Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Artful Gardens. Sort Of.

Peach Peonies, 2005, Oil on Panel, 5x7

Well, I had a very nice three day weekend, full of hard torturous labor, physical pain, sunburn and bug bites, one of which that has developed into a red area the size and shape of Alaska on my lower leg. Not to mention a cookout, Memorial Day parade and soccer games. While there was actually snow last weekend, this weekend was beautiful, perfect sunny and hot, 90 degrees.

We have lived on our farm here for 3 years now. The property used to be a dairy farm and a hops farm before that. We live in a 200 year old farmhouse and the family who owned it had about 100 acres of beautiful pastures and wooded areas. About 15 years ago the owner, Tony Yakos, sold the property to a couple who proceeded to subdivide the property, first into 5 acres lots, but when the neighbors objected and the town board got involved, the property ended up being divided into 20 (approximately) lots. The owners built a house on 20 acres and sold the other lots, including ours, the original farmhouse, with barn on 22 acres. The people who bought it did some (kind of bad) improvement to the house, lived here for a few years, moved away and then rented it until we bought it about five years ago. We rented it out for a year and then spent a year having it renovated and now here we are. We have been slowly working on the gardens surrounding the house which had been neglected for many years. Which is comical because I know little to nothing about gardening. Finally just this year I have figured out the difference between perennial and annuals. To make matters worse, one of our neighbors (not to mention many of the people we know here) is a master gardener and has gorgeous, stunning gardens AND she knows the name, the real name of nearly every plant, flower, shrub and tree.

This is our conversation:

Neighbor: Is that Heliopsis?

Me: Um, I don't know. The tag said it would have a yellow flower...

So despite feeling completely embarrassed whenever she stops by, I am plugging away, trying to choose easy care, hardy, self spreading plants that I can remember the names of (not doing so well with that I must admit). I love the Black-eyed Susans, Hollyhocks, Bee Balm, Daisies, Tickseed, Cosmos, Peonies and others, whose names I don't know yet. I am really enjoying the designing aspect of all of this, trying to get the colors to work, as well as the layout in each section. The gardens at the front of the house finally look pretty good if I do say so myself. There is a shade garden off to the side that I just cleared out and then added a few new plants. I will post pictures again in August or so when everything is all grown in and flowering.

The front of the house.

The front porch where we spend most of the summer!

The shade garden.

However, our current project is killing me. We have a patio area at the back of the house. When we bought the house there was a flagstone terrace that was overgrown and a hill with a flower garden that was also overgrown. All of that was torn up because we had to move the septic tank and so we spent a year just trying to decide what to do with the area. I built a stone wall about two years ago and then planted the area with sunflowers which were amazing and very van Gogh-ish. Last summer we gathered all of the flagstone we could find on the property, and because of a combination of him being slow and busy with his work and traveling, Doug literally spent the whole summer laying down the stone. We still need steps and the clay to press into the space between the stones, and will hopefully get to that by fall. Heh. I didn't want to do the sunflower garden again so this year I decided to plant a variety of plants and bushes on the hill. The area gets full sun, all day, which makes it really easy to choose plants, but holy cow, is it ever hard to get anything done out there! I work for an hour and I want to vomit, it's so hot. The most work I got done was on a rainy day, but I also pulled every single muscle in my body, trying not to slide down the hill in the mud. After this weekend, I had about half of the plants in that I bought, along with a sore back and a sunburn on my arms. Tuesday night I planted the rest and the garden is starting to look, well, like a flower garden rather than a burdock and dandelion garden. Now we are on the lookout for some sculpture to add to the gardens and to the top of our septic tank opening and I can sit back and just weed, right?! Ha. That's a full time job with the stupid, audacious burdock around here that just shows up where it feels like. We are using weed barriers in the vegetable garden, but I want my flowers to reseed so I don't usually use it in the flower gardens.

View of the hillside garden and the edge of the patio.

Doug is in charge the vegetable garden. He planted most of it this weekend, but still plans to add a few more things.

This is our lone garden sculpture, which we got at an art auction in Utah.

The upside to all of this is that it actually rains here, unlike in Utah, where everything I ever planted there died, because I just couldn't bring myself to use up so much water on the yard, plus we often had water restrictions, because of drought. So I can pretty much plant things here and providing I have read the tags properly, and put them in the right amount of light, the plants just grow. Cool!

Next year's project is the secret garden.......

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


The lilacs outside my studio window.

We have had some problems today with the satellite, which provides our internet service. It seems to keep moving and then we lose the signal. So Doug has climbed up there twice today (which I hate, because we do not have enough insurance) to readjust it and now it's working ok, it seems.

On Wednesday I will post a few photos of our gardens, which is basically all we have been working on for the last four days. I did get back to work in my studio today, but I was constantly distracted by the dreamy aroma of the lilac bush that is right outside of my studio window and is in full bloom right this very minute.

PS. Omega, #5 is the one.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Have a Nice Long Weekend

Fall Around the Water, 2005, Oil on Panel, 8x8

Ok, so I agree with those of you who left comments or emailed me to say that they liked the painting that I have by Mark English, but weren't into his other paintings so much. However, I do actually have another one of his paintings, which happens to also be included on his website. I am planning to write a post about it at some point, but anyone want to venture a guess about which one it is? It seems obvious to me, but maybe that's because I see it all of the time. Whoever guesses correctly gets a free lifetime subscription to my blog. Heh.

I plan on taking a major break from the computer (been spending way too much time on my butt staring at it) this weekend in order to reconnect with my gardens, have a cookout with friends, work in the studio and clean my house. Our weather has turned beautiful, stunning, and warm. So we have a ton of outside work to catch up on, putting in the vegetable garden, landscaping the patio we have been working on for two summers now, and of course the never ending weeding. We are also getting bees on Saturday. Yes, bees. When Doug was a kid he raised bees and he has always wanted to do it again, but we have moved around so much that it wasn't practical until now. So we are starting with one hive, painted orange and yellow (our daughter chose the colors) and are looking forward to honey, the occasional bee sting and wearing ever so fashionable helmets with netting.

One of these days I'll put up pictures of the hive, the gardens and yard. It's just starting to look like heaven here.

See you Tuesday.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mark English

Clouds Overhead, 2005, Oil on Panel, 9x12

Having been inspired by reading The Crionna Collection and The Intrepid Collector, I thought that I'd occasionally post an image and talk a bit about the paintings and photographs that Doug and I have collected over the years.

When we lived in Utah, we began to buy art, rather seriously. I wanted to buy paintings that I liked and felt a connection to without concern about whether they were good investments or not. As Doug has a background in photography (he has a BFA from Tyler School in photographer and worked as a professional photographer for a time in Philadelphia), he decided to focus on buying photographs. He wanted to buy ones that he loved and admired but that also would gain value. He has been very successful with that, having sold two pieces at a profit.

When I was in college as an illustration major, Mark English was our god. His illustrations were everywhere in the eighties and we could only dream of having a career that successful. From his website: "He has won hundreds of awards for illustration and was the most awarded illustrator in the history of the Society of Illustrators in New York." He lives in Missouri and has since moved into fine art, showing his paintings in galleries in San Francisco and at the Eleanor Ettinger Gallery in New York. Doug gave me this painting by Mr. English for Christmas in 1999 and it amazes me. Without a direct light source on it, it kind of looks like nothing, a vague, dark dreary mass. But put a spotlight on it and it has space, depth, intensity and colors (though subtle) that glow. It has been one of the most inspiring pieces to me, when I started to paint again and it has qualities that I strive for in my own work everyday. I don't like all of Mr. English's current work, but I love this one.

August, by Mark English, Oil on Board, 10x13 1/2

I found when trying to photograph this painting that it's nearly impossible to capture the qualities that I described above. Despite being annoyed at not having a good representation of it to post, and I really apologize for the big shadow at the top of the painting, I am also comforted by that. I think it's a great sign when a painting doesn't give up its secrets so easily.

Over the years I have met people that have known Mark English and I hope that I will have a chance to meet him someday. If I do, I will more than likely make a ridiculous fool of myself, trying to converse intelligently with someone who I have admired for so long. He has a son, John, who is also a talented painter and illustrator and a daughter, Donna, who makes frames, including the one on the painting that we own. In fact, she made a custom frame for a bathroom mirror for us several years ago.

All of the paintings we have are my favorite, but this piece is really my favorite. I totally get it and I feel like it gets me, if that makes any sense.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pay Off Time

Sidelight, 2005, Oil on Panel, 9x12 (Jenny and Randy's barn)

Ok, writing this blog has finally paid off! Big sale? Nope. NYC gallery representation? No. A show at the Whitney? Ha. Tickets to a Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm's recording studio and home in my very favorite place, Woodstock, NY? YES!!!

This is how it happened. I have a friend, Jenny, who lives a few miles up the road from us. She and her husband, Randy and their four children live in an old house that is very similar to ours, full of character, crooked floors, beautiful woodwork and bad 80's kitchens with fluorescent lighting. We had renovated our house before we moved here and when I met Jenny, she was preparing to renovate theirs. So we've spent a lot of time discussing counter tops, wall colors and light fixtures. Jenny is also incredibly appreciative of the arts, her home is filled with wonderful art, much of it created by her mother, artist Nina Bentley and she also has a few paintings of mine (they have wonderful barns on their property that I have painted often, so often that I stopped telling them when I did one because I didn't want them to feel that they had to buy each of them), one of which has its very own spotlight. I didn't really know very many people as we were kind of new to the area and Jenny knew I was painting every day and was trying to get some kind of career thing going. So, she suggested I have an open studio (that was about a year and a half ago) and she invited her friends to come, meet me and to see my work. I sold over 20 paintings that weekend and I still have the urge to thank her every time I see her.

So all of this time she and Randy have not had a computer in their home. I have offered to email her some information or direct her to a website and she'd have to remind me that she didn't have email OR a computer. So retro! But I was at her house last week and noticed a big shiny new computer on her desk and while I was marveling over her entrance into this century I was also writing down my blog address and tucking it under her keyboard. Always thinking of getting those stats up.

Last night Randy called and offered us two tickets that they had gotten the chance to buy through a New York Times lottery. They couldn't go and were trying to think of who might be interested in buying the tickets from them when they just so happened to think of us, after having read my blog and the entry about me and Bob Dylan and The Band. Randy told Doug, we could let him know, no rush, but I insisted that Doug call him right back to tell him yes. So he did and we are going. Holy cow!

Now I wonder if the Whitney would call me if I were to write a post raving about the Biennial......

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Repeating Myself

Bright Day, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x36

What's really occupying my mind today is the damn weather. For the last few days it is has been cold. Like 40 ish during the day and in the 30's overnight. On Sunday, we had rain, hail, sleet, snow, wind and sunny skies, all on one day. I got so sick of being cold that I turned the furnace back on and it's been kicking in occasionally for the last few days. The kids are bravely soldiering on, wearing their new spring clothing, including shorts, but I am bundled up in layers of shirts and sweaters.

Luckily, we haven't put in the vegetable garden yet and I have only planted a few flowers, which are pretty hardy and may be ok despite a few nights of frost. I don't mind cold weather, in fact I like winter and a good snowy day. But frankly, in the spring, when it's 80, then drops to 40, well that's just plain cruel and painful.

The upside to all of this is that I have a reprieve in presenting my they're-so-white-they-glow-in-the-dark legs to the public. No shorts yet, for at least another week or so.

I am working on larger paintings now, 18x24 and larger, trying to build up my inventory again after shipping out a batch of paintings last week. I have been painting many versions of a tree or a few trees with a horizon line and tree line behind it. I will keep going with these until I feel like I have expressed all that I can regarding that particular view of nature, or until someone smacks me in the head to get me to change directions, whichever comes first. The lilac bushes and flowering trees have been an inspiration to me in recent weeks and account for the fact that most of the foliage I have painted lately has been either pink or purple. Each time I start with the color glazes on a painting, I swear I will paint the tree blue or red or orange, maybe even green, but somehow they almost always end up either pink or purple, because for now, to me, those colors just seem right.

Today's image is similar to a smaller piece that I did awhile ago. Occasionally there is a combination of colors and a composition that I really like and I will attempt to "catch" it again on a larger scale. Of course that doesn't always work as scale can really change everything. I think this one turned out nicely, but it does have a different feel than the first, despite having the same structure and colors. Not sure if I should be copying my own work but I will reference yesterday's post and remind myself that I can do whatever I want with my work. ha.

Monday, May 22, 2006

No Direction Home

The Big Pink, 2005, Oil on Panel, 12x16

Forgive me for what I am about to discuss, especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan and already know everything about him and his music. I was born in 1964, in Albert Lea, Minnesota and raised in Rochester, not too far from Dylan's hometown of Hibbing. I missed the hoopla involving his rise to fame, his going electric, the motorcycle accident and his dropping out and settling in Woodstock (my favorite place ever) to raise a family. My first real memory of him was hearing the song "Tangled Up in Blue" and then at some point seeing that clip of him singing it, where his face is painted white. SInce I was still a straitlaced girl from the midwest, I was pretty much thinking nut job when I saw that. When I was in college I met a guy whose first words to me were: "I know every Bob Dylan song" He was devastated when I said I didn't really know who Bob Dylan was (that relationship didn't last too long). He then proceeded to sing almost every song ever written by Dylan and after hearing 'Like a Rollingstone" I finally knew who he meant. What can I say? I was a rock and roll kind of girl, raised on AM radio and disco.

So I met Doug when I was 23 and he was 31. HE knew Bob Dylan and his music and history very well. So I listened to more of it but never got to the point of understanding the cultural references to his work. About two years ago Bob Dylan did a concert in a nearby town and since nothing like that ever happens around here, Doug stood in line for 4 hours (which was like going home to the mother ship for him, standing in line for tickets like that) to get tickets. The concert was incredible despite the fact that we had to take the kids (no babysitter to be found, EVERYONE was at the concert), and I didn't have my glasses on so I spent the first half of the concert watching the guitar player, thinking he was Dylan until Doug told me that he was off to the side at the keyboards. Oh, ok. Well, he sounded amazing and I became a fan. I started listening to his music all of the time and finally Doug and I had music to listen to that we both liked. In fact, for Christmas that year, we both got each other the same gift; the book, "Chronicles", by Bob Dylan. (that was the second time we bought each the same gift, about five years earlier we had bought each other an Antiques Roadshow calendar, are we soulmates or what?)

Anyway, why am I writing about this? I watched the documentary about him "No Direction Home" Saturday night and I realized that now I really love him. There were many clips of his 1966 concert tour through Europe and England, the tour when he "went electric" and had The Band (who I also L-O-V-E) playing back up. The tour where they were constantly booed and heckled. What was really amazing to me though, were the interviews and press conferences that he gave during the tour and his total discomfort with the really stupid questions asked of him by the media. I think we have gotten so used to having celebrities and performers give such rehearsed answers to the most inane questions, that it is almost shocking to see an artist not wanting to talk about what they do. I loved that he didn't and couldn't explain how he wrote his music and how he didn't think that he wrote protest songs, though so clearly his songs had that effect. And I especially respect him for the fact that he didn't just keep writing and performing the same things over and over. When he finished saying what he had to say, he stepped away and tried something different, despite incredible criticism and contempt. I know he was considered by many to be a sell out but I just see him as an artist who grew and developed and changed his manner of expression.

In the 60 Minutes interview he did awhile back, he said that he didn't feel that he had it in him anymore to write songs that were as magical as his early work. He said, "You can't do something forever. I did it once and I can do other things now. But I can't do that." When I heard that I immediately thought, of course he could still do it. But after thinking about it for a bit I thought that maybe it's ok that the intensity wanes after awhile and an artist can still be productive but in other ways, as Bob Dylan has been. He is still a compelling performer, he writes and he now has a radio show that has gotten good reviews. I think that his evolution is worthy, not contrived.

So I want to keep his words and his example with me. I want to keep pushing myself, to not do what others expect of me, and to not place so much meaning or importance on what I do (there are others who can and will do that if my work is ever considered to be important), but to just express my thoughts and feelings and enjoy that process. I can't, nor do I want to convince people like my work. Whoever comes to the party, will come. That's all.

PS. While his earlier work makes my heart sing, "Time Out of Mind" may be my favorite album. It's depressing and bitter and it brings me down, but in a good way. Gotta love that.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Hilly Treeline, 2006, Pastel on Paper, 9x12

Finally a few days off. On Thursday I shipped out twelve paintings to Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh and I am so happy to have some time to finally catch up on other things. I have to clean my studio, and the whole house really, my desk is a total wreck and I am so behind on my paperwork and taxes. I also have to get outside to plant some flowers, and do some other work in the yard that I have been putting off. I still have to keep to my regular painting schedule mind you, I still have to put together some new work to send to the gallery in Atlanta and I have a few pieces to do for a group show coming up in June. So it's back to the studio on Monday.

The good thing, I have found, about shipping work to a show and not attending the reception, is that I tend to get the mild version rather than the bad version of the Post Show Meltdown. When I first had this condition a couple of years ago I thought I had lost my mind as well as whatever painting abilities I had ever had and that I'd have to cancel all my upcoming obligations and leave the art world in shame and embarrassment. Little did I know, because artists seldom talk about it (with the exception of Nancy Baker, who mentions it here) that this is fairly common among artists and that after vomiting out all of my energy, creativity and painterly skills in an intense rush to finish, I would be so spent that I would actually be unable to function normally for days, even weeks. During this period of time, I question everything I do, from my choice in imagery to what kind of brushes I use, to how I should handle my edges. I convince myself that my work actually does suck and that everyone at the opening was just being polite in order not to upset the crazy artist OR I think my work is so great that I can't possibly do better and that there's no way to top what I have just finished.

In order to determine what the best solution is to handle this period of time, I have tried something different after each show that I have had. The list is as follows:

1. getting right back to painting the day after the opening
2. not painting for a few days
3. not painting for a month
4. working in a different medium for awhile or with different subject matter
5. keeping busy with non art activities
6. doing nothing whatsoever for days even weeks.
7. baking cookies and eating all of them

So far what has worked best and doesn't make me end up feeling like the biggest slug ever, or the worst artist ever, is to take two days, no more and no less, off from painting and to spend at least part of those days cleaning and reorganizing my studio and office. The worst thing for me to do is to take more than a few days off from painting as each day off makes it harder to get back to it. Another thing that I have noticed is that the Post Show Meltdown effect is lessened if I finish my work well ahead of the deadline. Um, yeah, like that happens more than once a year.

Of course, all of this drama is totally ridiculous. Once I jump the hurdle and get my hands back into the paint, everything is peachy keen again and I can still paint. However, I may have to try the cookie thing again to help with that stupid hurdle.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Well Now I Have a Bug Up My Butt

Malaysian Fly, 2004, Oil on Panel, 4x4 (I had a brief obsession with painting bugs a few years ago)

Not literally of course. But I just received another rejection letter from the national juried show at our local arts organization and now I am annoyed. I will have to keep entering juried shows now until I at least get into one, somewhere. I have a prospectus for a small works show in a nearby town and I'll go through for more options. This constant rejection has really gotten my competitive streak going and even though I don't have time or extra work to enter, I will feel like a LOSER if I stop trying.

Speaking of being a loser, I thought I'd do a quick recap of how many times my fab presentation and slide entries have been rejected.

I have entered 17 Juried Shows in the last two and a half years, according to my records. About half were national shows like the Cambridge Art Association National Prize Show and the Artists Magazine competition, which rejected me, and then the rest were regional or local, with which I had better luck, even winning prizes in a few of them.
Juried Shows: No: 10 Yes:7 (I won 3 awards)

Arts Organizations often have a call for artist submissions. A selection committee then goes through the applicants and schedules group and/or solo shows for the coming year. I entered four of these, one of which was local and that was pretty casual, the director visited my studio and had seen my work in the other gallery in town. I sent my presentation package to the other three and was accepted by two and rejected by the other.
Arts Organizations: No: 1 Yes: 3

After searching the internet, art magazines and combing through artist's resumes, I came up with a list of galleries that I thought might be receptive to my work. I sent my info packet to three galleries in Boston, one in New York City and one in Philadelphia. I also sent my link to two other galleries in Philadelphia. I received rejection letters from all of those galleries. Reading the letters is always interesting. A few of them were actually encouraging but most were pretty "brief". My favorite was the one (in NYC) who sent back the info with a scribbled note, onto my typed cover letter that said" Thanks, but the work is not for me-Thank you anyway." Meanwhile, almost everyone who has ever suggested a NYC gallery to me has referred me to this particular gallery. Hmm. Another letter, from a Boston gallery, was complimentary and I could tell by the comments that they had actually looked at the work. It said "I find your pieces to be profoundly compelling. I am intrigued by your evocative colors and simple yet dynamic compositions. Unfortunately, we do not feel we can make a commitment to you at this time as we do not have a place in the gallery for this genre of paintings." So that started out well, but then, you know, took a turn.

I then focused on smaller galleries in smaller cities and had better luck there. I sent my package out to eight galleries and received a positive response from five. One of those gave me a solo show, and the rest offered me representation. One of the no responses eventually turned into a yes and about two or three galleries didn't respond or send back my info.
Galleries: No: 10 Yes: 5 No Response: 3

I don't recall being too upset by the rejections. I think the acceptances were sprinkled into the mix just enough so that I didn't really feel too discouraged. I also sold work pretty consistently from the beginning and that was also encouraging. Having said that though, I am pretty happy to not be sending out info anymore. Almost every time I am involved in an exhibition or event, another opportunity presents itself so I haven't had to pursue things too much lately. I am pretty realistic about rejection. Sometimes it is about my work I know, but it can also be about other things too, and either way I am ok with all of that. I'd be painting anyway, though maybe not quite so much.

It was interesting to tally all of this up, I hadn't really done it before. The competition numbers were better that I had thought and the gallery numbers were worse than I had remembered.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Break in the Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x24

Ok, putting together info about me and my work.

Luckily when I went to do this, I had some idea of what to do. I had worked in a small company for a few years after college and we always had to put together mailings and catalogs that showcased the company and its products. Then, for awhile I had my own little company and I needed to have presentable, yet inexpensive, information to hand out to buyers at trade shows. To round out this knowledge, my years at the arts organization came in handy again. I often had to go through the information sent to us by artists who wanted to show in the gallery and it was pretty easy to see what works and what doesn't.

So I settled in to create the following: slides and/or a disk with digital files, a resume, a bio and an artist's statement.

Slides: Nowadays, it's so much easier to get slides made! To take the pictures, I have an easel and tripod set-up in a room that gets a lot of natural light. After taking a shot of the painting with our digital camera, I load the images onto my computer, crop them and lighten them a bit in photoshop and then email the jpegs to the company who will make them and send them back. I usually include 12-15 slides, unless the gallery specified differently, in a (clean) slide envelope. On each slide I write my name, phone number, title, year and size of the piece. At first I did not include a disc, but after a few months I added it to the package. I printed a CD label with my "logo" and contact information and applied that to the disc. I also include an image list that lists each painting, the date, medium, size and price.

Exhibition Resume: This was comical. After being a stay at home mom for quite a few years and having little, if any, recall of the few shows that I was involved in after college, I had just a few bits of information to include. Luckily I had three exhibitions in Utah that I could use, so between those, my education info, a list of upcoming shows and the ever useful double spacing trick, I had a sparse but acceptable resume. I have since been able to switch to single spacing but I still include upcoming shows. And by the way, the resume I have linked to is not updated. It's a long story and involves having a friend do a website as a favor....

Biography: After doing the resume which had big gaps, I felt it was necessary to write up a bio to describe those gaps. I am not sure if it was important really, or if it helped or hurt in some cases, to include personal information, but I like to know something about an artist when I am looking at their work, so I include it in my presentation.

Artist's Statement: This was hard and I worked on these few paragraphs for quite awhile. I tried to keep it simple and short. I didn't feel that any metaphors and flowery, in-depth descriptions were really necessary for my pretty straightforward paintings. I have heard that the artist statement should change as your work changes over the years, but every time that I sit down to alter the statement, it just still seems to be appropriate. This doesn't really relate to the info package but most of the galleries that I have worked with have used my statement on their websites or have used portions of it in their publicity, so I probably should put together some other writings about my work at some point soon.

Letter of Intent: I always include a letter addressed to the gallery director, personally, whenever possible. I usually include comments about how I am impressed with the quality of the art that they represent and that I am interested in exhibition opportunities. I don't mention representation at this point, because I think that is probably way too forward, at least more than I am comfortable with, and I also because I am not looking for that at the point of sending them info. As much as a gallery may want to try out an artist before committing to a longer agreement, I am also trying them out. If I get the chance to participate in a group show or some other event, I can get a good idea about how they are to work with, if they pay on time, if they do the proper amount of publicity, how effective their sales staff is, etc. I also offer to bring in my work into the gallery to show in person.

It should go without saying that all of this printed material is typewritten, with no errors. This seems obvious, but at the arts organization, we used to get so many handwritten letters and resumes, many that were illegible and it really just comes across as that the artist doesn't take themselves, their work, or the gallery very seriously. I also include my letterhead, which includes my "logo" and contact information, on everything that is in this package. Again, computers have made all of this so much easier. No more trips to the printers, which isn't so good for them, I guess.

I also include a high quality image of one of my pieces, printed full page, with the letterhead at the top, on a piece of glossy white photographic paper. I sometimes, in my more paranoid moments, wonder if anyone even looks at the slides or discs, and by including a full color image, I know that they have at least seen one image that I have painted and I can respect a negative decision in that case.

All of this is assembled like this in a two pocket folder. I like to use kraft brown folders, with the recycled look, but I have also used a dark blue linen folder as well. I found a nice pea green paper at Office Max for the printed materials, I think a little color is nice, but I have also used cream or taupe colored papers also. The slides/disc go on the left side with the color print on top, so it's immediately visible. The papers go on the right, letter on top, then resume, artist statement and bio. I also include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of the package.

So this is what I sent out to introduce myself and my work to galleries. Most of my attempts were unsuccessful, but I don't really attribute that to the presentation. We all know that there are so many reasons why a gallery isn't interested in new works or artists, from annoyance to getting unsolicited info, to dislike of the art, to disinterest in new artists. But the galleries who have contacted me based on this package have commented on how much they appreciated the professional and clean quality of my presentation. Of the nine galleries who represent my work, five of them became aware of me based on my mailing them this info.

There are probably a hundred other things I could have done along with mailing this info, such as making follow up calls and mailing them show notices and images of new work. I often think that I should be sending out press kits as well. However, I do very little of this. It's not that I think it doesn't work, or that artists shouldn't do any of those things, it's just not what I feel comfortable doing. When I feel that I am at the point where I feel that I really need to be showing in NYC or in another large city, or if I think I need some press, I will push a bit harder at promoting myself.

So let's hear what kind of promotion you all do, to galleries or otherwise.

PS. The company I use for slides is They are inexpensive, have a quick turn around time and accept digital files by email. For just the extra shipping charge I can get my slides in 3 days, if necessary. I love them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Decisions and Research

Orange Barn on Purple Land, 2006, Oil on Panel, 9x12

After discussing framing and finishing issues last week, I thought I'd keep going and talk a bit about marketing, of which I am in no way an expert, just so you know.

When I decided to go back to painting, I felt I had to make a decision about the direction I was going to take in order to try to exhibit and sell my work. One option was to try and get gallery representation and get into various group shows with the galleries and in other arts organizations, and in that case I would basically be paying someone else to sell my work, which I was fine with. The other option was to sell directly to buyers, by showing at art fairs, selling on ebay or in other internet venues, opening my studio to the public, and cultivating a list of clients with direct marketing. After looking into each option and dabbling a bit with both, I decided to go the gallery route. I didn't feel that I had enough time to handle my own sales, not to mention the advertising, the paperwork and the negotiations that making sales involves. I couldn't leave town to do art fairs because of my husband's business and his traveling schedule and I still really needed to spend most of my time actually painting and developing my work. So in order to streamline my efforts, direct marketing (and making my own frames and panels) had to go, and I decided to pursue gallery representation.

I had done some research about how to go about that by reading a few books and I also came across helpful bits of information in magazines and on the internet. So with complete and total blind optimism and confidence, I just jumped in. I started to research galleries to find the ones that I thought would be a good place for my work. If I saw an artist's whose work seemed similar to mine, I looked at their resumes to see where they had exhibited and I tracked down their galleries. I checked websites, artist websites, show listings, looking for venues that seemed suitable. I would have liked to visit many more galleries in person to develop a relationship first (the way everyone says you should), but logistically, that was really difficult for me. With four kids and a husband who is often out of town, it was and still is difficult for me to get away very often. So I did what I could on the internet (did I say that I love the internet?!), I took a few day trips to visit some regional galleries and Doug scoped out some places in person for me too, when he could. I did establish a relationship with a local, but seasonal gallery, and an arts organization, where I had a solo show last year and they often show my work in their juried shows and in their member events. However, certainly I needed more than that, if I wanted to move forward. I put together a list of galleries in NYC, Boston and Philadelphia (did I mention the blind optimism thing?) and then a list of galleries in smaller areas such as Hudson and Saratoga Springs, NY. I decided that I had to start sending out my info. Um, which meant that I would have to put together my info.

Since that's a long story (what a surprise!), I will save the discussion of my fascinating attempts to put together sparse information about myself and my work for tomorrow.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ode (sort of) to Mother's Day

Byzantine Blue Tree, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day. I actually like the concept, honoring and spending time with a parent who raised you, but as with anything remotely resembling a holiday in this country, it has turned into a day, really several weeks, of sentimental drivel. Sappy, emotional commercials, advertisements and constant reminders to buy your mother a gift or even just a card, one of the 152 millions cards given to mothers on this day.

Here is an interesting history of Mother's Day, starting with its origins in the United States. It begins with this:

"Mother's Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their sons."

This seems especially timely right now and it just seems so trivial to go shopping.

On a more personal level, for me, Mother's Day is just a day where I feel even more guilty for not being a better mother. I feel bad for being happy when my kids go to school and are out of the house, for when I tell them to leave me be, for when I yell at them because I am tired and crabby. For when I do or say something that disappoints them or even wounds them. I feel guilty enough about all this (and more) every other day of the year, it's just worse when I am supposedly being honored.

And despite all of that, I have to admit, that I love how happy my kids are about making me a special breakfast, picking flowers for me, helping around the house and giving me a gift that they have spent days making (I have drawn the line with the gifts, if they must give me a gift it has to be handmade). My husband asked me last week if I wanted to do anything special on Mother's Day and I said that all I want is for all of us to have a normal Sunday, puttering around the house and catching up on things. Oh, yeah, and I'd like to have just one day where I don't have to cook or clean up after.

So that was my gift, along with a lovely hat made from paper plates and decorated with fake flowers made by my youngest daughter, and we all enjoyed our day.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Sanguine Landscape, 16x20. Oil Stick on Paper, 2006

I am in the midst of a rather hectic day, so not much of a post from me today. Our weather is rainy and overcast, which is good as we really need the rain, but it also tends to make our satellite go down. Now it's up, but I have to finish up several paintings, make a casserole for an event that my son is attending this evening, pick up my car, uh, buy groceries so I can make the casserole and then I have the all important appointment to get my hair colored and cut. Really, I am not kidding, that's the most important thing on my agenda today. The kids at the social thing won't starve, we can have cereal for dinner and I can drive my husband's car for a few more days, but I can't possibly miss my hair appointment.

Oh and by the way, my hair color, the fake color that is, is pretty much the same as the color of the painting above. The hair color came first.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Blog Links

Path to Pink Hills, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

I have come across a few blogs lately that I have been enjoying and I wanted to share them with you.

My real life friend, Steve has a blog called Dubya & Me. It's a tongue in cheek discussion of how Dubya (yes, that Dubya) has insinuated himself into Steve's personal life on a daily basis. Pretty relevant subject these days, I'd say. Hopefully, Steve will post more often though, so we can enjoy his creativity, wit and possible paranoid delusions.

I know that many of you are already familiar with Paul Dorrell and his blog, but I just found it (clearly, I am a bit slow) and have been looking forward to each new post from him. Paul is very entertaining and has quite a colorful life story. He is the author of the book "Living the Artist's Life" (just ordered it from and he also owns Leopold Gallery in Kansas City, MO. After looking at the artists that he represents, I feel certain that my work belongs there as well, but he only represents work by regional artists. However, I will be stalking him without mercy if he ever changes that policy.

I have been reading Nancy Baker's blog for a few weeks now and really enjoy her sense of humor as well as her art. AND she just had a show in a NYC gallery which is what we all dream of isn't it? Her most recent post though, discusses the appalling manner in which the arts are treated at her daughter's school. Please read it, become as outraged as I did and find a way to help support the arts in our schools. If you think her story is unique, it's not. Next year my son will be in middle school. As a 6th grader he will have 10 art classes ALL YEAR and by 8th grade art is considered an elective.

And just so you all know that I am up on today's pop culture, go check out this blog, written by the writers of Grey's Anatomy. I love this show (and I really must bow to the late great St. Elsewhere here, of which I have seen every episode at least twice), even though it can be so stupid and cliched, but I am pretty sure that Patrick Dempsey would fall in love with me if only I could just catch his eye. Uh, just kidding my dear Doug. Anyway, if you feel like wasting a day looking at the computer this is the place to do it. After each post there are hundreds and hundreds of comments and they are pretty entertaining for the most part. People have very strong feelings about this show!

So go check out these blogs, drive up their stats and make me look really popular! OK?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Marking My Territory

Blue Hill, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12

Besides framing, the other aspect of finishing my work in preparation to sell or send off to a gallery or show is signing the painting and putting a label on the back. On the front of the painting on the bottom right hand corner, in a coordinating color, I sign my name. Actually, I use my initials. I used to sign my whole name but my last name is kind of long and I felt it was kind of distraction, not to mention that it was rather difficult to paint it legibly and I've never been able to paint it with any kind of flourish. I also include the date.

On the back of the panel, I write, with a sharpie, the title, the year and my full name. Then I print up a label on my computer and use glue tape to adhere it to the back of the panel after the piece is framed up. The label can be removed with some effort, but the written info is still on the panel as a back-up. I used to put my contact information on the label, but a couple of gallery directors mentioned that they'd rather my personal info wasn't on the work as it could be a conflict with their sales efforts. Since I normally encourage people who contact me to go the galleries who show my work anyway, I was fine with eliminating the contact info. However, if I WERE selling directly to buyers, without going through a gallery, I would totally include all my information, including a map to my studio and hot glue it to the back and maybe to the front and sides too. Anyway, if anyone does wants to contact me, (I do get the occasional fan email) I am easily found by doing a google search. So the label now just includes my name, the title of the painting and the year it was completed. Since Doug and I both have a graphic design background, we couldn't resist putting together a nifty logo for my name on the label.

I have seen a number of ways that artists mark their work (including incorporating it into the image), and after looking at the art that we own, it seems that everyone does something different. Most of the pieces that we bought from a gallery have a typed label on the back which includes the gallery's info, the artist's name, the title, year, and sometimes the price and/or size. Some artists just scribble their name and maybe the year on the back. One uses a rubber stamp with her name and info and stamps it on the stretcher. We have a few pieces with no identifying information whatsoever, and a couple of pieces simply have a somewhat illegible signature on the painting.

To me, it's important to have my full name, somewhere, on the actual painting, and as a courtesy to the galleries, I apply the typed label that includes the title of the piece. It makes it so much easier for them to identify the work when preparing for a show or for their records. I used to work with a non-profit arts organization and artists showing in the gallery would actually drop off 25 pieces with no identifying information whatsoever attached to them. This created an unbelievable amount of extra work for us, so I was mindful of that when I developed the typed labels.

Again, more stuff that I didn't learn in art school, but picked up along the way.

I'd love to hear what you do to identify your work.

PS. Another bit of information regarding frames. Some of my favorite frames on art that I own have come from Glaser Frames. They are fairly expensive, and they look terrible on my work, but I love their frames and have seriously considered developing a painting style that coordinates with their frames....

Tuesday, May 9, 2006


Just wanted to add a few links to blogs that have recently discussed framing. There are more, I am sure, I just can't recall them right now. Please feel free to post any frame related blog links in the comment section. I find it very interesting to hear how artists handle their framing issues.

I Landscape
Studio Pen and Paint
Ed Maskevich


Spring Landscape, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x12

I go way back with frames. When I first met Doug, we used to go to huge flea markets outside of Philadelphia and we were both intrigued by the old, beat up but elaborate frames. We bought several (they were overpriced, usually, or we would have bought more) thinking we'd do some kind of art with them, and those frames have traveled along with us through each of our many moves. A few years later, I started making hand-painted, picture frames, as well as framed mirrors, clocks and boxes. I did the trade show scene at the Javits Center in New York twice a year and did pretty well selling my work to gift shops. My claim to fame with that project was that the actress Linda Hamilton (The Terminator) bought one of my clocks from a store in Richmond, VA and then the best account I had was the mail order catalog Ballard Designs, which bought about 600 mirrors over the course of about 9 months. Of course I had to make all of them, then pack and ship them, so that was a bit of a downside there.

"redesign" product line, 1992

So I love frames. Big, gaudy, elaborate, gold, worn, thick, whatever. I have stacks of frames that I have collected over the years thinking that when I started painting again, I could use them. All of our children's picture are in all kinds of different picture frames. No plain ones on our picture wall! As fate would have it, however, my paintings look terrible in elaborate frames. A frame with any kind of detail whatsoever is too busy for my work.

So I began to search for simple wood frames. I could have made them, and Doug and I discussed doing it, but we have no workspace available for woodworking, no equipment and no extra time. Neither of us could bear take on any more time consuming projects like that. When I had previously made the frames and mirrors, I bought the unfinished frames pre-assembled from a molding company in NYC so I thought doing something like that would work for me again. There are very few framers in our area, but I did find a place in a nearby town and they had a simple unfinished wood molding that I liked. As I was determining the design of the frame however, I realized that I wanted the edges of the panel to be visible, which meant I would have to put together some kind of floater frame. I had the frame store put together some frames, so that the back would be the front, which was to them confusing to no end. I planned to paint and assemble them myself. This worked out ok until I needed about 20 frames for a show and their lead time was 4 weeks. Given that I am not usually sure about what work I will be including in a show until, oh the week before the opening, this was a problem.

I called our contractor, Steve. His shop had occasionally cut some panels for me and I thought they might be able to make a few frames for me. He was happy to help me out, as he is very supportive of artists and for the first batch we made a trade, a painting for frames. The great thing about working with Steve and Frank, who is the woodworker who actually makes the frames, is that they can make the molding any size, thickness, width. So if I have an odd panel, they are happy to make up a special sized frame or whatever. At this point we have settled into a good routine. I email a list of sizes and quantities that I need and usually within a week or so they are ready. They bill me for the hourly shop rate plus the cost of the poplar, so I can't really say what each frame costs, I think once I figured out that they average about $12 per frame.

Of course, once I get the frames I have to finish and assemble the piece. I have handled the finishing a few different ways in the past, including staining them and trying to use different colors, which became very difficult to coordinate. So for the last 6 months or so I have just painted them all black. I skip the primer coat because I am impatient and lazy, paint the first coat of paint ( I paint the top and sides, not the backs, those I leave unfinished) right onto the unfinished wood, sand it, and then paint another coat. I then scuff up the corners and edges a bit with a sanding block. This gives me a frame that is black overall but isn't all shiny and perfect, which I think, corresponds nicely with my "imperfect" paintings. Anyway, because the edges of the painting panel show after being put into the frame, I line the edges of the painted panel with a sharpie so that they are black. Then I line the frame with a bead of carpenter's glue and set the painting in and let it dry. I then put the hardware on the back, a sawtooth hanger if it's about 12x16 or smaller, or a wire if it's larger. I also put rubber bumpers on the bottom corners. I usually buy all of the hardware in large quantities from For awhile I was covering the back of the framed painting with paper, like framers usually do, but doing that totally sucked and I happily stopped after one of the gallery directors told me that it wasn't neccessary.

I'd say about half of my work is framed in this manner and the other half are painted on pre-made cradled panels. I hear a lot of compliments on how the frames are so appropriate for my paintings and the gallery directors that I work with approve. They are also easy to reframe if a buyer wants to do that, however in that case I really don't want to know about it! I think that the simplicity of the frames work really well and allowing the edges to show, rather than being covered by a frame, is very important to me.

So that's what I do. Let's hear your framing methods.

Monday, May 8, 2006

A Quick Political Rant

Yellow Hill, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16

I recently came across this blog which I have really been enjoying. But Tommy's recent post has put me on a rant concerning the war.

I remember what I told Doug, in the days after the 2000 presidential elections, while Bush was angling to claim the win. My feelings were (We had recently had a baby and I was trying to be optimistic for her sake) that I thought there was no way that Bush would be re-elected in 2004 and in the meantime he couldn't do too much to mess things up. Clearly I was completely and utterly wrong on both counts. He has led us into a terrible war, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, he has broken any number of laws and my blood still boils when I think about his lack of compassion and ineffectual response to Hurricane Katrina.

In my opinion, this administration's secrecy, "morality", "family values" and support of censorship has led to and will lead to more of this (you can read more about it here), which I find to be totally unacceptable. We are gradually being led into the same oppressive and censored environments as the countries and regimes that our government so proudly denigrate. Our freedom of speech, as well as civil and privacy rights are being stripped away and at every point, if there is complaint, we are told it is for our own safety and security.

It's all going to hell in a handbasket, unless we stop being sheep.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Shipping Adventures, Part 2

Barn with Farmhouse, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16

I know many of you are on pins and needles waiting for my post on frames, heh, but I am bumping it to next week. I have to follow up on the shipping story that I described last March when I had to ship a box of paintings to a gallery.

Alas, the paintings did not sell during the show, and although the gallery is about 2 hours away (a standard drive to anywhere from where we live), I just can't take a day to go pick them up and I decided to send a call tag to the gallery so they could send them back. Easy, right? Well, only if anyone in a 30 mile radius of Hooterville had ever heard of a call tag. The place in town that we normally use for shipping said they would send the call tag and I gave them all of the necessary information. Yesterday, after waiting for a week and a half for the package to come back I called and asked them if it had been sent. None of the employees knew how to issue a call tag OR how to check and see if one had been sent. And evidentally, no one there knows how to dial out to let me know either. So I tried to do it through UPS, which is unbelievably complicated and you pretty much have to sign over your firstborn child if you are just a person, not a company trying to set up a shipping account, which you have to have before you can send a call tag. They wouldn't take my request over the phone and after navigating the website for 45 minutes, I gave up and decided to go back to the original shipping location to see if they could help me.

Yes, folks, back to the hardware store. Debbie, cashier and shipper. also had no idea how to issue a call tag and in fact, didn't really understand the whole concept even after I carefully explained what I wanted to do. I nearly started to weep at that point. But she called over the manager, Stew. I am not kidding, his name was Stew, not Stu. Anyway, Stew knew what to do! It took him awhile to set it all up in the computer, so in the meantime, he peppered me with questions. What's in the package? How long have you been an artist? They didn't sell? How much do you charge for a painting? How much does the gallery get? What do you paint pictures of? Do you use oil paints? How many paintings DO you sell? Can't you just drive there to pick up the paintings? And my all time favorite: "My aunt paints farm scenes on saw blades and sells a lot of them at summer art fairs, you should try that". On my way back to the register to pay (where Stew rang me up, true to form), I remembered that I needed to buy some grass seed to fill in some patches in our yard and then I found some giant sunflower seeds for planting.

A call tag, flower seeds AND grass seed. Perfect.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Bad Day

Hot Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 11x14

So Wednesday was pretty much a bad day all around. I woke up thinking I really should skip the class in Woodstock and work in my studio all day. But I paid for four classes, yesterday's was the last one and I thought I should go. The drive was fine, but my car is making a jingly sound when I drive and my brakes squeal when I use them, we are taking it in next week, but for now I am stuck with it. Anyway, my nerves were kind of shot by the time I got to Woodstock from the constant noise from the car. And I had a killer headache by the time I got home.

Instead of distracting me from the car and work pressures, the class made me even more frustrated. Nothing seemed right, and I am not happy about the direction that I am going with the underpaintings. They are too realistic, too dependent on the correctness of my drawing of the anatomy, which isn't necessarily correct. What I see in my head is recognizable as a figure, but is less "anatomical", like my landscapes, and I am having such a hard time of getting it out of my head and onto the surface. It's so hard to give up the years of "realistic" figurative drawing when I am standing in front of the model and despite wanting to record what I see differently, I haven't been able to do it yet, to my satisfaction. I think I am also having trouble with it because I haven't been able to really focus on the the figurative work and be immersed in it, for at least a little awhile, the way I have been with the landscapes.

And, unfortunately, I have to put aside the figure work for now because I am so busy with upcoming shows and supplying work to my galleries. The class in Woodstock is ongoing so I can go back again if my schedule eases up, and I do still have the option of a local figure drawing session. I haven't attended that too often because they can't always get unclothed models, but I should get some practice with clothed models anyway.

I can also go back to bribing my children to pose for me. They don't like to pose but will do it if I give them enough money. Great.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

It's a Good Mess

Turquoise Front, 2006, Oil on Panel, 12x16

Visitors to our house (not that we have many out here in the sticks) can always tell how busy I am by the amount of clutter in my studio and office. When I am on my regular painting schedule and things are running smoothly, my studio is fairly uncluttered, well organized and clean. This is how I prefer my studio to be, all perfect and light. This is how it looks today:

I have stacks of frames waiting to be painted black. My flat work table is constantly covered with panels being gessoed or panels whose cradles are being painted. The ledges are full of works in progress and my "extra" work station, meant for drawing, is full of some of the cradled boards that were just delivered. And in case you are wondering, the stuffed animals and other objects on top of those panels are there to keep the cats off of them. Naturally, they tend to lounge on everything in my studio so I have to pile things on top of things to discourage them. Our big, fat, lazy male cat actually cracked one of my cradled panels once by jumping up onto it and then sleeping there for two days.

My desk area is also a wreck. I am totally behind on my recordkeeping and taxes (yep, we filed an extension) and am also in the midst of getting the kids signed up for various summer camps and activities, so there are papers everywhere. The dustballs (actually it's cat hair) have gotten away from me and frankly, many of them seem to be invisible. I sweep them up almost every morning, but despite that, if I make any quick movements, a big one will show up and head directly towards the easel and the wet gooey paint.

Despite the unsettling feeling of being so disorganized, I also kind of like it. It's nice to just focus on the work and not worry about the stuff all over the place. A messy studio also means that I have much painting going on, deadlines to meet, creativity to harness, and these are all exciting things to have going on as an artist. I also love taking a day or so to clean and put everything back where it goes after the paintings have been shipped or delivered. That feeling of accomplishment (and relief) is so worth having to carefully inch around stacks and piles of paintings, panels, frames and cat hair, for weeks while preparing for a show.

So it's all good.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Wolf Kahn

Deep Blue Barn, 2006, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Often, at a show, viewers say that my work reminds them of Wolf Kahn's. I have conflicting feelings about this. On the one hand, I like his work and he has had a long and impressive career, so it's a compliment to be mentioned in the same breath. But on the other hand, I feel sensitive about the implications of creating work "similar" to another artist.

I wasn't even aware of him or his work (and have yet to see his paintings in real life) when I started to paint again a few years ago. I just had this delicious feeling of knowing I could paint whatever and however I wanted. I knew that I wanted to be more expressive, rather than continue with the almost photo realistic work I had done in the past. I felt and still feel that the boldness of my compositions, the simplicity of the rendering and the strong colors and even the "do-overs" perfectly expressed the various aspects of my personality. After working and developing my work for about six months, a friend of mine said that my paintings reminded her of Wolf Kahn's and loaned me a book of his work.

She was right, and others who have made the observation are right. I see the similarities in color and composition especially. but also in the fact that we both tend to paint landscapes and barns. But, happily, I also see many differences. His work has an ethereal quality, more abstract, while my landscapes tend to be more solid and literal, I think. He paints on site, while I prefer to work in my studio, working from photo references, memory and imagination. I'd say that both of us manage to create surfaces that are luminous, yet we both get there in very different ways.

Somehow though, he and I see with the same eyes and I am beginning to find that strangely comforting.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Odds and Ends

Pink Road with Shadows, 2006, Oil on Panel, 11x14

I didn't have time to work in my studio all weekend, although I did get the underpaintings done on Friday. I was on track with the to do list (although I did skip the walk, bad girl) until Saturday when Doug severely cut his fingers (never fear, no fingers were lost, just a big, thick patch of skin, gross!) while changing the blades on the John Deere riding lawn mower. So the few hours spent in the emergency room threw everything off. That and the fact that it actually took two days to clean the girls room. A bit of advice to those of you who may have kids someday and those who have kids will know what I am talking about: Do not buy your child everything that they want or that you think they will enjoy. You will someday be spending a beautiful spring weekend indoors sorting through a toy box full of fake food, Barbie doll shoes, puzzle pieces, plastic animals, mardi-gras beads, old school papers and projects, books, socks, bits of paper, crayons, party favors, marker caps and clothes pins wrapped in tape and yarn (don't ask). You will be cursing and muttering under your breath when you notice that there are at least 2000 beads and 47 hair clips wedged into the cracks between the wood floorboards and wads of blonde doll hair behind the iron radiator. Needless to say, we didn't get much done outside, which is a drag because it was a gorgeous, perfect, sunny and warm weekend and there is a lot to do in our gardens. However, the girls kicked ass in their soccer games and our somewhat out of shape son finished a 12 mile hike carrying a 35 pound backpack, so that's something.

Reluctantly, I have entered two competitions. One was the national juried show at the local arts organization that I mentioned previously, and in a moment of pure optimism I sent in four slides to The Artist's Magazine. I have entered that one for the last two years and after seeing last year's winners I swore I would not enter again. The work that won was certainly beautiful and very well done. However, I felt that that most of the art was so realistic and refined, which, uh, doesn't really describe my work. I guess I entered again though, with the hope that this year's judge will appreciate a different view and interpretation of the landscape. I am not holding my breath.

Also, Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh has recently sold a number of my small paintings to an interior designer. He is also interested in a few other pieces and has asked to be contacted when my work arrives for the upcoming exhibitions (see sidebar). I love hearing that a client wants to be contacted when new work comes in, it is exciting, yet slightly wondrous and stressful all at the same time.