Ride or Die

General Info, Uncategorized

Many of you know that in the last couple of years I lost my two best friends – the best of the best. These were the friends I’ve known since 3rd grade, which translates into 47-49 years. More than friends, they were my closest sisters.

Joni and Velda were an intimate part of all of my childhood secrets, my teenage blunders, my twenties relationships, my marriages, my children, my jobs. For a long time I could imagine us as “old” friends still hanging out in our 70’s and 80’s. Still enjoying each others company, still causing havoc, still laughing, still there to answer the phone at 3 am, to open the door in the middle of the night, to offer a hand, a shoulder, a dollar. And even though they have both gone on, I still imagine.

I hope it’s understandable that for more than a moment I felt really alone after Velda passed. When Joni died, as much as it broke my heart, I still had Velda. And when I thought I couldn’t hurt any more, my mom died, but I still had Velda. But when Velda died…

Jokingly (not really), I told my husband that he would have to step up and be my new best girlfriend. To his credit, he is seriously trying to fill that void and I love him for that. Recently though, I had a revelation. It wasn’t a surprise to me really, just a realization about something I had not looked at in this way before.

I had the pleasure of visiting with some other friends not long ago. Some old friends actually. These are friends that I don’t see often or talk to on a regular like I did with Joni and Velda. But when we got together it was familiar, fun, and special. And I was reminded that these friends watched my children grow up and I theirs. Somehow, it just occurred to me that Angie has been my friend for close to 30 years, and Lori has logged 23, Verona 15, Dietra about 20. There’s Brenda and Rita for at least 36 years and Michelle too, who has been there from the very beginning. I am so blessed to have so many more people who have lasted through the decades. I hope I am as good a friend to them as they are to me.

One thing I know for sure is that my old secrets are forever safe with Joni and Velda. Still, I wish we had more time to ride.

Counting my Riches – Mother’s Day 2015

General Info

angel's wingDespite thousands of commercials and signs everywhere I still somehow managed to let Mother’s Day sneak up on me.

Hubby and I were vacationing in Florida last week and while there I met a white woman who happened to be from my home town. She didn’t live in my neighborhood but she worked there. When I told her the name of the street I grew up on she stated very matter-of-factly, “Oh, youse lived over there, your people had money!” Funny, I don’t remember it that way.

What I remember is growing up with a woman who had strong morals and work ethic and with a heart so big I have nothing to compare it to. I remember a single mother who worked every day to take care of her children and very often one if not all of her five brothers. I remember standing in food lines to get our bag of groceries – you know the one that had that good Government cheese in it. I briefly remember food stamps.

We were, however, “rich” in other ways.

I can remember mom pulling out her sewing machine to make clothes for my Barbie doll and kneeling with her beside the bed to say my prayers. I remember how she twisted her left hand on paper turned sideways when she taught me how to write right-handed. I remember when she was the cook who could make a meal out of anything and I was the baker, making cookies and cakes from scratch, beating the batter by hand. I remember the etiquette lessons as a teenager, how to stand tall, sit like a lady, walk with head held high. I remember how often she told me that I could do anything I wanted to do and be whomever I wanted to be and she made sure I had the education and skillset to accomplish just that.

It’s true my brother and I did attend 12 years in tuition-paid parochial schools. I never remember being hungry. There were always presents under the Christmas tree and always cake and gifts for our birthdays. But what I remember most, money didn’t buy.

My mother was my biggest supporter and my loudest cheering section. I remember all the times she told me, “It’s ok, everything will be all right,” and “You can do it.”

She was my toughest opponent. I remember when I couldn’t take her anymore and I just had to get out, be on my own.

She was my greatest ally. I remember coming home again and again and again… until it was her turn to come and live with me.

It’s been 7 months since mom passed and this will be my first Mother’s Day without her. I haven’t even thought about the gift I would have given her if she were here. Probably something silly since we are long past fancy and elaborate. She wasn’t a fan of flowers in the house so potted plants was the “go to” gift after homemade gifts had run their course. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have been able to give her diamonds and furs before returning to homemade when she received original paintings from me, but we’ve since both reached the age where a simple phone call would lift our spirits and warm our hearts because the other stuff wasn’t important anymore.

So, this is it. In the last 7 months I’ve survived Thanksgiving, Christmas and her birthday – November, December, January – all in a row. Then there was Valentine’s Day in February, my birthday in March (thank God for a reprieve in April). But here it is May and yes, I’m a little snot-nosed and red-eyed as I write this but my momma left me rich beyond even my dreams, so I know I’m going to get through this as well. No, my people didn’t have money. We had momma.

I’m Still Here

General Info

I hope you haven’t forgotten Handy Concepts because though we struggle, and despite 2014 being such a dismal year for me, we have yet to give up the ghost.

RECAP

Kerry’s Green closed unexpectedly on January 1, which meant the gallery also closed (way to start the year) and it took me two months of calling and writing to get the doors open so that I could collect all of the artwork and shop items I had there. All of which I moved and stored in my home studio until most of the artists could come and retrieve their art.

I then made a halfhearted attempt to generate sales and maintain a presence via my website with minimal results. Truthfully, I haven’t updated my website in over a year now. Can’t get much leverage that way…

I started quite a few paintings but finished only one. My annual goal is to complete new 6-8 paintings and I have achieved that goal every year until 2014. I started one painting FOUR times – I’ not talking start, stop, start, stop – I mean I started 4 different canvases, and worked them all to varying degrees of “complete” before deciding that my errors were too far gone to correct. I tried hard to get it done (again) before the New Year but alas, still working on it.

In the spring our house was put on the market as my husband and I struggled to keep afloat but the market being what it is, it’s almost impossible to get back what we’ve put into it. So we push on.

My biggest blow however came mid-year when I became caregiver to my mother, running her to doctor visits, cheering her on through several surgeries, daily visits during hospital stays and sometimes working my job remotely from the hospital. Despite the successes of the surgeries and the promise of recovery and rehab, mom lost her battle on October 2, 2014. I was fully expecting to have her around another 10-12 years, making me laugh, getting on my nerves, imparting words of wisdom, bossing me around. She was 78 years young. I never thought my heart could break into so many pieces.

NOT ALL BAD

The silver lining of 2014 shone through in late June with the birth of grandbaby no. 10. Thank God for the smallest of miracles.

MOVING FORWARD

2015? Who knows? Maybe it will turn into a banner year, maybe not. What I do know is that I have a lot to do, a lot I still want to accomplish and no one can make it happen but me. I’ve taken the last week of this year to plan and push myself to get up and get moving. I want to thank all of the artists who started with me in 2009 and hung in there during the lean years and a special thanks to those few who still hung around this past year even though I only managed to sell one painting.

I want to thank all of my clientele who still look forward to new art, who still inquire about my artists, who still encourage me to keep art alive in our community and continue to support our efforts. Thank you to those who have commissioned art and have waited patiently for your finished product.

I hope to see you all in 2015, online and in person. And I have so much more creativity in me that I promise it will blow you away in the coming year. Besides, Mom has been chiding me. I can hear her clearly – “Shouldn’t you be painting?” “What are you working on now?”

So even though you may not have heard from me all year, and just in case you were wondering – I’M STILL HERE.

Paragon (poem for mom)

General Info

I go there often.

To visit.

I enjoy the after hour quiet when night falls and the crowds leave.

On some visits I laugh hysterically – On others I go to cry.

But with each visit I’ve come away comforted when I was hurt,

Hopeful when I have been doubtful,

Encouraged whenever I chanced to dream.

She has always been an icon of strength, chiseled from fine marble.

She stands erect, polished and poised upon a pedestal.

For years I have stood in the security of her shadow

Admiring her form,

Aspiring to be like her.

I have visited during the daylight hours—

Watched others ogle her, listened to their whispers.

There were many who admired her passion and beauty, and Her spirit,

But they moved on.

Lately, I look at her and wonder. –

Did the stress of the throngs, Pawing and staring

Produce the minute cracks around her eyes?

Are her critics to blame for the fractures across her brow?

Or is it my pains that weigh too heavily on shoulders

I thought were unbreakable?

Perhaps it is simply the minute hand in motion

That chips away at the base of the pedestal I built for her.

I want to cushion her and pack her away before she topples and breaks.

But such actions would only extinguish her smile.

I am inclined to encase her in glass, Distance her from the masses,

But that would merely dim the light that glimmers in her eyes

And prevent her from touching others

As she touched me.

No, I think I’ll let her stand

—removed from her pedestal.

Perhaps I’ll notice that she is only human.

None the less, I’ll always love her.

for Marlene Handy, January 1936-October 2014

If You Have It, Flaunt It

General Info, New Art

 Time to dust off unused treasures.

Do you have a set of china that you only pull out once or twice a year if ever? How about a gorgeous piece of jewelry that you only wear on special occasions? An antique chair that no one sits in?

I have a set of china that I’ve owned for over 30 years. It used to be service for 12 but now it’s more like service for 9 ½ .  In the beginning I pulled the china out only for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then I started using it more often when the kids were teenagers (hence the reduction in pieces).  Now, the kids are grown and gone, but I’ll still set the table for a date night with my husband;  Sunday dinner; when having guests over for any reason; or “just because”.

I learned long ago that having something just for the sake of having it adds no value to my life. We acquire and hold on to things because they appeal to us somehow – because of their beauty, their functionality, or simply because someone dear to us has given it as a gift. But for these things to be truly special in our lives we must USE them.

I say that I learned this long ago, but funny, how lessons learned can quickly be forgotten. Or, if not forgotten, then not universally applied. Some time ago, I’m guessing between 6-9 years, my boss at the time (who was also a great friend – more friend than supervisor) gave me a Christmas present. It was the most exquisite sketch book I have ever owned. Yes, a sketchbook. Although we worked in real estate he knew that my true passion was art, and the thought that he put into this gift simply blew me away. It has been my most cherished sketchbook ever. Cherished yet void of sketches.

I always laugh when people marvel at my art and say “I can’t even draw a stick figure”. If they only knew. You see, my “sketches” are nothing more than doodles and stick figures and notes. For me they are meant only to be the road map for my finished painting. More likely than not, I will end up taking a detour in the middle of that painting and I make corrections and modifications as I go along so I don’t usually waste time with a full-blown drawing.

Imagine my excitement and awe when he gave me this sketch book, this masterpiece of heavy, sketchbookdeep burgundy colored, leather, hand-stamped and polished, filled with handmade papers stitched in, each and every page separated by a vellum sheet. My God, how could I just put doodles and stick figures in it? I would never, ever deface such beauty.

So I put it in a special place in my studio, kept it dusted and protected for so many years…

As I approach the second anniversary of my dear friend’s passing I’ve decided it is time to fill my sketchbook.  How could I let sit and be barren for so long? Well, it’s a new year and I’ve decided to create some new sketches – drawings with meaning, drawings that I take my time with, drawings from which I will actually learn something. And if an occasional doodle or stick figure finds it way there, so be it. If a painting happens to emerge from any of my new sketches, all the better.

drawing

Nelson Mandela

In honor of Tim R. Taylor who passed away on February 10, 2012 and in honor of Black History Month, I’ve added what I think is a deserving first drawing to my prized sketchbook, my rendering of Nelson Mandela. Tim, if you didn’t know just how much I love my sketchbook, I hope you do now. Thank you, Boss. I miss you.

Tell me about your unused treasures that are waiting to be what they were meant to be.

Wishing you Joy in the New Year

General Info, New Art

At the end of every year  I try to purge old files and do a general cleaning of my office and inevitably I come across something that I had tucked away in a book, a corner, or a drawer that I was going to get to “later”. This year I uncovered a few poems from an old friend that I have not seen nor heard from in many years. 

We both belonged to a writer’s group that met up every couple of months or so and as writers do, we exchanged thoughts, fleshed out ideas, shared our writings, encouraged each other, and practiced our craft. It was great fellowship and highly inspirational. I don’t know where she is these days but this poem is the PERFECT opening act for this New Year. And I’d like to use her words to express my sentiment for you in 2014.

BTW, if anyone out there knows Lori C. Fraind, tell her I’m looking for her and would love to read her new works.

********************

Insist

On joy, Consist

Of joy. Persist

With joy. Be kissed

By joy. Exist

In joy.

Smudge your forehead

With joy. Beat your breasts

With joy. Splash your pulse points

With joy. Get joy

Under your fingernails.

Make joy

Your fragrance. Your best protection

Is joy. Your most powerful suit

Is joy.

Let the dawn

Bring joy. Make the day

Bright joy. See the sunset

With joy.

Your best revenge

Is joy. Bridge your differences

With joy. Hurdle your obstacles

With joy. Meet your challenges

With joy. Leap headlong to your goals

With joy.

Exist

In joy. Be kissed

By joy. Persist

With joy. Consist

Of joy. Insist

On joy.

–Joy, 1996

It’s Daylight Savings Time…

General Info

…KEEP SMALL BUSINESSES FROM GOING DARK

I overheard a conversation the other day between two gentlemen who were discussing the early demise of a neighborhood eatery.  Being familiar with the little shop I listened as one of the men regaled upon the other how the subject business was in operation for just a little more than a year before it folded.

The man commented on the amount of money and labor that was put into restoring the old building to its former glory, updating the interior and preserving the exterior. He spoke of the ample availability of parking and how nice it was to have that little family oriented shop in the neighborhood.

It was  shame that the shop had such a short-lived existence. How sad it was when it quietly closed its doors.  And after all that was said he admitted that he himself had never set foot inside.

At this point I stopped listening, reminiscing instead about a little art gallery that was located just down the street from that small shop, the only art gallery in town.  It offered a myriad of original jewelry, pottery, sculptures, photography and paintings ranging from $30 to $3,000 – a little something for everyone.  The gallery flourished for the first year and then put up a really good fight midway through the second year before it too succumbed to a failing economy.

I remembered also, how amazed I was at the number of people who stopped in during those final days to say, “I pass by here every day and this is my first time in.  Sorry to hear that you are closing,” or “I live just a few doors down but I’ve never been in,” and  “It was really nice to have a gallery in town, it’s a shame you have to close.”  “I’m so sorry I missed your artist receptions, I heard they were really nice.”

The shame of course is that those people who dislike big box stores and thought these small businesses were good for the neighborhood, those who looked through the windows but rarely or never set foot inside, those who saw the value after the fact, are the very people who could have made a difference.

Thankfully for that little gallery the “closing” was converted into a move to a new location.  We have yet to see our heyday as we continue to struggle to balance the scales between “need” and “want” in a tough economic environment, but we push forward and for now I still own the only art gallery in town. Check us out at www.handyconcepts.com or email us to ask about our payment plan or gift cards at info@handyconcepts.com.  We support the American Diabetes Association and the Disabled American Veterans by donating 5% of all art sales to either organization.

If there is a small business in your neighborhood give it a fighting chance before you allow it to go dark. The power is in your hands.

PS. Remember, November 30, 2013 is Small Business Saturday.

Opposing Forces – unbreakable bonds

General Info

I am a thinker and a planner, an organizer. My husband is a man of action. I’m a saver, he’s a spender.  He’s very outspoken, I’m more reserved. He converses with strangers in the street like old friends; I mostly speak when spoken to.

 Sometimes though I think he acts too fast causing him to have to re-do some things, rephrase some things, or simply wipe the slate clean and start over again.  Conversely, I sometimes think on things so long that planning turns to procrastination, windows close and opportunities are missed.

The good news however, is that we complement each other.  I keep him grounded and he helps me soar. 

Like many artists I don’t always like the business of art. Show it, yes. Hope that others can appreciate it and buy it, sure. Talk about it – not so much. I just like to do what I do. But my husband sings my praises at the drop of a hat. He always introduces me as an artist. He carries my business cards with him and regularly comes back for more because he’s given them to everyone he meets. He is the greatest marketing director a girl can have.

For my part I keep him stocked with office supplies, design his business cards and website, help him keep his calendar, keep him focused, and force him to manage his finances. I am his spell-check and his dictionary, his adminstrative assistant.

On the surface it may seem that we are complete opposites but we both have the same goals and dreams. We both want the same things for our children and grandchildren. We enjoy the same activities. We like talking to each other and every now and again we finish each other’s thoughts. We may sometimes be on different paths but the destination is the same and in all probability we expect that we will reach that destination at the same time.

Opposing forces, absolutely – but together we are one force to be reckoned with.

Perception

General Info, New Art

Image 

I took an old painting off the wall the other day and set it on its side on the floor while I hung another in its place. I don’t quite remember when I created it and even though I’ve received many compliments on it over the years, I never really liked it.  It’s an OK painting, OK enough to display but not OK enough to sign. There was always something about it that, to me, wasn’t quite right.

 As I stepped back to look at the newly hung art, my eye caught that painting on the floor, on its side, and I thought “wow”! It was a totally new painting. And suddenly I loved it. It used to be an abstract painting that didn’t quite hit its mark, but now…

 My particular abstraction began as a beach scene. The problem I had with it was that it looked like a seascape gone wrong. It wasn’t rendered well enough to be realistic and not abstract enough to be, well, abstract.  Being a realist artist, I generally see things in abstract painting that may or may not be intended and subsequently I have trouble seeing abstractly. 

 I made a comment recently that I wanted to attempt to create an abstract painting and hoped that I wouldn’t fail at it miserably. Some people questioned “failure” because by all accounts it would be “abstract”, so who would know (hint, the artist ALWAYS knows).  So I felt obligated to explain that, contrary to popular belief, an abstract painting is so much more than paint thrown onto a canvas – that much thought goes into the process and execution. As much as a realistic drawing or painting can be poorly rendered, so too can an abstract.

But here is one of the things I love most about abstract paintings – there is no “right” side up. You can display them anyway you want.  Sure, they are most likely painted from a certain perspective by the artist and exhibited that way to others – as the artist sees it – but when you break it down that old adage still holds true,  it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

 I recall Maya Angelou saying once that “when someone tells you who they are, believe them.”  I think that holds true of art as well.  Art can be both timeless and timely. However you look at it, if it’s saying something to you, it’s safe to believe  what you experience from it.  For me, I have a new perspective based solely on what the painting says to me. If perchance it moves into someone else’s collection, the new owner may hear a different story, see another angle. Fortunately, it’s finally an abstract and the only “right side up” is the side that speaks and says, “this is who I am.” 

Now I look at my new painting and only see remnants of its former self and eventually those too will disappear.  Moreover, I see an abstract I feel comfortable  enough to sign.  It’s still not at the top of my creative achievements but it’s a start.

Close, but no cigar.

General Info, New Art
My First Oil Painting

My First Oil Painting

It’s said that an artist is his/her own worst critic. Well, that’s certainly true of me. Even though I can see that I’ve gotten better over the years, I’m not yet where I think I want to be. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that I have talent; I believe in my abilities to create fine art – but I haven’t reached that stage in my artistry where I’m completely comfortable.  I generally begin a painting chanting “I THINK I can, I think I can,” and then of course I do it.  But I rarely start with the thought,  “This is cake, I can do this, hands down.”   There’s always a little hesitation, some trepidation.

As we close on 2012 and begin 2013 I, like most, engage in a little retrospective on life, love, dreams, career, and of course my art.Hold Me

When I look back at some of my earlier paintings and compare them to recent works, I feel a real sense of accomplishment.  I can definitely see the progress that I’ve made over the years, which is as it should be.  Many of my first works look so amateurish to me now, yet with every new painting I complete I look and look and pick it apart and look some more, never fully satisfied. Oftentimes I am pretty reluctant to even sign my nKOROame, because signing it would mean that it’s finished.

I think that un-satiated feeling derives from not yet having developed a style I call me own. (Interestingly I’ve been told by others that I do indeed have a style, only I myself can’t see it.)  Because I enjoy such an assortment of media and subject matter and technique I find it hard to lock myself into what I think is a specific style.  I can’t even attempt to clump my paintings into “periods” such as Picasso’s Blue and Rose periods.  Each time I pick up a brush to start a new painting the outcome is decidedly different from the last one I completed.Mike

Then again, if I ever find myself pigeon holed into a specific style – in my art or in my life – it would mean that I’ve stopped growing, stopped evolving, and that simply will not do. Notably, all of the Greats have danced between painting and sculpture and architecture and science and invention, dallying in different genres and media  – it’s part of what made them great. And because there’s still so much more that I want to try, because I haven’t learned it all, because I relish a good challenge, because I’m still not satisfied, I so look forward to 2013.

orchid My wish for you: Continue to grow, continue to evolve into that being you are meant to be – at least for this year.  Get as close as you can without lighting that cigar. 

 Now, throughout this article I’ve given you a little peek at my evolution thus far. embracedBesides the obvious, can you tell what’s old and what’s new? Friends