Friday, April 29, 2011

Painting as Therapy

Today has been one of those emotionally draining, messed up kind of days. The kind of day that makes you want to go back to bed and start all over again because it just couldn't possibly get any worse than it is. It's been one of those days. What could possibly cause one of those days? Well, it started at 7am when my brother called me to tell me that my sister was in the hospital with a brain aneurism. That's a helluva way to wake up, let me tell you. Apparently not only did she have bleeding in her brain, the aneurism, but she also had a stroke AT AGE FORTY! She seems to be in stable condition, the bleeding has stopped, but they are still doing a lot of tests and don't have much information for any of us. The worst part is that my sister lives in Missouri and I live in California so I can't be with her or help her husband and four kids deal with this. I didn't know what to do.

After calling my family and getting a few texts from my sister who refused to let me fly out to Missouri,  I decided that I needed to go to the studio and paint. I needed to process things and think. I needed some space where I could get lost in what I was doing and not worry about the sixty million things I should be doing but couldn't because I wasn't in Missouri. Painting is my escape. It has always been my "safe place" and I really needed to be there. I was still able to talk to my brother-in-law, my father, and even got a call from my sister while there, but it felt better with a paint brush in my hand. My husband, being the great guy that he is, understood my need to paint during this and went to the studio and stayed close enough by to be there if I needed him, but far enough away that I still felt like I was escaping. It was probably the best way for me to deal with this and stay sane.

Painting can do that for some people. It can calm a person down, letting them able to process and think things through. It helps some people deal with their feelings and grief. It can help people sort out their emotions and get those out in a safe way. Painting is therapy and has helped me through many things. I am very grateful to have it in my life.

I haven't heard anything new about my sister but we are hopeful that she will be okay. She is conscious, talking, and stable. This is all good news. I'm sure I will be doing a lot of painting this weekend, between phone calls and texts from my family.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Second Panel

Today was a furlough day. I'd say it was a free day off except that it wasn't free. In fact, it cost me a little over $300. It was one of four days we were forced to take off without pay, as teachers. I could go on about this county's priorities, about the underfunding of schools, etc. but I think we can all probably agree that having less instructional days and having programs, staff, and other essentials cut from schools is just wrong. I'd like to think I would have been preaching to the choir had I went on... Let's hope that's true.

I think the only thing good about having a furlough day is that I was able to spend most of my day in the studio. As promised yesterday, here is the second panel of my latest diptych:

The second panel is 24"x24". This is obviously still in the underpainting stage, but I am LOVING the composition on the two panels.  Here's an image of the two panels together:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Newly Waxed Paintings

I finally hit the wax and blow torch today and got my latest 4 paintings waxed and officially DONE.

"Sunglass Beauty", 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Carefree" 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Girlfriends" 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"The Gang's All Here" 24"x40", oil and encaustic wax

"The Gang's All Here", Detail 1

"The Gang's All Here", Detail 2
I was also able to start the underpainting for my next diptych. It's probably the biggest painting I have done in a long while. It will measure 24"x 54" when both pieces are together. I am using a 24"x30" panel and a 24"x24" panel. I like that one of the panels is bigger than the other. It works really well with the composition. I didn't take a picture of the second panel since I haven't started the underpainting for that yet. I'll post it tomorrow.

Here's a detail:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Subtle Differences

Highlights make all the difference in the world. It may be a subtle difference for most, but for me, it's what makes a good painting better. My most recent painting got a ton of "likes" and comments on Facebook and it was only 90% done. People seemed to think it was done, and it would have looked pretty good as is. But, I still had to add in the highlights, which seems to pump up the contrast even more and make the painting even better.My studio mate told me not to touch that painting. It was done, but after I did my "magic", he had to admit it looked even better. I'm sure he was afraid that I would over-work it and ruin it, but I'm pretty good at knowing when to stop and what little accents are needed.

Here is the painting before I added the accents/ high-lights:

Here is the painting after I finished it:


The differences are subtle, especially in these photos, but it does look a lot better. The folds on the dress are sharper, her legs look more modeled and less two dimensional. Overall, I think it looks better. I am pretty happy with this painting.

You might be wondering where the black bar over her eyes is. Well, I tried to cover her eyes, but if you look at the angle of her face, you'll notice that her nose is in line with her eyes. If I were to cover her eyes, her nose would have to be covered too and that looked too weird. Having no eyes is one thing. That's part of the series. Having no nose is just too weird looking. I had to go without the bar, which means this can't be part of the "Forgotten Memories" series. 

Today was pretty productive. Not only did I finish my "dancer" painting, I also worked on my diptych. It is almost finished. I need about another two hours and before I can call it done. I worked on the second panel and just need it to dry so I can add the highlights and accents. I love painting white dresses. I think it's my favorite clothing to do. Here I got to paint two of them. Yay!

Here's what it looks like with the other panel:

Here it is with the bars over everyone's eyes. It's a bit crooked, but you can get a feel for what it will look like completed.

Tomorrow I'll be able to start a new painting. I have some ideas on what I want to do (think Marilyn or Elizabeth). My large panels never came in so they will have to be smaller paintings. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The End is in Sight

I just came to the realization, after receiving our final exam schedule, that the end is almost here! I unexpectedly took a teaching job in January, if you remember, after quitting my previous teaching job in June in order to paint full-time. It wasn't an easy decision to make, taking this job, but between many things that weren't under my control, I felt that it would be unwise to turn it down. The school was being very accommodating with my painting schedule and the pay was good so I took the job thinking it would only be until May 27th. It's only less than 5 months, how hard could it be? Plus, I got to teach pre-calculus for the first time, which I actually enjoy.

The job itself is not hard. I enjoy the subject and most of the kids are great. The part that has been hard is teaching in the morning until about 1, painting in the afternoon until around 5, then tutoring in the evening until 7 (oh yeah, did I mention that I tutor three days a week too? ), that has been killing me. Add in two major painting deadlines, 5 days of open studios, and life in general... well, let's just say I REALLY need a vacation right about now. Tired does not describe what I feel. I am way beyond that. But the end is in sight. My day job is almost over. We have one week before standardized testing, which is a week long and we don't teach during this week. Then two and a half weeks before finals, which is also a week, then DONE! Back to being a full-time artist! WOO HOO!

Until then though, I need to keep trucking and continue painting to meet my deadlines, continue teaching, and continue living this very busy life of mine.

Here's my progress on my diptych:

I finished the underpainting of the second panel. Sanding the panels first would have made my life a thousand times easier, but I forgot to do that. Oh well.

Here's both panels together. I managed to work on the first boy some more. I'm hoping to finish this painting by the end of this weekend. Here's a detail of the boy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diptych in Progress

I have always wanted to paint bigger pieces, but until recently it hasn't been possible. At the moment, my largest painting is 30"x40", which is the size that will fit in the back of my VW Golf. When bubble wrapped and boxed to ship, it just barely fits in my car. Anything larger would be too big to transport and because of this, I can't really work larger than that. 30"x40" may seem like a large painting, especially for those who work small, but seeing that size hung in a gallery, one would see that it's pretty small. My paintings are usually dwarfed by the enormous walls of the galleries I show in. Placed next to a wall sized painting and my work looks microscopic! 

So what's a girl to do if she wants to increase the size of her work but has certain limitations? Well, I am working on getting a larger car, eventually, but there's the whole having money to pay for it thing that seems to be getting in the way of that solution. So, in the meantime, I will be painting diptychs and triptychs, whenever the composition warrants it. For those of you non-artists out there, I will be using multiple panels to make one painting.

Now, not all pieces will work as a multi-panel piece. The image has to be just right compositionally so that it can work across at least two panels, while each piece of the panel also works on it's own. I think that's important so that the viewer/ purchaser has options as to how the painting is hung. The pieces can be hung connected to each other, or with space in between the panels. 

I started a diptych today, which will total 40"x24" when completed. Each panel is 20"x24".
Panel one.

There is a lot more white space on the bottom of each panel than what is shown. There will also be two more girls on the right side panel. This is still in the underpainting stage AND I forgot to sand the panels before drawing the images on there, so it's all really rough. It's amazing how sanding the panels make a difference!

Both panels together.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Working During Open Studios

This year, during open studios, I decided to actually paint, seeing as how I would be in my studio for at least 5 hours a day, for three days straight. With so many deadlines looming and the fact that my work usually doesn't sell during these things anymore, I figured that I may as well make use of the studio time and get some work done. People can still see my latest work and see a work in progress, while still asking me questions if they had any, and I wouldn't have to sit there with nothing to do but wait for people to walk by. It seemed like a good plan.

So in the fifteen hours I was there (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), I managed to get the under-paintings of two new pieces done. The first piece got some detail work done, but still needs a few more hours. The second piece will take a bit longer. I am hoping to have these paintings done by Tuesday.

I started this one Friday night. 16"x16"

I didn't work on this again until Sunday (today).

This one, I started on Saturday. It's still in the
under-painting stages. 16"x16"

In other news...The latest edition of 7x7 magazine has the ad for my show at 111 Minna Gallery! I'm hoping it will bring a big crowd with lots of money to spend on my work!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wax On.

I waxed my latest four paintings just in time for my studio visit by Micah LeBrun and open studios tomorrow. Yay! Not bad for someone feeling super sick today...

"Tying Shoelaces", 24"x24" 

"Homemaker of the Year", 24"x24"

"Happy Hour", 24"x30"

"Dancing Nurses", 30"x24"

I also got to see the art for the full-page ad the next SFAQ magazine for "Presence of Absence", at 111 Minna Gallery this May. It's going to be a great show!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Hour, Done.

I finally finished my latest painting, now titled "Happy Hour". I am still trying to finish at least one more piece before my studio visit on Thursday. I did make some progress on the second piece so it is totally possible.

24"x30", "Happy Hour"

I have to say that the curls on this woman has been particularly difficult. I don't seem to be able to make them look like real hair. There is still a lot of work to be done, that's for sure.

In other looks like I may not have many, if any, new pieces left to show for open studios this weekend after my studio visit with the curator of 111 Minna Gallery. I don't want to show the same pieces for both since 1) they may sell and then I wouldn't have the piece for the May show, 2) the shows are too close together and I don't want to "ruin" the surprise. If it turns out that I don't have much work left, I may just bring out all my old work and have a "Spring Cleaning Sale". My studio is getting pretty cluttered so it would be great to get rid of some older pieces, not that I have much of those either. I am planning on working on some paintings during open studios and having a "live painting" session or two. It's a good thing there are over 40 other artists in the same warehouse space! People can always stop by and see their work after stopping by to say "hi" to me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Studio Ergonomics

I did a live painting today at Flax Art and Design as a promotion for the upcoming Mission Open Studios. It was a fun experience with many people stopping by, asking questions, complimenting my work, and taking postcards. It wasn't at all uncomfortable for me to paint while having people watch me. It did make me realize something though.

While painting there, I realized that I am lucky with the set-up in my studio. I have a custom made table that was made by a friend of mine who does awesome carpentry. The table is perfect for my height, which is kinda tall at 5'8", so that even when I am sitting down on my stool, I don't strain my arm or shoulder while reaching for my paint. I didn't realize until today how important that was. The Flax people had a pretty nice set up for me. There was an easel, comfy stool, and a taboret for me to put my supplies on. There were even other easels set up so that I could show some completed paintings. They were very accommodating and super nice. The problem was that the taboret was pretty short for me, about waist length, so that I was having to kneel a bit in order to get more paint while I was standing, and when I was sitting, it was still pretty low. I didn't think much of it until hour number two when my right should REALLY started to hurt. By the end of hour three I was hurting pretty badly. I didn't realize how important it was to have a table/ taboret set up at the right height. I didn't know how much damage it would do to my body if it wasn't. I guess I just didn't think about the ergonomics of a studio.

I do recall having a lot of neck pain for while, back when I started painting a lot. It took me a long time to figure out that all I had to do was lean back my easel a bit and all my neck pain was relieved. It was kind of a "duh" moment. It's these little things, like table height and easel angle, that help us do what we do more comfortably and with less damage to our bodies. I wouldn't have thought that kind of stuff was important. I was wrong. I'm sure I'll figure out more things about the right way to set up my studio...although sometimes it takes me awhile.

It doesn't look like I got much done in three hours, huh?