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Taking the “studio” on the road

March 3rd, 2012

Yesterday I awoke to a beautiful sunny day, and decided to take advantage of the sunshine to do some painting on location.  I packed up the car and drove to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve to paint the ocean.  I had previously hiked there and scoped out a spot I wanted to capture – Moss Cove – less than a mile from the parking area along a pretty easy trail.

Point Lobos Moss Cove ocean waves rocks

Gorgeous!  One slight problem though – I’d forgotten to check the wind conditions when I checked the weather, and it was so windy the canvas kept blowing off my easel.  So I ended up climbing down to the rock outcropping (in the foreground of the picture above) where the curve of the shore provided a little shelter from the wind, and setting up my paints in front of me and the canvas on my lap.  Not ideal from an ergonomic perspective, but it worked (although I did wish I’d brought a chair or cushion).

Point lobos Moss Cove easel painting setup

The advantage to a little discomfort:  fresh sea air, warm sunshine, and some wildlife for company.

Point Lobos Moss Cove sea lions photograph

The sea lions kept me company the whole time.  Otters popped up occasionally. I had to wave off a turkey vulture to convince him I was still alive and wouldn’t make a good snack.  All in all, a pretty idyllic day.

I had to call it quits before I finished (cold hands, even with gloves), but I made a great start.  Now I have to decide if I want to finish up in the studio or take my studio on the road another day…

Moss Cove - oil painting - work in progress

Here’s the work in progress.

 

 

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Recent commissions

February 27th, 2012

Over the past few months, I’ve been honored to be entrusted with a couple of commissioned paintings.  I’m always a little nervous when I get a commission — what if my interpretation doesn’t match the picture in the client’s head?  But it’s a great opportunity to try subject matter I might not automatically gravitate to, and I’ve always been really happy to have taken on the project.

balloons balloon release sky clouds

This commission was especially emotionally charged.  A friend recently lost his mother, and after the funeral, the family released balloons into the air.  He wanted me to paint the balloons to give as a gift to his father.  Having lost my own father not too long ago, this really resonated with me and I was afraid I’d have a hard time emotionally with this.  But the image was so colorful and the balloons so cheerful, I couldn’t help but smile while I was painting.

 

yellow orchids greenhouse window

This second recent commission was less emotionally fraught.  The client’s mother collects orchids, and this is one of her favorites.  I loved how the greenhouse windows indicate a world outside, while the bright yellow flowers command your attention.

Thanks to my clients for bringing these beautiful images into my life and letting me paint my interpretation of them.

 

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The Sketchbook Project 2012

February 1st, 2012

I have a secret.  I’m an artist who never sketches.  But last fall, a project came to my attention that had the potential to change all that:  the ArtHouse Sketchbook Project 2012.

ArtHouse Co-Op, to quote their website, “is an independent Brooklyn-based company that organizes global, collaborative art projects.”  Their flagship project is to get thousands of artists to complete a sketchbook, which then tour the world and end up in the Brooklyn Art Library.  This sounded pretty cool to me, so I decided this might just be the project to get me from “gee, I want to sketch someday” to actually sketching.

See, there was a deadline.  And I thrive on deadlines.

Plus, we got to pick one of several themes, and the one I picked was “In ten minutes“.  I figured I could get myself to sketch for ten minutes.  What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to limit myself to those ten minutes.

I started within my comfort zone:  a tree:

I love pastel and oil, both very forgiving media.  And I’m addicted to color.  So I decided to challenge myself to black and white, and ink.  Putting that first line in the sketchbook was hard.  But I actually liked it, and had fun figuring out how to indicate shading and shape with only black and white.

A trip to the Rodin Sculpture Garden on the Stanford campus gave me a bigger challenge:  the human form.

Emboldened by my efforts, I decided to go whole hog and sketch “The Gates of Hell”:

I wasn’t sure what the result would be, but I really got into the process of capturing the darks, and this turned out to be one of my favorite sketches – both because I had so much fun doing it and because I liked the result.

Here’s another of my favorites, my last post, completed on 1/31, which just happened to be the deadline:

My sketchbook is now in the mail on its way to the Brooklyn Art Library.  I’m planning on stocking up on small sketchbooks and keeping one in my purse at all times.  Because you never know when you’ll have 10 minutes or so to fill, and I’ve discovered that filling that time with sketching is very nice indeed.

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“Peaceful Places” exhibition at Spice Monkey in Oakland

January 19th, 2012

During the month of February, I will have a solo exhibit at Spice Monkey in Oakland.  The title of the exhibit is “Peaceful Places” and features some of my recent landscape paintings.

An opening reception will be held Friday, Feb. 3 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.
Please RSVP via Pingg or Facebook if you are able to attend.

Address:
Spice Monkey Restaurant
1628 Webster Street @ 17th
Oakland, CA 94612

 

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Creating space for creativity

January 17th, 2012

Now that the craziness and excitement of the holidays are over, I’m taking the opportunity presented by a new year to get a fresh start. And the first thing I find myself doing is organizing: my home, my studio, my hard drive.

In part, I’m inspired by the wonderful book, Discardia, and accompanying blog. In part, it’s the opportunity presented by found space: the air hockey table that once took up half of my studio space has moved outside, giving me lots of room to play with (I’m so glad I resisted my first instinct to replace it with a large workbench – there is a lot to be said for having elbow room). But mostly, it’s because I realized that clutter was intruding on my creativity. Before I could paint, I’d have to dodge the air hockey table and the pile of paintings and frames on the floor to reach my easel.

 

Before I could find the photo I wanted to upload to my website, I’d have to search through numerous folders before I found the right version. Before I could make a pair of earrings, I’d have to pull the boxes of beads from the closet, find a place to spread them out (usually the coffee table or dining room table), then clear the materials away so I could eat dinner.

 

So I’m investing the first couple weeks of the year in setting up my studio to be a one-stop shop for creativity. A small counter-height table is the perfect size for cutting glass or making jewelry. A tall multi-drawer unit now houses all my tools, beads and findings.

After two painfully tedious days of consolidating all the photos from my laptop and desktop and organizing them into folders, I can now find photos of my artwork in seconds, and know exactly what format each is (full-size, thumbnail, etc.). I also put all my inspiration photos in a single folder entitled “stuff to paint”, so I know just where to start browsing when I’m staring at that blank canvas waiting for the muse to strike.

And speaking of canvas, the studio is beckoning.

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Things I Learned Doing A Painting A Day

December 13th, 2011

Last fall, I challenged myself to start and complete a painting a day for 30 days.  I didn’t quite manage 30 consecutive days (I took a few off for hosting in-town visitors and a couple of really busy days), but I completed the 30 paintings in 35 days.  There were a few days when it felt like a chore, but mostly, it was a really positive experience, and I learned a good deal – both about painting and general life lessons.  I thought I’d share a few of those with you.

1.  There’s (almost) always time to paint (or Make time for the things you love)

One of the key reasons I selected this challenge was to get myself into the studio day in, day out to prove to myself that I really can make time to paint.  I love painting, yet in spite of that fact, I find myself not prioritizing it and instead spending my time on chores or obsessively checking Facebook and my email.  By setting a goal to do a painting a day – and setting the expectation that I’d post them daily on Facebook – I moved painting up on my priority list, and still most of the important things on my list got done.  Sure, I missed some status updates on Facebook, I was slower to respond to email and I read fewer magazines and books.  The house might have been a bit messier.  But I didn’t feel like I was missing anything (except maybe the reading).

Of course, there were a few days when I was scheduled from morning until night, and then I really didn’t have time to paint without cutting into my sleep (and if you know how much I love and need my sleep, you’ll know that’s not really an option).  But those days are very few.  On every other day, even if it’s just for an hour or so, I do have the time – I just have to choose to use it.

2.  You can get a lot done in an hour or two

Before the challenge, there were days when I wouldn’t start painting because I only had an hour or two before I was committed to do something else.  I never thought that small a segment of time would be enough to justify mixing all the paint and then cleaning all the brushes.  But I discovered that even small chunks of time were worth spending, and I was surprised at how much I could get done with a deadline looming.  So I just learned to mix smaller quantities of paint and tried to use fewer brushes to minimize clean-up time.

3.  Loosen up

As most of you have realized, I’m type-A to the max and want everything to be perfect.  That resulted in paintings taking weeks and being very detailed.  I would spend lots of time picking the perfect image to paint, sketching it out, and then painting it in with small brushes and multiple thin layers of paint.  I was happy with my paintings, yet some of them ended up feeling stiffer than I wanted.  I loved the more impressionistic styles of other artists, but couldn’t bring myself to loosen up enough to try them.

Having a self-imposed deadline of a painting a day made it impossible to paint in my usual style.  I had to get everything done – from image selection to final brushstroke – in just a few hours.  I didn’t have time to wait for a layer to dry before painting a contrasting color next to it, or layering a different color on top.  So I started using smaller canvases, bigger brushes, more paint, lots of quick-drying medium and laying it all in at once.  At first, I was kind of a nervous wreck.  But eventually, I started having fun with it.  Because I couldn’t be cautious and detailed, and couldn’t second-guess myself, my paintings finally took on the style I was working so hard to create.

4.  Try something new

The 30-day challenge became a great excuse to try new things.  I could tell myself, “hey, it’s only a day – if it’s not great, that’s ok.”  Experimentation became play.  I tried more abstracts, different styles of landscapes, oil, acrylic, pastel.  I painted with brushes, palette knives and fingers.  And I was surprised at how much I liked both the process and the results.

5.  Commit, and don’t second-guess yourself

At the beginning of the challenge, I was looking for “easy” images to paint.  I didn’t want to tackle anything too detailed, for fear I couldn’t get it done in a day.  But as I loosened up my painting style, I discovered that I was being more decisive with each step (what brush to use, what color paint to use, which details of the reference photo to leave in or out).  Knowing I couldn’t wait for the paint to dry to paint over any mistakes, I had to commit to each line, each brush placement, and trust that the result would be good, or that I could fix it on the fly.  I couldn’t dither; I had to commit.  My self-confidence grew, and I started selecting more complicated compositions, and realizing I could accomplish them.  I shocked my art teacher by starting to paint the Golden Gate Bridge, with all of its cables, free-hand and without first tracing or sketching it –after 20+ days of daily painting, I wasn’t afraid to try.

***
Now that the 30 days are over, I’m going to focus on the lessons learned and try to apply them to the rest of my life.  Plus, I’m looking forward to doing more daily paintings (including some plein air painting), and applying the techniques I learned to my larger, longer-term paintings.

 

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Finally blogging

December 12th, 2011

After thinking about blogging for some time now, I’m finally setting up my blog, in conjunction with revamping my website.  Here you’ll find my musings on art, inspirations, my studio, and life in general.  Thanks for reading!

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