Sunday, July 30, 2006

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

The giant sequoias are... inde- scribable. But I'll try. They are majestic, strong, graceful, eternal, humbling, powerful, magical, and unbelievable. And that doesn't even begin to cover it. I've never been so moved by something simply by its very existence. These pictures don't do them justice, believe me.

This first photo is Steve and me in front of the General Sherman Tree. It is the largest tree in the world. (There are a few taller, but by sheer volume, it's the biggest.) It's thought to be approx. 2,200 years old and weighs 2.7 million pounds. Every year, it adds enough new wood to make a new, 60-foot tall tree measuring one foot in diameter. Steve and I are quite a distance from the trunk, so it doesn't look that big, but believe me, it's HUGE!

This is a view of General Sherman near its base, looking up. It's interesting because the very top is really scraggly and craggy sort of looking. The topmost branches almost look like "sky" roots, reaching up at various heights.

The most incredible and perhaps unexpected aspect of seeing these trees in person, however, was the spiritual impact they had on me. It's hard to put something so personal and so "gut-level" into words. All I can say is that their very existence (and subsistence in the face of fire, disease, etc.) imparts a sense of greatness. Like there MUST be something else at work here in this universe of ours. Being near them put my life in perspective. All of my little worries and concerns just seem so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. It was like a return to some long-forgotten truth of mankind.

I'm failing here in my descriptions. I can see that. So I'll stop rambling. Maybe that's why I make art: to express what I cannot in words.

This is a photo of me in a grove of some of the smaller, more "average" giant sequoias. You can get a little more perspective on their size from this photo. But again, these pictures don't even begin to do them justice, I swear!

And lastly, here's me with one of the really small trees. Yup, I just had to hug it! Their bark is surprisingly soft. The texture is such that there are little fibers everywhere - not the kind that would produce splinters at all, but more of a long-haired cat type of feel. Sort of. It's hard to describe.

So what does this all have to do with art, you may ask? Plenty. I am so inspired by these giants that I plan to create a new series of work based on what I saw and what I felt while in Sequoia National Forest. I have worked with the tree motif in the past as a symbol for the circle of life. For me, trees also symbolize growth and the passage of time. I'm excited to explore these concepts further in a new body of work. I also have an idea for an assemblage that I want to do which will be just for me. I have to find just the right box to house it though. I feel an antique trip coming on!

Before I can begin all of these grand plans, however, I need to wrap up all of the stuff that's in progress. Returning from a long trip is always stressful for me because no matter how much running around I do before I leave, there's always twice as much work waiting for me when I return. (Alas, the art fairies don't slave on my behalf while I'm away!) But this time the shock is eased tremendously by my memories of the best birthday and birthday trip I've ever had in my life. Truly. And General Sherman tells me everything will work itself out in time. It always does...

Friday, July 21, 2006

I'm Off...

The laundry is finished. The house is clean (enough). 408 errands have been done. We've finished the yardwork. The pool has been cleaned and chemicals added. The plants are watered. My paints and canvases are neatly sorted and stacked. The kennel arrangements have been made. Our house sitter is confirmed. And I'm almost done packing. Such is the ritual before we leave to go out of town. (But throw in a major dose of stress and frazzled nerves while everything is going down.)

This is to say that Steve and I are going on vacation. Yea! Recharging one's batteries is sooo important, don't you think? And this vacation will especially recharge my art batteries, for sure! Here's why:

We're going to the Sequoia National Forest to see the General Sherman Tree as well as all the other trees there. We'll be there for my birthday. I can think of no better birthday than to be surrounded by nature with the man I love. Then we're going to stay at the Justin Winery in Paso Robles. This is a lovely little vineyard. They only have 4 rooms, and each is amazing. After that, we're off to Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Beach. Every room has it's own private outdoor mineral springs hot tub. Pretty awesome, huh?

So you can be certain that this vacation will be all about relaxation. I hope to do a lot of hiking and some running. (There's a great little path through the woods that runs from Sycamore Springs down to the beach.) I'm bringing a lot of reading, some knitting, my sketchbook and my watercolors. I love doing watercolor while on vacation because they're so portable. It also gives me a chance to explore a different medium without any pressure. I'm not producing art for a show or a class or a deadline. It's purely for me and me alone. That's important, I think.

Some day I will probably have a laptop and be able to blog whilst on vacation. You'd be able to see pictures of the trees that same day. But for now, you'll just have to sit quietly by and wait in suspense. I'll be back July 31. Talk to you then!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

This piece is entitled "Discovery". It's 18"x22". I finished it about a month ago, but I thought I'd share it with you. There isn't much in the way of "stuff glued on" for this piece, but I did use my new "Scribbles" 3D paint. They come in little bottles, and they're meant for fabric. But I have been having a lot of fun using them on my canvases. They leave a slightly raised line when dry, and they come in glitter or plain - all colors. Fun! (I buy them at my local craft store.)

I finished up my application to the Beverly Hills art show this morning. This one was a TON easier since all the drama seems to have passed. (At least for the time being.) I'll mail it this afternoon.

These two shows are the only ones I will be applying to for the remainder of the year. (Both are in the fall.) In case you don't already know, there's a tremendous length of time between when the application is due and when the show actually is. Both shows I'm applying to actually have an unusually short lead time. I plan to gear up for more applications when the 2007 listings come out.

I tried a new approach to creating yesterday, which turned out miserably. I lost a lot in the way of supplies. Of course, I might do well to limit my experimentation to one piece at a time, rather than beginning - and then throwing out - seven pieces! It was paper though, not canvas... so that's some small relief. It's ironic that I posted yesterday about procrastination and pushing through it. This morning I find myself doing just that, especially given yesterday's misadventures. But I will take my own advice and keep on keepin' on! Cheers!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I was reading an article recently in my Art Calendar magazine by Jack White. He always has something interesting to say with regard to the ins and outs of being an artist. I found this month's topic to be particularly intriguing. He writes, "Procrastination starts with the desire to be perfect. We want to wait until we can get 'it' right, whatever 'it' is. You delay starting because you want to be sure you are perfect."

How often does this happen to us? If we are to be honest with ourselves, I would venture to guess the answer would be with surprising frequency. I know I sometimes become paralyzed when I am about to invoke a new technique or idea. The blank canvas can be a fearful thing. Of course, I don't call it "fear" or "procrastination." I simply tell myself I just have to get a, b, and c done first! When I stop and think about it, however, I realize that a, b, and c don't carry that much importance in the grand scheme of being an artist. The important, no - the essential action of being an artist means getting that brush loaded with paint onto the canvas.

It's human nature to want to do something well. As adults, we don't want to waste time with the "learning" of a craft - we just want to be good. But as Robert Burridge says, "You paint to teach yourself how to paint." And he's right. The stumbles and bumbles along the road are perhaps more important than the artwork that is executed well the first time. As Jack White so eloquently warns, "Failure is going to happen to anyone who is making an effort."

And so I try to plunge onward, every day. I try to find comfort in the fact that I am only human. This is a journey, not a destination. My path is my own, and no good will come from comparing myself to other artists. All I can do is the best that I can. But I must get in there and do something. I hope you'll join me by taking action - in whatever it is you may do. Let's promise ourselves that we won't just sit idly by and "wait" for another day...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Slides Have Arrived!

I got my slides back from iprintfromhome last night. They are absolutely FABULOUS!! 36 in all. Each one a gem. The color is vibrant. The focus is good. They are centered. The black is true black. In short, they look just like the pictures... imagine that! I will definitely be using this company again in the future. And 36 slides cost me just $62.38, plus shipping. (We paid $27 for the two rush slides locally!) Iprintfromhome was prompt and professional. I just love them!

What's more, their website advertises "fine art prints". (I had many questions for their patient customer service representative.) It turns out that their fine art prints are really giclees. Now, I need to do more research on this, but I may give them a try for that as well. The whole process simply couldn't have been easier.

Now onto getting my Beverly Hills application submitted. I need to have that one mailed by the end of this week. It shouldn't be too much trouble though. (knock on wood!)

Many of you have asked, "When will you find out whether you got in?" Well... they don't really tell you a specific date - for either show. But I promise to post when I do hear, either way. I so appreciate all of your support... it means the world.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Beep! Beep!

Here's a picture that Steve snapped of "our" road runner. He comes to visit us a couple of times per week. As neighborhood birds go, he's impressively large. From what we can tell, he can't get a lot of lift under his wings, so he sort of just flutters up to the fence or the lowest tree branch. The rest of the time he just... yup, you guessed it... runs!

I found this image to be particularly fitting for today's blog since I have felt very much like a road runner these past few weeks. (Think of that purple bird from the Warner Bros. cartoon.) I can think of no better metaphor for the work involved in preparing to submit to my first show. My legs are spinning and spinning - so fast they are no longer discernible. I'm running, but I'm not yet able to fly. In the meantime, I'm barely escaping the coyote and the Acme explosive device!

But today I am happy to report that the Santa Barbara application is complete and was delivered to the post office on Saturday morning. It was such an odd and unexpected sense of satisfaction that registered as I walked back to the car. I may get accepted. I may not. But whatever happens, NO ONE can take away the work that I've done to get to this point. I don't merely dream of entering shows someday. Now I have. And the second time around will be easier. It's all in the baby steps... I'm telling you... even if they are baby road runner steps!

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Didn't Jump... yet...

First off, thank you to everyone who wrote comments and emails in support of my endeavors. And thank you to everyone who sent positive energy my way. It DID help, I'm sure of it!

Yesterday was a test of my endurance. I photographed and I photographed. I worked outside in the heat from 7am 'til 4pm. How long is that? Nine hours?!?! Yup... in and out of the house... up and down the stairs... baking in the hot sun all the while. Of course, the landscaping people chose yesterday to work on the hill behind our house, so Bentley barked his head off the entire time. Then about 9am, they set up their massive and LOUD woodchipper in the cul-de-sac, about 20 yards away, and proceeded to operate it for the remainder of the day...

But I rephotographed EVERY piece of art I own and ALL of them turned out beautifully (after a slight learning curve with the new camera). All of the pictures are printed and ready to be sorted into the album. Steve helped me create a CD ROM last night with the images I want to use for slides. Apparently, there's only one place in all of Los Angeles that can do same-day-turnaround for slides. (I know because I called them all.) And it's ironic that the place coming to our rescue is a little lab Steve has access to on the lot at Warner Bros. We're paying for it dearly, though.

But with a little luck, and some more work on my part in completing the application, I should have everything ready to be postmarked by Saturday. Good thing, since that's the deadline. This application is for an art show in Santa Barbara. Did I mention that? I feel a little scrambled, as you might have noticed...

One good thing that came out of all of this struggle is that I located this site called IPrintFromHome. Their prices are EXTREMELY reasonable compared with what I was quoted for in-person service yesterday. And their turnaround is decent. I have a little more time to spare getting slides made for the Beverly Hills application (due July 31), so I'm going to give them a try. The best part is that I won't have to create a CD ROM and drive it over to a store. Then drive back to pick the slides up. Don't you just love the digital age? I mean, I HATE computers and I don't understand a lot of technology, but when it works... it really works.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I May Very Well Jump Off A Bridge...

So... do you remember how we toiled in the hot summer sun for hours to photograph my art? And do you recall how during the entire first 50 pictures or so, the film was not advancing?

Well... we got the slides back yesterday... 78 in all. Of those, how many would you guess turned out? 70?... 68?.... Maybe 55?... Nope! ... Two. Now do you understand why I may no longer be with you? I have an application for a show due Saturday that requires four. And one due next week which requires eight. ARGH!

Picture this: Steve gets home with the slides last night after work. We look at them at approx. 5 pm and realize it's a disaster. Some are all white; some are all black; some are great except they have a big black fuzzy strip through the top, bottom, or middle. And two are fabulous. And this is over two rolls of film!

We make some calls and do some deductive reasoning. It seems that the problem lies in Steve's VERY old camera. So we run to Costco to see what they have. We are looking for a camera with a Single Reflex Lens (or SLR). This type of lens will give you WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) in the viewfinder. The above pic. was taken with our other cheap digital camera. It does not have SLR. You can see that the edges look rather trapezoidal and sortof fisheyed. A camera with SLR will not do this. You move close so that your artwork fills the frame. That's how you know it's straight and level. Then you pull back slightly so that just a little of the black dubateen shows around the edges. Then shoot. (The black looks great though, doesn't it? Thank God something worked.)

Anyway, back to Costco.... they didn't have any SLR cameras, so we raced across town to Best Buy. We were there for about an hour, talking to various people. After another hefty "investment," we walked away with a brand new Canon EOS Digital Camera. This is wonderful for several reasons. It has the SLR lens. It's digital - so no more buying slide film and keeping it in the fridge, worrying if it's advancing, fumbling with rewinding, and then taking it to be developed. No more taking 3-6 pictures of each piece of art in order to have enough slides to submit. Now we'll take one picture and multiples can be made from that master. AND we can see if it's good BEFORE we send it in to be developed. Plus, my digital pictures online will be better with the SLR lens as well (no fisheye, as I mentioned). It is an 8-megapixel camera, which means the clarity will be better as well. It has auto-focus and auto-exposure. We may invest in a better lens sometime in the future, but for now this one will be fine.

AND we walked away with another new toy - it's a PictureMate Personal Photo Lab. I can print actual pictures from the new SLR camera. I've had soooo many issues with getting pictures ordered this week online... you wouldn't believe it if I told you. The PictureMate prints these AMAZING quality photos, without ever needing the computer. They are fade-resistant and archival. You can rotate, resize, crop, zoom-in, make them sepia or b&w - it's amazing. Truly. And no more ordering 4 shots each of 15 booth photos to see which ones are good and make sure I have enough. I can print as needed. And best of all, no shipping! You buy the ink and the photo paper all in one convenient package. The ink is guaranteed to print all 100 photos that come in the package, so no wondering when you may run out. The ink/photo paper was only $28 - or 2 for $10 off. Not bad, if you knew what I've spent in ordering photos online and in shipping recently.

Okay, I know this is a lot of info. But I'm excited... and stressed. And many of you have expressed an interest in this. So now we only need to re-shoot my entire inventory and have slides made same-day... all so that I can get this application in the mail by Saturday. The temps. are supposed to be 105 or higher for the next week. And Steve's at work, so I'm on my own for this round. Please, please... if you're reading this, send me your good vibes! I need all the help I can get...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Praising Organization

I came up with this fantastic solution yesterday to a problem I've been struggling with... ("Fantastic," if I do say so myself!)

As you know, I've been taking slides of much of my finished artwork. Those are for art show and/or gallery submissions. I've been taking digital pictures of everything. The plan was to create a blank form on the computer whereby I could later fill in all the specs. for a given piece (inventory #, title, size, medium, etc.). Then I would tape the photo to the bottom of the form, insert the paper into a plastic sleeve, and have a record of everything in a 3-ring binder.

Well, yesterday I was at Target and came across these awesome leather photo albums for only $12.99. Each one houses 200 pictures. But the best part is that there is a little 2" paper border next to each photo which says "Notes" followed by about 6 lines for writing. How perfect is this!?!? My new-and-improved plan is to place each picture in it's sleeve and then include the inventory #, the title and the price next to each photo. Everything else (meaning all the other info.) I already have on an excel spreadsheet anyway; I can cross-reference it when needed. If something has sold, I think I will place a red circle sticker next to that entry. This way, I can bring my entire inventory with me wherever I go in a very portable, professional presentation. People who may be interested in commission work can look at what I've done previously and may no longer have in my possession. And I can bring my entire body of work to people who may be interested but unable to attend a show.

Isn't this fab?!?! I thought so... (It's the little things, I'm telling ya'...)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shooting My Art

I thought you might appreciate a pic. of our professional photography set-up. (Emphasis on "professional" here!) But seriously, this set-up comes compliments of Robert Burridge. This is his technique, verbatim. And if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

That's Steve doing the photography with our camera on a tripod, loaded with slide film. I can't tell you the type of camera right now, but it's got one of those big, telescoping, detachable lenses. The sun is morning, at our backs, to which the shadows will attest. The board is just plywood covered with a fabric called dubateen. This is the type of fabric the studios use to create black space in the background of any shot that needs it. As a result, this fabric photographs as a beautiful dead black in the background of our shots. The art is the only thing visible (I hope!).

As you can see, this particular piece of artwork is quite small (4"x 5"), but the board is big enough to accommodate my larger works as well. So far, this setup has worked like a dream. The first two rolls of slide film went to the developer today, so I'll be sure to report back when I have the real proof in-hand.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Fruits of Summer

I was making a fresh peach cobbler a few days ago. I saw all these juicy beauties in the bowl, and thought they were just too sumptuous not to snap a picture of. The colors in real life were even better. (And the cobbler was delicious, too - warm with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream melting down over the top... yum!) This is the epitome of summer for me.

In other summer news, the heat continues. Normally, the 108-degree temperatures don't bug me that much. But it seems that Steve and I have spent a tremendous amount of time working outside this summer. I much prefer 108 when I can sit quietly inside our air-conditioned home.

Art-wise, I got some good work done on my latest batch of canvases. I'm hoping to have them finished up within the next two weeks. I've also got to get everything together for my application for the Beverly Hills "Affaire in the Gardens" art show. The booth photos are complete, but I still need to take a few more slides (once I finish the work still in-progress) and get the film developed. That deadline is approaching faster than I'd like. Where does the time go?!?!

Friday, July 07, 2006

New Look

Well... I've spent some time tweaking the look of my blog. (It hasn't been easy!) But at least it's a little more personalized now. I may go back to working on it some more when my schedule frees up. By the looks of things, that may be sometime in late 2009. But don't hold your breath.

Here's a pic. of a piece I just created in my latest batch of canvases. I really love this one. The quote is my own. It reads: "intentionally stopped... or stalled by fate? tick tock". For me, this piece speaks of the urgency I feel we all must have with regard to our lives. If we wait for tomorrow... if we wait for everything to be perfect... it will be too late. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

This theme pervades much of my work (and my life for that matter). As a result, I make use of a lot of visual references to the measurement of time - clocks, sequential numbers, yardsticks, etc. In addition, the lone car on that snowy road just raises so many questions... Where was it headed? Why is it stopped in the cold? Who is the passenger waiting? And where is the driver? The knobs on the lower left are from the Rose Bowl flea market. I love the way they ground the collage as well as serve to reference an opening of sorts...

I haven't titled this piece yet as I'm waiting for some words to really move me. But thank you for allowing me to share it with you.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kristin Steiner's class at Fiberfest

These are some photos of the fabric triptych I made in Kristin Steiner's class at Fiberfest. The book is entitled "Becoming". It's very personal to me as it is meant to capture my evolution as an artist. I wish the beadwork and hand-sewing came through better in the photographs, but you get the general idea.

If you ever get the opportunity to take a class from Kristin, do! She is just one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my entire life. Her energy and spirit are unparalleled. She has a way of making you feel so special and so safe - just within the first 5 minutes of meeting her! And her work is out-of-this-world! It just speaks of days and wishes gone by.

Kristin is teaching a 3-day workshop with her partner in North Carolina. The project is called "Believe in Yourself". (Scroll down Kristin's workshop page, and you'll find it.) This fabric box is actually three separate boxes nested within one another. Each box unfolds to lay flat like a cross. It's just ingenious in it's construction, really. I've seen this box first-hand, and it's fabulous! If there were any way I could make it to North Carolina, I would be there with bells on. I'm afraid it's just not in the cards for me right now, however. (A girl can't do everything!)

In other news, remember those two large canvases I was working madly to finish? Well, they had to be scrapped. I had a glimmer of hope in the middle there and thought I had turned them around. But when I dripped red paint all over them in an effort to do something to save them and it turned out looking like a major ER trauma, I knew it was over. Then I spilled the same blood-red paint right next to our back door. There's a huge "splat" mark that looks like a very large bird collided with the glass. Then there are many splatters outward to further tell the story of this imaginary bird's untimely demise. Steve thinks the whole effect is really funny. I just think it's sortof morbid. In any event, our back patio is becoming a work of art in and of itself. There's paint of every color of the rainbow out there now.

As for the canvases? Well, I re-gessoed them yesterday. It took three coats to cover all of the dreadfulness. But now they're fresh and clean and ready to go again. I guess not every creation can be a masterpiece. I find comfort in that. I'm only human, right?!?!

Oh, and note to self: don't "drip" with red paint any more....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

We Did It!!!

Here are my completed booth photographs. When you look at the pictures, perhaps it might appear rather effortless. But let me give you some sort of an idea as to how this weekend progressed...

I woke Steve at 5:30 am on Sunday morning. I knew we needed to get going in order to beat the heat. We set up our blackout board and sorted through all the art I have created, both from this year and last. Around 7:30 am, we were ready to begin photographing. It was already 85 degrees. The problem was that the sun was still too low and was shining directly onto my art, thereby creating an unimaginable glare. So we waited...

Around 9:30 or so, the sun was high enough in the sky to begin. Now, each shot involving the slide film needed to be set up from scratch every time. This meant readjusting the tripod, the focus, and the framing. Steve did that. Then I followed up with digital pictures. After about an hour and a half, I'm certain the temperature had climbed to above 100 degrees. My shirt was literally soaked in sweat. I asked Steve how many pictures were on the roll of film. It seemed like we'd used quite a few. He said 36. I did some simple math: 3 slides per art piece times 16 pieces so far... hmmm... I questioned him. He said they often gave you extra pictures on the roll. But 20+ extra? I don't think so.

Turns out the film had never advanced! Ugh! Now, I couldn't be angry with Steve - he's wonderful enough to give up his holiday to help me on this adventure. I swallowed hard while the beads of sweat blurred my vision. We reloaded and started over. I think we finished around noon in a withered, melted heap.

Monday and Tuesday were better, however. Oh my God! I LOVE that tent!! Thank you MaryBeth!!! A million times!! The setup was relatively easy. It took us a couple of hours, but I'm sure it will get faster when we don't have to read the directions so meticulously. It's sturdy and beautiful and the mesh panel system in simply ingenious! This was by far one of the best investments I've ever made. I'm so, so happy. In fact, I love my tent so much I was tempted to sleep in it that night. Steve thought the bed was a better idea, so I acquiesced.

Tuesday was spent hanging all my art and getting the booth shots. Then we also had pick-up photography on about 14 other pieces we just couldn't get to on Sunday. Let me tell you, having my art in that booth was a sobering experience. If I thought I was busy before, I realize now that "I ain't seen nothin' yet!" I've really got to pick up the pace. No more phone calls or errands or chores when I'm supposed to be working. I need to produce!

All in all, it was a spectacular weekend. Steve and I worked our butts off, for sure. We're both sorta glad to be starting our "normal" work weeks today as we both feel it will be tons easier! But I couldn't be happier, and I feel like I've crested a HUGE mountain. Rather than just being freaked out at the prospect of entering a show, I feel more comfortable with my presentation and more confident as an artist. I realize that the whole booth-thing will be an evolution, much like my art, but man, does it feel good to have rounded that first corner!