Monthly Archives: March 2010

Practical or petrified?

I just finished reading a very good post in my friend’s blog. Last year, she took the bold move to leave the safety of her salaried job behind and pursue a writing career. While she has not yet made enough to eke out a livable wage, she has just recently been given an award for one of her first efforts as an official journalist. She deserves the props, if anyone asks.

So, what does this have to do with me? Nothing, and everything. After reading her thoughts on the subject, I can’t resist drawing lines between our respective circumstances. It makes me ponder my own situation. Basically, she did what I wished I could do, or perhaps more aptly, had the guts to do. There is nothing I’d love better than to leave my accounting job behind and spend at least a third of my day with my art, as opposed to piecemeal—minutes here, an hour there. What stops me? Well, it all centers on money, and the fear of not having it. Love may make the world go around, but money keeps it spinning on its axis.  

Actually, it may be the absence of money that keeps the world going round in circles. What keeps me getting up every morning to do essentially the same thing over and over again is the need to make a living. It is the same routine, the same rat race, the same old same old. I am rotating on the axis of my own making. Aren’t most of us?

So, how do I break the vicious circle lest I end spinning in my grave? I suspect someone will need to come in with a stick and poke at me to stop the madness. With my 42nd birthday looming, I am more and more aware that my time behind me is getting longer than the time ahead. I am past the point that I should be focusing on taking over the reins and controlling this ride and moving forward instead of doing 180’s repeatedly. That should have happened long ago. So, what stops me now? Is it really just money? I even entertained the lottery fantasy, and realized that I would not quit my job. At least, I would not right away. I think it is part nature, part nurture that makes me so cautious and afraid to take risks.

It is the little things that give me pause about this subject. Right after I read my friend’s blog, I spent my lunch hour at a café with the plans to work on my sketchbook. It was not a good day. The sun was too bright, no one would hold a pose, and people would block each other. I lost enough of my mojo that I couldn’t even draw simple objects. Bah! I was so frustrated and unfulfilled that the last thing I wanted to do was go back to work. Getting in some good sketches is very therapeutic and makes it much easier for me to face the rest of the work day. Today, I was left with an annoying itch that I can’t scratch. I think that it would be different if that was what I did with the majority of my day. It would be more palatable to have a bad time of it if I already had many good ones behind me. But, I don’t, because I can’t.

Or maybe I won’t.


A new beginning

A few weeks ago, we were on a late-night walk with our dog. We came upon an antique store, with a window display that stopped me in my tracks. A purple and silver art deco tea set, (spoiler alert) as pictured above set up over our dishes, grabbed my heart and took it hostage. I stood there, gazing longingly at it, and making designs on the many uses I could manufacture for it. I confess that I considered briefly asking my husband to break the glass, grab the goods, and make a run for it. It was late enough and no one was around. Reality set in and I resolved to visit the store the next day possible, with a price in mind that I was willing to pay for it. I couldn’t stop thinking about that purple slice of heaven.

We went in two days later with a canvas bag, fully prepared to go home with that blasted tea set. My hopes and dreams were crushed when I was given the price. It was five times the cap I set for myself. I do not frequent antique stores for the purpose of making purchases, so I have little frame of reference for the value of merchandise. I pulled up my big girl pants, and told the owner it was way more than I could pay and alas, some other lucky bastard will be making their lives brighter with a silver and purple glow. I resigned myself to walking home empty-handed. As I was attempting to take a picture with my cellphone for posterity, my husband walked over and made me an offer that I—could really, if I wanted to, but didn’t—refuse. He suggested that it could be my anniversary, birthday, and Christmas present for the year 2010. I didn’t even look at him as I responded, “Go over there and make a deal.”

Yeah, like this is the mafia or something. Anyway, I passed the time looking at all the things I couldn’t afford, as they wrapped up my new baby and tendered the sale. I happened to see the charge slip—$530! Yes, I did get a sinking feeling, but there was no turning back. It would be rude to pull out, right? As he put his credit card in his wallet, he said, “Hey, since this will be in a painting, you can deduct it.” There’s that.

As the warning of the spoiler alert implied, it’s mine. MINE!

I have just completed a painting (see No luck of the draw) and can move onto the next one, which will contain my awesome purple tea set. Now, what do I do? If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I don’t care to paint fluffy pictures. But, I want to paint this set so badly I can taste the tea that will never be contained in it (it is just too pretty to use for its intended purpose). So, there has to be a story in it, or I’d feel like painting it would be just a glorified academic exercise. I’d rather hone my skills with less ambitious subject matter. As is my inclination, I might go for an idea somewhere between mystery and pathos. Perhaps suggesting or adding part of a figure, such as a hand placement and/or a reflection in the silver or a mirror. What would the expression on the person’s (probably mine) face be? Will she be alone? Did she throw a tea party that nobody showed up for?

I suspect this one will be a challenge to plan. Oh cripes, what have I gotten myself into now?

Bite while it’s hot

Normally, I do not care to be trendy in any aspect of my life. Bandwagons are unsteady and give me motion sickness. However, it is important for an artist to sniff the air from time to time to get a sense for what the public is interested in at any given moment.

This last time, I smelled blood.

Vampires. Creatures of the night are hot to trot of late. We can thank True Blood as well as the perplexing popularity of the Twilight series, along with a plethora of other Vampiresque fiction. The undead are alive with the sounds of cha-chings in theaters and retail establishments across the globe.

So, I dug into my vault of ideas. About ten years ago, I presented a unique premise for a vampire story to my husband. I remember us standing in our kitchen shortly after I got back from work, and shared the idea I cooked up while on my daily commute from the office. His eyes widened and lit up. After he digested what I told him, he confessed that he wished he thought of that one. Score! While it was my idea, my ego is well-fed enough that I realized it begged for my husband’s writing style. Thus, we set out to write it together. We got the whole synopsis, as well as the first scene written. And then, we put it in a folder and set it aside. It rested like its main character in a coffin, collecting dust.

Fast forward to 2010. I realized that this is the time to get this sucker (yes, that was intended) published. We set a goal to finish the story and submit it by this summer. We also inked in a weekly date on Tuesday evenings to work on this. How romantic.

I hope to post more about this resurrected project. Tune in for developments.

No luck of the draw

Detail of playing cards I painted in my current work-in-progress

As you can see from the attached image, I can paint detail. In fact, I think I do it pretty well. Now, ask me if I like doing it.

This belongs to a current work-in-progress. It is part of a still life that my husband set up . . . nine months ago. No, I have not been working on the cards the whole time. I believe that my general lack of direction in 2009 spilled over into this project. With a new year and a new resolve, I’ll finish this painting, dagnabbit. Plus, I am restless and anxious to work on my next idea. My limited studio space does not allow for multi-tasking.

When my husband presented me with this brain-child last summer, my eyes went directly to those playing cards. The cognitive dissonance that I tried to conceal had me vacillating between suggesting to him the cards be removed and realizing the significance of them to the whole scene. He spent a lot of time setting it up, as well, and I didn’t think it should be for naught. Besides, he pre-empted my objections by reminding me of my ability to work in detail. I decided to forge ahead and worry about that later.

Fast-forward about nine months, and tada! The cards are finished. While part of me was hoping that an errant arrow would find its way into my studio and plunge itself into my canvas, thus relieving me of all obligation to finish this painting, I must say, completing those cards did leave me with a fair amount of satisfaction.

I am now left with another quandry: Do I want to work in such detail moving forward? Yes, I can do it and yes, it can add flavor to the work. If not done correctly, it can be the death of a piece. Regardless, does it need it? Is that the direction I want to take? I am not so sure at this point. While I do love and appreciate Impressionistic work, I strive for more of a Representational style, i.e., realism. Sometimes realism requires detail. All I know is that I do feel bogged down when working at such an intricate level. My fear, outside of there not being enough hours in the day to focus on it (or a sneeze coming on while the brush is on the canvas), is that the feeling and passion of the work may be compromised in the process.

I had an instructor who told me to not draw the tattoo. I understood it to be more of a metaphorical lesson than a literal one. But, just for argument’s sake, what if there was a tattoo? To be consistent with my style of painting, I couldn’t just suggest it—a method that can be just as powerful as capturing every detail—but not for my style. It would look like a cop out. What if the tattoo adds another level to the work, allowing the viewer to be drawn even more deeply into the story? What then?

Until I figure this out, I’ll just avoid playing cards for subject matter. They really are annoying.