By Melissa Whitaker

Curiouser and Curiouser

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Inspiration happens every day if you pay attention to it.   It is not something that just magically appears, at least it doesn’t for me.  I have to consciously look for it.  We are often too busy to take the time to find inspiration, some may even consider it a waste of time.  There are things that have to be done, dishes to wash, work to be done and bills to be paid.  Who has time for inspiration?  Inspiration, to me, is what makes life worth living.  To be inspired by something or someone or someplace sets my soul on fire.  To pass a spark of that inspiration on to someone else fans the spark and makes it burn brighter.  That alone is worth the time to go and find the inspiration

Inspiration is all around us the trick is to know it when you see it.  Take a look around and examine things closely.  Inspiration is fed by curiosity, for without curiosity innovation and inspiration would not occur.  Take washing the dishes for example.  It can be a mundane chore that must be done or it can be a FUN experimentation on the formation of bubbles and color.  If you look at the bubbles only as a white foam then you are missing the wonders that lie underneath.  

Curiosity stopped me the other day while I was doing the dishes.  The bubbles from the soap attracted me all of a sudden so I ran to get my camera. 

The bubbles on the left are what is typically seen. The photo on the right is after Lightroom Adjustments that brought out the magical world of Bubbles.

The curiosity sent me down the path to the inspiration. It all started with the, “I wonder.” The next thing I knew I was examining bubbles even closer.

Macro shot of the surface of a soap bubble

The pictures that were captured inspired me even more, so yesterday when I was home due to snow I played around with the photos to see what I could do.

“Don’t Burst the Bubble”. Digital Media (rough draft)

The illustration still needs quite a bit of tweaking, but I like where the bubbles took me. Little did I know that the simple act of doing the dishes would lead me down a rabbit hole full of color and exploration. What a tumble it was.

Please excuse me now while I go and finish up the dishes.

New Year, Now What?

Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

Here we are one week into a new year and I can already hear the clock ticking. Tick, tick, tick, at least that’s the sound that clocks use to make, now it has no sound at all. Time is a complete silence waiting for us to start the race, but if it is not making a sound how are we suppose to know when to start? In 2018 I went to an Art Business Seminar where the wise art guru threw the gauntlet down. He threw physics into an art lecture. 😳. Newton’s first law, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” It hit me like a fast moving train, which coincidently is the ending of Newton’s first law, “….unless acted upon by an outside force.” I often wait to start something until I have everything all planned out and ready to go. Problem is, life interferes and the plan never gets finished. It gets put off for another day, so I never get past the starting line.

This is where the physics lesson comes in. Why wait until everything is planned out? Just start. Get moving and make adjustments along the way. At least it is moving forward. It may have taken a train to get me moving, but I slowly started last year and in 2019 I am determined to go the distance. I started this blog in June 2018, and it has been slow going and I have done 9 posts in 6 months. The next 6 months my goal is at least 12. I’m in motion, just keep moving.


The Art of Disappointment

“Disappointment”

Digital Media Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

Ahhhhhh.  Disappointment, the gum on the shoe of every artist.  Difficult to remove and a constant reminder of a step once taken.  It clings to your soul and gives you a feeling of inadequacy.  A nagging persistence that your art or even you are not good enough.  It is a struggle that everyone must deal with from time to time.  It has become a constant companion that is stuck to my shoe and I have learned to incorporate it into my walk.  Every now and then it gets a little sticky, but most of the time it’s just an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The artistic way of life is really quite masochistic.  The muse inspires one to create, but the creation seldom measures up to what the mind has envisioned.  Leaving an artist feeling disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and dejected.  Then that artwork is put on display for all the world to judge.   If the piece is accepted the brain is flooded with endorphins that will give the artist a temporary high.  A high that is desperately sought after, to the point that rejection is the price that is willing to be paid in order to achieve a personal validation.

This week I received another email that will be added to the collection of rejection letters in my file cabinet.  (I keep thinking that someday I will make a collage of all of them). It felt like I had just stepped on a tarantula size wad of gum.  No matter how much I tried to shake it off,  it would not let loose.  This was not the same as entering a juried art show where the judging was based on your work and whether or not it would fit in with the rest of the show.  This felt personal.  A judgment of me and who I am.  No matter how many times I told myself, “It’s nothing personal.”  It stuck to my soul as a constant reminder that I was not worthy.  I would be happily preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then BAM!  it would remind me and I would start crying.  (The blessing was, I could blame the crying on cutting onions).  It took a few days and a few bottles of wine to accept the fact that it wasn’t personal.  It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, it’s simply that I wasn’t ready YET.

It is extremely tempting to give up and not submit oneself to rejection over and over again, but then there would never be that ultimate high of validation.  That wondrous ecstasy of achievement that I strive for.  If we let the disappointments fester an accumulate we become stuck and never move forward.  Disappointments can fool you and stretch to make you feel like you are moving forward, but they will inevitably pull you back to where you were.  I will scrape the gum from my shoe and leave a bit of the residue to harden, to remind me that life has its disappointments, it’s what we do with them that makes the difference.  The important thing is to keep moving forward, that is the only way to arrive at where you are going.

Now then, please excuse me while I go to the store to purchase a pack of gum.  I seem to have dropped mine.

American Triage

For the past several days I have tried to write a blog post, but as soon as I wrote something I would quickly cut it because it may have offended someone.  Who it would offend, I don’t know, but it really didn’t matter.  Offensiveness seems to be the new normal and I do not want to be “normal.” 

I live in a small town just outside of Cape Girardeau, MO.  Today the town is being visited by the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, Sean Hannity, and Cape Girardeau’s home boy Rush Limbaugh.  There is an electricity in the air as a storm is brewing in the West, (seriously, the weatherman is calling for tornadoes this evening) the tension mounts on my social media pages, and I sit here wondering, whatever happened to civility?  I scroll through my Facebook feed and see one accusatory comment after another.  It does not matter which side a person is on, the accusations are coming from the Red and the Blue. How can we merge the two and make a lovely, vibrant purple?

When did this become an Us vs. Them country?  To borrow from one of the greatest authors of all time, Harper Lee, “I think that there is just one kind of folksFolks.”  Scout Finch had a good role model in Atticus Finch and I think we could all use a reminder of Atticus’ advice today,  “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  People develop their beliefs based on their life experiences, not another persons background.  We can learn from other people’s experiences, but it is one’s own life that develops their beliefs and foundations.

The one thing I have learned during this tumultuous time is, you are not going to change anything by being accusatory and mean to people who think differently.  It only makes the divide deeper and wider.  Saying that all Republicans/Conservatives are deplorable or all Democrats/Liberals are the Devil’s spawn is not going to heal this divide.  It only causes more discord. If you must believe in an Us vs. Them scenario then think of it this way; the more divisiveness and discord ther is, the more ground “THEY” gain.  Don’t ask me who “They” are, because I do not know.  That one I will leave to the conspiracy theorist to decide.  As for me today…. I’m going to go pass out daisies and breath mints, because if a person is going to yell at me, then they better have fresh breath while they are doing it.  

American Triage-

American Triage

False Truth

“Each person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We’re all limited by our perspective.” ~ Siri Hustvedt

The last few years has had me examining the question, “What is true?” That question has taken over my life in the last month. Not just in the political atmosphere, but in business and personal as well. When long held beliefs turn out to be false there is a foundational shift that occurs. An earthquake of the conscience that makes one re-examine everything that they have been taught. What we perceive as truth is based on what we have been taught to believe. Our perception of the world is based on our life experiences, what we consume in media, and who we socialize with. Each one of these will bend the truth to fit into what we perceive to be accurate, if it does not fit in to our preconceived notions, then it is often ruled to be false.

I am not a degreed scholar, and I do not sit around and drink coffee with philosophical individuals (although that would be nice). I am an artist who examines everything from different perspectives. I have learned to examine things and life from all angles, because I will always notice something that I did not see before. Recently I discovered that my perception had been a bit skewed by folks who I believe meant well, but ultimately caused a tilt shift in my view.

Let me explain.

When photographing architecture with a wide angle lens a distortion will appear in the photo. Straight lines will look curved and there may even be some vignetting at the corners due to light bending on the lens. With an adjustment in Photoshop or Lightroom this can be corrected, or a person can invest in a tilt shift lens that adjusts enough to obtain the correct perspective when the image is captured. Much like the distortion that happens from a camera lens, what one learns from another person has been distorted by their preconceived notions. On closer examination and independent research I discovered that a serious correction was needed in what I thought was the truth. I had to look at things from all angles. Some may call this overthinking, but I prefer to call it getting the right perspective.

In this crazy, mixed up world we live in where we are told that everything is FAKE news and that, “The truth is not the truth,” it is becoming more and more difficult to correct the distortion.

“Perception” by Melissa Whitaker

The Curse of Being Nice

“Hey Jude” by Melissa Whitaker

I am often accused of being too sweet, too pleasant, too accommodating,  too quiet, and too nice.  That last one, too nice, that’s the twisted knife.  It appears that in today’s world in order for a woman to achieve success the label “Too Nice” is the hemlock in her cup of caffeine each morning.  Do you have to go for the jugular in order to succeed in life?  Being nice and accommodating is how I was raised.

Oxford dictionary defines accommodating as: fitting in with one’s wishes or demands in a helpful way.

The question then becomes, is being accommodating a good thing?  Who is it benefiting?  I watched my grandmother spend all day cooking a meal and then serve it at the table for the family.  She never sat down with the family, she just hovered over the shoulder or sat in the kitchen waiting to serve in case anyone needed anything.  I did not think much about this growing up possibly because I watched my mother do it.   My mother would sit at the table with us, but she was always ready to get up to retrieve something.  My mother tried to teach me to do this and some of it took and some of it didn’t.

What I learned was to be accommodating and to put others needs before mine.  This accommodation can be beneficial, but it can be even more detrimental to my own personal well-being.  I no longer look at it as being accommodating or nice and sweet.  It’s enabling.  I am an enabler.  By bending to others wishes or demands I am enabling them to continue controlling MY life and MY wishes.  That control is a powerful thing and breaking free from it is extremely difficult, but in order to achieve success in my life,  I have to be in control of it.  Do I have to go for the jugular?  I don’t think so, because ultimately it is my own neck that I am sticking out and I am kind of attached to it.

It has not been easy taking control of my life and telling people “No.  I’m not doing that anymore.”  They are stunned and even a little angry but they will get over it.  I only have one shot at this life and it’s time to make it my own.

What about you?  Have you broken free?

A Few Minutes More

Sitting on a boat, in the middle of a lake, at the midnight hour, I lay back on the floor and stare up to the vast cosmos to ponder the beauty of the world.

My mind slips down the Milky Way and circles around Venus, then dives in to bathe in the Big Dipper. A falling star sparks for a second and then is gone like the memory of times gone by. The cool summer breeze caresses the skin and sends a shiver down the spine to awaken the memories of childhood.

Star light, star bright

First star I see tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight

As the siren song of the cicadas’ amplifies against the night sky, I rise to sit at the edge of the boat and allow my toes to skim the surface of the water while the moon wake beacons me to join it in a water dance. In the distance I hear the calling, “Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” telling me to join in the dance with the moon. Gently sinking into the water the coolness of the summer breeze is met with the warmth of the water creating a mist in my mind that washes away the stress of the day.

To float on the blackness of the water while staring at the stars, THIS is what calms the cacophony in my soul. Must the night end? Can the sun sleep in for a day? Allow me to stay in the caress of the water while the world goes on it’s merry way. Just a few minutes more, please, just a few minutes more.

“An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere. The pessimist sees only the red light. But the truly wise person is color blind.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

I LOVE color!! The deeper, the brighter, the more illuminating, the better. I try to view the world through rose colored glasses, but sometimes the glasses get a little foggy and the darkness creeps in. I know as I grow older the colors in my world may begin to fade and lose some of their luminosity, it is not something I look forward to.

I have been working with a client for several months now on a marketing campaign. I have done many illustrations for him and recently it came down to choosing the color palette. I see color everywhere and my artwork is often full of intense color, so creating a color palette was hitting my prime spot. This client lives several thousand miles away, so it’s not like they could sit beside me and point out color choices. I created several palettes that he could choose from and each time he would come back with, “What if we replaced this color with some other color?” He’s lucky I am an extremely patient person……………at times.

This client had mentioned before that he had some color blindness, but he always chose colors that worked together. He has an exceptional eye, but it soon became apparent that we were seeing colors differently. Today I discovered a website that allows you to view things through the eyes of color blindness. (Technology seriously makes my mind explode). Here is a link to the color blind simulator

I would say that the term color blindness is a misnomer, color vision deficiency may be a better term. Only a small percentage have true color blindness which is called Monochromacy or Achromatopsia.

I placed my artwork in the color blind simulator in order to have a better idea on what the client may be seeing and this is what it showed me:

I do not know which one is truly what he views, but it definitely explains a LOT and helps me to understand that color vision deficiency is not really a deficiency, it may even be more colorful. So the next time your significant other asks you if this shirt goes with these pants, just say, “Yes.”

The next time someone tells me they are color blind I’m responding with, “OH! How wonderful! You can show me a whole new way of looking at things.”

For the past few years I have felt that everything I was taught to believe in has been wadded up and thrown into the bin labeled “Lost to Posterity.”  While writing this post I sit here and think, “I hope I do not offend anyone.”  I have become overly cautious on my words and actions to the point that my only outlet has been through art.  Even some of my artwork has been tethered in the hopes of not offending.  It was the way I was taught.  Be considerate of others.  But when does being considerate of others become censorship of self?

I have been told to paint pretty landscapes, flowers and even chickens because that is what people want.  It’s safe and not offensive.  I’m sorry, but I don’t do landscapes.  I am a plant assassin, all I have to do is look at a plant and it will die.  And the only chicken I like is what’s on my plate.  If I were to paint or draw what others deem is worthy of commerce, it would be a censoring of myself.  Then I would be lost.

A few months ago I had the extreme pleasure of meeting one of my favorite artists, Pamela Frankel-Fiedler.  Her work is provocative, sensual, and captivating.  My conversation with her encouraged me to not be afraid of what others may think and being overly cautious is a restraint of self expression.

I paint and draw because, if I don’t, I feel like I am suffocating.  Art is the air I breathe.  It is my voice.

In the coming months, I will be exploring this self-expression and it may shock and it may offend, but to NOT explore it would be a suffocation of the spirit.  So buckle up Buttercup, we’re going for a ride!

I have heard the critics say many times that photography is NOT art and I seriously can not comprehend what they mean.  I’ve seen some pretty bad photos, some of them in an art gallery hanging next to a painting of dogs playing poker.  Matter of fact, I have even produced some pretty bad photos, paintings and drawings myself, but they are ALL art.

I’m not here to tell you what is good or bad art, because you know it when you see it.  Art is subjective.  An artist interprets what they see and through different mediums they are able to convey an emotion in order to elicit a response to their work.  That response may not always be what the artist was hoping for, but it is a response none the less.  That is what makes it art.

Photography is not simply pointing the camera at something and pushing the button (although, to a 5 year old with a camera, it might just be the pushing the button).  The photographer has planned the shot, waited for the light to be just right, adjusted the aperture to produce the exact depth of field, set the shutter speed to capture that one fleeting moment in time.  It is the same way an artist applies paints to the palette, sketches a composition on the canvas, smudges the charcoal to create a shadow and depth.  It is all art.  Whether or not it is good or bad art?  Well, that is up to the observer.

For me, photography is a quick escape for my creative mind.  When life starts to get busy and it is hard for me to have studio time, I can get creative with my camera.  I do not consider myself a professional photographer, but I use photography as an outlet that helps me charge up my batteries to illustrate or paint.  So don’t let anyone tell you that photography is not art.  If it inspires……….it is art, no matter the tools used.

All by Myself-

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