On Color and Social Media, Obsession and Restraint

Is it possible to be addicted to a paint color? I'm not sure that's a good thing, as I don't like the feeling of being overly-dependent on anything.  So I am really trying to temper my use, while at the same time exploiting the values of having it around. This also describes my experience with Social Media, and particularly with Facebook. I imagine Facebook still has some value to the small business, but on a personal level, it can prove a real time-waster, not to mention maddening, irritating, and downright invasive. On a personal level it's also a source of inspiration and community and sharing, which is why I joined up in the first place. But it is really hard in this case to exploit the positives while also avoiding the darker temptations and traps, so I am limiting myself overall.

 "Afternoon Breeze, Rockland Breakwater", Oil on linen, 20x24"

"Afternoon Breeze, Rockland Breakwater", Oil on linen, 20x24"

For a long time I was resistant to jumping on the Facebook bandwagon. And it could be argued that when I finally did sign on, I may have come in at the tail end of an era where the platform provided a real benefit to small businesses for little to no investment other than a bit of time. As time went on, though, Instagram and Facebook began to replace blogging for me. After all, it was faster and seemed likely to reach many more people quicker than I could through blog subscribers alone. 

 "Forsythia and Blue Delft", Oil on linen, 20x24"

"Forsythia and Blue Delft", Oil on linen, 20x24"

That's still an argument that can be made, but aside from the fact that Facebook is very much in the headlines these days, (and for reasons that are not all that flattering to the company) it seems harder and harder to find the same kind of reach that one could find in the good old days. I guess that's by design, in order to tempt users to buy ads. That's fine. It's a business model, and business is business I suppose.

But the price to be paid goes beyond money. It's the price of time, and yes, privacy. Say what you will about the fact that "nothing is private online." I don't argue with that or hold any illusions. I have never taken the silly quizzes or posted anything deeply personal that I haven't minded sharing. I understand that all of my info that I share is "out there". What bothers me is that my privacy decisions affect the privacy of my friends and vice-versa. Not only that but friends of friends. And not only them, but it turns out Facebook will even track the internet habits of people who never signed up for the service at all. That bothers me.  Facebook argues that anyone can go in and lock down third party apps and ultimately control a lot of what is shared. I have gone in and done that as much as I am capable of understanding how to do it. The problem is that in doing so, it renders the ease of sharing posts across platforms nearly impossible without spending an excessive amount of time on it.

Aside from all of that, I've found that my over-reliance on an outside platform to promote my work has resulted in the neglect of my self-hosted blog, and to a lesser extent, my website and even my studio time. I'm so incredibly short on time these days, and, let's face it, even peeking at your news feed or groups makes Facebook  a real time-suck.

Truth be told, I'm not sure how many people even read blogs any more, but I feel they still hold value, and think it would be a good idea to give blogging another shot. My hope is that people who are truly interested in my work will come find me here on my own domain first, with social and search serving as feeders. That seems to be the way it should be, but it's not the way it's been. 

 "Winter Light at Stony Run Trail", Oil on linen, 20x24" 

"Winter Light at Stony Run Trail", Oil on linen, 20x24" 

I'm still sharing my work on social media (my preference these days is Instagram) but I'm going to step back from it a bit and give the old blog a little more love. As for the other obsession I mentioned, I have left a few clues for you in this post. These are a few of my recent paintings that I've shared on social media that I had neglected to blog about. The commonality among these pieces is the predominance of that certain color. Any guesses as to what it might be? Let me know in the comments and I'll 'fess up about it in my next post. 

Venetian market painting- a progression

It's taken me a while to get to blogging about this painting because after a disastrous automatic update to Windows 10 my computer died. It has actually been grinding to a halt for a while but it finally kicked the bucket for good last week and I have spent the past however many days trying to relocate my data and reinstall my applications. I am still operating on the bare minimum but at least I can blog again! I won't go on about it but just imagine to appropriate amount of ranting and hair-pulling and insert it here. Aaany-hoo, back to art!

I thought I'd post a little step-by-step demo of this piece because I actually had the forethought to take some progressive shots along the way. This one had a lot of figures and architecture in it, both of which might seem a bit overwhelming at first. But my reference photo also had a really nice value pattern, so by focusing on that first it made my job a lot easier. Here is the composition under way, put to canvas in monochrome with a brush and Gamsol:

mercatovenezianosketch_jenniferyoung

Next, I want to think in terms of light and shadow by separating out which parts of the painting are in the light (the light family) from which parts are in shadow ( the shadow family). I will start with the shadow family first. I learned this terminology from Kevin Macpherson, one of my teachers and a phenomenal painter. Phrasing it this way helps me to organize my thoughts and approach, beyond just saying "lights and darks". It's so helpful to see it this way because in actuality some things in shadow are quite light, though they are never lighter than what's in the light family.

mercato_veneziano_wip_jenniferyoung
mercato_veneziano_wip_jenniferyoung

I spend a lot of time working in the shadow family because so much of the strength of the painting is here. Only then do I start working in the light.

More stages next time. I hope you'll tune in as I work on lighting this bad boy up!

My studio featured on Houzz

A few weeks ago Houzz posted a discussion asking artists to share their hardworking studios. I participated in the forum with a few pics of my own studio space. A couple of weeks later an editor followed up with me directly and asked if I'd be interested in being included in another article. I was pretty flattered, and of course I said yes! If you are an artist looking for ideas for your own space, or even if you just enjoy looking at others' creative spaces, check out this article!

14 Home Studios That Nurture Creativity and Art

Featured in Plein Air Magazine's OutdoorPainter.com!

I'm on the road and struggling with mobile blogging right now, so I will keep this post brief. But I'm excited to announce that Plein Air Magazine has featured me and my work in their EZine article about "My Favorite Place to Paint".  The location may surprise you. Check it out! http://www.outdoorpainter.com/news/my-favorite-place-to-paint-jennifer-young.html

Happy 2014! A glance back and a look ahead

Happy New Year everyone! I'll be sharing my final post on the Tuscany painting I've been working on later this week. But since this is the first day of a brand new year, I thought I'd write about my one single solitary goal for this year. It isn't really even art-related, though it affects my art and pretty much everything else in my life. So I hope you bear with me while I meander off the art topic for a moment to tell you what it is:

To feel good.

I have alluded to my health struggles a couple of times on this blog, but since my goal will likely require a period of absence from posting, I feel like an explanation is due. After the birth of my daughter I was challenged with an autoimmune condition. While thankfully it isn't usually life-threatening, it can really diminish the quality of life, and, for the past three years, wellness has eluded me. In fact, I can count on two hands the days when I have woken up in the morning without chronic pain and utter, utter exhaustion. Layer on top of that a high energy tot who deserves time/love/attention from Mama, and the guilt and regret of not being able to give my all, either to her or to my former workhorse standards in my art career, and you have lots of gaps in studio hours and blog posts, and a lot of feeling not so good about myself in general.

In spite of all of that, 2013 was a phenomenal year for me, career-wise (go figure!) Some really neat show opportunities, and a big jump in sales made last year one of my best since the "bottom went out" in 2008. The Tuscan Sun Wine label project kicked off 2013 and came to me completely unexpectedly. It was a really exciting opportunity for which I feel extremely grateful and proud. But it required a tremendous amount of work in a very short window, and during that whole project I basically ran on fumes (and coffee). It was probably not the best thing I could have done for my health, but I just "powered through", waking at 5 am to work before the roosters (and my own little chickadee) rose, regardless of how little sleep I had gotten or how lousy I felt.

It's all worked out and I feel wonderfully blessed in my life. But I'm at a point where I'm really tired of "powering through", and I'm coming to realize that working smarter, not harder is not a "want" but an absolute must. This means taking some REAL time for some self care and really paying attention to managing my stress and health. Otherwise, I am not going to be able to maintain much of an art career or be a very good wife or mother, either.

I've had incremental health improvements in the past year, but I still have many, many days where I will take a nosedive and I can find nothing in particular that I have done to cause it. So starting next week I will be embarking on a month-long elimination diet, designed to identify foods that I may have unwittingly become sensitized to. I've had some "food allergy" suspicions lately and I have, for some, time eliminated gluten. But for the next month I'll add dairy, sugar and alcohol, legumes, and grains to that list of no-no's. If you want to know what's left to eat, you can read more about my game plan here. Now, I am a former vegetarian and I love my dark chocolate, my cheese and my good glass of red wine (hey, what can I say? I'm half French) so this whole concept ain't an easy one to swallow, so to speak. I already consider myself a pretty healthy eater, but this way of eating is going require a whole lot more time and effort. More cooking, a lot more planning, and I won't have all of those starches I relied upon to round out my family's meals (and get it quickly on the table).

So January is going to be all about food logs and meal plans and sourcing grass-fed, pastured what-nots, and less (or maybe none) about painting. It's possible my energy could go through the roof and I'll have so much excess that I won't be able to keep myself away from the easel. (Wouldn't that be nice?) But it's just as likely that things will get worse before they get better, so starting next Monday I'm giving myself a pass, officially, on painting for the next 30 or so days. Hopefully it will take less time than that for things to normalize, but I just don't know. In any event, it's my hope that the effort will be worth it and that I will be at least on the road to becoming a stronger, better, healthier happier person (and thus being a better, more focused artist.) And speaking of health and happiness, here's a gluten, alcohol, sugar-free (and then some) toast to yours in 2014 too!