The High Cost of Ignorance

What are five things you wish you had learned earlier in life?

Everyday I am learning new things. A couple posts ago I mentioned the shortcuts some artists take that’s pretty much akin to a vocalist lip-synching at a concert.
After saying goodbye to the refrigerator repair man (hopefully not the compressor) I took a walk among the genuine creatures on the farm – the ducks and my Border Collie, Kansa. I was hunting grasshoppers when oCapture16ne crept it’s way up my pant leg. I learned grasshoppers only travel UP and I was dancing a jig trying to turn him around fast! The neighbors just had confirmation that I lost it. This incident is not profound in its own right; however, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

#1 It’s okay to laugh at yourself (and not at others unless they are laughing at themselves, too). I was at a small tiny town in north central Kansas, practicing on the organ for a funeral the next day. The town was astir with talk that a musician from the east was going to be playing at the ceremony. This was big news to them. It was important to me to make that good impression (after all, I had a reputation to make and uphold in only an hour). I pulled out the different stops and played some nice sounding chords. As the journey down the tabs progressed, the chords became more creative, maybe more intense, too. Well, I’ll just admit it, I started playing good old diminished seventh chords just like they did in the old movies when the train was boring down on the lady, tied up and lying on the tracks.
This was getting really fun!
As I took a break to set the tabs to a new setting, someone called out to me, “Heh, there, just wanna let you know the tower speaker’s on and the whole town’s hearing you make that awful noise!”
I guess then that knowing when to laugh at yourself is more important than making a good impression.

#2 You only have one time to make a great first impression but you should give people more than one chance.

A piano student’s mother sat in a lesson with her daughter for the first time. Now, I am a very good piano teacher and am passionate about teaching; however, I had a massive sinus infection (from sanding drywall mud) and this was a very bad day but not the type to cancel piano lessons. Without asking for my feedback, she stopped her daughter’s lessons because she said I lacked enthusiasm. The sad part was her daughter was learning well and enjoyed lessons, but the mother felt her daughter didn’t need her help anymore to learn piano and probably felt threatened.
How many times we wished we weren’t judge by the impression we gave others that in no way truly represented our self? How many times did we lose out on a good opportunity because we were quick to judge someone based on one impression?

#3 Being yourself is more important than being important. And there is no one more important than one in need. So, try to be giving.

I don’t know how much of my life was used up trying to impress or please others instead of just being my self. I’m not saying it’s wrong to try to make a good impression – on the contrary. First and good impressions are very important. They allow those you interact with to have confidence in your word and work. But if you think making great first impressions is hard, try being someone you’re not!
It’s like the time our family had a couple over to share a meal and to see our new house we built. Everything was going to plan. The meal was great, I got to use a dishwasher for the first time leaving both hubby and myself free to take the couple on the grand tour.
The lady guest and I were following behind the men when the man ask,”Why is there so much foam spilling out from the dishwasher?”
I tried to stay calm as I rounded the turn into the kitchen – but there was no denying the gallons of containers of foam engulfing the kitchen floor. It looked like a 7′ x 12′ hot tub spewing out suds galore! It must have been quite hilarious to watch me try to mop up the mess as elegantly and inconspicuously as possible.

Now, if anyone has a “right” to be important, you would think it would be Jesus Christ! Yet Christ took up the towel and washed His disciples’ feet. He specifically said that this was done as an example of an attitude for us to follow. His actions backed up the words He spoke, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16)

So-Amish or Mennonites? Which one answered God’s call in my life? womens-control-top-pantyhose_nude-rt
One Sunday our family was in route from Massachusetts to Kansas when our car motor’s belt broke in Berne, Indiana. My hubby quickly pulled to the shoulder. The Amish guided their buggies around us. The faces of the elders looked on in disapproval, maybe a little relish and youngsters looked at us with curiosity. Well, I sacrificed a pair of panty hose that actually got us a couple miles (literally) further down the road. Amazing invention – yet they still run when snagged, a pity. Again we were on the side of the road next to a large wheat field. More buggies and frowns came our way. The strong August sun had no competition from any shade and we were hot, discouraged and very thristy. Temps were near 100 degrees. Would you believe a Mennonite family came out of their house to help and we informed them of our predicament. Their neighbor, also a Mennonite, owned a garage and helped my husband replace the belt while the lady invited us into an air conditioned house and pumped us with iced tea and popcorn. Sure, the Amish thought they made the right impression, but –

you can’t beat the impact you’ll have on a life if you meet a need.

Voluntarily.

We weren’t important, but that caring, Mennonite family, just by being themselves, made us feel important to them and that makes me feel small just thinking about it.

Enough for now. Watch later for more lessons I wished I had learned. BUT – what do you wish you had learned earlier?

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What IS Art?

The Artist
This has been a very revealing week for me.
Earlier, while reading posts to the Portrait Painters LinkedIn site, I found out some artists trace their work, then paint. I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process. Somehow I have a feeling that I am part of a group of artist whose entries that are based on tried-and-true artistic tradition are competing with those who use projectors or worse – they print out the work on canvas and paint over it!!

“The Discovery” by Norman Rockwell

When this reality hit me, I felt like the boy in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Discovery.” The truth absolutely shattered my fairytale expectations. Is it really unrealistic to expect an artist to draw his or her artwork? I’m not talking about someone who draws their original layout and then stencils to a final surface or uses a projector to enlarge it for a large-scale mural. The concept is theirs.  Tracing photos is hard to call original. Though I can’t seem to wrap my arms around the practice, I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process.

The Art
Then, bringing up Rockwell’s work refreshed my memory of another revelation. I ran into a woman who said Norman Rockwell was not an artist, he was just an illustrator. Now, this cut me to the quick since that was my artistic thrust at the time. I was young and impressionable, but I asked myself, “Isn’t all art illustration?”  It illustrates places, people, vocation, moods, fantasy, aspirations, social issues.  The list is endless. I’ve heard people like to make such comments to impress others about their knowledge of art. Sure, I wouldn’t want to be remembered for just the painted logo on a van I did, but illustrative art can be very complex and demand high artist skills. Rockwell’s imagination and skill are seen above.

No one questions calling the sculptor an artist. Why, even hair stylists are called artists today. Maybe the word “artist” has lost some of its meaning. If a person renders a creation in or on stone, metal, paper, canvas or whatever, they’re an artist. If they copied a work or photograph, they’re a copyist. How good of an artist they are can depend on the viewer and the artwork. But if Reader’s Digest wanted to use “The Scream” by Edvard Munch for their cover would you have to call Munch an illustrator?

I would love to hear from critics and artists – is copying art? Is Illustration art?

What should we do with talent?

Where does talent come from?

 

I won’t try to pull a fast one on my readers or string them along with scientific studies (though many are interesting). I can only say,“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”(James 1:17) Now, I know this text refers to God’s gift of salvation and care for His children; however, “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Ex 4:11)   If God decides who will be dumb or seeing, He can easily decide who is artistic or musical, or struggles to appreciate creativity.The source may not be so elusive, but the why behind creativity remains.

 

Maybe more important – what do we do with talent?

Don’t you find it strange how differently people react to the arts and talented people?

Capture1Some are totally clueless in understanding what goes into a performance or project.

When I was the sole musician for a church and was accompanying two choir numbers, two other musical pieces, playing three Offertories plus attending the rehearsals and accompanying worship singing for three services each week, the music director looked at me in surprise when I mentioned I had to practice several hours each week.

Someone asked an artist how long it took for him to paint a picture and he replied, “All my life.” What a great response that is a bit tongue-and-cheek and yet it is all very real at the same time.

There is a lot of loneliness, too. We are those as children who brought home reports cards reading, “Loves to daydream,” “Great motor control but unrealistic use of color,” “Loves singing and sings with authority” and “Work well independently.” I remember the lonely hours as a stay as home mother. It probably didn’t hit me as hard as those personalities that need socialization. My poor children went to bed at 8 in the evening and I would begin painting (When your spouse works 2nd shift, you are almost a single parent) and would paint until my husband came home in the early hours of the morning. While church members socialized, I was practicing with those preparing their musical specials for upcoming worship services. I don’t say these things demanding pity, I am speaking a reality. Artists paint, sculpt, compose, write and practice away while peers shop, party and go to sport/art events.

Life experiences can bring lack of understanding and appreciation on the part of the viewer/listener. So people at recitals and show openings romanticize over the exciting life of artists and refuse to see the reality when an artists state that it can be a bit tedious (Don’t think so, ask Michelangelo when the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was “unveiled.”) Don’t get me wrong, the tedium is worth it to the artist who has the result in his heart and mind.

In the late 1800’s there were over 2,000 piano makers in the country! Every household wanted a piano. Sacrifices were made to own one. Almost every house that had a piano had a child who took lessons. Playing piano was not only a form of entertainment, it was a status symbol. To some people it portrayed wealth, to others it meant refinement and an extra incentive for someone to marry plain old Betty. You can almost feel sorry for the nine-year-old boy who drops his fishing worms when his mother pulls him by the ear into the house for piano practice (lovingly, of course!). Now there were the good old days of discipline against selfish impulses for long-term gains.

Girl with a Pearl Eariing - Vermeer

Girl with a Pearl Eariing – Vermeer

Today we are overloaded with art that seemingly has no cost to it. The painting may be beautiful, but it can be easily mass-produced. The rare voice can draw tears, however, with a touch of a button it’s gone viral and everyone hears it.

Thank God there are patrons who do appreciate the object that delights their eyes and the nuances of sound that move them emotionally. I’m glad there are museums. Those hallways of subtle lighting drown out the noise of cheap entertainment and busy lives and make the viewer focus on life as seen through the artists. Sometimes it’s a life we may have forgotten.  I often wonder what “the art” sees in us as we view it?

How do You Know You’re Right?

Seeing art from the viewer’s eyes-
So, I’m painting a seascape – rather fun. I feel my blood pressure lowering with each stroke I apply. But I know not to rely on my immediate satisfaction. Sometimes in art I will view it upside down or in front of a mirror to CHANGE my PERSPECTIVE. The technique really is an eye opener and I find myself shortening the nose or moving the tree over. I found a website last week when I was looking for some equine inspiration. Horse Trainer Rick Gore has a page called “My Random Horse Thoughts” and the material in it is so mind compelling! (The link is:http://www.thinklikeahorse.org/Horse_thoughts.html)

I think this cartoon explains what I’m saying perfectly.

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

So – How Do You Know You’re Right?
What did you think 2013 would bring you? The same job? Same home? Same health? Same health care? So, we were wrong about a few things. You probably worried about what the year 2013 would bring. Did any of the worries come true? Maybe some did – a lost of job or decline of health, but you’re still here. You can let it get you down or surrender to what you think is a downward spiral of fortunes.

 

Perspective changes everything!
We all have been there. We see catastrophe all around us and a true friend will say to you, “It’s not as bad as you think.” Usually we find little comfort in those words, but then when we realize there are other tests to redeem our unpreparedness, other boy/girl friends to prove their faithfulness, and other chances for the body to heal and ways to cope with change – so – ah-ha! Life isn’t so bad after all!

 

There’s a song I use to sing as a child that adults sometimes forget –

 

“Why worry, when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise.
Why worry, worry, worry worry – when you can pray!”

 

The cartoon above stated perception is reality. But outside of what the artist renders as reality, that’s not often the case.  (If  it were true, car accidents would be rare, indeed!) Maybe if you and your friends can’t see the glass as half full, trust that God does (He probably sees the glass as FULL!) and He will care for you. Try seeing life from the Great Artist’s viewpoint.

John 10: 9  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.   27  My sheep hear  my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:   28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

 

 

 

What do you value?

We just passed the season of gifts and giving. What was your favorite gift? My husband and I had the privilege of spending time with both our children and their families. That’s priceless. You only have a set time to create certain memories and this year my husband and I tried to make as many memories as possible.

But what else do you value?

Time

Have you ever been discouraged about your studio practice?

In my early years of teaching I would bring my husband to work and go home. Then I would teach my lessons and go home – only to turn around and get my husband at 11 pm and travel home. We could only be a one car family at the time, but we made my teaching piano work. However, several times I would drive up to a student’s house only to find they were out (The mother wanted to go to the mall.) – or still in bed! I decided to end the madness and only teach at home.

The wasted gas stopped; however, there were still calls canceling because students didn’t practice or worse yet the no-shows. I bawled in private but was gracious to those that little valued my time. But help came.

A colleague told me, “If you don’t value your time, the students will never value it. Charge them for their missed lessons.” So after five years of teaching I finally wrote a studio policy. Who would have thought boundaries bring…

Freedom.

When you know what the rules are you can point out to the parent the policy and say, “You agreed to these terms and I still get paid whether you practiced or not.” When I was called to jury duty, I reimbursed my students. My time became a commodity of a set value and my students, the parents, my family and myself knew what value I put on it.

Opportunity

Then there are the scholarships. I made it a practice to give greatly reduced rates or free lessons to one or more individuals each year. Over time I saw the result of my generosity. With one, maybe two exceptions, of the dozens given – the students didn’t value their opportunities. I sat amazed at the gifts given to them and the way they squandered their time and lessons. They were some of the most ill-prepared students and what once was desired became an annoyance to their daily schedule.

So, if I really feel the need to offer scholarships, then I have a 3 strikes policy. The first lesson they come unprepared I warn the student. The second lesson I give a written warning to the parent stating the scholarship is in jeopardy. The third lesson (and not necessarily consecutive) and the scholarship is withdrawn.

It may sound cruel. I am a soft soul and have given latitude for mid-terms and injury but what do I teach them to value if I don’t value the opportunity I have given to them?

I would like to know what you value? How do you protect what you value?