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!

Featured in Plein Air Magazine's!

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!

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!

Plein air on Brown's Island

I realize I have been pretty delinquent with my blog these last couple of weeks, and I still need to share the final of my latest Tuscany studio painting. I won't bore you with any personal details, but suffice it to say that some of the other "stuff of life" kept me out of the studio and away from the computer for a bit. But I'm happy to say things seem to be normalizing again, and with that has also come a break in the weather. After weeks of blazing heat and mosquito-loving humidity, the air has actually been cool in the mornings! The days still warm up by noon but the heat doesn't stick to you. I am sure it won't last but right now it feels like September. So to celebrate on Friday, I made a break for some plein air painting on the river.

Before I had my daughter, when I was doing a lot more plein air painting, one of my favorite local painting destinations was the James River Park system. It still calls to me, so even though I can often feel pressed for time to even complete my studio paintings, when the opportunity knocked for some time to paint en plein air on a gorgeous day, I had to take it.

I must say though I felt pretty rusty and out of practice. First, I unwisely did not prepare the night before, so I had none of my gear together. It took me about half an hour to get everything packed. Then I forgot to tell the sitter this or that, so that delayed even leaving the house. Then I had the good angel/ bad devil battle inside my head as I tried to wimp out of going down to the river at all:

Devil: It's too late. By the time you get down there and set up all of the good light will be gone.

Angel: It's not THAT late. It's still morning light, just do it!

Devil: You don't even know where you're going to paint. You'll be lugging this load of gear around for hours trying to find a spot to set up.

Angel: Where we are going there are a dozen or more painting possibilities. The hardest job will be deciding what to paint.

Devil: Shut up, Angel.

Angel: Right- plein air painting it is!

This is the same kind of argument that goes on inside my head when driving to the gym. And like exercising at the gym, plein air painting is an exercise that demands a lot of practice before you really see the results you envision, or feel in the zone. The first two (or twelve) times you practice you still feel flabby and out of shape, and maybe a little frustrated. But then one day you start to notice that you are toning up and actually improving, and you are encouraged to go further and maybe even up the ante.

Well I admit I feel somewhat flabby at the moment (both literally and figuratively, though I have to say that plein air painting is still a lot more fun than going to the gym!) Nevertheless, As you may have guessed, the good angel won the argument. Here's the painting:

James River plein air painting by Jennifer Young "James River Overlook, Brown's Island" Oil on Canvas, 12x9"

As the title would suggest, I painted this piece at the James River park on Brown's island. It's more of a study than a "finished" piece, but it was so great to just get out there and make the attempt.

We have had a lot of rain this summer, so the river has been pretty brown and swollen. To get this view I set up on the footbridge that leads out to an overlook on the James River and acts as a historical Civil War marker telling the story of the fall of Richmond in 1865. I think it is a really inventive and powerful exhibit, entitled "Three Days In April 1865".

"Along this bridge, the events of the first week in April 1865—when Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, fell to the Union army—are recounted in the words of people who were present at the time. Some were witnesses and others participants as the Confederates evacuated the city, the Union army marched down Main Street, and enslaved Richmonders gained their freedom."

I set up on this footbridge, which was technically the exhibit. You can see my approximate vantage point at this link. I'm not totally certain that my site selection would have been approved by the museum curators had anybody been policing the site, but luckily I didn't leave a trace of having been there (other than this painting, of course)!

Under the Bridge

Well, instead of blogging I have been tearing my hair out trying to figure out why my blog's RSS feed has not been updating. As a result, I did not get to do any progress blogging on this painting. But here it is, a new Venice painting that I managed to complete in between the hours of frustration:

Venice, Italy painting by Jennifer Young

"Under the Bridge, Venice" 24x20", Oil on Linen

I was going through my archives of former paintings and found a little painting I had done a while back of a single boat beneath a lovely footbridge. I thought it might be nice to expand on that idea on a 24x20" canvas. I really enjoyed creating this new piece. While the boat is still featured, I was able to add a little more context and show more of the background. I really thought I would hate painting those rails, but once I figured out the design and started painting in the highlights, I rather had a good time.

As for my feed, we are still trying to figure out the best solution (though it will definitely not be feedburner!) If you are an email subscriber and received this post in your email box, then I've made progress, at least. If not, there's probably a bit more hair-pulling in my future.

Feed problems? RSS readers take note!

It  appears that my last post on my recent wine label commission isn't appearing in my RSS feed, and thus, didn't get disseminated to my email subscribers either. As I am really excited to share this project, and I'd like to get to the bottom of this problem I am having with my blog feed, I hope you will forgive me if I send out this test post. I'm trying to see if there was just some sort of formatting issue with the last post or if indeed it is true that Google is no longer supporting Feedburner (which is where my blog feed gets redirected and disseminated.) Either way, I think the writing is on the wall and it is time to find a new solution to manage my blog subscriptions.

So change is in the air. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do this, but my plan is to leave Feedburner altogether and just start using my original feed. If you currently subscribe to my blog using RSS, please change your feed subscription to link directly to my original feed:

If you subscribe to my blog by email, there should be nothing you need to do at present with your subscription (so long as I do this right!) But if there is any change, I will be sure to notify you in advance. I don't have an enormous subscriber list, but I will do what I can to keep every one of you!

In the meantime, if you would like to see the Tuscany paintings I did for Frances Mayes' Tuscan Sun Winesfollow this link!

Lake Como W.I.P. & Demo

I mentioned in my last post that I had a new painting in the works, and I thought I'd attempt a little demo with this one. I say "attempt" because my laptop finally gave up the ghost, and these days I tend to do a lot of my writing via my mobile. Not only am I "all thumbs" (literally) but I have to sneak it in before my phone gets snatched away by the chubby little hands of my daughter who wants to "see pictures" whenever she sees it emerge from my pocket. This will be a painting of the beautiful fishing village of Pescallo. Pescallo is a tiny, sleepy  little place that sits just down the slope from Bellagio (also very beautiful). In fact, I could see Pescallo from the balcony of my Bellagio hotel, and the drama of the light as it poured over the mountains and harbor beckoned me to take a stroll down there many mornings before we started the day's touring.

I begin by sketching out a compositional plan that is also a value plan for the painting. I do this using light, middle, and dark value gray oil paints in my sketchbook. I often do a similar thing with Tombo pens (the grayscale ones), but mostly when I am painting outdoors as a way to quickly hone in and get a handle on my composition (in an environment that is bombarded with stimuli). But it is a good practice with studio work too. The oils are mentioned in Kevin Macpherson's book, "Landscape Painting Inside and Out," and I have long wanted to buy these paints so I could give it a try. They are Portland Gray Light, Medium, and Deep, by Gamblin. Hey, if it's good enough for "KMac", (as my husband calls him) it's good enough for me!

notan sketch

The point of this is to see if your painting has a strong underlying structure with a unifying value plan without getting bogged down in details. This is really supposed to be more of a notan sketch at this stage, which is a very simplified thing and addresses more of the armature of the painting rather than the pinpoint accuracy of objects and shapes. It's been a while since I've done this kind of study, and I realized at some point that I had not allowed much for the fourth value I was working with, which was the white of the paper. Oops! So I had to amend my sketch a little and add in some white for the lightest areas.

Still, I feel that my plan is solid and I'm ready to move forward by sketching out a line drawing on my 24x30" canvas.

oil sketch lake como painting by Jennifer Young

For this I am using burnt sienna (Winsor Newton), thinned with Gamsol mineral spirits. I don't much use this earth color in the rest of my painting stages, and while I could mix up  a good earth for such a job using my standard red, yellow, and blue, it is more of a convenience for me to use a premixed paint at this preliminary stage. I also like it because it lends a nice warm undertone to the canvas as I go along, and it doesn't bleed into my other colors (especially the light ones like the sky) when I move beyond the sketching stage.

Now that I have a plan, I am ready to start painting with color! I'll get into that in the next post .

The artist/parent conundrum

Well, it's finally happened. This week we sent our baby off to preschool. Right now it's only two half days a week, but still it has been a week of mixed emotions. It's hard to send her out into the world without me nearby, but on the other hand, I can enter my studio for a few precious, blissful hours without interruption. Ahhh! Once we get into a groove, (and get past the tears that come with each parting) we should be able to arrange a schedule where Dad takes her to school on his way to work, while Mom starts painting and doesn't have to stop for 4 or 5 hours. Heck, I may even be able to take my easel outdoors this fall and actually do some plein air painting! It feels like its been a long road to get to this point, both in terms of health and time to work. And yet, I look at my daughter and marvel at how quickly she has grown. She's only two, but she's definitely not a baby any more.

In my next post I will share with you a new painting I've gotten under way during this momentous week. But before I get back to the "art" part of my art blog, I just want to put a shout out to all of those artist moms and dads out there who may struggle to find a balance between being a dedicated primary caregiver to a child and being a creative artist dedicated to their craft.

First of all, hats off to you! It is a tough balancing act. If I had any advice to give to anyone who is struggling to find the time and energy to do creative work while also being the primary caregiver to a child, it would be this: Lower your expectations and don't give up.

Now that may not sound very inspirational, but hear me out. After I had my daughter, I fully expected to get back to my painting in full swing after about 6 months or so. But when my health took a nose dive, it was all I could do most days to parent my daughter and give her some Q.T., and get hot meals on the table (after which point I promptly collapsed in a heap). And on top of feeling really physically awful most days over the past 2 years, I made myself feel worse by being horribly disappointed in my inability to develop a routine of steady work. (What was wrong with me? I "should" be able to do this! ) Had I been gentler and adjusted my expectations to allow for my situation, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and emotional angst, and perhaps even possibly hastened my recovery. (Not to mention that feeling rotten about yourself isn't exactly an environment for creative bursts of energy, either).

On the second point, don't give up; sooner or later you will find a groove with yourself and your family. It may be a groove that will need constant tweaking, but some sense of rythm WILL happen. It may not happen as quickly as you want, but one day you will blink and your once tiny, helpless infant will be playing quietly by herself here and there (in between running around tearing the house down ;-) ). Gasps for air will give way to moments of breathing space and then at some point actual stretches of uninterrupted time.

Thankfully I seem to be finding my way out of the worst of the health issues now and am actually sleeping again and feeling a lot better. But nothing is like it was b.b. (before baby). I don't have the flexibilty of time and freedom that I used to have. Now I am the one who has to be flexible, and I have to manufacture stretches of time by getting up extra early to make it happen. Any blogs I do write are usually done via my mobile, written piecemeal in short bursts. But with the right attitude and a little bit of creative scheduling, it is happening, and for that I am extremely grateful!

When my daughter was an infant, I would again and again be told this same phrase by veteran parents: "It goes by fast." And it does. When you are in the trenches dealing with colic and diapers and nursing and zero sleep and no time to shower, you might not think so. But it really does. So enjoy the moments with your child and appreciate the moments you can find to feed the Art Spirit. Nurture both as best you can and you may find them growing stronger and more vibrant with each passing day.



"Happy Faces", by 2 year old Eva

Season's Greetings

It's hard to believe that in just a few days' time, Christmas will be upon us, and we will shortly after ring in a new year. I need only look at the cherubic face of my daughter,  a near-18 month old very active toddler,  to find truth in the saying "time flies". Her progress has been great and swift. I can't say the same for my painting or my blog this year, but that is life. I have (thankfully) been busy with some commissioned work this fall and winter, so the studio isn't completely covered in cobwebs. But time has been tight and consequently the blogging has suffered (as it is plain to see). So to the readers who are still with me, I feel like I should offer my apologies.

I can sometimes feel a little sad when I reflect on it, because up until the last year or two I had devoted quite a bit of time to this blog, trying to find things thoughtful or useful or interesting to post that could actually help or inspire someone else. There have been times this year when I stumble upon old blog posts and marvel at their length and how indepth some of them were. I find myself thinking, "Geez, I had a lot of time." Time, now, is an elusive stranger, and I have struggled these last twelve months or so to wrangle it, without, I'm afraid, much success.

The truth of the matter is, that along with motherhood (which, while incredibly rich and rewarding,  still feels very much like a new shoe in need of breaking in) I am also dealing with some health issues. While not immenently  life-threatening, they are nonetheless, significant enough and  have really thrown a wrench in my ability to wear multiple hats. So when push comes to shove and I only have a finite amount of energy to devote to either art or motherhood, motherhood wins hands-down (and rightfully so).

I have to admit, I am not really a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of person and I don't go much for "diary-entry" type posts on my blog. It's supposed to be an art blog, after all, right? I also learned in my "professional artist" training that if you want to be successful, you must present yourself that way. So with that intention, my plan has always been to keep things mostly on a professional level here. But as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while  you are busy making other plans."  And I just felt that it is better to tell it like it is rather than to have you just think I have neglected blogging because I just lost interest or something.

I feel certain that I'll find a way to overcome the health issues and, in time, get my energy level back. I feel just as certain that I will return to the easel and the blog on a more regular basis, as I am still carrying a very big torch for painting.

In the meantime, I am enjoying being Santa to the  smart, funny, amazing little cherub running around my house inspiring me to be a better person, (and to get to feeling better so that I can chase her around and maybe even catch her once in a while!) And, in addition to my little girl and my wonderful husband, I have another forever-kind-of-love in painting, that is ready for me when I am. My wish to everyone reading this is that your life is equally as rich and full.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy 2012 to all!

Independence Day

It was hot and humid and overcast. Our baby had been sick part of the week prior and through the long weekend with a 102 degree fever and hand, foot and mouth virus. And to top it all off, we woke up on July 4th sticky and without power from a tremendous summer storm the night before. But believe it or not, I had a great morning, as I was allowed the privilege of escaping getting outside early to do this little plein air painting.

 plein air painting of water by Jennifer Young "Pond Reflections" Oil on board, 12"x9" Click here for more info, or just contact me to purchase.

The location is Young's Pond in nearby Bryan Park. I've painted this location before a number of times, and this approximate scene once before, which you can see here. There were a number of nearby spots I could have chosen, but on an overcast day it's nice to paint a water effect, as then you have some luminosity built in, when the light is otherwise fairly flat.

I spent about 3 hours on site working on this piece, which was longer than I normally would do on location. But I think the combination of fairly steady light conditions, and my private glee at having the entire morning completely to myself kept me lingering longer than I would have otherwise.

Here's a shot of my setup right before I started.

plein air painting setup

Next time I would like to get out even earlier than I did, to try and capture that wonderful atmosphere (aka humidity) before it settles into just plain old hot heavy air. But with a baby, you gotta do what you gotta do, and I was happy to get out at all. My setup has remained pretty consistent over the years, with my Soltek easel still being my go to plein air easel due to the ease of use and quick setup time.

The sun made its appearance often enough that shading myself, my painting, and my palette was a concern. I brought my umbrella with me, but it is a pain to set up and doesn't really work that great with the Soltek (one of the easel's down-sides...I've yet to find a really compatible umbrella that can attach to it without falling over.) So If I can get away without, I usually do. This often means avoiding standing in the blazing sun, even if it means forgoing a preferred view. Otherwise my painting ultimately suffers (not to mention my skin.)

In this photo I've set up my painting panel so that the sun (when it peeks out) is behind it, making it shaded. I am relatively shaded by tree branches overhead. Since I am right-handed, my subject is to my left, so that I am not having to reach across my painting when I look/paint. Often times I can shade my palette simply by wedging another panel between it and my painting. In this case I am using a flat wet panel carrier called the Art Cocoon.

This is actually a pretty neat concept for a wet panel carrier, which I read about some time ago on another artist's blog (when I still had time to read them) owned by Ed Terpening . The advantage is that you can use the carrier for different sized paintings with the provided inserts, and it is nice and lightweight and not bulky. But the down side for me is that it is made out of cardboard, which eventually warps (especially in our hot Virginia climate) and when that happens it stops protecting the painting effectively.

For that reason, my go-to wet panel carrier is still the RayMar. It's a little more expensive, and bulkier, but still lightweight. And its coroplast construction means that while it won't last forever, it lasts a good long time and doesn't warp.

Little things

My painting (and posting) has been so sporadic lately that there are times when I am tempted to just announce a summer hiatus once and for all. At least this way, (I say to myself) I can engage myself fully in mothering an already active baby (who is soon to be an even more active toddler) and I won't have this anxious, "torn between two worlds" feeling when I can't make it to the easel (or produce anything noteworthy when I do). But the hubby doesn't think this is a good idea, and doubts I'd be happy with not painting at all, if even for a couple of months. He's probably right, but that still leaves me with trying to figure out how to enjoy the time I have in these two seemingly opposing life roles, without the anxiety I sometimes have that I am not doing well enough at either one. So I was taking my baby out for a stroller ride not long ago, and ran into a neighbor, who is also a mother, and happens to be a very fine artist. We have exchanged pleasantries a few times, but this was our first actual introduction and chat. We spent a good deal of time talking about the ups and downs of being both a working artist and a mother . We talked about finding the time and the peace of mind to be fully engaged in both roles, and perhaps most importantly, to enjoy the process along the way. I asked her if she felt that her work had changed as a result of having had a child.

"Oh yes!" she replied, "For quite a while I had to paint a lot smaller. "

This may sound like a punchline, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. Before the baby, I had become accustomed to painting small in the field and using my studio work to develop my ideas and studies into larger scale works. As a landscape painter, my feeling was, why paint small landscapes inside if I can paint the same small scale from life?

But at present, plein air opportunities have been few and far between, so often it is studio work or no work at all.  While I never really paint HUGE, I have struggled with my studio sessions, as they are both shorter in length and spread farther apart. Often enough I have found myself spending a good deal of a studio session just trying to get the painting opened up enough to start working on it again...just in time to clean up!

So, it makes sense, for the next little while, to try and work on a few small things. They may not all be landscapes, (and who knows? They may not all be oil paintings) but at least I will still be doing something.

So that is my commitment to you, dear reader. I will do something instead of nothing. And furthermore, I will post it here often enough so that you know I am still alive. How's that for an inspirational statement of purpose? Sorry, but this is the best I can do right now. ;-)

Even if it's just a little thing, it will hopefully keep the creative juices flowing, and perhaps make it easier to develop some skills that need brushing up, or to experiment with various designs, compositional choices and different color palettes. In the very least, I will get the satisfaction of having finished something!

Tuscany landscape painting olive groves

"Evening Light, Tuscany" Oil on linen, 6x12" Click here for more info, or just contact me to purchase.

Of Paint and Palette Knives

Here is a recent message I received from a reader that I thought I other blog readers might find of interest: Q: Can you tell me if you use painting knives or if it is all done with brushes? And do you have a favorite brand of paint? -N.M

A: Hi N.M-I paint primarily with a brush, but here and there I have been using the palette knife as a painting tool (rather than just a tool for mixing). If you can get your hands on Richard Schmid's video on painting the landscape (June in particular), he has an excellent demonstration of how he uses the palette knife in his paintings. I am experimenting with his technique (as I understand it) but, not for every painting. So I wouldn't call myself a palette knife painter by any means.

As for paint brands, I'm looking at my paint bins now, and I see Winsor Newton, Gamblin, Holbein, Daniel Smith, M. Graham, Rembrandt, and Old Holland! I probably use Winsor Newton and Gamblin most often, but I have had good experiences with all of the above. I often base my decision on which brand to buy by the pigment I am after. Some pigments seem to be pretty particular to one brand. But even paints that go by the same name can vary quite a lot in hue, value, or color temperature. For instance, Winsor & Newton's Cadmium Yellow Light is warmer and I believe, a bit darker than Gamblin's, which is more lemony. That's not necessarily better or worse-- it all depends on what you're after.In any case, I make sure that I buy professional grade paints, rather than student grade. They are more expensive, but there is a big difference in quality.

I hope this helps, and happy painting!

Back to Tuscany; Vineyard W.I.P.

I think I will just make a deal with you readers (and, for that matter, with myself) to stop making lofty statements like, "I'm finally getting a regular schedule!" because something (like a 9 month-old cutting new teeth or reaching new milestones, for instance!) always seems to come up right afterwards. Still, I know I am fortunate to be able to do anything art-related at all, and  I have finally worked out my compositional pencil sketch for the next studio painting that  I thought I'd at least share. (Incidentally, I just want to say thank you to those of you who have sent me such nice, encouraging comments lately. I am glad to know that these W.I.P.s offer some interest. It's a format that works well for me in that it keeps me posting regularly here on the blog, so I will try to stick to it at least for a while.) This is again a scene of the visually dramatic area in Tuscany known as La Crete.

Tuscany pencil sketch

These little sketches are definitely not meant to be any kind of finished drawings, but with all the stops and starts in studio time nowadays, I am finding them really helpful. They help me to determine whether the composition will work , what I need to  edit out and include, how I might create interest with line,  light and shadow, etc. Though more detailed, they serve a similar purpose to the thumbnail sketches I have used from time to time while plein air painting.

Watercolorists know this approach well, but until recently it has typically not been my way with my studio oils. It takes a little bit more time when some days all I want to do is just dive right on into painting and get ON with it already! But with little sleep and even less free time, it's helped me to feel less disjointed and to backtrack less when I am standing in front of the easel, bleary-eyed with a cuppa jo, trying to get my brain to start.

In case you can't tell what this is to be, it's a vineyard in the fore with a small outbuilding in the middle ground and a little Tuscan hamlet in the distance. What interested me most about this scene is the movement of line from front to back. There is a lot of information in this scene, (maybe too much? We'll see...) and not much sky at all to speak of, so I feel that in order to make my present plan work I should use a canvas of at least 24x30". Well, that's a whole lot of writing for such a simple little sketch, but what can I say? Baby girl has napped well this morning. :-)

My greatest work

Well I am about six weeks out from having delivered my greatest work. World, meet Baby E.:

So this explains the silence lately here on the blog. Silence isn't exactly an adjective I'd use to describe our household right now, however. Miss E. is wonderful, but quite demanding at the moment. Between nursing, quite a bit of colic, and Mom and Dad's total lack of decent sleep, I haven't much time or brain-power to even think about painting! But it will come.

In fact, things are slowly getting more manageable, so we are at a point now where we can begin the process of finding some help so that I can get back to work. If all goes well, I will be back in the studio two or three days a week some time this fall. Meanwhile, motherhood is wonderful, and very hard, and like nothing else I have ever experienced.  The baby is very healthy and sweet, and the delivery went off without a hitch; so for this I am very grateful.

To those of you who still check in here from time to time, I appreciate it!! In case you are wondering, I DO have plans to revive my painting career, and this blog along with it, so I hope you'll keep checking. I'll be back...

A Game-Changer

"How long did it take you to paint that?" I think any artist who has been painting for a while has to have heard that question a million times. I always find it a little hard to answer, because the question seems to imply a kind of value judgement, such as "paintings that take longer are worth more" (which isn't always the case.) But if I were to answer the question in regards to the painting below, I'd have to say that it's taken about 3 months. More aptly put, 1 trimester.

Yes, that's right...Back in early November we received some surprising and life-changing news. Turns out we're expecting our first born, due in July of 2010! Having been married for 15 years with no expectations of having children, let's just say we were happily surprised!

What it has meant for me professionally (at least in the short run) is that my painting came to a screeching halt for the rest of the last quarter and the early part of 2010. Not only did I feel oil painting (with solvents) to be not good for the developing fetus, I was so constantly nauseated and exhausted that I had no  problem staying out of the studio altogether. Heck, even sitting at the computer for any amount of time gave me some serious vertigo, so I had no choice but to unplug for much of last quarter as well.

What it will mean for me in the future is a little unknown. I'll still be an artist, but this one's certainly a game-changer, at least in terms of the way I'll play it. For sure there will be more periods of absenteeism once the baby makes her big debut. For now, I'm in my 2nd trimester and have both better stamina and the blessing of my obstetrician to get back to work, so I am finally tip-toeing back into the studio to have a  go at painting again. Here's my first attempt, after a "pregnant pause"; a painting of lovely Lake Como:

Italian landscape painting Lake Como Italy

"Gilded Afternoon, Lake Como" Oil on linen, 24"x20" SOLD

So...since it took me all these months to finish, do you think I can charge more? Nah....I'll just price it as per usual. Mama needs a new nursery! ;-)

Updates and shopping cart dilemmas

Still here...though life has taken me on a series of little joy rides lately and sadly required time off from the studio, and out of the field as well. In the meantime, I have at least begun to work on my website again in the wee hours, and I've made some changes I've long intended to make. I've cleaned up some code and have big plans for my site that are yet to come (as in a complete redesign!) But meanwhile, one of the immediate visible changes I've made was to add a plein air paintings section to my website. Here, finally, are the series of plein air paintings I've worked on over the last while, now in one place instead of scattered about on my blog and on a select few pages on my main site.

The other thing I've worked with over the last couple of weeks is experimenting with different online shopping carts-- to the point of tearing out great swaths of hair. In the end, none of the "reasonably priced", "easy to use" (read: hosted) shopping carts that I tested really worked for me, though there were  a few interesting options that I might have considered if I did not already have such an extensive website. One of the more interesting ones that seems to be used by a number of artists and creatives is Big Cartel.  It is a hosted cart, meaning that purchases would need to be made "off site", away from the user's website. If you're an artist looking for such a solution, it might be worth a peek. From what I saw of it, it is attractive and fairly easy to use. One drawback, however, is that there is a product limit of 100, which is not much considering that if you would like to offer several options for one item (for instance, matted, framed, or unframed) they'd have to be listed as three separate products. Of course, there are many other possible e-commerce solutions as well (for artists and craftspeople, Etsy also comes to mind.) But all of the cheaper solutions tend to require that you upload all of your products to their site. Makes sense, I suppose. But for me it would be too time consuming and frankly pretty redundant, as I already have my paintings uploaded to both my site and blog.

In the end, it seemed just as easy to tear my hair out adding one-option  Paypal Buttons to my exisiting site. It ain't fancy, but it's a start. This update is made a little easier using WebAssist's Paypal Extension for Dreamweaver.  My strategy is to start out by populating my site with shopping cart buttons for my smaller offerings, and then gradually work on adding them to all of my available paintings pages as time permits, with the hopes of making the site more online shopping-friendly. Only time will tell if it is a strategy that is worth the extra effort involved, but hopefully I'll gather some clues so that I'll know whether a more robust solution is worthwhile when it comes time to give my site a major overhaul. I'm still in the testing/updating stage for the simple shopping cart that exists now, but so far so good. Oh, and to kick off the cart, I'm offering free one-way shipping in the Continental U.S. for a limited time. :-).

Small works invitational

There's been a lot happening around here so unfortunately the blog neglect has continued! I do hope to ramp up to more regular posting (and painting!) by early next week. Meanwhile, here are two new little Key West pieces I've done for a small works holiday invitational that opens at the Miller Gallery on November 20th in Cincinnati.

key west oil painting by Jennifer Young

"The Shady Side" Oil on Canvas, 6x8"

Key West oil painting by Jennifer Young

"Towering Bougainvilla" Oil on Canvas, 6x8"

I am so honored to show my work in such a lovely looking gallery alongside artists of such fine caliber. Check them out!


I'll be traveling the next couple of weeks and I have a million things to do to get ready. But the weather has been so beautiful that in spite of my chores, I can't resist going outside. I returned to the James River site near Tredegar to do another piece under the railroad bridge, this time in early morning:

plein air painting of the James River Richmond by Jennifer Young

"Coexistence" Oil on Linen, 12x12" SOLD

Unlike the painting posted the other day, there were no "bathers" this time (none of the human variety, at least). But there's still something about this place that really appeals to me. I think it's the contrast I enjoy --this juxtaposition of the urban structures and natural forms, coexisting, at least for that moment, peacefully and rather beautifully.

I'll be leaving this weekend for our annual beach trip to the OBX (Hatteras Island) then home for a couple of days, and off again to Paint Annapolis. I'll bring my laptop with me and certainly I plan to paint throughout that time. IÂdo hope to keep posting here and there, at least during the beach portion. With travel, I never know what kind of resources I'll be dealing with though, so we will see. Oh, and there is this thing called "relaxing", which I've heard is a rather nice past-time. I just might give that a try at the beach too!

Painting again! Plein air @ Lewis Ginter

Well, I think I am back from my "blog break" now. I even took a brief painting break as well to get some much needed rest and physical therapy for my neck/shoulder/arm troubles. But since I'm, also feeling the need to excercise my "plein air painting muscles" for the upcoming Paint Annapolis event, I'm trying to ease back into outdoor painting again.  Here's a happy little vignette I did this week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:

Plein air garden painting by Jennifer Young

"Garden Companions" Oil on board, 12x8" sold

The botanical garden is really gorgeous right now and full of summer blooms. Even so, I had to forgo a lot of really good potential painting opportunities in order to find a spot of shade. The August sun and my fair complexion do not get along for any length of time, so shade is a real must. My painting umbrella does little more than shade my canvas and easel, leaving the rest of me high and dry (or hot and bothered, or whatever!)

I finally managed to tuck myself into a little corner to paint this potted urn surrounded by purple cone-flower, perennial grasses and towering hibiscus. Is it a landscape or a still life? Your call. Any way, it's rather wild and impressionistic. Guess I was happy to be painting again. :-) I'll upload it to the website this weekend, but meanwhile contact me for purchasing inquiries. (Note: It is done. See the link above!)

Ahh, oops, ah-ha, and ouch!

I have one more work to share today from the group I'll be taking to North Carolina for the "All Things French" show next week. This was done alla prima. More fun with light and shadow, and lots of paint! Ah, it's been such fun revisiting these lovely places through the act of painting them.

landscape painting southern france by Jennifer Young "Coleurs dus Sud" Oil on linen, 20x24" sold

For this painting and the last one I posted, I experimented with an interesting double primary palette- Titanium white, Cad Yellow Pale, Golden Ochre (Rembrandt) , Organic Vermillion (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone Rose, Ultramarine Blue, and Manganese Blue (Old Holland).  I must say it was a lot of fun playing with these different colors. The gold ochre is dangerously lovely, and the organic vermillion was nice change up from cad. red light. In fact, it's similar, but the tinting strength isn't quite as strong so in some ways it was easier to use.

I went with this palette for a couple of reasons, but the key word is "economy". First it's an economy of time. The increasing pain in my arms was making it difficult to spend an inordinate amount of time mixing certain colors, even though I've learned enough about color mixing to know how to acheive most of what I need. I almost never use any color directly from the tube any way, but it helped to have a premixed earth, for the buildings for instance, and when such warmth in the scene predominates.

Second, it's an economy of money. I mentioned before that I have a lot of art supplies that kind of fell by the wayside once I discovered some preferred methods and materials, but now I'm starting to revisit those supplies to try and economize where I can. All of the paints and substrates are archival, quality materials, but I do have some far-out tubes of colors--some dating back to before I started painting landscapes!

The paint department at the Lowe's hardware store near our house has something they call the "oops bin". These are mixed paints of specialty colors that presumably didn't come out as expected. I guess you could say that I have my own "oops bins".  After limiting myself to nothing much larger than a double primary palette for years (without much variation), I think it's time to mine some of these strange old friends. Maybe the "oops" will even lead to some ah-ha's along the way!

p.s. I think I'm narrowing down what the problem in my arms might be. Unfortunately it's not limited to just my arms and hands, but radiates from my neck and shoulders all the way down both sides. It's taken a couple of days to write this post, so suffice it to say that my blogging will slow down a bit for a while. (I know I said that before but I really mean it this time!)  Sadly, I will probably have to take a brief rest from painting too. And gardening. I'm typically not too good at "resting" so let's hope I don't go nuts in the interim!