Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On being an artist seeking gallery representation

So I've decided that I have to spend about 60% of my creative time on publicity, 40% in the studio actually creating the stuff I'm trying to sell.  I do Facebook, a blog almost every day, a website, and ArtReview (an artists' site where artist-types talk art and commune with one another).  I talk to everyone I know about my work.  I pass out business cards indiscriminately.  I refuse to do Twitter - I have not yet enabled texting on my phone and don't want to.  I'm on to sell my work.  I have several bricks and mortar galleries selling my work.

I'm now looking to expand outside my hometown of Richmond, VA and to get representation in DC, Philly, and NYC, not to mention overseas as possible.

It's quite a job looking for galleries.  Recently a friend and I went to DC for the day where we tromped through at least 12 galleries to see if any of them would suit/would want us.  That was after a day of searching the internet to find galleries that might even seem to be appropriate.  It was a fun day looking at art, meeting owners and gallery reps, talking with folks to learn about the art scene.  I've now found a couple of galleries I'd love to show my work in.  I've applied to one of them.  The other one is more intimidating so I'm working very hard on my proposal.  If they choose to accept me as one of their artists, I'm guessing it would be a good 2 years before I could expect to have a show there.  In the meantime I have lots of paintings of naked women piling up in my studio, waiting for beautiful white gallery walls to hang out on and then for new homes where they can rest more permanently.

If you're an artist reading this, what's your story for how you sell your work?  How do you handle the quest to make it in the art world?  Do you live on the income from your sales?  Do you want to?  Do you believe you're sullying yourself by marketing your work?  Do you believe the galleries should come to you? 

Do you know of any galleries where you live that might be interested in showing/selling oil paintings of naked women?

If you're a non-artist reading this blog to learn about being an artist, what do you think about artists?  Should they be starving?  Do you believe in the stereotype of the drunken creative (think Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Pollack)?  Do you believe artists can make a living doing their work in sane ways?  Do you buy art?  Why or why not?  How do you feel about owning artwork?  Do you notice when you visit homes where real art (not reproductions) is hanging? 

Why do people do art?  What is the compulsion that drives people to create?  So many of us just have to create or the day isn't complete.  What is that about?  What is your creative outlet?  How do you satisfy your urge??

I'd love to have a conversation with you if these questions intrigue you/keep you up late at night too!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Fruity Day

Another great day in the studio!  This morning I went for a very long, vigorous walk with a friend, talking all the way, then came back completely invigorated and sweaty and ready to draw.  I am still feeling blocked on the tall canvas - didn't have enough umph apparently to blow it out - so it's languishing a bit longer.  In the meantime, I had a perfectly lovely time drawing fruits again.  Here they are:

I couldn't quite find a place in the studio where the sun was strong enough to draw with natural light - it was overcast today - so I used the Ott Light I bought at a garage sale.  That's what gave the very strong highlights.

I realize the non grapefruit/pear/apple picture might be confusing - any guesses as to what it's from?  I woke up with a vision of that picture a couple of days ago so when I went to the store yesterday I bought it so I could draw it today.

Today I got great news - a friend of mine gave me permission to paint a picture of her I was itching to paint, so now I have an image I can't wait to paint!  I hope Chris will have time to build me a canvas this week so I can begin work on it on Friday!  So excited!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drawing Fruits

Yesterday I decided it would be wise to head into the studio since otherwise I was primed to be grumpy as heck.  In fact, Chris told me I should go draw since I wouldn't be any fun to hang out with otherwise.  My family knows me well!

I had an urge to draw fruit since I had spent an entire evening sorting through my pastel drawings of fruit last week.  I remembered how much fun I had had drawing them so I bought a bunch of pears and headed out to draw them some more.  Here are the results:

Pastels are so satisfying to draw with.  The colors are rich and exciting and bold; it's easier to draw with them than with a brush; the results come more quickly. 

In oils I've gone back to a piece I started months and months ago.  It's an 8' behemoth that has me stumped.  I think the problem is that there isn't enough contrast in the image and the shadows and light on the skin aren't as interesting as they are in other images I've done.  I'm having a heck of a time turning it into an image I love!  My colleague, David Tanner, from the Visual Arts Center came over a couple of months ago to give me some very generous and helpful pointers.  They were helpful, but I haven't gotten the breakthrough I'm looking for to make this one exciting.  I may need to make it a blow-out piece.  What that means is I decide, "Fuck it!  I'm going to throw paint and do whatever the heck I feel like cuz I already hate it how it is."   The odd thing is that when I do that, something magical happens - I get outside of my own restrictions and something occurs that is beyond me.  I work so hard to make things "just so".  Blowing it out changes all that because I basically give myself permission to ruin my work, to go for broke.
Tomorrow I'll have time to spend in the studio - we'll see if I have the courage - or frustration level! - to go for broke!

I just watched a video online that I found to be quite wonderful.  I can't remember the man's name, but he had gone to Princeton for software engineering then began doing all these incredibly creative things with his technical abilities.  For example, he went to Bhutan where their national slogan is "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product" and got people to hold up between 1-10 balloons to show their level of happiness.  Then he photographed them holding them, then holding one with their wish written on it, etc.  They were lovely.  He did another project where he got his software to grab sentences off of people's blogs that had the phrase "I feel" in it.  He graphed those in all sorts of interesting ways.  I recommend it highly.  It has made me start thinking in all sorts of creative ways I hadn't considered before.  I love it when I see things or hear people talk who are outside the box - it expands my awareness so much!

Friday, September 25, 2009

updating the website - rant about internet providers

Oh my goodness!  What is usually a fun and satisfying process turned into a mostrously unsuccessful obsession last night!  At 3 AM I had to recognize that I was NOT going to win this one and headed to bed, fuzzy headed, bleary eyed, and quite irate.

I decided to upload more pictures to the Fruits and Veggies page then decided to make it into two pages: Sexy Fruits and Voila the Veggies!  MSN has a wonderful program for making websites, but it's a bit clunky when it comes to design options, especially with photographs.  It's difficult to find a composition that is visually appealing with the tools they offer.  (This blog is actually even more clunky though - there's no option for laying out pictures - that's why the pictures appear to be randomly placed and don't have captions - I don't think there's a way to do it.)  At any rate, I worked on all that for several hours, composing, laying out, writing, etc.  I saved the Fruits page, thank goodness, but hadn't yet saved the Veggies page when the internet froze up and refused to go further.  It reminded me of a toddler having a melt down in the grocery store - no amount of cajoling or pleading or insisting or screaming would make it move one iota!  Well, maybe screaming would have helped, but 2 AM was not the right time to try that option!  I might have scared my family.

This morning I called Verizon to see about getting FIOS since our Comcast Cable connection seems to be the problem.  I have spent the last two weeks trying to facilitate a better internet connection through Comcast.  We are located at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the closest telephone/cable pole is 260 feet from our cable box.  Apparently now that comcast is using digital signals, the signal just can't get that far consistently.  We've had 4 different people come out and "solve the problem" only to have it erupt again no better.  So I'm going to try Verizon even though they have the worst customer service I have ever experienced.  I really shouldn't have called this morning after 5 hours sleep - I wasn't my usual cheery self with the customer service rep who kept telling me about different charges I'd have to pay, one at a time, after I'd already committed in my mind to getting the service.

10 minutes into the conversation after hearing all the sales stuff about different bundles, services, etc."The fee will be $109.99/month, ma'am."
5 minutes later: "There's an additional $5.99/month fee for the cable box.  Why didn't I tell you about it before?  I didn't know which box you'd want."
7 minutes later: "I don't know if you'll have to pay the $49.99 installation fee.  We won't know that until we're processing your order."
2 minutes later: "Are there any other fees I haven't told you about?  No, I don't think so."
4 minutes later: "OK, so, to finish up, we'll just need your credit card number so we can put the customer service fee of $9.99 on it."
After I go ballistic and talk to the manager to ask to have that removed and feel mollified by his excellent listening skills even though I'm not satisfied with what he tells me, the manager says, "Yes, ma'am, thank you, I do have good listening skills.  I used to be married. -- Uh, sorry, bad joke.  But we're almost done.  There won't be any more fees from here on out.  We've charged all we're going to."
2 minutes later:  "So there will be an installation fee of $49.99 since the installation will be so complex given where you live."

35 minutes after the start of the conversation we have a semi-solid date of Monday for them to come install it between 8 and 5 and I have to be there for the 4-6 hour install.  I am NOT impressed by their customer service STILL.

I hope the internet works.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Prints of Paintings

One of my models asked me to get a print made for her of the image I painted of her (see picture).  I found a terrific place here in Richmond that makes prints, Staples Fine Art, and took the huge 46"x46" piece over there to have it scanned and printed.  I just picked it up today.  They did a fantastic job!  It's 30"x30".  The color is wonderfully reproduced.  It's excellently stretched on canvas stretchers.

Now that I know how to do it, I'll be able to do it more easily next time, so if you'd like a print of one of my pictures, be sure to ask!  They're now available!

This evening I'll be teaching my Beginning Pastel students how to draw fruit with the emphasis on composition, mark-making and value.  I love teaching this class in particular because it's so cool to see how much they're able to do once they learn the basic tips about value.  It's amazing how accurate a drawing looks if the value is correct.  (Value is how light and dark things are.  It helps create form.)

Here are some pictures of apples I've drawn which show the importance of value in creating form.  See how the dark side tends to curve under?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beauty with a Veil II - finished?

I spent a good part of the day today working on Beauty with a Veil II.  I think she might be finished!  I worked on the veil mostly today - doing all those pesky details that make it look like real tulle.  I also worked on her face and finished her left hand.  I'm enjoying the similarities and contrasts between I and II.  I love how each of the women is so present in her body and is loving herself.  Each is the embodiment of beauty to me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More on Models

Interspersed throughout this blog are photos of the women who have modeled for me.  Aren't they incredible?  So beautiful.  So authentic.  So present.  I feel so blessed that they have trusted me to photograph and to paint them and to see their authentic selves.

I got an email from a woman a couple of days ago in response to the post I put out about models.  I love the conversation of it so I'm posting it (with her permission, of course), hoping that you will feel inspired to join the conversation about bodies...

The email:  I have been thinking, off and on, about offering to model for you. It both intrigues me enormously (ergo, it keeps coming back into my thoughts), and rather terrifies me. Okay, 'terrifies' is a bit strong of a word. At my age, (40-something), I'm okay with and have accepted my body. I know that it's not by any means perfect - heck, I also know that it looks much better clothed (hah!). I love certain parts of my body, and am not as enthused about other parts. I've studied pictures of your paintings, and I know that you paint what is real - not what society would say is perfect. Some of it initially makes me uncomfortable, and yet... to be able to feel beautiful, with the body a woman has now... that sounds incredibly beautiful and freeing.

I love the idea of feeling beautiful. Just as I am. One of the paintings I like the best of your work is the one with a veil... not completely covering, but subtle. Sensual, almost. But then I find that I like others that just have beautiful positions/poses. Beauty in curves, soft angles, shapes, textures.

Questions I would love to hear from you about:

How do you feel about your body?

What's your favorite part of your body?

What's your least favorite part?  Why?

How would it be for you to model?
Why would you do it?

Why wouldn't you?

What would you hope to get out of the experience of modeling?

Any body stories you want to share?

Studio Work

This morning Chris and I went to 43rd Street Festival of the Arts where we saw, as usual, some very cool art.  Most of the artists are from Richmond, but some come from DC and other areas near here.  The weather was perfect - cool, not humid, just overcast enough, and with a slight breeze.  I saw lots of people walking away with bags full of treasures, so I think it was a great success for the craftspeople involved.  I was very glad to see that!
After going to the Festival, I came home and rushed into the studio so I could get some major painting time in.  Monday I have a bunch of logistical things I have to do so I probably won't be able to paint that day, so I was thrilled to get in 4 hours today.  I worked on Beauty with a Veil II.   I spent a lot of time refining her left hand, the one near her shoulder.  I plan to give it even more refinement with pastel pencils once this layer is dry.  After that I worked on the veil, trying to make the layers look more realistic and adding more to it.  It's fun trying to create the illusion of tulle over flesh.  It isn't as hard as I thought it would be, but that isn't to say that it's easy!  

I've been thinking a lot about painting hands and have been drawing them when I get a chance.  The other night I had a couple of hours to work but didn't really feel like painting, so I drew a hand from a photo I had taken.  It's so interesting trying to get the veins and nails correct, not to mention the gesture and form.  I like working with pencil because it's so much more exactly.  I feel more skillful using it.

Trip to DC

Yesterday I went with fellow artist Liz Killinger to DC to look for possible galleries for a show.  I have shown in many venues in Richmond and am starting to feel like it would be lovely to find a gallery or two outside of this wonderful city, and I wanted to try DC first.  Several years ago I had some work at the Elizabeth Roberts Gallery in Dupont Circle, but unfortunately it closed, so now I have to find another space.

I spent the evening before the trip going through a list of DC galleries and scouting them out on the internet first.  Some are co-ops (not really an option since I don't live close enough to do the work necessary to be a member) so those were out.  Some are selling Picasso and Monet and Degas.  While I'd love to count myself among those luminaries, I'm not sure it would be realistic to do so - yet! - so those galleries were out.  There were about 16 others in DC.  Liz and I went to 12 of them.  We both work very large so found that the Dupont Circle galleries were not quite fitting.  They are generally in old row houses with beautiful, dark woodwork on the walls and 8'-9' ceilings.  Not ideal for modern tall work.

Logan Circle had galleries with a more contemporary feel - tall ceilings, large white expansive walls.  There were two galleries there I would love to show my work in and plan to spend some time creating a professional portfolio in order to apply to those two galleries.  These galleries were professional, clean, showed excellent work, had staff that engaged with us when we went in, talked to us about the artists on display, and overall did a very good job making me want to walk out with a piece of art in my arms.  That's certainly the kind of dealer I would like to have representing my work!

So now I have a project to take on...!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Musings about Models

I've had some interesting conversations with people lately about models and modelling and selling my work.  I'd like to share them in a stream-of-consciousness way.  Please comment if you have thoughts about this subject.  I'm intrigued by it presently.

My models are doing me a favor by modelling for me.  What do I owe them in exchange?
I give them copies of the photos.  I hope they have a lovely experience being seen and that they learn more about themselves.  I hope they learn to accept their bodies more than they did before.  I hope they have fun.  I hope they feel enriched.

Here's what my husband wrote me in an email today after he and I talked about this this morning:  A friend of mine had emailed me to ask how I would feel about photographing her and said some lovely things in her email.    
"What a lovely reminder about why you’re doing this.  The beauty of your art is that you manage to convey the sentiment of women in the images you portray: acceptance as opposed to denial…opening as opposed to contracting…standing proud vs. shrinking out of fear…attending to the nurturing, goddess-nature within instead of the critical, denigrating voices from without.  That’s the resonance of your work."          Chris

A couple of my models have been too uncomfortable with their photos to have me paint from them.   

Most of my models have me take the photos then don't really care what I do with them.

I told someone I might be selling a piece and she asked me if the model was OK with that.  I told her that the model was welcome to buy the piece, but if she didn't want to, then it's my prerogative to sell it.  I'd be in a real bind if I were to paint paintings then have nothing I could do with them because the models didn't want me to sell them.  Hopefully we figure that out before I paint them!  It raises an interesting question - what "rights" do I have?  What "rights" does the model have?  What responsibilities do we each have?

It's easier when the model is paid and it's a straight financial exchange.  In that case, the model signs a release and I have permission to do what I want to do with the photos.  The way I do it is not so black and white.  I've signed agreements with a few people.  For instance, one model doesn't want me to leave the photos on my computer hard drive.  Another one asked me to sign something saying I wouldn't publish them and that her name not be associated with them.  Some models don't want their faces showing.  Sometimes this is because they're professionals and don't want nude pictures of themselves out in the world.  Some women want their faces beaming out to the world and are proud to be out there like that.  Each person is different and has different thoughts and feelings about it.  I absolutely respect those requests.

When I painted men, none of these issues arose.  The guys modeled for me.  They were also friends.  I also gave them copies of the pictures in exchange for modeling.  They were curious to see what I came up with and many of them came to the show I did with them in it, but none of them bought the pieces, and I don't know that any of them gave it a lot of thought.

Except one man who wasn't sure about having me photograph him.  He wanted to, but he didn't want to tell his wife about it.  Not that there was anything between him and me at all.  Simply that he felt she wouldn't understand.  He and I wrote 30+ emails back and forth about the experience of being photographed.  He was around 50 and for the first time realized through looking at the pictures that his body was no longer 20 years old.  I think the picture I did of him evokes his new awareness.

I had that same experience when my husband photographed me the other night.  I enjoyed the experience of modeling, but it wasn't easy to look at the results.   He did a lovely job with the photographs - it wasn't that!  I just wasn't all that accepting of how I look.  I recently developed a roll of fat where I'd never had one before, and I didn't like looking at it in the pictures.  My wonderful husband talked about how beautiful he thinks I am and how authentic and genuine I look in the pictures.  All I could see was that roll of fat.  It was painful.  I think I'll have to paint one of them just to work through those feelings.  Yikes.

It's easier painting other people.

Painting the human figure is much more complex than painting a bowl of fruit.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Applying to Galleries

Man!  It is NOT easy to go through the process of applying for a show at a gallery!  First of all, you have to find a gallery that might simpatico with your work.  That involves surfing the internet for hours, googling "female nudes", "figurative art galleries", "figurative art" then searching to try to get a feel for which gallery might be at your level of expertise/professionalism, who might like your work, who might be willing to show it.  Then you have to look at their guidelines for exhibition and dot every i and cross every t so that you're sure you're sending all the right info.  The one I applied to today needed the following itmes in order to consider my application:

Power Point presentation of my work with titles and orientation (of the pieces, not of the models)
Current Resume
Artist's Statement
List of works with sizes and medium
Self addressed stamped envelope to return materials
A check for $15

I spent 5 hours preparing the materials.  It cost about $20 with postage and materials.  I will hear in approximately 16 weeks whether or not they are considering my work for display.  There will be 100's of people applying to this gallery for 8-10 exhibition slots.

Today I also considered applying to another gallery which has beautiful space to show in.  It's a co-op gallery with a wonderful set-up.  The director was encouraging.  Then I looked at their stipulations.  I would have to apply to show my work (i.e. go through the process described above), then, if accepted, pay $300 to rent the gallery for a month, plus $70 to print and mail postcards for the gallery plus whatever I would mail out on my own, plus provide food and paper products for the opening (another $100+).  That's $500 just to show my work.  Then they take 1/3 of the sales.  I don't begrudge them any of that - after all, they have to pay their rent and keep up their space and advertise everything they do.  It's just that it's terribly expensive to do a show.  Remember, I also have to make my canvases at about $70/pop - they'd be at least twice that if I didn't make them myself - and, oh yeah, I also paint them!  So if I were to sell a piece for $1200, the gallery would take $400 of it, plus the $500 to have the show, plus $70 to make the canvas.  I would end up making $230 on a piece that would take me probably 20 hours to paint.   I guess $10/hour isn't all that awful a wage, but somehow/some time I'm ready for my years of experience and education to pay a bit better than that!  I could also include the 30+ hours it would take to prepare for the show - applying for it, checking out the space, hanging the show (10 hours or so), being at the opening, taking down the show, storing the un-bought paintings.  If I were to do that, though, I might break down and weep and decide to give away my paintings rather than even try to sell them!  It's crazy! 

Now perhaps you can understand why paintings might seem to be expensive.  They actually cost a tremendous amount to produce and market, not to mention the immeasurable skill and love and insight which go into making each and every one.  I don't know why artists continue to produce art, given all that it takes to get it out there into the world.  There must be something incredibly compelling about creating!  I know I can't get through a week without painting without being impossible to live with.

Any ideas about how to do it better???!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Long, great day in the studio

I was so blessed today!  My husband Chris was willing to continue painting the outside of the studio (which we didn't quite finish last week) while I worked on the canvas inside.  I didn't spend much time in the studio yesterday, so I was burning to get in there and paint!  My schedule is a bit turned around this coming week, so I really wanted to paint.  My family knows if I don't paint for a while, it's bad for everyone because I get VERY GRUMPY!  My kids know that if I'm in a bad mood, the best thing for them to do is to remind me that it might be a good idea to go paint!  (And perhaps also leave the house so I don't pick on them!)

Anyway, I worked a lot on Beauty in a Veil II.  I re-worked the hand yet again.  I couldn't get the nuances I wanted to with brushes in oil so this time I used pastel pencils.   That worked really well.  I was able to blend colors and get in and do the details like I wanted to.  Now I'm finally pleased with the hand.

I began work on the other hand (her right hand).  First I outlined carefully in pastel pencil then applied paint.  This picture is before I applied paint.  I'll do more nuances in paint next time I'm in the studio then use pastel pencils after that dries.   You can see from the crudeness of the sketch how much work goes into making it look good.  I think I've spent 8-9 hours on the other hand already.  Yikes!

I also worked on other parts of the figure.  Here's what it looked like by the end of the day.  I did some work on the veil but mostly worked on her breasts, arms and hands.  I am excited about this piece and think it'll be pretty wonderful by the time it's finished.  It is certainly a complex piece.

Chris took some pictures of me working today.  I wouldn't say they're flattering, but you can get a sense of how I work. Obviously I use the photo for reference!  My teacher Tom would be proud - he always tells me:  "Look at what you're painting, NOT at the painting - otherwise you'll paint what you think something looks like rather than how it actually looks."  It's fantastic advice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Looking for new models

I'm looking for models to continue my series on Women's Body Image.   I would love to photograph and paint women of all ages and races and sizes.  Right now I have way too few women of color and of size represented in my work.  If you are interested in modeling for me (I live in Richmond, VA), I would be delighted.  It works like this:

We figure out a time that works for both of us.  You come to my studio where I have a beautiful round wall in front of which I take the photos.  We talk for a bit about what you would like to get from the session, what your expectations and hopes and desires are.  We make sure we're both comfortable with the setting and situation.  We envision the feelings we might want to evoke.  One woman, for example, wanted to feel her power and her strength.  That showed up in the photos beautifully!

The photography session is a collaboration.  You and I work together to see what evolves.  We are led by each other and some other wonderful creative energy.  I never know what will arise, but I love the process! 

After we're done taking the pictures, we upload them to the computer where we look at them together.  You will have the option of deleting any you may feel uncomfortable about.  You have the option of having pictures with or without your face.  I will not paint your face if you don't want me to!  The process of looking through the photos is often the best part.  It's so wonderful discovering the beauty in each woman and watching as she sees on the screen how beautiful she is.  It's quite powerful for me and empowering for her.  In exchange for the gift of posing for me, I give you a set of the photos I've taken for you to use as you wish for your own personal use. 

After you leave, I look through the photos again to find the ones that speak to me directly and demand to be painted.  I play with them in Photoshop, cropping, darkening, adding contrast, etc. so I have just the image that works for me.  If you have requested it, I will send you a copy of the image just to make sure you're comfortable with my painting it.  If you're not, I am very respectful of your choice and will not use it.  If you're OK with it, or don't feel a need to OK it, then my husband and I build a canvas, I gesso it, then I paint it!  Another option is  for you to find the image you'd like me to paint of you and for you to commission a painting from me!  It's quite wonderful being able to choose just exactly the picture you'd like of yourself for your home. 

It's a wonderful process and thus far has been quite empowering for the women involved.  Here's what Sherry Tuegel wrote about the process:  (If you'd like to learn more about her, you can go to her website at  I've also included the images I painted of her.  One is currently in progress.)

When my friend told me of Susan Singer’s work I quickly accepted the chance to be photographed nude. A little over a year ago I would have refused and avoided the truthful lens. As I review the amazing pictures Susan has taken I revel in my enjoyment of this body I see so fully exposed. She generously shared all of the pictures with me on disks so I can see each and every angle. Some shots are certainly more becoming than others. The hardest ones for me to see are of me standing where the realities of gravity decorate my body with sags and ripples. I am still working on fully loving the sagging. As I continue loosing weight the sagging will likely become more exaggerated. Sometimes I see the fat laughing Buddha and smile thinking, I am that. What Buddha will emerge next? The roundness that I find becoming will diminish and I will need more acceptance of whatever emerges. I work to accept what I am in each moment. Susan’s camera gave me the opportunity to continue my journey of self love and acceptance. Her tender professionalism made the shoot easy and delightful. I am so grateful for this amazing experience. Thank You and Bless You Susan!

If you'd like to learn more about modeling for me, please email me at and we can figure out what'll work for us both.  I look forward to meeting you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rendering Hands

Last time when I was working on Beauty with a Veil II, I spent about 5 hours working on her hand.  I had already been aware that artists charge significantly more to paint hands in a portrait, and this experience made it very clear to me why.    They are very hard to do.  It's difficult to paint all of the nuances - the knuckles and their wrinkles; the veins that stand out; the accurate bend of the fingers; the position of the hands; the light on each element.  I don't think I've captured it yet after all those hours.

That made me realize it would probably be wise for me to learn more about the anatomy of the hand so I spent several hours yesterday studying two anatomy books for artists:  An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists  by Fritz Schider and Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck.  The first one was particularly helpful because it showed first the bones of the hand in great detail then the muscles and tendons and ligaments that cover the bones.  I had always thought that if I just copy what I see in a picture or in front of me that I would end up with an accurate representation of the object and that it wasn't very important to know about what was underneath.  Several teachers lately have talked about how helpful it is to them personally to know anatomy, so I decided to give it a try.  After doing the study, I drew a picture of my own hand in my sketchbook.  It's so much easier to draw in pencil than paint in oils, it's amazing!  I can get completely detailed and fanatical in a way I can't do (yet!) in oils.  I simply don't yet know how to finesse the details, and I don't have the skills with the brush (or is it that I don't have small enough brushes?) to get all the details.  I'm also not convinced that I want the hand in the painting to be as detailed as my drawing.  The rest of the painting doesn't have that much detail unless I paint every single square of the tulle, and I have no intention whatsoever of doing that!  I'd rather walk across roasted marshmallows!  I'd rather be able to give the indication of fingers and hands and do it detailed enough that it all feels right, but I have no need for the viewer to be able to count the hairs on her knuckles.  The piece would suffer from so much detail.

So a learning process is happening, and it's fun!  After teaching math and Spanish and English, etc. all day, it's nice to come home and use my brain and hands together to discover new things about art.  It's good to exercise a different side of my brain.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Painting the Studio

Yesterday we spent the entire day preparing the studio to paint it.  We finished building it a year ago June but hadn't painting it yet.  It was primed Hardiplank, so I didn't feel any rush, and kept waiting for it to get cooler, then warmer, then cooler.  The weather this week has been fantastically cool so we decided this was the time!  My sister and her husband as well as my husband and son helped.  Yesterday we power washed and scrubbed the whole building as well as weeded the yard, cut down a dead tree ;( , and about 50 other things.  I was so tired at the end of the night!  Today we began at 9 and didn't stop until 5:30.  That's a long time to wield a paintbrush!  But the results are worth it.  I'm really pleased wtih how it's looking.  We're not quite finished, but a few hours tomorrow should do it.  Now it matches the house and is better protected.  It also looks as handsome as it was intended to look! 
The fantastic architect of the studio, David Day, has written to Dwell magazine, a wonderful magazine about modern architecture, to see if they might be interested in writing about the studio.  It is so beautifully designed and fits the standards of modern architecture so well, I hope they decide to write about it!  I'd also like to send information about it to some artists' magazines, but I haven't done it yet - too busy working in there!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

business day

No studio time today.  I spent the day getting ready to go to school, but then 3 of my 4 students cancelled, so I had almost the whole day off.  I spent it creating a new business card.  I haven't quite decided which one to use, but I think it'll be the one of the Woman in the Chair.  I realized, though, that to put those pictures on the card might make people think the images are of me...  Not sure how to avoid that.
I also checked into getting a giclee print made of "The Bliss of it All".  The model for it wants a print of it that's smaller and less expensive than the original.  It's a lengthy process to get one made - I have to take the artwork to the printer to have it photographed then have to get a proof made, then get it printed, then I have to pay a lot to have the canvas stretched or I have to make the stretchers and do it myself, then get it ready to hang then mail it to her.  Not really worth the trouble for just one print, plus it's darned expensive!  I want to do it for her though because she really loves the piece.  I wish it could be easier!
It's so easy to waste time on the computer.  Tomorrow I work all day then Friday I'll be in the studio all day.  Over the weekend we're planning to finally begin painting the studio.  It has hardiplank siding which is already primed so we haven't rushed to do it, but it's certainly time to do it before cold weather gets here.  We'll paint it to match the house which we had painted in January. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beauty with a Veil II

This morning I got off to an early start since it's my last day in the studio before school starts.  I was excited to get a lot done.  Last night I finished gridding Beauty with a Veil onto a 40"x60" canvas so that I could get going right away today.  The first thing I did was mix paint.  For a canvas this size, with this variety of colors, that takes about 1 1/2 hours.  I painted the background before lunch so that I could get a sense of the figure in the ground. 

After lunch I started adding colors to the body itself while listening to a Fresh Air podcast about a book called The Happy Marriage.  It was a lovely podcast about a guy who wrote a novel based on his experience as his wife died of cancer.  He didn't want to write a memoir so he could fictionalize parts of it, but it sounds like it went true to life for the most part.  I tried to get it from the library, but it isn't in right now.  I'm looking forward to reading it.  It's so rare to read about good marriages.  It'll be nice to read his take on it, even though there's the horror of his wife's death at the end.

The painting looks nothing like it will when it's finished, but this gives me a good foundation for glazing colors over it and for establishing the tulle fabric as well as the form of her body.  I should have some time Friday to work on it more before going to Fredericksburg for the art opening at the Center for the Creative Arts where I have Beauty with a Veil I.