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 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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Demonstrating Watercolor in Southern Pines

Two Paintings Hang in the Watercolor Society of North Carolina’s Central Region Show “Fluidity of Vision”

This past weekend stretched me during an already busy season.

Two of my watercolors hang along with 67 others at the exhibit  at Campbell House Gallery through the Arts Council of Moore County. Plus, I got to demonstrate my watercolor skill on the following day, Saturday, April 8, from 10 am until 4 pm, during the 2017 Southern Pines Home and Garden Tour.

The show included members from the Central Region Exhibit, on view April 7 to April 28, 2017, “Fluidity of Vision.” Our works hang in Campbell House Galleries in Southern Pines, NC. “We are working with the Arts Council of Moore County to deliver a terrific exhibit of our art in this impressive locale. Campbell House is a much-sought-after venue for art exhibits. Surrounded by a lovely, 14-acre public park and garden, the Campbell House is a stately manor which functions daily as an art gallery and cultural center. Art exhibits change monthly and the gallery offers you an elegant and warm atmosphere that will add to any special occasion,” said Beth Bale, who is the Central Region co-director of the Society.

Two of my large Sea-Escape series hang prominently in the exhibit, Crab-Net and Clam Chow-Down.  We met our friends Carole and David Hobson there for the reception and exhibit viewing. We roamed the rooms, examined all the paintings, sipped beverages and hoes-d’oevres. We met new people who complimented me on my paintings, even recognizing them by name.

We followed our friends out to eat afterwards in Southern Pines, and then, on to their home, their new house in Pinehurst in which hangs three of my paintings –one over the mantel, the other two in David’s study. The next morning over toasted English muffins and cream cheese and coffee, we talked again, and they led us out to a safe connect back to the Campbell House.

“The Campbell House is traditionally first stop on the tour and there should be a lot of people coming through the gallery. In addition to the art exhibit, we thought it would be nice to have members of the WSNC (Watercolor Society of North Carolina) in the gallery or on the property, sort of like a plein air event,” said Chris Dunn, executive director of the Arts Council of Moore County. So yours truly became one of the three exhibiting artists for that Saturday.

When we arrived around 10a.m., the grounds were already sealed off, and we had to drive through the field saved for cars to the closest entrance. I went in with my new French easel, which unfolded and popped into place immediately. I congratulated myself on having brought that. Kathryn McCrae had showed me the day before the place I could spread out. Chris Dunn greeted me, pointing me to doughnuts and coffee, just what every plein-air artist needs.

I had brought two unfinished paintings with me. Each one was a portrait of a shell. I had brought photographs of sea scenes with similar colors to inspire my expression of a background, and the bright sun that flowed in definitely affected my choice of colors, which were very bright and vibrant in the first painting. I reasoned that I would not have to struggle with my main subject and prove I could paint. The seashell said enough to give me the confidence to create the rest in front of people since this was my first public demonstration. Many people came and watched, gave compliments, chatted about the picture and themselves, and signed my sheet for future contact.

Remembering several conversations, one was with a woman who worked in a correctional institute, and we agreed it was nice to appreciate each other’s expertise. I got to share my notion that people who are creatives who do not have an outlet can really get into trouble.

Another lady, a math teacher in Sanford, kept staring and walking around the painting, looking at it in new angles. “It reminds me of math,” she said. “How so?” I asked her, but she stayed busy looking. “I guess it does have a rhythm to it,” I answered. “Yes, and it reminds me of that mathematical sequence.” I agreed, and remembered the sequence which some artists actually use in placing the subjects in their compositions. I thought of Juliette Aristides and Virgil Elliott who had written about this in their authoritative art books.

She thought and thought and finally exclaimed, “Yes, it’s the golden mean. And the series is the Fibonacci series.” So naturally, “Golden Mean” had to be the title for my seashell.

We laughed. “The colors are exciting.”

Another person admired the red, and said it could be the blood of the dying sea life in the shell.

I finished that background and started on my next with more subdued colors. The lights had begun to fall and shadows descend in the garden. I did not finish that one’s background, but got it up to about mid-zone under the shell. However, back in the studio, I set it up with my camera, deciding I would talk about it as I painted it to get in practice for my teaching videos. Wouldn’t you know? I finished it in record time, and made a breakthrough with techniques I can use in painting sea atmospherically, in that time. I have just named the work, “Castle Forsaken.” It looks so regal. The colors are soft and subdued, and the waves are breaking over it.

Yours truly also got her name written down on the exhibition calendar for a two-person exhibit…in October of 2019! That is a total loop, a circling around. The Campbell House held a one-person show for me years back. I guess you could say the events were a real success. You can find all those pictures at Instagram, so check them out  The new paintings will be up soon on paintings.joriginals.net/

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“Delayed Return”

Living in the South has distinct advantages. Language is one, with its soft, genteel brushing of the ear, or its amusing to the Northern ear craziness that can be rough or fine. Beautiful surrounds is another, as our Northern friends prove by relocating. Raleigh has an astounding number of new residents daily. Friendly and personal are still a plus, and hometown business contact, proverbial, still exists.

Another advantage is actively living with our decay. The famed tobacco barns from another culture, another day, are all but disappearing from our landscapes. I took dozens of pictures of our barn before we had to dismantle it on liability grounds. One drawing I did of an old John Deere tractor in a field is all that is left of the real thing. A strip mall in the outskirts of Fuquay-Varina exists there, now, but my drawing, “Reclaimed,” shows it with the Southeastern greenery, briars and vines, growing up through its wheels, seat, and steering wheel. I went every day for a couple of weeks and sat in my car finishing my piece in graphite black and white. So I guess the series began way back when I did that picture.

That tractor may be gone. But not all the country roads that lead up to such scenes have been lost or paved. And country roads will again do what the John Denver song reminds you they will do; they will take you home.

On my last photographic road trip–that’s one where you get to stop and photograph whatever you see, whenever you see it–I drove into a community that looked like a scene from “Left Behind.” The rocking chairs were set up on the porch still, the curtains hung in the windows, the folding chair made temporary sitting pleasure for a grandchild or a visitor, and the spray bottles of some household activity were still sitting in place like someone had just momentarily gone inside. This painting I’ve entitled, “Come Back Soon,” because it is so deeply inviting.

The front porch Southern mystique has faded somewhat, although two ice cream shops have grown up around Coats and Angier that have that front porch charm, and restaurants like Ron’s Barn promote the feel. We just ate ice cream with friends there the other night, sat a spell, and talked with them and the owner of the business who even on Saturday, had been working all that day. We take our grandchild there and to the other that’s become world famous in Angier (or almost, with umpteen homemade flavors).

The first of the series of the paintings is already finished, ready to enter into a show, “Grooves.”   This was a stunning building, boasting fine locks and hardware that had been left to baste in the sun and rust in the rain, impregnating the curing grain of the wood with reddish browns and the briars and greenery shooting up green tones into the wood. The famous paint crackle shows up beautifully, and the panels in the doors say it was once a fine house. Why such a lovely house would be left to ruin is a question which begs for a story, and I will investigate that one day. Now, however, it was enough to save its artistry with some photographs and paintings of what the artist sees when she looks at these moments, and enters the once private quarters to merge now and then.

Another picture is a close up of the windows, the soul of a house. Another shows a rake leaned up on the house as if the owner went inside for a meal and some sweet iced tea and somehow, just forgot to come back outside.

Another shows the gate into the garden. Yet another shows the slow dismantling of a fine structure over time and benign neglect.

I’ve avoided the clichés that came to mind first, like Come on Back, Now, Ya Hear? and Sit Down and Rest a Spell. I don’t mind the caricature, but somehow it’s a shield against all that poignant warmth and the pain of loss these pictures represent. I want you to go with me and dip into a simpler time and feel where children played outside, got dirty, knew nature, responded to the dinner bell, and the art of calls and whistles and hollering rang out across fields to other people. I wanted you to smell biscuits baking, fried chicken popping, hear the singing, take part in Catch the handkerchief, Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf, and Red Rover, Red Rover, let Mary come over. It’s the back porch communion with aging parents and grandparents who made sorghum and homemade ice cream, and love so strongly.

My beloved South. The long walks in the woods, the grove, building play homes in tree roots with moss and acorns, roaming in and out our outbuildings–the old kitchen, the smokehouse, the barns. I wanted to draw you in to what was significant in my world for so long, and just a setting like these pictures has the power to conjure back a past so poignant with memories it leaves me crying, still. The aging process itself carries with it a poignant beauty, as well.

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How much does creativity depend on our well-being?

Many of us acknowledge a creative bent. We are committed to creativity. But how much, and would we benefit from more?

Investing in personal creativity is a process of discovery. We can augment our senses by daily journaling. In 8 specific ways, I have learned the art of keeping a journal from actions taken after reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. You can probably find the book on Amazon. I have written daily in my journal for two-digit years, now. What this exciting practice does is nurture the inner being in content and quality of spirit and soul. Writing in a daily journal deposits differences in one’s life. It makes you a more creative, productive artist.

1.By increasing our commitment to the inner person, we lose fragmentation. We start with signing a contract with ourselves that increases our commitment to ourselves. We respond by toughing out writing three journal pages every morning, in helter-skelter, error-filled, random mutterings before we leave our nest. My best moment is first thing in the morning when my husband brings me a cup of coffee where I sit on a nice couch and between sips of strong brew, I pen stream of consciousness outpourings without correcting. I resist the urge to make an essay, or in any way to perfect what emerges. Sometimes I make random lists. I use a black gel pen from a dollar store that has good ink-flow. In this manner as the weeks have flown, I have worked my way to big decisions, surprising revelations, and the germs of literary products. If you are like me and are “here, there, and everywhere,” this integrates your person into continuity, enough to surprise the talkative extrovert.

2.Valuing yourself and your thoughts. We owe ourselves the luxury and time of processing what happens to us. We need to take time out to understand things–who said, the unexamined life is not worth living? Other people do not exist for that purpose. While they may listen to us occasionally, it’s a serious time drain, which works up to a relationship drain. Therefore, talk to yourself. Ruminate. Writing fixes the unfocused mind in a way that verbal, spoken interchange does not. If you let others in too far, their thoughts will supplant yours, and you may never know what you would have thought. Value your thinking space. One good morning processing is a dip into the well, equals a smoother, more creative day.

3.Writing things down brings an internal order. Internal order is also a by-product of consistent journal writing. Most artists–writers or visual–do not think in linear fashion. We leap to conclusions. Chronology links things together, even if in a written exercise. While you can use your page time for making grocery lists, you must do it in as organic and informal a way as possible. Then recall will occur as a natural outcome to your day. Uncanny, really, how this works. Artists are not easily ordered externally. It is not rebelliousness, as some like to think. Such people cannot enforce order on themselves from outside; it must come from within.

4.Journaling decreases second-guessing and waffling. Creatives are not always good decision makers. Your writing nest is the best place to try out alternatives. Write what comes to your heart each day. Verbalize why you feel one way, why you tend to the other. Insights will begin to seep in, tell you why you can’t decide, why others think you are doomed to continual flipping. Eventually, what is really bothering will come to the fore. It might be some choice you don’t want to have to make between two good things. Being mathematically inclined, one day I began figuring out just how much time—driving, teaching, preparing, marketing, I was doing to teach in a town 40 minutes away. When I arrived at the grand total figure in terms of months in a year, I stopped writing and got vocal. I don’t want to spend that kind of time on it! Within 2 weeks, I quit, and brought my whole business closer into my home town. In the same way I figured how much time staying in the beautiful building I loved and that looked so much like the art gallery of my dream vision cost me in meetings with the landlord, swarming of termites, interviewing pest control, rushing to take my paintings out of the beautiful rain forest windows—and as I wrote and added sums of time lost–suddenly, the answer was clear. Two weeks, and I was free.

5.Fertile ideas come in the mornings. Poems and paintings are not just an intellectual process that have to be drummed up and designed. One doesn’t sit down and start doing them, or rarely. Many times my heart would pour itself into words heavy with pathos, a treasured memory or some lilting spun lyrical phrase. Even articles began in the twilight of my sitting couch. The ideas came spontaneously, but needed work. So I do the seed work in private, dark, intimate time on the couch. By the end of the three pages, the idea can stand the light of day in a cold, clacking re-write.

6.Insights that approach the intensity of revelations come as bonuses. This happens in the write time, or any time, so it’s always good to have a small notebook to catch these dew drops. Struggling through words in the morning brings new connections like clustering does, where one word leads to another, to puns, to things out of context. This is the wellspring of all—visual or mental—that takes you new places. New thoughts, revelation, connections newly forged—this is the magic of discovery. Childlike fun is at the heart of creativity.

7.By delving into yourself you go outside yourself in a sort of abandonment. In accepting yourself, you escape rejection. Confidence leads to being carefree, making wiser decisions. Even your doodling becomes the beginning of good work. My whole gel pen series began as a part of playful doodling. “Grand opening” is the 24 x 24 inch painting shown here.

8.A sense of continuity and uniqueness emerge. Artists with deep-seated issues don’t arrive here easily, but in a growing awareness that comes when composition books pile up, when you realize some disasters have been averted, and you have produced exemplars of which you are proud. You have actually become your own best friend, a reasonable assurance against self sabotage.

Read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, for more, because this is my takeaway of eight bonuses journaling has brought to me as an artist. Validation, authority, and assurance come from committed journaling, and lead a string of other friends by the hand. Happy writing, painting, and healing.

See the rest of the gel pens in paintings.joriginals.net/


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PARACHUTING: Into the Future, General Lee Museum

I just went with my group of DAR ladies to the Major William C. Lee Museum in Dunn. We are one of the patriotic groups, so the trip is a no-brainer. One of our Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) members set it up for us. Our President, Paula Hildebrand traveled from Wake Forest for this event. gloria-gulledge-general-lee-resized-web

We had the docent there schedule a tour for us. We were in the middle of it, and I was as excited as the first time I’d seen it. No, wait, that’s wrong. I was way MORE excited about it than I had ever been, military being my son’s and my husband’s interest, but not particularly mine.

As Gloria Gulledge went on about different memorabilia, like a huge old flag they have framed there, I was struck with the amount of first times, of invention, of tipping point moments that had occurred with this one point in history, through this one man. It was astounding. I would almost say he exploded into a moment of history as potently as had Churchill.

Don’t expect me to tell you all those things, because I can’t. You will just have to call and take the tour yourself, and it is more than worth it. It was at least as good as the one we attended through the LBJ house in Texas, and I would say it was way better. I promise you, they didn’t pay me to say this or advertise for their museum.

I can remember all the way back to its beginnings, when some classmates of mine and a colonel I knew from before my overseas trek started talking about doing this project in a fine Southern home in Dunn, NC. I didn’t give it much credence, not being quite as smart as I think I am. However, this project has grown. The exhibits have multiplied. The one-of-kind moments have, as well. Like the permanently lighted artwork of a major artist which takes you there to that time frame. The uniforms have grown, authentic ones used and discontinued–from WWI days to now–showcased in glass cases on three separate floors boasting a regular set of stairs and a servant’s set of stairs. It also house the Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce. They have a discontinued bicycle that they jumped from planes with in enemy lines, to get out of there once they’d landed. They have authentic guns and rifles used by every phase of military and foreign military. They have statues, old photographs, letters, furniture, stories, and more.

Follow Gloria from the red room to the blue room to the–you get the idea–all are full of story, dates, and times of the action, what lead up to the grand moments of history, and what sequels it has had. It even has tie-ins to things like the history of the development of 5-star generals. I just thought they had always been and ever would be, sort of like the doxology in a Sunday service.

William C. Lee in a miraculous moment started our governments’ parachuting unit. In no time, they had 50 men.That grew to 500, to 1000, to 8,000. Initially, he saw the Germans using it and was captured by it, implemented the idea once that was his assignment by using prototype circus exhibits in a story which sounds more like a total made-up fantasy fiction than like history. Don’t expect me to get my facts right or to repeat a tenth of it, because I can’t, but the docent, a teacher and history lover herself is immersed in this and has been for years, and makes the history of it all come alive right before your eyes.

Our President Paula, Left, Jane Tart, Treasurer, Right

Our President Paula, Left, Jane Tart, Treasurer, Right

I would actually say she lassos you and forces you into her time capsule and takes you back in time to the first moments, the moments of inception, the invention moments. You can probably surmise that would excite the imagination of an artist as I am.

In recent years I was asked to re-do the brochure the Commission has on its featured museum, which I did, with monumental help from Christian de la Mirand, a photographer who for a short time owned the Photography shop near me on Broad Street. The brochure is given out by the Dunn tourist agency, https://www.visitnc.com/listing/dunn-area-tourism-authority.

Our collaboration on the brochure was a fun time, and reminded me of having collaborated on the graphic presentation of another 3-dimensional exhibit in Holland when I lived in Germany. It was a visual story, as well, on a little known phase of history–one of researching and documenting Bible distribution into closed countries, complete with sound in the story. I wish I had taken pictures of that!

And this experience was a one of a kind, as well, as the Cornelius Harnett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is slated to end its history at the end of this year. I’m so glad to have been a part of it for a few years before that.

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People ask, "What do you do all day long?"

Like yesterday. Valid question. I'm not insulted.

I resisted saying "sippin' wine and eatin' cheese.' Nor did I mention my fantasy of lying in aqua satin gown on a chaise longue in heaven, wielding wand, throwing out star-dust pronouncements, "Well done, Master Painter!"

I wish it were like that. Ever.

Instead, my day went this way. I visited the embroidery shop next door to look for a template for a border on a painting I'm doing for a client, a painting of a lady's grandmother, a sentimental work, sepia-toned photograph called a brown print. In watercolor I'm to create a look of authenticity, antiquity, as well as a fresh likeness of a young lady. Meeting my new neighbors at the stitch shop, we confessed wanting to wish each other well in our downtown businesses. They listened to figure out how to give me what I needed from one of 25 machines I hadn't a clue how they'd use.

Returning to my shop, left open too long, pocketbook in full view, I telephoned a customer about an art lesson makeup and learned that her daughter might not want to continue art. Bummer. She loved me, she was just so busy. "It's criminal," I say, "she's so good." Stuffing my disappointment down, I plan website articles, go to my next joy and next woe. Blogging. A Beast Supreme who chops words up for stew. My computer is Blogging Kitchen where I boil ideas, simmer them into gravy, preferably made from a roux, French style, like my Mom did. Now that I'm 'into blogging,' it's fun. Blogging turns my creative business day into a diary.

Next I sit at my 30 x 36  oil painting of myself on a stretched canvas I've been working on for four years. No, I don't worship myself or think I'm so great--self-portraits are prescribed by Portrait Society of America and  top artists as best way to better one's craft on all portraits. Since the subject is permanently attached, one can keep comparing, contrasting and "seeing" new info pop up. Working 'from life,' the best way.

Today, the brushes rebel, the paint globs, and I've been told by experts NOT to use turpentine or thinner to rinse (it leaves chemical residue) and ruins the chemical sandwich that is an oil painting, decreasing its longevity. Every morning I research to determine how to give customers paintings that won't deteriorate, crack or delaminate after 30 years. Pinky finger promise, had I known technical issues would be so daunting, I might never have ventured further.... Today I'm hating withdrawal from the 'solve-everything-with-a-medium' high. I check on p.67 of the oil painting book written by expert, check social media daily for input from his feed.

I arrange paints on a color continuum; I'm proud of my collection, now, result of years of conferences and introduction to professional grade products from a national closed group of artists who share best products and practices--museum conservators, art masters who advise manufacturers, as well as art product manufacturer heads who listen to and implement conservators' knowledge in the marketplace.

I relax into my art bench, new colors spread out on palette, and begin creating. Submerged into the zone, I get the eye lifted in the middle half a centimeter in almost the right color; I soften. I mix a new shadow flesh color using my system and soften the shadow on the chin that was harsh. Success! I bring a shadow to the cheek area, move the frontal plane of my face from center to an angle to the right, facing beyond the falcon to the viewer. I push color on the right-facing eye up to compensate the change. Now the iris is a tad long, so blued eye white reshapes the base of it. With flake white, transparent, I change shadows past the lower left-facing cheek to underlip to a lighter shade (how did I miss that the first 200 times around?) near the lip. I work until soft turns smushy. Advantage lost, I dip in medium, blot out thoroughly, and then clean my brushes using brush soap. Several times, until oil color is gone, brushes re-shaped. I must take care of brushes.

No sooner done than my neighbor walks in with the template they have worked on, one connecting dollops of cut work on sturdy paper on a pad. I show him my young girl drawing, the hand-constructed oval  done four times like the matting of the photograph. He is duly impressed. I am impressed with their work--a stencil from the source reduced a tad smaller to 7/8" inch.

Time to teach class. I have younger students today, plus one older. We have a blast, talk art and art concepts as seriously as adults. I take them to my work area to show them what I'm working on. They are amazed with how I can draw something so big, ask me how.

"Start by doing something smaller," I say with a smile.

"You have a lot of stuff," one says.

"You can only comment if you come help me straighten," I say.

My entourage returns to finish their hour. One makes watercolor spots that bleed together perfectly for the calico cat. The other finishes her colored pencil flowers behind her butterfly, which we all agree look like flower candles in a candelabra. I take pictures of each student with their in-progress work, them, and the picture they work from. My art models, I call them, telling them good-bye.

Now I use the stencil created for me, all I needed to make my own marks regular. It works like a dream, as I manipulate material to fit my size oval (ovals are not uniform measurements, folks). Roughed in in under an hour, what would have taken days and too much erasing otherwise.

"Your life," a friend says. "Yeah, they moved in right across from me." I laugh. Amazing, how solutions seem to walk right up when you reach out over fear--fear of losing yourself, your time. Opening yourself up, leaving the safe zone, opening ear and heart to life is key.

Serendipity--solutions arrived today when I was ready for them! Others must wait 'til tomorrow.

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Portrait Conference: Hanging with Our Own Kind

Last year I introduced Allison Coleman, a returning adult art student of mine, to the wonders of the Portrait Society of America’s annual conference. She said later, “It changed my life.”

Now we both have just returned from her second, and my eighth, this one located in Reston, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The first night of the 18th Annual Portrait and Figurative Artist Conference of the Portrait Society of America, we wandered around the circle made in a humongous conference room, sitting in the chairs behind a segment of 3 painters actively painting one model. We rotated around a circle of 5 models and 15 painters. Seeing the rich variety of viewpoints and media used was enlightening, as the Society painters showed us the superior merits of painting from life, and in this case, a la prima, or, all at one sitting.

Getting the Likeness

Getting the Likeness

On Friday, we cased the art materials’ room, buying what we had determined we would beforehand, in some cases more or different. This year, I found an awesome frame with birch panel insert for the painting that I substituted for my usual auction sale, an event which is so much fun, I went to the Mystery Art Sale and decided what I would have purchased, since last year I bought one painted by my very favorite portraitist, Bart Lindstrom. (http://joriginals.net/portraitists-a-glow/).

This year, there were fewer freebies to be had, but we lucked into a few, plus some very good deals.
We did all our scouting on Friday, since Allison had to help in the book selling section this year. They have awesome books. I did buy the book, 100 Masterpieces, the National Galleries of Scotland, by Sir John Leighton, our keynote speaker. Of course, I got his autograph.

This year and last, the products from the Thursday night paint-out were sold in a silent auction, punctuated by a loud ending to aid the bidding process. Two years ago, I bought one of those. Last year I bought a painting from the mystery sale, a fixed-price, blind auction of 6 x 9’s painted by famous artists here and abroad. I always pick one board which has several I like, because if two of you want one painting, there’s a drawing of names from a hat, and you lose time.

Winning Artist Poses as Her Model

Adrienne Stein Poses as Her Model


Adrienne Stein Poses as Her Model

For four days, we raced from celebrity demonstration to illustrated lectures to sight-size stage demonstrations by the best artists, seeing their creations emerge in mirrors right next to the models’ faces.

In between, we looked at fellow artists’ portfolios, learned new presentation methods, and I competed in same.

In stolen moments from a charged program, we viewed the International Portrait Competition finalists’ works, went to a mix-and-talk party with them,

and I got so many wonderful interchanges and pictures I hate I can only share a few. But I talked to artists from Canada, Scotland, the U.S. and many other countries.

I particularly enjoyed my interchanges with Adrienne Stein from Pennsylvania, whose winning painting was done of her sister, and Katie O’Hagan, listed as from New York, but I’m sure she talked about living in Scotland. In any case, she told me how the birds would really fly at you as seen in this painting, a very bold white on white sort of background with white birds.

On one of my break-out sessions, I got to draw several models and be critiqued by veteran master Max Ginsburg. When you are around so much art in the making, your fingers literally itch to perform your own versions of the models, which I did happily for a couple of hours. We had amazing models in this session, and got to switch out models during the time.Katie O'Hagan, "Deflection"

Katie O’Hagan, “Deflection”

Allison got to mix with a different set of us, working in the book-selling setup of the Society. Together, we will share notes and impressions. All of the input we got here should help us to strategize better for entering their phenomenal shows, or any big shows, for that matter. We received crucial tips directly and by viewing the paintings selected for awards and for sale in the auctions.

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Portraiting in Atlanta with PSoA 2015



Conference, April 30-May 3, 2015

Allison and I are getting all hepped up about the upcoming conference being held at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta in Buckhead. The Portrait Society of America is putting on its 17th annual Portrait and Figurative Artist Conference, along with 800 artists from around the globe. For four days we will experience a “diverse array of demonstrations, illustrated lectures, portfolio reviews, 6×9” Mystery Art Sale, Art Material’s Room, the International Portrait Competition finalist’s.”

PSA is tops in furthering portraiture and figurative art in America. We are in with 3,200 other members.

This year, I’ve reached a milestone I’ve only dreamed of in my teaching career, even though I’ve been teaching over 30 years! What is that? I’m taking one of my students with me (figuratively speaking, of course)! Allison Coleman, a practicing artist in Raleigh–who, by the way, came to me first as a young student, and returned as an adult artist past art college–will be working to help PSA this year and attending the rest of the time. Together, we should be able to strategize better for entering their phenomenal shows and sharing crucial tips when we attend different events in the choose-your-emphasis sessions.Paint Out 2014,1

We don’t want to miss opening night where 15 artists paint together in one room from live models, in groupings of three to a model. They are centered, and we mull around the wider circle, watching awhile at one station, and then onto the next. In front of each section is a wedge of chairs from which to view the artists in action. Here are some pictures of last year’s Thursday night favorite event of mine, the paint out.

The next day we will need training shoes with wheels to make it to the many other demonstrations, panel discussions, workshops and breakout sessions. As professional full time artists, Allison and I want to take our art to the next level, so we can’t wait to see artists demonstrating, discussing techniques and methods, and to network with fellow artists from all over the world. Two years ago, I sat next to an Estonian (Estonia is the setting for Veiled in White) who attended art school in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fun!

Where else can you have individual artist-to-artist exchanges and your portfolio critiqued?

From there, it’s demonstration after demonstration from the best artists in the world sitting on stage with their model and mirrors which show the model’s face beside the in-progress work as the artist paints it. We will hear lectures about varying phases of the professional life of an artist or progress within a painting. What I love is that in one place, I get expert oil painters in still life’s and portraits, expert watercolor portraitist demos, how-to’s, professional art supplies being sold, books you die for–autographed–and you get to study portfolios for different presentation techniques.

I’ve also bought paintings from these artists each year in the paint-out’s silent auction.Paint Out,9

Just for joining PSA, you get a full color The Art of the Portrait Journal, the International Artist, member tuition rates, become part of the mentoring program, can receive signature status. Winners receive over $60,000 in cash and prizes. The Draper Grand Prize includes cash and prizes totaling over $10,000 and a feature article in International Artist magazine.

Unforgettable moments. Our dream, where we network with artists and agents, travel to area museums and visit with friends, new and old…and maybe next year, get in the show.






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