Sunday, September 26, 2010


6 days ago (last Monday morning) I woke up wondering why I bothered being a "professional" artist. I had been discouraged due to a combination of summer show rejections, job rejections, and started questioning my personal art style, asking myself if what I was doing with my art was inspiring me (and everyone else for that matter) enough. I live with an ongoing battle between myself and my inner critic and we just can't seem to find a balance. It felt as if I was at an all time low... knowing if I chose to switch careers at the age of 50+ the challenges were not going to be any easier in this big, bad, depressing job market.

Things changed as the week progressed.

I had been told before last weekend that my watercolor class didn't have enough enrollment to run, but over the weekend several additional people had signed up and Monday morning my supervisor called asking if I was still available to teach. Of course I was!

On Tuesday I received an email from one of the instructors I had while I was in graduate school, asking me if I was available to come in and teach several workshops from lesson plans I had written. She specifically asked if I could share and demonstrate these lessons. Things were definitely turning around for me.

Wednesday I was able to enjoy these recently acquired positive vibes and started to feel like maybe being a "professional" artist wasn't so hopeless after all. I decided to finish working on an encaustic painting using various shades of blue, inspired by the show prospectus for BLUE this October, an open regional show at the Cambridge Art Association.

"Fly Me to the Moon", encaustic painting

Thursday I picked up a copy of our local, weekly paper only to discover that the reporter for the arts and entertainment section did use the information and painting image I sent her, announcing the introduction of my newest body of work at the upcoming Columbus Day weekend show (you can never get enough PR and it definitely helps to be a big fish in a little sea!) 

That evening I taught the first watercolor class of the fall session and I have a wonderful group of new students. I look forward to the next class when I can get into greater depth teaching watercolor painting and techniques. Then one last boost, on Friday morning I received an email from the president of the Swampscott Arts Association telling me I had won 2nd prize in the fall show. She proceeded to tell me that my encaustic piece won the award although the judges also loved my watercolor painting but did not want to award the same artist 2 ribbons in one show.

"Tall Trees",  encaustic image transfer and 2nd place at the SAA show

Yesterday I had to spend the day taking the MTEL tests, communication and literacy written and reading tests in the morning, and the visual arts test in the afternoon. Massachusetts requires all public school teachers to be certified and passing these tests is mandatory. I had been warned that it's not unusual to fail and that there is no limit to how many times you can retake the tests. I felt like I did OK in the morning but I was totally shocked at how difficult the visual arts test was for me! Fortunately, I am not holding a job that requires me to be certified and the college level position I am seeking out does not require I take these tests. I admit I think I signed up for the tests because I am a glutton for punishment (results won't be in until end of October and if I didn't pass it will be humbling but a non-issue).

What a week that started off down and depressing...  became action packed, exciting, and exhausting. I seem to have this ongoing pattern in my life that I should try to remember... right when I reach a point where I want to give up and find an entirely new career, it is only then when good, positive things come back to haunt me and encourage me to continue. I also need to remember to acknowledge that the economy and current job market trends are effecting everyone, especially us "starving artists". I need to remind myself and everyone else too, that we all just need to keep the faith.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back in the saddle again

Country Road, 6" x 6" encaustic

Weeping Willow, 6" x 6" encaustic

Fall is in the air, the watercolor class I teach begins on Thursday night, and I am finally making art for the sake of art (and my personal happiness). I hadn't picked up a brush since July and I had decided I wasn't going to force myself to paint, instead I just waited, patiently, until I was ready. Painting with wax is something I continue to practice which is why I wanted to work on several small works before I started something bigger. These small image transfers were like a warm-up for me and I used photographs I had taken when I was on vacation in Louisiana. I am also working on a larger encaustic painting of a dragonfly but until I finish it I hesitate to post the progress because there is always the very real possibility that I am going to ruin it! I am trying to learn how to use the torch rather than the heat gun, and paint free hand rather than using image transfers.

My lesson for the first watercolor class is always pretty basic. I make sure everyone has supplies and see what skill level each student is at, plus I am excited to start a fall landscape painting as my demo for the class. My other "behind the scenes" work has been ongoing, getting my booth inventory ready for Columbus Day weekend and submitting work for various fall shows.

Portrait show at Lynn Arts opens Saturday

This weekend is the opening reception for the Portrait Show at Lynn Arts, unfortunately I will have to miss it because I will be spending 8 hours taking the MTEL's (Massachusetts tests for Educator Licensure). I don't even know if I will be looking for a teaching job in the public school system but I decided to take the test (and I hate tests) because it's a requirement in order to get a license to teach in public schools in Massachusetts. Wish me Luck!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Brochure

My new brochure is a full color, tri-fold, double sided summary of the work I will be featuring over Columbus Day weekend and then again next year when I am having a solo gallery show. In the past I had to hire a professional designer to do the layout (with my input), using my images and text. This felt like an extension of website work, with even more personal gratification upon completion.

I may not be using a paintbrush and palette, (watercolors) or electric griddle and torch, (encaustics) but I am still going strong using my computer and newly acquired graphic design skills. There is just as much planning in composition, color choices, and numerous other details designing a brochure as I spend on developing one of my paintings. The most important part of this project was the ability to explain the creative process that inspired the series of work being featured in the brochure. Have any of you made your own PR materials? thoughts?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Portrait Show

"Portrait of a Girl", encaustic, 8" x 8"

Pretty ironic that me, the "landscape painter" just got accepted into a juried portrait show. What's even funnier is the same painting that was accepted to this show was rejected when I submitted it to a different show this summer. It just goes to show you (and me) that there is no logic in the art world and the jurying process.

The only reason I even attempted doing a portrait was because I was learning how to paint with wax (encaustic) and I opened myself up to using the medium in any way possible; I was completely uninhibited. Normally I am not comfortable painting people or faces because I find it restrictive. Photographing this piece was challenging because the nose is actually 3-dimensional and extends out from the surface... maybe you notice a slight similarity to yours truly in this work?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


One of the new things I learned how to do, incorporate my signature on the web -

After spending the last several weeks concentrating on how to write and develop my website, (thinking it was finished when it really wasn't), I am now satisfied with the end result. I have edited on top of edits, constantly trying to improve the navigation and keep it clean. I am finally pleased.

I want to share my learning process with you because I had no idea the details would be this involved. It has been so totally consuming that I have not been able to focus on any other thing. Now I can finally more forward and make the time to start new artwork. Blogging about this experience is going to help me with the closure I need!

I had been learning about apple software ever since I switched to a mac computer about four years ago, simple word processing and minimal graphic design stuff... but I always had paid someone else to work on my website and updates. I reached a point where I really wanted to change the design of the site and do my own maintenance. I just needed to force myself to concentrate on the details and I felt I could handle this. Little did I know that writing the actual website was the easiest piece of the puzzle (I think blogging regularly for almost two years helped me feel more confident about graphic design preferences but by no means am I implying that writing a website is easy). Once the new website was written, I then had to contact the existing web host and ask for them to "release" my domain name so I could transfer it to my new web host.

OK, pause a minute here... I am the paying customer, and as the paying customer had to ask for the permission to move the product - the domain name for my website - to a different company. Why did I need permission for something I paid for? I was on the phone requesting all these changes when I was then handed over to some 'higher level' customer service representative who insisted I really did not want to switch companies and that if I did switch I would be forced to go through a process which took between 5 to 7 days. I was outraged, I am the customer, damn it!

I still don't understand why they make you wait other than maybe they figure if you are aggravated long enough you will decide not to bother switching hosts thus they keep you as a customer.

My domain name was finally transfered after a week and the new web host then asks you to re-direct your domain name address and email by changing the settings, so their server will know where to direct everything to (more settings behind the scenes need to be changed and I guess this part wasn't as complicated but are you still able to follow me?) I found myself running to the local Apple store for additional support to make this all happen because my first attempts at home were not successful. I also spent quality time on the phone talking to tech support with my new web host company and fortunately they were nice and patient, always a good sign. Now that everything is finished and actually working I feel like I learned so much from this process that if I ever do this again (doubtful) I am sure it will be less complicated. I always learn best from my mistakes. Please someone hand me a palette now, the old fashioned paint brush kind.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend, Art Show

Evolutions '10

Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful 'perfect day to be outdoors' kind of day and I stopped by an outdoor art show where I knew a few of the exhibitors (plus the person who co-ordinates the show, Dick Buckley, is a friend). There were about a dozen different tents with a variety of mediums from paintings to sculpture, calligraphy to encaustics. The show has grown in size since it began nine years ago, attracting more artists as well as patrons, with the more recent addition of performing artists throughout each day of the show. There is a laid back setting which both exhibiting artists and visiting patrons are able to enjoy.

One of my favorite exhibitors was Sara Ashodian, a mixed media/found objects/encaustic artist that has a gift of creating art out of just about anything! Here she is standing next to one of her newest works, a torched tea ball with chains.

My other favorite artist was Michiko Imai, a calligrapher and painter. She told me she did all the assembling of the actual artwork; creating then mounting her work on the scrolls she made, to even creating her own chops (the seal that represents an artist's signature on their work). I am going to see if I can take one of her workshops because the brushstrokes used in calligraphy compliment the watercolor techniques I continue to study and try to master.

I feel so fortunate that I live in a part of the country where there are so many opportunities for artists to share their work and passion and where patrons respond by supporting and attending events like this.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

1 day later

I find it pretty amazing that with all of our modern technologies these days, the weather aka Mother Nature, continues to stump and mislead us. I had thought I was going to be spending the weekend with a flooded garage but instead I am able to enjoy the wind, the sun, and the crisp air. Many of the boat owners ignored the warnings and as you can see the little harbor in my town is still pretty full.

Swampscott Harbor

King's Beach, just down the road

I am grateful the weekend has been a perfect ending to summer and I am now ready to switch gears and focus on the fall, the classes I will be teaching, and finalizing my body of work for my upcoming show over Columbus Day weekend. My new website is up and running although I have to wait until Wednesday for the domain name to be released from the current web host and then I can officially import it into my new web host. I had no idea how involved this process was going to be and am grateful I have learned so much about technology and "behind the scenes" details that go along with web design. I have an ad running in the Paradise City magazine that will be mailed out next weekend and it looks like my switch will be completed before the magazines are received, that was my main objective in the timing of all these changes.

My new website continues to be updated, tweaked, and improved - Fine Art by Robin

There is a local show every Labor Day weekend, 12 Hours of Art on Marblehead Neck, and I plan on checking it out later today. I participated several years ago, that was an "almost" hurricane weekend too, and it was also the official end to my Labor Day show participations! I am so glad the weather is picture perfect for these artists today.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ETA - 28 hrs. and counting!

Traffic at the boat landing in town

The media continues to alert the coastal residents of New England and the Massachusetts governor has officially declared a state of emergency. I tell you, I took my morning walk and all was serene and tranquil at the beaches, even tonight the water remains calm and inviting. The chaos I found was at the boat landing and the traffic to get the boats out of the harbor was crazy for such a small town like mine. I am hoping to document more as the storm approaches assuming it remains safe. And still, I have no time to focus on my creative process and my next art piece; this storm has been an exciting diversion.

More to follow...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Calm before the Storm

Low tide at King's Beach, Swampscott

I live on the north shore of Boston and it's not too often we have to worry about hurricanes. We get terrible winter storms known as "Nor'easters" and often times that brings in high winds with heavy snow fall; us hearty New Englanders are used to that! It seems like the media is making such a big deal out of the potential for this hurricane to cause damage and I will do whatever is recommend as we get closer to the late Friday arrival of the storm.

In the meantime, I just took a walk along the local beach and it truly does seem peaceful and calm. Most of the sailboats are still in the harbor and it will be curious to me if people start taking their boats out of the harbor in the next day or two. We have had daily rip tide warnings this week and even beach closings due to the under-tow and dangerous currents. It's hard to believe all this is happening when the water looks so peaceful right now. Maybe this will become the inspiration for my next artwork.