Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 In Review

(Sorry - I was feeling too lazy to dig up a photo of a new painting, so all you get is a gratuitous shot of the mountains from a trail a couple miles from my house. Don't you wish you lived here?)

Well, the year is just about over, so I guess it's time to status my goals one last time for 2009. At the start of the year I set a bunch of goals and told myself I was going to publicly comment on their status every month to keep me on track. Holding myself accountable on a monthly basis really kept me motivated, but by the end of the year I felt like a broken record so I didn't update the last two months. Anyhow, here's the final update!

1. Get my work into three more galleries.

DONE. I started showing at two mountain galleries in early summer, and am also showing my work at the gallery in Ft. Collins where I had my show in October.

2. Complete 100 paintings.

DONE. As of today, I've painted 116 paintings so far this year! I did a lot of small plein air studies during the last half of this year, which helped me reach this goal quickly. I'm really happy that I was able to meet this goal. Pushing myself to produce a lot of paintings has really improved my skills, and given me the confidence that I can supply multiple galleries. Mileage on the brush never hurt anyone!!

3. Sell enough work to pay our mortgage.

DONE. I really wanted to feel like I was contributing to our household finances this year, and I feel like I was able to do that. Since we're both self-employed and don't have a "regular" paycheck, every bit helps!

4. Update painting database and financial records monthly.

DONE. This might have been the most useful goal I set for myself this year, because it forced me to look at my numbers every month and thus hold myself accountable for my progress.

5. Race in a minimum of three 5k's.

Yeah, this didn't happen. I did run one five mile race this summer, so it wasn't a complete failure!! But for the most part, I didn't get back to the fitness level I intended, which is a bit of a bummer. Guess I'll have to try harder next year.

The thing about setting goals at the beginning of the year is that you don't know where life will take you in the year ahead. That's why I love Alyson Stanfield's idea of listing one's accomplishments at year end, as a way to take stock of the things you DID do, regardless of what goals you did or did not meet. So, here are the things I'm proud to have done this year:

  • Participated in Colorado Governor's Art Invitational Show for the first time
  • Had two paintings accepted to the Salon International Show at Greenhouse Gallery
  • Had one painting awarded Jury's Top Fifty at the Salon International show
  • Participated in the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters National show/paint out in August
  • Got invited to submit work to the Mountain Oyster Club show and sale in Tucson
  • Participated in a 6 month mentorship with Jay Moore
  • Met a bunch of great painters through PAAC, RMPAP, this blog, and the mentorship program
  • Moved to the mountains - a life goal that I wasn't quite sure I'd ever get to!!
  • Tripled 2007 profits from my art
  • Doubled number of paintings sold from 2007 to 2008
  • Most important, had fun and maintained balance in my life while doing all of the above!!!

Overall, 2008 has been a good year. I feel like I managed to get my art career back on track after floundering a bit in 2007. I've had a ton of fun living in the mountains, painting for a living, and spending quality time with my husband and daughter - couldn't ask for much more!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Oil on Panel

I’ve mentioned in passing here that I’ve spent the last six months participating in a mentorship program with artist Jay Moore, and I’ve had a bunch of you ask me to share more information about what I’ve been doing, so here it is. Bear with me if this gets really long – I might ramble (not like that’s anything new), because what I’ve been doing is important enough to me that I’ve devoted half a year to it, so I might have a lot to say!

Why I Needed This

I’ve had the occasional friend or family member (and even a couple of artist acquaintances) look at me like I was kind of crazy when I said I was doing this mentorship, so let me start by saying this:

As a professional artist, I’m acutely aware of my shortcomings.

Yes, I have the occasional day where I’ve sold a few paintings or been accepted to a big show, when everything is great and I get this feeling that I’m a decent painter. But most of the time, I’m aware that I have a long way to go to become a great artist, and I know that my pursuit of excellence is one that will be with me my entire life. I think that the death of many artists is complacency, and that those who have long and successful careers as artists always seem to me to have a willingness and desire to seek out learning experiences, no matter their level of competency.

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering (which was no easy feat), but my art education has consisted of four 2-3 day workshops and a couple of figure drawing and painting classes. I’m painfully aware that I am lacking in the art education department, no matter how many books I may have read or paintings I have examined. Seeking out learning opportunities is important for me, because I don’t want this to hold me back in my career.

About a year and a half ago, I was just getting the wheels moving on my career as an artist after officially taking the leap when I had Aspen. I felt like I was floundering a bit and seriously needing some guidance from someone who had been where I was. I didn’t want to sign up for another workshop, because I wasn’t interested in learning another artist’s technique, and what I needed was more than I could learn in a week. I wanted to find someone who would mentor me on a more long term basis so we could see what I was learning and build on it, and also cover some more business related topics. I wanted to improve my painting skills, and get some input on some of the new decisions I was having to make about where to go with my art business.

Who I've Been Studying With

I had taken a couple of short workshops with Jay Moore way back when I was just starting to paint. Actually, I took my first workshop ever with him – I had never painted a landscape, and was totally out of my element, but I came away from that first outdoor painting workshop convinced that I was going to drop portrait painting and paint landscapes from that point on. I remembered that at the time he had talked about a six month mentorship program he was doing with more serious artists, which seemed sort of perfect for where I was at last year.

Now here’s the thing – not all artists are good teachers. And I wanted to make sure I was studying with someone who could TEACH, not just paint well. Because I had studied with Jay before, I already knew that he could teach well, and I knew that his teaching method would be good for the level I was at. If you haven’t had a chance to take a workshop with Jay, he’s got some great videos out that teach some of his big ideas about seeing the landscape. He’s not the kind of guy who picks up your paint brush and shows you how to paint a tree, or a rock, or water – he’s more focused on the fundamentals of what makes a good painting than teaching technique, and to me that’s a good thing at this point. I don’t want to learn some other artist’s technique, and have everyone say, “Man, Stacey really paints like _____” – I want to learn how to paint like ME, but make my paintings as good as possible!

So, I called him up and asked if I could do the mentorship. Turned out that he had a five year waiting list for the one-on-one mentorship, and was tossing around the idea of doing the mentorship with a group this year and video-taping the sessions to make an in-depth teaching series. I said “Sign me up!”, and then waited (not so patiently!) for a year until we started.

What It's All About

The six month long mentorship started in July, with a group of artists of different levels meeting every two weeks for a lecture/critique session. In between each session, we have assignments designed to improve skills in different areas, and it’s been fun to do the program as a group and see how each person has different strengths and weaknesses, and learn from each other’s critiques.

The lectures have been videotaped during every session, and Jay is working to put them together with demos of the assignments to make a series of DVDs that will be available for sale toward the end of the summer in 2009. He’s spent 15 years of his career putting together the material for this mentorship, and has put a lot of thought and effort into the concepts that make up the curriculum. Now that I’ve gone through it, I can say it’s been immensely valuable and that I’m glad that he’s been willing to put forth all this effort and share so much of what he knows. I think that a lot of the material we covered is unique for a painting class, yet valuable for any artist. As soon as the videos are released, you all can bet that I’ll be reminding you they’re available, because I know they’ll be really good!

So, every other Monday night, I drive down to Denver, go to class, and drive back the next morning (thanks to a supportive husband who has no problem playing Mr. Mom when I’m gone). And when I get back, I spend the next two weeks juggling my assignments (often 10-20 hours worth of work) with my other painting commitments (galleries, shows) and trying to be a good mom. It hasn’t been easy to get everything done, considering I only have two full days a week to paint and do the rest in the evenings or when Aspen is napping. It was especially rough in August and September when I did the RMPAP plein air show and had to prepare for a three-person show in October. Luckily, things have slowed a bit since then, and I’ve been able to focus more on the mentorship, and a bit less on the studio painting.

The lectures and assignments have run the gamut of topics, from painting and drawing to advertising and dealing with galleries and collectors. I’ve learned a lot about my shortcomings as an artist, and I feel like I have a lot of ideas and knowledge now that are going to help me throughout my career. Some of the specific assignments are things I know I’ll repeat in the future to brush up on certain skills, and a lot of them have helped me come to some important conclusions about my goals and what decisions I need to make to go where I want to go. I’m a little bit stubborn, so I know that a lot of the lessons I’ve learned in the past six months won’t sink in for a while. The cool thing about that is knowing that even when the mentorship is over next month, I won’t stop learning, and I’ll have the tools I need to critique my own work and learn for years to come.

Doing the mentorship has pushed me to do some things that are outside of my comfort zone, which I’m convinced is making me a better painter. I’ve been doing more plein air painting, doing paintings of subject matter and/or compositions that I wouldn’t have considered before, and working on skills that I might not have thought were important. I’m becoming more conscious of things that didn’t even cross my radar screen as being important in a painting before, that seem to have a huge impact for me now. In the end, I haven’t seen my style shift, but I’ve seen my skills improve, and I think I’m going to be a lot more effective at really saying what I want to say with my paintings once all these lessons have some time to sink into my thick skull.

More than anything, I think it’s been helpful to have someone critique my work on a regular basis. Jay doesn’t let things slide, and he can spot a shortcut or laziness from a mile away, so we don’t get away with a lot – I always come away from our Monday night sessions with my head full of new ideas and things to be conscious of. And sometimes what I think is my best work is met with the most criticism, which has actually been great because I haven’t gotten a critique yet that I didn’t agree with once I thought about it. Of course, now my standards are higher, and I find myself groaning when I look at paintings that I thought were good just a few months ago (the cringe factor, magnified)!

The mentorship is over in a few weeks, and I’m kind of sad because it was such a good learning experience, but kind of happy that I’ll have more time to start applying some of what I learned to my studio painting. As it comes to a close, I’m totally glad I’m made the time to do it – it’s been really valuable. As the economy has screeched to a halt over the past few months, it’s become clear to me that we artists need to focus on quality now more than ever, and I think that this has come along at just the right time for me. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in a program like this, and thankful to have found someone so generous with their knowledge to help me on my way (thanks Jay!!!).

Demo - Fall Aspens, Final

"Aspen Gold"
Oil on Panel

No real progress on this one - just wanted to post a better picture of the final painting than the one at the end of the demo. There should be less glare here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Demo - Fall Aspens Part 2

Okay, so when I left off yesterday (see my previous post for the start of this demo), I had just finished blocking in the major shapes and color for this painting. I'm sometimes leary of painting subject matter like this - the aspens are so bright in the fall that it's easy to go too far when painting them. One thing on my mind as I'm working this painting is to make sure that the yellow leaves of the aspens are contrasted by greys in the background and trunks. Without the use of more neutral colors, the leaves wouldn't appear to be as bright as they are, and the whole painting could be overwhelming. Anyhow, so here's where we left off:

Next, I start to work back into the dark knots on the trunk, giving them more shape and adding some darker twigs and branches.

At this point, the aspen foliage is a bit blocky and lacking in dimension, so I start to work back into it, starting by adding some more color to the darker areas, and defining the shape of the trees more accurately.

Next, I add some lighter values to the foliage to give it more dimension and light. At this point, I'm using more paint and using texture to give the leaves some visual interest up close.

The last major area that needs work is the grass in the foreground. As with the other areas, I work into the hillside with darker values first, then lighter values, trying to soften this area a bit so that it doesn't compete with the aspens for interest.

So, that's where I've left the painting at this point. Here are a few closeups (sorry for the glare):

I'd say the painting is about 97% done at this point. Looking at it now, I can see a few things that are bugging me - the lower right hand corner is undefined, and the strong diagonal of the grassy hill is leading the eye right down and out of the painting. There's some funkiness going on in the mid-left. I'll wait a few days and go back in to rework these areas, and I'll post a better final photo then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Demo - Fall Aspens Part I

Anyone who has been following my blog for awhile or looked over any of my previous painting demos might know that I used to have a pretty analytical studio painting approach that involved painting over a complete and dry oil or acrylic underpainting. Over the past few months, I've done so much plein air painting that I've gotten used to a more direct method of painting, and completely changed my studio technique as a result. I figured I might as well take some progress shots and post a new demo of a current painting.

I was working on a batch of underpaintings one day when it occured to me that I HATED the process of underpainting. So, I stopped doing it. Now I do my studio paintings wet-on-wet, with the exception of minor corrections at the end, and I'm loving the process of painting so much more!

So, I'm trying to get some paintings done for a few spring shows, and for this one I wanted to do something with bright fall aspens. I'm doing this painting on a 24x18" Ampersand gessobord, and using a palette of titanium white, cad yellow lemon, cad yellow light, cad orange, quinacridone red, perm alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue. To start, I sketch in my composition using a thinned mixture of alizarin, ultramarine, and white.

Once the drawing is done, I block in the yellow foliage of the aspens using paint thinned with mineral spirits. I like to get these in first in a painting like this so that the color is nice and clean from the start. At this point, I'm using a 1" hog bristle brush to keep things nice and basic.

Next, I start to block in the background around the aspens, still using fairly thin paint. I want to reserve thicker paint for later stages of the painting, and leave the background thin so it recedes.

I continue to work forward, using slightly thicker paint as I block in the foliage in the foreground. I'm mainly trying to put down major shapes, colors, and values at this point, still using the 1" brush.

Once the background is blocked in, I start to paint the aspen trunks, first indicating the placement of the dark knots. At this point I switch to a smaller (size 6 or 8) brush so that I can go a bit smaller with my brushstrokes.

Next, I start to paint the darker side of the aspen trunks, trying to make sure I have the values right in comparison to my background, and using different colors and values to indicate the curvature of the trunks. I work with flat bristle brushes (still the size 6-8), and use the side of the brush to block in some of the thinner branches.

Once the darker part of the trunks is complete, I go back in and paint the sunlit side of the aspens. I use a palette knife or small liner brush for the highlights on the background trunks and smaller twigs.

At this point the block-in is complete and I'm ready to start refining different areas of the painting.

This is a good point to stop, so I'll post the rest tomorrow!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Catching Up

"Calm Waters, Endo Valley"
Oil on Panel

Well, I went on vacation for a week and when I returned it was like winter had suddenly come to our little town in the mountains. I'd say we've gotten six inches of snow since dinnertime tonight, and it's still coming down. The good skiing opens up at Mary Jane tomorrow, and it's looking snowy right in time for Christmas!

I love painting in the winter. There's just nothing better than padding into my studio on a snowy day, all cozy in my slippers and sipping a nice cup of tea while I paint. Winter slows me down, and I like having the time to work on larger paintings and try new things in the studio.

I have a bit less pressure to produce for my galleries right now, but I always have a slew of show deadlines in January, so I'm busy working on larger pieces for those, and starting a new commission. I've also got to finish up my work for the mentorship I've been doing the past six months. I've been keeping up with my "homework" for the most part, but I've got a few assignments to redo before I'm done, and I've fallen hopelessly behind on my drawing assignments. One thing I've learned in the last six months of painting "bootcamp" is that I'd much rather paint than draw with a pencil anyday - I procrastinate so badly when it comes to working on paper. Obviously something I need to work on!

Anyhow, it's been two weeks since I picked up a brush and I'm totally excited to lock myself in the studio tomorrow. I'm rested and recharged from vacation, and ready to go!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Yay for Vacation

I'm currently wrapped in a cozy down comforter, watching 30 Rock, and chilling out after a day of doing pretty much nothing here in Jackson Hole. We were itching to go on a road trip, so we figured we'd check out Jackson before the winter crowds hit. So far, we haven't done much - checked out some art galleries, took a drive to check out the tetons, read books by the fire, ate a lot. This is my kind of town - good art and great mountain scenery!

I'm ready to get back to painting though - a week off and I'm ready to get back to work. And I miss my little Aspen. It's nice to have some kid-free time, but I can't wait to see her on Saturday. It's kind of nice to go on vacation and look forward to getting back home. A few years ago, I would have dreaded going home and having to go to work.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Close Call

"Red Rock View"
Oil on Panel

Everyone reading this blog do yourself a big favor and back up your computer files ASAP if you don't already do it on a regular basis!! Just a little reminder from a moron who didn't and almost lost everything two nights ago...

You would think I would know better than this. I've lost hard drives before, and it's never pretty. I've been saying for months that I need to backup my files, and when my computer started acting suspicious a week ago, I knew that I really needed to get on it. I kept having certain songs freeze up in itunes, and I suspected that the files were corrupted. I had Nate get me an external hard drive when he was in Denver on Wednesday, and planned to back everything up that night.

Unfortunately, by the time I got the drive my computer was not recognizing any of my USB ports, so I couldn't download anything to the drive. I decided to go with plan B and burn DVDs of all my data, but that didn't work either since my computer got hung up everytime it found a corrupted file, and apparently there were a lot of them! So, there I was finding photo after photo that were corrupted, and panicking because I couldn't get any of them onto another disk - not good at all.

It was at this point that I realized how dependent I, an artist, am on my computer. I have 3,000 photos from this year alone, categorized on my computer as possible reference material for paintings. I have another 2 GB of photographed paintings from this year alone, which are the only visual record I have of my paintings, other than the photos on my website. I have a database with information on every painting I've ever done, in addition to collector contact information and notes. I have multiple spreadsheets of my financials, including the one I keep up-to-date for my taxes. Some of this could be replaced, but the photos could not. And so I spent Wednesday in a state of panic - I hadn't backed up my files in over a year - eek!!

Luckily my Dad was here for Thanksgiving (yay for computer expert Dad!!), and he reminded me that I could run Windows check disk to find and mark all of the corrupted files. I bit my nails for 5 hours while it ran (and while I watched it flag photo after photo as corrupted), and said a prayer as it rebooted. Luckily, it had removed the bad files so was able to burn DVDs of everything left, and also back everything up to external drive. I spent Thanksgiving breathing a gigantic sigh of relief (and ordering a new hard drive).

So, if you don't have backup of images of your paintings, database files, contacts, or anything important, DO IT NOW!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


"Study - Berthoud Pass View"
Oil on Panel

Well, this one's been spreading through the art blogs like wildfire, so I suppose it was only a matter of time - I've been tagged by E. Floyd and Theresa Rankin, and here are the rules:

1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment on their blogs to let them know

I've done a couple of these before so I have a feeling I've probably already covered most of my unusual qualities, but here goes another attempt:

1. I'm terrified of spiders. It's totally irrational, and I know it. Every once in a while I'll have a dream about spiders and jump out of bed screaming - Nate has learned to grab me once I start to jump so I won't pull all the covers off the bed. Luckily, this only happens when I'm really stressed out, and I don't get all that stressed now that I don't have a corporate job.

2. I'm a total clutz. During the RMPAP plein air event in August, I dropped my tripod in the Colorado River while I was painting in Rocky Mountain National Park. So I had to take my shoes and socks off and wade out into the freezing river to get it, and a fly fisherman across the river was totally laughing at me. Maybe instead of laughing he could have waded out there in his waders and gotten it for me?

3. Now that I live in the mountains, I crave chain restaurant food - like, sometimes I really wish I could have salad and breadsticks from the Olive Garden, or chips and salsa from Chili's, or a Chipotle burrito. Of course, living in the mountains MORE than makes up for the lack of shopping and chain restaurants here. When I've been in Denver for a weekend, I breathe a huge sigh of relief as soon as I hit the top of the pass and look down the valley toward home, even if there is no Chili's within 90 miles.

4. I still have my baby blanket, which I call my huggy. I would seriously be devastated if anything happened to it.

5. I hate taking medicine of any type. I'd rather whine and be miserable than take cold medicine or a pain reliever - I don't know why, I just don't like to take meds. I was really bummed this year to find out that I have an underactive thyroid, which means I'm stuck taking a pill every day for the rest of my life - ugh...

6. I like to drive - nothing's better than a long road trip and some good tunes.

7. My least favorite part of my job is coming up with titles for my paintings. I'm so boring - I think I just name half of them using the following formula: time of day + location = painting title. Sometimes I substitute this formula with: weather phenomenon + location = painting title. You know, just to mix things up a little.

Now I'm supposed to tag seven other bloggers, and I'd just like to state for the record that this is not an easy task considering how many wonderful blogs I read, and considering how many people have already been tagged. Anyhow, here they are, and I'm sure some of these folks have already been tagged, but I tried to find people who hadn't done this yet:

1. Susan Carlin
2. Frank Gardner
3. Michael Lynn Adams
4. Cynthia Guajardo
5. Brian Kliewer
6. Peter Yesis
7. Mike Bailey

Friday, November 14, 2008

Studio Music

"Willow Creek Reflections"
Oil on Panel

Most artists I know are pretty particular about what they listen to when they paint, and I'm no exception. Unless I'm outdoors, I have a hard time painting unless I have good music playing. I can't listen to the radio because commercials and talking just kill any flow of creativity/thought that I might have. I have to be listening to music I'm fairly familiar with - I love finding new music, but when I'm painting I like to listen to tunes that I know. I can't listen to anything that's distracting at all, even if it's distracting in a good way. For instance, I can't listen to classical music, because I used to play the piano and when I listen to classical music I find myself thinking about it too much. And I have to make sure that whatever I'm listening to won't end in the middle of a complex painting passage, which means that most of the time I just have iTunes playing in continuous shuffle mode on my computer.

When I'm working on something difficult, I'll switch over to my "Studio Tunes" playlist, which is basically a bunch of songs that I love that I know won't annoy me while I'm trying to problem solve. A lot of them are favorite songs from the past - songs that make me happy by association with good memories. A few of them are newer songs that get me moving. Some of them are mellow songs that help me reflect and think. I change the list every few weeks to keep up with my mood - here's what it looks like right now:

"See the World" by Gomez was my favorite song when I was pregnant with Aspen. "Let it be Me" by Ray LaMontagne is a more recent mellow favorite. "Rain" by George Winston gets me thinking, and reminds me of being outdoors. "Rock and Roll" by Eric Hutchinson gets me moving and excited. They all have a purpose.

I love to hear about other artist's working habits - I know one artist who listens to books on tape (I could never paint at the same time!!) and another who listens to NPR only, and another who always has the TV or a movie playing in the background.

So, what do you listen to in your studio, and why?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

HGTV Might Have Redeemed Itself Today

I have to confess that I have a slight addiction to HGTV - there's just something about home remodel and decorating shows that sucks me in, and I often find myself writing blog posts or responding to emails while I listen to HGTV in the background. And just about everytime I do this, I find myself getting all riled up when the subject of art inevitably comes up. A lot of the shows on HGTV are all about design on a budget, or doing it yourself, and I can't tell you how many times I've seen a designer on the show set up the homeowners (or carpenter or dog or whatever) with an enormous canvas and paint and have them make their own piece of art to "match" the new room design (the "art project" segment of the show, if you will).

My issue with this is twofold.

First is the obvious assumption that there is no point in purchasing fine art, since anyone can do it. While I agree that anyone can throw some paint on a canvas in colors that will match the couch/chair/entertainment center, etc., I disagree with the underlying suggestion that this is fine art. To me, the artwork that I have in my home is deeply personal - each original piece that I own resonated with me for a certain reason, and having the work of other artists in my home recharges and inspires me.

Second is the assumption that artwork is just a design element, or a decoration. As a landscape artist I know it would be unrealistic to assume that my collectors never give any regard to whether or not my paintings match the couch they'll hang above, but in a perfect world I would love to have that not matter - I would love to think that all that mattered were the person's initial gut response to the painting. My favorite piece of artwork in my house doesn't match anything, but I could still stare at it all day, so it always hangs where I can see it when I'm going about my businesss all day. It's the impact that matters to me.

Anyhow, I don't mean to rant, I just mean to say that collecting art is about something deeper, and that sometimes I feel like these shows don't do much bring the masses to a greater appreciation (which is not their goal, btw, so that's all right).

SOOOO, I was pleasantly surprised when I caught an episode of "Deserving Design" today, in which host Vern Yip actually commissions the deserving couple's favorite artist to do what is ultimately a really fantastic original piece of art work for their living room. Not only that - he visits the artist in his studio and gives a short talk about how purchasing an original from an acclaimed artist is a great investment, financially and emotionally. There's no talk about the artist using colors that match the design, or anything of that sort - the final painting has an emotional connection to the couple who own the house and their story, and is the centerpiece of the final design for that reason alone. How great is that?

Of course, then it took me a good half an hour to find James Way's art online, since the network didn't bother to include him in the credits or link to him on their website, but I guess I can't expect too much all at once!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Goals and Studies

"Study - Lynx Pass Aspens"
Oil on Panel


I'll bet nobody noticed, but I've been slacking on statusing my 2008 goals here. Oops!

I know I said I would do it monthly, but it just got boring to me because I felt like I was reporting the same thing every month. And since I'm actually making good progress this year (yay!), that seemed to be overkill, so I decided I'd only comment about the goals when I had something new to say.

Anyhow, I was updating my painting database today (see, I'm still sticking with the goals, even if I'm not reporting!), and I was surprised to see that last month I surpassed my goal of 100 paintings this year! I'm at 102 paintings as of October 31st, which I almost can't believe. When I made this goal, I thought it would be a stretch, and for most of this year it has been. However, I've been doing a ton of plein air work and studies for the mentorship I'm doing, and the numbers add up quickly when most of the work I'm doing is smaller than 11x14" (I did 20 paintings in September alone). I haven't worked on anything larger than a 12x16" in about a month and a half, which is a bit odd for me (I'm actually chomping at the bit to work on some bigger stuff!), but I've been learning a lot that I hope will eventually transfer to my larger work.

Through all of this, I've been learning the value of the small study. I'm using these small works to test out new ideas and compositions, and figure out what it is that I want to say about each scene. I'm hoping that doing small studies more routinely will prevent me from having to scrape or trash unsuccessful larger paintings, but only time will tell if that's the case.

The only downside to doing all of these small paintings is that my studio is overflowing with stacks of small panels! The painting above is one of them - I did this quick sketch for this painting, which sold a few months ago. This was probably the first time I've ever done an in-studio sketch as pre-work for a slightly larger painting. In the months that have gone by since I did this one, I've learned how invaluable these can be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Portfolio Book

2008 Portfolio
By Stacey Peterson

I've been wanting to print a small portfolio for a while now, mainly to give to potential collectors or those who buy my work. I did some research, decided that Blurb seemed like the easiest way to put together a small book, and went ahead and put together a book of what I think are the strongest paintings I've done this year. I wanted to keep it small, since I plan to include it when I ship out paintings, and Blurb's 7x7" format is just perfect. I got my first printed copy today, and I think it turned out pretty well - it looks professional, and the photos inside are fairly accurate.

If any of you are looking to self-publish anything, and need a quick and easy way to do it, I'd highly recommend Blurb. The software is easy to use, and the product is professional

For anyone who wants to check it out, use the link above or the one I've added to my blog sidebar. Thanks for looking!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Latest Studio

I almost have my studio put together - yay!! I waffled back and forth about what to do for a studio in this new house. It's only three bedrooms, so I wasn't sure whether I should take up a whole room for myself or squeeze into the corner of what would be the guest bedroom. In the end I realized that A) I have way too much stuff to NOT have a whole room and B) I work much better in a dedicated, peaceful space.

Two weeks ago, this is what my studio looked like - a big mess!!

I hate white walls, so I decided to paint the room a neutral green color to darken it up. Here's a view of the room after I painted and organized a bit (those are Aspen's first watercolors on her easel to the right!):

Right now I have my palette on a table that Nate threw together in five minutes with some scrap wood. I'll eventually replace it with something that has some shelves underneath and doors so I can store all my extra paint/mineral spirits/brushes somewhere out of sight:

This house has 10 foot ceilings, so I can extend my easel enough to do a 30x40" painting without having to adjust any knobs (I still love my easel, by the way), which is really nice.

My frames are stuffed in the closet and leaning up against the wall, along with finished paintings that I'm getting ready to send out to galleries and shows. This is the part of my studio that I hate - I'm not a big fan of clutter. I'd love to have a studio someday that has a separate room for framing!!

I recently bought some vertical organizers at the office supply store to put small finished paintings in. I stole this idea from another artist who had these in a studio picture, and while I don't remember who the arist was, I'm really grateful! They're a good cheap way to keep plein air studies organized while they dry.

I keep one up on a table that I put wet panels in as I finish them - the great thing about these plastic ones is that they don't touch the panels anywhere where they're wet.

Anyhow, that's my studio. Here's the view from the window - lots of big, blue sky!

I'm thrilled to have a studio inside the house again! Working in the garage at the condo was functional, but a little bit demotivating (who wants to spend the day in a garage with no windows?).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moving... Again...

"Study - Cottonwood Pass Aspens"
Oil on Panel

Sorry I haven't been around much lately, but we've moved (AGAIN) and I've been busy unpacking and trying to get back into the groove of things. I feel like a broken record...

I figured out the other day that in our eight years of marriage, Nate and I have moved seven times. We also tend to do our moving in spurts. When we moved back from Houston, we moved out of our house into an apartment, then into an apartment in Colorado, then into a house in Colorado, all within the same year. In the past year and a half, we moved houses in Denver, moved into a condo in Fraser, and now just moved into a house in Granby. We'll eventually finish building "our" house up here (we moved into one of Nate's spec/model homes), and move again within the next year, so getting all settled into this house seems sort of like a waste.

But after spending the last six months painting in a garage, I'm ready to have a decent studio space again, so after we moved last weekend I spent a couple of days painting the walls and organizing in the room that will be my studio while we live here. I know that I can paint better when I'm in a space that's comfortable enough to not be distracting, so I'm trying to set up a studio space that will be nice and cozy as we head into a long, cold mountain winter.

So, I haven't been doing much studio painting, and I've been spending most of my painting time doing work for the mentorship I'm doing. Mostly, I've been doing small plein air studies, trying to capture the fall colors while they last. It's snowing now, and today was the first day I've had to work on a studio painting in probably three weeks! Anyhow, I'm looking forward to spending some time in the studio in the next few weeks, and finishing some larger paintings that I've been planning for a while. Time to relax a bit!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


"September Reflections"
Oil on Panel

I think that an artist's personal style is mostly the result of covering a lot of canvas outdoors or in the studio, and doesn't require as much deliberation as we artists tend to think.

I also think that any artist who is trying new things and working to improve is going to have their style evolve over time. When I was uploading pictures of my recent show paintings to my website last week, I realized that my work has been changing a bit over the past year as I try different things, and it was interesting to see where I'm at right now and think about where I want to be.

In the past year, I've transitioned from using canvas to using smooth panels almost exclusively. I went through a phase at the start of this year where I was really focusing on greys and lower contrast. I've gone from using all thick paint, everywhere, to using thick paint more sparingly and using transparent passages for contrast. More recently, I've been going a lot brighter and higher contrast again, which I think is more of a natural inclination for me.

So, who knows where I'll be a month from now, but I know I'd like to work on utilizing more greys to offset the brighter colors in my paintings, as a way to move the eye throughout the composition. I'm experimenting with some different types of linen as possible surfaces for larger paintings too, so we'll see how that goes. One thing I'm also doing is small studies to prep for every painting. I want to decrease the number of scrapers I do, and planning beforehand is key.

Now, if I could just find the TIME to try all these things!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Interpretations - Group Show

"When the Day is Done"
Oil on Panel

Phew!! It's been a busy week. My sister got married last weekend (congrats Shannon!!! I'm working on your present!), and I've been getting everything ready for a group show that opens tonight. I know it's a bit late, but if anyone is in the area, feel free to stop by the opening tonight or check out the show throughout the month.

Here's the official spiel from the gallery:

"We are proud to bring together the work of Robert Spooner, Stacey Peterson, and Steven Hileman. While these three artists share many similarities—all left careers in other fields to take up full-time gallery painting, all paint in oil, all express themselves with boldness and exquisite control—their works clearly reveal three distinct personalities."

The show is at Roundhouse Gallery in Fort Collins, Colorado and the opening is from 6-9 pm tonight with the show running through the end of the month. Robert Spooner and Steven Hileman are both great painters, and I'm humbled to be in a show with them both. You can preview my paintings for the show on my website here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Another Day at the Office

"Morning Aspens"
Oil on Panel

Saturday was the Oil Painters of America Great Paintout for Colorado, and the location this year was Estes Park. I've been stuck in the studio lately finishing up paintings for a bunch of upcoming fall shows, so I decided to get outside for once and meet up with the group for some painting in the park.

The drive to Estes from here is a beautiful one, but it can be long depending on tourist traffic. I left home at 6 am and drove over Trail Ridge Road as the sun rose. It was gorgeous so I had to stop a few times to take pictures of the sun hitting the mountains. Of course, every time I pulled over I had 5-10 cars pull over behind me thinking I saw a moose or something. I felt like I should have a sign on my car that said, "Sorry folks - no wildlife here, just scenery!!"

I got to Estes and met up with the group. A few friends were there, and a some new faces as well. It was a gorgeous morning, and I managed this 9x12" study of some aspens before the nasty afternoon weather started to roll in. I had planned to paint in the park all day, but the weather looked iffy and I wasn't looking forward to driving back over the pass in a snowstorm, so I left after lunch.

On the way home, I took Old Fall River Road to the top of the pass, which is an old one-way dirt road that winds its way up above treeline. I've never driven it, and I'm glad I did. The aspens were changing up high and it was raining, and it was just a beautiful, slow drive through the mountains. In the end I didn't get as much painting done as I had hoped, but it was a great day anyways.

Have I mentioned that I love my job?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eye Candy for Artists

Want to drool over some really beautifully executed landscape paintings? Then go check out the preview of T. Allen Lawson's upcoming show at Simpson Gallagher Gallery.

I could stare at some of these all day. If my sister wasn't getting married that weekend, I would totally be driving up to Cody to see this show in person!! (See Shannon, the things I sacrifice for you?)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

What is it with August?

"Still Waters"
Oil on Panel

Man, I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel of paintings to post here. This is one of the smaller paintings I did for the RMPAP plein air show last month and this photo is terrible - I don't think I've photographed any new paintings since then, which means I'm way behind and need to have a serious photography session this week!

Anyhow, I don't know what it is, but I always seem to be a little bit "off" with my art every August. Seems like every year, I have a few weeks in August when I'm really struggling with my paintings and having a hard time finding motivation. This year was no different, and I'm happy to say that after a few bad weeks in the studio, I'm starting to get my painting mojo back (good thing too, because I'm preparing for a few different shows and I need all the motivation I can get).Considering my creative drought last month, hopefully you'll bear with me if the following has nothing at all to do with art, and everything to do with life outside of art!

This week has been a roller coaster for Nate and I as we tried to decide what to do with building our house. We'd been originally planning to try and have it move-in ready by Thanksgiving at the latest, and extend our lease on the condo we're in until then. This week it dawned on us that we might as well just move into one of Nate's spec homes and take our time building our own house. The spec has been taking a while to sell due to the housing market problems, and it just seems silly to leave this beautiful house sitting empty while we live in a rental and rush to finish the other house, so it looks like we'll be moving at the end of this month. I'm still looking forward to eventually moving into the house we've designed on the lot we picked out, but in the meantime it'll be nice to be in a house again no matter what.

At this point, the foundation is in for "our" house on "our" lot, and all the plans are done and ready to go at the factory (Nate builds modular homes, so the bulk of the house is built offsite). Here's the view of how it looked a week ago - what you can't see very well here is the beautiful view we'll have of the pond and wetlands behind us:

But, it'll probably be next year before we have a house there. In the meantime, this is the house we're moving into (which was professionally photographed, btw - I'm not this skilled at photgraphing anything!):

Can you tell it's modular? I'm proud of Nate for building this house. It's really cute and has that mountain feel, and while it's a bit small (I'll be using the guest room for my studio), it's got a great floorplan and location. I really think he's found his calling in building houses. Here's a view of the divide from the front yard (I've painted a winter version of this view multiple times already):

So, that's where we'll be a month from now. A big change from where we were at a week ago, but I think a good one for now. In the meantime, we decided to get out this weekend and just enjoy living in the mountains. Some friends came up from Denver to visit, and we took the kiddos horseback riding at Nate's parents' house. Aspen is an old pro at riding Bandit now - check it out:

We also took a hike around Monarch Lake and threw rocks in the water. It's one of my favorite spots to paint, and also just hang out:

When we get all bogged down in the day to day details of running two businesses and working working working, it's always nice to take some time out and remember WHY we're living up here and doing all this!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

August Goals Update

"Moraine Park Summer"
Oil on Panel

Is it really September already? It's been cold up here the past few mornings, and I feel like summer disappeared as Labor Day weekend came to a close. I've been so busy that it seems to have passed me by!! Anyhow, I guess it's time to status my goals and see where I'm at now that we're 2/3 of the way through 2008. It's been a crazy week around here, so bear with me if I ramble.

1. Get my work into three more galleries.

I'm sort of feeling like I'm done with this goal for now. I don't particularily need another gallery at this point, so I don't want to waste a lot of effort on it. I'd rather focus my energy on making sure my existing galleries are stocked with good paintings!! I do have a three-person show in October at a gallery I don't currently show with. If that goes well, I would consider showing my work there, and then I could check this off of my goals list. But right now, I'm happy with where I'm at.

2. Complete 100 paintings.

Painted seven this month - well, I guess I painted eight, but one wasn't very successful and is still in studio waiting to be fixed. Most of these were fairly small, so it wasn't a very productive month for me. I had a bit of post-show burnout after the RMPAP show, and then that stomach thing knocked me out for a week. Anyhow, that makes 66 down, 34 to go.

3. Sell enough work to pay our mortgage.

The original point of this goal was to make me take my art seriously and feel like a contributing part of the household finances, and it's been really effective. It's been a good year for me up to this point, and that's been a really big blessing given the state of the economy. Nate's business is homebuilding, and he's taken a bit of a hit this summer, so anything I can contribute is more than welcome right now. I've already met this goal for the year, and at this point I'm just looking to go beyond that to help out where I can.

4. Update painting database and financial records monthly.

Done. Still very useful. I was going to blow this off this week, then I realized I'd be kicking myself when I eventually had to catch up. It's nice to keep the business side of things up to date by doing it on a regular basis.

5. Race in a minimum of three 5k's.

This is so not a priority right now! I'm registered for a tri this month, but I've got so much going on that it's totally been pushed to the back burner and I think I'll probably skip it. I am going to make sure I go for a run or hike every morning before I paint, mostly for my mental health, but that's where it ends.

So, there they are for the month. Considering how much we have going on these days, I'm happy to see that I'm on track with my goals for the year. In the next few months we'll be moving and it'll be interesting to see how that affects things. At this point we have our foundation done, but we're putting our house on hold and thinking of moving into the spec home we have on the market. I'm sort of bummed about that because it means I won't have my dream studio right away, but the house we'll move into is actually really cute and nice, and has a great view from the front yard that I've painted a couple of times already! And I can wait until next year for the dream studio, I suppose... Anything's gotta be better than the garage I'm painting in right now (which is starting to get cold as the weather turns)!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

"Grand County Sunset"
Oil on Panel

So, you know how my last post had to do with needing a break? Well, shortly after arriving home from our weekend in Aspen I came down with a really nasty stomach bug that kept me in bed for two days and prevented me from eating anything other than toast for about five days. Not fun at all, but I suppose it forced me to rest for a few days. I said I needed a break and I got one, right? Apparently God has a sense of humor!

Before we left for Aspen I was having a really bad week in the studio. Nothing was coming together the way I intended, and I was really struggling to do anything decent. I thought taking a break would help, but when I finally stepped back up to the easel at the end of last week, I had another rough day, and started to get really frustrated.

Luckily, I was able to get outside and hike a bit this weekend, and the time outside restored a bit of my landscape painting mojo. I started five paintings today, and almost finished two of them. With a few touch ups, they should both be decent, thus ending my streak of unsuccessful paintings. Thank goodness!!

It's funny how I forget time and time again what I can do to recharge my creative batteries, so to speak. For me, spending time outdoors is a must. If I'm not outside enough, I get grumpy and stressed out and since I paint landscapes, my painting suffers. Nate's been married to me long enough to know to send me out for a run or hike if I'm being completely intolerable. You would think I would know this too by now, but I never learn.

So, that's the point of this post - to remind me at some time in the future when I'm frustrated and cranky and struggling that I need to get my butt outside. After all, that's why I live in the mountains.

How do you recharge? I'd love to hear what others need to stay productive and keep the flow going in the studio!