Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions, Part 1

I am not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. I never have been. I guess I got tired of feeling guilty that I broke them so quickly. Instead, what I do is make a list of things I want to accomplish for the coming year. I make a list of big goals and little ones, and then I put them in an envelope and "hide" it in a safe place. At the end of the year I read the list and cross off what I've accomplished. I guess these are just like resolutions but having them in a "to do" list format seems to make them less intimidating. It's a good feeling to cross things off my list and see what I've accomplished at the end of the year. I don't worry about what HASN'T been done, those items can go on next year's list if I still find them to still be important to accomplish, I just focus on what HAS been accomplished. Goals and needs change, just as I change, so I always evaluate whether or not the things not crossed off are important enough to make the list again the following year.

This year, I only crossed off three things in a list of ten. Now, I can beat myself up for only doing three, except that when I look at what's on the list and what I accomplished, these are pretty big things. I also made some great headway on some of the things I didn't cross off. Here's what I wrote:

1. Have at least 5 galleries represent me. Well this one didn't get crossed off the list on a technicality. I can list 3 galleries that actually represent me and 1 art consultant who has a private gallery that does. I also have one gallery that has a good body of work at their establishment but I am not on their website. Am I showing in 5 galleries? Yes, but I can't say I am represented by them all so I didn't cross this item off my list. Now, I am pretty proud of how far I've come. When I wrote this item on the list, I had ZERO representation. I think I did pretty well in a year on this one. Next year this will definitely be crossed off.

2. Sell enough art to make a good living. Once again, this was not crossed off. I did make a LOT more money than I have in previous years. I was actually in the black all year, and I have a lot of art expenses! But I figure this is still a foundation year. I worked pretty hard on making quality work and getting galleries to show my work. This coming year will be even more profitable, I am predicting, since my name and work is getting out there.

3. Buy a house in Portland, OR. Back when I wrote this list, my then boyfriend, now husband and I were seriously contemplating moving to Portland but things have changed. We still want to buy a house but now we may be staying in San Francisco where there's more work for him. Like I said, things change. Needs change.

4. Get Married. Funny how when I wrote this, my husband and I weren't even engaged and now we are married! I guess I knew then that he was the one. Married. Check. This one was big one to get crossed off my list.

5. Go to Italy. Nope, didn't get there, but someday....

6. Quit my job. YES!!! DONE! COMPLETED! I love being an artist and painting for the majority of my day! Once again, a HUGE thing to cross off my list.

7. Exercise. This was crossed off although I think I can still be better at this. I have joined a gym and go on a semi-regular schedule.

8. Weigh what I weighed when I first met my husband two years ago. When I met him I was a a nice 138 lbs. (I am 5'8") but I have now gained 12 lbs of "love" and would like to give it back. It was only 8lbs. when I wrote this on my list. Maybe I should revise this to "not gain any more weight" for next year.

9. Feng Shui the apartment. You'd think that would be an easy one, but I didn't have time to do it. When I did have some extra time, I actually forgot it was on my list.  Oh well.

10. Learn to forgive my family.  Another huge one that I am still working on. Having everyone show up to my wedding helped. I'm getting there....

Tomorrow I will make my new list of things to accomplish for 2011. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Painting 2 in the New Series

Today I finished the second piece in my new, and still untitled, series. I am finding that I need to work on multiple pieces at a time. One to two days are needed to paint the images of the women, and one day, at least, is needed for the wax and embellishments. Sometimes that last part takes longer, depending on how long it takes me to come up with the random components that I add on top of the wax. If I have three pieces going at the same time, I can paint the image of one while the wax heats up for the other piece and I am thinking about the embellishments of the third.

I am still trying to figure out where this series is going, which is probably why I have not come up with a title for the series or for the "completed" paintings. (I use "" on the word completed since I may still add small things to the pieces.) I am open to ideas if anyone wants to make a suggestion. I probably won't be adding these to my website until I have a couple of more paintings done (and some titles!) so this is the only place you will be able to see this work....for now.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Break Through on a Series

Today I had a break through. I was "stuck" at the studio all day since my car was in the shop. Consequently I was left me with a good 7 hours to paint today. Because of this, I had a lot of time to contemplate my next couple of moves on my painting and now I am done with it! I am so happy with the results. It has the right about of randomness, "grit", and tightness that I was looking for. This is exactly the direction that I would like my new series to take and it wasn't easy for me to get here, but I am here.


I also have two more pieces in the works. I will probably be using some anatomical drawings, especially bones, in these pieces. I have always been fascinated with anatomy (I can name about 80% of the bones in a body of the top of my head) and have used bone and heart drawings in previous paintings. I also realize that there is a slight morbid connection between these images of people now long gone and having random bones (or teeth as in the above image), which implies death,  juxtaposed with them. I want to play with it and make it a subtle aspect of the paintings. Of course, I say this now, but tomorrow when I am actually painting, it may not work or I may feel differently. Either way, I am liking the more spontaneous nature of these paintings. 

The pre-waxed stage of this painting.





Monday, December 27, 2010

For Better or Worse

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I am hoping to get back to my regular paint schedule and start getting serious about this new series. I was able to work on two paintings today and am feeling like I am starting to get the hang of this. The work is definitely evolving from what I first imagined, and I hope it's in a good direction.


First up is the one I started last week. I was feeling like it was looking too generic, like there was nothing special, or "edgy", about the piece having just the image of the woman painted on the panel. I added a stripe of text from an old book to the left side, not really sure where I was going with that. I left it for a few days and spent Christmas with my husband, watching MANY movies. 

One of the films that we watched was "Beautiful Losers", a documentary on a group of DIY artists that were greatly influenced by skateboarding, graffiti, and music. They went from being "outsiders" to the mainstream, and are now being shown in some pretty big national and international galleries. The work is no where near like what I am doing now, and I don't plan on changing what I do, but it was great to see them have this "no fear" mentality about their work. This is what they did and you could either accept it or not, but it was who they were so deal with it. It was a great film and I liked their mentality and decided that I needed to take more chances with my art. I went back into the studio with a bunch of ideas of how I wanted to integrate more "grit" into my work, whatever that means. I was going to take more risks with my art and just let things happen, for better or for worse.  

So back to my painting...I added a robin's egg blue to the panel thinking this would be enough for this piece, but now, the more I look at it, I am thinking it needs more. It's still "too pretty". Tomorrow I will be adding a drawing component to the piece, and perhaps more wax so that the woman is set back even more. This is still looking too "safe" for me. I already have something in mind so we'll see tomorrow if it works out. 

I also started the oil painting background of the next piece. This is still underpainting so tomorrow I will finish it up and it will be ready to wax on Wednesday. 


I am getting pretty excited about this series. I'm excited to just throw caution to the wind (or in this case, wax and oil to the panel) and see what sticks. I plan on getting a bit dirty and playing with random juxtapositions of elements in my work. It's going to be fun!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First Attempt

I've been thinking about starting a new series for awhile and today was the first chance that I was able to work on it. I had an idea in my head that would focus on the facial features of the face with the majority of the person whited out. Just hints of the other aspects of the person would be showing through, giving a suggestion of . Basically, the person would look like they were emerging through a dense fog. I wanted to play with painting the least amount of detail and still be able to convey a memory or emotion. I haven't quite worked out how to do this, as is apparent on my first painting.


The painting is not complete, but already is starting to feel a bit generic. I am going to cover it in with a very thick layer of wax after I finish the details of the face. I want it to be subtle as possible but my fear it that there isn't enough details or that it will be too plain. I don't want to add too much detail either. There's a balance, but I don't think I have found it yet. Part of me wanted to just trash the whole idea but I've decided that I need to experiment a bit more before I give up. Hopefully I will figure out how to make what I see in my head a reality. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Last of the 2010 Paintings!

I have finally waxed the last three paintings of 2010! These will also be the last of the "Forgotten Memories" pieces for a little while. I will be working on a new series for 2011 and occasionally, when the right photo appears, I will add to the "Forgotten Memories" series. I am very excited to start a new body of work, and I am really hoping that what I see in my head can actually be transferred successfully into paintings. It's so frustrating when I can't articulate what I want in my paintings.

"Intimate Moment", 30" x 30", oil and encaustic wax on panel

"Two Guys, One Pipe", 24" x 30", oil and encaustic wax on panel

"Sitting in the Shadows" 24" x 24", oil and encaustic wax on panel






Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dilemmas and Hard Choices

Times are tough. The economy still sucks and, as most artists could tell you, sales are slow. It is definitely a tough time to be a full-time artist. My husband is a free-lance audio engineer/ video editor so neither one of us has a regular paycheck coming in. I have been supplementing our income with math tutoring, working 6 hours a week. It doesn't seem like much, but it pays some important bills.  Despite these "rough" times, we seem to be doing fine financially, and are very happy with what we are doing with our lives. Could we use a little more money? Sure. Would it be nice to have health benefits again? Yes. Would it be nice to have a steady, predictable paycheck? Definitely. So when I got an email about a possible job teaching from January to May, I had to seriously consider what I wanted to do versus what my family needed.

I quit my teaching job in June of this year because I wanted more time to focus on painting. My work was starting to get noticed, and I was having to supply enough galleries that painting part-time just wasn't going to work anymore. I made all of the necessary steps in order to insure that my husband and I could survive without the reliable extra income. Like I said, things are fine. So when I first got the email about the teaching position, my first reaction was "no, definitely not!" But as I learned more about the job, I started to waiver.

Now, let's step back for a bit so that I can tell you a little about myself. I am responsible, almost to a fault. I pay my bills on time, I always show up to appointments early, and I make the responsible choice a majority of the time. I'm the person that is usually in charge of organizing activities or running events because people know that I can handle the responsibility and do a good job. My quitting my teaching job was a HUGE step, and very unlike my usual self. But I felt that I needed to do this, not only for my career, but also for my mental well-being (I have been called "up-tight" more than a few times!).

So now here we are, 6 months of painting and not doing the "responsible thing", and an opportunity lands in my lap. Do I take the job which will enable me to have a regular paycheck, possible health insurance, and will keep me from going through our savings account when sales are slow? It is a temporary job that will only last through May and the schedule isn't that bad. I would be teaching a subject that I love (math) and would be working with some good kids who really need a teacher to finish out the school year. The responsible me says "yes, take the job".

But then there's the part of me who thinks about the time I would be away from the studio, not painting. I think about waking up at the crack of dawn (ugh). I think about the times I was working full-time and painting, and how that was exhausting. Could I do it again? Do I even want to? It took such guts on my part to go against my nature and quit my job in order to pursue my art career. Would I somehow be demeaning my integrity as an artist by taking this job? How would I talk about my "leap" into full-time painting at the upcoming encaustic conference if I took a temp job teaching full-time? All these thought were racing through my head. It was going to be a hard decision.

I decided to meet with the principal of the school and see what he had to offer. After all, I may not even qualify for the job (I am only qualified to teach up to 10th grade) and my career dilemma would be a moot issue.

The meeting went well and I was leaning towards doing the responsible thing. Fortunately/ unfortunately it is now out of my hands. I am waiting to find out if HR will accept me on an emergency credential and approve my hiring. It could go either way. This district is known for making things difficult, I know from personal experience. I've decided to leave it up to "fate". If I am approved, and all the pay rates/ conditions are right, I will take the job. If HR puts up a stink, then I am back to being a full-time artist. Sometimes I am hoping things work out and I can start teaching again in January. Sometimes I really hope that they don't so that I don't have to worry about making that decision (I would still have to accept the job if I am approved). I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks...!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Work by Kirsten Tradowsky

It's been a busy couple of days, and unfortunately, I was not busy making art. In order to help pay the bills while waiting for the checks to roll in from the hopeful sales of my paintings, I tutor 5 students in high school math (pre-calculus, geometry, and advanced algebra). It's a job I enjoy since I really like working with numbers and feel this keeps the left side of my brain pumping. It's especially nice since I usually only work 5-6 hours a week which gives me plenty of painting time.  I also like that most of the kids I tutor attend the School of the Arts in San Francisco. I think being an artist who didn't understand math until graduate school gives me a unique perspective on how to teach math that these kids seem to appreciate.

This week is different though. Finals are here and all of my kids need extra hours with me to prepare. My schedule has been crazy and I am spending more hours prepping and tutoring in math than painting. I haven't had much time in my studio but I did take a break and managed to visit Bryant Street Studios (sorry, I can't remember the actual name of the studio space). They were having a holiday sale and I wanted to see the work of an artist whose work I really enjoyed.

Kirsten Tradowsky, the artist who's work i wanted to see, is a San Francisco artist who uses historical remnants (like old photographs) and gives them new life. Being a fan of old photographs also, I immediately felt a connection to Kirsten's work the first time I saw it in a group show at Reaves Gallery. Her work is colorful and playful, depicting images that I am sure many of us have seen in our old family photos. I am an admirer of her work and now I own two of her watercolors!

Behold, my two newest paintings adding to my art collection!
"Traveler's Study" 2010, approx. 8"x 12"

"Bottle Bonding", 2009, approx. 10" x 8"

Kirsten's website shows mostly her oil paintings, many of which I would love to own. The following two images are from her website. Please visit her website for more information on her and to view more of her work. I hope to some day own one of her oils paintings...Someday!

"Haircut", 2010, 12" x 12" oil on canvas


"Hillsdale Staff 1971" 2010, 15" x 30", oil on canvas






Friday, December 10, 2010

Ideas are Brewing

My new series has been brewing in my head and I can't wait till I can start executing these ideas. I really hope that what I see in my head is how the series will turn out. I hate when I can't make my ideas a reality. What is my new idea for the next series? Well I am not going to spoil it just yet, since I want to make sure I can do it, but those of you who have been upset when I have covered the eyes of my subjects will be very happy. There will be no black bars in this series. Look for new images in January. I have a few things I need to complete (paintings from the previous series, commissions, etc.) before I can start the new work but I am hoping to start 2011 with all new work!

So what does that mean for my "Forgotten Memories" series? I will still do the occasional painting for this series since sometimes you come across a photograph that is just perfect for this, but for the most part, I THINK I am done with black bars...for the moment. If you enjoyed this body of work,  you can check out my website, www.jhinaalvarado.com,  for information on which galleries you can find my work at. You can also purchase a 20-page, 8"x8" soft-bound, art book that includes some of my paintings from the series (in addition to an essay by Will Taylor) for $25, which includes shipping. Each book is hand signed on the front page and contains 21 images of my work. Email me at jhina_alvarado@yahoo.com if you would like to order one.
Cover of my new art book which includes images of my paintings from my last series of work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are you a "Doer" or a "Waiter"

Progress on my latest painting.
This morning we were woken up the fire alarms in my apartment building all going off at the same time. It's a hell of a way to wake up, let me tell you. My husband's first reaction was "oh it's just the fire alarm" and he started to lay back down. I got up immediately and started to evacuate the building. I was more than a little surprised at how many people looked out their door, and then went back inside. There was no way you could tell if there was an actual fire just by popping your head outside. I live in a corner building and there was a whole other entrance that people couldn't see, but that didn't seem to bother them. When we were outside, only three other neighbors bothered to evacuate the building. Nobody seemed to know what to do. Everyone, especially the people inside, seemed to be waiting for someone to make the alarms stop and take care of what was going on. These people were "waiters", and not in the restaurant sense, either. They were just waiting for someone else to make things happen, to take care of things for them.

Detail #1 of my latest painting.
I am not a waiter. I am a doer. I called 911 and notified them that the alarms were going off (the alarms aren't attached to a 911 system). I let my neighbors know what the 911 operator said. I called my landlord to notify him of the situation. When the firefighters arrived and checked out the situation, I went and talked to them and found out when it was safe to go back inside. Then I let my neighbors know. I am a doer. I don't like waiting around, waiting for people to tell me what to do.

I think this is a good indication of how people are in life. Some people wait around for things to happen. They wait for people to tell them what to do and how to do it rather than figuring it out themselves or being self-motivated. They don't make their lives happen, they wait for it to happen.

Detail #2. This is about 90% done at this point,
Then there are doers, people who make things happen. They know what they want and they makes things happen. They are the ones who take charge of their own lives and don't make excuses. I am a doer and I make no excuses for it.

So what are you? A doer or a waiter?

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Good Day at Work

Today was a good day at work.  I managed to paint for a full 5 hours today, the first time in about a week and a half of not really being in the "zone". I decided that I needed to do some things different in order to keep the winter blahs at bay and was willing to try a few things. I started my day with an attempt to meditate. I have always wanted to do this in order to center myself and keep stress away but have never been too successful. I lasted  about 2, maybe 3 minutes today before my mind started to wander too much for me to focus. I then tried focusing on affirmations, repeating what I wanted out of my career, but found that they weren't flowing out of me too easily. I know this takes practice so we will try again tomorrow.

Next was the gym. Working out really helps clear my head but it is so hard to get myself to the gym, especially if it's cold out. My warm bed usually wins that battle but not this morning. I got myself out and to a muscle building class which felt good at the time. At the moment I am feeling like a truck ran me over, but this morning it really energized me and I felt good on my way to work. I'm sure I will hate life tomorrow since I will probably be sore. I am trying to go to the gym at least three times during the work week. I think it will be a good stress reliever and will clear my head so that I can focus on painting once I get to the studio. Seems pretty basic and logical, exercise and meditation, but like I said, it isn't always easy to do.

Now on to the painting....I think it is hilarious that the guy on the right is wearing a "pirate" shirt under his blazer. The guy on the left seems to be wearing a cumberbund. Very unconventional outfits, even for that time, if you ask me. I love the sharp contrast the sunlight seems to have on their faces and clothing though. These are the kinds of photos that I love to paint. I want to have this finished by the end of the week. It shouldn't be a problem if I continue to come in for at least 5 hours a day, which is my usual work schedule for painting.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Cheer

I came to the realization recently that since I was self-employed, there would be no company Christmas/ holiday party for me to attend. Granted, I hadn't attended the last couple of parties my former employers had thrown, but I liked knowing that I had the option if I felt like attending one.  So this year, I decided that we needed to throw a holiday party at the Art Explosion, the studio warehouse that I currently paint at. There are about 80 artists here, most of which I had not met, so I figured what better way to meet everyone than to throw a party? Since I am a full-time artist, isn't my studio my place of employment? Wouldn't this be the place to throw a "company party"? So I set about trying to rally the troops and party date was set.

Last night was the first holiday party at Art Explosion and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of fantastic artists whose names I had heard of, but never met in person due to different work schedules. It was great to be able to talk art with so many people and have that as a common thread. Most of the time I am at parties where there are a few artists and a bunch of "regular", non-artists. This time almost everyone was an artist (spouses were invited also so there were a few non-artists there). No longer was I the rare person who had a creative job and had to explain what I do, along with how/ where do I show my work. I wasn't asked questions like "What is encaustics?", "You actually do this for a living?", or "Do people actually buy your art? Where?". Those questions can get annoying after awhile, I am sorry to say. It was nice to be amongst my artist peers and enjoy each other's company while admiring our art.

Image by Ciara Bedingfield
taken on my crappy iPhone camera. The image
is a lot nicer than what I was able to capture here.
Since we are all artists, I also thought that it would be fun to have an art exchange, rather than the traditional gift exchange, with each other. Twenty-one artists participated in this, me being one of them. I received a lovely altered-portrait/ photograph mounted on aluminum by Ciara Bedingfield that will be a nice addition to my art collection. Beth Mullins, a great assemblage artist who received my painting, was very happy to have a piece of my work since she had been eyeing my paintings for awhile (her words, not mine). Everyone seemed happy with what they received and holiday cheer was everywhere.






On a side note...here is the latest painting that I have been working on. I figured after painting so many women lately, I was due to paint some men. This painting is about 20% done.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Blahs

Winter may not officially be here, but it sure does feel like it. It's darker earlier in the day, and it's been pretty cold. I am finding that because of this, it's been hard for me to get a full 5 hours of painting a day in.

I've always had a hard time painting once it got dark outside. Something about the darkness has always made me shut down and it signaled it was time to go home. Never have I pulled an all-nighter painting, no matter what deadline I had looming. It's just not in me to be able to paint at night. Now that day light savings has kicked in and it's dark by 5pm, I am finding the my energy to paint has diminished greatly. Throw in a cold warehouse for a studio and we have an unproductive artist.

This painting seems to be taking me forever to finish.
I blame the cold weather and darkness.
Someday she will be finished...
Once I figured out what was going on, and realized that my unproductiveness had to do with the season, I started to wonder about what I did last year (I have only been at this studio space for a year and a half and I have only been inspired enough to paint daily for almost two years). Did I have this problem then too? Did I get any work done? Then I remembered that I was still teaching last winter. I want to say that I was good and came in after work to do some painting, but I'm not sure if that is the truth. I distinctly remember feeling down about the lack of painting I did during winter break, almost two weeks of free time that would have been perfect for painting all day. I can recall justifying not going in to the studio the entire time and telling myself I deserved a FULL vacation, from everything, and that I wasn't a horrible artist for not using the time to paint. I didn't know why I didn't want to paint, I just knew that I couldn't seem to get myself into the studio.

I'm sure if we were to make a graph of productivity throughout the year we'd see that I am most productive during all the months that are generally considered "sunny" months. Months that are warmer seem to be my friends and I can easily get a large amount of work done. Months that are dark and cold, not so much. Maybe this need to stay home, where it's warm, is an innate instinct, like the bear hibernating for the winter. It's a need to slow down and "conserve energy" in order to survive, an instinct left over from my ancestors who had less options of food and shelter during the winter months. Sounds pretty good, and if these weren't modern times, I could probably make a case.

I think for me it may be just an old fashioned case of the winter blahs. Back in the days when I had a day job this wouldn't have been to big of a problem, I still had a paycheck I could rely on. But now that I am painting full-time, I know that I can't succumb to the need to hibernate. I need to stay focused ALL YEAR in order to support myself financially. I do have to be realistic though. I know the winter months are going to be less productive. Less paintings will be finished. More time will be spent on warmer activities, like marketing FROM HOME. Fortunately for me, I am normally a "fast" painter so less productive may mean a painting a week or two versus a painting every two days.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

My work at Madison Gallery in La Jolla
I am finally home after a 5 day visit to Southern California to see my family for Thanksgiving. It was a memorable trip that included saving a little old lady's life, a visit to La Jolla to see the new gallery that now represents me, way too much food, and a normally 7 hour drive, in the middle of the night, that took 9 hours. Curious? Here's what happened:

"Saving" a Life:
My husband and I were leaving my grandmother's house to head to the grocery store. We had just turned the corner and were driving in our car when Ben says "Oh my god! Is she okay?" He slows down and I look to find a elderly lady lying in the middle of the street. He stopped the car and I ran out to see what had happened. Her head was covered in blood and I told my husband to call 911. I ran back to the car to grab the box of tissues to stop the bleeding. As I put pressure to her head and tried to talk to her to find out what happened, another guy drove up and said the lady lived in the nursing home right in front of us (she hadn't gotten far from where she lived). He ran inside to get the nurses. Apparently the woman had dementia but still insisted on taking walks around the block by herself twice a day. My grandmother and brothers confirmed that they often saw her walking and waving "hi" as she walked by. She had snuck out and fell in the street. Her head was pretty banged up and there was blood everywhere, including some on my hands. Her leg and hand were also hurt and she was in shock. I kept pressure on her head and talked to her while the ambulance came to take her to the hospital. I realize that we actually didn't save her life and that she was probably going to be fine, but it was still traumatic for us and it was hard to get the image of her in the middle of the street bleeding, every time we drove by the scene of the accident.

A different view of my work at Madison Gallery
Madison Gallery:
My husband and I decided to drive from Calimesa (which is between Redlands and Palm Springs) to La Jolla to check out the new gallery now showing my work. It was "Black Friday" and since neither of us were big into shopping, we decided it was a good day for a drive. The weather was beautiful (we managed to sit at the beach in jeans and t-shirts) and the drive was surprisingly short. There was no traffic at all, which is weird for that area. The gallery was beautiful and on a very populated street, overlooking the ocean. Lorna, owner of the gallery, and Tawny, one of the women working there, were extremely nice and showed me around the place. They answered any questions I had, gushed about my work, and were as excited as I was to have my work there. It was great to actually see the gallery and meet Lorna in person since we had exchanged many emails and phone calls.

Tons of Food:
It was Thanksgiving week, so what can I say? We ate our weight in food! There was a fabulous turkey dinner (although no stuffing, which I found weird. It's my favorite side dish so I was a bit disappointed). There was also a very romantic dinner at the Marine Room with my husband, and a Korean feast at a Korean BBQ restaurant that left us having to unbutton the top button of our pants. I am pretty sure the gym is now in order...

The Drive Home:
What normally takes us less than 7 hours to drive from Calimesa to San Francisco took 9 hours. What can I say, traffic sucks. End of story.

Painting by Laura Schiff Bean, also showing at Madison Gallery. I love her work!

Another Laura Schiff Bean painting. This one is in the front window of the gallery.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speaking of Art...

I am very pleased and honored to be asked to speak at the 2011 5th Annual Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Massachusetts! This conference, created and directed by Joanne Mattera, assembles some of this country's top artists working in encaustic wax to talk, demonstrate, and give workshops on what they do best. It's a time to network and socialize with other artists and surround oneself in art. It's three days of waxy goodness and I get to be a part of it!

My session is titled "Taking the Leap: Quitting Your Day Job to Make Art" and I will be speaking about my personal experiences with making the transition from 13 years of teaching math to full-time artist. It will be my first time in front of a class of artists, rather than math students, and while I am a bit nervous to present to my peers and fellow artists, I am looking forward to it. I am also extremely excited to explore Provincetown since I have never been there. I can't wait until June!

Please visit the encaustic conference website for more information.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things to Do and Other Goals, Part 2

It's been a lazy couple of days. The weather has been cold and wet and it is finally starting to feel like Fall. It's the kind of weekend that makes you want to snuggle underneath a blanket with your significant other and watch movies, or in my case, watch episodes of "Boardwalk Empire" and "Dexter". While it has been great to spend this time with my husband, I haven't gotten much painting done. I don't really have any deadlines at the moment so taking some time off, especially with the holidays coming up (of which I doubt I will get much work done during), is completely fine with me. I do think I should finish reviewing my list of things to do and evaluate whether or not these are realistic monthly goals and activities.

11. Attend two art openings: Since I am working at a studio space with about 50 other artists, there seems to be plenty of art openings to go to of people I know.

12. Update my mailing list and add at least 5 new names to the list. Some months are easier than others, especially ones where I have openings. The months where I don't are harder to get interested people on my list. I know I should be meeting more people and adding names on my mailing list. There's no excuse. I will try and do better...

13. Check out/ research 5 new galleries (to me) online. I think I am pretty good at this.

14. Submit art to at least 5 new galleries. Sometimes I'm really motivated and will submit to 15-20 galleries and then nothing for months. I need to be more consistent about submitting and getting my work out there. Instead of submitting in waves, I should do it on a regular basis. It's not easy, but then again, it's not exactly hard either. It just takes motivation and persistence.

15. Send out a newsletter once a month. If I have shows coming up, then it isn't a problem. But when I don't, I kind of feel like I am bothering people and just sending them junk mail they don't want.

16. Update my website: I am really good about this. Anytime I finish a painting, I immediately take a picture and update my website. It helps that I use iWeb, which is extremely easy to update. I can do it myself and not have to rely on anyone to help me or do it for me. Yes, it's not the fanciest site, but it works for me.

17. Visit a nearby city and check out their galleries. I don't leave my city very often, if at all. I live in San Francisco so everything I need is here. I have been planning some trips to LA and San Diego to check out their art scene, but as of yet, I haven't gone.

18. Have my artwork photographed: I do my own photography for my website and that happens as soon as I finish a painting. I have been wanting to get them photographed professionally, but at the moment, I can't really afford it.

19. Update eBay and Etsy listings: I am finding that these are not very good venues for me to sell my work anymore and will probably discontinue then completely.

20. Update online galleries (such as bluecanvas.com, myartspace.com, etc.): I am pretty sporadic about this. I do have a ton of pieces up on these sites that are a good indication of what my work looks like. I'm just not very good at keeping the paintings updated with the newest and latest painting. I am not sure how important that is. Visibility is good but according to my stat counter for my website, I am getting very little traffic from these sites.

Well, there you have it. My twenty things I need to do every month. I think I will probably whittle it down to 15 since some of these activities no longer apply or aren't realistic for me. The important thing is to have a regular routine for marketing and painting. If this is what I am going to do for a living, then I have to take everything that comes with it seriously.

I worked on this painting a bit more before my lazy weekend. I think the stripes look quite nice.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Disappointment and Moving On

During the summer I worked very hard at applying for a San Francisco Art Commission grant. It was an EXTREMELY stressful time as I came to realize that the application was due in July and NOT September, like previous years. I had less than a month to write a proposal and find a venue to show my work. Add in the stress of getting married in September, a wedding which still had a lot of planning and DIY projects to be completed, and I was a wreck!

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my project to be about although I wasn't exactly sure how I would execute it. I have a better idea now as I have been thinking about it for the past couple of months but it no longer matters. I found out yesterday that I did NOT get the grant. It was disappointing but surprisingly, not as disappointing as I thought it would be. I am upset that all the hard work that I put in (along with the help of Will Taylor and the staff at Artzone 461 Gallery) did not pay off. I think that it would have been a worthwhile project to complete and that a lot of people would have appreciated my concept and execution of this body of work.

If I am completely honest though, I would have to admit that I am a bit relieved. Had I gotten this grant, I would have been tied to this project for at least a year, which means that had I changed my feelings about pursuing this body of work, I would have still been obligated to complete it. Had I been inspired about something else and wanted to pursue that, I would have to wait a year to explore it. I know that I had some leeway with my grant project so that it could develop as I developed and I'm sure that I could have found some time to explore other ideas but it would not be like it is now. Right now I have the freedom to explore whatever projects I want, however I want. Perhaps this is my own way of protecting myself from really feeling disappointed with the rejection. Perhaps I am making excuses as to why it was a good thing that I didn't get the grant. Yeah, I probably am. But we do whatever we need to do in order to get past disappointment and move on because if we, as people, dwelled on disappointment and let it get us down, we'd never accomplish the wonderful things that perhaps we were more meant to do.

Am I still going to pursue the ideas I had proposed in my grant? Yeah, more than likely. Like I said, I think it is a worthwhile project and it has been developing in my head these past few months. It may change slightly as my perspective and skills change, but now I have the freedom to pursue it any way that I want to. Stay tuned to see how this project develops. It may take a little longer than it would have had I gotten the grant, but it will come to life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Things to Do and Other Goals, Part 1

Earlier this year I read "I'd Rather Be in the Studios" by Alyson Stanfield and came up with a list of "things to do" EVERY month. It was mostly Alyson's list from her book, with a few things changed to make it feel more doable to me, and a few things added in that I thought I SHOULD be doing additionally. It's a long list of twenty items. I thought it was time to see how I am doing with this list and perhaps re-evaluate some of the items.

To be done every MONTH:
1. Review my goals: I may not actually look at my written goals for my career, but I am constantly thinking about them and affirming the career I want.

2. Have regular studio and office hours: I definitely have regular studio hours. I go in around the same time and work the same amount of hours everyday. This is my job so I try to make it as regular as possible as far as working hours go. I can't say that I have regular office hours, although mornings before I paint seem to be when I answer emails and blog.

3. Visit a museum or gallery: Does visiting the gallery that represents me count? Probably not. Okay, this one needs more work. You'd think this would be an easy one but I've been pretty busy lately. I should at least attend the art openings. I have to be better at this.

4. Schedule ten hours of marketing time: Ten hours a month. That shouldn't be a problem but I don't think I am anywhere near there, unless blogging and Facebook time counts. I do spend a lot of time posting my work on both. This needs more work too.

5. Post 6 blog posts a month: Done! I never thought THAT would be an easy one but now that I am showing works in progress on here, it seems to get easier. Who would have thought I'd have this much to say!

6. Post 10 comments on other people's blogs: I do read a lot of blogs. My favorites are "Oh What a World" by Lorraine Glessner,  "Art in the Studio" by Nancy Natale, "Women Painting Women", Amber George's Art Blog, and of course, Joanne Matttera's Art Blog (look at my side bar to see links to these blogs). I don't comment very often, which I should. I guess it's part laziness and part I just don't have anything interesting to say. I'll get working on this one too.

7. Read art books and magazines: Well, I can't say I actually read these. I do look at the pretty pictures though. I should get a subscription to a few magazines to keep myself current on what's out there. I do read art related websites though, like artbusiness.com.

8. Read one motivational book: A month? Do they have to be new-to-me ones? Hmmm, that seems like a lot of books. I do reread the few motivational books I have just to remind myself of the things I should do. I may have to rethink this task...

9. Read one business book or magazine: Okay, I haven't done this at all. I just can't read one of these without falling asleep instantly. I have, occasionally, read articles online that pertain to art business related issues but I don't know how feasible it is for me to read general business books or magazines.

10. Hand out 5 business cards or postcards to someone new: I think this number was higher in "I'd Rather Be in the Studio". I want to say it was that many a DAY or perhaps a week. I can't remember. But I do know I changed it to "month" and even that I have been having a hard time with. Whenever I meet someone new, I do try to work a business card or postcard in. I guess I just don't meet very many new people. I REALLY need visit more galleries and get out more so that I can meet new people and do this. I think it's a pretty important task to accomplish.

I will comment on the last ten things on my list tomorrow. In the meantime, here's an update on the progress of my latest painting. Just for the record, stripes are a bitch to paint and I haven't even done the shading or the white stripes yet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Size Matters

Sometimes it takes me awhile to figure things out. It can be the most obvious thing, but I won't see it. It's not that I am completely oblivious. Most of the time I notice things that most people don't. But sometimes, especially when it comes to something like art, I just don't realize things as quickly.

Take for example, sanding. I have been painting on panels since mid 2006 but it has only occurred to me recently (we are talking less than two weeks here) that if I sand the panels BEFORE I paint on them, they are smoother and easier to paint on. You'd think that would be obvious, especially since I have recently been feeling like the roughness of the panels were interfering with my painting,  but it only occurred to me to do that AFTER seeing someone else do. What can I say? Sometimes I'm a bit slow.

Another thing that I am just realizing is that it takes me the same amount of time to paint a 12"x12" painting as it does to paint a 16"x16" one, yet the price difference is pretty significant. So why am I doing the same amount of work for less pay? In a world where galleries want larger work, why am I working so small? In the past, I would paint on small panels because the larger space of bigger ones intimidated me. It's easy to "hide" in a smaller, less noticeable piece.  But I'm not intimidated anymore. I realize adding four inches per side isn't exactly large but it is bigger and I actually do like the size. It's a great size to fit in small spaces still and if you take a couple put together, the installation can look pretty impressive. So I've made the decision to not paint smaller than 16"x16". It doesn't make sense economically and I think that as my skills grow, I should increase the size of my work. Having this be my "new" smallest sized painting makes sense to me. Like I said, galleries love larger work and with more and more galleries showing my work, I should realize that size matters.

My latest painting, which is 24"x24"

Monday, November 15, 2010

So Close to Completion

I am so close to being done with my latest painting I can taste it. It's a piece that I have been enjoying for the past couple of days and it is only a few hours from being done. The only thing left to do are some highlights and dark accents, then waxing. It's always good to step back before the final accents and evaluate the painting in case any adjustments need to be made.

As I look at the photo, I am starting to feel like the head may be a bit too big. Her forehead seems more like a "fivehead". This can easily be fixed by lowering her hair line but I don't think that is the only problem. The whole head seems large. I can't tell if it's her position that makes it seem so or if I just drew the head too large. The shadows and angles are a bit weird on the arms and her right leg so it looks like those limbs are smaller than they actually are which could be what gives the impression that the head is too large. Perhaps it's just a matter of my working those shadows so that the limbs look bigger, I'm not sure. I'll have to play with it some tomorrow and see how it looks once I get the limbs looking right.


This is what artists do. Paint, evaluate, make adjustments, and paint some more. Most of the time this process is repeated multiple times per painting until the painting is just right. The trick is to know when to stop. I think, now that I have been painting this way since January of 2009, that I am getting pretty good at figuring out when to stop. I think in the early paintings I probably stopped too soon. Looking back at the first figurative paintings I did in this series, I can see a huge difference in skills. fabrics didn't flow as well, body parts looked incomplete. I didn't know when to stop working on my paintings and some look like they could have used more work, a lot more work on others. But as I paint more, and improve my skills, my paintings become tighter. I can't wait to see what they will look like a year from now!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just What All the Excitement is About

Today was a very long day that started with a list of errands, packing and shipping three large paintings, and finally, around 1pm, I got to paint! I've been very excited to get back working on this painting but had so many things to do before I could begin. It was a few hours of "chores" but when I finally got to sit down and paint, it was well worth it.

I love when what I am working on excites me enough that I wish I could just paint until I am finished. It's like when I get a really good book and I want to read it all the way through until it's done, not noticing the other things I need to work on. I'm sure getting this excited about a painting makes me into a huge dork, but I don't care. I'm just happy that I am doing what I love for a living and can get excited about what I do. Unfortunately I can't paint for as long as I would really like too. I find that after 5 hours my hands and wrists start to really hurt and I have to stop (dumb tendonitis in both hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders!). Fortunately I have all day tomorrow, without any shipping, errands, etc, to work some more on this piece.

Here's the progress on my painting. I covered the eyes pretty early so that I didn't have to hear people tell me that I should not cover them on this one. I did completely paint the eyes and then covered them about an hour later. I'm sure that seems like a useless exercise, but I like painting them, it helps me get the rest of the facial expression right, and it's good practice for when I do commissions.

This is all still underpainting so the shadows will be pumped up and the whites brightened when this is done. Also, I'll add the details in her hair and the fabric once this dries. 


Yes, that's a bit of her areola peeking out of the towel. 


So does it make sense now on why I am excited about this painting? The shadow on her chest and face are the kinds of things that I love to paint. It is challenging but will be so worth it when I am done.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspiration and Excitement

Every once in a while I come across a picture and start a painting that really gets me excited. We are talking "can't wait to get back into the studio" excited. I started such a painting today. It feels great be this into what I am painting. I love when I find an image that really inspires me.

 The image is of a woman leaning over on a couch while wearing a towel and reaching for her slipper. The photo has  beautiful contrast and the skin on this woman just glows. It really is beautiful. I hope I can do it justice. Unfortunately, I was only able to work on it for less than an hour since I had to leave early today.

I know it doesn't look like much right now, but in a few days, this will be a really nice painting. I decided to make this piece into a 30"x30" painting, which is a bit larger than what I usually paint for a single subject painting. I think the image is strong enough and interesting enough that it will work on the large panel. I actually can't wait to see what it looks like when it's done.

The next image is of the painting that I finished yesterday. I waxed it today since it will be included in the shipment of paintings to Madison Gallery. I am hoping that all 8 of my paintings find a good home in La Jolla real soon. Let's keep our fingers crossed for that one.

Untitled (so far), 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on panel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shipping Blues and Other News

My paintings in Madison Gallery's front window. Photo courtesy of Amber George.
The good news is Madison Gallery in La Jolla loved my latest five paintings that I emailed them today. The bad news is they want all five at the gallery by this Thursday for the annual Art and Wine Walk of La Jolla. What??? Yes, this Thursday! So today I spent a good amount of time wiring and boxing up the three smaller pieces and hauling my ass to the Fedex store so they could ship on time. It was a crazy hour and I felt like a chicken with my head chopped off. I wasn't able to ship the two larger pieces since it would be extremely expensive to ship them in two days and I was out of packing materials, in addition to heavy wire so that I could wire the backs for hanging. I will still have to ship these two last paintings but it's going to have to wait until I can pick up some more supplies.

I seem to be shipping my paintings almost as soon as I finish waxing them. This is not a complaint by any means. I am ecstatic that people love my work and want it in their gallery. I just seem to be spending a lot of money on shipping supplies and Fedex. I think I need to start buying my supplies online from Uline, or someplace similar, because it's getting to expensive to keep going to Office Depot.

In other news, I was able to start and finish the painting portion of a piece today. The contrast on her face is very low which tends to make the painting look a little cartoony to me, but I love the highlights from the sun shining on her left side. I think I need to stay away from low contrast images since they always look to cartoony for me. My high contrast paintings are always my more successful pieces and I need to keep that in mind when selecting my images. Lesson learned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Paintings and a Commission

I finally waxed the latest paintings of mine! It's not my favorite thing to do so I tend to wait until I have 4-5 paintings that need wax before I'll work on them. I would really love to hand that job over to an assistant some day. It makes my hands, elbows, and shoulders hurt for at least a few days and the larger the painting, the harder it is to get an even coat. If my paintings didn't look so good with the wax on them, I'd contemplate getting rid of that step completely. At any rate, here are the latest paintings I have available:
"Floral Bathing Suit", 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Lounging on a Rock", 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Deep in Thought", 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax


"Two Little Indians", 30"x30", oil and encaustic wax
I really hope no one is going to be offended by the title of this painting. I named it "Two Little Indians" because it reminds me of the the song my dad used to sing me as a kid about all the little Indian boys. Also, it is reminiscent of when were not politically correct and used to play cowboys and Indians. I mean no disrespect to any Native Americans...

"Turtle Race", 30"x40", oil and encaustic wax

And lastly, the commissioned piece:

"Janet, Age 6", 10"x10", oil and encaustic wax





Thursday, November 4, 2010

Floral Prints and Rocks

Yesterday I managed to kick some painting butt and cross off 2 paintings from my "to finish" list of four paintings. The following painting was one of the pieces I finished (along with the commissioned portrait). I like the "hint" of the rock that I painted her on. I didn't want to commit to the whole rock in the background but she needed something to lean against. This was my compromise. I'm happy with it.


I also finished the underpainting of one painting that I was a bit intimidated by. The woman in this piece is wearing a floral patterned bathing suit and I decided that I would actually paint in the pattern. I very rarely paint patterns into fabrics. It can be a tedious task so I usually paint these fabrics as a solid color. It's hard to get the pattern to look right and the folds and shadows to look real. Call me lazy or just plain scared, but I always avoided it when possible. This time I decided to challenge myself and actually paint the floral pattern in. About 1/4 of the way through it, I almost said "screw it" and painted it solid. It's that frustrating to do. But I didn't and forced myself to continue. It is still the underpainting and I need to add some darks and lights in order to create some shadows and folds, but I think it came out pretty well. Her right breast has no gradation in color which is why she looks almost completely flat there. I think once I pump up the colors in certain areas it should look fine.


I'm glad I didn't give up on the floral pattern like I wanted to. It really is good to challenge oneself occasionally. It keeps me from getting bored and it helps me develop my skills as an artist. I can't just keep painting what is easy for me. What would be the point of that? Being challenged and forcing myself to go beyond my comfort zone is what's going to make me a better artist. I may not always like the challenge, in fact I rarely do when I start a new one, but I will be a better artist for it. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Many Starts, Few Finishes

I seem to have gotten into a place where I have many paintings started and none of them are getting finished. Currently I have 4 paintings in various stages of doneness. I'm not sure why I have started doing this. Usually I work on two pieces at once so that while one painting is drying in between layers I have something to do, but I have never worked on 4 consecutively. They don't seem to be getting done any quicker and in fact, I feel like I am a bit unfocused working this way. I am hoping to get them all done this week but it's not going to happen if I keep working this way. I need to just work on one and finish it before moving on to the next one.

This painting is pretty much done. After looking at it, I see that her right cheek is too wide and I need to thin and lengthen the look of her face. This is a commissioned piece that has got me over-thinking too much. I can't seem to get the look just right. It looks pretty close but I am not satisfied. I'm hoping that once I thin her face, it will look more like the original photo.

I started this painting yesterday. I got a lot done yesterday but the rock she is sitting on and the body still needs work. Her right breast looks very odd. 

This is another painting I started yesterday. It's a woman sitting but I got focused on her face and hair. I am loving the way the head looks without the body, the incompleteness of the rest of the painting. I may need to experiment with some portraits later and have the faces nicely painted while the body is a rough sketch. One of my studio-mates suggested I play with that and I think it's a good idea...when I have some spare time. 

And finally, the turtle race. I finished the underpainting of this on Friday but haven't touched this since. It's a large painting for me, 30"x40". It's a little intimidating for me which could be why I started two smaller pieces rather than finish this painting. Like I said, I am hoping to get back on track and finish these 4 pieces by this weekend. I have been called to jury duty tomorrow and am hoping to get excused, otherwise that could really mess up all of my plans.