Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back in the Studio--Finally!

The blast of cool air that moved in yesterday is a welcome change from the record-breaking temps of September and while I should have taken advantage of the cooler weather and caught up on some gardening, I chose to paint. I am trying to get ready for the Guinness to Haggis Tour Art Show at the Failte Irish Shop in Lexington. The show is one night only--Thursday, October 7, and is also a reunion for those of us from the Lexington area who went on the tour last year. I took tons of photographs, but so far have only managed to complete three paintings. I started the fourth one yesterday, but I'm not sure it'll be finished in time for the show. This is the work in progress:  It is a cottage in Bunratty Village, Ireland.

WIP - Bunratty Village, Ireland
16 x 20, Acrylics

Sacred Stone Circle, Isle of Mull, Scotland
16 x 20,  Acrylics
This second piece is of the sacred stones on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. I believe this is in Loch Buie. The upper part of the piece is a little washed out because of the lighting in the studio and the camera--I was too lazy to go upstairs and get my good camera, so this was taken with my cell phone. But you get the idea....I'm thinking I should have removed the stone in the far left, but I'll leave it for now. Not enough time to do that before Thursday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm Ba-ack!

     Wow, where does the time go?  This summer has flown past, and I'm struggling to catch up. I've been painting, but it seems like there's always something else going on that pulls me away from the studio, so what should only take a couple of weeks to complete, ends up taking months. I love summer, but I'm looking forward to cooler weather, and a chance to hunker down and PAINT, without feeling guilty about the grass growing and weeds taking over the gardens. 
     Lots of local arts related events coming up. The gallery where I hang my work, Shelby Artists on Main, is gearing up for the big 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, September 25-October 10. I'm also one of three artists who will be doing a one-day show on Thursday evening, October 7, sponsored by Failte Irish Imports in Lexington, featuring artwork created after our trip last year to Ireland and Scotland.  For a sneak preview, Shelbyvillians will be able to see the work at the Shelby County Community Theatre on Friday, September 24.  The two artists joining me are Sharla McClain and Mary Yaeger.
8 x 10 Oil on Canvas
     Just completed two pet portraits commissioned by Krysta Manning of Louisville, KY.  Beautiful dogs--Luna and Ajax. Luna is the first blue-eyed dog I've painted, but I think I pulled it off.
8 x 10 Oil on Canvas

And here is what's on the easel now: 
Sacred Stones, Isle of Mull, Scotland
16 x 20, Acrylics


This piece isn't finished yet. I am struggling with the greens. Whenever I am working on a piece that involves the color green, it seems I run into trouble. Green is NOT my friend--yet.  But I'm not giving up. Till next time...scatter joy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


So it's been about two months now since I've blogged here. Time sure does fly! I wish I could say I've spent all this time painting, but unfortunately that is not the case. I have been working on several pieces, but nothing is finished yet.

The question on my mind these days is how to stay motivated to create when there are so many other things screaming for attention. How do you balance the everyday chores with the creative urges that, at least for me, seem to be in constant competition?  Do I mow the yard or work on the portrait I started several weeks ago? What about weeding, gardening, cleaning the house? I try to prioritize, but those darn weeds don't seem to get it.  It seems I am always struggling to find a balance between what I should be doing versus what I want to be doing. I know I'm not unique in that.  I've tried setting a schedule, but something always pops up that isn't in the schedule. So what works for you? Or does anything work? 

Well enough griping. Here's a piece I created awhile back. I got the inspiration one day while playing my dulcimer and spotting a painting by E. Hopper.  This is a watercolor collage.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brush Dancing

What motivates you as a painter?  Something you see? Something you feel?  Often, for me, it's music. Maybe I'm an actor at heart, but when I'm listening to music, I am immediately transported to some imaginary place and I take on a character specific to the type of music I'm hearing.  And sometimes that translates into my painting. 

Music has always played an important role in my life. I love it. Everything from classical to jazz, rock and sometimes even rap. And yes, I often start dancing
while I'm painting. The two paintings  above resulted from my listening to Jimmy Buffet's "Desperation Samba ( Halloween in Tijuana)." And no, I wasn't drinking margaritas--although one or two might have helped!  My point is, there are all sorts of things that can get the creative juices flowing--music, a walk, or maybe just sitting quietly for a moment or two.  Whatever works, do it!

Meanwhile, here's what's on the canvas now--I love purple and these flowers in contrast with the white pitcher and lace just screamed "paint me!" Not finished yet, and I'm still working on the portrait of Charlie....but sometimes a little diversion is good for creativity too!  This is 8 x 10, in oils, using a reference photograph by Karen Barefoot, Holidaysburg, PA.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ho Hum...

Wish I could say I've been too busy to blog because I'm painting, but I haven't touched a paint brush all week. I have, however, been working on revamping my business cards and brochures, and redesigned my website. I didn't change the website significantly--just chose a different template, which gave it a more "sedate" look, hopefully drawing more attention to the paintings themselves. I've been reading a lot about artists' blogs, and optimizing search engines, etc. Some of it is still pretty foreign to me, but I'm giving it all a try. At least I'll be able to say I gave it my best.

I've been invited to display some of my work at a home decor show next month, which I'm excited about. I need to decide which pieces to use. I'll post more info about the show when I get it.  This is another reason why I'm updating things--placing the focus more on my portrait art.

So what's on the easel these days? Still working on Charlie's portrait.  I won't post another picture since it hasn't changed all that much since I posted the last photograph. Tomorrow I'll be sitting the gallery all day, so I should have time to work on it. Maybe even finish it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back in the Studio

Wow! Last week was exceptionally busy, culminating in a three-day portrait painting workshop with Cincinnati artist Carin Hebenstreit and her husband, Bob.  Carin teaches the old masters style of portrait painting, which was a completely new style for me.  I was amazed with what I was able to accomplish in just three days. Since I wanted to experience the full benefit of the workshop, I chose to paint a copy of Vermeer's "Milkmaid." I wish I'd thought to photograph the painting in stages. But here's the nearly complete painting.  I plan on finishing it and hanging it here at home.   The photograph doesn't really do it justice, as I forgot to turn off the flash, so there's a little bit of glare and the colors are a bit washed out. I'll post another photograph of it when it's finished.

Also last week I finished the painting of my daughter's dog, Mollie, asleep on our end table. It's a small piece, an 8 x 10 acrylic. I wanted to portray the different effects the lamp had on the color of Mollie's fur. I think I got it... I call it "Knick Knack Mollie."

I'm also still working on the portrait of Charlie. This is in oils, and I have spent a lot of time working on the eyes. The eye on the right has been the most difficult because it's in shadow and in the reference photograph, you can't see much detail. I've also begun to add details to the nose and block in the fur. The lighting in my studio washes out the colors in the white fur--I'll try to get a better picture when the painting is finished.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day! I plan on celebrating with a nice dinner of corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. Yum!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Wow! This week has flown by and I have been busy every single day. I started the week off with an art marketing class, taught by Paula Cundiff.  With the economy the way it is, I feel like I need all the help I can get in terms of marketing my art. And I am not a good sales person, so this class is just the thing I need to get me motivated to do whatever I can to get my artwork out there and, hopefully, sell one or two...or three....  Paula has already given me some ideas in terms of revamping my approach to marketing my work, and you all will probably see some little changes here as I learn these new skills. 

I have been working on several paintings this week, too--going back and forth between acrylics and oil.  The portrait of Charlie is coming along--still lots of detail to add, but I'm beginning to like the colors and the "feel" of the painting. Since I did use a flash when taking the photograph--the photo was for a class I took in pet photography--I'm trying to soften the shadows so they don't have the harsh, border-like look caused by the flash.  I'm liking the color of Charlie's fur and I've added a little more detail in his eyes. They're still not where I want them yet.

I finished the acrylics painting I started several weeks ago. This is a scene from my trip to Ireland. The paint around the window was chipping and yellowed, and that is what I tried to portray in my painting. I don't think I'll frame this one because the darker color around the window, I think serves as a frame for the whole piece. 

And finally, here is what's on the easel now--a small piece, in acrylics, that I'm doing for fun. This is my daughter's dog, Mollie--who fell asleep on our end table. She seemed to fit right in with the other junk on the table, so I'm calling it "Knick Knack Mollie."  Here, I'm trying to portray the way the light from the lamp has changed the color of her fur--from a warm, yellowish white on her body, to a bluish-purple on her face.  Not finished yet, of course.  
Tomorrow is the Shelby County No Kill Mission seminar with Nathan Winograd.  I will be setting up a display of some of my pet portraits before the lecture. Maybe I'll get lucky and get a commission or two for pet portraits. Sheesh! No wonder I'm tired!                                                                                                                                     

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"King" Charlie

I've been wanting to do a portrait of Charlie, my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He's just the cutest little guy--and definitely has the "royal" attitude. I started this painting last night, hoping to finish it by Monday, but that's not going to happen, mostly because, once I started it, I decided to make it Charlie's "official" portrait. So, I'm taking my time with it. At this point, I've got about two layers of oil paint on it--still blocking in colors, not focusing too much on detail. I did spend a little more time on the eyes. I think if the eyes are correct, the rest of the image falls into place more easily.  When this piece is done, it's back to painting shelter animals. I also finished a still life in acrylics, inspired by my trip to Ireland. I'll post that as soon as I photograph it. Meanwhile--here's Charlie!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Paws Daily

9 x 12
Oil on Canvas Board
Contact Stephanie Allison to purchase

"Paws Daily" is the name of my new shelter animal/art project. There are lots of these types of projects nationwide, where the artist or a group of artists creates animal portraits and a portion of the sales are donated to an animal shelter, humane society or some other animal welfare program. This is a personal project for me--something I'm doing to help the local animal shelter through the Shelby County No Kill Mission.  My hope is to create at least one portrait of a shelter animal daily (although at the rate I paint, it is more likely to be every two or three days....). I will eventually have notecards and prints available for purchase, too--but right now I'm concentrating on the paintings. This is a good project for me as it is keeping me motivated and it's good practice. Trying to complete a painting a day--even if I don't actually finish--forces me to paint more loosely and concentrate on the "essence" of the subject, so the finished piece has more of a "free" feeling to it.

This painting of Zora is fresh off the easel--the paint is still wet, so you can see a little reflection from the studio light.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Still Life with Spoon - Daily Painting

I usually try to keep Mondays free--sort of a recovery day from the busy weekend. Today much of the day was spent ordering art supplies and getting ready for a mini-seminar I'm taking on developing a business plan for my art studio.  I did manage to finish the little painting I started the other day. I am not very good at choosing titles. If it wouldn't confuse everyone (myself included) I'd probably call every thing "Untitled."  I suppose I could number them, but eventually I'd lose track and that would be even more confusing.  So this one is called "Still Life with Spoon."  It's 4 x 6, oil.
     Tomorrow it's another shelter animal portrait, and then on to a commissioned portrait. I love doing portraits!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finally! I'm Painting Again!

I've been in a bit of a painting slump these past few months, which is why I started surfing various artist websites, etc., hoping to get motivated. It's worked, and I'm especially enthusiastic about getting involved with the daily painting movement. I'm still struggling with actually completing a daily painting. But I'm definitely trying. It took me three days to complete this painting of Sammy, a dog at the Shelby County Animal Shelter, but it's finished now. My plan is to display it on March 6, when Nathan Winograd comes to Shelbyville as a guest speaker sponsored by Shelby County's No Kill Mission. If it's sold, proceeds from the sale will go to the No Kill Mission. Here is the completed painting: 
     9 x 12
    Acrylics on Canvas Board
    Contact Stephanie Allison  

I am also working on a small piece right now, for my daily painting.  It's a 4 x 6, oil.   After working with acrylics, I keep forgetting that it takes awhile for oils to tack up--so I keep pushing paint around--which means it's not going to be finished till tomorrow. So it'll be a painting every two days!



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday = Hump Day

Spent the entire day in the studio, something I should be doing much more often. But you all know how life gets in the way. However, thanks to the snow, I had a free day today and tried to make the most of it.  I decided to start on my new project: Art for Shelter Animals. I still need to speak with the No Kill Shelter, but my plan is to do a series of portraits of some of the many animals housed at the shelter. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I'm thinking I might give the paintings to the shelter, and let them do what they want with them. Sell them, auction them, or keep them. Or, I could have a show this time next year, and auction off one or two pieces...I don't know yet.  But the other half of this project is to get back to daily painting--so these portraits will be small, nothing bigger than 9 x 12.  I haven't had much success at completing a painting a day--two days is the record for me so far. But having a daily or semi-daily deadline forces me to work quickly and loosely--which is the way I like to paint anyway. Now I hesitate to post this, because it isn't finished, but here is the first shelter animal portrait work in progress. 
This is Sammy.  The painting is in what I call the "ugly" stage--everything has been laid in and now I'm working on details and fine tuning, adjusting the colors.  The eyes still need work. This is in acylics, on canvas board. 

I really love doing portraits--animals or humans. I've always been fascinated by faces.  Doesn't this little buy look happy? It's a shame he's stuck in a shelter. Maybe by painting some of these beautiful creatures, they will find forever homes.
I'm hoping to finish this tomorrow and move on to the next one: a kitty cat!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Snow Day

It seems like one snow day blends into another lately, and cabin fever has set in. I couldn't remember whether today was Monday or Tuesday.  There was about a foot-high snow drift in front of my garage door this morning. Not a big deal for me, hailing from upstate New York--but it did require some shoveling to clear the area and keep the door from bouncing back up every time it hit a chunk of ice. I got to use my 4 wheel drive setting for the 3rd time this winter, though it took me a few minutes to figure out how to engage it, then disengage it. That's what happens when you don't use something very often. Unfortunately, after all that effort, I got to my destination only to find no one was there! So as not to make it a completely wasted trip, I made a quick run to the grocery store, then spent the rest of the day in the studio (yay!) doing busywork. Yes, I should have been creating but I am still researching marketing strategies and getting sidetracked by other things like learning to put a watermark on my photos and artwork. Watermarks can be added automatically through some programs like Photoshop, Picassa and Flickr. The latter two do it automatically when you upload to your web albums, but Photoshop--at least for me--is a lot more tedious. I suppose it would help if I dragged out the instruction book, but, being one who wants instant gratification, I opted for the "add text" solution in Picassa. Instant watermark--well, sort of. 

I admit watermarking hasn't been a priority with me until recently. But a friend asked me about it the other day and I got to thinking that it probably isn't a bad idea, even if some of the images I'm "marking" can still be downloaded by anyone who wants them badly enough. At least I feel now like I've done what I could to protect my work.

So here are two of the sketches I did for the Shelby County No Kill Mission Cookbook, which will be sent to the printer this week, I believe. When it's available for sale I'll post a link where you can get a copy. I understand there are over 200 recipes in it (not to mention one or two sketches by yours truly...)  I enjoyed doing these little drawings. It's nice to get away from the larger pieces and do something that's fairly quick and fun.  I love keepin' it simple!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day and I'm Still Working...

I hope everyone is having a great Valentine's Day. I know some people think it's just another ploy to get people to spend money, and the pressure is on for folks (let's face it, mainly guys) to get out and buy something to give to their sweetie, significant other, loved one, etc. I choose to view it as another chance to tell the people who matter to me how grateful I am to have them in my life--and that costs me nothing!  So forget about rushing to the store to get that box of candy or piece of jewelry--and give the greatest gift: love. And to all my friends and family: Happy Valentine's Day. I love you!

Okay, enough of the sentimental stuff. Sometimes, when you least expect it, a flash of brilliance strikes and leaves you wondering why you didn't think of it before. Well such flashes don't occur to me very often, but when they do I feel the need to run with them. This one hit me this morning, while I was surfing through various artists' websites and trying to come up with something I could do that would really keep me interested and motivated. I have always loved painting faces--not just human ones, but animals of all kinds. And I am also a big supporter of animal rights, the Humane Society and now, Shelby County's No Kill Mission. I haven't thought it completely through yet, and I need to talk to the powers-that-be at the shelter and the other groups, but what I have in mind, if it works out, would be an art related project that would benefit shelter animals, as well as get my artwork out more in the public.  This is not a new idea--just new to me. Since I haven't worked out all the details yet, I will hold off posting all the "rough" thoughts here. But I think it might work. Stay tuned.

Here is a site I stumbled on that has a lot of solid information for artists looking for encouragement and marketing ideas. 

I'd Rather Be in the Studio!I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion is for artists of all kinds. Painters, sculptors, ceramist, jewelers, photographers, and others will benefit from the easy-to-follow self-promotion practices in this book.

Author and art-marketing consultant Alyson B. Stanfield, of, focuses on sharing the artwork directly with potential buyers through electronic and traditional communication outlets—in a manner that is comfortable, not artificial. Artists match Internet marketing strategies with sincere personal skills to take charge of their art careers.

The book includes online worksheets and downloads.
Check it out!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Business As Usual

I read somewhere awhile back that artists who want to be successful can expect to spend 80% of their time on the business side of art. Now I understand. I have spent the entire day researching various search engines, online artists directories, the pros and cons of listing with various sites, looking at other artists' sites and other artists' blogs.  I am amazed at the number of artists out there, all trying to get themselves noticed. Myself included.  It's clear to me how important a web presence is these days. That doesn't mean artists should give up on getting their work into galleries, but for me, realistically, I don't see galleries as big sales markets for portraits--which is pretty much what I paint.  Few people want to hang portraits of people they don't know, unless they're famous.  And let's face it, with the economy the way it is right now, even fewer people are interested (and able) to spend their hard-earned dollars on paintings.  These days, artists have to be even more creative in finding ways to get their work noticed.

So I have been focusing on getting my website and blog updated and taking advantage of some of the free marketing tools like Facebook and Twitter. I'm not really sure how Twittering is going to help--I suspect it might be more of an annoyance (to those I tweet to) than anything, but we'll see. I'm thinking of giving the newsletter idea a try--but it seems a little narcissistic to send out a newsletter all about me.  I'll have to think on that a little longer.

As for actually painting, I'm hoping to finish up the window scene I posted the other day, and move on to a commissioned portrait of a girl and her horse. I'd like to get back to doing small daily paintings, but with all this business stuff to deal with, that might not be too realistic.

On the lighter side, here are a couple of photos of the little drama that took place in our driveway the other day after the snowstorm. First, the Schwan delivery truck got stuck at the end of our driveway. The driver thought he would be better off parking there instead of backing all the way down. NOT.  He called a towtruck to get him out, and the towtruck got stuck when it backed down the street to turn around. In comes the second towtruck, and it, too, got stuck. Luckily the second truck got out, yanked the first towtruck out and finally, the Schwan truck was pulled out--but now we have a nice nearly four-inch deep tire hole in our front yard. One more thing to add to my spring yardwork list.

More snow is on the way for tomorrow right through Tuesday. Maybe I'll get stuck inside and have nothing to do but paint!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Business Side of Art: An Exhausting Endeavor

I am beat. I spent most of the day searching the 'net, looking for ways to increase art sales. I've admitted this before: I'm a lousy business person. But my goal for the new year is to improve my business skills. However, tonight my head is spinning from information overload, I guess. There is a ton of advice and information out there and just clicking from link to link and reading about it has worn me out.  I'm told you have to spend money to make money, but that is nearly impossible to do--for me, anyway. Get a website--with your own domain, etc., if possible; send out a newsletter, join arts organizations, run ads in local magazines...the list goes on. Yes, I do want to sell more of my artwork, but does anyone out there know what really works? Does anything? Sometimes I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels. 

So I'm calling it a day. On a lighter note, I have some pics of this morning's adventure with the Schwan delivery truck and my driveway. Tune in tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Woke up to a wintery scene this morning and just couldn't resist grabbing the camera and taking some quick photos. Here's my neighbor's barn and a couple of my back and side yards.

At first the snowflakes were tiny and barely visible. Then they'd switch to big fat ones, and then it became more like sleet. Eventually, they were mostly big and fat again. Reminded me of my days in upstate New York. When I went out to shovel off my car, it seemed fairly warm, and the snow was nice and heavy--great for building a snowman or for a friendly snowball fight. Unfortunately I didn't have time for either. And now the weather has turned colder and much more nasty. But it was cool while it lasted.

So, with nothing else to do all day, I decided to spend time in the studio, catching up on things that have been set aside way too long. Like paperwork. Bookkeeping. Yuck. I hate doing that. I make a much better artist than I do a business person. Once upon a time I had a business plan, and kept meticulous records. Unfortunately, life has a way of interrupting things like plans. So today I sat down at my desk, opened every drawer, and dug through the junk that had collected there. It's amazing what can be found: notes I'd made to myself that no longer mean a thing to me. Little bits of papers with numbers, half sentences in completely illegible handwriting. Several months worth of magazines never read. My little shredder earned its keep today. And it feels good to clear the clutter. My files, while not completely in order, at least make some sense to me and are no longer crammed full of "stuff."

And at the end of the day, I have a new sense of direction. And dare I say it? Plans. Yep. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lazy Day

This was supposed to be a "me" day--a day where I would catch up on things, like studio paperwork, updating my website, etc. I managed to do some of that--but I also thought I would paint today and that didn't happen. I am having trouble staying motivated for some reason. I have at least half a dozen paintings in various stages of completion, but I seem to run out of steam and they end up stuffed in a corner while I move on to something else. Setting my own deadlines doesn't work because, deep down, I know nothing bad's gonna happen if I miss the deadline! What to do? I've tried the "give yourself a reward" thing for setting a goal and achieving it. Doesn't work anymore. Sometimes I think it helps to just wallow in the lack-of-motivation pool for awhile. Sooner or later I'll get tired of it--I hope. In the meantime, I finished the pastel portrait (I did have a "real" deadline for that one!) and managed to add pics of some of my latest work to my website. Just a minor dent, though, in the ever growing "to do" list. Oh fiddle-dee-dee! I'll think about it tomorrow....
This is the completed pastel portrait. I hope my customer is happy with it.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Work, New Year

Well so much for keeping up with this blog. Since my return from Ireland/Scotland, things have been moving pretty quickly. I have two commissions to work on and lots of ideas for new paintings. Here's what's in the works right now:

This is a pastel portrait of a sweet little redhead. I've never done a portrait in pastels, so this is a learning experience for me. I still need to do some fine tuning, but I think I'm heading in the right direction. I love painting red hair--so many color opportunities!

I'm also working on another piece, this one in acrylics. I'm getting used to working in acrylics and finding that I like them very much! It looks a little bowed, that's because I was too close with my camera and too lazy to set it up right. But you get the idea....

And finally, here is the last one, finished a couple of weeks ago, also in acrylics. I call this "Harry Coo"--it's a Highland cow. The photo was taken on a farm on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. I waited patiently in the mist and drizzle, for this cow to stick his tongue out. The photo doesn't really do it justice. It's very colorful.

So that's what I've been up to lately, along with working on my poetry. I take a poetry workshop once a week with a lovely group of talented writers. I don't ever expect to publish anything, but it is fun just being around so many talented and creative people.