Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Venture

Horizon Lines (Seventeen), 2008, Oil on Panel, 5x5

Last summer, I set up a blog to show work that was either in a show or in the inventory of the galleries that represent me, as well as to post a bunch of small pieces that were in a local gallery that doesn't keep up with a website. It was suggested to me more than a few times that I should sell the small pieces myself and while I didn't say I never would, I was too burned out at the time to decide how to go about it. But time passed, stuff happened, galleries closed, sales sputtered and I recently decided to go for it.

A big part of this decision was made because I realized that I still love to do the small format paintings. I began painting again by working small (less pressure) five years ago and I guess that it is still in me. It's also a great non-pressured way to keep painting during this slow stretch that I have going. Um, so I don't go cuckoo again. heh. They aren't usually the pieces that gallery want to exhibit, too small, too low of a profit margin, whatever, yet I think some of them are my most successful paintings even if (or maybe because?) they are so small.

And I won't lie, a bit of income would come in handy right now to at least cover my supplies. Not my main motive here, but there you go. It is an element.

So I revamped the other blog and I have posted the pieces that I did a few months ago, which did not sell at the show. I have many more new ones on hand that I will start putting up each day or so after they are finished and photographed. I am also continuing with the Horizon Lines series and #Seventeen is shown above, which has been posted and is available.

The blog is now called "Tracy Helgeson" which is extremely witty, I know. The link will be on the sidebar of this blog, which gets a pretty good amount of traffic and I am just going to start with that for now. I may send out an email with the link, but I am not a pushy salesgirl and that will probably be about it for marketing. Oh, and I might casually suggest at some point in the next few months that these small pieces make really good gifts, but that's it, I promise....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Life in a Small Town

You know you live in a small town when the lady in the ball gown and tiara who is scraping out the monster pumpkin in order to race it in the regatta, is also your next door neighbor, AND was your son's seventh grade math teacher.

PS.Good regatta picture here. I couldn't get a good shot yesterday, it was too crowded!

Ginger, at the pumpkin weigh-in on Saturday.

Friday, September 26, 2008


My head is spinning a bit today, as there is so much going on in my world, as well as the big one, outside my doors. I won't pretend to understand the implications of the bailout that the government has proposed, but I will say that unless there is an independent, bipartisan committee (preferably NOT politicians) overseeing the bailout money, I would be completely against it. Not that my opinion matters of course (although I have made my opinions known to our senator and congressmen), because if anyone at all had paid any attention whatsoever to what I think, we would have a different president, we would certainly not be at war, all of our most needy and vulnerable citizens would get assistance and respect and that everyone would have the right to marry whomever they'd like. The health care system would be more efficient and would cover alternative health care as well and don't get me started about how ticked off I am about government mismanagement of our tax money.

So anyway. I like what Michelle has to say on this subject and will send you over there and leave it at that, before I really freak out.

And on a not unrelated topic, there have been more changes this week in my little world of business. I have been considering leaving two of my galleries for awhile now, as neither of them have been selling my work for quite some time. I do not blame them at all, in fact both of them have been with me nearly from the start, have been extremely supportive of my work and wonderful to work with in every way. But the prices on my work have risen over the last few years and I guess the last hike really put a wrench in the works. I knew that raising my prices would probably cause me to be priced out of certain markets and that is exactly what happened. Even though I feel badly about leaving (I tend to feel guilty about things that I probably shouldn't feel badly about, one of my cute little quirks) I know it's the right thing to do. They should be utilizing their space for work that does sell in their market and I need to streamline my efforts a bit.

So yesterday, a few days after my communications with those galleries, I received a letter from another gallery, informing me that because of issues regarding their space (losing their lease) they would be closing as of November 1. They were great to work with too (I have been so blessed to work with so many good people), and even wanted my prices to be higher, but the sales never really materialized there for me. I had considered leaving them too, but decided against it because I thought they might have been receptive to my figurative work. Um, provided I get it going of course.

I am now down to two galleries (from nine at one point) plus one local gallery that is only open in the summer. Even though this worries me a bit, I have decided to sit tight for now, keep working and just see what happens. Maybe I'll send out the occasional info packet, as I do have a list of galleries that I'd like to approach, but for now I just want to think about things and digest what has happened to me in the last five years regarding this business. I have learned a lot and want to make sure that I stay on the course that is right for me and my work.

In the meantime, though, I do have a little project going and I will describe that next week. Oh and I'll be watching the news and the debate, even if it does all leave me with rather hopeless feelings about what the future may bring. Ack!

And in keeping with today's title, I thought I'd put up a painting that I did in 2000, back when we lived in Utah and I could only paint during Ginger's nap time (maybe), or when the girl down the street would come to play with the girls. I'd say my work has gone through a few changes since then, eh?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Trying!

Tree on Yellow, 2008, oil on Panel, 6x6

Well, I am trying to get some painting done, but now that I am all into it, things keep coming up to keep me out of the studio!

Today I had to drive to Saratoga Springs to retrieve my work from Gallery 100. They have been fabulous to work with over the last several years and I will miss Deb (the owner) and Nancy (the director). Even though I am sad that the commercial gallery space is closing, I am happy that Deb (the owner) is so enthusiastic about her new direction. And I am sure we will continue our association. You can read more about all of this here.

And this afternoon I must take my daughter to soccer practice, then make dinner, then more work on the taxes. So no time for painting today.

I might be able to work tomorrow, after I pay the household bills in the morning, but then will miss a good part of the day on Friday because of the all important six week hair appointment.

The weekend is totally booked with all kinds of family activities, including our local Pumpkinfest which I wrote about last year and since it's pretty much the same each year, I'll just link to last year's post. Maybe I'll get some time in next week. Although I imagine something else might come up to keep me from the studio on Monday....

However, something good, like winning the lottery would be acceptable. heh.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Still Breathing

Middle of Fall, 2007, Oil on Panel, 12x16

Well, turns out that my exhibiting career does still seem to have some life. The Harrison Gallery has scheduled a solo show for me in June 2009. This will be my third solo show there and also marks an upgrade to a slot in their busy season, summer. The first two had each been in January and both were good, the one in 2008 was nearly a sold out show (and is what paid for my new studio). I would also like to mention that this gallery routinely shows work that sells for $10,000+ and while I am sure not in that range, it is an honor to brush shoulders with those who are. Heh.

Also, Carrie from Carrie Haddad Gallery has given me another show (fourth in five years) next August, also a good time in Hudson, which has a lot of summer and part time residents who come up from the city. She also suggested my work for a Hudson Valley arts publication and it looks like the above piece (which is owned by one of my blog readers) will be on the cover.

And on a side note, I have been asked to have a show in early spring at a gallery in Troy, NY. I agreed to do it, however they have not followed up so I am not really counting on that one happening. It's ok, stuff like that happens every once in awhile, I have learned to never count on anything until there is written confirmation and signed papers and often not even then. Sometimes a lack of follow up is a sign to me that it's maybe not the right thing for me to be involved in.

Even if things are slow right now, I still have to pay attention to the signs and take heed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Like Old Times

Horizon Lines (Ten), 2008, Oil on Panel, 4x6

Well, the last few days have been much more like old times. I now have 21 very small underpaintings on deck, waiting to be painted. I am in the process of gessoing paper, as well as another batch of small birch panels. I also spent yesterday morning painting the edges of the walls in the new living room/old studio. Plus I have had to attend a few school meetings and the elementary school open house, not to mention all the usual driving around-picking kids up from their various after school sports. Good times.

I have also spent much LESS time at the computer which feels really good. And I am cautiously excited about getting back to work and about whatever direction that may take.

So have a good weekend, all. I have to go to a football game game and two soccer games on Saturday, finish painting the living room and also finish cleaning out all my old studio crap, go to the local cider mill apple harvest with the kids, work in the vegetable gardens and stack two cords of wood in the garage (the boys will do most of that).

Oh yeah and finish up my tax info for 2007! Yes, we are expert procrastinators around here....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When You're Right, You're Right

Horizon Lines (Seven), 2008, Oil on Panel, 4x4

Doug has told me more than a few times in the last few months that maybe the reason I have been feeling "off" lately is because I derive a good part of my daily energy from painting (I have done very little painting since early July). I scoffed at this observation at first, thinking that a. he was nuts and b. surely I should be able to function properly and with enthusiasm, WITHOUT painting all the time. After all, I did that for years while I was having babies.

Finally, yesterday, after he made his point yet again, I decided to prove him wrong. I scrounged up a bunch of small panels for a project that I am thinking about (more on that later) and spent the afternoon doing underpaintings. Mostly landscapes, along with a few barns, and in a bit of a looser style than I usually begin with. It was blissful getting my hands in the paint again and losing myself in the process. I can't believe I almost forgot about all that.

Today, I woke up feeling really enthused about everything, working in my studio as well as finishing up some of the other things I have going on such as painting the new living room/old studio (more on that later too). I am looking forward to doing some more underpaintings this afternoon and have decided to get back to my previous painting schedule, even if I don't have events coming up. I need to get back to it and end this strange limbo I have been in. Even if I did enjoy it at first, somewhere along the line it took a turn and I lost the enjoyment of a more relaxed schedule.

So it turns out that my husband knows me pretty well after 20 years and I will be thanking him tonight for his astute observation;).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Magenta Smudge, 2008, Oil on Panel, 6x6

I have just been floating along lately, doing a little of this and a little of that. Kind of chipping away at the projects I have going but not really making significant headway with any of them.

The portraits: I have decided to not continue with the rest of the group that I began on the gessoed paper, mostly for technical reasons. The drawings were too light and then when I did the orange and red washes, I could barely see the drawing underneath, making the painting part pretty difficult. The two that I did and posted were ok, because when I did the washes on them, I did some modeling, meaning I pulled out some lights with a cloth, leaving the shadows. That gave me enough to work with when I got to the color. I haven't the faintest idea as to why I didn't do that same thing with all of the drawings.

Anyway, I am waiting for the heavier sheets of paper to arrive and will start again, having learned a thing or two the first time around. Supposedly.

In the meantime, I am doing some small figures on the birch panels, 9x9 squares for now. I am beginning with a pencil drawing, based on snapshots that I have been collecting from estate sales. They are not far enough along to post images of yet, but I will when I make some headway. Even though I am totally enjoying the drawing part, I should have more done by now. But I don't because frankly I am having trouble resisting the lure of my computer lately. Yesterday I spent hours reading up on important topics such as recaps for Swingtown and the new Beverly Hills 90120. You can not believe how fascinating the message boards for those shows are! Why I spent hours reading through them....

I have also become more involved with Facebook, although I still can't bring myself to describe what I am doing every minute of the day. Everyone else seems so funny and witty while mine would certainly be an embarrassment. "Tracy is checking out viewers comments about whether Tom and Trina should give up their swinging lifestyle and have a baby" or "Tracy just went downstairs to let the dog out and is now back at the computer" "Tracy can't believe that Shannen Dougherty is actually back on 90120" Are these lame or witty? Also, whenever I get new friends I spend way too much time stalking them going through their pages, plus I just figured out that a real time sucker is chatting online. On Saturday night I was up until 1:30am chatting! Well past where I turn into a pumpkin with no ability to function properly the next day.

Maybe I should try a bit harder to get a new gallery, or at least a show. Heh. I need something.

PS. The bad news of today-bankruptcies, buy outs, and Hurricane Ike did not escape my notice. It's just that I felt the need to cut into those extremely sad and depressing stories with fluff. Sorry.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Piece By Piece

Thought I'd put up an update on the neighboring barn that is being taken down. I spoke with the owner a few weeks ago and he said he had an agreement with a friend of a friend (that's how it's done up here:) to take down the barn and in exchange he could keep the materials. Pretty good trade if you ask me-the owner is getting a building taken away for free and the guy doing all the work is getting some materials that he can make some money on.

And since just one guy, with help from a friend or two, is taking it down in his spare time, the whole process is going very slowly, which is good for me as I have been able to photograph it at almost every stage. The most recent photo (on the bottom) was taken the day before yesterday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gessoing Paper

Turner, pencil drawing on gessoed paper

Katherine asked about the gessoed paper in a recent comment. I would love to offer a great description or demonstration about gessoing paper but to be honest this is the first time I have gessoed paper to use for oil painting. In college I did a lot of experimenting with various materials and supports, but by my last year I had settled on gessoed illustration board, which I really liked and which has held up perfectly after 20+ years by the way.

Anyway, this time around I did some google searches, read through my art materials books and talked to other artists who work on paper. After my head spun around counter clockwise 35 times due to the conflicting information and overwhelming amount of process involved, I decided to keep it simple. I just wanted to do some studies on paper, a surface that would be similar to the prepped panels I normally work on, easy to store, and relatively inexpensive.

So this is what I did: I had a pad of 140lb cold press watercolor paper on hand, so I cut each piece in half and taped them down to my work table. I applied three coats of gesso (it dries very quickly), then pulled off the tape and applied three coats to the other side. The paper was still wrinkled (I will use 300lb paper next time) and so I put a piece of release paper on the surface and ironed both sides. This worked pretty well to flatten the paper and so I taped each piece down to a scrap piece of hardboard so that I could work on a firm surface as well as easily move them from my easel to the drying shelf etc.

I have since found some more recommendations concerning paper. I have a few pieces of this on order and will try it next.

Also, when I was in Vermont, one of the other residents introduced me to the wonders of (Gamblin) PVA Size. She said that could be used to size regular drawing paper, which could then be painted on, even with oil. She used it for her studies often. I tried it while I was there and at first the paper wrinkled like crazy. But the next day it was perfectly flat and so I used it for one of the figures that I did there. I have been meaning to use the sizing again, and now that I have said this maybe I will feel motivated to pull out the bottle and try it again. Not sure how archival working like this is, but really these are just studies and experiments so I am not going to think about the next 400 years for now.

Well, I can't imagine that I have been very helpful here at all! Plenty of you must know much more about gessoing paper than I do so feel free to leave a comment and offer all of us a few more tips. Google searches are good too; "gessoing paper" yielded the most info for me.

Oh and by the way, I use Utrecht brand, acrylic Gesso. Probably not the best gesso ever, in fact it's not even authentic gesso, nor is it oil based which many think should be used when painting with oils (again, my head is spinning), but I like its surface and Utrecht has been my first choice ever since college.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Becky, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 7x10

Usual busy weekend. Doug and the boys finally got the garage cleaned out (I have been pestering him about doing it for months, actually since last spring which is when it really should have been done) so that we will have a place to store three cords of wood for the winter. I spent a lot of time delivering children here and there, and it was also the first weekend of soccer. I managed to finish up cleaning and organizing the house and also spent quite a bit of time in my studio prepping panels. I am totally loving my big flat table surface. I can prep at least twice the number of panels than I could on the old table I used previously, PLUS there is room for a pile of junk or two as well. Pure luxury!

And shown above is the second portrait that I have been working on. I will probably work on it just a bit more today, and the photograph of it is a bit funky but you get the idea. I am not quite sure about it yet, but I definitely don't hate it either.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Conventional Clip

Busy day here, but I couldn't resist passing on this link to the best clip ever.

PS. I would post the clip here but have no idea whatsoever as to how to do that and my usual technical guy is probably traveling through Iowa right now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Victoria, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 7x10


Well, I had a bit of a wrench in my plans to get right to work this morning. Last month I had a falling out with my my mother's husband and while no more contact with him is a good thing for me, the whole thing was nasty (well, HE was nasty) and I really needed to go over the whole thing with Doug, who always helps me put things in perspective.

So I got up to the studio late, around 11am, answered a few emails and well, I admit to surfing around a bit, procrastinating.

Finally I got the paint out at noon and worked until about 4pm until it was time to get dinner started.

The good news is that I worked on one of the portraits I had started over a month ago and I am quite happy with what I did today. I was not sure how I would be handling the painting aspect of these (doing the drawings was great fun!) and frankly I was a bit afraid at first but I just dove in and am feeling pretty peachy about it right now.

Might change my mind tomorrow though, or I might like it and leave it the way it is and just move on to the next study. I am a bit disappointed that I didn't really capture the likeness of Victoria, who was a fellow resident at the Vermont Studio Center with me last winter. But in general, that isn't my goal with doing portraits so I decided not to stress about it. The only reason I did stress about it all was because my agreement with all of the residents who posed for photos for me was that I would give them one of the studies or small pieces that I would do and I can't help myself from feeling that the study at least should look like them a little bit.

And I did learn today that I should make the next batch of drawings darker. I put down two glazes over the drawing and after those it was really difficult to see the drawing underneath, so I practically had to start the drawing all over again, which probably accounts for my having trouble getting the likeness as well. On the other hand it may have been a plus to not have the drawing visible, maybe I would have felt too compelled to stick to it too much. I want these portraits to not be perfect, to not be a traditional style portrait and to be a bit rough around the edges. There are a lot of lines scratched into the paint and I hope to also move these into a bit more abstraction eventually, but despite that I do feel it necessary to begin with an accurately drawn image. Anyway, I began painting another study today (I have six drawings ready to be painted) and will try to finish it tomorrow.

It was beyond wonderful to be painting again too, by the way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Baby Steps

Horizon Lines (Four), 2008, Oil on Panel, 4x4

By sheer force of will, I managed to get myself going again and get back to doing some creative and productive things this weekend. It wasn't easy and I am still not my usual self, but I am getting there.

I guess this sounds as if I were sick or had some horrible event however, that is not the case. I seem to be the kind of person who truly gets more done when I am overwhelmed with things that MUST be done. Show deadlines help me organize everything else and since I haven't had any of those I have been aimless. And it's not like I haven't had things to do. I have been so busy painting in the last few years that I let some things slide, like cleaning closets, drawers, the garage, the basement. Not to mention that I have done a terrible job keeping up with paperwork and record keeping, and even correspondence. In August I was given the gift of time to do these things and I just couldn't accept that gift.

But I have decided to try and give myself a break. I have had an incredible year, filled with so much activity and a few events that I will need time to adjust to. I had a great show at the beginning of the year, while on the verge of burnout, I went to a month long residency which I loved but also rocked me a bit. I moved my entire studio into the attic (not to mention that I first painted the walls during 90 degree early summer days) and even though I have prepared for one small show in it, the new studio hasn't really been tested yet and a breaking in period is probably still necessary. We did major physical work in the vegetable garden. My daughter became ill. Sales have slowed down and I am really feeling the urge to take my work in new directions which is somewhat frightening even if it is a good time to do so. So many things converging at once, but having nothing that HAD to be done was such a relief, I suppose.

Mostly importantly though, I haven't painted for well over a month, closer to two actually, and Doug thinks THAT is what is making me feel all crazy about all of this. He might be right.

So tomorrow, my goal is to be painting within a half hour of when my kids get on their bus. I do really need to get back to it.

Wish me luck.