Portrait of a Stove oil on canvas over panel 2018
Now that this commissioned painting is done and delivered to its new owners, I can share some photos of it with you all. Most of my previous commissions have been portraits: sisters, couples, dogs. . . and one set of flowers. This subject was a surprise to me in the beginning because it was different than the others: the collector asked me to paint an old stove, a family heirloom that has been in her husband's family for several generations. But after I'd been working on it for a few months, I realized it was a portrait, too. A portrait of a well-loved object, and not so different from the other commissions after all.
The Garden of Women oil on panel 2017-2018
Some of my paintings take a long time to complete---this is was one of them. Started early last year, when we lived in Santa Clara, California and the winters meant lush green clover under the olive trees and grey skies, I didn't finish the last glazes on the leaves until this month. We now live in Utah, where winter means whiteness, and the starkness of snow. But my memory, and my feelings, take me back to our long walks past the garden of women: the monastery garden of the Carmelite convent with its pink walls and dark fences. How boundaries fill one with longing. What is elusive is always mysterious, always dreamed of; the distant brought near.
Study - Moonlight oil on canvas begun 2015, finished 2017
I started this small painting from memory of the walks Ryan and Gia and I took in the evenings as the moon rose back when we moved to Santa Clara in autumn 2015. I was never satisfied with it, however, and put it away and didn't think much about it until I was unpacking my art supplies in my new studio and found it packed in a box with some blank canvases. I thought it had some potential still and did a few more glazes on it, and now I feel that it passes for a study, as Van Gogh called his rougher work. It gives me some ideas for more finished night scenes I might be able to do in the future. It also makes me think it would be worthwhile to stretch and gesso lots of small 8 x 10 inch canvases and use them to experiment and make little rough sketches/studies on that might help me in my more lengthy and sometimes larger canvases and panels.
A Little More Time oil on canvas over panel 2017
There are times when I rue my inadequacy at taking photos of my artwork, particularly for a painting like this, which is rather heavily impastoed by my standards, given that I generally paint very thinly. It was hard to get the whole painting into focus, and I couldn't avoid some glare on the brushstrokes. . . but I tried. . . reproductions are never adequate representations of real paintings----just dim reflections. But hopefully they give some sense of what it looks like in person, some shadow of the image and the feeling.
When we were visiting our parents for Christmas my family was very kind and took me to the museum. I wrote about it in my journal: “I did get to see Van Gogh’s bedroom painting, visiting from Chicago to the Norton Simon, which was so beautiful in person—a dream of serenity---a dream of home that Van Gogh painted when he was at the asylum in Saint-Remy, having already lost that bedroom and everything it represented to him. It was very poignant for me to see it, struggling as I am with not having a home of my own, no space, no room, no decent studio to work in.”
It is the main reason I haven’t been writing as much here. Since we moved to the bottom of the Silicon Valley in September 2015, I have done nothing but struggle and miss my home. Like Van Gogh, I too, have been painting from memory, using painting to cross boundaries of time and space and re-inhabit the place I miss most. One of the paintings I am working on now is of Mimi, who died last year on one of my visits home, sitting in the long green grass in the backyard of my parents’ house. I can’t pet Mimi anymore, I can’t even sit in the grass that I love and miss so much, but I can paint them, here, in this tiny, dark, cold place hundreds of miles away. It is one of the gifts painting gives the painter.
I am trying so hard to capture some images of life. One of my new year’s goals is to try to write more here, to keep updates on the progress of my artwork and the spirals of my thoughts. Since I rarely get to go out to art shows any more, I’ll try to write more this year about the art books that I am reading, and paintings that I am looking at in my memory, or through my post-card collection, which is its own tiny museum of art.
Nasturtiums oil on panel 2016-2017
I finished working on my nasturtiums, and now they sit on my drying shelf where I can look at them every day. One of the nicest things about having artwork at home is getting to see it in all kinds of light. In the museum, light is so carefully controlled---but at home you can see a painting lit by the raking golden light of sun-down, and watch it glow in a whole new way.
The Sea of Deep Blue Dreams oil on canvas 2016
If you happen to be in Pasadena before mid-December, my painting 'The Sea of Deep Blue Dreams' is part of a group show of alumni called "The Long Game" at Art Center College of Design in the Fine Arts gallery at the old post-office portion of the South Campus.