Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding clarity

Nothing like a date with your easel to clear the mind and weed out the cobwebs. Yesterday I finally took time to paint...

I've been working on a series of children at the beach, like the pictured "Child's Play". I'm having so much fun with color in these. Just as the child is running to play in the ocean, I'm running wild on my canvas splashing and dripping paint in every color my brush decides to go play in. My underpainting for these interpretations of blissful innocence are as spontaneous as the subjects themselves.

It began as an experiment. I had just purchased five slender canvases, expecting to use them in panoramic form as that suits a landscape artist just fine, when I saw a painting online with a child reflecting in thin, beach water. It was painted on a slender canvas and something about that composition grabbed me. It was September, just passed the prime for swimming in the ocean in Maine. (Not that swimming here is ever really warm... We prefer to call it "refreshing".) The day was warm, so with camera in hand, I drove to the beach in hopes of finding a few lingering beach goers.

It turned out to be perfect. Not too many people to crowd the photos and disrupt the reflections. The water was surprisingly warm so people weren't shying from it. Like this child, many wore summer clothing rather than swimsuits. For the artist, sun-drenched, blowing clothing is a gift. My photo shoot was very successful!

I've finished three of these and have three others in progress. Capturing the unintimidated movements of the children feeling "set free" at the ocean is giving me great pleasure. In the pleasure I'm finding clarity. For that I am grateful. If the holidays have you feeling tired and warn, I suggest you take time to go play with whatever it is you like. Letting go of stress and feeling your spirit bubble out with playful excitement will do you worlds of good.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve everyone. I wish you all playful excitement in finding your own clarity.
Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As the year winds down, do you find yourself reminiscing? Yeah, me too. Why is that? I've always looked forward to a new year. Its like a blank canvas waiting to be filled. What will the year bring? What opportunities await? What color will it take? The excitement of the possibilities tingle, childlike and happily, in a surge of goosebumps dancing upon my skin. There will be time to dwell on life's stress later, but for now the rush of hope and new discoveries take over. The wonderment makes me smile with anticipation. So I ask again, why are we looking back?

Is it the cards we recently received from nearly forgotten friends jolting our memory? Perhaps there is an underlying fear of the unknown making us cling to our past? Are we evaluating where we've been in order to progress forward? Or...?

I'm really not sure.

I do know my mind feels split as if in battle with itself. Part wants to bask in the unspoiled dream while the other part pushes and clutters the brain excessively. Its like a busy composition. It becomes hard to focus on one thing. Every thought competes with the next for attention. If only I could simplify. Maybe instead of evaluating myself, I should be evaluating my art...

Now there's a thought I can focus on.

Do my subjects command authority or are they lost in the confusion? Could I simplify things and still convey the same message? What about contrast? Too much? Too little? Do the colors harmonize? Should they be richer, perhaps duller? Is there variety in my brushstroke? Simplify yes, but how much is needed to retain interest?

Sorry folks. It seems to be a day of questions. Thank goodness there is a whole new year ahead. Maybe it will bring me some answers...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wonderful energy

Tonight, painting class resumes from our holiday break. I can't wait. I've missed painting. I've missed my students. Something warm and wonderful happens when we assemble together to paint. I don't know exactly what it is, so I can't describe it correctly, but an energy circles among us. A wonderful, creative, exciting, invigorating energy. You can feel it in the room. I've painted in this same space many times alone. This energy is not present. But place a group of willing painters here and instantly the aura changes.

I'm going to need that today.

My oldest son, Ben, is moving away tomorrow. Its difficult to think of anything else. He just graduated from RIT and has found a job in Denver. Colorado is a far cry from Maine. Its a strange feeling to be on one hand so proud of his accomplishments and on the other hand heavy hearted. I know he will do well and we, as a family, will be fine. Still the feeling within me today is quite unlike any feeling I've felt before.

It will be a day of packing and hugging, tears and laughter.

On the bright side, Colorado will be a future destination. I've never visited there before. It will be a wonderful photographic opportunity that will culminate with future Susan Roux paintings of the landscape. Knowing that experience awaits makes me smile.

I think back of when I first moved away from home. How excited I was to go off on my own! I couldn't wait to decorate my first apartment. I couldn't wait to go start my life, make my own decisions and do exactly what I wanted to do.

How different this feels from the parents point of view.

So class, come tonight. Bring with you that wonderful energy. I'll be needing it...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Artists hosting artists

In the post "Let the journey happen", I mentioned Martine-Alison. She lives in France. I found her over the internet, much like I keep urging you to do. Let me tell you how it happened...

At the time I was looking for French artists. I had the idea to connect artists from Maine and France. I wanted to have them communicate together for a while. My plan was to invite the French artist here to stay for two weeks at which time we would take them painting in plein air, sometimes the whole group, sometimes alone with our guest. At a later date, the Maine artists would be hosted in France. I envisioned lots of marketing around the event, involving the media, both TV and print, to rouse interest. Next, I wanted to have exhibitions of our combined work in both countries following our creative exchange. Can you imagine such an international exhibition? I can.

I thought it was the perfect idea. Artist traveling to different countries for the cost of a flight and the agreement to host another for two weeks in their own home. We would get to meet artists we otherwise would never have met. We would paint together, exchange ideas, view different creative techniques and ultimately stimulate and inspire each other.

I never did find the artists needed to partake in this idea, but it never left my mind. Some artists here thought it was exciting, but many showed no interest. I would still love to see it realized, or a version of it. I had imagined five artists from each country, making us ten all together. Though it would have been fun as a large group, it might be more reasonable to lower the number and keep the huge media hoopla and exhibit out of the picture. Still, it would be an awesome way to gain recognition and improve everyone's resume!

This idea still seems amazing and possible to me. As I've mentioned, I sought out Irish artists before visiting Ireland. I suppose I'm trying to do a small portion, a small version, of it alone. Though no hosting was involved, perhaps it will evolve. I think getting to live together would be a huge added benefit. Imagine all the conversations that would occur during so much time together...

Imagine, imagine, imagine...

Perhaps someday I'll find enough artists interested in doing this with me. If that's you, please let me know. Post it in the comment section so we can all find each other. Maybe together we can make it happen.

This is how I met Martine-Alison. We have been communicating daily since. Its been nearly three years now. She has become more than a friend. I call her my twin. An ocean divides us, yet we are bound together. She has left inspiring comments on many of my posts. If you can read french, you should go back and read them. In the future, I will tell you more about this amazing person, friend, artist from across the pond...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Richard Schmid

I had a Richard Schmid Christmas. Many of you probably don't even know what that means or who Richard Schmid is, but artists do. Schmid is by my beliefs the most talented living artist the world has today. You can see his work here: Go ahead, its worth the click.

I was first introduced to him through Artists Magazine years ago. I still remember falling in love through pages of delicate, surprising, romantic still-life's. The edges of things would disappear and other forms would emerge. Pink ribbons swirled and twirled in large loops, just off the spool, catching light, moving gently around long stemmed flowers in such delicate embrace then disappearing and reemerging as his forms always do. A romantic dance of peek-a-boo captured on every painting. I remember staring at these images for hours wondering how he could paint these unbelievable paintings. I could just touch and smell his roses and along the delicate exposed stems the leaves were just as magnificent. He painted the most perfect leaves. I was so drawn to them.

Alla Prima, a wonderful book, became part of my collection as soon as it was released. I was fortunate enough to be present at the filming of his first educational video. I listened to his every word. I asked him questions. I went to shake his hand. He was down to earth. A gentile man eager to share his secrets, his talents with those who would listen. Mike bought a still-life print and surprised me for my birthday that year. I think the framer he chose understood the greatness of this work for he triple matted it, picking up soft tones from the painting, and placing it in a frame far larger than the original print. It is a powerful piece to behold.

Now my home has a second print by Richard Schmid. Its a landscape, green like the Ireland we recently visited. A lone tree trunk and golden diagonals in the foreground hill direct the eye to distant houses obscured in the atmospheric haze. A feeling of comfort, of safety, of being one with nature comes over the viewer. Its only a print. How must the actual painting make one feel, I wonder?

I also received his latest book, Landscapes. I'm at a lost for words. Its a wow...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reach out

Art. I've been craving art. Its funny how artists, when deprived of painting time, can go absolutely nuts. Art isn't something we want to do (yeah, we do want to do it...), its something we "need" to do! This creative energy just wants to burst out uncontrollably. I watch my kitty bounce around with her new catnip mouse and it is exactly how I feel I will explode with art. A crazy frenzy of creativity! Watch out canvas, the colors are going to fly! (maybe tomorrow I'll find time to paint...)

Today I hung my exhibit at the hospital, Central Maine Medical Center. Its at 60 High Street, Lewiston Maine; please go check it out... It looked good.

Its a two-person exhibition space, and the artist hanging beside me was Sissi Ventrone. Sissi hung her students work. She is doing wonderful things with underprivileged kids, many of them Somalians. (an extra plus to go check out the show!) I had never met Sissi, but she is someone I'll be getting to know better. She is originally from Austria and is quite worldly. We had fun exchanging ideas as we quickly realized conversations like this were difficult to come by. We spoke on similar levels and the conversation was exciting and stimulating. In a short time we touched base on many topics I would love to expand on. Sissi, if you're reading, I'll be in touch soon.

I'm mentioning this unexpected encounter so you too will take the initiative to go meet strangers. Do it on the internet. Do it in person. It doesn't matter, just try it. Your mind will be introduced to new ideas and you will be stimulated and energized because of it. Soon we will begin a new year. A time when many set resolutions that quickly get broken. Maybe they aren't realized because they aren't fun or stimulating or the slight bit interesting. Make the resolution to meet someone out of your comfort circle and it will be hard to stop you from staying in contact or from finding other new people to meet. I tell you, it really is exciting!

Shake up your life. Invigorate yourself. Give yourself a shot of a natural high. Reach out and meet someone new. Surprises will happen...

Friday, December 25, 2009


December 25th... Merry Christmas. Some of us will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Believer or not, one has to admit this man was pretty special. Here it is 2009 years later and he remains in frequent conversations throughout the world. Look at all the fuss to celebrate this day. In the States the stores have been filled with Christmas things since Halloween.

He came to bring us one message. LOVE.

I think its a very good message and I wonder why some people can be in such an outrage over it. Love is important. We all need it. We should all share it. It doesn't cost anything. Its warm and beautiful and comes in every size, shape and color. You are never too young to have it nor too old. I think its the ultimate perfect gift!

Enjoy your celebrations people. Enjoy your gatherings of families and friends. Invite extras who you know are all alone today. The fuller your house is the more love will be floating in it!

Today I'll leave you with a different song. The Beetles, "All you need is love".

all you need is love, love
love is all you need...
love is all you need...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Luka Bloom

I promise this won't be the last time I write about Irish singer, song writer, Luka Bloom. ( He's an amazing artist who writes beautiful uplifting songs. His lyrics resonate deep inside you with such inspiring messages, that make you drift off in a "feel good" dreamland. I had the precious pleasure of seeing him live, he would call it a gig, this past June. I haven't stopped listening to his music since.

The longer I listen, the more I'm convinced that he sings about what I'm trying to paint. I know that sounds strange, but its the feeling that I'm talking about. What is inspiring Luka in the world parallels to what inspires me. So much so, that on our visit to Ireland, not only did we go see Luka live, but we actually bumped into him while on a photo shoot. The same places draw us in. Since returning, we bought his documentary. It is such an honest documentary. In it Luka travels us to different places in Ireland. Places that are special to him. Inspiring to him. Watching it was somewhat eerie, because the places it brings us to are all places we went to. It felt like a documentary of our own trip! I believe more that ever we are inspired by the same things. If Luka knew me better, he would understand why I'm saying this.

There is a song that I would like to share with you. Its called, "Don't be afraid of the light that shines within you". I'm mentioning this song because it goes along with my last two entries. Its about the gift we have. Yesterday I asked you to do an act of kindness to someone. Give them a little unexpected gift. Now I'm suggesting you give one to yourself. It will only cost you a dollar, but the lift and inspiration you will receive is immeasurable. Just click on this link and select the album titled Eleven Songs. Scroll down and you'll find it. Its the eleventh song. So special a whole album was named after it...

Be proud of the gift you're given and shine bright with it. Develop this gift and let the world see it beaming from you. Our gifts are given to us to share, so shine bright with yours and go share it with the world!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Acts of kindness

After writing yesterday's post I started thinking about little acts of kindness. Those tiny little gestures that are so easy to do but can cause such an impact on the recipient. We never really know what effect our kindness has in many cases. Especially when they are directed to a complete stranger.

On our trip down 95 the other day, we arrived at a toll plaza which cost $2.00. The lady first took our money, printed out a receipt, and returned the money to us. She said the car ahead of us paid for our toll and we were wished a Merry Christmas.

What a nice surprise! It was a simple act, not very costly, but it lifted our spirits. We talked about it for many miles down the road. We had approached an empty booth, so we didn't even know which car ahead of us did this wonderful gesture. In turn, they too didn't know who the recipient was. Still we drove on our way with big smiles on our faces, feeling there is still some good in our world. The media likes to keep this part away from us, but be aware kindness still exists.

I urge you to go do a little act of kindness today. Do it to a complete stranger if at all possible. It can be as simple as a smile and a hello. You never know who might really be in need of hearing those little words. Someone feeling lost and lonely or stressed and rushed. Something that will warm their heart and bring a smile to their face, long after you're gone on your way.

I know many of you are already doing this. Its your kind self and these acts pour out of you daily. If this is you, do one more. One that you are complete conscious of and notice the happiness you feel inside afterwards. You'll have warmed your own heart and placed a smile on your own face. You'll feel better too and have gained energy in the process! Really I urge you to try this today.

Those little seeds I've talked about sewing, they can be tiny acts of kindness. You never know where one might fall. You never know who might be the recipient. You never know if your guardian angel is watching and what might return to you from the simple gesture of an act of kindness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Have you had to drive passed a mall lately? Congestion doesn't even seem to describe it. Yesterday I was on 95 around the Boston area. The exits were absolutely insane. You had to look for one without any shopping malls to stop for gas and food or else add an additional 30 minutes to your stop to get on and off the ramp. Christmas week and its a shopping frenzy!

Gifts. Looking for gifts. Buying gifts. Giving gifts. Soon people will be returning gifts.

There are different types of gifts. I'd like to take a few minutes to mention the type you can't buy. Those more meaningful gifts that we are born with. Yes all of you are born with at least one gift. Its a given. Many have more than one. Those of us who are artists have probably known of our gift since childhood. Its likely a grownup told us even before we realized it for ourselves. As a child you think everyone can draw and color. Being creative is an easy gift to spot. But not all are.

I've met people who think nothing about themselves is special. How awful that must be. Its sad that some never realize their gift. Everyone has one. Everyone is special. Everyone has something to contribute. I know some gifts are not easy to spot. Anything visual stands out clearly, but what about all those hidden ones? For some, its the gift of caring or helping. Haven't you had a super special teacher or person in your life that made you feel you could achieve anything? I was fortunate to have many of those. Thanks Mom and Dad. That was surely but one of your special gifts.

All these given gifts are meant to be shared. I hope you're sharing yours. It will bring you happiness to do so. The gift of time. What a wonderful thing when someone gives of their time to another in need. It warms my heart just thinking about it. Think of the difference it makes. So many gifts are quiet and not showy. Yes everyone can see and hear the performer, but what about the person who stopped for a brief moment to help another?

I hope you've found your special gift. Maybe we can help those who haven't, find theirs. Feeling our worth. Feeling special in some way is so important. Knowing we're unique is empowering and gives us strength to share our gifts which in turn makes us smile and truly feel good. It isn't the store bought gifts that are the most important, its the simple things like a smile and a hello to a total stranger having a bad day. Its a helping hand, a boost when needed most. These are the things that really matter. These are the things that are best to give and share. These are the things that will bring you the greatest joy to give.

Monday, December 21, 2009


This is a my palette after class the other night. It was a newly assembled class and we began a painting of roses by the ocean. My method is to start with a color sketch, an underpainting filled with wild color. For the duration of the class we danced on our palette thinning out paint and applying it to our canvas.

Its a very freeing process. Nothing is permanent at this point, so the fear of mistakes doesn't exist. Its a great way to attack that intimidating blank canvas. Bold color, loose strokes. We find the elements of our subject. Covering every white spot is our goal. Everyone goes home with a bright, colorful canvas which resembles our image, but is far more inspiring due to the creativity of the applied color. When they return a week later, the sketch will be completely dry and we'll begin laying-in thicker paint.

My studio is only large enough for a single painter to work, so I hold my classes in my large kitchen/dining room. With plastic covered tables, this well used area of the house turns into a giant studio. For three consecutive days the transformation stays in place. Easel, paints, brushes and canvasses all remain in the dining room. Its holiday time and my parents are visiting for a week. The next morning Mom called me over to the window. She had me turn towards the table. Yes I know Mom, I left it all a mess, but we have class again tonight. She pointed to my palette which from this direction was upside-down from when I painted. There amidst the swirls of colors, was an angel.

I'm not sure what to make of this. We had worked with such loose abandonment, yet there sat the image of an angel clearer than anything on my canvas. Different people could read many different things into this surprising occurrence. I like to think its a reminder that we have guardians watching over us. I'll let you decide for yourself, but I did feel inclined to share...

Please feel free to leave your comments. I'd love to hear your views on this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Are you sewing seeds?

I've told you to dare to imagine and to go plant some seeds. They are both very important. Are you doing it? You never know where these things will take you. Its like a secret journey. Unlike the journeys we take towards fulfilling our dreams, these are totally unpredictable. Let me explain.

Yesterday when writing my blog I looked up a link to Angela Jupe to post for you. I'd tried to find her email when I returned from Ireland in October, but had failed. For some reason this time all sorts of information about her showed up in my Google search. I must have included "garden" in the search this time. Funny how one word can make all the difference in the world. Think of the word "love"...

Immediately after posting my blog, I emailed Angela. I always wanted to thank her again for allowing us to paint in her garden. How great to have a way to finally reach her! I told her that some of my students were painting her garden and I also sent her to my blog to read what I had written. A few short hours later I had a letter from her.

I can't tell you the excitement that I felt the rest of the day. Reconnecting with someone, especially someone in a different country that you think you'll never speak to again. She was very excited to hear from me and wants to see pictures of the paintings my students are doing. She would like to post them on her website! Wow my Wednesday night ladies, talk about exhibiting! This won't be a one month showing!

I told you from the start I didn't know where blogging would take me, but I was up for the ride. Its been just a few short weeks, maybe not even a full two and its opened new things for me. Don't be afraid to take those unpredictable journeys. Sometimes they'll reap a smile in your heart at a time you might need it most...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Angela Jupe's garden

Angela Jupe's garden was magical.

Photographs can't capture its size, ambiance or beauty. I won't even try. I did however want to give you a glimpse of this hidden paradise. I hope it inspires you.

When my students saw the painting I did in the garden, they immediately wanted to paint it too. My class chose two different images and are currently working on capturing the essence and peaceful serenity they felt by merely looking at my photographs. I'm amazed at how well they are interpreting it. Each one's work is different, yet they are all depicting a haven that draws you in and makes you wish you could just go sit on their bench.

Imagine a peaceful morning, the sun warm on your shoulders, a cup of hot tea in your hands and a fragrant stroll down her many paths. Overwhelmed by her beauty, you'll sit on one of the many benches to contemplate all that is good and beautiful with the world. (a wonderful reprieve from the morning news) You'll be thankful for this time in your life and having this opportunity to be exactly where you are. Your mind empties. Calm surrounds you. Your spirit is lifted.

I wish to give you a quiet moment in the garden...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Awfully awful, part 3

I awoke before everyone else the next morning. It was early, but I couldn't stop thinking about this "cottage" we arrived at in the dark of night. Awful Offaly was in my head. We hadn't seen anything on our drive in. I couldn't contain my curiosity so I tiptoed to the bedroom window to peek behind the curtain. How interesting. Plantings, flowers, trees, could this be a garden? It was hard to tell; the window was at ground level and there were pots and plants everywhere. I went out into the grand room. Directly across from each other were two enormous glass doors where red flowered curtains were drawn. One one side I could see our car and many other stone buildings. Oh my, it reminded me of Perouge, France! Had I landed in a medieval paradise? The other side revealed walkways, stone stairs, cerulean blue iron filigreed gate and railing, large urn-like pots with white hydrengeas and directly facing me across the large lawn in formal fashion was a fantastic glass house! My body tingled with excitement. I didn't know what to think.

Everyone was sound asleep. I wanted to shout for joy! I wanted to share my excitement! I wanted to go outside and walk around! My nightgown seemed inappropriate, plus I couldn't open the door...

I went up to the loft where Ciaran was sleeping to look out that window. Why wasn't anyone waking up! How could they sleep with all this interesting stuff around us? The loft window was really a door. It opened out to a small deck which overlooked a very large garden. In the garden was the most interesting gazebo I've ever seen. It will no doubt be the subject of a future Susan Roux painting. The garden was filled with trees and plantings that it obstructed my view. I saw only parts of this expanse and I wanted to see more.

The property was magnificent. The garden, though mid-October was still splendid. We later found out at a distant pub that the owner, Angela Jupe, is the best master gardner Ireland has. Awful Offaly? It turns out that Offaly is Irelands best kept secret! It is old, medieval and very beautiful.

I asked Angela if she minded if I invited other artists to come paint with me in the garden. She was overjoyed. Turns out she had just purchased one of Mat Grogan's ( paintings six months prior. She was excited to meet him.

...and so this was how this wonderful little gem became the sight where I finally got to paint with Irish artists. The highlight of my trip!

As for the terrible accent, it seems the man from the pub who gave us directions had probably been in the pub awhile drinking a few too many Guinness's...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Awfully awful, part 2

Getting to our cottage in Co. Offaly proved to be no easy task. We'd just finished seeing Luka Bloom ( in Galway, so our travel began after 10:00 at night. Our GPS took us through dark, narrow back roads for over two hours. The town was Shinrone. Our directions to the cottage were from Dublin, the complete opposite direction. There aren't any number addresses in Ireland so a GPS is relatively useless in finding your exact destination. Luckily a tiny pub was open. I went in to ask for directions as we had been driving aimlessly through dark unmarked streets following directions that said, "where the large clump of trees are, turn right."

Ciaran (a friend) and I went inside with picture in hand, hoping someone knew where this property was. Everyone was standing as if in a huddle around the bar. It seemed to be an intimate local gathering. Only one man paid attention to our entrance. Happily he recognized the house immediately. I felt relief run down my body. Then he began to talk...

I must have had him repeat the directions five times. I couldn't understand him at all! It was as though he was speaking a totally different language. I remembered what the young barkeep had said about such a heavy accent. She wasn't kidding. Oh my! I returned to the car completely unsure whether or not I had the directions to get us there. Luckily I did.

The door was locked. It was dark. There was a tiny note written on the door. Mike fumbled to try to read it. Obviously it was written in the same language the man spoke in the pub. As he tried to stumble through it, I reached my hand into a nearby flowerpot and there were the keys! "How in the world did you find those?" Who knows. A few recognizable words he read must have sent me there.

Unlock the large door and enter, bags in hand, ready to drop from fatigue and stress. Flick on the light and we dropped our bags in awe! It was a long stone building from the outside and inside it was completely open except for the bath and bedroom on the end. Genuine art hung on the walls. Old pottery urns were in the deep set windows. Large white paper balls ( I mean like three feet wide, large) hung down from the two-story high ceiling. Inside were lights. It was magical. Big glowing balls hovering in the vast open space, illuminating it beautifully. Forgetting our fatigue we began to dance around like children. It was bigger than most dance halls. Huge really and completely artsy. Renting these cottages was amazing. It was a surprise every time. You never knew what you would actually find, where you would actually live, but I must say we never expected to find this!

So far it seemed the perfect place for an artist to land...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awfully awful

Our trip to Ireland had us staying in three locations. You can rent self-catering cottages almost everywhere on the green island. I suggest it to anyone planning to go visit. You get a whole house! We had three such houses, all different, all charming. Two were located on the West coast. Its a beautiful land with beautiful people, gentile and kind. For a landscape artist it was vista upon rolling vista of breathtaking views.

Our last house was located in Co. Offaly (pronounced awfully). As our journey progressed people inquired where we were headed next. Whenever we said, "Offaly", the strangest expressions appeared on everyone's faces. Looking back now, I wish we had focused cameras on their faces just before uttering this disfiguring word. Oh the shots we would have! At first we thought nothing of the crazy reaction, but as time went on we really began to wonder just how awful this Offaly was. We made sure to work it into most conversations.

Yes its true, my husband and I are silly like that... I offer no excuse.

Not only did we make the glaring eyed, raised lip, crooked faces happen, we began to ask what was wrong with Offaly? Oddly that question turned out to be a conversation stopper. It seemed no one had actually been to Offaly and couldn't tell us why it caused this reaction. Nonetheless there was definitely a consistency with the feeling associated with this word. How puzzling? How interesting. Naturally we continued to inquire about this mystery.

One day, Jennifer at the coffee shop in Ballyvaughan said, "Oh, Co. Offaly. I love it there!" Mike and I stood dumbfounded. "Why do you love it?" "Because its beautiful!" What? We couldn't have been more confused.

Further comments were all unfavorable. "There's just ugly bogs there," was about the only concrete statement we heard supporting the reaction. Jennifer's remained the only exception. One day in a pub in...? a young barkeep laughed at our question. She finally had a reasonable answer for us. The first who could actually offer some possible reason for this crazy reaction. She explained about all the different dialects in Ireland. Since we were from the States, we probably wouldn't notice them as much, but the Irish can tell where one is from by the way they speak. It seems Co. Offaly has the reputation for having the worse dialect in all of Ireland. I wish I had written down the word she had where each letter stood for a word in a phrase. The phrase was witty and something to the effect that people couldn't pronounce anything in Offaly.

If anyone knows this word and the accompanying phrase, can you please post it for us?

And so it was that the mystery was solved over the strange reaction from a place no one had visited. Tomorrow I will give you my reaction to Offaly...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't give up

Finding artists to paint with me in Ireland wasn't easy. This land of lush greenery is green for a reason. Rain. Daily rain as I was told and this past summer had been exceedingly wet. Artists were not accustomed to setting up their easels with the constant threat of rain. Painting in plein air is different from studio painting and they had not developed skills for this. A bit of anxiety set in as they thought they would paint with a skilled plein air painter. I'm not so skilled. Anyway that didn't matter. I dreamed of how exciting it would be to paint in a foreign country with artists from that country. It would be the highlight of my trip!

I urged on. I was coming for the first time and I was going to paint directly on location. I wanted so much to capture the colors and feeling of Ireland while I was there, not simply from photos later. A little bit of rain wasn't going to stop me. After all, it wouldn't be the first time I set up in the rain. When water mixes with oil paints it causes some very interesting effects. Sometimes wonderful little surprises! And frankly, who cares if it would turn into a flop, I just wanted to do it. I wanted to paint Ireland in Ireland.

Despite all they were telling me and with stubborn determination, I continued my quest to find someone. One month before our flight I was completely unsuccessful.

"That's it!" I decided.

It was like putting my foot down. I wasn't going to give up so easily. My time was closing in and finding a painting partner became increasingly important. In desperation, I pulled out every Irish address I had contacted several months before. In a giant group email I stated my plight. I was looking for someone to paint with. Would anyone be willing to do so and if not, could they please direct me to someone who would.

Wow! It seemed to have worked like magic. I had several people return saying they would. It even seemed for awhile that a whole painting group would assemble to paint with me. A huge tingling rush spread through my body at the mere thought! Orchestrating that was simply too difficult and so it didn't happen. By the time I left, I had two separate proposal to paint. I was thrilled.

Only one of those actually happened. It was on the final days of our two week trip. A little gem in the end! Mat Grogan ( a wonderful, shy master painter skilled in still life paintings joined me with his friend Dave Hayes ( I'll never forget it. We painted on a glorious day in full sun without wind or rain, in a lush Irish garden. I did paint by myself earlier in my trip, but it was nothing like painting with foreign artists. That was quite a thrill!

If you want something, don't give up. Keep plugging. Keep pushing until you succeed. In the end it will be worth all the effort you put into it and more.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meeting the people

I'm not much of a traveler. Yes I've spit out places like Russia, France and Ireland at you, but traveling has been a new addition in my life. It is something I've always wanted to do, but never could. Now I just want to go and experience new places and new people. My mind expands and my creativity is stimulated to levels I've never experienced. My favorite thing about traveling is meeting the people and experiencing their culture. This started when we exhibited in Saint Petersburg, Russia and were placed with a family for two weeks. Being in their home, living side-by-side with them, stumbling our way with language barriers was not a typical relaxing holiday, but it opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on how I'd like to travel.

This fall we went to Ireland. As soon as I made our flight reservations, I began to write to Irish artists. I was hoping to meet with some of them as part of our trip. At first my letters were simple. I inquired where an artists might find inspiration in their country. Every response that returned to my computer sent me in different directions. I searched each one. How awesome a connected network such as the internet is for bringing complete strangers together! Many artists never responded. Some were only interested in giving me a few suggestions and then there were the special ones. The ones who kept writing to me for four months and invited me into their homes.

Now this is what I'm talking about.

People meeting with people, exchanging ideas, experiencing new cultures, finding our similarities, learning from our differences... Its perhaps the most stimulating experience an artist can have. Anyone can go to a new country and see the sights, but going there to meet the people is far richer. Its double the experience! Of course you still see the sights, its impossible not to. Eventually our entire trip was carved by the various people we would meet. It sent us in many different directions and we got to see marvelous places we never would have otherwise. Artists know those wonderful little places in the world that can be quiet yet so beautiful and inspiring. Places where the spirit can soar and be energized. Places where the light of day or dawn or dusk passes through the landscape with such delicate beauty or sharp contrasts that merely seeing it can stop you in your tracks.

We returned from this trip more relaxed than ever. A calm joy filled our hearts and we knew there was no way this trip could have been any better. Now I know for certain how I want to continue traveling. The places you see stand in your memory, but the people you meet are who you talk about to others and become the highlight of your trip. (plus you can still stay in touch with them afterwards...)

Next time you find yourself going on a holiday, I strongly suggest you connect with some strangers before you go. The internet makes it so easy. If you're an artist, go meet other artists. They're everywhere and easy to find. Go exchange ideas. Meet them in a coffee shop for tea. Go paint together. Anything. If you've been communicating with them for months, you won't fear meeting them. After all they weren't on the internet stalking you, you're the one who contacted them...

Think about it. It will be the best part of your trip!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let the journey happen

I'm putting together my exhibition for the hospital. Its fun going through past art looking for pieces that will compliment each other. Its almost like a treasure hunt. Ever notice how some pieces seem better than you remembered? I guess we stop looking at only "that spot" we struggled with. I had to compose a write-up; never my favorite thing but they are getting easier. I'm less apt to cram too much information in as in the past. I'm preferring to focus on a theme or idea and develop it. After completing that, the exhibition pieces seemed to select themselves.

My France paintings are going. That's a definite.

I had the opportunity to visit France last year. We detoured there on our return from exhibiting in Russia to visit a very special artist, Martine-Alison ( I'd been communicating with her for several years and she is to this day quite a dear friend. I painted a series of the medieval village of Perouges. It was a very special day when Martine-Alison walked the streets with us. I'll never forget the feeling. The sun was bright and warm and it lit up the old stone as I had only seen in pictures. We walked and giggled and practically danced our way around every turn taking an enormous amount of pictures! Ivy hung like garland from buildings and roses grew out of the cobble stone ground. Flower pots were tucked in everywhere. I was in an artist's dream.

The sights were grand! Giant window shutters hinged at the bottom dropped down to form shelves where people sold their goods. They were instant counters. Mike bought a sugar cookie that was baked in pizza shape and sold in wedges. The smell from this tiny little bakery filled the air. Mike claims it was the best cookie he ever ate. Somehow I think the whole ambiance around that cookie combined to make it the best, but he claims not. (French cooking... it was probably the butter!) Suddenly Martine-Alison slipped us into an unmarked door. It was dark and a narrow winding staircase attached to the stone wall led us down into a cellar. Not an ordinary cellar. A wine cellar! The lights were amber making the dark wood glow in such richness. At the long bar was a friendly gentleman who offered us tiny glasses of wine to taste. Along the walls were cases and cases of wine invitingly displayed like tiny little still life's. Of course we purchased a bottle for later...

My memories and delight for this place are still very vivid. What other art would match this series? It is so unlike my seascapes from Maine and Cape Cod. I chose to match the softness and the feeling. I've added meandering garden pieces and a special one I painted this fall in a magical garden in Ireland. I'm pleased with the international flare this exhibition took on. Take an idea or a feeling as your starting point and let it lead you somewhere, on a journey. A famous singer song writer said that about writing songs. Its the same with art and today with selecting a group for an exhibition. Don't try to plan it all out in the beginning. Start with a feeling and let the journey happen. The result will be far richer and the little surprises that occur along the way will make you smile.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Find your words

I started to teach my afternoon painting class yesterday and the words I needed to use were just gone. How frustrating! What happens to the brain at these moments when you certainly know what you're talking about, but you can't seem to remember "words"? You stand there like a complete idiot with a perplexed look on your face, mouth wide open and... nothing. Does this ever happen to you? Luckily my students are wonderful and we laughed at my sudden problem, lightening the moment. I think I had so much on my mind that I was a complete scatterbrain! My mind didn't want to focus on any one thing. It was everywhere.

Well class must go on so we proceeded to mix colors and begin painting our sky. Our colors ranged through lovely shades of various blues to magentas and purples to a soft creamy yellow punched with a bit of tangerine. The colors on the palette were enough to arouse the spirit. With brushes in hand the wonderful process of laying color on canvas began. Swirling, blending, dabbing and allowing surprises to happen as we let a few puffy white clouds pass by. Letting go in the enjoyment of watching how the colors interact with each other is the secret to making it look natural. Keep the colors rich and exciting. Give it depth so by the horizon it appears to go on forever.

Somewhere during this process, I realized all of my words had returned. Oh the magical power of paint! Slow down folks. Make time for yourself. No matter how busy you get, when stress is getting the better of you, stop. Just stop. Breath. Take time to do something you love. Its medicine for your spirit. It will energize your brain and in the end you'll function better and accomplish more. You'll be happier and you too will find your words.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dare to Imagine...

Change. Dare to imagine change. Dare to imagine possibilities. What would happen if...? Open your mind and view the world from a different stand point. Reach out to people you haven't met. See where it leads you. This is exactly what I do. Sometimes I feel like I'm setting seeds of possibility down and in time, some grow.

Yesterday that happened. One grew. I received a phone call from a past friend and collector of my art. For years now a signed Christmas card is all the contact we've shared. What a delight to hear her voice! She is the type of person who instantly energizes your creativity. Do you know people like that? Just being in their presence stimulates you. Its like a giant wave of tingling energy starting at one point and taking over your whole body. I have always loved talking to June. So many creative thoughts go through my mind afterwards. I become a hyper child, unable to focus on one thought. There are too many.

Well June didn't call to simply say hi, though that would have been enough. A seed sewn years ago blossomed. To my surprise she offered me an exhibition at the hospital. Its a 3 year waiting list to exhibit there. I hang in 16 days! That makes it Dec. 26. Yes, a bit challenging, but certainly possible!

All that inventory that collects because art sales are down becomes a welcomed gift at times like these.

So go sew yourself some seeds! Expect nothing in return. Eventually some will grow. New opportunities will emerge. Dare to imagine!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Write a BLOG?

Last night Mike and I watched Julie & Julia. He suggested I start a blog. Why would I do that, I wondered? Well a good night's sleep later and here I am. I love new experiences, so why not. Usually when you begin something new, much more comes of it than you first imagined. I guess I'm up for the ride...

I'm an oil painter. I can't imagine being anything else. I love it so much that I started teaching a beginner's class several years ago. I wanted to introduce others to this amazing joy. It was a good step. Presently I have many students who come to the house for classes. For me its more like fun than work. Its become a social night, or afternoon depending on the class. In the process of painting the students reveal much of themselves and a wonderful bonding and healing has occurred. I never imagined this when it all began.

I'd love to connect with you. Creativity blossoms when inspirations are shared. An artist's life can be such a disconnected journey. Working diligently day after day, expressing yourself on canvas. It can be a lonely experience. I go to great lengths to connect with other artists. You will soon see. I look forward to sharing some of these experiences with you. Perhaps it will inspire you. Perhaps it will help me grow.

So pick up your brushes or pencils or whatever and move color around! Allow your worries and stress to disappear. Its ok to make time for yourself...