Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year from The Hammock!

Hello and Happy New Year! Just a brief note to say thank you for continuing to support my art life. It has been another wonderful year of growth and exploration and I have met many new friends and collectors along the way. My wish is that you are able to spend more time in 2014 fulfilling your passions, seeing more of the beauty in the world and discovering it within. And that you and your loved ones have a healthy and happy 2014.

I am kicking off the New Year with a show which opens this weekend at The Hammock Gallery in Palm Coast. The gallery is part of the Hammock Wine & Cheese Shoppe compound, set under a canopy of trees on historic A1A (N. Oceanshore Blvd, north of the toll bridge and across from the Publix plaza) and operated by warm and wonderful people who not only have a passion to bring you delectable cheeses and introduce you to bountiful wines but they also bring in LIVE MUSIC every weekend and original artwork each month. I mean, where else in Palm Coast can you spend happy hour sitting outside with your friends enjoying wine in a colorful garden setting (or indoors if it gets too chilly) listening to great LIVE music and taking in the art?!

All the best for the coming year. /cs

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Post Show Blues? Head to Miami!

Jim Dine (American b. 1935), Summer XI at Alan Cristea Gallery Booth
Coming off a solo exhibition leaves me with opposing emotions. First, my heart is filled with gratitude for all that have supported me thus far and to my family and friends who have put up with me during the past few frantic weeks.

And to all of my existing and new collectors who purchased my work during this show  - Thank you, thank you!

Yet, privately, a post-show blues effect has been settling in. Thoughts of "now what?" enter my brain and the paint brush seems further and further away from my hand. "Do I keep painting the way I have been or do I keep pushing myself to find out what's next?"  The answer of course lies in just getting back in the studio but even better how about taking an ARTIST ROAD TRIP! That's right, it's the first week in December and that means it's Art Basel / Art Miami week! 

I, and four other painter friends, made the four plus hour drive to Miami Beach two years ago and it forever changed me. It was like visiting my favorite NYC museums and galleries only times one hundred and doing so over two and half days.

First, you're in Miami Beach. Art Fairs abound, the sun is warm, the azure ocean calm, the restaurants are abuzz. But then you enter Art Basel and/or Art Miami and you are worlds away. You wander from gallery to gallery, your heart pounding and overwhelmed with emotion as you get up-close and personal with the works of your favorite artists. Then you round a corner and see a 12 foot tall Rothko or a fourteen foot wide Kirkeby and you feel like you have just died and gone to heaven. So you sit down, enjoy a glass of wine with a salad that sets you back 20 bucks, rest your feet, compare notes with what others have found then get back out there. All the while your brain is filling with fresh ideas.

What a great way to re-engage the mind and art spirit before the upcoming three months of production work and shows. Maybe I will see you there? /c.

You can learn more at these links:
Art Basel - Miami Beach
Hyperallergic's Essential Guide to 2013 Miami Art Fairs

Friday, November 8, 2013

Art Show Press: A Learning Experience Part II

Part 2: As I said in the prior post, there is so much that goes into an art show, especially a solo show, and typically the last thing you think about is the press interviews. Here is interview/article #2 by Pierre Tristam of FlaglerLive.com.

The interview was intense, starting from childhood and going to present-day yet it was the way the questions were raised that had me connecting my own dots and pondering for days afterwards.  The best learning from this one was about scheduling your time. It took place between 6 and 8PM after a long day of hammering and wiring more than 30 of my paintings. But hey, the article is very generous and I am thankful for the support and assistance and coverage Pierre so generously gave me. Enjoy! 

At Hollingsworth Gallery: 
Christine Sullivan, Artist of the Year
by Pierre Tristam, Friday, November 8, 2013, FlaglerLive.com

You can spot a Christine Sullivan painting from a mile away, and not only because many of her works intentionally place you at that remove from their characteristic subjects: the far-away barn, the lone boat, the undulations of seaside dunes, the slumbering cove, a shoreline farm seen from above, like those Google satellite maps, but with Milton Avery colors, and of course, especially in her more recent paintings—the works at the heart of her solo exhibit opening at Hollingsworth Gallery Saturday—the clotheslines, the recurring clotheslines that are like her earthbound version of boats’ masts and riggings. The signature is distinctive.
The sparseness is evocative not of distance or isolation but of intimacy, of something as familiar as the feel of a favorite blanket in winter. Sullivan’s sceneries are the continuation of life by other means: memory and geography and nature, “that feeling that when we’re alone, we’re not alone,” she says, echoing the words of Ann Packard, the Cape Cod painter whose lone, empty boats recur as often as Sullivan’s clotheslines. She is reflecting, she says, “that unspeakable feeling when you’re painting, when you’re off by yourself, taking a look at the ocean, you’re in the environment, you’re in the landscape. There’s this feeling that we’re all connected, and I think that feeling comes from that feeling of connectedness with the earth and all living things.”What you don’t see is people, animals, the clutter of living, noisy things. It appears to be all absence, as if Sullivan has a thing for neutron bombs, the kind that eradicate life while leaving everything else intact. But there’s nothing desolate about what you’re seeing, certainly nothing sad or mournful about it. You want to keep looking, and you do, sometimes at the same painting for long periods, because it draws you in. The colors are understated. The seduction isn’t.
The intimacy doesn’t stop with the scene on the canvass. Sullivan’s technique, the occasional drafts of drawings still visible beneath the paint, the cuts in the paint, the intentionally unfinished look—no landscape is ever finished, after all—bring you into her studio. That connectedness again.
What’s less discernible is how recent Sullivan’s mastery of oils happens to be. At 56, she’s spent most of her life either surrounded by art in a family of artists or practicing it in one form of another, even through her work as a cartographer and, from the mid-1990s until just a few years ago, as one of the creators of the Golf Channel in Orlando, where she oversaw all branding products, including advertising in all media. She’s also been a prolific writer, a keeper of journals, a poet, a blogger. But it’s only after she retired and permanently moved to Palm Coast in 2009 that she took up oils. It happened as she took one of JJ Graham’s very first classes at his then-nascent Hollingsworth Gallery, as she started dropping in there once a week, then twice, then three times, then daily, then rented a small span of wall where she could paint every day, and did, then a studio of her own in back of the gallery, and then, and then.
“Show up. Isn’t that half the battle?” she says. She’d married, she’d held job after job, she’d raised a daughter (now in college). She now took on life as a full-time artist, painting seven days a week, starting at 10 or 11 and not finishing until 6 or 7 in the evening. With long breaks previously, she’d painted for years, but never oils. The 35 oil works on display in her Hollingsworth show are all from the past four years, and most are from the past two, the result of her faintly obsessive work ethic but also of her close association with Graham, the teacher who now realizes that a graduation of sorts quietly took place somewhere along the way. “She has the right attributes and the right work ethic,” Graham says, “so much so that at this point I don’t consider her my student. She’s my contemporary.”
It helped a lot that Sullivan’s evolution took place during the richest part of Hollingsworth’s young life, when it was itself a Cambrian explosion of artistic talent—with Graham, the late Richard Schreiner, Linda Solomon, Bill Brant and many others fuming up the place, several of whom taught at Hollingsworth. Sullivan soaked it all in. It’s paying off.
Saturday evening, with Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts and many of her artistic colleagues present at Hollingsworth, she will be recognized as the 2013 Gargiulo Art Foundation Artist of the Year. Schreiner was the recipient in 2012, posthumously.
“My first emotion after I heard the news was to be following Richard Schreiner to get this award the year after he got it was—I mean, I just bawled my eyes out in the car and called Arlene,” Sullivan said, referring to Schreiner’s wife, who lives in Palm Coast and has also been an intimate friend of the Hollingsworth community. “It’s a humbling experience certainly when you look at the artists who have received the award. But to follow Richard: I’m hoping he had something to do with it, even though his was certainly overdue. I’m certainly not the caliber of artist that Richard was, but there’s certainly a bond that we had and a dear friendship.”
Schreiner’s work—dark, acidic, wry, politically engaged, exuberantly angry, often reveling in the unnatural—is everything Sullivan’s work is not, though the two artists shared that happy coexistence that Hollingsworth made possible. They had this in common: they were both as emotional as they were intellectual in the way they approached their work. True to the inviting intimacy of her method, Sullivan illustrates that approach in her blog. Take this segment from a July posting about “Turo Lighthouse,” one of the works in the new exhibit:
I arrived at the studio early this morning and read a bit of my Joseph Albers: To Open Eyes book and turned to look at where this painting was up till today. Covered in two, possibly three session’s worth of bright blues, greens and peach colored paint. Ugh.
Two days ago I was so mad at where it was going I just tossed it in the corner and painted a few others. Rather successfully I might ad. So this morning I decided I needed to remind the painting just who was boss (chuckle) and finally it hit me. My color strategy was entirely WRONG and the foreground had to change.  
Christine Sullivan's 'Turo Light.' Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)
Christine Sullivan’s ‘Truro Light.’ Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)

I went to work, first at the palette, developing a new family of warm, earthy colors and a few new greys, and then got to it. For the next hour I painted, changing almost every inch of the 24 x 30″ canvas and then, breathing, I stepped back and smiled.
The archetypes are all there: the distant lighthouse, the earthy colors, the fence (replacing the clotheslines or the riggings), the absence of anything like a human figure. Sullivan was a geography major and an art minor in college (Plymouth State University in central New Hampshire, where was attracted by the skiing opportunities). That absence of human figures only speaks of the pervasiveness of “this sense of place,” as she terms a theme central to her work. “It is so much about the relationship that we all have, not just with the land, but with all the people that share this land. Then it just spills over into all living things. It’s that connectedness that inspires me, and I think is the foundation of my work. It could be just the landscape, or that’s where the clotheslines come in, or the telephone lines. You know that a man or humans have been in this environment by some of the marks that I have in my work, and some of them are intentional and others just seem to happen.” Like the wind swelling the sheets on one of her clotheslines, a literal breath of life—a spiritual breath if you like—that visually captures life’s momentum Think of Henri Bergson’s √©lan vital, or “current of life,” powerful and irrepressible.
'MacMillan Wharf (P'Town),' 2012. Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)
‘MacMillan Wharf (P’Town),’ 2012. Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)
The human element is never an intrusion. It immerses her scenes by its very absence, in the same way that the landscape’s unceasing changes do: you don’t see the changes taking place in front of your eyes, you can’t, but every scene speaks of that change. Sullivan explains: “We think land is our constant and yet it’s the opposite because land is always eroding and evolving and growing, right? Because it is a living thing. And then there’s this parallel with us as humans that—so are we, much like our lives. We have this history with the land, and it gets passed through by generation and generations. This essence of local geography to me is important in that I think I found that by painting.”
She’d lived her first years at a farmhouse outside Syracuse in New York, then in a suburb of the city, spending parts of every summer on Cape Cod and never knowing then that the years would have as deep an imprint on her understanding of the land as they would, as they do in her work. That’s the memory at work in the paintings.
“The word geography to me,” she says, “it’s that definition of our relationship with the land, and its relationship to us. That happens through folklore, it’s local history as well as just from what we do, we carve out a piece of this earth and we call it home. That becomes imprinted upon our soul because that’s what we identify with. That sense of home is so much more than a house and family. It’s all these colors and the environment of the land around us, the folks that feel about the purple mountains in Arizona and have that special relationship as we do here with our ocean and our sunshine, these wonderful skies that we have.”
And somehow that sense of place converged literally and artistically towards Hollingsworth.
“Of all the gin joints I walked into, did it just happen that I happened to walk in here? And then to meet Richard Schreiner? Then to take a class with Richard? Then with Brant?” Sullivan says. “Hollingsworth is this magnet of some sort, it has drawn all of us who have a desire to be with other people that see the same things and feel the same things that we do. All of our art work can look different, and please, I hope it does, but we all have this common ground. And JJ is right at the center of that.

'Harwich Marshlands,' 2013. Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)‘Harwich Marshlands,’ 2013. Click on the image for larger view. (© Christine Sullivan)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Art Show Press: A Learning Experience

There is so much that goes into an art show, especially a solo show. From chosing the work to the details of signing, wiring, framing. Add to that helping to produce an exhibition catalog, price list/brochures and then...the press interviews. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about why I paint or what I paint but when you are interviewed you are forced to address these and other questions. Here is the first article printed/published by the Palm Coast Observer.
See you Saturday, Nov 9th 6 - 9PM

Artist of the Year: Christine Sullivan
by Shanna Fortier

Christine Sullivan sat in the classroom at Hollingsworth Gallery last week looking at the wall where she temporarily had hung two pieces for her upcoming show — the same wall that was her painting space just three years ago when she began taking classes with J.J. Graham.

“This is where it started,” she said, looking around the room. “I never had any vision about where I wanted to be; I just wanted to learn. The journey is always about getting better.”

And learn she has. Sullivan has been selected as the 2013 Gargiulo Art Foundation’s Artist of the Year.

“I can’t find the words,” Sullivan said. “It’s such an honor — to be in the same pool with other people that have received this award — I’m excited, I’m joyful. To get work seen by more people is really exciting, but to get your work acknowledged is off the charts.”

Sullivan is a fourth-generation painter. Her house growing up was filled with art — prints of the masters and the work of her great-grandfather.

“Art was always in my blood,” she said.

She went to Plymouth State University for two reasons: to ski and to study art education. While in school exploring silk screen print making and 3D-sculpting among others, Sullivan fell in love with geography. She changed her major five times, but eventually ended with a degree in geography and an art minor.

“As a painter, geography is the focus of everything I do: the relationship with the sense of place and the people that reside in it — people and the land," she said. "The land has an imprint on us.”

Sullivan worked in the corporate world but took up watercolor painting after having a baby.

“I found that if I did it every day, it was so good for my soul,” she said of painting. “What’s funny is I quickly found that I had a style that was unique to me.”

Her living room was her art studio, and she was teaching her daughter to paint, until one day it wasn’t fun anymore. In 1999, she packed up painting all together and didn’t touch a brush again for 10 years. She retired and moved to Palm Coast in 2009, which is where her story with oil painting begins.

Sullivan’s inspiration to retire and begin panting again came from her mother, who had retired to Cape Cod and became a successful painter.

“I saw what joy it brought to her,” Sullivan said while fighting back tears remembering her mother who died last year. “She would be so proud of me.”

Graham is also extremely proud of his pupil. 

“She fell in love with learning how to paint and not being an artist,” Graham said. “She buried herself in the studio for a year, and she would show up and ask questions and then rush to her studio and do her own experiments. She wasn’t concerned in showing work yet. That is, to me, why she succeeded.”

Sullivan calls her style "representational abstract." She explored a lot of abstract, but kept coming back to a small bit of reality. She had to have something there to recognize.

“There’s that feeling when you see a painting that looks familiar,” she said.

While most people would classify her work as landscape painting, Sullivan stressed the sense of place.

“We mirror so much in relation to the earth,” Sullivan said, referencing the tides and the animals that migrate through our land. “All of this, I think, is connected, and that’s something I try to touch on with my paintings without putting it so literally.”

Her colors come from her heart. The grays, greens and whites are the colors that she sees every day in the beach community. 

What started as a hobby for Sullivan to supplement a retired life of golf and the beach has turned into a second career.

“I paint every day,” she said. “It’s no longer something to do to keep me busy. It’s something to do that helps me breathe.”

Tom Gargiulo said the foundation took a risk this year by choosing Sullivan, a young, up-and-coming artist, for the top honor because previous Artists of the Year have had decades of experience.
But Sullivan said she is not done yet. 

“My goals are usually day-to-day, just to continue to grow and get better,” she said. “Let’s enjoy the party and then let’s get back to work.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Art of the Southern Tier Takes Center Stage

Clothesline Season by Christine Sullivan, 30 x 40" Oil on Canvas, 2013 Southern Tier Biennial

The 2013 Southern Tier Biennial (STB) opens this Saturday, September 21 with dual receptions at Olean Public Library Gallery at 3pm and Jamestown Community College's Center Gallery at 4:30pm. The exhibition and receptions are free and open to the public. 

The STB invited established and emerging artists within the nine rural counties that make up the Southern Tier of New York State to enter the exhibition and selected, through an intense jury process, a limited number of works they feel best represent the vitality and diversity of contemporary art in the region. 

This years jurors were Kate Koperski, Director of the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University located in Niagara Falls, New York, and John Vanco, Director and Curator of the Erie Art Museum located in Erie, Pennsylvania. Together they selected 38 artists out of the hundreds that applied. 

The STB is spearheaded by Anne Conroy-Baiter, Executive Director of the Cattaraugus County Arts Council who, together with the Olean Public Library Gallery, Jamestown Community College and Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation, has built this into a high quality, regional contemporary art event. A four-color catalog and unique artist-recorded cell phone tour nicely compliment the exhibition experience.  

Four cash awards will be presented at the reception this Saturday and both participating galleries are within walking distance of each other.

If you are able to make it to the exhibition I know you will enjoy the quality art, the friendly people as well as the beauty of the city and surrounding area. Cradled by the "enchanted mountains of Cattaraugus County," Olean was sculpted by glaciers and built on the confluence where Olean Creek flows into the Allegheny River. It is home to Jamestown Community College and, just a few miles west, St. Bonaventure University as well as Allegheny State Park. 

You can explore this year's STB artists at southerntierbiennial.com


The Southern Tier Biennial is presented by the Cattaraugus County Arts Council, the Olean Public Library Gallery, Jamestown Community College, and the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation made possible by an endowment from the estate of F. Donald KenneyKenney, who died in 1997, was a graduate of Holy Cross and received his Masters in Business from Harvard. He spent his life working at the highest levels in the international investment banking world and served as chairman of the Board of the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts as well as on a number of international arts boards including the International Council of Museums, the Finnish Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Ireland–America Arts Exchange, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Not bad for a kid from Olean, NY. 

Southern Tier Biennial www.southerntierbiennial.com
Cattaruagus Council of the Arts www.myartscouncil.net
Olean Public Library Gallery www.oleanlibrary.org/arts
Jamestown Community College Center Gallery www.sunyjcc.edu
Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation www.cattfoundation.org

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Painter's Dance

As the youngest of four and the only girl summer vacations on the Cape offered an equal ground. Gone were the daily fights and battles among siblings. Instead, we would rise to the sound of mourning doves, skim alongside the Mill Pond looking for crabs, dig in the low tide flats for clams as the tide slid out through the narrows to sea. 

We would rarely speak a word. The white row boats surrounded by green sea grass knocked against each other, the gulls drifted overhead, the echo of chatters amongst a family across the water all surrounded us and became a brave new world to explore. I can still hear the lone bird's distant call - Bob White, Bob White.

Up in the small cottage our folks would be clattering pans and packing up for a long day at the beach as the cicadas marked the weather forecast - hot and sunny. We'd be called up and, like a family of mules, we'd each be given bundles to carry - towels, beach chairs, umbrellas, totes with books, sunscreen and the coveted bag of oreo cookies - and make the long trek down to Nauset Beach. 

This is summer on the Cape. As I worked at the above painting these feelings became unleashed and I simply danced. Oh what fun it is to be a painter! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Painting's Journey: Truro Lighthouse

Truro Lighthouse, 24 x 30" oil on canvas, christine sullivan

Well here it is. After a week of decisions - some good, some not so good, and this morning's painting session, I am finally feeling better about "Truro Lighthouse" and think it may be finished. Or close. Here's the update:

I arrived at the studio early this morning and read a bit of my Joseph Albers: To Open Eyes book and turned to look at where this painting was up till today. Covered in two, possibly three session's worth of bright blues, greens and peach colored paint. Ugh.

Two days ago I was so mad at where it was going I just tossed it in the corner and painted a few others. Rather successfully I might ad. So this morning I decided I needed to remind the painting just who was boss (chuckle) and finally it hit me. My color strategy was entirely WRONG and the foreground had to change. 

I went to work, first at the palette, developing a new family of warm, earthy colors and a few new greys, and then got to it. For the next hour I painted, changing almost every inch of the 24 x 30" canvas and then, breathing, I stepped back and smiled.

As a relatively new painter I continue to struggle with the mental game and often find myself caught in that grey matter area between my ears that chews on such things as what do I want to paint, how do I want to paint, why do I want to paint and who am I painting for. And what I've noticed this week is that sometimes, well actually often times, I have all this garbage going on in my head while I'm painting!?!? Can you relate? It's also referred to as, "getting in your own way." 

So...I've learned from this painting's journey that I need to work at "being in the moment" because when I'm painting with crap in my head then crap will stick to the painting. And also to stay connected to the subject matter - to be connected with the land so much that you can smell the salt air and feel the breezes. And finally, to be strong and confident in the studio. It really will make all the difference. Now, if someone would just tell Sybil...

Thanks for joining me and, 'till next time, I hope you are enjoying and learning from your own creative journey.
- cs/ss

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Painting's Journey, Day 2: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Work in Progress - End of Day 2
What a wonderful day for painting! The heat wave broke last night and the light breeze was flittering the leaves making interesting designs on the wood floors and after a short walk with the dog it was off to the studio.  Instead of going right to the easel I first sat down and wrote down some ideas I was having about the Cape and the dynamic connections I have with the ocean. Then I set up a new playlist of music on my iPod (Sting's Brand New Day and Dan Fogelberg's Netherlands were my favorites today) and then sat and looked at where I left off.

I really liked the preliminary draft using mainly black and white and a little red so the big decision today was whether to continue in this direction or jump and go with color. I spent more
Work in Progress - End of Day 1
than an hour at the palette and made up batches of neutrals in earth tones and a few greys with a more "cape/federal" blue tones. Then I spent time looking at the photo and decided I should mix up some oranges and a few greens.  

I took a deep breath and decided to go with color. Starting with the tree line down went dark green, then a muted ochre. I dove into the orange and went for the foreground. And then went into the soft yellow of the lighthouse and brought that forward as well. Painting all areas of the canvas at once is a great habit I picked up along the way. As I was painting the front of the houses in the federal blue shades I pulled them forward onto the fence posts and in the small house in the upper left. 

Stepping back I liked where it was going but at the same time felt like it just wasn't me. Immediately I hear the voices from the Cape saying, "Chris you really need to paint from life!" I took a break and reviewed my notes and closed my eyes and put myself at this location. What did color do to the scene? Was I just making a "pretty picture" (another kiss of death) here? 
Work In Progress - Early Day 2

When I went back to the painting I focused in on the technical issues. I realized the lighthouse needed to be "heavier" so I widened it and moved the "light" part of the lighthouse around a bit (see image to right). This decision turned out to be a bad one and I spent the next hour over working it.  Sigh.

Then, the funny thing that happens during these moments is the little things you "try" that turn out to work and become learning moments - this happened after I let this painting sit alone for awhile and worked on another one and when I came back I went to work on the top of the lighthouse - you'll notice it is still a bit distorted (in the top photo) as it changed shape a few times but enjoyed making marks with the palette knife. 

I finished up the day by starting to work on the details - the white trim of the windows, the fenceposts, adding dark blue to the roofs and back right trees. Then it 5PM and time to give it, and my feet a rest. 
There is still much to do before this is even close to finished but feel I know what it needs..while at the same time feel like I may take it in an entirely different direction. Guess I will just have to sleep on that! 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Painting's Journey: Day 1, Choosing the Subject

Yesterday I started work on the above painting, Truro Lighthouse, and thought it would be interesting to follow a painting from start to finish as I work on some new ideas. Below is my first post. Feel free to travel with me and post your comments along the way... 

Day 1 - Choosing the Subject

I was in the studio on another hot and humid Monday morning here in Elmira, NY - the fan whirring loudly as my bottle of water condensates on my work table. I wasn't sure what to do and was sitting at my desk reviewing notes from workshops I had taken on the Cape last Fall as a number of photographs of the Cape loosely fell between my fingers. I looked up at my post-it note goals, two of which are: increase your inventory of Cape and/or boat paintings and, push yourself to venture into new and unfamiliar territory. 

I took another look at the small stack of photos and lock in on this snapshot of the Truro Lighthouse and it took me back to the day I visited. I was alone on a rather brisk, grey November day. Here, high above the Atlantic Ocean, was a place I hadn't been to since I was a young child. I remember the feeling of anticipation I had while walking up the sandy path and then, as if a vast curtain opened there it was. The beautiful, formidable, strong fortress mothered by a warm, clapboard Cape house breaching the sky like a whale's tale. And her surrounding split-rail fence invited me in to continue walking. 

The wind picked up as I followed the path out to the top of the bluff and embraced the ocean view, the salt air filling my lungs. When I turned back to look at her, there stood before me this image and it caught my breath. Her solid cement foundation rising out of the sand dune seemed to rustle at my soul and I quickly picked up a blank canvas and decided this is what I would work on today with my passion fires brightly burning. How long as she been there? How many ships caught her beacon to safety in a gale? How many people have worked and lived here? 

I then got to work. I took my time between the photograph and the canvas. Back and forth. Back and forth. And then boldly determined and drew in the three dynamic "composition lines" that I learned from Cynthia Packard during one of her workshops (which I now remember took place the week before this photograph was taken). This step sounds easy but it takes some study and practice because where you place the image on the canvas can make or break the painting, and if it's not determined BEFORE you start painting then you will, most certainly, fail. Trust me...and the paintings I've tossed over the balcony.

When I felt I had this step down I began to sketch in the next layer of dynamic lines. I should have stopped here because I drifted off and started sketching the subject itself. This is the "kiss of death" according to Cynthia, who, along with her mother, Anne Packard, feel that you really should only paint from life. And while I agree, I am going to use this approach to help abstract out my lines. We will have to wait to see how this pans out.

Next, I begin the under-painting process. This is when I block in the shapes, lines and form and plan out the high contrast areas. I then sketch in, with the paint brush, the dark lines to solidify the main graphical elements. Then, with the foreground still staring blankly at me, I rather quickly paint-sketch in the fence posts with an exaggerated purpose. 

I step back and like how these help to lead my eye back into the painting. It feels a bit too realistic for me but I trust I can handle that later in the painting process and decide to leave it. I fix some of the errors at this point - the lighthouse was too "fat" and some of the buildings needed adjustments (and still do, which can wait until later) - and at this point I start to like where it is going and feel okay leaving it until tomorrow. 

I tease some color onto the roofs which I know I shouldn't do as one of my "rules" is to never begin to add color until I've determined what colors will be on my palette so I do stop at this point and start thinking more about where I want to take it. What is it about this lighthouse? It's history. It's purpose. How did it make me feel when I first came up to it and when I looked back at it. What is it that draws us to them? And more technically, what colors would convey these feelings? A more muted approach or a more bold, colorful approach? I leave the studio with this door of thinking wide open and with eager anticipation to return. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How One Show Can Make A Lasting Impact

Two years have flown by and it's time for the 64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition held at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY. This juried biennial features 100 pieces by emerging and established western and central NY artists. The works were chosen from a field of 623 entries by 230 artists and juried by Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Regionally, this show carries with it a prestigious history and it's an honor and a pleasure to be included. Especially since the gallery is celebrating it's 100th anniversary. This show has created a bit of history for me, too - both personally and professionally. I was thinking about this when I made the trip to the Memorial Art Gallery last week. 

"The Cardinal", 48" x 60" Oil on Canvas, 2011, $5,700, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

Friday was delivery day for the upcoming show. I woke early. Packed the car with the large painting chosen for the exhibition (above) and three smaller works selected to go in the gallery store (see the very end of this post), along with some plein air painting supplies (just in case) and then...it started to rain. Not just rain, it poured the entire two hour drive from Elmira to Rochester. 

That said, I arrived without fanfare and smiled to find my friend, Lori McCall, getting out of her car just as I pulled into the drop-off zone. We had planned to meet here but we didn't speak while on the road and somehow arrived at the same time. Well, we laughed and hugged and then got down to business. I, once again, coaxed the large painting out of the back of my SUV (remember it's four feet by five feet and covered with a heavy tarp) without getting it wet. We both signed in, picked up our tickets and headed around to the front entrance to drop off our small works for MAG's gallery store. 

Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
It was still pouring rain so we relaxed, made friends with the gallery workers and decided to stay awhile. We noticed a docent-led tour of the museum was about to begin so we tagged along. Afterwards, while the tour was informative and enjoyable, we needed more. So we went off on our own and ended up staying another two hours. We just didn't want to leave. It's that kind of a museum.

Was it the Cezanne(s), the Monet(s) or seeing the large Fairfield Porter I love so much? Or maybe it was falling for a small work by Eduard Vuillard or a uniquely impressive oil by Winslow Homer? Or absorbing the art with a fellow friend and painter who was just as speechless and inspired as I? Or possibly the building itself whose architecture transitions from grand marble hallways and walk ways to two story granite cathedral ceilings with paintings almost the same height?!?  Well, it was all of these and more. And a good reminder why we must have and support our museums. Art must be preserved and is best seen in person. 
Modern Wing, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

We said our goodbyes and see you in two weeks and left rejuvenated and inspired to get back to our respective studios.

As I was driving back home the rain started to let up and I reflected on the impact this show has had on my life and emerging art career. There were two significant events that took place during the show that have made a lasting impact on my life, both personally and professionally.

First of which is one that led to additional sales and new, lifelong friendships. As part of the show two years ago I had two small works in the gallery store, both of which sold the night of the opening reception. One of the buyers, a Rochester resident, contacted me a few weeks later by phone and shared how much he liked the painting and that it was a gift for his daughter's summer home on Cape Cod - to which I stopped and said wait, what? really? where on the Cape? Orleans?! Not only is that my home away from home but the painting you purchased was composed from a pond in East Orleans. It was meant to be. He then said he was calling to buy one of my paintings he saw on my website, as a gift, for a dear friend.

That next Spring I received an email from his daughter on the Cape. She and her husband wanted to commission a larger painting. We met in the Fall while I was living in Wellfleet and I installed the completed painting in their home this past May. 

The second led to the award of a 4-week artist residency and a new, impassioned theme for my work. During the show I met up with fellow Elmira artist, Colleen McCall, who, hearing me complain about my small home studio, told me about a call to artists for a 4-week artist residency at the Community Arts of Elmira. Well, I jumped on it.  

As part of the submission process I had to meet with the board to discuss the usual why me's and what would I do's. I pitched the idea of painting a series of "Clothesline" themed paintings using our region as inspiration. This idea came to me during a landscape I was struggling with. And again, later, when someone asked me why I never include people in my paintings? I was thinking about this when I drove by a marvelous farm with clothes out on the line and it hit me - clotheslines are people, too. A reflection of their owners. How they hang. How they handle the winds. Some get left out alone for days. Others are neat and tidy. But always they are tethered together. Much like our communities. And I knew then that it would make for an interesting theme and subject matter.

Well I got the residency that November and first I drove all over the Finger Lakes region taking hundreds of photographs of clothes on the line then went on to paint every day for 30 days in the magnificent and historic Langdon-Pratt building where I was surrounded with supportive and wonderful people. The residency included two artist "talks" where the clothesline paintings were not only well received but I learned the concept struck a chord with the more than fifty attendees as afterwards everybody wanted to tell me stories about their clotheslines, then and now.
Community Arts of Elmira

When it was time to decide which paintings to enter in this years exhibition I included what I felt was one of the best clothesline paintings from the residency, "The Cardinal." And was thrilled when it was chosen. 

So, what a wonderful and lasting impact this show has had on me and I look forward to meeting and making more friends at the opening reception on July 13th.

As always, brush on.

P.S. I am writing this from my new studio upstairs here at...the Community Arts of Elmira. Isn't it funny how the universe works?

Planting Season, 24 x 30" Oil on Canvas, 2013,
Memorial Art Gallery Store

Chequessett Neck (Wellfleet), 12" x 12" Oil,
Memorial Art Gallery Store
Duck Harbor (Wellfleet), 12" x 12" Oil on Linen,
Memorial Art Gallery Store

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wait A Minute! My First Outdoor Art Show

I participated in my first juried outdoor art show this past Sunday, The Flagler Fine Arts Festival. It's location in Flagler Beach, FL is just about perfect. It is warmly sandwiched between the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the smooth salt waters of the Intracoastal Waterway at an intersection filled with a steady stream of locals, beach goers and bikers enjoying "just another day in paradise." I said to my husband, while we started to unpack the car (at 7:45AM), "what better way to spend St. Patrick's Day then out here under the warm sun and by the ocean with other artists! Even if I don't sell anything I'll be a happy camper!"

My friend and her husband arrived shortly after with their beautiful, professional tent. She makes excellent jewelry and is a pro at these shows but as she didn't plan to participate she kindly offered up her tent (THANK YOU!!). Luckily, this also included the much-needed help to set it up! It didn't take long for the four of us to "get 'er done" and after several warm hugs and numerous votes of good-lucks they left me to wrangle with how to display my works.

I pounded nails into the wood slats (behind and attached to the hanging canvas I had made for "walls") and hung two paintings. They looked greaaa....oops! No sooner were they up when down they went. Slamming face first onto the gritty ground. Apparently, their weight rolled the slats forward just enough for the paintings to slide off the nails. After scratching our heads we came up with an idea that might work, if only we had a few more items...sooo off my loving husband went to the local hardware store.

As it turned out, he was gone just long enough for me to learn that I could make "chains" from looping the large number of cable ties I had brought (cable ties and duck tape = a must for ANY situation) together and with the help of one of the volunteers who held the paintings up while I attached the chain of plastic ties to the top tent poles. It was working! I had just finished hanging the final painting when my husband eagerly returned with a small paper bag.  I greeted him with the, "oh thank you anyways, Dear"routine and he sat down a bit dismayed while I pondered my next dilemma.  How to display all of my new "mini" paintings without wire backs?

I then bunched them together on and leaning against the small card table in the back corner and took a few long draws of my now cold coffee. Then one of my art friends and "next door art show neighbor" brought out a wooden A-frame shelving unit and offered to set it up between us so I could use one side and she the other (see below). Phew! Thank you, Linda Solomon! Problem solved. Now I could sit down, right?

My small works display shared with fellow artist, Linda Solomon. 
If you've been to outdoor art shows you kinda know what not to do. The image of the "bored artist" sitting inside their tent while everyone walks past flew through my brain. Or the ones that sit behind their tents and eat or knit. Well, I didn't have a "back door" so didn't have to worry about that. I put my chair out in front of the tent and sat down for a few minutes and quickly felt the beating sun on the back of my neck, plus people were now arriving in small droves so I donned my green St Patrick's Day hat and stood up...for most of the rest of the entire day.

The steady flow of people and sporadic conversations left little time to sit anyways. I was able to sneak in a yogurt, a few bottles of water and a short trip to the public rest room and later in the day a short run around the park to say hello and see what the other artists were up to. My friend and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery, J.J. Graham, had the tent next to me and was entertaining the crowds with a painting demo which he smartly continued with for most of the afternoon. I couldn't help but to think how much easier it is for we artists to sell our work through the gallery system...even with their well-earned commission...our time is definitely better spent inside the studio then out here on the street. But I was determined to give it the college try.

J.J. Graham - artist and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery
demonstrates his unique approach using acrylics.
I smiled and waved at many nice people, talked to handfuls of people that love to paint but were still searching for "their way" and heard many a story about a son or daughter who is in the business. Soon it was time to think about closing down. Yet I noticed there were people still arriving and we were given instructions not to begin tearing down until 4pm. So I decided to wait a minute or two.

This was when I noticed a couple in my tent talking about one of my boat paintings. I gave them space. They walked away. Then they returned. Twice. I then stepped in and we talked pricing. They took one of my cards and left saying they might call me tomorrow. Oh well. It was time to close up.

Packing up seemed easy enough. Same with the tearing down of the tent. As we stood by our cars we heard who sold what and I reminded myself that I was fine with not selling anything, that it was a good test and suddenly felt how much my feet and legs were hurting. I guess it was warranted after standing for almost seven hours straight and maybe those "bored looking artists" sat down for a reason (I'm such a newbie!).  I just couldn't bring it upon myself to go to the studio to unpack/unload my car and instead hobbled home to enjoy some corned beef and cabbage. And a glass of wine. Or two.

The next morning my body and brain was on slow and just around 10:30, while I was briefly out with my dog, I received a phone message from the couple I had met at the festival saying they wished to buy my large boat painting after all. I returned the call and we happily agreed I would bring it over at noon. When I brought the big painting in I noticed they had already cleared a space for it and were anxiously awaiting my arrival. And seeing that the house sat directly on the ocean and was filled with boats and sea fare, I knew this was meant to be.

"Sea Fence" - resting in her
new home.
The woman then asked if I happened to have the mid-sized boat painting in the car and I said yes (again, thankful I hadn't taken the time to unload yesterday) and brought that one in, too. They found a space for it over their gas fireplace and noted that coming into the home from the beach you would see both paintings.
"Mill Pond (Tethered Friends)" and
"Sea Fence" in their new home.
They decided to buy them both.  It was such a pleasure to see these paintings come to life when placed in their new home and I felt such peace.

Afterwards, I reflected on all the work I put into this show, laughed at all the ups and downs, the "strategy" of creating all those new "small/affordable" paintings that didn't sell...and how I felt the presence of my mother with me (she spent her summer weekends doing outdoor art shows on Cape Cod for twenty years).  And reminded myself that all I need to do is to keep painting for me and with passion for what I love to paint - the ocean life, the farm life, the clotheslines - because you just can't force these things. You just need to be patient, work hard at what you love, seek out new opportunities (even if some seem like flops) and wait for the universe to do the rest.

P.S. A big thank you to festival Director, Justine Wintersmith and the city of Flagler Beach for supporting the arts and putting on these great events. While this is the only one I am able to participate in, the festivals are held on the third Sunday of every month through July. Brush on!