Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Greetings of the Season

From my family to yours Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays! Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, Natale Allegro, Feliz Navidad and Nollaig Shona Daoibh.

I wish you all the blessings of this season. May you enjoy much love, laughter, peace and good health as you gather with your family and friends.

To all of you who take the time to read my blog posts - thank you for the gift of your presence! I do so appreciate your readership. I have met such wonderful people while blogging. For those of you who are new here and for those of you who have recently become followers - welcome! Please do leave a comment whenever you can. I would love to meet you. I know when 'lurking', it can sometimes seem like the folks who comment all know each other quite well. Please don't let that put you off from joining in. Please note that we were all strangers at one point. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts here. I look forward to hearing from you.

As a wee gift to you all, I shall include a link to Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown. Of all the versions of what it would be like to be given the gifts of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Mr. Kelly's is my favourite. There is only audio and it takes approximately five minutes of your time. Enjoy!

And for those of you who were reading my blog a year ago and who have great memories, you will have observed my lack of originality this year. I posted Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown last year (and I warn you, it will probably surface in 2010). AND yes the photo is last year's too! Gasp...But in my defence I must state that we have not aged a bit in the last year, honestly, (ha ha) and getting a dog to pose while the camera timer goes beep beep isn't easy. For those who think this business of posting last year's Christmas photo is a bit of a cheat, I offer a never before seen blooper from that photo session. I am laughing like a crazy lady while the dog sits on me, practically blocking me from view and the dog has his tongue out. Enjoy and again, Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

peas in a pod finished plus lots of pics

Peas in a Pod, Coloured Pencil on Stonehenge paper, 6 1/2" x 20 1/2"
Copyright Teresa Mallen

Finally, here is a finished image of the Peas in a Pod! Please note that the background is white. I left it the white of the paper. It is not the ghoulish grey in the photo above. To get a sense of the scale of the work and the white of the paper, please see the photo below. This picture was taken during the studio tour and the peas weren't quite finished yet.

The frame has been made for the peas. I just need to see if I have the right colour of mat in stock. I don't think I do, so I expect I shall have to visit the shop where I buy my framing materials. The peas certainly got a lot of positive attention during the tour. I think people found it interesting to see the photo from which I was working and then see how I was interpreting this image in my art. One woman was dumbfounded to see an actual pea pod. She hadn't known that peas grew that way!

The studio tour was a fabulous time. It took a while afterwards for my head to shrink back to normal size, what with all the lovely comments and all. The tour is a wonderful time to get feedback on my art. When your art is in a gallery, you don't have the opportunity to hear what people think of your work. Also, when your work is in a gallery, they usually keep 50% of the sale price (sometimes more, sometimes a bit less) - not so when the gallery is your own studio! :-)

A lot of people assume that cp artists work small. I do sometimes but some of my work is rather big. Here are a few photos showing my artwork matted and framed. I hope this gives you a better idea of the scale...

Please note that the colours are photographing a bit yellow due to the lights.

Unframed, Neptune's leaves is 21 1/2" x 16 1/2". Here it is in the frame, sorry for the reflections.

Other than adding a few layers of cp pigment to the Peas in a Pod, I haven't been colouring much lately. But I have been painting! Abstracts at that!! Now that my teaching gigs are behind me as well as the tour, I guess I needed to cut loose a bit...

What I really wanted to do is to play with texture. Below is a wip shot of a canvas that has acrylic paint, gel medium and barley or millet or cornmeal mixed in. I can't remember which painting has what. Of course some restraint would have been best - i.e. restricting the texture to certain areas of the canvas, but I couldn't resist. Oh well, my goal with these is to just have fun.

I put it aside to dry and then went onto something else. At this point I am not sure what I shall be doing next with it.

When not playing with gel mediums and grains, I have been sorting through more of my parents' things. As some of you know, I spent several weeks this year sorting through my Mom and Dad's house and their belongings. Some of the items that I couldn't part with came home with me and were stashed away in a spare bedroom until I had some time to deal with this stuff. I didn't want to go into the new year with this task hanging over my head so I knuckled down and started sorting. I am very pleased to report that this is now done.

One of the items that I unearthed this past summer was an old electric paint stripper that had belonged to my mother. My mother went through a phase where she was keen to strip the paint off just about any painted wood item that they owned. I never understood why after all that work she would then apply an odd dark coloured stain to everything. Okay, it was the 70s after all, maybe that explains it. Anyway, the electric paint stripper went into the yard sale pile - that is until I started exploring encaustic painting.

Now I am a cp gal through and through but every now and again I do wander off to play with other media. Shortly after discovering this paint stripper I was doing some research on-line concerning all the different methods people use to melt the wax when using encaustics. Well if I didn't come across someone recommending this old fashioned electric paint stripper! Suddenly it was not going to the yard sale!

Now while I haven't bought encaustic paints yet, I did find the stripper came in handy in colouring some copper for one of my mixed media paintings.

Here is a picture of the stripper and the copper. Oh and let me just say that that this stripper gadget is wicked - it is frighteningly hot so if you wish to try this be warned!

Below is a picture of the heat oxidized copper, with some of the original copper beside it.

Here is another abstract painting and it obviously is also a work in progress. The copper pieces have been placed in the gel medium/acrylic paint/grains goop. It kind of looks like a wedding cake gone bad but that is because the gel medium hadn't dried clear yet. I'm not sure how I am going to finish this one either. I won't get back to these abstract paintings until at least January. I am itching to get at some new work with my cps. I have been looking through photos and pondering my next piece. I have also been out shopping for some still life objects. More on that in the days to come.

While sorting through the items that belonged to my parents I discovered some of my old school books which my mother had kept. I was delighted to see some of my artwork and I have included a few gems below. Note that even at the age of 8, I was into coloured pencil florals and abstracts! :-) And hey, I even wrote and illustrated a wee book - The Story of Tod Tooth!!

Life on the is our log barn.

It is going to be a white Christmas here in Ottawa. November was a very mild month. The snowshoe hares were already sporting their white winter coats and they had the exact opposite of camouflage going on for themselves. Now that we have snow, everything is good. Speaking of snowshoes, those are mine leaning against the barn. I have been out snowshoeing several times already. There is nothing quite like being out on a frosty day snowshoeing in the woods and then coming home to some warm cider or some hot chocolate and a spell by the fire. Having to walk the dog each day is not a chore around here!

The deer have moved into their winter habits and they are wandering around here everyday. I don't mind them in the garden at this time of year. :-) My dog and I came upon three deer this afternoon feeding in the trees on the edge of the meadow. And no I do not let my dog chase them.

As of last weekend, the house and tree were finally decorated, the gifts bought and wrapped and now the Christmas cards have been mailed. All that remains is the baking of some goodies, okay lots of goodies. Saturday I shall light a fire in the woodstove (which is in my kitchen/family room), I shall put on some Christmas music and then I shall be up to my elbows in sugar, butter, vanilla, coconut, chocolate, etc. etc. Yum, yum. And as the cook, I have a responsibility to do some taste testing!

For even more bliss around here - if a new seed catalogue hasn't just arrived in the mail. While it seems like the canning and freezing frenzy has just ended, it would seem now is an appropriate time to start planning next year's garden. Well, I do have to get those seedlings started (indoors of course) in just a couple of months. So tonight my plan is to sit by the fire with my tea, my catalogues and enter the world of tender shoots and dreams of a harvest...I hope that in this busy time of year you will take a moment to pause and do something restorative too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Studio Tour is underway!

I hope those of you in the Ottawa area will be able to get out today to visit the homes on the Red Trillium Studio Tour. The quality of the work is truly outstanding.

We would love to welcome you here at studio stop number five - not only will you be able to see my work and my studio but you will also get to view the work of my two fabulous guest artists!

Here are some pictures of my studio as it looks as a gallery...

Here is the work of Kathryn Looby, a talented copper artist. Kathryn's work has a Celtic flavour, created by hand, in the traditional technique of repousse.

Displaying her work along side Kathryn in my living room is the passionate work of Cristina Del Sol. Cristina is an experimental visual artist creating mainly abstract and non-objective work.

Do check out Kathryn and Cristina's websites and for further tour information, please visit the tour website. Yesterday we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day and lots of visitors and I am sure today will be more of the same.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by on Saturday and I look forward to meeting those of you who can make it out today!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

garden therapy

Ever have a time when your mind seems to be completely preoccupied with ideas for new projects? This past week has been like that for me. I started off last Monday suddenly passionate about creating a Christmas card illustration. I proceeded to turn my studio upside down as I hunted up all sorts of Christmasy stuff that I keep for such times of inspiration. By the afternoon I had some draft sketches but no more enthusiasm. Humph...

The next day, I was off to the races chasing after the art card idea. As you already know, I then spent time on-line and in my vehicle checking out printing companies both near and far. I had to be out of town on Wednesday (selling my Dad's old car) and Thursday found me again at a printing company. As I was already downtown, I decided to revisit the National Gallery. (If you missed my last trip there with all of my touristy photos, click here.) After staring at some fabulous art for a couple of hours, my mind was now racing with new ideas for possible subjects, colour combinations, etc.

Suddenly it was Friday and it seemed like I hadn't had a productive week. I settled myself at the drafting table and worked on the peas. And oops if I didn't forget all about teaching the next day! I found myself losing track of time, dashing out of the studio at 5:00, hoping to get in a walk with the dog before pitch dark, with thoughts of what to cook for supper drifting through and then it hit me...I had to teach in the morning...I looked back at the mess my studio was in - Christmas stuff and art card stuff all over the place - I had material to print off - uh oh...

Monday and a fresh new week arrived and with it some fabulous, ridiculously warm weather. I decided it was time for garden therapy.

Time also to root out the invasive mallow is a blossom that managed to survive the snow storm. Looks innocent enough.

One of my flower garden beds has become overrun by this aggressive self seeder. Other flowers have been shoved aside and my colour palette has been reduced to a sea of pink cotton candy. I had thought this digging out job would have to wait until spring but this mild weather and my busy brain became the perfect combination for the job.

I ended up spending hours digging, talking nasty to the plant and chortling with glee as I yanked out the long roots. Very therapeutic!

Here was one of my challenges - twisting myself into a pretzel so that I could dig out some plants under a lilac bush.

Ah, the fruits of my labour.

There were also moments of art inspiration (I find inspiration everywhere which doesn't help with the overactive mind situation). I hope you can see the beautiful plum colour gradations in this decaying rhubarb leaf.

Several hours of good honest physical labour, digging in the aromatic earth and reveling in the peace and quiet of the great outdoors was just the interruption my busy mind needed. Tuesday morning found me calmly sitting down with my business journal to rationally plan the months ahead. Whew...then it was back to the drafting table...thank goodness for garden therapy!

Oh and for those of you with left over pumpkins and a yard where deer might visit, try putting your pumpkins out for them to munch on. They seem to really enjoy eating them and they will even dig out frozen pumpkin from the snow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

please be part of my focus group...

Note cards by artist Suzette MacSkimming

Earlier this week, in preparation for my upcoming studio tour, I decided to explore the notion of getting note cards printed. It has been a while since I have offered note cards for sale but I remember well the angst of printing them myself. I recall spending oodles of cash on printer ink, then there was lots of time spent sourcing great paper stock at great prices (or not so great prices), spending forever on the computer to get things formatted properly (so the images wouldn't print crookedly and then they did anyway), sitting by the printer doing production control...well, on and on the trauma this time I started looking at outsourcing the job!

So far it would seem that the companies are coming in quite close in terms of cost. There are some major differences though. One well known on-line printing company (Vista Print) can only give me a 4" x 5.5" size (I want larger). The crop is goofy - for example borders may occur on top and bottom - it depends on your painting format. There is no option for text to appear such as my name, name of the work pictured and my website address. Yet they do offer full colour printing which gives my images the best chance of being identical to the original.

A printing firm locally is a bit more expensive but I would get a larger card, 5" x 7", which is what I want. The cards would be professionally set up so there would be proper borders. They also allow text and as I can pick them up, I save shipping fees. Ah, but the printing might not be as close to the original as I would like.

So now for the focus group bit...what would you pay for a quality art card?
Please keep in mind that the aim here is not to offer reproductions that would be matted and framed. For this I would be offering a much larger size and a totally professional printing job - from the scans to archival inks. These are simply note cards - a colour image on good paper stock, folded, blank inside, with a bit of text with my name etc. on the back.

The picture at the top of this post shows note cards that I purchased from artist Suzette MacSkimming last year. They are 5" x 7" and the printed image is approximately 4" x 5". There is identifying text on the back and envelopes were included. I paid $2.00 each. (I tried using the company she used but they no longer print note cards. Bummer.)

Given the quotes I have received so far, if I did a large print run of 500 cards (10 different images with 50 cards each), the cost comes out to about $1.25 to $1.30 per card. So if I charge $2.00, I will be able to recoup my costs. Obviously this isn't a money making project, note cards never are. I would be simply doing this in order to offer a larger product line and to allow people who might not be able to purchase an original to take home a favourite image. In some cases the originals are not for sale anyway.

My wonderful readers/focus group, do you think $2.00 is the right price?
Someone commented to me this week that people will pay $4.00 or $5.00 for a Hall Mark type card and they thought $2.00 was too low. Humm... I look forward to your response! Oh and thanks in advance. I appreciate the input. :-)

Woo-hoo, it snowed yesterday!!!! Yup, I love the white stuff - skiing, snowshoeing, beautiful vistas, no mosquitoes, no poison ivy, no yard work, the ability to follow wildlife tracks...I could go on and on but instead here are some pictures I took this morning.

Time to put this birdbath away and to get out the heated one...

Deer visited my flower garden this morning (the picture shows their tracks).

I no sooner filled the feeders and the birds were swarming around me...

Zooming in on a chickadee...what a cutie.

It is to really warm up this weekend so my winter wonderland will melt. Ah, but this brief treat will do me until the real winter hits some weeks from now. I am off to walk the pooch before supper. More time in the snowy woods...yum...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Samhain and new beginnings...

Good ol' Jack is glowing in the dining room as I type...

Today has been a great day. It started off when I had some very early trick or treaters - oh no wait, they were my students for my cp basics class. :-) As this is my last course before my break, things are definitely ending on a high note. The ladies are absolutely fabulous and lots of fun and I know I shall miss our time together when we no longer meet for class.

It is very elemental here today, with strong gusty winds, a wee shower here and there and leaves flying everywhere. Late in the afternoon I grabbed my camera and headed out to take some pictures. Here is our young chestnut tree. It has such an orderly canopy of branches.

Here is a chestnut on that tree.

A bowl of chestnuts and acorns...

A spectacular rainbow against a gorgeous dark sky...

And finally me and my 'best friend with the fur'. Hey, notice the white porch rails, the green table and bench, floor and yellow/cream walls? All painted by me last month! A wonderful change from the dark and dreary brown we had before. Brown, brown and more brown. Gone!

Samhain is one of the origins of Halloween. Samhain is an Irish word meaning summer's end. October 31 - November 1 was a time of celebrating the harvest, an acknowledgement of the dark time ahead and a time of remembering the deceased. Many scholars believe that this time also marked the beginning of the Celtic new year.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I love any opportunity to declare a fresh start and to grab a new beginning. Samhain is no exception! A new year, well, why not? Tomorrow, I shall see November 1 as the start of two months of celebrating my renewed commitment to studio time. I shall make fresh goals and I shall tackle them with new energy and enthusiasm. Of course in two months I can assess my progress, make new plans and start off again with another new year celebration.

Perhaps your goals could use a bit of renewed fire under them. Why not celebrate this ancient Gaelic custom of a new year at summer's end? Oh and just a note for all you feral gals (and guys), the moon is full this October 31st night...perfect for a jaunt out with the wolves and a bit of howling don't you think?

Friday, October 30, 2009

peas in a pod, tweaking my art and the business of art

peas in a pod, work in progress, coloured pencil on Stonehenge, 6 1/2" x 20 1/2"
copyright Teresa Mallen

So here are the peas in their pod, as they look now. The next time you see it, it shall be finished. I will definitely have a better photo. The sky has been overcast for days and it makes taking photographs difficult. Even if we do get some sunny weather, I will probably have to do some Photoshop work to adjust for the large amount of white in the background.

It has been a joy to log in some serious studio time in the past two weeks. We have closed up the farmhouse and it has been pure bliss not to have to go out of town a couple of times a week.

I haven't been working on the peas that much. In fact, I have been revisiting several completed pieces.

I shall be participating in a studio tour in just four weeks and that means that I have to get busy framing art. Before I frame a work, I revisit it. That means that I put it on the drafting table and I start looking it over very closely. Then I grab my pencils and I start to tweak. Sometimes I just need to crisp up an edge or two or slightly deepen a value. Sometimes I do more than that. The advantage to living with art for a while is that I can be more objective. The distance of time helps me to see if I captured what I had intended to. Once this stage is done, I sign my name and then the art is ready for spraying, scanning and the framing process. Perhaps this is my own oddity but I find I do not like to sign a work until I am completely satisfied that it is done, 100% done.

One piece that is getting some significant tweaking is my peony stamen picture. I finished working on this piece early in the summer and I placed it in my studio where I could see it. I didn't feel that I was quite done with it but I wanted to sit with it for a while. In the end, I decided I would take the risk of bumping the whole piece up a few notches. When I left it, the piece had an overall soft quality to it. While the stamens did pop, the whole piece seemed lower key than I eventually felt I wanted. So, onto the drafting table it went for some serious tweaking. I deepened all the shadow values, strengthened lines and enriched colours. I also lifted some veiny bits that I had put into the petals. I didn't like them so off they came.

Now it is taped to my white board that I have out for teaching. I have moved into the tweaking standing up stage. This position allows me to step back from the piece which I am doing a lot! It is almost ready to sign. :-)

I have had some interesting conversations with folks since declaring that I am running with the wolves in 2010. It would seem that my decision to stand my ground for studio time and not teach was interpreted by some as meaning that I was "taking a year off". I am still chuckling over that one. No I am not retiring, nor am I taking a year off. In fact my goal is to work lots and hard but just not at teaching.

Running a business takes time, a lot of it. Unless you are fortunate to be represented by fabulous galleries that manage to consistently sell your art (which isn't the reality for the majority of artists) you end up doing the business stuff yourself. In a given 40 hr work week (most self employed people work more than that), lets say that 50% of an artist's time is spent on business. That means that the artist has just 20 hours to throw pots, carve wood or work on their reference photos, drawings and colouring. Humm...a bit sobering isn't it?

The business stuff for me involves correspondence (student inquiries, registration receipts, art business related email, writing newsletters), doing my accounts (managing my income and expenses), marketing (creating print ads, writing press releases, designing and getting business cards and media cards printed), buying supplies (for creating art, for teaching art classes, for matting and framing, for displaying art, for the office), doing research (keeping abreast of art information, art business trends, how to keep marketing strategies current), networking and selling (being involved in art groups, both local and international, participating in shows and doing volunteer work for a couple of these groups), having an internet presence through a website (which involves designing the website, learning software, obtaining quality scans of work as well as maintenance through regular updating) and a blog, entering work into juried exhibitions, continuing to learn new computer skills, creating product beyond original art (notecards, reproductions, designing and printing off kit material, creating teaching curriculum), etc. etc.

My new fangs bared approach is my way of claiming those 20 hours a week in the studio. I am also striving to get this number higher. Without fresh new work, the rest of the effort doesn't make much sense. Like most self employed people I work weekends and evenings. For example last weekend I taught Saturday, had my mother-in-law visiting from out of town and still managed to attend an important local arts group meeting for two hours on Sunday. Tuesday night I wrote a new bit of press material that the coordinator of the studio tour requested. Wednesday night I updated my accounting ledgers. Last night I designed and printed off 16 full page, colour ads, again to be used in conjunction with the studio tour. Tonight I shall get ready for tomorrow's teaching session.

Please don't misunderstand. I am in no way complaining. I love what I do and I feel privileged to be self employed. I even enjoy the business end of it. I also appreciate that many artists do this business stuff, create art and work at a full time job! I just wanted you to know that I am not retiring! :-) When that time comes, I will do art just for fun. There won't be any business related tasks and there will be no teaching.

I shall leave you with a couple of fall foliage shots, but not of trees. And yes, despite my rant above, I do find time to be in the garden. :-) I love how the plants start to take on different hues in autumn.

Like this hosta...

and this clump of solomon's seal...

Friday, October 16, 2009

autumn cp newsletter and time to run with the wolves

Well woo-hoo a new issue of my newsletter is now ready to read. If you are new to my blog and you are a coloured pencil enthusiast, do check it out. There are all sorts of interesting things in each issue from featured artists, to tips, Q & As, websites and blogs to visit, etc.

Don't miss Newsletter Group Member Sandy Oveson's woodpecker as well as a very practical tip from fellow blogger Laure Ferlita.

Membership is free so if you are interested in joining the Newsletter Group, just contact me. If you haven't read any of the other issues, grab a coffee and get comfortable. There really is a lot to check out. Enjoy!

This is a view of our meadow and some wonderful fall foliage. You can click on the picture for a larger view. If I had seen the property in the fall, I would have bought the place on the spot, even before seeing the studio! :-)

Yes, it is time to run with the wolves and I am oh so excited. This reference will make more sense if you have read Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book, Women Who Run With the Wolves (if you are in a creative slump, I highly recommend it). Okay, when my German Shepherd and I are out wandering the woods each day we usually aren't running but given that my big fellow spends his days on the furry edge between feral and domesticated, I think this is more applicable than not.

I said in my newsletter that I would write about my decision to not teach any classes in 2010. Well, here it is, this she-wolf has her fur up, she is baring her fangs and she is standing her ground and defending her territory. I have compromised long enough and 2010 is going to be all about my art. I am reclaiming my studio as a creative space instead of a teaching space and all hell may just break loose!

If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that the past two years have been tumultuous. We found the home and land we had dreamed of so we bought and sold houses and moved. I ramped my teaching schedule up to new heights in my eagerness to make use of my large studio space. Then my Dad became ill. I left Ottawa and became a care giver. Then he died. I returned to Ottawa and hit the ground running determined to meet all the commitments I could. When this was over I tried to slow down. I had an out of town estate to deal with and I needed a break. So I talked about taking a break. I wrote about it. I put it in my newsletters. But in the end I caved. Perhaps it was the fear of slowing down my success. I have spent years building up a reputation, spent money on advertising, I finally have the right facilities, how could I stop teaching now? Part of it was also my desire to help people. I really want to help people in their artistic journey and I enjoy opening up the world of coloured pencil to those who are eager to learn. Maybe it was the economy. When someone from the city of Ottawa calls and wants you to teach classes, how can you say no to the income? In the end, in this year that I was going to slow down and take a break, I taught more classes than I am comfortable admitting to.

Oddly enough, this was a year when I had problems with students. I ended up being led down the garden path by people who said they really wanted me to offer classes and then they changed their minds. I had cancellations. Yes, life happens but I suspect that in some of these cases, they registered rather flippantly, like impulse buying. I started to sense an expectation that folks could just take the course in a few months when I offered it again. This she-wolf doesn't like being taken for granted.

So now I am digging in my toes and I am starting to snarl and growl. I am an artist first and a teacher second. I always said that if the teaching got in the way, then it would have to go. So what does this mean? Well it means that it is time to shake things up around here. It is time for a change. And you know what, now that I have wreaked havoc with the business plan, the adrenaline is starting to pump through my veins. My senses are stirring. My ears hear the sound of breaking glass as I resume stained glass work, my hands can feel the coolness of clay, my nose smells the oil paint and oh the sight of those coloured pencils that are waiting for me!

2010 is going to be a great year. I can feel it down in my bones. Of course I still have my parents' home to deal with and there will be more house painting and renovation projects but the Saturdays will be mine and so will the studio. There is an new glint in my eyes these days and the hint of a wildish grin.

How are things going with you? Maybe we should meet in the woods and howl at the moon. Why not choose to get a bit feral? The wolves and I are waiting...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

peas in a pod wip and food fantasies

peas in a pod, work in progress, 6 1/2" x 20 1/2", coloured pencils on Stonehenge
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is how the peas are looking now - of course the paper is white not blue. I am thinking of calling this one Brocade Peas. I abstracted the wrinkles on the top of the pod and now the design reminds me of brocade fabric! Keep in mind that I jump all over the place when I work so if the peas don't look done, well they aren't, if the top doesn't look done, it isn't, you get the idea. When it is finished I shall post a larger file image so you can see it better.

So what do you think about when you draw or paint? I ponder all sort of things when I am colouring with my pencils. One topic that has been on my mind lately is green tomato salsa. :-) I know, this makes the third post in which I have mentioned it. Perhaps I need Green Tomato Salsa Anonymous.

I am hooked on this stuff. So far I have enjoyed it with tortillla chips (I like the bakes ones), with rice and I also used it to add spice to a lunch time wrap. I am now daydreaming of adding it to omelettes for a fiery Mexican style brunch, or to homemade soup to add some zing. Did I mention that I made another batch this morning while I waited for my coffee to brew? Oh and when I am not thinking of recipes, I am planning my 2010 vegetable garden. Where will I plant the tomatoes next year? How many more plants should I save space for? How early can I harvest green tomatoes? Good grief, I have just finished this year's gardening season! Is isn't just me that needs help of some sort. My husband is so wowed he suggested I bottle it and sell it. Humm, Teresa Mallen Studio expanding to include salsa for sale. Diversification is good, right? Maybe it is a good thing that this morning's salsa cook-up used all of the green tomatoes that I had left. (I could ask my neighbours but we have had several hard frosts so that isn't really an option.) Anyone willing to do an intervention?

Ah, but before you feel too smug, just what exactly do you think about while you are working? Come on now, fess up...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sharing our passions and quirks...

I did this pumpkin piece some years ago. I really like pumpkins and in the end this became a 'not for sale' item. It is on the wall of my studio and I never tire of looking at it. (Okay, maybe that sounds weird but if we don't like our own art, how can we expect anyone else to?) So, I confess that I like pumpkins from their first growth as a gorgeous yellow flower all the way through to pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie and of course as dried gourds. My own little quirk. What might yours be?

I imagine I am like the rest of you in that I read blogs written by fellow artists. Every now and again I find that this gets a bit old - so and so is doing another cat picture, this gal just won another award, this one is doing another piece featuring petals - (oops that one would be me). When the blog blahs last hit me (sometime in August), I started to wonder about the millions of blogs that are written. I decided to look for blogs that were not art related but were written by people passionate about my other interests.

I mentioned last time that I would share a fabulous green tomato salsa recipe. Well, I found it on a blog written by a woman, 'Farmgirl Susan' who shares my passion for homesteading. Yup, a back to the land, nature nut, that's me. She writes a lot about food and if recipes and such are you thing or if you just like looking at pictures of sheep, her blog might be a nice diversion. If you still have green tomatoes languishing in your garden, I highly recommend this recipe!

If you too are interested in modern homesteading - growing food, raising chickens and other critters, living in harmony with the seasons and nature, I also recommend this blog. It is written by a 27 year old gal named Jenna who dreams of owning her own farm but for now homesteads on some rented property in rural Vermont. She is a gifted and entertaining writer which helps make for a great blog experience.

Do you ever get the blog blahs? Perhaps you too have found some interesting non-art blogs that you enjoy. If so, why not share your passions with the rest of us? I am confident that you have your own quirks and your own unique bit of weirdness - we all do! I would love to hear about your interests. Just leave the address in a comment or perhaps point us to your own blog should you care to write your own post.

I hope my fellow Canadians had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I also hope everyone is having the opportunity to get out and enjoy the fall foliage (assuming there is fall foliage where you live). These days I am at risk of tripping and falling on my face as I hike with my dog, cause I am always looking up! See below...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

peas in a pod, new wip

peas in a pod, wip, 6 1/2" x 20 1/2", coloured pencil on Stonehenge
copyright Teresa Mallen

No petals! Here is an early-on view of my newest piece, peas in a pod. The paper is white and unfortunately you cannot see my line drawing. There will be a bit of stem on the left side as well as a shadow under the pod.

A lot of my work is rather minimalistic and usually deals with a single subject. What I wish to capture in these pieces is the inherent beauty one can find in something simple - something as simple as peas in a pod.

You may have noticed my fondness for a narrow, horizontal format. At over 20 inches wide, these seven peas in their pod get the attention they deserve. I am always mesmerized by the beauty of peas, especially when harvest time comes and I am opening the pods. I saved some of the finest looking pods from the garden for a photo shoot. This image is inspired by one shot in which the peas were back-lit by the afternoon sun. I really like the intrigue of the partially open pod. It makes me think of a cave. Caves are places of mystery, secrets and the unknown.

Doesn't everyone like caves? Even if you haven't been inside a cave, the idea of one is interesting, right? I remember when I was a little girl my mother would tell me about these Indian caves that she explored as a child. Finally when I was old enough to make the walk, she took my sister and I to see these caves. I was disappointed to discover that these 'caves' were simply areas underneath rock outcroppings. Yes, one could take shelter from the rain, start a fire and bed down for the night and yes the rock cliffs were lovely but they weren't the caves of my imagination. My mother and her brothers had found Indian arrowheads and such but despite much looking I never did. More disappointment. :-)

Today was a perfect day to be in the studio. It was a blustery wet day. The sky changed its look several times and the wind caused the clouds to race by. I really like elemental weather and I couldn't wait to take my dog out for a walk before supper. The fall foliage looks stunning now and there is more colour yet to come. Isn't October fabulous? I'm off to deal with the green tomato salsa that I cooked up tonight. If you are interested in a way to use up your green tomatoes, stop by my next post as I will be sharing the recipe. It is yummy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

finished piece, critiquing our art

Red Petal Peony, 5 3/4" x 15 1/4", coloured pencil on Stonehenge
Copyright Teresa Mallen

It has been a while since you have seen this one as a work in progress. Here it is finished. You might recall that in the past I talked about not being one to work in a series. I had hoped to attempt a series of large, simplified and somewhat abstracted rose pieces. Well, I finished two and then I got distracted by peonies. So here are the four below...The rose pieces are my favourites and I think I will do another one some day. That would make three for the rose series. For now, I guess this is the 'petal series'. :-)

When I returned from the CPSA's convention in Atlanta, I mentioned that I would write about a workshop I attended. Well, it has been a while but what the heck...

The workshop involved watching a mock jury in action. Three distinguished cp artists: Jeffrey Smart Baisden, Elizabeth Patterson and James Mateer made up the panel of judges and the moderator of the workshop was CPSA founder, Vera Curnow. The art being juried was from 25 submissions for a non-CPSA show. There was a variety of styles, subject matter and media. The neat thing about this workshop is that as the jurors examined the projected images, they spoke their thoughts about each piece into their microphones allowing those of us in the audience to watch and listen to the process.

So what are judges looking for? Is there anything here that we can use when reflecting upon our own work?

First of all, it seemed that factors like composition, handling of values and edges, drafting skills etc. were expected to be executed well. Of course it got their attention when they weren't executed well but the judges were looking for more than technical ability. What each judge articulated time and again, is that they were looking for something that "gave impact at first glance". Originality was a big plus. Was there an emotional response?

Work that was well executed was dismissed on the grounds that work like it had been "seen a thousand times". Sentimental work or work that was "too sweet" and "warm and fuzzy" was readily dismissed.

The judges were also looking for consistency in a painting. Was the artist technically consistent across a piece and was there balance? Was there a sense of 'wholeness'? Elizabeth was very turned off by bold colourful signatures. They were too distracting. James often referred to any technical glitches that he saw (as he said, "Don't show what you don't know") and he seemed to focus on the design of a piece and he looked for movement.

Jeffrey commented a few times that the artist needed to do more than record information, she "wanted to be moved". She also stated that she wanted "punch, impact" and "something that would jar my teeth"! Elizabeth commented on how the artist "shouldn't make it a chore for your audience to figure it out". Again and again the panel referred to the mood of a piece, did it make them curious, did it make them want to think about it, was it compelling, was it thoughtful, was there emotion?

Ultimately, whether the piece was a pastel or an oil or an abstract or a traditional painting, what the judges were looking for was to see what the artist was trying to say. What was the point of their art? They commented that the artist should be able to convey why they are doing what they are doing.

This was a very intriguing event to watch unfold. I found their views insightful into the process of jurying. Perhaps their comments will give you something to ponder the next time you head to the studio. What are you trying to say? What is the point of your art? Is your art original, compelling and does it convey emotion?

Of course there is also the reality that work that sells is often sentimental and has been seen a thousand times before! :-) I recently read a comment on artist Aili Kurtis's website and I quote: "Human perception of what is good or bad varies from human to human and from one culture to the next." Think about what has been thought of as good art or bad art over the past few hundred years in Western culture...humm...perceptions do shift and change. For now, I am just going to focus on whether or not my next piece might just jar someone's teeth!

And now for my favourite garden plants, brown eyed susans and purple coneflowers. I transplanted these as small clumps from my former home two years ago. They are spreading and thriving beautifully.

And oh the apples I am getting this year off our elderly apple tree. I am busy these evenings cooking up apples (with butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, lemon juice and brown sugar) to store in the freezer. Absolutely yummy with french toast and pancakes.