Theft in Point

Ever wonder what art thieves do with stolen priceless art?  Me too.  You can’t buy a home, car or anything tangible with the stolen art.  Its not currency. Why rob a museum when you can rob a bank?  The security is similar.  Most major works stolen can never be displayed anywhere.  They can’t be easily resold or insured.

The New York Times has an article today on the company with the best success rate for recovery of stolen art, Art Loss.  Apparently, some museums and collectors are unable to afford the usually high cost of recovery.  The company’s founder, Julian Radcliffe says recovery can require elaborate and expensive sting operations. He states the agency is not profitable due to the high cost of operation.  Art Loss runs an extensive database of stolen art utilized by multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI’s art theft division, (read more on the division’s work at the link).

The Guardian newspaper runs a regular feature on art theft and has recently been covering the theft from The Netherlands of major works by Picasso, Monet, Matisse and Gauguin by a Romanian group.  These thieves may have burned the priceless works once they found themselves unable to resell them.

The theft of Munch’s The Scream from Norway generated much publicity and the thieves were soon caught.  The painting was recovered.  How did these thieves think they were going to dispose of the painting?  It’s so well known posters of The Scream are sold at and many other stores.  Evidently, some of these guys are so smart they can thwart sophisticated security but are too dumb to know what to do next.   Unfortunately, not all are so dumb and the The Thomas Crowne Affair is not a true story.



You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.”

                                                            John Singer Sargent   (from Brainyquotes)     

Sketching is vital to developing artistic vision.  For some artists it requires focus and discipline. For others, sketching is the artistic vision.  As sketching evolves by the hand of the later, it gains an energy and drama that is quite compelling.

The blog, Doodlemum, is one such example.  The artist’s doodles became the story of the artist’s life.  The richness and poignancy of the work is immensely compelling.  We want to be in Doodlemum’s life.  Doodlemum’s doodles went on to become a book.  Doodlemum’s doodles will inspire artistic vision and bring on a smile.

It is not always easy to make the effort to prepare for painting by making preliminary sketches.  If there is an image in the artist’s head, it can be difficult to slow down the process and take the time to develop the concept through sketching before picking up a brush.  How many frustrations can be avoided by taking the time to expand the “head” image by sketching first?  And who knows, our sketchbooks may just take on lives of their own!

Swamp sketch

A Nomadic Nature

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” Twyla Tharp (from Artpromotivate)

Are artists running away through their art?  Is running away a good thing?  So many people wish they could run away everyday.  Few have the means.  Artists do it daily.

Running away is generally thought of in a negative sense.   Running away and escapism seem to be interchangeable to the vast majority of people who are not artists as though it is a bad thing.  Runaways, who are not artists, do so as a last resort because something in life has become unbearable.  Rather than deal with it, they run away, thus the negative stigma.   If artists regularly escape into art it would indicate a positive action.  As Tharp points out, we run away without leaving home.

In an entertaining travel blog called Nomadic Matt, the author states,  “And, instead, I’m running towards everything – towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom.”  He is making the argument for a lifestyle of running away.  Even though it sounds exciting it is not always practical for most of us so we do it through art.  Some artists are fortunate enough to do both.  Being an artist may be one way to live a nomadic life.  Maybe we are all nomads at heart.  Some just stay home while running away.

I regularly run away to the swamp.  I wonder where others run to?

Swamp Sentinels
Swamp Sentinels

The Case of the Forging Forger

Every good painter paints what he is.” Jackson Pollock

CBS Sunday Morning this past Sunday told the story of hugely successful art forger, Ken Perenyl. It appears that Perenyl has had an immensely lucrative career as a forger of the works of a number of mainly eighteenth and nineteenth century artists. He boastfully demonstrates his techniques for aging canvas and frames. Perenyl goes on to show the evidence of where Southby’s sold one of his forgeries for $650,000. Ken Perenyl has never come close to paying for the crime of forgery and deception even though the FBI did sniff around a bit at one time. Watching this left me feeling torn between admiration of his skill and disgust at his gleeful attitude toward his crimes.

Grossman LLP is a law firm that deals with issues in the art world. On the firm’s blog, Art-law-blog, is a recounting of the case of the owner of the New York art gallery of Salander-O’Reilly. Owner Salander was convicted of crimes of deception in the art world. He was driven into bankruptcy and is paying the price of his shady dealings. Yet Perenyl not only walks free, he brags about his crimes.

If we take Jackson Pollock’s quote as truth, what does that make Ken Perenyl? And why should we care? What effect if any, does this forger have on the majority of honest artists out there?

To watch Pollock creating his paintings go to The Museum of Modern Art and The Terrain Gallery


A Heart Falls in the Woods

“Art is Literacy of the heart”—Elliot Eisner

The heart speaks through art as any artist can attest but do others always hear?  Does it matter as long as the heart speaks?  Artists are driven to continue to speak whether anyone is listening or not.  Does it matter to the artist whether or not his/her heart is heard?  Is the point to give voice to the heart and not worry about whom, if anyone, is listening? No.

As long as an artist can make art, that is vital.  However, when you have worked so hard to give the heart a voice, it becomes important to follow through and also make a way for that voice to be heard.  The art is not complete until its voice has been heard.  Frequently, for whatever reason, we neglect this part of the art equation.  The heart is speaking.  We must see that it gets heard.

Photographer Tom Kostas states, “Art and poetry have revealed more to me than any other field of study I have encountered, including philosophy, in my life.”  What is revealed from the heart through art is important to pass on, to share.

Helping the heart get heard can be difficult for some artists, especially if introverted.  Perhaps that makes it even more important to find a way to get heard.  Does the heart break if we don’t carry the work all the way through to the end result of being heard?  Art made in isolation and not put out for others to experience is like the tree that falls in the woods.  Does it make a sound if no one is listening?  Thoughts anyone??

Hear more from Dr. Elliot Eisner:

Attachment Syndrome

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (from

Many artists become attached to paintings. Each painting is a self -portrait in a sense, regardless of subject.  Creating a work can feel almost like birthing a child.    It’s hard to abandon a painting for someone else to possess when so much of self is in it.  Abandonment is painful. And once the painting is gone the abandonment is complete.  Maybe we delay completion, to delay the pain of separation.  Each artwork is the outward expression of an inner emotional reaction.  It can be difficult to let go of that response.  In some ways, it feels like abandoning our self to someone else.

Artist Emily Rose describes her process of emotional expression through her painting.  Depending on the emotional space of the artist, as Emily Rose describes it, a painting can possess various levels of the manifestation of feelings.  Likely, this same thing happens to many of us.  A painting then becomes the outward symbol of our inner feelings.  Letting go of a painting means letting go of inner feelings.

How do we objectively let go of paintings with feelings splattered all over them?  How have other artists overcome this dilemma?  Any suggestions?


Stop Signs

“Art is never finished, only abandoned” Leonardo Da Vinci (from

Where is the stopping place on any painting?  Does a red light come on and say, “Stop?”  How do artists know where that place is?  Ask any artist and you will likely get different answers.  It is not easy to come to the finished place.  There is always something more to do.  It can be something small or something much bigger.  It may be something that has to be looked at over time until the finishing touch finally makes itself known.

Agonizing over where to stop can be stressful enough to get out of the mental painting mode.  Essentially, concern over the finish can be strong enough to keep pushing to the point where the painting loses spontaneity.  To stop when the intuition says stop can take courage.  It also takes listening to that little voice.

Artist Paul Gardner is quoted on Artpromotivate as saying, “A painting is never finished-it simply stops in interesting places.”  Perhaps, that is a significant difference from the Leonardo quote.  Instead of forcing abandonment can we accept the inner voice that says, “This is an interesting place to stop!”  It could be so much less stressful to look for the interesting place than to face abandonment. 

Reports say that Leonardo never found the finishing place in the Mona Lisa because he is said to have kept the painting with him throughout his life.  Maybe he couldn’t abandon her.

For more about Leonardo Da Vinci:



Dancing Neurons

When starting to paint, I always have an image in my head that I want to come out on the canvas.  It never does.  My hand must have its own brain.  Or the neurons bumping around in my brain go haywire before they reach my hand.  What appears under my hand is usually something wildly different from the original thought.  However, this strange hand brain makes some fun things happen.  Maybe my neurons start to dance before they reach my hand.  My hand does its own dance on the canvas to some unknown tune my brain can’t hear.  If I let go and permit the haywire neurons to continue the happy hand dance, my creation begins to take flight and become free.

However, if I fight the crazy neurons in my hands and work on something more controlled, it loses the spontaneity that gives a painting life and energy.  The painting may become more true to form but has no spark..  A person commented on one of my paintings, where the dancing neurons made the hand paint a red lake instead of the more controlled and average blue-green of most lakes.  This person said she didn’t think she had ever seen the lake in question look red.  My thought was, “Of course not!  You have to have dancing neurons to turn a blue-green lake red.”  And why have a blue-green lake when you can have a red one?  The red lake has life!

Houston artist, Alissa Fereday tweets some wonderful daily quotes on her twitter site, @ITweetart.  Today’s quote is attributed to the Swiss artist, Paul Klee.  Klee states, “The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen.”  I may see a blue-green lake but a red one will be seen when the dancing neurons take control of the painting hand.

The hard part is to continue to allow the neurons the freedom to transmit dance to the painting hand.  Resist control.  Dance on!!!


Never Ending Nature

Do artists see nature differently than other people?   Do artists seek to replicate nature, enhance it or just see something others don’t?  Paintings more often than not have a life that is different from what one might see with the naked eye.  When artists choose nature as subject, nature changes, becomes something more. Whether landscape, still life or botanical illustration, nature through the eyes of the artist shimmers with a vivid electrical quality that might have previously escaped notice.

The website, Skinny Artists has “150 wonderful art quotes that can inspire.”  Among the quotes is one from Russian born artist, Marc Chagall.  Chagall states, “Great art picks up where nature ends.”  Chagall’s message is the goal nature artists are working for.  These artists are enhancing nature and bringing it to life in a way not usually seen by the average eye.  Nature artists seek to give notice to simple beauty that might otherwise be missed.

Botanical illustration is frequently categorized as more science than art.  Yet what botanical artists are depicting is more than simple scientific re-creation. Their illustrations give nature the intrigue that leads us to look more closely.  Margaret Mee, (1909-1988), conservationist and botanical artist, brought the Amazon Rainforest to life through her paintings of orchids and other exotic plant life she encountered on her excursions into the untouched rainforests.  The vibrancy of nature in Mee’s art sparked an interest in the rainforests that led to later efforts to protect and preserve this vast eco-system.

Today the beauty of nature through botanical art is fostered and nurtured by the American Society of Botanical Artists, (ASBA) and The Society of Botanical Artists, (SBA) in the United Kingdom and other national, international and regional organizations.  These organizations continually show us how wonderful the world of nature is when viewed through the magic of the artist’s hand.  Botanical artists are the portraitists of plant life, highlighting the beauty and uniqueness of individual horticultural species.  Botanical artists “pick up where nature ends” to open our eyes to the beauty around us.

Nature is never ending while art lives.

The following Margaret Mee painting and others can be seen at the Audubon House Gallery of Natural Art.


The Place of the Singing Heart

]The late Steve Jobs is much in the news these days with the movie about his life recently released.  There is no doubt that Steve Jobs changed our world.  Whatever people may think of Jobs, the person, what he did for all our lives is now unquestionable history.

Carmine Gallo wrote an excellent article in Forbes Magazine (here) about how Steve Jobs followed his heart and encouraged others to do the same.  Gallo quotes Jobs as saying, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.  Going to bed at night saying, I’ve done something wonderful.  That’s what matters.”   Where would we be today if Jobs hadn’t followed his heart?

This doesn’t mean to say that Steve Jobs was always successful.  He had many missteps and failures along the way.  But he continued to do what made his heart sing and eventually he was immensely successful.  The key was to continue to do what made his heart sing.

We don’t have to have the success of Steve Jobs to be a success.  Being a success is doing what makes your heart sing, whatever that may be.  For artists, art makes our hearts sing.  But it is not always easy to jump through the fear and get to the place of the singing heart.  Taking those first steps can feel like you are about to leap off of Pike’s Peak with no clothes on.

In a wonderful blog, Rachel Jepson Wolf describes the first steps she took to write her blog.  Wolf states, “It was simultaneously, scary, thrilling and embarrassing to hit ‘publish’ on those first few posts.  But I did it anyway.”  She took those first steps because writing her blog makes her heart sing.  Wolf’s blog is here.

For visual artists, it may be putting those first few slashes of color on canvas or paper.  That first brushstroke is the hardest for me.  For you, it could be the first few steps of whatever your process is.  For some it is deciding what colors to mix.  Others may first start an under drawing or under painting.   Listen to what song your heart is singing and leap.

Artist Nicole Docimo has a delightful short video on listening to what makes your heart sing.  Her blog is here.

In his Steve Jobs article, Carmine Gallo has an unattributed saying that states, “Don’t die with the music still in you.”  Are we listening?

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