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. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Making Awesomeness.

As I may have mentioned, the studio has been bothering me.  Don't get me wrong, it's been wonderful to have space to paint and get messy and work into the wee hours - but it's also been less than ideal.

In winter I piled all my paints into a dresser drawer, spread a painter's tarp on a corner in the basement and worked down there. But when the kids would play there I'd worry about folks bumping into something in progress.  Also, the lighting was either too dim or too bright.

In the summer I've waited until the kids were in bed, opened up the rolling door, and cranked up the wobbly fan to keep the skeeters off.  I know, it sounds like a pain in the ass, and it is, but I've found I'm generally a much happier person if I at least make one painting a week.

So, little by little I've been improving it.  And now, I'm in the home stretch - and it's very close to amazing.

The biggest problem has been the lack of heat or cooling, but without insulation, there hardly seems much point in wasting the energy does there?  It's a metal garage on a concrete slab.  The previous owners had started to insulate it, but didn't quite finish the job.   The interior walls were chip board with metal studs that were set back a bit from the board.  What do you do with that?  Insulation and dry wall would have been crazy expensive, just painting the chip board white didn't work.  I can't even fully explain how much I've wanted to make the walls of this place uniform and clean.  It might go back to my years of living in a dungeon of wood paneling at our old place. And then my crazy ideas all came together in a stroke of genius.  Or at the very least, a pragmatic use of my cheap streak.

There are these spray cans of foam insulation. You fill in whatever gaps you have, it swells as it dries and you cut away the excess with a knife afterwards.  So a foaming I did go.  It's not perfect but it works and it cut off all of those drafts.  Then I bought this paintable wallpaper with a beadboard wood pattern and I wallpapered over the chipboard/foam combo.  Then I painted.  - And this is where my favorite paint guy and the Home Depot saved the day. - He stopped me from getting a water based acrylic paint.  Because water based could re-activate the glue and paste in the wallpaper and undo all my hard work!  Instead I used the cheap oil based primer from Kilz and had it tinted to the color I wanted.  Funny enough the color is called Artist Canvas, and even funnier it perfectly matches the free kitchen cabinets my friend Gina gave to me and helped me install.  - Could life get any better?  I submit that it cannot.

The next parts of the project are to put wood trim around the windows and at the top and bottom of the walls.  Partly because that makes with the pretty and partly because it will cover up any residual foam and help keep the wallpaper tacked down.  - Speaking of which, another (I thought very smart) part of my plan was in the application of the wallpaper.  It was fairly straight forward prepasted wallpaper.  You cut the strips, soak them for a moment in water, fold the underside over itself to activate the paste and then apply.  But I had read reviews of folks having a tough time with the adhering.  I happened to have a gallon jug of Elmers Glue.  I mixed it with a bit of warm water and painted that onto the chip board before I put on each section.  Since chipboard is such an irregular surface I think it really helped to hold it all on there.

Now the final stage of the studio will be to get some french doors to replace the rolling metal door.  Ages ago I did a huge painting for my friend Cindy and we worked out a trade where rather than paying me she would give me the value - 300.00 in labor.  Just so happens she knows how to frame in walls and doors.  I buy the door, take out the old one and she works her magic. 

I'm not going to waste your time with photos of all the little things.  It's probably not even interesting to anyone but me.  Once I'm done though, or nearly done, I'll post pictures and you can ooh and aah then.  In the meantime I have to get back to work.  Tootles. - A

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Caught up in the struggle

first night, foundation work
I had it.  Or I was on the edge of it.  I was carving out the image, making bold choices, building something where one choice would dovetail into the next and it was all coming together.  Then I stopped for the night and totally lost my momentum.  The next night I was fighting with myself second guessing and trying to get back to where I'd been headed.  Ah well.  The mojo, she has left me.  I'll keep working on it, slower now trying to find that sweet spot. 

second night, argh
In the meantime, great opportunity to switch focus and tackle the writing with a little more determination.  Funny enough I met with a good friend the other day and she asked me what my ultimate goal was.  And though I have a lot of things I want to be able to do, getting this dang book published is at the core of it all. 

So why the heck am I out in the garage whacking away at these canvases if being an author is a serious goal?  Good question. 

I mean, painting is certainly more immediate.  It's the same problem solving but all in one place and it has a definite end, whereas the writing is more murky.  But maybe it's that cliche stuff like being afraid of finishing the book and failing at having it published.  Eh.  Who knows.  I just need to be more disciplined in doing each thing every, or every other day.  These painting binges can be exhausting and the writing really suffers from the stop and go.  So, steady.  That's my new mantra.  Each day, making progress with each.  This is quite the internally directed babble, but there you have it. 

Lat cow painting
When the mojo goes away I get all introspective.  But enough of that I have a book to write.  Scene 1 Chapter 4 and Go.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Holy Canoli

I'm on fire painting wise.  Each and every painting I enter into lately I feel like I'm learning in leaps and bounds.  The only hang up I'll have is when I stop for the night and enter back into the image.  It loses some of the spontaneity and if I'm not careful I find myself just picking away at it rather than making bold choices. 

Tonight I finished up another cow painting.  It was in a dead spot and though the image read okay, there wasn't any love to it.  So I went in and made some high contrast changes.  Shadows that had been in a place holder sort of a state while I worked out the value got loaded with deep rich colors.  I'll post pics tomorrow on that one.  Then using only one large brush I blocked in a portrait of Tully.

Now as you may or may not know, portraits were a sticking point for me for a long time.  Never mind how difficult they can be, but since my mom was so good at them, they intimidated me.  That's part of why I'm so excited about my progress tonight because none of that was happening.  My friend Jeremy inspired this painting.  He's been doing an incredible series of paintings.  Each one is a new take on, or version of a John Singer Sargeant woman.  All women.  I had been toying with the idea of taking a photo of a little woman, in a Sargeant like pose and sending it to him to see if he'd be interested in tackling it. 

First I found this photo of a young girl

Then I took some shots of Tully in a similar pose.

Then I fell in love with the image and blocked it in and had a blast working my way through it.  It's far from perfect but I'm learning a ton by working this way.  Fast and focused with no diddling around on small details.  Argh yummy yummy paint.  So satisfying.  Pictures of my work tomorrow.

And now before the coffee wears off I'm going to tackle writing.  I've pushed past whatever block I had going on before and now I just need to keep up with myself.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poor neglected blog tries desperately to revive itself

So incredibly busy, but you'd hardly know it if you tried to look for any measurable progress in any of my various projects.  There are paintings that have been painted.  Blocks and dice that have been made.  Prints of my artwork that are printing.  But most of these things are half done, or not posted or photographed.  Argh. 
This is one of a series of fish paintings that I'm trying to make prints of.
And then there was the set back of the driveway bridge that washed out.  It's surprising how much time an inconvenience can take up over time.  Picture here many trips up and down the driveway carrying groceries ect. 
But now it's spring break.  No rushing them off to school or trying to keep up with their schedules.  Hopefully I can find a good balance between activities for the kids and catch-up for myself.
Part of a series of three, plan to make prints of the series with all of them together

And in the process of catching up I'm trying to get back on track with my writing.  The novel floundered for a time and I lost hope that I would ever pull it together, but once again my writing group came to the rescue.  I have a blueprint now, a structure and I'm back on track.  As long as I can put a disciplined effort forth each day towards it there could in fact be a time where I can say, I wrote a novel, past tense.
Discipline Dice.  A revolution in parenting techniques that has yet to catch on.
How are you response dice.  12 options of possible responses.  Social interactions solved.
And this measly little blog is part of that.  This is where I need to shake out the sillies, get my fingers cranking, and just talk on the page.  I don't know how it reads for observers but this is where I'm trying to hold myself accountable and keep track of how I'm doing with all my goals.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

No Mas!

If only my hands could keep up with all the ideas my brain has for them lately.  I'm trying really hard to set a goal and complete one project before moving on to the next, but it's so hard!

I've moved the painting operation inside for the time being since the winterizing of the studio hasn't quite panned out yet.  With a little desk and the right lighting I'm working my way through with acrylics.  It's a struggle, like trying to speak with an accent but I'm making progress.  Picture me painting the same image again and again saying "hamburger" like Inspector Clouseau.

I'm working small and doing a number of pieces on the same subject.  I'm playing with the idea of transitions, small changes in the images and how they relate to one another.  I'm going to take them to the printer and hope to sell them on Etsy grouped together.

I've also got a lot of plans for using a dremel when I get my hands on one, but that has to wait for project 1 to get finished. 

And finally, I'm getting a small business permit and I've started an account just for the business.  Lots of details with this, such as getting all legal and paying taxes, but it's worth it to me.  The way I'm figuring this will equate with a part time job income, but still allow me the flexibility I need with Eric's travel and work schedule.

And as often happens, the painting surges forth and the writing flounders, or visa versa.  Trying to keep on an even keel this time though and stick to a steady schedule.  It helps to have such a wonderful writers group that I've been so lucky to join.  For anyone interested you ought to check on Anna-Marie's site where her novel's first draft is evolving online.  Her website is and the story is called, Antafrica.  Be sure to start at the beginning, you don't want to miss any of Bettina's antics.

And in other news, the kids are back in school, the goats are in the field, the squirrels are still nibbling on my porch and there are reports of loose cows in the area.  All seems as it should be.