Friday, June 28, 2013

TATTOO'S: Being Unique Or Just Following The Crowd?

In the words of the immortal Greta Garbo, "I vant (well she was Swedish after all) to be alone." Yet you can't help but wonder why do so many people want to be unique, follow their own path or ideals or whatever is fashionable at the time yet still follow a crowd or at least their crowd of choice. We have SO many choices to be unique today: Geek, biker, tattooed man (or woman), runner, hiker, name it. It seems the more we want to be unique, the more we follow some crowd.

The other day driving through Pasadena, CA near a building I swear is a dead ringer for the TV sitcom "Big Bang Theory" were three or four young people standing at the corner waiting to cross the street. Cal Tech types. Four guys and a girl. Looking at them and how truly geeky they were I looked at my wife and said, "OMG there they are! The people from "The Big Bang Theory." She looked over and we had a good laugh. The writers of that TV show need not travel far from Hollywood.

It was then I realized there is a truth there. We all want to be different, we want to either stand out or not but find a way that makes us different. We huddle with our "peeps" and will often only stand out with them and then try to hide from everyone else. Kind of a herd instinct, like sheep. The "Big Bang Theory" explores this idea every week.

I vant to be alone!
I can remember the first time my son decided to dye his hair blue. He went to a Catholic high school and such things were not only frowned upon but forbidden. So summers were his time to experiment. Summers he was also a lifeguard at the local pool so a day after he became a blue man, the chorine in the pool turned his hair bilious green. That got a big laugh at the dinner table and before we knew it, he had about 1/8 inch of hair left. We didn't say much. Hair grows back.

I'm glad the guy to the right isn't my son. I don't think I could ever stop laughing or groaning or maybe both. We were lucky there. If a needle ever gets within a yard of him he turns green and would most likely pass out. His sister cured him of ever wanting to pierce an ear after she described the needle they use, the pain, the cleaning with "burning" alcohol and having to move the earring around so it wouldn't get frozen in place. We walked right past the ear piercing place.

You have to hand it to the tattoo artists though. Growing up in the 50's, tattoo's were decidedly low class. None of my friends ever got one. What todays tattoo artist can do with skin is truly amazing, true works of art. However, that taut flesh of one's 20's becomes pretty saggy in your 60's if not before. Our neighbor, a WW II veteran had a huge eagle on his chest. I'm sure it was impressive then. When we last saw it though in his 70's, trust me, the eagle had landed.

You can't deny the art in the tattoo artist. Many are incredibly inventive and create art as beautiful as any artist ever has. In a way. like graffiti artists, its a shame then don't find a more permanent medium.

The medium here, body parts, is the today and saggy tomorrow. I think I'll invest in laser tattoo removal. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Remember The Days of the Instant Photo?

While taking photos of my latest project that I would use for my Etsy store, I got a sudden hankering for an actual photo. I have been using my iPhone 5 lately for photos and while they are good, in fact fantastic at balancing colors against a black background, you still have to plug it in the computer, go through the frustrating process of downloading it into iPhoto, a program that gets more and more unreliable with each iteration, and then open in PhotoShop to finally make your corrections and save so they can be uploaded. It takes an hour just to process the five photos you are allowed to upload.

When I was a senior in high school, after a traumatic summer when my father passed away, I was given a Polaroid J-66, the "affordable" Polaroid, for Christmas. At around $89 it was pretty pricey in 1962 and the film even more so. Each roll took 10 photos and cost about a buck a piece. You were VERY judicious of the photos you took. The thing was built like a tank and weighed as much as a modern laptop. But whoa, you snapped that photo and in a minute had your picture. I hauled that thing around through my senior year and then off to college. I guess I left it at home when I went into the Peace Corps and don't even know what finally happened to it.

Polaroid didn't keep up with the times and was finally marginalized to the professional market who needed a quick way to see what a photo was going to look like before they spent money on 4 x 5 film. Then came the Phase 1 back that plugged into your Mac and that was the end of even that market.

It appears that Polaroid, once bankrupt and shut down, has more or less come back. The new Polaroid offers a camera that gives you a 2 x 3 print instantly but wisely also saves a digital version as well. Funny, it hasn't caught on. They have however, kept to the same pricing formula and the camera is about $249 now and each roll of film is around $10. It still takes 10 photos though color now. You do get a digital file that is saved on an SD card. So there is a plus. Just about every Mac has a slot now for an SD card so you can print AND save those files.

I think though that they have marginalized themselves with cost. I guess that's why everyone just sends their smart phone photos to other smart phones or uploads them to Facebook. Its a shame. I do miss the days when you watched the photo appear like magic before your very eyes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Perception: To See or To SEE?

I was reading the paper the other day and read about the shooting of a families beloved German Shepherd by local police.

Called to the house for something completely different the two officers felt that the second dog, a female German Shepherd, threatened them and they shot her, wounding her. Because the damage was so severe and care so delayed she had to be put down.

However, what made the story so interesting was what the officers said happened was in contrast to what the family said happened. The real difference though was what the security camera saw and it was quite different than either story. What do we really see?

We can all recite tales of 10 people seeing an accident and just about everyone telling a slightly different story. It has been proven that an "eye witness" account may not be all that accurate after all. We see what we want to see, what we are trained to see, what our experience allows us to see. Another words, we ALL see differently.

A case in point was a painting I started plein air in a park. It was a lovely scene of a pond, small waterfall and koi swimming in the water. The lovely day quickly began to cloud over and before we knew it, it started to rain. No one moved but as the minutes ticked by it came down harder and harder. Before I knew it, my oil painting was literally gone. I was stunned. I had done an undercover outline in acrylic but never dreamed the rain would wash the oils away.

In the hour or two that I had worked on it, it was turning out to be an amazing painting. I was so happy with it and then, before my very eyes, it was gone.

Luckily I had taken a photo of the scene so after changing my clothes at home and drying out my wooden easel I decided to start in again to capture that wonderful scene. I printed out a color photo to use as reference and started in.

It was not to be. Without being there I couldn't capture the mood. Looking at the photo, while lovely, I realized it was not what I saw. It was two dimensional and I had seen three.  Everything, every detail was there yet I realized my mind had removed some details and enhanced others. Do we do that in real life? See some things and ignore others? Obviously we do. It happens all the time. I had proven it to myself.

An artist often sees the world through difference lenses. While some may take a scene literally, or architecturally or socially, an artist often will capture the spirit of the scene, how it makes them feel. No one way is better, just different. Yet, we need to have all the perceptions, we need to understand that what we see, what we THINK we see is filtered by our personal experiences. The challenge is to try to understand how others see as well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Is This A New Direction?

I have talked about moving from a series of floral paintings (4 cactus paintings in a row) with a side trip of an old truck painting when I started painting a Chinese landscape from an old ancient area of China west of Shanghai. A close friend spent some time there as a child and it had good and bad memories. When I saw the image, I was completely arrested by it and felt that I had to paint it.

However, at the same time, I also felt that this was completely out of my league. This was a subject of water and buildings and trees, something I had never mastered. I certainly gave it a try in Las Vegas with a class taught by Bill Bayer, a wonderful teacher who works in oils. In my first class with him I finally got my breakthrough in both oils and landscapes with a class he taught of an old tree on a path.

 Here, I picked up where I left off last week and quickly started to add the foliage. My teacher made a comment about how I seemed to work from front to back. However, the background was already in place and I didn't want to mess with that in any way. It was dreamy, almost surreal enough and to do anything else would, well, contaminate the piece.

In my mind, it was that background of trees and sky and water wandering off in the distance that gave this painting exactly the depth I wanted. It made the buildings and water in the foreground grounded in time and place.
Chinese Dreamscape by Alan Krug

 The one thing I didn't want to do though was add the woman washing on the steps. I resisted because I felt she would become the focus of the painting and detract from the overall dreaminess of the piece. Adding her though, even before I was done, gave the painting focus, something it didn't have until I added her at the last minute. Without a doubt, though minor and almost a sidebar, the entire painting fell into place. The reflections in the water made sense, the steps had a reason to be there. It was suddenly whole.

The addition of a true orange to highlight bricks and wood, dying leaves and branches in the trees, on the steps and bridge, if anything it added richness to the greens and buildings. Leaves went from black green to avocado and finally a citrus green. Highlights on the tiles were a country blue that gave dimension to the roof and water.

I'm not sure if the painting is done. I wrote earlier about knowing when to stop. I guess I could add some deep lavender highlights in the shadows, I could fan brush the trees with "leaves" or, I could just leave it alone. It could be considered finished. It sits on the easel in the garage for me to see the 100 times I walk outdoors into the back yard. Already though, I view it and can't believe that this was something I created.

Visit my store:  Halloween items are in full swing!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Who Died And Made Them King?

I have never forgotten a professor at my university who failed everyone in his English class for a paper they had written a book review on. It turned out he had his own view of what the author's intent was and if you didn't agree with him, well, you failed. You can imagine the commotion that created!

I know and YOU Don't!
One of the students was so incensed that she sent her paper to the author who read it and wrote back that her paper was exactly what the purpose of his book was. The student had received an "F." When shown the letter from the author, the professor still refused to change the grade.

I use this example to point out that everyone can be a critic; we frequently are in fact, but does this mean what you think and believe is valid? Maybe yes and maybe no.

Critics are in every walk of life. They "review" movies, books, TV shows, what people nauseam. That we allow them to become famous, to guide what we think and do and want is something that has always puzzled me.

Now this isn't to say there aren't critics I haven't enjoyed, however, I don't always agree with them. I look at what they say and take their comments merely as a guide. I remember when Siskel & Ebert would review movies. I enjoyed their banter and often conflicting views and had learned from personal experience that they both tended to like violent movies, something I don't like, period. I still watched.

Art critics also fall into this realm. I suppose today that most have degrees in art history, art theory or are failed painters, but what they say can often make or break an artist. If you have never seen the movie "Pollack" you should. It has some interesting scenes about the discovery of Pollack by Peggy Guggenheim, a true mover and shaker in the art world in the 50's. He developed a friendship after his "discovery" with a very influential art critic. There is one scene near the end when Pollack, having reached a block and unable to go past his spectacular splatter style, to reinvent himself again, is told by the critic that this was the end. He had a good 10 year run and well, you know. Pollack is stunned. So was I watching this.

All art, however created, is valid. It is an attempt by the artist to explain their place in the world. Of course, of all these artists, only a few will attain fame whether, alive or dead, because they reach out and move us in ways that are not always explainable.

I recently read that one art museum, after an extensive remodeling, got rid of all statements, explanations, all the things museums have added over the years to "explain" to viewers what they are seeing. Instead, they have the name of the painting and the name of the artist. Nothing more. They discovered it freed the viewer to enjoy what they were viewing and let them make their own opinions.

What brought this into a sharp focus was a review I read on the new Superman movie "Man of Steel." The critic made a comment about a small detail, the use of Clark Kent's name. He noted that "Clark" was used only once in the entire movie. When I gave up counting at 10 I wondered, did we see the same movie? What other things did he miss or ignore? That led me to again question the role of a critic and like what we read in the papers or see on TV, or read on Wikipedia, don't let others sway your own opinions. They are, to you, your truth! However, this isn't to say you can't or shouldn't change your truth; that decision should be yours, not someone elses.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

We Are ALL Equal, Just Some More Equal Than Others

In light of all the recent government scandals, the NSA, the IRS, our State Departments cluelessness about overseas affairs, I read that the sales of two books have soared. It goes without question that Huxley's 1984, published in 1932 and set in London in 2450 AD or 634 AF (after Ford, a Hitler?) would be popular. Sales on Amazon have soared 7000% over the past few days. However, I don't think he ever dreamed that "Big Brother" would be watching us with brotherly love quite so soon. 437 years sooner in fact.

The book I find just as fascinating and whose sales have also soared, but not as much, is George Orwell's book, ANIMAL FARM. This, in many ways, is a darker tale that tells of farm animals rebelling against their farmer. Again set in England, early in the book they unite and mount a barn sign that says, "All animals are equal." At the end, after a series of escapades with the powers that be, the sign, on the last page, has changed slightly to read, "Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."

It appears that Orwell and Huxley were close and the latter let Orwell read both his draft and reviews. Did one influence the other or did events of the day influence them? England in the 1930's was chaotic, as was the rest of the world trying to deal with the great depression. Capitalism had for all intents and purposes collapsed giving Communists an opportunity to try to take over much of Europe. A close inspection of newspapers in the US show that "Reds" or "Commies" were very active in the states as well. The irony is that Hitler, as monstrous as he was, may well have united all the warring sides and by their shared commitment saved themselves and most of Europe from Communism after defeating Hitler.

Santana said also around the same time, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is merely a restatement of a comment made by Edmund Burke in the late 1700's.

The hardest thing for us, as a republic is deciding just how much coddling we want or need. Do we want our government reading or listening to everything we do in the name of protecting us? Has it ever worked? Did that stop the Soviet Union from collapse?

Anyone that has read extensively of the debates and battles of our founding fathers will discover that they did not agree, but they did learn to talk to and come to some common understandings. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr fought a duel over such differences. As a conservative in some things and progressive on others, I have found that those that think they know the answer don't. I have more faith in those that admit they DON'T know but are willing to find one. We are so polarized into camps where both sides know the answers that we have reached a stalemate that has the public paying the price.

Humans are a fickle bunch and love to talk about this and that. I'm sure I qualify for that as well. However, it cannot be denied that until we truly learn the lessons, dry or as boring as they may be of the past, we ARE condemned to make the same mistakes over and over again until, like that great under appreciated movie, "Groundhog Day," the main character, who repeats the same day over and over until finally begins to understand the meaning of life.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The NEW Realism

I finally got around to reading my AMERICAN ARTS QUARTERLY that arrived earlier this week. For those of you that haven't seen it, and I hadn't until a friend let me read his, its free and comes out as they say, quarterly.

It is interesting in that it talks about the current trends in art without the usual ads and yes, suck up to some gallery, dealer, artist, etc. Its ad free and appears to be very scholarly. That said, I should add that its free for artists. All you have to do is apply to receive it. Email AAQ@CCSC.NET to get your own copies.

The lead article struck me. It is about the artist Adam Miller who is considered one of the shining stars of the "New" Realism. Titled "Adam Miller: Realism on the Brink," it gives a short history of realism in artistic history and notes that after the realism movement of the 50's died when Jackson Pollack was named the finest artist of the time, it is coming alive again in the 21st century.

Among The Ruins by Adam Miller
Realism has always seemed to be well, strange to me in the 20th and now 21st centuries. We had film and now digital cameras and Photoshop. To recreate with pinpoint realism a scene, the camera might do a lot better with the ability of PhotoShop to add or subtract whatever you want.

However, there is something about paint that no camera can capture. If you doubt that try taking a photo of a painting and see how close you can get. It will never be the same.

This article struck me because I have found that on my own, not really being influenced by anyone, I too was heading into realism, the exact opposite of the impressionism I so fervently wanted. Why? What was I looking for? If anything, I would say that I wanted to capture a moment in time. A moment of beauty because that beauty will soon be gone. It is too easy to find ugly. We seem to have the time to read or watch or see the worst, but little time to see the beauty that is around us each and every day.

More than Modernism dying as Nietzsche predicted because "man cannot live without God," the new realism is searching for that God but refuses to seek out the old Classicism but seeks "a new, relevant iconography, fit for a nation that seeks greatness." James F. Cooper's words, not mine.

Miller's scenes seem post apocalypse to me as this photo attests. The ruins of city form the background as a family struggles to survive this post-apocalyptic world. Other pictures start with a theme we might recall but are modern set in the future and that future, according to Miller, is sad and even more, grim.

This is a new twist on realism. In the past it told about the heroic, the religious, idealism, romanticism. Museums are filled with still lifes and portraits so real they look like a photograph. Vermeer's scenes capture a fleeting moment in time perfectly. This new realism though is different, searching, grim. Some might even add, godless, the first time in artistic history.

Artistic vision in many ways predicts the future. Will the future be a time of possibilities or a time of regression? Only time will tell.

Here are some links you might find interesting:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?

 I'm reading a synopsis of the letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo as he goes through his career as a painter. At times they are simply heartbreaking. It chronicles the beginning years as he struggled to master form and techniques. things I too have struggled with for a few years now, through the years that we regard today as triumphs. They were not regarded as such when he died in 1890. While I don't consider myself a Van Gogh, I do wonder about my own art.

Chinese Dreamscape, Stage 2
As I go further through the development of his art, I am again struck by how he was ignored, his vision of the world trivialized. While he knew the greatest artists of his day, artists that clearly were not recognized yet as great, it makes you wonder, what is art? Who decides what is great or relevant or shall we say who DECIDES what is great "art?"

Several current artists and I have had a discussion on this and usually I lose.
My argument is that all art is relevant but that doesn't mean that it is great. The attempt of art is to express in the mind of the artist what he sees or feels. What simply is.

Most art is derivative, based on something that has been done before but then, like Grandma Moses, does that mean it is not important? Try to buy a Grandma Moses painting today. You won't believe the cost. Yet, she is an American primitive, possibly one of the finest in the 20th century. Or, at least one of the richest when she died at 106.

My CHINESE LANDSCAPE is an image given to me by a close Chinese friend that has both many wonderful and terrifying memories for him...thoughts I didn't know when I received it. Studying the photo I was struck by the dreamscape of the scene. It was something that I wanted to do, no NEEDED to do. It marked in many ways an attempt to change directions, to create an ephemeral scene that I had never created before.

As I started this project he encouraged me but then when it reached the point shown here, he told me the nightmares this very scene caused. He was thrown from the bridge by the Revolutionary Guards because of his imprisoned father, a Communist General. A local fisherman saved him at the age of 4. I almost cried when he told me this. Yet, he encourages me to complete this scene.

So again I ask, what is art? Why does the image that moves you so, the very insistent and demanding image that means so much to you fall flat on others? What is the secret ingredient that causes others to embrace you as a "great" artist yet at the same time dismisses others as irrelevant? Where does the inner compulsion to create come from? Does any and everything we create qualify as art? There are many feelings, opinions about this. As I struggle with this scene, one of the most demanding I have ever done, I am again brought to this eternal question. What is art, Who creates it? Why do we create it? What does it mean? Is it relevant?

I have suffered lately from this this very dilemma. Why does it resonate with me and not with others? Should I care? Does anyone care? None of my paintings has sold. It is almost like being shunned while the craft items, birdhouses mostly, sell!

In case you haven't realized it, being an artist is both heaven and hell.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I Like Is Probably Not What You Like: Confessions of an artist

These past few months, maybe the past few years in fact, I have pursued a course of painting things that I seemed to have no control over. The painting that I wanted to create and the ones that were painted in many ways were very different. It didn't seem to it a painting, the cactus series comes to mind, or craft items (the LAST CHANCE series of birdhouses). The items I really loved languished and the items that I thought were misses sold or were at least wildly popular and favored on Etsy.

While I have written about how you can change the look of an object with just a simple addition of pieces, in this case four small square blocks glued to a common Michael's birdhouse, I have remained true to some of the concepts I started. While the first three rather wildly colored CRAZY QUILT birdhouses have sold, one even winning first place in a nationwide crafters contest, the more muted versions (along with a plate and note card holder) have languished. The "Blues" birdhouse shown here has suffered the most. In trying to find a "home" for a broader audience, it seems that instead I have created something that is bland. I have to admit, in many ways it is not me...the painter who loves bright colors who instead wanted something more muted, more refined.

First off, rather than wildly different pieces of painted fabric, I used triangles. There are 10 base colors here. And because there are about 25 spaces on a side, 10 on the roof, I had to made sure that each of the 10 colors appeared at least twice on each side.

Then, each of the 10 colors had its own unique fabric design. This time I created a list of 10 designs and used one of them only on one of the base colors. Instead of struggling with paints, I used Sharpie pens to create more detailed and textured patterns. I don't even remember how many hours this took. Too many.

After it was pretty much done, I was both pleased and surprised at how much color and drama you could get with more pastel and muted colors. In fact, to follow more closely a real quilt, I let one of the prominent colors, a warm buttermilk, stand alone. No pattern. Than seemed to calm down what could have been a too busy design and give the other painted fabrics a chance to stand out.

It has had the worst response of any of my birdhouses. It had two views after two days online and has seemed to fade away. I love it. I am proud of the elegance it has. But hey, that is just my opinion, one that most definitely is not what viewers on Etsy think.

Check it out at Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Are There Viable Alternatives to Adobe?

I, and from what I read on the web, a great many people are not happy with the direction Adobe is going. If you want to upgrade past any of the Adobe Studio's CS 6 pieces, you will have to pay a monthly fee and use and do everything with the program in the Cloud. This has not been met with joy and exhalation! In fact from what I read its being met with howls of anger and rage. Just think of the possibilities of malfeasance! You are doing a blockbuster project for a new client and just before you go to press or online or TV, its displayed for all to see on some ragtag Web blog. Or worse, your clients biggest competitor gets a hold of it and comes to market before you can. After the NSA revelations and hints at the power of snooping, governmental or otherwise, the web is just not very safe. And that my friends is where you will be doing all of your Adobe CS7 work. Even for your Etsy store.

I just upgraded my Quark Software and they have since sent an email to all new and I gather old (and for awhile lost) Quark customers telling them they will own their Quark software and there will be none of this cloud stuff except to download the original software (they show you have to burn a backup copy) and updates. You pay for it and its yours. Period.

Talking to customer support, he noted that yes, many of their old customers are returning after Adobe's move. I told him, its their chance to recapture a market they were #1 at but stumbled not once but twice when their updates forced us to run on OS 9 when everyone else, including Adobe, had shifted their "new" programs to run natively on Apple's new OS X. It was a mistake they never recovered from.

I gathered the old regime is gone because I hear from them all the time now (never in the old days) and they are supplying lots of videos and how to's to help us move forward. One of the reasons I went back, besides ease of use I clearly documented, was that I can create pages in Quark and export them in HTML I think you can even create links in Quark and not have to even touch Dreamweaver, the program, for me at least, from hell.

Quark isn't the only program though,

if you want to get away from Adobe. For Mac users, at least, there is a nifty little photo editing program that is surprisingly powerful called Pixelator. It costs a whole $14.99 and can be downloaded from their web site. While it can't do everything PhotoShop can do, it CAN do an amazing amount of editing if that is your thing.

To be fair, I haven't used it much yet and so can't say just how much it can do but the reviews are good and at that price, the price of lunch, it certainly pays to give it a try. It certainly beats the $620 it will cost me to upgrade to PhotoShop CS6 and probably has so many options I will never use all of them in Pixelator as well.

As crafters and painters, photographers for artistic AND for showing our products to their best advantage, we need to be very aware of what is out there. Adobe, like many other companies, is still living in the past. The good old days of being just about the only game in town are gone.

I will follow up with Pixelator and give you a much more in depth review from the real world, not the kind of reviews we read about from some geek who spends all day in front of computer.

See the latest at my store on Etsy -

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2014 Las Vegas Creative Painting Convention Brochure is Here!

I just received my brochures for the 2014 Las Vegas Creative Painting Convention and, of course, was eager to see how the listing of my class looked. Since I have to be there anyway I also looked at all the new classes being offered. I'm there and I know that the teachers of those classes have something to teach me. While I was saddened to be ill this year, in years past I have learned much. Besides I don't gamble and can spend an entire week there and not gamble one penny! I usually go morning, noon and night! Classes start Sunday, Feb. 23rd and continue to Friday, Feb. 28th at the Tropicana Hotel.

2014 Creative Painting Convention Brochure
This coming years convention has several new and intriguing twists. Besides the return of many of the well known craft and fine art teachers, they are offering a smattering of "Retro" classes, classes that have already been taught at least 10 years ago that might be of interest to the new attendees. Like the TV ad said, if you've never seen the show, its new to you! They are right. So, 16 classes from the past are being offered covering craft, decorative and fine art projects every bit as challenging as anything new being offered today.

Another new feature is the UFO session. UFO stands for UnFinished Objects, another wards, any of the projects you didn't have time to finish you can bring in and there will be a teacher available to help you finish or fine-tune your project. In fact two rooms will be available Thursday evening from 5 - 10 p.m. One room is for oil paintings you want to finish and the other room will have acrylics and watercolors available.

This is a wonderful idea. Statistics prove and, I can attest to the fact, if you leave the convention with an unfinished project, the chances are slim you will ever finish it. I am pretty stubborn and do finish some  but over the years there have been those I finally threw away. I didn't have the materials, didn't understand the instructions and well, they are now history. This gives you a chance to talk to a teacher who can help you or will find someone who can.

Classes are offered in a wide variety of subjects: fine art in oil and acrylics, watercolors, theory classes, ranging from beginner to advanced students, batiks, silk painting, glass painting and many craft items from world renowned teachers. The teachers include Peggy Harris, a decorative painter, Robert Warren who will literally make you a fine art oil painter, Dorothy Dent, Doxie Keller, Pricilla Hauser, Akemi Dan, Shirley Koenig, Arlee Jenkins, Bill Bayer another fine art oil teacher, Jillybean Fitzhenry, Valerie Stewart, Joyce Ortner and her wonderful seascapes, Cheri Roi and many, many more.

If you are a craft, decorative or aspiring fine art painter, this is the place to be. This convention is one of the oldest and still the biggest offered today. The best part, is that on your off times, there is plenty to do! The MGM Grand is across the street, New York New York is nearby and things are usually not so crowded this time of the years making it easier to get show tickets.

You can look at the classes being offered online at: You can also sign up to get a brochure as well. My class is #170, "Plumeria" an acrylic painting that I wrote about last year. It will be offered on Thursday, Feb. 27th from 9 am to 4 pm. One additional new twist welcome to both teachers and attendees is that classes NOW begin at 9 am rather than 8 am.

See you there!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Tale of Three Birdhouses

In my last blog I noted that it was very easy to change the look of a plain old Michaels $4.99 birdhouse by merely adding feet. Here is what the progression was. The original, the modified and finally the finished birdhouse using the CRAZY QUILT series design.

Beginning, modified and finished!
If you were to compare one of the earlier CRAZY QUILT versions, you would see what a difference just adding feet makes. It was so simple and the look of the finished product so unexpected that I am surprised that I didn't think of it earlier. It makes what was a plain and simple birdhouse into a far more stately birdhouse decoration!
The original CRAZY QUILT design sans feet!
I want to show you that small changes to a very basic product, even while inexpensive, doesn't mean that it has to look cheap. By merely adding feet to the same birdhouse design, you create a much nicer product to work with.

You will note that I included the feet into the quilt design as well making sure that colors and patterns follow how the fabric would fall. It doesn't really take much more time and the finished effect is far more interesting. It takes what really is a cheap item and somehow makes it look more grand.

I am not alone in doing this. A look at the variety of birdhouses on Etsy shows a nearly limitless range of ideas. While I am not into adding fluffy or things that require additional care (dust collectors other than the basic shape) the inventiveness of the sellers is really fascinating. 

By showing you the stages of what I had done, I wanted to show you just how easy it is. It doesn't have to be elaborate, though many make it so, but in our quest to be different, I wanted to show you how easy it is to make minor modifications that can dramatically alter an item that you want to create.

As for me, I also have some round balls that are about the same size as the squares. I thought that might be a fun way to change the look yet again. If a simple block can give me this look, I wonder what round feet would look life? To see more photos of the new birdhouse, please visit my Etsy store at

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Changing The Look Is SO Easy

One of the things every artist wants is to find the thing that separates them from the herd. Well, its true! If you are an artist you know exactly what I mean. More important, if you are a buyer you don't want what everyone else has. Artists need to understand that as well.

I have made a habit, if time allows, to just wander through Michael's or any craft store to see what else they might have that I can use. I have discovered what fun it is to add things to the standard blank birdhouse so have become more willing to "innovate." It was my LAST CHANCE series with the small resin cow skulls that taught me that lesson. Boring became pretty exciting with the addition of just one three dimensional skull!

On one of my grazing tours I found some interesting blocks of wood in various sizes. Feet! They might make interesting feet!  Taking several different sized bags with me over to the birdhouses, I decided what size block seemed appropriate and bought a bag. And there it sat!
To feet or not to feet, THAT is the question!

Since all but the newest CRAZY QUILT birdhouses are now sold, I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. They probably are being used as decorative items so hunting down the long missing bag, I glued feet on one of my favorite birdhouse designs (large blank areas to decorate and add things if need be) and was very surprised at the difference it made! Its almost like they are two very different designs, don't you think?

I am in the process of painting a new one and find that by painting the feet along with the rest, if gives a totally new look to a decorative birdhouse.

Isn't that what we want? To be different? Just by adding something, or if possible, taking something away, you make a statement, one that separates you from the rest.

In the same vein, when we were down in San Diego last weekend we went to a annual fair in one of the beach cities and I was struck by an Asian artist who also decided to paint outside of the box. He took canvas board, cut it in the shape of flowers and glued that to the canvas. Often the shapes were outside the canvas giving dimension and interest to his work. Even more daring, his very abstract pieces included layers of canvases behind a large central canvas. His work was engaging and well done and as far as I know, no one else was doing it exactly in the same way.

From the recent birdhouses I have seen on Etsy, I am not alone in making this decision. How you do it and what you use is for you to decide. Be adventurous - give it a try. Take the ordinary and make it extraordinary!