Saturday, August 31, 2013


I know it's not actually Autumn yet, but school has started and that means Fall to me! The kids went back to school this week, and I finally had the house to myself on Friday. It was a stressful whirlwind winding up with back to school shopping and stress about my youngest starting Junior High (I can't believe my youngest is in Junior High and my oldest is a Sophomore in High School. How did that happen? I still feel like I'm 16 inside my head.)

Once Friday rolled around, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get into the studio as I was hoping. I always have problems with that transition from hazy, lazy days of Summer to scheduled and busy Autumn. I spent some time bulk baking healthy meals - which I should take this time to say I have been doing much better with my nutrition and fitness, and have managed to shed six pounds over the past four weeks... Only 38 lbs left to go. *sigh* It'll happen. Just, grr. And for the record, I actually am a certified personal trainer too (long story), so I actually know what I'm doing. It doesn't mean I don't think ice cream is the most amazing food ever, and have my own issues though. Knowing what I need to know only serves to make me feel more guilty when I don't make the right choices. Go figure! But for the last four weeks, I've been doing very well! I mention the weight loss because it actually impacts my art. Mostly because I eat out of anxiety about my art, if you can believe it.

I get all wound up in the details, worried over not being good enough, not spending my time wisely, etc. Suddenly, I think eating something I shouldn't (usually chocolate) sounds like a good, and soothing idea. Once I munch on junk, I can suddenly face my easel once again. Yes, I'm aware that's an irrational behavior pattern. I can't explain it. Food is my soother, and it actually worked (even though it resulted in unhappy side effects.) So, given that, it's a good thing I've got it back under control and I'm losing weight again.

Once upon a time, I used to be over 230 lbs (this was in the first year of my marriage, before kids, and so on.) I learned a lot over the years to get healthy (and lost all the weight), and I still am. I've even run a marathon, and several half-marathons.

However, in the past year I have gained steadily. I'm over behaving like that, and I'm back on track. Part of the process is about learning how to get down to business in my studio without relying on food as a crutch (no matter how irrational that sounds, it really is a hurdle for me.) I went into a tailspin for over a year, and I'm not sure why. I'm pulling out of that tailspin, and again I'm not sure why. I'm just really grateful I'm finally pulling out of it!

Even though I thought I would accomplish nothing this week with everything going on, I closed out Friday working on my Queen of Hearts canvas. I'm a freehand artist, and I don't like plotting out the composition beforehand. I rather like working through it, building it as I see it in my head or piece by piece making it all fit together.

I started with my main subject, my evil Queen of Hearts (although I really think of her as the Red Queen, maybe simply because it's easier to say?) on a 16x20 stretched canvas, fine tooth:

I really like the idea of the flamingos being loyal to my Red Queen. Why else would they stick around, when we all know flamingos can fly away? And really, they are a rather bizarre bird. The more photographs I study, the creepier their faces are to me.

Then I realized that I really wanted the White Rabbit to be in this painting too. After all, he is one of her loyal subjects that she relies upon. I already finished his big painting a long time ago (which you can see here, including a time-lapse video of my painting him.)

I decided he should be hiding out in the garden behind the queen. He is a bit nervous, after all. I was amazed at how fast and easy it was to sketch him out. Considering every element in this new painting, the white rabbit was the fastest and easiest to draw. Developing him as a character really did help, and it was a relief to see that recreating the character was not a problem at all. I've been told I should look at illustrating children's books, but I don't know anything about getting into that field, and I also worried about recreating the same characters for a book repeatedly. I now know without a doubt it would be incredibly easy for me - something I had always been pessimistic about. Of course, I still have no idea how to get into that field, but at least my own personal insecurities have been laid to rest on that front.

Lastly, I built up the garden. Now, because I paint a bit on the fly, I only plot out where I want basic elements to go. The main focus of my painting I sketch out in detail because I need the structure (faces, main characters), but many of the elements are left more to the organic flow of the painting when I create.

I sketched in some roses on the garden rose hedge arch that frames the entire piece, but I stopped because that's one of the organic parts that will flow as I come to it (probably as the last element of the painting, as I tend to work from back to front.) What appears to be a horizon line is actually a standing rose hedge line. In both rode hedge cases, they will be white-painted-red roses with the emphasis on the detail in the arch.

Everything will have a bright a floral tilt, but I decided that the flowers wouldn't dare have tea behind the queen's back. So, it'll simply be more of a pretty English garden. I have a couple hedgehogs hiding out as well. I thought about including some card henchmen, but while I tried to experiment with the concept of card guards, they came out far more cartoon than I would like. I simply don't have a good grasp of how I'd like them to look without flashbacks of Disney card bridges coming to mind, and I don't feel like taking my cues from them. I adore Disney, but I want to find my own way with these characters.

So, my sketching of my Red Queen is done! I get to finally start painting her this coming week and I'm excited!

If you are on holiday this weekend (it's Labor Day weekend here in the US) I hope you enjoy your time off. If you are just on a normal schedule, I hope it's a lovely weekend as well! I'm taking the weekend off, determined to run my studio more like a normal business now that the kids are in school. I don't have to strive to steal every minute I can here and there.

Today we went to a local nursery and bought shrubs for our landscaping. Unfortunately, after we had paid for our shrubs, someone stole one before we could get them loaded. I was really surprised, because we live in the boonies. I'd like to think it was just a mistake, but it doesn't look that way. Shrub-theft, who would have thought? Luckily we received a replacement! So, I'll be digging holes this weekend, and the back to painting on Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Event

Over the weekend, I attended (as a vendor) the Vergennes Day festivities. It's been a while since I did a booth (last year I did one on the spur of the moment for a mini-event, that didn't go well), but before that it had been a very long time.

I stopped doing booths because I felt like I hadn't quite figured out what to offer in order to be successful at an event like that. Having your own art booth is very different from selling paintings in a gallery or online. More, each venue is different. Some are art focused, and so people will come expecting to spend money on fine art or prints. Others are crafting events, so they might have been thinking that there might be some art there, but are perhaps looking more for something knitted or nailed together. More, like this last one, people have no expectations at all, except for perhaps food.

If I had only gone into the food business, I'd be raking it in at these events! People do love to eat!

I'm pleased to say that I think this booth went well. No one was expecting art there, but I still made a decent amount of sales. I had prepared by matting prints and having other things to offer like greeting cards and postcards, in addition to a smattering of originals (I didn't bring many though, this being a non-art event.) Basically, I had my price points covered, from $1 and up!

The greeting cards. I'm selling them as an Alice in Wonderland set. 

All the new prints. I much prefer to offer them matted, because I think they look nicer.

My booth came together at the last moment, and while I need to figure some other things out, I was not unhappy with it. Of course, there is always a catch and mine came in the form of a giant road cone:

Is that snazzy, or what? It turns out that there was a huge hole right in the center of the booth that the grass had grown level in, rendering it invisible. First my husband twisted his ankle in it, and a little while later I took a header in it myself. We talked to an organizer of the event, and her solution was to swipe a traffic cone from the 5K race (I hope it wasn't anything important...) and plop it right over the hole. I don't think it helped my booth appeal all that much, unfortunately. Also, several people who did stop in got goosed by it, because it's exactly that height. *sigh*

I only worked on one ACEO to pass the time:

Colored pencil on black illustration board.

And I hung out with my husband, who in general was bored out of his mind. BUT! He was there and supportive, and was much appreciated! He's going to help me with a few future booths as well, but I think he's most looking forward to the big one in October where there will be beer and wine vendors. Somehow, I think he'll be much happier during that two day event than he was with this one day event!

It's actually because I did well enough that I'm going to sign up for the bigger (WAY more expensive) event in October. It's an actual art fest, so my hope is that I'll do much better than I did here.

In other news, school is finally starting! Both my kids will head back on Wednesday, and I should finally be able to start working on something bigger than an ACEO! Oh, speaking of which, I have been getting requests for prints that size. So, that's one more thing to add to my list of need to do/have's.

Me, hanging in my booth on Saturday. Perhaps a wee bit sweaty (it was hot at times!)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hop To It!

This week has been busy, as has the rest of all the weeks so far this summer. Today, I managed to score some really good deals at the local nursery that allowed me to land 10 trees, four shrubs, and two pretty purple tree things:

Aren't these pretty? They're like half tree, and half shrub!
Of course, you have to plant the plants you buy. That means digging holes in the extremely hard clay. A lot of holes. Ugh.

I sunburned my face. I can feel every expression I make, and not in a good way.

Lily has been helping run errands:

She's looking for my daughter in this picture. She takes her job very seriously.

The wildlife has been popping in to say hello:

It's an itty-bitty Mr. Toad!
And I also decided to participate in a doodle auction on Facebook. If you are interested in participating or bidding, you just quickly apply to the group and then either add your pictures, or comment on the item you'd like to bid on. These two doodles I did are for the current doodle auction that ends mid-day on Sunday:

"Swim Close" 4x6" pencil on strathmore paper Starting bid: $3
The tone is actually balanced, my phone just took a funny picture.

"Sea Dragon" 4x6" pencil on strathmore paper. Starting Bid $1

The "doodling" has been interesting. Really, I've spent more time than I should have on a doodle. These are more like faster sketches (which still took a while.) They're not finished off like a professional sketch would be, but they're not super fast like a doodle would be. I may be incapable of doodling right now, but this is as close as I can come.

Sketching has been good, because I haven't done it in so very long. Years and years. I think since my children were babies, actually (they're 12 and 15 now!) I'm very rusty. I used to be able to sketch so precisely that it was almost photographic when I was finished with it. Granted, those sketches took as long as major paintings, and these sketches were quick. Still, I can feel how rusty I am. How the pencil doesn't go where I want it to. Use it or lose it, I guess. *sigh*

So, I need to sketch more. Having a place to sell the fast sketches somehow gives me permission to do them, even if they only sell for a $1, it's still... allowed, then. I don't know why I feel that there has to be some place for these (after all, I have paintings that will never go anywhere,) but I do. Even with my self-imposed restraints, this sketching has been freeing. Something I clearly need, especially given how rusty I feel.

I also managed to hit a fast, almost last-minute deadline for Thrice Fiction Magazine, and finished these two small pieces to be paired with stories (not by me) in the upcoming issue (plus an older work for the editorial):

"Snip" 5x5" Acrylic on canvas board

"Caged" 5x5 Acrylic on canvas board
I've been working with a new printer locally, and I finally have everything approved and I'm waiting on the final prints. I'm coming down to the wire on some things, because next weekend I'm going to be at a local fair (Vergennes Day), at which I have no idea if I'll do any business, but I'm hopeful. I'm signed up for three this year, and they're all small local ones. Even though I'm used to the bigger ones, this year I have let the bigger ones go. Maybe next year. It just seems like the prices are shooting through the roof for a booth (and when they want to charge $600-1200 for the booth, you really have to ask yourself if it's worth it.)

I've figured out that I'm not going to get any big paintings done until my kids head back to school. So, for this week I'm hopeful that I'll get all my booth issues solved in time, and that's about it (the rest will be back to school shopping and generalized panic.) School starts mid-week after that, and that is when I am planning on diving in head-first with my Queen of Hearts!

I hope your summer is coming to a nice finish (or a lovely lazy sort of finish!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

August Whirlwind

This summer really is just flat out exhausting for me. I still haven't finished sketching out my Queen of Hearts, but I don't think that matters because I don't think I could focus on it long enough to accomplish any actual painting of it anyway.

I knocked out two little paintings, because that's about all I can handle right now:

"Night Bloomers" 


Both of those are for the facebook art auction group I'm a part of, and their theme for this week "Bizarre & Surreal". I tend to tread on the surreal side of things anyway, but I found even this challenging. I think my brain poofed a while back and I've just been coasting on fumes lately. I don't like the level I'm painting at. I prefer my larger, in depth types of paintings, and I feel like... well, like I'm painting junk food. It's quick, it satisfies for a minute, but it's the not meal you were planning on or should have had.

School starts at the end of August (and one of the events I have a booth at will be over.) So I have hope that once a schedule is established, and I'm not feeling the mommy-guilt of needing to entertain my children and fill their lives with... well, whatever I'm supposed to fill it with to make it a good childhood, that hopefully then I can get my painting-head on straight once again.

Until then, it's been chaos all the way and will probably continue on. My fear is that it will continue all the way through the holidays, but I sincerely hope not!

One upside to all this chaos is that I have actually been out and about too rather than home painting.

My husband and I at the beer, wine & cheese festival. I don't like beer, but the wine and hard cider were lovely!

Chocolate beer. A horrible waste of chocolate, because NOTHING makes beer taste good. *sigh*

Had to stop for laundry. Socrates LOVES laundry!
Then the fair came to town (very close to my house. All the noise from the cars and revelers are a bit much. This may be the most hated week of the year for me, even if the fair itself is fun.)

Pink rooster! I think they dye the feathers with Kool-Aid (I'm eyeing my chickens. I have several white ones that would look just FABULOUS in purple or blue...) 
Mama and her new piglets (she's more tired than I am!)

This alpaca liked that we have the same red hair color and insisted I scratch his nose.
And the very best part of the fair is the demolition derby.
I don't know why cars smashing into each other is so much fun, but it is!

There were baby creatures everywhere! I think the baby lop-eared bunnies were my favorite, though. The cows were mooing, the horses were snorting at one another, and the sheep were making those gosh awful creepy Baaa-AAA-aaa's that sound like something from another dimension (the cute little lambs sounded sweet, but the big rams? Yeah, middle of the night hearing that and I would have a heart attack!)

There was maple flavored everything, grease fried everything else, and many a tummy-ache was to be found. Which means everyone had a great time!

Throughout all of this, we also finished the kitchen:

(I'm trying to think of something fun and new for over the cabinets. Right now, I have grapevines and twinkle lights. I like the lights, but maybe it's time to do something new... any ideas?)

This weekend, my goal is to get my tent all straightened out for the booth event in a couple weeks. I'm surely not ready, and I don't even have all my prints sorted out. Hopefully I'll get that under control. And back to school shopping, that has to happen sometime... and more laundry... and...

Maybe I'll just sleep the full week when school starts again in about three weeks?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Art Exercise

I really think  I have Art ADD. Or more, maybe I'm over-saturated on ideas and things to do. I have been continuing with the ACEOs:

"Swing" Acrylic on black illustration board, ACEO Available on my site for purchase

But then I knew it was finally time to get my Queen of Hearts moving along. So, I finally started sketching her out on a 16x20 canvas:

Now, she's only part of the canvas. That is just a close-up. I'm planning another flamingo at her feet, and the white rabbit peaking from behind her skirts, and I think some playing cards here and there along with a sculpted garden behind her... or perhaps her castle in the distance? I'm not entirely sure about the background yet, and it's holding me up (I also need to fix her bodice so it's more accurate in the proportions. I free hand everything onto the canvas, so it's an organic work in progress.) I'm pleased with her face. Regal and scary at the same time, which I like better than the frumpy version you tend to see of her. I mean, there has to be a reason she ended up in charge and stayed that way, right?

Anyway, so that is in progress and then my fine art magnets finally arrived from the printer:

They're actually more vibrant in person, I should have tweaked the photo a bit, but I was very excited!

I'm selling the big magnets (about the size of a postcard) for $5, (and the little ones for $3, but only in person.) Right now, I'm offering a free little one with the purchase of any four big ones in my Etsy shop. 

Socrates checking out the small magnet of the painting he modeled for. He approves!
Eventually I'll get them up on my main website, but I have figured out that it's probably time for an overhaul and integration of a new shop system on my main website... but I don't have time for that right now. So, Etsy, it is.

And then I found out that there are art auction groups on Facebook! I had no idea, and I'm honestly not sure how I even found them, but find them I did! I joined, unsure of what to expect, and I have actually made some sales! (And bought quite a few items as well, the talent there is stellar.) Here is the link to the first group, and here is the link to the second. Neither one has anything up for auction yet, but they both will open on the 5th with their themed auctions. The first link has non-specific auctions every week as well minus the one themed per month. I know of several artists who blog and visit me who really ought to check them out, and consider putting up some of their work. (The current theme of Bizarre and Surreal is more unusual for them. My fantasy work fits in just fine, so keep an eye on the sites and consider joining me maybe?)

The only downside (if you can call it that) is that I now have all sorts of prompts and reasons to work on smaller works and create things, and I want to very much!!! But... well, remember how I was bothered because I am a slow painter? I'm still a slow painter.

However, this has gotten me a bit more excited about working on these smaller pieces and perhaps trying to pick up the pace. Maybe my normal big paintings will still take months, but perhaps I can gain a little more confidence in my speed by working on these. Like art-workouts. Exercise for my paint brush!

Anyway, I've waited until the last minute, but I'm going to try and knock some pieces out for both. The theme for the monthly group is Moon Goddess. Boy, is that a topic I have covered well in my paintings! But I want to make some new ones too. So, we'll see how it goes.

Additionally, by digging into all of this, I've realized there are some things in my style that I would like to change, in particular the faces of my subjects. I haven't figured out how I want to do eyes yet, and the noses I keep going back and forth on too. Well, it's given me reason to start messing with my sketchbook and making things that will never be sold simply because I'm trying to figure out what feels right. It's been an incredibly long time since I have done that!

Minus us still working on the kitchen, that's all that's been happening. Just crazy art, summer, house project busy! I hope you are all well!

We had just gotten the tiles up in this photo, if you remember from a few posts back the pictures with the old then the new counter, you'll be able to see how much this helps the kitchen look better! We grouted last night, but we're still not done. We're going to get copper outlet covers and hardware for the cabinets to fancy them up. Who knew a kitchen would take so much work?!