Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All Types, All Kinds

Today I was able to paint for a full 5 hours and it felt great! I got back from my honeymoon yesterday and was itching to get back to painting the diptych that I started before I left. I was hoping to finish it today, but no such luck. I needed the paint to completely dry before I could add some sharp accents that both sides of the panels really needed and it wasn't going to happen today since the paint wasn't drying fast enough. I was able to work on the texture of the blanket for the girl on the left, though. It looks like an itchy, wool blanket based on the photograph and I wanted to make sure that I got that texture across. It still need a bit more work but just looking at it is making me itch. 

While that diptych was drying, I also started a new painting. There's just too much to do before open studios to sit and watch my paint dry.  After working on this painting a bit, I've decided that I LOVE painting women with deep lines on their faces. These faces are much more interesting and exciting for me to paint than the young girls with their smooth faces I have done in other paintings. When the face is too smooth, as is the case with children and teens, I find that the faces don't have enough contrast and start to look too cartoony and less real life-like. You know how I feel about cartoony faces. Hate them. There's just something much more interesting to look at and paint when I see wrinkles and deep lines on a face that obviously has experienced life. Women of all ages should be celebrated, not just the young pretty ones and I like to think that I have covered a pretty wide range of types in my work. Women of all ages and sizes have made it into my paintings. Some of my most favorite pieces that I have done have been of older women and I am really enjoying my latest one. That's not to say that I won't paint a pretty girl. I do paint them, and enjoy it, but there's nothing like an interesting photo of a woman with some life lived in her.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Diptych Emerges

When I started my latest painting, I had the idea of splitting the original image in two and doing two separate pieces that could stand alone but could also possibly work together. I blogged about the first half yesterday and was really liking the painting as it was. As I worked on the second painting and I put the two pieces together, I am starting to think they belong together. Yes, each piece can work separately and they look fine, but the way the two work together is even more striking that the two pieces alone.

I've never been able to successfully paint a diptych. One side was always stronger than the other or the pieces felt forced. I like the idea of multi-paneled paintings but whenever I tried painting one, they just didn't feel right to me. I finally gave up after trying a few in my "nature" series. I never thought that my latest work would be something that could work as a diptych.
Here is the second image, alone. It is still in the early stages of painting but you can get an idea of how it's going to look. The image is nice enough. The image works alone. I wouldn't say it was my most exciting painting, but it works.
When I put the two paintings together, the painting becomes stronger and more interesting. I love how the two girls are turned away from each other. There's just something nice about how the two girls interact without interacting with each other that makes me want to look more at this image.  Both pieces still need work, especial now that the painting is a diptych. There are some consistency issues that need to be fixed, like the wisps of branches or reeds that the girls are holding. I'm excited to see how the painting turns out. I probably won't be able to finish it until Wednesday though. I am leaving tomorrow for a three day honeymoon and am looking forward to some Rand R with my new husband.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm Back!!

It has been a long and exhausting two weeks of my life but it was well worth it. My wedding was beautiful, the reception was fun, and now I am married to a wonderful man who makes me happy and is super supportive of my art. I didn't get to paint during this time at all and I have been itching to get back into my studio.

The last time I painted, I was experiencing the "blahs" but I knew that once I took a break, and was unable to come in, even if I wanted to, I would get over my "blahs" and would be able to paint the next time I was able to get to the studio. Yesterday was my first day back and I am happy to say that I am my usual motivated and inspired self. I think the break really helped with my motivation. It also helps that I decided to put aside the new series I was trying out and go back to what makes me happy. I'm not saying that I won't go back to what I started earlier this month, I think the series deserves some exploration. But what I need right now is to paint art that I KNOW will make me happy. I feel like I wasn't happy with what I was painting for that new series and there's nothing like unhappiness to get you down and unmotivated. I needed some happy painting to get me back on the saddle and my "forgotten memories" series makes me happy.

I started this yesterday and am hoping this will be a diptych. In the photo, there is another girl sitting next to this one on the left. I separated the two girls and plan on painting them on two different panels, then, perhaps, displaying them together. I am happy with the way this one has turned out. The girl reminds me a bit of Tatum O'Neil, in Paper Moon.

Of course, as I always do on this series, I covered the eyes. This painting is about 90% done. I need to make the bar over her eyes a bit wider and clean up some areas. Other than that, I am ready to wax. Not bad for a day's work, I'd say.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Blahs Continue

This is probably going to be my last post for a few days. I am getting married next Saturday and will probably not have much time to paint since I will be inundated with family and wedding preparations/ festivities. It's probably a good time to take a break anyways since I seem to lack inspiration and motivation at the moment. I usually can't last more than a week without painting so I'm sure that by the time I am married, I will be itching to get back into the studio and start a new painting.

Despite the blahs, I did manage to do a tiny bit of painting yesterday. It wasn't much but I did work a bit on my grandfather's portrait. It has been a struggle with this one since the photograph has very little contrast. Because of this, the painting has looked flat and cartoony. I pumped up the values and it looks much better. It still doesn't look perfect to me but I got my dad's seal of approval, and it's his dad that I am painting. Of course, this is the week before my wedding so I am sure he is super sentimental at the moment and liking everything I do. But at least he didn't say "who's that?" right? I wanted this painting to be at the wedding as a memorial to my grandfather who died a few years ago. He would have loved to be at my wedding and meet Ben. We are also memorializing Ben's dad who died a year ago. I was at least fortunate enough to meet him a few times and he will definitely be missed next Saturday.
"Portrait of My Grandfather as a Young Man"
I also worked for a split second on the bicycle painting. I'm kind of liking this one and think that the concept works better on this painting than the others since the outline of the figure is more dynamic.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suffering from the Blahs

This has been a hard week to focus. I haven't been able to get into the groove no matter how much I have tried. I've been lacking energy and desire to paint. I'm not sure if it's because of the series that I just started. I don't seem to be as into it as the other work I have done. Maybe I just haven't "hit the sweet spot" yet in the work and I need to continue with it a bit longer before giving it up.

 I also have to admit that perhaps it is the fact that I am getting married next Saturday that is getting me down and not feeling much like painting. It's not that I don't want to get married, I am looking forward to the wedding and all that entails after, but I am so overwhelmed that I just want it to be over with so that I can move on with my life and not have to think about it anymore. The actual planning of the wedding has been super easy. Everything fell into place exactly the way we wanted it.  I'm not sure why people stress over that. Maybe I just have lower standards?? It's the family requests/ demands/ questions/ obligations/ drama, etc. that is driving me nuts. Painting was my respite from all the family chaos and worked as an outlet these past few weeks. It doesn't seem to be working this week though. Nothing does.

So what do I do? I am trying not to beat myself up for not being as productive as I think I should be. I do have a pretty good excuse for it, after all. But it's hard not to. I have open studios soon and need to get a lot of work done. But then I think "so what happens if it doesn't get done?". I may have to show some older work and not have as many new pieces as I'd like. Is that REALLY that bad? Is it REALLY necessary to have all new work showing? The answer is no to both questions. I don't have to be my usual over-achiever self. I have to let myself be okay with not painting as much this week, and I assume next week will be even harder. It's okay to give myself the occasional break.

The two paintings pictured here are the two latest in this series. The top painting is obviously a girl on a bicycle. The second may not be so obvious, but it's two people floating in a lake. I will continue working on these while trying not to pressure myself to work too hard this week.

BTW, if you haven't seen it yet, visit Lynette Haggard's art blog and read the artist interview she did with me recently. It's an interesting read with a lot of background info on me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Bunch of New Paintings

I finally waxed my latest EIGHT paintings. Waxing is not my favorite thing to do so I tend to wait until the last possible moment to do it. It's just such a bitch to get the wax smooth and the larger the painting, the harder it is. I like the look though so for now, I'll just have to suck it up!
"Walking to Church", 30" x 24"
I decided not to cover the eyes on this painting and use if for my upcoming series on immigrants, that I have yet to title. I showed it to my dad and he thought the bars would ruin the painting. I don't agree, but he is a bit biased since it's a painting of him and his mom.

"Swimming Pool", 14" x 11"
"Shooting Arrows:, 11" x 14"

Untitled (for now), 12" x 12"
So it turns out, this is a Latina woman so I can feel okay about not covering her eyes and adding her to my immigrant series. I think I made a lot of people happy by doing this.

"Sitting by the Pool",  20" x 16"

"Casual Conversation", 24" x 24"

"Woman Holding Child", 10" x 10"
I'm still undecided about this series. I like it in concept but I don't think my execution is quite there yet. I will try a few more before I decide if I will continue it.

"Girl Holding Teddy Bear", 10" x 10"
As you can see, not all of my paintings are always successful. Some of these came out great, others, not so much. I'll let you decide which ones you think worked.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Progress on the New Series

I think the painting portion of these two new pieces are pretty much done. I'm liking the way they look so far but I'm wondering if it's obvious that the cut outs are people or that the figures are actual cut outs, rather than just random white areas. I'm also wondering how they will translate once I wax them. I have been toying with the idea of then writing in graphite a description of what was cut out so that instead of an image of a girl holding a bear, there will just be a description of a girl holding a bear in the place where the figure would be. Make any sense? I would have to write the words backwards in order for it to transfer in the correct direction. That could get complicated. 

I love painting trees and I'm pretty happy the way this one turned out. It's fun to challenge myself with things I am not familiar with, like this background, especially the leaves of the bushes and the bark of the tree. Next up is a bicycle with foliage in the background, showing through the spokes. Now that is going to be complicated!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A New Series Has Started

I have a couple of new series of paintings in my head that I would eventually like to work on but I don't feel like my current one is finished yet so starting them has been difficult. There are still MANY paintings I would like to add to my "Forgotten Memories" series. It's hard start on something new when what I am working on is "working" and I have plenty more inspiration for new paintings. But open studios is almost here and I thought it would be a good time to experiment with one of my series that I have been thinking about for awhile now.

In my current series I have been working on figures with no backgrounds, focusing on the individual memory and not the surroundings. This time I will be doing the opposite. I will leave out the figures and work on just the environment they occupied for that brief moment when the photo was captured. Anything that is not part of the figure will be left in the composition this time. These will be small paintings, 10" x 10", for now, until I decide whether or not these pieces are successful or not. Plus for open studios I like to have smaller affordable pieces that are more accessible to the general public who may not have the funds to buy a large painting.

These are still works in progress but here are two pieces that I started yesterday. I want to paint pretty loosely for this series since I have been doing the opposite for "Forgotten Memories". It's good to change things up every once in awhile and I think this body of work will look better with more gestural strokes. We'll see if I can stick to that.

I don't know if anyone recognizes the above image, but I painted this girl with the very stiff skirt for "Girl with Bear" (see previous post for the image), which is the painting that Joanne Matttera talked about in her Sidebar Show on the encaustic conference blog. I like using both parts of the photograph, the figure and the background, as two separate paintings. It feels like two puzzle pieces that fit together.

Here's another work in progress:
This one looks really rough at the moment, it is a woman holding a small child, but I am excited to paint the tree. I really love trees and haven't had a chance to paint them anymore with my current series.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Sidebar Show: "Skirts" on

Joanne Mattera has added a sidebar feature on the Encaustic Conference blog, titled "The Sidebar Show". This week it is "Skirts" and I am one of three artists, along with Marybeth Rothman and Mindy Nierenberg, that she features. Please check out the blog weekly for different featured artists, in addition to information regarding the conference and other information regarding encaustic wax. In the meantime, this is what she says about our work:

Looking at the three works below, by Jhina Alvarado (San Francisco), Marybeth Rothman (Tenafly, New Jersey) and Mindy Nierenberg (Medford, Mass.), I'm struck by the evocative narratives of these images, so full of visual information yet so tantalizingly ambiguous. .
Conceptually these works are united by their use of photographic images as the means of bringing a story from the past into the present. A salient feature in these images is the skirts worn by the figures. Alvarado's figure stands stiffly, her full but unmoving skirt a metaphor for that stiffness. Rothman's adult figures seem more adventurous, possibly ready to let themselves be carried off by the same breeze which flutters one wearer's flowered skirt. In Nierenberg's collage, it is the dancing doll skirt--so evocative of a childhood in the 50s--that lightens a wistful mood.
Materially all three artists employ wax as a scrim through which to view the image. The diffusion of light through the wax provides a suitably nostalgic lens.
Technically they tell their stories by different means. Alvarado paints her images from vintage photographs, referring to a past that's not her own. Rothman's images are etchings she has made from similarly vintage and orphaned photos. Both artists isolate elements from the photographs, recontextualizing them into a new story. Nierenberg's images are photographs from her family archive. Her stories are real, though we know only what she wishes to share with us via a minimal use of text and evocative objects semi-embedded into the wax.

Jhina Alvarado, "Girl with Bear," 2010; oil, encaustic and graphite on birch panel, 12 x 12 inches

Marybeth Rothman, "A Tangent," 2008, encaustic and mixed media, 24 x 30 inches

Mindy Nierenberg, "The Time Project," 2009-2010, encaustic mixed media

I have always been a fan of Marybeth's artwork. I love her use of images from old photographs and the colors she uses, which are so opposite of my work. Mindy is a new artist to me, but looking through her website, I can tell I will be a big fan. I love assemblages and the piece featured her is lovely. More importantly, I love the message that Mindy's work has. If you look at her site, check out "art and health". The work there is very powerful.

Thanks Joanne for reviewing our work and comparing my work with such great artists!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Three Paintings in Progress

I continued working on this painting today, working on tightening up the image of the boy more. This photo makes his face look more ruddy than it actually is. In real life it looks much better. The right hand is going to be a challenge since it is foreshortened and a bit blurry. It's hard to tell what is really going on there. I already am not a fan of hands as it is so I will probably save that part for last. 

The lace of my grandmother's shawl still needs some work. It doesn't quite look like lace yet, just some cool patterned top to the dress. I haven't worked on it much since there were other parts taking up my attention. 

As I waited for the previous painting to dry, I worked on this smaller piece. The bathing suit has some nice wrinkles that can't be seen to well here. I still need to go back and work on the skin. They are still looking a bit one dimensional to me. This was a pretty easy image to paint. Nothing too complicated here.

Once I did all that I could on the swimsuit girl and waited for the paint to dry, I worked on the portrait of my grandfather that I wanted to have for my wedding. Ben and I wanted to honor his father, who died last year, and my grandfather, who died about 5 years ago, since both were important in our lives. I am having the work time with this portrait though. The original image is pretty basic. No strong shadows. No big contrasts. I think because of this, the image is hard for me to capture and it is looking like a cartoon version of my grandfather. It is so frustrating to be able to paint complete strangers extremely well and not be able to paint someone who means a lot to me. I'm not sure where to go with this and what to do. I have less than three weeks to finish and I am starting to panic. Do I just let it look like a cartoon? How do I make it more photographic? We'll see how this one works out. I have no idea if I can pull this off. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Stern Look

I worked on this painting some more today and got more of the forms figured out. The face of the boy (my father) looks super rough but I had to wait until the paint dried before I could do anything more to it. The fabric on both needs more work. I usually have to wait to add any real details. Tomorrow I will work on this some more.

I really like the composition of this piece. My grandmother's face still looks very intense. It definitely looks like her but I don't know if I like the look on her face. People may not want such a stern looking woman hanging on their wall. I have been making temporary bars out of paint and paper that I can just affix to my painting with tape to see if I like the look or to see how big the bar needs to be or position. I did that for this painting to see if it helps. I'm not sure it does but at the same time, I'm not sure it doesn't.

I'm also not sure I want to start working on a series without the bars yet. I wrote a grant to do a body of work like that but I'm not sure I want to start this before I find out whether or not I got the grant. I am so torn with this painting though. Cover or not to cover. That seems to be a constant dilemma for me whenever I paint a nice face. I don't want the bar to start being about covering the eyes of something that didn't come out as well as I would have liked or the converse, which is leaving the eyes of my nicer paintings. I think that would take away from the meaning of the bar and this series. I guess I'll wait until the painting is completely done before I decide.