Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My How Things Change...

Painting 18 paintings in less than a month changes a person. It wasn't a major change. I didn't suddenly find the meaning of life or notice any physical changes. It was a subtle change that affected the way that I paint.

When I realized that I had to paint 18 new 12" x 12" pieces for my latest show, I set aside the 30" x 40" painting that I was working on, thinking I would get back to it once I completed my deadline. I had already finished the under-painting so I didn't think it would be a problem to complete later. Little did I know that my method of painting would change.  I just couldn't get into the groove of painting this one after taking so much time off of it and it took me awhile to figure out why.

Having to paint so many pieces quickly to meet my deadline, I stopped doing under-paintings to just block out color and shapes. I had to get the painting almost perfect from the start since I didn't have much time to linger on each piece. I got better technically and was able to finish these paintings with less steps. Going back to the older painting, it was hard to go back to my less efficient way of painting. The under-painting seemed to get in the way of my blending the colors on my panel. The skin didn't look right. I couldn't get the skin to look like skin and have that nice translucent look I wanted. The figure looked too cartoony to me. I also started to feel like I had too much white space. The images were looking tiny in comparison to the newer paintings. Nothing about this piece seemed right anymore.  My style and technique had changed enough that it made completing this painting difficult.

The white area around these figures now seem like too much, as if the figures aren't occupying enough space.

The skin just didn't look like skin. It lacked that transparency of the paint that makes it look more life-like.

A close-up of the under-painting that I previously completed.

So what does one do when a painting no longer works for you? I could just gesso the panel and start over, which may still happen. But for now, I have put this painting aside and have started some new ones. I may go back to it if I feel like I need to challenge myself. I can't guarantee it will ever get finished. It no longer feels right to me. I know it's a subtle change and I am sure some of you don't know what the big deal is and don't understand why I can't just continue painting on this older painting. I guess to me it feels like accidently brushing your teeth with someone else's toothbrush. You can still get the job done but it sure doesn't feel right! 

Here is one of the newest paintings that I am working on. I am no longer blocking out shapes and colors first and I think my painting skills have gotten better.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Installation Shots at Ampersand Vintage Gallery

Here are some shots from my current art show at Ampersand Vintage Gallery, in Portland, OR. The show runs until the end of July.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bravo's "Work of Art"??

So I finally had a chance to watch the Bravo reality series "Work of Art" which stars 14 aspiring artists who compete a-la-Project-Runway style in order to be the last artist standing. That "lucky" person gets a solo show at the Brooklyn Art Museum and I think $100,000. I remember when that casting call went out, and how I thought for a split second that it would be fun to audition for it. I figured I would probably be too old for the cast and truthfully, my laziness got the best of me and I decided it was too much effort to drive to LA for the casting call. Although I figured it had to be a horrible show, curiosity got the best of me and I have now watched two episodes. Here are my thoughts:

1. I was surprised to see a cast of varied ages, the oldest member being 67 and the youngest is 22. The majority of the artists were in their twenties though, which is not surprising since TV reality shows are filled with attractive twenty-somethings that are supposed to make good television.

2. Supposedly these artists were the most talented and up and coming artist in the country that were cast. Really? Did you see some of the work these artists were creating? Some of it was definitely good (I already have my favorite artists on the show...Go Miles and Abde!) but some of the art was elementary in execution and primary in concept, at best. I realize they can't have a cast of all great artists because that wouldn't make "good television", but I feel like this is a bad representation of what talent is out there and really gives artists a bad name. I couldn't help but get catty when I saw the first episode and saw some of the crap that was produced.

3. I totally thought that I would be able to kick some ass if I was on that show (which is what I am sure most artist were thinking too). I am a fast painter and quick on my feet so I don't think the challenges would have been too hard for me. But what got me thinking was how do you reconcile who you are as an artist and still compete by making art that you would never have considered something you would want to do? In other words, how can you stay "You" while making art on demand? I think THAT is really the challenge... staying true to oneself while selling your soul for entertainment. Could I do it? Yeah, probably. But would I feel good about it, probably not, especially now that I FINALLY feel like I have something to say and a unique way of saying it. I don't know if I would consider that selling out, but I do know that I would be making art that I would probably give away or trash afterwards.

4. And finally... Would a curator or fellow artist ever be able to take me seriously if I was on a reality TV show like this? I can imagine that these artists will be forever known as "the artist that was on that reality TV show". Do I want to be known as that? Would I or my art be taken seriously afterwards?

After watching the show's first episode, I said to my fiance "I'm totally auditioning for season two!" He looked at me like I was crazy. Upon further viewing I have decided that I wouldn't want to risk my career and my reputation on being on a show like that (not that anyone is knocking at my door begging me to be on the show). It can't be an easy life to have so many people judge you and what you do, as I just did. It is fun to fantasize about what I would make and how it would kick some ass though....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mathematical Beauty

Yesterday I attended an opening reception for artist Antonio Cortez's first solo exhibition titled "Mathematical Formulations in the Service of Art" at Sagan Piechota Architecture (315 Linden St. in Hayes Valley). Antonio's work is based on abstract mathematical functions which produce these beautiful patterns when graphed. He then prints these patterns on thick pieces of aluminum, for a stunning effect.

Being a self-proclaimed math geek, and former math teacher (yay!), his work really spoke to me and shows how math can be beautiful and more than just something to be feared. Too often I hear negative things about math from people who have had a history of bad experiences in school. People don't realize that there is beauty in math and that the challenges they see in it, can actually be something creative. Antonio's artwork shows people that. Great job and congratulations on an amazing show Antonio! Be sure to stop by and see his work or visit his website for images and more information.

This is my favorite piece. I love how it looks like light is coming through the top and separating two functions in an almost spiritual manner.

This is the intersection of three functions. If these were lines (linear equations), it would be where the three lines meet.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Most Beautiful Studio EVER!

While I was in the Boston area last week, I was lucky enough to visit Robin Luciano Beaty's art studio in Byfield, MA. Robin built it herself over a year ago and it is by far, the nicest studio I have ever seen. Talk about jealousy! I work in a 10 foot by 8 foot cubicle at Art Explosion in the "open area", which consists of about 50 artists separated by dividers in a giant warehouse. It's a nice space and I enjoy the company of other artists, but I would trade it in a heartbeat for Robin's studio.

Robin's studio is a large two story building with a work area/ gallery on the bottom floor and an office/ client meeting area on the second floor loft. Check out the pictures and watch yourself turn green with envy. To read about Robin's experience building this dream studio and to see more photos go to

The view from the first floor

One of her work "stations"

Another work area.

Robin's work area from across the room.

The walls opposite her work area...Looks like a gallery, huh?

The office in the upstair loft.

The "nap" area, as I like to call it, across from Robin's desk. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solo Show at Ampersand Vintage Gallery

My solo show at Ampersand Vintage Gallery opens this Thursday! The reception is from 6 to 10 pm and the show runs from June 23rd until July 25th. If you are in the area, please stop by. I have 18 new paintings in the show that will be making their premier at this gallery.

Ampersand Vintage Gallery:
Our July show features paintings by San Francisco artist Jhina Alvarado. Working with orphaned snapshots long removed from the contextual meaning of family dynamics, Alvarado paints forgotten individuals amid an ambiguous white space rendered slightly opaque & dream-like by an overlay of encaustic wax. Cropped from the distractions of their original photographic environment, we are
drawn to speculate on the characteristics & memories of the individuals depicted. The sense of unbalance & abstraction created by the white space of her painted environment is heightened by a thick black band that covers each of her figures' eyes. Here is a complex study of forgotten memory & lost identity that calls into question photography's assumed ability to isolate & accurately record meaning. Several times removed from their original identity & made even more anonymous with the loss of their eyes, Alvarado's figures beg to be remembered. As viewers we are given few details; their obscurity is near complete as though we, too, have black bands over our eyes even as we engage in the act seeing.

Images: "Beach Chair", 16" x 16" and "First Pitch", 12" x 12" both are oil and encaustic wax on birch panel and available at the Ampersand Vintage Gallery.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Foot Forward at Montserrat College of Art

I recently attended the encaustic conference at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA. It was three days of demos and guest speakers revolving around the wonders of creating art with wax. 250 artists attended this event and I was fortunate to attend and network with my fellow encaustic painters.

One of the many events of the weekend was the show "Best Foot Forward" which involved a 12 inch by 12 inch space for each artist to show off what he or she does with the versatile medium. Here are some shots from the show:

This is a close up of my painting (on the right) and Robin Luciano Beaty's painting (on the left).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Favorite Artist of the Month: Angela Willetts

A couple of years ago, I went to the Hunter's Point Open Studios, here in San Francisco, and it was there that I fell in love with Angela Willetts' "Ladders and Bridges" series. I had actually thought about her beautiful oil paintings a few times throughout the past two years and then I met Rebekah Goldstien, a fellow artist who had moved into Art Explosion, the studio space where I currently paint. She mentioned that she was an art teacher and that Angela Willetts was her co-worker! I was excited at the mention of her name, especially since I recently went back to the Hunter's Point studios and did not see Angela there. We talked a bit about Angela's work and how I loved the depth she created with the rich browns in her paintings and the light blue accents. I could look at one of her paintings for hours! I knew I had to buy one of her paintings so when I met her at one of Rebekah's art openings, I asked Angela if she had any of her "Ladders and Bridges" paintings left and she did! The painting was mine. It is now hanging in my living room where I can stare at it for hours everyday if I chose to. I am truly in love.

To see more of her amazing work, visit her website: or blog: .

Image Above: "Passage" 2008, 16" x 20". This is the painting that I now own.

"Departure", 2008

"The Beginning is Always Clear", 2008

"Categorized" 2008

"Serendipity", 2008

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Importance of Art in Public Education

This is the last week of teaching for me and every year, the last week and a half is reserved for a "math art project". We do a curve stitching project where students actually stitch a design using nothing but straight lines. I'm sure some of you have done this project before, maybe just with pen and paper, or as I did MANY years ago, using nails and string. It's a fun project and it enables students to be creative. You would think that the assignment would be easy enough and that the kids would enjoy it, but having not had ANY art classes for most, if not all, of their academic career, because of school budget cuts, most of these kids struggled and their projects were not very creative.

I started the project with showing them how to do the basic design. I showed them how to make a circle, a cross, a square, and a triangle. Then I told students to experiment with these forms and come up with a design of their own. It could be abstract or they could make a shape. It could be a combination of shapes even. Just experiment and see what you come up with. It was up to them to come up with anything as long as they were creative and it was not just the shapes that I had shown them. Simple enough, right? Wrong! So many kids could not come up with something on their own. They just kept drawing what I showed them as an example. If I gave them an example of how to change a shape, then I got many drawings of what I had just drawn. These kids were unable to think on their own and be creative. They kept doing the same basic shapes just smaller or large or in multiples and asking me if it was creative. Some even wanted me to just tell them what to do since they didn't understand what I meant by be creative or experiment. This is middle school! How did we get here? How did we get to the point where kids can no longer be creative and are waiting to be told what to do?

I blame the government and all the budget cuts that schools are forever having to make. Art and music are usually the first things to go because they are not considered "important" enough. Apparently people don't see art as an integral part of growing up and learning to think. They don't see how having a good arts program can help improve test scores and improve a student's academic classes, in addition to help raise the self esteem of some students who's only success in school may be through the arts. Art helps EVERYONE and without it we are teaching students to NOT think outside the box, to NOT be creative thinkers, and to just do what they are told. I teach algebra and geometry and throughout the year I see how these kids struggle with abstract thinking and problem solving or creative reasoning. I truly believe that if they had had an arts program, this would not be the case. I realize this is just one person's opinion and belief, but I see it. I've seen it for 13 years. I see what we are producing as our future leaders and it's pretty scary.

Images: Images 1 and 2 (a work in progress) are acrtually really creative, but out of 132 students, I could only find maybe 5 examples of truly different work. Image three is what I got from most kids. This is a basic circle with the basic cross design in it. I showed them how to make each design seperately and their "creativeness" was putting one inside the other. Did I mention that they had over two days to just experiment with designs?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Last Three Marathon Paintings

These are the last three paintings from my marathon painting stint recently. They are numbers 16, 17, and 18 that were completed in less than a month for the Ampersand Vintage Gallery show in Portland, OR that opens on June 23rd. Now I just need to pack and ship all 18 pieces.

I will be taking a painting break for the next two weeks and will be attending the Montserrat Encaustic Wax conference in Beverly, MA and will also be visiting with one of my favorite artists, and good friend, Robin Luciano Beaty. When I get back, expect to see some new work and some new ideas emerging as I will then be painting FULL-TIME!!!
"The Pretty Friend", 2010, 12" x 12" oil and encaustic wax on birch panel

"Wingwoman", 2010, 12" x 12" oil and encaustic wax on birch panel

"Girl on Bike", 2010, 12" x 12" oil and encaustic wax on birch panel

Friday, June 4, 2010

The End is Near...and I am Excited!

Today is the last Friday I will be teaching math for awhile, if not forever. The school year ends next Thursday and I am excited to start a new chapter in my life and career. I will finally be able to devote ALL of my attention to painting and do what I love fulltime. In addition, I will be getting married this Fall and possibly moving to another state. It is a time for change for both me and my future husband and it feels great...but scary too.

Will I miss teaching math and being around teenagers? Sure. I LOVE learning about different concepts in math and challenging myself and my students to think differently about it. I love the puzzles that math problems create and have often gotten giddy about certain problems or solutions (and yes, the kids think that is funny and weird). I love seeing that look on a student's face when she FINALLY understands and feels at ease with what she is doing. I love the relationships that I have formed with some of my students that have continued years after I was their teacher. I love making a difference in someone's life.

All of these things, I will miss and all of these things will no longer be a part of my everyday life. I've lived this part of my life for thirteen years and now it's time for a change. It's time for me to spread my wings and see how far I can fly as an artist uninhibited by the limitations of having a day job that keeps me out of the studio. It's time for me to see if I can really make it in the world as an artist, and more importantly, as a successful artist.  It is a scary journey which will undoubtedly have some ups and downs. There will be times when I will be questioning my decision to quit my job. There will be days when I will wonder if I am really cut out for this kind of life. But with these doubts, there will also be days when I KNOW this is right for me and hopefully those days will be plentiful and will outweigh the bad days. Next week I can change my title from math teacher to fulltime artist and it feels wonderful!

Image: "Girl on Bike" Work in progress... 12" x 12" , oil and soon to have encaustic wax on birch panel.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Headands Center for the Arts Benefit Auction

Yesterday was the annual Headlands Center for the Arts' Benefit Auction held at Herbst Pavillion. I was lucky enough to be a contributing artist in association with Stephanie Breitbard Fine Art. Rumor has it that my painting sold at above retail price. I was unable to attend since I had a last minute migraine but by the looks of the photos, the artwork looked great! Here are some shots from the show. My painting is in the first one in the upper left hand corner.

Participating Artists: Jhina Alvarado, Hurvin Anderson, Michael Arcega, Chris Ballantyne, Uta Barth, Ray Beldner, Susannah Bettag, Michelle Blade, Rena Buchgraber, Jonah Burlingame, Luke Butler, Thomas Campbell, Squeak Carnwath, Amy Casey, John Casey, Freddy Chandra, Julie Chang, John Chiara, Alex Clausen, Michael Cutlip, Binh Dahn, Sidnea D'Amico, Christoph Draeger, Chris Duncan, Amy Ellingson, Ana Teresa Fernández, John Yoyogi Fortes, Erik Friedman, Rebecca Goldfarb, Deborah Grant, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Katharina GrosseDoug Hall, David Hamill, Dana Harel, Emanuela Harris-Sintamarian, David Hevel, Todd Hido, Solomón Huerta, Amanda Hughen, Cynthia Ona Innis, Malia Jensen, Eirik Johnson, Ian Johnson, Stefan Kürten, Robert Larkin, Jack Levine, Alex Lukas, Paul Madonna, Rebecca Martinez, Chris McCaw, Barry McGee, Emily McLeod, Adia Millett, Mark Mulroney, Elizabeth Mooney, James Nasmyth, Danielle Nelson Mourning, Aaron Noble, Karen Olsen-Dunn, Eamon Ore-Giron, Jennie Ottinger, Driss Ouadahi, Job Piston, Ian Pyper, John Rappleye, Walter Robinson, Dianne Romaine, Zachary Royer Scholz, Andrew Schoultz, Ben Shahn, Jenn Shifflet, Leslie Shows, Jeffrey Simmons, Casey Jex Smith, Wayne SmithWilliam SwansonStephanie SyjucoMontana Torrey, Barry Underwood, Kathryn Van Dyke, Paul Wackers, Catherine Wagner, Julie Weiman, Audrey Welch, Arngunnur Yr.

Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Internal Critic: Good or Evil?

It has been a crazy two months for me. April was filled with getting my studio ready for open studios, making sure I had enough paintings for at least three shows, then having open studios which lasted for three days, my first group show at Artzone 461 Gallery, showing my work at Yuri's Night at the NASA center, and then shipping a ton of paintings to other galleries. May wasn't as hectic but I did paint 18 new paintings and got them ready to ship to Ampersand Vintage Gallery in Portland for a show there. That was a feat in itself and I am pleasantly surprised and shocked that I was able to pull it off. Oh, and did I mention that I have a fulltime day job too?

I still technically have 8 more days to paint and get my paintings ready to ship for the Portland show but I am taking my time now that I know I have enough work and have taken a few days off from going in to the studio. In fact, I have only been in once in the last 5 days. I should be enjoying these days off but I can't help but feel a bit guilty about not going in everyday. I have enough work. The show will look good. So why can't I be okay with that and not feel like I should do more? Paint more? Paint better paintings? Why does the internal perfectionist in me feel like I haven't done enough yet?

I have always been an ambitious person and somewhat of a perfectionist. I have learned over the years to let certain things go and to be okay with less than perfect results, except when it comes to my artwork. When I finish a painting, I can't help but think that there's more I could have done or that I could have done a better job. It's not that I am insecure about what I do or I am dissatisfied. I just think there is always more that could be done. But when will it become enough?

We learn somewhere along the line, whether through art school or from other artists, that the best artists are the ones that know when to stop. They know how to NOT overwork a painting. They know when to walk away and call a painting done. So have I learned that lesson? Is the nagging feeling inside of me telling me I could do more on a painting or in a series there because I haven't learned as an artist when to stop and call a painting done? Or is that voice really what it takes to become a good artist that continually improves, strives for more, and doesn't become complacent? We've all seen artists who find their niche and continually paint the same thing because that is what they are good at or that is what sells. Is this voice in my head really a good thing that will keep from being stagnant and doing just that?  It can be exhausting to feel like there is always something better that you can create, but I think as long as it's kept in check, it can be a good thing. As long as an artist can see the good that has already been created and appreciate/ acknowledge growth, continual thirst for improvement and knowledge can be a good thing. The important thing is to know when to listen to that internal critic and when to shut it off. Maybe that is the true definition of a good artist: someone who knows the difference between when to listen to that critical voice inside your head and when not to.

Images: As of yet untitled paintings, waiting to be waxed. Both are 12" x 12".