Lots going on!

IMG_8027Well, I’ve managed to neglect my updates for the past several months, but there has actually been a lot going on.  First, I moved into a larger studio space, which has had the unexpected (though not surprising) effect of increasing my productivity.  I liked my old space, but as I produced more paintings, was finding myself getting more and more constrained in the physical space.  So, when a studio mate decided to move out, I moved into her larger space.  Once I spread out physically, I found myself starting to spread out mentally and creatively.  Funny how that works.

I started working on a couple of commissions for friends – each one a gift that they requested for others, with special significance.  While I love each of the photos that were requested, they were departures from my normal aim.

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Leif and Darwin presented a certain challenge because… well, to be honest, I don’t have an affinity with cats and was concerned how that would translate on the canvas.  Their stripes were a great technical focal point for me, and I enjoyed getting lost in the therapeutic brushstrokes involved in blending them!

 

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Blanquita was from a photo that a friend of a friend had taken on a flight home to NYC from Puerto Rico, where he was vacationing and met this sato.  He had filtered the image a little, and a friend forwarded it to me to paint as a gift for him.  This image of her almost as if anticipating a new life of love & comfort was compelling, to me.

I was also offered the walls of a salon in Boston’s South End to exhibit my work.  At first, I balked.  ‘I want a solo show in a gallery, not a hair salon,’ said my entitled artist self.  When I went to meet with them, I realized that IMG_6559the folks at Kent Newton Salon on Washington Street know what they’re doing.  They select only four artists per year, each leaving the work up for a few months.  One of the aspects that I love about this venue is that all of the mirrors provide a really great visual effect, creating faces everywhere you look.  The opening was held on the First Friday of August (SoWa has a lively First Friday scene!), and I so appreciate my friends and fans who came out to enjoy some bubbly and hors d’oevres.  My work is up until November 27 (and I will be rotating pieces a bit as work is sold and/or new work is completed).  Kent Newton is at 1315 Washington Street.  Super people, too!  Go visit.

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One of our local businesses, Float Boston, offered a program for local artists in order to show how flotation tanks can increase creativity.  From my floats, I was inspired to paint portraits of plants — but on a grid of smaller canvas panels.  Each on its own is an abstract image, but collectively portray the plant image. I call it Gestalt painting (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). This one is a Vinca.  This is just the underpainting, and I’ll blog its progress separately.  Lots to say in this one!

 

OK, off to do some more work so that I can post an update later in the week…  I promise that I will.

 

The Interlude of Sketches

imageI was thrilled to have my work selected for the  Sketchbook Show at the Nave Gallery Annex in Davis Square earlier this year, and was then excited to learn that it attracted more visitors than any other show at that gallery.  I am inspired by every show at the Nave, and that show was no exception –  there’s some really creative stuff in my fellow artists’ sketchbooks!

imageI love drawing faces – whether they’re human or canine or equine. I also like the messiness of sketchbooks- the mental notes scribbled in the margins, the shopping list added at the bottom. The addition of text, of handwriting added in the process of the sketch, adds a thoughtful dimension to a casual impression.

And so it happened that as I roamed from room to room browsing the varied collection of sketches hanging by little binder clips, I was inspired to start sketching more. I should step away from faces, I thought. I should just allow myself to play in some other subject matter…  but faces intrigue me, and I thought of how old sepia photos draw me in… historical faces… and perhaps I would include a quote by the subject.

I’ve not been very good at keeping up with my commitment, but will try to post them here on a regular basis.

Obi (detail)

  I’ve been working on Obi for a while. There have been times when things did not go as planned and I felt like I would never finish. Things I have painted well many times in the past suddenly just would not come out right. But onward we plod and work through it. 

And sometimes things out in the rest of the world just don’t go as planned. When that happens, art becomes therapy. To go into the studio and lift a tiny #1 brush to a 36 x 36 canvas and just paint one single hair at a time allows the niggly demands of other responsibilities and failures to wash away, and I emerged from the studio ready to take them on, again. 

Obi, started

 I am always happy to start another Swissy, and Obi is one who always seems to be wearing a cheeky grin. What a fun face to paint!

In starting the underpainting, I was planning to just throw on a light wash of paint to map out the lines and colors, but I ended up spending hours and really having fun with it. This is not the traditional underpainting; but, as I’ve said before, each painting seems to have its own unique process. I’m just here to apply the paint.

Loki, restart

  After starting the first composition of Loki, I just wasn’t feeling it. It seemed like I was just painting a favorite photograph rather than producing art. And so i went back to another image; one that his mom had emailed to me which I thought was a little more compelling. Back to my zooming and cropping and eyes staring at the viewer (or, eye, in this case). I like the paw in the foreground, and the peaceful expression. What is more endearing than a sleepy dog, comfortable in his bed?

One thing that all artists share, I think, is a propensity for avoiding the work. It’s entirely fear-based (“I don’t want to screw it up”), and I’ve been doing it more than usual with this painting. I’m not sure why. Are we ever sure of the inner workings of our deepest, shadowiest subconscious?  

One of the other aspects of painting which I find really interesting (in my own work) is that I often use different techniques each time. With this painting, I am finding that I’m using a dry brush technique. This is normally counter to oil painting, which often consists of big, blobby, wet strokes. I guess I’m so reticent about getting all that blackness right and incorporating the highlights correctly that I am using the brush more like a piece of charcoal, rubbing and smoothing out. My brushes are taking a beating, but I’m comfortably creeping along. In my safety zone. 

I need to paint more boldly. This painting has been commissioned by a woman as a housewarming gift for her husband. It’s hard to be risky with gifts. Especially when they’re moving in a couple of weeks. 

I will be in the studio all day, tomorrow. 

Loki – started?

After doing a photo shoot with a new dog, it sometimes takes me days of scrutinizing photos, zooming and cropping and trying to reframe images through a new angle.  And sometimes, I know as soon as I take the picture.  I can be out with the subject for an hour and then, the 48th click of the camera reveals an image that goes *ding ding ding* and I go home to work with it, a little.  That was pretty much the case with this shoot.

The client  had already determined the size of the canvas, and so I simply went to the studio, put  the sketch down, started on the background, and  – screeeeeeech.  Wait.image

This is a complete departure from the style with which I normally paint – and which drew this client to me, in the first place.  I hate painting heads and shoulders centered on the canvas.  How boring.

This client is an artist’s dream in that she said to me after the photo shoot “Surprise me.  I trust your vision, so go with whatever image inspires you.” I emailed a picture to her of the painting on the easel.  “I don’t know if I like this,” I said.  She agreed that it was quite different from my usual composition, but agreed that it portrays the playful side of him.

I try to focus on painting expressions and sometimes that needs to encompass more of the dog than just the face.  He is an animated dog, and after 45 minutes of squeaking toys and waving treats at him, I got mostly really handsome head shots.  But this image of him with his legs stabilizing his young, athletic body and enthusiastic expression just couldn’t be ignored.  I zoomed in to capture his facial expression.  Meh.  Zooming back out, the image of his whole stature conveyed something that a facial shot didn’t.

I will spend one more day going over the other pictures that I have of Loki, and return to the studio tomorrow to either start a new canvas or proceed with this. Sometimes, the process is as surprising to me as it is to anyone else.

Falling Back into the Work

I don’t like that I basically shut down in the summer, but the upside of it is that come Sept 21st, some internal switch is turned on and I re-emerge, recharged. This Fall has brought an extra bonus – a studio!

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Many months ago, I wrote about how I longed for a bright studio and imagined it with white walls and peeling paint, but weighed it against the benefits of working at home. True to my inability to ever make a decision, I was torn. But when I moved at the end of this summer, I found myself not too far from Mad Oyster Studios and was struck with the realization that a friend had lost her studio mate when he moved out of town. Hey. I don’t think she replaced him. Is that space available? I should ask her. And so I texted her and, after talking with her and getting the OK from the others who share the space, and meeting the head of the studios, and paying my first month’s rent, I was handed keys. Turns out that, as a painting space, home has nothing over the studio. And so we (Rupert and I) get up in the morning and I make coffee and get dressed and we walk to the studio, where I work – undistracted – for a couple of hours while he naps. I am looking forward to putting on my turtlenecks and scarves and crunching through leaves on our way to the studio. I hope for another snowy winter, and when the mayor asks us to stay off the roads and I cannot go to my walking clients, I will bundle up and walk gleefully to the studio, where we can stay for hours, stepping out only to grab a coffee or a meal to refuel for more painting.  And next summer, when it’s too hot to paint, I will simply head to studio, turn on the AC, and work to my cool heart’s content.

Having a dedicated space for working is all I thought it would be. Happy Fall!

Kimbo, almost done

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Flesh tones on the face just need to be completed, with the correct highlights and shading, and I’ll probably add  a nostril piercing.

I had envisioned more of a gritty look to this, and may play with some harsher brush strokes to better portray the mood, but we’ll see what happens.  What I find really interesting is that her expression is somewhat ambiguous.  What is it?