A Young Artist

I don’t know who she is but I know she is a teenager who shares my love of art. At Christmastime a church group I belong to gets the name of a family who needs gifts at Christmas. Then each member of our group takes one of the names and buys something from their wish list. We’ve done this for a number of years. Sometimes the requests have been for sizes of clothing I can’t easily find or a child will ask for some toy I’ve never heard of and don’t know where to buy it. But this year was different.

A teenaged girl asked for art supplies and canvases and I knew right away that was the person I wanted to shop for. For a low income person wanting to paint, the expense can be daunting. The two high schools in our town have very good art programs so I assumed the girl I was buying for had already been introduced to some basic concepts and wanted to do more. (If she is already enrolled in art classes she was ahead of where I was at that age. My high school offered no art at all.)

I never go shopping on Black Friday but this year I made an exception. Both Hobby Lobby and Michaels had bargains too good to pass up. When my package is delivered she will have a nice surprise. I wish I could know what she will do with it. I discovered art in college and although it has not been a way to earn a living it has enhanced my life considerably over many years. I hope it will do the same for her.


Large or Small


Peppers, Acrylic, 6″ x 6″

As the holiday season approaches, small seems to be in when it comes to paintings.  There’s a very practical reason for this, of course.  They cost less and when it comes to holiday art shows they are competing in price with items like scarves, earrings and other jewelry.  I am in three holiday art shows this year.  The Southwind Gallery Miniature show in Topeka asked artists to paint six inch by six inch paintings which the gallery then framed all in the same way.  That show just opened and will run during November and December.  The Topeka Art Guild Gallery asked artists in their December-January show to contribute art selling for $100 or less, which means that the art will be of small size.  The Holiday Art Fair at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence on Saturday November 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. did not specify size but when competing with jewelry and other small items I plan on bringing smaller, lower priced paintings.

What can an artist do in a small space?  The painting above will be in the Southwind Gallery Miniature show.  When I am faced with a small canvas I tend to focus on small items.  My other painting in that show is of one water lily.  Not as impressive as a whole pond of them but I think there is something to be gained by limiting one’s focus to just one or a few simple objects.  I loved all the different colors in that one pepper.  Also, if the painting doesn’t work, not so much time and effort have been wasted.

I remember some years ago when I had some paintings in a local gallery, the gallery owner urged me to paint very large paintings.  I think they were in style at the time.  I was told that art majors at our local university were also encouraged to use large canvases.  Well, I tried one that was, I think 48″ x 30.”  It took a long time to paint and then the gallery owner didn’t like it.  I never tried another one that large.  I think smaller paintings have come back and that suits me just fine.

Thinking Ahead

Reproduction of "Madonna of the Rose Garden," 30" x 24"


Replica of “Madonna of the Rose Garden”

by Stephan Lochner 1410-1451

The hectic Christmas season is over.  Cold winter months loom ahead when art will need to be done indoors and there may be more time to be creative.  So why not think about Christmas season 2014.   Was there a Christmas project you meant to complete this season but ran out of time?  Was there a time in the season when you had a great idea for an inspiring piece that could become part of your Christmas decor year after year, but you were too overwhelmed to act on it?  If so, January is a great time to plan and begin a seasonal art project.

Some years ago I longed for a poster reproduction of one of the great Madonna paintings from the past to hang above the mantel over our fireplace.  I searched in stores selling painting reproductions that could be framed but there were no Madonnas.  The first Christmas card I received that year had on it a reproduction of Stephan Lochner’s “Madonna of the Rose Garden.”  I knew I had found my Madonna, but wondered how to reproduce it on a larger scale.  The painting itself suggested the answer.  Artists from northern Europe in the 1400s painted a lot of Madonnas.  One thing they all had in common was an emphasis on the draping of cloth.  I would reproduce this Madonna in cloth and embroidery.

This was a huge project and as I recall I started in January.  I bought stretchers for a 30″ x 24″ piece and attached muslin to it so that I could sew the various cloth pieces to it that I bought at a fabric store.  Using tracing paper  which I gridded, I traced the design of the Christmas card and then transferred the design to 30″ x 24″ tracing paper.  This way I could see where to place the various pieces of cloth and sew them down by hand.  The final details I did with embroidery thread.  The result is shown above.  It is the first item I hang on Dec. 1 and the last I take down on January 1.  I love looking at it.

When my eldest daughter was married and they had their own place, she asked me to make a Madonna for her.  But being an artist, I wasn’t going to do the same Madonna all over again.  So I began to look at Madonnas from northern Europe of the same time period.  I found a slide of a Madonna I liked in a museum gift shop and made one for her and her husband as a Christmas gift.  She liked it so well that she leaves it hanging in her home all year.  Since then I have made Madonnas for two daughters and their husbands and a son and his wife each one different.  Two of the Madonnas I found in art books and the last one on the internet.

The slower pace of January awaits.  What new creative project will you begin?