Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend Update

I don't really have anything super exciting to talk about today. Since, finally, Doug was home on the weekend, I had him do all of the soccer games, errands and whatever else on Saturday, while I stayed home and worked in my studio. I did four large sized underpaintings, which WAS pretty exciting. Clearly, it's been awhile since I have worked much larger than 24x24. And while these are images that I have painted before, changing the scale is a welcome challenge. I would have liked to have done a few more as I was totally in the groove, but I don't have anywhere to put them right now. So I must save the groove for next time.

The rest of Saturday was filled with preparation for a belated birthday sleepover for my son. My nerves were a bit jangled what with seven, squeaky voiced, loud and boisterous twelve year olds in the house, but I retired early to watch tv and knit in our bedroom and Doug stayed up and supervised the boys downstairs. We are a good tag team-I got up at 7am to make waffles while he slept in.

I puttered around on Sunday, painted a few cradled edges, made some jalapeno cheese, and organized my sorely neglected desk.

See? Not so exciting. Although having a clean desk again might qualify as excitement for me these days. Heh.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Round Two

Must be like having twins two days in a row.

The Importance of Cheese

I have been rather frantically busy the last few days. In between extended hours in the studio, I have also had paperwork to do, all of the usual kid and house stuff because Doug was in the city on Wednesday and Thursday, prepping panels, and last night there was a memorable trip to the vet with a bleeding dog who got a chunk of her ear bit off while outside protecting us from intruders. AND I am still obsessed with making cheese.

This morning I waxed two cheese rounds that I made in the last few weeks. The unwaxed wedge of cheese on the plate is what's left of the very first successful (the first few tries were a disaster!) batch that I made. The cheese is supposed to age for at least 2 months for better flavor, but I had this smaller round and we were dying of curiosity so we tried it after only a week. It was really good! Anyway, I wanted to let the others age longer so they get waxed. One is cheddar and one is caraway cheddar. The cheddar round is a bit funky, I had trouble getting enough weight to press it and so it isn't as firm and solid as it should be. Then my neighbor loaned me her cheese press (yes, two people on the same road who happen to be making cheese, what are the odds of that?), and so that one, on the right, turned out much better. Today I have another batch in progress, this time with cumin.

I have also made several batches of goat cheese from milk bought at the health food store. It is incredibly easy to make and the flavor is much better than store bought especially if you press fresh herbs into it.

I know, I know, super fascinating pioneer life of a painter. I just feel that I should try to balance out all of the manufactured stuff we have with a few things that I can make myself. Making things, whether it's a painting or a sweater or cheese gives me a feeling of purpose and accomplishment.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Round Lumpy Bumpy Egg

I have had three babies, all born naturally and at home. Still, when I saw this egg in a nest out in the hen house this morning, I felt the need to cross my legs and close up shop forever.

And just to compare with the more classic egg.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Still Love Getting the Mail!

Deep Trees, 2007, Oil on Panel, 16x20

The Saturday snail mail delivery by Jim the mailman (who is also our neighbor and doubles as the guy who brush hogs our land each fall), brought me two lovely and much needed surprises. Doug has been out of town for weeks at a time over the last few months and we were nearing the end of another week long stretch. And so I was going a bit mental. Not from the kids so much (ok, well maybe a little) but from having to do everything, everyday, most especially cooking and cleaning up after dinner each night. The kids help, but, well, they don't really, know what I mean? And I was incredibly tired after having stayed up until 2am to watch The Good Shepherd (got a late start on that because I had to go pick up my daughter from a birthday party at 9pm Friday evening). Then Saturday morning there was soccer practice and another birthday party, a few manufactured preteen dramas as well as feelings of guilt over not going outside to do some yard work in order to take advantage of the stunning weather. And why oh why must I actually feel ill the day after having only a few hours sleep? I used to be able to do all nighters with ease and now if a miss an hour or two of sleep I become the worst crabby patty* ever.


Folded into the usual bills, junk mail and endless credit card solicitations were two hand addressed envelopes. Very rare these days! The first one contained an acceptance letter for a juried regional show in my favorite place ever, Woodstock, NY. I have stopped entering competitions for the most part, but I make exceptions for ones that have some meaning for me and whose organizations I like to help support. I entered this same show last year and had some luck getting in and winning an award, a gift certificate for a actual art supply store for $100. Which I used to buy four, yes, only four tubes of paint. Ones that I never would have splurged on otherwise. Since I love, love, love Woodstock and the Woodstock School of Art, I am very pleased to be included again this year, as well as having an excuse to drive down and spend a day there when delivering the painting.

The next piece of mail was a check along with an encouraging note from my New York gallery (that has such a nice ring to it), Multiple Impressions. They have sold a number of paintings now and I am feeling good about my possible status there. Of course, now they want more pieces, large ones of course (because they are the most difficult for me to do), so bright and early Sunday morning I found myself priming two 36x48 panels.

Days like that make me very happy that mail has not become entirely obsolete yet.

*Gratuitous SpongeBob Square Pants reference.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Zero to Eighty in Less Than a Week

Front and Center, 2007, Oil on Panel, 18x18

So for no apparent reason our satellite dish, yet again, moved just enough so that it lost the signal. Usually when this happens Doug goes up on the roof and fiddles around with it while I shout up to him through a window to tell him what number the signal strength is from the computer. We used to call for a serviceman to come out but they would take days and sometimes weeks to come and just do what Doug can do anyway. But naturally, this time, he was in Chicago most of last week at a trade show and didn't get home until last night. And while I can do many things, climbing a ladder (not to mention getting back down) to the roof is not one of them. The internet went down Friday, with just a few brief minutes up on Saturday and Sunday morning, leaving me feeling alienated from the entire world. For instance, I only just learned today that Larry Birkhead may soon be getting custody of his daughter and taking her back home to the US. Heh. It wasn't so bad actually, I got a lot done around the house, but did have to redirect whenever I wanted to look something up or check on the news or whatever.

Anyway, a few interesting things happened on Saturday, which I'll discuss tomorrow when I have more time. For now I just wanted to say hi again and to mention the fact that last Monday the kids had a snow day, while this Monday was 80 degrees and perfectly sunny and beautiful.

Gotta love spring around here!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

OK, I Confess to Watching American Idol. So Sue Me.

In Front of a Pond, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Well, after five years, I finally caved in. This year I am watching American Idol. I never got on the bandwagon before for various reasons, but this year my kids were interested and I decided to relax their no TV during the week rule (but no voting, no need to actually participate in pop culture). So we watch it together and I have to admit that I have enjoyed it.

In fact, it has reminded me a bit of art school. Many talented hopefuls and really just a small percentage will find success within the field they prefer, and only one or two will become really well known. And if they do become successful, they will be revered/admired/envied/hated/branded a sell-out, by the losers. Oh and in art school, the hopefuls must endure numerous public critiques by professors who are much more cruel/honest than Simon, before they get weeded out.

Anyway, I confess to feeling a bit disappointed/relieved that Sanjaya was voted off last night. I rather enjoyed his presence and while he certainly was not the best singer, I found him to be one of the most engaging performers of the group. But I had mixed feelings about the campaign surrounding him. It was kind of satisfying to see the whole corporate, big money structure getting messed with, yet I felt badly that a 17 year old boy (not to mention the other contestants) was essentially being goofed on. However, I suspect Sanjaya will do fine now. He'll probably get a contract and maybe even have a few hits, thanks to fans like my "tween" daughter. Hopefully he will save his money just in case his fame is fleeting.

And so we will continue on to the end. My favorites are Jordin and Melinda, but ultimately I hope neither of them will win. While everyone wants to win a contest, winning isn't always winning, you know?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cooking Frenzy

Two Parts, 2007, Oil on Panel, 18x18

So last week, I managed to get a little bit of work done, mostly by just spending an hour or two, here and there in the studio. Doug and our son were in the Grand Canyon for a boy scout camping trip and so I was home with the girls and our other son. I let them watch too much tv, but we also kept busy with some art projects and games.

Mostly though, what I did, was to spend many hours in the kitchen, cooking! It started with two dozen muffins that I made for a party/brunch/easter egg hunt last Saturday. They turned out great and I realized that I hadn't made muffins in about ten years. Which set of a three day obsession with making more, really good muffins. Unfortunately, none of the subsequent batches turned out quite so well, and so the chickens ate most of them. But in between making the muffins, as well as the usual cooking for dinners and so on, I decided to try my hand at making cheese. And yes, I have been informed that I could be insane because of this. I have had a book and a few kits for awhile, but have been a bit put off by how much work it seemed to be. Finally though, with a bit of extra time available it seemed like a good time to jump in. Turns out that it isn't a lot of work, it's just a project that needs attention at crucial intervals. My first few attempts failed because the milk didn't firm up, but after adjusting a few things, I finally ended up with something resembling a cheddar cheese wheel. And because when I do something that is fun, or successful, I always have to do more, more, more, and so I made another batch of cheddar and then a few rounds of goat cheese for good measure. The goat cheese is unbelievably easy, and tastes so much better than the store bought. The cheddar has to age for a few months which will be a good exercise in delayed gratification. I plan to make a few more varieties of hard cheese in the meantime, even though it is a bit of a risk as I won't know for awhile yet how the first ones turn out. But what the heck! I am just enjoying the process at this point.

And on Monday, the snow day, I topped this cooking frenzy off with a cake for my son's birthday. It was a three layer chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache between the layers and what else? chocolate butter cream frosting. We have all been in a sugar coma for two days now. Heh.

The funny thing is, is that while I was making the cheese I realized that the way I cook is the same way I paint. I like to do things that take awhile, yet I tend to choose simplicity over a lot of details or finesse. Patient, yet not. That's me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Winter Weather

House and Barn, 2007, Oil on Panel, 12x16

I didn't intend to take a nearly week long break from posting, however Mother Nature must have felt that I should. We got a bit of the recent storm, and while it wasn't awful for us, mostly ice and just a few inches of very wet, chunky snow, it did knock out our computer satellite service for a few days and of course the kids had a snow day on Monday. Extending their "spring" vacation to eleven fun filled days. Heh. I admit to doing a little dance when I saw the school bus come up the road this morning.

Anyway, while I did miss ya'll, I also was quite productive without the constant temptation of the magnetic, studio time sucking super computer. There is much to discuss, but I have just one hour before I must play mommy again and so I have to finish up in the studio.

Tomorrow I will be back with a real post.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I have been getting just a little bit of work done each day. On Monday I finished up some smaller pieces and though I rarely do this (maybe I should, but that's a rant for another day) I reworked a painting that I had felt was finished, had already photographed and even posted awhile ago. It was sitting on the shelf just bugging me. You know, calling out, shouting at me and insisting that it still needed a few things. So I worked on it a bit and am glad I did. Especially since the voices have now quieted down. Heh.

Finished version of Tilting, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Monday, April 9, 2007

My Name is Tracy and I am a Chicken Killer

Two of a Kind, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

It's true. I killed one of my chickens. One of the chickens whose beak I dipped in water to show her how to drink when she was just two days old. One that I have worried about, checking in the middle of the night to make sure there was enough warmth, saved from a cold night outside when the little hen house door accidentally slammed shut, leaving the flock outside, blinded in the dark. After climbing over a 10 foot snowbank twice a day for almost a month, often in subzero weather to make sure she and the others had enough food and thawed water, not to mention doing a number of things in order to save two of her sisters which included making a chicken regurgitate the contents of its crop and bringing another one indoors for almost a week.

Last week I noticed that another chicken had the same symptoms of the one that died in a cage in our laundry room about a month ago. I knew I had to remove her from the flock and resigned myself to setting her up either in the garage or in the laundry room. But I also knew she would die, no matter what I did to help her, just like the other one did. So I started to consider euthanasia. Not uncommon at all on a farm of course, but not something I wanted to do either. I am sure that there is no way in hell that I could snap its neck, like a neighbor suggested. Nor did I want to hit it with a shovel like my very mild mannered friend did to her rooster when it attacked her one too many times, beating it to death. Although, I have to add here that our Number One Rooster In Charge is getting closer to a meeting with a shovel every time he attacks me. Anyway, I decided to slip it into a Tidy Cat cat litter bucket (which are the handiest things ever when it comes to chickens-I use them to carry fresh water out to the coop each day, to carry out scratch or feed. I would like to kiss whoever invented them), snap the lid shut, and leave it outside. I felt horrible after making the decision, but when I put the chicken in and she didn't squawk, fight or even react, I knew that this was the best way.

So five days later the bucket is still sitting outside, next to the garage. I assume she either suffocated or froze to death (we are having a cold snap) within a few hours, maybe less, given how sick she was. Not particularly humane I suppose, but maybe not so bad either. Anyway, seeing it every day makes me feel awful. On Wednesday I will put the whole thing inside a garbage bag and put it out for the garbage man to collect. I admit that the perversely curious side of me is considering opening it up to see what's doing in there. However if I do that, I'll have that picture in my mind, along with the picture of her going in still alive, giving me the eye. Not sure if I need both.

Coincidentally, I took one of our cats in to the vet on Friday and described the symptoms of both chickens. He said that it sounded like a nutritional deficiency, despite the fact that what I feed the flock is an appropriate diet. It could have been a deficiency particular to a certain breed (both chickens were the same breed) however. So I felt a bit better, knowing that it doesn't seem to be a flock problem, although I will have watch the others closely.

So much for taking a break from writing on the blog this week, but I just had to confess.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Thanks Folks

Trees Barely There, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Thanks so much to everyone who sent their good wishes, publicly, privately and telepathically in response to yesterday's post about my mother's cancer. She had the Gamma Knife Radiation yesterday. And by the way, I love the sound of that, Gamma Knife, it's like college sorority and futuristic all at the same time, Gamma Knife, Gamma Knife. I could just say it all day. Anyway, the procedure went fine, she was enjoying the morphine when we spoke last night and she and her husband will be driving back home today (they had to drive several hours to another city to have it done).

Today is the first day of spring break and the kids will be home all next week. Great timing because I am just starting to feel intense pressure to get the work together for my upcoming show at Enderlin Gallery at the end of May. I was hoping to have the work finished at the end of April so that I can take a week or so to visit my mother, before the show opens. So between trying to get a few hours of studio time in here and there, coordinating sleep overs and play dates and possibly tackling spring cleaning, I think that my posts here will be a bit spotty next week. I may put up a few paintings, but won't have much time for writing, I think.

Which is fine, we can all have a break from my constant yammering. Heh.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

No Smoking Allowed

The Same, Yet Not, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

As some of you regular lurkers readers may recall, my mother, who has often been quite involved in my comment section, suffered a heart attack last September. I wrote about it here. At the time, she had a variety of tests and a spot on her lung was visible on one of the chest x-rays. After several months of tests, delays, and finally a surgical biopsy, she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

She is currently having chemotherapy and she is handling it very well, without self-pity, not to mention subjecting the doctors and nurses to her stupid jokes and morbid sense of humor about it all. But the bad days still suck. Her hair is beginning to fall out just a bit and she feels icky for several days after the treatment. When she begins to feel better, it's just in time for the next treatment. And unfortunately, she has a small tumor in her brain as well and will be having Gamma Knife Radiation therapy today. She is telling her friends that afterwards, she will back to being "empty-headed" after the procedure. My mom, the comedienne.

She has been insistent that I not let this interfere with my work. As if! While I don't have to deal with this on a daily basis (she and her husband live on the other side on the country) of course all of this has been very difficult, especially around the holidays when she was having so many tests and procedures. I plan on visiting for a few weeks in May and to appease her at least a little bit, I am scheduling that trip around the work I have to do.

This is the type of cancer closely associated with smoking and yes, my mother has been a long time smoker. I always hated the smoking and I bugged her endlessly to quit. She tried many times, but never could stop for good (nasty, addictive things).

So I hope that if you (or someone you know) smokes cigarettes, please do what you can to stop. Or better yet, don't start. You do not want to go through what my mother is going through.

And while we are not religious, some good wishes and hopeful feelings sent telepathically towards the mother of some virtual person that you have never even met, would be accepted with much gratitude. And try to humor her next time she leaves a comment even if she is doing her best to embarrass her middle aged daughter. Heh.

Monday, April 2, 2007

When a Field is Just a Field

Just a Field, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

I think that after yesterday's post, I might sound as if I am on the edge. I am not at all and the ear reference was just a joke. Really.

The truth is, how I feel about my work is very fluid, yet not. Overall, I am exceedingly pleased with what is happening. And on a day to day basis I am pretty solid. But some days can be good and some be a real drag. I can feel super confident, rather than just my usual normal confidence (which is what allows me to put myself and my work out there). The super confident days usually happen when I have some kind of success, perhaps a good sale, a near sell out show, a good review or high praise. That sort of feedback is great and is really exciting, but can also be the most damaging to my work, much more so than self-doubt. I get an attitude and then I have a tendency to not put everything that I can into my work on those days, because, well I am feeling like everything I do is great so why bother. You see? Attitude. I have to work hard to keep that in check. The best and most productive confidence comes from having an excellent day in the studio finishing one or more real kick ass paintings and I am more productive, I suspect, because the confidence comes from within, rather than being a reaction to an outside event.

There are a similar variety of bad days too. The bad days that make me doubt myself and what I am doing come from outside forces, like being turned down by a gallery or thinking that I should really be selling much more work than I do, don't really bother me so much that it affects my work in the studio. If it does, it is to spur me on a bit and get me to work harder. So it becomes a positive. The bad days that come within, for example after struggling with a painting or being frustrated by color happen often enough, but usually pass fairly quickly and there is often a corresponding leap in quality and/or productivity. Getting over the hump I guess.

And none of this is written in stone of course. A bad painting day can happen after hearing about a sale or I can be feeling super confident for no good reason whatsoever. Fluidity.

With the exception of post show meltdowns, which are much worse after a good show by the way, none of these events really affect me for any length of time. I have enough life experience (raising four kids!) and I have enough self-discipline that I can work through these minor ups and downs. And I do consider them minor. While my feelings yesterday, concerning getting work back from a gallery affected me and was something that was on my mind enough to write about it, it didn't affect my studio time (um, well except that I didn't really get to the studio, but that was because I had laundry to catch up on and important work to do on the computer all day. Heh) and won't be a problem that will stick with me. Other issues will move me along, such as planning the work for an upcoming show, gathering the tax info or deciding what to make for dinner and will it be something that everyone will eat or will someone end up with cereal?

So really there is no tortured artist's life here. Perhaps by writing about my feelings of demoralization gave it more importance than it really has to me. I just wanted to explain some of the things that I go through while trying to have some kind of art career. Getting unsold work back from a gallery is one of the things that art school did not cover.

And while this art career thing is very important to me, I will not be cutting off an ear for it. I have nicely shaped ears and it would be a real shame to mess up the perfect pair.

Left Ear or Right?

Tilting, 2007, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Well, after the pride I expressed in my last post about how well things are going lately (and thanks so much to all of you who were so pleased for me about all of that), I was brought back down to earth this weekend. In a very gentle manner, at least.

Saturday morning I loaded up my car with 19 paintings and my daughter and began the five hour drive to Cape Cod to deliver work to the Salt Meadow Gallery there, and then a second delivery to The Harrison Gallery on Sunday on the way back home. Generally, if it's possible, I take one of the kids with me on my short trips, alternating each time. Thankfully, because this was a lot of driving, it was my quieter daughter's turn to come with. Now of course, I dearly love my youngest, but she NEVER stops talking and I confess to some irritation with that, most especially in the car. So this particular trip was rather quiet and harmonious. We listened to music, worked on some crossword puzzles (she did the reading and writing and um, got most of the answers), and we stopped and did some shopping at the mall in Albany on the way back on Sunday.

Anyway, we got to the gallery in Cape Cod on Saturday afternoon, no thanks to the seemingly incorrect mapquest directions and I spent some time visiting with Glenn, the owner. I had a solo show there last summer (read about it here) and will have another one this July. He has sold A LOT of my work over the last few years, however I have also given him many pieces and so we had finally agreed that I should take some work back this time. Of course this makes sense (I am the one who offered to take some back, conscious of possible storage space issues) and he had 12 paintings ready for me. My practical mind is fine with taking back work from a gallery that shows it, and I generally make the suggestion if it seems that sales have slowed or if it's been awhile since they have received new work. But I admit to still feeling a bit demoralized when a stack of paintings return to my studio.

So I try to look at it like this: it's a good reality check to learn, once again, that not everything I do is so fab that it immediately flies out the gallery door. I think my work really suffers when I fall into thinking how great I am. Not much to strive for when I start doing that, you know? So these reality breaks are good and will help me in the long run I think.

Now if that urge to cut off my ear would just go away. Heh.

PS. I should add here that personally, I do think that most of the returned paintings are pretty dang nice, which only proves how subjective art can be. A piece that I am proud of doesn't always translate to one that touches someone else. Or perhaps for a myriad of reasons and circumstances the painting doesn't find the person for whom it is meant for. These are things to remember too, especially when the ear cutting thing flares up.