Pastel FAQs

[singlepic id=499 w=460 h=400 float=] As an artist, I talk to a lot of people about my work, especially at festivals. And I get asked a lot of questions. Many of them I hear over and over again. Some are questions such as, "why do you look tired?" or "do you really like leaves?". These are not the questions I will be addressing here. Luckily, even more often I am asked really good questions about my medium and how it works. So, I decided to put together some relatively quick (for me) answers and post them on a new page, Pastel FAQs. For example:

1. What is pastel? Pastel is a dry drawing medium, created by mixing pure powdered pigments with a minimal amount of binder and water, rolling it into a stick form, and allowing it to dry. The pigments used are the same pigments used to create all painting media, but the pastel form allows the pigments to appear closest to their original color. There is an enormous variety of pastel available on the market today, ranging from inexpensive, student-grade, chalk-like pastels to handmade, buttery, pigment-rich—and expensive—professional lines.

This one goes to eleven, so for the remaining ten Q and As, go here. Enjoy!

Glassy Eyed

[singlepic id=484 w=460 h=240 float=] There are many artists out there who are much smarter than I am. They take their completed artwork to something called a "Professional Framer," and pick it up framed and ready to sell. I've heard of these creatures, these framers, working in frame shops, framing artwork for a living. I know they exist. I've even dreamed of hiring one. Trouble is, I've never thought that I could afford to have my artwork framed this way, so I have always done it myself.

I've changed the way I do it over time. I've learned to buy custom frames at wholesale, and graduated from cutting my own mats to ordering them pre-cut (once I figured out that it wasn't that much more money, after I've screwed up a few mats). I had my glass cut by the frame wholesaler, too. I had dialed in a pretty efficient, cost-effective system for myself. Then, I had the brilliant idea that I should upgrade my framing.

I found a new frame style that is similar to my previous mahogany stained wood, but wider and more substantial. It costs more but it is elegant and sturdy and worth it. But the biggest change by far has been---glass. After a particularly glare-y show at Sun Valley last year, one where I appeared to be selling a boothful of mirrors rather than pastels, I bit the bullet and switched to Anti-Reflective Glass. Anti-Reflective Glass is amazing, it makes the work look as if it is not behind glass at all. But while its cost alone seems to warrant the capitalization, it is so much more than expensive! It is also ever so delicate. And hard to clean. So much so that my wholesalers aren't supposed to cut it, but instead sell it by the box. Which brings me to why I am questioning my sanity and dreaming of Professional Framers.

Since I have to buy the glass uncut by the box, I have by necessity taken on the job of cutting it myself. Given my personal history, this should really be no big deal. I spent my early formative years (we're talking, two, maybe three years old) in a glass shop cutting scraps of glass with a hand-held cutter for entertainment while my glazier dad ran his business. My mom was climbing around on glass trucks basically until I popped out of her and she had to run to the hospital to finish the delivery on her lunch break. So you would think I had this in my blood! Cutting glass, no problem! Do it in my sleep! But after having a cut go sideways on a $50 piece of glass this summer, I am filled with therapy-worthy anxiety over glass.

I bought a giant wall-hung glass cutter to make the job easier (thanks to my wholesalers who found a used one for me almost instantly and at a very reasonable price). This should have been comforting but instead it, too,  intimidated me... I'd never used one before and here I was staring at it alongside a $200 box of glass. Three sheets per box. I thought, hey, my dad can help! He must have used one of these before, since he had a glass shop. Not so much. Turns out he cut giant sheets of commercial plate glass BY HAND with a long board and one of those little green-handled cutters. He then proceeded to cut several small pieces of my troublesome coated glass by doing little more than look at it funny, like some mythical character from Dune. Looks like I'm on my own with the wall-mount contraption.

In the end, I pretty much figured out the cutter. It cuts really well. And after I turned several large, expensive sheets of glass into small, more expensive sheets of glass, I even figured out that I have to run the glass through the cutter with paper to keep the coating from scratching. So I guess this is it, my new system. I'm less anxious now---slightly. The new frames look really good, and the glass just disappears. But after a very stressful week of framing for a show, I can't help but wonder what it would have cost to hire a framer instead. I kind of think I should find out so I will feel better about all the money I'm saving. Or am I?

(Above: Bohemia, ©2011. Pastel, 8" x 24". It will be on display along with several other new works at the private Spokane Club starting this Wednesday, February 2nd. If you happen to be a member, please check it out.)

The Trials of Unpaid Help

[singlepic id=434 w=460 h=360 float=] So that's it for Sun Valley. As always it was beautiful, fun and a bit sleepy.

Luckily it was a bit better for me than last year, when I bought a double booth space and seriously regretted it. This year I decided to minimize costs and make the most of a single space by going up. I extended the tent, and finally put to use the extension walls I bought from another artist at this very show.

Problem was, I bought the walls so long ago I didn't remember exactly what came with them. More to the point, I forgot. I quickly realized as I went to put up the first extension that a crucial piece of hardware was missing. We looked in the box, and found a single item rolling around the bottom---a steel pin with a ridge around the middle. Unfortunately, I needed eight. At that moment I could picture them, in their little case on a shelf in our basement, ten hours northwest.

There was NO WAY I was going to have gone to all the trouble to raise the tent and not use those walls, so we set off to find a replacement in a town without a hardware store. My husband Paul was less than thrilled about this. It turned out to be with good reason.

After a frustrating time looking through densely crowded aisles, he finally spotted some turnbuckles at the local drug/hardware/variety store that appeared to be about the circumference of our pin, except with a hexagonal profile. Thinking the ridges might make the turnbuckles a bit too big, he picked up a file to take off any extra material. I thought they would fit just fine as-is but bought the file, just in case. TWO HOURS of "just in case" later Paul finally finished filing the ridges off of seven, much-tougher-than-they-looked aluminum tubes. The walls went up.

And after that very long, hot and trying setup, Paul had the grace to tell me the booth looked "awesome." Thank you, Paul. Your patience is epic.

p.s.

Later that day we learned that as much as our setup sucked, it could have been worse. Our friend Jody, a jeweler, realized halfway through setup that she had forgotten a crucial part of her display. She actually drove home to get it before the show opened the next morning---four hours each direction. What a life.

Bellevue Arts Museum Artsfair

[singlepic id=419 w=320 h=460 float=left] The Bellevue Artsfair starts this Friday and I couldn't be happier. It's been a long break between shows for summer, so I'm anxious to get back. And Bellevue is one of the best!

This year I'm thrilled to be showing my oil paintings along with my pastels for the first time in Bellevue. And I will have a lot of them after I take down the Metamorphosis show from the Kress Gallery on Wednesday. Show weeks are always busy, but this is especially crazy... after spending today framing and delivering my Alice in Wonderland piece to the Tinman Gallery, I have to take down shows at Pacific Garden Design tomorrow and the Kress on Wednesday before loading the car for the show. Plus the usual million little pre-show details like price tags and artwork lists. And covering my entire studio in plastic so my upstairs neighbor can sand his floors.

SO. Anyway. If you're in the Seattle/Bellevue area this Friday-Saturday-Sunday, come by the Artsfair! It's an amazing show and I will have more new and different work than ever before. The details:

Bellevue Arts Museum ArtsFair When: July 23 – 25, 2010 Where: Bellevue Square parking garage, 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA Hours: Friday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. What I’m bringing: Pastels and Oils Booth # J-08

Why Not?

[singlepic id=418 w=320 h=460 float=left] And now for something else completely different... an Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired piece titled Why Not? which I've just completed for the Tinman Gallery's second annual Oz-vitational. Huh? Well, Year One was an Oz-vitational. This year all of the artwork will be inspired by the childrens' classic, Alice in Wonderland. (Much to the relief of the artists who participated in Year One, I'm sure. Fresh inspiration!)

I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never read Alice in Wonderland nor even seen a movie version until receiving this assignment. I tried both several times as a child and never quite made it through for one reason or another. Luckily for me, a fresh movie came out on DVD just in time for my research. Better still, this particular movie had a CGI Tweedledum and Tweeedledee played by/modeled after the hilarious Matt Lucas, from the seriously funny Little Britain USA.

Anyway, back to my point if I had one. I did stop laughing just long enough to catch an approximately four-second reference to Alice and the Red Queen painting white roses red, and there was my idea. Roses dripping with shiny red paint, forming the shape of the Red Queen's heart surrounded by white roses yet to be painted. This piece and "Alice" works by many wonderful artists will be available for purchase at the show.

The Alice in Wonderland Invitational runs from July 30 through August 21. Opening reception is from 5 - 9 p.m. Friday, August 30.

The Tinman Gallery is located in Spokane's historic Garland District at 811 West Garland Avenue.

Springdance

[singlepic id=417 w=320 h=460 float=left] Nothing fancy to report here---just spending some time in my studio actually PAINTING! This week I finished six new Teacup Oils to (almost) replace the ones I sold at Artfest. I have promised myself that this will be the last batch this year! Once they're gone, they're gone, until next season. Then, it was over to the pastel side to paint Springdance (left). This piece was actually inspired by one of the Teacup oils. I came up with the idea for it and liked the sketch so much I tried a variation in a small pastel, then went on to make the little cubular oil piece, then worked the small pastel idea into a large piece. Whew! Next week I plan to revisit my Raintree sketches in oil. I'm curious to see how they will turn out. The little pastel sketches reminded me of a combination of a 1940s barkcloth print and my older bunchgrass pieces--which I've never painted in oil. Here's looking forward to next week and a new challenge!

Evolution of an Art Fair Booth, Part Three. Seriously.

[singlepic id=398 w=460 h=380 float=] After last year I was absolutely done with my art fair booth. No more changes. Ha.

As always on the long trip back from Sausalito last year, Paul and I, sick of tedious setups and tear-downs, discussed how we could make things easier. Of course it would be easiest to just skip all the extra stuff I've added, set up the Pro Panels and be done with it. But if you have read my previous stories (rants? storants?) about how all of that came to be, you may understand that at this point I am kind of attached to the look.

So how, without sacrificing the basic feel of the booth, to make things easier? Well, we came up with a plan. And although this plan will admittedly make life easier in future, it did definitely NOT make my life easier the past few weeks.

First order of business was to redesign the naugahyde "baseboards." The current ones were frankly a giant pain in the ass to unpack, wrap on the walls, then unwrap and re-pack for every show. Worse yet, despite all my loving care and handmade individual flannel bags (yes really), they were starting to look pretty bad. The stain that I spent weeks putting on over the past few years was, predictably, coming off.

[singlepic id=402 w=250 h=240 float=left] I think it was Paul who came up with the idea to make one permanent "baseboard" per wall that stayed on at all times---brilliant! So, back to the upholstery store for about a mile of new, copper naugahyde that DID NOT NEED TO BE STAINED. Yay. Then I had only to cut then sew about 300 (really maybe 16) loops of the stuff, pop them on the bottoms of the walls, and hot glue foam inside to keep them from sagging. Oh, then go back to the upholstery store for 15 yards of bungee cord to keep them from sliding down from the weight of the foam. And... six months later... Done! (OK, so the breakdown on that was actually 5-1/2 months of procrastination and maybe two weeks of actual work. But still.)

[singlepic id=399 w=220 h=240 float=left] [singlepic id=400 w=220 h=240 float=left] [singlepic id=401 w=250 h=240 float=left] [singlepic id=396 w=250 h=240 float=left] [singlepic id=397 w=250 h=240 float=left] Then, on to the wooden top rails. They looked pretty nice and were in good shape, but had problems of their own. They were unwieldy to transport, and my original design severely limited wall arrangement options. Every year I made more and more rails to gain a few more possible booth layouts, until eventually at each show we ended up storing almost as many as we used. They needed to be modular, to be one-size-fits-all. I took on this problem, and after a few days came up with a design inspired by a combination of Greene and Greene's Gamble House stairwell and Tinkertoys.

The new design had one separate top rail for each wall, all the same, all interchangeable. Various simple connectors---straight, corner, and end pieces---would hold everything together. The scary part: the new rails would be made from the old ones. After that first chop there would be no turning back. Terrified, I procrastinated even longer than for the baseboards. But with a show just a few weeks away I was out of time. Luckily, after a week or so more of cutting, routing, drilling, sanding and staining, I now have a simple lightweight system that looks surprisingly not so different from the original. And as a special bonus, I still have all of my fingers! Hooray!

Finally, Major Booth Revision Number Three is complete. Today I took advantage of my trial run to take some booth photos for next year's show entries (see top of this post). So that's it then. No more booth revisions. No "Evolution Part Four." That's a promise to me.

Want more? Read Evolution of an Art Fair Booth Part 1 and Part 2.

Stretching a (very small) Gallery Wrap Canvas

This post falls in sort of a "note to self" category. But I thought it might be useful to someone else as well, and hey, here is as good a place as any to save my notes. In the past couple of weeks I've stretched no fewer than twenty four of my 6" mini canvases. Needless to say, I've got it dialed in fairly well by now. But I realized that I probably have all the tiny canvases that I need (or have time to paint) this year. And I also realized that by next year I might have absolutely no idea how I did them, because I'm like that. Like what, you ask? Worrying? Forgetful? Mildly obsessive? Yes.

So without further ado, here are my notes on stretching tiny gallery wrap canvases. Or any gallery wrap canvases, if you use bigger stuff.

I started with a 6" x 6" x 2" deep canvas stretcher (I have them made by a framing wholesaler), and an 18" square of canvas from which 5-1/4" squares have been removed at the corners. [singlepic id=393 w=250 h=240 float=]When the stretcher is centered on the canvas this leaves about 5/8" from the sides of the stretcher to the cut edges of the corners. [singlepic id=385 w=250 h=240 float=]

Once the canvas is centered, I pull up each side and place one staple in its center, on the back of the stretcher frame, being careful to stretch the fabric as tightly as possible from side to side. [singlepic id=386 w=250 h=240 float=]I pick a side and continue to staple all the way across. [singlepic id=387 w=250 h=240 float=]I then repeat this on the opposite side, again stretching the canvas as tightly as possible. [singlepic id=388 w=250 h=240 float=]After stretching two opposite sides, I then fold the sides of those flaps around the frame and place a staple in each one (4 staples total). This keeps the fabric flat as you fold over the remaining two sides. [singlepic id=389 w=250 h=240 float=]

After completing the first two sides, I trim the fabric on the stapled edges to about 3/4" from the staples to reduce the bulk on the back of the canvas. [singlepic id=390 w=250 h=240 float=]After this is done I pinch together excess fabric at each corner (starting at least 1/4" away from the frame) and trim it off. [singlepic id=391 w=250 h=240 float=]

After this is done it is time to staple the last two sides. I fold up the canvas flaps, using the edge of my scissors to tuck the corner in tightly as I fold the flap under. The edge of the folded flap should run neatly along the corner edge of the frame. [singlepic id=392 w=250 h=240 float=] After folding each edge, I pull the canvas tight and staple the rest of the side to the folded corners. [singlepic id=382 w=250 h=240 float=]

Almost done! Once the sides are completely stapled, I have only to trim the excess fabric near the staples... [singlepic id=383 w=250 h=240 float=] and give the folded fabric at the corners a few good taps with my hammer to "iron" them flat. Voila! The canvases are ready for gesso. [singlepic id=384 w=250 h=240 float=]

Note: you may have noticed in the photo I am wearing gloves. I am not just wearing gloves, I am wearing gloves over other gloves with a band-aid on my middle left top knuckle. If you stretch more than a canvas or two in a day, you will understand why.

Getting Small Redux

[singlepic id=376 w=320 h=460 float=left] Now after all this business about going big, it's time to go the other direction. Last week I ordered some tiny canvas stretchers the same depth as my large canvases, making some nice, chunky little 6" x 6" x 2" supports for a dozen soon-to-be paintings.

I've always really enjoyed small work. I love the idea of tucking an original painting into a bookcase, a mantel, a windowsill or a hundred other unexpected spots.

Since I began selling at art fairs, I've always included some miniature version of my work in an effort to make original art available for a relatively low price (and for those avid collectors without another inch of available wall space). Although I did offer some reproductions of my work the first year, I decided to discontinue them and focus exclusively on original art. While the miniature originals may not be quite so potentially profitable as repros, I feel good about making them. I also find that I get along much better with my printmaking neighbors at shows.

Up to now my only miniature works have been in pastel, but since I began showing oils, it followed that I should make oil minis as well. The little canvases pictured at left will be my first efforts. I've always loved the almost-sculptural look of chunky, cubular little paintings. I'm so excited to see how they turn out. I'll post some favorites soon!

Going Big

[singlepic id=373 w=460 h=340 float=] It's been one thing after another lately. I just got over my cold in time to hack my (formerly) working thumb with a kitchen knife. Well, technically I didn't really hack myself. I just bumped the knife so that it spun like a top off of the counter, making contact on its way to the floor. In any case, the big awkward bandage is not helpful when it comes to painting. Benched again.

Pretty frustrating since I was on a roll with oil painting. But, it's given me time to think about the reason for that roll.

A few months ago, as I mentioned ad nauseam at the time, I gave myself the project of painting my 3' x 9' triptych, Las Lunas (detail, above). It took some weeks to do it and it was pretty daunting since the biggest paintings of my professional career up to that point had been four feet on the long side. But it was really interesting to work on such a large scale (I clamped the canvases together as I painted so it was effectively one big painting).

While it didn't seem too terribly different from other paintings at the time, it did have an interesting effect afterward. Every painting I've done since has seemed really small. And by small I mean manageable, doable, un-intimidating. Easy.

Ever since that one big painting, there has been a significant shift in the way I paint. I'm faster, more fearless at it. I mix the paint and get it on the canvas and don't worry so much about whether it is right. Oddly, though, it is right far more often than it used to be. It's as if that big painting filled some sort of requirement to get me to the next level. It put my regular work in perspective.

So, if I am making some sort of a point about my experience here, I guess it is this: do something that scares you. Work outside your comfort zone. If you do, you might just find that your comfort zone is a lot bigger when you are done.

A little bit of this...

[singlepic id=368 w=460 h=320 float=] Things feel a little scattered now... I have the neverending cold and only made it to the studio sporadically this week. I did manage to complete my oil version of Springrise (above), which felt pretty good under the circumstances. It was one of those paintings that just falls off the fingers, then in what should have been the last few minutes I went too far with part of it and had to wipe it down and start over---twice. I was afraid I wouldn't finish at all today which was pretty annoying considering I expected to walk in, dab at it a few times and walk away victorious. I just kept thinking of John Singer Sargent as I wiped at it with my Gamsol-soaked rag... he is reputed to have wiped down parts of his amazing paintings multiple times to keep that "fresh" look to his brushstrokes. It's scary, but it works. I ended up somewhat happier in the end. Sargent, on the other hand, ended up with Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Onward.

And now for something completely different...

It's not really news per se, but I just got my acceptance email for Art in the High Desert. After last year's Benchmark Award, I knew I would be in the show, but I have to say it's still exciting to get that "Congratulations!" email. Especially if you are a Big Dork. But I'm not naming names.

More on the subject of Big Dorks...

I'm loving my studio right now. It is packed with fresh art, just like it usually is this time of year. I think it's more noticeable this time, perhaps, because unlike my previous studio, it started out big and empty. A 10' x 11' room can only look so empty with two shelving units, a desk, a table, a taboret, two easels, two air purifiers, photographic light stands, a roll of canvas, a chair, a few rugs and various and sundry leftover drawings. But 675 square feet can swallow up all that plus that much more again and still seem cavernous. Which is why I was hit with a little teeny tiny bit of dread recently... soon there will be festivals and shows to hang and all the paintings will be gone and it will be empty again. Which is always just a little bit sad.

For photos of the studio as it looked last week,[singlepic id=370 w=320 h=240 float=]

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Digging In

[singlepic id=343 w=460 h=340 float=] Things are starting to happen in the new studio! After spending a weekend moving in (enough to start painting, anyway) I got to work on my first oil painting in my new digs. It went surprisingly fast, which I have decided to attribute to the good energy in the room. Pretty impressive for a 100+-year-old basement. I would have expected something, well... spooky. But it is just the opposite---cozy and inviting.

Shiva (above) practically painted itself. It is not completed in the photo, but it was finished maybe an hour after that. One more piece ready for the Kress Gallery show in May! By the way, I do plan to start posting my more professional-looking "official" art photos again soon. One side effect of my ongoing move has been to separate my art and workspace from my usual photography spot, but I'll get that worked out shortly.

Oh, by the way, I seem to have  a correction due... last summer I mentioned that I won an award and thus a re-invite to the Edmonds Arts Festival this June. Turns out the award does not include a re-invite after all! Ooops. Anyway, I went ahead and applied so we'll see what happens. It would be pretty sad if I didn't get in after all that, but I guess I'll just have to wait for it! (LOL!)

New Year, New Studio

[singlepic id=336 w=460 h=380 float=] So this has been an incredibly busy week. For the five of you who actually read this, I apologize for my recent lack of posts. Between the holidays, my upcoming shows, and my sudden realization that my in-home studio wasn't cutting it, I've been a bit overwhelmed.

My plan since early December had been to start painting my three-panel luna moth oil this coming week. I recognized that studio hours would be spotty at best until after the new year and had been thinking about finding a new work space, as I mentioned. But as I started prepping the canvases, it became clear that the three panels literally would not fit in my current space. Not without wrapping around a corner, anyway, which posed a big logistical problem. So I got it into my head that I would find a studio that I could work in by Monday (tomorrow).

Last weekend I started, with the help of family and friends, looking around town for some possibilities, and on Monday I started calling. The first few spaces sounded promising, in funky old buildings with great locations. But there were downsides. The first space I actually got to see was in a building I've always loved for its great windows and light, but the spaces available inside were windowless, depressing offices... not at all what I had pictured. The next few places seemed promising but ended up being loud, tiny, or otherwise not as advertised.

I started rearranging my home studio to accommodate my new painting as best I could, thinking this would end up a months-long process. Then on Thursday my Dad called me early in the morning to tell me about a brand-new posting he'd found on Craigslist... a space advertised not as an office but as an art studio, twice the size of anything I had seen yet, and in my budget. Furthermore, it was right in the neighborhood I wanted, in a cool old (1906) building. The only downside I could see was that it was a basement space... again I would probably not have a window, but at this point, I had resigned myself to that likelihood. Windows make spaces expensive!

So I left messages and emails with the building owner, and on getting no response, drove down to try to see the space anyway. There was a realtor listed on a sign outside, and luckily for me, he turned out to be one of about three working this week. I got in to see the space and fell in love. It is huge, funky and tucked out of the way in the building... a building which houses other artists and creative types, so I will be right at home. Thanks to the quick work of the realtor, landlord, and some incredibly nice insurance agents, I had a lease signed and keys in hand by Friday at lunch.

There's only one small hurdle left: the previous tenant is still in the space for two weeks. But until then I get to use a wonderful empty space upstairs to start my painting---on Monday, right on schedule. I am so excited! Oh and by the way, there is a window in my space after all. An 8" x 8" glass brick stuck into what was once a fantastic arched opening that has been walled in. But hey, it faces north!

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Above: the "window" in my studio... lots of north light!  Below: a support pillar. They don't make them like this anymore.

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Solstice!

[singlepic id=333 w=460 h=240 float=] Today is Solstice, and it feels like time for new beginnings. Of course there are a few holidays ahead, but shortly, hopefully, I can get back into the groove and do some serious painting.

The past few months have been like those dreams where I run and get nowhere... with so many shows and so much to do, there was always something standing between me and the studio.  Right after the Sausalito show, the flu took me out until the Little Spokane studio tour. October was spent planning and sketching for upcoming shows, and starting to build up some creative momentum--just in time for jury duty in November, Thanksgiving week and the regular interruptions that are part of the holiday season.

So once again, I'm looking forward to January. My first big project will be Las Lunas, the large three-panel oil mentioned in the previous post (the pastel study is shown above). Some major rearranging of my tiny back-room studio was required to even fit the three 3' x 3' canvases, but it will have to work for now.

Something hopefully good has come of this sometimes frustrating few months: between the challenges of maintaining my schedule working at an in-home studio, and my desire to begin painting more large format pieces, I've decided it's time to start looking for an off-site studio. More about that in the next few months, I hope. In the meantime, happy Solstice!

More Lunacy

[singlepic id=332 w=320 h=420 float=left] Now that the small works shows are all on, it's time to get serious about making some big pieces. I've got two more gallery shows and a lot of wall space to fill and basically less than two months to paint. Today I finished Blue Suspension No.5 (left) which I started last week. Now I am working on a pastel study for what I hope will be a major triptych in oil---three 3'x3' panels---if the pastel turns out as planned.

The idea for the triptych is to be leaves arranged to resemble a group of luna moths in flight. I'm hoping it works out well, especially since a collection of coincidences are making me think I have some strange connection to these moths. It started when I did a similar small work last week or so. As I finished and was trying to name it, I decided it might look like a luna moth. I liked the name "luna," anyway.  But I actually didn't have any idea what a luna moth looked like. Hoping the name would work out, I Googled luna moths and found that, luckily, they looked very much like what I had painted.

I liked the small painting, but decided it might have more impact with more "moths," and planned to use the idea in the big three-panel format I had been wanting to try. With all the panels combined, it will be the largest oil painting I have done to date, so of course I've been feeling a little nervous about diving into the project. (My friend Neicy and I were just discussing how with each new painting, we sometimes suddenly feel as if we will have forgotten how to paint!) Anyway, on a holiday shopping trip downtown this weekend, I walked into Atticus, an awesome local gift/coffee shop, and the first thing I saw was this big, sparkly luna moth ornament. Given that a week before I would have had no idea what it was, I thought that was a pretty cool find. So I spent a whopping four dollars and took it home for inspiration.

Here's hoping my new lucky moth gets me through the next few months with a ton of good work for my next two shows!

Jury Dutiless

[singlepic id=317 w=320 h=420 float=left] I'm on jury duty this week, and thus far it has been the easiest jury duty EVER. After a two-hour orientation Monday morning, the roomful of potential jurors was sent home after all three cases settled. We weren't called back for Tuesday and yesterday was a holiday. Today, still no jurors needed. One more day and a new set of jurors rotates in, putting me into the backup group for one week and that is it. If the case load stays this low, I can only imagine the two hours on Monday will be the entire extent of it. I have seriously lucked out. Not that I was unwilling to do it---in fact, I found the process fascinating. But with as much as I have on my plate right now, I really needed the time.

So, with my bonus week I got to finish Fall Garden No.3, left, and start work on another big pastel for my show at the Tinman Gallery. I really need to be painting in oils, but they will have to wait another week or so. Being on call makes me really appreciate the fact that I can put down and pick up pastels anytime without worrying about them being too dry, too wet, or too anything. Of course that doesn't mean they are always so easy. The  big pastel on my easel right now is giving me absolute fits, and taking way too long. But since I might not be here at all right now, save for the county's light case load, I really can't complain. Or shouldn't, anyway.

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(Too bad I live in the city. There could have been a Rural Juror joke in there somewhere. Oh, well.)

So Many Paintings... So Little Time...

[singlepic id=315 w=320 h=420 float=left] "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." - Douglas Adams

I have a lot of painting to do. A lot. I mean, I knew I did, but the magnitude of the job ahead of me is really starting to hit home as I count down to four gallery shows coming up in the next few months. It's a great problem to have, don't get me wrong. But I probably need to complete ten small works, ten large oils and ten large pastels by February (the oils show is in May, but the oil paintings will need time to dry before varnishing). And with jury duty (*sigh*) next week and the holidays coming up, I will have to reach a previously unheard-of level of efficiency to get it all done. Wish me luck. Please.

(Isis Study, left, will be at the Tinman Gallery's December small works show. I hope to use it as a study for a large oil to show in my Kress Gallery solo oils exhibit opening in May.)

News From the Other Side of the Studio

[singlepic id=313 w=460 h=330 float=] At last, I've painted in oil again. It was a long time coming, between summer shows and testing out some new ideas with small pastel pieces, but I finally walked the two steps over to my oil easel and picked up a brush or two. Loved it, of course. I always do, although I'm still working out the bugs to make my studio lighting better for oils. Maybe a bank of north-facing windows and a skylight? Not likely since I'm working on the first floor of a two-story, 100-year-old house that I'm pretty sure would be seriously insulted by a remodel. As it should be.

Oh, well. Lighting considerations aside, I'm happy to have one more piece ready to help fill the enormous Kress Gallery for my oils show opening in May. The painting, Medusa, is a re-thought version of Medusa Study, the small pastel I posted a few weeks ago. Now that I've broken the ice a bit, I'm looking forward to more of what the oil side will bring.

Didn't I Just Do This?

[singlepic id=302 w=460 h=340 float=] It seems that I am barely back from the last round of shows when the juries start for the next round. My first deadline is in about a month and a half. It seems like I just did this around, oh, yesterday or so. Has it really been a year?

At least my previous show entry mistakes are still fresh in my mind. Last year I started entering shows as soon as they started accepting entries. Never again. After submitting my images, I changed my mind about what I wanted to enter. But once submitted, the entries were basically set in stone. This year I plan to spend the time leading up to those deadlines producing more options rather than kicking myself.

Generally about four art images are needed for an entry. I could easily find four images each of pastels and oils that I think are strong enough to show a jury, but here's the thing: they need to look great together, not just on their own. And right now, I have three of each that I am happy with. So in the next month and a half, I need to come up with one strong oil and one strong pastel that flow with the other pieces. It's an oddly difficult thing to do, but I'm enjoying the process. It gets me back into my painting groove, and even if some of the paintings don't match my jury images, I do have several shows coming up that need new work. Win-win.

(Above, a sketch for a possible pastel jury image, Warm Spring Study.)

Dahlias!

[singlepic id=301 w=460 h=340 float=] Getting back into the studio after a long absence can be a challenge. It's not easy to slow down after summer's mile-a-minute pace, to set aside until spring little booth projects devised during long drives, and just paint. One thing that can really help out in the motivation department is a new batch of reference photos. Lucky for me, I found the dahlias.

Not that dahlias are easy to miss. But if you're as much a creature of habit as I am, it can apparently be done for several consecutive years. Nearly all of my reference comes from visits to the Manito Park perennial garden. Occasionally I'll venture into the greenhouse, but that's just above the aforementioned garden, and together those areas make up a very small percentage of a very large park. This year I determined to expand my horizons a bit.

Having enjoyed my recent work with daisies from the greenhouse, I thought I'd try working with something similar. I expanded my route through the park in search of zinnias. I found a few, but they didn't inspire. So I kept walking. Then, as I crested Rose Hill, I spotted them---a bed of giant dahlias, most of them taller than me, in every imaginable color. Blooms the size of my head were just at that heavy, twisty decline phase that I love. Did I really "SQUEEEEE!" out loud? Probably.

Seven hundred and sixteen dahlia photos later, here's Medusa Study, my first dahlia pastel. I expect it will become an oil painting soon. I also expect to have several hundred more dahlia photos before the frost finishes them for another year.