Blobby, blob, blah...

All artists have been here before...

"I don't feel like painting"
"I'm afraid I'm just going to mess things up"
"What if I only paint something crappy and end up feeling even worse?"
"I'm too tired to paint"
"I'm not inspired"

And on, and on, and on... And anyone who has thought any of the above thoughts also knows that all it takes is forcing yourself to be in the studio for at least an hour until something happens. Even if it's something "crappy", it is better than nothing. Hey, we've got to get the creative juices flowing again somehow, right?

On Sunday I finally worked up the courage to force myself to go into my studio. I stared at my big 5' x 4' baby for a good 20 minutes thinking about what I needed to do, where things were working, where they weren't, different ways to approach all the different problems...

Work in Progress, oil on canvas, 5' x 4'

...until finally I decided I was ready to dive back in and try to get some work done on it. I was afraid because I hadn't painted in about a month and, as any artist who has had a dry spell knows, it is hard to get back into that same rhythm. I began to grab the paint tubes and brushes I needed when... Crap. I realized I had run out of Titanium White. Still in my pijamas at 3 pm on a Sunday I, naturally, opted for not going to the art store to buy more white paint. And I didn't want to use flake or zinc white when I had been using titanium white. So instead I unwrapped the 20-pack of 4" x 4" canvas boards that had been sitting on my studio floor for a few months and messed around.

I didn't want to mess around mindlessly and just produce puke on a canvas, I wanted to try to create something interesting (at least to me) and that fit in with the work I have been creating in the past few months. As of late I have been trying to work in a somewhat automated way where I begin with a vague idea, put it down on canvas, and then break it down. By "break it down" I mean dividing the canvas into intersecting and overlapping spacial planes that create the illusion of movement through space and give depth to the painting. While I am doing this, I also allow myself to stray from this routine and experiment.

This is the first little painting that came out on Sunday. I have always liked the look and feel of organic shapes. Once I had the green blob in position, I began thinking about how I would break the image down. Using the end of my brush like a pencil, I began to draw lines in the thick paint for reference. Instead of being guidelines, these lines became part of the painting.

Globby Experiment 1, oil on canvas board, 4" x 4"

 After having fun with it, I decided to move on to a different canvas. As I began blocking out shapes and playing with colors, I realized the shapes looked like a very simplified landscape. I ran with this idea, forcing myself to resist the urge to start fudging with details or creating overly representational elements. The best way to keep myself from trying to get into details was to use a relatively large brush (for a 4" x 4" canvas).

Experiment 2, oil on canvas board, 4" x 4"

 The last little painting I worked on that afternoon was more of an experiment. I found that by using the other end of the brush I could practically remove a layer of paint without entirely removing the image below. It produced a bit of a screen, like a semi-transparent layer overlapping an opaque one. I had fun, but once I was just fudging with lines mindlessly, I put the brush down and left the studio.

Experiment 3, oil on canvas board, 4" x 4"

 There are things I like and things I hate about these three paintings. Each one brought up new ideas, questions, and problems. Will I keep working on them? I don't know, maybe. They were much needed exercises. And here's to hoping I've ended my unproductive dry spell...


The quintessential blog list...

Life has been interesting these last few years... After graduating from college I became a Spanish teacher at a full-immersion preschool, then a nanny, and then back to being a full-time student. I'm wrapping up my first year of a two-year graphic design program at Shoreline Community College.

It has been a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to the next year. Besides all the cool technical and design skills, I have learned a whole lot as a student, an artist, a designer, and a person in the last couple of years. I felt like putting together this list as both a way to share these thoughts with others and as a reminder to myself for when I feel like I'm running in place...

  1. Yes, grades are somewhat important, but the content of the classes and what you actually take away from that class are a million times more important. The new friendships (and networking connections) you make are also more important.
  2. Easy classes aren't fun; they piss me off! I want to learn something, damn it!
  3. Comparing myself to others who are “better” than me is a waste of time. They're not better, they're just further along the program or have skills I have yet to fully develop. I've met a whole bunch of incredibly talented people. Instead of feeling intimidated, I'm inspired!
  4. It is also a waste of time to get annoyed by idiots and slackers. It's their loss and they are not worth my energy.
  5. Technology is my friend. A very good friend, indeed! I still yell at my computer all the time, but what relationship isn't complete without a few bumps on the road?
  6. It's not ok to be unpleasant to someone you don't like, but it is perfectly ok to not be nice. There's a huge difference.
  7. It's ok if I go a couple of weeks without painting, as long as I am doing something productive (i.e. school/design work, exercising, reading, feasting my eyes on other wonderful art and design out there, etc).
  8. It's also ok to paint something crappy or doodle a cartoon just for fun and call it a healthy session of art-making. I can't always create awesomeness. Sometimes good ideas hit after not taking something seriously.
  9. I'm exponentially more productive when I'm happy, and I'm happy when I'm pursuing something that interests me, regardless of what it is.
  10. My boyfriend is mostly right when he says: “You're a Swiss Army Knife!”
  11. No matter where I am in my personal and professional life, I must strive to learn and grow. Always. An idle mind is my worst enemy.
  12. My happiness and well-being is a cycle: if I pursue what interests me I am happy; if I am happy I am better at what I do; if I am happy doing what I do I am a better person, a better girlfriend, a better friend and a better contributor to society.
  13. Only I can chose to make or break that cycle. No one else.



For quite some time, almost all of my inspiration came from dreams and nightmares. The bizarre images and illogical strings of events my subconscious produces have always been fascinating. I was not only intrigued by their strangeness, but also by the emotional and psychological effects they had on me. Many of my dreams or nightmares seemed to haunt me once I was awake, as if I wanted to find meaning in them (even though I know most of them have none). Perhaps it was this obsession with thinking about my dreams and nightmares that made me want to create art from them, to share some of these experiences (at least visually) with others. It felt like something I NEEDED to do. 

I worked hard on trying to draw and recreate scenes from dreams as accurately as possible, and then attempted to capture the mood in the WAY I painted or added value to each piece. This was always a fun process, and the end products were always... interesting. I knew exactly what each "thing" was but others had no way of knowing what was inspiring me. However, as I have never felt the need for viewers of my art to know exactly what is going on, I was happy for the fact that they found the images interesting, regardless of why. 

However, there was something missing from these pieces. They were so personal that even though someone else found them interesting, a lot of their power was lost without the story behind them. For example the drawings below, "Dream Creature 1" and "Dream Creature 2" are very interesting images. From a distance they just seem to be drawings of people, but as you look closely you notice the odd faces and the scorpion claws and tail  attached to the feet. Yet, without a story behind it, they seem to lose their charm after a couple of minutes.

Sometimes the dream was so disturbing that I HAD to materialize it, as if turning the image into a work of art would transform it into something more positive--or at least something less terrifying. For example in the nightmare that inspired my drawing "Giant Vultures Overhead", a group of friends and I were huddled under some kind of straw-roofed shelter, hiding from giant vultures. These birds were hunting us, picking people up off the ground, dismembering and eating them. Several people I knew were killed and eaten by these damn vultures.

I guess I succeeded at transforming the image because the more I worked on it, the less disturbed I was by the nightmare. It was no longer a terrible nightmare from which I awoke in tears; it was just a creepy drawing. I had become desensitized to it. Yet, once again, something was missing. Without the story behind it, the drawing seems to become less interesting. Just as I became desensitized to the drawing as I worked on it, viewers of the drawing would also become desensitized to the image over time. Perhaps the art of sharing a dream or nightmare with others is best done in writing, a medium through which each person's imagination can fill in the blanks, building a more personal experience.

So far in this blog I have worked myself towards explaining why I eventually moved away from trying to recreate scenes from dreams and nightmares. Basically: the charm of these images faded away with time. Yet, as I poked around my studio and rearranged furniture and artwork, I found myself looking at lots of these drawings and paintings again. And I came across my "Nightmare Series", a sequence of 5 self-portraits that told the story of a nightmare. I then realized something quite funny, something that led me to another (much more romantic) possible reason as to why I stopped working from dreams and nightmares. This was the first nightmare that inspired me to create art, and also the last one to actually be completed. The dream came to me one night in the Spring of 2007, but I didn't complete the series until sometime early in 2011.

I was in a bit of a dark place and extremely unhappy with how things were going in my life when I had this dream... 

I was looking at myself in the mirror when I noticed a little worm coming out of the freckle on my nose. Apparently, I had pierced my nose and was thinking: "I should not have gotten that damn piercing".

I began the painful process of pulling the worm out, but it just got longer and longer and thicker and thicker until POP! Like a cork out of a bottle, it was out of my nose. I was holding a long, bloody worm and staring at myself in the mirror once again.

Instead of my freckle, there was now a big, black, gaping hole on my nose --and maggots were wriggling out of it. I leaned in closer to inspect this hole and found myself looking down a dark, blood-and-maggot-lined tunnel. At the end, staring back at me, was a veiny, bloody eyeball. Startled, I jump back from the mirror and realized the hole was gone. Relief started to set in when I noticed something on my forehead.

I pulled my hair out of the way and noticed that the skin on my forehead was slowly peeling back, revealing an oozing, bee-hive like texture. Panic set in as I clawed at my skin, trying to pick the gunk off. Once again I backed away from the mirror and it was gone. 

My face started morphing slowly, the skin drooped down like it was melting off, and my jaw hung open. My skull was gone and I was just a mushy sack of skin and blood. I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream but all I heard was a disgusting gurgle coming deep from my throat. My vision was blurry, my chest constricted, I heard myself making more gurgling attempts to scream. I was melting away.

Then I awoke drenched in sweat, heart pounding, cotton mouthed... but I could breathe. My face felt normal. There was no piercing in my nose. I stumbled out of bed for a glass of water and made the inevitable late-night trip to the bathroom. I was afraid to look in the mirror, maybe I was still in the dream and I was afraid to see what had happened to me. I looked at the mirror. I was wearing the same shirt as in my dream, my hair was the mess it always is at night, and I was squinting because I can't see much without my glasses. Everything was normal. No maggots, no blood, no holes, no skin peeling back. Feeling a bit stupid, I dragged myself back to bed and obsessed over the dream until I fell back asleep.

Some time after that, I don't know exactly how long, I decided I wanted to paint a series about this nightmare. However every time I tried, I failed. The drawing was off, the colors were wrong, the emotion wasn't there... It just didn't feel right. I only felt extremely frustrated. Besides, I had other school endeavors to worry about and plenty of other strange dreams from which I could draw inspiration. 

Months went by. I kept working on art, pursuing different ideas, but quite frequently making failed attempts at creating this Nightmare Series. Finally, nearly four years after I had the nightmare, I had at least somewhat succeeded at creating my "Nightmare Series". Something finally worked. 

It was only a few months after completing "Nightmare Series" that I stopped working from my dreams and nightmares. I still find them fascinating and I don't deny that there is still a dream-like quality to my work, but I am no longer trying to recreate exact scenes from dreams. My inspiration has moved on; I have grown and changed as both an artist and a person.

It's funny and oddly interesting that the nightmare that began this process of working from dreams was also the one that ended it. Maybe the need I felt to paint my dreams and nightmares was a long cleansing process I needed to go through. I guess the cathartic cycle was finally complete. 


Four right turns

I tend to have "Breakthrough" moments when I least expect it. I usually find myself having an "ah-ha!" moment when I finally let go and let things happen. My latest happy studio moment happened as a product of frustration. 

I began with the painting below, a nude self-portrait. I decided to work on a somewhat traditional figure painting as a way to make myself practice and work (especially since I tend to struggle with figures, particularly self-portraits), but also try to transmit a certain feel or atmosphere. To further challenge myself I decided to use a limited color palette: ultramarine blue, cadmium red and titanium white. 
Nude Self Portrait 48"x24" Oil on Canvas

I actually enjoyed the process of creating this painting; I had quite the lovely conversation going with it. I enjoyed it so much, I decided I wanted create a series. I intended on painting two more versions of the same pose, each using a different limited color palette. The second piece would be limited to yellow, red and white; and the third to yellow, blue, and white. 

However, in the process of trying to recreate the pose for the second painting, I became extremely frustrated. I was having a hard time drawing the figure, positioning her correctly on the canvas, and overall getting into it. The conversation was over, and I was left with yet another idea that fizzled away.

In my frustration I began blurring areas out, drawing random lines across the canvas, and sketching light and telephone poles and wires (a reccuring theme in my work). Before I realized it, I was working on a completely different painting. I continued deconstructing the original image, overlapping spacial planes, and adding telephone poles and wires. I then found myself smoothing down surface areas and blocking out more defined areas and shapes. The final product was something unlike anything I ever tried before. And hell, I was intrigued by it. I wanted to keep exploring it.

Violet 48"x24" Oil on canvas

Just for fun (and because I like seeing the progression), here are the three different "stages" of that painting.

Three stages of "Violet"

"Violet" led to my next painting, "Green". I began this painting in a slightly different manner in that I didn't have a base image to... deconstruct from, if you will. Instead, I began by drawing some basic geometric shapes and then letting go. I wanted to break up the space into different, yet connected, planes. And here is where that experiment took me. 

Green 48"x24" Oil on canvas

I am really enjoying this way of working. Not only am I fully engaged in the process of creating these paintings, but I also enjoy the final product. I am exploring new ideas, new thought processes, and really, really enjoying the conversation and relationship built with each of my new paintings. 

After completing "Green", I went on my merry way to create these guys: 

Untitled (Emotional) 16"x20" Oil on canvas board

Engulfed by Nothingness 16"x20" Oil on canvas board

Death mask 16"x20" Oil on canvas

And well, I'm only getting started... :)


Back to the beginning...

When I was 13 or 14 years old, I began exploring surrealist art. I didn't know
I was being a surrealist; I was not consciously juxtaposing contradictory
visual elements or creating dreamscapes. I was simply letting an idea take over
me and flow onto the canvas. I'd start building on it, accepting anything that
came along and discarding what I no longer wanted.

I was not over-analyzing the purpose of the piece, nor wondering how the
work was significant in relation to the "fine art world", nor was I worrying
about writing up a statement to explain it. I was just a teenager painting and
drawing. It was a worry-free process, and I loved it.

Don't get me wrong: I cared about what I was doing. I was fully invested
emotionally in each of my paintings, feeling happy when things were going well
and on the verge of tears (or actually crying) when they weren't. I knew very
well which emotions were driving my ideas and what story I was trying to tell;
I knew what the painting meant to me personally and why the work mattered so
much to me.

But I didn't quite mind whether others saw exactly what I saw or interpreted
the work the way I did. I just hoped that whoever looked at my paintings would
want to spend time with them, trying to figure out what it meant to THEM. What mattered was my desire to reach out and share my love and passion for art. Of course, anyone was more than welcome to try to uncover my intentions, but I was not concerned
with how accurate their interpretations were. Simply put: if they spent time
with my work and enjoyed it, I was happy. I was a fulfilled artist.

I continued to paint this way through my teenage years. At 17 or 18 I knew that my art could be considered surrealist art. I was in love with painting and drawing. I knew that I wanted to go on to study art in college and learn everything I could to become a better artist. My goal in life was to create art. I was passionate about it and believed in it fully.

Before I go on, allow me to say this: studying art for four years in college
was one of the greatest experiences in my life; I would not have had it any
other way. However, somewhere down the line the education I sought, along with
my tendency to over-think and over-analyze almost everything, became my own
worst enemy. I so desperately wanted to fit in with the art world, tell
everyone why my work was so important and why the eff they should care. I
struggled with my words as I tried to explain the inner workings of my mind,
but every time I attempted to express my intentions I failed. I got lost in my
own attempt to justify my work. My desire to fit in and be accepted became a
wall that stunted my creativity. I was trying too hard and lost my inspiration
--and my passion seemed to fade with it. I had lost touch with that freedom I
felt in creating art.

Lately, I have felt that freedom coming back to me. I created my most recent
paintings without worrying about WHY, without thinking about how the fuck I
would write up an artist statement explaining or justifying anything. Once
again, I simply let myself go and paint. Emotions and ideas hit me and I run
with them, letting them guide me through the whole process of creating art. I
know what is driving my ideas, and know the story that is unfolding on the
canvas. I know these paintings are important to me. I am painting for me and loving it. I have not felt this good about my work in a long, long time. I am once again passionate about creating art, and I am happy.

Once again, I am free.