Monday, April 30, 2012

Hunting Art Prize Gala 2012

This past Saturday, April 28, Steve and I had the privilege of attending a black tie event in Houston: the 2012 Hunting Art Prize Gala. The Hunting Art Prize, a $50,000 award given to one lucky Texas artist each year, is the most generous art prize in the United States. This year there were 1600 entries, and my painting, "Music of the Spheres" was one of 105 finalists juried into the show. The event is one night only, and consists of elaborate flower displays and ice sculptures, fancy food and expensive wine, and a select group of special guests. The best part for the finalists is that they not only have the opportunity to win 50K, but they can also sell their piece at the event. All artwork sales go directly to the artist, but are also matched by Hunting to be donated to charity. It is really an amazing event! My painting, "Twin Arts," was a finalist last year, but I was unable to attend the gala. This year I didn't want to miss it! So Steve and I found a dog sitter, drove the 4 1/2 hours to Houston, and checked into a nice hotel. We dressed to the nines and headed to the event, which was held at the Friedkin Companies Campus in Houston.

My painting had a great spot. People would come all the way across the room to look at it, because it drew them in. Ah, the power of figurative art! :-)

Here I am with my painting. We had to ship it to Houston, due to its size - I was relieved to see that it made it there in one piece! 

My painting was actually hanging next to the winner (on the right in the photo above). This year's winner was a Houston artist named Michael Bise. His winning piece was a large graphite drawing of a grade school class. There were curious-looking circles scattered throughout the drawing, which made for an interesting topic of discussion among those of us who hadn't a clue what they meant!

Sushi chefs.

Ice sculptures and desserts!

Human statues, and elaborate floral displays.

Here I am taking a closer look at the winning piece and discussing it with one of the other guests.

Steve and I both agreed that, compared to the art festivals I've been a part of in the past, this event was completely different. The guests here loved and appreciated art, and wanted to take the time to look at it and talk to the artists. By comparison, visitors to art festivals tend to breeze by or avoid eye contact with the artists, because they're afraid of getting solicited, or they are simply ignorant about art. This was not the case at the Hunting gala! Steve and I really had a great time mingling with guests, eating food, drinking wine, and enjoying the overall atmosphere, which celebrated art and culture.

And at the end of the night, I was proud to say that I SOLD my piece! There is no greater compliment to an artist or affirmation of their work than when someone is willing to purchase it! I am thrilled that "Music of the Spheres" has found a new home.

The next day, Steve and I explored Houston a little before heading back to Dallas. We visited Hermann Park (complete with an outdoor theatre, an obelisk, Japanese gardens, and a large sculpture of Sam Houston), and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The museum has a fantastic collection, including a beautiful portrait by Sargent.

"Mrs. Joshua Montgomery Sears," by John Singer Sargent (1899)

Overall, we had a great experience, and I look forward to entering this competition again next year!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another Week in the Cast

Okay, I admit it. I'm sitting here tapping my feet, twisting locks of hair, and going a little bit crazy. I look down at  this hard piece of plaster and bandages engulfing my whole left hand except for the thumb (which might be useful except for the fact that it's disconnected from the rest just enough to be in a constant state of paraesthesia). I keep thinking the day I have my painting hand back to full recovery can't come soon enough.

You know what I miss? Washing dishes. Opening a jam jar. Typing with both hands. Buttoning my pants (yes, I've pulled out my entire wardrobe of elastic-waisted bottoms for this week. Real fashionable!). Putting my hair in a ponytail. Applying the perfect sweep of eye liner. I even miss working out (something I never would have admitted to before!). Most of all, I miss the silent daily dialog between me and my work. The paint has dried up on my palette, my blank canvases grow dusty, and my brushes sit unused, like soldiers without an assignment.  

Meanwhile, my projects pile up, as I've put them off for a whole month now. I thought April was going to be a crazy month, but it's almost as though God decided to re-arrange my schedule for me, enforcing an extended time of awkward stillness that even I -- an artist accustomed to long hours of solitude -- am uncomfortable with. The longer I am unable to do things, the more I am rightly forced to dwell on spiritual matters... i.e., not the state of my art (because let's face it... it's on hold right now!), but rather, the state of my soul. If I am struggling with a mere broken finger, I have to ask--how do the sick and dying, paraplegics, cancer-stricken, and weary sufferers of this world make it through each day, without the hope for heaven that I have? This "round two" of wearing a cast and suffering pain and being forced to abstain from my work... has it been yet another test to see where I've placed my true allegiance? Once upon a time, I thought this would be impossible to endure; I lived in fear of hurting my hands or being put in a position where I might not be able to do the things I love. Now that it's happened, I'll be the first to confess that it hasn't been easy, yet God's grace has been abundant, and He is helping me make it through. The moments where I lose sight of Him and start dwelling on me - are when I break down and begin to despair (will it never end?),  but as soon as I go back to God's Word and become reminded of His promises, I have hope once more. There is always hope for those who trust in the Savior.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. - Colossians 3:1-2 

Perhaps there's even hope for me as an ambidextrous painter! Ha! In my boredom, I have started yet another right-handed self portrait. This time I experimented with setting up two mirrors so that instead of the typical frontal view, it was a profile. I got very frustrated with myself and my limitations while working on this piece, but the surprising part is that it actually looks like me. Whether or not it's a good painting, I don't know. But at least I got to get my brushes dirty again and spend some much-needed time in the studio.

Double-Mirror Self Portrait with Right Hand, 12x9 - oil on Raymar panel 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Broken Finger: Round Two

So, I wasn't expecting a curveball here with this whole broken finger fiasco, but it happened, and I'm trying my best to maintain a positive attitude.
We spent this past weekend in Austin, enjoying a "mini vacation" with family, and because of all the distractions, I often forgot about my finger in its splint. It was a lot of fun, but by the last day of our trip I felt, as I always do after I've had a lot of socializing, that I really needed some time alone -- preferably with my paints and brushes -- to "recharge." I was determined to go out and do some plein air painting, broken finger or not. We were staying in a condo on Lake Travis, but it was a little bit of a hike in either direction to get down to the lake. I carried my painting supplies all the way there, and realized when I arrived that my finger was hurting more than usual, as though the pins had shifted and were digging around inside the bone. Ouch!

Still, my determination won out. I enjoyed the beautiful late-spring flowers that were blooming among the rocks, and decided to do a painting with that juxtaposition as the focal point. I realized fairly quickly though that the longer I painted, the more my hand protested. My painting is perhaps worth finishing, but when I look at it, I have trouble seeing anything but the struggle, the clumsiness, and the pain it took in the process!

Indeed, all of last week, even with the cast gone and a spint to replace it, I struggled clumsily in my few attempts at painting. But I thought the end was in sight until...

Coming home from Austin, I scheduled my follow-up appointment with the orthopedist a little early, because I was concerned about the recent pain I'd been having. They discovered from the x-rays that it was, indeed, not where it was supposed to be. While the bits of broken bone were still in place, the whole joint itself had shifted, making it off-center on the bone below. The told me I would need another surgery, this time to put another pin down the tip to ensure it wouldn't move anymore. But that also meant going back into the dreaded cast, for at least another week... and I'd have to start the whole process over!  They said it may or may not have been my fault; the truth is, the injury was worse than the x-rays could reveal, and the ligaments must have been pretty damaged, since they hadn't healed enough to prevent the joint's gradual dislocation.

It is hard to overcome feeling discouraged, but I keep telling myself that if I could make it through this once, then I can do it again.

The surgery took place yesterday, and I am back in the cast, this time without any of my fingers free (just the thumb). The pain is worse this time, as are the side-effects to the pain meds. I am typing this with one hand, and thinking about what to do next. Perhaps another right-handed painting? ... :-) We'll see.

2nd Annual Scottsdale Salon of Fine Art

I am so honored to have been juried into this show, which opens THIS Friday! I would have loved to be there personally to meet the other artists and patrons. I hope the show is a huge success for all! If you are in the Scottsdale area this weekend, it is not to be missed!

Show and Sale: Friday, April 20th, 6-8pm

This competition will feature the finest in representational figurative, portrait, still life, floral, landscape, interior, wildlife, and western art. The competition is open to all artists. The Salon will be hosted by The Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ and will utilize the 10,000 sq. ft. upper level of the gallery.

Click the painting to view the 2012 show:

"The Prima Ballerina" by Anna Rose Bain - 36x36" - oil on linen - $10,500


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Where there is a will, there is a way...

After hearing about my recent hand injury, several artist friends challenged me to paint with my right hand, as opposed to waiting until the cast comes off my crippled left. Given that I am accustomed to painting nearly every single day and have been biting at the bit (it has been over a week since my last painting session!), I decided to give it a shot. I wasn't terribly optimistic. Since the surgery, every time I tried drawing, writing, or doing anything that required some dexterity, I ended up making a clumsy mess. I almost lit myself on fire trying to light the gas burners on our stove, because my right hand got confused about which burner was which. Using my right hand has required an extra measure of thought and concentration. But... perhaps this could work to my advantage in a painting. After all, isn't it mostly about what we know, rather than which hand we use to get the information down on canvas? The heart and mind are by far my most valuable tools in art, as far as I'm concerned. While the connection from eyes and brain down to hand may be clumsy, I think it is possible, as well as a great exercise in control.

So here goes...

This happened yesterday. I sat down in my studio, lit by afternoon light in the south window... and tried my hand (literally!) at a self portrait. There is no glamour this one; no makeup, hair pulled back, and dark circles under tired eyes. By the time I got around to painting the ear, I was completely exhausted (thanks, pain meds...), so I think I'll have to go back in later and define some of that structure. I might also try designing the hair a little better. But, I love the colors, the background, and the softly painted eye. I accomplished this with my non-painting hand and actually liked the result! I guess this is what happens when you are essentially painting to make every stroke count.

 Self portrait with right hand (unfinished) - 16x11 - oil on canvas pad

I should probably mention that since this was all an experiment, I was also working with some brand new oil colors, courtesy of Rembrandt. Most of them I'd never used before. They were: Chromium Oxide Green, Naples Yellow Light, Stil de Grain Brown, Sevres Blue, Caput Mortuum Violet, and Stil de Grain Yellow. I had a blast experimenting with these new colors, some of which were very opaque, and others more transparent (the transparent yellow was a delight!). I especially enjoyed the effects of the chromium oxide green in creating the illusion of blonde hair, and the caput mortuum violet for use in the transparent warm shadows. The only other colors I used to supplement my palette were titanium white, cadmium red, ivory black, and Rembrandt transparent oxide red.

My new Rembrandt oil paints

Today I decided to show up at my painting group and join them for some more right-handed painting adventures! Our model was wearing a wonderfully sassy outfit, with a black netted hairpiece, sunglasses, and pearls. I wasn't able to quite capture the look of the pearls with my clumsy right hand (maybe I just ran out of patience), but I was still happy with the likeness and enjoyed the quick 2-hour session. I was just so happy to be painting again!

 Life sketch of Emma with Sunglasses; 16x12, oil on canvas pad

While neither of these paintings come close to my best work (!), I really learned a lot from the experience, especially about edge control. I was happy with the edges on the eye in my self-portrait, and the mouth on Emma. Other elements left much to be desired. Still, it's comforting to know that one's artistic skills are not attached wholly to the hands that wield them. Determination wins this round! :-)
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