Tuesday, April 28, 2009

. . . pictured the garden

Since many artists are also gardeners, I thought I would show you some early bloomers and other things in my garden that are interesting to me. The tree peony above is special because it blooms first, and I'm crazy about the color when the blooms are fully opened.

I planted this baby fothergilla shrub last year and it didn't do anything, but this year the blossoms just crack me up. I hope it will continue to grow and bloom profusely in the future.

This is a Missouri primrose (I think, correct me if I'm wrong.) This thing has the potential of being a weed. Its seeds sprout all over the place, but they are so cute and cheery that I don't care. I transplant some of the babies and give some away. It sits next to a Lenten rose that does the same thing.

I supposed this is special only to me. It is a hemlock, which doesn't grow well in this area, apparently because it gets too hot. When my daughter was going to school in South Bend, Indiana, the campus had so many of these beautiful trees, and I have tried to grow them since I saw them there. This is the first one that has survived and prospered, so far for about five years

I can't even guess how many dogwood trees have given up their lives to my ineptitude, but this one, so far, has bloomed every year. It puzzles me that I have such bad luck in growing these beautiful trees, because it's the state tree of Missouri, and if you drive around in certain sections of KC, you will be dumbstruck by the blooming dogwoods. I have three Kousa dogwoods that may or may not bloom a creamy white, but this one is the one I love best. It's beside a redbud, in front of a massive pine tree, and the combo is stunning, if I do say so myself.
Yesterday before Joey came to spend the afternoon, I went out in the mud and dug weeds out of one last patch of garden. Then Joe and I went to the nursery and the hardware store to get grass seed, weed killer, potting soil and lawn trash bags. Joe got a baby rake and some tiny gardening "glubs" so he could help Nana in the garden. We took "chicken dance Elmo" with us and one apparently sight-impaired gentleman asked Joey if he was going to help me, his mommy, in the yard. We bought whatever that guy was selling.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

. . . neglected this blog

recently, as well as art. There's a good reason for it, though. My real estate agent told me that the main selling points for my home were the back yard, garden, deck, back porch, patios; and the kitchen. So I have been spending most of my time cleaning up the outdoors. I have always taken care of the gardens, but I never had much responsibility for the yard. Yesterday I spent ALL DAY raking, mowing bagging, break up limbs and packing them up for disposal, mulching, and generally making things begin to sparkle outside. Little Joey came to help for a few hours that just flew by. . . he ran around and rode his trike and played with the neighbor kids. I'm not quite done yet: I still have to paint some wooden rocking chairs and a side table that are staples on the deck; plant some annuals in a few large pots for the deck and patio; put out a couple of hanging baskets, and just generally keep up with the maintenance on the yard. It was gratifying to get into a hot shower last night. . . it was one of those showers where you can actually see DIRT coming off your body. Next comes the indoors, making the kitchen sparkle, too, but with the weather being so nice, it's hard to stay inside. My first tree peony blossomed yesterday. . . a beautiful ruffly double pink one. . . and new things are blooming and growing all the time.

The picture above is part of a new painting I'm working on. It's hard for me to paint right now, which is another reason I'm not blogging much. . . I don't have a lot to offer an I don't want to bitch about it. I'm trying to work through whatever it is that is blocking me, so I just paint whatever. . . just putting paint on canvas, seeing what happens, hoping something good comes out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

. . . played with paint

Here is a 30 x 30" painting I just finished yesterday. I continued in my quest for color, color, color. I think I achieved that goal in this painting. Pay no attention to any area that appears whitish. . . that's glare.

So, after completing the first painting, and before cleaning up the brushes, and kind of inspired by if not completely following suggestions in Painting Abstracts books, I dripped and splashed the leftover paint on a piece of canvas, threw on some rock salt while it was still very wet, and covered it with plastic wrap. I left it till dry, and this is the result.

And this is just a cropped portion of the second picture. I am completely delighted by this little experiment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

. . . were almost finished

cleaning up the garden plots. I have one more spot to rake out and then I have to chomped up the leaves and spread the resulting compost around. I found a bunch of big fat juicy worms hanging around, which is always a good thing. A toad that I thought was a rock scared the crap out of me the other day. It's weird when a rock moves in your hand, isn't it? The toad hopped off into the base of an evergreen bush just as the neighbor's cat discovered it. The cat seemed to be a bit confused that a rock would hop, too. I started digging up a whole patch of garden phlox that had taken over a large part of the garden. It's pretty when it blooms, but the deer eat it and it has invaded and taken over the surrounding plantings, so it's got to go. The roots go deep and it's hard work. The bigger hunks I will replant out in the green belt between the house and the golf course. The phlox can naturalize and grow as wild as it wants out there. One of the bits of nature that fascinates me is how weeds and other seeds snuggle right down next to and among the shoots and roots of "good" plants, so that you have to dig up the plant to get rid of the weed. Natural self-preservation. . . you gotta love the tenacity of those weeds.

In between bouts outside, I finished the painting above and I have started another one. I'm going for color, color, color. I want it to stand out on the wall. I want it to be happy. This picture is crooked, but the painting isn't. The inner critic is screaming at me. . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

. . . tried new things

This is one of the paintings that was in the art auction a couple of weeks ago. I took the picture hurriedly and just for documentation purposes so I have had to crop it in order to show it on this blog.

Friday I did a couple of things that I have not done before, and for which I am inordinately proud of myself: (a) I mowed part of the lawn and (b) I stretched a painting. Yeah, I know, no big deal for most people. But I did them and now I know I can. Please don't hate me because I'm such a wimp.

In cleaning out my flower beds, I had raked leaves and garden detritus onto the lawn in piles. I knew it was going to rain and I didn't want to leave the stuff there to kill the grass, so I got out the lawnmower and ran it over the leaves, twice, chopping them up into tiny little pieces and catching them in the bagger attachment, then dumped the stuff back onto the flower beds for mulch and composting. Ecologically correct, as well as economical and easier than raking. It wasn't that I had ever had an objection to mowing, it's just that my husband enjoyed doing yardwork and was very picky about mowing, so I just never had to do it. I can't say it was fun, but it is empowering to know I can do it. Except I couldn't get it started toward the end, and it may be out of gas.

The other thing I did was to stretch a painted canvas. I paint flat on a table, as you may know if you've read this blog for a while. Walter, my art guy, wants them flat for easier transportation and/or shipping. But a gallery on the Plaza wanted to display a piece, and to do that, it had to be stretched. So I bought the stretcher bars, assembled the thing, and put the painting on it. It worked out beautifully. And it can be easily unstretched if needed. So, on my way home from delivering the piece (which I forgot to take a picture of), I stopped and bought four more little stretcher bars and stretched one of the small paintings I have, and it worked out pretty well, too. Again, I'd rather paint than stretch, but I feel like whole new opportunities are now available.

Friday, April 17, 2009

. . . worked toward expertise?

Remember the book The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? Where he claimed it took 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient at your craft? Well, I've been working on those 10,000 hours this week. I have finished a painting, which I may post here one day. I have been looking at art created by other people, including Charlotte Foust, who painted the above picture;

and Karen LaBorde, who painted the picture above. I am intrigued by LaBorde's "Waterworks" series pictured here.

I have also read three books about art: Ann Baldwin's Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists. Painting Abstracts; Ideas, Projects and Techniques, by Rolina van Vliet, and Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, by Danielle Ganek.

I'm a long-time fan of Ann Baldwin, and have haunted her website for years. The subtitle of her book is "Experimental Techniques for Composition, Layering, Texture, Imagery and Encaustic." The book is full of Ann's artwork, and I will continue to read and study it. I've already looked at all the pictures.

I was not familiar with Rolina van Vliet, but her book got good ratings on Amazon, so I purchased it, and I'm glad I did. She encourages experimentation and presents 65 exercises that start with the words "Playing with..." I will do those many of those exercises.

Lulu is fiction, and a quote from the back of the books capsulizes the plot "As The Devil Wears Prada demystified the world of high fashion, this funny and insightful debut novel dishes the crazy and captivating Manhattan art scene." And further, "[A] glossy, amusing story that still finds time to wonder. . . how, why and whether the art world differentiates between trash and treasure" from The New York Times. Quick mindless reading, but sometimes that what you want, right? I am sooooo glad I don't have to deal with the NY art scene.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

. . . won the lottery?

Unfortunately, I have won it yet. . . in fact, haven't been bought a ticket. BUT, if I had won the lottery, here are two artists whose paintings I would buy immediately (among many others). The first painting is by Paula Landrem; the second is by Jamie Tate. Please click on the links to enjoy their other works.

Monday, April 13, 2009

. . . revisited last April

Since I still have nothing to show for my art work (because I haven't done any of it), I thought I would see what I was doing a year ago. Here is one of my April 2008 paintings. I'll do a retrospective here. . . all the new readers won't have to search througha year of blogs and all the old readers will have forgotten what I posted a year ago. This painting is long gone. . . I hope it's living with someone who likes it as much as I did.

Easter at my sister's house in Topeka. She has a beautiful home that sits on a wooded lot high up overlooking a creek. Since it was raining, the creek was moving fast, and the sound of water was peaceful. Her house is very contemporary and she has lots of wall space for art, including several of my pieces. I hope she doesn't just put mine on the wall when she knows I'm coming over to her house. The youngest of all my nieces and nephews, Chris, a high school freshman, has developed quite an interest in woodworking and using his late grandfather's tools. He and I talked about some collaborations. . . he will make the wooden objects, I will paint them. I told him to just play with scrap wood and be imaginative. I'm looking forward to seeing what he creates.

I had a call Saturday from a gallery on the Plaza asking if I had some pieces to display. All I have around the house is small art. They want my piece in one of their front windows. I want it to be one of my best, a big one, eyecatching and lively. And of course they want it tomorrow. What to do?

On the personal side, I am taking a very big step forward, I hope, today. . . I'm taking the step no matter what, I am hoping it's a step forward. I think stressing about my personal life is getting in the way of creating art, so maybe once I clear a couple of hurdles and come to terms with where I'm going, I'll be able to be productive again. And maybe I can make April 2009 as productive as April 2008.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

. . . lost my way?

How can I not be inspired when I look at a picture like this that I took last summer? Line, color, texture. . . what more could I need? Beats me. Yesterday I spent the rainy early part of the day applying paint and more paint to the piece I have started. In the end, after a couple of hours, it was right back to where it had started. . . I scraped everything off. What a waste of time and paint. Or call it learning what not to do. I spent the sunny second half of the day looking for some out-of-print books at the secondhand book store, with no luck. Spring must be here. . . last night my neighbor and I had our first gab session on the porch out back, although we wrapped ourselves up in quilts and blankets to keep warm and we only lasted about an hour. Part of today will be filled with yard work; I don't think I can put it off any longer. And I'll try again on the painting. . . perhaps while I'm doing mindless yardwork, a thought will float into my head on how to finish it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

. . . started a painting

yesterday and worked on it pretty much most of the day, between pruning rose bushes and hauling fallen branches outside. I decided last night, right before I went to sleep, that I was stressing way too much over my painting. . . I just needed to paint, period. No fancy new techniques, just put paint on the canvas, like normal. If it was all geometric, that's okay. If it's not free and easy and spontaneous, that's okay. It's all about color, texture, and shape. And every painting doesn't need every single trick I can pull out of my hat. I have to forget about what was at the art auction, what I have seen in videos, what I have been reading about. If some of those things make it into my way of painting, fine, but otherwise, just do what I do. It's been okay so far.

Okay, so now that I have given myself a little pep talk, you can see that I am still out of any art to show you that I have created. However, I still have a bunch of pictures I have taken of the stuff in the artist cabinet. I love the bright colors in the first and last pictures. I actually love the jacket on the lady in the third picture. And the hats.

Someone well-versed in the history of fashion could really interpret these Vogue paintings (reproductions, I'm sure). For instance, is the hair bobbed? The skirt length in the third picture is ankle-baring. . . is that because of the lack of fabric in the war years, or is it more a statement of the freedom of women, the suffrage movement, etc. I am fascinated by any history involving women, because there just isn't much of it. Also interesting would be the perspective of an art historian regarding the style and manner of the paintings, something I know absolutely nothing about.

These pictures are on glossy paper, probably 8 x 10". There are more of them, but here I picked out the most colorful. I just don't know what to do with them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

. . . did nothing artistic

yesterday. I did clean up the basement/studio a bit and the paint table is ready to rock and roll. It's almost too clean. I hate to mess it up. Still waiting for that irresistible urge to create to hit me again. It will. Not to worry (talking to myself here.) I did try to figure out how to mat and frame some small piece of my art to give to my sister as a hostess gift for having Easter at her house this year. And I went out to the garden to see if there was any damage from the hard freeze the last few nights. The only thing that I could see immediately was that some of the redbud blooms looked fried. Soon I will go out and clean up the detritus from the winter, but I'm glad I haven't done it yet, because I think the leaves and stuff kept some of the shoots from taking a hit with the freeze.

Here are a couple of reproduction posters that I have, that I will probably never use. They came out of the artist's cabinet that I purchased years ago. Do you think the original of these posters were considered porn when they were issued?

No doubt they were at least titillating, don't you think, at the turn of the 20th Century.

This lady appears to have an artistic bent. I guess painting in the nude would certainly save your clothing from becoming paint spattered. These poster/reproductions are probably only about 10 x 12 or so. I was going to list them and a bunch of other paper stuff on etsy, but honestly, it became a project involving too much time for too little return. Okay, so just call me lazy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

. . . spent excessive time

trying to save a couple of small paintings that probably should just have been scrapped in the first place. I don't know what got into me. . .I kept working them over and over. Now I have officiallly given up, put them away. Yesterday I spent some time cleaning up the mess in the studio that comes with a burst of activity and creativity. That burst has dissipated. . . I don't know where I'm going next. I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the next burst. . . kind of like little kids who exhibit sleeplessness or excess crankiness right before they go through a growth spurt. That's me, waiting for the growth spurt. I have been reading a lot, finished two books in two days. I have been sleeping a lot, too. And I have been reading and watching art technique books and DVDs. And I feel like I have lost a bit of my own "style" of painting in trying to emulate some of the things I have seen in those books and on those DVDs. So I will continue to clean up the mess downstairs today, examine my paintings to see what I like and what I don't like about them, and try to find myself back to making my own art.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

. . . went, studied, learned

So I went to the art auction last evening. I went pretty early, and initially there were not many people there. I had an opportunity to study closely at all the art on display, everything from oils, acrylics, mixed media, collage, sculpture, photography, clothing, furniture, even some pretty famous artists (of course, I forget the names, but I do remember them as recognizable.) It was illuminating to see my art displayed amongst all the other pieces available. I had eleven pieces displayed, including one I had forgotten about. I had to look twice to make sure it really was mine. And even though I signed up to bid, the prices were completely beyond my buying capacity (but then, almost anything would fit in that category.)

I was standing over in the corner looking at some of my small pieces, all of which I have posted on this blog. A man came up and told the woman with him that he wanted to bid on two of my small pieces that would be perfect in their newly refurbished den. In fact, he wanted to paint the den one of the colors in the paintings. So far, so good.

As I was leaving, the place became more crowded, the music started, the food came out, and things were really getting busy. The silent auction ended at 7:59, but I left before that so I don't know if the gentleman bought my pieces or not, or if I sold anything else. Todd, the guy in charge, told me as I was leaving that he wanted to discuss some other opportunities for me to show my work in other venues. That's a good thing.

Here are some things I learned: In a venue like this, to be noticed, bigger is better. Brighter is better. Red shows up on the walls better. Odd is still odd, but can be eye-catching. Lots of people don't understand lots of art. People do buy art to match their decor. Furniture can definitely be art. Art is expensive. People are still buying art, and are willing to pay $10 for an opportunity to bid on it. Even though I try to keep an open mind, there are some forms of art that I do not appreciate. I saw some pieces that I thought were poorly executed, kind of sloppy, really, but perhaps that was supposed to be part of the art itself.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

. . .had nothing, nada

to show for my work yesterday. I should have gone shopping, but instead I hung around experimenting, and it's one of the few times that all my experiments went awry and I made a lot of pink and pale purple mud. I also tried an inkjet gel transfer onto a heavily textured foamcore piece I had laying around, which might have worked if I had left it alone long enough, but oh, no, I had to peek at it and ruined it. So I'm posting this photograph from almost a year ago because I hate to post without some kind of picture.

Tonight I am definitely going outside my comfort zone. I am going to wander down to the Art*Bidz Auction in which I have a few pieces to see what's going on. AND I'm going by myself. Now this is a big deal for me. I generally don't go out by myself after dark (I know, what a wuss) and this auction is not in the relatively safe suburbs, either; but I have to start sometime and this is as good a time as any, right? Plus I don't know anyone who will be there. . . and what if no one likes my pieces? I also don't know what to wear to this kind of event, but I'm going for comfort, because I will be uncomfortable enough without having to worry about my clothes.

So, having revealed all my insecurities, I will leave you all to have a wonderful weekend. Please send up a message to the art gods tonight at about 5:00 p.m. CDT asking them to watch over me.

Friday, April 3, 2009

. . . did retail therapy

today? For a Christmas gift, I received a gift card to Nordstroms. I saw it, I saw Betsy playing with it, I took away from her for safekeeping, and I forgot where I put it. I remember searching through all the trash, gift wrappings, boxes and bags, with no luck. Then the other day I put on a pair of jeans, checked the pocket, and there is was. That means I only wear jeans about once every three months, I guess. Now I have to decide. . . do I use it now or save it? I don't need anything right now, especially not from Nordstroms. I kind of wish it was a gift card to the grocery store. But maybe shopping would give me a boost. Maybe I could just go and look, and if something caught my eye, something that I couldn't live without, I would at least have the option. . .Yeah, it's truly burning a hole in my pocket, almost literally.

Here are a couple more small paintings on canvas, 6 x 9". Honestly, they're all starting to look alike to me. Must find something new and different to keep my interest engaged. Just another symptom of my art ADD. The sun is shining so brightly on my computer screen that I can't really tell whether the color is true on these paintings or not.

Here are

Thursday, April 2, 2009

. . . kept painting small

Here are a couple of new experimental paintings that I continued to make using up odd bits of canvas. I have just a few more pieces left and then I will have to break down, buy a new roll of canvas, and try to translate what I'm learning on these small canvases to the big canvases. But I'm becoming convinced that small paintings are the way to go these days. More affordable art, possibility of sales to new clients, plus I like making them. I used some of my new mark-making tools in these paintings, probably most noticeable in the bottom one where you can see the diamond-shaped texture from the gutter guard stuff and the round PVC thing with the lines in the opening. These are 6 x 9" and I scanned them, and usually on scans I get a pretty good likeness. But in person, these paintings are much more moody, sort of darker, brooding. Not as much red. . .oh, I don't know, they're just better in person, trust me.

Onto another topic: Do you work to live or live to work? I read an article in the newspaper this morning that surprised me: about 2/3 of the people questioned in a recent poll said they lived to work. I hope those who live to work really enjoy what they do for a living. I know people who live to work but have forgotten how to enjoy anything, including their work. And this brings up another question: do you identify yourself by what you do or who you are? Or is it the same thing? I read in another place recently that in the United States, most often when you meet a new person, you want to know "what they do" but apparently in parts of Europe it is considered impolite to ask that question. Here's another quote from another source: "For a long time, whenever people asked her about what she did for a living, she always said, 'Artist,' though that implied that she was compensated on a regular basis, which wasn't true. . .In recent years she'd say, "I used to be an artist. . ." (From The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer.) I don't have a logical conclusion to this, just random stream-of-consciousness ramblings that are somehow connected.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

. . . watched painting DVD

I was lucky enough to be able to purchase "Acrylic Abstract Painting: The Evolving Image," by Virginia Cobb. For about an hour and a half I was fascinated by watching Cobb paint three abstract images using acrylic paints. Each painting started from a different design element: line, shape and texture. Each painting was presented in three stages, from the initial random paint applications, through the fine-tuning of the design elements, to the final addition and perfection of the details. I loved watching what tools she employed to make her marks and spread her paint. I found myself trying to anticipate where she would make her adjustments, and being pretty pleased with myself when I guessed correctly. She used a lot more water with her paints than I usually use, maybe because she's primarily a watercolor artist. That's something I want to try, too. The best advice I took from the DVD was to walk away from the painting and think about it when you get to the point that you don't know exactly what you want to do next. Seems obvious, I guess, but I tend to plunge ahead and usually end up having to redo something or I make a mess of it.

I purchased this DVD from Creative Catalyst Productions, Inc. This company is now offering online "rental" of these DVDs for short periods of time, which I think is a fabulous economical idea.