Art Book Club

Art Book Club: The Origins

Over the last year I’ve joined a group of women artists to read books about art together. We met in an abstract painting class over at Gage Academy and discovered in each other a great love of reading. So, naturally, we decided to have ourselves a book club! We choose books about Art: history, theory, and practice.

Recently, I thought to myself “Stevie, why aren’t you blogging about this?” and my answer was that I wanted to keep this to myself. But then I began to notice something.

I read A LOT of books. Every time I want to read a new book I look up the reviews. With art books, there are almost never any reviews. The last book I went to read had three (3!!!) reviews- and the book had been published for over 20 years!

Unacceptable. There are art books that I’ve read in the past that have been extra bad that I could have dodged if someone had written a review. No one needs to be wasting time. Be the change you want to see Stevie!

So, I’ve decided! Every time we finish a book I will be writing a review here on it. In the meantime, here are some short reviews of books Art Book Club as already read:

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Lessons In Classical Drawing by Juliette Aristides

★★★★★ An excellent book full of helpful tutorials and engaging stories. Aristides is as good of a writer as she is a painter- and her paintings are stellar.

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Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel

★★★★☆ This book will make you love these five women artist who had to fight to be seen. A great biography told like a story.

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Matisse, Picasso, Miro--as I Knew Them by Rosamund Bernier

★★★☆☆ An interesting personal perspective on three famous artists. Not sure if it made me like them more or less.

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Carr, O'Keeffe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own

by Shsryn Rohlfsen Udall

★★☆☆☆ This book reads like an academic dissertation. Really interesting comparisons written in the driest voice. Proceed with caution.

Art Book Club: Hockney-Van Gogh, The Joy of Nature

Hockney-Van Gogh, The Joy of Nature

by Hans den Hartog Jager

★★★★☆

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Once a month I meet up with four fabulous women artists to discuss books about art. We read books about art theory, history, or practice.

This months book was Hockney-Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature.

Hockney — Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature presents unique insights into the influences of two world-renowned artists. Nature has been a substantial theme for both David Hockney and Vincent van Gogh, one that draws their work together—Hockney’s Yorkshire landscapes are especially reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows and The Harvest—and now, for the first time, art lovers can study their pieces side by side...
— Goodreads Synopsis
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The book takes you through some great visual comparisons in multiple mediums. From oil paintings and ipad drawings, to some knock it out of the park watercolor botanicals. The reproductions are beautiful and well placed.

This book was made for an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum, so keep in mind that the images you see in the book are intended to be an echo of what you would see in person. The book also mentions that a film was made, which I haven’t seen.

Regardless of that, this book was great read, though I didn’t agree with all of the comparisons. The writing felt natural and well researched. I gained an appreciation of Hockney’s art that I didn’t have before.

My favorite part of the book was the interview at the end with David Hockney and the author, Hans den Hartog Jager. The quote below is an answer to “Do you still work all day…You could take some time off”

Like I said: artists, real artists, have to work. They can’t be hedonists. Really good painters are always working. The world is such a marvelous place. You have to look and to work. That’s exactly why Van Gogh was such a great artist: total commitment. That’s what you need.
— Hockney- From an interview on page 162

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m a huge advocate of The Work. Meaning: If you want to be a great artist of any kind, a master of the trade, you have to put in the hours and the focus that it demands. So when I see an artist like Hockney and Van Gogh, even if I don’t like the painting, I see the The Work and am captivated. Any artist who has done The Work, who’s tenacity is addictive and shows up in the product, is one to be respected. I’d recommend this book!

Find it on Goodreads

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any art book suggestions!

-Stevie


Upcoming Show at Herkimer Coffee, Ravenna

Exciting news! I have a solo show at Herkimer Coffee in Ravenna

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I’ve been planning for this show for the last few months and I’m thrilled to showcase new work alongside some past favorites at this fabulous coffee shop in Seattle.

The show runs from September 1st through the end of October. All paintings shown will be for sale with delivery at the end of October.

Ouroboros, 2019 Oil on canvas

Ouroboros, 2019 Oil on canvas

You are invited to the opening!

Stop by on September 8th from 4-6 PM to have a great cup of coffee and chat with me about the art. I’d love to talk to you about what I’ve been working on this summer!

Address: 5611 University Way #100c, Seattle, WA 98105

 

Hope to see you there,

-Stevie

Project Green Studio - Part 3: Plastic Cling Wrap

“Hi my name is Stephanie and I’m addicted to cling wrap.”

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I used to use plastic wrap all the time. Like every day. It’s good for storing paint overnight so it doesn’t dry out, sealing containers with liquid, protecting things during shipping, etc etc.

The problems is, it can’t be recycled and the possibility of reuse is so slim. All two hundred square feet of it that I bought will end up in the trash. So how do I solve the problems cling wrap fixes and never buy more of it?

I use my rapidly developing system of breaking down the uses I need it to solve and find as many alternatives as possible. For cling wrap, I used it the most for preserving my oils.

Alternatives for storing oil paint:

  • Paint more often. Seriously, if you are going in every day (or every other day) most oil colors won’t get hard and will be fine uncovered. Also, if you live in a colder climate the oil paint won’t harden as quickly.

  • Put your pallet in the freezer. My studio doesn’t have a freezer. But, if you work from home, using a freezer will ensure the paint will be fresh every session. Colder space=longer lasting color.

  • Sealed pallet storage boxes. Go to a second hand shop and get a battered tupperwear container that has a lid that seals. Easy! Buying second hand will make you less precious and more willing to make a mess with your paint storage. Or use something you’ve already got :)

  • Drop it in water. I had a teacher who taught me this. Take your pile of paint and put it in a jar of some sort. Fill it with water till the color is completely covered. When you are ready to paint again, drain the water, let the left over drops evaporate (or soak it up with a rag) and get painting!

Need protection during shipping? If you are using bubble wrap anyways then you don’t need more plastic. Use paper tape that activates when wet. I’ll get around to talking about shipping in a future post.

Sealing containers with liquid inks? Food storage containers like mason jars and rubber lined aluminum boxes work great. This is a great opportunity to use old gesso tubs too. I also find that beeswax paper is a great sealant replacement for cling wrap in this case, but less so for oil color.


Just like that, we’ve eliminated the major uses of cling wrap in my own studio practice. If you are using cling wrap for any other reason get creative! You don’t need to use it and it’s one less thing to buy. Saving $$ for the next art residency you are going to is way more fun than buying another box of plastic wrap. :)

Yours,

Stevie

New Round of Sketchbooks

New sketchbooks will be in the Etsy store in the next few weeks!

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I will have a handful of standard 8.5x5 in sketchbooks, one square style wedding guestbook, and a few postcard size smaller books. All of these are coptic bound, so they lay flat when open.

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If you are looking for something custom for your wedding and you like these-I take commissions! Send me message for quotes or any questions.

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All my books are coptic bound with blank pages. The interior pages are artist grade and can handle dry media and most inks very well. The interior panels are laid with a thick watercolor paper. Each book feels like a little treasure to store memories, notes, and drawings. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Hope you have a wonderful day!

-Stevie

Project Green Studio - Part 2: Towels!

This week I’m tackling the process of cleaning up. Before Project Green Studio I used paper towels galore to clean brushes, dispose of excess paint, and wipe down my pallet when I was finished for the day. I probably went through a roll of paper towels every two weeks. Can we talk about how wasteful that is for a minute?

544,000 trees could be saved each year if each US household used just one less roll of paper towels.
— https://www.betterplanetpaper.com/uearn2/Paper-Awareness

That’s a lot of trees and a lot of plastic to wrap around each pack of paper towels! Eliminating paper towels is a major step in the Green Studio direction. But then how am I supposed to clean the studio after each session responsibly? Use rags.

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When it comes to solving clean up, breaking down the steps is so important.

I work primarily in oil paint and my clean up in the past has been this:

  • Use vegetable or linseed oil to breakdown the color on the pallet and in brushes

  • Take a paper towel and absorb as much of the oil/paint mix as possible

  • Throw away said paper towel and then wash the brushes in soap and water

Now I get rags from second hand sources. I ask my Buy Nothing group or friends for old towels and trash-destined T-shirts to cut up. Pictured above, a newly acquired pile of rags. :)

The clean up process changes as such:

  • With a pallet knife, scrape up all the extra paint and apply to what will be your extra paint canvas. Mine pictured below. An extra paint canvas reduces the amount of oil (or solvents) you use to break down discard paint and at the end of the year you get a really weird painting. Win/win!

  • Alternatively: you can save the extra paint in airtight containers or put it in a freezer for the next painting session.

  • Squeeze the paint brush in a rag to coax out the bulk of the paint

  • Use vegetable or linseed oil to break down the remaining color in the brushes and on the pallet

  • Use your rag to wipe the pallet clean, using oil to help the process.

  • Wash the brush in soap and water. I’m a fan of The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver.

  • Store soiled rags in airtight metal container to dry. No combusting rags in my studio please and thanks!

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My next challenge is: What do I do with the soiled rags after they have been completely saturated in oil? They can’t be washed. Artist colors are considered hazardous waste and needs to be disposed of at an appropriate facility in your city. But is there a better way to deal with it?

A few weeks ago I was out at a cafe with some friends and this man came in with a big sack of rags and a rug. He looked like Practical Santa! It got me thinking: auto shops and restaurants have a rag service- so why couldn’t an artist?

I live in Seattle, so finding a place that would know how to responsibly treat the rags so that they can be reused might be possible. If you live in a rural area this idea might not be viable. I clearly have some more research to do, so until then I’ll be using my own rags and keeping the fully used ones with me.

What do you do with your used up rags? Do you have any ideas for a more responsible clean up process? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment!

Till next time~

Stevie

London

As of writing this (May 16th, my birthday) I just got back from a two week trip to London. My purpose for this trip was less of a planned thing and more of a I-need-to-get-out-of-here and look-at-this-cheap-flight thing. Anyone who knows me personally can confirm that I am an impulse traveler and the barest thought of going somewhere means I’m on Skyscanner and booking a flight.

Back in January when the Itch-To-Travel was at it’s strongest; I was able to find a sweet house in Spitafields and clear off two weeks before my birthday. And that was that! Little did I know that I would be moving house right before the trip- which meant 0 plans were made for the trip till I was at the airport.

Traveling with me always has the same few priorities: eat new foods, take risks, and see as much art as possible. I’m posting some of my favorite pieces of art below! You can see full catalogs of all this work on each museums website. Which, lets be honest, is way better than my cell phone photos.

The National Gallery

Free museums are a blessing to us all! I think I went to the National Gallery 5 or 6 times.

The first thing that I saw was a special Sorolla exhibit (up till July 7th 2019). It’s funny, lately when I look at artists I’m starting to instinctively see their influences much quicker than I used to. Sorolla’s paintings are beautiful and romantic, and I immediately thought “This is so similar to John Singer Sargent’s style”. The next blurb on the wall said that they were friends.

I wonder which of my friends are influencing me? All of them? ;)

On my first day, the first museum trip, I found a painting that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t a finished painting, but a sketch.

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This isn’t the exact piece, I’ve actually forgotten what the exact sketch is called, but this is similar enough so have a visual. ;) I saw the sketch and it broke down something in me that I had been fighting for many months:

Self doubt

Self doubt is a devastating and crippling demon that every creative type meets. I didn’t realize how heavy I had been dragging self doubt around till I left Seattle. It was something that had been stifling me in reaching out to new collectors, inhibiting my creative decision making, and convincing me to way undervalue my work.

I took one look at that sketch in the National Gallery on the first day of my trip and started crying. Because the month before I had make a sketch that looked just like that. That was rough around the edges, and the values weren’t perfect, and the color relationships needed to go to therapy. The sketch was imperfect and unfinished and full of life. And then I looked up.

On the wall was the masterpiece that the sketched study became. I was brilliant and beautiful and very romantic and- Well, I thought to myself “What an amazing transformation. If his sketch looks like this and then turns into this- I can do this too.”

I can do this

That returned confidence, that gift of seeing the process of someone who is a master of painting, was like a balm to a burn. It returned to me excitement in seeing and a hunger for more. So you can imagine that I lost my mind at the Tate.

The Tate

YAY ABSTRACT ART

I usually don’t like most abstract painting but the ones at the Tate were knock it out of the park-fantastic. I discovered Bridget Riley who I had never seen a painting in person before. Then there was a Morandi that I basically ran over a kid to see. And can we talk about the room of Rothko’s murals? Holy cats that is some atmosphere.

The National Portrait Gallery

The National portrait gallery is not one to miss if you ever get a chance. You can feel so much emotion in these rooms and the modern pieces are marvelous. No big stories about this museum, I just wanted to show you my favorites. Shout out to the kid with the camera taking pics of people looking at art.

Memory lane~

My trip was full of learning, laughter, buckets of tea, and Gustav the airbnb cat. I can’t wait to return to London to see more art again. If you need tips or recommendations, leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Have a great day <3

-Stevie

On The Importance Of Taking Breaks

I haven’t painted for a month.

Moving is so glamorous!

Moving is so glamorous!

Somewhere between moving out of my apartment and traveling to London I stopped picking up my paintbrush. Going to the studio was a really big struggle for me for a decent amount of time- at least 4 weeks, if not longer.

I actually can’t remember the last time I spent so much time away from my easel. At the beginning of this hiatus I went to my studio with the intention of painting daily- while also moving out of my apartment. I would go there, put on my apron, and be crippled in the mind for all the things that still needed doing. I think it shows in the painting below.

“Did I call my insurance company?”

“I still need to cancel the internet, and the electric bill, and this and that and this”

“Is this the right choice?”

“What if I forget something?”

Do you ever have creative blocks like this? Normally, I’m very good about leaving problems and to-do lists at the door so that I may open mental space to work. This was a first for me: being unable to create because of the enormity of everything else that was going on in my life and the weight of those responsibilities.

After three studio sessions in a row where nothing was being made I chose to stop visiting my studio until my move and traveling was over. And I think it was really good for me.

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Work in progress

This is a painting I started before my move, I can see my mental conflict in the color relationships!

Anyone who has moved after living somewhere for a significant amount of time knows how emotionally draining the process is. You are exhausted at the end of each day and it’s not a fast thing. My motto this year is Eyes Forward and the change of moving really confronts that. To look forward you have to let go of the things holding you back. The place I was living in was starting to hold me back. That and a few boxes of paper work that “I’d get around to” ha!

I was moving out of my old place right up to a trip I had planned to go to London. By coincidence that meant that I was taking more time off from painting- but this time in an exploratory sense. The trip was fabulous and I’ll write about it in another post- but mostly I wanted to say that the balance between clearing out/removing things in my life and the discovery/awareness of new places was really healing.

In moving, I was able to discover in myself what I wanted to bring with me to a new house, but also what I wanted to bring in this new chapter of my life. A lot of things that used to have sentimental value didn’t make the cut.

In traveling, I discovered that my hunger to see new places hasn’t abated and that my confidence in my own painting ability had been hiding under ‘my life is out of control’ types of feelings. It comes and goes in cycles.

Yesterday I went to my studio and sketched out my next painting. Change is happening in my work and my life and now I’m leaning into it. I was able to go to the easel with a clear mind. I now call upon more change and I can see it coming in the next months. Eyes forward!

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

To wrap this up: I want to encourage you, my reader, to take those breaks when you need to. Life comes at us fast and It’s not every day that reality matches up with our plans. This form of long term selfcare is crucial to make it to the finish line of life, and we have important things to do. :)

Hope you are having a wonderful day!

-Stevie

Project Green Studio - Part 1: Canvas

Project Green Studio

This year one of my main goals is to create a eco-friendly and zero trash studio practice! Last winter I started becoming more conscious of how much plastic I was purchasing with my groceries. It became an avalanche of noticing. Noticing how much trash I was producing in my kitchen, in my shopping habits, and finally in my studio practice. I want to be better! And I can, but it’s going to take some major shifts in how I operate.

So here starts Part 1 of Project Green Studio! This week: Stretched Canvas.

About to strip these old paintings!

About to strip these old paintings!

Buying premade canvas from the store is a plastic wrapped NIGHTMARE. Plus the quality isn’t as great as making your own. Upcycling canvases is one of the easiest ways I can think of creating a green studio practice. Not everyone can build their own wood stretchers, I don’t currently have the tools! So the next option is the most fun.

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There is no feeling like going to the register at your local thrift store with 16 canvases of someones unloved drink and draw ‘ladies night‘ painting.

“You have interesting…taste.” My cashier at Goodwill. Yes I do sir.

When going thrift shopping for surfaces, the most important part is the wood. Turn those babies around and make sure there is a solid structure. Look for weakness in the joints, an ridged frame on the canvas side, and a certainty that it’s not actually fake wood.

The best part is stripping the bad paintings off the wood stretcher. Use a knife, pliers, whatever you gotta do to get the image off. These paintings were destined for landfill anyways and now you’ve salvaged at least part of it. It’s very therapeutic! Did I get a noise complaint when doing this part? Maybe ;)

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Once you get the images off the frames it should look something like above. No more bad art in your space and lots of opportunity for great new images! Now it’s time to wrap the bare stretchers.

You will need a staple gun and either linen or canvas cloth. It all depends on your budget and what surface quality you like. Go to a fabric store and buy the fabric off the rolls by the yard. I was given this linen by my dear friend Peggy Wolff, It’s fantastically smooth and made for painters. I want 1000 yards of it :]

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Once you get the fabric stretched, it’s a couple of layers of glue and gesso.

My preferred surface:

  • Dampen the surface with a spray bottle. This will get the fibers to tighten.

  • 1 coat of GAC 400 which replaces rabbit skin glue. It will take A LOT of this product. Let dry.

  • 1 coat of GAC 100 which helps prevent absorbancy and creates a minimally textured surface. Let dry.

  • 2 -3 coats of undiluted gesso, gently wet sanding between the layers after initially drying.

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The finished product looks like this! I spent about $200 on all the materials and using up all the empty wood stretchers I had in my studio I ended up with 30 ready to go surfaces in various sizes. The process takes about a week and saves you a good number of $$. PLUS NO PLASTIC.

It’s not a perfect solution, you are left with the unstretched bad art to deal with. Might need to go into the burn pile? But it’s a step in the right direction. Next step for me will be building my own stretchers- when I get the space for it.

Thanks for reading! Till next time~

Stephanie

Commitment

In my studio hangs a quote that I define my life by.

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It was given to me as a teen by my mentor Sue Cumming-Schultz when I was in the horse riding program at Deerfield Farm. This quote has given me motivation, a few scoldings, confidence, and peace of mind throughout my years of studying to be an artist. I read it all the time, so I thought I’d share it with you. <3

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
— W. H. Murray

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Quote of the Week

  • “Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?”

    I do. Life is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do in life is to bring something new, something beautiful, and something filled with light into the world. I try to think of that every day so that I can remember why I am coming to my studio. An the other thing is, just go, just show up.

    "

— Ross Bleckner from the book “Inside the Painters Studio” by Joe Fig