Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Humbled by the women at Steamboat Art Museum

You know how they say "it's an honor just to be nominated"? Well, it was an honor - and a humbling experience - to have my painting Chick Please juried into American Women Artists' national exhibit, Looking West, at Steamboat Art Museum. While I didn't "win", I did gain signature status with AWA and that feels pretty good!

china chick, vintage, check spindle, diner scene
Chick Please ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze, 11x14", oil on linen

American Women Artists is an important organization not just because they support women artists, but because they provide opportunities for the public to view more quality works of art - that just happen to be made by women. That's a win-win.

According to the Smithsonian, 87% of artists in our museums' permanent collections are...not...women. Fortunately the under-representation of women artists is being seriously challenged and organizations like AWA are working every day to eliminate gender bias in the art world. A good example is this exhibit at Steamboat Art Museum.

Looking West art exhibit

western art show reception
An admiring crowd of art lovers at the well-attended Steamboat Art Museum reception.
San Jose Mission Doors by Nancy Lilly, pastel
award winning paintings, women artists

celebrating women artists

I was able to attend the reception and symposium in Steamboat Springs where exhibiting artists  were very welcoming to this newcomer!

Still life by Dorothy Lorenze

During the symposium we learned how women are making headway in the art world today. Four artists spoke about their work and their artistic experience. Heide Presse demonstrated her depth of research to illustrate a woman's journey along the Oregon Trail. Carole Carter shared how she reinvented her art practice and effectively markets her work using social media. Jann Haynes Gilmore researched, resurrected and published the story of Olive Rush, a valued artist in the early 1900s. And Donna Howell Sickles spoke about achieving success in the firmly male world of cowboy - and cowgirl - art. Educated, hard-working artists, all.

Below is part of the special exhibition featuring Heide Presse's work based on the actual journal of a woman who travelled west by stagecoach in the 1840s. To accurately represent the experience Heide sewed authentic wardrobe including quilted sun bonnets for her contemporary cast. Talk about dedication and preparation!

We Set our Faces Westward exhibit by Heide Presse

Steamboat Springs is a charming town with gorgeous snow peaked mountains behind storefronts reminiscent of a mid 19th century mining town. Entrenched in history and art, it was the perfect setting for this exhibit.

While my AWA adventure was enlightening, it was also a bit intimidating. These women are professionals in every sense of the word, fully dedicated to their work and it shows. Their paths were inspirational. How they manage to be so accomplished is probably a bit more complicated and nuanced. Life happens. No doubt all have been through periods that challenged their productivity.

Art-making takes preparation, dedication... and time. I've been asked how to find the time and my  answer has been to make the time by prioritizing painting. True enough, but lately that's been difficult as we are preparing to move. It takes time - and exhausting mental energy - to wade  through years of accumulated treasures, memories... and junk! This week I was pretty fed up with my lack of painting time and finally plunked myself in front of a canvas. It's not going all that well.

The thing is painting is a series of decisions. With every brush stroke you consider color, value, hue, contrast, edges, form. Every. Time. That's a lot of decisions. I'm painting a simply elegant pair of antique barber's brushes. But, because I can't leave well enough alone, I added a rich fabric background, reminiscent of vintage wall paper, for contrast.

Feel free to roll your eyes because... no, I will never learn.

My studio (which doubles as a storage bunker) is under siege as we purge for moving so I'm set up in the kitchen where the light is terrible but the AC is good. It's a bit of a struggle. (Plus there's the distraction of knowing I should be packing.) I'm giving myself a few days to substitute making painting decisions for making packing decisions and while it's frustrating, it also feels like a gift.

Work in Progress: Barber Brushes ©Dorothy Lorenze

I could go on and on about the chaos of moving... but then there would be no time to paint! (or pack, or sleep). So if you're wondering why it's taken so long to write about a Steamboat Springs trip from back in June, now you know. And if you find yourself in Colorado this month you can still check out Steamboat Art Museum: Looking West which is up through September 2nd.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey... and for staying connected as we literally journey to a new home and studio. Challenging times bring even greater appreciation for my community of artists, friends and supporters. So. Many. Thanks.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Prepping for Passion

I hear there are people who plan their tasks and activities... and stick to it. Sadly, that's not me. But even though I don't fill a calendar with blocks of studio time, I do paint often and I'm trying to be ok with that.

The thing is there are more painting ideas than there is painting time, so it can feel like I'm falling behind. But, I'm trying to focus on what I can do and not what I think I should do: finding time for painting in between... life.

When it comes to art, it may be hard to be disciplined, but it's easy to be passionate.

Not to malign discipline, but passion can be a more powerful force. And here's an example why: this little painting of shaving brushes was started while I was out of town - helping with baby, toddler and puppy care for a week!

I had borrowed the brushes from a friend and was looking forward to painting them, so I packed my easel hoping for a place to set up, out of sight and reach of little ones. And it worked because having a designated spot at the ready means getting back to painting quickly. Even short bits of time can be productive.

The composition was kept simple to focus on the textures and surfaces of this fuzzy family. And that  made stopping and starting easier.
Vintage shaving brushes, brush handles, barber brush
Family Resemblance ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze, 6x9"
The day after returning home from my "toddler adventure" I got reorganized, repacked and headed to a portrait workshop in Vermont. It's taken several years to talk myself into tackling portraiture and a three day workshop was a good immersion. Like being on a cruise - you can't exactly jump ship.

Instructor Tina Garrett did beautiful demos each morning. Then we worked from a live model. Daunting! And I didn't get very far by the end of the day. But, since I had planned to paint in the hotel room at night and since this portrait had its hooks in me, I took it back and continued painting. There was natural light in the workshop but the hotel light was incandescent, so at 6am I sat in front of my window to make color warmer and was so engrossed I was late for class. Oops.
oil painting portrait, village arts of putney
Kayla (unfinished) ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze
I haven't quite finished this yet but it's getting there and I'm glad I worked on it after hours. I  still need to adjust values (clean up her dirty neck) and if I can capture the subtle transitions in her skin I will be super happy.

Very soon after the Vermont workshop came a trip south. My painting gear was back on the road! On this trip the kids were older and my temporary studio was actually a corner of the living room. (My family must love me).

A commission I needed to work on was the perfect project for this visit, as it was to be painted from a photo. With no objects to set up or move, it was a bit less intrusive for the family - or so I tell myself. I haven't painted cabbage in years and totally enjoyed the many beautiful gradations from green to red to purple in the leaves and veins.

still life painting, original oil painting, cabbage, lemon
Red Head ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze, 8x10"
With all the recent travel I haven't set foot in my own studio for weeks. Knowing how little time there would be for painting made me even more determined to find a way to fit it in.

I feel better, more human, when I can paint. That's the passion that drives me. 
And if it looks like discipline, I'll take the credit!

If you're trying to squeeze more art time into your life, start by making space - physical space - for art. A separate studio is great but a spare bedroom, closet or just a rolling cart tucked in a corner will do. Having a dedicated space makes it easier to get to work. Even if all you do is sit in your erstwhile studio and think about what comes next, it's a step in the right direction. More productive than spending time scrolling through social media looking for inspiration. And I'm willing to bet something artistic will come of it.

This has been my creative corner recently, with boxes piled next to my easel for my iPad with the cabbage photo and podcasts (This time it was The Studio: Danny Grant interviewing Patricia Watwood. Click the link to have a listen).

To make art, make space. Give your passion a place to blossom.

studio on the road, studio nook

Thank you for joining me on my art journey.

To the new readers: check out earlier studio news here where you can also search for past subjects. Please leave comments, ask questions and share this newsletter with anyone who might find it interesting.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Keeping focus, making decisions

Ever notice that when you're trying to make strides on many fronts you end up standing still? There are projects and tasks pulling in all directions lately and the more I need to stay focused, the harder it is to do. So while I'm tackling other pressing projects, my art-focus consists of pondering the process of choosing a subject. What makes a composition interesting to me?

I recently heard author Mary Pipher on NPR talk about choosing the subject of her latest book, Women Rowing North.* She said that she really has to be interested in a subject on a personal level to spend the kind of time required to write a book. The same can be said for painting. If I'm not personally engaged with the subject, I'm not likely to give it the attention needed to create an interesting and well-developed, representational painting.

So, while I may not personally connect with ceramic chicks and chrome coffee pots there is something evocative about the scene in this painting that resonates. Chick Please, creates a scenario reminiscent of 1950's diners complete with the ever-present coffee pot, thick dinnerware and vintage wallpaper. It's a nostalgic moment with a touch of humor. Coming from a large family, it was a rare treat to eat at a local diner or... Howard Johnson's. Remember that place? Fine dining for us back in the day!

vintage diner scene, representational painting, American Women Artists
Chick Please, 11x14" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

I'm very pleased to say that Chick Please was selected for the American Women Artists' National exhibit at Steamboat Art Museum. I look forward to seeing the exhibition in Colorado and taking part in the events, especially AWA's Symposium on Women in the Arts, which I know will be an inspiring and informative experience.

But, here's the thing... I had painted a portrait, Zsa Zsa Reigns, for the Steamboat exhibit because I really thought it fit the show's prospectus. Then, in the process of applying I noticed two works could be submitted so I added Chick Please at the last minute. And that's the one they accepted! At first I was so disappointed about Zsa Zsa that I almost forgot to be excited about Chick Please! But, really, I am thrilled and honored to be included.

And the rejection gave me time to revisit Zsa Zsa Reigns which, out of necessity, was painted from a photo I'd taken of the model. Portraits are outside my comfort zone and working from a photo is not part of my painting process. Taking a closer look, without the pressure of a submission deadline, it was clear that it fell a little short of my expectations. So I re-worked the skin tones and values in general and made subtle changes to her expression which gave her gaze more intensity - the very thing that had drawn me to this pose in the first place. I think Zsa Zsa is now reigning with even greater confidence. I'll let you know how she fares with her next submission.
 black woman portrait, original oil painting
Zsa Zsa Reigns, 16x20" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

As I've mentioned, my paintings often tell stories and sometimes a double entendre invites the viewer to make their own interpretation. So, back in the studio... a vintage balance scale called for more chicks in a painting. Naturally, it's titled Chicks and Balances. The bevy of chicks facing off against the big chicken was so exciting they practically painted themselves. As for the big chicken - beware of smooth surfaces, they're very hard to nail down. (Feel free to draw your own analogies.)

original oil painting still life, representational art, judicial system
Chicks and Balances, 9x12" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

I loved every minute of this one. The chicks were a joy to paint and getting interlocking pieces of old metal to look like they were actually up to the job at hand was equally frustrating and thrilling. This painting just tickles me. As soon as I think of more puns these chicks are likely to make another appearance.

After a few of these daunting compositions I tend to give myself a breather with a simpler, small organic subject like fruits and veggies. I don't have a new fruit/veg painting ready to share so I'll just post  these fairly recent ones: Heirloom & Hubbard and Mandarin Rising. I like the contrast in color and texture between this lumpy, warty squash and the juicy, plump tomato. And although the mandarin orange's leaves were no longer glossy, she is still stately, proud and standing tall.

original oil painting, representational art
Heirloom & Hubbard, 6x8" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
original oil painting, representational art
Mandarin Rising, 8x8" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
The stories behind the compositions and current availability of these paintings is on my website and updated regularly. Some may be "on loan" at shows so if there is one you are interested in, keep checking back. Or, better yet, email me if you'd like to be among the first to know when a painting becomes available.

Welcome to all the new subscribers! Thank you for joining me on my artistic journey. Feel free to comment or ask questions and of course to forward this newsletter to anyone you think might find it interesting.

*ps - I haven't read Mary Pipher's Women Rowing North yet, but I plan to. Sounds interesting.