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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Peril of Living in Paradise

We’ve returned from the grocery and checking houses before Hurricane Isaac comes to town!  Bob is preparing the blender now for our hurricane party libations.  I’m sure the rest of the world shakes their heads in dismay that we coastal states make a party out of a hurricane.  But you have to live here to understand.  Hurricane days in Florida are much like snow days up north. People stock up on supplies, schools and businesses close and then everyone left in town hunkers down for the storm. The TV weather forecaster works you up for about two weeks giving blow-by-blow movement of the storm and every day he warns you to get ready with all your supplies.  The first summer we were here there were 18 threats of hurricanes.  We wondered if we had made a huge mistake moving here.  But after a few summers of the “little boy who cried wolf,” we came to realize we didn’t need to worry quite that much.  That’s not to say we aren’t prepared today with water, canned goods and a non-electric can opener, but we are relaxed about it and going on with life.  It’s one of the perils of living in Paradise!

Our home is about a mile and a half from the Gulf of Mexico as the crow flies and for the past 17 years we’ve never really had a close call except for Hurricane Charlie. Charlie worried us because Venice was supposed to be a direct hit.  Instead the warmer waters of Charlotte Harbor sucked it in and the hurricane tracked to the northeast through the middle of the state and up through Orlando where people had been advised to flee to.  It just goes to show you, no one can predict exactly what the storm will do.  Our son, Jeremy and our daughter-in-law, Sarah, lived in New Orleans when Katrina hit.  Bob and I had a real bad feeling about that storm and we told them they had better get out.  They didn’t leave until her parents insisted, so the kids ended up getting caught in the grueling exodus away from the city.  In a day and a half they only managed to put 50 miles between them and the city.  Fortunately they found a hotel with 2 rooms left…one with a leak in the ceiling and the other which became theirs.  They stayed there through the storm and the next day and then drove east and south to Venice.  The good Lord was looking out for them as the roads were clear enough to get through and they found gas all the way.  After that Bob and I decided unless it was the hurricane of the century heading straight our way, we would prepare but stay put and avoid the hurricane gridlock.  We will live in God’s hands.

So Key West has battened down the hatches and Hurricane Parties abound.  With that thought in mind I am compelled to start the first canvas of my Key West collection.  I love the feel of the quaint yet quirky island. Funky art is the name of the game and I intend to play!

Doing the Happy Dance….

Egret Evening 18″x24″

Do you hear me doing my little happy dance?  The Egret canvases are done. At least they are signed and sitting in my studio and I feel in my heart that they are complete. This project was hard for me.  I think part of it was the fact that I was making it all up as I went. I had nothing to look at to see what it would really look like so I just painted what I thought it should look like…LOL

Images are burned into my brain from years of research and studying and loving nature and I’ve retained the essence of people, animals and places seen in person, through coffee table books, photographs and movies. Somehow as I work with paint the sense of place manages to emerge through my artwork.

The first time I became aware of this was when I painted furniture for another business. I had just finished painting a chest with a beach scene of sea grass, palm trees and footprints in the sand when my boss walked up and said, “How do you do that?  I want to live there!” The next time was when I owned my own gallery and was teaching classes. One of my students who had been on safari many times said to me “You’ve been to Africa. You’ve captured the essence of the animals and the country.” I felt very flattered and hated to admit that, no I had never been to Africa. I actually painted how I felt Africa would be.

Often as I paint I think of how it feels and smells to be there. In the jungle, I think of the wetness on the leaves and the gnats flying around for the frogs to eat. How the earthy dampness fills your nostrils and how you can  breathe deeply…real uncontaminated oxygen. In the African savannah, I imagine how the merciless sun bakes the earth and how the crisp dry grasses smell. I think of standing next to the mud hole where the animals gather to drink, the mud sucking the shoes off your feet and the aromas and sounds of the animals filling your senses.

Preening Egret 18″x24″

As I wrote in my last blog…”Life is in the Details.” That’s what my art is all about.  Seeing, feeling, hearing and smelling the details of my subject’s life and transferring the essence of their existence  through paint for others to enjoy.

Life is in the Details….

This week when I stopped by to look at a decorative painting job, the lady in charge told me her clients absolutely loved the switch plates that I had painted to match their granite countertops.  The construction crew had completely reworked their condo but they were most thrilled with the switch plates.  I have had this happen several times lately.  I paint beautiful murals and other decorative things in a home but if I do the switch plates, that takes center stage.  Men especially love it.  They show them to everyone who comes into the house.  It is curious to me how such a little thing as that completely turns them on.

Luckily, I am and have always been attracted to details.  When I look at a piece of granite or marble my mind automatically breaks it down into layers of color.  Then I scrutinize the color drifts and spots and specks of color.  Sometimes the drift and spot color is muted by an overlay of the base color. Lastly there’s the sheen….glossy, satin looking or matte.  It all plays an important role when creating a fool-the-eye-work of art be it switch plates, faux tile or marble columns. I also apply this technique to the mural work and my portrait work.  The details of shadow and light…the textures of grasses against the sky and sand and what is buried in the grasses such as sticks and twigs, fallen over grasses and so on. It’s all layers of color and working with shadow, light and highlight.  Before starting a project, I study the subject and learn to “see” what is actually going on with what I am painting. In animals and humans bone structure and posture tell the story of who they are and how they feel at that moment in time.  It’s all in the details and the ability to know what you are seeing.

In thinking about all of this, I have come to realize that  life is in the details.  We live in a hurried and busy age.  Sometimes it’s hard to take a breath. People have access to us 24-7 especially if we carry a cell phone around all day.  The more family, friends and co-workers we have the more this is so. Constant interruption divides our focus and we gloss over the details of life that make life grand because there is simply not enough time for everything.  I thank the Lord that my years as an artist have taught me to slow down and to live in the moment. I pay attention to details and especially to the people who grace my life not because I have to but because I truly want to. I love to hear their stories and I feel blessed that they share their lives with me.

I think to have a full and blessed life we need to shut out the outside world.  Turn off the electronics if just for a little while. Pay full attention to your surroundings and how you feel in those surroundings.  Savor the moment. Most importantly, savor the people who are important in your life. Look into their eyes when they speak to you. Listen to what they are saying and how they look as they speak. Notice the freckles across the nose or the well-earned crinkles at the corners of the eye that makes them who they are.  Pay attention to the details and they will love you for it.  In turn you will see what beautiful souls they truly are and it will touch you deeply.

Creative Juice

I was sitting here in Tampa when my hubbie looked at me and said, “Everyone’s going to forget about your Egret canvases.  You haven’t been blogging.”  I said, “I’ve forgotten about the Egret canvases!”  Business has picked up exponentially this week.  I worked last Saturday and Sunday on a mural job which I rarely work weekends anymore.  Monday and Tuesday I was up and down the 10 foot ladder working a ceiling faux finish job.  Also during that time I managed to squeeze in two look-see appointments for two great commercial murals and booked both of them.  Now we are in Tampa painting doors.  We are finished for the day, thanks to our afternoon thunderstorms and I can take a breath and turn my attention to my blog.

I haven’t touched the canvases since I last blogged.  The Egrets have been sitting on the easel watching me in the evenings.  One evening I noticed how they seemed to glow as the sun shone through our drapes and backlit the canvases.  What a beautiful look.  I may have to investigate adding some kind of lighting behind the canvases.  Bob can figure that one out for me. 

Today on my way to Home Depot for glue and screws, I made a side trip to Michael’s.  My agenda was to pick up paint for a ceramic tile job but first I got side tracked by all the pretty beads and baubles in the front of the store. Show me sparkles or feathers and you can entertain me for hours.  Once I took all of that in I cruised the fabric painting aisle.  Cool colored t-shirts lined the shelves which made me think about designing our polo shirt logo and then finding the right colored polo shirt to represent our business.  Moving on I came to the canvases…big ones and little…fat and thin.  I have an idea for some artwork using all the different sizes but I just haven’t worked it out in my head yet.  Besides I already have a stack of canvases at home.  Of course they aren’t exactly what I need for the project I am thinking about doing.  I resisted temptation to go ahead and buy a few to play around with and moved on to the most dangerous aisle for me.  Brushes and fine art paints are my weakness.  To my delight I found the tube acrylics like the white acrylic I love so much and put 5 different colors in my basket along with a few new brushes and a pack of palette knives in different shapes and sizes.  I am going to have some fun. Finally I made it to the ceramic tile paint, found the colors I needed and added them to my basket.  It was a fun hour and I came away with some creative juice.  I feel excited again about creating new things and I feel excited about life.  It’s been a very good week.

New Chests, Old Chests….Chests are Fun

Last night as I was browsing through my I-Photo in the middle of the night when I couldn’t fall asleep, I came across a file full of photos from a past website.  I have painted hundreds of pieces of furniture over the years.  My most favorite piece of furniture to work with is the chest of drawers.  Tall or short, night stand or lingere chest, new chests, old chests…chests are fun.  Best of all, chests are functional. I’ve painted around 30 Florida condo style chests and nightstands.  Each one different from the other taking on the theme of my client’s home. I’ve painted chests like the orient and chests like the palaces of India.  I’ve stepped back in time to the 50’s.  With my youngest son, Dan and my husband, Bob’s, conversion help.  We made a jukebox dresser with rounded top and actual neon lights installed in the upper cabinet.  I’ve painted jungle themes and party themes…and old people at the beach themes.  Just pick a theme and make it happen.  The only limitation to a really cool chest of drawers is the imagination.

So what would your favorite chest of drawers be?

And to report on the Egret canvases…I’ve made great progress.  Everything is defined and now comes the fun part of tweaking it until it’s done. I love the glazing processes.  Happily I discovered the secret to me painting on canvas.  I am used to texture on walls and wood which is very absorbent. The acrylic paint from the large plastic tubes slid all over the canvas and I was fighting to make it perform the way I wanted it to. Today I happened to pick up a tube of white acrylic that was in a metal tube like my oils and what a difference that made.  I can control it and add the desired texture that’s needed.  I see a trip to the art store in my near future.

The Trials and Tribulations of Technology and Dragonfly Art

Here I am at day number 5 still working on the two Egret canvases.  Taking photos of the progress side by side really helps get a good visual of what’s going on.  I see changes in color and ground lines.  Yesterday the lure of an older canvas I had done some years back seduced me into spending more time on it than I did on my current projects including the guitar table.  But the trip to the past made me notice how my vision over the past 10 years has been fine tuned. Places that needed more shading, sharper lines and brighter highlights jumped out at me.  I also noticed that my painting comes off more loose and painterly.  I like that.

So today was a fresh new day.  I was ready for a great studio session. I had just begun to paint on the canvases when my hubbie started trying to upload WordPress to my website.  He needed my input and we ended up spending the whole morning in front of the computer.  What we accomplished was learning that we couldn’t do that until we upgrade to level 2 with our web host. We are now rethinking that plan. I think I mentioned before that I had gotten the book “I’d rather be in my studio!” by Alyson B. Stanfield….well, I definitely would rather be in my studio.  The technical side of technology is a struggle for me.  I can use the templates and all but actually getting them on the computer and set up is another thing.  Thank goodness I am tenacious enough to hang in there and not give up.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and to lighten the mood, here is one of Bob’s cool bugs.  It has a six foot wingspan and has survived our Florida tropical storms totally intact.  Enjoy!

Guitar Table Art

Like I promised I would, Wednesday and Thursday I worked on my canvases.  I painted the skies and the grasses working from the same palette so that the color tones would be harmonious and I could be frugal and use up all the paint I had out.  It was tempting to scoot onto doing the birds, my favorite part of these projects, but I want to work more on the grasses to give the artwork more depth.  Meanwhile, as I waited for the layers of paint to dry, I stained one of Bob’s client projects and began to paint on Bob’s guitar table art.

My husband is so talented.  I love the things that he creates more than my own!  Bob cuts, carves, sculpts and creates beautiful things out of nothing.  He cut the table top  from tiger maple, fabricated the steel neck where he used to work, carved the wood portion of the neck from thick pine, made the base out of a piece of black walnut and attached the guitar head that was sent to him by my Cool-Stuff Sister, Sue. It turned out so awesome I had to sit with it for a few weeks before attempting to paint it.  But Bob gave me specific instructions on how he wanted it painted and so far I have the top and steel part of the neck done.  We are going to take a trip to Auto Zone to look at car striping and may make the fret bars out of that.  As for the strings, we have yet to tackle that one.  I used to do pin striping on old buggies and antiques, but strings would be a real challenge.

Bob has made some other really cool tables.  He made a Kudu table that one leg was a real Kudu horn.  You can see that at my website  He also made one-legged tables that actually stand up against a wall. One lady recently tracked us down eight years after we closed the gallery just to buy one of those tables.  He also makes really cool bugs from found materials.  You can see his big dragonfly using bamboo, sculpting compound and metal that he made for our son and daughter-in-law on my Facebook page at JaneCrick-JaneCrickGallery.

My hubbie is talented…oh yes he is!