Thursday, January 29, 2009

Five for Fighting

No real chit chat today, alas. Tomorrow is a short work day for me and so I must get a few more underpaintings done today. But I thought I'd stop in and at least post what I did yesterday. Even though it seemed crazy to do such a complicated grouping at this point in the series, I kept getting drawn back to a photo that had five people in it. I was initially interested in the lady at the bottom center. She has a polka dotted dress which really had me intrigued. Even after I started the painting, I thought I would crop it and only keep two or three of the figures in the painting, but I ended up leaving them all in. I am pretty pleased with this and I especially like the couple on the right.

Still looking forward to figuring out how to handle the pattern on the dress, but now I am wondering about how I will get all these folks to "talk to each other" too.

Good challenge!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Snow

The Road, 4x6, Oil on Cradled Panel, 2008

Well, it's a snow day today, so I figured I'd better get a post up before either the satellite goes down or we lose our power. I managed to get out to the hen house this morning and I also filled all the bird feeders (normally my son's job, but I decided to let everyone sleep in this morning). I also got out to the barn to look for more of my old work. We have had a lot of snow this winter already, and even more last night and today and I am pretty sure I pulled more than a few muscles while climbing over the snowbanks and trying to carry a bucket of hot water, a bucket of scratch, a bucket of bird seed and a portfolio and a suitcase while walking in three feet of snow. Not all at once of course, several trips were involved here.

So today I am going to do some painting and then I will be going through the old work later on. I did take a quick peek though and there will be an added bonus for all you super lucky folks-I found some things that I did in high school! Most of it revolves around images of Jim Morrison and The Doors, and I probably should be too embarrassed to post them, but what the heck.

Oh and by the way, this morning I added about eight new paintings to my sales blog, including the one above.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Memory Lane (Part 1)

Well, I managed to get out to the barn this weekend to retrieve my portfolios of the work that I did in college. Actually I got Doug to trudge through the three foot high snow drifts, shovel out in front of the door and then poke around in our junk filled barn, but whatever. I was busy in the hen house and had my own issues with the snow and cold.

He brought in two portfolios and after going through them I realized that there is still another batch of work somewhere, so perhaps another trip out there is in order. I am pretty sure that I stored quite a bit of work in an old brown suitcase. Awesome storage, I know. Heh.

Actually most of the work is in pretty good shape all things considered. I have moved about 9 times since college and everything has been stored in basements, or attics and now it's been in a barn for almost five years. Many of the pieces are only scuffed because they were not protected by a covering and were rubbing against the back of another piece, but the paint itself looks good, no cracking or peeling. And since it has rarely seen the light of day, the colors have not faded.

Ok, now that I have reminded you all about how NOT to store your art, we can move on. I was an illustration major in college so much of my work seems a bit out of context now. We did a lot of portraits, both from live models and from photographs (I wrote a bit about that here). We also had to put images together, make visual statements for potential editorial assignments (not my thing, but I tried) and we did a ton of figure drawing. Most of the work I am putting up today are portraits, which seems appropriate considering what I have been working on lately.

So here are a few:
Painted from a live model, and it was obviously during the 1980's. I had more than a few jumbo disc earrings like that myself!

From a photo of course, and it looks like I did some scumbling to prepare to make some changes on his chin and in the background. Yet again, left unfinished.

Graphite on Gesso drawing from a photograph. Looks like it might have been for a toothpaste ad. heh.

These were done sometime around 1986, maybe 1987. I had learned how to glaze over an underpainting, in a class with Phyllis Purves-Smith, using traditional methods and I worked in that manner for quite awhile. Struggled is more like it. What I see now is that working so precisely and realistically was totally not right for me. I recall that I enjoyed doing the monochromatic underpaintings but clearly the rest of it wasn't me and I often gave up and left the work unfinished. Same goes for the graphite drawing. It is interesting to note now that I paint in a very loose manner, yet there are places where I can utilize the more exacting side of me too. It's like I solved the puzzle of me. Well, temporarily, anyway; I am sure there will be more shifts in the future.

Anyway, the assignment here:
was to paint a romance novel cover. Our illustration class lugged our supplies to one of the historical buildings in Philadelphia and the models posed in various ridiculous dramatic situations. I was very unhappy with this piece, the figures are SO stiff! BUT it was also kind of a breakthrough for me-I was really excited about how the background looked and how the more simple glazes worked over the underpainting and textured surface (gesso).

That painting led to more work like this: where I was playing around with textures, and more dramatic lights and darks. And for some strange reason I was also perfecting the art of making paint crack by coating a layer of oil paint with matte medium. Eventually the matte medium cracked and then I rubbed burnt umber oil paint into it which gave it sort of an old wood like look. Now you can buy a product that does something similar, but back in the old days I had to find other ways to get the effects I wanted.

This portrait:was done soon after I painted Bette Davis and is directly related to what I am doing today. I got a shiver when I saw it again. I was still using paintbrushes (now I just use a cloth to rub off the paint) and probably turpentine too, so it's a bit tight, but I remember understanding that I wanted to figure out how to add color. I never got to it back then, but it has nagged at me ever since I began painting again and now finally I am beginning to solve that puzzle too.

I have tons of drawings that were done directly from the model, but this is one of my favorites:
The model was a guy who I got to know a bit at the bars, he was a nice guy, AND he had great hair, which is always a plus when it comes to a model! I always wanted to give him this drawing because it actually looks quite a bit like him but he moved away before I was able to and of course I haven't the vaguest memory of his name.

Another interesting thing about looking at all of this old stuff is how bad it is! My perception has always been that the work I did in college was mostly really good, especially this work, the work I chose to save and lug around with me for 20+ years. However, I am less than impressed with it now. I guess that means that I have grown as an artist, since it is usually a good sign when old work is cringe-worthy, but still. Kind of a bummer, you know? Also, clearly I have since developed a very different color sense. The old work sure does look pretty dreary next to what I am doing now and I think that might be a huge understatement.

Anyway, more to come!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pregnancy and Painting

Patterns, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 20x24

So several folks asked me about the use of paintings supplies and materials during pregnancy. I wrote a rather lengthy post about my studio practices a few years ago and after rereading it I think it is still accurate. Since I didn't actually paint though while I was pregnant, I can't really offer much advice other than to say that one of the main reasons that I didn't paint during those times was because I was leery of the effects of using oils while pregnant. I had heard so much conflicting info on art supply safety, but in the end I just didn't want to risk it.

However, y'all got me started on the pregnancy thing so I will tell you what kind of art I did do while having babies.

When I became pregnant with my first little baby, I wasn't really doing any painting or drawing. I owned a small company called redesign (see picture of my product line here and had been making handmade clocks, picture frames, mirrors and boxes. I was taking them to trade shows in NYC and doing pretty well, selling them to small gift shops and catalog companies (Ballard Designs carried one of my mirrors once) but then we moved to Utah and poof! most of my business dried up. I was still filling an order or two when I got pregnant, but I let everything go after that. We were already raising our adopted son too, so I decided that I wanted to focus on being a parent. But because I was so incredibly tired, I mostly ended up watching the entire O.J. Simpson trial while growing that baby. My son might not realize it yet, but he learned everything about the trial of the century while in utero! He was conceived, born, and almost walking between the time of the murders and the acquittal.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was filled with unbelievable energy and that's when I really started to miss making art. I still didn't feel comfortable using oils, so I decided to focus on drawing. I went to a figure drawing class each week, where everyone watched me get bigger and bigger, until one week I brought the baby to class with me and she slept in a car seat next to me while I drew the figure. I haven't looked at those drawings in years, but at the time I felt like I was doing the best figurative works I had ever done. I mostly used charcoal or graphite woodless pencils, which are still my favorite thing to draw with. Also during this time, I taught myself how to knit and to sew and began making a quilt. Never did finish it, but I do still have a box of squares stored away. Someday.

I kept up with all this after my oldest daughter was born (still had awesome energy) and even decided to take a volunteer position at the local arts group where I organized the visual arts department, scheduled classes etc. And that is when I took a pastel workshop with artist Colleen Howe. I fell in LOVE with pastels! They were easy to pick up and put down, great for someone with three kids, including a toddler and a baby, I love the drawing aspect and the colors! Wow! That was how I began using saturated colors.

While I was pregnant with Ginger, my third baby, I still did the occasional pastel, but at that point our house was bursting and the only place I had to work was in a very small three season porch, right next to the cat litter. So mostly I just kept up with the knitting and sewing. Right after Ginger was born, we bought a larger house and I spent several months overseeing the remodel it needed. I fell in love with that whole process and learned more about plumbing, electric and how not to get ripped off by the sub-contractors than I ever thought I could learn. Once that project was finished and we moved into the house, I really felt like I would just die if I didn't get back to painting. I had my own studio (don't get me started on how big and beautiful that space was or I will cry) and was able to get a few hours here and there and for awhile a neighbor girl came in and played with the girls so I could paint. I was also doing some pastels during this time, but frankly once I picked up the oils again, I wasn't quite so interested in the pastels any longer. My boxes of pastels are still tucked away and someday I will pull them out again.

Anyway, I have often regretted taking so much time off from making art, but now I see how much those other activities really feed into my current work. So I just try to do what I can to be a good parent AND to make up for the years that I didn't paint. I am a firm believer in silver linings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ho Hum

Brothers At An Event, 2008, Oil on Birch Panel, 20x24

Well, it's back to work today. It sure won't be an exciting, awesome, incredible day like yesterday was, but it will be just fine; way better than most days in the last eight years have been. Today seems like a good day for everyone in America to roll up their sleeves, get down to work and get this country straightened out. Not sure if making more art will help much, but it's all I have to offer right now.

On deck for today:

Eleven small landscape underpaintings need color glazes.
Prepping more panels.
I have to tape down gessoed paper on panels in order to do some monochromatic sketches, hopefully I can do them tomorrow. I had hoped to be doing a few of those each week, but oops, have slacked off on that particular goal.

I am finding myself a bit low on subject matter here lately, maybe I used up all my ideas in December when I posted every single day. Or maybe this is what happens when one has a blog for almost three years. But more likely it's because lately, every day here is pretty much exactly the same as the day before, not giving me a lot to write about.

I could display one of my "talents" that people in my real life already know about. A brief question can cause me to go on forever. So help me out with post topics and ask me anything. Can't day I will answer ANYTHING, but I'm a pretty open sort of gal, so will give all questions consideration.

PS. Lurkers are welcome to participate! Email me if you are shy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

People You Know

THIS House Dress Has a Pocket, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 12x24

Wow, didn't mean to not post for so long! Nothing much going on here either, every day seems the same lately; getting the kids off to school, doing a few chores, shoveling, of course, studio time and then what feels like an excessive amount of driving each day. Doug has been traveling a lot, so I have been doing double duty I guess.

I have been working steadily in the studio however, and have nearly finished three new paintings with three new underpaintings on deck. I was hoping to be able to put up some images of them last week but after unsuccessfully photographing them, several times, I have realized that I will have to change my system. THAT means I may have to pull out the stupid lights and get a whole set up in order to photograph them properly. Blech. I hate having to do this because a. I am super lazy and do not want to have to do all this extra work and b. I am at the very outer edges of my brain capacity when taking photographs, using a digital camera and photoshopping, so between that and having to do all the extra work, I am usually just pissed off. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true.

Anyway, I did manage to get one half decent shot that I was able to photoshop enough to look pretty accurate, so I am putting that up today, along with a close up shot of the face. I am pretty pleased with this painting.

I have decided to consider this work as a series and am going to call them "People You Know". I have been referring to these pieces as portraits or figurative work but neither of those seemed accurate, so I felt a series title would be more appropriate. This series will only include the work from photographs of people that I DON'T know, but whose stories I want to tell. The paintings in this series are about the photographs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Studio Updates

underpainting, 12x24

Not much to report today. I have been hibernating lately; haven't gone anywhere since Saturday. Partly in order to get back into my studio schedule, but mostly because it is dang cold here! Zero degrees on our front porch this morning. Doug was out of town last week, returned Sunday night and he has been relieving me of driving duties for the last few days. Only because he is leaving again soon, but whatever. The short break from driving and errands helps me stay relatively sane.

Anyway, I have three new portraits to work on this week. I may have to adjust my goal of doing five per week. Doing more than three underpaintings in one day might be too much. This Friday I plan to see just how many I can handle if I can spend the whole day alone in my studio. If my head explodes by noon, I will definitely readjust my weekly goals. Heh.

Yesterday I did eleven small landscape underpaintings that will eventually be posted on my sales blog. While they dry over the next few days I will be adding the glazes to the portraits.

I am feeling like I am getting back on track. Not that I was totally off track but I am unhappy with how I have handled my time in the last 3-4 months. I am working steadily in the studio and am even taking some time each evening to do two things that I have neglected lately; reading and knitting. (I am reading Orchard by Larry Watson and am knitting a scarf for a friend of mine-might get that done by spring:)) I have stopped eating flour and sugar (again) so I feel a lot better, more energetic and clear headed and I am making an solid effort to NOT spend so much time on the computer each day. Still trying to get in a walk each day, but haven't had much luck and I am using the weather as my excuse for that.

My biggest problem now though, is that the only two reality shows that I am interested in watching (The Biggest Loser and American Idol) are both on at the same exact evening and time. And we don't have tivo. Last night I watched The Biggest Loser and switched to AI during the commercials. Life is rough.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Linkety Art Links

underpainting, 20x24

Well, I have tons of work to do in the studio today so I am sending you all elsewhere, 'k? I have come across some good sites lately and would like to share.

I like this one because I LOVE self-portraits and there are a good variety here. I keep thinking that I should be doing at least a yearly self portrait, so I can document my aging process (yay), and pretty soon I will get to that. Maybe.

There seem to be quite a few textile and fiber artists reading this blog and I "met" Prairie Fibers via facebook recently. I love Kimberly's work, especially the Prairie Potholes series, and am feeling a bit sad that I am on an art buying budget (stupid economy) because I would be totally shopping over there.

I found Mary and Sarah (through my blog friend Steven LaRose) They are both included on the Fine Art Department, and I enjoy hearing what they are up to, both in their studios and in their lives. New blog friends and again with the stupid budget/economy thing here too!

And because I could possibly be the modern, online version of Gladys Kravitz, I am loving this blog and especially the recent series which shows artist's studios. Look for Number 10, the studio of another blog friend, Mary Klein. Since I am partial to painting I especially love seeing other painter's work spaces as something about paint tubes, brushes and other supplies really gets me going. I am easy like that. heh.

So go forth and enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Thanks to everyone who gave me some reassurance after my last post. I do tend to be really hard on myself about a lot of things and most of the time I actually think it works for me. After all, if I had been easier on myself, I'd probably still be floating around back in my hometown, with no education, no art in my life, and probably with way more kids than I have now and either fewer or more husbands too. Heh.

The key is to know when to let up, I guess, and I am going to try and remember to do that before I make myself crazy.

Anyway, I did the above underpainting on Thursday afternoon. Then I did two more on Friday morning before I had to rush out of the house to have lunch with a friend, go to my daughter's basketball game and then drive back and forth between our house and town like a hundred times. So I will put the others up next week. I am not sure I like these, nor am I sure they will "turn out" but then isn't that the fun in all this? I enjoyed doing them, it was great having my hands in the paint again and I look forward to seeing what will happen here.

This one is on a birch panel, 20x24. I might pull out a really big panel next week and see what happens. Doug keeps telling me he wants to see them larger and I am starting to be able to see them at a larger scale too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mental Adjustments

Pink Side of the Road, 2008, Oil on Birch Panel, 16x20

I just wrote a whole thing about what a funk I have been in lately, blah, blah, blah. I realized that I have spent yet another day doing nothing in my studio and I am feeling disappointed in my lack of progress in the studio. Of course today I had a good excuse (snow day, kids home) but it seems like I am always making excuses.

Usually I prefer to beat myself up for not doing what I think I should be doing each day but I am giving myself a rare break from that tonight. So I deleted what I wrote (too depressing, even for me at this time of the day when I can be very pessimistic about everything) and will just try to work in the studio again tomorrow.

I should remember the story about the above painting: I did the underpainting for it (and the one I posted on Monday) last spring, way before I moved up into my new studio, before painting the walls, planting the garden and preparing small format paintings for a July show. I finally got back to the underpaintings in November and added the color, even though I had completely forgotten what I had had in mind for them when I started. But I love them, and maybe they turned out better than they might have if I had finished them right away.

I gave those two pieces very little thought all that time, but instead of bang, bang, banging them out, there was time and other experiences between the start and finish line. And now that I think about it, that is how I have been approaching the portraits too. Much more slowly, with time in between each step, but not a lot of consideration either.

Hmmm. Perhaps I need to reconsider my process just a bit, rather than giving myself a hard time about not painting like I used to, such a hard time that I can't even work at all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Local Barn Update

Last August, I wrote about one of my favorite barns and how it was being taken down. In September, I wrote an update, showing the progress of the demolition.

I took some more pictures in October:

And now nothing much has happened to the structure for at least two months, which is understandable, given our winter weather so far. However, if they wait until spring, it may just come down by itself.

This is what it looked like today:

And here is a recent painting I did of the barn:
Before It Was Gone, 2008, Oil on Gessobord, 5x7
A before shot, of course. This is a very well documented barn!

Monday, January 5, 2009

So. Tired.

Color in the Woods, 2008, 16x20, Oil on Birch Panel

Well, today is the big day. The kids are at school (I personally observed them boarding the bus), the house is quiet, I have prepared panels ready to go and am really excited about my studio plan for this year.

The problem is that I am so incredibly tired today. We succumbed to temptation to stay up late, get up late and just oversleep in general during the last two weeks. I knew I would regret it, but it was lovely staying up late the last few weeks and there is nothing like a Monopoly game that goes past midnight.

I did attempt to get close to our usual schedule at the end of last week, but no one, including me, did very well at it. Yesterday was a mess, due to a number of events one of which included a vomiting child the night before. So no one was asleep before 11pm last night, I was up until 1am and since I was worried that I might sleep through my alarm, I am pretty sure that I didn't fully fall asleep at all. Luckily though, even though none of them had enough sleep, the kids all popped right up out of bed this morning. I suspect that they were very excited to get out of the house and away from the 'rents too.

I however, am left exhausted. I will not nap today because if I do I will be up late again tonight, but I am not too sure what I will be able to accomplish today. Um just so you know.

My first excuse of 2009. heh.