Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hippo, chick & Sheep... WTH??!?

So I now have a time problem on my hands. I have not finished my homework yet. Yes, beat me with a wet noodle. I only have tomorrow to paint 5 more leaves because I want to do some test washes on Monday and my last lesson is Tuesday. Eeek! I do have a good excuse though. Here's a hint (sing it with me now...)

Yep, Happy Birthday MOM!! I Luurrrvve her, so I took the last two days and did her a painting. It seemed only fitting, I have the very first painting that she ever did (an oil she did when she was 16). So, it makes sense that she gets my first full painting. Here's a very sweet story.

My Uncle Bob bought my mom her first set of oil paints when she was a teenager. My mom gave her brother (Uncle Bob) the first piece she painted. Fifty years later my Uncle still had it hanging on his wall and after I admired it one day he wrapped it up and gave it to me for my birthday. Ya gotta love that man! He Rocks! :o) So, now I'll have my Mom's first painting and she'll have mine. Yes, I do have to do one for Ole Crabby Uncle Bob (this is what he signs his emails to me with... and I love it! (He makes me laugh every time.) Oh, and Bob, if you're reading this, pretend you didn't, the painting is supposed to be a surprise. Hehehe.

Ok, so I finished the painting less than two minutes before my mom walked in the door for her birthday dinner. Whew! That was close! She really loves it and I got a bunch'a hugs and kisses and amazed, happy glances. I was pretty pleased, myself. It's titled "Daylily in Orange" (title picked just for Bob) It was painted from a photograph Mom took last summer of her own Daylilies.

I can admit when I'm wrong. I was woefully wrong, couldn't have been wronger. ;o) I thought I wouldn't enjoy painting flowers and other ephemera. But I found myself totally enthralled as I escaped into my own painting. Trying to get the highlights and shadows right took the lion's share of the time. I enjoyed the making the grass the most, probably because the blues and greens I own are the higher quality Windsor & Newton Artist's watercolors instead of the reds and yellows (to make clean oranges) I have that are the W&N Cotman series.

Now I'm looking forward to spring and summer even more than usual. Mom has an entire garden full of Hostas. Hundreds of Hostas, with their amazingly detailed leaves and multiple shades of green. Mmmmm green. My favorite. Happy, happy, happy. Now I feel like a kid waiting for the Dickie Dee ice cream truck to start doing it's summer rounds. Patience is not a card I hold in my poker hand of Life. Perfectionist, Yep, IMpatience, Yep. But, here's a quote that makes my lacking a positive attribute.
"Intuition is a suspension of logic due to impatience."  
                                                         ~Rita Mae Brown
I think that covers it quite nicely, don't you? Until later my pretties. ;o)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can I Pour You A Drink?

I did another painting and I couldn't wait until the other five were completed to share. ;o) I wanted to do a piece that had more in it than just a single leaf. This is also the first time I'm combining different mediums. This painting uses watercolor pencils, watercolor paints and pen & ink.
Grape Leaf Watercolor
Name: "Wine Country"

I love the way it turned out! I'm finding that I'm happier than I've been in a very long time. I am dreaming about painting every night. Last night I had a dream where I painted a hosta leaf in muted rainbow colors with wonderful highlighting, using all the light and dark values of every color. I named it "If Apple did Hosta". I woke up laughing and planning my drawings I'd do today.

I have the last five paintings drawn out already, I just have to paint them. I'm hoping to have at least two more done tomorrow because I only have a few more days until my final lesson with Shirley. I want to do some extra paintings with background washes so I have the questions I want to ask about them ready in my head.

Oh, I wanted to mention that I have been using the coolest new tool to get my paintings successfully onto the web. Have you heard about Skitch? It's like a camera and a paint program plus an upload widget to get the whole mess you just created onto the world wide web. You can "grab" content from anywhere on your computer, like a screenshot, then manipulate the image, then upload it to a server which gives you all the code needed to add your image easily to your blog. Wow, and it's free. Yep, you heard me, you weren't hallucinating. Best thingamagiggie I ever downloaded. Go. Try it.

Since the painting is all about vineyard grape leaves, I thought I'd add this as a little extra. Here's my personal sangria recipe. Make a pitcher then go and play with your new Skitch. Gosh, that sounded dirty, lol. I definately need a drink. We'll talk later...


Jenn's Sangria
Ingredients:
  • 1 bottle of dry red wine (750 ml)
  • 2 shots peaches schnapps
  • 2 cups 7-up (or soda if you want it less sweet)
  • 2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (500ml)
  • 1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice
  • 6 strawberries, halved
  • 1 peach, cut into wedges
  • 1 orange, cut into round slices
  • 1 lime, cut into round slices
Directions:
  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a glass pitcher.
  2. Mix and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Serve over crushed ice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Art & Miscellany

Patience is a virtue. We all waited, and now it's done. Tadaaa! You thought I was talking about my 12 little paintings of leaves?? Ha... gotcha. Don't worry, that's next! hehehe. I just wanted to show you all the cool new iPad. It's a lot like the Kindle but much more expensive. THAT fact isn't surprising, considering it's an Apple product.

Now, I must confess, I am working on a Macbook right now and I wouldn't trade it for ten PCs. I'm all about the Apple. :o) If I had umpteen amounts of money this iPad would be on my list of "Things to Buy Now" along with the iphone and a newer, better and blingier (is that even a word??) ipod nano. This little device, though, is more a movie thing than a reader. (It's gonna rock the portable movie!) If I want to read I'll get a Kindle so I can connect directly to Amazon seamlessly and I don't have to pay for connectivity. The Kindle is actually on my "Want and Would Sell My Right Kidney to Acquire" list. I have many lists, it's the kind of woman I am, deal with it. ;o)  And because I'm as poor as a church mouse I'm saving my pennies and wishing and hoping and wishing and hoping and... You get the picture. ;o)

Ok, onward and upward, my friends. We're all smiles here today. I have 6 (did you hear that!!!?!), yep, SIX completed little 5x7 inch paintings done of leaves. It's my "Study of Leaves". I actually thought that it would be cool to sell paintings like these as a group of four or six. Here we go...

In clockwise order:

1. Ginkgo Leaf Watercolor
    Name: "Health"
2. Maple Leaf Watercolor
    Name: "Home"
3. Ivy Watercolor
    Name: "Knowledge"
4. Rose Leaf Watercolor
    Name: "Love"


    Dusty Miller Watercolor
    Name: "Garden"

    Clover Watercolor
    Name: "Luck"



    So, there you go. My first watercolors. I'm kinda pleased with them. I must admit, I wonder if everyone gets the title references and also if you do then please write in the comments section below which leaves to do for "Family",  "Happiness", "Tranquility"and "Friends". Do you have suggestions for other categories?? I'm thinking of things that you need to make a happy life. Hmmm, I think that's what I"ll call the series of twelve. "Happy Life". I will definitely have to add a category for "Chocolate" or my series wouldn't be complete. I just can't think of a leaf that would go with the title. I wonder what a cocoa plant looks like?? Oh... the Dusty Miller does NOT photograph well, btw. :o(

    That is all, dear readers. (Now I'm starting to sound like Dear Prudence... God help me.) hehehe. Until next time... We'll talk soon. ;o)

    And For Your Entertainment...

    The blog ArtMind is doing a fun little thing. Make a mosaic of pictures that shows what is influencing you lately. Easy Peasy. Here's mine:

    In clockwise order:
    1. Joan McKasson,
      "Spring in my Garden"
    2. Thaneeya McArdle,
      "Surface Reality"
    3. Jared Kelley,
      "Untitled Watercolor #1"
    4. Bella Dia,
      "Watercolor2"


    These are all really wonderful artists that I have discovered in the last week. Their work inspires me to find my own voice. It's strange, all these kinds of impressions are in my head. I have had dreams of myself creating works like each one of these paintings. In Joan McKasson's painting I love the brushstrokes, the flowers are identifiable as flowers but are not so detailed as to make the viewer tired. On the other hand, Thaneeya McArdle's work is exactly opposite that, it is highly detailed and I love the tattoo-like quality of it. The painting below it is so striking to me because of the washes of color melding together. I want to create a story to go with the painting. The painting, therefore, is making me think, I love that. Fourth but not least is pen and ink over simple color washes. It's so whimsical. The artist admits she was just playing in a new medium (watercolor) but I think it shows how fantastic this medium is. Simplicity can be stunning.

    I'd love to hear what everyone thinks of the artwork I'm showing you. How does it make you feel? I think I may start doing a mosaic every week just to show you where I'm going and what I'm finding on the web. It was a lot of fun, actually.

    Tomorrow I will be posting my first set of "Leaves". If you've been following along, I have an assignment (read: homework) where I have to do 12 little paintings of leaves. I have completed two, I have one started and I have three more drawn out but untouched by water. ;o) Ahhh, yes. I can hear you asking yourself now...
    "I wonder if they're going well?"

    I'm not saying a word, you'll just have to wait, like you did for the new Apple thingamajiggy coming out today. I will leave you with this picture, though...

    We'll talk later... ;o)

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Black & Blue... from all the Hitting.

    I'm my own worst critic. I knew this to be true before I started this new adventure. This self-critical part of my personality probably added to the fear I felt in starting for so many years. I guess I had hoped that in the last 6 years of embracing my inner artist (making the designer wedding cakes) I had logged some personal growth. Well, let me tell you now... there may be some kindling, leaves and branches but certainly there are NO logs to be seen here. I don't seem to allow myself the necessary time to be a learner or student. I expect perfection right out of the gate. I require each painting that I do, starting at #1, to be quality work. I know this is logically STUPID. Logic doesn't seem to help, though. I can talk calmly to my inner critic all I want, she just looks back petulantly at me and sticks out her tongue, telling me our work sucks rocks. Ya, she's mature like that. And she makes my inner artist feel bad and cry. I wish all these people inside my head would just get along and make friends. Either that or keep their opinions and feelings to themselves and shut up.

    I have started 5 paintings so far. Two of them are finished, one is half done, one is not done but I don't know how to complete it and one is a hot mess, covered in a holy exploding frisket bottle. (for the uninitiated, frisket is a masking liquid that you cover bits of your paper with to keep it white.) I was supposed to do 12 small paintings of a thing, like a leaf or a flower, to help me learn about how the paint and water move across the paper. I chose sticks... first mistake. Painting #1 is of the tree in my backyard... second mistake. I started with the tree first... third mistake. Three strikes, you're OUT. (Please forgive the terrible photograph. The shadow on the right is my fault.)

    Here's the breakdown of my mistakes:

    1. Sticks are too complicated and don't allow the simplicity and flow like a leaf would. 
    2. I over complicated the entire exercise by not just doing what I was asked. I added backgrounds and other plants which made me lose what I was supposed to be learning from the exercise.
    3. One has to start from the lightest color first and the background first then layer on top because you can't remove foreground stuff to paint the background after. Duh, Jenn.
    I'm glad I made the above mistakes, though. I learned that I really don't want to paint scenes, at least right now I don't.

    So, I'm breaking the rules already and painting washes in color because I want to learn how to move paint around. I will probably switch to painting leaves, too. :o) Shirley Schmidt suggested I paint leaves. I liked sticks, stubborn as I am. Props to the teacher, she was right. I'm listening now.

    Ok, painting #2. (Please ignore the lime green painted fingernails peeking into the photograph, lol.) I just wanted to fool around with color. I did find exactly what Shirley warned I would find with the student grade Cotman paints. They do get murky more easily and don't have as much pigmentation as compared to the artist quality ones. I knew this going in but hoped for the best. I kind of like this one. I'm not so unsatisfied with it as to be abysmally disappointed in my artistic talent. I must admit though, this painting made me decide to get the Holbein paints as soon as humanly possible, lol. In fact, painting this made me yearn for the new paints. I found that to get any saturation of color I had to use the watercolor paint pure, adding no water at all. This then, doesn't allow for as much gradation and nuance.

    I'm gonna be either really generous or really stupid and let you see the two paintings in progress. Paint #3 is, once again, a color wash. I'm just playing, trying to create a cohesive abstract. I got frustrated and didn't know where to go with it. Mom, in her infinate wisdom, suggested that if I try to paint something, like a subject, maybe I'd have more luck and know where to go. GOOD SUGGESTION, Mom! :o) I luuurrrve her, did I mention?

    Painting # 4, called "How Water Feels". I'm only half way through. I have to figure out how to add depth and some kind of focus. I don't just want the whole piece of paper to be the same or similar pattern. There needs to be a subtle place that you want to look first and the paint around that supports that "subject". If that makes any sense. I guess I mean I need to find a way to convey "water" more intensely in one place on the paper so that is where the eye falls first. Kind of like the "little cottage" in a painting of a farmland grassy scene. Let me give an example using an abstract I have recently fallen in love with.

    This painting is by Ricki Mountain and is called "Summer of Love". With this piece one's eye tends to go to the large red flower then the word "Love". If those elements weren't there the eye would not know where to land and would skitter around the painting. By the way, I linked the title of this painting to where I found it. It's on sale at a cool site called Art Wall Online (dot com). I actually dreamed (a few weeks ago) of showing my future work like this... by drawing a scene in pen & ink and placing frames on the virtual walls so I could fill the frames with my paintings. It was startlingly cool to see it in reality and working so effectively. Go and check out the uber-cool site where artists can display and sell their artwork!

    Maybe the dream was a premonition that someday I would think my paintings were good enough to be displayed and sold. I sure hope so. I'd be thrilled to sell on a site like this or Deviant Art or on Etsy. Did you notice on my sidebar at the bottom I added "Future Etsy Seller"?? Ya, this is me being confident and telling that inner critic to go jump. Hehehe. Besides, I love the graphic and I set up my Etsy store already. I used the same name as my blog, JustAddWaterSilly. Maybe I'll sell some hand crocheted scarves or something in the meantime. I make a rocking scarf, I have great color sense, you know. ;o)

    I read something on an artist's site in the last few days that has stuck with me. He was commenting on the expansion and contraction of one's belief in one's own talent. In the time of expansion the artist feels like they're drugged on happiness. They see all the possibilities, learning and talent going forward. Then, in a time of contraction, they feel scared and weepy, unsure if they'll ever be good enough. They feel as though their dream is slipping inextricably away. I totally relate to these musings. I've been up and down in these new few weeks of 2010 like a 'coaster junkie at Magic Mountain. Last night I nearly cried myself to sleep. I begged God to send me a sign, just a little one like the coyote holds up when he falls off a cliff. I felt really defeated and alone. This was definitely the contraction stage.

    Today I'm ok. Not up, not down. I also decided that the way to combat my inner critic is to punish it, hehehe. The one way to punish a critic is to ignore them and do what you wanted all along. :o) That's why I'm publishing my first fairly pathetic paintings.
    Artist - 1
    Critic - 0
    Until next time, peoples. I'm off to paint leaves. ;o)

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Lessons of Mass Destruction.

    Shirley Schmidt owns a ray gun. She brought it with her for our first watercolor lesson. She's amazingly fast with that gun too! Within 2 minutes she had totally shot my fear to smithereens. Dead as a doornail. Obliterated. Gone. For serious. I was shocked and amazed. She said, and I quote...
    "There is no success, there is no failure. Just paint."
    She made me write it down so I wouldn't forget. Wow, I wouldn't have forgotten that in a million years! I did what I was told though, I mean the woman had a ray gun. ;o)

    What a great way to start a fantastic lesson. She actually made me believe that as long as I put paint on the paper it didn't matter what the result was. That's pretty freeing. I'm also not supposed to show anyone my playing around. I have to allow myself time to play and learn first. Hmmm. Weeeelll.... we'll see. I'm not sure if I'll be able to resist posting SOMETHING. We'll see.

    True to her word she did bring along those special watercolors she thinks will help me achieve the vibrant effect I'm so attracted to. I was breathless when she showed me the swatch of the colors. I kid you not. My heart beat a little bit faster... kind of like when I see an especially delicious sparkly nail polish. ;o)  I would post the swatch but she couldn't leave it with me, it's the palette she's using for a painting she's in the middle of now.

     The paints are called Holbein paints. On the left is the set I'd love to purchase (or have it magically appear under my pillow). It's called the Tom Lynch set of 12. It has the colors that Shirley brought over within it. Opera is an amazing fuschia/magenta color, then there's peacock blue and permenent green.... see, now my heart is going all fast again! Just thinking of the beauty of the colors makes me happy. Shirley  promised to bring a swatch back for me next time. Maybe by then the paint fairy will have dropped by and gifted me some BEAUTIFUL Holbein paints. :o) A girl can wish, can't she?

    I have homework. Wow, I haven't had homework for...... ummm, never mind. hehehe. I have to paint 12 little paintings of trees or branches. This will help me learn about the paint. There's so much to learn it's overwhelming, but in a good way. I'm trying not to obsess over how good or bad my 12 little paintings will be but I must admit I want to impress the teacher. We get along like a house on fire, by the way. I'm very happy about that. You never know, she could have thought I was a flake. Instead we seemed to really understand each other. She loved my flowers. Well now, I was hooked already! lol.

    Seriously, she's a lovely woman who teaches as though she was born to do it. I'm looking forward to our next lesson. And handing in my homework. And getting an A+. Kidding... sort of. Well, sheesh, I can't change overnight! Tomorrow I'm going to paint that tree outside my window. I'm gonna say my mantra. No success or failure... no success or failure... no success or failure. Can we talk later? Good. I'm sure it'll be soon. :o)

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Somebody, Pass Me a Valium!

    OOOh, I'm so excited! Tomorrow is my first lesson with Shirley Schmidt and I can't wait to start being an official student of watercolors. I spent the whole day thinking about all the wonderful things I was going to learn. I even had a dream last night that I painted a tree that's outside my living room. I painted it as though I could see it's aura, like it was talking to me and saying... "Jenn, I'm not just browns and greens ... paint how I feel to you, remember? I know you can, paint me in color... all the colors."

    Kind of a cool dream, eh? A tree talked to me. :o)

    I still remember how fantastic the painting turned out. I painted the tree as I see it now then added echos of the tree around it. Kind of like you could see the beams of happiness this tree has caused in all who have seen it. Does that make me sound like a fruitcake? Maybe. But it sure was a pretty painting. It was a combination of the branching in the painting on the right by Catarina Bessel called "Colorful Tree" and the wonderful pigmented color and sense of movement captured in Sinclair Stratton's "Ringleader" on the left. Maybe that tree will be my first subject. I've stared out, gazing at it for hours over the last few years. It has a weeping quality and in the spring it blooms with lovely lacy white flowers.

    So, this is me. Excited. Waiting to begin a new life of sorts. Happy, happy! Joy, joy! I can't wait. My stuff is all laid out, awaiting inspection. Shirley emailed me today to say she has actually read my blog. Cool! ...and she said there are specific watercolors that she knows of that will help me achieve the saturation of color I love. AND she's going to bring them to show me. Very Cool.

    If I get more excited I'm not going to sleep. Then I'll be tired on my first day of "watercolor school". I have no clue where one goes to get a valium though. Do you, like, go up to the guy on the corner and explain that I have a little anxiety problem, can you help me? What if he's just loitering? I think I'll just get someone to whack me with a mallet. That'll work. Then I'll be fresh as a daisy tomorrow with a little lump on my head. No problem. Ya, we'll talk soon. Wish me luck!! :o)

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Cold Feet, Warm Heart.

    It is so cold out today! I hate cold, my feet are little icicles with bright pink nail polish on them. I'll spare you the photo-journalistic pictures of my feet and post this instead.  See how coooold it is here? What??! You say it did not snow in Victoria today? Or yesterday? Or all last week? ...Ok, ok!! You got me, this is last year's snowfall, but it FEELS this cold, damn it! Trust me, it's really cold feeling, here. :o(  It isn't fair that I cannot just buy a plane ticket and fly to somewhere warm. I'd have to steal a ticket. (Sheesh, first lying, now stealing!)

     Money is a little tight, especially after Christmas. *Jennifer rolls eyes heavenward and prays, yet again, to win the Lottery* This is one secret reason I want to paint. I think I'm going to be magnificent at it. I think I'm going to make a million dollars doing it. That is, when I'm not totally in fear that I will abysmally suck at it. Why can't I always believe? Like they say... if you believe then Tinkerbell lives, right? That kind of belief. The people closest to me believe, they have unwavering faith in me.

    I have peeps. You know, those wonderfully, eternally supportive people who stand behind you like the Verizon network shows that crowd doing in their annoying commercials? Yep, I have some of those people. I would not be here without them because they validate me whenever I do something artistic. This will not be like a blogroll speach given at an Awards dinner. My peeps know who they are and they know I know, too. They are beautiful people, really. Let me elaborate...

    In my teen years, I slaved over my best friends toy sewing machine, making designer original scrunchie and hair clip sets. Said best friend then wore them religiously. She sang my praises and raved to everyone she knew how great it was to have hair ties made just for her. You could have them too!! Didn't you want a pair or three?? She told me I was an artiste' even though I sold none and eventually gave her all my inventory (about 100 scrunchies and matching other hair ephemera).

    Another example... a close family member (read: MOM) keeps believing I'll find my niche sometime, she knows I will. She has kept me well stocked in art supplies of every description even though I've moved quixotically through the spectrum of crafts as atypical as pysanka Ukranian painted eggs and as conventional as crocheted blankets. Other family, too, has always valued my art and told me, when I needed it, that I'd get there; I'd find my happy place as an artist.

    I have another VBH, Very Best Friend. She is always in my corner, even when my corner is self flagellation because something I made isn't perfect. She always has a winning way of calming me down without making me feel foolish for having a temper tantrum and throwing a half formed flower against the wall so it sticks. She indulges the artist temperament by ignoring it and being calmly sensible. She has the power to let me see it's ok to be imperfect, that, in fact there is beauty in that even more than perfection. I couldn't live without her kind of support. Or I would live but I'd be bald from all the frustrated hair pulling. Bald really wouldn't be a good look for me. :o(

    That other VBH in the world (see above paragraph) has a son, who, by the way, is the best kid in the known Universe. He cannot understand why every bride who uses the internet wouldn't want her wedding cake ONLY done by Yours Truely. That's some kind of validation! I know, I love him to bits too. You can see where I'm going with this.

    I may have cold, bitterly cold, unhappy feet. But, I have a warm and cozy heart filled with enthusiasm and expectation, ready to climb yet another learning curve. Ready to scale the mountain that is Watercolors. Because I believe. I believe in my ability to be a great artist someday. In the name of my friends and family, I pick up the mantle and start to believe in myself...

    Too dramatic?

    Ya, I thought so. I don't think I'll suck, though. Of course, neither do my peeps. Did I mention I love them? Yep, big LOVE. Huge. Hugs all around. We'll talk later... I'm busy with all the hugging. :o)

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Just Color Me Happy.

    I love nail polish. Yes, you heard me. Should I feel guilty for having a very girly-girl obsession? Should I apologize for the time I put in to keeping my nails perfectly manicured and polished? I think it makes sense that I'm addicted. It's all about the color!! I didn't used to care much about how my nails looked. Then I came across Scrangie's blog and I was giddy with excitement, look at all that scrumptious color and sparkly goodness! Now I was wanting to purchase all the polishes I could get my hands on, in every color. To this day I love that I can just look down and feel a little thrill of inspiration and energy.

    Color makes me want to live out loud. When I'm surrounded by it I become more animated and happy. I feel more like myself than at any other time when I'm in a garden surrounded by riotous, colorful flowers and bright green foliage. My favorite color is green. (Please don't tell all the other colors that I have a favorite, I wouldn't want them to feel inferior in any way.)  I really love any green but especially bright or slightly muddy ones. This is a very rare polish called Moonpool by China Glaze (reference added for all polish addicts out there!) I think my love of green comes from my love of nature. The basis of nature starts with green - trees and grass. It symbolizes life. Even as a small child I was loopy for color in nature. I was the type of kid who touched the flowers and hugged the trees.  I thought the different colors would feel different on each flower and if I was close enough to a large tree it would hear me tell it how beautiful I thought it was and how happy it's existence made me.

    Now, as I start on this journey of self discovery through paint, I find myself putting long forgotten puzzle pieces together in my mind. I'm starting to understand why I swoon at an infinitely colorful painting like Sinclair Stratton's "Byrnie" seen here. Please click to make it bigger, it's well worth it. :o)  Now, isn't that beautiful? Doesn't this painting in watercolor just make you breathless? It does me. I see why I love my beautiful garden in the summer months and why I'm addicted to nail polish and why I really don't mind when people wear those obnoxious Hawaiian shirts all year 'round. It's all about the color. It always has been. Silly me. ;o)  

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    I'll Need Several Couches, Maybe Dozens.

    Can I ask you a personal question? What do you have hanging over your living room couch? I have my great grandmother's large hand stitched filet crochet piece depicting The Last Supper. (apologies for the terrible photography, my camera leaves something to be desired, for serious.)

    Yes, it is an interesting conversation piece, to say the least. Normally I wouldn't have a religious artifact so centrally located in my home but this is a family heirloom and also incredibly beautiful and intricate. Also, I live in an apartment and unless I want to put it over my bed, I kind of don't have a large enough wall except above the sofa. So I was reflecting opon my lack of space as I was perusing the growing "Art file" on my macbook. A disturbing little thought formed...
    Where the heck am I going to put all the art I want to own?
    I can at least plan to sell some of the works I might create (assuming they're at all good). But I'm gonna need dozens of couches/sofas with space above them or several houses made up of just walls to display all the pieces I want. I have eclectic taste and I get distracted by shiny things easily. Ok, my friends are all laughing now. :o) If it's colorful and somehow speaks to me, I'm in love. The styles don't have to go together at all. I like both Worhol and Monet. What I have tried to do lately, though, is find pieces that might inspire me.

    When I see color I gravitate to it like a moth to a flame. As I thumbed through Etsy.com I found fantastic artists. Some of them graciously gave permission for me to use their pictures here. This first painting is by Laura Barbosa and it's called "High Fashion". I think it's profoundly beautiful in it's intensity of pigmented color. I feel almost visually assaulted (in a very good way) as I gaze at it. I want my work to have boldness of color.

    The next painter I also came across on Etsy. Matt has a shop here, check out his full collection. This tryptic, called "Magic Night", is painted in acrylic.  I love that I feel like I could go walking in the field and experience the unusual colored hills and roiling sky. It feels like a kaleidoscope world. I look at the clouds and want my paintings to have that fluid motion. To me, it looks like the sky is always moving. I love that about this picture.

    I seem to be most attracted to abstract art that reminds me tangentially of nature. I think I like the mystery of it, that I'm not sure the artist meant to suggest that this is a rock and that is a flower. This abstract is called "Chen Q1", it's and oil on canvas. I found it in Horchow's art department. Sometimes when I look at it I think I see a coming storm with blue water spilling over the rocks toward a lonely old boat in the foreground. Other times I see a sunny day with a dead tree trunk to the left of a red dirt road flowing into the distance. It makes me want to walk in its grass, follow that road or sit in that old boat. I hope my artwork will make people want to move into it that way.

    For these next two paintings I, unfortunately, have no information about. My bad. :o( Before I started this blog I had been collecting art that inspired me for at least a year. I was just trying to learn what I responded to and what I did not. I never thought I would need the links etc so I just saved them to a private folder as jpegs. If anyone knows who the artists are who painted them I'd love to give credit. (I hope I haven't upset them by showing their beautiful work.)

    I love, love, love this painting! The swirling, the saturation of color, oooh the sheer splendor that is laid down on canvas. Wow. If I could paint like this I'd be a happy person. I could follow those curls and swirls for hours. I feel like I want to run my fingers in it and if I could it would feel like hunereds of satin ribbons tangled up in a pile. I want my work to make viewers as blissful as this piece makes me.

    Doesn't this remind you of those cancan skirts the dancing women wore in Moulin Rouge? Don't you just love the "fluffiness" of the paint? Somehow this also makes me think of rain, that and dragon's breath. Hey, don't ask me, I have no idea where these impressions come from, lol. I just lurrrve how it makes me feel. This seems to have so many layers of ideas on one canvas. Can I learn how to do that with brush & paint? I hope so. :o)
    Oh, and there's no question that I'm inspired by the artistry of Shirley Schmidt. As I mentioned the other day, she will be giving me lessons in watercolors. Her paintings need no verbal embellishment, they speak beautifully for themselves. But let me say, I can't wait to learn how she makes flowers look so windswept, so natural. I'm not sure flowers will be where I land in the future but it certainly is a perfect place to start.

    Finally, it would seem obvious that I am inspired by Katherine McLean's work. I guess you noticed the similar last name. :o) She's my aunt and I'm gleefully proud to be related to her, even if it is only by marriage. I'll take anything I can get. Here is one of her recent works in encaustic on panel. It's called "Roadside Fireweed". I think it is one of the most wondrous paintings I've seen in many years. She is immensely talented.

    There are so many paintings I'd love to own but thankfully the ones that inspire  me to put down paint on paper seem to be naturally narrowing themselves. Whew! Thank God for that. I have no idea exactly where I will end up when I feel like an accomplished watercolorist but right now I'm beginning to guess that my paintings will include saturation of color and airy movement. I want to make people fall into my paintings. I guess I want to create magic. ;o)

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Don't drink the water... colors.

    Do you know why I picked watercolors as my medium to paint in? The answer to that is actually quite complicated and goes back as far as my early childhood. When I was very, very young I thought (and actually still believe today) that my mother was THE most amazingly talented, beautiful, incredible, shining example of the perfect woman ever created. I had a little bit of a girl crush on my mom. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be as talented and gracious as she is. I wanted to be accomplished in all the things she was accomplished in. One of her many talents was painting. She used oils. Now, luckily I did not want to actually be my mother. I had a strong sense of myself and realized, even as young as I was, that she was oils, I was not. The question then became what was I?

    Our house had a lot of lovely art on the walls. My mother, in all her amazingness, also has fantastic taste. My favorite painting in our house was a watercolor done by the brother of John Lithgow, the actor. Lori Lithgow worked, in an engineering firm in Ottawa, with my father and he painted this Prairie scene for us. Here it is on my mantle.

    I could never get enough of it's beauty. I thought the way the color swirled and moved in the sky and the translucence of the grasses were just magical. In some of the places on the painting it seemed the paint was both there and not there at the same time. It mesmerized me. This was when I fell in love with watercolors. It wasn't until later, though, that I thought I might want to use this medium. Not until I realized how much water had to do with making watercolors do those wondrous things on paper did I know this was my medium.

    You see, here's something else you need to know about me. I Lurrrrve water. No, I mean it. I'm loopy for it. In any form. Rain, pools, oceans, showers, bathtubs, even snow (as long as the temperature isn't too cold). Water makes me happy. I had a near religious experience when my mom and I drove up to Whistler to do some sightseeing one day. We were living in Vancouver at the time. After we got to Whistler, window shopped and lunched, we drove around enjoying the scenery. We stopped at a little river with a bridge over it. I looked down into the clearest azure water I had ever seen. I didn't know water looked like that. The way it moved over the rocks, frothing and burbling - Oh My! So Beautiful! Heart-stoppingly captivating. I was transfixed by the translucent color and movement... just like in my favorite Painting!! Wow. It was a breathless moment.

    So, it seemed a perfect fit when I wanted to switch mediums. My mother was oils. Strong, lasting, rich, earthy. I was watercolors. Gentle, whimsical, fluid, mercurial. I think it makes some kind of sense when I look at how I got here. This moment in time is starting to feel like a full circle moment. Like I've been preparing all along to express myself with paint and be able to put it down on 200 lb cold pressed paper in a meaningful way. ;o)

    Next time I'm going to have to show you some of the artwork that inspires me. We'll talk soon. :o)

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    When in doubt, get help.

    I'm going to be taking a few art lessons from an amazing watercolorist here in Victoria. I think her work is incredibly beautiful. Here's one of her paintings.

    Her name is Shirley Schmidt and she graciously agreed to give me a few private lessons in my home. I can't wait! I'm so excited to have a professional come and teach me the basics. It's gonna make getting over my initial irrational fears so much easier. I'll be able to ask her how she started, what her experiences were... It reminds me of when, a few years ago, I gave a few private lessons (in flower making) to a student (now a friend of mine :o)). She contacted me because she'd seen my work in cakes and wanted to learn to do what I did. I'd never taught before but thought it could be fun. I was right, it was fun, but it was ohh so much more than that.

    Teaching Susan made me feel like a professional. I wasn't just dabbling in something. I was actually a good artist. She's told me she really enjoyed herself and learned a lot but I've never been able to express the immense fulfillment I got from it. I had so underestimated what it would mean for me to teach. To be able to pass on what I had learned in the years of flower making helped me embrace being an artist. I'm proud to know I helped, even in just a little way, to push her toward being an artist. She also really loves what she's doing and that inspired me, in that same little way I inspired her, to try and be the artist I want to be. Thank you, Susan, I really appreciate it. Here's a link to her site, she does lovely work. :o)

    My lessons start in a few short weeks. My paints are ready. My brushes are fluffed. My paper is crisp... (ok, she's bringing the paper so I have the same stuff she's using, but you get the gist, lol.) I feel like a new student in first grade. Gosh, what shall I wear? Something splatter-proof I guess. I'll have to do my nails some interesting color to express myself... did I mention I am in Lurrrrve with nail polish?? I'm a sucker for all that depth and breadth of color, shine and sparkly goodness. I'm an artist, what would you expect? I'd love to have every nuanced color under the rainbow if I could... but I guess that's for another post. We'll talk soon. ;o)

    Little fish, big pond.

    Wow, this is a little daunting. I keep getting a visual of me in an endlessly large room, speaking to the emptiness, wondering if anyone is there. I can almost hear the silence whisper. Then I think...
    "silly woman, just talk to yourself, then! You do that all the time anyways, lol."
    I wonder how difficult this will be, learning to let go and do what I love? Maybe some background will help you Grok* me better.
    (*Note: from Heinlien's Stranger in a Strange Land; definition: to Grok is kind of like to understand from the inside out. In today's way of speaking I guess the loose translation would be "Do ya feel me?")

    Ok, so here's a little background about me. My grandmother was an artist, my mother is an artist and so am I. This is not to say it was our main thing in life, I'm the first to try that route. It took me all my growing up years, a degree from UVic in Psychology, a few interim years of frustration and unhappiness and more than half a decade being a designer wedding cake artist to really embrace what my heart has been telling me all this time. I want to paint more than anything. I want to paint as much as I want to keep breathing. In fact, if I can't paint maybe I'll just hold my breath until I can...
    ...well now I have a headache, that didn't do me much good now did it? You people have to warn me when I'm being stupid. Assuming there's anyone out there.

    ...back to my mini biography.
    I painted in grade school, like everyone else, then when I graduated to high school I petitioned the art teacher to allow me to skip the beginners art classes and do the advanced stuff instead. I guess she saw promise in me because she agreed. A requirement for the course was a special set of tempera paints and brushes. My first real experience in paint, therefore, was tempera. I used up every ounce of paint in every bottle and then bought more. I painted throughout the four years of high school but stopped when I moved home to Victoria and started at UVic. The bottles were empty when I was packing so I threw them out, planning to maybe try a new medium in a few months. I figured I'd settle in University first, then start painting again. It obviously didn't work out that way.

    After graduating, in those few frustrating years where I didn't know what to do with myself, I purchased some professional grade watercolors, paper and brushes. I thought I should have a career of some sort and paint for pleasure. I didn't start painting right away because I didn't actually know how to use watercolor paints. I had to get some books first. Hunting used book stores for art instruction books took me a while; a little bit of fear about starting this new thing started. Mostly, though the reason I didn't start painting again was because all the other stuff of life got in the way. As the years passed my life got more and more organized but the fear of starting got larger and larger. I kept procrastinating, putting off the watercolors. It also should be mentioned that I'm just a leeetle bit of a perfectionist. :o) Sooo, instead of enjoying watercolors in my spare time, I threw myself into learning a totally new artistic medium - gumpaste/sugarpaste flowers. It seemed to make sense to me, if I wasn't going to do what I really wanted to do, at least I'd be expressing myself artistically. At a minimum I'd be using the God given talent for something.

    I saw Martha Stewart make beautiful flowers for a wedding cake and thought, "I can do that." So, I bought the supplies and a book and promptly started a business making wedding cake flowers. Within the first 6 months I started using a new food friendly paste that wasn't made of sugar. I thought it would be a great idea to market these flowers as a wedding keepsake and this new paste made that possible. Here are a couple of my cakes...


    I've created designer wedding cakes for 6 years or so. I own my own business, which feels great... and yes, it is a good artistic outlet. But I'm still not satisfied. I still want to paint. How does a perfectionist let herself be free to make mistakes? I feel like one of those mimes trapped in their own glass box. How do I get out?

    I'm sure you're all screaming at me...
    "Well, if you want to paint, then just PAINT, silly!"
    So, I'm taking your advice, I'm going to paint, throw caution to the wind, skwoosh all that fear into my glass box and slam the door closed!
    NO MORE FEAR.
    I'm going to paint... and breathe. Ya, that's what I'm gonna do. Paint and breathe. :o)

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