“Shall We Dance?” my pastel painting of a sweet skeleton couple dancing on the beach is on sale this week from now through Sunday, September 30, 2018. I’m celebrating National Love People Day this week and you can, too! I’ve taken 25% off all prints and cards featureing “Shall We Dance?” for this week only. Check it out!
I Just Fed You – pirate skeleton and parrot on sale this week!
So you should totally buy one of my pirate skellies to celebrate! Here’s “I Just Fed You” on sale this week only, September 17-23, 2019. Comes in lots of different sizes to fit anywhere in your captain’s cabin or poop deck or down in the bilges! Aarghh!
Corpses, Coffins & Crypts–A History of Burial by Penny Colman
Love the pictures and the author’s conversational style. I found it at my local library. Libraries are so cool. Usually I let Steve pick out books for me but every once in a while I make time to visit the library and I’m always amazed by what I find there. Additional craziness about a dutch embalmer, child skeletons and the tsar of Russia here!
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Play in the puddles, of course! It was raining like crazy again last night and we lost power at the cottage, so I got out my sketchbook and in the early morning light through my window I drew a skelly playing in the rain. Cute, right? I used to love stomping around in the puddles after the rain when I was a little kid, didn’t you?
Yesterday an older gentleman stopped by while I was out in front of my studio, writing at my little café table. He’d been walking around town all morning and needed to rest for a bit before returning home. He asked if he could sit down. “Sure,” I said.
We got to talking and he told me he’d worked on the carferries for 30 years in the engine room. “20 days on and 8 days off,” he said. “But sometimes the boat would get stuck in the ice and you couldn’t start your time off until they got to the dock. That was hard.”
I liked listening to him and imagining what Ludington looked like when there were seven carferries sailing to three different ports on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan–Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee. He listed all the boats on his fingers, “The Pere Marquette 21, the Pere Marquette 22, the Spartan, the Badger, the City of Flint, the City of Saginaw and the City of Midland.”
I thought about how the town harbor must’ve bustled with people and trains and boats. It’s still a little bustly with the Badger running half the year here.
The man that sat down to talk didn’t ask about my skeleton art but I got to thinking about it and I wonder if he’d have liked the commission that I painted early this spring, about a skeleton carferry captain racing back to port. The owner of a local restaurant wanted me to paint a skeleton picture that had Ludington, the carferry and House of Flavors Restaurant in it. Oh, and could I do it in ten days because the giftee was leaving town?
I’m a glutton for punishment so of course I said yes. As it turned out I also had to get the piece printed as a canvas wrap in time for the going away party, but once the original was done that part was easy peasy. I love it when a plan comes together! Bonus, it was a really fun piece to do.
Do you suppose the old guy I was talking to yesterday would appreciate a card with that piece on it? If I see him again I’ll be sure to find out!
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“What a mockery!”
It’s hard not to take it personally when I hear comments like these floating through the door at my studio. Maybe putting The Very Last Supper front and center in my shop window has something to do with it?
I could place a more traditional piece there, like a landscape or a still life or a portrait, and people would walk by and never say a word. But poke fun at a religious icon and suddenly everyone loses their minds.
I could try to soft-pedal the subject matter by combining genres. For instance, skeletons with vases of flowers or skeletons in the landscape would be more palatable maybe. But I’ve found that skeletons are pretty polarizing as a general rule. People either really, really like them or they really, really don’t.
My mom was one of the latter group. Whenever I told her I’d sold another piece of skeleton art I’d have to preface the news with an apology. “Hi Mom, I’m sorry but I sold a skeleton painting today.” She’d always wrinkle her nose at the news, as though I’d just farted in front of her. “Oh, Marie,” she’d say, and sigh. She’s gone now, but I can still hear her sighing like a mournful ghost.
Certainly the skeletons don’t mind whether or not people like them. They’re glandless creatures and so they don’t have feelings that can be hurt.
The question is, can I live with some people not liking what I do?
The urge to please everyone all the time is a real issue for me. I come from a large family and I spent a good portion of my life trying to make people like me in order to get attention, which I craved. It was only when I hit menopause that I stopped caring quite so much. Once my body realized I was done reproducing, my brain took over and said “I’m in charge now,” and that was that. (See? Biology is another thing skeletons don’t have to worry about. More reason to love them!)
The bottom line is, I’m trying to learn how to paint. Studying the classics is a really good way to do this and adding skeletons makes it more fun.
But some people are not amused by skeletons, and they’re especially not amused by biblical scenes with undead people in the starring roles.
(I confess, I deliberately put that print in the window hoping to persuade a couple of political organizations, which shall remain nameless, to set up their tents elsewhere instead of directly in front of my studio during Friday Night Live events. And it worked, sort of. At least, the next weekend, they’d moved across the street. With them a littler farther away I figured I had a better chance of attracting my target demographic—people with a sense of humor who aren’t afraid of death.)
So to answer the question about what I can live with, while it bugs me when people openly sneer at my work, I absolutely adore the people who love it. They say things like, “These are so cool!” “That’s hilarious!” and my personal favorite, “I’ve gotta buy this.” So I’m going to focus my attention on them and everyone else, including my dead mother, will just have to deal.
Thank you to everyone out there who keeps laughing along with me. You know who you are. As long as I know you’re out there, giggling, I can handle a hater or two.
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When I was in college I did a lip synch video to Elvis’s immortal “Devil in Disguise.” I enlisted the help of my sister and a friend, dressed one like an angel in a pretty white frock and the other in red flannel underwear with a tail and horns. They took turns dancing on my shoulders throughout the song through the use of video magic (well, it was magic back then). I was dressed as a tele-evangelistic minister in a sharp suit and tie, with my hair slicked back and holding a leather-encased bible.
Flash forward to this week when someone asked me if I’d yet done Elvis as a skeleton. The suggestion immediately brought back all the fun we had making that video. Truly, it was the highlight of my college career, not even kidding.
When my dad saw it later, I heard he laughed himself silly. High praise indeed.
To paint The King, I needed just the right reference photo. I didn’t find Devil in Disguise but I did find Jailhouse Rock. Looking it over, it occurred to me that a ribcage can look a lot like a striped uniform shirt, and well, he came together pretty quickly after that.
Here’s a couple of videos of the process:
And now all that hip-shaking sexiness is available for you to have for your very own! The original (18×24″ on paper, unmatted and unframed) is $600 and in my shop. You can also have him to grace your walls as a canvas wrap print, paper print, or a greeting card.
Do you know someone who loves the King and skeleton art? Please share.
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Summer’s gone now. The trees are starting to turn. I saw a pair of brilliantly colored trees, red and orange, on my way down to Grand Rapids to drop the skelly paintings off for ArtPrize Nine.
I’m sorry summer’s done but I’m enjoying the cool mornings for walking in the woods with my dogs and it’s nice having seasons again. Makes me think of football games, raking leaves and the smell of burning stuff in the air.
Last week one of the neighbors had such a big burn pile going that it made a fog over our entire back yard. The sun was low in the sky and it lit up the smoke, throwing the trees in silhouette.
Part of me was thinking, “I hope I don’t die as a result of all this toxic smoke in the air,” and the other part was thinking, “This is so cool looking!” I ran in to get my phone for a picture but by the time I came out again, most of the smoke had dissipated. I can still picture what it looked like, the branches all backlit and peeking through that huge cloud of smoke.
Signed, sealed and delivered
You’ll be happy to know all seven Old (Dead) Masters paintings are officially delivered to the bitter end coffeehouse and by this time next week lots and lots of people will have a chance to see them up close and personal. I’m excited and nervous and feeling a lot of dread right now.
Kind of like I used to feel right before a particular fundraising auction in my previous life as a Rotarian. Back then I’d have nightmares about nobody showing up and then to add insult to injury, I’d get what I called my “Christmas Cold Sore” on the day of. It never failed.
My contact at the bitter end wasn’t there when I arrived but his father, Mike, was. Mike told me that when he and his son, John, first saw the skellies they knew right away they were perfect for their place.
“We’re on the fringe of ArtPrize so we appreciate art that’s also kind of out there,” he said. “We had another exhibitor a few years ago, and she had twelve pieces featuring the role of underwear during the course of a person’s life. It started out with diapers and it ended with them, too.”
I think I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place to exhibit skeletons in, don’t you? Meantime, I keep feeling my lip for impending cold soreness. So far, so good.
…it’s best to have an insurance policy already in place. Failing that, a positive attitude can take you a long way.
“Marie, I have some bad news.”
A couple weeks ago the framer called to tell me one of my paintings for Art Prize had been accidentally destroyed. A pipe had burst in the ceiling over his shop and mine plus eight other people’s projects had gotten drenched. Tim, the framer, was distraught. I was the last person he’d called that morning and he’d been sick three times already.
I went over to his store and looked at the piece, decided it wasn’t salvageable, took a picture for my records, and reassured him I wasn’t upset. Then I went back to my studio to think about what the next step would be.
Since this piece was slated for Art Prize, it would be one of three things:
- Alert the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and ask whether or not I could substitute another piece in its place (fortunately, I’d just finished Bona Lisa the same week);
- Tell the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and just go with six pieces for Art Prize;
- Re-do it, in which case I needed to order supplies.
You’ll notice that nowhere on this list is the step in which I panic. At the time I thought it was odd that I wasn’t more upset about the loss, but then I thought, “You’ve been through this before.”
Deja flooping vu
It’s true. Last year I lost four original skelly paintings and a slew of prints during the flooding in St. Augustine from Hurricane Matthew. That was pretty ouchy, but at the time, the gallery owner thought she might be able to arrange compensation through her insurance company.
As I should have guessed, flooding, which is what happened to my skellies down south, doesn’t count as compensatable damage. I think the hurricane actually has to leave a signed confession before an insurance company will agree that it will cover any losses due to one coming ashore for a visit.
Back to the drawing board, er, easel
After mulling it over, I went with steps 1 and 3. I alerted the venue and they agreed to take the Bona Lisa in lieu of The Skelly Dance, but then I decided to re-do The Skelly Dance anyway.
I’ve got time, after all. Art Prize isn’t until mid-September. Also, I’m a little leery about substituting art work without clearing it with Art Prize first. I’ve heard of people being disqualified from that show for small infractions. I could try to get a new piece juried in, but it’s way past the deadline now, so I will happily forgo opening up that can of worms altogether and count myself lucky this happened when it did.
Onward and upward
Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started making art every day, it’s if you did it once, you can do it again.
Nothing is so precious that it can’t be re-worked, or re-designed, or re-made from scratch. It was painting every day that taught me this lesson and I’m grateful for it. Because of this I can let something like the destruction of a piece roll over me like water off a duck’s back.
But I’ll tell you something—I went out and got an insurance policy for my art last week, because while a positive attitude can take you a long way, cash money makes for a smoother ride.