“Its not what you look at that matters, its what you see.”—Henry David Thoreau  (from shot 2013-10-31 at 8.27.32 AMScreen shot 2013-10-31 at 8.36.19 AM

Taking the time to simply observe surroundings can lead to some delightful surprises.  Artist’s visual skills will see the pattern or the image in unusual places every time.  Designs in frost on the window, patterns in park benches, faces in trees, objects in clouds, an artist will spot the art in all quickly.  Mere mortals miss what is plain to the artist. sponsors The Tree Gallery where artists and photographers can submit unusual tree art, naturally occurring or touched by the artist’s hand.  The trees in the gallery are amazing.  One fascinating photo is an example of the phenomenon of art made my Mother Nature.  “Riverside Cottonwood” by Steve Grooms is particularly bittersweet.  He discovered the tree roots of a cottonwood tree recently exposed by floodwaters and finds the art in the roots.  He takes the photograph that shares this unusual sight with others.  A year later the tree topples over into the Mississippi River.  The artist captured the vision before Mother Nature took over and it was lost forever.

The website Patternity focuses on seeing pattern all around in everyday places.  The caption on the website reads, “seeing pattern everywhere—from the mundane to the magnificent.”  Take a look at the photographs on Patternity to see how surrounded we are by pattern.  Suddenly, a stack of chairs takes on a different feeling.  A row of windows becomes a pattern to an artist’s eye.  Patterns are all around us on a daily basis.

“This is part of what I mean about looking at the world with wonderment,” state authors Andy and Ali of the website ctrl-alt-travel A look at the website reveals many instances of finding the art in the mundane.  A shot of the knots in a rope, spikes in the street, park benches, art is everywhere if we take the time to look.

When in need of inspiration, observing surroundings for odd little patterns and designs is a fun game to play.  Waiting in line? Play “spot the art.”  Left on hold?  Play “spot the art.”  You never know what you might find.  There are always wonderful new discoveries out there waiting to be spotted.

The tree heart is in a row of trees lining the drive to the Ocala Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida.  The other shot is the “knee” of a cypress tree.

All the Lovely Pond Scum

Beauty is everywhere, but one may see the beautiful view and the other sees a dirty window.  You have the power within you to choose what you see, what you think and what you paint.”  Leanne Caddon (from The Painter’s Keys)Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 8.38.41 AM

To think of pond scum is to think of something slimy and dirty, naturally ugly, choking out beauty.  But is it?  Who decided that?  Is there some committee somewhere that decides what is lovely and what isn’t?  Or is it like a video going viral.  Somebody says, “That’s as ugly as pond scum.”  People hear it and think its funny so they repeat it.  Soon everybody thinks pond scum must be ugly and yucky even if they have never actually seen pond scum or even a pond.  It must be ugly because somebody said it was.

Artists frequently go against the grain or swim upriver.  When someone says something is ugly, somewhere an artist says, “No its not and I’ll show you!”  Stephen Bayley has written a book on the subject.  In an interview with Charlotte Cripps of The Independent, Bayley says he is “just provoking ideas about our assumptions of ugliness.”  The point of Bayley’s book, he tells Cripps, “is to challenge all our preconceptions about ugliness.”  The role of the artist is, not only to challenge but to prove those preconceptions wrong.

Walking along beside a pond, I noticed this beautiful velvety green film covering the surface with colorful fall leaves floating on top.  To me, it was beautiful.  To someone else, it is pond scum.  Check out the photo and see what you think.  If you agree with me that it is beautiful, the next time someone calls you, “Pond Scum,” you can respond with a heartfelt, “Thank you!”

A Magical Place

If these shadows we have offended,

think but this and all is mended,

That you have but slumbered here,

While these visions did appear

—Shakespeare,  A Midsummer Night’s DreamScreen shot 2013-10-28 at 10.46.29 PM

“The place where the fairies danced” was how my great aunt described a quiet spot in the woods she knew.  She was in her eighties.  I was around six or seven.  The fairies supposedly came out after the rain and danced under the green canopies of the may-apple plants.  Aunt Sade called this place Gladey Hollow.  A huge old Beech tree marked the entrance to Gladey Hollow.   As we walked along in the woods, my aunt could name just about every wildflower and bird.  She walked with a cane, using it to point out each plant and bird as we walked.  I wish now I could remember more of them.

Images I had in my child’s mind of fairies were from the whimsical illustrations depicting flowers as fairies.  I searched and searched in Gladey Hollow but never could see the little woodland creatures. Still I believed they were there.  If Aunt Sade said they were there, then they were there.  Maybe she actually saw them.

Do artists, who paint fairies and other mythical beings, actually see the creatures?  How do they come up with these lovely illustrations?  Either they have seen the little folk or they have wonderfully vivid imaginations.  I’d like to think they have actually seen the fairies flying around in the woods like Tinkerbell.  It could be interesting to find out!

Over the years, Aunt Sade led many people on excursions into the woods for picnics and stories about the little folk.  One poet/ artist wrote a poem illustrated in an ink wash painting.  In the illustration, the artist has made the poem look like it was carved into the old beech tree:

Have you ever watched the fairies

When the rain is done?

Spreading out their little wings

to dry them

in the sun.


Have you ever heard the fairies

All among the limes–

Singing little fairy tunes

to little fairy rimes.


Have you ever seen the fairies

dancing in the air–

And running off behind the stars

To tidy up their hair?


I have.  For I’ve been there–


Miss Sade’s

“Gladey Hollow”

Author: C.E.A.

 Evidently, this guy saw them.

Pet Muse

My little dog–a heartbeat at my feet.”  Edith Wharton  (from shot 2013-10-27 at 9.57.01 PM

Pets get to people in ways humans can’t.  They are the silent inspiration, the quiet heartfelt love that only asks for basic needs and your company.  Do they effect art and art making?

Picasso’s dog, Lump was the only other being allowed in his studio.  Warhol immortalized his dogs in his art.  David Hockney continues to paint his two dachshunds even now.  Many artists have shared their lives with pets.  For some it’s cats and others dogs.  Freda Kahlo had monkeys.  Salvador Dali’s pets were ocelots.  The list goes on.  Summer Anne Burton at Buzzfeed has outlined these and other artists and their pets in an interesting article with wonderful photos.

George Rodigue turned portraits of his dog into a multi- million- dollar empire.  The Blue Dog series, along with paintings of life in the Louisiana Bayou became Rodrigue’s life’s work.  He based the Blue Dog character in his paintings on his spaniel, Tiffany.  70 of the Blue Dog works were on display at Baton Rouge’s LSU Museum of Art recently.

I confess I talk to my dog as he sits quietly at my feet beside the easel or under the drawing table.  He doesn’t usually talk back.  For some reason, it is easier to work out problems if discussed with Twinkie.  He doesn’t offer advice or suggest it could have been done another way.  He just listens and occasionally thumps his tail.  I take that to mean he has approved the solution.  Once Twinkie sat too close to the easel when I was working on a pastel.  Green pastel dust covered the top of the white fur on his back.  He didn’t seem to mind but people looked at him very strangely until I got it all out.

It is likely different from artist to artist.  Not all artists have pets.  For those who do, there is a connection that is hard to describe in logical terms.  Maybe it’s the companionship.  Could be the fact that a pet is hardly ever critical.  All your art is good with the pet.  They think you, and by extension, your art are wonderful.  But I believe it is deeper than that.  A connection between artist and pet creates a bond that flows over into the work.  A silent communication happens sparking the creative juices.  Or maybe, it’s just my imagination.  Twinkie’s not saying.

Sunday Slideshow–October at Radnor Lake

Mid-October at Radnor Lake as the trees are in the beginning stages of turning. Fall wildflowers are hanging on even though the weather is cooling down.

Week-End Inspiration–Slogging through the Wasteland

Screen shot 2013-10-26 at 10.11.24 AMThe Muse visits during the act of creation., not before  Don’t wait for her. Start alone.”  Roger Ebert

It’s been a long week and you are counting on having some time to create art this week-end.  You are pumped, you are ready, all your supplies out, then… nothing.  A big fat nothing!  The Muse has left the building.  Major bummer!   All the planning to have this time and the inspiration has dried up.  All dressed up and nowhere to go.  What now?

In Twelve Steps to Stay Inspired the authors have some great ideas such as get outside, go looking for inspiration.  If the Muse is gone, go looking for where she went.  Do some searching in a park or the shopping mall.  Drop in to a local tourist site and mingle with the tourists.  Seeing things through the eyes of the tourists may change your perspective.

Listening to dreams is on Artpromotivate’s list of 20 Art Inspiration Ideas for Creativity.  That is an interesting one.  Can you remember what dreams you had last night?  Were you too tired from the week before to even have dreams?  If not what was the last memorable dream you did have?  Write it down.  Sketch it.  Think about its meaning.  See if there might be some sparks lurking down in your dreams ready to light some fire.  Hopefully, you haven’t had any nightmares recently.  Or maybe you have!

Smashing Magazine says if you have a regular “go to” place for inspiration, change it up.  Go somewhere different. suggests a look into what other artists are doing.  Find inspiration from your peers.  See what is inspiring them.

If all else fails, go to the studio and make some marks.  Any marks.  Taking the steps may bring out the rest. The effort will, hopefully, start to take shape.  Sometimes the best things happen when feeling lost in the drought.  The defenses are down and feelings dejected.   You never know.  There just might be a pleasant surprise waiting to show up on the canvas, paper, etc.   Something wonderful may grow out of the wasteland!

Colorful Fridays–“Green” Rose Brown

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” Sir Frances Bacon (from the Painter’s Keys)Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 10.50.11 AM

Mix cinnamon, ginger and chocolate and you will come up with a color very close to Burnt Sienna, (not to be confused with the rock band, Burnt Sienna).  However, you may not want to paint with this mixture.  For paint, you will need iron oxide and manganese oxide.  Then you will have to set it on fire, unless or course, you are looking for the more yellowish Raw Sienna.  In that case, leave off the fire.

Burnt Sienna is an old paint color dating to early cave paintings..   The rose brown of Burnt Sienna was originally called terra rossa or red earth in accounts from the Renaissance period but later came to be known for the Italian city of Siena where the minerals were first mined.  Today it is mined on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, in the French Ardennes and American Appalachians.

Rembrandt favored Burnt Sienna as is evident in the warm rosy glow so characteristic of his paintings.  Burnt Sienna is favored in most Renaissance paintings as well.  Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro was likely achieved with the liberal use of Burnt Sienna in the rich deep shadows that became his signature style.  Burnt Sienna was a popular paint of many of the old masters and continues its popularity to this day.

Most makers of Burnt Sienna today give a light fast rating of one as extremely light fast.  Golden classifies it as semi-transparent.  The Gamblin Company states today’s Burnt Sienna is more opaque than 200 years ago and recommends Van Dyke Brown or Gamblin Earth Tone Colors as better choices if seeking greater transparency.  Daniel Smith, speaking of the watercolor, says Burnt Sienna combines well in glazes as a semi-transparent pigment that won’t “sully or stain the other pigments” in your glaze.

Artists seeking to become more earth-friendly in painting can buy natural pigments of Burnt Sienna for home mixing from  If you would like to be more “Green” with your browns, try mixing your own earth tones from actual earth pigments.  What could be more natural?

Order natural pigments from Earth Pigments here.

Burnt Sienna, the band, talks about their music on You Tube:

Soul Food

Cross Creek belongs to the wind and rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.”  Marjorie Kinnan RawlingsScreen shot 2013-10-24 at 11.26.10 AM

There’s a place in Nashville far enough off the tourist path to remain an oasis for nature lovers and others seeking relief from the hectic pace of the daily rat race.  To go there is to breathe in the scent of the flora and fauna of the woods without leaving the city.  A bit of the rejuvenation coming only from Mother Nature is just a short distance from the rush hour traffic of the nearby interstate.  Radnor Lake is a slice of enchantment to feed the create soul while remaining in the city.

Taking Granny White Pike toward the lake, between the old stacked -stone walls built by soldiers during the Battle of Nashville is a beautiful drive beneath towering oaks. The turn onto Otter Creek Road leads to the small parking area designated for visitors to the lake.  Leaving the car and starting out up the short hill to the road beside the lake is to step into another world.  The trees are a canopy overhead shading the walk.  Leaves scattered over the road crunch under foot.  Birds chirping replace the sounds of traffic.  The woods become an enveloping blanket leaving the busyness of life behind.

Other people are present but scattered enough to keep the feeling of being in the woods from dissolving.   And the people of Radnor Lake are a very respectful bunch, all seeming to have entered into the spiritual presence of a pristine natural world.  The occasional bit of laughter rings out or the delighted scream of a child at the site of a scurrying chipmunk can be heard but otherwise voices do not pierce the stillness of the woods.

While ascending the hill to the lake road the other day, I spotted a man standing very quietly looking up into the woods.  He was not moving a muscle.  As I approached, I realized he was watching something in the woods.  I slowed my pace and searched for what he was seeing.  A family approaching from the other direction, stopped as well, and peered into the trees.  We soon saw what the man was watching.  A white tailed deer and her two almost grown babies were coming down out of the woods to cross the road to the creek below the lake.  We all stood momentarily transfixed by the sight, as the deer family walked peaceably by the humans not ten feet away without a care and disappeared into the woods again on the other side. The group of humans then dispersed and walked on.  The children completely quiet and still as the deer family passed, resumed their happy skipping and chatter.  It was a momentary shared spiritual experience.

Radnor Lake is a place I go for soul nourishment.  The trees, flowers, birds and other wildlife bring on a magical contentment.  Looking out over the lake is a peaceful sight.  Passing photographers and binocular-welding bird watchers along the walk, I know others are finding food for the soul, as well.  Like Cross Creek, Radnor Lake belongs, “beyond all, to time.” We all need the Radnor Lake/Cross Creek places to soothe and feed our creative selves.

The Breathing Heart

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  William Wordsworth (from Becoming shot 2013-10-23 at 10.27.02 AM

Why do we start blogs?  Ask that question and many answers will pop up.  The most popular are to make money or to promote a business.  But a funny thing happens along the way.  The heart starts to get into it.  The people that become a part of the community interacting with a blog start to become personally meaningful. The blog content begins to focus on who these people are and why.

A popular blogger, Cristian Mihai, answers the questions of his popularity on a post for The Daily Post at WordPress.  Mihai says he began his blog to gain audience for his books and was determined to make a go of it.  Along the way he made some discoveries. Of one such discovery, he states, “If every post you write means something to you, it’ll undoubtedly mean something to other people, too.”  And secondly, he believes consistency is vital.  Make a regular post and stay with it.  But follow the heart.

Penny Howe in her blog, The Why About This, has a post entitled, “What do we do next, we bloggers, we artists, we people?’  When the heart has begun the process of making a daily foray into the blog post, what next?  Howe says make a plan of action.  Plan the next moves based on what the heart has revealed.  If the goals from the blog’s beginning have changed, take a look at the new goals and arrange the plan of action around the new goals.  But first determine what those goals are.

“The best recommendations are still found in the personal realization that blogging changes you,” writes Joshua Becker in Becoming Minimalist.  Becker says blogging not only changes your life, it changes the life of the reader as well.  He believes writing a blog will inspire others, and the writer in the process.

In making the plan of action, advocated by Penny Howe, perhaps a look at the heart of the matter is at hand.  Self- promotion or business promotion may have been the initial reason but as the heart began to speak more openly and coherently, the reason possibly changed.  As the heart begins to breath, encourage it to continue.  Breathing is a good thing.

SEO, So So

“I’m not a marketing person.  I don’t ask myself questions.  I go by instinct.” Karl Lagerfeld (from BrainyQuote)Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 10.56.16 AM

How does the whole Search Engine Optimization(SEO) thing work and is it important for artists?  It may depend on two factors.  First, how tech savvy you are may indicate how effective SEO is for you. The second factor depends on how much time or money you have to invest.  The whole point of SEO is to get your website on pages one through three of the big search engines.  If your website does make it to page one through three, does that equal success?

This is not an easy conversation for artists who really just want to paint.  Whether or not it is important to take the time to become more tech savvy is naturally up to the individual.  Artist Rizwana A. Mundewadi, writing for Absolute Arts is not so sure it is vital for artists.  Mundewadi states the more important thing is to write from your heart about your art.  She believes, you, the artist, are the best person to write about your art.  You are the one with the passion.  Mundewadi states, “This some how is felt even on the net, there is a connection with genuine hearts.”

Duran Inci, writing for Optimum 7, says SEO can be very rewarding for artists and muscians and a strong marketing component.  However, Inci advises the use of a company with the know- how and successful track record particularly for artists.  His article gives several tips for finding the right SEO company for artists.  The most important point Inci makes is long-term commitment.  There are no short cuts or quick fixes.  The rewards come from staying with the plan.

Smashing Magazine features an article on the SEO topic by Paul Boag advocating the same basic idea as Mundewadi, though with more tech information.  Boag makes it plain that people should take control of their own websites and blogs.  Boag outlines a good plan for doing this with the point that the primary driver of traffic is good content.  If you want more traffic, write good content that people are interested in.  Feature useful information people will want to share with others.

The bottom line is SEO may be helpful if you have the time and/or money and especially the interest.  If you do not, concentrate on what you do have.  Most artists have a passion for their art.  That is the key.  Write about it.  Tell people what you find in your art.  Talk about what you are passionate about in a way that is useful to other people.  Become as tech savvy as you want but above all, be who you are.  Let your heart shine and others will connect.