The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

Did Charles Dickens have a deeper meaning in mind when he named his iconic character “Ebenezer” Scrooge?  Its a topic that had never occurred to me until I heard the literal translation of the name, Ebenezer, which is “Stone of Help.”

It was the name given to a stone that was erected after a battle to humble and remind the victors that the help they received was supernatural. It was not by their own hand that they were victorious over a particularly brutal enemy who had waged war on them for years. It was by a power much greater than their own that supplied the vital help that resulted in the final victory. This stone, the Ebenezer, will forever be in this spot as a reminder. We all have our battles and we can all have our own Ebenezer stones. This is mine. It is alabaster from a Colorado quarry.

In working this stone, I preferred using hand tools instead of power tools because of the tactile nature of alabaster.  Many people make beautiful sculptures of alabaster into a variety of wonderful things.  For me, the stone has its own beauty.  I use hammer, chisel, rasp and sandpaper so I can see and feel more closely what the stone is becoming.  The natural color is obscured until the tools chip away the sharp edges and smooth the roughness.  The only power tool was the drill used to make the center hole to show the color goes through the heart of the stone.

As the work on the stone proceeds, so does the battle of the day.  After the battle, the beauty underneath is revealed.  But it is not my hand that made the beauty.  It was there along.  The stone is that reminder.  For all battles, there is help.  What comes after the battle can be something beautiful.

 

Here is how the revelation progressed:

 

 

Theft or Flattery???

Goldfinch Miniature 4" x 4"

Goldfinch Miniature
4″ x 4″

“A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa but people still line up to see the original.” Louis Armstrong (from The Painter’s Keys)

Help me out here! When is it okay to appropriate someone else’s work to use for your work? Is it ever okay? Suppose you like to paint in the studio from photographs. Would you consider it acceptable to take someone’s photographs in the public domain for use in your work? Can that be considered acceptable if the original work cannot be identified in your work?

In the studio, I often work from photos. To do that, I take numerous photos. I do not consider myself to be a photographer because I lack the talent and skills of many of the wonderful professional photographers I know or see on this blog forum and others. I am adequate to get what I need for painting. But sometimes I will look online for other photos of the subject I am painting to get another angle or another light exposure. Is this an acceptable practice?

I ask this question because I recently posted a photo on a social media site of a scene from my garden. In the comments, a friend tagged one of his/her friends suggesting this other person should make a painting of my photo. My first thought was, “Did my friend suggest his/her friend should steal my work?” Or should I be flattered? I would love to hear what others out there have to say about this subject.

A popular opinion I have heard repeated is if your work is at least 10% or more different from the original work then it is acceptable. The Arts and Business Council of Nashville sponsors regular workshops on topics of interest to artists in the community. In June, Nashville attorney, Mary Neil Price, discussed this very subject. From what I gathered in her talk, it is never acceptable to appropriate another’s original artwork in yours without permission.

Two blogs I frequently enjoy are Avian101 and Talainsphotographyblog. Both regularly post beautiful bird and nature photography. To me, making a painting of any work from either blog would be stealing, not flattering. What do others think? Does that mean I can’t look at the way these photographers have caught the light on a bird’s head? I would love to know others opinions. Help me out here! Enquiring minds want to know. (Did I just steal that quote???)

Tennessee Ice Storm

People like to tease us in Tennessee for shutting everything down for winter storms but we have enough sense not to drive on a solid sheet of ice no matter how hard we get teased.  Shutting everything down affords the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of a world of ice crystals.  We save gas not driving on ice and we spend time enjoying the magnificent sight of a landscape of glistening diamonds.  It won’t last long so we must enjoy it while we can.  The temperature will be back up this week end and the wonderful, magical crystal and diamond world will be gone.

Christmas Tree Creativity

Creating is a response to the gift of life. Rosalind Pinsent (from The Painter’s Keys)

There are all kinds of comments and opinions on Christmas trees that crop up every year about this time. Creativity is one example. A Christmas tree is a statement of creativity. That creativity comes in many forms. Some like to have a color-coordinated tree. Others are all about the lights. You name it and people have a creative expression with their trees. My tree is all about eclectic creativity. This year added some new examples.

I have never had a color coordinated or designer tree. I have an “artsy” tree. My tree has some childhood ornaments that I love, like the angel that got chewed on by the cat. One year I made a few elaborate ornaments. My first tree in my first apartment was done on a shoestring budget and decorated with cheap ribbon. I loved that ribbon tree! This year four very special little girls decorated my tree and added their own creativity to the mix.

Looking at my tree this year has made me want to celebrate creativity. This year adds a paper plate cut out Christmas tree and paper plate cut out snowflake, a light bulb with ribbon hanger, and two yard-ornament egrets brought in from the garage to become Christmas tree ornaments instead. The paper plate cut out Christmas tree hangs alongside a hand-tied bow from the ribbon tree. The light bulb ornament and paper plate snowflake are hung with some of the ribbon from that first tree. The egrets have a grouping of other items beneath them that I am not sure of the meaning of but love it. Each ornament is unique and special in its own way.

Christmas time is a time of being thankful for giving and receiving gifts. Creativity is a wonderful gift to be thankful for. A Christmas tree is evidence of that gift.

Beautifully Purposeful

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“Create we must, and respond to this dark hour.” Makoto Fujimura

The artistic process for many can be a compulsion, striving to express an idea, a thought, a feeling bubbling up from deep inside. The expression is often not consciously mulled over before erupting into reality. How much time is spent reflecting on the purpose of the churning creative urge before releasing the explosion? What if this flow of artistic need is consciously directed in such a way as to nourish the human heart?

Even in the midst of the direst of poverty, the soul seeks beauty. Anne Ciccoline of Creator, Created, Create and leader of Creative Communion, describes her trip to Nairobi where she was taken to Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Anne was captivated at the sight of a mud hut with an entrance adorned with strips of fabric and a tin can planter with a green vine growing up the side of the hut. Anne says, “…no matter how primitive or impoverished our shelter, we strive to make it beautiful.” Beauty lightens darkness as nothing else can.

The human heart longs for beauty.   Our darkest hours are brightened by the simplest of beautiful sights. When there is nothing else, there is still beauty. Artists have a gift. Are we seeking to use it in a way that demonstrates gratitude for the gift? What better expression of gratitude could there be than for artists to bring the longed for beauty to the hearts of others? Creating art to nourish the soul is a noble purpose, a goal worth pursuing. And that is a beautiful thing.

Mako Fujimura talks about his painting, “Golden Sea”