Hiking History

My mother-in-law came into town last week and asked if she could take my kids on a hike. Of course I said yes, but I asked to come along as well. They took us to a trail we have been to several times. Up to the wind caves at Usery Mountain. I wanted to get outside and enjoy the cool weather, but I also wanted to get more reference photos for more paintings. I am always observing my surroundings, and this time was no different. I had my camera out the whole time, and some of my pics even have my kids in them.

We came to a cactus that I recognized. I looked at the surroundings, and noticed two other cacti that would only help me to distinguish it, because of artistic liberty, I omitted them in my painting. I had to look closely to find the small detail I magnified, studied, and painted. I mentioned to my mother-in-law that this is the cactus my painting, Weathered, is based on. It was fun seeing specific rocks, cacti, even views that I have painted.

Through the process of painting something, you really have to study what you're looking at to be able to see it well enough to understand it and paint it. Going back on this hike, and seeing the whole cactus, and realizing what a small portion of it really was weathered, helped me realize that when we focus on the rough parts of our own lives, when that is what we focus on, it magnifies it so that's all we see or remember. When in reality it's really just a small portion. Yet it's that part that adds interest.

A Way Back into Love

I took a sabbatical from the art world to start my family and focus on being a mommy. I've been teaching art the whole time, but I haven't been immersed in the art world as I was in college. I missed it. And when a difficult time in my life arose I knew I needed to go back. I needed something familiar and steady, that gave me joy, peace, and energy. 

I remember going to an award ceremony where i received two considerable scholarships. I was excited for the evening and enjoyed the speakers, although, I remember only one specific thing from the speech. They told us about how hard it is to get into the art program, "only the cream of the crop are accepted," they said. They went on to flatter us further by saying, "only some of those are given talent award money. 'You are the cream of the cream!'"

I didn't want to waste any of that cream, so I started painting daily. It was both therapeutic and relaxing to paint again. I started painting what I wanted and the more I painted, the more ideas started coming. But then I started wondering what I should be painting. 

So I started attending the Scottsdale Art Walk. I saw all kinds of different media, styles, and intentions. I realized painting what I'm passionate about is what really matters. I wanted to experiment a little with medium. I also wanted to use my gallery visits as research time: learning what's current in both subject matter and technique, along with how to present my work. I know what I like, but I wanted to make sure it was acceptable. Figuring out how to appropriately price my own work was another point I had to figure out. It feels good to be around Art, artists, and art professionals. Now I feel confident moving forward.

I have thought a lot about the art I used to make, when I did it just for me. I've always enjoyed landscapes. Primarily the scenes I took in on road trips. I would make art centered around driving through a mountain or watching the sunset on the ocean. In fact, I made a stained glass mosaic when I was a Freshman in high school of just that. It's still displayed in my parents house in a windowsill. I saw it a couple days ago and told my mom it was up-side-down. Let's just say I've come a long way, or maybe that's just not my medium.

Another thing I have always loved are movies and quoting movies. I use movie quotes to help express myself. I made a video for an art class in college called, No Original Thought, which was a series of movie quotes I use. I started incorporating that back into my work, in a much more subtle way: titles. I don't know if anyone enjoys titling they're work. But why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already made the effort. A movie can communicate something and execute it so well.

By the way, if you're trying to figure out where the title of this post is from, it's Music and Lyrics.

How I Paint

The most common question I get asked about my work is whether I work from my imagination, from life, or from a photo. When I say a photo the question that follows is did I take the photo. My answer to that is yes, of course. 

I would love to be able to sit for hours in the desert (on a cool day) painting the landscape, having multiple panels ready for when the light changes, much like the way Monet painted. But I'm a mom. I paint in the middle of the night when my kids are asleep. I paint when my kids are playing at the park with their father. Sometimes I even paint while my kids watch Netflix right next to me. They are contained, safe, and satisfied. I couldn't take them with me for plein air painting. That would not be sensible, nor responsible.

We do, however, go on hikes, road trips, walks, and drives together, and I cannot turn my creative eye off. I am always taking in my surroundings, and I have the pictures to prove it. Whether they be of a vast sunset, a detail of a cactus, or the way a mountain looks at dusk. It all goes into the resources I need to make the paintings that help me express what I cannot bring myself to say with words. 

Abstract Experiences

I love painting in an abstract and non-representational way. I started gravitating toward this style while I was living in Italy, but I still enjoy it because of the emotion I can imbue into my work.

When in Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and many more cities in Italy, I was overwhelmed with all the patterns, textures, and details that covered the ceilings, streets, and artwork I was exposed to. I loved it and I need to document it. I filled the pages of my sketchbooks with these designs and patterns that inspired me. I couldn't get enough of them. I used them in my BFA application, making them the focus of the artwork rather than the minor, yet exquisite, detail from their original masterpiece.

Now, they are not so much the focus of my work, but I imbued these ancient patterns, and new ones, into my abstract paintings, to create layers of meaning, express emotion, and add interest. Shapes, words, symbols. I feel like I can leave secret messages in my work by using these things and it feels exciting and personal - almost intimate.


Oil Painting Titles

I wanted to imply meaning through the titles, but I didn't want it to come off as depressing or weird. I have always loved movies and quoting movies. There's something intimate about quoting movies, you have to have shared an experience to be able to understand it. So I have taken names of characters or actors from movies that express the right idea, mood, or feeling that  I want to convey in the work of art. 

This one I wanted to name "SCARS" because of the texture under the painting. Instead I called it "AUGUST" referencing the movie Wonder. Auggie is a sweet boy who has great aspirations and a big heart, his life is hard, and unfair. His face bares scars that he did not cause. Still he perseveres.
Alternatively, I could have called it "MAUI" to reference the movie Moana because he has tattoos which are scars that he gets from his life. Some are good, and he's proud of them (see the lines I've drawn on the top?) and others make him sad (like the textures under the painting). This might even be a better title, but Arizona summers peak in August. It just seemed to fit better.

This one references the movie Garden State. A movie about a young man who has struggled with depression. The subdued colors of this dusk sunset combined with the empty space below may represent a depressing time in my own life. Yet its beauty suggests hope, much like when Andrew stands at the side of the abyss with his friends and yells.

This painting of a desert path makes me think of what the Cheshire Cat says to Alice in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don't know where you want to go, then it doesn't matter which path you take.” I have felt lost recently, although I know where I want to end up, I just don't always know how to get there. This is called WAY because Sterling Holloway voiced the Cheshire Cat in the 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland.

This painting references the Movie Bright Star. I watched this movie after break ups to let myself cry and cry. It's a beautiful movie with a tragic love story. The title Whish comes from the the lead actor, Ben Whishaw, who plays John Keats. I also think this painting is beautiful, and there's something magical about it. Like you could make a wish and it might just come true.