Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Harder Than I Thought

Sometimes you start a painting and you think that it will be difficult to get right, then you work on it, and it turns out, it wasn't so hard. Then there are the paintings that you think will be pretty easy and it turns out that it is no where close to that. I'm not going to say that I thought my latest painting would be easy. I knew there would be some difficult parts, such as the man's salt and pepper colored hair and the mesh shirt that he is wearing. But I do have to say that this painting is harder than I thought it was going to be and I haven't even started the mesh part!

I have worked on this painting for four days now, and usually after this much time, I would have had a lot more done and it would have looked pretty close to being done. But as you can see from the above photo, there is a lot of work left to be done. I can seem to get the skin tone on the woman right. I think I need some more middle tones around the chin area in order to even it out some. There wasn't much contrast on her face in the photo so I was trying to pump up the contrast so that she wouldn't look so cartoony, but I think I over did it on her chin. I have worked on the face so much these past days and I don't seem to be getting it right. It's frustrating.

The man's face looks better but his eyes still doesn't seem right. I think darkening the areas around his eyes will help but he still seems to lack a certain sparkle in his eyes, which is needed. I have to say I painted him looking a bit cross-eyed also. This is not good. Since this is a commission, it has to look perfect. I am no where near that yet. Good thing I can still work on this!

I have to admit, I am a bit worried about getting this painting right. The first painting for this client, the image of her as a baby, came out so well and now I am feeling a bit stressed about getting this one to look as good. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and it will all work out. I think I should leave the face alone for a bit (I have been hyper-focused on them for the past four days) and work on their clothing. I know I can get those things looking pretty good and I need to have some good moments on this painting before I get too frustrated.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stopping and Listening

I managed to work on this woman's face for a bit ...
Sometimes you just can't paint as much as you want to, no matter how much you really want to. I was all set to put in a long day of painting today since I had no other obligations other than my morning classes. I figured I'd go in to my studio around 1:30 and stay there, happily painting, for at least 5-6 hours. But sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to and I ended up only painting for about an hour. I haven't been feeling well these past few days. I have been having abdominal pains, probably from my endometriosis or perhaps another cyst, and both can feel equally painful. As much as I wanted to stay and paint, I just didn't feel well enough to do it. There are times when we need to just push through the pain, and other times where we need to listen to our bodies and stop. I decided to listen and went home.

I am hoping to get in a large amount of painting tomorrow. There's so much to do and very little time. I want to finish these last two commissions and get back to playing with color. I plan on showing some of these yet-to-be-completed colored paintings exclusively through my studio space in April for Spring open studios. Despite deciding in October that I would no longer participate in open studios, I figured that perhaps this would be a good venue to show my color studies and any other things I experiment with. Maybe I'll even make some money. That's the plan, anyways. We'll see if it works out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Commission #2 of 3

I started the second painting of the three commissions I received a week ago. It's still in the very rough stages...and I mean VERY rough. There are a few challenges that I can already foresee with this painting. One, the man has salt and pepper colored hair. I know this will be difficult not only because I have never painted this color hair, but also because it's hard to show the variations in the hair color without painting each strand of hair. I figure if I paint the hair in blocks of color and then add individual highlights, it may look right in the end. We'll see...

Two, the man has a lot of wrinkles, which isn't normally a problem and probably won't be later, but at the moment he is looking super cartoony. I realize this is just the underpainting and I can turn this around and make it look good with just a few strokes of the brush and some blending, but it looks pretty bad right now.

Three, the man is also wearing a mesh shirt. As far as patterns go, this is pretty difficult. There are THOUSANDS of "dots" on his shirt and I am not going to be able to paint them all. I'm trying to figure out how I can give the impression of mesh without actually having to paint every dot. I'm not sure how I will do that just yet. I may just make his shirt into a solid colored shirt and forget the mesh altogether. I don't know how the clients will feel about this though. I'm hoping that if I go this route, she'll be so impressed with the faces of the couple (it is a picture of her parents), that she won't notice the lack of mesh.

I like that this picture is presenting challenges for me and keeping me on my toes. I think it will be one of my more challenging pieces but I welcome these kinds of challenges.

This is where I left this painting after 3 hours of painting...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

Sometimes you have one of those weeks where everything seems to go wrong. Paintings don't seem to turn out right. Inspiration is hard to find. Nothing seems to go your way. Fortunately for me, I am not having one of those weeks, although, God knows I've had them often enough. These past twelve days have been great.

"Swept Away" SOLD
In the past week and a half I have sold two paintings, a few drawings, got 3 commissions, and I am licensing 5 of my "Nature" series paintings for prints with an art consulting company. Inspiration was also high. I finished my "beehive" painting and was more than satisfied with the results. I also started my first of the three commissions on Friday and finished it yesterday. It was a little nerve-racking to email the client with the image for approval, as it always is, since they could hate the painting or have many changes. But I had nothing to worry about. The client was extremely happy with the results and that left me feeling fantastic.

These are the kinds of days that I, as an artist, live for. Great inspiration AND sales are two things that are hard to beat, and sometimes hard to come by. It is days like this that make the "hard" months worth it. Whenever I get down about sales or feel like my work isn't as good as it should be, I try to think about days like this and remind myself that things can turn around pretty quickly. Things do get better.

"Positive Identification" SOLD
In this economy I realize that sales are hard and it's difficult not to attach our self-esteem to the number of paintings sold. But despite this, I can't let that get me down and keep me from doing what I love and what I am good at. These past couple of days have proven that good days do happen. People do enjoy my work. I can make a career from my art.

I am always happy and grateful to those who love my work enough to purchase it and hope that I have many more weeks like this!

 Pre-waxed version of "Beehive", 16"x16"

Pre-waxed, finished commissioned painting. 14"x14"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day Two's Progress

Today I was able to spend a few hours on this painting. I've made a lot of progress and hope to finish this tomorrow. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Beginning of a Commission

Painting commissioned work is a little nerve-racking. There's a lot more stress in it than my regular paintings. For my regular work, if the image doesn't look exactly like the person in the photograph, that's okay. Most people would never know it doesn't look exact since nobody knows the person I am painting. Because I put a bar over the eyes, it matters even less whether or not the person looks exactly like the image on the photo. I do try and get it as close as possible, but I don't stress about it if it's not perfect.

Commissions are a different story though. I am being paid to make the image look like the photograph. It has to be exact. It has to be perfect, or at least pretty damn close. I can't help but worry whether or not I am capturing the essence of the person. The emotion has to be right. That "special" look in the eyes has to be there. All things that I have to think about. All things that make me nervous while I am painting. IT can drive me crazy sometimes, but I do them anyways. Why do I do them then? Why do I put myself through this? Well, I have not had anyone complain or reject the paintings once they were done. In fact, I have made a few people cry after seeing my work. People seem to like what I do. That is always a good feeling. It's what makes doing commissions worth it, and the money definitely helps.

I started painting number one of three, in a series for a client. The first image is of the client as a baby. It's a cute image but I have a long ways to go before it looks right. Here's what I did today:

As you can see from the original photo above, I have a long ways to go before I finish. Today I worked mainly on the underpainting and getting rid of pencil marks. When I first start a painting, the carbon from my drawing always mixes with the paint and changes the color. It also shows through the first layer of paint. My underpainting absorbs the pencils and adds a layer of paint down so that when I work on the dark areas, the paint isn't as transparent. Also, the underpainting helps me make any corrections to the shape of the face, etc. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Duh! Moments

I was talking to my studio mate, Beloved Bolton, today and she mentioned that she recently had a "duh" moment when she "discovered" a method for painting that she thought was so obvious. We laughed over how sometimes the most obvious things don't come to us so obviously. This, of course, got me thinking about my own "duh" moments, some of which were recent "discoveries" despite my countless hours of painting in the last 5 years.

When I was working on my "Nature" series, I used to draw each and every single leaf that I would then transfer onto my wax. I was using countless layers of wax and imbedding the carbon drawing transfers in between them. I drew a lot of leaves some of them MANY times over! It wasn't until I made over 10 paintings and drew almost a 100 leaves that I realized that if I photo copied the leaves, I could do photo transfers in my paintings and save countless hours on drawing the same leaves over and over again.  DUH!  The paintings didn't look any different and I was able to get a lot more work done.

Painting with each individual leaf hand drawn. There are 14 leaves in this painting.

This painting has photocopies of hand drawn leaves transferred on the wax.

I have been painting on wood panels for the past 5 years yet only recently did I "discover" that if I sand the panel before or even after I gessoed it, it's actually a lot easier to paint on. I would occasionally have to paint on some pretty rough boards and thought that this is what I would have to suffer through since I used panels. You would think that sanding the boards would have been pretty obvious, but it wasn't until only a couple of months ago. I could blame it on the fact that I didn't go to art school or majored in art, but really, I think it was just one of those obvious things you just don't realize for no reason at all. It wasn't until I watched another studio-mate, Scott Inguito, sanding his canvas after applying gesso, that I thought it would make my life easier to do that to my panels. Sometimes I'm not very bright.

The last thing I "figured out" recently was that if I put a heating pad underneath my panels as I am waxing them, the wax stays warm and getting a completely smooth surface, without pock marks, is a hell of a lot easier that without a heating pad. I knew that people have mentioned using a heating pad or an electric blanket under their panels while painting with encaustics. I guess I just ignored them. I must have figured that since I was only painting the final layer of my painting in clear wax, I didn't really need the heating pad. One day, I finally remembered that I had one and tried it. Between the heating pad and adding a few more layers of wax than what I was used too, It was pretty simple to get a pretty smooth surface. My life became easier! 

Sometimes the most obvious things take awhile for us to figure out. This happens a lot in math and I notice that sometimes it takes kids a moment to notice the most obvious answers. I didn't think it would happen so much with art too. It happens to all of us. It can sometimes make us feel not so bright, but the rewards of finally "getting it" definitely out-weighs that feeling quickly.

In case you are wondering, here is the update on my beehive painting. I got a lot of work done today but it's still not finished. I will eventually cover the eyes also so for those of you who hate it when I do that, you know where to send the hate mail. ;-)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beeline and Beehives

Every year, the International Encaustic Conference (which is held at the beginning of June in Provincetown, MA) has a juried show for it's participants. This year's show is juried by Francine D'Olimpio, owner of Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown who will also host the show in her gallery. Every year has a different theme and this year's is "Beeline". I decided to start working on my entry now since this would give me an opportunity to try out a few pieces before deciding on what to enter. I found a great photo of a woman who had a great beehive hairdo and decided that was what I wanted to paint. I realize that it technically has nothing to do with actual bees, but I think "Beeline" is pretty open to interpretation. I plan on finding more images of women with beehives. I just love the hairstyle!


This is still in it's underpainting stage and has a lot more work before I complete it. I do need to complete it soon since I have three commission paintings I need to start soon. I wanted to work on another color study after this but it looks like that will have to be put to the side for a bit.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Day After

It's the day after the reception for "Thinking Figurative(ly)" and I am at the studio space inspecting the aftermath and reflecting on how the show went. The space was pretty clean. There were a few wine "glasses" (or should I say wine "plastics") in interesting places, and I did spot some cups of cheez-its and yogurt pretzels in the back, but other than that, the place looked good. I am a little surprised, although I guess I shouldn't be. We are adults after all. But whenever I participate in these types of artist-run events, I am reminded of the "white trash" party my house-mates (all artists) once threw many years ago. The aftermath to that was pretty bad. We were finding bologna and corn dogs hanging off of and on the art work for days. Pretty rude, even for a "white-trash" party (which, btw, my house-mate came dressed as Tanya Harding). I realize that was in our youth and we are adults now, but I always remember that party after cleaning up for any event I am part of.

Besides the studio space looking pretty clean, the show was a success. There was a couple who set up a fresh-made empanada stand that was a HUGE success, because really, who doesn't love a fresh fried, home-made, empanada with mole and plantains, right? I also got a TON of compliments for my work, the "Forgotten Memories" series AND the new pieces I was experimenting with at the beginning of the year. People seem to still be amazed that my work is actually an oil painting and not a photograph or a photo transfer. I guess for me, since I actually paint them and am a harsh self-critic (so they don't look like photos to me), I am surprised whenever I hear that. To me, they are obviously paintings, with obvious flaws. But the average art viewer doesn't see what I see (thank God) and it was great to hear many compliments. I even sold a few pieces, which is ALWAYS nice.

Next up, I have three commissions to work on and a show in April and May to prepare for. It's back to the painting easel for me!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Ready for "Thinking Figurative(ly)"

Today I spent the day getting ready for Friday's "Thinking Figurative(ly)" show at Art Explosion studios (2425 17th Street in San Francisco). I will be showing 15 of my newest paintings, including some of the colored wax pieces I started experimenting with this year. This will be the first time most of these piece will be shown. There are also many other Art Explosion artists showing their figurative work so please stop by from 7-10pm.

View of the front wall.

I waxed my latest painting, "Bike Repair", in time to hang it for the show. Here is a close-up view of the piece:

"Bike Repair", 24" x 30", oil and wax on panel.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Cakes

There was not much fine art making this week or weekend. My brother's wedding was this Saturday and I had the job of making his wedding cake. I have made at least a dozen cakes, including my own wedding cake last September, so this was not an unusual task for me. Him and his fiance were very specific about how they wanted their cake to look, as most couples are. They wanted a red convertable VW bug with these figurines (toys, really) that they had, sitting in the car. There was also red hearts with their initials and a congratulations banner required. So while I did not get much painting time in this week, I did create a cute little cake for them.

The car is sculpted out of fondant and is completely edible, although incredibly sweet. It's not exactly what I would have chosen as my wedding cake, but then again, it wasn't my wedding. In case you were curious as to what my wedding cake looked like, here it is. The roses are all edible and hand sculpted in gum paste by me.

And here is the first cake I ever made. I can't believe my friend trusted me to make her wedding cake having NEVER made one before and never taken a class. I'm pretty good at making things up as I go. These oriental poppies are hand sculpted by me also.

Now that the wedding is over, I am hoping to get some painting done. I need to get ready for the "Thinking Figurative(ly)" show this Friday at Art Explosion Studios (2425 17th Street @ Portrero in San Francisco from 7- 10pm). I hope you can make it. I will have a lot of new, never been shown, work up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thinking Figurative(ly)

Join me at the Art Explosion (2425 17th Street @ Potrero, San Francisco) for "Thinking Figurative(ly)" on February 11th from 7 to 10pm. This show will highlight works by Jhina Alvarado, Emily Citraro, and William "Cricket" Ulrich that deal with the human figure. It promises to be a poetic and beautiful show!