Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Changing Habits

Evening Comes, 2008, Oil on Panel, 24x36

I am finally feeling much more enthusiastic about the work I am currently doing. But almost on a daily basis, I end up procrastinating all morning, later and later each day, dash into the studio after lunch, work intermittently for several hours and then stop for the day. I don't think the quality of my painting suffers from this, in fact mostly it's just the opposite, but my mental health does suffer. For example this morning I spent all morning, reading the American Idol recaps on EVERY blog in America, and feeling terribly guilty about wasting so much time. I was also very disappointed to learn that nearly everyone in America thinks that my cutie pie, Jason Castro is going home tonight. I know he is far from the best singer this year but I just really enjoy his performances. They make me smile. Ok, and he is very cute and if I were just 20 years younger he and I might have a shot at real happiness.

But I digress.

This complete change in studio habits does have me a bit flummoxed. But it's difficult to make any real effort to go back to my old schedule when I am so pleased with what I am accomplishing this way so I guess I will just continue to go with the flow. Maybe my technical abilities have caught up with my instincts and I don't have to struggle with where and how to put the paint down quite as much as I used to. I don't know.

However, I really should make an effort to make better use of all the time I spend on the computer. I have so many more productive things I should be doing; cleaning and reorganizing my kitchen cabinets, my desk, my clothes closet, finding a place for all the linens that used to be stored in a closet that we are in the middle of turning into a shower, MY TAXES, (yes folks we took an extension for like the tenth year in a row), EXERCISE!, weeding the garden, filling in the holes that Penny makes in the yard, the list goes on and on.

But I suspect there will be much to catch up on Thursday morning what with someone going home tonight and whether or not Paula will mention her little faux pas on Tuesday night. So I guess all of that cleaning and organizing and exercise will wait another day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

This Is Going To Be Interesting

Edge of Pink Hill, 2008, Oil on Panel, 24x36

Despite the bugs and flies that were dive bombing into our faces,* Doug and I made pretty good progress in the garden on Sunday. Our plan, oops I mean MY plan, since Doug is just my slave now now in the vegetable garden and I am the one in charge, is to really produce enough food from our garden this summer for our family to eat. Well, mostly. I suspect my youngest daughter will eat very little from the garden, but that's another story. So I spent the winter reading this book, many, many times, as well as reading up on things on the internet. It became clear that we needed to radically change the set up of the garden as well as conquer the weeds, including the evil burdock which comes up like grass around here.

Last week Doug tilled up the soil, and on Sunday we formed three rows of 3'x6' beds. Well, technically we did not form all of them because a. that's a lot of shoveling and b. we are too old to do that much in a day. but we got them all laid out, and Doug, (he had to do most of the shoveling, because of my recent back issues) got about six of them ready for planting, in addition to three more narrow rows which will be an asparagus bed. We replanted the strawberries from last year that made it through the winter, despite the fact that I did not cover them with straw like I was supposed to, and I planted a bed of peas and a bed of carrots. I have organic seed potatoes and asparagus crowns on order and they will go in as soon as they arrive. Oh and I am picking up some broccoli tomorrow and will get that in as well.

Doug is trying to get some cold frame boxes built so that we can get some greens in (not sure if THAT will happen this spring, he is notoriously slow at that kind of stuff and plus he has some traveling coming up) and in another 3 weeks or so we can start planting tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, etc. I am going to try and do some succession planting this year, which means I need to keep track of what and where I plant everything. More paperwork, ack! But it will be good to have notes on what we do each year in the garden.

We were overwhelmed by the weeds last year, the garden is being carved out of a field after all, but this year we are going to try harder to stay ahead of them. I think that we will put a weed barrier cloth down in the walkways, with several inches of mulch on top of that, which will make a huge difference. Hopefully. Then we can keep up with the beds by hand. Hopefully.

It is spring though, and all cute and perky and sparkly green here and I am feeling pretty optimistic about all of this gardening. Get back to me in a few months after I have been bitten by every bug in the state, pulled numerous muscles, been sunburned and we'll see how optimistic I am about this freaking garden by then.

*Doug and I figured out how to deal with the bugs, besides bug spray, which does NOT work. I was outside first and after a few minutes I was being driven insane by the swarm of bugs surrounding my face. I began to daydream about a veiled hat and then realized that we actually had something close-Doug's beehive gear! So I put one of the hats on and went back to work. Doug came out and totally cracked up when he saw me. After working for about 15 minutes though amongst all the bugs, he quietly went in and put the other hat on. I suspect that we looked completely ridiculous working in the garden while wearing these hats, but they did the trick. Mostly. A few did manage to squeeze in, but no swarms anyway.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Oh, My Aching Back....

Route 10 Farm, 2008, Oil on Panel, 16x20

I meant to post yesterday, but my lower back went out first thing in the morning and left me with spasms all day. It hurt to sit too much, and it hurt to walk too much. The last time I had back trouble was when I was pregnant, and I don't mind saying I was quite put out to have this going on now. But never fear, coincidentally I had an appointment already scheduled with my acupuncturist yesterday morning and he got me back on track. I had no injury, just an imbalance involving low potassium, water, bladder, kidney, heat, energy, too much ice cream and the rising price of oil. Or some such combination of things. It may sound kooky, but whatever he did worked, no more spasms, the pain is almost gone today (though I am still pretty stiff) and no medication necessary. Always a plus in my book.

Anyway, I am trying to catch up with things today, both with work and around the house. I haven't felt as if I have gotten much painting done in the last few weeks, but after making a list of the finished paintings I see that I am actually doing ok for the show in Hudson at the end of May.

The guys are still working on the attic, although Tom has been installing a shower on our second floor bathroom for the last few days, while Matt is spackling the walls in the attic. I am putting up photos taken a few days ago, after they got the sheet rock up (sorry about the water spots-guess I need to clean my camera lens). We were amazed to see how much lighter the space is with the walls up and as you can imagine, I can't wait to get moved in. But there is still much more to do up there to get ready for the princess to move in. Heh. More updates to come.

We have a busy weekend ahead which involves the vegetable garden, a boy scout camp out, two soccer games and a basketball clinic all of which mostly adds up to a lot of driving for mom. I will see you Monday, that is if I get through it all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blog Links

Trees Converge, 2008, Oil on Panel, 8x10

By the end of my month at the Vermont Studio Center, I had gotten to be pretty good friends with artist Barbara Poole. She scared me a little at first, she is kind of blunt and brassy (in a good way, but it scared me nonetheless) and at one point her eyes literally shot daggers at me when I asked how old she was. But by my last night there (she stayed another two weeks) we were hanging around together, hitting all the goodbye parties. Well, the one anyway.

We have kept in touch since the residency and I always enjoy her emails. I love Barbara's work, though I will be quite embarrassed to see my image as a part of her hula hoop series. Yes, I did actually go and try to hula hoop in her studio, while she took photos. Try is the key word in that sentence. I used to be pretty good at the hula hoop, in grade school we spent many hours practicing and I could do a lot of tricks, up and down my arms, neck, to the feet and back up, multiple hoops, that sort of thing. At some point in the last 30 years though, I have seemingly lost my ability to even keep the hula hoop anywhere near my mid section. Ack! It was embarrassing.

Anyhoo, Barbara has a blog now, so I hope you'll go on over and check it out. And definitely look at her work. Ya gotta love narrative imagery that includes nudes, vacuum cleaners and guns. Well, I do anyway.

I have also been enjoying this blog, A Collage a Day, even if it seems to be near impossible to buy one of Randel's bird collages. By the time I see them, they are sold! And his blog led me to joie de vivre, by painter Kimberly Applegate. I love how she is putting together chairs and paintings. And naturally, all of the ones that I like are sold as well.

Later on I will put up some pictures of the attic. The sheet rock is up!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Be There or Be Square

Spring Lines, 2008, Oil on Panel, 9x18

One of my favorite painting formats has always been the square. I have painted many square paintings over the past few years and it was really working for me. There was something about the easy flow, and the circular movement of working within it that really appealed to me.

However, the last time I did a successful square paintings was last November or so, when I did a series of 9 inch square paintings for the show at The Harrison Gallery. Each square painting I have attempted since then has ended in frustration and I now have a whole pile of square panels in my sand down pile. Not only small and cute 9 inch squares either, there are big ones; 3 feet and even 4 feet square. Very annoying.

But I am a fickle girl and I have totally been feeling the love for long and narrow rectangles lately, though. 9x18 has been a favorite, as well as 6x12. And when I last ordered panels, I requested four 20x40 panels. Can't wait to get those primed and ready to go!

All of this is making a difference in my imagery. Instead of the circular movements of the square, I am thinking in blocks, short horizontal bits of imagery if I am working in a vertical rectangular format. The horizontal format gives me the opportunity to paint long, languid, flowing compositions which are particularly challenging for me. Mostly I prefer working with the vertical, but I am always pleased with what happens in the horizontal too. Hardly any of those have gone to the sand down pile!

I hope the square thing will come back to me though; last year I was on a square panel buying binge and I have at least 857 of them in my panel inventory. Well, maybe not quite that many, but close.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Break Update (or thank god it's almost over)

Quiet, 2008, Oil on Panel, 9x18

Same old, same old here. We survived the sleepover, my son is now officially a teenager and we are moving on from that particular milestone. He has been sleeping until noon each day this week though so I guess new milestones are on the way.

There has been way too much girl clothes shopping in the last few days. My daughters needed some spring clothes, new crocs, soccer shoes and other related accessories. Good times. Heh. I used to love shopping but somehow the kids have cured me of that and now it's just energy sucking, intelligence draining hard labor.

I have gotten very little work done this week and will definitely have to crank it into high gear Monday morning when the kids go back to school. I now have five weeks to get enough pieces together for the show in Hudson, not to mention getting new work to a a few of my galleries AND the Affordable Art Fair which is in mid-June.

The attic is coming along. On Wednesday a crew came and did the spray foam insulation. The attic temporarily looks like an English Tudor mansion.

Thursday, Tom and Matt worked on the outside of the new windows, trimming them up and they now look much better than all of the other old windows.

On Friday morning two (cute) guys came with sheet rock and carried 43 pieces (one at a time), up a ladder, onto the scaffolding and in through the middle window. Matt carried them inside and he and Tom got most of the ceiling up that afternoon.

PS. I have been trying to put this post up since Friday, lest you all think I am trying to bail on this blog. First I had trouble getting the photos posted and then I kept getting an error notice when I tried to publish the post. Not sure if it's our satellite connection which has been kind of funky lately, or blogger who hates me. Anyway, just so you know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring Break

Woodstock Field in Spring, 2008, Oil on Panel, 2008

I am being both a bad mom AND a bad artist this week. The kids are home for spring break and we made no plans to go anywhere or do anything because of the work going on in the house as well as the fact that I have a show (several actually, including group shows) coming up and I couldn't imagine taking even a few days off.

We probably should have gone somewhere though because I am doing both things badly. I spend all day telling the kids I have to get some work done, so I can't really plan anything with them, on the other hand I am so distracted by their activities in the house that I have hardly gotten anything accomplished in the studio.

I am trying though. I took two of my kids and one of their friends to see "Superheroes" on Saturday (DO NOT see it-it is the worst movie ever, stupid and insulting and disgusting-the kids loved it, of course, they laughed while I cringed-at least it was only 85 minutes long) and everyone pitched in to help clean the house on Sunday. Good times. Heh. I have taken them on my errands, we visited the library and art association and I have also let them watch a bit of tv. Today I did five underpaintings and tomorrow I really must finish up a few paintings that are nearly done.

I will have to get to that though, before my son's birthday sleepover begins and the house is filled with loud and smelly teenagers. Yes, folks, exactly 13 years ago today, at this minute, I was big as a house, two weeks overdue, and after a week of stop and go labor I was patiently walking around trying to get the contractions to come back. My son is not impressed by this story-he is just excited about being a teenager and getting gifts and hanging out with his friends, but I thought most of you would appreciate how momentous today is for me. Oh, yeah and Doug too. He did hang out with me during all of the labor. Heh.

Oh, guess I am being more of a mom today after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Very Exciting Turn of Events!

Rosy Hill, 2008, Oil on Panel, 18x24

And so all of a sudden I am getting a new studio.

Let me start from the beginning. I had a gorgeous, huge studio over the garage of our house in Utah. As fate would have it however, the kids were still very young and my time to paint was very limited. I did manage to get some work done there, but mostly the room turned into a place to hide the things I didn't want the kids to get into. We moved to NY, my youngest went off to all day kindergarten, leaving me with time to paint. But no space. I commandeered one of our two old house living rooms and managed to cram about half of my stuff from the old studio into it. The rest is in our icky old house basement. When it turned out that I would actually be doing A LOT of work in that room, I began to whine and scheme about getting a new studio, one with running water, natural light and well, space. 1000 square feet minimum, that was my dream. Lately I have toyed with building a whole new structure on our property, separate from the house (I vacillated daily about whether or not I wanted to have a studio not connected to the house-I still do a lot of house related multi-tasking while painting) and having a huge light and airy studio in a barn like structure seemed really appropriate for me. But mostly the plan for the last few years was to tear down our sagging metal, attached garage, replace it with a new structure that would be my studio and then eventually add a new garage in front of it. I have had many different plans concerning the details, but that basic idea was what we pretty much decided to go forward with. Well, I decided, Doug mostly had a look of sheer terror on his face whenever I mentioned a new studio.

His terror was well founded because either plan was going to be really expensive. Like we might as well build a new house expensive. So a few months ago we (ok, I admit it, I am the one who decided) decided on a temporary solution. We have this great, unfinished, old house attic. It's mostly uninsulated, cold in the winter (we stored food up there last winter) and blazing hot in the summer. There are mice, bats, and piles of dead black flies. We use it to store junk and to hide the kids Christmas presents and every once in awhile one of our cats gets up there and comes down all covered with old house attic muck.


The plan was to get that attic finished and Doug would move his office up there (you can probably see now where I am going with this) and I would then take over the second living room, which would double my work space. This seemed like a great idea, except that I really wasn't so excited about it. Clearly, since I never even mentioned this plan here. I am already taking over the second living room and so I wouldn't be getting all that much more space. Also, and I think this is what was really bothering me, is that I have been lamenting NOT having a family room. It just didn't seem right that so much of the beautiful living space in our old house would be used as a studio and not as a family space.

But we decided to go ahead and last Tuesday, my very favorite crew of two, Tom and Matt came and got to work. Our paths cross in our daily lives, (small town) and it is always nice to have them here. They are appreciative of a home made lunch or cookies or banana bread and this time (they were here awhile back and fixed our porch) they have already gone home with more than a dozen eggs from our chickens. By Friday Tom and Matt had framed out the knee wall, cut the opening for new and bigger windows, patched the wood floorboards and the electrician had done most of the wiring.

After they left, I went up to check it out and it hit me. It is the perfect space for me. A bit impractical in a few ways; for example getting panels up and down the tight, old house stairwell will be challenging, it's dark and there is very little natural light, there is no water and I am guessing that even though it will be insulated, it will be dang hot in a another few months. It will also be a challenge to multi task in the rest of the house, let the dogs in and out and hear if anyone is at the door.

BUT. The floor space is 25x35 feet, giving me about 875 feet, compared to 256 square feet in each of the living rooms that I have now. Of course about half of the attic space is knee wall space, however, that is actually perfect. Much of the reason I need a bigger studio is to have room to store finished and unfinished panels, supplies and packing materials. In the attic I will have about 420 square feet of work space and the rest is storage galore!

The rest of the hurdles are manageable. The natural light in my current studio is bad and I mostly depend on artificial light anyway. The new attic windows are north facing and I will set up my painting area in front of them to take full advantage. A window air conditioner will probably do the trick in the summer and I already have to walk to the other side of the house to rinse my brushes, so what's a few steps up and down an old staircase? I think the bats and mice will relocate and I don't mind sweeping up a few flies now and again.

Doug will get the whole back living room and since he will be downstairs, he could also help with the house stuff. (maybe) And that will leave our front living room to be used as a living room! With a TV! And seating for six! How exciting!

Even though Doug was really looking forward to having his own work space, separate from the hubbub of the activity of the house, he graciously agreed to let me steal his studio. Well and the promise of a little extra sex once in awhile helped. Heh. He'll still get a good sized room to himself and maybe we'll add a door to keep things separate.

Holy Toledo, people, do you know what this all means? I will be able to stand back from my work to look at it. I can work on several large panels at a time. I will have north light, storage AND track lighting. I won't have to pile empty boxes and other junk on top of my panels in order to discourage the cats from sleeping on them, nor will I have to worry about Mr. Wilson lifting his little leg and peeing all over the $120 dollar birch panels that are stacked against the wall!

The attic will be pure luxury. And the sex will be good too. I will post pictures soon. Of the attic, NOT the sex.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Here, There, Everywhere

Leaning Telephone Pole, 2008, Oil on Panel, 12x16

I have been trying to get a post up for the last few days but there has been so much going on that I have hardly had a minute to sit down at my desk. Well, except for the 2 hours I spent Tuesday evening researching ducks.

(A friend of mine is planning to order some ducks and when you get them through the mail you have to get a certain number so they are warm enough and since she doesn't want so many we may split the order. Um, because I actually need more to do each day. So I am trying to figure out how and where to house them which is a pesky issue, mostly because of our killer dog, Penny.)

Anyway, on Tuesday I drove to Saratoga Springs to deliver my work to Gallery 100. I had a very nice visit with Deb (the owner) and Nancy (the director) and on the drive there I was able to take some nice photos to use as reference, since the light was amazing. Oh and I have to say that I am now even more in love with my new car-the middle row of seats folds down (unlike in my old car) and it was a breeze loading it up with paintings. I hardly had to even stack anything.

Since I hadn't been able to get any painting done on Monday or Tuesday, I got right into the studio yesterday morning. I am working on a commission, which has taken me forever to get to and now finally I am at the color stage. I worked all morning, then had to go to an appointment, and then went right back into the studio when I got back home. The kids got home, took my son to his scout meeting, took the girls out to eat, picked up my son and went home, just in time to fold laundry while watching one of my favorite shows, Criminal Minds.

Today is more of the same, studio, midday appointment, studio again. And probably more laundry too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Hectic Life

The Very Last Minute of Winter, 2008, Oil on Panel, 20x24

Ok, the last few days have been incredibly busy. The girls had sleepovers (elsewhere, which is the only reason that I am even remotely sane today) and although it was quiet at home that evening, there was much driving around Friday, then Saturday morning. A show opening at the local art organization (more on that in another post), a Children's Book Author Festival on Saturday and the end of the season swim team party on Sunday (which I had to cook a main dish for) completed our social calendar for the weekend. Woo-hoo. And in between all of that, I am finishing up 13 pieces for Gallery 100 and despite having the most beautiful spring weather on Sunday, I had to stay inside and paint cradles. Ugh. I actually stood at the front windows for awhile yesterday afternoon, yearning for the time to go help Doug and the boys clean out the hen house. Well, not really. But I was itching to get outside and begin raking out my flower gardens. Maybe on Wednesday after delivery is complete-tomorrow I am driving to Saratoga to drop off my work.

The images that I will be putting up for the next few weeks are from the batch of paintings for Gallery 100-ones that I have been struggling with after getting back from the residency. Today's image was painted on a day last week when there was still a bit of snow on the ground and flurries in the air, so the title seemed appropriate, especially after I decided to go with a snowy looking lavender for the field.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Penny Has Had a Busy Day!

Penny, who is really just the most well behaved, sweetest dog ever, also has a bit of a dark side.

When she brings these sorts of things to the house, I start to question what the heck I am doing out here in all of this nature crap. Will I ever get used to seeing dead animal parts? And will I ever not still be slightly fascinated by them anyway?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Up The Down Staircase

Dreamy Dusk, 2008, Oil on Panel, 18x24

The last few days have been filled with ups and downs. On Tuesday night, I was happy. I had a number of pieces that were off to a great start. They were all looking good and the world was all bright and sunny. I felt like the coolest girl painter ever at the middle school orientation (my older daughter starts next fall-holy cow!) and it's true that my ego was bursting a bit when a friend of ours was joking about how he and his wife see my work everywhere they go; NYC, Williamstown, Tahiti. Oops, just kidding about Tahiti. Anyway, after working on Wednesday and realizing that one large piece was definitely crappy, and a few of the others looked pretty questionable, I went to bed feeling like I should give up painting and just go get a real job, you know the kind where every day is exactly the same. I couldn't begin to imagine how I could make any of the questionable pieces work. But this evening, after spending a few hours today mucking around in the studio, I am feeling good again. I saved the ones that had been on the fence and I don't mind saying that they actually turned out to be pretty dang good! Still have a 36x36 panel to sand down, but THAT'S nothing new. So I will go to bed tonight feeling like I really am a painter after all.

Sheesh. Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Busy Bee

Orange on the Left, 2008, Oil on Panel, 16x16

In a moment of complete and utter optimism in myself as well as the passage of time, I agreed to participate in a group show. Gallery 100 in Saratoga Springs wants six paintings for a show and would also like a few new ones for their inventory. Um, by April 7, the 8th at the latest. When I agreed to this LAST THURSDAY, I had about four or five pieces on hand and several more in progress. The gallery director also said that maybe one or two large scale pieces would be great, especially since the large ones have been selling well for me lately. Great. At that time, I had exactly zero finished large scale paintings on hand. Luckily though, I did have three prepared large panels and three hours before I had to pick up the kids. So I got down to business and managed to do an underpainting on each panel. (I had to start them that day so that they would be ready to glaze after we got back from our weekend in the city.)

Monday I worked on the ones that were in progress and yesterday I began the color glazes on the large scale pieces. Two of them are really working, but I am not so sure about the third one. I am going to bail on it for now, in order to focus on the ones that are working at this point. I have to finish up the big ones, plus four or five medium sized pieces by tomorrow at the latest so that I can paint the cradles, photograph them, and do the paperwork before delivering them on Monday. So even though things are hectic, this was exactly what I needed to back on track. The pressure of doing a lot of painting, fast, really helps my work.

There are benefits to not having time to think.