Thursday, June 29, 2006

Just Chatting Today

Sunny Slope Farm, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

Well, today the water has subsided, thanks to the fact that it stopped raining about midday yesterday. A nearby town that was really affected, is still in pretty bad shape. Supposedly FEMA will be helping out our county, but I am not so sure that that will be a plus. Our basement is ok, and this has all just given us yet another reason to get down there to clean it. Uh, actually Doug will be cleaning it. I don't do basements, especially creepy old house basements.

Bart sent me an interesting link today. Someone in Brazil viewed his blog and mine through a program translating them into Portuguese. If you are interested in seeing my blog in a language you probably don't know, you can see it here. I noticed this link in my stats and thought I must be so cool for someone to actually make an effort to translate my words. However, if they don't return, I will have to face the fact that I am just not all that fascinating. heh.

I managed to get some work done yesterday. While the kids didn't interrupt me much (sick of me already after just a few days of summer vacation, I guess), I was really restless while I worked and kept getting up to do other things. I have noticed this trend in my painting habits over the last few months. I used to be really focused, working at my easel for hours without getting up, finishing my days work in several hours. But more recently, I usually work for a half hour or an hour, get up, do laundry, work again for an hour, then check the computer, go back to the easel for awhile then get up again to water the garden or feed the pets. All of this up and down has really stretched out my workday. At first this stressed me out, but then I realized that I was getting just as much done by the end of the day and the quality was the same, if not better. So I am going with the flow now. But I am starting to suspect that my forty-something old muscles keep making me get up so they won't atrophy.

Today's image, above, is a barn I just finished yesterday and I am quite pleased with its minimalist qualities. This is a barn that I saw on my drive to Woodstock when I was attending the figure drawing classes last spring. In real life it's a white barn with a dark green roof, it has more windows and the name "Sunny Slope Farm" is printed on the side with the shadow. Otherwise it looks just the same. heh. It will be in the show in Cape Cod in August. Ya'll are getting a good preview for that show here-much of the new work that I have recently posted will be in that show.

I experimented with an underpainting using the Gamblin paint that I mentioned the other day. It's just a tiny little thing and a simple image, I just wanted to see how the new color works with the rest of my palette and the glazes. The color difference is minimal, probably not noticeable to anyone but me, and I even like it. So tomorrow I will do a batch of underpaintings that I will actually be able to continue working on, on Monday, instead of waiting until 2007 for them to dry.

Untitled, 2006, Oil on Panel, 3x3

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Floods Have Come

Multiple Barns, 2006, Oil on Paper, 16x20

Yesterday I mentioned that "barring some big catastrophe" I would be able to get everything done. Despite the fact that we have literally had 4 solid days and nights of rain, often torrential rain, I didn't consider the possibility of flooding, so now, of course, we have flooding. Clearly, I have control over the weather and I slipped up this time:-) Anyway, this morning I received several calls this morning canceling the kid's activities and by the third one I finally asked the person what was going on. She told me a state of emergency has been declared in our county and in several surrounding counties. Our town has had severe flooding, roads are washed out, including a low spot in our road, and people are being evacuated to temporary shelters. I was going to go into town to help out, but the radio says to stay put unless it's an emergency, so I guess I'll stay home for now. Out here on the farm, we have a lot more open area for run off but still, the ground is saturated and we actually have water pouring into our basement through the stone foundation. Luckily, there is a drainage system and there isn't too much standing water. We do have to get down there today though and clean up the junk that is on the floor so that the water doesn't get caught and start to pool. Thankfully, we just had our roof replaced, the old one definitely would not have held up under all of this rain. Our porch is a different matter however. We are planning to have it rebuilt in October, but the roof of it is in terrible shape and the ceiling is sagging terribly right now. I won't be shocked if the whole thing tumbles down in the next few days if it continues to rain. (The forecast is calling for rain until Friday.) Still, though, we are lucky. Many of our friends and neighbors have really bad old house basements and/or nearby streams and drainage issues. So far everyone I've talked to has water in their basements.

The kids are home today but I plan on trying to get at least a little bit of work done. Hopefully the weather will clear, despite the forecast, and things won't get worse.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Back From the Edge

Early Spring, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

I have been on the verge of complete and utter panic over the last few weeks about how much work I still need to prepare for my upcoming shows. It has seemed as if I wasn't getting anything done because there were so many interruptions-kid's activities and events, house related issues, travel, etc.

However, in between all of those distractions, I actually did get some good paintings done, clearly without my knowledge. Over the weekend, I went through the stacks of paintings in my studio and in my storage areas and feel much better about my progress. I have about a dozen finished paintings and about a dozen more that are still in progress which I can probably finish up this week. My goal is to have about 20 paintings for the show in Cape Cod and probably at least a dozen more for the show at Enderlin Gallery in September. There are two, maybe three more weeks to paint before the deadline for Cape Cod, plus I will have about 2 weeks in August, after our vacation, to finish up for the Enderlin show. So it's possible that I can get another dozen or so completed. I even have enough work to choose from to put into upcoming group shows, and thankfully, I have plenty of barns on hand for an event in Saratoga in July (see sidebar). I have also made a fabulous discovery thanks to Chris. Back when we were discussing drying times on my under paintings, he suggested Gamblin paints and so I found a color in their line that is similar to the one I normally use. I tried it and a) the color is good, close enough to what I normally use. b) the viscosity and workability is pretty good, not exactly like my usual paint, but it's fine. c) It actually dries in my lifetime. Hello Gamblin! I am switching over, at least for the summer. I hope Chris gets some kind of kickback, because I will be their new best customer.

Barring some big catastrophe (and believe me, I have considered all of the possibilities!) pretend that you can hear me heaving a cautious, but big, sigh of relief. That is until I have to start work for the show in November, which will surely be here before I know it. And then the holiday shows. Um ok, forget about the sigh of relief.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Art (Spouse) World

Purple Blossoms, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

Well, it's official, my husband, Doug is an art spouse. I am sure that he never thought he'd be one. Not that he doubted me, only that being an art spouse is a concept neither one of us ever considered. There should be a book about it for those who are considering marrying or becoming a partner of an artist. There is a lot expected of an art spouse, surprisingly.

Attending openings is practically mandatory. They have to be available, so that the artist doesn't have to stand alone looking awkward when the crowd is thin. When the the crowd reappears, the art spouse has to gracefully stand back and let the artist have all of the attention. The art spouse should be supportive, naturally, of their spouse's art, but also of the other art in the show. Doug handles all of this fabulously and really makes me look good, by being himself, which is personable, smart and very knowledgeable about art. He always has lengthy conversations with the most interesting, and usually somewhat eccentric people at the openings, while I am left to answer the questions about why do I paint landscapes and how long does it take to do a painting (my all time favorite). Doug also spends time talking to the other art spouses, I noticed at the last opening of mine, he was standing around talking with another art spouse (husband), commiserating and comparing their duties, he told me later.

I have noticed with many of the couples that I know who work as artists, that if the male is the artist, the female does a good portion of the business aspect, record keeping, phone calls, that sort of thing. If the female is the artist, the men seldom (at least I can't think of any) do any of the business. The men may build frames, move around boxes, pack shipping crates, even deliver work to a gallery, but talk to the gallery director on behalf of the artist? No way. This most definitely holds true for us.

An art spouse's feedback regarding the art, framing, and other details is crucial. Sometimes I feel quite certain that my paintings should have my husband's name on a byline. He tells me what is working and more importantly, what is not working. Although we have a running joke about that. The pieces that he doesn't care much for are generally the ones that sell first, the ones he thinks are amazing, incredible, stunning sit around month after month, not selling. Go figure. Anyway, he notices when my work is making a shift, something I don't really pay much attention to, and suggests other artists, past and present, whose work may be of interest to me. While I have forgotten most of the art history I learned in college, Doug has most impressively retained everything he learned AND he can put it all in context when necessary-I'm envious.

Anyway, I think our situation is somewhat bittersweet right now. Doug has a bit of longing to be an artist with the exhibitions and the openings to go to. Not that he isn't thrilled and way cool about what I have going but he is also an artist. He has spent most of his adulthood in other fields, some of which utilized his art skills and some that allowed him to develop his business skills. He'd have one kick ass gallery if he ever decided to do open one! I think he should be making art but he feels hasn't the time right now to focus on it in the way that he thinks is necessary. Plus there is that little thing about financially supporting the family, which he is better equipped to do than I will be any time soon. However I have no doubt that when he starts putting together his photography, he will gets shows, good ones too, and I will have to be the supportive art spouse, answering his phone and organizing his work. Uh, just kidding about that last part-I was just practicing sounding supportive.

When it is my turn to be the art spouse, I can say with complete certainty that I will not be as good at it as Doug has been.

I think today's painting might look a little bit creepy in the reproduction, whereas it looks merely moody in real life. It is kind of an odd image, but I liked the juxtaposition of the bare trees on the right and the new purple foliage on the left in the scene. It was a nice light and airy view, and the painting started out that way, but then things took a turn and it all ended up closer to the dark side. I am cool with that.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Just a Quickie...

Forward Trees, 2006, Oil on Panel, 30x30

...heh. I am sure you are all missing me terribly, but I am overwhelmed with end of the school year schedules, outdoor work and visitors. I'll be back on Monday with a regular post, and just to get you by for a few days, I am putting up an image of a new painting that I am pretty excited about. It's bigger than I usually work and incorporates my least favorite, but most used color, pink. Much of the under painting is still visible (the tree area) which is something I prefer, but unfortunately it doesn't always work out to leave it showing. When it does though, I am a happy girl!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hangin' With the Food

Chicken Shed, 2006. Oil on Panel, 4x5

It felt rather strange not putting up a post yesterday. I meant to, but I had to leave the house early to spend the morning at the kid's school, helping first graders race each other while carrying a potato on a spoon or while holding a beach ball with a water noodle. In the afternoon, I had to fix up a second, temporary box for the chicks, who aren't so little and cute anymore. So for now the chickens have been divided into two separate boxes so that they have a bit more room. They should be in their chicken house soon, but Doug is still trying to finish that up. And despite the fact that I am now almost totally freaking out every day about how many paintings I need to complete within a month, I don't see how I will be able to get any time in the studio this week. For some unknown reason our school district is trying to torture us parents by having half days all this last week of school. That really throws a wrench in any kind of schedule. Then there are birthdays, parties, graduation (elementary school), talent shows and piles of school papers on every surface in the house that have to be sorted through. If I make it through this week, however, the kids are all off to their various day camps next week and I will really have to buckle down and get some work done.

Doug and I went to an opening Monday night at a local gallery that shows my work. It's a seasonal gallery, mostly because it is located in the oldest building in town, and therefore has no practical heating source. The Smithy-Pioneer Gallery is one of the first places that I showed in after we moved here and they have been really supportive of my work. It's a nonprofit organization, so the artists help out whenever possible. Each summer there are four member group shows, plus one fundraising event. The openings are always packed and many of us bring our kids who eat all of the chips and chase each other in the sculpture garden. I will be eternally grateful to Tara, the gallery director for not only giving me a chance, but for also including me in their listing in last year's Art in America Annual Guide to Museums, Galleries and Artists. I nearly fell over when I saw my name listed in the artist section.

At first I showed a number of small paintings in each show and I sold quite a few pieces. ("Chicken Shed", above, was the first painting that I sold there in 2004.) But this is a small community and I have now pretty much saturated it with my landscapes. Most of the people who are art buyers have already bought one or two or even several of my pieces. The tourists who come through the gallery look, but aren't really buying original art. So for this show I took over some larger and relatively expensive pieces, figuring, what the heck. I don't expect that they will sell, but perhaps I will be surprised. Anyway, it's always nice to walk into a gallery and see how my work has been hung. I enjoy seeing what kind of decisions others make about how to display my work and usually it is done very nicely and sometimes perfectly. This time, however, I wasn't so sure. The good news is that all three of my paintings were visible the minute a person walks in the door. The bad news is that they were hanging on the wall over the food. No one looks up at the art right in front of them when they are trying to get dip onto a cracker and into their mouth without dropping it. I know this because I tried. Doug though, ever the optimist, pointed out that after the opening, there will be no food and the work will be back in focus, to be seen by everyone who visits the gallery.

Hmmmm. We'll see.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day and Crabby Pattys

Late Light, 2006, Oil on Panel, 20x16

Good grief, I am glad the weekend is over. We were nonstop Friday to Sunday. I can actually get some rest today by working in my studio. My daughter got second place in the 400m race and qualified for the next track meet which is in a few weeks. The chicken coop is about halfway built, I got a lot of planting done in the gardens, and although one soccer game was cancelled due to rain, it cleared up just in time for the second one. And on Sunday I had the pleasure of doing some things in the kitchen in preparation for a dinner party at our neighbor's house. I made a lemon blueberry cake, homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, onion dip, and a pesto potato salad with pine nuts. Have I mentioned that I like to cook? Everything turned out nicely, the lemon blueberry cake was a risk, as I had not made it before. Everyone at the dinner was very complimentary, so my ego is good now, PLUS I received a marriage proposal based on my skills in the kitchen. heh.

I am afraid our Father's Day was not particularly pleasant, nor was it filled with light and sweetness as our Mother's Day was. Two of the kids had had sleep overs, so they were super crabby and our family lunch had interrupted a very important movie on the tv. So, alas, there was a lot of arguing, crying and sullen attitudes at the table. Doug and I were just laughing it was so classic. He did receive this beautiful handmade gift from our youngest daughter so the day was complete. Well, between that gift and the enforced afternoon naps, that is.

Father's Day is a day that has always been a very uncomfortable day for me. My own father has not felt the need to see or talk to me for 35 years or so and while I actually didn't mind that so much (I knew that he was a jerk and I was probably better off not having him around) handling the societal expectations involving Father's Day were awkward. When I see how devoted Doug is to our children, I can't help but wonder how so many men can just leave their families, because really, it happens far too often in our society. Anyway, as an adult now, I enjoy (as much as I can enjoy a crass, overly commercialized "holiday") Father's Day like I enjoy Mother's Day, through our kids and their enjoyment of it. Even if they are crabby pattys* all day.

*That's a Sponge Bob reference, by the way.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Freaky Friday

Sunny Day, 2006, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Just a short post today. As always seems to happen on a Friday, I have 47,000 things to do in addition to a very full weekend, which includes a track meet, 2 soccer games, building the chicken coop, planting some shrubs, work in the studio, and a cook out at the neighbors, not to mention the usual daily stuff. I am also on the verge of totally freaking out about how many paintings I have to do in the next month or so. I need about 20 pieces for the show in Cape Cod and in early September I have a two person show in Roxbury NY and I probably need 12-15 pieces, depending on size, for that. Since we are taking a vacation the first week of August, and because the painting drying times are still being very unpredictable, I pretty much have to complete most of the work for that show before August.

Don't think I'd be interested in switching places with my daughter though. She is running a 400m and a 200m race, as well playing in a soccer game this weekend.

Shoveling chicken crap I don't mind, but running? I don't do running.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer Concerts

Six Trees, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

I have been on a concert ticket buying frenzy the last few weeks. First the news came that Paul Simon will be playing a concert in a nearby town this summer, (part of the same concert event that brought Bob Dylan in two years ago) so I bought tickets for that. Doug and I are both Paul Simon fans, not rabid, but enough to be interested in seeing him when he's this close. Then I started my periodic checks on some of my favorite singer's websites and was happy to see that Ray LaMontagne will be playing Saratoga Springs in August. I love, love love his music and listen to it all of the time. Doug and I were able to see him about a year ago at the Bowery Ballroom on NYC. He is just getting started really, as a musician and performer, so he is still playing these great smaller venues. We managed to claim a place right in the very front row and even though Doug and I both had to use the bathroom during the whole concert, we stayed put, not wanting to lose those great spots. We were so close we could have touched him. Evidently there were a lot of technical problems with the previous night's performance, but he was perfect the night we went. He played about half the set by himself or with an energetic, laughing guy on an upright bass. At one point some violin and cello players came in and they were entertaining as well, swaying and moving with the music, one guy had this really out of control hair and I still have this great image of him and his hair and his grooving in his chair. So I quickly bought tickets to this summer's performance and Doug and I are totally looking forward to seeing Ray LaMontagne again.

When I was checking into the concert hall in Saratoga Springs where the Ray LaMontagne concert will be, I looked at the summer line-up and noticed that Phil Lesh and Friends will be playing in early July. Doug is definitely a deadhead, the kind that actually followed them around on theirs tours in the 70's in a VW van filled with hippies. I am not quite so much a fan, in fact not at all really, but since Doug was kind enough to suffer through a Donny Osmond concert on my birthday in 1989 during his "comeback" tour (don't laugh, it was good!), I thought I could grit my teeth and enjoy Doug's music for once. I will probably end up liking it and if not, surely watching the audience will be interesting. So we have those three concerts this summer plus the Levon Helm Midnight Ramble in my favorite place, Woodstock, NY, which I talked about here.

I have not been to very many concerts. When I was in high school, it seemed that everyone was taking road trips up to the Twin Cities to see the Dead or Rush or whoever, but I was out of the loop on all of that. In college, I went to a few concerts, Aerosmith, Triumph and Yes, big spectacles in big crowded stadiums, which were fun but few and far between. In Philadelphia, I did see Edie Brickell (who is now married to Paul Simon) and the New Bohemians in concert right before they got really popular and that was an awesome performance. In Utah, I saw two concerts by Alice Peacock, who is a folk singer/songwriter. Those performances were excellent and I play her music all of the time, still. She was the opening act, once for John Gorka and once for Lucy Kaplansky, both of which were enjoyable too. We saw Mary Gauthier last year in a small church in the middle of nowhere and she was just incredible. She came to music a bit older than most, after having a turbulent childhood, then working as a chef and owning a restaurant in Boston (This is an interview she did a few years ago). She sells her CD's after the show and we stood in line to meet her and have her sign our copy. I had already been listening to her for months, knew all of her songs and was really touched by her music, so when we were in line I started to get really nervous to meet her. When it was our turn, I didn't say any of the usual things, like "Hello" or "I love your music" or "Great performance" but instead I blurted out "I am so nervous to meet you!" I am such a dork! She laughed and gave me a big hug. We chatted for awhile and I am sure I babbled foolishly, although Doug said I did ok. I gave her one of my business cards, which is something I seldom do, but what can I say, I had visions of doing a CD cover. Of course she probably gets stuff like that all of the time from her middle aged, female fans who feel like they know her already. Again, I am a cliche.

So that's my thin concert resume, but they were all so good, and I feel lucky. Doug and I are totally enjoying seeing these musicians at the beginnings or nearing the end of their careers and seeing them in small venues is also really nice and relaxing for us old folks. I think going to see a concert in a stadium would drive me crazy at this point (although I think I would make an exception for U2). My biggest issue now is whether I should wear my glasses to the upcoming concerts. I think I look better without them, and God knows one has to look good at a concert, heh, but I need them to, you know, see the performers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Placing Value

Red in Back, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

I was thinking that I'd continue yesterday's topic of pricing my art by saying how hard it is to place value on my work. But I realized that's not really the case with me. I am insecure and self-conscious about many things but interestingly the art I create, that is an expression of myself, is not one of them. I think it's because I know how subjective it all is. I am really not offended at all when a person doesn't like my work. I'd prefer that they not say "your paintings suck" right in front of me, but really, how can I expect everyone to like it and want to buy it? I am terribly picky about what art I like and what art I will buy and hope, and expect that others will also be as discerning. I want the person who does buy my art to value it and enjoy it, not just have it as decoration.

Having said that, I now feel comfortable in saying that, of course I think my prices should be much higher than they are. But I am realistic. I am just starting out really, despite having an art education and being, ahem, a bit older that the average emerging artist. I show my work in mostly smaller markets, and in tourist areas where the amount of money that is spent on original art is generally lower. I have yet to break into a "blue chip" gallery where my work would command higher prices. So I am reasonably satisfied with where things are right now, because, despite raising my prices substantially twice in a year's time, my sales have increased and I feel pretty confident that my art's value is increasing. It must, because I literally cannot produce more paintings than I already do, so in order to earn a decent (I will settle for half-decent) income I need to sell my work at higher prices, eventually anyway.

I also treat the business side of all of this as, well, a business. At first I didn't. I was concerned about covering the costs of framing, materials and my time. So my prices were too high and I didn't sell enough to cover any of those things. When I looked at the situation again, I decided to approach it as a small business, something I have had some experience with. For the first few years, my time didn't count. It was a given that I would devote as much of it as I could, because that is what you have to do with a start-up business in order to get it off the ground. The same thing for supplies. I needed many things those first few years; paint, brushes, panels, printing, slides, office supplies, studio equipment. I viewed those purchases as seed money, an investment, one that would take years to see a return on. While I have yet to actually make a profit, in 2005 I did have enough income to cover my expenses, which was pretty dang good for my second full year of painting.

The part of setting prices for me that is stressful and difficult is not that I am placing a value on myself. It is that I am concerned about moving forward, without too many missteps, and not wanting to alienate potential buyers as my prices climb. And even though I am confident about my work and its value, the last thing I want to do is to keep justifying my prices to everybody and their brother. THAT is stressful.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pricing Structures

Centered, 2006, Oil on Panel, 11x14

I read with interest Shan's post about pricing her work, and the price of art in general, as well as Anna Conti's post about how she has priced her work over the years. This is a topic I have been meaning to discuss, so it seems like a good time to throw my hat into the ring too.

Pricing my work has been one of the most difficult, and frustrating thing about being an artist. Well, along with coming up with titles that aren't totally stupid or doing taxes or record keeping. Ok, so there are a few things about being an artist that aren't completely fulfilling. Anyway, when I did those first oils a few years back in Utah, I basically looked at how much the framing cost was, tripled it and then added the percentage that the gallery would take, 30% in that particular case. The prices were fairly high, especially for the community that I lived in, a fairly non supportive area for the arts and also because I was just starting out. So, I sold a few pieces (mostly pity purchases by my friends), gave a few away as gifts, and I have the rest packed in boxes in the attic. Not a successful pricing structure I'd say.

So I talked to other artists, I did a lot of reading and research on the internet and in galleries, looking for art that was similar to mine and who had a similar resume. At first, I put together a price list based on $2.00 per square inch, for smaller sizes and skewing downwards as they got larger. Frankly, I was not at all comfortable selling a 5x7 painting for 70.00 so I pretty much doubled the prices. Despite being new to exhibiting my work, I really felt that my work had more value, based on its quality and based on the feedback I was getting about it. I didn't sell anything at the very first show I had in NY, but that was a really lame show and definitely merits its very own post one of these days. However, at the next show, I sold about half of the pieces that I exhibited, which was really encouraging, and I decided to stick with those prices for the time being. As I had more shows and started to get gallery representation, I raised my prices about 25% (in early 2005) at the request of a few of my new galleries. That was kind of a big jump, but still at that point, my work was almost always the lowest priced in the gallery and no one felt that it was an unreasonable increase.

I was still feeling that my work was underpriced, especially in comparison to the work that it was hanging next to in various shows and exhibitions, so at the beginning of this year, I raised the prices again, another 25% or so. One of the frustrating things about my pricing structure, however, was the fact that each sized painting had a different price attached to it. Since I use almost every standard size at one point or another, having so many prices to keep track of was starting to make my head spin, not to mention creating a bit of confusion for the galleries. Coincidentally, around the same time I was meeting with a gallery director and we were discussing my pricing structure. Given that I liked working in so many different sizes, rather than just a few standard sizes, she had a few suggestions for me, which have made my life so much easier! This is what she suggested:

Add the two dimensions together and list the results next to the sizes. Then cluster the results and create a break after about 4-6 inches, or in a place that seems logical. We established that 2 of my existing prices were fine-$400 for 8x10 and $1800 for 24x36. So she suggested working backwards from there and pricing each cluster in $50 increments, based on what I felt comfortable with. This is difficult to explain and I don't know if it is at all clear so here is my worksheet, including my prices.

Size L+H Price












Although this took some time to work out, it has actually made things much easier for me and for the galleries as well. I don't work much larger than 24x36 or smaller than 8x10 these days, but I do still like to paint on a variety of sizes. When it's time to raise the prices again they will increase across the board in $50 increments.

I debated yesterday and last night about actually posting my prices. I thought it might be tacky or a conflict somehow with my galleries, but then I decided that this information is not relevant to our nation's security or anything so I've put them up. I do not include prices on my website, mostly because I do not sell directly to buyers. I direct all inquiries to the galleries that represent my work. Some of those galleries post the prices on their websites and some don't. Much of my work that is currently placed in a gallery have prices under my previous pricing structure. Once a painting is priced, that prices stays with it, it doesn't change if my prices go up. Sometimes this is puzzling to observant buyers who notice the discrepancy. I always explain (or the gallery explains) that the older prices stay with the piece, the higher prices reflect the fact that the value of my work is increasing and should be viewed as a good sign to potential buyers.

I realize that this has been a fairly technical discussion of pricing art. There's a whole other conversation to be had regarding the emotional aspect we all go through in establishing prices and since this post has, as always with me, gotten long, perhaps I'll write more on the topic. How about tomorrow!?

PS. The Intrepid Art Collector has a great post today, listing the costs involved with being a "hot" artist. I am nowhere near that level. nor do I want to be. Give up my chickens and flower gardens to pay a million dollars for a condo the size of 1/8 of my current home? No thanks. She makes a good point though, artists do still have expenses to cover, high or low, we all still have them.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Hilly Fields, 2006, Oil on Panel, 9x12

I am not a particularly superstitious person although I do have my moments. I don't worry much about the traditional superstitious events like a hat on a bed will bring bad luck, a bird in the house is a sign of death or holding your breath when you pass a cemetery to prevent breathing in the spirit of someone who has just died. Actually, I wouldn't say that I totally don't believe those old superstitions, it's not like I run around trying to disprove them or anything. And I have to admit that we don't keep hats in the bedrooms and I don't talk my children out of holding their breath when we pass the cemetery. You know, just in case I am wrong.

I do have some tricks, though, that I feel are important to ward off bad things. I feel fairly certain that if I spend a certain time each day worrying just a little bit, about the various things that can befall me or my loved ones, they probably won't happen (I have tried this with world events but it doesn't work, unfortunately). All I know though, is that the things that never occurred to me would happen, are the things that have happened; my daughter falling out of a window and fracturing her skull, or me having a perforated ulcer and needing emergency surgery. I didn't consider that Doug might cut himself while changing the blades on the lawn mower and what happened? He cut his fingers while changing the blades on the lawn mower. You see?! The things I worry about daily never happen, car accidents, illness, falling off ladders, tripping on the stairs, falling on the ice. I always envision plane or train crashes whenever Doug travels on business, so they won't happen. I feel certain that if I let my guard down, one of us will be in intensive care. I suppose all of this makes me sound like I need a long vacation at a "facility" but hey, it's worked for me so far and I am sticking with it.

This all leads me to another area where I do truly believe in jinxing myself. I will not be discussing any further competitions here before I find out the results. I have been keeping track and whenever I mention that I am entering a contest and its potential prize I do not win anything, let alone get accepted. I have been testing this theory lately and it seems to hold up. The exception with this is that I can talk to Doug about it (but not too much), and that does not seem to affect the outcome. Anyway, I spoke about entering a juried show here and did not get in. I did NOT mention on the blog the fact that I recently entered a regional juried show, nor the fact that I thought I may have a good shot at winning a prize this year and guess what? I got in AND won a prize. Ok, so it was the Pete's Paint and Paper Prize (a local paint store, wall paint, before anyone gets too excited) and it was a check for $25, so not exactly an impressive line for my resume, but still. I have a few more competitions that I plan to enter but clearly my lips must now be sealed. I may have already said too much.

I also have come to realize that the more often I check with a gallery to see "how things are going" (code for "have any of my pieces sold?") especially during a show that I am in, the less I sell. I have tested this out a few times. When I ask, mid show, the answer is that "nothing has sold", or possibly "not since the opening." If I restrain myself for the rest of the show, when I pick up my work I am pleasantly surprised to find that many more pieces have sold. My sales have been the best in the exhibitions where I have had no contact with the gallery past the opening reception. The exception to this rule is if the gallery contacts me, then the jinx doesn't occur. There are many variables with superstitions and jinxes and if one is not careful, there may be a lot of spinning around three times counter clockwise in order to reverse your luck.

Now excuse me while I look for a pencil in the road, a spider spinning a web or a ladybug on my arm. And I may have to do some spinning as well, just in case I have bad luck based on speaking publicly about this. I'd hate to put a jinx on myself.

Friday, June 9, 2006

It Was a Sign

7-UP, 2000, Oil on Panel, 11x14

I was happy to see the lovely paintings featuring signs that Jeff Hayes posted on his blog yesterday. As I told him in a comment, I love to paint signs! I haven't done so many lately, because I have been slightly obsessed with horizon lines and tree lines and barns but I have a ton of reference photos of scenes including signs and it is definitely a subject that I would like to focus (obsess) on in the future.

In keeping with the whole sign thing, I thought I'd put up a painting that I did in 2000. This piece was one of about 20 oil paintings that were the first work I had done in about ten years. The girls were very young, but I was itching to get back to oils, plus we had just moved into a house where I had the most heavenly studio. It was a room over the garage, over 600 square feet with knee wall storage. It was so big that I had a painting area, a sewing area (I did a lot of sewing for awhile), where my sewing machine could just be set up all of the time (what a luxury!) a place for the kids to do some art AND a chair and tv, where I did my knitting. I am getting tears in my eyes just thinking about all of that space.

So anyway, as I said, the girls were young, the boys were in school, and I wanted to have a bit of time each day to paint. I found a neighborhood girl who had graduated from high school but hadn't decided about college yet and hired her to come each morning to watch the girls while I painted in my studio. She was great and the girls loved her, but boy, did I ever feel guilty! However, I equally felt like I had to paint again before I got to a point where I wouldn't. So swallowing the ever present guilt of motherhood, I started doing these very precise, very realistic paintings of local buildings. While I enjoyed the "noodling" aspect of working so realistically and it was really a good way to regain my painting skills, after about a dozen of these I was feeling pretty sure that I wanted to be more expressive and less representational. That feeling was confirmed when everyone (mostly my dear friends) who raved about the paintings, included this comment: "they look just like photographs." I know they all meant that as a compliment but it just really made me feel like a fraud somehow. Because the paintings were just not me, not yet anyway. But I included about 15 of these pieces in a show, and even sold a few, at the arts organization where I volunteered, along with about 15 or 20 photographs that Doug had taken. (Did I mention that he is a photographer at heart, currently making a living in a different field?) Look here to see his work.

The process in this work was similar to how I work now, but there were also quite a few differences. About half of them were on canvas (the one above is on panel), which confirmed what I had suspected in college; I don't like the "give" of stretched canvas, nor do I like the texture. The underpaintings were pretty precise, monochromatic renderings, done in acrylic. And the over painting was partially alla prima, using very little paint, and then layers and layers of glazes, many more that I do now. On some of them I used Liquin as a medium, and on others I used wax, which was interesting but I haven't used it since.

Despite wanting to cringe a little bit when I look at this old work, going through this process was extremely valuable to me. I finally figured out that if I wanted the images to be more expressive and abstract then I'd have to do much less exact underpaintings. I don't know if I would have realized that if I hadn't gone through the whole noodling thing first. The underpainting was the place where I'd have to loosen up and so that's what I did. And that has made all the difference.

Um, oh yeah, so my point here was that many of these pieces had signs in them and this building had the best one.

PS. I did get to use some of my favorite kind of frames on these paintings, AND I did not label the back, bad girl, so I am just guessing that the title involves 7-UP somehow.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

My Real Life Friend, Cecily

Road to Fall, 2004, Oil on Panel

I want to extend a big congratulations to my friend Cecily and her husband Charlie on the birth of their baby girl on Wednesday. They went to hell and back, a few times, to have her and I wish all three of them health and happiness.

Cecily and I were good friends for several years when I was a student in Philadelphia back in the 80's. I was out with a friend of mine, Tom Leonard and he started talking to Cecily and her friend and roommate Sara (I think he liked Sara a bit). Anyway the four of us closed the bar down and then went to hang out at their apartment, talking and drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Cecily and I found that we had much in common, including a rootless childhood, an absent father, poverty, weight issues, art (she is a writer), politics and we both had been on our own since the age of seventeen. So we became fast friends and spent much of our time at one (or both in a night) of two dive bars, McGlinchey's, her favorite, or at Dirty Frank's, my favorite. Cecily was opinionated, loud, brassy, fiercely loyal and passionate. She nursed me through a really awful relationship and its aftermath, not to mention a few bad flings as well and she listened patiently to my endless and pathetic rants. She and Sara had bashes at their house that were legendary, full of melodrama, music and dancing. I spent holidays at her house, she always had a houseful of friends and other strays over and we would all cook a big dinner. Once we spent days watching every movie (she had a VCR!) ever made by John Waters. But mostly we spent our time sitting at the bars, drinking. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. We never had to ask for a drink-the bartenders knew what we drank and we always sat in the same few spots at the bar. Yes, it was like Norm and Cliff. So much of our lives unfolded at McGlinchey's (we ended up mostly going there after awhile-a draft beer was only 25 cents and that was great for our 0 dollar budgets). I remember watching the 1988 Olympics there, a friend contracted AIDS and later died, others came and went. We had endless loud and obnoxious debates with other stupid drunk people. We were there on Thanksgiving night, and New Years Eve. We met a group of five or six Navy guys who we hung out with and we both had an infatuation with one or more of them alternately, for months. Sometimes all of these memories are wonderful to me, I loved having such a close friend, who I could trust and who cared about me. On the other hand, it's painful to think about, as I see now how we were both on a slide down in our young lives, down towards alcoholism and self-degradation. We treated ourselves badly, yet thought we were cool and bohemian.

I finished school in the spring of 1988 and spent several months looking for a job and trying to get illustration work. I would have had more success had I not spent every single night that summer at the bars. It was a extraordinarily hot and muggy summer, I had a lousy apartment, no money (I actually lost weight that summer because I didn't have enough money for food), no job and I was so unbearably lonely. It was the lowest point of my life and if it hadn't been for my friendship with Cecily, something to hang on to, things might have ended badly for me that summer. In the fall I happened upon a job and subsequently met my husband. I stopped drinking as much, and while not officially an alcoholic, I WAS thisclose, and I considered myself lucky to be able to just leave that lifestyle. I stopped going out each night, preferring Doug's company to drinking and degradation, and gradually I saw less and less of Cecily. I felt very badly about that and she was angry and resentful towards me, but I knew I had to get away from that scene in order to have a better life. I finally could see that there was something better for me, if I wanted it. Cecily, unfortunately had to go a bit lower, before she was able to turn things around for herself. I won't go into the details, as it's her story to tell, but the last time I saw her she had changed for the worse. Doug and I eventually moved away to Connecticut and I lost contact with Cecily. I managed to pull myself together, be a productive citizen and even have a family.

Around 2001 or so I got an email from Cecily. She had found me through my college's alumni page and I was so happy to hear from her. When she told me what she had happened to her since we last talked, I was so shocked, yet somehow not, by how much she had been through. We had email contact for several years and then about a year ago, Doug and I and the kids visited Philadelphia and Cecily and I had dinner and talked for hours into the night. It was like picking up where we had left off in the bar one night. Except without the beer and vomit. She was the same in so many ways, but had turned into a more compassionate, thoughtful and more insightful version of her younger self. I felt proud of her and was impressed about what she had accomplished personally and professionally.

But Cecily's struggles weren't over. She and Charlie have recently faced infertility, and the death of their twins and she has handled it all with guts and grace, which you will see if you read her blog. Her humor, humility and sheer determination have been an inspiration to so many people and she has thousands of loyal readers, all of whom are so thrilled that her baby has arrived safely, though not without a bit of drama. And I am so happy too, that my friend, who helped me through a bad time, even as she was in trouble, has the baby that she and Charlie have dreamed of for so long. They will be great parents and so appreciative of every moment.

Even if she does still curse like the sailors we used to know :-)

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

On Special Ed. and Chores

Milk Barn, 2005, Oil on Panel, 12x12

I have a horrendous schedule today. Doug is in the city today and so I have to do all of the after school chauffeuring, plus I have to do grocery shopping (we are desperate for food here-last night we had breakfast for dinner) and this afternoon I have a meeting at school to sign off on my oldest son's placement for next year. I requested a new classroom for him after realizing that several of the new students in his class this year were working at a pre-school level. Well, that and the fact that his new teacher is totally hyper and is driving K. crazy. This grouping has really set my son back this year and has made him feel "stupid", so I insisted that he be placed in a higher functioning classroom. In his current classroom he is about the highest functioning student and while that usually a good thing in a "normal" classroom, it doesn't work so well for K. He will raise his level of behavior and feel challenged to aspire to his higher functioning classmates. I was certain the school district would not want to place him in a different program, because of the expense involved, but they readily agreed when I made the request. In fact they agreed so quickly that I can't help but feel that there are some behind the scenes politics going on that I don't know about. There usually are I suppose but in this case I don't care. K is going to a higher functioning classroom where he will fit right into the middle and will start to learn a vocational skill, as well. So it's turned out well, this time anyway.

Anyway, I also need to put in a few hours working in the studio this morning, plus I have my chores to do. Yes, you heard me, I said chores. I have resisted that specific term for so long because it just sounds so "farmer-ish" and that just does not seem like me, but with the addition of chickens to our "farm" I decided to just go ahead and embrace the word. Because it's true, feeding chickens, dogs, cats, watering the garden, weeding, cat litter, laundry, cooking, these are chores, let's face it. I am on my way to being a farm girl, I guess. Of course the real clincher will be when I have to load bales of hay or shovel shit from the barn.

*Don't worry, the kids help with a lot of the chores, but there are some things that I still have to take care of or at least oversee or "redo."

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Francis Livingston

Leaning In, 2005, Oil on Panel, 12x16

Years ago when we lived in Utah, in an attempt to try to get back into art by familiarizing myself with what was going on in the illustration world, I bought a few recent copies of the Illustrator's Annual. When I was in college we could buy them at a good discount through our school so I had a number of the books from the mid to lates 80's. However, after college I didn't get the discount anymore and had to use my poverty level income for such mundane things as food and shelter, so I stopped buying them. I was so excited to finally "catch up" when I received my new books and the very first piece that caught my eye was a painting by Francis Livingston. I couldn't stop looking at this painting and daydreamed about buying it-we had just started to buy art at that point. The thing about the Illustrators Annuals is that since obviously, the illustrators want to be contacted to get more work, their addresses and phone numbers are listed at the back of the book. I worked up the nerve to actually call the artist and ask him about the piece. He lived in Idaho, not to far from us at the time and he answered the phone when I called. Somehow, I thought he'd have "people." Francis was very nice and very chatty. I actually had to end the conversation, which is pretty unusual for me, my real life friends know that I can stay on the phone for hours! Anyway, we talked a lot about how he was working both as an illustrator and as a fine artist showing in galleries, something I was interested in because even though I had always thought I'd be an illustrator, I also had it in the back of my mind that I would someday show in galleries. I asked him about the painting in the book and he told me that he though it had been sold. I was really disappointed but thought I'd still like to see more of his work and he said that Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco represented his fine art. Doug and I hadn't taken a trip together for a long time so this was a good reason to take a weekend in San Francisco to look at some art.

We had friends stay with the kids, but our youngest daughter was less than a year old and I was still breastfeeding her, so she came along. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of the city because from the moment the plane landed until we left there were torrential rains. Which made getting around with a stroller really challenging and not very appealing.

We did visit many art galleries though and really enjoyed meeting and talking with Thomas Reynolds of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery. He probably enjoyed it too as we ended up buying several pieces from him (which I will discuss at a later date). I asked him about Francis Livingston and he starting pulling some paintings out of storage, one of them being the one I had seen in the book. So much for Mr. Livingston's organizational skills! Needless to say, we snapped it up and bought another one of his pieces that we also had to have.

This painting is next to my office desk and I look at it everyday. I love the sky and the blue of the windows and the quality of the light on the side of the building. And the building reminds me of the industrial areas that I lived and worked in in Philadelphia, years ago. This painting also represents, to me, an artist who has been able to successfully work in two different fields which I admire even though that is not my particular goal anymore. Mr. Livingston's work is a reminder of my past focus on illustration and of a different life while also creating a bridge to my new life as a fine artist and mother.

I continue to watch Mr. Livingston's work and while I am sure that he doesn't remember our conversation, I certainly do. I still like his work, especially the carnival paintings with the ferris wheels and the city scenes and hope to be able to buy another piece sometime.

So many artists, so much art, so little money.......

This is one of the paintings that I have that is not labeled, so I don't know the title. There is a paper backing so there may be info on the back of the panel but I don't want to remove the paper. Anyway, it's by Francis Livingston, painted sometime before 2000, looks like oil on panel, and is 23 1/2"x17 1/2". See what happens if you don't clearly label your work? Someday the owner won't be able to clearly identify it on her blog.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Holy Toledo!

That was a long post. Sorry. I haven't left the house in 2 days and I'm so desperate to talk that I will settle for writing!

Toxins in My Studio

Shadows Approaching, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x24

Thanks so much to everyone for the sympathy, tips and information regarding my problem with drying paint. Despite Chris's opinion that humidity is not the major factor in the paint drying, and I do believe he is right, to some extent anyway, the humidity dropped over the last few days, and my underpaintings also dried (or oxidizes, may be more correct) pretty much overnight. So really, with this particular paint color, the humidity just seems to be the issue. There seems to be no other explanation in this case. Maybe there was a kink in the assembly line when they were making the batch of oil paint that I have.

With the comments on Friday's post veering off towards mediums and that safety of various materials, I thought I'd talk a bit more about that subject. After doing a google search, I found a few bad stories here and here about artists becoming ill from their materials and painting supplies, so clearly this is an issue for all of us to be concerned about. However, I made a point in the comments on Friday, and I stand by my opinion, that if proper safety precautions are taken, such as proper ventilation, wearing barriers such as gloves, then contact with these things should be no worse than the accumulation of the various pollutants in our food, air and water. I make an effort to eliminate as many toxins as I can in our daily lives and I also take care in the studio. On the other hand I don't go crazy trying to do so, I want to enjoy things and I want to paint in a manner that lets me feel expressive, not worried and stressed about the potential for illness and death.

In college and for a few years after, as is typical with young people who think that nothing can ever happen to them, I took little care in material safety. Most of us art students lived in one room dorms or studio apartments and worked with flammable solvents and paints in the same rooms that we slept in, cooked in and socialized in. We were much more concerned with getting our paint brushes cleaned properly than cleaning our hands before eating. No one wore gloves while painting, and if they did, they probably would have been ridiculed. There were some concessions, we had to leave the classroom to spray a drawing with fixative (great, so the hallways were toxic) and sometimes the windows were opened and occasionally there were fans in use in the printmaking studios. I imagine the building had general ventilation, though I don't recall that it made a big difference. We used turpentine like it was water, rags were soaked in it and in fact, I recall rinsing the oil paints off my hands by pouring turpentine on them and then scrubbing them. To this day, whenever I smell it, the odor of turpentine send me right back to those days of creativity, excitement in learning about art, all nighter's in the studios at school and being young (and stupid, let's face it!). Anyway, I didn't have any significant effects from all of this, with one exception. I used copal dryer for awhile but stopped when I realized I was getting terrible headaches each time that I worked with it. I imagine there are more safety precautions in place now in the schools than there were 20 years ago, at least I hope there are.

Somewhere along the way, I read a few things about how hazardous various materials were, Artist Beware by Michael McCann is a good resource and of course there is a ton of info now available on the internet. While I didn't really use most of the really bad ones very often, like acetone, I did decide to stop using turpentine in my underpaintings or as a medium. And then I stopped painting in oil altogether when I became pregnant. I worked in other mediums for awhile, acrylics, charcoal and then began my long break from art because of time issues. When I came back to painting, my work developed in a manner where using solvents wasn't necessary.

I take much more care now, but certainly could do better. When I do the underpainting, it is basically painted with a cloth and my hands, so I wear gloves at that stage, however I don't wear gloves later when I use brushes. That falls in to the category of sucking all of the fun out of it for me. The glazing medium I use is Liquin and while that is considered combustible, has harmful vapors and is "irritating to skin and eyes" I have never had any problems with it. I do take care with it, always keeping it in the container and promptly removing any unused portion when I am finished working each day. I have a few glass jars with coils, filled with turpenoid natural used for rinsing my brushes. The brushes are then washed with ivory soap and water or vegetable oil for the larger brushes. Periodically I dump out the dirty turpenoid into a plastic bucket that I keep in the garage and when that gets full I take it to the hazardous waste dump that is open just 2x per year. I use disposable palette paper and each day that I finish painting I put that, the little foil muffin cup that I use for the day's Liquin, and any rags that are loaded with paint into a plastic grocery bag and throw them into the garbage. Once I spent a day calling all over the place to see how I should dispose of those things. The hazardous waste people said it was too insignificant for them to deal with, and everyone else said it could just go in with the regular garbage. That doesn't seem quite right, but with no other alternative, that's what I do. I just try to use up all of the paint and Liquin that I put out each day. The paint I use for for the frames is acrylic based as well as the Gesso that I use to prime my panels. In the summer I sand them outside but I do it indoors in the winter and then clean up the dust right away. I wear a dust mask if I am doing a lot of sanding but if it's just one piece or something then I don't. Given that my studio is in the house and that the room is open to the other rooms I should have better ventilation (or perhaps that openness is enough ventilation for the small amount of supplies that I use), other than open windows in the summer. I am very careful about keeping containers closed and I generally only paint when the kids are not home. I keep meaning to get an air purifier, which would be good and when I get a new studio, having the right ventilation will be a priority. I use soap and water to wash my hands, and vegetable oil to remove paint if any gets on my hands, but I am not a very messy painter so that's usually not much of a problem. I do confess to drinking and eating in my studio, I know that's a no-no, but I do it anyway. I do refrain from dipping the crackers into the Liquin though.

So this is how I handle things right now. If I were to start working more with other mediums, like pastels or encaustics, which I probably won't do much of until I get a separate studio, clearly I would have to make changes. But for now, neither I, nor anyone in our family, has any health issues and while I do have concerns about long term effects, I am much more concerned about hydrogenated oils, aspartame, excess sugar, and all of the rest of the unpronounceable toxins in shampoos, cleaning supplies, and plastics in our lives. Not to mention car accidents, drowning or falling off a ladder. There's always something.

Please feel free to share your studio safety tips, of lack of, as the case may be. We all make different safety choices based on our various situations, sensitivities and personal concerns, but I always like to hear how others handle painting issues. Just a nosy nellie I guess.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Festival Images

Thank you you to Susan Constanse for visiting and taking a picture of the Boxheart Gallery booth at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh. Susan was kind enough to include the photo, which includes my work, on her blog. And check out her origami project at the festival-it looks like a lot of fun. I know my children would spend all day there if they could. Who doesn't love origami, especially if you are using 9'x9' pieces of paper!

Friday, June 2, 2006


...I forgot to mention that I have several pieces in the Three Rivers Arts Festival in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. The work is being displayed by Boxheart Gallery in the Artist Market, so if anybody out there is anywhere near Pittsburgh, stop by and check it out if you can. The festival dates are June 2-18 and the whole event looks like a lot of fun, with a lot of music, performance, food and art, of course. I showed there last year too and had a great response to my work, not to mention a few sales.

Also, opening on June 6, is the 6th Annual Anniversary Exhibition, at Boxheart Gallery. The public reception is June 10, 6-9pm. I won't be there, but my work will!

Damn Humidity

Dark Road, 2005, Oil on Panel, 12x12

This week has been a bit frustrating in the studio due to technical reasons. I did a whole new batch of underpaintings last week that I am really looking forward to working on but they haven't dried yet! Usually they take three days, four at the most but it's been over a week and I am getting a bad feeling about my summer painting schedule. I had this problem last summer as well, but not until August. It seems that when it is especially hot and/or humid the color that I use for the underpainting can take weeks to dry. As you can imagine, this is be a real problem, especially with deadlines looming.

I have tried everything; different brands of the paint (unfortunately, using a different color isn't really an option right now, the colors I use are what helps to make my paintings, well, my paintings), closing them in a bathroom with a dehumidifier, closing them in a bathroom with a portable heater, using a drying medium (which changes the workability of the paint which again changes the look of the piece, not what I want to do right now), throwing salt over my left shoulder and then spinning counterclockwise three times quickly. Putting the piece under a good halogen light helps a bit, but for the most part, nothing works except dry and preferably cooler weather and more time.

The best way that I have found so far to deal with this is to do as many underpaintings as I can so that when they do dry I have plenty to work on and can then catch up to where I would have originally been. Naturally there are problems with this approach as well. I don't have enough space in my studio for more than about 12 or so pieces, depending on size, to be air dried. Also, having to do so many underpaintings at once can really throw off my rhythm. It's kind of like starting, but not resolving, 10 paintings each day, several days in a row and then having to pick it all up again a few weeks later. Doing this can be exhausting and disconcerting, but I did it last summer and it was ok as long as it's only a temporary way of working.

Alas, that is probably what I'll have to do. I have a solo show at the Salt Meadow Gallery in August, which until last week seemed way in the future. Now the deadline is in sight and we have had rain and humidity all week. I am guessing that I will have to solve the storage issue of drying paintings, by keeping them in our bedroom, the only room we have where I can set them up without a cat brushing up against them (in my studio I have wall shelving and the cats don't get up there). Except for the bathrooms, that is the only room in this old house that has a door with a doorknob that actually latches, but only when it's humid and the door swells up a bit. Of course.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

The Birds and the Bees

First View of the Morning, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

And just in case I needed more to do each day, I recently decided that we had to get chickens. What is a farm without chickens anyway? Most of our neighbors have chickens and there is a rumor that chickens used to live in our house along with Tony Yakos (after his wife died of course) and I happen to know for sure that they lived in our garage because I can still smell them fifteen years later.

But the real reason that I wanted to get them is because I wanted to make a commitment to living here. I have had a very transient life. As a child we moved to a new house or apartment or town almost every year. In college I moved every semester or year to a new dorm room, apartment or again to a new city. When I met Doug, I lived in a crappy apartment in South Philly, then moved to a nicer place Northern Liberties and then again to another row house a few blocks away. We moved to Connecticut for two years (that was the first place I ever lived in as an adult, that had both a dishwasher AND a washer and dryer-it was pure bliss) and then to Utah for ten years. While we were in Utah we lived in four different houses, two rentals and then we finally purchased our first home, where the girls were born in the upstairs bedroom. Soon we had four kids and needed more space, not to mention another bathroom, so we bought a larger house where we lived for three years, a personal record for me. However, I really didn't want to stay in Utah permanently (that's a whole other post!) so we picked out upstate NY as the place for us and despite missing the right place (Woodstock, NY, my favorite place) by a hundred miles or so, we did land in a beautiful spot.

The problem now is that I still have an itch to move. It's a habit at this point really, I don't want to actually move again. I love our house and our land and I am just starting to feel more comfortable in our town, despite how different I feel from most of the people we know. So buying the chickens and having a bee hive is a conscious decision to do something that is rather difficult to undo, to give away or to put in a moving van and take along to the next stop. I mean we could if we really had to, but by making things more difficult, perhaps my urge will lessen with each new connection that I make.

So, I did some reading, a bit of internet research and talked to our friends, Randy and Jenny, who have chickens. We determined that the old outhouse, not needed thankfully, that had been relocated across the road from us (the road divides our property into two sections) would be perfect for a hen house. It's kind of small, 6'x8', and has a small side door previously used for, uh, removal, which is perfect for the chickens to go in and out of. The interior needs to be gutted, insulated and then covered with plywood and a window needs replacing. We need to build an enclosed coop so that Penny, our very sweet, but bird, rabbit, woodchuck killing dog won't kill them too. Doug and I had a big debate about whether the building would need electricity so that the birds could have heat in the winter and we found conflicting advice about this. We read that if there are enough chickens in a small enough space they would be ok. We are going with that, for now, but will look into getting electric to the building this fall if it is practical. I ordered 25 chickens from McMurray's and they arrived, unbelievably, in a small, chirping box by mail. I must admit to having a very girlish reaction and saying oooooohhhhh when I opened the box and first saw them, they are so cute! Anyway, Doug built a brooder box and they are in the garage under a heat lamp for now. I check on them every few hours, totally stressing about whether the temperature is ok or if the poop needs to be pulled off their butts (it gets stuck and they can die from that-who knew?). This weekend and next we will get the hen house in order and the chickens will move in about a month or so. They are egg layers so we should have our own fresh eggs in about 4-5 months, which I might add, are incredible compared to those things that pass for eggs in the grocery stores. We have 27 chicks (they send two extra, expecting a few to die in transit, but ours didn't) and if even most of them make it, we will have a lot of fresh eggs each day. However, we will pass them along to our chicken less friends and neighbors.

Now for the bees. When Doug was a kid, he and his family had a beehive in their backyard, right in the middle of suburbia. The neighbors weren't too happy about it, but were appeased by jars of honey and beautiful pollenated flowers in their gardens. Doug has always wanted to have bees again and this seemed like the time to do it. Last Friday he went to pick up the bees, all 18,000 of them, plus THE QUEEN, who is in her very own special container. The other bees have to pierce the seal on the container that she is in so that she can come out and settle into the hive. All of this sounds very ceremonial and pretty sexual, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, Doug and the boys put on the helmets, veils, and gloves, put the bees into the hive and now we have bees everywhere. However, they are very busy with my lovely gardens and pay no attention to us, so far anyway. I guess it could go bad and turn into a straight-to-video movie, in which case we may just pack up and move. Heh. Or we will have honey next spring. Either way.

The bee hive. I know, it's not very exciting.

Gratuitous baby chick picture. They tend to get all atwitter and then bunch in the corners when an arm with a camera descends into their space.

*I am adding this quick story about the bees. Doug went out this morning to check on them. In order to look into the hive you have to smoke them out and so when he came inside he smelled of smoke. Which for some reason smells exactly like pot. He was running late to go on a field trip with our daughter so he had to frantically make a quick clothing change and we slopped a lot of smelly bug oil on him. That just would have been classic, going on a field trip with first graders, smelling like pot....