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

in the studio

Rough Day in the Studio

After a long and week of solo parenting, I got back to the studio this morning, hoping I was ready to get in some serious painting time after multiple schedule derailments last week. [After a nap on the blue couch,] I got set up to paint some blossoming leaves from a nearby tree… I was hoping to capture the sense of newness and hope that are encapsulated in the colors of this seasonal moment. The result is disappointing. Bowed but unbroken, I tried a second one, which ended up even muddier and even less joyful.

What is so difficult about capturing these very simple shapes? I’m honestly not sure. But maybe this is the sign that I should just focus on process and not worry about product for a bit, try to figure out how to these shapes. Even though I know I don’t want to paint blossoms forever, I do want to feel like I can paint whatever I set my mind to – and not have certain subjects (n this case, flowers or all types!) seem off limits.  I am pretty sure that a lot of the trick is figuring out how to clearly understand what I am seeing so that I can translate that more clearly to rendering. Those are skills and experiences that should translate through many different efforts.

Posted 101 weeks ago

New ideas

Has been an exciting couple weeks as I play with some old materials in new directions. I picked up a painting I’d started almost a year ago, a grid of blue squares that reminded my of the night sky and that expansive feeling you get when you chance upon the twilight colors, just before it really gets dark. Every time I looked at it, it made me want to breathe deep, but I had no idea what to do next so that someone else might get that feeling too. For whatever reason, last week I was inspired to pick up a brush, dust off my acrylics and dive into that piece again. My hope is that adding the person doesn’t make it too heavy-handed/directive for the viewer and that just adding the simple figure while still leaving so much open background will maintain that sense of expansiveness…  There’s work to be done, for sure, but I still feel excited about the progress.


                         … stages in the painting’s development…

Posted 102 weeks ago

Slide show of recent work

I put together this slide show of pieces and text I exhibited at the new Waterbury Public Library in March and April. I hope it gives some sense of how I try to share my work with others, help people connect to the work and art in general.

Posted 102 weeks ago

Maybe, progress

I got the clementine show up at the library and have been flailing a bit about what to do next.  This has not been helped by the choppy schedule of school vacation as well as snow- and teacher inservice-days that have eradicated any possibility of routine.  

Although it doesn’t feel like much of a plan, thought I would work on the figure… and self portraits have the advantage of not needing to pay a model… Here are a few quick studies, in theory all me.  I am pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to identify me on the street with just these, though!  Still, some progress, I think.

Maybe I should call it thug life?  They do all have a mugshot-like quality (which wasn’t what I was going for).  Ah well.  One of the underpinnings of writing this blog is to show myself to the world (okay the 3 people who read it) even when it doesn’t necessarily feel like my best foot forward.  

Posted 108 weeks ago


Wednesday was my painting class.  The teacher brought in white tulips and we set up a little still-life.  I thought it would be fun to challenge myself by making the whole thing as white as possible and see if I could differentiate it in the painting: white tulip in a clear jar on a white cloth in front of a white wall with some bright light coming in one corner.  

(I set to work, trying to look for colors in the white, trying to figure out relative values.  Hmmm.  30 minutes of work and the surface is covered, but it’s sure not interesting or looking good.  Was I trying to prove something to myself or to my classmates in this crazy all-white still life?  Damn ego!  

Keep looking!  Take another stab with a new layer of paint.  30 more minutes.  It’s messier.  Brief moments of truth have been smeared and now lost by followup moves.  What on earth can I do??  The teacher is looking over my shoulder, making me even more self-conscious of the blotchy mess in front of me.  I am pretty sure no one else has this awful mess in front of them.  They were all smart enough to choose colored backgrounds and translucent or opaque vessels.  Why is he still standing there?  Laughing at hubris?  I am going to fail, and my stomach knows it, churning.  I tried to challenge myself and maybe actually I was just showing off and now I am going to fail, and do it pitifully, in front of the whole class.  Wow, this is so uncomfortable.  This is awful.  Should I just leave now?  Quit for the day?  Maybe forever?  I have no idea how to turn this paint mess into something that feels at all like the lovely little still life in front of me. Keep looking.  More paint.  Maybe this other yellow will help?  Try this different hue – hmm, that’s pretty.  But it doesn’t work a miracle – still a mess.  I do not like this Sam I Am.  

The clock is running down.  Ten minutes more.  No time for anything new, now time to make the best of what’s been done already.  What connections can I make between the apparently random splotches of color filling the canvas?  How about if smooth some of them together, and sharpen other edges.  I do like that little spot of last ditch yellow.  Where else might that be useful?  Wait a second, that might be nicely complemented by this other color I seem to have already dabbed in a few places.  Where else can I put that to move the light around?  Suddenly there seems to be a color scheme.  These blotches are starting to look like passages.  That’s a foreground, that’s a background.  Let’s through in a few highlights and – stop!  Walk away!  This is as good as it’s going to get today.  Call. it. done.)

Lesson learned?  Keep looking. Keep painting.  Keep looking.  Keep painting.  At the end, make the best of what’s there.  If the eye has been even half good, and there has been persistence in the recording, sometimes I will get lucky with the make-the-best-of-it part and end up with a recognizable little painting.

Posted 111 weeks ago
<p>Clementines, Feb 20. Using the picture plane thingy a little differently to see what to draw, which seems to be helping me replicate the shapes I’m seeing  more effectively. This and Friday’s images ended up with busier backgrounds than I would have anticipated, which might be a bit distracting in the composition, but I like the fruit wedges themselves and the perspective, plus the energy in some of the colors as they bump up against each other.</p>
Posted 112 weeks ago
<p>Working with complementary colors and white. These were somewhat painful to eke out, and didn’t feel like they looked good when I pronounced them done, but looking now, they show progress.</p>
Posted 114 weeks ago
<p>Sigh. On the blue couch already, and it’s only 9:12 AM.  Struggling at the easel today.</p>
Posted 114 weeks ago

Edgy excitement

I’m still marveling at how the last 4 minutes of my work on that strawberry painting yesterday completely transformed it.  The colors were all there, the rendering was the same, but I think was trying to capture too much information accurately.  It was hard to figure out where to focus the eye and how to make sense of it, and the painting just didn’t really engage the viewer.  I remembered Dominique’s fourth step in her process, the edges – and making sure they are intentional and varied.  

I started smearing some edges along the glass, in the places where the light was bouncing around and in effect smearing the view anyway.  I tried to clean up/sharpen the edges of the main strawberry, also edging the leaves with red to try and make them crisper.  That helped a lot, and then I wondered about putting in the seeds, which I had been resisting because almost always when I try to put in tiny bits of color, I make a gloppy mess.  I thought, what the heck, this is sort of awful anyway, I might as well try scratching in the seeds (removing the paint with a tool recommended by Carol Marine) and then suddenly it was so different – so lively, friendly and captivating.  

So, for the first time I could really see the difference the edges made, and how lovely and fun it is to play with them in the wet oil paint.  Now, how to put this to use more frequently?

Posted 115 weeks ago
<p>Funny, this little guy didn’t come together until I scratched out the seeds in a last-minute impulse. I never would have believed it could make such a difference!</p>
Posted 115 weeks ago

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