Santa Cruz Holiday Bazaar

Holiday Bazaar flyer

I’ll be showing my work on December 7 from 11 to 5 at a holiday bazaar at the Live Oak Senior Center at 1777 Capitola Road in Santa Cruz. (See below for  map). This is a small affair, with only 7 artists and craftspeople showing, but there will be treats as well as live Irish music for part of the day. You might even catch me playing a tune or two.

I’ll have prints and original paintings for sale, and examples of my portrait work. I hope to see you there.

Live Oak Senior Center
1777 Capitola Rd.
Santa Cruz, CA

Facing down Facebook

Yes, Facebook has turned my head, and with misgivings I’ve created an artist page. It is a pretty way to show my paintings, doodles, and drawings to people, and I hope that they enjoy seeing my creations pop up in their news feed. I hope to offer some work for sale soon, so I’ll let you know any news on that front too.

If you think you’d enjoy seeing my work in your Facebook feed, then please, like my artist page, subscribe if FB will let you, or just visit when you feel inclined. This link should take you there.



Galloping life

Dance party where the brilliant Lisa Ornstein played fiddle and led the band. This photo was taken at ISO 1600, f3.5, 1/10th of a second. Then I fussed over it in photoshop for awhile.

Life has been a whirl, consumed by daily tasks that impinge my art practice. It’s been a long while since I’ve posted.

It’s not that I haven’t been lifting pencil and brush. I have been, but most of what I’ve created is not for public consumption.

I’ve been incubating. I’ve also been learning a few new skills. I’m taking a beginning photography class and finally learning to use my fancy camera after owning it for 2 years. At the same time I took a landscape painting class. Yes, more classes. I know I said I wasn’t going to take any classes for a while, but then a while passed. And when these two classes presented themselves I couldn’t refuse.

The photography class has been fun, and now I know where the on/off button is located, and why it has three clicks.  And instead of putting the camera on automatic, I make choices about the geometry all the little dials form. Getting the little orbiting concepts of ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed aligned well enough to create a perfect crystalline photo is darn hard. I still don’t understand white balance, but I know these things take time.

It’s a good thing I don’t have a television.

Drawing the portrait: week one and two

The portrait class (I told you about it last week) taught by Felicia Forte has been going well. Felicia is a lovely teacher; her classes are low key and she encourages students gently, without condescension or brittleness. Felicia does wonderful charcoal work; her drawings have the most beautiful soft but strong marks. They have an integrity that I’m striving to create in my own work. They hold together, you know?

Here are some things I’ve learned:

  • Make fewer lines and make them well. No scritchy-scratchy searching lines. Observe correctly and make confident, correct marks.
  • Draw the big shadow shapes first. Don’t go for detail right away. (And why, oh why, do I have to relearn this repeatedly? Will this ever become something I do automatically? Or will it always be my weak point, my charcoal smudged Achilles’ heel?)
  • Keep the shading simple. Use strokes that all flow in one direction so that blocked in masses don’t become confusing and distracting.
  • Think about design as you work. This is especially true for short poses during which we make four 5-minute drawings, all on the same page. This is probably the hardest lesson for me to learn; it requires not just observation and motor skills, but also really thinking and planning ahead.
  • Draw! The biggest, most important lesson of them all. Draw all the time. Then draw some more. Always  with an active, curious mind.

Lovely lists

One of my favorite bloggers, Ricë Freeman-Zachery at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe has been blogging about getting organized, and she had a great post on the value of lists.

Lists! Normally the dining table (which doubles as my office) is awash in lists.

But her post reminded me that I had sort of fallen off the list wagon, and that I had better climb back on if I wanted to accomplish anything. So I sat down and made a list of stuff that had to be done—grinding, boring, distasteful chores like balancing my checkbook—and it had to be done soon, or my world would would sputter and stall like a 1967 Volkswagon fastback in a rainstorm.

And I actually finished the most pressing things on that list. And, as is often the case, after I disposed of those boulder-like tasks that weigh so heavily, I suddenly had a spurt of creative energy. Now I have three half-finished drawings and ideas for a dozen more. It’s funny how undone business like an out-of-balance checkbook can block my creativity.

Actually, right now I’ve got another type of list that’s working well: a list of things the artist must do.  At the Portrait Society of America, on their archives page there is a good piece in pdf form called From Rookie to Pro by Michele Rushworth. It’s evidently notes from a lecture, each item a bullet point, and it’s very good advice. It helps me maintain my discipline and determination.  A copy of the list now lives on my refrigerator where I read it every morning and evening.

James Beard and good luck

I can’t believe it! I was part of a team that won a James Beard award for the Sunset One Block Diet blog. I get a medal! I’m amazed and elated. I’ve never won anything before in my life. Time magazine describes it as “the Oscars of the food world.”  I never imagined that I would win something like this.

Those white rabbits really helped, I’d say.


The balancing act of job and art

Sketched while watching a BBC production of the Pickwick Papers
Sketched while watching a BBC production of the Pickwick Papers

Paul Foxton at Learning-to-see, the artist behind one of my favorite blogs, has just posted that he’s had to get a day job. He’s wondering how he’s going to have enough time to paint.
I’m something of an expert at this. For three years I’ve been managing a more than full-time job, plus learning to paint. It’s tough, and slow, and frustrating.  Although I truly like going to work most days (I’m lucky that I get to do creative stuff, and keep bees at my job),  I often daydream about  painting all day long.

But unless I suddenly win big at the lottery (hmm, I guess I should really buy a ticket one of these days) in order learn to to paint—or do any other kind of intense study and work, whether it’s writing, music, computer programming, boat building—I’ve had to make certain decisions, embrace certain strategies. Sorry if this list is a little preachy.

I drew this in the car. I do quick portrait gestures while I'm sitting at stoplights; great faces present themselves.
I drew this in the car. I do quick portrait gestures while I'm sitting at stoplights; great faces present themselves.

1. Realize that progress is going to be slow. If you have to work a day job to live, you just have to embrace that you’re going to move forward in small steps.

2. Keep your work close at hand. I keep a sketch pad available at all times-I draw everything, everyone, until family and friends tell me to stop. Thankfully, they’re pretty patient. I even draw in the car at stop lights. (But don’t draw in meetings at work. Bosses don’t like it.)

2. Be your own (strict) boss. I set a goal of dedicating 2o hours a week to painting, and I keep a time sheet. I list amount of time and project—and it doesn’t have to be directly handling paint. Research counts, blogging counts, sketching counts. But the time sheet keeps me honest. Keeps me from wasting time, and keeps me on a schedule. Because I can get seriously lost in “research,” and not leave enough time for painting.

3. Kill your T.V.
I still have one, but it won’t make the switch happily to digital because it’s too old.  Now I need to seriously disable the internet and YouTube. On the rare occasion I do watch a movie (mostly at home), I usually sketch the actors, the set design, costumes. (John Ford movies are great for learning landscape composition.)

4. Get some rest. I remind myself I’m human and need rest or all else goes to heck. During the crunch time at work, I have to lay off painting, or I’m no good for anything. During those weeks, I only work at painting 10 hours a week!

5. Be jealous of your time. What would I rather do—paint or dust the books on the bookshelf? No brainer, that. My grandmother would gasp at the amount of dust and clutter in my house.

6. Make hard choices. I’ve had to give up many of the extra-curricular activities I used to engage in. The hardest one, that’s hurt the most, has been not seeing my family as often as I’d like. My brother’s young ‘uns have grown up while I’ve been working so hard, and I’ve missed them tremendously (I’m actually not sure I should have made that sacrifice). The second hardest sacrifice has been cutting back on music, until I scarcely play anymore.

7. Accept that for most of us, anything you really want is going to be hard to achieve. Art is hard. An evening spent painting is not a way to relax; it’s work. It’s work that I have to do or face becoming twitchy, bitchy, and mighty unhappy.

Mr. Pickwick, a man who didn't have to work
Mr. Pickwick, a man who didn't have to work