From floods to Legos to skies – Evolution of a project

A couple of years ago after heavy rains and flooding, I noticed a strange sight while driving over the Yadkin River: a forest under water. The river had overflowed and the trees were standing in a few feet of water. Downed trees and branches were violently shoved up against still-standing trees. I was struck by the sheer power of the water overflowing its river banks and the dissonance of seeing a flooded forest.

 

This image stayed with me for a while and I collected branches which I made into little piles and bundles in my studio. I imagined a huge pile of tree trunks pushed up against a gallery wall and spilling out onto the gallery floor, the pile’s size dwarfing viewers. On an adjacent wall I imagined a wall size video projection of water slowly filling the screen to the sound of water running continuously.

 

Over the course of the next two years I made drawings and prototypes and kept running into the same problem: no matter how elegantly executed, the log stack and running water video created a feeling of dread. I couldn’t reconcile the sense of anxiety the pieces would likely provoke in viewers with my desire to create an immersive and elemental kind of experience in a gallery. Climate change is very real and frightening, but I refuse to subject viewers of my work to feelings of anxiety. As artists we are responsible for how our work affects people, and ultimately I want my work to feel vital and uplifting – even when the work deals with environmental concerns.

 

I sidelined the log pile and running water video ideas and turned to my watercolors to play and think. Watercolor is my “go-to” for figuring things out and generating ideas. I made piles of small playful mixed media drawings and wondered how they would look in a large scale if I made hundreds of them to cover a gallery wall from floor to ceiling – transforming the logs and water ideas to something less heavy-handed.

 

To prototype this idea, I made a hundred and twenty eight tiny drawings with watercolor, ink and colored pencil, and I installed them on a piece of foam core as if it were a tiny gallery wall. I then photographed this maquette with Lego mini figures as viewers to picture how it might feel on a monumental scale. It worked.
lego art gallery
In the spring of 2021, I was asked to exhibit my work at the Sechrest Gallery at High Point University, specifically my large-scale installation Paper Mountain and its companion piece Sky Project. The gallery is big. Even after installing the mountain of paper cranes and filling a wall with the Sky Project video, there was space for more work.  I knew I wanted to include some of my paintings, but there are two twenty foot-tall walls on one side of the gallery. One of these was perfect for a painting installation like what I had prototyped, but it needed to be different. The work I had made for the tiny gallery was very active work, and this needed to be more quiet because it would be near Paper Mountain, a twenty foot tall floating mountain of paper cranes. The painting installation couldn’t detract from Paper Mountain and ideally should complement it.

 

I wanted to make something that would be monumental as I had imagined with my Legos, and it also needed to uplift and encourage minds to wander. I decided to try skies for their universal and poetic quality, and made some prototypes in different painting styles and with different papers. After settling on the type of paint and the application, I found the perfect paper – heavy enough to lay flat on the wall even when coated in paint, the right size and excellent quality. It’s called Yupo, a polypropylene paper that is unpleasant and difficult to use with some mediums, but perfect for this particular project.

 

The project in its current form uses loosely painted skies to create a sense of air and space. The paintings will be hung in a grid 19 feet tall by 17 feet wide, covering one of the gallery walls near Paper Mountain. I’ve named it The space between the clouds.

 

I’m curious and excited to see how The space between the clouds will look installed. I’ll have to arrange the paintings onsite because my studio isn’t big enough to lay them all out at once, and I look forward to that part too.
The High Point University exhibition opens Thursday October 28th and is up until December 18th. The space between the clouds, Paper Mountain, Sky Project and a collection of paintings will be on display at Sechrest Gallery of Art.

 

You can support this project and see images of the work in progress on Buy Me a Coffee where I’ve been fundraising to cover the cost of paper and paint for The space between the clouds.

 

Sometimes you drop paintings on your face

I dropped a wet painting on my face this week.

I’m working on a group of paintings to cover an entire 19-foot tall gallery wall, and I work on them each week in groups of nine. (I’ve completed 45/63 as of today.) At the beginning of each week I start with six paintings on the middle and bottom rows (see below), and when I finish a row, I move it to the top to make room for three more pieces of paper.

On Tuesday while I moved one to the top row, I lost hold of it and it fell on me. Luckily the works are on paper so I didn’t hurt myself, and I managed to wash out the paint from my shirt. I should know better than to wear a good shirt in the studio – even with an apron.

Yesterday I had a meeting at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University, where I’m exhibiting this project, Paper Mountain and Sky Project and other works starting in October. During the meeting we dialed in the logistics for this exhibit and discussed some other peripheral projects to accompany the show. I’m so excited to share my work in this big beautiful space, to reinstall Paper Mountain and Sky Project and to finally see how my sky paintings will look on a massive scale.

This show will open on Thursday October 28th. Stay tuned for all the details.

On the top right is the culprit – the painting that fell on me!

I am at 79% of reaching my $500 fundraising goal for this project! Can you help me reach the goal?

Spotlight on “The field you think you own”

abstract painting of field and architecture

Some years ago there was a field I loved and that I would sit in and paint. The space was vast, and there were areas covered with trees. Each time I returned to the field to paint, the landscape changed. The tree line receded. A development was built near the trees, then little by little more houses and apartments were built. Then a shopping center was added. The field disappeared. This painting is a love letter to that field.⁣

Meet The field you think you own.

This award-winning abstract interpretation of a landscape is oil and acrylic on canvas. It is comprised of two canvases with total dimensions 40 x 60 inches and you’ll find it here in my shop.⁣

If you love this painting, but feel like the cost is a stretch, I’ll be happy to set up an interest-free payment plan for you. Just email me to start the conversation.

What happens when a painting doesn’t work?

The 63 skies project is going well! I’m still not sure what to name it, but I’ve landed on how the paintings will look and feel. Here’s how it’s going:

Sky paintings in artist studio

This morning I repainted 3 of the first 4 paintings I’d made because they didn’t feel right. The last one to re-paint is on the lower right. You can see the initial stages of the work in this piece.

For those of you who are curious, here’s what the group of paintings looked like before I re-worked the first four:

sky paintings in studio

I ended up painting them again because I found them over-worked and heavy feeling. Because there will be so many of these extending 19 feet up and 17 feet out, I think they’d feel oppressive on that scale, so instead I opted for a more loose and airy approach.

Happily I’ve already raised almost 50% of the cost of these materials so far! You can contribute to this project on my project page at Buy Me a Coffee. Thank you to all those who’ve already contributed! It means a lot that you believe in my work.

Thanks and have a good week!

Sponsoring an art project?

Sixty-three paintings of skies that cover a 19′ x 17′ gallery wall – This is the latest project I’m working on. The project took different forms as I worked through my ideas over the course of the last year, but now it’s finally happening: actual paintings to install on an actual wall. I’ll share the story behind the project as it develops, but first I wanted to ask you:

We’ve gotten used to the concept of sponsored athletes, but what about sponsored artists?

I’m not talking about huge corporate sponsors (although I wouldn’t turn that down). What I’m talking about is micro donations so that anyone who wants to support my work can chip in to help make this new project happen.

So what I’m asking is “Would you sponsor this project?”

I’ve teamed up with Buy me a coffee, a platform for crowdfunding through micro donations, and I’ve set up my page with different ways to support my work. You can support the project with $5 or more or you can become a member and support my work with a monthly or even yearly sponsorship.

In this project I am making many smaller parts that as a whole, will create a very large artwork. Your support is also one part out of many parts that will make this project possible.

Everyone who contributes will be credited in the exhibit and on the project page of my website.

Take a look at my page to see the ways you can support my work, and I’d be super grateful if you could share on your social channels and email. Thank you!

The cost of materials (polypropylene paper and acrylic paint) to complete this project is $500. I install the exhibit (this project along with Paper Mountain, Sky Project and other paintings) at Sechrest Gallery at High Point University on October 16-22, so I’m setting a deadline to finish these particular paintings by October 8th. I always plan to finish the actual making of work at least 1 week before installation because this leaves me time to do the myriad things that need to be done before a show goes up.

a small sky painting to test out the materials and the idea… The actual project paintings will be a larger 20×26″

Searching on the Wind… and Paper Mountain is coming BACK!

I’m super excited to share with you that the Sechrest Gallery at High Point University has invited me to show Paper Mountain, Sky Project and a group of paintings in a solo show this fall. If you’ve been following my work for a few years, you might remember Paper Mountain as the 14-foot tall mountain of 1200 folded paper cranes I suspended at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in spring 2019. The project took a couple of years from start to finish, and seeing it installed was truly validating as an artist, so I’m happy to be able to exhibit it in another space and to share it with more people. Stay tuned for more about that as we get closer to installation week in October.

With its sheer size, Paper Mountain can be an immersive experience for viewers. While my newest paintings aren’t monumental in scale, the paintings in the Searching on the wind collection are immersive in their special own way.

These landscapes evoke wide open spaces: big skies, meadows, forests, mountains and rivers. Each painting is a meditative play of shapes and colors.

If you let them, these paintings may just transport you to your favorite mountain or river or forest… 

Find them all HERE and please don’t hesitate to message me if you have questions about any of the work, payment or shipping.

PS: Recently a client asked me if it was safe to ship paintings these days. The answer is YES! I am shipping artwork wherever USPS, Fedex and UPS will travel.

Getting Back into Work Flow

My family and I returned home from our adventures on the road two days ago, and it feels good to be back in the studio.

Over the years I developed some tools to help myself get back into the flow of work after time away (even if it’s just one night). One of the tactics I use is to leave some unfinished work to do so I can jump right back in. When we left two weeks ago I left an unfinished drawing, and after two sessions I finished it yesterday morning. It’s a drawing of a possum skull my mom found in the woods. I keep a collection of small animal skulls in my studio because they are beautiful and wonderful to draw.

Possum Skull pencil drawing

I’m also conscious of how relaxed I feel from being on vacation, and I’m making a concerted effort (in the most relaxed way of course) to maintain this vibe. (Yes, I said vibe because it’s summer and I’m relaxed, ok?) What this translates into  is noticing when work or life is making me anxious, and trying to let go of the tension in my shoulders or wherever it happens to be. You might say I’m living mindfully. Aha! Do I need more vacation to keep working on this kind of awareness?

One thing is for sure, I’m missing being able to watch entire stages of the Tour de France like I did on holiday. Cyclists in the Tour rode up Mont Ventoux, or the “Giant of Provence” yesterday – not once, but twice!

In honor of this beast of a climb, below is the “Ventoux”  painting recently commissioned by a collector, one of the Epic Rides custom series.

I have a few open slots for commissioned paintings in the next few months. Email me if you’d like to chat about a possible custom painting of your own.⁣

And if you’d like to commission an artwork and want to spread out the cost over time, I’ll be happy to set up an interest-free payment plan for you. Read more about this here or simply email me to chat.

Ventoux painting

It’s Tour de France time!

It’s that magical time of year when we have the TV playing for hours every day for three weeks so we can catch all of the Tour de France action. No really, it’s better than it sounds.

Anyway the Tour started last Saturday, and true to form my husband and I have been faithfully watching each stage and getting our daily fix of cycling action. This weekend the racers head into the mountains and the drama will really start. [hand rubbing]

The first time I worked a Tour trip back in my guiding days was in 2010. I remember most vividly the climbs on Col de Peyresourde and Col du Tourmalet. On the climb up Peyresourde, I ran into Didi the Devil, an iconic caped German spectator who follows the Tour each year wearing red tights and horns. On Tourmalet, between pouring rain and blasting winds, we got to watch the heavy-weights as they duked it out up the epic climb. One of the best parts of being on a steep climb during a big race is that the experience is so intense – you get to see the cyclists really suffering their way up – much more slowly than on flat terrain – so you can get a good long look at everyone. And the crowds are crazy at Tour mountain stages. With all the people there, it can be tough just to get a good spot along the road. Some people park and camp for days staking out their spot along the road.

This brings me to my Epic Ride series of paintings. These custom paintings are based on your favorite – most epic – maybe even legendary – rides you’ve done, want to do, or have seen the pros ride. (These can also be based on an epic run or hike!) You can read a bit more about these paintings here.

I’ll be back in the studio next week, and I have a few open slots for commissioned paintings in the next few months. Email me if you’d like to chat with me about a possible custom painting of your own or just give me a call at (336) 283-0185.

And if you’d like to commission an artwork and want to spread out the cost over time, I’ll be happy to set up an interest-free payment plan for you. Read more about this here or simply email me to chat.

Alpe d'huez painting
“Alpe d’Huez,” one of the paintings in my Epic Rides custom series.

Gone Fishing

I’m excited to say that I am on an actual family vacation – a road trip even! – to Washington DC this week. We are going for walks on the National Mall and getting in trouble for standing too close to paintings in museums (oh wait, that’s just me).

Next week we’ll head up to Maryland to visit my in-laws on the Chesapeake Bay. My husband Tim will make beautiful cyanotypes while my son and I run around and pretend to be sharks in the water.

This is the kind of stuff that refuels me and my artistic practice. I hope you’ll take some time for yourself this week too.

In the meantime, here are a few things from the studio:

Last chance to see my paintings at PTI airport in Greensboro before they come down on July 8th. They are at lower level door 5 (near the baggage claim). These works are available.

Field and forest with violet and purple” recently sold. Some of my Tiny Landscapes are still available, and you’ll find them here.

Have you been to Storm King? For this painting in my Searching on the wind collection, an old friend sent me a photo she took while visiting Storm King in NY. Storm King is a remarkable sculpture park with a collection of mammoth artworks set in a wind-swept landscape. Ever since I visited it years ago with my husband, I’ve wanted to go back. You’ll find this painting in my shop.

abstract landscape painting in a home office

Storm King,” one of the paintings in my Searching on the wind collection.

on running and getting hurt and painting

I started running when I was 11 or 12. My dad and I would run down Highway 115 and at the Davidson College track. He taught me to kick at the end of a run and to stretch out stomach cramps on the move. I raced him to imaginary finish lines and we’d laugh  because we were having fun and we both knew we were trying to outrun each other. He’d let me win sometimes.

 

I ran track and cross country in junior high and struggled with shin and knee injuries until one day when I couldn’t move without excruciating pain in my knees after a long run. As athletes we learn to differentiate between discomfort and pain. There is a level of discomfort and sometimes even pain that comes from pushing yourself. And then there is the kind of pain that leads to injuries, and unfortunately it can take a while to figure out the difference. After that long run, I did months of physical therapy to try and solve my nagging knee problems. This competitive streak – with others and with myself – is possibly what has continued this cycle of running and hurting myself over the years.

 

There is a popular quote incorrectly attributed to Einstein that says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Don’t ask me who actually said this, because I checked on the internet, and apparently no-one actually knows.

 

I’ve dreamt of running marathons since I was 14, and I have yet to run one because I keep hurting myself. I still want to run a marathon, and I’d like to do so comfortably. Also I’d like to be able to keep on running for as long as I am able, so it’s time I do things differently.

 

Last weekend I started running again using a new tactic: running and walking intervals. Coming from an old-school “no pain, no gain” type of mentality, where walking while running is a sign of weakness, I am having to change my way of thinking about running and remove my ego from the equation.

 

In my current body of work, Searching on the wind, I am also pushing myself to try new and uncomfortable things in painting. My vision is still the same: Ultimately I’d love for my work to get people excited about the outdoors and to get out for a hike or run or ride or really anything outside – and better yet with others.

 

While making these paintings, one challenge I set for myself was to stick with acrylic paint rather than switching to oil paint part of the way. With acrylic it’s more challenging for me to make the paint do what I can rely on oil paint to do – to easily push it around and for the paint to still have presence on the canvas. Oil paint has more body (it’s thicker and well… more oily) and is naturally more opaque than acrylic paint. While I am able to make paintings that are not obviously either acrylic or oil (a skill that I value), acrylic has traditionally not been as satisfying as oil for me to use. With these paintings, I resisted the urge to switch to oils because I wanted to see if I could get the same paint-feel for myself while sticking with acrylics. This is more of a personal goal rather than something that others will notice, but I think that for my art practice to be sustainable, I have to set parameters, rules or challenges for myself to keep things spicy.

 

As for the ego thing, this can come into play as an artist. We sometimes want our work to be more than what it is or to show off our skills or to be high-concept. While it is important to me that my work be transcendent  – that the finished piece be more than the sum of its parts – it’s also important that the work be honest and not try too hard. The finished piece should feel like it happened naturally, that no elements are extraneous and all are essential. While sometimes maximal is the way to go, with these particular paintings, I wanted a simpler, more elemental feel. I think of these as meditative, poetic paintings that whisper rather than shout.

 

You can explore the works in the Searching on the wind collection here.
Scroll to top