Monday, April 30, 2007


"Summer Green"
Oil on Canvas

Well, after I posted last week about selling our house, we hit a snag and thought for a day that the buyers might back out, but now things are moving forward again and closing is set for May 18th. In between now and then, we'll be spending a week in Texas to attend the OPA show opening and visit some relatives and friends in Houston. So, that leaves two weeks to pack up our house, which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that Nate works from home and I have an entire studio to clean and pack up!! Anyhow, this pretty much means I'll be spending the next three weeks packing, traveling, and moving (assuming I don't jinx myself with this post and all goes well with the buying/selling).

Regardless of the move, I have a 24x36" commission that needs to be completed by the end of May, and I really need to get some other paintings started. The gallery I currently show in asked if I'd be up for a solo show in the fall, so of course I said I would (who would turn that down?). They've sold a lot of my work, and I think it would be worth investing the time to put it together. But that means 20-25 paintings complete and framed by October or November, on top of trying to get enough work together to approach a gallery or two up in the mountains. So, I need to get my butt in gear and start to do a LOT of painting!!

The good thing is that I work well under pressure and I'm excited to have these opportunities, so doing the work should actually be a lot of fun. I'm just worrying about where to find time between the move and taking care of Aspen (who is becoming more and more mobile every day!). But I know I can do it, and I'm excited about the challenge. I'll probably try to post here as I make progress, just to give me some additional motivation.

Anyhow, back to packing now. Wish me luck getting the contents of this house stuffed into many boxes (and wish me continued luck on the selling of our house to some extremely finicky first-time house buyers)!

Friday, April 27, 2007


"Lower Mohawk Lake"
Oil on Canvas

So, there's this interview thing spreading through the blogosphere, and I finally got sucked in and told Ramblin' Girl that she could interview me since I knew she'd come up with some good questions. Thanks RG!

Here's how it works. She asks me five random questions to answer on my blog. Then, I'm supposed to in turn ask five questions to those who comment on my blog asking to be interviewed. So, if you want to join in, just leave a comment saying, "Interview Me," and I'll email you questions.

Anyhow, here are my (long and rambling) answers:

1. You're an engineer, with obvious creativity, (and since I'm an engineer that wishes she was more creative, I have to ask) do you sometimes feel schizophrenic for having both a strong analytical and creative mind? And if you do, what do you do when your "right" brain fights with your "left"? (Did I just expose my crazy?)

Well, I definitely feel like it sets me apart from the crowd. When I was working in engineering, I always had a different thought process than everyone else - like, we might all end up at the same answer, but I would get there a different way. Does that make sense? And in the art world, I often find the same - I tend to approach painting in more of an analytical way than most other artists I meet. Luckily, most of the successful artists I've met are also fairly analytical, so I don't feel completely out of the loop.

Ultimately though, I think engineering is more of a right brain activity than people think. Being a good engineer means being able to solve complex problems every day, which requires a lot of creativity. Just because it isn't visual or abstract doesn't mean it isn't creative. And being a successful artist requires a bit of an analytical mind, especially for the business side of things. All in all, I think the two complement each other, and being able to use both "sides of the brain" just helps me improve at the things I do.

2. Since the Twister obviously isn't it, what's your favorite childhood memory?

Oh my - what a big question! I don't think I could pick just one! I remember that when I was in second or third grade, my mom signed me up for art classes at this frame shop called Studio West, and I would go every Wednesday night. We oil painted, did pastel, watercolor, you name it. I loved it. What I loved even more was that once a month, my mom would pick me up from my art class and we would go over to Pizza Hut, and I would get to get a personal pan pizza, which would be free because I won it by reading so many books for the "Book-It" program at school. What could be better than art class and a personal pan pizza? Back then, not much!

Other favorites were staying out late at night playing games at the end of the cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, diving into the pool for swim practice at 6 am when the pool was still steaming in the cool morning air, and sleeping on the bleachers of the rink at my sister's early morning ice skating practices. I also used to love it when my dad would ride his bike to the gas station to buy cigarettes (!) and take me along, letting me ride on the horizontal bar of the bike (!!!). He would buy me a jolly rancher and I'd be so excited.

3. I love creating things, but don't like sharing my "art" with many people. What's it like to have other people critiquing your paintings?

It's like a roller coaster. Sometimes people love your work and rave about it and you feel on top of the world. The next day someone comments about your framing choice, or says something negative about your subject matter, and you're plunged down into the depths of self-doubt. Ultimately, you develop a thick skin and realize it's all subjective, and it gets easier. I've studied art a lot, and I know what I like and what I strive for with my work. At this point, I measure my art objectively on how it lives up to my own goals, rather than focusing on other people's opinions. But it's always valuable to get critiques from people whose art you admire - I'm always happy to take advice from accomplished artists, because it might help me to get where I want to go.

4. What do you miss most about college? What do you not miss at all?

I miss learning something new every day (I know - that's totally geeky, but it's true). I miss having a totally free schedule and being able to hang out with friends whenever and wherever I want. More than anything, I miss being able to live on $750 a month - it was so nice to be unencumbered by "stuff".

As for what I don't miss, there's a lot! I don't miss the tests. I went to the Colorado School of Mines for my engineering degree, and the tests were hell. A calculus or thermodynamics test might have four or five questions on it, and it would take two hours to finish. And you'd just hope the professor would give you a lot of partial credit for your work, because it was virtually impossible to get the right answer. I also don't miss, in general, the people. I have some great friends from my time at Mines, but there were a lot of unhappy, stressed out students there, who weren't so much fun to be around.

5. Can you ever imagine yourself moving away from Colorado and the mountains? Is there anywhere else that you could live besides here? Is there anywhere else in Colorado that you'd rather live?

Short answer - NO, I can't imagine moving away from Colorado! Last night, Nate and I drove 2 miles, put Aspen in the baby bjorn, hiked a half mile, and sat on top of some red rocks and had dinner as the sun went down. In moments like those, I'm totally at home.

I lived in Houston for a few years and I've never been so miserable in my life. It's sounds silly, but I feel like I lose a bit of my soul when I'm away from the mountains. I suppose I could live elsewhere in the Rockies, but now that I have a kid I love being close to family and having roots, so I have a feeling we'll be here for a long time.

Nate and I have discussed living in Steamboat Springs, and it would be totally possible now that he's been building houses up there. But I'm kind of a wimp about winter, so I don't know how I'd handle being snowbound for months. And again, it's been really nice to have our families nearby now that we have Aspen - I love that my mom and Nate's mom can watch her while I paint so she doesn't have to go to daycare. I also love being close to city for a night out here and there. So, it would take a lot to entice me to move!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Making Luck

"March, Lake Louise"
Oil on Canvas

I've spent a lot of time in the past year thinking about what I want my life to look like, and what it's going to take to get me there. Part of that is figuring out what being successful means to me as an artist.

Art is a part of me that has always been there and will always be - I've been drawing and painting since I can remember, and there was never a time that I didn't entertain the thought that I'd love to be an artist someday. I would be an artist even if I never sold a painting or made a penny. But I have to admit that a big part of my dream right now is to make a living from my art. I set business goals every year, and they are just as important to me as the process of painting itself. If I dropped the business side of my art, I would be heartbroken, because a part of my dream of being an artist is getting my artwork out into the world.

Since I desperately want my art business to succeed, I know that there are decisions that need to be made every day about how to best fit that goal into my life. How do I fit painting in while taking care of Aspen? How do I make my art business succeed and contribute to the well-being of my family?

Nate deals with a lot of the same questions. He has a full-time job, but he'd really like to quit and build houses for a living. He built three spec homes in the past year, and discovered that it was what he really loved to do. He loves working with his hands and being able to offer an affordable product in a market (mountain real estate) where not much is affordable.

Nate and I aren't big risk takers, so we knew that we were going to have to find a way to pursue both of our dreams without taking a huge risk financially, especially now that we have a child. One of the things we discussed as a way to make ourselves more comfortable would be to sell our current house and use the profit to put a big down payment on a cheaper house, making our mortgage payment a lot less. That way we wouldn't have to worry about cashflow so much, and we'd both be a lot more comfortable with changing things up career-wise.

So, we put our house on the market three weeks ago. We figured it might take a while to sell, so we didn't find another house to move into, but picked out some neighborhoods we liked. Last weekend we got an offer on our house, and with closing set for May 18th it was time to get in gear and find a place to move. We found a house we liked last Thursday and put in an offer, and now we have closing all set for the same day as the sale of our house.

Since this all happens three weeks from now, things are going to get hectic. We have to find movers that are willing to store our stuff for a few days (we don't get possession of the new house until three days after closing), we have to schedule the inspections and appraisals (we're not working with a realtor), and in the middle of it all we're going to Texas for a week to visit relatives and attend the Oil Painter's of America National show opening. I don't know when I'm going to find the time to paint, but I'm determined not to let it slip. I'm still trying to build inventory so I can approach some new galleries, and I don't want that to come to a screeching halt just because we're moving.

Anyhow, the point of this really long rambling post is to say two things. First, I'm going to be unbelievably busy for the next month. Second (and most important), I don't believe that luck happens - I believe that you make it for yourself with the decisions you make. Luann Udell said this much more eloquently in her post on April 10th. The point is this - the average American thinks that Nate and I are odd for selling a nice house that we can afford perfectly well, and moving into a smaller cheaper house (seems like the American dream is to supersize everything these days), but our main priority right now is making our life what we want it to be, and we're taking the steps necessary to get there. I call it making luck, and hopefully it works!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


"From a Distance"
Oil on Canvas

Brushwork is an important part of my paintings. It's something that I'm always working to improve, and an area where I still have a lot to learn.

I'm not a slave to detail, and in real life my paintings are somewhat painterly. I believe that each brushstroke should be carefully placed, and that once placed on the canvas it should pretty much remain untouched (believing this doesn't mean that I am a master at adhering to it, of course - that's another matter).

One of my instructors was always on my case to spend more time looking and thinking, and less time actually putting paint on the canvas. He was right - whether painting plein air or in the studio, the more thought you put into each stroke, the less likely that you'll end up reworking things, or "noodling" on the canvas.

I've been really working on getting the texture of my paintings to have a certain quality, and I feel like I'm slowly making some progress. Lately, however, I've been getting annoyed at the way my support can affect the presentation of my brushwork. I typically paint on cotton canvas, and I'm getting more and more annoyed at the way the texture interferes with the look of my paintings. I know a lot of well known landscape artists only paint on linen, because they like the texture more, but my problem is I'm finding that I don't like texture at ALL.

In the detail below, you can see what I'm talking about. See how the brushtrokes on the mountain are thick and speak for themselves, but the sky above has canvas texture showing through? I know I'm being picky, but it drives me nuts! There's a lot of paint on that canvas, and I don't want to see that texture there.

I buy preprimed canvas, and I've started to put two extra coats of gesso on each canvas in order to take some of the tooth out of the canvas texture. It's time consuming, but it seems to be doing the trick. I'm thinking of switching to some type of smooth panel for smaller paintings, but I'm not sure what to do for large paintings. A 30x40" framed painting is heavy enough as is - I don't want to deal with the extra weight of a panel that size. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Upgrading to the 21st Century

I finally broke down and bought myself a new computer this weekend, and I am so excited to finally have something at home that actually functions!!

I've been using an old laptop (old meaning I got it from my Dad who bought it in 1999) as my home computer for a couple of years now, and it was a bit of a dinosaur, but I figured I didn't need anything fancy since I was on the computer all day long at work. But now that I'm not working that job anymore, I've been using my laptop more and more, and it was starting to be a major pain. Editing photos in photoshop was taking way longer than should be necessary (20 seconds to save a 4 MB file!), and a lot of websites just plain wouldn't work on my old Windows 2000 platform. So, I decided I needed to go ahead and get a new computer before the old one completely crashed on me.

So, I spent all day yesterday transferring my zillions of photos and files from one computer to the other, and converting all of my Outlook 2000 emails into something that could be read by Windows Mail (now THAT was a challenge - I cursed Microsoft more than once!). I felt like I was wasting what could be valuable painting time, but now I have my own new laptop all set up to keep my art business organized, which should be helpful in the next few months.

Now that I've entered the 21st century, I'm going to return to the studio!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Long Time Gone

It's funny - I have these moments where I have all these ideas of things I want to blog about, and I convince myself that I'll start posting once or twice a week and get all motivated, and then something happens and I realize I haven't posted in a month. Life always gets in the way. Well, actually, this cute little thing always gets in the way (not that that's a bad thing):

My life right now is prioritized as follows:

1. Family
2. Art
3. Sell house and move (long story)
4. ... Um, is there time for anything else??

I'm having a great time being at home with Aspen, but it definitely leaves me with little free time. My mom and Nate's mom have been kind enough to each watch Aspen an afternoon or two a week, so I do manage to paint. As soon as one of them takes over, I run down into the studio so I can paint every possible minute that I have.

So far, it's working out all right, but I'm a little overwhelmed anyhow. The gallery I sell with in Denver just switched locations, and I'm a little leary of the switch. They do a fantastic job selling my work, so I have no complaints, but I'm a born worrier so I worry that they won't sell as much in the new location. So I've been working by butt off trying to get enough good work together that I can go out and approach some galleries in other locations. After all, I need to expand and diversify at some point, and "at some point" needs to be this year. I just feel like I can't go bugging other galleries until I have a decent body of work. That way, if somebody is actually interested, I'll actually have some paintings to show them.

So, that's what I'm up to - building inventory.

But I've also been doing fun things like experimenting with my surface and palette, working on expanding my color range, and continuing my neverending quest to find the perfect framer.

Someday I'll manage to post about some of those things. In the meantime, this will have to do!

This post was only brought to you courtesy of the fact that I'm sick as a dog with a nasty cold, and Nate's forcing me to lay in bed and do nothing so I can get better.