Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back in Black

Black Painting#78, 2009, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 9.5x9.5

So the color abstracts have spawned at least a few new directions for me so far, first it was The Blues and now it's black and white paintings. Or to be more accurate, the Black Paintings, (which I am calling the series) as there is no white paint involved. A mere technicality, I suppose. Clearly these can be called black and white, but whatever. I like the sound of Black Paintings.

Actually working in a monochromatic style is not new to me. In college, as an illustration major, we were often required to work in black and white in order to maximize the ability to work in a wider variety of print media. Publications liked b/w illustrations because they were usually cheaper (not really a plus for the artist, who is still creating a fully realized image, but don't get me started on the inequities of pay for creative types) so it was good to be able to include b/w imagery in our portfolios.

Here are some examples of a piece that I did in college, and one that I did when while I was trying to get work as an illustrator:

Clearly my work was quite representational then, and I used brushes and turpentine to pull the black paint off, and in some cases I also used white paint to bring out the light areas. I seldom mixed the two together though, didn't really care for painting the gray scale, I guess.

I loved working in black and white although I was never entirely pleased with the results. And when I began painting again a few years ago, I simplified this same process when I developed my underpaintings for the landscapes. And even though I was trying to find a way to meld a strong, monochromatic underpainting (I shifted to a red underpainting, black didn't really do what I wanted to accomplish) with color glazes over, I often dreamily considered using black again.

Black Painting#76, 2009, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 5.5x9.5

So to me, going back to the b/w was a natural offshoot of the color abstracts and it finally seems like a good chance to go for it. My own limitations this time around are no brushes and no white paint are to be used as those were two of the elements that always frustrated me most before. And just by virtue of the big shift in imagery I have gone through since college, the subject matter is of course, very different, and more in keeping with what I want to express in my work now.
Black Painting#77, 2009, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 5.5x9.5

I am also using a tool to scratch back into the paint, I do that in the color abstracts too, and in the landscapes and barns as well. The marks were fairly random at first, or they were used to imply windows or doors in the structures. However, they have become a bigger element in the abstracts and even more so in the Black Paintings, I think. I really struggle with the integrity and meaning of each mark, while still trying to keep their random quality. Not sure if I have accomplished that yet, but will keep on with the process. I have to say that I have been quite obsessed with the Black Paintings and am so happy to be back at them.
Black Painting#79, 2009, Oil on Gessoed Paper, 7.5x5.25

I have about five more on the drying rack today which will probably go up on my sales blog soon. And like always, the Black Paintings look SO much better in person than in these jpegs. Every single mark, paint groove and swirl is visible.....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I should have posted this before, but well, I have had that whole burned-out-on-my-blog-thing going on so I just didn't get to it.

Anyway, my internet/blogger/facebook/fellow artist friend, Paula, is about to embark on a new adventure and is having a moving sale in order to lighten her load when she goes. Her work is wonderful, I promise you. I bought one of her clocks a while back and I love it.

So go visit her Etsy store, but don't dilly dally, the sale ends tomorrow, September 30!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pumpkinfest 2009

So funny! I sat down to post some images of this year's Pumpkinfest and then thought I'd add some recent photos taken around the house. Then I looked for my past posts about the Pumpkinfest and found one from 2007 with the same set of photos-a batch of huge pumpkins and shots around the yard including Penny, our awesome dog!

Every year we try to see at least one part of the Pumpkinfest in Cooperstown. I prefer the contest on Saturday, but watching Sunday's pumpkin regatta on the lake is always good too. Hard for us to get to both events every year, but sometimes we do. This was from last year's regatta.

So here is this year's version of life in a small town.

When you have a contest to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin:

You sure need to have a few of these on hand:

Ginger is still my go to kid, always willing to pose in front of a huge pumpkin. My other kids cannot be bothered anymore.

Penny, relaxing in a bed of fall leaves:

My Black Eyed Susans are still blooming:

Still pretty excited to have this step down from the patio door; took us 4 years to get it built! And love the piles-of-dead-leaves-scattered-around look.

Still a lot of green on the patio though:

And even a fall flowering shrub:

The burning bushes are flaming red, right next to our grill which, I suspect will sit in that exact spot until next spring, just like last year, heh.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finally Finished Floundering (say that 3 times fast)

So a few weeks ago I packed up my new work, including the abstracts and the People You Know series and drove off to show everything to one of my current galleries then to another gallery that recently contacted me about having a show next year.

The director at my current gallery was lukewarm about the abstracts and more interested in the portraits. We spent some time discussing what should be included in my upcoming solo show and then eventually I agreed to send most of the barns and landscapes that I paint, to her gallery. I didn't expect that I would STOP paintings the landscape, I just wanted to do fewer of them and channeling the ones I do to the gallery that has historically sold the most landscapes makes sense and feels right. The landscapes and barns are still what sells and frankly I have to consider that right now. Her market is not for abstracts and portraits can be a tough sell too. She did agree to include about six of the portraits in the show, along with the landscapes, so I am pleased about that.

The show will be coming up in January and for the last two weeks I have been floundering a bit about what to start with, frittering away my days and wringing my hands. I still want to work on the abstracts, to keep developing them, but I do need to get started on the landscapes for the show and then get back to working on the portraits which have been on the back burner for several months. I have been focusing on landscapes and barns for so long that it sure feels strange to have to do some scheduling on subject matter! But finally I formulated a plan: this week I decided to do one more batch of abstracts (including some little black abstracts which I will talk about next time) before I set them aside for a few months. Next week I will begin the landscapes/barns and after I have at least a dozen of those ready for the show, I'll get back to work on the People You Know series. At least that is the plan. Usually I find it necessary to have some sort of plan in place. It's not set in stone, in fact I am sure it will morph into something different as I get going and I am flexible about having to do that, but having something to start with gives me enough comfort to get started.

The other gallery I visited liked ALL the work I showed them and the director had a great concept about how to show all three bodies of work. However, nothing has been confirmed yet, so I will wait until contracts get signed before discussing that. Have I mentioned that I heartily believe in jinxes? I do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogger Burn Out

The Reds #59, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 6x9

Oh right, I do still have a blog here......

I have been signing into blogger so rarely lately that I now have to look up my password. NOT kidding!

Facebook is enveloping me with its time sucking, hypnotizing powers.

And the lure of quick, snappy, comments, links, images and connections to a wide variety of people in my life, past and present, has been impossible for me to avoid.

Plus I get to easily see what everyone else is doing which fulfills the Gladys Kravitz side of me. Heh.

I am considering the option of doing more writing about my work on my facebook fan page, which could essentially replace this blog.

But FB is a fad that will probably pass. I could move it all somewhere else again or I could finally decide that I have told all my stories and talked too much about myself and my career, and just quietly melt back into painting anonymously out here on the farm.

However, the thought of not being a part of blogland, not communicating with other artists, and not putting my work up, on my terms, saddens me greatly.

So even if I am slightly burned out on it, I will keep trying to come back to this blog, for now anyway.

Probably with fewer posts (I have told all my good stories) and more connections to Facebook.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Philadelphia Experience

So Doug and I drove down to Philadelphia on Saturday to attend a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for one of Doug's childhood friends. Everyone who had been a guest at the wedding was invited, which I thought was a wonderful concept and while our friends suspected something was going on, they were surprised to see the whole crew there. It was a wonderful party and even though I only knew a handful of people, I had a GREAT time. My party social skills have been on a decline in the past several years so it was lovely to really enjoy myself this time.

After the party we drove to our hotel in Center City and even though it was perilously close to our usual bedtime, we were both anxious to go out and walk around our old neighborhood.

(Just to recap if you are new here, or if you have not committed my background to memory: I moved to Philly, from Minneapolis, in January 1985 to attend PCA, now UArts, and lived in a variety of places in Center City, a loft in North Kensington which was a bit dangerous for a single gal what with the constant gunshots and all, then I lived in a really yucky apartment in South Philly at 8th&McKean when I met Doug. Doug grew up in Broomall, a Philly suburb, attended Tyler 1976-1980 or so, lived at 13th and Walnut 1984-1986, then moved up to a studio on North Delaware Avenue which is where he lived when we met. We had a place together on Fairmont Avenue, then moved to Milford Connecticut in 1991. Phew!)

The first thing I learned on our walk is that the building at 15th&Spruce where I had a beautiful studio apartment on the 14th floor is gone, replaced by the Kimmel Center. I knew about the Kimmel Center but didn't realize that it was right THERE. Sigh. But McGlinchey's, one of my favorite dive bars just a few doors down was still there and we decided to go on in. It was like walking into a time machine (except I did NOT get carded this time;)), absolutely nothing was different, including the bartender, Fred. I didn't know I remembered his name until I saw him and his name just naturally came to mind. Old habits.....

Anyway, Doug and I hung around awkwardly for a few minutes, then started to talk with the guy at the door. I decided to chat with Fred and even though he didn't remember me (I think I am glad about that, it means I did not do anything there that someone might remember for more than a few years at least!) he was very sweet and chatty and it was great to talk to him. He seemed glad to know that I had moved on from the bar scene and that I have a family and good life. Anyway, it was very surreal to be in that bar again, many events occurred there for the few years I was a regular; I made friends and lost them, had a few torturous romances, drank too much. I recall watching the 1988 Winter AND Summer Olympics there and cheering for Debi Thomas, Gordeeva and Grinkov, and winced when Greg Louganis hit his head on the springboard, but still went on to win the gold medal. Doug and I spent our first New Year's Eve there together (even though he hated bars). The beer there was cheap back then, 50 cents on tap and there was a lot of Tom Waits music on the jukebox. Perfect. Well it was back then anyway, last Saturday, I felt uncomfortable there and so we moved on. These reviews give a pretty accurate picture of McGlinchey's. Some people might be a bit too uptight to enjoy this particular dive bar;)

It was wonderful to see my old school, which has taken over much of the area and I have a lot of great memories of late nights in the studios, rushing to an early class loaded down with art supplies and books. Sitting in the small park (which is now gone) between classes, grabbing something to eat at the health food store on the corner (which is now a Starbucks) and going for a swim at the Jewish Y (which is now a UArts building). Sigh again.

And then onto my other dive bar, Dirty Frank's:
Dirty Frank's has been at 13th&Pine forever and everyone that I have ever met who went to UArts also spent more than a few evenings there. Even though the beer cost a bit more (always an issue for a college student) I actually liked Dirty Frank's much more than McGlinchey's. They were open on Sunday nights and also on the holidays and I spent more than a few Thankgivings, Christmas Eves and New Years there for several years. It was the perfect place to cry in your beer from loneliness, then turn to the person next to you and have some fascinating, or really stupid conversation to pull you out of it. I also spent a lot of time there with my friends from school, it was a good place to go after a long day of classes and a night of painting in the studio. Anyway, it was basically the same as 20 years ago, but instead of the boarded up look that I remember, there are murals of Franks on the exterior. Inside it seemed a lot more cluttered, tons of cut paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, faded Mummer's parasols over the bar. The old wood booths are the same (now I wish I had carved my name in one when I had the chance) as well as the bench covered in chipped linoleum by the door. A lot of art hanging on the walls and I am just going to assume that the bathrooms are still as disgusting as they used to be on a Saturday night. I tried to find out but the ladies room was occupied for a disturbingly long time. Heh. Doug and I decided to sit at the bar and I am quite sure that a. the barstools are the exact same ones that were there 20 years ago and b. the guy sitting on the other side of Doug was also a regular in the 80's. I hope he was just back for a visit like me, but somehow I don't think he was.

And to top it all off, the same bartender from 1987 was still on duty. We started chatting and she didn't remember me either. Safe again!

Funny thing about sitting at Dirty Frank's though. I felt VERY comfortable. Kinda like I was back at home. Maybe I should feel sad about that but I don't really. It was like a home to me at a time when I was really lonely and troubled and even though I did a lot of stupid things in those days, I could always go and sit at Dirty Franks and feel more at ease than I ever did in my childhood home. That seemed pathetic at the time, but I don't feel that way about it at all anymore. Plus, there was something very satisfying about getting all teary eyed, while Peggy Lee asked "Is That All There Is?" I had a melodramatic streak back then, hehe.

So after Doug finished his beer and I drank my ice water (did learn a few lessons from the old days at least, I don't drink alcohol anymore!) we went on to look at the building where his father's graphic design studio was for many years, which was coincidentally right behind one of the apartments that I lived in. Then we went to look at his old place on Walnut Street.

It was great to walk around the streets at night without worrying about anything, as it used to be a bit hairy, lots of shadowy types, hookers and cars slowly cruising by. Now the streets are crowded with people, lots of restaurants with tables out on the sidewalks, a really great atmosphere! I did get a shout out from a creepy guy in a car driving by which was a real blast from the past. I used to get hassled quite a bit like that when I lived there (I think it was the red hair) and always hated it. This time Doug and I had a good laugh and frankly at age 44, it was almost gratifying. Heh.

Back to our fabulous hotel room near Rittenhouse Square which made me seriously consider putting all my belongings in storage so that I could move in there and had a great night's sleep.

The next morning we drove around to see the other places we lived. We sat in the car out front of the building where Doug lived and worked when we met and reminisced. That area looked EXACTLY the same, down to the sauerkraut factory across the street:

We drove down to South Philly to look at my old apartment:
I lived in the 2nd floor apartment and there were NO flowers climbing up the front when I lived there. The neighborhood looks a bit better now, it was getting pretty bad when I moved away. The old Italian guys that hung out at the store on the corner (a photo of Mussolini hung prominently on the wall just inside the door) and pestered me about working at a "Jew" owned business while I waited for the bus are long gone. But the building still has an Italian theme:
and it still looks like some sort of hangout.....

So all in all it was a very memorable trip down memory lane. On the drive home, we daydreamed about moving back into Center City when the kids are grown, but all that disappeared when we drove up the beautiful, quiet country to our house. So happy to be where we are now.

PS. But we might visit Philly a bit more often. We still have friends there! And there is a museum! And art galleries! And lots of restaurants! And Zoe Strauss!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Blues

The Blues #45, 2009, Oil on Cradled Panel, 10x10

When I started moving into the abstracts, my mind was full of all kinds of directions they could take. I realized that I would have to choose just a few of those directions to focus on, mostly so that my head wouldn't explode with all the possible possibilities.

One direction that I decided on was to change the color of my underpainting. This is not exactly uncharted territory for me; in college I worked on top of several different underpainting colors, brown umber, greens, blues, even black. And when I began painting the landscapes almost six years ago I experimented with several different colors before settling on the orange/red color that has consumed my interest since then.

But I have been fascinated with trying my hand at painting on a blue ground, and the abstracts seemed like the perfect opportunity. So I gave it a shot. I have done several now, and so far I am quite pleased with the results. Still working out the kinks as far as composition goes and it turns out that painting color over blue instead of red is like learning a whole new language. The regional dialect of a whole new language, actually.
The Blues #44, 2009, Oil on Cradled Panel, 10x10

So far I have kept the palette very minimal. I may expand it at some point but a. I am enjoying working with a limited palette for the first time in many years and b. most of my experiments in using a wider variety of colors have failed miserably. I think expanding the palette on the blue ground may be a very gradual process, just as it was on the red.

I am putting up a few of my favorites. This part of the series is called "The Blues'. Oh and it turns out that these are infinitely more difficult to photograph than my work usually is, which is already nearly impossible. There is one that I simply gave up on, I just couldn't get the colors even close in the jpeg. Gotta see them in person for the full effect of their "shimmer" as Doug calls it. So let me know if ya wanna stop by sometime. Heh.

This one is my favorite so far and have decided to keep it for myself:
The Blues #72, 2009, Oil on Cradled Panel, 5x3

I will start another batch of The Blues next week to post on my sales blog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Wow, it's been so long since I signed into Blogger to write a post that I had to look up my password. I am feeling kind of sad about that actually, but yet still cannot seem to keep up with this blog. Facebook has taken me over, I admit it! I have considered making my fan page more like my blog, but haven't decided yet on that. For now, I will keep trying to post here, and will just see what happens, I guess.

Anyway, last week we went on a family vacation. We rented a cabin on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire and had a great time, even if it was REALLY cold for the first few days. (what was with the weather this summer???? cold, cold, cold) We did a lot of swimming, fishing, rowboating, canoeing, and a lot of sitting around. That was my favorite part. Heh. We also spent an afternoon doing some watercolors, finished up the school clothes shopping at the outlet stores in North Conway and drove to Ogunquit, ME for a day to swim in the ocean and sit on the beach.

And then we got home and boom! Kids back in school yesterday and suddenly I have a ton of work to do. This last year has been so quiet for me which was nice (if somewhat demoralizing) but now I have two solo shows scheduled, and a month long residency in Vermont coming up early next year. As soon as papers are signed, I will give up the details about all that!

So I have some more new work to talk about next time but in the meantime, go ahead and check out the small abstracts of 'The Reds' on my sales blog.