Category Archives: opinion

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.

Your Legacy

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.  (Kahlil Gibran)

I was in my studio yesterday, finishing up a large painting that I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.  Then I started another one…and finished it.

My mind often wanders when I’m working as I’m zoning out in the painting process.  I’ve been spending the past month redesigning my website from the ground up.  I put up some work in the archives which one of my sons remarked he had never seen.  (Before you were born, sweetie.)  That led me to thinking about all the art I’ve created over thirty-five years plus.  A lot!

And then that led me to think about where it all is now.  I did my first art fair in the early 80s and have been selling my work ever since.  I’m embarrassed when I visit relatives and see all the paintings I’ve given them over the years.  It looks like a Kit Miracle art gallery.

Several years ago I received a call on my business land line phone…when I had a land line.  It was from a woman in Florida who had purchased one of my small paintings in a resale shop.  It had my information stamped on the back.  We chatted for a while.

That led me to thinking about where all my paintings are now.  I’ve traveled a lot.  Shipped a lot.  And now, with online marketing, have sold work all over the place.  It’s a little bit of me scattered all over the world.  That’s my legacy.

I’ve never been a person who longs for fame, but it’s always pleasant to think about all the places where my paintings live now.  Maybe they’ll end up in a jumble sale; maybe they’ll be treasured family heirlooms.  But they’re like my children, scattered to the winds.

Which led me back to one of my favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran and his exemplary work The Prophet.  The section of the poem above is from the part of the work where he discusses Children.  My art is like my children.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

We are the bows.  We send our children….or our creations…out into the world.  That is our legacy.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Prophet lately, check it out soon.  I’m sure you’ve got an old copy from high school or college lying about.  Or you can check it out of the library. Or purchase a used copy.  You won’t be sorry and you’ll have plenty to think about when your mind takes a walk.

Talent or skill?…or is it even art?

Moving sculpture from junk

Talent or skill…or is it even art?

I’ve had some pretty lively discussions with artist friends this week about what is authentic art.  Boy, that is a can of worms. Fair warning; there is no definitive answer to this question but come along for the ride.

We were reviewing submissions for the gallery for next year (2019).  About 50 artists entered their portfolios this year for about seven slots.  This is usually a good variety (some years we’ve had up to 200 entries). The committee was also given a list of about 15 artists to consider who didn’t actually apply but who might add to quality of the line up.  (Debatable.)

The committee is comprised primarily of professional artists and art teachers.  But…we do not always agree on what would make a good exhibit.  A little background is that this is a public art gallery so we have to be somewhat cognizant of our audience and the fact that we are receiving tax dollars.  We like to bring in new and different work but we’re not out to shock our audience.  We also understand that many people enjoy viewing art they are familiar with.  Trying to meets the needs of everyone is challenging.

A little more background.  I have been on this committee for about 30 years, and was director of the arts center and gallery for many of those years.  I’m back to being just a citizen volunteer now.  And I’ve been a professional artist for 35 years.  I’ve probably seen more art than most people will see in several lifetimes.

And I’m still confused.

I believe that some people are endowed at birth with talent.  That is a given aptitude for doing whatever they are going to do, whether it’s shooting a basket or drawing a portrait or playing a musical instrument.  Skill, on the other hand, requires some work.  Continuous practice, that 10,000 hours thing.  I appreciate that.

But sometimes I’m reminded of the story about the Emperor’s New Clothes.  I just feel as if someone is pulling the wool over my eyes and I want to be that kid that says, “Hey, he’s naked!”  I look at a piece of art and wonder, is that really art?  Or is it just hype? I try looking beyond the artist to see where they’re coming from.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, pile of candy installation

For instance, here is a photo of an installation piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres of a pile of candy.  Really?  That is art?  Not to me it isn’t, but a whole lot of high-highfalutin’ people think it is.  I think it is good marketing.  Just my humble opinion.

Helicopter at MOMA

Or how about a helicopter hung in the stairwell of the Museum of Modern Art?  Art?  Or is it engineering?  Who really gets credit for this? By the way, they also own Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World which is exhibited in a dark hallway next to the bathrooms.  Really?

Gabriel Orozco exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum

Or how about this installation by Gabriel Orozco of junk (artifacts) that he collected along a certain part of the beach on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  (Exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in 2012-2013.)  I like the way he’s laid this out.  I like the fact that he took photos of EVERY piece and made photo montages of them.  It certainly makes me think.  But is it art? Who says?

Wise Man, Cesar Santos, charcoal on paper

On the other hand, there are the wonderful and amazing drawings of Cesar Santos.  Just watch the video of him completing this awesome pencil sketch of an old man.  I’m overwhelmed with appreciation for his talent AND skill.

Juliette Aristides, painting of soldier

Or there’s Juliette Aristides and her wonderful atelier for training artists in classical drawing and painting.  Boy, do we need that! No, she isn’t exactly trying to do “pretty” but her work is pretty amazing.  I’m so glad to see someone still promoting classical training in the arts.  Not just hype.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that realistic art is more popular than abstract art or assemblages.  People can relate to it.  No, I do not think that realism is better than abstract or installations.  But I certainly do not have patience for anyone who believes that obscure art or that which needs an explanation is better than realism.  To each his own, I guess. There is no room for art snobs.

And this is my humble opinion.  Go check out your local gallery or museum to see for yourself. What do you think?

Hey, how about these ties at the local Good Will? I think this is an interesting composition. Is it art?