June 21, 2011

When I was a little kid in grade school, the teachers used to tell my Chinese immigrant parents, “Betty is such an artist!”

Of course, this comment made Mom and Dad very unhappy. What they wanted to hear was: “Betty is such a medical doctor!”

So the idea of pursuing art didn’t surface until recently. It was only two years ago that I got serious about taking weekly painting classes. These explorations on canvas led to long talks with my shrink about self-expression. Now that the paintings are piling up in my house, I’m taking a marketing course for artists. The whole process has been thrilling because I’m recovering another long-lost piece of myself.

But can I really get out of the box? Can I actually find joy in doing something I love — despite my parents’ disapproval? They would’ve pooh-poohed art classes as impractical (and expensive). Besides, the field has a very low success rate (with “success” being defined as the ability to become a multi-millionaire).

You might wonder why my folks’ opinion still count. Hey, just because I’m 54 and they’re deceased doesn’t mean that they’re out of my head. At least, not yet. And now that I’m feeling fulfilled, maybe they don’t have to leave; they just have to behave.  ^_^

But enough about them. Here are some of my recent paintings. The orange on the plate is a 10-inch square canvas. The small ones are six-inch squares.

This spring, I found myself attracted to circles, especially the juicy shapes of round fruit. They also cast such interesting shadows.

I only work in delicious oils. Orange is my favorite color. Greens get to me too. When the paint is applied really thick with a good brush, the experience is totally yum.



Now what about exploring YOUR creativity?

Since painting and writing can be so solitary, I really value having community. I love my Friday all-day painting classes with Karen O’Neil at the Art Students League of New York. She teaches on the gorgeous Vytlacil campus in Rockland, County, N.Y. It’s a lovely 20-minute drive from my house.

I made four videos showing the kind of demos that Karen does during class. I enjoy watching them now on YouTube. They constantly remind me to stop and notice the beauty of simple moments in daily life. By the way, being around Karen has made me a better journalism professor. I’ve become more effective at spotting and developing the unique abilities of each of my students.

The four videos all follow the format of this one. I took a bunch of photos (on my old, junky camera) and turned them into animated shorts. Here’s Karen, painting a flower:

The other videos are:

How to Paint a Glass Object


How to Paint a White Object


How to Paint a Pear


As for the business of being an artist, I am sold on Alyson Stanfield, the genius behind She thinks that the notion of a starving artist is a lot of crap; why shouldn’t creative folks know how to make money and market themselves?

While I meet many painters on her site, Alyson’s advice and tips would work great for writers and anyone else who needs to understand entrepreneurship. But unlike too many business sites, hers is pretty — yeah, that matters to me!

I started by reading her blog every morning. Now I’m taking her month-long, online “Blast Off” class. For the price of $97, I get a new lesson every day that I can learn by either reading a pdf or listening to a podcast. Worksheets and get-yourself-organized activities have been helpful too.  And there’s always a chance to interact with the other students on the private class blog. I’ve gotten insight on practical tools that will keep growing me as an artist.

So, this is my happy blog post for today.

Sometimes, I actually don’t have anything to complain about.   ^_^