Archive for May, 2013

How often do we get into conversations about our favorite things – our favorite movies, artists, record albums, travel destinations, etc? I try to share some of my favorites when I teach because I think they are a reflection of our cultural history and state of cultural awareness, through one person’s eyes. I enjoy hearing students, friends and family remark on my choices, whether they and I share a mutual love. It leads to vibrant conversation and everyone usually walks away with some must-sees and a longer Netflix queue.

The Godfather is on my list of favorite movies, not necessarily because of the amazing acting, but because of the cinematography. I find that as a visual artist, I am attracted to composition and color usage in film and there is a noted use of the grand proportion (dividing the screen into thirds) that is rooted in any introductory photography or visual art course. The Coen Brothers have a distinct cinematography style that makes all their movies appealing to me. What are the requisites that puts a movie on your favorites list?

I started thinking about all those “Best of…” lists in the collective discourse that have been compiled by various entities and individuals. In 1998, the American Film institute compiled the 100 Best Films of All Time. Check it out here: http://www.afi.com/100years/movies.aspx

Years ago my parents ordered the set of The Franklin Library 100 Greatest Books of All Time. They arrived one by one over the course of several years, published from 1974-1982. I loved the rich leather binding, red ribbon book mark and gold leaf page edges. They have been handed down and divided among my family. Frankly I was too afraid to actually read any of them. They seemed more like show pieces than something I could tuck away with my spiral notebooks and worn textbooks in my school bag. Some friends and I took a look at the list one time to see how many we had read…I came up with 23. Of those they tend to be the usual suspects: Alice in Wonderland, A Tale of Two Cities, Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice. I’d be curious if there is anyone out there that has read Gargantua and Pantagruel or the Political Writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau?


Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazines provide a myriad of lists on the greatest, best selling music artists of all time. My music library would not be complete without U2, Beatles, Elton John, Gypsy Kings, Natalie Merchant, and some good techno-dance or trance music that I like to play while in the painting studio.

There’s People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People List, Conde Naste Traveler’s Best Beaches, US News and World Report’s Best Colleges….the lists of lists goes on.

Who are my favorite artists? That can be tough. There are many, for seemingly disparate reasons. Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Nicholas Wilton, Carol Marine, Safet Zec, Bernini, Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, are just a few.

I can only imagine how influential and powerful these lists can be. How are they compiled? Who has the authority to determine the gauge by which our cultural output is judged? Is this all based on a Cosmo poll of current subscribers, women between the ages of 18 and 34? If only they all weren’t so economically driven….and so ridiculously random at times. But fun all the same. And get this – Time magazine compiled the Best List of Lists. It contains a unique assortment of bests of’s: Top 10 Movie Accountants (Shawshank Redemption, anyone?), the 12 Most Awkward Product Recalls, and Best and Worst Irish Accents in Movies. (Tom Cruise, we’re talkin’ about you)

Take a look: http://www.time.com/time/specials

While these lists often inspire us to open up to new things, as well as our pocketbooks, it may detract us from forming our own opinions and make it easier to just go with the grain and stick with the group think. I know I have to step back often and reassess my lists, they change and evolve often…especially the most important one, my gratitude list.

What are some of your favorites? And while you ponder that, I’ll be imagining myself in first class on a Singapore Airline jet, flying off to Bali, listening to The White Album, a copy of War and Peace in my Prada tote, with Brad Pitt as my travel companion. Or is it Denzel? Or George Clooney? Hell, they’re all beautiful.

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I’ve noticed lately that there’s a lot of right-brain thinking going on!! It seems the contemporary economic climate and new levels of global competitiveness are demanding a new way of thinking. What started as a discovery by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Roger Sperry back in the 1960’s, that the two hemispheres of the human brain have distinct qualities and independent processing attributes, has opened up a whole new industry of powerful right brain thinking proponents.

Often referred to as radiant thinking, tapping into the right brain opens creative doors and helps solve a many conundrum we face in our complex, rapidly changing 21st Century life. Examples of right brain vs. left brain thinking include:

  • Focusing on images vs. words.
  • Intuitive vs. Analytical thinking
  • Process ideas simultaneously vs. sequentially
  • No sense of time vs. keeping time
  • Touching/Feeling vs. Observing

The most prominent resource for artists has, and still is in my opinion, Betty Edward’s “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” first published in 1989. Inspired by Sperry’s work, she created a bible on drawing techniques to help “see” in a whole new way. www.drawright.com

More recently, I have discovered various other right brain resources not only for artists but for anyone who wants to expand their decision-making process from a straight and narrow path to a glorious, multi-faceted matrix. The following is a list, in no particular order of these that I have found very helpful in my business, personal and art-making life:

  • “The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential” by Tony Buzan and Terry Buzan. I was introduced to this book by a graphic design professor at an art college in Copenhagen, Denmark. I sat in on her logo design class and she explained that the students used the techniques of mind-mapping to work through design conceptualization and problem solving. I was sold.










  • “The Right Brain Business Plan” by Jennifer Lee. I discovered Jennifer’s work four years ago when I did one of her workshops for artists. Her step by step approach helped me to overcome the anxiety and frustration in developing a business plan for my art career and goals. The traditional way just didn’t work for me! This approach is fun, creative and effective. She also sends out regular inspiring newsletters. www.rightbrainbusinessplan.com
  • “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel Pink is the bestselling book that addressing the new era of success based on right brain qualities such as inventiveness and empathy. Pink discusses the skills, previously attributed to creatives and artists that are now required for all professions in our new world. I saw an interview of Pink and was struck when he suggested the MFA was the new MBA. www.danpink.com/books/whole-new-mind

I’m sure there are many others….please share and add to the list! In the meantime, I am excited that this movement is occurring in my lifetime, that we have another reason to stand up and declare why artists are just as smart and valued as other professions.

These are interesting times. All the best in our creative ventures. And just remember…sit up straight and think right!!!


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I think I’m experiencing a creative rut, a bit of artist block. I seem to find excuses to do other things, anything, rather than be in the studio. I go through these periods of unrest every once in a while, jittery and on edge. I have been applying full-force to juried shows, for various part-time teaching positions and writing exhibit proposals. My guess is all that energy spent has started to take its toll. And, it doesn’t help this artist’s psyche that the weather here in coastal North Carolina has been anything but spring-like! Where is the sun?

I have also experienced recent bouts of professional “rejection” that may have tarnished the luster of completing a large body of work this past winter and the closing of a recent solo exhibit. They say things happen in three’s. Today I received the third rejection letter in a month. The first was for a job, the second an exhibit, and the third for a local arts residency. All the letters basically said the same thing, “thank you but you are not accepted at this time. Please try again.” Yuck! I’m not accepted? You don’t want me?

Who wants to hear those words?

After I walked off the hurt, I thought about the ebb and flow of great art-making. I always espouse to the virtue of honoring the process, being patient, that creativity does not show up 9 to 5. And I remind myself that it’s really not rejection in a personal sense. Something else positive will take its place, I just don’t have the luxury of knowing what that is yet.

So how does one combat the paralysis of artist block? For me, I stick to the basics: I try to eat healthy, get out in nature everyday which usually includes a long beach walk or bike ride, get sleep (naps are heaven!) and make sure I still go on regular artist dates – I watch a good film, visit an art gallery, write, doodle, assess the status of my paint supply, meditate or play the piano. The key is to do what Dory said in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming!”

In an odd case of synchronicity, a friend recently shared a blog post by the life coach, Cheryl Richardson in an email to me which I rediscovered today as I was clearing out the inbox. She discusses the movie-making process and how arduous art-making can be. She wrote a very insightful list about what it takes to make great art…

  • Great art requires great patience.
  • Just as in book making, you will live what you create.
  • In order to succeed as an artist, you must develop the capacity to                                       to move through massive amounts of frustration.
  • To bring your art to the world, you’ll need to play well with others.
  • You must be relentless in your tenacity because there will be countless                             times when it seems your art will never see the light of day.
  • You have to trust yourself at the precise moments when everyone                                    else thinks you’re crazy.
  • You need to be open to feedback, but closed to mean-spirited criticism.                              And you need to learn the difference.
  • You must stay true to the heart of your message.  Always.

Thanks to Cheryl for sharing a good reminder. (www.cherylrichardson.com) I would actually add one thing to the list…Don’t be afraid to make bad art. In partnership with the tenacity she mentions, overcoming perfectionism will remove the paralysis of fear.

And speaking of great movie making, the Coen brothers drew upon their own experience with writer’s block when they made the wonderful Barton Fink. I  highly recommend it!

So I will stay the course, keep submitting those applications and spend time in the studio every day, even if I don’t paint. In those moments when I find it difficult to be patient…I know I can at least just be.


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