Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Small Starts, Big Results

It's a busy time of year as I prepare for my final out-of-state art show in Bethesda, Maryland, this weekend. In addition to my usual show preparations, I've started to work on my annual 25 Days of Minis, a collection of small original paintings perfect for gift giving or for splurging yourself during the holiday season. 

Through this endeavor, I partner with a great group of fellow artists and you can check out all of them on the 25 Days of Minis website.

For the past several years, the minis have been a fun way for me to explore my ideas with a greater sense of adventure. It's remarkable how something small scale frees me up for greater experimentation without any sense of pressure or fear about, "Oh, no, what if I screw up this big canvas?"

(Yes, even after almost twenty years of painting, there is still that little questioning voice at times.)

Often, I will revisit these subjects in larger pieces. It occurred to me this year, why not make that bigger thing a more formal deal? So, I'm pleased to share that each Thursday during December, I'll share a new, "mega" companion painting based off of the smaller mini study for that day. There will be four new mega paintings for you to enjoy as we wrap up 2022. 

One of the mega paintings will be a landscape based off of this mini, "Study, Luminous." I thought it would be fun to share with you how fun and splashy a small painting can be through this timelapse showing its genesis. 

Drop by my website on Thursday, December 1 to see this finished mini as well as its big sibling. Stay tuned!

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

Once I have these details set in my mind's eye, I'm ready to jump into the actual painting. And a great representational painting always has an abstract foundation, as you can see here in this video clip: The Initial Block-In

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)!

Saturday, January 08, 2022

It Starts With Your Idea

 "Golden Horizon I and II" oil on canvas diptych; each painting 40 x 60 inches

When I exhibit my artwork at outdoor shows, interested patrons often ask me, "How do you come up with your ideas?"

In general, I don't suffer from the artistic equivalent of writer's block, so generating new ideas isn't really a problem for me. If anything, the challenge is finding sufficient time to create all of the things I have floating around in my head. My poor, beleagured husband would be the first to tell you that I'm the worst travel partner ever because I'm always stopping and looking at new things whenever we go places. We can never get from point A to point B in a straight line. 

This tendency to meander through life's subjects is exactly why I enjoy working with clients on commissions. Custom paintings are fun projects because they start with my client's idea, and then we collaborate to make their vision a reality. It's one of the occasions when I can flip things around and say, "It starts with your idea."

A good example of this is a recent landscape diptych that I created, "Golden Horizon I and II." My client was interested in vivid fall colors, mountains, and a bold, contemporary statement. She sent me some landscape photos from around her home out west and the colors she wanted to emphasize. Then I created some small-scale initial studies for her review. After consulting with her about the studies, I painted the finished, full-size works. 

The finished works are oils on canvas, each measuring 40" wide by 60" tall. Below you can see some behind-the-scenes photos of the process behind these paintings in my Knoxville, Tennessee studio.  If you have an idea for a landscape or cityscape painting that you’d like to make a reality, contact me and we can discuss what you’d like.

Priming the Canvas
Priming one of the canvases in my studio.
House painting brushes aren't just for painting houses...
Color Swatches 
The client's colors from her decor.

Painting in Progress
The first block-in of shapes and color. 
This is a really fun part of the process.

One of the best parts of my job is what I describe as "Swimming in color." 

Another great part of my job? A studio mascot!
Maple was kind enough to glam up a pose for this photo