The Pitfalls of Surprise Etsy Packages

I think everyone will agree, there is just nothing better than a good old-fashioned snail mail parcel. Wrapped up in that manilla envelope or cardboard box is more than just the object of your anticipation, especially if the goody is a gift from someone who knows you well. Contained in those amazing little parcels are thought, love, care, – the things we crave as human beings from the day we take our first breath. They say, “I’m thinking of you” in the very best way. As joyous as it is to receive a parcel from somebody you love, it is even more thrilling to get a surprise parcel, one that shows up in your mailbox to brighten your day and you had no clue that is was coming.

I am an Etsy seller and several members of my family are Etsy sellers. There is a little activity on Etsy that has become fairly popular, the “Buy and stay” and “Buy and Replace” sales. These neat little promotional tools work thusly: A curator collects an item from several different shops to feature in a “treasury list”. She then invites her Etsy friends and associates as well as the featured shops to come look at the items, chat in the comment section, and see if there is anything they are interested in buying. The featured shops do the same with their friends and contacts and those friends and contacts can even invite their friends, etc. The incentive to buy for an Etsyan is you get to replace the shop you buy from with an item from your own shop, plus you support small business, PLUS there is some really neat stuff on Etsy that you just can’t find at Wally World.

This turns a lot of eyes onto the featured shops from people who might not normally come into contact with them, it helps a buyer sort through the mass of unknown Etsy shops to find a seller who they can chat with and ask questions in real-time, and it is just plain fun. It is much like the modern version of a Tupperware party.

 

So, now that my readers are more familiar with how these sales work, let me resume the purpose of this post: Avoiding the pitfalls of surprise Etsy packages.

French vanilla coffee soap by http://www.sweetturquoise.etsy.com smells absolutely heavenly, like a softly cinnamon coffee latte with undertones of vanilla. Yum!

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the world of hand-made knows that homemade soap is about as delectable as it gets. On Etsy you can find droves of soap makers, each with their own specialty, style, etc. There are vegan soaps, natural soaps, highly scented soaps, non scented soaps, colorful swirled soaps, soaps with names like cinnamon bun and chocolate toffee. There are soaps that look, smell, and sound good enough to eat. There are even soaps made to look exactly like different edibles.

Also by SweetTurqoise, cupcake soaps.

I was chatting with an Etsy friend the other day, during one of these BNS sales, who talked about getting a surprise goody in one of the packages she had ordered, a lovely hand towel from Mouse0403.

I love this coffee themed towel by http://www.Mouse0403.etsy.com

This seller and Mouse are pretty good Etsy friends and run in each others’ BNR/BNS circles a lot. They have ordered from each other multiple times and so when there was a little yummy surprise in with the towel Mouse sent, my friend did not think much other than, “Awww, so sweet!” It was labeled Chocolate Patchouli and looked to be a small sample of hand-made chocolate bar, wrapped up nice and cute with a hand written note from Mouse, “Enjoy this surprise sample!”

Now again, if you are at all familiar with Etsy, you know there are all kinds of creative chocolatiers and candy makers and bakeries on Etsy vending their wares, and it is not at all uncommon to see Chocolate Lavender truffles or Peppermint caramel, or other weird flavor combinations you would not have thought would taste good. So my friend thought nothing as she took a bite of her Chocolate Patchouli and was horrified to find out it was actually soap.

“Gosh! How silly she must be! ” I know that’s what you are thinking, but that isn’t all. As I laughed with her and everyone else, I knew I was going to have to share something that had happened to me that very morning.

I had gone to check my mailbox that morning. I had been participating in the BNS world all week and had several packages I was expecting. As I said before, I have some family members that are heavily involved with those type sales too and I had already received a wonderful box with hand crocheted face scrubbies, beautiful jewelry, some little boonie hats for Faith, and some other little goodies earlier that month. So, I was surprised when I found a little manilla envelope from CakeOrDeath5 that I wasn’t expecting. In retrospect I am vaguely recalling my Aunt Shannon of JunqueyardRoyalty ( www.junqueyardroyalty.etsy.com ) messaging me for my mailing address, but I spaced that out on this particular morning.

I didn’t even wait till I got in the house, I started ripping it open excitedly as I walked up my drive way. Out tumbled a small package of clearish, brownish, coffee cup-shaped unidentifiable little objects that seemed bite sized. They were obviously coffee flavored from the smell, and I am an absolute fool for anything coffee (as you will see).

I was intrigued, yet wary. After all, I knew that Etsy has all kinds of treasures and just because it looks, smells, and seems edible does not mean that it is. I wondered if this delectable little bit was a candle tart, soap, gummy candy, hard candy, or just something else altogether. I was somewhat thrown off by the shop name, CakeOrDeath5, and I just couldn’t recall what it was that Cake sold. I looked for a note, but all she had in the package was a business card and a little hand written “Enjoy!” written on a little tag. I’m sure she assumed that Shannon had told me about my coming  package.

Well, those little coffee flavored something-or-others were so good-looking and smelling, and they most resembled a candy, what with being bite sized and clearish, and my mind flashed to a conversation not long ago about a fellow Etsyan’s coffee flavored taffy, so rather than wait to inquire or search Cake’s Etsy shop for what the item was, I decided to lick one of the little buggers.

Tell me these don't at least resemble candy.

Yes, I licked it, not knowing what it was. It was, in fact, kind of sweet, but I easily and quickly determined that is was not edible. It was soap, little individual soaps. This did not disappoint me, I love soap, and I loved that they were coffee flavored and shaped into little coffee cups. I just wish I had not been sucked in by their wonderful aroma and appearance to actually lick one.

So, the lesson of the day is: If you order from Etsy and send a surprise gift to someone, be sure to tell them not to taste the soap even if it looks edible. 😀

Individual coffee soaps by http://www.CakeOrDeath5.etsy.com perfect for guest soaps. 🙂

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some other awesome and unique Etsy finds:

"A Break In The Lining" necklace by http://www.JunqueyardRoyalty.etsy.com

Chocolate sea shells by www.AndiesSpecialtySweets.etsy.com , do they not look totally real??
Fairy portal by www.ClayByKim.etsy.com

And I could post so many more! The best thing is for you to browse and discover Etsy for yourself. www.etsy.com

Talent in the Bluegrass

I have been busy for the month of April, as most of you know, moving from one house to another and it has been a while since I posted. I am taking time now to say we are moved and loving our new rural farm-house. I want to write more and post pictures soon.

This post will be short, but I wanted to call attention to my fabulous Etsy team, Team Bluegrass! This is a group of wonderful artists and craftsmen that specialize in everything from soap, to pottery, to jewelry, to garden decor, and everything in between. There are currently 139 members throughout the state. Everything we make is crafted by hand. (With a smattering of vintage items here and there.)

Making a purchase on Etsy is as simple as any other online site for one of the megastores, except when you purchase from someone on Etsy, you are purchasing from a small business, and if they are a Team Bluegrass member, your dollars go right back into our local Kentucky economy! There is something for everyone and many items are surprisingly affordable. Why not stay at home and have an original, made-with-love item delivered to you instead of going through the hoopla of Wally World only to feel like just another number running your stuff through the self check line and wondering if the quality is really there? Think about it.

For those of you who have not yet discovered Etsy: www.etsy.com

You can browse without a profile, and if you find something you love (and I’m sure you will) the site will walk you through a very simple, free sign up so you can purchase items through PayPal with your credit card, or some vendors (such as myself) have a pay with money order option.

In the Etsy search bar, you can type in any search word to find exactly what you’re looking for, but type in teambluegrass (all one word, our team search tag) and you can browse literally hundreds of items made here in Kentucky. Birthdays, holidays, just because days, a treat for yourself, or just something you have been needing, they are all covered!

Team Bluegrass is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/kentuckyhandmade

We recently decided to create a team coupon code good in many of the Team Bluegrass shops on Etsy. Using this code at checkout will take 10% off your purchase order. You just type BLUEGRASS10 into the coupon code box upon checkout and your order is automatically adjusted. This is our first team code and is expected to run quarterly. This particular code will be available to anyone on every order until July 1, 2011. Below is a list of the shops currently offering this code in their shop, but we expect this list to change and grow as our team grows and as we get feedback on the popularity of this endeavor.

Skyeblue85, Glasgow KY – that would be me! Original works of art that “regular” people can afford. I specialize in wall decor, original paintings, home decor items, ect.
The Loop Designs, Frankfort KY – Quilts, bags, pillows, and fabric goods for your home.
Whimsy Beading, Lexington KY – Whimsy in beadweaving jewelry.
SeeSpace, Frankfort KY – Jewelry, stencil goods, appliques.
Bluebirdheaven, Louisville KY – The original printer drawer jewelry displays.
Lexigirlcreations, Lexington KY – Eclectic, unusual, steam punk, and everyday jewelry creations.
CreativeEyeStudio, Louisville KY – Handcrafted, unique beaded jewelry and greeting cards.
Earth Aria, Florence KY – Unique custom gem, pearl, and bridal jewelry.
Sweet Pea Murals, Florence KY – Custom painted wall murals, decorative borders, and room decor for kids.
Jorgensenstudio, Louisville KY – Stacking and promise rings, engagement and wedding jewelry.
Stephaniemakesall, Bowling Green Ky – Crochet and knit items, journals, soap savers, boot anklets, a variety.
Glory Be Herbals, Lexington KY – Natural bath and beauty products, essential oils, soap, lip balm, lotions.
Charlotart, Louisville KY – Exciting home decor and mixed media art form repurposed items.
Cafecharlot (Jackie Charlot) – Charlotart’s sister shop consisting of vintage items.
Jdbeaner1, Louisville Ky – Baubles by Jill, unique jewelry creations.
Hotoffthelathe, Louisville KY – Beautiful word working, pepper mills, duck calls, deer grunt calls.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/hotoffthelathe?ref=pr_shop
JASaromatics, Lexington KY – essential oils, soap, perfumes, bath and body items.
 
As most of my readers know, I’m a firm believer in supporting small and local businesses. I think the megastores have taken away some of our American heritage. Our country was founded on free enterprise. Mom and Pop stores used to be the beating heart of the American economy. Great products at fair prices, yes, but also relationships and outstanding customer service. You’ll find that by exploring the different Etsy shop profiles, each owner has a unique story and drive behind their online store. Most are very committed to making every purchase feel like a personal experience. You would think an online purchase would be about as impersonal as it gets, but I have found through personal experience that my Etsy purchases are much better experiences than every purchase experience I’ve ever had at the megastores or other online stores. There are message options right on Etsy where you can communicate directly with the seller and almost everybody is awesome about answering questions about their products and working with you to customize your order.
 
I think I’ve said as much as I can say, I’d rather you just check out these awesome shops for yourself! 🙂

Plans (Note: don’t mind my bumbling in the dark.:D)

As many of you know, I have been marketing and selling my art work for about a year now. I have been amazed, excited, and humbled by how well I’ve done, all things considered. It started as a hobby and now I am seriously researching the development of my business. How hard can that be? You put product up where it will be seen and you put a price on it, right?

Wrong.

Since I started with a hobby in mind, I did not really research all the points I should have that regard marketing and the business side. This isn’t so bad, I find that many things in my life seem to start out backwards and they almost always turn themselves around the right way before it’s over. However, I’m at a point where I need to really start getting serious if I want to see serious results. This is good, this does not intimidate me, it exhilarates me because I finally know, at almost 26 years old,  just what I want to do in the way of job and income long-term.

I really want to accomplish so much more than just creating and selling art, though. I want to be that business where when you purchase something from me, you feel like you got a superior product for an amazing price. I want to connect with my customers and be more than just “an artists I bought a piece of art from”, I want to build relationships. I don’t want to be that annoying online business that sends out emails every other day and posts on their Facebook wall about their product until when you see their avatar you just automatically scan over them or worse, delete them.

That being said, I am trying really hard to find new and interesting ways to connect and market and promote. Since setting up shop on Etsy I have learned so much from other small businesses and online shoppers. I really admire all the unique and handmade items I’ve seen and I’m striving to be just as unique in my own field.

I will be taking some time out all this next month of April, mainly to move my household once more,( this time at least we’re getting a bigger house with more room to create and be productive) but also to work on my new business and give it some TLC. I want to be a little more organized, a little less all over the place, figure out my short-term and long-term goals, work out my exact costs to price tag ratio, and work on new items and new kinds of items. I’ll have my Etsy shop on vacation mode for all of April, but I’ll be back at the beginning of May, hopefully with a clearer vision and consistent direction.

Feel free to keep up with me on Facebook and leave any suggestions about what you’d like to see me do. I love feed back!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Skye-Blue-by-Natasia-Champion/362725131270

"In Spite of the Pain" (SOLD)

The Method In The Madness

 From the time I was very little I have always been artistically creative. I loved to draw and paint and play with play dough and clay. Art class was my favorite class in school and I got merit ribbons at the end of every school year for my achievements and progress. I did not think of it as work or a class in school, it just came naturally and flowed out of me.

 I always said as a little girl, when asked what I would like to be when I grow up, that I would like to be one of three things; an artist, a chef, or a horse breeder. Well, little did I know that I would grow up to marry a chef and that I would indeed find myself as an artist on the path of life. (As for being a horse breeder, well …. I am only 24. It could still happen.)

 When I refered to an “artist”, I meant somebody who creates works for more than recreation, somebody who makes a living as an artist and who’s work is viewed and bought by the public. I believe in some sense we are all artists in our own way. As I grew from a child to a teenager and on into my present adulthood I thought of myself as an artist and figured that even though I was not exhibiting or selling my work, I had still attained my childhood dream. For a time this was completely satisfying. I did not need publicity to define me. I was comfortable in my own ability.

 I still feel this way even though recent circumstances have begun to change. I will always be an artist, with or without outside approval or patronage. However, I’m finding a new and exciting world in the public side of artistry. I am no longer painting to minister to myself, but to others around me. The old saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive” can be applied. I find more enjoyment and fulfillment in somebody else seeing my work and having it speak to them emotionally than I ever did creating it and viewing it myself. I love interpreting my work, thinking about what each painting means to me, but even more so, I love hearing somebody else’s interpretation on the same piece of art. Quite often it is very different from mine and stimulates a whole new thought pattern and feeling when I look at it, as if seeing it again for the first time.

 It is not the money I make because you can’t really put a price on enjoyment and personal satisfaction. The money is only a pleasant by-product, something that helps perpetuate the real purpose of art. The real purpose of art is to create a beautiful and enriched environment. For many artistic objects this is their sole purpose, they can’t really be utilized as much more than decoration yet this does not make them any less wanted, any less important.

 Human beings through out every age have created art. The earliest civilizations and nomadic tribes have developed their creativity through art, from cave paintings, to ancient buildings and statues, to renaissance frescos, to our modern-day world of vastly different styles. The enjoyment and fulfillment of creating beauty is ingrained in every human being. Some of us create the works themselves, others put them together to create a beautiful environment, either way, we all crave beauty in some form and take the steps necessary to attain it.

 I am honored to be able to contribute to the beautifying process by producing works of art that speak to others. I love feed back because that is my real recompense for my labor. It is more important to me than money could ever be, it is more gratifying. A sale excites me because I know my work has touched somebody’s heart and soul and the money funds my effort to reach the next person. It is a cycle of love, emotion, beauty, and the inner drive of creation.  It is the reason I do what I do.

Finding Myself

I am in the process of finding my style as an artist and experimenting with different techniques. You would not believe how hard it is to clear your mind of any idea or preconceived notion of what is acceptable and just paint. Blank canvas, emotion, – paint! I believe it is necessary for me to do this in order to find out who I really am in my art work. I am trying not to worry about the finished out come, what people will think, if I’ll like the finished product, I’m transferring the emotion of the moment onto my canvas and watching it evolve under the brush.

 I have always shied away from “modern art” in the past because my logical inner voice told me there was no picture. However, as I am maturing and growing into my present and future self, I find I can look at a painting for more than just its picture or likeness to a known object or place. I can look at a painting and feel it’s emotion.

 I was in 440  Main yesterday for lunch and before I left, I walked around the restaurant and examined the paintings by a local artist that are for sale on consignment. They are all various degrees of abstract in character. Some of them are identifiable as something familiar – a trio of pears, an oyster on the half shell, wine glasses. They were all beautiful in their own way, but one stood out to me from the rest. I found it almost odd that this painting stood out to me considering my past conceptions. It was large, probably about four feet square, and it was simply streaks of paint applied to the canvas with a knife. There were rough, raised areas, different colors, some blended and others standing out alone, and no picture whatsoever, just paint on canvas. I looked at it and loved it immediately but could not pinpoint why. It was so free, simple and yet complex, soothing and exciting all at the same time. I would hang it on my wall at home if I had several hundred to spend on a painting. I don’t know why, it just spoke to me and I liked it.

 I determined yesterday as I looked at that painting that I wanted to be free too, I wanted to let my emotions flow through the brush and speak to somebody through my work. I realized for the first time with not just my head, but my heart, that there is no “wrong” or “stupid” art. There is only art in many forms. Who hasn’t looked at a child’s drawing and found something to love in its simplicity and unrealistic lines? Children are perhaps the purest of artists because they draw and paint what they feel. They create art with their own interpretation and not in the confines of what society accepts or how the rest of us view perfection. If they have the inkling to make the flower blue and the sky red, that’s what they do.

 I think we should be more like children in the sense that if we feel something, we should let that flow into our work.  Sometimes that will transfer into a tranquil scene, and sometimes it will be angry splashes of bold colors. Either interpretation is acceptable because somewhere there is a person who will see it and it will speak to them personally, and really, that is all we hope for as artists.

"The Earth Without Form, and Void"

Answering the Call

 It never ceases to amaze me how creativity flows from an individual’s soul as if controlled by some other force.

 I have many forms of creative expression that I’m familiar with. I paint, sing, play piano, write poetry and prose, garden, and just create in general when ever the moment presents itself. It just bubbles out of me in whatever form is convenient at the moment. I can’t disobey the call and I can’t force inspiration. I can try, but in either case I end up frustrated and stymied.

 The major form of creativity for me in the past was writing songs and playing my piano. At that time, I was going through a very hard emotional trial in addition to the already awkward years of puberty and young adulthood.  I found music an effective outlet for my emotions. I’ve mentioned before that I’m the type to bottle things up, and when I was fit to burst, I would turn to my music. At first I listened to other peoples’ music, songs that had deep lyrics that I could relate to. Then I began teaching myself to play the piano by ear and soon I was writing my own songs from my own heart. I would shut myself in my room, sit down to fiddle with the keys, and a melody would emerge that pulled at my soul, usually in minors with a soaring chorus. I always kept a notebook and pen handy to write the words that tumbled from my head seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it would take hours, sometimes only minutes, but I’ve written so many songs that even after forgetting half of them, I could fill several albums with the remainder.

 I don’t really take credit for these songs, many of which have touched some of my listeners to tears. Reading the lyrics I’d just written, almost every time, was like reading something someone else wrote because I could not tell you where they came from. They flowed beautifully and even as I watched them being marked onto the paper, it was almost like an out of body experience, like someone had taken control of my mind and hand. It is hard to explain. I was only a teenage girl. I was no Aristotle, no Homer, just a young, uncertain, ordinary girl. It did not make sence that I had composed such profound and deep words and put them to music resulting in something so heart wrenching.

 I don’t write music very much these days. I no longer have my piano, the one that has seen me through anger and tears, that has helped me express my pain and grief and joy. I have sat down to other pianos since losing mine and while it is nice, it’s just not the same. It’s like starting over with a new friend, having to give them your history and help them understand what makes you tick, when your old friend already knows because they’ve been there with you through it all. Perhaps down the road I will invest in a new “friendship”, but for now, my preferred method of expression is painting.

 Once again, it is as if the brush is controled by another force other than my own as I apply paint to my canvas. I sit down to paint with a very clear idea of what I will do, but somehow the finished picture is completely different from what I’d envisioned. In the past when I felt the subject matter shifting in mid stride I always fought it, trying to bring it back under control and many times I was frustrated and dissatisfied with my picture. Having recently gotten back into painting on a regular basis, I determined to just paint, not fight the inspiration.

 I sat down this evening to a blank canvas. I fully intended to paint a wood stove with a steaming kettle sitting on it, a familiar sight for me growing up. Perhaps some logs of wood by the stove, and a little more realistic feel since I’d been doing so much abstract stuff lately. No sooner had I picked up the brush when a new picture flashed across my mind. I saw golden roses with long thin thorns wrapped around a faceless female figure on a dark background. She was wearing the thorny roses like clothing and there were some other details that remained a bit cloudy, but I knew they would become clearer as I went, so I started brushing on the background. However, a mistake and a blotchy cover up later, I found a tree emerging under my brush. It had a long, skinny trunk and was ghostly bluish-white. Yet another picture, it had abstract qualities and perhaps a little brook…

 My finished picture does not even look like that last idea, but I am pleased and satisfied with my work. My creativity has been indulged and expressed, and I’ve found that for me, that must be done in some form every single day in order for me to stay cheerful and to keep depression at bay.

 I believe the more demons and closeted skeletons a person has, the more often they must indulge their creative outlets. I also believe that every person has a creative side. In one form or another, creativity is part of the human function. Perhaps you haven’t found your form yet, or maybe you have been fighting it instead of letting it flow. Let go and just paint, even if you don’t have a clue what to paint. Or sing at the top of your lungs without being self-conscious of other people listening or being in the right key. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and even your knees, plant a few seeds and tend them carefully. Watch them grow into a neat little garden full of the things that reflect your personality. Pull out all the stops, create and be creative. I promise you will find it enjoyable, surprising, and it will inspire even more creativity in yourself and the people around you.

In Living Color

 As an artist, I work with color on a regular basis. I mix colors, I know what combinations of colors make different shades of the same color or a new color altogether. I love color.

 When I sit down in front of a blank canvas, I first envision a rough draft if you will. I don’t really “see” the finished picture because there are too many variables. A single brush stroke intended to become one thing will without warning inspire something completely different and change the whole picture. Something as simple as using golds instead of orange will change the mood of a sunset, transforming it into a sunrise.

 My rough draft is usually inspired by nature, I love using flowers and landscapes as subjects. I love the imperfection of nature as opposed to man-made things. Nature is full of broken lines and curves and “blemishes” that add character to each individual flower petal and blade of grass and stone. There are no two alike in the world, never has been and never will be. Man made things, on the other hand, are full of straight lines and dimension and constants, and even though these things can have their own beauty, in my opinion, they cannot begin to rival the carefree gracefulness of the smallest part of Creation.

 When observing nature, one of the first things we gravitate toward is color. Who hasn’t exclaimed over a sunrise, or a vibrant flower, or even the bare, naked loveliness of a desolate canyon in the desert. But for me, there is more than meets the eye. For example, if I were to show you a cedar tree and ask you what color you see you might tell me green. You may even go so far as to say dark green or olive-green. A very blessed few may even say dark green and olive-green with a brown trunk .

 When I look at that same tree, an explosion of different colors hits me like an ocean wave. First I see green in about five different shades, depending on the time of day and how much light is hitting the branches. Looking a little deeper I see black and forest green where the light is unable to penetrate the tiny needles bristling from the branches nearest the trunk. Depending on how thick the foliage, I may see several shades of brown in the trunk, kodiak, dark chocolate, and caramel with hints of reddish tints. The new growth on the tips of the foliage nearest the light tend to have a misty brownish red effect, icing the whole tree and adding to the olive tone I first observed. In the winter time, when the little berries that are it’s seed adorn it, foggy blue and waxy gray-green beg me to capture their delicate hues but almost always escape me to some extent when transferred in paint to the canvas. All this from a single tree, one seemingly monotone part of the natural world. You can only imagine what I see in a stargazer lily or a waterfall.

 As I said, I love color. I pity the person who is unable to distinguish colors, not just red from blue, but sunshine yellow from goldenrod or sea-foam from sea-green. Yes, there is an acute difference.

 I was not always gifted with this perception. It is a skill that is learned like any other skill, perseverance and observation play a significant if not major part in attaining it. For me, the desire to make my paintings more lifelike inspired me to find where I was lacking. I had the right shape, the right perspective, but there was something lacking. I found little by little that layers of color changed a childlike crayon drawing into a work worthy of display. Even with black and white charcoal drawings, all the different shades of gray and subtle penciling made the curves stand  out and the light bounce around an otherwise drab portrait. Even in this so-called black and white world there was color. There was pigeon gray and stone gray and charcoal in addition to black and white. I have learned through the years that quiet observation is probably the most valuable tool to me as an artist. Many of us go through life looking without really seeing.

 After envisioning my rough draft I go on to lay the foundation. I brush on the sky and the basic land mass or just a background color depending on my objective and mood. Sometimes I’m going for something very realistic, sometimes an abstract image is desired. Sometimes I just want to vent my feelings onto the canvas and unleash some pent-up frustration, applying paint in an almost haphazard way until something catches my eye like a life line and inspires a more careful application of brush strokes, slowly revealing some semblance of order out of the chaos. It is very therapeutic.

 Following the foundation is layer upon layer of what eventually makes the picture recognizable as one thing or another. With painting, you generally work from the outside, or farthest away, in, or closest to you. For example, first you lay the horizon, then the mid ground, then the foreground. If you try to do this in reverse order you will find it very difficult to lay your sunset without messing up the beautiful seagull sitting on that piling in front of that magnificent sailboat you carefully detailed for the observer.

 I have found that many things in life are like painting. The more variations and shades, the more beautiful, and it takes many layers to come up with a really good finished product. You can’t use all light colors or your picture will be washed out and difficult to distinguish. You need those very dark colors to balance the light and ground your objects, give them some depth and character. Sometimes you have to step back to look at the whole picture before you can go in and add that little detail that makes a big difference. And finally, that bold black brush stroke in the middle of the picture marring a beautiful scene will slowly and carefully become a magnificent oak tree, making the picture more beautiful than it was at first and filling in an emptiness you didn’t realize was there until you viewed it in retrospect.

 Life can be lived without color, absolutely, but it is so much more interesting and beautiful when color is added. Color has been proven to have different effects on human emotion. Green, for example, has been proven to have a calming effect, while bright red can excite and agitate. From the very earliest years of childhood we gravitate toward color. Babies love bright colors. Color is used to command, green for go, red for stop. Yellow signs imply caution even before we are able to make out the writing on them. Purple and blue have announced royalty since ancient times. White has been an eternal symbol of purity and goodness.

 We live in color, it is our world, it speaks to us if we will listen. It’s very differences make it what it is. It is taken for granted too often but missed immediately upon absence. What would this world be without color?