Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lace is a Bitch to Paint

Lace is a bitch to paint. There. I said it. I am not a fan but at the same time, I refuse to let the difficulty get the best of me. The latest painting that I am working on is a portrait of my grandmother walking with my father, who is eight in the picture. I can probably assume they are going to church, based on their clothing. My grandmother is wearing a shawl made of dark lace and it is not an easy thing to paint. Did I mention it is dark lace over a light dress? Even worse! If it was dark on dark, I would have to just worry about highlights and the details would be blended together with the underlying fabric. But when you have dark lace over a light, let's say white, dress, you have a lot more details to worry about. I like the challenge though, and I LOVE this photograph, so I will continue trying to make this work and look like actual lace. This is the very early stages of the painting and still needs a ton of work. It's mostly underpainting still. I'm also not sure which series this will be for, which will determine whether I cover the eyes or not.

My grandmother has a VERY intense look on her face. I wonder if someone snapped her picture when she was deep in thought or just upset that her picture was being taken. Hmmm.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

September Art Newsletter

My latest newsletter is now out. If you would like to subscribe, just click on the link: September Art News via #constantcontact

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Affordable Art Fair with the Julie Nester Gallery

This Fall I will be showing my paintings at the Affordable Art Fair in New York with the Julie Nester Gallery. It is my first time being in this fair and I am very excited to have my work shown there. The art fair runs from September 30th through October 3rd. If you are in NYC, please top by and check it out!

One Out of Ten

As an artist I am trying to not take it personally when something I am working on doesn't come out exactly the way I wanted it to. I can't expect a masterpiece every time, after all. As my friend, artist/poet Scott Inguito once told me, you're lucky if one out of ten is a winner. But it's difficult not to be hard on myself when I paint a really great piece and the next two don't measure up.

The painting above is one of the paintings I completed this past week. I think It's one of my stronger paintings and I was very excited that it came out so well. The next painting didn't come out as well though. I still haven't completed it, but right from the start, it's not looking the way I want it to. Something about it just isn't right. Her right shoulder looks too big, her head doesn't seem proportional. Perhaps its that it's not a strong image to start with. Perhaps it's because I am not painting it well. I'm not sure what it is, but it's not working for me and it's hard not to get frustrated and just toss it.
So what do I do when something just isn't working the way I want it? As much as it is hard for me to work on something I no longer like, I have to complete it. Sometimes things turn and it works out. The painting starts to look like I want it to and all is well in the world. Sometimes things don't work out and no matter what I do, the painting is not to my liking. Even in times like these, it's important for me to finish paintings that I start. I think it's a good lesson in perseverance and will help me grow as an artist. It's good to force oneself to problem solve at these times.

Reminding myself that not everything I paint is going to be a keeper is important. I can't go into a career in art thinking that everything I do has to be perfect. That would just set myself up for some depressing times when things didn't work and could hinder my ability to paint every day. Also, I realize that what I may dislike, others may like. No one has as more critical of a eye for my artwork as I do. What I may see as a flaw, others may not notice. My least favorite painting could be somebody's favorite. You never know, the painting you hate could end up being a masterpiece someday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another School Year has Started

Me, happily painting in my studio.
The 2010-2011 school year has started and I am happy to say that I am not there. Today I would have had to report back to work had I not quit my job in pursuit of an art career. Today I would have had to get up at 6am and drag myself out of bed, wishing I could sleep for another hour. Today I would have received my class lists, figured out which kids were in the wrong math class placement, lesson planned for the first couple of weeks of school, and done numerous other things to get ready for my 14th year of teaching. Today all of this would have happened, but it didn't.

This summer I did not have to watch "back to school" commercials and have the anxiety of summer ending too quickly creep into me. I did not have to cram in as much painting as possible before I started work again.  I didn't have to wish that I could quit my job and just paint for a living.

Even though my teaching job ended in June, today is really the first day of my new career since it is the first day that I did not have to go to work outside of my studio. I am finally living my dream of being a full-time artist and it feels great.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Hot Day

Yesterday was another hot day in the studio. I thought it was a hot day all around until I took a break and walked outside. Turns out it was really nice outside. It was just my studio space that was sweltering. I guess that's how it goes when you work in a second floor studio space facing the sun and with no air conditioner. My space is also in the center of the warehouse too so I don't get much air from the windows. It's the price I pay for cheap rent and good wall space, I guess.

Despite the heat, I did have a good painting day. It helps that I started with a pretty great image that I loved. The strong shadows and high contrast just made for a great painting. The position of the face, with the elongated neck...I was in painting heaven! I love paintings like this that practically paint themselves in one sitting. I still have some highlights to put in and the really dark areas need to be touched up. I can't ever seem to get a solid dark area on the first pass. Of course, then there's the dreaded (for some I'm sure) dark bar over the eyes. This is another one that will be hard to cover, but as we know, it's a must.

This image makes me wonder what this woman was doing when this picture was snapped. It seems obvious to me she is a swimmer, but the way that she has her head tilted seems to sensual for a "just got done with my daily swim" kind of pose. 

12" x 12"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Melting...

Yesterday was a very hot day in San Francisco. It was in the 90s and if you've ever been to SF during the summer, you'll know that we are used to more winter-like weather during this time. In fact, it usually damn right freezing sometimes. I don't think as San Franciscans were are equipped for this type of hot weather. I grew up in Southern California where the weather was easily in the 100s during the summer and in the 80s during the winter. I know heat. Correction: I KNEW heat. Having lived here for 18 years, my heat proof skin has become somewhat thin and yesterday I was suffering. My fingers were swelling and holding a paint brush was not fun. It is times like these that I am happy I don't paint with wax every day. Having a heating palette and using a blow torch would have been unbearable! Good thing San Francisco only gets allotted three days of summer per year.

Despite the hot weather, I did manage to get some painting done on my latest piece. It's pretty much done. I just need to go back and add some accents to the second girl's skin. Oh, and then there's the wax but I think I'll wait until the next cold day to do that, which should be coming up pretty soon. I'm pretty happy with this one. I think the two girls look very sweet and I'm liking working on the rectangular panel too. I usually work in squares but this piece seemed to lend itself better to a rectangular panel. I'm trying out different sizes and shapes now. It is 20" x 16".

I just think these two girls are so cute and I love their pose. The original photo had 5 people posing together but I think just these two made a better composition. Painting this in yesterday's heat made me want to join them in that pool. Ah, that would have been refreshing, but probably not a good way to paint. My panel would have gotten wet. Yes, I realize I am just being silly. Here's a close-up:
"Two Girls in a Pool", 20" x 16"

Monday, August 23, 2010

That's Just RUDE!

At the recent Body Language II show at our studio space, Art Explosion, everyone had work up in the "gallery" area of the space, myself included. Now I realize that these walls aren't in a "real" gallery and that this was a one day show, but I was amazed at how rude one person can be. I had to ship most of my paintings from the show and as I was pulling paintings off the wall, I noticed this WRITTEN on the wall in INK:

For those of you who can't read what it says, it reads: "Looks good. How much? Call me 415-.....". REALLY? Someone out there seriously thought that it was okay to write on a gallery wall, between two of my paintings, this message? And in INK???? I just find it so incredibly rude. It's unbelievable. Who taught this person their manners cause obviously, they failed. In addition to being rude, whoever wrote this was incredibly stupid because if he/she had just looked four feet to the left, he/she would have seen the price list. One of my friends/ studio mates asked me if I was going to call this person back but I think that is a "NO!". Anyone this stupid and rude doesn't deserve to own art. There may be a day where he/she may need to write a note, and not finding anything to write one, use my painting to jot down his/her thoughts. Sheesh!

On another note, I started a new painting today. Open studios is just around the corner so I need to paint up a storm, again, to get ready. I have seven weeks, and one of them is my wedding week. I wonder how many paintings I'll be able to finish by then. Anyone want to wager on that?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue Gallery's Tenth Anniversary Show

Blue Gallery will be having their tenth anniversary exhibition, titled "Spectacle". My work, along with 5 other gallery artists, will be on display from September 3rd to 25th.  I am honored to be part of this show, especially since I am a new artist there. Please visit the gallery for more information.

10th Anniversary Exhibition

Jhina Alvarado
Nicole Cawlfield
Dale Jarrett
Bernal Koehrsen
Ann Piper
Brad Williams

and other gallery artists

Opening reception, First Friday, September 3, 2010 6-9 pm

exhibition runs through September 25, 2010

In other news, I am mostly finished with my latest painting. I still have some work to do on the wood grain in addition to some highlights on both men's pants.  This is a little different, pose-wise, for me but I'm liking it. I want to find more random snap-shot style photos like this to start painting instead of the usual posed pictures. I like the randomness of other people in the shot, along with the awkward actions that are sometimes captured. I'm thinking it's time for me to go out hunting for more photos soon. I have a lot of paintings that need to be done for open studios, and a couple of other shows, and it all seems to coming up too soon.  I'm going to need to fill up on inspiration!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rejection Sucks

Rejection sucks. There is nothing pleasant about it. As an artist, I face rejection on a regular basis. Whether it's from a gallery I really want to get into or a magazine that I am hoping will publish my work, I've experienced it all. Sometimes it comes with a very nice letter/ email, like the one from a recent gallery that explained that while they like my work, they don't have a place for it in their gallery. They wished me luck in my career and encouraged me to keep them on their mailing list. These kinds of rejections I don't mind as much. At least they softened the blow by complimenting my work. Then there's the really short responses that simply state "Thank you for your submission. We don't find your work to be a fit with our gallery" or no response at all. Those aren't easy to take and it can be really easy to let rejection get me down.

As an artist, I put a lot of value in my art and my existence as an artist by whether or not someone likes my work. I know that I should only value how I feel about my work and find intrinsic value in it, but that's nearly impossible. Everyone wants to be liked. Every artist wants their work to be appreciated and valued, even if some won't admit it. It's a fact of life. We need admiration in order to feel good. So what do I do when faced with rejection? Cause let's face it, I will continue to be rejected many more times.

When I start to feel down about being rejected, I think about all the times that someone has loved my work. I think about the clients who have literally cried when they saw my paintings because it moved them so much. I think about the gallery owners who believe in my work and represent me. This usually helps, but sometimes I need more.

I realize that in order to be successful in art, I have to submit myself to rejection on a regular basis. For every rejection I get, I know that I am one step close to being accepted and having my work shown in the galleries I want. I can't quit just because I didn't get into this ONE gallery, or have my work featured in this ONE magazine, or even make that sale I really needed. I have to pick myself up off the ground, brush myself off, and keep submitting my work. I need to keep making the best paintings that I can. I know that someone out there will appreciate what I do and I look forward to the day that they say "Yes, I LOVE your work. I want to show it in my gallery."

Image: Artzone 461 Gallery shot from the "Introductions" show in April, 2010, where my work is now showing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

These Lovely Ladies are Done

"Girl on Bed", 30" x 30", oil and encaustic wax on panel

Despite many people urging me to not cover the eyes of this latest painting, I had to. I think it still is a lovely painting and people who had never seen the uncovered version seem to like it as well. Sorry to those of you who felt pretty strongly about her eyes not being covered but I had to go with my gut instinct. I did take a high resolution picture of it before I painted in the bar, although I am not sure what I will do with it yet. This painting, along with "Young Bride", and 7 other of my paintings are being shipped to the Julie Nester Gallery soon and will shown at the Affordable Art Fair in NYC. 
"Young Bride", 30" x 24", oil and encaustic wax on panel

Now that these paintings are waxed and ready to go, I started an new painting. I decided to paint a man this time since I have been painting a lot of women lately. I seem to be having some problems getting his pants right. The dark accents seem to be too strong and I should have really waited until the paint underneath was dry because I was lifting paint off as I was trying to darken certain areas. I'll work on it more this week and hopefully I can pull it together.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Body Language II

Last night was the opening of "Body Language II" at Art Explosion Studios. It was a night of impressive artwork by artists who work and create art at this studios space, myself included. Thank you to those who came out and support the arts! Here are some of the installation images from last night:
Artwork by Wiliam "Cricket"  Ulrich

Paintings by Scott Inguito

Paintings by show organizer, Laura Lannon

Paintings by Beloved

Figure Drawings by Emily Citraro

My paintings

Installation view of my paintings

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Very Productive Day

Today was a very productive day. I went into the studio early since I was expecting Myles from Ampersand Vintage Gallery to stop by, on his way to a paper/ ephemera show in Golden Gate Park, and drop off my paintings. I was there at 9:30. I had just finished my latest piece so I was excited to start a new one today. It was just one of those days where the time flew, I didn't eat, use the bathroom, notice anything other than my work, and next thing I knew, my painting was pretty much done! I was in the "zone". It was  a great place to be. I still need to go back and add some bright whites to the lace and veil in order to make it "pop" more. It's hard to get crisp whites when the paint is still wet so I had to walk away and let it dry. I also think her nose could use a bit of work. We are talking about, maybe, 20 more minutes of work?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Three Latest Paintings

Here are the three latest paintings that have been freshly waxed.

"The Family", 2010, 24" x 24", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

"Photo Album", 2010, 30" x 30", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

"Beach Granny", 2010, 30" x 40", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Cover or Not to Cover?

So my current painting that I am working on seems to be bringing up some strong emotions as to whether I should or shouldn't cover the eyes. Everyone that I have heard from seems to want me to keep the eyes uncovered because the painting looks so nice. The problem with this is that if I don't cover the eyes, my next series which deals with immigrants and how they have been marginalized, becomes irrelevant (at least to me). That series is supposed to bring awareness to the often forgotten memories of immigrants and share their experiences with hardship and fitting into society. Their eyes are purposely not covered. Together, with my current series, it makes a statement about how immigrant lives have been overlooked and now they are not because they get to "keep their eyes" so that you can see their emotions and empathize with them. My current series, which is mostly Caucasians, have their eyes covered and are now the "insignificant" members of society. If I don't cover the eyes of every painting in this series just because it looks nice, it no longer makes that statement. Make any sense?

With so many people wanting me to do one thing, my instincts tell me that I should do the opposite. I don't know if that is me just rebelling against what people want from me, or if it's because I want to shake things up with people and take away something they feel so strongly about. Who knows? Maybe it's neither, maybe it's both. I also feel that just because the girl I am painting is pretty and the piece looks nice, this doesn't make her more important than all of the other work in the series, thereby getting to keep her eyes unblocked. I have painted many pieces that included pretty girls whose eyes were nicely painted and even though I hated covering their eyes, I did it. Sometimes you just have to do the hard thing and so far the series hasn't suffered from it.

So what will I do? I'll probably cover the eyes and go with my gut feeling. (Sorry everyone!) I am more concerned about the bar blending too much with the shadows on her face, making it look like she has some weird mask. I don't think that will be a problem, but it is a concern.

BTW, this painting is not done. I still need to add some highlights, tighten up some dark areas, and sharpen certain parts.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sticking with the Series

I have been working on my "Forgotten Memories" series for a year and a half now and every once in a while, I paint something that is just too nice that it is hard to paint over the eyes. It's not that my other paintings aren't nice also, it's just that sometimes I work on a painting that has a certain expression in the eyes that I love, or I paint the face especially well and it is painful to cover the eyes with a bar in order to make it fit the series. I have been told by fellow artists and friends that maybe I should just keep the eyes uncovered but despite my really wanting to, I always cover the eyes with a bar. 

It's important for me to be consistent with this series and I don't want to have two separate series going at the same time. I am not ready to stop working on this one and I don't want to work on two of them just yet, especially if they are similar. I finally have a series of work that I like and it's starting to get noticed and do well. I don't want to stop now and work on something else just because I don't want to cover the eyes of a certain painting.

This new painting is one of those paintings that I can tell will be hard for me to cover the eyes. I love the dreamy, somewhat melancholy look in her eyes as she is gazing off into the distant. The sharp contrast and shadows on her face make this even more interesting. I'm not sure how this will work with a dark bar. I may have to lighten the shadows and her hair so that it doesn't blend with the bar and look weird. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Contemplating My Work

Back when I had a home studio, I was able to prop my paintings up in the living room and stare at it as I watched TV. This enabled me to contemplate what I what I had finished, figure out my problem areas, and decide what I would do next. It was extremely helpful in my painting process. Now that I have a studio space at Art Explosion, it's a lot harder to contemplate my work as I used to. It's too hard and inconvenient to load my painting in my car and bring it home everyday in order to prop it up in my living room. It doesn't make sense to do this since I now work larger and I don't want oil paint everywhere. Fortunately I have an iPhone so that I can take many pictures and look at them while at home.

I didn't think I would like looking at my work this way. I thought it would be too awkward and not true to what the actual painting looks like, but now that I have been doing this for a year, I find that it is actually more useful than my previous method. When I paint, I usually block out shapes. I don't paint "the face" of my subjects, instead I paint the shapes within the face. I get so caught up in the shapes that it's then hard for my eyes to blend these blocks and form the image. This makes it very hard for me to see if I am on track with my painting. I find that if I take a picture of the painting, that "distance" helps me see what my painting really looks like. The image appears blended and more cohesive. I find that I often take pictures of my work and look at it, not only at home when I am done painting, but also while I am in the process of working on a painting. It, along with stepping away and looking at my work from a distance, helps me become a better painting and makes my work technically better.

 When I was working on the blouses of these women, everything looked too sharp and blocky, like separate unrelated shapes, but now that I see it in the photo, I can see that it is starting to look more like fabric. I can see where I need to push and pull certain areas in order to make it look even better.

Here's a close-up. I'll probably look at these images at least ten more times throughout the night and spot more problem areas and plot my next move for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Painting Started

Now that I have finished my latest painting, which took months of frustration, I have started a new one. It feels good to move on to something new. This is from a photo that I found in my fiance's grandparent's basement. I'm not sure who is in the picture since I don't recognize the usual people that I have painted.

There were originally five women in this photo but I didn't think the fifth woman worked as well compositionally. I'm happy now with the amount of space these women take up. Cropping the fifth woman out was a good artistic decision, I think.

This woman kind of reminds me of one of the guys from Laurel and Hardy. I can't remember which one was the skinny one, which is who this reminds me of. She's not the prettiest woman but has a great expression on her face.

Obviously these still need a lot of work but it should be a fun piece. I should have it done in the next two days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So Close I Can Taste it!

The bane of my existence for the past 4-5 months is almost done! It's weird how artists have different attachments to different paintings. Most of the time it's a good one, other times, not so much. As those of you who have been following my blog know, I have not enjoyed completing this painting. I don't like the larger-than-what-I-am-doing-now white space. I don't like how the skin tones look on these ladies. I don't like how I am painting this in general. I almost whited it out completely on a few occasions, which would have been a pain because since I am using wax over this, regular gesso (which contains acrylic and won't bond with wax) wouldn't have worked. I would have had to cover it with white oil paint or old school rabbit skin gesso (I don't even know where to start in order to find that). Covering it with oil paint (as I have done on a previous painting) makes the surface too slick to work so my shading and skin tone looks even more cartoony. So basically, starting a new painting on this panel would have been a pain in the butt.  I really didn't want to do that.

I tried working on this piece a few times, got frustrated and put it aside MANY times. It just wasn't "gelling" with me. It was like I had this mental block and couldn't get past it to finish this piece. But, it needed to be done. I have been painting small pieces lately and had a request from a gallery, who is showing my work, to send them some large paintings. I figured this would be a good time to finish this and FINALLY get it off my plate. I needed to move on.

I am happy to say that I have finally made some progress! I decided that it would be done this week and I think it may be done today. I just had to force myself to finish it. I worked on bits of it in between other paintings and yesterday, having no other paintings to distract me, I really focused on it. My mental block seems to be gone.  I can't say that it's my favorite painting but it has some merit. It will be a nice one when finished, but more importantly, IT WILL BE DONE!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Art IS a job

I keep telling people that I don't have a day job anymore or saying that I am unemployed. I'm sure many people see me as unemployed too. "Artist" isn't usually a job title that makes people think of as stable employment, but does that mean it's not a "real" job?

I quit my teaching job to pursue art full-time this past June so it feels a little strange not going into my "regular" job every morning, and it's a little hard to get used to my new employment status after doing the same thing for 13 years.  I blame that for my verbal slip-up on my employment status. I'm not quite used to the title "artist" yet. Despite my own slips, I am a full time artist and that IS a real job. I do go to work during the day. I have a regular work schedule with deadlines and appointments. I am employed, even if it is SELF-employed.

It's hard to get out of the mindset that making art is not a real job. Why is that so? Okay, so I may not be getting a regular paycheck, but does that make what I do not a "real" job? Do I not work just as hard at this as when I was teaching? If anything, I work harder at this job than at any other job I've ever worked. If I don't paint and self promote, I don't sell work and GET PAID. There's no automatic paycheck, like when I held  teaching job, or any other job, in fact. My getting paid is a direct relationship to the amount of work I put in and sometimes that doesn't even matter. Working hard is not a guarantee for getting paid. Working hard is not a guarantee for making sales.

Is it the artist work schedule that makes this seem not like a real job? I'm sure there's the mindset that since we don't have an office to go to or a boss over our head demanding work to be done, that our work schedule is easy or even that what we do is easy. Yes, I will admit it, my schedule is more flexible than it used to be. I can probably meet you for lunch or schedule a doctor's appointment without having to notify anyone, but my schedule is pretty strict too. I go into the studio every weekday and paint for at least 5 hours a day. That may not seem like much time, but that's 5 hours of complete concentration on a piece, usually with no "regular" breaks. And if I do break for lunch, I'm usually at my easel contemplating the work I did, updating twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I even paint while I eat because I have deadlines just like everyone else. I have people depending on my output of work for shows and possible sales. It can be pretty stressful sometimes. In addition to painting time, I spend at least two hours a day answering emails, shipping paintings, updating websites, writing blog posts, promoting my work, marketing, and any other various things that will help get my work out there.

This is a real job. It is hard work, and in this economy, it is even harder to maintain a good living from selling and creating art. I am an artist and art is a REAL JOB.

Images: "Night Out",  2010, 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.
"Wheel Barrow", 2010, 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It Feels Good

Today was my first day back into the studio after having to entertain family for the past ten days. I wasn't able to get any painting done during that time and, boy, it did not feel good. I get pretty grumpy when I don't get into the studio often and try not to make that a habit, so the past few days were painful. It was nice to get back in there and everything seemed to be working out right the way I wanted them to. I was giddy.

I worked on the family piece I was painting previous to all of the family visits. I have some minor touch-ups and some highlights left. It feels pretty done. I worked on the woman's hand and it looks more like a hand, not some deformed claw. I think it could use some more work but I am hoping some highlights will make it look even better. The dresses on the little girls need a tiny bit of work, but then I think I'm done. I am pretty happy with the way this one came out. I really like the composition.

I also worked on the three older ladies on the beach. It is FINALLY starting to look right and make me happy. I have been so disatisfied with this one for so long that it's nice to see it finally come together. It still needs a lot of work but I am happy with the direction of it.

I really like the canopy on this chair. I think it fills the space better, making to figure not seem so "isolated" and apart from the rest of the composition. I still need to work on her hand and the chair on this lady.

I decided today, after some success, that this painting will be done this week. It would be nice to be able to move on without this painting looming over me, begging to be finished.