Monday, May 2, 2016

So, Paris

I finally got to go to Paris. I used to joke around and tell my parents that I wanted to go to Paris every time they mentioned a trip... which always ended up in reality being going camping in the woods with scary outhouses to visit in the middle of the night where I imagined monsters would pull me down the 20ft drop to my death because my butt at 2AM was just the target they had been waiting for! Really, I never considered how little self-respect a monster would have to have to live in a 20ft deep outhouse in the middle of the woods. Had I done so, I imagine my fear would have been properly placed upon the mosquitoes who DID attack me every single time (which led to some very uncomfortable hikes.)

This time, however, I really DID get to go to Paris! We took the whole family, but a lot of this was for my daughter. She's turning 18 and graduating high school, so this was a sort of last hurrah with her still being my little (underage) girl. In other words, I could still ground her... or make her go with me to the Louvre.

We went all over the city! Even with a week there, we weren't able to do everything. There was still so much we missed... but here is a quick rundown of my photos, in random order (because that would take too much thinking). I decided to leave my good equipment at home and only took pictures with my iphone:

My son got sick, and stayed in a day or two, as did my daughter, so there was a "food emergency" trying to feed them. Luckily, we discovered a pizza place for them. My husband and I were very happy about that! An unfed teenager is a dangerous thing!

The Eiffel Tower was lit up in support of Brussels because of the bombing. It hadn't been very many days when we went.


My girl, and I

My husband and the kiddos

Makes you realize why the impressionists painted as they did, doesn't it?
Louvre, outside upper entrance. Note: buy a pass in advance. Standing in line for 90 minutes isn't fun.

I have a lot of paintings I loved from the Louvre, but here is one of my all-time favorites. He painted more than one, and they're stunning. Each painting in the painting is its own painting in its own right. Just mind boggling! Check it out:

Ancient Rome, by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1757
I'd actually buy a canvas print of these if I could find a good source. It looks like a lot of people go and take a photo and then try to pass it off at a canvas print place online. Tricky-tricky... I'm doing my research. There's got to be a reputable place!

And of course, everyone asks and you kind of have to:

I have never liked the Mona Lisa. I will say, however, she is MUCH better in person. It doesn't matter what scan you have seen of it, or whatnot, it's just not the same. I still think it's just so-so. I have far more that I love, Mona would be at the back of the line for me!

Crepes! (boy, they like their nutella there...)
Sacré-Cœur, Paris.
I found Notre Dame to be a bit creepy, to be honest... 

This is apparently Saint Denis, who was decapitated and one story had him running off with his head for a couple of miles afterward. He's on the front of Notre Dame, but also ALL OVER Paris, if you pay attention. Even in the Louvre, there are paintings of him.

We waited the longest to get into the Paris Catacombs. That is a whole different experience. You know you are going to be seeing bones and stuff, you "get" that... but it's entirely different to stand in a corridor full of bones. These were people, SO MANY people (6 million down there, I'm told) and now... they're skull hearts and weird walls. It's shocking, even if you totally grasp what you are about to see.

We actually went even more places than I am showing here, met up with some online friends who are now in person friends, and so on! SO MUCH TO DO! 

On the last afternoon, we finished our trip by going back to the Eiffel. On the first night, my daughter was sort of accosted... I don't know how to put it, by one of the Rose Men. It's a long story, but it ended with her in tears, no one going up the tower, and me googling scams and thieves here. Which, by the way, YOU MUST do if you're going to visit. The pick-pocketing, scamming, theft, and more are out of control. Every where we went there were people trying something, it was really bad. Even on the trains - we saw one guy get mugged and the thief jumped off at the last second before the doors closed and took off. The begging is beyond shocking (and mostly also a scam, if you look into it) and so on. Paris is great, but go to it with your eyes wide open, and a firm hand on your wallet.

Anyway, my son and I were the only ones to go up the Eiffel on the last day, because my husband and daughter aren't too keen on heights. I loved it! 

This is a panoramic view from the first floor, not the top.

A storm moved in while we were up there:

But we did go to the very top! 

Paris was amazing, truly!

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Well, crap. I mean, "HI!!!"

It's been so long since I have posted. I know. In truth, a lot has happened. Unfortunately, almost none of it happened in my studio. To say I have been struggling in every aspect of my life would be an understatement.

I sort of hit a wall recently. I fell into a depression for a few weeks, but I think it's been creeping up on me for a while. This wasn't a case of the blues, because the blues are excellent for painting. That's the super-productive artistic type of depression, and honestly? I sort of welcome those. I watch sappy tear-jerking movies (Beaches and Steel Magnolias still get me every time, you'd think they'd lose their power over all the years) and I paint for endless hours. My output is awesome with a case of the blues!

No, this time I had the kind of depression where getting out of bed just seemed like too much. I did it anyway, because I'm a parent and I'd die before I stopped being there for my kids... but the moment they were off to school, I pulled the shades, crawled back into bed, and tearfully went back to sleep. And it wasn't even good sleep! I swear, I haven't had a decent round of sleep for over decade.

I did things to try and loosen the hold depression had on me. I exercised like normal, thinking the natural endorphins and all that would snap me out of it. I ate healthy... then I ate poorly... then I ate EVERYTHING (every. thing.) How about painting my feelings? Nope. Not gonna happen. I even thought about quitting my art entirely. After all, what was the point? I sucked anyway, so why bother? Talk to a friend? Let's be honest here, no one actually wants to hear it, not even my husband. Nothing I tried worked.

But over the last week or so, it's started to get better.

I honestly can't explain why I started to shake it off, because nothing has changed. Where I stand now, I still want to crawl back in bed every morning but it's not as hard to fight the urge any more. I'm glad it has shifted, because my next step was to reach out to a doctor to get help. I know all too well how this depression thing works, as it's been a major fixture in my family since I was a child.

I will say, I don't think that this depressive feeling is unwarranted. I've seen others struggle with depression when it didn't come from identifiable sources. Maybe that's why I am starting to come out of this round by myself without help - because it comes from a LOT of places:

  • I have moved to a state that I'm not certain I like
  • I'm adjusting to actually having neighbors and people in my face all the time because I live in a neighborhood and there are just so many people here in this state comparatively (and I'm an introvert, so this is really hard - I've had more people in my house in the last few months because of contractors and bug people and lawn people and furniture people and plumbing or whatever people, than I have had the entire 15 years I lived in Vermont.)
  • My daughter is turning 18 and graduating High School. This is the end of "parenting" as I know it. I'm thrilled and heartbroken at the same time. This one is a biggie. I probably should have listed it first.
  • My studio is NOT working out as I had planned. I'm having a lot of art business related problems. Some are entirely my fault, while others are a product of the move, or - my favorite - being the outsider because I'm new here.
  • Family problems. But I'll not be over-sharing, so just imagine some appropriately angsty kind of stuff that aren't deal-breakers, but aren't fun either.
All that is plenty, and then I've been running myself ragged with a lot of activities. For example, we went to Paris for Spring break (PARIS! I had never been, and we figured it was a make-up trip for not taking any at all for so many years, and our last chance before my daughter was actually considered an adult.) Paris was awesome, and I'll cover that in a later post, but it was also completely exhausting. We walked 8-13 miles a day doing whatever it was we were doing. Lots to see, big city to navigate, and frankly a lot of stress because a foreign country is an unfamiliar place. (It was still awesome, though.) 

I think it's entirely possible that I exhausted myself to the point that the depression could finally put me in a choke hold. And maybe, while it wasn't ideal, maybe all that crawling into bed was something I needed to do. I don't know.

Anyway. I'm not feeling great about things, but it's getting better. I'm up, exercised, showered and dressed, sitting in my studio cussing out a few canvases and finally logging in a blog. I figure that's an improvement!

So that's the update on where my head has been for all these weeks... I'll be sure to post about Paris and more going forward next time! Here is the pitiful amount of art to come out of my studio during the previous weeks:

"My Heart" 8x10, oil on canvas, for Thrice Fiction Magazine. Available in my store.

and I finished the mermaid:

"Ebb" 9x12, oil on canvas panel. SOLD

Thursday, March 10, 2016

There's Only So Much Time

I cannot believe a month has gone by since I've updated my blog again. I feel like I'm alternately the most lazy person in the world, and also as if there is never enough time in a day because I'm just so busy with a million projects. I'm not sure how both co-exist, but they do for me.

I feel guilty for every single moment I take for myself. I think I'd feel better if someone told me how much time I am allowed for myself in a day, time that would be thought of as not being lazy and instead being perfectly acceptable as "me-time". Is there a chart somewhere? I need that...

So, since I have last popped in I turned 41.
Me, the morning of my birthday.

It was an interesting birthday because at first I wasn't going to celebrate it ON my birthday at all. My husband was traveling all over the world and wasn't going to be in town, and I just wasn't feeling it (I was also thinking about me trying to lose weight and how that wouldn't help things.) But on my birthday, I woke up and I knew I wanted to do something. My husband had a weird situation that ended up with flights canceled and him actually here on my birthday, so I took that as a sign! There was dinner, and chocolate cake. 41 years of chocolate cake seems like an achievement! (I just wish I didn't see leftover cake as a personal challenge. It's a good thing I have a teenage son willing to "help" me out on that issue.)

On the art front, I snagged a couple abstract commissions and also completed a few more paintings. I'm starting the abstracts at a significantly lower price-point because I figure it's sort of a re-entry into the abstract market after so long. I also dumped Etsy (finally!) and created my new store front and got that up and running ( So here are some of the paintings I finished in February:

9x12, acrylic on stretched canvas. Available.

This was a commission, but the client decided he wanted a smaller moon. 

Since on the last picture, the client rejected the moon being so big and I painted him another, I had this big moon canvas and I needed to do something with it, so, I added knife-worked trees and little cardinals in the branches:
16x20, acrylic on canvas, available.
I've finished others and they've sold and gone on their way to their new homes, and I have plans for a wooden panel elemental series... just as soon as I get some GAC 100 to seal the panels. (I know some people use GAC 700, but are there any other alternatives? I've always used prepared panels prior to this, but these are raw birch.)

I've started a smaller mermaid piece, and here are just two pictures of the under painting layers - I'll be adding in color today, actually!

She looks a little crazy eyed, but I figure lashes (one of the finishing touches) will soften that considerably. At least I hope it will. Otherwise, she's a little scary.

I have another surreal painting JUST getting started on the under tones with an elephant and a girl, and I also am gearing up to finish out the Alice Series. I have the 18x24 finally all laid out. I know some people are very precise in their painting sketches, but the only part that is solid in a painting sketch for me is a person's face. All the rest is sort of a landmark type of thing for me. It's loosey-goosey.

For example, the Cheshire will look at a lot better than that, and the bushes and stuff, I've just marked roughly where I want them to go. The painting is large, and complicated, but I hope it won't take too long. I'm so far behind, and the client really has been patient with me... but enough is enough! (I have too many commitments I think.)

I figured out I've been tripping over Lily almost constantly as she's become my stalker. I'll paint for a while, not look down when I go to stand up, and then suddenly be on the floor. She picks a new, sometimes stealthy, spot behind me every time, too.

And Socrates has been doing his best to distract me:

It's really hard to paint when a Maine Coon Cat decides he wants your attention. But in truth, it's coming down to me and my own distraction and needing to properly focus and get my work done.

I have to complete the mermaid and elephant paintings by the 20th, so I have very little time and so much work to do. My focus right now is to finish all the commissions I have and clear my books, and then re-evaluate my plan for the year. I had set up three new series I was going to be starting, and I haven't managed to start a single one of those and yet here we are in mid-March. I need to figure this out. Some of that might be disappearing for a while from my other social media so I can just be on a paint-frenzy and try and make a few jumps forward.

Time, and not having enough of it, seems to be my theme this year!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Let It Fly

My husband left for business (Paris, France... then Bangalore, India.) Fortunately, he's currently on a plane back, and we (the teenagers and I) have successfully survived another few weeks on our own. It's gotten easier since we spent 10 months on our own in Vermont. It used to be that even a short business trip threw everything out of whack, but I guess we've sort of gotten over that given how long we were on our own.

Still. It was a hard couple of weeks for me anyway. His trip coincided with my Bermuda triangle of doctors appointments that all happened to fall within the same week. It wasn't supposed to be like that, but that's what happened. Moving out here, it's been tough "establishing care" because you have to wait forever to get in to see a doctor if you're new. Once they know you, it's like you have the secret password and they're allowed to talk to you and schedule you... BUT NOT BEFORE! We can't just schedule people! It would be chaos, woman! CHAOS!

Anyway, among those appointments I was informed that I was over 40 (you don't say) and that, lucky me, I get to go have my first mammogram! I went home and called one of the numbers on the sheet they gave me for the places that do them, and my plan was to make my appointment right away because I was being responsible. I was very proud of myself. Right up until the woman on the phone said "We could see you right now," and I actually blurted out like a whiny six-year-old "But... I don't wanna go right now!"

She laughed at me. I laughed too, but I was also completely serious. I agreed to go the next day though. That whole being responsible-thing, and all. I have to say, I got it done and endured it, but... is it possible our ta-tas (and I just looked up alternate words for them here - that was quite an adventure, I think sweater-stretchers was my favorite) well, that maybe they don't re-inflate all the way after something traumatic like that? I swear I have more room in my bra than I did before I went in. Would that work on my derrière? I'd happily submit, in that case.

The day after that, I went to the eye doctor at Target and got a prescription for new reading glasses for when I'm painting, and an education about drive-through medicine in a big box store. I can't decide how I feel about it. They had all the machines. Everyone was nice enough. It was just super fast, very uncomfortable to be in a super-bright room while my eyes dilated, and it just felt... cheap. I'm sure everything was just as precise as anywhere else, but it still felt that way. I was also told my distance vision in my left eye is starting to kick off too, but I was able to hold off getting actual glasses to wear all the time just yet. I might not have long, but I was able to squeak by this time!

Getting older bites.

On the weight front, I was doing great with my workouts and pretty decent with my food... and my number wasn't moving down at all. Very frustrating. It started moving again today, but that's always a frustrating thing and it just piled on to the whole "I'm not enjoying this" time I was having.

In the midst of that, I found out that prom is a deadly serious event down here in the south. Even though prom is in April, apparently everyone pretty much has their gowns already (and they're wicked expensive here, too!) So, my daughter and I went dress shopping. I tried on one myself, but it felt like either an "older/mature gown" or I don't know. Just... "off"

This thing was really complicated too. It has a slit that goes up to the waist that you can kind of see on the side there? Underneath, is a really complex lacy beaded secondary sheath. Also, it cost more than my first car. I was careful to hang it back up very gently. We had wandered into Saks Fifth Avenue, and had never been there before. Who pays $150 for a pair of underwear?! Who are these people?!

We eventually made it through some crazy prom shops where I think the moms were all ex-pageant contestants vicariously living through their daughters (it was very unsettling) and found David's Bridal. They didn't have a huge selection, but they had "the one" my daughter wanted, and I wasn't going to have to sell her brother in order for her to have it.

I can't believe she's going to be 18 in June. Sigh. Also, I wish they had prom dresses like these when I had prom! 1992 and 1993 was not good fashion years. At all.
I hope those photos never see the light of day.

On the work front, I just felt frustrated all the time. ALL the time. I'm trying hard to get these Alice in Wonderland commissions done, because I really need to move on. They're important, so I'm going to do them right, but I feel like I am fighting myself every step of the way. It feels like that scene in the Neverending Story where the kid is slogging through the swamp and can barely go on. It's so ridiculous at this point, I'm annoyed with myself.

Which doesn't help, just in case you were wondering.

I'm still trying to sketch out the whole Queen Alice piece. She's big, and complicated at 18x24 inches. There are a lot of elements the client needs, and I'm trying to fit them in so they all flow nicely.

Queen Alice. That's the Jabberwocky behind her, all dragonish.
One of those elements is the Mad Hatter, which is an 8x10 commission for the same client. But I needed to sketch him out on his portrait so I knew who I was adding to the big one. He's finally done, and ready for paint:

He'll look less old, hopefully, when I paint him in. I needed shadow and line markers, and they always make a person look old on an outline sketch.
And now I can add him, and the white rabbit, and the Cheshire cat... and we'll see what else is needed. It really is like trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle at this point. I'll get there. Eventually.

I was so frustrated, that I decided to blow off steam, art-style. I started out professionally as an abstract artist... here's an oldie, but popular one from 2003:

They're really quite freeing when you've been working so precisely. So, I just started throwing paint. I started letting it fly, and just putting it where my gut told me too. Very zen of me, I suppose. I got to a stopping point, because it needed to dry, and posted a few pictures on Facebook. This one in particular set of a very unexpected reaction:

People loved it the way it was. Said I should stop. Sell it like this.

Like this?

I've done abstract, I started in abstract... but even I never went this abstract. I stepped away from it. I added a tree with just a knife to another smaller one, while I was thinking about it:

And landed a fast commission for a matching tree, and a big moon in the middle. (still working on that one.)

And still, people carried on. Liking the plain, abstract purple piece. Encouraging me to do more. Messaging me, and backing that up with inquiries.

I have to admit, I'm a bit floored. I had never considered really working that abstractly. Not to mention, I had absolutely no direction, no purpose in mind. I was blowing off steam, letting it fly... and people liked the result.

I've done a bit of thinking about all of that, and I've decided to keep with my original plan of my three series (Nyx, Elephants, and 12 Dancing Princesses), but that I am also going to do a 5 piece Element Series and put it out there to test the waters. I feel conflicted and surprised on several levels, and I imagine it'll take a bit more thinking on my part, as well as whatever happens with the series, to come to some sort of peaceful resolution... but perhaps, just maybe, a new door is opening to me that I never expected. I'd be a fool not to walk through it just to see what's on the other side.

I'm just going to let it fly, and see what happens! Perhaps that is an attitude I should start taking with different areas of my life as well. I've lived with such fear and worry and feelings of inadequacy... what good has that ever done me? I can always crawl back into my cave if it all goes wrong. Right?

So, here's to letting it fly!