... and here it is. A place I've dreamed of for as long as I can remember, and now get to work in. PRETTY MAGICAL, HUH?
By the way, this is my newsletter. This first one will be longer than most—possibly a lot longer—because I've decided to show everything I've painted so far in 2018.
I didn't just breeze into this dream studio and start producing like a mo-fo. Having this place I've always wanted created its own kind of pressure (a running theme you'll see). Careful what you wish for—you might have to live up to it. All the same I approached 2018 determined to eschew pressure, and allow myself time to experiment and not worry too much about where I was going. Strangely (or not-so-strangely), there was pressure inherent in that route as well. Should I force myself to try new things, new materials, new approaches... or allow new things to appear when they wanted? Well fuck pressure—any pressure—I've had enough of that for a while. There's been some experimenting, and there's been some "same-old, same-old". It doesn't matter.
The first painting I squeezed out on January 16th was of my mother, which is not surprising. It was a fast one, completed in an afternoon—an experiment in the sense that I tried using acrylic paint diluted with airbrush medium, instead of my usual brand of ink (which has sadly become unavailable). I do think I captured my Mom at that moment in her life, but I battled with the acrylic, which did not (unsurprisingly) act at all like the ink I'd grown used to.
My mother died in January, 2017—this painting is from a photo I took of her in bed in the care home where she lived for the last two years of her life. She had Lewy Body dementia, and was quite fully ensconced in her hallucinogenic world by this time. Dealing with her dementia and her death is something I'm still "unpacking", and is the main reason behind attempting to allow myself some pressure-free time.
Then I tried to paint my friend Autumn... twice. Autumn's beauty is quite delicate, and my painting style is not, so I was frustrated in my attempts to truly capture her the way I wanted to. In the second one she looks like an evil imp—but she maintains that this is apt, so who am I to argue.
Next came my husband David's birthday at the end of January, for which I was either going to paint John Coltrane or Betty Carter. I opted for Betty Carter—a fantastic jazz singer who David loves. I experimented with adding type, which I am still on the fence about. Actually, who am I trying to kid—I probably won't soon do it again (though I like Betty herself).
February 10th there came a quick & dirty free-form Etta James, which against all odds I like quite a lot. There aren't supposed to be any rules—I'm supposed to be able to do what I want, right? Yet I agonize, I agonize. I want to be "free", but when I do something like this Etta, I rail against its lack of subtlety and care. Which way is better? Christ. I'll likely be yo-yo-ing on this till the day I die. Why can't I just do both, and not worry about it? I apparently need some sort of "first-world problem" to keep me going.
Next I decided, "I should paint more of my friends! Good idea... I'll use paintings of my friends as a way to experiment and play around!" And in that spirit I painted a quickie of my friend Kirsten on February 13th, from a photo I'd taken of her on her last visit to town:
Whereupon I was seized by a panicked feeling of "Oh no—my friends won't like this! They will want "proper" portraits of themselves!". Which resulted in this portrait of my friend Shawna as a child, February 20th:
...which resulted in feelings of, "Oh, no. I've done it again! I've fallen back on the tighter, more realistic style, and who cares about that shit"...ha ha! This inner battle may never end, and it probably doesn't matter. It most certainly doesn't matter.
More paintings of my Mom, from a photo of her as a young and glamorous babe in the 1940's:
This last one was experimental in that I used "Noodler's" brand ink... a much more subtle touch than I'm used to. I couldn't create a solid, dense area no matter how hard I tried, but I could work an area and build up delicate tones almost like oil paint. WEIRD. I like the result—a friend on Instagram commented that it had an "ancient waterlogged photography vibe" (thanks Jenny).
February 28th I tried to paint with ink on paper meant for oil paint—IF YOU CAN IMAGINE! Oh, THE INSANITY!
I ended up liking the resulting painting (from a photo of Billy Holiday), even though I'd set myself up for heartache by attempting to make paper meant for oil accept ink in any kind of satisfying way. Oh well- now I know.
Next came Janelle Monae, March 11th. My friend Sarah posted her new rap/song "Django Jane" on facebook, and I became obsessed, listening to it several times a day for a while there. Loving it—getting shivers—looking up the lyrics and trying to commit them to memory. That woman is NOT MESSING AROUND!
I laid down a layer of pink first, which looks impressive but prevents the ink from spreading across the paper as it normally would (and I missed that). When I laid down this pink I also laid down some blue:
I wanted to paint the designer Milton Glaser because I had recently seen the documentary on him, "To Inform and Delight", and had had a few weepy moments while watching that I cannot now explain. (Seriously—I listened to the entire documentary again while painting, and could not identify the moments that had seemed so momentous on first viewing. Hmm). Milton was also painted in "Noodler's" brand ink... strange and subtle. I spilled ink across his face... OOPS.
Then Janelle again, March 20th... this one for Sarah, because I know she loved that video as I did.
Last but definitely not least... Emma Gonzalez on March 25th. When I first saw the photo I used for this—everyone has likely seen it by now—I knew I had to paint her. I only hope she's half as strong as she appears to be here—she's going to need it.
And that's it, so far. I promise that subsequent newsletters will rarely be this long. Thank you for indulging me. Maybe by the next newsletter I'll have settled into a new series of some sort... maybe not. NO PRESSURE.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jill Margo, co-founder of GOOD, “a workshop studio on the edge of the Chinatown district dedicated to helping writers and other independent creative workers do good work + live good lives”. I’ve been doing Creative Consults with Jill in order to make my website what it should be, and Jill has been very good at helping me pinpoint what I’m trying to accomplish, and how to get there. Without Jill I would not have reached this point of tackling a newsletter- or at least, not as quickly. Check out GOOD and “Creative Work—How to make a productive + sustainable life—and connect with your people”—a three-part workshop series that I will be participating in.
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