Late in 2012, I decided that painting 300 small, nearly daily paintings in 2013 will teach me to better identify key elements in my subject matter and record them in a timely manner on the canvas. I usually don’t make new year’s resolutions, believing it a recipe for failure to make a life change in such a “cold turkey” fashion, but these daily studies seem like a learning experience that can really benefit me, whether I make it to 300 or not. Finding Leslie Saeta’s blog post “30 Paintings in 30 Days” at http://lesliesaeta.blogspot.com/2012/12/thirty-paintings-in-thirty-days.html sealed my resolve to try it.
These are by no means masterpieces (I’d painted about four still lifes in previous 20 years!), but each has taught me something that will improve my skill with my usual subject matter- landscapes & livestock. I’ve learned to “dive in” rather than plan too much; the stress of trying to create something wonderful is releaved when I look at it as a quick study of form, color, edges and values. Learning this much after four paintings excites me and encourages me to continue on. See more of my work at www.sonjacaywood.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sonjacaywood.art and be sure to check out Leslie Saeta’s link above for many many artists taking the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.
#1: 8×10 oil, 1/1/13
Already this first painting seems dull in comparison to the next two. I love old, brightly colored dishes. This blue bowl cried for the bright orange of the cuties, which were deliciously sweet.
#2: 5×7 oil, 1/2/13
I finally have a reason to use the flea market finds I adore for their color and shape. This painting pleased me more than the first because of the addition of yellow & red.
#3: 5×7 oil, 1/3/13
I added my great grandma’s little orange creamer because I love it, and also because I’m thrifty, and had a lot of orange paint on my palette. I’m starting to see more reflected color on these shiny objects, and trying to trust the values instead of washing them out.
#4: 5×7 oil, 1/4/13
I changed it up today, having only a few minutes to spend in the studio after supper. This was my husband’s grandma’s little vase- termed a “butt” vase rather than a “bud” vase because of its unique shape. I should have spent more time on it, but I learned to choose shadow colors with more care in the future.
Roadblocks Encourage New Paths in the Direction of Our Dreams
Last April, my Special Ed director told me that I -and several other Special Ed. paras throughout our school district- would no longer have a job in the fall, as the district was removing aide positions. I was shocked, even though that very morning I’d asked myself on the way to work, “Would I ever quit my job if my art started selling?” Then I asked, “What would I do if I lost my job?” *(Insert theme from “The Twilight Zone” here.)
Though I’d always dreamed of being a full-time artist, I loved my 17 years with the school district. Seeing a student learn a tool to use in life- a method to tackle a problem or perform a task-whether an algebraic formula or following a recipe- was very fulfilling, but I’ve always known it’s not my “truest path.”
The weekend after the getting the news, I painted in my studio for around six hours, creating a large landscape in oil. Besides being therapeutic, as art always is, I realized that it would take me about 130 hours of working at the school to earn this painting’s retail value. It might take awhile to sell, but it’s not a loaf of bread or a cookie- it’ll keep. And if I really need money, I can lower prices or get some of those long-put-off commissions done. I began to realize, “Hey, this is possible.”
I began to prepare, which wasn’t difficult since I gave up playing hockey and sold our horses years ago to make art a bigger priority in my life. My summer job as a museum worker/information provider afforded me time to paint, and I put every spare dime into car payments or a savings account. I was blessed with many encouraging sales, mostly because knowing I wouldn’t have much income in the fall, I slashed prices to sell. I sold art to people from 10 different states over the summer, and one piece went to France- one that I’d painted from memory of a view from a classroom window, a view that as a teacher’s aide I’d only dreamed of painting.
I’ve been busier than ever with two art shows this fall, and the Christmas season approaching. My days are filled with obligations and duties that line up with my dreams- I couldn’t be happier. During the first week of school, I sold five paintings. To make that amount of money as a teacher’s aide, I would have had to work around 80 hours, or just over two weeks (and I made an excellent wage for classified staff). I imagined God reminding me of Jeremiah 29:11, “See? ‘I know the plans I have for you.'”
I know the winter may be long and dry in sales, or it might not. As one client told me, the work of establishing myself over the years (while working two jobs) has paid off.
I have a renewed love for domesticity- finally finding time for the house, the garden and flowerbeds. I’m at peace, and giddy with the prospect of being my own boss at least part of the time. People have asked me to give lessons and teach community art classes, which will get me through the financial dry spells and grant me some of the fulfillment I found in the classroom.
You know what they say about God closing doors and opening windows. What might seem like a tragedy at the time can be God’s way of putting you on your correct path. As to the question I’d asked myself on the way to work that morning, I doubt I would have weaned myself from that steady paycheck to pursue art. Without the job loss, I may have never known the feeling of going in the direction of my dreams or living the life I imagined.
My artsy daughter’s cheery 1973 Saab 96 was cannibalized in its past life, and came to us sans: side trim, five lug bolts, the hatch back latch and the original green front seats. To simply purchase common seat covers for so unique a car and driver would not do. I knew I’d discovered the solution when I found this afghan in a local thrift store for $5.
Supplies: elastic and stretchy fabric for a base cover, tape measure, scissors, a sewing machine, & a “rough plan” drawn out.
Next, I placed the afghan on the floor, (where Agnus (above) approved the color scheme) and carefully cut the yarn that bound the granny squares, leaving me with two long rectangles of afghan, each complete with fringe on three sides! This was a great blanket to use for this project, however, any conventional afghan could be used, providing that you stitch up any fraying edges where cuts were made, or use a zigzag stitch before you cut, then reinforce it good when you sew it together.
Using black yarn, I sewed a “pocket” from the top two thirds of the rectangle, which became the back of the cover. I was lucky in that the width of the seat matched the width of the squares, making for tidy square edges. These seat covers need no fastening or elastic, as the extra row of squares hangs over the edge of the seat and the covers stay put. I love that the head rests of the old Saab came out, so we didn’t have to account for covering them too, which would have taken more blanket than I had.
Happy Car! Total Cost: about $8; Time: around 3 hours total. Now if only the carburetor was such an easy fix.