Sunday, December 27, 2015

Daily Painting

Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.
 ~Michael Crichton

In July this year, I went to the Art Camp that I've been attending for several years now. On the last night we have a walkabout where we put out all of our work from the week and view what we've each been working on. I usually have about 7 paintings that I start, and typically have completed 3. There were a few women there from Louisiana that had done more than 10 paintings! How in the world did they do so many--especially when I saw them headed to the river every afternoon, enjoying Happy Hour, and definitely not painting after dinner??

"Get the Daily Painting book! It will change your life!!"

So I ordered it right away.  And they were right, it's changed everything.

I get a LOT of art books, my addiction.  And for the most part, once I start reading them, I think, Why did I buy this? There's usually nothing new. It has been so refreshing to find new information, and use it, and find it to be true!

So I started daily painting. I get up at 5:00 a.m. religiously, start a painting and try to finish it in an hour. Then get my family up and going, and go about my day. I teach about 5 classes a week so I don't always find time to paint later in the day, so it's great knowing I've been productive so early in the morning. 

(Admittedly, now that it's colder and I have a warm Golden Retriever spooning me, there are days that I choose the cozy bed.)

I've tried for years to go to the gym early in the morning -- can't do it. I've tried to meditate every morning -- can't do it. But getting up to paint? I'm usually up before the alarm goes off.  It's so great. And meditative as well.  The house is quiet. I tiptoe downstairs to get a cup of coffee, then head up to my nest, and think, What's it going to be today?

I don't usually plan what I'm going to work on, but have plenty of material to look at and be inspired by. In fact I have so much material that I'd never get through all of the ideas in this lifetime. But these small (6"x 6" or 8" x 8") pieces are perfect for experimenting. Check. Done with that idea. And I've only invested an hour or so. If I don't like what I've done, oh well, there's always tomorrow. I'm not married to it.

I'm also trying out different colors, and ways of mixing color.  Realizing I don't need half the paint I've bought.

I get so mad at myself sometimes for getting into some painstaking details that seem to take forever.  Not here. I'm quicker, more concise, simpler. So my painting has changed. Not that there isn't room for detail, but maybe in a larger piece. Some of these quick and small pieces can actually serve as a study for a larger piece.  Or a warm up.

I post them daily, and am getting tons of great feedback. I even had a friend say she was out walking early and saw the light on in my studio, and was eager to see the post.

It's so refreshing to start a healthy new habit and get so much joy from it. And I've got about 100 new paintings.

Here are a few:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Potty Talk

“The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it.”
It is a little known fact that I am the world's first Toilet Artist.
No, I don't do paintings of toilets.
 No, I don't paint while I'm on the toilet. (There are so many jokes I could insert here, but it's just too easy, so I'll let it go this time.)

 My paintings (and prints) do, however, hang above a surprising number of toilets, and are hanging in a LOT of bathrooms all over the place. It seems that the 12" x 18" print or little 10" x 10" paintings I often make are PERFECT for the space above many commodes.  This is the truth. I cannot tell you how many people come up to me at shows and say, "I just love that painting I bought from you! It looks perfect over the toilet!!" Or, "The colors on this are perfect for my BATHROOM!"

I was actually in a conversation a few weeks ago about this very thing when someone walking by tapped my shoulder and said, "I just want to tell you how much I love my prints from you! I look at them every day when I go to the bathroom!" The timing was perfect.

I've even witnessed this phenomenon several times firsthand -- visiting a friend's bathroom and seeing my Orange Zinnia hanging proudly over the  toilet.  Even at Nimrod Hall, the "art camp" that I go to each summer to paint, 2 -- count 'em -- bunny prints hang in the bathroom right by the dining hall (seen by the masses).

I have gotten so used to hearing this, that when someone approaches me and says," I just got my painting hung..."  I interrupt them and say, "Wait!! Don't say it! I know!"

I'm flattered to have my art hanging anywhere, and flattered that so many people tell me how good it looks. I also know that people spend a lot of time in their bathrooms.  Including me. I happen to have Crohn's Disease, which you don't often hear a lot of details about because it involves a lot of bathroom trips. The irony of this situation is not lost on me, not for a minute. So I'm going to smile, be flattered that my pieces get a lot of viewing time, and know that there aren't many of us who can self declare Toilet Artist Queen.

So come on, all you lovers of ZouZou: send me your photos of yours truly hanging in your bathrooms , or post them on my Facebook page! It just might make a good coffee table book.

Here are a few...
This bathroom has actually been made into a ZouZou's Basement "shrine". There are other paintings and prints of mine in here -- very flattering! Some very good friends live here, so I visit often.
Yep, right above the toilet. This bathroom looks pristine!!!
Send me your photos!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

25 Things

    Everything in life comes to you as a teacher. Pay Attention. Learn Quickly
    --Cherokee saying

One of my guilty pleasures is to pick up a People or Us magazine while walking on the treadmill at the gym. I really DON'T care about what Kim and Kanye are up to, but reading about the rich and famous is fairly entertaining.  In one of the magazines, as an alternative to the usual interview, they have a famous person tell things about themselves that we commoners might not know. Sometimes they are kind of interesting. At a group I belong to we sometimes play a game called Two Truths and a Lie, which is a similar way of getting to know people. I think it's an interesting exercise, so I thought I'd see what comes to mind.

Here are my 25: Things You Didn't Know About Me:

1. I once played on a womens' rugby team. I was a prop in the scrum and we had to tape our ears down so they wouldn't get yanked off.

2. My teacher number when I taught high school was 666. My husband's birthday is on the 26th, my first son's birthday is on the 16th, and my youngest son's birthday is on the 6th.

3. I  met Elizabeth Taylor when I was about 8 years old and she looked at me and said, "Hello, Pussycat!"

4. I am descended from a well known French Huguenot named Susannah Rochet (same as me). When she was about 8 she stowed away on a ship to escape France and hid in a wine barrel. The ship's crew called her "Little Nightcap".

5.  I had an epiphany when I was in London and saw the painting, Charles I on Horseback by
Anthony van Dyck, up close, and I knew in that minute I had to spend my life being an artist.

6.  I played with Barbie until I was 14 years old.

7.  My grandfather was 1 of 9 children, including 3 sets of twins.

8. I had stillborn twins when I was 5 months along (2 boys). The night before, my dad dreamt of 2 little boys who unclasped their hands from his, and walking toward the lake said, "you have to let us go."

9. I eat candy every day. (I've only ever had 2 cavities.)

10. In high school I was crazy about the Rolling Stones, especially Mick Jagger. After college I had
the opportunity to be backstage with them and got my picture taken. Mick Jagger really has a diamond in his front tooth, and bandmate Keith Richards goosed me with his pool stick.

11. I have kept a diary since I was 8 years old and learned to write.

12. I never took art classes in high school because I was intimidated by the weirdos in the classes.

13.  When I go into a store I have to start shopping on the right side first (maybe because I'm left handed).

14. My brother and I both talked in our sleep growing up. One night my parents stood between our rooms and witnessed a conversation we had with each other, although we were both asleep.

15. I read all of the time and usually have 5-6 books going at once. My favorite themes in novels are: prison, Victorian London, prostitutes, India, and World War II.

16. I had my entire colon removed in 2000.  As a bonus my surgeon took my appendix as well.

17. I dream of traveling to India.

18. When I meditate I try to focus on a certain color.

19.  I have an unnatural fear of being murdered in the bathroom at the movie theater.

20.  I am fascinated by memory and why we hold onto the things we do. (For example, I can still remember all of the song I sang in the 3rd grade play, but have no memory of being on the swim team for several years growing up.

21.  I love vintage photos, especially from the 1920s and try to imagine what was going to happen to the person after the photo
was taken, and what their story was.

22. I can still do a split.

23.  I may be a synesthesist: : when I think of Tuesday I see green.

24. I have a fear of spiders and my first three memories involve spiders.

25. I think that it is each person's responsibility to figure out why they are here on this earth and carry that out fully.

What are your 25 things?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Art Karma

I reject your reality and substitute it for my own.
--Adam Savage

I love serendipity (even the sound of the word). It is defined as "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for." Is it coincidence? Probably not  -- if Serendipity is a form of your spirituality. Here's what serendipitously happened recently.

I've been reading a novel with a subtext about an elephant sanctuary, and that contains a lot of really cool elephant information, primarily about elephants and grief, as well as elephants' famous memories. For instance, the main character states:

I once saw an Asian elephant in Thailand who had been trained to do a trick. All the schoolchildren brought to meet him at the reserve where he was kept in captivity were told to sit in a line. Then they were asked to take off their shoes, and these shoes were jumbled into a pile. The mahout who worked with the elephant then instructed her to give the shoes back to the children. The elephant did, carefully weeding through the pile with her trunk and dropping the shoes that belonged to each child in his or her lap.
(Jodi Picoult, Leaving Time)
I'm sure this instance is based on fact, and there are a lot of examples in the book like the one above.
So I've been thinking about elephants a little bit, wondering how I can use some of the novel's information in my artwork...

Also, last weekend, a friend and I went to an Ashram for a yoga retreat, with an emphasis not only on yoga as a physical practice, but also the spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual aspects. We learned a lot about  the man who started this form of yoga as well as the history of this particular retreat.  He, not surprisingly, was from India. A fair amount of elephant imagery was around the community, including 2 elephant "sentries" at the entrance to a religious temple there.

Before I had left home on Friday, I remembered a beautiful necklace that this same friend had given
me as a gift for my birthday last year. I hadn't seen it in a while because my younger son had rearranged my jewelry drawer. Before leaving for the weekend, I kept thinking about the necklace,
so I found it and put it on.

Electronic devices were discouraged at the Ashram, we were all better off to unplug for the weekend. At one point Saturday I went to the car to check my phone in case my husband had called with something about the kids. I noticed on my email that I had sold a painting on etsy.  I went to my etsy shop to see which one.  Can you guess?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

We All Scream For Ice Cream

Blessed are those who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
--Camille Pisarro

Today would have been my father's 79th birthday. My mother, brother, sister-in-law, and I have all called one another or texted. Dad's former law partner has called, as he does every year when he visits my dad's grave on his birthday.  My father was a larger than life guy. A successful lawyer and community member, churchgoer, taught us about saving money, investing well, studying hard, having a good reputation. He was also a fantastic storyteller and loved playing jokes on people. This is what I hold most precious, images of him telling jokes, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe, whooping it up with his men friends.  I could write a book about all the things I learned from him. One of our family traditions I have viewed in an entirely new way after becoming a mother, and thinking about him from a parent's point of view.

My dad loved loved loved ice cream, and ate it nearly every day (my boys and I inherited this gene apparently).

 Several weekends a year my family would drive five hours to my grandparents' (his parents) house. By the time we were on our way back home on Sunday we were all exhausted after a weekend with my grandparents, cousins, aunt, and uncle running around the farm, staying up late, and in general, carousing the entire time we were there. We all dreaded the five hour ride home.

 One time when I was about 8 and my brother 11, we were on our way, only 30 minutes into our ride, and my dad stopped the car at a High's Ice Cream.  We were surprised as we had just started our ride

 back.  We went in and he insisted we all get double scoops. Then back to the car. Thirty minutes later, he stopped again. Two more scoops. On it went until we made it home after stopping 5 different times for ice cream!!  

This became on ongoing practice with our family, and beware anyone who wasn't prepared. Once our cousin was coming back with us, and not properly trained. He ended up vomiting in the floorboard of the car (after only the second stop --wimp!!). Worse, as mom cleaned it up, a ruby fell out of a ring she was wearing and she had to find it in that mess.

For a long time after he died I couldn't think of a way to commemorate his birthday, then I smiled at
the awesome memory of our family tradition. Now that he's gone I maintain the tradition, sort of. I

make sure I go out for ice cream at least twice on April 4. I'm sure some of this memory keeps me

inspired. These are for you, Daddy.

Friday, March 13, 2015

It is the common wonder of all men, how among so many millions of faces, there should be none alike.
--Thomas Browne

I finished another pig this week. Pigs are tough to paint. Their essence is hard to capture. Why? Is it the snout? The pale pink, almost transparent skin? They are certainly cute enough to be painted, and the favorite of a lot of people. This is the fourth pig I've painted -- and two of those I threw away. I love the challenge, so I keep trying. Here's the first one:

Numbers 2 and 3 didn't make the cut.  This is my method:  Sometimes I have an animal in mind that I want to paint, but more often I have a group of colors in mind that I want to work with, and from there decide on the animal. Here is the color palette I was attracted to, which I put down and mixed:

I f

Then I render the image, usually paying close attention to the face, giving human expressions.
 wanted to make reference to the pink of the pig and make reference 

Next comes the hardest part: where to add the paper to best enhance the piece. It's hard to decide how much is enough and how much is too much. There is a quote I love that I actually based a painting on, "Happiness is a place between too little and too much," (Finnish saying).

I wanted to add paper with a little bit of sparkle to reflect the way a pig's skin sometimes look transparent and paper thin, so all of the paper had a little bit of glitter on it. Bessie looks pretty happy about the way she looks, huh?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Everything you can imagine is real.

Today I'm going to the funeral of my childhood best friend's mother, who I always thought of as my second mother. She was only 71 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for about 10 years, although it started coming on slowly well before that. She had wasted away to about 90 pounds as her body had sort of forgotten how to swallow, so eating was minimal. I understand that there is legislation in the works to allow those who have just gotten diagnosed with this disease to exit early and gracefully. Alzheimer's is getting a lot of attention lately because it seems to be more prevalent -- but maybe more doctors now know how to label it, and people are living for so much longer dementia comes on more often. Regardless, it is cruel and causes so much suffering -- primarily for the caretakers and family. It is also difficult to be an heir to the affected (ie my childhood best friend) as it so often has genetic ramifications.

I'm more aware than most because I've watched someone I was close to, and her family, suffer for years, but also because I teach art to dementia patients. They do not all have Alzheimer's, but also have other forms of dementia.  I love my job although it is often filled with sadness.  Fall of 2014 was especially difficult as 5 of the women I had taught for a few years passed away. Each day I go to work I ride up an elevator where signs are posted announcing Memorial Services for those who have just died.  But when I get overwhelmed by death I think of a favorite quote by C.S. Lewis: "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

Strangely -- this has happened several times in the 3 years I've been there -- an entire group I teach will suddenly drop in their ability levels, and the lessons I teach have to change dramatically.  Others that work there also notice the changes. One day things will be sort of off and stirred up and we will attribute it to a full moon (seriously) or an event the night before that kept the residents up late. But when the strangeness continues and the whole group is affected it is eerie-weird. I attribute it to the same thing that happens when women live together, for instance in dorms, and their cycles get synced together.

Recent days have felt very strange.  Although Alzheimer's is nothing to poke fun at, I think of that Jimmy Buffet song where he says "if I didn't laugh I'd just go insane", because we have had a few giggles lately.  This was a recent conversation:

An admin assistant walked by our group wearing a black jumper.
Ms. J turned to me and said, (pointing to the girl in the jumper):  "We have to get ready for our skit. There goes the one who's going to play George Mason."

Me: (I always go along with whatever they're talking about),  "What parts do we still need to fill?"

Ms J: "We have to find someone to play Jefferson."

Me: (looking at another resident, on the plump side, dozing in a chair nearby). "I see the perfect Martha Washington!"

Ms J: "We've got to hurry and finish the skit, finish assigning the parts."

And a day last week while making Valentines:
Me: "I think you should give that Valentine to Leo. Write on it, 'To Leo'. "
Ms. D: "There are 2 Leos?"
Then she said, "Don't get glue on my testicles."

I was told the same woman was taken out to lunch the previous day and ordered a hotdog.
Her caregiver: "Do you want ketchup?"
Ms. D: "On my bra?"

Yep, growing old ain't for sissies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creative mess equals creative thought.

Whenever I need a special treat, I go to Barnes and Noble, order a big frappucino, and sit with a bunch of magazines. This is my happy place.

I have a rather large magazine addiction, and I don't really need to go to Barnes and Noble to feed it. I have ALWAYS loved magazines. I guess they can be filed under my love of paper.

 (I need to mention here that I have subscriptions to 22 -- yes, 22-- magazines delivered right to my door each month. Here I digress... my magazine addiction is an inherited one. I've had magazine subscriptions since I was a child and as a teen my Mom finally ordered me to get rid of the stacks as she was afraid they might start a fire. My grandmother, at age 94, would steal magazines from the lobby of her nursing home, to cut up and paste pictures in her journal; moreover, my mother has a lot of subscriptions as well, and whenever a visitor comes she has to explain her magazine "system", which I share:  in order that a fresh issue doesn't get in the wrong hands without our having read it, we put the ones we've gone through already -- often with only a few forlorn pages left in them -- in a special designated place. Pity the person who bucks the system!!)

So I'm pretty up-to-date and in the know about current
magazines. There are so many devoted to art projects and handmade items, using paper, wood, metal, textiles,
paint....Since 9-11 when people started staying home and nesting, the handmade movement has really taken off. And for the last few years there have been a LOT (5 or 6 different brands) of magazines devoted completely to artists' studios. Whole magazines that are filled only with pictures of where artists work. And the studios!!! They are incredible!! Fancy desks and cabinets, neat storage jars and bins (that in themselves cost a fortune), perfectly ordered spaces. Oh that we could all have such beautiful places to work!  (No offense to the publishers of these magazines. I buy them often.)

But actually, these rooms are too pretty -- does anyone actually WORK in them??? Where are the paint spills? What did they do with the week old cups of coffee? I don't see any candy wrappers, sketches, used brushes, piles of papers with ideas. What about the half finished pieces? And the completed projects--where are they?? There aren't even any stains on the floors. WHERE IS THE CLUTTER??!!  Is there any time left to actually make anything after spending so much time perfecting the look of the workplace?  These spaces are really beautiful but not at all practical. Here are a few samples of what I mean.

And me, I like to tell it like it is. I would like to have a neat studio but my priorities are elsewhere. As a friend's mother said to me years and years ago, "I prefer flower arranging to cleaning,".  Why spend time making it pretty when I could be painting? I have to say, as chaotic as my place looks, it is actually very organized. Ask me where something is and I can probably tell you if I have it AND where to find it.  The photos below are a slightly exaggerated version because this was during the holiday rush.

I doubt I will be giving any studio tours anytime soon. So here it is.  Does anyone want to put my (beloved) place on the cover? Feel free to visit. Just, please, don't make a mess.

this is actually my desk