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,,  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 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 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.