Hippos in Tutus and Other Odd Thoughts about Art


As I work at my continuing/continual self-education in the art world, I read a lot of articles and blogs about art.  They’re often quite helpful and informative, but I realized recently that few of the articles I read actually have to do with the work of art – technique, problem-solving, materials, tools, etc.

Rather, nearly all the articles from any art source these days are about marketing.

So much talk about price points and the relative salable merits of oil over acrylic over watercolor.  Talk about which sizes sell best and advice on salability of paintings that are (a) larger or (b) smaller.  Realistic paintings vs abstract.  Competitions vs art fairs.  The marketing discussions never seem to end.


Let me say that I know most of us want to sell our work . Let me say further that I am not a cock-eyed optimist who believes some major buyer will one day – sooner than later, I hope – see my paintings and the clouds will part, angels will sing, I’ll get a one-woman show in a well-known gallery, and I’ll sell every painting I’ve done.

(This scene is related to the one in which the plain young secretary takes off her glasses, unpins her hair and  the young executive says – breathlessly, “Why, Miss Havisham, you’re beautiful!”)

Yeah, it happens in the movies, but hippos dance in tutus in movies, too.

In many arts – theatre, dance, and music for instance – it’s understood that you keep “taking class” as long as you keep working.  You keep learning all the time – practicing, rehearsing, polishing, perfecting.  Sure you audition and try to get paying work, but not without continuing to make your work better.

That’s where I am, this recently fledged artist who is no longer a beginner, working on the craft every day, rehearsing and practicing and then evaluating as best I can what I’ve done and what more I need to learn.  Plenty.

As I do this, the through-line for me (to use a theatre term) is color.  It’s the consistency I want and can depend on and which makes my heart sing.  If your heart doesn’t sing, why are you doing what you do?


I can draw and I thought recently that I’d try something a little more realistic, but my mind, body, and art spirit just balked.  So unless something changes, I’m in the colored world of abstract expressionism for the long haul.  I don’t think I’ve found my voice yet in visual art, but I do know where to look for it.  I’m guessing it will turn up somewhere among the azurite blue, cadmium red and Naples yellow.

The recent 8″ x 10″ pieces here are my latest step on the journey…




Words On Color From The Masters And A Six-year-old

Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another,
to cause vibrations in the soul.”

— Wassily Kandinsky

“Colour and I are one. I am a painter.”
–Paul Klee

“The craving for colour is a natural necessity just as for water and fire. Colour is a raw material indispensable to life. At every era of his existence and his history, the human being has associated colour with his joys, his actions and his pleasures.”
— Fernand Leger

You put down one color and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody.”
–Romare Bearden

“Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.”
–Paul Gauguin

and finally, from writer and artist Jules Feiffer,

“Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.”
–Jules Feiffer

I include the Feiffer because it reminds me of a little story I heard from a grade school teacher who noticed a little boy coloring a picture with a pink and purple sky. The teacher stopped and explained to the boy that the sky was not pink or purple, it was blue.  The boy insisted on his colorful sky and the teacher insisted he was mistaken.  “Then,” she said, “when I was driving home that night just as the sun was setting, there before me was the most beautiful pink and purple sky!  I was the one who was mistaken.”

Let us take our lessons for art and life where we find them and never be too quick to judge or dismiss anything that makes someone else’s heart sing.

Make your sky any color you want!  At some moment on some day or night, it will be exactly right, and no one will think you’re stupid.


A new work.  Is that a green sky?