Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvest Festival Number Two

I had planned to write this post yesterday, but I had to deliver some work for a show and plus it turned out that even though I thought I had recovered from the physical labor and the hours of chit chatting with tons of people, I wasn't really. I feel much more like myself today, so here we go!

Even though I know it's a bad idea to be finishing up paintings and packing and organizing for an event right up until the very last minute, sadly I still persist in doing it. More than anything I wanted to get enough sleep the night before, but I didn't get to bed until almost midnight on Friday night and then kept waking up because of the RAIN. Just what one wants to hear the night before participating in an outdoor art event. Anyway, I got up at 5am and we got the car loaded (well my son and husband did that part) and arrived in Sharon Springs at 7:30am. It was humid, wet and muddy from the rain, and was looking like it was going to rain any minute. Awesome.

But with crossed fingers, we set up my brand spanking new tent that had just arrived on Friday (I like living on the edge!). Last year I had borrowed one from my friend Karen, but this year SHE was also in the festival (we were hoping to be next to each other but alas we were separated) so I figured I better get my own tent. I didn't begin that process until the Tuesday before the show so it was a miracle that I managed to get a good tent, reasonably priced and delivered to my front door on Friday. All I can say is that I hate Walmart a little bit less now. heh.

Anyway. Set up went smoothly, my son Julien helped me again this year and in a lovely coincidence, I had brought one of the large sheep paintings and the couple in the booth next to me was selling big beautiful hanks on yarn spun from the wool of their own sheep. In fact, I bought some of their yarn at the festival last year. And on the other side of me was a woman selling hand knit hats and scarves, she and her husband were very nice and they also bought one of my little snow paintings. I always enjoy getting to know my neighbors at these things.


Saturday passed in a pleasant blur. I sold 16 of the small format paintings which was really exciting and also totally beats last year's two day total of 14. And even though I consider myself to be a weird mix of somewhat antisocial and overly chatty, I thoroughly enjoyed talking with everyone who stopped by. There were so many interesting people! The weather held up, even though it was overcast most of the day, there was no rain and then the sun did peek out near the end of the day. I was quite glad when the day finally ended though so that I could stagger home and fall into bed at an embarrassingly early hour. My feet were killing me, turns out that muck boots don't really provide much support; my feet STILL hurt from wearing them all day Saturday.


I finally got a decent night's sleep so Sunday started out in a much more relaxing manner. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. The first few hours were kind of quiet, then more and more people started coming through. However, I didn't make any sales until well into the afternoon and I admit to getting a bit of a complex about it. I contemplated changing my display around, and it even crossed my mind briefly that I should change careers. Ok, so maybe I was still a bit tired. Finally a few people came by and each bought a few pieces, then there were a couple more sales and my number for Sunday ended up being a very respectable 7. Doug and Ginger came later in the afternoon and I was able to go out and walk around the rest of the festival. I also visited the Mercantile and chatted with Brent for a few minutes.

There were probably twice as many vendors this year, and so the shopping was good! I am not sure how many visitors there were this time, but I think it must have been at least as many as last year, probably more. Also, the mood was somewhat different than last year as there weren't any TV cameras for me to avoid and no Rosie O"Donnell for me to chat with. There may have been some famous people there, but either they didn't stop by my booth or I didn't recognize them, which wouldn't be the first time. heh. Also, I loved the variety of people that attended, it made me feel like I was in a very comfy place between city and country, so many people there were visiting from other areas. The Beekman Boys have really put together a wonderful thing.

So today I am (almost) fully recovered and I have added all the remaining small format paintings onto my sales blog. Except for the sheep. Turns out the sheep were quite popular; I had six small ones and they all sold. But don't worry, I'm no dummy. I will DEFINITELY be painting more!

Sheep Study #339, 5"x3" Oil on Cradled panel

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harvest Festival Time

Crazy busy here all week, preparing to deliver paintings on Monday for a local show of my portraits at the Cooperstown Art Association, and also getting ready for the Beekman Boys Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs. I did the Harvest Festival last year and while normally I don't do these sorts of events, I am happy to be involved with this one as it is a great way to support our local economy, farmers and craftspeople. Unfortunately I might have had temporary amnesia when I signed up again because I forgot how much work it is to do so many small paintings all at once, not to mention when that coincides with a another deadline, a husband on a week long business trip plus kids that have to be driven around and fed. I think I am doing better than last year though, in that this time I was actually finished with the painting part of the paintings two days before the event, rather than one day. heh.

I will be pleased if I get even half of what I have to do, done today. I still have to paint the edges on about 10 of the small paintings put hangers and labels on all 37 of them, edit all the jpegs of them, document everything, finish packing up and load the car tonight. I also have to finish the color at least on one and a half more portraits for the show at the CAA (will have to finish the edges, etc on those on Saturday and Sunday evening after a long day at the festival, blech). But MOST importantly, I have a very much needed hair appointment midday. I plan to avoid the cameras this weekend again, but just in case I better cover up the grey.....

Anyway, I better go, wish me luck and let's hope the rain that is in the forecast for this weekend, takes a sharp left and avoids Sharon Springs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The One With Wolf Kahn

So I thought I'd dust off this here old blog and tell any of my remaining readers about the exhibit with Wolf Kahn.

I know it's been ages since I wrote about this, so here is a quick description of the building and how the shows are usually organized within it:

"The Smithy is the oldest building in Cooperstown. It has three floors, each with varying kinds of gallery space. The first floor is at street level and is the original part of the building, it's very rustic; stone walls, forges, anvils, and tools remain from its original use as a blacksmith shop. The second floor is where the member group show is held each summer, in addition to a small room that features a solo show each month. I had a solo there in the summer of 2008. And the third floor is a large open space, which usually features one or two artists and often has a particular theme, often historical. This is the space I will be sharing with Nancy Samstein. The member group show and solo show by Michael Whaling will be on the second floor and Wolf Kahn will be showing on the first floor."

You can read my initial post about all this here.

I was a bit worried about showing in such close proximity to an artist who A. I admire, especially for his amazing longevity and productivity and B. my work has so often been compared to, mostly because of the whole brightly colored landscape barn thing, I think. I was worried about looking like a copy cat I guess;)

I decided to work around B. a little bit, by doing some new work which would include humans and farm animals, though not together, which would put me in an entirely different genre. heh. I was also reading the recent biography of Grant Wood at the time and decided it was time to put some figures and barns together and just so you know for sure, yes, I was COMPLETELY thinking about "American Gothic" when I did this painting:

Sunday, 2011, 60"x40" Oil on Panel

And since the one and only sheep painting I have ever done was the very first piece to sell in a show last spring, I decided to do some more sheep, and go larger too. So I did three that were meant to be together always:

Then I did a large red barn just for old time's sake.....

The rest of the paintings in the show were older paintings that I had on hand, ones that have not sold found their people yet. I spent quite a bit of time choosing pieces that worked together and that also looked right with the new paintings. Doug helped me a lot with this since I tend to want to include everything I have ever done and he tends towards sparse.

I had two walls of a HUGE room, the whole third floor actually. The light was a bit funky, there is an unfortunately placed stairway, and a lot of windows. Although I specifically requested the walls with the windows because I wanted to make groupings on the smaller wall sections.

So here are images of the exhibit. You can see a bit of Nancy's work in the last picture.

Now about Wolf Kahn. I learned a few days before the opening reception that he would not be able to attend. I was disappointed but I immediately understood that the bright side was that I wouldn't have to worry about prattling on and on in front of him or doing something dorky, like spray cracker crumbs on his shirt while prattling. Despite missing Doug, (he was out of town) I was very pleased that so many of my friends came to the opening and I had a lovely time chatting with everyone, not to mention getting my ego inflated a bit. The farm couple and the sheep received a LOT of positive feedback, yayy!!

However, the ego part didn't really last long enough for me to become unbearable. A few days later when Doug was back home, we went to take pictures of the exhibit and while we were doing that two guys were looking at the show. They were wandering around the room while we were taking pictures and finally stood in front of "Sunday." One of them said, and I quote: "the only thing that missing from this one is a pitchfork" Cue their hysterical laughter. Then he turned and they both spent about 5 minutes checking out every. single. detail. of the really "well built! nice color! sturdy! and it has a drawer!" table sitting near the stairwell.

Doug and I had a good laugh about it after they left and I am quite glad he got a few pictures of them which will serve as a reminder to me that not everyone loves my paintings. Sob.....

Anyway, Wolf Kahn's work was displayed on the first floor. Danielle (the Smithy's gallery director) was the curator and she did a wonderful job of that. The pieces were all pastels and were priced in the 3-5k range. I think Doug was tempted to buy one, but unfortunately those prices are not in any part whatsoever of our budget lately; our income is at the mercy of the current economy, alas. Maybe I should have suggested a trade? bwahahaahaaaaa!!!!!

So of course, it was wonderful to see his pastels in person, to see the marks, the colors, it all has a random and expressive quality yet the space and structure is so descriptive. Also these pastels were far more subdued that the pieces I have seen in the past, probably due to the changes in his eyesight (he has macular degeneration) and that accounted for just a little bit more of a difference in our work. Phew!

So all in all, this was a very exciting event to participate in, especially since it was actually IN our little town here. I am very grateful to Danielle for thinking about me when she got the yes from Wolf Kahn, and I am also extremely impressed that she was able to get that yes! Not sure yet if anything will come of this show for me, however I do have a pile of cards for the show with both our names on it which is pretty dang awesome and constitutes actual proof that I once had an exhibit with Wolf Kahn.....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Update With Pictures and LINKS!

And again, weeks have slipped by since I have posted here. Sigh. In my defense however, I have been pretty busy. Half my time has been spent in the garden and the other half has involved a lot of driving and watching girl's softball and soccer games.

The garden needed so much attention, I am truly ashamed of how poorly we kept it at the end of the season last fall. Um, actually I think we just sort of left everything out there, the watering can, the hoses, the dead plants in the beds, and fled the scene at first snowfall. I guess there was a good reason for all that but right now it seems like pure laziness. So I have decided to go all hardcore gardenchick and have been spending a lot of time in the garden in the last month, reorganizing it, weeding, mulching, planting and did I say weeding???? There are a lot of weeds out there. Anyway, I have been posting pictures in a photo album on FB which you can view, I have made it a public album. I am making a superhuman effort to keep up with things out there all summer instead of doing what I usually do which is bailing around July when it gets hot and too weedy. hehe, is weedy even a word?

Barn Study#325, 5"x7" Oil on Panel, 2011

And a few other brief updates. I have been working a little bit and very slowly. It feels like it took me forever to prep eight small format panels, paint, photograph and edit the images, and post them on my sales blog, but today they are finally all up. Although I wouldn't be a bit surprised if I messed up all the paypal buttons! Also, the winner of my last birthday giveaway, Denise Rose, chose one of the paintings (pictured above) from this group so I am shipping that out to her within a few days. I would have liked her to have her gift in a more timely manner, but I haven't done too many small panels yet this year for her to choose from......

I also recently painted five small bird paintings for a local show called 'Fins, Fur and Feathers.' I am sure there will be a lot of fun art in this show, but all I could think of doing was black bird paintings, and I mean that in a very literal sense, they are pretty much just black. I did some drawings (above) but I knew when I got to the paint, they were gonna be a really deep dark black (below). They were also incredibly difficult to photograph and so they must be seen in person. Totally worth a plane ticket to Albany, a car rental and a hotel in Cooperstown to come see them, right??? haha. Well, if you can't do that, you can see the crappy images here and if you don't already, go ahead and 'like' me while you are there.
Black Bird#4, 5"x7" Oil on Panel, 2011
I photographed them several times in all different situations and trust me, this was the best I got. I guess they are holding their secrets.

And one more link; I was having a twitter conversation (follow me@tracyhelgeson) with Robin Pedrero this morning even though I am fairly bad at keeping up with the threads there. Anyway, a friend of hers sent me a link to a map contest, which looks reallyreally cool, so I am passing it along. Looks like a good kid activity for the summer, and/or a fun detour for an artist. I love maps and even though I can't recall ever actually making one, I think I may try my hand at this one if I have time. Maybe a map of my garden since that is the only place I ever go anymore, heh.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Last winter I noticed this on our property:

Then I got a pretty good shot of a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker who was getting busy with an ash tree in our front yard:

He made several holes in the center of the tree, and then a bunch more after I took this photo:

After he finished completely gutting the tree, I guess he moved along because we haven't seen (or heard) him again. Maybe he decided to check out a few trees in the hundreds of acres of wooded land just down the road. heh.

As visually captivating as these holes are, they have unfortunate consequences for us. We had a rocking thunderstorm last night and woke up to this:
(Penny is also surveying the damage.)

The center part of the tree that the woodpecker had been so diligently pecking at came down in the storm. Luckily it didn't hit the house, or the cars, or even the potted flowers I had set down along the sidewalk yesterday, so I am not complaining. We'll chop up the fallen branch and add it to our firewood pile; but between losing its main artery and the ash borer that is infecting trees in NY State, I suppose the rest of the tree will have to come down soon.

We try not to micromanage our surroundings too much up here (with the exception of the dang weeds in the vegetable garden) so even though I will miss this lovely tree that shades our yard and house, I might also enjoy having the extra sunshine for my flower garden at the front of the house. Until then though, we will have a rather goofy looking tree in the yard.

Monday, May 9, 2011

This Will Be Fine, Right?????

White House, 10"x8" Oil on Panel, 2011

After frittering away quite a lot of days lately I am finally getting down to business but omg, why must I always procrastinate???? SO much work to do in the garden, which can't really be put off, and also I have a number of exhibits to prepare for in the coming months. Mostly a few group shows but they all involve me having to develop some new (for me) subject matter so some extra time and energy will be necessary.

However, one event that is coming up will need even more that that. One of the first places I showed my landscapes years ago was at a local nonprofit gallery, The Smithy-Pioneer Gallery. I have been included in their member group shows each summer (it's a seasonal gallery), have had a solo show and they can also take credit for getting my name listed in the Art in America's Annual Guide which I admit to being totally giddy about.

A few months ago, the new director contacted me and asked if I would like to be part of an exhibition called "Rural" that will be up during the month of August. I said yes, even though my exhibition schedule for 2011 was already getting a bit hectic and even though I usually try not to participate in anything bigger than a group show in August and September. I have learned from experience that it is really difficult to prepare for anything big while the kids are home during the summer, however, lately it is seeming like a bad idea to turn down any good opportunities. But I also paused when I heard who else would be exhibiting simultaneously.

But let me back up a bit first. The Smithy is the oldest building in Cooperstown. It has three floors, each with varying kinds of gallery space. The first floor is at street level and is the original part of the building, it's very rustic; stone walls, forges, anvils, and tools remain from its original use as a blacksmith shop. The second floor is where the member group show is held each summer, in addition to a small room that features a solo show each month. I had a solo there in the summer of 2008. And the third floor is a large open space, which usually features one or two artists and often has a particular theme, often historical. This is the space I will be sharing with Nancy Samstein. The member group show and solo show by Michael Whaling will be on the second floor and Wolf Kahn will be showing on the first floor.

Yes. You read that right.

THE Wolf Kahn. Monotypes, and maybe a few oil paintings. This is all exciting and everything but I must admit to being a bit intimidated as well. Over the years, people have often told me that my work reminds them of Wolf Kahn's and while flattering, I have never been quite comfortable with that, especially since I wasn't really aware of his work when I began my whole landscape/barn/color thing in 2003. (I wrote about that here and also wrote about meeting him" last year.) However, I feel now that even though our subject matter is still similar, the point of where my work has crisscrossed with his has passed. I was still concerned about being in such close proximity though and also about inundating viewers with barns and fields and tree lines, and I considered fast tracking a vegetable series I have going (more about that another time) so I could show those instead. But Doug assured me that my work has shifted away from his and it is true, I see that and I also hear FAR less feedback lately that includes his name in it;) So I am going to do some new work for this show, pursue the darker palette I have been using lately and also include more head on barn imagery like House, shown above, instead of the more angled views of structures I usually do. I think these are just a few of the shifts in my work that have distanced mine from his. Phew;)

So mostly I am pretty excited about this, but I still plan to stress a bit as well, which will ensure that things will be fine. Right?

PS. No word on whether Mr. Kahn will actually be at the opening reception. Please do NOT get me started on how much I will be stressing about that if he does attend. Heh.

PPS. I just realized that I really should have added here that I LOVE Wolf Kahn's work. It took awhile but I was finally able to see his oil paintings in person and they were simply stunning, so much better than any of the reproductions. I guess that is another reason why having my work in the vicinity of his is intimidating to me, I can't compete!!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I have quite a bit of work that I should be doing, including several shows to prepare for, yet I am having quite a lot of trouble getting uninterrupted time in the studio. I blame the kids for this although it's possible that the magnetic pull from the computer screen has something to do with is as well. But mostly I blame the kids. Seriously. I can't believe I ever thought life was hectic when they were babies! Even though they are off to school during the day and supposedly that's my studio time, lately their needs are taking over that time as well, what with meetings, sewing things, dropping stuff off somewhere, laundry and picking stuff up all. the. time. It seems endless.

I used to be disciplined enough to just sit down and work in whatever time was available, but I have lost that. Partly because my studio is in the attic now, and not downstairs in the middle of everything like it used to be, which had its own problems. But mostly I think it's because my work and career have been in so much flux in the last few years. My excitement for working in the studio has changed; and it has taken me some time to see that it's not gone, it's just different. I have been letting that change throw me off but lately I am trying to work with it rather than trying to force myself to have the same intensity that I had years ago. Things are different now. I am different now. After many long discussions with Doug, I have come to see that despite all these changes in my work habits (which I have considered to be laziness and procrastination) my work has continued to grow and evolve. It's also more consistent; I make far, FAR less paintings for the sand down pile. So I need to accept these shifts and give myself permission to change without flipping out about it all the time. heh.

Anyway, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get around to starting this batch of small format paintings, but I finally managed it yesterday. The second I started moving the paint around I was in love with making art again so everything is right even if everything is different.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stella is a Sicilian Buttercup

It took me awhile to accept that what I was hearing from the oldster's chicken coop last winter was a rooster crowing. I was convinced that it was just the crowing from the hen house in the back of the house, bouncing off the hills that surround us. But finally I just couldn't ignore the distinctive sounds of a rooster's crow and the little chicken that suddenly looked like a beautiful rooster.

StuStella, mid crow:

And so turns out that Stella is actually Stu. And not only is he not a she, he is not a bantam either; he is a regular rooster, a Sicilian Buttercup rooster to be exact. Although, you shouldn't take my word for it, clearly I can't tell a boy from a girl, or a bantam from a standard, if slightly rare breed. Frankly, I could still be wrong since I simply looked at my chicken books and found a picture that looks like StuStella, which is what we call him. Well, mostly. I still think of him as Stella and sometimes call him Stella out loud just so I can keep doing the Marlon Brando thing. heh.

StuStella is a really nice rooster. Especially compared to the two nasty ones that rule the new flock with an iron claw and have worn off nearly all of the hen's feathers with their um, aggressive passion. Stustella is not quite as friendly with me as he was when she was a chick and eating out of my hand and perching on our hands and shoulders, but he is not at all mean or threatening to me or to his ladies. And he's got to be a bummed that he is in with the geriatric crowd (5 and 6 year old hens, yikes!). But he watches over them carefully when they are free ranging and is very gentle and brief when he occasionally gets some action. I get the feeling sometimes that the hens are just humoring him by letting him think he is in charge, because after all, they were quite independent for over a year after their last guy died and they did quite fine on their own.

Surrounded by his ladies::

So anyway, now we are a three rooster family which is at least one and maybe two too many. StuStella is staying though, one should never let a good guy go. Plus he is a good reminder to me that I don't know everything and that sometimes I don't know anything!

Hmmm, maybe StuStella should have his own facebook page and twitter account?????

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby Jules!

In the past few years I have told the stories here of the birth of each of my daughters (here and here), and since tomorrow is my son's birthday, I figured I better dust off my blogger password and post his story too before I get accused of favoritism. So kick back and get comfy; this is a long one.

Doug and I moved to Utah in late 1993 so that he could work full time with a company he had part ownership of. We rented a big rambling house that had a firepole (no really, it did) from the main floor to the basement. The house was kinda rundown but was in a great location, right in town yet totally secluded on a few acres between the Logan River and a canal. Kurtis (our nephew) was four and had just come to live with us. And after trying for a few years and thinking it wasn't going to happen, all of a sudden at the end of the summer of 1994, I was pregnant.

Despite a few moments of sheer panic, omg! a BABY is actually going to be coming OUT of my body!!!!! Doug and I were thrilled and early on decided to have a home birth. I did a ton of reading (books, no internet back then in the dark ages) based upon a few suggestions from some friends of ours who raved about how wonderful their home birth had been. I asked around and somehow came across the name of a midwife. We met with her and after asking her just a few of the questions on our list, Doug and I both knew we loved and trusted her completely.

However, most everyone we knew thought we were cuckoo. We fielded many calls from friends and family who were worried about me and questioning our sanity. My mom was so uncomfortable with the whole concept that she wouldn't even discuss the birth with me, which made me very sad. And when we chose not to have an ultrasound it got worse. However, Doug and I knew what kind of a birth we wanted and so we ignored all the drama. Through our midwife Chris and her assistant Alissa (who assisted in Sophie's birth too and is still a very dear friend), I had met many other couples who felt as we did, and so they became our support system.

So anyway, I had a great pregnancy, and I know it's not popular to say this but I loved every bit of it. I felt great, didn't care about the parts that weren't so great, didn't freak out about how much weight I gained for once in my life, and I felt so peaceful. I loved the feeling of a baby inside me even when he made me pee all the time and then gave me heartburn too. I didn't have any morning sickness although I did have a few seasick moments early on. I recall being in a hotel room during a car trip we were taking and watching the video for Sheryl Crowe's song, All I Wanna Do (the original version, before they cropped out the creepy guy watching her perform) and feeling like I was in a boat on the ocean, I am still reminded of that feeling whenever I hear that song!

My due date was 'around' April 1st but I wasn't paying much attention to the dates; I could tell we weren't even close. However, I think everyone we knew called us that day, hoping for an April Fool's baby. About a week later the Braxton Hicks started, they were pretty strong and usually lasted every evening for several hours. I was paying close attention to my instincts though, which initially were only off by two days, heh. On April 13th we called Chris. She stayed all evening while I had pretty serious contractions and even though I was still sure I was going to have the baby that night, she knew otherwise. And about an hour later everything stopped and everyone went home. Ack!

The next day I walked and cleaned all day, and the contractions started again that evening, but I didn't think it was going to happen that night so I did what I could to ignore them. The next day I walked around outside as much as I could again and when the contractions started that night I knew it was time. The first few hours were fine, we were all talking and laughing. Doug held my hand the whole time, but as I progressed I finally had to tell him to stop looking at me with the big puppy dog pity eyes; I was fine! That was the only thing that bugged me, well besides being left out of the conversation while I was having a contraction, by the time I was done they had moved on to another topic and I was perpetually behind.

I think I labored like this for about 6 hours, pretty tough but I was doing the Bradley Method, deep breathing and relaxing completely during each contraction so they were manageable, even if I couldn't chat during them;) Finally there was a change around 2 am, I could feel it. It was time to push and so that's what I did. It took me awhile to get the hang of it (if you don't already know, you don't wanna know now) and after an hour or so, there was no progression. Chris checked me again and told us that the top of the baby's head was not at the opening of my uterus. She said she had seen this before and that sometimes the uterus is tipped back so that even though the baby is in the right place, the opening of the uterus isn't and that it was like trying to put on a turtleneck, shoulders first. If I been in a hospital this would have probably turned into a c-section or at the very least a vacuum assisted birth, but Chris said to NOT push during the next few contractions and that the baby would then be moved to the opening of the uterus. At this point I was like, whatever, so I didn't push when my uterus wanted me to and I think I can safely say that this was the hardest thing that I have ever done in my whole entire life. Not physically, although there was that too, but there was something so emotionally visceral about the need to push and not doing it and I don't even think I can explain it better than that, it was just so intense.

After the longest forty-five minutes of my life, the baby got into position (it worked!) and after another half hour or so, there he was; all screaming and poopy (he had meconium on the way out) and red and wrinkled and with a little conehead from being in the birth canal for so long. Doug kept saying "it's a baby, it's a baby" like he had never seen a baby come out of me before, and we were both crying. It was the first best moment of my life. It took us awhile but finally we decided to see if it was a boy or girl since even though I had thought it was a boy, we didn't really know. Then we just laughed because we realized that we didn't care about that. It didn't matter, the baby was out!

We named him Julien for Doug's grandfather, Jules who was really Julius (we chickened out on both Julius and Jules) and spelled it with an 'e' instead of an 'a' because we knew we were going to call him Jules anyway, and somehow that made sense. It's possible that I might have still been in the haze of labor and love and a new baby, because a few days later I considered either going with Julius after all or at least spelling Julien with an 'a'. But we ended up leaving it and everyone always spells it with an 'a'. Sigh.

Julien was born near dawn on Easter Sunday (not a huge holiday for a non-practicing Jew and a near athiest but everyone around us thought it was special). As Chris, Alissa and Doug cleaned up around me (vinyl mattress covers are VERY handy for a home birth) the cameraman arrived. Yes, cameraman. I had agreed to participate in a short documentary that a friend of Alissa's was doing about the differences in how babies breastfeed after medicated vs. unmedicated births. In probably the only few un-self-conscious minutes of my life, someone that I did not know videotaped me while I was breastfeeding my first baby. Julien was actually sucking his fingers within 2 seconds of his birth, while still crying but after a bit he settled down and after I took his fingers out of his mouth he latched on like a pro. I have never seen this video and since I am back to being my usual self conscious self, I don't really want to.

So there you are, the story of Julien's birth. He will be sixteen tomorrow and I often feel like I might burst with pride and love for him. He is an artist, a musician, a writer, creative, sensitive, responsible, a wee bit moody, a bit shy, very thoughtful and handsome.

A few more thoughts:

Living near the water while pregnant was very interesting; The sound of the river was very relaxing during labor and especially during all those evenings of faux labor, but it also made me feel like I had to pee about a 100% more often than I already did.

I watched the entire OJ Simpson trial while pregnant and I think deep down, Julien must be an expert on that case.

During the labor, Doug complained that his arm really hurt from throwing a heavy rock into the river earlier that day while we were walking around. Everyone looked at him and he still says he could tell we were ALL thinking, shut up.

Chris showed us the placenta and how it was starting to break down, so Julien was obviously significantly overdue. We kept the placenta in the freezer for a few weeks or so, then planted in the flower garden which is supposed to be good luck.

Around 6am Kurtis came in. He had slept through the whole thing! His eyes were all big; he left right away and came back with a little stuffed animal and set it down next to Julien. That was the 2nd time I cried in a day.

Kurtis with Julien who is crying in the next photo that was taken;) And yes, Kurtis is wearing Power Ranger gloves and his Batman cape.

Julien's finger sucking at birth was a sign to come, he was a devoted thumb sucker until he went to kindergarten and got a bit of teasing. I felt a bit sad when he stopped.

I loved every single minute of our home birth even the crazy part when I couldn't push. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who cared about me, who weren't on any kind of schedule and it was really nice to be in my own queen sized bed!!!!

I can't say enough about The Bradley Method which got me through 2 more wonderful but very different home births.

And even though I haven't seen them since we moved away 8 years ago, I still feel an incredible closeness to Chris, Alissa and Kezia who did the documentary and was with us during the whole fake out labor and then the real one too. Yay for Facebook!

Chris and Julien, April, 1995

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More About the Photos

Red Scarf Day, 2010, Oil on Panel, 18"x14"

Well, somehow January has almost completely flitted right by without me even once getting to my easel. I should be embarrassed to admit that, especially after I posted all my grand plans for the coming year, but somehow I'm not. I have a busy year coming up and I know that I will be completely swamped soon enough. Anyway, it's not like I have been doing nothing; I have been lining up a few new projects (will announce those as they become official), my girls have a crazy sports schedule and there has been a lot of driving and shoveling snow and attending basketball games. I have also taken some extra time each day to read more books, which I have really enjoyed.

I finally finished sorting the reference photos yesterday and that whole thing turned out to be SO overwhelming. First of all, I didn't realize just how many boxes of them I had collected, geez. I must have thousands of photographs! I should not be allowed to get obsessed with things. Heh, like THAT'S even possible. Secondly, sorting them turned out to affect me emotionally and I really could only work on them for brief periods before getting overwhelmed. I kept finding myself thinking about all these people and their lives, then moved on to think about how many stories and lives that there are in America and then in the whole world. Way overwhelming. Did I already say that?????

I also broke one of my rules of the 'People You Know' project. I had initially decided not to look for anybody whose pictures I found so that I could have to freedom to do whatever I wanted with the images. However, a few years ago I found a huge box of photos that traced the courtship, marriage and family life of one specific family. I have already used many of these photos for several of the portraits that I did last year in Vermont (see above) and as I began sorting I decided to keep the whole group of family pictures together. The photos are wonderful; they portray a classic 50's family filled with holidays, train sets, boys wearing cowboy hats, kids in the pool, in Boy Scouts, in the choir, the band and eventually posing with their prom dates and then graduating. As I looked through all of them I realized that I HAD to know what happened to the family, what they did, how the kids turned out, etc. I did some googling but the last name is rather common so didn't have much success with that. Finally though, I came across a Christmas letter written by the mother which gave me a few clues and I found the oldest son.

I debated for a few days about contacting him, because I knew doing so would change the whole direction of what I hoped to do with their photos, but finally I just couldn't stand it so I scanned one of the photos and sent 'D' an email. He responded rather quickly and we ended up talking on the phone. He was very nice, puzzled as to how I ended up with a big box of his family photos (I think that his mother had sent all these photos to her parents over the years and after they died, the box ended up in some sort of estate sale and then ended up for sale on ebay by an antiques dealer) and when it sounded like he didn't really have very many of his childhood photos, I ended up telling him that he really should have the photos, not me. I did ask him if I could scan some of them for use later on (he agreed to let me do that) and also described an idea I had about a project concerning his particular family images. D was actually very interested in that and after exchanging a few more emails, we decided to collaborate on the project over the coming year or so. He told me a little bit about his family members, just enough to keep me from completely busting open with curiosity and we decided that at some point in the spring we will get together in person so I can give him the box of photos and also to discuss the project further.

D should have the photos and I know that I did the right thing by offering to give them to him. And even though he is being VERY generous in allowing me to scan as many of them as I want, I still find myself feeling incredibly sad about not having the original photos. A combination of many reasons; how I like to have things, how I love to look through the actual photographs, feel the edges, the weight of the paper, the creases, read the notations on the back. It turns out that the tactile aspect of the photographs is a more important aspect of the "People You Know' project that I had originally thought.

So I was right about contact changing the direction of this series and while this is looking like it will be better and more fulfilling, I am not going to risk it again. I have two other family photo lots on hand, families that I am SO curious about but I am just going to put all that crazy-bursting-curiosity-energy into the paintings from now on.

Well, ok, I MIGHT do a little bit of googling but there will me NO actual contact!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sorting It All Out

I have been collecting old family photos (other family's photos, not mine) as reference material for the 'People You Know' project for several years and now have a crazyville, hoarder-like pile of them sitting here in my studio. At first I tried organizing them at least into piles of yes, no and maybe, but I didn't really keep up with that and so they eventually ended up all mixed together in several boxes. That disorganization was very overwhelming to me and was one of the reasons I kept putting off getting back to the project last fall. I knew before I could do anything I would have to sort and prioritize the images, which in turn helps me determine the direction to take with the series.

So after quite a bit of procrastination (who me???) I finally began sorting them out yesterday. For some dumb, overly optimistic reason, I had assumed it would only take an afternoon or so to go through 5 million photographs, but now I see that it will take much longer. It took me at least an hour to decide HOW to sort them. At first I thought there only needed to be three piles; yes, no and maybe. Then I thought I should try to keep them together by family (I often get boxes of photos from one family) but they have gotten too scattered for that. Finally I decided that I should make piles based on the subject matter; couples, men, women, children, landscape/buildings. I started with those categories and promptly realized that I would have to add many more; adults WITH children, two people, three people, big groups of people, prom dates, cars, animals/pets, interiors (amazing how many people take pictures of their living rooms!), gardens, Christmas trees, people on horses, the aftermath of big snowstorms, sunbathers on the beach, vacation photos, people eating dinner, weddings, school photos, class photos, and parades.

Then things really got confusing. There was a lot of overlap and I spent entirely too much time stressing about where to place the photo of the car stuck in the snow on the country road or the wedding reception dinner on the beach or the girl holding a cat in front of a Christmas tree.
When I began to seriously consider another pile called 'trifecta' I decided I better chill out and just do the best I could.

The thing is though, it helps me to have them in categories. I like to work in series and am looking at several series within a series here. And even though I am pretty sure that I won't be painting images of little babies or even children in general, they are too cute and I don't do cute even thought this baby is SERIOUSLY cute: I have also learned that I should never say never; I will be keeping every photo no matter how improbable it seems to me now that it will ever be a useful reference to me. Like this one for example: I can't see using it as reference but omg, what a great bad photo! I always laugh when I see that couple dancing and can totally imagine how they must have been moving around the dance floor at this rockin' party. This photo stays and I might even frame it......

Once I get all the photos categorized I will go through each group and pick out a few for the 'yes, I must paint this right now' pile. Foursome is definitely one of those: Foursome

And while sorting them, I have also been obsessing about how to store them. I am good at multi-tasking! The super organized part of me that has been able to fit ten tons of junk into one room wants to go out and buy about 25 nice perfect stackable plastic bins, one for each category. However, the more practical solution is to put them into large ziploc bags and keep them in a file cabinet drawer. Easier to look through them that way, I think, and less expensive even though I do love those bins. heh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Planning for 2011

Landscape Study #304, 6"x6", Oil on Cradled Panel, 2010

For some reason I have been assuming that I don't have much going on in the coming year, but after sitting down and looking at the events that I have lined up thus far, I actually think I will be fairly busy. Not as busy as I was a few years ago but I have decided to view this as a more streamlined schedule. hah.

Generally when I plan my studio schedule, I allow about 2 months of pretty solid painting time for a solo show, so I block in those times first. Then I look at any group shows that only need a few pieces and if I don't already have work on hand for those events, I set aside about 2-4 weeks to do that work. That is more than enough time to do two or three paintings, but in those situations I often do several extra paintings so that I have some choices for the show (I have learned not to put all my eggs in one basket) and also I prefer working on at least five paintings at once, I do much better that way rather than getting all obsessed with one painting which usually leads to overworking it. Then with the months where I don't have to be preparing for anything, I try to work on other things such as the People You Know portraits, or experimenting with other subject matter. I always hope to do more charcoal and/or pencil drawing during those times, but I haven't exactly met that particular goal, oops. Also in early fall I usually need to do a few new landscapes just to have on hand to trade out with the galleries' inventories before the holidays if necessary.

I used to write all this stuff down on a large calender on the wall, along with due dates, reception dates, etc. But either I have a better memory now or I have much less going on (ok, it's the latter) and I mostly just keep it all in my head and on the sidebar of my blog. Plus referring to my emails and/or gallery websites for specific dates works too. Super high tech, I am.

So anyway. Here is my plan for 2011:

January and part of February: People You Know portraits, and begin a new series involving vegetables (stay tuned for more info on THAT one).

Mid February through March: begin working on the paintings for my solo show at The Harrison Gallery in April, which will feature landscapes.

April: take off a week or so to have some sort of emotional breakdown after all the previous month's intense painting, start some new work to send to Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton, NY for their summer season.

May and June: back to the portraits and probably the vegetable series too. I also usually participate in a local group show around that time too so I will fit that in here too.

July: I have to paint six (or maybe eight) 36"x48" Black Paintings for a 3 person exhibit show in Texas. Also those paintings will have to be shipped there in a crate so I have to research and plan all that out by then too. Blech. I hate shipping, can someone invent teleporting already????.

July and August: I plan to participate in The Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs again in September, because it was great fun last year. So I will start doing many small format paintings for that (more is more, right?), plus even more of them for my sales blog for the holidays.

September, October, November: I MAY have a show in the fall and it MAY include the People You Know series although nothing has been officially confirmed yet. However, I am choosing to be optimistic that it will happen so am setting aside some time just in case. I already have plenty of portraits on hand for it, but just in case I need a few more paintings, I will have some of August and the rest of the fall to do a few things if I need to. I will also use this time to continue with the small format paintings for the sales blog.

December: Three options here kinda depending on what is going on in January. Sometimes I have a solo show in January at The Harrison Gallery, if that is the case I will need November and December to prepare for that. If I decide to go to the Vermont Studio Center in January (instead of February which I am leaning towards), I will need some time to prepare for that, and if neither of those happen in January I will take it easy in December and just enjoy the holidays. If I do one or both, I will just be squeezing the holidays in, heh.

Thankfully, I am not married to this plan, it is totally fluid; I can always add things in, and in fact I sure hope a few more exhibition type things will come up. In addition, there is a ton of other stuff to fit in, including things like planting the veggie garden in the spring, raising more meat chickens this summer, house stuff like repainting the cabinets in the laundry room, and a zillion kid things that mostly include me driving and watching their sporting events.

Oh, and yay, now I can refer to this blog post too when I need a reminder of what I should be working on, right????

Monday, January 3, 2011

Catch Up, or is it Ketchup?

Landscape Study, #305, 6"x4", Oil on Panel, 2010

I ignored almost all things art in the last few weeks and it was lovely. It's not like I have been terribly busy in the studio this last year or anything, but the shifts in my business in the last few years have made me think (and stress) much more about where I am going with it all, which has really affected my mindset in the studio. Sometimes I find myself longing for the first few years when I started painting again after taking a decade off to raise babies; I just painted and painted trying desperately to catch up and while there was some thinking and plotting about the future, mostly I was just immersed in the process of painting again.

Things are different now, however. I have a teeny tiny toehold in the art world, including gallery representation, collectors and some very minimal attention, but now I want more and I have been feeling overwhelmed about how to advance. Especially since none of the things I did at first (like cold calling galleries) are working. Having different bodies of work now seems to confuse the matter, for me and for those who I contact.


I came to no profound conclusions during the last few weeks while I was super busy cooking meals, baking cookies, cleaning the house, playing scrabble with the kids, reading, and obsessing about getting a complex jigsaw put together. Well, except that I realized that I really need to get back to immersion in the making art part, which is something that I had already suspected. I HAVE decided though, that I must have faith that if I do that again, the other parts will move forward and more exhibition opportunities will come my way. All along I have been sending out my info and applying for things, etc. and will continue to keep that up, but holy cow, I really gotta paint! It keeps me from getting overly crazy, heh.

This break has helped though, as did viewing a group of portraits by John Singer Sargent at The Fenimore Art Museum. A new art book of drawings by Willem deKooning (thanks Doug!) also inspires and so does laying out my studio schedule for the coming year. I am finally yearning to paint again.

Anyway, more about my schedule later, and all this immersion stuff will have to start tomorrow; my studio is a wreck and today is a 'ketchup' day........