inspirationIf you are an artist of any kind, the first thing you have to do it is get inspired. But I think that is true for everyone. Something has to motivate you to get up and face your existence every morning. For some it might be having money and the lifestyle that goes with it, while some people just want to take care of their family. Others want to serve humanity, yet some just want to serve themselves. Being inspired can be the difference between a great piece of art and a sofa painting, but it can also be the difference between a fulfilling career and a workaday job. It can make a marriage happy – or not. It can make you healthy. It can make you learn. It can make you sing. Being inspired by something can turn a prison into a possibility.

I get inspired by the world around me. I try to understand it, but I also revel in the fact that I will never know everything about it. Of course art has always been a part of the search for the answers to life’s big questions. But for me, it’s the simple things that drive my work. The color of a robin’s egg can give me enough inspiration for an entire series of paintings. I tend to leave ideas like the meaning of life to those with loftier expectations. Though I guess it all amounts to the same in the end. After all, when you get right down to it, isn’t the color of a robin’s egg as big a mystery as anything else?

Of course there are times when nothing seems new or interesting. I putter around and accomplish nothing. Again, I am certain that this is a part of life we all go through. You don’t have to be an artist to be uninspired. And I overcome this the same way everyone else does – I just keep going, I keep looking. Sooner or later I see a cloud, or an odd shaped tree, or a pebble on the ground and “click” – I get an idea and the world of possibilities opens up again.

What inspires you? It can be a tricky thing to ask yourself. I’m sure that many a good shrink have labored in vain to get their patients to answer that question honestly.

Art Advice: Stuck with it

stuckI have been interviewed several times regarding design advice over the past few weeks. When the interviews got published, they resulted in a few emails, so I thought I would use the blog to answer a few of them from time to time.

First up: the lady writes…

“I don’t know how I managed to do it but over the years I have ended up with a lot of art pieces that I don’t really like. Some of them are gifts from family and some I bought myself. But now I wonder what was I thinking? Some were quite expensive. Any suggestions?”

The lady who wrote this actually ended up hiring me to come have a look at her collection to see what could be done with it. But I hear this so much that I thought it worth a comment in case others might have the same issue.

First of all, art should not be burden to you. It should be enjoyed. So, if you don’t like it, either store it (properly) or get rid of it. But before you do, there are a few things you can try that could completely change your mind about those pieces. You might just learn to love them.

1. Grouping
Try hanging them in groupings with other art. Often paintings are not strong enough to carry a wall by themselves. But grouping it with other art, and using it as more of an accent piece can produce marvelous results.

2. Framing
I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen beautiful art made ugly by being placed in the wrong frame. And on the flip side, I have seen the right framing elevate what had seemed some fairly atrocious artwork into something very usable.

3. Doing the unexpected
Do you have a portrait of some old battle axe aunt that you don’t know what to do with? Hang her over the bar. Squeeze that large abstract into your tiny powder room. Or hang the period landscape with the gilded frame in the mud room. Interesting choices are what make interesting rooms.

If none of this works – by all means, don’t hang on to something that makes you unhappy.

Being cheap, being too polite, being impatient can take their toll over the years, landing you with a lot of stuff that you don’t want – not just art. I can help you out with the art, but husbands, ungrateful children, and bad haircuts you have to work out for yourself.

The Party’s Over… for Now

mardi-grasWhen you live in New Orleans, Lent is that brief period when people try to sober up between Mardi Gras and JazzFest. Like most New Orleanians, I need Lent.

For most of America the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and ends with the new year. Bitch, please. Our holiday season… well, I don’t know when it starts exactly. With so many fall festivals and events that take place as early as September, then Halloween and Voodoo Fest… The party just keeps escalating until eventually you get to the more well-known biggies like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. But while the rest of the country is prostrate with exhaustion from those festivities, we are just getting started. The good times just keep rolling. The parties get boozier, the food keeps getting better, traffic and business grind to a halt, people get dressed up – as anything you could imagine, beads get thrown, people get bruised and fall on uneven sidewalks, and the good mood is contagious. Whew!

And remember – this doesn’t include one’s own personal celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, fundraisers, and such. I sometimes wonder how anyone in this city has any money or is able to hold down a job.

I can’t tell you when the party starts but I can tell you when it ends. Lent. Everyone finally just stops, crawls into bed and braces themselves for work the next day.

Lent is when I detox, de-carb, attempt to get some exercise and try to put in a full work week. My friend says that there are three stages of being drunk: 1. You think you can dance. 2. You think you can sing 3. You think you are invisible. Lent is when you realize you are visible again. So it’s time for the gym, for organic food and some early nights. The warm weather is coming and that is a whole other kind of party. We gotta rest up.


one-of-these-thingsOld people from Mississippi tell the best stories. As I am not long away from being one myself, I will tell one that was told to me when I was about 20.

This old man told me how he loved birds. And that when he retired he went about making his yard a haven for them. He put up all sorts of bird feeders and bird baths. He even planted special plants and flowers to attract the birds. Sure enough all this worked and he was able to spend hours sitting on his back porch with binoculars watching the birds. He had a couple of friends who would come visit in order to enjoy them as well.

He was completely happy with his birds. But then he began to notice that squirrels were getting into the bird feeders and eating a good bit of the bird seed he was buying. They also spread the seeds all over his lawn causing “weeds” to sprout up. He became obsessed with finding a way to stop the squirrels from costing him time and money.

He bought special bird feeders that guaranteed no squirrels could steal his birdseed. But they didn’t work. He worried about it all the time. He would make squirrel traps. He would sit on his back porch with a 22 and shoot them, hoping to keep others frightened away. Nothing worked. He became grumpy and complained about them to anyone who would listen. Constantly he sought advice from others about his squirrel problem. His friends stopped coming by. He was broke from his anti squirrel schemes.

Finally, in disgust, he took down all his bird feeders. A couple of months later he was sitting on his back porch, alone, no birds, no friends. But he was saving money and had a beautiful lawn.

It wasn’t long before he put the bird feeders back up. He realized that even though he hated the thought of the squirrels stealing his birdseed from time to time. It was better than not having the birds. He even noticed that sometimes the seeds the squirrels knocked about on his lawn produced pretty flowers. He was less grumpy and his friends started coming back around.

He said to me “In life there’s always gonna be squirrels, just feed the birds anyway.”

Unyielding Good Taste

good-tasteEveryone thinks they have it. Most do not.

As an artist I try to be opened minded about the aesthetics of other people. I try to understand the look they are going for when someone paints their front door metallic gold, has a round bed, or places a life size reproduction of the Venus de Milo next to the BBQ grill in their backyard. Unfortunately, having an open mind can only go so far.

Yes, bad taste is out there in full force. In fact we are almost constantly being assaulted with it. We have an all-you-can-eat, gold lame, fake boob, strip mall, cubic zirconia, acid-washed kinda world pushed in our face most of the time.

However, to me, the only thing worse than bad taste is actually good taste – just in the wrong hands. It’s wonderful when someone can recognize the beauty of an eighteenth century French chateau. But trying to make your brand new house look exactly like one is just wrong. Isn’t there something slightly ridiculous about having a monogram on your rubber boots? Do antique Italian olive jars (no matter how beautiful they are) really belong on the porch of your Arts and Crafts style bungalow?

I find that often people who have no taste use the elements of what is accepted as “good taste” as a sort of mask to hide behind. Their outfits and homes always perfectly put together in the most utterly conventional way because they have no style of their own. To me this is the ultimate in boring. Am I the only one who thinks that a home that is merely pretty is almost ugly? Having a pretty home is easy. Buying a pretty dress is no problem. Finding a haircut that suits you and sticking with it for 5 or 10 years is not all that complicated. But I salute those folks who take chances and paint rooms the wrong color. The ladies and gentlemen who are not afraid to make a mistake with their wardrobe make me smile. And Bravo to you if every once in awhile your friends have to ask you “What in the hell did you do to your hair?”

For me a little bit of good taste goes a long way. Overdo it and you risk banality.