December 30, 2011

Day 22: Rally Forth

Friday. I'm behind on titling some paintings. When I settle on titles, I will post them.
Started a new painting. Stocked up on collard greens and black eyed peas. Documented finished paintings. Worked more on a painting I thought was finished, but obviously wasn't satisfied with. I go out of my way to make things hard.

December 29, 2011

Day 20, 21. Crap, it's almost over.

Wednesday. I went for a run and had to go to a funeral today. Studio hours moved to evening. School starts in about 2 weeks.

Thursday. Worked on an impromptu grant app. Completed it, but it took the better part of the day. I should be able to knock these things out blindfolded, and yet, there I sat, tapping away and selecting images.

"Hollywood Drifting" 2011, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches

December 24, 2011

Day 16-19: studio

It was sunny today so I pulled the painting out of the living room and into the studio to see what it looked like in daylight. I worked on it a bit more. I swore I wouldn't, but I did. Then I swore AGAIN that I wouldn't work on it anymore. I repeated this process at least twice today. I'm done with it. I've got a gnawing feeling that if I switched over to oils, it might look like what I thought it should like and I could continue this madness ad infinitum.

Xmas music, followed by Mission Impossible and Chinese.

Long day in studio. Worked on 2-3 paintings over and over.

Visited with cousin. Discussed handguns and rifles.

December 23, 2011

Day 15: studio

Friday. I couldn't help myself. I worked on the bathrobe painting one last time. Then I put it away. Again. Gessoed 4 canvases. Began grant application. Sat and starred a paint wall. Stared hard. I think I need a diversion.

December 22, 2011

Day 14. studio

Thursday. 100% chance of rain. I was going to stay in bed until I could either get a visual on what I might paint today or picture myself grabbing a large trash bag and emptying out a closet. The dog knows nor cares not of my daily dilemma. I got up and let him out.

I stopped working on the bathrobe portrait. Fin. I took it out of the studio and threw away all the associated palettes. The china cup broke at the end of the next to last session. I worked on it one last time and then declared a moratorium. There are parts of it I like and parts of it I— oh how shall I say this— don't feel like concerning myself with in terms of 'accuracy.' There. I said it. Sue me. When a painting become about 'accuracy,' it's times to move on. The fact that I even obsessed about this as much as I did has irritated me to no end.

December 21, 2011

Day 13. Studio

Have decided to wear mascara for no good reason. Stopped by a friend.'s house for a quick spot of tea. Took a wreath to the cemetery. Had planned on applying for grants. Built 2 stretchers instead. Painted. Had a rough day in the studio. I'm always afraid I'm going to run out of ideas of what to paint and have to rely on abstraction as a fallback. That's the beauty of abstraction: There is no what. I'm still figuring out the beauty of representational work. Killed a small painting. Brought another one back to life. Such is the cycle.
Possibly probably still in progress. 

Day 12. Studio

Tuesday. Rain. My studio lockdown is almost half over. I have successfully ignored paying bills until the last moment and my freshly washed sheets have been in the dryer for about 3 days now. Worked on bathrobe painting while having coffee.

A friend's mom passed away yesterday.

Discovered this essay on the painter, Edwin Dickinson, by John Perreault this morning.

If you do not bring anticipations to the sight of an object when drawing it, anticipations which are connect with associations in your lay life, it is easier to get it right then to get it wrong.
When asked about his influences, he replied: “I suppose being alive and awake.”
When queried about the meaning of his art, he replied: “I wouldn’t be able to say.”

-Edwin Dickinson 
White acrylic paint finally attached itself to the cuff of my actual bathrobe. I will attempt to remove it. I also discovered dark green and brown oil paint on my down jacket. I came in from walking the dog and had to make a few strokes before hanging up my coat. I am not going to attempt to remove this. I fear turpentine will make it worse. It's mostly dark on dark, though there is a small barely perceivable smear of white mixed in. It's like a micro palette smear. I assume it happened while cradling a small painting in my arm while painting. I work like that sometimes.

I went to the train car studio. It's been almost almost a month since I've worked there. It felt nice to be in the white cube studio space again. Made headway on a painting. Cleaned my palette cart. Capped as many tubes as I could. I even scrubbed my slop sink. Sometimes it feels good to start fresh.

I'm starting to wonder if social networking is the equivalent of reality TV. For instance, I accidentally watched Survivor the other night.

It's been interesting to work on the same large painting every morning. Discipline. Focus. There's something zen-like about the process now. When I get to a point where I don't know exactly what to do next or a place where I want the suspense to linger, I wash my brushes and call it a session, make more coffee and move over to work on the smaller paintings.

DETAIL of  "The Walk"

December 19, 2011

Day 11: Studio

Monday. Dr. Evil died. Some other stuff happened. I was still asleep.

I didn't take the day off yesterday. I may have decided to stay with acrylic for the bathrobe painting. I like the watercolor-like washes I'm doing. It's possible I may finish this painting without knowing that I started it. Noticed right before bed that 3 linen canvases had to be re-stretched after priming caused the linen to wrinkle. Woke up and had coffee while restretching canvases and wondered if building my own stretchers was really worth it. Yes, just need to take my time.
Studio shot. Still in progress. 

Ran/walked. Calf still injured. Not bad, just pulled a muscle, but it's been a month. Worked on bathrobe painting. Am not really tracking my hours anymore but I worked on it most of the day- as in daylight. It's a funny slow painting. I like working with washes. I like that they dry fast and I can do more washes, but slowly. I step back a lot. I stare a lot. I try things. I wipe things out. I try again. After working really thick lately, it's a nice break. Like doing a large watercolor. I'm enjoying it in a different way than the oils. I'm always amazed at how painting can still be fresh for me just when I think I've figured it out. I'm getting closer and closer to that Charles Burchfield studio lighting look...

Day Ten: Studio-ish

If you just tuned in, I'm documenting the month of December in the studio. I have one month off before spring semester begins. I want to get as much work done as possible so that I'll have time to second guess myself on everything I did this month and either continue to work on them or remove them from the studio so I don't overwork them. It can go either way. 

It's Sunday. I may have stated this before but my dad died when I was in my 20's and most of the life advice he gave me was dispersed before I was capable of fully appreciating such advice. I remember a few things though.

"Walk with your head up, don't look at the ground." This was hard for me to understand. I needed to look at the ground in order not to trip. I still do. Yesterday while running, I looked up for a moment and as I looked back down, I almost tripped over a shadow cast by a sign post.

"Winners never quit. Quitters never win."
I was in grade school. This advice was given to me at night before bedtime. I was standing in the doorway of my parent's bedroom saying goodnight. I don't remember the context. I was probably dejected, nervous, or unhappy about some activity- a race, a piano recital, ballet class, and wanted to bail.

I'm going to paraphrase this one: "Set aside Sunday to rest. Work really hard 6 days a week, then rest one day and gather your strength for the next week." My dad and I were standing in the living room by a window. I was in high school. Maybe college. I think he was worried about my future.

"Get a good job with good health insurance." If my dad uttered anything after this, I don't remember. This was the last thing I remember my dad ever saying to me. He was in the hospital and died 3 days later. I was waiting tables after having received my BFA a couple of years prior.

There was also some advice about when to change my oil, check my fluids and such.

I wasn't going to work at all today. Nothing. No housework, no office work, no painting. I worked a bit more on the bathrobe painting before I caught myself working. I'm nearing the edge of committing to acrylic or switching to oil.

I'm taking the day off. I'm going to putter.

December 18, 2011

Day Nine: Studio

Saturday. I like Scott's Simon's voice.
Notice I took the word, lockdown, out of the title. I don't know how I thought I would paint 24/7 AND continue to manage a home, non-related work, art-related work and still attempt to deal with everything leftover from my parent's and grandparents lives. I'm making headway, but yesterday, I came across vintage Theodore Seuss Geisel wrapping paper. If I have a spare second, I'll scan. And flattened bows. Honestly, if I had unlimited time, I would make a large sculpture out of some of this stuff, but I feel pressure to just paint and stay focused as it is.
In Progress

I'm still only at about 10% paint mode on this one. It's currently acrylic, but I'll switch to oil eventually. Once I do, there's no turning back. It's tricky, too, because if there's anything I like, it's hard to keep, so it becomes a whole new painting at that point and I have to hope for the best. The longer I wait to switch the harder it will be because by then I'll be attached to certain idiosyncratic passages that will feel stilted if I try to recreate them. I could keep going in acrylic, but I'm experiencing paint drag and I'm a bit half-assed in my brush handling. It's like not painting while I'm painting. Right now, the most important thing in the painting is the position of the affected pinkie finger, which isn't affected all all. I innately hold cups like this. I can't wait to paint the cup. Sounds silly but I am looking forward to the painting the china pattern. 

I began painting self-portraits last spring after seeing the Alice Neel documentary. After a lifetime of painting other people, Neel painted her first self-portrait at age 80, naked- save her glasses and a paintbrush and turp rag. It's a great film and this was the part that affected me the most. I thought it was a brave statement. On one hand, you're 80, so maybe you've made peace with the physical attributes of aging at that point, but do you ever make peace with yourself, or get over being vulnerable? I'm sure some people do. Some, maybe not. At 50, I'm just coming to grips with aging. I'm not 100% at peace with myself and chances are I have a pocket of vulnerability with me at all times. I decided to add self-portraits to my oeuvre. 

December 17, 2011

Day Eight: Studio Lockdown

Friday. Chana Joffe-Walt's voice irks me. Rain. Am trying to knock out some holiday shipping, but inexplicably Fed Ex had not activated the ground portion of my account. If I use FEDEx I will receive a Starbucks gift card. I know it's a break even thing, but it's all about the coffee. No bathrobe painting today. Stretched and primed 2 more canvases. Kept working on 2 small paintings. My hours have been erratic this week.

Having an off time with the paint. Feeling a bit cluttered and and chaotic. Still need to finish booking travel plans, clean house and send some requested materials to someone. Started a new painting. Titles are coming easy now. I've been writing them down. Usually the paint comes before the title, but every now and then the title comes first.

Why is painting hard?

December 16, 2011

Day Seven: Studio Lockdown

Thursday. Perhaps I've misused the word, 'studio' and 'lockdown.' Perhaps paying bills, juggling office tasks, and worrying about the economy and my future while mixing paint is what I meant to imply when I said "studio lockdown."

Still ignoring my 5:45 AM alarm. Sometime around 6:15am I heard the war in Iraq was officially over. A horn sound effect made me think of Carl Stalling. The federal government is scheduled to shutdown tomorrow. Chance of rain is 100% today. Today is an emergency office day. I have to document work, prep images, write a statement, and update my bio for 2 shows in January. It's all due right now- as I am writing this, right now. Circumstances beyond my control prevented me from getting this together earlier. I could blame Mercury in Retrograde- "Mercury...turns retrograde at 20°06' Sagittarius in the sign of the Archer, sending communications, travel, appointments, mail and the www into a general snarlup." It's possible. Not really, but why not.

Fretted over what painting to include. Felt like the stakes were high due to communication errors noted above. I angst a lot. Sometimes I have to remind myself I have a decent track record with painting. Most of the time I fear there's some highly perceptible scale of 1-10 and I'll choose the painting that ranks a 5 or less every time. As a rule, few people like my favorite paintings as much as I do. I chose a painting that was still wet, and that I either loved or hated, and dashed out a simple heartfelt statement about it. I forgot how long it took to dash off a simple statement. A lot less than usual. I didn't have time to overwork it. I hit send, got up, and walked the dog. The phrase, "Never look back" occurred to me. This saved me from potentially obsessing. I decided to make this my new motto. It will save me time. It will also increase my odds of typos. I wondered if anyone would cut me slack on typos.

Went for a run. Received enthusiastic thumbs up on image I sent. Continued researching travel plans. On the other coast I received news that another painting had sold. Concluded that good things happen to people who secretly whine and feel sorry for themselves for a few moments when the going gets tough, and then get over and on with it. Silently thanked some distant friends who listen to me whine every so often. Promised myself I'd whine less.

Two paintings. First or second coat each. My general MO for starting a painting varies from painting to painting. It was the end of the night and I didn't want my palette to go to waste. 

December 15, 2011

Day Six: Studio Lockdown

Today is Wednesday. The federal government is going to stop minting $1 coins. I thought of my mother and her collection of quarters. And dimes. And pennies. Made coffee and went to work on the bathrobe painting. I had trouble. I was off. The strokes felt lame, the paint, murky. I checked the mail and received a notice of something that annoyed me the first time I saw it, so it annoyed me again. I washed my brushes and ran some errands. I received more disappointing news. I considered changing my Facebook network to Purgatory just to see if anyone else was in my network. My studio hours were consumed by the desire to sell everything and move. Ate chocolate babka. Stared hard at painting I've been on the fence about. Worked more on said painting.  Walked dog. Went to bed. Studio hours were touch and go.

December 13, 2011

Day Five: Studio Lockdown

Today is Tuesday. I should quit setting the alarm.

Coffee. Worked on bathrobe painting from 8-10. Uncanny how it's nearly to the minute, the amount of time I work on this painting every day. At first I was happy with it, then I became aware that my eyes were wrong. More wrong than tolerable. My coffee gets cold while painting and I have to warm it up.

Ran errands, made more granola, thought about Christmas and discovered a box of vintage wrapping paper in the Christmas closet.

Today was a run day. Cold, dreary, foggy and damp. Still have calf injury. Walked after 1 mile.

Evening studio hours. Possibly finished up a couple of paintings.

December 12, 2011

Day Four: Studio Lockdown

Monday. Day Four: 5:45 am. I didn't hear the alarm and I don't know what happened in world events this morning. The dog's alarm clock goes off a bit later than mine, so when I hear voices in the distance I know I've overslept. He has an alarm clock specifically for this reason. It allows me to sleep a bit later without him thinking I'm dead. Made coffee, worked on bathrobe painting for about 2 hours before running errands and making—
The Same Salad I Have Been Making Every Week For About 5 Months Now
shredded carrots
toasted sesame oil
vinegar or Bragg's amino acid

I worked a bit more on a holly tree painting last night. I'm conflicted. I like it, but I don't like it. I don't like it because it looks fine and I haven't mucked it up. I do like it because it's oddly geometric and pristine and I like looking at it.

I didn't consider yesterday a studio day even though I worked about 3 or so hours in the studio. It was Sunday. I pretend not to work on Sunday.

The painting from a few days ago that was a complete disaster has evolved into something radically different. I opened up an old and dusty book and saw "The Coiffure" by Van Dongen. I had every intent on ripping him off.

Kees Van Dongen, "The Coiffure"

December 11, 2011

Day Three: Studio Lockdown

Day Three: 5:45 am. I can handle Rick Steves' voice (Travel with Rick Steves). Today I learned about agritourism while half asleep. Made coffee. Started medium-large self-portrait in Beacon bathrobe, while brewing coffee, while listening to NOA weather radio repeat itself endlessly, while waiting for temperature to warm above 30 degrees. Worked in studio from 7am-10am. Went for a run, but strained calf again at .25 mile. Frustrated. Walked instead. I'm not so good with injuries.

I had this very same Beacon robe in Chicago. I paid $3 for it at the local thrift store. For some reason, I let it go in a yard sale some years later.  Every time I saw a TV show or a movie with someone wearing a Beacon robe, I would wilt a little. No more. This summer I saw the same robe in a vintage store and paid 21 times what I paid for it back in Chicago-on the condition I would paint a self-portrait featuring this robe. Coincidentally, I was with an old friend who remembered my bathrobe from Chicago and convinced me this was a good plan. She may have in fact, suggested it. I couldn't have possibly appreciated the first bathrobe as much as I do the second one. Money well-spent. I've been waiting until winter to paint this self-portrait. It's 41 x 38 inches. I'll only be working on it first thing in the mornings while I have coffee-about 2 hours. Painting Vérité. And now you also know how long I dawdle over coffee.

Aside from the bathrobe painting, I seem to be settling into an afternoon-evening schedule. Six hours, uninterrupted is good for me in the studio. That doesn't count priming and building stretchers or any prep work- just painting and staring. Usually, I'll end up tacking on at least another hour later in the evening. I have to walk through the studio to get to the kitchen. Because of this conveniently obtrusive set up, odds are, I will also pick up a brush while I'm cooking, mindlessly drinking coffee and solving mysteries of the Universe, and while I'm playing with the dog.

I made a large batch of my kick-ass, homemade granola to give to the matriarchs in the neighborhood and a couple of granola heads I know. I also obsessed abut not being able to run due to calf injury. The calf injury happened before my trip to New York. I thought I was back to normal. Obviously not. I can feel the chocolate babka taking over my body. Bad call on that. So good, but bad. 

But back to speaking of the end of the semester, Charles Saatchi's piece for The Guardian via Two Coats of Paint: "If I stop being on good behaviour for a moment, my dark little secret is that I don't actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and simply cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others – a received pronunciation. For professional curators, selecting specific paintings for an exhibition is a daunting prospect, far too revealing a demonstration of their lack of what we in the trade call 'an eye.' They prefer to exhibit videos, and those incomprehensible post-conceptual installations and photo-text panels, for the approval of their equally insecure and myopic peers. This 'conceptualised' work has been regurgitated remorselessly since the 1960s, over and over and over again."  Or as I like to call it, Rehashed 90's Conceptualism. They declared painting dead, why not this? Rhetorical question, I might add.

I reactivated my Netflix account for December and received some good suggestions for aprés-paint viewing.
No one suggested Mulholland Falls, but I wanted to see LA in a film.

December 10, 2011

Day Two: Studio Lockdown

Day Two: 5:45 am. Keep meaning to change alarm and radio station on the weekend. Getting annoyed with both Glynn Washington's Snap Judgement and Mike McGrath's voice on You Betcha Garden, though I am learning gardening tips in my sleep. I woke up feeling like I thought I might be feeling like crap. Sure enough, I felt like crap. My first thought was that I was poisoning myself with a CO2 leak. I can never remember whether the logs are vented or ventless. I always have to look for the paperwork. I open the vent occasionally, nonetheless. I drank coffee, felt ill and went back to bed. Got up, still felt ill, took a hot shower, and went back to bed again. Finally gave in and took some aspirin. Eventually felt better. Went to store, picked up woolly clothing from the dry cleaners, conveniently located next to the place that sells chocolate babka. Ate chocolate babka. Moved palette table and oil paints in from freezing garage to den, officially securing den as winter studio. Pushed dining room table aside and dragged large easel from garage to dining room, thereby securing dining room as winter studio V2. I began working in studio at 3:00pm and worked uninterrupted until about 7:30pm. Took a painting I almost liked to a place I couldn't stand. Obliterated it. Felt like I'd never be able to paint again. Gave up. Cleaned brushes. Started new painting because I don't give up. It's better, I think, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything. About a 4 hour day. Cleaned up, ate dinner, watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

I don't know how I'm managing in this studio home setup. It's driving me  bit crazy, yet I'm getting work done. I really want a white space studios bathed in natural light. It's possible. Everything is possible. It would cost money though. And time. Two things I always feel short on. The train car residency will be ending soon. I'm getting a head start on the transition.

Detail of self-portrait I didn't like, so I reworked parts of it. 

Detail of painting I fear is boring and that I am uncomfortable with.

And of course, now I worry that my details shots are more exciting than the actual whole painting. The endless battle of me vs. me. 

December 09, 2011

Day 1: Studio Lockdown

The semester ended last week. Back to the real world.

Friday: Day one. I anticipated waking up at the usual time (5:45am) and getting to work by 7am. I did not anticipate the overwhelming urge to mop my floors or do other neglected chores. I snacked on peanut butter, paid bills, and did some other household chores and things. Ran 3 miles. I began working in the studio at 2pm and worked uninterrupted until about 7pm. Cleaned up, ate some dinner, and had to make just a few more strokes before cleaning up again. Gave dog attention. We're practicing some new tricks. All in all, about a 5.5 or 6 hour studio day. Worked on 2 or 3 paintings at various stages.  Built a couple of stretchers. Primed linen.

During Studio Lockdown, I'll post some details of works in progress and or finished paintings. I'm cycling in and out of that fear that I can't paint or that I've lost all ability to know what's "good." I should accept this as part of my process by now. I'm so used to struggling with a painting that I am suspicious if a painting comes with only somewhat of a struggle. And as always, I find myself stuck between abstraction and representation. Even though I have finally decided they are the same, I'm uneasy.

Detail of small painting. 

Detail of small painting.