Category Archives: Sight

My drawings and paintings.

A Sketch in Time

I attended an open drawing session at a local art school after Labor Day Weekend. It has been years—since 2007 when I graduated, specifically—since I really devoted any time to academic study. I was very out of practice, to say the least. I can’t even say the three hours I had available to me to draw from a live, nude model, was academic in the strictest sense. I really was just trying to get a likeness with correct proportions. I realized the following mistakes that I made:

        • I didn’t bring the right materials
        • I failed to plan out the figure, hence, I “ran out of paper”
        • I focused on detail too early, resulting in an incomplete piece


My goal was not to take away specific ideas for other projects, much less create a saleable piece. I just knew I needed to stretch out and work muscles that have been at risk for atrophy. You’ll notice from the drawing that the medium I used worked against me, or I worked against it. Hard conte pencils were not the right choice to cover large paper in a relatively short amount of time, when factoring in a few quick gesture sketches on newsprint to warm up. With all the breaks and those initial studies, I had about an hour and a half on the drawing. I ended up with a somewhat sloppy, if not stylized, work. There are also visible corrections, which is not a bad thing for a study. Notice that I corrected the length of the kneecap to the ankle, but didn’t erase the erroneous first positioning. I really wanted to capture the man’s feet; they had a very prominent structure. You’ll see I did a quick study to the left of the drawing of his right foot, just to compensate for my poor planning. The model had a very interesting face, so I didn’t work hard enough to resist my compulsion to go in with the detail.

I left the studio in a slight state of unrest, but I don’t know if I was justified in feeling that way. I display this work not with pride, but with a truthful humility. There was more for me to take away from this session, and even more for me to bring to the next one.



Lunshea’s Bath

I started this drawing over a year ago, and set it aside early on to sporadically work on it for several minutes here and there. Last month, I resolved to finish the piece, and am glad I did.

I was interested in the erotic image of a voluptuous backside against the stark contrast of a pitch night and a bright, gibbous moon. The paper-thin wings add the fantasy element.

Lunshea is Celtic for “moon fairy.” She is luxuriating in the large body of water as she cleanses herself. In homage to names of classic works, Lunshea’s Bath seemed an appropriate title for this piece.

I decided to wait a week before I apply fixative to the drawing. I see now that she needs some beads of water to accompany her wet hair. I am debating if I want there to be strands of water dripping off her wings. I don’t want to guild the faerie.

My goal is to produce at least a dozen fantasy images, primarily faeries, and turn them into prints, bookmarks, t-shirts, etc., and reserve a table at the 2012 Comic Con. I suspect I should pick up the pace a touch if I were to have any chance of accomplishing that. In the meantime, my husband wants to turn the final image into a t-shirt for himself. Besides agreeing that it would make a cool shirt, it is also an opportunity for advertising.“Hey, where did you get that shirt?” 

My first field study fling

I decided that one thing I would do during my vacation from my 9-5 job is some outdoor sketching in the form of field studies, which differs from my usual lunchtime clandestine sketching sessions in the park. There is a church in my neighborhood that always catches my eye, and I’d remind myself that one of these days, I should sketch it, if not do a fully realized piece. With that in mind, starting with the most visually appealing local landmark seemed a good place to get my toes wet with en plein air art. Even though the church covers almost a whole city block, I was most drawn to the spire with its (inaccurately timed) clock. I set out with my sketch book, pencils, travel watercolors, and micron pens. Two hours later, I produced the image to the right.

The pencil drawing itself could have stood alone, but I was so drawn to the greens and terra cotta tones that I had to capture a color study, as well. My years-long separation from watercolors, along with using a cheap Van Gogh brand travel kit (don’t assume the master painter’s name a quality product makes), made it a slightly frustrating exercise. I had to experiment with the greens to get the right tone and value, which I achieved towards the center of the spire.  The sky was a very calm and vivid blue. Because of the tiny, low quality brush that came with the kit, the brush strokes required to cover the paper made the sky read as more tumultuous.

While I was fully prepared with the art materials needed, I failed to bring a hat or sunscreen. I happened to pick the squatting spot that had full sun exposure during the whole session. I didn’t expect to spend two hours in that spot, but I was reminded how intricate and complex—and beautiful—church architecture is. I came away with a headache, dehydration, sunburn, but filled with a sense of accomplishment that made it worth it.

Bona Fortuna

Here is my latest accomplishment—a still life painting that my husband set up and titled, but I of course, took the last 10 months to paint. Those were not active 10 months, mind you. I’m not that slow. I was just terribly apathetic and ambivalent about the concept of this piece. I briefly touched on it in an earlier post:

Even after completing this, I was displeased. After much persuasion by the inspiration for this work, I’ve settled on being pretty dang proud of it, enough so that I will be entering it into a magazine competition. Do I expect to win? No, but as a coworker told me the other day, You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play. (I am playing the Illinois Lottery once a week, incidentally, but not winning. Theory and anecdote are both compelling, but rarely the twain shall meet.)

My ambivalence, as it turned out, was due to the conflict over owning the process from start to finish. Basically, this is not a still life I conceived. I pride myself in my original, and dare I say, unique, ideas. But this time, I just painted what I saw. It was my interpretation and I took some license, but still. I was (painfully) reminded of a story that my husband and I are currently working on for an idea I created. Does that dilute his involvement, to the point that he will feel detached from the final product, thus not proud of his contribution? That would be a resounding ‘No.’

After being presented that irrefutable argument, I had no choice but to accept the consequences. I had to paradoxically set my ego aside for admitting my specious feelings to allow myself to be proud of my achievement. And it was a bit uncomfortable at first, but I’ve come to terms with the possibility that I pulled this one off.

As for the premise, it is up for interpretation. It has an obvious mafia theme to it. Note the double entendre with the Latin title. I debated between painting the skull an actual bone color and how the object actually was (it was a plaster cast of a skull), and decided to keep it white, similar to bleached bone. My work at times can gravitate towards pathos, macabre, and other equally fun emotions and states of mind. I haven’t figured out why that is. But, that is a conversation for another time.

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?

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.

Ask Again Later

Ask Again Later, Oil on canvas, 18" x 24"

This piece started out as a fairly light-hearted assignment while in art school. My friend and I were given instructions for our next oil painting assignment—bring in random objects, and put them together to create a solid and interesting composition. I brought in a magic eight ball, a hardbound book, the stuffed (baboon? monkey?), an artificial rose, slinky, and green bottle. My friend, of course, brought in the remaining objects. We had a good time setting it up by experimenting with multiple variations to somehow eke out a theme to it all. We settled on what you see here.

I enjoyed painting it for the sheer technique of it all. Nothing pleases me more in painting than to capture the sparkle of metal and the luminosity of glass. It was eminently satisfying to gyrate my hand to suggest the coils in that favorite toy from my childhood. The fluffy fur of the stuffed animal was fun to paint, as well. I had to reel it in a bit lest his hair reach the top of the canvas. With a flick of the wrist—Whoosh whoosh! I’ll admit, the playing card annoyed me a bit. It has also come back to haunt me, as my current piece has two of them in it. That’s the last time—playing cards are dead to me.

I was left with a very interesting painting to gaze at, and based on the response, it is a crowd-pleaser. I struggled with the title, as even after spending hours on it to the point that I could close my eyes and picture all the details and nuances, I could not put my finger on what it meant.

But really, does a painting have to mean anything specifically? I have no desire to paint something pretty, nor do I want my titles to be inapplicable or non-descript. My biggest fear, outside of fading into obscurity, is that a potential buyer’s biggest quandry would be to acquire a swatch of the living room rug to see if the painting complements it. Bah!

So came my husband to the rescue—Ask Again Later. Do you see why he called it that? I don’t even recall how that message came about. Was it there when I set the ball down, or did I decide subconsciously that it was the best answer to put there? Regardless, it is a near perfect title, and I must publicly give him props.

If you are left bewildered by what you see, but want to know the artist’s intent, ask me again later . . .

. . .  and again, and again . . .

Creative Block series

At least, I suspect this will turn into a series. Although, the title may use some tweaking. I have always been curious what precipitates the proverbial writer’s block, what sustains it, and then allows the artist to eventually break through that concrete wall to enlightenment. Or perhaps, to find a deeper and darker abyss on the other side.

The two oil paintings displayed above— Eine Kleine Nachtschreiben (A Little Night Writing) and Symphony in Abeyance, were created independently of each other, in different years, even. As is common when items live together, similarities are found along with their differences. I recently discovered they are connected by a common thread—in general, writer’s block.  In one, the writer leaves a blank journal in the dark, but not before taking one last draw on the glass of wine that was once inspiration, and has eventually become an escape. In the other, the musician discards glasses and crumpled up musical staff paper, seemingly in frustration and defeat.

At risk of explaining the work too much, I’ll stop there.

As an Accountant, my day job does not allow for too much creativity, yet more times than not, I am left speechless (relatively speaking) when writing e-mails or documenting procedures for a departmental manual of operations. This is not creative writing, per se, but it still requires the skill of creating something from nothing. Of course, it will not serve a purpose beyond assisting to keep the wheels turning of the corporate machine; arguably, it will not bring passion or joy to a person’s life. I guess peripherally, as it can make someone’s job easier, thus easing stress, etc. Regardless, I can still experience a writer’s block.   

This is a working title of the series, lest I limit myself to arts if I choose to cast a wider net. Perhaps it can stand as is and let the viewer connect the dots if desired. I am not blocked on the name, I just haven’t decided yet. Create is usually connected to the arts; Invent to the sciences. I believe they are not mutually exclusive, and are in fact, interchangeable. The thesaurus agrees with me.

Anyway, I’d like to explore this concept more, from painters to writers, accountants to scientists. Maybe it doesn’t need to be that specific, nor does it have to be solely about succumbing to a block. It can be about the whole journey, or parts of it. How can breaking down those walls be depicted, as an example? Will it be literal or symbolic?  

As an aside, the two paintings displayed were titled by my very creative husband. I have no problem with my songs, but when it comes to naming my paintings, I am more times than not, blocked. Is that irony?