Category Archives: opinion

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

Early books by Charles Schultz

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles M. Schultz.  Few people of any age have never heard of him.  I came across these old Peanuts books in my collection.  I must have had them for about fifty years!  Yikes!  Few kids grew up without drawing a Peanuts cartoon, some simple drawings.  Even today, A Charlie Brown Christmas is still one of the most popular holiday shows there is.  I love the music and the sentiment.

Anyway, it’s a bit silly to wish a dead person happy birthday, but today I honor Charles Schultz and all the inspiration he’s given me and many others throughout the years.  Hope you all get to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this season.

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Gratitude – Say Thank You

It’s that time of year.  Well, every day is that time of year but especially the next few months.  Parties and celebrations.  Gift giving and family dinners. All the begging letters which have already started to arrive in my mailbox.  So much.  So much. So much. What to do?

This is not my normal art and gardening and books and country living blog post, but a revelation of some of the other things that occupy my thoughts.

We are often on the receiving end of gifts from the universe.  Family who invite us to holiday dinners.  A friend who gives us that special scarf we’ve been eyeing. Maybe the book on your wish list shows up in your mailbox.

But just how do we express our thanks and gratitude? Do people still send those bread and butter notes?  A heart-felt thank you and hug as you depart your host?  Even the smallest note or gesture is appreciated.

Just how do you recognize the thoughtfulness of others?  Dinners, gifts, donations?

And what do we expect when we are on the giving end? Yes, I realize that we should do kind things for others without thought of recognition or thanks.  That is the ideal but, frankly, most of us feel put out if no one says anything, especially thank you.  Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do. Because we have put effort into some action and feel disappointed  if no one recognizes it.

I was brought up that if I said even the least ungrateful thing to a gift of an ugly sweater from old Aunt Alice, my mother would have smacked me upside the head.  Well, not really. But there would have been some serious squinting across the table and a “meaningful” look.  You know what I mean.

So, maybe you can’t afford to buy that new wing for your college library but there are many other things you can do.  Volunteer your time at your local food bank or animal shelter.  Kind words for the workers at the library.  Invite friends for dinner….OR….take dinner to your friends, especially the elderly and shut-ins.

And, when you are on the receiving end, remember to say Thank You!  Be grateful.  Sit outside and soak in the sun with gratitude for being alive. Tell Aunt Mary how delicious that soup was that she brought you when you  broke your ankle.  Write a check to your favorite charity. Or even order a bouquet of flowers anonymously for those wonderful people at the library.  Encourage a child who has mastered a new talent or drawn you a picture of their favorite animal.

It’s all about giving and receiving. Be grateful and say thank you for what you have or receive. And maybe lower your expectations for those who forget to show appreciation for something you have done for them.  The kindness you send out into the universe always comes back to you, eventually.

 

My favorite blogs

The Little House, oil on canvas, 8 x 10, painted from memory, Kit Miracle

I could have titled this post Why write a blog?  There are just so many people online these days, sharing opinions, knowledge, how-to’s.  You can find practically anything on the internet these days.  Or so it seems.

I started my blog (short for web log) several years ago because, well, why not.  Art. Books.  Country living.  That’s about it.  I’ve been an artist for over 35 years now and have a little knowledge about the subject which I share from time to time.  In addition, I was director of a multi-discipline arts center for over a decade – music, dance, theatre, education…and visual arts.  I love to read since I first figured out how that works.  Piles of books wait for me but I do eventually get to them all.  Eventually.  And I love living in the country, ninety acres of peace and quiet – mostly.  Gardening, walks in the woods, flowers.  Oh, there is the matter of the neighbor’s cows in the garden, rogue boars, insects, birds, raccoons causing mischief in the corn patch.  I could go on.

So I thank all of you who have taken the time to read my postings, especially if something strikes a chord and you make a comment.  It lets me know you’re out there.  Those ads that WordPress puts on here are not mine and I don’t get paid for them.  Well, I could upgrade to an ad-free site but I haven’t.  Yet.

I try to post a couple of times a week, Sundays and Wednesdays, but no more as it becomes more of a have-to than a sharing of fun and opinion.  Who wants that burden hanging over their head?

However, I love to read other people’s blogs.  Some are inspirational.  Some share knowledge.  Some make me think. Some I read daily and some I just check 0n once in a while.

These are some of my favorites.

The Daily Motivator – Ralph Marston, essays of motivation and food for thought.

Gurney’s Journey – James Gurney, artist and illustrator who provides daily thoughts, demonstrations and inspiration for artists.

Joe’s Retirement Blog – Joe Manomet, great photos and very light-hearted.  Some travel in the New England area and beyond.  Not too fond of his local theatre reviews but I’m sure those postings are popular in his area.

Herbalblessingsblog – Carolee, gardener extraordinaire and a true inspiration.  I always learn something from her.

The Sketchbook – Shari Blaukopf, Canadian artist and teacher specializing mainly in watercolor with pen and ink, or pencil.

Fruitful Dark – Fritz of New Zealand.  Some beautiful art plus plenty of food for thought.  He hasn’t posted too regularly lately but I keep checking.

Raptitude – David Cain writes about some pretty deep subjects but plenty of food for thought.

Words In the Light – F.G.M. beautiful poetry, some music or video, thoughtful.

There are so many others that I check on from time to time. This is a very short list but give these people a visit.  You might learn something but I certainly think you’ll discover something in yourself.

What are your favorite blogs?

What makes a great painting?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

What makes a great painting?

The answer to this question is, of course, subjective and there are probably as many opinions as there are people who think about it. When I used to run the arts center and gallery, I was often asked this question.

My general reply is this:

  • Impact – when you walk into a gallery or museum, which artwork are you most drawn to? What is your initial reaction? Sometimes you may be attracted to beauty or color.  Sometimes you approach with curiosity.  Sometimes it is horror.  But what initial impact does the painting make on you?
  • Size – a wall-size painting is not always good art but it usually has impact. I have seen some pretty bad giant paintings but they usually get your attention, at least initially.  As an aside, young artists often want to create these very large pieces before they have any real talent or anything to say.  That makes them large bad paintings.  On the other hand, Monet created some huge murals of waterlilies which required a special museum to be built but that was towards the end of his life. And Picasso’s Guernica will only fit into spaces of a certain size. Size might matter but not always.

    Pollack’s iconic painting at the Met. Questions remain today about quality of workmanship but he certainly explored new territory in his time.

  • Composition – how does the painting flow? Although there are many rules of composition, the golden mean being one of the most well-known, I find it is more of a feeling of flow and balance.
  • Evokes a feeling – this is often related to composition but not necessarily. How do you feel when you view the painting?  Is it calming, exciting, emotionally disturbing?  What does your gut tell you? Does it touch the mind and soul of the viewer? Does it make you want to keep looking? It should be something beyond just wall decoration.
  • Originality – a great painting should provide something new to look at. Is it the same flower arrangement that dozens of other artists crank out or has the artist treated a common subject in a new way?  I think a great painting should explore new territory.

    Great paintings make you want to look closer.

  • Quality of workmanship – I admire quality of workmanship and appreciate how the artist actually handled the materials. An artist who cares for the process of the art will often care for the longevity of the art, too.
  • Memorable – will you remember this painting? Will it haunt you long after you have left the gallery or museum?  What will you remember about it?  This was a question that I often asked customers when I sold my work at art fairs long ago and they couldn’t make up their minds which painting to buy.  Which painting will you remember and regret not buying long after you’re gone?  And there usually was one piece more than the other.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is a subjective list.  I’m sure there are many other opinions but most of these points would be generally agreed upon to answer the question, what makes a great painting.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think makes a great painting?

What happened to color?

Many shades of gray. I’m not sure if it’s fifty, but probably at least that.

I like watching those house renovation programs but have you noticed that everything seems to be turning out the same these days?  It’s granite countertops, hardwood floors, open floor plan (noisy), glass tile backsplash, subway tile bathrooms, barnwood doors.  And….it’s all gray, gray, gray.  Well, white and black play a big part, too.

But whatever happened to color?  I mean other than a staged bowl of green apples or a throw on the sofa?  Can you imagine living in northern climes with white on white walls?  I’d be snowblind.

I don’t wish to bring back avocado or harvest gold appliances, but what happened to color?  Humans see a wider range of colors than almost any other animals so why aren’t we using more color?

As an artist, I get excited when I walk into an art store and see the beautiful array of colors.  Even just writing about it gets me pumped up.  I love color, as my paintings attest.

More neutral interiors. How about a little personal touch? Anyone?

So I wonder why the decorators or  home stagers don’t use more colors in their final reveals?  Don’t you think that favorite red painting of the dancer that you move from house to house makes your home feel instantly like your own nest?  Are people afraid of color?  I mean, we’ve had the beiges and off-whites of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Now we live in a black and white and gray world?  Nah, not for me.  I want some color to excite my senses.  Besides, you can always move a painting or repaint a wall.  Probably a lot easier than that barndoor you had to have.

And what’s up with those giant clocks?  Well, that’s a subject for a different post.

What’s your favorite color?

What are you reading?

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

What are you reading these days?  This is a question I am frequently asked as most people who know me, also know that I am a true bibliophile (lover of books.)  I covet books.  I love the smell, the feel, the heft.  Just opening a new book gives me chills of anticipation.

So, most friends are also surprised when I reply with several titles.  How can you read more than one book at a time?  they ask.  Well, you can watch more than one television series at a time, can’t you?  You watch an episode and then come back the next week to watch the next one.  Then I can see the light dawn as they get what I’m saying.

I like a variety of books and subjects to read and switch off during the week.  Quiet morning time is often reserved for more contemplative, deeper non-fiction.  Later in the day, I escape with some fiction (many genres).  And bedtime reading is, let’s just say, a wee bit boring, or at least nothing that’s going to keep me awake all night.

So this is my current reading stack.

Bronnie Ware’s The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  Since I already have more years behind me than I have before me, I mostly want to see how my life compares with others who have reached the end of theirs.  There are some interesting concepts but I do find that the author wanders around a bit.

John Muir’s A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.  This is more of a journal than a bonafide book.  It is scanned and has all the errors that some scanned books have.  But I always find Muir a fascinating and awesome writer and person.  It’s nearly incomprehensible some of the treks and adventures he made with very little in the way of supplies or equipment.  Bedtime reading, for sure.

Dr. Michael Mosely The Fast Diet.  The author discusses some of the science behind intermittent fasting and the research for better health and longevity.  I think I like’d Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code better but this book is very readable.

James H. Rubin How to Read Impressionism: Ways of Looking.  I’ve read so many books about impressionism, the period, the specific artists of the era, that I doubted there would be anything new here.  However, the author approaches the subject by grouping the artists and paintings by location and subject matter more than chronologically.  It’s an interesting read but I have noticed that his conclusions do not always agree with other authors.  It’s loaded with color pictures and is a good reference.

Then this past weekend I indulged a guilty pleasure of zipping through two sci-fi dystopian books by Dima Zales, The Thought Readers and The Thought Persuaders Not deep but good entertainment.

So, this is what is on my reading table these days.  What is on yours?

So many books; so little time. – Frank Zappa

It’s not work if you’re having fun

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

I think people who are creative are the luckiest people on earth. I know that there are no shortcuts, but you must keep your faith in something greater than you,and keep doing what you love. Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” — Judy Collins

My husband will often call me in from my studio for dinner. I’m busy.  I’m right in the middle of something, I respond.  Or my brother will quip that I haven’t really retired but have just found another job.  Yes, I agree.

When I go out to my studio, a commute of about 30 feet, I am lost to the world.  Music or recorded books.  Ideas abound.  Running out of something to paint or express is totally foreign to me.

This does not mean that there are not challenges or some labor involved.  I spent several days recently cleaning my studio.  Let me be frank. Artists are pack rats.  We can always think of something we can do with the flotsam and jetsam in the creative space.  This could be useful.  Maybe I’ll need this some day.  Really!  But, there comes a time to clean and to toss.

I have spent plenty of time at the burn barrel…mostly with few regrets. Occasionally I think of something that I’ve gotten rid of and wish I had saved but it was probably for the best.

And then there is the business side of art.  Following up on e-mails and phone calls.  Scheduling exhibits and competitions.  Ordering supplies.  Keeping up with the money…or lack thereof.  Successful artists really pay attention to these details.

But, this isn’t anything at all like writing a fifty page grant application (or final grant report). Or next year’s budget. Or a formal business plan for a new venture just because the powers that be never thought you could.  (They were impressed.  And someone else ran off with the business plan. Pfftt.)

So, yes, I’m retired and have a steady income stream.  That is always a relief.  But the more important thing is that I just get to do what I want with my time.  And I want  to create art.  That’s enough.  It’s not work.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffet

Remembering Joan

Behind all your stories is your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.

Mitch Albom  For One More Day

My beautiful mother Joan at age 25.

I always thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.  I knew she was.  She didn’t look or talk or act like any of my friends’ mothers.

She was exotic with her dark eyes and British accent.  The way she ran the household would put June Clever to shame.  No, mom didn’t iron in pearls but the house was European tidy and organized. She always made sure that she looked lovely when dad came home.  Dinner was always on the table and there was always, always dessert.  Yummmm.

She had a spine of steel and a devil-may-care attitude.  I guess that after enduring bombs dropping on your neighborhood for several years, everything else is a trifle.

She was quick to laugh.  Not afraid to shed some tears.  Ready to cuddle an upset child with warmth and soft there there nows.

A sweet little kiss from me to you.

Yes, we had our disagreements as any mother and daughter will.  She was never afraid to voice her opinion but was also willing to overlook some of my ignorant decisions, too.  Oh, well, I got smarter.  Maybe we both did.

Even in her final days of illness she was able to find a joke to make us both laugh.  Boy, what dignity!  What an example.

I miss my mom and wish she could see what what I’m doing these days.  I  can only hope to pass along some of her values to my children and grandchildren.  I think she’d be pleased.

Taking a walk with my mother in the park.

No one worries about you like your mother, and when she is gone, the world seems unsafe, things that happen unwieldy. You cannot turn to her anymore, and it changes your life forever. There is no one on earth who knew you from the day you were born; who knew why you cried, or when you’d had enough food; who knew exactly what to say when you were hurting; and who encouraged you to grow a good heart. When that layer goes, whatever is left of your childhood goes with her.

―Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap

Perseverance: Or How to Build Your Art Career

I was thinking the other day about how some artists become successful and others, equally talented, don’t seem to be able to attain any kind of success.

I think I was prompted to this thought by a casual remark my husband made while he was watching the Masters golfing tournament, I wish I could golf like that. My flippant reply was, Well, you have to get out there more.  Golfing a few times a year won’t cut it.

This harkens back to Malcom Gladwell’s theory that you need 10,000 hours invested to master anything.  Not quite true but close.  I would clarify that to be many hours of working diligently and with thoughtfulness.  If you practice incorrectly, you’ll only get good at doing something poorly.

But I asked a visiting artist, Alice Kidderman, a tiny woman who is a wonderful stone sculptor, what her secret was.  We hosted many artists over the years at the arts center and some were definitely more organized and easier to work with than others.  Alice was one of the best.  And most successful.

She told me that being a stone sculptor took a physical toll on her body with all that hammering away at pieces of rock.  She always spend one day a week, usually Wednesdays, on the business aspect of her career.  Updating inventory, posting and updating her website, applying to shows, taking care of the money and correspondence, etc.

This reconfirmed some things that other artists have written; about how they spend 50% of their time on the business of art and the rest of the time on creating.  That makes sense to me.  Otherwise, you can end up with a studio full of work and no place to go with it.

When I was Director of the arts center, I always made annual, monthly and weekly goals, keeping in mind the five year plan.  Everything was flexible but it gave me a road map.  Each Monday I would look at what I wanted to accomplish in each area (fundraising, grants, performing arts, special events, etc.) and started with the most difficult task first.  Sometimes this meant locking myself in my office and just sticking with the task at hand, without distractions. I have always been a goal setter and list maker and I still do this.  Now I apply my efforts to my own career – art creations, home / farm stuff, whatever.

One of my top goals this year was to redesign my website, a chore I was definitely not looking forward to.  I’ve had my own website since the 1990s and it has morphed several times.  And I’ve managed several other websites, too.  It always involves learning new platforms, tricks, maybe some coding.  What a headache!

After several months of researching what other artists are doing, many web hosting companies, and new platforms, I finally made my selection.  I made a list of what I wanted:  full screen but adaptable to notebooks and mobile, an e-commerce site, a site that looks good but is relatively easy to manage (ha ha), and more bells and whistles.

Then I spent some months moving domains around to new hosts (the former hosts really gave me a hard time about this).  I outlined what I wanted on the actual site, wrote out the descriptions, found or took the art photos, and then I dove in.

I made use of my library’s high speed internet and would come in early and spend ALL day in a little study room working.  Even the librarians were surprised when I left in the evening and commented on how long I had been here.  But, as I replied, sometimes the only way to get a job done is to sit your butt in a chair and do it.  So, whether it’s writing a grant application, doing your taxes, or creating something new, just dedicate a significant amount of time without distractions to the task at hand no matter how difficult it may seem at first. Break it down to small tasks or steps if you need to, but stick with it.   The feeling of accomplishment when you’re done is amazing.  And it encourages you with the possibility of the next big thing you can tackle.  And you will.

So, I invite you to check out my newly designed website at www.kgmiracle.com .  It shows my bigger paintings and will give you a lot more information about me as an artist.  There will certainly be additions and changes over the coming months but I always welcome feedback and suggestions.

Screenshot of new website, KGMiracle.com Check it out.

Thanks for stopping by.