Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Memory Book Project: Writers Wanted

I've been toying with the idea of writing book for awhile (because apparently I don't have enough to do!) but have never had an idea that was good enough for me to follow through with. I didn't want to write an instructional book, there seemed to be plenty of those. I didn't just want to have an art book with images of my paintings since I wanted a broader audience, although I liked the idea of my artwork being a key component of the book. I've contemplated writing and illustrating a children's book for awhile, and may still do that at a later date, but this is not the time. So I started thinking in the realm of a coffee table book but I wanted something with a bit more substance. I think I finally came up with something that I could really be passionate enough about to actually get this project done.

Many of my recent paintings are based on found or purchased old photographs, memories from other people's past. It has always saddened me to think that someone's past and memories could be thrown away or sold, and then ultimately forgotten since there was no one around to share these stories with anyone. These "forgotten memories" are what I want to focus a book around. I like the idea of memories because everyone has them, and everyone has a unique one based on their experiences and who they are. There are many ways of portraying these memories, such as through photography or art, as I do with my paintings. I want to bring in the written word and tie this into my artwork to create a book based on people's memories.

I would like to invite writers and poets to submit their memories or stories around memories that can then be "matched up" with my artwork and be published as a book. I will probably self-publish through blurb.com and I don't imagine there being any profit from this, but I think the book could be a worthwhile effort and product. Here are some ideas of what kind of writing I am looking for:

1. Poems/ short stories recounting a memory
2. Interviews with older people that can then be translated into a first person narrative
3. Memories (real or made up) written in letter format. I have many images of sailors or soldiers with their girlfriends so I am thinking along the lines of what they would have written each other during war. Or perhaps a letter from a family member to a parent.
4. Essays of the importance of memories.

Anything creative that would make for a good read that could be then tied to an image would be good. You can visit my website, http://www.jhinaalvarado.com/, and see some of my paintings and what kind of images I am talking about. I would like to have this edited and printed by the end of September so that this can be available at Open Studios in October. Sound interesting? Want to contribute or know someone who would be perfect for this? If so, please email and give me an idea of what you'd like to do. I look forward to hearing from people and can't wait to get this project started!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where Am I Now?

This past weekend was the San Francisco Fine Art Fair, a five day event where over one hundred galleries from all over the world were together in one place, showing and selling art to the general public. I was fortunate enough to have had Artzone 461 Gallery show a few of my pieces there. It was a great event and I saw a lot of amazing work, some from artists I was familiar with, and some from newly discovered artists that I am now a fan of.

After attending the art fair, I was super inspired and motivated to paint and further my art career (after I took a nap that is...it was a long exhausting day of looking at art!), as is usually the case after I have been around what I find to be inspiring artwork. It also got me thinking about my goals and I figured now was a good time to check in with myself to see how I was doing and where I needed some work. It's always good to have periodic check-ins with oneself and see how things are progressing. So here is a summary of my goals for the year and a commentary of how I've been doing:

1. Support myself financially through the sales of my paintings. While I am by no means supporting myself in the lifstyle that I have grown accustomed to, I have been in the black all year. I have not spent more money on art supplies and art related materials than I have made through selling my art. Hopefully this will continue and I won't have to dip too much into my savings account once my teaching paychecks stop coming in.

2. Make a name for myself and my art. I think I am well on my way with this one. People are starting to notice my art and are starting to recognize my style. It was nice to have people at open studios tell me that they saw my artwork at a gallery or online and wanted to see more. I also had people email me and tell me that they saw my work at the art fair. I think this blog is also helping with that.

3. Have at least 5 galleries represent me by the end of the year. I have two pretty big ones so far and two art reps/ consultants so it's looking pretty good. I still need to continue to submit, submit, submit though. I try and research and submit to at least 5 galleries a month and need to continue with that practice.

4. Write a blog post every two weeks and mail out an e-newsletter every month. I have since revised the blog goal to writing at least twice a week. I never thought I would have anything to say when I started this blog, but so far, I've been able to keep up with this goal. As for the newsletter, it goes out almost every month. Sometimes they are filled with a lot of news, and other times I am just letting people know about what new work I have completed.

5. Paint a minimum of 15 hours a week. Uh, yeah, definitely surpassed this goal, especially lately with the show that I have been preparing for. Once I am no longer teaching, I should also have no problems with this. I plan to be painting at least 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

6. Network with other artists and visit galleries and museums more often. I have been trying to do this, but I have to admit, I'm not very good at networking. I need to be better about this. I tend to get shy around people I don't know, and especially around people I admire. It's time to get over that. I have made a few really good friends with some artists and they have been very supportive when I've needed that extra boost and have had a wealth of information on topics I had questions about. This is great, but I need to continue making connections. I have a mini goal of handing out 5 business cards/ postcards to people I meet and adding at least 5 new names to my email list per month. It really should be per week but baby steps...

I think overall I am doing okay with my goals. I still have a long way to goal but periodic check-ins will help me keep on track.

Images: "First Pitch", 12" x 12", oil and encaustic wax on panel
"Nap Interrupted", 12" x 12", oil and encaustic wax on panel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pushing Through the Pain

I am a stubborn person. It's just the way I am and I am sure it frustrates my fiance to no end. It's just that when I get an idea in my head, it is really hard to get me to stray from what I think is right. So when my wrist and hand started hurting on Saturday, I did what I usually did...I worked while in pain. I know it doesn't make sense since I have tendonitis in both wrists, elbows, and shoulders and it tends to get exacerbated by excessive use, but I didn't want to stop. I wanted to get as much work done and meet my deadline. I was stubborn. Now I am in major pain.

So what do you do when you're in major pain but have a huge deadline looming? I took a day off and then got right back on the saddle again the next day, even though I was still in pain, even though people kept telling me to rest. Like I said, I'm stubborn.

Now that I have been painting for a few days while in pain, I am starting to wonder: Is it worth it? Is completing my deadline worth wrecking my body? I think the answer is pretty obvious but I'm sure that I am not the first artist who has put her health on the line just to complete a painting. So why do we do it? Why do artists continually put their health on the line by doing such things as not having adequate ventillation? Or  not wearing gloves? Or working to the point that our body starts to fall apart? Is it sheer stubborness or blind devotion to our art? I'm sure it's a little of both, at least it is for me.
I have slowly coming to the realization that if I don't take care of my physical (and mental) health, then I'm not going to be around long and I won't be creating anything if I am dead or handicapped. You would think that this would be an obvious thing to realize, but when I'm working on something that I feel so passionately about and want to get finished, it's hard to remember that. My health just isn't a priority, like it should be and that is ridiculous. Nothing is more important than my health. NOTHING. So what am I going to do now? I'm going to take it easy and rest my wrist and hand. I'm going to wear my brace religiously even though I hate doin it. I am going to do what I need to in order to take better care of my body. In short, I'm going to take care of ME. 

Images: "Beach Chair", 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on panel
"Reading" 12" x 12", oil and encaustic wax on panel.
"On Leave", 12" x 12", oil and encaustic wax on panel.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Two More Paintings Done

I just finished two more paintings in my quest to complete and ship 20 paintings by June 11th. One of them has already sold, so in actuality, I only have one more painting to add to the Portland show. The first one is titled "Rooftop Bather" and the second one is "Bathing Beauties 2". Both are 16" x 16" and are done in oil and encaustic wax.  
"Rooftop Bather" SOLD

"Bathing Beauties 2"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Featured Artist at Blue Gallery

Here are some gallery shots (courtesy of Kelly Kuhn) from my featured artist show at Blue Gallery in Kansas City, MO. I really wish I could have been there to see it in person since it looks like a nice gallery. The show runs until May 31st so if you are in the area, stop by to see it in person.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

7 New Paintings

Here are the first seven paintings for my show at Ampersand Vintage Gallery in June. I am ahead of schedule but still need at least nine more paintings in order to have a full show. I think it's going well so far though. Please feel free to let me know what you think of these new paintings.
"Upward Stare", 12" x 12" oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Downward Stare", 12" x 12" oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Sitting Pretty", 12" x 12" oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Surfer Girl", 12" x 12" oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Two Men", 12" x 12" oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Fire Island", 24" x 24", oil and encaustic on birch panel

"Martha's Vineyard", 24" x 24", oil and encaustic on birch panel

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Lifetime of Work...

I am currently on a crazy painting schedule in which I am trying to finish 4 paintings a week for a solo show in June at Ampersand Vintage Gallery in Portland, OR. I have been super motivated and have managed to finish 8 paintings in 10 days and was recently told, jokingly, that my work should be cheaper since it doesn't take me much time to paint. While, the comment didn't offend me, it did get me thinking about what it has taken to get me to the point where I am now, a confident artist who has a clear direction in my work which enables me to execute my work "quickly", and whether or not the value of a painting should be based on the amount of hours it takes to complete one.

Now I realize that "quickly" is completely subjective and for some, that may mean completing a piece in a week while others may complete their painting in a few hours. In the past 10 days I have worked 49 hours in the studio (and this is after working my day job) and "completed" (these paintings still need to be waxed but the images are completed) 8 paintings. This averages out to a little more than 6 hours per painting. While in comparison to some artists that take weeks, sometimes months to complete a single painting, this is, on average, a regular time frame for me and actually not considered "quickly" by my standards. Does this make my paintings worth less because it didn't take weeks to create? The quality of my work is still good and the message still comes across clearly. So why is there a need to put an hourly wage on what artists do?

When I think about all of the years where I worked at my art trying to figure out who I am, what I wanted to say, and then honing my skills, I wouldn't say that it was anywhere near quick. We are talking about almost 30 years of hard work and soul-searching, which as many of us know, is not easy. Many times I would find myself in my studio staring at blank canvases, not sure of where I should start or where I was going, doubting whether or not I had what it takes to be a successful artist. It has taken me a long time to figure out that yes, I could do this. Yes, I do have the skills to do this well. Yes, I have something worth saying. Yes, people are interested in my work. So when someone comments about the quickness in my completing a painting or calls me a prolific painter, I can now say to them that it has taken me a lifetime to be able to complete this work and the hours put into this goes way beyond what the average person puts into their 9-5 job.

Images: Three more paintings waiting to be waxed and have wiring put on them in order to be completed. The first one is 24" x 24" and the last two are 12" x 12".

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Artist at the Carey School

Yesterday I had the priviledge of being the guest artist at the Carey School, an elementary school in San Mateo. Raymond Difley, a fellow San Francisco artist, is the art teacher there and had asked if I would like to come and speak to his students about what I did, as an artist, give a demo, and then lead an art lesson for the older students. I was used to teaching older kids since I teach middle school math but I wasn't sure how my artwork or demos would go over with elementary students and whether I would be able to relate to such young children.

My presentation started with a talk about what is encaustic wax and about my process in my latest series. I also showed my video "Forgotten Memories" that Ben Morse had made me before I wowed them with my use of a blow torch as I fused clear medium onto a painting. The kids really liked my blow torch! There was a lot of touching and feeling of the different surfaces (fused and unfused) and then I answered a lot of questions. The younger kids (pre-K, K, 1st and 2nd) had some great questions and really challenged me. It was nice to see them really appreciate my art and want to know everything about it. I was impressed with their knowledge and understanding, which I am sure had a lot to do with the great art education Raymond was giving them.

The older kids (grades 3-5) had a longer session. In addition to my lecture and demo, I then led them in a collage project where they were to pick an old photo, think about the memory it was capturing, and use that photo in a collage that would depict this idea. We covered the collages in encaustic wax and then the students did graphite transfers along with carving out drawings in the wax and wiping paint into the recessed areas. We didn't get to finish the assignment while I was there but what they did accomplish was pretty impressive, especially the last class of the day.

I'm glad to see that not all schools have completely cut out an arts program from their curriculum. So many times, art and music classes are the first things to go in a budget crisis. Without these classes we are not allowing children to explore their creative potential, and for some of these kids, this is vital. Creativity helps students do well academically also and allows them to be well-rounded students, and in this day and age, well-rounded indviduality is important. The Carey School is a private school, which is probably one of the reasons it can still have an art program (and from the looks of the the art displays around the school, it is a good one) but wouldn't it be great if EVERY chiild could learn about art? If EVERY child could explore their creative potential?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Three paintings done...many more to go!

For those of you who have just started reading my blog, I have placed myself in a bit of a predicament recently when I shipped the majority of my paintings to a gallery in Kansas City, not realizing until it was too late that it would mean I would have no paintings left for my Portland show in June. It was not a pretty situation to realize that I would have to ship 20 paintings by June 11th and I was no where near having enough work.

After freaking about for a bit, I took the advice of Amber George (who has always given me great advice) which was to figure out how many paintings I needed and divide it by the number of days I had until I shipped and that would tell me what my weekly/daily schedule would look like. I had to leave a few extra days for packing up the pieces and some "just in case something goes wrong" days in there. I figured I could get away with doing 16 paintings (i have a few pieces left that would work for the show) and that I had about 4 weeks to get them done. From this I had to paint 4 pieces a week and that gave me 2 weeks to pack and ship the work and redo any pieces I didn't like. Okay, this seemed doable. I could breathe again.

Weekend one just passed and I am happy to say that I completed the images for three paintings and I am about 60% done with a fourth! These paintings still need to be covered in wax and wired but accoprding to my schedule, I still have all week to do that and get the fourth piece done! If I can keep up this momentum, I will definitely get these paintings done in time, with some time to spare. I hope I didn't just jinx it....

Thanks to everyone who wrote encouraging words on FB! I appreciate having a cheering section!

Images: These are the three pieces that I worked on over the weekend. Throw some wax on the front and some wiring on the back and these babies are done!