The Daffodil Thief

Many people are obsessed with particular flowers.

Daffodils, oil on canvas

History is peppered with stories of the adventures of people following a flower obsession. Tulip bulbs were at one time more valuable than the currency of The Netherlands.  Instead of Dutch coins, you paid with tulip bulbs!  It became so serious the government had to deploy armed guards around the tulip fields.

On a recent visit to Light Trap Books in Downtown Jackson, TN, proprietor Lauren Smothers suggested I might like reading Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. While the main story revolves around the life of a colorful orchid expert in Florida, the author goes into great detail about the history of orchids.  Orchid societies abound all over the world to feed the obsession of orchid aficionados. More on that in an upcoming episode!

Reading that book led me to look at my own flower obsessions.  I have to say obsessions because I have never settled on just one flower.  As a child I was obsessed with daffodils for a while. I loved their bright sunny faces that told me that spring was almost here. One spring I lusted after the daffodils that had sprung up all over a neighbor’s yard. There were bunches and bunches of them. I must have been about 6 years old.  I couldn’t resist.  I walked right over there and picked myself a large bouquet of the gorgeous blossoms.

Daffodils, watercolor on paper

Needless to say, my mother was appalled that I would do such a thing.  She made me take my whole bouquet back to the neighbor’s house, knock on the door and apologize for my theft. I cried all the way over to the neighbor’s house and could not summon up the courage to knock on the door.  I put the bouquet down on her porch and ran all the way home.  My mother never asked what the neighbor said and I never told her what I had done. Whenever I see daffodils, I think of the shame of a little girl who acted on her obsession with daffodils. I don’t think I have had the urge to steal flowers from someone else’s garden since. 

However, I do still have flower obsessions! Do you?

The Captivating Amaryllis

Symbolic of success, strength and determination, the Amaryllis’ name means “to sparkle” and so it does!

Symbolic of success, strength and determination, the Amaryllis’ name means “to sparkle” and so it does!

Pink Amaryllis, colored pencil

Symbolic of success, strength, and determination according to FTD.com, the amaryllis is a captivating flowering bulb. Gardener’s Supply says the Greek meaning of the word, “Amaryllis” means “to sparkle” and details the mythological love story Amaryllis and Alteo.  Gardener’s Supply also states that an amaryllis bulb can live for 75 years!

The exotic winter blooming amaryllis has become a part of the Christmas tradition for many people.  For me it began in my grandmother’s last years. She was mostly housebound in those years and my mother decided watching a beautiful flower grow would bring her joy.  My mother was right.  Both my grandmother and her caretaker, Betty, quickly became enthusiastic about the fast-growing bulb.  They kept the yard stick near the pot and made daily measurements of the growth, delightedly reporting every inch. Each year we gave her a different variety and each year the enthusiasm would build as the amaryllis came closer and closer to bloom time. What color would it be? How big would the bloom be? When the bloom day finally arrived friends and family made a visit to observe the amaryllis in all its glory. My grandmother and Betty would show off their gorgeous flower like proud parents whose child had just won the spelling bee.

Those memories came flooding back this year when my dear friend, Celeste, gave both me and another friend, Caroljeanne, amaryllis bulbs for Christmas.  Celeste works with the University of Tennessee Agriculture Center which has an amaryllis yearly sale where she was able to get some wonderful varieties.  The three of us made regular text message reports on the progress of each bulb. Caroljeanne’s delicate pink flower arrived first.  I realized immediately I would have to begin a painting to mark the three bulbs. Celeste’s gorgeous variegated red and white flower arrived second. And finally, my beautiful salmon-colored double petal variety, “Double Dream” made its dramatic presentation.

Instead of replicating my grandmother and Betty with their yardstick, I recorded the rapid growth with my camara. The preliminary work has begun for a painting of the three beauties with a colored pencil drawing of Caroljeanne’s lovely pink flower pictures above.  Next will come Celeste’s variegated beauty. “Double Dream” will bring up the rear as it did with its blooming.  In the meantime, I couldn’t resist showing off the progress of the growth in a slideshow.

For more about buying, growing and caring for Amaryllis bulbs follow these links:

Gardener’s Supply

FTD.com

University of Tennessee Agricultural Center, Jackson, TN

Pelicans

White Pelican, oil on canvas

The white pelicans are arriving in my part of the US on a daily basis. They will hang out here for the winter. Large numbers of them come to Kentucky Lake and Reelfoot Lakeevery year. The numbers of winter arrivals have been increasing in recent years. The white pelicans are mostly people-shy and stay well away from populated areas, hanging out in large flocks. It hasn’t been easy to get decent photos to paint from. It will take a longer lens to catch up to these shy guys. There are comparisons between the white ones arriving for the winter and the brown ones more associated with the Gulf coastal areas. The brown pelicans I have encountered in coastal areas are not nearly as camera and people shy as their white counterparts. Some brown pelicans appear to actually pose for the camera. While the white ones remain on the far side of the lake shore the brown ones will sit around on the docks and and the water’s edge begging for scraps.

Brown Pelican, Marco Island, FL

Pelicans have always appeared to me to be a bit prehistoric in their look. Turns out they may actually be prehistoric as fossils have turned up that are almost 30 million years old. Of course the ones we are now familiar with have evolved a bit over the last 30 million years but are similar enough to the fossilized version to be easily identified. That’s pretty old! Maybe that is part of the reason that make these birds fascinating survivors. Quite adept at fishing, the brown ones are also good at hanging around the docks when the local fishermen bring in their daily catch patiently waiting for the fish cleaning process to leave bits for them to quickly pick up. 

White Pelican, miniature oil on canvas

As an ancient bird, pelicans have figured in folklore for many centuries. It was believed that a mother pelican, lacking food for her young would actually pierce her chest with her beak so that the babies could drink her blood. That myth was eventually proven false but remains a legend still. It is believed that the pelican is a symbol for the passion of Jesus as she spills her blood for the survival of her children. Saint Thomas Aquinas even adds the pelican to his hymn, “Humbly We Adore Thee.” Queen Elizabeth I in medieval times is said to have taken on the symbology of the pelican and is seen in one portrait wearing a pelican broach. The pelican is the national bird of Romania and the state bird of Louisiana. Louisiana is known as the Pelican State. Several countries in the Caribbean have also adopted the pelican as their symbol. The pelican is quite revered as a symbol of self sacrifice, in spite of its rather awkward and ancient appearance.

Juvenile Pelican coming in for a Landing, Alligator Point, FL

Even with all the noble history and folklore surrounding the pelican, I tend to think of them as more comical. In this photo, a juvenile brown pelican was trying to perfect the art of landing on the water and having a bit of a struggle. He eventually mastered it and made for good entertainment as he repeatedly practiced. It was a great moment when he landed without so much splashing and thrashing. I wanted to cheer him on!

Pelicans were the subject of a witty limerick that has several variations. The original was written by fellow Tennessean, Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

Cheers to the wonderful pelican!

ZOOM Botanical Style Painting Workshops Open

We’ll be covering 3 Steps to Beautiful Botanical Watercolor painting in this three step Zoom workshop.

Purple Pansies, watercolor

Registration is open for the first Two series of 3-Step Botanical Watercolor workshops that will be held in 2 hour increments over 3 weeks. The First part will cover the preliminary drawing and how to transfer the drawing to watercolor paper via tracing paper. Part 2 will focus on detailed under-drawing as the key to depth, shadow and texture. Part 3 is the finished painting in watercolor using layering or glazing techniques to achieve rich color and velvety smoothness in petals and leaves. The first series will feature sunflowers and the second will be on Pansies. Sunflowers will take place on Tuesdays and Pansies on Mondays. Two times will be available for both series. Click on the Workshop button in the side bar or go to the Workshop page. Class size will be limited to provide personal attention. I look forward to meeting new faces and seeing the art work of lots of artists out there. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

Sunflower, watercolor

Once registered class materials will be made available for download in PDF form.

Coming up soon will be a Student Gallery of work created in the workshops! Help me make a place to showcase what artists are doing in Botanical Painting

Dramatically Simple

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“When you lose your simplicity, you lose your drama.” Andrew Wyeth (from The Painter’s Keys)

Many of the greatest artists, writers, poets, and creative people in general comment on the importance of keeping it simple. For some artists, this can be a difficult task, especially for those drawn to the dramatic. Although, at times, complicated fussiness has been popular, the simple is what is more often remembered. A look at a few of the great master’s work would seem to bear this out.

Rembrandt painted a number of complicated scenes such as the famous Night Watch paintings yet he is most often associated with the soft, unique light of his many portraits. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the complicated famous Last Supper mural and many more yet is most often connected to the Mona Lisa. What could be more simplistic in subject than the Mona Lisa? Michelangelo painted the fabulous intricate Sistine Chapel. While thousands flock to see the Sistine Chapel every year, the marble sculpture, David, is the image most often connected to Michelangelo.

The list could go on and on throughout the history of art but how often do artists think about keeping it simple? The problem for many may be in knowing when to quit. There is always something more to do. A little more color here. A dab of paint there. Eventually, the simplicity is lost and some of the drama with it. Perhaps, an alarm can be installed above the easel that can be programmed to know when the point of no return has been reached where simplicity will soon be lost. This alarm could send out a resounding, “Put down the brush, and step away from the paint!!” That could work but it might be simpler to keep it simple by making a simple effort to enforce simple self-restraint. If the self-restraint fails, there is always the alarm to fall back on.

 

Here is a Flash Mob performance of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. What fun! I wish these guys would show up at my local mall!

Weekend Inspiration–Zentangle

Doodling for meditation and relaxation is becoming popular as way to release the stresses of the day.  And its fun!  Everybody likes to doodle in some way even if its just scribbles.  The Zentangle craze is about using doodling as a form of meditation.  Just watching the video is enough to bring on some relaxation.  If you’d like to give it a try and don’t know how to get started, the video below is simple and easy to follow.  Go ahead!  Jump in if you haven’t already.

Arts in Healthcare–Doodling for the Health of It

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“Drawing is a frame of mind, a loving embrace if you will.” Susan Avishal (from The Painter’s Keys)

How often do students get in trouble for doodling during class?  Doodling, new research is showing, may not be such a bad thing at all.  In fact doodling may be good for your health.  While supposedly zoning out with some prodigious doodling, the brain is actually busy at work solving some major problems.  Instead of treating doodlers as slackers, perhaps it would be better to treat them as the smarter students because they just may be.

Psychology Today has a regular feature on Arts and Health by art therapist Cathy Malchiodi.  In an article about the benefits of doodling, Malchiodi cites recent research on doodling and memory retention.  It seems that the act of doodling while performing a specific function helps retain the memory of the function.  Malchiodi also discusses in the same article, the current “Zentangle” craze as another example of the health benefits of doodling.  “Zentangle” is more structured than simple doodling and creates a meditative concentration in the process that is both soothing and calming for the heart.

Maybe all those people who scold doodlers are the same analytical types who don’t understand daydreaming either.  Now we know.  Daydreaming and doodling are techniques of the right -brained creative types allowing the brain to work out and solve complex problems.  As both activities are meditative in nature, these creative folks are soothing and relaxing the heart at the same time.  So go ahead, doodle and daydream to your heart’s content.  You just may be about to solve a great human dilemma or come up with the next greatest invention.  You could be the inventor of the soon-to-be latest hot must-have item.  Grab a pen and start doodling.  The world is waiting for your great creation!  At the very least, you’ll be healthier.

The day dreaming post is Meandering Toward Insight

Weekend Inspiration–App, App and Away

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“Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.” Irwin Greenberg (from The Painter’s Keys)

Suppose you are out and about without a sketchbook when suddenly the urge to draw strikes. It’s in your head but you need to record it. What can you do? This moment may never come again. If the image isn’t captured now, will it be lost down the memory hole? Quick! Pull out your smartphone and start drawing right where you are. Record that image. Get some marks down to take back to the studio. How? There’s an app for that. Sketchbook Mobile by Autodesk is a phone app to download for $1.99. Open the app and start drawing with color or black and white. This app is amazingly easy to use. If you are already using this addictive little toy, please share your experience! It would be great to hear how others are using this fun app. Who needs games when you could be drawing!

But look out! This toy is distracting.

The Granddaughter’s Residual–UPDATE

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“Do your job and demand your compensation—but in that order.”  Cary Grant (from Brainyquote)

In two of my previous posts, the lack of resale compensation for visual artists, illustrators, photographers and sculptors was discussed.  The United States Copyright Office has now partially reversed the previous ruling on resale royalties for visual artists.  Visual artists have not had the same rights to royalties as composers, playwrights and screenwriters.  There is a bill coming up in congress and the senate to grant full residual rights but this move by the Copyright Office signals a hopeful direction.

Judith Dobrzynski has covered the issue for the Arts Journal blogs and has a full report on what these changes mean.  She received a report from the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) on his upcoming bill.  Please go to her post for the full story here.  There are also links in her article for the U.S. Copyright Office report on the reversal.

“Droit de Suite” is the title of these laws in Europe that came about from the destitute state of the granddaughter of artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875).  Millet sold his painting, The Angelus for 1000 francs in 1865.  14 years after his death the painting was sold for between 553,000 francs and 800,000 francs depending on the report, while his family lived in abject poverty.  His granddaughter was found selling flowers on the streets of Paris to survive.  The laws only granted a very small amount to the artist and/or his family negating the complaints from art dealers about loss of compensation for the dealers and galleries.

The United Kingdom has very recently enacted a “Droit de Suite” law but the U.S. so far has not.  This hopeful sign from the U.S. Copyright Office may signal an approaching change in this process for artists in the U.S.  One can hope.  And one can also contact his/her representative and senator to suggest they support “Droit de Suite” in the U.S.  Perhaps visual artists dying in penury will soon be a thing of the past.  No more granddaughters selling flowers on the street for survival.

Previous posts by me on “Droit de Suite” laws:

Visual Residual

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

Other blog posts on the subject:

BCA Galleries

Adam Lilith’s Art House

 

Felt or Flat

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (from Skinnyartist)

If a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a story, a performance, a photograph is so beautiful it touches the heart, it is considered a great work of art. That description is the ultimate validation for the creator of the piece. How does an artist get to the place of creating works capable of touching the heart of the onlooker, reader, listener? As Helen Keller says, it must be felt with the heart. The act of making art must be approached from the goal of creating purely from the feelings of the heart.

Marla Hoover at The Arkansas Artist says, “I always try to paint what is in my heart at the time and I see so many ideas that I can’t seem to get them all out fast enough.” Ideas come from the inner artist, the one who resides in the heart. Ideas from the heart are felt rather than reasoned. Hoover goes on to describe the difficulty of painting what some one else has suggested. Some one else’s suggestion is coming from that person’s heart, not the artist’s heart. Drawing that distinction can be problematic.

Taking the time to listen and to feel the heart before creating art, can open the door to the flood of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily mean another person’s suggestion can’t be felt, it simply means it’s best for the artist to be sure his/her own heart is engaged in the process, as well. Art without the engagement of the heart is likely to lack the energy of feeling, leaving the artwork on the flat side. There’s not much that is beautiful in flat feeling-less art.

Monet’s gardens at Giverny were where his heart and his art were deeply felt.  For more on Monet’s gardens and his life at Giverny follow the link here.

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