Sunday, February 5, 2017

Inside your own head. . .

High Summer in Montana .  30 x 24  .  oil on linen canvas

The painting continues despite all the turmoil and uncertainty in the world of late, and despite the personal issues that arose in January for me and me alone!  All is well, but surely you do have to often just get out of your own way and into your head in order to work. 

Please note:  I could not paint such challenging scenes without the help of dear friends who give me full rights and permission to paint photos from their amazing journeys.  I, at the moment, am not able to travel with abandon as I would like to. Money earned goes in other pockets - this is not a complaint, but just the simple truth.  Therefore, when I saw a photo taken in Montana and posted by a college friend, I was carried away by its beauty - hence I have now just completed this scene after working on it for the last few weeks.  I traveled out west in younger days, but I certainly never had the pleasure of seeing and feeling a rushing river/stream such as this one in Montana.  The pure glory of our incredible natural world must have been overwhelming when standing on the bank - moving one to tears I would like to think. 

Imagination, feeling and intense longing have to be at one end of your brush when you paint like I do, having never had the privilege of seeing such a vista.  How blessed and fortunate are those who travel. . .and how grateful I am to be given the opportunity to paint through their adventures.

Having recently been introduced to Daphne Merkin via an NPR radio interview, I read this quote of hers.  I took the liberty of substituting the word artist for writer and painting for writing, as I truly felt her quote could be applied to exactly how I feel and operate.

"It's hard to think of yourself as a professional artist. I still think of painting as something I do on the side even though by now I make something approaching a living at it.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that there's nowhere to go in the morning when you're an artist, even if you have a studio, except inside your own head."

~ Daphne Merkin with alteration by S. Donn

It is extraordinary and validating when you realize you are not alone and others think like you! 

Daphne Merkin is an American literary critic, essayist and novelist who has recently written a new memoir about depression - This Close to Happy - a reckoning with depression.

We all know the grandeur of nature can give new meaning to our lives, put things in perspective and provide an interior sustenance that's hard to come by.  I hope we all get to experience beauty as we work our way into spring and summer. . .and that we can perhaps get outside, literally, and perhaps outside of our heads for just a little while!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Giving Season . . .

 Give the best of you. 

It's said the greatest joy in life is giving, and as we go through this holiday season and close out the end of 2016, we will all (hopefully) realize the simple truth of it. 

I'm thinking of the myriad ways we give during our everyday life - letting someone go in front of you at the grocery store, smiling at a stranger who looks as if they may need a bright moment, letting someone in while stuck in a long traffic line, taking soup to a sick neighbor, saying a simple thank-you with meaning, making eye contact with the people who serve you.  And if you feel you have nothing to give, then just remember you always have love to give.  

Giving the best of me is part and parcel of what I attempt to incorporate into my work, especially commission work.  When someone has put their faith in me to bring about a desired outcome it's the only path to pursue in my opinion.  These last couple of months I've been working on three commission pieces that are gifts for Christmas - two landscapes and a still life that included a beloved pet.  Of course, the very origin of these commissions is love, that powerful, wonderful source of everything!  So it begins with love, is painted with love and given with love.  You can't go wrong with that. . .

Koa's Dream  .  12 x 12  .  oil on panel

Koa kitty fast asleep up on a shelf in peaceful security and his handsomeness, amongst the chotchkies of his humans' home.  Now by chotchkies, I don't mean worthless knick knacks - each of these items most likely has great sentimental value.  It's how we make a home, isn't it?  With "things" that make us remember or feel. 
 Koa has been singularly interesting since day one - his tail was run over and it doesn't work like most kitty's tails!  But nevermind, he doesn't let it interfere!  An inspiring example of stoicism.  AND he's been totally lost before - causing much anguish and concern before being found again.  Phew!  No, like most pets in our lives, never a dull moment. Commissioned by a daughter for the parents of this well-loved kitty - caught in a moment of sweet innocence.  Joy!

New Harbor, Maine  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas

Then there's the love of familiar places - places that provide the respite needed from the everyday life.  Making a pilgrimage yearly (usually early fall) to an area of the country they were not born to, but have come to love for its unique beauty and ambiance - that's the inspiration behind the two paintings of Maine.  I myself have only been to Maine once, but there's no doubt that it can stir your heart and make you yearn for a simpler way of life!  If only the WINTER could be softened, eh?  But. . .consider the lobster pound:

Five Island's Lobster Pound  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas
I framed these in very rustic barn wood floater frames that duplicated the atmosphere of Maine with all of its harbors and docks.  The detail was incredible on these 8 x 10's - I did a lot of research online to figure out the boats and the landscape of both areas.  The photos were not high quality and would have really suited as a reference for plein air or impressionist painting, but "my style" was requested and that required a little more study on my part, all done with a loving heart and the desire to give my best.

On a more personal note . . .

The long (too long!) protracted election cycle in this country, along with the subsequent election day being so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, seems to have taken a toll this year on the psyche in regard to even the mere thought of a holiday season. 

To say it has knocked the stuffing out of business for a lot of professions, including artists, may prove to be an understatement.  Change and the unknown, as well as human suffering and war, often trickles down with punition to those attempting to bring a little beauty into the world.  Like Koa kitty's stoicism, with patience we soldier on in our creative bubbles hoping to sell a painting or secure a new commission - hanging on to faith in our chosen profession and faith in our fellow human beings that they will continue to hope and have confidence. 

I don't know what 2017 will reveal to us.  Not one soul does.  But I will continue to give my best.  I chose hunger for my charity dollars this season and made donations to my local agency to feed those who are in such need.  With that giving I'm fulfilled and will continue to donate when I can through this next year, as the state I live in, North Carolina, has tremendous poverty.  Looking outside of ourselves and giving seems to me to be the very essence of living and life.  I'm wishing each and every one of you a giving heart this season - giving your best and giving with love.   

"Love is an element which though physically unseen is as real as air or water.  It is an acting, living, moving force. . .it moves in waves and currents like those of the ocean."
~ Prentice Mulford

Join me to ride the strong current of love this coming year. . .

Poinsettia Under Brass Lamp .  Watercolor .  by Sandy Donn

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Modern Portrait. . .

Charlotte  .  14 x 11"  .  oil on linen covered panel
I've been working of late on some commissions that can't be revealed or posted about yet - starting way ahead of Christmas gives a painter some breathing room, especially when portraits are involved, or anything of an intricacy for that matter!  

I'm breaking the silence today to feature my latest portrait of a young girl living way over on the other side of the country!  When I first saw her photographs, sent by her grandmother, I was instantly captivated by her old soul.  I always ask people to give me their impressions or thoughts of the commission subject as it makes all the difference in the world when attempting to capture a spirit and likeness.  Her grandmother is eloquent in expression and writing - she knew exactly what to convey about her beautiful eleven-year-old granddaughter!  That's an artist's dream when not able to paint in the flesh, so to speak.   

I find people really love the more modern thought of a casual portrait.  Yes, you can still see many traditional portraits (think seated in a formal setting with clothing the subject may never wear again, large bows in girl's hair, etc.) but like everything, taste changes.  The younger generations are desiring something more casual - smaller, yet intimate enough to capture your gaze immediately.  

Detail, Charlotte
Who can resist those golden, chocolate eyes?  Her old-world, Mona Lisa smile?  It's always interesting to me how some portraits absolutely seem to fall into place immediately - this was one of them.  When that happens you feel especially grateful, and it gives the whole process a rather mystical air. 

After painting Charlotte, I zinged immediately to a still life/pet combination commission, then on to two landscapes of Maine - commissioned to remind the receiver of his favorite place to vacation.  Although I overheard him say he put 1200 miles on the car over a two week period while there recently.  Just shows how the meaning of vacation is different for everyone!
Hmm. . .I'm thinking good book, outside, warm breeze, sun, quiet, island maybe, long walks.  

Hope your Thanksgiving is peaceful and loving - I imagine nearly all can agree it's one of the nicest of holidays and we are all probably ready for a reset this year.  Maybe it will begin Thanksgiving when we are reminded of our blessings as we gaze upon family and friends.  

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definition of ourselves (and others).
  ~ from Prayer of Thanksgiving - Vienna Cobb Anderson, with a little addition by me!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Before summer begins to fade. . .

Dunes  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas
Available in my Etsy shop

Yeah, I know summer has it's typical HOT August month to go, but the light is changing here (already!) in North Carolina.  I did a couple of small, quick paintings this past month thinking of summer and the beach, and wanted to post them before leaves begin to fall! 

 Having lived 50 miles from the beach for so many years, then actually across the street from the beach - well, I can honestly vouch for my beach cred.  A friend recently moved TO the beach - I LEFT all traces of beach and moved back to the seasons.  In truth, we all have our centers of gravity, and I've about decided mine is firmly with the earth - I say "about" because the minute I walk a beach at sunset I become an instant liar. 

What's important (I'm thinking out loud now) is that we seek out that which nourishes our very being, our soul - hence, the flocking to the beach in the summer, the love of the mountains in the fall, the silent drift of snow in winter.  The natural world is our gentle mother, our gate keeper, calling out to the beating of our battered hearts and minds.  Sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon is a beyond words experience, resoundingly spiritual.  If we could bottle it. . .Well, you get my point.  Maybe that's why paintings of landscape dominate galleries and buyer's minds. How fortunate that we have beautiful memories of escape to the natural world.  

Anna Maria Sunset  .  8 x 10  .  oil on linen canvas
Available in my Etsy shop

Hope your summer has been and will continue to be peachy, with trips planned to the natural world to round this season out.  
I have a couple of commissions ahead of me at the moment and won't be able to share them with you until they are received and permission is granted.  Please feel free to contact me if you are thinking of a commission for this Christmas - now is the time to begin the process!  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Grit and guts are the magic. . . .

ingredients to your success."  ~ Irwin Greenberg

I'm in wholehearted agreement with Mr. Greenberg, as weathering the cycles of art interest/demand can be daunting!  If you've painted for a while, you are very keen on what I'm talking about, and have adjusted to the ebb and flow - in fact, I think it may be one of the most important aspects of making art that should be shared with those who are just starting out!  It does take grit and guts. . .

When we head into summer it's only right that much needed vacations, family reunions, wonderful weddings, happy graduations (need I say more?) are first on the priority list.  If left wondering where your next commission might come from, get busy!  This is the time to double down on the chores that make your art life tick.  Freshen your sites, organize your computer files, update your lists, clean out your supply cabinet, re-arrange your studio - all the while fitting in time to paint, paint, paint. 

You can paint strictly from the heart when painting for yourself, and if you do quite a bit of commission work that's an important way to get back to finding out what moves you.  

I've been doing all of the above these last couple of weeks and life seems lighter.  I'm astounded at what builds up in the name of clutter - especially in my computer files!  I've backed up, cleaned out, categorized, created new folders - whew, it feels good.

Meanwhile, for the much needed painting, I decided to paint magnolia blossoms as 'tis the season.  I placed blooms in my favorite bowl and painted from life.  At the end of the first day I had to photograph it for further sessions - you may know magnolia blossoms (sadly) don't last long!  Their creamy color and texture plus the fantastic familiar fragrance speaks to many of us. It's the top note in Estee Lauder's Beautiful Love perfume - if you Google "magnolia scents in perfumes" you'll find a whole host of suggestions.  

Southern Magnolia  .  12 x 16"  .  oil on linen canvas with painted 1.5" edge
~ Available ~ 

Finding I had only one 36 x 12" canvas left, I went for creating a new dog portrait.  I've painted a few dogs over the years, but really wanted to say something different:

Tyrone . 36 x 12" . oil on linen canvas
Tyrone lived in St. Augustine, FL., and was much beloved - yes, he's no longer walking this earth.  A goof ball and sweetheart who lived amongst 20-somethings and knew all their secrets!  He seemed to have part Australian Shepherd and Black Lab in him. . .his paint job was uniquely pure Tyrone and I believe stories are still circulating in St. Aug about this pooch.

 Freshly varnished this week and available:
Summer at the River . 11 x 14" . oil on linen canvas

Dogwood Grace . 24 x 30" . oil on linen canvas

Last, but not least - varnished and shipped this week - a gift my client commissioned to commemorate a special time in someone's life.  Sakura cherry blossoms in Japan.  Paintings do make heartfelt gifts and this particular client is loaded up with beautiful ideas and gestures towards those she loves.  Whenever I get the chance to contribute to her largess, I'm honored.

Remembering Japan . 8 x 8" . oil on RayMar panel

On a very personal note the last few weeks have been extremely emotional due to the tragedy in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub.  I lived, worked in the medical field and painted in Orlando for thirty-three years and was deeply involved with the community, serving on boards while loving and caring about my city.  I watched it grow from 1972 on. . .raised my daughter there and still consider it my hometown even though it's not my birthplace.  I did my best growing up in Orlando.

I learned that one is very personally affected when something like this happens in a place you remember with love.  My neighbors included the Mayor and others actively involved in the City Beautiful - I saw the pain etched on their faces.  My heart still aches for my friends, those who knew a young person who lost his life, some who lived very near to Pulse - their neighborhood.  It changes everything and the black cloud lingers.  You wonder how life can go on when such a thing has happened, and yet we know it does.  I am so sorry for the tragic loss of the many young people just starting out - the ripples of pain and guilt and sorrow will roll out through their friends, family and community. . .and they will not be forgotten.  My deepest sympathy to all.

Mary Oliver's Poem "Heavy"
(from grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years)

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer, 
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends,
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions)
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it - -
books, bricks, grief - -
it's all in the way 
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled - -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?
Love and peace to you all. . .

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