Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Back to Basics


Garden Bounty

A garden harvest!

Summer is flying past and it's shaping up to be a busy fall with upcoming art shows. I'm excited! But sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed with all of the things that I need to do. When I start to feel lost, I reel myself back in through a couple of means. 

The first is my garden. Thanks to my parents, I've always had a garden of some sort since childhood. Sometimes it was a modest set up, such as pots on my apartment balcony in Wisconsin or a shared community garden plot in Maryland. Now, I'm pleased to have a wonderful backyard oasis in Knoxville, Tennessee. The photo above shows a recent harvest. We have massive fig trees and all of the flowers you see pictured I started from seed in our basement back in March. 

The other way I marshal myself during busy times is by getting "back to basics" with my work. Nothing grounds me and calms me more than picking up a stick of charcoal and working out my ideas with some inexpensive newsprint paper. It's very freeing and I find that it makes it easier for me to tackle more complicated ideas, such as this recent cityscape, "Focus!"

30 x 40 inch oil on canvas

I had this idea from an outing to New York City for quite a while, but I needed to mull it over before I dove into it because of the subtleties of light and shadow. The best way for me to "break the glass" on this motif was to begin with vine charcoal sketches. Shown here are a couple of the initial sketches I made to map out this idea in my mind before taking up a paintbrush. 

I also like to use color maps to envision the overall values before I start mixing up paint. Shown below is the small map that I used to guide me throughout the creation of this painting. 

Color Map

Thanks to my garden and some sticks of charcoal, I'm able to juggle quite a bit during a busy time. Sometimes, getting back to basics is a good thing!

Monday, July 18, 2022


Summer Oak and Solsticw Sky
 Shown: Summer Oak (left) and Solstice Sky (right)

It's been a busy summer and not quite as I would have planned it. To start the season, I got some good news in late May when I learned that my fractured feet are finally beginning to heal. Huzzah! 

Getting to this point has required a lot of my time and attention. Unfortunately, my feet still aren't quite where I want them to be as I begin a late summer / autumn schedule of outdoor art shows. I had planned to exhibit my oil paintings during back-to-back weekends of the Rehoboth Art League Outdoor Art Show in Delaware next month. But I won't have the help of my underpaid artist's assistant and husband, Tim, for the first weekend and I'm not quite physically ready to tackle the rigors of set up and weekend hours alone. 

As a result, I will be at just the second weekend, August 13-14. It's one of my favorite shows to do and I hate missing one of the weekends, but I'm trying to keep longer-range goals and my well-being in mind. I regard this as a short-term "pivot" for long-term gain.

Recent months have been instructive to me on how to move to a back up plan. As I continue to get my feet into art show shape, I've been focusing on a series of skyscapes / cloud paintings. This is my "head in the clouds" antidote to my feet. 

Shown above are two new landscapes, Summer Oak and Solstice Sky. I caught both of these subjects at a favorite municipal park here in Knoxville, Tennessee where I've been walking each evening with my husband as I strengthen my feet and get back to fighting trim for my outdoor art shows! 

I'm having a lot of fun with these landscapes and I'll probably sprinkle in some more ideas under this theme as we ease out of summer and into fall. Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Thanksgiving in May

My Tragic Foot

My left foot, showing stress fractures in the second and third metatarsals.
Within a couple of months, my right foot broke, too. Ugh.

Did you know that we are exactly six months from Thanksgiving? It may seem like an odd time to think ahead to that occasion, but holding onto gratitude is more important to me now than ever before and I'm using this day to declare Thanksgiving in May. Allow me to explain...

As I wrapped up my outdoor art show season last fall, my feet hurt. Setting up and tearing down for outdoor art shows is hard work, so bothersome feet aren't unusual. But this time it was worse than usual. Being the (slightly) middle-aged artist that I am, I figured that I just needed an orthotic or better shoes. Then I could keep on selling my paintings at outdoor events, like I have for nearly two decades.

I was really shocked when my doctor told me that I had non-traumatic stress fractures in my left foot. To make matters worse, subsequent lab work revealed that I have crummy bone quality courtesy of a hereditary condition. My foot was merely the leading indicator of significant problems. I was sent home with a walking boot to use for several months while my foot healed.

But it didn't heal.

In January, my other foot broke after months of bearing the additional, compensatory load while I wore the boot. Talk about an epic bummer!

As someone who's generally enjoyed good health up until this point in my life, I was at a low point emotionally. The constant pain and future uncertainty have been a big paradigm shift for me. My paternal grandmother used to tell me, "Health is wealth" and it's a message that I internalized from a young age, perhaps no more so than in these recent months.

My feet still are not fully healed and it's still painful. But I'm slowly improving, courtesy of some amazing individuals who have helped me through this difficult time. I want to acknowledge each of them here: 

First, my husband, Tim, who has been a bedrock of encouragement and support. I half-jokingly refer to him as my "Underpaid Artist's Assistant," but I've always appreciated that he is worth solid gold. This has remained true in recent months. He's been so kind and unwavering in his support while I regain function. He genuinely loves what I do as an artist and he's helped me see how I can move forward. 

Next, my fitness team. I enjoy lifting weights and being active. Now, my quality of life pretty much depends on it. And sometimes life gives you exactly what you need. I became good friends with a collector who's a personal trainer. Since February, Robert has generously donated his time to work with me twice a week in his gym and help me remain active despite my broken feet. I really can't thank him enough for stepping into my life and up to a big task.

I'm also working with a wonderful physical therapist who has been incredibly creative in adapting therapies to my needs. Y'all, my condition was so bad that my previous physical therapist who helped me rehab from hip surgery a couple of years ago would not even work with me due to the perceived liability risk! I found a better individual to help me. Ryan has given me a sense of empowerment that has also sustained me emotionally.

Finally, my medical team. I'm fortunate to work with smart people (Rocio, Hannah, Kostas, Paige, and Kelly) who helped me modify my diet and wrestle our stubborn insurance company to the mat to provide medication that I need.  

Thanks to these exceptionally kind and dedicated people, I'm looking forward to continuing my active career painting and exhibiting my artwork. I take one day at a time, literally one step at a time, and I'm cautiously optimistic. There may be setbacks, but rest assured that I'll continue to explore and find ways to share with you my vision of this imperfect yet beautiful world in which we live.

Happy Thanksgiving (in May)!