Monday, January 26, 2015

Transparency in Life Through Art - Recent Works

This is probably true of all artists, but I've come to discover that each of my paintings is a direct revelation of my thoughts or where I am at this stage of my life and art. My most recent work seems to show this more clearly than ever.

Last week I painted every day, and let me tell you... with an almost 9 month old crawling around everywhere all day, that is no easy feat! There were some late nights, when I should have gone to bed sooner but just couldn't tear myself away from the easel. And on the weekend, my husband was there to entertain Cece while I got some plein air painting in (and some much-needed connection with other artists!).

Here are some of the results of last week's efforts. All of the pieces you see were done entirely from life.


"Etude" - 20x16" - oil on lead-primed linen

For my high school senior piano recital, I performed Liszt's Etude,"Un Suspiro", a very difficult piece. I was no virtuoso or prodigy, but I played with feeling, enough so that I chose pieces of great drama and passion even if I didn't know how to show these attributes in other areas of my life. In fact, during a short stint of teaching piano lessons during college, the one thing that my students really took away from my instruction was a much better "touch" on the piano. I never lost my passion for music, but my passion for art was greater.
This painting was not created in a day; it actually took about a week of working off and on. By the time it was finished, the roses were long gone. I incorporated "Un Sospiro" in the composition. Since I can barely play it now,12 years past my musical prime, painting it will have to suffice. :-)


"Mommy's Necklace" - 8x6" - oil on linen panel
This was a 35-45 minute sketch done using two mirrors. I'm glad I captured Cecelia's gesture on the first pass, because I couldn't get her back into that pose if I tried! 


"Self Portrait in Two Mirrors" - 12x9" - oil on linen panel
I use self portraits to as a gauge to measure my skill level, to experiment with pose and lighting, and to practice when a live model is otherwise unavailable. This piece was a response to seeing William Merritt Chase's 1890 "Portrait of a Lady." I loved the pose and wanted to create something similar. I stayed up way too late working on this (it's about 6 hours of work total), but it was worth the grogginess the next day. :-)


An 8x10 plein air sketch from the first Outdoor Painters Society event of the year on January 24. With no leaves on the trees or spring blooms on the ground, the choices for subject matter were a bit dismal. But I found the shadows to be a wonderful opportunity for interesting design, so they became the subject of my painting.


This is a close-up of a painting still on my easel. I have been trying to get better at painting flowers, as I find them frustrating and elusive. This piece is looking to be more successful than some of my previous attempts, probably because the pale color of the roses is closer to a skin tone than any of the other flowers I've tried to paint!

Motherhood is wonderful, but I've come to the realization that it has changed me. I am not the same, and never will be. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just IS. A fellow artist, one with more years and life experience, whom I greatly respect and look up to, noted the change when she commented on a recent late-night self portrait of mine. Motherhood has softened me. I'm more transparent now, more open, less guarded. It's probably true.


"Self Portrait on a Saturday" - 10x8" - oil on linen panel
One artist friend commented, "You are staring me right in the eye and showing me that you see yourself radically differently since taking on motherhood." Another said, "I agree. You look much more relaxed and accepting in this painting." 

8 months postpartum, my body still feels broken, while my heart has never been more full. The love wells up and overflows, until I am completely poured out and eventually, nothing of who I was before will remain. It is all given for my daughter, that she might have a rich and joyous life.

Still, I paint, because I must. It was always my calling to create, whether it be the formation of a two-dimensional image or another human being. This is my burden and my gift. As I paint, I am exhausted. Sometimes when I drift into the creative abyss, I still forget who I am, where I am, that I have a daughter. There is nothing but the work. Then when I emerge from the zone, I either feel exhilarated and refreshed or guilty for loving it so much. In my tiredness, I wipe off more canvases than I keep, sometimes wondering if I've forgotten everything I know. And then I remember that I haven't forgotten, just changed. My priorities are different. My thoughts, motives, everything. The failures happen because I haven't let this "new me" take the brush, and the victories occur when I embrace the sacrifices of motherhood as part of a new identity. Motherhood has possessed me and changes me still.  God gave women this, for it is both a spiritual awakening and a dying to self. He gave us this knowing we were strong enough to bear it, so that we might be molded to His perfect image, and be gifted some insight into the outpouring of love and blood by His own Son. It's not an easy call, but it is truly rewarding. And so... we carry on! :-)

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Learning to Fly in 2015

I can't believe it's been two months since my last post... but, considering how fast the holidays flew by, I guess it makes sense. In November and December I buckled down to meet some commission deadlines. Then our little family (the dog, too) made the 1000-mile road trip home to Wisconsin for 10 days over Christmas. Cece and I both got sick with a nasty cold--you know, the kind that makes you feel like there's a cheese grater in the back of your throat, and the coughing fits at night prevent you from getting any rest at all. I had to whisper all day on Christmas Eve, as my voice gave out. Then when we arrived home, instead of being a go-getter on New Year's Day and whipping out a "first painting of 2015" like many accomplished artists I know... I sat around in my pajamas with my family, opened Christmas cards, and ate breakfast food for dinner. :-)

I am still recovering, and being forced to rest. But on a very positive note...
...At under 8 months old, Cecelia has started crawling! I'm glad I got in one last painting of her before she became completely mobile! During occasional breaks from commissioned work last month, I created this piece of my daughter.


"Fledglings" - 20x24 - oil on linen - Available


 "Fledglings" (detail)

I wanted to capture Cece's developmental milestones in this painting, while celebrating the beauty and innocence of infancy (and that buttery soft baby skin!). On a broader theme, we all have to start from the beginning. It's only a matter of time (and persistence!) before we learn how to fly.

The painting is simple, but I added certain details with intention. The fledgling sparrow and Cecelia both have some crazy, wispy baby hair. The paper airplanes (courtesy of my husband!) uplift the painting's narrative, while adding more diagonals to the design. They also provide some subtle tones to balance the background against the bright local colors of the play mat. I took a risk in painting my daughter on such a boldly colored mat, but I decided that it adds a fresh and contemporary twist to what might have been misconstrued as just another "cherub" painting. It also offers a plethora of bright reflected color on Cece's skin, which was such a joy to paint!

While I have no idea what adventures 2015 will bring, I do know that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Instead of making a ridiculously long list of goals like I usually do, I intend to spend each day of this year living with purpose and a positive attitude. As Cece moves from crawling to walking, it will get much harder to paint on a regular basis, but I will spend the time I have at the easel with the utmost focus. I will enjoy these early months with my daughter. I will continue improving my mind, body, and spirit. And I will not waste my time wondering what life would be like "if only..."

Happy New Year, everyone. 2015 is a blank canvas waiting to become a masterpiece!  

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