Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Society6 - New Prints and Products




Today I set up a new shop on Society6.com.  I'm limiting the collection to my latest series and you can buy prints, stretched canvases, throw pillows, greeting cards, iPhone cases, laptop skins and more!





Visit my shop via the link below to receive free shipping through May 12th!

Love Song

©2013 Jessica Torrant
LOVE SONG
Acrylic, 16 x 20 inches

Friday, May 03, 2013

Week In Review 4/29-5/3

This was probably my most productive week ever!  Thanks to nearly perfect weather all week, I was able to really dedicate myself to painting every day.

Monday I completed this painting...

 ©2013 Jessica Torrant
THAT AND SO MUCH MORE
Acrylic, 16 x 20 inches

This was a fun piece that incorporated wet/drip techniques, sgraffitto, and palette knife painting.  

On Wednesday I completed this painting...

©2013 Jessica Torrant
THE SUN'S RETURN
Acrylic and oil pastel, 16 x 20 inches

Thursday this one came together... 

 ©2013 Jessica Torrant
THRIVE
Acrylic and oil pastel, 16 x 20 inches

And today (Friday) I worked on a larger canvas that is still a work in progress.  I like the movement and larger, gestural swatches of color.  I still want to keep working on this one, but hopefully I won't overwork it and lose some of that initial energy. Working on this piece makes me realize how much I want to work exclusively on larger scale canvases right now. 

You can find all of the above original paintings at www.jessicatorrant.com


I'll be spending the weekend with my family so everything has been put on pause until Monday.  I hope you enjoy your weekend and Happy Spring!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Between Two Worlds


©2013 Jessica Torrant
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
Acrylic and oil pastel on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

CLICK HERE for purchasing information - $350

Thursday, April 25, 2013

All of It

 

©2013 Jessica Torrant
ALL OF IT
Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches

Studio Clean-Up Round 2


If you read my last post you know I have been on quite the cleaning kick lately.  After getting the porch area cleaned out, I tackled the indoor area which was much more disheveled and disorganized.  I had a couch in this space that served no purpose (I never sat on it) so I took that out of there which opened up a LOT of space as well as the dresser that I moved out to the porch.



This is my new art storage area.  I used the shelving that originally went with the work table outside that perfectly lined up with the spacing between boards.  Foam core boards give some stability to the larger paintings on top and a piece of board was used on the bottom to connect the bottom shelves which keeps my 16x20's off the ground in the middle.  It's still not a perfectly ideal storage solution, but it's better than what I had been using.

 
I went through the dresser on the porch and organized each drawer.  Above (from left) you'll see one for brushes, one for drawing materials, and one for water media.


Here you'll see my new shipping/framing table with various tools, hardware and shipping supplies tucked below.  To the left is my stack of paintings that still need work and/or can be painted over.  They are right by the sliding glass door that leads out to the porch so they are ready to go with easy access.


Here is the view looking out to the porch.  On the left are paintings that need some TLC due to slight damage or other issues.  On the right are my canvases waiting to go and up above the door is a collection of trinkets I've collected and special paintings that remind me of my favorite places, people or states of mind.  An "inspiration shelf" if you will.


And finally, I just had to share this picture of my beautiful one eyed boy Leo who posed for me in front of the studio.  What you may not be able to get a sense of is the fact that his entire body is tense with anticipation of me throwing a frisbee in one hand while I snapped the shot with the other.  He looks so calm and docile here but in reality he was seconds away from sprinting full steam ahead after his wonderous flying friend.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Cleaning


When the forsythia blooms, that's when I declare Spring's official arrival.  Time to put your work clothes on, rake the lingering leaves, clean out gardens, and dig in the dirt!



I planted this humble little garden outside the porch area of my studio (the potted bulbs you see are now planted too).  Some colorful flowers and little trinkets make me smile and draw me out to the space.  Some extra personal touches include my grandmother's knitting needle holding up the sun sculpture, the frog that reminds me of my uncle (and a little painted stone that represents him watching over me).  I know my loved ones are always with me, but little things like this are just a visual reminder and tribute to them.



Lately I have been on a big "if you don't do it the right way, don't do it at all" kick when it comes to all things cleaning.  I will admit to years of only giving cleaning a cursory effort, which frankly is not nearly as rewarding.  So instead of just sweeping around furniture and wiping down tables, I took EVERYTHING out of the screened in area of my studio (where I paint), and swept from ceiling to floor.  So much dust and pollen and cobwebs gather during my off months, it's great to start my "painting season" with a completely fresh space.



When it came to bringing everything back in, I realized how rickety the shelving units that held up my table had become.  Click here for what this originally looked like.  Looking at alternatives I had around, my grandfather's old dresser was the perfect height, super sturdy, AND it would make all of my materials easy to retrieve and at the same time out of the way.  How had I not thought of this sooner?  I had been keeping it in the indoor portion of the studio holding various supplies and last year I had the drawer with paints out of the chest and sitting on top of the table.  Now it's easy access to ALL of my supplies!  I'm going to have a blast geeking out on re-arranging and organizing those drawers.

The only issue with this was the table top slipped around, so my husband (who I had enlisted help from at this point) glued on some non-stick pads to the top of the dresser.  It worked like a charm.

This was also great because I was looking for something to represent my grandfather (and others I still have yet to find the perfect item for, but will) to put in the garden, something to honor him.  This was an even better active tribute of gratitude for him, especially since that man supported my art career with incredible loyalty and love, never missing a show and always the first to arrive.



In the process of moving the dresser out, I had to move some things out of the way and rediscovered an old mirror I've had hanging around for ages.  It was a tag sale find about ten years ago - a huge antique beveled mirror that weighs a ton.  I thought I might be able to fix it up, but never bothered (there's a lot of etched away areas on the back which makes it look dirty even when it's clean).  Finally I found it's intended purpose - a palette!  The most epic palette of all time, if I might be so bold.  30" x 36" - now that's a lot of room for paint mixing.  I'm giddy just thinking about it.

So other than a couple folding chairs and a tv tray, I'm keeping that space pretty sparse for now.  Just the basics.  But before you start thinking my work is done, take a look at this....



It's a good thing you can't get a clear view of the complete mess that lies beyond these sliding glass doors.  Lots more work to be done! 



Soon this will all be filled in with wild violets and the strawberry plants will start launching out in all directions on the south side of the porch and the sun will keep setting later and later in the day.... ah... welcome back my favorite time of year.  I missed you.

Friday, April 05, 2013

New Work

 ©2013 Jessica Torrant
TRANSCENDENCE
Acrylic on canvas, 22 x 28 inches


©2013 Jessica Torrant
SPRING'S DELIGHT
Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 inches

Friday, March 29, 2013

(New) Beginnings

STUDIO INTERIOR SHOT BY MARTHA MARSHALL

A dear artist friend and great inspiration through the years, Martha Marshall, shared this photograph from her studio recently on facebook along with the simple title, "Beginnings".   Oh how I love this image, this glimpse into an artist's environment that I admire so.  That table, saturated with paint, and fully used and abused is pure eye candy.  Marks left as recorded history of every blank surface that has ever been handled and altered by the artist's hands.  It is a thing of beauty in and of itself.  The stunning square paintings that currently sit atop the table in their various stages of completion are, of course, the real beginnings to be noted and without them, it would be an image of a work-space's history.  With them, it is a work in progress as a whole.  So inspiring!  Martha, in one of her comments said, "Sometimes it's necessary to just make a start.


Isn't that the truth?

Since my last post, I spent a few nights in quiet reflection writing about some things I felt I needed to face to begin a journey of rediscovery of my passion for painting, dreaming big, and really challenging myself.  They have been written as potential blog posts but I decided that they are too long winded and go deep in such detail (and ultimately are very personal), that I will keep them to myself, both for my own sake and for yours (this will be long winded enough on its own!)

Most of what I've been exploring has been the many excuses I've used that have prevented me in a number of ways in my life as an artist.  I went through each excuse I've ever sincerely believed, as well as any excuse I've made that a small part of me knew I could overcome if I just put more into it... and I blew them all away.  I realized that in some cases, there were measures I could have taken to have prevented me from being slighted or taken advantage of which led to me closing doors on future opportunities.  In another light, those experiences are things I should be very thankful for because they taught me important lessons and I learned them.  Now that I know better, why should I let the sting of some not so pleasant past experiences/mistakes sour the potential of something new?  For some others, I realized that it wasn't about the excuse, it was about an underlying need for approval, or a fear of failure.  Once I systematically listed them all and explored each one, I realized the common theme of taking personal responsibility.  I no longer wish to lean so willingly on excuses or even unknowingly refer to them casually like they are established truths.  Own my choices, my successes and failures, my action and in-action (especially in-action).  If I don't do something or take chances, it's really nobodies fault but mine.  It's that simple.   

The process of working through this and writing it all out made me want to go through every post on Make Big Art and write and write in response to every challenge, and push and push and somehow work it all out of my system and then I'd be a whole new woman.  Ha!  But... clearly... that isn't the answer.  In fact, it speaks to one of my biggest issues.  I can get so incredibly excited about a great big idea that before you know it, it has exploded into epic proportions and by the time I get ready to take action, it's just too huge, it has bloated into impossible-land.  Such is the case with my writing exercises.  They are great... to a point.  All of this cerebral activity makes me feel like I'm really DOING something about my painting when, well, I still didn't make any art this week (that is if you don't count carving a ton of stamps, which I don't, because it's pure production at this point).

So long story short, it's time to stop thinking about it.  It's time to engage.  I got a lot out of the mental exercises I did this week - it was a healthy, healing and excellent preparation - but it's time to get off the computer, out of my head, and get my hands dirty.

Sometimes it's necessary to JUST MAKE a stART.

(New work coming this week... in the meantime, visit Martha's blog for more inspiration!)



Thursday, March 21, 2013

MAKE BIG ART


Structures #111 by Lisa Call

Today I discovered a fantastic blog called Make Big Art by the immensely talented, contemporary fiber artist, Lisa Call.  The discovery could not have come at a better time.  I had just sent a "wah wah, whoa is me" email to my best friend and was resigned to that feeling sticking around and only escaping it/distracting myself from it by having a "lay on the couch drinking tea and watching Downton Abbey all day" kind of day. Before indulging in such behavior, I did a quick facebook check and that's when I was directed, as if by fate, to Lisa's blog.  It was EXACTLY what I needed. A real kick in the backside to propel myself out of a funk, harness frustration and transform it into productive energy (even if it was just in planning/plotting/list-making etc).

To put things all on the table, my painting tends to go into hibernation through the winter months.  I am so thankful for that commission (see last post) but other than that, I haven't done any other painting.  Well, except for one (that I'll share in a moment) that came out of a really angst-y place of discovering that I needed desperately to paint to get out some raw emotions.  It worked.  I felt relief.  And the end result reflected that raw emotion and the energy of the moment. 

©2013 Jessica Torrant
A SELF IN THEORY
Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches


So what have I been doing with myself all winter?  I have focused exclusively on my rubber stamp business, which has experienced steady growth since I opened the shop in 2010.  I am so thankful for that business because it has given me something I've never experienced with my art - a consistent income (well, as "consistent" as any Etsy based income can be) - and that's why I started it in the first place.  My intention for that shop came to fruition and there's so much room for growth but I've kept it somewhat in check.  Firstly, I don't want to get too overwhelmed with orders as all of my stamps are hand carved and non-stop carving isn't good for someone with a predisposition for Arthritis.  Additionally, ways I could/can grow require more investment cash then I can part with at this point in time.  It has been like Goldilocks's porridge for me - "just right".  

And yet, here we are, a day after the Spring Equinox, and looking back on all of these winter months, I don't think I've ever been so unproductive when it comes to painting.  I was fine with that until just the other night when I watched Pollock for the umpteenth time.  I couldn't stay up for the whole thing (plus we all know how that worked out) but I watched through the part of the film that shows him in his most productive, explosive time.  Seeing "him" (a very convincing Ed Harris) in his barn, on FIRE with passion and connection to what he was doing, set off triggers in me.  Reminding me of that incredible feeling, when you are really locked in and connected to the Muse, and uh... it's just such an intoxicating, amazing feeling.  I missed it.  I was hungry for it.  I was angry with myself for denying it for so long.  I was left with this statement that has been buzzing in my head, challenging me, at times berating me, other times seducing me... I AM A PAINTER!!! Which leads to... WHY AM I NOT PAINTING!!??

For me, denying painting has been an entirely financially motivated decision.  It has never been a reliable or predictable income in all of my years of devotion and yet... can I honestly say I've done EVERYTHING in my power to try and make a success of my art?  Absolutely not.  I've certainly done a lot, and I'm not trying to say I shouldn't be proud of all I've accomplished, but I'm sure other artists can relate to the burning questions, "What if I really went all the way with this?  What would that look like?  What would my art look like?  What would the manifestation of my greatest dream look like?  What is that dream to begin with, anyway?"

Well, I can't promise you (or me) anything concrete, but I am going to start actually asking myself these questions and seeing where the answers lead me.  If I need to make this journey public (which apparently I do) then it is out of a desire to hold myself to it, and not back away out of fear of failure or what others will think, or laziness, or any other excuse that holds me back or keeps me within the status quo.  I am going to use Lisa's blog as a tool to help me get there by accepting some of the challenges presented and systematically challenging myself and changing the way I think about my art, my career, money, what I want, who I want to be, and what I want to do.  

I'm not sure where I'll start with all this, but I'm going to read every post on that blog and figure out a plan for myself.  I'm going to try and document my progress here.  In the meantime...

Fellow artists, please share your thoughts in the comments regarding: 

* What work have you done to challenge yourself as an artist? 
* What blogs/articles have helped inspire you to grow? 
* How would you like to change/challenge yourself, your art business, or your art?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Australian Commission 2013


It is a rare privileged as an artist to see your work hanging in a collector's home. It is rarer still to have permission to share it with the world! The above piece was a custom painting commissioned by a collector in Australia, and it was probably the most challenging and exciting commissioned paintings I've ever done.

This collector (who I'll refer to as "L") had previously purchased one of my favorite larger paintings called Positivity in early 2011. When L contacted me in late 2012 about creating a large scale piece for their new home, inspired by my linear works in 2010 (specifically noting Balancing Act), I, of course, jumped at the opportunity.

The first thing that struck me was the extremely large scale - 35" x 70"!  Typically I paint intuitively and make changes as I go, but for something that large, if I worked without a plan in mind, I could potentially use up gallons of paint and waste a lot of time "learning" (aka making mistakes) along the way. Instead, I chose to be more mindful and prepared than ever before. Through this process, the painting truly was a combined creation based on L's input and reaction to every sketch and color sample I sent.


I began by sending sketches to L to get a sense of how much/little space/action she wanted in the composition. In all my initial excitement about the project, I missed the tiny (oh wait, I mean, oh so significant) detail that the piece was to be hung vertically. Oops. Either way, she liked the bottom sketch out of the three. So I followed up with this sketch, showing the kind of movement I'd like to see in the vertical format.



 As you can see, this sketch is pretty rough - but it captured the feeling of interlocking shapes and broken lines I was hoping for. I find it interesting that the top left corner's forms sort of worked their way into the final piece unintentionally. 

 Next up: A color palette. 




These are the paint colors I decided I wanted to work with after seeing the colors in the area the painting would be hanging. 




Here are some mixed tones that I was thinking of working with. L liked the peacock blues and greens and warmer/lighter colors. 




I also sent along these quick painterly sketches. The general consensus I got was that I was working in the right direction, but the final painting should be over-all much lighter in value, and I agreed.

Now that all of that preliminary work was sorted out and discussed, I had everything I needed to get to work on the canvas itself. Even though I did a lot of planning, I still didn't go so far as to sketch out the exact composition or color block every area beforehand. Some things still need (for me) to be worked out on the actual surface in actual scale to click and to make sense (or not).

Since I was working in the middle of winter, my backyard studio wasn't available and I had to work in my basement. No problem there - I had a space heater and my Pandora radio stations to keep me company. One issue was that we have wood paneling and I would be stretching the canvas right onto the wall. After trying to think up all kinds of ideas to work on a flat surface without the grooves of the paneling, I finally figured out a really cheap and easy fix - packing tape! Mind you, that whole length of wall in our basement is dedicated to me painting on it and getting it messy, so this technique obviously won't work for everyone. I'm sure if I removed the tape, it would be an ugly scene. But since I don't care about that and neither does my husband, it worked perfectly. (Side-note: I used good quality packing tape - cheaper tape might not have lived up to the task.)

With measuring tape, a pencil, and many acrobatic stretches, I marked off the 35" x 70" dimensions onto a roll of unstretched canvas. L wanted the canvas to extend and wrap around the 2" deep stretcher bars, so I cut the canvas with a lot of extra room to spare and "stretched" the canvas onto the wall with a lot of thumbtacks. The total length took up the entire height of the wall with maybe a few inches here or there to spare. As if it was made for the job, the awkwardly low office chair I inherited from my parents some years ago finally found its purpose. I switched from standing working, to sitting on the chair and wheeling around, to sitting on the floor. 

I usually like to flip my paintings around to see if the composition is really working, and that is generally pretty easy when you're working on an easel. I flipped this painting probably four or five times with the help of my husband. The first time we were humorously cautious and awkward trying to figure out how to do this without getting any creases in the canvas. After a couple times though, we were handling the situation like pros. (Without his help it would have been a different story!)


The first Work In Progress (WIP) shot I sent was just to get a general sense of how the composition was coming along. At this stage in the game, I was really experimenting with color to see how it looked with the others. Some things were glaringly wrong already - the yellows too bright, some of the blue/greens too dark, and some other colors just not "right" somehow. The only color I was figuring out at this stage was the color of the linework - a darker gray rather than the black I usually use in paintings like these. 


The second WIP shot shows things moving in the right direction but we both agreed it was still too dark over-all and L wanted less browns. 



By the third WIP shot, I was getting closer. As any artist will tell you, the general rule is to work big to small, general to specific, and now it was time to talk detail. In an effort to make communication easier for us, I printed out a copy of the painting and numbered all of the areas of color. 



This made things so much easier for us! Instead of having to say something like "that little semi circle of yellow in the bottom right next to the big blue swoop", L and I could refer to areas by number - simple and easy. 

The reactions I got from L at this point were remarkable - her eye was picking up the same problem areas that I was seeing too. So I followed up with some possible re-working for the areas that needed extra attention. (Drawing over print-outs.) 






Some final changes were made after discussing the sketches.... 


...and then the painting was complete! (Seen above hanging in the studio to get a natural light shot.) Signed and dated on the back, I rolled it up, wrapped it up, and shipped it off to Australia. 

I learned so much from this experience and thoroughly enjoyed every step of the process. Having a customer as wonderful as L definitely made it easy - she trusted my instincts but also didn't hesitate to communicate what was working for her and what wasn't. It was a natural fit and I want to thank L for allowing me to share these pictures of the painting stretched and hanging in their home. After sending me these pictures, L asked me if I had a title for the piece. I didn't... until I saw it hanging in its home and one word came to me.... Continuum

I also would like to thank L for entrusting me with this incredible opportunity to bring my art into her home on such a large scale. 

It was an honor. It was a painters dream come true.