Book progress

I thought the subject and title of my book was supposed to be a big secret until publication, but I learned from one of my recent workshop attendees that it’s already listed on Amazon!  That seems to make it official, this is really going to happen on October 1st. So you might be wondering “how’s it going?”

So far, I’m ahead of my deadlines. I’ve completed 24 out of 101 as I write this. That’s a good place to be, but I have previous commitments coming up which could put me behind; all the more reason to try to stay ahead as long as I can.

Someone asked me “Is it fun?” Yes, it is! Every day that I draw, I’m drawing something different. Some of them I know how to draw, and some of them I have to figure out. Since drawing is all about seeing, nothing is impossible, it’s just a matter of time. Each one takes me 3-4 hours, including scanning, adjusting and writing.

I had a small panic tonight when my computer inexplicably stopped communicating with my scanner and the usual fixes of re-launching the application and restarting the scanner didn’t work. After 90 minutes of looking up tech support answers, reinstalling drivers, etc., what finally worked was to reboot my computer.  Whew!

Sorry, I can’t show you any samples….

I signed a book contract!

In early December, out of the blue, I received an email from someone at a well-known publishing company, asking if I would be interested in writing an art book. My thoughts quickly shifted through:

  • surprise – that a publisher came to ME
  • skepticism – whether the inquiry was legit
  • astonishment – that it was real
  • excitement – that it is a huge opportunity
  • regret – because I didn’t think I could take it with my existing commitments
  • speculation – on what I could omit from my year’s schedule in order to do it
  • worry – that if I signed the contract, something bad might happen
  • worry – that if I turned it down, I’d never get an opportunity like this again
  • confidence – that I can do this

After some back-and-forth, some consultation with other authors, and some negotiation, I signed the contract mid-January!

I’m not allowed to reveal anything about the book itself beyond what I’ve already said.  But it will be a VERY busy year through the end of August, drawing, scanning and writing to meet my monthly deadlines.  I won’t be able to share any of my images or text as I progress (sorry!).  Until the book is finished, I won’t be doing any new artwork of my own, and I’ll only be able to enter a few shows (with work I’ve already completed).  I start just as soon as I finish the portrait I have on my drawing board right now.  This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing blog postings, only that they won’t be about the book.

I have to pinch myself to remember this is really happening; I never imagined that someday I’d have a book contract as part of my art career!  This will be part of my art legacy someday, so I plan to focus and give it my best.  Wish me luck!

Paper furniture

My whole life, I wished for a flat-file cabinet (also known as a map cabinet) in order to store my larger sheets of drawing paper nice and flat, keep them clean and out of danger of getting wrinkled, creased, smudged or punctured.  About five years ago, I finally had a nice oak one made by an older gentleman in the Sierra foothills.  I had it made to fit 22″ x 30″ paper.  It turned out great.  The only problem is, it turns out that 22″ x 30″ paper with a deckled edge (such as Stonehenge paper) is actually 22.5″ x 30″.  DOH!  So one edge sticks out of the drawer, continually taunting me like a child with its tongue out: “You goofed and you can’t fix this!”

Since then, I’ve come to own even larger sheets of paper, 30″ x 40″.  They got stashed in a stack under the guest room bed, or behind a dresser, or rolled up inside a cabinet.  It’s the best I could do, but far from ideal–they could still end up dusty, scuffed or creased, in any combination.  All overnight guests were warned: Do NOT shove anything under the bed!

Thanks to my continuing to work full-time as a software engineer, which subsidizes my serious art habit, I decided this year that I could afford to finally buy an even larger flat-file cabinet.  I could no longer find the gentleman who made my first one; he was 80 when he made it, so he may have died?  I spent a couple of weeks poring over Google search results and eBay listings, trying to find a good used one.  Unfortunately they were all the wrong size, beat up, without drawer slides, or 2000+ miles away with no way to examine before purchase or do a return and refund.

So I allowed myself to consider buying new.  They’re so expensive!  And even then, most companies that sell them only provide a few options.  But I finally found an online retailer, Madison Art Shop, that offers quite a few configuration, size and material options.  After several days of pondering and asking questions, I placed my order.  Without telling you what I paid, the shipping charge alone was over $300!

Last week, it arrived from the manufacturer in Beaverton, Oregon–all 408 lbs, on its own pallet.  It’s here!  It’s here!

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Hm, this thing IS big!  I already knew it was going to be too big to fit in my little studio, even if I moved the smaller flat-file cabinet out.  So my husband agreed I could set it up in the living room.  The real effort began.  Underneath the plastic wrap and nylon straps, we found four crates, two of which each weighed almost 200 lbs.  We figured out how to get them up the two steps and through the front door without hurting ourselves by using a couple of dollies.  We were impressed with the packing; every piece and surface was in perfect condition.  The final assembly instructions called for little more than a Phillips-head screwdriver.  Over the next few days, it came together.  The base to the bottom cabinet, the cap to the top cabinet, the two halves together, the handles on the drawers, and finally, the drawers into the cabinet.  I wiped down all surfaces to remove wood dust residue.

Here it is!  My beautiful new 30″ x 42″ 10-drawer birch flat-file cabinet, with metal slides.  This puppy isn’t going to budge in an earthquake.  The drawers require a satisfying little nudge to finish closing, which provides the tension to hold them closed so they won’t slide open on their own.

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It just needed two final touches: I got barrier paper from Accent Arts to line the drawers (this protects the valuable drawing paper from the acid that wood leaches over time, which yellows anything with which it is in constant contact), and I had a thin sheet of clear acrylic cut by TAP Plastics to protect that gorgeous birch wood top.

I was very happy today to extricate the large sheets of paper from all those hiding places  and lay them in their new home.  And happy to stop those 22.5″ x 30″ sheets from sticking their collective tongue out at me from the smaller cabinet.

Now the new cabinet only sticks something out to offer me lovely, pristine drawing paper!

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Yes, it was expensive.  But this very well-made piece of furniture will last the rest of my life, and will probably go on to serve another artist, and someone else after that, for 100 or even 200 years.  No buyer’s remorse for me!

Wrapping Up 2016

Here it is, the last day of 2016!  What an art year it was for me:

  • Exhibited work in 15 juried shows, including internationally in London and Ottawa
  • Won 7 awards
  • Sold 6 originals
  • Finished 11 new drawings
  • Taught 2 workshops
  • Gave 3 presentations
  • Exhibited 2 weekends in Silicon Valley Open Studios
  • Led a 2-day forum at the Colored Pencil Society of America convention in Tacoma
  • The featured and cover artist in the May issue of COLOR magazine
  • One of my drawings was used for advertising in The Artist’s Magazine, Pastel Journal, and Drawing Magazine
  • Published in 3 new books: CP Treasures, Vol. IV from Ann Kullberg, and Strokes of Genius 8: Expressive Texture and Art Journey Animals from North Light Books
  • Published a JumpStart step-by-step booklet through Ann Kullberg
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Along with all that, late in the year I stepped down after five years as president of my CPSA chapter (DC 210 San Jose), in order to take on a new role as the organization’s national Marketing Director.

And I broke my collarbone, which brought everything art-related to a halt for more than six weeks while I healed from surgery to fix it (steel plate forevermore!) I’m still going to physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.

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All that while still working at a full-time job.  Whew!

With each year, I’m still learning how to pace myself.  Spring and early summer seem to be very hectic, while autumn and early winter are more relaxed, so I’m trying to figure out how to spread the work out.  I’m not sure it’s possible, since the reason for the hectic part of the year is deadlines over which I have no control.  One possibility is to simply not enter as many juried shows, but what’s the fun in that?

2017 is already stacking up!  I have commitments for three presentations and four workshops (three of which involve travel) in the first five months.  Check the Calendar page of my website to keep abreast of all that.

And the contract is not yet signed, but it looks like I will be writing a book, which will preclude me from making any new art until at least the end of August, and I’ll have to skip several exhibit opportunities.  I’m feeling ambivalent about the honor of writing a book that will be published but not being able to draw what I want for most of the year.  I guess it’s a good problem to have!

May your 2017 be productive and filled with art!

What a year!

2015 is winding down, so it’s time to take a deep breath, relax, and review my art accomplishments for the year.

  • Had work accepted into 19 shows, including 15 juried, 2 invitationals, and 1 overseas (London)
  • Won 9 awards
    • 2 Honorable Mentions
    • 1 Award of Merit
    • 1 3rd Place
    • 1 2nd Place
    • 1 Runner-Up 2-D
    • 1 Best Realism
    • 1 1st Place
    • 1 Best in Show
  • Had a drawing published in a new book Strokes of Genius 7: Depth, Dimension and Space from North Light Books
  • Earned five-year merit award in the CPSA International Exhibition
  • Earned Silver signature status in the UKCPS International Exhibition
  • Taught 3 half-day workshops
  • Exhibited 2 full weekends in Silicon Valley Open Studios
  • Exhibited in 2 one-day outdoor festivals
  • Led a very successful forum for chapter presidents at the Colored Pencil Society of America convention in Atlanta
  • Demonstrated for 2 colored pencil manufacturers at events in San Jose, CA and Raleigh, NC
  • Gave a 90-minute presentation to a local art group
  • Finished 9 new drawings
  • Sold 4 original framed drawings
  • Led 4 CPSA chapter meetings plus organized related events
  • Re-elected president of my CPSA chapter
  • Almost turned a profit

Two of the awards came as big surprises….

In May, Cricket Time won 1st Place and $250 in the Pacific Art League Instructors Exhibition.  Many of the instructors at PAL have MFA degrees, a whole career of teaching and exhibition experience and a strong sense of their personal vision and style, so I don’t think I was the only one surprised that the juror, Anthony Meier of the esteemed Anthony Meier Gallery in San Francisco, chose my small colored pencil drawing for the top award.

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Cricket Time, 1st Place in Pacific Art League Instructors Exhibition

And in December, Clinging to the Edge won Best of Show and $500 in the Coastal Arts League’s 31st Annual Juried Show!  There were 200 entries, of which 55 were accepted, and I was fortunate to have two among those.  This show is all media–photography, oils, sculpture, fiber arts, you name it–and “best of” awards are given for photography, 2D, and 3D works, as well as overall Best of Show.  It’s pretty rare for a mere graphite drawing to win a juror’s attention and favor over great works in all these other media!  And the next day, I was notified that it sold.

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Clinging to the Edge, Best of Show in Coastal Arts League 31st Annual Juried Exhibition

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Best in Show in Coastal Arts League 31st Annual Juried Show!

In 2014 I exhibited in 8 shows and won 3 awards, so this year’s exhibition effort was quite a bit more ambitious than last year’s.  The bullet list above doesn’t even hint at the amount of time that was involved in putting together the CPSA forum, running and growing my CPSA chapter, helping organize the group sites for SVOS, and preparing artist packets for my workshops.  And considering I still work at a full-time day job, it’s a wonder I had time to create new art at all!

Am I satisfied with the outcome of 2015?  Yes!  Will I aim for even more in 2016?  Well, yes and no.

While I did manage to meet all my commitments and meet them well, the pace isn’t sustainable.  The last thing I want is to burn out.  I produced one less drawing this year than in 2014.  So I’ve resolved to not take on as much next year, so that I can devote more time to my art.  More drawing, less “other stuff”! The hard part is figuring out what to omit, since it’s all important for exposure and growing my art career.

I had a couple of goals for myself this year which I didn’t even get to, let alone attempt: to gain representation by a second gallery, and to gain skill with pastels.  I managed only two visits this year to the gallery which already represents me.  I need to do more with the one gallery before I can hope to keep a second one happy.

2016 will be a busy year, hopefully at a less hectic pace.  But first, I need a long winter’s nap and some long walks in nature to recharge.  Ahhhh….

M.C. Escher and Art of the Carolinas

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I’ve been a fan of M.C. Escher‘s work since I first discovered it in my early teens. Some magazine or other included Another World with an article, and I stared at it in wonderment for hours.  It was a couple more years before I learned the name of the artist, and longer still before I learned that I could buy a whole book of his art.  I ended up with several of these books; I didn’t mind duplicate images as long as there were also unique ones!  His imaginative worlds were amazing.  As a developing artist, I was also impressed with his precise details and perfect shading, and it inspired me to work on improving my own technique.  When I read that his visit to a place called the Alhambra in Granada, Spain inspired his exploration of patterns and tesselations, I resolved that if I ever made it to Spain, I would visit it, too.  And I did, but that’s another story….

Several months ago, I learned that a huge exhibit of Escher’s work was coming to the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and nowhere else after.  It didn’t matter that it was 3,000 miles away–I was going!  I also found out about Art of the Carolinas, a big annual art materials trade show that includes over 100 workshops, hosted by Jerry’s Artarama.  What an opportunity–I could time my visit to attend both!  It got even better when I learned that Prismacolor is one of the annual vendors at AOC, and they were happy to schedule me to demo at their booth even for just one day.

So last weekend, I went!  My sister, who lives in St. Louis, flew out to meet up since she is also an Escher fan.  We spent almost 4.5 hours in the Escher exhibit and we were not disappointed!  It was huge, and included the original wood, metal and stone blocks from which he made some of his prints, old photos of him at work and at home, and even the original  man-bird statue featured in Another World and other works.  To think, I was looking directly at the very sculpture he often looked at! It was so exciting to be able to examine, as closely as I cared, the details and drawing techniques which aren’t visible in books: erased corrections, perspective guides, and faint graph paper lines were all there.  And I learned something new about his technique:  for some of his lithographs such as Castrovalva, instead of drawing the image on the stone, he first covered the stone completely with the black grease pencil and then scratched through it to produce the image, just as modern scratchboard artists do!

The same special-exhibit admission price included an exhibit of many original pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester–his handwritten study of hydraulic systems and waterways, part of an effort to reduce flooding for his sponsor city.  I thought this was an odd pairing, until I learned that Escher was inspired by da Vinci and had even read and quoted some of his writings.  These pages have passed through many hands over 500 years, and they are now on loan from Bill Gates.

Sorry I can’t show you any photos from inside either exhibit–no photography was allowed!

The next day when I arrived to demo at Art of the Carolinas, I was pleased that my Prismacolor “boss” had arranged for Jerry’s Artarama to set up a nice drawing table and stool at the booth, and Strathmore provided a tablet of their new Colored Pencil paper.  So I got right to work drawing a larger-than-life cherry.

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At first glance, it’s a very simple subject, but there’s actually a fair amount of complexity in it: colors, highlights, shadows, reflections.  I spent most of the day layering four colors, then used odorless mineral spirits to blend one side of the cherry and the Prismacolor colorless blender pencil to blend the other side, leaving an unblended strip down the middle so that folks could compare the results.

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I use this same image for my half-day workshops, so I knew I’d be able to work on it and carry on conversations at the same time. It turned out to be the right choice, because visitors interested in colored pencil in general and Prismacolors in particular were nearly non-stop from 9 AM to 5:30 PM.  The time flew by!  Getting to sit and draw all day while talking to folks about my favorite medium, demonstrating and offering tips for them to try, and getting paid for it to boot–what could be better?

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My sister had never seen me in “art mode” before so she stayed quite awhile to listen in and observe the goings-on and take these photos.

Other highlights of the weekend were a late-night Krispy Kreme run in a stretch limo (courtesy of Jerry’s Artarama), free wine, hors doeuvres and chatter at the Art Bar, being blown away by the large inventory of the Jerry’s Artarama store, dinner with my local friend and fellow CPSA member Linda Koffenberger, and feeding the ducks and beholding the dawn redwood at Duke Gardens in Durham.  Oh, and I also met the owner of Jerry’s Artarama and asked him to consider opening a store in San Jose!  He said that 50% of their online sales comes from the west coast, so here’s hoping….

 

 

Fall Workshop Scheduled

Once again, I will be teaching a half-day “Vibrant Realism with Colored Pencil” workshop at the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, CA!  This one is scheduled for Sunday, October 11, 1:00 – 5:00 PM.  Registration is handled entirely through PAL, so the fee is $73 for PAL members and $85 for non-members.  Read more about it and download the supply list here; to sign up, click here.

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