Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trying to Find Balance

"Sailboat", 30"x30", oil and encaustic wax on panel.
Available at Whistler Village Art Gallery

Balance: A state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.

Balance. It's something that many of us hope to achieve, but, if you are anything at all like me, you find it difficult to do. I am, by nature, somewhat of a workaholic. I do my best at whatever it is that I do, and I am always looking to achieve more. I am abitious and driven, and because of this, I often find that my life lacks balance.

In the past, I was always trying to find the time to paint. I had to find a balance between teaching during the day and painting after work. Painting was important to me (and still is) so I needed to find a way to work that into my schedule on a regular basis. Nowadays I don't struggle so much to make painting a part of my daily life. In fact, now I find that I don't do much other than paint, well, and teach during the day too, that is. I find that I spend every spare moment that I can in the studio, to the point of it being a "problem" some would say.

"Motorbike", 30"x30", oil and encaustic wax on panel.
Available at Whistler Village Art Gallery
 If I am invited to spend the day out with a friend, the first thing that pops in my mind is "but this will take me away from the studio". If I need to make a doctor's appointment I think "but how will I fit this in and get into the studio?" I haven't been shopping or have done anything social in a long time because, that's right, it will take me away from the studio. Forget about getting sick. There's no time for that. IF by some chance I don't get into the studio for a day, I feel extremely guilty and start thinking that I am behind schedule. Everything that may come up during my day is time away from painting. I never thought I would say this, but painting is taking over my life!

Some of you may know that my husband was recently diagnosed with cancer, and while he is okay now, it was pretty scary for about a month. There were a lot of doctor appointments to attend, surgery, and other things that needed to be taken care of. Needless to say, there wasn't much time to paint. I was resolved to not getting as much time in the studio as I usually did. That's not to say that I didn't panic about the time away from the studio. I did...big time. It was during this time that I started to realize that my life was still off balance.

I guess all this time I thought that since I was painting every day, which I have had to struggle to do in the past, that I had managed to find balance in my life. After this past month, I realized I was just fooling myself. I am not leading a balanced life. I had just found a way to not make my day job keep me from art. My painting was out of proportion to what was part of the rest of my life AND it was "unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest". I don't go to the gym anymore. I don't socialize much. I don't do a number of things I used to do all in the name of art. As much as I like creating my art, I need it to not take over my life.

It's a struggle, balance. I'm still not sure how to find it, but now that I am aware that there are other things in life that are important and should have some priority (you would think at this age I would know that already!), I can only hope that I am a little closer to being a well-rounded, balanced person.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Confession: I am a Blender.

Day three of my painting class was yesterday and it was there that I learned that I am a blender. "Hello, my name is Jhina Alvarado and I am a blender". There. I've said it. Normally, being a blender is not a problem. I have been doing it for years, blending colors together into a seamless transition. My paintings didn't seem to suffer because of it. In fact, I got pretty good at blending and my paintings got better. I didn't think it was a problem until I started THIS painting class.

For the method that we are using in this class, blending is not "allowed". We are learning to do little tiles of color that transition one shade to the next shade of the color. There is no blending involved. The eye does the blending for you. This helps you learn about tones and shading and makes you really think about what shades go where and how they relate to each other. It's a way of teaching yourself to see transitions and the "true" shape of the object you are painting.

At first I was doing my tiles but, me being me, couldn't stand to see the seams, so I blended them together. Then I couldn't stop blending. I blended the tiles so that the transition was more seamless. Then I just kept blending and blending...and, well, blending. Next thing I knew, I had obliterarted all of my tiles and the painting looked like something I would normally do (although a less accurate version). Now this may seem like an okay thing to do, I have been painting for awhile and doing well with it, BUT then I thought why was I taking this class?  If I was just going to paint like I normally do, what was my purpose for being here? What was I learning if I wasn't following instructions on this technique and trying something new?

So despite my NEED to blend, I had to go back and do the exercise over, the way it was supposed to be done. It didn't feel natural, but what I did notice was that my egg looked more like an egg rather than an oval with weird dents in it. I was learning to "see" what I was doing. Am I a reformed blender after one session? Definitely not, as you can see from my painting. It still has blended areas and my tiles are not as visible. I am a work in progress, as is my painting. I may never master this technique and it may not change my habit of blending in my own work, but if by going through this process I can learn to "see" clearer and be a better painter, then this process is worth it. Sometimes you have to give up what you know, what may even be innate, in order to learn a method that will ultimately improve your overall skills.

In other news... I am almost done with the painting of the girl with the bike. The bike needs a little more detail but I am hoping to have it done in two more session. The plan is to then work on a 30"x 40" painting on Wednesday until Sunday (since I have those days off), wax and ship these two paintings on Monday to Whistler, then work on a few 6"x6" paintings that are due by December 2nd. Of course, this could always change, as schedules tend to do. But if I keep up with it, I THINK then I will be caught up enough to take a little break before the next batch of deadlines come up. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Clones...Where Can I Get One?

Today was one of those days where I could have really used a clone of myself. Think about it, I could  have a person who thinks and talks like me, and in more importantly, paints like me. How perfect would that be? Especially now that I am in the thick of multiple deadlines, having a clone who can help me PAINT would be awesome! Or, maybe even a clone that could teach math like me so I could leave that version of me in the classroom while I painted! That sounds even better. I wonder which would be harder to get: a clone that paints like me or one that teaches math the way I do? Hmmm. I guess it's really a moot point since neither will be happening in time for me to get these next batch of paintings done.

Well, back to the painting version of me... I am working on the 4th piece for my new gallery in Whistler. I just heard from the director. She loved the first three images I emailed her and wants MORE. Yikes! These all need to ship at the end of the month. Ideally, I'd finish the one I am working by Saturday and a 30"x40" next week. These, in addition to the six 6"x 6" pieces my art rep wants by December 2nd, are what I have on my plate for the next two and a half weeks. I am debating on giving up sleep, but truthfully, it wouldn't help. I am horrible about painting once it gets dark. I have never been able to paint at night. I don't know what about the darkness makes my brain shut down, but it happens. Maybe the clone version of me won't have a problem with that and we can take shifts. I paint during the day and sleep at night. Clone-me can sleep during the day and paint at night. Sound like a perfect plan to me. Now where can I get one of them clones...?

The latest painting. I have no idea what parts I am painting on that bike since I really know
nothing about them. I am just painting shapes and shadows while keeping my fingers
crossed. I hope it looks like a working bike when I am done! I am also taking a picture of the
painting every ten minutes so I can make another stop motion video. I am trying to be
 better about getting enough images, hence the timer to remind me to take the picture every
ten minutes. Apparently I didn't have enough to do already...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Open and Closed Grisaille Painting

Today was day two of my painting class and we worked on open and closed grisaille painting. The first layer is open grisaille where we are only to use burnt umber and a bit of turpentine to paint our image. No white is allowed, which made this pretty difficult for me. Paint kept lifting off if I went over the area more than once, which I couldn't help but do. I am used to using one color BUT I also use white in order to lighten my color. Because of this, the paint lifting off isn't as big as a problem since I am not using turpentine to lighten and shade my color.

With this first layer, the whitest part is the white of the panel, kind of like doing a watercolor, but not. Sadie said this was going to be the "adolescent" stage of our painting: the work would not look smooth (kind of like flawed skin), and she was right. My egg looks pretty bad and splotchy. Having never taken an oil painting class, I am glad to learn a technical side to painting, but I am not used to having my under-paintings look this bad. I know that under-paintings are just that, under-paintings, and that first layer can look like crap because there's no paint on the panel to create a smooth surface. Everything has to be built upon. I know this, which is why I am not freaking out just yet about how bad this painting looks so far.  I have faith in the process...

In addition to painting our egg, we are also working on spheres as homework. Since I was done with my open grisaille work, I could move on to the next layer which is closed grisaille. Here I am allowed to use white, burnt umber, and ultramarine blue to make a black and shades of gray. Getting the grays to be a true neutral was hard. Mine tended towards a more "cool" shade with too much blue. I still have more work to do on this and will go over it with another layer of grays when I am done. Each layer I will be refining my sphere, making the transitions more flawless and smooth as I go.

In other news, I finished the painting portion of my latest piece. Now I need to wait for paint to dry before waxing it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two New Paintings and a Work in Progress

"Every Dream is a Wish", 2011
 24"x24", oil and encaustic wax on panel

"Gone Fishing", 2011
16"x16", oil and encaustic wax on panel

My current work in progress...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Egg and the Girl

This Sunday I started my first oil painting class (out of 6 total classes) with Sadie Valeri . Now some of you may be wondering why I am taking an oil painting class when I already paint in oils. Well, I do paint in oils, but if you haven't noticed, I only use two colors, which means I am good with tones but not color. I want to learn how to use colors and oil paint the "Old Masters" way. I want to learn how to make my colors look like jewels you can almost touch. I want my paintings to, well, glow. This class focuses on the Flemish style of painting, which uses a 7 layer process. I'm not quite sure what those 7 layers entail just yet, but I am sure I will find out. Sunday's class focused on drawing a single egg, which we will paint in the next five weeks. One egg, six total weeks. Yup, this will be a test of patience for me! But if it's anything like the figure drawing class I took with Sadie, I am sure time will fly and I will not have a completed piece by the end of the six weeks. As homework we have to transfer out drawing and then put a thin layer of a damar/ turpentine mix to seal it. I think I can handle that, no problem.

In other news, I am still trying to complete 4 new paintings before Thanksgiving so that I can ship these to my new gallery in Whistler, BC. I started painting number 3 yesterday. Fortunately for me, I am a quick painter and I am pretty sure this piece will be done by the end of the week. Check it out:

This woman is sitting on a sail boat. The final piece is 30"x30".

This is a close-up on the same painting. I am still in the underpainting stage of this...

Still life of an egg: I am working on the one on the right.

Can you believe this took me an hour to draw?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review in Art Ltd. Magazine!

Here's the third review of my show, Cinema Verite at JoAnne Artman Gallery, in Art Ltd. Magazine! I am so excited to have my work reviewed in an art magazine I subscribe to and read. The magazine should be in news stands and online soon, but here's a preview of the article. Thank you Roberta Carraso for the review! 

It was just a paper grocery bag filled with old photographs from the ’40s; but for Jhina Alvarado, a San Francisco painter, it became the exciting source of her new series. The bag contained “piles and piles of images of people, most likely no longer living, and no longer remembered. More importantly the bag was stuffed with personal and forgotten memories.” The images were of people who could have been family, but in clothing, hairstyles, and a presence that told of another era, “when people didn’t look plastic,” but were flesh and blood and real. While considering how easily we acquire or lose memories, the ’60s documentary filmmaking style came to mind, a style that searches for truth through intimate close-ups and fleeting memories. This series forms the basis of Alvarado’s new show at Joanne Artman Gallery, “Cinéma Vérité.”

Alvarado sought to resurrect thoughts of the past, transforming forgotten people into contemporary images, for today’s generation, who know little of the pre-WWII era. A natural hand-held camera technique became adapted as painting on panel with only two oil paint colors, white and raw umber, giving the impression of an old and faded B&W photo, in the stark realism of a forgotten era. Like a vérité filmmaker, Alvarado endows each painting with a sense of mystery and anonymity—a woman lost in thought, four playful boys in bathing suits, kids dangling on monkey bars, several women on the beach. To remove their personal identity, she places a dark bar over their eyes. She also eliminates any background, allowing the viewer to focus only on the scene and its immediacy. Then she coats each painting with eight to ten layers of encaustic wax, giving the image a creamy surface, yellow and faded, blurred and fuzzy, distancing the viewer with a “Private, Keep Out” warning. But the textured wax surface also adds an ethereal quality that further releases each original image from the world of photography to sug- gest an anonymous, universal memory that is no longer tied to a par- ticular person, but is shared collectively, a relic that exists beyond time. Alvarado has since expanded her Cinéma Vérité series, using photos from the ’20s to the ’50s. With these enigmatic panels, she has become a cinematographer with paint, bringing the past forward, with a cinematic spirit she keeps alive in her contemporary paintings.

—ROBERTA CARASSO Copyright ©2011 Lifescapes Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Times Keeps Flying By

Looking back at my blog, I have realized that I haven't been very good about writing thoughtful posts since I started teaching again. It has been hard trying to juggle a full-time job, leaving that, and then going to the studio to work another full-time job. Because of this, I haven't had much time to be social or to do much writing. I guess I could let my day job take over and paint less (as many people end up having to do), but it's really important that I make art come first, even if it means I have to sacrifice some sleep or free time. Art is what I want to do for a living. It is what I am passionate about and it makes me sane. I not only want to, but need to paint every day and I will hopefully be doing that as my ONLY job again soon. I can't let my day job cause me to slack off and paint less. Plus, with the large amount of galleries now showing my work, I have deadlines and obligations that I am not going to back out on. I am committed to making this work. So in the meantime, my blog posts will somewhat lacking in substance and my free time will have to be non-existent, but this is my life at the moment. It is what I have chosen to do.

Still working on this one. I need to fix her nose and mouth so that she doesn't
look so goofy. I am hoping this will be done by Friday. I'd like to be able to
send Whistler Village Gallery some images of what I am sending them by
the end of the week.

This one is pretty much done. I need to touch up the bar across her eyes and make the
lines crisp, but other than that, it is ready to get waxed!