Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation

I found what looks to be a great book at the library Friday.  It's called Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim.  I haven't started reading it yet, but before I could, my husband already started reading to me from it!  He's finding it quite interesting.

Here's what he read to me already - I had NO idea about this!
Hysteria, that mysterious catchall of female ailments that existed in recorded history for thousands of years, is a diagnosis that dates back to ancient Egypt.  It's associated with out-of-control emotions, irrational fears, and unregulated, over-the-top behavior, but overwhelmingly, only in women.  and believe it or not, one of the most popular treatments for hysteria that literally spanned centuries was manual stimulation to orgasm by a medical doctor.
Okay, it wasn't actually called an orgasm back then, it was a "hysterical paroxysm."  And believe it or not, it wasn't even considered sexual; in a world ruled by a heterosexual, male-oriented notion of sex (i.e. vaginal intercourse in the missionary position), stimulating someone's clitoris was considered therapeutic and about as racy as bandaging a head wound.  That being said, we find the whole thing more than a tad kindy.  Just read the instructions Pieter van Forest wronte in 1653, which makes it all pretty clear to us: "A midwife should massage the genitalia with one finger inside, using oil of lilies, musk root, crocus or [something] similar  and in this way the afflicted woman can be aroused to a paroxysm."
Van Forest was far from the first to describe this method, and in such lingering detail, as an effective treatment for hysteria.  Centuries earlier, Hippocrates, that father of modern medicine, mentioned a simlar treatment in his writings.  And Galen himself, that old second-century perv, wrote: "Following the warmth of the remedies and arising from the touch of the genital organs required by the treatment, there followed twitchings accompanied at the same time by pain and pleasure, after which she emitted turbid and abundant sperm.  From that time on, she was free of all the evil she felt."
And yet, the medical profession emphatically did not suggest a woman try this at home by herself.[...]  No, it was a medical treatment to be provided by a professional - a doctor or a midwife - at a scheduled appointment, for cold, hard cash. [...]
Going to the doctor's for such a treatment was nothing like putting on an oversize gown that ties in front and scooting your bare butt down to the end ofthe table where the stirrups are.  Back then, a woman remained not only standing, but fully clothed; the doctor would have to bend down and reach up under all of her heavy draperies in order to locate the right spot, working completely by feel.  Not surprisingly, the treatment was incredibly taxing; it probably took the hapless doctor time to even find the clitoris, and after that up to a full hour to achieve the desired result.  Plus it was difficult; one doctor back in 1660 ruefully compared the technique to rubbing one's stomach with one hand while patting one's head with the other.  As a result, midwives were often employed to do the actual handiwork.
But by the late 19th century, the second stage of the Industrial Revolution [...] brought us the vibrator.  Dr. J.M. Granville, a British physician, developed a mechanical model in 1883, and overnight, doctors found they could treat hysteria patients in mere minutes instead of hours.
What a boon!  The vibrator quickly became a staple in doctors' offices, and as treatments sped up, revenue streams (ahem) shot through the roof....

Pretty fascinating history of hysteria and vibrators and treating women for such symptoms as (again I quote):
nervousness, insomnia, faintness, chills, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, depression, headache, upset stomach, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, irritability, unexplained laughter or crying, anxiety, a choking sensation, muscle spasms, convulsions, fatigue, loss of appetite, cold hands, cold feet, loss of sexual interest, heaving of the chest, a sudden throwing back of the head and body, the tendency to cause trouble, and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum.
The book is now at the top of the stack of 5 or 6 books I'm currently reading and will get a much closer read beginning tomorrow!  I'll let you know what else I learn.

In the meantime, I find it fascinating how out of touch women - and men - have been with women's bodies and their raw sexuality and sensuality.  How did that happen?  How is it still happening?  Is it happening in your life?  Your daughter's?  How can women become so empowered and self-aware that such absurdities can never happen again?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Patterns and "Don't Mess with Me!"

I had a very fun day in the studio today after being at the Monster Drawing Rally yesterday.  I wanted to try everything I'd seen done there - using compressed charcoal, oil sticks, house paint, etc., etc.  In the end, I didn't have any compressed charcoal so couldn't use it and didn't think about the house paint, but I did find an oil stick I'd bought long ago and did use it.  I also combined pastels and oil paints with the oil stick on both sanded paper (which I usually use with pastels) and canvas (which I usually only use with oils).  It was fun to experiment.  The picture on the right is called Aapples and a Tomato.  I had a lot of fun creating the pattern in the background.  I love doing these kinds of patterns.  A long time ago, the first time Dylan was in the hospital, so 8 years ago, I'd come home from the night there and do a small watercolor of a piece of fruit and put patterns in the background.  (The pumpkin is an example of one of them.)  I guess I'm coming back around to that now with oils and pastels.  The oil stick really helps because it gives me an easy way to draw the lines.  I have trouble doing them with either pastels (too thick) or a brush (too soft).

After I painted the apples and tomato, I found some small canvases (I think they're 6" square x 1.5" deep) which I painted a couple more pictures on.  First Polka dotted peach then Apple on a Tablecloth.  I left the apple uncropped to make it possible to see how deep the canvas is.

These pictures and the fun I had doing them gave me the courage to finally, finally, finally put a pattern into a portrait as I'm painting it.  I have to admit, I had a really good time doing the pattern.  I don't know why I like them so much, but I certainly know that I do!

Here's the start of the portrait.  The woman is wearing the most beautiful turquoise necklace which is an heirloom from her grandmother.  I had no idea how difficult it would be to paint.  I am aware that the necklace will certainly take longer to paint than anything else!  But it'll be fun and look very cool when it's finished, so I'm looking forward to continuing the challenge.

I love the expression on this woman's face.  It isn't that evident from this photograph, but I call it Don't Mess With Me.  It's a perfect one for me to be doing right now because that's my attitude these days!  Don't mess with me!  I can't wait to get back to it tomorrow, but I'm too tired tonight after 3 hours of painting the necklace and pattern to do anymore.  I was starting to get sloppy so it's time to quit!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monster Drawing Rally

Today was really fun!  1708 Gallery here in Richmond had their First Annual Monster Drawing Rally.  Here's the press release if you want lots of information along with a cool drawing for it: link.  It was an event, a happening, an opportunity to see about 70 artists doing their thing in one place over the course of 5 hours.  AND a chance to buy some really good art for just 65 bucks a pop.  I couldn't believe it was so inexpensive.  Many of the artists who participated regularly sell their work for $300-400/drawing of the size that they were doing today.  Chris and I bought 4 pieces when I was done drawing cuz we loved what they were doing so much.  It was great to support 1708, terrific to make the artists feel good by buying their art, and, best of all, fantastic to get such wonderful artwork for such a great price.  I can only imagine that next year it will be much more crowded and the pieces will be that much harder to come by. 

Today Chris and I already had to compete for Mary Scurlock's drawing of a tree.  Another woman wanted it too, so the seller had a deck of cards - we each chose a card with the higher card winning.  Thank goodness Chris got an 8 to the woman's 3.  Sorry for her, but I was kinda excited that we got it!  It's quite a wonderful piece!  Mary had an exhibit at the Page Bond Gallery here in Richmond with many of her trees there.  It was a beautiful show and I was tempted to buy a piece there.  I think I like this one even better.  So delicate and beautiful.

We also bought a piece by Diego Sanchez.  He had the kids who were there participate in helping him spread the charcoal he used as a base.  They were enthralled then watching the rest of his process as he erased a spiny shell out of the blackness.  I was delighted by the piece so we snagged it too!  I have long wanted to own a piece of Diego's work because I admire it so much, so this is a double delight.
Then there was Jordan Roeder's piece, also out of compressed charcoal.  Watching her draw was like watching beautiful choreography.  She wore black; her hands were black; she had a lovely smile on her face the whole time and she shared beautifully about her work as she did it.  We talked to her about it afterwards and found out it was inspired by her recent travels in Peru - a lovely coincidence since Dylan spent the summer a year ago in Peru and loved it very much.  The piece is a series of concentric circles with mountains in the background.  I didn't know what it was when we bought it, but it's clear now that I know it.  I just like the strength of her drawing.

The fourth piece we bought was by Christine Gray who is an assistant professor at VCU.  When she began the piece, I couldn't get a sense of what it was going to be, but I kept walking by and watching it evolve.  I became more and more intrigued and interested.  By the end it became a beautiful almost ethereal enigmatic image that I still couldn't identify.  She told me she'd been doing a series of backyard paintings and had been finding nets interesting.  She said this piece is black moths in a net.  I find it hauntingly beautiful.

I apologize for the quality of the photographs of these beautiful works - they're still in plastic waiting for us to frame them, but I wanted to write about them while I was still feeling excited about the happening.

The other fun I had today, other than buying lots of wonderful art, was drawing at the rally also.  I was in the second round of artists who were drawing.  By that time the space was starting to get crowded.  There were probably 50 people watching us.  It was a little bit nervewracking at first to be observed by so many people.  Some would talk to me but not most.  Usually they stood quietly and watched.  I chose to draw an eggplant I'd gotten at the farmer's market this morning.  It is a very beautiful vegetable with gorgeous white striations on the lovely eggplant purple.  It has a pistachio green stem which offsets the purple beautifully.  I had a good time drawing it, so much so that I almost stopped thinking about all the people, though  my adrenaline was pumping - the sense of time passing and having too little of it overall.

I finished the eggplant in about 45 minutes.  Someone whisked it away to be photographed and catalogued, then it was hung on the wall to be bought. 

I began drawing an apple in the remaining 15 minutes.  I used my brand new brightly colors Diane Townsend pastels - I LOVE those pastels! - and rushed the colors on.  I had a great time swerving through the form, laying in the colors, careening across the surface of the fruit, then screeching to a halt at the stem before time was called!  It was very loose and fun before all was said and done.

I must admit I watched the wall to see if my pieces got bought.  I was pretty excited to see that both were bought, one by someone I knew, one by a couple I didn't.  It felt good to know the pieces will go to a good  home, and 1708 made $130 from my efforts (not to mention the other $260 they made from our purchases!)  There were LOTS of pieces sold - probably at least 70 by the time I left around 7, and the rest of the work will be for sale for a few more days.

If you live in Richmond and have time this weekend, you should do your best to get to the gallery before they take down the artwork.  It's remarkable to see the wide variety of pieces artists did - so many styles, media, subject matters.  It was really fun watching the artists create in so many different ways.  I've got some new ideas for fun things to play with in the studio this month! 

And I'm already looking forward to next year's Rally!  Hope you can make it too!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sometimes it can be frustrating...

As I'm preparing for my show, Sacred Flesh, at Visual Art Studio here in Richmond in October, I've been getting in touch with my models and asking them if they'd like to send me a statement about their experience modeling for me which I'll incorporate into a catalogue for the show.  Yesterday I wrote to one woman who had been ambivalent about modeling for me to ask if she would write something so there would be a different point of view expressed. 

Here's what she wrote:
Peer pressure...not exactly something one expects to experience at 54, but with a sister like mine it happens....Her enthusiasm swayed me to pose nude for a most wonderous artist....I felt like throwing up all morning the day of the shoot....In my heart I knew it was not "me" but I did it anyway and at first pretended I was enjoying myself...I posed with my grown daughter and my sister...Once we got warmed up I truly enjoyed myself...it was a wonderful bonding and enlightening experience...it feels very personal between my sister, daughter and myself and I cherish that day, but do not wish to share it with others....I am torn between regretting that I was not strong enough to "just say no" and the special feeling I got from the experience....Great learning experience for me...I am sorry that Susan loves the painting she created and I do not wish her to share it on a large platform....She Understands and for that I say SUSAN SINGER ROCKS !!!!!
It was -uh- interesting - to get that email!  I had spent 2 months on the painting.  I had known she didn't want me to post it on the internet out of concern that family members might see it, but she had said I could show it in shows, so I felt disappointed and frustrated and even angry that she now didn't want me to show it at all.  The piece is 4 feet by 6 feet! 

And yet, I will of course respect her desires.  How could I not?  After all, this project is about honoring women and their feelings about their bodies.  If they're not OK with my showing a painting of them nude, I must respect that.

And I still get to have my feelings.

When I told Chris what had happened, he offhandedly suggested I paint paper bags over her and her daughter's heads.  I thought he was kidding, and he may have been, but the thought has actually stayed with me.  Why not? 

After thinking about the situation all day, I wrote the woman back.  She is mature and reasonable, so I had faith that we could talk a bit more about how she was feeling - and about my frustration and disappointment.  I told her about Chris's idea.  To my surprise, she actually thinks it's a good idea. 

I do too.

It's a great opportunity to show the ambivalence people can have about showing their nude bodies in public.  And to show how important it is to honor ones own feelings rather than betray them, i.e. it would have been better for all involved if she had said "NO!" rather than letting me take the photos then paint the painting. 

But she's human, and she's allowed to be unclear and to not know the right thing to do and to falter and to try things out.

And now Spirit and creativity are stepping into the slightly uncomfortable breech and are offering up a new possibility, one I wouldn't have thought of otherwise, one that is probably better than the painting I've already done.

So I guess I'll be painting paper bags this week.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Becoming a Girl

I had a chance today to work on the piece I began a couple of weeks ago and had been avoiding ever since.  I had a great first day with it then left it on the easel til today.  Why was I avoiding it, you might well ask?  Well!  I had begun it by splashing paint all over and wanted to keep with that looseness, but I couldn't figure out how to do it.  (If you've been reading my blog lately, you'll notice that's been a theme the last few weeks since Thomas's workshop.) 

Today I decided that I wanted to work on it and what it needed was detail work so that the face would look better.  That's not a tricky thing for me to do usually - details are what I do well.  So it went pretty well, and I think she looks better.

I realize that when I've talked about this piece before, I haven't talked about the story behind it at all like I usually do with my models. 

This young woman is, as I suppose is rather obvious if you look at the painting carefully, in the process of changing genders.  She was born male and has come to realize that she feels like a woman so she has decided to go through the process of making her body congruent with her feelings about herself.  I am in awe of her courage.  I think it must be very difficult to feel like you were born in the wrong body then to decide to do something about it, despite all the messages society would inflict about that choice.  I love the strength of her pose in this picture and how clearly and straightforwardly she stares at the viewer, bold, proud, clear.

I wish her many wonderful years as a woman.  May it be exactly as she imagines.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Faux Fur Follies Day 4

Yesterday I finally took the plunge and added pattern to the picture of Lynn which I'm calling Faux Fur Follies.  It took me a long time to figure out which pattern to add, and I have to give Chris a lot of credit - he came out to the studio and talked me through it and watched as I photoshopped some possibilities in to see how it would look.  Here is our photoshop edition, a bit crude, but it gave me enough of an idea that I decided to go with it.  (on the right)
Last night I got some of the colors put on.  I was feeling pretty good about it.  The orange was the underpainting and felt too bright, so I was glad when I got rid of that today.  I chose colors that were less pink than in the photoshopped version. (on the left)

Today I finished the pattern wall then put shadows behind her knee, the coat, and her hand.  I also increased the amount of flooring to her right in order to make the room look larger.  Then, finally, I changed the color of the wall behind her.  I thought about adding another pattern behind her.  Here's that thought: 

There's a lot I like about it - I like the sense of space that the lines create and the fun of it.  Chris said he thinks it looks like a fun house.  I'm not opposed to that, given how happy she looks.  It makes the picture even more enigmatic - where is she and what is she doing there and why is she there and what the heck is happening??!!

In preparation for that step, I painted the wall behind her tan.  I took a moment to step back and look at it before painting the pattern (plus, I needed to wait for the paint to dry).  I decided I really like it with just the tan, so for now I'm going to leave it like this.  I worked on her hair somemore and may do some more on her coat, but otherwise, I might be finished.  Maybe.  Unless I get a wild hair someplace that makes me do something else to it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trying to break through old patterns using patterns

Geez!  I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted anything - a flurry of posts then nothing!  I've been busy in the studio despite that.

Last Friday we took my youngest to college for his Freshman year.  Since then each day i've been checking my email frequently, hoping for a missive from him, telling about the good times he's having.  I've received a total of 20 lines, 2 of which regarded money.  Yes, well.  I guess I'd better get used to it!

In the meantime, I've been walking with my friend Lynn, a 65-year-old woman who runs marathons and is planning an ascent of Mount Kilamanjaro for February 2011.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.  She's helping me get in shape, but she also inspires me like crazy because of how she lives her life.  I love spending time with her!

The way I got to know her was through her modeling for me.  She saw my 12 Naked Men show in Petersburg and told me she'd like to model for me.  Unfortunately I couldn't read her email address accurately so couldn't get in touch with her that time around, but luckily she found me again at Crossroads when I was showing The Dancer at 89.  She was adamant that she wanted to model for me so we set up a time right then and there.

Bling Lady was the first piece I did of her from that session.  I have several other pieces I'd like to do from then, but haven't gotten around to them yet. 

A couple of months after I first photographed her, she told me her sister and neice were going to be in town and she'd like to bring them over to see the painting.  I told her that would be fine and if they wanted to model while they were here, that would be great too (just kidding!).  Lynn took me seriously and told them that's what they were going to do. 

We had a great time in the studio that day!  Her sister and neice were wonderful models.  The three of them were so at ease with themselves and each other.  I got some fabulous shots and have painted a picture of them already.  I'm not at liberty to show it because, though they're comfortable with my painting their faces with their body, they prefer me not to show them on the internet.  Totally fine.

One of the props we used that day was a fake fur coat Chris had just gotten me for my birthday.  I turned 50 and his gift to me was to take me shopping for a winter coat because mine was getting worn out after 8 years of constant use.  I was looking for another practical piece to replace it, but then Isaw these crazy floor length fur coats.  I tried on a white one with a huge hood just for kicks.  I actually LOVED it!  I felt like a fairy princess snow queen.  Not the look I usually aim for, but I loved it!  I tried on more and more of the coats and told Chris that I was actually going to get one of them!  In the end I bought two - a short one I wear almost daily and a floor length one that looks like a racoon coat from the 50's or whenever it was the guys wore those in college.  I love it!  I haven't actually worn it out of the house yet because I don't quite have the gall to show up with it on anywhere - I don't really go anywhere that calls for a fur coat - but I'm working on it!  Maybe by this winter I'll have come up with someplace - maybe I'll wear it at my opening in October despite the heat in the building with 100's of people crowding around.  Or not.

At any rate, I brought it out to show to Lynn and her sister and neice.  They loved them and started clowning around in them.  Of course I snapped pictures while they were playing.  They're very fun!

That's the back story.

A couple of weeks ago when Lynn and I were walking, she was telling me what she thought of the paintings I'd done during Tom's workshop.  She LOVED the Jenny Saville one.  She said that's how she feels!  Like that paint, those colors, that energy!  She wanted to know why I didn't paint her that way.  She said she liked the piece I did of her, but it was so calm and restrained - why didn't I do this with her?

Well!  I'd been wanting to try such unrestrained painting ever since the workshop, but I'd built up in my mind that my models might be bothered by it (is that true, models???) - that they might find such outrageous energy shameful or ugly or excessive - can you tell what my judgments are?  Yet that was exactly what I wanted to do. 

And here Lynn was giving me permission and asking me to do it with her painting!  That evening I went out to the studio and started playing with Adobe and modifying some of the photos I have of Lynn.  The one on the left is the one I played with the most.  She loved it!  I don't know that I'll paint it like this, but it could give me a good start for getting wilder with the colors and the energy.

The thing that is difficult for me is to recognize that crazy colors and wildly energetic looking doesn't mean random, wild strokes with equal intensity to the mark making.  Those strokes have to be every bit as careful as the way I normally work.  So really, the painting isn't different except in the colors I would use.  At some level I'm looking to be more expressive with the strokes too.  It's the process I'm in, I guess.

As an intermediate step, I decided to work on a piece of Lynn in the fur coat.  I really love her expression and her pose and figured I could have some fun with it.

The first picture was the beginning.  I decided to put a very bold color down for the background colors and to play with the colors in the coat.  I regret the colors in the coat.  I don't like how greenish the yellow is.  Lynn's coloring is pinker than that, so I find it jarring, but I'm not done yet!

I decided to paint her body completely realistically and make it as beautifully rendered as I could manage then play with the coat and background, sort of like Gustav Klimt did his women.  As you can see in this image, the face and hands are painted very realistically (except for his color choice perhaps - she's a bit too blue and pale to look completely realistic), then the rest of it is full of incredible patterns.  The piece is a portrait, but clearly it's more about the patterns.  I haven't decided if I want to go that far or not.  I love drawing patterns.  It's how I doodle.  I would love to figure out how to combine both things - patterns and portraits - but so far I haven't been able to see how to do it.  I could take that chance in this painting, but, frankly, I've gotten attached to the outcome and want to make it pretty.  I'm afraid to screw it up.

Writing that makes me know it's the only choice I really have.  I have to let myself play.  Otherwise why should I even bother doing art?  If I don't take a chance, I should just close up shop and go home.

Yikes!  Here are some of the patterns I've done before.  OK.  I'm ready!  They're gonna be in the painting!  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The artistic journey - from Farmer's Market to volcanic explosion of passion

Tomato about to go

Introspected Pepper
Last Saturday I went to the Farmer's Market with my friend Tina.  I wasn't planning to buy much since I'd already bought to much the week before which was steadily rotting in my frig, but when she showed me the fabulous long and skinny red peppers which were curled in on themselves and the bright orange little ones, I realized they needed to be drawn!  So this week I've had a lovely time drawing peppers and tomatoes.

Of course, I realize that drawing all these color studies and peppers and tomatoes is just a way to avoid what I really want to be working on - my new female nude!  I've gotten blocked working on it and haven't gotten back to it since the first day I spent 6 hours on it.  I like how it looks now, except that it needs some revisions.  I'm worried I'll try to make it too perfect and it'll lose some of the spontenaity.  I want to throw paint at it and play, but it's at the stage where playing isn't exactly the right thing to do.

I want to start another canvas, but Chris has no time to build me one.  I have so many ideas now about what to do. I want to play with the backgrounds - splashes and slashes and curls and who knows what else?  Utter energy.

I have a photo of a friend who was clowning while wearing my floor length (fake) fur coat.  I really want to paint it.  I have a vision of how it can look.  This wonderful friend saw the work I did during Thomas's workshop, specifically the one where I was learning about Jenny Saville's methods, and said, "Why don't you paint me like that?  I wish you'd paint me like that!  It's my insides on the outside!"  So now I have her permission to play with the images of her.
Up until she gave me her permission, I've been worried about painting my models with too much frenzy and spontenaity because they won't look "beautiful and serene" when I'm finished - probably - I actually have no idea how they'll look - it would be about playing.  It would be about exploring the image and how I feel about it.  Up until now, I've approached the image from the point of the view of the model.  I've wanted to be respectful and paint a beautiful painting as a means of helping them love their bodies and how they look.  I have every intention of continuing to be respectful.  That is a given.  But I'm feeling a very strong urge to allow myself to come through more onto the canvas.  I have a wellspring of passion inside of me which I suppress pretty thoroughly which is why my paintings are so accurate and photo-based.  I'm finding that it's time to break through my own opposition to my passion and to let it flow.
I see a volcanic eruption of white fire - passion, love, anger, grief - the whole gamut of feelings I've managed to repress all these years.  I always tried to be a good girl so I wouldn't make other people uncomfortable.  Well, guess what?  I've now finally learned that if THEY are uncomfortable, it's THEIR problem!  And it isn't MY job to make them comfortable or happy or anything else.  My job is to take care of myself and to express myself fully.  If people get mad at me about that, that is for them to deal with.  Perhaps I'll get some flack.  Perhaps I'll lose some friends.  But I'll be a more full and complete human being, and I think the art I create from that place will be significantly more important and authentic and gorgeous than anything I have created heretofore.

So watch out, world!  I'm coming out!

To my models, if you have an opinion about how you prefer to be painted, I'd love to hear it.  I'm curious.  It could be I've stayed staid, thinking it was your preference, when, like with my model above, it wasn't!  It could be that playful and spontaneous is perfect for you too.  Or it could be that you prefer the perfectly rendered pictures.  Or it could be that you have 50 other things you've thought about which haven't even occurred to me yet.  Collaboration is a powerful thing - it leads to much better art than working alone, so please let me know.  I'm so curious! 

This art journey is such a GREAT one to be on!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Valley Haggard's Brazilian Experience

Valley Haggard is the wonderful woman with whom I'm doing the Collaborative show in Ashland in February.  Right before she came to model for me the second time a couple of weeks ago, she had gotten a Brazilian - don't know what that is?  Read on!

The Heartbreaker

Seeing myself differently, or how to wax poetic.
By Valley Haggard

Ever since my husband and I went to see “The Vagina Monologues” on Valentine’s Day in 2001, I swore I would never, ever shave Down There. I barely shave my legs past the knees and only recently have I started shaving my armpits in any season other than summer. But approaching my 35th
birthday, I feel it is time to find a rite of passage for my entry into this new stage of womanhood.

One of my best friends flew to Africa for her 35th, another to Paris. Me? I book a Brazilian.  To be honest, I don’t know precisely what a Brazilian Heartbreaker is when I call Bombshell Brazilian
Waxing and Skincare Studio in Carytown to schedule my appointment, but when the owner, Melissa Bryant, advises me to take four ibuprofen before I come in, I start to get a clearer picture.

“I’m not interested in money, I just want to be wonderful,” proclaims Marilyn Monroe from the wall of the adorable, spotless salon where everything is either pink, black or leopard print. Melissa greets me, nodding with empathy as I explain how terrified and excited I am. The former general manager of Nesbit’s Salon, Melissa opened Bombshell in February, offering tanning, hair and nail work, makeup and all manner of waxing. She has spent many years making women wonderful.

As I make myself comfortable on her table, inspecting various bottles of ointment, tweezers and a huge vat of hot green wax, Melissa turns down Frank Sinatra on the phonograph and explains the process. “First,” she says, “you’re going to do the frog.” There are, I discover, several other yoga positions I will find myself in over the course of the next hour, including the pretzel and a modified happy baby. Totally exposed from the waist down, I bend my legs into V’s as Melissa slathers me with a healthy dose of lotion and lidocaine numbing spray. “I call this greasing the pan,” she laughs, before trimming me with an electric razor. I imagine that I am about to mow the lawn with a sickle on the hottest day of the year, and a tiny bead of sweat forms on my brow.

But the wax is hot in a pleasant way and although I brace every muscle in my body for the first pull, the pain is surprisingly mild. I thank my lucky stars, because in order to complete the job, Melissa must revisit my most delicate regions with this wax and yank process a few dozen more times. Her upbeat, professional bedside manner could school more than a few gynecologists, I think, shocked to find myself yammering away as if I were wearing pants, in a coffee shop somewhere.

“I am so OCD,” says Melissa, fastidiously cleaning me up with a razor and tweezers, fashioning
a perfect heart out of heretofore raw materials, coating the final product in baby powder and tea tree oil. “This is Bactine for your hoo-ha,” she explains, admiring her handiwork. And I must say, for a girl like me, the results are both pretty and pretty shocking. “I kicked ass!” I tell Melissa and she agrees. After this, I could do most anything.

She sends me out the door with congratulations and a care package: detailed maintenance instructions, an exfoliating glove and a blow pop. As I walk to the car I feel triumphant with my secret. There’s a fine line between a skinned cat and a fresh peach, but who’s splitting hairs?

Reprinted with permission by the author.  Original article can be found at http://issuu.com/styleweekly/docs/belleonlineValley's writing will be combined with my paintings in our collaborative show at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, VA, in Feburary 2011.  More details to follow as the time gets closer!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Collaborative Color Study #6

Mary Ivory Smith, thank you for so kindly sending Dylan your hospital bottle, and thank you for so kindly donating some wonderful colors to my color study game!  Here's what I came up with from your colors, forest green, sky blue, and rose pink.  Hope you enjoy it!

Collaborative Color Study #5

This color study is thanks to my wonderfully supportive mother, Emma Lou Martin, who gave me the colors: turquoise, purple and coral.  Such a pretty, bright combination!

Collaborative Color Study #4

This one was thanks to the wonderful efforts of Ann-Marie Neale, Adele Castillo, Pam Varner, and Kim Harvey.  The colors are gulf coast blue, fuschia, and orchid.  I didn't really know what orchid was, but my artist buddies at the Collaborative Arts Group informed me last night that it's a pinky purply color.  Wikipedia confirmed it.  I'm not so sure about gulf coast blue either, having not been there in so many years - the last time I was there, it was Red Tide, and now there's oil in the gulf, so I figure I have a lot of latitude on that one!  It's the surrounding color as well as the middle color.

Just in case you're interested...  all of these color studies are for sale for $99 each (unframed, unmatted) until the end of August, so get 'em while they're hot!

Collaborative Color Study #2 & #3

Laura Blizzard inspired me with the names of her colors to do water-themed pictures/color studies.  The colors were sea foam, aquamarine and coral.  I had to look up coral and sea foam to make sure I was thinking of the right colors!  I don't know if they're the same colors she was thinking of, but it's been fun doing this process! 

 I did #2 last night then, as I was falling asleep, starting thinking about a different way to use the same colors - water, sunrise, seafoam.  I started on it right away this morning!

Collaborative Color Study #1

Hal and Mary Beth's color study is ready!

Singapore Sunset Saffron, Green Celery Salt, and Mediterranean Midnight Magenta


Thursday, August 12, 2010

new game

I've decided to try a new game:  Send me the name of a color.  Once I have a group of three, I'll make a color study out of it then post it here.  The trick is making something cohesive out of a set of disparate elements and making them look interesting, lively, and/or lovely. 

Will you be the one to challenge me?!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Color Studies massively on sale!

I've decided to put my newest color studies on sale for $99 each, unframed, unmatted.  I usually sell them for $350 each, beautifully matted and framed, but I'm wanting to sell some artwork this summer, and I don't feel like framing them, so I'm ready to let them go. I'm going to do several more between now and Monday so stay tuned. 

If you like the color studies and want to own one, this is the best opportunity you'll ever get!  You can see them on the last couple of days' blogs.  The sale will end August 31.

You can let me know if you're interested by commenting to this blog and we'll work it out!

Happy Art Buying!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today I worked on revising some pastel pieces I'd thought were finished.  Last night Chris and I started the fairly arduous process of framing 7 pieces for the show I have coming up in October.  I cut the mats while he cut the wood for the frames.  I'm so blessed to have such a talented, supportive husband to make beautiful frames for me.

Because I had good luck using spray fixative on my self portrait, I decided I was going to fix the pieces I was getting ready to frame because I am tired of having pastel dust fall onto pristine white mats, causing me to have to re-mat the pieces.  It's a pain in the butt!  So today I got out my wonderful Schminke fixative and went at it.  3 of the pieces weren't too bad - they seem to have taken off a layer of pastel, but it was manageable - but the 4th one was horrible!  It went from glowing to dark and dull.  I was so disappointed.  there was no way I could frame it like that, so I brought it into the studio and started working on it again.  The picture on the left is how it looked pre-fixative.  The one on the right is after I repaired/re-did the fixed piece.  The good news is that I think it's a stronger piece now.  The bad news is that I can't fix it for fear of messing it up again!  Oh well - what's a bit of pastel dust on a mat?

After I finished repairing Valley's Folds, I decided to re-do another piece, American Beauty.  I had been pleased with it when I finished it, but the more it hung around the studio, the less I liked it.  The colors were too yellow and fake.    I decided to try to make the colors more realistic, or at least more muted.  I began by changing the background.  That made a huge different right away.  Then I put more pink into the flesh, and green and blue into the shadows.  That made is look richer and more realistic immediately.  I love how powerfully complementary colors create shadows and make the form have the illusion of going back.

The third piece I did some work on today was Just Thinkin'.  That one has an interesting history - the model at first was almost defiant in wanting me to paint her whole body, including her face.  After our session, though, and after thinking about it for a while, she realized she wasn't comfortable with it after all.  I think she was concerned that people she knew might see the pictures and use them against her. 

She's not the only model who has had that concern.  Another woman was worried her employer might see her picture and fire her simply because "that's not the kind of woman they want working for them, and they don't need an excuse to fire someone."  I hate it that women need to have those concerns.  I understand them, and I honor them completely.  I just hate that it could be the case. 

Anyway, the model for Just Thinkin' saw the piece I had done of her and asked me to remove the tattoo on her shoulder so she wouldn't be recognizable even by that in case someone should see it.  So the other revision I did today was to "erase" the tattoo - much easier done in pastels than in real flesh!

I think it's really interesting all the feelings we women go through when deciding whether to model, how much to show, whether to show our faces or not, who can see the pictures, etc., etc.  I've had those feelings myself when thinking about my self-portrait, so I completely understand. 

This evening I had the pleasure of teaching intermediate pastels in the studio.  I love teaching!  It's so exciting to see people come into their own as artists and to see them develop the awareness that they, too, can draw well!  It's exhilarating!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Man, it is hard for me to focus some days!  Today was one of them.  I got up at 6:15 to go for a walk with a friend then came home and ate and showered and talked to Chris before he went to work.  I came out to the studio before my tutoring student at 9:30 and worked on a color study.  I'm calling it deep evergreen forest in sunlight.  It felt good to play before teaching.  I've never been one to get up early in the morning until this past year, but now I'm starting to appreciate the advantages of it.  I feel like by 9:30 the day is half way over.

Maybe that's why it was hard to concentrate today.  I taught til 10:30 then helped Dylan load his car then came back out to work but got hungry so went in for lunch then it was almost 1 and I'd been up for almost 7 hours.  Geez!

At any rate, I did another color study after lunch, called Cloudy Day.  I wanted to create more subtleties as compared to the first one.

Then I did email and wasted time til I finally couldn't think of anything else to do, so then I finally started working on my new piece again.  I'm enjoying it, I think, but I didn't know what to do - I liked the looseness I'd established at the beginning and didn't want to mess that up by getting tight like I tend to do, but I couldn't figure out what else to do.  So I refined it like usual.  The difference, I think, was that the beginning was loose so I had that to work with/against.  I could be more playful and bold and I was refining.  I used colors I might not have used in the past and put more paint down. 

When Chris got here a few minutes ago, I was feeling like it was finished but then he very helpfully - really!  It was helpful!  I'm not being sarcastic! - pointed out that the face is off a bit and the lips are a bit odd, so now I have something to work on tomorrow.  It helps me get focused when I know exactly what I want to work on when I get out here.

So tomorrow will be another opportunity to make this piece look better, and this evening is a chance to go kayaking with my wonderful husband!  See you on the river!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Colors Studies and a Tomato

Regretably, I wasn't able to get back to my new piece today.  But I did still get to create, thank goodness!  I needed to create some new work for the website ArtQuiver because I've sold two pieces there recently!  Very good news!  Here are the pieces I drew today:
light blue with outline

light blue with cream

bright with dark
bright green and orange

I don't plan to put Tomato on ArtQuiver because they don't have any of my other fruits and veggies so I doubt they'll be interested in them, but we had a beautiful tomato that needed to be drawn, so that's why I did it!  The others I just decided to have fun creating color combinations and smearing gorgeous pigment around the page.  It's such a pleasure making the color studies!