Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moving Day Has Come to My Blog

I now have a beautiful new website which includes my blog, galleries, a workshop schedule and other stuff. Be sure to click on the RSS feed so you'll know when I do new posts. Here's the new address

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Day in a Computer Frenzy in Phoenix

Yesterday I drove to Phoenix to meet with Patricia Sahertian, artist and friend, who also happens to do web design work. I'd been thinking for some time about creating a cohesive look for my blog and website galleries. The idea of having it all in one place, easily accessible and all my own really appealed to me. A month or so ago, Pat and I started working together to come up with a design. As it turns out, the whole thing is way more complicated that I had imagined even though I should know, having seen Jim at work on our newly designed US Route 89 blog.

Pat's patience with me is amazing. She really deserves a medal. We worked real hard all day and made lots of progress. There's still some stuff for her to fix (coding, a total mystery to me) and lots for me to rewrite, plus images for me to upload into my galleries. The whole process has been hard to me to grasp, but now I'm able to envision the end product, and I'm excited.

The two hour drive home was spectacular. The desert was gleaming, the air was crystal clear, and there was a beautiful sunset. A nice reward for a long day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Book About Death–Memento

I just sent my postcard submission to ABAD–Memento. In a previous blog post I mentioned this exhibit, which is being organized by Patricia Sahertian in Phoenix. For information on how to get involved, and/or to see the postcards Patricia has received so far, you can look here.

My submission is an original intaglio print I created a few years ago, showing my Dad sitting beside my Mom right before her death. The other side is a poem I love by Lucie Brock-Broido. I typed out the poem on the typewriter that was a Christmas gift from my son Jeremiah and Corinne. It took me a few tries, while my fingers adjusted to using the right amount of pressure on this old-fashioned typewriter, but once I did, it felt great. And I love the way the text looks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Springtime in Oracle Arizona

Planting trees is an act of hope. Especially if they are very young trees. We planted four bare root fruit trees in January. They looked like no more than twigs. Shortly after planting them, Oracle experienced some of the coldest weather in its history. 12 degrees. Nothing compared to lots of places, but for some of the plants growing around here, it was way too much of a shock.

Consequently, I've been watching these four like a hawk. They're right outside my studio door. Finally, several weeks ago, I thought I could see some buds forming. Then there were actual green leaves and some tiny pink buds. It got so that I was going outside every few hours to check on their progress. At last several days ago, blossoms! It seems miraculous that these dead looking branches have burst into life.

Life is peaceful here in Oracle. I wish we could send some of this peace to other parts of the world.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How Old is an Old Painting and When Does It Die?

A funny thing happens in the art world. Really, really old paintings can be worth quite a lot of money. This is particularly true if the artist is no longer living. In fact, even not so old paintings become more valuable after the artist dies. It makes perfect sense from a market standpoint because there were a limited number of pieces of art produced by the artist within his/her lifetime. And as that limited number gets sold, there are even less available making the remaining work even more valuable.

On the other hand, a living artist just works away and who knows how much work will be made in his/her lifetime. Strangely, art by a living artist that is more than a few years old is considered old work, at least by the art world. And old work isn't as desirable. Artists who enter shows almost always encounter the rule that the work can't be more than two or three years old. Those older (more than three years old) unsold pieces tend to hang around in storage because they just aren't shown anymore. There they sit. They are probably perfectly good, maybe very good, maybe excellent. But they're "old".

Reed Calligraphy I (circa 2008)

A while back, I was ruminating on the "older" paintings hanging out on my painting rack. And I got to thinking. One painting in particular, Reed Calligraphy I, had a fairly successful life. It was in several shows, but alas, no one opted to make it their very own. The fact is, there was something about it that had always bugged me. So I thought, well, why not see if I could make some changes to it just to see what might happen. So off the rack it came, and I began my attack.

Reed Calligraphy I (2011)

As you can see, I made significant changes. So I added the recent date to the painting. I think that should make it eligible as a new painting. Anyway, I'm satisfied with the changes I made. What do you think?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Scarcity of Snow Shovels

View out the bedroom window this morning (my studio is beyond the table)

It snows in Oracle every year, or so I'm told. And as nearly two-year residents of Oracle, it has indeed snowed each winter. The thing is, it snows, it goes away, and it's hard to believe it's ever going to happen again. Today, we woke up to snow. It's really quite pretty, and I'm not complaining (too much),after all, this is nothing compared to what the people on the East coast and in the Midwest have had to deal with.

View out the window in our TV room

One thing, though. I bet they all have snow shovels galore. And even those neat little snow plows. Granted, we should have investigated the issue of the snow shovel before this latest snow event. Neither one of us did. So Jim got on the phone this morning. We discovered that obtaining a snow shovel in this part of the world is quite an elusive endeavor. Jim started with the logical place, our local hardware store. Alas, they had some kind of big shovel for the removal of horse manure, but no snow shovel. On to the hardware store in Catalina (about 10 miles down the hill from us). Nope, no snow shovels there either. Ever persistent, Jim tried the closest Home Depot, located close to Tucson. He was told that they never ever carry snow shovels.

A vast expanse of driveway, and this is only part of it

I suppose we could drive up to Flagstaff (about 4 hours away) and be certain to be able to buy as many varieties of snow shovels as exist in the world. Or, perhaps the most logical thing would be to order one online. Of course, by the time we get it, the snow will be long gone. But at least then we'll have it for the inevitable next time.

Meanwhile, a warning to visitors: watch your step. We'll be having lots of snow and ice on the driveway for the next few days!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Studio PS and A Book About Death

Patricia Sahartian is a Phoenix based artist with a lot going on. In addition to creating wonderful hand-constructed books, creative collages, and films, Patricia has a knack for getting involved in interesting projects. Her most recent book, now on it's way to a show in Italy, can be seen here. Be sure to watch the short video; it's great to get to see each page and listening to the music puts you right in the mood. What a creative way to exhibit a book online! More information about the contents of the book and the research that went into it can be seen here.

Currently, in addition to her own work, she is hosting a show called A Book About Death. This is a postcard show that anyone can get involved in. The idea originated in New York City at the Emily Harvey Foundation in 2009 and a series of postcard shows have been produced all over the world since then. Patricia has created a blog with information on how to participate. She's also posting images of the work as it's received. The Willo North Gallery in Central Phoenix will be the place in which the work will be shown, May 23-28, 2011.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Stack of Figure Drawings and Aching Feet

My Saturday afternoons have been reserved for figure drawing sessions with a group of artists in Oracle. A lot of hard work, aching feet, and a pile of figure drawings are the result. And what is the point, you might ask?

Well, I view this as an exercise in training my eye, brain and hand to cooperate. It's really the process that's important to me, more than the actual product. When I do figure drawings, I stand at my easel and work with my whole body engaged in capturing the movement in the model's pose.

The process works best when I'm not worrying about the outcome. When I get back to my studio, I look at the results of the three hours of drawing. Above are a couple of examples of gesture drawings from last Saturday's efforts. Below are several examples of drawings from longer poses. 15 minutes each, I think. All the drawings from this session were done in compressed charcoal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Figure Drawing: A Nude Human is in Front of Me...What Next?

A 30 second gesture drawing using a graphite stick

A one minute gesture drawing using conte crayon

Another one minute drawing, using compressed charcoal

As I mentioned in my last post, I started figure drawing years ago. After taking a series of classes in art school, I've continued the practice intermittently over the years. It's a great way to challenge yourself. The human figure is infinitely complex.

Having a good model helps the process. Good models are people who have graceful and fluid motion and conversely, are able to hold a pose without moving. Try it sometime. Find a position and try not to move an iota for a whole minute. You may find it feels like a lifetime. Then imagine sitting/standing/laying in the same pose for 20 or 30 minutes. Just thinking about it makes me start to itch.

Warming up is usually the first step for the artist in any figure drawing session, starting with gesture drawings. A good model is able to make a fluid gesture and hold it for anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes and then change to a new pose without pausing between. It's a bit like a cross between dancing and that old statue game, where you freeze in mid-motion. The idea is to draw quickly and capture the sense of movement. Gesture drawing is also used to loosen up (kind of like stretching before going for a long run). It's hard to worry about how the drawing is coming out when you're basically scribbling like crazy on your paper. And that helps, too, because the minute you get self conscious about what you're drawing, you tighten up and can no longer capture the gesture.

I like to use a variety of media during this process because I'm never sure what's going to work for me at any given time (if anything does). Yes, there are days when nothing works well. That can be frustrating to say the least, but it's like anything else. There are good days and bad days. Just as with everything else in life...

P.S. A reader sent me a link to his website, which lists various figure drawing venues all over the country. Here 'tis– Thanks, Andrew, for the great tip.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Figure Drawing? One Time and I Was Hooked

The ongoing or sometimes occasional foray into figure drawing is something many artists do. Surrounded by myth and mystery, I daresay the ordinary (that is non-artist) person on the street would find the practice of drawing live, unclothed human figures unsettling, to say the least. And I'm sure that to the uninitiated it would be.

My first encounter with figure drawing happened oh lo those many years ago, during my first studio art class at U.C. Santa Barbara. Although prepared for what was happening, it was still something of a shock to set up my easel and have a male model drop his robe. I think this was a first for just about everyone in the class.

After a few instructions from the teacher, we all started drawing. First, are the gesture drawings. They can be anything from 10 second to one minute drawings wherein the artist strives to capture a sense of movement in the figure. It's hard work to look and draw that fast. Next comes longer, 2 or 3 minute poses. After that, a series of longer, 5 or 10 minute poses. Within a few minutes, I was totally absorbed in drawing. The next thing I knew, the three hour studio class was over. I was hooked. And totally exhausted.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Amos Lee at the Rialto Theater in Tucson

The crowd lining up at the Rialto Theater in downtown Tucson.

Amos Lee surrounded by the band.

Vusi Mahlesela (in the light colored shirt) with Amos Lee on his right side, singing together.

Jim and I had an afternoon and evening on the town last Sunday. We don't go to concerts often, so this was something I'd been looking forward to.

In order to make the trip into Tucson multipurpose, we decided to stop by Tohono Chul Park to see a couple of art exhibits. Of particular interest was the Family Ties exhibit, which runs through April 3. It was interesting to see the way in which the relationships between husband and wife, father and son, etc. influenced each person's work. A number of the artists in the show live in Oracle.

From there, to the Tucson Museum of Art, where we planned to see the Lewis and Clark exhibit. It helps to check the calendar. The show was gone and most of the museum was closed for new installations. Since we're members, we went in anyway and spent a little time roaming around. Sure is a lot of neat stuff in the gift shop. Way too many temptations.

Hunger struck, and we proceeded to El Charro, the oldest continuously family run Mexican food establishment in the country. The food is really good and the atmosphere is great. Always a treat.

We decided to cruise by the Rialto Theater to check out the scene before going to get a bit of dessert. Lo and behold, there was already a line at 6:30 (show scheduled to open at 8 pm). So we cashed in the idea of dessert (probably not a bad thing anyway), found parking, got our tickets and got in line. Fun people watching. I dare say we were among, if not, the oldest people in line.
The doors opened at 7 pm and in we went. As I said, we don't go to concerts very often. Things change. I have no idea if this is standard or not, but the theater was set up with a handful of chairs in the back and lots of open (standing room) space in the front. Since we'd toughed out the wait, we got seats. Not that most people seemed to want to sit. Lots of toing and frowing of the audience, moving about, jockeying for position, all in a most friendly way.

At last the concert started with the opening act, a man from Africa, Vusi Mahlesela, with a great voice and interesting things to say about his part in the political scene in South Africa.

Then Amos Lee came on stage. I was enthralled. We really do miss out when we don't see live performances. It's good to be reminded of this. Kind of like looking at art on the internet versus looking in person. So much is lost in the translation. Anyway, it was a wonderful experience. I felt like I was transported to another place. Of course, I couldn't leave without buying his latest album. I proceeded to give myself a concert of all four of his albums yesterday while painting in my studio. I'm sure my work was brilliant as a result.

So you see, Tucson is a great place to live near. A short drive from sleepy Oracle gets us to a vibrant city with plenty of interesting cultural opportunities. All located on US Route 89!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Visit to the Studio of Phoenix Artist, Carole Hanks

Carole with Week #52

Artists for the most part aren't the frivolous lot the media makes them out to be. Part of the purpose of this blog is to give my readers a chance for an inside view of art in the making. And art in the making is so much more than just making art. It's making the time to do it, having the training, putting in the years of practice, making connections with other artists, galleries, maintaining relationships with collectors, marketing online and off, keeping up a mailing list, entering shows. Not to mention needing to make a living.

My friend, Carole Hanks has been working on a project for the past year. She completed 52 weeks of "comics", gorgeous line drawings which were published every Monday for the entire year, 2010. In order to do this, she gave up travel (including visits to yours truly), and most social engagements to stay on her grueling self-imposed schedule. True to her word, she managed to publish one large piece of this series each and every Monday, come rain or shine, in good health and bad. The results are magnificent.

A not so clear shot of three of her pieces hanging in her Phoenix studio. Click on "comics" above to get a clear look at the work and find out what it's all about.

Her next step is to figure out her next step. She already has a show lined up for this June/July, at the Willo North Gallery in Phoenix. And she's getting ready to start her next big year-long commitment. She gave me a few hints, and it sounds just as exciting and demanding as the previous year-long project. You can check out more of her work at her website. And be sure to check back on her blog in late February, for the new series.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gone Missing, Back Now

Snapshot Reflection II Acrylic on panel 12" x 12"

Calligraphy on Peña Blanca Lake Acrylic on panel 12" x 12"

Palisades Panoramic Acrylic on panel 6" x 24"

Early Morning on the Dock Acrylic on panel 16" x 16"

Morning Dawning Acrylic on panel 12" x 12"

Hard to believe (for me) that it's been well over a month since my last blog post. Been doing a lot of painting. Plus the holidays and other stuff. Above are a selection of completed paintings from the series of reflection paintings I've been working on. There are more. Plus three I'm currently working on and three panels awaiting my brush.

My classes at Tohono O'odham Community College start in a few days. Plus I'm committed to applying for a show opportunity, due on January 14. This application is for a joint show with my husband, James Cowlin. The proposal is for a two person exhibit relating to our US Route 89 project. All of the reflection paintings are located at sites along US Route 89. I also need to get with the program and apply for a residency or two (another part of being a professional artist that I've neglected to pursue).

I need to get back into my routine. It's always a balancing act to do the blogging, grant and show applications, marketing my work, work on the 89 project, teach my classes and make time for painting. Artists talk a lot about the dilemma of trying to do it all. Other (non-artists) tend to be envious of the so-called laid back life style of artists. Interesting how the public perception differs from reality.