Oh, 2013, you were a weird one. You had your good moments, to be sure, your elevated events and small everyday joys. But you were also moody and difficult. Hard to anticipate. Unpredictable.
I did not write here a lot in 2013. I did not feel focused enough to write here very often. My energies were spinning off in different directions. It felt like enough to just focus on my studio practice and hold my shit (mostly) together. Yet still, people came and visited. I spoke to a few of you who read what I write here, and you let me know that it’s valuable to you. That is gratifying to hear, as I often feel like I am hurling words and images into the void…
So, in the spirit of looking back and catching up, I present to you 2013, in brief.
After a hopeful post-heart attack recovery in 2012, watched as my father’s health started to fail.
Helped my parents move when his care was moved to UCSF and he was given a place in a heart study. He received a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) that helped his heart pump and alleviated the worst of his heart failure.
Found some balance between letting go of my (college and high school age) children and listening/being present/giving help when they needed it. It’s a moving target. It’s a dance.
Moved toward abstraction. I created my first entirely abstract group of paintings. So much harder than figuration. So much less to hold on to.
Took an overnight field trip by myself to photograph in Northern California. Wandered for two days on rural roads with numbers instead of names. Saw a dead coyote nailed to a telephone pole and realized I was really in the sticks. Came back with lots of new material to think about and paint about.
Finished a certificate in technical writing. Spent a few months working part time at writing and graphics. Felt like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Wondered why I was so stressed. Wondered why I wasn’t painting more. Started grinding my teeth.
Wanted to draw. Terrified to draw. Did not draw.
Didn’t paint for weeks on end. Did nothing but paint for weeks on end. Continued like that throughout the year. Stop and go-go-go.
Started re-designing my website. Still redesigning my website.
Had my first “real” solo show in 20 years as part of the visiting artist program at R&F Paints. Taught a 3-day workshop there and thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Kingston. Thank you, R&F!
Froze my ass off in NYC while I visited with great friends, drank gallons of coffee, explored Brooklyn a bit, and said hello to the Vermeers at the Frick Collection.
Finally remodeled the 1970’s “Tahoe Style” family room that came with our house. Whew!
I cut back on coffee and decided to just focus on my family and my artwork in 2014. Started exercising again. Felt better.
My father was placed on a heart transplant list late in the year.
The day after Christmas, the phone call: we have a heart. 24 hours later, that healthy strong heart beat in my father’s chest. I’m still trying to get my head around this gift. The amazing humanity, sacrifice, and science of it. Being by my parents’ sides as they’ve gone through this has been one of the most moving things I’ve experienced. A month on now, and my dad’s recovery is strong.
So long 2013… hello, 2014!
PS: The images above were taken on that field trip I mentioned. The land and water glowed at sunset.
I’ll have brand-spankin-new paintings on view for the first part of May at Hang Art in San Francisco alongside Fain Hancock’s lovely work. I’ll be at the opening tonight, so anyone in the area for First Thursday gallery openings, stop on in and say hello!
I’ll share a few of my favorite paintings here for those of you who can’t go to the gallery to see them.
“Woodsmoke and Sunshine”, Encaustic mixed media, 30 x 60 in.
“Tule Fog #3: I-5”, Encaustic mixed media, 24 x 48 in.
“Tule Fog: I-5”, Encaustic mixed media, 17 x 34 in.
Here is some new work , just finished last week. These are all on the small side for me–all under 24 inches. It’s a challenge, now, for me to work small after working larger for most of last year. I have some larger panels waiting for me in the studio, though, and I’m excited to take some of these ideas into the larger formats.
Above: Cloud Index #2, 24 x 24 inches.
Precipitation, 24 x 24 inches.
Fennel After Rain, 12 x 12 inches.
Cloud Index #1, 18 x 18 inches.
Storm Warning, 12 x 12 inches.
September Light, 12 x 12 inches.
Mustard in Fog, 12 x 12 inches.
By the way, Cloud Index #1, Cloud Index #2, and Precipitation will all be available at Hang Gallery in San Francisco.
I’ve been hard at work in the studio. Here is a look at a larger piece in progress, and some small pieces lined up. The small pieces were a challenge for me (they are 8″ x 10″), because I really prefer to work larger. I think my paintings are generally more successful on a large scale, but this time around I tried approaching the small work a little differently. I treated each as if it were a small, experimental piece of jewelry. I found that taking this approach naturally adjusted the scale that I worked at, and kept me from trying to jam in too much imagery, a common problem for me when I try to work small. These six pieces will be available at Hang Gallery in December.
Here’s another view of my studio work table…
This is something I often do, especially when I am trying something new. I’ll find a way to “mock up” the next element in a painting. This is especially valuable to me because when I start a painting, I only have a vague idea of where I want it to go, and often it takes me someplace completely different. And because I’m always working in transparencies, allowing each layer to show as I build the image, it is especially important to me that I respond to the image by adding each layer in the most aware, informed way possible. By trying out different elements before adding them to the painting, I can be a little more efficient, and often this process leads to innovations that I may not have thought of otherwise. It also allows me to make little adjustments, sometimes minute, that make a big difference in the compositions. These yellow circles may or may not be added- I haven’t decided yet.
Overall, I’m having a productive month in the studio so far…
The other day I was working in my studio, and this was the scene… and I thought, “How strange this looks!” So I ran to get my camera to share it with you all. I’m so fascinated by other artist’s processes, and the unusual ways that we problem solve when we are trying to get an idea out of our heads and onto the image. Encaustic is such a “new” medium in it’s current usage, and as I meet more and more artists using wax in their work, I am struck with how we are inventing it as we go.
I also thought this was funny because I’m often told that my work is delicate or ethereal, and yet the process is so… scrappy. I knew here that I wanted a large, white circle on the painting, but I didn’t know what to use to guide the circle. none of my usual objects were large enough. And then the garbage lid called to me from across the studio… “Me! Me! Use me!”
Meet my new best friend in the studio. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get on board with a torch. I’ve procrastinated about it for months, and didn’t realize that underneath that procrastination was fear. Until I was in Carmel for the IEA retreat in October, and was faced with a bevy of torches, waiting to be tried. It was the last morning, and a wonderful demonstration had been given by Pamela Blum. We were invited down on the floor to try out some of the techniques she had demonstrated, and I found myself hesitating around the torches. I hadn’t even realized I was afraid of them until that moment. Linda Womack saw me, and must have sensed my trepidation; she rescued me with a two minute lesson that has cured me of my torch phobia!
I went out as soon as I could and purchased a basic torch, with a few necessary frills: an adjustable nozzle, and an automatic ignition trigger. It’s a Bernzomatic propane torch from Home Depot, and it cost about 35 dollars.
I don’t know how I got along without this thing before! It works so well for every application, that I haven’t pulled out my heat gun a single time. It is much more gentle than the heat gun, and doesn’t move the wax around nearly as much. I can even fuse lightly while a large piece is upright on my easel. I think it produces a glossier surface than my heat gun did, too.
And the best thing about it is- its fast.
Well, maybe the best thing about it is that I haven’t lit my hair on fire yet. So far, so good.