Friday, January 31, 2014

The People's Treasure: How The Auction Houses Are Trying To Rob Detroit

It seems that there will soon be a collision of art events that will make a splash to catch the publics attention regarding our artistic heritage.  I'm referring of course to the attempts by private sources to force the city of Detroit to sell many, if not all, of their artistic treasures to cover some of the costs of their pension obligations as Detroit struggles through its bankruptcy nightmare in court.

The other event is the movie "Monuments Men" that tells how the United States Army, with a cadre of experts, managed to save the majority of the great works of art looted by Hitler at the end of World War II. Since the movie doesn't come out till February 7th, let's focus on Detroit.

"Watson and the Shark" by American Artist John Singleton Copley
From the beginning, the Detroit Institute of Art, similar to both Chicago's and Toledo, OH museums, housed magnificent works of art with monies given by wealthy families to sponsor and foster the arts. Its current collection has more than 65,000 works, is housed in nearly 700,000 sq. ft. of space having the 5th largest collection in the United States.

In scenes not dissimilar to the rape of the Barnes Collection by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the DIA seems ready to be plucked.  Sotheby's Auction House even estimated that an assortment of the collection might bring from about $485-785,000,000 . Many critics, myself included, have screamed howls of rage at these valuations.  Even that hardly reliable source, Wikipedia, gives a value over $1 billion. Housing one of America's best collections of American artists, I find Copley's painting in the collection especially apt. Can't you see the auctioneer pushing the drowning man away with a gavel? "Mine, mine, its ALL mine!!!

These valuations mirror the Philadelphia Museums attempts to say Barne's 583 priceless Impressionist works of art, art most any art lover would recognize instantly, a collection that had 189 Renoir's, 7 Van Gogh's plus Monet's, Gauguin's, Matisse, Degas', Cézanne and many others, were worth around $485 million as they struggled and finally did, break its trust. Curators around the world howled the true value started at about $4.4 billion (nearly 20 years ago now) and would more likely go up from there. One Matisse was considered priceless. Remember, these artists are dead. There will be no more. Ever, again.

Reading today of groups trying save the museum as it is today, patrons are willing to create its own non-profit to shield the museum which oddly is city owned but withdrew funding years ago. Looking up the collection to see what the fuss was about, since I've never been there, I was stunned to see more than a few masters. Considering that The Getty purchased Van Gogh's "Irises" for the stunning amount of $56 million over 20 years ago, just looking at the Rubens, Van Gogh's, Degas', Renoir's, Sisley's, Dore, Delocroix, Dürer's, Rembrandt's and many others, just plucking a few from that list alone would bring $800 million. For us Antiques Roadshow buffs they might get $5 - 10 billion on auction.

The larger question is, does it really matter? Do any of us really care?

I say we should care. Modern man, Homo Sapiens, left their African origins around 50,000 years ago. In a feat not accomplished by our Neanderthal relatives, it appears they settled the entire earth, that which was habitable, within a few thousand years. That had never happened before. Not only did they settle the earth, they left art that even today leaves us breathless. Visiting the Lascaux Caves in France, over 18,000 years old, we are still in awe of what our ancestors created. As we study our genetic history we are finding that more and more of the things we do have a genetic imprint. It appears art was one of those as well.

A museum is a thoughtful collection of art, usually brought from around the world and yes, can be in circumstances that beg the difference between purchasing and looting. I admit I laughed at Luxor when our guide noted a matching obelisk was in Paris. When I saw it in Paris I realized it was far better treated there than it would be in Egypt. There is so much and they are so poor they can barely manage what they know about. You walk, even today, over the ruins of Memphis. No one is really sure what is under our feet but as royal capital for more than 2,000 years, there must be something.

Art is an expression of man's place in this world. Be it ethnic, religious, cultural or national, it depicts with images, long before writing, how he feels he fits in. Few people on any place on earth are not moved by art, at least by the standards of what they understand. I don't expect a pigmy to understand a Renoir, though he might, but he will identify with an esteemed tribal artist that creates something that he understands. Art is often a mirror showing us what is. I read a fascinating book once that said modern artists in their own way used 20th century art, art that seemed to just come out of themselves, to predict the traumatic changes the digital age would create.

Art is our legacy. Every person needs to be exposed. We took our children from the time they were born to museums. They love going to them today and make interesting observations regarding a painting and events in their lives. That is what art is supposed to do. Connect us to our world. To gut a museum is to rob all of us of this legacy. When merely 85 of the richest families on earth control more wealth than 3.5 billion people, do you think we would ever see this heritage again? At least in our lifetimes? I think not. What's mine is mine and you can kiss off the riff raff, the same riff raff that had they been exposed to art might have created even more.

As a church colleague observed during one discussion to the stunned listeners in the room, "Money turns the crank," maybe its time to say wait a minute. Lets talk about this. Is it fair to all concerned? Should we let money make the decision for us or is there a greater good that can happen here? I think its time to have that discussion. What do you think?

Visit for my latest night light birdhouse. Thank you for reading!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Moving Forward From Prostrate Cancer: What Every Man Needs To Know

Alan Krug of KrugsStudio
One of the most consistent threads of this blog has been the "design" of things in our lives. While we think that things just happen, more often they are the result of some sort of design. While many man made things often do not work out as planned, there was an attempt at design that either worked or didn't.

Medicine is a perfect example of man's attempt to "design" better health. Many a wag has said that a doctor has a practice because well, he is still learning what to do ... he is practicing with the implication that he is practicing on you! Years ago my General Practitioner on giving me a medicine said that in giving me this medicine it was an experiment. While they knew what it should do, they didn't know what it would do to me.

After prostrate surgery and all the steps that led up to it, I've discovered that not much has changed. Once I was over the initial shock of the implications and proof of the cancer, I then had to deal with the technologies currently available. While the awareness of breast cancer is rather robust, oftentimes reported on the nightly news. prostrate cancer, even among men is rarely IF ever talked about. There are walks and fun raisers for breast cancer but there is never even a whimper about prostrate cancer. Well over 200,000 new cases occur every year, over 60,000 die of it each year and something approaching 50% of all men have it when they die though it usually is NOT the case of death.

When I revealed to a poker group, men I've known for over 20 years, my diagnosis everyone sat poker faced and silent; then we "moved" on to other things. Finally one of them later told me he was under watchful waiting, something I knew I would never have.

My decision was surgery. After a battle between doctors adamantly against and those gently for surgery I made my decision when both sides told me that they would never know the severity of the cancer until they had it and could do the pathology of it. My GP sensing my fear and frustration referred me to the City of Hope and the surgeon I spoke too gave my wife and I a program and procedure that made sense. He would use robotics, the least invasive form of surgery that would also respect my own severe blood clotting problems. He said he could quote all kinds of long term statistics but he couldn't give me my own. I might still need radiation but until they could run the pathology of the cancer no one would know.

After my urologist adamantly opposed surgery and the radiation oncologist noted that without the cancer they would not know enough about it, I made the decision for surgery.

I am writing this in my den. I have been home four days now. I am stiff and a bit sore around the lower middle where I have 5 holes, four of them glued shut after robotic surgery. My City of Hope surgeon has a strict protocol that allowed me to get up and walk around hours after the surgery, and come home the next day. Once, this was one of the bloodiest types of surgery known as the prostrate is buried deep in the body. Now with the miracles of robotics little holes are put in you, a robot with tools and television gives a clear view of your insides and within a few hours the surgery is completed, blood loss is minimal and you are, at least in my case, good to go!

That said, I urge EVERY man and those that love a man to do two things every year after he turns 50 (40 if you have a family history of prostate cancer); they are:
1. Get a digital prostrate exam. Yeah the doc's finger goes you know where
2. Get a blood PSA test, this measures the prostrate-specific antigen. Readings over 4 need to be checked out. My PSA of 4.2 led to another digital exam that found a lump and a diagnosis. There is no pain with prostrate cancer until it reaches the bones. Then, well, I hear its a miserable death.

After this, my third strike at a near death experience, what will be my design? I have no intentions of giving up. My life may be changed in ways I may not like or want but I will have a life for awhile more. For me, my family and friends my art, such as it is, will be my legacy. It will be my decision on how I design these remaining years of my life. Can we ask for anything more?


The Grammys; Designing The Music We Hear

I am 68. Watching the Grammys for the first time in a few years last night, especially after making
the transition to Country Music that I feel has a lot more "meat", was like visiting an unknown land. Oh sure, I recognized the host, L.L. Cool Jay, but as the guy catching the bad guys on NCIS: Los Angeles.  I have not a clue what records he's recorded nor do I care.

Oh sure there was homage to the band "Chicago" with a few new faces and of course they dragged out Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr so the white haired set could remember their youth. There were others but they hadn't grown up either. All in all however, it's the tribute to those youngsters who have broken through. In fact the first award for best new group was given to two young men without a record label. They self recorded and promoted. If that doesn't give heartburn to record execs I don't know what will. Getting seventy or eighty cents on iTunes per sale is more than the best artists ever got from their record companies. Trust me.

There are roughly 167,000 singers and groups in the United States as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure will grow about 5% over the next decade, one of the lowest job categories in the country.  Last night there were what, 20? 30? 40? performers? And they came from Europe and Australia too. So using 40 artists, a new artist has about a .00023952% chance of making it in today's very competitive pop music world. Pretty daunting isn't it?

Watching the antics of bad boy Justin Bieber or the outrageous costumes of Lady Gaga, the twerking of Miley Cryus  who may have already peaked, I began to realize what they do is every bit as carefully organized as any painting or crafters creation. It is their way of breaking out from the herd. However, are they the best or is their spin, like rival politicos, better than the competition?

A fascinating article today compared Bieber with Frank Sinatra who after a spectacular start was written off by the early 50's.  He didn't think Bieber was much of a singer but the antics, for now anyway, gave him the bad boy image every artistic type seems to favor. And if you're my age you know who I mean. As the Bible so aptly observes, "There really is nothing new under the sun" as much as every generation thinks there is.

Sinatra's antics bothered the record execs and newer artists who toed the line replaced him. Capital Records took a chance on this washed up artist and produced some of the most iconic music ever recorded. Frankie had his moments but much was forgiven because of that voice.

This however, begs the question, how DO we stand out from the herd? Are we to take Pollack's models and have them smear paint with their nude bodies on canvas, or follow Andy Warhol where anything was okey dokey? Right now I'm not aware of anyone in the art field acting outrageously, and I say it's time. Why should we be left out? After all painters have been outrageous actors for centuries. Are we to allow these upstarts to take our mantle from us? Where is the new Dali, Picasso, Gauguin, Goya, Michelangelo, artists who took art to the next level both on a truly artistic level but whose personal antics made them noticed and influential.

I don't have the answer but obviously those "artists" did.  They were on TV last night and I'm thinkin' none of my paintings or birdhouses ever will be. However, should I ever accept an award on TV I won't have to be bleeped either.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Antique Stores, Where Our Lives Go To Be Reborn?

This past weekend, my wife and I took a three day vacation to just get away before my surgery as it might be awhile before we can get away again. Since it is one of our favorite places to go through on the way to the wineries we decided to stay near Temecula's Old Town and check out all the shops and eateries.

Temecula is a town I have visited for well over 30 years watching it literally grow from a two horse town to a city approaching 200,000 with some of the finest wineries in the world nearby. The Old Town has also "improved" over the years keeping a kind of Old West architecture even with new construction. It is known for food but especially for a plethora of "antique" shops along Front Street.

Antique Store, Temecula, CA
Visiting an antique store is almost like stepping into, well, a tomb. Trust me we saw plenty of those in Egypt. In fact the National Museum is so poorly kept it looks like someones long abandoned and dusty barn! Bring a dust cloth and a flashlight.

Antique stores are endlessly fascinating yet at the same time, saddening. You have to think that here are items that in their time and place were used and probably cherished. Now, they clutter up endless small consignment booths owned by sellers that spent countless hours at yard sales, estate sales, even flea markets then brought them here to sell yet again, hopefully at a profit.

The question is, WHO will buy this, ugh, crap? Several years ago I helped with a fund raiser at the monthly swap meet at Pasadena City College. As we were setting up the items, several were deemed so bad by the ladies that they wanted to dump them. I insisted that no, they will sell. And they did within the hour to everyone's surprise. My father-in-law used the term "my trash can be your treasure" and he was surely right. Then later on, when I was checking out the other booths looking for a treasure to paint or transform in some way, I spotted some of the items that were in our booth. Proudly displayed at double the price. I was stunned. First because we didn't charge enough I guess and the realization that this is a game, at least for some. Booths are so often chock-a-block filled that it takes a real keen eye to separate the wheat from the chaff. Antiques store are no different. The most successful buyers go with a single purpose in mind and ignore all the rest.

Have you ever wondered what will happen to the items we create and sell on Etsy? I never did until last weekend. Seeing old toys I once had, items my family or grandparents had used, I suddenly wondered is this where it all ends? Yet, as long as you get a fair price for it in your lifetime, I guess it doesn't matter what becomes of it. As I gazed at paintings so dirty you could hardly tell what the subject was, or small items so outrageously priced you had to wonder what they were smoking, it made me think of my our artistic legacy. I guess, we will never know. All we can do as creative artists to create the best that we know how!

Visit for a wide variety of original hand painted and decorated items.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Creating A Lifetime Gift - The Creation of A Tray

As I continue my journey into folk art, Rosemaling, Pennsylvania Dutch, Swedish and Danish folk art designs, I find that there is great commonality and yet room for diversity. I have mixed them up and laughingly call what I create Krugmaling or literally Krug Painting. My gift to my daughter this Christmas is a perfect point in fact.

I very much wanted to create something that was attractive, a kind of home decor if you will and yet usable! I had purchased some thick sturdy trays at a show and decided that the time had come to to use them.

My wife wanted to put a needlepoint project she did on the bottom of one and cover it with glass. I wanted to create a beautiful piece of crafters art as a Christmas present. Staining them both dark made both of the trays work for what they were going to display.

I doodled a lot creating this tray. There are a whole bunch of different elements here. A little Rosemaling, a little Pennsylvania Dutch, Danish folk designs and some Krug additions to spice it up and keep the tray working as a whole.

One of the things I did that was different was not repeat the pattern along the length inside. I wanted a top and bottom. If you look carefully at the center there are three flowers under the center flower on top but not on the bottom. The bottom portion has two flowers spread out. Why? I just wanted there to be a difference. Standing up displayed it makes sense and is very attractive. It is almost craft painterly.

I wanted bright cheerful colors to stand out against the dark wood. I think I achieved that quite well. I didn't make it garish or unbelievable. I only painted the long side edges because if it is used, Varathaned or not, the paint will get rubbed off when using the handles over time. Only the sides are decorated borrowing the theme from inside the tray.

To create it, I stained the wood first with Minwax black walnut, let that dry a few days and then I sketched the entire design with a white chalk pencil. While it makes no difference, I started with the largest flowers, then smaller flowers. There was a base and several layers on top to give them a sort of 3D appearance. Once those were in place I did the leaves, darker greens on the bottom of each branch, lighter on the top. Finally all the accents were added last. A pale green to accent the leaves and red and blue to accent the flowers so that ALL colors were used to tie the entire pattern together.

I have not done something this for my store, yet. Not sure if it would sell. The concept though is wonderful. You get a wonderful display piece and when the occasion requires it, a useful item for entertaining. This is a concept well worth working on!

Please visit for a wide variety of craft and fine art paintings and photography.
Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Picking The "Right" Brush Makes All The Difference

Art for me, painting in particular, is a journey. Some of what I do is self taught, either just picking up some tool and using it then seeing what happens, sometimes it changes by something that I read and another time from a class that I take. Most of the time though it's a lesson I learned by using a brush and either liking or disliking what I did with it. Those lessons last the longest!

Since I never really had any formal art training as an adult, just what a teacher might say or what I see on a YouTube demo or read in a book, brushes are a kind of mystery.

Painting with DecoArt's Satin Acrylic Paints
When DecoArt sent me their new Satin Paints, I wanted to make a Christmas gift for a friend who has anything he wants. This would be my artistic gift, one he couldn't buy anywhere else. He wanted 6 tulip glasses with my own designs and my painting.

To start, I purchased a $1 wine glass from the 99¢ Store to try out a pattern and the paint. It didn't look very good. When I showed it to my teacher she pointed out that you needed a very soft brush when using acrylic paint on the smooth, slick surface of the glass. I had put several coats of paint on the glass but it looked, well, amateurish.

My second through seventh attempts were better and in fact got much better as I used a very soft  and longer bristled teklon brush quickly learning to use the brush and the paints to my advantage. Some people like a flat but I favor filbert brushes because the rounded front edge isn't so harsh. I found that you really needed to load the brush with paint and use a gentle touch to avoid leaving streaks. For me, at least, the long tongued filbert gave me more wiggle room. Sometimes I had to go back for a second coat but by the last glass I felt that all in all they looked pretty good. Remember, I wanted only a design that was used on both sides of the glass as I didn't want to completely cover the entire glass. That would have been a lot easier! That will be next!

I should point out though, that I did use a round liner brush for some of the scroll work but most of the painting was done with several different filbert brushes.

The Satin paints while pretty cool do require a learning curve. Like I said, they are easy to streak and require thicker loads on brushes than many of us are accustomed to or are comfortable with. A little practice helps and you will soon find the best way for you to completely cover the surface you are working on.

While you can let them air dry for a week or so to make them dishwasher proof, you can also put them in the over and cure them at around 300º for 30 minutes then letting them cool in the oven with the door open. That also seems to level out the paint and give you a smoother, more professional finish.

I found that once the base coat was on, you could pretty much treat the glass just like a piece of wood or other paintable surface. It would even allow texture and thickness to show making sure everyone realized this wasn't just a print on a glass; it was your hand painted original design.

Be sure to visit for a wide selection of craft and fine art hand painted items.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why You (Always?) Need A Teacher / Mentor In Your Artists Life

Seriously, I have been what I consider being an artist for about four years. I have painted on and off my whole life but it was only when I started painting on a regular basis that I suddenly saw myself blossom as an artist. Now I know that defining an "artist" is very subjective and what I define as an artist may be very different than what YOU consider to be artist. That was the clash that has resonated between the Salon and the Impressionists. In fact, it has resonated throughout the ages and that clash is what spawns and has spawned the all great movements in art.

I started being able to paint in oils only after I started going to an artist, Margot Lennertz at the Creative Arts Gallery in Sierra Madre, CA. Even in her 80's at the time, she was a wonderful start and showed us how to use oils. The times I tried I made mud.  However, it was from my first mistake, buying an acrylic magenta paint instead of oil, that led me to what I considered a wonderful way to under paint. I have taken classes from artists who use a solid background, orange, black, deep green whatever to accentuate the colors placed on top. I immediately liked the acrylic base and I didn't have to worry about contaminating the oils and yet was easily able to let that magenta, ala California Impressionism, show through. Near the end of my time with Margot she had come to the same conclusion. I don't know if she ever acted on it. I've never let it go.

However, it was after attending the shows in Vegas, plein air painting and reading books by other artists that my own art started to shift in ways I seemed to have no control over. Margot and I seemed to be moving in different directions when I remembered a teacher I had in Vegas and decided during the summer of 2010 to visit her shop and see what she had to offer. Diane Trierwriler of the Tole Bridge in Norco, CA had been a teacher for 25 years and we hit it off! That fall I started going there and my painting changed forever.

She encouraged me to do whatever I wanted as this was an open workshop Thursday mornings and since I was retired it was easy to go east in the morning and come home in the afternoon against the traffic. It was this collaboration that had my art suddenly shift yet again and it both matured and became a style that people could identify as mine. It was not what I had expected it to be but I seemed unable to stop this progression. Have any of you had this happen? You start with what you style you want to be, as an artist, and then watch, almost detached, it become something else entirely?

Multnomah Falls, First conclusion
Multnomah Falls, Second conclusion

A perfect case in point about having a mentor is shown in these two images, actually, the same painting. The one on the left was finished before Christmas. I looked at that painting throughout the holidays and was not happy with it. It seemed to lack depth. Going back to class last week I again dragged what I had thought was a finished painting and tried to understand what was wrong. Without saying much and never touching a brush to this painting, she suggested that I look at the darks and lights. The background needed to recede a bit, but not too much. The key here were the trees on the upper left and the shear wall behind it. So I applied a wash of color that both darkened it yet left those trees to stand out making it very clear there was distance between that wall and the hill the trees were on.

Then I played with the shear wall itself. Part of it was in the sun but most was in the shade. By darkening one side and lightening the other depth was added. Next came the water. The addition of Prussian blue throughout gave the water more depth...lights and darks that was apparent in the original scene. By manipulating the water where it pooled, and spattering white around it, the water took on oddly enough more power and force, what it had as it roared down!

Each of the banks coming forward had color added, a careful balancing act of not too much but more than the bank behind it. The brightest and richest in detail was the hill just above the water. It gained not only color but texture and detail. You can almost see the rocks yet they were not so detailed that it overrode what could be seen throughout. 

It took only two hours to correct, or should I say, finish? I had a good base but it needed refinement, refinement that mere suggestions helped me see and made it possible for me to finish.

That is why it never hurts to have a teacher and mentor. I have heard from many artists that they have a person they admire and discuss things with. It never hurts to ask for help!

Visit to see this and other wonderful acrylic and oil paintings.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Americans And Color

Years ago, the first time we visited our Danish friends, they took us to the local mall in Odense. From the outside it looked kind of bunkerish, but inside it was a riot of color. And I mean COLOR! Walls in bright primary colors - yellow, red, green, blue! Your teeth would vibrate they were so bright! Looking around all but dazed our friends laughed and said that in Denmark you need to get people to buy so merchants use lots of color. He said most of the year is grey and dark so bright colors perk them up to buy things. Then looking at me he observed, "In the states they must calm you down with pastels so you will buy."

I have thought about that statement on an off over the years and after yet another trip to Norway and Denmark last summer, realized that is still true. American malls are swathed in pastel colors though with the influx of immigrants from other nations, I have noticed their shops use much more color. Panda Xpress while an American company of immigrants uses red and black, Hispanic stores are more colorful too. Going to Oliveria Street in Los Angeles, the tiny shops are literally a riot of color. I often take photos to remember combinations I would have never tried!

One of the most common comments on my Etsy store is about my use of color. People say they love them and to be honest, some of the brightest items seem to sell first. Not all, but many. When I was trying to adapt what became my CELESTIAL BIRDHOUSE, I knew that I wanted it to be colorful. A bright blue sky reduces to a lighter blue, a golden yellow sun with golden rays would be punctuated with my growing fascination with Zentangles. The colors had to be bright, cheerful yet had to work together to create a united whole.

This birdhouse, a 3 room "condo," came with a wire hanger. A friend, looking at it commented that the wire was ugly and didn't compliment the wonderful birdhouse. While the wire would be needed to hang it, I had to agree that it was indeed ugly. After all the work to create a unique birdhouse, that plain old wire was a blight on my work. I scrounged around and found some raffia my wife used for projects and wrapped it around the wire. Its soft tan color is the perfect foil and it looks now like the amazing birdhouse it is.

I have often wondered about our use of color. Even as bright as Impressionist paintings are compared to the dark and often murky salon paintings, few have the bright richness and intensity that Van Gogh and Gauguin had. There's a reason STARRY NIGHT is considered by many the finest painting ever made. Its deep and intense blues counterpointed by the rich yellows of the stars and moon resonate with us. The fellow expressionists that followed have never had the acclaim the masters of Impressionism had.

Today, when gallery looking in Palm Springs, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles and even Las Vegas, I notice that people tend to shy away from anything too bright. And yet, many artists use bright colors! Maybe we are just not comfortable with color or at least too much of it. That's why, in just about any home, you should set aside a place to add a color accent. I'm not saying paint a wall red, but use an accent that uses red or bright yellow or green. Just a splash of color can make an entire room come alive.

If you love color please visit my store, Each and every one is the perfect accent piece to compliment your good taste AND colors! If you see something you like but need another color way, email me. I can certainly give it a try!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Using Quark 10.02

Quark used to be the premier desktop publishing software in the world. Since it lagged behind Adobe after Apple changed operating systems - going from 9.0X to the new Unix based 10.X, not once but twice with software running on OS 9.X, they gave Adobe with their creaky PageMaker the opportunity to come back with their "new" InDesign, actually a glorified PageMaker. The difference? It could run on Mac's OSX software.

The first few iterations were terrible. But it meant to designers that they didn't have to have two operating systems running on their machines tying up memory. Finally, when Quark launched QuarkXpress 6.0 it was already too late. Because desktop publishing used PhotoShop and Illustrator anyway, and they were already Adobe products, the integration of InDesign was just too good to pass up. In just two years Quark was toppled.

They haven't gone out of business and have continued to upgrade. First 7, then 8, then 9 and now finally 10.02. I stayed with 7.5 until I upgraded to Apple OS 10.8. It stripped all of my older, non Intel based software. I lost two thirds of my software in that move and had to spent a thousand dollars to replace it. Adobe, MicroSoft, even Apple products. I was furious. Quarks solution was to have me buy version 8 at the time for $349. I dug in my heals and bought an Adobe package that included PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign and others I would never use.

My year with InDesign was not happy. I hated it. Then I inherited a project that someone designed for a client and I literally pulled out what little hair I had left. I got it done but not by what you would call good desktop publishing standards. It was ugly anyway and I proposed a total redo. I decided there and then it would be done on Quark.

I broke down and bought Quark 9.5. Installing it was hell. It took over two weeks to get it up and running. The customer service rep for Quark, bless her heart, tracked me all over Southern California trying to help me. Finally, I was home, sitting in front of my computer when she called and after an hour or so isolated the problem and got it installed on my iMac. It loaded on my laptop in a heartbeat. The difference though is I would rather work on a 24" screen rather than one 15".

I am sure it can do lots of wonderful things but I didn't have time to watch a bunch of videos to find out what I needed to learn. They don't even have a PDF version yet! Luckily the commands I knew still worked but unless I stumbled on it, I didn't learn one new thing. You see, no one is writing third party books about Quark anymore. That is how far they have fallen from grace.

When I upgraded to Apples's 10.9 Mavericks, the same thing happened to Quark. It wouldn't work. Everything else did, just not Quark. I entered the seven circles of hell again and after multiple (and still) calls, I got 10 installed. Its hell. Each and every time I load it, weird things happen and just as I am about to reach for the phone, it finally loads.

When I say loads, do you remember Windows 3.1? You could run to Starbucks, mail a letter and fill up the gas tank in the time it took to load. Now granted, I don't have the newest iMac, its only a dual core Intel chip, but I can measure the minutes it takes for Quark to load... 4 - 5 minutes on average. On a quad core laptop it takes about the same time. So its not the processor. Its Quark.

As a visual learner, I loved the QuickStart books because not only did they explain steps of using a software program with words, they had screen shots for us visual learners. I loved those books and buy them when they are available. There hasn't been one for Quark since maybe version 7. In 10 they changed the screen around yet again and oftentimes don't even know where anything is. Commands have been changed as well. In correcting a project yesterday, I suddenly had a pale blue box that covered the entire top of the screen not allowing me to look for commands. I finally had to shut the program down, re-launch (got in a short nap) and continued on.

As a computer user, older but certainly experienced, I don't understand the need to constantly replace things. If it works, leave it alone. I know, I know. Money turns the crank. If you beef it up you can change for it all over again. People have this need for the latest thing. I have learned that isn't always the best tact to take. I regret going to Apple's 10.9 OS, I literally hate iOS 7 for my beloved iPhone. Things worked well. If new things needed to be done, that is fine, but why mess with how it worked before? Anything new can be an option AND clearly explained.

Adobe is trying to get everyone to go into the cloud with their software. You pay a monthly fee and never own the software again. Their argument is, Microsoft started it, that you will ALWAYS have the latest and greatest versions. What if you don't want that? Now, and I only have Office 2011, every single time I load Office there is an update. Every time! That 5 minute letter is now 15 IF you are lucky and the update is small. Besides I hated 2011. Everything I knew about Office changed and I poke around all the time looking for things. If I had my way, Word 5.1 would reign supreme.

But back to Quark. I really don't know what to do. The documentation is at best minimal, there are no third party books to explain things and so, I guess I will learn to hate it just like InDesign. I hope someone from Quark is listening. Get your documentation done, give us clear instructions, not silly videos, on how to use your product. Sit down with your users, give them a task and watch what they do. Software people literally are so close to the trees they can't see the forest!

For completed AND totally unique items, please visit A visual feast awaits you! Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Miracle of Murphy's Oil

If there is any reader here that crafts, like me, you have more that a few things ruined by paint. Clothes, paint brushes, trays, palettes, countertops, sinks and probably more than a few other places in the kitchen.

There are a variety of products out there that are supposed to remove paints, oil or acrylics, maybe some glues but despite their cost, I really haven't found anything better than plain old Murphy's Oil. I think I've tried them all too. Everyone has their favorite and is willing to give you advice.

One type comes as a cake that works well enough on a still wet brush. Dried and hard, nope.  Some of the fabric paint removers are best used outside, maybe in a gale force wind. I nearly passed out on one that had enough chemicals to give you a true high! The paint still remained on my clothes but I'm convinced my sinuses were squeaky clean!

The Murphy's Oil tip was made offhand by a teacher I had in Vegas.  I was the only one that picked on it but made sure I got a bottle when I got home. Needless to say I had paint on my clothes. I put some on, let it set a day or so, troubled the spot again, gave them another squirt and washed them.  Most of the spots were gone.  What remained was nearly invisible and a few washes later was gone.

The more dramatic transformation though is what happens to a stiff brush. Stiff? I mean rock hard! Mixing a 50-50 combination of water and Murphy's Oil, soak that brush.  Sometimes it's pretty fast, other brushes take awhile but in the end the brush becomes clean AND completely pliable again.  It's truly a miracle. This also works on palettes and counters as well.  Tonight I cleaned a plastic palette dish that I had forgotten to clean yesterday. The paint was rock hard acrylic paint. I poured a little oil in there and awhile later cleaned it out.

Murphy's Oil also comes in a spray bottle that works well too. It's already pre-mixed. All you need to do is spray it on the let it do it's work.

I've been told another great attribute of Murphy's Oil is that besides removing paints on many surfaces, it also, for brushes,  puts back natural oils for the bristles keeping them pliable. No other products need to be used. In fact, I don't use anything else ... well, except Dawn Detergent to wash my brushes when I am through that session.

If you have paint on clothes, frozen brushes or paint spattered countertops, give Murphy's Oil a try! If nothing else it makes a great general all around cleaner and wood loves it!

Visit KrugsStudio at I post new hand painted, original designs in a variety of accessory items all the time. There is something for just about every budget!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Battle Of The Giants: Wal-mart vs. Etsy

Since about October, when Etsy released their new code of crafters ethics, they finalized a prediction that WIRED magazine had made the year before ... that craftsman, like me, who only made one of a kind things were going to be competing with people, who may have started like me on Etsy but who grew so large that they were still designing but not making anything anymore. They became so popular they had it made somewhere else or were using additional workers. In any event, they were no longer "individual" craftsmen. My retort was, and still is, "everything" we use is designed by someone and usually created by someone else. What then would distinguish Etsy from Wal-mart?

The day that announcement was made, hundreds, if not thousands, fled to and crashed their servers.

Then Craft-Star, another Etsy wannabe did the same thing. They sent an email asking its members, those that had about 1,000 of the same thing laying around, to sell it for two days at 50% off because they might be seen on TV. I don't know about you, but unless you work in a factory, you have never even seen a thousand of the same things anywhere, even Wal-mart.

To prove to myself this was happening I purchased a ring on Etsy for ten bucks that ironically was shipped to me from a few miles away.  The ring is nice.  The price was right yet there is no doubt that it wasn't hand made. Really, that's no different than buying it from Wal-mart also a few miles away. It is nicer than one can usually find at Wal-mart but it is not hand made.

I woke up today remembering an article I read years ago about a study on the impact to a community of the arrival of Wal-mart. While it was devastating to the local merchants, the consumer got a price break, of a kind. Tax bases actually went down impacting city coffers, so did personal service and choices often came down too.  It became so notorious communities started turning them away, in fact, in droves. There have been epic battles here in Southern California in fact. Big box stores usually win.

Is there any hope for the craftsmen in Etsy? Maybe.

Another book, now studied in college, is a book written by Robert Pirsig called ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE. It's a true story of a semantics professor who went mad trying to define the word "quality." As he nears the scene of his madness on his motorcycle, the University of Montana, the pressure builds. He still has no answer. Yet, as he discovered, everyone "knows" what it is. I had a boss who once observed that if you put a Chevy and a Mercedes next to each other, removing all identification, nearly 100% would choose the Mercedes as the better car. Most of us have the sense of quality but maybe not the definition.

Which leads me back to Wal-mart. That same study gave local merchants everywhere a ray of hope. The answer? Sell, what Wal-mart does not. Service, better or unique products, things consumers can't always get anywhere else. In fact, merchants who changed their strategy in fact thrived. Many even congregated in the same mall benefiting from the foot traffic. Possibly the same applies on Etsy. If you are selling the same thing as 50 other merchants price becomes the target. If what you offer is different than anyone else, unique, fills some kind of niche, you stand a chance. I really don't know any other merchants but I would guess that is sound advice.

Standing out in the crowd, I guess there are 1 million Etsy sellers, is not easy. Yet, constant refining of key words, attention to detail and especially checking out the competition can give you some hope. We craftsmen can never compete against the giants but we have it in us to stand out in the crowd!

For unique, one of a kind and hand painted crafts and paintings, please visit I can assure you each and every design you will see there is mine and was not made in the hundreds overseas!

Happy crafting!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Present Visits The Past

For the first time, well, ever, I included a business card I created for my Etsy store and my blog in my annual Christmas cards. I mean, its there, why not let everyone know, right?

I received an email from the wife of my college roommate who decided to look up my Etsy store and was surprised. She had never heard of any artistic talents. When she mentioned it to her husband, my old roommate, he observed that I always made him look at what I was doing when we were roommates. The difference, I was a Journalism-Advertising major and we had an ad a week to create. Poor Larry, he had to put up with me ALL day Sunday and had to follow just about every step of the process unless he fled the room. Back in 1966-67 there were no computers, desktop publishing and all that. Instead we had to draw our ads and that included the item, and the headline fonts as perfectly as if they had been typeset. I know Bodoni forwards and backwards. Maybe it's that detailed training that haunts me still.

When he finally bothered to look though, he was stunned. This was what his old roommate was doing now? Really? WOW!

That comment could be something said for a great many of us. Some start early and either succeed or more often are defeated and migrate to something that puts food on the table. More than one artist has muttered that critics were failed artists. Others often defer what they really want to do, live their lives and then when opportunity presents itself try again. As Scott Adams observed, we may need to fail a few times to finally succeed, learning along the way. Read enough biographies and you will see that those that succeed have one common bond to success ... their paths are all different. Some like Van Gogh had to die first. Jackson Pollock did manage to become famous but just before his death had run out of ideas. Yet, in his death, spectacular as it was, he became an icon of the post-war era. He was well known, but understood? Probably not.

That email and another toting the new" artists on the web site gave me pause. Who are these people? WHAT is this art? IS it art? Every era tries to distinguish itself from the era before. Yet, how many of these artists will survive this 15 minutes of fame. The one basis that tends to be ignored by critics (who many feel are failed artists themselves) is the appeal on the public at large.

Looking at their web site and their "Must-See" exhibitions for 2014 I find myself beginning to question what art is. Where is it going? Will it be 3D? I can remember seeing the very first holograms. You went into a room with cameras shooting all sides of an object. After we left, the floor had to settle for hours before the shooting, remotely of course, began. A look at the photos and the artists above gives you an idea of what is happening now. Will anyone of these make a mark? Or, is it simply the 15 minutes of fame as Andy Warhol observed. I certainly can't make any predictions but it sure will be fun to watch.

Have an idea? Non-traditional? Give it a try? Why not. All you can do is fail and in every failure are the seeds of another idea!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Art & Design Year!

To all my readers, regular or first timers, I want to wish you all a wonderful New Year! Lets all hope that 2014 will be a great year for everyone, and selfishly for me, a healthy one.  Lets hope the frustrations of last year are improved in this.

There are so many things to consider as we assess the world of art and design. I was thinking yesterday about this as my daughter and I went first to the Apple store, amazing art AND design, to purchase an iPad Air, then over to BEST BUY, which is the anti-thesis of the Apple store, to check out additional covers to protect her new device.

Best Buy has to be the poster child for dysfunctional. Nothing works or if it does, not in any meaningful way for the consumer. If there's a computer it will only play some inane pre-recorded message. You will never see what it will do as every device at the Apple store can. None of the cameras ever work though it appears they are hooked up to some charging as well as anti-theft device. If you find someone to help you, chances are you might know more than they do.

We then headed to the Nordstrom Rack, probably my second or third time ever visiting one.  Now to be fair, I am sure it was well picked over after Christmas, however, what was left was easily some of the ugliest merchandise that I have ever seen. I felt that I had entered a Wal-mart! Colors, styles, patterns, all left one to realize that these designers would never follow Coco Chanel's dictum, less is more. And while beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, you are tempted to wonder about that eye.

Last evening we decided to watch my Best Buy purchase, DESPICABLE ME 2. That required three remotes to watch one movie.  First to turn the cable off on one remote. Then to use the TV remote to change the HDMI channel, then the DVD player remote to turn it on and open the drawer, wade through ALL the junk on the DVD before you watch the movie (feels like a movie theatre's parade of ads and promos) then back to the TV remote to adjust volume.

I can hear you now, program the cable remote. Its been done by the cable guy several times and works until he leaves the house. We feel fortunate that the TV he came to adjust works after he leaves. I can't begin to tell you the hours spent on the phone trying to get a TV to work with cable.

It was then that I realized, if I was in my 20's or 30's again, I would go back to school and get my masters in Ethnography...the study of how things work. I realized that so many of the things in our lives add to not reduce the stress in our lives. In fact, I would hazard a guess in that I bet they are in many ways the causes of it.

If you think back, our lives WERE simpler. Cars started with a key. There were no remotes to lose or batteries in them to die, TV was on, off and you got up to change the station between the 3 or 4 channels you had back then. There were shows to watch too, not like today where you have 200 channels with nothing to watch. The phone rang and you answered it or not. There wasn't a answer machine that at times defies us all. We wrote letters, the kind that used paper, needed a stamp (around 5¢) and if you really needed to get it somewhere fast you used air mail that cost a few cents more.

Amazingly the world seemed to get along just fine. I wonder if the next generation will have neck problems from bending over looking at their smart phones hour after hour, day after day and go blind from doing that.

Its a new year! I urge each and every one of us to do our part in urging or making changes in the way things work. You may not have designed it, but if you use it and its less than acceptable, say so. More and more what people say about a product or company, changes happen. Companies are starting to listen and are at peril if they do not. Twitter's inane policy on privacy showed how complaints stopped it in its tracks. Hopefully the members of our Congress and state governments are getting this message as well. It could be a very interesting year on a number of fronts.

With all of our input, this could very well be a very good year! Please visit  for a wide range of items to decorate with or give as gifts!