Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Art’ Category

Light, Glorious Light

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Well, I’m back to blogging, now that my new modem is in place. Hooray!

Light has been on my mind. In these waning days of winter, every day that there has been sun it has felt like Christmas to me. I’ve always loved light, reveled in it, and re
quire it. No dark rooms for me! If I don’t have light, I start wilting.

I guess that explains why I emphasize the effects of light in my paintings so much. I love the way light plays with natural objects – how it glows through flower petals, revealing the intricate veining within (detail of Crocus Alive and Squash Blossom Ballet).

I also love how strong light provides contrast and shadows (Lizard at 11:10 and Feather Stone Study below).

With the sharp contrasts, the object being painted stands out and shouts to be noticed. (Hello, Mr. Lizard!)


Currently, I’m working on a project that also shows strong contrasts. I’ll include a photo of the finished painting when I’m done. It’s a bit of a departure
and experimental. First, I’m combining watercolor and gouache. Secondly, I wanted to try Ampersand’s Clayboard. The results are unexpected and kind of weird (in a good way). I’m having fun with it, and that’s the point of doing what you love, after all.

The Rape of Europa

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I recently watched a most unusual and deeply affecting documentary. “The Rape of Europa” chronicles Hitler’s rise to power and his ever-growing desire to collect the world’s art masterpieces for a grandiose museum he was planning in the city of Linz, Austria.

That museum never materialized, but throughout the duration of World War II, Hitler and Herman Goering amassed vast collections of some of the world’s most famous art treasures. They did this through escalating greed and systematic stealing from the great collections – privately- and state-owned. And of course, collections owned by Jewish art lovers were taken without any regard whatsoever.

Over the years, I’ve read a fair amount of literature and history about World War II, Hitler, and the Holocaust. Somehow, this film did more to underscore emotionally for me the wholesale and senseless destruction resulting from this war than anything else I’ve read and seen.

There is a large amount of film footage from the 30s and 40s in this documentary – of Hitler exhibiting “degenerate” (read: modern) art before the war began, of the looting and destruction of art meccas like Florence, Italy, and so much more.

But there are also amazing stories of courage and dedication – of how the Mona Lisa and the major works of art from the Louvre were spirited out of the museum to the French countryside before Hitler invaded France, of individuals who risked their lives to hide and save the cultural icons of their countries.

And there is the story of the “Monuments Men” – museum directors, curators, members of the Army, and others who worked to protect art and other cultural treasures from destruction during and after the war. It is estimated by the US, that the Nazis stole about 1/5 of all the known artworks in Europe. According to the Rape of Europa website, “While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art—the last, forgotten victims of the war—survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.”

This DVD is quite amazing and very moving. I was left with the idea that recurs throughout human history: Art is what makes us human and art is worth saving at great personal cost..

Art Saves Lives

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008


My sister gave me this pin for Christmas, and it sparked a line of thinking that I’d like to share.

Art – as we think of it in the usual context – does indeed save lives in an emotional and spiritual sense. So many times in my life, seeing something beautiful that someone else has created out of love or yearning does something to lift my spirits or touch my heart. It can also be life-changing at critical times.

But there are other kinds of art too – the “skill in conducting any human activity.” These skills can save lives too.

2009 will be challenging emotionally and financially for my family as we deal with the excision of the rare tumor my sister Carrie has in her jaw. We already know that it will take most of the year for the entire jaw reconstruction process to be completed. She’ll face many fears, experiences large losses, and feel a lot of physical pain, but she is a very dear person and her special art is her honesty and the way she brings light to others (well,that, and also being a fantastic cook!). So I figure she’ll burn all the brighter for her experiences.

I know some people who never see that they also are masters of very important art forms: the art of smiling, the art of kindness, the art of storytelling, the art of caring for animals with a passion and deep respect, the art of cooking, the art of being a good friend, the art of listening – well, you see my drift?

All these arts do save lives, believe me! So from one artist to another (and that means all of you), thank you for keeping up your skills, and may they bring you joy and satisfaction in this new year.

Reduced Art Prices

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

It’s not too late, nor is it too early, to plan for gift-giving for this coming holiday season. To make it a bit easier on your wallets during these harder financial times, I’ve reduced prices on all originals and giclee prints on my website.

Why buy art?

1. The gift of original art (or prints of original art) is a very personal one. To choose a work for a specific friend or loved one – or for yourself – is one of the most meaningful gifts one can give and shows how much you think of the recipient.

2. You support the arts. There are millions of artists who depend on buyers to continue this vital cultural enrichment that began in the caves. Artists paint because they love their subjects and want to capture something of the essence that sparked their passion to create.

Art is love on paper, canvas, metal, stone – you name it. Help us to keep the arts alive!

3. You help support environmental and conservation causes, as I donate a percentage of each sale of originals and prints to one of several organizations.

4. It’ll make you feel really good.

Good enough reasons? Let me hear from you!

And remember, shipping is FREE anywhere in the world for all originals and prints. (Greeting card shipping charges are also free anywhere, with a minimum purchase of $20 or more.)

Thank you, readers!

The Cave Painters

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I just finished reading a fascinating book entitled The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis.

It’s utterly astounding to think that ancient paleolithic humans created such art of exquisite beauty and movement. I find it amazing that much of this art seems so fresh and alive – even modern.

It’s also interesting that these artists – as long as 30,000 years ago – used principles of perspective that more modern humans didn’t rediscover until the Middle Ages. Apparently this period of cave painting lasted for about 20,000 years.

These caves are dotted throughout France and Spain. Most of the more famous ones, such as the caves of Lascaux, are closed to the public in order to preserve the paintings for as long as possible.

Since reading this book about the history of the French caves, I’ve seen a larger photo book by Norbert Aujoulat that highlights Lascaux and its art – a beautiful book.

After the second World War, when Picasso saw some of these ancient cave paintings, he was awed and humbled. He said: “We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years.”

You know, I think he’s right.

Drastic Means to Creativity!

Friday, June 6th, 2008

I recently celebrated 11 years of being cancer-free. Last year my oncologist told me he didn’t need to see me again, so I’ve passed some pretty wonderful mileposts. When I was diagnosed, it was a very scary time, and pulled me up so short I nearly fell flat on my face – well, I did fall completely when I had a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Since I was sensitive to medications, it felt like trying to stay astride a very upset bucking bronco. Once the ride ended, I felt as if I’d been thrown off and trampled. It took many years to fully recuperate – even then, it seems the Grave’s Disease I had later may have been triggered by what I went through.

But, you know, there’s nothing like facing the possibility of your own death to force a new look at life. It may sound silly – though if you’ve gone through the same or similar experience, you may understand – but one of the first of many big shocks to shake my old world view was losing my long braid that I’d worn most of my life. It was as if snipping off that thick lock of hair ended life as I knew it.

All the energy I had previously was given to the life I’d chosen in a monastery, with its increasing responsibilities. Now that energy was focused on two things only: 1. Get through this and live, and 2. Get myself in order so that I live better now (or die trying to).

There was one very important discovery (among many!) that I made during this time of reflection: I had totally neglected my creative side, the side that enabled me to see fantastic possibilities, that allowed me a way to express myself and my feelings about life. I’d stopped playing music, stopped painting and drawing, stopped gardening – all the very things that fed me and permitted me to be myself. As awful as this period was, it became one of the best times of my life because I became alive to myself. It was really ironic, since it seemed like my body was dying in front of my eyes.

Once I had healed and gotten back to my old life, it was never the same for me. I fought very hard to retain that urgency to see things in truth and with new eyes, but the atmosphere to which I returned was unhealthy, unsupportive where it should have been supportive, and increasingly antagonistic, despite my efforts to live in a new way. It was as if a much-worn coat no longer fit and was, in fact, becoming a straitjacket.

Only when I left this old life could I begin to express my creative side again. Although the old urgency I felt about living differently is more muted than those desperate days of struggling to physically survive, the lesson I gained about being true to myself has not faded. Thank goodness I can paint again – but no more drastic means, please!

Beauty Everywhere

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

There are days when it’s hard to see beauty, especially when a media account talks of yet another extinction, another environmental disaster, or some similar depressing bit of news. Nevertheless, nature is still present – thank goodness! – still showing herself in so many ways.

I’ve discovered that the more I paint, the more I see. It’s as if the process of trying to capture three dimensions onto paper, forces my senses to become more aware of textures, fractal-like patterns, shapes, how different parts fit together to become a whole. Just looking at how sunshine through a leaf or flower petal reveals the intricacies of veins and patterns in such delicate tissue can be an amazing experience of discovery.

When I try to convey a tiny fraction of this complexity through my art, I begin to dimly understand what an immense creative force is behind everything in the natural world. It quite amazes and humbles me.

I can really get excited about the smallest things.

I paint using primarily Winsor Newton watercolors with a few Daniel Smith and Holbein colors added for interest and variety. Although I have wanted to use oils, I cannot – even the water-soluble variety – as I’m too chemically sensitive to the additives and chemicals in oils and acrylics. Fortunately, I happen to love watercolor for many reasons.

Meantime, I hope you see some lovely gifts of nature wherever you are today.