Thursday, October 31, 2013

DAVID AND GOLIATH: Why The Impressionists Triumphed

If you've never read a Malcolm Gladwell book, you should. You're in for a treat. Gladwell's book, BLINK, THE TIPPING POINT, THE OUTLIERS and his newest, DAVID AND GOLIATH take our common assumptions and frequently turn them on their head. Startlingly so!

As an artist I found his section on the French Salon vs Impressionists fascinating reading. While modern art is accepted today back then starting, around 1860 in France, it was anything but.  Sure throughout history painters have dabbled with similar ideas but finally, a group of French painters met, drank and discussed art, often painting together and changed the way we look at art forever. By taking on The Salon, the Goliath of their day, they proved the little man can triumph.

Yet this group struggled in abject poverty and if mentioned at all by the critics, was belittled. Their dilemma was what to do about the Salon? Art was important in France and regulated by the Ministry of the Imperial and Fine Arts.  To be a painter was like becoming a surgeon. Classes, exams and only those passing the highest sniff test progressed. Competition for Salon entries was fierce. Painters from around the world entered. To be accepted meant commissions and success.  To be rejected, as most were, meant artistic disgrace.

A million people would march through The Salons yearly six week show. An afternoon at The Salon was meant to be uplifting, entertaining. What the Impressionists offered was everyday life filled with color and clearly visible strokes. Compared to Salon painters their work looked amateurish, even shocking.

The Salon was the most important venue of its type in the world. However, to be there required them to create art not to their taste. They had a choice, be little fish in a big pond or big fish in their own little pond. They made the right choice by striking out on their own. While their own month long show attracted only 80,000 it changed the course of art forever. Debates raged but ultimately people found much to admire and embraced images of their everyday lives. Today their art hangs in every major museum in the world. Can you name a Salon painter off the tip of your tongue? I can't either.

This story is not new nor only for the arts. Any innovator who takes on the establishment can tell a similar story. David against all odds took on Goliath. By being nimble and daring he won. Creativity means taking risks, being able to transcend what we've been taught and told.

If you're a struggling artist, like I am, all I can offer is to stay the course. At 68 I'm late to the show yet find tremendous joy in what I create. That said I must also say I'm disheartened by how little my things are viewed, hearted on Etsy or sold.  Then a new idea comes along and it's back to the paints. I wish you all great success. No matter the story, whatever you create is your story and it matters.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WHEN Is A Craft Store A Craft Store That Isn't? Etsy vs Zibbet!

I have no doubt there isn't an Etsy store owner who hasn't heard about the new seller policies on Etsy. With over 300,000 sellers, Etsy, once the world's most popular online craft store, caved in to the sellers that have in reality outgrown the confines of Etsy. While the majority of owners, myself included, create for the love of it and try to sell a few things online through Etsy, some of these crafters have hit success. I am very happy for them. They do indeed deserve a larger, more liberal type of store. However, by Etsy caving in to their demands (though we can never rule out Dickerson's pie in the sky eyes of $$$$$), they have taken a very few individuals and thrown the rest of us to the wolves. I can already smell the blood of those much smaller web sites who see an opening at last!

By allowing Etsy shop owners to "hire as many employees as their business demands, use outside firms to deliver their goods AND outsource all manufacturing of a product to third parties," how is this any different from what you can buy at Wal-Mart? Tell me?

I have noticed items that I know were not done by hand the past few months. In fact I have noticed a great many items that were not made by a local crafter. So did many others. Chad Dickerson, in a tap dance sure to please mostly no one is quoted as saying, "When members saw items that didn't 'look' handmade, they could assume shops were breaking our rules, but many shops were actually following rules that we hadn't made clear enough to everyone." Isn't this like the beginning and end of ANIMAL FARM? At the beginning the sign over the barn read, ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL. By the end of the book it now reads, SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS. Explain to me Chad, what's the difference? When I opened my store two years ago the rules were pretty clear. You made it and maybe you could have an assistant. Open and shut.

You have to laugh (if you're a store owner cry) at this statement that Etsy will allow sellers to label an item as handmade as long as the idea originates with them, they take responsibility for how its produced, and they are transparent with Etsy and Etsy Shoppers about the different parties involved in making their goods.

Let's see now. ALL Apple products are designed in California but with new and rare exceptions these wonderfully designed products are manufactured in China with the strictest standards known to man. The US military should be so lucky. Do they qualify? How about a new Chevy Impala or Hershey's chocolate? These are designed here and are carefully shepherded through the manufacturing process from an original design. The same could be said for say Tiffany's.

In a correspondence with another Etsy seller, she mentioned she might go to Zibbet, a newer and still smaller craft seller. I had never heard of it. But then it was my daughter who urged me to go on Etsy. In many ways Zibbet's terms are nicer. A full year nets out at $6.67 a month, unlimited listings and NO fees if you sell an item. Since I had never heard of it I Googled it and found that the day of Etsy''s announcement so many Etsy sellers had opened an account at Zibbet their server crashed and something like 35,000 photos were still waiting to be downloaded. To make things even easier, they even include software to fetch your Etsy information, items, etc., and download it on their site. They also include helpful hints on how to "edit" your new store items so search engines will see both listings and not confuse one with another. Very helpful.
So what's it to be? Well, I just might open another store. I am still waiting to hear about my acceptance by the gallery but maybe being in another store that is still truly catering to crafters, it may not be such a bad move. Compare the two of them and drop the one that performs the least.

I am somewhat hampered at the moment by some medical issues but I am certainly considering the idea of opening another store or, if performance continues to falter on Etsy, shutter that store and move over to Zibbet. However, I tried ArtFire and got few hits and NO sales. So, I guess, for the moment Etsy is still king. But as many a company has learned, the mighty do fall. Look at GM, Kodak, Lehman Brothers, Microsoft and others. Too big to fail? Don't you believe it.

So, in the meantime, please visit my store: There are some wonderful Christmas items in a wide variety of prices. ALL hand painted by me, really!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Breaking Out Of The Cocoon!

Yesterday I finally took the first step out the door so to speak. After careful consideration, I took my paintings and crafts to a gallery that's part of an art association for consideration. I spoke to the gallery manager who also shows and was told a panel of four will review my work. Once a decision is made they will let me know.

It turned out to be a good time as changes are made each month so if all goes well, I could start November 1st. For a $15 monthly fee and no gallery percentage off of sales it's gotta be the best deal in town.  However, it's a small venue that gets its largest audience twice a month during the cities Saturday Art Walk. That's ok. It's exposure in the flesh. In years past they drew quite a crowd. It's a way to ween myself away from Etsy. It gives buyers a chance to see what I've created first hand. Even the best photograph never captures the real thing no matter how hard we try. The once a month work requirement is fair too. In fact I look forward to meeting people and sharing my artistic vision.

This poster does strike a chord. I could not help but check out the other artists. While it is very easy to say what you like and dislike, it is very hard, at least for me, to belittle that artists vision. We all know of famous artists whose art looks childish or immature or in some famous cases violent or disgusting. This gallery had a variety of styles that I find refreshing. They are very different which artistically is in everyone's favor. What you like I may not.

After discussions about my own art, comparisons of one piece against another, I realize people really do see things differently.  My own family does. I am always surprised when I say that this is my latest piece but I don't like it and in the process of throwing it out, is liked here, in my own house! In fact, craft items I spend much time and effort on are not as easily sold as items that ended up being a trial, a learning lesson that I put online just to have variety.

Exposing your art, exposing yourself and your vision is never easy. Its now time to toughen up and take the lumps along with the sales! I will report back as I continue on with this new adventure.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Painting From The Heart

One of the hardest times for the creative person is trying to decide what to do next. This is a lot different from hitting the wall. This time you have to decide whether to stick with the tried and true, and that certainly has been successful for many artists, or to branch out, try new things and in the process change direction along the way. It is easy to follow a teacher or mentor but harder to create a style of ones own. A style of art and design that comes from the heart. Or is it really?

The Birdhouse That Launched It All
When I started this journey, craft painting was a way for me to be creative in ways other than being a graphic designer. Here, I could create what I wanted, not what a client wanted or thought they wanted. This was my own creation, my own Very own! Yet, deep inside I realized this was an interim step until I could really do my life's ambition, paint on canvas.

I had done a series of items, usually birdhouses, because they were cheap as were the paints. I did a few now and then and gave them away as gifts. In fact, one of my favorites was a Early American Federal inspired mailbox that I gave to friends one Christmas who were obviously too embarrassed to ever show it at their house. So, I learned that not all that I create will be willingly accepted.

When I started oil painting, the teacher was quite versed in the California Impression of the turn of the 20th Century. I was an avowed Impressionist and wanted to be just like her. In fact my paintings started out as poor imitations of her style. However, after classes in Las Vegas and just painting plein air, my style started to change. It was something that happened, not something that I embraced, at least at first. In fact, I fought it for awhile but finally gave in. It was at this juncture that my first teacher and I had a parting of the ways.

It was this birdhouse that caused my daughter to suggest I really should consider selling my things on Etsy. This really was a design from my heart. It was a consideration as the number of items had overrun the space inside the house and with the addition of canvases, it was all mounting up!

Good or bad though, these were things I tried to paint from my heart. Two of the artists I have never been fond of, but have been and remain hugely popular are Thomas Kincaid, the self proclaimed "Painter of Light" and Bob Ross. I have often wondered about them and other artists. Did they paint from the heart or from the money?

A Van Gogh lover since about the age of 11, I find it so strange that this artist who painted and sketched so much in so little time was relagated to the sidelines in his time while other artists thrived. This is not to say Monet or Renoir or Cezanne or Gauguin were lesser artists, but you have to wonder what did they or their collectors see in them, that was never seen in Van Gogh until after his death?

Then to see, two men who painted, would be considered by most true collectors as shlock artists who are amazingly more or as least as popular in death than life, with a style of art that is the defacto standard of bathroom or motel room art, a style for many a budding artist and yes, home collector might want, causes you to pause. They want that? Really?

Kincaid, whose early art is amazing and beautiful, created a formula he never changed mading his art both instantly recognizable and sacchrine. How many English cottages along an English creek in the countryside or forest would you paint or own? Apparently quite a few. When 60 Minutes was documenting the trials and tribulations of Kincaid before his death, they found more than a few collectors with over 100 of his copies; giclee's, that he would put a dab of paint on and sign. One of hundreds if not thousands he sold for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Ironically, he NEVER sold an original.

Ross' style is instantly recognizable as well. PBS still shows his classes and he's been dead a long time now. Note the Afro hairdo. His style is very quick and maybe even easy. I mean, with a one or two inch brush, you can cover that canvas pretty quickly. However, each one remains the same basic style with just a different scene. In fact, on any weekend in Southern California, many an empty gas station lot has $49.99 paintings of exactly this same style.

I imagine that most of the readers here are painters or crafters as well. However, while there seems to be a lot of us, we need to remember that many of our friends and relatives are not crafters or painters. They ARE the majority. We need to create for them a world of art where the art has heart and its beating!

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I Hate Apple's OS 10.9 Mavericks And Here's Why!

I purchased my first Macintosh, a 6100 PowerPC, after doing extra jobs for months in March 1994. Somewhat conversant in OS 7 I decided to wait for the new computers using the PowerPC chips rather than the older models even Apple was discounting at the time.

Money in hand I purchased it the day after they came out. I loved it and was so glad NOT to have to use my mother-in-laws PowerBook 170. It was nice but the screen was so small trying to layout pages. I never had the 9 inch screen version so maybe I shouldn't complain.

Apple's slippery slope. See 10.9 sliding down the whirlpool of watery hell?
I have loved Apple products since that time. In fact most of the publishing industry has embraced the Mac and continues to to this day.

However, being a grumpy senior now, I am not so resilient and am in fact grumpy about 10.9. Simply put, I hate it. Since the "free" download, I have spent 10's of hours trying to get it to work. Not just the way I remember 10.8 but the way I remember it the day before I upgraded. My wife always warns me about upgrading. WHY didn't I listen?

What finally made me write this diatribe was being unable to print the way I used to with Reader. The proverbial straw! I decided that maybe I should keep a hard copy of my blogs here and in fact had started, finally doing just that the other day. I got about 10 or so printed but there were 200 more to go. It was so simple. You clicked the headline, the reader turned blue in the search bar in Safari and you selected your printer and moved on to the next one. Today? Reader is still there but it has lost all the options, added one that generally "only" increases the font size and forgets ALL OF THE FORMATTING that was in the blog. Talk about ugly. Talk about being unable to do what you could the day before is shameful.

Then I started to think of all the other indignities of 10.9. Starting any program now is an exercise in watching grass grow. Literally. Start iPhoto or Pages or Microsoft programs and you not only have time for a cup of coffee but a trip to the barber near the Starbucks. Its that slow. And the scrolling creep is driving me nuts. FIX IT APPLE!

Pushing a deadline this week I started Quark after the upgrade and every time I tried to do something it crashed. I mean each and EVERY time. Frantic I called Quark and they said no, 9.5.1 doesn't work with the new OS. You will have to use Quark 10. I bought it in June, it came out in September and I didn't have it yet. I started calling everyone there. Finally, I tried to activate it, the tech breezily told me it was easy to do and hung up. It wasn't. No matter what I did it would not activate despite having the numbers in hand. I had to resort to the month long "trial" version. Shame on Quark. I see they too are returning to their historic and famous lousy customer service. I'm sorry, but there is no reason their older version could not work with the new Apple upgrade. Not everyone is going to run out and buy the next greatest thing. Something I think Adobe is learning as people are not signing up in droves for their cloud only services if they want the latest PhotoShop or Illustrator or InDesign. If you are a user of QuarkXpress 9.5.1 or 3, DON'T upgrade your Apple OS unless you are ready to spend about $349.

Syncing your iPhone or iPad? Good luck. In trying to promote myself to a gallery owner today I discovered it didn't bother to include the photos it had on it two days before. I had to resort to my iPhone 5, a rather downscale disappointment. If I ever hear the word iCloud again I will scream. It just doesn't work and none of the iterations of Apple's cloud services ever have. When I got the new phone I decided to sync through iCloud. It took me two days to remove the hundreds of duplicates and triplicates I had for my address book, calendar, photos and other items on that device. I knew something was up when the phone said it was out of room. What? It had 5 gigs of free space when I started syncing it. In fact I have yet to get my iPad to correctly sync my calendar despite using the same settings as my iPhone.

In short, I really don't care a hoot about the 200 new features if the ones I knew and loved don't work anymore. Why should I have to search the web to find out how to do what I could do a few days ago? Apple products were amazingly intuitive. Not any more. Who asks for these new things? Has Apple or any software or hardware company ever heard of the dictum, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Rather than create new products or software that people can actually use we get Mavericks (actually an apt name as it implies a person or animal that won't listen to anyone) or the new iOS 7 for the phone. Another boondoggle!

I know and I am sure Tim Cook and Jony Ives know that if Jobs was alive and well, none of this would have ever seen the light of day. He was famous for raining on their parade. Pretty he liked but NOT if it didn't work and trust me, 10.9 and iOS7 really don't. Maybe it is time to think about Windows (though I shutter at that thought) or Android, a blatant ripoff of the Apple software when their CEO was on the Apple board.

Apple has a lot of work to do and hopefully it won't see the light of day until, and I mean UNTIL it really is up to the bar set by Steve Jobs!


Thank you for visiting!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Tentative Step Forward

For those of you that have already exhibited in a gallery, ANY kind of gallery, you have probably experienced the angst this causes and may each time you exhibit your art out for the public to see and comment upon. Is it like appearing on a public stage?  Will the audience like me or not?

Santa Fe Adobe
I have been on a quest to branch out for awhile now. Sales have been slow for me on Etsy and I've been encouraged by friends to find a venue to display my work so they can be see it in person.  I have talked to owners of boutique gift stores and been brushed off because they only buy from distributors not local artists. Really you ask? That's what they told me. In fact, noting the prices I said, "Do you really think your customers don't want to buy something unique, one-of-a-kind over items made by the thousands if not millions?" They shrug and talk about profit margins.

Bid of Paradise - acrylic
Talking to artists during the Los Angeles County Fair painting in the Millard Sheets Fine Art Building I happened to meet the President of the Pomona Valley Art Association. We chatted a bit and I took the information she gave me. I could tell she was skeptical but after showing her a few things I'd done on my phone she encouraged me to consider showing.
Cave Lake Nevada

Flowering Cactus - acrylic
Last week coming from my art class I made a point of stopping to see the gallery they sponsor. It's in the basement of an old building in the heart of Pomona's art district.  I'd been there years before when a friend had managed this same gallery. I never dreamed then I would attempt to show my art in the future. The art walk nights are fun and truly packed. Being the first and only visitor that day, not a good sign, I had a chance to see what other artists were doing. I realized I had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, several pieces for sale were taught by my teacher in a kids class. No attribution either. If they could show ....

I got the phone number of the person who manages the gallery and we agreed on a day and time to bring my art to be juried and hopefully hung for sale. The rate is dirt cheap, requires 5 hours of my time to watch over the gallery a month and I get to keep whatever price it sells for. Considering galleries take over 50% of sales, this was a deal and, for me, a step forward into the public.

However, now comes the angst part I was talking about. What DO you show? Of all the pieces that I have done over the past few years which ones do I want to display. There is no question I want to sell them, but how to make a good impression to the jury panel and ultimately to the public?

Lining them up I realized that while there were some themes, notably the cactus series of four, others were florals but not similar at all. My landscapes were varied and styles of painting had changed over the past two years. Paintings that I really liked just didn't fit well together and so compromises (something Washington could learn) were made to make it all fit together.

Another factor, and one that I am learning is more and more important, is the art of framing. Does a frame show off the painting to its best advantage? In fact, several paintings were rejected for this reason alone. I had thought one painting in particular was rather washed out but when I added red fabric around the painting, the colors popped out and the depth that I had painted returned. Just imagine, something as simple as the "color" of a frame.

Crazy Quilt Tray
Because I needed to show 5 to 6 pieces, I asked if I could also show some of my crafts. I saw a few sprinkled around the gallery and they said sure. So, I had to decide what to bring. Again, the process of weeding out and seeing what went well with the paintings. Since I am known for color, I decided to show a "Crazy Quilt" tray, a garden type birdhouse and a Santa Birdhouse that is anything but a birdhouse. I felt that these compliment the paintings and show the full range of what I create.

The irony for me has been as I have shifted more and more to acrylics for my fine art painting, many of the techniques I have learned or use, have come from my craft painting. One does not exclude the other.
Summer Garden Birdhouse

Summer Garden Birdhouse was an exercise in combining Pennsylvania Dutch design to a garden scene. It has been viewed frequently and one of the three has sold. The colors and style seems to fit in well and for me, color is the key.
Christmas Santa Birdhouse 

Because we are rapidly approaching the season, I also decided to see if the Christmas Santa Birdhouse would make the cut. It is unusual as I have added three legs to the standard Michael's birdhouse and used a three dimensional tree for one of the legs as well. With the addition of a few more added pieces, I felt that I transformed this very humble birdhouse into a collectible, hand painted treasure. We will see if this is right mix or not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

For emails I have received from customers on Etsy and comments from friends and relatives, I know that once in hand they are usually admired. It may not be their thing but they do appreciate the amount of work that goes into each piece. The only way I will really know then, is to get it into the hands of potential customers.

So, as I write this I am on pins and needles. I will keep you informed. It is a new adventure that I am willing to take for my art!

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Turning Traditions Upside Down

I have far too many items to paint! Birdhouses of all shapes and sizes, trays, plates, boxes even a few metal shapes ... they sit on the work bench in the garage (those I can't fit somewhere else) reminding me of what's left to be done every time I go out there to start a new project. Tubs of finished projects also line the garage clearly labeled with whats in them.
Winter Fantasy Birdhouse

Of course, this doesn't include all the other items I have purchased with the crazy idea I could glue them on a project and dress it up even more!

A friend brought me some interesting wooden pieces that I started gluing on my projects to "jazz" them up a bit. I've recounted how the simple addition of legs to a cheapie Michael's birdhouse suddenly makes it look much classier, more expensive. And that is before you do anything else to it!

Then at church the other night, there was a big tub of items labeled FREE and of course I just had to look. Inside was a bunch of stuff that wasn't of any use to me except for one small stuffed bag filled with plastic snowflakes and dots. So, I grabbed those and they became a kind of "frosting" on the cake, in this case the birdhouse roof with a few snowflakes as tree toppers on the sides as well. These were white and iridescent purple, teal depending on the light.

Hum. Teal, purple and white. Interesting colors and just enough off of red and green but still a winter's forested look. In fact, as I painted I was watching Kubrick's masterpiece "The Shining" and scared myself all over again. I did notice that in the gloom of The Overlook's snow covered trees, greens became greenish bluish and the snow shades of lavender as Jack struggles to find his son in the labyrinth. Trust me, more than a few strokes went off course!

I also spied an article on decorating Christmas objects and they too were using these colors. Honestly, though we are used to the reds and greens...the colors of holly and such, there are so many variations that would work as well. I began to wonder if shape was more important than color. At Christmas frost is not uncommon and also changes colors. Looking at the birdhouse I designed, I feel that while it could pass for Christmas there is simply no doubt that it is Winter and while colorful the details are what make it work. I kept the palette simple. Basically there are several variations of teal for some of the trees. There are a few variations of purple going from the deep red violet of the roof down to soft lavenders in the trees and tinted snow. There is white but it is softened in the hills whose greys and purples meet the sky with a bluer purple growing darker up to the roof.

Because the snowflakes are either white or iridescent, going from purples to teals, the roof seems to tie it all together making the base of white snow at the bottom tie in with the snowflakes on the roof. Using visible snowflakes seemed more fun than painting patches of snow.

Whether you like it, or maybe not, you need to experiment with the things you know and see what other variations might work as well. What can't be seen in the photo is the glitter paint on every silver tree, the curved lines of glitter paint on many of the teal trees, the dots of green on purple trees that somehow manage to tie it all together. For more photos, please check out WINTER FANTASY BIRDHOUSE on my Etsy store. It was fun but time consuming to do. Hopefully it will be an inspiration to crafters who read my blog!

Thank you for reading!

You Like This, REALLY?

Chatting with a friend I hadn't seen for awhile last night led to an interesting discussion. He was an artist that while starving decided to become a teacher. He has pretty much sidelined his art as I had let my "artistic" side stay on the sidelines when I worked full time. I did paint a few things and I showed them to him over the years as he had much more formal training than I did. He kindly observed that they were "nice" but still needed work. If I remember right, I was missing depth. I didn't try painting on canvas again for years.

Fall In Eaton Canyon
Showing him what I had been up to the past few year he was surprised at just how far I had come along. The discussion suddenly took a turn in a different direction as I skimmed past a painting I really didn't like. He stopped me and wanted to see it again.

This has been a painting done with my first formal teacher in oils from a pretty bad color photograph. It was pretty much washed out (that may have been the method to her madness) so we were encouraged to flesh in the colors. I did in spades.

He looked at it carefully, enlarging it on my phone and started talking about the things he liked. The depth for one. The way there were shadows and darkness behind the trees in the front. How it got even lighter with the foreground rocks. The colors and softness of the mountains beyond. It had great depth and the colors were quite believable.

To say the least, I was surprised. He looked at the others, said kind words about them but returned to this one, one that I considered throwing away. It was rarely looked at on my Etsy store and so figured since it's expired why waste another 20 cents?

This goes to show that when we create we always don't know exactly how it may turn out. Remember the rolled up Van Gogh recently "rediscovered" that he didn't like either? I guess, and this is true in art and life in general, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If there is any lesson here for me its that even though I am the creating artist, someone, somewhere may love it even if I don't.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is It time To Quit Painting & Crafting?

I have heard that there comes a time in every artists lifetime where they hit the wall. The time when they have run out of ideas, their vision fails. I think all of us have hit that wall no matter what we do. It is very humiliating on a variety of levels. You question your worth as a human being, how and what you know what I mean if you're over about 21, though sometimes younger.
Spooky House

What we are not prepared for, after a few sales, is the sudden and utter rejection of your artwork. I guess it really hit me this past week when I realized that as my Halloween craft items are expiring, not one sold this year. Yet, at a very tiny flea market in my town, I sold three last year. Not only were the Halloween items not selling nothing else was either. It was as if everyone had fled my store.

My wife keeps telling me, and the wonderful notes I have received from my Etsy store buyers confirm, that you have to see and hold them in person to appreciate all the work that goes into them.

This has finally prompted me to consider starting to show my things in a gallery. I have always been afraid of the kind of criticism you open yourself up to. The juried panel process. Indeed, I left a teacher and her son for doing exactly that kind of criticism. It is easy to criticize and I do it myself, yet while it is easy to do, it is very hard to take.

I have long felt that I just wasn't up to that caliber of work for gallery selling until recently. What opened my eyes this year was the Sawdust Festival. Looking carefully at the work for sale there, talking to those artists confident enough not to feel threatened (few are I found out) I finally realized that, depending on styles, I could have shown there and not have been ashamed.

So the dilemma then is what to do about the store? A friend has offered two questions.
1. Do I enjoy my art? The painting and crafting? If I do, then why worry about the store?
2. Am I trying to run it like a business? If I am, I most likely will be sorely disappointed.

He pointed out that Etsy, unlike say Pinterest is almost a closed shop. The majority of viewers are other sellers who are checking out what is out there. Its easy or not to favor something. They are not buyers just looky-loos. If I really want to sell more, I need to break out of that as my only selling mode. For some sellers this is the perfect perfect venue but with the hundreds of thousands of sellers, its easy to get lost. Indeed I have spent hours trying to figure out why some sellers always appear on page one of a search and I am buried. Is it sales? Views? If views what are they doing that I am not to get those views?

So I have to ask myself, what am I trying to do? Yes, I do enjoy the painting and crafting. When I am working I am in another world. It is one that tries to balance shapes, colors, design. Some are more successful than others but for every failure (less than perfect creation) there is a lesson that is corrected in the next item. I am proud of what I create or I wouldn't put them there for all to see.

I don't have an answer right now. I know that I am discouraged and that creating has stopped for awhile. It isn't for lack of ideas thankfully, it is for the feeling that no matter what I create, no one is interested. If any others out there have faced this dilemma, I would like to hear your thoughts and how you overcame this.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Throw The Bums Out

One of the miracles of human history was designing the social contract that was the creation of the United States. I know that sounds very xenophobic but the reality of the United States, literally, a creation of just about all of the peoples on earth, has been its ability to adapt to changing circumstances through the decades with sizable influxes of immigrants for well over 400 years. This doesn't make us any better but just very different from what was before. There are those of us today however, who wonder if it will go on. Will our inability to talk, to meet and compromise tear us apart?
In fact, anyone who is a history buff of the Civil War can recognize the same tensions that constantly threatened and finally tore our union apart. They couldn't find a way to compromise then either. While slavery certainly was a factor, the South, more than the other states believed the Constitution guaranteed them more rights than the Federal government which included leaving the union if they wished. A recent article on the Tea Party and the Republican holdouts points out the same tensions, in the same states, in rural counties who feel that the Federal government then as now, is forcing on them laws and regulations they don't and won't support.

Of course, it was always that way. The original colonies were anything but welcoming. If you weren't a Quaker or Puritan or Catholic, you were not welcome in one or many of the 13 colonies that grew on this new world. Maryland was Catholic, New England highly Puritan, Pennsylvania Quaker and so on. The settlers that came were running from something often persecution for one reason or another or landlords that kept them in a state of penury.

Every group that settled here in large numbers had discrimination to deal with. The Huguenots of France, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, the Catholics, The Irish during the potato famine, Germans in several successive waves, the Italians in the early 1900's, Asians and of course now Hispanics coming from over the border. To read the flyers, speeches and newspapers in the museum on Ellis Island is to realize that the arguments today are no different. Italians were going to put us under the thumb of the pope, the Irish were lazy though, like the Chinese, many worked and died building the railroads. Chinese men were not allowed to bring wives, marry whites and those that survived mostly were sent home.

There are many polls telling us what the public thinks of our elected officials. Besides not being able to talk to each other without their soap boxes, wave after wave of corruption trials only highlights that being in office can be the road to riches. Particularly chilling is the trial of the former mayor of Detroit who literally stole millions while the city descended into the largest bankruptcy of any city in the United States. Mile of after of this vast city is empty, barren or littered with abandoned factories, business and homes. Once home to 1.7 million citizens it barely reaches 700,000 today. It looks in fact like some third world country.

Is there a solution you ask? Of course there is. My solution is to throw them out. VOTE out of office every single elected official in the United States. It is not only the Federal Government that is dysfunctional but it reaches into every city, county and hamlet. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Elected officials are citizens who are elected to be our spokesman. They are to accurately represent how we as a collective body feel but also are given the opportunity to compromise and make the best deal they can under the circumstances. Or as George Orwell said in ANIMAL FARM, "All animals are created equal." However, what we have now is a political class that once elected seems to feel they now have the wisdom of God and know more than you do. Or as the sign on the barn says at the end of the book, "Some animals are more equal than others." Hogwash.

So, throw the bums out. I don't care how great your elected officials are, THEY are the problem. They get paid while 800,000 are furloughed, they get special retirement plans and healthcare, not the same Social Security or Medicare you and I get. Who decided that? Do we still have a king and lords? George Washington had the decency to retire after two terms of office. We have people in our Congress today that have never had another job except feeding from the government trough. The Founding Fathers never dreamed anyone would spend their entire careers in the womb of government.

Anyone observing politicians today has to wonder. Even the newspaper commented on one in my area who had to speak first and then hogged most of the allotted time; TV shows the finger-pointing each and every night. I wonder, do they see themselves? Do they realize what the people think of them? Both sides are equally at fault passing bills and resolutions they know will not see the light of day. A poll released over the weekend found that hemorrhoids had a higher rating that Congress. Even the used car salesman fared better. While Congress rarely has very high ratings, it found that voters are now starting to realize that even their representative needs to be replaced. Replaced and with limits in office.

In closing I repeat, VOTE THE BUMS OUT. The replacements will be rookies. They will not know the ropes. That could be a good thing. No more new laws for awhile since they seem to have a hard time enforcing the ones already on the books. One new good law would be, you didn't get the budget done on time? No pay. We did it in California and its amazing how they manage to get it done now. Hit 'em where it hurts. The pocketbook. They are holding us hostage, its time to fight back!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fun With Color

In art and often design, witness the new iPhone 5c in about 5 or so colors, color is important. Just because an item may only be black or white or even some dead colored grey, someone, somewhere decided what the color would be. They may even have a good argument for why as well! Now, just because they used it doesn't mean it was successful. I think many of us would agree it often isn't.

All artists know however, it is often not just one color but a range of colors, the tone or hue or saturation of colors that can make or break a painting or anything else that could be related to art and design. Over the centuries artists have developed a guide that we currently call the color wheel that "helps" use colors that are complimentary to each other. As you can see to the left, the triangles are the clues on which colors are primary (yellow, blue and red) and which colors are complimentary (orange, green and purple.)

The theory is that the colors that are directly across from each other are complimentary and work well together. This is to prevent you from making the mistake of putting say purple with green. Don't you find it interesting though that Mother Nature does it all the time and quite well! 

Art classes for centuries have used this wheel and the students didn't ever dare do something else, well, until the impressionists came along in the 1870's standing the Salon on its ear. Painting from real life, they too noticed that forbidden color combinations were in front of them each and every day. Not only was color now acceptable so were the way colors were used.

The REAL Color Wheel
I know that I spend a great deal of time choosing colors. The advent of Acrylics in more colors that you can shake a stick at has made this an even harder (or easier if you're lazy) process. I am looking at colors not unlike the color wheel on the right. There is blue and well there are lots of blues...and greens, reds, purples and so on. As a matter of fact, I took every bottle of paint I own, put it on our large patio table and with four holders of 81 spaces each, put them together by color. Light to dark and color by hue. I find though myriad colors or not, I still mix. I also find that a simplified wheel does not accurately tell you what is acceptable or not. The real color wheel gives you a far better idea because it takes hues within that color and allows you to more or less pair it with the compliment across the way. 

However, what I end up doing instead is picking colors, shaking  the bottle well then opening the bottles and lining up all the caps and seeing what works. If there still isn't that "right" color I know that I will have to make it but most of the colors are now in hand. I try not to use too many and keep them on the table in front of me. Those are my basic colors and they are used on all sides of the birdhouse, craft item or all over the painting. In fact, I now write down the colors I use in every painting.

I can hear you now. You used orange? Where else? In the trees? The house, the field? YES! I did. They are usually just touches of the color so that its use in one major place doesn't make it an orphan. I find that if you use just dabs of the same color elsewhere in the painting, where it is used the most seems to fit in better. Try it. You will be surprised. Unless you look for it, you will not notice it. That was a tip I learned from a teacher and try to remember it in every painting. Mother nature plays the same trick. Try looking for it some day. You will be amazed.

Color can be fun yet it can also be disastrous. You will have to find your own way to make colors work. However, unless you try to have some fun with color, you will never know!

Visit my store, for a good example of colors in use.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Adventures With New Ideas

My latest birdhouse was an interesting project. Always trying to make what I create better AND different than the standard item anyone can purchase at the local craft store and frequently used as well on Etsy, I wanted this birdhouse to stand out from the herd!

Christmas Santa Birdhouse by KrugsStudio
I learned earlier that merely adding some kind of feet to the $4.99 standard two-hole wood birdhouse available at just about every Michael's would change the look dramatically (see earlier blogs for the transition). A friend brought home some interesting shapes from the Las Vegas Convention that she wanted me to try out ... there were several tree shapes and snowmen, all rather three dimensional. I finally found them in the process of putting, finally, all of my paints together and easily reached. There they were, in a bag. Finally getting into the Christmas spirit I took one of the tree shapes, measured where it would have to be put glued on the birdhouse keeping everything level then glued the tree and three square legs on it.

However, the dilemma began. How do I use the tree? What kind of design would be best? I noticed a snowman in a craft magazine and suddenly it all fit together. Santa would be carrying his bag and a Christmas Tree on his rounds in a village. I put in a Prussian Blue sky and then added stars and gold glitter glue for stars farther away.

Christmas Santa Birdhouse - rear view

This is a birdhouse but hopefully one that will never see sun or rain outdoors. It stands alone as a Christmas decoration and a fun one at that. The tree on the front left was decorated with garland and decorations, Santa's bag is filled with toys and the sleeping village covers the sides and back. No one expects perfection but they do appreciate a story.

This is probably one of the most unusual items I have ever created. It no longer is merely a painted wooden birdhouse. First using the tree shape that gives depth, square feet, then the use of shapes on the roof, the gold glitter glue that was fun to use be requires caution putting down. I also used DecoArts new 3D Gloss Enamel paints with the narrow tip that allows you to create lines. I used that to outline many of the village buildings and while it gives dimension, it also requires caution as it seems to take forever to dry! I have never used mini garland before either and like the dimensionality it much more than merely being painted on.

If you want to see more of this item, check out the additional photos on my store. There are many ways to make simple things more complex without a great deal of time or effort. Being unable to use sharp cutting or power tools due to health issues, it has caused me to get creative and inventive in other ways. Hopefully you will find ways to make yourself stand out from the herd!

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apple Follows Microsoft Playbook With iOS 7: Let The Chumps Beta Test

Its been a few weeks now that I have been using iOS 7 on both my iPhone 5 and my second generation iPad. While I was pleased to see the clean interface initially, I have now become less enamored.

I will turn 68 Monday and I have discovered that to navigate menus in just too many cases I had to have my bifocals nearby. The lines are so thin that you need sharp eyes to get to the correct item or menu. I noted in the initial review that a pixel or two wider would have been better and now I KNOW it.

There are other issues though that are far more important. Things that used to work just fine may not even work at all now. In fact I know that Steve Jobs would have never allowed this to be released. He may have chosen Jony Ives to be the design guru but they had famous arguments and even the best designer often needs a firm hand. Just because its pretty doesn't mean its functional.

Battery life, something we thought was pretty much fixed in iOS 6, now takes center stage again. Literally it sucks...the juice right out of the phone. iMessage that Apple says is having problems in a small number of cases is not small when your wife yells at you when she sees you after sending six unanswered texts. From what I read, that number isn't very small either.

Syncing has become an issue again. I would never, EVER use iCloud. I don't understand how Apple can make such wonderful products and fail so dismally in the cloud. .Mac, then .Me and now iCloud are sure to create fights, anger and finally un-clouding when your phone or computer or both have the same contacts, email and Lord knows what else 10 times or to have disappeared entirely. I'm sorry Apple, its just not acceptable.

iTunes was simplicity itself. Now you just about need to be a software engineer or under 20 to understand the opening screen. It reminds me of the Kmart ads that don't waste even a quarter inch of white space. There is so much and the headlines guiding you to where you want to go are so small, I usually give up. Yet this is the ONLY way you can sync your phone or iPad. A true Catch 22!

We all know how the new fingerprint software was hacked a few hours into opening day. Now iMessage and I would guess the syncing problem is more than they are admitting. Its as if Cook, is following Bill Gates operation of Microsoft. Was there ever a version of Windows that was ready for prime time? Ever? Even with all the glitches it sometimes took years for the service packs to appear. Microsoft wonders why so many stuck with Windows 98 or more recently Windows XP. They more or less worked and no one wanted to start all over again. Has anyone really learned the newest versions of Office? Do they like it?

I can remember laughing at Windows users but since about OS 10.6, Apple has gone along the same road. Loooooong start up times, even longer shut down. A variety of screens that you are not quite sure what to do with. There is the dock, Launchpad, and Mission Control. I have several screens for a variety of different uses that I can't seem to do away with nor add to. First they stripped all your old Power PC programs until finally with 10.8 you have to have an entirely new software bundle for just about everything you used because they only support Intel chips. That $30 upgrade to 10.8 cost me $1000 in new software and three new printers.

I know that Apple feels under the gun with Android but sometimes its better to be the best than to just have it. People get angry and in this case the rumors have already started that people are giving up. Many long for iOS 6 but you can't do that. I became so frustrated after losing several doctor's appointments, times, addresses, etc., in a transfer to my computer that I swore in a Tweet this was my last iPhone. Since I won't even consider anything Samsung, I am left with Motorola and as we all know their record hasn't been so great the past few years either. Google or not.

Apple, please fix iOS 7. I heard the first Jobs announcement, bought the first phone the day it came out and have touted the advantages of Apple for years. Now, I'm not so sure. My frustration, that of my family and friends has become a chorus that is impossible to ignore.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

The Federal Trificta: The NSA, Obamacare & Congress

Great Seal Of The United States
When Edward Snowden revealed to the world the depth of the United States government's ability to spy, the world gasped. So WikiLeaks was right. I mentioned that big brother came 437 years early. The Brazilian government and probably many others are outraged. Our governments charge about Chinese cyber espionage pales in comparison.

Yet, to witness Tuesday, Oct. 1st, the first day the uninsured could sign up for affordable healthcare, was to witness the utter gross inefficiency of our government that lingers still today, six days later. It's so bad they had to take the site down for "repairs."

In fact, you have to ask is this the same government? Could they be super spies and sign up bumblers? Just how good was the NSA information?  We all know they can't design a web site or phone banks to handle the very citizens who finally were hoping to get affordable heath care coverage after months of getting the word out. Maybe that's why they demanded the records from the likes of Google and AT&T because they couldn't gather that very well either.

I remember years ago that after the movie "War Games" came out NORAD invited all the computer CEO's of the time, and there were many, to tour their mountain war room to prove that no kids on a computer ( in the 80's) were going to start a world war. I remember the article stating they all came out grey and shocked. Steve Jobs observed that the Apple IIc, a portable computer with a handle sans screen with 128k memory, was more powerful than all the computers they had just seen.

I know the state of California has spent millions on a new computer system for the DMV that's so bad they are still using systems developed 30 years ago. Are the Feds any better? They have yet to upgrade Air Traffic Control computers after spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars.

The third part of this silliness is Congress. Really. If the Republicans had just shut up, the debacle of last week would have spoken volumes.  The Affordable Care Act is law. The courts have spoken. Yet in light of its start what an election issue they would have had next year. Instead ALL of Congress, Democrat and Republican, can't get along and both aprove bills they KNOW will never see the light of day in the other house. With an approval rating of 10% the government is simply fighting itself.  Used car dealers rank higher.

We would like to believe that heads smarter and wiser than us are guiding, designing the lives we lead. Like a great painter, with paint and brush we elect our leaders hoping they are creating a beautiful scene to make our lives better and safer. Instead, all we get is finger pointing and name calling at about the playground level of the third grade.

Ronald Reagan's favorite line, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help," has come home to roost. If they can't help themselves how on earth could they ever help us? We wonder help with what? More spying? Increasingly inefficient enforcement of laws guarding who they should be watching over? A Congress more concerned about their own agendas than with the lives of the people who elected them?

There is plenty of design here folks. However, you and I are not in the equation. I started saying in 2010 and I'll say it again, there can be a grand design. You and I, each and every one CAN paint that masterpiece. Every single, with NO exceptions, elected official in the United States needs to be voted out of office. Every one. Why? Because THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. We need a clean slate. We need elected officials with set terms, unable to easily run for office again, subject to the same health and retirements plans as the people they serve have. There are no patricians families here. This is not Ancient Rome or feudal England. They are simply citizens hopefully helping to serve the country they were elected to protect. Nothing less and definitely nothing more.

This is my signature on every email. Please give it some thought as well:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke -  1795

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Designed For Failure: D-Link's Poorly Designed Router Sold By Struggling Office Depot

I'd like to relate an experience I had last Friday. It seems that I live in digital never-neverland. A place where phone companies, Internet companies and cable companies say is on "the fringe." Really? A few blocks north of Interstate 10, a block from a major state highway and only 5 miles south of Pasadena?

My troubles started years ago with AT&T. Their DSL simply sucked. After 22 visits to my home and countless techs over a three month period, each who did something different and usually made things worse, I gave up. Their DSL and Uverse is a joke. If you live in the wealthy suburbs you get the complete package. The hoi polloi get hind tit. Trust me, dial up was faster.

So my only other choice was cable, another monopoly if there was ever one. We signed up with Charter Cable - the three part package, phone, cable and Internet. Again, the same problem. The signal for whatever reason would not go beyond the walls of the house. So after several tries, routers, etc., they brought a second router that literally sits against the wall of the house in a bookcase. I get a signal in the garage but anywhere on the property if fluctuates wildly. Their mistake was giving me Speedtest. Now I have proof!

If They are building networks in must be
in the alternate universe of "Fringe"
Again, the signal was getting worse so with a friend who owns his own company in the telecommunications field, we bought a D-Link router at the nearby Office Depot. Since this is a Mac centric house, and it clearly said compatible with Apple products we went ahead and bought it. Friday we took the secondary Netgear router offline and plugged in the D-Link. I don't see how anyone can do it. Their instructions made no sense. We went online, followed the instructions and finally gave up.

Next we called D-Link. Apparently I was not alone. The wait was terrible and when we finally got a tech person, he was barely understandable. If anything his help only made things worse. My tech friend asked me, "Do you understand what he is saying?" Barely. We tried this and that. We had an internet signal but the D-Link router refused to see it. Following his instructions we got the same error messages with him again and again and again. After 90 minutes of this, plugging it here and there, unplugging and even plugging it directly into the laptop, I said enough is enough. I packed it all up and later that afternoon took it back. D-Link clearly was not ready for a Mac or anything else for that matter and why anyone would buy their products is beyond me. Who on earth could make it work? My tech friend simply couldn't believe what happened.
Their motto is "Taking Care of Business." It won't be mine!

Office Depot wouldn't take it back or even exchange it. The store was closing and there were no returns. Really I said? Even if it doesn't work? So I'm out $90? This store may be closing but the company isn't. Can I exchange it in Temple City. No. Sales are final. I looked at him and told him this was not over. I came home and wrote a letter to the CEO of Office Depot, a Mr. Austrian. I explained what I am writing here and said I felt that I should get my money back. It goes out tomorrow so we shall see.

I've noticed that places like Office Depot, Staples and such have tightened up their return policies. They put the onus on the customer NOT the manufacturer. They have it very, very wrong. Nordstrom's takes back everything. Obviously it helps their sales because they are far bigger and more successful than Office Depot. In fact, Office Depot and even weaker sister Office Max are merging. How our government ever allowed that to happen is beyond me. You can see how they are promoting competition and watching out for the public. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. If anything the government is pushing us into the arms of Amazon. They WILL take returns and I bet they put pressure on suppliers.

Every step of this was designed. The selling of the product with absolutely no checking on it for flaws or instructions that might as well stay in Chinese where it was manufactured. D-Link who acts like they have never even heard of Apple or the fact that things should and can be simple. Their own web site didn't work and no matter how many times we did what the tech said to do it, it had the same end result.

Does anyone check these things out? Is the world truly like a Dilbert cartoon? I hate to say never but you know, Office Depot and I have had it out before. Refusing to honor rebates, warranties on items they sold and often not having sales items and then never calling you when it comes in after giving you a raincheck. I guess this is a reason they are a distant second to Staples.

Why reward poor service and lousy products. If you say or do nothing, and yes it is a pain in the butt to complain but like I quote in each and every one of my emails, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This was written by Edmund Burke in 1795. Strange how very appropriate it is 218 years later. I urge you to step up to the plate. Complain. Make some noise. Eventually they will hear or as so many brand names have, they will disappear. Hopefully something better and more responsive will take their place!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Just How Many Colors Are Enough?

I don't know about you, but I have learned a lot about me over the past few years. Where once when I needed a color besides basic blue, red, yellow or green, I mixed it. Of course color theory was important and books were written on how to get this color or that. Also very important was how to give a certain color different casts, etc. By that I mean a green that has a blue tint, or yellow tint, even a red tint. It was all very nebulous. You were happy if you happened to stumble on the right combination of very basic colors.
DecoArt's American Acrylic Paints

Today, however, there are many more "basic" colors than what the old masters ever knew. Whether its oil, watercolor, acrylics even pastels and colored pencils, the choices of colors is staggering. Just visit an art store, like Dick Blick, and you will see not only a staggering range of colors but an equally daunting selection of types all within the same brand.

I realized this yesterday working on two different projects. In class I moved forward on my painting of Yosemite at sunrise. It was beginning to take shape but as I tried to capture the colors, mostly muted in the first blush of sunrise, I realized that with all the colors to choose from, they were still plenty missing. 

DecoArts Americana line must have well over 200 colors and they are adding new ones all the time. But, while there are mere shades of difference in some colors, others are missing or need some help to get the colors seen in nature. I ended up, like the Old Masters, doing what they did...mixing paint. I have to admit that it is rewarding to get that special color. There is nothing wrong in mixing colors. However, I know in the crafting world, creative artists call out very specific colors for their projects and the crafters want that same exact color, even if its merely a drop of one color. I can remember a class in Las Vegas where we worked on a Santa's face for well over two hours. It had 15 colors on it. Getting all these colors in the class took up half the time. As the teacher moved forward we were moving paint.

The project I worked on last night was a birdhouse that I wanted to create for Christmas. It had been percolating in my mind for days and finally I found a way to work it out and start creating it. Again I confronted colors that I would need. I have probably 300 colors and yet, one is always searching for the right one. Really. I wanted a twilight sky in the background moving up to the roof that would be night. It was a peach here, then a lighter blue moving on to a darker blue with Prussian Blue the roof color. It looks pretty good and stands out against the black-green cypress and Christmas tree on the birdhouse.

As you can imagine choosing those few colors was a challenge. It was this that made me realize just how many colors do we need. Would it have been easier to mix my own from a few basic colors or is part of the challenge to find the "right" color from the many colors I own? However, many, maybe too many times, I find that I am back like painters of old mixing the color I want.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sometimes Ya Gotta Let Go

In a sense I'm between projects right now.  Oh, I'm trying to paint a landscape of Yosemite but it's barely started and it looks very tentative.  I have a unformed, almost crazy idea for a Christmas birdhouse with a Santa; it's barely realized. Pencil scratches on wood and paper.

Colors With A Purpose!
I'm finally getting in the mood for Christmas so in digging into my cache of after season purchases happened upon a bunch of wood Christmas ornaments. Painting them is mindless yet challenging. It's mindless in that the pattern is already there. You use it or not. The challenge is picking the colors I will use and the techniques I'll use to that make them uniquely my own.

A friend complicated me the other day on my use of color.  I was surprised he was that aware. He thought it was a wonderful gift and admired it. Others have said this over the years too.  Looking at the ornaments I was spending far too much time on for far too little value it dawned on me that these were my guinea pigs. It was here I played with colors that later would help me create my "Crazy Quilt Series," play with the abstract Birdhouses and even affect the colors I use in my paintings.

I can remember in my advertising layout class our director talked a lot about color listing the does and don'ts. One forbidden combo was green and red unless it was Christmas. He gave me a funny look as he explained this to the class. He knew I'd try to violate this and I did. I created an avocado green (a color all the rage in the 60's) and blood red women's dress layout. It was bold and stunning. In those days the type headlines had to be hand drawn as were the illustrations. I chose a vertical half page layout letting the colors fall down the page. My classmates gasped when I showed it. It got an "A." I wasn't sure if it was good or he gave me the grade for my audacity. I think it worked because I just let go.

If we are good students of nature, and all artists should be, Mother Nature uses colors in ways we often cannot capture but also in combinations we are often afraid to try. If anything I've learned that there are many more combinations that we are afraid to try than we would ever use.

Years ago when we were setting up a color palette for our new upstairs addition, we spent countless hours deciding on colors. My wife wanted forest green floral wallpaper and I wanted to continue the colors from downstairs, peaches, creams and pinks. We finally found the floral that picked up the new colors, used the peach and cream trim from the living room and found a rich coral for the carpet. In swatches it was perfect.

Because the upstairs had all kinds of angles due to dormers and such I ended up painting everything. We couldn't get a painter to even look. The painting took a month.  Next came the wallpaper guy who spent a day. Rushing home after work I ran upstairs and got immediately ill. It didn't work. The peach clashed with the green.  All I could think of was I would have to paint again and now the wallpaper and carpet arriving the next day would be in place. My mother-in-law came over the next day to oversee the carpet guys and rare for her called me at work. She was all bubbly and said she thought I'd be very happy. Coming home I was reluctant to see the damage but was stunned at the transformation. The darker coral toned down the peach, highlighted the flowers giving us both light on the north side and the green toning down the south facing side. It was perfect.

We can always use the tried and true. However, if you want to spice up even the simplest thing, sometimes ya just gotta let go!

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