Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Good Craft

The craft of telling stories takes time to learn; the art takes a lifetime.

Sonia Simone
in her blog: Remarkable Communcation

I have rephrased the quote today because I needed this reminder: The craft of making art takes time to learn; the art (of making art) takes a lifetime.

The difference between the craft and the art is easy to understand in most creative endeavors and the role of good technique (the craft) cannot be dismissed.
  • In writing, words are selected; sentences are tweaked and paragraphs are molded to complete the thoughts of the writer. I read, I write and, occasionally, I turn a phrase which sings just out of reach of "craft."
  • In music, scales and chords are practiced; arpeggios and phrases are massaged for voice or instrument to translate the notes on the score. I practiced, I learned proper fingering and phrasing during years of piano lessons, and, occasionally my playing reached just past "well-crafted technique."
  • In art, the medium and techniques are explored, elements and ideas are merged in a composition of space, light and shape. I sketch, plan and paint and occasionally, I create a painting which breathes with life just beyond "nice."
I'd like for all my creative attempts to be 'art' and I have practiced the craft well, yet I know I have often fallen short. I know that the craft vs. the art is important in the journey, but, for a painter, sometimes the words seem muddled and it is easy to forget that my 'art' is not always "Art." Sometimes it's just good craft.

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thanks To Google Alerts!

Bless Google Alerts!  Through frequent email notifications, I have learned that "Annette Bush" is a realtor, a graphic designer, a politician, a columnist, a teacher . . . . and that two of my paintings are listed on eBay.

Last month, I had received an email about two of my original paintings which had been acquired by a new owner. She asked about the value and wanted to know the "story" behind the work -- sounded like someone who loved the work! When I read the titles, I distinctly remembered the twenty year old paintings, so I replied and gave little thought after that, except to wonder about no "Thanks for the info."

So last week, when the email from Google Alerts mentioned those paintings, I followed the link and discovered that the new owner now has no use for them and wishes to sell them on eBay. She has linked to my website for further information, but says this:
"Annette Bush is a native of Augusta, Georgia, but has lived and worked all over the Southern United States, as well as Japan and France. She is primarily known as a watercolorist, but also paints in oils, has illustrated books, and is also an active teacher and a Fine Arts and Crafts Juror at many exhibitions and festivals."

Makes me sound okay, I guess. Just not good enough to meet her reserve price, so the paintings are listed again. I hope she gets her money, but I wish she had been honest in her inquiry and just said she wanted to sell them. (And I wish she had taken better photos!)

In theater, delivery of the mail is often portrayed as an exciting event filled with letters and news from far distances. The Internet has joined the mail delivery in keeping us up to date with news and information, sometimes in unexpected ways -- thanks to Google Alerts!
BushStrokes (c) AAB

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Not My Pie

My sister had cooled her lemon meringue pie on the porch overnight to keep from getting the moisture bubbles sometimes caused by refrigeration. When she brought it in and uncovered it, she discovered the golden balls sprinkled across the surface.

She is rarely unnerved by 'disasters' of any sort, so she placed it on the cloth which had been crocheted by our grandmother more than fifty years ago, announced that they were 'moon bubbles' and served Easter dinner!

I couldn't resist adding the pristine blossoms from my Cherokee Rose to snap this picture. I've served many lemon meringue pies in the past, but I was sorry this one was not my pie!

BushStrokes (c) AAB

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Photo of the Week: A Child's Easter

This week, I couldn't just choose one so there's one with Lucy sitting by the Easter Bunny and one of Belle at her first egg hunt.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lessons from Lucy: Making Mud

Rule number one for many artists is "Never Make Mud." Watercolorists are often in a tizzy after over-working, glazing over wet pigment and just muddling the painting. Oil painters are not immune -- in my one college painting class, I made lovely mud! And writers can truly make murky paragraphs filled with inaccurate words and too many points of view.

Lucy has a spirit of "Joyous Naughtiness" about her (another good rule when trying out new things.} She learned about the fun of Making Mud when I bought her some new rain boots and we found the perfect puddle of water during one of our walks.

She carefully tested the water and loved scooting back and forth. There were Smiles.

She suddenly decided that jumping would be a good thing -- water splashed over everyone. There was Laughter.

Finally, she realized that the water had turned dark and muddy. Uh. Oh! There were Frowns.

She was dismayed at the condition of her beautiful pink boots. She was sure they were ruined. After being assured that the boots could be easily cleaned, she was ready for more scooting, splashing and mud-making. She knows when she's ready to be serious about what she's doing; something many of us never learn.

She won't be told "Never Make Mud." However, she will certainly have to learn the difference between Sunday patent leather Mary Janes and rubber boots with "Kitty Faces."

Not a bad thing:Making Mud.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's A Scary Thought

There was much buzz last week about the upcoming Brahms German Requiem. Although a part of the regular 'Concerts With A Cause' at St. John United Methodist, this one was held at the larger suburban First Baptist Church.A guest conductor, the Symphony orchestra, a baritone and a soprano soloist, members of five choirs, and words in German held the attention of the overflowing audience. My daughter and I claimed seats near the center and much too close to the front, but with that many participants, we opted to have a unique view of a few.

Although the Requiem is a prayer about grief and suffering, it seemed to speak to this glorious day. I circled a phrase in the program notes: ". . . your heart will rejoice." John 16:22 But, as the concert ended, it was the last line which I knew would define the Brahms and this day for me.

Earlier in the day, I had overheard visitors to our morning service say to our minister that they were here for the afternoon concert. Something made me speak to them, asking where they were from. When they answered, I said, "I used to live there." I asked where they went to church and when they answered, I said, "I used to work there." One of the two brothers looked at me and said, "Wait. Are you Annette Bush?" Mike and Ray talked at once remembering that I conducted their confirmation classes, that as teenagers, they often sat around in my office which is still there and more . . . . Our families just stood by a little stunned.

We didn't talk long on the sidewalk, but it was long enough for the cobwebs to be swept away from forty+ year old memories about that congregation in another state. (We even made some new connections as we realized that, at last year's Birthday Party for Jesus, Ray's son-in-law Charles joined my daughter Kathryn and baby Belle to portray the Holy Family.)

It has been strange looking back on 'one of my other lives' and it left me feeling a little discombobulated. Aside from a four month special project, that had been my first real job after I graduated from college in 1963 with a degree in Religion. I did the job as best I could and it was work I enjoyed. Who could know that the impressions made on two young brothers would remain with them for forty years?

As Brahms' glorious music came to a close that afternoon, I circled the final phrase in the program notes,

". . . for their works follow after them."
Revelations 14:13

It's a scary thought.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Quote of the Week: On Jurying Art

Actually, I think almost anyone might say this about almost any jurying job, tongue in cheek or not. We all have our reasons. However strange. ( I believe this was about the Turner Prize.)

The jurors have a wonderful opportunity to find the artist guilty and sentence him to a term of no work and generally keeping quiet for however many years his art deserves. Amazingly, instead of doing this, they give him twenty thousand pounds. I'm all for people giving each other twenty thousand pounds as often as possible, but the reason in this case seems so very strange."

in her book "Counting My Chickens. . . "
Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, 2001


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Finding the Joy in Going

It's that time of year. I watched the birds swirl in a symphony of movement across the sky and listened to the chatter of the river geese checking the nests behind my house to see when the little ones will be ready to travel. I wondered if it is too early to visit my little house in the country to hang the hammock, renew the wood shavings on the floor, repair winter storm damage and spend time in the quiet. I talked with a friend about cruises and bus trips and flights that others seem to enjoy and a trip to the house in the country seemed just plain dull.

And then I met the bag lady. Lucy and I do the weekly BIG shopping and I usually take my own groceries out to the car, but this week I had a few too many so we accepted a little help. As the bagger placed my purchases in the car, we chatted about proper bagging techniques and I mentioned the packing of one bag a couple of weeks ago. She replied that she wasn't working two weeks ago because she was on her anniversary honeymoon.

I almost let this comment slip by, but there was something about her demeanor which demanded that I ask. I thought perhaps she had just gotten married, but no, she was indeed on an 'anniversary' honeymoon.' I asked where she went, thinking again of those cruises, bus trips and flights. She named the tiny county seat near my little house. She glowed when she talked about their week together at a friend's place even though her husband spent most of his time fishing. She spoke about the area as if it were Paris or Cancun or the Great Wall of China -- an area where I can go as often as I like!

I was reminded by the birds, the river geese and the bag lady. It's not about where you go; it's about finding the joy in going.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Quote of The Week: Patterns of Faith

" . . . . In the end, the message was: knowledge doesn't exist unless there is a will to find patterns, a believe to do things a lot better."

"This also has some connection with a bible verse I love and guided my life since childhood,
'to have faith is to be sure of the things we have, to be certain of the things we cannot see.' "
Patrick Ng

A playground slide and the creative process -- both require patterns of faith and certainty to begin the journey.

Patrick Ng lives in HongKong.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Getting to Carnegie Hall

In the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, the answer is "Practice."

I think it is more than that. There are
--excellent artists who study and create and network but never get beyond a local gallery,
--good musicians who practice and perform and build a small following but never get beyond the demo CD and
--inspired writers who fill notebooks and files with whole paragraphs of words and ideas and complete some very good work but never get beyond publishing a bit here and there.

What is the difference? As a creative artist, my goal is not Carnegie Hall, but I do have goals to be met. Yes, how to get there is the question.

In a previous blog entry, I briefly mentioned soprano Tonya Currier's delightful performance during a Thanksgiving concert. Her repertoire is as wide spread as "This Little Light of Mine" (sung locally) and Marschallin in Rosenkavalier (performed with Toronto's Lyric Opera.) Next month, she will return to Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble to sing the soprano solos in Faure's Requiem and Rutter's Mass of the Children. So how'd she get there?

There are lessons to be learned from Tonya Currier. She has an extraordinary presence, an extraordinary style, an extraordinary delivery. Over time, she has studied and practiced AND she has worked to develop the "extra" which capitalizes on her own unique qualities.

That's how she is getting to Carnegie Hall.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Suzanne and Masters of the American West

It's another Fault of the Internet!

I frequently review museums and special exhibit on line, but rarely get a close-up view.

California artist, Suzanne Ferguson has provided just what I needed to let me know more about a show which she recently attended. Suzanne paints both in the studio and at various locations in the Western states and her website is full of gentle images like this one.

I ask her to share her observations here as a guest blogger as both a thank you for excellent words and as a reminder that I need to see art in person whenever possible.

I had read Friday or Saturday that the Masters of the American West show was on and would be over March 2, and I wasn't about to miss it like I did last year.

Anyway, my favorite (the painting that really knocked my socks off) this time was one by Bill Anton called "The Winds of Change." I fell in love with it, could have looked at it for hours. I longed to take it home with me. However, had I seen it only on the web, and was offered it for free, I might not have even cared. More than most paintings, the photo doesn't give it justice. It washes out the colors. For example, it shows a bit of blue on the horse's haunch, which was made up of many subtle colors including a lot of light, beautiful purples. You could almost smell the wind.

Another one that made a big impression on me was "On the Canyon Rim" by Jason Rich. Had that turn of the century cowboy art look, but with exceptional color.

Other years I'd gone to the show. Pino Dangelico had astonished me, and I'd wanted to spend hours staring. Though his excellence is still obvious, he seemed more commercial, less dramatic, and the work seemed to show less story telling that usual. Instead of the usually beautiful skin tones, the skin seemed overly white, almost chalky.

I was sorry not to see any Dad Meiduich this year.

I (and the rest of the world) had always appreciated Howard Terpning, but he never effected me before like this time. His Hard Trails Wore Out More Than Ponies" seemed to me the very best and the most dramatic painting there. It glowed and excelled on every level from contrast to personality. It also had the best spot in the show. It's enormous, and is hung right in front of you when you walk in, and really deserved it. And there were sooooo many more good ones. . . .

This is the show's site:


Suzanne and Masters of the American West. A nice combination and another delicious Fault of the Internet!


Looking Forward to Looking Back

Reunion meetings seem to be the thing that is filling my calendar these days. My high school class is in the midst of plans for its Fiftieth Reunion. My college class is celebrating its 45th this year.

And what about the others!?! The annual barbecue for my high school classes of the 50s. The fun weekend for anyone who went to my junior college (now a university) in the 60s. Even a year long event to celebrate the 225th Birthday of my high school. Why is there such interest?

Perhaps it's a mark of my age. When we planned the 25th reunions, everyone said people were interested because their children were older or out of school or married and there was time to come back. Now they say it's because we're at retirement age and have little else to do! Sure.

Frankly, I think it's the fault of the Internet.

Searching for lost classmates is like solving a mystery -- well, at least as much fun as a crossword or sudoku puzzle. Emailing makes communication with old friends easy and cheap. Blogging with photos keeps everything up-to-date. Building a website spreads the word around the world that "the old school is still alive and kicking, so come on back."

I'll be working hard on building enthusiasm for each of these events. Thanks to the Internet, I'm looking forward to looking back.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Power of the Letter

Quote of the Day:
Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.

John Adams, 1765

A note came from a nephew in my Adams family with this quote in the cancellation stamp.

In this same week, an Adams uncle called to request some family tree information for his granddaughter. Is there something in the air?!!!!

Well, yes. An HBO special on this interesting President and his wife, Abigail, will begin on March 16, 2208. At, this paragraph explains:

"Today, it's easy to forget the value of a heartfelt, handwritten letter or card. But the written word holds a singular place in the American story.

In his prolific correspondence, John Adams left us a remarkable first-person account of the birth of our nation, as well as a candid portrait of his life and personal relationships. John and his wife Abigail's letters offer a window to our past; we can be inspired to revive this tradition, to return to the enduring power of the written word, and leave a legacy for future generations."

"Cherish the Means of Knowledge . . . . Let us dare to read, think, speak and write. "

Not a bad motto, for John's family and for mine.