Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Cast Shadow, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24
I have never been a huge fan of Halloween. I liked dressing up when I was a kid but as I got older I felt a bit embarrassed to wear a costume. So mostly it's been a holiday that I basically didn't pay much attention to.
Until we lived in a real house in a real neighborhood in Milford, Connecticut. It was the first Halloween that Doug and I lived together and we realized that we would be getting trick or treaters. So I bought several bags of candy about a week before and we proceeded to eat all of the candy before Halloween. Clearly we had maturity issues. Instead of buying more candy for us to eat, we dug out some holographic glasses from our stash in the basement (Doug's company in Utah made them, so for some reason we had hundreds of them on hand) and we handed them out. We were told by the neighbors that the next day on the school bus all of the kids were wearing glasses with images of eyeballs, kittens, alien eyes and peace signs on the lenses. Doug and I felt very proud of this achievement!
The next year things changed. K., our nephew (he was 4) came to live with us and so we had to do a costume plus take him trick or treating. I put together a bad batman costume (I made that poor boy wear a leotard and tights) and Doug took him around the neighborhood. K. is developmentally handicapped and he has a few behavioral quirks one of which was walking right into people's homes and making himself at home. Every time they stopped at a house, Doug would chat with the neighbor for a minute and K. would slip away and disappear into the house, usually making a beeline for toys to play with. It took them hours to get around the block because Doug would have to retrieve K. from inside of each house.
We moved to Utah and started having babies. Soon there were many costume parties involving screaming toddlers in pumpkin costumes, cupcakes with licorice spiders on top and green punch with floating sour worms on dry ice, in addition to the trick or treating. When my second baby was born I decided to learn to sew in order to make cool costumes for the kids. Over the years I made many costumes including a lion, a witch, a princess, a bat, a ghost, a cowgirl, a angel, a cat and I probably made a dozen capes in various sizes and styles. Now that the kids are older, however, they desperately want store bought costumes. I have relented because I don't have as much time to sew anymore. But today I am feeling a bit nostalgic for the years when I would begin planning their costumes in early September. Tonight we will have a trojan warrior (though we haven't decided if K. who is now 17 should be trick or treating or not), a psycho clown/flame thrower in a skeleton suit (I take no responsibility for THAT one), a devil and batgirl. It was a good decision to move to a house in the country so we don't need to buy candy. Alas, Doug and I are still a bit immature: despite our efforts at keeping away from sugar, tomorrow we will be alone with the kid's candy all day and we will have to make sure it's safe for them to eat. heh.
This is a photo of the kids on Halloween 2001. I made the girl's costumes, as well as the magician's cape.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Pink Fog, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24
Literally, the day after I finished the 48"x60" and 36"x48" panels, I began work on eight 6"x6" paintings. The whole time I was doing the underpaintings for them I was shaking my head trying to clear the visions of huge imagery. It felt a bit surreal, but the underpaintings look fine and hopefully I will have a bit more clarity when I work on them again.
I took my work down to the gallery in Hudson on Sunday. Everything went smoothly, although I realized on the drive home that my night vision is really not what it used to be. Guess I need to visit the eye doctor again. Anyway, my studio looks almost barren now. It's a strange feeling to walk though it without bumping into anything, except for the pet hair/dust bunnies which have become large and very saucy, landing right in the middle of the room instead of hiding in the corners like they usually do.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Strong Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12
A few new (to me anyway, some have been around for awhile) blogs have captured my attention lately. Supposedly I have been so busy for the last few months that everything besides painting and a few kid related activities fell by the wayside, but the truth is that I did manage to keep up with blog reading and I continued to find blogs that interested me.
A few were blogs that I had seen previously and hadn't taken to for whatever reason. Art and Perception is one that I had bookmarked months ago but I didn't really visit it very often. All of a sudden though, the topics and conversations there intrigued me and I have been enjoying reading it daily. Karl has kindly invited me to write an entry and now that my schedule is easing up a bit I may do that. Well, if I can think of a good topic-they cover a lot of territory over there!
Neil Hollingsworth is another artist whose blog I had occasionally looked at, and now I am checking it daily to see his new work. I really wanted to buy this painting, but the price went up and beyond my current art buying budget, good for him! Normally, I don't collect work that is so realistic, but Neil's work has really grabbed me and I do hope to be able to buy one of his pieces at some point. I did, however, recently buy a painting by another daily painter, Peter Yesis. I saw this on his blog one day and knew it was for me. I love the color, the graphic quality and just the whole feel of the scene. I tracked it on ebay, won the auction and Peter shipped it to me along with a very nice thank you note. I am very happy to have it in my collection of art. Peter does a great job of showing his painting process on his blog also, which I find fascinating.
June Parrish Cookson recently began a blog and has become active in reading and commenting here and on other blogs so many of you may be familiar with her already. I think her work is very interesting and evocative and there is also a distinctive regionalist feel about them which is something that I really connect with. I like her paintings of houses and this one especially gets me. She also writes very eloquently about her art and her life.
This is another daily painter whose blog I just found and I love her work and her attitude. Karin Jurick does these wonderful paintings of everything; people, street scenes, still life, landscapes. She is very skilled and her paintings have a wonderful intimacy about them. Something I aspire to. I love her sense of color as well and Karin also seems to be incredibly productive, showing hundreds of images on her blog and website. This painting is my favorite, and I can totally relate to her story about it being too fussy and wiping off a sign and other details.
Feel free to post links to art-related blogs that have been inspiring you lately!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Long View with Red Trees, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x24
And so all of a sudden I am finished. I felt frantic and busy all day on Wednesday as I rushed around trying to finish up the two large paintings as well as several 18x24's. At the end of the day I looked at my list and realized that I have plenty of paintings for the show, in fact I am probably going to deliver too many for the space where my work will be displayed. But I much prefer to take too many rather than not enough. Carrie will do some editing if necessary.
I do still have to put the final clear coat on the pieces that I finished up yesterday, as well as do the paperwork, paint the cradles and put on the hangers and labels. However, I have three whole days for that, minus a few hours for a soccer game and a trip to Home Depot and the stupid Walmart to finish shopping for my son's costume. Everything has been photographed, although the large panels will need to be done again at the gallery, I think. I will post those next week, after I get a better shot of them.
Doug and I are driving down on Sunday to deliver the pieces. I need his help with the 48x60, not to mention his big, gas guzzling SUV, which I don't like to drive (I have a tendency to run over curbs and that sort of thing when I drive it, it's so big). Sometimes it does come in handy though, like for transporting ridiculously big paintings. I was hoping to take next week off, in fact I have been clinging to that hope, however I do have to keep painting, at least a little bit. I have to do several pieces for a small works show at Gallery 100 in Saratoga Springs as well as some things for a local holiday show. But I will be able to work at a leisurely pace and will be able to get back to real life chores that have been neglected for the last several months.
I can't believe it's over. Post-show meltdown, here I come! I may have to order myself a big box of Godiva chocolates to get through it properly though. heh.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The Geometry of Two Barns, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16
Not much to report today. I didn't work on the large panels Tuesday as they weren't quite dry from the previous day's layer. I spent most of the afternoon putting the color down on a few more pieces, some of which may go in this show as they turned out nicely.
Naturally, because I am getting close to the frantic stage of trying to get everything done by this weekend, this also happened to be the week that our friend and contractor, Steve, sent his crew to fix our ailing front porch. We knew the roof was bad because parts of it were usually on the ground after a good rainstorm, but also the ceiling was sagging downwards, the front corner was listing to the left and just for fun I thought it would be really nice to have a few lights out there, not to mention an electrical outlet. They were also going to replace the support posts underneath the floor while keeping the existing floor structure and posts intact. However, when they removed the siding and looked at the structure underneath, they discovered that what I had thought was simply piles of bricks, wood scraps and cinderblocks left by the somewhat eccentric old farmer who used to own the house, was in fact what was supporting the entire porch. Great. Then we realized that the existing turned wood posts (you can see one of them on the lawn in the photo below) look really stupid on our classic two hundred year old farmhouse. So everything except the frame of the roof has been removed and we will get a shiny (and plumb) new porch with lighting! and a bill next week that is nearly twice as much as we had expected.
Can't wait until we get that exterior painted next spring. Who knows what they'll find when they scrape the paint off and how much that will cost us....
Things went pretty smoothly yesterday, I'd say. I spent awhile deciding on colors and then it took me some time to get used to using different materials like the larger brushes, and to having things set up differently. I am not quite sure when I became such a creature of habit, but it was nice to mix things up a bit, even if it was a bit unsettling. And I still can't get over how much paint, medium and cotton cloths I went through! I am usually so thrifty with my supplies and am accustomed to using very minimal amounts of paint so it was kind of shocking to use a half tube here, a half tube there and a large portion of my last bottle of medium just to cover the panel! Doug will be visiting Pearl Paints when he is in the city this week for an emergency container of Liquin.
The lighting issue turned out to be a non-issue. I put a clamp light at the top of the easel and Doug set a light stand up high so I ended up with about the same kind and amount of light that I normally have.
I struggled with the color of the foreground on the first piece that I worked on, the barn on the 48x60 panel (left, in above photo). I must have painted that foreground five different colors before I finally settled on a bluish green color, which was quite similar to the color I had applied in the first place. hmmm. Well, sometimes you have to go in circles, I guess. I am not completely satisfied with the color so I will be trying another glaze on it. Also, I feel like the image is a bit stiff at this point and so I need to try and loosen it up a bit. But it is close to working, I think.
The second piece just painted itself (pictured below) and honestly I felt like crying afterwards, I was so relieved. There are still a few minor things to be done, like lightening the foreground a bit, but it is essentially finished. In this one I didn't add color to the trees, instead leaving them the color of the underpainting. I feel as if the painting would really be dragged down if I were to add color to the trees, by not doing that the piece is lighter and more energetic.
I will have to work on them on Wednesday however, because I applied some of the paint rather thickly and I also worked into the evening on Monday so the paint isn't completely dry today. I will spend today working on several more paintings that may included in this show if they turn out. Um, before Saturday.
In talking with Doug at the end of the day on Monday, I realized that the move to working at a larger scale went fairly smoothly despite my initial trepidation. No new problems appeared really, the things I struggled with here are the same things I usually have difficulty with in my work which are color harmony, spatial issues and edges.
We also figured out that if I were to sell twenty 48x60 paintings, I'd have about enough money to build a new studio. No problem, right?! ha
Monday, October 23, 2006
Light on Orange Barn, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20
Well, today is the big day. The big panels have gotten their red glaze and today I will be applying the next layer of color. Thanks again to Steven LaRose who suggested I try a Purdy house painting brush. I did and it was great for the glaze, it did leave some brush strokes but with a bit of finesse I was able to get rid of those and get the smooth look that I prefer. I have several of those brushes now in different sizes, plus my very expensive sable brush so I am feeling pretty good about the brush situation. I am a bit concerned about having enough light to work under though. So far I have been doing layers that I don't necessarily need good lighting for. But when I do the full color the light is pretty important. I do not have very good natural light in my studio and setting up my work lights over such large panels will be tricky. If I am freaking out tomorrow, you'll know that the lighting is what did me in.
So wish me luck, no wait, don't do that it, it could jinx me. Positive thoughts would be ok but we all know that has the power to create a jinx too if you're not careful. Maybe just come back tomorrow to see what happened. That would be good.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Yellow Strip, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16
I am just plugging away, trying to get enough work finished by the end of next week which is when I have to deliver the paintings. The underpaintings are taking their time drying although there has been some progress. As long as they are dry by Monday, I won't be panicking. Well, no more than I already am anyway.
I am going through that thing right now where I am totally second guessing the quality of the paintings that I am putting together for this show. I go through this almost every time that I prepare for a show and I understand it, but still it is a bit unnerving. I was right in the worst of it when I sent out about five jpegs to the gallery. I would not have been surprised to get a call canceling me out of the show that's how badly I felt about my work that day. But Carrie emailed me and said she loved the new paintings and was really looking forward to the show. That was a much needed confidence boost and it came at a really good time, right when I need to find another burst of energy to finish up this next batch of paintings.
Sometimes timing is everything.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Shadow on Road, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16
I enjoyed doing the underpaintings on the large panels. Physically it was more of a challenge- there was much rearranging, raising and lowering the easel, moving lights, etc. For the 48x60 panel, I had to stand on a stool to do the top section and on both of them I had to stand back from the piece often to see what I had done. I probably circled my studio a hundred times yesterday. Technically, just applying and then removing paint on such a large surface made my arm hurt. I tried to use my left hand for the busy work of applying paint, but still my right hand (I am right handed) had to do most of the work and my shoulder is sore today. Of course some of that is left over from preparing the panels and well as from moving the panel from room to room and from when I got trapped between a desk and a table and had to stand in an awkward position while trying not to drop the big panel until Doug could save me. Anyway, I was pleased to find that the end results looked good and that they both have a nice feel. Keeping the images very simple helped with this. As I get more comfortable working at this scale, I will do images with a bit more detail, like signs and that sort of thing. I did have to suppress my urge to "noodle" here, it seemed as if it were a good time to get good clean lines, when in fact I prefer kind of messy, soft lines. So I had to be a bit careful there. All in all, a very good experience and I feel confident about the underpaintings, at least. Generally, when I mess up a painting it's during the glazes.
Because of the size, I figured I needed to use paint with a longer "workability" time. Last spring I began having problems with the paint in the underpaintings not drying, which I discussed here. I switched to a different brand of paint which I have been using all summer and has worked out nicely. The underpaintings dry in a day or two and while that has been fabulous, the paint sets up more quickly and I have to work fast to finish the image. So for these panels I used the original paint and it will be at least three days before they dry. While they are drying, I will stay very busy finishing up the other paintings for the show, and I plan to start one more batch of paintings tomorrow, "just in case." Better to have too many than not enough and if the large panels don't work out (always a possibility that I must consider) I will be needing extra work to fill up those large walls.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I tried to post on Tuesday but our satellite was down for most of the day because of weather, rain, not snow yet, thankfully. So I spent the day working on the underpaintings on the big panels. I had gessoed the panels on Monday, sanded them and so they were all ready to go.
I thought I'd describe how I do the underpaintings in a bit more detail. The first thing I do is to rub paint all over the panel. I used a whole tube of paint on each of these panels! Too bad most of it gets rubbed off. Cotton cloths work well here, no paint brushes for me at this stage, I could if I wanted to but I prefer the effect I get from using a cloth.
Then I start to form the image by pulling out the light areas and leaving the darks. My focus here is to get the drawing right, the forms and the lights and darks established. I also try not to think and plan too much as I tend to overwork if I do that. This is where listening to music or talk radio comes in really handy. However, I do have to think a bit about whether I will use a light or a dark color in a specific area. If I leave an area dark in the underpainting, then I am limited as to which colors I can use in order to keep the washy, layered look that I prefer later on. But that is about the most thought I put into the painting at this point. The rest is mostly instinctive-and pretty much the only question I ask myself is whether or not it "looks right".
There is another aspect that I have to balance here though. I would prefer to leave the underpaintings very dark and moody and expressive, but if I do that it is technically really difficult to layer the colors over it later. It becomes too dark or has a "pastey" look to it that I don't like. So I have learned to keep the underpaintings lighter and simpler. I can always add things in later (often I leave windows or doors out in the underpainting) if I want, though I don't do that too often. And if I am not sure about the colors that I will use (normally I have no idea what colors I will use at this point, I decide that later, uh, pretty much at the very moment that I begin to paint) I will make the area really light so I will have more flexibility later on when I choose colors.
This is the large panel about halfway finished. You can see the other large panel on the left:
And a closeup (sorry about the glare on these) :
I am not sure what color the foreground will be so I decide to pull all of the paint off in case I decide that it must be yellow. I also make some adjustments to the barn and shadows. At first the barn was short and squat, which I liked but I didn't really like how it worked with the rest of the composition, so I changed it to a more traditional proportion. Sometimes giving up a part, no matter how much you like it, helps the whole. Remembering that has helped me out of quite a few jams.
And here it is finished.
I consider the underpaintings to be sketches, but really they are an integral part of what you see in the painting. They do much of the work of the image, they are the bones. And I love doing the underpaintings. I love to get my hands in the paint, though now I use gloves instead of bare hands, and I love to create the volume and mood. At first I just wanted to make these, and while they seemed finished to me no one else thought they were, and I began to use color. And then they really started to sing. But while I love the color too, the process of making the underpainting is what really gets me. Often, as I discussed here, I use a different color and leave them as is.
So go ahead and try working like this sometime. It's a good change of pace and can give you a new way to look at things. I prefer the earthier colors now, but I have used many other colors in the past. Blues and greens are effective if you are painting the figure, the flesh colors look amazing over blue, and for a few years after college I did a number of paintings in black, using turpentine to really get the light areas. I have worked with and without brushes and with and without turpentine. It takes some experimenting to get comfortable as it is quite different than working all prima. I have been working with the underpaintings and glazes so long now I am a bit flummoxed when it comes to alla prima anymore!
And this is going to sound really corny, but this whole process really fulfills the various needs that I have as a painter. I get to be really spontaneous, but then I have to show some restraint and patience by working just a little bit each day in order to complete the piece. There is a constant push and pull between those two elements, hurry up and wait. I really dig that. Or that digs me. Either way.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Paintings in Progress.
Ok, I decided to go ahead and track my progress on these large panels on the blog, since doing that was quite helpful with the barn project last month. So here we go again.
Every time I start a new project, there ends up being some kind of chain reaction in the studio. On Saturday, I did nine more under paintings, here are a few:
and since I hadn't done the final coat on the finished paintings, I had to move a few things around in order to fit the new pieces onto the picture rails. So I had to move the large panel into the adjoining room, which is where Doug works and where my office area is, in order to stack underpaintings on the easel so they could dry. I decided to prepare the large panels in the office area, so I brought in a big table plus a card table to work on so I could two panels prepared. I was worried about the cats jumping up on them, as they seem to feel as if they own every surface in the house but they never did jump up on these. Perhaps they sensed that they would be throttled if they were to land on my wet paint this time.
I am planning to paint one of the 48"x60" panels, as well as the 36"x48" panel and so on Sunday I began to prepare those two panels. I applied two coats of wood primer to the back, and then turned them over and put two coats on the front surface, sanding between each coat. Today I will apply a coat of gesso, the brushy gesso layer that I like to paint on. A light sand, and then I will be ready to do the underpaintings. I know that many artists apply several layers of gesso in order to build up a really thick and smooth surface, but that's not the kind of surface that I am going after, so since the wood is primed well I am going with just one layer of gesso.
Also, on Sunday I coated a few of the finished pieces and today I will be able to move a few things around again and maybe get the large panel back onto the easel so that I can do the underpainting on it on Tuesday. I don't normally do studies for my paintings, preferring instead to work out the image, composition, light and shadows in the underpainting stage, but for the large paintings, I thought that maybe I should do an 8x10 just to have something to go on when I start those. Of course I don't have to be married to the study, I can make changes if I want to, but I like the studies that I did and will probably refer to them as I begin. Guess you could say we're engaged.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Why didn't anyone stop me from buying, not just one, but 2 FOUR FOOT BY FIVE FOOT PANELS???????? I know Doug has this whole supportive art spouse crap going on but really, when I am about to do something so insanely crazy, he should be stopping me.
In the section where my work will be displayed in the Carrie Haddad Gallery, there is one wall that is at the end of the long narrow space which is 80' wide-perfect for one large piece. So in a moment of complete and utter self-confidence, I ordered two 48"x60" wood panels, and then a 48"x48" and a 36"x48" panel just for good measure. Doug picked them up at Soho Artists Materials yesterday and they are just beautiful. It's a shame to muck them up with a bunch of paint. I unloaded them this morning and managed to get one of the 4'x5' panels into my studio and onto an easel but I have no idea where I will keep the others (they are leaning against the wall in the dining room where the cats are very carefully inspecting them right now). I don't know where I am going to prime them-I guess if we have a warm day this weekend, I can set up a spot in our uninsulated and terribly messy garage, full of bugs and critters who will either run through or get stuck in the gesso. Otherwise I may have to take over the dining room, which poses it's own risks, such as paw prints or damage inflicted by children.
Even if I do manage to get it prepared, I have no idea how in the heck I am going to paint that large. I have only one large brush, (yes, the one that cost $205.99), and I don't know how I am going to get a decent light source on a panel that size. The natural light in my studio sucks so that's no help. Good grief.
But I have to admit that despite the pressures of priming the panel, storage, time and material issues, I am totally looking forward to the challenge of doing a painting this size. Kind of a good stretch for me, you know? Well that, or we will end up with several lovely new tabletops.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Barn in Progress
So the field trip turned out to be quite interesting. No bus ride, instead we had a nice walk to (and from) the cemetery, which basically took care of my whole stupid exercise thing for the day. Once there we split up into groups and based on a list of questions from the teacher, who was extremely organized, the students recorded information from various headstones. We looked at families, a captain who fought in the revolution, a mother and her infant who died in childbirth, servants who were buried at the back of the cemetery and spent some time in the section where the town's founding family was buried, including the author James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans) and his extended family. The students had been studying graveyards and knew quite a bit about placement of the head and foot stones and how the graves where organized, so I learned quite a bit from them!
I had thought that the field trip would make me lose another day in the studio, as I have had all kinds of interruptions to my work schedule over the last week or so. I haven't minded too much, despite a growing sense of panic at how little time I have to finish up work for the show, because I have been feeling somewhat blocked and have been glad for any excuse to take a break. I managed to do about nine under paintings last Friday, but have felt less than excited about them and then along with the erratic schedule I just haven't been feeling it, you know? So I thought yesterday would be another lost day but I ended up being able to work all afternoon (I didn't have to pick up the kid's until about 5pm) and with a roast in the slow cooker and Doug out of town I had no distractions for five lovely hours. And so I managed to get my groove back and do some work that I am excited about.
Just in the nick of time too, because I only have two weeks until I have to deliver the work for the show in Hudson. Yikes....
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Ten Squares, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x36
No real post today. Within two days after I left a comment on Steve's blog that I avoid going on my kid's field trips "like the plague", my son came to me and asked if I would come along on a field trip with his favorite class, Language Arts. I tried to say no but he got me with the puppy dog eyes and since I am usually more of an embarrassment to him these days, I figured I better take advantage of these requests while I still get them.
So I am off to spend the morning at a cemetery (they are studying local history) with a gaggle of sixth graders.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I wanted to say a very public Happy Birthday to my dear, but now very old husband, Doug. The last few weeks have been filled with many jokes concerning hair, blindness and memory loss and the kids have been marveling at the fact that they have a father that is a half century old. Doug takes all of this teasing well, mostly because he is in pretty good shape. He actually has all of his hair, it's not gray yet and he is not on any prescription medications.
I am off to wrap a few gifts, make a home made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and to plan our little family party.
I am off to wrap a few gifts, make a home made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and to plan our little family party.
New Hampshire Barns, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16
Karl Zipser has recently written a number of posts, relating to whether art school is worthless or valuable, so that got me thinking a bit about my art school experience and its value to me.
I grew up in Rochester Minnesota. Most of the art there was wildlife art, something that I was NOT interested in. I don't think I ever visited a museum or a gallery until I went off to college. We had no art books, no paintings on the wall, no exposure to live performances, music or drama. The only art I recall seeing were illustrations in books, magazines and album covers. Despite not having any knowledge about any kind of art, I always felt that I wanted to be an artist. I was always the kid in school who was good at drawing and eventually everyone assumed I would be rich and famous someday as an artist. ha. Even a few friends wrote words to that effect in my yearbooks.
By high school though, I had other things going on. I had lived in several foster homes as a teen and finally after my junior year of high school I moved out on my own. This meant I had to have a job, or two even. One of my favorite jobs was working as a teacher's aide in a special needs classroom. I was good at working with handicapped children and I received a lot of encouragement to pursue that avenue. And I was tempted. A fairly decent steady salary and benefits sounded good to me at that point. But I felt this magnetic pull to go to art school, to work and live as an artist and so when I was accepted to the Minneapolis School of Art and Design, I went. I recall that while the people that knew me well, family and friends and my mom especially, were supportive of this, other adults were not. My guidance counselor suggested that I attend the local community college for a few years and then reevaluate my interests. That sounded like code to me: get the life and ambition sucked out of me, then settle for a job and spend the rest of my life regretting those decisions. Practical, yes and maybe the most he thought a kid with my background could hope for, but that suggestion really spurred me on to get to art school. So perhaps I should thank him.
Anyway, art school was so amazing. I met people that were so different from myself, people who were so strange, quirky and so creative. I had to struggle to keep up and found that just having a good eye wasn't enough. But I finally felt that for the first time I fit in somewhere, a little bit at least, even if it was with a bunch of other misfits. I learned about art history, religion, and creative writing. I learned to express myself, not to just express what I could see. I learned how to work with different mediums, and I especially enjoyed working with the figure, both in drawing and painting as well as 3-dimensionally. I was exposed to a different way of life and boy did I screw up a lot! But I always could see a sliver of a better life ahead so I kept going. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to major in illustration and after seriously considering the Art Center in Pasadena, CA I decided to transfer to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. There I really found my way, artistically at least (alas, I was still making poor personal decisions). I had much more exposure to seeing art at museums and galleries and my world really expanded. My technical skills improved further and there were many more art related opportunities for me in Philadelphia. I would have liked to have majored in painting all along but I was never very interested in the particular programs offered at that time. So I felt illustration was right for me, I could be expressive and painterly but still keep that realistic aspect of myself in the imagery.
I knew many kids who didn't last to the end off freshman year or for even a month for that matter. I had a roommate in Minneapolis who stopped attending classes after a few weeks, slept and listened to loud music for the rest of the semester then got pregnant and moved back home to Boston. And I also know adults who wish they had resisted advice to not attend art college and have spent their whole lives trying to get back to the art that is so important to their soul. Art school can be valuable or not, based on any number of reasons. For me though, having several years of being almost completely immersed in art was of incredible value to me and I have to say that attending art school is a decision that I have never once regretted.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Broadacres Farm, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24
On Wednesday's post about my efforts to find a gallery, James left the following comment:
I'm just wondering why you feel you 'need' gallery representation in the first place when this new age of showing and selling your art via the internet is already having a huge impact on artists lives around the world.
I'm so excited about collecting art from Europe, America and everywhere else! I have to say, I think I'm over the whole gallery thing.
I was recently in a well known gallery seriously considering buying a painting, when I realised I couldn't stand the whole gallery process. It was like dealing with a used car dealer! I could almost feel my Visa card crying out to buy direct from the artist - across the web!!! Needless to say I walked out thinking I should find out if the artist had a website...
Here's the thing, you only need a handful of devoted fans to 'make a living' and trust me, they're out there...
I am very happy that artists now have the ability to sell their own work through the internet. And I toyed with going in that direction when I began painting again. The reality though, is that it takes a lot of time and energy to handle your own marketing, sales, promotion, shipping, bookkeeping, and dealing with clients. I admire anyone who chooses to take that on in addition to creating the art as well. However, with a family that includes four kids I really felt that I had to streamline my efforts, which is why I don't make my own frames or panels, or handle sales. Except when close to a deadline, I work in the studio only during the time that my children are in school. When they are home I want to spend time with them, not to mention taking care of our house and doing other non art-related activities. There just didn't seem to be enough time in the day to do it all plus market my work too.
For some artists this is not an either/or situation, but I am totally uncomfortable with selling work while I have gallery representation. Most people who contact an artist directly are looking for a lower price than what is offered in a gallery. And there is no faster way to ruin a relationship with a gallery than to sell your work around them, at a lower price. I am very careful to send potential clients to galleries that represent me and by doing that I have a much better relationship with the gallery directors than I would otherwise.
Of course, this is simply how I feel comfortable handling my business. Please feel free to discuss how you sell your work and whether you sell in galleries or on your own and how you feel about either situation.
Thursday, October 5, 2006
Evening Light on White Barn, 2004, Oil on Panel, 6x6
(This is an image of some barns I saw that day and is one of the first pieces I did where the color really had that zing, more noticeable in real life of course.)
So you know that feeling when you see an email come in with a familiar name, maybe an old friend or lover, or in my case, a gallery that you'd really like to work with? That's the feeling I had when I saw an email from Carrie Haddad Gallery about two weeks after my visit to Hudson. It was a delicious feeling of surprise and delight and curiosity, mixed in with a bit of apprehension and I reveled in all of that for a few minutes before I opened it. The email was directly from Carrie and she thanked me for sending in my information and went on to ask if I could bring in some of my work so that she could view them in person. Could I? COULD I? Hello, I was ready to drive down that minute. But she asked that I call her to set up a day, so I managed to contain myself. We set up a time for the following week and I got busy putting a group of pieces together. During this torturous waiting period, Doug and I had endless conversations about which paintings I should take and in what order I should display them. We really took this seriously!
Doug and I drove down to the meeting together. He helped me carry the pieces in and then went off to get coffee while I talked to Carrie. After all of the discussions Doug and I had had about presentation, I ended up having to lean everything against the wall randomly (which I have since learned is typical) and we stood and talked a bit about the paintings. She was very enthusiastic about the work and raved about my use of color. I had given myself a stern talking to earlier about not babbling and I managed to keep myself fairly quiet, so she may have thought I was very mysterious. ha. And when she went over to her desk, looked at her schedule and asked me I could do a show the following July, I was actually speechless. Well, for a few minutes anyway, until I readily agreed to everything she said about having an upcoming show. Then I loaded up the car and went to look for Doug. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
I didn't have too much else going on that fall, just a few local holiday group shows at the local arts organizations. I kept painting everyday and as I said yesterday, I finally hit upon the color combinations that, I thought, really helped my work leap forward. Buoyed by my upcoming shot at success, heh, I started to send my info out, trying to line up more opportunities. In February or so, Carrie called me and said that she had had to rearrange the schedule a bit due to the illness of another artist. I was worried that I was getting dropped, but she simply wanted to swap shows, putting us (it was to be a three person show) in April instead of July. Phew.
The show was excellent. There was a really good crowd and it was the first opening where I felt relatively comfortable talking to everyone. Several pieces had already sold by the time the opening began and a few more sold that evening. I think about 14 paintings sold by the end of the show and I was pretty much over the moon about that. A local magazine reviewed the show and I received a good mention there and another arts paper featured one of my paintings on the cover. Also, right around the same time I was contacted by other galleries with offers of representation or invitations to participate in exhibitions. All of a sudden I was very busy and hectic and it's been pretty much that way since then.
Carrie eventually added me to their website and then scheduled me for another show this year, which is coming up rapidly. She has been a dream to work with and I feel very grateful to her as she really took a chance on me. I am also very pleased that she maybe doesn't remember my idiotic first contact as she seems to think I mailed in my info. I didn't remind her of my first visit, preferring to let her think I was actually professional, though my secret may be out now.
So that beautiful September day with the great light was a really good day, one I still think of often, marveling at the effect that that one day had on me, my work and this cool thing I have going on.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Barn in Early Morning, 2006, Oil on Panel, 30x30
After painting seriously for almost a year, I thought it was time that I try to get a show in a gallery. Sounds pretty naive in retrospect, (you know, to just go out and get a gallery, no problem!) but at the time it seemed like the thing to do. By that time I had had two shows, both in local non-profit galleries, one being an arts center and the other a seasonal (summer) gallery, so I knew I'd have to find a gallery outside my immediate area if I ever wanted to actually get a career going. A number of artists whose work I liked had shown or were represented by the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, NY, so I thought that would be a good place to start. In early September, 2004, I took a day and drove down to Hudson with a batch of my info packets and a few of my paintings in the back seat.
By doing this I was breaking all of the rules in trying to get a gallery. I knew that it wasn't really a good idea to walk into a gallery, talk with the director and give them my info right there on the spot. I totally understand how annoying that must be for galleries. But I couldn't help myself. I wanted to visit the gallery in person, as well as a few others in the area, and since I am a total narcissist I was pretty sure that I would end up talking about myself and the fact that I was looking for opportunities to show my work. I wanted to be prepared in case someone would be so taken with my sparkling personality that they would want to see my work instantly. Uh, right. I visited about four galleries that day, all located on Warren Street which is where all of the cute little shops and galleries are located in Hudson. One gallery was not right for me at all. The next gallery was definitely right for my work. I chatted with the owner for awhile about some of the artists that he was showing and when I mentioned that I was an artist he started to clam up. I left my info with him despite the fact that he was looking at me as if I were something he found on the bottom of his shoe (I emailed him after a few days to follow up and he never responded). I spent quite a bit of time with another gallery director, and he was even interested in seeing my paintings. He said that he would like to visit my studio and would call me to set up a time. While I was pretty encouraged about that, I also didn't think it was the right place for my work either (I was right about that, he never did contact me). The last place I visited was the Carrie Haddad Gallery. Carrie was just opening for the day and was busy with setting things up so I had a chance to look around at the current show. Finally, despite knowing it was a bad idea, I told her that I was a artist, and then I began to really babble and told her the whole freaking story, that I had taken years off to have kids but was painting again and was looking for the chance to show my work, yada, yada, yada. She nodded and smiled and was very nice but I could tell it was really bad to handle it that way. Cursing myself, I handed her my folder and practically ran out the door.
I had a bit more time so I decided to head up to Woodstock, as I had never been there and of course was interested in checking it out. I walked around the main street area, marveling at the whole retro sixties thing and visiting the art galleries. I felt like an idiot about what had happened in Hudson so I kept my mouth shut and just looked at the art. I also decided that day that I loved Woodstock and that that was where we should have moved to. Anyway, on the drive home there was the most amazing light and so I took many photos of the area. Later I did a whole batch of paintings based on those photos and they were the first ones that I did where I finally hit the right color layer combinations after having experimented for nearly a year. You know how there are days that are turning points in your life? Well, this was one of those days for me, though it sure didn't seem like it at the time. Ain't that the way.
How did I end up working with Carrie? I think I'll finish this super fascinating story tomorrow....
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Additions, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24
Well, I ended up not even painting yesterday. I got caught up with cleaning the house (because I sure have missed doing that over the last few weeks, heh) and then had to go to the grocery store. It was nice to have the break, although I do really have to get back to it today. I still need to finish painting the cradles on the last few barn paintings.
And it seems that will continue to be busy for at least a few more months. I have to do about 15 pieces for the show in November, then I will have to send off some work to various galleries and group shows for the holidays. I had hoped to basically take December off, which is what I have done for the last few years. However, I have just been asked by the gallery director at the Harrison Gallery if I would like to have a solo show in January. Would I?! Duh! This gallery has sold over a dozen of my paintings since I started working with them last spring so clearly it is a good venue for my work. And January is a busy month in the Berkshires, with skiers and returning college students and their art-loving parents. So of course I said yes. I will need to do approximately 15 pieces, depending on size. I am really enjoying working on larger pieces and so most of the pieces for this show will be in the 24x36 range.
The only thing is, when will I get my post-show meltdown? I think I am behind on those.
Monday, October 2, 2006
Finished! I am finished with the painting part of the barn paintings. I can't believe it's over and that I now have time to clean the house, sort out the kid's clothing, grocery shop and clear out my terribly overgrown gardens. I have three more days before the work will be delivered so I can paint the cradles, put hangers on them, photograph and do the paperwork, at a very leisurely pace.
On Friday I painted the last one (pictured above). It totally cooperated with my precarious near burn out mental state and just painted itself. All I did in a second painting session was lighten the foreground a bit on the lower right side. On Saturday and Sunday I spent a few hours each day touching up that piece as well as the two other pieces as they required a bit more layering and a few slight changes. The color of the sky in this piece:
gave me some problems. I went through many variations on blue before I accidentally ended up with this. I put a darker layer of Byzantine blue, mixed with a touch of red over the whole area. I wasn't too sure about that either, so I started to rub it off. I rubbed off the area around the sign and Doug, who was in the studio talking to me, said that it looked good like that. So I wiped off the lower area of the sky and left the rest darker, then I went back and tightened up the letters of the sign a bit. Gotta love those accidents! I also tried to change the purple in the foreground but nothing worked and so I have decided to stick with the purple. I think it makes the other colors really pop.
Sunday, I did the final coat on the large pieces, and gessoed several panels in preparation for the show in November. I have about four underpaintings that are ready to go and so I plan to start those today. I need about 15 pieces for that show, so I have to get right down to business again.
Over the next week or so, I will be posting the "official" jpegs of the barns from this project. I hope you all enjoyed following the progress of these pieces over the last two weeks. I am glad that I decided to continue to post during this time - having to report my progress gave me the extra little shove that I think I needed to finish all of this. So thank you to everyone who kept reading and commenting-it was so great to have the feedback!