Category Archives: opinion

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.

 

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