New Small Paintings

I love working in a small, 12 x 12 format. It forces me to really think about what I want my painting to say, because the small space doesn’t lend itself to a lot of miscellaneous flourishes. Here are a few pieces I’ve done in the past few months. By the way, Facebook has somehow removed my page (and no–I haven’t been posting anything horrible!), and I’ve decided to just let it go, so if you have a comment, please post it here on WordPress, or just contact me directly. The pieces here are all 12 x 12, Acrylic and mixed media, framed and ready for display.

Inspiration
Midnight Dream
Oh, Happy Days!

Special Offer This Week

A Wonderful Good Morning!

Special Offer, 1 week only – September 1 to September 8

Take advantage of the Kindle Countdown deal to purchase A Wonderful Good Morning at a discount price, only on Amazon. A Wonderful Good Morning is a mystery with a bit of science fiction thrown in. If you enjoyed Groundhog Day, you’ll love A Wonderful Good Morning.

Sometimes every day seems just like the one before.  Sometimes, it really is the day before.

Strange things have been happening to Tim for a while now.  Lately, his friends have learned to treat him very gently until he comes out of one of  his spells. His girlfriend, Natalie, decides a Rhine River cruise will be just what the two of them need to get things back to normal, but at the last minute, Tim is left to sail on his own. That’s when things get really weird. While he stares, yet again, at the very same clumps of algae in the very same stretch of the Rhine he’s been looking at for days, something finally clicks. Now the only problem is – how to fix it.

Meanwhile, Natalie and her artist friends back in Chicago wonder why Tim hasn’t returned from his vacation and why he doesn’t answer his phone. It’s not like him to just disappear;  he’s normally super responsible. They have no choice but to set off for Europe to find out what’s going on.

Click here to purchase.

A Word About Genre

What do you think of when you hear the words “Science Fiction?” I tend to think of things like space ships, little green men, and robots. Yet my new novel, A Wonderful Good Morning, contains none of those things. So why is it classified as “Science Fiction?”

The problem is that every book needs to fit into a genre, a known category, in order to be marketable. But how do you classify a novel that doesn’t really fit into any of the standard genres? I wish I had the answer to that question.

A Wonderful Good Morning is about climate change. It’s also a mystery story involving  travel and art and even a little romance. So why call it “Science Fiction?” Well, because in writing about climate change, I took what’s known about some aspects of our warming planet and created a story that’s grounded in reality but then takes off into a world of my own imagination. I suppose I could have called it “Fantasy,” but that word brings complications, also. It conjures up images of shape-shifting creatures and witches and demons, which doesn’t describe my book any better than the words “Science Fiction” do.

So if you think of a more apt genre with which to classify A Wonderful Good Morning, I’d love to hear your suggestion.

The title is available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon.com. Click here to purchase a copy.  

Abstract Expressions, ca. 2021

My paintings and designs have been taking a whimsical turn for a while now, using a variety of different paints and applicators. Here I’ve used the marvelous Golden Fluid Acrylics, plus a variety of paint markers, to see what would happen if I just let ‘the spirit move me.’ My three most recent results say go with the flow and enjoy! Framed very simply, & ready to brighten up a corner of your room.

Riva’s Journey

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, November 2, 1883

I can only imagine what my grandmother felt when she first saw Lady Liberty as her ship entered New York Harbor on a spring day in1920. I don’t know if she ever read Emma Lazarus’ words; she couldn’t read English yet, although she was fluent in Yiddish, Polish, and German. But whether or not she ever read these words, she felt them every time she was confronted with anything marvelous and new in her adopted, much-loved, country. “Ay, America!” she’d exclaim, with wonder and appreciation.

Immigrants have very seldom been given the welcome promised by the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.  Each new wave of people has been greeted by prejudice and suspicion, admitted grudgingly. And each new wave of immigrants has contributed mightily to this country. Every person in the United States today is an immigrant, unless they’re descended from Native Americans. Yet as each group of people arrives, many of those who came earlier forget that their ancestors or they themselves were once in need of a safe harbor—safe from wars, poverty, tyranny. Lots of us remember, though, as we must. Maybe someday we can make Ms. Lazarus’ words a fact for everyone who still looks to America as a beacon of light to the future.

As I work on revising and polishing, Riva’s Journey, my Grandma’s story of leaving Europe to make a new life for herself and her children in America, I gain fresh appreciation of her incredible courage and determination. America didn’t exactly welcome her, but they let her in.

The Indie Author

As with most other aspects of life, there are both pros and cons to publishing your books independently. On the one hand, you have total control of your work, from start to finish. On the other hand, you have to take total control of your work, from start to finish. That means writing, editing, designing the cover, designing the content’s appearance, and–this is a big one–marketing. You can out-source some of these steps if you’re willing to pay for the services, but ultimately the trajectory of what happens to your book after you put it out there is totally up to you, the author.

I published my first novel in the Bella Sarver Mystery series, Painting Lessons, in in 2016. This was followed in subsequent years by Brush With Death, Paint a Murder, and Death on the Danube. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about all aspects of writing and producing a novel, and I’ve been enjoying the process. It’s fun getting my sales reports from Amazon each quarter, and noting that my books have found readers around the world, including Japan. But it would be fun to see my books on the shelves of major booksellers around the country, too, and that won’t happen unless I go the traditional publisher route. So my plan for 2021 is to see if I can find an agent for the novel I’ve just completed to help me make that happen.

Researching agents is a tedious task and almost more work than actually writing the novel in the first place, but I’ve got my list ready and I’ll start querying everyone on it this coming week. We’ll see how it goes.

Happy New Year to all my readers. Stay safe and healthy. There’s help on the way.

Still Life

Still Life with Turkish Pot, acrylic, 20 x 16

I bought this Turkish coffee pot in Istanbul years ago, in a little bazaar filled with rugs and leather jackets and the aroma of exotic spices. Today seemed like a good day to put it into a painting, using autumn tones but hopeful little flowers to help us get through the winter that’s almost upon us. When Spring comes again, we can hope that most of us will have been vaccinated, and we can begin to emerge into the light again.

Balancing Act

I like to read Heidi Stevens’ column in the Chicago Tribune she titles “Balancing Act.” She writes about the difficulty of managing to make good parenting decisions, pursue a career as a journalist, and balance both of those major areas with the rest of her life. I totally sympathize with her problem, as I’m sure most of us can.

No matter what I’m doing, I always feel like I should really be doing something else. If I’m writing, I should be painting. If I’m painting, I should be practicing the piano. If I’m practicing the piano, I should be working on my book. Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the rest of my life as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, citizen, etc. I suppose this is a good thing. Still, maybe it would be nice to just sit back and relax in front of the TV once in a while?

Or–maybe not. There’s nothing much on TV, and anyway, at least life lived as an endless teeter-totter isn’t boring!

Whimsy

A definition of “whimsy” is “playfully quaint or fanciful.” I think that aptly describes this collection of small paintings, on display at the Lisle Library now through the end of January. I’ve been having a great time creating them, using the simplest objects around the house or just my imagination as the starting point for designing the various bright and colorful compositions.

The Lisle Library, 777 Front Street, Lisle, will be hosting a reception on Saturday, December 7th, from 2 to 3:30 pm. Refreshments will be offered. So mark your calendars and hope to see many of you there.

Xanadu Gallery

In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree

So begins Samuel Coleridge’s famous poem. Xanadu Gallery in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, might not exactly rival the ancient city of Shangdu, China, but it’s an inspiring place, nonetheless, featuring a variety of beautiful and innovative artworks created by artists all over the country. So I consider it an honor to have some of the paintings in my Red Mountain series included in their latest catalog, which will be going out to all their clients shortly.  You can check out an advance copy here. (My pieces are on page 25.)

Xanadu Catalog 2022

Xanadu Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona

A Hidden Gem

My Naperville readers may not realize that we have a hidden gem in the Main Street Promenade. The second and third floors, accessible from both Main and Webster Streets, host a variety of businesses in a light, cheery environment that provides an ideal setting for the ongoing art exhibits sponsored by the Naperville Art League. Walk the halls and you’ll be astonished by the beautiful variety of paintings and drawings on display there, including four of my large pieces. You’ll be glad you made the trip.

Individual works of art may be purchased through the Naperville Art League.

Falling Water, acrylic, 30 x 30

Painting in the Abstract

In my previous post, I wrote about using a 12 x 12 format to express a single idea, but sometimes, I need a bigger canvas to capture the moment. A River Runs Through It reminds me of the colorful river towns perched on the hilltops in Spain. The water rushing down the mountains, the clean, fresh air! Aah–how delightful.

A River Runs Through It, acrylic, 20 x 24

Coming to America: Jewish Immigration 1880 to 1920

Revisiting History

While I was researching and writing Riva’s Journey: a Memoir, (now available on Amazon), I uncovered tons of facts about conditions in Eastern Europe during the late 19th-early 20th centuries that I wasn’t able to incorporate into my grandmother’s story. I hated to let go of all that information, so I decided to use it to create a presentation for my community’s History Club. I wanted to talk about how fully half the world’s Jews came to live in the Kingdom of Poland, under what sort of conditions they lived their lives, and the profound socio-cultural-political changes that happened in the century and a half after the first Polish partition in 1772.  What led so many Eastern Europeans, Jews but also millions of Poles, Russians, and others to pick up and cross the Atlantic in search of better lives? To round out the story, I decided to expand the presentation to discuss the Atlantic crossing and the reception the immigrants received once they arrived in New York.

I’ve given this presentation twice now—once to a group at my synagogue and then to the History Club. Both times, I’ve realized that I probably bit off more than I could chew. There’s so much material that covering it in only one hour doesn’t really do justice to the subject. Still, I hated to leave anything out, and people did seem to enjoy hearing about all of it.

The whole experience reminds me that originally, decades ago, I prepared to teach history, a subject to which I was drawn because I always wanted to know “what happened? Why?” And each time I revisit an era, I not only find answers to my questions, but also discover new insights and deepen my understanding of the events I’m studying. Maybe I’m returning to my academic roots after all this time. Whatever—I’m enjoying the detour.

Riva’s Journey: a Memoir

Riva’s Journey

Now available in Paperback at Amazon.com.

Everyone in the United States today is an immigrant or descended from immigrants, with the exception of Native Americans whose ancestors were here before Columbus. Between 1880 and 1920, people from Eastern and Southern Europe poured into the United States by the millions. They were Russians and Poles, Czechs and Romanians, Italians, Greeks and Ukrainians. All of our ancestors came from someplace else. Riva’s Journey explores the reasons why one large group of people, Jews who’d been born in the Russian Pale of Settlement, decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States, and how they adjusted to becoming Americans. Riva’s Journey tells the story of one woman, and one family, who made the trip.

There’s a curse, erroneously attributed to the Chinese, that goes, “May you live in interesting times. Riva’s Journey is the fictionalized memoir of a woman whose life spanned the start of the Industrial Revolution in Tsarist Russia to the post-war prosperity of the United States—my grandmother. She lived in very interesting times.

It was a time of vast social and political changes in the area defined as the Pale of Settlement, established by Catherine the Great of Russia about 1791, after Russia took over large parts of what had been Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and more, and incorporated those areas into the Russian Empire. Jews were forbidden to establish new settlements outside the Pale, nor could they live in most major cities such as Moscow.  The May Laws of 1881 further severely limited Jewish rights to own land, to access education, and to engage in business. The majority of Jews relocated to various large towns and cities, pursued livelihoods in trades and small businesses, or found jobs in the newly established factories that sprouted up as industrialization of Russia progressed.

And many immigrated to America….

Available in Paperback & E-reader versions.

Riva’s Journey: a Memoir

By Barbara Lipkin

Now available for pre-order on Amazon. Get the book delivered directly to your E-reader on September 29th.

Everyone in the United States today is an immigrant or descended from immigrants, with the exception of Native Americans whose ancestors were here before Columbus. Between 1880 and 1920, people from Eastern and Southern Europe poured into the United States by the millions. They were Russians and Poles, Czechs and Romanians, Italians, Greeks and Ukrainians. All of our ancestors came from someplace else. Riva’s Journey explores the reasons why one large group of people, Jews who’d been born in the Russian Pale of Settlement, decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States, and how they adjusted to becoming Americans. Riva’s Journey tells the story of one woman, and one family, who made the trip.

There’s a curse, erroneously attributed to the Chinese, that goes, “May you live in interesting times. Riva’s Journey is the fictionalized memoir of a woman whose life spanned the start of the Industrial Revolution in Tsarist Russia to the post-war prosperity of the United States—my grandmother. She lived in very interesting times.

It was a time of vast social and political changes in the area defined as the Pale of Settlement, established by Catherine the Great of Russia about 1791, after Russia took over large parts of what had been Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and more, and incorporated those areas into the Russian Empire. Jews were forbidden to establish new settlements outside the Pale, nor could they live in most major cities such as Moscow.  The May Laws of 1881 further severely limited Jewish rights to own land, to access education, and to engage in business. The majority of Jews relocated to various large towns and cities, pursued livelihoods in trades and small businesses, or found jobs in the newly established factories that sprouted up as industrialization of Russia progressed.

And many immigrated to America….

Click here to pre-order.

Another Word About Genre

A little while ago, I wrote about the importance of establishing genre when marketing your novels. A similar factor comes into play when peddling paintings. One of the first things an artist learns when creating a body of work  is that it needs to be consistent, i.e., the viewers/prospective purchasers need to know what to expect when they hear your name. That’s fine, except if you’ve ever been to a retrospective of the work of a well-known artist, you’ll notice that their work has gone through many stages both before and after emerging into the characteristic style for which they’re known. It almost goes without saying that an artist is, by the very nature of the craft, an experimenter. So how to reconcile the demands of the artist with the demands of the public?

I’ve always loved abstract design, so although most of my paintings are representational to some extent, they’re also colorful, whimsical, and sometimes purely abstract. There’s nothing more fun than grabbing a nice, fat brush and smearing paint on a canvas, watching the colors and patterns develop, until you have either a big mess or a delightful new piece of art. (Naturally, you never show anybody the big messes. You just paint over them, and the mess becomes part of the ‘history’ of the new painting.) But at other times, I enjoy carefully designing a composition and slowly making it come to life with deliberate, well-placed strokes. At this stage of my life, I’ve pretty much stopped worrying about whether or not a new piece ‘fits’ consistently in my body of work. I just go with whatever I want to try next.

My two most recent pieces couldn’t be more different. But I enjoyed both of them.  

   Dreaming, Acrylic, 24 x 20
A River Runs Through It, Acrylic, 20 x 24