Monday, November 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

My work at Madison Gallery in La Jolla
I am finally home after a 5 day visit to Southern California to see my family for Thanksgiving. It was a memorable trip that included saving a little old lady's life, a visit to La Jolla to see the new gallery that now represents me, way too much food, and a normally 7 hour drive, in the middle of the night, that took 9 hours. Curious? Here's what happened:

"Saving" a Life:
My husband and I were leaving my grandmother's house to head to the grocery store. We had just turned the corner and were driving in our car when Ben says "Oh my god! Is she okay?" He slows down and I look to find a elderly lady lying in the middle of the street. He stopped the car and I ran out to see what had happened. Her head was covered in blood and I told my husband to call 911. I ran back to the car to grab the box of tissues to stop the bleeding. As I put pressure to her head and tried to talk to her to find out what happened, another guy drove up and said the lady lived in the nursing home right in front of us (she hadn't gotten far from where she lived). He ran inside to get the nurses. Apparently the woman had dementia but still insisted on taking walks around the block by herself twice a day. My grandmother and brothers confirmed that they often saw her walking and waving "hi" as she walked by. She had snuck out and fell in the street. Her head was pretty banged up and there was blood everywhere, including some on my hands. Her leg and hand were also hurt and she was in shock. I kept pressure on her head and talked to her while the ambulance came to take her to the hospital. I realize that we actually didn't save her life and that she was probably going to be fine, but it was still traumatic for us and it was hard to get the image of her in the middle of the street bleeding, every time we drove by the scene of the accident.

A different view of my work at Madison Gallery
Madison Gallery:
My husband and I decided to drive from Calimesa (which is between Redlands and Palm Springs) to La Jolla to check out the new gallery now showing my work. It was "Black Friday" and since neither of us were big into shopping, we decided it was a good day for a drive. The weather was beautiful (we managed to sit at the beach in jeans and t-shirts) and the drive was surprisingly short. There was no traffic at all, which is weird for that area. The gallery was beautiful and on a very populated street, overlooking the ocean. Lorna, owner of the gallery, and Tawny, one of the women working there, were extremely nice and showed me around the place. They answered any questions I had, gushed about my work, and were as excited as I was to have my work there. It was great to actually see the gallery and meet Lorna in person since we had exchanged many emails and phone calls.

Tons of Food:
It was Thanksgiving week, so what can I say? We ate our weight in food! There was a fabulous turkey dinner (although no stuffing, which I found weird. It's my favorite side dish so I was a bit disappointed). There was also a very romantic dinner at the Marine Room with my husband, and a Korean feast at a Korean BBQ restaurant that left us having to unbutton the top button of our pants. I am pretty sure the gym is now in order...

The Drive Home:
What normally takes us less than 7 hours to drive from Calimesa to San Francisco took 9 hours. What can I say, traffic sucks. End of story.

Painting by Laura Schiff Bean, also showing at Madison Gallery. I love her work!

Another Laura Schiff Bean painting. This one is in the front window of the gallery.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speaking of Art...

I am very pleased and honored to be asked to speak at the 2011 5th Annual Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Massachusetts! This conference, created and directed by Joanne Mattera, assembles some of this country's top artists working in encaustic wax to talk, demonstrate, and give workshops on what they do best. It's a time to network and socialize with other artists and surround oneself in art. It's three days of waxy goodness and I get to be a part of it!

My session is titled "Taking the Leap: Quitting Your Day Job to Make Art" and I will be speaking about my personal experiences with making the transition from 13 years of teaching math to full-time artist. It will be my first time in front of a class of artists, rather than math students, and while I am a bit nervous to present to my peers and fellow artists, I am looking forward to it. I am also extremely excited to explore Provincetown since I have never been there. I can't wait until June!

Please visit the encaustic conference website for more information.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things to Do and Other Goals, Part 2

It's been a lazy couple of days. The weather has been cold and wet and it is finally starting to feel like Fall. It's the kind of weekend that makes you want to snuggle underneath a blanket with your significant other and watch movies, or in my case, watch episodes of "Boardwalk Empire" and "Dexter". While it has been great to spend this time with my husband, I haven't gotten much painting done. I don't really have any deadlines at the moment so taking some time off, especially with the holidays coming up (of which I doubt I will get much work done during), is completely fine with me. I do think I should finish reviewing my list of things to do and evaluate whether or not these are realistic monthly goals and activities.

11. Attend two art openings: Since I am working at a studio space with about 50 other artists, there seems to be plenty of art openings to go to of people I know.

12. Update my mailing list and add at least 5 new names to the list. Some months are easier than others, especially ones where I have openings. The months where I don't are harder to get interested people on my list. I know I should be meeting more people and adding names on my mailing list. There's no excuse. I will try and do better...

13. Check out/ research 5 new galleries (to me) online. I think I am pretty good at this.

14. Submit art to at least 5 new galleries. Sometimes I'm really motivated and will submit to 15-20 galleries and then nothing for months. I need to be more consistent about submitting and getting my work out there. Instead of submitting in waves, I should do it on a regular basis. It's not easy, but then again, it's not exactly hard either. It just takes motivation and persistence.

15. Send out a newsletter once a month. If I have shows coming up, then it isn't a problem. But when I don't, I kind of feel like I am bothering people and just sending them junk mail they don't want.

16. Update my website: I am really good about this. Anytime I finish a painting, I immediately take a picture and update my website. It helps that I use iWeb, which is extremely easy to update. I can do it myself and not have to rely on anyone to help me or do it for me. Yes, it's not the fanciest site, but it works for me.

17. Visit a nearby city and check out their galleries. I don't leave my city very often, if at all. I live in San Francisco so everything I need is here. I have been planning some trips to LA and San Diego to check out their art scene, but as of yet, I haven't gone.

18. Have my artwork photographed: I do my own photography for my website and that happens as soon as I finish a painting. I have been wanting to get them photographed professionally, but at the moment, I can't really afford it.

19. Update eBay and Etsy listings: I am finding that these are not very good venues for me to sell my work anymore and will probably discontinue then completely.

20. Update online galleries (such as,, etc.): I am pretty sporadic about this. I do have a ton of pieces up on these sites that are a good indication of what my work looks like. I'm just not very good at keeping the paintings updated with the newest and latest painting. I am not sure how important that is. Visibility is good but according to my stat counter for my website, I am getting very little traffic from these sites.

Well, there you have it. My twenty things I need to do every month. I think I will probably whittle it down to 15 since some of these activities no longer apply or aren't realistic for me. The important thing is to have a regular routine for marketing and painting. If this is what I am going to do for a living, then I have to take everything that comes with it seriously.

I worked on this painting a bit more before my lazy weekend. I think the stripes look quite nice.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Disappointment and Moving On

During the summer I worked very hard at applying for a San Francisco Art Commission grant. It was an EXTREMELY stressful time as I came to realize that the application was due in July and NOT September, like previous years. I had less than a month to write a proposal and find a venue to show my work. Add in the stress of getting married in September, a wedding which still had a lot of planning and DIY projects to be completed, and I was a wreck!

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my project to be about although I wasn't exactly sure how I would execute it. I have a better idea now as I have been thinking about it for the past couple of months but it no longer matters. I found out yesterday that I did NOT get the grant. It was disappointing but surprisingly, not as disappointing as I thought it would be. I am upset that all the hard work that I put in (along with the help of Will Taylor and the staff at Artzone 461 Gallery) did not pay off. I think that it would have been a worthwhile project to complete and that a lot of people would have appreciated my concept and execution of this body of work.

If I am completely honest though, I would have to admit that I am a bit relieved. Had I gotten this grant, I would have been tied to this project for at least a year, which means that had I changed my feelings about pursuing this body of work, I would have still been obligated to complete it. Had I been inspired about something else and wanted to pursue that, I would have to wait a year to explore it. I know that I had some leeway with my grant project so that it could develop as I developed and I'm sure that I could have found some time to explore other ideas but it would not be like it is now. Right now I have the freedom to explore whatever projects I want, however I want. Perhaps this is my own way of protecting myself from really feeling disappointed with the rejection. Perhaps I am making excuses as to why it was a good thing that I didn't get the grant. Yeah, I probably am. But we do whatever we need to do in order to get past disappointment and move on because if we, as people, dwelled on disappointment and let it get us down, we'd never accomplish the wonderful things that perhaps we were more meant to do.

Am I still going to pursue the ideas I had proposed in my grant? Yeah, more than likely. Like I said, I think it is a worthwhile project and it has been developing in my head these past few months. It may change slightly as my perspective and skills change, but now I have the freedom to pursue it any way that I want to. Stay tuned to see how this project develops. It may take a little longer than it would have had I gotten the grant, but it will come to life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Things to Do and Other Goals, Part 1

Earlier this year I read "I'd Rather Be in the Studios" by Alyson Stanfield and came up with a list of "things to do" EVERY month. It was mostly Alyson's list from her book, with a few things changed to make it feel more doable to me, and a few things added in that I thought I SHOULD be doing additionally. It's a long list of twenty items. I thought it was time to see how I am doing with this list and perhaps re-evaluate some of the items.

To be done every MONTH:
1. Review my goals: I may not actually look at my written goals for my career, but I am constantly thinking about them and affirming the career I want.

2. Have regular studio and office hours: I definitely have regular studio hours. I go in around the same time and work the same amount of hours everyday. This is my job so I try to make it as regular as possible as far as working hours go. I can't say that I have regular office hours, although mornings before I paint seem to be when I answer emails and blog.

3. Visit a museum or gallery: Does visiting the gallery that represents me count? Probably not. Okay, this one needs more work. You'd think this would be an easy one but I've been pretty busy lately. I should at least attend the art openings. I have to be better at this.

4. Schedule ten hours of marketing time: Ten hours a month. That shouldn't be a problem but I don't think I am anywhere near there, unless blogging and Facebook time counts. I do spend a lot of time posting my work on both. This needs more work too.

5. Post 6 blog posts a month: Done! I never thought THAT would be an easy one but now that I am showing works in progress on here, it seems to get easier. Who would have thought I'd have this much to say!

6. Post 10 comments on other people's blogs: I do read a lot of blogs. My favorites are "Oh What a World" by Lorraine Glessner,  "Art in the Studio" by Nancy Natale, "Women Painting Women", Amber George's Art Blog, and of course, Joanne Matttera's Art Blog (look at my side bar to see links to these blogs). I don't comment very often, which I should. I guess it's part laziness and part I just don't have anything interesting to say. I'll get working on this one too.

7. Read art books and magazines: Well, I can't say I actually read these. I do look at the pretty pictures though. I should get a subscription to a few magazines to keep myself current on what's out there. I do read art related websites though, like

8. Read one motivational book: A month? Do they have to be new-to-me ones? Hmmm, that seems like a lot of books. I do reread the few motivational books I have just to remind myself of the things I should do. I may have to rethink this task...

9. Read one business book or magazine: Okay, I haven't done this at all. I just can't read one of these without falling asleep instantly. I have, occasionally, read articles online that pertain to art business related issues but I don't know how feasible it is for me to read general business books or magazines.

10. Hand out 5 business cards or postcards to someone new: I think this number was higher in "I'd Rather Be in the Studio". I want to say it was that many a DAY or perhaps a week. I can't remember. But I do know I changed it to "month" and even that I have been having a hard time with. Whenever I meet someone new, I do try to work a business card or postcard in. I guess I just don't meet very many new people. I REALLY need visit more galleries and get out more so that I can meet new people and do this. I think it's a pretty important task to accomplish.

I will comment on the last ten things on my list tomorrow. In the meantime, here's an update on the progress of my latest painting. Just for the record, stripes are a bitch to paint and I haven't even done the shading or the white stripes yet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Size Matters

Sometimes it takes me awhile to figure things out. It can be the most obvious thing, but I won't see it. It's not that I am completely oblivious. Most of the time I notice things that most people don't. But sometimes, especially when it comes to something like art, I just don't realize things as quickly.

Take for example, sanding. I have been painting on panels since mid 2006 but it has only occurred to me recently (we are talking less than two weeks here) that if I sand the panels BEFORE I paint on them, they are smoother and easier to paint on. You'd think that would be obvious, especially since I have recently been feeling like the roughness of the panels were interfering with my painting,  but it only occurred to me to do that AFTER seeing someone else do. What can I say? Sometimes I'm a bit slow.

Another thing that I am just realizing is that it takes me the same amount of time to paint a 12"x12" painting as it does to paint a 16"x16" one, yet the price difference is pretty significant. So why am I doing the same amount of work for less pay? In a world where galleries want larger work, why am I working so small? In the past, I would paint on small panels because the larger space of bigger ones intimidated me. It's easy to "hide" in a smaller, less noticeable piece.  But I'm not intimidated anymore. I realize adding four inches per side isn't exactly large but it is bigger and I actually do like the size. It's a great size to fit in small spaces still and if you take a couple put together, the installation can look pretty impressive. So I've made the decision to not paint smaller than 16"x16". It doesn't make sense economically and I think that as my skills grow, I should increase the size of my work. Having this be my "new" smallest sized painting makes sense to me. Like I said, galleries love larger work and with more and more galleries showing my work, I should realize that size matters.

My latest painting, which is 24"x24"

Monday, November 15, 2010

So Close to Completion

I am so close to being done with my latest painting I can taste it. It's a piece that I have been enjoying for the past couple of days and it is only a few hours from being done. The only thing left to do are some highlights and dark accents, then waxing. It's always good to step back before the final accents and evaluate the painting in case any adjustments need to be made.

As I look at the photo, I am starting to feel like the head may be a bit too big. Her forehead seems more like a "fivehead". This can easily be fixed by lowering her hair line but I don't think that is the only problem. The whole head seems large. I can't tell if it's her position that makes it seem so or if I just drew the head too large. The shadows and angles are a bit weird on the arms and her right leg so it looks like those limbs are smaller than they actually are which could be what gives the impression that the head is too large. Perhaps it's just a matter of my working those shadows so that the limbs look bigger, I'm not sure. I'll have to play with it some tomorrow and see how it looks once I get the limbs looking right.

This is what artists do. Paint, evaluate, make adjustments, and paint some more. Most of the time this process is repeated multiple times per painting until the painting is just right. The trick is to know when to stop. I think, now that I have been painting this way since January of 2009, that I am getting pretty good at figuring out when to stop. I think in the early paintings I probably stopped too soon. Looking back at the first figurative paintings I did in this series, I can see a huge difference in skills. fabrics didn't flow as well, body parts looked incomplete. I didn't know when to stop working on my paintings and some look like they could have used more work, a lot more work on others. But as I paint more, and improve my skills, my paintings become tighter. I can't wait to see what they will look like a year from now!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just What All the Excitement is About

Today was a very long day that started with a list of errands, packing and shipping three large paintings, and finally, around 1pm, I got to paint! I've been very excited to get back working on this painting but had so many things to do before I could begin. It was a few hours of "chores" but when I finally got to sit down and paint, it was well worth it.

I love when what I am working on excites me enough that I wish I could just paint until I am finished. It's like when I get a really good book and I want to read it all the way through until it's done, not noticing the other things I need to work on. I'm sure getting this excited about a painting makes me into a huge dork, but I don't care. I'm just happy that I am doing what I love for a living and can get excited about what I do. Unfortunately I can't paint for as long as I would really like too. I find that after 5 hours my hands and wrists start to really hurt and I have to stop (dumb tendonitis in both hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders!). Fortunately I have all day tomorrow, without any shipping, errands, etc, to work some more on this piece.

Here's the progress on my painting. I covered the eyes pretty early so that I didn't have to hear people tell me that I should not cover them on this one. I did completely paint the eyes and then covered them about an hour later. I'm sure that seems like a useless exercise, but I like painting them, it helps me get the rest of the facial expression right, and it's good practice for when I do commissions.

This is all still underpainting so the shadows will be pumped up and the whites brightened when this is done. Also, I'll add the details in her hair and the fabric once this dries. 

Yes, that's a bit of her areola peeking out of the towel. 

So does it make sense now on why I am excited about this painting? The shadow on her chest and face are the kinds of things that I love to paint. It is challenging but will be so worth it when I am done.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspiration and Excitement

Every once in a while I come across a picture and start a painting that really gets me excited. We are talking "can't wait to get back into the studio" excited. I started such a painting today. It feels great be this into what I am painting. I love when I find an image that really inspires me.

 The image is of a woman leaning over on a couch while wearing a towel and reaching for her slipper. The photo has  beautiful contrast and the skin on this woman just glows. It really is beautiful. I hope I can do it justice. Unfortunately, I was only able to work on it for less than an hour since I had to leave early today.

I know it doesn't look like much right now, but in a few days, this will be a really nice painting. I decided to make this piece into a 30"x30" painting, which is a bit larger than what I usually paint for a single subject painting. I think the image is strong enough and interesting enough that it will work on the large panel. I actually can't wait to see what it looks like when it's done.

The next image is of the painting that I finished yesterday. I waxed it today since it will be included in the shipment of paintings to Madison Gallery. I am hoping that all 8 of my paintings find a good home in La Jolla real soon. Let's keep our fingers crossed for that one.

Untitled (so far), 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on panel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shipping Blues and Other News

My paintings in Madison Gallery's front window. Photo courtesy of Amber George.
The good news is Madison Gallery in La Jolla loved my latest five paintings that I emailed them today. The bad news is they want all five at the gallery by this Thursday for the annual Art and Wine Walk of La Jolla. What??? Yes, this Thursday! So today I spent a good amount of time wiring and boxing up the three smaller pieces and hauling my ass to the Fedex store so they could ship on time. It was a crazy hour and I felt like a chicken with my head chopped off. I wasn't able to ship the two larger pieces since it would be extremely expensive to ship them in two days and I was out of packing materials, in addition to heavy wire so that I could wire the backs for hanging. I will still have to ship these two last paintings but it's going to have to wait until I can pick up some more supplies.

I seem to be shipping my paintings almost as soon as I finish waxing them. This is not a complaint by any means. I am ecstatic that people love my work and want it in their gallery. I just seem to be spending a lot of money on shipping supplies and Fedex. I think I need to start buying my supplies online from Uline, or someplace similar, because it's getting to expensive to keep going to Office Depot.

In other news, I was able to start and finish the painting portion of a piece today. The contrast on her face is very low which tends to make the painting look a little cartoony to me, but I love the highlights from the sun shining on her left side. I think I need to stay away from low contrast images since they always look to cartoony for me. My high contrast paintings are always my more successful pieces and I need to keep that in mind when selecting my images. Lesson learned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Paintings and a Commission

I finally waxed the latest paintings of mine! It's not my favorite thing to do so I tend to wait until I have 4-5 paintings that need wax before I'll work on them. I would really love to hand that job over to an assistant some day. It makes my hands, elbows, and shoulders hurt for at least a few days and the larger the painting, the harder it is to get an even coat. If my paintings didn't look so good with the wax on them, I'd contemplate getting rid of that step completely. At any rate, here are the latest paintings I have available:
"Floral Bathing Suit", 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Lounging on a Rock", 16"x16", oil and encaustic wax

"Deep in Thought", 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax

"Two Little Indians", 30"x30", oil and encaustic wax
I really hope no one is going to be offended by the title of this painting. I named it "Two Little Indians" because it reminds me of the the song my dad used to sing me as a kid about all the little Indian boys. Also, it is reminiscent of when were not politically correct and used to play cowboys and Indians. I mean no disrespect to any Native Americans...

"Turtle Race", 30"x40", oil and encaustic wax

And lastly, the commissioned piece:

"Janet, Age 6", 10"x10", oil and encaustic wax

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Floral Prints and Rocks

Yesterday I managed to kick some painting butt and cross off 2 paintings from my "to finish" list of four paintings. The following painting was one of the pieces I finished (along with the commissioned portrait). I like the "hint" of the rock that I painted her on. I didn't want to commit to the whole rock in the background but she needed something to lean against. This was my compromise. I'm happy with it.

I also finished the underpainting of one painting that I was a bit intimidated by. The woman in this piece is wearing a floral patterned bathing suit and I decided that I would actually paint in the pattern. I very rarely paint patterns into fabrics. It can be a tedious task so I usually paint these fabrics as a solid color. It's hard to get the pattern to look right and the folds and shadows to look real. Call me lazy or just plain scared, but I always avoided it when possible. This time I decided to challenge myself and actually paint the floral pattern in. About 1/4 of the way through it, I almost said "screw it" and painted it solid. It's that frustrating to do. But I didn't and forced myself to continue. It is still the underpainting and I need to add some darks and lights in order to create some shadows and folds, but I think it came out pretty well. Her right breast has no gradation in color which is why she looks almost completely flat there. I think once I pump up the colors in certain areas it should look fine.

I'm glad I didn't give up on the floral pattern like I wanted to. It really is good to challenge oneself occasionally. It keeps me from getting bored and it helps me develop my skills as an artist. I can't just keep painting what is easy for me. What would be the point of that? Being challenged and forcing myself to go beyond my comfort zone is what's going to make me a better artist. I may not always like the challenge, in fact I rarely do when I start a new one, but I will be a better artist for it. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Many Starts, Few Finishes

I seem to have gotten into a place where I have many paintings started and none of them are getting finished. Currently I have 4 paintings in various stages of doneness. I'm not sure why I have started doing this. Usually I work on two pieces at once so that while one painting is drying in between layers I have something to do, but I have never worked on 4 consecutively. They don't seem to be getting done any quicker and in fact, I feel like I am a bit unfocused working this way. I am hoping to get them all done this week but it's not going to happen if I keep working this way. I need to just work on one and finish it before moving on to the next one.

This painting is pretty much done. After looking at it, I see that her right cheek is too wide and I need to thin and lengthen the look of her face. This is a commissioned piece that has got me over-thinking too much. I can't seem to get the look just right. It looks pretty close but I am not satisfied. I'm hoping that once I thin her face, it will look more like the original photo.

I started this painting yesterday. I got a lot done yesterday but the rock she is sitting on and the body still needs work. Her right breast looks very odd. 

This is another painting I started yesterday. It's a woman sitting but I got focused on her face and hair. I am loving the way the head looks without the body, the incompleteness of the rest of the painting. I may need to experiment with some portraits later and have the faces nicely painted while the body is a rough sketch. One of my studio-mates suggested I play with that and I think it's a good idea...when I have some spare time. 

And finally, the turtle race. I finished the underpainting of this on Friday but haven't touched this since. It's a large painting for me, 30"x40". It's a little intimidating for me which could be why I started two smaller pieces rather than finish this painting. Like I said, I am hoping to get back on track and finish these 4 pieces by this weekend. I have been called to jury duty tomorrow and am hoping to get excused, otherwise that could really mess up all of my plans.