Here's what I'm working on and thinking about at the moment:

in the studio

New plan!

Although my life still orients around the school calendar because my kids are all at home, I do like to use the beginning of the year as a chance to check in on how things are going in my life — do some reflection and goal setting. I had made an effort to reframe some of my thinking about my work in October, and it was good to reflect and maybe reframe.

While my goals in October made sense, the main way to measure success was in terms of revenue… And while I do want to focus on increasing revenue, I noticed that any time I spent on efforts that weren’t clearly tied to revenue was accompanied by guilt and a sense that I was wasting time. This also discouraged me from taking risks in my painting because I was too-often asking myself if it would help or hurt sales.

People often say to me, “But it’s not about the money!” I think most of them may have actual paychecks actual jobs. I used to have normal jobs; I was even the prime breadwinner for a few years, back before kids. But it’s been a long time since I made a direct financial contribution to our family coffers and, while I don’t want to obsess about money, feeling like I was moving in the direction of generating net-positive revenue would be pretty great. 

Anyway, last week I set some process/practice goals for the next 5 months (realistically that’s about all I have before school starts winding down and my independent schedule crumbles for the summer) that I hope will value not only getting paintings finished (for sales or shows, etc) but also learning new things and exploring new ideas.

The figure sessions are an example of something that felt important and valuable — plus really fun and stimulating — that was not likely to generate direct sales. In my old plan, it was hard to justify the time because it kept me from working on paintings that might actually sell. The new plan acknowledges that these figure sessions are something I value and are a good investment of my time in the long run — for skill development, meeting other artists, and staying really engaged in my work, among other things… 

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           Katherine. Oil on canvas, 9″x12″. 1/7/19

That thought-work made it even nicer to be back at the figure session this Monday. I felt pretty pleased with the painting I pulled from the canvas by the end of the 4 hours.

Posted 5 days ago

Guided Studio Workshop class

I started teaching my guided studio class this past Saturday. It was so fun! I think students were pretty satisfied with our first day.

The idea is to help beginner or intermediate painters develop some momentum in their practice — by scheduling weekly time for them to paint, helping them develop confidence, and building some skills around color theory, drafting, etc. It’s every Saturday morning for 3 months, so I’m hoping people will really feel some shifts in their work.

The class is actually modeled after a yoga class I used to go at IndyYoga. In that class, everyone came in with different levels of skill and experience. Over time, the instructor got to know how to help each person in their own practice. In addition to liking the yoga, I liked that we drew from a fairly steady group of participants — no one came every week, but almost everyone came pretty regularly, and our motley crew always arrived grateful for the chance to practice and to be at that place, with that teacher, in that moment. We’ll see if I can figure out how to recreate some of those feelings in this class.

Posted 1 week ago

Advanced studies?

Ben has wondered if we should try to send me to an MFA program somewhere. Of course it would be a joy for me — I am eager to get better and I think those can be helpful in making connections as well as perhaps growing more confidence about reaching out to galleries, grants, etc. But they are also expensive (and I already have a graduate degree I paid for and am not using, so worried about doing that again :-)). Plus, it’s demands would require that I give up a lot the time and attention I currently give to our kids, my husband, my community, my health (already skimped on too much!). I haven’t ruled it out forever, but it seems like I should wait a few years and then see if it still seems important.

But the conversation reminded me that there’s a lot of great learning I can do here. So much of learning is doing — so I need to keep painting. But I can keep challenging my painting by exposing myself to work by other great painters. I got a bunch of art-related books for my birthday — mostly around 20th century women and figure painters, so a great way to broaden my knowledge. 

More directly in terms of skill development I picked up and am re-reading Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima II, an in-depth book by a quite-accomplished painter and teacher. It’s amazing what he was able to see in a subject and so beautifully represent on the canvas. I hope I can practice his ideas — so, as if under his tutelage — and keep energized to push myself and further my skills.

Not much time in the studio this week due to various obligations in the rest of my life. Still, yesterday, I came in a for a few hours to  get started on a commission from a friend… 

                 Two veery thrushes… each 6″ x 6″ oil on panel.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Looking back to move forward

I’ve been loving this figure session I’ve been attending on Mondays. A model sits for us for 4 hours and we can do whatever we want in that time. Some days I paint the same image the whole time, some days I work on one image for a while, then move to a new spot and start a second. It’s very focused and you fall into this flow-y state and at days end I’m both tired and energized and I usually have an open-hearted post-spa sort of feeling. Deluxe.

I almost always leave feeling proud of the work I’ve done (which follows also after moments of darkness and great doubt in the painting process when I look at the smeary mess on my canvas). I’ve definitely made a lot of progress in my ability to see the shapes and colors and capture some of it on the canvas. But it’s interesting, too, to notice how differently I see the work when I am away from the moment of doing it, when I am back in my own studio or showing it to someone on my phone. Then, the work tends to seem heavy or flat or cartoonish — instead of lively and energized like it did when I was in the act of making it.

A couple still hold up to me when I look at them later. Could I think more about how they got made — what might have set their making apart from the others that aren’t as successful — to help identify steps or attitudes that would be most likely to support future awesomeness?

    studies from October & November… oil on canvas.

Posted 6 weeks ago
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Posted 7 weeks ago

Heart-shaped Fern. Oil on panel. 6 x 12”.


I [painted] sunshine on a cloudy day… it’s been lovely bathing in this warm yellow color on the eight straight day of rain…

Posted 10 weeks ago

Coffee pots

I set a goal a few weeks ago of painting 3 little paintings every week, in addition to work on larger pieces. This is the first week I’ve actually gotten 3 little ones done – but made no progress on any of the bigger ones. Still, had some fun with the little ones, below. (You can imagine I spent a lot of time thinking about coffee this week, wishing for more!)

            3 coffee pots, painted in oil on panel, 6x6″ or 6x12″

I think my favorite part may be the background of the tall one on the right. I LOVE colorful patterns in fabrics, but they can quickly become a problem in paintings… For this one I roughed out the colors and values from the background and then scratched a pattern in – it feels fun and referential, but not too bogged down or distracting. I like the effect – now, how can I use it more?

Posted 10 weeks ago

Painterly context?

I enjoy when curators add textual descriptions to shows at museums. I love to have a little bit of the context within which the artist was working. But sometimes I have to laugh at the effort to find some Big Meaning in what is often much more likely to be a small decision on the part of the artist. 

I remember, for instance, a teacher suggesting that when one gets stumped, paint pears. It turns out to be a great trick to keep you painting — which is what will give you ideas for new things to paint, which pulls you out of your slump. Ever afterwards, whenever I see pears in a painting, I think to myself: no, that artist was not making a statement about loneliness, or body image in the 21st century, or the the bougie nature of monogamous relationships… nope, that artist got stumped, went to the grocery and grabbed the first pears they could find, then settled down to work and get to the other side of that slump. 

I was fighting the pull of my blue couch one day… and instead of spending so much energy resisting it, I decided to run right at that darn thing and give it a hug. By which I mean: I decided to paint it. And of course, as I was painting it, I had some ideas about creating the same image with a different process, and that led to two more paintings. 

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               3 blue couch paintings; in oil or acrylic on panel; each 6″ x 12″

Interestingly, embracing the blue couch (metaphorically) instead of trying to fight it, seemed to weaken its hold over me for quite awhile. Hmmm.

So, now, whenever I see an artist’s painting of their studio space, I think: yup, they were fighting themselves that day. We have a lot of paintings of artists’ studios over the years — which means that even people like Picasso, Matisse, Sargent had to fight personal demons in their work… Sort of reassuring! Plus a lot of those paintings are pretty wonderful — offering a quick peek into the working life of some very talented folks. 

Posted 12 weeks ago

Opportunities in limitations?

I’ve just started going to a weekly life drawing session on Mondays in Calais. I love it! I haven’t had much exposure to this sort of thing and it’s really challenging and energizing (and tiring, in its way, too).

Everyone in the group works quite differently — different media, different compositions, different speeds. In the time I worked on one paint sketch, for example, the person next to me would do 6-9 pencil sketches. We had people working in oils, acrylics, pencil, clay and pastels.

Usually the model holds the same pose for the whole time, which I find appealing — it gives me time to work on whatever I’m trying. But yesterday we ended up doing three 60-minute poses and I think my work was better. Is that because I had less time to overwork things? Had to keep my aspirations simple given the time limit? Additional attempts to capture the same person?

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                sketches of model John LePage, oil on canvas, 10/16/19

Next week will be another long-pose session. But I think I should at least try two paintings instead of my usual one — to replicate some of the pressures/opportunities that yielded pleasing results this time ‘round.

Posted 13 weeks ago

Departure

A fun departure last week – while I was in fact departed from home, attending a great, weeklong workshop in Gloucester at the Northeast Arts Workshop. 

Most mornings I got up early to take a walk before heading to the studio and on one of them was treated to a tour of large lichen-covered boulders that littered the woods, thrown up so so long ago by the glaciers. It was like a sculpture garden in a forest… Even though I’d mostly been working on portraits and figures during the week away, I whipped out several little abstracts that morning and loved the simple energy and abstracted planes in them. 

But they had such thin layers of paint that I tried to goose the colors a bit when I got home – which quickly threatened them with overworking. As I tinkered with this one, I tried to be really intentional and, to me, it still has that spontaneous feeling that pleased me when they first flew out of the brush… 

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              Fungus Amongus, oil on panel, 6″ x 12″

Posted 13 weeks ago

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