark values are. Sort of a roadmap or recipe to help guide one through the painting. I like to think my time of meditation and prayer every morning is my thumbnail sketch. I look at the overall picture of my day, try to decide what is important and where my values should be, what is light, what is dark, where are the gray areas? If I spend a little time with my thumbnail , I’m likely to paint a better picture of my day. I definitely need to practice this before I begin every painting. Maybe I’ll be a little more diligent before rushing into my day, to get the values right.
I’ve studied under several plein aire artists: Michael Chesley Johnson of Campobello Island, and William Scott Jennings in Sedona, Arizona – numerous online painters, and countless videos and DVD’s. These guys paint in subzero weather and desert thunderstorms. Not me! In New Brunswick, I’m the old lady who left the workshop when the rain was blowing sideways into my poncho. I had lunch at the Fireside Inn where FDR had lunch and toured the “cottage” on Campobello Island while my classmates struggled on and produced good work. I’m a Texas gal, and we know when to come in out of the rain. So when the weather is pleasant and the winds aren’t too cold, I gather my friends, a pot of coffee or a bottle on wine, and we find a shady spot and set up our easels. I have painted in Northern California on a wet and foggy day, and I’ve been alone on Ghost Ranch in an arroyo, painting very close to my car because a mountain lion warning had been posted. These are memories I cherish, and I’m looking forward to painting with my friends on the Oregon coast this fall, but nothing, really nothing, can compare with sitting on the bank of a river in the Texas Hill Country with good friends, feeling the breeze, smelling the diesel fumes off the trucks rolling over the bridge, and being grateful for this day. This best day, because it’s the only one promised me. I’m hoping you are feeling grateful for your day. It’s a gift, so treat it with the greatest respect. It is truly precious.