Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kate Wilson's Sisterhood

One of my friends posted a link on Facebook the other day for a poet named Kate Wilson.  She has written a poem called "Sisterhood" which she performs on YouTube.  It's quite powerful.  It's all about the same issues I write about all the time condensed into 4 minutes.

I emailed her to see if she would be OK with my posting her poem.  We had a nice email chat, and I realized there are a lot of artists working towards the same end - ending oppression around body image.  How would it be if we all banded together to get our message out there more powerfully?

To that end, if you know of other artists (or are one yourself) who are doing work around women's body image, I would be grateful if you could send me the link to their work.  I will post links to their work here on the blog so we can begin a community of like-minded folks.  The more aware people become of this issue, the greater the possibility that one day we won't be so bound by pain and anguish around how we look.

Let's start now!

Iron Jawed Angels and Changing the World

I watched a movie last night which stayed with me through my dreams.  It's called Iron Jaw AngelsIt's the story of Alice Paul, a young Quaker woman, and her compatriots who worked to get the vote for women.  Alice was played by Hillary Swank and was portrayed as a single-minded powerful woman whose driving passion in life was to get the vote for women.  She had the chance to fall in love.  She had the chance to compromise her values.  She had many chances to give up.  But through it all she stayed very clear about her intention - to get the vote for women. 

At one point in the movie, she was incarcerated along with 215 other women for picketing in front of the White House.  The trumped-up charge was that they were obstructing traffic.  Once in jail, she immediately caused problems and was put in solitary confinement where she began a hunger strike.  A psychiatrist questioned her to try to declare her insane, but wasn't able to - she was completely clear about why she was doing what she was doing.  President Wilson was portrayed as the bad guy in it, trying to shake loose this rabid dog around his ankle. 

The wife of a senator, who was NOT in favor of giving women the vote, was also arrested and chose to remain in jail rather than being given amnesty.  That got the attention of the president eventually and was portrayed as being a turning point.  She also went on a hunger strike and scared her husband into doing something about it when he saw her.

What stuck with me about this movie was how few people it took to change the world.  There were 1000's of women around the country working for Women's Rights, but (if the movie can be believed), it was the hardheaded determination and refusal to give up of this one single woman who made the difference.  That is truly astonishing.

That means that any one of us could change the world if our vision were clear enough.

I am also reminded of Westboro Baptist Church.  There are 50 Phelps in the church and 10 other members.  These people have spread their hatred and anger and confusingly hate-filled message all around the country and have stirred rational people into a fury.  Laws have been passed all around the country to counteract their tactics.  Some of those laws are unconstitutional and have negative consequences for the First Amendment Rights for many of us.  There is a case going in front of the Supreme Court next week to decide a case that has been moving through the courts the last 2 years.  It too could negatively impact our First Amendment Rights.

What impresses me about Westboro is how the hatred of one person (the head of the church and family) could spread so horribly and affect all of us so negatively.  Hitler is, of course, another person who comes to mind which I think about one person spreading horrors around the world.

So I awoke with the thought that I can change the world.  With a clear enough vision and enough determination, I can affect the world in significant ways.  That isn't the statement of a meglomaniac (I hope!) Any one of us can change the world.

What is your vision of the world?  How do you want it to be?  What will you do today to begin to affect that change?

My vision is of a world where we each love ourselves deeply and completely, where gentleness and kindness and respect are the default ways of being.  Loving ourselves leads to loving and accepting others unconditionally.  There is no place for hatred or strife or war in such a place.

Join me, will you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weekend Plans... Rob Vander Zee and Sacred Flesh

What a strange day today!  I think I'm actually done with preparations for the show!  That means I've had relaxed time to spend with my daughter who's leaving for Germany for the year tomorrow.  And I had time to make a nice lunch.  And I can even think about making dinner too.  This is novel behavior this month!  I hope I can get used to it.

Tomorrow is the Preview at the gallery from 5-7.  208 W Broad St, Richmond, 23220.  Visual Art Studio.  Be there or be square!

Friday I'm taking an art class for the whole weekend at Crossroads Art Center with Rob Vander Zee.  I saw the advertisement for his class and immediately felt drawn to take it.  There have been a few times in my life when I have just known there was a right thing to do.  Whenever I've followed such strong leadings, it has proven to be the right thing to do.

One such leading occurred at Quaker Meeting when I saw an advertisement for a singing weekend.  It just felt like the right thing to do so I signed up.  While there, I met a person who became very important in my life and set the trajectory of it for the next several years.  That was a good leading!

I love it when it happens because it's exciting to see what comes from it, so I'm really looking forward to the class.  Rob teaches classical forms of painting and talks a lot about marketing.  He's located in DC, so I'm hoping he'll be able to give me some tips about galleries that might be interested in my work in that area.  Who knows what the future holds?  I'm curious to find out!

After class Friday is the opening for Sacred Flesh!  Super exciting!  I'm really looking forward to seeing people there and sharing my work with the public.  Many of the models will be coming to the Artist's Talk to talk about their experience modeling for me or simply just to see the work.  It should be a very fun evening!  Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things I've learned while putting together Sacred Flesh

Things I've learned while putting together this show:

* It takes a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time to shrink wrap 72 prints!

* 5 weeks is NOT too long a time to put together and publish a catalogue, especially when gathering texts from 20 different people.

* Two months before a big opening is NOT too long to have all canvases finished.

* Models sometimes have second thoughts about the paintings of themselves being shown in public.

* When people have feelings about the artwork, it means my project is working!  It's helping people look at their feelings about their bodies.

* Measure the capacity of the car before building canvases to make sure I can get them to the gallery for the show.

* Pay careful attention to the dimensions of the gallery and notice big windows when planning how many pieces to put in the show.  (Big windows = less space = fewer paintings)

* Don't sign up for a weekend art workshop for the same weekend as a big opening.

* Try to get daughter to leave for a year abroad either a week before or a week after a big opening - not the day before.

* Try to get son's college to plan Parent's Weekend for a different weekend than the weekend of a big opening.

* Try to get husband to plan huge stress at work and 80-hour weeks to fall a different month than the month of a big opening.

* Don't plan an out-of-town meeting about the next big opening four days before a big opening.

* It's more important to take off for the day to see the son in college with the daughter who's going overseas for the year than it is to get 72 prints shrink-wrapped.

* 19 large paintings barely fit in a Honda minivan and a Ford truck, but much patience and mathematical brilliance can in fact make it happen - if the stars are aligned just right and a once-in-20-year Harvest moon happens to be happening that very night.

* It's wise to breathe every once in a while in the midst of everything else.

* It's even wiser to relax and trust that everything is going to be just fine, even if it doesn't all get done and even if glitches happen.

* People will offer to help at the most perfect times.

* Everything will turn out just right.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sacred Flesh is up and ready to be seen!

Chris, Laura (my daughter) and I spent the day today hanging Sacred Flesh at Visual Art Studio!  Chris and I had spent several hours a few weeks ago laying out which pieces we would put where, but once we were in the studio we changed our minds about several of the pieces.  It was fun hanging all the paintings and drawings and the results of almost two years worth of work on the walls at one time.  I think it looks quite good.  I loved being in the midst of so many of my models at one time.  I'm very excited now for Thursday and Friday nights when the crowds will come. 

Here are the events for the week regarding the show:

Thursday evening, September 30, from 5-7 there will be a Preview for Discerning Viewers - what that means is anyone who would like to can come take a look at the art at a time when the galleries aren't as crowded as they are on First Friday.  I'll be there until 6:30 when I have to leave to go teach my pastels class.

Friday evening, October 1, at 5:15 I'll give an Artist's Talk about the show.  Several of the models will be there to answer questions as well.  It'll be a great opportunity to ask whatever has been on your mind as you've watched this show evolve.  The talk will (hopefully) be on YouTube later if you miss it Friday.

Friday evening, October 1, beginning at 6:30 and going until about 9:30 is First Friday, a great opportunity to explore and be a part of Richmond's art scene.  All the galleries along Broad Street stay open late; street musician, magicians, fire eaters, jugglers, etc. come out to perform; anyone who is anyone goes there to be seen!  It is a very fun way to spend the evening, checking out the culture that is Richmond and seeing scores of people you know.  I'll be at the gallery that evening until we close around 9:30 or 10. 

If you can't make it this week, the gallery is open during the week and on weekends (see the website for hours).  I'll be there the Third Saturday, October 16 for Saturday Stroll from 1-4.

Thursday, November 4, from 5-7 there will be another Preview for Discerning Viewers with a new set of pictures.  I had so many paintings, I couldn't fit them all in one show, so I'll be trading out pieces for the November showing. 

Friday evening, November 5, 5:30 I'll be giving another Artist's Talk about the new work as well as the work in general.

Friday evening, November 5, 6:30 - 9:30 is one of the best attended First Fridays of the year.  People come out to enjoy the nip in the air and to shop for Christmas presents for their loved ones as well as to enjoy the festivities.

Saturday, November 20, 1-4, is another Saturday Stroll.  I'll be there to talk to folks about my work.

Catalogues and prints will be available at the gallery during the show as well.

It would be wonderful to see you at one of these events.  I hope you'll introduce yourself if we don't know each other already.  I look forward to meeting you!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Naked People - an ap Apple just doesn't appreciate

One of my models sent me a link to a website she thought I'd like.  It's called Naked People and comes out of Germany.  A man there has photographed 35 people with clothes on, then, when you scroll over the image, you see them naked.  He has men and women of different sizes. 

Here's the blurb on his opening page:

Clothes are our second layer of skin. They disguise, reveal, mirror our innermost being or help to hide it. By wearing certain clothes we can for example give an indication of our profession, our social status or our emotional mood. A business suit makes us guess that theperson behind it is a banker, office worker, insurance agent and so on. In our society it is a sign of trustworthiness. But to which degree is this assumption correct? Can we really trust this cover unreservedly? What is really behind it? Can the illusion be destroyed when all of a sudden a tattoo appears under the suit or does the person remain to be nfathomable? Here you have the opportunity to perceive the different effect between a person dressed in their characteristic clothes and in the nude.
I hope you enjoy the site as much as I did!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you get fired for modeling nude? One person's take

About a week ago, I posted a blog and mentioned that some people had expressed concern that they could be fired for modelling nude.  I asked if anyone had more info about it.  Here's one response I got to the question:

Hi Susan

Just to answer your question, yes, some people can be fired for posing nude.

Teachers are particularly targeted, as there is a morals clause, usually in some fine print, upon hiring for the first time. Usually public schools, don't know about private. It never shows up again when teachers are "renewed" for the subsequent years. The same clause has been used to fire pregnant, but unmarried, teachers.
I suspect certain other businesses also have vague morals clauses. I vaguely remember something when I was a JCP employee. Truth is, a corporation/business/employer should have a right to hire or fire people, but they should also make clear their rules. That is where I think you will find the dilemma - rules and interpretations and how many employees actually bother to read when signing on?

I suggest asking your models to locate a Memorandum of Understanding, or some equivalent, to find out.

good luck... geez, yet ANOTHER thing for you to worry about. Your perseverance is remarkable.

Anybody else have any information about this daunting question?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catalogue for Sacred Flesh can now be purchased!

While I was tutoring calculus and heavily into derivatives and differential equations this morning, I got a most exciting phone call!  Michael at Uptown Color was calling to let me know all 75 copies of my catalogue were ready!  I went to pick them up immediately after the session.  Michael has been fantastic helping me get the color just right and working with me as I give him different versions of everything as I edited it and played with the color, etc.  I am so thankful that wouldn't print the catalogue (because there were nudes in it) and I had to go local.  It made all the difference in the quality for me to be able to see proofs of it and to correct it several times before going to press.  The product is infinitely better because of it.  Things do tend to work out how they're supposed to, but I sure was frustrated when docucopies told me they wouldn't do it.

If you ever need to get anything printed in Richmond, Uptown Color is definitely the place to go!

So now I have 75 copies of Sacred Flesh awaiting the masses of people eager to purchase them!  They are $25 if you get them from me before the show (plus $2.25 for postage if you want me to mail it to you in the US), $30 at the show or afterwards.  You can send me a check to my home address (email me for it if you don't already know it) and I'll get it out in the mail right away.  The Buy Now button down below can be used if you want to pay with PayPal.  It doesn't cost you anything extra and they'll ask you all the pertinent information.  A very easy way to go, I hope!  If you have any problems with it, please let me know and I'll figure out how to fix it.

Here's an excerpt from the catalogue so you can get a sense of what to expect:

When I told this woman that I wanted to paint this image, she was horrified - No!  It looks too much like me!  Everyone will recognize me!  I found her statement fascinating.  It’s ironic because you can’t see her face, and it’s likely that not all that many people have seen her nude.  It’s also wonderful because perhaps I captured the essence of her in this image.  That’s exactly what appealed to me about it - and what made her uncomfortable with my painting it, I assume.

Intent upon honoring her desire to not use that image, I had my husband come out to the studio and photograph me in the exact same position, with the same lighting, at the same time of evening.  The pictures he took didn’t work at all.  He did a great job, but the images were not compelling the way this one is.  It isn’t a normal gesture for me like it is for this model. 

Stymied, I completely released my desire to paint this painting.

Well, sort of.  I tried to, but the image stuck with me still, so I drew it in my sketchbook.  I drew a detail of her hand.  I kept thinking about the image.The next time I saw her, I told her about my compulsion.  She laughed and said, “Oh, good grief!  Go ahead and paint it then!” 

I was so excited, I began right away.I love the essence of this woman and how it comes across in the painting.  Her comfort in her body is clear.  Her centered nature and grounded being give me comfort and strength.  SS

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pregnant (no, not me!)

This morning I was very busy with logistical stuff.  I'll be glad when this show is up and running and I can get back to painting!  I went to Uptown Color again to check on the proofs for the catalogue and to give them new files for the text (which my most excellent friend Tina edited for me with her professional eye so they're pretty darn close to perfect!  Thanks, Tina!).  I hope tomorrow will be the last day of working with Uptown - they're wonderful - it's just been hard to get the colors right and I've had to go back there at least 7 times.  I sure appreciate their willingness to get it right for me.  The problem is that I'm seeing the colors on my screen how I want them to print out, but Michael at Uptown is seeing them yellower and darker on his screen, then they're printing even darker, so I'm not getting the images how I'd like them to be.  Today I showed him my computer and how they should look - hopefully that'll help!

In addition to working on the catalogue, Wendover Art Company, the company which wants to print my seascapes, emailed and called to say I was going to have to Fed-Ex my paintings to them so they could do the scans themselves.  I had them done by Staples Fine Art here in Richmond.  Mark Staples does outstanding work, and his assistant, Carole, is a dream to work with.  They have both been incredibly helpful.  Wendover was wanting to print my 6"x9" pieces 50" big, and they were thinking the files were too small to do so.  I think the problem was more that my art is too small to blow up so large.  Mark scanned them as large as is technically possible to do so at this time.  Finally we got it resolved.  I'm going to take over some larger pieces so they can make big pieces out of them, and the smaller pieces will be blown up smaller, and the pastels won't have to be shipped to FL.  It's all good.  Everyone involved is wonderful to work with and is doing everything they know how to make things work out just right.  It's just complicated getting art made by me, scanned here in Richmond, coordinated by Catharine in Atlanta, printed there in Florida, and marketed all over the world!  Next time I'm in Crate and Barrel and see artwork, I will certainly appreciate the effort that went into making it a lot more!  Geez Louise!

After settling all those details, I flew into the studio, ready to work!  I feel done with Faux Fur Follies so I had to find something new to work on.  For some reason, I'd been craving working on a pregnant nude - I started drawing them in 2000 and a series of small drawings of them was my very first show.  I found an image I've drawn several times before and painted it all afternoon.  It felt so good to create those fabulous curves.  Pregnant bellies are so gorgeous and so satisfying to draw!  (The red image is the one I did in 2000 of the same image.  It's in pencil on textured paper and is very tiny, so that's why it looks so static-y.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Patterns and Faux Fur Follies

Yesterday and today I've had a lot of fun working on Faux Fur Follies.  I had worked it to a certain point about a month ago then literally turned the canvas around so I could have a new look at it later.  When I turned it around a couple of days ago, I decided that the pattern on the wall was too large in scale so I divided it up a lot more and painted in those pieces.  The second picture shows that.  Today I tackled the right hand wall.  I could have left it how it was, but I had an image in my mind of my friend surrounded by patterns, her face, hand, leg, and foot, standing out from all the zaniness.

I painted the right hand side at least 5 different times, wiping away the paint many times when I didn't like how it looked.  It's a lot easier to paint a realistic picture - I have an image, I'm trying to copy it, I know it when I get there because it looks like the picture.  When I paint abstractly or patterns like this, it's more difficult to know when the piece is "right" or finished.  I'm not convinced this is finished, though I'm feeling fairly good about it.  Though, writing that, I just got another idea.  Yes, well.

I'm definitely becoming enamored with patterns and the energy they add to a piece.  They're fun to paint.  The breakthrough for me was seeing Greig Leach at the Monster Drawing Rally at 1708.  He paints with oil sticks and showed me how to use them.  I immediately went out and bought about a dozen of them.  They're terrific for drawing lines, something I have trouble doing with a brush because it's hard for me to get the paint the right consistency.  The oil sticks are like a big fat crayon but are oil paint so are completely compatible with paint as well.  I haven't figured them out compeltely, but I am liking what I can do with them so far! 

My inspiration for including patterns in my paintings is Gustav Klimt, one of whose pictures is on the right.  I have a ways to go before my patterns are as exquisite and elaborate as his are, but that's OK - it's good to have something to aspire to - not that I would copy him, but he gives me more ideas.  His work is amazing!  I have always loved patterns and doodle whenever I'm in a meeting, but couldn't figure out how to incorporate them into my other artwork.  The model above practically begged me to play with images of her and explore the possibilities - she's an awesome, bold, carefree, dynamite woman who inspires me daily - so I felt permission to let my imagination rove.  I'm loving the results and plan to continue in this vein!

The next pictures are other ones I did with patterns in mind.  I had asked another model if I could paint a certain image of her.  She wasn't quite comfortable with it, but she said she'd be OK if I would abstract it somewhat or turn it one way or another, so I did.  I played with it in photoshop to crop it then put it through some filters until I had an image I was curious about.  The blue one on the left is my drawing from those explorations.

After doing that pastel drawing, I had the composition in my brain so I quickly created an impromptu drawing with the same elements but, obviously, very different colors and a very distinct energy.  It was very fun!  I enjoy working drawings up very carefully like I did on the left, but it is equally enjoyable to take the image and throw off a rendition of it quickly after having become so familiar with it beforehand.

This is the third image I've done lately using patterns.  It's called "Don't Mess with Me!"  I love the power of this woman and how bold she was to let me capture it!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Continued from yesterday:  another thing about judgment that fascinates me is how insidious it is and how subtly our judgments form.  This week I've been listening to the book Body Surf by Anita Shreve.  It's a fine book - nothing special, but nice to listen to while driving around doing errands, etc.  In it she is describing what a woman is wearing - I won't get the quote just right, but Shreve writes something like, "She was wearing a very unfortunate choice for a 60-year-old - a sleeveless white top which lets her arms show."  What do I get from that?  The fear that when I'm 60 I shouldn't wear a sleeveless white top which shows my arms or else someone will judge me.

And then what?

What happens to the judgments?

Do they harm me?  Even if I don't know about them?  Or do they harm the person having them?

What happens to them?  Are they in the ether?

What do they say about the judge?  Why do we judge others? 

I'm really thankful that I didn't grow up with all sorts of strictures about what I was supposed to or not supposed to wear.  I guess I knew you're not supposed to wear white pants after Labor Day - or perhaps I learned that after I left home.  But I'm left wondering why not?  Is there a white pants police?  What will happen if I do?  Why does it matter?  Who really cares?  And WHY?

I know judgement hurts when it lands on me.  I don't like it when someone I care about judges me or something I've done or a choice I've made.  I try very hard to be thoughtful and careful in my choices, so when someone judges them, it sometimes challenges me.  I usually feel sad or wrong or bad.  It takes a while to rebound and to remember that my choice was thoughtfully made, and I feel sorry that the other person doesn't like it.  It usually causes a rift between me and the judge.

Likewise when I judge someone else.  There is then a rift between us because I'm holding my judgment between us, whether I've been indiscrete enough to share it or not.  I'm still thinking it and wanting  him/her to be different than he/she is.

What I often find if I take the time to reflect, is that something the other person has done has triggered something in me that I'm uncomfortable with.  For example, if I judge someone for being overweight - I don't have to look very far to find the cause of that - I'm afraid of being overweight. 

What are your thoughts about judgment?  Do you catch yourself being judgmental sometimes? Any thoughts you'd be willing to share about it?

I'm looking for some good books to read about this topic and would be grateful for suggestions if you have any.  Thanks!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about judgment today as I'm preparing for my October 1st opening.

Inherent in any art show, of course, is judgment.  Viewers are there to see the artwork, and along with that come their private (or not so private) assessment of whether or not they like the work.  They may also judge whether they think the artist has any talent.  There are so many things to judge - the work, the installation, the gallery, the artist herself should she be present.

I'm used to those judgments from previous shows and don't mind them, generally speaking.  Occasionally I'll have someone at a show tell me they don't like my work, but usually people don't have that much chutzpah - they'll just leave if they don't like it.  That's all part of the territory, and normally openings are actually really fun because people, in general, tend to be incredibly nice and supportive and friendly and curious.

But with this show, I think there might be a different level of judgment happening.  The pieces I'll be showing (the nudes) are challenging for many people.  Some people won't go into a gallery at all if there are nudes there - they perceive them as pornographic, or they don't want their children to be exposed to nudity/nakedness.  I think most people have accepted that artists paint nudes and can deal with David, the statue by Michelangelo, for example.  He is a gorgeous man with beautiful musculature and a stylin' pose.  Or Rubens' work is OK.  Maybe.  After all, art historians have said it's OK, and people pay LOTS of money for these paintings, so they must be acceptable at some level.  Right?

My paintings haven't yet stood the test of time.  And I'm not using the nudes in a scene of war and devastation like the painting by Reubens above.  Instead, I am showing the women by themselves, for the sake of showing their bodies.  Plain, pure, and simple. 

And some people are decidedly uncomfortable with that.  Naked bodies.  No clothes.  And especially bodies we don't normally see - ones that aren't perfectly airbrushed.

I think people will probably judge the bodies of my models (me, included - I'm one of the models).  They'll notice we're not perfect.  That we have bones protruding because we're quite thin.  Or that we have rolls of fat in places society declares unbecoming.

My work tends to trigger people sometimes.  They feel uncomfortable; strong feelings come up.  They don't want to see what I am presenting.  Sometimes they get angry.  Sometimes they get angry with me for painting what I've painted.  Sometimes they accuse me of things.  In psychology, that's known as projection - what I've done has made them uncomfortable so they blame me of being/doing/thinking what they're being/doing/thinking/feeling so they can externalize it and not have to feel it themselves.  It can be quite effective at distracting them from dealing with their own feelings.  As I've been working on this project, I've had examples of that happen a few times already.  It won't surprise me too much if it happens at the opening.

Before I go to the gallery the night of the opening, I intend to take some time to sit quietly and meditate and to remember why I'm doing this - to help women love and accept their bodies, and to help us all let go of our judgments of others.  Positive intention is a very powerful thing.

I realize that if someone reacts strongly to the show then it's doing its work.  It's making them become aware of their innate prejudices and strong feelings about bodies.  And perhaps, if they're up to the task, it will give them an opportunity to work through the feelings and come to accept themselves and others more gracefully.

That is my hope.

I'm very very curious to see what happens, and excited to experience it!

Please come join me if you can.  Sacred Flesh, Oct 1st, 5:15 Artist's Talk, 6:30 - 9:30 opening reception.  Visual Art Studio, 208 W. Broad St., Richmond, 23220.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Art of Aging: Celebrating the Authentic Aging Self

A friend of mine (thanks, Eliezer!) shared this beautiful video with me. It's about a couple who is doing artwork about aging. The woman paints women who are older. The man sculpts men and couples. They have lovely things to say about the aging process and about each other. Very life-affirming!


Crazy busy day, and "Don't mess with me!"

"Don't Mess With Me!"

Closeup of necklace

Way too tired to write anything of note tonight, but I wanted to post these pictures of "Don't Mess with Me!" as she is now.  I worked on the necklace a lot the other day.

Today I tutored, took the catalogue files back to the printer once I'd re-worked almost all of them, tutored some more, worked on an application for a grant which is due TOMORROW!, visited with my lovely daughter who just got home for a couple of weeks before a year in Germany then worked on the grant application some more.  I'm not quite done and it has to be postmarked the 15th.  I have an appointment tomorrow at 7 AM to go over the contract for the publishing company tomorrow, then, at 9, an appointment to get my work scanned for said publishing company.  9:30 or 10 will find me picking up art a friend was kind enough to transport here from NC.  After that it's back to the printer to OK the proof (hopefully!) so the catalogue can be printed.  I think I'll take a nap after that.  Then I'll have to print out the grant application and double-check it before I put it in the mail with best wishes for a bon voyage and successful application.  Then there's laundry to do, meals to cook, cats to care for, and maybe, just maybe, a painting to work on somewhere in there!

To anyone who thinks all artists do is sit in their studio and play, they can read this blog and revise their picture just a tiny bit!  Sometimes it's quite a lot of work too!  It's all good - just a bit much at times when everything needs to be done at once.

Off to bed.  It's almost 1 AM.  5:45 is going to come VERY early!

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Don't Mess with Me!"

My newest piece is called "Don't Mess with Me!" because of the intimidating expression on the model's face.  She is powerfully present, staring straight into the camera.  She's wearing a large, dominant turquoise and silver necklace which her grandmother gave her.  I am pretty much done with her body, face, and the background, but the necklace is taking me some time to paint.  It's challenging to paint tarnished silver with detailed metalwork on it. 

Below you can see a close up of the necklace with some of the medalions painted and some unpainted still.

I spent 2-3 hours on it a couple of days ago during a break in tutoring and was only able to get 2 1/2 pieces of it done.  I have seven more to go, so I guess I'll need a full day to finish them up.  I hope to do a piece or two in a few minutes once I finish writing this blog.  It's interesting trying to create a texture and a finish I haven't done before.  As with everything else, though, I'm finding the trick is to look at what I see and paint exactly what I see, color, shape, line, value, then it will look like what I see.  That seems to be the whole trick to painting realistically.  Accurate representation of what you see in front of you. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Road blocks happen sometimes

Sometimes it's really hard to stick with something, especially when road blocks keep popping up.  It makes me worry that I'm on the wrong track.  Or maybe the Universe is just testing me to make sure I'm serious about my intention.  It's a little bit hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Here's the deal.  My art show opens October 1 at the Visual Art Studio here in Richmond.

I've been working on a catalogue for the show for a couple of weeks now.  It's been grueling getting everything together.  The first printer refused to print it because there are naked people in it and they don't print nudity.  The second one is doing a great job so far, but, when I picked up the proof Friday, I realized the colors aren't right and I don't know how to make them right.  Plus the fonts look bad, some of them, so I need to re-work all that.  It's going to take many hours to sort it all out.

I shipped a piece of work to someone, and the glass broke, messing up the mat.  I had to cut another one to send to them but forgot for too long, so now I feel guilty that that's late.

People are starting to have feelings about some of the art that will be in the show.  I will need to be very centered before I go to the Opening so I can be detached and open about the work and not take their concerns and feelings personally.  My intention is for my models to be 100% safe and as comfortable as they can be given their own feelings about being seen naked in public (if they happen to have any feelings about it).  If other people have feelings about the nudity, it will be interesting to hear about it, but I hope I'll manage to not personalize it.  I'm starting to sense that there might be some discomfort provoked by the content of my show!

A question:  do you happen to know if a woman or man can be fired from a job for posing nude?  Several of my models have expressed concerns that they could be fired if anyone at their work found out about their posing for me.  That is one of the main concerns expressed about working with me.  I don't know if it's true.  If it is, I want to protect my models in every way possible.  If it is not true, I want to let my models know so they needn't worry. It could be, too, that there's a grey area - that wouldn't be a legal reason to fire someone, but companies don't really need a reason - they can just fire someone - so, if they found out about it, the person could be fired anyway.  I'd love to have some facts.  If you know of a lawyer who handles art law or someone in HR who would know, I'd LOVE it if you could put me in touch with them.

I hate it that this could even possibly be an issue.  It is MY body.  I should be able to do what I want to with it, including having it photographed naked and painted.  Especially for a project which is all about honoring women and their bodies.  It is NOT pornography.

Tricky stuff!  Wish me luck!

Licensing Artwork to Wendover Art Group

Another item on my agenda last week was deciding whether to allow Wendover Art Group to license my artwork.  I hadn't heard of them and didn't know anything about the world of print publishing so I had no idea if I was dealing with a scam or what.  After a lot of research and googling and talking to folks, I found out that they're for real - they publish and frame prints for the hospitality industry as well as stores like Macy's and Crate and Barrel.  Pretty cool!  I would enjoy having my work sold there.  That would be a wonderful thing. 

They're interested in my ocean scenes.  They sent me 9 they're interested in so I had to go through my inventory of paintings to see which ones I could find.  I'm actually pretty organized with my work, but I recently had a situation where I sold a piece online then couldn't find it to save my life.  I looked EVERYWHERE!  I called galleries where I have my work on consignment.  I looked under beds, in closets, thought about friends I might have given stuff to, or people who might have bought pieces - I simply couldn't find it.  I ended up drawing it again as the only alternative I could come up with to meeting the customer's desire to have the piece.  I still haven't found it and have since realized that 5-6 other pieces are missing as well, so I think I must have left a container of paintings somewhere as I was taking down a show.  That's a big loss.  It's bugging me like crazy to try to figure out where they are, like a toothache - I keep putting my tongue in the hole, hoping I'll be able to make it better finally if I just touch on it enough! 

I was, thankfully, able to account for all of the pieces Wendover wants.  That doesn't mean I have all of them, but I could account for them at least!  I had sold 3 of them, so this morning I spent some time re-creating 2 of them.  I am satisfied with how they turned out.  The third one was too complex - it was a very challenging sunset - so I'm choosing not to re-do that one.

Wednesday I will have to take the work to Staples Fine Art in Glen Allen where they will scan each piece then send the digital files to Wendover who will get them printed, framed, and in their inventory for the upcoming October Trade Show.  Things happen quickly!  It's a lot to keep track of!

I'll let you know if sales happen and if it's worth it to license my work.  I'm very curious. 

The thing that convinced me, actually, to go with it, more than anything was, when I got quiet and asked myself/Spirit, the answer I got was, "Did you say you want to be able to live off the income from your art?  And to work as a full time artist?  THIS is a way to help you do that.  YES.  Do it!"  That was good enough for me!  Ask, and Way will Open.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

docucopies won't print the catalogue

I've been so busy this last week, I've barely had time to write here.  My focus is split because there are several things I'm working on:

the catalogue for the show
my newest piece, "Don't Mess with Me!"
checking out the company which wants to license some of my artwork
tutoring at school again and trying to pick up some new clients
working out so I enjoy my body
being with Chris when he has time
several meetings this week
marketing a new art class which starts next Thursday
framing work for the show
laying out the artwork for the show

It's a LOT for one week - no wonder I'm feeling a bit fragmented!

So - progress report -
I sent the catalogue in to  It took 4 hours to upload all the files.  Tedious, to say the least.  The next day I got the following email from them: 

Hi Susan,

We do apologize for the inconvenience, but we will be unable to print your orders. It is a company policy that we do not print nudity, whether it is a painting or photo. Again we do apologize for the inconvenience.

Ashlee Anderson

THAT was a bummer!  I ranted and raved for a while about it then realized there wasn't a darn thing I could do about it other than find a new publisher, and FAST!  Of course I have a lot of ethical stuff to say about it, and of course it feeds into my project very effectively - what is our society about if a company won't publish a catalogue celebrating women and their bodies and supporting positive body image?? 
But pragmatically I had to act quickly to get the catalogue printed in time for the show.  I went to a local printer, Uptown Color.  They do a fabulous job, they're professional, they print nudes, they're local.  The only reason I didn't go to them right away is because they charge somewhat more than twice as much for the catalogue which makes the price a bit high for folks to buy.  But they're good, and they're willing.  So I'll be spending $825 plus tax for the catalogue.  I sure hope I sell out the copies of them!  I picked up the proof Friday.  It looks good but the colors are off, so I have to try to fix them somehow.  I haven't been able to figure out how to calibrate my monitor, but the colors are consistently too yellow, so I'll take that into account and try to adjust accordingly - however that is!
It will be done in time for the show.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art as marketing...

Catalogue done, sent in.  Prints ordered.  Layout for show done.

Finally thinking I can have some time to paint when I received an email from a place that sells prints to interior designers, hospitals, businesses, etc.   They like my color studies and seascapes and want to talk to me about printing them and distributing them.  They need excellent scans of them by next week.  The pieces are all framed so that will involve a LOT of work unframing them, taking them to get them scanned, then re-framing them.  Ugh.  Oh well.  Interestingly, they don't give the artists credit for the work, unless the work happens to be signed.  Instead they're the prints you find at Macy's or Crate and Barrel, some place like that.  I'm flattered that they like my work and want it.  I'm a bit perturbed that I wouldn't get any credit for them.  That seems weird.  I'd get between $3 and $5/print they sell.  That could add up if they sell a lot.  I assume they get about $125-$300/framed print, so it's a pretty good mark-up for them.  Still, all I have to do is the initial work of getting the work scanned then sit back and hope the work sells like crazy.  I still have the copyright and can sell the original.

I'm planning to check into it further.  It could be a way to be able to work full time at my art, so I'm certainly interested! 

I read a book about Art Marketing about 8 years ago.  It said you have to spend as much time marketing your work as you do making it.  I certainly find that to be true.  Between the show and these prints, I won't have time to paint this week at all.  Hopefully I'll have some time next week and can get back into the studio.  I get a bit grumpy when I don't get to paint for a long time.

Oh, one interesting thing about the images they really like - mostly the seascapes - I did those pieces when Chris and I went to the Outer Banks several years ago.  Chris had been unemployed for about 4 months when I gave him a Christmas present of a week at the beach in March.  He was still unemployed then, and I was having trouble coping.  I was so thankful to go on vacation.  I was so drained and exhausted from worry that I could barely talk the first few days.  Instead I sat on the deck at a picnic table and drew what I saw.  I drew 8-10 different pictures over the course of the week, paying attention to the different colors of the sand, sea, and sky.  The pictures have a great deal of emotion to them because I was feeling so much at the time.

I find they are a true testimony to faith and trust.  In choosing to rent the cottage for a week even though Chris was unemployed, I was trusting he would find a job.  I trusted my art to help me find a way through my anxiety and upset. 

The third day we were there, Chris got a phone call from a company offering him a well-paying temporary job.  We were able to relax and revel in the vacation the rest of the time.  Such a relief, such a joy, such a pleasure.

This was also the trip when I found a gallery in OBX to sell my work.  The gallery no longer exists, but it was these pieces she saw and liked.  They fed me spiritually when I did them, and perhaps they'll feed me literally in the years to come if the sales happen!  I feel truly blessed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Catalogue, show preparations

An incredibly busy art day!  Last night I stayed up until 3 AM finishing up the catalogue.  I wanted to send it in today, but the place was closed for Labor Day.  I'll do it tomorrow.  I'm excited about how it has turned out and hope it will look good when it's printed.  It'll be available at the show for $25 or beforehand for $20 if you let me know you want one.

I also went through my address list to make sure I'm sending everyone I can a postcard.  I figured out how to make labels - it's very complicated with the new version of Word somehow - then printed them up, stuck them on the cards, then put stamps on them and went to the mailbox to send them.  If you're on my list, you should get one very soon!  I actually ran out of cards that can be mailed, so I'll have to hand most of them out in person.

After doing all that busy work and not painting for 4-5 days, I finally got into the studio to paint.  I'm working on a piece I'm calling, "Don't Mess with Me!"  It's a larger-than-lifesize portrait of a woman looking directly into the camera wearing her grandmother's heavy turquoise and silver necklace.  She looks very powerful.  I've painted a pattern in the background.  I don't have a picture of it right now but I'll get one for tomorrow.  I have mostly finished her body, but the necklace is only 1/4 of the way done.  It's going to take some time because it's so ornate and complicated.  It'll be fun to see it start to look like real jewelry!  I'm hoping to have the piece finished in time for the opening Sept 30.  There are no objectional body parts showing, so it's a good piece to put in the window for public consumption.

Chris and I spent a few hours yesterday laying out the pieces for the show.  It was fun trying to figure out where to put what.  The front wall will say the following, "All Women Are Beautiful."  "All Flesh is Sacred."  Under that will be the two paintings I've pasted in above.  I think they, along with the statements, will get people thinking about the concept of body image and what is beautiful right away.  I find both of these women incredibly courageous and gorgeous, but I'm not sure they would make it into Vogue magazine because they don't fit Madison Avenue's idea of ideal beauty.  I imagine some people might have judgments come up when they see them.  What a great opportunity to examine those feelings and discover what they're about.  I think the show will give people many opportunities like that!

I'm starting to get very excited about the show.  I've been working on these paintings for almost two years now.  I've shown bits and pieces of them but never all of them in one place.  I'm excited to see how they look all hung with so many of them in one place.  I wonder what sort of impact they'll have.

I do hope you'll join me if you can!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Putting together a catalogue

Whew!  What a lot of work!  And a lot of fun!

I'm working on compiling a catalogue for the show I have beginning September 30th.  The show and the catalogue are both called Sacred Flesh.  The show will be held at the Visual Art Studio  at 208 W. Broad St in Richmond from Sept 30 - November 24.  Thursday, September 30th, there will be a preview for folks who really want to study the art without lots of crowds.  Friday is First Friday, a very fun, crowded, let's-see-who's-here-kind-of-evening that has turned downtown Richmond into a safe, fun, and very cool place to be.  I'll be giving an Artist's Talk at 5:15 on the first, and several of the models plan to be there as well to discuss their experiences.

For the month of November, I'll be switching out almost all the artwork.  On November 4th, there will be another preview, and First Friday will take place again November 5th with another Artist's Talk at 5:15 that night.

If you are on my mailing list, you will get a postcard in the mail in the next week or so.  If you'd like to be on my list, you can send me an email at, and I'll be happy to put you on the list and send you a card about this and other events I'll be having.

The catalogue will contain almost all the paintings which will be in the show both months as well as statements by or about each of the models.  Here's an example of what'll be in the book:

When Susan asked me to model for her new series, I believe we were having dinner together with a few others. I was intrigued and flattered, and after hesitating a moment I agreed to do it with a friend. A few weeks later we set a date and went to her studio one evening. I was extremely nervous and was partially regretting my decision. My friend offered to go first, and I was relieved. She was very natural and relaxed, and her confidence helped me loosen up. I imagined that I would be nervous at first, but eventually forget that I was completely naked.
That's not exactly how it played out. I felt unsure of what to do with my body, and was constantly worrying that my poses were awkward and unattractive. The fun part came afterward, when we looked through the photos. Once I was able to view what Susan was seeing through her lens, I have to admit that I was more than pleased with what I saw. Her ability to capture grace where none existed is amazing. In the end, I felt emboldened by the experience and came away realizing that I'd like to do it again!
If you're interested in having a copy of the catalogue, you can order it until September 25th for $20.  At the show and afterwards, it will be $25.  Email me for details.