# 8 Pearl shell

March 30, 2010



# 8 Pearl shell on envelope

Size:  16 x16 cm
            6.25 x 6.25 inches  

Medium: acrylic wash on cardboard  

Story: Years ago, I’d done a white on white series in watercolour. This reminds me of that series. 
After the rather controlled oil paintings (see 1-7 of thtis series) I wanted to cut loose. The shell is white, but picks up all kinds of colours from the surroundings.  It is one of the objects that recurs in my work and I always have it somewhere nearby in my studio.

What I like about this piece:  I like the subdued colours and the fluidity of the brushstrokes. It came together quickly and works.


Price: $35      €25       GBP 23         plus Shipping:  $5     €3,50      3GBP    (Only $5 shipping regardless of how many paintings you buy if  in the same order going to the same address).
Please note, all work is delivered unframed.

Ordering info: Please click here.

Aruba shell #7

March 10, 2010

Size:  16 x16 cm
            6.25 x 6.25 inches  

Medium: oil on cardboard with sand  

Story:  This piece leads on to the next few feature artworks, which are all on a shell theme.  This is built up of thin oil paint glazes on a background textured with sand. The actual shell was brought back to me by friends from Aruba, they were all naturally polished to a high shine.

What I like about this piece:  It is a straightforward study and quite simple in composition. It leaves a lot of room for your own imagination to fill in.


Price: $25      €17      15 GBP         plus Shipping:  $5     €3,50      3GBP    (Only $5 shipping regardless of how many paintings you buy if  in the same order going to the same address).
Please note, all work is delivered unframed.

Ordering info: Please click here.

Receiving the New York City Art Teachers Award

I’ve been wanting to feature different artists, who are using their creativity to heal, transform, or otherwise improve the world.
Miriam Rankin is the first artist in this new feature, Artists Who Care. If you know someone whose story would fit here, please let me know.

I met Miriam  8 years ago through my online artists support group. I later visited her for several days in her Brooklyn home where she and her family graciously received me.

In our group she is a highly inspiring voice. She is pragmatic as well as creative, which is probably why she has achieved so much. When I got to know her, she was working plus going to school 7 days a week to finish up her masters 31 years (after graduating with a B.A. in 1972).

4 short years later, she received the Art Teacher of the Year award from the New York City’s art teachers union.

In conversations about art, Miriam would often express a yearning to practice her own art more. But what is our ‘own’ art? Instead of making paintings in a studio,  she has used her creativity in a highly effective manner to improve the lives of thousands of children.

Here is her story:

Miriam, please tell us something about your background
I’ve designed appliqués and embroidery for a well known children’s clothing firm, designed and built costumes for a college theater group, painted murals and furniture, made beaded jewelry and funky laminated pins, been a teaching artist for seniors and young children through various art organizations, and my most creative job of all- I’ve raised three children who all are artists themselves. 

Once my children were grown, I became a teacher I suppose because I was “genetically” programmed to be one. 

What was the situation like when you first took the position of art cluster teacher at your school?

Ten years ago, the art cluster position was basically babysitting for students while the classroom teacher got a break. 

I worked out of a closet, I didn’t have my own room or even a cart to carry supplies.  I had an impossible schedule, seeing 25 classes weekly- that’s about 600 students and I had a limited time I could spend with each class! 

What were your own wishes and dreams for these kids?

Most of the students in my school are new immigrants and come from low income families where most commonly both parents work and struggle;  many are unable to speak or understand English. 

We also have a large special education population, children with learning frustrations and self-image problems. 

I wanted to immerse these students in art- not just visual art but all the creative arts.  I wanted them to feel the power of it and learn by being motivated by it. 

  ….and how did you begin to realize those dreams?

Besides teaching art, I was given the title “Project Arts Coordinator”.  
It was a vaguely defined position with no inherent power; the idea was that someone be “in charge” of making sure that the arts were present in each school. 

I took it seriously and expanded it to include not only visual but other art forms- drama, music, creative movement and dance.

I designed my visual art program to be skill-centered.  I united the school with yearly themes (one year, it was “Harmony,” which of course relates to colors, voices, and people getting along- a wonderful connection to inspire creative art). 

I help the teachers by designing professional developments sessions: how to plan trips, how to display artwork, how to extend art projects from the art room into the classroom, connecting them to other subjects in a fun, productive way. 

The principal and teachers know that they can depend on me for a welcoming central hall display, booking trips, ordering buses, filling in forms, planning good events, and dozens of other chores that come up in the school year. 

I photo document every part of the program, so that when visitors come or donors want to know how we’ve used their grant money, I can readily show them heartwarming pictures of students engaged in art making and the glorious results. 

Over the years, I brought in thousands of dollars in grant money to provide the school with richly creative programs that brought my young friends experiences they would not have had otherwise.

continued in next post


Making a collage


What is the situation in the school now ?

  • My school’s art program is now central to academic learning. 
  • The entire school goes on art trips and neighborhood walks to inspire art projects and creative writing. 
  • Student art exhibits and parent/child art workshops involve parents after school. 
  • Our students win art contests.
  • We are considered a “model school”,  now one of maybe 5 schools in the city commended for having such a distinguished art program.
  • Because of a generous and continuous grant from a very prestigious art organization that has provided the school with two teaching artists, every child in the school has weekly art lessons.  Every student, from Pre-Kindergarten to 5th Grade sculpts, paints, draws, collages, makes prints, and uses proper tools, materials and terminology. 
  • The school library has a special art section that students helped me create- separate spaces for artists, careers in art, art history, reproductions, and arts and crafts. 
  • Within the last three years, we’ve gotten a full time music teacher who runs two choruses and gives music instruction in violin, piano, clarinet, and flute to small groups. 

Although recently drama and dance programs have been reduced because of funding issues and the poor economy, we do have some programs for selected classes. 

I really don’t consider a program successful unless it reaches everyone but I’ve had to  learn to be realistic. 

Academically speaking, my principal credits the immersion in the arts with greatly improving test scores in literacy.  With the full support of the principal, I have brought the school acclaim and attention.

Will these programs continue after you no longer work there?

I’d like to think that the art program would continue as an integral part of the school’s curriculum even if I weren’t there but realistically, I don’t think it would have the same impact. 
In order for it to work, a school needs an art advocate, someone who is dedicated and steadfastly fuels the program, doing the leg work and paper work that keeps it running.  Even our principal who has been so supportive has no idea how to run an actual art program. 

 Anything else you want to add?
I wish my mother could have seen how well my career, started so late in life, has blossomed.  I feel successful, perhaps not in wealth or fame, but in satisfaction and the sense that I’ve done something completely and thoroughly well. 

Thank you for giving me a chance to explain and share my pride in my work. 


Thou shalt market II

March 2, 2010


See part I

For this year, I’ve decided to live off a small nest egg left to me by my mother, and to withdraw from actively promoting my work as well as accepting commissions I’d do only for the money.

In a way, this is as creative an act as it is radical because it flies in the face of the prevailing folk wisdom,  ‘Thou shalt be successful’. 
Of course I’d like success in the form of people knowing what I do and wanting to pay for it.  But I tend to think that this is a byproduct of an authentic life rather than the ultimate goal.

Traditionally, artists held themselves apart from mainstream culture. Their often eccentric authenticity acted as a commentary on society or a precursor of new trends that hadn’t even been sensed yet by the rest of the populace. With their distance from the marketplace, they were the visionaries and critics and fulfilled an important role in renewing the culture.

But now, radical art has been absorbed into the commercial mainstream, robbing art  and artists of this role.

One could argue that creating a magnetic identity on internet and attracting followers (and sales) simply by the nature of who you are (and how far up the search engines you appear) is a new alternative to previous ways of marketing art. But the principles are still the same: you have to strive to be visible, to compete with others to ‘jump out’, and you need to put considerable effort into staying in that position once you hold it.

If this jockeying doesn’t come naturally to you or you question it in any way, the fault lies with you. And you remain invisible, in that arena at least.

In the book T-shirts and Suits, A guide to the business of creativity,  David Parrish writes;

Successful creative enterprises are truly customer focused.

He qualifies this saying, ‘not in the sense of firing products at them but putting customers at the centre of their  universe so that their entire business revolves around them’.

I will obviously never have a successful creative business because I believe that the work comes first.
If it is done with quality and integrity, and you are persistent and have a bit of luck, modest income and recognition follow naturally.You don’t hide your light under a bushel, but your departure points are different from the average entrepreneur.

And what if you don’t sell anything, ever?

If your art heals you, it is good. You are healing a part of the world.

If your art is about exploring a piece of reality, then you expose that for us all to see.

If your art is about connecting previously unrelated areas, you have built bridges for us all to walk across.

If your art is about holding a certain energy you have created a sacred container for the earth and for all living things.

 If your art is about dreaming, you dream our dreams.

If your art is about transforming, you are society’s alchemist and we need the gold of your spirit.

This art can be subsidised, but it has no price tag and it can’t be packaged.
It is about the light of passion and integrity that can shine out of one life to illuminate the way for others.

Popularity leading to increased income isn’t the first or last question related to art. Nicholas Roerich said, (paraphrased)

‘ Create, create , create, and the joy of your creation will radiate out into the world and take care of your bread for the morrow’.

Thou shalt market

March 2, 2010

I don’t do Twitter. I am not on Facebook. I am not LinkedIn.  Therefore, in the hip world of social networks I don’t exist.

Here is why I don’t do that stuff:

  1. I object to making  myself the commodity for the sake of sales.
  2. I already spend too much time on the internet and prefer to be outside or puttering and creating in my studio.
  3. These methods don’t feel authentic to my path in life.

Either I am incredibly stupid and stubborn (sales aren’t exactly going through the roof here), or I am being true to myself and eventually it will pay off. I’ve just come out of a winter dip where I believed the first to be true. Yet, with flickerings of new opportunities, I am beginning to have faith again that what feels right is right…for me.

I’m writing this for myself and for anyone else who was not Born to Sell.

If you are a creative and want to sell you work, according to the current  models you HAVE to do all this stuff.  If you choose not to,  this is a radical stance and if you hold it you might be considered a crank or a failure who is simply having a case of sour grapes. Creative people are being told that with the right social network savvy they too can become another Jennifer Lee, Keri Smith or Danny Gregory. This is true….for a handful of talented, lucky, and often ambitious people. IF YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THIS WAY OF WORKING then may blessings and prosperity rain down on you, and may you make it.

But for people like me, who are not inclined to follow the social network hype, then let’s explore this issue together further.  See next post.