Saturday, May 29, 2010

A new start

Today, I started a new painting of Sebbie. He's going on a journey to find his wings. I already have a painting of him with wings:

And as, for me, there is a story connecting all the Sebbie paintings, I needed to do a few explaining the acquisition of the wings. (I would like to say, though, of the above painting, that it is not meant to be sinister in any way; he's not attacking the city, but flying over it. I don't mind if people rewrite the story for themselves, of course, I just wanted to state my version.) My new painting includes the new toy blocks I bought last week, which I'm very excited about, and also some June bugs. The end.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I leave for Alaska in exactly two weeks. This trip has been in the works since last September, and has fed my daydreams through the winter (yes, I realize how strange it is to daydream about Alaska to escape from ones winter). I have my ticket, I've reserved my hostel, we've rented an RV, hilarity must ensue! I'm so excited!

Now comes the tricky bit as I try to encapsulate my studio into an airline approved backpack. It's been nearly two years since I traveled with paints and the rest; I've gotten spoiled by the luxury of studio with four walls and places to put all of my things. My landscape kit includes a lightweight aluminum tripod easel, a homemade box of sorts (made of a masonite-like boards and fabric from a pair of old jeans) that holds my canvas and my palette, a brush holder made out of a bamboo placemat, and a Tupperware container full of paints. Not quite as classy as a French easel, but much lighter and more compact. My friend Kelly, who's coming to Alaska as well, and who has done considerably more landscape painting than I have, told me yesterday that in addition to all that I now need MSDS forms for each individual paint to prevent airport security from confiscating the tubes from my checked luggage. MSDS, or Material Safety Data Sheets, explain, in this case, that the paint isn't explosive, particularly dangerous or likely to take down an airplane. They also tell you about any health warnings that may belong to the materials in a particular pigment. Unfortunately, the sheets are often several pages long, luckily, the DickBlick website has them for every applicable product they sell, so you can print them from there. So, it seems my luggage is going to contain a change of underwear, a toothbrush, my painting materials, and ten pounds of explanatory paperwork. We will be outside most of the time, perhaps I can get away with wearing the same clothes for two weeks. Then again, perhaps not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In which Sebbie takes out the small horse

Some days, the decision of whether or not a painting is done is made for me, say, when a still life falls over. Below is a picture of the scene that greeted me today when I got to the studio.

I was tempted to paint it as is and entitle it, "Sebbie takes out the Small Horse". I'm not entirely sure why I didn't.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

She needs a name

I started naming my paintings after the toys in them because it was more interesting. I had started painting the toys because I had gotten bored of traditional still lives, and somehow "still life with marionette" wasn't a far enough leap from "still life with onions". I wanted to make paintings with more narrative; it only seemed natural that the titles should follow suit. Which brings me to the painting below. It's entitled "The Magnifying Glass":

The little gnome-like toy doesn't have a name yet. I already have a Sebbie and a Fuzzie, a horse and a little horse, and host of June bugs. (I have a knitted kiwi bird named Phineas as well, although no painting of him as of yet.) I'm leaning towards Edith for this little green fellow, nods to Nesbit.

Phineas, my kiwi

Friday, May 21, 2010

A day in the studio

This is my studio:

Notice the lovely bookshelf on the right. If you look really carefully you can just make out a red mug sitting on top. Shortly after I took this picture I knocked over the red mug which was newly filled with tea, and the rest of the afternoon was spent mopping up tea with paper towels, spreading everything on the shelf in the picture all over the floor and balancing books to stand on end so their pages would dry. It was a very disappointing day as far as painting goes. It would have been even more disappointing if I weren't at a bit of a standstill with my paintings. Here is the painting I've been working on the most recently (it's not quite finished):

It's come along much faster than my paintings usually do, and so I wanted to set it aside for a few days so I could come back to it with a fresh eye. I'm also working on a portrait of a juggler and a study of orchids. The portrait is a new challenge for me, not because I haven't done portrait work before, but because I'm working part of the time with the model present and part of the time from reference photographs. I am trying to work out a method of combining working with the model and from photographs that works for me, without losing the dynamic quality of a painting done from just from life. It's very easy to create a painting that feels very flat and static while working from a photograph; I'm doing my best to avoid falling into those traps. I would prefer to always work from the model, but as that isn't always possible, it seemed best to learn how to work other ways as well. I spent most of the day working on the portrait. Luckily, when I find the going really frustrating, there's always tea to spill.

Here seems like a good place to start.

Yesterday I bought a new set of toy blocks for a still life painting I've been plotting for ages. They're fancy wooden blocks with gothic arches and roof pieces reminiscent of St. Basil's Cathedral. I am very excited about these blocks. One of the great perks of painting toys, is that I get to spend many days setting up still lives, i.e. playing with the toys. As I tried very hard to convey in an artist's bio I agonized over today, I love to paint toys. My bio ran something like this:

I paint Sebbie and his friends because I love doing it. Each painting is an entrance into a world of childhood imagination where anthropomorphism is rampant and everyday is an adventure. While each painting is a story in itself, as the series expands I envision a narrative holding them all together. My inspirations are my collections of children's story books and international toys acquired for their personalities; Sebbie himself is a survivor from my own childhood, originally a gift from relatives in Ukraine. I like my paintings to tell a story, even in my landscapes I try to find the characters, be it in the clouds, the trees, or the sheep. I want my audience to have as much fun looking at my paintings as I have painting them.

At least that was until I reread my instructions and realized I was limited to 75 words. The final version was less exciting. I believe to the right there is a picture of my first painting of my marionette, Sebbie. And at the top of the page is a landscape with sheep. The mountain in the background is Craogh Patrick, as seen from Clare Island off the coast of Ireland where I was fortunate enough to live briefly. I'm thrilled to say that I'm going to Alaska for two weeks in June to practice my plein air painting. I'll be sure to document that trip here.

All of that in way of introduction. I've started this blog to supplement the 75 word artist's bios of the world. It seems people want to know more about the artist. I'm hoping by writing about my paintings and inspirations and art related travels around the world, I'll fill in some of the gaps.