A Smear Of Inspiration

We had friends coming for dinner tonight, which we know of course means that I need to clean my house within an inch of its life. It also meant that I needed to get a piece of art finished before they came. As always I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I have more than a few pieces that need to be finished, including the biggest hurdle, the portrait of Jessica. It has been sitting on my larger easel in the garden, I just need to bring it in and get to work. I have to admit that I have been avoiding it. I haven’t been hearing the “not good enough” voice in my head lately, but there is something about that portrait that allows it to creep into my mind. There is nothing that forces my hand like a promise, I am one of those people who always do what they say, so here goes…I will work on that portrait tomorrow, that will be what I post tomorrow night. That’s it, now I have to do it. Well, now that I committed myself….back to tonight’s saga. I decided to paint in oils, grabbed a photo from my computer, one I had taken in Giverny of a house and garden. I started to paint and it just wasn’t working. Normally this would be where I gave up, I didn’t. I took some paper towel and wiped the canvas clean, but as I looked at the smeared colors I felt inspired. I began playing with the color and building on what was there, after a bit it began to look like water to me, and since my head was still in Giverny I decided to add waterlilies. I was really pleased with my results, not that it’s the greatest painting I’ve ever done, but I love that I just dove in and did it. I need to keep that healthy attitude with me tomorrow when I climb the hurdle of the portrait of Jessica. Actually, I need to carry that with me every time I paint. One of my complaints to Dan over the years was that I couldn’t get what was in my head on the canvas. There was also my need to depend on photographs, mine or others to paint from. Tonight it was all me, no photo, just inspiration from a smear of paint. I’m still having days where I struggle, but more and more I am excited about work yet to come, and hopefully with time it will come easier. And yes, I did a recent blog about the Van Gogh and Monet’s that all artists must attempt, I can honestly say Monet was nowhere near my head when I did this one.


Waterlilies oil on canvas.8 20

Van Gogh In The Closet

The last time I discussed Mr. Van Gogh he was appearing in my coffee cup, not tonight. To begin with it is only (hold on to your hats!) seven in the evening and I am posting. A full three hours earlier than usual. This morning I was searching through my photographs for pictures for my daughter, for our joint label design. The client wants some changes, and I was looking through old work and photos for inspiration. She had mentioned that she might like a sunflower and I knew I had a few shots. Well, actually more than a few. By the time I was done sending I think Jessica received seven emails from me, and all before ten a.m., poor girl! I don’t usually know what I want to paint or draw until much later in the day, it’s actually a very last-minute decision most of the time. But as I looked through my photos the sunflowers started to call to me. I have a painting I did a few years ago that I hate. It’s not a horrible painting, but very ordinary, something I referred to as Kirkland’s art. If you don’t know about them, they are a chain of home decor stores. They have those paintings that are reproduced by the hundreds and sold inexpensively. I felt like this one fit the bill, that is until I decided to get a closer look at  my work by cropping the top off. You know what? It really is better than I remember. The sunflowers are beautiful, what I hate is the blue vase I painted them in, and the arranged fruit and napkin at the base (which I won’t be showing you!), to quote Lili Von Shtupp (Blazing Saddles), “Oh, how ordinawy”. I don’t want to create the kind of art that is sold for cheap, now if Christie’s or Sotheby’s came calling that would be a different matter. OK, now that I have gone on and on for far too long, I decided that today I would paint a sunflower.





Cropped portion of the top of my older sunflower painting.

New train of thought…this is where Mr. Van Gogh comes in. Do you think that every artist feels the need to paint their “sunflower”, or their “waterlily”? Do we all as artists aspire to be Monet or Van Gogh? Do we all have a sunflower lurking in the corner? These are questions that keep me up at night. Not really. So here on this early Friday evening my new “Sunflower”, oil on canvas, inspired by annoying my daughter before her coffee. Love you Jessica, and I love working with you.




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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Beginning The Adoption Process

I mentioned all the “orphans” in my studio, those half done works of art left waiting for my attention. There are also a few “finished” works. Paintings that qualify as finished only because paint covers the entire a surface of the canvas. They are pieces that I felt were not representative of the kind of artist I want to be.  One of the biggest issues, one that I have mentioned before is that the work is flat, dimensionless, lacking in texture, (can I think of any more adjectives?) work that I felt wouldn’t evoke feeling when looked at. I have seen a number of works of art in my life that make me feel, make me want to be in a place, or make me want to rush home and pick up a brush and paint. That is the kind of work I want to create, work that inspires feeling, or more than that, work that would want someone else to follow their creative dream. When I went into my studio today to decide what to do,I chose painting. I enjoyed the exercise yesterday, and my favorite critic/fan (Dan), loved the result. I wanted to use a smaller canvas, I still wasn’t sure of the subject matter, so I grabbed an 8×10 from the shelf.  It was an orphan, a finished one. A canvas that I had painted and then shoved back on the shelf to paint over. If there’s a benefit to painting too flat, it’s that it is that much easier to cover. The painting was a simple one, just a sky and water scene. It had some texture, but it was boring, no movement, nothing. Instead of covering it up I decided to give it new life by using a style similar to yesterday. I changed the color just a touch, using the paint that was still on my palette from yesterday. I didn’t take my glasses off this time, although I wasn’t working in the best light possible. I’ve posted both, a before and after. I see the difference, and better yet this time I feel a difference. It is only the first of many, many half done, or hidden works of art. Now I just need to prepare myself when I’m ready to let some of my finished work go, when I do my first show.

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Up To My Old Tricks

When I began this blog I wrote about how shy I was as a child. There is still a lot of that inside me. I think it is why I enjoy solitude so much, and that more often than not my paintings, and photography reflect that. People who know me now are often surprised when I claim to be shy. I work really hard at being friendly. When you are a shy child, and particularly one who is the brunt of all the grade school jokes, you learn compassion. Dan knows that if we go to a party I will find the loner in the corner and stay there for the night. I cannot stand to see anyone lonely, or to sense that someone else is struggling, I need to help them. When I was in high school I was forced to take a speech class. I dreaded it. Speaking in front of a single person can be difficult enough, put me in front of a crowd and I’m terrified. At the end of the semester we were required to stand on the stage in the school auditorium and make a speech. The subject matter could be anything we wanted, the only restriction was the amount of time. For weeks leading up to it my stomach was in knots. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I came up with a plan. The first thing to do was to pick a subject for my speech that I was familiar with. I chose Wicca. It was an interesting choice, considering that I was at an all girl Catholic high school run by Benedictine nuns. I  had an interest in witchcraft, nothing to speak of, I think for the most part it had to do with my childhood fascination with Bewitched, and my all-time favorite movie, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Fortunately, the speech teacher was a lay teacher, a man, and he didn’t seem all that upset with my choice. I knew we would be required to look up as we spoke and not check our notes too often. That part was easy, I knew my subject well. I talked off the top of my head for the entire speech. The hardest part was facing the crowd, well a crowd of about twenty-four. On the few previous occasion when I spoke in class, my classmates had to critique me. Every single time they pointed out that as I stood there choking out words the podium was shaking. The night before the speech I was really nervous, and of course like most kids, trying to figure out what disease I could possibly come up with on a moments notice so that I wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. Nothing worked and the moment was at hand. Then a brainstorm. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was thirteen. Blind as a bat. All I had to do was to take off my glasses, from the auditorium stage I couldn’t see my audience. I big blob of color. I was still nervous, and I did shake a little. The speech went well. My teacher said it was good, just a little unorganized. Not bad since I didn’t really write one.

That brings me to today’s painting. I have mentioned before that I love Impressionism. Strangely enough since I have the perfection issue. The thought occurred to me that all I need to do is to take my glasses off. Trust me, the world at large is one giant Impressionistic scene when my glasses are off, and as long as I’m going down this road I am doing my own waterlilies. A photo taken in Giverny in 2009. I have to admit I’m struggling as I look at it. I do believe I may be revisiting this one. Image Do you think it’s possible that there would have been no Impressionism if eye care were better in Monet’s day?

Good Things Can Come In Small Packages

5 25I have to admit that there was so much I didn’t take into account when starting a year-long project, particularly one that requires writing and the creation of a piece of art each and every day. I know that I have touched on this before, but life got in the way again today. It’s a holiday weekend, we had friends and family over today, and so I find myself once again rushing to finish something for my blog. I seriously had several false starts. It seemed as though I wouldn’t get anything done for tonight, and as tempting as it might be, I refuse to put up older work unless I am near and dear to my bathroom floor (which I was, by the way, last week). I feel like I’d be cheating myself if I did, and I have been cheating myself for far too many years. Not every project has to be a big one. Just creating is the idea. I mentioned the 365 Project when I started this, and the tag line on that book states, “Do something creative every day and change your life.” It is so true. Here I am not even two months in and I can feel the difference. Like so many artists, and more so, so many women, I don’t place enough value on myself and what I do. That is changing, I’ve learned a lot about myself in ways I never considered. I’m so excited about the months ahead, wondering where this journey will take me, and anxious with anticipation to see what work I  will produce.

Back to the subject at hand, life getting in the way of my project. I realized tonight that there might be days ahead where it will be difficult to get my work done. There are birthdays, and our wedding anniversary, and other holidays, all of which will require my attention elsewhere. I guess I will just try to take them as they come and hopefully still be able to create a little something. I did just that tonight. From a photo outside Claude Monet’s house in Giverny. I saw a gardener standing still studying the garden and took a photo. It is a photograph that I would like to paint some day, but for tonight a pencil sketch on an artist card. It is only a two and a half by three and a half-inch drawing, but this one I love. I captured the essence of that moment.  It took me back to Monet’s garden, and our journey there. We took the train from Paris to Vernon, and chose to walk the rest of the way to Giverny instead of boarding the bus with the other tourists. The air was filled with the fragrance of  flowers, and each cottage and garden we passed was more beautiful than the last. When we finally saw Monet’s house and garden, I turned to Dan and said, “How could you live here and not paint?” Now I have to ask myself, “How could you have been there and waited so long to paint?’

It was one of ten days in France with the one that I love, and that makes this little piece of art priceless.