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'.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Well, it's February. It's going to be about 75 degrees today, and I plan on opening the windows. Were this the weather in April, this would be excellent. But it's February. I want snow! On Friday it's supposed to be in the 40's. I'm going to shut all the blinds, pretend it's snowing outside, and bake cookies.

Speaking of cookies, or not eating them, I'm down 10 lbs since January 1st. Granted, some of that is water weight, but a chunk of that *IS* real weight loss! So, yay!

With that loss, I'm about 18 lbs from not being overweight by the BMI charts for my height, and another 10lbs beyond that from my final goal weight. Well, final as long as I get there and feel decent. But I'll decide once I am there. When I was younger and at that weight, I felt good and people actually called me thin. But your body changes when you're older so... we will see. I will say the bonus to being tall is gaining 10 lbs and there being very little difference in appearance or the way your clothes fit. The downside to being tall is that you work hard to lose 10 lbs and there's NO freaking difference!!! Good for holidays, bad for the ego I guess. *pout*

Anyway, my goal is to lose 6 lbs a month, and by summer I'll be at goal. I may not quite be able to pull that off for February given my stupidity with the super bowl party we had, and my birthday at the end of the month, but we shall see what I can pull off! I really want this weight off.

In other progress news, I have started daily exercise paintings for days I am in my studio (preferably five times a week.) I get roughly 20 minutes for the painting, and then I need to walk away. It's all about laying down values, and seeing what it is you're painting. I've been allowing myself some leeway, up to 30 minutes, because sometimes it just isn't even close to ok. I think it's working though. It's teaching me to lay down basic values without obsessing over details, and learning how to walk away.

The walking away part is what kills me. It's not right! I must fix it! GAH! But I'm doing it. What's more is that I'm listing the paintings for cheap ($20) and most of them are being snapped up right away. It pays for my practice session supplies, the canvas and the paint, so I literally have nothing to lose. No excuse not to get busy and start working.

So, I started with landscapes last year with this exercise, and then dropped it. Now that I have picked it up, I'm doing beta fish this week. I'm getting a little bored of them, but it's only one week. All paintings are 4x6 inches on loose canvas, and so far all oil. Here's how it's gone so far this week (I started a day early):

Beta Fish #1, I like his face the best
Beta Fish #2, Whites were hard on this one. I feel like I learned a bit, but struggled far too much. A big part of this is because the canvases on this and the last started as white.

Beta Fish #3. Now, this time I got smarter and gessoed the canvas black FIRST. SOOOOO much better, and I almost hit the time for 20 minutes, until I realized I hadn't painted in the black and that looked odd to me. I actually made a time lapse video, so you can see where I changed my mind.
I can't figure out how to post the video here, so I'll link directly to it on my instagram: You will be able to see it whether you have an account or not, and it's only about 30 seconds long.

I have figured out I am in love with black gesso. I think it's just more me. I like working from a darker ground. Although, I have some other things I'm going to be practicing with (not for these, more involved) and they have various toned grounds. Maybe I'll fall in love with another color too. I just feel like white doesn't work as well for me anymore.

Anyway, these practice paintings do loosen me up and get me ready to face more in the studio. I'm hoping it'll yield other results as I carry on with it. I'm thinking about doing desserts next week (hey, they're calorie-free when they're just paintings!)

I have finished a few small paintings too, but I'll post those next time!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Matters of the Body

Today I bit the bullet and scheduled all the doctor exams I needed to. Apparently, from moving, all my appointments are condensed into one area of time. I used to have things spread out... eyes in May, girlie doctor in March, etc. Now? It's all at once! It's like a giant influx in my mailbox screaming "You're getting OLD! It's time to feel bad about yourself! Come on down, schedule an appointment!"


On the other hand, I'm kind of looking forward to my eye appointment. I used to have amazing eyesight. I mean, fighter pilot AMAZING type eyesight. Now? I have no idea where it went, but it's totally not fair. I'm having to hold books farther and farther away. The magnifying glasses I got for close-up work have become my go-to, even though they're stronger than what I need, because I need something.

I had an appointment last February, but they did a poor job of helping me. As my eyes have gotten worse over the last six months I've just been counting the days until I could get someone to help me (my eyes aren't equal, so those store reading glasses give me a headache.) I have a new office picked out and scheduled. YAY! There's nothing quite like being in a poor situation to make you look forward to a doctor's visit you would otherwise dread.

I hate to think what would have to happen to make me look forward to the gynecologist. Maybe I'll just embrace my dread of that and be grateful. This is, of course, hard to do. It's bad enough in a doctor's office when they weigh you, but getting to be naked too? Yeah. Joy.

Speaking of body, it seems like any complaint you could possibly have (minus maybe eye sight) it always goes back to "Well, lose weight." I have this list of things that I'm going to push on once I get the rest of the weight off and say "See, I did. Now this is still a mess, what can we do?" I mean, how many things are supposed to hurt, what's normal for being in your 40's anyway?

I need a manual. They should have a manual like they do for kids. The pediatrician used to hand you a sheet that said "Your child: 18-24 months" and it had all sorts of data, what's normal, what's not, etc. Why did they stop that? I need one.

In other news, I finished my first piece for 2017. I have a lot in progress, but this sucker is actually done:

"In The Pink" 8x10, oil on stretched canvas (available)
I had to do a piece "inspired by a song" for a group auction. I had a whole other piece in the works, but I was forcing it. Then, the son "Dear Jessie" by Madonna just popped into my head ( I knew I had to switch tracks, because I felt a lot more inspired about pink elephants than I did about my other piece.

So, I worked furiously on this one, and got it turned around quickly. Lots of work, for what seems like a simply piece. But, you know... pink elephants. Totally worth it.

Hope you are all having a good week! Is it Wednesday? Wow, already?!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Blurry Vision

You wouldn't think that art and eating would be connected, unless you're a chef, but for someone who uses food the wrong way it's absolutely linked. I found myself struggling with food today. Which is stupid, because today is the first day I got to be on a sorta-normal schedule.

I woke up at 5:45AM (just typing that makes me want to throw something) and made sure the dogs were taken care of, that my teenage son was up (this is like a game show, wondering each time if I've won or caught myself a whammy) and then managed to run a two mile HIIT before I saw out my son stumbling to the door moaning about the unfairness of it all as he headed off to school. By 7:15AM I was showered and dressed and making an on-plan breakfast. All was right with the world.

Well, maybe not all. The morning news is enough to send anyone to the doctor to beg for an antidepressant (or a sedative. I joke, but every time I turn on the TV the world outside my door seems to be getting worse and worse. I really honestly do struggle with being informed and being sucked down into a black hole of oblivion and wanting to crawl back into bed because of it.) Still, I pushed forward and eventually made it to my studio. I even had a healthy snack (as I was supposed to) before digging in.

Where I then accomplished next to nothing. I feel like I'm forcing it, but I managed to finish the underpainting on a polar bear (that I decided to paint because I'm not interested in any of the actual projects I am supposed to be working on.) It'll look better when I switch over to color and add depth and... well, color.

8x10, underpainting in acrylic, switching to oils for the good stuff!

And then. Then I had lunch and ate leftovers I shouldn't have, totally bypassing my plans. It kinda went downhill from there, and I honestly just didn't understand WHY.

My daughter still hasn't gone back to college yet, so my routine is not totally normal. But... while I have mixed emotions about that, I realize that's not it. The house isn't clean, the laundry isn't done, the weather is warm and all the snow is gone (and that's depressing to me - I'll even have the windows open tomorrow because it's going to be 70.) Those aren't the reason, either. I'm not thrilled about the world, or certain aspects of my life... everything feels wrong, just slightly off of right, and that's infuriating. But, still NOT it.

Plus, I was on plan until I went into my studio. Heck, I did an ab workout yesterday with my lower body weights that has left my stomach aching like it hasn't in a very long time. I have BEEN ON PLAN even feeling like things aren't right. So what happened?

My studio. I know my art career is bugging me. I know I have ideas of what might make me feel better. But, I realize now that I lack vision. I feel like I want someone to hand me a project, a big all-consuming project that will focus me entirely on it for the whole year. As a self-employed business owner, the only person who can do that is, well, me. And as a responsible employer, I have to say that the employee in question just isn't ready for a big project like that. I don't think she could pull it off right now, she simply isn't there with her skill level.

Just look at this:

These are in-progress paintings that absolutely need to be finished. I have learned that as artists, we sometimes start paintings that will never be finished and they need to be thrown out or reused. These are the survivors of that process that need to be finished, rather than tossed. And I just keep adding to the damn pile! 

Some are old. The planets? Yep, that sucker is from way back in Vermont, a few years I think, but I know exactly how it's going to be finished (and I haven't done a thing about it yet.) There is a big commission piece in the center. There are other pieces I dearly want to finish and just haven't. And the polar bears are NEW additions that I have added to the pile.

I lack vision. I'm creating and starting work, but not actually finishing anything because I lack vision. No amount of cleaning my house, or organizing my studio, or stuffing my face will change that. (Although, to be fair, I didn't try cleaning. Because, cleaning.)

So, I ate today. Did I go crazy and knock back a take-out pizza? No (also, calling a stranger and having them show up with food kind of freaks me out.) I did hit the left over Christmas candy, but probably not to the tune of major damage. Just enough damage. Damage to cause a halt in progress, maybe a backslide ever so slightly. And that doesn't feel good either. Not irreparable, but hurtful to me.

I realize that I ate because I am uncomfortable feeling lost. Like a hiker in the wilderness with her trusty backpack packed with a compass, flashlight, food, water, tent and more - I have all the tools. I just didn't bring the magic wand. I have to work this problem myself, put the tools to work, suck it up and figure it out on my own.

I ate because I am uncomfortable with me. My art is me, and I'm lost and have been for a very long while now. My original plan was to just paint. That's it. Just paint new things, try new things, and voila! New me!

As much as structure makes me itch... oh for the love of sugared squirrels, I NEED structure. Dagnabbit. Worse, I have to give it to myself!

So, I'm taking myself on as a client/artist to mentor. I have mentored several artists over the years, and now I need that myself... even if it's just from me to me. I'm putting together a plan with a schedule, and working out the details. I need to be working toward a goal, and while I don't have a specific goal yet, I can at least put the starting pieces into place.

My hope is that with more clarity and focus (and STRUCTURE) on this aspect of my life, I'll stop trying to eat my way through my kitchen like an 1980's escaped pac-man.

I can do this. I can make things better for myself.

I can do this.

Monday, January 9, 2017

They're Heeeeeeereeeee!

It's Monday... and they're here. ALL of them. ALL. Of. Them. It snowed a little bit in North Carolina on Saturday (stopped snowing by noon), and the whole state lost its mind. They have called off school for Monday and Tuesday, and the roads are a disaster because no one seems to know how to deal with it. Coming from Vermont, this is kind of shocking, but I suppose if you only get snow once a year, maybe it makes sense. I miss snow. Anyway, the family is here and no one is getting out.

I love my family. Adore them. Yet, for some reason when they are here and I decide to go work in my studio, I feel as though I am being selfish or letting someone down.

I know this feeling is irrational, and maybe it's just a mom-thing. (Do guys have this problem? They don't seem like they do.) I remember having trouble even taking a moment for myself when my children were really young. In those days, even a closed bathroom door seemed to cause upset if you didn't sneak off successfully beforehand.

I remember one day clearly where my husband said "Go take a bath! Enjoy yourself!" So, I did! My husband was going to watch the kids and I was going to sit in a tub of hot water with a book and enjoy just sitting there. It was going to be awesome! Me. A Bath. A book! Maybe I'd even light a candle! JUST ME! I was going to make sure I pruned up before I even considered getting out.

Not five minutes later, while the water was running, the door started rattling. One of the kids had figured out where I had gone off to. Then the meowing started, because the cat figured it out too. Had camera phones existed back then, I would have taken a picture or a video. Instead, all I can do is say that I distinctly remember looking at the door and watching little fingers and paws come under the door and swipe at the air on my side, while my daughter loudly cooed "mooooooooooom?" under the door, and my toddler son slapped his hand on it and called out "MOM!" repeatedly.

I resisted for a few minutes, but finally I grabbed my towel and opened the door. Both kids, the cat, and the dog were all at the door waiting for me (and my husband was nowhere to be seen.) When I went downstairs, like a parade with everyone following me, I found my husband watching soccer in the family room. He looked up and said "Did you have a nice bath?"

You know those moments that leave you speechless, and yet you have so much to say at the same time? This was one of those. It was probably good that I momentarily lost my capability to speak, because most of what I would have said would have been... less than appropriate.

I did get my bath, eventually, but I realized that in order to get any "me" time, I was going to have to fight for it and guard it. As the children got older, things like privacy became something I didn't have to fight for because it became more natural and they needed me less. But when I started painting again... well, that was different.

My painting started back up, not as a business, but something I had always done. A hobby, maybe, except it never felt like a hobby to me. If you aren't connected on a visceral level to something, I don't know if I can explain it. I have hobbies, but it's the difference between having something to do, and doing something because you HAVE to and it's just who you are (and without it, you're a half-self, never really all the way "here"). Unfortunately, painting was always the very last thing I could do in a day. Everything else had to be done first, and it was the lowest priority to everyone else.

I realize, looking back, that I allowed my art to come last. I could have fought harder. I also realize that when you have young children, there are only so many minutes of the day and so many battles you can fight. I brought the art more and more into my life as I could, and I went professional with it when my son (youngest) was two years old. I would say it was part-time professional though, because raising children is a full time job and there were always so many things to do just being mom. Never mind when I went back to school and got my business degree, or went to work full time.

Fast forward to now, and I still feel like I'm not allowed to "go work" when the rest of the family is here, especially during the day. I feel like I am disappointing them. (It doesn't mean I don't work, necessarily, but I feel bad when I do.) One of my daughter's first posts on Facebook was that she felt like I was always painting when she had a question. That makes me both feel awful, like I have let her down somehow, and also good because she sees me working and she should see me working. She did get to ask her question though. I wonder what she thought I should have been doing instead when she wanted to ask a question? I may ask her that...

I want both my kids to see that a strong work ethic and that being true to yourself is important. But it still makes me feel bad to not achieve the super-mom status they way you want to when you have to choose and sometimes choose yourself instead.

Anyway, what this all means is that when the family is home, I feel like I can't work. Or, shouldn't work. I feel like now that they're all older, that if they're all home with nothing to really do (a rarity, usually), it means that I'm being selfish if I run off to my studio to work as I had planned. Because they all have their own lives now and I'm at the tail-end of our family being just us, I feel the need to grab these moments like the last fragments of the family I used to have before they glitter and dim into nothingness.

That's not exactly true, though, is it? Yes, this time is fleeting. But it all has been, since they were so little they couldn't exist without me, to now when I just want a moment of their time to tell them I'll always love them, even though they're practically adults. My painting time is fleeting too, though. My time to create something is dwindling every day, too. It matters, too. I matter too, and I shouldn't be the one doing all the accommodation.

Ahh, balance. Still searching for you, aren't I?

Well, on the positive, I compromised and did tax stuff for my business today. So, it was a necessary evil, I felt like I was being punished while accomplishing something (because, taxes), and I could pause what I was doing to accommodate my family as needed.

If I did taxes, is that a win? I think it's a win. Maybe. Stupid business taxes... but I'll take it as a win anyway!

They'll still be here tomorrow, but my plans are to accomplish more in the studio than I did today. I have polar bears that I need to paint! I hope to do that while I still see snow outside!