Category Archives: art

Gustavo Rosa’s playful eye

Gustavo-Rosa-Vale-POstGustavo Rosa (1946-2013) was a truly original Brazilian artist. I hadn’t heard of him until I was asked by his brother, photographer Roberto Rosa, to translate a website into English that was being created in his honor.

I immediately fell in love with Gustavo’s work. It’s playful, amusing, colorful, satirical, and wonderfully executed, with wildly humorous depictions of typical Brazilian lifestyles in his own peculiar and engaging way. As you can see from some of the examples here, Gustavo had a penchant for chubby folks, which under his brush, have a definite charm of their own!

0bfc0ce99892772fc285e10ee3943d9aGustavo Rosa was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and was drawing on anything—including school notebooks and walls—from the time he was a very little boy. He mostly drew the things from his own life—boys flying kites, the ice cream man, the circuses he went to with his parents, and so on.

In school he was restless and bored, and spent most of his time in class surreptitiously drawing. It was inevitable that he would become an artist, and he eventually took some drawing and painting courses. His first public exhibition was in 1964 at MAB—the Brazilian Art Museum. Finally he abandoned all schooling and forged ahead on his own.6a52e108664a192a7fd3e708ee73d6a9

Gustavo was at odds with some of his contemporaries, because he was willing to commercialize his art. Some artistic noses were turned up when he accepted an invitation from the American firm Russell-Newman to create unique designs to be printed on shirts, towels and other paraphernalia to be marketed throughout the United States. “Brazilians are not ready to accept the idea that an artist can put his art on a consumer object,” says Gustavo. “Outside Brazil it’s exactly the opposite: The artist who popularizes his art is greatly prized.”

quadro1-300x298Although Gustavo Rosa was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, he continued working and exhibiting until his death in 2013.

You can see more of Gustavo Rosa’s work on his new website, created by his brother, photographer Roberto Rosa:




















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downloadIn her book Dying To Be Me Anita Moorjani (of the famous NDE and healing of cancer) talks a lot about pursuing vs. allowing. She says that after her NDE experience, she no longer felt that she had to pursue goals, that it was more a question of allowing things to come to her…to happen naturally.

There’s a lot of wisdom in that thought. In my own life, I’ve found that even when we get the thing we think we want, often there’s no lasting satisfaction. I see people on Facebook (and I do this myself as well) busily promoting themselves, whether it’s their art, their music, their book…whatever, usually with little results. But some people do seem to make it “work”—I’ve seen several friends hold successful Kickstarter campaigns, meaning that they got the money they were asking for.

It seems that it’s a question of how we think and where were are in life that makes us either pursue or allow. I can’t sit in judgment and say one is better than the other. I believe that we do what is right for us at any given moment. It may not be right for someone else, and it may not even be right for us after some time has passed. From my own experience I’ve found that the “pushing, pulling, wishing, and wanting” approach has eventually led to frustration and limitation for me.

Last night I watched a video on YouTube by jazz pianist/educator Dave Frank entitled “How Artists and Content Creators Can Survive in the era of Free Content,” where he discussed the current trend of people downloading music for free on the internet. In his view, this new trend is more about people sharing than it is about money, so, as he said in the video, “…there is an expectation that you’ll share some stuff for free, to be part of the global conversation that’s going on.” Then he said that each one, individually, then decides how to get some payback…but…he himself simply decided to give it all away, to share it as much as possible. He said that the spiritual principle he based his choice on is: “If you serve, you will be served,” and that this principle works just like mathematics. “So what that means,” he said, “is that you put your heart and soul out there to people and try to share something that will be of benefit to them, and then what you need will come back to you.” And he wasn’t just “whistlin’ Dixie,” as they say, because he eventually began to receive compensation for his offerings.

I like his approach. To me there’s something very freeing about it. It follows Anita Moorjani’s prescription of allowing instead of pursuing, and I honestly do believe that there is a law as accurate as mathematics that governs these things.


Filed under art, creativity, individuality, jazz, music, NDE, social media, spiritual, work

Calling all creative people!

I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

Here are a few questions for my creative friends (writers, musicians, composers, artists, photographers, etc.): What is your creative process? How do you approach your work, day by day? What are your wrk habits? Your frustrations (if any!)? Feel free to be wordy!

artist-painting-on-canvascloseup-of-artist-applying-oil-paint-to-canvas---371656-hcjojkhoI posted it just for fun, but as people began to respond, I found their answers so interesting and varied that I thought I might gather them together for a blog post, or even possibly a book.Hand with pen and music sheet - musical background

So here I am, inviting my readers here to answer these questions, too. Feel free to add anything that’s important to you, and just write your replies in the comment box. Who knows? You might end up in a book!

P.S. I appreciate the “likes” but would really like your comments about your own creative process! Please share!




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Jeanie Tomanek’s new direction

I’ve always loved to watch the way artists evolve—myself included. It seems normal to me that after singing, playing, writing, painting, or drawing in a certain way over a period of time, many artists would feel an urge to change, or just find themselves changing naturally.

If an artist is well-known, it can be risky to change, because “fans” are set in their ways and like the status quo, but nothing can stop this evolution. I believe it’s something innate, irresistible.

Some time ago I posted here about an artist I particularly admire, Jeanie Tomanek:

After a successful and prolific period of painting her haunting signature figures and scenes, Jeanie is now gradually heading in a different, more abstract direction.

She recently told me on Facebook:

“I have always liked a bit of ambiguity and looseness which I wanted to regain in my work. Just going with what suits my eye. It’s similar to writing where you revise and distill and edit and hopefully end up with gold instead of dross. The early painting leads to the next, you keep the things you can’t bear to part with and hope you’re headed toward something true.”

I find this kind of self-discovery thrilling, and I’m sure Jeanie does, too. It’s both the known and the unknown, and you just keep pushing forward until, as she says, you find something true.

“The whole process is pretty intuitive and unpredictable,” she added, “so I’m not sure what else I could say with any certainty.”

True—it’s hard to put into words.

Although I’d often had the impression that many artists began with a more representational approach and then, over time, tended to become more abstract, Jeanie surprised me, at first, when she told me:

“When I began my painting career it was completely abstract and over time figures appeared and combined with the abstracted elements.”

But then when I thought about it, I realized my own musical career had followed a similar path in terms of melody/harmony and free jazz—I started out in the avant-garde, and eventually combined it with more structured forms.

But the process can’t be pigeonholed or second-guessed. I believe that genuine artists are always accessing something beyond their human minds and egos, whether they are aware of it or not, and that infinite source of inspiration and creativity is often full of surprises.

Here are some samples of what Jeanie is working on now:

Untitled (angel)

Untitled (angel)




Cruelest Month

Cruelest Month

To see more of Jeanie’s work, go to


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Becoming who we are

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

                                    – Steven Pressfield, from The War of Art.

Some of you may have read between the lines here and figured out that a guiding theme in my upcoming book, “Getting Down to Brass Tacks,” is the awakening to how I could have found my heart’s desire without making so many detours, how I could have done things differently, perhaps lived in a more expansive way, developing my talents better, recognizing them more clearly and appreciating and honoring them more.

It was a subtle thing, but I actually reached a point in my life where I thought that mediocrity would keep me safe. I hope you never reach that point. It won’t keep you safe, and it’ll just try to take you further down if you believe that it will. Even if that does happen, though, sooner or later your wonderful self won’t settle for being trapped in such a strait jacket.

So, can you really just become who you are and let everything else fall into place, or do you have to make special efforts to validate yourself by “putting yourself out there?”

Jazz pianist Bill Evans, in the documentary video “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans, said that he once wondered how he could get his career started as a jazz musician. He said, “Ultimately I came to the conclusion that all I must do is take care of the music, even if I do it in a closet. And if I really do that, somebody’s going to come and open the door of the closet and say, ‘Hey, we’re looking for you.’”

Even though everyone I know seems to be promoting what they do in the social media (including myself), I take Bill’s words to heart, because I’ve found it all too easy to be tempted to put myself out there before I’ve really taken care of the music.


Filed under art, individuality, music, the book, work

Jeanie Tomanek video

Awhile ago I blogged about outstanding artist Jeanie Tomanek:

Yesterday I saw this stunning video of her work, and wanted to share it with my readers. Just click on the link below:



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What’s in our hearts

What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.  — Vincent Van Gogh

Have you ever seen yourself as a nonentity, an eccentric, or, God forbid — an “unpleasant person?”

Here Van Gogh is telling you to never mind all of that, because you have a heart. And whatever you do, you can do it with love and your heart will thank you for it. You don’t need to resent the name-callers, even the silent ones. Do they really know what you’re about? Do they honestly feel what you feel? What you’re feeling right now? Do they understand it?

So, Van Gogh tells us, we can be calm and serene, because even in those moments of sheer despair, the music is still there. It wants to come out, and it will if we let it. Let’s be visionaries like Vincent and see beauty in the most seemingly insignificant things, let’s ferret out the true thoughts, the true harmony behind them that just can’t help shining through. This is genuine. It’s authentic, and we all have it in us.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.  — Henry David Thoreau

But you and I don’t have to. We can write the song, and sing it, too.


Filed under art, individuality, spiritual