Monday, February 12, 2018

A Hard Road

Time seems to move fast and slow at the same time for me. Do you ever feel that way?

As I said before, life has gotten hard again. I wish I could share more, but owing to privacy issues and our judgmental society, I can't. I can say that I am back to being a full-time caretaker in a scary situation, and it's taking its toll on me... and possibly my hair (I've lost about half of my volume of hair over the last year and it hasn't come back. I hope it will, I miss it and my husband has even notices, which freaks me out even more.)

All that being said, I am trying really hard to paint. Art is who I am, and I lose something vital when I don't work. I don't have a lot to show for myself for these past weeks, but I have the following to share:

Nude 1, 5x7 acrylic on canvas panel

Nude 2, 5x7 acrylic on canvas panel

These two nude studies are 5x7 inches, acrylic on canvas panel. I did them because I really want to start improving my figure painting, AND I wanted to try to work with a local gallery here who I like. They had an open call for artists to submit nude works, and I managed to finish these two right on the deadline and submit them.

I don't know when I'll hear back, but hopefully they'll accept them. If not, they'll be available in my shop! The back-facing one was easy! It just flowed. I felt good about it and it went great, especially for acrylic when I prefer oils for people. The second one... what a headache! It got bad enough that I had to ditch the reference photo and just make it up as I went along. It turned out ok once I did that, but it looks less like a real person and more like I made it up... which I did.

I have figured out that while I respect people who can paint with hyper-realism, I don't want to paint that way... but I want to paint in a painterly realistic way, if that makes sense. The top one isn't bad for that goal, as a starting point. The second one, not so much. I suppose it's all a journey figuring my art-self out as I go!

This next piece, well I'm technically not supposed to post it until the 15th, but I wanted to share it (because it'll likely be a while before I blog again, given my history!):

Three-Eyed Fox (I can't figure out a good name yet) 8x10, acrylic on canvas panel, available on auction on facebook,

The theme is "Mystic Animals" and this was what I came up with. I had a lot of thoughts, but weirdly when it came time to sit down and do something I kinda hit a blank until a three-eyed fox. I know I'll have a million ideas later and kick myself for it, but hey, at least I made this deadline too!

I'm going to be 43 in about two weeks. I feel 16 and 80 at the same time right now. I tweak my knee by getting ready to stand up - not actually STANDING up, but just tensing to get ready to stand. Who does that?! Yet, if I buy something like a bottle of wine (which is rare, I don't really drink) I feel like I'm going to get busted like some sort of teenager. I'm in a weird place, yup.

I'm working on trying to take care of myself in between everything going on. Trying to get in workouts, trying to cut back on the chocolate (ha, yeah... there's a losing battle right there), and trying to get sleep and find time to just breath. I really wonder if moving to NC was a good choice. I was so frustrated with VT on many levels, but the main reason we moved here was because college is so unaffordable up there. One year up there at a main university is the cost of a whole bachelor's degree at a main/state university in NC. That's insane, not to mention the job market is dead for new adults as my children would be.

I'm hoping that getting more involved with the art scene here will help. I've submitted to that local gallery, and I also plan on attending some artist gatherings when they start back up in a few weeks... as much as I am a hermit, keeping myself apart isn't helping me settle in. I'm trying, though.

About comments on my post, I can't seem to comment back to folks, so I want you to know I REALLY appreciate your comments, and I'm sorry I haven't figured out how to easily respond!

And... now I'm off to paint for another gallery deadline that I haven't started! EEK!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Monkey Business

I haven't accomplished too much in my studio, yet again. I do have this lemur to share:

4x6 inches, acrylic on canvas, Available

He is only 4x6 inches, acrylic on canvas panel (he's available.) I actually want to do another one. I didn't know how he was going to turn out, and at one point I thought I might have to scrap it.

That's part of the problem I have been having. It's almost like I feel like I forget how to paint on some days. Have you ever felt that? It's so weird! I'm wondering if perhaps I am feeling it because I keep painting things I haven't ever painted before... like a lemur. Really, I haven't painted a lot of animals in general, so I'm figuring out a lot of fur techniques as I go. In truth though, I think I just blindly figure my way through each painting. Eventually it does get there! Well, usually.

I'm still doing a lot of thinking about what I want to do with my art. I know that I want it to be more than small $50 paintings being completed over and over. I want to "paint big" (as in speak loudly.) I also know I want to include human subjects, and I have a LONG way to go to reach the skill level I want to have to be comfortable in my art.

The only way to get there is to start doing it, repeatedly, and consistently. So, that's my goal - to be trite - Just DO it (already!) I can plan and wish all I want, but if I want to get better I need to make the effort and suck it up when it feels crappy. And it will.

Jumping the gun a little bit, I am going to do a nude study for (hopefully) a submission to a local gallery I would like to get involved with. That's coming up fast, so I hope to start that in the next day or two.

Life-wise, things are getting tough again. I wish I could say more, but in short I knew this was coming and it's just very unsettling. Unsettling I can handle, my real fear is it getting scary and life-and-death as it was last year. It's entirely possible. I'm just trying to keep a positive outlook and eyes on the goal of life getting better eventually.

I hope you are all well! I read all your comments on my posts, and I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Starting Mark

I have finished my first piece for 2018! I started this in the winter of 2017, but then it sat dormant as my life got crazy. I picked it back up, and finally finished it:

"Small Talk" 9x12, acrylic on canvas panel, available

This is 9x12 inches, acrylic on canvas panel (with iridescent acrylics used on the moon, because SHINY!)

I have another sister polar bear piece that has the same backstory of being started and not finished that I am layering oils on and finishing it that way. I am going to compare the two and see which I like better.

I thought for a long time that I was going to dump acrylics altogether and just switch to oils because it's my preferred medium. With life being out of control in 2017, I realized I just didn't have time for oils. Not really. I didn't have time for much, so I started trying to do daily paintings. Since they had to be finished quickly, that meant I wouldn't be able to walk away for a few days while layers dried, so out came my acrylics.

Here are a few of my favorites I completed at the end of 2017, they're all little ones 4x6 inches:

Apple House, 4x6 acrylic on loose canvas, available

Cardinal, 4x6 acrylic on loose canvas, sold

Fox, acrylic on loose canvas, sold

Owl, 4x6 acrylic on loose canvas, sold

Vision (owl) 4x6, acrylic on loose canvas, sold

Raven, 4x6 acrylic on loose canvas, available

I enjoyed my dailies so much, that I realized it was a good thing for me to keep doing because it motivated me, and it is the first step in improving my skills like I want to. So, I invested in some acrylics that promised to be a little more like oils. I bought Charvin acrylics, and I have to say they are buttery and a bit more like oils in the blending which is nice, but I'm still on a learning curve with their drying process (it's a bit different than the cheaper Soho brand I had been using), and they still dry flat like all acrylics do (varnish helps this a bit, but you have to be able to see beyond and hope it causes that depth!)

I also decided my dailies are going to be on canvas panels instead of loose canvas going forward (for the most part) and that I will save the loose canvas for fast studies or trying stuff out. It's nice that you can frame loose canvas like a photo, but I think buyers would rather have a hard panel.

I finished out the year with some reindeer, because I was in a festive mood (and I have two more sketched out that I need to paint... although it feels a bit odd after the season has passed!):

Reindeer 2, 5x7 acrylic on canvas panel, sold

Reindeer 1, acrylic on 5x7 panel, sold

That's probably enough pictures for today!

I'm just happy to share my first finished painting, and I hope to be sharing a lot more going forward! Part of that is my own participation on this blog, so I'm going to do better with that.

I think... I'm going to go paint a turtle. It was my intended new years painting, to be the last for 2017, but showing up a little late isn't so bad, I suppose!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Oh, Where Have You Been?

I guess it's almost been a year since I wrote anything here. It looks like my last post was of Valentine's stuff in 2017. It's strange to look back and see that. Life was OK then, but it didn't stay that way.

You will have to forgive me for being somewhat vague about what has happened, it's just not something I can share details about. In March, a family crisis started. It escalated to the point that for months I pretty much stopped doing anything positive for myself. Anything I needed fell by the wayside, and my only focus was surviving it all. At one point, I could barely eat and I lost weight as a result (I'm a stress-eater, so this is a rare thing.) 

Sleeping, gone. Eating right (or at all some days), gone. Exercise, gone. Art, gone. Anything positive for myself, absolutely out of the question.

Part of this was an inability to focus correctly in the middle of the storm, because nothing matters at that moment. Not only did nothing else matter, but denying myself my own basic needs was almost like punishing myself. I wanted to punish myself, to be cruel in any way I could think of. It's not that I did anything wrong, it was that the whole situation wasn't anyone's fault... so it felt good to take my frustration out on the only person I could: me. I made it my fault, even if I knew it wasn't. 

I don't handle being helpless very well, clearly. I also don't handle my world being flipped inside out with any real grace. I've spent more time crying in the shower or my closet than I will freely admit. But I will say it's amazing how just the right spot in your closet can feel like a safe haven.

Things are still not OK here, although they have improved since this past Spring and Summer, but they're slated to get a bit worse in the coming months... with hopefully some sunshine at the end of a long tunnel (but we have been promised that before.) 

I have put together my yearly painting quilt for 2017:

I did very few serious paintings. Most of these are little "daily" paintings I finally started to work on in the Autumn. If I hadn't, there would only be about five paintings or so in it. Considering most of these are dailies, there are even fewer paintings than there should be overall if I was committed even to that.

2017 was about teaching me that I have no real control. Bad things happen, even when you had nothing to do with it. Bad things happen, even though you try to stop or fix things. Bad things happen, and it's not about fair. What happened in 2017 wasn't my fault, but I still had to deal with the fall-out. I realized that control and influence are an illusion, and that made me care little about anything outside of my family. I put my own needs outside of that circle as well.

What I have learned, not heard and acknowledged, but actually learned, is that I have to stop making myself LESS. When I put my wants to the side, that's fine, because the world doesn't revolve around me and people should learn to do that more often. However, when I put my NEEDS aside, it makes me less of a person. If I am less of a person, I am not capable of doing the job I need to do for those that I care about. By being less, I am offering less to those that need me. 

I need to start being MORE.

When you are so busy surviving and taking your frustrations out on yourself, it's hard to stop that momentum and think about being good to yourself for a change. Kindness to yourself is hard. It's much easier to keep beating myself up because I can't take out my angst on anyone else, as that would be unfair. It is even daunting to maybe - maybe - consider the idea that I'm deserving of being treated better, just like everyone else.

It feels wrong, but I know it's the right thing to do. So, I'm trying to get myself back on the right path. I do not expect that 2018 will be a good year, but maybe I can be in a better place by the end of it.

So, here is my list. My resolutions, I suppose:

* Eat right, because it's not about weight anymore, my health is a problem now too.

* Exercise, because I am always better when I do. Also, health and pain benefits, so it's non-negotiable. 

* Sleep, I'm really trying to manage this one but I don't have a lot of great strategies yet. Not eating after 6pm or 7pm helps me sleep better. I'm taking melatonin as well, but it's the anxiety that is ruining my sleep. As that anxiety is actually rooted to when something actually happens, there isn't a lot I can do about it.

* Art/Career, I'm making it a real point to make it into my studio in 2018. Today will be the first day of painting for 2018, because already life got in the way this new year (although I did get my business taxes filed, so... whatever, the boring stuff counts too!)  I also know that I am now searching for my "opus". For me, I want to create a large series that will be well worth leaving behind me when I am gone. So, I am searching for that idea that inspires that in me. Once I have it, I will "train" towards it, until I'm ready to start. This is a years-long journey, but it's worth it. I have purpose again beyond the commissions and gallery shows. More on this later.

* Breath, I'm trying really hard to give myself time to breath (I hate yoga and meditation, it actually makes me angry... running is my zen. I'm that type. So, that's not what I mean.) I'm working on speaking to myself -on the inside- in the moment about how it's not all my responsibility and I cannot fix everything, and how that is OK even if it feels like it's not. It's the closest I can get to treating myself with kindness, beyond meeting my own basic needs right now.

My hope is that from these five things, I can grow other beneficial behaviors and results. This is my base I'm cobbling back together, and I am hopeful to see what I can build on top of it once it is stable.

I'm going to really try to make 2018 better than 2017 was. I'm fearful, because 2017 was so bad, but it's just one of those things, isn't it? The days will pass whether I want them to or not, at their own speed. It is good to meet tomorrow better than I did today, and next month better than this month, so that maybe - just maybe - I'll meet 2019 in a completely different place.