May 20, 2011 - Loving: Tricia Bass Workshop

In a years-ago watercolor workshop - not the one I'm about to praise - we were assigned to paint hibiscus flowers. The instructor walked among us, nodding and murmuring, "Very nice . . . very nice . . . mmm-hmmm," until she reached mine, whereupon she burst out, "Oh, my!"

Her tone was about the same tone you'd use if you found a monarch butterfly crawling on your kitchen counter on a dark midwinter morning: not a bad thing, but not exactly something you wanted to deal with before your morning coffee.

A decade later, with my oil painting supplies still fresh from their Michael's bag, I tiptoed into Painting the Still Life in Oils, a workshop taught by American Impressionist Tricia Bass.

I was so eager to take this class. I'd researched the instructor, pored over her online portfolio, watched a ton of YouTube oil painting videos, breathlessly pestered the patient souls at the Foothills Art Center over whether the course would actually proceed, and generally gotten myself all lathered up.

I'd like to blame all of this on the odorless mineral spirit fumes, but in truth I am probably just obsessive.

Ms. Bass got right down to business, painting a gorgeous demonstration piece and articulately describing each step.  Then she turned us loose on our own canvases and gave one-on-one instruction for hours.  What a glorious Saturday! Pages of copious notes! Plashes of oozy color! Happy happy me!

And when Ms. Bass reviewed my still life composition in the early stages, she did not say "Oh MY." She said "Awesome."

Because a picture paints a thousand words, here are two thousand to consider:  A painting I created the day before the workshop . . .

. . . versus the one I created during the workshop:

Breakthrough, anyone?  It's official: I'm a self-declared American Impressionist groupie. Thank you, Tricia!

May 17, 2011 - Mo'a Dat

It took me four years to paint like
Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

- Pablo Picasso

My toddler regularly asks to "payn" [paint]. She fearlessly attacks her little pan of non-toxic watercolors. She uses every brush. She uses every brush in every possible way. She smears, pours, dabs, soaks, scrubs, and swipes.

She uses the ends of the brushes, her fingers, and her elbows. From the evidence at bathtime, she apparently also uses her ears and chin.

This child careens full-force into each little painting. Sometimes she's quick, and sometimes she's slow, but she is always fully engaged.  Not once does she say, "Would you critique this for me?" Not once does she ask, "Is this finished?" Not once have I heard, "What do you think of these colors together?"

Instead, she confidently hands me her finished product at the (apparently) appropriate time, gleefully points at her personal pile of scrap paper, and firmly requests, "Mo'a dat."

Yes, more of that, indeed.  Mo'a dat total freedom. Mo'a dat breathless focus. Mo'a dat boundless energy. Mo'a dat pure joy.  The whole world could use mo'a dat.  I will do my part. I will aspire to paint like my child.

May 15, 2011 - Grey

Is the spelling "grey" or "gray"?  If we want to get technical, which of course we do, it's a light neutral blue-"grey."

Yes, it's snowing in Colorado.  The whole Arizona week seems like a wonderful dream. I have scads and scads of blog material to share; I will parcel it out over the next few weeks. Watch for Friday updates.

In the interim, here's a question: when we rub elbows with so many females in our studios, workshops, and critique groups, why do the magazines and galleries often seem dominated by males? 

I posed this question during a group this week. In response, most of the group shrugged, except for one artist who dismissively sniffed, "Ego."

Well, I think "ego" is inaccurate and incomplete. I don't have a better answer yet, but I think it has more to do with ambition. Take a look at The Scarlet A, Leslie Bennett's recent article from Elle Magazine, and pay particular attention to the comments about intentionality. Are you an asker or an askee?  Is ambition distasteful? Is admitting your ambition distasteful? Let me know what you think.

And, for artists in particular, a special question:  how many handicaps and negatives do you heap upon yourself? "It will never sell / It's not good enough / I can't get focused / I have no time . . . "

Bleah.  I've resolved to let other people tell me "no."  Pass me that scarlet A. I have a good spot for it: right here on my shoulder where the grumpy demons used to sit.

May 11, 2011 - Starting Somewhere

"They" say you must start somewhere. I am starting from Arizona. It's been a delicious week here, spending time with my parents and ruminating on this new chapter.  

My mother, an award-winning artist herself, cheerfully takes on the role of native guide to the local arts community. I had a wonderful time yesterday at Mano's Gallery in Tubac, where the owner, Mary Helen, generously toured us through her artists' work and shared a wealth of information about current trends in sales, clients, and designers.

I came away with a new appreciation for the hard work of marketing fine art. But I also am encouraged to see firsthand the benefits that an established gallery can offer to an emerging artist. Now I'm more eager than ever to pick up my paintbrush upon my return to Denver.