Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wins and losses

Sorry--long gap there.  December was crazy.  You understand.

On the painting front:  That still life show for which I had two paintings accepted?  It was really, really good.  Lots of great work... three winners selected, and I was one!!!  My radish painting, "Farmer's Market," received an honorable mention.  Even better, my winning piece SOLD to someone who attended the opening AND--cherry on top--it's going to be on the cover of said art council's newsletter coming out next month. 

Yes, I had champagne.

Yes, I bought a Lottery ticket.

I won $2. 

On the flip side, I just got my formal rejection for the 2015 American Watercolor Society exhibition.  I was fully expecting this, as I am a total n00b at this watercolor thing and arguably out of my league, plus my style is not really something they tend to select, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't let down.  I knew I didn't get in when I saw people posting on Twitter last week about having received their acceptances.  *cry*  There's always next year, and the next year, and the next year...

I finished my chippy paint piece in December and submitted it today for the Transparent Watercolor Society's 2015 exhibition.  Because I am a glutton for punishment.

Painted Lady, 10.5x14" watercolor on paper

I guess it's just a really good way to get feedback about what works and what doesn't.  I'm probably aiming a bit high for my current level of experience, but hey--go big or go home.

I'm taking a class right now too.  It's a studio class, and I was hoping it would also provide some much needed feedback and criticism of my work.  It isn't.  In fact, this week the instructor essentially ignored me for three hours.  I think it's because I suffer from Bitchy Resting Face.  At least I hope that's all it is.  I know for a fact that I'm wearing a seriously upset/confused/irritable facial expression at most times; I've been told this often enough to know that it is surely true.  I don't feel upset/confused/irritable at most times, but nonetheless, I think it turns people off and scares them away.

Mental note:  smile like a pageant contestant in next week's class.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Highs and lows

So let's see...  I still have mice in my ceilings.  I still have holes in my siding.  I got a quote to fix it, but it was "several boxes of ziti," as they say, so that will not be happening.  I also learned--or should I say WITNESSED--that the squirrels are squeezing their fat, furry bodies into my rodent bait stations and stealing the bait blocks!!!  I caught one in the act, tail hanging out one end, head out the other.  And later that same morning, I saw a (the same?) squirrel on my deck railing eating what I thought was an acorn... only to realize that, upon closer inspection, the acorn in question was actually a giant cube of pink poison.  That squirrel was in for a bad night.  The mice, on the other hand, are thriving.  Good times.  This is why I sleep with AmbiScience; to drown out the mammals.

On the painting front:  I started not just one, but TWO new pieces, largely in response to my last post here.  I figured that if being between pieces was such a downer for me, I should always have at least two pieces in the hopper in an attempt to eliminate that hellish inbetween period.  So--I sketched out two new paintings and I'm about a third of the way through painting one of them.  The other one is sketched and mounted but color free for now, as I haven't yet needed a break from the first one.  Here's a taste.  Sorry for the blur, but you get the idea:


I picked this one because, of course, the crazy chippy peeling paint scares the bejeezus out of me... but it's going kinda well, I think.  Progress has been pretty slow, but I've got a deadline in mind--another watercolor competition--so I really need to get it in gear.

In even more exciting news, I submitted two pieces to the local arts council's annual still life show and BOTH were accepted!  I'm fairly certain I was a little too excited about this when I received the phone call informing me of such, but what the hell.  It's my first official juried show acceptance as a late-blooming, second career artist.  I think that's worthy of some embarrassing excitement.  Equally as ego-boosting, I received an email blast about the show's opening reception today, and one of MY pieces is featured in the promo materials!  Woot!

AND Paul Pitsker followed me on Instagram and said that he liked my work... which he probably says to everyone, but I'm going to let myself believe that he really does like my work :)  He HAS made casual comments on some of my non-painting related IG photos afterall, so it does seem as though he is legitimately paying attention to my feed.  He is astoundingly awesome at watercolor.  I die.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Between pieces

Pass the Prozac.

So I pushed myself to get my last piece done by last Monday in order to meet a same-day deadline for a local juried still life show.  I made it by the skin of my teeth, finishing that very morning. Wah-lah!  10 x 10 inches on Arches 140 lb cold pressed; finished in a record time of less than 4 weeks.


And then the rest of my week filled up with...  I have no idea.  Stuff.  Kid stuff.  House stuff.  Administrative stuff.  I also spent an inordinate amount of time becoming completely unhinged over the sound of rodents running marathons in my walls in and ceilings, which is indeed my typical reaction to the ever constant presence of mice in my house, but last week it was much worse than usual.  And I know why: I am between pieces.

I'm not the most emotionally stable tool in the shed at baseline, but lemme tell you, painting is better than any SSRI I've ever tried.  When I'm working on something--when I'm actually sitting down painting--I think about NOTHING else.  I have zero anxiety and it is glorious.  I even have less anxiety when I'm not actively painting, as long as I've got a piece in progress. 

But in between paintings?  Especially when I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to paint next?  Look out.  Every imaginable negative thought creeps in... I'm taking too long to start my next piece.  I am not prolific enough to be a "real" artist.  My next piece is surely going to suck and be so disappointing compared to my last one.  I should really paint something larger, but then I'll probably screw it up and LOOK how much expensive paper I will have wasted!!  And so on and so forth. 

I also have a lot of broad-based money-related anxiety as well, which mixes so nicely with a watercolor habit, seeing as watercolor paper/paints/brushes/everything all cost a million dollars.  But who's got money for that when mice are CHEWING THROUGH THEIR SHITTY HARDBOARD SIDING?  Grrrr.  See?  UN. HINGED.

I really need to start another painting.  STAT.

It's on the agenda for today.  That and a very stiff whisky-based beverage.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shop stats

Everyday I check my shop stats on Etsy... you know, just to see how many eyeballs have been on the shop and how they got there. I get a decent amount of traffic from Search on Etsy, so it's always fun to look over the list of terms that folks are using to find me.

Anyway, I was just checking my stats this afternoon and noticed that someone found me using the keyword search, "text art."

Bwah! Ha ha hahahaha!

If there's one thing I can't stand, one trend that I loathe more than any other, it's TEXT ART. Sorry, but that's a big one for me. Text art is the worst.

I assure you, there is no text art in my shop; no song lyrics, no quirky sayings, and--for the love of God--no motivational quotes. Nope, not for this glass-is-half-empty girl.

I think I might have a photo or two of a manhole cover with some text on them, and I must have tagged them accordingly. Oops! Probably not what the buyer was looking for. Too funny.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

To schtick or not to schtick

Alternative title:  how I choose my subjects.

I've been sort of grappling with something lately.  Subject matter is such a weird thing.

Maybe it's because, as I mentioned last time, I'm feeling inadequate about long it takes me to finish a piece; or maybe it's because I spend a lot of time on Etsy and Instagram pseudo-stalking crazy successful sellers and thinking about their work...  but I wonder, should I be painting different things?  If I want to make any kind of living selling my art, whose vision and needs should I be catering to--mine or that of my target audience?  And who IS my target audience anyway?

Yuck.  I hate thinking about these things.  But the reality is that there are bills to pay, orthodontia to purchase, and 10-year old tin cans cars to maintain.  Yes, I quit working so that I could focus on creative pursuits, but art supplies aren't free.  And neither is living on Long Island.

Because I am still honing my skills as a watercolor artist, to date I have chosen my subject matter as follows:  WHAT SCARES ME MOST.  Yup.  I paint from my own photographic reference material, so what I generally do is scroll through my photo library and identify subjects that I have NO IDEA how to paint and am pretty sure I can't successfully reproduce.

Like this:


This one scared me for multiple reasons--the sand AND the rust.  I'd never painted sand before.  Yeah, I knew I could probably achieve the results I was after by employing some toothbrush paint flickery, but I was pretty sure it would suck.  I also kept myself up nights worrying about how I should manage those horseshoes while I painted the sand.  Did I really want to use masking fluid on an area that big?  Wouldn't that mess up the paper, especially if I left it on for days?

As it turns out, it all ended up OK.  I masked out the rocks, but I used a waxed paper template to cover the horseshoes and protect them from spatter spray.  And despite all my earlier trepidation, I'm pretty darn happy with the way the rust came out.

And this is why I choose what scares me most--because the payoff in the end is just SO GOOD.  Sometimes when I'm done I'll put my finished painting on the fireplace mantle and stand across the room to look at my work, and I can hardly believe that I'm the one who painted it.  It's the most gratifying feeling ever and I wish I could bottle it, which is exactly why I keep using this method to pick my subjects.

But then... oh, but then.  Every few days or so I'll see an Instagram post from an outrageously successful art seller.  You know the one--the post showing the towering 5-foot stack of packaged prints; the number of prints sold in just one week, packaged by an assistant because the sheer volume of orders is just too great for one person to handle.  And the subject matter?  The exact same thing, over and over, day after day, with only minor variations in color palette.  But it's simple and trendy and would probably look great over any number of couches or fireplaces, and people cannot. get. enough of it.

And I am crazy jealous.

What am I doing here?  Should I really be spending two months on a piece that gives ME inordinate amounts of pleasure but doesn't really resonate with anyone else where I sell?  I'm savvy enough to know what's popular on Etsy right now, and also to know that my style isn't really it.  It would also help if I could produce more and faster.  Do I care?

At the same time I'm listing prints and praying for sales on Etsy, I'm also preparing a submission for the 2015 American Watercolor Society Annual Exhibition--two decidedly different goals.  I don't really know where I should focus my efforts.  Is it possible to do both?  I'm skeptical that it is, at least not with my current subject matter and style.  So do I start painting mustaches and chevrons and stand a chance at making enough to cover a monthly braces payment?  Or do I continue to focus on my own personal goals to the potential detriment of my pocketbook?  Sigh.

For now it's the latter, as I push to finish my current work-in-progress for entry in a juried still life show, due on Monday, which I will pay to enter and get nothing if I am selected.  Except that awesome feeling :)  And maybe that's enough.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not enough hours in the day

Ugh.  Thing 2 is home sick today, which means little- or no painting time for mama.

On average, it takes me anywhere from one to two months to finish a single piece.  Granted, I can't always carve out the time to paint every day, but I can usually manage a few hours.  My pieces aren't that big--my largest to date is only 14x20 inches--but they are all heavily glazed, often with as many as 20 layers, so it takes me a shockingly long time to complete even very small sections.

Yesterday I posted an in-progress shot of my current piece on Instagram.  I tagged it with all my usual art- and watercolor-related tags, and then spent a few minutes skimming all the other pics tagged to #watercolorpainting.

In the bunch was an obvious standout--a piece by the renowned Thomas W. Schaller, whose work I had already seen in a number of places, like several Splash editions and Watercolor Artist Magazine.  I clicked through to his gallery and was met with a massive stream of countless incredible paintings.  And I immediately felt inadequate.  Good God!!!  That is some prolific painting! 

I left a comment inquiring, jokingly, whether he was actually painting things as fast as he was posting them.  To my surprise, he replied rather quickly, stating that he usually finishes a piece a day.  !!!  A piece. A day.  The mind boggles.

Will I ever be able to do that?  Or does my style simply prohibit that kind of speed?  Am I overworking things?  Should I be able to achieve the same effect with less fuss?  Will I ever stop being this insecure?  Is Thomas W. Schaller ever insecure?

Sigh.  Off to play nurse to my sickie... and maybe spend two hours making some imperceptible progress on my current painting.  :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reboot

I'm not very good at maintaining this blog. In fact, I'd really let things go there for a while, didn't I? But I didn't really care because I was pretty sure no one was visiting this site anymore and I didn't think that it mattered much.

I'm continuing to paint as often as I can; I continue to run my Etsy shop. I've done a few local art fairs and I have a few pieces on consignment at a local gallery. Things are moving along, however slowly. But recently, I lucked into joining a free 2-day online course (it's not free anymore, but you can still pay to watch it) by the talented Lisa Congdon on "Becoming a Working Artist." And among a million other highly useful topics addressed in the workshop, Lisa really hammered home the utility of social media for artists, as well as the importance of maintaining a personal blog. Oops.

I'm still very active on Instagram. After a year and a half, Instagram is still just as fun and inspiring to me as it was on day one. I tweet... occasionally--either to post pictures of works in progress or to comment on episodes of The Bachelor. I pin things like crazy, as I have for years, but mostly for my own personal interest and not really to pimp my work. But the blog? I didn't see the point. Or maybe I was just being lazy.

In any event, I'm going to try hard to change this. Reboot. I made a new banner; did you notice? :) And I stretched my techie abilities by adding a Portfolio page that includes a click-to-enlarge gallery of my current work. I wrote CSS, people! This is serious. I'm not brave enough to try switching to Wordpress or anything, but I'm working to modify my Blogger site as much as I can to make it a more pleasant viewing experience. Some day I'll figure out how to add captions to my gallery photos. That one is still stumping me. And I have no idea what to do when I run out of space on the page for the thumbnail photos... Deep breaths. One thing at a time.

So--back in the saddle! I started this blog to chronicle my creative journey after quitting my day job, afterall. I think I did a decent job of that in the beginning, but I've come a long way since I stopped posting regularly and I've only documented a tiny fraction of it. Let's see if I can start to change that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I don't care about your living room

Ok, so…  where were we?  Oh yeah, Instagram changed my life and now I know I want nothing to do with decorating your living room.  

Well that's a bit of a lie.  You know that if you asked me for help decorating your living room I'd totally start pinning things for you, like, yesterday.  I still dig that stuff.  Shoot, I dig anything design-related that lets me flex my creative muscles.  Always have; always will.  But here's the thing--it's taken me almost a year, but what I now know is that *I* want to be in charge of what I'm putting out there.  *I* see things in a very specific way and I don't want to compromise that vision to suit someone else's tastes.  And I think I've found a much better way to do that.  

I got swept up in the whole renovation/home decor thing because it's what I was doing at the time, out of necessity.  It was something that had to be done as I went through the phases of new homeownership, new parenthood, and moving.  There were first houses to decorate.  There were nurseries to plan and "big boy" rooms to create.  There were homes with previous owners whose tastes differed wildly from my own, and financial stresses that necessitated magic to be made on the tightest of budgets.  And I really did love it, because I was good at it and it was my only creative outlet for a long, long while.  

But then I found Instagram last summer and everything changed.  Who knew there was this whole creative community out there, snapping away with their iPhones, communicating their own unique creative visions through a simple social media site?  It was a revelation.  As I said almost a year ago, Instagram became my own virtual sketchbook; and over time, my growing feed became a true catalogue of my creative point of view.  I was giddy.  I know that's cheeseball to say, but it's the honest to God truth.  It was like a part of me--a very integral part of me--was reawakened after decades of deep, deep sleep.  And I was inspired to do more.

So I enrolled in classes.  Specifically, I signed up for watercolor classes… almost entirely because watercolor scares the crap out of me.  I'm a control freak.  In my much younger days, I worked in pencil (colored and graphite) because it allowed me total control over my medium.  To me, watercolor seemed so unpredictable.  Uncontrollable.  But Instagram had given me such creative confidence that now all I wanted to do was CONQUER it.  I wanted to take on the thing that scared me most and make it MINE.  

And I kinda think I did.  :)  It's been three quarters of a year since I started my relationship with watercolor, and I am totally smitten.  I love everything about it.  I love its quirky unpredictability, and how full of pride I feel when I still manage produce outcomes that meet, or even exceed, my own expectations.  I love the twinge of anxiety I feel every time I put down a color--especially staining ones--knowing that I've often only got one shot to get it right.  I love getting out a fresh sheet of that seemingly million dollar 140 pound cold pressed paper and feeling like, "This paper cost so much money.  I CANNOT screw this up."  Nothing like a little pressure.

It's weird.  Watercolor still terrifies me, but in the most delicious way.  I even find myself picking subjects based on degree of difficulty; if it's something I don't think I can paint- or I don't know how to make work with watercolor, then that's the one I want to try next.  It's an overachieving, perfectionist, control-freak's dream, providing just enough of a challenge to make the whole process a tension-filled whirlwind of creative excitement.  I start painting as soon as the kids leave for school, and the next thing I know I look at my watch and it's 1:30.  I have to eat lunch and pick up the young one in 30 minutes.  Hours have gone by, but to me, no time has passed.  It's FLOW, baby.  I'm in the flow.  My anxieties about everyday bullshit simply fade away and I'm transported to a place where nothing else matters but light and shadow and color… and it is SO. GOOD.  

So that's where I'm at right now.  What a difference a year makes, eh? 

And now I've got to run.  Gotta go make the donuts ;)


Current work in progress.  11x14" on Arches 140 lb cold pressed paper

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So, um, yeah...

That was quite the hiatus, wasn't it?  Oops.

I'm still here.  I'm still alive.  And that last post?  From July?  Yeah... the Instagram "honeymoon" is certainly not over.  In fact, I credit Instagram with helping me to finally find some direction in my current creative journey.  Crazy.

More to come.  And I'll try not to take another six months to get to it.  ;)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

InstaOBSESSED

I'm not sure why I was so hesitant to jump on the Instagram bandwagon. 

I'm always weirdly skeptical when it comes to new technological applications.  I spent a very long time refusing to do any online banking.  I was late to Facebook.  Though I'd been enjoying blogs for many years, I didn't really know what RSS or blog readers were until this spring.  Shoot--I had an old Sprint flip phone (yes, the one with the strutting panda "screensaver") until mid-2011 and didn't get my first i- anything until 2012--and that was only because of my job.

I'm not scared of technology.  I can write in multiple statistical/programming languages and am comfortable working in unix, but for some reason I'm always a little slow to try the latest "new thing," especially when it comes to social media.

But I now know there was an Instagram-shaped hole in my life.

To say I am obsessed with Instagram would be an understatement.  I am THRILLED with it and could kick myself for not getting on board sooner.  It's like carrying a virtual sketchbook in my pocket.  A visual journal.  It's a way to capture the little square-shaped frames of everyday eye candy that I am always creating and cataloging in my head anyway--but now in a more concrete way.  And the inspiration... oh, the inspiration.  In only a few days, I have spent hours devouring the streams of others.  My mind is reeling with ideas (more on that later) and I'm so stupidly giddy over having this new creative outlet that I'm actually having trouble sleeping at night because of it. 

Does that make me weird? 

Anyway--nothing else of substance to share this week, as I'm too busy sweating my butt off at daily beach swim lessons with the boys, and then spending every other spare minute on Instagram (which is only a slight exaggeration).  I added a new widget to my sidebar over there that shows my most recent six posts.  Good times, though I'm obviously still in my honeymoon period with this, so maybe it'll wear off in another week or two.  Until then--InstADDICTED.