Art Lessons

The theme for January at the BeZine is Parents and Parenting.  It took me reaching adulthood to realize how lucky I am to have an artistic, creative mother.  I imagine that all parents strive to teach their children important life lessons, but mine often came in the form of constructive examples through watching my mom create or by listening to her wise advice and encouragement.  Here are just some of the things I have learned by being blessed as the daughter of an artist*.

  • Patience.  A good life (and good art) don’t happen overnight.  You will make a lot of mistakes in both, and you know what? That’s okay. You have to be patient and allow yourself (and your art) time to evolve, time to develop into what you (and your art) are going to be.  Da Vinci didn’t become a master by trying a few times and then calling it “good”. It took many years, so be patient and keep learning, keep striving.

    "Hand of David" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Hand of David” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Waste not, want not – Reuse and share when you can.  This applies to a lot more than just art supplies. We live in a world with finite resources and there are so many people out there who have nothing. Appreciate what you have and do as much as you can with what you have been given.  Even better, if you come across someone else struggling because they don’t have enough, share and make their lives better, too.
    My mom taught art and ran two galleries for over twenty years at the local university. At the end of each semester, there were always extra art materials that students had left behind. Each semester, she would put together an “art box” of supplies and inevitably, there would always be a student who couldn’t afford supplies for class. That student ended up with the “box”, and the caveat to “pay it forward” if they were able.
"Yellow Landscape" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

“Yellow Landscape” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Never give up! Mistakes will happen, you will face challenges that can knock you so far down that you think you’ll never be able to get back up again. But don’t let that stop you and don’t give up!  Use adversity as a catalyst to make yourself (and your art) better than ever…learn where you went wrong and make the next time better.

    "Memory Painting: The Lesson" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Memory Painting: The Lesson” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Nature as inspiration.  My mom will be the first to tell you (if you ask) that the absolute greatest artist that ever was, is God. The Divine Creator has made perfection in everything around us. We can find the Golden Mean everywhere in nature and if you’re looking for artistic inspiration, go out into the woods or find a quiet spot out in the natural world – you’re bound to discover something to awe and/or motivate you.

    "Southern Ice" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Southern Ice” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Confidence. In art, as in life, “everyone’s a critic”.  The only person you have to compare yourself to and be better than, is the person you were yesterday. By the same token, the only person you have to make happy is yourself.  So be kind to yourself and have faith that you can become whoever you dream about being.
  • Learn to accept constructive criticism.  Along with confidence, you also need a healthy dose of humility for balance.  Those who truly care about you will sometimes  give you constructive criticism…because they care.  Learn to recognize when someone who cares about you has your best interests at heart and understand that an outside perspective can have merit. Being defensive may be an automatic response, but none of us are perfect; we can all improve in some way(s).
"The Dance" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

“The Dance” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Follow your heart.  Passion is the lifeblood of art…and the spice of life.  Never allow  your life to become so stagnant or jaded that you lose your passion. It’s equally important that you don’t kill your passion by turning it into a drudgery that you feel obligated to perform – i.e. many artistic, creative people find that when they turn their art into a “job”, it loses the passion that made it so special and unique.

    "Pandemic" © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

    “Pandemic” © Bettye Shēly All Rights Reserved

  • Stay focused, but don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.  In this age of distraction, staying focused on the task at hand can be difficult. In order to be successful (in art as well as life), you need to be able to stay focused on your goal(s) and keep working on them until they’re done.  Conversely, don’t become so consumed with reaching your goal(s) that you don’t make time to stop and savor the things which make life so sweet. It’s often the little things that enrich our lives to the point of being worthwhile.

    BSH at University of WA circa 1972 © All Rights Reserved

    BSH at University of WA circa 1972 © All Rights Reserved

My mom taught me all these things and so much more. It was all filtered through a lens of gentle, artistic understanding and insistence that I, her daughter, was undoubtedly her ‘greatest creation’:) Thanks, Mom. I love you. *(All images are used with the artist’s permission).

Posted in Art, Family, Food For Thought, Inspiration, Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

These Hallowed Halls of Hope

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

–Neil Gaiman

When I saw the theme of “At-Risk Youth” listed for November at The BeZine,  my first thought was how important libraries are to helping kids like these. For those who don’t know what the phrase “At-Risk Youth” means, it’s basically a label for any young person who is “at risk” of not making a successful transition into adulthood. They are typically minorities, live below the poverty level, have a higher rate of school drop-outs and illiteracy and tend to fall into gangs, drug use and/or turn to violence and criminal behavior.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in urban cities, where the library can often be an oasis of peace in the concrete jungle. They are usually quiet buildings with ambient lighting, lots of space and most have special areas just for children, with bright colors, lots of things to look at, activities to do and of course, lots and lots of books. We all know the power of books to transport and lift us from even the most depressing of  realities, but today’s library goes far beyond that simple escapism.

Image borrowed from

Image borrowed from

I have worked in libraries most of my adult life and have witnessed first-hand how they can help at-risk young people. Many of the kids who come to the library after school are latch-key kids. They sometimes have to baby-sit younger siblings while their parent or parents go to work. A lot of them don’t do well in school, or don’t see education as a priority, so they struggle with basic reading, writing and arithmetic.  They may live LGBT or other alternative lifestyles and face rejection and bullying every day. It occurred to me that the librarian may be the only smiling, accepting face these kids see all day. Most libraries offer literacy and/or homework assistance programs that can help on an educational level, but the librarians…they are the “people factor” that can bridge the gap and make the difference between engaging or alienating them further.

Image borrowed from Flikr Creative Commons - Copyright Michael Pardo

Image borrowed from Flikr Creative Commons – Copyright Michael Pardo

Today’s libraries often have after-school activities to help keep teens off the streets and out of trouble, or mentors to offer advice and assistance.  Some participate in the YouthArts Program, which works to implement effective strategies to pair up at-risk youth with more art-focused programs. Others, like Memphis Public Library, have programs that teach teens how to do Music and Audio production, or Art Studio and Video and Photography classes. They also have resources like JOBLINC and employment workshops, giving youth the knowledge they need to find a job, create a résumé or ace an interview.

You may not know it, but the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) has awarded $350,000.00 to the ALA (American Library Association) this year for the Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion program specifically aimed toward at-risk youth:

“The Great Stories Club funding will introduce more than 8,000 young adults to accessible and thought-provoking literature selected by humanities scholars to resonate with reluctant readers struggling with complex issues like incarceration, violence and poverty. Librarian advisors will consult on material selection, assist with development of programming guides and best practices for libraries and provide training for grantees.” ~

Image borrowed from

Image borrowed from

If you know of any at-risk youth who are lost and struggling, try guiding them (or accompanying them!) to their local library.  The library has been and will continue to be more than simply a building which houses books and information. It is an ever-changing and evolving source of inspiration, hope and problem-solving; it’s an integral part of society’s infrastructure. As one librarian noted in a Metafilter discussion about funding cuts:

“Every day at my job I helped people just barely survive. … Forget trying to be the “people’s university” and create a body of well informed citizens. Instead I helped people navigate through the degrading hoops of modern online society, fighting for scraps from the plate, and then kicking back afterwards by pretending to have a farm on Facebook.”

The entire response is here, and if you have a spare couple of minutes, I think you will find it quite eye-opening; perhaps it will give you another perspective and appreciation for how very, very necessary libraries have become for people who have no other options.  When the rest of society is ignoring at-risk youth or struggling to find solutions, libraries have become spotlighted as hallowed halls of hope.

Posted in At-Risk Youth, Inspiration, Libraries, Poverty, Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

~ Under ~

((September is an extra special month over at the BeZine. We are celebrating 100TPC (100 Thousand Poets for Change) in an effort to call awareness to global poverty.  In the words of one of the Co-founders for 100TPC, Michael Rothenberg II, “500 events in over 100 countries, 100 Thousand Poets for Change Global Day, September 26, 2015. Thank you for keeping the initiative alive. 5 years of community building. Peace, Sustainability and Justice!”

Below is my humble offering to the movement. Please come share and check out some of the others as we dare to make a real difference for those in need.))


Matthew 25:40 by Cameron John Robbins

Matthew 25:40 by Cameron John Robbins

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” ~ Matthew 25:40 KJV Bible


~ Under ~

Homeless Joe, has nowhere
to go. He lives under a bridge;
not a troll, just poor.

(Not in some third-world country, no).

Crazy Jane lives under
a delusion – from voices
of people not here anymore.

(In the land of the free and the home of the brave).

Carmen, a single mother of five,
lives under the stigma
of using food stamps to eat.

(In America, the poor are victimized, you know).

Speed-freak Charlie lives under
the influence of the drugs
which keep him wandering the streets.

(How many poor would that daily latte save?)

All of them, under poverty’s yoke.
Under society’s up-turned nose.
Homeless, hungry and in many ways “broke”,
Do you really think this is the life that they chose?

(How about walking a mile in their…feet?)

What they truly need is understanding,
To help them get back to dignity’s door.
Out from under all the senseless branding,
Back to being visible people once more.

(Please help the less fortunate people you meet!)

~ C.L.R. © 2015


Photo © 2013 Corina L. Ravenscraft Quote by Ram Dass

Photo © 2013 Corina L. Ravenscraft Quote by Ram Dass

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Giving, Homelessness, Human Rights, Inspiration, Poetry, Poverty, Uncategorized, Veterans | 5 Comments

~ Grande’s Mandolin (Revised) ~

(August’s theme at the BeZine is Music.  This is a piece I wrote some years ago and it never felt finished, so I thought I would revise it and set it here for all you fine readers to enjoy.

I didn’t know my maternal grandfather (we grand-kids called him “Grand-e”, rhymes with candy) that well, as he died when I was young. But I have seen the pictures and heard many tales of his prankish sense of humor. He was a large, jolly man who loved to tell jokes and laugh. He also sang songs while playing the mandolin and was quite nimble on his feet for having such a hefty frame. My mother kept his mandolin in wonderful condition and examining it helped inspire this piece.)

~ Grande’s Mandolin ~

Grande’s Mandolin © 2015 Corina Ravenscraft all rights reserved

They say he used to dance
and sing, when he played
his mandolin.
I’ve heard the stories
a thousand times,
about my “Grande”, Marvin.

I only have vague memories —
he passed when I was young.
I look at his instrument
with wonder,
about whiskey and jigs, songs sung.

I marvel at the oiled, mellow wood,
aged well, without a crack.
I hear the thin, tuned silvery strings,
and sometimes wish him back…

If only to see his merry moves,
or watch his sausage-fingers play.
I can hear and picture it perfectly,
and I wonder what he’d say,

if he knew,

how cherished this family memory was?
Would he strum the words,
and dance them, too?

If the world could reverse,
and time stand still,
I’d dance at my grand-father’s side
and then,
I’d hug him, love him, and ask for a tune.
And I’d listen to him pluck his mandolin.

© 2015 ~ C.L.R. ~

Posted in Family, Inspiration, Music, Nostalgia, Past, Poetry, Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What if?

The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Imagination vs. Critical Spirit is the theme for July over at the BeZine.  I’ve been pondering these words and what they mean. When I first read the above quote, every creative cell in my body yelled, “Nope!”. I decided to live with the idea for a little while, to make sure that I wasn’t just reacting out of instinct to protect my own view of “Imagination”. It continued to bother me, so I did what I always do in cases where I’m having a problem with Art: I consulted my own, resident expert, my mother. She has been an artist longer than I have been alive.

It was no surprise that we were both reminded of another saying, “Nothing new under the sun”, which comes from Bible scripture in Ecclesiastes 1:9 — “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Image borrowed from

Image borrowed from

If one takes the view that God is the only true, original creator, then yes, of course  anything we create is going to pale in comparison and be just imitation. But we’re also told that we are made in His image, so we humans are not only copies, we’re creators, too!

Regarding Imagination vs. Critical Spirit, the thing to remember is that both are subjective. Each one of us has a different “version” of both imagination and critical spirit. So our truths about what constitutes each one are subjective, too.

It not only depends on your definition of “Imagination”, but also depends on how you define the two words “Critical Spirit”. Most people hear or read the word “critical” with a negative connotation, but I don’t think Mr. Wilde meant it in that way. I think he meant that internal editor/analyzer who is judicious of what is created in an attempt to make it better.  Others might believe that the words refer to that divine spark inside all of us that strives to attain divine perfection in whatever we create (which is perhaps when the focus is more on the word “spirit” than “critical”).

Wilde’s quote comes across as reductionist to me, while I prefer a more gestalt point of view.  I can’t help but be a little defensive of the imagination, because it seems that he favors the “critical spirit” and labels the imagination a mere imitator. In my opinion, BOTH are equally necessary and important for creative art.  Something my mom mentioned in our discussion stood out to me as a good way to describe it.

Daisy painting by Delmus Phelps from

Daisy painting by Delmus Phelps from

She said, “A realistic painting of a yellow and white daisy is an imitation of nature, with little creativity, but rather skill mastery.

A painting of a daisy with a rainbow of colored petals, would be an imitation of the natural shape, but would also employ the critical spirit through imagination and be more creative. It would ask the question: What if?”

Rain-over-a-rainbow-flower from

Image borrowed from

I think this is a good explanation, because that “what if” is the very essence of the critical spirit, the voice inside that analyzes and asks how the creator can make it different, better.

However, the imagination has to dream that it’s possible, first.  In that sense, I disagree that the imagination is a mere imitator. I think of it as more of an instigator, a jumping off point from which countless “what ifs” are possible.

In closing, I’d like to offer a different quote about imagination:

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Posted in Art, Creativity, Inspiration, Philosophical Ponderings, Uncategorized, Writing | 9 Comments

~ The Zen of Writer’s Block ~

The white screen: blank, empty,

pregnant with Nothingness,

ready to be filled.

The monkey-mind of racing thoughts,


each quickly considered,

and just as quickly discarded,

in the search for “perfection”;

The exact antithesis

of the stillness, calm

and peace,

of just “being”.

Silently cursing the cursor,

which blinks at me,

a steady taunting,

I search for the Zen in writer’s block…

knowing in my heart

that the harder I seek,

the less likely I am to find it.

Perhaps I can find my center,

with the framed, pre-programmed

tool of aligned justification,

listening to the spirit breathe

and following that breath,

to a deeper meaning on the page?

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2015

Posted in Creativity, Frustration, Peace, Perfection, Philosophical Ponderings, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing, Zen | 5 Comments

Being a more compassionate gardener

Like many people, I love to garden. I enjoy the feeling of soil beneath my fingers, the satisfaction of caring for plants and watching them grow and bloom. I also tend to believe that all life is sacred. From the biggest whale in the ocean, down to the tiniest ant in the ground, all living things are usually just trying to survive, the best and only ways they know how. It can be frustrating when garden pests appear to  wreck all of my hard work! But in the many years I have been doing it, I have come to understand and appreciate that there must be a balance and that there are ways to be a more compassionate gardener.


Aphids. These sap-sucking insects can quickly overtake and kill an otherwise healthy plant. Most healthy plants can survive a small infestation of aphids, but if their numbers grow too large, it’s time to take action.

What you can do:

* Introduce some helpful insects – get some Ladybugs (also called Ladybirds in some parts of the country)! Ladybugs love aphids and can be relatively inexpensive to purchase. Lacewings are another alternative if you can’t find any Ladybugs.

* Use the water pressure spray from your garden hose to knock the aphids off the stems and leaves of plants. Many times, this alone will be enough to dislodge those unwelcome guests.

* Use a spray bottle filled with soapy water (1 quart of water, 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper) and make sure to mist the underside of the leaves, where aphids like to congregate.

* Plant some plants which attract Lacewings and Ladybugs and deter aphids, due to their strong scents.  Some good examples to try are: Onions, Garlic, Chives, Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano and Fennel.  Most strong scented herbs and plants in the Allium family are great for this.

* Encourage nesting of birds which eat aphids, like wrens, titmice and chickadees. Natural predators are much safer and more compassionate than chemicals. (After all, the birds have to eat, too!)

Image borrowed from

Image borrowed from

Slugs/Snails. Slimy and slow, these invertebrates can leave a trail of destruction that will decimate any garden.

What you can do:

* Plant “barrier plants” around the plants you’re trying to protect. As with aphids, slugs don’t care for strong scented herbs like those listed above.  Nasturtiums are also a natural plant that slugs don’t like. Try it. You might be surprised.

* Sprinkle finely-crushed eggshells or use a ring of sandpaper around the plants you want to protect.  The slugs and snails will not attempt to crawl over these things because they will hurt themselves doing it.  By the way, coffee grounds are great for soil amendment but they don’t do squat to keep the slugs and snails away. ;)

* Put a board or an upside-down flower pot propped up so the slugs can get under it by the plants you don’t want eaten and check the board or pot every morning. The slugs and snails will go party on the underside since it’s cool and possibly damp, and you can pick them off by hand to get rid of them.

* If you can find it, try mulching around your plants with seaweed about 3-4 inches deep. The salt content in seaweed is enough to keep those pesky gastropods away. Don’t ever put salt ON your plants, though. It will kill them.

Snakes/Spiders/Lizards.  Any experienced gardener will tell you: these are NOT the enemies! Quite simply, leave them be. They will help your garden more than you realize, and even though they may give you the heebie-jeebies, don’t kill them. Most of the time, they are not dangerous to people and will help you in your quest to keep your garden pest free.

Image borrowed from

Image borrowed from

Gardening can help a person “get back to earth” and reconnect with the planet. We can be compassionate in our efforts to protect the fruits of our labors and we don’t have to saturate the world with chemicals or kill those things which we label “pests”. There is always a balance which we should strive to keep.

“Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

 — Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching

Posted in Ecology, Environment, Flowers, Gardening, Life, Nature, Seasons, Spring, Summer, Uncategorized | 4 Comments