Saturday, March 28, 2009

Many Feathers Flocking Together and Other Tidbits

I'm working on a new series of painted eggs. All of them, as they are shown here, are still very much in progress. This group was commissioned by a woman who saw some of my work hanging up at the Arsenal Center and asked me to create a series to represent her family. I asked each individual (via email, I've never actually met them before) to choose his/her own alter-ego bird species. This has resulted in an unpredictable, and fabulously motley crew. The sixth family member has yet to choose his bird-self, but so far this gang consists of a macaw, a penguin, a robin, a parrot and a road runner. This commission is a great opportunity to branch out from my typically neat little pairs and groups of logically related and strictly North American bird species. What's more is that I can't get over the accidental genius of this wacky combination. What could be more authentically familial than a strange and wacky group of individuals all sharing the same space? And how's this for a nifty coincidence? Sunday night, just before I fell asleep, I read the following passage on the "wildlife" page of the April 2009 National Geographic:
"Some birds that look very different–say, bright hummingbirds and drab
nightjars–are long-lost kin. Some never considered together, like songbirds
and parrots, are really close relatives...."

I love doing commissions, for reasons both noble and self-indulgent. So if you would like your very own bird egg portrait series inspired by British Miniature portraits, shoot me an email.

In other's official. I'm a grownup. I have business cards:
I made them at VistaPrint. At first I thought it might be a little premature to include "Illustrator" on there. I mean, I'm still in the process of getting my portfolios out to publishers. I haven't actually illustrated anything yet....Oh wait! That's not true! In 1999, when I was a lass of just 20 years old, I created these....."little gems" for a golfing book written by a family friend:Yes. I did just dig up an embarrassing little nugget from my own past and posted it on my blog. So we can laugh together. I'll be sure to include my eighth grade yearbook photo in my next post.

This morning, before I get to work, I'm going to rearrange my studio. I'm feeling unbearably cluttered in there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'd hire me....but that might be a conflict of interest.

In case you're just tuning in, I've been making little accordion book portfolios to submit to publishers.  I've been itching for the opportunity to do some illustration work, and I thought these little handmade portfolios would be a good way to get the attention of busy, image-inundated art directors.  Plus, they've been ridiculously fun to make.  They're not perfect--the covers are a bit uneven, and I made some little mistakes here and there.  But I think that just makes them more interesting and endearing.  Like a crooked smile. And if I'm merely rationalizing my own errors to make myself feel better, that's OK too.  Because it's working.
I love the versatility of accordion books.  You can stand them up like little sculptures: 

Or unfurl them:Or just hold them in your hand and turn the pages, like a regular little booklet:
I stitched that blue thread down the side of the right-hand page to conceal an accidental extra fold in the paper.  Now it's my favorite part, and I wish I had time to add a row of stitching to every book.  Just as I write in my artist's statement,"In every painting [or book-making project, in this case] I reach a point where disaster seems imminent.  The process of rescuing the image, of turning the disaster around, yields the most exciting and surprising parts of my work."

Even if I don't hear back from any publishers, I like to think that I'm sending some good cheer out into the universe.  "Hello, stranger.  Have this little present.  I made it just for you.....Want to hire me?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For the past year or so I've been thinking about getting into some illustration work, and for the past few months this idea has been tugging on my sleeve somewhat incessantly.  So I set aside two weeks to put a portfolio together and get it out to publishers.   I wanted to make and send something that would excite me, if I got it in the mail, so I decided to present my work in little accordion books.  I'm still working on them, but so far so good.  

Last night was my last meeting with my Monday adult drawing class.  This particular group was a teacher's dream; they worked so hard and came so far in such a short time.  They inspired me every week.  Here's a peek at what they worked on last night:

This self-portrait made by one of the kids in my Monday afternoon class is also inspiring me:

I spent the weekend in Baltimore, visiting my lovely and hilarious sisters-in-law:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunshine Breakfast and Andy Goldsworthy

Is there any better way to start the day?
I can't think of one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taxes, Weekly Food Adventures and Straightened Priorites

I somehow managed to have a wonderful weekend (both restful and productive), even though we spent most of it.....doing our taxes...?  Am I a closet bookkeeper?  I doubt it, although last year my tax prep dude at H&R Block did praise me on my record keeping.  As a self-employed teaching artist/contract worker, my taxes are really complicated.  So I need some form of tax prep help every year to untangle my web of 1099s, W-2s, painting sales, expense write-offs, and estimated quarterly payments.  This is my first year using Turbo Tax, and I highly recommend it.  I hate to say it, but it's far more user friendly than any of the H&R Block preparers who've helped me in the past.  And cheaper to boot (since we don't own property).  
We also had a little dinner party with two friends on Saturday.  I didn't want to experiment on them too much, and the whole thing was kind of spur-of-the-moment, so I made my standby "Chicken Divine" Casserole from this cookbook.   And a beet salad with goat cheese.  After dinner we all made chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Nothing terribly sexy, in terms of presentation, but it sure was tasty.  And I was, after all, feeding two bachelors (who could maybe use a little simple home cooking) and my own husband (who thinks that a corn tortilla with cheese and a handful of chocolate chips is an adequate meal).  

While I'm on the subject of food, I also whipped up this garlic nightmare on Friday night:  
I concocted this atrocity by taking some poorly calculated liberties with a recipe for Spinach Sauce.  It appears that doubling the garlic is only a good idea when you're going to cook it.  Charley did claim that it was "better than the Death Chops," referring to an undercooked pork chop incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago.  But we also decided that for learning purposes, it's a good idea to take things too far.  That way, at least you've thoroughly explored your limits.  Even if you happen to pulverize some of those limits in the process.

Two of my studio neighbors and I have formed a little artist support group.  Our focus is on career advancement, rather than the actual work itself.  Even though we've only had two meetings so far, I have been finding our talks invaluable.  During our last meeting we decided that we each needed to get our priorities in order.  We are all trying to work on too many projects at once.  Personally, I've been chipping slowly and unsteadily away at several different ideas simultaneously: opening an Etsy shop, sending portfolios out to galleries, dreaming of getting into some illustration work.  So I've decided to devote the next few weeks to building my illustration portfolio and sending it out to some art directors in publishing.  Having only one focus (not counting all of my teaching, of course) is ridiculously liberating.  Seriously, I'm going to get up from my desk and do a little jig right now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winter v. Spring

It's that time of year in New England when Winter and Spring are battling it out.  Elbowing each other in the ribs, pulling hair, looking at each other funny.  Mother nature may threaten to "pull this car over right now," but Winter and Spring know it's just an empty threat.  So they'll continue their bickering, pinching and biting straight through April.  

If I hear the term "wintery mix" from the lips of one more forecaster, I might have a nervous breakdown.  I am convinced that the term itself is merely part of a conspiracy to get snow and ice-weary people out of their beds in the morning.  "Wintery mix."   So cheerful and snappy, almost poetic.  It should really be called "wet, frozen muck."  We're in for another wet, frozen muck tonight, tomorrow and into Friday.  60 degrees and sunny on Saturday with more wet, frozen muck on Sunday all the way through Wednesday.  It would be so much more honest.

Between each round of wet, frozen muck I soak up as many glimmers of spring as I can.  Deb and I went for a little walk yesterday outside of the studio.  
The sun and the opportunity to witness Cocoa's antics (when she is released into the wilds of Watertown) should carry me through another round of wet, frozen muck.  

I finished this piece yesterday.  On Friday, when I left the studio, I wasn't sure about it.  But I liked it again when I came in with fresh eyes, and I finished it right up.  Lately I find that I've been repeatedly encouraging my students to move past the little dissatisfactions they are having in their work.  I think it's OK to struggle for a while, but not forever.  Getting bogged down in one area prevents us from moving forward to the next bit of fun.  And usually, that next bit of fun can help us unravel whatever it was that was bogging us down in the first place. I've started listening to my own advice and it's been working for me.  
Today I'm going to move onto the next bit of fun and start a new piece.
This ribbon structure is inspired by Vireo nests like this one.

In other news, I recently discovered Grosgrain Fabulous.  Kathleen, the blog's creator, runs a number of delicious weekly handmade giveaways like this one: Baggu Grosgrain Guest GIVEAWAY!!!!
And the photos she takes of herself and her family are hysterical and beautiful.  They inspire me to play around more with my camera.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happy Yellow Thursday

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is Self-Satisfaction A Bad Thing?

I can't believe it's only Tuesday!  I feel like I've been unbelievably productive lately, and it's definitely because I've been more disciplined about getting to the studio earlier.  It is so hard to leave the house in the morning.  The dust bunnies taunt me from their corners, the laundry beckons.  It seems so logical: more hours worked=more accomplished.  Nonetheless, I'm feeling a wee bit self-satisfied with myself and my productivity.  Is that so wrong? 

Here are some new details: A bird dreaming of his beloved.  I hadn't noticed before, but I think this is actually a same-sex bird romance.  Maybe their marriage was affected by prop. 8.  I'm holding out hope for a Supreme Court Repeal!  
And I worked on my protagonist some more.  And added some misty watercolor trees in a kind of field design across the whole picture plane.  I've worked on the ribbons, the birds, the branches and the long, long braid as well.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've worked on everything.  

Cat Bennett, by studio neighbor, has been making these gorgeous little painting/drawing/collages over the past couple of days.  They're simple and perfect.  Like ciabatta and butter (It's my favorite food, I gave it up for lent and it's killing me).  The tininess of Cat's paintings, coupled with the way in which they are a departure for her, inspired me to make this tiny drawing/painting of my own:
This image has sort of been lingering in my imagination for a while.  I hadn't thought to put it down on paper, because it seemed complete when it was in my head.  But this way I can share it, and you'll know what kinds of things I think about, and how truly weird I am.

The opening of the Arsenal Center for the Arts Faculty Show is tomorrow evening.  I have to teach in Arlington, so I will miss most of it.  Here's a little peek at some of the work I have up in the show.  I'll take some more pictures tomorrow so you can see what my colleagues and friends have been up to as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Little Revelation

I work much faster when I work at my table, than when I paint sitting crunched up in a ball on my studio floor.