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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

prints and nature

I am mesmerized by the patterns of nature and especially loved doing this dress against the background of the garden with all of its radiance.  Nature gives to us the perfect backdrop for our figures and our intense colors of costume.  The background nature serves up is always low key with lots of neutrals and warms and cools.  No color in nature is ever  pure yet the ornamentation of our clothing, hair and table always suggests purity and's kind of a

choices of frame

slam dunk...light vs. dark, dull vs. bright, soft vs, hard, know the drill

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Precious Imagination

I have a painting right now sitting in my studio against the wall completely dry that I laboriously and lovingly and meditatively underpainted with a verdaccio palette last week that is ready to be finished. It's 30 x 40, my favorite size. It has so much life in my imagination because the possibilities are limitless. It thrills me to think of getting to it and yet each day I choose to start or finish another because once I begin the first step I eliminate the boundless possibilities and a part of my imagination has to close the door to the others... It's like watching the price is right and choosing door number 2 which is wonderful but means that door number 1 and 3 never get opened.. I have to admit that it's a wonderfully buoyant feeling to carry that richness of bounty around in my imagination all day long. I have many many doors waiting to be opened and all are eager to take a form. I walk through my tasks and errands of the day consciously aware of the treasure I hold...It's a wall of fortitude around the assailing problems of real life and it gives me courage and promise.

The process of painting is full of choices. A choice is made during every second of the painting process whether it's the color you choose to dip your brush into or how you choose to drag or lay or smooth in the paint. The brush I reach for each time is a factor in the mix as well. If I start on the background first the harmonies in the face will be effected. If I deal with the flesh or figure first it changes the power and impact the figure will have. Using a lot of medium or using a little will set a mood or alter a mood. I like comparing the process of painting to dancing with a partner....or playing chess. I'm only a part of the process. After I lay something down I have to follow the lead or base my next move on what just happened. Unlike many descriptions of the creative process I do not always know where I will end up. I respect the fact that "my vision" doesn't always become the finished product...It's a wedding of myself and the constraints of the physical organic world. Some call it the muse. I like that and it's real. There is a muse and I always hope and pray she's in the room with me because it takes two to make a painting. I'm alert and present all the while but I have to make decisions all the time that affect the next fork in the road. It requires a fortitude of energy much like getting ready to run a race. Do I have the ingredients with me today to run the course? Sometimes I encounter people who work a "job" and tell me they always dream of painting...the first thing out of my mouth is that you have to give it your best energy, not your left over, end of the day tired and whipped energy. It has to be top of morning...thrilled to be allowed the opportunity to work with color, form and line energy...........grateful thankful energy.
Like most choices in our life once we've committed to a direction the possibilities still continue and we begin the process anew....there's a dream stage, a cultivation period, a foundation, and a finished product and the finished product is often the stepping stone to the NEXT WORK...
You gotta love this art life!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mixing it up

16 x 20 Purple

Always looking for new inspiration.  This is from a painting (photograph) I took years ago. Technology allows me to see in the shadows where I could not see before and I feel that 10 years later I have some new skills I can throw in the mix.  I used to reach for color and bat it around and always be in a conundrum of trying something...if it didn't work, fixing it. 
I'm loving approaching life (painting) with a plan.  It's the whole thing about not having to invent the wheel every time....that really really gets old after a few decades.
Turns out there are some great tried and true methods to approach things, mix it up with a little personality and still have a unique work of art.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

still thinking

YES, Still thinking

I wanted to post this painting but wasn't in the mood to write yet so when I came to the title of the blog piece I simply wrote still thinking.....and it stuck for me....(which I am thrilled to report is all that matters) so I am officially naming this piece "Still Thinking" which then starts to remind me that the big celestial cosmic clock is ticking away and I'm yelling back at it YES I am still thinking........and painting, and lots of other things.   HOWEVER I do think about the sand in the hour glass running out...a little more than anyone wants to hear about ....but I daresay we all think about it.  I know I've been thinking about it since I was five... I remember looking at my parents and feeling sorry for them because they were further down the timeline than I was....and remember the wonderful feeling of having all of my life ahead of me instead of being in the middle or as it's becoming more and more, behind me. 
Andrew Marvell wrote TO HIS COY MISTRESS which I read in probably 1969......thinking hmm...that's interesting.......but now I reread it and yes, it resonates.

I want to paint every painting I've painted again .........and do it better.  I want to try different color schemes.........different backgrounds, .....different treatments of the flesh, lose the edges, find the edges, hi contrast, low contrast, figure in shadow, figure in the light, large, small, colorful, somber, and on and on....Painting is so very wonderful.  Let all the days of the rest of my life include color, design and drama!  Time's winged chariot is coming so it's time to make manifest!

Here is Andrew Marvel's (no not a super hero) poem
Hope I don't get in trouble for posting it....ah but he's dead and it's over 50 years so it's public domain I think.  

To his Coy Mistressby Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

        But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

        Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Working Large

This is the first stage of this that it's dry I'm going to scumble some glazing over it to unify and lighten it up and better control the triad color harmony.  I'll post it at the bottom of this post.
I really like working large....speaking of large...O my god...I went to the de Young museum last week to see the Musee D'orsay exhibit on loan to the De Young in California.  The size of many of them took my breath away, especially the breath taking  lovely Bouguereaus.. They were at the beginning of the exhibition to introduce the historical context for the beginnings of impressionism.   Looking at the Bouguereaus and the figures of Fantin Latour makes me commit more and more to the really developed more fleshy approach which is time consuming and full of technique and procedure....IT'S HARD TO KNOW WHEN TO STOP AND WHEN TO KEEP GOING!  I am constantly reminded that every painting has so many possibilities......Now that it's so easy to photograph them as you go it's really enlightening to reflect upon the various stages that you pass through and yet choose to go on....

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Connections through time

Communication.........I think that’s why I enjoy reading so much…and why I like to paint the figure reading.   I think of it almost as a sacred meditation connecting to the long linkage of the essence of individual souls.   There’s the capacity for raw honesty in writing and the possibility of true intimacy.  We can be that other person or at the least know what that person is feeling and thinking.  It's a door into another’s soul present and past,  alive and dead.   Not only are we  allowed to say things in books and writing that  we could never express privately or publicly but we are also available to hear secret things that one cannot say.  There was a movie about CS Lewis...I forget the title.  Sir Anthony Hopkins I think was CS Lewis.  And he said something to the effect of "I read so I'm not alone."
If I painted a solitary figure not absorbed in an event one could say she looked lonely but I dare say that all my figures though they are solitary do not look lonely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The inner judge

This is  my most recent finished product ...dare I say done?  I have come to realize that I am not often done when I think I am.  The paint dries, I catch a glimpse from the corner of my eye from a different angle and there's a feeling of unsettledness that strikes at my gut.  I try to listen to my FIRST response with a fresh eye...What part of the painting is bothering me? Is it balanced? what would FEEL better? When I can walk past it with a smile on my face I think I am done.  If it nags me or puts me in a grumpy mood I know I have to revisit something and usually the FIRST thought that comes to my mind is the area of investigation.
This one is almost there. I am going to position it in the hall so I have to look at it as I come around the corner and listen to my inner judge.  Something is bugging me

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I am ecstatic. I just discovered how easy it is to link to the books I read and put them here on my blog.  I adore reading and always consider my daily art and my daily reading to go hand in hand.  I personally would love to be reading someone's blog about a book and or subject and have the link right there without having to hunt it down and remember all the information.  I am dedicated to the reading of biographies of the great artists (visual as well as all the others) and will be referencing them a great deal in the next postings.  I remember when I was 7 my mom used to drop me off at the local downtown BUCKHEAD library (I'd give anything to see it again and I pray to god they didn't tear it down) while she grocery shopped at the local A & P.  I headed straight for the Blue bindings of the biography sections and lost myself reading about all the amazing people published there in that juvenile 3 rd grade section.  I think my first was Sacajawea and then I went on to read them all.........Now I still do name a new biography of an artist and I'm on fact at the end of the hall I have my biography bookcase and I cherish it.  I hope when I 'm gone.....(gulp) my kids will either cherish it or donate it to an organization that will.
WAIT I must link to a book!  I will talk more about this one later but it changed my life.  I remember when I was considered trying to "go for it" and be only a self supporting artist, I found my mind wrapped around the idea of "well, let's see how it goes the first year."  Naturally there were ups and downs, enough ups to keep me tantalized, enough downs to  go deeper into cc debt.  After I read this book, I said to myself, "now I get it."  You either do it (as Pisarro did) or you don't. There are no wait and see's.  If the times get tough, the tough keep going and you can be sure it leads some where.   Then of course there's the great Tony Robbins who taught me to reframe my thinking......when the times are down it's an opportunity to be reaffirmed of my committment....ooh ooh here's his book too!  I can see this is going to be a blast.....Eating lunch now in 75 degree California weather and smiling.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Decisions decisions.  I'm noticing that today I am chasing my tail whirl pooling but still sinking in the abyss of indecision..  I encountered the first decision in the morning and put off eating breakfast, then it was how to finish off my mohair shawl.  I ran out of yarn and needed to make some important color and design decisions. I went one way and then the other and even followed the fools errand and went out looking for more yarn and came home empty.   Now I'm sorting books on the NY times book review, Amazon, and looking for the perfect listening material for working in my if this is a life changing decision............I have a headache from weighing out these heady decisions and still haven't decided.
Painting would be a welcome respite where one decision seems to guide the hand to the next decision and there is an orderly sequence of motions to reach the end.  I have painted long enough to know that decisions come while we're laying the foundation....Begin and their WILL be a painting.  I start the ritual. I prime the canvas, I lay out a challenging, intriguing palette.  I made a decision about my palette a few weeks ago and sticking to it for a month or two........ lemon yellow, cad yellow medium, prussian blue, indian yellow, alizarin, napthol crimson, and veridian and titantium white......maybe a little ivory black.  .(makes it easier and I like the control.)    I  pick up the mess on the floor from yesterday and then the beginning starts to hatch.  The  size, the colors, something I glimpsed on my way to the studio, a flash of a scene from a photo on the wall, even the putting on of the little apron I wear, start to propel me toward the first stroke and the laying in of a proportionally pleasing arrangement...............I KNOW in a painting it doesn't have to be a significant  life changing decision. As I begin, I know that I will go somewhere.  Part of it I know and part of it I don't know.   There is a weighing of my sensibilities more from a feeling level than from a thinking level that serves as the compass once I start.  Part of the intrigue for me is the dance that you do with your own intentions and the accidental or imagined  directions that the medium creates.  I think I'm inspired now...going to the studio for awhile to just START.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Visiting another time

I've recently taken to driving over to my outstanding STARBUCKS with my little adorable bulldog and sitting outside in the sun ( and getting him used to scary noises) sipping my latte, indulging in something sweet and reading through the pages of Eugene Delacroix's journal that he maintained throughout his life.  Fortunately it has been edited so I am reading his thoughts mainly about painting and living life  in his day.  His best pals were Chopin and MMe. Sands.  I am heartened by his thoughts and feelings  and his analysis of society and the meaning of life.  He references feeling like an outsider most of the time but  feeling alive when he visits his medium of the composition and the color and the treatment of problems in rendering form and light.   He was just another guy in his time doing what interested him, worried like all of us about sales and frugally making it to the end of the month, budgeting, selling, and thinking about what to paint next.   He painted, enjoyed the analysis of other's work, good conversation and FOOD with some of the most creative people of the time and always set aside time during the day for self reflection.  

After a while the sun gets too hot, I've finished my last sip, and Howard is panting so I know it's time to go home now that I'm sufficiently inspired to lay out my palette and resume my work with a slightly new perspective on the significance of representational art.

Hence, "Pensive Moment," a quick 10 x 10.

Monday, April 26, 2010

We have now

This is a year when my kids have left home, I'm working at my painting alot and finding I have some time to spend on organization, reflections, and planning.  I hope this is showing in my work as I contemplate the direction I'm taking in each painting with more control and purpose, revisiting old compositions and reinterpreting them in a new way.

In my attempt to make a little sense of all the loose papers, photographs, and mementos that I've stashed in every nook and cranny I labeled 4 for me only, one for each son (2) and one for their posterity that might interest them both.    I'm thinking that if I move or god forbid die (I'm not delusional)  the boxes are labeled for each child to take for their own memory store.

As I sorted and categorized I came across a book of dreams that I meticulously recorded during a very very hard time in my life and the thought of anyone, especially my children, ever reading them made me sick.  I scanned through it and decided it was over, been there, done that.........and tossed it..............BUT I did save a few paragraphs.  Out of the reams of writing there were a few statements that still held water, a few other lines that were poetic enough to describe my depths of feeling without being too particular and then, this simple description of a dream I had one night of my most beloved childhood home on Moores Mill Rd. in Atlanta, Georgia, a place that my mind often visits. 

 The street of my favorite childhood appeared in my dreams but the beautiful facades were found to be supported in back by mere scaffolding and rusty fire escapes.  The expansive backyards which supplied dimension and privacy were subdivided with new foundations and the beginnings of new homes.

I think the message I take from this picture is that I am  always new...that today is the most important day of my life and that makes me smile.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I was standing in line at the grocery store checkout behind  a father and his young son.  The boy pulled on the father's jacket and looked  up into his eyes and said "Can I get a new coloring book?"   In that brief second I was overcome with the memory of being that age and the excitement of choosing a new, never used coloring book.  As I walked from the checkout line I was 50 years in the past and could smell a freshly opened coloring book and its companion, the new box of crayolas standing in tiers in their cadmium yellow deep box.....I loved  the names of each color and had great  guarded respect for the beautiful points.  I remember  laying on the floor with the cousins sharing the coloring book, and negotiating on which page to start so that the colorer on the right got what she wanted and the colorer on the left was pretty happy too.    I recall  being acutely aware of each individual colorer's "style" and wished for a "style" of my own.  I have chased Style all my life.
Everyone worries about style.....but now that I've lived a while I would say that style is something best not thought about.  I might even go so far as to say it's useless to think about your own style.  It will surface and be distinct  after you've traveled your distance.   Style is not something you learn but is something that is inside and exists all the time.  Worrying about it is senseless.  Style is more about being released than about being formed or developed.  Whether you're getting your lessons from the old masters, your jr. high school art teacher, or Jackson Pollock, the messages are still being filtered through your mind and hand and manifested by you.
After you  have learned from all your teachers and copied and edited and invented, imagined, and executed hundreds of works of will be there,  and yes it was there all the time.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Complement 1 a : something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect b : the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete  

In Betty Edwards, A Course in Mastering the art of mixing colors, she states, " In this book, I am following Goethe's thought that the response of delight elicited by certain color harmonies may be linked to a phenomenon called "after-images," which suggests that the human brain longs for balanced relationships across  the three attributes of color.

Friday, March 12, 2010


     I am being haunted by the image of a doing a certain painting....I'm going to have to go through the motions of activity to get it going though.....First, it's big.  I want to do it as a 4' by 5' horizontal and it's a group of young adults.....Lots of figures and faces and I'll have to do it as realistically as I can.  There's no sunlight, it's inside and there's no garden! which is a switch up for me and frankly not that much color which is also different for me.  Most of the responses I get to my paintings are about the color and the subject and I'm deviating from both......I'm going to do it though.  It's also a personal painting....
     Today I stretch the canvas.  I buy my canvas from Dick Blick on a roll and I had the stretcher bars built already by my friend, Jan.  I recently learned a new trick about stretching the canvas which is to first anchor it at all four sides (8 staples) then begin balancing the opposite sides and work my way to the edges......remove the 8 staples and finish up with the corners......this painting won't be framed so the stretching of the corners is important.  Below are two stretchers that are due to become paintings soon!
The one on the left is 48 x 60 and the other is 40 x 60.  Great sizes! Can't wait.  Working big has a way of being cathartic and serves as an amazing teacher!  Every large painting I've completed has taken me in a somewhat new direction.  

Friday, March 5, 2010


I'm showing two photos of this painting taken 3 hours apart.  (I love my new iphone!) I photograph everything so easily....

This is a painting I worked on this week.  I did it from a photograph that I took a few years ago of one of Josh's friends and her little son, Dominic..I began it about two weeks ago by first toning the canvas either veridian or thalo green with turpentine....can't remember which...I like the effect of the fleshier cadmium reds and oranges over the green.  Just going directly for the flesh over a white canvas just doesn't work..It has to have something to vibrate against.  Thalo blue would be good too.  The Old masters used the verdaccio effect of an earth green or green oxide  mixed with black and painted all the values as an underpainting first.. I like doing that as well but it often inhibits my looseness and my feeling of intuitiveness that can come at the end of the painting.
Anyway........after the turp thalo I drew in the figures with burnt umber and tried to hit all the values.  I intended on getting to it right away but couldn't so when I went back in to add the color the umber was dry which was fine.
I started with the background......then the clothing, then worked on the flesh...The one on the left was after working for two weeks.   It seemed adequate but didn't give that feeling of accomplishment that I like to get so I started out making a few fixes with the values and drawing part until I warmed up and then got bolder with tackling some of the imaginary garden I installed in the back ground.  I  originally had this set up in my back yard on Orchard Ave and I frequently return to the feeling of that garden.   I used medium (neo meglyp) and some glazing to warm it up and eventually working with bold yellows, (Love Indian yellow and alizarin or grumbacher red) oranges, reds and greens as well as dipping into the scrapings,(mud) to neutralize part of it created the effect of the painting on the right...I think I came in from the studio around 6:45 PM.  I'm pretty sure it's done now, though sometimes after it dries I see some areas to wake up again.  Hopefully it will dry, I'll paint some medium over it to even out the glare and finally put a varnish on it when it's dry.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Am I an artist?

My first day:
I’m not sure I know enough about anything to write a blog…but here goes. I must admit also that I am reading (read already) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubins and March is the month to do something for your work. I‘ve been meaning to write a blog (and make a book on Blurb of all my paintings) because I want to add another little link to my web page that says Subscribe to Sally’s blog….So realizing that blogs are free and that I can erase it at anytime and make it go away I’m giving it a go…I’m thinking I need to write about how to paint, how to mix colors, how to stretch a canvas (and I just might at some point) but I do have a lot to say first about the art soul and its plight to stay invigorated and alive in the world today.

Let me start my first edition with just a basic fact: Artists are simply a kind of human. Like retrievers, hounds, watch dogs, water dogs, etc…...there are kinds of people. Of course among those, there are some who become artists and then alas those that don’t and live lives that are always presented with the giant question mark…what is this thing I crave and need…why am I never happy? Imagine the watchdog with nothing to watch...the labrador with nothing to retrieve ...does the word neurotic come up...we all know neurotic dogs, don't we?

An unfulfilled artist’s life is full of anxiety and obsessiveness and that obsessiveness is a barrier like iron bars and is hardly ever good.

Now let me admit that I do think there are many many many meanings of the word artist……..You can’t use the word without qualifying the nature of the artist. Of course there’s the disciplined procedural artist like Michaelangelo, Leonardo, etc. who makes his drawings, grinds his paints, meticulously organizes and manages the studio and just generally has good studio habits…There’s the crafts person who is meticulous about the finished product. There’s the poet/philosopher whose eyes fill with the stars of the universe when he or she starts to talk. There’s the wild eyed Vincent and Jackson who are compelled to slop paint around and behold voila! Something splendiferous! There is the procedural explorer who is on a quest to uncover a truth very much like Lewis and Clark, Magellan, and all those guys who just knew they had to do something different and metaphorically cast away from the land they knew as familiar in search of the unfamiliar. Then there’s the pure hearted amish quilter who wears black and gray all day and exhibits her joy and soaring spirit through the breathtaking quilts that are carefully composed and meticulously crafted.
There’s the egotistical, megalomaniac hare who thinks the world revolves on his or her axis and then of course the flip side of that, the unsure unpresumptuous and polite, good citizen tortoise who plods through life and wakes up one day to discover that he/she has in fact created a substantial body of work.

I can’t fail to mention the builder, the knitter, sewer, designer, the baker and the interior designer, storyteller/writer and entrepreneur……….life for them is amplified when the materials are in their hands, when the deal is in the works…the birds sound sweeter, they love more, they are riding on a flying carpet when allowed to devote a good block of time with their beloved medium….next to and immersed in their material of choice. Just envision the Pointer getting to finally point, the bloodhound following a scent and the retriever in the water! What joy to see them fulfill their destiny!

Anyway the point I make is that I think an artist is a type of person. Generally they know who they are….(or at least they know who they aren’t)…..and when they don’t get the opportunity to learn, produce, and fulfill their vision (and sometimes there is no vision, it’s just a desire to go in a direction and be surprised) ugly things happen…when our great powers of perception, discrimination, and editing are not actively employed in making a creation or breathing life into a project we use it anyway and it shows up as bitchiness, control, criticism, know it all-ism, whining, and of course the poor me syndrome, etc…Our art project becomes our spouse, our child, our neighbor, etc and it’s always bad….we are critically remaking them when we should be doing our own thing….

Watch out for the signs....When you are using your critical powers to create something, you are usually too exhausted and spent to do anything but enjoy those whose lives brush up against yours. I make the case for art by saying that not only do you owe it to yourself to become who you're supposed to be but also you could perhaps even say you might owe it to your family and loved ones just to give them a break….

Taking art seriously is not easy...It’s the gate you must open first and probably the hardest lock to break. By the time we’re adults we’ve thrown away the key. I've got something to say about that too! Funny how this works. Maybe I'll talk about that next.

By the way as I write I do know that I am making mistakes. I use the ....... way too much and syntax is hard when you 're just following a stream of consciousness writing. If I take time to make this into a term paper I'm going to be exhausted and have no energy left for painting. Sooooooooooooo that's the way it is, Lilly Tomlin style, as in "and that's the truth..."

Now I must put on some shoes and make a latte with two tablespoons of starbucks coffee in 6 oz of water and half a cup of hot milk whisked until frothy and work up my enthusiasm to go finish something I’ve started…or and take a peek to see if anything ridiculous or wonderful happened in politics today.