Prickly Processes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Life has been prickly lately, but not without joy.

Four months ago my husband Thomas and I locked the door to our little house in the Pleasant Street neighborhood and handed our keys to the new owners. Then, we drove our last load of stuff to a storage unit and began the work of settling into the spare bedroom at Thomas’s dad’s house, where we’ve been living while our new home, also in the Pleasant Street neighborhood, is under construction.

Thus we have entered a new phase of our relatively new marriage–not only cohabitation but cohabitation with parents. While the adjustment has been challenging in the predictable ways, we’ve grown closer as a couple, and we both appreciate this time with Thomas’s family, who have embraced me more generously than I’d dared hope for.

Perhaps no one knows how truly controlling we are until we’re unable to exercise our typical degree of control, but this has certainly been true for me, and surprise: it’s been good for me.  I’m painting in an exposed part of the house, where people can see what I’m working on. I hadn’t realized just how much I relied on closing my studio door until I didn’t have that luxury. Folks who attend art school learn to create in public and shared spaces, but I never did either one. Though I do find privacy helpful when I’m working on a painting, I’m getting less self-conscious, which is pretty much always a kind of liberation.

What’s also neat about this phase of my life, about this communal living experience, is that I’m discovering what is worth doing regardless of the particulars of my surroundings. I am extremely grateful that Thomas’s dad is letting me use his formal sitting room as a temporary studio, and that I am able to continue painting while living here. Has it impacted my process? Yes. I’m painting simpler work right now, work that delights me but doesn’t necessarily push against my limitations as much as some of my other work. Does that really matter? No, not as long as I keep painting. Art has to be flexible enough to adapt to life’s changes. Sometimes, it’s okay to make simple work. Sometimes, it’s okay to hang out in the kiddie pool, even without kiddies.

Speaking of kiddies, I’ll add that my main prickly challenge right now is not the change in living circumstances but infertility. Thomas and I have been trying to have children for awhile. After several early-term miscarriages, we went to the specialist, who diagnosed me with low ovarian reserve, something no one trying to have children wants to hear. The specialist says I’m running out of eggs and close to being in menopause (at 37, this is difficult news to stomach). Our most viable options are adoption or trying IVF with an egg donor.  We are exploring both possibilities, which involve considerable expense and uncertainty, but life is nothing if not costly and uncertain, and we intend to have children one way or another.

I suppose then that these cactus paintings, which appear simple, have grown out of the last few months of painful and disappointing fertility news. I’m hopeful that Thomas and I will be like cacti, able to grow our family despite challenging conditions. The good news is that, so far anyway, we’re doing okay with it all. I guess in the right relationship, hardships ultimately bring people closer. As a person who has historically struggled to stay in a long-term relationship, I am both pleased and relieved to find myself becoming more committed to our deepening connection and increasingly big (ad)ventures.

 

Sources

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My last couple of aspen paintings were inspired by this photo, taken on a hike with my husband and brother-in-law just outside of Durango, CO last summer.


For a long time the photo intimidated me. So much information! I loved the wildflowers and the darkness at the back of the forest, but the aspen trees were so young, their limbs so delicate, and I usually paint mature aspen, and no grass or ground, just trees, leaves, and sky.

But my work was feeling stale and predictable. I needed to take a risk, to be willing to try and get it wrong, or be surprised by finding a new kind of “right.” First I made this painting. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it grew on me quickly.

Young Aspen, 30 x 40″ (sold)

After I sold the painting, I missed it. I also wondered if that looser more wild way of painting was just a fluke. Some of my previous work has felt that way. No matter how successful the results, I could never reproduce the style. But I had some uninterrupted time on my hands, and I thought I’d give it a try on a larger canvas. I thought I’d try to show some of the depth of the forest, and the way the light was hitting the leaves and the ground. I was scared. Anytime I attempt to capture even some realistic elements of a photo in my paintings, I freak out. The familiar monologue starts up that I don’t have the skill or the training, and I should stick with what I’ve come to know, with what feels safe, and with what predictably sells. Sigh.

Thankfully, that’s no fun, while getting into new territory is. So I gave it a go, and I’m pretty excited about how it came out. So excited, in fact, that the next painting I’m about to start is sourced from an even more intimidating photo–one of Gum Root Swamp at dusk, with water. 

Summer, Durango, CO, 48 x 72″

Aspen Grove

Monday, August 21, 2017

Aspen Grove

48″ x 60″

My husband and I were able to hike in an aspen forest in Colorado during our honeymoon this summer. The leaves were still green but I could easily imagine them turning yellow, shimmering or “quaking,” and falling. When we got back to Gainesville, I painted the aspens.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a more compelling time to consider aspen trees as a meditation on human connection. Aspen groves are actually all one organism, joined underground by elaborate root systems. What appear as distinct forms are in fact individual expressions of a single living creature.

 

6th Street Sycamore

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sixth Street Sycamore

36×36″

I’m on a sycamore tree kick. I’m also trying to keep things loose and expressive lately, and show at least some of my original marks. This presents an ongoing challenge to my perfectionism and the urge to tighten everything up.

At one point I thought this painting was destined for the dumpster, but I pulled it back from the brink. When I paint (or live) too safely, I forget that the disaster moments–and what it takes to recover from them–are actually where the growth and learning occur.

Cypress Swamp

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cypress Swamp

30×40″

My husband and I recently bought road bikes. We’ve been riding the Gainesville-Hawthorne trail as much as we can lately, and it sure is lush out there. Thomas’s bike is significantly fancier than mine, and truth be told, he’s a lot stronger than me, too. This means we ride the first few miles together, and then I tell him to take off ahead of me, an arrangement we both enjoy since solo biking a long paved trail through the woods and cypress swamps is one of the most Zen activities around.

I’ve had this week away from work, which gave me a few glorious uninterrupted mornings to paint. I painted this piece today, a view from the Gainesville-Hawthorne trail that arrests me every time I bike past it.

Filtered Light

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Often I overpaint. So this morning I painted in just one session, walked away, and let it be done.

Filtered Light

36″ x 48″

Tribute to Spring

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Sycamore

48″ x 60″

On my weekday bike rides to and from work, I pass underneath a row of Sycamore trees along 6th Street. Spring arrives to these trees as a revelation, and to me, too. In this painting I just finished, I tried to capture what I feel when I gaze into the trees from below as the leaves are just bursting forth.

Happy May Day!

Art fair fun and feedback

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I write this morning with a keen awareness that summer is almost here. The delicate spring colors, yellow-greens and green-whites, will soon give way to deeper, more rustic hues. Life in Gainesville will briefly slow under the belting heat and the reduction of student throngs. When I must emerge from the air conditioning, I will sweat and scurry across the open spaces, and any tree with dense foliage will be a blessing.

Work in progress

Speaking of Florida heat, I’ve recovered from my first street art fair a few weeks ago. From people taking selfies in front my paintings and several nice sales to unsolicited advice and feedback, not all of it positive, I will be back for more in the Fall if I’m accepted to the show. Art is a matter of taste, and there is no universal in this regard. One of my favorite moments happened when a woman eagerly beckoned her friend to come and look at my paintings. The friend took one glance and proclaimed, “It’s nice, but it’s not for me!” and kept walking.   How simple; how true. When it comes to art, it’s usually is like that, isn’t it? We know instantly whether something is for us. Another person–someone who bought a painting–took time to critique my work. “You should do more of the kind of painting we’re buying from you, less of the other ones,” my patron said, waving a dismissive hand at several paintings in my booth. “That other stuff is too easy.”

I chewed on this for a while. Was he right? Have I been playing it too easy at times? I gave this some real thought. As a self-taught artist, I’ve never been exposed to the brutal critiques in art schools, and I don’t usually overhear people’s negative comments because I hang my paintings and leave them for a month or two.  When people talk, I don’t hear it. So the feedback, while hard, was worth entertaining.

He did have a point, and at the moment I am indeed working on a more technically challenging painting. However, as a painter I continue to navigate by intuition, listening closely to what feels right, what sits well with me over time, and what I can live with in my work. Although some of my paintings are technically harder than others, my inner world dictates what emerges at least as much as my technical ability.

The truth is that sometimes I need to paint in a more raw, simplistic way, because to do so is its own kind of challenge–part of learning to loosen up, play, and allow things to be imperfect, not fully formed or realized all the time. Which is, for anyone who knows me well, not so easy for me at all.

Guy taking a selfie

 

The wedding paintings

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Over the past few months, I’ve had several almost-finished canvases in my studio, all lacking the final touches that allow me to move on to something new.

Then, last weekend, I got married.

Bride and Groom

Newlyweds

The lead up to the wedding involved things that don’t usually consume me, like countless trips to Michael’s craft store, the florist, and other frivolities such as lots of late-night anxiety dreams about the weather, the food, and my wedding day hair and make-up going horribly wrong.

But in the end, it was a flawless spring day, dogwoods blooming, with friends and family joyfully celebrating and welcoming my ecstatic husband Thomas and I into the community with love.

Wedding Toast

My brother Justin, giving a toast

I returned to the studio after the wedding and knew how to finish my pieces.

Flowers 1

Wedding Flowers (1)

It was easy when I realized that they were all somehow about the wedding, and I’d needed to live out the wedding before I knew this.

Flowers 2

Wedding Flowers (2)

Now, I can see that the paintings are about the wildflowers in my bouquet, about the paper lanterns my mother and I hung on the tree by the dance floor, about the way life can be so hard but still there are weddings, still there are flowers.

The Wedding Tree

Wedding Tree

 

2016, here and gone

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Celebration

The Celebration

48″ x 60″

2016 brought unexpected gifts and losses. Perhaps trying to absorb it all, I recently returned to an old theme–trees losing leaves, somehow at the height of their beauty.

So here’s to all that’s come and gone this year, from the blue blazes of grief to the joys that endure.

Happy New Year!

Theme by Blogmilk   Coded by Brandi Bernoskie