I semi-impulsively signed up for a local two day painting workshop with Susan Hotard. I admire her paint handling- there is obvious care and intent in how she handles light and there is a sense of joy, almost care-freeness in her loose brush work. I had some apprehensions about attending the workshop- primarily $, time, and what the parking situation would be since the studio is in the city and I am devoid of paralell parking skills. Somehow all these things worked out well- a collector bought work online which basically covered the workshop for me and when I called to ask what the parking situation looked like Susan told me I could call her and she would come and park for me herself!
As it turned out there was plenty of space on the side roads. The workshop spanned two days, 8 hours a day. The time flew by. We had 2 different models, Susan did demos for us and talked a lot about her process.
In contexts like these I find myself eager to follow instructions, I am aware that I can only get as much out as I put in (attention wise) and know I am not there to paint how I normally would. It is really interesting to take an experience that is common and regular for us and see it through someone elses eyes and how it takes on foreign qualities.
Also it is really heart warming to be in a room where people give a fuck about the same thing as you. Hearing people sigh about mid tones or get really excited about the highlight on a forehead is refreshing for me. Over time this is something I have come to love more and more about classical painting approaches, I am glad to not be working in a vaccuum where it's up to me to discover everything for the first time. (Although- in another aspect- that is inevitable.)
My main take aways were:
-The use in making 'posters' -Basically reducing all shadows down to clear blocks out areas in the begining of a painting. And then keeping those light and shadow areas clearly distinguished.
A phrase susan said a number of times: 'It's easier to tame a wild horse than to bring a dead one back to life'
(Which is painting means- go a bit wild and messy and chaotic at first, with passion, it's more possible to rein that in than to be overly cautious in the start and then try to liven it up toward the end.)
Damn, it's good to write and paint and think about depression when I'm not actually depressed! All of the romanticism of depression and 'mental illness' in general particularly in association with the arts seems to paint a much more exciting image than that of lived experience. Typically when I am in the deeper end of depression (and often during any overwhelming emotion, including anger) all I want to do is sleep. I notice my dreams become more vivid and my dreams even feel more 'real' and relevant than my waking life. Writing this now I realize it sounds conspicuously similar to the plot line of 'The indian in the cupboard' (which was one of my favorite books my mom read to me as a kid.) This painting was done from life and the model actually appeared very content and at peace, the lighting had a gorgeous ethereal quality. But somehow this piece came very clearly to embody very particular aspects of depression for me. A very heavy impenetrable-seeming quiet. Blank endless expanse without meaning. Grey on grey on grey on grey. Why move? Why choose this or that? I can't tell you how many days I have slept through while the world outside hummed and moved and chose things and did stuff and it really did not seem to matter that I was not out there being a part of it- because I didn't really feel like a part of it anyway.
'The Daytime Sleepers' 22" x 15" Oil on Arches Archival Paper
It's been a generally shaky year for me, but one thing that has panned out in an incredible way is getting back out on the fence! I quit my bartending gig and got a coveted jackson square license and have been working as a self-employed full time artist since. Before I got the permit I kept rationalizing that it would make sense to just throw my cards in and give yet another go at making a living off my work since I'm going to be creating it and attempting to share it anyhow. A move like this has an entirely different meaning since having a child, just like everything has an entirely different meaning since having a child. Before it is edgy and daring and after it is questionably irresponsible & potentially impoverishing. While I'm not getting rich I'm getting by and I really wouldn't ask for more. I am selling most of my work within a week or two of producing it. Not only does this keep the groceries coming but prevents a sense of stagnation from watching my work pile up around me. Not to mention I have absolutely no place to store a collection of my own work. I love going out on the street and meeting strangers. I love making paintings that surprise and provoke me and having those experiences shared and extended into other people. All I can do is be grateful and work to keep this going.
It's far too appropriate that it has taken me over a year to update this.
Too much has happened in a year for me to delude myself or anyone that I could just plunk it all right down here with words.
I'm in transition once again. Painting now feels like my grounding point and a stabilizing force. I find the time. I started tending bar. It's a laid back enough place that on dead nights I can sit in a window onto bourbon street and draw quick sketches of people passing by. I am acquiring stacks of these little sketch books that can fit in ones palm. What will I do with all of them? What do any of us do with ourselves?
I feel steady in my craft. I miss my long idle hours. I love my son who now sucks them up, leaving some scattered for sleep or shower. I enjoy having my circumstances dictate my materials; Palette knife + limited palette oils for the moments I need to take myself seriously. Pull out the wooden easel and make shift paint palette from the freezer (because I am too frugal to waste even a dime of paint.) When my child cries awake from napping or my eyes pull me to sleep I can just wipe the knives clean without worry of a spilled can of turpentine.
At work I have my tiny notebooks + micron pens...and lately brush pens. Massing...god I love massing. Toying with fast drying materials. Acryla? Gouche on Vellum? I now feel like one who has clearly defined their food allergies and skips toward the buffet to gorge themselves.
Some similarities I noticed between making a person & making art:
I've also had some ideas for a series of photos or drawing or paintings...basically about loss of bodily control and how it connects infanthood, pregnancy/birth and old age/death. Hopefully I'll be able to culminate that into something tangible sometime soon.
I don't intend to announce anything over internet, but I am pregnant right now and that seems to be pretty naturally preoccupying me. I've always been a little underwhelmed by paintings because they 'didn't change without me'...they have such a stillness about them...when I leave a piece in a certain state I return to it as is. Making a person I imagine will be quite the opposit experience. I'm a bit nervous about how I will find time to continue working, but I also really trust myself to figure it out somehow.
This was a quick wash painting I did pretty sketchy early into finding out I was pregnant. I painted it by making marks and seeing what showed up. For me it represented very clearly this experience and other big life experiences that we consider to be major personal transitions. What I see in this image is a nude person wading into the unknown. The nudity is the inability to really be prepared, a sort of rawness and a sort of vulnerability. The thing with the unknown is there will always be a chorus of people to 'tell you how it is'. To me this can either be comforting- in the form of family and friends sharing their own experiences- or irritating- in the form of media trying to get their hands into your incertainty to make you uncomfortable and sell you shit. It IS uncomfortable. Your friends and family can never really 'tell you how it is' they can share with you and hopefully let you feel some sense of connection and mammalian warmth in our hopelessy gigantic, space-filled galaxy. Ultimately this uncertainty is something you go into alone, because no matter how many other living creatures have lived, died, birthed, etc- your experiences are yours alone and are always new to you. Thoughts like these are both comforting and revitilizing for me in what sometimes feels like an over-populated junk filled world.
“It's so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” -Steinback
Life has been incredibly rough lately for a number of reasons, most of which I'd rather not announce to the internet. One thing I can refer to is a recent local tragedy- the loss of a great artist and good friend to many. I want to use this space to commemorate the life & work of Ben Gregory. If you met me selling art on the street in New Orleans and pay attention to such things there's a very good chance you met Ben and saw his work too. He was relentless in pouring himself into his work and his work into the world.
Ben was one of the first people I met moving to New Orleans in 2004. We weren't best friends, we often made plans to hang out and would later be nodding in understanding at our mutual flakiness. We both still have books leant to the other a number of years ago that never got re-exchanged. When I first heard the news that was what really got me- Ben was someone so familiar and comfortable to me I assumed I would just always see him. My favorite times were when we didn't make plans and bumped into each other and loitered for hours and shared awesome twisting conversations about art- about techniques and materials, about intentions and results and about what we were working on and what was actually coming out. Here are some stray bits of those conversations that spilled over online:
2007- hey do you want to see some of the pictures that im makeing for jackson square?!
2008- thes are the pieces that i was telling you guys about. got a long way to go, but getting there. still pretty sloppy. but its getting some where. may work on it a bit more
tring to paint a composition over detail...
As a person Ben was genuinely kind and unpretentious. As an artist he was extremely original & restlessly dedicated. I fucking hate that this is post-mortem and I can't shake the nagging sense that Ben was right in the middle of his work when he got taken out of this world. If anything, I'm hoping we can still share the vitality of his work, so if you haven't been exposed here is a small portion:
If you'd like to see more of Bens work, there is quite a bit posted on his facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ben.gregory.3910?fref=ts
I never know who I'm writing to or what about in these boxes. My thoughts about art are too convoluted and tangled and tangential to reach a clear sum here. We moved into our house about a month ago. Right now we are doing plumbing and electric. I'm also in transition with what was my miraculous work space that I always knew was a temporary grace. wi
But accomplishment kind of bores me right now. I watch this world, all of us striving and reaching. I can't shake the sense that there's nothing really to 'get', that we're just here and it's fucking weird and inexplicable. And it's uncomfortable so we make up stories and insulate our thoughts to the human/societal realms. I've never done too good with the society thing..understanding it, finding my 'place', feeling comfortable with it all. Lately I am inspecting again my decisions to sell art... When I first started 11 years ago I loved being on the street. I felt adamant that 'regular people' should get art and it shouldn't only be presented to some self-elected elite in the confines of a gallery. Now I am getting sick of answering idiotic questions, of watching humans swarm around me in pursuit of an ever cheaper trinket to show that they too visited new Orleans. I'm sick of hearing artists talk and scheme about how to churn work out even faster and with even less soul. But I'm trying to tread water at the same time and find myself considering printings out some giclees. Bah, not sure that my website blog should be the place to muck around all these confusions, but I don't know what to write here anyways.
I'm set up at the Frenchmen Night market through Jazz fest. I haven't interacted all so much with the jazz fest tourists before because usually I'm out in the day time when they're at the festival. I've always pegged them as 'good tourists'; meaning- people who come to visit year after year. They become somewhat regular, they get to know what places they like and learn how to pace themselves to really enjoy their time. Statisically they're older than the frat boy crowd and have learned how to let loose without being assholes.
I don't know if it's just that I haven't been out much lately and my skin has grown thin or I've been dealing with all this depression and that has me feeling sensitive or what, but overhearing people commentaries was exhausting. One woman nudged her girlfriend, "you could draw that" I can't help but harp for a little while and analyze little comments like this. I've recently been bringing out my life drawings and I think they're beautiful. I've noticed a lot of people are dismissive of them (I heard one guy say, "art school student work" which is kind of funny since I'm a highschool drop out and self taught). It seems like anything exhibiting skill is regarded with some suspicion and derision. This seems to be a mentality that has been growing in our society for some time. And what the hell? Why should we develop skills anymore? Soon we just be spectators watching machines impress other machines.
Until that happens I'm gonna keep going to life drawing and bringing them out and analyzing the reactions of strangers.
Well, I suck at blogging. I'm not sure why because I ramble & write quite a bit. Anyhow, it's only taken me a year to update this. A lot happens in a year. In the personal realm- me and my partner (bf? Fiancee? I hate all these terms...person I plan to be with till we're dead...maybe I can just use that as an acronym). Me and my P.I.P.T.B.W.T.W.D bought a property. It hadn't been touched since the storm & had cats paw growing up through the walls. About 6 months ago we were still working on it and living in an apartment when we suddenly got evicted. The natural instinctive reaction to this was to buy a tent and move into the backyard of the property.
This arrangement has been working out surprisingly well. We hope to move into the actual house in the next month or so. And when it has plumbing & electric YOU are welcome to visit! Because it will eventually...one day...be a home too for life drawing groups and off the cuff art shows & hopefully, maybe, one day, some kind of atelier. A friend of mine also appeared when we got evicted and hooked me up with what has come to be the best studio workspace I could hope for.
Something I'm pretty excited about- I'm going to be showing 10 of my recent bigger paintings in a show this coming Friday: (If you're local come out and eat cookies with me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
END OF BLOG POST.
It's been awhile since I last wrote, so plenty to tell. Thankfully the summers gone...in September The Decadence parade rolled through my office. This, like plenty other events in New Orleans, attracts the holier than thou - the jesus freaks who come to save us from ourselves with hand made signs and bullhorns. Since I grew up as a homeschooler messianic Jew (jews for jesus) I know better than to argue with religious zealots. Since I'm Italian (why not blame ancestry here) I lack the self-control not to loudly refute things I find irritating and begin spasming with gestures. When I saw them coming down the street prior to the parade I talked to myself "Yeah, be cool, just let them pass..." And then they started hollering about how we all deserved Katrina happening and we're all going to hell and then the spirit took hold of me too and I started screaming back that they all needed to go home.
Bullhorn prophet stopped in the middle of the road and gestured back at my paintings on the fence,
"And Lord Jesus, Curse this girl! Curse her business! Let her make no sales today!
In the name of the Almighty!"
Even though I was steamed up and really wanted to continue arguing this just confused me. Doesn't 'cursing' someone sound a little bit, I don't know, witchy, maybe a little pagan? Is putting a curse on someone really in the good book?
Anyhow, their prophecy didn't hold much water because I ended up selling plenty of paintings & then the parade came and made it even better.
The one that bothered me the most was a big blue rectangle, probably 10 ft tall by 2 ft wide, it was made of some kind of shiny plastic looking material and was displayed resting against the wall. If I could liken it to anything, I'd say it looked like a piece of McDonalds playground equipment that they had ordered in the wrong size. Just looking at it exasperated me (see! it IS art because it got a reaction out of me! But with that logic...the mousetraps in my kitchen get an even stronger reaction from me when I hear them snap across the house...therefor mousetraps must be art.) I looked at the little plaque next to me for explanation and it was titled, "Why Not?"
I'll tell you why not! Because someone had to carry that thing up the stairs! Because here I am in a museum which is supposed to house our most precious cultural artifacts and this big blue rectangle is taking up space where something that doesn't just provoke a 'reaction' (like every single thing in the world does) but provokes a sense of curiousity, wonder...maybe even 'awe'. (Remember Awe America!?! When something actually stopped you in your tracks and made you stand still for longer than 30 seconds and you didn't even have a word for it so you just stood all gape mouthed and went 'awwwwe') Anyhow, I tried to find a picture of this piece of art to post here, but couldn't find one. So here's a rendering I made that should pretty much give you the same effect.
On the other side of things I recently discovered 2 artists who's work is really exciting to me:
As for me....painting is going really well. I've gotten a lot closer to being able to visibly merge together the 'seen' world (working from reference) and the 'unseen' world (random intuitive mark making). I this is the closest I've gotten so far....not sure how well the details in the body show up through a screen.
I've got a bunch of markets coming up before the holidays. If you're passing through New Orleans anytime contact me and say Hello!