Monday, December 31, 2012


Happy New Year, Friends! I hope that you had the best holiday season. It is always a busy time of year for my business, but this year, the Christmas commissions have extended well into the new year.
This was my solution for people giving gifts of art that wouldn't be painted until after the holidays.
I'm booked solid through the beginning of June. As you can imagine, this is both a thrilling and exhausting prospect.
Every January though, I reread Jackie Battenfield's guide for artists. I am so looking forward to making myself a big pot of coffee and going to town plotting out goals/filling in my schedule for the new year. Having a plan = clearing out a place for the muse to dance.

Bring it, 2013! I'm so ready for you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The World Just Got a Little Smaller

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is opening holiday cards from friends near and far. Today there was an envelope in the middle of the pile whose return address I didn't recognize. It was a Christmas card from the sister of a lady whose portrait I painted for AS IS! 
I have been struggling like everyone else to wrap my mind around the horribleness of so many little lives lost recently. During a time of such awful sadness, it gives me some comfort to think that this project might be touching a few lives and helping our world to feel just the tiniest bit smaller.
Wishing you all much peace and love this Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Anatomy of a Commission

Remember this beautiful old farm? I visited it in the Fall to shoot reference photographs for a painting commission.
The property is quite large, and has so many amazing little vignettes and beautiful textures. Someone could literally spend an entire lifetime painting there!
So I started off the commission process by drawing a loose sketch of my idea for the final painting. That way the client and I could be sure that we were on the same page in terms of the composition.
Next, I translated the approved drawing onto a canvas, and set up color keys to guide me.
The rest of the painting unfolded fairly seamlessly, just in time for Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seeing Like an Artist, Tip 2

Narrow Your Gaze
If Tip #1 is to Consider All Possibilities, then Tip #2 is to narrow your gaze. An artist studies the subject at the center of his/her work with a focus not dissimilar to meditation. 
After considering a world of possibilities, an artist tunes out all outside information to consider an idea, object or event in intense detail.
This might mean examining a single subject over and over in order to understand it's core.
It is safe to say, for example, that Monet knew the Rouen Cathedral like the back of his hand after painting it more than thirty times. Of course, what he was really studying was the way that the light affects a scene. He could have chosen to include details such as the particularities of its architecture, or the life congregating outside its entrance as well, but this series is so powerful because it involves a narrowing of gaze.

In fact this is one reason why artists tend to exhibit series of work together, submit their related work to competitions, and be historically remembered for a certain type of work. A serious artist knows that every moment is full of mind-blowingly exciting information, and decides to jump right into one aspect of that fullness with gusto.

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Tips for Seeing Like an Artist

I am blessed to have friends working in just about every field imaginable. Scientists, Architects, Coaches, Engineers, Teachers, etc. -- it's fascinating how differently we all see the world!
Of course there are as many artists as there are people, but this week I am writing a series of posts about what it is generally like to see the world through the eyes of an artist. So without further ado, Tip Numero Uno:

CONSIDER IT ALL POSSIBLE (And Be Just A Tiny Bit Insane)
 An artist does not consider reality in terms of its limitations. Where other professionals may look and see what is, an artist looks and sees what may be. 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are a classic example:
Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin
Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin counties, California

Wrapped Trees, Riehen, Switzerland
Over The River, 6 x 40 miles of silver fabric suspended the Arkansas River in Colorado
The pair viewed landscape and architecture as jumping off points for their creations. 

Or you could consider Adonna Khare, the elementary school art teacher,who took home ArtPrize 2012's grand prize:

Khare dared to imagine a drawing which used the humblest of materials, the carbon pencil, included an exhausting level of detail, and wrapped around multiple floors of a gallery. Can you even imagine the stamina that would take?
Of course, seeing the world in terms of possibility does not apply only to thinking in terms of extreme scale. 
Capri Battery, Joseph Beuys
No matter the form of the work, an artist sees the conceptual possible in what is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Saying Much With Little

Friends, thank you to everyone who came out to the Holiday Open Studio last Friday! The night was such a fun way to catch up, share some art and toast the future!

This week I am back to work on holiday commissions. I've told you before how I love the challenge of finishing art under the pressure of a deadline. There is nothing like slapping on the last few brushstrokes, and crossing my fingers that a painting is dry enough to ship in the morning. I relish that adrenaline, but every holiday season I run up against the same problem.

A painting sings when it strikes that perfect balance between giving 'too much' and 'not enough' information. There is a temptation when working on depictions of real people or places for someone else though, to include more detail than necessary. The subconscious thought process goes something like this: "Mrs. X wants me to paint a portrait of her son, therefore I must be accountable for every last one of his eyelashes and freckles."
John Singer Sargent: master of the subtle portrait
Of course this logic is completely ridiculous! A person or place is more than the sum total of its parts. The job of the artist is to shift through mountains of visual information and re-present/highlight only the most  important or interesting details.
Richard Diebenkorn had a genius for conveying the simple. The importance of that cardamon orange plane against the cobalt sky would be completely lost if he had made this a painting about details.

this article from the Greater Good blog, I was struck by words to that effect: 
 (A)n author/artist used his or her skills to convey much with little—to articulate a complicated human condition in a few words, to relay reams of information in a few pictures, to turn a single memorable mental image into a take-it-with-you tool for understanding the soul and navigating change. And that, I suspect, may be the key takeaway for generating and sharing insights: it’s about finding a simple way to help a reader, an audience, a fellow human being make sense of complex things.
I've been awful about posting, but next week I promise to share a few "complex things" that I've broken down a bit!
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