Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More thoughts on process

Hello, my dear blog readers. Today was not the best of days. I tried to paint all day, but it just wasn't there. I can't explain it, other than to say that I will be happy once tomorrow is here. Do I go to bed early, so that today is over sooner? No, because what if I fall asleep right away, wake up at 3 am, and toss for the rest of the dark hours? Unappealing. Not fun. I have to just hang in there, try not to break anything else, burn anything else, injure anything else, or shed any more tears. It was just one of those days. Let's talk about something else.

The day before yesterday, I finished a larger painting I have been bringing along. I really like how it turned out, especially the colors. What I find interesting, when working on a painting, is how if it is a painting I really like, it is so much harder to complete it. Because I don't want to "mess it up", it is almost as though I become paralyzed to the point where I can barely touch the brush to surface anymore! I remember the words of one of my college professors, who used to say, don't get too attached to any one part of a painting. You will work on that one part of the painting, while the rest of the painting suffers, or (worse, sometimes) you will work on the rest of the painting, not wanting to let go of the one, beloved spot. Then, when you step back and look at it, you will realize all of the cohesiveness is lost. So true!!!

Here is what happened to me with this big painting. I had an idea for how I was going to rework the background, and as I worked on it, it kept coming along better than I thought. The colors seemed to blend together effortlessly! The textures were interesting! I loved this background!!! Look at it! I did. Sitting in a chair, for quite some time. Thinking that maybe I shouldn't do anything else to it. You know, though, it just isn't me. I am a figure painter! Not a landscape artist. There is just no way I can't paint a painting and not put some kind of "figure" in it. So, at long last, with pain, I lightly circled in one, and then two "figures". I know, I know, if you are into realism you aren't going to follow me here. You just have to trust me when I say that these are figures. Okay?

Well, I had a new problem. I loved - LOVED - the way these light strokes of the figures looked. They looked like pastel especially the top one - a light color pastel on top of a dark background. They looked even better close up!! But when I sat back down on my chair, I realized that no matter how much I liked them, the painting wasn't done yet. I sat for a while longer, enjoying my love, which I would ultimately destroy. So I took another breath, took a photo, and finally got up the nerve to jump in again. It was terrifying! I knew, with each brushstroke, that I risked losing everything I had grown so fond of in this painting. If the figures didn't come out of the dark like they needed to, I would probably have to scrape them off, repaint the background, and begin again. (with the possibility of another week's drying time in there somewhere!)

This story does have a happy ending for me. Don't despair! I do think I managed to pull it off. The figures did what they needed to do (stand out) and the beloved background survived.

The moral of the story? Be brave. What is the saying? "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgement that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. For now you are travelling the road between who you think you are, and who you can be." -Meg Cabot

Sunday, January 27, 2008

All good things take time

A painting takes as long as it takes. When I used to talk to people in my gallery, one of the questions often asked was "how long did it take you to paint this?" I think there was an assumption that price should have something to do with hours spent. Or perhaps they wondered if I was one of those painters who could crank out a painting in an hour and a half. If the truth must be told, I am not a fast painter. It is one of the reasons I work in oil paint. Oil paint dries slowly. I guess I need every one of those extra drying moments (or days) to think about the painting, change my mind, scrape parts off, rework, and basically agonize. Oh, there are those magical paintings that seem to just appear, without all of the agony. Certainly there are those. But you know they only happen every now and then. Those paintings are the reason I keep painting, despite the other agonized ones.

I have been trying to hurry these new paintings along. Hurry, hurry, hurry, and be finished already! So that you can dry, I can put a wire on you, sign you, and take you off to be sold. Especially since I am feeling that darn money crunch. Darnit. The sooner I get you out there into the world, the sooner someone will fall in love with you, and the sooner I will have the money I just spent on more paint. But you know it just isn't working!!! You can't hurry a painting, any more than you can hurry love or a nice red wine. It takes as long as it takes.

What I noticed today is that a few of the paintings I thought were finished were not finished. What I also noticed was that the ones I forced myself NOT to rush were working out better. This is not a new lesson, just one that I had apparently chosen to forget. Maybe if I write this down I will remember it next time so that I don't have to go through such confusion about why the paintings don't just perfect themselves on the first go-around.

Case in point: the painting I posted on "The Moody Moon". Remember that one? Here it is again, in case you forgot, or if you want to just see it. Well, I was looking at it and looking at it, and suddenly I decided it was just too darn dark. Moody, yes, that too. That painting got put back on the easel, and now it looks like this. Much different in some ways. Not so moody. (The colors don't look as different from the original as they do here, and I am thinking it is because it was dark when I took the photo of the second stage, so I used a light. I think the light changed the color. The blue is still more of a green blue than it appears.)

I also repainted the one from "Wildflowers in January". It is also much different, and I think it may have one reworking left before I can stamp it finished. Why doesn't it hurry?!?? Wait, haven't we been through this already?

In other news, it rained on and off all night last night, and Pono and I had a pretty wet walk this morning. It is wonderful to see and feel rain in the desert. Just wonderful. I could do without the accompanying wind, but I am not going to complain. Too much.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It is all relative

Usually, on Thursday night, I meet with group of local artists to draw from a live model. So that is where I should be right now. However, when checking my email this morning, there was a message saying "Life Drawing is Cancelled"! Why, you ask? Because it is supposed to get cold, and there is a chance of snow down to 4,000 feet!!! That's why. Now, Coming from Colorado, this makes me smile. It's been below zero in Colorado, according to my friends. I think I am going to fit in just fine, here with the wimpy people. How nice.

I can't write much, because Pono has a toy between his two front paws, and he is looking at me with those sad puppy eyes, that face that he perfected from day 1, probably. He then, for dramatic emphasis, whines occasionally. I can't resist it. I must throw toy for dog. Must....throw....toy.

Here is one more painting for you to look at while I play with my fuzzy fuzz ball. It is an oil on canvas, 18 x 24", and the colors, as always, are so much better in person. I think it's a flower, but I'm not sure yet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The moody moon

The moon came up over the horizon tonight as a vibrant orange crescent. It was magnificent, and mezmorizing. It then appeared in near fullness, brilliant and wonderful. It glowed orange for a while, slightly squished-looking, and now has hidden itself behind a cloud. I know the feeling. You can glow with your talents and hues for a short time, but then you feel suddenly shy and embarrassed and the only way you can recover is by hiding. Does this happen to anyone else?

Today it turned cold here in the high desert. This will sound completely lame to those of you in really cold places, but I AM a wimp, when it comes to the cold. I am wearing TWO wool sweaters. One, right on top of the other. And you know what? I am finally warm. AHHHH... How did I ever survive Colorado? Or Sioux Falls, SD for that matter? Sheesh. I am barely surviving Southern California!!!! I guess living in Hawaii for four years will thin anybody's blood. Or at least, it did mine.

Here is another painting, for your amusement. It turned out much better than I could have imagined, because this vibrant blue color occassionally peeks out from behind the reds, blues and golds. I don't know if you can see it on the computer. Trust me, it does. Sometimes, a painting will surprise you by being better than you could have hoped. This was one of those. More often than not, however, (for me, anyway) they turn out WORSE than I hoped. uck. Yet I persist, because I am a stubborn little redhead. So there.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The departure

What to write, on the night of a full moon? I could tell you about the weather. I could tell you about daily activities. I could enumerate the benefits of red wine. But I won't. Perhaps I have used up all of my words, for the time being. Instead, there's this.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Reunion

Husband and camera happily returned to me. Pono has had a bath. The wind blows.

Here is one of the new paintings! Taken with the big camera. Color is better in person, I assure you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The lost camera

My little digital camera is something I have become quite addicted to. I take it with me almost everywhere. I mean, you just never know when a quality photo opportunity is going to present itself, right?!? Well, this is a story about how you shouldn't get addicted to anything, if you can help it. My husband is a pilot, and he left for a trip this morning. He left early, before I was even awake. When I finally dragged my lazy bum out of bed, I began to put on clothes and get ready to take Mr. Pono for his morning walk. I gathered together the normal things for walking: gloves, ear warmer, coat, shoes, dog biscuits, leash, tissue, and now for the camera. There are typically only three places where I leave my camera, and I looked in all three of those usual places. I looked in a couple unusual places. Then, I began to get that feeling. Do you know it? It's the one you get when you think you may have lost something very dear to you. It is a frantic feeling for me, and it includes a little anger at myself for being such a space case. I really don't like that feeling. So I checked the usual spots once more, and decided to look for the camera more when I had finished walking the dog. Think of it, I walked out the door without my camera! eeks!

So I did walk the dog, and it was a windy walk. Fortunately, no really incredible photo opportunities were missed. I made myself a cup of tea, ate some granola, and put a load of laundry in. Then, the search for my beloved continued. I mean, I looked EVERYWHERE!!! Even places that seemed truly unlikely. The feeling intensified. I searched some more. I said a few naughty words. I said a few more naughty words. Then, I decided to do some deep yoga breathing, to chill myself out. That is when it occurred to me that perhaps, PERHAPS Matthias accidently took my camera with him by mistake!!! Yes! So I dialed his number and got voicemail. Left the message that went something like this: "hi baby. I just wanted to call and see how you are. I hope your travelling is going well. Oh, and is there any chance that you might have my camera? Because I can't find it and I have looked everywhere and my hands are starting to shake because I think I am beginning to suffer from camera withdrawal or maybe go into a state of shock or something. But you might not have it. I love you bye."

At this point, what else could I do? (discounting shots of tequila, that is.) So I did some more deep yoga breathing, and got myself to go into the studio and start mixing paint. It took quite a while, but finally I settled down and got into the painting. Finally. I did take a break, early on, to charge the batteries in a much larger camera that I have. Those batteries are still charging. What am I supposed to do, now that I can't take photos of everything? I mean, this has been obsessive habit number one ever since I got that camera!!! My darling Matthias finally did call, and offered the news that yes, he DID take my camera, accidentally. He just laughed when I told him how I was suffering. That has a way of putting everything into perspective. You see why I love him? So, I have been able to make it thru the day, without taking ONE SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH. Amazing!

Needless to say, I can't post a photo of any of the new paintings. It is really a shame, too, since I feel like real progress was made today. Sorry. I am just going to have to give you a few more shots of the wildflowers from the hike. No camera until SUNDAY, my dear friends!!! I highly recommend some deep yoga breathing. Make your exhale longer than your inhale. You will make it. I did.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wildflowers in January

The day before yesterday, Matthias and I went for a really nice day hike, in some mountains about an hour from our house. It was a good hike, the weather was wonderful, but the best part of the whole thing for me was the discovery of TONS of blooming wildflowers!!! I couldn't believe it. I know I am new to this area and all that, but all the literature I have picked up about wildflowers have said that most of the flowers really bloom in February and March. So this was a lovely surprise. I don't have a book of the native flowers yet, so I won't be able to accurately identify most of them for you. I am sure you will enjoy them, anyway, as I did. I took more photos than this, of many other different varieties, but not all of the photos turned out. So sad. I guess we just have to go back so I can try again!

I am quite sure this area has gotten more rain than we have at our house, because it did seem greener. It would stand to reason, with all of these wonderful flowers! I love flowers. I am pretty sure these are probably California poppies (orange) and some kind of desert lupine the purple ones). Don't quote me on that. Here was one big clump of yellow flowers. No idea what kind, but they were at least as tall as my waist, if not a bit taller! Fabulous!

We timed our hike right, because yesterday the weather turned much colder. I spent the whole day painting. The results were varied. My favorite painting is still the one I posted in "Persistence Pays". I am probably going to rework most of the ones I worked on yesterday. Here is one of them, which I am probably going to change a bit. I am not happy with the oval element in the middle of my "tv" screen. I think I will scrape it off. We'll see. There's the blue again! My current color love.

I have also won two awards for my blog!!! Thank you to Anke, from "The Artist in me..." and Melissa & Emmitt, from Pugnotes. You have made my day!

These awards are similar in idea, and here is the description:

Give the award to up to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland! Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on.

The thinking blogger award is for a blog that makes you think, of course. I hope I got this right.

So I am going to send the thinking blogger award to Priya at the Plum Tree.

The You Make My Day Award is for both Melissa and Anke (above), and for Carla. Also for Linda at Abby Creek Art.
There are many other wonderful bloggers out there, and I will send them awards too, but I really really need to get back into the studio now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Persistance pays

I have been in the studio quite a lot over the weekend. It is a good feeling, like coming home after a long journey, to be painting once more. I think sometimes the most difficult part is experiencing really magical days, which are often followed by days of frustration. Those frustrating days make it hard to paint again the next day, because they leave an imprint of dissatisfaction in your mind. Today was a frustrating day. One thing I have learned is that if you CAN resist the urge to quit after a hard day or two, good things will happen. Easier said than done, my friends. This is when a little optimism will really come in handy.

I am working on two different things, as usual. One thing I am working on is a new grouping of abstractions, based on my monotypes. I have been experimenting on different ways of achieving similar effects on canvas. I have about a dozen of these abstracts in the works right now. So far, I only have one that I am truly satisfied with. It is the painting you see at the beginning of this post. It looks much better in person, but part of the problem is that the oil paint is still quite wet, and therefore, shiny. I am particularly pleased with the colors in this one. I am finding it interesting that I am here, in the desert, and nearly all of my new abstract paintings are predominantly blue. Gee, do you think I am craving water???!!!??? I could always say the blue is SKY, and not water, but when you see the blue, you will know I am making that up.

The other thing I am working on is, of course, the figure. My other true love. I am not feeling totally satisfied with just the sessions I get once a week in a group, so I have decided to take advantage of the one model I always have - ME! There is something unique about painting yourself. So far, I am focusing on the torso, not the face. That will come, eventually. My goal is to paint between 3 and 5 of these little figure studies a week. So far, I have three. (One being the ugly painting I did today.) You probably won't get to see that one. Here is one from last week.

I read in "W" magazine about an artist named Thomas Nozkowski. It is an interesting article, and now I have found a new abstract artist to admire.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The crooked sewing project

At long last, even though I haven't QUITE finished, here is what I have been working on with the new sewing machine. I didn't have a pattern. I just kind of made these up. So you know they are pretty rough. I have had fun with them though! This fabric was leftover from some pillows I had made years ago. I have moved this fabric from Colorado to Hawaii, back to Colorado, and finally to California. So I guess you could say it was time I did something with it!!! It is such cute fabric, and that is why it survived so many moves. That, plus the fact that I am an incurable pack rat. Two of the purses have inside pockets, and the third one, without the inside pocket has that cute little fabric covered button. That button is so cute, I may have to go find more of those kinds of buttons so I can do the other two that way. Or maybe not. Maybe I just make a couple more of them, and put fabric buttons on the new ones! Better plan.

I am wanting to put this leftover dark blue trim on one purse for a shoulder strap, but when I tried to sew it on with my machine, the machine didn't go anywhere. I think that means the trim is too thick for the machine. So does that mean I sew it on by hand??? I suppose. I'd rather let the machine do it, but I don't know how to make it sew such thick stuff. I only have that little bit of trim left, so I am experimenting with other straps, as you can see one has. Anyway, what do you think? Not too awful, for a first project on the new sewing machine. At least, I like them!

New paintings are slowly developing, but it is too soon to post any of them. They are works in progress.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sewing and the storm

I have been busy with my new sewing machine. I am sure this is going to take me some time to figure out. I have been working on a creative project with it. I needed a break from hemming pants. I am not done with the creative thing, so you have to wait a bit! I will share some photos of the crooked project, but not until my vision has been realized. Sorry to make you wait. All good things take time. (is that how the saying goes?)

In the meantime, I have a photo of a venus flytrap for you. My mother-in-law generously bestowed it upon me, when she saw how intrigued I was with it. Now it sits on the windowsill in my oh-so-organized studio. If anyone can give me advice on how to keep it alive, I would greatly appreciate it. I mean, do I have to feed it flies or anything??? It's cool, anyway.

We did get a bit of rain, about two nights ago. Since then, there has been only wind, and lots of it. Not my favorite. Oh well. The color of the sky, and the quality of the light has made up for it. Here it is.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Painting in an organized space

Today, I spent most of the day in the studio, painting. At last! The newly organized studio. It is nice, to have more space, without all the piles of boxes and clutter. You know I will make it messy again, but maybe I can make a point to organize once a month or something like that. (Hey, it's good to be opimistic about this, I know what you are thinking! Leave me to my hopes and illusions about this, okay?) Here are a couple of photos, just to give an idea.

Oh, and I took photos of my first sewing project: Curtains!!! Okay, so it is one drape, and it isn't lined, but still - I am pretty happy! I know it isn't the best drape in the world, but for the first thing I've ever done on a sewing machine all by myself, I think it is awesome. The best part is the button on the tie back, in my humble opinion.

I want to highlight one of my favorite artists today. I used to sell Carla Sonheim's art in my gallery, in Colorado. I guess I must be missing sharing her work with others. She has recently been doing animals, and I think they are to die for. Take a look at her etsy store, if you are interested: Art by Carla Sonheim
Here is a small sampling of her work:

That's all for now!