Let’s face it, if you’ve been an artist for any length of time, you will inevitably create some bad paintings. Crap is the professional term. (Just kidding.) Not everything that comes off your easel, your brush, from your pencil is wonderful. Actually, few pieces of art fit that description.
I remember when I was first getting back to my art roots after several years’ hiatus that I sat at the kitchen table one night and created a cute little flower painting. It was pink, I think. I was so proud of that piece. When I showed it to my husband, he said, “Oh, that’s nice, honey.” Such a sweet supportive liar but I certainly needed the boost to my ego.
I kept that painting for years, long after I realized what a wreck it was. I would drag it out when teaching a class and point to it and say, “See, this is where I came from. You can learn to paint, too.” I have searched the studio for the piece as I would definitely show it but can’t locate it. I’m sure that I never threw it away.
The point is, that we do the best we can with the skills we have at the time. When you know better, you do better. I have painted plenty of really BAD paintings. And still do, although not quite so many.
So what do you do with a piece of art that just didn’t turn out the way that you wanted? Here are several options.
Examine the piece carefully and determine just what you are unhappy with. The color, subject matter, composition, execution, the method of painting, etc.?
Ask yourself if there is some way to correct the mistake? Not all mediums can be corrected but many can.
Ask a friend for input. Sometimes we know something is off but just can’t see the mistake although it may be glaring to some new eyes.
Scrape off the paint or paint over the mistake. You may even need to paint over the entire canvas. I have done this many times and just started over. Or even explore a new idea rather the one you were pursuing.
Trash it. Burn it, destroy it. Some people recommend that you keep your bad work to inspire you but I think it will only haunt you. Use it as a learning experience and move on. It can be very cathartic to throw your canvases into the burn barrel. I’ve had very few regrets over many years.
One thing that I don’t recommend is to donate the bad artwork. It may come back to haunt you as when someone picks it up a resale shop or flea market. And don’t pawn it off on your friends and relatives. They’ll be too polite to tell you and will resent moving it around from place to place over the years.
Finally, don’t stress about a bad painting. It happens. That’s OK. We learn from our mistakes and just promise yourself that you’ll do better next time. It’s only a painting, after all.
A few years ago I posted about the challenges of living in a rural area during emergencies, especially if the power goes out. Living in a 135 year old house which only received electricity in probably the 1940s or 1950s has it’s challenges. I talked about having alternatives and backup plans. Like oil lamps, wood or kerosene heat, propane stoves or water heaters. But sometimes you just need a little electricity.
You could buy a huge generator but it’s difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars on equipment than you may only use once every few years. I’m going to talk about a few items which might make your life easier for about $100 or less, for most of them together.
The first are having a hand-cranked flashlight and / or radio. You can pick these up at your local big box store for under $10. They’re usually in the camping section but check around. They’re not terrific but work well in a pinch.
My next recommendation is having a power bank. This allows you to plug in your phones and USB items. You just charge them up (when the electricity is on) and they’ll hold a charge for a long time. Keep them in a drawer or place where you can find them easily. It seems the power always goes out when my phone is nearly dead. They’re smaller than a paperback book and cost about $30-$40. Useful for camping, too, but not recommended to keep in a hot car.
Another handy item is a solar powered charger. The one I have folds up to about the size of a wallet. You can set it out, or attach it to your backpack as you’re hiking. Mine also has a built in flashlight. It has a couple of USB ports, too. Costs vary depending upon size and power, but again, around $30-$40.
Finally, a little item that I LOVE is my multi-purpose flashlight / radio. This is the neatest little gadget. It comes with a lithium battery to insert and a little screwdriver. The battery can be charged by hand-cranking or it has a small solar charger on top. It seems to hold a charge for a long time. The charger flips up to show a good light for reading. In addition, it has a very good flashlight on one side and some USB connections on the other. The radio is terrific! It has AM/FM/ and weather band. Very good reception with the fold out antenna. It also has a built-in SOS alarm and light, and a motion sensor good for 3 meters. The cost is about $40.
I recommend that you keep a few of these items handy for emergencies but they’re also very useful for camping or putting into a GO bag. A small waterproof box or bag will make them readily available for use. The links below will take you to more information about some of these items.
It’s not quite the end of this dreadful year but we’re close enough that I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting. This is what I learned about myself.
I am happy to be a hermit.
I’m a sociable person and enjoy visiting with friends and family, but actually, I am happy spending time alone. Never lonely. Just alone. Quite a difference. I didn’t even notice this until my husband pointed out that I hadn’t left the property for over a week. And the problem with that is? Fortunately, he loves to do the grocery shopping (yes, really!) so I only have to venture out to the big box store about once a month for other supplies and necessities. And the post office and library.
I would rather eat Cheetos and drink wine than exercise.
I am not proud of this. I used to exercise every day and ride my bike about ten miles a day, in nearly any weather. This year, not so much. It’s just so easy to sit on the patio with a good book and some crunchy snacks and my favorite adult beverage. This will be remedied in 2021.
I love my libraries.
This is really not any news, but my local libraries have gone above and beyond the call in order to supply books to their patrons. I could order books online and they would be delivered to my tiny local library within a few days. This saved me about 50 miles round trip. Yes, books are this important in my life.
UPS delivers (and FedEx and USPS).
Except when they don’t. Isn’t it so nice to be able to order practically anything you want online and it will be delivered to your door? In this rural area, I see the same delivery people all the time. My mail carrier has a personal relationship with my “big scary dog.” These are really hardworking, conscientious people.
But…as an Etsy seller, I did have some trouble with deliveries this season. I would mail out the package – usually within a day – take it to the local post office. They would get it out the same day. And then….where did it go? Many of my shipments ended up in a great black hole. I was so embarrassed as I truly believe in providing good customer service. Fortunately, everyone was very understanding. All but two packages arrived before the holidays but it was still disappointing.
Where’s your mask?
Last spring when the pandemic started ramping up and masks were difficult to find, I dusted off the old old sewing machine and whipped up a few. Well, about 200. I sent them to friends and family. No charge, just be safe. I was even considering creating a fund raiser for local food banks but by that time everyone had jumped on the band wagon and masks were easy to find. That’s good. I decided that I didn’t want to spend all my time sewing. I mostly want to paint.
But…I can’t believe how mad I could get when I saw people who weren’t wearing masks. Either they flunked science or were sleeping in the back of health class. Didn’t they know that masks could prevent the spread of germs?! Grumble grumble grumble.
I’m really really tired of politics.
Not only did we have the challenge of the pandemic, job losses, no fun activities, no vacations, but we were inundated with political ads and pundits. It was totally crazy. But my husband and I decided to vote in person because it feels real. I even reregistered just so my signature would match the 35 year old signature on record when I first registered here.
I miss live performances.
After spending so many years as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center, I never realized just how much I would miss live performances. Where people are sitting shoulder to shoulder, enjoying some live music on stage. A real play or comedy routine. Even the Chinese acrobats! I can’t wait to get back to some live performance venues.
I miss my family and friends.
We’re used to hosting family and friends for major holidays or summer get togethers. Not this year. I haven’t seen my father who only lives about a hundred miles from me since 2019. And when I visit my son who just lives a few miles away, it’s usually outside and socially distanced. An elderly friend who’s been a guest at our table for over 35 years is staying home these days. But we have been taking meals to her when we can.
Living in the country is the best!
It has been such a bonus that we can get outdoors. We can go for a country drive. We can sit by the firepit and not see another soul. My heart aches for all the children who are stuck in apartments or in the city with no outdoor space. This is no way for humans to live.
I am so proud of all the people who are helping to make our lives better….or at least tolerable.
I am grateful for the food servers and grocery store workers. For the many medical field workers who put their lives on the line every day. For the public employees who still take care of the streets and water and sewers and the lights. I’m grateful for my postman and the people who are still driving trucks across the country to deliver the necessities to people in need.
I try to keep focusing on the good things in our lives. On the opportunities, not the troubles. On the smart people who are working so hard to make the vaccines and medicines which will help us all.
This has been a trying year. Yet, despite our differences, we are able to find common ground. To still remember that we are all humans who are just trying to get by. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
But I really must work on eliminating those Cheetos.
So how’s your holiday shopping going? Sending and receiving? Do things seem a little delayed this year?
I asked my Facebook friends if they’ve noticed any delays in deliveries this year. Well, guess that was a hot button. Everyone has a story or complaint.
Fortunately, I ordered my gifts online pretty early. And have actually been surprised by the speedy delivery of a couple that I’ve ordered to be sent directly.
But as an online retailer (very very small), I’ve noticed a considerable slow down of pieces that I’ve mailed. I usually ship the day after I receive an order but this year when I check the tracking, the packages seem to spend days in a regional center, and then….where did they go? I can only hope that they eventually show up at their destinations.
I spoke with my local post mistress who showed me a photo of the regional center. Total chaos! They are overwhelmed this year, as, I expect are all the other delivery companies. Everyone is doing the best they can.
I know that my UPS deliveries have been arriving after dark by a temporary seasonal employee. And my father said that his mail sometimes arrives at eleven p.m! Whoa!
Anyway, with so many people ordering online this year and the dramatic increase in volume of packages shipped, I resolve to try being a little more patient. I guess we all could practice that a bit more at this time of year.
Okay, I must have been living under a rock because I never heard of Giving Tuesday until recently. I can be somewhat forgiven since this global movement was only started in 2012. In the United States, it is designated as the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which means that it is December 1st this year.
I wonder if this date was selected to apply a little guilt after the splurges of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Whatever. I think this is just a nice time of year to expand our Grinchy hearts and open our wallets. Which is why all those Please Donate envelopes have started arriving in our mailboxes.
Frankly, I would rather have teeth pulled than beg for money which I used to have to do as part of my job as Arts Director. Even selling over-priced candy bars for the PTO was preferable than to actually asking people for money. But I love to donate money for the fuzzy warm feeling it gives me. I only wish I had more to donate.
So how do you decide which worthy cause should benefit by your generosity? I once watched an interview with a royal rich somebody who was asked the same question. He said that there are so many worthy causes, that you must just select a few and concentrate on those. So that is what I have done the past several years.
These are some of my favorite causes:
The arts, obviously. It’s been a really rough year for the arts with live performances canceled nearly everywhere. This has had a ripple effect. Not only are the performers out of work, but also their support staff, roadies, lighting and music technicians, costumers, etc. They all have families and mortgages and orthodontist bills, too. I give what I can to my local arts organization but extend it further by making donations in memory of people who have passed, instead of buying funeral flowers. It adds up.
I’m a big fan of libraries and make donations to a couple of them in my area. Libraries have been going above and beyond to entertain and supply patrons with services during this difficult time. And they always seem to be able to stretch a dollar so I’m happy to help.
My college receives my annual alumni donation. Again, not very big but I don’t want to end up on the deceased alumni list.
And some of my favorites are PBS television and radio stations in the area. I figure that I listen to their broadcasts nearly daily so I ought to kick in a little.
These are some of my favorite charities. Again, I don’t have much extra money but I feel that my contributions will be put to good use.
But what if you don’t have much to give? Maybe you’re on the receiving end this year. How can you help if you have no money?
Time is a big help to many charities. Help your local food bank organize and deliver food. Volunteer as a docent or free help for your favorite cause. Do you have a local animal shelter? They can always use dog walkers and pen cleaners. Not the most glamorous job but it needs to be done.
My husband is a big one for bringing people homecooked meals. Maybe they’ve been sick or injured. Maybe they’ve had a death in the family. This used to be a very common thing to do but has nearly disappeared since we’re all so busy with our lives these days. It’s still a thoughtful thing to do. Now one of our sons has begun to carry on this tradition which is so satisfying to see.
Maybe you’d rather spend your time outdoors. How about volunteering for a river clean up? Or Just take a bag with you on your next walk and pick up some trash. Some is better than none and very litter bit helps. (That’s a joke.)
Many of you have probably already volunteered for your PTO or youth leagues but those activities may have been canceled due to the pandemic. Maybe you could do some online tutoring. There is always someone who needs your help.
Finally, if you are home a lot more these days, now is a great time to clean out those closets, garages, basements, sheds, etc. Donate the good used items to charity resale shops who, in turn, help out people in your community.
These are just a few ideas for sharing in your community. The nice thing about donating your money or your time is that it makes you feel good. And it helps others. And don’t we all need more of that right now?
The photo above shows what happened when a tractor ran into the side of my car last week. Yes, driven by my husband, too. Bummer. I had run up to town to get a few books from the little library – none of them for me, by the way. I waved to my husband as I left. He was out on his old Allis Chalmers brush hogging the edges of the fields after the farmer had harvested earlier. He likes to get things tidied up before winter.
On my return, I saw him in the front field but he didn’t see me. As I was coming down the long drive, he took a sudden turn right into the side of my car. Ten seconds either way would have avoided the accident. I tried to turn out of the way but was blocked in by some trees and a telephone pole.
You know, it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you know what’s coming and you can’t do anything about it. But….I haven’t had an accident since I was sixteen the first time I drove on ice so I really can’t complain. It’s just the aggravation of taking care of everything that is so annoying.
So, I picked up the pieces of the crushed mirror and came on up to the house. Then I decided that I needed to do a little contemplation with an adult beverage on the patio. It was a sunny, balmy day and my dog Mikey kept me company in his chair.
It’s only a car. No one was hurt. We have insurance. It could have been a whole lot worse. (There wasn’t a scratch on the tractor.) As I sat looking up at the trees, I decided to count my blessings. This always helps me to put things into perspective.
Thankfully, no one in my immediate family has been brought down by the COVID. (Although I have lost a friend and had some other acquaintances who have had the illness.) We live in a place where we have plenty of freedom to get outside, work to do, books to read. We’re not rich but the bills are paid and we can sleep at night.
Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re so fortunate that we have plenty of food. Others are not so lucky. I usually have a big spread for the holiday with lots of friends and family. That is not happening this year. I haven’t seen my father since last Christmas and he lives less than a hundred miles from me. But…I am still fixing a big meal. We will be delivering it to my son’s family nearby and a friend across the county. She’s in her nineties and still lives on her own. She’s been a guest at our table for over thirty years. I love to send people home with care packages of another meal or two.
So, a little annoyance this past week. But I still have much to be grateful for. I expect you do, too. I hope so anyway. Be careful out there and count your blessings.
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. Helen Keller
I don’t usually comment on current events or situations, but I thought I’d do a little reflecting on the current situation that is occupying everyone’s minds these days. With the craziness of people hoarding toilet paper or buying twenty pound bags of rice and beans, I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts on the matter
We live in a 140 year old house. I often think about how many chicken dinners were cooked in the kitchen. How many people have passed through the doors over the years. That the former owners lived without electricity or central heat or running water and some of that wasn’t really that long ago. They boiled their clothes in a tub outside. When we first moved here, there was an outhouse in the backyard. Although we removed it, it sure would have been handy when the kids were little so they didn’t have to come in the house to use the bathroom.
Our place is about twenty-five miles from the nearest real grocery, not counting the local dollar store for bread and milk. This means we keep the cupboards stocked a little better than most. But we also grow a pretty good sized garden which helps.
The power goes out once in a while when a storm has knocked a tree onto the lines. We’re prepared with oil lamps (yes, you can still buy those at farm supply stores), or kerosene heaters, or a camp stove. We don’t have to use those items often, but they’re handy. When Hurricane Ike rolled through the Midwest in 2008, the power was out for five days. Fortunately it was summer so we just opened the windows and “pioneered” it. Our teenagers took off to stay with friends when the batteries in their devices ran down. My husband and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Although we’re both retired now and don’t have to go anywhere, we’ve got plenty to occupy our time. Clean up after-winter debris and prepare the garden for planting. Finally get around to cleaning those attics. Painting, of course. Plenty of reading material. Go fishing or biking or hiking.
We still have electricity and running water. Really, folks, I don’t think those things are going away during this crisis. The factories are still making toilet paper and food deliveries will still arrive from the warehouses. Be patient and put things into perspective.
I have people from all over the world who follow this blog. Many are not so fortunate as we are regarding supplies and medical resources. Let us be grateful for what we do have. Many of you are working from home or have restricted activities. Why not take this time to enjoy your families? Try a new recipe or two or ten. Pretend you’re on Chopped and see what you can concoct just from your cupboards. Spend some time with your kids or significant other. Write your memoirs or plant some seeds. Call your parents. When was the last time you talked to an old friend? Now might be a good time to catch up. Try a new hobby, particularly if you already have the equipment sitting in the closet or basement.
Maybe we can all view this time of uncertainty and turmoil as an opportunity to reset. Turn your faces towards the sun and feel the warmth.
Raspberries and oatmeal. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16, Kit Miracle.
I was being interviewed for a magazine article earlier this week when the interviewer asked me, “ Do you hope to be famous with your artwork?”
This question gave me pause. I don’t think I’ve thought about being famous before. I’m pretty competitive but famous? Hummmm.
Maybe when I first began painting I had visions of being the next Georgia O’Keeffe or Janet Fish. But you don’t have to be in the art business very long to know what a long shot this is. And there have been many years when I was churning out production work to make some money. Do enough art fairs and you’ll become pretty mercenary.
You don’t have to be famous or rich to have fun making art. Just as every guitarist knows that his/her chance of becoming a famous rock star is pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop him/her from enjoying noodling on the instrument for the entertainment of friends and family.
These days I like the challenge of entering competitions for fun. And selling enough artwork to make back my expenses and support my bad habits.
However, I do think about my legacy sometimes. When I run across a picture of a painting that I may have completed years ago, I wonder where it is now. Who is enjoying it? I think of all the paintings that I’ve done over the years, where they are, and how they’re holding up. That is my legacy. A little bit of me spread across the globe.
We all have memorable events in our lives, milestones in history. With all the celebration of the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon, I thought I’d ask a few people where they were when.
Bombing of Pearl Harbor Sunday, December 7, 1941
As the population ages, there are fewer people who were around to remember this significant event of WWII. I asked my father who was nine at the time. He said that unlike today when we are constantly tuned into the news (bombarded), they didn’t have the radio on all the time. He said it probably wasn’t until that evening or even the next day that he learned of the bombing.
Assassination of President Kennedy Friday, November 22, 1963
I was in sixth grade when Mrs. Nicholson came in during our afternoon milk break to give us the bad news. We all prayed (back when that was allowed). So sad that such an inspiring young leader was taken away from us too soon.
My husband said he was in the alley working on a car with his buddies when someone came out and told them.
Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Thursday, April 4, 1968
I don’t remember this tragedy as well as some of the others but it had an impact on all of us during the turmoil of the sixties.
My husband was called up (in the National Guard) to help quell riots in Pittsburgh. They weren’t issued any ammunition but later were given one bullet each.
Landing a man on the moon Sunday, July 20, 1969
I got to celebrate this very exciting event while I was at a summer conference on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana. I remember about 200 students sitting in a darkened room on a cold linoleum floor watching the first step by Neil Armstrong on a black and white television. And the room erupted in cheering. It still amazes me.
Explosion of the Challenger spacecraft Monday, January 28, 1986
I was at work at Ford Motor Company when one of my co-workers came in at lunch time to tell me about the tragic event. We listened to the news on the radio with tears in our eyes.
My father was at a seminar in Florida at Cape Canaveral. They actually went to the window to watch the rocket launch and saw the terrible event in person.
Terrorist attack Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I was at home getting ready for work when I saw the first announcement on the morning news. As I watched, I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I was heartbroken and in shock. Needless to say, I didn’t go to work that day. What I really remember was how quiet the skies were the following week as all the planes were grounded.
In addition, my father was at the airport heading for a vacation in Paris. I panicked as I didn’t know if he was actually in the air, what plane he was on, or where he was. Fortunately, he was turned away at the airport. It wasn’t until several hours later that I was relieved to find that he was safe at home again.
We all have memorable days in our lifetimes, some happy – marriage, birth of a child, and some sad – death of a loved one. Although these are often personal times of remembrance, sometimes we share national days of historical importance. Where were you when?
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 TheMonuments Men about the hidden masterpieces and recovery after WWII? Or Woman in Gold? Both were based on true stories. Or Pricelessby 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.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!