Monday, April 9, 2012

Learn how to launch a career in fine art...


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thank you, Miss Gertz!*

Fourth grade can make kids feel vulnerable to the “middle child syndrome” simply because they are no longer the cute little first grader they once were and don’t fit in with the cool upper classes of fifth & sixth grade. Most fourth graders feel awkward, out of place and suddenly invisible.That is unless they are fortunate enough to have a fourth grade teacher like I did, Miss Gertz.

Miss Gertz could easily be placed within the “spinster" category. Never married, tall, very thin, dark hair that she kept rolled up in a conservative bun, always matronly dressed with sensible shoes, she was not one to be admired for her physical stature, but she carried a heart for her classroom that was as big as the sky. I didn’t know it at the time, but gentle Miss Gertz was a strong life-changer.

It was Miss Gertz who took me aside one day and told me to go up to the small room where the school nurse had tested my hearing earlier that year. Sheepishly, I walked up the three steps and opened the door to find a table, a chair and a stack of art supplies. While the rest of my class studied history, I was to paint for the teacher. And so I did. I can still see the image of that painting in my mind. I painted bright primary colors on a black background of a hillside of flowers, a creek, a rainbow, stars and clouds. I signed it and went back to the classroom with my artwork in hand. Little did I know that my classmates would be just as puzzled by my assignment as I was. I remember feeling very apologetic about it all.

Later that year, while the rest of the class studied about the Amazon in their geography book, I was given the task of creating a mural on the classroom wall featuring the flora and fauna of the Amazon region. Although it is true that I learn a lot about the Amazon while working on that project, I was well aware of the daggers directed towards my back as I colored, cut and glued my animals to the sea foam green butcher papered wall. After a confrontation on the playground, I agreed to delegate some of my artistic endeavors to a few of my friends. This “executive decision” was quickly vetoed by Miss Gertz, and I was back to working solo.

In those days, Spokane had “All City Choirs” for children in grade school and middle school. Scouts were sent to the local schools to audition children each spring. There were three choirs, a beginning choir, a middle choir and an advanced choir. One morning, Audubon fourth graders were auditioned for the beginning choir. I was chosen by Miss Gertz to go to have my vocal skills tested.

My mother taught me to sing and to read music at the age of seven. I was more comfortable singing for people than talking to them really. (Please let me sing my book report. Talking is way too scary.) So, it wasn’t a surprise to me that I was selected to sing in an All City Choir. My best friend at the time wanted to be in the choir as well. I begged Miss Gertz to do something, as my girlfriend did not pass the audition. This was just another failed attempt on my part to please my friends and, again, I felt a need to apologize for my talent.

I lost my best friend that day.

As it turned out, I was placed in the advanced choir. I was the youngest and smallest in this particular choir and, because I could read music and sing harmony, I was often given solos or placed with a trio on special occasions. One Christmas, the Holiday Pageant was filmed for television from the Spokane Coliseum. I sang a solo dressed as in a Santa’s elf costume that my mother had made from red felt. I sang with the three children’s choirs and Spokane Symphony behind me. I remember wishing I could play the shiny brass bells that a group of five were playing after my solo. I remember admiring all of the beautiful Christmas decorations. I remember watching my performance with my family at Christmastime on our black and white TV. I remember thinking it all felt very normal and was really no big deal.

Today I am a professional artist. I have exhibited all over the United States as well as Florence, Italy. I have won numerous awards and been published in several art magazines. I also sing my favorite jazz standards in my own band accompanied by some of Spokane’s best local musicians. I love my life and I no longer make apologies for my talent. I use them all to the best of my ability. I am very thankful to a special teacher who must have seen something in me that needed an extra push, no matter how it affected my social life.

Thank you Miss Gertz!

(*Published recently by:

Friday, August 26, 2011




Sept 6 – Oct 25

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Sept 8 – Oct 27

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pretty, Pretty Please

"If you hear a voice within you say, 'you cannot paint',
then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced."
~Vincent Van Gogh

I was blessed to come from a a long line of creative people. So, when I started drawing and painting, my family members were very supportive. I decided at the age of nine that I wanted to be a professional artist. It never occurred to me that I couldn't. I just did it. That may be one of the reasons I am often taken back when I hear people say that they don't feel comfortable calling themselves an artist. Like the word "artist" means you have the ability to walk on water or something and someone just might ask you to prove it.

My friend, Harold, a wise old sage & very prolific artist says, "People are afraid of art because they have confused it with something else." I agree with him. I love what I do, but it's not magic or anything. It's just paint.

I met a guy the other day who said he was a photographer. He gave me his card. It was a beautiful card with a photo of a drooping tulip. (I'm a sucker for tulips). Of course, I loved his card. He was a bit flustered when I gushed over it and he began to make conversation that leaned apologictic. He was very uncomfortable with me calling him an artist.

Here's my opinion: if you make art on a regular basis (I'm not saying if you have talent & never use it), but if you are working on making art, any art, with passion and are an artist. Why do you need someone to lay a sword on your shoulder and dub you: "Artist"? You don't!

Give yourself over to your creative right. Sure there will be people (artists) who are more successful than you. Even better than you. So what? Don't make such a big deal out of it. Just keep going. If your work resonates with you, then it will resonate with others as well. (Which brings up the topic of honesty in one's work...fodder for another blog post.)

Q: Will there ever be another Mozart?
A: No. Now can we get back to work?