Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Books in the Works

I’m currently working on two new books that are quite different from my last two, but some of my readers will recognize a thread that connects them all. My first books, “The Freeway” and “My Steamboat” are memoirs from my younger years. Basically, I had some crazy, funny stories I needed to get on paper before I forgot them, and they hopefully made for an entertaining read. My new books are both about my art.

The first one is a picture book (with minimal text) about “Exhibit A,” a series of paintings I created from 2006 to 2011. The project, partially funded by an Alabama Council on the Arts fellowship, highlighted places in my adopted home state. (The A in Exhibit A is for Alabama, if you haven’t figured it out.) I traveled around the state gathering images and information that inspired 12 intricate panels that incorporate oil painting and inlaid ceramic tile. The series was labor-intensive but very satisfying, and I’m happy to finally have the images and project specifics available in a glossy paperback volume. I hope to release it before the end of the year, with an on-demand publisher. (Buyers have to order it.)

"Best in Shoals" a panel from the Exhibit A series

The second book, which is farther from being finished, contains quite specific descriptions of my recent body of artwork. The paintings I’ve completed over the past couple of years form a series of portraits of animals dressed up in outfits, meant to depict my various mind-states. The pieces have certainly been some of the most engaging and personal paintings I’ve ever done. The book about them (which is still untitled) has been an integral part of the creative process, which involves accessing and describing a course of somewhat intense self-introspection. It feels very different from my previous writing, but still embodies the same spirit of what I’ve offered before: my story. I’ve never brought together my two creative forms so intimately, and it’s been quite a journey.

"Thy Duty Strongly Knit" from my new self-portrait series

I plan on seeking a mainstream publisher for the second book, but may find once I start the search that I prefer the self-published route after all. There is no doubt that the selling of art or books (or anything) is just as much of a creative adventure as the making of them, but I definitely prefer writing and painting to cold-calling and hobnobbing. I make strong efforts to enjoy the marketing part of being an artist, and have learned to tolerate it, but I’m much more at home being a boheme creative type. My first step on the road to being published is to tidy up a few chapters and look for an agent.

The catalyst for all this book stuff happened in May when my teenager graduated from high school. Soon after graduation I realized that all the projects I’d been half-devoted to for years could suddenly be actually devoted to. I don’t even have an empty nest yet and I’m fired up to make things happen. It’s lovely to be able to attend to these labors of love that have been waiting for my more-concentrated focus for a good while. I’ve found the empty nest phenomenon to be more of an escapade than I imagined. But that’s yet another story.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dahlia Heaven

My friend and neighbor, Kathy Whitfield, grows the most incredible dahlias. These are a tiny selection of some blooming now. Some of her varieties are as big as your head!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Students' First Landscapes

In my oil painting class I start students with a few exercises to get used to the medium. I then launch them into a few paintings of different subjects to give them broad experience at blending, color, composition, and other basic principles. I suggest a landscape as one of these first paintings, and I've included some examples of them here. You can see a wide variety of styles, skill levels, and gestures. Hopefully this encourages people to dive in no matter how "good" they think they are in the beginning. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fun Week

Scott left Friday for Ohio to look at the daylily gardens of a couple fellow hybridizers. 

The day before that he caught this Large Mouth Bass.

Annabelle had a belly dance recital Thursday night. That's her in the center.

On Saturday I went canoeing on Five Mile Creek.

And mountain biking at Oak Mountain State Park on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Portrait Step by Step

Here is the original photo that my student, Jeanne Alexander, worked from to paint a portrait. Jeanne has a specific painting process that works for her.

She creates a color copy of the photo and makes reference marks before starting the drawing on canvas.

By connecting the dots she draws out the figure in pencil. The photo doesn't show it, but she started with a blue ground.

She covered the t-shirt and the background first.

With a varied portrait palette she blocks in the face minus features and hair.

Then a simple coat on the hair.

Eyes and nose.

Mouth and ears.

More detail on hair.

More contrast on all of it. Wonderful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kitty Princess All Gussied Up

Here is the painting after adding more contrast and changing some of the colors. Now her head doesn't look more defined than the rest of the piece. It's funny how I could have taken the old version of the painting and made these changes with photoshop. (How do you know I didn't?) 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mystery Behind the Curtain

Last night I woke from a sound sleep to what I thought was an explosion followed by weird gurgling. It  continued while I woke my husband to go see what was going on. He sleepily got up and checked out the house, but saw nothing. The next day he was in the bathroom and heard the same weird sound coming from the bathtub, behind the shower curtain. He was sure some nasty critter was back there, ready to pounce on him. Instead he found this old can squirting shaving cream up the wall. We left it there to continue it's upward journey, and it kept creeping up, making strange sounds, all day.