Saturday, January 31, 2009

Red Night 2009

First of all, thanks so much to those of you who boosted my spirits this past week. The making of art can be a bit lonely and having the support of those I admire is much appreciated.

(I wasn't exactly ready to leap off the nearest high building, but I was certainly whining enough that many closest to me probably wished I would.)
Using the advice that many of you shared, and with a push by Angela at Graham Gallery in Hastings, I switched gears and played with something new this week. Angela has asked me to participate in the American Red Cross Mid-Rivers Chapter Annual Fundraiser. Called Red Night 2009, it's an amazing evening of fine dining, silent auction and a production of Steel Magnolias by 7th Stage Productions.

Those of us donating work for the auction were asked to use - you guessed it - red as the common theme for our art pieces, which certainly fits the bill for trying something new. I've got red pastel sticks that are a year old and in pristine condition!

I'm letting you in on a sneak preview of the painting I'm donating, and I'll even show you how I did it for no extra charge. Heckuvadeal.

I have Fiestaware dinner ware, and I love their bright, rich colors, so what better item to paint than my red cup and saucer. I started on Art Spectrum sanded pastel paper in a soft umber color. Using vine charcoal I drew out the main shapes as you can plainly see. Since I knew that the strongest color in this piece would be red, I decided to kick it up a bit and make the shadow areas a cool dark green. To do this without creating a giant mud pile, I layed down the green and then washed it with rubbing alcohol. This melts the pastel into the paper, keeping the area dark but thin so light can still reflect through the pastel pigment. It also leaves the grit of the paper for further layers of pastel if I decide to add any, which I always do. (I can't believe I used blue tape. It's not very sticky, which is a real plus, but yuck! the color is so intrusive!)

The light in this piece is warm, so a light layer of dull warm yellow was layed down over the background area.

Next step red! I don't usually work with red, so it was a fun challenge to deal with warm reds and cool reds, dark reds and highlight reds. The dark areas on the cup and saucer are actually dark green, cross-hatched with dark cool red. The shadow is the same dark green, cross-hatched with a lighter cool green. 'S lovely.

Finished piece. This juicy 8 x 10 framed pastel will be available at silent auction during Red Night 2009. Bids start at $100. It can be seen at Graham Gallery from February 14 through the 21st.

Help me out with a name, please! I'm thinking "Reddy for Tea".

Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slumps and Solutions

I've been in a slump. Nothing I have painted the last couple of weeks has gotten me excited, and I've thrown out more half-completed work than usual. It's the weather, grey and close enough to zero to hurt; it's an up-coming exhibit that I set the bar a bit too high for; it's the fact that there's no snack food in the house; did I mention the weather? I'm fairly certain I'm one of those folks who should wear a full-spectrum-light hat around from October to May.

I'm working my way out of this little Gulch of Gloom by giving myself a break. Rather than try to work through it by, well, working through it, I'm caving in.
I think it's working.

I rested the last two days, which means I slept late and took naps . I ate a handfull of chocolate chips without feeling the least bit guilty. (Well, actually two handsfull.) Went out to eat with friends and did not order off the healthy menu.

When I did enter the Studio of Sadness I did so only to straighten up from the last week. There's nothing on my easel, which means there's nothing to feel inadequate about. The pile of reference photos and scraps of important papers have been returned to their respective folders or trash bins. The oil paints and pastel sticks have been put back into their storage space and those paintings that never made it out of their infancy have been wiped clean and put away for another day. A clean studio means a clean slate. (Is there a pun in there?)

While I was there digging out from a couple of weeks of frustration, I noticed hanging on the back of my studio door my vision board, created months ago. It was like seeing an old friend unexpectedly at the grocery store. As I revisited the images and thought about the reasons for their selection I felt the weight of my frustrations slip from my shoulders. My vision board reflected images of delight and fun, acceptance and letting go of junk (like slumps). It reflected my journey, the part already taken and the steps yet to be made. And this smiling woman in all kinds of mis-matched fabrics that remind me that it's okay to be who I am.
In the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara, "Tummarah is unuthah day."
How do you work yourself out of a slump?

top image 5x7 oil, Grey Spring
middle image 20x20 mixed media
bottom image 5x7 oil, Sunlit Trees

Sunday, January 18, 2009

One Hundred Daze

I'm really excited about a new venture with my Canadian friend, Mavis. We're embarking on a painting adventure that may prove to be pretty exciting. Daily paintings are quite the rage these days. We're jumping on that band wagon, with a bit of a twist. We've agreed to paint 100 paintings in 100 days, starting March 1st.

Our theme is "Off the Road". It's not a requirement, but our paintings will have a common thread, some connection to that part of our world that is just "off the road".

This is a preview of Mavis' beautiful daily drawings . To see more of what she's been up to, find her blog at Emotionally Impelled.

The plan is for us to combine our paintings into a "Best of" exhibit. They'll be available for, you guessed it, $100 each. Look for our 100x100x100's exhibit sometime in July.

In the meantime, stop by Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska in February. My pastel painting, "March Migration", was accepted into the prestigious "Wings Over the Platte" exhibit which has been held at the museum for over 20 years.

This exhibit is held in conjunction with the annual sandhill crane migration. Seeing these cranes by the thousands on the wide still waters of the Platte river is amazing, and worth the trip to witness.

The year is just beginning and we're off to an exciting start. What are you up to?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Steps for Creative Success

Cynthia Morris poses an interesting question on her blog, Original Impulse. She responds to the question, "How do I set aside judgement so I can create?"

That's a question I wrestle with every time I step in front of my easel. There's always a fragile balance between what I might want to try, and what's expected of me. As I confront the blank canvas or paper, the voices in my head begin their song. "Who do you think you are!?! Do what's easy! Go for the sure thing! What will your family say?!"

There's the safe and comfortable formula that produces, maybe not a winner everytime, but at least a certain probability of success. And that's fine. It's great to know I can crank out a piece that most folks will find acceptable.

And then there's a deep yearning for something...different.

Morris suggests three things: the first is to do what you love doing. Engage yourself in your "work". In my case, submerging myself in the act of painting, whether it's oils or pastels, seems to separate me from the expectations of others - and myself. It's in this "other world" that I can make decisions about what and how I interpret this universe, irrespective of it's commercial or artistic value. Squeezing out oil paints, mixing them into little piles, watching the colors merge one into another ... ahhhhhhhhhh

She also believes in the idea of admitting the fear...and doing it anyway. I'm all for this attitude. I'm pretty much a scaredy-cat, and have learned over the years to agree to something, anything, right away, and then panic about it later. Once I'm committed, I'm, well, committed. Nike had it right. Square up your shoulders and go.

Morris ends with the concept of self control. Remind ourselves of why we love what we do, and then do it. Shrrrrrr. Ignore the critic. Mmmhmmmm. If I had self control I'd be a size, er, smaller. This one is easier said than done, I'm telling you. Artists aren't typically Rocks of Gibraltar in the ego department. However, she's right. Silence the inner whiner, the critic that sounds suspiciously like your mother. Stand before your easel, or whatever it is that you stand before, and believe in yourself. (It's either that or get a job in the food service industry.)

Here's an addition to her list.

Use it up. That's right. Use it up, use up the paint you've bravely squeezed out onto your palette. Having said that, I realize this works only for painters. And bricklayers. Anyway...

For some reason, the act of using up paint that would go to waste anyway seems to allow me to ... I don't know...relax, to quiet that inner critic and just ... enjoy the process. See how the paint moves off the brush and pile up on the surface. Feel the heft of the paint on the brush, and watch it mingle with pigments you'd never allow it to mingle with otherwise.
After a session using pastels, try reaching into the pile of sticks you've accumulated from your last painting, stand back and go for it.

I'm not saying that everything I create using this effort will be a success. But it does free me up to relax and try some things I might not have tried otherwise. It allows me to circumvent judgement and experience the artistic process in its loveliest form.

What do you say? How do you remove judgement from your artistic process?

Wildflowers 2009 12x9 oil
Red Sky 2009 5x7 oil
Reflections 2009, 5x7 oil

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Starting Over, Again

Jeesh, it's only January 4th of the brand new year, and I'm behind already. This was going to be my year, my year, to learn new things and try new things and start new things.

January 1st I set out to find out just exactly how to accomplish all that I wanted. Grabbed a notebook and a new pencil and started to make a list.

I read my backlog of Alyson Stanfield's ArtBiz blogs. Wow! Tons of marketing tips and ideas on how to get that gallery representation and even a few good recipes.

Better get a bigger notebook.

I canoed over to EmptyEasel and promised myself I'd learn to be a smarter painter. As soon as I learned how to be a better blogger by learning to write well. And doggone it, I'm going to be more professional about my business!

Blog! Artists are supposed to comment on the blogs of other artists or sites that have to do with art. Which means I have to actually read those blogs. Twitter, too! Gotta keep that Facebook thing going.

And because all of this self improvement makes me a bit nervous, I realize I need to add some serious self-guidance and promise myself I'll get it together. Squeeze some meditation in, too. Yeah, that'll really help.

Got a new camera and so far I know how to turn it on. Add 'learn camera' to the list.

And it's 4 days into January, and I'm pooped.

Where did all this start? With a desire to be a full time working artist. And do it better than I did it last year.

I'm thinking I need to go back and re-do my New Year's list. In my excitement to improve my painting business, I neglected, well, my painting.

Next week, the painting will come first.

How are you doing with your list?