At last. The finished painting I wrote about in my last two, and the funny thing about it? The part that looks hardest was easiest. Yup, the dreamer, herself just flowed; it was keeping the background loose while darkening it that took the most time, thought and effort. That and achieving the final balance, which merits an entire blog on its own.


The whole premise of the painting is how rooted we are in reality, yet how free we are, how far we can go when our hearts and minds work together. It’s about the wonder of it all. Usually, I don’t get too hung-up on marks already made, even when they’re beautiful. How many of you have heard the dreaded words, “You must kill your darlings” from my lips? When they lead the eye astray, the design is compromised, the painting diminished. Sometimes the painting is just better off without them.


In this case, however, the first wash was so very much exactly like I felt about dreaming and did its compositional work so well that I kept everything I could hang on to, glazing one section at a time, encouraging each drip’s second and third layer until it had the balance and the feel I wanted. A couple of drips argued with me, but they bettered the balance instead of worsening it, so I kept them, as well.

It was a very tip-toe affair, and it took quite a while. If you’d been watching, you would have died of boredom.


But wait! It didn’t take me all this time to finish “Dreamer”. I did make the deadline, shout “Hallelujah”, and the show is great — lots of imagination and fun to see. I hope all you Knoxville folks get the chance to see it at the Fountain City Art Center before it’s over.


Take care, and happy painting,


"Dreamer" at 40% complete

Deadlines are a hairy thing for me. Actually, time in general is a hairy thing for  me. I may have things written down, included on all my cloud calendars with multiple reminders set, but sit me down in front of a painting, and time is toast. 


Last week, I let you in on the start of a new painting, “Dreamer”. I began the painting in hopes of meeting the deadline for “Dreams”, this year’s themed members’ exhibit at the Fountain City Art Center. This photo shows how far I’d gotten by last night. I still think I can manage it, but I’m not positive anymore because, for me, the painting is more important than the deadline, especially once it starts to speak.


Yes, speak. At some point in the painting, usually well before it’s half done, your painting discovers it has needs, and it starts to tell you about them. Or it tries. Sometimes paintings use their inside voices. Sometimes they shout. No matter which voice they’re using, though, you can’t hear them if you don’t stop to listen. You get so caught up in forcing this technique or that idea that you miss the glorious opportunities water, paint and paper together offer up.

You label it a Mistake, grab your paper towel, and blot like a fiend! So let me tell you something Stephen Quiller taught me:


A Mistake Is Just An Opportunity.


Yup. Say it again. A Mistake Is Just An Opportunity. So when my heart took over control of the brush and painted something I hadn’t planned, I stopped. I looked. And I looked some more. This took some time. Then I asked my heart, “Is this right?” It answered, “Yes.”


So I reworked my plan, which also took time. This deadline might be missed. But it’s worth it, you know? Because my heart is where my best work comes from, and my heart told me it’s right.

"Among Friends"

Well, everyone, here I go. This is my first blog on my brand new, not-completely-loaded website, and I’m nervous. Excited. A little appalled at what I’m attempting. And unwilling to procrastinate any longer. So here goes:


After yet another missed competition deadline, I stepped back a few weeks ago and said, “Hey. What’s going on? What am I doing wrong?” I was unsatisfied with my life because I’d barely been painting, yet I still had marketing/bookkeeping chores out the yingyang, my husband needed more attention, the yard needed more work, the puppy needed surgery, and…. Well, it’s a really long list. The important thing is that I stopped and asked myself what was wrong. It took me a while to figure it out, but I did.


Life in uproar for two years has had a negative effect on my art making process. I was so unsettled that I went into Get It Done Overdrive. Everything focused into getting through whatever was going on and getting it over with. All vacations had a specific Get It Done Purpose. In fact, every minute had a GIDP. It made for days, then weeks, then months of long hours, constant work, and a feeling of getting nowhere. Painting became just another thing to be prioritized and done in tightly scheduled bits. So, of course, paintings did not get done. Nor did much of anything else.


So I stopped. Everything. My husband and I piled in the car with Piper and went on a much needed Fun Trip to Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Colony in Virginia. No family visits, no pressurized house-hunting, no moving hysteria, no timelines, no work. Just the two (and a half) of us doing something together that we’ve always wanted to do. A blast was had. Fun facts were learned. We laughed together like loons and got to know each other again.


The work was still there when we got back, lots of it. The difference is that the days are not too short anymore. David and I laugh together more, Piper has had his surgery (removal of torn cartilage in one shoulder; he’s healing nicely, for you Piper enthusiasts), the work backlog is being reduced one item at a time, and I Am Painting Again. Thank God.


And the moral of the story is: Take time for yourself. Art doesn’t march to the beat of slave drums on one of those old Roman ships. Go on those artist’s dates. Do those Morning Pages (“The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron). Visit with old friends. Sit on an evening hillside and watch the sun go down. Your artist self will thank you every day.


Hugs and good Christmas shopping wishes,


"Dreamer" - First wash

I’ve had to face it. I’m not one of the artists people write how-to-get-inspired books for. There are so many paintings I dearly want to paint that I’m not going to live long enough to do them all. And that’s today. Tomorrow there will be more; and the week after that, and the week after that. 


The more I learn as an artist and a person, the more paintings I see. They come knocking in my dreams. They adorn my yard saying, “Paint me. Paint me again. I’m different from yesterday. You’re different. See?”


That means I don’t have time, usually, for themed shows, even though that kind of challenge is great fun. I’m too busy painting my current loves. Every now and then, though, a show theme comes up that snags me, pulls me around, then matches me up with an inspiration that’s been on the back burner. That’s when magic happens.


This time, it’s the “Dreams” show at Fountain City Art Center. I knew right where to look: my last Cape Cod photo shoot with J, one of the best models on earth. This pose has pulled at me since the day of the shoot; I just couldn’t match it up with the right feeling. Now I can. I’m going to call it “Dreamer”. It will be a part of my Unveiled series, and this is how it has begun.


I’d better hurry, though. It’s got to be framed and ready for entry on January 12th. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  Detail from “Chrysalis”  - Watercolor by Kate Aubrey

Last Friday, while a friend and I were trying to find some time in our busy schedules to get together and talk art, we commiserated about how hard it is to pull painting time away from family and friends and responsibilities. Is there anyone out there who can’t relate to that?

It doesn’t matter whether you snatch an hour to paint on Saturdays or create art to make your living, there is never enough time. If the laundry doesn’t need doing, a grandchild is graduating out-of-state (airport, here you come). If the website doesn’t need to be updated, a class description with supply list needs to be composed, and the taxes need to be done. And then there is the husband/wife/sweetheart who expects (and rightfully so) at least part of your weekend time.

That isn’t ever going to change, nor do I want it to. Life would be darned hard without the people we love, and we will need to eat and sleep and clean up after ourselves as long as we live. How do we cope with that?

Years ago, my sister told me the secret: she said that the things that get in the way of creating art are the very things that enrich it. Oh yeah, right, you say?

Consider:  When I spend all my time with artists and doing art -- which I was lucky enough to do for a couple of years in my unmarried thirties -- my work is good, but after a while it becomes predictable. I move forward in my development, but only in certain ways. When I have to squeeze art in sideways for a husband and a day job and non-art volunteer obligations, my development still continues in a fuller, rounder way.

Yes, you read that right. At first glance, it doesn’t seem possible, but I’ve come up with a theory. Art is very right-brain. Your left and your right brains are equally important, though. If they weren’t, one half would be smaller than the other. That’s how nature works.

On top of that, they are meant to work together; neither one is ever turned off. In order to learn and grow and just get around in the world, they constantly talk back and forth to each other, each one contributing what is needed for rich, full, human thought and development. And that means better art. Richer art. More “A-hahs!”

So don’t long for the time when you can do nothing but art every day. Find a balance. Make one.  Take classes. Carve out one sacred hour each week to let your mind drift and two more hours to create. You need both types of art time.

Carve out more if you can. Squeezing it in sideways is too tight. Take classes or a workshop. Paint plein aire with friends or alone. Form a painting group. Hey, form a critique group, too. Mix and match until it works for you.

And always remember: both sides of the brain work better when they both have to work. Everything you do helps your art.

Hugs and happy painting,

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