Thursday, December 15, 2011

Men only....

Just a quick little post to say I got seriously side-tracked for a bit with some issues I'll be blogging about next.  However this post is a quickie about something really shocking in this day and age.  I went to the Boston International Fine Art Fair and visited a gallery I'd long admired and had always wanted to show my work.  Plus they exhibit the work of one artist that I really admire and was about to do a blog piece on...I've decided not to do it.  The friend I went with said to forget about the gallery they don't show work by women artists. HUH???? Sure  'nuf she was right but I had to push it a bit so went over the representatives, turned on the schmooze machine wrapping up with questions re to whom I should send a cd of my work.  There was an uncomfortable silence until one of the men said "well, we only show work by male artists".   I looked him in the eye and said "are you kidding?".  Once home I googled them and indeed they only represent male artists!  I had checked their site before but it just never occured to me that they wouldn't show women!  There is nothing but the listing of artists that declares their prejudice, their statement says in part:  "...was founded ...with the goal of creating a showcase for contemporary, representational artwork.  That goal still rings true today.   The ...Gallery is now internationally known for showcasing acclaimed and distinguished painters..."  Excuse me but there are a great GREAT many women artists who are also acclaimed and distinguished painters!  Until I delve into this further and talk to them directly I am going to withhold the name of the gallery.  Most super savvy people in the art world already know who they are.  I am hoping they will change their currently narrow, chauvinistic view so until them I'm keeping a close eye on them and will keep you posted.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

One year ago...

View from Villa Aurelia

My front "yard" at the Villa!

One year ago today I was headed to the airport to get on a plane for Rome, to one of the most extraordinary opportunities of my life - a month long Visual Artist in Residence at the esteemed American Academy.  I remember being terrified that when I got there they wouldn't let me in, that I made a mistake and read the letter wrong.  When I landed I did get lost a bit trying to get to my hotel with a huge wheelie bag in the pouring rain as the Academy was closed for All Saints Day.  I was jet-lagged, painfully tired, hungry and only one restaurant in the area was open.  I wish I could remember the name of it as the food was fantastic...cold and rainy I started with a soup, then a perfect pizza margherita, wine of course and a very sympathetic waiter who was most kind to my weary, soaked self.  Then back to my hotel and asleep at 7 or 8 pm...really needed that.  Next day took a fabulous crazy taxi ride to the Academy where to my great relief they didn't laugh or turn me away, they gave me an envelope with keys, instructions and I was made to feel most welcome and the place, physically, is spectacular.  After further check in they took me to my place...a palace!...I had a friggin' apartment in a palace with manicured gardens, flowers, breathtaking views of Rome - Awesome!

After recovering from being dazed on all levels I settled in and painted like crazy.  Have to admit I only liked some of the paintings I did there but have made some terrific work in the time since and know if I had longer than a month I could move from being overwhelmed to massively productive, because once the ideas take hold the paint flows like a wild river.

I wrote a lot about the experience on my blog, it was actually the reason I started a blog to keep friends and family up-to-date with my Roman adventures, so you can read much more about in detail if you go to my Nov & Dec posts.  I loved being at the American Academy like I've never loved anything else before, high on a hill overlooking Rome, marinated in centuries of history, full of people with great passions for their field and intellect.  People so brilliant I thought surely they'd made a mistake in letting a blue collar painter like myself in but I was made to feel welcome and desperately want to go back but for a full year - a total immersion.  I've applied again and will keep applying.  One fellow said he had applied 12 times so I should never give up...he was one of my many favorite people there.

This coming year I've also applied for a residency in France and think it would be just perfect if I got that then hung out in Europe until I got to go to the Academy in the Fall.  Yes, I am a magical thinker and that just seems like the best of all possible scenarios, Art Gods hope you are listening!

So my dearest American Academy I miss you terribly and hope to come back...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Post Open Studios purge...

Will I never learn?  If I kept my studio clean I would not have to binge and purge every year around Open Studios!  First I stuffed everything into every place I could.  Now all this week I've been hauling stuff out including canvases of failed paintings and yes, I believe one can learn from their mistakes and that parts of failed paintings can be studied for future paintings...so take a picture!  One doesn't need to save every last thing.  I'm happy to say the purging is complete and it is SO satisfying to chop up work!  Big storm coming this weekend and I'll be ready for it, music, wine, clean studio and lots of ideas ... YAY.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

32nd Annual Open Studios

Last week at this time I was sitting with a fine glass of wine after 1 1/2 days of opening my studio on Friday night and Saturday, only had one more day to go...Sunday.  Friday was a wild, windy, stormy night and still people came, hardy New England souls!  Saturday I said Hi and Welcome to almost 400 people and more hundreds on Sunday...it's fun and exhausting.  Open Studios is without a doubt my most favorite art event, people come into my home and studio, I try to make them feel comfortable, welcome and eager for their questions - they always have lots of questions and I love that.  This was Fort Point Artist Community's 32nd annual and the 28th year for me.  When I first came to Boston the first event I ever went to was Fort Point's Open Studios it made a huge impression.  Not only did I want to be part of it I also wanted to be part of Fort Point...it was/is happnin' here!  I lived in the fabulous North End at the time, had a studio in the Castignetti building so pitched the idea to the artists there and organized their first ever Open Studio or OS as we call it.  After a while I moved into an illegal artists building nearer to Fort Point and enjoyed many and OS there, now almost 20 years have gone by and all of them in Fort Point.  The changes to my neighborhood have been immense, the talent of my neighbors continues to astonish and amaze.

Lots of people don't realize we live AND work in our spaces so that's always fun to see their expressions when it dawns on them.  There are great stories of the rare clueless gits who do or say something outrageous and I'm hoping we put together of those stories some day.  Friends come by that I haven't seen in ages, there's always ALWAYS the woman who comes and takes all the food - if it's good.  There's the guy who comes every year and gets into lengthy conversations about aliens which worries me that he thinks I know so much about them!  There used to be the guy who came every year, would pull a book of my shelf, set himself down to read...I booted him out one year and he has not come back.   Someone will always ask how much to I pay to live here, I always respond that it's rude to ask such a thing because it is!  Many, probably most, come to see how we decorate, heck that's what I do when I go to other OS!

My favorite OS experience this year was a woman who came to one of my first ones here about 16+/- years ago and bought a painting.  She came with it on her iPhone and wanted another painting!  My favorites are always the kids, they are the best, their questions can knock your socks off.

It's over for another year, my place is still clean and of course I hope it stays that way but, sadly, know it won't.  It's been a week and painting withdrawal has set in so it's time to get my stuff out to work tomorrow or next week for sure.  I have a show to get ready for next year and hope to drum up more galleries to show my work, now that I've rested up it's time to get back to work!

Thanks to all who came, all your questions, your curiosity and to those who bought paintings I'm deeply grateful for your interest and support.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plein air adventures...

watercolor sketch, Arnold Arboretum, 12 x 9


Ah some plein air adventures are just too good not to share.  Last Sunday I went up to Arnold Arboretum, a hugely favorite place of mine, to do quick watercolor sketches and check out places I want to spend more time at with my oils.  So I sat down on the stone wall and it was the perfect situation, a big flat wall, not too high.  The light and temperature was just right and NO bugs, a plein air painters dream.  Lots of people strolling, walking dogs, some peeked, most just kept sauntering by, many smiled.  Towards the end of my time there an elderly couple sat down right next to me so I figured they'd chat but no they didn't seem to notice me at all.  After a few minutes he took off his shoes and socks and began inspecting, with the help and  great interest of his wife, some oozing sore on his foot and his toe nails.  La la la la la....just keep painting, don't listen.  I have a toe nail phobia, don't really like feet in general and he was being very descriptive.  I started to hum lightly trying to block the chatter.  She gets up and leaves never once even glancing my way.  He puts on his shoes and socks (phew) sits for a few minutes, gets up, comes over, I look up and he's just staring at the painting (the one above) which was almost finished, then he looks at me and says "Dappled" then walks off.  I stared after him trying not to crack up.

Soon I was up and moving to the next spot.  Now we are in a real plein air painting situation, muddy, almost no place to put anything, exposed, no shade and LOTS of mosquitos - didn't bring the spray!  Finally got situated and this is a much more high traffic area but they can't get to me, no sane person would wander into this mash of bushes and bugs but it was the best view of what I wanted to paint.  Lots of people took pics of me working and think I'll end up on a bunch of Facebook pages.  But one time I looked up and an Asian man is filming me!  Ah my first art movie, wonder what I looked like.  I wasn't in this spot too long because sitting still I got devoured by mosquitos and it was pretty awful.  The painting got ruined because at one frustrating moment before the watercolor dried I swatted at a particularly thick collection of mosquitos on my leg and smeared the paint.  I wrapped up and moved to a more bug free area to enjoy lunch and the rest of the day.

I'm going back this weekend but will bring the bug dope and do my hair so I look better for more filming opportunities..just kidding.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 cured my fear of flying...

A Time of Change,  September 2001, watercolor  3" x 5"

On the MSNBC news last night Lester Holt did a segment on how 9/11 changed us.  For me it cured my intense crippling fear of flying, you’ll learn how in a moment but first here is my 9/11 story....everyone has one.

In September of 2001 I was doing an Artist-in-Residency at Corner Brook, NFLD.  I was taking a shower when the other artist in the residence came over from her apartment, pounded on my bathroom door to tell me about the planes.  Julie Tabrum, the other AIR, was from NZ and her mother lives in Quebec, she called Julie to tell her and then Julie ran over to tell me but we didn’t have a TV.  Already it was an international event! Then a neighbor we had befriended let us come up to watch her TV....I stayed for hours, I couldn’t get enough because I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I couldn’t sleep that night, couldn’t make any art at all, two weeks into my residency and pretty much all art making was done except for one little painting,....I just wanted to get home.  I began hearing about all the people stranded in NFLD when they grounded the planes and I wanted to rent a car to get back to Boston but they weren’t renting them.  Then I saw a car, a beat up wreck, for sale at a gas station for $500, I went to buy it but it was already sold.  I was going to be in NFLD till the end of the Residency, another 2 weeks.  Angela, the neighbor who let us watch her TV suggested we get away...a road trip.  All I really wanted to do was watch the TV but I’m glad she took us to Rose Blanche – Harbour le Cou for the day.  Along the way we stopped a number of times to check out the view or watch herds of Caribou that is where this little painting, my first plein air, (above) was born.  I was watching a herd of Caribou and looked out to the East over a vast unbroken landscape.  I knew there were no roads, no homes, no nothing for about 1,000 miles due East.  Only wilderness and wildness, the urge to step off the road and start walking was overwhelming, I wanted to walk off never to return just step out into the woods, explore, be with the animals when I noticed the spark of orange/yellow in the trees, started thinking about Fall, change and how everything had just changed forever.  This little painting is called “A Time of Change”, I will never sell it, I will never let it go it is my 9/11 tribute.

The rest of the residency passed as if I was in a fog, our kindly neighbor took us to other places and I’m so grateful for her attempts at diversion.  Newfoundland and it’s people are really extraordinary and I’d love to go back.  They should be remembered today as well when the world landed on their doorstep and they came out and took us in.

Finally time to go back to Boston and my normal, utterly crippling fear of flying is now so amped up that the only thing I can focus on is getting home and stop puking up my guts.  Up till this time I’d only gone outside the US once in my entire 53 years, only flown a handful of times when I absolutely could not get there anyway else.  I had a truly intense fear of flying or even getting near a plane.  And, by the way, it’s important to note here that I almost cancelled my trip to Newfoundland when I was at the airport that morning...for this trip my fear was off the scale...why it was so much worse I am not sure.  Now it’s time to get back on the plane so I did.  It was a prop plane, seats about 50 and looked like it was a restored WW1 antique.  Then I notice I’m one of two women, all the rest were men, dressed in camoflage.  Huh?  The guy next to me was dressed normal so I make a joke (I get super goofy when nervous) about the Newfy Army is coming to our aid...lots of people cracked up over that.   But my plane neighbor said “oh we’ve all been hunting for the last 2 weeks up in the remotest parts of NFLD”.  Curious.  I look out the window and see wrapped antlers and only boxes stamped MOOSE or CARIBOU being loaded....no suitcases. So I turn to the guy next to me and ask if the rent the “things” they shoot with (gun is a bad word on a plane now)  He said “no all the guns, amo are on board”  then he returned to reading his hunting magazine and the article was about the best kill shot with diagrams!  Stunned I started putting it all together....I’m sitting in a plane full of men who have spent the last 2 weeks (starting from 9/11) in the woods killing things, next to a guy studying kill shots, I’m sitting on top of their guns, amo and dead animals.  I started to laugh...till my belly hurt & the tears came, it was a good, long deep laugh I couldn’t stop...it was cathartic.  They all thought I'd gone mad but in fact I'd been freed.  God has a seriously twisted sense of humor.  I got to Nova Scotia and before transferring to my next flight went right to the bar, ordered back-to-back super stiff drinks, got on the plane and went home.

After 5 decades of airplane terror it was completely gone, after all that happened I couldn’t even imagine what more there was to be afraid of...IF the Shenksville heros can sacrifice themselves as they did, IF we can survive and grow from 9/11, IF I can get on a plane full of dead animals & guns and get home...it was all a sign.  Don’t get me wrong flying is still not my most favorite thing but the absolute terror I used to feel is all gone.  I’ve since flown many times to Europe, in the US and it still makes me nervous but nothing like it used to be, not even close.   God bless all those we lost on 9/11.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sold...

Fog, 48 x 44", oil on canvas

Throughout the years many people have asked if it is difficult to sell a painting.   Usually it isn't for a couple reasons:  First, I don't want to grow old surrounded by all my work.  Second, I love the look on people's faces when they see a piece they love and can afford - then I know it's going to a good home.  Third, I make my work affordable as I believe it's all wildly overpriced these days.  But my beloved Fog was really hard to part with.  This painting came from where most of my sea paintings come from - boat rides to Provincetown on Bay State's fast ferry.   Up until the fast ferry started the seascapes came from the time I've spent in the Dune Shacks.  On this trip we were socked in the whole way over, the water had a slight chop, outside on deck it was warm and moist.  I hung out on the stern just loving the fog then decided it should be a painting.  As usual when we got close to land the fog cleared and it was a lovely day.  The minute I woke up the next day I started painting this painting and it only took me a few hours, then had to wait a few days to let it dry before finishing it up.  I almost always work alla prima (first stroke) and this one was truly a gift from the Art Gods.  People have been lusting over it for years and I could have sold it 10 times over, but none of the prospective buyers wanted to pay full price for this stunning original and none of them seemed like the "right" fit.  Then the perfect person came along, she has bought a lot of my work and is a true supporter.  After not hearing from her for a year (since she bought the last painting!) she emailed asking if I still had "that grey painting" she couldn't stop thinking about all that time... so Fog now has a new home and a really good home.  There is a giant hole where it hung for years and I miss it terribly but now more people will see it, plus it is in a home by the sea where she first came from and I'm busy making more paintings.  I love all my work even the duds but Fog was truly a special painting, a real gift.  With all my heart I hope the Art Gods smile upon me like that again, they have been so very good to me so far!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My mis-adventure into abstraction...

I've been meaning to write this post for ages.  Hurricane Irene is causing a fuss outside so it's a good day to write (and paint, clean, etc...)  I also spent quality time with some of my favorite periodicals: Fine Art Connoisseur and Plein Air Magazine specifically I was reading about Scott L. Christensen and my mind began to wander thinking about "what if" I had spent time studying with guys like him instead of wasting my time in college.  I normally don't spend any time on "what ifs" but this came up like a daydream.  The answer is very clear I would have been a much better painter sooner...no question.

I thought I had to go to college, thought there was something there I needed to learn that wasn't anywhere else and I wanted the diploma, needed the pride that goes with that and went to a college near me (during a painful divorce) and actually didn't have a way of knowing about great places like the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art (PAFA) plus it never occurred to me to seek out painters I admired to go study with them. Big mistake.

College had it's good parts but as a realist painter it was a blistering experience.  I went in as a realist painter and they did absolutely everything to beat that out of me, I was made to feel stupid, inferior and one especially horrible critique was downright abusive.  So much so that when I talked to an old friend recently she asked me (30 yrs later!) if I remembered it and how upset she was about it.  I sure do remember how it made me feel and it's painful to this day.  The pain, in part, comes from my not standing up and walking out.  I should have told my teachers and classmates to shove it.  But frankly I was pretty fragile from a nasty divorce that was going on during my Sophomore year and didn't have any fight in me right then, so I gave in for survival's sake and became an abstract artist.  It was never a good fit.  I did make some good work and I have a great appreciation for abstract painters but I am not one.  As an abstract painter I was entirely derivative, I thrashed around trying to find the real visual me, wondering what was it I was trying to say artistically.  Paintings are a way to give "voice" to your great passions, interests and I believe it's important for an artist's "voice" to be genuine.  Pushing that metaphor further let's say you have a deep baritone singing voice and they brow beat you into being a soprano...it simply doesn't work.  Now, whenever someone asks me about which school their kid should go to to study art I ask them a lot of questions and hesitate to suggest college, rather I mention studying with people who might reflect their interest or taking classes at great art schools like PAFA and Provincetown Art Assn Museum.  Do not go to college if your goal is to make a fortune with your art, never ever go to college if you want to be a highly skilled realist painter and care for foundation, great training or a classical approach - they do not respect it.  A friend who is an art teacher and head of the painting department at her college said all the kids coming into school now want to be the next super star, cutting edge artist - sad - and the school will certainly not dissuade them or help them find their individual artistic voice.

It is my hope that schools will become enlightened and tolerant of different styles encouraging those whose path is realism.  A few years ago I saw some of my professors and they asked to see my website, they seemed surprised I stayed in Art and were visibly shocked when they saw I'd gone back to realism.  One professor was completely speechless and clearly disappointed.  If there was ever one thing I could re-do it would be to forget college and seek out people doing work I admire and learn from them.

I know I am not alone in this so please feel free to share your experiences...good or not so good.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brian Rego - one of my favorite painters!

salty’s, oil on linen, 16x20, 2011

wedge, oil on linen, 10x13, 2011

yellow houses, oil on linen, 14x18, 2011

I first learned about Brian Rego through one of my all time favorite websites Perceptual Painters http://paintingperceptions.com/.  When I first saw his work a shiver went thru me, everything that stirs me artistically was there, juicy rich colors that were like that bright deep thrumb of a base that you feel rather than hear, great use of fat & thin paint that seemed so easily done, wonderfully simple almost poetic subjects.  I love his point of view and his palette.  I am a painter responding to another painter I greatly admire and not an art writer so as with all my favorite artists posts I want to keep it brief and urge you to explore Brian's work through his website...let the work speak.  So please go to Brian's website and savor his work the link is http://web.mac.com/brianrego/www.brianrego.com/Home.html

Also I want to thank Brian very much for letting me use images of his work...it was tempting to put all of them up there but I want YOU to be inspired to explore his work further, you will be greatly rewarded.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Running from success

John Marin, Island (Ship’s Stern), 1934, watercolor on paper
Here's the bold, brassy truth...I've been playing hard this summer and applying for every grant I can find so not posting much.  Now that the rain has interrupted my fun, plus needing a break from grant writing I'm enjoying this moment to get caught up and frankly the blog is "fun" writing.  Two weekends ago I was in Maine at a friends house and between visits to the beach we went to see the John Marin exhibit.  I have never missed a chance to see his work but he is not one of my favorites can't really put my finger on it however there is something that clearly draws me to him.  The Portland Museum of Art has a super exhibit of his work right now, many pieces I'd never seen before.  We were there for the gallery talk and after hearing about John I ended up really liking him more than his work - he was an outdoorsman, rugged individualist and curmudgeonly.  What really got me was how much he did not want success...he just wanted to paint.  My favorite anecdote was the one where (I think the gallerist said...) the Louvre chased him around Europe to buy a painting and he was miserable to them, in the end finally relenting just to shut them up.  Crazy!  Hey Louvre call me I have some paintings for you!


He is not the first artist I've heard about or know that is too busy making art to be fussing with all that nasty success etc.  Why just this weekend I met an amazing artist who has shows falling into his lap, is making a good living with his work in these ultra-challenging financial times and while I do not know him well at all my sense is he is happiest at his home which is deep DEEP in the woods and if he never had a gallery then he'd be ok with that too.  


John Marin came along at that fantastic time in American Art when it was all happening in New York.  Steiglitz found out about him and it seems that when you knew Alfred things happened.  It makes one wonder about the nature of success and even the definition.  Is success just having the chance to make your work, the room and time to do so.  Or is it having the Louvre chase you around Europe to buy your painting.  Or is it a by-product of networking or otherwise being connected to some art mainline.  


The art world is so crazy and makes me crazy when I ponder it too much.  However, all my favorite success stories are ones just like John Marin's...he's out living his life, doing all the things he loves especially painting.  


Friday, July 22, 2011

Money, money, money....

Grant writing...

I've had that Abba song running through my brain for days!  Finally feels like all the books I've read re grant writing are finally paying off.  Have to give a big shout out for the latest grant writing book I have read to tatters...Gigi Rosenberg's "The Artists Guide to Grant Writing"...super helpful!  One thing I would love to find in every grant writing book is a chapter or maybe just a paragraph that says "Ann....write this down exactly and you will get every grant you apply for." Grant writing is seriously painful.  I'm not a writer, but with all the advice plus writing a blog which I find fun it's getting a tad easier.  I am particularly proud of my most recent effort, haven't sent the grant in yet but the proposal feels strong and a friend who is a grant writer offered to look at it and said I did a great job nailing the points, holding to them, being clear, etc.  So I'm feeling hopeful yet realistic...I am one of many that will be applying, a certain percentage will be instantly culled because they either didn't follow instructions or sent in terrible reproductions of their work. Every single piece of advice about grants points out those two things as major pitfalls and I know from experience that is what will not get you anywhere.

First a bit of personal and hopefully funny history about my own grant writing fiascos and really, who doesn't have some funny history re grants! It was my first big grant experience, to this day I can't even think about it without laughing till the tears come.  I can only imagine what the granting organization thought when they saw it.  A friend and I decided to apply for some major grant as a team.  We thought that because the organization was big, important and gave out serious money that we should sound uber-smart.  We most certainly did not.  Oh god my sides are hurting already...my art buddy and I (both just out of school and of course no one in college ever told us about grants or what to do about them!) discussed our project at length, read the instructions and to our credit followed them to the T.  But we wanted to sound "smart" so we got out the Thesaurus and wrote from that...meaning whatever words we picked for the "dynamic" words we tried to find bigger and smarter words for it.  The end result was an absolutely unintelligible proposal that we glowed over.  We sounded so smart and yes...you guessed it, we never got the money but I've no doubt they are still howling after all these years.

With the blessing of a few years and hindsight I cringe at the thought of that grant and happy to report I went on to write much better ones, many of which I succeeded in getting funds and as you all know it is a huge thrill to get a Yes letter.  

Best experience was the time I got to sit on a grant panel for a state arts agency.  Fabulous and boy did I get to see things I never thought possible.  Even though requirements were clear, just a proposal, images and resume people sent in reams of info about themselves...did they think swamping us with all kinds of stuff would make us go "wow this person is amazing we must give them a grant".  Then there were the dreadful reproductions of their work, crooked, unfocused, on an easel w frame showing or trees in the background (yes natural light is best but learn how to crop).  There were proposals written in pencil, names were missing, the most painful were the ones that listed every bad circumstance in their life and begged for money.  

I've applied for hundreds of grants and have had some success so when I write I focus on those positive results and examine why they worked.  In the end it's really luck of the draw but in every case the writing was strong, clear, concise.  Other than that it depends on the taste of the reviewer(s), but you will always be closer to succeeding if you follow directions precisely, submit professional images to the foundations specs meaning don't sent 72 dpi if they request 300 dpi, strong clear writing and don't flood them with other materials that are not requested.   And apply, apply, apply...never give up...good luck to all! 





Saturday, July 16, 2011

Santa Fe...I'm still in love!

Travel sketch #1, watercolor, 9 x 12"

I've been busy having a blast with watercolors from my Santa Fe trip.  Here are some...

Abiquiu Arch,  watercolor, 14 x 20"
One of the things I get thinking about is how solid the sky is, it's a mass of blue, an object a monster chunk of turquoise.  Not like the Northeast which I'm most used to, all our juiciness and proximity to the ocean makes for a much more atmospheric sky. 
Rock Tower-Abiquiu, watercolor, 14 x 20"
The other thing that struck me and hope to work with in future paintings is how the canyon walls and sides of rock towers remind me so much of the stone work of Europes Gothic Cathedrals.  There are striations and rows of things that look like naturally stone carved figures peopling the cliffs. 

Canyon Walls, watercolor, 14 x 20


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love you!


I was just looking at my blog stats and see that people from Ireland to Thailand to Brazil and beyond are reading my posts so this post is specifically to say THANKS and I LOVE you all!  I may live in the US but have always considered myself a citizen of the world.  What goes on in Africa, Arabia, Borneo, Iceland, the Falklands or Nauru and beyond is as important to me as what goes on in my own backyard.  We are all in this together!  PEACE & HUGS to all....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Santa Fe, Abiquiu and Georgia O'Keeffe

Quick watercolor from my travel sketchbook, Ann Marie Scott, 2011

I just got back from Santa Fe.  After all the pictures and paintings I'd seen I thought I "knew" the place...definitely not, it was full of surprises.  One big one was the altitude, that was real tough for someone who has barely ever been above sea level her whole long life.  But it didn't stop me, I just woozied my way all over the place and drank absolutely bizarre amounts of water.  Anyone know what they do for outrageously dry skin?  

The landscape blew me completely away.  I've never seen anything like it and photos do not do it justice.  I'm a geology geek who doesn't know enough about it but has a huge hunger to learn and that landscape is fantastic for folks like me.  Once I started asking questions and learning about the forces that shaped the land my mind could hardly grasp the scale of those events.  I wonder what it all looked like before the massive volcanos blew, was it lush, green, tropical?

I took a tour of Abiquiu, Ghost Ranch and beyond with Southwest Adventures http://www.swadventures.com/ourtours.html ( I HIGHLY recommend them...they are terrific!) I saw a ton and learned even more especially things about Georgia O'Keeffe I never knew.  She was pretty ornery and a loner, not necessarily a negative thing but I find it sad particularly once you meet the people in the area.  Friendly doesn't nearly describe it, they are without a doubt the nicest, sweetest people ever.  I come from Massachusetts which I often call "Crankachusetts" because we are all so cranky due to the weather.  

No matter what Ms. O'Keeffe's temperament was she certainly was an adventurous and courageous women...two things I greatly admire.  Can't say I've ever been a big fan of her work but I certainly like a lot of it and my favorites are:  Cottonwood III, Black Iris, all the Black Mesa paintings, Ranchos Church, Patio with Black Door to name some.  Since I do not have permission to post those images I rely on your sense of curiosity to seek them out.  Always be curious!  It's another trait I greatly admire in people.  As we drove around this still barren, extraordinary landscape I wondered how it was for her so many decades ago when there was even less out there and then to think about how she dragged her paints, canvases, etc around the parched countryside.  Did anyone tell her to drink freakish amounts of water?  Did she almost pass out every few steps from the altitude?  There were lots of critters out there then, we hadn't killed them all off as yet and she hiked all around into some incredibly remote areas often with the specific  intent of avoiding or hiding from people to paint in pure peace.  She was one tough woman!  Her paintings nail the landscape out there and by seeing it made me appreciate her work all the more.

Seeing the land also re-invigorated my love of painting landscape.  I've never seen anything like it having spent my entire life in the juicy green Northeast and traveling to other juicy green places.  The entire landscape out there begins with my favorite ancient color...yellow ochre.  But the earth is also red, pink, white, naples yellow light, with itchy looking green (yellow & black blend with a touch of viridian) polka dot pines literally polka-dotting the land and they are a perfect fit.

The other noticeable thing is hard to articulate but the landscape is far more than just a pretty scene...it is sacred.  Black Mesa is a formidable, palpable presence and I also would be very happy to sit there for ages and paint it's many manifestations.


Another quick watercolor from my travel sketchbook, Ann Marie Scott, 2011
Travel always energizes me and this trip offered intriguing surprises.  I most certainly will be back out there to spend quality time painting and exploring.





Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Marketing schmarketing...

There are so many blogs, tweets, books, etc about marketing your art it gets tiresome sometimes.  It often feels that as artists we are hawking a "product" and I certainly don't think of my work that way.

Then there's publicity - it is such a crazy world!  When I had my first big two person show the reviewer came up to me and said while they preferred my work, that it was stronger than the artist I was showing with she could only give me a mention because the other artist was The Story.  My fellow exhibitor was recovering (nicely I am happy to say) from brain surgery and was indeed the focus of the review.  While they mentioned me briefly and included a picture of my work they went on for paragraphs about the other artist but not their work except for a mention.  In the end tremendously unfair to both of us.  Recently in a discussion with a marketing person/art reviewer I told them about this, they merely shrugged saying while it's unfortunate that's the way it is.  Publicity is just weird but willing to explore all options recently I tried a new angle, I contacted some PR folks, one firm I've tried before and I'm not sure how they stay in business as getting them to reply is worse than pulling teeth.  Another firm I contacted had not read through my materials nor did they look at my work, their one and only question in every correspondence was how much was I willing to spend...it was all about the money.

So having tried a number of different angles I am back to my normal routine of contacting galleries, applying for grants, using a more personal approach with people.  As much as I like being isolated in the studio I'm also a people person so really like the personal approach.  Another favorite of mine is the great chain of personal connections.   Lastly, there's no question I'm a huge fan of galleries.  They have all the mechanisms in place to keep publicity flowing and I just get to paint.  A good gallery is invaluable.  Believe me gallery folks work hard for their artists!

Let me know what you have experienced with marketing, PR and the media please post your comments, stories.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Solutions to some of todays biggest problems ....

Photo by Dave Martin / AP
The  title of my blog is Thoughts on Art, Travel and Life (heavy on the art) and I'm going to expand the focus a bit this time.  This entry is about creative solutions for some very big problems facing us today.  I've been watching all the anguish over the Mississippi River flooding and have a solution.  If you are going to build on a flood plain as active as the one along the Mississippi then why not build your house on a barge - when the river rises so does your house!  I think it could really work just keep a boat nearby so you can get to higher ground.  Also to keep your house from floating away tie it off to something or use pilings like marinas use which allow docks to rise and lower with the tides. I saw some pictures recently of people trying interesting solutions to keep the water away, one person built an impressive dike around their property and it would have worked perfectly except it appeared broken at one end.  I think it would be kinda cool to have a really huge dike around your property...like a solid mountain ring.  You wouldn't see your neighbors but could scramble up and get a great view.  We should really study what Holland does, they are ingenious when it comes to water issues.  When I was there I saw massive dikes holding back the sea - most impressive!  On top of that they let their sheep and cows use the dikes and flood planes for grazing, so livestock is taken care of and no mowing! I had some great conversations with the Dutch re Holland and relationship with water...we could seriously learn a lot from them

Then there's just ALL that water!  I have a solution that could generate thousands of jobs: hauling jobs, construction jobs, water purification jobs, etc - what if there was a way to capture as much water as possible with pipelines, trucks, trains any container we can find.  Heck, make containers to do just that and moveable pipelines to syphon off excess water...even more jobs created!  Move the excess to areas that are facing drought or prone to forest fires, store it in massive reservoirs allowing the earth to filter it naturally or into container farms similar to the sewage treatment plant on Boston Harbor, clean up the water and use it to water lawns, golf courses which are notorious for their water abuse, use it for watering crops or anything that "grey water" could be used for.  Of course there are lots of groups, people and government red tape that would be against it or hamstring it for one reason or another.

After the massive outbreak of spring tornados this year I also got to thinking.  You know how they always say if you are outside and see a tornado coming head for a ditch...so what if you built dirt ramps around your house so the tornado skips up and over, or if you built you house so it drastically slopes - maybe half the house built into a hill.  Of course the best thing would be to have one of those fabulous hobbit houses.  I'd like one but realize they are not for everyone.

While these seem like light-hearted or simplistic solutions I think they, or some version of them, could work with considerable tweeking and wonder why we always just go back to building the same old thing that will get washed or blown away again.  Plus I have to say it really fries my bacon to see all the housing construction materials etc piled up in the trash.  We chopped down a lot of trees for those houses and now we have to chop down many more, seems incredibly foolish.  One thing I do know is that the storms and water problems of this year has hit people who are already working so hard to make life work and my heart goes out to them. Lives and dreams have been lost and it's just so painful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In praise of feedback!


I met with a gallery director this week which is an incredible treat because normally you contact a gallery and then never ever hear from them again.  This has happened to me a lot lately.  Last month I contacted 6 galleries sending them materials according to their instructions on the websites, contacted another 4-6 by email as they instructed.  Within a reasonable amount of time I sent a follow up email...have not heard ONE thing back from any of them.  Next will be the phone call to them.  Do they even look at your web link?  Do they even open the envelope with the CD of your images?  I have visions of galleries getting envelopes and just tossing them in the rubbish.  It just boggles the mind to think how many artists are out there versus how many galleries. I've also been in galleries and shared the horror of when someone comes in to show the director their art and try to get represented.  That is a killer, the worst approach ever and terribly embarrassing for all.  
 
But this week I got to have a valuable face-to-face with a gallery owner who spent a healthy chunk of time with me to look over my work.  He did so thoughtfully, slowly, while I practiced painful and uncommon restraint from babbling like an idiot over each piece.  When I get nervous I babble, this time I'm proud to say I did not.  Once again I tried to show a "range" of work, translation - it looked like an artist displaying her multiple personalities.  He was most kind and said it's always good to see a range then proceeded to give me what I dearly love and desparately need…terrific, clear, intelligent feedback.  None of the I like this, don't like that stuff.  He looked long at each piece and offered a range of comments. Of course what I wanted to hear was that I was clearly an undiscovered genius and his gallery would take all my work then turn me into an Art Star that puts Picasso to shame (he did a lot of different styles of work too…so hey!)  While it's always nice to hear good comments from friends and family they usually are not always things I want or should hear, however I am lucky to have some friends that give feedback like this guy did.  Now it's up to me to put his comments to good use.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wood curls and memories...

It's so funny what can spark a treasured memory.  Today I was playing with my new thumb plane using it on some stretchers, the curls of wood falling on the floor, the cats chasing them, the smell of the worked wood all brought back some exquisite memories of working with my Grandpa Scott in his woodshop.  He had a very crowded, well used woodshop -the workbench and tools worn smooth with use- in the basement of his house.  During the summers he was a lockmaster for Lock #14 on the Trent River in Campbellford ONT.  In the winter he worked in his woodshop where he built everything from cabinets to tables big and small and rowboats...all of his own design.  I still have one of his end tables and I treasure it.  But mostly I hold dear the memory of being his assistant which meant I played in the wood curls and handed him things like a hammer, screw driver etc.  We would chat and it always strikes me how incredible those times were.  I have no idea what we talked about, can't remember back that far but I was very very little and do remember how much I loved his company and how he never treated me like a little kid or that I was in the way which I'm sure I was.  The woodshop memories are all about the senses - the smell of the wood...he only worked with cedar which is the only thing that grew in the area, the smell of his pipe, the feel of his rough, work calloused hands when he would pat my head or take a tool out of my hand.  He also worked on his outboard motors so there was also always a very faint perfume of oil or gas that had been part of the motor.  One of the many remarkable things about my father and grandfather was that they never treated me as a girly girl, they respected me and taught me things like woodworking, fishing, boating and even hunting that I never forgot.  I even got to help him with the locks by helping with turning the giant key that opened and closed them.  When we weren't building something in his shop or working on the locks we sat on the porch (veranda) eating peanuts and feeding all the critters that loved peanuts too.  Grandpa would put peanuts in his shirt pocket and while we chatted chipmunks would climb in and out with the peanuts, or just sit in his pocket with their head poking out while eating.  Grandpa Scott only had one thing he always wore...Sears work clothes...green, worn but clean and pressed plus an ancient felt fedora that I wish had not gotten lost when he passed away.  It was all sweat stained and during our porch chats he would put peanuts on the rim - if the chipmunks weren't in his shirt pocket they were on the rim of his hat eating the peanuts, all the while we chatted, he would smoke his pipe and I adored him.  Birds would also come in flocks to sit around us as he tossed bread crumbs to them which is how I came to have a pet crow for all the time I was there.  

Then there is Grandma Scott who knew everything else.  She grew all her own food, there were no grocery stores anywhere around...if you didn't grow it, hunt it or fish it out of the river you did not eat.  So Grandpa, my Dad and Uncles (more spectacular men) hunted and fished.  Grandma did all the food growing and...here's the super cool part...knew how to tan the leather from the animals we hunted. 

Here's a great side story that knits the formidable talents of these two people together.  One night we all were awakened by the horrifying sounds of Grandpa's hunting dogs being attacked by a bear.  I will spare you the truly gruesome details.  We all woke up, Grandma took us kids and huddled in her room with us while Grandpa got his shotgun, loaded it, stepped out on the porch we heard two shots, Grandpa cussed, the bear groaned, smoke from the gun cleared and we all peeked out to see the bear face down in the driveway about 5 feet from where Grandpa stood ( the bear charged him with the dog still in it's mouth) and Grandpa landed both shots in the head.  He said "show's over, go back to bed" but in the morning we dashed out to take turns sitting on the sprawled bear.  We deeply mourned the loss of Betty, one of his favorite hunting dogs.  Then he took the bear away, eventually brought the skins to my Grandmother, we had more bear steaks (not my favorite) and we all had new bear fur vests in time. 

Grandma knew how to tan hides to make clothes, purses (with outrageous hand-tooled designs of her own!), and gloves.  She knitted, crocheted, grew food put it by for the winter and raised 5 kids (lost one early in his life) plus was a nurse in the local tiny hospital.  You can do a lot w/o TV and technology!  She taught me how to make the best pie crust ever and I still can!  Sadly I was a dismal failure at knitting and tanning leather but did learn how to crochet.  Given all the hype around Kate and Will's wedding it's appropriate to mention that my Grandmother was the Royal Family's most loyal subject.  No matter what was going on at the house, whether it was baking, making boats, gutting fish...if the Queen was on the radio everything stopped.  Grandma would whip out the fancy tea cups and we would get cleaned up and listen to the Queen.  When they did get a TV and the coronation came on it was a fancy dress day with high tea.  Another great memory!

How does it ever get better than that!  Those really were the good old days...and how very grateful I am to have had people like them in my life and for the wood curls today that brought back such treasured memories.

My Favorite Artists #2 - Kate Mccgwire!

Gag, 2009 Photo byJP Bland
Mixed media with crow feathers, in antique museum cabinet,  77 x 60 x 60 cm 

Retch, 2007.  Installation using Pigeon feathers, sorry did not see who the photographer was.

A couple friends pointed me in the direction of Kate Mccgwire and WOW I love her work! So I emailed her to ask if it would be ok if I used a couple of her images for my "Favorite Artists" blog bits. It was a thrill to hear back from her and she said OK! Thanks Kate.

"My favorite artists" is meant to highlight people whose work I admire so  I won't say a lot as the work speaks for itself, however I can't help but gush a bit and say I find the work to be meticulously crafted, smart, luscious, seductive and it would be painfully difficult not to be able to touch it!  I have a great fondness for sculptures that use natural objects and this work is brilliant.  I've been all over Kate's website and pretty much am an over the top fan.  Fume/Seethe is another spectacular work.  I would love to help with an installation to see and be part of her process.  Please learn about Kate Mccgwire for yourself by visiting her website at  http://www.katemccgwire.com/

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Still life...

I've been aching to do Still Life work but not the bowl of fruit, vase of flowers kind.  I've been working on a number of ideas and am enormously pleased with the outcome.  Everything I paint comes out of the pursuit of an idea which is what the still life's and wall paintings are about or an experience which is what the land/seascapes & Europe paintings depict.  It feels strange that it takes me much longer to arrive at a still life idea than anything else I do.  I need exactly the "right" thing, combination, simple, maybe a tad funny or ironic and hopefully a little poetic, all that uses very different creative muscles than the other work I do and that kind of "exercise" feels great.  So here are the very newest Still Lifes...enjoy!




Been busy in the studio...

My body may be back from Italy but my heart and mind are still very much there.  My work falls into a few categories and these small paintings are travelogues from my time there.  Oh how I miss Italy and the spectacular American Academy in Rome...can't wait to go back!




Thursday, April 7, 2011

And here are some of the drawings...

That came out of my quality time with pen and paper...




We kissed and made up...

The best part about fighting with ones art is the make-up painting. I love painting in all sorts of mediums but water media and oils are my favorite.   Oils smell so good, are messy, smooshy & gooshy.  Watercolor is a seductive but harsh mistress. Like water itself it is at once soft yet can also be punishing.  I've worked on whole paintings only to blow it at the end with a big splop of color that drops in exactly the wrong place while in transit across the sheet. When I'm having an argument with one medium I move to another for a while and this winter my oils and I fought like crazy. I never made so many bad paintings in a row, panicked I wondered is it over with oils?  Not only did we fight but not being able to do the work I had planned on doing created a serious block...frozen, locked out, unloved. I cleaned up my painting area, put all my tubes away and we did not speak to each other for months.  I pouted for a bit then said, F it, I'm going back to the basics - drawing - and was revived, refreshed.  I draw all the time and think it is the most important aspect of art but admit that it's always been a step on the road to a painting and in doing so I've ended up with some drawings that didn't need to go anywhere else, they said everything already.  So I decided to focus on just drawing.  There's a little bit of shame in admitting that I have no real memory of doing a still life. I enjoy seeing them but have no desire to paint another bowl of fruit or bunch of flowers.  But if I could do flowers, fruits, table views like Christine Lafuente who's still life work knocks me out every time, or Stuart Shils, or Lucy Mac Gillis I'd be crazy happy. Since oils and I weren't speaking there was not going to be any color and I wasn't going to use watercolor either - that snub will surely cost me at some point.  So I turned to pen, pencil but didn't like the lines they seemed weak and I wanted bold, big, one stroke shapes, forms - happy to report it worked.  Buoyed by my success, refreshed from working with another medium, feeling strong again I had ideas for more oils.  I opened the drawer of paint tubes, we stared at each other.  I picked up my old friend yellow ochre, gave it a little squeeze and wondered if we were back on track...I started slow.  Just ground painting at first - let that dry.  Bring out a few more tubes and the next day I was painting, Spring was in the air, birds singing all was good again.  

No matter what kind of relationship one is in, it can't be forced or controlled and it's always a painful, heartbreaking lesson if one tries to do that.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sluter's The Mourner

                               
This little statue is one of Sluter's "Pleurant" (Mourner) studies, it's at the MFA in Boston and I just love it. I would love to hold it and take it's pain away, it is so full of emotion.  It isn't grand, maybe only a foot high, but it is powerful.  It appears lots of people are looking at my blog re Sluter's fabulous maquette.  Thank you and wish I'd written more about it.  This little statue touches me deeply.  I understand it is part of a series of maquettes he did for a tomb.  I cannot think of another piece that affects me as much as this one does and I visit it every time I go to the MFA.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A powerful little favorite...

As I mentioned in the post just before this I was at the Museum of Fine Arts today for a lecture on "Inclement Weather in American Painting" given by Katie Pfohl an art history student and one to watch!  She's clearly got a great future ahead of her.  After the talk I went to visit my favorites, and I have a LOT of favorites, but this one strums my heart strings like no other.  It's a little study by Paul Huet called Foret de Compiegne (1830) and it's only about 13 x 17 inches.  I've spent a lot of time in front of this little piece, it's quiet, a peek into the artists' mind as he wanders and paints in this famous forest North of Paris.  Maybe one of these segments will become a larger painting, maybe it's background work for a series, it doesn't matter I just love seeing his process and how complete each little section is the rest I'm content to wonder about.

Another mysterious painting...

Big day at the Museum of Fine Arts today, fun but shocking.  As usual I went to visit my little Rembrandt painting and ...it's been moved.  AH.  Be still my heart, I know it will pop up somewhere else and there's tons of stuff to see, like the one above.  It is another compelling and mysterious painting - Gerard ter Borch's "Man on Horseback".   I couldn't find nearly as much written about this as there was about El Perro, by Goya.  But then again Goya was far more famous than Borch. There is a cheesy Boston Globe blurb that reckons this with the Marlborough Man, ugh.  Another article from the UK I found on-line basically just describes what we already see but offers interesting comments about not seeing the face, hence not being able to read the emotions. However, I pick up a lot of emotion from the soldiers' demeanor and the ease of the horse, most of which feels like tiredness or weariness: the soldier is relaxed or even a tad slumped and the horse is not galloping, it's doing an easy plodding gate perhaps they are coming back from something that has spent them completely. Or after digging into history a bit maybe they are riding, hesitantly, towards something very difficult. I think the key to understanding this work is that it was painted in 1634. That was the year that the great Battle of Nördlingen took place in Germany and was part of the Thirty Year War. The soldier is bent a little, but he's not muddy or bloody from battle which made me think he's going toward the conflict. The light is ambiguous, it could be late afternoon which would imply he's riding home or back to camp.  Then again it looks like daybreak which could mean he's riding to battle.  Every time I see it I read it differently and as always the true meaning lies with the artist and it is up to us - the viewer -  to bring our own meaning to it.  Even though I couldn't visit Rembrandt's Studio today it means I got to spend more time with this and as usual I came away with more questions.