Still Life


Small Jewels



Do You Have Grit?

Creating art takes both courage and confidence. Courage improvises and confidence rehearses. It takes courage to approach the paper or canvas and put down that first stroke. We start our process with courage but to continue we need confidence. After that first stroke is down, we need confidence to continue. Where does that courage and confidence originate from?

Courage comes from the passion we have for creating art. Our passion drives us forward but then confidence takes us through to the conclusion. Dr. Duckworth, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvannia, calls that combination of passion and perserverance, grit.

Grit is about holding on to a goal even when progress is slow and success seems elusive. Dr. Duckworth has found that grit matters more than talent or luck to attaining success. Grit is not something people are usually born with but something that can be developed through practice. To develop grit you need to practice the "Hard Thing Rule". There are three parts to this rule:

Part one: select one hard thing that requires daily and deliberate practice. Perhaps creating art would fulfill this requirement.

Part two: You must not quit, but practice every day, especially on a bad day. Choose an amount of time to practice and stay committed during the entire time. (As I have stated before, this doesn't have to be an extended period of time, one hour is fine, so is 45 minutes.)

Part three: Only you can pick your hard thing. Even though I am encouraging you to use this plan to develop your art, you are the only one who can determine what your hard thing will be. It would make no sense to do a hard thing that does not interest you.

How gritty are you? Dr Duckworth has developed a three question test that will tell you your degree of grittyness. Answer each statement with one of the following:

1. Very much like me

2. Mostly like me

3.Somewhat like me

4. Not much like me

5. Not like me at all

____New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

____Setbacks don't discourage me. I don't give up easily.

____I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

People with high levels of grit typically answer "not like me at all" for statements 1 and 3 and "very much like me" for statement 2.

Develop your grit to give yourself the courage and confidence to succeed at your art or whatever goal you pick as your "Hard Thing".



Why Is Finishing a Painting So Hard?

You have started a painting. Everything is going well for a while, then suddenly you reach a block. You can't finish it. Does this sound familiar? Why does this happen and what can you do about it?

According to Eric Maisel, there are three reasons you may find yourself in this conundrum.

The first is that you fear that this is your best, and maybe last, idea. You are weighed down by the feeling that since you may never have another idea as good as this one, you had better draw this out so you have something to work on. Say No! to this thought. Tell yourself that even though it is wonderful to enjoy your current idea, you will have a new idea once you have completed this painting.

The second reason is that the hard part is what is left. You have finished 99% but still have 1% unfinished. What can you do? There are several possible soutions. you could put the work aside for a period of time then come back to it with a fresh eye. The solution may present itself. You could keep fussing with it and come to completion...or make a complete mess! You could declare it finished with the 1% still unfinished. No one else may notice the lack that you perceive. Or you could abandon the work altogether and chock it up to a creative  effort that did not work. The choice is yours. The importance is that you make a decision and move forward.

The final reason you have reached this block is that the painting before you doesn't meet your original vision. Our visions of what we plan to produce often exceed the reality possible. You "see" your painting before it is painted and it is perfect. However, perfection is not what art is about. Our art reflects all of our own personal idiosyncrasies and is far from perfect. Your expectations are not met and the result is disappointment and loss of the motivation to complete the work. What to do? Come to an understanding that your real painting will be different from your imagined painting. Accept that your imagined work need not prevent you from accepting and appreciating your real painting.

You need to create an abundance of work. Some will be better than others but all serve to enform and grow the next work you do. Embrace completing, appraising, showing and selling your painting and begin again the process. Finish the things you start.



Artist's Date

“Experience, even for a painter, is not exclusively visual.”

                Walter Meigs

One of my favorite authors is Julie Cameron. Many of you have read her book, “The Artist’s Way”. It’s a classic filled with great advice and information for the artist. One of her recommendations for living a creative life is to take yourself on an “Artist Date”. She explains the artist date:

 “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” She goes on to say that you do not take anyone with you on this excursion; you go alone with your inner artist. This time spent in solitude is essential to self-nurturing. In a sense, you are filling the pond of your creativity. On these artist dates, you will find new ideas, inspirations, and new ways of looking at the world. These dates should be fun. They should be filled with new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch.

I challenge you to take an Artist Date once a week for the next month. Find areas of art that engage your attention. These don't have to be in the visual arts...they could be performances in music, dance, food, theater or attending a lecture or tour. Find something that brings your creativity alive! As Dr. Suess said " Oh the places you will go!"




Don't Throw That Painting Away!

Nothing determines who we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore.

Sandor McNab


Taking Mark Mehaffey’s workshop reminded me of something that I told my high school art students: never throw a piece of artwork away. They wanted to toss anything that did not go well at the first try. Mark showed us how, on yupo, we could build and layer new ideas or erase things that we were not thrilled with and redo. Yupo is a very forgiving surface, but even on other surfaces there are many things that can be done to improve, change or completely refashion a painting that is not what we would like it to be. Sometimes it takes putting the painting aside for a time period (days, weeks, or months…maybe even years) and coming back to it with a new eye. Here are some ideas of things to do with a failed (or temporarily failing) painting:


  1. Redo it in sepia
  2. Collage over it and repaint
  3. Abstract it
  4. Add ink, pastels, colored pencils
  5. Add collage materials
  6. Gesso over and do a new painting
  7. Rework the failed parts
  8. Cut the painting up and use as collage material for another  painting
  9. Use a mat to find the area of the painting that does work and use that area to cut the painting down to…even if it is a miniature
  10. Cut the painting into parts and change the relationships to create a better composition
  11. Change the colors by painting over areas in contrasting colors
  12. Add neutrals, like black and white or gray, to tone down the colors
  13. Add patterns to some areas
  14. Add curvilinear lines if there are a lot of straight lines, or straight lines if there are a lot of curvilinear lines
  15. Paint another painting on the back
  16. Use acrylic to swipe paint across, leaving an abstract design to start from again
  17. Cover with watered down gesso then cover with plastic bag. Press your hands over the bag to remove all air bubbles. Before the gesso dries, remove plastic. Repaint the painting using the new lines formed by the plastic.
  18. Use gel mediums over the painting. Paint over the gel or use saran wrap or wax paper or parchment to affect the effect.

But, whatever you do, don’t throw the painting away. It could be your best piece ever.


A Working Artist

Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.

Stephen DeStaebler


When I was nine years old, I started piano lessons. My teacher said that I had to practice EVERY day. One hour, every day. I did. After five years, I could read complex music, play Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, and Strauss. It was not because I have musical talent (I don’t) but because I practiced every day. Musicians and dancers know that they need to practice every day but for some reason that routine is not followed by most visual artists. Painting also needs to be done every day.


How many times have you said, “I don’t have time for art today, but I will spend all day Saturday painting.” Then what happens when Saturday rolls around? Suddenly everyone wants your attention, the phone rings, the groceries need to be bought, the dog needs to be walked and your plan to spend all day painting goes by the wayside. What if you had someone who said: “you have to practice your art EVERY day.” Imagine that I am that person.


When I say that you need to paint every day that doesn’t mean that it has to be for a long period of time. Small increments of work done consistently add up to more than sporadic marathons of working. You need to make a schedule of what you will accomplish for the day and the first thing on that schedule should be “ART”. For me, first thing in the morning is the best. If I do other things first, they tend to fill up the entire day and by the time I have time for painting, I am worn out and am no longer creative. I plan one hour at the beginning of each day to work on art. That does not mean framing or working on my website, it means actual painting time. Sometimes, I may go on longer than an hour. That’s good, but the minimum I do each day is one hour. If you put in one hour a day, that is 30 hours a month or 365 hour a year. A painting generally takes me 13 hours to complete so at the rate of one hour a day, I should be able to complete 28 paintings. That is a one person show. Now all of those paintings may not be masterpieces. For most artists, making good art depends upon making lots of art. The aim should be for quantity of work. The quality will develop over time.


Now I am challenging you to paint EVERY day. Do it, and see what happens.