Category Archives: opinion


So how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

I don’t really make resolutions; I make plans and goals.  Maybe there isn’t much real difference but to me there is.  A plan and a goal sets a direction.  A resolution is just a wish.

One of my favorite blogs is Raptitude by David Cain.  He has tried a number of experiments which he discusses here.  These are often in the form of mini resolutions.

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

But this year he suggests not starting any new project or buying new toys or books,  but using what you’ve got.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a real sucker for the next new book, the new tool, what have you.  But if you’re anything like me, you know deep in your soul that you have “enough.”  Really!

This past summer I cleaned out our big chest freezer before we started storing all of the summer’s produce.  It is now full to the brim…again.  I have had many talks with my husband about using what we have before we buy more stuff, even if it’s on sale!  We’re only two people.  We can’t possibly use all the produce and store specials that we have already.

So check out David’s blog Raptitude. I shared this post on my Facebook but apparently so did a lot of other people.  David was astounded that that he got 19K hits on this post alone.  Must have hit a nerve with a whole bunch of folks.


Life happens

For those of you who follow this blog and may have wondered where I’ve been, I apologize for the scarcity of recent postings.  Life happens.

Amid all the end of the year activities – holidays, performances, painting events, etc. – we had a family emergency.  My husband had a second (and more severe) heart attack. In this case, it was a pretty scary situation to live in such a remote area.  We actually drove 15 miles to meet the ambulance rather than trying to direct them to our house. He is doing well, thank you for asking, but as you may imagine, this event turned the household on end.  He’s sticking with a strict vegan diet as touted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.  (Highly recommended, btw.)  A total change to vegan has not been a huge issue since we grow and eat lots of vegetables.  However, now there’s no meat or fish, no dairy, no eggs, no added fats.  But the results have been rewarding.  He’s lost 25+ pounds in the first six weeks and feels great.  Anyway, a new way of eating for the family.

And my day job as director of a multi-discipline arts center has been busy but rewarding.  Several performances, conferences to attend, booking for next season, and work on building expansion.  But I still manage to find time to paint or draw.

The bone-chilling cold of the winter in the midwest and north east has driven me to find relief in perusing gardening books (and ordering more, of course).  Before this most recent bout of snow and ice, I actually spotted the daffodils and crocuses poking up.  Can’t wait for spring.

Meanwhile, life is returning to normal…somewhat.  Back in the studio painting, reading, and…well…country living.

Life happens.

To give or not to give – that is the question

All artists at some time are faced with the question of whether they should give their artwork to someone or not.  Yes, I know, the work just seems to accumulate, doesn’t it?  So we look around, oh, Aunt Sally would love that painting.  Maybe…maybe not.

I will admit to have given away many paintings over the years although not recently.  Currently I wait until someone has actually expressed an interest in my work.  And I don’t easily part with my show-stoppers as gifts unless they have been hanging around for a while.  Artwork is such a personal thing that I don’t want to burden my friends and relatives with some unwanted artwork, especially if I’m giving it to them in person.  Remember that too polite, “Oh, isn’t that…special.”  NOT!

So, if you are thinking about gifting someone with your personal creations this holiday season, I have the following recommendations.

  • Make sure that that they really have expressed interest.
  • Look around their homes to see that what you plan to give them actually fits in with their style.
  • Ask yourself if you’re just being cheap or if you believe they would really welcome a piece of artwork from you.
  • Is it a quality product?  Would you be proud to display it in your own home?
  • Perhaps you could exchange some work with a friend whose work might be better appreciated by the recipient?  How about a painting for a piece of pottery or some sculpture?  Or your realistic work for something more modern or abstract?

These are just a few suggestions.  I am not gifting anyone my artwork this year except these stocking stuffers.  I call them “portable art”, which are really mini paintings on cedar.  A realistic painting on one side and an abstract on the other.  Since they’re cedar, they can be tossed in a sweater drawer if the recipient really doesn’t care for them.

Portable artwork - mini-paintings on cedar blocks

Portable artwork – mini-paintings on cedar blocks

A birdseye view

My apologies for not posting much recently. I’ve been traveling for three out of the past four weeks. But…have much material for painting so that is encouraging.

As I was flying home from Austin, TX last weekend, my plane happened to go over my own house! This is the first time that has happened. Living here in rural southern Indiana, it was a real treat to see the area from the air…and humbling. Lake Patoka looks so small…and it’s over 9,000 acres! I’ve circled our farm on here. We all look so small from that altitude. And it makes me think that our petty squabbles are small, too.

View of our farm from the air

View of our farm from the air

5 Tips for Getting into A Juried Show

At some point in their careers, most artists want to see where they stack up next to other artists. Competition seems to be a common human trait. One way for artists to do that is to enter juried shows. Some artists do this to add another line to their resume, some to win prize money, and some just for the spirit of the thing.

I have been on both sides of that fence, from entering shows across the nation to judging shows individually or as part of my job as Director of the Jasper Arts Center and have reviewed thousands of slides and photographs. (No one uses slides anymore so that’s how old I am.)

So here is some of the best advice I can give you for getting into a juried exhibit.

1. Read the prospectus carefully. Does your work fit the guidelines? Are they looking for abstract expressionists and you paint landscapes with puppies? Is it a watercolor exhibit and you only do oils? How about the size and weight limitations? Did you check the schedule for entry, delivery, exhibit and return? Will your work be available for that period of time? A small oversight in paying attention to the details will cost you money and time as well as being just plain aggravating to both you and the show organizers.

2. Check out the jurors. Will the show be selected by one person or a panel? Will the images be projected or reviewed online? Can the judge be impartial enough to select work based on its merits and not just because it is in the same style as his/her own? It is an unfortunate fact that I have seen some exhibits selected all in the same style as the judge (shame on them). Most of the judges we have had here at the gallery spend quite a bit of time going through the images, usually reviewing them several times before winnowing the show down. They take great pains to have a mixed variety of media and subject matter and are especially pained at the final rounds when they have to cut out some really great pieces. They care.

3. Review your work with an objective eye. (Don’t listen to your family and friends because they love everything you do.) Is the work you are planning to submit the best you have? Is it cohesive? Will it stand out against the competition? What is the quality of workmanship? Would someone notice it across the room? Is it your own work and not copied from someone else’s design? What makes your work special? (Please, no more barns, flying ducks or Norman Rockwell look-alikes!)

4. Will the work be judged on site or by photos? This can really make a difference for some pieces, especially those involving texture or size. If you’ve ever seen a real Van Gogh in person, you realize that he “carved” the paint on the canvas and that texture is as important as the subject matter. All work looks the same size when projected which may cause advantages or disadvantages. A wall-sized impact piece will appear the same size as a miniature even though the sizes are stated; it’s still the first perception that counts.

If you are taking photos, make sure that your painting is level, no hot spots, no glares or reflections, no frames, no hands holding the piece. With today’s digital cameras and easy-to-use software, there is absolutely no excuse for sending bad images. This is the most important thing you will submit with your application so it had better be the best you can make it.

5. Finally, relax. After you send your application and images off, it is out of your hands. Any two jurors will choose a different show from the same selection of work. Not getting into a show is not the end of the world. You are creating for yourself, right? That’s what is really important. Keep creating!

Country living, the good and the bad

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I live in a 130+ year old

Seckle Pears, also called sugar pears

farmhouse in a county that doesn’t even have a single stoplight (and they’re proud of it.)  This is a big change from the megalopolis that I lived in 25 years ago where I had to fight three and a half million people to work every day.  Yippee for rush hour!  Now my drive is about 25 minutes of beautiful rolling countryside.  Yeah, the weather can affect that which is why I have 4 wheel drive.  It’s a necessity out here.

I often have people say to me, How can you stand to be so far away from everything?  Don’t you miss the services in the big city?  What about shopping?  I just give them one of those are you kidding me? looks.  So…I have satellite TV.  I have satellite internet which is faster than my high speed internet at work.  And, well, UPS delivers.  I’m only about an hour from an international airport but I live in the middle of my 90 acres.  Taxes are low.  I can’t see even a single neighbor from my house.  And those neighbors that I have, I actually know.  As an aside, did you ever realize that when you are packed in like sardines in the city, that you often don’t even know your next door neighbor?  How sad is that? 

My mailman will actually bring a package to my door and, if I’m not home, just stick it in my studio.  My husband exchanges recipes with the UPS guy.  If you need help, you just call someone.  People actually show up!  And much of the payment for services might be a basket of pears or some fresh eggs.  Or an I’ll catch you later

In case you’re looking for your own place in the country, I can tell you that property is usually much cheaper.  My 90 acres isn’t in the heart of NYC or LA.  It’s not actually enough to make a living on unless you’re doing some intensive farming, but it’s a nice place.  In Texas this would just be a big back yard.

So, what are the disadvantages of country life?  Well, you know those friendly neighbors?  They really do want to know all your business, or at least seem to.  I’ve always contended that it would be easier to hide in a city with a million people than it would to be in a place with a million acres.  People out here notice things.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but if your cow is out, they’ll stop and tell you.  Or bring you a pie when you are sick. 

There is also that shopping thing.  When I run out of that essential ingredient for a recipe, it’s a long way to town if the local mom and pop store doesn’t carry it. (You learn to improvise a lot.)  And restaurants tend to be a little more countryfied.  You probably won’t find that goat cheese pizza at Sally’s Truck Stop.  The wine offerings at Wal-Mart are certainly limited and the clothes down at the J.C.Penny….well, let’s just stick to basics.  On the other hand, think of how much money I can save from impulse buys! 

A trip to the city usually involves a good part of a day and lots of stops.  I find myself saving up all my shopping for a single trip.  Also, there is a constant list on the fridge of what I need to buy next time I go to the big city.  But art supplies, books, even tractor parts can now be purchased on line at often cheaper prices than at the stores so what is wrong with that? I’m saving money on two fronts, i.e., not shopping as much and doing more internet shopping.

One really big advantage of living in the country is the stars!  I just love to stand out in the dark gaze at all that magnificence.  And just wait for a meteor shower!  Wow!  There are also the critters, for better or worse.  Possums and skunks, rabbits (there go my new expensive perennials), squirrels, and chipmunks.  Deer are pretty but very dangerous to vehicular traffic.  We’ve had run-ins with seven of those rats with antlers, one resulting in totalling a brand new car.  Coyotes running the creek beds on a frosty night will send shivers up your spine and make you snuggle deeper under the covers with their howls and yips.  Whipoorwills are nocturnal and blasted persistent if one happens to take up residence in a tree outside the bedroom window.  And very occasionally a bobcat which sounds like a woman screaming.  OOOOooooooo.  

But overall, the country life is the life for me.  I love the peace.  The decompression on the way home at night.  I love the change of the seasons which seem so intense. I love picking fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from my orchards.  Yep, green acres is the place for me.  (I can’t believe I just said that.)

On being an Amazon Vine reviewer

Amazon Vine reviewer

Several years ago I received an e-mail from Amazon inviting me to participate in a brand new program called Vine.  What the heck is that, I thought.  In their e-mail they said that they would send me FREE books!  I got to KEEP the books!  So what’s the catch?  I had to read and write a review for the books.  Okaaaaayyy…..  What’s the real catch?  So I called them.  Yes, it was true.  This was a brand new program.  They were inviting me to participate.  Yes, I could keep the books.  At the time there was some nonsense that I had to keep ALL the books they sent to me.  Yeah, right.  Do you have any idea how quickly those pile up?  (BTW, that changed recently. I guess they got some complaints from hoarders about the number of books piling up.)

Anyway, I’ve been a Vine reviewer since the inception of the program.  Now if you’ve read my previous posting about my addition to books, you know this is like asking an alcoholic if it would be OK if someone sent him free booze every month.  Heh heh heh.  And the answer to that question would be?  Heck, yeah!

So the way the program works is this.  Twice a month I receive an e-mail notifying  me that a new posting has been made in a special compartment of the Amazon website where I get to choose a certain number of books.  They mail them to me.  I get to read and write a review about them.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  Since the beginning of the program, it has been expanded to include all kinds of products, not just books.  Food items, vitamins, toys…you name it.  Whatever Amazon sells.  I’ve received some really terrific stuff.  Aside from the books, I’ve received some neat food products, earphones, a flat bed screener, computer programs, toys….I can’t remember everything.

The big misconception by the public and what I’ve read online is that the Vine reviewers have to give everything a good review.  That is definitely NOT so!  I have been very frank when a product has been a real stinker.  And some of them have been.  I actually do try to read and review every book but they do pile up which is the big downside of this program.  I’m a reader and have a whole bunch of books that I want to read for ME, not just for Amazon.  But who’s complaining? 

Are all of the reviewers as conscientious?  I couldn’t say.  I only know that I read at least a couple of books a week from the program, not counting my own, or considering that I have a REAL life.  I’m not even in the top 1,000.  Do the top reviewers real ALL the books they review?  I can only speculate.  If you rely on the reviews for Amazon or any other website, at least be a bit skeptical.  I would say that most of the reviewers do a great job but there might be a few who take shortcuts. 

Anyway, thank you Amazon, this is a great opportunity. And, for you curious people out there, I use a pseudonym, not my real name so you won’t be able to track down my reviews.  It’s better that way, don’t you think?