Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oldie but goodie #3, and thoughts about frustration

This was the third and final still life from art school. Also the biggest. Also the first time I painted glass. I definitely got tired of working on it by the end!


I've really been enjoying all your comments about the loose vs. tight painting discussion. I remember feeling dissatisfied from the very beginning about learning the traditional technique that results in paintings like you see in this post and the two previous ones. I didn't know enough or the right language to be able to put that sense of dissatisfaction into words for my instructor (who was a staunch traditionalist). When I said I simply didn't like it, my instructor asked for an explanation, and all I could come up with was, "All these paintings just look like anyone could have painted them." I wasn't referring to skill level but rather to the fact that the personality of the artist was not present. "If you put all our [students'] paintings together, you'd have no way of knowing who did what."

I seem to be back yet again in that place where nothing I paint turns out well. Though I know it's all "part of the process," the sense of frustration can be overwhelming. I know you all know that feeling: you begin to feel you have the opposite of the Midas touch: merde is the result, instead of gold. I'm also having a hard time putting into words what it is I'm not liking about the results I'm getting lately. Why don't I like it? I don't know! I only know that I don't like it. It needs to be more this and less that, or more that and less this... I also am constantly and rapidly swinging back and forth on the loose vs. tight pendulum (I'm not saying I believe either style of painting is inferior). Aaaghhh, such frustration!

This current wave of dissatisfaction has forced me to reflect on, read about, and spend a lot of time mentally pondering not only my own art, but art in general, and looking (online mostly) at a lot of other people's art. I pulled out my old and mostly unused copy of Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Artist Within, and was very struck by a quote I found in the second chapter, by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ignore the sexism):

"A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within... Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. ...In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility...when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."

I relate to this quote tremendously as regards creative works (in my case, writing and painting). Have you also had that experience, where you thought to do a certain thing in your art and rejected the idea as silly, or stupid, or worthless, or not worth the time, or some other reason, and then seen that someone else has executed the same idea, and then mentally kicked yourself for not having tried it after all? I also get the same feeling, in a "reverse deja vu" sort of way, when I see work that already exists, but which, when I first discover it, I feel defeated because it's exactly what I would have wanted to do! I feel this way about Rothko, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Richard Diebenkorn, and many other artists whom I discover as I go. A prime example is this contemporary artist whose work I just stumbled upon and I get that all-too-familiar sinking, yet amazed feeling that what I want to do has already been done. Here's the artist: Video of Rebecca Crowell working and speaking about her art.

I don't know what to do with this feeling.

Who will lick my artistic wounds?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oldie but goodie #2

What do you do on your daily blog if you haven't painted? Yes, you post an older painting. This was the second still life I ever painted, also in art school (see previous post for description of traditional-style technique).

I enjoyed people's comments about the loose vs. tight painting approach.

The Husband took this little video:

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oldie but goodie

People, I tried to paint some figs last night and was ignominiously defeated. Here instead is a curiosity: the first still life I ever painted. It was at art school two years ago and used the traditional method of (laborious) sight-size drawing, then drawing transfer to canvas, then several layers of oil paint (waiting a week between each layer for it to touch-dry), then a final glaze layer for detail.

Before I ever tried painting, I thought this sort of finish/look/style in an oil painting must be the hardest to do. In fact, in my opinion, this type of "tight" painting is much easier than loose painting. I remember looking at loose, juicy, painterly alla prima stuff and liking it but thinking, Well, that must be quite easy, you just slosh the paint around and have fun with it... Ha! Little did I know how much more difficult a loose style is, where every brushstroke must be thoughtful and expressive and placed in just the right way, with just the right value and color on the first go and the painting manage to somehow work together as a whole even with differing thicknesses of paint.

Yes, I am adorable, whatcha gonna do about it?

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bella Sinclair Award / Lynxdance

I got this blog award from Gwen Bell and Laurel Daniel. This is a women-only one. Thanks, ladies! I in turn, with affection but without fanfare, pass it on this time to: Loriann Signori, Kelley MacDonald, Cathyann Burgess, Liz Holm, Rahina Qh, Sandra Galda, Bonnie Luria, and Leslie Saeta. As always, those who've already been tagged may opt out if desired.

Lynx's Native American name must be "Dances With Shadows":

Saturday, July 25, 2009


36" x 36", oil on linen.

This is a large oil abstract which got its final layer just before we left for London.

Lynx and Miss Lemon played extremely hard all morning, then collapsed in the afternoon. I think he looks like a lizard here.

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Lynx-only post

Just had to share this with you Lynx-lovers. (Regular art programming will resume very shortly, not to worry.)

He was perched on the very edge of the couch and started falling asleep... Yes, he did eventually topple off backwards, after a lot of weaving and nodding. (He was just fine.)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

White pattypan

Saw this funky bizarro white pattypan squash at the farmers' market, thought, Wow, I'd love to paint that!, bought it for two bucks, started painting it, wished I hadn't. Ugh. It nearly killed me. My friend/artist/neighbor Sam would say, "It turned on me." Don't ever let me paint another one of these.

Couldn't find the little fluffinmuffin today. Finally located him napping on the stairs. Notice the tiny black tippytail hanging down.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

White peony 2


Since I've gotten back, I've been doing some abstract oils work ("putting layers" onto some stuff, so nothing new to show yet). Here's a white peony from our yard from...when?...well, from peony season, whenever that was. A month or two ago?

And here's another kill-you-with-cuteness pic of the Lynxmonster. I swear, there's not a single moment that we're not like, "Grab the camera! Grab the camera!" You can't imagine how many amazing moments get missed being documented. You also can't imagine how many times the phrase "He's sooooooo cute!" is uttered around here. The fact that many of you are following Lynx as much as (more than?) my artwork bothers me not at all, in fact it cracks me up. He's a popular little guy out there in cyberspace. Will you all still love him when he grows up? he wants to know.

And on a bummer note, I've been rejected recently from two shows I applied to be in. Oh well. On we go nevertheless in our art journey...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Untitled 44

Whew... catching up on sleep, laundry, grocery shopping, and re-bonding with all the animolecules.

Can't wait to paint again. I found I was missing color--the ability to use it, I mean--so much while traveling. We're probably going to India for three weeks in December, and I'll have to figure out something to use for art while there. Oil is too impractical to carry around and travel with, pastels seem even more so (especially as regards how to keep the finished drawings/paintings from smudging as you travel around with them). Maybe I'll just bring some watercolor and paper and decide to see it as a self-teaching experience...

Here's a small pastel from a few weeks ago.

And of course your daily dosage of Lynxmuffin, who has grown enormously while we've been gone. He is going to be a very big boy, I think.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Last day in London

The photo of The Husband holding Lynx is so cute I had to post it, even though of course it has nothing to do with London...

The second photo is me desperately hungry and tired, wishing the waiter would hurry up and bring the parmigiano so I could start eating! This restaurant, Carluccio's, had the best (bitter-chocolate) gelato I've ever had in my life. Mamma mia!

Today was our last full day in London. I'm very tired (I find big cities interesting but exhausting) and definitely homesick for my smaller town and my critters (I call them my "animolecules").

Went to Marlborough Art Gallery (gallery selling art, not a museum) specifically to see if they had any Euan Uglows displayed, since I've found none in any museums. The guy working there fetched what they had, two paintings ('Girl in a Green Dress' and a still life of yellow flowers), from the basement to show me. How cool. It was like a private showing. The paint was much thinner than I'd expected--really very little surface texture. Anyone know if that's typical for his work? How much do you suppose those paintings would go for? I can't imagine. Of course I didn't ask. :)

Back to Tate Britain to see what I missed the other day. First question I have for you: re John Everett Millais' 'Mariana', how in the world did he get that color??!! (the color of her gown). It's the most astounding hue. I know it's not simple ultramarine (genuine lapis lazuli), at least not the kind I bought a small tube of from Daniel Smith Supplies online out of curiosity, because the kind I got is a rather pale, thin, extremely-low-covering-power sort of thing.

Some of Turner's paintbrushes, used palettes, and small sketchbooks were on display. The brushes (I don't know what kind they were) certainly looked ragged!

Turner's largish oil 'Seascape with Storm Coming On', besides being gorgeous, as far as I can tell used actual black paint, where you wouldn't think it would work--almost dead center of a painting that didn't seem to have any other black pigment in it. But not only does it work, it's amazing. In the photo I've linked here, it looks as if it's a very dark blue. But in person, man, it is true black. The Tate commentary here says it's an unfinished work. Um...really? Then it's a damn good thing he didn't "finish" it. It's sublime.

Does anyone know what color blue(s) Turner used for his oil skies? It's somehow the most true sky blue (that is, true to real-life blue skies) I've ever seen, and I swear no paint I've ever tried looks quite like it. Granted, I don't paint landscape, but still.

Adored a small Henry Moore sculpture, 'Animal Head.' Wonderfully organic looking. Excellent from every angle. If I hadn't been so tired, I'd have liked to sketch it from a lot of different perspectives.

And that's the news from here...flying back home tomorrow.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London

Well, interestingly, I'd expected Tate Modern to be the highlight of my informal, individual, and completely subjective London museum tour...instead, it turned out to be Tate Britain.

Yesterday I went to Tate Modern for a couple of hours. The single Rothko they have, a primarily green-gold color, looked so lonely all by itself on a huuuuge wall. Not the greatest presentation for it, as Rothkos (at least for me) seem to have an amazing expansiveness, and this setting dwarfed it and thereby diminished it.

I recently discovered Nicolas de Stael's work and love it, so was thrilled to be able to see the only de Stael on display anywhere, as far as I know. I had been really curious to see just how thick and textured the paint was. It was even way more than I'd expected. It was like mortar troweled on! Here's an illegal photo closeup (we honestly didn't know we weren't supposed to take photos...until the angry uniformed lady came bustling over).

Another very fun thing at the Tate Modern was a room filled with an enormous table and four chairs. Sorry, I don't remember the artist. They looked like regular wooden dining room furniture, except that the size of them was such that a person became Lilliputian next to them. It was cool to find out what it feels like to be a cat wondering what might be up on top of that table...

Today I went to the Tate Britain. One whole subway line was shut down for repairs, so I did insane amounts of walking again...gonna have to put my feet up again (see photo on previous post). First gem was Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Beautiful, of course. There's a quite hard dark (painted) line along the top of the center girl's head--perhaps to help separate her from the background? It seemed kind of awkward, though. Anyone know anything about that?

There was a medium-sized acrylic monochrome Rothko on paper, and a gorgeous red-and-black large Rothko (oil). And I was in heaven when I discovered that the Seagram Murals were there! I'd thought they were gone, because The Husband had actually seen them months ago and told me they wouldn't be around any more when I came to London. (The Husband is doing an executive MBA wherein he's traveling monthly to either New York or London.) So to just stumble across them was so cool. I think the artwork that you don't know is there, and which suprises the hell out of you when you see it, is a lot more fun than what you know is there and you're specifically going to see. It wasn't very crowded today at the Tate Britain, so I sat down in the Rothko Seagram Murals room and waited a while...until finally I had a minute or so completely alone with the murals. Well, just me and the security cameras. was really lovely. It felt like some kind of cathedral. Yes, I do worship Rothko. Something about the expansiveness of Rothkos, especially those, since they're so huge...I feel as if they breathe, somehow. (I haven't yet been to the actual Rothko Cathedral in Houston, but I'd love to see it one day...even though it means I'd have to actually go to Houston...ugh.) P.S. What do they use to hang something that size on a wall?!

I think I could happily live with some Rothkos on my walls at home. Anyone who wants to get me some for my birthday in April, well, I'd write you a very nice thank-you note.

And, wow!! the Turners. Apparently there are some 300 Turners at Tate Britain, part of a special bequest. Some of them are wonderfully simple, small watercolors or pencil + gouache, that look purely abstract. Of all the Turner oils, it's the totally abstract sea ones that just kill me. No boats, or barely a hint, no people--just ocean and those amaaaazing skies.

I didn't get to the whole museum today. Going back tomorrow.

To keep you entertained in the meantime, here is a little video of Lynx wrestling with Miss Lemon:

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Friday, July 17, 2009

National Portrait Gallery, London

Yesterday--after quite a few tiring transport delays, and still working on almost no sleep...ugh--I made it to the National Portrait Gallery. I have to say that finally standing in front of my first "live" Sargent portrait was a pretty great feeling! And even though there was glass covering the canvases, still you were allowed to get right up close to them, so that was cool. I'd long been curious about seeing in person the fact of lights being thicker and darks thinner, and Sargent's painterly strokes. In person the colors are so much more rich, especially the subtle colors, the grays and neutral browns and such.

The piece that stays in my mind most, though, from yesterday's visit, was a contemporary 9-canvas monochrome work (approx. 20" x 20" each?) called Akram Khan, by artist Darvish Fakhr. Sadly, I'd never heard of this artist. Glad I know of his work now! Sooo beautifully painted, I soaked in as much as I could and hated to leave it (yeah, uh, could I just borrow those to put on my living room wall at home?...thanks).

Also wonderful was the fact that the BP2009 exhibition (British annual portrait prize: awarded by Britain, but chosen from entries submitted from anywhere, by anyone, apparently) was on. (Did I mention that admission to Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, and National Gallery is free?) I can't imagine a more wonderful thing to see than one of these BP shows, as an artist interested in contemporary portraiture.

Whew. After all those hours on my feet, I had to come back to the hotel and put my tootsies up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blue plums

Here's one from last summer, when I started doing Daily Painting. These little prune plums grow on a tree in our yard, and I love their dusty-blue color. They're tasty, too, though sour.

Well, it's pissing down rain (yes, I do believe that is the technical term) here in London, but no matter, as I brought my umbrella to England, in spite of The Husband's scorn at my doing such a thing. (He didn't even bring a jacket...and keeps wanting to borrow mine, no surprise.) There is no hair product I know of that can prevent Jewfro events from occurring here. (And if anyone does know of one, let me know asap!)

Went for a couple of hours today to the National Gallery. What has stayed in my mind are: Rembrandt self-portrait at age 34; Velazquez's Portrait of King Philip IV (with the upturned moustache); Van Gogh's Sunflowers (very yellow-ochrey) and one of two red crabs on a turquoise background: magnificent!!; and a few Gauguins, particularly a still life with these marvelously purpley mangoes--what gorgeous color on that one! Oh, and of course some huge Turner seascapes.

I love how extremely navigable London is via the Tube. But it's so hot and uncomfortable and crowded in the subway. Why hasn't someone invented some kind of giant eco-friendly cooling device for that?

I was awake most of the night with jetlag. Send good wishes that I sleep tonight!

Missing those little soft feets....

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The bright colors and liveliness of this piece inspired the title "Carousel." I was going to call it "Harlequin," but clowns and harlequins and such really creep me out.

There's some glare on the photo; sorry. I took it just before we left and it was still wet--we just arrived in London for 8 days, and I plan to see some Sargent and Turner while I'm here! So far, my intentions include Tate Modern (hoping for Rothko), Tate Britain, and National Portrait Gallery. Anyone with specific what-art-to-see in London suggestions, please feel free.

Sometimes you just gotta find a little sunbeam and lose consciousness for a while.

(P.S. Lynx wants you all to know he's a boy--but he won't hold a grudge for those of you who thought he was so pretty, he must be a girl.)

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sky study 3 / bugs in lamp

The sky as I looked east on Friday night...

Oh, the wonder of bugs inside a translucent lamp!

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Infamous little Cheese Monster, aka The Lynxster, aka Lynxmuffin

I know, I know--you've come here for art, and you're getting an awful lot of Lynx. It has been suggested that he get his own blog...but I can't deal... So at least for the moment, he'll just keep sharing (usurping) mine.

A partial list (in no particular order) of things Lynx has been eating off our plates (we don't normally allow that, but a) he's so damn cute, and b) he's extremely insistent/persistent:

Potato chips
Rye toast with raspberry jam
Crunchitos brand cheese doodle snacks
Soy milk
Indian spiced dal (lentils)
Carrot cake
Basmati rice
Forbidden (black Chinese) rice
Oat cereal
Shredded wheat cereal
And...cheese, cheese, cheese!

This kitten is not normal.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yoga and Clematis

Cheese Monster demonstrates the less-well-known yoga pose Down Kitten.

Plucked this clematis flower from the bush in our yard to paint it, and didn't expect it to last an hour in a vase, it looked so fragile and delicate. It's now on its third day in the vase...someone from the cut-flower industry ought to take note!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Color Samples and an offended kitten

For a long time, I've had the idea to do a series of pastels of this kind, to be called, simply, Color Samples. I've always been in love with any sort of color chips or color samples, from paint stores, color charts, and whatnot. What it's about for me is the intuitive choices of how hues interact and together create a certain mood. This is the first one.

Oy, lady, please don't kiss me!

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Little guy(s)

This is a little 6" x 6" oil from about a year ago, when I first started doing daily painting... It's called Little Guy.

And here's another little guy (12-second video of Lynx):

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sweet pea in spice jar


I was pleased with how this sweat pea painting from last night turned out. I was going for simple and fresh, wanting to represent the feeling of the flower itself. It's in one of those old-fashioned spice jars where the wire on one side comes over and seals the lid down.

And then there's the photo of the other sweet pea...

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rainier triplet

Lynxmuffin is growing faster than an elm seedling and is developing quite an Attitude--he went from being a little scaredy-kitten hiding in the corner, to launching full-body wrestling attacks on our cat Miss Lemon, who's always up for that (she has "foster-mothered" every kitten we've ever brought into the house). Lynxmuffin is also a Cheese Monster--all you have to do is open the fridge and there he is, begging for cheese. It's the only time he uses his teeny little voice. And he went from being sleepy-cuddly all the time, to becoming a Perpetual Motion Machine, in just a few days.

I wasn't able to post for the last few days--I hope you missed me!--until The Husband finally just made some tweak and said, "It's working now." What would I do without him? It was hard not being able to post. I was in withdrawal. But at least I had C.M. (Cheese Monster) for company.

P.S. After a miraculous three days without rain, a downpour just happened and my studio roof sprang a whole new leak (no, The Husband still hasn't fixed it). A spaghetti pot has been pressed into service. And now it's time for me to go paint.


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