Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gallery in the Woods

I took this photograph standing outside the gallery where my artwork is going to be shown. You have to ignore the reflections on the glass window. I went there today to deliver all my pieces. This is a painting by Laurel Hausler, she is one of their star painters. I have to admit, the painting is very creative. Very fun and eye catching.

I let the gallery owner price my paintings. Pleasantly, I was shocked at the prices. Last night I looked at one painting, my biggest and best, and said to my husband, "I'd let them sell that for $900." Of course I would get half. The gallery owner priced that piece at $1,900. This price is probably fair to my talent and the amount of time I put into the painting. But it was a price far above the range we had discussed when they came to my apartment and saw my originals for the first time. At that time I had told the gallery owners that I didn't care about money, I only wanted to get rid of the paintings, and to sell them all very cheap. In time I came to regret the words that I said. They came from a place of fear and very low self esteem. As my paintings are an extension of myself, when I think myself worthless, I think my paintings worthless. I would go farther and say that when I want to hurt myself I want to destroy the paintings. But my mind is not always so twisted. There is time when I look at what other artists have done, and I really feel I have earned a place standing next to them.

When my artwork was actually in their gallery the owners forgot about our prior pricing discussion. I did not remind them of it. Some of the works will sell at almost double what I had imagined they would. The owners seemed very excited about the show. The husband, Dante, pointed out to me one artist whose black and white drawings had magical appeal. He said that although the two that were hanging were very good, she had disappointed them in the past, they had a show were her works were not very good. Implied was the observation that some artists are uneven in their talent, and that when they book an artist for a show they can be disappointed. I was to understand, by his comment, that I had not disappointed Dante.

When I was driving to the gallery I prayed to God to let me get through the social exchange and delivery with my sanity intact. I don't know what I feared. Yes I do. I feared that my works were so bad that the gallery owners wouldn't want to sell them for very much. I prayed and then I got something big today that is worth more than money to me. I got confidence. I got faith, from the gallery owners, that my paintings are worth people paying good sums of money for. Naturally not one painting may sell. These are poor economic times and buying an expensive painting is a luxury. Do people go shopping much in January? I would like to make money, but in a real sense, I don't care if I make any money. It is the paintings that matter. Are they good? If I believe that what I'm doing is worthwhile, making paintings, then it is a little bit easier to choose life and shun death.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sword Thrust

I know that my drawing looks simplistic. But honestly, this took at least two days to draw. It is part of a much larger painting. It is the decoration on the front of an altarpiece.

I am struggling with this painting. There is a figure of a girl that I drew that needs to be re-drawn before I paint her. The temptation is not to waste time on trying to redraw her, just go ahead and paint her the way that I originally planned. Her outline is penciled in on the canvas. I'm struggling with whether or not to put my all into one painting. In part, I feel a bit like a machine grinding out paintings. The faster I make them the more money I make. But then there is pride in product. I want each painting to be me at my best. At this point, I know that I will not get back in money what I put into each painting. It is so hard for me to work. I exhaust myself after several hours painting. And then their is the mental pain that follows exhaustion. It seems like in a fair world you get back for the effort that you give in. But I don't know if the world is fair.

So I look at his painting and think to myself, "if it sells at $1,000 I get back $500. There is paint, canvas and the frame which are all my own expenses. Maybe it won't be good enough to sell at $1,000. Maybe that is too much to ask for it. I don't know what it is worth. I don't know if anyone cares that I make an effort. Fools deceive themselves. Fools are so proud of their accomplishments. I think that if I hate myself, and consider my talent slender, I avoid being a fool."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ball Toss

I did this plan for a painting in one day, several hours. That is some sort of record. Haven't been painting for several days, I guess I stored up my creativity. The paint on my large canvass is wet, it doesn't help that the room is very cold, this particular color dries slowly. I want the paint to be dry before I work again, worried about smearing paint with my sweater sleeve. Might need to rest my hand against the canvass while I paint too. It just makes sense to be working on two pictures at once.

This drawing is for a 8" x 10" panel. Believe it or not it worries me that I like working small with small brushes. The insecurities of an artist. I think that if I were a better artist I would work bigger with bigger brushes.

When I saw my Dad last he warned me against using photographic references. Said that the photographer could come after me for using his creation, wanting monetary compensation, have to be very careful to change details. I guess it makes sense not to be writing on my blog too much about some of the sources of my inspiration.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blood Rising

I started painting today on virgin canvas. I guess the canvas is not completely blank, there is the tracing of pencil where I put down the outline of a new composition. All counting, it took about a week to design the new painting. I had to make drawings. Two drawings came from photographs, one in an artist aid book of nude models posing, and the other in an Italian fashion magazine. Two more figures were drawn with the aid of a poser program my husband uses to create an on-line comic book magazine. He manipulated computer generated bodies to give me poses that I imagined. We printed out on paper these bodies and I re-drew them. I did not use the computer faces, the male got a bull dog's face and the female got a fox's face. To accurately draw the animal faces I used yet another artist's aid book, this one of 19th century animal drawings. Because these drawing are so old, there is no copy-right, and anyone can copy them. In all there are four figures in the composition that I drew from pictures, and three more figures that I drew from my imagination. And then, there are four candles.

This painting is different from others I've done in the past. I'm being influenced by artwork I saw in a gallery here in Brattleboro. I really like this woman's art, I would buy some if I could. Since I can't buy it, an alternative is to make my own. In all the work I've seen so far the woman uses black backgrounds. Flat black or glossy black, but by using black you put the figures in an undisputed imaginary space. No landscape, no sky, no plants, no water no mountains off in the distance. I think that the black makes the image seem like something out of a dream. Black is cold and harsh and urgent. Black makes the color you use pop. I'm not going subtle with the color, there will be strong yellow and green-blue, with some naked flesh, a pink-white dress, and red-hued cobblestones. I am not creating a landscape but I am creating a ground for the images to rest upon and this is a path, in front of black space, made up of dark red-hued cobblestones. Nothing in my painting is floating, it is all anchored on the cobblestone. I like making a ground out of a checkerboard illusion. There is checkerboard ground in my two last pieces, "Monsters Fucking" and "No Place for Tears".

I anticipate that the best part of the painting will be the red, yellow, and blue auras around the candle flames.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dad's Landscape

On Thanksgiving day my Dad gave me this landscape. He had done it while he was living in Maine last summer. It is a view from the top of Monheghan Island. The large central building is a motel and nearer in view is a little cemetery. Dad showed me about 20 paintings that he had painted over the summer when my husband and I came to vacation with him in September. This painting several people had looked at and commented on. It was one of his best. Dad has been painting for a while and I own not one of his paintings. I found this to be very sad. I own three of my brother's paintings, but I bought each one of them. This painting had a price tag on it of $2,500. Naturally I could not afford to buy my Dad's art. He shows in three galleries in Connecticut. I assumed that this painting was bound for an art gallery.

It took all of my courage to ask Dad if I could have this painting on Thanksgiving day. Imagine my surprise when he said yes! I think it was because a corner of the painting had become damaged in transport. He was keeping the painting because he planned to make a larger version of it. I believe he had given up hopes of selling it. I was very happy when he gave me a nice gold frame and the frame almost completely covered the damage.

Now this painting is hanging in my kitchen next to one of my own paintings. The contrast of our styles is very jarring. We really do not look good hanging next to one another. But we are family. I have to give my Dad's painting a place of honor.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Final Monsters Fucking

I learned something doing this oil and the last sex themed oil. The painting can look better not being over burdened with lines and squiggles. I love the lines and squiggles in many abstract paintings and in Basquiet paintings. But I'm no master of lines and squiggles. As this painting emerged I realized that the black background would not be filled with flashes of gold or other colors creating an aura around the figures. I really do like making figures with auras. But in this case auras would have interfered with the action and the presence of the figures. It would have been like distracting noise. There is this thin line that you can fall off of, added energy or distracting noise.

This painting was dry enough to photograph but still wet to touch. I would like very much to add a layer of varnish to make the black gleam and the colors pop. I've never varnished a painting before. It would be good to start experimenting with these little 5" x 7". My father puts retouch varnish on his which can be applied two weeks after the painting is dry. I have to call him and ask questions or do an internet search for information. I'd like to know what brand he uses.

Dad wanted to buy the little Mermaid and Sailor. I said he could buy it on the condition that he hangs it somewhere. I told him I don't want it put in a drawer. That is where he used to keep some drawings I gave him. Over time I've sneakily retreaved all work that had been given to him as gifts because he has no interest displaying any of them in his home. One oil painting my brother found discarded face down on a concrete basement floor. I figure that the Mermaid and Sailor is different because be is paying for it. Maybe having bought it, he will respect it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Final Monsters

Finished this today. The wet, black paint glistens. There are two different colors of black. You can't see some of the transparent paint in the photograph. For such an explicit subject of sex, I tried to be delicate with the paint. I don't know what to think of this. It is quite different from anything I've ever done in oil. This is definitely me trying to be adventurous. I with I had some artist friends to critique it.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I got an email from friend commenting that the purple dress in "No Place for Tears" overwhelmed the painting. He went as far as to photoshop my dress and turn it into a lighter color. I gave his suggestion weight because when the painting was planned I intended that the dress be white. The purple was only an under-painting that would later peek through lace-like flourishes of white.

So yesterday I started adding the uppermost layer of transparent white to my dress. I had the dress half finished when I called my husband in to take a look. We both agreed that the dress had become too busy with pattern. The painting overall suffered. So I began to wipe the white paint off. To help it come off I liberally added Turpenoid to painting's surface. First I noticed that my rag had picked up purple paint. Then I realized that while the dress had been dry to touch, the Turpenoid was so corrosive, or the oil paint takes such a long time to fully dry, that the surface of the dress lost color. In spots almost you could see all the way down to the white primer. Disaster!

It has been the a horrid, boring task to repaint the purple dress. The time spent on repainting takes me away from my other creative projects, paintings where everything that is happening is new and exciting. I am so finished with "No Place With Tears" that I don't even want to look at it anymore.

A lesson to learn. Turpenoid will take off more than one layer of paint. And it is possible to over paint a painting. It takes delicate timing to know when to stop. Because if you go to far it can be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse a painting back to its original look.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No Place For Tears

This is the final artwork. It measures 18" x 24" and is done in oil paint.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I did this from a photograph in a book. My work for the day. The two small sex themed paintings are too wet to work on, so for the next several days I will be drawing. I'm trying to plan a large painting, 20" x 24". "No Place for Tears" is drying on my one and only table easel. The only thing left to do with it is try to decide whether to sign it on the front or on the back. Once it is in a frame I'll make the decision. This weekend my husband will go into the barn and try to reassemble my favorite upright art easel. We took it apart to mount it on the wall, I tried standing and painting against a wall for a time. Now I am crossing my fingers that all the little nuts and bolts and wooden pieces were saved in one spot together.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Monsters Fucking

These are both plans for small panels, 5" x 7".

It was hard painting today. Felt suicidal. There was a knife sitting on the kitchen counter. I walk by. Think about cutting myself. I don't touch the knife. Keep on walking. Wish the thought would go away.

I may owe over $1,000 in therapy bills. My husband said no honey, it is closer to $2,000. Got my first bill several days ago. It was for a session in June. My first session in June. They are billing me in November for June. I've been going once a week. Since I got no bills, assumed that medical insurance paid for everything.

My husband said that therapy is not supposed to make you feel suicidal. I said, why aren't you mad at me? Matthew would have been mad at me. My husband says this is a blip in the road. One year from now it won't even matter. Don't cry, its not your fault.

It has been so long since I've felt suicidal. Stopped the Prozac and I felt fine. Well, can't function as well socially, who cares. I liked life. Happily obsessed every day over my painting. Who knows, maybe therapy helped keep me stable.

It's a good thing my brother made me get rid of the gun. I can imagine shooting a painting. I have a place to store my art if it looks like I am going to destroy it. Eva Shelby's house. There is a line I don't want to cross.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon really knew how to smear his paint.

I consider Bacon the premier expert on painting monsters. Does this look scary?

I wonder how much of this was pre-planned and how much of this was improvisation.

Final Mermaid and Sailor

This piece is finished.

I can't seem to escape from pattern. I really like using pattern. Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off. Who was left? Repeat. Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off. Who was left? Repeat.

It is hard for me to dissolve or distort the forms. I try. But I am fearful of making a large gesture and erasing the known identity of body, face, waves. The big victory on this piece was smearing the eyes but leaving the mouth of the mermaid distinct. It was easier to decorate and destroy the negative space around the named shapes but the outline of these shapes remained pretty stable. I don't know what it is like to paint an arm and then smear an arm. But I'm headed in that direction.

Finished painting and then began a drawing of several monsters fucking. Will continue to work small scale because 1) my table top easel is being used by for the drying of the almost completed "A Place With No Tears" and 2) I'm guessing that I'll take more risks working small scale where less time has been invested in the work. To really fix not being afraid of taking risks I think I need to work on multiple panels, different sizes, working with the same image, distorting it in different ways. That is a good plan that will certainly lead to experimentation. Or boredom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Started my mao inhibitor anti-depressant today. It is a clear plastic patch that you stick on your skin. I put it in a dumb place. Just lifted up my shirt and pressed it on my belly. I never realized how much the belly flexes as you move! Next time I will place it on my upper arm.

Usually with mao inhibitors there are dietary restrictions. You can't eat aged cheese like cheddar cheese, aged meat like peperoni and sausage, some soy products, and tap beer. These are my limitations if I stay on Emsam at a higher dosage. The beginning dosage there are no dietary restrictions. I'm optimistic because since I've been off the Prozac I've had no depression. On different types of mao inhibitors the food restriction can grow, to no eating nuts, chocolate, aged wine, and more.

Although I've had no depression off of Prozac my behavior has suffered. Twice now I've had to leave my Tuesday evening writer's workshop early because of anxiety.

When I started Prozac, 17 years ago, I sat in a McDonald's and made a sudden realization. I was having no thoughts about needing to leave a public place because of anxiety. I calmly sat and ate feeling like I had all the time in the world. And I could go into a store in the mall and idly browse, while prior to Prozac I couldn't stand being in one store for very long.

What has happened with my writing group is that I arrive feeling fine but then anxiety builds. There is nothing bothering me, no worries in my mind. I write without anxiety, but then after the writing sessions we meet in a group to read our work out loud. It is at this point, where we are gathered together in close proxcimity, that I become very uncomfortable.

The loss of Prozac may turn me into a more fragile person socially. I will be able to make limited social contact in a group setting before having to give in to an overwhelming desire to flee to home and safety. I think about how schizophrenics are a hidden minority in society. The disease definitely influences social skills. I can talk sanely and sensibly to other people but now I see there is a clock ticking on our encounter. When I think about the approach I take toward other schizophrenics I always get the notion that I am dealing with a wild animal. Trust is fragile, time is fleeting, conversation is more unpredictable than normal and in essence, you simply can't get too close. I deeply enjoy writer's group and the people in it right up to the moment when I feel I must bolt. I don't like my behavior, I don't like seeming odd. But I have to keep my weaknesses in perspective. Lack of Prozac doesn't impact my relationship with my husband or my ability to create artwork. I can still work hard and love hard. Probably in the future I will be less inclined to go to public activities, but then, I was never a fan of public events. A good book at home is my favorite form of entertainment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Satisfaction

First part of the day, did a nude. Very unsatisfying.

Had a piece of paper with the computer image of the nude on it, all the highlights and shadows on the body's muscles. Checked the paper, checked the painting. Checked the paper, checked the painting. Back and forth. Finished nude I don't care much for, but I think it is about as good as its going to get. This is the third time I've painted the nude, each time the flesh gets fleshier. Have time before the opening of the show to paint it a fourth time, don't know yet whether or not I will. It takes two days to complete the nude, feet to butt first, waist to fingertips second. Oh yeah, this is because the nude is hanging upside-down. And the head has been cut off.

Second part of the day brought "Mermaid and Sailor" to half completion. Very satisfying. No paper to check, everything done by impulse and instinct. This painting is tiny, 5" x 7", but it definitely is the direction that I want to go in for the future.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I'm so neat and clean. But the place that I admire so very much is much more messy. If I could, I would have love to have added an aura around my figure, lightening bolts of energy, like Basquiat added to his figure.

I name my failure to follow my desires one of cowardliness. I like to be sensible and to do logical. When I do manage to follow whimsy, and add a magical note, it stays within the lines of storybook illustration.

My figure used the tiniest of brushes to be made. Basquiet used blunt oil sticks to draw with. Basquiet's work was huge, probably worked on the floor, while mine was table top small.

I don't know where my style is heading, but I know that I am not yet a mature artist. I'm still forming opinions and work methods. On small panels, 5" x 7", like the earlier entry of the mermaid and the sailor, I'm experimenting. My belief is that small size feels like throw away, and it is not intimidating. I can afford to make mistakes when my time investment is lower than on a large painting. A painting is almost finished. This figure is part of it, but there is as yet no title. I know that the next painting I am planning is 20" x 24" but that there will absolutely be one or more 5" x 7" panels that I will switch off on while working on the large project. The subject matter of the small panels will probably be monsters. Monsters and a more abstracted painting style certainly go together well.

Under Construction

I really didn't know where I was going with this one until I painted the background wet into wet and added the abstract trails and colors. The simple tripod of the sailor, mermaid, and waves was dry and uninspiring. I wanted energy, and I felt that I got a burst of that with abstract painting.

So far on this painting you have tight and neat brush strokes, as in the very careful formation of the waves. For the painter, painting a repeating pattern like the waves is mostly mindless. I suppose if you like knitting or quilting such activity is soothing. But when I do simple, repetitive brushwork, and careful blending of colors, there is a pressure in me that wants to burst free. The end result so far has been worth the boredom, I like to see discipline and order within a painting. But I know that I am reaching for a style that combines freedom and discipline, neat and sloppy, sense and nonsense. I wince at using the term sloppy, because no matter how quickly a stroke seems to be made often there is a moment or moments of contemplation before the brush hits the panel.

Michael saw the painting in this form and I asked him what he thought about the added abstraction. (Note, most of this painting is just an underpainting, it has far to do in terms of adding flesh tones, hair, wave foam and more detail on the abstracted background). Mike said that what I had done was to paint what it looked like underwater. He tried to make sense of the abstraction. Maybe he thought it was seaweed, or fish, or ocean currents.

As I worked on the panel today I enjoyed painting in a dual sense, both the object and the background at the same time. I added color to both the positive space, such as the sailor's head and limbs, and the negative space, the darker areas behind the object. In the past my tendency has been to paint one part and then the other separately. For example, I painted a landscape first and then the objects that were on the landscape. What I want to move toward is an allover painting strategy, where foreground and background are built up at the same time.

As I paint abstracted space my own mind does add a narrative element. I name the shapes and lines thinking to myself, "that looks like wings" or "that looks like a crown" or "that looks like a breeze is flowing through".

Got the inspiration today to make the sailor sunburned with a lot of brown pink and the mermaid pale with green hues so that the two figures are better contrasted. It too tells the story of one creature that spends its time under the sun and another creature that spends its time under the ocean.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Head Bearers

Barak Obama

My husband and I had different views about how Barak Obama started on his path to the White House.

I said that someone from the democratic party saw Obama speak and thought to themselves, "With the right team, this guy could be president". The democratic power man approached Obama and said to him, "We can give you the engine that with you at the reigns, will bring you straight to the White House. Can you see yourself as president?"

My husband said that the start was much different. He said that Obama said to himself one day, "I can be president." He dreamed his own dream. And then he went about finding the people to back him that would make it happen.

The difference between my husband and I is that he saw the begining as self initiated, while I saw it being imposed from the outside. I guess I didn't believe that a person can look themselves in the mirror and dream so high.

I don't look in the mirror and dream very high.

I am currently selling my paintings, in my own words, "to get rid of them". I despirately want them to find new homes. If it were about making money I would hold out until I could get a better price for them. I look at a painting, think of all the work that went into it, and despair when I think of the money I'm saying that I'll take in return. I obviously don't think I have much talent. What I think will sell the painting is its cheap price, not anything especially wonderful inherent in the work.

I placate myself by saying that if my work sells, if people show that they want it, I'll increase the prices. I'm waiting for a sign to tell me that I'm worth something. I'm waiting for somebody else to tell me I'm a good artist because I can't look in the mirror and say this about myself.