Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weather Reports, My Way

We artists are a quirky sort. While going through some old sketchbooks this week, looking for some Alice in Wonderland references, I came across these "weather reports" that I used to do on a daily basis. I have no idea why I did them; perhaps a type of warm-up exercise, a little doodle, before getting down to the serious stuff like rabbits with cabbage leaf umbrellas. Or maybe I just wanted to put my work day off for a little while.

Anyways, I thought you might get a laugh out of seeing some of them.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Artists seem to be drawn to certain subjects and will spend months, even years dissecting and exploring every aspect. For an artist to produce something worthy, he or she much study her subject and become intimate with it in order to interpret it for others to understand. This takes time and lots of observation, letting your subject speak to you on its terms.

One of my favorite artists, Sarah Adams, paints the North Cornwall coast, mostly sea caves. They remind me of my current obsession - portals. You can peek through her stone cathedrals and catch a slim glimpse of the outside world. Our lives actually parallel each other's in numerous ways. Her caves are my portals.

My definition of a portal is a place in the natural world where energy is manifested to a point where it's palpable. It is a gateway, an entrance, an invitation to peek into a new realm. While wandering through the refuge at Alligator River, portals will appear and beckon me to stop and sketch. They will remain for a day or so then disappear soon after, never to reopen in the same place again. Whether these portals are at the mercy of fluctuating water levels and the shifting of wet earth, I don't know. Perhaps a benevolent elemental such as a fairy or elf has decided to allow me a glimpse behind the veil. I tend to think this could indeed be the case since I swear I am being watched at times while sketching along the creeks.

A few years ago, a close friend and I experienced our first portal. I was mesmerized. Secret things appeared that aren't usually seen like a bobcat strolling towards us and funnels of wings in a vortex just above the dirt road. We could look straight through this watery opening to an area that should have been just field. I have never yearned more for a kayak than I did at that very moment. Returning a couple of days later, it had closed, and I have never located it since.

These portals offer me lost secrets, and unexplained opportunities are presented. I am taking advantage of them for however long they continue to appear to me. They appeal to that part of my brain that questions what reality really is or might be if I just open up to what might lie beyond. What new experience will I find next time? I capture these gateways as a reminder that there was a time I truly believed in enchanted woods and winged beings. And now I am being offered once more a peek inside those memories and the promise of more to come.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


This morning I was looking through my old sketchbooks at the images from years past, memories preserved between paper pages. Every year I would trace my boys' hands in my sketchbooks, marveling at the changes in their size as the years went by. I also saw one I had done of my own hand not that long ago. Thought I'd share it with you.

And here's a drawing of my close friend's hand; one that held mine through the worst and best times of my life. Please, never let go Eve.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Beach Time

I stopped wearing a watch along with pantyhose the day I moved to my island almost 22 years ago. I haven't missed either one. I also got rid of my umbrella since our winds turn them inside out anyways. I still manage to get everywhere I need to be on time. I eat when I'm hungry, not because it's 6 o'clock, and I go to bed when I'm tired, waking up when I'm ready.

We live on Beach Time here on my island. People take their time, enjoying each day, setting their priorities. If the ocean offers up good waves, everything is put on hold to go surf, and if the fish are biting, the shops might open a bit later than advertised or close a bit earlier. It's not a life for everyone. I've seen lots of people come and leave, never able to adjust to the rhythm of the island. And I'll admit, it took me a while to get used to it myself. But now, I could never return to the life I came from.

I live by the seasons; telling time by nature. I know when the whales will be passing by the pier in the winter, and I hurry to see the bears before they settle in for the winter because the fields are barren of leftover corn. I listen to the return of the Snow Geese, sometimes honking in the dark of night as they pass over my rooftop signaling the approach of cooler weather. And the first, pink blush when sap begins to flood the tree branches reminds me that spring is nearby, waiting to make a grand entrance. July is the perfect month to see the Purple Martins come in to roost under the old Mann's Harbor Bridge making for a spectacular viewing from a boat with a vortex of birds swirling above you.

So for this post, I've selected a sketchbook page for each month of the year. I'm glad I took the time to do them since some of these places have drastically changed. These pages allow me the chance to revisit summer in the cold of winter and to recall a cool, fall afternoon on a humid day. It's a nice way to live; in the moment on Mother Nature's time.











Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bigger is Better?????????????

Since I began showing my new landscape paintings, I have constantly been asked if I do larger pieces. Most people know I favor small, intimate paintings, always have. I like small; I drive a small car, live in a small house, will choose a cupcake over a large slice of cake, and I do not not lead an extravagant lifestyle. This is not a judgment, it is a preference.

And working on Yupo, I can become so frustrated with a small painting I couldn't imagine working larger. But recently I decided to give it a go. I had done a quick study while passing through Alligator River Refuge, and it demanded a larger format. It would have lost that "something" that drew me to it in the first place if I had painted it in a diminutive size. Now keep in mind, large for me is 16 by 20 or 18 by 24 inches. This was to be 9 by 17 inches. (I have always been drawn to a panoramic format.)

When it was finished, I must admit it had a certain power befitting the subject. I liked it. Surprisingly I enjoyed the process of working larger, leading to a real sense of accomplishment. Next up was an 18 by 24 inch painting of a favorite snag at the creek's edge. I had sketched it a few times in the past thank goodness since these snags tend to fall in a good storm which are common here.

I expect these larger paintings will sell if I can bear to part with them, mainly to people with the bigger homes on the northern beaches. I will admit it is a bit draining to me, tackling a larger piece. But I think I'm hooked and will occasionally make room for the bigger picture,

However, when I look at my 5 by 7 inch painting of a shipworm casing on a blue sponge, I am still enchanted with its small size and its big impact.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Travel Time

The time for traveling is upon us. The average American family saves their money all year for a one or two week vacation at a favorite destination - one which happens to be my island. We see travelers from all over the world, marveling at our beautiful beaches, eating our fresh catch of the day, hang gliding from the largest sand dune on the east coast, and wandering the maritime forests and marshland. Personally, I don't enjoy traveling more than a day or two. I get homesick; wondering what changes are happening to the dunes and wetlands while I'm away.

Andrew Wyeth said, "I feel limited if I travel. I feel freer in surroundings that I don't have to be conscious of. I'll say that I love this object or I love that hill. But that hill sets me free. I could wander over the countless hills. But this one hill becomes thousands of hills to me. In finding this one object, I find a world."

I feel the same way. I have miles of beach, parks, forests and refuges that cradle every imaginable bird, amphibian, mammal, reptile, insect and plant I could ever desire to sketch. We have the most glorious skies offering a new show every day. And I have a front row seat for free.

The thing is, that hill, or tree or dune morphs into a new object depending on the time of day, weather and season. I have more to explore and paint than is possible in one lifetime. Other artists may paint my marshes but they have no idea about the changes in water level making the "wet" change color. They don't notice the new tree sprouting up in the very place that old snag stood where the hawk would perch each afternoon. And they will miss that scat from the resident bobcat. All those things take time to explore and make a place worthy of observation. That time to get intimate with a location doesn't exist while traveling unless you spend months in one place.

Friends look at me quizzically, insisting I'm missing out by not traveling. I think they are missing out by not getting to know their own backyard more, especially a backyard that draws thousands of people to its shores each year. But I respect their choices and listen attentively to their stories. All I ask is that they do the same for me.

My friendships and close relationships with places take time because they have lots to share. It's about the experience of being there and then translating that to your work. It can't be rushed. So I will continue to travel over the bridge to Alligator River, up the road to Sandy Run Park, over the inlet to Pea Island and along the coast to Coquina Beach. And I won't have to worry about lost baggage because everything I need fits right into my field kit.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


My new friend at Alligator River
My favorite place to spend time is chock full of things that can hurt me; poisonous snakes, bear, alligators, spiders, ticks, etc. And yet I feel no fear there, only peace and tranquility. I am more
frightened when driving the bypass in the summer, listening to the current political situation and thinking about the sad fate of the environment.

I'm a pretty brave woman. One son would agree, the other would laugh. I relocated alone with two little children, far away from family and friends to begin a new life as a full-time artist with no guarantee I'd ever sell another painting. I have no pensions. I faced a deadly disease and won. And I will stand up to anyone who mistreats another living creature whether human or beast. I am not bragging; we all have done things like this, and quite honestly, many have thought my decisions to be foolhardy. But I am a risk-taker, believing that nothing can be accomplished without taking a chance, and there is everything to gain by doing so. Most importantly, I wake up happy almost every single day.

Courage and fear go hand in hand. Dorothy Bernard said, "Courage - fear that has said its prayers."

But there is a recent change in my life that has brought a fair amount of fear to my soul and has required a lot of courage on my part. After 30 plus years of a successful career painting whimsical animals that have appeared on numerous products all over the world and adorn many homes and businesses, I have decided it's time to explore new realms. I have more stories to tell and more subjects to converse with.

My passion for my whimsical work began waning a few years ago as the yearning to immerse myself in something new and challenging began to rise. I have always felt a true artist needs to be challenged instead of always relying on the same thing just because it sells or it's easier than making a change. Kobi Yamada said, "Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down." Never wanting to think to myself, I wish I had tried, I have taken the leap and will try to build my wings.

So where is all this fear coming from you wonder? After all, my boys are grown, and I am no longer responsible for anyone but myself. But I have grown to love having food in the fridge and a roof over my head, and when it leaks I can afford to fix it. So I am fearful that the public, my clients, galleries, etc. will dismiss me because they want the old work back. Will I find a new audience? How will I face having to return to producing work that doesn't inspire me because I had no other choice if I want to pay my bills? Quite simply, it would break my spirit forever.

I read somewhere that the painter who has no doubts will achieve little, and as I've said, I believe there is no reward without risk. And I was greatly rewarded this past week by winning first place in watercolor as well as Best in Show for one of my new paintings. This was the first time I had put my new work in front of my peers. Scary? You bet it was! But I have now banished my fear to the farthest corner of the studio.

"And the day came when the risk (it took) to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  -  Anais Nin

Best in Show

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beautifully Broken

I had an angel wing shell; pristine white and unbroken. I found it on Coquina Beach over 20 years ago and have kept it safe all this time. They are fragile, brittle things and finding a whole one is a rarity since they are usually broken by the rough surf. Recently I dropped it and part of it shattered. I was heartbroken. But as I looked at the damage I saw the exposed architecture of the shell within, showing me how it was made and how underneath that beautiful exterior it was more complicated than I had realized.

As you would expect, living on a barrier island I have a large assortment of seashells at my little house, both inside and out. They collect dust on various tables and counters and litter the yard underneath bushes and on decks and steps. Like fingerprints, no two are exactly alike. Some are perfect specimens with each gleaming ridge and surface unmarred. But most of my shells are beautifully broken, just as I am and like most people I have known throughout my life.

I have never strived for perfection. I do the best I can and for me that's just fine. If it isn't okay to anyone else, I really don't care. My house is never spotlessly clean, my hair is not without issues, and my figure doesn't resemble a sailor's vision of a mermaid. I can say the wrong things, fib, and become impatient. I am broken, not whole, incomplete.

In the same way I choose a friend or lover for their quirkiness and individuality instead of perfection, when I'm choosing a shell to sketch or paint, I am not drawn to the collector's specimen. I go for the broken ones; the ones with the slices, chips, worm holes and worn edges, exposing their insides for all to see. For they are braver than I am. They don't just sit on a table looking pretty. They require me to look deeper, understand what they are made of and accept them for what they are. For they too have a story to tell and just want someone to listen.

Here's a step-by-step look at a handmade book I created highlighting broken shells.

Admit it, you think they are beautiful too.

This book is available through my Etsy Shop.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Personal Power

I've been thinking a lot about personal power. I have a bumper sticker on my back windshield, quoted from The Wizard of Oz, that reads, You had the power all along my dear.

One advantage of getting older is that you learn how to use that power. You learn when to say no without offering excuses. You reject clothes, 'suitable for your age' in favor of ones that make you feel wild and free, and you learn to say, To hell with anyone who doesn't approve of the way you live your life. These are hard-fought lessons to learn since we girls weren't brought up to step outside the box.

But along with that power comes responsibility and hard decision making. On this day I had the power of letting a bird live or die, or letting another go hungry. It was an extremely hard decision because it was being played out right in front of me, and I couldn't turn my back.

The dove was enjoying an afternoon snack of seed on the table under the pergola, totally unaware of the danger lurking less than three feet away in the form of a young Sharp-shinned Hawk. The hawk seemed puzzled about how to snag his dinner which gave me an extra few moments to make my agonizing decision. I walked out to the pergola. The dove escaped and the confused hawk flew up to the cherry tree. He stayed for a very long time, occasionally looking straight at me with an accusing red eye. I still wonder if I made the right decision and if I should even have the right to do so. Is one life more important than another? I don't believe so yet we all make judgments on this very topic every day in one way or another.

These decisions we make on a daily basis hold immense power in themselves. When a friend asks if they should buy that skirt, do you tell them the truth or do you fib so as not to hurt her feelings? And is that the right thing to do in the long run? Do we cheat and eat bad food even if we know we won't get caught but also know it will hurt us in the end?

Buddhists don't believe in killing anything. It's as much the intention of killing as it is the act itself that is unacceptable. And this rings true more and more for me too, because I find the most abusive form of using my power is when it affects other sentient beings - the spider that mistakenly got into my house or the mosquito I swat that was just looking for a bite to ease her hunger.

A friend of mine won't tolerate English Sparrows because they push other baby birds from the nest and take it over. He doesn't like Cowbirds either because they lay their eggs in another's nest so their baby will be properly cared for; kind of like leaving a baby at the door of a firehouse or hospital. But by my friend interfering with his personal power, he is affecting instinct; what God, Mother Nature or other force you believe in designed for that bird. Who are we to question the purpose of its existence? Like the Lady says, "I was born that way."

As for me, I am slowly learning to first take a breath and think about the decision I am about to make which will affect everything around me. And I will always try to use my power for good - for every living thing.