Friday , April 18 2014
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Artful Life



Artful Life Tara O’Neill Have you ever dreaded something that turned out to be wonderful? Of course you have, it’s part of the whole human experience. I suppose, likewise, we have all looked forward to things that in the end fell short of our desires — but that’s not for today’s discussion. I like this lesson much better… Once upon right now, I teach drawing at Marco Island Center for the Arts, and have for three years. I have always preferred the larger classes because I believe it can be vastly rewarding to students when they interact with a multitude ... Read More »

Gender & the art of language


Artful Life Tara O’Neill Sticks & stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me… To that childhood rhyme I say: ahh, baloney. Words can hurt, and deeply. The damage may be subtle, a slow insinuation into the core of your being, and with suffering so much longer lasting than a temporary scrape of the flesh from a stick or a stone. Last week a friend of mine, a proud and loving father of a high-spirited eight-year old daughter, was recounting to me his daughter’s triumph on the school track where she out-raced most of the boys in ... Read More »

Learning to Crawl

The ‘Daring Dozen,’ founders of the Goodland Art Alliance. Front row (l-r): Denise Santos, Margi Fortune, Tara O’Neill and Joan Fuller. Back row (l-r): Judy Wittwer, Darren Clack,
Natalie Strom, Julie Gross, Celeste Navara, Sherri Morrison, Dave Fuller and Jim Freeman. PHOTO BY TARA O’NEILL

Artful Life Tara O’Neill In November 2012, our community lost a great woman, and I lost a great friend with the passing of Helen Tateo. Helen was an inspiration to me for so many reasons and for so many years, but today, it’s her artful side that brings her into this column. In the 1960s, she owned the first art gallery on Marco Island. She was also one of the 12 founding members of the Art League of Marco Island (now the Marco Island Center for the Arts). The Center/Art League today, nearing its 45th birthday, is a thriving, ... Read More »

Gender and the Performing Arts


Artful Life Tara O’Neill Everytime I sit down to write about gender in relationship to the arts, I get so bogged down in the enormity of the topic that I eventually give up altogether. But the subject means a great deal to me, so perhaps if I can succeed in addressing only specific aspects one column at a time (avoiding the massive manifesto), I can finally share some insights and observations. On Jan. 26 of this year, I watched the Grammy awards on TV. Very hip of me, I thought, since I’m usually in bed by 9 PM. The ... Read More »

That Four-Letter Word


Artful Life Tara O’Neill Inspiration for this column came from participating in my first outdoor art festival of the 2013-14 season. The Goodland Holiday Bazaar, sponsored by the Goodland Civic Association, was an unqualified success according to organizers, vendors and visitors. (I received many kind congratulations on the event, but must state again that other than showing up, I had nothing to do with it. Kudos to Connie Fulmer, Noreen Seeger, Natalie Strom and their hardworking team of volunteers.) This is one of my favorite events for several reasons. Unlike the more formal juried shows I do, this one is ... Read More »

Nurturing Confidence


ARtful Life Tara O’Neill It’s not very often I write a follow-up to a previously published column, but I did get some interesting communications on my last Artful Life column entitled, “Confidence, the Good Kind.” So, I would like to revisit the topic of nurturing confidence in folks young and old, and including ourselves. The most interesting call I received on the subject came from a semi-retired school teacher from New Hampshire. Here’s what she had to share: “Ask a classroom of first- and second-graders who in the room can sing, and 95 to 100 percent of those students will ... Read More »

Confidence, the Good Kind


Artful Life Tara O’Neill As I stack more years in the back of the cart than the front, so do many of my friends. Our knees and hips creak, our ankles swell, and our necks and shoulders stiffen… and let’s not forget the vague memories of sleeping through the night without having to get up. These challenges I take in stride, what I don’t appreciate is hearing over and again that “it’s hell getting old.” And the alternative is…? What amuses me is that you hear this much more from people in their fifties and sixties than you do from ... Read More »

Letting go to move on


Artful Life Tara O’Neill I am often asked about how professional artists are able to let go of their creations and if there is great difficulty in the act of releasing the products of one’s imagination. The work of the soul, so to speak. My response, for me personally, is always a healthy and hearty, “heck no!” And, while I’m in no position to speak for all artists (it simply can’t be done), I know from those I speak with and read about that the prevailing tennent is that the work we do today is leading to the work we ... Read More »

In Defense of Defiance


Artful Life Tara O’Neill Ah! Back from sabbatical… and by sabbatical I mean vacation to Ireland. Before leaving, I wrote a column about how traveling can refresh one’s perspective, or even grant a whole new one (and it seems my perspective was woefully in need of a tune-up). So, for you generous readers who did not begrudge me a column-free month, I bring you further thoughts on perspective inspired first by a wholly American occurrence, and further by personal immersion into a distant culture. Shortly before I left, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad had, on her fifth attempt, completed her swim ... Read More »

Ins & Outs of Perspective


ARtful Life Tara O’Neill When I was but 18 years old, I travelled to Ireland with my best friend Diane Sweeney (now Fowler). It wasn’t our intention just to visit Ireland… we had big plans: we, with dollars hard-earned from waitressing, babysitting, and what-have-you-ing, were going to TOUR EUROPE. We spent months making plans while poring over maps with exotic place names like The Black Forest… Giverney… Italy. We were going to see it all. It just so happened that the least expensive airfare from the U.S. to anywhere in Europe was Ireland. My Dad was from Dublin, I had ... Read More »



ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill Despite a widely held belief to the contrary, an artist need not be in the mood nor sublimely inspired in order to create. And neither do you. Of course, by my standards you are all artists, making the latter statement a trifle redundant (the difference between the artist’s life and the artful life is often just a matter of media.) Here’s one scene: a snow-white, ice-cold canvas stares blankly at you from a rigid easel; it’s time to work, but you have no fresh idea, you don’t have that feeling, that mood. You begin to ... Read More »

It was just my imagination…


ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Marco Island Historical Museum – I was relating my 46 years on Marco & Goodland to my exhibit of oil paintings at the time, South Florida: a Villager’s View – and was very pleased with the lively Q & A period that followed. There was a strong turn-out and the questions were all interesting and thoughtful. There was a question from another artist asking if I had a favorite painting [from my own body of work] and I didn’t hesitate to say no, and further explain ... Read More »

Finding the Blue Room


ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill Each person has their own safe place – running, painting, swimming, fishing, weaving, gardening. The activity itself is less important than the act of drawing on your own resources.” I recently came across this quote by Barbara Gordon, author and tv producer, and was touched by how eloquently these words echo the definition of an artful life… and I’m happy to picture you readers reacting the way I did, quickly scanning the list for your place – or adding to the list: dancing, golfing, building, cooking, rowing… go ahead, take a moment. Notable is her ... Read More »

Learning to Learn


ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Niell I often write about skills that are useful for an artful life because I’m often asked about them. People are interested in how to develop creative solutions to any number of life’s questions – understanding that the greatest solutions arise from original perspectives. Anything can be learned. The question is, how do you learn best? By and large the best skill to learn is how to learn. It takes time and patience. Not much more. You will be ignorant before you learn something, anything, you will be knowledgeable afterwards. Get comfortable with that because that is ... Read More »

First Impressions Are Overrated


ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill Over the years I’ve heard & read copious tips on what qualifies as essential characteristics to the artful life: you must commit yourself to being a lifelong student; you must be willing to embrace truth at all times; your first obligation needs always be to satisfy yourself; you must be willing to disregard recompense. Yes, these shards of advice range from the poetic to pure poppycock. I agree that a life well learned is a life well lived, and while I approve of honesty, too much of it can certainly suck dry the marrow of ... Read More »

Essential & Free


ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill There is something extremely valuable to the artful life beyond costly training, expensive tools and materials, and precious energy. Oddly enough, this most essential tool-in-the-kit is absolutely free. Patience. Patience is the stuff from where great things spring. Who doesn’t want a shortcut to greatness? Today I will create a beautiful seascape; an elegant souffle; a successful business! Well, I say to you, sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. This isn’t a curse, just a fact of life. You cannot expect to reap the most benefit from the least effort. So, along with work, diligence, and ... Read More »

When Fledglings Fly

A burrowing owlet spreads its wings. PHOTO by Celeste Navara

ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill In nature, as in life, it’s always breathtaking when fledglings take flight. The Goodland Arts Alliance, our area’s fledgling cultural non-profit, has just taken its first flight ‘over the bridge’ (that’s island-speak, by the way). For the month of May artist members of the GAA are exhibiting at the Norris Center in Naples. The exhibit features four of the twelve founding members: photographers Celeste Navara and Jim Freeman, seashell mastermind Judy Wittwer, and myself, the oil painter. It’s not always easy for Island artists to get their work displayed on the other side of our ... Read More »

The Chill Test

Cooling off. Painting by Kappy Kirk. Photo by Tara O'Neill

ARTFUL LIFE Tara O’Neill How do you know when it’s finished?” Ask the writer, the painter, the musician, and you may just get a chilly answer. Oh, not the cold-shoulder type – only a reference to the practice of letting a work “get cold.” That is, walk away from it, put it in a drawer, on a shelf, or face to the wall. And while we may refer to letting the work get cold, the reality is that it’s the artist that needs cooling off. It’s the old forest-for-the-trees thing. Our passion for perfection can lead us to get ... Read More »

Inspiration On The Road Less Travelled


Like most artists, I’m frequently asked about the mysterious whereabouts of that elusive creature, inspiration. Nothing mysterious about it, I can’t speak for all artists, but I am surrounded by it (and those of you familiar with my work will get this). So why is it you see a palm tree in your front yard and I see magnificent swipes of blues and greens? Part of it certainly owes to my artistic temperament, but a great deal is owing to the fact that your tree is new to me, and to you it is routine, like visual white-noise. Change is ... Read More »

Inside The Festival


I’ve recently gained admittance into a secret world, a parallel universe, as it were. A world both frenzied and fabulous: a world that exists only deep inside… The Art Festival. The parallel reference is certainly true; participating in art festivals doesn’t mean you have any idea how to organize one. Sure, you know the pretty bits that apply to you: there must be an application and selection process. There must be an itinerary for setting up and breaking down. There must be goody bags with cool gifts! There must be rules. I’ve always read the rules very carefully to avoid ... Read More »