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.