Monday, March 31, 2008

What I Learned This Weekend

City Street at Dusk, 2006, Oil on Panel

Ok. These are things I have learned since last Friday.

1. Always make a back up plan when planning to travel. Especially when traveling from upstate NY anytime between October and April. Kids at home on a snow day can really mess things up!

2. I am more ambitious than I thought. I stopped in to visit with my gallery in Hudson (on the way to the train station) and we were talking about their experiences at the art fairs. The Affordable Art Fair came up (they are going this year) and I took the opportunity to brag mention that I did really well there last year. She added me to the roster and it looks like I am going!

3. I may be losing my mind. At the train station I spent about four minutes reading a newspaper while waiting for the train, during which time I evidently set down my bifocals on the bench. By the time I realized that I didn't have them, I was on the train and it was moving. The thing is I don't remember actually putting them down, usually I slip them into my bag if I take them off.

4. I really need those glasses, especially while at Penn Station. I was to meet Doug by the board, but somehow I ended up on different level, next to the LIE board. We talked on our cell phones to each until he saw me. I couldn't see him until he was right in front of me.

5. After looking at the above painting, which has been tucked away at Doug's store, I realized that I should do some more city scene paintings. I enjoyed doing them a few years back, before the landscapes and barns entirely took over my life.

6. Ed Winkleman is very nice. Doug and I headed to the Pulse show first thing and went to say hi to Ed before the "show daze" set in, which can make conversation nearly impossible. I chatted with Ed about blogs, art and he gave me some very helpful advice about pursuing new gallery representation. Oh and we especially liked the black licorice pipe, although I was nervous that I would bump into it and knock the whole thing off the pedestal.

7. Not having my glasses at an art fair is actually a good thing. Not being able to see clearly from a distance allowed for a lot of filtering and I was thankful for that, especially after the first half hour.

8. There is not a chance in hell that my current work would EVER be shown at Pulse. I am ok with that.

9. I MAY have a shot at someday showing at the Red Dot Art Fair. There were a few galleries there that I thought might be the place for me. And in fact, I even did that thing you're not supposed to do-I told one exhibitor that I was a painter and that I wanted to give them my info. I couldn't help it, the words just flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. Anyway, he was very nice about it and suggested I email him this week. He very smartly did not take my name. Heh.

10. It is very disconcerting to see expensive, fine art in mediocre hotel rooms and bathrooms. I am used to seeing the other kind of art in hotel rooms (the last hotel room I stayed in actually had two copies of the same print on the wall). But it was less tiring than going through booths in the larger show environments.

11. The Armory Show is very popular! I had no idea. It's like I have been living under a rock or something. The line was probably a mile long outside and it was packed inside. We walked the entire show, although after awhile everything looked the same and I didn't see much that I could connect to. There were a few things I did like, however I didn't have the energy to take any photos and was in such a daze that I can't remember anything now anyway. Sorry.

12. And why, for the love of god, did no one tell me that if one plans to walk through three art fairs they should train as if they were going to participate in a marathon? My feet still hurt today, even though I wore my most comfortable shoes, (which are coincidentally my most unfashionable shoes). And the shin splints! Bah!

13. My 51 year old husband is in better shape than I. After the Armory Show, I went back to the hotel and took a nap. He went to see one more show, The Dark Fair. He said it wasn't as good as he thought it would be.

14. Eating an amazing, candlelit dinner at 11pm, surrounded by beautiful, fashionable, and seemingly very happy people at a crowded restaurant in Soho, makes life seem totally fabulous.

15. All of this activity can have the same effect as an evening of a weekend drinking binge. Instead of leaving the city by 9am, as planned, it was more like 11:30 before we got it together and bedtime on Sunday night was very early.

16. And some kind citizen was kind enough to turn in my glasses to the Amtrak office at the train station. I picked them up on the way home on Sunday.

17. I think that looking at art in this context is not for me. At dinner on Saturday night, Doug tried to discuss what we had seen and all I could do was look at him blankly. We did find that we had very different opinions about the shows though. He didn't like Pulse; I thought it was ok. He didn't like Red Dot; I liked it more, mostly because there were so many paintings, which is more my thing. He was totally into The Armory and I couldn't think clearly after about ten minutes there.

But it was a great weekend. I did retain a few memories of art that I liked, most notably paintings by Ben Aronson. I got to spend a few days alone with my honey and I got to feel like a city girl, however briefly.

PS. If you want a good rundown on the art fairs, go look at these blogs over the next few days. They are clearly much better at writing about art and art fairs than I.

Art Vent
Art Fag City
Two Coats of Paint
Joanne Mattera
Edward Winkleman

These bloggers did a panel discussion on Sunday morning at the Red Dot Art Fair, that I forgot about in our hungover haze.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everything Is Fine

X Doors, 2008, Oil on Panel, 9x18

Thanks everyone, for the encouragement over the last few posts. Taking a break was good for me, the imaginary conversations have quieted a bit! And I had a very productive day in the studio yesterday, so I think things are getting back to normal. Well, whatever that is anyway. I would like to add though, that I think this internal questioning that I periodically go through concerning my work and its place in the art world is ultimately good. I don't really intend on being categorized by others (even if I am) and when I occasionally categorize myself (which I do) I need a little drama to stop. Plus, every once in awhile various forces converge and throw everything off, which is also what got me, I think. Usually, I can work through all of that stuff, but not always, I guess.

However, I do get another short break. Tomorrow, Doug and I are off to spend a few days in the city. I would like to wander through a few Chelsea galleries, and on Saturday we are planning to visit the Red Dot Art Fair and maybe Pulse as well. A number of my dream galleries (ones I hope will consider me someday) will be exhibiting at both of those fairs and I plan to do a bit of reconnaissance work. Heh. And I am looking forward to checking out this whole art fair thing, it's something I haven't had the chance to do before now. You know, because of the whole kid/farm/chickens/traveling husband thing.

I will be back on Monday at oh nine hundred with a full report.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Playing Defense

Two Poles, 2008, Oil on Panel, 9x18

Well, I was hoping to get a bit more work done in the last week or so, but it turns out that I really needed to take a few days off. I have been struggling with the paintings I have going. Maybe it's not noticeable to others, maybe it is, but I am not getting "it" in them, whatever "it" is. (The one above isn't one of them, this one is ok) When I got back from Vermont I was so happy to get back to the studio. It felt great at first but then I began to question myself. While I was actually painting. I began having these imaginary conversations with critics defending my image choices, my colors, my decision to sell my work and on and on. I began to second guess myself and to think that maybe I should just shake it all up and completely change gears, like so many of the artists said in Vermont, and just make art for art's sake. I can't deny that a part of me is intrigued with the thought of doing that-just walking away from landscapes and realism and color and just do something completely different. But the thing is I really don't want to do that. I want to keep expressing myself through the landscapes and structures, because I still have so much more to say.

So there.

I am going to keep going. It's back to work today and I am done defending myself to um, myself. Anyway, I get to do what I want.

(but since I admit to being interested in the idea of changing things up, I will fool around with some different things on the side, just for fun, JUST FOR FUN)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Late on the Anniversary

Opposing Sides, 2008, Oil on Panel, 11x14

While I was in Vermont, the two year anniversary of this blog came and went. It's hard to believe that I have been doing this for two years and have found the time to write 477 posts! Long ones too! I have been so wrapped up in blogs that it seems like I have always been reading them and keeping my own. On the other hand, it also feels like just yesterday that I struggled to set this blog up.

And this whole thing has been amazing. I have "met" so many new and interesting people here, virtually and then often in real life and it has literally been a lifesaver. It has been such a great community for this outcast to belong to.

Much has happened in the last two years. My mother died. I have gotten new gallery representation and difficult decisions about leaving galleries have been made. There have been so many amazing exhibition opportunities for me, some of which were a result of this blog. We added chickens, bees and a new dog to our lives. We scraped enough money together to replace our porch, paint the exterior of our house, replace the shingles. But in many ways things are just the same. I spend my days balancing motherhood with a career that can be overwhelming and all-encompassing. There never seems to be enough time for everything.

But still I plug away, raising my kids, making art, and keeping up with my internet friends. So thanks everyone, for reading my words, looking at my work and for some reason, finding me even remotely interesting. Can't quite put into words how much I appreciate that.

Go ahead and check out my first post. The one where I decided to use my words anyway. Heh.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's NOT Spring Yet!

Lower Level, 2008, Oil on Panel, 16x16
Things have been pretty quiet here. We have had terribly un-springlike weather the last few days-bitterly cold winds, enough rain to cause flooding and now snow. I don't mind that though, it's a good excuse to stay snuggled up inside for a few more days at least. Soon enough we will be tackling the backbreaking work of spring planting, not to mention the work of expanding our vegetable garden this year.

I have been working in the studio each day and that has been nice. All of a sudden I have several things coming up, including two group shows in addition to the solo show at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson at the end of May. I am planning to do larger works for that show, the kind I only have room enough to work on one or two at a time and will get started on those as soon as the panels come in next week.

There is one more post in me about the Vermont Studio Center and I will hopefully get that up next week. It will profile some of the other residents that I got to know and will include links to their websites and/or pictures of their studios in Vermont. I'll also include more random photos of the facility and some of the events.

Have a nice weekend all!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth!

Monday evening Doug and I took the kids to the circus. Not the kind of circus you are probably thinking of, in a big tent with clowns, lions, tigers and fire-eaters. This was more of an upstate NY kind of circus. Charming and maybe a little bit lame, but in a very sweet way. It was held in the high school's gymnasium (our first clue), a round "stage" with a curtained changing area behind it. The announcer had the best voice ever-he could have totally been a game show host at some point and he sure had his act down. He was perfect!

The first act involved a unicyclist, his wife and their 6 year old son. The mom in me couldn't really encourage the part where the father put his son on his shoulder's while on a 10 foot high unicyle. But I did take a picture:

Next up was the human slinky:
Then the sexy and very talented hula hoop artist: (By the way, don't let me forget to to tell you all about my hula hoop story in Vermont. Unfortunately, it does NOT involve me being sexy:))

Then a trampoline gag. A homeless looking fellow sets up the trampoline and has all kinds of trouble setting it up, then, big surprise! can do ten back flips in a row on it. Here is one:
Spiderman was next. He did some aerial tricks and definitely could have saved us all from the bad guys, if necessary.
He was also available for photos during the intermission that followed. Mostly the little kids posed but my smart alecky kids had to get involved and here they are, with a friend, posing with Spiderman, for a $15 Polaroid:
After the intermission, a lovely lady foot juggler came out and performed many death defying tricks:
Just kidding. However, the last trick did involve fire:
A glamorous trapeze artist performed next. Alas, we were off to the side so I couldn't get any good shots of her performance, which was up high and behind the light stand.
The grand finale was BMX star Brett Marshall:
Oh the tricks, the flips, the rolls, the rocking music, the heart pounding suspense of the last stunt of the evening:A homemade addition! A 360 degree ride on a bike! With holographic foil!

But really the best part was this:All the performers worked selling balloons, popcorn, cotton candy, inflatable cats and lighted swords. The kids got a big kick out of their double duty and I was reminded of the Scooby-doo episode at the deserted amusement park where one guy does everything-take tickets, run the rides, etc.)
The announcer was singing a goodbye song in his perfect voice as we left. It rang in our ears for hours. A good time was had by all, mommy and daddy parted with much money and Billy Martin's Cole All Star Circus will move on to the next small town's high school gym floor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Reminder of How Subjective Art Is

As I mentioned in a previous post, the feedback on my work varied wildly at the residency in Vermont. Not only from the other residents, but also from the visiting artists. Studio visits by the visiting artists were optional, however I signed up to meet with all of them. Because I was working on developing new imagery I knew that getting so much feedback could be problematic. And it was. The first two visits really threw me off and after each meeting, it took awhile for me to get back to work, I was so confused and unsure of which direction to take. By the time the second two visiting artists came in, I had narrowed my focus a bit with the figures and their criticism didn't really affect me quite so much. Mostly because they both had completely different opinions about each of the pieces that I showed them. It was a wash.

Anyway, I thought I'd put up a few of the pieces that no one agreed on and describe what was said about them.

This piece: by far got the most comments, mostly positive actually. Which was frustrating, and then by the end of the month, comical to me because I was so disinterested in it that I couldn't bear to even try to continue working on it. However, two of the artists had completely different ideas about what direction to take it, despite the fact that I HAD NO INTEREST IN IT. Visiting Artist #1 said I should develop the background, and leave the face blank. #2 liked it too and said I should leave it, #3 said it was the most successful painting that I had done and went on to say that it was a clear statement on isolation in America. Ok. #4 didn't really have much to say about it, although she liked the way I painted the dress.

Most of the residents that saw it, liked it. Some thought I should finish it, some said no way and most said they liked the blank face.

#3 spent a lot of time telling me why this piece worked so well: which was actually very interesting and helpful. #4 liked it (and my landscapes in general) and #1 and #2 didn't really acknowledge any of my landscapes, except in passing. #2 did say that the landscapes in general were too polished and it bothered him that he could not see any "struggle" in them.

I had been doing some still life paintings just to keep working, while I was trying to figure out the figures and so each of the visiting artists saw them in varying stages.

(These last two are the ones on canvas that I worked on while stapled to the wall. The canvas, that is, not me:))

#1 and #2 completely dismissed them and one implied that still lifes probably wouldn't further one's career as far as reviews, museum shows, etc, but one could sell them and maybe meet expenses. #3 didn't really talk about them either, although she mentioned that if I were interested in portraying still life objects, I could work them into the figurative paintings. #4 liked the tulips but again, didn't really have anything specific to say about them. I can understand the response here to these, they were really just busy work, valuable for that.

The figurative work that I did in the drawing sessions also got very little discussion, with the exception of #3. Who felt I needed to work from the figure much more. She thought my lines were too hesitant and that I erased too much. She though I needed to develop the model's surroundings in the oil sketches more. I didn't agree much at all with her assessment of them, but didn't say anything, or explain that the erasing is part of the drawing. Maybe it isn't working if she sees it as erasing rather than part of the drawing? She is the only one who has ever said that to me so I don't know how seriously to take it.

I had just begun the small little paintings of the single figures:when #2 visited, and I can't recall if #1 saw them. #2 liked them, he mostly saw them in the drawing and underpainting stage and liked how they were so subtle, appearing and disappearing. #3 didn't like the color on them, but liked the underpainting stage, and in fact thought one of them was very successful: and I should leave it be. (after much debate with myself, I went on to paint color on it anyway) #4 felt the the whole direction was not very good. She said they would never be more than "vignettes," which sounded like a bad thing, the way she said it.

A few more observations. #1 and #2 did not even mention my use of color. #2 said "your process is killing you" meaning that he thought the way I paint was dragging me down and limiting my options. #3 asked me about my color and how I have come to it, but didn't really talk about it otherwise. #4 was the only one who discussed my color, and responded to it at all.

With #1 I spoke entirely too much about how I show and sell my landscapes. His visit was early on in the month and I was still a bit nervous in the whole environment. And when I am nervous I talk way too much, which is exactly what I did with him. I made an effort to keep my mouth shut as far as my exhibition activities go with the other artists. However, I definitely got the vibe from all of them that selling from a gallery was not a good idea and would badly affect the direction of one's work.

#3 didn't like this painting:She thought it was too sweet and sentimental, and that the tree should be more prominent. #4 loved it, thought it was strong and bold, but that it just needed a bit of form in the foreground in order to create more foreground. And I did more work on that area.

Now that a little time has passed, I have a different perspective on much of the feedback I received. The very specific comments concerning my process or what my intent was as far as respect vs sales, while perplexing at the time, have actually served to help me feel more confident about what I do. I LIKE my painting process and I enjoy it. I like that it is limiting and I like the challenge of having to work around those limits. I also know that when those thing really don't work for me anymore, I will change things up. And while I do make some decisions regarding exhibiting or gallery representation based on what I'd like to happen for me in the future, I don't think much about it when it comes to actually making art. If I were so concerned about showing in Chelsea, for example, I would NOT be painting a representational landscape or barns, god forbid. heh.

The visit from #1 and his comments helped me realize that I needed to simplify the figures, get rid of the backgrounds and work at a smaller scale in order to work out some of these issues. The encouragement from #2 and #3 concerning the small figure underpaintings was good, although I ultimately decided that I needed to add the color anyway. And I am glad I went in that direction. I can always do more that are monochromatic anyway. And #3 really gave me insight about why some of my pieces worked, as well as why some didn't. #4 encouraged my use of color, giving me some ideas about how to use the color to create and push the forms behind the figures. She was also really nice to just chat with and I appreciated that.

So overall, despite wanting to pull out all my hair and give up painting entirely after most of the critiques, there was some valuable information from each visit, that will ultimately help me. But the really amazing thing was how much the opinions varied.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Animal Rescue Site

Our dog, Penny.

This email comes from my Aunt Shirley in Kansas City MO.:

I know that each of you have a special place in your hearts for our 4 legged friends. Please help. This is pretty simple. Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and neglected animals. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on the purple box 'fund food for animals' for free. This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising. Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know.

So do me a favor, folks. Visit this website and click on the purple box. A few times. And then feel free to email the link to your friends and/or post it on your blog. We all love our pets and this is an easy way to help animals in need. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Next Two Weeks

By the time my family came to visit me halfway through the month in Vermont, I was struggling. I had done two small pieces that were interesting to me but I had gotten such conflicting feedback about them that I was definitely confused. I had had a very irritating conversation with another resident, who didn't seem to understand what I was saying about the criticism I had received. She assumed I was upset that the feedback had been negative, even though I kept saying my confusion was the issue and that the mostly nonconstructive comments were not helpful. Then I had a great chat with Alice in her studio about all of this and she very firmly reminded me that I had to do what I felt, and to not let other's comments mess me up. After that conversation I stopped feeling like I wanted to cry, made an effort to avoid the other resident at mealtime (she meant well, I think I just didn't communicate with her very well and I liked her art a lot, by the way), and then went off to enjoy a few days with my family. Doug's feedback helped me get back on track, as well as the break and when I got back to my studio on Monday, I knew what to do.

I began more small portraits of people, again, based on the vintage photos. I decided to begin with a sanguine pastel pencil drawing on gessobord, red and orange glazes, and then full color glazes. Here are three of them at that stage:

Normally, at home I tend to do a whole batch of underpaintings on one day and then do the rest of the glazes over the course of a week or so. However, the drawings take longer, so I did one or two each day and the work on each piece was staggered over several days. Working like that took some getting used to, since working fast is so much a part of my process. My underpaintings are quickly done, simply and without much preparation, but with a lot of energy and a kind of urgency. Beginning with a nice, calm, detailed and deliberate drawing was a real change of pace and I wondered how that difference would affect the later stages of the paintings. So these are the pieces that I began the third week of the residency, they are somewhat in order as I worked on them, although I didn't really keep track:









I was very excited about the first few, though none of them came easy; for example the girl in the chair bothered me and I am still not sure about that one at all.

At the same time that I was working on these, I was trying to finish up the large barn painting as well as the large tulips. Doing the other work helped me to not get too overwhelmed or obsessed with the figures and also let me step back a bit from them and take a breather. The other events that occurred that week were two studio visits by two visiting artists, one of whom loved the paintings BEFORE I applied the full color (I had a few up that only had the orange and red glazes over the drawing) and one hated the whole direction, saying that they would only ever be vignettes. I also decided that I wanted to try working from more contemporary figures and realized that I was beginning to look at other people differently, just the way I began to look at landscapes and barns differently once I began to paint them. So I nervously asked a few of the other residents if I could take a few shots of them to be used as reference for future paintings, in exchange for a small study (when I get to them, that is). Everyone I asked was actually really excited to do this and so I began to ask more people. I now have hundreds of reference photos and am itching to get to work on them after I am finished adjusting to the real world. In fact, I was so taken with the photos of Sierra, a writer from Seattle, that I began two paintings of her right away and managed to get the color on them during the last few days there. These are the paintings that I did on the last day that I could paint before leaving:





I would say that I need to go back into each of them a bit more, but basically I am pleased with them. I am also intrigued by the one with the three figures, although Doug says it's too dated, not as timeless as the others.

Scale: I decided to keep the scale small on these pieces for several reasons. First is that I wanted to get a lot of images going while I was still in Vermont and could focus on them. I knew I could work faster if they were smaller. Also, working small is not quite so intimidating. I went through this same process with the landscapes, beginning small (um, because I was afraid) and then gradually working larger. Thirdly, working out the issues on a smaller scale is easier and then finally, I knew I wanted to keep the details to a bare minimum and I knew if I worked larger, I would begin noodling and overworking, losing sight of the "big picture". So working small was my self-induced limitation, one that will soon change.

The faces and other details: Like my landscapes, capturing detail and even reality is not really my intent. In almost all of my work I am just trying to express what I am feeling about the image. I guess there is always a bit of logic involved, in that the objects are usually fairly representational, and a fairly real space is involved, but the details don't necessarily concern me at all. In the first small paintings that I did, the facial features were fairly distinct. While I think they worked ok, in the later pieces, I consciously decided to leave out much of the specific facial features, preferring to leave them open to the viewer's interpretation, including mine. I see something different in these people each time I look at them and I like that quality.

These are just a start. (Provided I have time to continue working on them) I intend to increase the scale, as well as begin to add more information into the backgrounds. And after getting home and coming across this painter's work, clearly I do need to make a bit of a shift in order to move away from what she is doing! Anyway, I am not worried about that, I am just at the beginning of the process here and despite the fact that my concept is similar to what she says in her artist statement, where I go will surely be different.

I didn't go to the figure drawing sessions quite as much, especially during the third week, while I was beginning the second batch of paintings. In the last week, I did a few small pencil drawings from the model, thinking I would do the glazes over them. But the drawings didn't really inspire me and do I erased them in order to use the panels again. And then on the last Tuesday, I did two more oil sketches, using a different color. The brand of paint was Old Holland and even though I liked the color, the paint itself was really hard to move around on the paper. It drove me crazy, but I did end up like the effect of not being about to cover the entire surface. Also I should add that while I was working on this first one it seemed right that the face was in shadow. Now I hate it and cringe a little bit when I see that part. However, I really like the rest of the drawing.


For the next one, I added a bit of Liquin to the paint, just so I could work with it a bit easier and I think this one is my favorite of all of the oil sketches I did while there.


I did all of these oil sketches during half hour poses, not too short but not long enough for me to overwork. Not usually anyway. Also during the course of the month, I could really see a huge difference in my drawing skills because of the live figure drawing sessions. Drawing the clothed figures to paint was so much easier than it probably would have been otherwise. A good reminder for me to keep up with the figure classes now that I am back home.

So there you go. I have a show (landscapes) in May to prepare for but I am hoping to carve out some time to keep working on the figurative work. I am still feeling enthusiasm for them and hope to keep that momentum. In addition, the break from landscapes was also valuable and I am feeling pretty excited about getting back to them.

And I am off to do just that right now. I did some underpaintings last Friday and they are ready for their color today.......

PS. I feel like I need to explain about the prom image. I liked certain aspects of the couple which is why I initially chose the image. But after I did the underpainting (drawing) I couldn't believe that I had gone ahead with it. I am the most un-promlike person you will ever know, the most un-formal event person you will ever know and this sentimental stuff is really not my thing. But I decided to go forward anyway, and I thought that maybe if I chose ugly colors it would be more satisfying. Heh. That didn't really work and somehow the pea green background that I intended looks more like gold (in person), the girl's dress looks romantic and luminous and the boy looks less dorky than I had intended. Despite all of that happy crap, I actually like the piece. Don't worry though, my feelings about proms have NOT changed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The First Two Weeks of the Figure

First of all, I would like to apologize in advance to those of you with dial-up and/or slow computers. The next few posts will have A LOT of images and it may take awhile to load them up. Sorry.

This post will cover what I did with the figures during the first two weeks, and then I will discuss the the second two weeks in the next post. That separation is appropriate because it is punctuated by a teary eyed breakdown (common during these residencies, I hear) and the visit by my family, which served as a great distraction, even if I was a bit put out by the collision of my two worlds!

Ok, so on my first full day in Vermont I attended the figure drawing session and then later on in the afternoon, I began the first one of these small drawings based on a few of the vintage photographs that I had brought along. I did about five of them during the first few days, in between the figure drawing sessions, and I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was to just sit and draw, without the nagging feeling of having other, more important and well, splashier things to do, like painting. I am very pleased with these and they were very useful in helping me decide where to start with the paintings.

Within a few days I decided to go ahead and jump into some large paintings on panel, based on these drawings. I wrote about that here. I was excited about the underpaintings and went on to add the color which was where things began to fall apart! I was not feeling good about what was happening with the color and what it was doing to the space and even the subject matter. And even worse, I was so disinterested in them that I only partially completed three of them and couldn't even muster the energy to work on the fourth at all. That should have been my first clue. If I am not enjoying or am excited by the challenge then it is not working for me and it's time to change the direction. But which way? At this point I had had a lot of feedback by other residents as well as by two of the four visiting artists and I admit to being completely flustered by all of the different opinions and suggestions. So by the end of the first week I was floundering. I didn't know what to do. I did some small still lifes just so I could keep working. I stapled two large pieces of canvas to the wall and did large paintings of some tulips, from life. None of those things were amazing or maybe not even particularly successful, but they were fun and I really enjoyed the process of working on all of them. I'll put some of those images up in a later post.

Finally though, after a good night's sleep (always helpful for decision making and clarity) I realized that I had to strip away all of the details and extra information just like I had done when I began painting the landscape. When I started the landscapes and barns, after first including too much information, most of it was removed until I found what I had to say, and I have been gradually adding back details ever since.

Even though I did not like any of the first four paintings, each of them contained something valuable that I could take and move forward with. Painting #1 really drove it home for me that I needed to really simplify things, especially now. In cropping the image, I began to see what direction I wanted to go in.
#1, 16x20

#2 showed me that maybe plunking down a figure into one of my usual landscapes wasn't what I should be doing at this point, even though it is a relatively successful painting. It just doesn't seem right to me.
#2, 12x12

#3 gave me some real encouragement that I would be able to render clothing and the volume of the body underneath. And despite many positive remarks from the visiting artists, two of whom liked it exactly the way it is, this is also not something that is working for me.
#3, 18x24

And from painting #4 I learned that I needed to begin differently, that part of the problem was the underpaintings done in oil. Just technically it was very difficult to get the kind of information that I wanted into the underpainting (that is why the faces were blank at that stage-it was impossible to establish them) so I realized that I would have to begin a painting in a different way. Holy cow! Been awhile since I haven't started a painting without oil paint and a piece of a t-shirt!
#4, 20x24

Since the pencil drawings had been intriguing to me (but not to too many others, based upon feedback by visitors and even by Doug), I thought that would be a good thing to pursue. First I did a pencil drawing of a girl on sized paper. I then worried that the graphite drawing underneath would "deaden" the color of the subsequent glazes so I bought some sanguine colored pastel pencils at The Studio Store and I then did a drawing of a small figure on gessoboard with the pencils. I added a lot of detail, more than I thought I would paint, but I really wanted to be able to either use the info later, or to not, based on how I felt when I got there. I then coated both drawings with matte medium, then an orange glaze and then a red glaze, to approximate the colors that I usually begin a painting with. Here is one of them at this point (I didn't get a shot of the other one) and the color is awful by the way, it is actually much more red at this stage:

After the glazes dried, I made a first pass with color and was very happy with the results. And here they are finished:

Even though I again received wildly varying comments from others about them, I really could see something in these two pieces. And so I kept going and began several more. And those I will include in the next post, along with more discussion about the features and scale.

Also, a word about the colors of the glazes here. I considered changing up the first glazes but I was feeling the time pass and I really felt that I wanted to make some progress concerning other issues. Working with a different underpainting color really deserves its own month in Vermont!

Oh and also, during the first two weeks I did several charcoal drawings, and four oil sketches at the figure sessions. I didn't go every day (usually skipped the days with the boy model, sorry, no offense to the model, he was great). The oil sketches are on Daley-Rowney double primed oil painting paper, taped to a drawing board. I used oil paint, straight from the tube, no solvent or medium and used a cotton rag to wipe of the lights. They take at least a few days to dry, depending on the brand of paint or color, and are also very difficult to photograph.


Stayed tuned:there are oh so many more figures to come!