February 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
The beauty of oil paints is not only the way they flow and breathe; the way they can bend and curve to your brush ‘s command like spreading soft butter or icing a cake; it’s also their longevity. A tube of good oils can last years and years and years, and I love that you can “wake up” a painting after a month or a year, the paint still pliable.
The un-beauty of their longevity is that the caps may become stubborn as a mule, or a little dog who doesn’t want to go for a walk. They won’t budge. And if you did a really lame job of replacing the cap, the paint inside will harden, which definitely isn’t conducive to a good experience.
Of course, if you’re a tidy painter who takes precise care of their tools, such as deliberately cleaning off any paint residue from the top of the tube before putting the cap neatly back on, this may not happen to you. But I’m not a tidy painter. This is kind of in opposition to my general character (a topic that could easily lead me to talk of astrological signs, but I’ll spare you…); nevertheless, it’s true.
And so, when I sit down to twist open the first glorious tube of Titanium White, the cap doesn’t cooperate. I then have to resort to using pliers and muscle, or if they fail, I’ll use fire. (First time I used fire I was pretty nervous. But it does work, briefly heating with a match just around the bottom edge of the cap. Still, don’t take my word for it, please. There are all kinds of remedies, so read up first if you find yourself with a stuck cap. And by the way, I’ve heard that running a little vaseline around the rim before replacing the cap does wonders.)
If it’s irretrievably old and crusty, the last resort would be to buy a new tube. Because of my Scottish blood and a father who taught us, perhaps too well, about re-using and making things last for eons, I’m loathe to buy unless necessary.
Luckily, today, pliers did the job. And once I’d gone out for new turpentine – which I unexpectedly did need (ugh) – I was now, finally, ready to dip the brush and slather some paint on a couple of ever-patient canvasses.
It was so much easier when everything was all “set and ready.” All the stop and go and stop and twist takes away some of the vibe. The good news is, I’m on course again.
So. Patience. Process. Progress.
January 31, 2016 § Leave a comment
Everything’s got a process. The seasons, falling in love, solving a problem, making a meal, setting sail, etc.
So, too, with art.
With design, it’s largely a mental process. One word, one image, one “sense” can set off a cascade of ideas for the mind to siphon and distill, then execute with the clean tools of my Mac. (Not like the old days of things like rubber cement, and amber sheets for separating color, which I readily admit not missing at all.)
With illustration, it’s both a mental and physical process – lining up my tools, making physical sketches, conjuring ways to illustratively express different concepts and then execute, still, for me, primarily by hand.
With painting, it’s almost purely a physical process – brushes, paints, canvasses – along with a great deal of heart. There’s not a whole lot of “figuring” things out. The act of painting takes the lead, as opposed to the mind taking the lead.
And then, sometimes, the process – any process – gets clogged. There’s a setback. Things happen – often things that are out of our control (although, most of life is [out of our control], despite what we might like to think… but that’s another talk, for another time.); acts of God and so forth.
A few years back there was a huge flood in my studio. Took a few months to get my design and drawing stations in workable shape, which was key. Next would come the painting area. But time went by, and went by. The task was daunting, and I was busy writing and illustrating Dragons* in between client work.
Still, the canvasses whispered. Then they called. Then they shouted.
Finally, with some help, I cleared the space enough to feel I could answer their longing, incessant chatter, and right away felt better. Chomping at the bit, I would designate Saturday’s as painting day (other days were welcome, but this would be an agreed-to arrangement between me and paint). Yes! All was lining up.
So. On the appointed day, I clear off some last things from the table beside easel #1, clean it like new (a little lemon oil does wonders), grab a favorite old oversized shirt, a paint rag and one of the many not-so-patiently waiting images already engraved in my mind’s eye.
Just a few more things moved aside uncovers my marvelous palette, which I see, to my imminent dismay, is loaded high with caked on paint remnants. I decide it’s a work of art in and of itself – but will not do for squeezing fresh paints over all its hills and dales, nor sweeping a brush through assorted nooks and crannies.
And thus ended my first day of renewed painting. The mood cut short by a crusty old palette, and the need for a new one.
Initially frustrated, I soon realize it’s just part of the process. Making ready, preparing the space. There’s a ritual to it – shirt or apron, rags, the gathering and oozing of colors, the first strokes of the brush – and I hadn’t yet gotten to the place I’d been before, where ritual flows, all “set and ready” for when the spirit moves and chunks of time move with it.
Patience child, you’re almost there. Trust the process.
In the meantime, even more inspiration was uncovered by my delightfully messy palette (especially the underside – who knew?!) – just in case I needed any more. ;)
January 24, 2016 § 4 Comments
We just finished up a big round of snow here in the Northeast. Great buckets of it swirling like a mad dance – not a soft, dreamy snowfall, but an angry, wicked one – piling up a few feet of fluffy white by the end. Today saw lots of digging out and some requisite complaining. But I have to say, I love a good storm. Always have. As long as one is safe and cozy. I find them marvelously inspiring.
Which got me thinking about inspiration in general, and being interviewed a few months back by a delightful young woman for her college art & design thesis. I almost always enjoy an interview, and this was no different. There were, naturally, the expected questions: what you look for when hiring, how you got started, etc. But my favorite question by far was, “What inspires you?” Because what doesn’t? Really, I told her, just about everything. But what exactly?
It’s true I’ve traveled a great deal – I lived in Germany as a child, I’ve leaned on the Great Pyramids and dined atop the Eiffel Tower, slept in hammocks in the Yucatán and picnicked on a sprawling red tablecloth laid out on Kenya’s Maasai Mara. New York City has been a stone’s throw away most of my life, as has the sea, mountains and farms – so, no doubt all of these experiences have piled up an almost gluttonous visual feast in my memory banks – but the other truth is that I can find just as much inspiration stepping out my door onto a freshly shoveled step, or a cracked walkway shaded by an overabundant smoke bush, or a beautifully designed book cover, a great photo, a well-crafted film, a thunderstorm, a child’s drawing, an old barn, the spokes of a bicycle wheel, the human face, gorgeous architecture, great athleticism, excellence in anything, shadows on snow. I can be inspired by a random slant of light, pages of striking prose or what comes in dreams. It can be a conversation, or something overheard on the train, a character in a story, or a character in real life. It can come “out of the blue”. It can be the act of simply looking up at the universe and falling into its wonder. It comes from the sky. The wind. The earth. Fire. Stones. Flowers. Rivers. Mountaintops. Birds. Dragons. All of it. All of life’s endless bigness, beauty and mystery, where there are more textures, tones, colors, moods and designs than one could begin to imagine. It’s a vivid palette from an endless well.
Now, I know some may say this artist or that artist inspires them, or this style or that style, or maybe that they’re driven by social causes or a desire to make particular statements. But really, whatever moves you inspires you. And being moved doesn’t always involve epiphany or deep emotion – sometimes, yes – but it’s fundamentally about what makes your mind light up and your heart quicken just a bit, taking you out of the mundane into enthusiasm and possibility. Sometimes, you can’t actually put a name to it.
So, if you keep your ears, eyes and heart open, feeling inspired isn’t that tough. Maybe it’s about what you do with it. Whether you let the flame flicker out or you jot it down, draw a line, pick up a brush, play a note, make a plan. Because inspiration is kind of a two-pronged arrangement – it loves to seed, and it loves to be watered with action. When you can hold onto the inspiration once the work of it begins, there lies some real power.
January 4, 2016 § 2 Comments
proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.
– ♥ –
Wa-la! Here are the final eight of one hundred P’s in my “Plethora of P’s” series. But how did it come to be, and why the letter P, you might ask? With the original intention of creating an alphabet, I soon found my mind overflowing with “P” words – most of which were falling in line with my beliefs in Positive Thinking – add to that my own name beginning with a P – and well, one thing led to another and yet another series was born. I suppose it was “inspired”, as most of them are – from where I’m not exactly sure, but if it’s fun, positive, and allows me creative freedom, I go with it.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed them. :)
Pottery has the admirably dual qualities of beauty and functionality. Designed at the discretion of the maker, each piece is essentially a vessel of creativity – figuratively, through artistic expression and simultaneous usefulness in a variety of practical ways – and symbolically, representing the womb; the carrying, giving and nurturing of life.
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If one wants to be awed, all one needs to do is look up at the night sky. What’s there is unfathomable – billions (upon billions?) of stars; planets within universes within galaxies within more galaxies. Distances the mind can not comprehend. Possibilities of life – similar or very, very different – in far, far, far away places. Star Trekkian ships and Star Wars-like creatures are only fantasies, but … are they? Beyond our sky, beyond the stars and beyond the planets lies the truly Great Unknown, and amazement on an enormous scale.
– ♥ –
Here’s to safe landings!
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Abundantly fruitful. Profusely productive. Being prolific can as easily be a vineyard, a garden or a tree, as a poet, an artist, mathematician or scientist. There are no bounds, just rich creation.
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Perhaps the most talked about invention ever, and one that needs no explanation. (But, who DID invent the paperclip?)
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Ah, the alluring poppy. Its brilliant bursts of color and tales of mysterious concoctions make the poppy, all in all, a happy flower to behold.
– ♥ –
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Because just the thought of puppies makes most people smile. :)
(See all 100 Plethora of P’s here)
January 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” ~ Neil Gaiman
Ah yes, the start of a new year. A clean slate, a start-over, a re-assess, an uncharted map. It’s a brand new day. It’s a blank canvas ~ your canvas ~ just waiting for some general direction, a lot of spirit and a splash of color.
Happy New Year ~ paint it well!
December 20, 2015 § 2 Comments
Sleighbells. Snowmen. Bright red bows and brown paper packages. Reindeer on rooftops, stockings and candy canes, holly and nutcrackers. Angels singing. Hope. Goodwill. Peace. Love. Santa.
Yes, Santa Claus.
My daughter doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. She’s practically a full-fledged adult now, so has long put aside childish thinking. I, on the other hand, do believe in Santa (and I’m considered not just practically, but an actual, full-fledged adult, if you go by years on the planet). She, naturally, thinks I’m kidding. “Oh, Mom…”
But I do. I believe.
Granted, I’m not sure he wears a jolly red suit and drives eight flying reindeer over all the world on a single night. Nor am I convinced that he comes down chimneys. There are lots of questionable details. But is Santa merry? Is he generous? Kind? Loving? Do his eyes twinkle? Does he light up hearts on Christmas Eve? I say yes. And we sure could do with more light in this world.
Santa Claus, with a whole lot of helpers, shares not just toys, but hope, and goodwill, and peace, and love.
Santa is goodness. Santa teaches the joy of giving. (And receiving, it’s true.) He’s ingenious. He’s magical. Knowing Santa is believing in something unbelievable! Something you can’t see. Something bigger than you. Something bright. Something miraculous. Santa Claus, you see, is a lot like faith.
So, yes, I do believe. And I tell you this – beyond the shopping, the wrapping and cooking and crowds; beyond the fuss, beyond frustrations or the too much or too little, lies magic. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I feel it each and every year, some time during Christmas Eve – a spark? a glow? the settling of hoofs on rooftops? – that fills the spirit with comfort and joy.
I wish you that comfort and joy. I hope you’ll be merry. I hope you’ll be glad. And I hope you eat all the cookies you want. (But do leave some for Santa…!)
Here are a few designs to get you in the holiday spirit, if you’re not already there.
December 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
Here’s my collection of offerings for the holiday season!
And I’d just like to say that igniting imaginations and bringing smiles to young and old is an honor and one of my greatest pleasures. My deep thanks to all of you who’ve helped keep these books alive and appreciated! I hope they’ll delight many new hearts this season. Blessings to all – Patricia
(All products are also individually listed on my Shop page. Happy Holidays!)
December 3, 2015 § 8 Comments
I usually bite my tongue here when it comes to anything remotely political, but I guess I’ve had a little more than I can take and am breaking my code for a moment.
Another tragedy has taken place (yes, of the far, far too many). And if that’s not enough, the divisive name-calling and hate-baiting is following in what’s become a much too typical fashion. Enough already.
There are going to be different opinions on the important issues of our time, and these opinions, fueled by passion and a sense of right and wrong from both an individual and global perspective, may or may not run deep. I get it. People are fired up, and we should be. But fighting with your neighbor doesn’t fix things; in fact, it breeds greater societal discontent which can potentially lead to chaos and misplaced aggression – and while we’re busy attacking our neighbor’s point of view, God only knows what’s transpiring between Those At The Top.
So here’s what I have to say. Stop it. Stop the in-fighting. And consider a few things: That disliking Obama’s leadership does not make someone a racist. Believing that abortion is wrong does not mean someone is against women’s rights. Being pro-choice does not make someone a murderer. Concern about undocumented immigrants does not mean someone is anti-immigration. (We’re a country of immigrants, for crying out loud, and we all know that.) Worry over radical Islam does not equal prejudice against Muslims. Being wealthy does not make you a selfish bastard. Being poor does not make you ignorant. Tolerance is seemingly relative. And a touchy one for this moment: Owning a gun does not mean someone doesn’t recognize that there is a problem, nor that they think that every Tom, Dick and Jane ought to be running around with a gun in their pocket. (To be clear, I’m personally not a fan of guns. They scare me. But they exist. And I understand the reasonings on both sides of the coin here, and feel that the assumptions and personal attacks on others’ views are counterproductive.)
These are difficult and dangerous times. It’s heated. Sometimes it feels like it’s spinning wildly out of control, so maybe people feel they have some semblance of control by speaking out. But in Facebook-land and other social media platforms, the tendency to spew without regard can be appalling. Labeling and righteous, broad-sweeping insults sometimes run rampant. Like a virtual bar brawl.
Instead of arguing, why not listen. Have the conversation. Instead of gulping and spitting, how about chewing first. You may think someone is completely wrong; you may think they’re an idiot. If it’s really that bad, and there’s no room for mutual discussion, let it go. But there are a lot of good, intelligent people out there who might deserve a little more respect and less knee-jerk judgment. If only. And then maybe we’d get somewhere better. Maybe. Because in the end, I’m pretty sure we all want to live freely and safely while pursuing happiness.
Okay, rant over. I’ll go back to being the sweet artist now.
December 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
If only it were true. Unless you count holly berries, there’s really not much in the way of floral color in northeast winter months.
But “Twelve Months of Flowers” can be had via art prints, from the series published in 1730 by renowned British horticulturist and author Robert Furber. Mr. Furber’s name is highly attributed to these exquisite prints, and while I’m grateful that he had the insight, substantial research and knowledge (and, no doubt, the funds) to produce the collection, I’m mostly interested in the artistry.
We had two of these prints hanging in our dining room during my growing-up years – one May, one November, the months of my parent’s birthdays. Admired by all, they adorned a modest space with a rich, subtle elegance, (and now that I think of it, may have had an influence on my own interest in drawing things botanical) ~ but in all those years, while we probably did, I don’t remember talking about the artist. Regardless, for some reason they lodged in my mind’s eye today ~ so I went looking.
First of all, they are hand-colored engravings, produced by English engraver Henry Fletcher from paintings of Flemish-born artist Pieter Casteels . (They also produced an equally stunning second series, Twelve Months of Fruits.) Each work is a glorious detail of plants in seasonal bloom, with each plant numbered, and, at the time, a list of the corresponding names. More than 400 plant species were featured. This was no small project.
And so a few centuries later, I thank them ~ all three of them: Furber, Fletcher and Casteels ~ for their fine, luscious collaboration of study, talent and skill. They are so beautiful, I might even venture to call them a labor of love. But that’s what art is.
November 22, 2015 § 3 Comments
The other day I was inches away from getting creamed while driving through a green light. Another driver came whizzing through a red light at the exact time I was crossing. (Insert: life flashes before eyes.) Shock and impulse took over as I slammed on the brakes. Had l arrived at that spot just a second earlier, I’d not be writing this. It was way too close a call, and once my heart rate went back down, I was thanking my Angels and feeling overcome with gratitude for both the timing and my car’s brakes. (It also reminded me that we should always be a little more cautious on the road than we might think we need to be.) And I thought, well, this’ll be an easy one for my gratitude jar – which, I then realized, I’d neglected for a while.
It began a few years ago – although I’m sure some of you had the idea before I did – the filling of a jar with slips of paper on which we’d scribble the things we were grateful for. (If you haven’t done it, I’ll tell you that just the act of writing down what you’re grateful for feels good.) It can be a daily exercise or as the spirit moves. Sometimes they pile up in one sitting. Anyway, we’d start on New Year’s Day, then empty the jar and read all our notes the following New Year’s Day – and smile a lot – then start again.
This year I thought I’d start a jar for the holiday season – a time we expect to feel gratitude, but in reality can feel exceptionally stressed. It also feels like a particularly murky time out there in the world; people often pick up on that vibe (consciously or unconsciously), making us feel even more ornery. Actively “being grateful” can do wonders to help. It takes just a few minutes and costs nothing, but the benefits are strong, well-researched and well-documented, including things (you may already know) like improved physical, mental and psychological health, higher self-esteem, better sleep and better relationships. All good stuff. Funny how we so easily forget this simple but powerful tool.
With Thanksgiving this week, the timing seems ideal to start fresh. And this time, I’m inviting you to join me – by doing your own, or by helping to fill a virtual gratitude jar. I’ll be opening it up to the public on my facebook pages*, now through January 1, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a great response and a wave of human gratitude can spread far and wide, rippling farther and wider again and again. And wouldn’t that be something to be grateful for.
What are you grateful for today? There’s always something. Grab it, jot it down, try to make it a habit. Feel free to share. Let’s do this.
Oh, and thank you. :)