Monday, October 27, 2014

Artist and Muse.....

Muse: a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

That is the dictionary's definition of a muse. 

Throughout time there have been many famous artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Amadeo Modigliani, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and even Andrew Wyeth, who have made history with their muses.  The most famous of muse and artist collaborations are probably the ones we read about that involve a romantic, or sexual involvement, because those are the hot blooded, fiery exchanges we all love to believe in, or fantasize about.  

I believe that every artist has many muses throughout the course of their career. be they male or female.  Being a female artist, my muses are also usually female.  I don't paint men, but I am influenced by them, and they may be a source of inspiration, that I then incorporate into my paintings of women. 

"Icing Tips", (Amy cropped)

I often ask for advice, or suggestions from the men in my life, and a painting coming to fruition sometimes comes not from anything tangible, but from something deep that inspires me. And if I am extremely lucky that inspiration will manifest itself through my use of paint on canvas, into a successful painting.

"Dia de los Muertos", (Harmony cropped)

I would even say that my dad was my muse for my "Dia de los Muertos" painting, because although my "physical" muse was my model Harmony, my dad's life (and death) was my inspiration for the painting.  Harmony was able to personify the feeling into something meaningful that I could paint.

I feel each portrait or figure I paint is a self portrait of sorts, and I have been greatly influenced by my female models, and their effect on me.  Each model brings something different to a photo shoot, and how they personally interpret my ideas.  It is really incredible to work with the same model over the course of a few years, where we create a bond, and settle into an ease of working together, and become a team.  I try to evoke the feeling out of my model, so she will look how I feel, or how I imagine, and want my painting to make people who view the painting to feel.

"When You Read My Mind", (Harmony cropped)

A model does not always become a muse, but the few that I have felt were my muse, become much more to me than just a model.  My first muse was my daughter, Leah, whom I have painted at least 20 times.  Painting Leah drew my first attention from galleries, who were interested in my figurative work, and secured me a spot in my first gallery in San Francisco.  Painting Harmony has enhanced my career, and Amy is now becoming my current muse, as I am painting my third painting of her as I write this.

When I was painting my daughter, (which I plan to do again soon) I would look for the moment when she was unaware of her expression, when her "guard" was down, and I could feel a deeper connection to her, and that is what I would photograph and paint.

"If Only", (Leah cropped)

Some of my work is light and humorous, but my favorite paintings are the ones where I can feel some emotion by looking at my model/muse's face.  When I look at one of my paintings, it takes me back to what was happening in my life when the piece was painted, and the emotions I was feeling at the time....kind of like seeing an old photograph....

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Painting continues....

After a wonderful vacation, and gallery opening in WY, (which I will post about soon) I am back in Albuquerque, painting.  As I continue to explore this new surface, Ampersand's Gessobord, the struggle with the way the board accepts the paint is still confounding me....This surface needs quite a bit of paint, to move across the surface, and every single brushstroke I place, needs to be smoothed with a soft brush, or a fan brush.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is my first layer of paint, and in my "rush" to have the image look like what I am painting, it usually does take me (at least) two passes to complete a painting. 

What I love about this surface is that the skin seems to look like skin, and the smoothness is beautiful!  I will continue to push and pull the lights and darks, and am planning a wonderful background!  Many hours of painting are ahead of me on this painting, but I will continue to post for those of you who are interested.....

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I am thankful every single day that my "job" is making art, and being able to paint whatever my heart desires!  Yesterday, while starting a new painting, I was so immersed in the building of paint, and pushing and pulling the darks and lights, it seemed almost like sculpting with paint. I truly feel that watching the 2 dimensional surface become a 3 dimensional image is one of my greatest pleasures.

First day of painting on Gessobord
Because I am still exploring different grounds, that may make the gold and silver leaf "better", I am painting on Gessobord, by Ampersand.  I have painted on gessoed board before, but I would usually gesso the final layer with clear gesso because I found it had a little more tooth for the paint to grab onto.  This gessobord (that's how they spell it) is very smooth and "slick", and it doesn't accept paint like canvas does. 

I am not used to it, but there is an undeniable smoothness, that I forgot I liked.  The paint feels like the texture of suede, with no weave of the canvas to deal with, but you have to be careful of the brushstrokes, and I remember having to leave the first layer of paint to dry, before you can get a "grip" with the second layer.

Three of the same images....but different...(the big painting is covered with plastic)
The image I am painting is one I have painted before, but this time I am cropping Harmony, and planning a different background.  Having the finished painting in front of me to look at while I paint, has been kind of different......I never paint the exact same image the exact same way.  In fact, as I look at the previous painting in progress, (on canvas) it is quite different.  I am liking the one on canvas, so far, but to be sure, I will eventually get the new one to the same likeness.  I would love to work on the face on the gessobord some more, but the paint is already tacky, and I know that I better not touch it until it is dry.....I will see if I can stay true to that  I will continue to post photos of this painting as it progresses.  (The eyes and mouth seem much better on the canvas image.)

Painting is not always easy, and there is always something to be learned, but at the end of the day, making art is always, always an escape I can count on to take me where I want to go....

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Ice Queen"

I have been experimenting all summer with gold and silver leaf, and here is the first finished painting where I have incorporated both silver and gold leaf into the background (silver) and the small details (gold).  Many people have thought the background is gold, due to the "golden glow" that is reflected in the silver.  I have even noticed a kind of halo effect around her head.....that I love!

Also this summer I have been trying to keep true to myself, and come up with ideas for paintings that could become my one person show next year in San Francisco.  There are so many influences out there, and while I want to be "culturally relevant", and "current", it is really difficult to paint for yourself, when you also need to please your gallery and sell some art.

Having said that, I finally reached my breaking point, by trying to please everyone, and moved forward with some ideas that have been percolating for years.  I decided I need to paint my ideas when they hit me, and not wait for 3 years, and then the idea is not relevant any more, and already feels I don't paint it.

The art world moves at a very fast pace, and I recently read: "an artist is always ahead of his time....until his work starts to sell".  No one wants to paint to sell, but it is very scary to tread on new ground, and wonder what the world will think when you change direction a little.  (Some people are still upset that I am painting figures and not still life.)

I think as an artist I already have a style that is my own, and as far as a "brand" goes, I would say I paint beautiful women in front of beautiful backgrounds.....maybe people can identify a "Suzy Smith" painting when they see one....I can only hope that is the case.

This painting; "Ice Queen" is with my new model: Amy, and I have many more paintings of her planned.  The Crown she is wearing, I made with cake icing tips, because I thought they were a wonderful addition, that could be used in the future with some cake painting backgrounds.  The "ruff" collar adds a little whimsy, and perhaps with the silver, brings a kind of "fantastical" element to the painting..

Monday, July 14, 2014

"When You Read My Mind"

While trying to decide what to paint for the Super Hero show, I started a painting in November, that I also demonstrated on, while lecturing at Casper College, in Casper, WY.  The painting started simple, using a photo of my favorite model, because I love her face, and specifically this look!

Having said that, because I work by painting the figure first, and then adding the background, I had no idea of what my background would be.  I asked the college students for ideas, but in the end, I decided to go with a background of Roy Lichtenstein's painting "Varoom", so while the painting  did not say Super Hero, it did say "comic book", (to me) and could still be sent to my gallery for inclusion in the Super Hero Show....since I had not painted one super hero yet.
Demonstrating at Casper College
"When You Read My Mind"
I drew in the background, painted it, and then had to come up with a title.  Titles can often times make or break a painting, so I put it out there on FB to get ideas.  It was interesting to see what people thought, because of the explosion of words, and the facial expression.  People suggested some song titles, and they wondered what she was thinking.  Someone mentioned "Can You Read My Mind", by the Killers.  I knew the song, so I listened to it over and over, and it reminded me of my model, and I thought it was a perfect fit for the painting.....although I changed it to "When You Read My Mind" from the line: "Stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun, when you read my mind." 

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Energize".....One more Wonder Woman painting!

As the opening of the "Everybody Needs a Hero" approaches, (this Thursday, May 1 is the opening) I have just finished my latest Wonder Woman painting; "Energize"

I am trying to incorporate some "action" into my paintings so there is more of a "narrative".  My last painting; "Double Espresso" had my model holding her Starbucks cup, and this time my model; Deserae, is holding a Red Bull while texting on her iPhone.  Not much action I know, but it is more than I used to paint.  In fact, Deserae looking down is something different for me as I almost always have my models looking directly at me, just because that is my preference.

"Energize", oil, 30" x 24"
The background I chose is from a Red Bull poster.  As I investigated Red Bull, the delicious energy drink, I was amazed at how many sports events Red Bull sponsors, and is involved in all around the world.  They even went to the edge of space with a project called Stratos, and that is why I chose this background with the "space" motif.

Star Trek fans may be familiar with the term "energize", as it is what Kirk or even Piccard said when someone would be in the transporter to be "beamed" to another place (usually another planet) ....or "energized".

If you want to see these Super Hero paintings in person, please check them out at Scott Richards Contemporary Art at 251 Post St. in San Francisco.  It promises to be an amazing show with many talented artists!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wonder Woman!

My gallery; Scott Richards Contemporary Art, in San Francisco is having a show called "Everybody Needs a Hero".  The opening is May 1st., from 5:30 to 7;30.  There are 8 to 10 other artists in the show, including Mel Ramos, and I am very happy and proud to be included in the show!

It took me quite awhile to decide what to paint, and since my favorite model, Harmony had just moved, I tried many different models, and different ideas before finding a new model; Deserae, who it turns out made the perfect Wonder Woman! 

"Double Espresso", 36" x 24", oil

The day Deserae arrived, it was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in January, and the neighborhood was a buzz with people enjoying the nice weather.  Neighbors kept stopping by to visit, I'm sure wondering what a fully dressed Wonder Woman was doing in my front yard, with an array of props.... Then we heard the sound of little children yelling: "Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman!" 

As it turns out, the three triplets that live around the corner were coming home from a birthday party with their two dads, and they were very excited to see Wonder Woman!  As they asked her where her plane was, etc., I ran to find her golden lasso, to wrap around them. I could not believe the opportunity that presented itself!  In the end, I did not paint these photos, (yet) but am planning on possibly another shoot with the cute little boys and Wonder Woman!

As for "Double Espresso", I had wanted to use the Starbucks iconic brand, but didn't know how I would do it.  It has become so common to see everyone with a Starbucks cup in their hand, so this seemed the perfect fit.  I thought it might be a little funny to see Wonder Woman with a "double espresso" in her hand, and it came to mind; while everybody needs a hero, even a Super Hero needs a boost every now and then!

"Double Espresso", (closeup)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Bottoms Up"

It has been quite awhile since I posted a brand new painting....I have so many in progress, that I go back and forth between paintings, depending on drying times etc. 

This painting; "Bottoms Up", came about in a rather funny way..... I had my model over for a shoot, and we were taking all kinds of photos, inside and outside.  I had her posing with a pie, strategically placed in front of her, with her wearing only high heels, and we thought it was pretty clever, and funny!  Well, as she was posing, she accidentally dropped the pie.  She apologized, and wanted to clean it up, but the pie landed so "perfectly", I said, "don't worry about it, let's just go with it."

We added the "waitress" attire, and she knelt down to clean up the pie....keeping in mind a kind of 50's/60's pin up, or Gil Elvgren kind of "mood".  Hence the look on her face. With encouragement from my new gallery: Scott Richards Contemporary Art, I painted the image, but was still not sure what the background would be. 

After thinking and searching for the perfect background, and thinking pies and cakes, I went to a rather well known store, and saw the perfect background!  And it even had the words Made Right.....which also went well with the maid outfit.  And that is how this painting came to be.

I feel like I have just started to scratch the surface of something new and exciting in my work, and am looking forward to exploring this new direction!  Now onto painting Super Heroines, for the Super Hero show at my gallery in April.....