Death and Taxes

Grabbed a photo from my favorite photo sharing website to sketch from at my monthly sketchers’ group meeting.
a mini sketch in my pocket sized sketchbook
Moo.

Various things have gotten in the way of my painting this winter. My sister-in-law passed away, so we made two trips out of state. Doing all the record keeping and paperwork required for maintaining my art as a businesses has been a time consuming hassle… taxes, taxes, and more taxes. Plus…y’know… Life. But I’ve been keeping my skills sharp by sketching when an opportunity presents itself.

Of course, those opportunities present themselves more often if I keep some art materials handy. Sunday morning at church I found myself with a few idle moments before it was time for Sunday school to start. I pulled my mini sketchbook and the stub of a No. 2 pencil out of my purse and looked around for something that was saying, “Draw me!” At first I only saw all of the same objects that are always there. Then I spotted my Dad’s hat sitting on a chair — lots of interesting curves, just the right amount of detail, and gorgeous texture. BINGO!

Painting Weather

freshly primed wood panels drying in the garage

I never thought that art would be at the mercy of the weather, but I find myself anxiously watching the forecast. I’ve started painting on wood panels instead of canvases which I want to coat with sprayed-on primer… which requires temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees F and calm winds. For weeks I was waiting for cooler days, and then MUCH cooler days descended upon us rather suddenly, so now I’m hoping it will warm up again at least briefly and that the winds will calm down. I can’t complain too much knowing what they’re dealing with in North Dakota right now — lost crops buried under feet of snow, and having to use the winter supply of hay to feed the cattle so it won’t likely last until the spring thaw.

I want to get all the panels I’ve bought primed and ready to use before winter sets in, so I can paint during those winter days when I’m stuck inside. You may have noticed the spray cans in the photo. Yes, that’s Rustoleum™ automotive primer. I learned that it’s an ideal primer for oil painting. It’s oil-based itself and it’s made to last a decade on your car out there on the road, so it’s going to last for centuries indoors hanging on a wall. I also like that it makes a smoother surface than brushing gesso onto canvas, and a smooth surface is critical when painting highly detailed work. I like it when the best product is also reasonably priced too! I painted those eight square panels with just one can.

The primer comes in white, though I haven’t been able to find it at any of the local home improvement stores. I’ll try the auto parts stores next. I tend to paint dark though, so black primer might work best anyway. If I don’t get any paint on the edges when I’m painting the front, then smooth, black edges will make framing optional. Bonus! Frame-less art seems to be the trend, and it’s certainly more economical, so I’m good with that.

Next Wednesday, September 11, at Art Walk in downtown Elkhart, IN., I’ll be displaying my art again, but this time instead of displaying my art by myself at a downtown business, I’ll be participating in a joint effort with other artists at the Elkhart Art League. I’ve slashed my prices to clear out space in my studio and make room for new creativity. I’ll be volunteering to help “mind the store” all evening (apart from a quick visit to Hotdogeddy’s for some supper), so come down to the train depot building — west end — at 131 Tyler Street, and say Hello while you check out a great variety of affordable original art. A portion of the proceeds go to support the Art League which promotes the arts in the community.

Art Walk – Round 2

So, my first experience as an artist vendor for Art Walk, my home town’s monthly art event, was both good and bad. They assigned me to a great location for April, The Bookworm, an amazing book store. The owner and staff were fantastic — very welcoming and helpful. The only problem with that location was that the books are so impressive (like the library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) , so that people who walked in were so awed by the display of books (just like Belle in the film) that they looked right past the art. But I digress. (Seriously, if you read and you live in Michiana, go to the Bookworm.)

The bad part was the weather. It was barely above freezing, windy, very gray, and raining off and on. There were about two dozen people who came in while I was there, and only about a dozen who were there to look at the art. Also the Art Walk sign that was supposed to be right outside the door may have been moved a bit so that it wasn’t obvious that the store was one of the designated art displays. I did make one sale, so there was one goal met for the year. It was a small sale, but that counts. It was to a young acquaintance (now I know what her mom is getting for Mother’s Day), so I still haven’t quite met my next goal of selling art to someone who I didn’t already know. And I spent a lot on frames and display easels, so the goal of breaking even is a long way off. Those business start-up costs are considerable.

Now I’m gearing up for the next Art Walk, which is May 8. Come and see me if you’re in the area. This time my art will be on display at MisFit Fitness, 515 S. Main St. The extended weather forecast is more hopeful for this one. In addition to artists displaying their work at a variety of local businesses up and down Main Street, there will be live music. There are a lot of great food choices downtown too. I recommend Hotdogeddy’s at the south end of downtown across Main St. from the train depot — awesome hot dogs and the nicest staff you’ll ever meet. Usually they’re only open for breakfast and lunch, but on Wednesdays they’re open until 8:00.

Big Ideas – Small Art

Feb-Mar2019_SMALL

I haven’t posted in a while, but I promise I haven’t been a slacker.  I couldn’t post what I was working on until recently because it was not publishable work.  There are lots of reasons a work of art may not be publishable… one was a commission for a birthday surprise and I can’t spoil the surprise, one was an 80% plagiarized watercolor I did for fun as a silly Valentine’s day gift for my husband, and another was a sketch of a young acquaintance that I can’t share because he’s a minor and I don’t know his parents to ask for permission. (He thought it was pretty cool though.)

Then I went to an art event at my friend Jake’s studio, and met A. R. Drew.  She describes herself on her web site as “a contemporary badass warrior artist.”  I bought one of her pieces – something I rarely do because I already have an excess of art at my house (occupational hazard).  It was a fascinating small figural sketch done in gold paint marker.  I also watched her sketching one with that marker and I realized that was the answer to my problem of always taking a couple weeks or more to finish anything.  With a big, bold marker, I can’t fuss over detail, and I can’t erase, so I’m forced to work confidently and “sketchily.”  Thanks for the inspiration, A.R — Crown On!

You see that onion picture above?  That one’s a photo, not a painting.  I took that photo while the sun pouring in the west window was perfect, intending to use it as a reference photo for a small oil painting, and I have actually started on it – the picture is sketched in pencil on a canvas – but then I stalled on that project because in order to paint with oils or acrylics, I have to have a significant block of time.  If I’ve only got half an hour, that’s just enough time to get paint on the brushes and then clean up.

When a local crafts store announced a moving sale, I bought a set of oil-based paint markers and I’ve been going nuts with them in a watercolor paper journal.  First I found some public domain photos and drew the lamb, the duckling, and the wolf in just marker, and then the parakeet in paint marker with a watercolor background.  Then I thought I should try something other than an animal, and I did a distant cousin, Elsie Grace, from an old photo circa 1905.  I’ve always liked that photo, and what I like most about the sketch is that it actually looks like Elsie, even though I only spent about five minutes on the face.  Drawing a person is easy – achieving a good likeness is hard.

If you live in the Elkhart, Indiana area, come get a closer look at these smaller works and my larger paintings too during Art Walk – April 10, 2019 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  Businesses up and down Main Street’s “Arts & Entertainment District” will be hosting the event.  April’s event will also feature a lot of talented young artists.  More details on that and my exact location for the event will be in my next post.  Thanks for reading!

Snow Days Are For Making Art

January-February

It’s been a rough winter weather-wise and we’ve used up our allotment of “snow days” at the school where I work for my day job.  I didn’t sleep away my extra days off.  Well… not a whole day, anyway.  I did the taxes, and then I did art.

The picture on the left is three of my great-grandfathers sisters.  I never met them; neither did my father.  We only have the one photograph of them, but it caught my attention among all the other old family photos.  They seem like people I would like to meet.  They also seemed like people I would like to paint… and so I did — in ink and watercolors.  It had been about thirty-five years since I used that medium, but I think I’ve got the hang of it again.  I titled it, “The Smith Sisters, Circa 1935.”

The middle picture is the result of not being able to decide what to paint.  I eventually decided that I would ditch all of the possible reference photos I was mulling over and just paint a face entirely out of my head.  At first she looked a lot like me.  Then, for a while she looked a lot like the actress Leelee Sobieski.  I think, now that she’s finished, she looks a lot like one of those fictitious princesses created by a certain film company that also owns a few theme parks.  Because she’s monochromatic and I “carved” her out of paint and my imagination, I titled that one “Cameo.”

The fish is just a little sketchbook practice, made with Sharpie pens and Sharpie markers, but I had a lot of fun with him.   I drew the fishy and painted the fictitious portrait while listening to audio books from the Library.  I recommend Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman.  It’s an account of the lives of Vincent Van Gogh and his younger brother Theo, and of their very close relationship.  It was intense.  I mean the book, but their relationship was definitely intense too.

I will be going on a weekend road trip to visit relatives in a few days, and I’m taking my sketchbook along.  The family visit may be all that we do, but if there is some “down time,” I want to be ready with some art supplies.  I’ve never sketched in a moving car, but I might give it a try.  Artistic confidence comes from Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!

 

Jeff’s Best Friend

Jeffs Best Friend SMALL

I finished this pet portrait back in October, but I couldn’t show it to the world yet, because it was a commission for a Christmas gift.  It started out as a pencil drawing, but I just wasn’t satisfied with the blackness of Max’s eyes, and I didn’t want to leave out the warm tones in his fur, so it evolved into a colored pencil painting.  Or technically mixed media because I had to use ink to get the obsidian-like sparkle in his peepers.

This was my first experience with laid paper.  If you’re not familiar with the term, laid paper has ridges in it that are the result of the manufacturing process.  It was the usual type of once until it was gradually replaced by wove paper wove paper which has a uniform surface without lines.  I learned that recently when I’d been reading a lot of those little signs next to the art at museums that describe what you’re looking at.  A lot of them said “ink on white laid paper” or “printed on cream laid paper,” etc.  I took out my phone and educated myself a bit.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

My advice for laid art paper:  Yes, when you see it on clearance for just 15 cents, by all means buy it.  Just don’t try to use colored pencil on it.  It was a bit like drawing on fine-whale corduroy and those ridges showed through unless I really pressed down hard.  This work in progress detail photo shows pretty well what I was dealing with:

Jeffs Best Friend WIP detail SMALL

I was very happy with the finished work.  My friend who commissioned it got a little choked up when I showed her.  Her husband who received it for Christmas gave me a hug and thanked me the next time he saw me.  I’ll call that a success!  Here’s how they framed it:

Jeff's Best Friend Framed SMALL

If anyone else is interested in a pet portrait, I am open to doing more commissions.  Valentine’s day would be a great time to surprise your sweetheart with a portrait of his or her special furry friend.  Contact me for details. 

A bonus chuckle — This is what my cat thinks of dog art:

Jeffs Best Friend Henrys Opinion SMALL