Monday, April 27, 2009

Poor Hen

I went out to the chicken coop this morning and found one of the black chickens, all curled up in the corner. The other hens seemed worried and were hovering around, clucking softly. I am sure they were just a few hours from pecking at the poor dead hen, but at that point at least they were definitely unsettled.

This is the part of having animals that is tough. We have had several hens die over the last few years and even though I don't like it, I have gotten more used to it. I do what I can to save the sick ones and but of course this one was different; it looked like the hen just laid down and died, probably earlier this morning. She was one of 5 black hens (not sure if the one above is her, but that's exactly what she looked like, heh) from the original flock that I got three years ago. So it could be age related or it could possibly be something she came across while they were free ranging yesterday. I hope it is not some sort of illness, but will be watching the rest of the girls just in case.

Usually Doug just so happens to be out of town when pets die around here but he is home today and was able to deal with the dead body. I can do it if I really have to but it sure is nice not to have to for once!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Springy Spring!

Horizon Lines (29), 2009, Oil on Panel, 4x6

I was on a Horizon Line binge this last week. I painted fifteen to add to the series. Ten very small ones, and five larger ones. And, well actually two of the larger ones may end up being duds, so maybe it is just thirteen.

I will be sending several of the ten small ones to a local arts organization to put in their gift shop, and the rest will go on my sales blog. The larger ones will go into my inventory, unless Betty decides to take any of them to the AAF.

And we have a beautiful weekend coming up and I am itching to get some work done outside. Am planning to plant some lettuces, snap peas and carrots, as well as some pansies in the pots on our porch. But of course all that will have to fit in around the first two soccer games of the spring season, not to mention the boy scouts bottle drive and who knows what else.

Finally feels like spring!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Affordable Art Fair

Bright Trees, 2008, Oil on Birch Panel, 40x60

This week, I am busy gathering work that will be going to the Affordable Art Fair in NYC. At least eight of my paintings will be taken to the show by my New York dealer, Betty Feinman (who was the owner of my NY gallery that closed last year), and can be seen in Booth H-108 with Behr-Thyssen Ltd. Betty has always been incredibly supportive of me and my work and so I am extremely pleased that she will continue to represent me. She showed my work at the AAF two years ago and sold everything I gave her (I wrote about that here) and even though the art market is all screwy right now, I am hopeful that good things will happen there again.

The AAF is May 7-10 and I am considering going down to the city so I can visit the art fair. Will have to think about the expense of that though, as well as whether I would be jinxing things for myself by showing up there. Heh.

Bright Trees, shown above, is one of the group of paintings that will be on display. It has been hanging in my living room for the last 6 months ago and I admit to being a bit attached to it. But it's a nice painting and I will also be very happy if someone were to buy it and enjoy it as much as we do. (one of the things I love about being an artist!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Palette

I have been meaning to talk about my palette for awhile and since things have been so slow around here lately, now seems like a good time.

When I first moved into my new studio, I had all my paint tubes set out on the top of my flat file cabinet, which is right behind me when I am at the easel. Doug suggested that I put them all in one of the flat file drawers but I pooh poohed him and informed him that having to open the drawer would be WAY TOO INCONVENIENT.

Around Christmas time I had a get together in my studio and wanted to have the top of the flat file clear so that I could put out some of the small paintings I had been working on. So I loaded up the top drawer with all my paints (they fit perfectly). When it was time to get back to work after the holidays, I just left them where they were. Turns out that it is pretty easy to just open the drawer when I need them! Of course it helps that I just leave the drawer open while I am working. This also give me the top surface of the cabinet to clutter up with stuff. heh.

Obviously I like to have a lot of paint on hand! I like to have a good variety of colors available although to be honest, I mostly just use about a dozen or so of them regularly. Each day though, I try to put out one or two colors that I don't normally use. The colors that I currently am obsessed with (these colors change periodically, I am very fickle) are Indigo Blue, Green Ural, Medium Cadmium Yellow, Azo Green, Gamblin Light Blue, Caeser Purple, Vasari Ship Rock, Gamblin Light Magenta, Gamblin Cadmium Red Deep, Cobalt Green Pale, Cinnabar Green Light, Old Holland Violet Grey. I don't stick to a certain brand of paint because while I do like some brands more than others (I am loving Vasari paints lately!), the colors are what's important to me and every color varies from from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example I use a yellow from Grumbacher in almost every painting. Not the best quality paint ever, but the color trumps that for me.

Anyway. In college, I got in the habit of using a disposable palette pad and still use that now. When my studio was downstairs it was necessary to put everything away at night (mostly because of the cats who spend their nights walking on every single surface of the house) so the disposable palette was convenient for that. Now that I have a studio with a door, I have been tending to leave my paints out for a few days. I may end up getting a more permanent surface to mix my paints on, but for the time being I am still using my old set up. The pad sits in a butcher's tray which helps to contain the flying paint and Liquin and I use a tin foil muffin cup to hold the day's Liquin. This is my whole set up; the palette, and another tray with a jar of Turpenoid Natural to rinse my brushes and a rag to wipe the brushes off. And other junk too, heh:

I put out the paint I think I will use each day, although I often add more colors, as I go, depending on what I feel like doing. I use very little paint and I don't do a lot of mixing of colors, maybe two colors, more if I want a mucky color. Mostly I thin out the paint with Liquin until I get the consistency that I want, and then mix another color in.

Unless I am painting more than one large painting in a painting session, I rarely have to move to a second sheet of palette paper. If there is paint left after I am done for the day, I leave it to use the next day. Or I will scrape it off with a palette knife and put it onto a new piece of palette paper if I need more space for mixing. This is my palette after doing about 10 very small paintings, 6x6 and 5x7's.

Traditionalists would probably flip seeing what I do with my palette. I use crazy colors, and different ones all the time, I just put them out in no particular order, and also different order each day. I have never felt the need to conform to the traditional palette and much prefer changing some things up, especially since some of the other parts of my process are fairly rigid. Makes a nice balance, I think.

So I would love to hear how you handle your palette. Traditional, crazy or somewhere in between?

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Real Nothing of a Post!

Well, I have very little to report on here, which accounts for the lack of posts lately. And also for the photo of a very unusual egg from our one of our hens on Easter, rather than a new painting. I haven't really done any painting (or much of anything actually) in the last few days. Partly because I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed about it and also because the kids are home this week for spring break and every time I get close to starting on something I get interrupted somehow. And to really prove that I am in some sort of funk, I actually turned down a chance to stay in NYC overnight. Doug and I were going to take the girls and go down for two days. Instead, I insisted they go without me. I just couldn't muster the interest or energy to go. Bleh!!

And then because of that I had a few days to myself and did I even take advantage of that? Noooooooo. Sat around mostly and accomplished next to nothing!

I think I will take the weekend off from the studio entirely and try to get the gardens cleaned up. That always makes me feel better and and also gives me something different to stress about, like which way to rotate the vegetable plantings or whether not it's a fracture or just a pulled muscle. Heh. So I will consider next week to be a clean slate.

PS. Doug was kind enough to bring back a very special chocolate bar from a shop in Soho. Am not really eating chocolate lately but I had to try this one. Applewood smoked bacon, alderwood smoked salt, in deep milk chocolate. I had one little square and can only describe it as incredible, yet completely disgusting. Very intriguing!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On Cropping


So these two underpaintings are totally kicking my butt. I enjoyed the process of doing them, as I always do, but when I was finished with the second one, I wasn't so sure about them and decided not to do the other two that I had planned. They just seemed so ordinary I guess. On Doug's advice I cropped in on the faces, but not as much as he thought I should have. He thinks I should go really tight on the faces. I might do that at some point but really do not feel that is what I want to do right now, so I did some half assed compromise. I should know by now that those never work!

Anyway, I keep trying to figure out what to do with the top one, I have painted that lady's face a hundred times and have wiped the paint off every time. I have about one more shot, maybe two at the most, before the underpainting layer starts to degrade! And I haven't even started to work on prom girl, although I actually think that piece has a bit more promise. Something about the corsage I think. Or maybe it's the strap without the corsage that is appealing.

Anyway, will keep y'all posted on what comes next!

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's Been a Good Wallow

Ok, so I admit to wallowing in my current post show meltdown. I was planning to ignore this one but well, I chose not to I guess. Heh. I floundered around last week, doing nothing particularly constructive and didn't even feel bad about it. Well, maybe a little, but that was just out of habit. I did start two portraits on Thursday. I was feeling a bit lukewarm about them and decided not to do any more until I had a chance to think about them a bit, then Doug came up and said he didn't like the cropping. Blech! But today, after looking at them again, I have decided to keep working on them. The worst that will happen if I do that, is that I might figure out a few things about this series. Oh and will probably have to add two more sucky paintings to the sand down pile, which I am totally used to doing. Not a bad worst case scenario.

And on Sunday I decided to do a whole bunch of Horizon Line paintings. A few larger ones along with about 10 very small ones, which will be divided between my sales blog and the little shop at the local arts organization.

So I am pulling out of this stupid meltdown and good thing too because I really have much to do, even though my next show isn't until August. First and foremost, I need to find some additional gallery representation, I have let that go WAY too long!

But of course this week is spring break for the kids and so I know that I will not be able to get too much done, but whatever. Will probably squeeze in a few hours in the studio between my duties as cruise director and/or referee!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Horizon Lines (Twenty Two), 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 18x24

On Monday morning, I felt pretty energetic about getting my studio cleaned up, documenting and storing returned work, looking for additional gallery representation and then getting back to work on the People You Know series. Unfortunately all that energy crashed and burned by noon on Monday. I was planning to ignore whatever post show meltdown happened to come my way this time, but maybe mind over matter doesn't apply here. I have spent most of the last few days doing computer stuff; stuff that should get done, but none of it is crucial and I really should be doing the other things on my list. And all of this coincides with an inability to get a full night's sleep lately.

I would say that I will try again today to get back to it, however my hypnotherapist suggested NOT using the word "try" because it tends to set one up for failure. She encouraged me to use the word "choose" in its place and I have been working on that little switcharoo.

So today, after I choose to have a nap even though napping during the day will mess up my sleep even more, I will then choose to finish putting the returned work into storage and will also choose to prepare to begin a few new portraits tomorrow.

But first I will try to choose to get my butt up and out of my computer chair. heh.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gallery Reception With Friends

At one of the endlessly long swim meets this last season, I was sitting next to our real life good friend Jeff and we were talking about the gallery receptions that are part of my job as an artist. I told him I had one coming up and invited he and his wife Erika (who is my good girl friend) to come along with us. Soon it morphed into an event, complete with a sitter, hotel reservations and an overnight trip to Williamstown, MA.

The details were complicated; six kids, a mature sitter, kids getting picked up and dropped off, cookies, a trip to the pizzeria and who watches tv where. But it went flawlessly and all the kids seemed to have fun.

The four of us left for Williamstown around noon on Saturday. When we got there Doug dropped off the extra painting at the gallery (I made him go in because one of my numerous superstitions is to not see my shows until the reception starts, something about not jinxing the whole dang thing) and then we decided to have lunch at the sushi place down the street. We lingered over lunch and by the time we left there wasn't enough time to visit any of the local museums before it was time to go to the opening. So we went to check into the hotel, The Orchards Hotel (beautiful place to stay, I highly recommend it), and when I gave the desk clerk my name he laughed and said I must be THE Tracy Helgeson, and pointed at the flier for my show that was not two inches from my elbow! It was funny!

It was pouring rain that evening, but thankfully, my hair was still ok by the time we got to the gallery for the reception. heh. However, I imagine the cold and the rain affected the turnout-it was rather quiet. But every single person who came in was there to meet me and was planning to buy one of my paintings, already had, OR was also an artist. So I enjoyed being able to really talk to everyone, much more relaxing than some of those really crowded receptions. I spent a lot of time talking with a couple, Patrick and Grant who own one of my paintings and were great fun. Patrick had read through my blog here, and it turns out we have much in common including an admiration for Ray LaMontagne. I also talked with a reviewer who I think will be writing about my work and he mentioned Rothko more than a few times. Love that! It's been awhile since I have had a review so am looking forward to that (I think!). Even a few women who work with the hotel we stayed at came by to meet me! So it was all good, and very enjoyable. Oh and two more pieces sold, my two favorites: Long Lines Late in the Day and Back Against the Shadows. The show looked beautiful; as always, they did a wonderful job of hanging my work so that it looked its very best.

After the reception, our foursome went to have dinner at Mezze, a beautiful restaurant a block away from the gallery. We were there for over three hours, and had a wonderful long dinner. The husbands got somewhat drunk and then silly, which was very entertaining. I heard "I love you, man" more than a few times and I am not even kidding! Anyway, it's good that the crazy artist stays sober nowadays and could be the designated driver!

Everyone bounced back pretty well the next morning, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then hit the road to get back to our real lives. All in all it was a great time and now I think we must always take friends along with us to my receptions!

PS. I should know better by now, but I put Doug in charge of taking photos at the reception. He promptly forgot to do that, although he did take a cluster of shots, most of which involved my backside, which I will NOT be posting here. hehe. I took a few shots of the show at the end though and am posting those along with one with my new best friends, Patrick and Grant talking with Jillian, who works in the gallery (above). Am still kicking myself, and maybe Doug too for not getting any pictures of my work that was displayed in the front windows. Sheesh!

Friday, April 3, 2009

What To Do Today!

Good Foundation, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 8x19

I have much to do today people!

1. Finish up the "spare" painting that I had done for the show, but never showed to the gallery. Now though, they have sold one painting already and need another one to hang in their front window. I sent jpegs of several larger sized paintings that I have on hand, but you know they'll choose the one that isn't quite finished, right?

2. Clean the entire house! We have a sitter coming to stay with the kids overnight while Doug and I go to the opening and I don't want her to run shrieking from the house if she happens to stumble upon what is currently happening in the kids bathroom. Heh. Also, some friends of ours are coming with us and we all decided to make it an overnight trip. They are leaving their two kids with our four and my hope is that if the house starts out somewhat clean, it won't be a horrible mess by Sunday, right?

3. I have to make a dessert for my daughter's swim team party this evening. Oatmeal Caramelitas; an oatmeal and brown sugar crust, sprinkled with chocolate chips and drizzled with caramel, then with more of the oatmeal mixture on top. Easy, right?

4. I have to run into town to make a (very small) bank deposit. And while I am there, I may as well stop at the grocery store and stock up on some things for the kids this weekend, right?

5. I have to rummage through my closet and find something nice to wear, something that actually fits AND makes me look awesome somehow. Black always does that, right?

6. Clean out the car so our friends don't think we are slobs. Although I could always blame the kids for the banana peels and empty juice boxes that have been under the seats forever, right?

7. Drive into town AGAIN at 4pm to talk to the Girls on the Run organizer about Ginger. I lost her forms and while she opened the letter and supposedly gave them to me, I don't specifically recall her doing that and it would be wrong to blame a 9 year old for missing paperwork, right?

8. Drive BACK into town (this is a three trips into town day) Go to my other daughter's swim team end of the season swim party at 6pm. Lots of food, kids, friends, should be fun, right?

9. Get the overnight bag out and start packing. Put the bag back and get out the small overnight suitcase. A girl should be prepared with many different clothing and shoe options for an overnight trip even if her husband will make endless fun of her, right?

10. There are about a hundred other things I could add here to make an even ten, but I am too overwhelmed to choose just one and today's clock is ticking. I suspect that I may bail on more than a few things here on this list today, but the world will continue to rotate, right?

See you all on Monday! And yes, there will be pictures and surely at least one story about something dopey that I did at the opening. Heh.

PS. All of the work in the show can now be seen here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Studio Feels Like an Empty Uterus

Much enjoyment, happiness, good energy, frustration, worry and stress here in my studio in the last few months. Then in a mad rush, everything is out the door and I am left with more than a few things to clean up. Hopefully I did my job right though and my paintings will be able to function and attract others out in the real world.

The delivery itself though was not without some drama. I was about 10 miles away from Williamstown, thoroughly enjoying Dixie Kitchen by my girl crush Mary Gauthier, when the tire light lit up on my dashboard. I was hoping to get somewhere but was on a long and very empty stretch of road. Soon I was hearing a flapping sound from the rear tire and so I pulled over into a driveway. Completely flat tire! Luckily there was cell service and I called the gallery, they called someone and within about a half hour someone came out to change my tire. I actually know how to change a tire, but the rub here is that I am quite sure I would have never figured out how to get the dang spare tire out of my newfangled car! It was very complicated. You have to do about 14 things and then the spare drops out from the underside of the car and then you have to do about ten more maneuvers to release it. Anyway, the guy changed my tire in about two minutes, took my flat to get it patched, I went on to the gallery to drop off my work. I spent some time chatting and we discussed the work. I was relieved that they LOVED the large panel (shown below, and I MUST insist to you all yet again that the painting is infinitely better in real life), sure did not want to drag that one home and back up the stairs to my attic studio! I did however, have to take back some unsold work, which always sucks just a little. Stupid economy! These were pieces that definitely would have sold a year ago......

I then went off to find the tire place, they put my patched tire back on and I was on my way back home. But somehow, even though I take this drive all the time, I missed a turn! Maybe it was Ray LaMontagne's fault, as he was singing very loudly in my car. It took awhile before I realized the wrong turn (Ray is my boy crush) and after I did it then took me forever to get back to the highway I wanted to be on, not to mention having to wade through tons of 5 o'clock traffic in an unfamiliar area. Blech!

But I eventually made it home and today am looking at a messy, but empty studio. I will clean it up though, put things away, reorganize, get some energy back and will soon be interested in starting the whole process all over again.

Just gotta love the whole process!

This Day, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 40x60