Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm going to need more paint.

When we last saw each other, my newest tree painting looked like this...

The plan was to turn it into one of the very pretty light pink flowering trees that are all over my neighborhood (I can't remember their name!)

First I started covering the gold foil...

Then I covered over the dark blue line of foliage in the background...

Then I changes the sky color...

And finally I was ready to turn my tree pink.

Ok.  Half a tube of white paint to make...pink frosting. Not good.

Scrape scrape scrape...

Hmmm...now what do I do with all of the fresh paint I just scraped off?

At least I could use the paint to cover over some old paintings :)

Well, even though I wasted a bunch of time and paint on the actual tree, I do think I'm heading in the right direction with the color relationships, and the layers are looking really good in person.  And, when I was looking at the painting from across the room, I could see that the light was catching the gold foil just right.

So, I've got THAT going for me.  Which is nice

Friday, March 23, 2012

A week of work in the studio

So many pieces to share, in progress, just starting, finishing...

Finished up this still life sample for my painting class

Finished up the yellow tree, started a new tree...

It's hot pink and gold at one time (perfect for a late 60's bathroom...pink porcelain and gold wallpaper!)

But it didn't stay pink - lots of layers to go! Eventually it will be...well, come back and see!

Lovely sketch from Wednesday night's model - this is a sanguine pastel pencil I believe

And a quick oil painting of her back - over two other paintings, which worked with and against me :)

Me working...working...working...

Friends working working working from the model today...

Three hour oil painting from our model today.

Now I know why my shoulder is very, very sore...lots of painting this week :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When the 'why' gets stronger, the 'how' gets easier

A couple of weeks ago I got together with a group of local artist who are at various stages of their career to talk about marketing and growing as Artists.  Meetings like this can do a couple things...help you realize you are doing pretty well, shock you when you realize "you're doing it wrong!" or just get you hopped up on caffeine and cookies.

Luckily, this was a good meeting.  Met a few new artists, got a couple good ideas, and came away with a new favorite quote:

"When the 'why' gets stronger, the 'how' gets easier"

(I don't know the source, and the closest phrase I could find on the web was "when the want gets stronger, the how gets easier", which is also a great way of putting it!)

So how can this phrase come into my every day life...

When faced with a painting, I will often find myself at a point where I can't figure out what to do next, how to fix it, etc.  If I can look at my work, and figure out WHY it isn't working, knowing HOW to fix it becomes much clearer (easier!).

If I am debating whether or not to keep my studio space, I list in my head WHY I want to keep it...
1.  I love the Wednesday night figure drawing group.  The time to draw from the live model with my fellow artists is like a weekly Church meeting.
2.  I can paint with Oils in the space.  I don't have the ventilation at home to do so.
3.  I am not thinking about laundry, or dishes, or vacuuming while I am painting in the studio.  This is my time to work, and only work.
4.  I am a better Mom when I have the balance between home and the studio.  And I think it's good for my kids to see that I have a job, and a place to work, outside the house.

and the HOW to keep it becomes a lot easier, every time I go through that list.  I have to
1. Create work to sell
2.  Keep the Wednesday evenings active and successful
3.  Teach !

The strength and resolve to keep the studio is stronger as I list my wants and why's.

And there is so much going on outside the studio, too.  Jack is still having issues at school, and I have to keep focusing on the WANT for him to succeed: and then, the HOW will get easier.  That seems really simplified, and it's definitely not the entire story...but when the Assistant Principal gets to a point where she says to you "How miserable can you make your son at home?", as punishment for something he did at school, your desire - WANT- for him to kick a$$ at school and show them how bright and capable he is becomes a LOT STRONGER and you better be sure that I am going to figure out HOW help Jack do it.

Motivation.  Work on making your WHY/WANT stronger, and the HOW will get easier.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

There Are No Words

A year ago today...


Heather Armstrong (also known as "Dooce") shared a portrait I painted of her daughter, Leta.  She did not commission this portrait.  I saw the original photo on her blog over a year before.  I saved the image, thinking that whenever I had the time, I was going to paint a portrait from that photo.  The photo captured so many amazing things..great light, beautiful eyes, a natural expression of her daughter's personality.  It was a photo that couldn't be matched with an exact likeness - I knew it would have to go beyond what was presented in the picture.

I took a chance and sent the portrait to Heather, with a short note trying to convey the fact that I wasn't a crazy lady painting pictures of random children on the Internet: I was an Artist, I was Inspired, and I wanted to share it with her.

About five months went by, and then I got an e-mail that immediately made my head spin: Heather's assistant (who is possible one of the sweetest and kindest people on the planet!) told me that Heather was going to share the portrait on her blog.

In my wildest dreams, I thought Heather might shoot me a quick "Thanks for the portrait" tweet or an e-mail saying something along the lines of "Creepy...but...thank you?"  in her usually dry wit.  But her post was so amazing, and the resulting sales and commissions kept me busy for the next 9 months.

The craziness eventually died down, the commissions were shipped to the clients, I settled back into my regular routine in the studio.  Only now, a full year later, can I really see some of the other positive experiences that grew out of that one blog post.

Knowing that so many people not only loved that portrait, but all of my other work as well, was a huge confidence boost.  As an Artist I enter a lot of shows and competitions, and rejection is more common that reward.  But those shows are often the result of one Judge's opinion.  In this case, I had hundreds of people saying "I LOVE YOUR WORK!"  That gave me the resolve to continue creating work that moves me.

And more recently, I was faced with a moment where I had to decide what to do with my studio space: do I continue to use it as a Gallery/work space, or do I grow and change with the need to pay the rent?  The commission work from Heather's post allowed me to use my studio as a studio and a gallery for a whole year, without worrying about whether or not I could pay the rent.  Just being able to do that was such a gift.

I have not only decided to keep the studio, but I changed the layout to accommodate classroom work space, while still keeping gallery space and work space for my studio partner and I.

As a writer, Heather puts herself out there, in front of millions of people every day.  Without shying away from the harsh realities in her life, she shares her joy and sorrow with her fans and followers.  Her bravery is inspiring.  As an Artist, I hope I am following that lead, and sharing a bit of myself with every drawing or painting I share with you.  We both know that not everything will be rewarded, but more often criticized, and yet we are compelled to do it anyway.

Thank you, Heather, for sharing my work, for sharing your thoughts, and for your honesty.  I am forever Grateful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wide, Small, tall and all in the studio

Wide: the yellow tree...

Small: My little Ari drawing a butterfly...

Tall:  "Amazing Grace" is done! (All six feet of her!)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Set Up a Still Life

I've been having a lot of fun the last few days collecting various objects to fill my shelves in the studio to have lots and lots of props for our still life classes.  Neighbors have cleaned out their closets, a few treasures were found at yard sales, and Goodwill and Thrift stores have been great.

I finished building the last couple of storage and display shelves, unpacked my treasures and started setting up a few still lifes for inspiration.

  When setting up a still life, I look at several elements: color, size of elements, number of elements, horizontal or vertical composition, the pattern and lines that are formed, how the light works across the still life, and how the objects react to each other - their surfaces change depending on what they are next to, on top of, or holding inside.

I really like taking a quick photo to see how the set up translates into 2D.   Even on just a camera viewfinder or an iphone, you can see issues with composition or lighting pretty easily.

Seven work stations are all ready!!

And I started another tree painting.  This is slightly larger than the Japanese maple tree painting that just sold.
I am building up the surface the same way - lots of texture and layers, a little bit of copper leaf to reflect the light.

(I don't know why pictures are loading sideways lately!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Life in Iphone Pictures...

Never play Upwords with a pirate wearing an orange monkey on his neck. They cheat.

While moving things around the studio, I noticed how similar Matt and I captured the model's face, even though our pieces have gone in different directions.

Baking daddy's favorite cookies with my favorite helper.

Ah...the studio shelves are filling up with props, books, chairs, tables...

Charcoal drawing from last night's figure drawing class.

When you weave, wear a cape.  It goes faster.

Progress on the painting, almost finished!

my new nephew :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Still Life Inspiration

As the new shelf construction begins in the studio, I am looking through all of my books, magazines and of course on the internet for still life inspiration.  And there is SO much out there!  I just discovered these wonderful pieces by artist Sadie Valeri.  The monochromatic palettes, the interesting dichotomy of material, the composition and movement are all fantastic and could inspire dozens of painting ideas.

The workstations will be tall, deep and wide, providing opportunity for a huge variety of set-ups, including the option of adding drapery, photos, or other items on the back wall of the individual cubby holes.

Today I got 6 more sheets of ply wood cut for the second wall of shelving at home depot and carried (almost all of it!) up to the second floor, and I only once or twice allowed the doubt to creep in...the fear that no one will sign up for class, that I will have spent my rent money building it and it'll turn into a bust, etc.

I had to quickly talk myself out of the fear and try to focus on the positive part: I am taking the chance.  I am not afraid too try, I am just afraid to fail.  And if I am afraid of failure, I shouldn't be an artist in the first place - because there are little failures in every painting, every drawing.

And right next to those little failures, is my eraser, my brush, my paint...ready for me to find the solution.

So as I sit here with my achy back (did I mention my husband and I went back and carried 4 sheets of drywall up the stairs?) and sore legs, I will be pushing aside the fear and embracing the next chapter, armed with inspiration!! The space is ready, the students will come, I will pay the rent, I will make my husband and parents proud of me...and I will paint.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Studio Shelves are Being Built!

I'm excited to share a little progress made in the studio today! However it's not a painting - it's shelving for individual work stations and supply storage.

I love the studio - there is SO much space, great light and a lot of walls to display work.  However, after a year of showing my work in that space, I have only sold one small original painting during that time from showing it on those walls. Truth is: the space is great for creating and teaching, not so much for selling (partly because it is on the second floor...no window shopping!)

A few weeks ago, I visited a studio where my mother is taking classes in Western New York.  There was one room that really struck me as a great painting space - the walls were lined with individual cubby holes for still life set-ups, and artists had work stations in front of each spot.

The whole room made me want to paint - the work stations, the wall-to-wall colorful props waiting to be utilized in a unique still life, the fact that you had storage for all of your supplies...and that you were part of a group of artists all painting together.

So this week I (with the help of one of my fellow artists!) Started to build a similar set up in my studio.  I will be losing wall space, but very little floor space, and I will be gaining work stations, still-life display areas, and LOTS of storage!

So that's just the first wall!  The large square will be where artists can set up their personal displays - they are about 3' square, so you can imagine tall displays or long displays.  There are spots for folding chairs and folding tables to be tucked out of the way, and lots of shelves for storing a myriad of glass, flowers, knick knacks, pots and fabric to use in our still life set ups.

The second wall should be done this week, with an additional 4 work stations and lots more storage for paintings and supplies. Happy dance :)

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