Treasures – Art Studio Moments

A lot has changed in a few short months. The most obvious change may be that my website is redesigned and now has an integrated store where my paintings can be purchased. I feel very good about it. It was time to clean things up. I’m learning more about wordpress, SEO and optimizing art portfolio sites, which leads me to the other changes.

I no longer work for Whole Foods Market as a store artist. I spent over two years there. When I moved to Asheville I knew very few people here. When I landed the job as a designer and chalk artist I didn’t just gain a job. I also gained a community. My store was nestled right up against downtown and in a busy neighborhood. I learned about my new city by working there, getting to know regulars and spending time with my coworkers. Change is good, but I am glad I spent that time there. It helped me create a home.

I spend more time in my art studio, writing articles, starting up a local sketch group and freelancing in social media marketing. I am helping other artists build an online presence, find new audiences and increase their sales. It’s pretty much what I already used to do for Jason quietly behind the scenes. It’s been fun. I like it. I want to continue this kind of work. I learn something new everyday to help others and myself.

I’ve updated my portfolio with the help of a good friend with a good camera. If you check out the fine art section you will see photos of paintings I have completed the past two years. It feels good to share them. I like being able to look back on them and know that I’ve been moving in a direction this whole time of transition, heart ache and adventure.

Ms. Ethel Levesque, my old lady calico, has joined me and Cat Chaplin in my little apartment. I am now a single woman with two cats. I’m okay with that. They are good company. I think the worst thing about it is Ethel has taught Chaplin how to open cabinets. He now paws them open and bangs the doors in protest if I am not providing him the kind of attention he wants and when he wants it.

I’m learning how to manage my time to be more productive. It’s a weird thing to have time to work in my studio. I think it bewildered me at first, but now I’ve accepted my new circumstances and have started a new body of work! I am not the artist I want to be, perhaps I never will be. I am a firm believer that if you are always satisfied with the quality of your work, that might mean you have stagnated and are not progressing. That said, I am excited! I feel that I’ve broken some of my own barriers. I’m applying the lessons I’ve learned and am getting to watch myself create work a few steps closer to what I want it to be.

I’m not afraid of my art studio anymore. Does that sound weird? Has anyone else been afraid of being alone with their work? 

Now that winter is here I find my work reflecting the cold decay of outside. I’ve gathered my little forest trash and treasures around me, all brown, dry and brittle, to tell new stories.

POSING FOR ARTIST ANGELA CUNNINGHAM

When I first moved to Western North Carolina I was studying full-time and didn’t have time for a regular job. To earn some extra spending cash, I posed regularly for local artists and drawing groups. I haven’t had the time to do it much lately. Being employed makes it difficult to be on call, but lately I have been sitting for artist and my former instructor, Angela Cunningham.

It’s a slow process but an amazing one to see come together. Every step is important in order to create a successful end product, which is in this case, a large format all graphite drawing, and perhaps also an oil painting. She’s done a few color studies, one of which is shown below.


As a figure model, I never have much expectation or investment in the work completed based on my posing. I know it’s not about me. It doesn’t hurt my feelings if the likeness isn’t there, or if it’s not particularly flattering, but sitting for Angela has been a unique pleasure because of her skill. It’s one of the few times I’ve allowed myself some satisfaction and expectation for the final piece. I can’t wait to see how it turns out and feel honored to be a part of her body of work.

Below is one of my favorite pieces of her work. It is titled Silence. I love this painting not just because it’s beautiful, or that I’m partial to skulls, but also because the moth in the lower right hand corner is a polyphemus moth I found fluttering while it died on a hot night the first summer I had moved here. It reminds me of how exciting that time was and how beautiful, for both good and bad reasons, my experience here has been.

Flow and Ebb – Life on the French Broad

Life is different. Life is interesting. Life is a bit hard to keep up with.

I’m on my last month of officially studying with Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios. It’s time to find a full time job and figure out a schedule to allow me to continue self study. I believe I will stay in Marshall for the time being. I like the quiet and slower pace. Things aren’t frantic here. I feel myself slowing down as well. A sense of urgency will always be part of me, but it is nice living somewhere that doesn’t exacerbate it. This place is full of quiet moments of meaning. Or maybe it’s just helping me focus on the moments that are already there but that I usually miss.

I love the sound of the French Broad river always rushing within ear shot. I’ve never lived somewhere that has smelled so sweet. The spring flowers have melted like heated sugar, but now summer blooms like orange lilies and trumpet flowers are replacing them. I may be alone much of the time, but there are always lightening bugs to keep me company.

I’ve met good people. My studio mate Dan has been a great comfort and an easy friend. My roommates, Frank(another amazing artist) and Zane, have been a wonderful surprise. Having Chelsey, a friend from Norfolk, here eased my transition.

To help fund good times and my coffee needs I’ve been posing for drawing groups in the evenings, specifically for Lawter Studios and Ben Long’s drawing group. It’s been an interesting experience being on the other side of the canvas. It’s a valuable lesson. I have found figure modeling easy in surprising ways and extremely hard in others. My feelings of exposure disappeared almost immediately. I came to realize that modeling for a drawing group is not about me at all. It’s the parts, not the sum of them. 

I’ve learned a lot, and very quickly, drawing with Angela. I have learned to appreciate and maybe even like graphite when before I avoided it in favor of charcoal. In the past I have been very heavy handed while drawing. I always seemed to be scoring the surface of my paper. While here I have grown more delicate with the pressure I use while drawing. My perception of value has always been a big source of frustration for me. I have by no means fixed this problem, but have made the steps towards increasing my sensitivity to it. I’m physically stronger as well. In the past I haven’t made myself stand while drawing. I’m required to now. At first the pain in my back and legs was distracting, but it eventually eased off. I’m stronger. I see more clearly. I translate. I’ve taken painful steps in the right direction.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle drawing bargue plates and doing cast drawings. They seemed inaccessible before coming here. I didn’t understand the process. Now, while not terribly skilled yet, I feel like I have the tools and vocabulary to unlock this mysterious method of learning. There is nothing magic about it. Just like most things, it’s hard work and discipline, but possible. Feeling that it’s possible makes all the difference. I have less fear.

I miss my friends in Norfolk and Philly. I miss my step children and life in Virginia, but I am also happy.

PREPARING TO SAY GOODBYE TO NORFOLK PT. 1

As I prepare for my trip to Asheville I’ve been working to create a cache of reference material for me to draw in my fresh new moleskine…the whole point of this year is to draw, refine my drafting skills, refrain from painting till my foundations are stronger and hope that in the end I learn more than I already know and can become a better painter as a result.

I’ve been setting up still life compositions in my shadow box and photographing those, hoping to come up with something interesting, dynamic and steps beyond my past paintings while still building on a theme.

But my main love is portraiture, so I’ve enlisted some local artists into posing for me. Of course, drawing from life would be ideal, but currently not convenient. I’m just glad I have such interesting friends willing to pose for me, and it’s been a nice way to see people before leaving while still getting tasks taken care of.

I first fetched metal smith and ODU instructor Jane Ritchie from her studio in Norfolk, then was lucky to have Mallory Jarrell stop by my place after hanging a show at local boutique Kitsch. You should definitely click on their names and check out their work. It’s nice to see such diverse work being done around here.

I then actually made the effort(I am a recluse) to go check out a show happening at Fawn Street Studios and was glad I did. I hadn’t known about the studios and warehouse till recently. I hope they have more shows there and put the space to good use. Below are pictures from the event, Peanut Butter Fluxxx. I especially liked the work in the second from the bottoms photo, all done by artist Will Clark.

heads on tables – learning classical drawing techniques

It’s over. I am done studying at TCC. Almost. I still need to take an algebra test…damn it.

This semester I took supervised study in drawing, hence all the photos of charcoal drawings, and to finish it up I spent the past week with Chicago artist(and former VA Beach resident) Brett Edenton. It was a valuable experience to study with someone, even if just for a week, with a specific goal. In many ways it made things more comfortable. He could tell me when I was doing something wrong and it not be open to interpretation. This wasn’t about creativity. It was about seeing and technical skill and it’s exactly what I wanted and made me eager to continue this path. That said, I didn’t do everything that was suggested. I tried to take advice and pick up tips and skill while not losing my own methods that seem to work for me.

I believe I’ve touched on it before, but I want representational skills. I want those skills to make my work, whether it be figurative or not, more convincing.

It was beneficial to not be able to dodge someone’s attention while drawing. At first I was self conscious, and while that feeling lingered, it was good for me not to disappear in a classroom of other students. Having someone watch you draw can be very scary. It reveals how you think…or how you don’t think.

This isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a step in the right direction. I hope my touch and eye will grow more sensitive as time and practice pass. I enjoyed that the project was to draw more heads on tables, something I already seem to like to do.

I also stopped in at the Chrysler Museum of Art before it shuts down for renovations and met this painting I had never noticed before. I call it The Log Lady of Norfolk, but it’s really a painting by Hugues Merle French (1823-1881) called The Lunatic of Étretat (1871, oil on canvas).

I love it. It’s hard to see, but her eyes almost glow red and her hair is drifting away like smoke. Plus it reminds me of Twin Peaks and that’s always a plus.