Friday, June 30, 2006


Here's the deal: I've been working on one painting for a month now. Apparently, it's more complicated than my skill level. When my family looks at it they unanimously say that it needs more work. The sad pathetic thing is, at this point I don't think I'm capable of achieving a higher standard on this painting. For the life of me I can't figure out what to do next. I have no idea what colors to mix to get the effect that I want. And even if I knew what colors to mix, I have no idea how to translate that to the canvas. I don't think I have the right brushes, and I don't even know which ones to buy. And if I bought them, would I even know how to use them?

The good thing is that all artists learn by trial and error. I just wasn't quite ready for this painting to be an error. An artist friend of mine who knows a LOT more than I, suggested working on fuzzy landscapes to rebuild my confidence. The ironic thing is that the fuzzy landscape part of this painting is a big part of why it looks so unfinished. UGH.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Naive is a term that art muckety-mucks use to describe an untrained artist. It means that the art is unsophisticated, simple, and lacks perception (usually). Henri Rousseau is one of the most widely known of the naive artists. What Rousseau lacked in technical skill, he more than made up for in design and imagination. His paintings were well collected during his lifetime, but too often he undervalued his own paintings, trading them for a simple meal.

Rousseau started painting at age 40 because he loved it. He seemed to keep an innocence about life that translated well into the fanciful paintings he produced. His paintings often have a yin yang quality, balancing danger and innocence. "The Sleeping Gypsy" is perhaps his most well known work. In it we see an idyllic desert moonlit night, a gypsy asleep after perhaps singing for his supper, and an ominous looking lion, the king of beasts just casually sniffing the gypsy. Am I reading too much into the painting to suggest that the lion represents a harsh world ready to devour us, and the sleeping gypsy is an innocent, a naive, perhaps Rousseau himself, who still is drinking from the elixir of life, is happy and content and has found peace in the world?

As a non-academically trained, and more precisely self-taught, I fall into the category of being a naive artist.

Last week was rife with inspiration. I met new people, tasted new food, saw new places, and learned new words. I'm really excited about a few paintings in the works because of these new influences. Another thing I learned about myself last week was that not only am I naive with regard to art, I am also naive with regard to people. My husband and I spent a few days in an unique environment, and more and more we found ourselves extremely naive to our surroundings. Suffice it to say that I am inordinately naive.

Maybe perceptions change as we age. Maybe when life knocks us around a bit, we become "sophisticated," I don't know. Is it so wrong to be naive? Is it better to be schooled so much that we lose our joy of life? Would it be better to be afraid of the lion or blissfully unaware of it's existence?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Pianist---Doh!

This new painting I'm working on has turned out to be much more complicated than first imagined. To be true, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Not so. First of all, this is the painting that did a belly flop last week (jelly side down). And it's the painting that caused such turmoil yesterday (pit of despair). I just couldn't find the right color values. (which amazes me that I have now used the term 'color values' in a sentence---go figure) But my friend, Joan came by yesterday and agreed that the painting was a little off.

We are expecting company on Friday night, and I was sure that this painting would hide in my bedroom closet, not be displayed in the studio for all to see. But after dreaming about the painting last night, and avoiding it for most of the day, I finally went back in the studio. I am so pleased with today's results. It's not finished, but it's in a much better state.

In other news, as I was looking through a book on Cezanne today, I found this.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pit of Despair

Does an artist need to experience turmoil and suffering in order to produce great art? And if so, does the turmoil and anxiety experienced while painting count as said suffering?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Pianist

Several artists have given me the same advice. They say, "study the masters!" Even Renoir, Cezanne, Mary Cassatt, Matisse, etc., studied the masters. Of course, the Louvre was at their disposal. Perhaps I should spend more time studying the masters. But every time I go to the museum, or half price books to get another art book, it's not the masters that interest me. I like the impressionists and post-impressionists and modern painters like Cezanne, Matisse, Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Degas, etc. While everyone acknowledges that Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci are indeed masters, I don't find myself as often drawn to them as I am a good Cezanne painting.

Lately I have been looking a lot at Matisse's work. In addition to his "Still Life with Magnolias," I was inspired by another of his paintings. It's called "La petite pianiste, robe bleue, fond rouge."

What I like about it is that it is in an intimate setting; the young lady is thoughtful and concentrating on what she is playing; the use of color; the fuzziness of her hands; the outlines; the big bold strokes; the blue dress....when I first saw this painting in a postcard from our daughter who saw it in the Matisse Museum in Nice, France, I felt like I could sit and enjoy the music the young lady was playing. And maybe she wasn't the best pianist in the world, but you enjoyed the music because you loved the one playing it. 

Rachel is a wonderful pianist. As I've been thinking of using Matisse's "La petite pianiste" as an inspiration, I wanted to make sure that someone posed for me who loved, lived and breathed music. Like in the Matisse painting, I wanted it to be a young lady, and it was a huge plus that Rachel was wearing blue jeans the day she posed. So I took the same theme by a tried and true artist (though not considered a master), and painted it with a more modern feel. By modern, I mean contemporary with Rachel in blue jeans with a ponytail and t-shirt. She was playing so fast and beautifully that her fingers were a bit of a blur like in the Matisse painting, too. And it just so happens that as much as I enjoy hearing Rachel play the piano, she really is quite talented, I enjoy it even more because I am so fond of the one playing it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jelly Side Down

While painting today, the painting I was working on fell off the easel and landed jelly side down. Bummer. Kind of knocked the wind out of my sails.

Thankfully I had a drop-cloth under my easel, well, a drop Twister mat. A Twister mat makes the perfect drop cloth. It's plastic and it has remarkable paint splatter barrier abilities...I'm not THAT messy, usually it's just a smidge of paint or once in a while I'll drop a brush. But a whole painting....? Who does that!?

I called it a day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Starving artist? Not hardly....

...but I know why the term was coined; painting supplies are expensive. Yesterday, I went to Texas Art Supply and spent a huge amount of money on a few items. You have to know why this hurts so much. I am, to put it kindly, very thrifty. Loathe might be a good word to use to describe how I feel about shopping. It's mostly because the thought of using money to pay for items that will be instantly consumed and/or immediately depreciate in value slightly sickens me. Because of this aversion to shopping, I have developed a few tricks on how to make parting with money less painful. For instance, I am not above "curbside recycling." Quite a few items in our home have been acquired this way, most just need a thorough cleaning. I also frequent consignment shops, garage sales, estate sales, and re-sale shops. Thrifty.

Art supplies are not created equal. To get a professional quality end product, one must acknowledge that the artist will pay more for higher quality supplies. When I first started painting, Reese and I searched for the cheapest stuff we could buy. But as time has past, and art supplies have diminished, I started replacing my supplies with higher quality items. I noticed a tremendous difference in the experience of painting and the outcome of the work. Instead of a 1.25 ounce of oil paint costing $3, like when we first bought supplies, what I buy now costs $30. Big difference. And instead of being able to buy one get one free for canvases, I've fallen in love with painting on linen, for which no such deals exists. Don't even get me started on the brushes....I still haven't brought myself to totally go sable, which transcends painting to pure pleasure. The paint just glides on with a sable brush. I check the sale bin every time I go to Texas Art Supply hoping for a mis-marked or discontinued high dollar item. I'm holding out for those sable brushes.

So, though I'm clearly not starving, there has been a noticable shift in my budget. I've yet to find good art supplies at a garage sale or consignment shop. Not that I won't keep looking....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Flaming Snot

Pepper Ann is a cartoon that we used to watch with our daughters when they were younger. In one episode, Pepper Ann was selected for the "brain" team because of her unusual grasp of modern day trivia. It was kind of like jeopardy, only for middle schoolers and there were teams instead of individual players. So she gets really into the competition, and starts memorizing all kinds of other facts (i.e., history, geography,etc.) for the good of the team. In the final showdown, there is one question about Pepper Ann's favorite rock band, Flaming Snot. Pepper Ann has re-arranged the files in her brain to make room for geography, and imagines herself desperately searching all the files and boxes in her brain for any or all references to Flaming Snot. "Must--find---Flaming---Snot."

This is exactly how my brain feels today. I've been stuffing it and stuffing it full of art files. But I'm not very organized, apparently in my life as well as my brain. Especially with all this new art knowledge...where can I find the right colors to mix (in my brain), so I don't feel like I'm re-inventing the wheel every time I paint? Where is that file on proportions? How do I put in that shadow again? Which paintbrush did I use to get that effect?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I bet people with organized houses and offices also have an organized file system in their brain. When they need a file, it's right where it should be. I'll bet people who plot charts and graphs THINK in charts and graphs *all the time.* I'll venture to say that their closets and underwear drawers (so to speak) are neatly organized. Maybe even their cupboards are alphabetized.

Me, not so much. I have old cardboard boxes in my brain, full of bits and pieces of who knows what. When I need to retrieve new information, none of it has been put in a proper file cabinet and it's difficult to rummage around the old musty attic. THINK. "Must-----find---glasses."