Tag Archives: art

Hope On A Paper Towel

papertowels

 

Fear has been reaching out for me lately. While I believe that good wins out in the end—there are days when I struggle to stay hopeful. And then I found a pocket of hope in an unexpected place, a roll of paper towels.

 

I’m trying to cut back on paper towel usage—the environment, you know. But I haven’t been able to go cold turkey. So I picked up a three-pack of the cheapest towels on the shelf. Each role had a design. I can’t remember what was on roll one except for the fact that it was pink and baby blue. Not my colors. Roll two had butterflies. Who doesn’t like butterflies? Roll three was special. There was a message running over the first two squares. This is what it said: “Each MORNING is an Opportunity to SHINE, a CHANCE to give the past a KICK in the pants, and the future a BEAR HUG.”

Sometimes I find meaning in the strangest places. I remember the paper towel message every morning when I sign a petition to honor freedom of speech and religion, make a phone call to protect the environment, or send a letter to the little girl I sponsor in Rwanda. I think of it now and then on my way to work where I teach young children with special needs. I’m helping them give their future a bear hug. I just need a reminder now and then that what I do matters.

But wait! There was a second message on that roll of paper towels. The second message said: “Love BIG, play HARD and eat DESSERT. Savor the simple things and DON’T WORRY about the rest. CHOOSE today to be AMAZING.”

Worry is not proactive. It weights us down. Even in the midst of great challenges, it’s OK to play and eat dessert. It’s the moments of fun that rest our minds and feed our souls. All work and no play wears us down. So I dance. I spend time with good friends and supportive family. And I continue to hope. I hope for a future that works for everyone. As Tiny Tim once said, “God bless us, every one.”

Anatomy Of A Painting

I posted recently that I was working on a new painting and worried that it wouldn’t be finished in time for the upcoming art reception at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery. Well, I got it done, but lost a lot of sleep doing it.

People often ask me. “How long did it take you to paint that?” Or they want to know something about the process. So, here’s how this particular piece came together. Keep in mind that every piece is different, and my process is not necessarily typical. Every artist has his or her own approach. Here’s mine.

picture1

 

Day 1—Roughing in the subject

First, I painted in the background. I use acrylic paint. A discussion of acrylic versus oil may be a subject for a future blog. I always start with Indian Yellow. It gives a nice underglow. Next, I sketched in the subject. I don’t always start with a drawing, but this is a portrait of my granddaughter, Elise. When I’m doing a portrait, I want to make sure that the proportions are correct and everything is right where I want it. So I draw.

picture2

 

Day 2—Face first

I don’t always start with the face, In fact, I usually start with the background. I enjoy figure drawing most and tend to save the best for last. But I wanted some assurance that this painting would bear a resemblance to my granddaughter. If I didn’t get that reassurance would i have quit? Probably not. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…

 

 

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Day 3—Move back

At this point I moved to the background and starting roughing in the color, simulating wood grain in the flooring, painting the carpet background, and placing a design on the curtain in the back. I worked on the walls as well. The background colors are very close, but there had to be differentiation. I found this stage to be a bit tedious. It doesn’t look like a lot happened here, but many more hours went into this phase.  I’m going to keep an actual count of work hours on the next painting.

 

picture4

 

Day 4—More background detail

Longing to get to the figure, but I wanted to keep working on that background. Since Elise is placed in the actual environment where I snapped her photo, I wanted it to be accurate. Elise loves to get out all my hats when she visits and model them before the wall of mirrors in my room. I’m painting what will one day be her memory. Keep going…

 

 

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Day 5—Rough in the figure

At last, I’m on to the figure! That pink hat is Elise’s favorite. It’s also the one I wore to the women’s march. It gets around. By now the painting has a title, The Pink Hat. I gave Elise the dress she’s wearing in the painting. It actually has a western theme. Goes with the hat…

 

 

 

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Day 6—Details details

There are two figures here, Elise and Elise’s reflection. The mirror element is a challenge. I started the dress pattern at this stage. The dress has horses on it. I needed to just suggest them. If I covered the dress with realistic little horses people would tend to focus on them, not the painting as a whole. I’m not happy with the face but I still have time. It was a work day so I started painting after dinner. I painted until 3 AM with a raging storm in the background. Another work day tomorrow. Tired!

 

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Day 7—Almost done

After staying up late the previous night and working all day, I had a hard time dragging myself back to the studio. Lack of sleep sapped all my energy. I just sat on the couch and dozed in front of the TV when I should have been painting. Getting up was REALLY hard, but I knew I had to in order to be ready for the show. I finally entered the studio at 11 PM and painted until 5 AM. It’s hanging day at the gallery. Finish!

 

 

pictureclose-up

 

Day 8—Close-up & done (maybe)

Got up at 7 AM—not much sleep—and painted finishing touches until 10. So much for sleep, or lack of. Not sure the photo shows the actual color palate accurately, but you get the idea. I’m still not totally happy with the painting, but I’m my own worst critic. I’ll probably  do a bit more work in the future. In the meantime, you can see the painting at the Cloverdale Gallery.

A Thanksgiving Remembrance of My Parents

myparentsrimmedAs I write, Thanksgiving is a mere three days away. There will be family and food, and we will eat until we can’t take one more bite, making resolutions to lose weight after the holidays. We will think of all the things for which we are, or ought to be, grateful.

I sometimes remember to give thanks for the things we tend to take for granted—like light at the touch of a switch, and the clean water that flows out of the kitchen tap on demand. I buy bottled water—just in case—but millions of people long for the stuff that runs freely down my drain.

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about my parents. I miss them, especially at this time of year.

Growing up I had no idea how really lucky I was—lucky to be loved, treasured, nurtured and appreciated. My parents taught me that education was important, and instilled in me the lifetime gift of a love of reading. I have a photo of myself nestled in my father’s arms. I am three months old (the writing on the photo says so), and he is reading me the Sunday comics.

Every night, before I fell asleep, one of my parents read me a story. It didn’t matter if they were busy, or if they had company. We read.

Recently, I attended a local production of Beauty and the Beast with two close friends. Turning to them when it was over, I said, “That was always my favorite fairy tale.”

“Really,” said one. I wasn’t familiar with it.”

“Didn’t your parents read to you?” I asked.

“My parents never read to me,” she replied, to which my other friend nodded solemnly.

I was aghast—one more thing I had taken for granted. How could I have known back then that I was blessed?

In addition to instilling in me a love of reading, my parents provided unflagging support to all my creative endeavors. There were dance lessons, tap and ballet, as well as art and drama lessons. If I had wanted music lessons, I would have gotten those too. Music was not one of my gifts. Writing was, and it was encouraged. Mother was especially thrilled with a love poem I wrote in the seventh grade. She thought I had written it for her. I was heartless enough to tell her the truth. It was written for my unrequited love, Tommy Grubb. He was a year older and didn’t know I was alive. Sorry, mom.

Those art lessons were a sacrifice of both time and money for my parents. When I was nine, and for several years thereafter, my mother drove me, every Saturday morning, to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. Boy, how I looked forward to those Saturdays! No one ever said, “Art is a waste of time; you’ll never make any money doing that.”

When I wanted to be an actress, my parents enrolled me in the Will-O-Way Apprentice Theater. The times I spent there are some of my happiest memories. Incredibly shy, I became someone brave and beautiful on stage. No one ever said, “Acting is stupid; you’ll never make any money doing that.” And, when I played Maria in West Side Story, my mother laboriously reproduced for me every costume that Natalie Wood wore in the movie. Thanks, mom.

So, today, I am grateful for George Wally Heck, a metallurgical engineer, and Louise Tremaine Heck, a housewife—my parents. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for affirming that I was gifted when I was full of doubt. You gave me the courage to dance, and paint, act and write—to send my work out into the world to face the critics (of which there are plenty). Thank you for nurturing my talents. After life itself, and unfailing love, it was your greatest gift.

My Mother, Once (a poem I actually wrote for my mother):

My mother, once, was just Louise,

who dreamed of love and wished that frogs

might morph into princes,

enabling love’s first true kiss

to make a Mrs. of a Miss.

 

She came of age in time of war,

and thought her sailor was a prince.

He asked, and she said, ”Yes.”

To be a mother and a wife

was all she ever begged of life.

 

I see her gaze with youthful eyes,

expecting good with confidence.

She smiles, for why despair?

It’s safe to think, as Life unfurls,

that good things come to pretty girls.

 

If she had seen the sorrow thrown

like dice across the coming years,

would she have run or stayed the course?

She loved, but at tremendous cost…

a husband and two children lost.

 

Those babes, long gone, both rest in peace,

my brothers, seldom seen, but missed.

Her first was here a brief three days,

the second never took a breath.

at birth his life was claimed by death.

 

I am the only hope that lived.

I am the daughter that survived.

All her dreams live in me.

It is a fearsome destiny

to be my mother’s legacy.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Former Art Snob

If an artist puts his or her art out there (wherever “there” may be), it is likely to be judged and often juried. I have frequently complained about the capricious tastes of jurors and art critics. An art show or gallery should feature good art. But who should decide what’s good? Is a New York art critic a bona fide snob, or the last word on quality? And what, exactly, is an art snob? According to my on-line dictionary, a snob is someone with “an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste and intellect.” Simply put, a snob believes that they have better taste than you do.

That couldn’t be me. Or could it? I’ve been known to make some pretty harsh comments about Thomas Kinkaid. I muttered, “The Emperor has no clothes,” as I wandered through the minimalist exhibit at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art. But I thought my comments were a matter of personal taste and not snobbery. However, it was Fort Smith, Arkansas, that pointed out my Achilles heel. I’ve been a snob in matters of geography. I believed art thrived in big (important) cities like New York, or Los Angeles, or in trendy places like Santa Fe and Jackson Hole. I also thought, and still think, that Sonoma County, California, is a Mecca for artists of every kind. A blog about the murals of Fort Smith showed me the error of my ways. Fort Smith, Arkansas? Do they really have great art there? Indeed they do! Continue reading