Monday, December 29, 2008

Making so much art

I've been busy! I went to a wonderful and inspiring workshop early in December at Brio, an interesting art space in Scottsdale, Arizona. The workshop was put on by my friend, Nancy Reyner. She's the author of The Acrylic Revolution, and a truly inspired teacher. The artists in the class were all quite accomplished, so it was interesting to learn from them, too. Got to stay with my very best friend, which added to the fun of my 3 day workshop. This was the first actual workshop (not class, I've had plenty of those) I've ever attended. I can't even begin to describe how much I learned. Yes it was fun, but also really hard work.

Got back to Ajo and went to work in my studio! I decided to try a new tactic and started 8 new paintings at one time. I'm working on a new series, called Nooks and Crannies. My goal was to complete this group by December 30. I got all but one of them done. Working on a number of pieces at a time seems to be a more efficient way to go. I think it's because when I get stuck on one, I can move onto to an array of other paintings. Somehow, the solution comes to me by the time I get back to the problem child.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pricing artwork

Pricing art work is one of those things that most artists don't like to do. How in the world do you put a value on what you put your heart, your time, your ego and your money into doing? This is a particularly painful thing to contemplate during economic hard times. Should I mark those paintings down, down, down?

A friend recently suggested to me (actually more than suggested) that I raise the prices on my art work. I said "What, are you crazy?" The fact is that my pricing has remained the same for fifteen years. While raising the cost of anything is totally counter intuitive right now, that's just what I did.

There are many ways to calculate how much to charge for art work. Looking at other artist's pricing (if the work is comparable at all to yours) and charging accordingly is one way. Keeping track of the time it takes to create a work and figuring out an hourly wage is another. Being totally arbitrary is yet another.

I used to charge by the square inch. Most people flinch when they hear that. How cold blooded. How cut and dried. Well, I decided to go back to my old method. The thing that's nice is that once a decision is made about the square inch charge, it's easy to calculate a price for every painting.

But what about the tiny painting that took twice as long as a larger one to create? What about the piece where the materials were way more expensive than other paintings? I just figure that it all evens out eventually.

A good decision or a woefully bad decision? Stay posted.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Reed Calligraphy II, Finished at Last

I've kind of lost track of how long I've been working on this painting. It's done (I think). All artists have their own personal creative process. Someone asked my a while back how I came up with the idea for this painting. Good question!

I took quite a few snapshots of reeds and reflections during a camping trip way last February. I did a painting using one of the shots I found interesting (Reed Calligraphy I, see previous blog). I had a whole series of additional photographs and set them aside, unsure of what to do with them and moved on to another project.

Then, I really really felt like painting and realized I'd let myself run out of canvas, stretchers and panels. I panicked. I rooted around in my storage closet. There were 4 long skinny masonite boards, scraps left over from other projects. You know, those things you keep just in case they might come in handy some day.

I pondered how I could use them. I cut apart a bunch of the reed photos into strips. Hmmm. The beginning of an idea was forming.

I scrounged around again, and found an old abandoned stretcher without canvas. It was the perfect size for the 4 boards, leaving a little space between each. I nailed them onto the stretcher. I applied coats of gesso to prepare the surfaces.

Making 4 long skinny paintings didn't seem like it would work. So I decided to divide each panel in half, making a total of 8 images. In order to separate the images on each board, I made a border around each one. I added texture to the borders to separate them even further from each other. That gave me the idea of contrasting the smooth, shiny water with the rough texture of the borders and the matte of the reeds.

I played around with organizing the photos until I felt like the sequence made sense visually. Voila. I started the painting as soon as the boards were nailed onto the frame and gessoed.

The ideas developed as I worked. It would have saved time if I have planned the whole thing out from the beginning of the process, but apparently that just isn't the way I work.

Does the painting work? I don't know. Sure would love to have someone click on the comment button and tell me what they think.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to work!

It feels great to be back to work. While the space looks like a disaster, I know exactly where everything is. I'm starting two new paintings (on the easels), while completing a third (on the work bench, facing backward). The table is covered with stuff for my box making operation. If you go back into the archives, there are photos here and there of the boxes I paint. Not showing in this photo is my press (you can see just a bit of the wheel in the lower left corner of the studio picture. I have room to be working on prints while doing all of the other stuff you see. This is just the way I like it, with lots going on all at one time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Moved In–More or Less

I ran into Jimmy (one of the guys who moved my heavy stuff into my new studio on Monday evening). He said he's grateful for BenGay. Apparently, I was right that carrying awkward things up what seemed to me to be a very steep flight of stairs was indeed a major ordeal! (See last blog to admire staircase).

I spent the better part of the day yesterday getting art supplies organized and put into place. Hopefully I'll remember my organizational thinking when I go to find various items.

Now it's time to get back to work. I plan on starting a whole variety of new projects, luxuriating in my more expansive space!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Steepest Stairs

This evil set of stairs slowed down the progress of moving into my studio! The top photo is from the 2nd floor looking down. The other view is looking up. Neither do justice to just how steep and long this staircase is. After many, untold numbers of trips up and down with boxes of art supplies, I got stuck. My bigger items (desk, etching press, tables, etc.) are way too heavy for any normal 2 people to manage.

I used all my ingenuity to round up two extra strong people willing to do the dirty deed. Just as I was about to give up in despair, I was rescued by Jimmy and his nephew. Stay posted for how it all turned out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My New Studio

My studio space in Phoenix was a former dining room. It was about 130 square feet. Small, but adequate for my use, considering my studio time was pretty much limited to summer, when I was on break from teaching. When we moved to Ajo, my space was upgraded to about 170 square feet, in what was supposed to be the master bedroom. I was happy to be in a more spacious studio. However, I've discovered over the past year that the more time you have to work, the more space you could use.

I recently had the opportunity to rent a 350 square foot studio on the second floor on the Plaza. The blue awnings on the top floor, right side of the building are where the studio is located. You can see from the second photo that the windows are large. The third picture is of me with Barney (our vacuum cleaner), preparing to do some cleaning before moving in.

Tomorrow, I hope to start moving my stuff. I have a lot. Much of it heavy or awkward. It's a very long and steep staircase. This is going to be very good exercise. I can't wait to get settled and get back to work!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reed Calligraphy II in progress

Have you ever had an exercise schedule that you have been committed to, and then had a longish, unavoidable interruption to your routine? I think it's pretty common that when this happens, it's difficult to get started again. Even though you know it's good for you and that you feel 100% better when you exercise consistently, there are a million reasons why not to start again.

This is how it works when doing art, too (at least for me). For one thing, you forget what the heck you were up to, if you have an unfinished piece to start in on again. This problem is a piece of cake compared to having to start fresh on a new project after a long hiatus. That can be just plain terrifying. Whenever I can, if I know I won't be able to work for awhile, I try to have at least one painting in the works to jump back into.

What you see above is a painting I started last April. In fact, you can see a photo of me with it in my studio, on a blog entry way back on April 18. Since then, there have been all kinds of perfectly legitimate reasons not to work on it. I worked on another piece off and on, which was completed in June and is currently on display at the Curley School. Since then, I haven't worked in my studio at all. Period. Now I've run out of excuses.

But I can't remember quite where I was going with this piece. So today is the day that I'm going to prepare my palette and jump back into work again. Feels a bit like jumping off a 10 story building. Stay posted to see what happens.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

2nd Juried Art Exhibition for Sponsorship at Pagosa Mountain Hospital

If you've been following my blog, you might remember seeing this painting before. I'm showing it again because it was accepted in the 2nd Juried Art Exhibition for Sponsorship at Pagosa Mountain Hospital, in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The juror was Ann Daley, Associate Curator at the Denver Art Museum. The show opens on September 18 and will continue for two months.

What is a bit unusual about the way the show is being run is the sponsorship part. Over and over again, artists are asked to donate their work for various good causes. What people don't seem to realize is that artwork takes time to make, it takes training, it takes costly materials to produce, it is only tax deductible for the cost of materials, and it may be the only source of income for the artist. In this exhibit people are being asked to purchase a painting and then donate it back to the hospital to become a part of its' art collection. Pagosa Mountain Hospital builds a collection that many people can enjoy and the artist is paid for the work.

It seems like a win/win situation to me! Oh, by the way, the sponsor of the work gets a tax write off for the purchase price of the painting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Snow Canyon Reflection

We just got back from spending several weeks traveling along US Route 89. We did the section from Salt Lake City south. What a beautiful state. What nice people. What a great way to travel. We went slowly south, finding all kinds of hidden treasures along the road.

This painting is the result of another trip to Utah. This time, we camped at Snow Canyon, close to St. George. There was a rain storm and then these puddles appeared with reflections of the nearby cliffs in them. An optical illusion was created, making it appear that the puddles were actually openings in the road. I had great fun trying to capture this.

By the way, if you are an artist and would like to subscribe to a really useful website on marketing your art, I highly recommend Alyson Stanfield. She has a great weekly newsletter you can subscribe to. I've gotten all kinds of useful advice!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ranger Gene Leads the Foreigners to Betatikin

I had lots of fun with this painting. It's from a snapshot taken during a hike down a very long trail, leading to a famous ruin. Navajo National Monument is one of my favorite places. Located in Northern Arizona, it's been the site of many of my birthdays. I'm not sure why–it just seems to have worked out that way. I love being there on my birthday because a major meteor shower happens every year on that date. And the atmosphere is clear, with virtually no light pollution, so you can watch the spectacular sky all night long if you can stay awake!

Back to the painting. We have taken this ranger-led hike a number of times. This particular guy (Gene) was a seasoned ranger, with a definitely quirky personality. I got such a charge out listening to him and observing the people from various countries. The people on this particular day added a dimension that I just had to capture! It's part of my series about tourists.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Worst Nightmare

What is your worst nightmare? I actually have a series that occur depending on what's happening that is currently stirring up my personal phobias. When I'm teaching, I have nightmares about getting lost on the way to class, frantically trying to find art materials for a class starting in minutes, etc. This print refers to the nightmares I had when Mathew was in the hospital as a preemie. Don't worry, he's now 19 and doing fine. In this print, I'm peering into his incubator as rats threaten to do awful things to him that I don't even want to describe here.

I guess this image could be classified as art as therapy.

Which brings me back to the question of what does it mean to people when you say you are an artist. What is an artist, anyway? An article in the New York Times Book Review, June 1, by Marisha Pessl has a paragraph in it that addresses these questions. Here is the quote:

" 'Artist' can't make even the briefest public appearance without extensive baggage. The next time you're at a party and someone asks you what you do for a living, boldly say artist, then sit back and watch the jolting effect that little word has upon a conversation. Above 14th Street, the person will smirk, dutifully ask 'What kind?' or appear to start swallowing an egg, which is a disguised yawn. You'll get a hug in the Midwest. In Santa Monica, you'll get 'sweet' and an in invitation to go Rollerblading. In certain parts of the country you'll get tied up and thrown into the back of a pickup truck, and no one will ever hear from you again."

All of the above reactions could fall into my worst nightmare category. There really isn't any standard way to know you are an artist except to believe that you are. And confessing that you think you are an artist to anyone is totally different that being able to tell someone you are a doctor or banker or grocery store clerk. Who knows what their reaction will be.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Etching and aquatint, "Fort Benning 1950"

Where in the world have I been for the past month?

Well, I was in northern California, and no, it wasn't for a vacation. Jim, Mathew and I took on the monumental task of sorting, packing and cleaning out my parent's home in order to put it up for sale. It was a bittersweet experience, coming across so many things from my childhood. The hardest part was the paper trail my father left, which showed his organization and need for order gradually disintegrate as he battled to hang on to his independence as Alzheimer's took over.

The image you see is an etching/aquatint. I love making prints. It is such a different process from painting. This particular print is from a snapshot of my mom and me in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Like all families, I have boxes and albums of photos of my own children and some from my childhood. Now I have boxes and boxes and boxes and more albums from my parents' lives. At some point, I'm guessing some of this imagery will become a part of my work. In the meantime, I'm going to need to figure out where in the world to store it all safely.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jack and David Attempt to Capture the Beauty

This is a painting from a series of snapshots I took while on a wonderful river trip, rafting down the Grand Canyon. The two guys here are my brother-in-law and my nephew. Yes, I took a few photos. My husband, Jim, took hundreds and hundreds of photos. This made sense because he's a professional photographer and consequently, was working. Jack and David were on vacation, but they took pictures non-stop on this trip. I'm not sure if they ever saw the Canyon except through the viewfinders on their cameras. It made me think about what the trip would have been like for them with no camera at all. It certainly would have been a different experience. Maybe we should all leave the picture-making to the professional photographers, use our vacations to enjoy our surroundings and purchase that quintessential image which really captures the place from the guy who makes his living doing this! For a look at Jim's wonderful current project which is chock full of photos and other exciting stuff, look at the US Route 89 project!

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm not sure whether this painting is quite done, yet. It's definitely hot off the press, as I scrambled to get it to the point of entering it in an upcoming show in Tucson.

Which brings up a subject I'd like to tackle once in a while in this blog. How does the reality of being an artist mesh with what the public pictures as the life of an artist?

This interests me because I myself am constantly asked questions which I find annoying. It finally occurred to me that the reason people say things like "Oh, you're doing art full time. You must be retired" or, "Being an artist must be so much fun", is that the whole business of working in the arts is a big mystery to just about anyone except artists. And a lot of time, we shroud what we do in mystery or are defensive about it. There are a whole array of cliches about artists, many of which are negative.

So what does this have to do with entering an exhibit? Well, entering shows is one of the many things that professional artists do. Why? Good question. It's important for building a reputation, which is necessary in order to be able to justify what you charge for your work. You never know who might see the work in the show–which could lead to all kinds of wonderful outcomes, like a sale or an offer of another show.

However, entering shows is an expensive enterprise. There is the time spent in researching exhibitions. Most shows charge an entry fee of $25-35 for 3 slides. Having slides or digital images of artwork is expensive, especially if it is done professionally (which it should be in order to be taken seriously). There are application forms to fill out, resumes and artist statements to polish and print. The whole thing needs to be packaged. And then last but not least is the postage. Oh, and if you want those slides back you have to enclose an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope), so there goes more postage money!

There are always way more entries than there is exhibition space, so much of the work is rejected. Yet having that show record is critical to being a respected artist. And they have to be the right kind of shows. So every time you enter a show you take a gamble. Are you just throwing money away? Do you stand a chance of getting in? How long does it take you to recover from being rejected and move on?

Entering exhibits is only one very small, but important part of being a professional artist. Stay posted for more insights into the work of artists.

Update: This painting, Reed Calligraphy III, was accepted into the big ideas SMALL FRAMES exhibition at Dinnerware Artspace, located in downtown Tucson. The exhibition dates are June 7 – July 19. For more information on this show, see the Dinnerware website.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I was once a lukewarm shopper. Then I went into training. My friend Peggy took years to teach me the ins and outs of bargain shopping. I still function best when I'm with her. She just has an eye for the greatest stuff. I'm not too bad on my own, and I certainly enjoy the occasional spree, but my best times are with Peggy.

This is a new painting called Old Friends Waiting for their Wives to Finish Shopping (Again). You see here the long-suffering husbands, mine on the left, Peggy's on the right. Waiting yet again for us. We are late, having been caught up in the excitement of the hunt. While they are annoyed, they are also enjoying each others' company. Such are the pleasures of old friendships!

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm back after yet another trip to California. My Dad died on May 1 at 2:20 a.m. Strangely, May 1 is my Mom's birthday. She would have been 95. Dad was 89 years old and then some. His passing was very peaceful. My sister and I were there, as was Lynn, a wonderful Hospice nurse and Sam Lee, the owner of the group home my Dad was at. I had moments of closeness to my father over the past few weeks which I had seldom experienced with him before. It was truly a gift to be able to be with him.

This painting, Reed Calligraphy, was completed recently. I hope the peacefulness and tranquility that I tried to capture in the work is what my Dad is experiencing now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I spent Sunday through Wednesday in California, visiting my dad, who is in the final stages of Alzheimers disease, one of the cruelest ways to wind down a life. My sister and I are trying our best to give Dad the most comfortable end possible.

Coming back to Ajo felt like such a gift. This serene little town, my husband, dog and studio were here for me. I wasn't sure how long it would take me to recover, but here I am working away the day after I got back.

You can see a portion of my studio. Thanks to Jim for taking this photo late last night! There are at least 4 projects going on in here right now. See if you can find them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is another personal piece. It's quite a large painting, but a lot of the details aren't visible, so I'll describe it. The title of the painting is Mathew's Story. There are four image transfers of Mathew in the NICU as a preemie, from photographs by James Cowlin. I tinted over them. These images are on canvas, which is attached to a wood panel. See the shadows cast under the black – that's because the canvases stick out.

When Mathew finally came home from the hospital, we had his nursery all set up, including a wallpaper border, which I painted on the top and bottom of the panel. At the very top and very bottom is a poem written by Mat. I know, you can barely see it, but it's in his handwriting, which I transferred to the panel.

Here's what the poem says:

I am special • I am • I was in the hospital for many days • and many nights. I am a miracle my parents said. I am a survivor.

Doctors pouring over me day and night • When I came home I saw my room • My toys • I did not see an incubator.

My room was so colorful • and bright • I knew it was home • I knew it was.

"Me" by Mathew Cowlin

By the way, Mathew is now 19 years old, and a freshman at Kenyon College in Ohio and doing very well. We are so very proud of him.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A visit to California to visit my father was followed by Mathew's spring break from college. He was home for a week and a half, during which we made multiple trips to Phoenix.

Lots of time was spent in front of the TV watching Monk, as Mathew succumbed and then recovered from a bona fide case of the flu.

After he left, guess what! I got the flu, which ended up being pretty debilitating for 3 weeks. Now I'm back on track, functioning at last!

The image above is one I did a number of years ago, called 'Till Death Do Us Part. The left side is a painted portrait of my Mom and Dad. On the right side are photo transfers of them taken from old snapshots. My mother passed away in 2002.

As my father approaches the end stages of Alzheimers disease, he and my Mom are much on my mind.

The painting you see is part of an ongoing series of personal work. This is work I do to express my own experiences, separate from the landscape and people in the landscape work.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm finding that keeping up a Blog page is a little like feeding one of those Tamaguchi pets. At least I think that's what they were called. For a while every kid was obsessed with feeding and walking these little electronic devices that beeped when they needed attention. And died if you didn't take care of them. Every teacher was being driven crazy by having to confiscate the little creatures.

However, for an artist, part of the point of doing the work is for other people to see it. Blogs seem to have that potential. But, they sure are hungry little beasts.

This is a large painting. It's roughly 6' wide by 5' tall. The largest I've ever done and considering the size of my studio spaces, it's pretty big. It is a composite of photographs my husband took for me at a rodeo he was photographing for a client. At the time, I didn't take my own pictures.

The whole cowboy scene is still very alive out in the Southwest. I have a hard time reconciling the Hollywood images with the real thing. While this painting isn't exactly a spoof on cowboy art, it shows actual people caught in the moment. I hope you enjoy it.

It lived in my closet for a long time, and is now hanging at the Curley School, in the Hallway gallery. Looks great there, but I'd love to give it a permanent home at some point. Maybe some real life cowboy would like it????

I'm delighted to be able to potentially show it to a wider audience on this blog.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another odd vision. This painting was inspired by a pesky fly that insisted on helping itself to our picnic goodies. I noticed that the colors of the shadows on the paper towel, the shiny cherry, the pits and the fly with its transparent wings were actually quite beautiful. This was another image I sat on for a long time before I got the idea to divide it into four sections. It is painted on masonite, which is an interesting surface to work on. I continued to play with the idea of shiny versus matte surfaces. I assumed anyone looking at this painting would be horrified, but have been surprised at the positive responses it has gotten.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

This image, called Life Cycles–The Butterfly is an example of keeping your eyes open for beauty in unlikely places. I saw this butterfly floating in a cattle trough. I hung onto the photographs of the scene for several years, until I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it. The outside border is rough textured, similar in feeling to the cement trough. The butterfly, rocks and other bugs are painted in layers of transparencies and are quite smooth and glossy. Rather a strange image, I guess, but one that was compelling to me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What in the world is this? If you go to the Phoenix Art Museum, you'll find this window which looks out into a small space between two walls. Sometimes I see oddball images that strike me. This was one. It was so ethereal and strange, and is especially so, taken out of context. I had lots of fun trying to capture the feeling of the shiny floor and the transparent window in this painting.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This is a painting I did several years ago. I love to paint people. Painting people in wonderful places is even better. Paintings that say something about the human condition are the most rewarding of all for me to create. This little group of elderly people were sitting in the courtyard of a museum in Santa Fe. It's called Waiting for the Grandchildren. What does it evoke for you?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Being an artist is always a balancing act. Preparing and maintaining materials takes time, energy and money. Then there's the actual time spent producing the work. It takes time for creative ideas to coalesce. Figuring out how to make what's in your mind take shape in the physical world is another piece of the puzzle. The balance in my life for the last month has tipped to family. It was wonderful having Mathew home for his winter break. And wrenching to have him go back to school. Now it's time for me to get back to work!

What you see here are three small (8x10) paintings on panel. They work as a series or as individual paintings–capturing some of the colors and shapes I saw in the landscape around Yellowstone National Park.