what everyone wants


I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, what everyone wants.  It seems like everyone in America is on edge or talking about the rest who are.  I credit that to the election and the world events that are clogging the airways with frightening images.  But if you peel away the crisis and drama, we’re all still going about our lives with some purpose.  So what is that for most people?

What is it that keeps us going?  Nearly everyone has the simple desire to stay alive.  We’ve seen thousands of incredible examples of the will to live, from brute animal strength in the face of danger, to miraculous transformations.

But besides that, besides the raw will to stay alive, what keeps us from going bonkers with just the day to day stuff?

I used to think it was the search for happiness.  That, behind the drive to succeed, and the desire for material acquisition, and all the other passions which drive us, was the simple quest for happiness. Just a smile, a laugh, a lack of worry would do it for most people.  I still think that’s mostly true, but because the mere concept of happiness is so subjective, it becomes complicated again.  And there always seems to be another level of desire, even when people get everything they thought they wanted.

So there has to be a simpler answer.  And I think it is hope.

It isn’t the happiness, it’s the hope of happiness when you wonder if it even exists. It isn’t the health that will make you happy, or the job, or the children – it’s the hope for those things.  Just the hope itself.

My Life Application Study Bible says that hope is “to desire something with the confident expectation of its fulfillment.” That’s really all I need to get up in the morning.

I hope (and actually pray) that my family will all be safe and healthy and happy every day. I hope (and also pray) that the fruit of my efforts (in my case, painting) will bring joy to people I haven’t met yet.  And that they will also fill my accounts so that my family can be safe and happy.  I hope that what I see in my mind’s eye will be pleasing to your mind’s eye, so that I’m not just doing this for my health.

You hope for the things you hope for.  If we were in different circumstances, we would hope for different things.  Freedom if we weren’t free, say.  Rain, if we were drought-parched farmers.  And we all have many other layers of things attached to the simple hopes. Layers of hopes.  I picture the layers upon layers of prayers that God was hearing in that Jim Carrey movie where he and Morgan Freeman switched places.  When Jim Carrey was God he couldn’t get past the cacophony of prayers.  Our hopes are probably like that too.

But the initial thing is hope itself, plain and simple.  Because when we lose it, that’s when things really do go to hell in the proverbial “handbasket,” whatever that may be.    When all hope is gone is when we’re done.  People in dire straights find little threads of hope to stay afloat.

So love isn’t all we need.  Not really.  All we need is hope.  Hope of love.  Hope of happiness.  Hope of whatever it is we think we fill us with hope.  It’s a lovely mobias strip, if you like, a two edged strip which never ends, merely folding in on itself again and again.

Hope.  How do you find it? How do you restore it when it flags?

What do you hope for?

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9/11 then and now

On September 11th, 2001, I was working in the Regional Office of Habitat for Humanity in Apex, NC.  We had had our weekly meeting, ending with prayer, and were all at work at our  various projects when planes started hitting the Towers.  We huddled around the first person who found it on their computer, and then we went to TV.  We gradually became more and more in shock, and then we drifted our separate ways for lunch, and for most of us, for the rest of the day.  You just couldn’t think straight.  Terrorists had flown our own commercial airliners, filled with everyday Americans, into the two symbols of our wealth, and the symbol of our military.

Life changed.  We re-evaluated our own lives in the shadow of it.  All of us changed.  Even the people who put it together changed: now they had power.

We took care of some of that, and ten years later finally killed the mastermind, but along the way, in the intervening decade and a half, we’ve forgotten how much these people hate us.

Our president listens to the  Muslim Brotherhood.  CAIR attends public functions and makes noise if Muslims are not treated with deference.  But now, in 2015, Christians are being killed daily in the Middle East by ISIS, and not only is our president saying nothing, he is making a big fat deal with the progenitors of all things jihad – the Iranians.  Bigger liars your cannot find, but while we make nice with them, we are ignoring the killing of Christians, the beheading of western journalists and aid workers, and lying to the American people about our success against ISIS. This latter has just come out into the light and it’s a chilling scenario: our intelligence analysts are fudging the truth about ISIS for politics.  Benghazi anyone?!!  No terrorism here, just some street kids upset about a video.

Wake up people!

Remember how we felt in the days and weeks after 9/11/2001?  Before the shock had subsided, we had come together as a people.  We were working side by side as never before.  We were proud of our resilience and strength.

Now, we are bending over backward to satisfy imams who call us the Great Satan, and call for our deaths.

Those moderate Muslims you are worried about offending?  They are of no value whatsoever to the Christians whose heads are on sticks in Syria.  Those moderate Muslims who have been settling throughout Europe, taking advantage of social welfare and getting college educations on the dole?  They are going back to Syria to help the cause of raising up the Caliphate.  Because you know what those imams have in common with some of the Christians that ISIS is killing?  They think it’s End Times, and they can’t wait to get to their heaven.  If it means nuking Israel, so be it.

So, consider the brave new world we live in on this 9/11, and remember that the White House this time around was not represented at the Pentagon memorial, has said nothing about the Christian diaspora in Syria, and is silent on police killings.  What do you think would have happened if this admin had been in charge in 2001?  Scary, huh.

I don’t plan to learn to speak Arabic.  How about you?

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brave new world

Who knew that the brave new world would be so stupid?

Who knew that the incredible freedom of living in a democracy would be jeopardized by “low information voters”?

Who, among the founding fathers, who tried to anticipate all the pitfalls of participatory democracy, anticipated the utter ignorance and foolishness of the people?  The fact that a comfortable way of life would cloud their judgements.  The way their knee-jerk reactions to social media would endanger the very people who are supposed to protect us all? The way their shallow superficiality would endanger their very futures.

The autumn of 2015 is a difficult one for someone who has lived more than a half century.  I’m looking at 66 for 2016, and if I weren’t ready to go to heaven every day, I would be frantic with worry for this country.  As it is, I am very very concerned for our children.

The voters in the US have no clue.  They “love Hilary” because she is a woman.  That’s their only reason.  They have no clue what she stands for; they ignore her incredible lies and her callous regard for their own security, and they don’t care that both she and her Teflon husband are criminals.

The other option for Democrats is Bernie Sanders, a proud Socialist.  Really?

Or Joe Biden, a complete idiot, with a “nice way about him.”

Republicans, on the other hand, have embraced Donald Trump, who besides his business savvy, has one redeeming quality: his candor and lack of regard for the press.  While these are probably good things, and the fact that he is a successful businessman and could probably get America back to work, do we want an egotistical and emotional publicity hound facing off with Russia down the road?

Because we will be facing off with Russia.

And Iran.

Make no mistake.  The Great Appeaser, who occupies the White House right now, believes that if we show ourselves as weak and non-threatening, then the bullies of the world will leave us alone.  Are you kidding me?

The bullies of the world are giddy that we have abdicated our position as the world’s tower of strength and integrity.  They are planning our destruction every day.  They cannot believe that we elected a guy who doesn’t believe in his own country, and they are making hay, whether we see them or not. They are planning our demise while we are shaking their hands.

Iran giving up the future of nuclear weapons?  Yeah, right.  Those imams are speechless at the foolishness of our country.  Guess what – they lie.  It is built into their culture.  They have words that mean “by god I am telling the truth” but when you say it a certain way it means, “but you know I am lying.”  Why on earth would a country bent on destroying its neighbor Israel and us, the Great Satan, give up its best chance to do so?  They won’t.  They will hide it.

And Russia….don’t think this is the oblivious wonderland of the days after the wall came down.  Far from it.  Russia went through a long period of upheaval and then it reformed, with a bitter taste in its mouth because it was no longer a world power.  Vladimir Putin doesn’t work out every day because he’s planning to play nice.  Vladimir Putin is quietly building Russia back into the dominant power it was before the Soviet Union fell apart.  The Great Appeaser doesn’t see it, but that doesn’t mean we have to be oblivious.  The Russian people are totally behind this movement, and the Russian mafiya, which filled in the void after the Soviet Union, is behind it too.

We are living in a country that’s on drugs: watch TV, interact on social media…pretend that celebrities matter.  Care about the Kardashians.

And ignore reality.

I’m only going to be around a little longer.  5, 10, 15, 20 years for me.  But young people are inheriting a world they don’t even care to understand.  And they will suffer for it.

Sure, go ahead.  Elect a crook just because she’s a woman.  “It’s time we had a woman president.”  Well, it was time we had a black president, supposedly, and now race relations are worse than ever.  The Great Appeaser on the world front has been the Great Divider on the domestic front.  Instead of bringing us all together, he has inflamed race relations either by being silent, or empathizing with the wrong people –  so that now we have a war on police.  Really?  That is divisive, not inclusive.

When we no longer respect police, we are headed towards anarchy.

Perhaps that’s what Americans want, total anarchy.  But guess what?  If we have anarchy, you need to be armed, and the new Americans don’t want to hurt anything.  Guns are bad.  Bad people suck. Yes, they do.  So who is going to protect you from them when the police are gone.  Just because you hate police doesn’t mean bad people are going to disappear.  Sorry.

Got the picture yet?  No?  Don’t want to see it?  Join the club. Evidently most people in America don’t want to see it.

But pray that  people wake up before this time next year, and pray that the majority of people whack themselves up the side of the head in time to save us all.

I don’t know who is best for America in this ridiculous time, but I know it isn’t someone who has blinders on.  We live in a very dangerous world right now, and we have alienated our allies, while our enemies are laughing at us.  You can bury your heads in the sand and hope for the best, or you can be brave and take risks.

I’ve always been a risk taker.  It’s taken me to incredible places and given me amazing experiences.  Sometimes it’s been dangerous.  (I’ve been to the Middle East and to Communist countries, so I’m not just opinionizing here.) But I’ve never apologized for my own strength and I’ve never pretended to be weak in order to make people like me.  I don’t like to get pulled over for speeding any more than the next guy, but I know we need cops!  I’ve never taken welfare, even when I was poor.  And I’ve never not worked because it was easier.   Come on people – wake up!  We are losing the best country in the world because of apathy!

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Art and the new economy

I’ve been doing juried fine art festivals around the southeast and midwest for a number of years now.  It satisfies a lot of areas in the delicate balance of being a painter and making a living at it.  There are certainly art stars whose five figure work keeps them well cared for, but I suspect the large majority of working artists are in the mid-ground: we’re making it by using every resource we can.

What I discovered years ago was that galleries were lukewarm to my work, but that people loved it.  That meant I had to get it to more people, and more often.

Entering art festivals in my immediate area provided instant rewards, but there weren’t enough of them, so I started branching out.  Pretty soon I was getting shows in the surrounding states, then Florida, then Texas and so on.  Now it was a question of finding the right shows for my work.  Because a show that you love and that treats you well, as a painter of beautiful still life on canvas, does not necessarily provide me the collector of modern geometric cityscapes.

That remains an ongoing study.  There are resources: Art Fair Insiders, Sunshine Artist, the Art Fair Sourcebook and so on, but you still have to tweak it yourself.  There are certain promoters who are known to get out the public with money to spend, but, again, it’s a question of taste, which is so very, very subjective.

One of the most hopeful observations is that there is no one clearly defined type of art that appeals.  At one show, a person with huge colorful abstracts will kill it.  At another show it will be the person who creates clever images using cultural icons.  Another will reward the painter of tropical paradises…..and so on.

So, the question we discussed on the road home last weekend was this: how far do you go with adjusting your work to fit the market?

I’ve never been someone with a big message or a lot of angst to share, anyway.  I started painting late in life and want to bring color and joy into people’s lives.  I’m also not committed to art-as-therapy, even though it is very therapeutic and I get a little twitchy when I’m too long away from my work tables.  I’m the first to tell you this is how I make my living, so I want to continue to paint what people want, as long as it isn’t compromising my “schlock level.”

So what is my line in the sand?

I’ve been painting cityscapes for a number of years now, and people are still drawn to them.  But they are not taking them home like they used to do.  I also have a series of geometric abstracts, but they seem to confuse people.

What doesn’t?  The three dimensional hanging pieces I started as a result of a fund raiser several years ago.  They are novel and light-hearted.

So is this what I do?  Or should I give it up and make functional art, like painted dresses?

Because here’s the other thing I know: no matter how little money people have, even during the depths of the recession, they will spend some to “treat themselves.”  They buy jewelry, functional craft, and things for their pets and their gardens.

Paintings, not so much.  It’s getting better, but it’s still perceived as a luxury.  I could wax philosophical and tell you how important that “luxury” is to your overall well-being, but you’d probably walk away shaking your head.

Perhaps that is my direction: find a way to share the importance of real art in our lives. Because it is, very important.  People in the direst of circumstances are heartened by little bits of color, a glimpse of real sunlight.  And that is what art is, those glimpses of sunlight.  It takes us to places that words don’t go.  It bridges gaps between diverse ideologies.  We need it.

My new mission……..

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What happens when the artist moves on, and the collector is dismayed?

In the course of developing my “voice” as a painter, I went through several “periods,” if that can really be applied to an emerging artist. Evidently several of them were pretty good, and they developed their own followings. But I no longer wish to paint those things, nor, in some cases, could I. They were areas and subjects I explored on my way to discovering what I really had to say, and how to say it in the best way I can. Now, I find that I have some somewhat disgruntled collectors. They liked the “Blue Planet Series,” my nod to environmental issues and things like outer space! (Many of those paintings could have been science fiction covers and they run the gamut: one has sold out in print form, yet I still own the original; another was fawned over for several months, hung in my foyer for several years and now resides ignominiously rolled up in a tube.) Then there were the wildlife paintings. I started doing them because my husband and I were doing a lot of deep-sea fishing on our boat and others, and he wanted a “fish painting.” Well, one led to another and then the wading birds showed up, and then I got asked to participate in a very prestigious wildlife art show – for three years. But I found that I really couldn’t approach the critters with the same interest after awhile. I am not, as most wildlife artists are, a photorealistic painter. My critters were always a little offbeat, and in the end, they were created with series of squares like all my other paintings were.

Which brings me to where I am now: after the requisite 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell postulates, I DID find my voice. It resides in large scale geometric cityscapes and architectural abstracts, all created with thousands of colorful squares and lines. I love these things, and so do a LOT of people who have started collecting them. I can’t run out of subject material, even though I only paint places I’ve actually been to, because I’ve traveled and lived all over the country, and the world (except for Russia, China, Japan and Australia). So I’ve got a lot of material to work with and I love doing it. I’m working on a request list as I speak.
So, how, then, to respond to collectors who still come around, hoping to see those magical planets and mystical birds? I can’t dismiss that work, because I liked it too at the time, and they own some of it. But I also can’t go there any more. For anyone who has ever looked at an artist and said, “can’t you just paint another one just like it?” – no, not really; at least it’s a lot harder than you might imagine.
So, here I am, happily painting away, wondering how to be a sensitive respondent to those who may not like the new work as well, and wish for other times.
Any ideas?

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30 x 40 acrylic on canvas

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On the road

I’ve been taking my art on the road this fall and winter, trying to cast a wider net and find a larger audience.  I know a lot of people think art should be done for the pure joy of creativity, and that’s certainly a wonderful thing, but I have to make mine support itself, at the very least, and me, should the going get tougher.

With those goals in hand, I am pretty shameless about self-promotion and putting my art out there.  None of this “oh, I can’t really put a price on it” attitude from my camp!  These are not my “children;”  they are products of my fertile imagination, a snippet of God-given talent, and tens of thousands of hours of hard work.  So, people adding them to their collections is the idea; money in my bank account is how they do that.

We all know how bad the economy has been, and really, art is not a necessity.  I’ve done road shows for years now and watched the yard art, jewelry, and pottery survive in these hard times, while fine artists are scrambling to get folks to do anything more than say “it’s just lovely.”

I decided to aim higher: only “fine art shows” so I wouldn’t have to compete with $35 lawn ornaments (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and bigger shows in bigger cities.  I started applying only for the Top 200 shows, and only the top 100 if possible.  These shows are rated on art sold, so that’s got to work better than throwing a dart at a list, or a map.

The results have been mixed — for everyone involved.  The big shows are better.  They are also harder to get into, and cost more money to do.  That said, they are not necessarily big, big moneymakers, even for the seasoned pros who have been on the circuit for years.  People are simply reluctant to part with their money for anything other than what they consider necessities.

A few years ago, at the height of the recession they wouldn’t part with money at all.  You couldn’t make an affordable painting, though the big ones were still selling here and there to folks who hadn’t noticed the downturn.  Now, people are feeling better, but it seems that art is still on the “nice, but not now” shelf.  It isn’t me, or you or the type of art we create, or the price — it’s the new prevalent mindset that says “this could all end tomorrow.”

It’s kind of sad, really.  People do enjoy art, and they love it in their lives.  They apparently don’t realize that if they do not patronize artists (and not the “look down on” meaning of that word either!) then art will not continue.  In the Renaissance, artists had actual patronage, wealthy families who kept them on retainer, to do portraits and altar pieces and make their lives beautiful.  Some modern artists have collectors who function in a similar way.  Perhaps it is up to us, as artists, to show people what they will be missing if they don’t support the artists in their communities. 

What do you think?

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