For Everything, A Season

It’s been a difficult year. I guess I’m now at a point where I can finally write it down, but based on the June date of my last real blog post,😳 (aside from the occasional quick announcement) maybe it was already evident. June was when the reality settled in for me and my siblings that it was time to say goodbye (for now) to our beautiful, sweet, smart, creative mother, who had struggled with her illness in an acute form for over a year. I thought I was prepared, but no matter how well you understand the “reality” in front of you, there’s nothing that really prepares you for such a loss. With a little distance and time, I am still realizing how much it knocked the wind out of my sails, and I’ll admit that I am struggling to get my energy and my painting “mojo” back.

If you, yourself, are a creative of any kind, I’m sure you know that feeling of creative flow. It’s so great when it’s present and really kind of miserable when it isn’t. That’s not to say that I haven’t painted at all. In fact, the paintings I’m sharing in this post are from commissions and projects I worked on over the past few months. But it’s been hard to get that momentum going where gears are all greased and the ideas and inspiration just keep flowing and I’m chomping at the bit with my next idea.

I suppose there are art marketing gurus out there that say that you should never admit such things and always put your most successful foot forward. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” so to speak, and only share your successes and never the struggle. That can sometimes be helpful, but it’s not particularly authentic. Let’s face it, the struggle can be real and I would venture to say I am not the only artist who has been in this place.

If you are in this place also, my advice is to be gentle on yourself. Do the work that is in front of you, do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up that it’s just “not happening” for you every time you step in front of the easel (or the potter’s wheel or the computer). Celebrate the moments of inspiration in whatever form and for however long they come. This too will pass, but in the meantime, the only way past it is to get through it the best way you know how.

For me, I’m reorganizing my studio, working on an new inventory management system, and cleaning up the office as a way to clear out both the mental and physical clutter. As a result, I’m holding a holiday sale of smaller (mostly plein air) paintings with some great savings in hopes that I can manage my limited storage space and also hopefully send a few more pieces out into the world. I’m also working on a series of still life paintings, as they are less dependent on time of day and weather. More about that in future posts.

VIDEO- Art Talk; A Maine Experience

Happy Fall everyone! I have spent so much time traveling and painting this summer that I have hardly had any time to post except on the fly on social media. So these next few posts may actually be a bit of a summer recap. First up, Maine. As you may have read here and on social media, I spent a couple of delicious weeks in June painting the Maine Coast during an artist's residency on the island of Vinalhaven. 

Gallery Flux was kind enough to have hosted a pop-up exhibit of my work for this trip, as well as an artist's talk about my experience painting there. Even though it was a nice and intimate setting, I'm not all that comfortable with public speaking, but I actually had a good time, and the attendees were all very gracious and patient. Thank you to Gallery Flux for hosting me and making this little film. 

The paintings in this exhibit represent my impressions and experiences from the island of Vinalhaven, Maine, where I was fortunate to have spent a fortnight in June as an artist-in-residence. This video, taken at Gallery Flux in Ashland, Virginia is an artist's talk I gave in conjunction with my September show featuring paintings from my residency.  

Island Mystique

Some of the most romantic and beautiful moments of my Vinalhaven, Maine residency were when I awoke to see the island enveloped in mysterious fog. Attempting to paint that fog from life, however, takes actual work and perseverance. The shifting atmospheric effects on the land and the oh so subtle value ranges require astute concentration and alertness in the midst of the peaceful stillness. 

Not too far from where I was staying sat a lovely field of wildflowers fronting some wetlands. Purple-violet lupines, as beautiful as any hothouse flower, grow wild throughout the region in spring, as do buttercups, pink clover, daisies, Queen Anne's lace, and numerous other beauties I wasn't able to name. 

"Lupines in the Mist", Oil on linen, 11x14" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

"Lupines in the Mist", Oil on linen, 11x14" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

My 11x14" plein air piece (above) found its home on the island, but I wanted to return to that experience back in the studio while my memory of it was still fresh.  I painted the larger version with a slightly different angle to include the hint of wetlands in the background in order to give it a better sense of place. Click through on the image below for more info.

Rassawek Vineyard (plein air to studio)

There have been a number of occasions where my plein air paintings get stashed away for a while, only to be discovered when I can't stand the mess of my studio space any longer and (finally!) decide to instill some order. Such was the case with this little plein air study I did this past May at Rassawek Vineyard during its annual Spring Jubilee:

"Rassawek Vineyard, Study", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Rassawek Vineyard, Study", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

It was a challenging session, as I recall, because those clouds kept morphing and changing the light and becoming more ominous as time advanced. In fact, I had to close up before I intended, in order to make a dash for my car before the sky opened up (and indeed, it WAS just in time.)

Nevertheless, there was something nice about this that I wanted to explore further, as it was such a lovely setting. For the larger painting I was planning however, I wanted to zoom out a bit to show the expansiveness of the landscape. So I searched my photo archives to see if I could find the view I had in mind. Voila! I found what I was looking for, which also  included the roses marking the end of each row on the vineyard, (something I failed to note in the study.) I didn't get any progress shots of this painting because it has (ironically) been raining non-stop here for over a week, making the lighting insufficient for photography. In any event, I took a shot of the final studio piece outside during an all-too-brief pause in the rainfall.

"Rassawek Vineyard", Oil on linen, 30x40". ©Jennifer E Young

"Rassawek Vineyard", Oil on linen, 30x40". ©Jennifer E Young

More Plein Air to Studio

Last week I continued my quest to mine some of my favorite plein air paintings for larger studio pieces.  The inspiration piece was a little 9x12" Plein air painting I did in the spring down at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA:

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Spring Renewal", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

I really wanted to keep the same freshness in the larger 24x30" painting, so aside from referencing my photos for some of the branch formations, I used my Plein air piece as my main reference. Here is my setup, with the large and small side by side: 

renewal_wip_jenniferyoung

If it appears that I'm using a toned canvas, it is because I am painting on one that was a false start for a painting that turned into a wiper. I will often reuse canvases as long as there is just a thin, non-textured base. Anything with too much of a texture is distracting to me and can sometimes create adhesion issues. There is a good deal of impasto (thick paint)  passages on this canvas. Here is a detail in progress:

renewal_detail_jenniferyoung

And finally, here is the completed studio painting:

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Renewal", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young