Wednesday, 2 July 2014

COMMISSIONS AND OLD FRIENDS...


 
Well, since my last entry here, plaintively saying, “I need to go home!”,  things have been moving in that direction steadily.  Don’t get me wrong, I need to raise a lot of cash to move home with a clean slate financially, much less just move me, travelling Dancer, and timid Ceilidh (a soon to be travelling cat from Ardnamurchan) home.  Artists are continually moving from feast to famine; and the feast times are usually paying off the famine.  But that’s NOT what I’m thinking about right now.  What I’m thinking about is the rush that as soon as I put it out there that I needed a certain amount to make it home, a large chunk of that was offered to me in the form of either a commission based on, or a major painting from my series, Waltz Across Texas.  I always DID want/hope that Waltz Across Texas would generate some commissions, and it seems that it might just be doing that!  And THAT is what I want to talk about.... COMMISSIONS. 
Floore Country Store, Study  9x 12 in., oil on board, £700.00
 
I LOVE doing them!  I love connecting with a client who has a vision, based on work of mine they’ve already seen, and wants me to put that vision into reality.  I love the research for a commission; getting to know a place/person, being able to take zillions of photos without worrying, sketching and sketching until I know I’ve come up with what I think the client is looking for, and in the case of Waltz Across Texas, painting the studies necessary to make sure that the client and I are on the same page before I ever put paint to canvas in a larger piece.  I do this for all commissions.  It makes it worthwhile for them because they can be pretty sure they’ll love the finished piece; and for me, because I know the finished piece will be what is expected – even though it’s my own vision, really.  And, unlike my usual work which is always on spec, it’s paid for....  There is a relaxation in my life when I’m working and know I’ve got money in the bank for food, supplies, etc. 

So, from the bottom of my heart, I’m saying a huge thank you to the client who has come forward to help me make this move, to give me a focus to work on immediately once I return, and for believing in and trusting me and my work! 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

GOING HOME...


 

I’ve been out in the bigger world, outside the home cushion of the USA, for 11 years now; and I have come to realize in the last few weeks, that actually, it’s time to go home.  Not because the world has become too big or too difficult – believe me, it might just possibly be MORE difficult to be “home” – but because much as I love my life in Europe, I miss New Mexico, I miss my family, my loved ones, I miss relating to friends on a daily basis who have the same life experience as I. I want to spend time with my Dad while he can still remember me (he has Alzheimer’s).  It was really brought home to me this past week as I read Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton.  I had tears in my eyes many times as through the pages of that incredible book, I relived times that had been my own experience, HOME!  I  am painting intensely in my 16th century Braeton house for the summer, listening to music that reminds me of home, and planning just how I’m going to achieve this huge shift.  Once again, it’s time to leap off a cliff – one equally as big as the one I leapt off of when I moved to Scotland!  I have to raise a large sum of cash to achieve this as soon as I possibly can.  I have to move my horse, my cat, some paintings (some will stay in Scotland or France because let’s face it, I have a global business!!), a few boxes of books and the family mementos and photos that made life away from them easier to bear (my Navajo rugs, Apache baskets, pueblo pottery, my Mother’s apron, and my childhood panda bear). 

In the meantime, I intend to keep painting furiously; to make the best of this time I have in France; to explore a bit more as I get ahead of the financial game just a little.  Leaping off cliffs into the unknown to make my art sing is part and parcel of living as a full-time artist for me.  This leap back home – as soon as my finances will allow – is another big step forward and will, I hope, make it easier for me once again to travel the world to paint, to find new and better markets for my work, and to maintain those markets I have worked so hard to create in Scotland, England and the rest of Europe.  Made possible, I know, by making a stable place for me to be.  And with all this change, there will still be the terrible wrench of leaving my friends and family in Scotland (I know, I know, I’ve already left, but not really.... not until the last box goes, and the cat is back with me and Dancer in our new home).

When I first began this blog about the adventures of being a full-time artist in this difficult world of 9-5 jobs and consumerism, hard times for living without a tough outer skin, I’d not realized how much of the inner journey I’d feel the need to write about!  But the inner journey of an artist is actually MORE important (to me anyway) than the outer!  In the meantime, enjoy a few more images from my incredibly productive summer!!
Old Nice, Like a ripe melon... 14 x 11 in., oil on board, £1,000.00

Thunderstorm approaching olive groves, Le Castellet, 16 x 24 in., oil on canvas, £2,000.00
 
 

 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

INSPIRATION and other things...


 
St. Agnes, Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur, 12 x 16 in., oil on board, £1,250.00
 

 It’s already June!  Where has the time gone!?!  I’ve been struggling lately with my choices, I’ve also been driven to keep painting; it’s an interesting conundrum!  I’m living in a gentle, rolling paradise, in a 16th Century Bretton house – every artist’s dream.  But, the landscape doesn’t inspire me – it doesn’t get in my way either.  And, I knew when I moved here for 5 months that I WASN’T inspired.  I knew it wouldn’t get in my way either.  And, it hasn’t!  But what has stymied me more than anything is the IDEA that I’m not inspired by my very environment.  I paint from my photos and sketches of other places – mostly from my journeys to the South of France, or back to Scotland. 

I’ve just finished a lovely little piece from Le Pouldu, a coastal town south of here, just to prove this wrong.  I CAN be inspired, but I’ve got to travel to get to it, rather than stepping out my door.  As I look at my photos from my journeys , I realize that I literally was able to step out my door and feel inspired – I often am inspired by the view from Le Rouret,  across the city covered plains to the ocean in the distance,  or out the door in Glenfinnan  across the fields and eternal mists and rain to the hills, and feel inspired.  Yet here, in this gentle place, I am not.  I am grateful because my beloved old mare, Dancer, has settled in nicely, so the distraction and worry of my “little sister’s” difficult transition from Glenfinnan to France has gone.  However, I’m now able to focus on what is working for me and what is not. 

 
Le Pouldu, Brittany, 11 x 14 in., oil on board, £1,000.00


It’s never easy for an artist, to live with uncertainty; yet, it’s part and parcel of our very lives.  I had imagined being able to travel across and explore France during my time here; and I’m not able to.  I have to scramble so very hard just to keep food on my table, and petrol in my car that any thoughts of exploring further – to the Perigord (one of my dreams to see the caves at Lascaux – rather the duplicates since people are no longer able to go inside in order to protect them), a mere 4 hour drive from here; to explore other parts of the Southern French coasts, and on down to the Cote d’Azur to the rugged hills above Nice and Menton, to again live in and capture the famous Provencal light.  I am painting that light, but from my photos, from my sketches, from my memory, and at the moment under the influence of an energy saving, daylight (really???) bulb, because the best light comes into the studio in the evening, and my best work happens in the morning....  Always, always, there is the need to adjust, to work with what is in front of me!! 

 
Auribeau sur Siagne, 11 x 14 in., oil on board, £1,000.00

 
I’ve more exploring to do though.  I hear there are beautiful rose colored rocks just an hour north of here (though not the deep red of the Corniche), and I’m saving my pennies (now THAT’S a euphemism!!!  Saving – I have to just make the decision to fill the tank and not pay something else, or pay a card, and use that just paid balance to fill the tank, etc., etc.  This is the OTHER side of a very blessed and romantic life as a painter!!), and will make the journey.  Red rocks – visions of my desert home return to me, making me more homesick than ever, but inspiring nonetheless, as they meet the blue ocean. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Time for Inner Quiet


 St. Agnes, Alps Maritime Cote d'Azur  12 x 16 in. oil on board, £1,250
 Sketch, St Cezaire sur Siagne,  pencil on paper, approx. 11 x 16 in., £200.00
sketch, Bergemon, pencil on paper, approx. 8 x 6 in., £100.00
I am writing this on the back side of a period of quiet, after an intense period of work.  I don’t know about other artists, but THIS one needs time of quiet between projects, after time of intense creativity, or worry, or just about anything requiring a modicum of focus.  I don’t acknowledge weekends; I tend to work when I can, regardless the day, because I feel inside my deepest, darkest place that if I stop, I’ll never be able to start again.  (This much, I know other artists’ suffer from!)  Utter nonsense, I know, but there it is! 

Just as I need to work whenever the muse strikes, no matter what’s going on outside the studio, I also need to pay attention and NOT work when my inner artist says, “enough!”  I call it my “inward” time.  I read a book, for hours, or watch movie after movie, or even sometimes just sit in the sun, absorbing the warmth.  (To be honest, those days have been few and far between these past 10 years in Glenfinnan....so to absorb ANY sun is to be treasured!)  The point is to completely detach – from everything.  The only souls who claim my attention then are my cat, Ceilidh, and my horse, Dancer.  I’d include my partner in that, if I weren’t single!  Friends, of course, but they distract me from the detachment and take me into the world many times – which is what my detach time is asking to hide from. Sometimes I don’t even want to have a coffee with someone other than my book or movie! Make any sense??  And those of you who love me, I KNOW will understand this and not take offense.  I AM a gregarious introvert (a descriptive phrase so aptly coined by a very dear friend who is very much like me), with a distinct need to take care of that introvert sometimes.....

What does this mean in the studio?  Well....it means that whatever is on the easel has to sit and wait for me to pick up the brushes again.  It means that sometimes my brushes sit in turpentine for a few days.  It means that I’m not good at answering emails, don’t want to look at my bank statements, or have ANYTHING to do with the world for at least a day or two.  If I’m lucky, that’s as long as it lasts, and I get tired of inactivity and sloth and pick up the brushes, the balls, look at my email, and right now, go out and weed a section of my garden.

I must be coming out of my sloth now because I’m writing!  So, more paintings on the way (two on easels for 2 days now), sketches to do and show, people to contact, etc., etc.  Still focus is on the South of France, but there is focus!  The painting above was finished just before my little break; and the sketches are what is currently on the easel.  More sketches to publish, but I want to start the work!! 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

PAINTING IN LEZELE or THE ETERNAL SEARCH FOR GOOD WIFI (or "now, to find the bl...y post office")



 
I’ve just finished two paintings – the first in 6 months!   Interestingly, while the little piece is of a Mill less than a mile from my studio, and I’ve spent time sketching it, looking at it, and lusting after its open space and windows, I the bigger painting by far – thus most important? Not really – is the one I’ve done of Loch Shiel, looking north to the Glenfinnan viaduct and Glenfinnan Estate.  I looked at that view three times a week on my run, and FINALLY got it finished!  I thought you’d like to see the process, just a bit....  Sketch, interim painting – as yet unfinished -,  and the finished product. 

Part of the distraction of this past 10 days or so, when I finally started working, has been errands – those things that keep taking time.... and the last was finding a post office in which to post two letters I’ve put off posting purely because of the hassle of finding and dealing with in French, the local post office!  I did it.  So, perhaps we’re in a period of no longer putting off what can be done today!   Dancer presents the ever present distraction and much needed anchor that she has always presented....perhaps her tales from this period should have their own page...  The latest was magnesium deficiency, which manifested in her in neurotic, needy, panic’d behaviour.  Sorted, but not before we made ourselves a little unpopular in our local barn....Whew!  Poor thing!

Its good to be up to my elbows and eyebrows in oil paint once again; music of all types blaring on the stereo – helping me feel the places I’ve either taken photos or sketched, or both....  I’m still very much all over the place in my interest....  but I’m finding that ever so elusive focus. 
midway on the Loch Shiel painting... the sketch is in the last post!

Early Autumn, Loch Shiel  12 x 16 in., oil on board, £1,250.00

Mill at Pont Morvan, Brittany,  6 x 8 in.,  oil on board, £700.00
 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Finding My Rhythm


I have now settled into my temporary residence in a mostly 16th Century Braeton house, courtesy of the generosity of a friend. The plan is to stay here, use it as a base to explore from (should a painting or two sell), and paint.  If you’re trying to find it, Lézélé en Plouyé, Huelgoat, Brittany is west of Carhaix....set in the middle of the finger that is Brittany and on the edge of the Finistere.  After spending hours every day working with my beloved mare, Dancer, helping her feel secure (still an ongoing process these days) and settled in HER new home, this past week, I began to paint. 

After a 6 month hiatus, the sense of relief was palpable, when I got out the oil paints.  Coaxing the tops off of disused tubes of paint, the jar of liquin, and finding my turps substitute (legal to take on a car ferry...) was nearly a religious experience for me on the first day!  Yet the two paintings I started have come along slowly as I picked my way through the image, trying to work with different light, an image across the room (electrical outlets being a challenge here), etc., etc. 

I first found myself sketching not Brittany, once I’d found the image I wanted of the local disused mill, at Pont Morvan; but Scotland and my beloved Glenfinnan, and also,  the beaches of Normandy and even more so, the markets and landscapes of the Cote d’Azur.  I also found myself suddenly aware that the sketches themselves might be, must be interesting to clients!  I had to tell myself not to be silly, to ignore that voice, because as soon as I paid attention to it (that voice), my sketches became stilted and awkward and DEFINITELY less loose.  Lots of laughter ensued; thankfully, I managed to quell the critic fairly rapidly.  The sketches are for ME and my work, and if a few of them get into the larger world, then fabulous – but not the other way around!! 

Some of the effort of the last few weeks, and continues in this completely new (to me) place, has gone to sourcing materials, solving problems, finding the market, necessary things for my horse, my painting, my sanity!  It’s nice to be able to run to a market and back in 20 minutes (!!), but the other side of that is that I’m finding that I’m more isolated here than I ever was in Glenfinnan.  It’s harder to get out into the world here  - Even to the rest of France.  Brittany is just that isolated in its little peninsula world.  So, a hard realization has been that my beloved cat, Ceilidh is best left with her next best friend, my neighbour, until I am able to move to a less transient home (I miss her terribly!); and that at the moment, any spare cash is necessarily used on exploring my new world, to find my rhythm, to see if this part of France ‘fits’ me. 

I’m now alone in the house for the first time.  Not alone as in “going to the market”, but on my own.  To fill my day however suits me, to not share conversation with someone over dinner one or the other of us has cooked, to not say goodnight to anyone. I like that part of life! In fact, I’m realizing that this is the first time since I left my studio at the Steading in Glenfinnan that I’m truly alone in the biggest sense of the word!  And this timing here now, is pretty much when I thought I’d be ready to leave that studio for the larger world!  Whew!  What a journey! My own devices, bar the very welcome interruptions of new friends or visiting loved ones, completely – answering to no-one!  Rhythm indeed! 

 
Vuellettes sur Mer, sketch 2, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
 
 Vuellettes Sur Mer, sketch, charcoal on paper, 6 x 8 in., £100
 
 Mill at  Pont Morven 2, Sketch in Pencil for painting, 6
 x 8 in., pencil on paper  £100.
Loch Shiel sketch for painting, charcoal on paper, approx. 11 x 16 in., £200
 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

From Lezele en Plouye

old mill at Pont Morvan
 
Well, I’ve finally made it to Lezele en Plouye, Brittany, France!  I’m finally ensconsed in my ancient/new, temporary abode where I hope to find inspiration and be able to paint.  If not the surrounding scenery, then other places within Brittany, while I explore; or further south, where I KNOW I feel the inspiration!  Getting here wasn’t easy....and has taken all I had in reserve,  as hidden expenses, unforeseen problems, and just  time got in the way.  I’m here now, and am already itching to get settled enough to begin to paint.  I have been reunited with my beloved mare, Dancer, after nearly 6 months, and am now exploring creative ways to get my cat, Ceilidh here with me. 

Incredibly, I had an easy drive, once I saw Dancer (who was in Wales temporarily), and headed on to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel in my car (no ferry this stormy time....) I found myself in the  beautiful, big skies of Normandy, and landed with a dear friend I’d not seen in years.  She generously made her little gite available for my first week in France.  The perfect place for me to settle, get my bearings, and get my head around this huge leap I’ve taken in my life – if even for 6 months!  As you might guess, I got out into the sun each day and explored more of the Normandy coast around LeBourg Dun – returned to Sottieville for more photos and sketching, and Vuelettes  sur Mer, which is like a mini Etretat (just a bit further West along the coast, unsurprisingly!) .  This part of France has always inspired me, and I’m not surprised to be beginning there with my sketching. 
 
I then landed with new friends at Kervalen Organic Farm (www.kervelenorganicholidays.com) , in Kervalen, by Plouye (just a mile up the road from Lezele), where I waited for Dancer to arrive a day later!  A week there settling my very patient horse, then moved to Lezele, where I will spend the next 5/6 months, while I explore this new world!  So far, its been rolling hills, sunlight, riding, and finally, a bit of inspiration at an old mill, still fairly intact – although the mill works have been removed and stored in a barn...  A nice gentle beginning. 
 
I’m actively marketing my sketches now, as a way of raising a bit of cash to keep me afloat in between painting sales. It IS a way for people who can’t afford the oil paintings, to have a Wendorf – and many love the immediacy of a quick sketch.  And to  add to the mix, I’ve met with a Scottish neighbour (yep, in France, I’ve got a Scottish neighbour... ), and he’s asked if I’d be interested in a little summer exhibition with himself and a few other local artists in a wonderful space in Huelgoat.  I said unequivably, “Yes!!”  At least a chance to get my work out!  In the meantime, I’m also putting one foot in front of the other, as I spoke about before, leaving no stone unturned, looking for ways to make up for the loss of “potential income” of those two cancelled summer exhibitions.   
 
But what I really need is to find my focus, my rhythm – which seems a bit hard won at the moment, with so much on my mind.  I need to find that quiet place inside me that sees and hears the need to paint something; that understands, trusts, and knows that all will be ok.  I’d not have had all the help to get here if I was going to fail!  I saw on Facebook the other day a quote from Georgia O’Keefe, who basically said she never had a day where she didn’t have to face fear in her artistic life.  I suddenly felt in grand company, normal, not so alone. 
 
I’m ending this missive, by posting a few of the new sketches – note, I’m a bit homesick for Scotland as well as New Mexico, thus two large Scottish sketches....if that isn’t a muddle, I don’t know what is!!

 
 Loch Shiel scketch, autumn 2013,  approx. 11 x 16 in., charcoal on paper £200
 
Mill at Pont Morvan, sketch  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100

 Sottieville sketch, spring 2014,  approx. 6 x 8 in., charcoal on paper £100