December 31, 2012

starry, starry night

8 x 10, oil on canvas

When was the last time you stepped outside and gazed skyward?
 On a clear night, it is the best show in town - far better than anything on TV. 
If you ever feel the world has lost its magic, 
or you haven't experienced enough jaw dropping awe; 
grab your coat and hat, a cup of hot chocolate, 
and step outside for a little star gazing. 
Dancing is optional.

And if your sky is cloudy? Take a look at some of the grand images from NASA here. Appearing as gorgeous abstract art, the image gallery features constellations, cloud vortices, spiral galaxies, supernovas, and helix nebulas...just to name a few. Inspiration at its best. Happy New Everything.

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. 
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful!
 And don't forget to make some art- 
write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.
 And I hope, somewhere in the next year, 
you surprise yourself." 
-Neil Gaiman

December 24, 2012

making spirits bright!

8 x 8, oil on canvas

"Every sleepy boy and girl
 in every bed around the world 
can hear the stars up in the sky
 whispering a lullaby"
Mary Chapin Carpenter

When I think of food + children, I think of Jamie Oliver : chef, author, restaurant owner, humanitarian, and daddy of four, just to name a few of his many talents. His passion for cooking, and unparalleled enthusiasm for helping children learn to make healthy lifestyle choices is most refreshing. Click on his name above to visit his website and be inspired by the many projects he is currently working on. Ever charming, cheerful and clever; making spirits bright is what Jamie does best every single day.   
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! 

December 17, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

"An Old-Fashioned Christmas"
8 x 10, oil on canvas 

Today's inspiration comes in the form of a timely and timeless message for peace, written in 1999 by poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek, when he was only 9 years old:

December Prayer
No matter who you are, say a prayer this season.
No matter what your faith, say a prayer this season.
No matter how you celebrate, say a prayer this season.
There are so many ways to celebrate faiths,
There are so many faiths to celebrate life.
No matter who, no matter what, no matter how you pray.
Let's say a prayer this season.
 for peace.

(from Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek's "Journey Through Heartstrings")
Mattie's life and words inspired and touched many during his short life, including his friend and fellow peacemaker, President Jimmy Carter, who delivered this eulogy for Mattie.

December 10, 2012

Marvelous Monday Inspirations

"Show and Tell"
10 x 20, oil on canvas

One of the meanings of the word "inspire" is "to breathe". Born in the wee hours before dawn, I took my very first breath on a Monday morning. So, I think no other day could be more perfect to launch a new series of posts that celebrate all things inspiring.  (sorry Garfield)
Here are two Marvelous Monday Inspirations that I hope you will find as uplifting and encouraging as I do.

My model for the painting above may look small but she has such a big heart. After hearing stories about children who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy, she sorted through her toys, organized a combination yard/donut sale with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. A pretty impressive mission of hope and goodwill for a second grader.

 Young students from KY's Pulaski Elementary created a "kindness chain" where they anonymously share gifts, letters, or perform acts of kindness. A card explaining the "Mysterious Mustang" project is included in each gift, including a website where recipients have an opportunity to express their gratitude, and then continue the kindness chain. The real ingenuity of this program is that the students get to see first hand how their initial act of kindness grows and expands as recipients around the globe share their joy. How cool is that?

Once again, the best lessons of kindness, sincerity and caring come from the young, who are often our best teachers.

"Remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. 
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."
Scott Adams

November 30, 2012

Grazie, Italia!

If I had to choose but one word to describe the Amalfi Coast, it would have to be "colorful" because that definition speaks to the heart of the region...

where the boats simply
"abound in color":

and every landscape, location and setting is"an intensely striking scene"...

Where the Italian people certainly fit the description of "vigorous, spirited, and dynamic" Where else could you go where the locals spontaneously serenade you with traditional Italian songs, and invite you to join them in dance? 
Oh yes, they did just that. Sigh. 

                                        And the daily sunrises, well... they were "richly picturesque"...

And so I say a heartfelt grazie Italia for so graciously sharing all their splendid color, and a big thank you to Charleston artist Dee Beard Dean, her husband Nick, and Houston artist Judy Elias all of whom organized this grand painting adventure. Happy painting to all my fellow artists below: Sally, Judy, Jackie, Dee, Pat, Shirley, Toska and Ann. And grazie to all of you for joining me on this virtual journey -I hope you found it as uplifting and inspiring as I did.


"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet;
 how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.
There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." 
~Fred Rogers~

November 27, 2012

sea salt

"Amalfi Colors" 10" x 12"

"I want a boat that drinks six,
eats four,
and sleeps two."
~Earnest K. Gann~

November 25, 2012

of note

 10" x 10", oil on linen

Near this piazza are little shops, some that sell stationary with ties to the region's centuries old paper mills. The ancient tools and machinery from the 14th century can still be seen at Museo Della Carta. Dairies and journals, made in the old tradition, have signature watermarks signifying their connection to the past. Perhaps Mr. Wilde purchased a few of his favorites here...

"I never travel without my diary.
 One should always have something sensational to read on the train."
~Oscar Wilde~

November 21, 2012

harvesting grace

For me, one of the most enchanting Italian customs is how guests are often introduced to the kitchen staff, cooks and servers who are parents, siblings, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. It an embracing gesture of family pride, honor and respect where guests can't help but feel welcome and appreciated. 

And then... there are the family photographs on the walls. Photos of ancestors.

Oh my. 
I love these more than I can say.
Often they are not even in a frame. Just tacked up.
 Simply and sincerely.
 Lovingly and respectfully... 

Displaying the photos serves as a blessing, a tradition, a connection to the past.  
But they are also a physical symbol of the loving energy present in that space.
 ("Energy" as in the 7th grade science definition: "that which can neither be created nor destroyed"). One that is not only seen, but felt. 
A tangible energy born out of passion, honor and integrity,
 and a grand example of how all of us have the power to choose
 the energy we extend to the world each day, 
and in each moment.
Wishing you the blessings of family and friends on this day of thanks!

"You can only sing what you are. 
You can only paint what you are.
You must be what your experiences, 
your environment, 
and your heredity have made you...
For better or worse, 
you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life."
~Dale Carnegie~

November 18, 2012

Pizza Piazza

 We painted in the main piazza of Ravello near the busy outdoor cafes:

"Pizza Piazza"  10" x 10"

"The first condition to understanding a foreign country is to smell it".
~Rudyard Kipling~

Also passing along a link to Deepak Chopra's 21-Daily Meditation Challenge. Just last week the Wall Street Journal reported MRI documented studies showing connections between the left and right brain for those who regularly meditate. That is right, meditation actually changes the way your brain looks on an MRI.  The short guided meditations are free, and digitally available 24-hours a day. 

November 16, 2012

cliff notes

The neutral color of cliffs, deserts, and rock formations are intriguing to paint because their ever changing appearance depends entirely on the light source, time of day and the amount of bounced, reflected lights in the shadows. 
So here I condensed the vast scene into a narrow, vertical format; painted as quickly as I could, eliminating unnecessary details and shifting focus to color relationships and abstract spots of color. (I'm pretty sure if Emeril had walked by, he would have shouted "bam!")

                                                               Marina Cliffs, 6" x 16"

"I was proud of the waves I had made,
but wondered how many boats I was supposed to rock" 
Phil Donahue

November 14, 2012

American Impressionists Society

I still have a couple more paintings from Italy to share, but first I wanted to pass along info about the American Impressionist Society. The 13th Annual National exhibit is currently on display through November 30th at thEckert and Ross Gallery in Indianapolis, Indiana. 
And last weekend, the opening accompanied a 3-day symposium with painting demos, panel discussions, slide shows, and a tour of the Eteljorg Museum featuring master artists Kevin Macpherson, Carolyn Anderson, C.W. Mundy, Calvin Liang, Quang Ho, Kenn Backhaus, Clayton Beck, Zhiwei Tu...To learn more about the AIS, go here.

Here are some of the conference highlights:
                                               Clayton Beck:

                                              Carolyn Anderson's portrait demo from life:

                                                          C.W. Mundy's study:
                                                        Calvin Liang's sailboat demo:

                                                              Zhewei Tu's figure demo:

                                              And while there was a lot of work and serious effort, there was also the usual dose of humor from these knuckleheads -or turkeyheads as the case may be... 
(Kevin Macpherson and C.W. Mundy)

And a big thank you to the Tennessee artists whose hard work and behind the scenes efforts to organize and plan this event: 
Dawn Whitelaw, Paula Frizbe, and Lori Putman!

 "My 'office' is wherever I decide to set up and paint,
and everything under the sun and moon is fair game." 
~Kenn Backhaus~

November 12, 2012

Ravello Gardens

12 x 12, oil on linen

Looking through my photos and paintings, I have to say it is easy to be blind-sided by the over-the-top perfection here. The above painting and photo are from the little town of Ravellllllo. Take a look at some of the enchanting scenes this tiny town has to offer:

The shops are filled with local wines, olive oil, linen, ceramics, leather, cashmere (no,no, no I can't time for shopping, must paint....)

 And if it weren't enough that the food is spectacular, the views are breathtaking from every vantage point....

 the famous gardens are manicured to perfection...

 and look at the scenery these gardeners are surrounded by - not a bad "office" to go to work in each day, huh? 

another outdoor restaurant with a view...

and more fabulous pottery...

I know, right? painting or photo could ever do justice to Italy,
 but that never stops us from trying.

"What is the charm of Italy?
What do we find there that can be found nowhere else?
I believe it is a certain permission to be human..."
Erica Jong

November 9, 2012

the grand view

 As you can see, driving along the narrow Italian streets requires maneuvering skills (and nerves of steel) not available to the average person...

 And walking down the "sidewalk"? well, let's just say it is an art unto itself:

But all is forgiven and forgotten once you step into a fabulous view like this:

 ...from the Convento di Almalfi Grand Hotel overlooking the city of Amalfi below.
 To see more photos and info about this hotel, go here.

"Hello beauty, hello strange
Hello wonder, what's your name?...
Joni wrote Blue in her house by the sea
I gotta believe there's another color waiting on me"
John Mayer

November 6, 2012

Bella Sophia!

As you may imagine, there have been many famous people who have chosen to make live along the Amalfi coast, including Moet and Chandon as well as Fiat mogul Agnelli. And overlooking the little fishing village from my last post is a lovely villa once owned by Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti. Accessible only by boat, isn't it easy to see how/why she has always stayed in such fabulous shape? No elevators or stairmasters here people, just cliffs and flight after flight of steps. Gotta love that (and HER)!

"I was blessed with a sense of my own destiny.
I have never sold myself short. 
I have never judged myself by other people's standards. 
I have always expected a great deal of myself, and if I fail, I fail myself...
After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It's better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." 
~S o p h i a  L o r e n~

 AND speaking beautiful, all this month, artist Dreama Tolle Perry is issuing a Gratitude Challenge. Like many of us, you may already keep a gratitude journal, and if so, you know that just being aware and noticing the wondrous little moments add up to a rich and abundant life. Joining in is easy - just take a moment to reflect on what you are most grateful for on this day/in this moment and share it on Dreama's website. You can read about her challenge and be inspired by her beautiful words and paintings here! 

My list of blessings so far...
#1 catching a glimpse of the moon brings me joy because no matter where loved ones are, I know it is always ours to share.
#2 pink gloves, green tea
#3 a toddler's giggle
#4 watching little hands turn big pages
#5 stepping into a new space in worn, optimistic shoes
#6 eyes that smile hello
#7 hopeful black eyes that dissolve into a quirky little wagging tail

November 5, 2012

Conca dei Marini

After a morning of painting in the tiny fishing village Conca Dei Marini, we were treated to a fabulous lunch featuring freshly caught fish and homemade ravioli at Ristorante Risorgimento da Michele. The only food the tiny restaurant serves is made from scratach, grown or caught, and because they are located on a rocky cliff, their clients arrive only by boat.  As with most of the restaurants along the coast, it is family owned and operated, with the husband catching the fish while his wife and her sister prepare the food. Absolute perfection!

The fishermen I met along the coast spoke little or no English but were very animated and spirited when communicating about the beautiful waters they fish in, as well as their vocation. They were always excited to look at our paintings and generously proclaim "Bella barca!" (Beautiful boat!)
 I have no idea what catch Louie is holding up in the photo below, only that he was very proud. 
So endearing.

"At sea, I learned how little a person needs,
 not how much."
Robin Lee Graham

November 1, 2012

Amalfi Marina

As soon as I glanced back and caught a glimpse of this little boat at the edge of the marina, I knew I had to paint it. The blue/orange complimentary colors, and light and shadow composition grabbed my eye. Painting outside requires the ability to reduce a ton of information, so it is an added joy to find a scene that grabs your heart as well as your attention. 

6 x 8, oil on canvas

"My mom said she learned how to swim when someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat.
I said, "MOM, they weren't trying to teach you how to swim."
Paula Poundstone

October 29, 2012

pestiferous perils of plein air painting

 If you are a plein air painter, you are all too familiar with the adverse challenges that accompany it.  In the south, I have encountered ticks, flies and mosquitos by the droves; as well as curious cattle, horses, goats, deer and snakes of all persuasions, not to mention the sudden and unwelcome thunderstorm. In the northern states there are elk, wolves and bears. Then there are... people. People who scare the daylights out of you with their car horns, or shout out goofy comments as they pass by. And that is just in the rural areas. In the cities, there are the panhandlers who are certain you prefer talking to painting...well, you get the picture. Let's just say the Constant Distractions and Interruptions require much stopping and starting (and fortitude) to complete a painting.

And just when you are certain you have heard and seen it all, along comes Italy...where the locals leisurely saunter by and offer to be your model.  uh yes, you read that correctly. Can't say that has ever happened in the states. Here is but a sampling of the adversities we bravely endured and I know what you are thinking... plein air painting is not for sissies, not for the faint of heart, and you are so right.

And I haven't even begun to touch on the challenges we endured with the food, 
all those lackluster views, 
and what about that atrocious weather?...