Friday, December 30, 2011

(Pretty Good) First Year In Review 2010-2011

Ok, it was not really a first year.  It was the first year back in the saddle, after a 12-year parenting and marriage detour.  I am still parenting and finding it a boldly humbling and inexact art.   However, I am lucky because I have spawned a wise and fascinating creature.  She is like me and not like me.  Actually, the parts of me I see in her, I now like and accept in myself.  The parts that are not like me are the fascinating and wise ones.  Anyway, she likes that I paint and so we are cool.  
Learning to climb trees
It all started last November after I was laid off from teaching Art and Web at El Camino High School in South San Francisco.  I was the newest art teacher and I only had a credential to teach art, so when they cut four art classes and the only web class, I was a goner.  I do miss the kids I don’t miss the job.  I rented a space in the communal studio at Art Explosion on 17th Street.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  I was worried that I was going to be wasting my money.  The first day I went in I just planned on doing a little studio decorating… or something.  I knew I was just trying to trick myself so I wouldn’t feel pressured.  I don’t usually like drawing.  In fact I find it an extremely slow, but vital skill.  I drew for three hours solid.  I was… ecstatic!  My drawing and my paintings for the first five months were of my dog, Elmo.  He is a rescued Pit Bull from Rocket Dog and has been described as the most polite dog ever.  I did about 11 paintings of Elmo in many different dimensions.  He was my muse.  If you had asked me then what I thought the future held for my paintings, I would have said unequivocally that I planned on painting all Elmo, all the time.   However, I did one commission for my friend Lynnea Key of her cute doggies but otherwise it was only Elmo.  
My first painting is a self portrait with Elmo.  20"x20" oil on canvas
I found that my drawing and paintings skills had improved, mainly because of teaching.  They say that when you teach, you yourself learn.  For the first five months in the studio, I was painting faster than I could think.  I felt like a fire hose had been turned on.  After my initial first day, I could not stop.  Even though I had been doing yoga daily and was in pretty good shape, my body was taken by surprise.  My back went out from sitting for hours hunched over.  I had to start painting standing up.  The muscles in my torso were weak, after 4-5 hours holding my body so rigid and still; I would find myself hanging onto the wall for support, desperate to finish for the day.  (If I have to stop abruptly, things can get too dried out and might not work as well the next day.  Then I have to start all over again to get the right effect.) 
I started doing diptychs, (two paintings that are meant to hang together).  Usually one was Elmo and the other would be anything, a helicopter, a crow, or a city scene.   I liked the surprise of the changing narrative when images were rearranged.   I started using wood panels instead of canvas because the surfaces were so even and the edges so sharp.  They made the diptychs hang perfectly together. 
Helicopter Diptych  24"x12" oil on panel
The diptyches led to more subjects besides Elmo.  I started a “city series”, a “highway 5” series and my most controversial one, the “cigarettes series”.  I used to smoke.  People said that folks start smoking in graduate school.  I thought it was hogwash, till I started smoking too.  (What non-smokers don’t know is that smoking takes dedication.  You work up to a certain intake.  You have to endure sore throats and nausea.  They don’t realize a cigarette hang over is worse than an alcohol hangover.  Cigarettes are no joke.  Cigarettes are powerful, alluring, deadly, and an interesting subject.  Some smokers that are trying to quit and two of my friends that are doctors could not stand the cigarette paintings.)  However, it was interesting who bought the cigarette paintings, ex-smokers mainly and one of them an esteemed doctor and “inhalant scientist” that had worked on inventing a non-carcinogenic cigarette substitute, but there were few non-smokers too that just liked the aesthetic of the cigarette image. So they bought them, usually in twos, to hang together.  Like potato chips you can’t have just one.
"Festive" and "Almost Gone" 4"x4" oil on panel
 I am usually a huge colorist, but I decided as a challenge to myself, I would limit my color range. I was thinking about Giorgio Morandi and his limited palette, of mostly grays and browns.   For a while I used a lot of black and white to change the lightness and darkness of a color, instead of using a mixture of dark and light complimentary colors to change values.  However, the heavy use of black started to give my work a “sooty” quality, especially when more color started creeping back in to my palette.  I still liked the experiment.  I might even do it again.

Now I am working on a “vehicle series” which is a broad enough title to encompass a large variety of subjects and ideas that I am interested in.  I am working on large square canvases (mostly), which automatically give the paintings a sculptural presence.  I am also exploring abstraction in a number of these vehicular paintings.  I have combined flat shapes with rendered forms in ambiguous space.  However, my favorite painting right now is the “Orange Bicycle”.  I have never done a painting like it.  It is an entirely new direction in everyway for me.
"Orange Bike" 20"x24" oil on panel
 All in all, it has been a grand year.  I painted a lot.  I met some wonderful artists and art collectors and made some new friends.   My new work got exhibited and I got an offer of a three-person show for next summer.  I actually ended up selling more this year than in any other year and technically; I have only been selling since April.  I sold 24 paintings and traded three.  Back 12 years ago, I was relying on Washington State Arts Commission and two galleries, both in San Francisco to sell my work.  Working in a communal studio with a diverse concentration of artists, within walking distance of other communal studios automatically makes for an artist/art collector destination.  That means a lot more people see my work, have bought my work and are enjoying my work.  That makes me happy. 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Commission, Otherwise Known As Painting Like Your Hairs On Fire.

I got a last minute Christmas commission. Only two days to get a 24"x24" painting finished. Yikes!

Wired the back, put on all the info on the back and signed it.  I don't usually do things in this order, but because it's a rush it's good to have the back finished, in case it is wet when it goes out the door.
For speed I decided to try painting the background first and in acrylic, which is super fast drying. 

Painted the edges for a nice clean presentation.
Here is the first sketch.
Want him to look hairy and silky.  Background was too busy.
"Sabu" 24"x24" oil on canvas.  Viola! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Motorcycles Are Too Seductive

This is the beginning sketch with washes.

Pretty good, I only had to paint this motorcycle once!

"Moto Beast" 30"x30" Oil on Canvas. (Really unfair how sexy motor cycles are.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis The Season!

It was a last minute decision to make it to this shin-dig.  Which meant I had to fabricate a postcard, on my computer instead of using Vistaprint!!!  Needless to say I wasted a lot of cards, paper and ink, because I am typo queen.  So here it is!  There are four different versions out there, so collect all four!  This one has a painting that is still in progress.  I am playing with scale that is why the seagull is so huge, duh. 

I painted my studio a nice warm gray for the occasion.  Allyson Seal, another fabulous studio pal, came by yesterday and commented that the gray made my studio  feel like a "hug" mmm.  I picked this gray at Kelly Moore it is called "Grigitta".  I ran out of it in the first 20 minutes (I thought a quart would do it.  If you have seen the size of my studio you would have thought a couple of cups of paint would do too).  Apparently, them are some thirsty walls.  So I tore off to the what I thought was the closest paint store, Benjamin Moore, thinking that they would have something comparable to my Grigitta.  However, gray like black and white is tricky.  Benjamin's grays all went either green, blue or brown, not the desired red.  This Grigitta in different lights looks pink, or taupe, or puce. Ends up there is a Kelly Moore a few blocks from the studio on S. Vaness.  Who knew?


 Art Explosion Holiday Show
2425 17th Street, SF CA 94110
December 9, 2011
Friday night 7:00pm-11:00pm

Stop by on Friday night for a Manhattan, or if you are young have some sparkling cider.