Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmases Past and Present

A news program earlier this morning reported that the average American family spends $800 per person at Christmas. Did I hear that correctly? I must have because I heard my husband's voice from the other room scoffing, "Not in THIS house". We have never been big spenders at Christmas or otherwise. This report reminded me of Christmases past......

My husband and I  are both children of farmers and come from large families. It was also a time when relatives all  lived nearby. My childhood Christmas would begin with falling asleep at Midnight Mass and awakening to a stocking filled with goodies laid across the foot of the bed. Instead of the traditional red and white Christmas stockings, my mother used her support hose. I know that sounds odd, but they stretched and were filled with goodies! There was always an apple or orange in the toe and a Roman Candle sticking out of the top. In between were little games, assorted nuts and all kinds of little things. After we  went through the stockings, it was straight to the Christmas tree. Every year mother would build a Christmas village, which was set atop a mountain made of brown paper sprayed with snow. The village was hardly visible on Christmas morning. We were a big family and she liked to do it up with gifts. It's also possible that I couldn't see the village because I was a little kid, however it seemed the tree was surrounded by mountains of gifts. Before long, there was torn gift wrapping all over the place and we were ready to go to Grandma's. After all, there would be more presents there!

After visiting and having our fill of special holiday food, it was the kid's favorite time of the evening-PRESENTS! Now both grandmothers also had big families so there were plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins and the cousins increased yearly. My maternal grandmother always gave us a book of Lifesaver candies. I could go for that. After all, it was candy! My paternal grandmother, without fail, gave us underwear or socks. What kind of Christmas gift was THAT? She never commented that she wished she could have given more. We were just handed the undies, all wrapped up like a real gift.

And that brings me to what inspired this post. As I reflect back, those gift of socks or undies were gifts spun into gold. They weren't gifts that were to be played with and tossed aside as most gifts were. They were gifts given with love, intended to be used daily and helped keep us clean and warm. They were practical gifts bought with hard earned money. They were gifts that turned into life lessons. I wonder if she ever considered they would be more appreciated 50+ years after they were given and many years after she would be gone. 

We now have three daughters and five grandchildren of our own and while our gifts may not be socks or underwear, they are simple and practical. And we are content to think that maybe 50 years from now, they will realize that a true gift was given.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mary A. Johnson, A Time for Giving Thanks

. We all have people who have touched our lives in such a way as to change them forever. Mary Johnson is one of those people. She graciously agreed to be interviewed. 
It is my great honor to introduce you to 
Mary A. Johnson, Artist and Friend

Mary A. Johnson

When and how did you first become seriously interested in art?

 I've always been seriously interested in art. From the earliest age, I found great joy in whatever creative outlet I could find. In high school I worked on sets making scenery for plays, posters, the yearbook, you name, I was there. My parents always made sure I had art supplies and encouraged me.

 What mediums/subject matter do you work in?

 I began my career studying oils. Once I started my formal art education at TCU in Fort Worth, I was introduced to pastels and I fell in love! My favorite subject is portraits.

 What do you express in your work?

I try to express the personal connection. The eyes are so important. They are the first things you look at when viewing a portrait. They tell so much, they truly capture the soul.

: What artists/professionals have been your biggest influence?

Daniel Greene, Kathleen Cook, Richard Schmid but, there are so many.

 What do you do to gain new inspiration in your work?

I find inspiration anywhere. Visiting art museums, galleries and attending workshops. Expose yourself to work of artists you admire and consider greater than yourself so you can learn.

Do you set goals for yourself?

 Yes, it is very important to set goals that challenge you. Whether it is a painting a day, a new subject or study of prospective. Anything that keeps you changing and growing.

 Do you have any regrets in this career choice or things you would have done differently?

 A true artist has no choice in this career, they are driven. It is a passion and joy to create. It may not always be financially rewarding but, it cannot be your driving force. Do what you love and the universe will provide.

 What is your best piece of advice for other artists?

You cannot play in the symphony unless you practice!

 Even with your long and productive career, you still attend workshops. One might assume you have already learned all there is to know. Why do you still attend workshop?

 I still attend workshop because there is always something new to learn. You go home and take the time to filter out what new information you can apply in your own work and practice.

 Is there any more advice you would like to share with upcoming artists?

 When you have a painting you are proud of, remember that how it is framed is as important as the painting itself. I would also like to tell up and coming artists to paint what YOU want to paint.

 Lastly, how would you like to be remembered?

 I would like to be remembered as a friend.

Mary has been active in the art community throughout her life. She has been the focus of One-Woman Shows in Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas and has been the recipient of countless awards. Mary is highly respected among her peers and has been a generous mentor to many up and coming artists.
Mary Johnson

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chantel Barber, Tennessee Ambassador for the Portrait Society of America

"Sunshine" by Chantel Barber

I have been following Chantel Barber and her beautiful art for quite some time. I love impressionistic portraits and she does them masterfully. She and I have been appointed  State Ambassadors for Portrait Society of America, she representing the state of Tennessee and I, Texas. I really wanted to get to know her better so, I gave her a call.  As we spoke, it occurred to me that others would also be inspired by her journey and she graciously agreed to an interview. So without further adieu, it is my honor to introduce you to Chantel Barber.

1) When and how did you first become seriously interested in Art?
My earliest memories are full of art - my own that is - I was drawing before I even realized what I was doing. It was a way to express myself. My parents did not know much about the art world and really were unsure of how to hone my talent. I loved the Walt Disney animated features and by the time I was 6 had decided I wanted to work in their studios when I was older. I do remember a teacher once asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up - my answer “I am already an artist.”

2) What is your training, and what medium(s) / subject matter do you work in?
When I was ten years old my family moved to San Diego CA. For the first time in my life I visited an art museum - The San Diego Museum of Art. My world had suddenly changed. I wanted to create art like those pieces in the museum. My drawings had always been of people and even with this new desire I never wavered from wanting to capture the human soul. It just so happened that our 70 year old neighbor was an artist. She offered to give me art lessons at a very affordable price (which was a blessing since I am the oldest of four children). I was introduced to oil paint and amazing artists that I did not even know existed. She encouraged me to subscribe to an artist magazine and I looked forward to each and every issue. Even now I still remember the excitement as I devoured each page.
My training has never been formal. Circumstances kept me from attending art school, and though I did get a two year degree from the University of Maryland it was only in general arts. In 1990, my husband and I moved to the east coast. He was an officer in the Navy and the movers flat out refused to pack my oil paints. We boxed them up and took them in our car, which unfortunately was broken into and the paints were stolen. This was another pivotal moment in my life. I had enrolled in a art class through a community college and it was in this class that a fellow student introduced me to acrylic. Knowing that I had at least twenty years of moves ahead, beginning to work in acrylic seemed like the ideal choice. Boy was I in for a surprise. It dried so fast and I had no idea how to control it. My teacher had great advice if I wanted to be an abstract artist but none to give on how to use this medium to capture the subject that I loved the most - portraits. I guess I have a stubborn streak in me because I determined then and there that I would master this medium. I spent the next decade and a half learning from oil painters through workshops. The problem was that they were teaching how to achieve their results in oil and I was working in acrylic. There weren’t any acrylic artists that I admired and could learn from - or in all fairness - none that I knew about who worked in the style I dreamed of working in. So I figured out how to translate all that I learned from the oil painters into techniques that worked with acrylic. It required a lot of hard work and patience.

3. What do you try to express in your work?
I absolutely love working in acrylic. There is no doubt in my mind that my style is perfectly suited to it. Although I love painting plein air and still life it truly is in capturing the human soul that I have come home. I have often felt that my words are inadequate but my paintbrush captures exactly what I want to say. My goal is to “enrich hearts and lives through art” and especially art that showcases the human spirit. I want my art to lift people up, not bring them down in a world where there is already enough sorrow and struggles.

4. What artists/professionals have been your biggest influences?
Dawn Whitelaw has had a big influence on my art. There have been times when I felt like being an acrylic portrait artist was not possible in a field where oil is king. Dawn has encouraged me to stay true to the cause and not give up. I have been given an opportunity to be a pioneer for the acrylic medium. It can be lonely being a pioneer but it is also extremely rewarding. There are so many positives working as an acrylic artist. I love the soap and water cleanup. The quick drying time has become one of my favorite aspects of the medium. It keeps me from over working paintings - if the strokes I have just laid down are not correct, they are easily removed with a damp paper towel. The underneath layer remains completely intact since it is already dry. I can immediately see how values have dried and make any necessary changes. I am able to varnish dry paintings days after finishing. There is no doubt in my mind that working in acrylic has strengthened my artistic abilities. Interesting edges, value, composition, and subtle transitions are just as attainable for the acrylic artist as they are for the artist working in oil. Acrylic can be applied thinly or thickly allowing for wonderful contrast in a painting.

5. What would you like to be doing with your art ten years from now?
Along with continuing to strive for excellence in my own work, I look forward to expanding my teaching horizons even further and encouraging artists to explore the possibilities of acrylic. I want to do whatever I can to carve out a niche for the acrylic artist at events such as the PSA annual conference. It would be fabulous to see acrylic vendors and artist demos readily available at these functions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wasted Time

Would've, could've, should've. All past tense. All unchangeable. Wasted time on regrets. Self-flogging, berating, belittling oneself on what one could've, should've would've done if ____, fill in the blank. If the assessment leads to an improvement in behavior, that is a good thing. If it leads to a perpetual, condemning black cloud overhead, it has caused paralysis. What if, instead of condemnation, one declared, “ I have done what I could with what I had/knew/believed at the time”? What if you forgave yourself as you would forgive a small child who was just learning? Aren't we all still just learning? Always learning? Forever learning?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Double Rainbows

Double Rainbow,  Northern Arizona

Normally, my blog is reserved for posts about art. This morning's post will be different. Sometimes I just have to write and this morning is one of those times. 

This has been a year that I cannot yet summarize. It has at once been fantastic and sad. There have been so many deaths, so many dire diagnoses but, I cannot help but notice that this year has been a year of double rainbows. 
Everywhere I have gone, from New Mexico to Arizona and back to Texas, there have been double rainbows. All the more poignant because they have been in the desert Southwest. People have been posting double rainbows photos from everywhere! Every time I see one, I feel it is the reassurance that everything is under control, in spite of how it looks on the outside, and that everything will be all right.
 Life, situations, events, everything is in a constant state of flux. Noticing the beauty in every fleeting moment keep things in perspective and keeps us on balance. 
 I wish you all double rainbows. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Setting Goals as the Seasons Change

I love this time of year when there is the slightest hint of autumn in the air. The egrets always know when fall is on the way. We live in the country and watching them fly over every morning, wave after wave, always signals the change of seasons.

It's around this time of year that my thoughts turn to goals for the upcoming year with the usual number is five. S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely goals. This is something I have been doing every fall for several years and it has made all the difference. Something else I usually do is keep them to myself. Why? Because they are personal and I guard them zealously. Some people are more successful when making themselves accountable to others, either a close friend or members of their tribe. Perhaps because I am an introvert, keeping them to myself works best for me. I came across the following article by Philip Pape while writing mine. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall Classes

Oil Painting for the Beginning Student
Time: Monday, 9am-Noon
Cost: $110, per 4-Week Session, studio fee included
Oil painting class for beginner students or those wanting a refresher. This class is designed to give a good foundation with plenty of personal instruction.
1 Slot Remaining

Oils Painting Class, Intermediate to Advanced (all 2-D Media Welcome*)
Time: Mondays,1pm-4pm
Cost: $110, per 4-Week Session, studio fee included
2 Slots Remaining
*Primary focus will be on oils, but the principles of art apply to all media.

The Art Gallery
239 W San Antonio St
New Braunfels, TX 78130

For more information, please email: sekulastudio@gmail.com

Website: sekulastudio.com
Facebook: Sekula Studio

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Onward and Upward!

I am deeply honored to have been selected the new Texas State Ambassador for the Portrait Society of America. Many thanks to my predecessor, Anna Rose Bain, for the tremendous job she has done for the past four years. She has truly set the bar high and I will do my best to carry on her wonderful work. Our loss is Colorado's gain. Anna, you will be greatly missed here in Texas!

Website: sekulastudio.com
Facebook: Sekula Studio

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Laws of Lifetime Growth

This is one of those books with advice I would like to have given my 20-year old self. I cannot recommend The Laws of Lifetime Growth highly enough. Bravo and my heart-felt thanks to authors, Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Updated Class Dates

Oil Painting for the Beginning Student
Time: Monday mornings,9am-Noon
Cost: $110, per 4-Week Session, studio fee included

2 Slots Remaining

Oil painting class for beginner students or those wanting a refresher. This class is designed to give a good foundation with plenty of personal instruction.
Oils Painting Class, Intermediate to Advanced (all 2-D Media Welcome*)
Time: Mondays,1pm-4pm
Cost: $110, per 4-Week Session, studio fee included

2 Slots Remaining

*Primary focus will be on oils, but the principles of art apply to all media.

How many times have you found yourself wishing you could paint more loosely and with more expressive brushstrokes? Don't give up and pitch your paint brushes. I am confident that I can help you make some real progress, gain confidence and have a great time doing it.
Some of my objectives are to help you see and understand edges-which ones are important to include and which ones to leave out-paint application with both brushes and knives, and the importance of brushstrokes. I will also do my best to help you to paint from your soul rather than get bogged down in rules and just copying what you see.

"A year from now you will wish you had started today." - Karen Lamb

Class Location:
New Braunfels Art League
239 W San Antonio St
New Braunfels, Texas 78130

Click for Directions to the Art League

For more information, please email:


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trip to Arizona

I just back from a road trip to Arizona with friends and fellow-artists, Anne McCoy and Kim Roberti. It was a wonderful and inspirational trip.  If I hadn't been distracted by the beauty that surrounded us, I would have had the presence of mind to blog while there. Since that didn't happen, I will now try to fit ten days into one post. 

Our first night was spent in a hotel off of the Old Route 66. I didn't manage a photo. 

Near Gallup, NM
Standin' On A Corner in Winslow, Arizona

View from our room in Sedona

Storm coming down the Grand Canyon
Sun's Out! 

All the little people at the Grand Canyon!

Full Double Rainbow on Navajo Land (L)
Full Double Rainbow on Navajo Land (R)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

New Mexico Pastels

New Mexico #1 and #2, both pastels,  now have a new home in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Is it wrong to be sad to see them go?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

All Those Years Ago

They say there are signs in your childhood that point to what you are meant to do with your life. The signs are threaded throughout, but may not be noticed until you stand back and take a look. 

This photo is me and my very first oil painting,  I was twelve. I wish I knew what became of it. It's probably in a land fill somewhere. The photo, which was taken by my Great-Uncle John G. Bowen, is all that remains. He also bought my very first easel and was the first to commission a painting. Thank you, Uncle John!

As a side note: I have given a lot of thought about where my passion for the Desert Southwest came from and, after revisiting this photo, it is obvious that it, too, has been there all along. So, I guess "they" were right. The signs were there all along.

Thanks for bearing with me as I reminisce.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Treatment for Inspiration Overload by Starla J King (revisited)

Because I am a lover of quotes and uplifting people, my path and Starla King's were bound to cross. When and where it happened, I don't recall, but I am thankful that they did.

I am often asked about the trip I took to New Mexico, now almost two years ago. Below is an article, written by Starla on her website,  Outwrite Living.  It will serve double-duty in the retelling of my story and to give you a chance to meet her for yourself. 

Thank you again, Starla. I appreciate you!!! Gaye

My Dear Starla,
Your post really touched me. I had a similar experience about a year ago with art overload. 
I am an artist and have been most of my life. I have never once wondered what my style was or what I should be doing with my art until a year ago. This all started when I began looking at artwork everywhere I could and, in the beginning, it was a very good thing. I love art, I teach art, I live art so it was a natural thing to do. It was feeding my soul and I was gathering information to share with my students. I was looking at it for hours on end either on Facebook, in museums, galleries or books.
I don’t consider myself to be a person who is easily influenced by others so imagine my shock when I realized that I had begun to question my own artistic voice. Something I had never done since I first picked up a brush at 12 years old. Here I was, 57, and questioning now! What the heck???
Well, I had to escape. Escape any and all voices so I planned a solo trip to New Mexico. At 4:30am I took off toward one of the biggest and most rewarding adventures of my life! I drove straight there, stopping only for gas, and arrived at my destination 12 hours later.
I stayed a few nights in Santa Fe and had intended to look at the wonderful galleries on Canyon Road. Oddly I was having trouble timing everything I wanted to do and see the galleries, too. One morning I was again there too early so I decided to go to Albuquerque and catch them on the way back. Well, it never happened. I was so in awe of the scenery around me that I knew nothing inside their walls could ever compare to what I was seeing and feeling!!!
Then on to Taos for a few more days and even more awe! The whole experience was just what the doctor ordered! There is SO much to tell and so few words to describe it all!
Ten days of no other voices but nature’s and my own. It realigned me. I knew the answers to my questions all along, I just couldn’t hear them until then. Yes, I knew what I wanted and could again hear my own voice!
Thanks for listening to my story. I don’t know if you feel it relates to how you are feeling. Your post sure did resonate with how I was feeling a year ago. I’ve been to New Mexico three time in the past year and this last trip, which was for an entire month, two weeks of which I was alone, opened my eyes. The quiet time alone, where I was the only boss of me, put everything into perspective. I am more at peace now than at any time ever in my life.
Fondly, Gaye
Adobe in Cerrillos

Nature. Self. Quiet. “I am more at peace now than at any time ever in my life.”  
Oh, and this painting?  It’s Gaye’s.
It’s called Adobe in Cerrillos, described in her own words as follows:
I love taking backroads, as they always reveal hidden treasures. This abandoned adobe building  is one such treasure. I came upon it as I was poking around Cerrillos, New Mexico.  I can’t help but wonder what tales it could tell.
Yeah, I think she’s onto something.