Coffee Girls No. 1: The Coffee Break

Sometimes I just like to paint something different, something involving a face. For a long time, almost everything I painted or sketched involved a face or figure. Sometimes, realistic… mostly slightly off kilter. More fun that way.

So here is the first I did in a fun series I call the Coffee Girls.

She doesn’t have a name. You may call her whatever you like. She’s a dedicated office employee and gives 100 percent to her boss. She rarely misses a day of work and rarely misses her afternoon coffee break. She will often take a shortened lunch hour so that she can tack on an extra fifteen minutes to her normal 3:00 p.m. break just to enjoy her favorite brew a little bit longer.

On weekends, when most people want to meet up at a wine bar for a drink and a visit, she will be the one to suggest a favorite coffee shop instead. When she walks in, the staff behind the counter knows her name. She loves the familiarity almost as much as she loves her coffee. She can guide you through the coffee menu with ease. She likes to try new flavors and is confident in her choices. She is a true coffee connoisseur.

Walk With Me

Right now with all the mess going on, I know you and I won’t be walking together any time soon. And, truth be told, I kind of prefer walking by myself. If I am by myself, I don’t have to make polite conversation, talk (or hear) about problems, or have anyone roll their eyes when I have to stop (for the umpteenth time) to look at something we saw earlier in another spot. Look! Another rabbit, squirrel, bird, flower, butterfly, cloud formation, tree shape. The list goes on… and on… and on.

oil and cold wax painting

Note this: if you are the same way on a walk, we would get along fabulously (and probably be taking a lot of photos).

However, if we can’t walk together physically, we can at least walk together in spirit. Fact is, sadly, I do most of my walking this way now. No, not by some meditative mind thing. I do my in spirit walking through photos. Either my own or those so graciously shared by others. I love seeing where people have been and am very glad they are willing to share their adventures so I can come along.

This is why I now so enjoy painting outdoor scenes, even if it’s from a photo (with permission of course if it’s not mine). It doesn’t have to be a live outdoor painting experience (i.e. plein air) for me to feel it. And truth be told, I don’t like to sweat, get sunburned, fight off bugs, or lug supplies around. Also, at my age, the thought of not being close to a bathroom is a big NO NO. (Just for that, I have a huge amount of respect for plein air painters. They must have really healthy bladders.)

Anyway… at my age, I have had enough life experiences to be able to look at a photo and visualize being there, walking there, seeing the colors in the tree line or on the side of the hill. I can feel the breeze that might be blowing, feel the heat of the sun or the cool of the shade, smell the fragrances of what’s growing, hear what sounds might be there. I can put myself into the scene I am painting. I am spiritually there because at some point in life, I was physically in a scene pretty much like it.

Hopefully, if I can capture the feeling of being there, the viewer will feel they are there too. Isn’t that’s what all artists hope for? A connection with their viewer?

So, walk with me. I hope you enjoy the stroll.

Find Your Creative Side and You’ll Get Through This

Image by ShonEjai from Pixabay

I know you’re tired of all the bad news and the awful disruption to your lives. I know, like me, you are very concerned for the health of your family, friends, and others who you have had some kind of social or business interaction prior to this virus. The social distancing, the staying home, it all wears on you if it isn’t something you are used to doing.

Like a lot of artists, I spend most of my day by myself in front of a canvas or other substrate distanced from whatever or whoever is in the house. For me, it’s the norm. It’s part of the process. However, most people don’t live like this.

So… what can you do during these extra stressful times?

Find your creative side! Sounds trite, but it isn’t. I’m not making light of a very serious public health situation. Finding your creative side is a healthy thing to do, especially for your mental state.

Everyone has a creative side. When we are young, it naturally and freely expresses itself. Kids don’t care if something is not perfect. They just enjoy the creating of whatever it is they are working on. Most people lose that joy of expression as they get older… until such time as they discover an aptitude or enjoyment of a particular hobby or outlet for their free time… or they just let go of it completely and never get it back.

But… even hobbies can get boring if you do the same thing over and over. Not to mention that you just can’t do some of them right now!

So, once again, find your creative side! Express yourself. Write a short story or poetry (nobody else needs to read it), try drawing or painting something you see or something you totally make up (nobody else needs to see it), get some glue and make sculpture out of stuff you have laying around the house… like all those empty toilet paper rolls. Sing! Dance! Encourage others to do the same. Feeling stuck? You can get plenty of ideas for things to do from the internet. No internet? No problem… use your imagination! Just don’t do anything that could harm someone or something.

So… don’t sit (or pace) and stress. If you are still healthy, and I hope you are, explore your creative side. Trust me, you have one. Take time to find it.

I Love Palette Knives

I think that I shall never see,
A painting tool so right for me.

Though people often use the term palette knife when referring to any type of metal blade used for painting, there is a difference between a true palette knife and a painting knife (yep, I got that right off the internet). However, I’ll let you do the research if you’re interested. It’s really not that important. They can all be used to paint with (even the cheap plastic ones, if you’re on a budget).

The Love Affair Begins

Less than a year ago, I rarely used palette knives. I was mainly a brush painter. Then I met cold wax. Cold wax set me up with palette knives. At first we just played around and watched a lot of videos. I had no idea how strong the attraction would be. I just couldn’t stay away. I had to know more. I had to be with them… use them.

Now, palette knives are now my first choice when making art and are perfect for my preferred method/style of painting (whether using oils or acrylics). It’s fascinating to see what can be done with palette knives and different mediums. The layering, the scraping, the marks they can make. It’s quite exciting. I LOVE my palette knives.

Other reasons I love them are: they are not expensive, versatile, can take a lot of abuse, and are easy to clean. You can paint big and bold, or small and precise. (It just takes practice.) They aren’t limited to the traditional oils and acrylics either. I’ve seen them used by a watercolor artist. Yes, watercolors. Who knew? Someone experimented and it worked.

Where Did they Come From?

I’ve often wondered how this painting tool came into existence. I mean, did someone notice a bricklayer with a trowel and think “hey, I can slap a LOT of paint on a canvas with one of those!”

I don’t know.

I do know that palette knives can be traced back to the 17th century and were most likely first used to mix paint on the… tadaa.. palette. (Bet you saw that coming!) They were also used to scrape paint off of the canvas. (Made a mess? Using Oils? Still wet? Scrape it off!) By the 18th century, the palette knife was a popular tool with artists and they were widely used. Somewhere along the way, this handy dandy tool went from being a tool used just to mix or scrape off paint to being refined into a tool of many shapes and sizes for creating a painting. Just like brushes.

Want a Storage Tip?

My knives.

Go to someplace like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Harbor Freight and look for a magnetic strip used for holding small tools. Attach it within reach of your painting area. The metal blades of the palette knives will attach to the strip. Gets them up and out of the way, yet keeps them close for when you need one.

Did I say I love them?

Taking the Plunge and Investing in Myself

This is the year I decided to step up and invest in myself. To put myself out there. To get my artwork in front of the public. And, sometimes, this requires spending some money. Investments are rarely cost free.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I had been full of doubts about whether or not I was “there yet”. When the opportunity first presented itself this past summer to become a part of the local art gallery (which had become a co-op of local artists) I let the doubts creep in and I passed it up. I spent the next six months kicking myself.

My Step One: Ignore the Doubts and Jump In

So… when I found out last November that they were still taking artist applications to join, I didn’t hesitate. No more kicking myself. I presented my work, made it in, and signed a six month financial commitment. Was it scary? You bet! Let me repeat… it was a financial commitment. What if nothing sold? I’m in a gallery with over 40 other artists/artisans and with people who are well known around North Texas. Boy was I nervous.

I also felt very vulnerable. When you put yourself out there, no matter what your creative thing is, you get viewed (and critiqued) by others. Others who usually have no clue about the process, the practice, the techniques, or the cost of what goes into what you have created. They only know what they like. Unless, of course, they too are an artist because artists know.

So… I hung my first artworks in December at the gallery. Has it been worth the monthly fee to have space there? YES! My work is selling and I do a happy dance for every one of them. I take nothing for granted.

My Step Two: More Public Interaction (Getting to Know Me)

I just took part in the indoor Winter Art Fest here locally. Step number 2 of putting myself out there. Participate in more public events. (Of course now, depending on how that darn virus spreads, that may take a backseat for a time.) Relationships are important and I need to cultivate them! Anyway, I don’t have to get into all events, just those that work for me, my schedule, and my pocketbook. As a lot of you know, there are lots of events that don’t involve any financial commitment to participate but are a great way to get your name and work out there. I’ve got several in mind for where I live.

My Step Three: Invest in Simple Advertising

I have started giving out business cards instead of leaving them in my purse. (If you prefer, you can just call them introduction cards.) They are the cheapest way to advertise what you do. If you are on Facebook (or Instagram) and have a page for your artwork or other creative outlet, it won’t break the bank to make a post and then boost it for a week to an audience that meets YOUR criteria. Social media is a great way to promote what you do. However, I’m a little concerned about Pinterest. Seems a lot of people find their artwork getting swiped from there and showing up where it shouldn’t. Anyway, I know it’s a slow process to get noticed and I don’t expect instant success.

My Step Four: I Don’t Have One

The steps above should suffice for now. I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my art journey. I love what I’m doing. I am now investing in myself so others might love what I’m doing and invest in me as well.

Now, if you’re ready, go out and invest! Invest in yourself!

Enjoying Presidents Day

Mount Rushmore

I realize that today is supposed to be about remembering and paying tribute to all those who have held or do hold the title of President of the United States. However, I’m so fed up with politics that I prefer to not think about any of them (other than to find a photo of Mount Rushmore for this musing).

Nope, today I hold the title.

Today I declare myself President of my little place in the sun and I give tribute to myself for all of my accomplishments. Like many other Presidents before me, I prefer to remember the good things, the successes, that I have had under my long administration. And like many Presidents before me, I prefer to hope the failures stay in the closet. I also hope that I have learned from those failures which, unfortunately, so many of those in Washington seem to have not.

This Presidents Day, I celebrate that I put my child on the path to be a darn good adult. A good citizen. I celebrate the awesome grandchildren that I have some influence on. They will be good citizens too. I have made decent gains economically for my constituents. My economic stimulus program may not be fantastic, but it’s steady and is keeping a roof over our head and food on our table. (For that, I really have to give credit to my wonderful Vice President who does a heck of a good job. )

As President of my little corner, people are treated with respect and fairly. Though if you break the law or act like a spoiled brat and take no responsibility for what you do, you won’t get much sympathy or support from me. I try hard to uphold my commitments. Nature under my administration is treated with both awe and respect. I try to keep my little corner of the world eco-friendly and encourage others to do so. As the child and wife of a veteran, I support our military. I may not support some of the things they are forced to do by our national leaders, but I support those in our armed forces whose adherence to duty allows me to safely keep my freedoms.

So, as President of my little place in the sun, I have pardoned myself from any and all housework, yard work, or honey-do lists that need to be done.

I pardon you from these things as well. Have a good rest of the day.

Trees Are Your Friend

“Just go out and talk to a tree.” “Make friends with it.”
– Bob Ross

Trees. I love them. I admit that sometimes they don’t make the best neighbors… like when they fall on your house, or spread their roots under your foundation, or find their way into your pipes. But, other than a few instances where they cause a problem which they don’t do on purpose, trees are a wonderful gift of nature and actually do provide a unique type of friendship to those that appreciate how special they are.

Sister Trees by Karren Case Art

Yes, trees are your friend.

I haven’t yet found myself actually talking to one, but I have often thought to myself “What things have you seen? What stories could you tell?” while I have stood and studied their uniqueness. I’ve climbed them, fallen out of them, planted them, watched them grow and watched them (sadly) die. I feel a kinship with them and appreciate how special they are as well as their contribution to my well being. I could not live where there weren’t any. It also causes me pain to see them cut down for the sake of putting in another development. I’d rather see trees than more cement and buildings.

When Mr. Ross made his statement, I’m pretty sure he was telling his audience to not be intimidated when painting a landscape involving trees. If you’ve tried (other than grade school) to draw or paint them, trees can be a challenge. I admire those that do them in a realistic manner. Me, I prefer to do them semi-real or in art talk, “representational”. At least that way, the trees won’t be upset that I didn’t paint them accurately. I would not want to offend them. They are my friend. (Truthfully, it’s also how I paint just about everything.)

As an artist, I find that the different shapes, sizes, foliage colors, and changes of trees throughout the seasons to be, in a word, fascinating. I believe this is why they are, and have been for centuries, a popular subject for painters, photographers, and others. Unlike other models, trees don’t charge a sitting fee and they pretty much stay where you want them. They are also easy to find.

Even if you are NOT an artist of some type, get up close to a tree and look at it’s leaves, it’s limbs, it’s bark. That tree’s life, what it has experienced, is often right there if you look hard enough. You can see the good times and the bad times it has experienced. Again, what stories could it tell you. Stories about storms, the stress of drought, the secrets of families in the houses around it , changes to the area before you came along, and stories about those pesky woodpeckers that keep showing up!

Trees are indeed your friend. They do much for us and ask so little in return. Their biology is amazing. The aren’t just wood. Next time you are close to one, say hello. Listen to the sounds they sometimes make. And if you are so inclined, hug one.

If You Love Sunsets, Are You An Opacarophile?

Sunset Dance

I love sunsets. Lots of people love sunsets. We paint them, we photograph them, we sit and watch them. Until recently, I had no idea that there is an actual word associated with this attraction.

Opacarophile. If you break it down into it’s two main parts, here’s what you’ll find: opacare which is Latin meaning dusk or sunset, and phile which is the Greek word for love.

Why the Attraction of Sunsets?

According to Physchology Today, sunsets have a profound mental effect on the brain and this effect often lasts long after the color has faded. That’s one reason the attraction of sunsets is so instilled in humans.

Sunsets affect our mood. Studies have proven it. Sunsets are a wonderful inducer of calm, of taking away stress, of slowing us down. They relax us, they can induce a time of meditation or to not think at all as we just experience the joy of the moment brought on by the view.

“Sunset is a period of rest, renewal and reflection.” — John Suler

An Artist’s View of Sunsets

The time of day when the sun is in it’s last hour in the sky (or it’s first hour at sunrise) is called the “Magic Hour” or “Golden Hour” by artists and photographers. This is the time of day when the light and the colors reflected back to our eyes is at it’s most intense. The sky will be rich with color. “It’s the time of day when ideas and emotions stir inside us.”

Sunset Over the Fields

It’s these rich colors that compel the artist to grab the paint and capture the beauty either as realistic, abstract, or in my case, as a representation. I once read and agree wholeheartedly with the statement that “sunset is one of my favorite colors”. Of course it’s not a color, but a collection of colors, but you get the idea. You never think of one color when someone mentions a sunset, but you sure know what one looks like just by hearing the word.

“Sunset is the most spiritual moment where the human race meets the extraordinary spirit of the universe. — Mehmet M. Ildan

A sunset is truly one of nature’s most magnificent and inspiring works of art. And… they’re always different! Clouds, dust, all those particles of pollution, the time of year, your position on the globe, all of these things affect what we see in those beautiful skies at sunset.

The Science of Sunsets

Ever notice how the most vivid sunsets appear when there are clouds in the sky? The clouds reflect the red and orange hues of the setting sun back to our eyes. On a clear day, you don’t get as much of this reflection.

The colors of the sunset result from a phenomenon called scattering. Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of the light rays, causing them to… scatter. (sciencedaily.com)

I could go on and on, but I won’t. The science behind sunsets it huge and not why I’m writing today. But feel free to research it.

Here’s your homework for this week and every week. Go outside, find a nice spot, watch the sun as it sets. Enjoy the moment. Reflect on the good in your life. Relax and thank the sun for lighting your day. And if you are so inclined…. paint it!

Walk This Way: Following Your Path.

Walk This Way

When I was younger, I loved hiking. I actually still do, though my stamina is really crappy now. Anyway…. not the serious gotta have a backpack, camping gear, GPS, bear repellant, etc. kind of hiking. I’m talking about the kind where you just go out and follow a path or two through a state park, local park, or the woods behind your house. There’s something freeing about venturing forth, water in hand, to just explore where the path leads you.

Life is full of paths too.

Following Your Path: Have a Plan

Here’s the thing with me and maybe with you too. I don’t blindly forge ahead. I make sure that the path I want to take is doable. I don’t want to get lost or hurt following it. So I plan… usually. Yes, it’s exciting to step off the path and see “what’s over there”, as long as you keep a firm eye on where you were, so you can get back on it. Lost is not a fun thing to be.

Following Your Path: Keep Moving

Your career, your hobby, your art, your hike in the woods should never be stagnant. Not moving gets you nowhere. Enjoy the stops to rest, explore, enjoy the view…. but keep moving forward. When I look at my artwork from years ago to where I am now, I see all the paths I took to get here. And I see how I kept moving forward. Occasionally, I see where I got off the path, but I managed to get back on it. I didn’t give up getting to where I wanted to go and I’m still exploring as I journey on.

So… follow your path, plan for new ones, take a break if needed, but keep moving.

Happy New Year! Art Resolutions for 2020

If you know me, I don’t make new year resolutions. They irritate me.

Life coaches and others say they are good for you and should be attainable over the year. I say they’re good for about a week or two… they are rarely attainable (because for some weird reason we feel the need for them to be grand and life changing)… and they irritate me.

However, if I were to make some “art” resolutions for 2020 they would most likely be this:

Stop letting details get in the way. I’ve been striving for the past year to be more expressive. Loosening up is hard for me… but I’m getting there. Especially since I started using (almost exclusively) painting knives. Wonderful tools. And if you drop one on your foot… no blood. Just paint. Though you do swear like you’ve been stabbed.

Squint more. I try hard not to squint because it leads to wrinkles. However, as artists know, squinting makes the details go away… which leads to a more loose, expressive painting.

Invest in better wrinkle filling serums and creams. I will be squinting more this year.

Invest in myself as an artist. Late in 2019, I decided to invest more… a lot more… in myself as an artist. If you stop learning, you stop growing. If you stop growing, you’re art will too. Thank goodness for payment plans.

Believe in myself as an artist. If I don’t believe, no one else will either. I AM an artist. I was juried in to a local gallery which was a big deal for me. I will try harder not to let the doubts creep in about my work.

Put myself “out there”. I plan to set up from time to time in public places and paint. Talk more about what I do. Donate artwork to charity events. Use social media more (sorry Facebook friends… you’re probably tired of me already. HA!) Market myself within my local community and beyond. Maybe people won’t remember my art, but hopefully they will remember me. The lady covered in wrinkle cream.

Declutter my creative space. This will be a 2020 resolution that will be a challenge. My creative space is a mess. Maybe if I squint, I won’t see it. Gonna need a lot of cream.

Happy New Year from me to you!