Kevin Workman Foundation & SDCC Experience

This past summer, I was the recipient of the Kevin Workman Foundation scholarship for a booth at San Diego Comic Con! I received the call back in February, so I had several months to prepare for the experience, but I really had no idea just how overwhelming it would be! 

I was incredibly honored to be selected by René, Brian, and Paul, who run the Kevin Workman Foundation in the name of their friend, a huge supporter of the arts. Not only does the foundation send a promising artist to SDCC (they're taking submissions now until January 15th!), they also carry on Kevin's legacy with outreach programs with at-risk youth and bring them opportunities to express themselves and explore creativity. 

 My booth setup for SDCC - it was 10' x 10' and my goal was to make it inviting and present a "gallery" to catch attendees as they walked by. I later flipped the layout to draw more people in.

My booth setup for SDCC - it was 10' x 10' and my goal was to make it inviting and present a "gallery" to catch attendees as they walked by. I later flipped the layout to draw more people in.

The KWF guys made sure I was as prepared as possible, making each step of the journey as painless as possible! Nothing really could've prepared me for how utterly overwhelming SDCC would be, though! When my boyfriend Taylor and I arrived, René took us for a "quick" tour (I'd later learn that it could take more than an hour to simply walk from one end to the other due to the sheer amount of bodies in that space!), and I found myself skipping, clapping, and giggling as the huge nerd that I am - I'm at frickin' Comic Con! 

 Taking a  CAT  nap under my table. I was SO wiped!

Taking a CAT nap under my table. I was SO wiped!

SDCC was a real test of my endurance, though! I had not planned on getting over a sinus infection that week, so for the first two days of the con, I was completely exhausted and out of energy. Taylor would man the booth while I took cat naps under my table to reenergize myself (which turned out to be totally worth it. Also, bubble wrap works as a great pillow in a pinch!). I instructed Taylor to kick me awake if someone asked to meet me, haha.

Some of the most memorable experiences from SDCC included getting to know the folks behind the Kevin Workman Foundation, and meeting people that knew Kevin and were excited to meet me, being the 4th recipient of this scholarship! I was truly honored to get to be a little part of that legacy. 

23632166_2062020347350898_1962652302200143665_o.jpg

With the KWF crew at their fundraiser after a very long day of traveling and setting up my booth! 

Of course, it would be blasphemy for me to be at SDCC and not get to experience a little bit of waiting in line to meet someone I admire! On Sunday, I took some time away to go meet Ashley Eckstein, voice of my favorite Star Wars character, Ahsoka Tano, and the lady behind Her Universe. I knew that Ashley liked Alice in Wonderland, so I brought her a print of my "Curiouser and Curiouser" painting, and had her sign a Funko Pop figure of Ahsoka, and sign a book for me.

 Getting to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of my favorite Star Wars Character, Ahsoka Tano.

Getting to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of my favorite Star Wars Character, Ahsoka Tano.

After five grueling days at SDCC, meeting hundreds of people (at least!), Taylor and I were able to unwind a bit, so we enjoyed some more of San Diego (fun fact: I was born here!), and visited the San Diego zoo as well as spent some time at the beach before we headed back home to Nashville.

I'm so grateful for the experience given to me by the Kevin Workman Foundation - it was truly something I will never forget, and I'm so excited to see who they select for their 5th year with the KWF Scholarship! 

"Interlude" Suits - Hanafuda Deck

The name "hanafuda" literally translates to flower cards. "Interlude" is comprised of 12 suits, one for each month of the year that also corresponds to a specific flower, plant, or creature. Each suit is painted as a whole and then divided up into four individual cards, creating a 48 card deck.

 Click any suit to view it larger.

Matsu

Ume

Sakura

Fuji

Ayame

Botan

Hagi

Susuki

Kiku

Momiji

Yanagi

Kiri

On “Metanoia,” My Divorce Painting

I want to talk about how “Metanoia” came to be and what this piece means to me. I’m going to warn you right now: it’s going to get very personal in here. Grab a snack – it’s a long one!

Learning and Evolving as an Artist:

 

 Cats, Princesses, and Cat Princesses. Circa 1993

Cats, Princesses, and Cat Princesses. Circa 1993

My understanding of what it is to be an artist has evolved as I have grown up. As a child, it was about expressing myself and making use of my creativity. As a teenager, it was about connecting with whatever media I was working with and discovering myself through the work I created. In my college years, it was about pushing boundaries and seeing what I was capable of. Post-college years, it was all about refining my skills and finding my place as an artist. Once I became a full time, professional artist, that meant that I had to keep a certain standard while continuing to challenge myself. And now, at 31 years old, I think I’m finally getting what it means to be an artist: channeling my experiences and perspective into what becomes my best work.

 Me at the IMC 2017 – Photo by Jada Rowland

Me at the IMC 2017 – Photo by Jada Rowland

Let’s discuss “best work” for a moment: that definition is different for each of us. For me, it’s what I call a “level up” piece. I have 1-2 of these per year, out of the 25-35 pieces I complete in a year. When I know I have created a “level up” piece, there’s this feeling like I got the recipe right this time. That meant adding a new ingredient, adjusting the measurements, or baking it a little longer. Sometimes all three. My Level-Up paintings always take a lot out of me. There’s crying, there’s frustration, there’s little victories and ah-ha moments in every inch of the painting. However tiring it can be to make these pieces, it’s always worth the effort and I see real, actual growth in myself and my work. These pieces are mile-markers in my journey as an artist.

 “Impasse” was a Level Up painting from 2015

“Impasse” was a Level Up painting from 2015

“Metanoia” is one of these mile-markers. It was conceived at the IMC in June 2017, a weeklong workshop for artists and illustrators put together by the venerable Rebecca Leveille Guay. This was my second year at the IMC – my previous being in 2016 – which was more or less a bit of a waste as I was very distracted by a personal issue that I was unable to shake for the entire week. The IMC is notorious for inspiring emotional breakthroughs and breakdowns alike in its attendees, and it skipped over me that year. I was determined to return and have a proper IMC experience in 2017.

I chose to be in the Gallery group that year because I wanted to create something free of expectations and to be completely vulnerable and open to the wisdom of the instructors. I knew I was ready for this because of my divorce the previous summer.

My Marriage and Time as a Jehovah’s Witness:

My ex-husband and I married in June of 2010 after dating for less than year. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses, so the dating pool was very, very small. He grew up as a JW. I did not – I joined it at 19 and was baptized a year later. We were only 22 and 23 when we married. We hardly knew each other due to the limitations that being a JW places on those who are dating. We got along great intellectually and saw that each of us were “black sheep” within the religion as creative types that weren’t very good at following all the rules.

 My wedding day in June 2010

My wedding day in June 2010

The problem with marrying so young and after the limited interaction we were allowed as Jehovah’s Witnesses is that we didn’t truly get to know one another until after the wedding day. We were compatible in many ways, but in some of the most important ways, we were not. I fought against the expectations of the doting and demure Christian wife, and he struggled against the expectations of being the figurehead of the family and taking responsibilities in the congregation. These things lead to resentment, struggles in expectations, and hours-long fights.

Because I had a traumatic childhood, I had grown up seeking family and community, which is why I became a Jehovah’s Witness in the first place. I felt loved, accepted, and was welcomed into the community immediately. It was really easy to follow along and study the Bible and knock on doors, which ultimately lead to disowning my non-JW family and friends. Also due to my childhood, I did not know how to handle conflict properly and the PTSD caused me to freeze into a motionless human ball until it was all over. This is what kept us married for 6 years – the fights that ended in me complying because he was very good at putting the words he thought I should be saying into the conversation as I wasn’t really capable of communicating through the fights.

 Me and a gummy baby Penny

Me and a gummy baby Penny

Eventually we had Penny. I had hopes that this would realign us as a couple and within the JW organization. Because we were now an actual family with a child, maybe things would change. Instead, it got worse. I dealt with severe Post-Partum Depression, and he had his own string of issues that were eventually diagnosed. Due to our particular combination of problems, I often felt like I was taking care of two babies until my own PPD got so bad that I couldn’t take care of anyone, even myself. Once I received help, I was able to get back into creating as I found some stability and stepped into my role as a mother. This brought me a new strength that ultimately allowed me to leave our marriage; I was no longer living for myself, but for my daughter too.

It wasn’t long before we began to resent the expectations put upon us as Jehovah’s Witnesses. People noticed we weren’t going to meetings, or services, because we were so exhausted with our new baby and frustrated by the lack of understanding. Our local friends turned out to be the “fair weather” type, and everyone distanced themselves from us during times when we needed their support the most. I felt incredibly lonely and channelled my frustration into my art. Only my ex-in laws offered support, which I’m grateful for, but it just wasn’t enough to help alleviate the isolation I felt.

Additionally, I never felt very fulfilled by the work I was making. I couldn’t pinpoint why, except that I felt like I was following a formula just to meet deadlines and keep some semblance of sanity by being productive.

 Me in my studio in 2014

Me in my studio in 2014

I didn’t realize what the issue was until I began going to therapy in early 2016. My therapist noted that I was justifying everything I was upset about. I would justify mine and my husband’s very strained relationship; I would justify why I still wanted to remain a JW despite how disillusioned I became; I justified my own lack of action during fights. In fact, I went to therapy in the first place in order to learn how to handle our particular brand of conflict. Over the first few months of therapy, I learned how my childhood gave me PTSD and why I acted the way I did during these fights. I learned how to clear my head and eventually access my emotions during a conflict so I could slowly begin to hold my ground. I had become emotionally calcified over events in my lifetime – especially so in my marriage. Early to mid 2016 found me chipping away at the stone until something vulnerable showed through.

In the summer of 2016, we had another epic fight. I’d call these “divorce fights” because he’d eventually toss out, “we should just get divorced” as a way to get me to react, I think. Every time, I’d snap out of it and do what I could to convince him that we could fix everything, that I could do better. I was so terrified of change, of leaving everything I knew, that bringing up divorce in these fights was a surefire way to get me back in line. However, this time, I saw the evidence of that chink in my armor and did not immediately react to the D word as I always had. There was a pause, and I solemnly said, “yeah, I think it’s time.”

Not long after, that chink lead to the armor falling away almost completely. The split was terrifying and brutal at times, but we did our best to remain amicable for our daughter’s sake. We each realized that it was time to find ourselves outside of the JW religion and outside of our marriage. Outside of being Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were clearly ill-suited to each other.

Since I didn’t grow up as a JW, the transition back into the outside world was incredibly refreshing – like taking that gulp of air after a game of who-can-hold-their-breath-the-longest-in-the-pool. The only really difficult aspect was that I was truly starting over – I officially distanced myself as a Jehovah’s Witness by getting divorced and therefore lost the community I had been a part of for the entirety of my 20’s. Plus, I had to rebuild my credit, buy a new car, and truly live on my own income as an artist and now single mom, hardly a month after turning 30.

Finding Myself at 30:

Making these massive life changes at 30 came at the perfect time. Something about turning 30 makes you start thinking about mortality and how every decision, every choice has a sense of gravity that it didn’t before. This was exciting to me! Now that I was free of a religion that suppressed almost everything in my nature, I was determined to live by the knowledge that this is the only life I have and so I’m going to make it an absolutely memorable one.

 Me and my boyfriend at Illuxcon 2017

Me and my boyfriend at Illuxcon 2017

I began dating the man whom I’m certain is my soulmate – a case of finding each other at precisely the right time, as he had also left a very long term relationship earlier that year. I was inspired in ways I had never been before. With the calcified layer crumbling completely, I began to feel intense emotions again. Everything was so raw, and, of course, it found its way into my work.

The entirety of my 30th year was spent refocusing on my work as I rebuilt my life. I was so energized by it all! Everyone noticed that I was smiling and even glowing in photos like they’d never seen before. I learned to listen to my intuition again and find my own version of spirituality. I allowed myself to be in a little more in tune with the universe and its ebbs and flows. I let myself believe in magical things again, to be excited by the unexplained and inspired by my imagination instead of being tethered to the strange version of reality that I had become accustomed to as a JW. I wanted to be completely open to new experiences and ideas I had previously shunned. But above all, my goal in all of it was to be the best version of myself so that my daughter could have a happy, fulfilled mother.

Being a Single Mom:

19429649_10103031794751043_6230419874667038041_n.jpg

I dealt with a lot of guilt in the divorce and what it meant to split the family my daughter had. My own parents divorced when I was 9 years old. I was old enough to know that it wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t stop my mom from accusing me of causing it all by speaking to the CPS when they came to my school to ask about my bruises.

When I went to therapy in early 2016, one of my goals was to understand why my mom did the things she did to me when I was a child. I just couldn’t understand her, and asking her was out of the question, since I chose to remove her from my life completely at 21 after repeated efforts to have a normal relationship failed spectacularly. My mom is/was bi-polar, a compulsive liar, and really – a sociopath. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I realized these things and made a conscious decision to do everything I could to not become her, especially since I knew I wanted to have my own children eventually.

Having a daughter, this was always in the back of my mind. I was terrified that I might have some kind of dormant personality defect that would show up once I had my own children. However, therapy helped me to see that this would never be the case, if only because I was concerned with this at all.

 On Mother’s Day 2017

On Mother’s Day 2017

Penny is the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s the reason I was able to distance myself from being a Jehovah’s Witness because I didn’t want her to grow up within the religion. I had seen so many people grow up within it to find that once they reach adulthood, they don’t know who they truly are and have a serious existential crisis (i.e. my ex-husband, and that was awful to watch happen). I didn’t have the strength to leave that community until I knew I had to do it for her.

The divorce, though… that’s where the guilt comes in. Every child deserves two loving parents and a safe home. Within my marriage, though, I was depressed, stressed, and incapable of being the mother I needed to be for Penny. Her father was in a similar position. We knew that she deserved better, and that meant splitting up. She still has two loving parents and now has two homes. It breaks my heart every time I have to drop her off to spend time with her dad, but I’m happy that we’re equally in her life. The time I have with her is never taken for granted. I know how lucky I am to be able to co-parent with her father, truly, and I know he loves and cares for her as much as I do.

 Penny is now three years old!

Penny is now three years old!

The hardest part is the money. In a dual-income household, I didn’t have to hustle as hard to make ends meet because there were two of us. Now, it’s all on me to make sure my part of the rent is paid, that daycare is paid for on the days I have Penny, that dinner can be made and the lights stay on, and that she has everything she needs.

Through all of this, I want Penny to see how hard I’ve worked to have the life that I want. I want her to see the strength it takes to make the hard decisions that are ultimately for the best. I want her to see that being a good person is her job and that she doesn’t need a religion to tell her who to be. I want her to have the freedom to find that out on her own, and I am honored to be her mother and help facilitate that.

Back to “Metanoia,” aka, My Divorce Painting

With nearly a year back on my own behind me as I attended the IMC, I set out to create a painting that would bare my soul and what I went through in that transitive year. I showed up with the faint idea of creating a piece with three mermaids. I didn’t know yet what they represented, or why there were three of them. All I knew was that I would bring an 18″ x 24″ prepared watercolor paper panel and be open to the experience.

 Thumbnails

Thumbnails

 Sketch & Revision

Sketch & Revision

 Final Sketch

Final Sketch

I showed up on day one with a few thumbnails and my vague ideas. Rebecca and guest artist (and all around awesome guy) Andrew Hem were there to critique. Rebecca’s feedback was to focus on that first thumbnail but crop in and emphasize the relationship between the three mermaids.

Then, I produced a 9″ x 12″ sketch, which Rebecca used tracing paper to improve upon the flow and composition. As I worked on the final drawing, I got to know these mermaids better. I studied the expressions that were being built, how they were holding one another, and where their attention lied.

At this point, Cynthia Sheppard came by to offer feedback, and as I was talking aloud about who I thought each of these mermaids were and what their relationship to each other was, I realized that this is a self portrait, and these are different stages of how I’ve handled my divorce. It was an extremely emotional epiphany – I found myself fighting back tears as I realized Cynthia had her own divorce painting several years back, also with three figures as a self-portrait. It was an exchange I’ll never forget.

 Color Study

Color Study

 Photoshop Adjustments (Dan's on the Right)

Photoshop Adjustments (Dan's on the Right)

 Color Picking & Matching

Color Picking & Matching

I built upon the symbolism of these mermaids: The top figure is the sentry. She’s keeping guard from further pain, wearing the armor and wielding a defensive weapon. The middle figure is reflection and care. She’s the vulnerable core trying to learn from the experience, at the same time administering self-care to heal and grow. The bottom figure processing grief and loss. She’s holding the broken chain of pearls (representing the necklace I made and wore on my wedding day).

From there, I scanned the final drawing and transferred it to a smaller piece of watercolor paper and created a color study. I looked at one of my favorite pieces by Edmund Dulac for inspiration for the color palette, and I used a base of watercolor, followed by acrylic glazing, and finalizing with acryla gouache for that lemon yellow.

Following the color study came scanning it in and pushing the colors further in Photoshop, a part of my process I’ve added in the last year to get more vibrant colors. At this point, I asked for feedback from another mentor of mine, Dan Dos Santos. I always go to Dan when I’m feeling particularly good about a piece, because I know he’ll find something to improve upon!

The next step in this process is to color match. I like to keep a limited palette and create all the colors I need with as few paint tubes as possible. I took this out of my friend JAW Cooper’s book and creating a to-do list as well. This piece is so big and so complicated that it required it!

Up next was to enlarge the final drawing to the same size as the paper panel (18″ x 24″), cover the back with graphite, and then transfer the drawing. I use this process regularly too, though sometimes skip some of these steps if it’s a smaller piece or I have less time to work on it because of a deadline.

 The first layer

The first layer

 Slow progress

Slow progress

 Final at at IMC sharing the "Ugly Stage"

Final at at IMC sharing the "Ugly Stage"

Then come the first baby layers! That “Nickel Azo Yellow” is just so brilliant for a layer to start with. Next, I masked off the fish and the pearls to preserve that bright yellow underneath as layer after layer was piled on.

As per usual, a lot of salt is used to create texture. Much of this is covered up in the layers beyond, but I like to have that established early on, since adding additional texture in watercolor is difficult beyond the first or second layer. I used primarily course Kosher salt.

On the final day of the IMC, every student shares their piece, usually still in progress. Mine was very much still in the “ugly stage,” as I like to call it. I didn’t pick the piece back up until mid-August in order to finish it in time for Dragon*Con.

I picked back up on glazing and layers in watercolor, trying to build those sickly, unsettling blues and greens with the yellow undertones. I loved this stage – the skin literally glowed.

 Building up the luminosity in the skin

Building up the luminosity in the skin

 Meticulously painting the fins

Meticulously painting the fins

 Watercolor underpainting complete!

Watercolor underpainting complete!

After a few more days, the watercolor underpainting is complete. The masking fluid is removed and the yellow fish and pearls are revealed and ready for further work. I sealed the watercolor underpainting with 3-4 layers of Golden Acrylic Spray Varnish in Gloss. Then I added a layer of diluted matte medium, sanded lightly, added another layer of diluted matte medium, sanded again, and then one more layer of the matte medium. Glazing with fluid acrylics begins.

This stage moves so fast that I don’t get any pictures. I glazed alternatively with alizarin crimson at the top and then with a blue/purple mixture at the bottom. The glazes build up slowly. I worried a little bit about losing all of the hard work I did with the watercolor on those translucent fins, but I know I can build it back up with acryla gouache, which is exactly what I did. The final touches involved using Lemon Yellow acryla gouache by Holbien to get that glow, just as I did in the color study.

22008273_10103243871442653_4581120570773825459_n.jpg

I knew this was a “Level Up” piece because I didn’t know how to feel when it was complete. During the entirety of the painting process, I also processed my divorce that the previous year in ways that I can’t put into words.

What I’ve Learned

I was able to look back on previous work after finishing this and seeing the vast difference between the time in my life when I had no access to my emotions, and therefore couldn’t put them into my work, and comparing that to work I made in the last year. Several pieces made me feel something while painting them, whereas, while in my marriage, I tried so, so desperately at times, to dig into that calcified layer to draw inspiration from.

A large series of works are waving in and out of my subconscious since completing this piece that will make use of this new, better version of me. I feel like I actually have something real to share now. I have real, difficult, and incredible experiences and realizations I want to channel into my work, and I’m so excited to see where that leads me.

 “Limerence” is one of my favorite paintings from 2016 that pulled from those raw emotions.

“Limerence” is one of my favorite paintings from 2016 that pulled from those raw emotions.

“Metanoia” is just the start. I want to thank Rebecca Leveille Guay for making a huge impact on me at the IMC. I tried to thank her twice but ended up a blubbering mess both times and instead a hug had to do. I was so incredibly inspired by her wisdom and emotional strength. I have never, ever been able to pinpoint a single person in my life to look up to as an example of who I want to be and what I want to accomplish in my career. I’ve seen through her the raw strength, courage, and emotional aptitude it takes to create the work that she does, and I was completely overcome by the realization that it’s now my goal to find that language in my own work in my lifetime. I think that’s key here, too. I’m 31. I’m only 31. In my twenties, my career was all about finding my voice and making work that reflects that, while building a fanbase, establishing relationships with galleries, and making a damn living off of it. In my thirties, my goal is continue to build on that, but make work that isn’t just interesting or beautiful or easy to sell… I want it to make people ache. I want it to reach into a viewers soul, make them learn something about themselves and find truths. I know now that can only be accomplished by starting with that in myself.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer 1: I suspect this might be read by those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and may have known me while I was one. While I’m no longer a JW, I do not consider myself an apostate. I left because I no longer believed it was the way of life I wanted. I also left because I feel very strongly about LGBT issues, which is something that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not support. I followed my conscience and I’m now the happiest person I feel I can possibly be. I believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are generally really wonderful, kind, generous, and good people. I found family for many years through them and have only the highest regard for most that I knew. I love and miss many of you and I’m grateful for my time as a JW – I know it made me a better person.

Disclaimer 2: I don’t think it would be fair to my ex-husband to air too many of the issues we faced while married, so I’ve omitted a lot of what transpired and tried to stick to the facts and things that we could both agree upon. We’re divorced, so obviously our marriage had to get to such a terrible point that we made that decision, but I don’t wish to put any ill light on him. We’re co-parenting really well for the sake of Penny and he’s a wonderful father to her.

Recording & Livestreaming in the Art Studio

Since I decided to take my career seriously roughly around 2009, I’ve been trying to keep up with trends in social media and work on my personal strategy in order to boost my follower base and, in turn, improve sales of my work. One of the recent trends that’s taking off is recording the artist’s process and making videos to share. From recording with your phone, a web cam, and even a DSLR, there are numerous ways to get your foot in the game, and it’s much easier than you think!

Before I delve into what I choose to work with and how, let me share a corner of my studio where all the recording and painting happens:

image1-1.jpg

Here’s what you see:

  • My drafting table with a shelf above, my macbook in front of my work in progress, and Marzipan on her pillow to the right.
  • Two swing arm lamps with CFL daylight bulbs.
  • A flexible gooseneck that attaches to my shelf and has a clip on the end meant to hold a cellphone.
  • An attachment for my webcam (meant for a tripod) that the clip holds onto.
  • My Logitech C920 webcam, which connects by USB to my macbook.

Depending on what kind of video I want to produce, I’ll adjust my setup accordingly. For simple, quick videos that are meant for Instagram, I’ll remove the webcam attachment and instead just record from my phone with the camera function. I’ll adjust the gooseneck clip so that the viewfinder shows what I want to record. If I’m planning to do a time-lapse, I use the “time-lapse” function in my iPhone. I’m not sure if this takes up less space, but it does some of the work for me in speeding up the recording. Once I have the recording of my process (make sure your phone has plenty of battery and space!), I’ll open the file in an app called Videoshop and continue to adjust my video from there, whether it needs to be further sped up in order to fit the 1 minute limit on Instagram, or if I want to add music, etc. This video editing app does most of what I want, so having that available in my phone is super helpful! Here’s an example of one such video taken with this method:

If I’d otherwise want to create a simple video recording me working in real time, I follow the same process, but don’t record in “time-lapse” function and instead keep my recording to a minute or less. Here’s an example:

If I’m planning to record for the purpose of sharing a high quality video via Youtube or elsewhere, I skip the phone and set up my webcam (as pictured above. The Logitech C920 comes with software that allows me to record, and when I’m finished, I’ll open the file in iMovie to edit. I know there are better editing programs out there, but this one came with my Macbook and it’s easy enough for me to have figured out on my own! I’ll then upload the file to Dropbox, which I can then download from my phone and share on Instagram. Otherwise, I’ll upload the file straight from my computer to wherever I wish to share it, like Facebook or Youtube. Here’s one example where I’ve done this (and you can see the full video here):

Finally, if I am live-streaming via Twitch, things get a little more complicated. Since I’m fairly new to Twitch, I can’t really offer tons of advice, but there are lots of tutorials and helpful articles available with a Google search the help you get started. After I did a bit of my own research, I found that fellow creatives on Twitch had two screens: one for showing their artwork in progress, and a second screen on their faces to show reactions. While I wasn’t thrilled with this second addition, as this means I need to put on makeup or else look like a troll, I find it really fun to watch on other people’s streams! So, my setup in the photo at the top is how I have it when I’m live-streaming from Twitch: the top-down camera on my work is from the Logitech C920 and the camera on my face is my Macbook’s camera.

When streaming, the screen looks like this:

Screen-Shot-2017-01-10-at-7.29.15-PM.png

One really nice thing about live-streaming is that I am also recording all of that progress, which can then be turned into a time-lapse video that can be shared to promote my work as well as the fact that I’m now on Twitch! Here’s one I made from my most recent session:

I’m really excited to see where live-streaming my work takes me, and I hope that this little article gives fellow creatives some pointers on how to take advantage of the ability to easily share videos of your process as well as live-stream it to your fans.

Feel free to share your own tips in the comments!

Did you find this post helpful? Please consider supporting my work by checking out my shop or supporting my Patreon!

On Being an Artist and a Mother - Year Two

I have had the intention of creating this blog post for months as a follow up to 2014’s “On Being an Artist and a Mother” post. Penny’s second year of life has been vastly different from her first, and subsequently, my career as an artist has had to adjust along with her growth. Even writing this now, it’s very hard to follow up with Year Two as it’s been a huge blur, even moreso than the first year! I thought that the best way to tackle this is by going through photos from the last year to help me remember the challenges from each phase of Penny’s growth and how it affected my career.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Life with a baby-almost-toddler was rough! Between 9-12 months, there were seemingly endless bouts of teething issues, waking up several times a night, and trying to appease a frustrated Penny that wasn’t yet walking, but wanted to be everywhere and do everything at once. Looking back now, I see how convenient it was that she wasn’t yet walking and still short enough that she wasn’t able to get into too much trouble while in my studio with me. I was able to paint in 30-45 minute bursts if she had enough toys to occupy her in my studio. At that time, I think she was down to two naps a day, each being about an hour and a half. Since I was getting so little sleep, I usually used the morning nap to catch up on sleep, and the afternoon nap to work. My mother-in-law would take Penny a couple times a week between naps so I could get a longer work day in.

iPiccy-collage1.jpg

Penny got the hang of walking around 13 months and had also finally started sleeping through the night. New challenges presented themselves with her newfound mobility, of course. I’m having to push my current projects and any supplies further back on my desk to keep tiny grabby hands away (though I occasionally failed to push something far enough back, or put up at all – she managed to eat a little bit of gouache!). Penny’s attention span was still pretty short, though, so setting her up with toys to keep her busy while I attempted to work didn’t get me very far, so I came to rely more on the times that my MIL took Penny so I could work, as well as staying up until 11pm or midnight most nights to get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted painting time in. I had it pretty good, then, with Penny’s two naps! I wasn’t ready when she began to transition into one nap at all…

iPiccy-collage3.jpg

I tried pretty hard to find ways to get even 15-20 minutes of working time in while Penny was awake. I began to prioritize tasks based on the amount of focus needed while Penny was awake. Things like fulfilling shop orders, researching for a new piece, building photoshop mockups, social media and promotion, answering emails,and drafting a new piece were saved for when Penny was up and my full attention wasn’t really required. Being able to step away at a moment’s notice was key. When Penny was napping, asleep at night, or with my MIL, that time was saved for painting.

By this point, my process has changed A LOT, but I think my work has improved for it. My time management skills have been kicked into gear already, and each piece is heavily planned out so that little to no time is wasted. There were even a couple of instances in 2015 where I began a piece, didn’t like where it was going, tossed it and started all over. I didn’t consider it a waste of time because in the end, I was still going to get a piece I was proud of instead of a mediocre one, which would’ve truly been a waste, in my mind.

iPiccy-collage4.jpg

When Penny was about 14-15 months old in late May, I decided to go to Spectrum Live in Kansas City. It would be my first time being away from Penny for more than a day. I had to take my breast pump with me as I was still nursing (we quit when she was 18 months), so that was a little cumbersome, but Penny was totally fine. She was used to drinking cow’s milk by this point and nursing was only supplemental and for comfort. The time away was incredibly refreshing, but I returned with greater focus on where to take my career, though with a deeper appreciation for these precious early years with Penny after speaking with a few veteran mom artists. I need to make it all count. Pressure’s on!

iPiccy-collage5.jpg

Over the summer, Penny became more coordinated and was showing interest in coloring! I had long dreamt of the time when she’d be coloring or doing her own art projects in my studio while I painted. With a slightly longer attention span, I could finally get a little bit more work done during the day with her in my studio (as long as my supplies were even further pushed back). Penny was now down to a single nap lasting 1.5-2 hours, but my sleep had been improving at night so I no longer depended on using her nap to catch up on my own sleep (although I still sometimes do, as I’ll stay up pretty late working or suffer from insomnia from time to time). Around this time, a friend with a daughter Penny’s age told me about a wonderful lady with an in-home daycare I could afford, so Penny began staying there one day a week so I could have a full day of work instead of 3-4 hours at a time. This became a huuuuge relief, as around this time, I became incredibly busy with my work and I just couldn’t find enough hours in the day to paint.

iPiccy-collage6.jpg

 

Some of my biggest struggles came to the fore during the second half of the year, around the time Penny reached 17-19 months of age. I was incredibly stressed by my workload (my own fault – I took on WAY more in 2015 than I should have), and dividing my time between being a career-driven artist and a stay-at-home mom (work-from-home mom?) became near impossible to navigate at times. If I was working, I felt like a bad mom. And if I was trying to make up for that by focusing more on Penny, I fell behind on work. Additionally, working from home is its own mess of challenges: you never truly stop working and yet, it’s remarkably easy to become distracted by the fact that your workplace is your home, and the bed is in the next room and if you could just catch 15 minutes of sleep, you could get more done later… and you see where this is going.

iPiccy-collage8.jpg

These days, (Penny turns two in just 2 months!) I don’t even try to paint while she is up and roaming the house. She’s just too demanding of attention and too curious about everything to even take the risk of her messing up whatever I’m working on. If we’re in my studio while she’s up, I’m filling shop orders, cleaning the studio, or taking care of other menial tasks. To make up for that, Penny now goes to the in-home daycare twice a week, and my MIL takes her once or twice a week in the afternoons for a few hours. Additionally, if my super amaaaaaazing husband is home, he’s happy to keep her occupied for an hour or two so I can focus. With this new-ish setup, knowing I have two or three days of focused work time, I’m able to relax a little bit more on days when I’m Penny’s primary caretaker and give her my full attention. It’s probably also worth noting on those days, I try to pick up the slack on household chores as well (my husband is way better at this than me!).

My goal for 2016 is to continue to seek a better work-life balance. Penny is already growing up too fast, and I don’t want to look back at this time with regret because I was too focused on my career or distracted by other things. My advice to other moms (or soon to be moms) about this second year in your child’s life: remember that everything is a phase – the good and the bad. And once you get used to a particular routine, enjoy it for another week or two, because it’s going to keep changing! This has been tough for me as a person who previously didn’t deal with change too well. If you can find time for yourself to relax every day (for me, it’s a bubble bath at the end of the day), please try to. Additionally, I know most of us artists don’t have tons of expendable income, so spending money on childcare can be difficult to reconcile, but my productivity and overall happiness has soared since taking Penny to her in-home daycare twice a week. It’s easy to become exhausted by your toddler when you’re with them 24/7! Because I’m producing more (and therefore making more money) with Penny gone twice a week, dropping her off at daycare pays for itself now. Plus, she’s spending time with other kids her age. Win-win!

I’m both terribly anxious and terribly excited for this coming year with Penny. The “terrible twos” already seem to be upon us, with at least two or three tantrums a day over the silliest things. I know that this will be a very formative year for Penny’s personality, so I want to be as present and patient as possible with her growth, so my production as an artist may slow down a little. I should add that this couldn’t be at a better time, however. 2015 was a very successful year for me, especially monetarily. Going into 2016 seems to be looking the same, so I plan to coast on shop orders as much as possible as I work toward an exciting solo show this summer with a busy convention season in the fall. I really look forward to being able to “collaborate” on art projects as Penny grows with her motor skills and creative interests. So, bring it on, Terrible Twos!

Thanks for tagging along and the continual encouragement! I also have to thank my husband profusely for being an amazing father to Penny and incredibly supportive of my career. I really couldn’t do this without him and I’m incredibly grateful for his partnership in this.

Mounting Watercolor Paper to a Panel

For the last few months, I’ve experimented with mounting watercolor paper to a cradled wood panel for my work. The idea came from my friend and fellow artist, JAW Cooper. She wrote a tutorial on her own blog about this process. I’ve since adjusted just a few things for my own purposes, so I thought I’d document my own process. This is the fourth panel I’ve created in this manner and the first that I feel pretty good about, including the varnishing technique, which can get very tricky.

Here’s what you’ll need (follow links for product information):

If you’d rather watch a video of this method, check out my “Process and Tutorials in Watercolor” video!

Step One: Tape the edge of your board with painter’s tape and use the squeegee to press it as firmly to the edge as possible. This is  not only to keep the gesso and matte medium off the edges, but you also don’t want your water media (as you’re painting) to seep over and into the panel’s edges.

123-e1424125787198-785x785.jpg

Step two: Apply the gesso to the surface with a foam brush. This is to create a barrier between the paper and the wood, since over time the acid in the wood will seep into the paper if you don’t protect it. The matte medium might do a well enough job, but I’m not sure of this, so gesso is your best bet for protecting the underside of the paper from the wood’s acid. One coat is probably enough.

124-785x785.jpg
125-785x785.jpg

Step three: Take your 120 grit sandpaper (or something similar) and give the gesso’s surface a once-over. You just want to even out the surface enough that there won’t be any noticeable bumps when you press the paper later.

128-785x785.jpg

Step four: If you haven’t already, trace your surface over your paper (make sure that gesso is dry!), and then cut around it, leaving about 1″ of space all around. Set that paper aside. Also, make sure you have a flat surface ready with paper towels, like below.

129-785x785.jpg
131-785x785.jpg

Step five: It’s really important that you work very quickly here, since the matte medium dries pretty quickly. Spread out a hefty dollop of the medium over your gessoed surface with a large brush. Leave a little extra at the edges. Then, line up the panel over your paper that’s been set aside. Gently press it down. For this 14″ x 18″ piece, this step took about a minute. Any longer, and I would’ve needed to reapply the medium.

133-785x785.jpg

Step six:  Flip the panel back over with the paper at the top. Take your brayer and, starting in the middle and working to each edge, roll it over the paper with as much pressure as you can muster. The goal is to have as few bubbles under the paper as possible to make sure the medium is spread out evenly underneath.

134-785x785.jpg

Step seven: Put the panel paper side down over the paper towels and pile weighted objects over it. Try to evenly distribute the weight if possible, too. Turns out my college art history books are pretty useful here! I’ve also got a smaller panel (12″ x 16″) on the inside to help distribute the weight. Leave it overnight, or for at least a few hours.

136-785x785.jpg

Step eight: After the matte medium has fully dried and adhered to the paper, remove your weights. You’ll now need to cut away the excess paper. I’m using an x-acto knife with a fresh blade to cut into the edges. If you’re not confident with your abilities here, using a stiff ruler as a barrier between the panel and the knife will help you get a more precise cut that can later be sanded away.

Step nine: Using your 600 grit sandpaper, sand DOWN at an angle to remove any excess paper and get a cleaner edge. If you sand upwards, you’ll risk pulling the paper away from the panel. After this, you’re ready to paint! DON’T remove the tape yet, though!

151-785x785.jpg
152-785x785.jpg

Step ten: Once your painting is complete, it’s time to varnish and prepare the panel for hanging. After all, the surface needs protection too! Everyone has different methods for varnishing water media paintings – this is one I’ve worked on for years and only recently settled on what I do now. You’ll need acrylic spray varnish to start. The spray varnish is important since brushing on varnish at this stage will only smear your watercolor work. (If you’ve painted with acrylic, you can use brush-on varnish). I typically do 2-3 coats allowing for ample drying time in between each coat. I prefer to use GLOSS varnish since matte varnish reduces the brilliance of any color I’ve used. However, if you’re using gouache or have used thickly applied watercolor, the gloss will make those parts shine and not others. Because that was the case here, I then used a brush on satin finish acrylic varnish. I did about 5-6 coats, applying alternately in vertical and horizontal coats. Once you’re happy with the finish, you can remove the painter’s tape!

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Step eleven:

IMG_7434-785x785.jpg

To prepare the panel for hanging, I’ve used to hook eye screws on the inside of the panel, wrapped framer’s wire, and added four felt stickies. I’ve also added the information about the painting in the back for archival purposes.

Step twelve: Hang it up and give yourself a high five!

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Harbinger

“Harbinger” has been one of the most time-intensive pieces I’ve created to date. It was created for the 3rd Annual Prisma Artist Collective show at Spoke Art in San Francisco, California, opening February 7th, 2015. I have greatly enjoyed creating work for every Prisma show I’ve been a part of, as the roster of the collective inspires me to create work worthy of being included among them… at least I’d hope so, anyway.

I probably spent 30-40 hours total creating “Harbinger,” with about half of that time spent on building and drafting the piece before I even brought a brush to it. Here’s a bit of the process in pictures, much of it captured and shared via my Instagram account.

The idea began with the form I created in my sketchbook. I’ve been doing my best to dedicate more time planning my work – gathering reference (photographing it myself when possible), doing color studies, and photoshop mock-ups. Doing all of this helps to guarantee a piece that I feel good about in the end, but there is still some organic spontaneity that occurs while painting the piece, as working with watercolor usually requires anyway.

Once the form was sketched out, I thought I might imagine that she’s a harpy, and went from there. I wanted to be inspired by interesting feather patterns, however, and looked up pheasants and peafowls, though I used an eagle’s wings for reference for the top portion. Then, I sought reference for the unique position of the form. I realized that it wasn’t quite a comfortable, natural position, so I cut and pieced various references together, including some from a friend-of-a-friend that offered to model this pose for me. Out of respect for her privacy, I won’t be sharing the full reference here.

Next up, I mounted the watercolor paper to the 16″ x 20″ cradled wood panel. This is a technique that’s fairly new to me that I have wanted to try for a long time, but it wasn’t until the fragility of my stretched pieces really became an issue that I finally tried this method out. I followed fellow artist and friend JAW Cooper’s tutorial on mounting paper to wood. I’ve since done this a few times and will be writing a tutorial of my own soon, since I’m now doing a few things differently, so keep an eye out for that.

Once the paper was ready, I created my background texture with watercolor, water, and salt. Once dry, I spent several hours drawing the piece out.

iPiccy-collage1.jpg

Once the full piece was drafted out, I made some decisions regarding the color palette and the color patterning of the feathers. One of the most frequently asked questions I get (if not THE most) is whether I use masking fluid. It’s very rare that I do, because I can avoid an area with watercolor by being precise with my brush, usually carefully following the contour of a line and then filling in. The time it takes to accomplish that is often much less than it would take to fill an area with masking fluid I’m trying to avoid, be just as precise, and then rubbing it away. The only cases in which I use it are one such as this: I was planning to paint an overall wash of red over the feathers, but I wished to keep the middle design of the feathers the background color. I could avoid those areas, but because I wanted the color evenly distributed, the time and effort spent on masking those areas would end up being worth it. In retrospect, I should’ve masked off the hair that touched those feathers too.

So, when I do use masking fluid, I use Grumbacher’s miskit. It smells horrible (all masking fluid does), but I find that it does the best job. The consistency is pretty even, and it peels up nicely. It does deposit a slight orange-ish hue if you leave it on for too long, though, so try not to keep it on for more than a few hours if you really need the paper underneath to remain white. In my case, it made no difference and the miskit remained on for about a week. For applying the masking fluid, I used a cheap brush that I frequently rinsed with water as well as Grafix’s “Incredible Nib,” which I LOVE.

317.jpg

 

Ready to go! I’ve got my colors selected: “Permanent Brown” and “Blue Apatite Genuine” by Daniel Smith, “Payne’s Grey” and “Delft Blue” by Grumbacher, and “Winsor Red Deep” by Winsor & Newton. My reference is printed out for easy access, my brushes, water, and salt are ready to grab.

Describing the process of painting the piece is difficult, because it’s very intuitively-driven, but these process photos should give an idea of what order I chose to paint the piece.

This is a scan of the final piece, which I titled “Harbinger.” I felt that it was fitting to the idea that she’s a harpy, but also for the other symbolic elements in the piece.

The original painting has sold to a collector, but it will be on view at Spoke Art in San Francisco from February 7th through February 28th. For those that are able to make the opening, there are 25 free 8″ x 10″ prints up for grabs to the first attendees!

Update: A close friend of mine was able to make it to the opening a took this picture of “Harbinger” up on the wall!

Shipping Artwork

This is a topic suggestion I received on my last post, and conveniently, as a collector purchased “Delirium” after said post, I have a piece to pack up and share process pictures of!

First, let’s talk materials. I try to save and reuse as much of my packing materials as I can. I haven’t purchased a new box in years, and in many cases, I create “frankenstein” boxes that are custom sized to fit a particular piece or number of pieces, if more than one is being shipped in the same box. I save bubble wrap, air filled pockets, and craft paper as well. I also use coroplast, which is a lightweight corrugated plastic sheet often used for signs. I repurposed one that was shamelessly left in our yard below, (and then took a few others on my street).

photo-5-2-e1421891174610-785x523.jpg

So, here’s what you see:

  • Appropriately sized box. The painting is 11″ x 14″ x 1.5″ depth. This box, that Trekell sent me containing an 11″ x 14″ cradled wood panel, is perfect for the job. It had one puncture from its previous journey, but I reinforced it with several layers of tape. Most boxes aren’t really meant to be reused too often, so if the edges are soft and falling apart, make sure to reinforce it as best as you can, or use something a little more sturdy.
  • One poly bag to put the painting into. Another type of plastic bag is suitable, or seran-wrap even.
  • Coroplast sheets cut to the same size as the painting. These will be used to sandwich the artwork. Since it’s stretched watercolor paper, the very sturdy surface of the coroplast is an excellent barrier, especially since it’s also extremely lightweight and will keep your shipping costs down. Other suitable options are double layers of cardboard, foamcore, plexiglass, and masonite.
  • “Fragile” stickers. You can, of course, write it yourself, but I keep losing my giant sharpie. Plus, I love stickers, so why not have some on hand? (Note: some believe that marking your package as “fragile” invites more harm.)
  • Scissors or exacto knife to cut your coroplast, or protective material.
  • Packing tape. I usually spring for the thicker, nicer stuff.
  • Bubble wrap, air pockets, craft paper, packing peanuts, etc. Bubble wrap is my preferred protective material, since it’s so light, but I don’t always have any on hand. For this package, I’m using some craft paper from a different package, as well as the craft paper already in the Trekell box. (Note: when purchasing packing peanuts, try to use only biodegradable packing peanuts – the kind that disintegrate in water.)
  • Package flair! Like I said above, I love stickers. But I really just enjoy adding a personal touch to a big purchase like an original painting. I’ve always enjoyed it when I’ve ordered something from Etsy and the packaging was done up nicely, so I try to do the same!
  • Business card, extra goodies like postcards.

So! Step one: I slip the painting in the poly bag and seal it up.

photo-4-2-e1421892229511.jpg

Step two: I sandwich the painting with the two coroplast sheets, cut to the same size as the painting. I tape them together to secure them.

photo-3-1-e1421892377606.jpg

Step three: I wrap up the piece with tissue paper, butcher’s string, add a “thank you” sticker and a postcard and business card. (Note: when I send my work to a gallery for a show, I typically skip the “flair” part, though I do like to include a few business cards and a thank you note for the gallery hosting my artwork).

photo-2-5-e1421892471544.jpg

Step four: The painting is placed in the box and secured in place by being surrounded by stiff craft paper. Since the depth of the box is the same as the painting, I don’t need to worry about securing it anywhere but the sides to keep it from shifting too much in transit.

photo-1-6-e1421892669568.jpg

Step five: I tape up the box, toss a few “Fragile” stickers on it, and then print out my shipping label online.

photo-84-e1421892868515.jpg

Other Tips:

  • Always, ALWAYS insure original art when possible. The few extra dollars is absolutely worth it should the package go missing or is damaged in transit. Trust me on this.
  • I tend to prefer to use the USPS unless someone specifies a preference for a different carrier. The USPS is usually cheaper and faster, in my experience. My second choice is Fedex.
  • When shipping original art, always spring for Priority Mail or Priority Express. The less time in transit your piece spends, the better. It has less chances to be lost or someone’s punching bag.
  • If you plan on shipping artwork or prints often, purchasing shipping supplies in bulk will ultimately save you a lot of money. For shipping tubes, I purchase from Uline. For poly bags, I purchase from Ecoswift. For cello bags, I purchase from GT Bag Company. For other assorted materials I don’t need in massive quantities, I purchase from ebay.
  • If you’re shipping prints or small items that don’t need to be insured and don’t want to spend much, you can ship via USPS First Class Mail as long as the package is 13oz or less. This allows me to ship prints very affordably (and subsequently offer free shipping in my shop and eat the cost).
  • Guess what? You NEVER have to go to the post office if you don’t want to! You can pay for and print shipping labels from home. You only need a printer and a postage scale (a kitchen scale works too, for lighter packages). Yes, you can even print postage for international labels. I do most of my shipping through Paypal, but international labels are done through the USPS website. Package too big for the mailbox? You can schedule a pickup. It’s actually cheaper to print postage from home – you get a discount for doing so.
  • If you are shipping a framed piece with glass, please take a whole lot of extra care! I haven’t done this in years, so I don’t have many special tips on doing so, but I do recommend replacing the glass with acrylic plexiglass instead that can be easily swapped back out for glass if the buyer or gallery prefers that. Broken glass in transit can damage the fragile surface of your painting.

So, these are just tricks of the trade I’ve learned through experience over the years. I’m sure there are things I could be doing better or differently! If you have any additional tips to share, please leave a comment!

The Rise, Fall, and Repair of “Delirium”

A few months ago, I got to working on a commissioned piece inspired by the patron's word choice of "delirium." It didn't take too long to come up with a concept sketch for the piece and my reference fell together pretty seamlessly. The piece would be 11" x 14 and completed in watercolor.

photo-83-e1421722125209.jpg

 

I also had plans to make this piece a full speed-paint for my forthcoming process and technique DVD, so I set up my webcam and attached it to a retired swing-arm lamp and got to work.

The piece begins with stretcher bars that are covered with gesso and then the watercolor paper is stretched, or wrapped, around the bars. (I have a tutorial here for this technique). When the surface is ready, I put down a wash of colors and create texture with salt and water. Once that's dry, the salt is removed and then I lightly draw out the piece with the help of my reference material.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Once the underdrawing is finished, I began with the background, carefully filling in areas without the help of masking fluid. I then moved onto the face, and then the body.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

After 9 hours total (I happen to know the time spent because of the speed paint) over the course of nearly two weeks (thanks Penny!), the piece is complete.

Here's the thing, though: I originally intended for it to be upside down, but my husband thought it looked better right side up. The patron liked it upside down as well. And in the end, I had been looking at it from every direction for so long, that I couldn't figure out what I liked better. So, here's both:

"Delirium" was packed up and sent to the patron. A few days later, upon its arrival, I receive devastating news:

339-e1421722176298.jpg

The painting was destroyed en route. The box had been crushed, and in a haze of mom-bie sleeplessness, I completely failed to remember to insert the sheets of coroplast (a thick, lightweight corrugated plastic sheet) to protect the painting in the box. In an additional failure, I did not select to insure the painting, which I usually remember to do. Obviously, now I'll never fail to remember to do BOTH of those crucial things! But truly, the USPS was at fault here for apparently deliberately stepping on the box.

Anyway, after gathering my wits and recomposing myself from the initial shock, I set to figuring out how to repair the tear. I've repaired very tiny tears before (only two instances, and less than half an inch each), but this rip was gargantuan and I'd need professional help. My in-laws and husband do antique frame restoration and gilding, and have contacts with art conservators (as they sometimes work together). My mother in law's friend Christine Young came to the rescue! I met with her and she instructed me and gave me sample bits of everything I needed to repair the painting on my own: wheat starch paste, japanese paper, and blotting papers.

185-e1421722203107.jpg

First, I had to remove the painting from the stretcher bars. I removed the staples and then very carefully unfolded the paper and removed the stretcher. With smaller tears, this wasn't necessary, but the gash was so large that the paper lost some of its tension and the seams would not match up perfectly because of this.

Then, I cut up 1 inch strips of the japanese paper, applied the wheat starch paste to both sides, and applied it to the tear's backside, starting in the middle and working out.

Then, I sandwiched the rip with blotter papers on each side and weighted the painting face down and let the it sit overnight. The next morning, I checked on the repair, and while most of it looked great, a few sections were sticking up. Christine told me I would have to humidify the painting now.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

To humidify it, I filled a pot with hot water, placed the painting over it, and then encapsulated it with a plastic bag. I believe I left it for about 4 hours before removing it. Because the topside of the painting is varnished, I didn't need to worry about the watercolor running due to the humidity. While the painting was still damp, I reapplied the stretcher bars, since the paper would need to reform to it when drying. This part definitely complicated things. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have done this part, because the japanese paper let the seam stretch a little while drying.

Once the painting dried and had reformed to the stretcher bars, I set to checking the repaired seam and then began filling some of the cracks with transparent watercolor ground. Once the ground tried, I sanded it lightly with a very fine grain sandpaper, as the seam was bubbling a little.

The watercolor ground allows me to paint back over the area it was applied to and for it to be absorbed like watercolor paper. In theory, anyway.

And... finished.

284-e1421716732499.jpg

It's not perfect, unfortunately, but it was definitely a learning experience! I think that the repaired seam adds some more character to the piece, personally!

Sadly, the patron did not want the piece back after some thought. Which is totally understandable - she had already seen the rip and couldn't un-see it. So, I will be creating a new piece to make up for it and the original above is still available at a discount. Contact me if you'd be interested in giving "Delirium" a home!

*The original painting has now sold, but limited edition prints can be purchased in my shop!

On Being an Artist and a Mother

I’ve been asked many times in the last nine months what it’s like to be an artist and a new mother. It’s pretty tough to sum it up in a sentence or two on Instagram or Facebook, so here is a personal reflection on my own experience thus far for those who are curious.

Mom.

Mother.

That’s been my newest title as of 2pm on March 27th, 2014. My daughter Penelope Marceline Cavanah made her way into the world and everything permanently changed. I readied myself as best as possible, spending more time preparing for life with a newborn than worrying about the birth itself (a birth plan? pssh, like anything ever actually goes as planned!). I also spent a lot of time ruminating on how best to juggle my time with the little nugget and keeping my career moving along. I expected that the first three months would be wholly devoted to Penny and I would not pressure myself to do any work other than fulfill new orders from my shop.  However, when paid maternity leave isn’t in the cards for the self-employed, I knew that I’d probably have to return to work sooner than I had idealized.

Untitled-3.jpg

I had a lot of fears. I feared that I would never be as productive as I was before Penny. I feared that I would have to give up the dream I’d been living for the last two years as a full time career artist and that I’d have to return to full or part time work to support our little family better. I feared that I couldn’t keep up with the demands of a baby and that I wouldn’t have the energy to pick up a pencil. I feared postpartum depression. I feared that I couldn’t breastfeed. I feared the changes that Penny would force on what has been a very happy marriage with my husband, Reed. I especially feared that I would not be a sufficient mom, as my own mother was, well, not.

Most of those fears never came to fruition. Some did, but have been overcome. And some I struggle with very much.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

The first two weeks of Penny’s life were very difficult. I do not function well on little sleep and we had a lot of difficulty getting Penny to properly nurse. There were a lot of tears. I spent the first several days and nights home in a rocking chair hooked up to a breast pump, watching the time pass on my phone, catching any sleep that I could. But things got better, we got the hang of caring for a newborn, I discovered the magical nipple shield and no longer needed the pump every two hours, I was able to tuck Penny into a wrap and finding mobility was like stepping outside on the first warm day of Spring. After about three weeks, I began to feel that particular restlessness that comes from not creating for too long. I really wanted to draw or paint, but I just didn’t have the energy to attempt it. At about 4 or 5 weeks of Penny’s life, I was able to predict how long Penny would nap and I was finally getting a little more sleep myself. I nervously broke out the pencils and paints. I remember that her naps were about 2.5 hours long. That was just enough time to draft out a simple portrait and paint it monochromatically. I felt like I deserved a gold ribbon. Getting back to productivity felt utterly amazing. I can do it – I can be a mother to a newborn and paint.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Eventually, Penny weaned off of the nipple shield and I was able to properly breastfeed. At around three months old, we bought our first home. That meant that I would get my own studio space back and I could truly return to work.

New challenges were always on the rise just as we would overcome previous ones. Something I have kept in mind is that everything is a phase, the good and the bad.  At about six months, I realized I had developed postpartum depression and sought help. Penny stopped sleeping well and was up every 2 hours at night to nurse. I stopped being as productive as I would’ve liked due to lack of sleep and this brought me down as well. It took several months for things to even out again.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Meanwhile, I’ve had to continue being productive as an artist. It is, after all, my job.  Thankfully, as I work mostly with watercolor, I can usually step away from a piece mid-stroke to tend to Penny if she’s playing on my studio floor and needs attention and I won’t have any issue returning to the piece 30 seconds later or 3 hours later. Pretty often, I can work in several short bursts per day, usually ranging from 15-30 minutes at a time. These days, at nine months old, Penny takes two naps. Her morning nap is my opportunity to shower and dress for the day. Her afternoon nap is when I can get a longer stretch of work done, usually 45 minutes to an hour. I work at night sometimes, but I’m usually too tired and have difficulty focusing, so I try to save some of the easier tasks for the evening – updating my website, fulfilling orders, working on comps, etc. Also, my amazing mother-in-law takes Penny a couple times a week for a few hours so that I can have dedicated, distraction-free working time.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

I’ve learned to do a few things differently to become more productive with less time. First, I make sure I have all of my smaller tasks complete before I sit down to work on a piece. Example: I use the short bursts during the day to draft out a new piece, work on color mixing, and prepping my piece. Then when I have a longer stretch of time to work, such as a long nap or when my mother-in-law takes Penny, I spend that time painting. Second, I try to have more than one piece going at a time. This has been a tough adjustment, since I prefer to get one piece done in a short amount of time and with extreme focus, and then move onto the next. Switching between pieces isn’t easy for me, so I preferred not to do that in the past. I reconcile that now by having multiple pieces going with different purposes. One might be a commission, another is for a gallery show, and one more is being prepped in between. That way, whenever I have time to dedicate to working, I always have something to do. I also try to keep any social networking to when I can’t do any other work, such as while breastfeeding (though even that has proven difficult – she’s gotten into the habit of punching me in the throat while nursing. She thinks it’s hilarious.).

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Of course, none of this is done perfectly and I’m only really doing my best with what each day offers, and none of them are the same or predictable. Some days are very productive and I get as much as 5 or 6 hours of solid work done. Other days, I don’t even enter my studio. My family comes first, and I don’t intend for that to ever change. I am constantly adjusting to everyone’s needs, including my own in response. I try to remain inspired, alert, and determined to grow as an artist, and most of all, disciplined. The time I’m given to dedicate to my work is more precious than ever, and I appreciate it that much more as I’m really living the life I’ve always worked towards: I’m an artist, a mother, and have an amazing and supportive husband.

iPiccy-collage.jpg

Thank you for reading, and I’ve appreciated all of the incredibly encouraging comments these last nine months from my friends and fans of my work on my journey as a new mom. Are you also an artist and a mother? How have you been able to balance it?

For some of my favorite fellow hard-working mom artists, please visit: Alex LouisaNom Kinnear KingStella Im Hultberg, Sylvia JiWendy OrtizLindsey CarrNatalia Fabia, and Linnea Strid.

New Studio Tour

Hello, hello!

First off, I apologize for being so terrible at updating this blog. With less time than ever (due to a 9 month old baby!), I tend to restrict my updating to my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

To catch everyone up, last March, at nine months pregnant with Penny, and after a series of money-devouring incidents that were out of our hands, my husband and I found ourselves without the down-payment for our first home that we had been saving up. We had plans to buy our first home between April and June, after the birth of our daughter and before our lease ended at the home we were renting. With a baby on the way, my studio and second bedroom in the home had been transformed into a nursery. Buying our first home was our answer to our expanding family, so that I could continue to work from home in my own studio space as well as raise our daughter. So, our quick answer to this problem was to run an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, which was wildly successful! The money was raised and then some, and, just in time before our lease ended, we bought our first home with enough space to suit everyone’s needs.

Cut to six months later, my studio has been in full function for quite awhile, but due to the insanity that comes with caring for a baby and managing my career, I hadn’t found enough time, energy, or motivation to finish putting the studio together beyond the essentials until yesterday. For no apparent reason, (well, maybe it was the 2015 wall calendar I just hung up) it was time to organize the space and show it off!

Of course, Penny has her own little space to play while I work!

photo-82.jpg

Thanks visiting! Be sure to follow me on my Instagram and Facebook accounts for regular updates! A more in-depth studio tour will be a part of my forthcoming Process & Technique DVD. If you don’t want to miss the announcement for when it’s available, sign up for my mailing list below! <3

Best Way To Keep Up With My Work

As many people know, or have at least noticed, it has become increasingly difficult to see the content you want to see on Facebook. Our newsfeeds are becoming littered with promoted posts from large corporate companies that can spare the insane amount of money to compete to show up in between posts our friends make. Like many others, I’m extremely irritated by this, and feel like Facebook has betrayed the millions of small businesses that have made Facebook their social media home base. I am one of those directly affected. As of this moment, I have 6,355 likes on my facebook page. Six months ago, this felt like a huge accomplishment because those numbers really mattered. I could count on a post reaching more than half of those people. Those people have already done what they needed to do to in order to be made aware of new updates: a simple click on the “like” button. Now? The process to stay updated is so complicated, I couldn’t tell you what magical order of clicks it takes to have a fan make sure my posts show up in their feed. When I post now, an average link with a small blurb reaches a little over 1,000 people and receives an average of 20 likes. My admin panel infuriates me. I used to be able to view recent likes. If a bunch of likes came in, I knew that someone shared my page link somewhere, and I could go check that out. If the amount of new likes was slim, I was reminded that I needed to post more content. Now it’s covered up by an ad to make ads. I can’t figure out how to hide this, and now every time I visit my page, I am reminded that, unless I want to spend an obscene amount of money, reaching my audience is near hopeless.

fbpage.jpg

I really enjoy the business side of being an artist. My knack for marketing is largely responsible for how I’m able to continue making a living as a self employed artist, but since Facebook has pretty much wiped out the large part of my fanbase from seeing anything I post, my sales and support have dropped significantly. I am really hoping to be able to make it to a full year as a self employed artist and illustrator, but a large chunk of that income has typically been from print sales. Facebook has directly impacted that. It’s not all about sales, of course, but let’s be real: the more exposure I receive, the better my chances are of sales of original paintings, prints, and bringing in new commissions, and the better chance I can continue to do what I love for a living. I mean, you guys — I’m living my dream. And I want to maintain this as long as I can.

So, I have a few links to share. These are in the order of most updated to least.

  • My Instagram account. Yes, I post some photos of my cats (um, they’re adorable), but I also post a lot of in-progress photos of current work. This is the best way to keep up with my work right now.
  • My Twitter account. Assuming you check yours often, I cross post almost everything from my Instagram, and all of my Facebook posts to Twitter.
  • My Personal Facebook account. I have thought long and hard about sharing this, but I realize that if you choose to follow my account, the chances you will see my public posts–which include all important art related announcements and new work–are significantly higher than seeing posts from my page. Please realize that if you send me a friend request and I have not interacted with you on a personal level, I probably won’t accept your request. It’s a personal account for a reason, and I like to maintain a level of privacy. I hope you understand!
  • My Email Newsletter. You can sign up from my homepage! Just scroll to the bottom left corner. I intend to make better use of this, but I’ve typically only used it to make important announcements, and have sent out a newsletter no more than once a month. If you check your email, this is a surefire way to be made aware of important updates.
  • My DeviantART account. If you just want to be made aware of new work and not other fun updates, this is the place to be following me.
  • My Tumblr account. I post a lot of things that inspire me, and my new work when I have it. I only use it when I’m either bored or looking for inspiration.
  • And, of course, feel free to subscribe to my blog posts. I will also be doing my best to make more frequent and better posts.

This is possibly the best time yet to be a self-employed artist because of the internet and being able to directly influence your own exposure, and I am thrilled to be able to make the best of that. I am also endlessly grateful to those who follow my work, support me, and especially those who are able to purchase prints or originals, or commission me. I certainly wouldn’t be able to make the work I am today without you.

I am currently creating work for my upcoming solo show at Subtext Gallery in San Diego, California, opening May 3rd. I feel that this new body of work is more raw, emotional, and frankly, stranger than my previous work. My entire self is involved in creating these pieces, and they are directly drawn from my own struggles with conflict, weakness, and anxiety. I can’t wait to share it with you! Please consider purchasing prints in the meantime, as I have put many of them on sale to help maintain a livable income while I commit myself to creating this new body of work. Pending sales, I am doing my best to find a way to fly out to San Diego for my opening.

You can visit my online shop at this link.  I have just added one new print and three original paintings. Several other prints and originals have been put on sale as well. As always, sharing this post (buttons are below!), the new additions to my shop, and your enthusiasm is extremely appreciated. I couldn’t do this without you. <3

When my solo show work is complete, I will then be working on illustrating a novel my husband has written. We will be taking it to Kickstarter in an effort to self publish, so please keep an eye out for that in the late summer.