Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Gallery Representation: Artzone 461 Gallery, San Francisco

I am very excited and proud to announce that Artzone 461 Gallery will now be showing my work! Artzone 461 Gallery is in the Mission District of San Francisco and conveniently 4 blocks from my apartment. I have been walking by this gallery for a few years now and find Steve, Erik, and Antonio some of the most friendliest, informed gallery people that make every experience in their gallery a pleasant one. I sure we've all walked into a gallery and have been ignored by the snooty, "to-cool-to-be-bothered" gallery attendant. That has never been my experience at Artzone, even before they knew I was an artist. It's a great space with some great art. I hope you will join me at the opening of "Introductions 2010: New Artist & Fresh Works" on Saturday, April 17th.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Real Paintings or Image Transfers?

After 16 months of painting people and doing a few portraits, people are starting to notice my work. This is a great thing, but I am finding that I keep getting the same question, and sometimes it's an assumption, about how I create my paintings. The commonly asked question, right after people ask why do I paint bars over the eyes of my subjects, is how do I get my photographs so large and transfer them on my panels. In other words, people assume that I am using photo transfers and not actually painting my images.

While in some ways I can see how this would be a compliment, after all, they are basically saying that my paintings look real enough that they look like actual photographs, but I can't help but get frustrated with people's misunderstanding of my work. I use only two colors, raw umber and white, which are similar to what the black and white photos I reference look like, and then cover the paintings in wax to add an antique and slightly blurriness finish. I am purposely trying to make my paintings look as real and as close to the photographs I am referencing as possible and still add my own touches, such as painting bars over the eyes, deleting the background, and using a lot of white space around the images. So when I get these questions I can't help but think is it really that hard to believe that I could hand paint these? Really??

I recently showed some fellow artists 3 paintings that I was entering into the encaustic juried show in June at Montserrat College of Art. I had painted some images of little girls and then used colored wax on the opposite side (the images are posted here under the entry "Getting Back to My Color Roots") Right away one of my friends commented that the juror (along with some viewers) may assume that the images were photo transfers and not paintings and therefore may not give me due credit for the quality and effort of my work. My other friend confirmed this belief. I understood their concerns and didn't want the juror to assume that. I listed my medium as "oil, graphite, and encaustic wax" as I always do but just to make sure, I actually wrote on the entry form "these are paintings not photo transfers" and then felt ridiculous that I had to write that.

I have had people ask me many times, even after I tell them that my images are actually painted, "how do you blow up the picture so big and transfer it to your panel?" My own dentist kept saying over and over "but it looks like a photograph" after I told him many times that the images were painted by me. It's starting to get a bit frustrating and I am at a loss as to how convey to people that these are not photo transfers.

I do twitter each step as I paint them. Those following me there can see how I start each piece and the steps I take to getting my work to look the way that it does but that doesn't seem like enough. I guess over all this is not such a horrible problem to have but it is a frustrating one. I never thought that I would have to justify my work because it looked TOO good. I hope people reading this rant don't find me to be egotistical and full of myself. I am just frustrated and want people to appreciate my work for what it actually is... oil paintings hand painted by me.
Images: These are the paintings steps I took to creating "Taking a Dip 2". I started with a drawing, did a quick under painting to block out shapes and tones, worked on each person individually to add details, and when the painting was completed, I added 6-8 layers of encaustic wax over the whole piece.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Commissioned Painting

I was recently commissioned to do a painting of a woman's parents circa 1948. Here are the final images of the painting and the photograph that was referenced. The painting is 20" x 24" and was done in oil paint and encaustic wax. Commissions are gladly accepted. Email me for more information at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting Back to My Color Roots....

I'm not sure how many people are aware of this, but when I first started painting, I was a fan of color...LOTS of color. I used to paint brightly colored still life and then moved to a more monochromatic palette, but color was still there. But last year I decided I needed a challenge and started painting people. Having never painted figures before, I wanted to limit my palette so that I could concentrate on form and not worry about color and skin tone. It's been over a year since I have incorporated any color into my work and I was starting to miss my old friends.

Recently, I had the opportunity to bring color back to my work, even if only in a limited amount. Every year, the Montserrat Encaustic Conference, which is held in Beverly Massachusetts in June, has a juried art show for attendees. This year's show is titled "Flow and Control" and is juried by Joseph Carroll, of Carroll and Sons Art Gallery in Boston. Artists are encouraged to experiment and create work specifically for the show so I figured this would be a good time for me to combine something old (color) with something new (figures).

The following images are what I painted to enter into the show. I don't know if this may be another series that I will continue or whether this is a one time deal. I do have to say that I enjoyed painting the images and then covering one side with colored wax. I also used some graphite drawings that were transfered on the colored side to mimic old wallpaper and continue with the antique feel of my work. I love the way the wax smeared the graphite and made it barely visibly in some spots. I also love the quilt-like feel of the pieces and how well the images worked with it's colored side. Who knows, there may be a few more of these in my future...
Images: "Girly Girls" 2010, 14" x 11", oil, graphite and encaustic on panel.
"Girl and Puppy" 2010, 11" x 14", oil, graphite, and encaustic on panel.

"Something Especially Desirable" 2003, 24" x 24", acrylic and paper on canvas. This is one of my older, more colorful paintings. I really loved that orange color.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Promotional Video

Here is the video that Ben Morse, with the help of Adam Wadenius and Matt Hurless, made of my artwork. I think the hours of work put into making this definitely was worth it!

"Forgotten Memories" by Jhina Alvarado, Artist from Ben Morse on Vimeo.

Artist teaching Artist

I have been working with encaustics since mid 2006, when I took a three day class with Hylla Evans. It was an amazing three days that renewed my love of art (I had stopped painting for 6 years...but that's another blog entry) and started my journey into what is now some of my best work I have ever produced. Since then, I have experimented, I have taken a few more classes, and can say that I have a pretty good feel for encaustics as a medium.

Occassionally, I get a request to work with an artist and "show them the ropes" of encaustics. After teaching 26-32 teenagers all day, I have to say that teaching a fellow artist, one on one, is pretty nice. You can really interact with the person and answer their questions more fully. A lot of times, artists come in with ideas of what they want to do already in their head. They just need someone to help/ explain how to get that vision on a panel. I like being the catalyst that enables them to create their vision. Sounds egotistical, I know, but it's fun.

This past weekend, I got to work with artist/illustrator Sean Chapman who wanted to incorporate wax into his work. We spent the day learning different techniques and then Sean got to "play". The results were pretty impressive for one day's worth of lessons and work.

Having artists share their techniques and methods, whether through discussion or demos, is one of the most important parts of growing as an artist. It's nice to experiment and play on your own, but nothing beats having a conversation with another artist who knows what you are talking about and can help you get your vision across. I know that I enjoy learning from my fellow artists!

Monday, March 22, 2010

La Gran Pachanga: A Benefit for Buena Vista Elementary School

On Friday night, Ben (my soon to be hubby) and I decided to attend La Gran Pachanga: A Benefit for Buena Vista Elementary School at 111 Minna, where there was over 250 pieces of art, jewelry, and clothing by local artists in a silent auction. Now, as a middle school teacher, I know how much schools are hurting with all of the budget cuts. Class sizes are increasing, teachers are being laid off, and programs are being cut. I could go on forever on my tirade about these budget cuts and how I just don't see how this government can keep cutting funds and expect schools to function and teach students well. But instead on focusing on the negative, I am going to write about this benefit and how supportive the community was.
When Ben and I first walked in at 9pm (the benefit started at 8), there was barely enough room to walk around. The place was packed and the benefit had only been going on for an hour! We walked around as well as we could to look at some pretty amazing art and jewelry. It was great to see some familiar names attached some great work. Names like Rubyspam, Sean Chapman, and Gage Opdenbrouw were a few of the many artists who donated their works for the silent auction. Rachel Znerold, a friend and great fashion designer, was doing a live painting that was then to be auctioned off. I caught a few shots of her in the middle of painting this enormous piece. I really wanted to stop by later and see her progress but as the night progressed, the place was even more packed and it took a good 15 minutes to walk about 10 feet. I'm sure she did great and I hope all the work there went for a pretty penny since it was such a great fundraiser. I know Ben and I made bids on a few pieces that we are hoping we won.

It's a shame that any school would have to have a fundraiser in order to be able to fund programs and supplies. That really should be the government's job but at least there was a great turn out. It's nice to see a community come together to support a good cause.

Images: Rachel Znerold working on her painting at 111 Minna and her completed painting after 3 hours of work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Art Commission Horror Story

MANY years ago, when I was much younger and completely naive, I met a guy at a mutual friend's house-warming party who wanted to commission me for a painting. Our mutual friend had just received one of my pieces as a gift so this guy was somewhat familiar with my work. I talked to him a bit about what he liked about my work during the night and gave him my email address so that we could solidify an agreement at a later date. A few days he emailed me and said that he wanted a 40" x 60" painting and would be mailing me a 50% deposit soon.

Everything seemed to be going well. I bought the canvas before I got his check (mistake number 1) and started working out what I was going to paint. I was pretty excited about working on my first commissioned painting! Then I started getting emails from him asking me to come to his condo so that I could see where he wanted to put the painting. He thought this would give me a better sense of what to paint. He lived about a hour away from me so I really didn't want to make the trip and didn't feel like I needed to see what his couch looked like in order to complete the painting. I graciously declined his invitation and thought that would be the end of it.

I started getting more emails, each one getting more and more creepy, each one always ending in an invitation to his place. He started talking about how wouldn't it be great to have dinner at his condo and be able to look at my painting in the living room. At this point the check had still not arrived. I, being completely naive (and really needing the money), still thought that this was a legitimate commission. So I sent him an email saying that I felt like the arrival of the deposit was contigent on my coming over for dinner at his place and that I didn't feel this was appropriate, so please mail me a check or I would not do the painting. Suddenly, I had a check in my hand with an apology for the delay. I thought I was back on track, but boy was I wrong.

What followed were a series of emails from him talking about how wouldn't it be great if we got married and could tell our grandkids about the painting I made for US or how it would be great for us to host cocktail parties and show our friends OUR painting. I finally sent him an email saying that I no longer wanted to paint the piece, that his behavior was inappropriate, and I was ripping up his check. I was very blunt and to the point. Next followed a barrage of harassing and insulting emails that took about a week to finally stop. When it was finally over, I was exhausted and shaken by the whole ordeal.

I'd like to think that ten years later I have learned from this experience and now that I am actively seeking commissions, I won't fall prey to psychos like this anymore. Now, when I meet with a potential client, the second I feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, whether it's suspicious motives or they are too demanding in their needs, I decline the work. I tell the person that I don't think that it's a good fit because, really, if I don't feel comfortable, how can I do my best work or make them happy? I also now have a contract for clients to sign with a non-refundable, must pay first before I buy any materials, deposit. It's easier now, too, to meet with clients since I have a shared studio space in a wharehouse with about 50 other artist. I am no longer meeting with them in my home studio or at their home which makes me feel safer and more comfortable. I'm sure this may sound silly for some people, but as an artist, and especially as a female artist, personal safety and comfort has to come first.

Images: Detail of a current commissioned painting in progress and a full body image of the same piece. 20" x 24", oil on birch panel. The final painting will be covered in encaustic wax. This client has so far been a dream!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Isolated Artist

During one of my many conversations with artist, Robin Luciano Beaty, we were talking about artist organizations, workshops, and working in isolation in home studios versus larger studios spaces. She mentioned a quote that made me think about how I usually worked and my need for "alone time".

"Artists never thrive in colonies. Ants do. What budding artists need is the privilege of wrestling with his problems in solitude...and now and then a piece of red meat." ~Henry Miller

I thought about this quote for awhile and decided that I had to agree with Henry Miller...most of the time.
I have always been a loner when it comes to creating art and who doesn't love a piece of red meat now and then? But with my new series, I have found that every once in awhile, wrestling with my problems just wasn't going to be enough.

Having never been to art school (I got my master's degree in math education), I don't have the "technical" background that many artists have. The things I've learned have usually been by trial and error or from the occassional workshop I managed to attend. This wasn't much of a problem when I was painting still-lifes or working more abstract but now that I am painting people, it became pretty obvious that I was going to need some help and advice from my fellow artists.

Just the other day I was painting a picture of a little girl, and like many artist who don't have much experience painting people, she was looking more like an old lady than an innocent little girl. This wasn't the first time that I had encountered this problem. After working and reworking the face a few times, I finally asked fellow studio artist, Scott Inguito, what he thought of it. He looked at it for awhile and then shared some advice that his former painting instructor gave to him. He said that when painting women and children, delete any lines in the forehead, under the eyes, and all smile lines in the cheek EVEN IF YOU SEE THEM IN THE PHOTOGRAPH. These lines/wrinkles won't translate well when painted and will cause your subject to look older than what they actually are.

I was hesistant to erase these lines. Afterall, they are in the photograph. This girl has smile lines and lines under her eyes. Shouldn't I paint what's in the photograph? ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO???? But what I was doing was obviously not working so I decided to trust Scott and delete these lines from my painting. Once I painted over these areas and smoothed out the lines in her skin, my subject immediately transformed into a little girl. No longer was this a painting of a middle-aged lady holding a teddy bear. My painting looked a thousand times better!

This is not the first time I have had this encounter. While I still like being a loner and keeping to myself, and I will never join an artist/support group, or at least attend any meetings, I have come to appreciate how another artist's opinion can help my work. Though I have found that I do have to be picky about who's advice I solicit since everyone has an opinion but not all of it is usefull. I have my trusted artist friends whose advice I value and whose work I respect. My favorite "go-to" person has always been my dear friend Hylla. I send her images of most of my finished painting to get her feedback on a regular basis and while I am sure it can probably get annoying for her, I sure do appreciate the critique. It's not always what I want to hear but it has always been constructive and I have always learned from her. So what's the lesson here? Being an island has it's advantages, but everyone once in awhile it's good to let someone on for a visit.

Image: "Girl with Bear", 12" x 12", oil, graphite and encaustic wax on panel.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Work

It has been a very slow 2010 art-wise since I have only gotten 5 paintings done this year and it's already mid-March. It's frustrating to not feel like I am being as productive as I should be. I am hoping that once the school year is over and I am painting full-time, I will start really getting my butt in gear and get some serious work done. Here are 4 of my newly finished paintings, all waxy and brand new. These paintings are part of my bather's and swimmer's series.

"Taking a Dip 1"
24" x 24"
oil and encaustic wax on birch panel

"Taking a Dip 2"
24" x 24"
oil and encaustic wax on birch panel

"Diving Board 1"
30" x 30"
oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

"Diving Board 1"
30" x 30"
oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Behind the Scenes of Shooting a Promo Video...

Last year, I sat in on Kandy Lozano's lecture at the Montserrat Encaustic Conference in Beverly MA, about painting in a large format. During this session, Kandy showed us a video of her process set to music. It was a lovely montage of her working, painting, fusing, and scraping, with the occassional quote of what inspires her. I think it is safe to say that a lot of us left thinking "I want a video like that!"

Well, seeing as how I am now engaged to a guy who does video productions and has a few music videos, along with various corporate/ promo videos, under his belt, I decided to see what he could do for me so that I could promote my artwork more effectively. I naively thought that I would be able to go into the studio and do what I do, which is paint, while he just followed me around with a camera. Boy was I wrong! This past Sunday's shoot took about 12 hours  and was one of the most tiring days I have ever experienced. There were lights everywhere that were constantly being moved for different shots. A long jib arm was used with a camera attached at the end in order to get close ups and pan from one end of a shot to another. A large flat screen was set up so that shots could be viewed while Ben or Adam were shooting. This was no amateur production! There was a crew of three people and enough equipment to choke a donkey! Equipment filled my space, along with two other people's spaces and the walkway. Then there was the actual shooting of my working...

I didn't think it would be too hard to paint on camera since I am used to people watching me paint and perform. (I do teach in front of students and have been in various bands so I am very familiar with being watched.) But as we started shooting, I found that it was hard to paint with my panel angled so that the camera got more than just the back of my head covering what I was working on. I also got a little camera shy knowing that people would see every mistake that I would make and may not understand that what I was painting now wasn't necessarily the way it would look like at the end. It was hard to have to stop what I was doing and wait for lights to be moved, lenses to be changed, or any other various reasons I was constantly told to "hold" while something was adjusted. It was hard to have a camera two inches from my face or next to my blow torch as I was trying to get some details in or was fusing a delicate spot. It was a long, difficult day and by the end, I was exhausted.

At any rate, the experience was definitely worth it as I looked back at the playbacks and saw what the camera captured. I can't wait until the editing is done and I can show everyone my work, process, and what 12 hours of shooting and many hours of editing can do.  Big thanks to the best fiance ever, Ben Morse, and special thanks to Adam Wadenius and Matt Hurless who aren't engaged to me and have no other reason for doing this other than they are great people who believe in my work!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Studio Pictures by Stephany Kellner

Recently a photographer friend (and former student of mine...damn I feel old!), Stephany Kellner, did a photo shoot of me working in my studio. These are a few shots that she took and sent me. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Drawing and Painting Faces

I don't know if any of you know this, but up until January 2009, I NEVER drew or painted people. I had this fear of rendering faces and didn't think I could do it. For me, drawing of painting the human face was the hardest thing imaginable to do art-wise. Creating a face is easy enough, but to create one that captures the expression and likeness of the person you are drawing or painting is really hard. I had avoided it up until last year when I decided I needed a challenge.

I had been doing, what I considered, "decorative art" at this point. It was pretty and technically good, but it didn't speak to me. There was no message other than "look how pretty this is" and if anyone asked me what my paintings "meant", I couldn't tell them because I didn't know. I was just "doing" art without emotion or thought. I was drawing leaves and birds and layering these images between layers of wax. I did other pieces using photo transfers and other pretty cool encaustic techniques too, but it wasn't satisfying to me because it felt more like I was collaging rather than painting. I wasn't challenging myself or grappling with anything that need to be solved. Now that's not to say I haven't seen some extremely beautiful and complicated work by other artist using these methods and others that I haven't figured out yet. I know a lot of encaustic artist who's work I would have no problem hanging in my house and in fact would LOVE to own, but I guess what I am trying to say, is that I missed the actual act of painting a realistic likeness of something as my art and was feeling like I had lost my "edge". Make any sense?

So last year, in January, I decided to do a complete 180 on my art and start painting people, something I've avoided throughout my whole art career. It was a scary venture for me but I needed to shake things up a bit and see what happened. I was stuck creatively and needed some sort of shove to get me thinking and challenging myself again.Well, it turned out to be the best decision for me because I feel like I am creating some of the most meaningful, unique work that I have ever done. Some may say that I am still avoiding faces since I cover the eyes with a black bar, but I do start off painting the complete face before blocking out the eyes and with the ACEOs I am drawing (and will soon be painting) this year, I am drawing the complete face. Some have come out better than others, and there are a couple that I am extremely happy with. I included those on this post.

So what's the lesson here? Sometimes you need to move outside of your comfort zone in order to discover what really speaks to you. It may take some transition time for you and you may lose some clients that like your previous work, but you can't grow as an artist if you never challenge yourself. I know I've grown a lot in the last year!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Rack that Ben Built

So I was at the studio on Saturday meeting with a client regarding a commission she wanted me to do. When I was done, I walked by fellow artist, Scott Inguito's studio and noticed that he had a metal file holder that was holding some of his smaller canvas'. We talked for a bit about how it was a great way to hold and store his paintings and that he finds them at thrift stores for super cheap. I started to think that I needed something like this for my studio space since I was running out of places to put my finished work and the panels I had yet to paint on. At the time I was stacking panels up against each other with bubble wrap in between each painting. It worked but if I wanted to show someone one of those paintings, it was a huge pain to dig through the work and then unwrap the bubble wrap. It's also not very safe for my paintings since they can easily slide down, tip over,  and become damaged. I needed something that would work for the small space that I had and be sturdy enough to hold 40"x 30" wood panels without damaging the wax finish of each piece.

I was meeting my soon-to-be-husband and a friend for lunch after I left the studio. (I just can't get used to the word fiance. It just sounds so pretentious. Fiance. Ugh.) I told Ben that I wanted some sort of rack to hold my paintings but that it needed to be small enough to fit in my studio space, which is only about 7 feet wide by 12 feet long. I described what Scott had and told him what I was thinking of and what most galleries had for storage. The built in racks that most galleries have wasn't going to work since I also needed my wall space to display work during Open Studios. I also wanted to be able to easily move it if I ever decided to change studios.

We drew up a couple of drawings and debated on size lengths over bloody mary's and mimosas at Ti Couz. We came up with an adjustable rack that has a base made out of  4x4 beams (with 2x4 cross beams). The base has 1 inch holes drilled in, 2 inches apart, so that 1 inch dowels could be inserted and moved around depending on the thickness of each panel.. Currently the dowels are covered in bubble wrap so that it doesn't scratch my paintings but I eventually plan on covering each one with a thick felt.

The rack came out exactly the way I wanted it and I can now slide out paintings easily to show potential clients each piece and my work is also now stored safely. Ben is going to build me another smaller version of the rack for underneath my work table and another the same size as the one already made to hold any other panels I haven't stored (although many of them will be shipped to shows eventually). It's so nice to have a guy around who can build me things! Yup, I think I'll keep him around for awhile.