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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Half-Price Chocolate Day

It's the day after Valentine's day, and that means major sales on chocolate! Not that I'm buying any, but I AM going to go hunt stuffed animals with my son later this afternoon (it's likely HE will be the one scoping out the chocolate.)

My husband and I went to Walmart on Sunday, and I have to say that I have never, in all my life, seen that much stuff in one place for Valentine's Day. Maybe it's a bigger deal here in North Carolina than in Vermont?

They had these red bins of stuffed animals as far as the eye could see. I'm not kidding, they were set up two-deep in front of every register like you see in the photo I snapped, but also down every larger walkway, and in the back of the store. Never have I wanted to take a running leap more than I did when I first caught sight of all these giant red bins. Forget ball-pits, I want a pit of stuffed animals!

That wasn't even the tip of the iceberg though! There were so many aisles full of candy and decorations and crafts... good grief! Balloons everywhere! Pink baked stuff on every corner. Flowers shoved into huge shelves that bracketed the doors... Actually, that is something I'm going back to see if I can snag a few of. I don't like getting flowers, unless they're potted. I always feel bad when the cut ones die, because they were so expensive. If they're gonna die, let it be me that accidentally killed them instead of paying an arm and a leg for ones guaranteed to die in a vase.

Now, you might be thinking I'm a grown woman with stuffed animals all over her house after my obvious fixation on them in the store, but that's actually not true. I was that kid who collected (far too many) stuffed animals, but I did eventually get rid of them as an adult. Probably because I had children, and I got to live vicariously through their stuffed animal collections. Now, both of my kids don't really have many anymore, but they still like getting one at Christmas.

I have a few small stuffies, all given to me by my children throughout the years sitting in my studio, and a new one this Valentine's day from my husband (a small purple unicorn. He also gave me a Reese's heart, but I haven't gotten into it. I really am trying to lose weight! I just visit it, and tell it I love it, but I leave it in its box. I can't even smell it like that. I know. I have issues.) Likely, I'll go and just stand there in Walmart and imagine how great it would be to buy a giant bear for 65% off, but not actually do it. A sort of vicarious discount experience. I'll probably do the same with the chocolate.

In order to stay out of the chocolates, I decided my fast painting for Valentine's day would actually BE chocolates. That might sound like I was torturing myself, but it was kinda neat. It turns out chocolates are a lot more complicated than you would think. Instead of spending only 20 minutes on it like I am supposed to, I went the better part of an hour. I was frustrated it wasn't moving faster and I was determined to finish it. I do like the results though:

Chocolates, 4x6 acrylic on loose canvas
A lot of people have complimented it and say it looks like a photo. This is flattering, but also interesting to me. The reason being is that I think I have finally learned, I mean really let it click for once, that even when you don't paint it perfectly that the viewer's brain will correct or even fill in the details to make it look the way it's "supposed" to in real life. As long as you're not too far off, the viewer's brain will do the rest.

If you get close up to this painting, there are mistakes. There are areas where it's so very clearly painted, and maybe even wrong. I've been working with my nose so close to the canvas and being mad I can't get it perfect on all my bigger paintings, but the truth is... it doesn't need to be. This might help me speed up my bigger painting projects and hopefully improve them overall. All a part of my growth. Working on it!

I also finished a little daily 20-minute last week, the last of my Betta's for that week:
4.5x6, oil on loose canvas
I'm working on some larger paintings at the moment, but the in-progress shots would be a mess to show! But at least I'm working! It's forward progress for where I want to go with my studio, I just need to create enough space between assignments and deadlines to start changing things for myself and growing. It's hard to push back, but I'm trying.

A lot of it is my own fault, too though. Tripping all over myself, boxing myself in. It's that way in all areas of my life that have problems, I think. Whether it's my studio, or my weight, or what have you... why am I always in my own way? Oh well, a thought for another day.

For now, paint, and later... hunting unicorns!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Awww, Come ON!

I have a cold.

Actually, to be more precise, I have my husband's cold. I had it settling in yesterday morning, and it was coming on strong last night. I didn't sleep well, because I had horrible nightmares, like my in-laws suddenly moved in with us and the only thing coming out the taps was mud, that I somehow caused by using those toilet-drop-in tablets. (Yeah, I dunno what's wrong with me either.)

The one upside to nightmares is that you are so relieved that it wasn't real, you can pretty much face anything else that's coming that day! And what was coming was... *gasp* a mammogram.

OK, I just cannot get over that word. I feel like it should be a ripped guy in very little clothing, cowboy hat, with balloons, showing up to sing something. They need a new word, because in my head it always looks like "Ma'am *wink* o-gram" and then I start giggling like a 12-year-old. Because I'm mature like that.

Speaking of maturity, I think they should have wine at mammogram places. It would really liven things up! I walked in to the windowless waiting room of gonna-get-squished doom, and they basically had an assembly line going of women who were all miserable to be there, and avoiding eye contact. That's no fun at all. I mean, we already know what's coming and there's no way to make that part fun, so why not liven up the waiting room?

Anyway, I survived. I feel like I chest-planted into cinder blocks, but I survived. WHILE I have a cold, mind you.

I bring this up, because my husband came down with this cold on Sunday and proceeded to basically... well, act like he's dying. He got the dreaded MAN-cold. I think I read somewhere that the man-cold is a real phenomenon and that they get sicker or feel worse than women do. I dunno. I kinda want to dispute that, but ok. Whatever.

The real kicker isn't that anyway, it's that apparently with this cold comes a whole bunch of water weight. It BETTER be water weight. Unless I'm sleep-donut-eating, it can't be real (and we don't have any donuts anyway... wait, maybe that's WHY we don't have any?!) But it's demoralizing just the same. Stupid scale. Stupid cold.

Ok, there's a slight chance I'm a wee bit grumpy. A small possibility.

On to brighter news! Yesterday, I didn't feel up to my daily painting, but I did do this one today:

4x6 oil on loose canvas. I decided to focus more on his face, so there was a focal point. I really think it makes a big difference in the painting.
I also managed to finish this little 5x7:
5x7 inches, oil on cradled wood panel. 
That one had been kicking around for a while, so it was good to get it done. I also finally photographed these three ultra-mini paintings:

2x2 inch, oil on stretched canvas

2x2 inch, oil on stretched canvas

2x4 inch, oil on stretched canvas
It's kind of nice to get a few done, and then processed (have to take pictures, post them for sale in my shop, etc. It's more work than you would think!) Now I have deadlines to focus on, and stop procrastinating by doing other work... is it procrastinating if you're still working? Seems like a gray area to me. Just sayin'.