845-887-3156 debra@debracortese.com

still painting for Breakfast with the Artist at Foccacia, Coconut Grove Sat morning 10 am!

second stage of  painting (1 of 3 canvasses). still wonder what it will look like finished!

Annamaria Windisch-Hunt asked me about a month ago if I’d be interested in doing a Breakfast with The Artist exhibit at Foccacia in Coconut Grove, Florida. Being the eternal optimist of course I said yes, and so here I am, writing when I should be painting… but realize I have to let YOU know about this, otherwise I’ll be having breakfast alone!!!

This is one of three paintings I’m working on (as soon as I finish this post). The canvasses are already at what I call stage 2 of progress. Only 3 more to go so I will be finished by Friday afternoon in time to hang the show 😉

It’s a cozy, intimate space and Annamaria (curator for Foccacia and Windisch-Hunt Fine Art Gallery) suggested that abstracts are suited to this particular venue. I knew I had sketched an organic, nature shaped series just a ‘short’ while ago and they were hanging in my studio waiting for me to pick up a brush! Well, turned out a short time was just over 3 years ago! How the heck does that happen?!

I’ll be showing 3 of a series of 16 paintings. Had to wait until I’m actually in the flow of creating these to know what I’d call them. The first 3 feel representative of parallel dimensions, other planes of reality and imagination. Organic shapes – figures that I’ve doodled for as long as I can remember. For me, there is something elemental in these shapes. I can not stop drawing them. It’s a primal, unconscious expression, coming from beyond (perhaps another dimension?). They soothe my body, still my mind and I can feel the lightness of my soul when I’m painting them.

Join me for Breakfast with the Artist this Saturday, May 8th at 10 am at Focaccia Rustica,  3111 Grand Avenue  Coconut Grove, Florida and hopefully my paintings will extend this stress releasing energy to you as well!

Guest Post: Plants as Memory and Doorways to our past


by Carol Hoffman-Guzman, Founding Director of Arts At St Johns, Miami Beach, FL

Plants bring remembrances to me about my father and mother, my grandparents, special places I have lived and visited, and various adventures and projects. I like the smells and textures of plants. Some people like the sweet smell of flowers; I like the strange and musky smell of plant leaves. When I meet a new plant, I pick a leaf, rub it around with my fingertips, and then crush it and bring it to my nose to sniff. Some plants are waxy to the touch, others are fuzzy.

I remember the way the plants shine in the sunlight at different times of the day and the way that they look in different seasons — what happens when the heat is heavy or the rain intense. I have heard that the Impressionist painters were well aware of the color changes that occur in a landscape at dawn and twilight.

On my mother’s side of the family, plants and crops were an integral part of the family’s life, from the Ozarks, to homesteading in Colorado and New Mexico, to small urban gardens in Denver, Colorado. My Grandfather Homer and Grandmother Connie were born and married in the Ozarks, where they farmed (see marriage photo).

However, life in the Ozarks was tough and eventually they threw everything on a flatbed railroad car headed west to homestead on a farm in Yuma, Colorado.  Then they moved to Clayton, New Mexico, where they lived in a soddy or dugout (see photo below).  The family returned to Colorado in the mid-1920’s before the Clayton area was struck by the 1930’s dustbowl.

My grandparents took plants and gardening with them wherever they lived, even in urban Denver, where they retired. It was a comfort in an alien setting. Grandpa Homer transformed the back yard of their home into a huge garden. He had picked up the art of crop rotation and composting and applied it to his small garden.  Homer grew the best tasting tomatoes in the neighborhood, beautiful radishes, and a whole variety of squash included pickle squash. Homer had many “girlfriends” up and down the block because he would take surplus vegetables and hand them out to the women of the house.

I think that my mother Maree also found comfort in small gardening. Although my father Carl was a city boy from St. Louis, he soon learned how to plant gardens and raise chickens. We had chickens when I was a baby, and some of my clothes were made of chicken seed sacks. We had a huge garden outside of Chicago in a suburb called La Grange Park. It occupied the whole vacant lot next door. This is where I remember picking beans, peas, strawberries and the best tomatoes. We later had smaller gardens bordering our lawns in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (the school mascot in Wheat Ridge was the farmer).

I soon forgot about plants when I went to college at Cornell in upper-state New York and graduated in archaeology/anthropology. However, in graduate school at Columbia University in NYC, I began working with the department’s archeologist, and I studied the plant remains that he had brought back from a mountain cave site in Colombia, South America. This was an extremely early site, where corn was still being domesticated. The preserved cobs were not much bigger than the flowering seeds on stalks of grass. Also in the site were remains of squash that originated down in the lowlands in the Amazon basin. This squash indicated that there was communication and trade between the people in the highlands and lowlands.

Here my love of plants began – not plants for plants’ sake, but plants as key elements in human history and culture.

Skip forward to the highland meadows of Arroyo Seco, just north of Taos, New Mexico. Here came my next introduction to the importance of native plants, from the most unlikely source — a Japanese exchange student. For one of our innumerable neighborhood potluck dinners, our Japanese guest offered to make a stir-fry dish. As we tasted her delightful concoction, we asked where she had purchased such unique vegetables. “In the field,” she said. For us, the fields were full of weeds and grass, nothing more. She had made a meal of them.

Years later, I moved to Denver. Here I noticed that the local Vietnamese community would flock to roadsides and our local parks — again to collect the succulent greens that the average gardener would cut or poison.

In Taos and Denver, I had begun doing fiber art — woven, crocheted, patchwork, and stitched pieces of 3-dimentional pieces of art. The “in” thing at the time was to dye your own wool or yarn. Most of the dyes were chemical, purchased from afar; some were highly toxic. So instead I started to see if I could replicate what the indigenous had done in many parts of the world – dye with local plants. I would go into the vacant lots near my house in Lakewood, Colorado (not far from the infamous Columbine High School) and experiment with weeds – the colors were wonderfully rich in greens, yellows, and browns.

Today I look at the importance of plants in human history — the intersection of plants and people.  Instead of saying, “we must preserve and save our natural environment, for the sake of nature,” I instead say “saving our plant environment will help save ourselves.”

My husband and I have a small log house on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee, where I am growing whatever will grow – usually the native plants win out. Here is a great photo of me in my garden.

  But here is a better one if you have never met me. I am making some Hot Green Papaya Salsa, from papayas that I rescued after one of the many hurricanes that touched our other home in Miami in the last several years.

 Carol Hoffman-Guzman

NOTE: We would love to read YOUR plant story and welcome your comments as well as images. Please post in the comments section and if you have an image to share, either post a link to it or send it to commonroots@plant-spirits.com 

You will be notified when the post is approved.


Balance Your Life, Sell Your Art

part review and part personal commentary


More often than not, I get overwhelmed with the choices of how to make a living from my art. I read and research every day (perhaps too much?). There are so many options. Every week, a new exclusive marketing opportunity is presented (usually way beyond my budget). I’m already feeling guilty for not blogging enough, not getting my monthly newsletter out on time, not building my mailing lists fast enough. ARGHHHH… makes me want to just hide in my studio or, as my teenager refers to it, “Are you still in your cave, Mom?) 


For the past week and a half I’ve been participating in a smARTist telesummit along with over 200 fellow artists from all over the world. In this program, more than a dozen highly qualified speakers present practical and realistic marketing strategies for artists of all mediums. This is done via live, phone line conference sessions. 


This afternoon was the final live session and I am somewhat relieved that the class has ended only because, as I stated in the first  sentence, I’m overwhelmed with ideas and fully realize that NOW, I am responsible for choosing and implementing the marketing tools that best fit my art business goals. It’s time to sort out the choices, clarify my goals and create a realistic business plan. This means a plan that outlines and addresses specific actions to get where I intend to be with my career in 6 months, a year, 5 years and beyond. I HAVE done this before. Have journaled, visualized, written business plans (but really only outlines), set goals (but not specifics and not backed with actions) and certainly invested thousands of hours and dollars in promoting and fine tuning my work. None of which I can measure or justify in terms of return on investment because I didn’t have written specific and measurable goals.


I’m not a novice when it comes to business. I ran my own design/advertising agency for over 22 years, employed several full time, part time and even more freelance people. That business took at least 5 years to show a profit, went through many incarnations and always provided a respectable income. But this business of earning a living from my art is different. This is much more personal. I’m too close, perhaps not objective enough to work this out alone. Isolation is necessary for my creative work, but I dearly miss and need regular contact with business minded associates. This experience with the smARTist telesummit has definitely clarified a need to network and, the importance of establishing measurable goals.


If, as an artist you don’t believe or understand that your work is also your business, this information may be irrevelant. However, for artists that are serious about earning a living from the work you love, I highly recommend this program for the depth of the information and the experience of the speakers. (Note: all of the live presentations were recorded for participants to download, and every speaker provided digital handouts which covered their topic and often additional information applicable to their area of expertise.) The cost of this program was under $300 for the basic level. 

Here is a list of the speakers and their topics:

Joan Stewart, The New Rules of Press Releases

Molly Gordon, 5 Money Dramas That Keep You Broke

Michael Woodward, The Changing Face of Licensing

Geoffrey Gorman, The Hidden Resource: How to Sell Your Art Through Art Consultants

Mark Silver, Create Strategic Alliances to Sell Your Art

Alyson B. Stanfield, How to Generate Buzz on a Shoestring Budget

Claudine Helmuth, Blogging Landed Me on National TV and Other Reasons Every Artist Needs a Website with a Blog

Jennifer Louden, 10,000 Way to Kiss Your Creativity into Life

Waverly Fitzgerald, Creative Rhythms: Are You in Sync?

Aletta deWal, From Part Time to Full Time, How to Make Your Art Support You…

Leonard DuBoff, Art Law: What Do Artists Really Need to Know

Michael B. Stanier, From Amateur to Professional

Eric Maisel, 12 Career-Building Habits Every Artist Needs To Know


I don’t know when the next program will be presented, but am sure you can contact smARTist founder, Arianne Goodwin for more information.



Organic Coffee Art great conversation starter…

Dryspill #1

I’m a serious, morning coffee type. Freshly ground (at home) Starbucks French Roast

with steamed milk and a touch of cinnamon..ahhh my favorite!

Without that first cup… I shudder to even consider the possibilities!


At some point, I started noticing the intriguing images created from the drips that remained when I’d finished

pouring the life-giving, rich, deep-brown morning elixir into my favorite cup. There, on my stovetop, between the circular patterns of the electric coils… (by the way, as soon as I can, I’ll install gas instead and my friends can laugh again when my daughter and I bbq hot dogs over the gas flames) …were graphic images, dried old coffee spills that looked like…

coffee creatures?!? Something to be photographed and, of course… turned into art!

Prints of old, spilled coffee. Sometimes several days of spills melded together because I knew it could be a better image

with just a little more… spill.


My teenage daughter just rolled her eyes – an all too frequent response to many of my creative projects.


Dryspells – usually implied for writers block.?

Certainly applicable to artist blocks or anytime you’re drained of creative ideas…


a dry spell? …a Dry Spill!


Here are three of the Dryspills:







and you can see all 9 at:  http://www.plant-spirits.com/dryspills.html


Go ahead, add your comments. Coffee and conversation is what this art is all about!

What do the dryspills look like to you? What’s your first thought?

Have fun with this. I’m hoping for some creative insight into my favorite caffeine addiction.

certainly coffee is one of the most popular  ‘Nature’s Energy’ drinks 😉