I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Friday, January 19, 2018

"5"

Sometimes I write some tips for artists, but it occurred to me today that tips for artists are really tips for anyone who looks at art.  We can appreciate images more when we understand more of what the artist intended.  The week's prompt is "5".  I'm pretty sure everyone sees and understands 5 hash marks here.  Maybe you notice I put 5-petaled flowers in the background.  Extra points if you notice the vertical lines are also in clusters of 5.  Each element reinforces the message 5 and adds more visual interest for the viewer.


In 1793, Jacques-Louis David painted "La Mort de Marat" (The Death of Marat).  In some ways, it looks like a comparatively simple painting for David.  The image is powerful, even if we don't know the first thing about Marat.  However, this painting speaks across language barriers and our ignorance.

Forget everything anyone else has ever taught you about looking at art.  What do you see?  How do you feel?  Whatever any of the professionals tell you, how you feel about a piece of art is the final word about whether or not a painting is great or not.

Once you've acknowledged your emotional reaction to the painting, consider the points I made about my 5 brushes.  Even though I assume you don't know who Marat was, do you see repeated themes in the painting that are giving you clues?  I would guess that you notice multiple papers, ink, and quills.  Perhaps your eyes go to the large background?  Maybe you notice the drapery falls as the hero's arm is falling?  The bloody knife is on the floor while the dying man's hands hold a paper and a pen; this isn't a suicide.

Let me tell you that Marat was a radical journalist during the French Revolution.  Now what do you think?  Does it change how you feel about the painting?  I can also tell you he was an ugly man with a debilitating skin condition which caused him to wrap vinegar saturated cloth to his head while he soaked in medicinal baths.  A board was placed on the tub so he could continue writing.  Charlotte Corday, a royalist woman, stabbed him for his political activism.  She was tried and executed for the murder.

Considering Marat was a remarkably unattractive man, David gave him a hero's death.  He used the traditions of Jesus and the saints' martyrdoms for a journalist with serious and smelly health problems.  The drapery falls with the dying man's arm.  The light and shadows move forward.  So much is expressed in such a beautiful way, for a crime scene which was anything but beautiful.

For artists, this painting is also a reminder not to get too trapped by reality.  David was true to life in setting the scene by using the green cloth and the packing box by the tub, but his idealism created an image far different than an ugly man dying in a bloody tub.  We're reminded of what the man did in his life.

What do you want to convey?  How can you use repetitions of a theme to carry your message?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Guitar"

My guitar has butterflies.  This pleases me.  I hope my butterflies don't die in the case from neglect.  Guitars sound better when they're actually played instead of propped in a corner gathering dust.  I'm not a great player, but I'm pretty sure my guitar would prefer inexpert attention than none at all.

Let me apologize again for presidential insults of people and countries with pigment, US allies, or geez, everybody who isn't blonde and Norwegian this week.  What happened to 1960s "make love not war" ideals sung around campfires?  I leaked tears when I listened to this Seeker's version.  I'd like to blame that on menopausal hormones, but I'm just in touch with an earnest wish for a better world.  We should all sing by more campfires.

I refuse to give up my idealism.  We each make the world better with every kind action and word, and even the negatives around us are a chance to learn and make things right.  For instance, this week I've learned the continent of Africa is thriving.  It's far more than famine and AIDS.  Haiti is more than a hurricane disaster zone.  45's "s***hole" comments pushed the media to tell us some positives for a change.  Yay!  Tell us more!

I've complained about public tv's seemingly endless shows about multiculturalism.  It feels racist to complain, but I feel like they're beating me with a stick about an issue with which I'm already agreeable.  Stop lecturing me!  It's like sad puppies or starving children charity ads.  I care about puppies and children, but I'd much rather see something about how a donation results in happy, healthy children/puppies.  Stop miring us in negatives.  Teach us about positives.  Teach us how to get to the positives.

The truth is, we're attracted to negatives.  A traumatic, abusive bond with someone can be far more enduring than a loving relationship, but time with an abuser is time that wasn't spent with someone loving.  Lately I've noticed on my antenna tv there are 2 stations devoted to murder 24 hrs/day, not to mention the other stations' murder shows.  I'm sure cable tv must be far worse.  We're rapt with attention over disasters, abuse, and strife, and media outlets will continue to offer this kind of thing because it keeps our viewership better than "good" subjects.  It takes effort maintaining positivity in a negative world, but I'm convinced it's worth the effort because surrounding ourselves with good people and experiences leads to happier lives for everyone.

I met a young woman outside a store where we were both waiting.  We discovered we shared a birthday that day.  I told her she was pretty.  She was taken aback that I'd say something nice, and then worried I was hitting on her.  I laughed and said I like boys.  We chatted and laughed some more for maybe 15 minutes before we left in different directions, never to see each other again, but with positive memories.

It was such a simple thing.  She was pretty, and nice too.  She was pleasant to talk with when I was burning time.  One small action that didn't cost me anything for a young, black woman who told me she needed a kind word that day.  My bit for race relations might be a helpful memory for her when she listens to racist comments.

Haters get more coverage than the majority of people who don't share those views.  What if all of us who care about others make more effort to say nice things to each other?  Open doors, treat people like people, express some curiosity about them?  Listen to their stories, or just smile?

Kumbaya...

Friday, January 5, 2018

"A"


I can't swear that I didn't reuse some words in this piece.  I tried to pay attention, but proofreading isn't one of my better skills.  I took this week's prompt as a test of how many A words I could think up.  I'll admit I started cheating, but sometimes getting a word off the computer reminded me of quite a few more words lurking in my mind.  I also remembered words that I couldn't define.  I can't really explain why I'd know a word exists without knowing how to use it.  I'm not sure I'll ever really understand my own brain, but I continue to look at it as an interesting object worth studying.

I started another painting, but it isn't far enough along to show it to you yet.  Instead, let's look back at the year that was.


I'm reminded that I've spent much of the last year obsessed with the news.  I try to ignore it, but I can't.  Sometimes my obsession leaked into my posts.  I tried to keep that at a minimum because I like to get along and share happier thoughts.  Some of the things I wrote about in the last year feel like they happened a super long time ago.  Did I testify in court in February?!  I'm pretty sure that was at least 5 or 6 years ago.  Went to the cheese factory with Bro2?  That had to be in some other year too.  Some things feel so immediate I can't believe they happened months ago.  I'm also reminded of things that I didn't discuss but were seeping through the tone of my posts.

I lost 3 friends in 2017.  Two died, one was very old, one was too young.  The third friend is just going in a different direction with different values and priorities than me.  It happens.  It's sad.  I wish him well.  I found out another friend died a couple of years ago.  I hadn't kept up with him, but I'd kept him in my heart.  Even though he died a while ago the fact of his death is new to me.  I'm feeling my own mortality.

I ranted about wildlife more than is seemly, which is ironic coming from a life-long environmentalist.  I even married a professional environmentalist at one time.  That was a mistake, but hey, live and learn.  My deer and groundhogs are safe from my murderous thoughts, still brimming over with glossy health.  I expect they'll demolish this year's garden and I'll probably complain about it.

I wrote a book.  I even sent out a number of query letters to publishers.  I still think the book should be published, but I didn't send enough queries.  I just collapsed on my momentum.  I mean really, I already devoted all that time writing the thing.  Why do I have to put in energy to sell it?  Besides, it's a non-fiction effort on a topic I want to forget (working for Religion).  I'm adjusting my attitude about this starting next week.

I painted this year, real paintings that I'm proud of myself for creating.  I did some illustrations for magazines.  That felt good.  Sometimes I wrote about making art too.

Mostly, I think the past year was focused on decluttering my mind, pulling out past issues that never seem to die and trying to find a new way forward, taking time to breathe and evaluate what really matters to me.  I've spent a lot of time studying better ways to accomplish these goals too.  I'm pretty sure those topics will come up in some future posts.

Wishing everyone a happy, successful, productive 2018!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Map"

I've been thinking of the meaning of life lately.  Sometimes I'm inclined to think there isn't any meaning to it at all.  I just want it to have meaning.  Other times I think my contributions to the world aren't the things I even notice.

When I saw the word for the week, my contrarian self started writing about Pams instead.  I erased all that and decided to sleep on it.  I woke up with this image in my mind and remembered one of my childhood Pams finding me as an adult.  She passionately talked about how I had said things that helped her at a time when she really needed it.

To be honest, I didn't remember doing it.  I was so uncomfortable when she was pouring out her heart to me as an adult I couldn't even take in what she was saying.  I remembered her as a nice, if rather sad, girl.  I liked talking with her on the school bus.  I missed her when she got shipped off to boarding school.

Pam credited me for preventing her suicide.  I think that's more credit than I deserve for saying I'd miss her.  I suppose I also said things about the possibilities in getting away from her domineering parents.  Maybe I even expressed some envy at getting away and having a chance at a fresh start?  I can't give myself much credit for something I barely remember.  I'm also reminded of another girl I didn't save because I felt so overwhelmed with own life that I didn't want to take on her problems.  Maybe it isn't so much what I might've done for Pam as what she did for me?  She helped me feel less guilty when I was ripping myself up with guilt.

I'd like to see the map of my life.  I want to know what matters and what it all means, but we're all like the bird who is just focused on the next seed.  Where we came from and where we're going is too vast a map for us to truly understand.  Just take the next step.  Follow the trail of seeds.  Sooner or later we'll get to the end of the trail and be able to look back and evaluate how we did.

It didn't require work to comfort Pam, it's just my nature to try to help.  If the meaning of my life is to spread some kindness, then I'm happy to do my part.  I encourage you to spread some love around too.  I'm forever grateful to the people who have extended kindness and encouragement to me.

We live in a culture that rewards our work, not who we are.  We're evaluated by how much physical stuff we amass.  Artists are rated by the quality and quantity of their artwork, but the same standards are used towards people in other professions.  Nobody seems to count how many times we hold a door for someone or stop to listen to them.

I may not have a clear view of the map of my life, but I think at least a part of it must be to spread a little sunshine around.  I don't know if I'd see it if one of my actions saves a life.  What I do know is that recognizing the possibility of making a difference for someone else in whatever ways I can is important to me and I'll try to do more of that going forward in the next year and beyond.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Plant"

Merry Christmas!  (or the holiday of your choice)  I hope you enjoy the season in whatever ways make you happiest with the people you love most.

I've got to stop baking cookies.  Warm cookies fresh from the oven are irresistible and the house smells delicious.  I also made peppermint bark.  That has to count for "plant", doesn't it?  Besides the plant name, chocolate and peppermint are both plants.  It's easy to do, and sooo yummy...

Put some candy canes in a plastic bag and bash them with a hammer.  Get your frustrations out, but leave a some recognizable chunks.  Melt chocolate in the microwave, then spread it on wax paper.  Sprinkle the bashed candy canes on top.  When this is solidified, spread melted white chocolate over that and sprinkle more candy cane bits.  Mmmm.


I asked Sis1 about using whole wheat flour in the cookies.  She advised me to go 50/50 with it and regular flour.  They worked out fine.  I also made some of the cookies with stevia for my diabetic friends.  That worked alright too.  I can taste the difference, but the feedback from friends is that they don't taste it.  Maybe it's just that I know they're healthier cookies and therefore suspect?

I considered putting my cookies in tins.  I have quite a few since I've kept samples of tins I've illustrated, but I like my samples.  It's nice to be able to pick up things I designed.  The tins went back into the closet.


This tin wasn't one of my favorites.  I was given the assignment to do an ice skating scene just before lunch -- but finish that other project first.  Get the skaters done by 4:00 though.  This was about the time I slammed something on my desk and said it was impossible.  Too bad.  Do it.  Being responsible, I slapped a bunch of things together and hit send at 3:59, hoping the customer hated it and would give me more time, but no, he loved it.  I grieved over the pinecones.  Oh well, onto the next project.

The moment I slammed things on my desk is memorable, but it's over, and it doesn't really matter.  The tin sold out and the customer was happy.  I got paid, so I was happy.  Nobody but me knows all the shortcuts I took.  None of it matters.  Let it go.  A coworker tried to stab me in the back with the customer about my shortcuts, and he laughed at her.  I won.  Yay!  That exchange made this tin a much happier memory.  But that's over too.

This time of the year, I like to think about what I want to leave behind so I can move forward in the new year.  The days are getting longer.  The negatives of the past are over.  It's a time to broaden my view of past, present, and future.  What do I want to make happen in my life?  I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions which are often doomed.  What are the big goals, and how can they best be achieved?  What is a small step I can take today?  Next week?  Next month?  Sometime before summer?  It's important to dream, but dreams come true when we make them come true.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays.  Eat cookies.  Be kind to yourself and to others and support their goals too.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"Shopping"

I have the best intentions.  I intend to send Christmas cards and give thoughtful gifts.  I want to make other people happy with physical evidence of my affection.  In fact, I want this so much that nothing is quite good enough.  I shop until I'm worn out and still don't have anything to wrap.  It doesn't help that I'm frugal and a bit agoraphobic.  Ten nine eight days before Christmas, I have found exactly one present.  I'm feeling pressure.

My brother took me to dinner for my birthday.  I'll take him out for his birthday.  It's simple.  We know the rules.  We're both happy.  Why can't it be that simple all the time?

A friend reminded me of gifts I gave a few years ago.  They were labor-intensive, thoughtful, and beautiful.  Damn, that's a standard I can't continue.  I was glad to make them, glad they were appreciated, but please don't expect that level of effort every year.  And I know she doesn't expect that.  Her appreciation just makes me want to give her something great again because she's a lovely friend.

(Repeat cycle in a never-ending, obsessive loop as the days count down to Christmas...)

I wrote the above and decided to quit whining and go shopping.  I now have two gifts, neither great.  They're both kind of cute to go with better gifts which obviously don't exist yet.  About $100 poorer than I started, I now have a yoga mat, cookies, chips, and a frozen pizza.  Clearly, a yoga mat requires junk food and other nonessentials.  I also got a pair of excellent shoes for $9.  Did you hear that?  $9!!!  Yay!  I intended them as replacements for my yard shoes which have a flapping sole.

I happily showed a friend my new shoes and he firmly advised against further shopping.  "Be responsible!"  Okay.  I'm thinking of getting another pair of $9 shoes though so I can use one pair for walking around and one pair for mowing the lawn.

Maybe I'll bake some cookies as gifts.  Don't get excited.  They don't exist yet.  We'll see.  I have all the best intentions so they might happen.  I know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I'm just not cut out for holidays.  I'm also contemplating whether or not I can get away with making whole wheat cookies because I accidentally bought the wrong kind of flour.  Ten pounds of it since it was on sale.  No wonder it was on sale.  Whole wheat?  Uck.  Told you, I'm a bad shopper.

Note about flour, buy unbleached.  It tastes and behaves the same as white flour without the Clorox.

I think the cookies are going to happen.  In years past, my friend Helen made buckets and buckets of cookies to give to friends, clubs, and doctors' offices.  She was a sweetheart, but she died this year.  I'm thinking there are a lot of people in need of cookies.  I won't pretend to do this on such an industrial scale, but I can do my part.  I think I'll keep Helen's spirit alive in the process.  I even have two bags of stevia for diabetic cookies.  I wonder if people will rebel against whole wheat diabetic cookies?  Maybe dipped in chocolate?

I hope your shopping/baking is going better than mine!

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Nightmare"

I finished another painting.  Woo hoo!  This one went faster than the last, though it still took considerably longer than it feels like it should.  Maybe it would go quicker if I didn't spend hours staring at it and pondering?  Whatever.  It is what it is, and the process was the point in this case.

I wanted a beer bottle in my box, but didn't want it to dominate.  I knew it should stand in the corner, but that involved perspective and foreshortening, and I really didn't want to get into that.  I spent a few days procrastinating, avoiding, and plea bargaining with myself.  Eventually, the beer bottle ended up where it was always meant to be.

It's been a while since I actually had to map out such things correctly, and the process made me think that it was a good tutorial, especially since this piece is comparatively simple perspective with only one vanishing point.  I'm also aware some people have nightmares about perspective.  (Yeah, I know, that's a stretch for this week's word.)  You can click on the pics to make them larger to see details.

1. Establish the vanishing point by following the corners of the box until all the lines meet.  (I changed the vanishing point later, so don't get confused by that.  I also broke the rules in one area for my own reasons, but that's why we get artistic license.)


2. In one-point perspective, all vertical lines (things that move away from the viewer) will go to the vanishing point.  All things facing the viewer will be flat circles and rectangles.



3. For the beer bottle, draw a circle where it will sit, then draw a square around the circle because it's easier to plot squares in perspective than circles.  Draw lines from the vanishing point to the corners of the square.

4. Draw another square where the bottle is fattest near the top.  Line up the corners of the square with the same vanishing points as used for the first square.  Put a circle in the square, and draw lines from the vanishing point to the edges of the circles.  Congratulations!  You've just drawn a cylinder in space!

5. The process is the same for the bottle neck.  Find the center of your first circle and draw a line to the vanishing point.  This will be the center of your neck too.  Of course, beer bottles aren't quite as simple as 2 cylinders floating in space.  They're full of curves, but after placing the cylinders you can tidy it up within a framework of logic.

In reality, I made this all harder than it needed to be when I was actually painting the bottle.  I made the tutorial afterwards and could smack myself for all extra work I put into it.  But, my extra work is an opportunity for a lesson.  Don't get caught up with the details.  What is the basic form of what you're trying to reproduce?  Start there.  It's like drawing a face.  Don't start with an eyelash.  Start with an oval and figure out where the eyes go first.  Maybe I should do a tutorial on faces sometime?  This painting was a whole lot of itsy bitsy portraits on bumpy canvas.  The finished painting is 18" x 24".