Thursday, September 29, 2011

Art History Day: Change of Schedule

Hello! This is actually more of an administrative blog than a substantive blog.

I've already realized, in the two weeks I've been sticking to this schedule, that a weekly art history blog is just too much research and writing for me each week (it wouldn't be if I weren't a mother and "household manager"--but those are my most important jobs right now).

So I've decided on doing one long art history blog a month. I'll still have weekly updates of my research, but I'll just tell you what I've been reading and thinking about that week in maybe one paragraph.

Then, on the one long monthly blog I'll go into detail about what I've read and how what I've learned might influence and inform my work.

I've started researching The Ancient Near East. If any of you have suggestions of resources (especially websites, since our library system doesn't have a great art selection) I'd greatly appreciate it.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Review

This was an exciting week. I started painting again!

As I explained before, I got a new (to me) French easel, and it inspired me to do a little plein air painting.

Painting outdoors seemed like a great idea. And it was . . . great to get painting again. But it's hard with Everett. He's not old enough to play outside without being constantly supervised, so I could only paint when he was either sleeping or being watched by someone else.

It's not the best option right now, but I think it will be perfect when he's a little older and I can paint while supervising him playing outside.

It felt great to paint again. It's like riding a bike . . . almost. I'm needing to wrack my brain sometimes to remember the best ways to tackle a subject, but it will all come back to me.

I think being a mom will change the way I paint. I can't paint the big, time consuming paintings I did in college. This one is 11 x 14", and I spend maybe 1 or 2 hours applying paint. Set up and clean up took time (especially since I painted a little over two days). I just don't have the hours and hours I did before Everett was born.

I'm also excited to start a new painting rather than working on my old paintings from school (that's the only work I really did in the year we lived with my in-laws). I so enjoy the small size. My school paintings were quite big (smallest is maybe 30 x 39"), so I could never do more than a sketch in a few hours.

I'm also interested in experimenting with mediums. for the big series I was working on (still working on, really), I used no mediums, except a little terpeniod if I needed to thin the paint out. I started my first painting this way, and I avoided using any mediums from then on for fear of making one painting shinier than the others. Now I can experiment!

It's a silly little painting. It's not as precise or naturalistic as I'm used to, but I had to do it so fast. It's an interesting challenge. Make a painting you're happy with but that isn't technically up to your standards. ha.

But I guess as I continue to paint quickly, my technical skills will improve for this type of painting.

I started with a pencil sketch on the canvas, which I don't normally do. And I didn't like how the pencil mixed with the paint and "muddied" my lighter colors. I should have sketched in paint.

On the first day, I painted a sort of grisaille with neural colors that corresponded to the colors in the scene. Brown pink for orange, naples yellow hue for yellow, paynes gray for blue, terre verte for green, and a bunch of burt umber and white. This underpainting was probably also a waste of time But I wanted to get down as much as possible that day without knowing the shadow situation on the next day I got to paint.

The next day I got to paint was Saturday at about 12:30. The shadows weren't good, and they weren't good the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, I've been checking it earlier in the morning, and I thought afternoon would be better. I'm sure I saw good light on that play structure!

I might have to move it.

But I like painting it. I like the silliness of it. I like the colors. I like that it's geometric but imperfect. The angles aren't regular to the point where if I don't get the perspective right, the whole painting will fall apart. If I find better light . . . I think I've have found my haystacks! {:


I got a couch! It's a sweet couch too. Much nicer than I thought I could get for $45 on Craigslist! So nice, in fact, that I was a little annoyed it would be my studio couch, and would inevitably get paint on it. THEN we washed the cushion covers in warm water (because they're old couch cushions from a stranger with pets), and they got dyed PINK! Well, they got a little pink-er. So weird. The inside threads are maroon (which I don't get), and they turned the water blood red. The lady I bought it from said she had just washed the cushions (in cold water?). Oh well. MUCH less concerned about getting paint on it now. I doubt I will want to switch it for my living room couch anytime soon. {: But it's super comfortable. Long, and now quite clean!

Thanks to my in-laws and to Frank for helping move the thing!

the couch!! With the pink-ish cushions. Not too bad.

But on to the most important thing that happened this weekend, my amazing husband painted!! After much sanding and cleaning of walls and trim, he was able to prime all the walls, paint 3 of the walls (one is going to be an accent wall, and I don't know what the accent is yet), and about 2 feet of the ceiling all the way around the edge (we decided to keep all the stuff in the room, paint the edge, then move the stuff and paint the middle). It's getting close! I actually need to start seriously considering my studio design!! Wow. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Sketch: Babies

Welcome to this week's Saturday Sketch!

I talked about the Impressionists a bit on Thursday, so I wanted to do an Impressionist inspired drawing for today.

Since many of the Impressionists painted/drew children, I took the opportunity to draw my child. I also mentioned Mary Cassatt in my last post, and she is famous for using children as her subjects.

I had to draw from pictures since Everett is a mover and shaker and will not stay still long enough even to take most pictures.

The Impressionists often drew on tinted paper and added highlights. I think that really added to these sketches.

I don't want to get all cutesy and start drawing babies and puppies. But this was fun.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Art History Day: Plein Air

As prophesied in the last post, I am indeed writing about Impressionism. Truth be told, I have yet to figure out how Ancient Near Eastern/Sumerian art could be influential or inspirational to my work, but OH YES I will find a connection! . . . next week.

This week, I couldn't get the idea of plein air painting out of my mind, and specifically the tube.

As I wrote on Monday, I recently purchased a French easel, and yesterday I started doing a little plein air painting. I'm not sure if it counts as plein air if you're painting 20 feet from your front door, but it works for me!

I have found my "Haystacks"!

We are so spoiled nowadays. Every product we use to paint is for sale at the local arts and crafts shop, but the artists of the past were not so lucky.

If I lived before 1841(which I clearly don't) and wanted to be a painter (which would be highly unlikely, considering I'm a woman), painting would have been a very difficult task. Imagine it's Renaissance Italy, I have chosen painting as my future profession. I couldn't do it part-time as I do now, spending most of my time watching a baby, grocery shopping, making dinner, etc., and squeezing painting in as I have time. No. I (and for this, imagine I'm male) would first become an apprentice in a workshop (ok, imagine I'm also about 13). I would learn from a master painter, but mostly I'd be his slave, grinding his pigments, mixing his colors, preparing his painting surfaces, etc., until I'd proven my worth enough to get his attention and actually learn how to paint. From what I understand, the handful of women painters before the modern movements were daughters of prominent male artists. There's no way a woman would become an apprentice to a non-relative.

pigments at a street market in India. Bet some of those colors are new!

So in the Renaissance, and for hundreds of years before and after, painting was a large-scale operation, and it had to be considering all the small jobs that needed to be done. There were no amateur artists or part-time artists. Professional artists were businessmen who ran shops full of other artists and workers.

It wasn't until "colormen" started mixing paints and selling them in pig bladders that amateur art was even possible. I'm finding a date of after 1700 on the pig bladders (c'mon! This isn't a scholarly blog.) The real date to remember is 1841, when the tin tube was invented. From then on, buying and transporting paint became much more convenient.

This made the plein air painting (painting outdoors, in nature) of the Impressionists possible. Mixing pigments with oil and other binders isn't really feasible when you're standing out in a field.

The Impressionist movement began in the 1870s. And these artists had in their ranks women AND women with children (gasp!). Pretty cool. By the 1870s, artistic tools had become so accessible that women (albeit rich women who probably had servants) could paint in their free time.

Berthe Morisot's daughter in the garden

I feel so lucky to have the luxury to paint where I want, when I can. Sometimes I complain about how long it takes me to set up and clean up, but it's nothing compared to what artists had to do hundreds of years ago. I need to remember this as I paint on the front lawn during Everett's naps. 

Beyond not needing to mix my own paints, I have access to every medium that's ever been invented, practically (I'm using medium to describe something you mix with your paints to change the characteristics somehow). If I want to try a new medium, I just go to The Artery or shop online. I'm imagining scarcity had a big impact on artists' technique in the past. There was a set of available mediums, and those are what you used. I'm glad we have the variety we do, but there's part of me that's jealous of a time when there was less variety, and painters knew how they mixed paint. Skip the experimenting and just paint!

Thinking about the past has played a big part in my life. My love of art history is one example. But I also think about what people ate in the past to inform my eating. And how people raised babies in the past to inform my child rearing. Not model, just inform. I find it very interesting and humbling to consider life before our time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Review

Welcome to another Monday Review!

I think the most commendable art-related thing I did this week was stick to my blog schedule! Whoop whoop! I certainly hope I did, considering it was the first week! Ha. But it was a new challenge for me. The blogs were a little different than they will normally because they were the explanation and the post, so they were at least double the length. Obviously, that took longer than it normally will, and was a little difficult to fit into some evenings. But since I did, I feel confident that I can do my regular posts efficiently. It also seemed like a good order for the posts to come in, and good days for me to find time to type, draw, and think. I ran into a problem Friday evening doing my first Saturday Sketch post because that day I also had to write my monthly post about Everett's development (which is typically HUGE) for my personal blog. Luckily, I only do that once a month, and, even though I only checked the next couple months, it looks like I won't be needing to write two blogs in the same day for a while.

We're still working in the studio. We had plans to prep for painting, and possibly paint, this weekend. But we got started sanding the trim, and that's taking longer than we expected. I had explained to Brian how much work his father had put into sanding the trim in the bedrooms and hallway, and Brian said he wouldn't do as thorough a job (it's just the studio. It'll look fine!). But he started sanding, and in some cases sanded through two layers of paint all the way down to the wood (like father, like son). I'm not complaining. My studio will look GREAT one day.

Don't misunderstand me, Brian being a perfectionist wasn't the only reason we didn't get that far this weekend. We had a kid's birthday party today (Andy, the son of my best friend Rachel, turned 3!), and some time-consuming errands yesterday. One of which led to this!! . . .

We went over to Brian's parents' house to pick up our compost bin/barrel (and to see Brian's mom, she needs to see her grandbaby pretty often), and we noticed their neighbors were having a yard sale. We were curious because these neighbors are creative-types who have accumulated quite a few things over the decades, and we knew they'd be parting with some interesting stuff. Brian picked up a radial arm saw, and I got this cool french easel!

I don't know the brand, but for what I paid, I don't care. I could get a couple uses out of it and not feel like I wasted a bunch of money.

But I think I will use it! Since the studio is being "made over," I really should do some painting outdoors. We just got Everett a Little Tikes play structure (from craigslist), so he has more to do outside, not that he'll necessarily let me paint. {:

I have another easel that I think is supposed to be portable, but it's really not. It has three sizable drawers and is quite heavy.  This one's the real deal!

I'm excited! Maybe I'll even write my Art History Day post about the Impressionists while I'm in a Plein Air mood! Talk about going off the timeline soon!!

Speaking of Plein Air, The SLO Museum of Art is hosting a Plein Air Festival October 3rd through the 9th. I was just exploring their website, and it looks like a great event!

See you back here on Thursday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Sketch!

Welcome to my first Saturday Sketch! As I said in my last post, I had the idea for the Saturday Sketch soon after I decided to do several weekly blog posts.

I don't really like drawing. It's kind of like exercising. I know I should do it. I know it would be beneficial. I wish I LOVED doing it, and desired to do it. But I don't.

I was so excited, in my American Art History class, when I found out Gilbert Stuart (the portrait painter of the founding fathers) didn't like to draw. It was like a revelation to me. You can be an awesome painter and not like to draw!?! Awesome!

So he got me off the hook there. But I still know drawing would improve my skill. I also think drawing on a regular basis is a great way to experiment with ideas I wouldn't be able to work through as large paintings.

As inspiration, I've decided to do sketches influenced by my Art History Day posts. On Art History Day I focus on how these art historical movements/periods are relevant to my art, which is why sketching in theme seems so appropriate. Of course, as in every post, I give myself the freedom to diverge from the theme if I feel like doing so, probably to the reader's benefit.

I hope to regularly put my drawings on Etsy.

So let's get started!


I had the idea to draw our local animals in the style of the Chauvet Cave paintings. It's kind of silly, but fun. 

I drew a deer, raccoon, and a squirrel.

I couldn't draw in the complete style of Chauvet, I had to be a little more realist, but I tried to implement a few ideas.

I tried to focus more on the faces and less on the bodies, also layering and meshing the bodies together. It didn't work as well as for the prehistoric artists. I did a couple thumbnails to plan out my drawing. But with a few more tries, I think I could have found a better arrangement for the animals, one where the overlapping looked better and made more sense.

My drawing style tends to be really "scribble-y," then I refine, so it was kind of awkward to try to do simple lines on the bodies. I even erased some of my scribbles to make them look more like the cave drawings, and I don't think erasing added to the final product.

I don't get to draw animals that often so it was fun. Deer are an especially beautiful and majestic creature. We're not really allowed to say that around here, but it's true!

That's all for the Saturday Sketch. See you on Monday for the Monday Review

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Art History Day!

Welcome to the first weekly Art History Day post! I'm excited. I'm an artist, and creating is pretty energizing to me. But I'm such a nerd. I enjoy learning and reading and writing, so I was drawn to art history. As soon as I took my first art history classes in college I thought, "hey, this is interesting, and I'm pretty good at it!" From then on, studio had to share me with history. Studio art is so subjective. What is "good" to someone is "bad" to someone else, and vice versa (which is great, don't get me wrong). But there's something about the academic-ness of art history that really excited me. I can ace a test; I can write an impressive paper. Oooo, I like this!

From the time I had the weekly blogging idea, I knew I wanted to include art history. It's an interest of mine, and I think it sets me apart from many other artists. But I didn't know how I would go about doing it.

Then a bunch of friends, who I was set to attend art history grad school with, started talking about "Comps" a lot on Facebook. Comps is the name used for the test at San Jose State (and possibly other institutions) that assesses a student's comprehensive knowledge of western art history.

It shows how much of a dork I am that I was excited to take Comps. I wanted to prove to everyone how much I knew about art history. I didn't care one ounce about writing a thesis, and much of the course work I would have had to do didn't interest me at all, but proving I could do well on a big test . . . bring it on!!

It's pretty obvious I wasn't cut out for grad school. And I'm grateful every day for the turn my life made.

But . . . all the Facebook Comps chatter inspired me. Why be jealous of these ladies "getting" to study for and take this big test when I could study for but not have the stress of taking the test?! I could use the studying I wanted to do as inspiration for my blog! Self indulgence + career progress = awesome!

Then I asked my wonderful friend Sarah when/where Comps studying started, and she said "3600 BCE Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece." Well, that's all right, but there was art before that!

Also, Comps is all about western art. And although I'm most interested in western art, there may be days I want to jump over to Japan and talk about wood block prints or Turkey and talk about The Blue Mosque. It needs to be pretty loose!

So what will Art History Day be exactly? I'm going to try to go chronologically, unless I'm really inspired by something I've read or watched lately, then I might bounce around a little (for example, I recently watched The Tudors, and if I'd been blogging at the time, I make have done some Holbein research). The chronology is mostly to give me ideas. If I don't have a spark of inspiration before my post, I will keep to the timeline.

And what will I write about? I'm not an art history professor, and I'm no Gardner or Stokstad. I'm going to talk about art as it pertains to my artwork. Or at least how it could influence my work or make me think about my work or art in general in a different way.

How long will it take to get through all of the history of art? I don't know. It depends how fast I go and how much a skip. Six months? A year? 5 years? We'll see!!


For my first art history post, I wanted to start at the very beginning! Or the beginning of what we've found. How could I start with Mesopotamia 3600 BCE when there are wonderful paintings done 35,000 years ago!?!

 As far as I know, Chauvet Cave in southern France has the oldest paintings we've ever found. Some dating from 35,000 years ago and some from 30,000 years ago.

public domain photo from Wikipedia

Prehistoric cave paintings are a mystery at this point. No one knows if they were ceremonial, tools for the hunt, or simply beautiful art. What we do know is, they are fascinating.

I think one of the most interesting things about prehistoric cave paintings is that they look so modern, but that might be because so many modern artists were inspired by them.

What are the most important aspects of this work? Well, animals. Could I try some animals in my work? It's hard to think about painting animals without it turning sappy. I don't want to start painting babies and puppy dogs. No thanks. But I'll keep an open mind to animals that seem more serious. We have a lot of deer to paint!!

The most obvious artistic choice, for me, is the layering. Animals just placed one on top of another with no concern for scale or perspective. But it's very interesting. And it's not terribly confusing or irritating. Lines going through animals' heads, and you still understand what's being depicted. And the skill with which the animals were drawn is so that the strange perspective seems intentional and not accidental. I'll keep these techniques in mind when I work, but I admit it's hard to image using these methods without creating a final painting that looks . . . Cubist.

public domain photo from Wikipedia

I think the most interesting artistic choice made here is the disparity between shading and line drawing within one animal. It's as if the artist said, "well, the head's the most important part, so I'll shade that, and the rest of the body can just be line. Who really cares." What?!? That seems like a really modern idea to me.

And I'm totally failing in my art history nerd-dom right now in saying I don't remember who started the practice in "modern" western art of spending more time on the "important" parts . . . Italian Renaissance? Leonardo Di Vinci? Titian? I think I'm pretty warm.

Anyway. It's something I do all the time. I'm a lazy artist. I know that. And I like that. I'm not one of those artists who's going to spend 500 hours on one painting. It's not my style, and it wouldn't look good. I'm one of those artists who says, "This painting looked really good after 30 minutes. I should have stopped there."

I will certainly consider using the prehistoric masters' technique in the future. Maybe in this Saturday's Saturday Sketch!

I may write more about Chauvet Cave after seeing Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I actually wanted to try to watch it before this post, but it's not out on DVD yet. That will probably be madness, though. {:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Review

Hello! Welcome to the first blog post of my weekly schedule!

As I mentioned in the last post, I plan to use Monday's blog to review what I've been working on the previous week. Monday may seem like a weird day to review, but as I plan to schedule my blogs to post in the morning, I will more likely be writing on Saturday or Sunday (whenever I can find time), and even though I'm a stay-at-home mom, I still feel like Sunday ends the week and Monday begins it . . . probably because my husband works normal hours.

So what will the Monday Review be exactly? Well, it's intended to be a post about what I've been working on during the week, particularly painting. But I'm going to allow the post to be quite loose. For example: we bought a house in April, worked on it until August when it was finally habitable, and we're just now, in September, getting around to working on my studio (not too shabby!!). As I lack a space to paint right now, my posts will primarily be updates on fixing up/designing my studio for the next couple weeks.

Some weeks I may not paint at all; being a busy mommy, wife, and friend; and those weeks I may talk about an art show I saw or article I read that made me think about my art. I may even have to write about how tiling the bathroom made me consider repetitive pattern or how planting a native garden reminded me of the beauty of organic abstract shapes. Sometimes I'll just have to work with what's going on in our life.

But I truly hope most weeks feature my work, that's the point of this post.

Of course, I reserve the right to talk about anything I choose having to do with art. This would probably be the place to do that, since my other posts are more strictly Art History and Saturday Sketch.


A little about the work we've done this week.

My husband Brian is so supportive of me. He believes in my talent so much that he's been leading the studio-rejuvenation. He's been at work all day, I've been taking care of Everett and the house/meals all day, and I'd be so ok with sitting in front of the TV and relaxing after the babe goes down, but Brian is adamant that we work in the studio, and I'm so grateful. I'd have no motivation to do it if he wasn't on board.

He seems to think one day I'll be his meal ticket, and that's fine by me. {:

The studio had naturally become our junk room (remember we moved in a little over a month ago, so this isn't a chronic problem I'm ashamed of or anything). First we needed to move some stuff out, put it in the garage, trash, Goodwill, etc.. Then we moved everything to the center to have room to paint.

everything moved to the middle of the room

You can see from the picture that the room will also be our library, since neither of us feel the need to display our books in the living room, and besides, there's nowhere else to put that massive, yet terribly useful, bookshelf.

There's a desk in there that I'm not attached to (especially considering we have TWO other desks in our living room!). Some of my artsy-craftsy furniture needs to be refurbished. Basically, there's a lot of designing to do in there. Very exciting!

Friday night we filled the holes and cracks with compound. We need to sand and wash the walls, and then it's on to primer!

The progress is kind of slow because there are many other projects around the house (projects that affect everyday living) that also need to get done. But it will come together soon!

See you back here on Thursday for Art History Day!

Blogging Schedule

Ok, so I've read and observed that it's a good idea, when blogging regularly, to have a blogging schedule. This schedule may need to be tweaked a bit as I get the hang of working and blogging (naturally), but I'm going to start out this way and see how it goes.

Monday: This is the big one. Review of what I've worked on the previous week. Boom! It may seem illogical to have the weekly review at the beginning of the week, but I plan to post my blogs in the morning, meaning I will write this blog on Sunday (or before, depending on when I have time), and this gives me the whole weekend to wrap up my work for the week.

Thursday: Art History Day! As I wrote in my first blog, I double majored in Studio Art and Art History. I was so drawn to the discipline that I had pretty much committed to going to Art History graduate school before I got pregnant. I feel like a weekly post about my thoughts on the history of art will be an interesting addition to the blog, and will be fun for me!

Saturday: Saturday Sketch! I had this idea a while back, and I want to try it! And I wanted to call it Saturday Sketch, so it's happening on SATURDAY, and I sort of scheduled the other days around it. {:

I will go into more detail about how each day will be organized in the first blog of that day. I'll be setting guidelines and themes to keep me interested and "on-task."

Haha. Should be fun.

Here we go!!!!!