Category Archives: opinion

Stolen artwork

I’ll admit to a somewhat maudlin fascination of stories about stolen artwork.  The number of books and movies out about the subject indicates that other people have the same interest.  Did you see The Monuments Men about the hidden masterpieces and recovery after WWII?  Or Woman in Gold?  Both were based on true stories.  Or Priceless by Robert K. Wittman or Stealing Rembrandts by Anthony Amore?  Or The Rockwell Heist by Bruce Rubenstein?  Again, true stories.  Of course, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a fictionalized account of an art theft but immensely popular.

Most of us will never encounter a circumstance of art theft.  As a director of a gallery and art center for many years, we never had an issue with stolen artwork although we weren’t displaying Rembrandts either.

However, this is a tale about a real art theft.  Or two or three.  All involving myself.

Scareboy. Watercolor on paper, 29.5 x 19.5, Kit Miracle. Stolen artwork.

The first painting I had stolen was from a public building in 1994.  I had an exhibit in the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Indianapolis.  This was the second time that I had exhibited there. So you can imagine my surprise when I got up one morning and found a message from a Sargent somebody or other from the Indianapolis Police Department with a request to call him back about some stolen artwork. Of course, he was off duty when I called so I called the organizers of the exhibit at the Chamber.  I had a few dozen paintings there so I thought it was probably one of the smaller pieces.  To my surprise, I learned that it was the largest piece I had in the show.

Later that evening, the Sargent called me back.  After we discussed the theft – I never saw the exhibit on display since I just dropped it off at the loading dock and picked it up a month later – I asked how someone could steal such a large painting, through a revolving door no less!  Didn’t the security guard run after the thief?  The Sargent chuckled and remarked that the guard probably wasn’t running too many marathons.  (The building was open at night because the lobby held an ATM.)

The painting, Scareboy, was an amusing watercolor painting of the scarecrow that I had created out of my son’s Doctor Denton’s with a Mickey Mouse hat.  I guess someone really liked it, just not enough to pay for it.  (The Chamber did reimburse my loss.)

Set of framed vegetable paintings, originals, watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle. Two of these paintings were stolen at the Broad Ripple Art Fair.

Another case of stolen artwork was at the Broad Ripple Art Fair, also in Indianapolis.  This was a very nice fair with a fence and security.  The theft occurred as a mother and her son distracted me by asking a question about a painting in the back of my booth.  When I went back into the booth, two paintings were missing.  These were small vegetable works in watercolor with pen and ink.  At the time, I was offering about forty-five different fruits and vegetables.  (And still do in my Etsy shop.)  They were very popular, all original, not prints. Apparently a partner was snatching the work while I was being distracted.  To add injury to insult, when I tried to report this to the fair officials, I was directed to the phone in the office to file a police report (this was before cellphones.)  And I later got blackballed from the fair since I had left my booth early to make the phone call. Humph!

The team working to distract the artist or booth operator is not a novel operation.  I had a couple use their dog (the guy practically pushed it into my face for me to pet) while the gal was shoving packaged cards into the pockets of her coat.  Sigh.

The interesting thing is, that artwork is such a personal thing.  People either like it or they don’t. At my level, I’m hardly a superstar in the art scene and my paintings are modestly priced.  But for famous artists, thieves often forget to think ahead about what they will actually do with the masterpieces after they steal them.  A famous painting is very hot and not easily sold on the open market.  Some are held for ransom.  Some are sold to the underworld/undercover market.  Eventually they come to surface somewhere.

But, hey, if anyone out there sees my Scareboy, just know that he belongs at home.

Getting things done – Accomplishing your goals

Someone said to me out of the blue the other day, You know, you really get things done.  You don’t need reminded. You’re so organized and you just quietly go about your business.  People can really rely on you.

This came as quite a surprise to me as I was just finishing up a job.  Hummm, I thought, this is what I do all the time.  I don’t know where this trait came from as my parents were never the kind who pushed me (although they were very organized, too.)  And I will readily admit, my getting things done trait doesn’t extend to every aspect of my life as my family can attest.  I can definitely walk past piles of books without a compulsion to straighten them up.

I think the attention to finishing tasks began way back in high school when I was yearbook editor.  How many kids are told, Here’s your $10,000 budget.  What are you going to do with it? Thanks to a great adviser, I learned how to plan, meet deadlines, make assignments, and finish the task on time.  These skills were a great help in college when I was juggling a full slate of classes while working part-time jobs.  And so it goes ever since.

Even in retirement, it seems I still rely on these skills.  Currently I’m working on a series of paintings which will total sixteen in all.  I’m halfway through.  This is where the push comes as my energy flags.  Or as this week when I’m gardening, planting pots, and tackling other outdoor projects.  Whatever it is, I just keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about the conversation mentioned at the beginning.  What does make some people better organized than others?  What follows is my short list.  Of course, people work differently so these may not apply to you, but maybe some of them will.

  1. Decide what your final destination will be. As the saying goes, if you don’t have a goal, then any path will get you there.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I make long-term goals at least to give myself direction.
  2. What is your short-term plan? What do you want to get accomplished this year, this month, this week, today?  I am an unapologetic list maker.  I get great pleasure crossing things off the list.  But I’m not compulsive about it.  I frequently do not get everything done that is on the list. That’s OK, but I got some things done.
  3. Break bigger tasks down to sections. This doesn’t have to be formally but it can be if the project is big enough.
  4. Set aside some time to do the project. Start early. Get something done – the outline for the report, the materials lined up, your tools ready, whatever.  Take away excuses.
  5. Set a timer if you really are avoiding the job. You know, cleaning the garage or the basement or your closet.  When the timer goes off, you’ll find that you’ve probably accomplished a lot more than you thought.  I find that I often am in the groove and reset the timer or keep carrying on.  But I know that I can quit if I want to without guilt.
  6. Tackle the hardest thing first. If I find myself procrastinating, then I usually know I’m avoiding something. Just doing the hardest thing first will often give me the momentum to carry on.
  7. Focus, forget multi-tasking. Just do one thing at a time and try to finish it, or at least part of it.  Jumping around only leads to distraction and doesn’t accomplish anything. Close your office door if you have to.
  8. Don’t be a perfectionist. Yeah, me.  As General Patton said, A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.. Sometimes it’s more important to get a job done, make a good start, than it is to vacillate and over-plan.  You can always fix it later.
  9. Set the project aside and come back and review it later. Mistakes will be glaring.

So these are just some of my little tricks for getting things done.  There are entire books and websites devoted to organizing your time.  Coaches, personal planners, all kinds of gimmicks and aids.  But you don’t really need all that.  You just need to get started.  What are your favorite ideas and tricks for getting things done?  I’d love to hear them.

A Day at the Beach – Painting a Series

A Day at the Beach, final. 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

As a working artist for over three decades, I find keeping interested in painting involves challenging myself. Sometimes this means new subject matter or new materials. Even a new location helps.  The challenges keep me inspired and allow the mental juices to flow.

My latest challenge is painting a series of paintings revolving around a day at the beach.  I love slice of life subjects, catching people going about their lives without thought of an audience. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people are at the beach, they stake out their territories, bringing the chairs and the umbrellas, the coolers and the toys.  Beach goers seem to operate under the illusion that no one can see them in their little sand kingdoms.

But the artist’s eye can.

The planned series includes vignettes of life at the beach.  Families, couples, kids playing, people just enjoying the sunshine…or totally ignoring their surroundings with their noses in books or napping.  My inspiration for these seaside paintings are John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla, and Burt Silverman.  It took a lot of effort to make their seaside paintings seem so, well, effortless.  Unstaged even though they often were. And that is the aim of this current series that I’m working on.

The painting above depicts the settling in and establishing of territory by a family.  Mom gets the lounge chairs ready while son is waiting patiently for her attention.  The composition with overlapping umbrellas and tents is like a little city, each with its own slice of life.

The beach walkers and people playing in the surf add distance and perspective to the scene.  I also chose to flatten the color of the sky (no clouds) and the foreground.  This allows the emphasis to be placed on the middle plane where all the action is.

A Day at the Beach is number six in the series.  I have sixteen planned but we’ll see.  A series is an exploration of an idea and I’ll keep at it until I don’t have anything else to say about the subject.

If you’d like to see how this painting was created, click on this link or go under the tab Artworks and click on A Day at the Beach for step-by-step photos.

Thanks for stopping by.

A little inspiration for artists

OK, I will admit it.  I’ve been goofing off this week.  Well, not really but kind of.  The weather has finally turned gorgeous.  Spring is here in force.  Flowers popping out all over.  Just checked the fruit trees and they’re ready to put on a show real soon.

I cruised Home Depot this week as I had some time between meetings in town.  Of course, the garden center attracted me like a magnet.  Which meant that I spent some time this morning planting pansies.  They’re always so cheerful.

What I’m trying to say is that I really don’t have a real post for you today.  Yes, I’m working on a big project in the studio but am not ready to reveal it yet.

What I am going to share are a few of my favorite quotes, all about art.  Be forewarned; I love quotes and have collected hundreds over the years.  They often provide me inspiration or at the very least, food for thought.  I hope they’ll inspire you, too.

More than anything, plein air is an event. It’s an event where a sporting mind can sort things out–free of town-clutter and obligation, where judgment can take as long as it takes–look three times, think twice, paint once. Leave your strokes alone. Fix that colour. Level that horizon. Stop now, stupid, she’s on the hook, pull ‘er in, put ‘er in the creel. You will live to cast again.

Robert Genn

Once you fly, you will walk with your eyes skyward. For there you have been and there you will go again.

Leonardo da Vinci

Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don’t know in your own soul.

Emily Carr

A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.
Hedy Lamarr

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.
Michelangelo

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.

Federico Fellini

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
Twyla Tharp

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Every artist was first an amateur.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A picture is a poem without words
Horace

A sad day for arts magazines

I love arts magazines.  Looking at all those gorgeous photos of the artwork of other artists is so inspiring.  I’ve learned so much over the years. But there is a downside to all the magazines, and that is that I never wanted to throw them away.  I know, I know, they’re just meant to be temporary but most artists I know feel this way. We always think we’ll come back to them but we don’t.  That still doesn’t change the allure these shiny missives of creativity.

But I noticed something the last time I went to a bookstore.  You know that I live in a really rural area so visiting a brick and mortar bookstore is a treat for me.  I love the smell of new print, fondling volumes of wonderful possibilities, smelling the coffee and just hanging around with other book-lovers. But the last time I visited my favorite big name bookstore, I headed to the magazine rack at the end of my visit to peruse the latest offerings in art magazines and to snag a couple for home reading.  After digging through the layers, looking behind the home decorating and wrestling mags, I couldn’t find some of my favorites.  I thought that maybe it was the end of the month and the new editions hadn’t been put out yet.

So I was dismayed to read one of my favorite blogs by artist James Gurney (Gurney Journey) yesterday and to learn that F & W Publications, Inc., the company that produces The Artists Magazine has filed for bankruptcy.  What!?!  This magazine has been a staple for artists across the country for decades.  When I purchased a copy, I would read it from cover to cover.  Even the ads in the back listed announcements of exhibits and other great information.  Sigh.  This will make my next visit to the bookstore a little dimmer.  Yes, there are some other fine art magazines out there but they have a different mission and flavor than The Artists Magazine.  Oh, and Writers Digest,  Pastel Journal, Watercolor Artist, and Interweave Knits are going, too.

Read more here:

http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/

https://www.adweek.com/digital/this-publisher-thought-ecommerce-was-its-savior-now-its-dead/

Are you a crab or an escapee?

Ghost crab or sand crab on the beach at night on South Padre Island. When “caught” with a flashlight, they freeze, only to scurry away if the light wavers.

I was scrolling through some vacation photos from last summer and came across this photo of a crab on the beach.  My granddaughter and I went out after dark one evening to spot crabs. They were everywhere!  We had so much fun walking along the sand at night at catching the crabs with our flashlight.  The little critters skittered here and there but froze when the light shone on them. If the light wavered at all, they were off like a flash.

The photo put me in mind of one of my favorite expressions crabs in a bucket.  If you’re not familiar with the expression, it comes from the old story of the fisherman who was catching crabs and throwing them into a bucket.  His grandson asked why he didn’t have a lid on the bucket and wouldn’t the crabs all crawl out.  The fisherman replied, no, the crabs don’t crawl out although they are certainly able to do so, but when one crab reaches a claw over the top of the bucket, the other crabs all pull him back.

Sound familiar?

I can think of so many applications for this parable.  Whether it’s being a better student or artist, getting a promotion or a new car, we all tend to compare ourselves to others.  I wonder why that is?  Isn’t it possible for everyone to be successful at whatever they want to be?  Being around negative people, those who complain all the time or put down others, is very draining.  I always try to look beneath the surface to determine what their real motives are for complaining.  Feelings of insecurity or inferiority?  Or are they just crabs in a bucket who don’t want anyone else to succeed if they can’t? Or are they looking for excuses for their own lack of motivation and hard work?

Have you ever faced some crabs in your life?  When you announced that you just got a raise, they responded with well, you’re just going to have to pay more taxes. Or maybe you aced your last test and your friend called you a brown-noser.  Or someone in your neighborhood complains about those snobby rich people down the block who think they’re really something. I could go on and on.

Being a crab is unfair and being around crabs is depressing.  The news and social media are filled with crabs, those who want to basically gossip about this person or that.  I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re not happy with a situation, change it, don’t just complain about it.  And certainly don’t waste your efforts envying someone who has something, whether a skill, a trait, maybe a material possession that you don’t have.  Stop being a crab.  Escape the bucket and make your own path.

Your One Thing

How are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions?  Already feeling a bit overwhelmed?  Maybe fell off the wagon already?  I’ll go on my diet when all these sweets are out of the house.  That big work project is hanging over my head; I can’t stop smoking now.  I promise that NEXT YEAR I’ll set up a budget for holiday shopping. Any of these sound familiar?  Or something similar, I’m sure.

I always get weird looks from people when I tell them that my favorite day of the year is New Years.  Not for the sports (although I live with someone to whom those are pretty important.)  No, it’s my favorite day of the year because it portends new beginnings, new opportunities, a fresh slate.  Possibilities!

Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at planning.  My job as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center required planning out eighteen months to two years.  I set up a spreadsheet with upcoming events and tasks in all the major areas: administrative, fund-raising, performing arts, visual arts, educational, special events, etc.

I would check the list every month, update as necessary, and set up my weekly schedule – also in categories.  Long term goals were guided by our five year plan and updated as needed.

When I retired a couple of years ago, I decided to put my energy back into painting.  I’ve been a professional artist since the early 80’s but had limited time to give when I was working full time (although I never gave it up, always managing to fit in 15 or so hours a week). Now that I didn’t have any excuses for not giving my best, what exactly did I envision for my next stage art career?

The first several months I floundered about.  I fooled around, did some art, but not with any real focus.  My question to self was, how do I apply everything I’ve learned and practiced for the past couple of decades in the arts business to my art business?

Then in December 2017, I picked up a book from the library that impressed me so much that I had to order my own copy.  I’m a business and marketing book junkie, btw, but I was really fired up by this book.  It is called The One Thing by Gary Keller.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

The main premise is to focus on one thing.  The focusing question is:

What’s the ONE THING I can do

such that by doing it

everything else will be made easier or unnecessary?

There is more in the book to help the reader find and focus on his/her One Thing, but that is the main premise.  The author has a number of free downloads on his website but I developed my own.

I usually focus on some personal goals as well as business goals, but inevitably I am too ambitious and can get overwhelmed.  Sound familiar to you?  Keller emphasizes setting up a set of goals which will cause a domino effect, i.e., do a small thing, which will lead to a bigger thing, until you finally get to your ONE BIG THING.  I set  weekly, monthly, one-year, five year, and someday goals, all revolving around my one big thing.

The goal I set for the year (which I’m not going to share specifically) revolved around creating and selling a certain amount of artwork.  This was one BHAG (big hairy a$$ goal) and beyond anything that I’ve achieved for a very long time.  It was a real stretch. The final result?  I created and sold more artwork last year than I have in any single year since I had a full-time job.  I came within $17 of my big, reach-for-the-stars goal.  Yay!  What a boost to my confidence.  And, all that creating has probably improved my work as well.

So, what’s up for this year?  Revised the plan from last year, tweaked a few things….and DOUBLED my goal!  Heck, why not?

What are your goals for the year?  What is your One Thing?   What one thing, such by doing it will help make everything else easier or unnecessary?

If you’re floundering and lack direction, or lack progress, I highly urge you to get this book by Keller.  Check it out of the library or snag a copy online.  With over 2,500 hundred reviews, you can’t go wrong.  As a caveat, I am not affiliated with Gary Keller or his organization in any way.  I just really like this book and think you might, too.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

Gary Keller’s website

My personal Word doc for goals  one big thing 2019 blank form

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.

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.