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Life Is a Gift -- Kindle Book

Launching the Ordinary Life Is Beautiful Series, Life Is a Gift features 30 short, upbeat essays by Carolyn Henderson, manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. Steve's paintings illustrate each story. For $2.99, it makes a great gift for yourself and all of the special people in your life.


The link will take you to Amazon Books, where you  may read the first few chapters of the book for free. Compatible on Kindle, IPad, and IPod. If you do not have any of these devices, you may download an app through Amazon to view the book on your computer.



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Is Art a Luxury?

Let's talk about this term, luxury, first.


A luxury is something that you don't really need, and by that definition, lots of things fall into this category.


We need shelter; we need protection from the elements; we need food; we need water; we need air.


That being said, the shelter could be a hovel, and as long as it keeps us warm and dry, then anything more is a luxury.


Food? What we need is enough to sustain life -- rice and beans should do the trick, but most of us prefer to go beyond that. Technically, the steak, potatoes and spinach salad, along with the chocolate pie for dessert, that you ate last week is a major, major luxury.


Do you see where I'm going here?


Anything that goes beyond what we truly need to sustain life can be defined as a luxury.


You need a car to get to work; fine. It doesn't have to be a Cadillac, but if it makes you happy when it is, and if you can afford it, why not?


You need a phone to do your job; it doesn't have to be cute and small and smarter than you are, but if it makes you happy when it is, and you can afford it, why not?


You need clothes because you don't live in a nudist colony; they don't have to be form fitting and flattering, but if it makes you happy when it is, and you can afford it, why not?


You want something on your wall that makes you smile and feel happy every time you look at it. That's a painting. You don't eat it, wear it, or live inside it, so it's technically a luxury, but if it makes you happy and you can afford it, why not?

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Steve Henderson the Baseball Player and Steve Henderson the Artist

I had no idea there was a Steve Henderson the baseball player until after we launched our art website years ago and I Googled the Norwegian Artist's name, Steve Henderson. Naturally, since we had been online for, oh, say a week or two by that time, the baseball player came up first.


"Who is this man?" I thought. "Does he paint, too?"

Men, rocks, and rivers -- an intriguing combination. Where the River Bends, available as an original and limited edition print, by Steve Henderson, the artist.

As time went by and the Norwegian Artist participated in shows and joined societies and sold paintings and was represented by galleries and showed up in articles, the artist Steve Henderson, the real one from my perspective, began to clamber his way up the search engine pages, and I hadn't given a thought to the baseball guy until we, the Norwegian and I, were walking by a river and the Norwegian picked up a rock and threw it across to the other side (do all men do this? what is it about rocks that impels the average man to pick them up and throw them?)


"I should have been a baseball player," he said with a grin.


"Actually, you sort of are," I replied.


Perhaps the other Steve Henderson, the baseball one, found himself on top of a ladder one day, swathing the living room wall with broad brushstrokes when he turned to his wife (is he married? I don't know), and said,


"I should have been a painter."


"You aren't," she would have replied. "There is only one Steve Henderson, the painter, the Norwegian Artist."

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What is the difference between an Original and a Print?

The obvious answer to this question is that an original painting is one of a kind, and when you purchase an original, you purchase the only one in existence.

A print, which can be done on all sorts of papers, using all types of inks and employing different kinds of printers, is a multiple of an original, and when you buy a print, you are buying one of many – an unlimited many, in the case of what is called an unlimited run; or a specific one of many, as in a limited edition run of 50 prints, which means that only 50 prints of a particular painting, in a particular size and on a particular paper or canvas, are created before the artist removes the printed work – again in a particular size on a particular subsurface – from circulation.

Many people like knowing that they own the only one of a particular painting, and they are willing to pay the price to the artist for this privilege. Other people, however, wish to collect fine art on their walls, but they do not have the budget to pay for an original. For these collectors, a print is an affordable way to enjoy the unique work of a particular artist.

Because the artist does not need to invest hours and hours of painting time into creating each print, he is able to offer the item at a lower price, while at the same time providing the collector with access to his, the artist’s work.

At Steve Henderson Fine Art, we sell original oil and watercolor paintings, limited edition prints on archival paper and stretched canvas, and miniatures and studies, so that we can provide our collectors with a variety of sizes and price ranges from which to choose. Within this spectrum of variety, what remains consistent is the quality of the work – both its artistic excellence as well as the superiority of the materials on which it is painted or reproduced.

Next week: What does "Archival Quality" mean and why is this important?

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Where is that Muse Person?

We know some artists who rarely paint because, deep down, they are afraid that they will run out of ideas. So they find any reason, any reason at all, to do anything but paint -- clean the garage, renovate the upstairs bathroom, shampoo the dog.


"I am waiting for the Muse to inspire me," they say.



One wonders perhaps if the Muse is getting bored for lack of anything to do. Oddly enough, the more we do something, the less we have to think about what we'll do next; it is when we are in the midst of working on a series of projects that more ideas come to our mind, not when we're cleaning out the garage (think of it -- as you're stacking and labeling the boxes, isn't your next thought along the lines of, "Better get the lawn mower winterized, and after that, the kitchen faucet's been dripping," as opposed to, "Boxes . . . that angular shape reminds me of granite rocks tumbling over the surface of a hillside. I must paint!")


Some of those who do manage to get out of the garage and paint find themselves dabbing at the same work for weeks at a time, in ten-minute increments now and then -- Dab dab. Dab. Dab dab dab. The blues mix with the greens and bleed into the reds until everything looks brown.


When the Norwegian Artist was in college, professors and fellow students alike put down the concept of "prostituting themselves" as artists by working at a 40-hour-a-week job as an illustrator or a graphic artist -- "This isn't pure art," they asserted -- and yet Steve has found that his 20 years in the business world, as both a professional illustrator and a graphic artist -- have trained him to be a better fine artist:


"Art directors don't want to hear that the assignment isn't ready because the Muse wasn't with me," he said. Day after day, year after year, he trained himself to work on good days and bad,  putting forth top effort into every piece, until his default became not waiting for the Muse, but starting the project without her.

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New Year's Resolutions That We Can Keep


I'm not big into New Year's Resolutions.


I know, lots of people say that, but I actually mean it. I don't deliberately make promises -- to myself or others -- that I can't keep.


That being said, there's no reason why we can't pursue improving ourselves -- all through the year -- and if an arbitrary date spurs us into trying to make  positive changes in our lives, then Happy New Year, everyone.


The key thing about successfully making changes, however, is reality, something distinctly missing from our brains after four weeks of too much chocolate, alcohol, drearily depressing office parties and too little exercise, sleep, and time with a good book. Too often, when we set our goals, we set up unrealistic ones -- not because they're too big, but because achieving them is beyond our control.


Like this favorite:


"I'm going to lose ten pounds."




By eating better? By exercising more? Even if you succeed at this, you may or may not lose ten pounds, because what you drop in fat you may gain in muscle. Ultimately, you cannot control whether you lose those ten pounds, but you can control what you do in your plan to get there: you can eat better. You can exercise more. And by doing so, you may lose ten pounds.


So let's put this into the life of the artist, (who may, or may not, incidentally, want to lose ten pounds):


"I'm going to improve my sales this year!"




By advertising more? By participating in more shows? By attending every artist's reception in a 35-mile radius and hobnobbing with the gallery staff (easy on the truffles and cookies, by the way, or you may gain ten pounds)?


These latter three are actions that you can control, and they may or may not result in increased sales, which you ultimately can't control.


I think our fascination with New Year's resolutions arises from a sense of discontent with where we are, and the perception (accurate sometimes, inaccurate others) that our dissatisfaction with our lot stems from some lack, some failure on our part. So, at the end of an old year and the beginning of a next, we list out all the things we want to change so that, by this time next year, we'll be stronger, better, faster, richer.


But improving ourselves is a lifelong process, and the ultimate gain in who we are is the result of deepseated changes at the core of our being: it's not that we're thinner, or more popular, or wealthier, or the possessor of two thousand Facebook followers, it's that we're kinder and more patient, smiling more and frowning less, thanking the person who bags our groceries, offering the benefit of the doubt to the idiot who just cut us off in traffic, listening to a child's loooooooooonnnnnnnng convoluted story of last night's dream when we really want to check our e-mail.


Those slow, deepseated changes -- which arise through little decisions we make as we move through the day -- through time transform us into different, better people who approach our art each day in a different, better way.


The changes may or may not result in better sales and a slimmer physique, but better sales and a slimmer physique, regardless of what we think, do not make us happier people. Being better people, deeper, more genuine people who are solid to the core, is a solid step toward finding what we're looking for.


Happy New Year, Everyone!

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The Art -- Not the Artist -- in All of Us


It is popular to say -- so that no one feels bad -- "We are all artists!"


But we're not, really, any more than that we are all physicists, or all machinists, or all five star chefs. Art, like any profession, requires discipline, study, aptitude, perseverence, and work, and I've delved into this more deeply in We Are Not All Artists, (Epoch Times, June 13, 2011).


But not to despair -- while there may not be an artist within each of us, there is art, and each one of us is an individual, created work of beauty that may or may not look attractive to the world outside. It all depends, really, with what we do with the inside of ourselves.


When an artist paints or sculpts a subject, he spends time looking at the subject, studying it, with the goal of translating the essence of that subject to the canvas or the clay. The more successfully the artist 1) figures out the subject and 2) tranlslates it to artistic form, the more successful the finished piece.


Ironically, the more an artist concentrates on a "message" or "statement," the less pleasing the finished project, because too much of the artist and his opinions and beliefs and prejudices, as opposed to the essence of what he is painting or sculpting, comes through. In another twist of irony, when the artist successfully focuses on the subject, the artist, in his own essence, successfully emerges as well. His message makes it, almost in spite of himself.


So it is with the art inside of us. When we focus on others -- the people in our lives, both good and bad, with their problems and dreams and joys and sorrow -- we create brushstrokes and color in our own souls that make us into better people, happier people, more content, at peace, and stable.


And yet, when we pursue happiness as our primary goal, we are like the artist who propounds his message, his thoughts, his opinions and shoves them into the painting or sculpture -- the more we actively seek to be happy, the less so that we are. The more we seek the happiness of others, the more we find it in ourselves.


In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the main character, Alice, finds that, in order to get where she really wants to go, she has to head in the opposite direction, because when she beelines toward her objective, she constantly finds herself back where she started.


We live in a Looking Glass world, a beautiful place with terrible imperfections, a reflection of a better place not marred by those imperfections. Like Alice, in order to get where we want to go, we must sometimes do the opposite of what makes sense, because much of what makes sense to us is based upon on desire to take care of ourselves, our needs, our wants, our desires.


These can be met, but only if, like the artist, we focus outside ourselves and on the subjects in our lives.

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Is It Possible to Quit My Job and Paint Full Time?

Chimu by Steve Henderson

Good Question, and one that many artists have, since very few -- especially in this economy -- are able to keep Nutella and spinach dip in the cupboard on art sales alone.


The first thing to do is to stop comparing with other artists -- lamenting that they are "making it" fulltime and you are not.


Remember that you do not always know the full story. They may have a spouse that works in something with a steady paycheck, and indeed, this is frequently the case. They may be retired. They may have a part-time job, related to art, on the side, that they pursue.


Dont' ask; they probably won't tell.


If you work elsewhere for a living, you do not have to wait until you are retired with a pension (I've heard of pensions; my 90-some year old parents had one) before you can pursue your dream of becoming a fulltime artist.


And remember also that you do not have to paint or sculpt full time before you can call yourself an artist.


Look at your week; prioritize; be brutal about the things you're doing now that you really don't want to do and have the option about dropping: committee meetings, volunteer labor at church, children's sports events (seriously, you don't have to attend EVERY one), Facebook playtime, indifferent television watching --


Yes, you're tired at the end of the day, and you feel like a pumpkin, but is there any time at all -- say a half hour -- that you can spend just doodling on the sofa and playing with ideas? Getting started is the hardest part; once you are moving, even slowly, even a few steps a night, momentum takes over and makes the next installment easier. Things always move slower than what we want, but as mothers universally say, any progress is better than no progress at all.


You may, or may not, be able to quit your job and paint or sculpt fulltime, but it's guaranteed that you won't if you don't do your art, in the beginning, at least part time. Life moves forward, step by step, in stages.

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Grammar Despair: What Is the Difference between There, Their, and They’re?



Yes, all three words sound the same, and that’s frustrating, but meat and meet are homonyms as well, and most of us don’t worry about meating friends for meetloaf. With a little practice, you’ll find yourself sailing – not sale-ing – through the confusion of There, Their and They’re.


Let’s start with the easiest one first: They’re. This is an abbreviation for They Are, and the apostrophe is placed to tell us that we eliminated a letter or two (in this case, the A of Are).


So the ONLY time you will use They’re is when you are effectively saying They Are:


They’re (They are) going to the store.


I wonder when they’re (they are) arriving?


Now let’s look at Their:


Their is a possessive pronoun along the lines of My, Your, His, Her, or Our; it is used in front of a noun – a person, place, or thing – to tell us that the object in question belongs to a particular set of people:


Where is their house?


The easiest way to figure out whether or not you should be using Their in the sentence is to replace it with His or Her and see if it still makes sense:


Where is their (his/her) house?


What is their (his/her) opinion on the matter?


With this in mind, look at these misuses of Their and see how replacing His or Her makes the error more obvious:


Their (His/Her) are six cats in the kitchen. (There are six cats in the kitchen.)


The book is on the table over their (his/her). (The book is on the table over there.)


Their (His/Her) going to be late for dinner. (They’re – They are – going to be late for dinner.)


Their and They’re have pretty specific, limited uses, so basically, everything else uses the word There.


You don’t need to worry that There is sometimes a demonstrative adverb, signifying place (He’s over there), other times a controversially defined pronoun (There are a lot of problems with this paper), other times something else.


There wears a lot of hats, which is why people misuse it so much.


If you speak Spanish, you are no doubt familiar with the term Hay, as in Hay seis gatos en la cocina), or in French, Il y a – (Il y a six chats dans la cuisine) – both terms translate into There is or There are in English – There are six cats in the kitchen.


Also, if you can answer the question Where? You’re probably looking at the word there:


I see him over where?


I see him over there.


Put the book where?


Put the book there.


Want to practice?


1)      There/Their/They’re going to be late if they don’t get here soon.


2)      I don’t understand there/their/they’re negative attitude.


3)      There/Their/They’re are too many cats in this kitchen.


4)      Will you be There/Their/They’re by 3 p.m.?


5)      There/Their/They’re books are on the coffee table.


6)      There/Their/They’re always leaving there/their/they’re books over there/their/they’re on the bathroom floor.




1)      They’re (They are) going to be late if they don’t get here soon.


2)      I don’t understand their (his/her) negative attitude.


3)      There are too many cats in the kitchen. (Neither They are or His/Her makes sense)


4)      Will you be there (where?) by 3 p.m.?


5)      Their (His/Her) books are on the coffee table.


6)      They’re (They are) always leaving their (his/her) books over there (where?) on the bathroom floor.


Still have questions? Contact the Grammar Goddess directly through the Steve Henderson Fine Art website by hitting the hyperlink at the beginning of this sentence.






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The Punctuation Princess Says: Easy on the Exclamation Points! Please!


Cascadia by Steve Henderson


One of my favorite features of our daily newspaper, other than my own column, of course, is the Letters to the Editor page.


I have to hand it to the people at the Walla Walla Union Bulletin -- not only do they print a balanced array of opinionated writers, from Clarence Page to John Stossel -- they make a genuine point of printing each and every letter, and other than fxing obvius spllng mstakes, they keep the content pure and unadulterated.


With all respect to Misters Stossel and Page, I read the ordinary people first, and as a writer, I get especial enjoyment out of the variety of ways a variety of people have of saying a variety of things.


One itsy bitsy element stops me in my tracks, however, and this is the overuse of exclamation points.




These little ditties are like Tiramisu, the cloyingly rich Italian dessert composed of Savoiardi finger biscuits dipped in strong coffee, and encapsulated with Mascarpone cheese, spirits, sugar, cocoa, and double cream.


If it sounds like something that you shouldn't eat for dinner every night, you're right. Too much of a good thing.


A good thing!


In the same way, exclamation points are punctuation items meant to be brought out for that special occasion, when the selective choice of the right adjective, adverb, noun, or verb, just doesn't do the job.




Sometimes an inarticulate grunt or gasp or cry of anguish manages to express our feelings on the matter, but an entire composition of these utterances makes one wonder why the primeval Neanderthal bothered with the scratches on the cave walls in the first place.


Too often, people tack an exclamation point to the end of an insipid sentence, with the mistaken notion that it will somehow infuse hot scarlet overtones into a sepia-toned lithograph:


"This is so stupid!"


or, for even greater emphasis,


"This is soooooooo stupid!"


Aside from the obvious point that calling people or complex issues stupid does nothing to bring the other side into your court, this verbal laziness undermines the integrity of the writer, giving the reader the impression that this person is overly emotional, underly sensitive, and possessive of a working vocabulary of less than 500 words.


The better authors give examples:


"The other driver pulled into the opposing lane and rapidly accelerated to pass me -- in an elementary school zone, during the lunch period, and at the crossing intersection. It is amazing how quickly a stout, middle-aged former heavy weight boxer crossing guard can react."


or understate the issue for emphasis:


"I found the mayor's conduct unprofessional when he flung his Dixie cup of fruit juice at the opposing councilman, and question whether his explanation that he had tripped is a valid one, given that both men were sitting down at the time."


Decidedly, when a writer takes time to frame his phrases into strong constructions -- using words more complex than "nice," "dumb," "cool, man,"  or "gross," then the letter on the whole is not only more interesting to read, it is highly likely that it actually says something, whether or not we agree with the writer's opinion.


So, take that little box of exclamation points and put it in the back of the cupboard, removing it only on special, special occasions -- which, incidentally, pretty much never occur on resumes, cover letters to prospective employees, business reports, or essays for a 101 English paper.


Invest in a physical thesaurus or use an online one, and play with different words in your writing (you might want to confirm the meanings in a dictionary as well -- you can call your fiancee "buxom", but she probably wouldn't appreciate "ample"), and if a particular sentence doesn't have the punch and panache you want without an exclamation point, it probably needs more thought as opposed to a line with a dot.


While you're here, we at Steve Henderson Fine Art invite you to join our free, monthly e-mail newsletter list, in which we summarize the events of the month, including Steve's recent works and Carolyn's recent articles.

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Grammar Despair: Do I Say "Him and Me" or "He and I"?

If you don’t know when to use him and me or he and I, don’t feel bad. This problem is so common that I literally wrote a book around it,Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?”


The answer is fairly straightforward, so let’s get started (by the way, when you're done reading, check out the artwork on the site -- with everything from originals to licensed prints, there is something for every wall and budget. The painting above is called, Ending the Day on a Good Note):


Let’s say you’re heading to the movies with Bob and you’re not sure how to phrase this: do you say, “Me and him went to the movies,” or “He and I went to the movies,” or “Him and I went to the movies,” or “He and me went to the movies”?


Start by temporarily dropping off the He or Him, and see what you have left.


Would you say, “I went to the movies,” or “Me went to the movies”?


You’re right: “I went to the movies.” Remember the “I.”


Now, leave the “I” for a minute and look at He/Him. Would you say,  “He went to the movies,” or “Him went to the movies”?


Yes: “He went to the movies.”


So, if both you and Bob go to the movies, you will say, “He and I went to the movies.”


(Yes, it is also correct to say, “I and he went to the movies,” but this sounds stilted and awkward. It is not wrong, however.)


Okay, let’s look at another sentence:


Do you say, “This gift basket is for her and me,” or “This gift basket is for she and I,” or “This gift basket is for she and me,” or “This gift basket is for her and I”?


We’ll use the same technique of temporarily getting rid of one of the two people and focusing on the other. Let’s concentrate on I/me:


Do you say, “This gift basket is for I,” or “This gift basket is for me”?


Yes, it’s for me.


And do I share this basket with her or she? In other words, is it, “This gift basket is for her” or “This gift basket is for she”?


Yes, “This gift basket is for her.”


Putting it all together, you'll then say, “This gift basket is for me and her,” or “This gift basket is for her and me,” the latter which sounds a bit smoother to my ears.


That’s it. There aren't many magical formulas out there, but this one is as close as it gets. Whenever you’re faced with two or more people in the sentence and you don’t know whether to use he/she/they/we/I or him/her/them/us/me, figure out what sounds right, one person at a time, then put the whole thing together at the end.


So where do you work -- a bank, university, government office, Fortune 500 Company? People from all these places regularly visit this particular blog, with the same question that sent you here. You're not alone. But you can leave the crowd -- now -- of people who need to write but really don't know how to, by buying and reading Grammar Despair. You can also borrow the book on Amazon Prime.


This won't be the last time you'll be writing something and need to sound intelligent and resourceful. Grammar Despair is inexpensive, easy to read, very informative, and will make you a better writer. And believe me, in today's digital world -- you need to be a good writer.


The links below will take you to the paperback Grammar Despair, $8.99 and the Kindle version, $5.99 at Amazon. (You can look through the table of contents and the first part of the book for free at the Amazon site.) There is also a link to my latest book, Live Happily on Less, digital version.


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