Art, how to make it your own. The quest to be unique! “Three Amigos” 4 by 6 watercolor $30.00

goldfish 001

So many days I struggle as an artist to truly create something that is fresh, new and unique. I’m not alone in this daily struggle. It’s a common topic of conversation in Artist circles. Of course, like most people, I’m influenced by everything I see and hear. And, like so many people, these images, colors, or symbols will appear in my work. This is not because I lack an imagination but because I share a connection or a sense of belonging with these images. It is a way to describe a little bit of myself. Some folks call it collective consciousness others think that this is “voo doo” – “new age” crap. Call it whatever you wish, Artists often need to paint in a series or paint similar subject matter to find their unique voice.

We’re living in a time of information and unlimited access to visual stimulus. All you have to remember when you sit down to paint is: nothing is “new”. All subjects have been painted. You need to just make it your own. While even Matisse and Picasso challenged each other for years by painting similar subject matter; some say this helped each artist develop their inner vision. Others might call it their own method, technique or style. This technique can be useful to the solo painter as well.

Give it a try, the next time you’re struggling with what to paint, try painting a common object and do it in a way that describes your interpretation. You are unique! Allow this uniqueness to surface and make your Art memorable.

The Artist must struggle

My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash – like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly. (Andrew Wyeth)

All artists struggle with their art…. that is, if they are challenging themselves.  Its part of the process. I struggle often, mainly when it comes to my style.   You see my style was developed by allowing myself to look for cues as I painted, which would give me direction.  Using this method I have found I’ll often use colors not usually planned or sometimes I’ll add or take something out of the painting.  Waiting for the painting to give me direction is sometimes like waiting for your cat to eat one of the four or fives types of food you put out for her.  You may be waiting awhile.  Allowing the painting to develop en route so to speak is easy unless you find yourself in a creative block

Creative blocks are  sometime also part of the struggle. Nothing new and, it sometimes means a change in your style or a new direction.  You may have to just” go with it” even if you hate it.  Who knows, It could be a break thru.    Rather than following an outlined plan. I’ll have a concept in mind, an idea or something I want to explore. Usually this is incorporated in a series.

when I start a new painting, I try to develop a composition and choose some color families then I decide the medium & thats it, I start. This can lead to a lot of painting and repainting, and this alone can make you feel lost. When I get stuck, there are several things I do to help break out of these doldrums. One is to paint other paintings while leaving your “Problem Child” out and in front of you…. say on an easel.  Another is to draw in your sketchbook, even if its only doodles.  If you paint, try doing something else some crafts or perhaps write a short story or go for a long walk taking your camera along.  It seems anything creative can jump-start that spark.   So if your struggling with your next painting or any creative endeavor, remember your not alone and perhaps you’ll find just what you need to be on your way and that day is worth the struggle.

Small paintings are great for any collector

Here is an example of some small paintings grouped together.   I often hear people say they need a large painting to fill a wall space.  As an example you can see in the photo by grouping small paintings together you can easily fill a pretty large area.   I put up some of my Koi paintings so it tends to read as a theme. But this isn’t necessary, just like home decorating styles the wall  can be eclectic.  I also used all types of frames but sometimes using the same frames pulls the wall together.  Buying small paintings and getting frames for all of them can be expensive but I’ve found these smaller frames are easy to find in your consignment stores, flea markets, yard sales or even thrift stores.

Not for sale but a picture of my cupcake tins

Not working on a painting today but for the next few days getting reacquainted with my watercolor supplies. In the picture above you can see what my watercolor tins look like. Many of you are familiar with my work and understand that I like big bold color. Choosing the cupcake tin for my watercolor paints wasn’t my idea but when I saw other artists doing it I knew it was for me. I had been trying to come up with a palette that would hold at least one large tube of paint. The cupcake tins actually hold two if I fill them to the top.

Lately, I’ve been busy but when I find the time to paint I’ve been oil painting. I’d like to start my daily painting regime again with watercolor so I’ll start by giving you a re capp of my supplies and my process. Check back and I’ll post this information as the weeks go by.

Since I’ve been painting for a number of years I have a pretty large inventory of paintings and of course many are of my favorite subject…KOI. Its interesting when often I’m asked about my Koi paintings. It seems some people think I should always paint them while and equal number of folks thinks it would be boring to paint the same thing over and over.  Although no two of my paintings are the same the subject matter usually centers around water and Koi.

This leads me to ask how often should we change our art, style or process? Is it better for artists to cultivate variety or consistency?  Galleries tend to encourage artists to keep creating the same thing (that sells) over and over again. While artists, in general, like variety to stay motivated and inspired.

There are two schools of thought here. The first is consistency. Consistency in our work allows us to keep experimenting on one theme and to go deeper. Many artists paint one type of painting and become “known” for their Portraits/figures, or landscapes, and even wildlife. They continue to explore the endless methods and palettes until they approach what they believe is their own style. Usually an Artist will get very good at what they do using this approach.

Variety, however, is an important ingredient in our work, helping to keep our ideas fresh and our approach on the leading edge of the trends and new materials available to us.  This is another important aspect of being an artist. If we are so consistent that our work is repetitive, we do not grow as artists and the work will suffer. Yet, when we are so insistent on variety that we will not allow ourselves a chance to see the things from every angle. We don’t allow ourselves the permission to paint the “thing” over and over.  Then work may suffer as well. Sometimes it is important to continue in a series until its right for us. By using or incorporating and throwing out ideas without fear of poor paintings then we may find what we are looking for. Rather than bouncing around from style to style and never allowing ourselves to take a concept deeper. we may find it difficult to “find” our style.   If this sounds like you, allow yourself the PERMISSION to work thru a subject if only to explore the thing until you have tried everything and thrown out what doesn’t work for you and hopefully  you’ll find a more personal or meaningful way to express yourself.

Of course “balance”, may be the key here and the key to successful personal balancing is paying attention to how we feel. As our needs change, our feelings will let us know. Sometimes we may need to allow variety and experimentation to take us out of a rut, and re-energize our work. At other times we may hit on something that really gets us excited. These are the times to stretch 10-15 canvases ( or paper) all at once and create a series to see how far we can take that one idea. We can be anything we decide or so they say, we can also paint anything… anyway, this is your choice, we have the ability and the freedom to either be consistent or ever changing.

Here is an interesting take on our ability for variety, taken from a quote from Robert Anton Wilson in his book “Prometheus Rising” (New Falcon Publications, 1983, p.125). Just prior to this, Wilson describes the human survival instincts that involve both consistency and variety;

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

so with that said….Buzz off…

Pink Ballet Slippers Watercolor on paper ( sold)

Every young girl wants some pink ballet slippers or toe shoes. They are the epitome of femininity.

Now on with my article for today….Regardless of what you think of this man or his work, I think he is correct about committing to work (in my case painting) when there seems to be little reward.

Charles Bukowski, Selected Letters, Volume 4: 1987 – 1994, edited by Seamus Cooney; published in 2005 by Virgin Books, Ltd, ISBN 0 7535 0933 4
(The last of his published letters – he died in March 1994.)

About the need for solitude:
To me a closed door is one of the most beautiful things on earth. Their door or mine. . . . Every time the phone rings here, I feel invaded, a chill runs through me and it’s mixed with anger and I don’t anger often.
About continuing to work, when there seems to be little reward:
The long haul is the killer and few come out the other side of the wall. . . . By this, I don’t mean we should take our work as a serious or holy thing, but more as just the best thing to do, that there is to do. So why not do it?
About the value of the work:
Well, the war’s out there, the bomb’s out there, everything’s out there and there isn’t much we can do. One big flash can solve it. If not, the national debt can just about destroy the economy. Nowadays nations fall apart over night. I really have to almost laugh when I look back at those who called themselves the lost generation. All those poor idiots were moaning about were ants in the picnic basket. There’s time yet, but for what? Minor adjustments. The major ones have gone by us. I feel strangely like I did when I sat on that same barstool for 5 years cadging drinks. We can only make slight moves within the the fix. But never to quit within this darkness. We are still here. The slightest dent against impossibility is the miracle. That is why as these keys bite against this paper, I even feel good. Joy is not gone even in the face of reality. A good poem, like a good drink, is still worth something, like a cat walking across the floor toward you, both of you feeling and knowing the shining of yes.
About dabblers in the Arts:
I believe what we have to fear is the feeling of the general public toward poetry and/or art. They have no idea what it is but they have the thought that anybody can do it if they feel like it doing it. In fact many of them already label themselves as Artists. They may even have attended classes. They are piddlers in the field and most of the field are piddlers. These won’t lay down any blood to get their work done, they won’t gamble with madness, starvation in their need to get the work done. They don’t feel it that way. They want fame and name but they won’t give up their comforts and their securities.
About the necessity of work:
I’m glad writing came along for me and that I’ve had some late luck. But I would have kept going, no matter. It’s all stuck inside of me and has to keep coming out. . . . I don’t see how people can do anything at all without writing or painting or something of the like, some excessive splash against the darkness. It’s just too damned dumb to to sit and take it straight like most of them do.
About achieving financial success from the work:
The whole matter that has occurred is beyond miracle. Still, I don’t have to tell you it isn’t the money, never was. Because we wrote it for ourselves, for the joy and madness of it. Great then and all right then. And if there’s a fall back, a cut back, fine. We’ll accept that too. What we want to do is keep going as we have since the beginning until sickness, accident, senility, death or whatever the hell, stops us.
About maturity and creativity:
Age needn’t be a detriment: see Cervantes. Maybe it’s the luck of doing it for so long but I feel the words just grip at the page better. When I sit down I get a power glow and it just emanates. Yet, I am aware that everything can vanish overnight, I can become a common old fart weakly tickling at the word.
About working when nothing else is left:
Leukemia in remission, feeling better very day. The doc has warned me though, relapses do occur . . . Popped out some poems last night but I will save you from them, no real piss-biters in the batch. Sometimes I just like to write to stay loose. In fact, that’s the way I work it most of the time and when a good poem just happens to arrive along with the others, I think, hey, what the hell, look at this!

Vincent Van Gogh ‘s relatives…..

Its amazing how many folks are related to the artist Vincent Van Gogh

First there was his Obnoxious brother, Please Gogh
His dizzy aunt, Verti Gogh
Another brother who liked prunes, Gotta Gogh
The uncle who worked at a convenience store, Stop and Gogh
A Grandfather from Yugoslavia, U Gogh
The other nutty brother who bleached his clothes white, Hue Gogh
The cousin from Illinois, Chica Gogh
His magician Uncle, Wherediddy Gogh
The Mexican half sister, Amie Gogh
The Mexican’s half brother who happens to be American, Grin Gogh
The nephew who drove a stage coach, Wellsfar Gogh
The constipated aunt, Can’t Gogh
The sister Psychoanalyst, E Gogh
The fruit loving grandmother, Man Gogh
The bouncy little niece, Poe Gogh
The sister who liked to dance, Go Gogh
The Italian Uncle, Day Gogh
The Aunt who like to travel, Winnie Bay Gogh
The sister in law who was a ballroom dancer, Tan Gogh
The cousin and positive thinker, Way to Gogh

Gee with all of these relatives its no wonder he wanted to kill himself!

I know there has to be more, maybe you can think up a few….

“Under the falls” oil on gallery wrap one inch canvas. 24 by 24 inches

I have been in a bit of a quandary lately over what to paint next, no not these little paintings, but bigger paintings 1/2 sheets to full size sheets or bigger.

I just finished a series. I decided I wanted to start another series or so I thought. The problem is: I cannot for the life of me get the fourth painting started. I also have been reworking the second in the series even while others tell me to leave it alone, its great. This tells me maybe I really don’t want to make it into a series.  Then again…I have to admit I struggle thru this foggy quagmire of first attempts every time I start a series. It only seems after I’ve painted four or five paintings that I have a sense of what it is that I’m trying to say. It almost like I have to take the idea of a painting from a concept into a breathing living thing. Right now I feel like these paintings need CPR and I can’t remember how to administer mouth to mouth. Until then Until I can breath life into these paintings its just paint, paper and brushes.

As you become a better painter with more skills and techniques, you start to search for your style, you crave uniqueness. Why do painters constantly advocate breaking from the traditional school of thought? Is it the case of attempting to create paintings that will owe nothing to any other piece of work or artist–something unique and original in the world of art?” It’s a wonderful philosophy, but unfortunately an unrealistic delusion, simply because no one has ever been able to demonstrate a work of art that is entirely different. Every painting I ever gazed upon, including those in any gallery and those of the great masters all echo some previous painter’s accomplishments. Painters are by nature trying to achieve something new by using parts of something old. Every work of art, consciously or unconsciously has been subjected to traditional values in one form or another. The truth is that there is nothing original and if it appears as original there are most likely some less known artist doing the same thing but not getting any credit for it.
There may be new mediums, new colors or pigments but the basic way we take paint and create has not changed.


Chinese foot binding.. What Women went through for acceptance

Its hard to believe anyone thought this was attractive but most likely our idea of beauty…that  being a women who is ultra thin and our compulsive dieting would seem ugly and odd by the standards of a hundred years ago.
In my research for geisha I found these photos and they are photos of a chinese women not Japanese but some how they came up under geisha.  I just finished reading a book about China and foot binding and in this story they bound the child’s feet at 6 years old.  They had to break the toes and to do this, each day they would  bind and rebind the child’s feet …. tightening the bandages, then require the child to walk back and forth until all the toes were neatly tucked under the foot. Some mother’s had a difficult time keeping the bandages on or tightening them enough and the child’s feet did not get bound correctly and they were basically left crippled by the ordeal. Apparently even when done correctly the person cannot walk long distances without discomfort.  This practice was outlawed by the government in 1958 but apparently in some rural areas it was not reported.  The book is called

” Snow Flower and the secret fan”     Lisa See is the writer.

Now I’m reading “geisha” by Liza Dalby I’ll let you know how it goes…..

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Tribute to Monet series “Dark waters ll”

dark waters ll monet

This 8 by 10 (inch) oil painting on wood is for sale for $95.00. I love the mix of colors and the dark colors next to the lighter & brighter colors. Its part of my “Tribute to Monet” series and I find this method of painting complicated and yet simple. these paintings tend to be very heavily pigmented and usually take at least a week to dry because of the amount of paint used to achieve this look. Its done with palette knives and a special little tool I made, which looks like a spatula. the surface seems rich. I enjoy painting in this style but cannot decide how it will work with anything other than water.

Amy’s Red Rose

This is a watercolor on 300 lb paper. 5 by 7 95.00

I was working with my apprentice, Leigh Anne today and we started a small painting of a pink rose. After she left, I decided to paint this red rose. I wanted to try a few unusual color combinations, magenta and manganese blue, and also after that glaze had dried a warm glaze of Quin red … I use these colors often but never mixed. At first the rose looked more burgundy and was very pretty but I still wanted to see the color change and how this red would look over the other cooler color. So I painted the quin red over the burgandy and I liked it. I painted three more glazes and when it started to dull down a bit, I decided to leave it alone.
I’ve got a few commissions this week so this is the reason your not seeing as many paintings on my blog as usual. I also have to develop some lessons plans for the web site, art by example. When I upload a new lesson, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Oil painting repair

Here you can see the edge of this large Koi painting… if you look closely you may find there are two small holes… Ouch! yes this hurts.. The painting fell and when it fell I had just tightened the canvas so it was PERFECTLY TIGHT… and of course as with” Murphy’s Law” it fell down on two pointy bottles which punctured the canvas. I’ve made a repair by gluing a new piece of canvas onto the back side and will now paint the front so there isn’t an obvious rip.  Geeze…  What r ya gonna do?  The customer was notified of this mishap and I’m breathing a tiny sigh of relief as he still wants the painting and doesn’t think there wil be a problem with the painting once I’ve painted over the patch. Whew… still bugs me … I’ll get over it. Of course…  I need to secure these canvases even when I’m not painting them.   At the time I had just leaned it up and was stepping back to take a look at it to see if all the wrinkles were gone.   OK OK I get it…  live and learn.    Oh yeah thats my studio kitty,  “Chubbs”.

Lake Wylie daze

These last days of summer are giving us cloudy and overcast days.  It makes the water seem grey rather than blue but Lake Wylie is still a beautiful place to live and I’m lucky enough to have this wonderful view with or without sun.


It’s almost five o’clock and I’m just now getting a few minutes to check into my blog and see what’s up on line.  I’ll paint something tonight and get it posted.