12 Old Masters Principles

Learn from Masters, Not Grandma Moses

This morning I was checking out literary magazines I didn’t know and found an artist who advertised herself as, let’s say, “New-York-City raised novice who creates her works sporadically in between many other interests and draws realism inspirationally, inherited talent, no formal education,” examples of her pictures supplied.

Well, I’m sorry, call me cruel, but I laughed my head off. Why do literary people brag about untaught talent in visual arts and demand rigid schooling in other arts, like poetics? This bio truly wins the ‘educated fool’ of the year award. I don’t make fun of people’s fledgling attempts, by the way, only of their attempt to make their stubbornness against learning visual art skill into a badge of honor, a résumé.

Educated fool sounds a lot like ‘noble savage,’ a school of thought which maintains, for instance, that people like Reubens used talented-but-untaught students to paint his museum quality paintings. Sure, students were used in many studios, but they underwent rigorous training in the effects and techniques of the artist they worked for, high-end, not gauche techniques. There’s a line to be crossed here past happy little trees, fan brushes, liquid oils, and dabs.

On one Facebook feed a Canadian artist was touted who used students–but he taught them in such a way as to produce a consistent high-end look prior to his stepping in to put his expertise to the final. I don’t understand people in education who think skill bubbles out of talent full-blown. Why would we need schools?

Okay, you’re on the side of the angels. You have talent. You’ve drawn how-to’s, taken a course in high school. You know you have to work for it. So the idea of artists learning skills in art drawing, painting, perspective, and design does not make you stubbornly resistant to learning. A teacher who believed students painted Reubens’ paintings asked me, what ARE Old Masters’ techniques? For all of you I’ve delved into my Old Master’s studio training in oils and watercolors in Germany and come up with 12 principles gleaned from the Old Masters. Enjoy. And please try them out.

1. Principle of Lost and Found Lines. Sounds mysterious, but really it is just a step beyond outline drawing per se. Most people drawing outlines of subjects think they must draw a figure, for instance, without lifting their pencil. Even sketchers who dab pencil strokes will do this, fully roping in a face, an ear, a shoulder until it looks like a forensic appendage cut off and pasted back on. They have ears growing out of necks, make noses hang from eyes and all sorts of literal disasters. For this principle to make real sense to you, think about the sun shining on an object and observe that happening, and you will see there IS no line on the outside of a nose on a bright day. Start in the middle of open space with a line. At the hair line, leave spaces between hair strokes and avoid the swimming cap effect. Keep on looking for places to lift your pencil or brush and leave a space, and your sophistication will grow. This is the opposite of the stained glass effect with black outlines around everything.

2. Principle of Avoiding Lines Pointing Off Your Work.

Straight line, dark next to light, going off top of page

Avoid drawing or painting stiff straight lines toward the edges. At an exhibit, the viewer will follow them to the next painting. Also, anything organic like a tree has bumps, turns, and curves here and there, and are not perfectly straight. Likewise avoid painting into the edges or corners.

3. Principle of the Foot Against the Edge. I’m guilty of this one. Next time I do it, I’ll try to do a trompe l’oeil post to strain against. The trick is to plan your composition to keep the limbs well within the picture plane.

4. Principle of the Focal Point: If you are not conscious of this, you might create 10 different focal points in one painting which will make the eye jump around like a jumping bean. The focal point, or the place in the painting you want the eye to return to again and again is defined as where the darkest dark meets the lightest light. This you want intentional, not accidental.

5. Principle of Unrelieved Tension. When you position two objects next to each other with only a centimeter or two’s space between, you actually create a kind of focal point, because the eye goes back and forth between the spots seeking to join them and can’t concentrate on the rest of the work.

6. Principle of Too Many White Spots. This happens accidentally in an oil when there’s no under-painting and not enough paint on the surface, the paint contracts and leaves bare spots. or in watercolor when you drag a dark, nearly dry color over a light space and the brush hops over the paper’s bumps–a technique known as dry-brushing. This is another way of achieving a focal point, by the way.

7.  Principle of Limited Highlights and Accents. My German Old Masters teacher in Munich taught there should never be more than 3 of each. Highlights should be one spot of pure white or near it, one spot of white mixed with yellow ochre, one a little less than that. Again, much goes along with this. You would never put a white highlight in a black forest,

White highlights in near-black

for instance. You don’t go suddenly from one extreme to another. Accents are the darkest darks. You put them in at the end where you want to emphasize focal point. Nothing finishes a painting like a well-placed accent.

8.  Principle of Facial Proportions: Make sure your eyes are placed halfway down the head. Too high up, and they look quite strange. People forget there needs to be space allowed above the hairline.

9.  Principle of Stretching Color. Learning to discern colors in objects is a lifelong artof looking, comparing, testing combinations of paint. If there is a hint of green in a shadow, you can stretch the color and add a bit more for enhanced effect.

10. Principle of Not Over-mixing. Why people think they must go back and forth on their palettes until their paint is one uniform wall paint color, I cannot fathom. We could learn from our brother craftsmen, the toll painters that we may double and triple load our brushes and carry colors side by side onto the surface for a much nicer effect. One of my young students dipped 10 times and brought it back to black. Also over stroking. If you stroke over your beautiful colors more than twice you have blended them back together. One very important place this truth shows up is in hair.

11. Principle of feathering. This means going in one direction with a slight lift at the end. Using a soft touch, barely touch a painted edge at the edge.

Grey edge on arm turns it

12. Principle of Grey Edges.

Grey edges turn a round form. A light edge makes it turn up to the eye. Something one can easily forget and produce figures that are too crisp and cookie cutter.

All of these principles keep the eye forever exploring, checking, comparing. And checklists are sometimes what mastery is all about. Have fun trying these out!


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The SUPERNATURAL in Christianity and Beyond

Few realize it, but supernatural powers have often been attributed to stones, including in fiction, like Ali Babi and the Forty Thieves written in the 1800’s with secret word of access, “Open, Sesame.”

Nations recognize talking stones and the sensational regularly, however. Among them would be Scotland, Ireland, Lhasa in central Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Israel. Under the temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem lies a foundation stone held to be the spot of either the Holy of Holies or the Outer Court of the First Temple. Stones credited with supernatural powers are legendary. Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, snatched as a spoil of war by Edward in 1296 is said to be where Jacob slept, receiving the vision from God of angels descending on a ladder. Jesus used mute rock to symbolize indifference to him, proclaiming that rocks would cry out to point to him, if necessary.

Supernatural is at the heart of Christian and Jewish history with the Ten Commandments emblazoned on stone tablets directly from God, to include angel visitations, inception of Mary by the Holy Spirit, a virgin birth, appearance and vocalization of God at Jesus’ baptism, three years of major miracles by Christ and his disciples then and beyond, His resurrection, the rolling away of the stone entry to Jesus’ tomb, conversion of Christian-killer Paul through a public vision making Paul blind, speaking of thousands in unknown tongues, the raising of the dead. Over the years traditional denominationalism gave way to evangelicalism which has now imploded, and everyone is looking for a new moniker.

Tradition often leaves little room for the supernatural.

Mainstream Christians fail to realize that top religious entities, the Catholic Church for one, have documented provisions for supernatural visitations of aliens, a controversial arena shut down by the ‘median voice’ of believers of many faiths. Others believe the final days will explode with supernatural visitations touching Earth. Whether God origins or no are issues resurfacing for free-floating Christians at large who have distanced themselves from the many ecclesiastical bodies.

Re-enter one such Stone–stolen by England’s Edward in 1296 as a spoil of war and returned to Scotland in 1996–a stone on which Scotland’s royals were crowned, and after 1296, was England’s coronation stone, a stone reputed to speak. Some argue that Lia Fail designation was meant only for Ireland’s stone by the same name which bears a totally different look, located on the hill of Tara instead of on Moot Hill. Others say that name still applies to Scotland’s Stone of Destiny under guard at Edinburgh Castle with the crown jewels, brought in on November 30, 1996 in a motorcade to great fanfare.

Back home, now, in Scotland–or is it? Prominent Scottish citizens like Alex Salmond are quoted as questioning Edinburgh Castle Stone’s authenticity.

Diana Gabaldon uses a stone in Scotland for the fictional entry of her character into a fantasy historical past. She uses the history of my ancestor, Farquhard Campbell, in her books that started with Outlander. My romance novel and thriller is based on a Scottish stone as well, but one this author speculatively posits a future for that is based on its history. Stone of Her Destiny’s heroine has direct lineage from that very real but difficult-to-be-traced Farquhard Campbell and his wife Isabella McAllister Campbell whose story bears on this debate in a startling enough way that it might wake the the dead.

Ever since the Stone of Destiny was liberated from its throne chair in the wee hours of November 14, 1996, in Westminster Abbey, the public have wanted to hear every possible detail about the stone’s journey. Since the stone’s vitae contains a history of thefts as well as coronations, one asks a bold and valid question. And now on the eve of destruction, perhaps the ancient stone which one legend holds is the stone that carried the arc of the covenant of the Hebrew children for 40 years in the wilderness, the very stone Jacob lay on when he received a vision from God. Perhaps the stone wants to speak again.

Perhaps it wants to name the true Monarch of the World. The real Stone could resurface just in time to speak once more and shake the Earth.

Follow Kenna as she involves Scottish Laird by the name of her ancestor and his son Lane of Blackheart Heights in a history-propelled search through current-day Scotland into the world of the supernatural to find the Holy Grail, the Stone of Her Destiny.  You can buy this book in the special promo right now at the link. Look for a new promotion first thing in the new year.

Belief in supernatural activity of stones recedes to early folklore and Babylonian culture. Perhaps even for today it is not so strange a belief. A speaking stone could act as pivot point for people of faith, to forever unify or divide.

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Stone of Her Destiny’s Release Soon

New Gothic Romance

Lulled to sleep by grace. Soothed into inaction by forgiveness. Numbed by grief. Led to apathy by distant images of hate. Murderous, thunderous images in abeyance, a shark’s shredding teeth kept at bay by one sheer glass screen. A letter from the past slaps Kenna into action. Who knew an ancient letter could wake the dead, give a country’s coronation stone voice?

Another in her line of Gothic romances, Joanna McKethan’s Stone of Her Destiny takes us on the journey of a quest novel, as Kenna moves from NC to Scotland to cover news of the returning coronation rock “Stone of Destiny” to Edinburgh Castle after a 700-year gap where it sat in Westminster Abbey as a spoil of war. Galvanized by loss and grief, Kenna shoves everything aside to pursue her holy grail, the real Stone of Destiny. A daunting task unless like Kenna you are chosen by God or circumstance or 7 generations of lineage to reactivate facts overlooked by everyone before, facts rediscovered in Kenna’s attic lineage–and in her new residence at Blackheart Heights in Tarbert, Scotland.

From history come forces that stalk her today, kidnap her, watch her and let her go on an unseen tether. Secret societies search the same holy grail and think she knows something, or that she may lead them to something they, too have lost. They must have the real stone at any cost and they believe she just may lead them to it.

Suspense doesn’t grow without love and romance hand in hand in this novel. You might say one feeds the other.

Spies, art objects, love, and danger fill Joanna McKethan’s other novels as well as this new one; Veiled in White is set in spy-infested Estonia near St. Petersburg, Russia. Yuletide Folly is set in Southern Pines on a politician’s megalithic horse estate, and A Deadly Provenance sends a heroine into threats in post-Nazi, Cold War Bavaria, Germany. Her Gothic romances contain espionage in no small measure,  Czech Point Free eBook Download like Czech Mate.

Stone of Her Destiny is due to be released November 30, 2017, on St. Andrews Day–the stone was stolen in 1296 and was returned by Prince Andrew on St. Andrew’s Day to Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle November 30 in 1996.

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Local Author’s Book Release Nov. 30 Features Stone of Destiny

From Scotland to England, 1296. From England to Scotland, 1996. After 21 years this November 30, 2017, the Stone of Destiny might have a new destiny planned for its future.

Organizers of Perth’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 want the stone restored to its “historic home”–I am assuming they mean Scone Palace (pronounced skoon), as it was known as the Stone of Scone all these years, as well as the Stone of Destiny, since the kings of Scotland were crowned on the Stone there at Moot Hill at Scone Palace. But I may be wrong. I imagine the wrangling and the wranglers are both kept secret to some degree. When officials in Scone first voiced loud objections to housing the returned stone at Edinburgh Castle, they were told Edinburgh had better security than Scone Palace, or such was the hearsay I picked up at Scone Palace when we visited in 2010, a place replete with so much history of the Stone and the Kings, it screams its historical claim.

I imagine organizers must be planning ramped up security for the Stone, to have the chance to win their bid.

Not many days from now, on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30th, Scots will celebrate the return of the famous stone to their country after being held hostage by England for 700 years, ostensibly a serendipitous response to Lord Forsyth of Drumlean’s request made on behalf of his daughter to return the Scots their stone. I say that because I know Robbie the Pict lead the charge in what I consider his hilarious legal letters to police constables, royals, the Queen, Princess Diana, and who knows all (there’s a book by him, of course) at least three years prior to the stone’s return filled with records of his 3 years’ worth of onslaughts by post. If there was ever a time for a good laugh, it’s reading his not-dry-at-all legal letters as to the real ownership of the stone, the filing of a claim of theft, and more.

Whatever plans are being made, I’m sure it is under the cloak of secrecy, as the first time of planning was for moving the Stone.

Even the Stone of Destiny‘s original return into Scotland was made 2 weeks prior to its show arrival. It was snuck in under the cloak of darkness, after being snuck out from Westminster Abbey under the cloak of darkness, between its closing and 2a.m. when it left on November 15, my birthday. In some undisclosed location in those two weeks following, it was housed at a secret location where it was cleaned, dressed up, and catalogued like some artifact from the British Museum in order to be paraded on November 30th down the Royal Mile encased and highlighted by glass in the back of the van. The Scots’ precious Stone of Destiny was surrounded by glass walls for all to see, proceeded and protected by a company of police escorts in full dress.

Crowds lined up to view the spectacle. Some of this, of course, occurs in the context of Stone of Her Destiny when Kenna and Blackheart Castle’s heir apparent, Lane, use her press passes to view the event at Edinburgh Castle–the event that propelled Kenna into a new life in Scotland after losing her uncle (surrogate father) and romantic connection where she lived in Charlotte and on the Cape Fear River. Kenna traces her lineage of seven generations to Kintyre in the town of Tarbert in this Gothic romance set both in Scotland and in NC along the Cape Fear, stalked by dark forces across continents.

Last year a 20-year celebration was headed up by the HES (Historic Environment Scotland). They need to keep the hype up and plan a good one for this year, as well, imho, but Scone Palace, billed as the original home of the Stone, might do well to keep up its campaign for historicity’s sake. You are welcome to use my novel Stone of Her Destiny to stir up conversation about the ‘Cludgie Stane.’ The Stone’s past before 900A.D. is steeped in legend and often this incarnation of the stone is itself questioned as to whether or not it is the real stone, but that’s another story for another day.

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Poetry Days

For me, the days I write poetry kiss the ordinary with extra.

From the start, I enter a zone, oxygenated, fresh, a walk into the new or into the old with new sight. It is at once a fragile state and tensile strong. I begin with a touch of fairy dust, proceed into intense struggle, and emerge with a secret stash.

Are the works good, great, or perfect? Of course not. Those adjectives don’t really apply. Does it speak? Is the voice clear? Does the string hook you and pull you in? Does the silk envelop and lift? Those are better questions, along with myriad others.

This week, my husband’s brother Robert requested the rights to publish the poem I wrote to his, my husband’s, and their brother James’s father who died not many years ago.

“I am writing to request permission to use your poem about Daddy on a website documenting his WW2 activities along with activities of the 67th Armored Regiment and the 2nd Armored Division during WW2.  The website URL is: http://3mmemorials.com.”

Of course I said yes. Most poets would, and I liked this poem and writing and re-writing it very much. I was excited when Jonathan Kevin Rice accepted it into the Iodine Poetry Review, accepted some suggestions he made, and then was more than happy to see it published there. See my earlier post which contains the poem.

I promised in still another post to let you see two winners I had in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Pinesong Awards 2017. Here they are.

Poetry of Witness, 2nd Place

His Time Has Come

Silently I stand, too young

to speak, only listen, see,

I am the accidental witness

to your race. How does one

so young see it all–your car

racing him head to head

down the road–his car flips

over and over, crashes near

me, but others reach you quicker,

try to pull you from the wreck,

your neck is broken; you are

a young black man I do not know.

I mourn, cry for the life you

never had, and now I see

the car that raced you–white

one with a stripe, return

from the opposite direction,

as though a first responder.

This time his lights are flashing;

he wears official clothes,

exits his squad car to take

charge, file white papers,

end the race he had begun.

He glares, warns me off.

That was then. Now I am

old; my voice returns.

I loved the Judge’s comments, Ray McManus, who said in judging he looked for two possibilities, validation and revelation. He said when poems do this, we don’t just read them, but feel them. He said “His Time Ha Come” was a tight-set poem that explores the agony of silence in our youth and how, in time, that voice returns. He liked especially that the poet leads to the revelation but leaves to the reader to imagine how the voice will return.

Here is the second one:

Up from the Cape Fear

Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award, Third Prize

From my upstairs window looking down, I see

a snake stretched out on sun-warmed gray stone.


Groggy from an afternoon’s nap, I think, charcoal,

round. What type of snake is this who sits upright, walks


on ground, like the serpent in Eve’s garden, neck high;

body spans entrance wing to wing in late summer sun.


Small head, I think, a black snake, or even a racer,

crawling on distended belly, full of rat. My son–


I am thick with sleep that won’t recede–he leaves

tomorrow for duty in Iraq. I see it as an omen.


Mesmerized, I watch, hypnotized by a snake

whose body is bigger, fuller, rounder than his head


who stretches out at 18 feet here in old N.C. We

entertain strange snakes that slither up from Cape Fear.


An albino moccasin, yellow underbelly, once

migrated up the banks of the dry river bed searching water


found us, his eyes red hot coals under the car. Head

raised, he slid aggressively toward us; this one lumbers.


Took two years’ research and a park ranger to discover

we harbored a Vietnamese cobra by our front door.


It’s okay, they don’t use other snakes’ holes;

they’ll keep wandering, looking for their own.



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NC Highlander Descendant Returns to Kintyre

7th Generation Highland Scot Pens Novel on Stone of Destiny

A rock. A sword. A crown. Letters. A Scots legacy.

Beautifully staged and guarded at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, the rock with a dozen names and at least that many legends of provenance–the Stone of Destiny–returned to Scotland in a cavalcade of royal limousines on November 30, 1996. The Scots’ Coronation Stone will have resided there for thousands of daily viewers for twenty-one years on its anniversary this year.

In a note of interesting happenstance, Prince Andrew himself returned the Stone to Scotland, November 30th, an official holiday named since 1320 St. Andrews Day, a commemoration of the martyrdom of Andrew the apostle in circa 70A.D. The cultural and official exchange took place in Edinburgh Castle. Although accompanied by much pomp and circumstance, the return of the Stone purloined by England’s monarch Edward as war spoils in 1296 from its home at the Palace of Scone in Scotland, is a nominal gesture since it was ‘given’ on a string. The Scots must return it when the next royal is crowned in England. See more photographs on Pinterest.

Kenna Alford believed seeing the Stone’s return firsthand worthy of supreme effort in the novel Stone of Her Destiny, worthy enough to make her life obsession. Positioning Stone’s return with private agendas abroad, she catapulted all to the land of her ancestors. Her knowledge of Scottish forebears bracketed seven generations and encased the very land on which she had lived in North Carolina on the Cape Fear, land acquired by them and kept in family possession since circa 1736. And gave her letters tracing back all the way to that first generation emigrating from Tarbert, out of Campbeltown.

Together, she and Lane, the heir apparent and lord of the castle Blackheart Heights cover this event and many to come. Just like in real life, royals, processions, regalia, all are quite seductive elements to the commoner to watch, follow, and enjoy. If you are close, you can participate in the festivities. And the intrigue.

Kenna thrives on intrigue. The Gothic mansion she grew up in, a Southern ghost-ridden plantation house, has prepared her for the extended stay she begins at gloomy Blackheart Heights with its strange visitor, a little girl, a doll, happenings, and weird presences going bump in the night.

She finds that she has competition in the romantic department, however, and that her lessons in falconing given by Lane at Blackheart are not the only inroads into his life and heart, but that he has something going with a raven-haired beauty named Tarra Montfort. She finds out that the elite family of Montfort’s are highly-placed Masons that plumb the depths beyond their own estate into the castle where she stays. She finds they have a vested interest in that castle, as well.

With the rug pulled out from under her at home, freed to follow the Stone to Scotland and back and if necessary, over the whole world–to her own destiny, she does just that. Freed to love and to marry. Freed to look under rocks, trace the journey of the Stone, and stir up a world of controversy. Free to learn the enhanced significance of the Speaking Stone to international groups bent on acquiring it for themselves. And so many of these groups think the wrong one lies in Edinburgh. So many think she knows something that the rest of the world does not.

She learned the price of her obsession, endless stalking and intrusion, fear for her life and that of her loved ones too late to withdraw from the grim trek her curiosity and resultant knowledge set her out on. She is driven, drawn, and determined, like any self-respecting redhead of Scottish descent. And like most women, susceptible to a romantic relationship.

Stone of Her Destiny is a Gothic suspense slated to appear as an E book on November 30th this year: St. Andrews Day.

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Writing in Wilmington–Work Vaycay 2017

Highlights of a Writer’s Retreat

Today I was thinking about my three week work vacation. That’s right, vacation not away from work but purposed to work.

Nothing like freedom from trivia connected to a place–sweeping, framing, entertaining salesmen unawares, dealing with computer problems, functioning as Dunn’s Welcome Center–to get to the guts, the meat, and for this A-D-D child, to keep the thread going. A novel of 400 pages, let’s face it, requires some concentration.

And the distractions in Hilton Homewood Suites were the kind of distractions which built me up–the occasional morning poolside beside palm trees, close to refreshments, under umbrellas, the ride to Wrightsville Beach for a seafood supper, mostly oysters, sitting by yatchetts (lol) and feasting on seaside beauty. All of that only eased me into a grueling schedule of writing, hard editing, and final spots of intensive research. The hotel was generous in their help with their business center printouts and outlets, connections, and even, printer.

Because this time, although I took painting supplies with me, and even a French easel for plein air painting which I fully intended to pursue, and a beret just because–I didn’t. Go figure. My internal editor and the One to whom I trust my steps functioned beautifully, totally in sync.

Oh, and did I mention free breakfasts and 4 nights a week suppers?

My husband even came to help me edit the book. Folks, you can’t imagine the benefits of an interpreter/translator’s editing and the precision of his words. We are not talking elementary rough exchange of words in a language, here, but fine-tuned, way-beyond-thesaurus moments of expertise. Not to mention his gift of geography and history. I appreciated his dogging my tracks immensely. He grounds my fantasy in real roads and streets, many of which we actually traveled in Scotland. Stone of Her Destiny milks that wonderful trip we made to Scotland a few years back, staying in castles, taking falconing lessons, and happening into Campbell and McAllister history and territory that figures into the novel’s structure and fabric.

We just went through all those slides again–for my husband, for the first time. I think I may have neglected seeing all 6,000 as well, but now I am quite stoked and prepared with wonderful exemplars of the Gothic experience that is Stone of Her Destiny, my soon to be forthcoming novel.

I’ve discovered an awesome new editing technique which enhances and builds upon having done 3 edits already. Going over the novel with a reader/editor, discussing by paragraph what is needed. My friend Sandra Mowery is excellent at this; we covered a lot of ground. She helped me ramp up action on celebratory events, menus, and clothes. Wendy McLeod challenges my love scenes. And Sandy, word choice, history, and geography. Well, they say it takes a village. I would be so missing a great opportunity not to use available friends, oops, I mean resources.

And the very last night we were there, July 4, we worked the whole holiday on it until 9p.m., doing some poolside and some in the front lobby to ease the pain of working while others played. And as providence would have it went up on the elevator to fourth floor with a man who held it for us to climb in.

I looked at him and said, “You look like the English TV actor.”

He looked at me and replied, “Well, that’s because I am!” It took me a second to realize he really was Charlie Shaughnessy in our brief convo, but when I did, said, “Well, you have to give me your autograph!”

“Don’t you have a camera? Just take a picture!” he replied. So there we are in the photograph, I am standing with the man who played “Mr. Sheffield” in one of my all-time favorite sit-coms, The Nanny.

He told us, I think I remember correctly, he was on location working on a film. To which I responded I was working on a book. “Fiction?” he asked, actually waiting for me to respond, and so for the first time in my life after having been taught it over and over by RWA and their wonderful writing conferences, I delivered my perfect elevator pitch. “Yes, Gothic romance–with a little Armageddon 7 thrown in.”

We said goodnight. I imagined he looked interested, an interpretation I’ll hang onto fiercely.

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Art on Broad

Announces the opening of a new service, and a new partner for that service! The launch event will take place on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 from 6-8p.m. Guests may arrive at 5:45p.m. and are invited to bring their own refreshments. Class begins promptly @ 6:00p.m.

j’Originals’ Art Studio welcomes Heather Miles Byrd, a fun-loving public school art teacher for 15 years, veteran teacher of 4 years at Merlot & VanGogh, a division of Wine and Design in the Triad. She and Joanna McKethan, owner of j’Originals, who has taught studio art for 36 years in Dunn without a break are excited to offer Tuesday evening acrylic painting classes at their shared business, Downtown Cork n Palette located at 217 East Broad in Dunn!

Heather began her art career in the art department and production work for the film commission with the state of North Carolina. She has done theatre and scenic work for Community productions in Winston-Salem. She received her Bachelor of Science, Appalachian State University, and her art education from UNC-Greensboro.

Joanna’s training in art was at Queens University in Charlotte, UNC-Chapel Hill, and additionally she received 4 years’ Old Masters training in oil and watercolor in Germany.

With their combined teaching experience, they will offer a wide range of themes to paint as well as changing up with a variety of colors and surfaces. They are hoping to meet fun-loving participants who are eager to give the arts a go! Bring your friends for a great night of music, painting, and revelry.

Class fills up at 15 students, and will be an ongoing Tuesday night class at this location.

Cork n Palette On-the-Go features special events like birthday parties at other locations on other nights that can be set up, as well.

Any questions, call the studio or shoot us an email.

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Art Student Treasures

My art students are like family.

When they fall short on maximizing their art potential, I get so sad, I can’t believe it. Sometimes I have whole families of students come in. I race the clock, trying to pour in as much as I can to each individual, seeking to pull out as much as I can while I have them. I always believe they’ll stay with me the ten years of many of my art disciples (Old Masters’ painting is a master-disciple system based on loyal imparting of pertinent skills). However, sometimes they just don’t see it my way and I am ineffective in imparting my vision to them for themselves. Sometimes, they just have another vision.

Sometimes I Cry
When a student I have primed and prepped to really make it begins a portrait, and leaves before I can show them how to paint the face, the agony is palpable. I show my disappointment or come close to showing my hurt beyond what is socially acceptable. Maybe there’s even a little bit of anger that what I hoped and dreamed for a finish we will never see.

Painting is a living thing. You can’t just toss aside a painting one day, pick it up 5 years later, and expect a viable image to emerge. It might, but more than likely you will have grown past it or in some way find yourself unable to patch the time frames together. Or the paint will have aged beyond good adhesion. So I have to yield, give up, and have a good cry.
 * When a student fails to finish the face after working on it for months. I can’t fathom it, you know, when only a few lessons would do it. Why won’t people pay for the little extra stretch the professional is waiting to give? To me, it seems like false economy.

*  When a mom leaves her son’s sketch book in my studio and I save it for years, and she finally tells me to throw it away. It’s unbelievable that discarding it causes me more pain than the mom!

* When a student quits before a final lesson would complete her absolute masterpiece, and won’t even pick it up from my studio.

* When parents and grandparents won’t pick up their daughter’s framed, beautiful art work to hang at home. I still have one. It makes me cry, since her sweet grandmother wanted so badly for her to study art with me. Now she has died, her hope, with her.

My Failings as Teacher
  •  I regret the days I am sad, preoccupied, or so tired I can barely move–even when it motivates the student to push harder.
  •  When I am so into the art medium’s struggles that I fail to hear some current struggle, major or minor, that the student is going through.
  • When so much is going on I fail to mention their prom night pictures, which were awesome.
  • Making students struggle on his or her own. I know so many teachers cut it up finer and finer to make the bites smaller and more appetizing, and somehow, instead, I try to get them to fight their medium and push and pull it beyond their current capabilities without much demonstration and with just a little help, by prodding and a well-placed idea. Sometimes the student finds this unforgivable. Once, telling a student to go to the bathroom to study her eye in the mirror hurt her feelings so badly I lost her.
  • Not going to all of the extra things my students are interested in. Some weeks it is all I can do to make it through my own paintings, framing, struggles, roof leaks, some sort of showing, texting, posting students’ art pictures to Facebook.
  • Talking to future student possibilities or makeups at 10p.m. at night.
Surprised into Joy: Other times this art teacher is surprised and delighted with unexpected pleasures like the following:hands-in-marriage-stuart
  • an old student walking in just because they knew and loved me, just wanting to catch up and remember old times.
  • A 10-year student bringing his two children to art years later for a year.
  • A former student returning for adult lessons, wanting to really go far, knowing he and the teacher left a lot on the table.
  • Amazing conversations with people on the deepest of levels, at vulnerable moments when they want a meeting of souls.
  • A granddaughter picking up her father’s discarded art talent and loving doing it with me.
  • A daughter painting a funky painting on her own and hanging it in her house.
  • Someone pinpointing in your paintings what you hadn’t even seen yourself.
  • Turning a student’s tragedy into a raging success. I don’t think Thorne Gregory would mind my telling his story of working on a beautiful rendering of a fish from an educational coloring book. He had almost finished his free-hand version in pen and ink, when the pen nib (the medium is always a pain), hit a bump in the paper and ejected a filled pen’s worth of black ink onto the paper.
Poor Thorne; I thought he would have a nervous breakdown. It was all I could do to keep him from tearing his work up. It was all I could do to calm him down. He was devastated and despairing. His mamma came quickly. She helped calm him. I had no idea what I would do, so I asked him to wait until the following week.
Meanwhile, I did research. I looked up exotic, deep-sea fishes on the web. Finally, I found the impossible, the unthinkable: the existence of a creature called an ink fish! The ink fish’s quills looked just like the spikes in the projectiles of Thorne’s black ink. So we painted the first fish’s shadow companion, the Ink Fish, which went on to win a show prize, it was so good, better, even, than the original!
My Number One Goal is to turn good art students into master art students. Step One being to sign them up today. And then to find a way to write, draw, or paint a happy ending.
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Everything’s Coming up Portraits

Ahh, well. Today we’re gonna talk about something big: the Portrait Society of America. You see, I just came back from my 10th year at the event.

I’ve been looking at others’ pictures of features offered there, and I have to ask. Were you at the same conference? I’m beginning to conclude this annual is not just one event, but multiple conferences rolled into one. The unifying code was the featured honoree, Richard Schmid, so that’s definitely where I was, in the right place. It’s just that in every corner of the Atlanta

Hyatt at Buckhead on the lower level, something else was going on which could be a whole conference. There were little groups painting a model–oh, that’s besides the huge Thursday evening Bake-Off, excuse me, I mean Face-Off, with at least 4 models and fifteen or more painters of some renown. We lifetime portrait painters, gallery owners, and occasional newcomers to the scene got to walk around in circles the whole evening watching how they all progressed. Or sit in one space and watch only one.

That event insures we’ll make it to the conference early.

Those paintings are then sold at silent auction. At the 6 x 9 auction-of-another-kind on Friday evening, the price remained the same, the identity of the painter was hidden, the mystery was how quickly you could pick the number off of one of many boards containing maybe 25 of these, and actually get the painting. I buy one every year, but this year, I didn’t go. Here’s the reason: I was so bombed out with the mega sessions in the big auditorium with big art celebrities and those teaching from apostolic ‘schools’ of those great teachers, I just had to collapse before enjoying the evening session with artists demonstrating. (Later, I found out I could have gone into another room and had a whole other experience.) Actually, I already knew that from Gordon I met in the great lounge of the Onyx’s legère restaurant and bar.  He was a scheduled model for a session.

The kick-off address with Jeffrey Hein was phenomenal. His theme was color, and several neighbors I sat next to in the huge auditorium and I agreed, just one of his revelations/our discoveries more than paid for the price of the tuition there. Transforming–and he had pictorial aides to proves his theses, which spoke volumes. One slide I caught, but one I should have taken a picture of, but the camera just didn’t happen to be in my hand for the few seconds the slide showed.

I had an amazing lunch with two other artists and discovered near the end that that was the time critiques were being given to portfolios, so I headed off to that with my cellphone and my ipad. The pad wouldn’t dance with the hotel’s wi-fi, so I switched to my cell phone, while waiting for whichever person was next available to critique. What a divine appointment, I actually got the lady I’d talked with earlier in friendly terms down front, and had instantly loved her because she appreciated my slightly wack humor. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the same principle Jeffrey Hein pointed out was the one place (in my dark’s) that she kept referring to: the same principle. And another area where my overly fix-it mode had made strokes in the hair too same-same. It was at the end of the whole critique session, so I got laid-back treatment which helped me more than I can say. I can even remember it without having written it down (although I did, of course.)

I always look forward to Mary Whyte’s presentation. I loved the watercolor session in which she painted on stage from the model in the picture. I follow her on line, as well. Seeing the sketchbook of Edward Raymond Kinstler on big screen is also incredible visual stimulation, and I enjoyed his stories of painting the greats like Kathryn Hepburn and Tony Bennett.

The break-out sessions were phenomenal. I participated in the one led by Kate Stone and Tony Pro. (Why couldn’t my name have been Joanna Success?) We had three nude models to choose from, or follow the teachers around and watch them work, or whatever. I came away with four new pencil drawings this year, two from this session and two from the on-stage demonstrations. You couldn’t tear me away from them. I took exactly the right tools, ones you can maneuver in a tight auditorium space with the three hands I’ve always got going. I never even spilled my coffee this time. The other was a forum of the portrait painters who sell at mega prices and travel all over the world doing so, who were kind enough to display and tell their secrets on the equipment they carry with them and pack into their plane, to the contracts they use, to what portrait painting conventions to use and what never to use. Information overload is what I love–and I devoured this like a cannibal fresh meat.

I don’t know when I dipped into the superior products arena and quickly bought some more brushes from one of the vendors–I had fully intended to talk to George O’Hanlon, owner of Rublev paints and buy the chromium yellow they’d just been talking about on Facebook, but alas, I didn’t get to go back. Too much to do. Too many faces to observe. Too many seminars at which to dance. Please understand, for an INTP Introverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Perceiver, Myers Brigs), there is never “too much or too many.” They do, however, give out at too much extroversion and show touchy-feely strain early. Please, you must forgive them for that; it’s how they were made.

Then there is the International winners’ exhibit in a separate space which you can visit as many times as you would like during the conference, but in which you get to have happy hour and speak to the painters on a Friday evening. Truly phenomenal, these paintings, ranging from huge to one mini this year from Anna that I absolutely adored (as well as her). We had to wait until the Emmy’s on Saturday night to know just which place they had won, and which received people’s choice. Don’t laugh at my calling it the Emmy’s; we listened to the Curator of Atlanta’s High Museum who spoke to us with an invigorating message on Brave Spaces and honored Richard Schmid who has made it to the top of the art and portrait arena. Worldwide, folks. As to the winning portraits, the styles ranged from moody to crisp, high-focused realism to diffuse, but the winners won out over 2000+ entries and deserved all the applause they were given, plus more.

Before my second break-out session, I got to talk with Virgil Elliott of Traditional Oil Painting fame. He didn’t come on his motorcycle this year, but flew in from California. Well, I got my own private session with him–an opportunity of a lifetime. He was not presenting this year, only signing his books. Which is another area you could spend a conference on, although I didn’t see as many doing that this year as in former years. I got to ask Virgil in-depth questions that you can pursue in person like you can’t on Facebook before others needed his audience and I needed to go to my break-out. I loved the session I was signed up for, but somehow, I didn’t want another demonstration, so I moved one door down, paused at the forum talking to a Raleigh compatriot, Luana Lucona Winner, and snuck into it, uninvited. I found out later there were several of us who had. Edward Jonas of the teaching faculty was on the panel; Ed is always so accessible and kind.

We connected with Virgil again at the end of the conference. Four of us went by hotel car to Marta, rode Marta to the airport, and got to talk in-between. I didn’t envy Virgil having to carry his guitar, but I see by Facebook this morning that he made it back. (Hey, Virgil!)

It was good to see that the young disciples of Richard Schmid’s  lifetime accomplishments–each going in their direction–are making a second wave of younger teachers and keeping the organization revitalized. They were winning prizes and leading seminars and the inspirational hour…all wonderful, perhaps a changing of the guards.

At the end on Sunday, we got to listen to John Howard Sanden tell his fascinating stories of painting Bush’s portrait and going to the White House unveiling, and of his eight full-blown attempts to get just the right moment. Sanden is famous for his paintings and books, one of Billy Graham I have seen at The Cove, just outside Asheville. Of painting the richest women in the world. He confessed that his life work had been only 350 portraits as compared to some in our midst’s 600 already. He, like many other artists there, had been a teacher at The Artist’s League, and instrumental in turning the small class format for learning portraiture around a model and a painter into the auditorium format which turned into the: you guessed it….the Portrait Society of America (see their materials for real facts and answers to your burning questions). Several of us deemed this year’s conference of some 800 folks different. Mysteriously wonderful.

What a historical moment of intersections this was. How delighted to be a portrait painter I was when I woke up this morning. I think I am in one of the most important arenas of the world, that of portrait painting. See you next year in D.C.

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