Saturday, September 28, 2013


For me, part of the responsibility of being an artist, a human being, and member of a community, is to share what you can to make our place on the planet a better one. That doesn't necessarily mean giving large sums of money, and being a full-time artist, it's pretty much impossible anyways. But I have other valuable things I can contribute like donating a piece of artwork or giving some time to share my knowledge. Our local arts council has gone through some much needed revamping over the last two years, and we now have an executive director and gallery director that have instituted exciting new programs and have taken a poorly run organization and turned it into something we can all be proud of.
Our butterfly booth, filled with young artists.

One of our unadorned butterflies before being glittered.
So today, on a picture perfect fall beach day, the annual Artrageous event was held, a day long celebration of art activities geared towards children. This year, instead of just a publicity based event for the arts council, the day's activities highlighted various community organizations in an effort to inform and educate people of their existence and what programs and services they offer. The arts council asked artists to volunteer to develop an activity for children to create, and they were paired with one of the community groups, a unique and unselfish idea. I was happy to be asked to participate and work with a group called, Mommy and Me. We helped young artists create butterflies that were decorated with markers, crayons and glitter then worn on their fingers and "flown" about, wings flapping in the stiff breeze. I came up with this idea because this is the time of year I usually see the Cloudless Sulphur butterflies migrating along the beach, mile after mile of yellow dots, tirelessly flapping off to a faraway land for the winter.

A group devoted to protecting our nesting sea turtles.

  It was a joyful day full of children laughing, sunshine, music and beautiful creations. Just what an arts council is supposed to represent. Good job everyone!

"When childhood dies its corpses are called adults."            Brian Aldira

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Contented Sigh of Autumn

Webs cover the Yaupon bush.
This is the time of year when nature offers up a lovely vignette every single day; something to marvel at, inspire us and encourage us to want to learn more. It would appear at The Crooked Little House, nature is pushing Halloween. All my little arachnids are busy casting silk all over the Yaupon bushes and corners of the house. Even the skies begin to boil with wondrous storybook clouds that sometimes hang on through the darkest hours.

Tucked into the corner for an afternoon siesta.
The other night I noticed moonshine like a slick coating over the deck and fallen leaves on the walkway. I stepped outside and followed the light source to the almost full moon just to the east of the roof line and almost overhead. The sky was thick with gyrating cloud formations tinted in orange from the moonshine. The orb would appear from the clouds then disappear then reappear again, taunting me until I gave in and ran to gather my sketchbook and paints. I settled outside in the crisp air to do some color sketches. I later found out that a close friend of mine who is a photographer had run out of her house too in an effort to capture the same image.
One of the quick sketches en plein air.

I find it very tricky painting outside at night, especially under the moonlight. When viewed inside, the colors are never quite what I think I had laid down, yet the sketch usually ends up being full of depth and quite true color-wise. Plus it's just a lot of fun in a challenging kind of way. Autumn will offer me loads of vibrant cloud formations and magical nightscapes to paint. I can't wait till tonight!

"The love of form is a love of endings."
                                   Louise Gluck

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Night Moves

I do my morning Tai Chi workout at 5 in the afternoon. It makes perfect sense for me since I do my best work late at night and rarely leave the studio before one in the morning. While colors flow and blend on the paper, Bonnie Raitt croons my own emotions back to me or Jimmy Fallon tells me jokes. Around eight or nine in the evening, I actually begin to feel a current of creativity forming and I feel anything is possible, pushing me down the hall to my worktable.

I have never been a morning person. I'll rise early if I have to, and I'll admit to all of you morning people that there is definitely beauty to be found in those unfamiliar hours. But to me, nothing takes the place of a hush-filled night filled with brilliant stars and moonbeams. While the rest of the neighborhood is dreaming of sun and surf, my lights glow softly in the studio where two felines spread their indoor bulk across the worktable, leaving me about eight inches of space to bring my creatures to life. Eventually a spat will occur when one tail touches the other or a foot bumps a rear end. Then my big Buddha will thump to the floor and find his box to squeeze into, patiently waiting for signs that bedtime is near. And my children know that I am always awake in the wee hours, so while other parents panic at a phone ringing at one in the morning, I smile knowing that it's time for a loving chat with my favorite people in the whole world.

I've been fairly productive these past few nights, playing the part of a mad hatter. Some of my bird images have already taken flight, winging their way to companies with a wing and a prayer that they might one day adorn their wares. Meanwhile, I am sure I hear another bird tweeting my name. We will formally meet this evening.

"Whatever light is, it seems to exist in a realm where there is no before and no after. There is only now."                                        Peter Russell

Saturday, September 7, 2013

No Business Like Show Business

Just this morning, someone was asking me what it takes to participate in a show. I used to do the big shows, hauling an elaborate tent and all the rigging, giant panels to display my paintings, driving great distances to compete with a zillion other talented artisans with a fortitude I no longer possess. Sitting outside in the heat, taking shelter from sudden rain storms and praying my panels wouldn't blow over with a strong southeast wind no longer appeals to me. But what I do enjoy is taking part in the smaller, local indoor shows. This gives me a chance to meet the public, talk about what I do and why I do it and be at one with my peers. Though on a smaller scale, these shows are still a lot of work, taking a fair amount of planning and set up if you want to have good sales, because the best art in the world can't sell itself. In a temporary retail space like this you must be creative and innovative if you want good sales.

This past week I did a two-day show which was a great success, not just for me but for many of the talented artists participating. One of them was my best friend, an emerging jeweler who listened to my advice and worked hard to create an appealing display drawing in new customers resulting in a fabulous show for her. But as beautiful as her work is, I'm not sure she would have been this successful without the gorgeous display she designed that truly highlighted her magnificent bracelets. It's not just about creating the items, it's about luring someone into the space instead of them passing you by and heading to the next booth with the eye catching displays and smiling artist that is eager to meet their customers. You must be engaging and welcoming whether they make a purchase or not. Thank them for taking the time to stop by. And you never know; they may purchase something at the next show or tell a friend about the cool work you do and the warm greeting they received.

After two days of smiling, being on my feet, talking and answering the same questions over and over, and restocking to keep the display looking fresh, I got to take the whole thing apart, lug it to the car, pack it just so, so that everything fits, drive home and unpack it all, luckily having much less than I started out with. So that's show season. Personally I love being with my peers, meeting new people, encouraging new artists and talking with patrons about why they enjoy my work and where it will end up. I can't imagine making a living without this being one of my outlets. Next up, Hertford, NC on October 5th. If you're in the area...

"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
                                                                                              Charles Simic