Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Workshop at the Florence Studio

Time to gush about our trip to Florence!  For two weeks I taught still life painting at the Florence Studio while Dave very good naturedly shouldered the brunt of the parenting responsibilities.  I'm going to overlook that one incident with the jarred puréed cavallo and go ahead and say he did a wonderful job.  Oh, and apparently my husband speaks Italian.  It wasn't quite a Fish Called Wanda moment, but I definitely had to stop and add a few dozen language points to the scorecard of a man who routinely makes up words and insists they're real.

The Florence Studio's rooms satisfied my ideal of an artist's space in Florence.  If I had a window like that in my studio I would just Vermeer it up in every single painting.  The school is located just a couple of block away from the Ponte Vecchio, so it's centrally located to all the cool stuff that an art nerd could hope to see.  We stayed at a really nice apartment not far away with my parents and sister+fiancé. 

I would have liked to fit in more museum visits, but I did fit in some really important ones.  First up was the Annigoni Museum.  Must see.  I had no idea how big some of these paintings are!

Zoologia La Specola.  Here we are in the cuddly plushy section.  The really hair raising part is the wax anatomy sculpture section.  It was a weird merging of the uncanny valley with bacon.

It felt inappropriate to take a photo of all that nude, writhing greasiness at the time, so I'm lifting a picture from the internet:

There were a couple dozens of these bodies, male and female, all in the throes of agony/ecstasy.  The female bodies were very virginal, with long braids and white veils.  If you're a Mutter Museum sort of person, this place is a must see.

And of course the Museu Moderna in the Palazzo Pitti, which contains mostly work spanning the 18th and 19th centuries.  According to the Museu Moderna, art never got more modern than Antonio Mancini, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Everywhere we went we got the most generous and friendly treatment.  It turns out the old part of Florence is besotted with babies.  It took me a couple of days to notice it, but they have a total Children of Man thing going on.  Nobody has babies in the old part of Florence.  Cooks would come out of the kitchen to deliver mini plates of cheese and bread for Bubs when we stopped at restaurants and rabid nonnas wanted to fondle and talk to him.  Everyone was nice to us because of him.  The next time we go to Florence the sprog will be bigger, so we're planning on taking a sleeping reborn doll with us in order to receive the same goodwill.

One more thing just to make you drool: our hosts showed us into the spectacular grotto-like antiques dealer shop below.  This still life artifact fun house was completely unidentifiable from the outside, which makes you wonder how many treasure troves there are like this.  We flipped our shit and bought the only thing in the place we could afford and brought it back to be the star of an upcoming still life painting.

I owe a huge thank you to Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut, who run the Florence Studio, for hosting my workshop and showing me an insider's view of the neighbourhood; and of course to my students for joining in the fun.

For those of you interested in traveling to and studying in Florence, The Florence Studio offers a number of great workshops next year, including a workshop by Natural Pigments, as well as private teaching to fit a custom schedule.  It's a beautiful space in the heart of old Florence and Frank and Laura are warm and knowledgeable teachers. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baby's First Art Show

The Fetus formerly known as Cletus tagged along with me to our regional annual art show hosted by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council.  I didn't observe any nascent art appreciation, but I have eighteen years to make him like art.

I was thrilled to receive to receive Best in Show for "Furs," but I have to admit that Cletus has done some rewiring in my brain.  Every time anyone said "Congrats!" or "Beautiful!" to me, even as I was standing right next to my painting, I assumed we were talking about the baby.  "Oh thanks!  He's two  months old!"  Facepalm.

Big thanks to Morgan Saddington, CVAC Office Manager and PORTALS Coordinator.  She put me on the radar of a local TV programmer, Daphne Goode, who put together this lovely spot about me just before the show opened:

[Before you all get up in my grill about painting with a baby, I'll have you know that at this stage in a painting I use oil only.]

And yeah, every single day is a totally idyllic day in the studio with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest.  Snort.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Summer Workshops!

There are still a few spots in my summer workshops!  These workshops are hosted in my home studio, which confers many benefits including the ability to step outside and feed my chickens when things get tense.  Also, you've always wanted to visit Vancouver Island, and here's your excuse.  I mean, you better do it before the Cascadia earthquake sinks the Butchart Gardens to bottom of Brentwood Bay.  But no worries, that earthquake's totally not going to happen while you're here.

Check out the link above (to my summer workshops, not the earthquake) and get in touch soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nexus Opening at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO

Tomorrow Dave ABANDONS his wife and small child to attend the opening of Nexus, a show presented by Abend Gallery in Denver, CO.  He has been diligently working away at co-curating this show for the past number of months.  Getting a bunch of artists to collaborate on a show is like herding cats, and getting a bunch of tattoo artists to collaborate on a show is like herding a bunch of insolent, authority-challenging cats.  Which is actually all cats, come to think of it.

Yes, Nexus combines paintings from artist and tattoo artists.  As you all know if you've been reading long enough, Dave tattoos part-time to pay the bills and maintain his street cred in the face of his background as a kindergarten teacher (it's really hard to undo that sort of history).  He came up with the idea to put together a show featuring paintings by tattoo artists and paintings by artists exploring or inspired by tattoo culture.

Renowned tattoo artist Joshua Carlton gave us our apprenticeships.  The hydro company has him to thank for our prompt bill payments each month.

For the five minutes that I tattooed, my eyes were opened and my innocence dashed.  I had always naively believed that painting was a self-evidently superior visual art form--nay, the ultimate visual art form!--and that the entire world was with me on that point.  But now I really believe that tattoo art is the dominant visual art form of our generation.  It's the one that is the most accessible, the most meaningful, and the most personal.  It's also a very competitive industry that attracts the best and most talented by rewarding artists with money and fame commensurate to merit.  Which is rather unlike some industries I know.

Which is to say, I hope these tattoo artists don't lord their superior cultural relevance over the rest of us painters at the show.  Sob.

Nexus has received some excellent coverage, although it will probably be another month before the gypsy caravan containing the above issue of American Art Collector Magazine makes its way to Vancouver Island.  The above image is pilfered from the Book of Face.  You can read more about the show here and you can view the catalogue here.  I wish I felt up to inflicting a crying baby on a plane full of strangers so that I could attend too.

Jennifer Balkan
James What's His Face Caffyn
Julio Reyes
Aaron Nagel

Friday, April 1, 2016

Introducing the Baby Formerly Known as Cletus the Fetus

Time to fumigate the crickets from this blog and get back to posting.  We've been a tad busy here at Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff HQ, aka, the end of the sofa next to the side table that has my glass of wine on it.  I've made quite a few drinking jokes on this blog in recent months, but I was just throwing you off the trail.  You see, I haven't had much room for booze lately:

Dave and I welcomed James, aka Cletus the Fetus (working title), on February 25th.

Photo credits to my sister, whose smashed iPhone outperformed my semi-professional camera and its pricey lens during my stay at the hospital.  This little porker was 9lbs.  We weren't allowed to keep him in the hospital nursery in case he ate the preemies. 

And one week later:

We just wanted to dedicate one post to sharing our wonderful news with everyone.  And now back to blogging about painting stuff to look like stuff ASAP.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Icarus X

I take my inspiration from the Greats!  Below, Icarus on a Halfshell:

I actually painted this thing standing bent over.  The painting and the props were both resting on top of the crate.

While the wood colour was laid down willy-nilly above, I made sure to clean it up by dragging a textured bristle brush through it in the direction of the grain of the wood before letting it dry (below).

This wood texture was then easy to build up with a combination of semi-transparent scumbles and glazes.

Much easier to paint the text over the wood after letting it dry:

His gams aren't quite as shapely, but he's every bit as sweetly coy.  Available in my store.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Furs, Part III

Hurrah!  Camera back from the repair shop.  At the end of Part II, "Furs" was pretty much finished.  Except for the background, everything had received it's due attention and was done.  But can we all just agree that backgrounds are a painter's punishment for having fun doing everything else?  I overthink mine in a big way.  Below, my first attempt at doing a final (ha!) pass over the background.  I eventually decided it was just too flat and dull.

So late one night I just started mucking around and pushing contrast.

And then, I don't even know what I was thinking, I started doodling an abstract landscape in the background.  I'm not proud of that moment.

I finally snapped out of it.  Two passes later and a month after finishing everything else in the painting, I finally just finished it off.  But not after have to sand the background a bit and correct an accidental halo around her head.  It's amazing how a small element of a painting can cause a disproportionate amount of pain.  Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  It's something like, 20% of your painting will make you drink 80% of that bottle of wine.

Let's talk inspiration!  Of course I've always loved this gorgeous painting by Jacob van Oost the Elder, Portrait of a Boy Aged Eleven.  But you know, I'd completely forgotten it existed when I was planning out this painting.  It was obviously stuck in my subconscious.  Isn't it just plain weird how similar they ended up being?  This is a shining example of the futility of trying to be original in art. 

I only just discovered this painting by Francesco Masriera: "Winter 1882."  Isn't the fur just lovely?

One of the reasons Dave and I collect antique garments is because the textures and detail elements are just so lovely to paint.  Nobody wears muffs or ruffs or Victorian blouses with military brass buttons anymore, and it's one of the things that prevents me from painting more contemporary subject matter.  Who wants to paint cotton t-shirts and polyester slacks?

Here are some detail shots:

And finally, the finished painting:

"Furs," 18x26", oil on panel, 2016

"Furs" will be on display at the Art! Vancouver show this spring.  Dave and I will be posting more information soon about all that, but if you're in the Vancouver area, mark off the end of May in your calendars and plan to come by our booth to say "hi!"