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“There’s a monster in all of us…”

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I love historical romances with a paranormal twist—Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Thea Harrison and Karen Marie Moning (although not really historical) and Game of Thrones. One characteristic I enjoy—and have happily adopted—is the use of historical detail to construct my fictional world.

In The Darkness of Dreams we’re introduced to the Calata, the ruling group of seven immortals—although now there are only six. These beings control immortal society, and the structure is based on feudal Europe with seats of power, private armies, constant battles and deceit, with an influential class of lessor immortals. These elements are integrated within our human world and have been influencing human affairs for centuries. When I was writing the first draft, I called this group the Council.

But “Council” was a tired word without romance, and when I began the rewrites I researched ancient languages and came across comitia calata, the name for one of the assemblies that were known in Rome during the time of Servius Tallius. These were non-voting assemblies. Their purpose was to witness the reading of wills, or the oath by which sacra were renounced (the Sacra Corona Unita was the mafia in Puglia). Calata is a very old Italian word that means invasion, appropriate for my fictional Council of Immortals who were “named by an ancient civilization with no other way to describe them.” And far sexier than “Council.”

However, my Calata was not going to be a benevolent advisory committee validating wills while eating cheese and drinking wine. No, my Calata is something quite different and “invasion” only hints at who and what they are in terms of powerful and intriguing characters.

We meet Three immediately in the story. Tall and blond and considered beautiful by some, Three is well-known for saying “there’s a monster in all of us.” She is a cardinal Calata member and her enforcer is Christan—the most powerful being she has ever created. Christan is a warrior, half-human, half-immortal. He has earned his position; he follows a code of honor. Warriors are loyal to him because of who he is and what he has done and can do under the right circumstances.  Three wants the best for Christan, but being immortal, she doesn’t always understand what that is and must change throughout the story arc.

And then there’s Six—what can I say? Three’s enemy is Six, everything a powerful immortal should be, cold, a determined enemy beneath the veneer of a civilized man. Immortals think in terms of winning and losing and Six rarely loses. I’ve always wondered if Three’s animosity with Six came from a jilted relationship. There’s certainly a backstory there, but these characters haven’t revealed it yet.

We also meet Two, who is fiery of temper and small in stature, five-foot four unless she’s wearing four-inch heels—always with red soles to remind her enemies of the blood through which she has walked over the centuries. She dislikes Christan immensely because she dislikes “messes.” In her opinion, every time Christan is involved he “leaves a bloody mess” and she wishes Three would “keep her attack dog muzzled.” Two controls areas associated with the Roman Empire, and lands held in trust for Two, who has been missing for centuries. One’s enforcer is Leander, and within her group is another enforcer known as Baz, who was pledged to Two.  Baz—a name that means royal—becomes a rather intriguing character as the books evolve. 

It’s all exciting and wild adventure and no one really knows how it will end… but it will be entertaining and filled with epic romance and happy endings.

As always, thank you for reading my books. If you enjoyed them, please think about leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are important to new authors who have not yet established a fan group for support and I appreciate you all for reading.


Release of the Darkness in Dreams

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“There was always a darkness in the dreams…we planned it that way.”

~~A quote attributed to Three, the powerful Calata member, never verified

Three is an interesting character.  She is an immortal, a powerful member of the ruling Calata, and she plays a major role in my Calata-Immortal Warrior series.  Her history is filled with secrets and intrigue.  Her enemies are many, but we discover that on the Calata there are two members who are actively plotting against her, and who foolishly believe they will win.

The office was quiet and pristine and more fortified than it looked. There was a file, left unopened and sitting in the center of the desk. Beside it sat the photographs, stacked in a precarious cairn—or perhaps a warning flag in black and white. The warning would be ignored, as warnings usually were, since one did not send warnings and certainly not to this woman. She lived in world filled with power, fortified by legend. And the legend was enough.

 Phillipe knew this, of course. He was a tall man, both muscular and thin, dressed like an academic with the red suspenders that had become his trademark. To outsiders he was harmless. His mind was lethal. So was the rest of him, and the woman trusted him implicitly.

As for the woman, she was not ordinary. Her voice, when she spoke, carried the hint of France, or Italy, or even Russia. She was tall and elegant and considered beautiful by some—but she was not human. Her hair was too blond to be natural, her eyes too silver to be ignored, and for these reasons she’d been Ais to the Etruscans, Theos in ancient Greece. Rome once called her one of the Ten Great Gods but they were mistaken—she was not a god. She was part of an immortal race, a member of the ruling Calata, which meant the invasion, named by an early culture with no other way to describe them.

The name stuck, as did the meaning, and throughout their long existence only seven had been strong enough to rule. Now there were six. Their names were in the ancient form with no equivalent in the human language. For expediency’s sake, they used numbers. She was Three. Her enemy was Six.

“There was always a darkness in the dreams,” Three said as she sat behind the desk. “We planned it that way.”

 


The Darkness in Dreams - 3DThe Darkness in Dreams is available through Amazon Kindle  for $0.99 and FREE through Kindle Unlimited.

 

There were some tragedies that never should have happened but did…fragments of past lives that should not be remembered…

Galaxy North had what everyone wanted: freedom, with no socks to pick up. She lived in a small town on the Oregon Coast, and if her life was lonely, it was also safe…until the dreams began.

 Christan was Immortal. An enforcer. The origin myth for the most feared creature in the ancient world and yet he could not rid her from his mind. Demolish her memory. Forgive her sins…and his own.

Christan has sworn that he will ever need her again—but then he’s forced from his exile to confront the rising danger from a common enemy. Christan must face the woman who has always been the other half of his soul. Lexi must accept the impossible, embrace who she really is, and finally reclaim the love she has been finding and losing in endless lifetimes.

The Darkness in Dreams is the first in a sizzling and action-packed mix of paranormal romance and action thriller, the first in the Enforcer's Legacy series, stories filled with past lives, forgotten love, and immortal warriors. A Calata Novel. Adult language and sensuality.

Sue Wilder is an author living in the Pacific Northwest. She first discovered the power of story as a child living in California, when she was caught starting a grapefruit war in a neighboring orchard. She managed to absolve all her cohorts from guilt, and has since moderated her behavior. She now writes romantic paranormal fiction for a more mature adult audience, bringing to life the characters who intrigue her. For more information, please visit Sue Wilder Writes

 

 




 


Isolation and Art

On a bright spring morning in 2017 I got up and walked away from my art.

Over the past six months -- well, more than that -- I've been in self-imposed isolation.  I have not written about art.  I haven't entered my studio or picked up a paint brush.  It took me six weeks to even clean my palette, and I abused the expensive Rosemary brushes I loved so much by forgetting that I'd left them in a jar of mineral spirits.  

Why would I do such a thing, after having spent nearly 20 years working as an artist?

It was sudden.  There was no hint of what was to come.  I'd just shipped off several paintings to a gallery that would exhibit my work for several months.  I'd paid all my art association dues.  I entered the jury process for a prestigious show (into which I was accepted) and had just purchased a fresh gallon of oderless mineral spirits and several new tubes of paint (which are still in the plastic shopping bag at the foot of my easel.)

Why would I do such a crazy thing?

I think, looking back now, that I'd lost what had once given me joy.  I gave away art books.  Donated some supplies and still life objects, thinking I would clean out my studio. I sold several paintings from my website.  Two other galleries sold older work. I Interacted with a wonderful gentleman who found two of my early paintings for sale in Portland, Oregon, purchased them for his "West Coast Artist Collection" and then researched the artist's signature.  He inquired if I was the artist. I said that I was and sent him images of how the two paintings should be hung together. He was thrilled.  "I knew it was you!" he wrote, as if I was famous, and I felt... nothing.  I thought, "Nice, I'm glad he's happy."

And I realized something was wrong. 

I knew I wasn't even close to being famous, but perhaps I was a fraud. Of course we all go through the "fraud" stage.  It's almost expected as proof you're "real."  "Genuine."

But when the "fraud" stage comes from a loss of joy, then it's more than wondering if you're real.

In the past eight months, I've been doing other things, and the distance those things allowed made it easier to see what I was doing with art. My insights are personal to my own experiences, but in general, what I realized was:

  • Cultural changes in how people view and regard art have fundamentally changed over the past two decades.  The demographic group interested in "Redefining their Lifestyles" -- those retiring, downsizing and discovering value in original fine art, cultural events, symphonies and theater -- this group has aged, certainly, but more importantly, the recession permanently frightened them into protecting their assets.  These were the people who enthusiastically supported the galleries that no longer exist.  The many artists who supplied those galleries.  It's a demographic that disappeared and was replaced by an entirely different demographic looking for a different experience. Which makes it difficult to proceed with business as usual. 

 

  • Technique is paramount over enthusiasm, emotion, effort.  It doesn't matter how passionate you feel about what you do if your technique is not the style in vogue and at the highest level of accomplishment.  Within the genres there are different descriptions of technique.  Having painted abstract -- and been more successful at it than representational -- I know how the market used to value innovation and the evidence of artistic fervor. But look at the hundreds of thousands of abstract paintings being offered and you understand what I mean.  Finding innovation these days requires working at the extremes and incorporating the cult of celebrity and everything that entails.  Perhaps it's always been like this and I'm just noticing it. Perhaps I was too blinded by passion to see.

 

  • If there is no joy, there is no work.  For me, I lost the joy at some point and I'm not sure I will get it back.  There are glimmers, of course.  I have two old paintings sitting in my studio, one on the easel, the other on the floor.  Both are resting in frames, waiting reproachfully for me to come in and reacquaint myself with them, fix their little flaws, bring them closer to the original inspirations.  I'm not sure I will ever do that and I'm honest enough to say it's okay.  Even if I've spent years supporting other artists and encouraging the idea of forging ahead despite the obstacles.  I can still climb over those stone walls, but for the moment I'm not sure if I want to put in the effort.  And that should be okay, too. 

The most interesting lesson in this is that I haven't closed down this blog, even though I let it languish for six months without a posting.  I haven't closed down my website, even though I've not uploaded a new painting in more than eight months.  There's  some reason I can't cut the tether; I'm not sure what it is, other than art has dominated my life since childhood.  Creativity feeds my soul.

I remember looks of pity from art-educators when I insisted I was going to an artist. I vowed I would never fall into the trap of the disillusioned. I'm not trying to discourage my fellow artists now.

I do think it's healthy to step back now and again and reevaluate why a particular activity is important and then choose what to do.  Healthy to realize others like you suffer with the loss of purpose and joy.  Some will recover, others will find alternatives. 

For now, I am choosing to remain in a holding pattern. 

2018 will be an interesting year!

 


Who’s Britain’s best amateur artist? Press Release from Flavours Holidays For New Competition

Information from the great team at Flavours Holidays in Scotland about Their upcoming Big Painting Competition

 

"While there are many painting competitions available for aspiring professional painters in the UK, it is very difficult for amateur artists to exhibit their work. That’s why we’re running our Big Painting Competition – we want to give a platform for these artists to show their artwork and want to find Britain’s best amateur artist!

The competition will open on the 28th September and close on the 31st October. 5 winners will be selected by our art tutors and selected participants will be invited to exhibit their work here in Edinburgh."

For more about the competition: 

 https://www.flavoursholidays.co.uk/competition-terms-and-conditions/

https://www.flavoursholidays.co.uk/blog/flavours-big-painting-competition/ 

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Flavours Painting student in Tuscany

With a team of inspirational art teachers our Italian painting holidays are great for all levels.

Find out more about our painting holidays: https://www.flavoursholidays.co.uk/painting-holidays/

Read what Jenny Eclair wrote in the Daily Mail here

About Flavours

 Our painting holidays offer a unique blend of expert teaching and free time where you can be inspired by Italy’s dramatic colorful landscape. Flavours offers week-long stays in Tuscany, Venice and Sicily with our inspiring painting tutors.

Flavours Holidays - Authentic. Inspiring. Passionate.

 

 


Four Realities for the 21st Century Artist

1. There will always be gatekeepers.   Some are obvious, some you might not expect.  The least expected gatekeeper is money, keeping artists away from their work, short on supplies, and limited in their ability to learn. 

2. Art is not a linear progression.  What art has always been is a partial reflection of the culture of the time. As an organizing concept in Art History, we like to connect one epoch to another in order to project into the future, but that is all it is – a way of organizing.  The same could be said for the 4 by 6 file cards used when researching a topic: the cards are not the finished writing.    

3. Technology provides convenience, but does not provide human emotional connection.  At the end of the day,  computer generated images do nothing to aid in our basic desire for self-realization.   As humans, we crave moments of spiritual beauty and calm, found through music, dance, writing, and visual art.  If this were not true, how would you explain the flash mobs  that suddenly evolve into a full symphonic orchestra, stopping busy commuters in their tracks?   

4. Knowing why you are an artist is far more important than convincing others to see you as an artist. 

So what realities would you list?

 

My deep thanks to Thad Allen of Beard's Framing.  Read the interview here.

Here is a teaser from their 4 Inspiring Quotes About Framing page:

"4. “An Ebony frame can enrich a poor canvas, and make it look or sell as well as a good one.”
- Constantin Huygens

 
Unless you’re a professional art historian, you can be forgiven for not knowing who Constantin Huygens is..."


Why They Win

What if you asked yourself, why do they win? 

Would you say, because they are men?

Because they’re young and exciting?

Or because they spent years teaching art or working as commercial Illustrators?

Would you say it’s because of who they know? Who they married? Or who approves of their work?

And what if you realized that self-motivation and confidence can be the two most powerful tools in accomplishing any goal?

Would that change your answer in any way?

 


Living in The Between Revisited

*This is one of my favorite posts, written in 2010 - although the art coaches I respect have evolved into more than event planners.

 

For artists, the Internet can provide access to up-to-date advice by industry professionals on how to develop our careers. Over time I've come to think of these coaching sites as event planners - providing information on how to conceive, plan for, and then implement a strategy to reach specific goals - the markers of our success.

But, over time, I've also discovered a problem with this approach.  While Event Planning is useful, the narrow focus upon preparing portfolios, or writing artist statements, or approaching galleries emphasizes The Event instead of the non-eventfulness of everything else.  Sort of like living an entire year focused on planning your next birthday party.  All those months of opportunity lost by misdirected attention - living in the future when our lives are lived - must be lived - in the present. 

I prefer to live in The Between.  There is a grace that comes from learning this - living in The Between.  There is a story about Agnes Martin that I love.  She had been dragged out of her southwest studio and back to New York for a gallery show -  a pretty big deal to those in the know.  Her response to the question "how does it feel?" was to say that New York critics had already "discovered" her two or three times before and then had promptly forgotten her. I suspect Agnes knew how to live in The Between. 

Sylvia White often says that being an artist actually describes who you are and not what you do.  In that same vein, developing an art career should be thought of as living the art and not the other way around.  Every day brings a new opportunity to find the unique insights bestowed on those who perceive through an artist's eyes. 

This is living in The Between.  Between the big events.  This is time spent in your studio, or in your imagination.  Caught up in your perceptions and, yes, in your frustrations.  It's living in your confidence and facing your envy.  It's your generosity, and self-conscious reluctance to let other people see your work.  

Just as the richest color lives in that space between the light and the shadow, so do we find the richest experiences in living the art.  In The Between. 

PS:  Clint Watson also posted an interesting article in his Fine Art Views Blog today (1/08/2010), called "I am the Contrarian Art Marketer,"  that also speaks to this topic.  If you don't already subscribe, I would recommend it.

___________

IMG_0571 sm copyRoses, oil, 20 x 16

The painting Roses will be part of the First Annual Artists Guild Exhibition at Scottsdale Artists School.

Initial Exhibition Dates : January 27 through January 31, 2014

The Award Winners of this juried exhibition will hang alongside some of the most prominent painters of our time at the Legacy Gallery.

I am most excited, though, to be attending a 5 day workshop where I will have the opportunity to learn from David A Leffel, Sherrie McGraw, Jacqueline Kamin, Rose Frantzen, and Gregg Kreutz.

 

 

I would also like to express my gratitude for your comments and interest in this blog.  It is hard to believe I have been writing it since 2007.  This past year the frequency of the posts has lessened, but I hope you found the content worth reading and that it helped in some way with your own artistic aspirations.  The key, as always, is to believe in yourself, and never give up. 

Wishing you a prosperous, artfilled 2014. 


Do You Use Risk as a Strategy?

The idea of a risky strategy makes you clench up.  The words are full of negativity, of dire results or parental condemnation, or at the very least a moment of staring into the mirror and wondering how you could have been so stupid.  As humans we avoid risk as a general rule. So we might not see it as anything useful in our daily art practice.

Risk, of course, is just a word.  We put our own emotional attachments to it, and then we use the knee jerk response to turn anything uncomfortable into the monster in the closet.  Don't try new subject matter.  Don't challenge the status quo.  Don't waste precious time and materials on something that will not come up to our expectations.

But growth is an ongoing process.  And it isn't easy.  So I've turned risk, despite the uncomfortable associations, into a strategy I can use. 

Risk allows you to put all your anxiety into one bucket.  And while you're worried about the awkwardness of your attempt, you don't worry about the other things - such as your drawing skills, or your paint application, or whether or not you're repeating yourself, yet again.  And when the paint is dry, when you study what you accomplished or did not accomplish, there are some things that will become immediately visible. 

Like the fact that you can either draw well, or you can't.

That your brush marks are sloppy or more expressive than you thought.

That your ideas are lost beneath your stilted compositions.

For me, there are only a few ways I can progress as an artist.  I can show up, practice, and educate myself.  I can find a coach willing to point out missteps in my technique. 

What I can't do is let the scary idea that I do not have enough talent keep me from looking at what I actually accomplish.   

It takes bravery to face our greatest fears, but only from that place of honesty can we grow toward our best work. 

 


A Not-So-Traditional Conceptual Realist

So this post is just for fun and to show you some of my process - both painting and conceptual.  I privately think of my style as conceptual realism, although it bears no connection to what is known as Conceptual Realism in the mind of the general public.  That's okay, it's merely a way to describe what and why I paint, and to evaluate the results.

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The set-up:  Almost the view from my easel.  The print of a Paul Cornoyer painting works to create an interesting pattern that repeats the lines of the copper pot and the carpet.  I was interested in creating a sense of calm with added exotic/antiquity elements to describe a sense of a by-gone era.  I also wanted the compositional eye movement to build in an oval/spiral pattern using the light falling on the figurine, the drape, the top of the pot into the background lights on the print. The primary movement is a downward calming angle from the upper left to lower right, which counters the rising energy in the implied angle from the cat's head to the top of the pot.  So lets see if I can do this.

 

IMG_0382After a period of time drawing in my sketchbook, I felt like starting to place the initial forms.  I am using a warm toned canvas and starting to place the dark shapes using a wash of raw umber - I often go to raw umber for a darker neutral but I am now making an effort not to take this short cut because the umber will dry as very dark and colorless.  For the next stages I mixed up a dark using several of the paints that went into the rest of the painting.  This stage was to evaluate the placements and as you can see the wash is of the consistency of watercolor.

At this point I am starting to define the darker areas to see how this pattern will ultimately connect throughout the painting and support my idea of the descending and ascending diagonals, balanced by the verticals.

 

 

 

IMG_0385Since the figurine is the focal point and probably the most critical shape in terms of accurate drawing, I wanted to get it in first, painting very thinly and establishing the lightest light available to me in this painting.  All the other lights need to be balanced against this form - not as light, or as much contrast, but with the intent of supporting the conceptual ideas relating to the mood and movement.

I originally had the jaguar sitting on a broken tile I picked up in Italy, but discarded it as the painting progressed. 

 

IMG_0386At this point I have established the shapes and some of the major and/or implied lines and repeating elements such as the tree branch repeating the curve of the spout on the pot, which repeats the curve of the handle.  The angle of the cat's back is repeated in the drape to the right and the street angle on the left. 

The real problem solving that went on with the painting actually begins at this point.  The primary issue was the color harmony and values that I was seeing in my set-up, and how to translate that using pigments.  Since I was interested in the visual contrast of the warmth of the copper against all the cool grays in the print,the carpet, and the vivid contrast of warm and cool in the cat, I decided to find the pot colors first.  Of course this was also the easiest - but the first color choice is always the easiest, while getting everything else to work well is the hard part. 

After this point, I was concentrating so hard on solving these visual problems that I neglected to take more photos.  My colors were selected as warm and cool versions, keeping with a red-orange base and it's compliment of a dark greenish blue. 

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Paul Cornoyer Print with Pot and Figurine, 24 x 20, oil on canvas

This painting was created using both transparents and opaques: transparent earth red, yellow ochre burnt, oxide yellow, yellow ochre light, burnt carmine, hansa yellow medium, brown oxide, Vay Dyke brown, cobalt blue, modigliani ochre, raw sienna, prussian blue, raw umber, titaniam white, and Gamblin's solvent free gel. 


The Partners We Want

Most artists realize - sooner or later - that we can't do it alone.  We need partnerships, people who support what we do, and to whom we offer our support in return.  This form of generosity is best when it comes without strings, when it's given in an attempt to support a relationship, or to see what another artist thinks.  These are the forms of generosity - the unconditional partnerships - I appreciate most.

I recently encountered a problem when varnishing my paintings.  I have been using Gamblin's product, Gamvar, with great results, but encountered an issue I couldn't resolve.  After posting on another social media site, I was connected to Scott Gellatly, from Gamblin Artist's Colors, who not only identified the issue (it had to do with the brand of lemon yellow that, when fully saturated, tends to green) but followed up with a tube of Gamblin's Hansa Yellow Light, as well as a sample of their new Solvent Free Gel

This is a level of customer support that we don't always see.  It goes beyond the desire to defend the brand.  And while it is not remarkable that a company might offer to solve a problem, it is remarkable when a company actively chooses to cultivate a relationship with one of it's customers without expecting anything in return.

 

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I use Maroger's medium in some of my paintings and like it, other than the odor.  I compared  Maroger to Gamblin's new Solvent Free Gel.  The gel is clear from the tube.  It does not have the little puddle of solvent that  usually accompanies the Maroger. There was absolutely no odor.  The transparency and workability were identical, with only the slightest bit of difference with the Maroger's seeming to be 'creamier" as the paint left the brush, but I also felt it was inconsequential.  If you like the benefits of a Maroger type medium, try Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel and compare it for yourself.  

I also recently received an email from Jennifer Becker, offering to send me a copy of Living The Artist's Life, Updated and Revised, by Paul Dorrell.  Paul Dorrell is a well known gallery owner, founding Leopold Gallery in 1991.  I remember reading Paul's book years ago - this updated version is just as supportive as what I recalled, but I was also able to appreciate his insights at a much deeper level. 

Experience - our own, or that of others - is not static.   What I found particularly valuable in Paul's book is two-fold.  First, he writes as one artist to another, as someone who has dreamed, struggled creatively, faced rejection and success, and can articulate what perseverence is with a unique voice.  Second, he provides great insight into the art world from the retailer perspective - what it takes to make a sale, how small, and how large the art world is, and what challenges can at times seem insurmountable. Paul has shared his insight with the San Francisco Art Institute, the Art Students League of New York, the Boston Arts & Business Council, the Art Center of South Florida in Miami, and Pratt in Seattle, among dozens of other venues and artists.  And I recommend this book.

Not because Jennifer Becker sent me a free copy (which I appreciate.)

I recommend this book because, throughout the years Paul Dorrell has been the kind of partner we want, just as Scott Gellatly of Gamblin Artist's Oil Paints is the kind of partner we, as artists, want.  

And I choose to support them in return.

Click here to learn more about Scott Gellatly and Gamlin Artist's Colors

Click here to learn more about Paul Dorrell and the book Living the Artist's Life

Click below to learn more about my book Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist

"I could sure hear you in the book, very upbeat and encouraging...I also loaned your book to my Tucson art teacher and she let another friend of hers read it, too..."  TB, Tuscon, AZ

Book - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist

Kindle US Store  - Ancient Wisdom Emerging Artist: the business plan (not just) for the mature artist