Step Away From The Canvas

An addendum to last night’s blog. I confessed to being a somewhat messy painter, I noticed this morning, again while on my stationary bike (a place for observation apparently), I realized that the book I was reading had paint on the cover. I have no idea how it got there. Just thought I’d let you know.

I am posting two photos tonight. One that I started yesterday of Keira, and today’s subject the absolutely adorable Kelsey. I had a battle of the wills with “not good enough” who chose today to poke it’s nose into my artistic business yet again. I wasn’t completely happy with Keira’s portrait last night, this despite the approval of her mother, Jill and my daughter, Jessica. The biggest problem (besides me) is that I was working in watercolor. There’s not a lot of room for error in watercolor. Once the paint hits the paper you are pretty much committed. I worked on Keira for a few hours, I think I’ve finally got it, but I still have one section that I want to revisit tomorrow. I think I may come to a moment where someone needs to just tackle me and take away my paint brush.

As for Kelsey, I was honestly not sure I could pull it off. Babies, though I love them so, do not have developed features. Their cute little button noses and tiny bud like lips can be difficult to paint/sketch without appearing too harsh. Kelsey was very cooperative. Not that I don’t need to revisit her tomorrow, I do. Her beautiful, sparkling brown eyes are much more intense than I have portrayed them in the painting. They will have to do for tonight, because my eyes are tired. I do see a few other adjustments I’d like to make. Sometimes I need to step away from the painting and revisit it when I am rested.

Addendum Part Deux.  Just in case you were wondering, I’m painting in a tan linen skirt, a cream-colored tank and a silk shirt. I didn’t get any paint on my clothes tonight, it’s what I’ve been wearing all day, including while I made homemade pizza sauce. I wish I could say that went without incident. When the mood strikes…

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Learning From Myself

I had a moment of self-realization this morning. It occurred while I was on my stationary bike and glanced down at my exercise clothes. My black yoga pants are covered in paint splotches. Actually you’d be hard pressed to find a pair of jeans in my closet without at least a single spot of color, and then there is my big fluffy Pottery Barn robe that Dan gave me for Christmas a few years ago, that’s right, a nice big smattering of black paint right in the front of the robe. Then there are the countless shirts I’ve ruined, now labeled “paint shirts” because I can’t bear to throw them out because I like them so much. Why do I do this? Because when the mood strikes I go with it. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, or what time it is, if I feel the need to paint, I just do it. This is the reason why I also own a number of paint stained nightgowns. (Very sexy I assure you) On countless occasions Dan has given me a piece of clothing with the warning, “I don’t want to see any paint on this.” Oops! I can’t help myself. I know, that is a lame excuse for what amounts to a little laziness. The truth is I’m not lazy in the least. I can barely sit still. I just get inside my creative brain and lose focus. Clothing doesn’t seem important. I have to admit clothing is not important to me unless I am going somewhere special. I pretty much spend my life in jeans and a shirt. Not that I don’t look nice. I always want Dan to think I look attractive. I am also my mother’s daughter. I don’t leave this house without full hair and makeup. I don’t own a pair of sweat pants, and will never own a pair of sweat pants. I feel that sweat pants are unnecessary to the universe. No one looks good in them, Brad Pitt and his significant other, Angelina, wouldn’t look good in sweat pants, and when you add a slogan across your ass, well, I have no words….OK, enough about that, my point is that when I feel a creative surge, I need to answer the call, despite the white slip covered couch I’m sitting on. I know, long rant, long explanation, possibly TMI, back to the self-realization. I have spoken at length about my struggle with perfectionism in my work. I apparently do not have this need for perfection in what I am wearing while I work, or to be honest, how I work. As rare as a California tornado would be, you might think one had happened by the time I finish working. It’s a mess! A giant mess, including me. Paint on my face, occasionally in my hair, all over my hands, and yes my clothes. With all of that indifference one might think that my work would come with that same sort carefree attitude, but it doesn’t. I will admit that I am letting go of a little of that, but I think before I work I need to pay a visit to my closet and take my cue from my poor paint splattered clothes, and make a mess on the canvas. I might just be surprised at the results.

For tonight, a not quite finished project. One of the best gifts in my life in the last year has been the addition of my new son-in-law, and of course John has family too. Among them some very adorable children, and since I have no grandchildren…hint, hint, no pressure…I was in search of something to draw, so I am borrowing some grandchildren. This is Keira. She isn’t quite finished, but I have a date tonight with my husband. I’ll be finishing Keira up tomorrow, and then begin working on a painting of one of her equally beautiful sisters.

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Kindred Spirits

If you are really lucky in life you will have one really good friend. I consider myself very fortunate in that I have four or five women in my life that I know without a doubt could be called upon for any occasion, good and bad, that would be there for me without hesitation.  I am also blessed to have a husband who without question is the best friend I’ve ever had. I’ve always loved Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book “Anne of Green Gables”. Anne finds her kindred spirit in Diana. I have three sisters, but I believe I may have found the fourth. Twins, possibly separated at birth. ( It just might be possible, we were both born in Canada)   Theresa is my Diana, my kindred spirit. Dan always says that he doesn’t know what we would do without each other. I think he is right.  We have leaned on each other quite a bit in the last few years. When I first came to California I didn’t know a single soul, it was lonely and I missed my family terribly. I of course gradually met people, some of them the same irreplaceable, wonderful women I mentioned above. The story of how Theresa and I became friends is really quite lovely. Her son, Zachary is a friend of my son, Brian. Zach was at our house quite a bit and was often offered something to eat. I’ve mentioned often in this blog how much I love to cook and bake. Zach would often ask me if he could bring a little something home to his mother to try. When he got home he would tell Theresa that I sent food for her to try. Sneaky plan, but so wonderful! Eventually Zach told his mother that we should meet, he thought we should be friends. Zachary is a very intuitive young man. Today is Theresa’s birthday, and because she is such a light in my life I wanted to give her a little light in return. My project today is a hurricane lamp. I printed four panels vellum using photos of my paintings. All four paintings were floral, I had considered using pears because she does have a (dare I say it?) pear fetish. It is an addiction that I usually feed, but today I wanted something different for her. The panels are applied to plexiglass, and then attached at the corners. I trimmed the corners out with color strips I printed on canvas paper and copper tape. Throw a candle in the middle and it looks pretty cool. I just might have to make one for myself. Happy Birthday my dear friend.


Just Listen

Late night post, one of those days when I over schedule myself. I always think I can do more than time allows for.  Alas, as always neglecting to put myself first, and again not making art a priority. I think I’m producing good work these days, but I also think that I could produce better work if I gave it the time. It seems to me that too many of us feel guilty when we give to ourselves. What a difference we could all make in our own lives if we  allowed ourselves the time to be quiet and find what it is we love. The noise and obligation of every day life drowns out our inner voices. Have you ever tried to hear yours? I wake nearly every day to a promise that today will be the day where I make that time for me, and every time I make that promise I break it. I am the kind of person who is good for their word. If I say that I will do something then it gets done even if I don’t feel like it. Not for myself.  Do you make the New Year’s list? The list of all the ways you will be better? My life is that list. A trail of paper lists and empty notebooks. It really is my last hurdle. Lately I’ve been cleaning out boxes of paper. So many hours lost tearing out ideas for projects, paintings, or just stuff to read. The collecting became the project. Not that I didn’t do a few. There always needs to be something to justify what I’m doing, a promise of something on the road ahead is better than the thought of an empty life, so every now and then I would look through the boxes and do something. Mostly I just reorganized the paper. I’m done with that. Maybe it’s time to stop making promises before time runs out. I did however notice that the piles of papers to read had a recurring theme, self-esteem. (The O magazine in particular, it’s like the self-help bible) I had an epiphany of sorts today. As I was looking through the papers I realized that I no longer want or need to read those self-esteem articles. This project has done incredible things for me. I’m not all the way home where my self-esteem is concerned, but following through on this one promise to myself has made a difference, it has introduced me to some confidence in my artistic life, something I never thought I’d have. I just realized that maybe I had my quiet moment and it led me here.

Tonight a Hollyhock in watercolor on paper. I love Hollyhocks, they apparently do not like me. I planted some three years ago in my garden. They lived for a few months and were gone. I was very upset that they didn’t return the next Spring. They did return, but not for me. They have been lurking on the other side of the fence. The side where a neighbor who does not care lives. For the entire summer there have been two dead stalks of something that tower over the fence. How does she not see them? Why doesn’t she cut them down? Why are they bothering me so much? And then it shows its face, the Hollyhock, my Hollyhock (I know she didn’t plant them), tangled up with the dead stalks, peering over my fence, taunting me. Betrayed by a garden flower.


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Two Of A Kind

Last night I promised the “Natalie” nickname story, but before I get into that I wanted to explain my choice of title and subject for this evening. Two of a kind. As I  explained the other day, as a child I looked just like my dad. Neither of my two children look exactly like me. My son resembles Dan’s family much more than he does mine, although my Dad claims that Brian looks like him. (Of course, because he is handsome. See Natalie story at the bottom of the page, it will explain everything) Brian has my teeth, famously known around here as “Osmond” teeth, they’re big, Osmond big. When I was younger I could do a mean Marie. She and I are only days apart in age, although my face still looks like me. (Just saying..) Jessica is a real mixture of her Dad and I. When she was younger she resembled him more, now I see a lot of myself. I bring this up because the piece I painted tonight is from a photo Jessica took in Ireland. In 2009 my Dad wanted to take all four of his daughters, their husbands, and the eight grandchildren to Ireland.  I didn’t go. Love my family dearly, but me on a bus with my family for ten days would not have been pretty. Fortunately my lovely husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  Oh, so sorry, can’t go to Ireland because I’m going to Paris. (Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?)  I had also been to Ireland twice before, and had dreamed of going to Paris my entire life. No question about which trip I was taking. So, while my children were in Ireland with my family, (Ha ha) I was in France with the love of my life. This is where the two of a kind part comes in. I took more than two thousand pictures in France, Jessica wasn’t too far behind in Ireland. Two different countries, two different photographers, the pictures? Interchangeable. We take the same shots the same way. Same angles, same detail shots, same composition. The only difference is that she occasionally allows humans into hers, mine are landscape only. (I even photo-shopped an unfortunate tourist out of one of my pictures, sorry. She really shouldn’t have been wearing those sweat pants.  And, because no one told everyone to get off Monet’s bridge over the water lilies in Giverny….gone, sorry once again)  Jessica is also very artistic, a graphic designer by trade. Beautiful work and I’m not even biased.

When Brian was small he began to paint, he was three. He would watch Wile e Coyote and the Roadrunner and then paint desert scenes. I was thrilled. Then he grew a little and realized we might have something in common (God forbid!) so he quit. I think he spent years denying he actually had a mother. One of the nicest things that has happened with this project is that my son now wants me to teach him how to paint. I’ve waited nearly twenty years to hear that lovely request.  I might also add he has a good eye for photography as well. I’m a proud mother OK?

The “Natalie” story. Here it is… my Dad, as I have stated previously is quite a character. He is also quite narcissistic. He is a good-looking man, even now at eighty he still looks good, and since he sounds like he just got off the boat, (he got off in 1956) his brogue is quite attractive to the ladies. Since I looked like him as a child he gave me the nickname Natalie. No it isn’t my middle name, that is Frances. (I’m named for Jackie Kennedy, middle initial F., last initial A. Get it? J.F.A….J.F.K.? We’re Irish Catholic need I say more?) Natalie is for the beautiful Natalie Wood. Why? Because I looked like my Dad and if he were a woman he would look like Natalie Wood. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you. Slightly twisted, but you have to admit entertaining. By the way, my artistic talent isn’t mine, its his. He told me so. It’s kind of like osmosis, his thoughts, his ideas, my hands, I kid you not.

So in honor of my slightly strange Dad, and because I love him, a little watercolor of his favorite place on Earth, Ireland. Photo by Jessica, painting by Jackie (alias Mom)

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We Are All Artists

OK, I know last night I said I would be entertaining all of you (and me) with my writing, and had intended on telling you all the reason behind the “Natalie” nickname, (which really is worth the wait…stay tuned until tomorrow) but then I received a comment from someone who reads this blog. ( This is where I’ll be getting all philosophical again) The person who sent me a comment (and I publicly thank you again) said that they wished they were talented like me. What he failed to realize, and I told him so in my reply, is that he is an artist. I read his blog, a place where spirituality is the subject. Beautiful words, beautifully written, as I said in reply, he paints pictures with his words and prayers. In my family we all have our assigned roles. My older sister is the smart, educated one, I am next, the weirdo, the artist, the quiet one, then there is the funny one, and finally the baby. We all have so much more to offer than those labels would imply. (To respect their privacy I will only use initials) M is the oldest, and yes, very smart and the most educated, but she is also very gifted with her hands, just in a different way than me. Sewing, knitting, needlework, beautiful, beautiful work. I am next, obviously artistic, but also very smart, and on occasion quite funny. C is next. Funniest woman I know. I can’t spend an evening with her without crying from laughter. G, “The Baby”, is anything but a baby. Strong, smart, and I think the most athletic of us (we know it’s not me). Unfortunately, despite how much our parents love us, sometimes they just don’t think. M’s creativity is overlooked, it isn’t her place, it’s mine. C was complaining once to my dad (not sure about what), his response? “Look at Jackie, sure she can paint but she has no personality”.  (And one wonders why I have issues) C is a very intelligent woman, who can multi task with no match, and an artist in the garden. (Note to the powers that be at Wrigley Field, this woman will give you a playing field to die for, and she’s a fan) She has no appreciation of how smart she is. She had two concussions as a child within weeks of each other. The story of how smart she was before “the accident” is family legend. The implication might make you think she was brain-damaged, not so much, very smart lady, and no one can be that quick-witted and dumb.  Finally G, as I said nobody’s baby. She ends up in management where ever she works. Also a beautiful baker, makes gorgeous pastries, creative right? The mere fact that anyone is writing a blog is creative. Putting a beautiful meal on the table is creative. Composing a speech, writing a song, raising a child, each is creative. We all have it within us to be an artist. My point is that we all have something to offer, it doesn’t have to be with a brush or a pencil, those are just my tools of choice.

And by the way, I have been told that I actually do have a personality.

For tonight, my handsome son Brian. I saw a photo in the LA Times many years ago that I loved. This afternoon Brian was kind enough to sit for a portrait for me, posed in a similar way to the photo as I remembered it. Watercolor on paper.IMG_0341

Expanding The Horizon

It’s early, at least for my writing, only eight forty in the morning here in California, but I find myself already thinking about what I want to write this evening. If you read my ramblings on a regular basis, you know that it primarily has to do with what I have created and why, and though it still sneaks in from time to time, I believe the blog has become a little less “woe is me”. To be honest I’m boring myself just a little. I think I need to change things up. I’m not talking about abandoning the project, I fully intend to see it through, but maybe to expand beyond the talk of the what and why I create art. I have noticed that when I check out many of the people who “like” my postings, their blogs reveal a great deal more about them. It isn’t as though I haven’t told a story or two, but I’ve definitely held back. The photo on my blog isn’t even me, it’s my grandmother, I just love the picture, and frankly never like the ones of myself. I may have mentioned that my dear friend Theresa, has often told me that I need to “put it in the book”, by that she means the never-ending stories of the funny, not so funny and weird things that have happened in my life. I think it may have something to do with my Irish heritage, I hear that we are “gifted” story tellers. I think that it may have more to do with my Irish parents, my dad in particular, he can be quite a character. My intention at the end of this year of blogging was to have the blog and its accompanying art turned into a book for my two children. Something they could have of their mother, as I have very little of mine. So, tonight there will be art, maybe a little something about the piece, but a little more about me and my life.

I have mentioned that I won my first art competition in the third grade, I haven’t however revealed the project I made, or the inspiration. As mentioned above, I’m Irish, but my dad looked just a little Asian as a child. (Weird, I know) I looked exactly like my dad when I was a little girl, one of my nicknames was “Daddy’s Double”, my dad occasionally will still refer to me as “double”, although in my eyes I look a little more like my mother now. (He won’t hear of that, and I had two other nicknames, Cookie and Natalie. The second one is a whole other story for another time) My sister’s and I had our hair cut really, really short. This was thanks to some whack job doctor who told my mother that long hair holds germs, seriously. The traumatic event of having our pony tails snipped off still haunts me, maybe that’s why I still like my hair long. With my short hair and my dad’s face I looked a little Asian. We went to see the Ice Capades, and it was Chinese New Year. The beautiful skaters came out on the ice with rickshaws, they pulled children from the audience to pull around the ice, I was chosen. Now whether or not it had anything to do with how I looked I wouldn’t know, but I always thought it did. The next day at school we were asked to draw whatever we wanted, I drew a clown, but a clown with big, multicolored plumes coming from his hat, and I outlined the entire drawing very carefully in black. Completely awed and inspired by the show the night before. I was very proud of that drawing, and even more so when I won. My dad must have been too. He had that drawing in a frame for years. He finally gave it to me, but unfortunately I was in a place in my life where I just didn’t care enough. It is in pieces now, I still have those. It is a remnant of the first time in my life when I felt really special.

Tonight, just a play day with watercolor. A vintage phone, a photo of a flower that I took in France, and finally, I came across this watercolor inside one of the pads in my studio. I’m not sure when I did it, I just remember trying to recreate a sort of comic book feel.

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Separation Anxiety

I took some time today to print out a wallet size photograph of all of the art that I have completed thus far. I’ve actually accomplished far more than I realized. I also discovered a few unfinished projects that I started as a result of this project and didn’t complete. With the exception of my oil painting of Jessica, I plan on finishing them all this week. I really want to work on the oil painting but have two weeks to wait for that doctor appointment. Many of the pieces I have done are small, very small, a few were artist cards, but there are also a few that I know I could sell. Therein lies my dilemma. I have sold at art/craft shows for years, small wooden painted pieces, folk art, some holiday ornaments, and have also worked as a muralist. What I have not done a lot of is sell my paintings. To be honest, I’ve sold only one painting. I’ve sold drawings, portraits to be exact, where I was hired to draw someone in particular. I sold my first piece of art when I was fifteen. That was the one painting I sold.  It was before I stopped believing in myself.  I actually began painting at about fourteen. Back then it was sheer enjoyment, I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know anything. I have loved art as long as I can remember.  The absolute rush of emotion I get when I have finished a piece that I love has been with me my whole life. When you are a shy kid, have no friends, you feel very small, you feel bad about yourself, you feel nonexistent. Art was my friend. It is my safe place.  No matter how unhappy I was I could lose myself in the creative process. Despite everything I have written in this blog about not being good enough, not feeling good enough, I still hung on. It has been for me in my life, a lifesaver. I did a lot of work I didn’t care about, not that it wasn’t good, I always do my best, but it was the craft show stuff. I don’t intend for that comment to demean what anyone else does, I just knew that I was capable of so much more.  I am beginning to do the work I have waited a lifetime to do, every piece I do means so very much to me, but I can’t keep them all, despite the fact that each and every piece of art is like one of my children. I also feel like I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at this. I realize that money doesn’t mean success in art, at least it doesn’t for me, but my family has found itself in a difficult situation and it would mean the world to me to be able to help our situation doing what I love. I know I can make prints, or keep photographs of my work, reminders for myself. I just need to send my “kids” off into the world, and just like my daughter and son, hope they find someone who loves them as much as me.

Acrylic again this evening. That shy little girl still lives inside me and she really loves a good hiding place. Maybe that explains my love of these old secret garden gates.

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My Favorite Subject

I’ve been really happy with my work from the last two nights and had planned on painting in acrylics once again. I began to look through my photos for inspiration and came across a recent photo of my husband that I took when we stopped at a lake while out on a Sunday drive. I love this photo of him, and he is a good sport about everything I do, but in particular tolerating my near constant photo taking. I can’t go for a hike without my camera, and as much as I hate my own photo taken, I show him no mercy. A few years ago we were in San Francisco and stopped at a Starbucks, as I waited in the car I used my telephoto lens to capture him in line, and every second as he waited at a light and then made his way across the street to the car. All he did was laugh. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner, one who encourages me, who never doubts my ability, even I am in the midst of a visit from “not good enough”, who is willing to take on whatever crazy project that I have dreamt up.  He knows that the project is complete inside my head and believes in me enough to follow through on whatever part of it I need him to help with, will cook dinner after working all day just so I can finish whatever I’m working on, and a very handsome man as well. I am a very lucky girl.

I thought about those acrylics for half a second, decided since I hadn’t bothered see if I did indeed have the additives to slow the drying process, I was returning to my watercolors. I love the results.

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Under The Wire

Late night tonight. I was here most of the day but was doing a million other things besides art. It is the one bridge I have yet to cross, the one where I make art a priority in my day. I didn’t begin to paint until a little over two hours ago. I’m not quite sure why. As I said last night, I am feeling confident, things are coming easier, but I am still doing my “homework” at the very last minute. It’s how I got through high school, but high school was a very, very long time ago. Admittedly there were days at the beginning of this project when it did feel like homework, but that feeling has long since passed. Yes, there are days when I’m not quite in the mood, but once I start working its fine. I need to start earlier in the day so that I’m not painting when my eyes are closing, or worse yet, painting in the yard when it has gotten dark. I can’t continue to work at the last minute.

I grabbed the acrylics again tonight. I admit, I was getting frustrated. Oils are so easy for shading and adding highlights. I find acrylics so difficult. Tomorrow I’m going to look through my vast amounts of crap to see if I do indeed have one of those delay drying additives, if not I may have to go get some. The painting tonight is based on the photography of someone else. Who? I have no idea. I have a lot of photos in my computer that I scanned because there was something that appealed to me, the spade that I painted was only part of a magazine page. I have been trying to stay away from painting from work that isn’t mine, but it was late, I was tired, and I just wanted something simple, (or at least I thought so) so hats off to the photographer. Thanks for the inspiration.


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