Metamorphosis at the Kress Gallery, Spokane: OPENS TONIGHT!

[singlepic id=297 w=320 h=320 float=left] Opening Reception Friday, May 7, 5 - 8 p.m.

The Kress Gallery, Riverpark Square, Spokane, Washington Music by Haywire (Don Thomsen and Dan Black) Catered by Twigs

I'm putting the last touches on paintings for Metamorphosis, my show at the Kress Gallery in downtown Spokane. I've been painting for this show for so long, I can hardly believe it's almost here! Metamorphosis is my first time to exhibit oil paintings exclusively, and it will feature some of my most ambitious work to date. I'm so excited to see it go up. I've even hired a swing duo, Haywire, featuring Don Thomsen and Dan Black, to play at the reception. I hope to see you there!

Metamorphosis (works in oil) runs May 7 through July 18, 2010

And Olivia Makes Fifty

[singlepic id=187 w=320 h=460 float=left] Umm... ta-daa? It's weird but I'm not sure how to feel right now. I'm done. I made fifty oil paintings. It took all week to make this one, Olivia, a painting that wanted to fight me at every step.  I thought such a stubborn painting deserved a real person's name. Happily our love/hate relationship ended on a love note. Otherwise I'd be starting number fifty-one next week.

Paul thinks it was all psychological, that I had a block on finishing number fifty. It's probably true. I'm happy to have reached the goal, but right now I'm feeling kind of a letdown. I wish I hadn't finished midday on a Friday, but maybe on a Wednesday so I would have had time to dive into my next project. Now I have to wait until Monday to get my hands dirty again.

All whining aside, next week should be exciting. Not only do I get to change perspective a bit and start making new pastels for Bellevue and Sun Valley and whatever other shows will be on the schedule, I get to play with some gorgeous new Terry Ludwig pastels I bought on my way home from Bellingham a few weeks ago. Terry introduced himself and hung out in my booth for a while at Cherry Creek last year, and he was a lot of fun to talk with. I had tried his pastels, but so far only owned a handful. So when I stopped at Dakota Art Pastels, the great pastel candy store in Mt. Vernon, Washington, I went straight to the counter for some of Terry's buttery-rich colors.

I asked for a set of intense darks, but they brought out two sets... one intense darks and one new set of Maggie Price Essential Grays. I opened the lid of the gray set and after a barely-subdued "SQUEEEE!" I left with both. (After paying for them, of course, and feeling a bit sorry for the three resident dogs whose hearing may have suffered permanent damage.)

So, there you have it. Next week get ready to see some new pastels, and more on the show schedule over the next month too. Onward!

Forty-Nine...

[singlepic id=185 w=320 h=460 float=left] I told you I'd do it! And, here it is. The oil version of Nirvana, my big, bright, hopeful, next-to-last painting in my group of fifty. Nirvana is all about transformation, and with this painting that seems to work for a few different reasons.

For one, I suppose it marks the near-completion of my transformation into a multiple-media painter. Maybe more importantly, it also convinced me to become a painter that takes the time to tone canvases before painting. I've done that exactly one time before this, adding a sepia wash to a canvas that I was to paint with one of my Zen Garden images. That time I applied the wash right before I wanted to start painting, then became frustrated that it took so long to dry.

This time, I toned the canvas with a grey-purple color right before leaving for the coast. Four days later when I started to paint, it was dry, and I was a very happy art chick. What a difference! Not so much in the final result, but in the speed with which I was able to get into the really interesting part of the painting. Without toning, underpainting used to take frustratingly long as I struggled to cover every millimeter of the bright-white gessoed canvas. I would find myself fighting with these white edges where areas of color met and I tried not to make mud between them. Toning completely eliminates the problem.

Also, I put off toning because I was afraid I would lose the ability to use the white background to create ultra-intense, transparent , glow-y colors. Meh. There's plenty of bright color in Nirvana. I needn't have worried.

So, wow! I get to enjoy the fruits of my "discovery" on exactly one more painting before turning around to work at the other easel. But hey. Better late than never.

Alchemy: What's in a Name

[singlepic id=169 w=320 h=460 float=left] Naming a painting can be one of the toughest parts of the entire creative process. It can also be one of the most fun. It's like a little reward, beyond the finished painting itself, for all of that hard work. I always name my paintings after they are completed. Sometimes I will start a painting with a title in mind, but I can't think of a single instance when the painting ended up with that title. I think if it did, it would be because I pretty much phoned the whole thing in. No matter how clear an idea I start out with, if I am paying attention, after a point the work will evolve on its own. And it will demand a fitting title.

Sometimes the title is obvious. It just pops into my head in final form, I write it down, done deal. But the most interesting adventures in naming often happen when only a partial title comes to mind. This oil (number 46 for anyone who's counting) is a good example. As I worked on it, the element that evolved beyond my original idea was the bronzey-gold, or the idea that the blue-green leaves were turning to bronze. It occurred to me that the blue-green bits resembled oxidized copper as well. As I finished the painting all I knew was that I wanted to incorporate the idea of bronze or gold into the title. 

I couldn't think of an interesting way to do that, so I headed to the thesaurus and dictionary to do some word association. But looking up bronze, I found nothing more than a pretty standard definition (boring) and some references to suntans (useless). With only one more place to look, it was Wikipedia to the rescue. After skimming over a very long entry, I found some history of Turkish bronzes, including the story of how an Armenian alchemist named Zildjian discovered the musical properties of bronze while attempting to turn base metals into gold. Turning base metals into gold... Alchemy! Perfect.

All poor Avedis Zildjian got out of his discovery was the largest cymbal-making company in the world. But I got a title for my painting. Ha!

Immersion

[singlepic id=168 w=320 h=460 float=left] California Dreamin' was the theme for the big preview party at the 2008 Sausalito Art Festival. After two solid months of snow on the ground, I am definitely dreaming of sunshine and art fairs. Walking up the hill from my booth in Sausalito last summer, we saw a tiny yard with these fantastic hydrangea bushes. I took as many photos of them as I thought would be useful, and those hydrangeas have become the basis for a small series including this, my forty-fifth oil, Immersion. I love doing these paintings, and plan to continue the series as I move to pastel. But I'm definitely going to need to get my own hydrangeas first! It turns out that I didn't shoot as much as I thought I did on the way up that hill, and as much as I alter my reference shots for painting, there is only so much I can do with eighteen photos.  

Just a reminder for anyone in the Spokane area: eye4art is this Saturday at Mead High School. I'll be there with a few new pastels and maybe some new oils as well. Find more information on this art show and sale here.

Ascension

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I'm so close. Forty-four oil paintings. While I feel some excitement about reaching my goal of fifty, there's a bit of a sense of melancholy to go with it. Really, I'm just getting into my groove. I finally feel comfortable painting in oils. I suppose that means I set a good goal for myself. And, it will be interesting to see how my oil work affects my pastel work. But I don't want to stop!

I'm especially happy with my latest piece, Ascension. It was one of those that could go either way at the planning stages, then becomes a pleasant surprise in final form. Some aspects of it were deliberate, such as the stormy gray-greens contrasting with red and orange. But the tasty deep-reddish purples sort of appeared unexpectedly at the end, after I had signed the piece, in fact. I walked away for a few hours then came back to find the painting begging for purple. Paintings are quirky creatures. They just do that sometimes.

Red Skies

[singlepic id=130 w=320 h=460 float=left]Actually the skies here are gray--the perfect conditions for photographing my forty-third oil, Red Skies. I named this photo for a little section over on the left side that reminds me of clouds at sunset. (For a detail shot, click here.) I'm often tempted to paint clouds. If there is one thing in nature that I am likely to stand goggling at for long periods of time, clouds are it. But so many people paint them already! So for now I'll stick to emulating them with something completely different.  Full disclosure: I'm not sure if I should count this as forty-three or not. I un-stretched an earlier painting and stretched new canvas on its frame to paint Red Skies. Mostly this was to save the time of getting a new frame made, and I can always re-stretch the earlier painting. But I confess it was not one of my favorites. I guess I'll just wait and see.

 

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Red Skies, detail

The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything

[singlepic id=265 w=460 h=460 float=] I'll hardly be offering any answers about that. But I did just finish number forty-two, which is both my current age and, according to the all-knowing computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the meaning of life, etc., etc. So reaching that number seems as if it must be significant.  And while the painting, Sunstream, offers no deep insights into life and the universe, it is a good insight on my own state of mind at this moment. Which is this: ENOUGH WINTER! Bring on the sun, and spring, and warmth.

Oh, hey, the sun just came out. I guess one out of three ain't bad. Onward.

Is Forty the New Thirty?

[singlepic id=128 w=460 h=230 float=] For my own sake, I hope so. But I'm afraid that may end up being the case for my oils project as well. 

Above is my fortieth painting, Ravelen. Another milestone! Ten left to reach my goal, I should be happy, right? But my forty is starting to feel like somewhat less, for  few different reasons.

First, one of my stipulations for my fifty oils is that they all be good enough to show. But one of the side effects of doing something so many times is that you get better at it. So now some of the paintings that were looking pretty good to me a few months ago are facing tougher standards. 

Combine that with some early exhibits and other juried events which tend to tie up inventory, and my body of work starts to feel a bit underweight. Not that I mind painting a few more! But I do need to get back to pastel someday. Fortunately, about the time I expect to finish the initial fifty, jury notifications should start to come in. Who knows, I may already have way more paintings than I need. There's a scary thought.

Oil vs. Pastel

[singlepic id=121 w=460 h=320 float=] Have I become an oil painting convert? Well, I don't know about that, but my latest painting became an interesting experiment for me. Early this week I had run out of canvases, so I did a pastel sketch between making some panels. The next day I began painting the same image, Springswept (above), in oil. Maybe it's just that I've been away from pastel for so long. Maybe it's because I chose to work so small (7" x 12") in pastel. But I found myself getting frustrated as I worked on the pastel study, not finding the right colors in my palette, not feeling as if I could get the effects I wanted, and feeling generally awkward. 

When I began the small pastel, I was fairly certain I would do a larger version later, but not certain which medium to use. After my trying pastel session, I switched to oil and found I had a much easier time. Now that I am finished, I really like both paintings. But I was especially happy with the way I captured the subtleties in oil. 

I'm sure that when I transition back to pastel, it will become second nature again, but I'm happy to be at this point. I think this is what I was trying to accomplish, after all.

See the pastel study here: [singlepic id=122 w=400 h=260 float=]

Painting of the Week - Autumnflight

[singlepic id=118 w=460 h=320 float=] Things have gotten off to  slow start this week between the holiday, the must-see inauguration, and a class I've been taking, so I've posted a painting I finished last week. Autumnflight was a fun piece to paint, another one that came together quickly. I especially enjoy working out glowing colored light effects through the frosty white backsides of the leaves. 

I'm hoping to do another painting in the next few days. I've got several new ideas but no canvases left, so I may do a pastel study as I make some new oil surfaces. As I start to think about going back to pastel, I realize that in future I may have a tough time choosing which medium to use for each new piece. I'm not much of one for making decisions. 

When I first started working in oils again, I did a pastel study for each painting, to help me learn to think in a new medium. A few months ago I stopped doing that and have gone straight to oil. But once I start working in pastel again I'm sure I won't be able to resist doing a few pastel images in oil as well.

On Being Fierce

[singlepic id=120 w=460 h=240 float=] This is my latest oil painting, a small piece titled Robin's Nest. Most of my paintings are done on canvases I make myself. I prefer my own surfaces because they allow oil paint to most closely mimic the working properties of pastel. I can use a fairly dry brush with the textured canvas to get similar effects to a totally dry medium. Robin's Nest, however, was painted on a purchased canvas.

My purchased canvases have far less texture than my homemade ones. The smooth surface covers much more quickly. This is nice, but  after blocking in the initial colors, I must work into very wet paint. At first this was quite intimidating. I tried to paint in the same style that I do with pastels and my other oils, but this did not go well. Clearly, I needed a completely different approach. I had to be bold, using quick, single strokes to keep the colors clean. Not a new idea by any means, but for me, counter-intuitive. As I stood in front of an early painting contemplating this, for some reason I thought of Christian, the then-recent winner of Project Runway. And in my head I heard him saying what he said about every two minutes on the show: BE FIERCE! Weirdly, this helped. I repeated it like a mantra as I painted, and quickly finished a very different painting--one I very much liked. I enjoyed this style of working so much that I have continued to buy a few small canvases, making these quicker, looser paintings as a change of pace between larger pieces. 

What's odd about this is that I have not had a similar experience working in pastel. After my initial switch from Canson to Sennelier LaCarte sanded paper several years ago, I have been unable to produce a single work I like on any other surface. Which is fine, so long as my preferred paper continues to be produced. But I'm hoping that my oil painting hiatus will somehow give me a new flexibility in pastels. I'll find out soon. Fourteen oils to go.

See more "fierce" little paintings here:

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Chinook

[singlepic id=117 w=320 h=460 float=left]I have, at long last, completed the painting I started in December. For a while, I did not think I would. It's been a rough few weeks. By  Tuesday of the week before Christmas, I had a good start on the painting, but  was struggling. On Wednesday, the snow came. By afternoon there was over a foot of new snow on the ground. The university where my husband works shut down. By morning, Spokane had record snowfall for a 24-hour period. And we are no strangers to snow.

I should point out here that my studio is, for the moment, in our house. Because of this, I rarely paint when other people are here. No matter how considerate my housemates are, I can't get my head into it. Which is unfortunate considering what was to come.

The university stayed closed all week. My car was buried under three feet of snow. I still had gifts to make and buy, and the intended recipients were stuck in the house with me. Still no time to paint. With the roads plowed the following Monday, I devoted my time to my gift list, bumming a ride to shop since I still had no car. And the snow just kept coming. The university closed again. Then it was Christmas. The day after that, I got sick. And to top it off, I threw out my back shoveling the apparently endless snow.

I spent New Year's Eve on the couch with a bag of cough drops and a Twilight Zone marathon, marking the two-week anniversary of the last time I had painted. I kept going into the studio, looking at the painting, not liking it. I had no idea how to resolve it, and not working made the thought of doing so seem ever more distant.

That weekend we dug out my car, so things were looking up a bit. Then Paul came down with the cold. Monday and Tuesday he stayed home sick. And though I was well enough to feel a bit like painting, Monday morning I threw my back out again shoveling another eight inches of snow. 

But on Tuesday night, the Chinook came. Warm winds began to clear the snow from the shoveled paths, my car, the streets. Suddenly, normal life seemed within reach.

And on Wednesday, the three-week anniversary of the last time I had put brush to canvas, a funny thing happened. I went into the studio, looked at my painting, and liked it. It was still unfinished, but not nearly so much so as I thought. What had seemed wrong suddenly made sense. The bright green forms bursting through icy blues and darkness became the warm chinook wind, melting the oppressive ice. The pinks and oranges became the dramatic chinook sky. Not only had the painting found its meaning, it had found a name as well.

Works from the Heart

[singlepic id=48 w=320 h=420 float=left] Want to buy an oil painting? This piece, Falling Heart, will be available for purchase at the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture's Works from the Heart Auction this Valentine's Day. It's the first of my (soon-to-be) 50 oils to be put up for sale, so I am really looking forward to the auction! This year there are a few changes to the event, and it promises to be exciting. There are two locations for 2009. First, a preview show will take place at the beautiful Saranac Art Projects at 25 W Main. This is Thursday January 15th from 5 to 7 p.m. The opening is by invitation, so if you are not on the mailing list and want to go, you might check with the museum. The auction pieces will remain on display at Saranac until February 13, and can be seen Wednesday through Saturday each week from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The auction itself takes place Valentine's Day, February 14th at the Masonic Center Ballroom. This is always a fantastic event, so I hope many of you can make it!

 

Falling Heart, 36" x 21", oil on canvas, 2008