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 maybe "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.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Following through

Generally I write once a month but I'm feeling brave. And you all have been so supportive of the good times, seems only fair - and honest - to let you in on the anxious times.

At the beginning of January I posted about a daunting project, that I had avoided starting. It was totally outside my comfort zone because... it's a portrait... of a dark skinned woman... with bold coloration... and flowers!

I'm pleased to say it's done and has been submitted to the American Women Artists upcoming show at Steamboat Art Museum. I don't know if it will be accepted, but I feel good just finishing it, because this one had me doubting myself more than anything I've done. And while there were times when it was agony to work on, every issue resolved was a thrill.

representational art, realism, portraiture, female portrait, African Queen, exotic
Zsa Zsa Reigns ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

The Steamboat exhibit is part of AWA's initiative to increase exposure for women artists by holding 25 exhibitions in museums over 25 years. And I'll tell you - the collected work has been fantastic. Take a look at last year's Rockwell Museum show here. Multiple paintings have been  purchased for permanent collections through these shows, advancing AWA's mission to see more work by female artists in museums nationwide.

Needless to say, it would be quite an honor to be included. For now I'm glad that I took on the challenge, made the deadline and of course, learned a lot.

One of the things I learned is that I should have done a poster study! This is a lesson I keep learning, and unfortunately, forgetting. When I'm in a hurry it feels like an added/extaneous step, but it could have answered big questions on a small scale and likely saved time in the long run. A poster can help to figure out values: how dark the shadow area of the face should be and how light the cheek highlight is compared to other light areas. It really is all relative. You can see some examples of poster studies I have done here.

I did do a quick painted sketch of this model from life, but I wasn't happy with it. Fortunately she allowed me to take a photo. Zsa Zsa's pose was powerful and haunting and her expression seemed fitting for American Women Artists' goal to inspire, celebrate and encourage women in the visual arts. I'll let you know if they agree.

Closer to home my work will be in Art Show: Bedford (in Bedford, NY) which opens this weekend. Stop by if you are in the area. There will be artwork by local artists (Laura Gould and Rich Alexander to name a few) as well as NYC artists and work curated by several galleries. I'm happy to be included. There is always good art and the proceeds benefit several local community organizations.

Blind Date is one of the paintings I will exhibit. It's a cheeky painting that came about after placing two vintage ceramic pieces together on a shelf. They just looked like they should have a relationship! It's a quirky pairing but I find these characters endearing and hope you do too. Come by and say hello and warm your heart with some art! Our bitter cold weather should be improving soon.
1950s pottery, piggy pitcher, german pottery, german teapot
Blind Date ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
Thanks so much for joining me on my art journey. I hope you find this newsletter interesting. Please feel free to forward to anyone who might enjoy it. You can also look back on past posts by clicking on this link

Friday, January 4, 2019

Getting started... or not.

Beginning the New Year with all kinds of good intentions is a time-honored tradition. But you know what, the timing is ridiculous! Most of us actually begin January a bit exhausted from December and yet we still play mind games challenging ourselves to jump in with determination to be more productive/loving/honest/creative/happy... and skinny.

This year I have the added pressure of wanting to submit new work to a national exhibit, and I've got  something different in mind. I basically have two weeks to do a fairly large painting of a subject that is totally foreign to me, and therefore scary. (That's all the detail I'm sharing at this point because I don't quite trust that I will be successful.)

Honestly, after being irritated with myself for not getting started, a sudden realization hit me: if I don't start, I can't screw it up.

And there you have it - the niggling thought behind creative procrastination.

That same morning Robert and Sara Genn's newsletter, The Painter's Keys, arrived in my inbox with the headline "Self-delusory avoidance activity." That got my attention!

I swear, this came right after realizing the subconscious reason for my un-motivation. If you've ever been plagued with any kind of "avoidance activity" do yourself a favor and read Sara's newsletter, especially the part where she makes suggestions about how to become unblocked. At first it may seem like a list of how to do nothing, but in reality, I think it's more about consciously changing habits and taking pressure off. In essence: make space so you can find the path to your creative process.

Just say "ah" and let it be.

And then get moving!

Thinking back on other times I felt blocked before starting a new project, I had the same frustrating avoidance when I wanted to do interiors. My first was a single chair in a corner. I reworked it several times to fix perspective and play with the light. And finally I had Home Alone.
interior painting, classical realism, original oil painting
Home Alone ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze
That first simple interior gave me the confidence to try a more involved view. Sitting Pretty was definitely more challenging and in the end, even more rewarding.

interior painting, classical realism, original oil painting
Sitting Pretty ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze

Since then I've done quite a few interiors and enjoyed working on them immensely. Just about all have sold, but there will be one, Cabinet of Basketry, in Art Show: Bedford 2019 at St. Mathews beginning January 25th. Come by if you are in the area, it's always a good show.

interior painting, classical realism, original oil painting
Cabinet of Basketry ©2017 Dorothy Lorenze
So, fortunately, while I had my brilliant realization that not trying a new genre might mean not failing, I also realized that if I did give this new painting a shot, at the very least I would learn something. And, as with painting interiors, I might really enjoy it!

The new painting is now underway. It may not be completed in time for the national show deadline, but I'm excited about it and I'll certainly learn something. More importantly, it feels good not to give up.

If you are struggling with getting started on any kind of project this new year - take a breath, look at it honestly to figure out what you really want to tackle and why, and if it's still important and not just something to check off a list, take some baby steps to get started. Once you get going it might turn out to be just the spring tonic you need.

Have a creative and rewarding 2019! 
And thank you for joining me on my art journey. 

For all you new readers, you can check out earlier studio news here where you can also search for past subjects. Please share this newsletter with anyone you think might find it of interest.