Artistic in the District: Part Ten, from Ordinary, to Extraordinary

I have always been passionate about art. Unfortunately, when the almighty was handing out gifts, my bag was light on artistic talent but heavy on the creative writing side. No matter, I can still appreciate what I have and what I see.


Painted Dumpster in Assisi
Painted Dumpster in Assisi


And when an artist creates something exceptional from something very ordinary or even ugly, it is clear to me that beauty is all around us just waiting for us to see it with a fresh perspective.


Copper Pot Sculpture In Paris
Copper Pot Sculpture In Paris

Ordinary items, re-purposed, become works of art, simply by combining them, changes the shape, size and scale of the original singular item into something new. The way a sculpture catches the light, the way it calls your eye to move around it, is all part of the exchange between artist and viewer.

A Marching Band in Paris
A Marching Band in Paris

Color, perspective, shadow and light, these elements play and dance around objects and human subjects, creating a scene which only lasts a second. Blink and you will miss it.

Bits of Tile/Beach Combing in Vietri, Italy
Bits of Tile/Beach Combing in Vietri, Italy

On the shoreline, waves take fractured tile bits, turning them until the edges are soft and smooth as stone. Found again by a beach comber who crafts them into stunning mosaics, tabletops and wall designs.

Vietri, Italy 2009
Vietri, Italy 2009

A sunrise, a flower, a mountain range, it is easy to see the beauty nature provides. Man has to work a little harder to compete, but I think we do just fine. With imagination, talent, gifts, resources, and place combined we create!

Thanks for reading and keep creating!



Artistic in the District: Part Nine, A Photo Story Prompt

As I’m running in circles this week trying to prepare for my second of three book fairs tomorrow at the Calvert library in Prince Frederick, Maryland, events.html this will be brief! It’s a quick photo essay of my more artistic pictures. I’ve also begun adding cute sayings to some curious photos and some quiz photo’s about Secret Agent of God on my Facebook page. If you are into that sort of thing feel free to Like it. Here’s a preview of some of my photo’s, which total over 5,000. I had to think of something to do with them, didn’t I?

A good photo should elicit some feeling in the viewer, don’t you think? I often wish my eyes could be the camera. I don’t really care to see the world through the lens of a device. It takes something away from the image somehow.

I think what makes a person respond to a photo has as much to with the person as it does the photograph. Our personal view of the world, our experiences, our mood are all factors in how we view what we view.

Each of these photos could be a story prompt. This is what I think when I look at pictures. A single snapshot in time is only part if the story. What else is there? What if? What other? Who was there and what were they doing? Then what happened? Where were they going and why? Who did they meet? Were they running away from something or someone? Or running to something or someone?

So what do you think?

Thanks for reading! And always stay curious!





Artistic in the District: Part Eight, A Portrait Artist of a Different Kind

Portrait Artist Melissa Marie Haney has a special gift for capturing the spirit of her subjects. The evidence is in the eyes, because after all “the eye is the window of the soul,” Hiram Powers, American sculptor (1805 – 1873) 

“Art was an outlet for all the feelings that I could not express vocally,” Melissa says. “As I have aged, so has my Art. I am self-taught, so I tend to just go with my instincts and ‘eye’ (about) what I think looks good and what works. Hopefully, others will like what I do and get some enjoyment from it.”


Shepard by Melissa Haney

It is easy to see how Melissa’s subjects capture her interest and her heart.

When I went looking for artists to interview, I did not need to look further than my circle of friends. I have known Melissa since our school days but only discovered her artistic talents when we became Facebook friends.

Melissa began drawing when she was a child. A shy, young girl, Melissa recalls, “animals were my refuge. Ponies, dogs, cats, just about any animal was my friend. I still have pictures I drew as a child. I have always had animals of some kind. Animals touch everyone at some level.”

By Melissa Haney

Using a range of mediums,”acrylics, oils, watercolors, and mixed medium are all options,” she says, “it all depends on the subject and what (fascinates me) at the time. I tend to just go with my feelings on which medium will work with the subject.”

Annie by Melissa Haney

“Painting is a cathartic ritual for me. It is a stress relief, and a quiet peace from all the chaos. When I am painting, I tune everything else out, and (am) in my own little world for a time.” ─Melissa Haney

Alaskan Dall Ram by Melissa Haney

Although Melissa occasionally sells her painting at fairs and markets in the Mid-West, most of her clients come via word of mouth. If you would like more information on her commissioned portraits, please follow the link to her Facebook page. Melissa’s Facebook Artist Page

Thank you for reading!

Artistic in the District, Part Three: A Colorful Mind

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ─Edgar Degas



Image from:

Do artists truly have the ability to see things differently than the rest of us? If we could take a sneak-peak inside the mind of an artist, what might we find? Ever evolving, scientific technology offers some new insights via studies in eye movement and brain scans.

In a study published by Stine Vogt, Ph. D, and Svein Magnussen, Professor at the University of Oslo, Norway, researcher’s came to some fascinating conclusions.

In summary, their study of “eye movement patterns” including eighteen participants, nine artists and nine “artistically untrained” who were all shown the same 16 pictures, revealed differences in “recall memory” and viewing preferences. Vogt and Magnussen concluded that the non-artists preferred the pictures of “objects and human features”, while the artists focused on those of a more abstract nature. In addition, the artists out-scored their non-artistic counterparts in their ability to remember more features within the pictures they viewed., (Expertise in pictorial perception: eye-movement patterns and visual memory in artists and laymen published in Perception Vol. 36(1) pps. 91 – 100).

Perhaps artists are correct to say: “I was born this way?” ─Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga photo:

Even for the artistically gifted, how much of a role does training play? Regardless of the medium, raw talent will only get the artist so far. Like any other human skill, it seems logical that with practice, training, education, and experience, talent may become expert ability.

In a different study, published by Rebecca Chamberlain, PhD Student, UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, researchers found a correlation between drawing ability and grey matter in the brain.

In summary of the Abstract:

There were “structural brain differences…in visual perception, spatial navigation, complex motor skills and musical ability.” The study, used brain scans of 44 participants, “post-graduate art students” and laypersons combined, who completed “drawing tasks.” Researchers evaluated grey matter density in different parts of the brain in correspondence to artistic ability. Furthermore, the study suggested that participants with artistic training showed even more “enhancement of structures pertaining to visual imagery.” (Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing, Rebecca Chamberlain, NeuroImage, 2014)

 “No great artist ever sees things as they really are.

If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”─Oscar Wilde

So then, if you are not born artistically inclined, it may well be possible to ‘train your brain’ to think like an artist and train your eyes to see like one.

So how do artists see?

A search through the ‘world wide web’ seeking answers to this question led me here:, to a blog post, “How Artists See,” by Ryan Finnerty, an artist who lives in Seattle and teaches painting, drawing and art history.

“Even when I’m not painting, my mind is finding relationships, colors, shapes and proportions. During a conversation, I’ll be making broad generalizations about patterns and structures in your face.”─Ryan Finnerty

Painting by artist Ryan Finnerty


I asked Mr. Finnerty if he thought a person could train their mind to see the world as an artist does.

He said, “the brain is a physical instrument of the mind, (so) it makes sense that the brain will change as the mind changes. Seeing is physical. Perception is of the mind.”

As a teacher, Finnerty teaches his students about perception. “The tasks of drawing and painting require a way of looking, a focus, and a seeking of information that is way outside our normal patterns of looking at the world. What we do with our hands and tools is secondary,” he says.

I also inquired at what point in a person’s life does he think artistic ability begins, whether it is innate.

“Our default way of seeing involves a few basic skills: recognize important things, notice changes, ignore everything else. We learn this in our first few years of life,” Finnerty said. “The artist has to perceive large patterns, values, shapes, and colors. (He) has to control the flow of visual information and make sense of it- ignoring most of (his) instincts and preconceptions in order to see rightly. This becomes more and more instinctual with practice.”

As for nature versus nurture, Finnerty added: “Our knowledge…language, culture, and experience shape what we see, what we notice, and what we remember.”

If man is truly capable of changing his way of thinking and seeing the world, and if he studies the mechanics of painting, does he then become an artist? Viewers and critics may judge, but who really decides?

I know what I like as an art enthusiast and as a collector. I studied art history for a time but by no means would I consider myself an expert. I do think that I have an ‘eye’ for recognizing talent in others and maybe that in and of itself is a talent.

Just as a writer can learn the craft of writing, and become skilled and artful in his prose, readers and critics judge what they believe is ‘literary’. Writers stand with our artist brethren, often misunderstood and unseen.

“Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’”─Edgar Allan Poe


Thank you for reading and keep writing and creating!


Artist/writer quotes from:

For more information on artist Ryan Finnerty please see:

Reports and research reviewed for this article: