2013 is nicely underway and I have been busy in the studio, but the large drawing that I have been working on since late last summer is presenting me with a low threshold for studio fatigue; I have noticed that I can do about 20 or so hours of drawing and then I have to make something else for a few days, after which I readily go back to the larger drawing.  I am happy with the piece – it is not a lack of interest - and I want it finished, so I suspect this has to do with the technical and perspective demands.   Oh, I will draw veins, bark, leaves, sky, flesh, bone and fabric with an unrestrained and endless enthusiasm.  However, a typewriter, ellipses, and cables do not fall into the enthusiasm category, and periodic breaks are in order. My most recent diversion from the drawing has been to make a set of nesting dolls.      

A few years ago, a fellow artist in my critique group gave me a do-it-yourself matryoshka doll kit, and I recall her telling me to do “something interesting” with them: 


Since then, I have had the merry little box on the studio shelf and I knew that I would get around to it when I was hit with an idea. As I - once again - approached the edge of my typewriter threshold, my eyes landed on the box and, no doubt compelled by the compulsion to avoid another typewriter key, I felt suddenly inspired:


What is wonderful about the matroyshka dolls is that they are so conceptually ideal – fitting together in layers like onion skin, each one opening to reveal the doll underneath - an interesting medium for a self-portrait.  I have no doubt that this little doll project is a study or stepping stone to something that will be larger and more refined (these are tiny - ranging from 1.8 to 5.25 inches)…and definitely something drawn…I am mulling the possibilities.

In the meantime, below are photos of the dolls, one-by-one with some multiple views. By the way, I do not envy anyone who has to photograph sculptural work - particularly if it is shiny (ugh - I thought drawings were difficult to photograph). First up, the main doll (and yes, all the others fit inside this one) which I think of as Self-Portrait at 43 :


The first inner layer:


The next inner layer:


And next:


Last (but certainly not least):


The dolls are not quite finished - I will put a final glossy varnish on the set in a week or so, conveniently at just about the time I need another break from the large drawing.

(By the way, I went for the full Russian experience and decided to simultaneously listen to a beautifully researched biography on Catherine the Great, which I highly recommend for anyone who shares my penchant for female historical monarchs.)


Upcoming Show:

I will be exhibiting two new drawings in a show in Troy, NY, opening in late March. The show, titled Beautifully Strange, will also have an exhibition catalogue and there is currently a blog previewing the artists in the show.


Macro fun with the point and shoot...

"[Photography] is the easiest medium in which to be competent. Anybody can be a marginally capable photographer, but it takes a lot of work to learn to become even a competent painter. Now, having said that, I think while photography is the easiest medium in which to be competent, it is probably the hardest one in which to develop an idiosyncratic personal vision. It’s the hardest medium in which to separate yourself from all those other people who are doing reasonably good stuff and to find a personal voice, your own vision, and to make something that is truly, memorably yours and not someone else’s. A recognized signature style of photography is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve."    ~ Chuck Close
My husband has stated that "there is a low threshold for entry into photography" for years (trust me, we have seen a lot of less-than-marginal photography, so this is not snarkiness as much as observation), so when I came across the Chuck Close quote above, I giggled because it is, essentially, the same idea wrapped within a more eloquent concept. 
I am a marginal photographer.  But, that is no great feat because I have had enough dark room experience, made more than my share of pinhole cameras and have probably taken about 800 rolls of 35 mm film (oh, it is true, and I still have the negatives in shoe boxes in my studio closet!).   At some point, after all of that, the process of making a decent picture sort of sinks in.  And, needless to say, the age of digital photography has lowered the threshold for entry into photography even more than the accessability of the Polaroid or 35mm ever did (take a gander through flickr - there are a lot of really good, interesting, and inventive photographs out there).  Now I even have the luxury of taking about 10 photos of something that I like and picking the decent photo out of the lot (and deleting the rest) which is far better than the old days of waiting for a roll of film to develop only to see that the one precious shot I was anticipating is out of focus or has the blurry dark line of the camera strap across the lens.   Okay, I do love the beautiful surface of an analog photograph, but the digital is just so darn handy.
And really, the art teacher in me thinks that it is quite a good thing that the ability to compose an image, capture and idea, or document a scene is so easily attainable for everyone.  Art is long, processes can be frustrating, and sometimes you just want to make something fast.
Truthfully, I do not have a passion for the photograph as a medium as much as I see it as a utilitarian way for gathering references for my drawings (which are often composed, or at least formatted in photoshop - the final composing takes place on a full size sheet of tracing paper).  But, I love, love, love taking photos of the little things in the world with the macro setting of my point and shoot.   There is something about getting eye-level to the ground or right up to a bug and putting the camera an inch away...finding and capturing the image of something so tiny and transient.  
So, my macro fun in the garden continues with mushrooms, butterflies, and that fabulous leafy green swiss chard...



I have another Moleskine finished and it will be posted at the end of the week, plus I will write about my official curatorial debut next week! 

Better art pics & a side project

I now have decent photos for two of my recent drawings:

The difference between the art photographer's TIFF files and my JPEGS is significant - I compared the two in an earlier blog, and unless I can scan a piece directly onto my scanner, I prefer to go to the pro with the really swell camera (since I am not going to invest in one).
Also, fresh from the art photographer is the first completed cat portrait from a side project that I started last year when my daughter (the cat fanatic) asked me if I would paint portraits of our cats.  I avoided the whole idea for a while because I was visualizing cute cartoon cats and I cannot do cute, until I was looking at paintings by Jean and François Clouet and Hans Holbein the Younger in my art history texts for a portrait assignment I was teaching and a thought flitted through my head: "gee I love those, wouldn't it be fun to paint in that style".  Cat + Fancy Portrait merged and one thing led to another, and I found myself with several highly gessoed and sanded canvases.  After a go at acrylic, then a subsequent 8-month avoidance of painting because of my extreme dislike of acrylic, and then a suggestion to try water soluble oils by another artist who understood my concerns about the risks of toxic painting mediums in a house that also contains children, I finally finished this piece:
The Lady Lucy
(The copyright is tacky, I know, but this is the first piece that I have done that I could visualize on a coffee mug and although I am not above putting the cat portraits on coffee mugs, I don't want someone else stealing my image for that purpose).
Which brings me to the dilemma that I have with my cat portrait side project: what to do with paintings that are completely incongruous with my drawings. 
My solution is a partitian of sorts - I am signing these with an overt nom de plume:  Lucian Parrish (should that be nom de brosse?  I do not speak French).   From his fictitious artist bio:  "Lucian Parrish lives with a bevy of cats in a fancy, old, wrought-iron covered house in Charleston.  Lucian has recently decided to spend his Sunday afternoons in a quaint attic studio painting portraits of his cats (he does not do commissions, by the way - just his own cats).  He states that although it is a slow process and perhaps he will only paint one cat portrait a year, the feeling of moving paint on canvas is a nice way to pass the time."  

On a related side note - to my amusement, this is the first artwork that I have shown around that has garnered a nearly universal response: ohh, are you making prints?!?   The answer is yes: giclées for The Lady Lucy will be available in my studio during the SOMA Studio Tour on June 6th.

Strange Tales From My Little Black Book #10

From my Moleskine sketchbook, Strange Tale #10:
The Apparition that Instigated the (as yet unfounded) Order of Benevolent Handicrafters
The Apparition that Instigated the (as yet unfounded) Order of Benevolent Handicrafters

Approximately 7 x 5 inches, pencil on paper. 


And now, in anticipation of the transition from Winter into Spring, some photos of melting ice on shrubs and trees in my garden:



Finally got my head out of the 12th Century and finished Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth (!) and I am currently reading, for the gazillionth time (but the first time with one of my children):  Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater

Currently listening to (trying to absorb):  Joanna Newsom's triple album magnum opus Have One On Me

Oh, and I am officially done with snow: goodbye and good riddance.

snow falling outside of my studio window


This is the first in a triptych of self-portraits, which I have loosely titled "Conversations with Goya":


Graphite on paper, 18 x 17 inches
I will reserve the artist statement about the triptych until all three self-portraits are finished, and I am not sure that "Conversations with Goya" will be the final title, but it will work for now, and, in truth, Goya is my current muse.

Music Ephemera

Total ephemera for my music-loving friends: I wanted to share this in case you have not heard the One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Music From Kerouac's Big Sur soundtrack by Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard.  I do not know a lot about the film, except that it relates to Kerouac's cabin and the writing of the novel Big Sur, and Patti Smith is involved (must be good).  It has been a while since I heard the details on WNYC's Soundcheck in October and only now have I gotten my little mits on the cd...
Lets just say that Gibbard provides the bennies for Farrar's downers (in Kerouac language...).   To tell the truth, I am not a fan of Kerouac - the writing is too brusque (I like lush and poetic), and I have never cared for self-destructive behavior (in writers or artists), but Farrar has integrated words straight from Kerouac text and molded them into songs...add some rhyming and an ethereal pedal steel and yes, I am in.
I cannot hear the song Willamine enough - strange, beautiful, elusive...I posted a live performance below (love the you tube!).  I really wish that I had seen these guys when they played together in NYC: