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. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Chopped Up Week

"Gauges" 8"x8" oil on canvas.  Added some color using a water color technique.
This week I worked on some stuff that is old and some that is new.    I have all these small canvases, 6"x6" and 8"x8" lying around the studio so I did a bunch of these thick Richtery grounds on them.  Its an experiment born from losing not one, but two perfectly good motorcycle paintings to a soapy death.  I am holding off from starting the subject of the painting and dealing exclusively with the background  first.  Feels very weird to work this way.  Another challenge is that sometimes  I have to deal with a excess of texture from these backgrounds.
"Acid Bike"  6"x6" oil on canvas.  This one I ended up covering up the painterly background with this acid green.  I couldn't help myself.  Sometimes yellow as well as red can just take over my senses.  I am a drunk again.

"Moto Profile" 8"x8" oil on canvas.  Ok you saw this one, but I changed the background a bit and no disasters! 
  Here is the old stuff of the week.  The 20"x20" Moto is different but it's back.  I am treading lightly.  I will see if I learned my lesson.   I am not finished with it yet!  I still have to figure out the background.
"20x20" oil on panel

"Orange Bike" 16"x24" oil on panel.  Remember this one?  Its limping along.  I am loving the right hand side and the top right, and the middle bottom... and the left wheel...  Ok, I think the only part I am not in love with is the upper left hand side.  Scott Inguito one of my studio pals will probably try to get me to paint out everything but that part.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Things Are Happening, I Just Don't Know What.

For people that don't know me, I stopped painting for about 12 years.  Next week marks the end of my first year back painting.  During that period of time when I wasn't painting,  I had my daughter, Makiko, who was a wonderful distraction.  However, lot's of other stuff happened too, that made me think that I might never paint again. I was ok with that.  I already gave myself 20 years to paint.  What more could I expect?  Then I got laid off from my teaching job, so I rented a little studio space, not knowing what to expect. When I allowed myself to think about it,  I thought worse case scenario  I wouldn't have anything to paint.   At best, I might pick up where I left off when I stopped painting, which was kinda surreal in style, imagery picked from my girly imagination, with very personal and difficult content.  Content that was sometimes hard  to find.  I didn't think about it too much though, because I didn't want to freak myself out.

So, I was surprised to find that it's been completely  different than anything I expected.  For one thing, I started painting from observation, something I had not really done since my undergrad days.  It was so... FUN.  I think after teaching high school students how to work from observation, I actually learned something.  Also my imagery is happier and more universal. 

This year has been super, and not at all what I expected.  I had feared that I wouldn't be able to paint.  I feared I might be done, but really the opposite has happened and it sometimes feels just like a fire hose has been turned on.  I have moved through a lot of different series this year, instead of laboring over one idea for months like I used to do.  I don't know which is better.  I am choosing to just observe what is happening and go with it.   I have definitely lightened up, and it's... refreshing.

I have observed a pattern.  I flip back and forth, working on a bunch of small things at one time, to working on one large thing at a time.  I think it's pretty common.  Another thing is I switch back and forth from knowing exactly what something is going to look like  from the start, to waiting till I see something on the canvas.  Then I have to pay a different kind of attention, where I try to stop my hand when something good happens.  Difficult way to play for a impulsive, compulsive person like me, but it keeps me amused.

Some stuff I have been working on lately, mostly small.
"Away" 6"x6" oil on canvas

"Gauges" 8"x8" oil on canvas

"Orange Bike" (still a work in progress) 24"x16" oil on panel
"Scooter Eye" 10"x8" oil on canvas

"Moto Profile" 8"x8" oil on canvas

"Blue Bike" 10"x10" oil on panel

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Painting Is A Sequence Of Creation And Destruction. Also Known As A Bad Week

It has been a bad painting week.  I hardly got any time in the studio and the time I was there I was destructomatic.  Here is only one of the paintings I destroyed this week.  I couldn't even take pictures of the other ones.  The 20"x20" motorcycle was one of them, yes!!!   I have been trying to resuscitate it and it looks like crap!  I don't have a picture of the attempted resuscitation, but here is a picture of the soap disaster.
It looks interesting in this nice little miniature version on screen, but it didn't stay this way.  I spent all yesterday ruining it some more.  I think I am staying out of the studio today.  I am going to the beach.  Maybe I will get eaten by a shark. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Things That Move Us...While We Have Gas.

20"x20" Oil on Canvas.  So far so good.  I have learned my lesson.  I am going to wait till this bike is thoroughly dry before I mess with the background.  The last time I painted a motorcycle I sprayed the soap on, when it was still a little tacky and watched helplessly by as the whole thing melted right off the canvas.  

I have been working on a "vehicle" series.  I like the way our machines take us places physically and in our minds.  I like that their bodies have lots of plane changes.  This series started on Highway 5, painting semi trucks, Subaru's and tankers.  The series has expanded lately to include bikes, motorcycles, and scooters.  I might next paint some police cars and meter maid carts.  I have not yet decided if I can paint them well enough.  They are not as pretty as other vehicles, though they are pretty iconic and the black and white of a police car is pretty classic.  Its hard to get good pictures of authority conveyances. For some reason I always feel guilty and a little conspicuous taking pictures of police cars, especially when there is an officer in the car.  The other day I saw a police woman parked in the turning lane in the middle of Valencia Street, eating a huge muffin, talking on a cell phone. I didn't take her picture.  Just shows that parking is tough for everyone in the city and everyone's gotta eat.        

 This was the first sketch. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Seagull... Check!

It is finally finished! Needs a title.
I know I am stubborn.  I am a bull after all, maybe a Pit-bull, but a bull in any case.  All that matters is that I got my way.  Here we all are in this exciting time.  There are people Occupying Places and it is wonderful to behold.  Important things are a foot and here I am, I figuring out how to keep both the Seagull and the funny yellow shape.  It keeps me amused.  Anyway, it was touch and go there for a while.  I was still coming to terms with the fact that I was going to have to sacrifice the seagull.  I thought I was just giving myself time to say good-bye to the flying sea rodent, when all the while, in the back of my mind I was scheming on how to keep the damn bird.
At first I put a nice Viridian Green/Prussian Blue/Alizarin Crimson glaze over the top half of the painting, including the yellow shape.  I thought that toning down the value of the shape would make it work.  However, it was the seagull  that was the problem not the shape, which I knew but was still not accepting.  So glazing the shape didn't really work.  Finally, in a desperate attempt I drew the brush down over the seagull and.... voila!  It worked!  As soon as I saw the bird recede, I knew it was going to be ok! 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Orange Bike Gets Turned On It's Side

Here is  another painting that was going in an unknown direction.  I started with a bicycle and a couple of crows.  I wrote in my last posting that I was going for a new approach to composition and a looser paint style.  Add to that spontaneity.  Everyone likes spontaneity,  don't they..?
PHASE ONE One bicycle and two crows.  This was a good start, but after this things got a bit muddy and I put it aside for a few days.
PHASE THREE  I got rid of the crows, added another bike, and I did something I never did before,   I turned the painting on it's side.  Things started to get interesting.   Sometimes you need to change your perspective.
PHASE FOUR I added some nice harvest yellow.  It is actually a drop of Old Holland paint.  It's a premium paint that cost, depending on the color and average of $13-$89 for 1.25 oz.  It is uber paint.  It over powered the whole color scheme.  It looks like a beacon in the upper middle area. 
PHASE FIVE I scraped the whole thing off.  The colors from the layers below surfaced, quite nicely.
FINISHED  FOR NOW  I hung it back in the original horizontal direction.  It is pretty loose, which is what I was aiming for. I really let go with the composition by turning it on it's side for a while.   I think that Phases three, four, and five look pretty good here, but in person this one is the best...for now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Death of a Seagull Experimentation part four (Here I go again)

I may be changing the title to something to do with "Scooter"  not "Seagull" soon. My friend Scott Inguito suggested getting rid of the seagull, then I could keep my kooky, beloved shape!  I bridled at first then immediately realized he was probably right.  As is, the painting is not resolved.  I love the seagull, but that  probably is the problem.  He might have to go.  I can always use him again.  In any case, I have gotten very fast at rendering him.
This is how I got here...  All this experimenting I've been doing this lately has given me the courage to pick up the Seagull again.  I started by I touching up the bird for like, the 11th time, actually I just checked, it's the 13th time.  I thought about putting the "45th Avenue" in the composition but then I thought that would be a cheap trick.  I use imagery over and over all the time, but I'm not sure I can do that with such a distinctive sign/symbol.  So I put in a scooter. Are you getting the picture that these things don't always make sense at the time?
I had put a blue and a red glaze over the whole thing a week ago.  Today I added thick white and gray paint and goopy white and gray paint.  The red and blue still shows through in places.  I integrated the surface with my palette knife and manipulated the drips a bit.  I painted the white around the body of the seagull, leaving a layer of old painting  to show through his silhouette.
Argh! This is what happens when you don't plan.  I added this nice brushy gray to help balance the composition, then decided to make it drip right into the seagull and the scooter.   I like what it is doing, but I  will have to paint everything AGAIN.  It is the story of of this painting.  I think I will call it "15 Seagulls", whether there ends up being a seagull in it or not. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

4 New Paintings Started PAINTING FOUR

The Semi

I don't know about other painters, but sometimes I start a painting and I know almost exactly where it is going and it feels like a slam dunk..  Sometimes I only have a vague idea of where I am going.  There are only a couple of things I am aware of that I want to accomplish, and then there are those paintings where I have no idea where they are going.  The last kind are not so good. They can take forever to figure out (some up to a year) though they can turn out grand.  This one was only vague.  Also, I must admit, I hardly ever know what I was thinking until the damn thing is finished.  Then it all comes clear... usually. 
So finishing this painting I figured out what  I was trying do in the last three paintings.  First, I want to compose things to look more "collaged".  By that I mean that I want them to have a more adventurous composition, not only logical or natural, with the usual things up and the usual things down. Second, is the thing I have been working toward since "Tanker", loosening up my paint and being more spontaneous. 

   There he is the Elmo! ( I almost left him scratchy with highlights created by scraping way the dark paint to reveal the orange color beneath.  Of course I couldn't, maybe someday.)  On the dots, I am drawn to these flat shapes.  I'll call it my "Decal Phase".

Elmo blurred.

 Maybe it's just me, but this painting feels large.  Perhaps it's the semi in the background that makes this painting feel bigger than it is.   It is only 12"x12".  It is still in flux.  I thought it was finished, but I am going to take out the white cube.  I put the cube in because I wanted a drawing/line element for some weight variation, and I thought it might anchor Elmo, but it isn't working.   Live and learn, that's what it's about.

I toned down the decal
I want to still call this "SEMI" and put it in the "Highway 5" section, but Elmo seems most prominent now.  Maybe this painting should go in the "Beasts" section?   12"x12" oil on panel

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

4 New Paintings Started PAINTING THREE

We have new neighbors, because our beloved old neighbors, Joshua and Sabrina , moved to a house in the Excelsior.  Sabrina is a wonderfully creative cook and food blogger ( and she wanted a garden and more room to entertain.  The new neighbors are very frowny and sad.  Tom, my boyfriend and my daughter Makiko call the new folks the "unhappy hipsters".  They have many tattoos, chihuahuas as well as nice vehicles.  The vehicles are a good source of imagery for my paintings.  I can be found out there at any given time surreptitiously shooting pictures of their shiny motorcycles and bikes.

Once again I am taking out the cubes, so don't get attached.  (Fourth image)

The second image was the first rendering of the motorcycle.  I show it only as a memorial, because it doesn't exist anymore.  It came to a grisly end.  I sprayed on some soap to try and get some drippy variation in the white background.  The motorcycle was not dry enough and the soap melted it right before my eyes as I stood helplessly by.  It was HORRIBLE. 
sketch 8"x8"

This is the motorcycle that melted in the terrible "soap incident", as it was last seen.

Re-painted the motorcycle.  It i s a little more gestural than the first one.  I can never do something again exactly the same.  I can do it better and faster, but I think in this case, this one is just different.  The background is better!

It is almost finished.  Have to delete the cubes. 
Here it is finished.