Saturday, November 29, 2008

Untitled 31

This one started out quite strictly regimented (similar to the Mondrian Mood in a previous post) but it decided it felt too confined by its boundaries...

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Channeling Agnes Martin again

Ah, how I love subtlety. I feel like when you see a very subtle image, your eyes and brain race around the image looking equally for pattern and for dissonance. I like these subtle paintings to be very serene but with just enough irregularity (in color, value, line spacing, etc.) to keep the eyes and brain awakened.

I paint an alla prima oil portrait from life in a class once a week, small oils at home perhaps four days a week, with the other two days given over to pastels (whenever I can no longer face one more day of washing brushes). I love both media so much, but for such different reasons. I never thought I'd like pastel because I love the juicy-ness of oils so, but it's the purity of color, the immediacy, and the potential for subtlety that I love about pastels. Though I do hate the dry feeling on my fingers, I usually am so into the pastel painting that I don't really notice it till it's time to clean up. Then I run for the sink with that creepy "aaagghhh, I'm all dessicated" feeling. (I've tried gloves and even the little rubber fingertip thingies, but immediately discovered that I can't stand painting with anything on my hands.)

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What a beautiful model she was. This is Martine, drawn from life in 2.5 hours this past year in my art school before it shut down. Of all the drawings I've done, I think this is my all-time favorite.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday berries

...though not cranberries. These are something that grows as a very large shrub near our front gate. It has (I found out) big sharp thorns, too.  

The Husband had taped this little twig to our living room wall so he could test out his new tripod and macro lens camera. But I want to paint it! I exclaimed. No, came the response. It's taped up there right where I want it--don't move it!  

So I set up something else in the studio to paint and turned up the heat in there so I could work pretty soon. While waiting for the heat to start cranking in the studio, I sat on the couch back in the living room to do some internet time-wasting, er, work. While on the couch, I suddenly heard this tiny little thwack from across the room--the little twig had abandoned its post, falling to its death, and was promptly attacked by three cats at once. But!!--I rescued it and immortalized it in this painting.

Because we don't really celebrate any holidays (bah, humbug), did no family visiting thing, and are vegetarians to boot, this has been a few days of painting for me, rather than of consuming turkey. What did we have for our "Thanksgiving dinner"? Pasta with sautéed broccoli and pine nuts. By the way, anyone know any really good recipe for pumpkin pie without egg?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Untitled 29

Another very subtle, very-hard-to-convey-electronically (yet I persist) pastel diptych.

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Pomegranate 2

So, after the difficult eggplant I painted the other night, I decided, I'll try to paint something much more complicated, since even the easy stuff is hard (weird logic, but hey). Hence the pomegranate here...which, oddly enough, turned out to be not so hard to paint. Go figure.

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News of the weird

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program of art to bring you this news item: 

There are a lot of deer in our yards around here, whole herds of them sometimes. They come down from the foothills and mountains to snack on our expensive rosebushes and just-planted cherry trees.  Anyway, the other day a deer was observed licking one of my cats. Not kidding. Could it be because of this kitty's general sweetness, and/or his name (Jellyroll)?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


We should all learn to kill that little voice in our art brain that goes, "Oh, I know! I'll paint a (insert name of object) looks easy." This eggplant kicked my ass. I (hope that I) will never again underestimate the difficulty of painting an object that has a simple shape and color and looks easy.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Untitled 28 and a mini-rant

It's so hard to photograph pastels and portray them well electronically. Has anyone else noticed that? The bright colors seem to come out too garish, and the subtle colors get lost. I always put the photos I take into Photoshop in order to try to make them look the most like the real thing, but Anyone have any good advice for making them look on the web or in a photo as vibrant, subtle, alive as they look in real life?

Oh, and while we're at it, do other artists out there in this modern age have such torn emotions over the whole computer thing? On the one hand, it gives us more exposure, a record of what we've produced, a really fun way to connect with other artists, etc. But on the other hand (the evil, bad hand), it means we're all spending as much or more time on the computer as on making art! (And I can't even imagine why anyone would want to create computer god. I already have some pretty bad tendonitis, as it is.)

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Tag(ged), I'm It!

I've been "tagged" today (as in, "Tag, you're It!") by Bonnie Luria at St.Croix-nicity. I'm very flattered to have been chosen--thank you, Bonnie! You've made me feel so incredibly welcome in artists' blog-land!--especially since I just began my blog so recently. Bonnie said it's partly the diversity of my work that inspired her to tag me (I just mis-read that as "gag me"), which is really nice to hear, since I keep wondering if it's a bad thing to be doing so many different kinds of art.

These are the "tag" rules (paraphrased): Blogging (hate that verb) artists "tag" other artists, who then have to reveal some interesting and/or amusing facts about themselves, then at the end of their "revelations," they tag other artists they like (and let them know by commenting on their blog), for them to do the same.  Kind of like the chain letter thing in high school, only more about, as Bonnie says, homage, and not about being cursed for life if you break the chain (which I vaguely remember was what the high school stuff was about).

Okay, hmm, here goes:

1. I have to eat chocolate every single day. Literally. Preference is always high-quality dark chocolate, current favorite Chocolove 77% cacao. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

2. I'm the result of a Jewish mother and an Aryan German father. And my brother and I both have interesting names invented by our parents: I'm Jala, with the J pronounced as a Y; and my brother is Raman, with the stress on the second syllable. Oh, and I teach Spanish, and am married to an Indian (as in from India). Just to show you I'm a bit of an international stew.

3. Not to copycat Bonnie, but interestingly, I also have absolutely no sense of direction. (Now it's making me wonder about artists in general...) The only way I can get around driving is that in Boulder, you just have to always remember that the mountains are to your west. Boulder is precisely on the foothills--the Rocky Mountains literally rise up about ten blocks from my house. So, mountains = west. This is my driving mantra.  When someone says "Now go east...," I have to mentally picture where the mountains are and then think, okay, it's the opposite way, got it. As soon as I leave Boulder, I'm a mess and get lost immediately. Even in a mall.

4. I had artistic tendencies (drawing all the time) as a kid, but then did zero art from age 9 to 40. Now at 43, I think I'm trying to make up for lost time.

5. During those "lost art years" between age 9 and 40, I was almost entirely a left-brained person. I'm a writer (author of the novel Seducing the Rabbi, as well as many short stories, poems, and creative nonfiction), and have an M.A. in Linguistics, plus two more years' Ph.D. work in theoretical linguistics, plus I teach Spanish for a living, plus I get by in about six more languages, all of which were learned as second languages (English is my native language and the only thing spoken at home); I am fortunate to have a gift for learning languages really easily...  All left-brain stuff. Doing artistic right-brain things now, I swear, is like a brain massage and makes my brain go "Aaaaahhhhh...that's so niiiiiiiiice..."

6. I'm an extremely nocturnal person. I've tried a million times to change it but I'm just hard-wired that way. Given my choice, I tend to go to bed at around 3am and get up at around 1pm. So sue me.

7. We have seven animals (once we were up to 11--god, how embarrassing). If it were feasible, I would probably have as many as I could. And all different kinds... I feel completely at peace around animals, and it's hard when I travel and don't have that physical contact with them. 

One of our Golden Retrievers (and by the way, all our animals are rescued animals; I'm blind with rage when it comes to people purchasing designer pets and puppy-mill pet-store dogs instead of adopting animals from shelters) is a Certified Animal-Assisted Therapy dog; I used to take him to the local hospital to visit people, mostly people in surgery waiting rooms waiting tensely for news of their loved ones.  Jazz (the dog) absolutely loved this work, but it turned out I didn't like it, mostly because I'd have to hear over and over again from people stuff like, "Oh...your dog is beautiful. He reminds me of this one dog I used to have...blah blah blah...and then he got hit by a car."  I.e., I had to hear what I refer to now as Dead Dog Stories all day, and I decided I just couldn't deal with the weight of all those marvelous doggie ghosts heaped upon me repeatedly.

And now I'm tagging:

Bonnie Luria (ha ha, kidding, you've been tagged enough for now)

Bill from On Painting (ha ha, Bill, now you're double-tagged)

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Appetizer was hard to keep from eating these while painting. The glistening olive oil..... Mmm.... Is there anyone who doesn't like olives? I can't imagine it, though I surmise there must be, since there also exist people (hard as it is for me to believe) who don't like chocolate.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Persimmon 2

I've always admired how a really dark background can bring out an object so well. So many Old Masters used that device. I've only recently begun experimenting with backgrounds this dark.

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I've always loved the textures and colors that one finds in old walls in places that have been frequently repainted and exposed to a lot of sun, like the walls in Latin America or Morocco. Layers of hues, randomly exposed, sandy, crumbly textures...  The Husband and I have soooooo many beautiful photos of walls, doors, and windows from Latin America and Morocco that someday (that elusive "someday") we need to make into a book or at least a calendar or something...

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I'm fascinated by abstract expression, minimalism, or whatever else one might one to call it--artists like Rothko, Diebenkorn, Albers, Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, Brice Marden....  And Agnes Martin. Years ago, I stumbled across a small exhibition of her work while in Santa Fe, and, funny, it didn't do anything for me at the time.  Isn't it interesting how much our art taste can change? And then other stuff, you see it once and absolutely resonate with it, and that fierce love for it never wavers. 

I created this piece, in graphite and pastel, after looking at and admiring a whole lot of Agnes Martin's work, unfortunately only images in books and online, not live. I'm enamored of the subtlety of her work.

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Husband's Interview Shoes

This piece, done a couple of months ago, has proved immensely, almost ridiculously popular. I've had no fewer than four requests for it...alas, it is no longer available. It went to a courageous young lady currently triumphing over cancer (hi, K!). I let her have it because a) it was her birthday [well, almost]; b) I knew it would have a loving adoptive home, and c) she'll [hopefully] tell everyone she knows what a great painter I am and to visit my website and new blog (hint, hint, K).

The title is really what these were. The husband (a.k.a. computer guru) came home from an interview where he was all decked out (he cleans up nice), immediately ripped off the tie and dress shirt, whipped off the fancy trousers (fun British word there), and kicked off the gorgeous shoes I'd chosen for him precisely for the event (the interview). I picked up the shoes just as they were and hustled them into the studio, turned a light on them, and voila.  It was one of the fastest and easiest paintings I've ever done...dunno why. But there you have it. The magic certainly doesn't happen that way most of the time.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


This is actually not from today but from a few weeks ago. Since my blog is still so new and lean, I thought maybe I'll fatten it up a bit here and there with some more pics of my work over the last few months. Is that cheating, in blog-land? 

People seem to be enjoying seeing the previous alla prima portrait I posted here, Jenny 2, so I thought I'll also show you Dan, alla prima from a few weeks ago.

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Friday, November 21, 2008


Persimmons are in the grocery store right now. I've always loved the subtle, beautiful colors of them; this is my first time painting one.

Lisa Towers, I hope you don't mind my quoting you here (and your persimmons painting is gorgeous), but this is too funny. You all must read the most hilarious art blog in the world, that of Bill Jones and Lisa Towers (see the link On Painting). Lisa's words: "When I was a kid, growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, one of the worst dares you could make to another kid was to take a bite out of an unripe persimmon. Ain't a weed smokin' rastafarian on earth that knows cotton mouth worse than that."

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dark and mysterious?

I enjoyed how this turned out, though it certainly has quite a noir feeling...n'est-ce pas?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pastel memories

Our art materials instructor, Michelle Philip, a year or two ago, had us make pastels by hand. It was really fun, though a lot of physical (hand, wrist, arm) labor, too--kind of like dealing with a really stiff bread dough.  At the time we made them, I had never used pastels before, and I made these really funky, ultimately somewhat unusable shapes. Michelle had a good laugh when she saw them. They turned out beautifully, in terms of texture, softness, and color, if not in form.

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Mondrian mood

Anyone in a...Mondrian mood today?

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Early moon

As I locked my car door in the grocery store parking lot a few days ago, I happened to glance up toward the east and saw this amazing early-evening moon rising... It was a marvelous sight.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jenny 2

The art school I attended for two years, Colorado Academy of Art, shut down unexpectedly this year, leaving those of us studying classical art technique rather SOL. Fortunately, one of our excellent teachers there, Michelle Philip, decided to start teaching again soon after the school's closing. If you're looking for great classical art classes in the Boulder area, take a look at her site, Classical Art Academy (listed in links). The only class I'm taking these days is one of hers, Alla Prima Portrait, once a week. It's known as the "adrenaline class"--you hardly get a chance to catch a breath or go to the restroom; you're mixing colors and applying them with tremendous haste. Only the observing cannot be hurried.

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Channeling Cezanne?

I didn't set out to do an impressionist-style painting, but that's kind of what this turned out to be (except I think they didn't really do dark shadows). Interesting. Although I tried my best photographing it, it has in reality a liveliness and quality of light that was impossible to capture photographically. Oh well--guess you'll have to see it in person.

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Monday, November 17, 2008


This time of year here in Boulder, I'd normally be longing for the Mediterranean (this pastel is called "Mediterranean 3"; 3 because--surprise--there are two others I've done so far), but this fall so far we're experiencing what must be either global warming or else just plain good luck--we've been having goooooorgeous weather.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The art studio

What does your art studio (or art space) look like?

We are incredibly fortunate to have an actual art studio as part of our house. Granted, it also doubles as general storage and Where The Hell Do We Put That Stuff While We Decide What To Do With It space. Hence (and I can use this as my excuse), it's always pretty messy. The Husband was teasing me about that fact, and it does seem a bit odd, because in the rest of my life I like to be rather neat, but it's true--the studio is often a disaster. HOWEVER, I do know where (most) everything that I need is. (And NB: these pics are just a couple of days AFTER I did a pretty major cleaning/reorganizing in there.)

Anyway, I was recently reading a small book called Living the Artist's Life (by Paul Dorrell). It's a rather opinionated, all-over-the-place piece of writing, but it had its moments. One I especially appreciated was how you go into these museums and see these wonderful works of art in these very special spaces designed just for the piece of artwork, or at least arranged to complement it, and you're not supposed to touch it, and everything is very clean and "manicured," etc.  So one thing I really liked was when the author of this book reminded us readers that every single piece of art you see in the museum came from someone's messy art studio somewhere. And that not only did a beautiful piece come from a messy, cluttered, disorganized, possibly dirty space, but that sometimes that was the only worthwhile piece that ever came out of that studio.

So what does all this mean? Possibly just that when we make two or three things in our life that are rather wonderful, we should feel perfectly satisfied.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

First post!

Like many new bloggers before me, tonight I take the first steps in this auspicious and sometimes extremely frustrating technological journey. Welcome to my art blog. "Art every day"--doing, thinking about, looking at. Art Saves Lives, I once saw on a bumper sticker. I think it's true. Or at least that it's possible.
Tonight's painting I did was an oil, called Slightly Overripe Pear, because, well, that's what it was. We should've eaten it a few days ago. There's something about pears and bananas--when they get even, say, half a day beyond perfect, they kind of repel me.

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