Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pretty Is as Pretty Does

Christmas Moon (2007)
6 x 6
Private Collection

As I've written here before, I started riding horses at a young age and have ridden and owned horses most of my adult life. For some reason, most of the activities and sports I liked to do on horseback (until the last ten years or so) involved riding at breakneck speeds across fields, through woods, jumping fences, ditches and obstacles of all kinds and generally raising hell on horseback. As I got older and noticed that I did not bounce as well as I used to, I developed a rule for selecting my horses called "Pretty Is as Pretty Does"- meaning, that I didn't have to have the fastest or best looking horse in the field. I just wanted the one who had great heart, good sense and could scramble when the need arose.

A couple of years ago, I realized I needed to apply the same rule to my art career. Early on, I spent a lot of time building a resume. As time went on, I started to get invitations to shows and other events, invitations to show in several galleries, as well as opportunities to teach. I had worked so hard to make those connections, it was really hard to say no, and besides, I was still in the resume-building mindset. Once I started actually trying to make a living as an artist, I suddenly got a lot clearer about what was and wasn't important to my art and my career. This past year I really pared things down- doing only the shows and events which had resulted in good sales or which offered very good opportunities to make connections with collectors. Pretty is as pretty does. No matter how much fun or prestigious an event is, if it doesn't make economic sense, I don't do it. I've tried to be mindful of this rule in new things I've tried (like Internet sales) . This year has been my best year ever as far as the income from art sales is concerned and I've also had much more time to devote to R&D. Its impossible to know what 2009 will bring- things will surely be different and selling art will be even more challenging- which I think means sticking to this rule will be even more important. As a working artist, I am in this for the long haul- I just need to have heart, good sense and the ability to scramble when I need to.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009 Workshop

For a number of years, I taught painting workshops from my studios in Florida and New Mexico, as well as locations around the country. When we moved, I decided to take a hiatus from teaching. I knew that my work was taking a new direction and I needed time for R&D. In the last couple of months I agreed to do two demonstrations in the early part of 2009 . That got me to thinking about how I would go about demonstrating and talking about my work and I also received a few inquires about workshops. I enjoy teaching and have always received excellent reviews from my students. Its something I take very seriously, so I wanted to wait until I was ready to put the required time and energy into a class. So, I've decided to schedule a workshop here at my studio in Clarksville, TX, March 28-29, 2009.

I've given much thought as to how to organize this class. Most importantly, I wanted it to be small enough that each participant would receive lots of individual attention with enough time for painting exercises and demonstrations. So, I've limited the registration to 8 artists. Here are the things I'll be covering in the class.

-edit and simplify the landscape for maximum effect
-create a strong under painting
-glaze and scumble to create luminosity
-choose and work with transparent colors
-create an interesting paint surface using a combination of opaque and transparent passages
-choose painting supports, tools and materials for indirect painting methods

Please contact me if you have any questions and also please pass this along to any other artists who might be interested.

You can go here to read more information about the workshop and to register.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Evening Pines

Evening Pines
10 x 8

East Texas is referred to as the Piney Woods. Tall, elegant stands of loblolly and long leaf pine can be found just about everywhere here. I am particularly fond of them, not only because they are visually interesting but because they remind me of north Florida (where I grew up) and south Georgia (where I spent some time in school and on horseback). I have in mind to do a number of larger paintings of pines and this little piece is a start on that project.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Winter Greys
6 x 6
Private Collection

Yesterday I took a drive of about 60 miles round trip over to the vet's to pick up medicine for Sophie (our oldest Corgi). Its a trip I take about once a month and I always look forward to it. Although the landscape along the way is very similar to where we live, it does have more of the tall pines this area of Texas is known for (more about that later). Yesterday,the fog was thick and I was fascinated by the variety of greys- from the violets and blues in the distance to almost maroon/wine colored greys in the near trees. By the time I got home, I had an entire painting composed and painted in my head.

I have never been a patient person. I tend to want what I want, when I want it. Instant gratification- a birthright. As my husband says of me in former days, before we came to the Bubble, "you were in a hurry". So it is probably a great cosmic gotcha that I have adopted a mode of painting that requires me to paint, wait, paint, wait, paint, and wait some more. Which is why I am posting a painting today done this time last year and not the one I started yesterday.

Deborah Paris Fine Art- Small Gems -Big Art in a small package

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Old School-New School

December Dusk
8 x8
Available at Deborah Paris Fine Art

As regular readers know, about 18 months ago, I began to explore new techniques in search of a way to better describe not only the atmospheric effects in the landscape that interested me, but also to create a certain mood and look to my work. That quest lead me to a study of glazing, scumbling and the use of transparent paint in general. Glazing is most definitely Old School- a technique which goes back to the Renaissance and which was almost completely lost over the last couple of centuries as more direct painting methods were deemed to be more desirable. Many still feel that way, but this centuries old technique is making a comeback in some circles. Modern, man made pigments have added a whole range of highly pigmented, rich colors to the transparent colors now available to the 21st century artist (very New School) .

My aim was and is to combine this very Old School technique with a modern (New School) landscape sensibility. Over the last few years, I experimented with a more stylized and even abstracted form of landscape painting to accomplish these goals. Although I am very drawn to a decorative approach (I mean that in a good way), in the end, I knew I wanted my landscapes to be places my viewers felt they could actually walk into. I wanted to make the viewer look, and having looked, desire to linger. For me, that meant that a more representational (for lack of a better word) mode combined with a modern, spare sense of design and use of limited but rich color was needed.

As I've written before, I describe this as "just enough, but not too much". I often miss that mark, usually erring on the side of "too much" but occasionally "not enough". I think it is a pursuit that will engage me for the rest of my life, and as I come to trust myself more- I hope I can get closer to what I want to accomplish.

Friday, December 12, 2008

To Do or Not To Do

Heading South
20 x 20 oil on linen
Private Collection

It seems much that I read these days on artist blogs and Twitter is about getting organized, marketing and the all important To Do list. Its natural I suppose with the year coming to a close and the anticipation/anxiety about what the new year will bring for working artists. But, as usual, I seem to be swimming against the tide-or at least paddling in the opposite direction. This post is about one artist's fight against the tyranny of the To Do list.

First a disclaimer. I have been writing and using To Do lists for many years. In my previous life, they were indispensable. I still use them, although I try to compartmentalize them as much as possible. I have even perfected the art of the Honey Do list according to my husband. Unlike some artists, getting into the left side of my brain has never been a problem for me- its getting out of it that's tricky. In fact, one might say it took me almost twenty years to get out, and I'm not going back!

Truthfully, when I became a full time artist, I tackled my lists with new ambition. In fact, To Do lists were much more my comfort zone than the studio was. My analytical, problem solving background and training put to use in service of my art career- what could be better??!! So in those years, I taught workshops and participated in plein air events and other shows all over the country, wrote and published articles, built a 1200 name mailing list from scratch (and this was before blogging was even a twinkle in my eye), started a plein air group that grew into a 250 member state wide organization, organized a huge plein air invitational at a prestigious gallery in Santa Fe, and oh, did I forget to mention...... painted full time. But, the more I did, the more I began to feel completely disconnected from my real work- painting. My painting became more about show deadlines and submissions than about building a cohesive body of work. Finally a series of gut wrenching events forced me to take stock and to make significant changes in just about every area of my life. And that was a good thing....

What I know now, is that my work requires large amounts of R&D- research and development. This means for me, lots of reading, thinking, looking at and noticing things, and most importantly, just painting. I allow myself to wander around, both outside and in the studio, and in my head. The shift in both the technical and aesthetic focus of my work over the last 18 months has been, for the most part, completely the product of simply following a thread of thought and visual ideas and finding a technique which would best express those ideas- without a preconceived notion of where it might take me. Goal oriented thinking or activities simply won't get me where I want to go in the studio. So if it takes me ten minutes to walk the fifty yards from my studio to the house in late afternoon because I am watching the light flicker behind the trees or if I pull off the road on the way to town to see the clouds move across the horizon- its more important to my work as an artist than a check mark on my list ever can or should be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evening Pond

Work in Progress
Evening Pond
36 x 30

As I've written many times before, there is something very compelling about autumn to me. Visually, its a time that the landscape begins to strip itself bare, to uncover and expose the structure of things. The rhythm of life seems to slow, even to ebb. The sun which used to set directly behind my house, offering extravagant sunsets in summer, has migrated to the south and slips below the horizon, sending weak rays of light across the field behind my studio.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Morning Fog

Morning Fog at the Pond
11 x 14
Available at Deborah Paris Fine Art

When I did the under painting for this piece a couple of weeks ago, I had something else in mind entirely. But lately, we've had this lovely morning fog and it was all I could think about when I got back to it yesterday. Technically the challenge was to keep the values as close as possible yet high key while using shifts in color temperature rather than value to give the painting visual interest. I love the way fog softens, envelops, hides the forms in the landscape.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Studio Visit

Work in Progress (sorry about the glare)
Sunset Stream 30 x 30

Still working on this piece. Monday I had two studio visitors, so everything came to a halt for a massive clean up of the studio and house. I had this piece on the easel -always makes me nervous for a collector to see work in progress but it gave me a good opportunity to talk with my guests about glazing and how it works. The fact that its a centuries old technique still used by artists today seemed to be genuinely interesting to them (although I can go on about this stuff until people's eyes glaze over ...). Anyway, it reminded me about the great article on the Gamblin web site which explains the science behind the stunning visual effects created by glazing. I think I may have linked to this before, but if you haven't read it and are interested in glazing, here it is.

And now for a commercial break.... some of you know that my husband and I own a small company (very small- just the two of us) called Mountains Edge Frames. Its how we pay the bills (or not) in addition to painting sales. I try not to muck up this blog with that, but like everybody else in the world, we are having a holiday sale, so click on over if you are interested. Also, we have added a new product to our line- birch painting panels- both uncradled and cradled, finished with gesso or not. Earlier this year, I blogged about the Magic Panel, and that quest turned into a new product for us. They are fantastic if I do say so myself. Now, back to regular programming.......