Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obituary for a Really Good Rooster

So in 2006, Doug and I decided to embrace the country life that we had been all prissy about for our previous three years here on the farm. He got bees, I got baby chicks. A surprisingly wide variety of accessories, tools and equipment was purchased. We 'remodeled' the old outhouse, built a chicken run and then received a chirping box in the mail with 27 egg layer chicks inside. Turns out that checking the chicken butts to determine which are the females is not entirely accurate and by the end of the summer we realized that we had two roosters in our flock.

After Number One Rooster in Charge (accidentally on purpose) met his untimely death, Rooster #2 stepped up to the plate and he was a very good rooster. First of all he did not attack me or the kids like the other one did, so that was good. And even though he was a little bit rough on the ladies, I always knew he genuinely cared for them. Heh. When we got several new chicks two years ago, he gave them a lot of special attention so they would feel at home, heheh. But I greatly enjoyed watching him keeping an eye on everyone while they all free ranged and he was fair but firm and he always let the ladies peck at the scratch before he did. He was also smart, over the years there have been a few times that the coop door closed before the chickens could get in for the night and he would come up to the house and make a ruckus to let us know that they needed help. It's true that chickens are not especially bright, but they are very intuitive and their instincts are a wonder to observe. More about my chickens and their antics here and here

Anyway. Every morning I go out to the coop to give them fresh water, check their food and then I throw a scoop of scratch through the wire fencing into the chicken run (they stay inside the coop until mid afternoon, so that their eggs will land in the nests rather than all over the yard). We have a routine with the scratch; when the chickens see the red scoop come out of the bin, they scatter, except for the rooster. He stands there and just takes it right on his back. Then he shakes his wings and fluffs up, rounding everyone up so they can scratch and peck.

This morning he wasn't out, which seemed odd and when I went inside the coop to gather eggs, I saw him laying dead on the floor underneath the roost. I was so shocked, as he seemed perfectly fine just yesterday! There were two hens on the roost and they were quiet and seemingly stunned. Well, I can't be totally sure of that, but they WERE very quiet. I asked them what happened (duh, rhetorical question) and then went to the garage to find a bag.

Now so far, I have been able to avoid actually handling the dead chickens that we have had over the years, but Doug is out of town and everyone else was at school. Bleh. But I manage to buck up; I picked up the rooster by his stiff legs (and yes, that was totally skeevy:)) and got him into a bag, aaarrggghhhhhh! It was awful. He was all cold and stiff so I guess he had been dead for most of the night.

I guess I will try to find another rooster. I liked having one with my flock and they are good to have around if the chickens free range. I have a few friends who raise chickens and will ask around, I guess.

Sure am going to miss my beautiful red rooster though.......

PS. and now I feel bad that I didn't take more pictures of him.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Nothing of a Post

Right Through There, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 12x16

Sorry, folks, this is a real nothing of a post today. This last week was almost a complete wash in my studio. Yesterday, our oldest son, Kurtis, moved into a residential home on the campus of his school and my studio time was interrupted almost every day by meetings, packing, shopping etc. And during the few chunks of time that I did have to work, I found that I was too distracted to do anything that looked even remotely worthwhile.

So I have about five underpaintings sitting here, waiting for their color and I will try again first thing Monday morning. I am posting a larger version of a 6x6 painting that I did a few weeks ago. While I do often paint the same barns and scenes many times, I usually take some time between each version. However this time I found myself working the same images simultaneously. Not sure if I will do that again, or maybe I will do it all the time; it seemingly made no difference in the outcome (other than that both pieces are pretty similar in color), both paintings are fine, the small one sold right away on my other blog (thanks Bridgette!)and this one was shipped to The Harrison Gallery> last week.

Ok, well, looks like I managed to eke out two paragraphs about nothing much today. Huh. How about that!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Peek Inside My Drawers

Heh. You didn't seriously think I could resist THAT title, did you???

Last week, Janelle asked me what I stored in my flat file and so I took some pictures of the inside of each drawer. It is awesome to have this for storage and I do believe I have put every square inch of it to good use!

First of all, the flat file has a huge top surface which is where I keep a jumble of photos for reference, paintbrushes, and other junk:

It looks like a mess, but the photographs are actually sorted into VERY IMPORTANT piles and I actually do use everything that is laying there almost everyday. At the back I have some tabletop easels which is where I set the smaller paintings to dry:

And on one side of the flat file is an added storage bonus, shelving! I could have used this for more junk, and was sorely tempted, however I decided to use it for some of my art books. Doug usually gives me a good art book or two for my birthday every year and I often buy a few when I visit a museum, so I have a good collection going. It's nice to keep my favorites in the studio:

Now on to the drawers. I have posted this image before:
I keep all of my paints in the top drawer (I used to keep them on the top surface, which I thought I preferred until I put them in the drawer and now I like them better there for some reason. Gives me more room for a jumble of junk, maybe.)

Drawer #2 contains a stack of watercolor paper and the initial portraits that I did almost two years ago when I was at the Vermont Studio Center. I like to keep them on hand to look at once in awhile as I continue working on the People You Know series.

Drawer #3 has another stack of watercolor paper, although this stack is mostly gessoed paper, ready to work on. It also contains some of the small format paintings that are available through my sales blog, as well as a few flower paintings that are well, just sitting there. Heh. Part of my painting inventory, I guess.

This is the drawer where I keep the bulk of the small format paintings for the sales blog:

And drawer #5 is where I keep all of the work on paper that I have done. You can see some the abstracts on top and under those are all the People You Know paintings that have been done on gessoed paper.

The next five drawers are used mostly for storage of other flat

Figure drawing pads (used and unused) are in this drawer:

Drawing boards and primed oil paper pads (which I never use):

Pastel paper pads and other assorted papers, plus a few larger scaled abstract paintings on gessoed paper:

Gessobords, and pads of palette paper.

As I do more work on paper, I will probably relocate the pads of paper. I love the idea of filling every single drawer with my work on paper! And considering that I can't resolve how to display those works, they may just sit there forever.

Anyway, I dearly love my flat file, it is useful but more importantly, it was a wonderful gift from a gallery director in NYC who showed my work for a few years before the gallery closed (sob).

So feel free to show us what's in your drawers, k???

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inside My Studio

Ok, I have been really enjoying Inside the Painter's Studio. I have settled into reading just one section at a time, then later I look up the artist on the internet to see more of their work and learn more about them.

Also, while reading the interviews I found myself thinking about what my responses to those questions would be (um, cause the world does revolve around me after all) and even though I have talked about some of these topics here before, it occurred to me that I could answer all these questions too, here on my blog. So I tracked down the book's author, artist Joe Fig, and asked his permission to use his questions and encourage other artist bloggers to do the same on their blogs. He said 'go ahead' (and became my new Facebook friend too!) and here we are. So consider this a tag if you are reading this, just be sure to give credit to Joe, mention the book title and link back to his website and maybe to me too if you do it, k?

Well, here we go:

When did you consider yourself a professional artist and when were you able to dedicate yourself full time to that pursuit?

After finishing college (University of the Arts in Philadelphia) as an illustration major, I tried to work as a freelance illustrator. Which actually meant that I needed to get a job doing something else, and quickly. The job I got led me to doing some other things for a few years, then I got married, we adopted a nephew, then went on to have three babies. So I put aside painting for about ten years in order to be a full time mom. When my youngest started school in 2003, I began painting again during the day and have considered myself a working artist since then.

How long have you been in this studio?

Just over a year. My previous studio was in one of the living rooms on the first floor of our family home. It's a beautiful room, but rather small to work in and was also open to the rest of the house so the kids and cats and dogs were constantly coming through. I was always having to fix up the paw prints in the gesso or clean up hairballs or whatever.

Is your studio separate from your home? Is that what you prefer and does that affect your work?

I have always preferred to have a studio within or connected to my home, and now that I have a family I can't imagine working somewhere else each day. I still have to do a lot of multi tasking and I am able to spend time with the kids even if I am working. Sometimes my youngest daughter will come in and read to me while I am painting and I love that. I have moved around a lot; from Minnesota, to Philadelphia, Connecticut, Utah and now in upstate New York and even when I wasn't painting I always had some sort of workspace within my home. I like being home all day, although I do have to make a special effort to go out for lunch or dinner with friends. Sometimes I forget to be social and then when I do go out I feel like an alien!

Did you have a plan for the layout of your studio or did it develop organically?

It was planned, although since it is an attic space and we were on a budget there weren't a lot of options. Actually, we decided to finish the attic so that my husband could move his office into it and then I would get the connecting living rooms downstairs for my studio. But about midway though the project I decided it should be my studio. My husband graciously agreed and despite a few drawbacks, it is a wonderful space to work in. It even has storage!

Has the studio location influenced your work?

Well, living out here in the country has certainly affected my work. I never painted landscapes or barns before moving here and while I am not a plein air painter, most of my subject matter comes from the scenery around my home. And learning how to see things differently really changed how I express myself.

As far as the actual studio goes, well this studio is a very comfortable and peaceful space, it has a good feeling, which I think is reflected in my work. I also have more room to experiment with different things and to store the work that is pretty good, maybe not good enough to show or sell but not bad enough to toss out. Heh. It's actually quite freeing to not to have to decide right away about what to save or to throw out just because of space issues.

But as much as I like this studio, there are some drawbacks to it, which make me think I may have to set up something else someday. I feel rather cut off from the rest of the house which is nice in some ways but kind of irritating too. I miss being able to multi task easily, like starting dinner while finishing up a day's work in the studio, or to answer the door or let the dogs in and out. Even though I have north facing windows there is not a lot of light in my studio and while I don't depend on natural light to paint by, I much prefer a nice bright room to spend my time in. I would also like to have more vertical wall space (most of the walls are sloped) so that I could have a painting wall and more drying/display space.

Please describe a typical day, being as specific as possible. For example: What time to you get up? When do you come to the studio? Do you have specific clothing you change into?

I get up at 6am, shower, get dressed, then get the kids up by 7 and out the door to catch the school bus by 7:45. I feed the cats, the dogs, and take care of the chickens and other chores, depending on the season. In the summer I usually take a 3 mile walk around the block early in the day and when it's colder, I take the walk around lunchtime. Anyway, next, I have my breakfast up in my studio in front of my computer and I answer emails, maybe write a blog post, then do some social things like reading other artist's blogs and Facebook. I try to get to work by 9am, but sometimes it is more like 10 or even 11am (oops). I work for a few hours and then break for lunch, which I either have with my husband (he works at home when he is not away on business) or I eat at my computer. Then it's back to work until I have to rush out the door to go pick up a kid or three from their after school activities, usually around 4 or 5. Sometimes my husband will pick them up and I start dinner, or if he is out of town I stop working earlier to get dinner started and then go pick up the kids. Usually, everything is a blur of crazy activity from 4pm to 9pm each weekday! In the evening I go back up to my studio to look at what I am working on, and sometimes I spend a few hours on the computer, catching up on the news, surfing the internet and socializing on the time sucker that is Facebook. Other nights I watch some tv, knit and then I read for at least an hour before I go to sleep each night. I try to get to sleep by 10:30 but it's usually closer to midnight. I use the weekends for family activities and also to catch up on things around the house and yard, so I don't usually work in the studio then, unless I have a deadline coming up or if I have been unproductive during the week.

Do you listen to music, the radio, or TV when you work? If so, what, and does it affect your work?

I listen to Howard Stern every morning (if it is a live show) and then for the rest of the day I usually listen to my iPod which has every song on it that I have ever loved or even just liked. I had it on shuffle for years which I enjoyed but about two years ago I realized I missed hearing albums so I have had it set to album shuffle since then. I never work in silence; listening to talk radio or music that I connect to is really important to me. My mind gets to wander off, listening to other people talk or feeling certain lyrics or the emotion of the singer and I can just paint by instinct without over thinking or overworking.

What kind of paints do you use?

I like the quality of certain brands; Vasari, Schmincke, Old Holland, Gamblin, Rembrandt are my favorites but mostly I go with color over brand. My palette shifts every so often and I don't do a lot of color mixing so I like to have a good variety of colors on hand. I have a huge collection paints; probably more than I will ever be able to use!

How long have you had your painting table, and how did you decide to set it up?

I bought this metal serving cart from Target when I was preparing to move into this studio this year because I wanted to have something that I could move around. I keep all my photographic references on the lower shelf along with some supplies that I like to keep handy. It's too small to keep my paints on it (those are in a flat file drawer right behind me) and I just use the top surface for my palette (I use disposable palette pads) and jars of Turpenoid Natural for rinsing my brushes. More about my palette here.

Do you have any special devices or tools that are unique to your creative process?

Yes, I picked up a few soft scratching tools at the art supply store at the Vermont Studio Center when I was there for a residency a few years ago. I have used them ever since and in fact scratching into the paint is a big part of my new work. And Liquin is an important element as well, crucial for getting the kind of glazes that I prefer.

Are there specific items here that have significant meaning to you?

Yes! Almost everything in my studio is important to me! I have a dusting brush that belonged to my grandfather; I use it all the time. My desk belonged to my father in law, our contractor who is practically on a retainer for our money pit and is also a friend/collector built me a storage cabinet which means a lot to me. I have a drawing table that I bought in college 25 years ago and I have dragged it all around the country with me ever since. I love my new project tables so much that I want to just hug them every day. The owner of my NYC gallery gave me a huge flat file when the gallery closed and I love that thing. I have a number of small paintings by friends and fellow bloggers on my walls as well as pictures and art by my kids. I like to work in a homey sort of space, and I like having all my things around me. As much as the classic, white walled, spare artist's studio appeals to me, I really don't feel comfortable working in a space like that.

Do you work on one project at a time, or several?

I work on several paintings at once, due to the nature of applying glazes. I can only do a little bit of work on a painting each day so in order to utilize my time in the studio better, I always work in groups. Lately I have been painting different subject matter and I try to work in clusters with those too, although that has been a challenge since I usually have to put them aside and work on landscapes which are mostly what I show. But going back and forth has been good for me, I think. It is nice to have more flexibility after being so focused on landscapes for the last several years.

When you are contemplating your work, where and how do you sit or stand?

I just review each painting while it is still on the easel, so in that case I am either still seated if it is a small panel or standing if it is a larger panel. If I decide that the painting is right, I put it up on a the wall, on a display shelf while the glaze dries and I often spend more time looking at it there, trying to determine if it is done or if it needs more layers.

How often do you clean your studio, and does it affect your work?

I am a clutter bunny, I like having a lot of stuff around me, yet it is a fairly organized clutter and I spend a little time each day reorganizing and putting things away. Puttering like that really gets me into the work groove and helps me settle in for the day. I feel a bit unsettled if things are really a mess, although I am still able to keep working if I really have to, like if I am on a deadline and am feeling too crazy to tidy up.

Every month or so, I do a more major cleaning, sweeping and dusting the wood floors. Again, I don't need a super clean space but I do prefer it not to be filthy.

How do you come up with titles?

With the landscapes and barns, I usually use a fairly descriptive title like Red Barn with Trees or Yellow Field. I also use song titles or lyrics if I can think of one that seems appropriate; "The Big Pink" was perfect for a pink barn that I painted a few years ago! But I have painted so many landscapes over the last few years and the well is a bit dry concerning new titles so in my recent work, which is more abstract, I have a name for the series, then numbers for each piece. The portraits that I have been doing usually incorporate the name of the person or maybe something that the person is wearing.
All I Have To Do Is Dream, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 9x9

Do you have assistants?

No. But before the economy stuff happened, I was much busier and sometimes my husband would help me with putting the hangers on the panels and that sort of thing. When things pick up again, I may hire my teen age son to help me prep panels. I could also use some help with keeping track of my painting inventory and one of my daughters would be perfect for that job, although she is not yet aware of that. heh.

Did you ever work for another artist, and if so, did that have any effect on the way you work?

I have never worked for another artist.

Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?

When I find myself second guessing what I am doing, worrying about whether a particular piece will be exhibited or will sell, I remind myself that I get to do whatever I want. So I do that. I can't say it always leads to a better painting, but I at least feel good that I followed my instincts and usually that does work out eventually.

What advice would you give a young artist that is just starting out?

A few things I guess. One is to paint from your heart (I know, sounds sappy but you know what I mean) because if you feel it, it will show, and others will feel it too. Two is to keep working; having the discipline to work regularly is so important no matter what you do. Also, learn as much as you can about the business side of art, so much more information about that is available now because of the internet, and it is way better to be empowered in that area, than not.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Am Utterly In Love

I just received Inside the Painter's Studio by artist Joe Fig the other day and I am so in love with it that I can't actually sit down and read it. I keep it near me all day and have paged through it, have looked at all the pictures but I am enjoying the anticipation of reading the interviews with the artists. So much so that I don't want to spoil all that by actually reading them. Makes sense, right?

Like most artists, I REALLY REALLY like seeing other artist's studios and learning about their studio habits. I like to enlarge the photos I see online and just pore over every detail. Love seeing all the art supplies, art in progress, along with piles of junk, and all the quirky little things most artists have on hand for no apparent reason. Here is a good article about Joe's book, along with some good images of the painter's studios.

And in a feeble attempt to position myself as a painter with a real studio (that's a self-deprecating joke, people!) I am posting a photo of my project table, which I love almost as much as this book.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

The ever so famous Anonymous left a comment on a recent post a few weeks ago. I started to write a response but naturally it got long and I decided I should just save it for a post. So this is the comment:

What is your favorite entity to paint - as in abstract, people, landscape, other - keep in mind that IDKS ;-)

Is painting (water color, acrylic) your favorite medium, or do you prefer, for example, charcoal drawing?

It seems relevant to talk about this a bit right now, since my work has been going through some pretty big shifts in the last year or so. I have had to really had to think about what to focus on and when, whereas previously I just allowed the art to just burst right out of me without too much thought and planning. I think that was a reaction to not having had the chance to paint for so long.

Anyhoo. Favorite subject matter. Back in college, and even before that, I liked painting a variety of things; still lifes and other objects, portraits, cityscapes. I think the subject matter that I logged the most hours on though, was the figure, both clothed and unclothed. I would say that the figure was my most favorite and least favorite.

Interestingly, the images that I NEVER worked on before 2003, was abstract or landscapes, and definitely no barns. I was a city girl through and through in college and ick! barns? No way!

But life happens, I moved away from the city, and I grew and changed as a person (I hope) and when we moved to the country I finally relaxed my ridiculous mindset and began painting landscapes AND barns. And while that work has thus far been my most successful work, and I feel at peace while creating it, I couldn't help but wonder if I would be able to get to those feelings with subject matter that I felt that I was better at. So a thousand landscapes later and circling burn out on them, I decided to try some new things, which were actually the old things mostly. Tried to do some still lifes, but found no real connection there, did a few cityscapes and although the results there were better, I just felt kinda bleh about them. Kept meaning to go back and do more but just didn't have the interest. All of this was just going around what is probably my favorite subject (to finally answer Anonymous's first question).

The figure.

And like in college, it has been something that I feel like I have to do, I love to do but it also just kills me, it's so hard. So still, it is my favorite, but kinda my least favorite too.

I am not sure where the abstracts fall. I am enjoying them, they are fun and challenging and I am learning to see things differently and I appreciate being able to do that. I don't see where they are headed, but I plan to keep going with them. And right now I think I envision them as the calm between the storms of painting figures and portraits.

Favorite medium? My favorite medium is oil, hands down, no question. It used to be acrylic until I tried oils in college and I have been in love with oils ever since. I despise watercolor, mostly because I am not good with it. Heh. For drawing, nothing beats a good graphite stick and eraser. And I love/hate charcoal. I love what I can do with it, but I hate the feel of charcoal in my hands, scratching on the paper which seriously gets my sensory issues going. And not in a good way either. I have dabbled in other mediums like pastel (sensory issues here again), collage, guoache, but none of them stuck. I am hoping to work with encaustics someday, but am holding off until I can really focus on them since I have a feeling that they will completely envelope me;)

So there you go. I would like to add that I have finally learned that nothing is written in stone anymore. Twenty years ago if someone had told me I would be making a living (sort of) by painting landscapes and barns, I would have smirked and referenced flying pigs. So I guess it is entirely possible that in twenty more years I could be painting the still life in watercolor with maybe a few pigs thrown in as well.

Ya just never know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another Link

Just a quick post today to let you know about a website that a friend of mine has set up.

Some of my long time readers may recall that my mom used to be a fixture in my comments section, much to my embarrassment, usually! Then she was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2007 and died in August of the same year. She and I had a difficult relationship but a few years before she died I felt we had resolved the past and put it away. Unfortunately after she died I learned about some of her activities (concerning me) that frankly put me into a bit of a tailspin. I have worked through much of it but it's been hard because she is gone; I can't yell at her, we can't have the big fight and I can't find out if she really understands how much she hurt me.

So this site comes along and I have been given the opportunity to write what I would like to say to her, and to say it out loud. Well, sort of. I feel like it is just the right time to wrap it all up and move on. So thank you to my friend, and I hope some of you might benefit from reading through the site and maybe even from participating. It is really such a beautiful concept.