Tag Archive for: art

The Paintbrush and the Pen—by T.K. Thorne


Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,

       Lover of solitude

          and the company of good friends,

        New places, new ideas

           and old wisdom.

During the pandemic I edited several books and started two novels, both of which seem stuck somewhere near the beginning and are sitting around waiting for me.  I don’t know if it was the stress of the year or I just burned out.  

A friend introduced me to a form of art doodling called Zentangle, which is usually done on 3×3 inch pieces with a pen and pencil shading.  Looks like this:

I decided I wanted to color them and bought some colored pencils.

Then I stumbled across water color pencils. Who knew?  Got some of those and the color intensified.


So I ordered tube water colors and real water color paper and “got serious.” I started painting scenes out of my head. This one went to my new grandchild:


And then from photographs:

My nine-year-old nephew said he wanted a painting of outer space.  

“I like planets.” he said.

Which one is your favorite?”

With a wicked grin, “Uranus!”

He didn’t get Uranus (I think he just liked to say the word! 🙂 This is what he got:

My other nine-year-old nephew liked space but opted for a type of dinosaur I’d never heard of—a Spinosaurus, which has a huge head and jaws and likes water. I threw in an eclipse to cover the space interest.

Connections between painting and writing have evolved along with subject matter. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I developed a silent mantra to keep me brave enough to try things—Don’t be afraid of the paint. Writing is like that. You can’t let fear of not having the right words stop you. There are ways to fix what you don’t like in both fields, but you have to put something down on paper first. (I think I am talking to myself here….)

Painting has expanded my “notice meter.” I look at the world differently, trying to take in how light plays in the tree canopy or on a field or a face, and I note how that affects my inner world. Writers look for physical, emotional and mental nuances, motivations, and behaviors. But we also are called upon to describe the world in terms of our senses and I suspect this “arting” thing is going to enhance my ability to describe the visual world.

One major lesson is that nothing exists without contrast. Light requires dark, even if it is in shades. An arc of character must, likewise, have contrast, a setup if you will.

A painting, like a story, takes on a life of its own. Not everything goes the way you “planned” it, and that is okay. Sometimes you have to let the colors and water do what they want to do and go from there.  The same for a story. A character you planned to grant a minor role may become a major player.  A plot can go off in a new direction. Your characters may say or do unexpected things.  These are part of the challenges and joys of writing and painting.

Science says creating art can help depression and PTSD, stimulate alpha (relaxing) brain waves, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. They also say that learning new things creates new connections in your brain. I don’t pretend to be anything more than a beginning amateur at this, but I am loving this new passion. My words got stuck during the pandemic, and I don’t know when they will come back, but meanwhile I am determined not to be afraid of the paint and to see where it takes me.

T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

The Path to Sanity—T.K. Thorne



Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.


The world fell apart in March 2020. I was at a writers
conference in California on the opposite side of the country from home (Alabama). One day
after the start of the conference, I flew home. Two people in the airport wore
masks. The rest of us tried to follow the advice “don’t touch your face.”  My nose has never itched so much.

Over the year, my grandson was born  . . . without me. Another daughter had to
spend months in the hospital with her dying father . . . without me. Many
people suffered much worse. So far, I have not lost any family. Actually, I’m am
very close to the oldest in what’s left of my family. In the past year, I have
been inside exactly one public place. How bizarre.

My mind has done some kind of trick where I can now see the
death numbers posted on the side of the T.V. without feeling like I can’t
breathe. That’s a good thing, right?  Maybe
not. I try to not to watch the tributes to individuals because then I can’t
breathe again.

Where lay the path of sanity?  It was a windy one. The muse deserted
me.  I could not put pen to paper except
to edit and to write this blog. Fortunately, I had a lot of material to edit,
but the more days that have turned into weeks and month, the drier the well of
creativity seemed. I had finished my police-witch trilogy (book two, House
of Stone
) and the eight-year nonfiction project (Behindthe Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’sCivil Rights Days. I finished a rewrite of an old manuscript
and had no idea where to go next. I felt aimless, adrift.  Everything had a surreal quality.

The first thing I did that gave me a little peace was plucking
debris and tiny plants from the green moss on the brick walk from the driveway
to the front door.  It took hours; its
only purpose was to create a little temporary beauty, but doing it calmed
something inside me.

Then I took up the WW, the war on wisteria, a vine that had
eaten half my back yard and uprooted several trees. This took months of back-breaking
work.  Wisteria sends vines out
underground that pop up yards away, making nodes along the way that each grow
deep roots straight down. You can pull up one section, but any piece that
survives can and will repopulate. I learned to know and love a tool called a mattock. Some days I could only do a tiny amount. But the harder I worked and the more exhausted I was, the better I slept and
breathed. But I don’t recommend this as a therapy. Never plant wisteria, at
least not the Chinese or Japanese variety.

The Wisteria War lasted through the summer and into fall. I
decided to let the back yard become a wildflower garden (except for wisteria)
and planted some old seeds that had been sitting out in my garage.  We’ll see if they germinate.

One thing I really missed was my twice-weekly martial arts
class. Sometime in November, I decided to learn tai chi, which is practiced
solo. You have probably seen old people doing it in a park. I learned it from Youtube
videos, and whenever I felt trapped or anxious, I went through the movements.
I did it three or four times a day, and it focused me on the present.

Over the winter, I lost my mind and adopted two rescue
horses off the track, a Thoroughbred and a Standardbred—Foxy and Nickie Jones. I
bought Foxy sight unseen from a Facebook picture at a “kill pen” in Louisiana.
Her next step would have been dog food (in Mexico). She is a beautiful bay,
although we’ve been working on a skin infection that even affected an eyelid. It’s
all getting better. Nickie Jones was an older lady who traveled with her but
when she arrived in Alabama, her purchaser backed off because she was injured
and malnourished. So, we took her too. Preparation for their arrival took weeks
of cleaning out the old barn and working on the overgrown arena and round
pen.  Focusing on preparing for them and
taking care of them has occupied me and my husband for several weeks now. But I
am smitten!

Then a good friend introduced me to a form of art called Zentangle. It is done on little 3×3 inch pieces of stock paper—tiny art. I
played with it and decided to add colors. Because it is so small, it is not
intimidating like a big canvas would be. I’ve never done any “art thing” beyond doodling, but I’ve always wanted
to.  They may not be great masterpieces, but the world fades away when I am working on one.


But still fresh words eluded me. No stories pushing to be born.

Then a friend I never met at that writer’s conference in California (we
were supposed to be on a Law Enforcement panel together) emailed me and asked
if I were interested in submitting a short story to an editor in Australia who
is putting together a crime anthology featuring law enforcement authors and wanted
some submissions from women. I am both of those things—an author and a cop, a retired
one anyway, a short, gray-haired old lady. I agreed to submit a story.
The catch is I had to write it. I had
to create it. I told myself—this is like the tiny art. It’s a short story, not a novel. Even so, I was
totally blank. But I promised, so I had to do it. One word at a time.

I was delighted and surprised that the words came. It’s about a short,
gray-haired old lady who is an ex-cop, a martial artist, and a horse woman who
witnesses a murder. I’ve sent it off. Maybe I’ll do another short story or maybe I have found a character who could support something longer?  

I hope this helps you find your way through.


T.K. is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com




by Bethany Maines

Today I’m discussing the absolutes of art.

Absolute number 1: artists must sell.  So toward that end, please consider purchasing my latest book! It’s a five-star, “highly-satisfying, high-speed thriller” that readers are calling “hard to put down.”

Fresh out of
prison and fresh out of luck, twenty-something Shark wants back into The
Organization. But when Geier, the mob boss with a cruel sense of humor, sends
Shark to the suburbs to find out who’s been skimming his take, Shark realizes
he’s going to need more than his gun and an attitude to succeed. With the clock
ticking, Shark accepts the help of the mysterious teenage fixer, Peregrine
Hays, and embarks on a scheme that could line his pockets, land him the girl
and cement his reputation with the gang—if he makes it out alive.

$2.99 on sale today! BUY NOW!

Absolute number 2:  Nothing is absolute and artists spend a lot of time thinking about that.

In our current climate of politics, disasters, and protest, I’ve been listening to what a lot of artists are feeling. And by artists I mean everyone from fellow writers and graphic designers, to fine artists and poets. I know from the outside that most people think of the creative set as a homogeneous mass of weirdos. Which, weird, I’ll grant you, but homogeneous is not, in any way, accurate.

Like any family there are fractured in-fights, cultural differences between the “cousins” of fine art and design (or poets and novelists), there are fights over pecking order and definitions and what it all really means. But most artists when pressed will say that although they have their preferences, their set rules that they use, that most of the time, there is no absolute. Don’t ever pair two serif fonts, don’t ever write a novel in the first person, don’t use Papyrus for a logo (ever, no seriously)… Unless it works, in which case, you should absolutely do that. Absolutes in art and artists are few and far behind.

Which is why I think our current political climate is striking artists particularly hard. It’s as though we’ve all been toddling along enjoying the gray areas and we’ve run smack into the thirty percent of our population that only believes in black and white. Not that they live in black and white (because no one can). But they only believe in black and white and they want everyone else to bow before the almighty absolute and give them the peace of mind of being right. Arguing with someone who refuses to see the gray is pointless. Showing art full of color to someone who doesn’t see the subtle shades of the rainbow only makes them turn away. Many of the artist’s I listen to feel despair. They feel like their art has become frivolous when they see the colors being eradicated around them, but they can’t seem to make the leap to protest art. Nine months into a presidency that does not see the value in anyone who isn’t male, straight, or white, I would like to say that all art is protest art. To create joy, beauty, and harmony, to paint with many colors instead of the ones that have been chosen for us is protest art. I encourage my artist friends to follow their passion, take action, make art, refuse to go away or step back. Use every damn crayon in the box.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. —Oscar Wilde

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. —Oscar Wilde

Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity. —Oscar Wilde

 is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, the Shark Santoyo
Crime Series
, Wild Waters, Tales from
the City of Destiny
and An Unseen
You can also view the Carrie Mae YouTube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Art and the Political

There is some pretty good advice that floats around the Internet that says that fiction writers should refrain from engaging in political debates, and certainly refrain from posting blogs about their own political beliefs. The idea is that writers should strive to remain neutral so as not to take away from the fictional worlds they create (and also not to deter readers who might not agree with them from buying their books). And yet, there is an equal idea that art is inherently political, that our own politics and beliefs are not only reflected in the art we create, but should be, because we owe it to readers to speak our own truths.

In the United States, it is an election year. Politics are everywhere these days — in the news, on social media, at holiday dinners with family members you are not actually convinced you are related to, and in random conversations between eclectically dressed strangers at the store. Everyone has an opinion. Actually, they have lots of opinions, and links, and memes, and sound bites, and graphs, and polls, and when will this election be over already?

The thing is, as a writer, I also have opinions. Lots of opinions, actually. Tons and tons of opinions I would like to share with people in lovely (and hopefully well written) paragraphs and blogs.
I am trying to resist the urge. For one thing, engaging in political conversations on the Internet has never actually led anyone I have argued with to actually agree with me. Humans are hard wired to actually actively ignore information that doesn’t match what they already think thanks to confirmation bias:
And while there is also a valid argument in the fact that not only is arguing on the Internet a waste of time but is also yet another way of avoiding the kind of writing I should be doing, I do think there is some value in engaging in online discussions to some degree. But online discussions have a way of devolving into drawn out battles where each side is more determined to win than to actually consider another opinion. 
Over the past few days, I have been finding myself posting more and more political things and engaging more and more with other people about the things they have been posting. All it ever really gets me is a rise in my blood pressure and an uneasy feeling that Somebody is wrong  (and the even more unsettling feeling that that Somebody could very well be me). There is also this feeling that maybe I am putting too much of my political self out there, that this goes against what I should be doing to brand myself as a mostly-likeable-and-non-controversial author. Is that a standard I should even be striving for? How much politics is too much? 
And in the end, if art really is political, should I be saving my political views for my fiction (however subtly or overtly they come across)?
What do other’s think? How do you handle art and politics?

Everybody Rotate

by Bethany Maines

It’s almost time to change the art in my office.  I’ve had the same art since I moved in five
years ago and it’s now covered in layers of other art.   It’s time to relocate, re-shuffle and change
up.  Maybe you are not one of the people
who feels that deep need to redecorate periodically, but I happen to have it in
my genes.  Returning home to find my
mother peeling wallpaper was cause for eyerolling, but not surprise.  It works both ways though.  On more than one occasion in my teen years I
decided to re-arrange my bedroom after midnight.  My mother never once questioned these
decisions.  Because she fully understands
that sometimes life would just be better if the furniture were NOT where it is
right now. 
These are also good occasions for spring cleaning and
decluttering.  Someone once said that
clutter items are just decisions you didn’t make.  If you had decided where that item needed to
go, it wouldn’t be lingering there on the desk or kitchen table.  Although, I suspect that the person who
originated that idea never had children. 
Because the garbage can is not lingering on top my desk; it’s hiding
from my toddler.
The problem with decluttering art, is that I’m either
removing my own work or the work of an artist I admire.  It’s unfortunate, but apparently, I cannot
have ALL the art, ALL the time.  I’m not
a Getty.  I don’t get to have my own
museum.  This makes me infinitely sad.  My perfect house would probably look like a
library mated with the Guggenheim and married the Orsay.  Unfortunately my current house looks more
like the product of a library and a 1910 bungalow who married a carpenter in
the 1950’s. Which means we have books in piles and art in piles and we had to
remove the weird scalloped molding over the sink when we moved in.

So some art will have to go back in the closet and some new
pieces will have to get matted for display. 
And then, maybe, I can get back to writing.  
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of
Destiny and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.


by Bethany Maines

I was staring at an app advertisement on my phone the other
day when a brilliant idea for a novel came to me.  I’m not going to tell you what it is, because it’s awesome
and I don’t want the net gremlins to steal it.  But as I pondered the awesomeness that was my own idea, and
then shining beacon of sheer stunning gloriferousness that is my brain  (Yeah, I just made that word up.  What are you going to do about it?), it
occurred to me to wonder – what would happen to me if I didn’t have my brain?
And ok, yeah, obviously, dead. Plop.  But what about if I had someone else’s
brain?  We all look at the world
from the unique transponder of our brains. We see the world differently, if
only by a hair, than the person sitting next to us. 
For example, I have a friend who is somewhere around seven
feet tall.  That’s not an
exaggeration, that’s his actual height. 
We met in college and we had several classes, including life drawing,
together. (Life drawing, for those who haven’t been to art school, is code for
“drawing naked people.”)  For one
semester our life drawing instructor was a curly haired, 5’2” dreamer who once
suggested that zoning out while driving on the freeway was a good place to get
creative ideas.  (We don’t have
time to really go into that statement.) 
Anyway, at some point, she went around to my friend’s drawing board and
suggested that his perspective was wrong. 
He checked, he double checked, he thought about it, and then politely
suggested that he really did have it right.  She stared up at him, she stared at the model.  Then she drug a chair over next to him
and climbed up on it.  “Oh, nope,
you’re right.” Your perspective is just different when you’re an extra two feet
up in the air. 
Two feet and an entire picture changes. If I had someone else’s
brain, surely the ideas I have for writing books would be totally
different.  If I had them at
all.  But since I love my ideas, I
love my brain, I don’t think I’ll be heading to Dr. Frankenstein’s lab to test
out that experiment.  But go ahead
and thank your brain today, because it’s awesome.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

by Bethany Maines

Anddddd… we’re back from NYC! After a week long trip to the
Big Apple where we sampled the food, the night life, the culture and of course,
the shopping, I realized that I may possibly be the only vactioner who includes
signs as part of my list of tourist attractions. I’m not talking the big
important monuments, I’m talking about the little tragedies of government
signage or the er… “modifications” that have occurred to everyday signs.
As I back-tracked through the subway to capture this beauty
about the Essex Street subway stop, I received strange looks from locals and my
friends a like. Personally, I think this sign “correction” shows a flare of
genius! The sign artist had to capitalize on the multitude of “wet paint” signs
that were at a previous stop and apply them to the Essex St. sign without
getting caught by the MTA employees and without committing the cardinal New
York sin – getting in the way of people trying to get on the subway.
The Essex St. sign is second only to the series of
masterpieces I captured while on honeymoon in the Virgin Islands. The Dip
Series showed not only a one-time creativity, but the extended oeuvre of the
artist. And while the Dip Series artist might not have been faced the threat of
law enforcement the way the Essex St. artist was, his/her odds of getting run
over were much higher.
A second category of sign that I much appreciate is what I
term “unintentional art.” It’s a category exemplified by this little gem
discovered in Brooklyn. Yes, that’s a New York City Department of Environmental
Protection truck, and yes, it wants “Gasoline Only.”  Because gasoline is what environmental protection is all
about, right?
Then there’s this classic from a previous trip to New York.
Yup, that electrically lit sign is indeed telling you that it’s conserving

So as we march through life looking for the
next “important” thing to look at, I think it’s also imperative to remember the
advice I once got from my mother as I pushed a pull door – “Stop and read the