The Second Half

I announced the halfway point in my blog on Friday, had the wedding yesterday, so today is the official start of the second half of my year of dealing with my artistic procrastination. I went out today and purchased a few things to enhance my oil painting. (I know, the idea is to use up the supplies, not buy more), but I’ve decided that for this second half of this journey maybe its time to actually try reading and studying about the art I want to create. Flying by the seat of my pants has done pretty well by me thus far, but all those experts can’t be wrong. Its time to wave the flag of the surrender of my stubbornness. (A note to those close to me, the surrender applies to artistic endeavors only, sorry to burst your bubble.) I took the time this weekend to print out wallet sizes of most of the art I have produced in the last six months. The only comparison I can make is maternal. I obviously remember the birth of my children, I also remember much of their lives, but sometimes it seems as though I just turned my head for a second and they were grown. It’s similar to what I felt when I held those photos in my hand. It feels as though I just started this project. When I held that stack of photos in my hands I was surprised at the amount and scope of work I have produced, and dare I say it? I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, and pretty impressed with some of my work.  I do have to admit that I wish there were more of the pieces that I really love, but maybe as I glance through those photos of the finished work I’ll inspire myself to do more. It might seem strange that I printed them all out when I have almost all of the originals here, but to print them all out in the same manageable size makes it easier for me to see what I have done so far. There is so much I didn’t think about or plan for as I headed into this, there have been some really frustrating days when it seemed as though nothing would work, but I’m feeling really good about this.

For tonight I finished the sketch for watercolor that I started last night. It is inspired by a photograph I took in Giverny. As I looked at the piece it a little like a children’s book illustration. I decided to go with that, and let the work lead me where it wanted. In the end I also added some fine line pen. I may just have to write a little story to go with it.10 13

 

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

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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Broken Promises

Did I break the promise I made to myself last night? Of course I did. The last thing I wrote last night was a promise to myself to start my day with my work. As usual I let everything else get in the way. Cleaned my house, ran errands, you know the “anything I can put in my way” stuff. Are you like me? Do you keep your promises to everyone, everyone but yourself? Why is that so easy? When I say I’m going to do something I do it. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it but I do it anyway. Like telling someone you will call them when in fact you really don’t want to talk to them. I call. Or agree to help a friend do something, and then you are tired or lazy or just don’t feel like it? I do it. I have a sneaking suspicion that Catholic guilt plays a role, and I’m a woman. Women seem to feel bad awfully easily, at least I do. But if it’s for me, bottom of the list. I think I need to do a “Stuart Smalley”, remember Al Franken on SNL? I need to sit in front of a mirror and repeat, “I’m good enough”. But only after I clean the house, right?  I did finally sit down to do some art.  “And what time was that?” you ask. Well, if I’m going to be honest, about 7:30 this evening. By that time I was quite frankly ready for bed. Still unbelievably tired, but I was upset with myself last night. I did last-minute, under pressure homework for this blog last night, and it was crap. I really didn’t even want to post it, but I did say I would put up everything, even the crap. So as tired as I was tonight I was determined to put up something to be proud of.

When Dan and I went to Paris in 2009, I took in excess of two thousand pictures. The most beautiful, in my opinion, were the ones I took in Giverny. Every home and garden were spectacular. I looked through those photos today and pulled a few of my favorites. I believe I have mentioned my odd love of gates, windows and old doors. (If I haven’t then here’s the scoop. I take many, many photos of old doors, gates and windows. I never, ever take photos of people, except for Dan, who is of course my favorite human) I chose a photo for tonight of a gate I liked because of its color. Watercolor on paper. It was sort of last-minute, but its work I like, not something that I will feel bad about in the morning. No promises as far as a schedule for tomorrow, only the promise that I will put up work that I am proud to put my name on, and I will try really hard not to put myself last…I’m smart enough…I’m good enough…

 

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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.