Friday, April 28, 2006

To Do List:

The Pink Side. 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

do 7 underpaintings for next week's work
fill out forms for competitions
errands, post office, video store, bank
hardware store in town to rent a tiller for the weekend
drive 45 minutes to Home Depot to buy some plants, garden pots etc, get back by 3:30
go to neighbor's to take care of their pets (they are out of town)
pack up son's backpack for weekend boy scout camping/hiking trip
pick up daughter from soccer practice
drop son off for his trip
3 mile walk
scoop cat litter
watch dvd

9am soccer game #1
11:30am soccer game #2
deliver girl scout cookies
clean and reorganize girl's room
clean house
3 mile walk
neighbor's house
scoop cat litter

prepare frames for finished paintings
tidy up studio
work in garden, weed, plant shrubs
pull out railroad ties in our secret garden, so we can till a new garden area
help with tiller
3 mile walk
neighbor's house
pick up son from camping trip
scoop cat litter
prepare underpaintings to begin color glazes on Monday
watch Cold Case, Grey's Anatomy

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Underpainting #2

Quiet Field, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Thanks so much to all who de-lurked to help me feel popular. It's flattering that so many of you are impressed by how much I can do. I know that I do manage to accomplish a lot, but I always carry along the feeling of not getting so many things done that I'd like to. I can't believe I have ever felt bored, now it seems as if there will never be enough time to do everything.

Nice day again for my drive down to Woodstock yesterday. I also found that I can make the trip in less that 2 hours-if I have to. I had actually left a bit early so that I could stop and take a few photos of some barns along the way, and after about 20 minutes I realized that I had forgotten my wallet thingy that I keep my driver's license and atm card in. So I had to run back home, thereby losing 40-50 minutes. So I rushed the rest of the drive, passing slow cars and tractors and basically speeding most of the way. I shouldn't have bothered risking my life, the model was almost an hour late and we passed the time drawing portraits of a few of the class members, fully clothed of course.

We did several one minute sketches of the model when she arrived and then I settled in to do another underpainting. I decided that I would eventually paint in color glazes over this one, which meant that I would have to keep it light, with less shadows and modeling of the forms. If the underpainting is too dark, the glazes become too dark too quickly and I lose the luminous quality. I had trouble with the left arm and hand (looks kind of like a lobster claw to me today, while yesterday it seemed ok), but I may be able to make it work better when I do the painting along with making the poor girl more attractive (her face was much prettier than I have portrayed here). Overall, though, I am fairly pleased with this one and can also see how long this process will be. Especially since I can't really immerse myself in it the way I'd like to and the way I could when I was younger and had less responsibilities. I am posting the underpainting below and then after I've painted/wrecked it, I'll post it again.

Unless I do actually wreck it and have to send it to the sand(down)pile. I do have my popularity to maintain after all.

Female Study#2, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Magenta Landscape, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

Tuesday was an excellent day in the studio. I either finished or nearly finished seven paintings and I am pleased with all of them. Usually, there is at least one per batch that doesn't work for whatever reason. I also found a color combination that I liked, purple (sort of) and green, and used these in a number of the paintings, including the one I posted today. While this does make most of the pieces similarly colored, I split up the group when I send them off to galleries so there is a variety of color.

I go in phases with color. At first I painted in dark, dreary colors, then moved into autumn colors, lots of red, yellows, ochres and deep blues. Lately, I have lightened up even further, using pinks, purples, light yellows and greens. Many of my color choices come from new paints that I buy. I don't do a lot of mixing, because I like the luminous quality that I get from glazing a pure color. So having a wide variety of colors is important to me. Of course, having said that, my new favorites do involve mixing. Tuesday, I used a lot of Mussini's Ruby Lake Deep, mixed with just a touch of opaque pink and Gamblin Olive Green mixed with a bit of light green. I have been really enjoying the Olive Green. That is one of the colors that I do mix often and I love the various greens I can get out of it. I really enjoy the colors that are loud and intense, but I am finding myself interested again in dreary looking blues and greens juxtaposed with zingier colors like bright pink and cadmium yellows and oranges. Constantly changing my palette is one of the things about painting that is really exciting to me.

Thursday, I will finish up a nifty pink/purple (even I am not sure which color it is) barn surrounded by a dreary green sky and mossy green land, and will post it on Friday.

On a different topic: I have been noticing, because I am obsessed with myself and my stats and check them constantly, that the number of hits that this blog gets has been going up over the last few weeks. I am certainly not in Ed Winkelman territory, but it's more traffic than I ever thought I'd get when I started this project. So it's nice to know that there are at least a few people out there listening or making fun of me or whatever. Most of you all seem to be lurkers, which is totally fine, I understand, and am actually one myself, I don't make too many comments on the blogs I read either, but I am hoping that those who don't usually comment will say hi today, introduce yourselves, let me know your general geographical location and maybe give us all some interesting tidbit of info about you or your life. De-lurk just once, it won't hurt, I promise.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Glass Photos

These are some of the photos I took at the Corning Museum of Glass. I tried to post them yesterday, but couldn't, and in fact it took all day for my blog to post, a combination of bad weather and maybe Blogger was down.

Salt Meadow Gallery

Barn in Late Day Light, 2005,Oil on Panel, 24x36

Last year at this time, things were just starting to move forward for me with the art thing. I had been in a few local exhibitions, and a had several upcoming shows scheduled. I had started to be accepted into juried shows and was also in a thing called Projekt 30, which is an online juried show. Between that and the page that I had set up at Absolute Arts, I had also started getting all kinds of odd requests, mostly involving the "opportunity to sell three or more paintings to an interior decorator in Nigeria, and could I include in the shipment 6 Sony cordless telephones also?" I was contacted by two "vanity" galleries, which are the galleries that require the artist to pay at least several thousand dollars to have an exhibition. Another gallery (on the west coast) seemed like a good opportunity for representation until we got to the contract stage. Their terms included not being responsible for insurance coverage for art in their possession (attention all artists: THIS SHOULD BE AN IMMEDIATE DEAL BREAKER!). They were also in the midst of moving and would be storing their art for 3-6 months, but still wanted my work right away. I did contact a few of their artists and the gallery was legitimate, but everyone said they didn't really sell anything there. With all of my alarm bells ringing, I ended those negotiations. So I was getting solicitations from Nigeria, vanity galleries and bad contract offers, not to mention an old friend who kept writing me crank emails asking me if I would do a commissioned piece (thanks Brian), and right in the middle of all of this, a guy named Glenn wrote me an email.

He had come across my work at Absolute Arts. He and his wife, Sharon, were preparing to open an art gallery, called the Salt Meadow Gallery, on Cape Cod, in East Sandwich. He seemed sincere and complimentary about my work, and provided a lot of information about what kind of gallery he was planning to open. Poor Glenn! His timing was so bad! I put him through wringer with my response. How do I know you are opening a gallery? Do you have insurance? Who are the other artists whose work you will be showing? I need proof that you have a space and on and on. Well, he was a trooper. He offered to send me a copy of their lease and business license, he sent me a link to their Better Business Bureau application and even gave me their banker's phone number. Feeling foolish, (it's not like my paintings are deKoonings or anything!), I half heartedly checked out the BBB listing, contacted one artist and called it good. I actually had a good feeling about him based on his response to my suspicions, he was understanding and eager to provide info that would reassure me. And while I always do what I can to check out a potential gallery, I also listen to my instincts which, so far, have been accurate. Glenn and I have established a great working relationship and he and Sharon have been just dreamy to work with. He is very enthusiastic about my work and they do a great job of selling it. In fact, they were the first gallery to sell one of my largest sized paintings, a 24x36 barn (pictured above). Last fall, Salt Meadow held a "meet the artist reception" for me and the event was lovely, There was a good sized crowd, they sold several of my paintings that evening and then a bunch of us had a great dinner afterwards. This event was also memorable for me because afterwards I had to institute the spousal 2 drink maximum rule at openings for my husband, as he drank too much wine and became foolish, not to mention somewhat hungover the next day.

For 2006, Glenn has decided to hang a show (normally they display salon style) each month featuring one artist. Glenn was kind enough to let me choose which month I prefer, and HELLO, August seems like the best month to me!! So I am having a show at the Salt Meadow Gallery this August, which also gives us a good excuse to have a family vacation in Cape Cod as well.

I'm no dummy.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Visiting Glass

Garden Variety, 2006, Oil on Panel, 5x7

So on Friday Doug and I finally decided to take a short trip with the kids. It was the last few days of spring break, the kids were home, their friends and their families had all gone off to Europe, or the Caribbean or to Mexico and so we decided to go to Corning, NY to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. Woo-hoo.

But it was fun! The kids had brought their important things, game boys, books, and drawing pads, for the 3 hour drive and so they were fairly quiet in the back, while Doug and I discussed art, galleries, painting and photography in the front. We stopped and had the absolute worst lunch ever at a crappy diner, but we all sat at the table and laughed about how even the bottled juice was bad. As we left, we all gazed longingly at the McDonald's that was next door, totally regretting the decision not to eat THEIR crappy food. We also found, as I have recently suspected, that the air conditioning in my car does not work, so the drive on Friday was pretty uncomfortable as it was a warm day. But we got to the museum and we quickly forgot about the bad lunch and hot car. If you ever have a chance to visit Corning, definitely go to the museum. The first thing we did was to sign up for the free workshops. We got into sandblasting, but they also had fusion, glass blowing and flameworking classes. While waiting for the class to start, we took the tour. There was a whole section of glass sculpture. I took some photos, but am having trouble loading them today, so perhaps I will add them later if Blogger will allow me to. The next area showed the history of glass and there was an interactive section which we all really enjoyed. The sandblasting workshop was fun. We all had to wear very attractive safety glasses while we put teddy bear and bumble bee stickers and made masking tape patterns on drinking glasses.

As usual, the highlight of any trip for the kids is a night at a hotel, and this was no exception. Swimming, a great dinner which provided the true highlight of the trip, according to the kids. Oddly, they were all beyond excited to get miniature ketchup and mayonnaise bottles with their dinner. They have even taken them to school today to show their friends. The night was topped off with movies in our rooms, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the kids and Munich for Doug and I.

Saturday, we went back to the museum for a few more hours, so that our son could take a glassblowing workshop and so we could see the rest of the exhibits and a live demonstration (which was awesome) and do some shopping in their huge gift shop. We then spent 5 million dollars in the museum's cafe for lunch and then headed home.

Great trip, everyone behaved and the drive home was uneventful. We had a nice quiet day at home on Sunday, and then (hallelujah) the bus came and whisked the kids off to school bright and early this morning.

For me, it's back into the studio today, where I must stay until I finish at least 20 paintings!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Road Trip

Curve on Route 26, 2006. Oil on Panel, 12x24

Today we are off on a road trip. Not the road trips from my high school and early college days in rural Minnesota, but a middle aged version with kids. Instead of a crappy old beater of a car, a cooler of beer, junk food, loud rock music, sleeping 10 to a cheap motel room and coming home either still drunk or sick from a hangover, our trip will be in an SUV, with juice boxes and bags of trail mix, 2 adjoining rooms at the Radisson and Kid Bopz 4 in the CD player. We will, however, come home feeling hungover and the kids do tend to act drunk when they are overtired. At least some things remain the same.

I will leave you today with something that has been making me laugh for the last few days, yet is disturbing on so many levels: "I'm the decider".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blooming Forsythia

Deep Blue Trees, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12

Wednesday was a beautiful spring day, perfect for a long drive through upstate NY. As I got closer to Woodstock, I noticed the forsythia was blooming (it hasn't bloomed yet in our area, as we are further north) and it was just stunning, all yellow and wild branches everywhere. I was in hurry to get there as I was running late, but on my way home I was able to stop and get a few pictures of the forsythia as well as a few barns that had also caught my eye.

Class was good, and Jordan had looked at my work on my website so he was able to offer me some advice on how to approach painting the figure. An interesting suggestion he had for me was to take more care with my marks, to be slow and deliberate when creating the shapes and forms of the body. This may seem super obvious, but I was approaching the drawing of the figure in the same manner in which I approach a landscape drawing. With the landscapes I am more sure of myself, working by instinct rather than conscious thought, keeping the marks simple and bold in order not to overwork, which is exactly what happens when I analyze or do too much planning or fussing. However, with the figure it is necessary for me at this point to be more careful and thoughtful and to learn my way around the anatomy (again). I spent about an hour and a half working on a monochromatic, reductive oil drawing, using a cloth to pull out the light areas and form the figure. After a few false starts, easily remedied by coating the surface again with paint, I came to a point where I was somewhat pleased but more importantly I could start to see what might come next for me and the figure. That said, I didn't really like the drawing and thought I might rub it out so as to use the surface again for something else, but Jordan told me that I should sign it and keep it. So because I am fickle and will start to like a piece just because someone else does, I decided to keep it. I have posted it below. Keep in mind that I do not think it is fully resolved, I am viewing it as a study and while I think there are some good aspects to it, it definitely could be developed further. I may fiddle around with adding some glazes and color to it, which will probably wreck it, given how unsure of myself I am here but wrecking things is surely inevitable in this process.

Another thing I tried was drawing in line and contour only. I was reading Studio Notes the other day and Terry was discussing how he had his students do an exercise in drawing in contours and line rather than "shading" to create the forms of the model. This is what he says:

"Most people, when they're starting to learn, will focus on drawing the contours and try to achieve dimentionality by shading. Seems logical--afterall Michelangelo worked that way (according to Harry Carmean)-- but it seems even more logical (to me anyway) to build forms from the start, without the help of "shading". At this stage, "shading" (in quotes because i hate the term) is a crutch, a cheat. So I had everyone draw only with line, relying on contours, cross contours, overlapping forms and drawing through to achieve volume. This forces us to really make an effort to see the form on the model".

I thought this was interesting and felt that that was exactly what I had been doing over the years, quickly going through the motions of drawing the lines, without always seeing properly, in order to get to the fun part for me, which is to "shade", to create volume and mass with highlights and shadows. Unfortunately, the drawings I did in line only, turned out to be horseshit. Clearly, I need to work further on this aspect of drawing the figure as well.

Male Study 1, Oil on Paper, 16x20

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Street Scenes

Sunlight on the Corner, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

I must be brief today as I am off to Woodstock for my figure drawing class. I plan on doing some drawing and am also taking along my underpainting supplies just in case I feel like I want to start a painting. I am still feeling a bit rusty as far as drawing the figure goes, so I may just focus on that again this week. We'll see.

"Sunlight on the Corner" is the most complicated painting I have done in years! I have simplified the elements greatly, but it does still retain many details which, unfortunately are difficult to discern in a reproduction. I really enjoyed working on it, but it took days and days and kind of threw off my whole painting schedule. Which, normally would be ok, but aagghhh, I have so much work to do! Anyway, I painted it in sections, and each day that I sat down to work on it, I was worried that my "feel" would be different. However, that didn't really turn out to be a problem, thankfully. I am also trying to finish up another street scene that has a similar look to it and I plan to enter both pieces into our local arts organization's annual national juried show. I am breaking my rule of not entering shows that require slides by entering this, but it's important to me to support local arts organizations. Naturally, I am cutting it close, the entry deadline is May 1, so I need to finish up the other painting, get images shot and send jpegs out to the lab and get them back, meaning there will probably be an extra fee for a faster delivery.

Well, this all keeps the adrenaline going anyway.

Two close ups of "Sunlight on the Corner", alas, they look a bit blurry:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Photographic History

Alley with Shadow, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16

In a recent post I mentioned how I generally work from photo reference rather than real life. The exception to that is the unclothed model, of which I have always drawn from life.

I have a long history of working from the photo. In junior and senior high school, I painted or drew portraits of popular performers such as John Travolta (I was a HUGE Grease fan in eighth grade), and Leif Garrett (my profound apologies about that), and later on in high school, I did many, many drawings of Jim Morrison of the Doors. For awhile I drew copies of the Grateful Dead logos, made buttons and sold them for a dollar to the deadheads at our school (and yes, I am now aware of the copyright infringement involved in that). In fact, at our 20th class reunion, former deadhead turned math teacher, Hal Norman and I were talking and he said he had recently come across a box of things and found some of the buttons I had made. I did my share of making up images and working from actual objects, like still lifes with flowers, vases, and that sort of thing, but mostly I liked reproducing what I could see in the photo.

In college this changed a bit during the foundation year. We worked from the model, from still lifes and of course, did the typical and never-ending studies of cones, spheres, and cubes. We were also required to do more conceptual projects, which was something I struggled with. I have always wished that my work could have more concept behind it and I tried, but the reality was, my ideas were usually just dumb. So when it came time to choose a major, I decided to transfer to a school that had an illustration department, because I felt I needed to be "directed" and also because the painting department (I was at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) at that time was filled with abstract painters and instructors and I knew that wasn't right for me. As an illustration major it was often necessary to work from photos and we were encouraged to do so, as well as to combine multiple elements to form an image. There were also mixed messages regarding this however. Once I painted a really nice portrait of Bette Davis from a photo on the cover of People magazine. There happened to be a visiting illustrator, Charles Santore, giving a critique and I put up the portrait for him to review. He totally ripped me apart for using a photo as the reference. This was slightly puzzling to me, because a). I didn't think Bette would pose for me and b). illustrators do portraits of celebrities ALL OF THE TIME using photo references. In fact that was the assignment-to paint and capture the likeness of a well known person, using a photograph.

However, I must admit that I have often been a slave to the details of a photograph. A year or so before we moved to NY, I did a number of paintings of decrepit buildings and garages and that sort of thing, based on photos that my husband had taken. It was a great way to dip my toes back into painting, but it was also the point when I realized that I working like that wasn't right for me anymore. My eyes had changed and my intent had shifted. I wanted express myself, not translate. The next project I started was learning how to use pastels and for awhile I mostly did pastel paintings of fruit and flowers, working from life, which led me to doing the landscape, as I discussed on Friday.

I don't know if my focus on working from photos was a help or a hindrance to me and my development as an artist. Maybe both. If I hadn't had references I may have been able to develop more of a conceptual way of thinking. On the other hand, I may have not even bothered to do anything creative without the inspiration of great photographs of a supremely sexy (well, to a high schooler), if somewhat sleazy, dead rock star from the sixties.

April's Art News has an article about how common it is for painters to use photo reference, and how there is still, after centuries of use, some unease as well as acceptance about the practice. I found the article to be comforting. Clearly there are so many ways to be an artist and my way of working is right in there along with everyone else's. With varying results, of course.

Today's piece is an image which seems to be a bridge between the simplistic landscapes that I normally do and the busy, more complicated street scene, which, yes, includes figures, that I plan to post tomorrow.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I am a Reject

Simmering, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x26

So for the second year in a row I have not been accepted to the 57th Annual Art of the Northeast, a juried national show at the Silvermine Art Guild in CT, which I have previously discussed here. I realized on Friday that I hadn't heard from them yet and so I checked their website. There was a list of the accepted artists, which did not include me, and so I promptly put the two paintings on the list to show the Harrison Gallery, who has asked for more work, preferably larger pieces. So there! Anyway, soon I will get the ever so polite rejection letter which I will put into a book (I save them all). Normally, I might be a bit disappointed by not getting in (I am kind of bummed that the juror, Ben Barzune, wasn't interested in my work, although I understand), but frankly I have been getting slightly buggy-eyed over the last few days thinking about all of the paintings that I need to do in the coming weeks, so these two will help a little bit anyway.

And naturally, because I have so few large sized panels in my supplies inventory, that is exactly what everyone seems to want. On Saturday, after much procrastination, I finally placed an order with ASW Express for both cradled and uncradled hardboard, which is what I prefer to work on. I wish I could build my own supports, and Doug and I debate endlessly about doing it ourselves, but the only spare time I'd have would be at about 2am and frankly I am not interested in giving that up. I have been talking with our contractor, Steve, whose shop builds my frames (don't have time to make those either) about building some large sized cradled panels, but we haven't really gotten it all straightened out yet. So I spent about a thousand dollars today on panels and a few tubes of paint. I always buy a couple of new colors when I order other supplies and today, since I was already spending so much, I figured I may as well buy a tube of paint, Scheveningen Purple Brown by Old Holland, that cost thirty dollars. What the heck. I hope it's a good color, but at that price, I will have to make an effort NOT to get too obsessed with it.

"Simmering", (boy, that title sounds dumb!), is yet another painting that I've done recently using a similar composition of a foreground mass of trees with a smaller different colored mass in the distance. I guess this could be called a series, however I tend to refer to it as beating a dead horse. Often I come across a specific composition, subject matter, color etc. and will do many paintings to explore/exploit further whatever it is that interests me, changing various minor elements in each piece. So it's basically a combination of exploration and obssessiveness. That's it. No big long explanation about the meaning of the elements, the social/psychological effect of the landscape in today's materialistic, over stressed, technology and profit driven society, or that continually repeating images is a metaphor for a futile life.

I just like to paint.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Kind of Plein Aire

Purple Serenity, 2006, Oil on Panel, 8x10

I have always liked plein air paintings. Not painting them though. I am way too princessy to be able to paint outside. The bugs, the sun, the snakes and other wildlife, all of the work to set up and then clean up after, ugh, not for me. And I hate the gawkers. When I was a student in Philadelphia, we often had to go outside and paint the street scenes. We may as well put a sign up asking all creepy men to please approach us and ask for sex. In Utah the landscape was beautiful but I never quite connected with it. I did take a few pastel workshops and did a few plein air landscapes, but they were unremarkable in every way. So when we moved to NY the landscape spoke to me and I decided to paint it. But on my terms. I didn't want to worry about the details. I wanted to make changes in composition. I wanted make things up. So now I take pictures of everything. Roads, hills, trees, fields, barns, houses, street scenes, flowers, everything I can see. The kids roll their eyes whenever I pull over to the side of the road to get a good shot. Crazy mom, they say. I take photographs in every season at every time of the day, in all kinds of weather (uh, you don't have to point out how close I am to plein air painting I am here). I have boxes and boxes of photos that I use for reference. At first I was a bit of a slave to the photo, but I soon tired of that and decided to let loose. I use photos as a baseline but often change the composition and follow my own vision regarding color, light, and mood. I am always flattered when people ask if I work on site, because I think my paintings tend to look like some wacked out, LSD-induced version of nature when displayed next to a real plein air painting. However, I do love and admire real plein air work and Doug and I have collected a number of pieces over the years.

I have recently been enjoying this blog by artist Rebecca Grantham. She does energetic, exciting plein air paintings. Her brushwork (and palette knife work) is impressive and I love how she captures the light and mood of a tangled wooded scene. I am envious of her trees. I always think I am going to paint the branches but usually end up with my usual solid mass of trees. She is also a busy mother of five kids, which I can relate to obviously, although five must be more hectic than four, right?

I especially enjoy reading Rebecca's blog while at my desk, in my 68ยบ house, sitting in my comfy suede chair, a fat and lazy domesticated cat in my lap, and with no insects in my hair. I'm pretty much an indoor girl. So sue me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Favorite Red Barn

Barn on Route 10, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16

After yesterday's lengthy post (sure can prattle on, can't I?), I have to keep it short today. As of Friday, the kids will be home for one whole week and a day, ten days total, or to be more precise, 256 hours and 23 minutes. There are a number of things that I need to get done before our calm and peaceful work days are shattered by arguing, tattling, uncontrollable clutter and projects, not to mention possible physical pain (mine, not theirs, though you never know). We may all go down to the city for a few days to break things up, but I am exhausted just thinking about having to maneuver four kids around the city, as well as how much we'd have to deduct from their college funds to do that.

Anyway, today's image is a relatively (for me) realistic painting of a barn about halfway between our home and Saratoga Springs. I wish it were mine. It's a beautiful, strong barn, with clean lines and painted the most perfect shade of barn red. In fact, I have painted this barn several times and haven't had the heart to paint it a color other than red, which is pretty unusual for me, not to change the color. But I have started a new batch of paintings, one of them being yet another view of this barn, and this time I am determined to go with tangerine or lavender or maybe lime green.

Certainly this is a very important issue, so as soon as I make a decision about the color I will let everyone know. heh. Unless of course, my children have driven me stark raving mad, in which case I probably wouldn't have access to a computer at the nice little facility that I may be checking into by next week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

225 Paintings, Give or Take

Blue Roses, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12

In 2005 I completed approximately 225 frame worthy, gallery or show quality paintings. This does not include the bad ones, the ones that I sand back down to reuse the panel. And, as I mentioned yesterday, my work is mostly pretty small. But still, it's true, I am quite productive as a painter. When someone seems astonished that I can complete so much work I make a joke about making up for lost time, referring to the fact that I did not paint for a good fifteen years. I feel kind of embarrassed, frankly, that the paintings have so easily flowed out of me for the last few years. Like I am cheating and that I should be struggling and sweating and crying over each one. There have been a few that have made me do those things, but for the most part, many of my paintings seem to paint themselves.

But really, there are a number of reasons that I can get so much done.

1. My energy level. I am a tortoise, a slow and steady kind of girl. I seldom, if ever, get all frenetically busy, I just work constantly, and continually throughout each day. When I was younger, this could easily turn into total slugdom, but after having kids I was forced to redirect my slow energy into actually accomplishing things. Even if it was just laundry, cooking, and changing diapers. Working at a slow pace also seems to prevent me from burning out on most things, with the exception of cleaning the bathrooms.

2. I have discipline (well, most of the time) and work every day. When I began painting, I decided that I would only work during the day, while the kids were at school. That gives me about 8 hours to get things done. If I am preparing for a show I may work on weekends or in the evenings, but that doesn't happen too often. School holidays and vacations throw me off a bit, but as the kids are getting older, I can get in a few hours of work when they are home, if I have properly bribed them. Lately however, the bright and shiny new computer that Doug got me for Christmas has really put a wrench in the works. I often spend many hours each morning on the computer when I should be in my studio. However, that problem has been neutralized by:

3. Getting better at painting. At first I did struggle over each painting and managed to waste a lot of time overworking everything. As I became more confident and my instincts improved I was able to more efficiently get the piece to the right place, without going over, well most of the time anyway. Last summer, I noticed that instead of working for hours at the easel, I'd procrastinate for awhile and then go the easel and immediately crank out a really good piece. Spending less time at the easel, creating better work was good because it gave me more time to have:

4. Organization. I have already covered this incredibly boring topic here.

5. How I paint. The manner in which I handle my imagery and the technical aspect of how I paint really helps me get a lot accomplished. As I work in glazes, I can only work briefly on each piece, each day and then it has to dry overnight, then I work on it the next day, and I do this for a few days, maybe more for the troublesome ones. So I work in batches, anywhere from five to ten pieces (depending on size), in a batch, per week. You see how this can really add up. And by eliminating almost every detail from my imagery, things can go really quickly. I am just realizing this one now, because recently I have been working on cityscapes, which despite being simplified as a scene, still have so much more detail than the landscapes and I am spending much more time on them.

I was surprised at how much work I produced last year. I had deadlines and knew I had to complete x number of paintings at any given time, but I wasn't really paying attention to the big picture. That's also why my productivity can be somewhat embarrassing. I'm just painting, meeting my obligations and deadlines and doing what I can to express myself in my work. Counting it all up takes the fun out of it and makes me seem way cooler than I actually am.

Now, if I could just sell all of those paintings....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pay Day

Forest Through the Trees, 2005, Oil on Panel, 24x36

The mail brought me a lovely surprise on Monday. A beautiful, signed check from my new gallery signifying my very first sale with them, made within a week of delivering my paintings. A good sign, I think! The painting that sold was this one, which I should add, looks much better in real life that it does here. My work can be very difficult to photograph because of the layers of color and purples are especially challenging. This piece is a large one, for me, so that's exciting too, to sell the largest one of the group that I took over there. I think this is only the second 24x36 piece I have ever sold (the other one is pictured above, which looks rather red here, but is actually a bit more purplish, see what I mean?). Most of my work is 18x24 and smaller, most often in the 12x16 or 8x10 range. At first I worked very small, 4x4, 5x7, 6x6, but in the last six months or so I have gotten more confident and have been working larger. I hope to do some paintings on 3'x3' and 3'x4' panels soon, but have to resolve some pesky storage issues first.

Today I have a ton of work to do. I am currently completely off my painting schedule and I need to do some underpaintings so that I can get back on track. I have to do several barns for an event this summer in Saratoga (they would like a few images now for publicity purposes) and I need to do some more landscapes as I have to replenish my inventory. Thomas Deans, who represents my work in Atlanta and has sold several pieces lately, also wants more work soon, and I have some group shows coming up in June, which will sneak up on me, I am sure.

Holy cow, just thinking about all of this makes me want to take a nap.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Figure Part 2

A Tree at the Bend, 2005, Oil on Panel, 6x6

An artist whose work I have been admiring recently is Jordan Wolfson. He is represented by DFN Gallery in NYC and I periodically go through their website as I like many of the artists they represent. When I was in the city last month, I visited DFN and saw several of his paintings and they were beautiful, so much nicer to see in person. His figurative work particularly interests me as well as his drawings which are really intense. I like how his figures have areas of softness, almost abstraction, but then there are just enough edges to the forms to create space and movement. I think the quality of light is intriguing and I also like his palette. But most of all I like how expressive his images are. So when I saw that he was teaching a weekly figure drawing and painting class down in Woodstock, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with and get some guidance from an artist whose work makes me consider what I want to say in mine. It seems totally ridiculous to actually drive two hours (four round trip) to take a class for 3 hours, but really, there aren't any other options like that in my immediate area. Besides, Doug and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that in order to go anywhere fun or interesting it is at least a 2 hour drive and we do it all of the time.

So after waiting a few months for the winter weather to subside (I shouldn't have bothered, I still ended up driving home in a blinding snow shower), I started the class last week. I didn't feel brave enough to paint so I thought I'd just draw for the first class. Which began the awkwardness of me taking a drawing class. I can draw. I have a long history of drawing the figure. I still have a lot to learn and I still need and want feedback and direction. However, I don't go into the class and announce that I already know how to draw, so of course the instructor doesn't know and is anxious to show me how to get started. So for the first hour or so there is a bit of dancing around. I am working quickly to show that I have at least some understanding of drawing the figure and the instructor is genuinely trying to help me. This happened in the last workshops I took, it happened on Wednesday and it is awkward all around. After I finally did a pretty good sketch, Jordan asked me why I was taking this class, because clearly I could already draw. I fumbled around (I was embarrassed, my face turned red and the others in the class could hear our discussion) and eventually managed to tell him that I had little opportunity to work from a model, that I liked his work and wanted to take his class. Later, we talked more and I told him that I wanted to pursue figure painting, but that I wanted my figurative work to have the same qualities as my landscape work and that I hadn't had much luck with that yet.

What I didn't tell him is this: I yearn to paint the figure. I think of myself as a figure painter (even though I am not) and what I really want to do is paint the figure in the same manner that I paint the landscapes. I love my process. I can't even begin to express how much I love doing the underpainting. Or how much I love working with glazes and pure color. Oh yeah, and I didn't mention to him that not being able to make this work with the figure is driving me nuts.

So I look forward to getting some help from an artist whose work I can connect with. I think it will help me. Jordan, poor guy, will probably get migraines having to put up with an opinionated, know it all, stubborn, former art student who is used to being in charge. Good luck.

The painting above is a piece that was in a show last fall at the Main Street Gallery in Groton NY. Someone at the opening said they saw it as a figure, the back of a man's head and shoulders, looking out over the landscape. I didn't paint it with that in mind, but now of course, when I look at the image that's exactly what I see. Perhaps that's direction I could go, except that I was completely unaware of what I was doing......

Anyway, these are two drawings that I did in the class. The first is a 12 minute sketch and the second took me about an hour or so. I am a bit rusty, since I have been to just two drawing sessions in the last 7 months and I am particularly rusty at drawing the male figure, having only drawn from one in the last five years or so. But, overall, I am fairly pleased with these.

Friday, April 7, 2006

The Figure

Riotous Morning, 2006, Oil on Panel, 8x10

As an illustration major in college, I was required to take a lot of figure drawing classes. I mean a lot. At least three days a week, sometimes for 3-6 hours each session for four years. We had to study anatomy, and classic figurative work by Michelangelo. Rubens, daVinci, Rubens, Titian and Rembrandt. Classes included drawing, using a variety of mediums, charcoal, graphite, conte crayon, ink, painting in which we mostly used oils and sometimes brush and ink, and sculpture. For sculpture, we had to form a wire armature and then build up the form of the figure with Roma Plastilina Modeling clay. To this day I can remember the smell and texture of that oil based clay, though I haven't worked with it for maybe 20 years.

Anyway, I was pretty good with the figure, probably not the best in the department, but I did ok. Doing the figurative work was kind of a love/hate thing for me in college. It could be grueling and stressful, and some of the instructors were really intense. But figure drawing can also be so exhilarating to me, it is amazing to be able to look at the figure, throw out conscious thoughts and just express whatever you feel and see about the model in front of you. I loved just getting into the medium, whether charcoal, paint, or clay and being able to create an image from basically nothing.

Over the years I have tried to keep up with figure drawing. When we lived in Utah, Doug and I ran a weekly figure drawing session and I did those classes during two pregnancies and while having the babies right next to me. I was able to develop the technical aspects of drawing such as line quality at this time and refining the use of using pure graphite, but still I always felt kind of rusty at it, because I wasn't immersed as I had been in college.

I have been able to do very little figurative work in the last few years, since moving back east. Our local art organization has a weekly class and I go to that occasionally. But there are few models in the area who are willing to pose unclothed and so often class is either canceled or the model is clothed. It is also difficult for me to get out of the house in the evenings, what with dinner, homework, bedtime and other kid stuff always going on.

So last summer I decided to take two figure drawing workshops in Woodstock. It was so incredible to be able to just completely focus on drawing the figure and I realized how much I still yearn to do figurative work. Some things have changed for me; my vision is worse, I should wear my glasses to more clearly see the model, but then I can't see the paper comfortably (bifocals may be in my near future), my arm gets sore after awhile and I need to brush up on my technical knowledge of the figure's anatomy. But I still have "a good eye" and I think that motherhood really added a new quality to my drawing, more sensitivity and sensuousness. My drawings have more feeling and are more expressive now, compared to when I was a silly, overly serious and inexperienced college student 20 years ago.

This has become longer than I expected, so I think I will talk about the class I am currently taking in Monday's post. The following are drawings that I did in the week long workshop that I did last summer. We had two excellent models and I am fairly pleased with this work, although I can always see something that I wish I had done differently or better. In fact, I was not happy with how I handled the model's face in the third drawing, so I did a another drawing, focusing only on her face in profile. The poses are anywhere from one to three hours and the male is drawn with graphite, the portrait and female are charcoal and the other (the orange one) is sangiune conte crayon.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Not Enough To Do

Layers, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Just a short note today as I have a very busy schedule today. Doug and I have to attend an IEP and review meeting for our oldest son, who is a special needs student. He is adopted (he is actually our nephew), and over the years we have had to learn to be firm and often bitchy advocates for him. His school placement has been fine until this last year, so we have to go and insist that we look at different options for next year. This is the kind of stuff that drives me crazy, paperwork and debating school officials who, while they have good intentions, do not really want to spend any more money on my son.

Then I have to get back to the studio, paint frames, do the paperwork, then frame up about four of the eight paintings that I have to deliver to Gallery 100 in Saratoga Springs on Friday. Also, since I will probably be gone most of the day on Friday, and that is my all important underpainting day, I should really try to do them today as well. Oh, and I have to go to the kid's book fair at their school in the afternoon. Yippee.

Wednesday I had an interesting afternoon involving a figure drawing class and my favorite place ever, Woodstock, NY. My post about it is in the works and will probably be up on Friday.

Surely that will be super fascinating to everyone.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Aaron, Terry, Martha

Flat Yellow Field, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12

One of the most enjoyable things about writing this blog has been finding, and being found by, other artists. The following artists have blogs which I have been reading and who create work that I relate to for one reason or another. Alas, I haven't seen any of this work in real life, nor have I met the artists, however I have had some email contact with each. I am not sure how I feel about the concept of meeting and socializing with others online, but it does seem to be the way these days, so I am going with the flow.

As I was reading through some blogs last week I somehow came to Studio Paint and Pen, a two part blog written by married couple Aaron and Shannon Tucker (she is a writer, he is a painter) The blog led me to Aaron Tucker's website, where I was immediately drawn into his work. I love his use of color and the linear qualities juxtaposed with solid blocks. I see a lightness and quirkiness about his work as well as depth of purpose. His work has gone right up to the top of my art collection wish list.

Terry Muira is an artist residing in California. I am actually somewhat familiar with his work as he is represented by Thomas Reynolds Gallery
in San Francisco. Doug and I have purchased a few paintings from Mr. Reynolds in the past and have continued to keep an eye on the artists he shows, including Terry. I especially like his paintings of city buildings. He also works as an illustrator and I can see in his work the ability (which I used to have but have somewhat lost) to paint a multitude of different subject matter with great skill and honesty. I respect (and envy) that he seems to do a variety of projects, including painting, drawing, sculpture and even backdrops for his son's school play. His blog is here.

Martha found me through another blog and she has made wonderful, insightful comments on many of my posts. Martha paints murals by commission and while I am not always a fan of such strong realism, I do like her work immensely. The murals have a strong expressive quality and the scale must add to that effect. Martha recently posted some of work on her blog and I think "She Stood Up" is just gorgeous, the color the mood, everything about it is just lovely. Martha and I also have other things in common, including children and the need for larger studio space.

I have a few more artists I'd like to mention but I think I will save them for another day. Now go and check out these blogs and websites and I expect a 500 word essay comparing and contrasting the work of these artists, from each of you, by Friday.

Just kidding, I felt like doing a college flashback.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Upstate Weather

Well, one of the many quirks about living in upstate NY is the weather. Last week the kids were wearing shorts and pulling out their sundresses and t shirts. This morning we woke up to a heavy, wet, stupid, windy, snowy day. It is simply painful to have this weather in April. So naturally, our satellite has been down all morning and I have not had access to the internet or emails. Sometimes I don't mind this, I can easily spend (waste) too much time on the computer and today I was able to to get a lot of work done in the studio. But still, it is an annoyance and I am glad that it is back up. However Blogger's format looks suspicious and it doesn't look like I can put up an image today. I am posting this and then getting the heck out of dodge before I mess anything up.

At least the phone is working. Last week our phone lines were down for two days, for no apparent reason. Our cell phones work out here, provided you are standing in one particular 4 foot square spot in our driveway. And to keep the power going we all take turns shoveling coal in the basement.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Lamenting Woodstock and April Fool's Day

Vivid Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

Saturday was an interesting day. Doug and I spent the morning trying to avoid the booby traps set around the house by our son. In my day, April Fool's Day was a chance to completely fool someone into thinking that you were actually a russian spy or that an alien had invaded your younger sister's body. Now it seems to be the day that you try to kill or maim or annoy your parents by winding thread from doorknob to doorknob throughout the house or by placing objects on top of the doors which would fall off when you open the door. The most effective thing he did was to tape the cordless phone to the base which, when I removed the tape, pulled off the battery case, which then fell out and narrowly missed breaking one or more of my toes, making me feel like a fool.

By noon, we had gotten out of the house alive and had a nice drive down to the opening at Enderlin Gallery. It was a good show, lovely paintings of flowers and well attended. I spoke with someone who is trying decide about buying one of my paintings and another piece may have sold also. We stayed for about an hour and then drove down to Woodstock.

We must have mental to not move to the Woodstock area when we decided to relocate to NY. I love it there! Besides the beautiful landscape, my people are in Woodstock. Natural types, midwives, yoga, whole food stores, galleries and artists abound. In the summer it is full of tourists, but right now it's still pretty quiet and we spent the afternoon checking out the galleries and shops in the center of town. I bought an embroidered hippie-dippie type shirt here:

and we marveled at the variety of handblown glass pipes and elaborate bongs that were available in many of the shops. What are the laws on selling drug paraphernalia anyway? Guess I am still thinking of Utah where there was NO CHANCE IN HELL that you could find a bong in a store, let alone in a clear glass display case visible the moment that you walked in the door. Anyway, I have spent quite a bit of time in Woodstock over the last year or so. Last summer I took two figure drawing workshops at the Woodstock School of Art. One was for 3 days and the other was a whole week, and both times I stayed here which was a total trip. There is such a strong artist's community thriving there and I can't tell you how much I wish we could live in that kind of environment. I love our old house and our "spot" but the thought of living in that community is so tempting. I think we will be keeping Woodstock in the back of our minds as a future possibility.

In the meantime, we got home and I wasn't at all surprised to find 6 rubber snakes when I pulled back the covers on my side of the bed. I calmly added them to the plastic spiders on Doug's side and went to sleep. Doug actually didn't notice them until the morning, which had our son feeling quite proud all day that his dad had slept on a pile of fake spiders and snakes. Still not sure about that qualifying as an April Fool's joke, but I appreciate his consistency.