Saturday, September 29, 2018

Going Back Home

When last I popped in, it was June in North Carolina. It was hot, humid, and just icky. I have to say it's a wonderful relief to sit here and tell you that there is a cool, crisp breeze outside and it'll be getting down to the low 40's tonight. If we were in NC still, that kind of weather would cause an all out panic (which makes me giggle a little, I admit.)

We have relocated back to Vermont!

This has been a very interesting experience, going back. When I left, I was angry. I felt like I had been driven out with the cost of living, solar panels going up all around us (a neighbor had a huge field of them go up on two sides of her property, and there wasn't a thing she or the town could do about it.) I was upset about the cost of college for my kids, and the thought that there was nothing they'd be able to do for work here. When given a second chance to rethink our relocation to NC at the last minute, we wavered, but in the end we decided it was the right thing to do to leave VT. I was convinced I was never going back.

I think a lot of my anger stemmed from the fact that when we first moved here, we thought that was it! Vermont was where we would retire, and everything would be wonderful! It wasn't - there were some negative/strange interactions that I let affect me, lots of hitches and snags (although, surmountable, had I tried harder), and in the end I think I just felt betrayed that I had to leave for my kids' future, when I thought I would be staying forever.

Life's lessons come in some funny forms. This one for me was a pretty big lesson. North Carolina was the biggest mistake we ever made. I won't go into the why's and what happened, because most of it is intensely personal. I think it's enough to say that it was life changing, and perspective altering. Your priorities shift on some major levels when things get really, really bad.

The opportunity came up for us to move back, and we realized how much we actually wanted to. On some level, I was aware that it was likely we were yearning for the life we had before some truly horrible things happened to us... and that's delusional, because you don't get to go backwards. I look back now, and realize that we really did love the land and we should have tried to find other solutions. Some things have also shifted and it turns out that what my children want to do IS supported here; there is a real path forward. Some things haven't shifted, but we have solutions now. Being aware of all of that, we were able to make the decision in a balanced way, and we chose to go home. 

I thought I would have to eat a lot of crow, having left in such a huff. But do you know, the only person who snapped back at me is someone who isn't even from Vermont at all? Instead, the people here welcomed me back with warmth and caring - leaving me practically tearful with gratitude. We were lucky enough to move back to our same town, which wasn't something we even tried to do (in VT, that's pretty tricky because the housing market is not such that you pick the town you want to live in, but rather that you look for a house that will work and THEN discover what town you will be living in.) That means the community we left is still mostly here, and that has been a huge blessing.

We have gone from a shiny "perfect" house in NC, to a house that needs a LOT of work - the kitchen is from the 1980's and my son cracked me up when he confessed to being afraid to use the oven because it's all dials and the only way to tell the temperature is an actual gauge you set inside on the rack (yeah, the kitchen is on our renovate list first, right after replacing the 25 year old boiler that's making really scary sounds right now!) But a big, shiny, perfect house doesn't mean anything if it doesn't feel like home. When I got here, I felt like I could breath after three years of holding my breath. I never relaxed in NC, but I did here, even in the midst of a crazy move.

My new backyard is about 100 acres, and this is the view from my new studio (it has a little balcony) and this is my husband (just celebrated our 23rd anniversary!) who is also thrilled beyond belief to be back
I wake up every morning and there are deer, and often a "rafter" of turkeys (no idea why they don't just call it a flock.) I have squirrels, and birds, and breezes that flow through my OPEN windows, and cool crisp air that smells of honey and clover. I have quiet, and butterflies, and I have peace. It took a bad turn to realize we really did need to be back, and it has been a lot of work - will continue to be a lot of work on multiple levels, but I really feel like we're on the right path for the first time in a long time.

sunset, in our backyard a week ago
I also have two new fluffy members of the family! We just adopted them a few days ago and are in the process of slowly introducing them to the other animals in the house. Meet Merlin:

and Stratus:

They're total snuggle-bugs, small kittens (especially compared to Socrates who is about 10 times their size) and they also like watching Disney movies.
Merlin and Stratus, snuggled up with me
Side note: I found a bathrobe covered in shiny silver stars!

I think I only have two new paintings to share, even though so much time has passed since I last wrote. The first is a painting that is currently on the Liberty Orchard's Halloween box!

"Halloween Kittens" 9x12 inches, acrylic on canvas, sold

The ad from Liberty Orchards

The next painting is the second in my Favorite Things series:

"Georgette" 6x8 inches, acrylic on canvas, available 

I have my kitchen unpacked, and my studio completely unpacked. That's it. The rest of the house is in complete disarray. I'll get there with the rest of the house, but I am ready to start painting again.

I tried working on an in-progress piece - but I feel out of sync. So, I think like after not exercising for a while, I need to warm up and do some smaller, faster work to get back into my groove. I'm going to try to do daily paintings again, at least for a little while, to break in my new studio area! Hopefully, I'll have a lot more to share, and check in more often!

Things may still be hard right now, but there is light. There is positivity. I didn't expect any of these turns, and I'm as surprised as anyone else that this is where I sit tonight... but I'm oh, so glad that this is where I am. Home.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Back To Your Roots

Today, I'm in my PJ's sitting in my studio contemplating the coffee I haven't brewed and am supposed to give up... but I'm totally going to finish out the coffee I have in the house before I give it up. Seems like a fiscally responsible thing to do, right? It's not like I have someone to donate it to, it would be a waste otherwise... *ahem*

I have two paintings to share for my online art collective's auction that opens up on Friday on Facebook. The theme is "Seasons". I had all sorts of ideas for this one, because I feel that something like seasons is right in my wheelhouse. I sketched out a bunch of ideas... honestly, I ended up having too many ideas, rather than too few, and it actually messed me up. I had this elaborate one with three elephants and on the head of each was different seasonal effects (like snow, flowers, etc) - I actually have the elephants mostly painted, but when it came down to it I just wasn't feeling it and I set it aside to be completed later (and perhaps differently.)

Instead, as I was on an owl streak and that's all I wanted to paint lately, I put these two together:

"Lilac" 5x7 inches, acrylic on canvas panel, will be available on Friday

"Mistle" 5x7 inches, acrylic on canvas panel, will be available on Friday

Lilac for Spring, and Mistle for my Winter/Yule season. They actually look better in person, my scanner really pics up variances that you just don't see in reality that make it look a bit choppier. I haven't figured out how to adjust that yet (any pointers from people who know? I use an Epson v39 scanner with it's software for 8x10's and under, everything else I have professional photography equipment but I use the scanner because it seems like too much effort to bust out all the stuff for a little painting! I use Lightroom3 or PSE to adjust if needed, but that's the extent of my photoshopping skills, and I'm probably missing most of the stuff I can do with those programs.)

Anyway, I really like how these owls turned out. I met my deadline by getting them done before the show opens (yay!) and now I am working on an old commission (as in, it's been going on for two years...)

My collector is dedicated and lovely. She's been so understanding, but it has been hard to work on this piece. I think the biggest reason is that I just don't paint like this anymore. My collector loves my Alice in Wonderland series, like this piece from 2012:

"Tea Time"

There is a whole series of paintings, including the cheshire cat, Alice, the Queen of Hearts, etc:

There are lots more, even. Anyway, it's a bigger series, lots in it, and the collector wanted a "Queen Alice". I could already feel my style shifting pretty dramatically, but I felt it would be ok.

Unfortunately, embarrassingly, it has taken me forever to work on. After I finally got it sketched out, it sat for a long time. Life blew up, so that is partly responsible for a lot of the time too. I just didn't paint at all - anything - for months and months. Then, I found I wanted to paint other things and when I tried to work on Queen Alice it would go sideways on me. I just wasn't feeling it. 

Because I am all caught up on my other deadlines, I am trying to work on this commission and I am finally feeling it a lot more. It is really hard to paint in a way you don't anymore. Those of you who have evolved your style, have you tried painting like you once did? I feel like my brain and fingers get confused.

Anyway, here is the work in progress as of this morning - it is messy and has a loooooooong way to go, but I am working on it. I spent Friday only on the stack of books. That should have taken very little time, and instead because I'm all upside down and backwards about this, it took ages!

Queen Alice, Work In Progress

I'm determined though. My poor collector, I cannot believe she has been so patient with me over this. So, this is my focus right now. I MUST get this one done. 

In a lot of ways, it'll be cathartic too. It'll be the final piece that links back to that whole period of my art-life. My art roots (after the abstracts where I really started.) I still do some specific fairytale stuff (and I always will because I love the stories), but it's not my focus anymore. I have new focus, new direction... I just need to do this, and maybe it's really all about closure? Do we need closure on art-periods and phases we go through? Hmm. Well, in either case, it's what I am getting!

Off to paint!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

New Directions

It's Tuesday and my youngest (17 yrs) is off taking his first of two finals in high school, so by the end of Thursday I will have a high school senior on my hands (which I am extremely grateful for, because it's been a very difficult year)! One more year and then he'll hopefully be off to college (wants to be a programmer) and I'll be an Empty Nester!

An Empty Nester at 44 (I'm 43 now), and yet I saw on the news that more and more women are choosing to have babies in their 50's. I cannot even imagine doing that, I'm so exhausted now as it is. I remember existing in a fog in my 20's because of baby-duty, but at least I had the energy of being young. I didn't think I actually had energy at the time, but looking back now I can see that I did. Sort of like a zombie shuffling forward on autopilot. (I think if I had kids now, my autopilot would just give up.)

My eldest turned 20 years old this past weekend. She finished up her second year at university in May, and then decided that's enough for now and that her path lies in another direction. For me, this was a bit hard to wrap my brain around. Isn't it funny how you want to give your kids what you didn't have and if it turns out it's not for them it can really set you back several paces? But the truth that every parent has to grasp is that they are not you and they have their own path to follow... you just hope it doesn't end up with them living in your basement until they're 40 (because apparently that is a thing now, too!)

My own direction is shifting quickly. I still cannot share everything, but I'm hoping it'll be very positive for everyone - albeit stressful! My hope is that I can  start to really do some productive things in my studio. I feel left behind because I have been meaning to get a Patreon going for over two years now, among other things, but life has gotten in the way.

However, there have been some positive signs - glimmers of hope - that lead me to believe I can start investing in myself again, and my work. That being said, I have two new series that I have started. One is going to be all larger paintings (16x20" and up... I have some really big canvases, so who knows where this will end up) and the other will be smaller paintings (8x10" and under.) They are unrelated series, but both make my soul sing just enough to know THIS is what I want to be doing right now and I want to be in my studio all the time again.

The big series is in planning stages still. I have the first painting planned out, but not sketched out. I'm excited to work on it, but I have other commissions, shows and various deadlines to meet before I can start in on it. I'm looking forward to sharing it, though!

The smaller painting series is much easier for me to dive into in between projects, and here is the first:
"The Time Keeper" 6x8 inches, acrylic on canvas panel. Available.

The series is "My Favorite Things", and each painting will be 8x10 and smaller, with a subject posing with its most favorite thing! I painted this Great Grey Owl, and my son informed me that this one's favorite thing was most definitely a pocket watch! Once he said it, I knew my son was absolutely spot-on! I've called this painting "The Time Keeper", and he's in a special section of my shop just for this series.

I thought about holding the paintings back and doing a show, but there are reasons why I can't do that right now... that I'll share later. But perhaps the larger series will be one I can do a full physical show with!

My goal is going to be to hopefully paint one of these Favorite Things pieces a week, whenever possible. I'm not sure how many paintings my series will encompass, but I think I'll know when I'm done. As I am just starting, I believe I have a long way in front of me! If you have any particular animal you'd like to see, let me know! I love getting ideas, but I have no idea what their favorite thing will be until I've painted them in... they're all so individual! For example, I've painted multiple raccoons (and I will do at least one for this series) and I have to say I don't think a single one of them would have the same favorite thing.

It's so nice to find the joy in my studio again!

...Off to paint!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

In The Quiet

It's the end of May, and I fear I have little to show for 2018 in my studio thus far, but I have recently begun painting again and have a few pieces to show. The one I like the best, I just finished last week and it's off to La Bodega gallery in CA for a "Spirit Animal" show in early June:

"Rae" 8x10, Acrylic on Canvas Panel

It's funny, really, because I felt I wasn't going to meet my deadline. I also felt that even if I did, it wasn't going to be very good. In the middle, it felt like nothing was coming together, and then... it just did. I actually LOVE this painting. Love it!

What tripped me up, as it did with the little nudes earlier this year, is that I put in a colorful background and it was just wrong - WRONG! I had to use Payne's Grey and Unbleached Titanium to flip it to more neutral/earthy tones, and then I was able to move forward. It seems my personal art evolution is leading me to a more grounded background/subject, but with color pops in other areas, whereas before it was color all over the place.

It's not a conscious thing, rather more like a personal subconscious drive and new preference that brings me here. Even without actively painting like I wish I had been able to, I have evolved. Art is so much more than what we put down on canvas/paper, so much exists on the inside, but it's hard to explain that to someone if they haven't experienced it (and it sounds fruit-loopy, too. For an analytical sort like me, that's a bit annoying. I hate when I sound fruity!)

I also learned that I have to paint the eyes in a painting as soon as I can, so I can connect with it. Otherwise, I feel like I am fumbling in the dark. It's strange, kind of a mind game I suppose, but it's these landmarks and preferences that help me go in the right direction with my painting rather than fighting it (in other words, I need to get out of my own way and do the things that help me paint, and I should know better than to try to do it differently.)

Here are the only others I have managed (and most of them are recent, it's been a long slog in real life which led to no time in studio-life):

Parrot study, 4x6 inches, acrylic on canvas panel Available

Raccoon, 4x6 inches, acrylic on canvas panel (sold)

"Party Crashers" 8x10, acrylic on canvas panel, framed, available (on show currently at Thumbprint Gallery, CA)

Now, about the quiet. I've been silent, and it's because my life blew up again as I stated in my last post. Not me, personally, but people more dear to me than any other on this earth. Life or death, without exaggeration.

I wish I could explain what is going on, but due to our society's pattern of shaming, stigmatizing, harming, and subsequently silencing... I can't. In order to protect, I cannot share, and that leaves me all alone. I have written, and deleted what it has been like. I have written, and deleted what I have felt and feared. It's not my tale to tell, not really.

And if one more person tells me to "paint the feelings" as a way to manage the stress of it all, I may give them a black eye. Or two. Perhaps the issue lies in the fact that it is not my angst that I would paint, but the suffering of another experienced from the outside - and that is what silences me more than anything else in the studio. Art is a place of joy for me, and when there is no joy I cannot create art. Art does not come from active fear, for me. Maybe painters of old were able to lock themselves away and explore their angst in paint, but in my dynamic circumstances I have neither the desire, irresponsible nature, nor the ability to shut everything else out and "just paint."

So, instead there has simply been quiet. I watched my paint dry up on my pallets. Heck, MOLD grew on one (the ever-wet pallet? Yeah, distilled water didn't stop that from happening. So, there's one marketing claim debunked.) Dust gathered on my easels. I missed deadlines and commitments, and I was embarrassed. I began to wonder if I even could paint anymore.

A little bit of hope worked its way in with some changes (that I yet again cannot mention), and as soon as the glimmer was there, I was able to at least go sit in my studio for a few minutes here and there. I've held onto that little light, and I'm working on making it grow. That nurturing of hope is what yielded these few paintings. I have more in progress now.

My Owl painting, Rae, is what really made me feel better. That made me think that maybe I haven't forgotten everything, or maybe I actually have something of worth as an artist still... You start to doubt everything, especially when you aren't painting and you see all your peers posting more and more work while you post nothing. You are effectively left behind, even if that's not true - art does not leave people behind. (But sometimes, oftentimes, it feels that way.)

I am currently in the midst of trying to cling to the glimmers of hope, trying to be more than barely existing, and some big changes coming soon (that I will be able to talk about, but not quite yet.) I am in my studio now, and I will be painting in a few minutes. Little paintings right now, because I can finish them and give myself a small sense of accomplishment. I need that right now. I feel like it's the starting walk, that leads to a slow jog, then a fast one, and then a run in my studio. I want to run again!

So that's where I have been. That is the quiet I am living in. I have probably said more than I should have in this post, and yet left it vague enough to be irritating (sorry about both.) I hope to have a lot more positive things to share in the future!