Tuesday, November 27, 2012

orange you glad

I'm learning to be a little more bold.


That's so fitting: A little bold.

I tell myself I should do boldness is one grand gesture, but usually it's the accumulation of small moments of daring, adding up over time. I'm profoundly annoyed by this.

 I found the artwork of Ruth Shively, and the gears in my mind went clink clink clunk and I've just been staring at her portraits for weeks now. I'm so inspired.

A little blue here, a little orange there: gradually my palette is opening up, becoming more interpretive.

My mantra: do the work now, tell the story later. 

I want to hole up in my studio and just keep charging ahead, I have so much more to try.


Monday, November 19, 2012

peas in a pod

I did a couple of portraits for some good friends recently. I made a conscious effort to get back to the loose brushwork of earlier pieces, and to stop perfecting every minuscule detail. I was so relieved and pleased with how they came out that I had to dance around the house a little bit.

I had to remind myself constantly to work quickly and to stop dab-dab-dabbing in order to get it just right.

Instead: commit. Then let it be. Doing less is so much harder than doing more.

But I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it, and these two did a lot to restore my confidence.


Friday, November 9, 2012


When I was struggling with the portraits of my cousin's daughters, one thing that helped me break out of my funk was The Quick Study.

I've been doing these all along, to test out my colors and get a feel for the composition or facial expression. Mixing colors is time-consuming and kind of mind-boggling, but when I get the colors right I don't have to fight with the painting so much. Jason says he prefers the studies most of the time -- and I'm starting to see what he means. They're looser, fresher, uninhibited.

While I was working, I wrote on that page: make paintings the way you make sand castles. 

In other words: Quickly. Without attachment. Fill the bucket, turn it over, start again.

I like that these pages represent the struggle, too -- they show HOW MANY times I mixed colors, trying to get them right, trying to match what I'd mixed before. How dark, how light, how purple?

I toyed briefly (and jokingly) with the idea of just selling the palette pages. This is your child's face, in essence; abstracted, rendered in pigments. Maybe when I'm rich and famous. But I did sign this one, just in case:

(Only kidding, I was just practicing my signature. Yes, I have to practice everything)

The months I spent wrangling with those three paintings were kind of agonizing, because I just wanted to get it RIGHT, and I knew I could, so why was I tripping up so much, and why was it taking so long? 

Now I see how important the practice is.  Being impatient and perfectionistic, I'd rather not take the time to do that, bothersome practice. I'd rather be great right away. And every time. Sounds silly when I write it out, but that's the unspoken belief I carry whenever I approach my paints. And that's why I get scared and anxious and full of doubt.

It's this: I want to know before I do. But more often than not, I do, and then I know. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

orange polka dot

Amidst the homework, the portrait-painting, the Halloween costumes, the hurricane, the election hullabaloo... I have found time to make teeny tiny slippers for Isla. One has to have priorities.*

Last year at this time I was up to my eyeballs in slipper-making, and pining for my paints. Now the tables are completely turned, and I find myself looking longingly at my sewing machine and keeping lists of all the projects I want to start...

I really need to make a new pair of slippers for myself -- and I need to do my homework and make dinner and oh yeah portraits -- but I cannot be reasonable when taken with the need to make adorable things for children.

The toddler version was so much faster, and then also gave me the excuse to appropriate these little clip-on puffs:

At first Isla was mad that I put the flower fabric on the inside, and then she insisted that I make them BIGGER, like the vintage turquoise heels of mine that she loves wearing around the house.

(I made that ridiculous skirt, too... I am totally nuts)

But eventually she warmed up to them, and willingly puts them on herself. If you have ever had a two-and-a-half year old, you know this is a Major Accomplishment.

So now maybe her feet will stay warm, even if her legs are bare. In November. In our drafty house. Because, SKIRTS, mama.

*In all seriousness: I don't post about politics, because it's complicated and I just don't make the time to do it (plus I feel like it would necessitate a long back-story about my radical street theatre days, which includes dancing in my underwear in downtown San Francsico, so consider yourself spared), but today I feel compelled to say: waking up with the promise of affordable health care, the right to decide whether and how to procreate, the right of my gay friends to get married,  the financial relief of income-based student loan repayment, among many other things -- all of those hard-won social policies still in tact, is joyous indeed and worthy of celebration. I'll save my thoughts about bank-bailouts, nuclear weapons, drone strikes, Guantanamo prisons, etc, etc. for another time.

Now, back to painting!