What Parallel Parking Has to Do with Your Art

16 Feb

Okay, I’m going to share with you my dirty little secret:

I can’t parallel park a car.

Lots and lots of space -- that's what I need when I parallel park a car. Diaphanous by Steve Henderson

Lots and lots of space — that’s what I need when I parallel park a car. Diaphanous by Steve Henderson

Well, I can parallel park a car as long as I’ve got three blank spaces, in a pinch two, and it helps that I drive a Honda Fit. But for the most part I’m willing to drive blocks out of the way and walk, or slip into a diagonal space, or let the Norwegian Artist drive when we’re in the city and masterfully fit that hunk of metal (the car, not the Norwegian) into the allotted space.

In other words, I compensate for my lack of ability.

Ideally, I would learn how to parallel park, which is what our two youngest teenagers are doing with the Norwegian Artist this year before they take their licensing test, but that would mean hours of practicing with the Norwegian, and I’d really just rather spend the time knitting socks.

Because, compensating works.

It doesn’t always, you know — if my problem involved driving skills, say, like the inability to make a right turn without banging into the curb, then I’d need to work on things, but if I can get by — as I have for 35 years — without parallel parking and I’m not hurting anybody and nobody’s yelling at me — then I do, and focus my energy on difficult things that I need to learn and I can’t compensate for.

So it is with painting — some techniques you may never get — something to do with color or brushwork or the ability to draw hands so that they don’t look like elephant feet — and you compensate, by never showing hands, for instance.

As long as this works, it works, and you develop your style by compensating around what you cannot do. The key is determining just how important the technique you can’t do is, and making a decision about it.

More on this next week . . .

I know you’re probably an artist, but, interestingly, artists are some of our best clients. If you like Steve’s work, we’ve set up a number of affordable ways to make it yours — our originals are reasonably priced, our signed limited edition prints are archival quality, and our inspirational posters are uber, uber affordable. This is our philosophy on how we price our paintings. Write us — we answer every e-mail — carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com.

Do It Your Way

1 Feb

It’s good to learn from others — we all do. Whether we’re reading books, taking classes, or talking one on one with another, we increase our knowledge base when we ask questions and, most importantly, listen to the answers.

And then, the crucial thing is to take what we learn each day and apply it to our unique and specific situation. Too many artists — and writers, and people in general — hang on to every word of the chosen “expert” in their field, slavishly copying what the master does or believes in the effort to reproduce the look of the person they admire.

I Do It My Way poster by Steve Henderson

I Do It My Way poster available at Steve Henderson Fine Art

It’s more important that we hone our skills and abilities — and along with that our confidence — so that we can take what we learn to create the best that we, individually, are capable of producing. And if we’re doing it right, our artwork won’t look like anybody else’s — it will look like ours, because we see through our eyes, make decisions based upon our experience, and create in accordance with our passion.

We do it our way, individually, and the more confident we are in our skills and ability, the more sure our steps as we walk our path.

If you’re missing the basics and that’s always made you feel bad, then act — figure out a way to learn those basics and get them behind you already. If you’re beyond the basics but admire someone else’s work immensely, then study that work and see why it impacts you so much. Think, analyze, question, experiment, move.

Great artists get that way because they’re learning, and painting, all the time.

Dream Big!

31 Jan

Bold Innocence poster -- Dream Big! by Steve Henderson

Things change as we get older.

Christmas and birthdays come and go without the weeks of agonizing beforehand, that feeling that the good day will never arrive, the sheer joy and abandon when it does.

In the process of growing up, do we become . . . boring?

“Dream Big” reminds us to reach for something that is bigger and grander than what and where we actually are.

Someone wrote me the other day, “Yeah, I could do what I want with unlimited money and time.”

So do we all think, but when we look around at those people who actually do have unlimited money and time, it’s intriguing to notice that even they don’t seem to be doing what they want. Rather, they’re more concerned about keeping what they have, and are worried that if they don’t look a certain way, act a certain way, speak a certain way, they will topple.

Dreams are big things, and they are not achieved overnight, nor without hard work, perseverance, determination, and patience — the gritty elements that work in the background.

Dream big!

(The Bold Innocence poster — Dream Big! is part of Steve Henderson’s Inspirational Poster collection, and is available at Steve Henderson Fine Art.)

Nobody was listening?

11 Jan

Lately, most of my salient news comes from Facebook, like this story shared by Knowledge is Power.

For those of you who don’t want to read the story link, here’s the short version:

Rejoice! Ocean Breeze poster by Steve Henderson, available through Steve Henderson Fine Art

Rejoice! Ocean Breeze poster by Steve Henderson, available through Steve Henderson Fine Art

Man in busy Washington D.C. metro station plays violin for 45 minutes. Nobody pays attention.

Of the approximately 1100 people who pass through in that time, a 3-year-old is the most attentive, turning to listen as his mother drags him on.

The man with the violin is Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most talented musicians, playing on a $3.5 million dollar violin. In his day job, Bell plays at concert halls to people gladly paying $100 per ticket.

As Knowledge is Power puts it, “One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

The world needs art — visual, musical, written — and seriously does not know this. Artists — keep it up, keep at it, create beauty and promote it to this sad, busy, lonely world.

Happy New Year

21 Dec
May 2013 find you laughing aloud with pure joy. Brimming Over by Steve Henderson

May 2013 find you laughing aloud with pure joy. Brimming Over by Steve Henderson

I’m not a New Year’s resolution type of person; I’m guessing that you aren’t either.

That being said, there is a resolution that all of us can make — indeed should make — and for me to use the word “should,” shows how important this resolution is:

Think for ourselves.

Not just in how or what we do in our art, nor where or how we market it, although that’s a great start. We live in a transitional economy, and what worked prior to 2008 isn’t working the same now, and indeed, may never do so again.

But to succeed as artists, citizens, and human beings, it’s crucial that we constantly ask ourselves why we do what we do, and why we believe what we believe. While this may seem painfully simplistic, generally the simple things in life are the most complex.

With thsi in mind, I invite you to check out I’m a Believer — You Are Too, my end-of-the-year Middle Aged Plague article.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, to you and yours. May you be richly blessed.

— Carolyn

We Do This Every Year. Why?

10 Dec

“I don’t even read newspapers, and yet, around this time of year every year, I am aware of the number of articles written about the frenetic, fast-paced shopping and social frenzy of getting through the ‘holiday season.’

“It never sounds like much of a holiday to me, and I ask myself,


When our cup, or basket, is running over, that’s supposed to be a good thing. Brimming Over by Steve Henderson.

“Why do we do this to ourselves — Every. Single. Year?

“As we launch into a month that has sacred and secular observances for many, I encourage you to make these celebrations your own, focusing on the meaning and the joy of each, foregoing the mania and the chaos that those newspaper articles, ironically, promote.

“I wish you, and all of us, a true season of Joy.”

From Start Your Week with Steve, the free weekly online newsletter of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

So what does this have to do with art — creating it or enjoying it?

A lot, actually, because it has to do with our perception of what is true, and what is not, based upon the external influences that push themselves into our lives, in this case, newspaper articles.

Around this time of year, article after article, blog after blog, offer 10 tips, or 7 tips, or the 3 ultimate tips, for avoiding holiday stress, hammering in the message with such force and strength that we never stop to ask ourselves: “Are my holidays stressed? And if they’re not, should they be? Is there something wrong with me?”

Most of the time, we don’t stop long enough to ask ourselves these basic questions, simply internalizing, without thinking about it, the message of the day, to the point that we unconsciously murmur in agreement when someone says, “Oh, those holidays! They’re stressful.”

If it’s not the holidays, then it’s something else — like what constitutes good art, or what we “should” be hanging up in our homes, or what “collectors” value, or what colors work and which don’t, or whether abstract is a higher form of artistic expression on the evolutionary scale or not — article after article, written by expert after expert, or worse yet, advertisement after advertisement, carefully crafted by marketing strategists, hammers in the message until it becomes a part of our inner being, and colors our actual judgment of the situation.

Stop. Breathe. Free yourself to ask the basic questions — who is going to get inside your head and scold your for independent thought?

And enjoy the holidays, by the way.

Automobiles and Fine Art Paintings — What Do They Have in Common?

11 Oct

I love my Honda Fit. And while that may seem to have nothing to do with art, actually, it does.

Color, light, energy, joy — paintings provide those — and who of us can’t use more color, light, energy and joy in our lives? Promenade by Steve Henderson

You see, I drive my Honda Fit, everywhere, and in the process of its being used, it gets dusty, the tires see some wear, the interior windows next to where the Toddler sits get coated with whatever sticky stuff she’s got on her hands and smears onto the glass. (I know. I don’t want to know much more than that, either.)

Honestly, if I kept my Honda Fit inside the garage and never drove it for, say, 10 years, it would look exactly the way it did the day I bought it, and I could resell it — maybe at a profit — because it would be such a great investment!

But you know, people don’t buy cars to keep as investments. They buy them to drive in them, and when it’s the right car, like my cute, sassy, blazing barbecue orange Honda Fit, they enjoy the process.

If more people thought about art this way, more people would own, and enjoy paintings. But all of a sudden, when people look at a painting, they go into this “I Must Make a Profit on This Investment Mode” — even if what they’re looking at is a limited edition print for $80. Somehow, they tell themselves, if they purchase this, they need to be able to resell it, ten years down the road, for $200, because that’s what you do with art — you buy it as an investment.

Art adds that extra special joy to our lives. Seaside Story by Steve Henderson.

What a sad, limited world view, one that keeps people from renovating their aesthetic lives and their home’s walls. The best reason to buy art is because you like it, because when you see the painting or the print it makes you happy, because you want it, because — like my Honda Fit — it’s smart, sassy, sophisticated, and fun — in short, that painting is You.

Enjoy driving your car — it’s a marvel of technology. Drink the wine that you like — red, white, blush — because only you have your unique palate. And buy art because you like it. Any other reason is less than the best.

If You Don’t Give Yourself a Break, Who Will?

4 Oct

“Be your own best friend. And while our closest friends are free to tell us when we’re being stubborn, or obstinate, or heading down the wrong path, they also assure us that we’re smart, likable, hardworking, and fun to be with.

“Most of us are really good at reminding ourselves of all our shortcomings, but we rarely take time to point out — to ourselves — our positive attributes. If we can do it for another person, we can do it for ourselves as well.”

From the Start Your Week with Steve Newsletter, a free weekly e-mail from Steve Henderson Fine Art

As an artist, it’s good to know how to critique yourself — and that’s the key element: HOW to critique yourself.

This type of sentence doesn’t work: “What a lousy painting. I’ll never know how to do this right.”

And quite frankly, that’s not critique so much as it is self-evisceration. You’d never say this to a friend, and probably not even to an enemy, at least not to his or her face, so why attack yourself with it?

On the opposite spectrum, this also is not valid critique: “I am so amazing! Everything I produce is so significantly superior to what I see out there that I don’t understand why I’m not artist-in-residence on the Oprah network.”

One word: arrogance.

While it’s good to be confident, arrogance is confidence on steroids, and it’ll wind up eventually bringing you down.

So, the best thing to try for is something in between the extremes, which applies to pretty much anything in life. Look at your work — closely — and try to define what it is about a particular piece that you like and don’t like, and why. While this may be difficult if you’ve never really done it before, it gets easier with practice.

And, since you’re doing this for yourself, it’s not as if you were crafting an English 101 essay, to be returned with red marks throughout for all of the aspects you “missed.” You’re doing this for yourself, for the betterment of your art, and for the increased ability to view, analyze, and critique your own work. You’re the judge.

Being Human, and All That

17 Sep

“You know, it’s not a sin to make mistakes, fail to succeed on the first (or 45th) try, or generally show that we’re imperfect. The unspoken strictures that some businesses/churches/schools/establishments place upon their members/employees make following the 10 Commandments look pretty darn easy.”

From Start Your Week with Steve, the free weekly e-mail newsletter of Steve Henderson Fine Art

Materials aren’t free and time is precious — that being said, if more artists would worry less about creating the perfect painting and more about experimenting and getting better at what they do, then they would sooner reach a consistency of quality and create paintings with which they are delighted, time after time.

But if you skip that stage — that practicing and trying and saying, “Oh, what the heck; if I don’t like it, I’m out a little paint, the canvas, some time — but I’ve gained in experience and wisdom” — then you’ll find that you’re so worried about perfection, that you never achieve it.

Each painting is a new opportunity to walk along your path of growth as an artist. Promenade by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

There are enough people in our lives expecting unrealistic things of us, that we don’t have to be one of them. Falling down isn’t failure. Trying and not getting it quite right isn’t tragedy. Doing something completely different, just because, isn’t a waste of time.

Go for it. Grab a different brush. Use a color you usually avoid. Shake around your subject matter. Play with your paint and see where it takes you on the next step of your journey.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone: Why, Exactly?

31 Aug

“When someone tells you to ‘get out of your comfort zone,’ wait for it. It’s highly likely that they’re subtly or not-so-subtly nudging you into doing something that they know you don’t want to do, but they need done.” 

From Start Your Week with Steve, the free weekly e-mail newsletter from Steve Henderson Fine Art, designed to jump start your week with flair.

We really owe seminar speakers a lot: they are the ones who come up with these tiresome platitudes that we battle on a daily basis.

Dancer by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why are random people so concerned about my comfort zone, and whether or not I’m in it?”

And, “Just where is it that they want me to go?”

In the real world, there is a difference between a rut and a path, the former being a place where dirty water settles and gets your feet all wet, the latter being a directional aid in getting you where you want to go. All too frequently, we muddy the two, helped, no doubt, by people around us who point out that we seem too “comfortable” doing things the way we do, and perhaps we should step off our clear path onto the one they are suggesting.

But there is a reason we feel comfortable doing what we do: it fits us. It makes sense. It’s relatively easy because it meshes with the way we think, believe, and process information. It’s only when we’re afraid, timid, reluctant, huddled in the ditch against the breeze that we’re actually in a rut, and generally, we can figure this out without someone pointing it out to us.

Go ahead: do what you do best, and do it in the way that makes sense to you. Challenge yourself, try something new, shake up your routine — but do it because you want to do it, not because someone scolds you into thinking that you should.