Archive for the ‘incredible artists’ Category

So often, creative minds get inspiration that has to “get out” in a matter of speaking. After a recent visit to Southern California in the Laguna Beach area, I felt compelled to paint.


After getting my intense impression of this powerful water down on canvas, I had to share this combination video. It directly parallels what inspired me with the resulting piece.

Artists and art collectors often ask themselves or the creative individual “what inspired you?” The truth is, often times, we cannot really put that into words. That’s when the paint brush, composition pencil or interpretive dance studio comes into play.

Our communication method is our art form.

In coming months, I hope to “catch myself” in the act during more of these interpretive moments. Video is a helpful tool to capture what I am seeing, but the story line is what happens after that inspiration.

To anyone viewing or hearing any fresh art piece, interpretive dance or music composition, let us “tell it like it is” in our mind. Looking at things through the lens of interpretation is often organic and exciting. Hence the world of art!


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Hiking west Austin has been my hobby for while now. The artistic craggy rocks and tree roots often grow above the ground looking for any rock crack to seep in and look for moisture. As an artist, this added “texture” is incredible.

Take a walk with me…. Great Hills Park Feb 15th, 2015. The trail is dry and dusty.

Dry Trail Feb 2015 - great Hills Park Austin, TX

Feb 2015 – Great Hills Park Austin, TX

Turning a corner on the trail, we see the water source in the park. The winter moisture has the creek hardly moving hoping to wake the plants near her edge. The water is clear and grey is the dominant color, though permeated by hopeful green.

Painting inspiration - photographed Feb 2015

Painting inspiration – photographed Feb 2015

It is a peaceful setting. Hardly anyone on the trail. A great time to reflect on the winter and look forward to spring.


A couple months later, May 2015, I am standing in my painting studio looking at a large 5ft wide by 4 ft tall blank canvas. This painting has to be incredible in order to carry off such a large format.

I browse through my photos saved to inspire.  I happen across the Great Hills Park trail shots and the creek shot. This is it!

From an artist standpoint, I look at the photo in a whole new light. How will I interpret it? I don’t want to create a copy of the image, rather a painting that reflects how I saw the scene as pure poetry at the end of a grey winter. Paint the hope that will bourgeon into a romantic spring.

Starting the base palette

Starting the base palette

I see pinks and mossy green beneath all the grey. After misting the canvas with water, my background roller is moving fast. I can envision some of the end result, which is hours away, and I want to get there…. A storybook scene in the making.

Painting deeb shadows that will sit below the surface layer

Painting deep shadows that will sit below the surface layer

As I paint, I switch to a palette knife for heavy scratch and thicker paint. Mixing heavy matte gel into my paint allows rocks to build up, like the years of compression it took to make the actual boulders – just in minutes instead of centuries.  The branch “fell” in the foreground.

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

Rather than keeping the nearly black water, I balance the pink undertone layer with a soft blue grey and start to fill in the rocky ground cover with a large brush and palette knife.

By the end of three hours, a few branches and tree leaves have been added. This is a great place to stop on day 1 so the next top layers don’t get murky.

After three hours...

After three hours…leaning against the work table for a better view

The next day was a series of working sections with more vegetation and variation. The far bank needed a lot of work over the grey shadow layer. Rocks were painted with flat brushes.  Darker colored shapes topped with lighter shades gave them dimension.

Roughly 4 more hours of working, stepping back and “growing” my vision for the poetic version of this February day. With a few watery details creating shadows and glassy reflections, the painting takes on the feel of a watercolor, even through acrylic paints and mediums were the only products used. Blacker shades like raw umber start to showcase the darkest details. A branch is added in the top right corner and it is 99% done.

Details 99% done

Overall 99% done

Just a few tiny details were popped in and my signature added after the piece was hung on the gallery divider wall. My vision of the Creek at Great Hills Park is finally realized. Time to go out for another hike…

Feeling at home in the gallery

Creek at Great Hills Park by artist Deb Otto, feeling at home in the gallery

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So often art imitates life, but on occasion, as is the case with anyone born to follow a certain career path, life is directed by art.

Melanie Hickerson was one of 8 siblings growing up in the “oil patch” of north west Texas. Her mother was an artist in her own right, and encouraged music, dance and painting even though she had given up her creative career with her growing family.

Melanie with her Siblings (left top face)

Melanie with her Siblings (plaid blouse far left)

Melanie’s first memory of her own creative work is of her mom giving her a section of wall in their home to paint how she saw fit. The wall was to be torn out in a few months for a remodel, but Melanie, age 10, put a dragon on it! Years later she depicted this time in her life with a “tribute” to her mom called 1956 (West Texas).


“1956 (West Texas)” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

In the painting, the art on the wall replicates the actual piece her mom painted and hung there. Of course the flying parent cooking is her mom and her youngest brother Riley (Demon Boy) shoots underfoot along with Foxy their dog.

So from the beginning Melanie had art in her veins. But, as many children of the 50’s will attest, art did not seem a practical life path. In 1964, her dad said he would help her go to college as long as she did not major in art. After one year, she dropped out and left for love and adventures in California. She never gave up pencil and paints though, and by 1977, accepting that art was in her blood, she had her first one person exhibit in a book store in Austin. She designed a cover and art for an underground newspaper (The Gar) but adventure called again.

Having divorced in ’76, she left for Italy with her school age son and painted small scenes of the Italian ruins and countryside. Hickerson estimates she painted 4-5 of these pieces a week for 7-8 months.


Ruins in Piazza Navona circa 1978 by Melanie Hickerson

Commissions and murals paid for plane tickets back to the US in ’78. By 1980 she finally started the education she wanted, graduating with an MFA in 1985 from UT in Austin. She had another successful one person show at the edgy Data Gallery, then she taught at SWTSU (San Marcos) and Laguna Gloria (Austin.)

Common with many artists, Melanie yearned for more opportunities and creative energy. She described it as “wanderlust.” So in 1986, off she went, this time to NYC with her son.

Following some exhibits in commercial galleries, she eventually joined the Ceres gallery (also called the NY Feminist Art Institute) targeting women artists at a time when they were just not shown as frequently as their male counterparts. She was active on the Women’s Caucus for Art and worked as an artist for the City of New York. Many grants, commissions and also teaching made her 12+ years in NYC a challenge and an adventure, contributing heavily to her artistic growth.

I asked Melanie how the art world for women artists changed from the 80’s (possibly in NYC or Austin) to today…

According to Melanie, “The art world has IMPROVED a lot, but less so than banking for example. Tradition has had tremendous influence in the art world plus subjectivity  and women still get less than 15% of spaces and jobs (except administration) overall. In the 90’s I participated clerically in gathering stats on women in galleries, museums, universities and we came up with about 5%. Nevertheless, nowadays it isn’t just assumed that a woman artist is present only to stretch canvases for the guys.”


Melanie Hickerson 2015

By 1999, Hickerson returned to Austin in her home state once again. She was finally universally defined not only by herself, but by her family and fellow Texans as an artist.

With thousands of pieces attributed to her pencil and brush, Melanie continues to teach at ACC in north Austin and shares her love of the world and life. I asked how these young artists differ from her early years…

Melanie relates, “The young artists coming up now have such a different perception of art. They are much more engaged in multiples, not a one-of-a-kind concept. Reproduction materially as well as electronically. That is a big question. The internet is so new. The digital world is having broad effect. One thing is for sure, we need more art, for the culture and for the individuals in this culture.  The taste, or experience [of art] is in danger of becoming so homogenized that the individual disappears. Like the disappearance of nature. Opportunities to quietly contemplate, experience, are more rare. Opportunities to connect are changing but it is a “noisy” (crowded) world. ”


“Me and My Mom” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

As far as Melanie’s creative mother…  A work Melanie did of her mother’s final days in the nursing home before she passed on will be featured in a 2015 exhibition at the Austin City Hall February 27th sponsored by the Cultural Arts Division, Economic Dept of the City of Austin.

2013 Mom in NH by Melanie Hickerson Austin TX

“Mom in Nursing Home 2013” acrylic on canvas by Melanie Hickerson

Melanie has focused primarily on portraits in recent months, capturing so many others as they follow their path through life. Maybe those of us who have a creative path notice the paths of others just a little closer.


Colorful Portraits by Melanie Hickerson – acrylic on canvas






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Not everyone looks at a space the same way. Someone who lives there everyday may see small imperfections as well as function issues. A visitor who has never been in the space sees a big picture and bases an opinion on first impressions. So how are both the constant and occassional visitor visually enticed? Abstract art.

Texture, light, color and scale make abstract painting relevant in any living space.

Long time California artist, Elise Tysick has a great overview here of why abstract art is so sucessful:


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Nadim Hajjar

Born in El Paso, TX in 1980, Nadim Hajjar Nadim Hajjar-300pxgrew up around a very artistic father. His dad’s occupations and skills allowed him to be both a builder and painter of murals. At a young age, Nadim was fascinated  with his father’s natural skill with a paint brush. One specific memory he has is when his father commissioned an artist from Argentina to help him paint Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” from the Sistine chapel. The mural was being done in the front entry way of their own home.  The project required scaffolding to reach the 25 ft. ceiling. During the 3-4 month project Nadim would come home from school and watch while they painted. He was impressed with how much patience it took to finish such a large scale piece of work.
But it wasn’t until  he went on family trips to Europe and the Middle East that he truly gained respect for the arts. His father made it a priority for the whole family to go visit museums, galleries, cathedrals, and famous monuments. Certain locations that deeply inspired Nadim in his travels where the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, Louvre in Paris, Palace of Versailles, Alte Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, and the Leeum Samsung Museum in Seoul. But when he visited Italy and went to the Vatican and walked into The Sistine chapel for the first time is when his heart was deeply moved. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw how small Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” was on the high ceiling.
Regardless of being surrounded by all this art his whole life, it wasn’t until his father’s passing in a tragic motorcycle accident that Nadim ended up picking up a paint brush. To mourn his father’s death he went to live in the mountains of Jezzine, Lebanon where his father was born. That’s where Nadim’s own art creations all began. Ever since then, during his travels around the world, Nadim would always find time to paint where he was visiting. Since then, he has paintings located in Lebanon, Thailand, Seoul, Northern California, and in Texas.

Recent Work by Nadim Hajjar

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Austin has such a high percentage of artists and musicians within it’s city limits. (Pun intended ACL goers.)

For the WEST Studio Tour, only the Austin area west of I-35 and east of Hwy 360 is considered a viable stop. For the Spring 2014 tour, that equated to 241 stops!

I have to target a few favorites for this blog, but this is just the tip of the iceberg…make it a point to attend the next WEST show!

One of the popular stops is along 2309 Thorton Rd, where several studios nest together.

Fireseed Clay, home to several working potters, always comes through with new and different faces.

Creature peeking from Rick Van Dyke's pot

Creature peeking from Rick Van Dyke’s pot at Fireseed Clay Art Studios

New faces on the tour there included Jennifer Hill and Texadae.

Jennifer Hill's Card featuring a few of her creations

Jennifer Hill’s Card featuring a few of her creations

Nice Jugs Ceramics showing detailed inscribed pottery jugs.

Nice Jugs Ceramics showed detailed inscribed pottery jugs

The Nice Jugs pieces can be ordered to commemorate an event or person in your life. Texadae@gmail.com to order. How fun!

Still in the Thorton Rd studio area, we saw metal, photography, painting, jewelry and wood. A feast for the fine craft connoisseur.

Photography from around the world by Greg Davis

Photography from around the world by Greg Davis

Sandy Muckleroy showed a selection of her incredible metal and wire pieces

Sandy Muckleroy showed a selection of her incredible metal and wire pieces

Amanda Wood featured unique ceramic sculpture

Amanda Wood featured unique ceramic sculpture

Mindy Graber explained her mosaic technique and interesting class format for DIY clients

Mindy Graber explained her mosaic technique and interesting class format for DIY clients


One of our stops included a Ridgeview street home with multiple artists.

Talented glass artist Andrea Loomis explained how her pieces can be ordered in custom groupings. In a modern home, this would make quite a presentation along a staircase wall or feature area. Andreas platters could even mount on a ceiling for an incredible effect!

Andrea Loomis_IMG_4625

Malina Cipleu_IMG_4627

Malina Cipleu wearing one of her necklace creations

Malina Cipleu works in both fused glass and polymer clays.
Large and small, wall to necklace, her compositions were
spot on and craftsmanship superb.

Fused glass pieces by Malina Cipleu

Fused glass pieces by Malina Cipleu

One of Austin’s elite historical areas, Hyde Park, also featured several artists.

Denise Fulton opened her home on Avenue H in Hyde Park, showing her own paintings and digital art by Chalda Maloff. Incidentally, Denise’s husband served incredible homemade cheesecake in the kitchen!

Tree paintings by talented painter Denise Fulton

Tree paintings by talented painter Denise Fulton

Digital art by Chalda Maloff

Digital art by Chalda Maloff

Chalda Maloff explained the time consuming process of her digital art. Printed on the back of glass, these incredible fish pieces truly came to life.

Every artist needs patrons to keep the work flowing out of their studio. Any time you get a chance, support your local creative community. Life truly thrives with art inspiring us all.

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Seattle has a water world all its own, brimming with ocean life and numerous shipping and sailing vessels. Look a bit closer though, and you will find a lifestyle choice of island living accessible by ferry rides through Puget Sound. Vashon Island, WA is strictly dependent on ferry transportation as NO roads or bridges connect this beautiful land mass to civilization. With just over 10,000 residents in roughly 37 sq miles of area, it is not densely populated with anything but trees! Each spring and fall, art seekers hop on the ferry to get a glimpse of the beautiful scenery, local culture and great food during the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour. Once off the boat, you enter the true NW Pacific life.

Ferry to Vashon Island

Ferry to Vashon Island


Driving off the ferry, armed with my cell phone listing the initial studio address, this year’s May 2014 discovery began.  We quickly learned each artist’s studio stop had descriptive brochures with a handy map of the full tour.

Toward the north end of the island, we visited painter Kristen Reitz-Green’s studio. Quaintly situated in a the Green barn behind her home, we were delighted with her incredible pet portraits and all her original oil paintings.

Off to the barn

Off to the barn


Kristen Reitz-Green art barn

Kristen Reitz-Green art barn

Kristen explained her life long love of the arts which included a long professional career as a symphony french horn player. Eventually she stepped out of the lime light and into great painting light to truly hone a new craft.

Kristen Reitz-Green with a few of her "friends"

Kristen Reitz-Green with a few of her “friends”

More of Kristen's incredible oils

More of Kristen’s incredible oils

Kristen pointed out a few studios we would not want to miss, so we headed to the nearby shoreline studio of GRB Bells. As a true nature lover, the entrance to this functional jewelry studio was half the fun!

Heading down to the shoreline entrance of GRB Bells

Heading down to the shoreline entrance of GRB Bells

What a view of the Sound!

What a view of the Sound!


Gordon Barnett, after receiving a BFA in painting in the late 60’s, learned jewelry making had a bit more income potential. After a decade of casting, he tried his first bell. So many thankful patrons are glad he did!

Sterling silver bells hand made by Gordon Barnett, each one with a unique ring.

Sterling silver bells hand made by Gordon Barnett, each one with a unique ring.

Back in the car, we headed once more through the tree lined roads, stopping at the Hardware Store Restaurant for some incredible clam chowder and fish tacos. YUM!

Ready to take on more sights, we headed far down the island to The Marjesira Inn. Originally opened in 1904, you can still envision the docking of a steamship at the wharf unloading the original guests. Still working as a two room available B&B,  owner/occupant Jacqui Lown treated us to a large sample of her paintings and prints in the drawing room, and upstairs in the historically rich inn.

Overnight accommodations at The Marjesira Inn are a live history lesson on the island

Overnight accommodations are a live history lesson on the island

If contemporary art combined with the rugged NW scenery is appealing to you, check out the work of Gunter Reimnitz. We ventured up the walk seeing Gunter’s huge pieces in the yard of the three artist Reimnitz Studio which also featured Hartmut and Ilse Reimnitz (Gunter’s parents.) We joked with Gunter that he probably did not stand a chance at another career with two artists as parents. But his work is so fresh and fun, you can see he keenly loves his career.

Steel artist Gunter Reimnitz with a few of this year's flock

Steel artist Gunter Reimnitz with a few of this year’s flock

Detailed ravens meticulously cut in steel by Gunter Reimnitz

Detailed ravens meticulously cut in steel by Gunter Reimnitz

Ilse Reimnitz was also on hand with stunning contemporary monotype prints as well as her watercolors and art cards.

Ilse Reimnitz contemporary monotype prints

Ilse Reimnitz contemporary monotype prints

Hartmut Reimnitz is an incredibly talented oil artist as well, with several pieces displayed. If you ever get a chance to see this families pieces in person, don’t miss it!

Hartmut Reimnitz can make a simple scene spectacular in oil

Hartmut Reimnitz can make a simple scene spectacular in oil

Before getting back on the ferry, we stopped in a group show in the Grange Hall on the top of the island. One memorable artist, Marcia McKenzie, is known for her batik technique on rice paper. Quite the nice lady as well as a creative talent!

Artist Marcia McKenzie is popular for her roosters, but a talent at other motifs as well

Artist Marcia McKenzie is popular for her roosters, but a talent at other motifs as well

Between the fresh air, back road navigating and good food, what the Vashon Island Art Studio Tour lacked in number of artists, (just 23 stops,) it more than made up for in original content and atmosphere. Thanks to our Seattle native (and my son) Nate Otto for keeping a hand on the wheel while I soaked up the scenery!

If you happen to ferry out to Vashon when the tour is not in progress, stop in The Heron’s Nest in the center of the island on Vashon Hwy. It is loaded with the work of over 100 artists from the island with 60% of the proceeds going directly to the artists and 40% benefiting the local arts. In such a picturesque setting, we hope to see the Vashon arts community thrive!

Heron's Nest Vashon Island is filled with great local artists' talents

Heron’s Nest Vashon Island is filled with great local artists’ talents



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