Sunday, July 29, 2012

Busy Week, Busy Weekend

It's been a week since my last post...I try to post two or three times a week but just got too busy this week.  I'm still kind of figuring out what works best for me on this venture.  

Anyway it's been a busy week and weekend. I had a wonderful surprise early this week when my sister Candi decided to purchase my painting of galloping horses from my etsy shop.  I feel very honored, and so glad that she will have it in her home.  Thanks Candi!  That certainly made my week!  It should arrive Monday or Tuesday!

This weekend I worked on my wood baskets.  I decided to paint a fall theme on one.  

Our cat Luke is always helpful in the painting process (not!)  The winter/Christmas themed baskets are also in progress.
I did finish the fall basket...maybe. Here are both sides of it.
Haven't varnished it yet...looking at it I'm thinking I might add a bird, maybe a squirrel or bunny?  I'll think it over.

 I'm full of ideas about things I want to make and paint, if I can find the time.  It takes patience to wait until I am able to put the time and focus into developing an idea, which I'm sometimes frustrated about!  I wish I could spend all my days creating and painting.  That's just not my current reality, but I am as productive as I can be when I have the opportunity to be the artist I always am inside myself.  The ideas will be there when I get to them.  

In my next post I'll show you my other project from this weekend.  Something a little different!  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Following the Stars to Our Dreams

An American pioneer passed away today: Sally Ride, the first American woman, and the third woman of any nation, to travel into space.  She was part of two shuttle missions on the Challenger shuttle in 1983 and 1984, and was named to the presidential commission investigating the terrible accident that befell the Challenger.  


After she left NASA, she created programs to encourage children, especially girls, to study science.  She died at age 61 from pancreatic cancer.



Sally became part of NASA at a time just after the long years of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space flights, which featured macho male test pilots at the controls.  She fearlessly led a generation of women into greater challenges and opportunities.  She followed her dreams to the stars.

Women have faced obstacles to pursuing their passions in every field over the centuries.  A career in art was all but impossible for women until relatively recently.  Our museums and art history books are filled with a multitude of creations by male artists, but the examples of women artists are few and far between.  Those who did achieve a measure of mastery and success were upper class women of leisure who had the time and money to pursue their interests, but were still restricted by cultural norms that inhibited everything from their choice of subjects to the exhibition of their work.  

Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun was one of the first women artists to be recognized for her talent.  Born in 1755, the daughter of a painter, she became a professional painter in her teens, and became portraitist to Marie Antoinette in the late 1700's.
This is her self portrait from 1782.  She survived the French Revolution and continued as a successful artist for many years, leaving over 800 paintings at her death in 1842.

A number of women artists of the Impressionist movement became successful and well-known.  One of my favorite artists is Mary Cassatt.  Earlier this year I had the great joy of standing in front of her work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
This is her self portrait.  In spite of her family's opposition to her passion for art, Mary became a very proficient painter. She left Pennsylvania in 1873 to live in Paris, and became part of the Impressionist movement.  Bound by conventions of the time, she painted scenes of home life, mothers and children, and pastimes of the upper classes such as attending the opera.



Her life was not easy, but she followed her own path and found success.  She was an accepted member of the Impressionist group which included Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro.  Her style evolved as the years passed, but still retained a lovely glow of simplicity, vibrancy, and engaging emotion.  

I admire and celebrate the lives of the women like Sally Ride and Le Brun and Mary Cassatt who led unconventional, pioneering lives, and who by doing so opened up a wider world to all women.         

Friday, July 20, 2012

There is No Understanding Some Things

I find I can't write about art or ordinary things today, and I hope you will bear with me as I express my thoughts about what happened today. 

We woke up this morning to the shocking and sad news about the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Hundreds of people packed into a theater for the premiere of the new Batman movie...families, kids, people of all ages enjoying the excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster on the first night.  Most of us have been part of that kind of event.  It's meant to be fun, exhilarating, memorable.  

We will hear all about the young man who committed this atrocity in the days and weeks to come.  Perhaps he has always been mentally damaged.  Or perhaps he became obsessed by the fantasy of becoming a supervillain, or becoming famous through infamy.  Maybe he has an agenda that he believes will get attention because of his actions.  We may want to call him crazy, sick, or evil.  But whatever we learn about him, what he did will never make sense.  

There is some painful irony in the way violence is a major part of the Batman movies, being reflected in this real-life enactment of violent mayhem. The fact is, and we all know it, we live in a dangerous world, and we see evidence of that every day on tv and the internet.  

But we have to live our lives, so we push the knowledge of our uncertain safety away from our consciousness and we go out into the world around us.  We practice trust, by interacting with people we don't know, on a daily basis.  We board airplanes, we stand in lines, we gather in malls and schools and offices and churches and movie theaters.  We resist paranoia and try to believe we can be safe in the ordinary activities of modern life. 

Then someone betrays that trust and hurts innocent people for no reason we can possibly understand.  We watch the towers fall, and the images and pain are seared into our hearts and minds.  We are never the same again, but we go on.  

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims of this tragic event and to the wounded and traumatized left in its wake.    

Sunday, July 15, 2012

FineArtAmerica and Flickr

I'm happy to have made a sale on Friday through  FAA is a print-on-demand site where I have my paintings uploaded, and prints of almost any size can be made on canvas or paper, including posters and greeting cards.  The site produces the print and ships it, including any matting and framing a customer might order.  It's a very convenient way to get any kind of art you can imagine.  My work on FAA can be found at:

This is the painting that was purchased as a print:
I painted this in 2007.  It's a view of Crest Lake Park in Clearwater.  I have a lot of fond memories of this park; I loved to bike there as a kid, hung out with friends there in high school, and took my kids there to play on the playground when they were young.  We still take our dogs to the dog park there sometimes.  Unfortunately it tends to be a hangout for vagrants these days, but it's still a lovely little park. 

I enjoy looking at other artist's work on FAA and would like to share a link to one of my favorite artist's paintings with you.  Marlene Burns paints abstracts, which normally don't interest me too much, but hers are always sublime.  See what you think...

Last week I started a new account on Flickr, and uploaded my artwork there.  It's another social media site that has a lot of great photos and artwork, and an active community of users. There are many groups to choose from in which to participate and share work and personal photos.  It's a fun site, come check it out.  My photostream is at

I put a few paintings on that site that I don't have elsewhere.  This is one that I painted some years ago, and used a book on Italy for my reference photo.  Since it's not my original image I don't offer it for sale or prints, but I still like it :)  I don't use reference photo images that don't belong to me for paintings anymore, but it was fun to practice painting on this one as I was learning to paint landscapes.  

Another work week begins.  Hope everyone has a good Monday tomorrow.  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Little About ACEOs...Little Works of Art

I'd like to share with you some information about ACEOs, since many people don't really know what they are.  ACEO stands for "Art Cards Editions and Originals".  The one rule for creating them is that they must be 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches in size, the same as a playing card or baseball card.  

While they can be made from wood, metal, fabric, or even clay, most are on paper of some sort.  Any medium is acceptable including paint, pencil, ink, crayon, charcoal, and so on.  They are also available as prints, which can come from traditionally sized original art or from original ACEOs.  I'll share one of my ACEO's here as well as a few by other artists on etsy.

Original ACEO Cat Painting Acrylic on Canvas Paper
"Jack the Cat" ACEO, Acrylic on Canvas Paper, by Penny Birch-Williams

ACEOs are based on the ATC, Art Trading Card, which were only traded, not bought and sold.  In 2004 Lisa Luree, an artist who sells her work on eBay as "bone*diva", started ACEOs as something apart from ATCs so that she could sell them. 

Original ACEO Clouds Rain Rainbow Art Handstitched Felt Quilt Applique Beaded

 "Cloud Forms" ACEO by "lemonshortbread", felt, beads & wire,

There are many collectors of ACEOs and many artists making them now.  Some are priced for just a dollar or two, while highly sought-after artists' creations can be $100 or more.  Most are very affordable in the $5 to $40 range online.

  Art Card ACEO Original Oil Painting--Pumpkin Pie
"Pumpkin Pie" ACEO by Karen Coombes, Oil,

ACEOs can be matted and framed, displayed on tiny easels, or kept in a plastic trading card sleeve.  Collecting them is a fun way to have original art or prints by favorite artists at a reasonable price.  

 ACEO Artist's original 2.5 X 3.5 inch art card in polymer clay
Polymer Clay ACEO by Pat Elder,

ACEOs should not be confused with miniature art, which has been an art form for hundreds of years.  I have painted miniatures in the past, and ACEOs are different: miniatures are supposed to be no larger than one-sixth of the subject's actual size.  They have no set size.  Miniatures are often highly detailed and realistic works that can best be appreciated when magnified.  I believe a miniature is much more difficult to paint than most ACEOs, and the price for most miniatures reflects that.

 Angel...original aceo...watercolor illustration
 "Angel" ACEO by Lisa Ferguson, watercolor & graphite pencil,

I started painting ACEOs recently, after opening my etsy shop.  For my type of painting style an ACEO does require more careful brushwork, as well as smaller brushes than I would normally use.  I hope to paint many more!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Painting, Sawing, Sanding...and a Movie!

Busy weekend for me!  I think I've finished the painting for my daughter, after several more sessions working on it.  I spent time softening the lines of the horse, and worked on the stone wall, both adding detail and softening the edges.  The scene is meant to be a bit misty and ethereal and my original lines were too hard and dark.  I'm leaving it alone where I can see it for a few days, so that I can look at it and see if anything stands out as needing more work.  I do that with most of my paintings.  I'll either work on it more, or sign and varnish it next.  Here is the current version:


 I love a productive weekend!  Craig and I spent Saturday cutting out and sanding the pieces for my first Christmas craft.  I'm starting out with six of the wood gift baskets, which I will paint.  We made these baskets several years ago for family gifts, filled with wine bottles, homemade cookies, and such things.  They also look great with a potted poinsettia, books, a crocheted afghan, or other things in them.  Here is a photo of the pieces we will assemble next weekend, with one of the original baskets we made.

We did something quite unusual today...we took several hours off and went to a movie.  Going to movies used to be something we did frequently, but over the years it's less and less a pastime for Craig and I.  Both "kids" went with us...also unusual nowadays...and we saw "Brave".  

I really enjoyed it as a story.  The heroine Merida is a spunky, strong character, and her relationship with her mother has both the conflict and emotional attachment that many of us experience in growing up. I particularly noted the interesting choices the filmmakers made, in having the backgrounds so realistic that they often looked like real film of nature, yet the characters were cartoonish.  Their skin looked plastic, and they looked like dolls.  I wonder if that was to better enable merchandising of toys based on the movie.  Anyway, it was a fun movie and it was great to get away for awhile.

Best wishes for a good week ahead!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Blog

I hope everyone had a good 4th of July.  I'm not much into fireworks so I stayed in, while my husband biked to see the city fireworks display.  He said it was worth the effort.  I had plenty of booming around home with many neighbors setting off their own fireworks.  And plenty of barking with my dogs objecting to the booming!  So not exactly a quiet night, but at least the neighbors stopped (or ran out of fireworks) by midnight.  Maybe they had to get up for work the next morning too!  

It's kind of amazing to us that Florida is actually fairly cool compared to many states north of us.  The heatwave sounds miserable, especially for the states that are dealing with power outages after the recent storm.  And those terrible, destructive fires in the west...really tragic losses for so many.  So while it IS hot here, and humid of course, it's the normal Florida summer pattern, and we're getting rainstorms most days to cool us down.  We feel fortunate at this point, and hope things improve very soon for the rest of the nation.

I am excited to be starting this weekend to construct the wooden gift baskets I'll be painting for the Christmas season, for my etsy shop.  I'm so lucky to have my husband's help!  I'm pretty handy with a scroll saw but not so much with a circular saw...we usually do woodworking projects together.  I'm planning to make six to begin with, and go on to wood ornaments and other ideas I have.  In past years I painted things as Christmas gifts to family and friends, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do on etsy. 

I have been working on my daughter's painting this week and have made good progress.  If I have time I'll work on it again this weekend.  I feel I need to clear the decks before I get going on the Christmas projects anyway.  I love when a painting starts to come together.  


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekends Fly By, Don't They?

I am lucky enough to have three-day weekends every week.  Each week I plan all the things I need and want to do in those three days, and it seems like I'll have plenty of time to get everything done.  Of course I rarely do.  So why do I keep making those long lists and spend each day increasingly frustrated because I'm not getting enough done?  

Chores eat up most of my time away from work, leaving little time for exercise, for painting, for developing new creative ideas, and just for down time to recharge my energy and imagination. I remember spending hours just reading, early in my life.  I miss that. I miss feeling like I have lots of time.  Do you remember long summer days, spent just running around, playing?  No "Things to Do" list! Of course, those were the days when I had a mother to take care of all the I am the mother, the wife, the employee.  The buck stops here.

I want to find a way to slow down, but so far I don't know how to do that.  I have to fit in who I truly am in the corners and edges of my life, squeezed in around everything I am responsible for.  What would it be like to really have enough time?  I can only remember back to childhood summers to answer that question. I believe most adults are stressed and too busy in the U.S. these days, so I know I'm not alone in this.

I did make the time to paint for a couple of hours today, so I have a photo of my progress on the horse painting I'm working on.  I'm still not happy with the angle of the horse's head & have reworked it a couple of times...I'll get it right soon.   Worked more on the clouds and background too.  It's coming along, though slowly.

 I hope everyone has a good week.  Looking forward to an extra day off for the 4th of July. Take care, friends.