Sunday, February 28, 2010

Las Vegas Art and Soul

Last Saturday, I loaded up the car with clothes, art supplies, and a cooler full of food and drove to Vegas.  I know we seem to go there quite often, but this time was something different.  This time I was going to attend the Art and Soul Retreat.  I have never been to a retreat like Art and Soul before, and I had no idea what to expect.  I wanted to go for several reasons:
1.  My dear friend Carla Sonheim was going to be there, teaching.  I haven't seen her in a couple of years, and to have her come so close to Joshua Tree without making an effort to see her was just silly.
2.  I love new experiences, and was curious about Art and Soul.
3.  I needed to do something for myself.  It isn't often that I take the time and spend money on something that is just FOR ME, and I felt like maybe it was something I should do.
4.  Art has become so serious for me - in light of my husband's upcoming furlough and my desire to make money so I don't have to quit painting - new pressures have affected my art.  I wanted to rediscover the "fun" part of art.

I nearly talked myself out of going several times.  I worried about the money.  I worried about taking the time away from the studio, and my most recent paintings.  I worried some more about the money.  I worried about leaving Mr. Pono the dog, who has a way of making me feel really bad when I leave.  I tormented myself and agonized.  Then, finally, I just told myself to GO.  So, I went.  I am so glad I did!  Carla and I had so much fun, reconnecting.  I took an Art Journaling class from Jan Harris, and have discovered something totally new and exciting.  I took Carla's drawing class and had a great day, drawing and learning from my friend and an artist I deeply respect.  I wandered up and down the strip, taking photos and sketching whatever caught my eye.  I discovered that I don't really like the strip.  I got to explore Vegas in my own way, on my own time schedule.  I met some wonderful people.  All in all, it was a great trip. 

I will be blogging more about Vegas in the next couple of days.  It's good to be home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Crescent Moon

I was just outside, getting lost in the night sky.  It is my favorite kind of moon tonite: the barest sliver of a moon, looking just like the thin smile of Alice's Cheshire cat.  It was low on the horizon, and I felt like I could see the warm, faint outline of the full moon in the clear desert sky.  Fantastic.

Here is another new abstract for you.   I don't know how it looks on your screen, but on mine it needs more green.  If I weren't so tired, I would go back and adjust the colors a little.  There is a pale green in this painting, in addition to the grey and blue areas.  It measures 24 x 30 inches and is oil on canvas.  I have called it "Showtime."

Out on the morning walk with Mr. Pono today, I was excited to see little bits of green popping up all over.  Pono took off, huffing after some smell or another and came back with a paw full of cholla spines.  As I bent over to flick them off with a stick, I saw this:
I may be mistaken, but I am pretty sure these are the leaves of the desert hyacinth!!!  A beautiful, dainty little desert blossom.  (yeah, I know that another common name for them is "Bluedicks."  I know!  They are much too lovely for me to call them that.)I cannot wait until things start blooming.  With all of the rain we have had, it should be a magical spring.  Don't worry, I will do my best to get tons and tons of photos for you. 

More paintings are in progress.  I hope you all had a spectacular day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

My dear readers, I hope you know I love you!  Thanks for reading my blog.

Here is the most recent oil painting.  This is oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.  A portrait of one of the Joshua Trees near Cactus Flats.  

More soon!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cold and Windy

Another cold and windy day - we even got more rain last night.  Strange desert weather.  The lizard in me is ready for hot summer sunshine and 100 degrees, but it looks like I will have to wait a while for anything like that.  For now, I continue drinking hot tea and wearing knee high wool socks.

Yesterday was spent organizing the studio a little bit.  It needs more organizing than I gave it, but I am the first to admit that cleaning, organizing and throwing things away is not one of my strong points.  I am improving, but with tiny, baby steps.  I find that I go in to begin sorting and while I am sorting, I discover something I wanted to paint or finish painting, and of course that is more fun that sorting, so I do that!  So this was what distracted me yesterday:
  This is a little 8 x 10 inch pastel of a clump of Joshua Trees.
It is supposed to be sunset, but now that I see it as a photo, I realize I need to tweak the values a bit more.  It looks better in person.

We found out Monday that my husband, who is a pilot for UPS, will be getting furloughed in May.  We have known that this was a serious possibility for some time, so it wasn't a total surprise.  We have been saving money and stockpiling necessities.  However, this may mean that I go look for a job somewhere, and put the art on a back burner.  I am grateful that he and I are both really good with money, and that we have been able to prepare.  I know that others have not had that opportunity, and my heart goes out to them.  

Thunder is booming outside, and I am gearing up for another day in the studio.  No organizing today.  

Happy Wednesday, all you lovely blog readers! 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Two portraits

I have two new paintings to share with you today.  Both seem like portraits to me.  One is the portrait of a person, and one is a portrait of a Joshua Tree in bloom.  As you already know from my earlier post, I do think of the Joshua Tree as being figurative.
Here is the second finished painting of the Joshua Tree in bloom.  You can see that having an under painting really made a difference in the overall quality and liveliness of color.  This painting is oil on canvas, measuring 20 x 16 inches.   What really interested me in this painting was that clear blue spring sky. 

We received more rain over the weekend, and little bits of green are beginning to pop up all over the place.  There is quite a lot of mud, which Pono is irresistibly drawn to.  I suppose if I were a dog, I would want to walk through soft, squishy mud, too.  If I were a dog, I wouldn't have to mop the floor, after the adventure in mud.  The drawback I can see to being a dog is having to eat kibble every day.  So, I guess I will stay human. 

I also completed a portrait of my friend Shant last week. This painting was started with a four hour painting session at Shant's house.  I took photographs the day I started the painting, and used four of the photographs as reference to help me finish the painting once I got home.  Since it was a live sitting, I wanted to try to preserve the feeling of that.  It seems as though there is an unspoken communication between sitter and artist during a live session.  That is something that is lost when I only have a photograph to paint from.  I found it interesting that when I got home and printed out the photos I had taken, each photo was different.  Subtle shifts in the position of his body, along with variations of his expression were evident in the photographs.  The vitality of a live session is what I find compelling when painting a portrait.  The impossibility of both artist and sitter to hold completely still somehow becomes the thing that I want to capture, since it seems to be the part that is most elusive.  A likeness is important to me, but there is more there that I want to try to capture.  I am looking for the essence of who that person is.

I know it is probably surprising to some of you that an artist who is so infatuated with abstraction also enjoys painting more realistic and clearly representational art.  They may seem like two completely different things.  And yet, for me, I cannot seems to have one without the other.  When I am not drawing from life, my abstract work suffers, and vice versa.  The freedom of abstraction also helps me when I work realistically.  I will write more on this later.  Happy Monday, my dear blog readers!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A New Series

I have been in the studio pretty consistently lately.  That is always a nice feeling, since it provides some continuity that may be lost when I get interrupted for days or weeks.  I have begun a series of paintings that has been on my mind since we first moved to Joshua Tree.  It was love at first sight for me and the Joshua Tree, and I decided it is about time I explored these amazing "trees" in paint.  I have always thought the Joshua Tree (yucca brevifolia) resembled a human figure.  Clearly, I am not alone, since they are named for the prophet Joshua.  Morman settlers, when first confronted by these strange cacti, gave them the name "Joshua Tree" because they resembled the prophet Joshua, raising his hands in prayer.  I am not sure where the paintings will take me, but I am anxious with excitement and curiosity. 

I have begun with photos I took our first spring here in the high desert.  It had been the right temperature and the right amount of rain had fallen that winter so that the Yucca Brevifolia bloomed.  I was so excited to see it, since they do not bloom every year.  I ran around the desert with my tiny point-and-shoot, clicking away happily at any Joshua Tree bloom I came across.  Since we have received a bunch of rain so far this year, I am wondering if the Joshua Trees will bloom again this spring.  That would be delightful!  If you read my blog a few weeks ago, I posted a photograph of the under painting for the second of these "blooming" paintings.  I think I have finished both of them, but I only have a photograph of one for today.   
This painting measures 20 x 16 inches and is oil on canvas.  It is not the best photograph, I am sorry to say, but you can at least get an idea of what I am up to.  I may go back in and work a little more on the spiky foliage.  Or not.  This one did not get an under painting, and I did struggle a bit.    

Here is the under painting for the next in the series.  I have discovered that the painting is more successful if I figure out the values and basic drawing with the under painting.  I did not do that with the first painting, and I think the difference will be obvious to you, once I show you the second painting.  I will try to post it for you soon.

I leave you with a photograph of the sky in the setting sun.   This was taken last Friday.