I am an oil painter living in S.E. Pennsylvania. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Studio Within

Its been awhile, and I missed being able to sit down to share the nitty gritty about what is going on behind the scenes... I've had a lot going on, and have not had the chance though...Being that there has been a lot that has happened since my May pop-up show, I'll probably miss a lot of details.  And this may be disjointed.. But I wanted to try to share my recent experience of being flexible and having faith as an artist and as a person, and how being flexible can be a catalyst for growth.

I've been so fortunate to be an artist and I sometimes can't believe that it is possible to make a life while having a career I love, but it is true and it is possible. Having a career as an artist means that, yes and obviously, I have to do everything... from coming up with the inspiration and ideas to paint to doing the actual painting, creating and marketing of my artwork, designing and making frames, communicating with customers and gallerists, handling shipping and receiving, keeping track of inventory and more...but the other thing, my most favorite thing is, I have the complete freedom to direct how I use my time.  This is my most favorite thing because in addition to the above mentioned, I am also a mom.  I have a 21 year old daughter who lives at home and commutes to college, pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy, and I have a young teenage son in 8th grade. 

I have always put my kids first and this sometimes means that I have to get extra creative in how I balance my career as an artist with being a mom.  Who am I kidding. I don't just do this sometimes... I am always balancing both being a mom and being an artist, making sure my kids come out on top while trying to ensure that my art business continues to grow.  Any artist who is also a parent will know what I am talking about. 

So, two years ago, my sons life changed drastically when he contracted a severe case of Mono.  He had to be home bound from school for 2 months and, his home bound schooling wound up turning into cyber school for another year and... then that turned into him applying to and getting accepted into a very excellent school for gifted students... which happens to be in West Chester, a mid sized town about an hour away from our house. As you might expect my life changed drastically right along with my son's life.  ...while he was sick and I was nursing him back to health,  I had to find new and different times to carve out to create and be an artist and when he started cyber schooling, again, I had to juggle my time and rearrange my schedule... And when he was accepted into the new school, I had to figure out just how I would continue to be an artist at all when I would be commuting an hour away from my studio 2-3 time a week.  But it was clear, I couldn't allow this opportunity to pass for my son, and figure things out, I would.  I decided that the only way I could do it was if I found a space for me to paint down in West Chester.

I considered all possible options with in reason of course.  With a daughter in college, I have zero expendable income.  That meant renting space for any amount of money over... $5.. was out of the question.  So, I looked at libraries, painting from my car, painting under pavilions in state parks, I joined the local art association in the hopes I would make a connection with someone who had extra studio space... I even thought about trading in my car for an old bus or RV and converting that into a travelling studio.  Yes, I would get my son to this school because I had to, but by God, I would paint.

 To make a long story short, all of September I searched high and low for some kind of alternative studio option...  and I would sometimes go into my son's school to hang out in their tiny parent room.. While there, I got to know the secretary.  One day she just came out and asked me, "Why don't you paint in our cafeteria?"  Why don't I, I thought... and that was that, as simple as can be.  She took me to the principal right then and there and he said Sure! sounds great to me, and they took me back to the cafeteria and showed me where I could set up... They offered me a space in the back along  a North facing, all glass green house wall... A better place I could not ask for and a more optimal situation I could not have dreamed up. In exchange for being allowed to haul my painting gear in and paint all day, I break for lunch for about 45 minutes, and while I eat, I monitor the kids lunch.  At first, I was a bit unsure how this whole set up would work out.. but it turns out I guess I am pretty good at adapting. 

A few unforeseen benefits to saying yes to the concept of making it work, being flexible and having the faith that things would somehow work out:

I get to paint in a relatively quiet, well lit, heated space with minimal distractions.
Strangely, I get more painting done while I am in my cafestudio than I do when I am at home.
I am surrounded by youthful energy, which is has benefits more than I can go into here..
I get to spend 2 extra hours with my son 2-3 times a week as we drive to school, during which I get to have real conversations with him.  Any parent of a 13 year old son will know the rare value of this.
With in a month of my son starting school in West Chester, I got representation through a super nice and close by art gallery... and have already sold work through them!
...and they recently contacted me  and invited me to take part in a 2 woman show next October!
I have gotten a pet portrait commission from one of the parents and one of the teachers has purchased a print from me..
I took part in the school's annual career fair where I talked to the students about being a professional artist.
About a month ago, one of the teachers approached me and offered me the chance to teach a painting class during their elective hour 2 times a week during the last quarter of school.
I have met and become friends with many nice and wonderful people, both parents and teachers...
and of course, my son is getting an exceptional education, which is the best thing of all.

So, finally, here is the critical thing I wanted to share in this blog post.. and I just it realized today.. (and it may sound kind of wooey wooey, but it is true..) 
I discovered that my studio is within me..
 and that being an artist is so unique because, being an artist means that my job, simply put, is being ME. The external space doesn't really matter, as long as it is well lit and warm (which my cafestudio is, in spades) As long as I know within what I am about, and what my plan is for that day, that week, that month, I can paint anywhere, I can be an artist anywhere. Like I said, I am lucky.  Not only do I have a home studio, but now I have gained another studio and a whole new world of artistic opportunity, simply by being flexible and having the faith that somehow things would work out.  I am thankful every day.  It can be a challenging life, but, it is 100% my life and as such, I could not ask for a better life.  Be thankful. Be flexible.  Have the faith to take chances. Things work out in ways that you can never predict. And remember, if you are an artist, your studio is wherever you are.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spring Pop Up Show and Sale!

I am busily preparing for my Spring Pop Up Show that I am having with 2 of my painting buds, Russell Slocum and Keith Rentschler.  May 4th and 5th at the Warehouse Studios at 700 Lancaster Ave, Reading, PA.  Stay tuned for more details to come, but know that we will be showcasing 150+ paintings including new pieces as well as archived work, plus prints, cards and commissions specials.  Studio prices, many discounted.... Door prizes, free-with-purchase artwork and a lot more!:) 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hanging artwork in restaurants

You may have noticed a trend with fine dining establishments reserving display space for original fine art, usually by local artists.  When I first started painting, there were two modes of thought on this... Some artists felt that hanging your artwork in a restaurant was undesirable and was simply decorating another's space... for free! I was advised by some to not hang my art in restaurants... But, since I have been painting, I have had my artwork in many, many restaurants.  And it has almost always been a win-win situation.  If you are an artist and are thinking about hanging your work in a restaurant, here are a few pointers... Most importantly, make sure that certain things are agreed upon up front... The restaurant should always give you permission to have your work for sale and you should always be able to display label information with your artwork so patrons know your work is for sale. Along with your artwork, hang an artist statement with your contact info, website and social media links.  Make sure there is decent lighting and if the space has a hanging system in place, bonus! If not, make sure the owners are ok with you moving hangers if you need to. Determine the percentage the restaurant is taking (if any... some don't take a percentage!) and determine who will handle the sale, should someone want to purchase a piece.  Also, it doesn't hurt to have the staff on board and knowledgeable about your work so they can talk about it positively when you are not there, so you might want to leave a little info sheet for them to get acquainted with you..  I have had a lot of success hanging in alternative venues like this and would encourage any artist looking to put their eggs in more than one basket to give it a shot.

Take More Chances, Dance More Dances, oil, 8"x8"
Will be available at one of the 2 venues mentioned....
So, point of story....  I will be hanging my work in 2 beautiful restaurants on Monday! -  Say Cheese in West Reading and the Soltane Cafe in Phoenixville.  My gallery, Art Plus, has had a relationship with Say Cheese for some time and we hang our member's work there all the time. It is a wonderful restaurant and has a great gallery space towards the back of the restaurant where they even installed a hanging and lighting system to make it easier to hang your work! Things have been so successful, the owners are looking to expand the hanging space into the front of the restaurant. Very cool!  I have never hung in the Soltane Cafe before, but am so looking forward to getting my feet wet in the Phoenixville scene, and the manager, Emma Peabody is a total sweetheart. 
As you may have imagined, the past few weeks have been jam packed for me with preparing new work for these two shows.  I've painted 14 new paintings (which I can't even believe...) and am in the process of finishing frames.  The weekend will be spent deciding which work goes where, printing labels and putting the finishing touches on everything.  :) Life is good... 

Check out the details of both shows below, and happy Friday!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Crab Crazy!

I painted this painting for the Plein Air West Reading event that I took part in last week. Happily, it sold to a wonderful and kind woman named Liz, who lives in Providence, RI.  I wanted to share the beautiful story she related to me about why she purchased it.

Crab Crazy, oil, 12x12, sold
Liz grew up in Exeter, Pa, and graduated from Exeter HS in 1979.  She now lives in Rhode Island, but still frequently comes down to PA to visit her mom and dad.  She told me that they are getting older, and it occurred to her that there is going to be a time when they sadly are not going to be around anymore.  Consequently, there won't really be a reason for her to come back to this area to visit....  She wanted a way to capture the memories of this area... memories of her childhood and growing up, and memories that she is creating now when she comes to visit.  She told me that photographs are ok.  But, they really don't capture the spirit of an area the way she would like.  However, she feels that paintings do... About a year ago, she actively began seeking out artwork that depicted scenes of Berks county, Exeter township and the surrounding areas.  In her words, she told me that she began "collecting memories".  My painting is a memory for her that she and her father have recently been creating.  Every time she comes down to visit, she will call her dad, and he asks her what she wants him to order from Crab Crazy so that a meal will be waiting for her when she arrives.  When she saw my painting, she knew it was a memory she wanted to keep forever.  I am so honored and happy that my artwork will take a place in her home to help her keep her memories alive.  It gives me joy to know that fine art plays such an important role in people's lives and to know that I play a little part in this. Thank you Liz! <3 :)  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

When your art moves someone to write poetry about it...

...That's just what happened recently with my painting, "Gabriel",  which is in my current show Spirit○Animal, at Art Plus Gallery. I am always so thankful (and still a little surprised...) when my artwork moves someone enough to buy it and take it home... actually live with it and see it every day!  What an amazing thing!  But this was something different.  I met the poet, Catherine Mahony (Cat) at the gallery the other day. She is a poet who writes what she calls ekphrastic poetry explaining to me that she tries to interpret poetry using language that evokes an understanding of the painting, even if it can't be seen. Looking into the definition of ekphrastic poetry a little deeper, I found that an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. (More on this type of poetry can be found here)

Fascinating!! I never had heard of this before.  What a wonderful thing...
 She asked if she could write a poem about Gabriel, as it moved her and spoke to her on so many levels. I was of course incredibly honored and told her yes, I'd love it if she did.  So, this is her poem, her interpretation of my painting.  I have to say, the painting was very personal to me and evolved in my studio over the course of several months with some meanings specific to me  and my creative life, when I was painting it.  For me, it actually does not have the dark undertones and meanings that Cat saw in it, as I have a different relationship with Gabriel... But, that being said, once a piece of artwork is created and put out there for the world to see, the artist releases the artwork to move people and affect them in their own personal way... That is the absolute beauty of artwork and I am thankful and honored that my artwork evokes such feeling in others. 
And, thank you Cat, for taking the time to write such a beautiful poem.

Gabriel, oil and cold wax, 24"x24", Sold

Catherine J. Mahony


Gabriel’s Purgatory
(An Ekphrastic poem, depicting “Gabriel,” an artwork by Karen Weber)

Hark the Herald Angels embark,
on a journey that unfolds here-
please hold here,
this collage.
Adhere here
to this
fantastical pentacle,
of a Raven’s portrait.
May I escort you
into a realm
of crimson realities…
This frailty
displaces me.
Once upon a midnight dreary,
Poe paced his floor boards-
weak and weary.
Dreary you may think
this tale appears.
Awaken now,
all your hopes and fears.
Come near once,
come hear once…
Listen as I squawk!
My ebony feathers drip
with beads of burgundy,
I am warning thee-
do not come forth
with promises you can
no longer keep;
Rather look upon
this piece
and weep…
for all who were lost,
for all whom we keep.
I will tell you a secret,
but please do not tell...
There is no Heaven,
there is no Hell.
A purgatory
is where
we all tread…
Black birds prey on Gods -
our souls they are fed.
So when this bird
with crimson wings,
lurks upon
your door and sings,
Please don’t fret or
run and hide-
Just pray
he doesn’t come inside.
This is my body,
and this is my blood…
Come let us feast,
come bathe in the flood!
The moon is full,
as I bask in it’s glow.
Mother Earth is due soon;
She will bear children,
who howl at perched crows.
I know something
you don’t know…
This poem is homeless
and Squats under this tree.
It feeds on the berries
I drop from my beak.
So the next time you long for
a place call home…
just ask me,
for a place
of your own.
You see it’s just me,
and this old oak,
and we loom here alone!

Monday, May 7, 2018

The making of a solo show

Last night I hung my solo exhibit, Spirit ○ Animal, at Art Plus Gallery. I have been actively preparing for this show the past 3 months and am a little in shock now that it is finally hung, perhaps similarly to when you are preparing for finals and you don't quite know what to do with yourself the day after you take the last test. I put a lot of work (literal blood and sweat... no tears) into the theme and creation of this show in an effort to weave some new ideas and mediums together with my love of animals and my life long interest in spiritual matters.
Over the past few months, I wanted to post more posts about the process of preparing for such a show.. the planning and designing, surface preparation, painting, frame design and building, finishing and preparing the work for sale... all this between being a mom and a gallery director! But, alas, I found myself so busy with painting and frame making (and momming and directing)  that I just didn't have a lot of time left over for blogging and telling y'all about what the heck I am doing.  If you are here, reading this now, I just want to thank you for taking the time to check this all out.  Below are just a few highlights from the past few months, and a little sneak peek at my freshly hung exhibit.  I am looking forward to sharing my work with everyone who makes to it the opening on May 11th, and, fyi, if you can't be there, the show runs through June 3rd.

Its great fun to take progress shots of my artwork as I complete it.  I don't always have a chance to look back on it right away, but going back through my pics later, I'm always grateful to find these painting 'diaries' to remind me  of what works and how I got there...

Telephant, oil, 12"x12", on display on APG

Below are just 3 of the about 50 works I have on display in Spirit ○ Animal...

Chickadee with Cherry Blossoms, 6"x6", oil, for sale at APG

Lost in Thought, 20"x20", oil and mixed media, for sale at APG

Nevermore, oil and mixed media, 12"x12", for sale at APG

You may also know that I make frames in addition to painting.... It isn't the most glamorous part of the job, and I find that only a few can really appreciate what goes into making frames... The past two weeks, I made close to 40 frames, which even I can't comprehend.  It takes a lot of math, staring at the wood, hundreds of cuts with a variety of saws, sanding till your arm is numb and plenty of loud music for me to make so many in such a short amount of time. Oh yeah, and the most important thing... the support of my husband.  (Yes, he brings me coffee and dinner, washes the dishes I don't have the energy to wash and makes sure I know he has my back...) I wish it was as easy as the pictures make it look, but all I will say is, IT'S NOT. :D   And the pictures skip Plenty of steps. But...this gives you a brief idea of the frame making process and the piles of wood I have to manipulate through it all. To be truthful though, I am not in this business because I like to do things the easy way.  Just the opposite actually, as the easy way is often thoroughly boring... 

And finally, after putting all of my paintings in their brand spanking new frames, and making them look all professional and what not, I get to hang them up in the gallery!  The absolute best part of the whole thing....

So, the show is hung, and I am most pleased with how it all came together.  A wonderful thing about intensely creating work... ideas build upon ideas... I have so many new things I want to explore from all I found in the past few months...There is so much more to come! Thanks for reading and looking and I hope to see you at the opening on May 11th!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Getting ready for Godfrey's

I will be doing a "Meet the Artist" event this coming Saturday at a wonderful shop called Godfrey's - Welcome to Dogdom.  It is located in Mohnton, PA in a converted farmhouse and is true to its namesake.  If you have a dog, then Godfrey's is for you. They carry all things dog and all the things they carry are high quality, unique and truly unmatched by any big box store you could go to. I met the amazing owner of this place, Barb Emmett, a few months ago and she graciously invited me to come on out to do a painting demo and meet the artist event. Very exciting! In addition to the demo, I will have other paintings, matted prints and cards available for sale.  And, in celebration, I am offering 2 specials! If you reserve a commission with me the day of the event, I will frame it for free, (a savings of $45-$65), and, if you sign up for my mailing list, you will be entered to win a matted print of one of my many dog paintings! 
 Below is one of the brand new framed paintings that I'm bringing along for sale. It can be yours if you love it and have to have it! :)

Summer Tanager on Terrier, oil, 6"X6", $90

The prep for an event like this is no small thing, but it is exciting none-the-less.  I have been busy, painting, making frames for new work I plan on bringing, matting lots of prints and packaging cards of my work, planning the demo I will be doing and of course letting everybody know all about it!  
If you live in the area and have a dog, this is a must do event.  Especially if you have always wanted to immortalize your pet in a fine oil painting pet portrait!  
Stop in Godfrey's Saturday, April 7th from 1-3. They are at 4267 New Holland Road, Mohnton, PA 19540. Their phone is 610-777-5755 in case you want more details. Hope to see you there!
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