Bird & Sunrise photo

Bird & Sunrise photo
Because "someday" is today!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jeff's Turn To Shine

The week before Christmas, Jeff received a commission for a southwestern church painted in his dramatic style to be given as a gift. Of course his friend wondered if he could finish it in time for Christmas! So, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but an amazingly bold painting as the end of the week drew near.

Jeff chose acrylics because he knew they would dry lightning fast, and they were what he used on his other church paintings. It really helps to be familiar with your media and the color palette. Jeff painted for years with acrylics before he tried the oils. His art loving friend actually wanted to buy the "Zuni Pueblo Church" painting, but Jeff wasn't ready to part with that particular piece. Jeff reassured him that he could do something very similar and his friend was very happy with the result.

I was impressed that he has such a distinctive style. Some people love it and others don't, but it is something they always told us in art school you must have so that people could instantly recognize your work. He has held back for a lot of years because he got an initial response from someone that he respected that was somewhat negative. (I believe the term used was "horror show".) Lately, he has had some more positive responses, and this commission has been the best of all. I am incredibly proud of him and hope he will continue to paint more great paintings.

Jeff's Corner: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Under The Surface

I made good progress on the second Petra painting, but I realized that in between all the cookie baking, snow shoveling, and other holiday commitments, I didn't enter a blog last week! Hopefully, everyone else has been just as busy and didn't notice.

I am coming near completion of this painting, and I feel like the color balance is much better. I had a friend comment that it must be just like paint by number once you get the black and white values in place. It might seem that way, but I still had to make a lot of choices to get the right colors. I tried an idea I read about recently where you cut a small square out of a white piece of paper and look through the square to really see the color you are looking at. This was especially helpful on the ground color because last time I kept seeing it as too brown and didn't get enough gray, blue and green.

The black and white underpainting does help a bunch for placement and it is kind of magical how all the colors seem to have the right value now and don't seem so overly bright and unnatural. Eventually, I may learn to do this by mixing the colors with enough black in the first place, but for now, I am really glad to have a tool that I know will work.

Some positive results from my fixation with painting cats is that I may have two more commissions from other folks who love their feline friends. I am delighted with the opportunity to keep on learning and provide people with something they will enjoy.

Jeff's Corner: You should see my paint-by-number Mark Rothko...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cats and Dogs

This fall I had a successful animal portrait titled "Cheech Puppy". At the time, I was experimenting with not doing a black and white underpainting first, and I thought this particular painting worked very well.

Because of that portrait, I received a commission to paint a cat named Petra. I started this painting without an underpainting before we left for Greece, so it was waiting for me half-finished when I returned home.

I had a goal to have this commission finished early in December and I went straight to work. Imagine my dismay when I was getting near completion and everything with the color just felt unconnected and "off". The leaves seemed too bright, the ground too chocolate brown, and Petra's eyes too green.

While we were in Greece, I did one painting of a black and white kitten I titled "Who, Me?", and I did use a black and white underpainting which really was helpful in getting a successful painting. Reluctantly, I came to the conclusion that I would have to start over with Petra. Even though it would mean an extra week of drying time, I did do the underpainting with black and white aqua- oils instead of acrylics just to see if the painting would have even more depth.

Thankfully, I already feel the painting is more unified, and I hope that when I add the color this week, it will maintain this unity. Stay tuned until next week...

Jeff's Corner: Underpainting? I thought she said black and white underpants!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Odyssey

It all started with a little change of our scheduled flight out of Rhodes from 6:40 am to 7:10 am. The airline said we wouldn't make our connecting flight in Athens to Munich, so we changed our departure time to 9:40 pm the night before and planned to make the best of staying in the Athens airport for nine hours overnight.

We searched for seats without armrests and found them already occupied by other travelers spending the night. Jeff finally gave up and slept on the floor. We managed to get a few hours sleep before an irate group of French speaking people arrived around 4:00 am. They were certainly angry about something! We got up and had breakfast at the McDonald's Cafe on the third floor. It was quiet and we discovered a museum nearby containing some great artifacts they found before the new Athens airport was built on the archeological site.

We arrived in perfect time at our departure gate to find all the seats filled with passengers waiting for the flight before which was delayed because of weather. They moved us to another gate and still our flight was delayed 25 minutes. So much for our heroic efforts of staying in the airport overnight so we would be on time!

When we arrived in Munich, we anxiously went through check in and the passport check line and then RAN with our heavy carry-on luggage to gate H-36 for our flight to Chicago. We missed the flight. Walking back to the Lufthansa help desk, we were uncertain what would happen next. The lady there was so helpful, she was determined to not only get us a flight to the USA, but a good flight schedule. An hour later, we had plans to fly to Frankfurt in the morning and then a direct flight to Denver. She also called Aegean Air and they agreed to pay for our hotel for the night. Our helpful angel was a bit frustrated when she couldn't get our ticket from Denver to Alberquerque to print out. Writing us a handwritten ticket, she warned us twice not to lose it.

Waiting outside for the shuttle bus to the Sheraton Hotel was a chilly proposition. It was around 35 degrees and damp. The Germans gave us some puzzled looks since we were not dressed for the occasion. My bright purple flannel shirt was strange among all those black and dark blue coats. Our hotel stay included a lovely dinner and light breakfast and we we were so grateful not to spend our few remaining Euros.

The flight to Frankfurt was perfect and we had plenty of time to catch our next flight to Denver. Our concerns started to rise again when we got to our gate and there was a huge crowd of people and nothing was happening. Eventually, instead of boarding the usual way, they led us down several stairways and down a long hall, and finally loaded all four hundred of us on buses! After a long ride, we boarded the airplane from the tarmack. The pilot apologized that for some reason the airplane had not been cleaned. He said that it looked like a "frat party" had occurred on board and that was the cause of the delay. Thankfully in the ten hour flight, the pilot was able to make up ten minutes of the 20 minute delay, so we landed in Denver almost on time.

Unfortunately, several other international flights arrived at the same time and the line to go through customs was huge, plus we had to claim our checked bags and recheck them on United to go to Alberquerque. Again, we were running to get to our gate and arrived just in time to watch our airplane backing away from the boarding dock! Arrrgh. We were not late, but they left a little early because they didn't know to look for us because we were not in the computer because the ticket wouldn't print in Munich and we only had the hand written ticket!

Back to the United Gate, who sent us to Lufthansa, who sent us all the way back to the Lufthansa Desk in the main terminal, where we encountered a line of about 30 unhappy Germans who had also missed their flights.

Jeff was supposed to leave for Chicago in the morning for work, but after some discussion and several phone calls, we decided to stay in Denver. The airline wouldn't pay for the hotel, since they were only nine minutes late, but we did get a substantial discount which helped. We were so tired and jet-lagged that we waited in the wrong place for the shuttle bus. Finally, we got to the hotel where Jeff fell asleep with the t.v. remote in one hand and a bag of uneaten cookies in the other.

We arrived at the airport the next morning optimistic and with a nice two hour time cushion. While we were going through the security check, we were flagged and given the full TSA search with the body x-ray and our carry-on baggage completely unpacked and searched. We were flagged because our flight plan had changed in the last 24 hours!

Finally, we go to board the train that will take us to the concourse we need to be to board our plane. We realize the terminal is filling with people and the trains are not running. Our time cushion is slipping away! Eventually the trains start moving, but it takes several before we can get on. I actually have a small laughing fit because this is all beginning to feel completely ridiculous. We arrive at our gate just as they are beginning to board the plane. Whew!

We experience a miracle in Alberquerque when our checked luggage actually show up on the carousel, we had no idea where it might be. Our three hour drive to Taos is pleasant, the weather is lovely. We stop to get some groceries in town and then go to drive the last nine miles home up Taos canyon. At the entrance, we find there are police cars and an angry officer that won't let any one pass. Eventually, we learn there was a fatal accident and it may be a three hour wait or more.

Considering our options, we decide to take the gravel forest service road that goes over the mountain and comes out about a mile from our house. An hour and a half later, we come to the junction where the dirt road meets the highway, and find an angry, frustrated fireman who won't let us past. Amazed, Jeff parks the truck on the side of the road and we wait. It's getting cold, I feel like crying, and Jeff is wondering if we could walk that last mile. Finally, the fireman comes over and apologizes. He thought we were just more people trying to go down and get a look at the accident. After promising that we sincerely just want to go home, he lets us pass. We arrive home 81 hours after we left the apartment in Greece! A full two days later than planned.

We have really discussed and pondered what all this was about. I have decided that perhaps I was to learn that delays do not necessarily mean you won't get to your destination. Staying calm and having a sense of humour are invaluable. I am keeping this is mind as I consider my art career and the recent financial crisis. I am grateful that we were fine, even though we didn't know what would happen next!

Jeff's corner: The Odyssey by Homer Simpson: "D'oh!!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Time Warp

Hello all, I had plans to write about our trip home which is quite the story, but I am short on time and still trying to adjust to being home. We have found that it is taking longer than we thought to get back into the swing of things. Jeff got an extra bonus by getting sick the day after we got home. All my paranoid taking of garlic and germ fighters for enclosed spaces seem to have paid off, I didn't catch what Jeff had, which for those who know me, the Queen-of-Colds, is quite the miracle!

Another thing we didn't expect was to still have any sort of employment. Our talented boss decided that maybe we could work out something long distance. We have still had to move the part of the studio we will be using here to a new location, so that has taken some time and adjustment. I did request an extra day off each week to work on my own artwork and she was willing to accommodate me.

Jeff and I met a lovely lady when we were at a friends wedding this fall, and she is interested in showing our paintings this spring at a local hotel-spa-resort. They are interested in Southwest themes and so we will have to put the Greece paintings on hold if we want to be considered for that show. We would love to take advantage of the opportunity and plan to go out and try to see and photograph this area just like we did in Greece.

Our photos from Greece are still in our cameras and I have not completely unpacked one of my bags. I am trying my best to hold on to the calm, easy attitude I had there and not get so stressed out with everyday life. Our mantra on the trip was that "everything works out", and it did, when I relaxed and let it! I am posting my most favorite photo from the trip. It was supposed to go on the "Wild Things" blog, but I couldn't find it last time. This cat came by while we were on the beach with all the confidence in the world and made himself quite at home on my towel. When he had received the attention he thought he deserved, he continued on down the beach to greet the next lucky person. Everything works out, eventually.

Jeff's Corner: Airplanes are just flying germ cans! (cough, cough)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wild Things

My jet-lagged mind is finally starting to clear and I realized it had been over a week since I last posted on the blog! Thanks so much to all of you who have been reading and commenting, it meant so much to up to hear from you and it kept me focused to keep on writing. It was a good exercise to try and crystallize our experiences as they were happening. It did take effort to write it all down, go to the internet cafe, pay a Euro and a half for an hour of time, then type like crazy amid cigarette smoke, loud music, and the twenty-something crowd playing video games.

If you asked me what kind of wild life we saw in Rhodes, besides the people at the internet cafe, I would have to answer "cats". They were everywhere; in the dumpsters, on door steps and on the beach. I couldn't resist them and Jeff teased me about taking pictures of "another cat". But when I was starting to run out of space on my photo card towards the end of the trip, he took some of the most wonderful cat pictures for me. What a sweetheart!

The second type of wild life I would mention would have to be goats. They would casually cross the highway, sit unconcerned on the warm pavement, and eat your stuff on the beach if they thought you weren't looking. We were greatly amazed when we visited the castle ruin at Asklipio. We were taking pictures from the outside of the castle walls, when I looked up and saw what looked like an rear end of a goat hanging over the wall. When we got inside, there were goats sunning themselves on every wall imaginable. "Ancient Castle With Goats" was the title we decided would be appropriate for the painting inspired by those photos.

I later asked one of the island locals if anyone was actually watching all those wandering herds. He said they did belong to people, but if you accidentally hit and killed one of the goats with your car, the owner couldn't claim damages.

The donkeys carrying the tourists to the top of the castle in Lindos were not exactly wild, but hearing them bray every now and then was a sound we didn't expect to hear. There was a funny postcard with a donkey watching a cruise ship come in. In his thought bubble, he was unhappily remembering his journey with the last shipload of overweight tourists.

I couldn't resist doing a painting of one of the wild life I loved the most. A little street kitten I saw in Rhodos, Old Town. I loved his bright-eyed expression. I hope you will enjoy it too.

Jeff's Corner: My favorite wild life were the nudists on the south end of Tsambika beach.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yes, But What About The Paintings?

Many of you are wondering if we are getting any painting done with all the sight-seeing, beach hopping and learning of history, etc.

We did end up discussing this very topic early on in our adventure. I thought we should be painting more, and Jeff thought we shouldn't miss anything here. Jeff claims he had no idea there would be so much to do and see. I have to say, it far exceeded my expectations. At the closing of our time here, I'm glad we went out to see all we possibly could.

We tried to develop the quickest way to get paintings done in this more humid climate. Doing a detailed underpainting with black and white acrylic paints dries very quickly and makes adding the color with the oil paints much easier. We could also use thinner coats of oil paint and that also helps the drying time.

My original expectation was that in a month, each of us could at least have eight to ten paintings completed. The actual final tally is that I have three completely finished with color, and Jeff has six, but only one complete with color. Of course he had to do a detailed triptych of the Palace of the Grand Masters....

Many times life just doesn't match what I first expect or believe. We have discovered that the airport here has a section just as sleek and up-to-date as Munich. The flights from Europe come in there. WE came in on the section the local people fly in on. They don't care about bathrooms because they live here.

In the little shops that looked so "touristy" at first, we have discovered some of the nicest local people. We have been invited for Sunday dinner, which we gladly accepted the invitation. Another family let us know about their daughters performance of Byzantine Greek style music in a traditional Greek taverna. We were the only tourists there, and the music was amazing! There are elegantly designed homes and neighborhoods as well as the older, more worn ones. It was well worth exploring the places that the tour buses didn't go.

It is a good thing to look deeper than my first impressions, and adjust my expectations. We may not have completed many paintings, but we have certainly been energized and inspired to paint, and we wouldn't trade any one of our experiences here. Sometimes the "Giant Cross You Can't See" just happens to sit over the crest of the hill, and if you take the bus by-pass, you can see it perfectly for miles!

Jeff's Corner: The last impression I made was a butt print in the sand on the beach!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tale of Four Cities

In 408 BC, the three city-states of Rhodes: Ialyssos, Lindos, and Kamiros joined together to form the new capitol Rodos at the northern tip of the island.

Learning about the city-states, I really felt the tie to our own country's history. They were designed to protect their citizens, their rights, ensure their liberty and provide them with opportunities. In return, citizens were responsible for participating in politics and in obeying the law.

Early on, we planned to visit all four cities. I was a little disappointed that Ialyssos had the least amount of actual Greek ruins. It's strategic location high on a hill with good land for growing crops nearby was attractive to the Byzantine monks, Genoese merchants, Christian Knights, Turkish, and Italians too! Everyone built something on, or around the old city.

Lindos had the most stunning setting high on a point jutting into the sea. More of the acropolis was left because thankfully, the Knights of St. John simply built their castle walls around it. We were delighted to see the small harbour where the Apostle Paul landed around 52 AD to teach the Greeks the Gospel. The city of Lindos still sits below the castle walls and is filled to capacity with bus loads of tourists. Even in the "off season", we counted twenty-six buses in the parking lot. Beautiful white city, but go EARLY in the morning!

Kamiros was the smallest of the city-states. After a severe earthquake in 226 BC, the same quake that took down the Colossus, the city was abandoned and only rediscovered in 1859. We loved wandering around here because we were in the actual old city. The walls of the homes and public buildings were still in place. We explored them, then climbed the long central stepped street up the hill where the many columned stoa and temple of Athena stood, and looked out to the sea. The columns were no longer in place, but we could imagine how beautiful it would have been.

The new capital, Rodos, was laid out in the "new" grid system which was much in vogue at the time, with planned residential and commercial quarters. When Jeff saw a map of the ancient city, he was instantly in love. It was nothing like the twisting maze of roads that exist in the medieval city and the modern city today. We could barely imagine the original Greek city walls that measured 15 kilometers around, but the few corner columns left of the temple of Apollo are massive! We also liked the restored theater and stadium which are still in use for events.

A hundred years after the city-states created Rodos, the city was attacked by Demetrios of Macedonia. Rodos successfully withstood the siege, and celebrated by using the materials from the abandoned siege engines to fund the building of the Colossus. Talk about public funding for the Arts! The Colossus was one of the inspirations for the French artist who designed the Statue of Liberty. The radiating "rays" from the head of the sun god Helios look familiar to us encircling the head of our Lady Liberty. Sometimes we don't realize how closely our present is linked to the distant past.

Jeff's Corner: If the grid system existed today, I could get to the beach quicker!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joy Ride

Our horizons definitely opened up when we got a car. The first day we immediately headed down the west side of the island and soon we could see the rocky coastline, pine forests, and spectacular blue water vistas we had been waiting to see.

Finding a wonderful castle perched on a steep cliff just outside the small town of Kritinia was a delight. Most of the castle was gone, but the shell that was left was great to explore. Just down the road was another castle at Monolithos. Those Knights of St. John were busy! We now know of six castles on this island, plus others on the islands of Halki and Symi.

In Switzerland, we managed just fine without a car. Even though we stayed in a fairly remote area, the railway system got us were we needed to go. The bus system here is good, if you just want to see the big main attractions. It is also pretty crowded even in the "off season" and it doesn't go to the southern part of the island very often, if at all.

So far we have logged about 1,000 Kilometers on that little grey car, exploring most of the roads on the island. It's been worth every penny to beat the crowds for photographing the acropolis at Lindos, getting to see the frescoes at the remote Thari and Yeoryis Vardhas churches, and having a stretch of golden sand almost to ourselves at Mavros Kavos beach.

The local drivers are a little pushy, especially the ones who drive BMW and Mercedes vehicles. Sometimes the signs can be tricky to find, but it is still driving on the right side of the road and Jeff has excellent reflexes!

Jeff's Corner: It only took seven days before I was complaining about how slow the tourists drive. I feel right at home-

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventures In Walking

The first few days we were recovering from jet lag. It is nine hours ahead here, so Jeff was up most the night and I couldn't wake up in the morning!

We didn't have a car yet, so we were walking to any destinations reasonably close by. Thankfully the supermarket was only a block away.

The first serious sight-seeing location we attempted besides the beach, was Filerimos hill. Located about three miles away, with many layers of history. The Turk, Suleyman the Magnificent, directed the successful 1522 AD siege of Rhodes from the Byzantine castle here. We also wanted to see the ancient acropolis of Ialyssos, one of the founding city states of Rhodes, plus the temples of Zeus and Athena built atop an older Phoenician shrine. The barrel vaulted church of St Ai Yeorgis Hortas with fourteenth and fiftheenth-century frescoes also intrigued us.

The defining marker on the hill is a huge 70 foot concrete cross the Italians built after they took over Rhodes in 1912 during the first World War. We understood the cross could be seen in nearby Turkey, so we thought we would easily locate the correct hill. After an hour and a half of walking, trying to understand Greek signs and dodging traffic, we finally gave up and walked to Rodhos, Old Town which is four miles away instead.

We were so energized after seeing the great sights in Old Town, that we decided to take the beach walk back to Ixia, even though it was longer than the way we walked in originally. It wrapped around the farthest north point of the island and was very scenic with the sun setting over the water. Wow, absolutely worth it!

However, after the sun went down, we got to the part of the walk way that they were still finishing. Working our way around construction and with the adrenaline rush over, I was wishing I was on one of those buses whizzing by! Eventually we got back to the apartment, had some dinner and the world was a great place again.

Days later, after we rented a car, Jeff was determined to find out where we had gone wrong going to Filerimos. Imagine our chagrin when we discovered at one of the confusing busy intersections we had been stuck at, a small sign on a tall post pointing to Filerimos. We didn't see it because we had been standing right under it!

Jeff's Corner: Don't forget to look UP....

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Old and The New

The castle of the Knight's of St. John.
The castle of the Knights of St. John.
We decided to walk from Ixia to Rodhos, Old Town, and save the eight Euros for the round trip. We found that the sidewalk lasted about two and a half miles and the last half mile or so was an interesting exercise in keeping out of the way of traffic while navigating the drainage ditch! I thought we were the only ones doing something so adventurous, until we saw another couple coming down the hill towards us!
One the of the eleven entrance arches into "Old Town", Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
One of the entrance arches into the "Old Town".

We entered Rhodos town in the section where the regular people live and not where the tour buses go. The homes and businesses were not big or fancy, but we smelled some wonderful food cooking. After studying several maps, Jeff had a basic idea of where we were headed, but there were not regular street signs to give us much direction. (The locals know where they are going.) We did come across unexpectedly some ancient Greek ruins, we think they are tombs. They were located right at a busy intersection, with just a small sign to note they were even there. The old was right in the middle of the new.

Bell tower close up, Rhodes-Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
Bell tower close up.
Another accidental find was a beautiful church that was still in use. It had paintings on the outside illustrating the life of John the Baptist in the old Byzantine style. It also had a lovely bell tower. There were notes to the congregation for recent memorials posted outside the doors.
Turkish catapult stone embedded in the wall, "Old Town", Rhodes-Greece.  © 2008 Tina M. Welter
Turkish catapult stone embedded in the wall.
Imagine "storming" this castle! Walking in the moat, "Old Town" Rhodes, Greece  ©2008 Tina M. Welter
Imagine "storming" this castle!

Eventually we found an entrance to the medieval city built by the Knights of St. John. It was stunning walking through the huge gateway in the outside wall, over the the moat and through the outer and inner doors of the city wall. We were admiring the stonework when we were startled by a car coming up behind us and then several people on their moped bikes. We couldn't imagine anyone being allowed to drive modern vehicles in the old city! When we walked into the city itself, it looked just like some ancient fairytale. Narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful doors opening to shops on every side, and people milling around everywhere. It was like an ancient stone labyrinth. After several twists and turns, I had a moment of claustrophobia thinking I was like a mouse that didn't know where the exit was, let alone the cheese!
Nice parking space for your moped, Old Town, Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Nice garage.

Jeff reassured me by showing me the map with the eleven city gates that surround the city and I relaxed. We went down some side streets and realized that there were people still living here, with their cars and moped bikes parked just outside their doors. We realized that we were thinking this was a National Park, but it wasn't, it was a living city. We could see Real Estate signs for homes to buy. Some entrances had fallen into neglect and we could look through and see an old courtyard and rooms crumbling away, yet next door could be a beautifully painted and restored home. The old and new together.
Living in one of the old churches today, a new home in an old church. Old Town, Rhodes- Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
New home, old church.

Beautiful red and white detail work, Turkish Mosque  Old Town, Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
I love the detail work.

It took us two days to see the whole city. There were two Mosques from when the Turkish ruled the city, a Jewish synagogue, several Greek Orthodox churches, many Knights' residences, and an amazing castle that was the headquarters for the Knights of St. John. Of course there were plenty of shops geared towards the tourist trade. Especially inside the gate that faces the harbour where the cruise ships dock. But even this new type of market had it's place. It gave the city a feeling of life and energy. Looking at it from a distance, we could imagine it was any era with people going about their business.
All the crowds are at this end of town.  Cruise ship outside the walls of Old Town, Rhodes-Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Here come the people!

I saw a sticker on one of the mailboxes at one of the residences. It said "I Love Old Town". It was strange at first to consider living with all those tourists everyday, but I could see loving something that had so many layers, like a great cake. This latest was just one of the many, and also to be enjoyed.

Jeff's Corner: I particularly liked the people driving their hybrid cars through the medieval gate to get the ATM located in the 600 year old building. (Too bad it didn't dispense drachmas...)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

First Impressions

From the airplane, Rhodes reminded me of Hawaii, a vast expanse of blue water with clouds and islands scattered about. The airport was filled with a lot of different languages besides Greek, there was English, Swedish, German, Russian, and some we didn't recognize. Hardly an American accent to be heard. The airport restroom was markedly different than the sleek accommodations at the Munich airport. Luckily, I did have my own paper.
Walking along Avra beach, Rhodes, Greece. © 2008 Jeff Welter
Tina on the Aegean.

After changing some dollars into Euros, we gathered our luggage and went to wait at the bus stop. Yes, we are being cost conscience, but we were also warned by the "Rough Guide" that the taxi drivers like to take you where they think you should go. Mostly the places that offer them a kickback for every guest procured.
Fishing boat with Turkey in the distance, beautiful evening at Avra beach. Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Fishing boat with Turkey in the distance.

Jeff asked a local fellow waiting at the bus stop where the bus was going and how much it would cost. He didn't speak English, but he wrote down the desired information. A very impressive bit of friendliness considering how many tourists come here every year.
Really nice homes in the neighborhood of Ixia.  Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
These were the really nice houses away from the main street.

Once on the bus, the city whizzing by the windows didn't look particularly impressive. A lot of small businesses, one after another geared toward tourism, many with that faded patina of age. Several buildings looked half finished with re-bar sticking out of them. Later we learned that the owner saves on taxes if their building isn't finished!

We were trying to read the bus stop names, but we just kept seeing the same Greek phrase. Finally, Jeff realized it was "BUS STOP" in Greek letters. Apparently the city funds didn't cover bus stop signs. Jeff asked the bus driver for Avra Beach, and he seemed to understand what that meant. I was relieved since I was envisioning us with our four pieces of luggage riding around the island for hours with no idea of where we were! Getting off the bus was a bit disorienting, but soon we located the Napoli Restruant. The staff knew to take us to the apartment just around the corner.
Apartment we rented in Rhodes, Greece.  The futon was tricky to open and lock into place.
The apartment WAS this nice!

Kitchen, apartment in Rhodes, Greece.  My first experience with one sink dish-washing.
Nice kitchen.

The courtyard with flowering jasmine mmm...

I felt such anticipation at the apartment door. Would it be as nice as the photos, or would it be a long month of disappointment? It was perfect, and even better than we had hoped. After twenty six hours of travel time, we hit that futon bed and slept for sixteen hours. (Once we figured out how to open the darn thing!)

Jeff's Corner: My first impression; I suspect Greece is the New Mexico of Europe.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Island of Rhodes

Rodos, as the Greeks call the island of Rhodes, located in the southeast Aegean sea near Turkey
Rodhos, as the Greeks call it, is located in the southeast Aegean sea near Turkey. Many travelers go there because of the numerous sandy beaches on it's south east coast. We are staying in the town of Ixia, which is on the more gravelly and windy northwest part of the island, which makes the lodgings more affordable. The good part, besides the financial savings, is that Ixia is only about 4 miles away from Rodhos town.

Rodhos town is described as a "remarkably preserved medieval city". The crusading Knights of St. John used the island as a main base from 1309 until 1522. One of the things that attracted us to Rhodes was the great old architecture. We hope to fine lots of inspiration in the old town

We are also traveling during the "off season", which is something else we always try to do since we don't like a lot of crowds. It saves money and right now the weather in Rhodes is in the 70 to 80 degrees instead of the baking hot temperatures of the high summer season.
The Rhodian population of fallow deer was found to be genetically distinct in 2005.  photo © 2008 Tina M. Welter
Rhodian Fallow deer sculpture in place of the Colossus.

I always wanted to see the harbor where the "Colossus of Rhodes" stood. The bronze statue of the Greek god Helios didn't straddle the harbor like some of the Fifteenth century drawings show, but it did stand 107 feet high. Having worked on creating bronze statues, I can really appreciate this. Unfortunately, the finished piece only stood about fifty years before and earthquake in 226 BC broke it off at the knees. In fear of offending their god, Helios, the Greeks didn't dare move the broken pieces. It stayed there for 800 years when the invading Turkish armies dismantled it. It would be great to create a piece of art that people still came to admire even when it was broken!

Jeff's Corner: Looks like Tina has finally become a "Rhodes" scholar!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Preparing For Take Off

Portable Art Studio, packing to go painting for a month in Rhodes, Greece, fall 2008
Our "Art Studio" in the apartment in Rhodes, Greece.
Many times we give ourselves excuses for not creating because we don't have the perfect dream space to do it in. I realized that we are challenging that assumption by taking our own art studio in a suitcase. My space for a studio at home is small, but the space of two suitcases, one sized at 18 x 24 x 10 and the other 14 x 21 x 9, is quite a bit smaller! Much like solving a Chinese puzzle, it involves placing all the pieces in just the right order.

Our essentials include: two portable easels that we found at Art Supplies Online (I would definitely recommend these easels), paints, brushes, medium, palettes, and of course, canvases. Our canvas sizes are small, 11 x 14, 9 x 12 and 6 x 9, but we have a total of 28 of them. Jeff is brilliant at figuring out the volume available in a suitcase. We are also taking digital cameras and a tiny photo printer. If we decide we need a light source, i.e. a lamp, we will have to buy it there.

The master plan is to check the bags with the studio supplies in them and carry on one bag each containing our clothes. We thought this would be the most efficient strategy and would fulfill any airline regulations. Now I just have to get everything I need for a month in one bag. My biggest problems are running shoes and vitamin supplements, neither of which I want to live without. One of my friends suggested rolling the vitamins up in a cloth pocket pouch. Pretty good idea. If anyone else has any fun packing suggestions, let us know!

Jeff's Corner: "You can't always take what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you can take what you need..." (with apologies to the Rolling Stones)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Persistence of Memory

When I decided to start the water, I tried to match the main blue color near the beach towards the middle of the painting. Once I established that color, I could add a little black to make a shadowed version or white to lighten it. I had three brushes loaded with those different color values, depending on what one I needed.I was really careful to not cover the reflective pinks and yellows with too much blue.

As I was painting, the most surprising thing happened. I found myself remembering the time I lived along the Oregon seacoast years ago, and the sound of the ocean and things I had observed came back to me. I remembered the way the water crashed and swished around the rocks along the beach and how certain patterns of white foam formed on the really dark water. I thought about the patterns the waves make as they come in and how the shadows form on the wave sides facing away from the light.

I was amazed that painting a seascape brought back the sights and sounds so vividly. Many times in art classes we were advised to go and experience a subject so that you can really portray it. I often wondered if it was really worth the trouble, but after this experience, I am excited to actually go to Greece myself and see how that affects my perception for even better paintings.

Jeff's Corner: Yeah, but where are the melted clocks?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Road Blocks

I wanted to practice painting a landscape with the oil paints before we go to Greece this October. After finding a copyright-free image that I liked, I started with the drawing. Using my imagination, I added the tops to the buildings that were cut off in the photo. Then I adjusted the composition by adding more sky space to the top and more sea to the right.

When I had a drawing I liked, I transferred it to the canvas. Next I painted in that golden sky and some of that same color as highlights on the water, then progress stopped. I did have to go out of town, but even when I returned I couldn't seem to get going again.

After a week, I examined my feelings and realized I was very anxious. I chose this image because I liked the low golden sunlight on the water and the buildings, which is want I wanted to capture in the painting. This was also the reason I was stuck. I wasn't sure how to proceed and I feared making mistakes. Once I realized that was the problem, I knew I had to move past this mental "creativity killer".

When I got up the next morning, I didn't allow myself time to think about it. I settled in, brushes in hand and decided I could get all the dark and light values in the rock face behind the buildings. This went so well, I continued with the rocks in the front of the buildings. My painting time was up, but now I felt like I wanted to finish the painting.

I am still uncertain on how to do the water, but I think if I just focus on the dark and light values one section at a time, I will be all right. I feel a bit nervous putting a painting that isn't finished out for everyone to see, but I am learning it is all about facing the fear!

Jeff's Corner: Sometimes your roadblocks may just be sobriety checks...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is It Real or Imagined?

I had a discussion with Jeff on the subject of "realistic" paintings. If a painting has a recognizable subject matter and looks like something that exists in the visual world, does the artist use their imagination to create such a painting or not?

We talked about the color choices the artist could make and decisions about composition. What elements of the scene do they leave in and what do they leave out. Do you make your subject look better than it really is, like the portrait painters for the royal Spanish courts in the 1500's? What parts of the subject matter do you bring into focus and what do you leave in the background?

After considering all the different choices an artist could make, we decided that even a realistic subject requires quite a bit of imagination.

I thought of some of Jeff's paintings of churches he completed a few years ago as an interesting subject to consider. I will include one, even though I don't have his original inspiration to show you. I decided also to show an example of one of my flower photos and the painting I created from being inspired by that photo. What do you think?

Jeff's Corner: What you see is what you beget!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's In Your World?

Imagine a world. I've been thinking of this idea all week. I haven't imagined a would since I was at least six. I remember what it used to feel like, but somewhere along the way I decided I would rather read about other people's worlds in books. I think I stopped believing I was creative enough to make up my own.

I've been reading Eric Maisel's "The Creativity Book" which is full of a years worth of exercises to help you become an "everyday creative person", no matter what your personal creative passion is. This particular exercise really got to me. I realized how incredibly organized and goal oriented most of my thinking is all day. I get a lot done, but it feels like I never let my mind out to play!

I also happened to see the movie "Bridge to Terebithia" this week and it was all about two young people who use this creative ability to deal with the difficult things in their lives, i.e. school bullies, parents, and death. It had more substance to it than most "kid" movies and it made a good point on how our imaginations can help us.

Think about it. What kind of things would you do in your world? Who would you meet? So far, I know I would have my own flying car, I would go to a beautiful deserted beach and then some adventure would ensue involving a giant fish that swallowed the moon....

Try it out. It's a great stress reliever. Let me know if you surprise yourself!

Jeff's corner: In my world, every road would have a special lane just for me, and all the traffic lights would be GREEN!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Fox and The Hound

After such a difficult time painting my first oil painting in twenty years using the red fox as a subject (see my entry "Who Said Oil and Water Don't Mix"), I feel very proud of my latest accomplishment. I decided to do a 6" x 8" painting of a Rottweiler puppy as a birthday gift for a friend of mine. This was a much better experience and I would like to share with you what I learned.

First: Good reference photos. Good reference photos! Good reference photos!!! This means that there is a clear light source so the shadows and light parts of the subject are easy to see. To me, understanding where these light and dark parts really belong make a great painting.

Second: Get the personality of the subject. Get up close so you can really see the expression of the subject.

Third: The photo must be in focus. No guessing about what is going on. I know artists are supposed to use their "imagination" to fill in things, but when I am trying to learn a new subject, it's not a good time to do this.

Fourth: Have a great drawing first. I did a drawing which I transferred to the canvas. Instead of doing a one color underpainting for placement, I could place the darks and lights right where I needed them the first time, which saved me so much time and headache repainting.

The result was a painting that took me half the time, was twice the fun to do and felt very satisfying for me to complete. Lessons learned. Tell me what you think!

Jeff's Corner: Just like a news story, a painting is only as good as its source.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Old Dog, Old Tricks

The next flower painting that had back light shining through the leaves and petals, I chose to use a watercolor technique that I know very well. My subject was yellow daisies, so I painted the whole canvas the yellow I wanted for the main color of the flowers. The next step is to paint everything else that isn't flower petals and leave that yellow basically untouched for the flowers.

It worked really well. I got that nice sheer glow that I wanted and not that heavy dull color that can happen when white is mixed into a color to lighten it. Jeff laughed when he saw that painting and said "you have made an oil painting look like a watercolor!" He suggested that I add a little more weight to the rocks because they did look a bit too sheer like the flowers. Since the rocks were reflecting light and not having light shine through them, this was good advice.

I was glad to learn that I could bring some of my old watercolor skills to this new style of painting. This change also helped me to finish the painting faster than the pansy, i.e. ten hours instead of fourteen and a half. This is very encouraging to me.

Speaking of encouraging, I would like to thank Kathy for lifting my spirits on a tough day and for her interest in the little fox painting. Most of this battle for a change in my life is in my mind. I knew it would be, but it is wonderful to get reinforcements from outside now and then!

Jeff's Corner: "Sit, Ubu, Sit (Woof!) Good Dog..."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Letting Go

A few years ago, May of 1997, I finished a 24"x 18" acrylic painting of a purple iris. I was so pleased, and felt it was the best thing I had ever done. Of course I showed it to friends and family because it felt like such an accomplishment.

I had one friend actually ask if I would sell it to her. I was surprised and flattered, but I couldn't let it go because I had such an emotional connection to the painting.

Now in the present, I thought I would have an easier time letting go of paintings. I am finding it is still hard. It's funny how things you don't deal with are still there waiting for you! I know it's necessary if I am going to really sell any art. If any of you have some helpful thoughts on how you have learned how to let go, I would love to read them. Yes, I still have the painting.

Jeff's Corner: If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, you probably put the wrong address on the package.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Flower Power

After my adventures trying to paint wildlife, I decided to do a subject I am more familiar with. I chose from my flower photos a single pansy viewed from the back with light coming through the petals. I love when the sunlight makes the flower petals glow. I chose another small canvas, 6"x 8".

I started with a value sketch underpainting in black and white. This gets everything in position and is supposed to make things go faster when you start adding color. I found that this caused me some trouble if I wanted to make a change to the painting. I was hard to cover over the black and still get that glow in the petals I wanted. I had to repaint in a lighter color and let it dry, then glaze over that with the color I wanted.

When I had worked with the colors I had for awhile, I realized I couldn't get the color right and had to buy some different paint. Namely,Mauve and Rose Violet in the Duo brand that were sheer colors without so much white in them.

I was keeping track of the hours it took to finish the painting. Because of the repainting and changes, it took fourteen and a half total hours. The fox took twenty hours, so it was an improvement, but still not the six hours I was hoping for. I have a bad habit of thinking I can just do things perfectly the first time, and then getting discouraged when it doesn't work out. If anyone has any positive suggestions on how to change this sort of mind set, please let me know!

Jeff's Corner: Sometimes it's not necessary to reinvent the wheel...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Testing My Wings

After going to New York, I had this feeling that maybe there was more of the world I could go see. I also had plenty of worry about money and the future buzzing around in my head every day.

One morning, I was asking myself what I wanted to do. I was so sick of the worry thoughts that I just said to myself "I want to go to Europe and paint." I let that roll around in my head for awhile before I said it to Jeff. It felt good and so I told him what I was thinking. He said "great, where do you want to go?" I thought about France and Italy, maybe Norway and then I said Greece. I think because it is sunny and we had been having a lot of late snow and cold all the way into the first week of June and I was sick of it!

Jeff has great skills for planning trips and finding deals. He went online when we got home and found a great apartment on the Island of Rhodes that had a kitchen, laundry and an adorable little courtyard. I liked it right away. He took some time to compare it to others, but we didn't see anything as good. I knew it would deplete our savings, but we both felt good about it, so we bought airplane tickets and reserved the apartment for the whole month of October.

The plan is to go to scenic places early in the morning to get that great light. Take lots of pictures and sketches. Go back to the apartment and paint all day, then go out and play in the evenings. Hopefully we can get a nice painting portfolio started for both of us. We would also like to explore the idea of painting the same subject so that we get a "he saw, she saw" series of paintings happening.

Making a decision like that is scary, but it also has had the effect of giving me something positive to think about instead of all that worry. It feels like investing in my future instead of worrying about it!

Jeff's Corner: Out of the frying pan, into the Greece!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Learning To Fly

Tina at Times Square, New York © 2008 Jeff Welter
Tina at Times Square, NY
This spring I had the opportunity to go to New York city. My Talented Boss was having a show there and Jeff would be transporting and setting up the artwork. I could stay in the hotel with Jeff for four days, if I wanted to buy my own airline ticket. I would be flying by myself for the first time.

This probably seems like nothing, but twelve years ago I could barely get on an airplane. It wasn't the fear of crashing. I always believed in those statistics that it was safer to fly than drive. It was the claustrophobia, the not seeing out, that out of control feeling and fearing that some strange person would be coming apart emotionally. Oh, that would be me. I know I watched way too many of those "Airport" movies in the 70's.

For someone who has never had an anxiety attack, this probably seems ridiculous. Just imagine your heart pounding, hands shaking and mind racing with your worst fears for an hour or two. It's like a bad dream you can't wake up from. I would have avoided airplanes my whole life if I hadn't married a man who loves to travel and dreams of seeing the whole world. This was a stress on our relationship and I prayed that I would be able to change but I wasn't sure how.

Central Park, New York ©2008 Tina M Welter  Spring and baseball games in the park.
Central Park, NY
Looking back, I can see that this was a journey of changing patterns for me. Ten years ago, Jeff really wanted to go to Hawaii. I was terrified of that eight hour flight. I had a friend who was a hypnotherapist, and she felt she could help me. I learned from that experience that my huge fear was actually trying to protect me. I had to learn to judge between the really dangerous versus the perceived dangerous. This did help me. The next trip we planned to go to Hawaii again. Hurray! I can do this. Then 9-11 happened. We were scheduled to fly five days after the attack. I was crying before we got on the plane, but I did get on.

Last November, there was an art show in Chicago that my Talented Boss was participating in. I was able to fly with other employees but no Jeff. I had to learn then to have all my stuff together without relying on him so much. At least I still had people I knew and they understood my anxiety.

Rockefeller Plaza, New York ©2008 Tina M Welter  The iconic golden sculpture.
Rockefeller Plaza, NY
This brings me full circle to New York. The flight was delayed for two hours because of mechanical difficulties. That gave me a long time to think and worry. It was tough work keeping my mind in control. Eventually the flight got on the way, I made the next connection, and my luggage didn't get lost either.

What I learned is that I could have saved a lot of energy by not worrying so much. I got to see Van Gogh's painting "Starry Night" at the Museum of Modern Art as well as original Monet and Picasso paintings that I thought I would never see. Central Park was amazing and New York bagels are the best. I realized that there is so much in this world to see and enjoy if I don't let my fear stand in the way. It's helpful to look back and see how I was able, one step at a time, to accomplish something I never thought I could do. I hope to apply this concept to making a living with my artwork, which at this point seems just as terrifying as flying did twelve years ago. My seat is in an upright and locked position!

Jeff's Corner: "There's trouble in the cockpit!"
"The cockpit? What is it?"
"It's a little room at the front of the plane where the pilot sits. But that's not important right now..."
(Airplane, 1980. Some of us were influenced by different movies...)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stuck In The Worry Groove

"Hillside and Horses" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994 Tina M Welter  Landscape watercolor painting near Drummond, Montana
"Hillside and Horses" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994
This has been a rough week. I think I was born with a "worry gene" because it has been a favorite hobby of mine for years. I remember being a little kid of six and worrying about school and what I was wearing and who would say what to whom, etc. As part of the pattern changing experiment, I made a promise to myself this spring that I couldn't worry about the future or past, only about today. It seemed like the only way I could keep myself moving forward and not getting stuck in thinking about my job moving away this fall.

"Big Sky" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994 Tina M Welter  Watercolor landscape painting near Drummond, Montana
"Big Sky" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994
I had been doing quite well, the excitement of changing my life was keeping me going. But it seemed like this week the news just got to me. Oil prices going up, housing market stalled, banks closing, food prices increasing and I am going to go out there and make a living from my artwork? Am I nuts? It didn't help that our refrigerator stopped working and the roof started leaking! One of my favorite mental demons of years past perched grinning in my head telling me "who wants art when they can't afford a house or food?" The funny thing is that I had this same worry twenty years ago. I wish we had the economy of twenty years ago now!

"Trio" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994 Tina M Welter  Landscape watercolor painting of fall trees near Drummond, Montana
"Trio" 5"x 7" watercolor on paper, ©1994 Tina M Welter
The other promise I made to myself in May was that I was going to get up at 6:00 a.m. and paint everyday for an hour. Then I would exercise and then go to work. The plan was to do one small painting a week and by mid-July I would have about ten paintings. I have done a pretty good job of painting every morning, which is amazing since most of my life, no one would call me a morning person. The disappointing part is that I have only finished two paintings since May. Not being able to meet my expectations really took the wind out of my sails. Enter the Worry Monster. How are we going to pay the bills? We are going to starve!!! Hello familiar groove.

Two things helped knock me out of my mental rut. I happened to look in an old portfolio of watercolor landscapes I had made when we were living in Montana in 1994. At that time, I didn't think any of them were very good. I remember feeling that way then, but I was looking at at least four paintings that are just lovely to me now. How can a perception change so much? What is real? The other thing that helped was Jeff asking me if I really wanted to do anything else. No. I want to do this now. He also reminded me that history is full of ups and downs and the artists just do the best they can. If anyone else has any good kicking yourself out of the ruts stuff, let me know. It takes a lot of energy and mental gymnastics to stay out of them!

Jeff's Corner:
"Slow down, you movin' too fast
You gotta make the moment last
Just kickin' down the cobblestones
Lookin' for fun and
Feelin' groovy____________"
(Paul Simon, Fifty Ninth Street Bridge Song)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

But We Don't Have A Computer...

I mentioned in one of the past blogs how doing something everyday toward my goal of making art was a new mind set for me. Since I enjoyed submitting paintings to the miniature show so much, I decided to subscribe to Art Calendar to see if there were other shows I would be interested in. I have known about this magazine which lists shows, grants and fairs and festivals for at least ten years, but I never felt I was doing enough art to make it worth subscribing to.

The second issue I received was all about art and the internet. We had looked into selling art on Ebay about twelve years ago, but we didn't think it was worth the time to do since it didn't seem like the artists were making much money from the sales of their paintings. The other issue was that we didn't have a digital camera or a scanner to get our images online. Our top priority was building the house, so all extra cash went to that project.

There are all sorts of things about marketing art online now. One of the things they talked about was blogging and letting people know what you are doing and why you are doing it. I want to thank two artists Justin Clayton and Elise Tomlinson for their excellent advice about blogging and how to get started. I wouldn't be writing now without their help. You can find Justin's blog at where he posts an original beautiful painting everyday and sells them on e-bay. Elise Tomlinson talks about Alaska and posts her paintings. Google her site at Alaskanartistblog

Twelve years ago, I was juried into a co-op gallery, where a group of artists get together and share the costs for rent for the space and do all the work like sales and bookkeeping. It was a good experience for getting feedback on my artwork, but it was really frustrating on how few people actually saw the art. I only made enough sales to cover the cost of the rent and I left after a year and a half. What I like about the internet is the possibility that more than a bus load of people can get a chance to look at your artwork. There are artists making good money on Ebay now, such as Patty Baker and Vana Howell. They often paint two or three paintings a day to make it happen which is amazing. They also gave some good advice about how they have succeeded.

Of course all this interesting information made me want to get a computer and encouraged me that maybe there were some other ways to make a living with my art. Our last good computer had been ruined during a lightning strike and we have not had good luck replacing it. We had been using the computer at work for almost two years. Enter the Economic Stimulus Package. We bought the computer we were hoping for and more batteries to power it. Is the change in my thinking bringing things together? Is it just coincidence?

I posted last week my first oil painting in twenty years. I asked Jeff if he would like to post his first oil painting ever, if you don't count the paint by numbers he did as a kid. Jeff's passion is trains. I'll turn the blog over to him if he has anything to say.

Jeff's corner: It was awfully nice of Uncle Sam to help us out with our careers!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who Says Oil and Water Don't Mix?

"On the Trail" 6"x 8"oil on canvas, ©2008 Tina M Welter   A red fox is following footprints in the snow.
"On the Trail" 6"x 8"oil on canvas, ©2008
Because of necessity, I taught myself how to paint with watercolors 20 years ago. After graduating from college, my husband and I moved about twelve times in eight years trying to find the right combination of work and place we wanted to live. During that time, packing around canvas and wet oil paints wasn't very practical. We did buy a used 1972 Prowler camping trailer in Alaska during one of our adventures and lived in it much of the time during those eight years. Needless to say,we were very short on storage space. They didn't build those RVs for long term living back in the 70's. I had loved painting with oils in college, but didn't do very well with the turpentine fumes then, so that was another reason to try another medium.

It took some time, but eventually my watercolors started to look good to me. I found that they were wonderful for painting flowers which is one of my favorite subjects. They were also great for painting birthday cards and small studies of landscapes. The things I didn't like were the framing with all that glass and mat cutting and the tendency for many watercolor pigments to fade.

A few years ago, we started to hear about these new oil paints that were water soluble which sounded great, but I wondered if they could really be that stable to paint with. Time seems to be proving that they are a wonderful new way to use oils. In the interest of changing my old "I can't do it" patterns and not having to cut another mat for one more painting, I decided to invest in a new set of the water-soluble oil paints. We bought the Holbein Duo brand because they were also using non-toxic pigments and their Medium to mix the paint with didn't give me a headache.

This was so exciting; new canvas, new paint, and certainly I would have no problem remembering how to work with oil paints! I should also mention that my Talented Boss had told me that her gallery was looking for someone who could paint wildlife. Since I was still feeling good about having my last paintings juried into the miniature show, I thought sure, I can give wildlife a try.

I decided I wanted to do a small 6"x8" painting of a red fox. Piece of cake, right? I do all my flower paintings from my own photos so there is no copyright problems. Finding images of a fox I could use was not easy. Especially one that had any decent lighting and color. I rented wildlife films and sketched and sketched. I ordered a book on drawing animals and sketched some more. I spent eight hours one Saturday and finally got a simple drawing I felt worked and didn't infringe on anyone's copyright. I was relieved to finally be to the painting part.

Good Grief! The underpainting was fine, but then it just seemed to go downhill from there. I wasn't used to paint that didn't dry immediately anymore and I kept making mud. Ugh! Thankfully, the water-soluble oils do dry in four or five days so that did help me. I spent more time studying my old oil painting books and trying to remember what used to work for me. Eventually, with several re-paintings, I got my little painting to a place where at least I didn't think it was horrible. Jeff told me to try something I know, like FLOWERS!... I finally agreed with him and put the fox away.

What I learned from this little adventure is that is good to stretch and try new things, but you can make yourself crazy and depressed if you try too many all at once. I should look into joining Overachievers Anonymous.

After doing three small oil paintings of flowers, I took out mister fox this week and finished the painting. Hurray for happy endings! I still think he looks a bit stiff, but hey, I can only get better and I'm ready to let this one go.

Jeff's corner: I came up with the title for this entry!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Changing The Patterns

"Waiting" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter #1 Pearl Series  Red roots reaching into the ground of ideas.

One of my favorite beliefs in creating great art is that you have to be inspired by a great vision and you also need large blocks of uninterrupted time. It also helps if you are living on the edge emotionally, physically and mentally. I always felt I was too sane to really do anything good and besides, who has the time when you have a regular job and a house to build? I did get a few things done occasionally. Mostly when I wanted to give a painting as a gift or make a great Christmas card. The result was that I only produced a few finished paintings a year.

"Opening" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter  #2 Pearl Series  Orange swirls of possibilities.

 Enter Mr. Eric Maisel with the belief busting idea that you must "make art in the midst of things." Even with bills to pay, you must show up regularly and work on your dream just like a regular job. Having a vision is good, but you have to work every day whether you are inspired or not. Actually not having your life in complete chaos is a good thing and don't expect everything you do to be brilliant. It's o.k. to create less than great art as long as you are consistent: eventually something will shine. It's just the law of averages. I liked that Maisel compared this idea to a fruit tree and how not all the fruit on the tree is going to be perfect.  
For someone obsessed with perfection, this was like getting a "get out of jail free" card.

"Closing" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter #3 Pearl Series  Yellow clamshell with pearl.

Obviously my first pattern I had to change was doing something regularly. I decided I could manage an hour or two on Sundays and that I was going to finish a project I had started at least five years ago. It was a series based on the cycle of creativity from Jeanne Carbonetti's book called "Making Pearls" The challenge of this for me was doing something that was strictly for my enjoyment. I know this may sound very odd to some people, but I have had another deeply held belief that nothing was worth doing unless it pleased someone else. I also wanted to address and change this pattern.

"Holding" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter  # 4 Pearl Series  Green dragon with white heart.

 I decided to do this mid-winter and my little studio is heated with a wood stove and separate from the main house. It was tempting to make excuses and I was surprised at the anxiety that going to work on something when I didn't have a clear idea what it was going to be gave me.  The paintings were supposed to express concepts, not an actual thing. Eventually with time, I realized how much I was enjoying myself and looked forward to those creative evenings. I did finally realize it was doing something worthwhile for me. I felt better about myself.

"Releasing" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M. Welter  Blue with white abstract flower.

Sometimes I had to battle the guilt of "not doing something worthwhile." With some deliberation, I've decided to post my seven "pearls" from the creativity series. They are so personal, yet I feel they are such an important step in this process I am trying to document.

 Jeff's Corner: Most of my change is in the ashtray of my truck.

Tina's Rebuttal: That is so bogus! He is all about change!

"Emptying" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter  Light purple and white.
"Sitting" 7"x 7" watercolor on paper, © 2008 Tina M Welter  #7 of Pearl Series Watercolor painting of inner landscape.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Do Our Thoughts Affect Matter?

Do our thoughts make a difference in the actual physical world? Great question, and Lynne Mctaggart the author of "The Intention Experiment" decided she wanted to really find the answer to this question. I read this book this spring with my book club. As I read, I realized I was rather behind in the field of quantum physics and many of the latest experiments that have been taking place in the last 20 years. I have several books on changing your life through changing your thinking, and I do think they help, but I had never read one that was trying to prove it scientifically.

In Mctaggart's words: "This central idea, that consciousness affects matter, lies at the very heart of an irreconcilable difference between the world view offered by classical physics-the science of the big,visible world-and that of quantum physics: the science of the world's most diminutive components. That difference concerns the very nature of matter and the ways it can be influenced to change."

I have always been rather intimidated by the seemingly big and immovable world. It is a very different mindset to consider that the atoms that make up the physical world are "tiny clouds of probability." That the subatomic world is "not a solid and stable thing, but exists simply as a potential of any one of its future selves." That said, the whole rest of book is trying to determine what measurable effect we can have on that world, and what ways are most successful. I have to say, it made it seem more realistic to try some thought changes when there was some evidence to back it up that it might actually make a difference. I thought it would be very interesting to run my own experiment using my life as the lab and document the results as we go along, hence the name for this blog.

Lynne Mctaggart is offering for anyone who is interested in participating in a group Intention Experiment can go to their website at I like that there are people out there trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. Anyone can also post their own experiments and the results.

I know it sounds a bit hokey, but you should read the book and decide for yourself or just read what happens to us! Our basic intention is: "To support ourselves comfortably financially using our best talents in creatively satisfying ways." That is a mouthful, but you are supposed to be very specific. I hope that is specific enough!

Jeff's corner:I tawt I taw a puddy tat!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What I Learned From Art School

7" x 5" watercolor on paper, copyright Tina M. Welter 2008  Red roses watercolor painting
"Memory" 7"x 5" watercolor, © 2008 

 7"x 5" watercolor on paper, copyright 2008 Tina M. Welter  Watercolor painting of yellow mini-roses
"Cupid" 7"x 5" watercolor, © 2008
I am grateful that I learned a great deal about design and the elements that add to interesting art. Also, all the art history I learned has been helpful to me. What hasn't been so helpful is the belief that if your art isn't brilliant and cutting edge then there is no point in trying. I certainly didn't want to be mediocre, and I judged my fascination with painting light passing through flower petals to be just that. Expectation of brilliance is a real creativity killer, only I didn't know that twenty years ago.

I also learned that your art isn't worth anything unless someone else tells you it is. It never dawned on me that if it mattered to me, it was worth something. Eric Maisel in his book "Coaching the Artist Within" said it beautifully: "If you don't really think that you, your ideas, or your work matter, you won't have the motivational juice to create." That is the key I had been missing for so long. So much of the focus at school was how to make great art, which is good, but very little on how to keep being an artist and survive in the world once you leave art school. Frankly, I don't think they knew what to tell us. Good luck! Hopefully you will be able to pay the bills!

There is something about creating that feeds the soul and when that isn't recognized and respected, it manifests itself in negative ways. For me that was depression and sometimes anger at not doing what I felt I was supposed to be doing, but it didn't matter to anyone if there was another piece of art in the world or not, and it certainly wasn't brilliant, so why do it? So the argument circle went on and on in my head for years, until I finally read Eric's book and decided that I would matter.

This January my Talented Boss told me about an art show at a local museum that she had been invited to and told she could invite other artists she knew to submit artwork to be juried into the show. This was January 16th and the deadline was February 10th. I usually would have said there is no way I could have some new work ready in time. This time I said give me the information. It was a miniatures show, nothing bigger than 8x10, frame included, so that was good. I had to do some creative things with time, but I made the deadline with two paintings to submit. Much to my surprise and delight I was juried in; both paintings were accepted. Going to the show was such fun. I had been to many beautiful shows for my Talented Boss, and I took pride in what we had accomplished, but this was something different for me. I found myself wanting more.

My two paintings didn't sell. I didn't care. This deciding to matter thing was good. I am posting photos of the paintings without the frames. They are both watercolors of roses.

Jeff's Corner: It doesn't even matter if your "dumb ol' husband" tells you it's great...