Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Field of Battle

Busy busy busy.  I'm the featured artist for the month of February at the gallery and this little number is going to balance out the front display wall. 
Neatest thing? 
Remember the first reversible coat you got?  How you convinced yourself that it was like getting two coats for the price of one and you couldn't believe you'd ever been so dumb to waste your money on those one sided coats from the past?  Remember that other time that your kid made a picture and you had to really think about which way to pin it up on the fridge so's not to offend them?  Well this painting is like that, except intentional.  It works in any direction!  

Imagine janitors in the future cleaning out a closet and finding this.  "Hey Ralph," one burly man in an oddly shiny jumpsuit asks the other, "which way you think we should hang this?"
Looking up from his laser beam dusting Ralph pauses, seeming to
 thoughtfully consider the options before saying with a shrug, "What's it matter?"

Indeed Ralph, indeed.  It doesn't matter in the slightest, because my composition kicks ass four ways to Tuesday. 

I'm an innovator I tell you. 
But I'm fighting off a cold and need to go take a nap.  Peace out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The progress of my progress.

The never ending battle of my competing interests has had an upset.  Writing pulled ahead this month when I FINISHED MY BOOK! 

Not to say that it's done, or that it's not a pile of crap, but now when people ask me what it's about I can just throw it at them and say "I'm hoping you could tell me!"

 Though throwing probably isn't advisable since I had it printed double spaced and it was so big the printer couldn't bind it so it's just a huge stack sitting in a box waiting to give some poor unsuspecting person a paper cut.

A very smart person recommended not looking at it for a few months and getting started on the next one.  -  Which is fine in theory but doesn't take into account the many months of extended vacations I took from this all along the way.  Besides, the next book in my head is a continuation/variation of this one but following two different characters.  It seems like I have to figure out if this story is even viable before I plunge into the next.

The painting portion of my efforts would have a lower score if it weren't for the fact that I actually made it into a local juried exhibit with this little baby titled, Saturated. 
It was a last minute thing on a hand-me-down canvas that I whipped together in a few hours.  Then, because deadlines are such a wonderful motivator I pushed it to dry faster by letting it sit in the sun.  -

Since it was only one wash of color without too much build up of paint this wasn't as bad as it could have been.  Generally when you have all sorts of varying layers of paint thickness you want it to cure slowly so it can all be happy.  But I gave it every minute of dry time I could. 

I framed it in the crappy frame that the canvas came in and instantly hated it.  - It's amazing how much a bad frame can kill a buzz.  So the morning of the competition drop off I zipped to the store bought a cheap frame kit - assembled it in the back of my car in the parking lot, mounted the canvas in it and went to make the drop off.  - Then I went to my 7 year old's rollerskating birthday party.  Because I'm just that badass.

If it doesn't sell I have lots of ideas on how to improve on it when I get it back home.  Comparing my piece to the others in the show I think I'm starting to develop my own style - something distinctive that sets me apart.  - but that could be the back parking lot vibe of the thing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I've put a lot of effort into ignoring this little blog.

Poor withered thing, look at it.  The posts outdated, the subjects benign.  Blech. 

I used to have an email signature that featured the address of my Etsy shop, and this blog.  But then, when I started to take my neglect more seriously I would scroll down to the end of every email and delete the link.  Each and every time.  It's as if I couldn't bring myself to kill it, and instead cut off the air supply hoping it would get fed up and die on its own. 

But then - you saw it coming didn't you?-   But then, I sent a random email to a random stranger, she found the link, followed it, and asked me to send her an rss feed. 

Cuz she thought I was funny.

Hey, I remember funny!  I used to do that.  So I'll let the little bugger limp along.  -(Blog breathes a sigh of relief.  Then eyeing me warily, limps back to the dank, little, cave-like-niche its carved for itself under the potentially crushing weight of more interesting things on the internet.)

Metaphor, contorted into an awkward position and left to hold an unreasonable amount of weight shakes his head in frustration.

Status report on the competing interests of writing and painting.

Painting is winning right now, but it's a win by default.

The Western Loudoun Studio Tour was wonderful.  But I haven't painted anything since.  Progress with the Co-op gallery is, well, progressing.  Kind of a thrill to see my paintings on promotional materials, but I'm also a little afraid that those pieces may be my best work and that they were a fluke.

After reading a friend's manuscript I decided to get my final draft polished enough to send to folks- the friend type folks, to brainstorm.  I worked out some really clunky bits, was going along gang busters, until I hit two paragraphs in chapter 30 that were so horrible simple deletion wasn't enough.  Waiting till the memory of how crappy they were fades before I dive back in.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

. . . And then I was famous.

For a little while anyway.  In an obscure but awesome way.  Etsy has this regular blog that they feature at the bottom of the front page for a day or so, and my painting of the steak was used to illustrate the story.  I'd been totally neglecting Etsy and wouldn't have known a thing about it if a woman hadn't gone and bought the dang thing.  Can you believe it?  

So I had this huge surge in views on the shop and it was wonderful and exciting and brief.  - But actually long relatively speaking because the image was up there for quite a while.  All the attention didn't translate to sales, but it was a nice shot of validation.  It was also a decent article to be associated with.  Here's a link if you're interested.


Monday, April 09, 2012

A general progress report

I made it through my two months of not making any paintings from photographs and I learned a lot.  Eventually I got bored with still lifes.  I made a ton of really horrible self portraits (I'll spare you the pain and misery of seeing them) - but they were a great exercise in not being afraid to make something ugly on the way towards something better.

I also entered into a whirlwind rush to finish the latest draft of my novel before attending a novel writing workshop.  I'm still not sure what I think of the workshop experience - but I know I gained a lot from really immersing myself in the story and characters beforehand.  I have a clearer idea of what the finished book will look like, and how I need to steer my revisions to get there.

I had a love/hate thing with the workshop.  I loved being around other writers who were all at a similar stage in the process.  I got all fired up and excited about their various projects and I remembered what I'd forgotten - that writing is storytelling - and the best stories change with each telling having been shaped by the audience.
But that's where I got confused as well.  The focus of the workshop was to fine tune our various 'pitches' - the short summary of what your story is about.  But that's a two part thing.  First you have to succinctly summarize the novel, and then put a spin on it that's sufficient to attract the attention of an overworked jaded literary agent.

I'm a complicater not a simplifier.  Summarizing feels impossible, though rationally I know it's not.  So I reach into the book, pull out various parts, toss them up on the page all sloppy and ask, how's that?                  
Tilted heads and blinking.
 I reach in again, pull out a different hodge podge of elements, shmoosh them into paragraphs neatly aligned.  How about now?                 
Heads shaking, um no.

The plan of the workshop was to use the pitch as a diagnostic tool to find problems with the book.  I feel as if I could write 20 different pitches for the same book.  The only thing I diagnosed was that I'm really good at writing a crappy pitch that may or may not accurately describe my book.  It's as if I've been told to summarize a painting - but instead I keep presenting little magnified sections.

I feel like I would be remiss not to mention the workshop 'leader.'
He and I didn't get along (massive understatement).
Despite our personality conflicts I really did try to get as much out of the workshop as possible.  I don't have a problem separating myself from the work.  I mean I can take criticism without taking it personally - but it was all upside down with the guy.  I don't feel like he criticized the work, because he didn't even read it. - He only listened to my various pitches - and even then I don't know how much of a listener he was.  But I wonder how much our fierce dislike of each other impaired his ability to offer me any useful instruction?   
Adding to the problem is the fact that I haven't been very successful in finding other books similar to mine or a genre or sub genre that the book will comfortably fit in.  A crucial element in getting a literary agent which thanks to my friend Peggy, I understand is statistically similar to winning the lottery.  It's all a little disheartening.

I planned to wait a week after I got back before I would look at my manuscript.  That week has stretched out.  I've been hiding in my paintings, stewing over where to go from here.  In painting I've been working at figuring out my process, understanding how I do what I do, since so much of it feels instinctual.  I need to do the same with my writing process now and figure out how to come at the whole thing from another angle.

I had hoped the other writers that attended the conference could help with that - but I suspect that like a lot of intense experiences the closeness you feel initially fades with time as you meld back into your daily life.  I still have many of their characters bouncing around in my head, pieces of their plots chafing against my own.  I don't know if anything will come from the experience, at the moment I seem stuck in limbo.  I guess I'll stay there until I finally take the plunge and open the file to my ms.

PS  - Sometimes I don't know what I'm saying until after I've said it.  But looking over what I've said so far it seems that my confidence in my writing ability is shaken.  Which might explain why my paintings are so kick ass lately.  Overcompensate much? 

photo by Rachel A. K.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Turning over a new leaf. Again.

It seems I'm always coming up with some scheme of how I plan to do things differently, but then I end up limping along doing what works or just abandoning the plan.  But this time is different!  No really.  I'm just going to give myself 2 months of this and I figure I'll re-evaluate at the end of the 2 months. 

There was a point in the process of putting up all my work on the walls of the studio for the tour where I had to view my work as how others might see it.  It's an odd assortment of random images some done well, some well, kind of clumsy, but in all of them there's a consistent dedication to the 'real' image.  And this is odd, because I'm not a huge fan of realism.  It's archaic really, to slave over an image trying to reproduce something that a camera can do lickety split.  (I think this is a side effect of being married to an engineer - it's so much easier to not have to explain what the painting is of.) 

There's something beautiful about the process, a dedication to the craft, an old school stubbornness - but if I'm going to do this thing, I need to go all the way. For 2 months I'm not going to work off of photographs.  It's either still life set ups or portraits, and I'm going to discipline myself in the work of measuring and proportions.

The tricky bit about this is that when I get enough of a break from chores/kids/ect and I have the itch to paint I usually don't have much patience to prepare before I dive in.  Matter of fact the real trouble I've had lately is choosing which image to go after and committing to it rather than just changing my mind when it doesn't come together right away.  What I should probably do is set up a still life that's not going to rot if I neglect it and tackle the image from different vantage points/sizes/perspectives.  - The other catch is that I'm picky about still life set ups. 

It's amazing I manage to get anything done considering all my quirky stubborn views on this business of making art. 

What I mean about the still life set ups is that I hate to see them looking all contrived.  Ooh, I happen to have this bowl of fruit laid out on a flowing wrinkled tablecloth with a seasonal bouquet and an antique vase - poof - a painting.  I feel like a good still life should be a little slice of life, real used objects, discarded little things that are beautiful in study, but usually overlooked.  Seriously I almost did a painting of the dirty dishes in the sink soaking in soapy water, or the edge of a scrabble board in the midst of play, but the composition or the lighting didn't come together just right.  - That and my friends laughed at me.  You know, I love them enough to appreciate their opinions and still not listen to them.  I mean these are the same guys that thought I was nuts to paint steak - but one of those paintings sold.   

So what to set up for a still life?  I'm going to aim for found objects that tell some kind of a narrative together.  You might start to understand why I've used photos so much when you see how much over-think I put into this stuff. 

Anyhoo.  There's the other business of the novel.  A friend of mine has devised a great plan to finish our novels by Christmas with horrible consequences and mockery if we should fail.  Since I'm in an absolute and total denial of how close Christmas actually is, this still doesn't seem impossible to me yet.  I've been revising/re-crafting this thing for eons - If I don't push it forward to a final, final version soon I might have to reconsider how serious I am about writing.  - And that's the weird thing!  This whole time I've been telling myself that I'm a writer, who's painting at the moment.  I think my writing is much more creative and fresh than my painting - But I do what I do, and apparently my efforts lean towards where I have success.  So anyone with the hopes of reading my writing in published form should develop a dislike for my artwork.  Hmm.  But I just wrote a ton of paragraphs about painting - what does that say? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Studio? Done.

     Can't help but be a little impressed with myself and the garage renovation.  It's still a little hard to believe I'm done.  I finished Thursday night and then the studio tour was that following weekend.  That's why it's all done up so pretty with all of my friend Meredith's wonderful pottery.  I still haven't actually christened it by hanging out and knocking out some paintings yet though.  Something about the process of putting all my paintings up on the walls and seeing it all together, explaining what I do to so many folks, I feel like I need to take my paintings in a new direction.  

     It's a failing of a lot of self taught artists that I've seen where they strive too much to be realistic.  It's a trap that I'm pretty sure I've fallen into.  I can work from a photo, and come pretty close to what's there, but what am I saying with paint that the photo didn't say in the first place?  

     I'm also in a weird state of mind in general.  Little bit of a funk?  Winter's closing in on us.  I'm getting older.  Blech.  This is also the down side of the way I work. Furious chunks of time where I'm very productive, followed by breaks where I do something else.  But if the time between stretches out a little too far and it's as if I'm suddenly shy in front of the canvas, afraid that I've forgotten how to paint.

     This would seem like a great time to finish the novel I've been slugging away at for so freaking long.  Eh.  I'll be like this for a while, till I get frustrated enough with myself to do something amazing and then I'll get back in the swing of it all I hope.