Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Productive January in the Studio

2012 is off to a good start in my studio.  I have finished up a few paintings...

This is oil on 14" x 11" panel, started from the live model.  I love the classic chair and bright red robe.

I've also finished up this oil portrait of the ballerina.  

And the lady in the diner.  I did not snag any good detail shots, but I'll work on that!

I have a couple big commissions to work on AND I also discovered that Plum Amazins are really really yummy.  So...you know...a good week overall :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Flower Umbrella in Pouring Sunshine

After many days of rain, the sun was finally out this week and the kids and I were on the driveway, enjoying the day.  Ari started dancing around singing a song about her umbrella and I had to grab my camera.  One of these is going to have to turn into a painting I think!

It would be a good partner to the pastel portrait I did of Jack with the umbrella.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Painting The Red Robe

Couple things you may know about me by now: I love painting the figure, and I love fabric.  Especially patterned fabric, but any bit of fabric will do!

When you draw or paint the figure every week for many many years, after a while it may seem like you are repeating the same pose over and over again.  We, as a figure group, are very lucky to have a huge list of talented models who take a lot of different poses and keep us on our toes.

If you start to see that poses are getting too similar, simply adding a new bit of drapery, a new chair or prop, or even changing the lighting can help you find something new and different to keep to engaged.  You may also try a new material or surface, too.

Last night we had a fabulous model and a couple new elements to add in - a lovely carved chair with a circular back and ornate legs and a bright red robe to incorporate with the model.

I worked in oil on (I think!) an 11" x 14" aquaboard tinted with a thin layer of sap green paint.  I LOVED this view!  The dramatic red drape, the elegant shape of the chair, her hand gesture, the hint of her bare back.  Perfect!

You can tell I was loving that red, but I did try to block in all of the elements as quickly as possible.

Establishing the cast shadow under the arm was important for showing the direction of the light source.

Towards the end I worked on her hand, and her backside to establish the cast shadow from her body to the chair.

Now we just need a new fancy chair every week!

I love that we have an energetic and daring group of artists who come to draw.  By the end of the night the entire studio floor was covered with everyones' work!

All of these fun abstracts in the second photo were created by two artists, who kept passing their drawings back and forth to each other, working over what the other had done.  A great way to get out of your box and try a new way of seeing and drawing!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zebra Cake and Brownie Lollipops.

Listen, I'm going to fill you in on a little secret right now.  I gave up on being the mom who throws the best, most elaborate, themed-down-to-the-toilet tissue Birthday Parties for my children long before I even had children.   I do, however, love trying new things and enjoy having a but of fun when it comes to baking goodies for their big day.

I have to get a little creative when it comes to making something special for Jack's birthday.  I discovered a while back that food coloring makes Jack VERY hyper, and often very emotional.  So it's tricky to come up with a cool looking cake that doesn't depend on bright colored frosting.

Jack is really into the show "Wild Kratts", and loves animals in general.  I was thinking that if I could come up with a way to swirl chocolate into an animal pattern, we could do something cool looking and that tasted awesome.

My first stop was the baking section of a local hobby store.  I saw two things that looked cool to try: zebra cake, and brownie lollipops.

We'll start with the brownie lollipops.  First: the steps to making a normal pan of brownies.

Mix batter.
Pour into greased pan.
Cook 28 minutes.

Total time: 37 minutes.

Now, here's how you make brownie lollipops.

Read brownie lollipop pan directions.  Ask three different people in the store if they understand the directions.  Get three different opinions.  Purchase the pan anyway .

Also buy two boxes of brownie mix, sucker sticks, cooking spray, white chocolate and dark chocolate for decorating.

Mix batter.

Spray each individual vessel in the pan pan.

Figure out how to get gooey brownie mix into miniature holes in the brownie lollipop pan without getting mix all over the pan or over the 2/3 mark.

Attempt to move flexible brownie lollipop pan into oven without spilling the brownie mix.

Burn your hand while trying to figure out how to balance curved, flexible pan on wire oven racks.

Set timer for 25 minutes.

When timer goes off, set again for another 3 minutes.

After they look fully cooked, remove flexible pan from wire racks by using three different size and shape pot holders.  Burn other hand.

Set pan on counter to cool.

Curse yourself for overfilling the little holes, because you now have several weird shaped brownies that in no way shape or form resemble the brownies on the box.

Start to wonder how you are going to hide the fact that every brownie is lop-sided, over-baked, and indented on the bottom where you had to forcefully shove it out of the pan.


Re-fill pan.  Hey - you've only made 8 brownies so far (well, only 5 made it out of the pan in one piece!) and you need AT LEAST 24 for your child's class tomorrow.

Check the time. Realize it's taken 49 minutes to get 5 brownie lollipops cooked, cooled, and popped out of the pan.  Calculate that you'll be making brownie lollipops until 3 AM.

Repeat steps above, trying various alterations to ensure the brownies will pop out of the pan in one piece.  

Cook one pan an extra 7 minutes.

Place one pan in the freezer for 10 minutes after removing from oven.

Spray pan twice.  

When you finally have the minimal number of brownie pops required to ensure you can give one to every child and to the principal, who, as it turns out, knows your child by First, Middle, AND Last Name, it's time to decorate the lollipops.

Here's where I could have saved myself a LITTLE bit of time and just did it myself. But no.  I wanted Jack to be a part of the - let's call it - "fun".  And of course, if Jack gets to play with chocolate, then his sister should, too!

How to decorate your brownie lollipops:

Melt white chocolate in small bowl.

Place small bowl in between a 7 year old and a four year old.  Ask them to take turns dipping brownies into the bowl.

45 seconds later, realize you are a moron and microwave another bowl of white chocolate.

Pull three brownie lollipops that are stuck on the bottom of the bowls out of the bowls and curse the fact that you now only have 21 brownie lollipops and you need to make more.

Wash white chocolate off of hands, faces, tables, chairs, and the dog.

Against your better judgement, melt the brown chocolate for the stripes and fool yourself into thinking that you can show the 7 and 4 year old how to drip chocolate onto the white zebras.

Melt a second bowl of brown chocolate because - DUH! - were you not here for the white chocolate fiasco?!

When the final brownie is covered in chocolate remind them through your clenched jaw that it is 3 am - way past their bedtime - and they need to get in bed.

Look upon the little collection of lopsided, drippy, zebra inspired brownie lollipops and realize - you know, they are ugly, and they took forever, but they sure look yummy!  And the kids had fun.

Put the top of the cake holder over the brownie lollipops to transfer them to school.

Realize that the lollipop sticks you have used are 1/2" too long to fit under cake dome.


Swear again.  Explain situation to husband.  Not because you need his help - you need his empathy!  Hold yourself back when he states from his spot on the sofa "just cut the sticks"

(insert round of applause for husband who states the only obvious solution that I NEVER would have thought of)

Head out to garage and search for wire cutters.

Come back into house and take a small amount of gratification in snapping an inch off of each sucker stick.  Try to not pretend you are cutting something else.

Finally put dome on cake plate and go to bed.

Total time: 4 hours, 26 minutes.

Now, Zebra cake.

While I was looking around the baking section, I did notice a $9 box of Zebra cake mix. This must be one friggin' amazing box of cake right?!? $9? and it makes ONE 9" round layer? I'd be a FOOL not to buy it!

Call me a fool...but here's what I did.  Bought two boxes of cake mix at the grocery store: one white and one dark chocolate, then followed the directions on the zebra cake mix (shhhhhh!!! I read the box for free!!)

You start with about half a cup of white batter right in the middle of the round cake pan. Then, aiming right for the middle of that circle, you add about 1/3 a cup of dark chocolate batter.  Keep alternating white and chocolate, always aiming for the center of the circle. As it spreads, it forms lines!

I guessed I should fill the pans just about half way, although I think I went a little over...my layers ended up really lopsided!  But, I did get two layers and over a dozen cupcakes (which I also made half and half) for the party.

I took this picture on an angle so you really couldn't tell how crooked it is...

and here's what the stripes looked like!

It was super yummy and very unique looking.  Jack really enjoyed his zebra themed birthday treats. 

Brownie lollipops will have to wait for another special occasion.  Like when he graduates.  From law school.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Week of WTF

Something is in the water, the moon is in a weird phase, I've been eating too much gluten...whatever the problem is, it has lingered for a week and I'm ready for it to be over!

The week of WTF started last week, when I brought several of my figurative drawings to a local gallery to submit them for their annual Figurative Show.  The gallery owner called my work "Academic".  OK. I can deal with that.

 While the Gallery is a beautiful space in a beautiful setting, the visit reminded me of why I only participate in juried shows the past few years: the gallery owner spent most of the time congratulating herself on changing the way her artists work, to create work that will sell to her clients.

Now, I'm not so narrow-minded that I think that this should not be considered in any way - YES - you DO need to know what Sells.  But, what you also need to know, is that most of the time, when Artists like myself are in a mindset of "Hmm...what color will sell?", the work will not be authentic: it will be forced, often uninspired.

Instead of applauding yourself for changing an artist's style, why not seek out artists whose work you like? Would I want you talking to a client about MY work taking credit for how you changed the way I work?  I would imagine a Collector would want to know about the Artists' vision...not yours.

So anyway, the gallery did accept two pieces for the figurative show, I signed the papers and started my long drive home.  By the time I got home, I had a FB message telling me "Oh...I am sorry.  I can't take the pieces in my gallery because you offer prints on your website"

Now...we have been communicating for over a year.  I sent the gallery links to the very same website MONTHS ago.

What I don't understand is: if you know your clients' tastes, if you know they want originals, how is an $18 print on my website going to compete with the original in your gallery?

I know there's an argument for ONLY selling originals.  But here's my arguments for selling affordable prints:

My website is visible all over the world.  I often sell small prints to collectors quite far away, and then these very same collectors come back to buy original art.

Some paintings are very popular, lots of people LOVE the image, but can't afford the original.  Not only am I providing a way for someone to enjoy a beautiful piece of work at an affordable price, but I can often double or triple the income from one painting by selling reproductions.  It's a business model that keep me in business, and I have never had a collector tell me that the fact that I offer reproductions stopped them from adding an original to their collection.

So anyway, that put me in a funk, and the vortex of WTF continued into the weekend.  After a blinding, vomit-inducing headache on Friday afternoon, I forgot all about my bunco night!  Bunco night is usually once a month, and a great time to get together with all of my friends and neighbors.  I have missed a lot of bunco nights this past year, and was really looking forward to this evening out.  What made that worse was everyone said how fun it was, and apparently they were all wondering where I was...but not one of them called or sent a text? Ok. It's my fault for forgetting.  But it would have been nice to be reminded.

And the week of WTF capped off last night with not being able to find a replacement model for my figure drawing group at the studio.  I made 26 phone calls looking for a model after the original model called in sick.. It happens! People get sick!  But 26 people couldn't fill in?  I wasted an entire afternoon on the phone hunting down models, forgoing painting, printing, watching my daughter's dance class, and sitting down to dinner with my family, just to try to find a model.  And I couldn't find one.

The problem with cancelling class is this: I need to have these classes to help pay my rent.  On a good month, this one night a week can help pay for one third of my rent.

And that's really just the icing on the cake: these Wednesday night sessions are not just about drawing the live model, they are about networking, connecting, dedicating a few hours a week to your Art.  Many of the artists are parents, they work hard, they - like I do - look forward to those few hours in the studio.

OK.  I am declaring the week of WTF officially over.  Starting today, I will...

***Set the alarm on my phone to remind me of events I really want to attend.  My brain is not what it used to be.

***Still hold Wednesday night drawing sessions even if my model cancels.  I will call three new models, if they can't do it, I will stop wasting the rest of my day.  We can draw each other, draw a still life, talk about books - whatever!  But I will not cancel again.  The time is too important, beyond just the drawing part.

***Wait for galleries to come to ME and be ready to say "if you think you can sell it in your gallery - great! Buy it from me then you can have the inventory".  I will follow the advice of this article. I will not sacrifice all of the hard work I have put into developing my body of work.  I will not question my vision.  I will keep creating what moves me, I will keep creating Authentic work.

Wishing you all a good week!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Portrait Painting and Abstract Nude update

Sharing the progress on my latest portrait...I'm trying to keep the focus on her exquisite face.  The paint will be thinner everywhere else.

I've also finished up this colorful abstract of the nude.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Classic Nudes, Modern Portraits. Lots of Painting.

In my studio for another long stretch of time today (many thanks to a friend who wanted a play date with Ari after school today!)

I started the day trying to finish up a small oil painting from last week.  After an hour of trying to finish her profile (a section that is only 1" square, let me add!)  I finally wiped it off and decided to go get some Mexican food for lunch.  I felt much better. I didn't take a photo of the current state of the painting.  I still hope to resolve it!

But as it sometimes happens, I decided it was time to move onto another piece and step away from the mess I was making.

I started to added color to the modern portrait I began yesterday.

I am starting with the color a little bolder than in the reference photo I took last year.  Working with a large brush I started blocking in some of the shapes on her face.  The face will be the focus, and the only area of the painting completely developed.

I also added another layer of color to the environment.  At this point I am not using any media except thinner - no liquin or other materials.

The challenge will be to keep this fresh and painterly, but still capturing her beautiful features.

I also finished up a couple paintings that were started during our session with the live model last night.  We have had this wonderful woman a few times before, and I love working with her.  

The first painting I worked on was 12" x 9" panel in oil, 40 minutes.

This is not a great photo, but you can get the idea: bold colors, limited detail.  If the sun is shining tomorrow I'll try to get a better shop of those lime greens and purples.

The second pose was longer, about 90 minutes, and we incorporated some drapery into the pose.  I loved the geometric shapes formed by all of the elements - her head, the drape, her leg, the bench.  The energy and dynamics move across the 14" x 11" panel perfectly.

My goal is to get these finished and listed in my Etsy shop soon!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I keep starting paintings...

I'm in one of those productive periods of time where I have TOO many ideas and SO many wonderful things that I want to paint!  My problem is that I keep starting new paintings instead of pushing through and resolving what is already in my studio.   Today I was very tempted to start a new tree painting, after already starting a new portrait!

So let's catch up.  I DID work on the painting of the lady in the diner yesterday, and I am loving it so far.

After a lot of thought, I changed her hand on the table - it was taller, resting on the side of her hand, and I turned in so that her palm was facing down a bit more.  By doing so I also had to change the thickness of her forearm.  I am trying to decide if she needs to be holding something. 

I do love her face - I think I am getting closer to her bemused "You want to take of photo of me, crazy lady?" smile!  

And the SHOES! Those darling purple shoes...

So I did take a break from that painting today, and set it up across the studio so I can look at it farther away, decide what needs to be done.

I started this figure painting back in November, and I love the pose and the scale, but was having a very difficult time with the palette and her profile.  I've painted over the darker blue background and I am trying to blur the lines between her form and the space.  It's a process, but I do love all of the layers.  The deep blues and purples are showing through the grey background, and I have moved her ear and her hand so many time now that there is a delicious build up of paint in those areas.

And I did allow myself to start one new painting.

WAY back in January of last year I took about a hundred photos of this lovely woman in the blue tutu and boots.

She has a stunning face with beautiful features, and was a total natural in front of the camera.  I have wanted to paint a portrait for a while now.

I'm starting this one a little differently - I sketched on gesso with charcoal, then used gesso again to block in the light.

It was very tempting to start with her eyes or lips, but I had to make sure the whole figure, the whole composition, was working with size and scale.

After it was blocked in, I did allow myself to define her features a bit more.

I am going to start glazing over the acrylic and charcoal layer tomorrow with oils.   I'm picturing this being very painterly and loose, with only her face in focus.

But that's how I feel today.  Tomorrow may change.  We'll see. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New Paintings...

I've already decided that one of my resolutions for 2012 is to find beauty everywhere, and be inspired by anything and everything.  If I want to paint a tree, I'll paint a tree!  Of course the figure is still my main muse, and I love our weekly figure drawing group...creating new painting and drawings every week keeps me engaged and fresh.  This week I did a small oil of our model seated on a striped blanket.

I also started a painting of a stunning young woman that I saw in a coffee shop in Savannah.  Part two of my Resolution for 2012: Be brave and take pictures of people who inspire me!

There have been several instances in the past where I have seen beautiful, stylish women while out.  A striking young woman with jet black hair and ice blue eyes sitting in a Restaurant in Rochester, a beautiful brunette with her own unique and funky style who spoke with me at an Art show in Atlanta, etc.  Every time I think to myself "I would paint her JUST LIKE THAT!" But I never get up the nerve to say "Hi. I'm an Artist and I would love to paint you!"  

Until last week.  

I was having lunch with DH at a small diner in Savannah and spotted a lovely young woman seated by the window.  I know I stared at her about 300 times, probably totally freaking her out, but I was already painting her in my head!  Her adorable flipped bobbed hair, her light skin, a stylish dress with a delicate striped pattern. All of the lovely shades of grey on the walls, the chrome table, her dress...and then...can it be?!?! Bold purple suede shoes.  That did it.

I placed my breakfast order, sat in the corner booth, took ten deep breaths and grabbed my business card and my camera, and approached this darling woman.

I'm sure I sounded like an idiot, thrusting my cards at her and *I think* telling her that I'm an Artist.  Somehow, she saw past my nerves a graciously allowed me to shoot a few photos - even grinning as I directed her to "look here" and "place your hand over here".   I moved as quick as I could while still getting the needed photos, quickly asked her name and shaking her hand, then escaping so she could continue her breakfast without being bothered by the crazy lady with a camera!

BUT YEAH!  I did it!  I was brave enough to go for it!  And now...yippeee!!! - I've started this beautiful painting.

I began with a thin layer of burnt sienna and then worked on a painted sketch.

I slowly started adding more value.

Then I started adding in all of the wonderful shades of grey.  I had no idea how difficult it is to mix multiple, subtly different shades of grey - some light green, some more blue, some with purple.  And I have no black on my palette.

Just before I left the studio today I added the first layer of purple on her shoes!  

In addition to the challenge of mixing a variety of fresh and beautiful grays, I am faced with her beautiful face!  She has delicate features and a very unique eye shape.  The portrait is so small...every small shift makes her whole face look different.

So I'm trying to do justice to that beautiful face, her easy grace and elegance.  And I thank her for a beautiful start to 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A few recent art sales...

Lots of pretty drawings and paintings are off to new homes...

Sending out drawings and paintings gets me excited about creating new work!  Tomorrow I am back in the studio :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Back at 2011

I started thinking about this post over a month ago, but am only now finding the time and brain power to finally pull all of my thoughts together.

2011 was an incredible year for my Art in so many ways.  In early March, I moved into an amazing studio space that I share with another wonderful artist.  This was a serious financial commitment, and I needed to really push myself to make it work financially.

Luck smiled upon me, and put one of my favorite portraits in front of a huge audience: Heather Armstrong shared a portrait I created of her daughter, Leta, on her blog, Dooce.  That exposure led to months of portrait commission work, steady income, and the ability to pay my rent all through the middle of this year.

By working on so many portrait commissions in a few months time, I really saw my technique improve and my style become more confident.  I am excited about where my next round of commissions will take me and my work.

The opportunity also arrived for me to pay back Heather's kindness by creating a series of paintings to benefit a Charity close to her heart, Every Mother Counts.  Those five paintings are among my favorite of the year.  I really put my heart and soul into those paintings, and found myself painting for hours at a time, completely absorbed in their creation.  From start to finish, that project fed my soul.

2011 saw the creation of over a hundred new paintings and drawings, through my portrait commissions, figure drawing sessions, and other paintings.  I won my first Grand Prize in a Juried Show.  I am heading into 2012 with numerous ideas.  I also have a new sense of commitment to keeping the studio - which not only helps me be a better artist by providing the space I need to really flesh out my ideas, but brings together so many of my fellow artists for our weekly drawing sessions and other events.  Being part of a supportive, creative, and dedicated group of artists is a vital part of staying motivated as an artist.  I am honored that the studio space can keep this group together.

Of course, the Art was not all that happened over the last year.  I was lucky to experience some beautiful moments with my family in 2011...and even some not so beautiful moments, but ones that changed me.  

Sometimes family members spill it - say how they really feel about you, and you have to sit back and think about what they have said, and decide: Is That Me? Am I really that person?  And if you find that their views, opinions, and judgements hurt you more that help you, then you need to question how much you need that person in your life.  If all they do is make you feel small and unwelcome, then it's time to just step away.  Your positive energy needs to go towards what's important to you and your mental well-being.  I made that decision early in 2011, to not let that person poison my life as much as they have in the past, and I think it was a good decission.

I found out a lot about myself in 2011.  I am willing to see, and accept, that I need to create - I need to paint - I need to be in my studio.  It is not a hobby or a whim, it is Who I Am.  I by accepting this, I no longer feel guilty or have the overwhelming need to justify time in the studio.  I am dedicated to my children - and do everything I can to help them become all they can be.  But I am not willing to sacrifice Who I Am in the process.   And truthfully...I am a better mother when I am a balanced woman.

Of all the moments I have swirling around in my head, there is one very special one that keeps coming back to me.  To most people it may seem silly, but I get tears in my eyes every time I think about it, and so I feel it is my most important moment of 2011, and I need to write it down, so that someday, this person will read it and know just how much it meant to me.

You may know that I have had a rough time with my son, Jack.  He is an amazing little boy - smart, funny, sweet.  But he can also be a handful.  He has had disclipline problems in school since he started going two days a week at 18 months.  He does not respond to rewards, charts, punishments, routine, and all of the usual methods that every one of his teachers have recommended over the last 5 years.  I have tried getting him involved in sports, tae kwan do, dance, gymnastics...any class that could channel his strengths.  In every class, every sports game, I sat tense and anxious, knowing his tantrum would erupt at any minute.  No other child acted as bad as Jack.

Not a day would go by where he didn't cause trouble in his pre-k class, then his kindergarten class, and into his first grade class.  It was taking a toll on me as a Mother.  I was doing everything I could possibly think of to be "The Good Mom" - he had healthy foods, a full night's sleep, discipline, responsibility, he wasn't spoiled, had limited TV, lots of child-directed toys (legos, play doh

His Dad was right there with me - fielding the daily phone calls from the principals when I had reached my limit, talking to Jack until his throat was parched, getting Jack involved in special outings just for the two of them as rewards for good behavior.

As this went on, I found myself resenting the situation more and more.   I had exhausted every thing I could think of, including scratch making his lunch to ensure he was getting the right amount of nutrients and no junk to throw off the balance of his little body during the day at school.  I thought that Jack and I would constantly be at odds.  We lived in the same house, and of course we loved each other, but all signs of affection were nearly non-existent.

Then, one day as I was getting him ready for school, I was bracing myself for the usual morning argument about me wanting to brush the Brillo pad out of his hair before he went to school.  He acted like I was sticking him with a white hot poker every day.  

Except...on this day...he walked over to me, put his arms around my waist, and rested his head against my chest while I brushed out his hair.  

He was hugging me.

I could hardly believe it.  I realized that we hadn't done that in months.  I was so wrapped up in trying to be The Mom That Straightened This Kid Out, that Jack and I had become enemies.  When he hugged me, and hung on for those few moments, it was a total turning point for us.  Ever since, he has allowed me to kiss him on the cheek whenever I want, we hug, we kid, we joke.  I want to hug him all the time.

He still has issues in school, and there are moments that I just want to cry from frustration, but then I remember that Hug, and how it made me crumble...Jack Hugged Me.  

So that's my top moment from 2011.  My son, and a hug.  I hope he will always know that no matter how much we are at odds, I can always use a hug.

And just to make sure we end on an amusing note...this is what happened when Jack tried to climb over the fence instead of open the gate.  His shoes got stuck and he took a header into the grass and dirt.  Now, I'm a GOOD MOTHER - I made sure there was no broken bones or need for stitches before I burst out laughing and took a picture of his shoes stuck in the fence.  Love you, Jack :)