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.