Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Art of Change

Another new place to live ... again
New experiences, new languages, new countries, new friends, new lives are not unknown to me, nor do I fear them. I have dealt with a lot of change in my life. So much so I sometimes need to smacked upside the head to notice change.

Not one to need a lot of security, I move from place to place with ease. I immediately explore my surroundings to get a sense of place and settle down to enjoy it. I love finding a new place to settle in, put my few possessions about and make it a home. It doesn't matter if the country drives on the left or on the right... either way I hop in a car and drive. I don't seem to need an adjustment period. Nor do I have a fear of driving anywhere. Whether it's the chaos of Istanbul, Cairo, Rome, a peaceful drive in rural Delaware or the vast, empty fascinating distances of the Western U.S. I'm going somewhere and I'm happy.

It's so easy to talk about taking things to another level or changing the way we do things. When I started thinking about this Vukuzakhe Project I'm doing with the Amandawe Support Group in South Africa, I blithely thought... it'll take my art to a new level. It took me a long time to work out how I was going to do the paintings, and I wasn't at all sure it would even work.

So what is this new level I'm taking my art to? Is it a big step in another direction? No one can accuse me of sticking with one style. I seem to change style or subject at the drop of a hat, or just by being in a new location. And that's when the smack upside the head helps.

A few days ago I realized I really have taken my art up to another level this time. I seemed to struggle with the first one, and then suddenly it was clear to me what I had to paint. So I started the paintings and now they seem to paint themselves. By that I mean - the idea behind the painting comes to me with time. I stand and stare at the wooden panel with the little fabric landscape placed on it. And I wait for it to tell me what to paint. And that's why I struggled with the first one. I didn't give it time to tell me what to do, I was trying to push it out when it wasn't ready. Or I wasn't ready to accept it yet. I guess I was trying to treat it the same why I have treated change all my life. Face it head on and dive in. My art has finally smacked my head enough for me to realize I need to think about it and let it perculate. It will come to me.

I'm quite beside myself with happiness at this knowledge. I believe this has taken my art from being "just a pretty picture" to something with meaning. I'm not knocking pretty pictures, the world sure needs them. I now know my Women of Courage series was the start of this change, I just didn't realize it. Now I'm feeling all grown up and more mature as an artist - and I still have SO much to learn. Gotta love and live change! Isn't life grand?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Arts in Education

I got to pondering on writing this morning. It is another art form I love - I love to write, I love to read. And I am lucky enough to have earned income from my writing over the years, although it‘s taken more of a backseat to my painting the past 9 years. What got me today was an interesting article on poetry in the Washington Post’s Sunday magazine - I read while I ride my stupid exercise bike… if I didn’t read, I’d not ride it. See how good reading is for you?

What caught my attention was how a young kid called, to paraphrase, “a bad one,” turned his life around because of poetry. This immediately brought out one of my soapboxes, not to mention my hobby horse riding high on top of said soapbox. Art is essential in education.

Naturally headstrong and rebellious, who knows where I could have landed up if I hadn’t had marvelous, strong and passionate teachers who got the meaning, and an appreciation for literature, poetry, painting, dance, music and debate through my obstinate and silly teenage head. I should be offering up a daily thank you to Suzie K., Petal,  Mrs. Crewe and many more at my wonderful boarding school, Epworth in South Africa. The school and I both survived those years with good humour and my great respect for the school, it’s teachers and staff remains undimmed. Just for the record, my parents were a very strong influence in this regard well before I went to boarding school - my schooling reinforced what they valiantly tried to get through my thick, independent but unformed mind.

Art, in it’s many forms, is not for the sole benefit or understanding of a liberal elite. Far too many idiotic politicians use this argument as they slash funding for the arts in schools. All it does is make the politician look more ignorant. Americans for the Arts have a wonderful long list of why art in education is essential - they put it much better than I can. Check it out at 

If politicians would quit their posturing, putting up road blocks and generally behaving badly and instead actually look to, and implement, solving problems, they would make a good start by funding art in education again. It would go a good distance to bring back civility to modern life. We sure could do with it. Maybe we should send every politician in the world a poem to read - entitled “Art is essential in education.” It’s a simple truth.

To be balanced, I am proud the State of Delaware recognizes the importance of art in education. Our First Lady gave an excellent talk at the Arts Summit 2011 on the subject. Here’s a short but reaffirming video from the DE Div of the Arts… 

And finally - on to an update on my ‘Vukusakhe’ project : Painting 1 is complete. Painting 2 - a much more haunting subject than the first traditional village scene, is going very well. I prepped Painting 3 and start on it today maybe. I’m chronicling the progress of the Vukusakhe project on my gallery face book page and am starting a page on my website about it…if you’re interested, go to  or

Friday, January 13, 2012

The art of new ideas

The nearly completed painting 1, attaching fabric landscape to burlap next

It may be starting to sound like a weather report, but this is actually my weekly blog on the marvelous world of art. It’s just the weather has been so peculiar this winter - read mild. When we moved to Delaware I was
expecting a frigid blast of cold for at least 4 months. We’re now in the second week of January and it’s lovely out there. In the past week, we’ve had a light dusting of snow on the ground, 2 days later hot enough
weather to leave the windows open all day, then a day of torrential rain and voila! Today is a delight - crisp and sunny. But I certainly ain’t complaining, as they say. I often wonder just who the hell “they” are.

Maybe it’s this weirdness in the weather, but something this past week snapped in my brain and I had just had a torrent of ideas… some creative and interesting, some fascinating, some workable and some downright stupid. Never a dull moment in my head. My imaginary friend and I had some very lively conversations. And now, I am wondering if I can get to them all - of course every one of these daft ideas involve me doing something more than I already am.

To me this is what being a self-employed, entrepreneurial spirit is all about. When I get new ideas, I mull them over - sometimes for a long time, sometimes for a nanosecond - and then try them out. What’s the worst
that can happen? They either work, or not. If I’ve decided to try a new idea out on new folks, what’s the worst that can happen? They can only say yes, or no. Ofcourse people might laugh their heads off at me, but I
don’t care. So, why not try?

I am already starting to put some of my new ideas in to motion. Why wait? And to be honest, I’m glad. This first couple of weeks in the depth of winter can be a tad overwhelming. Usually all I want to do is stay quietly
at home or take a trip to visit someone somewhere wonderful, like my friend in Prague.

It may just possibly have something to do with my teeny weeny bank balance, so no travel, but I’m all a-fire with new ideas. It will be fun to see what works and what doesn’t. As one of my dear friends, a practical Scot, always says in his beautiful brogue, “It’s the wee victories in life that count, lassie.”

And finally - on to an update on the Vukusakhe project : my painting time proved productive this week. Painting 1 is almost complete. I hope to be finished with it by Saturday. I am well in to Painting 2 - a much more haunting subject than the first traditional village scene. Today I need to start prepping Painting 3. I’m chronicling the progress of the Vukusakhe project on my gallery face book page and am starting a page on my website about it…if you’re interested, go to  or

Friday, January 06, 2012

The art of staying fresh

Getting ready -  part of my messy set of watercolours

We woke up yesterday morning to a small dusting of snow on the ground, how pretty everything looked - especially the holly tree and whatever the bush is next to it. The dark green lightly covered in white with the red berries bursting out, lovely! I got all bundled up and left for the gallery. KahPOW! The white stuff doesn’t seem so cute outside. I am, after all, a girl from the tropics.
I think with calm tranquility, and aiming to be rational, it is now January 2012 and we have at least 2 more months of inclement, cold weather. So, no use fussing about it - I’ll admire it from indoors as much as I can until spring, without whinging. I hope.
My fingers aren’t quite as forgiving of the frigid air, so I am having to work up enthusiasm about painting in the cold. Oh, I do have heating in the studio but my fingers say, “So what? it’s bloody cold outside.“ To try and overcome this, I am approaching the studio with caution this first week of 2012. I spent most of Wednesday working on my Vukusakhe project. To my relief, it all started falling in to place without reason. Last week it fought me. So I’ll happily take this as a good start for the New Year.
My artist friend, Rosemary - see - announced her aim this year is to do a small 8x8 painting every day she is in the studio, no matter what. At least that’s her plan. I believe she will stick with it. I have other artist friends, like the exceptional talent and an old school friend, Carol Lee Beckx in Australia - see  aiming for the same ideal. I think it is quite an inspiring idea. So…I am now thinking perhaps I should do something similar. It would be good discipline if nothing else, and Lord knows, being disciplined isn’t one of my strong suits.
Each canvas is 36x24 for my project, not huge but big enough. I like painting large, but perhaps doing an additional small one will be a good challenge. It could be on any subject not the project. It's a good way of keeping me 'fresh.' It will keep my mind from cramping, by becoming overly focused on one thing and therefore also draining my creative juices. Also I could do some in watercolour for a change, to mix things up. If I’m honest with myself, I doubt I’ll manage one a day. I think I’ll join the quest but limit it to 3 a week. Rosemary and I can compare notes as we stride around town during our walks. Hope I can keep up with her painting! So, without further ado, I shall paint a small one today.
FYI : I’m chronicling the progress of the Vukusakhe project on my gallery face book page and am starting a page on my website about it…if you’re interested, go to  or