Monday, December 31, 2012

Closing the Year

2012 is fast headed out the door, and 2013 looms before us!

This has been a large year for me on the art front because, while I've been selling professionally since 2001, I shut down every other business and idea outside of art this year and committed to it 100% by June. I shut the doors on my photography business in May when it became clear that both businesses were heating up and requiring too much to allow both to survive, and that's when I made the final decision to finally say yes to the paint.  (Want to know more about my art-business path? I was invited to talk about it in a guest post here.)

I even figured out how to make a time-lapse video of my paintings (I made three, actually!)

I also learned that I can make a video blog (vlog?) from my phone, and tried it out:

I plan on actually doing more of those vlogs (and decorating my studio a bit more, because it looks depressingly stark on the video! I should add that my house is vibrant everywhere else, and I think I removed the color from everything in there so mine would be the focus when I added it to the canvases!) And I hear tell that some artists are trying art-meet-ups via Skype or other video chatting, and I'm interested in giving that a go... if I can get over my shyness, and find others who want to chat while we work!

I have a lot of goals for 2013, and I'm looking forward to a year filled with paint and opportunities! I'm going to make it a goal to finish a painting a week. Sure, my larger paintings take more time (months and months in some cases) but I promise to take the time to work on some smaller, faster ones as well. Allowing for some sick and vacation time, that means about 48-50 new paintings next year!

I'm going to tighten back up my sketching skills so I jump forward in other ways. I used to work solely in pencil, not even color. I remember working so hard in high school on detail that I made a picture of my hand that looked like a black and white photograph when I was finished (boring, but all about the detail - composition didn't matter then.) Once I achieved that, I wanted a new challenge, and that was color. I slid first to acrylics and I didn't like the results, so I backtracked and went heavy with chalk pastels. For some reason, color meant more about expression than detail, and I loosened up in order to allow for that.

Eventually I conquered the paint, and my tight detail rendering slid into the shadows as I learned I just needed the basic outlines for painting, and the detail came from the paint instead. It's time to revisit the detail and work on crossing it with the color - in particular with watercolors, where the details count in the pencil rendering. This will make my "painting a week" more achievable, because watercolor just works a bit faster than acrylic or oils for me.

Speaking of oils, they're coming out this year. I miss the depth! I plan on using them for any people I paint, because it just looks better to me. It's going to be tough waiting for the oils to try as the trade-off, but it'll be worth it. I'll still work in acrylics as well, though.

Lastly, I'm going to continue working on my fairytale series, but I'm also resurrecting my abstracts and surreal body of work (I had pulled them from my site when I did a major revamp almost two years ago, I think.) I'm going to be offering some prints of the older ones, and new ones are already lining up for the easel! Also, this work dovetails nicely with THRICE Fiction Magazine, where I have been lucky enough to be asked contribute artistically, along with other talented artists and writers.

I'm thankful to all who have supported my art, as well as those who have found a piece they like and took it into their homes! It's been a huge 2012 for me, and I'm looking forward to 2013! I hope you had a wonderful year, and have a fabulous 2013!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Wishes

Tonight, I finished a mini-painting (while piles of cookies and remnants of wrapping paper lay all around me):

"Flurry" 4x6" watercolor, available for purchase on my main site.
I really love the snow queens lately, but even more than that I love the luminance that watercolors give to the "skin" of the people I paint. It's something I guess I never really paid attention to before. I remember watercoloring figures and faces about a decade ago (maybe a few here and there since, but mostly about 10 years ago) and I always felt like I was fighting the paper. I was always trying to add layers all over, the way one does with oils when building the skin. You under-paint, and build, and build, and that's how you create a depth and luminance with paint and canvas.

However, with watercolor? I finally - finally - got it. I stopped fighting it. I learned to let the light shine through it and I'm simply in LOVE with it. It's almost like capturing light with the slightest of cages of your paint, and shaping it into something else. I'm a hard contrast type of painter though, I can't live without the vibrancy that the colors bring, so when I get the chance to use color I go hard and heavy with it. The resulting contrast and "glow" is something I'm a wee bit obsessed with at the moment. I just love it... I sort of crave it, like I would a piece of chocolate cake. (I'm rather grateful for the calorie-free satisfaction of it all!)

I believe I'll not only be painting more snow queens, but more figures in general with my watercolors, as I work through this newest obsession. I'm working on a Santa that I started at the same time as my snow queen, but my hopes are dwindling that he'll turn out:

You can see my snow queen was in progress. They're smaller paintings, so I needed to be able to switch between the two to allow for drying time and making myself walk away from the paper!
My Santa just looks a bit... feminine. I paint women for the most part, so it's understandable I suppose. We'll see. I still have a ways to go, and there's always the chance it'll work out in the end!

I'm going to try to finish him, but I may walk away for a bit. I have a strong desire to paint some abstracts right now. I have one in progress, and another one on my mind. I've also been playing with the theme of angels. I plan on playing tomorrow by combining the two and seeing where it leads.

I recently was able to watch the whole documentary Who Does She Think She Is? I found it to be both inspiring and depressing at the same time. If you're a woman artist, I think it's worth the watch. I've been thinking a lot about it over the past few days, and I realized that the disconnect with my abstract side needs to be remedied. I've been starting to do so already, but I'm going to make a bigger effort to allow that to happen.

My best selling print, even to this day, is an abstract/surreal work that I painted many years ago:

"Tempest", 16x20, Oil
There is a reason for that, and I'm realizing where the connection is for me personally. It's not about selling, it's about feeling complete. My abstracts seem to be more steeped in emotion, and I miss painting that way. However, I also enjoy painting the ones I do now, like my Alice in Wonderland Series that I'm in the middle of, and others like the snow queens and fun holiday themed paintings. Just like with the watercolors and learning to embrace the light within them as well as applying my heavy hand with contrasting color, I realize that I crave the balance between my emotional abstracts with my story telling and playful paintings.


I am both, and I'm going to allow for that to flourish! That is my gift this year to myself. I thought it was taking time off to just play in the studio, but really that was just my stocking stuffer. My real gift is allowing myself the room to learn how to embrace all of me as an artist, and it will likely be a lifelong endeavor!

On a side note, when my facebook art page is up to 300 likes, I'm going to give away a free 5x7 panel painting (or a watercolor if the winner so chooses). So stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Today was the first day back to school for my son who had been on house arrest for whooping cough. That meant that today was mine... ALL MINE!

I don't know what it is about having the kids around, but I swear to you that my ability to concentrate goes to zero, and I just wander around randomly picking things up, moving laundry, and feeding people. I'm supposed to be playing in my studio, and instead I've suddenly gone 200% into Mom-Mode.

It happens.

I did manage to tackle a large portion of our holiday baking, however!

These are my peanut butter Reese's cup cookies.
These are sour cream sugar cookies on the back left, chocolate chip on the left, and double chocolate chunk on the right. There were plain peanut butter cookies off to the side too, but they didn't fit in the picture. Bagging up the goodies for neighbors, teachers, and friends is next!

Later that night after dinner, we somehow ended up with the box of extra plastic ornaments and it turned into an impromptu game of ornament floor hockey (with lots of added giggles):
Not all of the ornaments survived.

So, while I didn't accomplish anything artistic, I did have some good family time!

However, I have been looking forward to today since last week. Normalcy. Children in school, house to myself, studio here I come!

Unfortunately, I think I was so stuck in Mom-Mode that I had to wander aimlessly about the house for a few hours this morning before I could pull it together. At least, that's what I'm using as my excuse. I did a lot of "Now WHY on this green and blue earth would they think it's OK to put their socks there? I mean, who in their right mind would think to themselves that they should put their socks there?!!?! That better not be mustard on the ceiling. Actually, maybe I should be hoping that's mustard on the ceiling. How did they even... you know what? I don't what to know. Nope... Ignorance is bliss. Yup! Ummhmm. sure looks like mustard..."

Eventually, I got to my studio and got this small piece of an elf taking a nice hot bath finished:

"Little Dip", exclusively in my Etsy store.

I also had my order show up with some new watercolors and blocks. I thought I had ordered a 5x7 block, but apparently not. I have a 4x6 and a 9x12 now. Odd, but I'll roll with it and see what happens! I also ordered some ACEOs to try out. With that in mind, ACEO folks? Explain these to me? They just look like small cuts of matting board? Is there really anything all that special about them? Why did you start using them? What has your experience been? I admit, I'm a bit confused about the whole phenomenon of ACEOs, but I'm willing to play it out and give them a shot.

I'm really enjoying my watercolors right now, and I'm going to do another small snow queen, and a Santa. I still have the spider in mind, but I think I'm going to try that one out on my new 4x6 block. I'm realizing that a lot of my sketching skills have gotten a bit rusty because I'm used to loosely working out my composition in pencil and then refining it with paint. Watercolor doesn't allow for that kind of refinement, so I need to banish the rust from my pencil!

In particular, I want to fix my feminine faces. I know they can be so much better (and were, back when I only worked in pencil.) However, I'm also realizing that as I had noticed with the paint, I am having some days that my hands simply won't work as well for that fine detail. I know I have carpel tunnel syndrome in both wrists (diagnosed over 12 years ago), but I'm starting to wonder if I don't have some arthritis setting into my knuckles as well. I'm only 37, but my body is telling me that everything simply doesn't run as smooth as it once did. Working on my sketching skills again, maybe I won't be able to reverse what I apparently was compensating for in the paint with, but perhaps I can learn a new way to produce the results I am after!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let It Snow!

I finished my first snow queen!

"Crystal" 8x12" acrylic watercolor (sold)

I like how she turned out. Watercolor is so much less forgiving than oils or acrylics, that there is a sort of low level of anxiety riding along on any piece you are working on. A couple times there, I thought I had gone right off the cliff and ruined it. I think I got it in the end though! I'm still relearning old techniques and working on sussing out new ones and adding them to my arsenal.

I had some issues with the masking fluid, which I knew I would when I realized it got gone a little wonky on me as it had been years since I had even cracked the bottle. So why did I use it? I'm a little stuck between the traditional "Never add white! White is a violation of the rules of watercolors!" and the realization that I'm not competing with anyone, so I can add any darn color I want. I can enhance with whatever suits me. I could use my earlobes to make prints if I really wanted to, and who's going to care? So, with that in mind (well, maybe not the earlobes, that would be awkward, and then I would have paint in my hair...) I did enhance with white. The masking created a bulky result. That may very well be due to the age, but perhaps the application too. I'd like to find a way to add it to my work in tiny lines (and also to remember where the heck those are when it's time to take the masking off. I keep going back and spotting another snowflake or something that I forgot to pull the masking off of.) I think I wish it came in a pen form. I don't suppose it does? I found this, so maybe that's what I'm thinking of, and I'll order it on my next round and give it a try.

I enjoyed this one so much though that when I put my order into my supplier recently, I made sure to order new watercolors and several smaller hot pressed blocks (maybe one day I'll find a way to fall in love with the texture of cold pressed, but as it stands now I want things smoooooooth!) I forgot to add the masking. Sigh.

It's nice to return to my figures too. I started out with women in my work, whether abstract or not, and it's been a while since I've seen them. I've been on a fairytale kick, and while I love it, I've been yearning to put my figures into process once again. Watercolor, being so quick, is a great way to do this while I'm still carrying out my Alice series in acrylics. It's also giving me something fun to learn. I was an oil painter, and I couldn't make anything come out right in acrylics. It took time, but I finally learned how to do that, and so this year seems to have been all about acrylic painting. I think it's possible that 2013 will be about watercolors, because I love the luminous quality using watercolor and paper can bring to skin tone. I'm still figuring it out, but I'm on to something, and I plan on chasing it!

In other news, THRICE Fiction Magazine is out with their new (free to download) issue, and two of my works are in it. If you like short fiction and fun art, give it a shot!

The forecast says snow this weekend... I'm hoping! I'll be working on my snowflake spider (as well as something involving hot chocolate - on a painting, not drinking it... well, ok maybe drinking it too) in between baking sessions and wrapping up holiday shopping! I need some positive, because this week has been hard on me. I found out one of my dogs most likely has bone cancer (we're waiting on the radiologist, but it's not really in doubt) and I'm worried he'll even make it to January, and we already lost one dog this year (Max, although he was an old fellow. Cosmo is only 7 years old!) My kids possibly have whooping cough, and my son has been told to not go to any public place until Wednesday. The rest of us are allowed to, but he isn't (he doesn't see a problem with this, as it means no school!)

I'm just in sore need of some holiday cheer!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vacation... Sorta...

As I mentioned before, since my deadlines for any current commissions or projects are past the holidays, I have given myself the gift of play. As in, I get to play in my studio and do whatever I want!

I was so excited for Monday to roll around, because that would be my first play-work day! YAY! And then Monday came and I suddenly found myself realizing it was the 10th of December and I hadn't squared away a single person on my Christmas list. Oh, dear.

So, instead of playing in paint, I surfed in retail nightmares. I made some progress on my holiday-to-do list, but none in my studio. In my head, however, things were cooking!

I decided to cut my Halloween witch watercolor free from my hot-pressed block. I didn't like her anymore. She's making me grumpy and I think she's beyond redemption. Cutting her away and exposing that lovely white paper beneath was so wonderful!

It's a really large space, and I realized that I needed to dial myself back a bit. There's no need to fill it all! It's not like a canvas, where you have to; I can cut paper down to size! I drew out a three segment set-up, and I knew the biggest piece was going to be used for my first experimental snow queen:

All sketched out and ready to go. I thought about a figure, but I've been wanting to do a face on a larger scale.

My masking fluid is a bit... questionable, but I blocked in her eyelashes and some random snowflakes, and then got to applying some color:

Underpainting skin tones with purple first.
I am finding it is hard to get my brain on the same page and to remember to NOT load the brush up as you do with normal paint. Watercolor is probably good for my brain, because it dumps all my habits on their heads. You can see where things went a bit off the rails, but I'm hoping as I work my way through it'll all come into focus. This paper just sucks the pigment down and isn't very forgiving to my colors. I'm going to order a new watercolor set, and I have high hopes it'll help (be more workable, I'm positive it's the paint and not the paper.)

Layering in some blues, along with a sienna wash for the skin tone.

I find myself getting impatient. I need to walk away and let things dry out. It's so odd, when you work with acrylics and you have to work quickly or it dries, or with oils and you can over mix it and then have to wait forever (I miss my oils, I'll be digging those out soon too. I've decided to do a fancy Victorian type of Santa in my oils.)

Layered in some reds, and more blues. Her hair, I originally wanted white, but now I want blue so the snowflakes will show up. You can spot the masking now pretty easily as they showed up after I put the washes on. The right side has some wonky parts with heavy pigment, but I'm going to push the pigment layers to hopefully make the image pop anyway, so it should all even out. *crossing fingers*
I have a long way to go. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep the background blue, or layer in some purples or greens across it. I think her cloak should have a white trim, but I'm uncertain if the cloth should be white also. I think so, though. I like the "cold" feel to it in white (now I just need to figure out what color to use for shading. I've kind of boxed myself in as I usually shade white with blues, but with her blue hair... Well, maybe if I push the pop hard enough, I can still shadow lightly in blue to give a white effect? Hmmm.

Anyway! On the left of the snow queen, I have two more squares to play with. In one, I am planning a holiday spider, spinning a snowflake. On the other one? I'm not quite sure. Maybe a fairy? Or a kitten with a cup of hot cocoa or something? Any ideas, I'm open!

I figure I'm playing. Or I'm trying to play. Deep down there is the "Don't screw this up, you could make something you can sell and this won't be a waste of your time!" voice. I'm trying to fight it with the "You're kinda on vacation, lady, so chill! Play! So what if you have to throw a sheet away? Take some time, and enjoy it!"

So, I'm trying to enjoy it. Making your favorite thing your career isn't always as easy as one would think it is. Because no matter how successful you become, you still need to make an effort to keep it as a favorite thing and not lose that sense of play!

I even took time to read a book today. In my pajamas! Unfortunately, it was about zombies and I think my stress level was higher after the book than before it. Well, it was a good attempt at relaxing, anyway!

I'm looking forward to more work on my Snow Queen tomorrow! It's a major bonus for me how quickly watercolor goes compared with acrylics or oils. Anyone paint intricate snowflakes before? I'm thinking about that too...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Irish Kick

With my husband in India (he comes back tomorrow, yay!), my daughter's friend and her mother came over for dinner on Thursday night to keep us company. We had a lovely dinner, with Reese's cheesecake...

Not bad looking, huh? This was my piece! Notice the bowl full of Christmas ornaments? My mother had a box full of plastic ones she was going to toss, and I just couldn't bear the thought. I brought them home and couldn't figure out what to do with them, so I dumped them into a bowl! I like it so much, I want to do it all over my house. That would be over-kill, of course... *ahem*
It was a nice night. Unfortunately, at about 2AM I woke up with the flu. For a while, I was worried I had food poisoning, but as I seem to be the only one affected, I'm going with flu. I'm fortunate that it's a fairly functional one, so I'm still able to operate (even if I did sleep most of yesterday.) Today I finally finished my Irish lass commission piece:

6x6 stretched canvas, acrylics
I think she came out pretty well! I used iridescent paints on her hair and the clovers (I can't seem to stay away from them. I just love the shiny stuff too much.) I was wondering how another figure in acrylics was going to go. While it went well, I still miss the smooth-mixed texture and appearance you can achieve with oils. Granted, I've always had a bit of a heavy hand when I paint... but even so, when it comes to people, I feel better about the results in oils. I just feel that they're deeper. Of course, this was on a small scale too, so likely the results would have been about the same. I'm pleased with her, regardless.

With that in mind, I am finally working on some Santas and the thing is that while I'd prefer to do them in oil, I'm so far behind this season that I there is no way they'd be dry in time to ship anywhere. Of course, on the other side of the argument, if it results in a piece I'm more satisfied with, then I should do that anyway. Maybe I'll do both. Test out how I want my Santa to look in the acrylics and really make a nice piece in oils when I'm ready. Really, I love the holidays, I ought to paint stuff year round when the mood takes me, and then I'd have dry stuff when the season rolls back around!

This conflict between acrylics and oils is going to be tough going forward with my Alice series, because I have one Alice painting started in oils. Bringing together the characters, if they've previously been done in one medium, they likely won't look the same in another... it might make the series appear visually disjointed a bit, do you think?

Now that this commission is done, and the others I have don't have the December deadline, I've decided to stake out my studio as a commission-free-zone and just work on what I want until January. I want to paint Santas, and I really want to work on my Snow Queen. She's been in my head for weeks now! She's going to be in watercolor (to start anyway) and I just can't wait to get started!

I did manage to get my Studio Newsletter out, even if I missed November. I'm working on trying to organize my Zazzle store (advice always welcome on that, because it seems like it would be easy and instead I feel like it's akin to doing advanced mathematics!) I'm also opening up a separate store with my photography on Zazzle. I figure, what the heck? Of course, then the migraine sets in with all the issues of trying to get it to work, just like I have with the first one. (I know, one would ask why I would open up a second, if the first is giving me fits? I don't have an answer. I'm as baffled as you are. *sigh*)

And that's where things sit on this drizzly, dreary Saturday! Oh, except I'm already working on sketching out the elephant I mentioned before. Alice needs an elephant!

I hope you are having a good weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I had been waiting to write a post until I had something to show for it, but I'm starting to realize that  isn't going to happen. I have hardly had any time in my studio lately, because life has simply taken over!

My husband is in India right now on a business trip (I'm lobbying to go with him next year) and I suddenly have the urge to paint elephants with beautiful paint on them, and so on. I think a pretty elephant would be a nice addition to my paintings... were there any elephants in Alice in Wonderland? No? Well there should have been! Maybe in my series, there will be.

I'm realizing that being a "single parent" means I have to get in everything, no matter what time it is, and that cuts right into my studio time. On top of that, we're decorating for the holidays. For some reason, it's taking a lot of effort this year and I feel like stuff is missing. I can't quite figure out what it all is... I know my snowmen have gone MIA, but other than that? No idea...

This set is in my bedroom, which I finally got up last night.
And this is what I did with my kiddos last night...
I have a strong urge to paint and work in my studio, but not nearly enough time, and the holiday deadlines are breathing down my neck. I'm starting to realize why so many artists shut down about a week into December. I had been confused by that, thinking "isn't this their busy time to sell?" But I get it now.

Last year, I hadn't fully committed to selling art as my main career. I was still maintaining a split between my photography business and my art. Now that I look back, I realize that I didn't do much at all in December for my art, but I was hopping on the photography front like crazy with family portrait sessions! Fine art takes a certain mindset that is hard to maintain in the insanity of the holiday season. I see that now!

I'm going to do my best and work with my holiday deadlines, but then? I may just declare a two week period of vacation from my studio. Maybe it'll be a good thing after all! I just feel like I have so many paintings stacked up in my head that want to come out, so I'm climbing the walls at the same time as being able to get nothing done.


I know it's only the 5th, but how's your season going?