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........