Monday, July 28, 2014

Rainy Day

For a July day, it's decidedly dismal here. It's raining, and dark, and apparently we're not going to even make it out of the 60's temperature-wise. Yet, I sort of feel as though I need it, this down weather. It's been a BIG week.

Due to a mix-up, my parents ended up moving in with us a week early, and in more of a rush than they intended. They're staying with us until this move to NC (or not) is decided. Their lease was up, and rather than sign a new one here and be stuck in Vermont and left behind, or sign one there and not have us actually go, they're here.

So, there's been packing, and boxes, and shifting and merging, and... seriously, just trying to merge their refrigerator goods with ours was like playing food Tetris!

They have two cats that are running around like little furry lunatics, which makes my art areas a tough thing to work in. My dad also telecommutes, so now there's another person trying to work all day in the madhouse. Basically... I'm fried at this point!

My deadlines all came and went and I didn't meet them.

Here is a piece that is STILL unfinished for an auction that ends in only a few days:

Started with the sketch on pastel paper
Started filling it in. It's been a LONG time since I used pastels (minus my spoon thief)...

It's getting fuzzier. I'm not certain I actually like the pastels. I feel as though precision is tough with them.

Someone suggested silver hair, but unfortunately I had already started on the auburn. I think silver or purple would have been fun! But regardless, I'm not really thrilled with it. I just feel... it's fine when you are a few steps back from it, but right on top and up close? It's fuzzy. Blurred a bit. Maybe pastels are supposed to be this way, but I like a crisp line, so it's really bothering me.

I also didn't remember that there's only so much you can load the paper too. With paint, you can keep going in layers. With pastels, you only have a few and then it's done. It simply can't take any more.

Anyway, I've decided that this week is all about my deadlines. I need to finish this piece if I can. I need to also finish two pieces for Thrice Fiction. I have one sketched out, and it will be in pastels also:

I'm hoping the soft blur of chalk pastels will suit it better than on a human face. We'll see!

After that, I'm sincerely hoping I can get back to my Alice series. It's hard to maintain focus in chaos, and my house feels a lot like being in a hurricane! Moments of calm, but a lot of moving parts - most of it unpredictable.

The good news? We're at the tipping point. My husband is flying out for his interview/meeting this week, and it should be settled if we're moving or not by no later than next week. Actually, I know it will be because we can't hold out any longer. The company really likes to drag its feet (this has been going on since February), but we can't tolerate that any longer. Either they make a decision or we will. We know what our alternative course of action is, so now it's just coming down to the final play, so to speak.

I don't even care any more, I think. I did want to move, but what we've been put through since February... I just don't care. I need things settled, even if it means we stay here.

And I need a break. So, this rainy weather? It suits my mood. So, that's something! Hopefully next Monday I'll have more exciting things to report!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Memories

It's still Monday, so I haven't missed my deadline for posting!

I've spent the past week working on the house, and NOT in my studio. My husband took the week off and we used it to get the house ready for the market (or to just get things cleaned out, even if we end up not moving.) The first part of the week was spent in my crawl space. It started like this:
My delusional hubby, thinking this wasn't as big a job as it ended up being.
And ended like this:
All cleaned out! You didn't think it went that far back, did you?

We sorted into piles of Keep, Sell/Donate, and EEEK! GET IT OUT OF HERE! There were multiple trips to the dump to get rid of the bad stuff, and now the rest of my basement is full of the sell/donate stuff that we'll have a garage sale with in a couple weeks. So, really? My basement looks worse than when we started. I know there was progress, but it doesn't feel like it right now.

In the middle of cleaning, there were a few good gems like these...

1942, hardback book. 
I inherited a ton of books from my grandmother on art. She was a teacher for most of her life (not sure what ages or whatnot, but maybe junior high? And I think she taught reading?) She wanted to be an artist, or it was her hobby anyway later in life. The problem was that she was never very good at it. Going through all these boxes of books and seeing her notes, I actually figured out why.

My grandmother approached art like you would a clock, if you were taking it apart to see how it would work. She had tools. She had diagrams. She had notebooks full of written instructions. But it wasn't enough. It was all technical details and no heart. I kind of wish she was alive now, and could sit with me and I could teach her a bit. I don't know if I could have provided the missing link to make the technique and the art come together, but I think perhaps...

My great-grandmother had the heart, I think. There are a few of her paintings around, and it's there. She had it. I believe it was my grandmother's mother, and it would explain maybe one reason why my grandmother chased art later on.

The one with the red x is one of my great-grandmothers. I'm not certain which one, but I think it was the painter. This was her class picture, from what I understand. Check the bow-ties out! I actually heard a story that this was art school, but I'm not actually certain that is true. 
This is my senior class picture, the "silly" take - almost 100 years difference. Zoomed in, my class was about three times larger than this, but I'm in the middle in white next to the guy wearing a green streamer tied around his head.

I thought it was interesting to compare the two class pictures. About a century in between, but similar in age and point in life. What a contrast, huh? I rather wish they had done "silly" takes back then. It'd sure be fun to see that, wouldn't it?

Oh, and this is my grandfather's parents' wedding photo. 1909. Wild, huh?

I also found things like a walkman with a mix-tape, and these!
My boom box, an actual record, and my books from when I was around 8 years old!

I then found this painting I did for my mom when I was about 15. The original intent was what you would see laying in the grass on a lovely summer day, with my mom's favorite flowers (pansies) around her. What the outcome was for many is summed up by one person asking "So, um, is this like the view from your grave?" *sigh* Anyway, this sucker is about 25 years old now, how's that for a throwback to learning how to paint!?

We also spent a lot of time working on the yard. It's amazing how much better mulch can make something look. We kept finding nests built in the worst spots, usually by the same type of bird:
Aren't these eggs gorgeous? I wish the bird was a little smarter in his nesting spots though.
Then, finally, I was able to paint a bit more again last night. I have deadlines and such piling up, but since I reorganized my business I really want to get working in my chosen directions. So, I pulled my queen out and started working on her again:

I also finished a few mini-misfits. These three mini-misfits are available in my Whimsical Misfit Store:

"Cole" 2x2 inches acrylic on stretched Canvas
"Lewis" 2x2 inches acrylic on stretched canvas

"Arnold" 2x2 inches acrylic on stretched canvas

I'm hoping this week will bring with it a return to being productive in my studio again. Unfortunately, my website still needs work (and it won't load right now, for some mysterious reason.) My plan is to save that for when it's too hot to paint. I figure that's a good strategy! Of course, I'm still trying to squeeze everything in between summer commitments, (read that as; everything I don't have to do while the kids are in school, but now am suddenly expected to drop everything to get done.)

I hope everyone else had a great week, and a good one coming!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Little Monsters

I spent this week on the computer side of things, again, and I have to admit that I feel kind of down. It's just something that I notice when I'm unable to create as I'd like to. The computer side is necessary, but it's not fulfilling like finishing a painting is.

Still, there was SOME creativity involved! I made new banners for all three of my art pages on Facebook:

My fairy tale painting page, I thought my Cheshire was a good mascot. 
My surreal page...

And my misfits, of course!

I made matching banners for the Fairy Tale store, The Surreal store, and the Misfit store. So all three of those are up and running, although the stores aren't all fully stocked yet (there is a lot up, but I'd like to have everything settled and it's not.)

On the store side of things, I thought I'd answer this quickly and publicly why there are three. Through my business, I have come to realize that variety in a store is actually frustrating or overwhelming to a customer. While there might be a few who appreciate seeing all you have to offer in one place, the truth is that most just want to come to a store/website and find exactly what they expect. So, with that in mind if I have a customer looking for a unicorn and they're suddenly faced with a painting with naked female body parts on a pizza (yes, I really have one of those) you can see how that might just drive that customer away. The same happens vice versa, so in the end it is better to separate out the stores as they tend to only have a little overlap and a wide gap for the most part.

I also went ahead and dismantled my website on one host, and I've been reestablishing it on another. However, I'm domain-stupid, so while it exists (rather unfinished, but something is up) at, I haven't figured out how to successfully point at it yet (and the second is my main site, so it's extremely frustrating! I'll figure it out, but this should be easier!) Also, the site seems to be "temporarily unavailable" frequently. I hope that's not the norm for GoDaddy. 

On my main website, I do have all my genres of work. So at least it's out there all in one place somewhere, and then for actual purchasing it's divided up. 

Anyway, lots of computer stuff. Ick. I finally got out my paints and just MADE myself do something. It's weird how I fall into a funk and then have a problem even pulling myself out of it if I'm away from painting for too long. I decided I'd do a handful of mini whimsical misfits. 

Fast sketch, tiny canvases...

Here's where I am at right now:

I went for the "shocked cat" kind of look on the one on the top right. I think I nailed it! We'll see how he turns out!

Looking forward to this week, I plan on putting up a new painting a day in my stores in order to catch up with my inventory listing (and hopefully get that straightened out on my website too), but not try to do them all at once. That way, I can spend a lot more time painting instead! I need to, or I'll never get out of this funk. 

Blah! Off to paint some monsters!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Taking Direction

After my last post, I think it was pretty clear that I was working on formulating a plan for myself. I need to correct my 75-25% balance, and I need to tighten my businesses up... fast! Because I was simply all over the place!

This got me to look at a few things closer (like my business finances), and then I promptly ate myself into oblivion for the rest of the week. I should probably mention that getting my art-life together isn't the only life I need to fix up. I have about 50 lbs to lose (I'm tall.) 25 lbs to not be considered "over weight" by all those annoying charts, and 25 more to get to where I know I feel decent. I'm not thin-thin at that point, but I'm healthy. No one will ever call me a willowy or slender person. *wistful sigh* I always wanted to be willowy.

Once I pulled myself out of my pity-food-coma, I started making decisions. Somewhere around that time I started making a list, because I was having trouble keeping track of all the things I had to do. It's a long, scary list right now.

Anyway, here are some of the things I figured out:
  • First thing? Change my website provider because it was bleeding me dry (I was using Big Cartel, to have both a site and a store.) That's caused a huge surge of work for me to create a new site (and I'm still working), but I also decided to make Etsy my main store, and just have a basic site up otherwise. 
  • On that front, I am dividing my work into THREE Etsy stores (cue the migraine) and I'm working on fixing those up...
  • I'm dropping my random fantasy artwork, and focusing back specifically on fairy tales. That was my original intent, and I just got lost. 
  • I'm also revisiting my surreal and abstract work, because I never should have dropped it to begin with, and Thrice Magazine shouldn't be the only reason I'm doing it. I got lazy and waited for the magazine art editor to give me a shove to do something. (I'm still doing stuff for Thrice, but now I'll be creating other pieces too.)
  • I'm keeping my Whimsical Misfits, because I really like where I was going with that, they're fun, and by my normal long-painting standards, they're fast. They still take at least a day, but that's fast for me!
  • I'm killing a side business I spent a lot of time setting up. A LOT. It's an LLC and everything, so it's going to take time to dissolve the LLC and shut bank accounts down, and so on. It was a really super idea, but it would mean I'd be all business and I don't think I could be successful and still paint. I'd rather be a successful artist than a successful business person (that only sells art, rather than making it.) So, I guess I figured out what my definition of success is.
I think part of figuring out a person's direction in life - anyone's life - IS in deciding what success means to you. If I was just after money or my name on a fancy plaque, well, there are a lot of paths to that. I have my degree in Business Administration as well as fine art. I could have stayed in the corporate world and worked that path and been successful... but it's not MY path, or at least it's not the one that would make me happy.

Even though some of these decisions have been hard, or even a little bit humiliating (shutting down the LLC is hard because I told so many people about it, and it was going to be great. Now, I'm killing it before it even launched so I can go back and paint again. Some people think I'm absolutely brain damaged at this point because of my choice) I realize that when stuff is all muddled up and wrong, EVERYTHING is wrong. It all gets messed up. 

Seriously, my moving life has been driving me insane, but I realized I messed things up for myself long before that. It started in my studio, I went off the path I had set for myself that I knew made me happy... and I made myself unhappy. That threw me into a ditch with my health (or you could say I jumped into the ditch), and that helped make me pretty miserable over all.

I'm trying not to be miserable. I'm trying really, really hard.  That's why I made these decisions, and why it was time to take a really hard and clear look. Make corrections where they are needed, shore up the good things that are there, and make room for the future. 

I'm still taking on a lot, and it's still overwhelming. But, I'm trying to make things better for myself. When you are trying to do something good, it's a little less overwhelming because the steps you are taking do start making you feel a little better. Even if they are hard.

And that includes getting my health back on track. I have a goal to be back at a normal weight by Christmas (my goal weight, actually - which I haven't seen since 2008. *sigh* But I haven't been over my weight range until this last year or so. I want back to goal, or close to it by the end of the year.) I know how to do it too, because side note here: I used to be obese, lost all the weight, even got certified as a personal trainer and did that for a while too. I have the knowledge, I have the skills, it just literally comes down to follow through. And that is the same for everything going on right now, art and not!

Follow through, that's my next step!

I have no art to show for this past week. It was a little wonky in general, but it feels just as productive as a painting considering where I am at now!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who Do You Want To Present?

I think I've had a bit of a mid-career-art-crisis on my hands for the past year or so. I'm not sure what triggered it, but looking at everything I can really see it clearly. I started veering from doing my favorite art. I took experimenting and exploring a bit too seriously, until that became my focus rather than a sideline interest.

Then recently, I started questioning if I was doing anything right at all! Maybe I shouldn't be doing this, or that or maybe I should have been doing that other thing all along...

Now, I realize some of this is because my future is completely up in the air with the potential big move, and not having any solid information to go on since February. It's enough to drive anyone crazy. But still, art has always been my core, and without it I freely admit that I don't know who I am. Or... maybe I'm just significantly less without it.

While I was spinning about wondering what to do, I had to take my daughter to a doctor's appointment. In it, I had to explain what I did and of course when you say you're an artist a lot of assumptions are made - usually in the negative. Here, they imagine you macrame planters or use those paint by numbers kits or paint plaster items from your local craft store. If you're lucky, they assume you paint red barns and cows (because that's ALL the tourists want up here, and tourism is the main business in Vermont.) Mostly though, they assume you're doing the junk, the pot-holder-kit and sell it at a craft show thing. So, I always feel compelled to pull out an example of my artwork when the censure starts (and it ALWAYS does.)

As I was pulling out one of my post cards, I realized something really important.  You know when you have one of those epiphany, lightning striking you in the head moments? It was one of those. I didn't want to pull out a picture of some random fairy, or my fast doodles, or little quick pieces, or really even my new digital illustrations (although maybe one or two of those would have been OK... except it would have been digital, and there is something about that which is still clouded in "less than" because it's not traditional art. My own perception included, even.) I wanted to pull out Tea Time, or my Queen of Hearts (which isn't finished, but I hope will look awesome.)

Tea Time, 16x20 acrylic on stretched canvas

I wanted to pull out some of my bigger abstracts...

Phase, 18x24 acrylic on stretched canvas

Basically, I realized there is art that I am proud of, and then there is art that is just... filler. Not exactly stuff I would want representing me.

I don't mean this in a business sense. I think all artists have good work and bad work. Epic work, and tiny little fluff pieces. But I think there is a line where an artist can get caught up in the amazing production of some artists coupled with the demanding marketplace, and think they need to churn out as much as possible. The result is more fluff and less substance, and more - when we don't invest part of ourselves into our deeper work, it all sort of falls flat.

It all comes down to deciding who you want to be as an artist. If someone meets you and finds out you are an artist and want to see some of your work - what are you going to show them? What pieces over the past year are worthy of that moment? Have there been too few, or are you bang on course? On the flip side, are you ONLY producing work that is deep and presentable like that? That can actually be a problem too, because as artists we have to leave room to grow. Growing means exploring new stuff, making mistakes, and even failing. So, there ought to be some really not-so-great pieces that you don't want to share too.

I've been thinking, and I figure the balance is probably ideally around 75-25%. 75% artwork we would present as our work, and 25% fluff and waste. Now, if you're a slow painter like me, that could be more about time spent on works rather than production. So, 75% of your time spent on work you value, 25% on fluff and waste. Room to grow and experiment, room to discover something new, but not enough to drown the real work worthy of your personal investment in it over your lifetime.

I realize that I have been reversed as of late. I'm probably 75% fluff and waste at this point. Oops. I mean, crazy as things have been, I can look back and see what happened. I get it. But it's not acceptable. This is not the artist I want to be.

I realize it's as simple as being asked "What do you create?" and the answer for yourself is what you would present that person with as your answer, and then looking at how you've been investing yourself and your time. I think this is a question that probably needs to be asked frequently. Maybe every month? Maybe more? As much as it needs to be to stay on track, I suppose.

I haven't been asking that question, but I hear it now. I realize the value in it, and how off track I have gotten by not considering it as time progressed. So, I think I'm finally back on track. I have some untangling to do in my studio, but it can be done.