Monday, October 12, 2009

What's on the easel ?

One of the most often questions I get asked, as an artist, is
"What are you working on now"?
I now invite you into my studio to see what's on the easel.

Most artists are funny about showing work that is not completed. Looking at an unfinished piece you get to see the mistakes, the re-works and you have to remember that the painting may change before it is completed. It's like an author writing a story. The story may change several times before it is finished.

This painting is 30 x 40 on stretched canvas and depicts a trio of hunting wolves. I have been working on this painting for quite some time. My painting time has been greatly reduced due to the Parkinson's disease. When I have a day with no or just minor tremors I have to take advantage of it and work as long as I can.

These three wolves have picked up the scent of a rabbit. The rabbit is hiding in the hollow log in the foreground of the painting. Over to the left, two wolves are standing, watching for some movement.

What is interesting about these two wolves is that wherever you move in the room, not only do their eyes follow you, their entire heads turn and follow your movements. I hope you can move your head from side to side and see that ,indeed, their heads do turn.

I hope you don't get caught moving back and forth at your computer . . . your sanity might be questioned.

The larger wolf in the middle ground has picked up the scent of the rabbit but has been interrupted by the presence of YOU the viewer.

The eyes of this wolf follow you as you move about the room, although the head remains straight forward.

There is alot of work to complete on this painting and many problems to solve. Do you show the rabbit in the hollow log? or not and let it be part of the viewer's imagination? Do you add any more wolves? Many questions to be answered and many problems to be worked out.

This next painting is just about finished. On a stretched 24 x 36 canvas it shows seventeen pelicans and is appropriately titled; "Seventeen Pelicans". I need to finish the pelicans in the foreground and add a little more detail to some of the other pelicans.

Have you found yourself "counting" the pelicans ?
The viewer is automatically drawn into the painting by counting pelicans.


There are only 15 ?

I guess two flew away.

This 30 x 40 stretched gallery canvas shows
Iris . . . . . this was going to be my entry for the
ESMarts team September challenge.

Tremors kept me from getting it done in time.

Oh well, maybe next time.

This 30 x 40 painting of a frog diving below the water is a "toughie". It is painted from a view below the subject, looking up.

Above the frog will be seen the shadow of a Heron.

"The Great Escape" as a title will tell the story for the viewer in just a few words.

I don't know if it is that enjoy a tough challenge or that I am a glutton for punishment.

Besides all the visual problems in completing this painting . . . who wants a painting of an expensive frog hanging on their wall ?

I do have to admit I am enjoying working on this one. Doing all the little air bubbles under the water, caused by the splash of the frog, should really be fun.

The last painting I have on the easel is a 18x24
stretched canvas entitled

"Spirit of the Eagle Dancer "

I love doing pieces like this, it's just in my blood.
This will be posted on my Etsy store . . . .

Well, so much for what I have on the easel. When these will be completed, I have no idea.
At least you can see that I am not just sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I welcome your comments about what I have on the easel and any thoughts you have.
Be sure to take a look at my Etsy store . . .

Monday, January 5, 2009

Be A DreamCatcher

One of the most beautiful and popular stories in Native American legends is that of the DreamCatcher. It's been handed down from generation to generation by our Native storytellers. DreamCatchers are also the most abused, mis-used, and mis-understood of all Native American crafts on the market today.
You can go into a reservation gift shop or a national park gift shop and see a profuse supply of DreamCatchers. DreamCatchers are the most purchased of Native American crafts.
It is said that DreamCatchers came from the Ojibwa peoples (Chippewa). It has since been adopted by many Native American/First Peoples cultures. A true Dreamcatcher is made with a hoop or in a tear drop shape, if made from a willow branch. The thing that makes a DreamCatcher a dream catcher is the inticately woven web that resembles a spider's web. It has a hole in the middle and is most likely decorated with charms. A feather hangs from the bottom of it for the good dreams to slide down and reach the sleeper.

The Ojibwa believe that the night is filled with both good and bad dreams (don't we all know this). When a DreamCatcher is hung above your sleeping place it moves in the night air and catches the dreams as they float by. The good dreams, knowing their way, pass through the opening in the center of the webbing while the bad dreams, not knowing the way, are caught in the webbing and are destroyed at the first light of the morning sun. Although the designs and legends of DreamCatchers differ slightly, the underlying meaning and symbolism is universal and is carried across cultures and language barriers, after all, everybody dreams.

As I sit here listening to R. Carlos Nakai and his beautiful flute music I am wrapping suede deerskin around hoops for DreamCatchers. As I drift off into that empty space that comes into your mind with the monotony of repetition I think on what a DreamCatcher does. It lets the good in and captures the bad to later be destroyed. Shouldn't we be more like dream catchers. Shouldn't we let the good in and repell the bad. Shouldn't we let the good words of others into our life and let those bad words be captured and destroyed. Whereas the spider's web of a DreamCatcher allows the good to pass through (the good knows it's way through the spider's maze) the bad dreams are lost and captured until morning light (because they don't know their way through the maze). We have to become that spider's web and allow only good words from others to pass through to our heart and understanding. We have to capture and repell the bad words from others and keep them from entering our hearts and understanding.

This means we have to hold on to others words and judge if they are good or bad. This, as you well know, is not always an easy thing to do. We need to have the strength of an Oak tree to stand and judge words.

We need to be slow to speak. We need to keep a tight web. We need to learn to take the time to judge bad words and not allow them into our hearts and understanding. Patience and wisdom will judge the words and this all comes from your heart. You have to be the web. I have DreamCatchers for sale at http://KickingBear.Etsy.Com Stop by and take a look at them and please respect our ancestors and use your DreamCatchers for what they were intended for. Don't hang a dream catcher from the rear view mirror of your car, it's NOT a decoration.

By the way, if you are talented enough and know the Old Ways and want to make your own DreamCatcher, visit my friend at She has a huge assortment of beads and precious/semi-precious stones to attach to your DreamCatcher.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Twas The Night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas" begins Clement Clark Moore's poem written in 1823. Perhaps nothing ever written has so influenced our secular view of Christmas. But we want to think of this "holy night" in spiritual terms. As we muse on that first Christmas Eve, and on the one we will celebrate, we want to think in terms of heaven and earth and our own hearts. In three circles of application, beginning at the outter rim and moving towards the center, let us ask, "What was and what is taking place?"

What was taking place in heaven on that first Christmas Eve?
Here we must rely on our spirit-led imaginations.Can we not imagine the angel Gabriel reporting on the events preceding Christ's birth that had been committed to his care?
He could have told the assembled angels of his visit in a vision to Zacharias (Luke 1:8-20) and of the events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist.
He could have reported on the annunciation to Mary, a virgin in Nazareth, and of her obedient response (vv. 26-38).
He could have told of the visit of Mary to her relative Elizabeth and of their mutual joy (vv. 39-56).
He could have told how he reassured Joesph in a dream so that both the child to be born and his mother would be protected (Matthew 1:20-23).
He could even have told how God used the decree of Caesar Augustus to bring it about that the Christ should be born in Bethlehem of Judea as the prophet had foretold (Micha 5:2).

Again, can we not imagine a great congregation of angels around the throne awaiting the moment Paul calls "the fulness of time" (Galatians 4:4) to sweep down to earth to hearld his birth? Perhaps as they waited they interrupted Gabriel's report with songs of praise to their Lord and ours. They were ready for instant obedience. Earth was oblivious to the great event about to happen in lowly Bethlehem, but heaven was trembling with expectancy.

Again, can we not imagine a farewell conversation in Heaven that night between the Father and the Son? One writer has seen in Hebrews 10:5-7, where the writer quotes from Psalm 40, a record of this conversation. This is fanciful exegesis, but we can still imagine that such a conversation did take place that night. The nature of Christ's incarnation, for his human body was the result of a divinely creative act; the purpose of the Incarnation, to do the Father's will; and the glory it would bring .... all these could well have entered into that conversation that night.

What was taking place on earth on that first Christmas Eve?
Here we have the clear Scripture record of four events.First, There was the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, their frantic search for quarters, and their settling down in a shelter for cattle. The "fulness of the time" had come for Mary. For months she had been pondering in her heart the annunciation of the angel, the words of her relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45), the angel's assurance to Joseph, and the Old Testament prophecies she incorporated in what we call "the magnificat" (vv. 45-55). All these things probably came to a climax in Mary's heart as she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem.

Second, there was the virgin birth of Jesus. Isn't it remarkable that the event on which all history turns was unhearlded, unattended, and unknown except for the animals and the angels? This was the advent of that ancient prophetic sign that a virgin should conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Hosts of angels fell down to worship then rose up to sing.

Third, there was the appearance of the angels to the shepherds. Unto these simple and faithful men who believed the prophecies and had prepared their hearts, the veil that separates earth from heaven was drawn back; and they saw and heard heavenly hosts. How wonderful was the announcement, how glorious their praise. I cannot help but get excited even writing about it.

Fourth, in some far-off land the Magi, as they studied the skies, saw the appearance of a new star that night. They were men chosen of God because of their search for truth. When they saw the star they knew somehow that the King had been born. In them we have the forerunners of many Gentiles who were, and are yet, to come worship the King. In them also we have God's provision, through their gifts, of safety and financial security for the long journey to Egypt.What will be taking place on this Christmas Eve in our hearts?

Across over two thousand years, what is the factor that will make this "night before Christmas" meaningful for us?It is the fundamental Bible truth that Christ is reborn in the regeneration of every child of God. When a person is born again, there is, in a very real sense, another incarnation of God, so that that person can say, "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

We are living in a world that seems to have no room for Christ, but you can make room for Him in your heart.Have you worshipped and adored Jesus as did the angels? Have you sought to see him for yourself as did the shepherds? Have you crowned Christ King in your heart by the gifts you bring, as did the magi?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Selling Yourself

This old man has been selling artwork since he was 10 years old (no, it wasn't during the Civil War).
Here is what I do for repeat business:

1. To the back of each painting I attach bio information. People want to know you as a person not just by your work.

2. I include with the sale a thank you card which shows a different piece of artwork but in the same genre. One side shows the artwork and on the other side is a hand-written thank you note, also asking them what they think of it (always leave them with a question, then it is up to them to answer).

3. This is followed up about two weeks later, again thanking them for their purchase and asking them how they are enjoying it (again leaving them with a question to answer). This is usually a postcard showing a different piece of artwork in the same genre that they collect. Using a postcard allows others to also see the artwork too. Believe it or not this has resulted in new sales. In this day of E-mail, people DO enjoy finding things in their mailbox besides bills and ads for Wal-Mart.

4. I then add them to my mailing list and when I complete a new painting I send them a notecard with the artwork on the card, I also include an insert showing an entirely different piece of artwork. (Usually once a month) A lot of times these notecards end up being framed themselves.

5. I keep them on this mailing list for six months. If I don't get another purchase within that time, I move them to another mailing list. Mailing them a card twice a year making sure that one of those mailings goes out in November and wishing them a Merry Christmas. (Perhaps a new painting as a Christmas gift?)

6. I use a picture of my most recent artwork on my business cards and change them every month (I print my own, frugal, not cheap). When someone asks what I've done lately I whip out the new business card. I leave business cards everywhere. With a tip after dinner out, at frame shops, even at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, casually placed over in the frame section. (I'm sure the stores love me for this LOL)

A lot of work you say .... perhaps, but 95% of the people who buy my artwork buy again and become avid collectors. When you sell high priced items as I do, it is worth the extra work. Let your customer know you care. I won't go into the fact that their friends and neighbors see their new artwork and ask where they got it.

As for galleries, if I see a gallery that I would be interested in having them represent me, I send them a notecard with artwork on the front. I do this with all new completed artwork for two months. If after that time they have not called to see my portfolio I remove them from my gallery mailing list.
When you are selling a high priced product (mine run from 500-1200 dollars in galleries) then you have to go way beyond that extra mile to keep continued sales and repeat business.

Of course the product you sell has to be "top notch" but selling yourself always means repeat business. And the printing on your cards and inserts has to be of the best quality. But then everything you do in this life should be the best quality you have to offer.

I love to quote Cicero, (Marcus Tullius Cicero is generally perceived to be one of the most versatile minds of ancient Rome. 106BC - 43BC, yes, before my time) "As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule, may be old in body, but can never be so in mind."

If there is anything special you do to promote your business or product I would like to hear about it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Competition Monster

Once upon a time in a land not so far away lived a monster called "Competition". ALL the people in the kingdom feared Competition. Especially, all the King's jewelers, stone masons and artists and lived in daily fear of competition. They were afraid Competition would drive them out of business. They feared having to go to work in the fields and not being able to do their craft. Competition was kept chained up and locked away.

All the artisans were afraid to share their talents and skills with their fellow craftsmen. So they worked in secrecy everyday hiding their techniques and methods of producing their artistic crafts. They were successful in keeping their secrets and everything remained the same.

One day the King asked them, "Why is everything you make the same? Nothing is new, nothing is different."
They looked at one another and scratched their heads. They had no answer for the King. They were using the same methods and techniques that they had always used. They took PRIDE in their work. Their work and how they did it was a secret known only to their particular guild of craftsmen or to them personally.
They didn't know why nothing changed.

The King called on his wise old Sage. "Tell me old wise one, what shall we do to bring about change in the arts?" The Sage rose and approached the King. The old Sage smiled as he whispered in the King's ear. "Release Competition and let it run free."
"But the artisans fear Competition," the King said, as he now scratched his head. The wise one turned as he walked away and said one word. "Exactly."

The King then saw the wisdom in the old man's thinking. The King decreed that the thing that the artisans feared the most, "Competition," shall be released and allowed to roam the kingdom.

All the artisans in the land ran back and forth not knowing what to do, "Competition" had been released. Some put their tools up and prepared to go to work in the fields. Others stood and scratched their heads. (This was a head scratching kingdom) Others gathered together with their crafts to discuss what they should do. This was the first time they had all been together. They walked about and looked at one another's work. Now, there was an enormous amount of head-scratching going on. So much so that it aroused the attention of the wise old Sage. The Sage entered the great hall where all the remaining artisans had gathered. He stood among them smiling (Sages do that alot).

The arrival of the wise old Sage had an effect on the artisans, for they respected his wisdom and knowledge above all else. The Sage raised his hand and the room went quiet. The Sage spoke in an even and low voice, " Growing old is mandatory, Growing wise is an option."
Now the head-scratching began again with more vigor than ever before. They had no idea what the Sage meant by his words. As the head-scratching continued the Sage quietly left the great hall (yes, smiling).

"Help me scratch my head," said the jeweler to the stone mason. "Help me scratch my head," said the stone mason to the painter. Yup, you guessed it. Before long they were scratching one another's heads. They began helping one another scratch their heads. This was something new, helping one another.

As the stone mason scratched the head of the jeweler (looking at the jeweler's beautiful jewelry), he said, " You know if you will split that stone this way you will find a beautiful crystal inside of it." And then the jeweler said to the stone mason (looking at his beautiful statues), "If you will hammer out silver this way, then you can use it on your statues." The painter not wanting to be left out chimed in, "and if you will crush this stone and mix it with oil you will have a beautiful blue color to paint your statues with". They continued scratching their heads and sharing their talents and skills with one another. They no longer feared "Competition." Soon they ALL had new ideas on how to do their crafts differently and make them more beautiful. All of a sudden they stopped scratching their heads (temporarily). They were sharing talents and skills. They realized this was a good thing and they saw their art in a whole different way. New possibilities bloomed in their heads on how they could use these new talents and skills to improve their art.

Soon they noticed a message the old Sage had "scratched" on the floor of the great hall.

"PRIDE, like the magnet, constantly points to one object, SELF, but unlike the magnet, it has no attractive pole, but at all points repells."

ALL the artisans stopped scratching their heads, and somewhere, a Sage smiled.

Scratching your head ..... thinking this story would be about sharing?
Somewhere a Sage chuckles.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Becoming The Creature

I find it amazing that even after thousands of years, we as a people do the same things. We love. We hate. We go to war. We make peace. We live. We die. As artists, we are a bit different (some more different than others). We try to love all things. We hate going to war. We try to live in peace and harmony with the world around us.

We find a beautiful stone or gem and make a necklace or we paint an animal or carve an object. We have moved from painting on the walls of caves to using canvas. We use sterling silver/gold to enhance or hang our stones from rather than a piece of leather. We use power tools to carve. The processes of what we do might have changed and grown (duh) but the human creativity remains the same.

We still try to capture the 'spirit' of the stone, animal or object. As a visual artist (aren't we ALL visual artists?) I try to capture the 'spirit' of the animal by understanding and knowing the animal's habits and life-style. In a sense, 'becoming the creature'. I start by painting the eyes. If the eyes don't show that spirit then I start over. My question is .... what is it that YOU do to capture that 'spirit' in your jewelry, your painting or sculpting? I would be interested in knowing how you as an artist do this. What is your process or is it pure 'feeling' ?. If that is your answer then you are truly gifted. You have "become the creature".

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What am I doing?

I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.
I thought a "blog" was that mess of grass you dug out from under your weed eater.
Or was that a "clog"? They say you learn by doing ..... sure would like to know 'who' they are.
Well, anyway, I am doing, I just don't know WHAT!

From The Studio

Morning Gossip

Morning Gossip
by Van Stewart Bevil
I painted this group of Maccaws after I joined an online internet chatroom (Artists Cafe). There's not much else I can say about the painting, the painting says it all.Rather than artists helping other artists I found nothing but gossip.

It's always nice to do a painting that says what you feel or saw without having to explain alot about the work. With a minimum amount of brush strokes and detail, the birds say it all. Morning Gossip!

This oil painting was done on a 24x36 inch stretched canvas. This painting is hanging in our livingroom and has added greatly to our tropical decor. Joyce says it's time to share it with someone else. LOL


Going Home

Going Home
by Van Stewart Bevil
I spotted this Wood Duck silently flying through the trees in Western Kentucky. The sun had just set and an evening mist was beginning to rise off the dense forest floor. Only his distinctive whistle alerted me to his presence.He was obviously on his way to the nest for the night.Wood Ducks are the only duck native to North America.