Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Editor’s Note: This article mentions rape, sex, degradation of women, racism and slavery. In this room, it is possible to differentiate between slaves and their masters by the size of their lips. The silhouette of a mother stands over her children writhing on the ground, umbilical cords still attached. A visitor wanting to leave unchanged […]


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Meaning of Fall

It has always been refreshing for the heat of summer to change gradually to cooler days and nights. I love the colors of leaves changing to lemon yellow, brilliant orange, the many shades of red sheltered by the darker greens. Even before I had the tools to paint, I would roll around in the crisp piles of fallen leaves.

I never questioned why they changed and fell, leaving the bones of the branches bare, ready for winter. It is not information I wanted. It is the emotion of color, the start of school, my birthday that please me. It is Indian Summer.

Fall also meant to me a chance to start something new. To have new shoes, (sturdy enough to last a year), to get new notebooks to fill with notes and doodles, and to dream of books and everything new. I find an exhilaration even now, breathing air just crisp enough, pure enough.

This fall, the word BREATHE has been recommended for journals and art projects. It makes sense to me. The words Renew, redo, reboot, redesign etc. can be found in titles and texts. It is what was old and dispensble, now is the new, new. Who still has the government pamphlets from before World War II? They taught how to organic garden, how to make clothes from feedsacks, and 1,000 ways to use the peanut. Dr. George Washington Carver wrote many of these pamphlets but his name does not appear on them.

And so as the cooler nights are turning a few leaves, I begin to feel the urge to start something new. Friends have opened a booth in Music Valley Antiques and Marketplace (Nashville). They have invited me a place to show my handiwork. It feels like breathing clean, crisp air. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Wish us well

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

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Nassau Thanksgiving Part 5


At breakfast, I overheard a Boston couple talking with a Canadian. One said the Casino is cheaper in the afternoons. Yesterday a man decided to spend only $2.50 each day in the machines. putting a quarter in each one. At one point the machine he had just fed paid off for $50. To someone else. Then someone played roulette and won  $50,000 – but that could just be a rumor.

Since we got a late start and missed the catamaran, we go to a gallery in a clothing store. I wanted to see “Paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson” (primitives).  Bought gifts for the girls and Lorraine’s baby, Keelan.

Tonight we have early dinner reservations for the Bahamian Club and Le Cabaret on Friday.  John wished for Stevie at the B. Club.


Thanksgiving but seems like Thursday

A rental car would not be ready until late afternoon. We were just in time to get a bus to the catamaran! At Prince Georges Wharf, we see the boats that were recently confiscated by the harbor patrol making a marijuana bust. The ride out was by motor and back by sail and motor. The catamaran is not like the one rented on Martha’s Vineyard* but we did see a sea-plane skim the water and go up the ramp runway. (Crane’s Airline is the oldest.)

We go around Paradise Island to Cottage Beach. It is a part of Britannia Beach. The boat is driven right up on the sand. We stay there an hour:  swimming, snorkeling, drinking fresh coconut juice are available.


We realize we got a lot of sun and have not bought anything for Al. Shops were closed at noon on Thursdays. At McDonald’s we talked with a woman who looked like Trina and worked in a bank. She was critical of the market people as they are ‘not well educated.’ She said that accounted for their dialect.


I told her about the argument we heard and she said “They were expressing themselves well.” There is a song which says Bahamian marriages don’t last long.

We learned about the island of Eleuthra where a house can be rented on the beach. She said it is very beautiful and that the sands are pink in the sunset.  The natives use Sanders and Nassau beaches.

I wanted to go to another art gallery in Lyford Cay. It was written up in the newspaper. Perhaps tomorrow.


* Who knew?

Our only trip to Martha’s Vineyard was the week Elvis died and  Kennedy got in all that trouble. One morning I went to the historic gingerbread houses built by the Methodists. John and the children rented a catamaran.

I carried water, an apple and a pilot pen to use on parchment paper. These houses ring a large open area that had a stage in the middle. Chairs had been set up for the concert being held that evening. The grand piano, Steinway surely, was being played by the evening soloist, who went through the program.

No one else was there! I drew these houses in a pointillism method while the soloist played just for me. Unreal.

I was in such euphoria when I arrived back at our place. Only to learn that a plane had swooped down into the water near their catamaran. They had pulled the plane to a dock. And then, they realized that the key ring had fallen into the water. Gone keys to car, house etc.  tt took an hour and help to fish them out of the water and return to a safe shelter. I still can not believe they saved a plane.

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Palm leaf broom

Palm leaf broom

Nassau 1979 Part 3


We plan to go on the glass bottom boat in the morning and swim in the afternoon. The day starts off overcast but warm. It is not clear where to get the boat. After we eat our breakfast in an outdoor restaurant, we head for the bus. (Hotel help are busy sweeping with a palm leaf broom!)

The first bus is not going to ‘the ferry’ but some tourists were going our way. They said it was only a short walk. It turns out, they are lost and depending on us for directions. After taking more directions that are fruitless, we take a cab.

The ferrys and the glass bottom boat are the same – old wooden boats that crisscross the bay to Nassau on a very flexible schedule. They leave from the Paradise Beach stop on the bus. Once on the boat a couple gets off by mistake and has to be chased down before we can leave.

The tour passes homes of Richard Harris and Americans. One author’s house is surrounded by water. There seemed to be much feeling about the Americans expressed by the boat-boy. He pointed out the Yoga Retreat which seems to have a pyramid built on the grounds. He has a sense of humor. Later John thought he may be Haitian, as his accent was so difficult to understand. We pass  the Club Med and see the people exercising, playing tennis and having sail surfing lessons. Paradise Beach is said to be the best beach but I could not see it from the boat. We pass a large house under construction which belonged to a Casino operator.

The guide said the Shah had stayed behind the Cloister when he sought refuge in the Bahamas (May 1979). He must have stayed at the Ocean Hotel where we got on off the bus yesterday.

Our boat meets another ferry with a couple, his mother and a small child. The captains move the boats so that we can take them aboard. The floor boards are removed so we can see the fish, coral, and sponges on the bottom.  We are told there is a $1000 fine for fishing. Food is thrown overboard but the fish are not hungry.


We decide not to go swimming but to go into Nassau. The guide asks if we enjoyed the trip and that he will collect money. But the captain told him not to ask for money and to sit down. Those going to Nassau pay another $1. We get off at the Straw Market. Most of the workers are women and young girls. They are very industrious and make items while trying to get the tourists to buy. Two of the women get into an argument and talk fiercely, not to each other but to men standing inside a building. It is hard to understand what they are saying except the bad language. There is little difference in the straw work but bags and hats can be personalized. The workers closest to a small park seem to have the most imaginative work.

Teen boys chisel logs while sitting on the ground. They sometimes sing while they work. Some sell shells as the conch and starfish are plentiful. We pass these up while touring the small shops. Shoes are cheap. I see a pair like my green ones which I may get. You must pay a $4 cash head tax when you leave the Bahamas so we must not spend all of our money. A small art gallery is over a clothing store with prints by Maxwell Taylor. We had seen these at the home of President Walter Leonard. Original paintings range from $400 to $1200. Prints are $140 unframed.

Most interesting were the ceramics of the Straw Market women and police women! They are about the size of a coffee mug and cost $20.There is no duty on original art nor antiques if 100 years old. You must have the authentication. The Nassau Art Gallery is about the size of a fishing shack seen on the wharf. It has originals and prints by Elyse, who designed the Bahama stamps. Her prints sell for $7.50 colored, $5 black and white. Another shop had her colored prints for $5 but I could not find it again.


Edited from my journal. (To be continued)

Note: Trip, at the invitation of Board President, Fisk University, to John S. Harwell, who, at a critical time, brought skills in managing University student loans (used as comptroller, Harvard University) to put Fisk in a solvency position.

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Thatched umbrella on white sand

Thatched umbrella on white sand

Nassau 1979 part 2


We start calling the airport for our luggage. It opens at 10 but it is after that time. No one answers when someone answered, there was no news. Oh well, the weather is absolutely beautiful. Perfect to walk to the beach after the dolphin show.. Palm thatched umbrellas for shade. Brilliant white sand.

No swimming suits, so we take a bus that circles the island. Driver announces “We don’t go sightseeing. We provide transportation!” You must say where you are going and he will take you there. Not knowing where to go, he suggested the Cloisters, which is where he is going. We paid the exact fare (50 cents). It was a very short ride to the next hotel, gardens, and Cloister. Terraced gardens toward the Bay. Statues dot each level . On the left side is Franklin Roosevelt, right side, Stanley Livingston). They are enormously tall.

Flowers are in bloom and it is late November. Temperature low 8@s. We thought of not going to the highest level, We continued to followed the pillars. It was similar to J’s replica made with dowels and ivory soap, a school project.
We met a much younger couple, American blacks, They asked us to take their picture by the Cloister. Many weddings are held here. Walking back, we passed an apartment hotel with a kitchen @$30 a day.

At dinner time, I go to the lobby and find our suitcases on a dolly. Dressed up, dined at Villa d.’Este, Italian. Filling. Very filling.Spend time losing money in the slot machines. They can be played 24 hours. He wins $20

We cannot believe our good fortune to be in Nassau, and call it a night. Tomorrow is a big day.

Edited from my journal. (To be continued)

Note: Trip, at the invitation of Board President, Fisk University, to John S. Harwell, who, at a critical time, brought skills in managing University student loans (used as comptroller, Harvard University) to put Fisk in a solvency position.

Who knew?

I did not know it would take me so long to blog again. Thanks for following.

You can  quick sketches to see something new done by your hand.

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Bettye W. Harwell

Drawing using pencils, metallic silver on toned and printed paper
Cropped image scanned onto white background. My son (though he would deny it.)

Today, I was once again, trying to organize paper, just paper.  I am ready to write. I tell myself over and over, I will write today.

Today as I was sorting to gather all of the last 2 years of research  on my latest women series (more to come), I kept finding jottings and sketches and ephemera. Ephemera includes articles , photos, preliminary and just-because sketches.

This sketch is one of the few efforts to record my boys. Their personalities escape me visually. The girls I know visceral. Been there. Done that.

I thought today, this is not bad in capturing him or someone like him. A subject can see his/her  own image interpreted by the artist, and deny any relationship. Which is OK. Often the person grows into the painting. Sometimes they are so familiar with their faces in the mirror, reversed that they cannot imagine another angle.

I have done self-portraits, precariously clinging on the bathroom face bowl while checking the mirror. Who is that old lady and why is she staring at me? Happy Halloween.

I am researching an artist of mixed race, dating 1800s. One critic of her work describes her as having white features from the eyes up, and signs of her other parentage by her thick lips and coffee-colored skin.  The comments are from another long-gone era but echo today. This gifted lady was reduced by this critic to her ethnicity and not her talent. (Fortunately she received fame and some fortune with her talent.)

Who knew?

With all of the tools we have for organization, it is still difficult to organize paper. What if you throw away something you will need? Once the piles are made, then what? My papers are all sizes, all subjects, all precious. I find at the mid-pont, that I cannot remember which pile is for what. And today, I took this sketch to the computer to share with you as a way of preserving it.

Did you know?

I have been a sometime blogger for a long time. Last year I sold one of the women series  (Rosa Bonheur).  I have been working on these paintings for nearly three years. Selling one put a lot of pressure on me to determine what the exit strategy would be to complete the series.

I decided that for an exhibit, 30 paintings would be the magic number. So I have been for months  selecting the last ones. Every time I counted, the number to-do seemed to expand. Now I am up to choosing the final two. My list of good choices has grown beyond any definite closing number. I am committed to 30 or maybe 31 because of the sale. Pretty sneaky, I say.

Those of you who show and sell your work will understand that just finishing the work is not the end. Documentation, promotion, framing, if paintings, etc. Where was that business plan, carefully written last year?  I know that my iPad chews up the very data I have stored.

Getting organized

1. Put all of the pertinent files in one place.

2. Keep your reference material close at hand. I have accumulated, books, articles and online information.

3. Make a format that will set the style for each painting. Later you can adapt for promotional requirements.

4. Have that place where you can think and write which has lights, water and a way of telling time.

5. Take a break periodically whether you want to stop or not.

6. Do not think and write. Write and then come back to edit. If you know something is not accurate, mark it, write a question, or in some way leave yourself a note.

7. When you are certain, ask someone to read it, read it aloud to yourself or someone else, tape it and play it back. The flow will not show up at first.

Now, if I can just follow my own suggestions…and file those papers off the floor.


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In most endeavors, it helps to have a plan and a destination. That discipline is hard to come by for the flighty, creative thinker. I read the blogs I follow in the morning, and the mental curiosity can divert from the task at hand.

When I started entering shows, being admitted to juried organizations and exhibits, getting gallery representation was difficult. The owners and exhibit staffs wanted a body of work staying in the same style for at least 2 years. My work was too experimental and varied to interest them.

I got very good advice from other artists. Most I failed to try. Buy your glass and frames all one size. You can get the glass by the box and save money. Even when I started watercolors on the same size of paper, I was tempted to trim for the best results. And for style? My friend suggested I was a group show all by myself. When did the discipline begin?

The first main series of women started when I decided to stop  teaching and took a course. I wanted to do whatever I wanted to leave as a statement. The large format (square) paintings led to the women who helped desegregate transportation. There are ten paintings, some of them posted.

The current and most ambitious series is coming to a close. At least that is my plan.  A few years ago, in a new studio, I was intrigued with the story of Deborah Sampson. She was a MA woman who fought in the Revolutionary War. I did not know her story after living near Boston for 10 years!

And so I started a new series of similar women through history. There are many and each has a story to be told. I have selected a variety of women, countries, stories based on how interesting they were. The list could go on far beyond my telling.

I have decided to finish this series at 31. One has been sold (Rosa Bonheur). This would leave an exhibit of thirty. They are smaller that the transportation series (16 x 20) and acrylic rather than oil.


Whether a visual artist or a writer, a time comes when you have to attend to the business end. If you do not sell your work, it is important to decide on storage and whatever documentation you want to leave with your work. Toni Morrison had her manuscripts and revisions in her home when it burned down. Duplicates, cd’s etc. should be carefully preserved. Leave your work to a relative or friend who will be pleased to have it. Perhaps, they will publish some of your work. Many times the local library will accept your work.

Painters have a bigger problem. This series is smaller because my studio is smaller. Before you frame work, be certain to sign, photograph and document everything. For insurance purposes, place a value on your work whether you intend to sell or not.

Who knew?

A story I heard  about a painting and its value happened when the owner told her friend of its value. She cautioned her not to let it get away when settling her estate.

The day of the funeral the gaudily framed work of art was put under the bed in case the house was robbed. The painting was as ugly as  the frame. But it was taken to be evaluated. The dealer took the frame off and carefully looked at both parts. The painting is worthless, he said. It is a print on cheap cardboard. So disappointed was the new owner until the dealer explained. The value was in the lumpy, gaudy, dark frame. Each hump and bump was a rough gem or precious metal found on the many travels the owner had made. Uncut and unpolished, the value was most generous. So your smallest drawing might , if not already, draw a generous sale price.

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While thinking of the New Year’s possibilities, review your art skills

when the sky is dark and gray,

the landscape frozen white

is there no dark?

is there no light?

Remember the darkest dark forces the brightest light. This area in painting, photography and music brings emphasis and shape to the work. It is the most dramatic and the most emotional connection with the viewer.

How do you do this in a painting?
– do you glob on white next to black? Maybe.
– is the tube of white as bright as a touch of yellow mixed in?
– are you limiting yourself to the direction of light around you? A wonderful teacher in Nashville, the late Hazel King, pointed out many sources of light in her classroom: windows, flourescent fixtures, an open doorway. Her work used light creatively for color and composition. She had a system which a comparison of paintings would appear.
– does your darkest dark shape the light? I looked online at The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur. It was the largest painting by any man or woman. The overall tone of the painting is dark. There is a Steam Engine rear left and a mass of horses moving left to right across the canvas. Almost in the center, a bit forward, a large, black horse rears up. In the version I saw, a light circle curves under its silhouetted hoofs, around under his body swinging back to the right. It extends to become a subtle oval. Encased within the light is a large white horse pulling you into the painting.

You have to believe this was the intent of the artist. You can study other paintings where the artist wishes you to hang around.
– does your painting follow Bonheur’s method?
– do abstract works use the same darkest dark/lightest light technique?
– what do small dots of red or red next to green add by moving the eye of the viewer?

When you are not satisfied with your work, go back to basics. Add a strong dark next to the lightest area. Make it define the shape. Turn your painting in three directions and observe from a distance. Squinting or a card blocking portions of a canvas can make you aware of how to punch your work.

Sign it, save it or sign it, sell it!

UZU app

Dark and Light

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Black Santas on Christmas Eve

Caught in the Act

the camera caught a jam session in my house

they were quiet as a mouse

that tapping of feet

when I could not sleep

were Santas dancing

to the beat.


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"Gone Fishin'"Birthday Opportunities

Each year we get two special days to review our lives and to make changes: New Year’s Day and your birthday. My recent celebration reminds me of when Mr. Stockdale asked Why am I here? My question was What have I still to do?

The answer is a long list of things to finish and things to begin. Two years ago on New Year’s Day, I realized my research notes and art works were in no condition to be understood by anyone. Not even my co-researcher daughter who collaborated with me on genealogy. Not even my artist friends. And so I made organization a priority.

Ha, how am I doing? Not as well as I had hoped. I have reasons and excuses. First, my priority changed. Maybe veered. The body took the top of the list. It has taken two full years to get my body in line with my mind. Aging makes the need for balance in both walking and thinking. I am happy to say that I understand what makes me more productive and am fortunate to free up my schedule for work. And for me, work is fun!

My goals post birthday are:
1…to acknowledge what I have accomplished.
My studio work continues to impress and challenge. More subjects for my Women Series are discovered often, and I have started the writing needed. (biographical and marketing).
I am studying and producing work in new (to me) media including encaustic.

2…to finish what I start.
WordPress followers are my daily routine. i have my favorites, but all provide nuggets for a curious mind. I reblog or comment often even if my posts are neglected. And so time has to be set aside for any and all online commitments. I have signed up for a few that I have no idea how they work. And unfortunately the ‘improvements’ often do not work for me. Oh, to have some of the older apps!

3…with each work in process, find a place for it.
Plastic storage helps me see what I am working on.
Clear my workspaces at least at the end of the week. I like to leave the next week’s work laid out with notes. When I come in, I will be ready to start.
Group supplies and tools near the workspace where they will be used.
Make notes on where things are to save hours of searching.

4…personal time is work time.
If you are not healthy and sleep sufficiently, you can not have needed balance. People who work for themselves cannot remember where the time went. When I worked for the Girl Scouts of Chicago, my daily schedule was kept in three blocks. We worked so many nights, in meetings or training, that we tried to leave blocks open to prevent unnecessary overtime. When this was not possible, I had the time for school activities or sick children. I could take time off for vacations or me-time. Now I must remember to give myself permission to work or not. We should not feel guilty about making time for friends and shopping!

Soon the next day for evaluation will come and I will see how I am doing. The next few months will give you time for assessing what you need in your life for happiness.

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