Lessons Learned from Our 4-Legged Friends

As a kid, my experience with animals was a mixed bag because one cat died in surgery, a dog was killed by a car, and several other mishaps with rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, turtles, and seahorses occurred. Consequently, I never fully understood or appreciated the role that pets can play in our lives. Then I met Bob, husband of the artist, and discovered he is part-cat. For his birthday, early in our now 32+ year marriage, I bought him a Tonkinese kitten with compelling turquoise eyes we named Polaris.

Polaris carried us through the illness and early death of Bob’s beloved mother (who is responsible for re-igniting my art after letting it lie for over 15 years), and our move from Minnesota to Colorado, plus traversing many other of life’s hills and valleys. Bottom line, Polaris converted me into a cat lover. He gave us 19 years of entertainment and comfort. In addition, he was one handsome intelligent sock catching dude who loved being a single cat — no siblings necessary, thank you very much.

When we arrived in CO in 2004, home of the largest ratio of humans to dogs in the country (bet you didn’t know that), I became friends of many people who are avid dog lovers. I have to confess that I had a slight fear of dogs and really didn’t get the “human’s best friend” mantra. I started hearing the statement, “they teach us many things,” though no one ever elaborated on these lessons. “Really?” I said to my skeptical self.

Then in 2010, along came my wonder rescue dog – my shadow – Kyla. Okay, I said to myself, so what are these so-called lessons? Were they in a document somewhere that I missed along the way? lessons learned

It didn’t take long before I was calling Kyla my “anti-depressant.” How could I not grin when she came running to me with her ear-to-ear smile or hear that early morning “thump, thump, thump” of her voluminous fox-like tail every day? Then the unconditional love began hitting me between the eyes and deep into my heart.

Okay, I get it! though I sensed there was more. Our orange cats, Paynter and Redd, had arrived earlier in 2006.  I saw two unrelated cats become soul mates and inseparable brothers. We have copious photos of  them intertwined, hugging, licking and reaching out to reach other. It was shear pleasure watching them love each other.

Our loss of our dear sweet Redd this past week is the inspiration for this blog post. He was with us for only 9 years and an important family member. Our hearts ache as we process the hole he left in our lives. His loss gave me pause to revisit the subject of “lessons learned.” In addition to those mentioned above, what have I learned, or at least observed, from our critters?

lessons learned

The other lessons I have learned from Polaris, Paynter, Redd and Kyla:

  • They know how to live in the moment (I happen to believe they are better teachers than all of the gurus out there preaching it);
  • They role-model how to meditate (I haven’t learned this skill quite yet and appreciate their constant reminders);
  • Love is in abundance and has no boundaries;
  • Patience isn’t a virtue (cat lesson);
  • Patience is a virtue (dog lesson);
  • You, the human, are loved even if you do give me dumb food or forget to clean the littler box or I don’t get my daily walk;
  • Smiling and laughing are contagious;
  • Critter and humans do communicate with each other;
  • Fury friends make yummy warm blankets;
  • Owners are not always smarter than their pets;
  • Loyalty;
  • Play and rest are life essentials;
  • …and that they worth the occasional vet bill, spit-up, broken dish, and worry when they escape the fence.
        I am sure there are more lessons. Please share the lessons you have learned
from your beloved 4-leggeds.
Over the years, I have attempted to capture the spirit of each of our beloved critters with color and paint.  I am so glad we have these, as is Bob, because the paintings spark delightful memories and reminders of lessons we haves learned.

You may be wondering why I am writing about our pets and not my latest art work…?

Life is art; it often informs my artmaking.

Observing and feeling my world is what inspires my creativity. Often life’s events spark a series of paintings. For example, after double jaw surgery five years ago, I created an eight painting series, entitled, “Celebrating Air!” Because the surgery opened my tiny airway, I no longer suffered from sleep apnea. I could not have predicted the subject matter for this series – air bubbles – nor that I would even paint about the surgery until I had started my recovery process. It was a lovely surprise.

As artists, one of our roles can be to bring attention to subject matter and emotional content the average person takes for granted or just doesn’t consider. Through our observation skills and heart, we can visually communicate these findings and help change the world.

This topic reminds me of the well-known quote of Georgia O’Keeffe, Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time. Then add this related quote of hers, I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers. Her observations communicated with paint, altered and still alters people’s view of the world.

How has life informed or inspired your work? What events or observations have you made that have sparked your creativity?

Post Script. The is my husband’s eulogy for Redd:

This has been a rough week for both artist and husband of artist.  We had to bid goodbye to our loyal friend Redd, studio cat shown above.  Tears have flowed.  He was a conveyor of sweetness and love, and steadfast companion to us all.  Redd had a becalming way about him that always said, “Never fear, the love guy is here.”
Redd’s brain was a little scrambled, we think, due a severe fever as a kitten and probably the cause of his premature death. One of my nicknames for him was Forrest (as in Gump), and he was the epitome of that character’s simplicity, mixed with gentleness and caring.  He survived, mostly due to his adopted big brother’s maternal attention.
Redd never knew a lap he didn’t like, including complete strangers.  It is with great sadness, but celebration of his life, that we honor the life giving tonic that these creatures give us. The incredible joy and energy they bring to our lives makes it all worthwhile.

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What is the Temperature of Blue?

What is the temperature of blue? Over twenty years ago when I started studying color, I distinctly remember the conversations around color temperature and it was a tad confusing.
We know the common categories of colors and which are ‘cool’ and which are ‘warm.’ I like to call this the ‘”Big Picture Temperature of Color.” Hence, when we look at a color wheel, like the one below, we agree that the ‘cool’ colors are: green, blue and purple, and that the ‘warm’ colors are:  yellow, orange, and red.
color theory
In the painting world, we break it down to another level or subset of ‘cools’ and ‘warms,’ by referring to each primary paint color as being one or the other.
For example, a green-yellow is a ‘cool’ yellow and a orange-yellow is a ‘warm’ yellow. For red, a blue-red is the ‘cool’ variation and a orange-red is the ‘warm.’ Identifying the ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ of yellow and red was fairly easy.
Then along comes blue and the world is not in agreement. The most important concept to learn and understand is to SEE  the color bias of the blue and not to get all tangled up on temperature – it really can get messy.
For example, when you look at the chart of blues below you can see which ones carry a red bias and which have a yellow bias. (Color bias refers to that other color nearly every primary tube of paint carries. Such as: lemon yellow is a green-yellow and magenta is a blue-red.) Notice that it is easier to see the color biases of each tube when they are grouped together because you can compare the hues. (Isn’t fun to see all of those beautiful blues?)
 temperature of blue
When I am teaching color mixing I do not bring up the topic of temperature, because students have difficulty thinking of blue as being either ‘cool’ or ‘warm.’ They can do it with the other two primaries of yellow and red, but not with blue. I have learned to first teach students to SEE the color bias in a blue tube of paint.
Nearly every tube of blue has a color bias of green or red. There are very few pure tubes of blue. By the way, some painters consider cobalt blue as a pure blue, but due to manufacturer’s prerogatives, this does not hold true from one brand to another. It is helpful to paint a chart of all of your blues like the one above and compare because some cobalt blues carry a red bias and some a green bias.

So Why is it Important to Understand the Color Bias of Blue?

In this chart of blue swatches, I have painted the most common green-blues on the left – cerulean, phthalo and Prussian – and the red blue on the right – ultramarine – by two different manufacturers, Golden and Liquitex. temperature of blue
Color Tip:  Most tubes of blue paint carry a green bias. For some reason, there are only a couple of red-blues and this is true across all media – oils, acrylics and watercolors.
There are two main reasons why it is important to know the color bias, not the temperature, of blue.

1. When you are wanting to create a sense of depth in your painting, we know that warm colors come forward and cool colors go back. Within the subset of warms and cools, for example, if you are painting red flowers,  you want to use warm-reds for those flowers or petals that you want to be in the foreground or to come toward the viewer. Subsequently, you would use your blue-reds or ‘cool’ reds for those you want to push back.

So what to do with blues? When you look at this color study of blues using a green-blue and a red-blue, which comes forward to you? Are you sure or are you just repeating what you have heard someone state? Because we all see slightly differently, we cannot agree when it comes to blue.
temperature of blue
Which blue comes forward to you? The one with the yellow bias or the red?
The important thing to do is to be consistent within your painting. If you see red-blue as the blue that comes forward, then you want to use green-blues in your background or where you want the blue to feel behind something. It is too visually confusing if you flip them back and forth within a painting. You need to use the blues with conviction. Decide which blue – the green-blue or the red-blue – come forward and which goes back and then stick with it.
2. The second reason comes into play when you are mixing color. When you know the color bias of your blue, then you will be successful in the color mixtures you want. It will be easy to mix a bright green or a dull green if you mix with the correct blue.
In this color example, I am mixing green. Notice that the greens are brighter when I use two different green-blues in the top two rows with the same green-yellow. Then notice how the green is slightly duller because I mixed a red-blue with the same green-yellow (It is more evident in real mixing versus this digital image.). In the last row, I mixed a red-blue with an orange-yellow and the resulting green is duller.
color theory
Can you see how knowing the so-called ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ blue does not help when it comes to mixing color? It is less confusing when you leave the topic of temperature out of the conversation.
Color Tip:  Knowing the color bias of all of your primaries is the secret to frustration free color mixing!
Can you agree that the temperature of blue is not as important as knowing and seeing the color bias of a blue?
Want to learn how to assess the color bias of your paints and to release your joy of color mixing? Learn more about my online video course at “Acrylic Color Mixing Made Easy!” Note, that I use acrylics in this course, but the principles apply to all media.
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“Take the Summer Off!” | What Would that Look Like?

Someone recently suggested to me that I, “Take the summer off.” WHAT? My brain heard a loud engine screeching its brakes with crashing train cars tumbling behind it. Are you SERIOUS?

For over 20 years, I have been walking, talking, drinking, sleeping, reading, making, experimenting, selling, networking, teaching and learning art non-stop. I read once that “being an artist is a lifestyle, not a job.” I fall into that category with all fours. Even while on vacations, I am always observing my world, taking it in or attending something art related. It is a wheel without brakes. It doesn’t sound real healthy, does it?

Despite the train noise in my head, my brain obviously ‘heard’ the message because I have not been able to let go of it. Take the summer off has been sticking to me like engine grease. It’s a broad brush of a statement and not easily processed, at least not for me.

What went through your mind when you heard the suggestion to take the summer off? I would love to know. I am sure the range of reactions and thoughts is wide.

The first thing I did was to start negotiating and I asked myself, “How about a week?” It’s okay if you laugh.

The idea of taking more than a week off …well, I just couldn’t wrap my arms around it. Then I started asking myself and others, “What would it look like?” and “How would I define taking the summer off?” because there are a lot of gray areas in the answers.

take the summer off

Unpacked art supplies at the cabin.

Does taking time off mean:

  • Not painting?
  • Not photographing?
  • Not reading about painting?
  • Not checking email?
  • Not attending the online Instagram Class I forgot that I signed up for?
  • Not sketching?
  • Not reflecting upon the past 10 months of significant events and deadlines?
  • Not writing this blog?
  • Not revising and keeping my website up to date?
  • Not posting on any social media platforms?
  • Not journaling about this experience?
  • Not writing and sending out my monthly newsletter?

….and for how long?

[Read more…]

Moving My Art Studio Temporarily | Don’t Forget Chocolate!

Annually, I move my art studio temporarily for a month-long stay at our remote mountain cabin. And every year it is a challenge to figure out how to suddenly take my lovely spacious studio down to a car load. I don’t have a nice set of check lists, though I suppose that would be a good idea.

moving my art studio temporarily

Click to visit my studio

Have you ever tried to do this? It is all about choices. What do I take? What can I leave behind? Do I really NEED this or that?

Over the years I have built up my supplies and art stuff to the point where I have access to materials that satisfy most of my creative whims. I am grateful and I love it. However, this is not possible in a small room in our cabin.

Before I begin gathering up “stuff” – those lovely art materials – I try to ask myself some general questions, such as, “What is my opportunity to explore this year? Is there an area or subject I want to focus on?”

What Do I Pack for My Temporary Studio?

Usually I have a series that I am working on or a show to paint for, but this year the slate is clean, which is kind of scary and a topic for a later post. Hence, do I pack my studio to accommodate wherever my painting inspiration takes me or do I pack with limited materials?

Often, I have discovered, fewer options forces me to dive deeper into my creative sphere. I also remind myself that this self-imposed retreat, which I cherish, is only for a month.

moving my art studio temporarily

Which brush to take?

Moving my art studio temporarily is still not easy. I look at all of my brushes and palettes knives and ponder which dozen or so go with me?

Then there are all of my paints, things I use to create textures, color charts, sketch book, tracing paper, photo reference materials, etc. The list can go on and on. Oh, and I cannot forget some of my favorite art books!

moving my art studio temporarily

Do I need every tube of paint?

For fun, even if you do not transport your studio anywhere, try to decide what you might take and what you would leave behind. (BTW, this is different from painting on location where everything you bring is portable and you can carry on your back.)

moving my art studio temporarily

My portable office.

For my art business materials and information, I have a laptop computer and a portable plastic box for hanging files, paper and general office supplies.

Then there are those special items you just cannot forget ….such as chocolate! It does facilitate the creative process. :lol:

moving my art studio

A necessary food item.

Do you think it would be easy or difficult for you temporarily move your art studio?

Please share this post with others.

Together, let’s bring more beauty into the world!