Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's End Reflections

For whatever reason, whenever the end of the year comes around, no matter how bad the year may have been, we wax nostalgic about it. Lists of 10 appear like magic...lists about the best, the worst and just about everything in between. I am suckered into reading them because I learned long ago they are never the same and are in fact as different as each person is different from the other.  That is what makes the world interesting. Kinda like artists I guess.

While I have no 10 best of anything, I find that as I look back over the year there were many milestones along the way. In both my art and craft painting there were huge improvements in design and execution. A friend told me after giving her my Christmas present that they were looking at other gifts I had given them over the past few years and they were surprised at how much my work had improved, not that it was bad before, but better, more confident.

After going to the Las Vegas Painting Convention and taking a variety of wonderful and excellent classes I decided that maybe I too could teach.  While that remains to be seen, those classes are next year, it was an attempt to stretch as an artist. I remember so well that even though I only taught elementary education classes in the Peace Corps, that in the process of teaching you quickly discover that you need a variety of methods to teach the same thing.  I learned the basics of math and English, science and history like I never had before. I suspect teaching people to paint will be much the same. There are many ways to achieve the same end.

Then there was my crazy idea of painting crazy quilts on birdhouses, trays, note holders and a wine carrier. They were wild and crazy. Entering the first of three crazy quilt birdhouses and winning a DecoArt national contest was yet another surprise! A guy winning in a world of devoted women crafters? And at Christmas I was again surprised when that same birdhouse was sold on my store.

I have discovered a marked change in painting style as well. I was heading more and more into a kind of realism mode, one that may be fine for some but was the opposite of what I wanted. For realism I had my camera and in fact am toying with putting prints taken over the years for sale on my store to sell. What I wanted was a kind of Impressionism, but one of my own, a variation of what had come before. In an earlier blog, about how a painting can go so wrong, I saw first hand the struggle I have faced all year. The struggle between perfectionism and catching the spirit of the scene or objects. I admire those that can in a few quick strokes define their subject allowing the viewer to fill in the rest of the scene. Amazingly, we do. If you look at a Monet you realize while there are many colors, they create the depth and detail our minds fill in.

Then there was the store on Etsy.  Months went by with no sales.  I renewed and pinned and Tweeted it seemed to no effect.  Then suddenly a sale would trickle in, then more until I had a decent Christmas! I certainly couldn't live on what I sold but in a way, it is a kind of affirmation that what you so lovingly, and there is no other word for it, created strikes a resonant chord with others. A friend came over to purchase some of the items she had seen online and was so surprised at what I had done. She couldn't believe these were mine yet we had known each other nearly 40 years.

Yes, it was an interesting year. I'm not done by any means and have plans for more paintings and craft items. Heavens, I better because unpainted items are all over the work area, shelves and workbench in the garage. That's why I look at this painting a day group and wonder, now WHAT would I do with 300 more paintings?

Wishing you all A Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Down Time With An iPad

I think that every now and then people, creative people especially, need to get away. In an age of never being turned off with cell phones, smart phones (well you'd think if they were so smart they'd leave us alone right?) the Internet, the need to just tune out is greater now than ever. I read once the most popular vacation sites are those completely cut off from the, well, the world, the entire world. There are those in the medical community who are concerned about all this "connectness." We never turn ourselves off. For the first time in decades the stress of modern living may have stopped our advance to longer lives. There are signs already that we may be dying younger.

After a few days of relaxing and recovering from a nasty illness of one kind or another, I've found out that at first I was bored, then realized I finally had time to read a book NOT art related in any way to art or crafts. Solving mysteries in Botswana brings back memories of simpler Peace Corps times.

While my art materials were far away, I still had my iPad. For the first time in a long time I launched an art program and started doing some abstract art I've been reluctant to do with real paint and canvases. My oh my. What fun. Make a mistake and you simply undo. Can't stand that color, a few pokes and another is in its place. It's ecologically PC and you can create, save, start another till you run out of memory. There is a freedom that is unexpected. You create with no more boundaries than your screen and it appears memory.

This is no work of art by any means. However, it represents several hours of playing around, blending, erasing, learning how the tools work and what those tools do.  Ironically these digital tools act exactly as the real thing. I didn't use and in this case waste a drop of paint.

So much for down time though. Or is it? Playing on my iPad is just that. There is no pressure to produce, there are, at least for now no great expectations to produce anything. It provides the luxury of experimenting, just seeing what happens without the daily pressure to create. Daily pressures often keep us in safe territory. We burn out because we are caught in a rut. The beauty of digital tablets is that you have the freedom to experiment, stretch your own limits and even venture into a direction you've wanted to venture but felt would lose your audience. Here you can try new ideas, settle certain stylistic techniques, and when confident enough move over to the real thing with a confidence you've already tried.

There will be plenty of downtime this week. Yet, when a artistic thought long hidden appears, I am not without resources. This was created in ArtRage but there are many others to choose from. It's fun, it gives you unimaginable freedom and tablets are more and more affordable. You definitely need to get away but to recharge some of us artistic types need to just play!


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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What On Earth Is This?

Pinterest, for those who don't know, is a HUGE time sink. It is like looking at millions of other people's private scrapbooks only you get to peek too! At times its amazing what people post.

I stumbled on this the other day and am finally moved to say, well, something. I can't help but think what John Lennon is thinking about his wife's latest venture into clothing design. I mean, I can't think of a single man who would ever wear this except maybe at a costume party. Maybe that is the point. Then why even make it? Why even consider that this is appropriate men's wear unless you were going to a bacchanal?

However, to be fair, men designers do make some pretty outrageous designs that they expect women to wear. So maybe in her own way, she considers this and the rest of her new menswear line "turn about is fair play."

Men, ESPECIALLY men, are not used to being objects of attention or attraction. Six-packs, abs, hair removal are relatively recent  worries and they say that men getting cosmetic surgery is approaching 50% of all such surgeries. Kinda smacks of the fall of the Roman Empire doesn't it?

Guess I'm an old fuddy ruddy but you can rest assured I will never wear this or any of Yoko's designs.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How Can A Painting Go So Wrong?

Friends have been giving me persimmons the past few weeks, something only I will eat in my household. Because I was getting them from several different sources I discovered there were several differences in shape and color. Not TOO different, but different enough.

One of my favorite colors is vermilion, a deep orange red that seems to pulse with light and color. Its as if it were lit from within. I couldn't resist painting these persimmons as I was trying to become more skilled at painting the still life. Since I was using acrylic paints, they would be dry by the time I finished.

I had seen an interesting combination of orange and a yellow green in a painting that I found distinctive and attractive. So, I started with a greenish yellow background as the persimmons had been photographed on a rippled glass table. Since I knew I could never achieve that effect, a green cloth would have to suffice. Not too happy with that, I moved on to the persimmons. Somehow, it just didn't seem to be going right. There was no life, no color. I was painting them as a solid not allowing the light of the vermilion to show through. I was, well, tole painting. It was supposed to be my vision of impressionism. In trying to paint them like a realist (I mean, I already had a photo, why paint it?) I quickly realized that this wasn't my style, my voice. If that wasn't, what was?

Needless to say, I quickly came to hate this painting and it sat on my work bench as testament to my being unable to create what I saw in minds eye and couldn't get my hands to paint.

Saturday, after a nap, still recovering from whatever illness I had, I got up, threw the first painting away and started from scratch. I put in a blue and white checked tablecloth, made the fruit larger, changed several of the positions plus making them fill more of the canvas and before I knew it, two hours later, it was nearly done. I was, well, stunned. I realized at that moment you really could do a painting a day as Raymond Logan and many others do. It is a form of mental exercise that gives you a chance to experiment and test ideas each and every day. You still have time to work on larger paintings and have a sense of accomplishment!

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to try that, but I can see no reason not to try more things, found items around the house to "portray" and then see where it falls. It surely opens up ideas and subjects that you might never have tried and experimented with. Logan paints just about every day and sells his dailies as an eBay auction item. I can only wish for that but then, you never know. I do know though, that if I did a painting a day, we would soon run out of room to store them all.

My experience is that paintings CAN start badly and no matter what you do, often become worse. I mean, would you have guessed the same person painted the first and second versions of these five persimmons? When disaster strikes, and the subject is worth it, start over again. Since the first masterpieces were X-rayed, we have found that many paintings, the masterpieces we know and love were originally sketched very differently from the final work of art. What seemed to work as a sketch often didn't work as a painting. If you have done any painting at all, I am sure you know what I mean. So, don't be afraid to quit one and start another. You never know what happens the second time around.

Happy Holidays,


P.S. Be sure to check out my store at

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Recovering from a bad week of illness I finished an amazing book by B.A. Shapiro called THE ART FORGER. I had heard of it and aside from the romantic angle, it tells the story of an artist who while having an artistic vision of her own also has an amazing ability to copy or duplicate other people's work. In one case to create an original for an artist with creative block. When she can't stand the accolades he is being given declares it her own and is made to paint it again while being watched.

I guess it is a time honored tradition to copy great works of art and is and of itself no crime.  However, selling it as an original is. Hence the plot of this book.

It is based around authentic events, the theft of 13 masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. Focusing on one of the masterpieces, it leads us on a search for the original Degas' "After The Bath."

The story revolves around how authentic is the work? The copyist heroine has a checkered past but as a trained reproduction painter, trained by "" no less, has a gut feeling something is wrong. After a class encounter between fighting classmates in a detention home where she teaches an art class, over painting technique, she realizes that one is left handed and the other right. Inspecting her Degas after looking at and photographing the brushwork of other Degas' realizes it IS a forgery and the forger was left handed.

What is astounding in this book is what forgers have done through the ages to copy and resell paintings as originals. No painting of any time and era is immune. The driving force is a kind of fanaticism of collectors who want an original, a one of a kind. They don't even seem to care that no one else but them will see it. It is theirs and no one else's.  The ultimate power trip. The estimate today is that 40% of all art on auction is fake and thousands of fakes adorn the walls of museums all over the world. In fact a sculptor of Greco-Roman art fakes exposed his dealer when he discovered he was paid $200 a piece and the dealer was selling them for hundreds if not millions of dollars. When he had a one man show at the Met in New York City to show his masterpieces, it was a flop. People WANT to believe they are seeing an original not a copy no matter how skillful. Good thing the Romans weren't so picky. We may never have seen the glory that was Greece as the Romans copied, and copied and copied again.

Why is an original so important you ask? An artist who has a vision, who is able to get us to react to his art is one of a kind. Who can not be humbled, if you're an artist, in front of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, a Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh or even Pollack? They bring something to us that was not there before. They create for us, a vision that was never seen, or noticed before. The quiet moments of a Vermeer painting come to mind.

There is an amazing comment from the book I repeat loosely here about conscious dissonance. Many experts are fooled because they want something to be true whether it is or not. Like a scientist who knows (or thinks) he's right and fakes the study to prove it. When it can't be repeated its revealed to be a fraud. The art world is insular and wants things to be as they should be but often aren't.

Forgers go to great lengths to make the forgeries look, feel and touch real. I won't go into the details, but when someone declares a long lost painting is an original, you may wonder, is it really real or is it a fake in the "style" of? Fun reading for art fans everywhere. I know that my paintings will never have this problem.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Not Use Color Year Around?

I was looking around from my sickbed in the den today and noticed that I hadn't moved my wild clock and the even wilder crazy quilt trays when we decorated for Christmas. The "monster" that belongs on the wall in the living room had also been plopped down on this as well. Suddenly it hit me. Look at those colors. Reds and blues, greens and yellow, oranges and purple and just about every other color in between.

It got me to wonder, why do we suspend our color sense for a month every year and then return to the same, and often drab environment we call home? We have no trouble letting red and green, the deadly opposites on the color wheel, run riot in our homes during Christmas. I will never forget the director of my Journalism School telling us this very basic lesson. I then created an ad with these very colors and got an A. He was a surprised I would do it and had to admit that it worked. It wasn't a Christmas ad either.

Is it that we find the colorful too, well, colorful? We need drabness to quiet our lives? I can remember the first trip we took to Denmark to visit a couple that we have been friends with now for over 30 years. They took us to a mall to show us what they were like in Denmark. I couldn't get over the use of color. I mean COLOR! My friend said that in Denmark merchants needed to use lots of color to get people to buy. In America, on the other hand, they needed muted colors to "calm" them down to buy. Really?

That could explain a lot of things. Our world here in the states is often drab. You look at a parking lot and it is filled today with black, silver and white cars. Not a few but nearly every one. The red or burgundy ones stand out in a sea of cars resembling asphalt. I can remember in the 50's when just about anything goes. Oranges, yellows, reds, teals, pink. Who can forget a 1956 Dodge that was black, white AND pink? Or the glorious orange and white Oldsmobile with a matching interior?

Homes here in Southern California are frequently drab too. Tans, beiges, maybe a muted yellow or green and if it is another color, well, people stare and not necessarily with admiration either. Many housing developments have a proscribed color wheel that gives you the "acceptable" colors to paint your house. Its, drab, drabber and deadly dull.

Now, I don't believe that you need to have red, purple, poisonous green or cobalt blue walls everywhere, but I do think that every room needs a spot of color. Something to focus on. How many hours do you spend just admiring a Christmas tree? It is literally a cacophony of colors. We set it in a special place and make sure the lights are on so that all can see it and admire it. You admire it at that time, why not use color the rest of the year as well?  Doesn't every room in your home deserve the same treatment?

Its a thought. After the holidays the monster returns to the wall, the Santas will be taken down as the rest of the wildly colored monsters return. There is not drabness in this household.

Don't forget to visit my Etsy store at:

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Artist Raymond Logan's Gallery Show

A few months ago my wife and I stumbled on a small gallery in Monrovia heading to a movie. Late, we postponed going in until later that day. In the window was the painting of an old radio that I recognized from somewhere looking at art on the Internet. The style arrested me so after the movie we headed back. At the time there were only a few of his paintings.

The owner was an affable guy and we soon were deep in "artist" talk though I admitted that I was definitely not in the league of those in his gallery. I signed his guest book and soon forgot the artist and the gallery. Its hard enough developing your own style and sometimes looking at other artists can be an inspiration or a cause of depression. An artist, unfortunately, is always comparing himself to others.

When we received a postcard announcing Logan's show I told my wife we had to go. So, last Saturday, after seeing the movie "Lincoln, " we headed over to the gallery before dinner. We were not disappointed.

The walls were covered with all manner of Logan's paintings. Old Kodak cameras, old radios, phones, bottles, bottles, even a faucet handle plus a few buildings - all in amazing colors, unique brush and palette knife strokes that utterly captivate.

His use of oils that constantly blend colors, often jarring colors in each stroke that when viewed make a wonderful and harmonious whole. To break up drab or plain backgrounds his use of subtle stripes and diamond shapes in colors that compliment the objects is amazing. By taking simple objects, objects that no one would pay much attention to, he somehow takes them and with dazzling colors and brushwork makes them objects to admire.

Born and raised in California he is a graduate of the Art Center in Pasadena, CA. After many years in advertising and graphic design, things subtly shown in his paintings, he decided to paint more. His painting a (most) day since 2007, helped him hone his style and often led to larger paintings of his small studies. He auctions his dailies on eBay, most likely where I saw his work while helping a friend set up her store.

For those local art lovers, Logan's show is from 12-15-2012 until 1-31-2013 at the Sycamore Gallery, 116 E. Lemon in Monrovia, CA. Call the gallery, 626-357-6200  for hours. Prices are reasonable and note the unique framing also made by the artist!

A Single Daisy

Flowers and I have been on a roll. I started with classes at the Las Vegas Painting Convention several years ago and was amazed that I could actually paint a white calla lily, several in one painting, in fact. It was all curvy in shades of white and lavender shadows against a black background. This was in oils.

Then last year I decided that I wanted to do the same thing with a Bird of Paradise I noticed walking my dog. My trusty iPhone got a pretty good likeness. Zeroing in on just one bloom and taking out the background, replacing it with solid black, I was able to bring out a vibrance and saturation of color using acrylic paints that surprised me. It didn't take all that long to do. Hence, this was one of the reasons I submitted it to teach in Vegas in 2013. I also noticed that unlike oils, I could float the paints like I did in my craft painting to get the richness yet roundness I needed. If you were a crafter, YOU could do this painting. The best part of course was that it was dry when you were done.

I have gone back and forth with oils and acrylics and frequently combined them. I loved being able to use one color in acrylics as a background then painting in oils on top of it never worrying that the colors would blend. I let a little of the background peek through and found this gives a richness that I at this stage of my painting career hadn't mastered using just oils.

DAISY, my latest acrylic painting, is from an actual scene outdoors but painted like a still life. The flower stands out in stark, almost photographic relief against a blurred, fuzzy, almost abstract background. I had selected that one flower out of a stand of many, almost like a camera uses a narrow depth of field to isolate one object when there are so many.

The colors - oranges, yellows, a wide variety of greens, purple (yes purple in the background shadows), raw umbers and vermillion create an almost realist and abstract painting together. The daisy literally appears to jump off the canvas.

While I am not sure when, if ever, I will get off the flower kick, I have learned a great deal in painting them. Flowers teach you a great deal whether you realize it or not. For one thing, there is the focus. Flowers demand that you place close attention to their shape. One misstep and you have another flower, or more likely a mess. You MUST pay attention to what you see in life or what you might see in a photo.

Then there is the feeling the flower inspires. What does it look like to your artists eye? What do you feel about the subject? Finally there is the timeless question, do we have to paint only what we see or are we, as artists, given license to paint what we think we see and feel?

I think that we as artists have every right to paint what we feel. Is this daisy the same one I saw and photographed? No. The shape is pretty much the same but the colors have been enhanced. Do you know what it is? Yes. The daisy shape remains but it stands in a swirl of color. While photos never can capture the depth of the actual range of colors in a painting, you can get a feel for this. You know its a daisy and can sense that is in a field of flowers and in this painting at least it appears to leap off the canvas, almost begging to be touched, to be picked.

If you haven't, give flowers a try. I have about eight flower paintings now and find that each one gets better with more richness and depth that when I started painting them. They have also enhanced my other paintings because they have made me pay closer attention to what is and is not important in a painting. Anything that teaches that, is a subject definitely worth exploring!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Time To Be Thankful

After many months of no sales or those that seemed and were months apart, I have had many sales, at least for me, the past few weeks. After a year on and several other sites, now abandoned, you begin to wonder!

The sale that surprised me, as so much of my heart and soul has gone into this series, was the original Crazy Quilt birdhouse that won an award in DecoArt's creativity contest this past summer. I heard about the contest at almost the last minute and had just finished the first attempt at "crazy quilt art." I found out I won in Juneau, AK when our ship docked and we finally had a signal!

There have since been two more birdhouses, a Notepad holder that was found at a yard sale and a variety of trays. In fact, the notepad holder has sold as well.

I don't want to brag and I don't want you to think that I am. What I do want to say though, is that it nice to see people purchase items that have been hand made, not something that, while nice and even attractive, is one of thousands or millions. When you buy from KrugsStudio or any other crafter, you are getting a one of a kind work of art! Even when I make three of something, they are NEVER alike. The design is close but because it is hand drawn and hand painted, no two are never alike. Each and every one is unique just like a real Degas or Monet or Pollack. Those ARE works of art. However, if you watch ANTIQUES ROAD SHOW, I am always amazed at the values to what are certainly hand crafted items made many years before. Maybe you will enrich your grandchildren.

I truly urge everyone to check out sites like Etsy,com, and other sites that promote those of us that have taken what was once a hobby up a notch. There truly is something to be said in having your own work of art!

A great deal of time, time you will never be paid for as I have been reminded by so many store owners, goes into a piece. You can't say the birdhouse or the pad holder were something done in a few hours. Try at least several evenings of more than several hours each. Hopefully you begin to understand the amount of time goes into each item we sell and often for less than what you might buy in a brick and mortar store.

Check out my studio at:  Be sure to check out the other sellers there as well. It is amazing there are so many talented people from around the world. There's still time before Christmas.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deactivating & Now Deleting Facebook, Part 2

It turns out that removing yourself from Facebook is an ordeal. While you CAN deactivate your account pretty much at the time you decide to do it (I had to go online to find out how to do that, thank you very much) it seems that it takes 14 days to "delete" your account. It is "designed" to do that.

Now I feel that is the time they need to data mine whatever you might have there. 95% of all that I had on my account was from others. I really wasn't a very adept user. A friend, one of many that I told via email that I was deleting the account,  explained that they wanted to make sure you want to delete it. He explained that it took server time, which is money, to delete you and they wanted to make sure you really wanted out. I find that a rather strange account when you figure that when you delete something off your computer, its gone in a moment.

However, is Facebook, like the hated East German Stasi, so record bound that it actually takes that long to delete your records? There was an amazing movie about East Germany's secret police. When the wall fell, the West German government opened all the records that had been kept on East German citizens. The German's were stunned that there were huge buildings with row after row of records about them. It turned out that everything they did and saw and who they hung out with and even what they ate was recorded. Sound familiar?

As to the responses from friends and family, it seems that it is a generational thing. Older people, those around my age of 67 were far more likely to not have a Facebook account. As you move down the age scale the number went up but even there, they posted little or nothing and some were amazed at how the feed grew. Others liked hearing about friends and family and found it a way to keep in touch. Some were addicted to the games. But even in this group, I heard several who were getting increasingly upset about the way their lives were being tracked and put up for all to see. Many admitted it was a time sink and had also thought about opting out. Maybe Wall Street is right. They too are wondering if the bloom is off the rose.

One friend said that there were ways to keep some of this information off your page. I retorted that I had to do a search on Google to find out how. Facebook was useless and frequently obtuse. You could go up and down every menu and still not find what you wanted. Its clear that while they may be buddies with Apple, the easy and friendly user interface hasn't migrated over in the friendship. Each time they make a change, they need to revisit not only the past issues that were private but new ones. It should be a simple check list with a statement and a yes or no if you want or do not want this service. It needs to be inviolable. Facebook already has a poor record on this.

He also noted that it was a free service and they had to find someway to make money. Ever heard of ads? I would rather know that there was someone with an ad who wanted me to buy something rather than a sly, under the dashboard tracking of what I did and where I went or was without my knowledge. One is open for all to see. The other one reeks of Huxley's 1984 or the infamous German Stasi.

Facebook needs to get back to its original mission - a way for friends and family to stay in contact. They can mine all they want but someday, and sooner than they may think, the well may end up dry.

Alan Krug:

Check out my Etsy store too!  See, an open invitation!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I Deactivated Facebook

Today I deactivated my FACEBOOK account. Before I explain why, let me give you some background about myself.

I am 67. I was one of those who were the last to be born in what is called the "silent generation." We never elected a president. We are pretty much those people they call the silent majority. Our parents went first through the worst depression this country had ever seen then had to fight a war around the world. Boomers started Jan. 1, 1946. I was born in October 1945.

While I was raised as a baby boomer, I'm not. However, in my lifetime I had seen all the wonders of the last half of the 20th Century and the wonders of the 21st. We had the first TV on our block. I remember traveling across country and realizing that Oregon, where I grew up, was very different than say Kansas or Idaho or even Ohio.

We went to the 1967 Seattle World's Fair and were told that soon we would see live broadcasts from Europe and a week before my father died at 40, we did indeed see a live broadcast.

My friends and I spent hours all night waiting and watching first the failures then the successes of our space program. I can remember the first computer I ever saw as well as the first laser at a laboratory Los Alamos in NM.

OSU was in the forefront of computers and offset printing. The DAILY OKLAHOMAN ran a colored photo on the front page of the paper every day in 1963, It was the 90's before the LOS ANGELES TIMES could say the same thing. We filled out computer cards for our classes and all my engineering friends fought to get time on the mainframe that ran 24 hours a day. My iPhone 5 probably has about a million times more capacity and power. While it took up the entire third floor the administration building it only had 9K memory.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia the day they landed on the moon. We had just narrowly avoided being killed when the springs of the money bus we were riding in gave way and the bus went over the edge of a 50 foot embankment. We got hung up on the way down and lived to tell the tale. I had my faithful Phillips portable short wave radio with me and as we scrambled out of the doomed bus heard these words, "The Eagle has landed."

As a young father I took a Basics coding class at the local JC. I was never very good at it and when I had the chance to get an Apple Iic from friends who had purchased a newer machine, I bought it. Then I scrimped and saved to get a PowerPC 6100 the day they came out.

Yes, I am an Apple person. Coding, formatting my hard drive and all the other technical stuff is just fine for geeks. I was learning graphics and eventually had my own graphics design firm - all Apple based. We understood each other in ways I never did with PC's.

I was at MacWorld in 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. I remember all of us staring in awe and amazement at the idea. With few exceptions, none of us thought it would work. Then the next day I heard David Pogue speak and he told us that it did work (he got to play with Jobs phone) and it would be the definitive device of the 21st century. "It will change everything." He was right.

Yup, I was in line on June 29, 2007 to get my iPhone. I was recovering from a blood clot and heart attack so had the next day to play with the phone. It was ridiculously simple to use. By Sunday I was a pro. To this day, when someone gives me a phone that is NOT an iPhone I can't use it. Its kinda like Windows, You start to stop? Or like my African kids telling me, "Teacher, I am going to come." Huh?

That is how I feel about FACEBOOK. I have never been able to work it well and while I understand the concept, I feel that Mark Zuckerberg has no business knowing about my business. Every friend, family member, my tastes and what I do, where I go is not an marketing opportunity for his company to exploit. As I read today about FACEBOOK I realized I am not alone. There is a Catch-22 going on. People are increasingly uneasy about FACEBOOK. Besides being a time sink, they too are getting increasingly leery about how their information is being packaged and sold. They want to leave but also don't want to lose contact with their friends.

I found out today that my text messages are somehow being broadcast on FACEBOOK. To remove that feature, or any feature for that matter, just about requires a geek or kid of 12. I looked at every menu and couldn't even see how this had happened or how to turn it off. There have been some heated arguments about my FACEBOOK page at home (I have an store and a blog that promotes the store and things in general) and what shows up. So, today in frustration I gave up. Its gone.

Am I alone? I would certainly like to hear from others what they think. However, don't expect me to contact you through FACEBOOK. Its back to regular old email for me.

Check out my store at There's still time for Christmas shopping and shipping!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

From "Ho-hum" to "Ho" "Ho" "Ho!"

At the risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, there are many things you can do on the, um, "cost effective" side rather going out for great expense. (I like "cost effective" SOOOO much better than cheap. An English friend introduced me to that concept years ago and it has done me well!)

My wife called me the other day from Michael's and asked if I wanted these wooden boxes to use as gift containers for my class of 1st and 2nd graders. For a buck a piece I said sure. I was planning on giving them candy anyway and this was perfect.

However, when you look at them you think, $1 for the box and about $30 of work time and additional materials making something of it. True, its a challenge so I dove right in. It was actually fun and easy.

Since there already was a snowman on one style and a gingerbread man on the other, one side was easy. Wondering about what to do on the back I looked at some snowflakes that I had left over from another project. So, snowflakes were matched up with the snowmen and a star was used on the gingerbread man. These additional items were painted separately, allowed to dry and then glued on. Gorilla glue works well but takes awhile to dry. Be careful and make sure it stays in place.

I wrote each students name on a box and painted away, first with the background color mostly a stain of red or green on all sides and the bottom. Then the figures were painted on. The stars had to be painted and the snowflakes only required some jazzing up. Then they were glued in place. Several layers of an antiquing glaze was applied. I tend to like DecoArt's Traditional Burnt Umber that is floated on all the sides and sometimes on the figures to tone down colors. They start off usually too bright so a little glazing overall tones down all colors and makes them work better with each other.

All that was left to do was fill them with peppermint flavored salt water taffy and candy canes. Be sure that each and everyone is the same. If not, the kids will be sure to let you know that so and so got more than they did. Its nothing new. We did it as kids too!

The beauty of boxes such as this is that they can be used year after year. Sure the ribbon handles may fail but they can easily be replaced. Beside being used for gifts, they make wonderful candy containers that can be used every year as you decorate for the holidays.

Always be alert! You may never know where your next "cost effective" treasure might be.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How To Sell A Car, Yard Sale, Etc.

I live just off a major state highway under the guise of a boulevard in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California. For some reason, people think that its OK to park their cars on the streets with for sale signs on them. Some of the cities have passed ordinances stopping this but so far, the county nor my city,  hasn't gotten around this eyesore that can also be dangerous as people slow down to look on a highway that is busier than most freeways I've been on in other states.

I walked past this example for several days now and thought, as a "design" item, this sign was the perfect example of what not to do.

You see the same thing with yard sales, another example of terrible signage. A marks-a-lot may look big when you are making the sign at the kitchen table but tacked up on a telephone pole about all you can see driving past, if you can see anything, is the sheet of paper.

You can bet that one of these days, at least in California, those signs will be illegal because people slow down to look at them and could get hit from behind causing accidents. As you can see in the photo at left the street is packed and remains so all day and well into the evening. It can take up to 5 minutes just to turn right from my street onto the highway.

The other part of this sign thats bad, besides a phone number a driver will not be able to read (I blurred it to protect the guilty) because a single line of a marks-a-lot is impossible to read, is price. A dollar sign? Its free? If you're going to risk parking your car on one of the busiest streets in the entire San Gabriel Valley, or anywhere else for that matter, you better at least let them know what the price is. In fact, a GOOD sign would have that information in LARGE, BOLD NUMBERS so there is no doubt to the passing driver what you want for your car! You can bet if they like the car and really like the price they will pull over and write down the phone number. That is salemenship.

The same goes with those Yard Sales signs. Its nice to have an arrow and address but again, the arrow and address need to be BOLD. The letters and numbers need to be almost too much when handheld but legible tacked up on a pole. Use a large sheet of  colored paper too. Theres a reason most signage created by the city, county and state uses a background color. That makes it stand out from the rest of the signs around them. If necessary put two or four sheets together. That way, when you post your sign, IT WILL BE LEGIBLE.

Design is very much a part of our culture. Good signs get you to where you want to go, poor signage, like that found in much of Los Angeles, does not. I read once where some wag, protesting about how useless the freeway signs in Los Angeles were noted, "Signs in Los Angeles are designed to tell those who know where they are going that they are almost there." No greater truth has ever been spoken.

Be brave with your signs - BIG, BOLD LETTERS and colorful paper - then watch how that improves your chances of getting people to where you are trying to sell something.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Necessity, The Mother of Invention

This year, I decided, what the heck, I will give gifts of my crafts, gifts were especially created "for" the intended person. Why wait till the last minute, look at things you've already done and blindly grab. I'm afraid that many of us are guilty of that. I had already completed items for my daughter and son, now it was time for friends. I should qualify that by saying friends that actually appreciate the gift!

As a deal scrounger at craft stores, Michael's being the only one near me, I will usually buy more than one item. If it has potential at least three and sometimes more for smaller items. However, some items once they are home and sitting around prove to be harder to work with than others. Ever been there? I don't know a creative type who hasn't so if you NEVER have creative block I need to hear from you.

I have had these sleighs for years now. I don't even remember when I got them. They leaned against the wall on my four high metal bookshelf in my craft area "creatively" hidden behind others things. Trying to find where I had put something else to create that special Christmas gift, I saw those sleighs again.

Suddenly It dawned on me, the giftee loved snowmen and I could run a few from top to bottom. I sketched out a few ideas and actually settled on two. Lining up three snowmen seemed to allow me to create a kind of three graces, vertically. What would they be doing? I roughly sketched them in place and finally decided maybe they could be, what, singing? So, I created singing angel snowmen complete with gossamer wings and songbooks. After that, it went much faster. I decorated a few wooden snowflakes and artfully placed them on the sleigh as well. The runners of the sleigh are painted with a purple and gold checkerboard pattern and the whole thing has been "aged" to age all the elements together. All it needs now is the raffia tie at the top. It can be hung on a wall or placed on the tabletop.

Craft surfaces, like a blank canvas, are really just 3D surfaces that beg to be decorated. Here is an example of the blank sleigh, and one that is painted. I am always surprised when something like this is created.

Oh, and the other sleigh? It will be a horizontal scene of snowmen gamboling across a frozen landscape. It has been sketched in but I have been sidetracked by yet another set of gifts of which the blank box cost $1 and I will probably spend in time and additional items another $10 each if not more!

Need some gifts? There's still time. And, as a matter of fact, there are some pretty good deals left at Michael's. There are so many ideas out there, get to work!

Be sure to check out my store at .

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Framing the Subject

As if an artist doesn't have enough to worry about, like creating a piece of art on a canvas, when he is finished, or at least thinks he is, there is the frame to consider (though some might say worry about). A frame should be a simple thing, right? Any casual visit to Aaron Brothers, Michael's and a host of other frame shops might cause you to disagree. Simply put, it isn't simple in any way.

I can't even begin to believe just how many frames there are out there. And, if you take your artwork to any of these places you will find out just how wrong the majority of them can be.

While a frame is often a personal thing, the artist and the "owner" will most likely have very different tastes. The owner has to hang the piece in his home or office. The dictates there are often color and style of the furnishings. And while the color of the painting might work, any old frame will not.

I have gotten into the (bad) habit of framing my paintings. Even in my own home we have a very different perspective of what we think is the "right" frame. As the samples show on the left, each of these paintings has a different frame. Is it the right one? I don't know. They seemed right at the time.

It is a rare artist who can paint where one style of frame fits all. I have seen that with photographs and while I am sure a black frame around every photo is considered sheik, I don't find it that way at all. Frames though, like everything else have a style, a personality and after a few years, that style will have gone out of date. Think bell bottom pants, and crushed velvet.

The adobe home in the upper left has a dark frame with a linen mat that separates the painting from the frame. Is it the best frame? I don't know. It seems to work because I rarely look at the frame. Its in my green bathroom so there isn't much to compete with and I look at the painting itself! The upper right frame is a semi-ornate frame that houses colorful fruit painted in an impressionistic style. The colors are bright as is the gold frame. Again, too bright? Does the frame detract? The bottom right has a lake scene with an antiqued gold but simple, almost plain frame. It doesn't add or subtract from the painting in any way. The other scenic has a simple cherry stained wood frame that has no mat, nothing to separate the painting from its border...the frame. I have considered other frames over the years but end up liking this frame because it too adds or subtracts nothing from the painting within.

Frames are very personal items. Never buy one without the object that it is to house. Trust me, I have learned the hard way. The frame should always compliment (to you at least) the painting, print, photo, etc. It is a way to define its place in your home and showcase the artwork it protects. A frame can be the perfect finishing touch to your masterpiece!