Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Paris Sketchbook (and some news)

Cafe Montparnasse, Paris

This fall has been a flurry of activity and everything is moving way to fast. I have just returned from a much needed vacation in Paris where I spent my time not going to any important tourist sites. Instead I hung around cafes and gardens and met locals and sketched people and things around me. I ate enough pastry that I became a near expert on where to find the best croissants in the city (depending on whether you prefer buttery, flaky or soft croissants. If you're in Paris and in need of croissants, see Eric Kayser.) I made friends, shopped at local markets, explored out of the way neighborhoods, and partied into the night at wine & art festivals while normal tourists were asleep in their beds - butt bags & maps resting on the nightstand. It was a very fun trip and it definitely deserves several posts which hopefully I will get too soon. For now you can see sketches I did there on my flickr site:


In other news, I am in the process of starting a new full time job (hooray for income!) and subsequently moving to some sort of apartment closer to my studio & job. It will be a welcome change to have a place of my own and be able to once again get around to most places I need to go to via bike/public transit. I hate driving-- it numbs the mind. Plus it makes me angry and mumble to myself like a nut. I've been driving 60 miles a day for the last 2 years and I am done with cars, traffic, and parking. How do people do this their whole life? I like keeping my life contained in 5-10 square miles, preferably with some bike lanes, farmer's market, and hiking options. It's going to be crazy for the next month or 2 until I find a place and settle in-- but hopefully it will mean that I will be able to focus much more on art, new shows, and more paintings!

As for the fall, my website has been partially updated. It still needs tweaking (I got distracted) but am hoping to finish updating it at some point in the next month or two. I am also reworking artist statements, bios, etc. and hopefully applying to a few things as well as contemplating proposing and curating a group or 2-person show. It will all be a lot of work and I have been thrown off by some of the mundane real world things I have had to do-- but it is on my list and I am planning to make 2011 a year of new paintings and art shows.

This month I will have some paintings published in the October issue of Wild Apples: Dwelling, Refuge, Shelter. I am very excited to be a part of this and hope you will check it out. Wild Apples is a literary & arts publication with a mix of poetry, fiction, and artwork. Here is a better description from their site:

[Wild Apples] seeks to educate the public through the arts about ways to live sustainably on the earth. In pursuit of that goal, our primary activity is the publication of a 48-page, full-color, soft cover arts magazine called Wild Apples: a journal of nature, art, and inquiry. Taking its name and inspiration from Henry David Thoreau's essay, "Wild Apples," the journal brings together the work of artists, writers, and photographers who are connected by the common threads of care for the environment, engagement in social concerns, and commitment to the arts and the way they shape our world. We also engage in outreach activities, which have included art and poetry workshops and presentations at schools, libraries, prisons, museums, and other community venues, and we occasionally publish products of these activities.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Updates coming, delayed due to flooding...

I have returned from a much needed vacation in Paris! I have many many sketches to share, and maybe some photos & videos. However there will be a slight delay in sharing since my studio flooded while I was away. It's a long story and in the end it won't be a big deal (nothing important was damaged) but in the meantime it is very musty and impossible to work in until everything is cleaned up and aired out. Once this is done I'll get back to business in the studio and have some images for you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Break for Inspiration


My sister says I shouldn't post my vacation plans online because of a chance of burglary. But, see, I don't actually have a home to rob. Or apartment. So if anyone somehow manages to burgle me while I'm away it might actually make me feel impressed that they found someplace to break into. Hopefully they'll leave me a note and let me know where that home is so I might live there.

So here are my vacation plans. I spend 9 days in Paris. My itinerary includes: jazz, opera, art, wine, cheese, pastry, cafes, sketching, books, flea markets, Van Gogh, Manet, & some Hemingway. My itinerary does NOT include: the eiffel tower, the Mona Lisa, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, waiting in lines, saying dull ignorant things loudly in English, staring at maps, buying chotchkies and general crap.

It will be a wonderful break from a drab year of searching for jobs, making ends meet, crashing with family, and trying to find the peace of mind to paint pictures.

Au revoir!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

All the Things I Own Except a Home

All the Things I Own Except a Home

This a new graphite sketch for a painting I am planning- something I have been working on for a while to get the right look. Originally it was set in a desert, then a marsh, and then I put it in a forest, and then it took many bike trips around state parks and other wooded areas to find the right forest setting for reference. I also had significantly more stuff including pots hanging on the trees, bookshelves, more boxes, etc. I didn't know what pose I wanted the figure in until a few weeks ago- but when I did it all finally started falling into place. I want the figure to be nude-- but not explicit. I want it to be ordinary with a person going about normal business- but she is not indoors in a safe and private space. She is outdoors where she is exposed and vulnerable. The pose was inspired by photograph I saw-- and I still need to find a model to recreate it and adjust it for the painting. I did this sketch to force myself to think things out more specifically. There is something about drawing out an idea that calls attention to even the most minute details in a way that photography and Photoshop never do. It is a way of becoming intimately familiar with every line and shadow. It keeps me from looking and thinking too quickly and ensures I know all of the potential pitfalls and attend to any issues. This painting will be called "All the Things I Own Except a Home" and will be 3x4 ft when complete. It is about not having a place to live or a place where one can relax, be themselves, and have time alone doing ordinary things. Or it is about trying to make a home in a place that is exposed and uncomfortable and not meant for a permanent sort of lifestyle. I need to do some color studies next to pin down the color- I am not sure if I'll make it very lush green or something more desaturated and toned down. Recently I took a look back at an older painting I did ages ago called "The Jungle" and might use that as a jumping off point for color, but with the figure less orange. Here is a an image of that painting:

"The Jungle" was one of the first paintings I did after I decided to leave the film industry. But while I was still in film school and starting to have doubts about being there, I took a photography class where I did a series of self-portraits. These eventually became the starting point for most of my paintings and most of what I still do is still rooted in them. The are called "Imposed Geometry" and mostly have to do with putting manmade elements and structures in a natural environment. But they also have to do with vulnerability and domesticity. Here are two that are particularly relevant:



The first one is in a destroyed adobe house in Malibu Creek State park. I had to wait for a quiet moment with no one passing by in order to strip down to a slip for the pose. The second one was taken in a park in Culver City. My favorite part is that you can see an oil derrick in the distance on the hill in the upper right corner. The oil derricks in that park inspired my Edge of the World series. But they were hard to use in photographs because they all had chain link fences around them.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Experiments in Graphite


I've been mostly drawing lately, partly because I have more ideas than I can keep up with and want to attend to as many as possible. Drawing is much faster and I can turn things around in a week rather than a few months. I was working mostly in charcoal which is very painterly and fluid. But I saw another artist working in graphite and liked his work so I thought I would give it a shot. Graphite is not very fluid and lends itself much more to messy cross-hatching and detail linework. It also does not produce a rich black and heavy layers of it turn more silver gray and catch the light (for better or for worse.) There is something magical about the silvery quality of graphite that I think can work in my drawings, but sometimes the gray quality seems to lack boldness.

I did this drawing above sometime last week, it is called "Roses" for now. It was my first experiment and so I did not really fuss over the subject matter. The figure is someone I met at an art show a few months back and asked to pose for me. Generally I am too shy to approach strangers and ask favors but I've made a resolution to overcome my shyness. My old mainstay of getting models from Craigslist is great when it works. But I never know who will respond and sometimes there are painting/drawing ideas I put off because of it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bedroom Trees

The Bedroom Trees

I completed this drawing "The Bedroom Trees" recently after fussing over it on and off for a month. Most of my problems were technical and conceptual. I wasn't sure if it really made any sense, and then I also learned I am crap at perspective. The original idea was a bedroom with trees growing in it. I haven't drawn much with perspective or anything architectural in a long time-- probably not since college. But also figuring out how to draw large trees growing inside is hard to do because there isn't anything to reference. I realized quickly how hard it was to turn my idea into reality and had problems figuring out the logistics of how it would work in an image. You can see that where the tops of trees meet the ceiling is a bit non-specific-- that was me deciding to leave it ambiguous after several attempts to be more precise and have the space make sense. I think if I turned this into a painting, it would need many more studies-- but I'll probably leave it as a drawing for now.

The idea of it came from wanting to capture an uncomfortable living space-- a place that should be restful but things are coming in and overtaking it. It is also meant to be dreamlike and lonely, and the figure is everywhere but in actually in bed resting. I like to repeat figures to show different states of mind and sort of imply a progression of thoughts or mood.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The New Studio

I have been missing in action on the blog lately- partly due to procrastination, lack of reliable internet & free time, and general busy-ness. I was wrapped up in preparing for the Somerville Open Studios which meant I took a detour from my usual grand scale paintings to do more small scale landscapes. I planned to return to painting and start a new large series of pieces but instead I ended up having to move studios and contribute to another small show. So instead of new paintings to share, I have some images of my bigger and better studio space. The photo above is the entry space-- I liked how the light came in through the windows and hit the floor. Below is my studio space. I have not settled in yet. I am still figuring out storage and where to put things and eventually I will build walls to separate it from the larger space it is in so it will be more private.

The best part of the space is that it is over 3 times as large as my last space, better maintained, and with much higher ceilings. There are no trees growing out the roof... or faint odor of plumbing issues. I have about 250 square feet now. I had 80 before as illustrated below:

There was barely enough space to turn around or stand up and was probably better suited to a painter of miniatures. The new space costs more but it comes with better facilities, common areas, a rooftop deck, parking, community. I'm eager to get started on a new bunch of paintings & drawings. I'm in the process of planning them out now.

Also since I have been a bit behind on things I have not posted my latest big drawing (about 3x4 feet). Right now I call it "Nearby Distance" which still could change. It is another work where I try to play with mental and physical geography. The left half of the drawing is Los Angeles, the right have is the woods of New England. It is about how people can be connected even when physically apart. Even though the drawing rearranges geography and shows figures near each other- it implies an emotional distance between them that may be even more difficult to cross than the physical distance between the east & west coasts.

I'm also making more of an effort to include men in my paintings. I haven't included them very often for several reasons. Most of my paintings are a form self portraits that come from my own experiences. When I visualize things, I don't see men. It doesn't make sense in context with the ideas in my head. Substituting a man for a woman would change the meaning drastically and would raise a completely different set of issues than what I intend. When I really started painting heavily (beyond just college) I started with a series that explored vulnerability. It was ultimately about being alone in a big city... as a woman. For me the "woman" part went without saying, it was just a given since I am a woman.* Those paintings worked better with women since society sees them as "vulnerable." A man walks alone in the woods- so what. A woman does the same and she is told that is too dangerous. So swapping the figure with a man would change the meaning.

Even now that my paintings are not as much about vulnerability and have more mysterious narratives- it would still change the meaning to have a man. These days when I paint figures, the women often exist in their own internal worlds. With multiple women in one painting, I often see them as different aspects of the same person, even if their physical appearances are not the same. So including a man would feel like an intrusion of sorts. Or the painting would become more about a relationship between a man and a woman instead of a portrait of single person's internal world. Once it becomes about two characters I worry that a painting/drawing becomes even more narrative perhaps inches closer to illustration. However, I have decided to question my instinct to only use women and try to change things up without getting too far from my artistic voice. I This drawing is my first attempt, and I am working on some other ideas as well. I will probably also turn this drawing into a painting as well because I think it would be more successful in color.

*But I feel I don't need to explain that when I talk about my paintings I am now because people always ask why I paint women and I admit it is frustrating since I don't think it needs explaining.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Have some art while it snows...


I finished this drawing yesterday, tentatively called "Around." It is roughly 36x43 inches and drawn in charcoal, chalk and acrylic paint on rag paper. Because I painted part of it, it is kind of wrinkly and it was hard to get a good photo. I may try again when it is not icy and I have more patience, but this photo will do for now.

I like this drawing, but what I like most about it are little elements in it that show sparks of potential for future drawings. I got into the texture of the charcoal, and the mysterious quality that black and white images have since they don't need to be as specific as when in color. I like the background-- how in some areas it is fuzzy and unclear and has some magic in it. I also went darker in this one, and it feels very bold in person. (Partly because I painted the black areas with acrylic and went over them in charcoal to get a harder intensity.) I would like to explore some of these little things more with future drawings. I am probably going to stick with drawings for the next little bit while I work out some painting ideas and build canvases, so we'll see what happens.

Right now I am interested in repeating the same figure, and this drawing is along that line. I like having a repetition and showing a small journey by showing the same figure at different moments side by side. I am planning to do this more in depth, though sometimes I have other ideas along the way that I want to do too so it feels like I am moving slow and not accomplishing anything.

Also, I finished my new and better version of "The Birds Will be the First to Die."

The Birds Will be the First

I am using brighter colors now, because I don't see the point in being so faithful to reality since my scenes are meant to be worlds in their own right. This has a bright turquoise sky (thanks to Cobalt Teal!) but it looks different in person-- still bright but more solid somehow.

This idea was inspired by a report that the bird populations of the northeast are dropping, and that it is an ominous sign for humans. It's the sort of thing that makes me want to hide in my closet. But I don't. Instead I make beautiful horrifying paintings about it that makes people really really quiet when I explain it.

Here is the older version of this idea, which I absolutely hate. I tried to fix it and repaint it several times but sometimes starting over completely is the only remedy. It's much smaller, maybe 19 inches across (it's in an attic so I won't bother to measure it.) It also is a prime example of a crappy landscape. I'm not a natural landscape painter, and this is one mass of green that I couldn't conquer.

The Birds Will Be the First to Die

Now I'm going to go have a sandwich before I eat my keyboard, and finish writing a short story, and maybe iron a skirt for tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In the Forest

In the Forest in the Desert

I finished this painting this week, tentatively called "In the Forest, in the Desert," (3ft by 4ft.) I've been told that is a bad title. So it might change. It is a hard one to name because I don't think it translates into words.

This is autobiographical (as always) and is a made up space with a desert on the left and northeastern woods on the right side knitted together into one space. I tried to make the landscapes different enough it was clear it was southwest meets northwest-- but not so different it looked like two different paintings. Ultimately I wanted to make a scene that took more than a brief glance to figure out.

I thought this one was done a month or two ago, but after staring at it for a while I decided some things were not working for me. I worked on some other pieces on the meantime which gave me some ideas for this one. In the end I nearly repainting the entire thing-- and repainted the figure on the right 3-4 times changing the color of her dress. It was gray, then yellow, then red. At the end I decided to make it black-- to create a rhythm with the black bird, foreground figure in black, and then a third piece of black. The red dress was too overpowering and disrupted the way a viewer should experience it. I had just painted the clothing on the figure and was about to repaint the reflection when a friend walked by and stopped me. She said the reflection should stay red. I didn't agree at the time but luckily decide to look at it for a few days. In the end, she was right, and the red reflection is just the right amount of red and adds a weirdness to the scene that I love. You can't plan everything.

Maybe I should call this painting "Nature" since I was reading a biography of Emerson while I worked on it.

Here is a detail of my favorite part:

In the Forest in the Desert (detail)

Below is a previous painting I finished just before the holidays, "Two Coasts" (also 3ft by 4ft)

Two Coasts

This is another one where I tried to knit east & west coast together but in a different more literal way-- with Los Angeles on the left and Boston on the right. I repeated the exact same figure but with a slightly different gaze on each.

I am exploring breaking the unity of space and time. I am thinking of having figures being repeated even more times to create a journey. I don't want to paint paintings that are a moment in time that could be captured as well or better with a camera.

When I work out the concept of a painting, I approach it more like an installation concept vs. a painting concept. Except most of my ideas are too impossible to ever make into an installation (like move New Mexico next to Vermont impossible.) I love that everything is possible in painting though.

I am currently reading "Collages" by Anais Nin. I love it. I'm reading it slowly to savor it since it is a short book and I will miss it when it is done. I recommend it for anyone who has lived in LA, or is an artist, or both.