Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December Life Update.

     December was a blur.  That's putting it mildly.  However, my favorite part of the year is just around the corner.  New Year's--fresh start, new beginnings, and a giant goal list.  2016 is going to be epic.  2015 was pretty impressive: moving to the farm of my dreams, the kid starting Kindergarten, a bit of art made, cows calving, etc. and so forth.

Here are a few watercolor and ink drawings I made for Christmas presents this year, they are always a lot of fun:
A Cat Named Pickles.

A Dog Named Millie.

A Horse for the Mother-in-law.
   The woods always provides with lots of nifty finds.  The kid especially liked this big ol' snail that was on some logs we were hauling in for the wood burner.

Snail on a six year old's thumb.

Then there was this nifty fungi on one of the logs.  So intricate and pretty.

Fungi Prettiness.

It's a shame my kid hates the woods so much.

She's a dandy in her sparkly boots.
     I also found a Ferguson (local artist) original in the thrift store this week for ten bucks.  The kid instantly swiped it for her room.
Thrift Store Score!
    Another awesome steal were these three school-sized (4'x8') blackboards.  They are magnetic and were in pretty crummy shape, but with my pocket knife and some WD-40 they look brand new.  Did I mention they were FREE.  I'm going to hang them up in the lower-building-soon-to-be-our-house.  One in my studio, one in the Joelee's room, and one in the living room.  There will be chalk-drawing mayhem everywhere.
Ultimate Free Find.

And with that I'm excited to see what the new year brings.  Hopefully lots of new artist interviews, and farm tales, and time for myself to make more artwork.  It's pretty exciting around here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Illustration Friday: Animal.

Just a rough concept sketch to be able to participate in this week's prompt over on Illustration Friday. I'd like to develop her into a painting I think. Just starting to move into my studio. It felt nice to break open a sketchbook again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Artist Interview: Nina Weiss.

Recently, I was perusing Saatchi Art, and my eye caught the work of Nina Weiss.  I sent her an interview request and she kindly accepted.  I am excited to know more about Nina and her beautifully vibrant landscapes.  So, without further introduction, let the Q&A begin.

"Big Flower Prairie"

1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon the creative life later on?

I always made art! My father worked at a medical center; and he would bring home the rolls of paper that covered the examining tables….we would make murals on the floor. When I was older; I spent time in my room copying master drawings…then in high school moved on to larger oil paintings of my favorite album covers which I would give to my friends.

"Causeway:  Queechee Gorge"

2. What style of art is your favorite and why?

When I was in art school; I began looking at the works of the German Expressionists and Viennese Successionist. I also identify with a group of painters from Canada from the 1930’s called “The Group of Seven”. These painters use colors and mark- making that are expressive and bold. I have always found their work extremely visually engaging.

"Hidden Reflections II"

3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?

At every possible opportunity; I am looking for landscapes to draw and paint! I have built entire vacations (and even my honeymoon!) around locations with promising landscapes. I document them in the field and complete my large-scale landscape drawings in the studio. I visit forest preserves; national parks; and local prairie preserves. I have also been know to cull landscapes from golf courses and parking lots!

"Ikibana Landscape"

4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.

My photographic reference is the basis for my paintings; so when I am in the field with my camera I am looking for compositions that are strong; dramatic; and inspiring. I then crop the photos in my studio to further refine the strongest of possible compositions. Canvasses are gessoed 2-3X and then coated with a colored ground; I then draw my composition out linearly with a thinned down paint. I do a bright; saturated underpainting; then build up the painting from there with broken-brushstroke; glazing; and layering.

"Independance Prairie"

5. What is a typical day in your life?

Pretty full! I have a teenager; a husband; cats; a house; and more than a few jobs (right now I am teaching at three different places; plus my studio). I go to the gym in the morning; and if it is not a teaching day I will be at the studio around 11:00 and work until I am needed after school by my daughter. Studio time also includes time for the business of art; this also continues in the evening when I am home. If I am teaching in the evening; the day is even fuller with gym; studio; daughter; then evening class. Somewhere in between there I also take care of whatever other business life throws at me!

"Midwestern Prairie"

6. What do you think draws you to other people's work?

Integrity; gesture; surface; mark-making; color

"Old School Reflections"

7. What are your interests/hobbies?

I am a big biker; so cycling is another way for me to be out in the landscape gathering images! I speak Italian; and love to travel (another way to get landscapes!). Our family spends as much time together traveling as possible. I am a life-long vegetarian and lover of animals…we have four cats; my daughter and I often volunteer with no-kill shelters to help get cats adopted.

"Pink Sky Landscape"

8. Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?

Teaching/creating art is my full time job!!!!

"Rhapsody in Blue with Bridge"

9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?

I don’t think I have a single favorite; but it looks like I have somehow held on to a piece from each important phase of my artistic development. I have a large chalk pastel on paper drawing; a gouache on board painting; and am thinking about MAYBE keeping one of my recent oils…..but I don’t create art to keep it.

"Shaw Homestead"

10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?

If you pursue your craft as honestly as possible; working very hard for a very long time; there will be SOME people who respond to your work. Get it out there! Shows; galleries; art consultants; social media; websites; all very important. Most important though is to DO THE WORK.

"Skokie Lagoon"

11. Describe your work space.

I am in my third year now renting a wonderful; large; light-filled studio with lots of wall space. I use it to work in; teach; and as a show-room. It has a separate office space where I have built racks to store works that I am not displaying; and another separate small space that I use as a gallery in which I have shows for my students and other artists. I have a slop sink; skylight; storage closet; northern light; bathroom and small kitchen. It’s in one of two one-story industrial buildings separated by a nicely landscaped courtyard filled with rocks. It’s pretty much perfect! When I first moved in; upon entering; I heard heavenly music; angels singing; etc.

Her Studio.

12. Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?

Graduate school was a bust; an inspiration killer. I opened my own studio; regrouped; and continued on my own after getting a teaching degree. So it may not even have been a setback; but something that propelled me forward.

Another Studio Shot.

13. What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now?

I have my first small museum show coming up this Spring! I would like to continue showing in museum venues.

Nina at Work.

14. Are your landscapes from life, or imaginary, or both?

Always from life! Though I have looked at a gazillion landscapes; I could never pretend to know what nature is doing. I like to observe color/form/light.

"Waimea Valley Waterway"

15. Your color palette is very unique for landscapes, how did you develop your color

My color choices are mostly intuitive but also informed by color theory. I love my darks; and have been told that the paintings are a bit “moody”. I am always striving to see beyond “green” landscapes; and often do not interpret them as green at all!

A Work In Progress.

Nina Weiss can be found:
Saatchi Art

Thank you so much for you time, Nina--and please keep up the beautiful work.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What a Summer.

If you would've asked me at the start of this year what life had in store for me, I sure never would've guessed where I'd be now.  That simple Sunday drive earlier this spring that had us stumbling upon a forgotten "For Sale" sign, the roller coaster of trying to sell our farm, the heartbreak and anxiety that comes with offers falling through, the impossible hopeless feeling of having to wait through four months of unknown outcomes, it all leads to this happy statement of:  The new farm will be ours soon!  In just a couple weeks we will finally close on seventy-five acres of pure bliss.  A long, long driveway, a creek, woods, and lots of solitude and wilderness to hunker down in.

Something I'm looking especially forward to is the fact that I get a large studio space.  A very large, only for me, studio space.  I've got big goals to work toward in that space.  It will be splendid.

We should be closing on my daughter's birthday which adds a bit of extra specialness to the whole transaction.

So here's to a future full of new art, a large garden, and lots of additional livestock to add to the mix.  I can't wait.  Excited doesn't even begin to cover the level of happiness that is coursing through my veins.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Artist Interview: Another Conversation with John W. Shanabrook

Almost two years ago now, I got the wonderful opportunity to interview an artist whose paintings often make my heart catch in my chest. Quite a bit has changed in his world since that time, and he's graciously agreed to let me interview him once again with a whole fresh batch of questions. So without further introduction by me, here is a second interview with John W. Shanabrook, complete with some of his more recent work to illustrate the post: 

1. I write "Once Upon a Time" type stories about the dream life I long for. What would your "Once Upon a Time" consist of?

A small, bright, and quiet house on the shortgrass prairie of Eastern New Mexico.

"A Grocer's, a dark day, a song"

2. Can you give me some insight into where your wonderful titles come from?

That’s a good question, Julia, especially because I don’t really know. It’s a little mysterious, a little ghostly. I think of my mind as wandering through an attic of association and implication and feeling, picking up and discarding odd objects and remembrances and quotations and words until what it holds in its mental hands are, suddenly, resonant and poetry.

"Comes a Dark Hero with a Dire Taste for Gunpowder Dramatics

3. The places you paint, are they memories, places you've read about, or just from your imagination (or a combination of all three)?

These landscapes are essentially what my heart makes of what I’ve known, of what I might long for, and of what sometimes happens unexpectedly at three in the morning.

"Hidden Winter"

4. What do you think people would be surprised to learn about you?

Five years ago, a medical school in Ohio offered me a place in their class of 2010.

"Milkmaid's Moon"

5. Do you have any artists you're currently admiring?

I don’t know why it is, but admiration’s something I’ve never been very good at.

"Night Softly"

6. Where do you spend time online? What sites do you gawk at or read, if any?

I try to stay away from the Internet for entertainment, using it only for my painting and for buying things I need. I’m not always successful, but it terrifies me how much time I can spend online to no real purpose otherwise.

"Night to the Plateau"

7. What's your favorite season and why?

Summer, to be sure, because summer is warmth and warmth is freedom. There’s certainly more poetry in fall, winter, and spring, but there’s not as much life.

"Plains Morning, Christmas"

8. What is your favorite book?

This is a question I could never answer. If you were to ask me to name the one book I’d take with me to a desert island, I’d probably just ask for paper and pencil so I could write my own.

"The Spinney"

9. Do you work in any mediums besides oil? Is there any medium you've wanted to try?

Just oil. Oil paint and words. I don’t know which I’m better at. 

"Shotgun Storm"

10. You said you didn't start out being an artist, tell me about what made you try painting. What made you stick with it?

I tried painting because one Christmas a very good friend of mine named Margaret surprised me with a packet of panels and a clever little painting box of Winsor & Newton paints and brushes. I stuck with painting because I’m a terribly sedulous and persevering and stubborn soul.


11. It's hard to find much about you out there—is the mystery purposeful or just coincidence?

It’s pretty simple, really. All my life I’ve stayed out of the world.

"The Pumpkin Field"

12. What else should people know about you or your work?

My landscapes often surprise me into liking them. They sometimes seem to know far more about the world than I do.

"To Go a Silver Journey"

Find more of John's Work here:

Website:  jwshanabrook.com
Seminary Road on Etsy:  seminaryroad.etsy.com
Wordpress Blog:  jwshanabrook.wordpress.com

Previous Interview Here.

And a huge thanks to John for being kind enough to take the time to answer my questions.

Monday, June 8, 2015

STUDIO CLEARANCE SALE--50% Off Everything!

Lots of art up for grabs!  Still more pieces to add to the album.  Sale started this morning and will continue until Sunday June 14th!  Details on the Facebook page here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

So Much Change!

So, I realize I've been absent for a couple months, but it's been crazy around here.  We went for a Sunday drive about a month ago and stumbled upon a for sale sign on a much larger farm (like seven times larger).  We got the owner's number, called, looked around, AND SIGNED A PURCHASE AGREEMENT in very quick order (like a week).  That meant we had to sell our farm, so that same day we listed our house with a realtor.  That began a tailspin of chaos.  We cleaned and tidied and straightened up around here, had people coming through to look at it, and had multiple offers.  We accepted one of the offers yesterday, so we are almost able to breathe a sigh of relief that the new farm is ours!  

An aerial view of our new property:  the blue outline is the boundary.  Seventy-five acres of paradise!

All this is going on while I'm on cow-calving duty.  Lola calved without issue, a beautiful white faced heifer that my daughter named Lizzie Ann.  Reba was doing great, over due by a couple days, but nothing of concern and suddenly she went downhill (one day fine, next day dead).  The vet came up when she first seemed off, and mentioned it might be a twisted uterus or gut--he gave her some medicine, but it was of no use.  I was heartbroken that I lost both her and her unborn calf, but that is the reality of farming.  I stayed by her side almost every minute between Saturday night and Monday morning.  I even pulled a straw bale over next to the gate to be able to lay down a bit and still keep an eye on her.

Lola and a just-dry Lizzie Ann.

Lola has been making lots of extra milk (I milk her morning and night to relieve her udder of the excess milk the calf can drink).  I had been just dumping it (which is a horrible waste), but a buddy had a bottle calf, so I bought him to fatten.

This is Wimberly, the new bottle calf.

Told you it's been a whirlwind around here.

This Song Has Been On Repeat: Gillian Welch - I Dream A Highway.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Artist Interview: Alexandra Loesser

This next artist interview is an exciting one.  She captivates me with her skill, and her subject matter is so much fun.  I was ecstatic when she agreed to let me interview her.  Please enjoy this Q & A with artist Alexandra Loesser:

Alexandra in her studio.

1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?

I was definitely always an art kid. I probably went through a ream of paper every few days with my drawing. I never proclaimed that I wanted to be an artist but it’s just what I always did starting from when I could hold a pencil.

"Barbie and Rex."

2. What style of art is your favorite and why?

I appreciate all styles of art! My favorite would probably have to be early expressionism and romanticism. I love the line between natural realism and pure expressionist painting.


"Fox and Stars."

3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?

The biggest problem I feel that I’m faced with is being overly inspired to a point that I have a hard time reigning in my ideas. Most of my inspiration comes from living things; I love animals and people but the real ideas come from the relationships between living things. I like to give form to intangible feelings and energies. I usually start with something I’m interested in from an aesthetic perspective. That initial attraction is really a jumping off point to figure out what the subject means to me and how I should develop it and add complexity.

"Ghosts of Spring."

4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.

My creative process is not very formulaic. I usually start with a very general idea of what I want and begin to create different experimental drawings. These sketches help me narrow down what it is I want to paint and what I have to say. Once I have a loose composition, I put it to canvas fairly quickly. I’ve found that if I do too much preplanning I lose some of the magic. I like to leave room for the painting to reveal itself to me during the process. Very rarely does my finished piece look exactly like the original sketch. I do a little under painting and a little premixing but I’m very much of an “on-canvas mixer” because I’m finding a new color every second, and I want the painting to feel fresh and not static. It is during the actual process of painting that I figure out what the instinctual decisions I made really mean. A painting can take months or days; I just have to go with my gut to know when it’s finished.

"Great Horned Owl."

5. What is a typical day in your life?

A typical day starts with me arriving to the studio as early as I can, which means about 9:00am. I like to work early in the morning or late at night if possible. I think the closer you are to the dream state the better. I have my etsy shop to take care of and emails, so I work on that for a while and then jump right in to whatever painting is currently holding my attention the most. I usually have about five paintings going at a time that I can work on a little every day unless there is one I can’t tear myself away from. I try to be in the studio a full eight hours every weekday so I don’t get slack. It’s important for me to go into the studio everyday even if I don’t feel like it because you never know what might happen – the day you don’t go in could have been the day you have an artistic breakthrough. Being a painter is a pretty solitary job (but if I’m in a good creative zone I don’t notice the time), so at the end of the day I come home and try to remember how to be social again. When I go to sleep I always keep a pen and paper by my bed because ideas often come at the most inconvenient times.

"Polar Heart."

6. What do you think draws you to other people's work?

Lots of things! I think it’s so important to always look at other artists’ work. It’s inspiring to get a glimpse into someone else’s mind. You can also learn so much from other work, whether it’s in technique or style or just the imagery, but I’m most drawn to emotion in work. When you look at art or create it you want to feel something, and you know you’ve found a good piece of art when it lingers with you, when everything isn’t quite spelled out. I’m always attracted to work with a haunting quality; a little darkness can be really beautiful.

"Coyote and Butterflies."

7. What are your interests/hobbies?

I’m a little single-minded when it comes to this…drawing or painting is what I’m doing most of the time, though I wouldn’t call painting a hobby because it’s always felt more like a necessity (one that I enjoy). Lately painting has led me to do some writing. Writing gives me relief when I have something gnawing away in my mind and an image is not the right means to give it form. Oh and I do love to watch weird films. A beautifully done movie is like a painting in itself.

"Winter Birches."

8. Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?

Painting is now my full time job; it’s not always easy, but I’m always grateful.

"French Invasion."

9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?

My favorite piece is one that I made back in college. It’s a self-portrait that I painted when I became very frustrated with art school. I was mentally exhausted and my boyfriend at the time snapped a photo of my face in the midst of tears and desperation. I immediately went to work on a new painting using that photo as reference. I completed the large scale self portrait in a single night. It’s not the best painting I’ve made to this day, but at that time it was. I think I attached myself to how I was feeling and tapped into painting the emotion rather than the face. When you get the chance to “tap in” all the work is done for you.

"Hyena with Flower Crown."

10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?

Unfortunately, I know very little about the business world but my advice to someone who wants to profit from what they create would be to always create from the heart…not from what you think people want. Also, know your craft, know it up and down. Be proud of your work but never completely satisfied; satisfaction prevents growth, In my opinion. And finally, let your work speak for itself and you won’t have to “sell” it to anyone.

Alexandra's Work Space.

11. Describe your work space.

I am constantly cleaning my work space because it looks like a hurricane after every work day, and I usually have several paintings/drawings in progress at a time. I paint in natural light and keep photos of inspiration and other paintings I admire all around to remind me to continue challenging myself. My studio is airy and quiet which is a nice balance for my mental space.

"Maned Wolf."

Alexandra at Work.

12. Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?

I think I face small setbacks every day whether it’s financial or a near-finished piece I decide to scrap, but they keep me in check. I’ve always known this wasn’t going to be an easy career path, but I have a great support system and time in the morning to meditate and keep myself centered. It also helps to remember that if you are in the studio working, time is never wasted. Even if I’ve spent a lot of time on a painting that isn’t going to work, I’ve still learned something.

"Polar Bear."

13. What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now? 

Right now I’m just focusing on pushing myself to the next level. I’m hoping to show in some new galleries and explore some new subject matter. I want to get outside of myself and outside of my city for a while.

You can also find Alexandra here:

Website:  http://www.alexandraloesser.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheArtOfAlexandraLoesser
Instagram:  https://instagram.com/alexlaserr/
Etsy:  http://www.alexandraloesser.etsy.com