Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 in Review

"Sunset, Mt. Baldy" - Oil on Canvas, 24x36". This is one of two paintings I've managed to complete since Aspen was born. I started the underpainting for it back in July - don't ask me why I waited until now to complete it. Maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that I can still tackle a decent sized painting when I'm taking care of an infant?

I can’t believe it’s New Year’s Eve already! 2006 has gone by in a blur and now it’s just a few hours until 2007. Overall, 2006 was a great year. Looking back, it’s hard to comprehend how much my life has changed in just 12 months. Last year, I posted my goals for the year here – now it’s time to see how well I did here:

1) Obtain gallery representation for my landscape paintings

DONE. A good friend of mine knew the owners of a gallery in Denver that was on my short list of galleries to contact about representation. She stopped by the gallery one day and showed them my website. Apparently they were just being nice when they agreed to look at it, since they have people showing them the work of friends and relatives all the time, and 99% of the time the work sucks. But they looked, and they liked my work, and they told her to have me call them. So I did, and a couple weeks later I took in nine paintings for them to have a look at in person. They took all nine and sold seven within the month, and thus started my art career!

I’m really thankful not only to have obtained representation, but to have started with a gallery that does a great job of selling my work. Being able to have an income from art this year has given me the confidence to take a bigger leap in 2007 and make it my job.

2) Get a painting accepted to the Arts for the Parks competition or an Oil Painters of America show.

DONE. I had a painting accepted to the OPA show, which was a huge deal to me. I wasn’t able to make it to the opening, which was kind of a bummer, but my painting won an award at the show, much to my surprise.

I never bothered to enter the Arts for the Parks show. Over the past few years, the show has leaned more and more toward wildlife art and more photorealistic work, and I didn’t feel that my more painterly style would be very successful in the show. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t have a painting of a national park handy…

3) Find the right piece of property to buy in Steamboat Springs so Nate and I can eventually build the mountain cabin we’ve been dreaming about for years.

Well, we did buy property in Steamboat Springs - three lots, to be exact. But we won’t have that cabin anytime soon.

Our purchase of property morphed from buying a lot for a future cabin to buying three lots and building spec homes on all three (Nate’s big project of the year). At this point, all three lots have houses on them. One is completely finished, two still have some work to do, and all three are officially on the market. Hopefully they’ll all sell early in 2007. Maybe we’ll use the proceeds to build that cabin in the mountains someday – who knows…

4) Think about having kids (yes, think about it – I’m not committing to anything here)

DONE. Amazing how I went from “think about having kids” to having a 6 week old baby in the span of a year! I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy and an easy birth, and now I have a beautiful little girl who has changed my life. Sometimes I think I could just stare at her all day. My days no longer revolve around me, and I’m fine with that - at this point, I can’t think of anything more important than taking care of her.

5) Swim 200,000 yards (swam ~80,000 in 2005, which wasn’t nearly enough considering that I love the water)

Not even close. I swam 35,000 yards this year, which means I only made it to the pool something like 20 times. Oops!! I’ll use pregnancy as my excuse – I was tired and busy and just didn’t feel like taking the time to swim most nights. I know, pathetic. Hopefully I’ll do better on the fitness front in 2007.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time Flies...

Whew - motherhood is a bit demanding!! Aspen is a little over a month old now (which I can't believe), and I'm working on getting my bearings straight so I can start to get a little bit more done on the art front.

The first few weeks she was home she slept all the time, so I actually got down into the studio and managed to finish a painting between feedings. The past week or so she's become more active and awake, so my time has gotten more limited. It's great because she's a lot more fun now, but tough because I have to juggle my basic activities (showering, eating, laundry) with feeding her and keeping her happy. Nate has been a sweetheart the past two weekends and hung out with her in the afternoons so I could paint, and I managed to finish a 24x36" mountain scene that I had done an underpainting for before Aspen was born. I had hoped to deliver this painting to the gallery before Thanksigiving, because I had a hunch it would sell before Christmas, but no such luck. I'm happy that I've managed to finish it now though - if it would just dry, I could pop it in a frame a deliver it. I'll post pictures of the new paintings once I have a chance to use the camera for something other than taking cute pictures of my baby!

Anyhow, motherhood has been a nice surprise so far. I've always loved kids, but have never been a big baby person, so I wasn't sure how I'd do the first few months. So far, I've been enjoying it, and I have NO desire to return to my engineering job right now. For the last month, I've been totally wrapped up in being a mom, and making the transition to being an artist. The being a mom part hasn't left much time for the being an artist part, but that can wait a few months, and I can make plans for next year in the meantime!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Latest Work of Art...

We welcomed our little baby into the world a little over a week ago now, just in time for thanksgiving!! Her name is Aspen Elise Peterson, and she was born a 10:54 pm on Saturday, November 18th. She was a couple of weeks early and weighed in at 6 lbs. 2 oz. I happen to think she's the cutest thing ever, but it's quite possible that I'm just being biased.

Anyhow, needless to say, I haven't been getting much done other than adjusting to life with a baby. I was supposed to finish and deliver a bunch of paintings to the gallery the weekend she was born, but my water broke Saturday morning and ruined those plans! Hopefully I'll have some time to get back into the studio sometime this week or next. We'll see!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Five Principles

"Wildflowers, Rabbit Ears Pass"
Oil on Canvas

In Robert Genn’s October 24, 2006 newsletter, he talks about his preview of the book The Starbucks Experience, Five Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary by psychologist Joseph Michelli. In the newsletter, he talks about five principles of success, discussed by Michelli:
1. Make it your own
2. Everything matters
3. Surprise and delight
4. Embrace resistance
5. Leave your mark
When I first read this, I glanced over the principles and decided they were a little bit touchy feely and typical of the “feel good” stuff you find in your average how-to-make-your-business-successful book.

Then I took a second look and thought a little bit more about how these principles apply to my art career. I think it was a good way to bring together some thoughts about how and why I approach my art the way I do, and where I see myself going. I’m usually a bit nebulous about my painting – I hate writing artist statements and defining my work – so every once in a while I think it’s a good exercise to sit down and put some of my thoughts about art into words.

1. Make it your own.

This is one of my top priorities as I develop as an artist. Developing a personal style is something that evolves from spending countless hours alone in the studio. I value the critiques of my peers, and can’t put into words how much I’ve learned from the handful of workshops I’ve taken, but nothing has been more valuable than the hours I’ve spent alone in the studio developing my own voice. When I’m at the easel and something isn’t working, it takes some serious problem solving to figure out how to fix it. Combine my personal responses to every moment of difficulty while painting, and the result is my own personal style.

Nothing bugs me more than to walk into a gallery and to see a painting that was obviously done by someone who studied with a particular artist. I make a conscious decision to take a limited number of workshops and classes, and those that I do take are with artists who have a reputation for teaching principles and basics rather than technique. This allows me to learn within the parameters of my own style, and make sure that my paintings are and will always be my own.

2. Everything Matters

I agree – everything matters. When I drop off my paintings at a gallery, quality and consistency matter. Framing matters. Quantity matters. What a client sees hanging on the wall of the gallery influences their overall impression of me as an artist worth collecting. In working with the gallery, responsiveness and professionalism matter, and dependability above all. If I have a good working relationship with the gallery, it will reinforce their commitment to sell my work.

I could go on and on about the all of the things that matter. I’m only one person and sometimes I’m just going to have to prioritize the bigger things over the smaller things, but it’s still good to remember that everything matters. Because selling art is more than a collector falling in love with a painting - people’s opinions are influenced by more than what they see, and everything matters when it comes to presenting collectors with a package that will inspire them to open their pocketbook and buy.

3. Surprise and Delight

This one is tough for me. I paint because I’ve loved art as long as I can remember, but I’m at a point where I’m transitioning to making art my career, and at this stage I view art as work. Making and selling art is soon going to be my job, and I’m devoted to approaching my art business with the same amount of energy, discipline, and professionalism with which I approach my current day job. I think that this commitment has been responsible for the success I have experienced in this, my first year selling my artwork. But sometimes the stress of producing can suck some of the joy out of the creative process.

This principle serves as a reminder to me that I’m choosing to make art my job because I’m passionate about it. One of my goals should be maintain that passion when I get bogged down with deadlines and requests. My love for art needs to be the heart of this business if I am going to be successful in the long run.

4. Embrace Resistance

This is a tough one for everyone, because it’s human nature to respond to criticism with defensiveness. My husband is my toughest critic, and every time he makes a negative comment about a painting, I immediately respond with all the reasons he’s wrong. But every time I complete a painting, I set it up on a shelf in my family room where I can soak it up for a few days, and I never fail to see his point of view eventually. Often, the specific criticism he makes isn’t the root of the actual problem, but when I take the time to figure out what’s causing his response I can almost always use it to make a better painting.

It’s hard to admit when I’m wrong, especially when it comes to my art. I take it personally when it comes to my paintings, and it’s hard to separate hurt feelings from the truth when I’m evaluating criticism. But it’s important to embrace resistance, at least to the point of setting aside time for evaluation. Sometimes resistance is worthless, but sometimes it’s a valuable means of improvement. If you don’t stop to embrace it, you miss the opportunity that lies within.

5. Leave Your Mark

I’m a representational painter, so I don’t have any deep statement to describe what my work is about, and I’m never asked to explain what it all means. Sometimes I feel like I must not be a “real” artist, since I don’t have to put subtitles below my paintings explaining my vision and concept. But my landscapes are my personal response to the world around me, and it’s very important to me that I use my paintings to share that vision with an audience.

I see a lot of beauty in the natural world that I think the average person misses. When a particular scene takes my breath away, I would venture to say that 90% of people respond with “What?” when I say, “Wow – look at that!” The purpose of my art is to take that scene and put it in the face of someone who otherwise might not notice. It’s amazing how something that might escape a person’s notice when they’re driving down the highway can cause them to pause when they’re walking through an art gallery. I’m a bit of a tree hugger, and I just hope my landscapes can remind people that there are places out there that are worth saving.

Friday, November 03, 2006


So, I was standing at the copy machine at work yesterday when some man I didn't know walked up and stood right next to me. I was wondering why he was invading my personal space at the copier when he proceeded to pat my belly, then pat his, and say, "You better watch out or your belly's gonna look like mine!!"

Then he paused to think a bit before saying, "Well, except that you're going to lose yours overnight one of these days, and I'm stuck with mine."

I'm glad to know that my body is starting to resemble that of a middle-aged man with a beer gut.


Actually, I can't deny that I've entertained myself in meetings for the last nine months by imagining how many months pregnant I would be before my belly looked like each man's in the room. What can I say? Male engineers have beer bellys, and it makes for a good way to waste some time when stuck in a boring meeting.

I only dare to post these pictures because I've had a gazillion people request pictures of my rapidly expanding belly, and I figure it would just be easier to satisfy everyone's bizarre fascination with the pregnant belly than come up with more excuses for why I don't have any pictures of me pregnant.

Anyhow, I've come a long way between 7 weeks and 35 weeks pregnant, and I'm at the stage now where I can't quite believe that I still have approximately five more weeks for my belly to grow. Not to mention that I don't remember EVER being the size I am in the 7 week photo above, nor can I imagine ever being that size again.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


"Colorado Headwaters"
Oil on Canvas

After the wasp invasion a few weeks back, I completely lost my momentum with painting. I had completed four paintings that weekend and was excited to keep working, but the nasty wasps in my studio kept me away from the easel for a few days, and then life got in the way again.

I did manage to frame and deliver some paintings to the gallery earlier this month, which at least made me feel like I had accomplished something. Then I got busy wrapping things up at work and trying to find some time to get ready for the baby, and didn't get much else accomplished.

I found out last week that my paintings for the Forbes show need to be done and photographed by November 15th, so that got me going again. I spent some time this weekend working on one of the last two paintings I plan to do for the show, and will hopefully finish the final one this week. Nothing like a deadline to get me going!!! Further evidence that I am officially a procrastinator...

My last day of work is next Friday, and assuming that the baby doesn't come early, that will give me three weeks to get stuff done before my life is taken over by midnight feedings and poopy diapers. During that time, I've got to get five or six small paintings done for a holiday miniatures show. Then I'm planning to be officially on maternity leave for a month or so - I'll fit in painting where I can, when I'm ready.


Okay, so I got sick of the peach color of my blog template, and decided to go back to basics and use something a bit more simple. I don't know html, but that didn't stop me from spending an hour customizing the colors of the plain blogger template to look better with my paintings. I'm such a geek...

Sunday, October 01, 2006


This sucks.

Nate was out of town this weekend, so I was going to be ambitious and productive and get all sorts of painting done.

I did five acrylic underpaintings last week, and was ready to get to work with the oils on Saturday morning. I headed down to my studio in the basement, and while I was cleaning up my palette, I noticed a huge wasp flying around by the window screen. I closed the window, trapping him between the glass and screen, and continued with my painting, managing to finish two paintings before dinner.

This morning, I headed back down and completed a small 8x10" painting before lunch, then started on another small study. As I started to get into it, I noticed another wasp flying above my head.

Now, my studio is in a walkout basement, and I had assumed that the first wasp just managed to squeeze its way in through a gap in the doggie door. But to have more than one of these things flying around in my basement seemed a bit strange. Just then, I noticed the distinct sound of insects hitting a window, and found that it was coming from the back room of the basement. I went and looked, and there were about 20 yellowjackets flying around the inside of the window!!

So, I turned off the radio, grabbed my dog, and headed upstairs. I'm 7.5 months pregnant, and didn't really feel like pissing off a colony of wasps in my basement!! I figured I'd send Nate down there to fix the situation when he gets home tonight - that's what husbands are for, right?

So much for my productive weekend of painting... Why'd they have to take up residence in my studio, of all places?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm Sad Today

I was tired last night, so I spent the evening sketching out some new pieces on canvas in front of the TV. Since we don’t have cable, I was stuck watching the main network channels, all of which were interrupted on the hour for updates and press conferences about the school shooting that took place in Bailey yesterday.

I know that watching the news is never a happy experience with all the crap that happens all over the world every day, but that never numbs me to the stories that hit closer to home. And hearing about this particular story all night just made me sad.

Bailey is a 25 minute drive from my house. It’s a little town in the mountains with maybe one restaurant and a gas station along the highway. It’s the kind of place you’d move if you wanted to get away from the hustle of city and suburban life.

It’s not the kind of place where you would expect this sort of thing to happen.

The parents of the children in the classroom that was taken hostage probably thought they were sheltering their children by living in a rural mountain town. Now, not so much.

It just goes to show you can’t get away from this crap.

I live five minutes away from Columbine High School, and I think the community I live in is still affected by the aftermath of that tragedy. No one thought that sort of thing would happen in Littleton either, yet it did. And now there’s another school shooting that has taken place just a short drive away.

Anyhow, I don’t really have a point – I’m rambling. I’m just sad for the family of the child who died, I’m sad for the law enforcement officers who had to deal with the situation while their own children were inside the school, and I’m sad for the guy who did this.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another Commission Out the Door!

One of the things that has been stressing me out this summer is the completion of a few commissioned pieces. There's just something about the whole commission process that makes it more difficult than just painting what I want. After all, these are clients who know exactly what they want and go out of their way to request it rather than just buy something off of a gallery wall.

I outlined my process on the commissioned painting that was my biggest challenge here and here. Yesterday I shipped off another that was on the opposite end of the spectrum - no stress at all.

This particular client found my website back in January and contacted me then about my work, before I had any gallery representation. We kept in touch, and in July he asked me to do a larger version of a painting I had recently sold. The original painting was just a 9x12" study, shown here:

He commissioned me to do the same piece as an 18x24". That's about as simple as a commission gets - I still get to paint something that I was originally inspired to paint, and there's not as much stress about whether the client will like the finished product or not since he already has a good idea of what it will look like.

When I do a larger piece from a study, I like to change things up a bit so that the two pieces don't look like carbon copies. In this instance, going from 9x12" to 18x24" required that I enhance the composition a bit, especially in the foreground. In the larger version, I added a road/trail to the foreground to lead the eye into the painting, and pushed the colors a bit to enhance the mood of the piece. Here's the final commission:

It's essentially the same subject as the smaller study, but different enough that they can be considered two different paintings. After all, I wouldn't want to annoy the person who bought the study by doing another painting just like it!

Anyhow, this painting got shipped off yesterday. The client has seen pictures, but has never seen any of my paintings in person, so I'm hoping he's happy with the real thing.

As for the commissioned piece I posted about before, I just dropped it off with that client today at lunch. He was happy with it and I've got the check in hand. Now I'm back to painting things that I want to paint - nice!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


"First Light"
Oil on Canvas

I’m continually amazed at the cool people I meet through painting, and am always pleasantly surprised at how friendly and helpful people can be in the art world, whether they be artists, dealers, or collectors. One of my favorite things about selling my work is learning more about the collectors who buy it. The gallery I work with in town sends me the name and address of each person who buys one of my paintings, and I usually send them a thank you note or some sort of personal message. Most of the time, that’s the extent of my communication with each buyer, but sometimes I get a little bit more.

One guy sent me a note back about how a scene I had painted looked down on the site of an old molybdenum mine – he had worked on reclamation of the land back in the 80’s, and sent me a note to tell me how pleased he was to see that they had done such a good job that an artist would want to paint the place 15 years later. He had ended up buying a different painting of mine, but took the time to write me a note about this one because it had an impact on him. I do environmental engineering for a living, so I thought his perspective was just as interesting.

The painting posted above recently sold to the man who apparently owns the ranch that makes up the foreground. Apparently he was in Denver and went into the gallery, recognized the mountain and his property in the painting, and bought it right away. I couldn’t think of a better person to buy that particular painting. I loved the scene enough to shoot a picture from the side of the highway on a REALLY cold morning – what better home for the painting than with a person who loved that scene enough to actually own the land?

I love knowing who buys a painting and why they were drawn to it – it’s one of my favorite parts of the business of art. Thankfully I work with a gallery who shares these stories with me – I know a lot of dealers won’t disclose this information to their artists at all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Life...

"High Meadows"
Oil on Canvas

Well, things have been crazy as usual, so I’ve been trying to restrain myself from spending too much time on the internet and not enough time working and painting. But on the off chance that anyone ever still checks in on this blog, here’s what’s up.

* * * * *

The artist residency at the Forbes ranch was fantastic.

There were about 20 artists there – 10 who got picked by applying to the magazine contest like me, and the rest who were invited. It was a great group of artists to spend the week with. The night we all showed our portfolios to each other was intimidating but inspiring because the quality of work was so high, and there was so much diversity. There were artists that spanned a huge range of ages and styles, and it pushed me to think a little bit harder about what I want my paintings to be about, and where I want to go with my art. There were also a couple of gallery owners there throughout the week, and I got to sit in on a number of valuable conversations about marketing as an artist.

Through the course of seven days painting, I completed twelve plein air studies and managed to start three studio pieces. It rained on and off for much of the week, and I found that I wasn’t able to spend as much time on my feet as I normally can due to my ever-expanding preggo belly, so I didn’t get quite as much painting done as I might have otherwise (normally I’d do three plein air studies a day). When I wasn’t painting, I took hundreds of pictures of the ranch for reference.

There will be a show in NYC in March of 2007, which I have to have painting ready for by November of this year. My plein air studies are mostly just reference, so I’ll be working from a combination of those and photos to do studio paintings for the show. Since I’m due at the start of December, I’m starting to get what I can done now, just in case I’m not up for painting during my last trimester.

Wish I had time to write more about the experience (I’d like to write it down at some point so I don’t forget!), but that’s the summary for now…

* * * * *

I’ve made a rule that I can’t watch TV or get on the internet at home to keep me from wasting time and get me into the studio. In addition to the paintings that have to be done for the Forbes show by November, I’ve got to keep the gallery supplied with paintings, start and finish a new 18x24” commission piece, and complete 5-6 small works for a holiday miniature show at the end of the year.

I feel good now, but I’m worried that as my belly expands into the third trimester I’ll be uncomfortable and tired to the point of not wanting to paint much. I’m trying to prepare for that by getting as much done as I can now, while I’m still comfortable and energetic. So, all my free time goes to painting, and I spend the rest of my time fantasizing about how great it would be to not have a day job.

* * * * *

As for being preggo, I was 25 weeks yesterday, and I’m at the point now where everyone who sees me feels the need to comment on the size of my belly. I’m feeling pretty decent though, and can’t complain about being too uncomfortable. My body feels like a walking freak show – I’m always amazed at the weird things that pregnancy brings (funny looking veins, numb toes, quick growing nails, etc).

Anyhow, I had my 24 week appointment last week and my doc was nice enough to do a second ultrasound for us since they couldn’t coax our little bubble into the right position to tell the sex at my 20 week ultrasound. After 20 minutes, the doc still couldn’t get the little bugger to spread ‘em, so she went and visited another patient and instructed me to guzzle water in the meantime to fill my bladder. When she got back, she put me up on the table again and immediately proclaimed that we’re having a girl, with “99.9% certainty”. So, we can finally start arguing about names and buying things – yay!

* * * * *

As for work, things have been way too busy. I think everyone’s panicking because they know I’ll be leaving for maternity leave in November, so they’re loading me up with work to get done beforehand. I’m not too thrilled about it, but keep telling myself I only have a few more months of this left.

My boss has been bugging me about my maternity leave and when I’ll be back. So far I’ve told them I’m taking at least 16 weeks off, and that I won’t be returning fulltime. In the meantime, my coworkers have discovered my website and figured out that I’m pretty serious about my art. My boss actually came out and asked me the other day if I was going to quit and become an artist fulltime. I laughed it off and repeated that I won’t be back to work fulltime after the baby. That’s all they’re getting out of me for the time being!

Next week I’m heading to Baltimore for a conference on air pollution controls. I don’t particularly want to go at this point, but I figure it’ll be my last business trip for a while, so I’ll try to enjoy it!

* * * * *

Hmmm… not sure what else to say. Guess that’s it for now – my life, in a nutshell!

Oh, wait, one thing I forgot!! I'm featured in the September issue of Southwest Art Magazine as one of their "21 Under 31: The Next Generation" artists. It's a yearly article they do where they interview 21 young artists in the emerging artists issue, and I'm thrilled that they're including me this year. The magazine's out now, and I'm a bit disappointed because the printing made the painting they chose look nothing like it does in real life. The colors look like they're on crack, and the subtlety of the painting is completely lost, but I can't complain because it's really an honor to be chosen. I'm just hoping that the bad image doesn't turn people off from looking into my work.

Anyhow, next time you're at Barnes and Noble or whatnot, pick up a copy and check it out. That's my shameless plug for the day.

And now, I'm really done. Time to go home and paint!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm Outta Here!

"Flatirons from Chatauqua"
Oil on Canvas

Well, after months of craziness I finally have some time to really relax. On Monday I'll be driving down the Forbes ranch in Southern Colorado to paint and hang out with other artists for over a week (see this post for the backstory). I'm looking forward to having such a big chunk of time devoted to painting without other distractions. The ranch is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so it will be a nice retreat.

I'm a little bit nervous because I lack the credentials of many of the other chosen artists, but I'm looking forward to meeting new people and learning a lot. And since I'll be completely out of touch, I won't have to answer to my day job (yay!).

I'll probably keep a journal while I'm there and post about it when I get back. In the meantime, I'm outta here!!

The painting above is the other that will go to the client who commissioned the Mt. Evans painting that I've been working on recently. He's already seen photos of this one and approved it. Hope he likes the Mt. Evans one too!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Commission Process - PART II

Well, I spent the last few days trying to finish up the commission that I started to outline in my previous post. This is a painting that has not come easily to me, mainly because there are a number of issues with the subject matter and composition that are dictated by the client. Had I just been told to do a painting of Mt. Evans, I would have painted something completely different that what I have here. I'm okay with that - it's part of the territory of doing commissions - but it makes painting more frustrating than usual.

In my last post, I ended at the underpainting stage (also known as the UGLY stage). At this point, I've just done a quick block-in with acrylics, to give me an idea of how everything will fit together.
As I mentioned before, I could tell looking at the underpainting that the foreground needed to move up a bit and that the shape of the mountain wasn't correct. Items like this are easily fixed when I go in over the underpainting with oils.

My first step was to paint the mountain. This painting is all about the snowcapped peak of Mt. Evans, so I wanted to get the mountain in first and make sure that everything else (values, colors, composition) worked to make the peak stand out. At this point, I have completely painted over the underpainting of the mountain with fairly thick oil paint. Because I use a lot of paint, I work wet into wet and tend to finish each section as I go. I make minor tweaks later, but it's difficult to change anything major once the paint has dried since my brushtrokes are so visible.
At this point, the mountain looks a bit too white. Part of that is due to bad photography (I shot all these under the light in my studio, which isn't as accurate as outdoor light). Part of it is due to the fact that the sky isn't the correct temperature. As a check, I lightly painted over the sky with the correct color to allow me to judge things more accurately.
My preference at this point would be to leave the sky alone, but the client specifically requested clouds, so next I add some clouds. I didn't take progress pictures as I worked on the sky, but I repainted the sky with clouds about five times. I really struggled with finding a pattern of clouds that would direct attention to the mountain peak, rather than compete with it. The following is where I ended up:
Before going to bed, I used some thin paint to sketch in where I wanted to adjust the foreground. Not much to see, but I moved the trees and grassline up about an inch, just to keep the foreground from feeling to cramped.
Of course, I woke up the next morning, took one look at the painting, and decided the clouds had to go (grrr!!!). I didn't like the shapes and felt that they were too distracting. The picture doesn't show this very well, but in real life the clouds were really competing with the mountain for attention.

So - back to the drawing board. I scraped the clouds and worked on the foreground hills and trees, then put in a new sky with more whispy clouds. This was at 11 pm last night, and I was determined to get the painting to an almost finished state, so I slapped some paint on the forground grasses and stream, and called it 95% finished.

Here it is in its current state (fyi - the photograph isn't the best as there is a lot of glare and the foreground looks darker than it is). I can tell looking at this that I need to freshen up the colors in the foreground grasses to make them less dark and muddy looking. There's also a funny line outlining the top of the mountain - not sure if that's just a shadow on a ridge of paint, or actual pigment. I'll have to check it out when I get home. I'm not even going to comment on the sky because I'm so sick of it that I almost refuse to work on it anymore!!
I've really struggled with bringing this painting together, and I can't really see it for what it is quite yet. When I look at it, I see my struggle, and therefore can't judge right now if the painting is really working. It's also tough to do a painting to a client's specifications, and not be able to change things to be the way you'd prefer them. But I thought I might as well post some of the steps that got me to where I am at this point - I'll probably touch this up tonight and send photos to the client for approval.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coolest Birthday Present Ever

I know I promised my next post would be a followup to what I posted on the commission process the other day, but this is just so much more exciting (not to mention the fact that I haven't made as much progress on the commission as I had planned - oops!).

So, Tuesday was my birthday, and Nate took me out to a fancy restaurant downtown to celebrate. When we were done, he told me we had to stop on the way home and pick up my present. We drove a few blocks and pulled up to someone's garage in an alleyway, and I started to wonder what the heck he got me. We got out and walked in, and there was my NEW EASEL!!!!

I've been needing a new easel for a while now. Nate built mine for me when we were in college, and it's very sturdy and nice, but it doesn't go to full vertical and it isn't big enough to handle a canvas much larger than 24x36". I'd been salivating over the Sorg Easel for about a year now, and apparently Nate picked up on it and decided to be the coolest husband in the world and buy me one.

It just so happens that Nate's Dad works with the wife of the guy who designed these, and he was kind enough to have it shipped to his house and assemble it for us. So we picked it up there and I got custom instructions from the designer himself (who btw, is the nicest man ever).

So, here it is in it's new home in my studio:
I already love it. It's counterweighted, so I can lift and lower big canvases just by pushing with a couple of fingers. No more fiddling with knobs!! And it's big and sturdy and perfect for larger canvases. And I can tilt it to any angle I could possibly want. And it's beautiful - it looks more like a piece of furniture than an easel (well, until I get paint all over it).

My studio is in our unfinished walkout basement, so I currently have about 8.5 feet of ceiling height to work with. When (or if) we finish the basement, I'll probably have to lower the center mast of the easel about 6" to maintain the same range of up and down movement I have now, but even then it should be more than I need.

Here's a wider shot of my studio with the new easel. You can see my old one off to the left - I'll keep it forever just because Nate built it for me (and you can never have too many easels!).
Anyhow, if anyone's looking for a new easel, I'd highly recommend this one. Quality-wise, it's on par with a lot of easels that are in the $2000 price range, and it's a much better deal. I also think it's a lot more functional (I think some of the more expensive, big heavy easels are a pain because of the whole adjustment issue - knobs annoy me). It's even easy to move around on it's casters, and not too bad to transport.

Definitely a cool birthday present. My husband rocks!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Commission Process - PART I

One of the things that has surprised me most this year has been the number of people who have approached me about doing commissioned landscapes. I have information on my website about portrait commissions, but never expected that people would contact me to do landscapes on commission. I guess I just didn’t really think – it does make sense that people might like a particular artist’s style, and want a painting of a certain subject in that style.

Anyhow, I’ve been working (and procrastinating at times) on my first big commission project for a couple of months, and since I’m coming to the end of it, I thought it might be fun to document the process of one of the paintings.

This particular client wanted two paintings done – a 16x20” of the Flatirons (a rock formation in Boulder, CO) and a 24x36” of Mt. Evans (one of the 14,000 ft. peaks that towers over the front range). The painting of the Flatirons was no problem – I had a good reference photo and got to work right away. The painting of Mt. Evans is a completely different story.

Mt. Evans is highly visible from most places in Denver, but it’s nearly impossible to get a good picture of it without buildings or highways filling the foreground. This client wanted a painting of the mountain as seen from Denver, but not as an urban landscape. The best I could do for a reference photo was from a grocery store parking lot up on a hill, and the picture was taken with the 12X zoom of my digital camera.

The result? A reference photo that is definitely not suitable for a 24x36” painting!!

I had an idea of the general composition I wanted to use, and had a sketch approved by the client (below). Now the challenge would be to come up with suitable reference material to allow me to do a large painting.

So, I got creative with Photoshop and started to cut and paste with other foreground and background images. The client wanted a fall scene, with aspens and pine trees, so I put together the following and sent it off for approval.

At this point, the client decided a spring/summer scene with green trees would be a better option. Back to the drawing board!

I went down to the lake by my house and shot some pictures of cottonwoods to use as the foreground, and came up with the following:

This time the client liked the color scheme and concept. We decided to add a small stream in the foreground for interest, add some pine trees, and have more blue sky peeping out between the clouds.

I was finally ready to start, so I started with a loose underpainting in thin acrylic paint on the canvas. This is what I like to refer to as the UGLY stage of my paintings. They all go through it, and my husband is always wondering how I’ll salvage a decent oil painting from the wreckage at this point, but it’s very valuable for me.

Here’s the underpainting for the Mt. Evans commission:

It’s definitely ugly, and the final painting will look much better, but it gives me an idea of how the colors and composition are going to work together. For instance, looking at this, I can see that I want to move the mountain up a smidge so that the foreground isn’t smashed against the bottom of the canvas. I can tell that the tree line needs more interest and that some of the pine trees should be taller to help the eye travel upwards to the snowcapped peak. And the sky is just a mess at this point because I didn’t want to bother getting fancy with clouds. Not to mention that I’ve given Mt. Evans a sharp peak in the middle that it doesn’t really have!

This stage of painting probably takes me anywhere from ½ hour to an hour for a painting this size, and I find it to be very valuable. It allows me to troubleshoot ahead of time, without going to the trouble of doing a separate study.

Now it’s time to lay the oil paint on and let the painting take shape. That will be done over the next few days, so I’ll post my progress as I go and hopefully it will turn out well!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


"Gore Range Spring"
Oil on Canvas

I just returned home from a fabulous long weekend in Aspen/Snowmass, and I feel like I finally had some time to breathe for the first time in months.

I dropped off a couple of paintings at the gallery on my way out of town on Friday, mainly so that they would have a larger work of mine on display to catch interest during the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Cherry Creek is a pretty big art event in Denver, and due to location it brings thousands of people through the doors of the gallery during 4th of July weekend. Most aren’t buyers, but some are, and it pays to make an impression. So, I dropped off this larger piece, which I was only about 75% satisfied with. I would have done some further work on it if I had time, but I didn’t have that luxury, so out it went.

One thing that’s frustrating me lately is the fact that I never feel like I have quite enough time to truly finish my paintings. My last three deliveries to the gallery have gone in with wet signatures, typically no more than a week after I finished the paintings. My preference is to finish a painting, then leave it in the corner for a few weeks. When I pull it out after some time has passed, I can see more clearly if there are any areas that need more work. This is when I put on any finishing touches. Unfortunately, I’ve been so swamped the past few months that I’m completely bypassing this step. And although I’m generally satisfied with the paintings that sell, I’m a little bit uneasy that I don’t get to spend any time with them first. I just need some time to get ahead, so that I’m not always delivering paintings on a deadline!

Anyhow, once the paintings were delivered, Nate and I headed up to the mountains and left work behind us for four days. I’ve pretty much been working two full time jobs with my day job and art, and Nate’s been doing the same with his job and being the general contractor for the houses we’re building in Steamboat. We both desperately needed a few days off, so we decided to get away for a few days.

We spent most of the weekend hiking, sleeping, and eating, and I gathered some great reference material for future paintings. I also managed to check out the gallery scene, and see which galleries might be a good fit for my work in the future. Lots of people with lots of money spend time in Aspen, so it’s one of those areas that’s definitely on my list for future representation. Aspen is beautiful this time of year, so it was worth the 3.5 hour drive from home. I’ll probably post more about our trip when I get some of my pictures downloaded – it was great!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The World of Art

Paul Dorrell was commenting on the art scene in Colorado yesterday, and it got me thinking about how many sectors of the art market there really are. I read a lot of art forums and blogs, and I’m always amazed at how stratified the art world can be.

There’s the art scene in New York, which (from my vantage point in Colorado) seems to revolve on its own axis independent of the rest of the world. There’s the western art scene, which is centered around the big art markets in Scottsdale, Jackson, and Santa Fe. There are the more regional art markets, which tend to revolve around tourist traffic and more representational artwork. There’s the California plein air scene, which maybe gets a little more hype than it deserves (Isn’t it just painting outdoors? Why the fancy French name?). And so on and so on….

Outside of regional differences in the art market, there also seems to be a big divide between the world of contemporary/modern art, and that of representational art. Both sides seem to look down their nose at one another, as though the other isn’t producing real art.

Even within more specific subject matter, there are sides. In the world of portraiture, there are those who work from photographs and those who only work from life. While there are many who fit in between, those on the extremes are the most vocal, and the bickering between the two sides never seems to end. In landscape painting, there’s an ever-growing divide between the “plein-air” painter and the studio painter, and a lot of people seem to want to choose sides. As a landscape painter, it mystifies me – I paint outdoors sometimes, and I paint in the studio sometimes – what’s the big deal?

Considering that most artists are so passionate about art, I find it funny that we choose to align ourselves with different groups and choose sides. Then again, it makes sense that a bunch of people who are extremely passionate about what they do would be extremely passionate about defending their way of doing things.

I just paint what I love to paint, and sell it where people want to buy that type of work. I’m happy, and the checks are coming in, so I have no complaints. But I can’t help but wonder how much more visibility, support, and funding the arts would receive if everyone would quit their bickering and realize that we’re all working on the same thing in different forms…

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Bother to Plan At All?

What a crazy weekend.

I had nothing on my schedule this weekend, so the plan was to catch up on painting. I have 24x30” and 14x18” paintings that need to go to the gallery before this weekend, and a 24x36” and 16x20” that need to be completed for a commission. Since I had barely started any of these, I figured this weekend would be a good time to make some progress.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it really happened.

A short hike on the trail near my house on Saturday morning turned into a big ordeal when my dog Bailey got bit by a rattlesnake. Our house is in the middle of rattlesnake territory, and I see the things all the time when I’m out hiking or trail running, but I usually don’t worry too much about them. On Saturday, there was one coiled up in some rocks on the side of the trail and apparently we pissed it off because it rattled at us. Bailey was ready to sniff at it, but Nate pulled her away by her leash before she got too close.

We thought everything was fine until she stopped walking about a ¼ mile later. Anyone who knows my dog knows that she doesn’t just stop in the middle of a hike. We checked her paw for thorns and couldn’t find anything, so we tried to keep going, but she just wouldn’t put any weight on her back paw. Finally, Nate decided to run home and get the car, while I walked her through the field to the end of a cul-de-sac at the edge of our neighborhood. We didn’t see the snake strike her, but I thought her behavior was a bit bizarre so we took her into the vet right away. Sure enough, they found a snakebite on her back leg and went into emergency mode to take care of her.

In the end, we spent half of the weekend visiting our pathetic dog at the vet – it was so sad to see her laying there with an IV. Luckily we took her in right away, so she’s going to be okay and we were able to bring her home last night. Her leg is still twice the size it should be, but she’s back to being her normal hyper self.

Unfortunately, I’m probably going to be too freaked out to hike by myself on this trail anymore, which is a bummer because it’s one of my favorite things about the location of our house. Oh well…

As for painting, I only managed to finish the underpainting of the two big paintings, and get about a third of each of the gallery paintings done in oil. Other than the underpainting, I didn’t make any progress on the commission, but I have a little more leeway on time so I’m trying not to stress.

Since it’s Monday, I’m putting together a schedule now to get everything done when I need to – this is my plan for the evenings this week:

=> finish 24x30” painting (complete middle and foreground)
=> finish 14x18” painting (complete middle and foreground)
=> finish 16x20” commission (finish rocks and foreground)
=> work on 24x36” commission (finish mountain and start on sky)
=>photograph and sign paintings for gallery
=> frame and drop paintings by gallery in AM
=> leave for vacation and RELAX for five days (Aspen/Snowmass for the long weekend – woohoo!!)

And then I wonder why I feel like I have no life sometimes. Geez!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Burnout and Recovery

"Aspen Light"
Oil on Canvas Panel

About a month ago, I was feeling burned out.

Burned out on work, on art, on everything.

The feeling came after scrambling for two weeks to provide six new paintings to a gallery at a time when I was so tired from pregnancy that I could have easily slept for 12 hours a night. Once I delivered the paintings to the gallery, I spent three weeks doing a lot of nothing, and I didn’t touch a paintbrush almost the entire month of May.

At the time, I wondered where my discipline and motivation had gone, and had a lot of self-doubt. Now I’m getting back into the swing of things, and I honestly have to admit that I was mostly burned out due to the crappy first trimester of pregnancy. I wanted to do everything I always do, and my body just wasn’t up for it. Period. No negotiation.

All I’ve got to say now is THANK GOD I’m past that first trimester and feeling like myself again (minus the fact that my wardrobe is rapidly becoming un-buttonable).

I’ve been busy again the past week or so, trying get some paintings done for the gallery, working with a commission client to nail down a composition, and juggling work and life and everything else. I started five paintings last Sunday, and finished three by Tuesday so they’d be dry enough to frame and deliver today. I put the signatures and finishing touches on them last night, and framed and photographed them. I also finally got approval from a commission client to start on the second of two paintings, the composition of which we have been discussing for over a month now (that’s a whole other blog entry in itself). So now I’m finally ready to take off from work, deliver some paintings, and hop on a plane to Chicago for the weekend to attend a wedding of one of Nate’s friends.

Despite the busy schedule that doesn’t seem to end, I feel a lot better now. I’m looking forward to coming home from work on Monday and starting a couple of large paintings I have planned. No more burnout!!

(The painting above is one I’ll be delivering today. It’s small, so the brushwork actually shows in the picture for once. I had writer’s block last night, so it has a bland title, but oh well. I always figure that people buy my paintings for the image, not the title, right??)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Movin' Out

I posted a few months ago about Twyla Tharpe’s book, The Creative Habit, and how great I thought it was. After reading about her working process and some of her bigger projects, I just had to go see her show Movin’ Out when it came to town.

I went last night and I thought it was excellent. Granted, I’m a bit of a dance geek so I’d dig anything choreographed by Twyla Tharpe, but it was really good. If it comes to a town near you anytime soon, go and see it!!

I thought it was especially interesting after having read the book and knowing some of the issues she had to work through to make it a success. Knowing that audiences didn’t receive it well at first, and that there was a lot of rework involved to make it a successful Broadway show, made it fun to see the final product. It reminded me that art is never easy – it’s not just a moment of inspiration where everything comes together and you create a masterpiece. A successful work of art is the result of hard labor and serious problem solving, and sometimes it takes years of perseverance to get anywhere near where you want to be.

There’s nothing better than going to the theater or a concert to inspire some creativity. (Well, I guess going to an art museum to check out good art would fall into that category too, but you know what I mean…)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I decided that I need a new look, and I'm a bit sick of the blogger templates so I got technical and found a different one on the net. I chose this one because I like the green and the more natural color scheme. This blog has pretty much morphed into being a blog about my transition to being a full-time artist, so I wanted a background that my paintings would look decent on. I could do without the orange and the carnival scene at the top, but I think it's going to be a while before I figure out how to replace those. Until then, this is it! Any opinions?

Anyhow, life's been a bit hectic lately (what's new?!?), so I haven't had any time to post this week, but I'll be back soon!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Art and the Most Hyper Puppy Ever

Earlier this week, Tracy posted about the toxicity of the materials artists use, and whether or not our paints are really all that much more dangerous than a lot of the substances that we eat or get exposed to every day. It’s a serious topic, and I definitely err on the side of caution now that I’m pregnant, but I just wanted to share a kind of funny story that’s related to the safety of oil paints.

I have a golden retriever named Bailey, who is a bundle of love and enthusiasm, and who was completely insane when she was a puppy. I’m not joking – she was honestly the most hyperactive puppy I have ever seen. I’d never had a dog before Bailey, so I thought maybe all dogs were completely spastic when they were small, but since then I’ve learned otherwise. The antics of my friends’ dogs pale in comparison to the stuff Bailey did when she was little and fluffy. Luckily she was cute, so we loved her anyways.

Anyhow, one of her oh-so-endearing qualities the first year we had her was the tendency to eat anything in sight. Remote control, eyeglasses, paper, plastic bags, dishrags, water bottles, insulation – you name it, she digested it at one time or another.

We have a walkout basement that serves half as my studio and half as a pen for Bailey. She has a nice fenced off area with a doggie door to the backyard, and when she was completely insane as a puppy she would sleep there at night so she couldn’t destroy the house.

One morning we went downstairs and could hear her on the stairs up from the basement. Apparently she had escaped from her pen overnight and had the run of the basement for who knows how long. As soon as I opened the door I knew she’d been in my paints – she had orange paint from one end of her to the other. Paws, mouth, and belly were the unmistakable shade of cadmium orange.

Upon further investigation, I found that my tube of cad orange was missing, and the only sign of it was the orange paint on my dog, more orange paint on the carpet, and the cap. My dog had eaten an entire tube of cadmium orange oil paint, tube and all (apparently the cap didn’t taste so good though?).

I immediately freaked out. Cadmium is toxic!! My dog was going to die of poisoning from ingesting large quantities of a heavy metal!! Being a geeky engineer, the first thing I did was pull the MSDS sheets for the paint to look at the health implications of ingesting a tube of it. I called the vet and the paint company, and both assured me that in the concentration found in oil paint, cadmium is not readily absorbed by the digestive track. Apparently, eating cadmium orange oil paint is not that bad for you – inhaling it is the big risk (i.e. if you sand your paintings). They guessed that it would go right through her without harming her.

Sure enough, 24 hours later my yard was full of dollops of bright orange paint. And I say paint because the stuff was literally the exact same consistency it has straight out of the tube. She didn’t seem affected in any way (well, except when we had to give her the longest bath ever to get the paint out of her hair – then she was a bit grumpy!).

Four years later, she’s healthy as can be – let’s hope it stays that way!!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Memorial Day weekend was great, but too short as usual!! Nate wanted to look at one of our pieces of property in Steamboat Springs to decide where the best spot for the house would be, so we ended up taking a last minute trip up to the mountains with my parents.

The front range is pretty dry this spring since we haven’t gotten much rain, but the other side of the divide is another story. Steamboat got so much snow this winter that there are still spots on Rabbit Ears Pass where the snow is 4-5 feet deep, and the town itself has been painted green by all the runoff. The Yampa River is actually over its banks in spots – we took a walk downtown and had to cross the railroad tracks a few times because the trail was underwater!

When we got into town, we went over to check out the property right away. When we bought the three lots this winter, they were under about 6 feet of snow, so it’s interesting to see what’s underneath! Two of the lots are in a neighborhood that sits on the South shore of Stagecoach Lake. The picture shown here is from the upper lot looking across the lake (and not really the most scenic shot from the property). The lower lot is down near the car – it’s relatively flat and has a nice little stream that runs through it in the spring. The upper lot is just one big hill so it will be a more difficult build (this is the lot we drove up to see – had to figure out how best to dig a foundation on that hill). These lots have no power or sewer – the houses in this area depend on solar and wind power, and wells for water. The funny thing is that the area does have phone service and high speed internet!

Our third lot is my favorite, but I don’t have any pictures. It’s up the pass a ways, behind the first lots and away from the lake. It’s about an acre and the back end of the lot drops into a ravine with a hillside of pine and aspen. This lot has power, but no water/sewer.

The original plan was to build a cabin for ourselves on one lot, and build spec homes on the two other lots. Now we’re thinking that we’ll just put all three up for sale when they’re built, and see what happens. This area is a popular spot for Steamboat “locals” to live since the cost of housing in town is so prohibitive. If we could sell all three houses for a decent profit, we could then buy something closer to town. That’s the goal anyway – we seem to always change our minds!

Anyhow, someday we’ll have some sort of property to call our own in the mountains. I’d love to spend summers in Steamboat - I’m not sure at this point if I’d want to live there full time (it’s COLD in the winter!!). We’ll see….

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Heart Pickles and Ice Cream

I don't think I've said anything here yet, so for those who don't already know - I'm pregnant!!

Actually, remember a while ago when I was posting on the status of my New Year's Resolutions? I made a statement that I was NOT pregnant. Well, I was wrong. Turns out I was - just didn't know it until the next day!

I'm right at about 12 weeks (due Dec. 5th), and we had our first ultrasound last week where we got to see our little bubble moving around like crazy in-utero. Needless to say, Nate and I are really excited - this is going to be a year of a lot of changes for us!

My hope right now is that I'll be able to quit my job and stay home to be a mom and paint. I don't know what that will look like since it's still a long way off, but I know that my current job and having kids wouldn't mix. The stress overload and the lack of any schedule flexibility whatsoever make it something I just don't want to try - especially since I don't care all that much for engineering. So, if things work out I'll paint a few days a week and be a mom and see how that works out for a while.

Anyhow, it's been an overwhelming couple of months. For starters, I'm completely exhausted. Luckily I'm not puking, but I've had a hard time getting much done as it is. My painting marathon in April left me completely burned out, and I haven't done much painting since then. Because I'm planning to quit my job eventually, I've completely lost all motivation at work. And because I'm not getting anything done at work OR in the studio, I feel like a complete sloth. Unfortunately, feeling like a sloth when I have a lot to do just makes me more overwhelmed!!

So, I'm hoping things will improve soon. I've been so tired that I just don't seem to care about anything, and that just isn't me. I've been feeling a bit better the past few days, and I'm hoping it's a sign that I'll get more energy in the 2nd trimester. Nate and I went for a nice bike ride Saturday night, and hiked 6 miles yesterday. I had to take it a lot easier than I'm used to, but I felt like myself again for the first time in weeks. Hopefully the feeling sticks around - I have a commission for two landscapes that I NEED to get started on, and I need to start getting more done at work!!

Oh, and for the record, I ALWAYS love pickles and ice cream (by themselves, not together), but I was at a loss for a title today, so there you go...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Out to Prove Something

I wonder sometimes how many artists are occasionally motivated by the desire to prove other people wrong in their notions about what a career in the arts is all about.

I know I am, but sometimes I think that’s because I’m constantly surrounded by people who don’t take art very seriously.

I work full time as an engineer, and engineers (and perhaps accountants) should be placed at the very top of the list of people who think that art is not a practical career choice. The people I work with think it’s just plain odd that I paint – they don’t really know what to make of it. Apparently it’s unheard of for someone to be an engineer and into anything remotely artsy.

Because I went to an engineering school for college, most of my friends are also engineer types. When I tell people I plan to eventually drop engineering and paint full time, I get replies that fall into one of two categories. The first includes jokes ranging from, “Glad your husband has a good job,” to the oh-so-polite, “Well, there’s a reason they call them starving artists.” The second is the more positive response category, which includes any response that implies that a person approves of the idea of quitting what you tolerate to do what you love.

More and more, I find myself judging my friends by which of these categories their responses fall into. I’m very defensive – if someone who I consider a friend makes a snide comment about the money-making potential of art, I seem to unconsciously check them off of my list of allies.

Apparently this art stuff is really important to me. After all, you could make degrading comments about engineering all day and I would laugh along with you. I have no such lenience about art!

I’ve met plenty of artists who make a decent living and are able to support their families with their art. It’s damn hard work, and it takes some sacrifice, but it’s possible. And everytime somebody makes me feel like it’s not, it’s just more fuel for me to prove to them that it is.

It might take me a while to get there, but I’m working on it. I’m always up for a good challenge!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Not Worthy

I just found out a few weeks ago that I’ll have the opportunity to join 15 other artists in August at the Forbes family ranch in Southern Colorado for a week and a half of painting on what happens to be the largest conservation easement in Colorado.

I’m jazzed about this for countless reasons. For starters, I’ll get to spend nine CONSECUTIVE days painting, which is pretty much unheard of for me. Second, I’ll be painting on a ranch that I would never get to visit otherwise, which happens to consist of 250 square miles of the Colorado scenery I’m addicted to painting. And I’ll get to spend some quality time with a group of talented artists outside of the typical workshop setting. The residency is also going to provide some good publicity in American Artist magazine, and a show at the Forbes Galleries in New York. What more could I ask for?

To be completely honest, when I sent in my application a couple of months ago I thought there was no way I would be accepted. So, now that I’ve found out I get to go, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation. You know - like am I really qualified to be a part of this group?

I was doing fine until I got the list of participants and spent an afternoon googling them (what would I do without the internet?). Among the group of fifteen are a few folks from the Art Students League in NY, a guy who is an art history professor, another guy who teaches at a well-known atelier, a handful of very successful established artists from the West, and a couple of younger people who have university art degrees and have studied in fancy places like Italy

Then there’s me. I’m a chemical engineer. I design air pollution control systems 40 hours a week and paint when I can fit it in. I’ve only been painting landscapes since 2002. I don’t have ANY formal art education. I’ve taken four workshops with landscape artists whose work I respect, which count for a total of only ELEVEN days of instruction. On top of that I’ve taken a couple of figure drawing/painting classes through the continuing ed department at an art school in town. My mantra as I enter the art world is, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Faking it is what I do, since I don’t really have any fancy credentials.

I feel woefully unprepared to hang out with this group of people for nine days. What will I have to say? I’m just sure that I know nothing about art compared to everyone else there. Eeek!!!

BUT! Because I’m a little bit freaked out, I know that this will be a valuable experience. That’s how it always works. The things that are easy usually don’t teach you anything, right? I just hope I can contribute something to this group of accomplished people. Maybe I’ll have a different perspective. Who knows? I guess I’ll find out!!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wide Open Spaces

After college, Nate and I moved to Houston and bought our first house in what was most definitely suburbia. I used to go jogging on the streets of my neighborhood, and think of how I would be so much more hip if I lived downtown. I wanted to sell our big house with a pool and buy a cool townhome in Memorial Park or the Heights, and spend my weekends jogging around the Rice University Campus and hanging with friends at trendy restaurants and bars.

I thought that this would make me happy. I thought this was the type of life you should have when you’re only 22.

I wasn’t very honest with myself.

Seriously, what a joke. The person that I really am used to mourn every night that I couldn’t see the stars in Houston because of the humidity and pollution. I used to run at sunset on a deserted country road on the outskirts of our neighborhood, because it was the closest I could get to some open space and peace. I didn’t feel like myself for two years because I couldn’t sleep with the windows open and wake up to the smell of cut grass and rain. Sometimes I would jump in the car and drive and hour out of town just to remind myself that the world wasn’t all strip malls and highways.

I only lasted two years in Houston, and then I moved back home to Colorado. It wasn’t because I had a boring house in the ‘burbs and a job I didn’t like – it was because so much of who I am is wrapped up in wildness and the great outdoors.

I’m just not a city girl. I’m old enough now to be honest with myself about that.

I think I could live downtown for about week, after which time I would start craving the wide open spaces and red dirt trails that are home to me.

Being outdoors reminds me that there’s a whole world out there. Outside of the little sphere of my own life, the seasons continue to change and the stars continue to shine. The world goes on outside of my own drama.

When I step out the door and go for a hike, a trail run, a bike ride, or a backpacking trip, it’s because I have to. Sometimes I just need to be grounded. I need to be brought back down to reality. I need to be reminded that there’s lot of beauty in the world that we take for granted, and that none if it has anything to do with me.

And that’s why I paint. Because I want other people to see what I see, when they otherwise might not notice.

It’s as simple as that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Busy busy...

Yay! April is over!! The entire month was so crazy busy that I’m glad to see it go. Way too many things to do, and not enough time.

I feel like I’ve done nothing but work, eat, paint, and sleep for an entire month.

A bunch of the paintings that I dropped at the gallery last month sold, which was fantastic, but meant that I had to produce another batch for them to hang ASAP! I had been working on one big painting since the beginning of the month, so I spent the past two weeks in a flurry of painting trying to produce a few smaller paintings to frame.

It’s a great feeling to be selling, and I feel like I’m on the right path in my transition from engineer to painter, but I’m exhausted!! I feel like I’ve been working two full time jobs, with no time for anything else.

Luckily, I put the finishing touches on all the paintings this weekend, and got them framed and signed and out the door. This painting is the largest of the batch – it went out the door this morning with the paint still wet.

Title: “Last Light – Beaver Creek”
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 24x30”

In real life, the foreground of this painting was a golf course fairway with pond and obnoxious fountain included. I had to do some creative editing to eliminate the golf green and fountain!!

I’m taking a break from painting tonight. It’s been beautiful outside lately and I haven’t been able to enjoy it, so I’m going for a nice easy bike ride after work and then I’m going to go to sleep EARLY!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ten Below

So, March is officially over, and it’s finally beginning to look like spring in Denver. It’s been great hiking and biking weather down here, and the mountains are warming up too. Nate went up to Steamboat to check out our properties today, and said they’ll be snow free in a couple of weeks. Thank God – I was getting REALLY sick of winter!

I just finished this painting - it’s more reminiscent of the cold days of winter than the current spring weather. I took the reference photo by pointing the camera out the window while driving down highway 9 between Frisco and Kremmling at sunrise. I kept asking Nate what the reading on the car thermometer was, since we were on our way to ski and it looked COLD. It was ten below, hence the title of the painting.

Title: Ten Below
Medium: Oil on Canvas Panel
Size: 12x16”

The cool thing is that this weekend I met with some gallery owners who decided to take me on. They took nine of my paintings including this one, and I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I am to finally have gallery representation. It didn’t really sink in on Sunday, but I stopped by yesterday to drop off a painting and my signed contract, and they already had a bunch of my paintings hung. It was completely surreal to see my work hanging in a gallery – I had to do a double take before I realized they were my paintings.

Now, let’s just hope that my paintings sell well so they keep me around!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Status Check

I really don’t get into the whole New Year’s thing, and normally refuse to make resolutions in protest of the implied notion that we all need a day once a year when we recommit ourselves to do all of the things that we should already be doing. If you want to do something, why wait until the start of a new year?

Despite my decidedly anti-resolution feelings, I gave in and made some resolutions this year, and I published them here for other people to see. Now I’m accountable – oops!!

I just remembered my lapse of judgment in making said resolutions this morning, and decided to check my progress so far this year. Apparently it’s the end of March already, and the first quarter of the year is coming to a close (even though it feels like it’s only been 2006 for like, two weeks). The good news is, I think I’m making good progress!! Maybe I should make resolutions more often…

Here they are:

1) Obtain gallery representation for my landscape paintings.

I thought this was the most challenging of my goals, but I’m almost there. I’m meeting with a gallery this weekend and another next weekend to show them my paintings in person. Assuming all goes well and my paintings don’t look awful in person compared to online, I will be able to mark this off my list. This of course is mostly thanks to KT for being the coolest friend ever and putting in a good word about me with her gallery owner friends (thanks!!), and the plein air painting org I joined for getting my name out there. So, please cross your fingers for me at 11 am on Sunday when I will be showing my paintings, in real life, to a gallery owner (and a nice gallery, at that), for the FIRST time ever. Eeeek!! I’m excited and nervous – I feel like I’m going to a job interview or something.

2) Get a painting accepted to the Arts for the Parks competition or an Oil Painters of America show.

Done. Got a painting accepted to the OPA show, which surprised the heck out of me. Now I have to actually paint a picture from a national park if I want to enter AFTP – we’ll see how that goes. I have until May 31st to get that entry together…

3) Find the right piece of property to buy in Steamboat Springs so Nate and I can eventually build the mountain cabin we’ve been dreaming about for years.

Done. We found three pieces of property in the Stagecoach Lake area and closed on them two weeks ago. We decided to forego the waterfront property and be logical and buy some property near the lake that would allow for a better investment opportunity (that sounds so boring and grown up - sigh…). The plan is to build a cabin for us on one lot, then build a couple of spec homes on the others this year and next. Of course, this means that now I have to commit to a serious budget because we spent all our money on land – grr….

4) Think about having kids (yes, think about it – I’m not committing to anything here)

Um, no comment.

On second thought, that makes it sound like I’m pregnant or something, so just to clear things up – I am NOT pregnant.

5) Swim 200,000 yards (swam ~80,000 in 2005, which wasn’t nearly enough considering that I love the water)

I hate to admit that I’ve only swam 15,700 yards so far, and that half of those were from two tough masters practices in early March. Which indicates that I’ve only hit the pool about 5 times this year. Oops. Things have been moving so well with my art that I’ve neglected my triathlon habit bigtime – I think I’ve actually come to terms with the fact that there will be no triathlon season for me this year. Why bother if I can’t commit to a decent training schedule? I might try to do some open water swimming and trail running races, but I’m not stressing about it. It’s just not a priority this year, and that’s okay with me (even if all my triathlon friends think I’m being lazy).

Monday, March 20, 2006


It's the first day of spring, which means (of course) that it's snowing and that it took me and hour and a half to get to work this morning.

Nevermind the fact that it was 70 degrees in Denver a few weeks ago. Since it's the first day of spring, it just HAD to snow. I would probably be happy about this if I didn't have to work and could go skiing today, but since I had to slog my way into the office this morning I'm not feeling so excited about it.

I am so ready for summer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Geeking Out

You know you’re an art geek when:

A) You have a temper tantrum on the way to work because your favorite CD is skipping, and upon investigation you find that you managed to get blue oil paint on it last night.

B) It completely makes your day when you visit your favorite artist’s website and find that he has updated it for the first time in months with NEW images. Woohoo – inspiration!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taking the Leap

I’ve been dreaming of being an artist for what seems like my entire life. If you had asked me when I was 12 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have undoubtedly answered that I wanted to be an artist. There was never any question.

Somewhere along the way, I lost touch with that dream and took a big detour into engineering. Now I’m digging myself out of that hole, and feeling like I’m on the right track once again, but it’s been tough. I’ve been painting seriously for three years now, and while my work has improved immeasurably, there haven’t been any tangible milestones to imply that I might be on my way to the realization of that childhood dream.

To a point though, I’m the one who determines my success or failure at this venture, and my lack of progress so far is a direct result of my actions (or inaction, to be more accurate).

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” — Robyn Davidson

So, I’ve decided it’s time to act, and this past weekend was my weekend to start.

I got a kick in the pants on Friday when a gallery in the mountains found my work through a painting organization I belong to, and contacted me about the possibility of showing my work. I have a meeting set up in a few weeks to show them my paintings in person – hopefully they like them as much in real life as they did on the web!

Thanks to Nate gloating about my acceptance into the OPA show, I also ended up showing my website to a gallery owner downtown who I highly respect and trust. My work isn’t to the point that he would think of representing me (he carries a lot of very established, well-known landscape painters), but I value his opinion very much and he seemed pleasantly surprised by the quality of my work.

So the good thing is that I learned that having gallery owners view my work isn’t the big, scary thing I had thought it might be. The world didn’t end. I didn’t face immediate rejection. And best of all, some doors might have opened that were previously locked closed due to my fear of failure.

With the boost of self-confidence that came from the gallery contact, I spent the weekend assembling my marketing materials and portfolio for a few other opportunities. I sent off a package to apply for a weeklong painting residency in Southern Colorado, offered as a contest by a prominent magazine. Then I took what to me seemed to be a big leap and sent off another package to a prominent arts publication, asking them to consider featuring my work in one of their yearly emerging artist features.

Every inch of my being fought me as I put together the materials for both submissions – my brain was trying desperately to convince me that I wasn’t worthy, that it was a waste of time, that they would laugh at my submission or throw it in the trash. But I decided that I’ve spent too many years listening to those voices, and that it was time to make a move. I figure it’s better to try than to never give myself the opportunity, right?

So, here I go, fingers crossed that some of these opportunities work out. Even if they don’t, I’ve taken my first steps. And those first steps will take me farther than staying in place ever will.

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” — William Jennings Bryant

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wasting Time

So, I had a brief respite from meetings this morning, and of course I ended up taking this quiz rather than doing real work (maybe I need to work on my time management skills).

Anyhow, for Harry Potter addicts out there (Shannon), what Harry Potter character are you? Apparently, I'm Hagrid:

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

I used to be an INFP personality by the Meyers-Briggs, but haven't taken the test in a while, and think I've probably changed a bit. The description here fits me - I am very loyal to the people I consider my friends, and I do tend to work hard.

The part about being underappreciated doesn't sit well with me, but I do have a hard time seeking out praise. For instance, I'm very uncomfortable with putting my artwork out there for people to see. I'm at a point right now where I need to start approaching galleries to find representation, and putting my work out there is a big stumbling block for me. I feel like it would be boastful to send my work to someone with a message about how great it is and how they should want to represent me. It just rubs me the wrong way! Guess I'm going to have to get used to it if I want to get anywhere.

Okay, back to work now - seriously!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Below the Divide

Life has been over-the-top hectic for a while now. I thought I'd get a break at the end of February, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. The good news is that I'm finally learning to enjoy painting as a sort of vacation from real life.

I used to let stress at work sap my energy, which left me with nothing left for painting. If work was busy, I wouldn't paint for weeks. I realized that I needed to learn to be more productive if I'm ever going to make this a full time pursuit, so I've been working on pushing through and painting in the face of stress. After all, painting is the only thing I do where my mind is so consumed by the process that I think of little else for hours.

That said, I managed to finish this painting last weekend. We took a backpacking trip up to Crater Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Granby last summer, and it was easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. This painting doesn't really show off the awe-inspiring beauty of the place, but it reminds me of the trip anyways. This was the view looking across the lake - our campsite was actually in the pine trees on the hill on th left hand side. I'm not 100% thrilled with this painting, but sometimes you've just got to call it done when you know you aren't getting anywhere.

Title: "Below the Divide"
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 18x24"

Saturday, February 18, 2006


While I was doing my grocery shopping at Super Target today (a horrifying experience worthy of it's own blog entry), I spotted this dress hanging on a rack at the edge of the women's clothing section.

It made such an impression on me that I took it upon myself to find it on Target's website, just so I could share it with you all.

Seriously, what a miserable throwback to the mid-80's! I think I had one of those bubble-type skirts in 4th grade. Throw a strapless top on the thing, and use a gaudy blue and green plaid, and you get this concoction.

Who is the target audience for this article of clothing? I don't even know any 13 year olds who would think this was cool.

It's just plain foul. That's all there is to it.

And you too can own it for the bargain price of $39.99!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Snail Mail

I checked the mailbox last night on my way home from Steamboat, and found inside the self-addressed stamped envelope that I sent in with my entry to the Oil Painters of America National Show. Talk about nerves - I haven't been so nervous to open something in a LONG time!

It reminded me of when I was a senior in high school and I would check the mail for responses from colleges. I always looked for a big, fat envelope from the colleges at the top of my list because that would mean that they had sent an acceptance letter along with a bunch of fun info about the school. A thin business-sized envelope signaled rejection in a few sentences - heartbreak.

Getting a response about an art show is kind of similar. When you enter an art show, you typically send slides of your painting(s) with your application, and enclose an SASE for the response. If you're declined, they send your slides back in the SASE. If you're accepted, they keep the slides on file and send you instructions for delivering your painting.

So, of course, the first thing I did when I checked the mail was feel the envelope for my slide. And it wasn't there!!! Sure enough, inside was my acceptance to the 15th Annual Exhibition of Traditional Oils - wahoo!!!

I'm totally psyched. This is one of a handful of big shows that were on my "goal" list for the next few years and I didn't even think I'd get accepted this year. But I did, and I'm totally excited because this means that my painting is going to hang in the same gallery with some of the most amazing painters alive today - how cool is that? And it gives me something of substance to put on my resume - finally!

The show runs May 5 to June 13 at the Dana Gallery in Missoula, Montana. I'm hoping to get up there for the opening, but it'll be tricky - Nate's graduation for his MBA is the day after the opening, and that's a definite no-miss event, so we'll see what we can swing.

Either way, I'm excited - I feel like a lot of my hard work last year is finally starting to pay off!!