"Blue" Gouache on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2009.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Importance of Being Educated

Yesterday I had the very great honor of being awarded the 2012 HITS Themal Desert Circuit (CA) Show Program cover.  HITS produces some of the richest and most highly attended and regarded hunter/ jumper show circuits in the country, and to be selected as the cover artist is quite a big deal.  I've been invited to the HITS Ocala Fine Art Gala several times, and I was also honored to participate in the HITS Saugerties Art Gala in 2010.  I've never been to Thermal - in fact, I've never been to California - but it looks like I now have an excuse to go!  Hundreds of riders from across the country attend these multi-week shows, and I'm excited to be able to put my work in front of a West Coast audience.

The HITS Ocala cover was also awarded this week, and it went to a wonderful artist from Florida - Mary Verrandeaux.  I've had the pleasure of meeting Mary a few times (at the Ocala Art Gala, in fact) and I really, really like her work.  But my favorite thing about Mary is that she and I graduated from the same college - the Ringling College of Art and Design.  She graduated in the 1980's, and I graduated in 2000, both of us with degrees in illustration.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my college, and I'm proud to say I'm an alum.  I came to Ringling in 1996, with a decent amount of drawing skill from high school and middle school art classes.  Magazine pictures, attempted photorealism, unremarkable still lifes, the usual.  My first year in college, our professors took all we knew about art and threw it out the window.  They challenged us to rethink the whole concept of how to draw, how to paint, how to SEE, and in the process, they tore down everything we thought we knew about art and forced us to start again from the beginning.  My second year painting teacher had such a formidable reputation that almost of the students assigned to her class switched to the other painting instructor.  I had an unspoken rule never to change professors, so I ended up in a painting class with only three other students, and for a whole year, we had almost an hour of one-on-one instruction every other day. (Painting classes were 3 hours each, three days a week.)  We learned to PAINT.  (We also learned to stretch our own canvas and make our own gesso, but that's another story.)  I had only had one unhappy experience with oil paints (I painted a hideous flower and my mother rightfully banished the painting to the laundry room) before I walked into her class, so if I have any skill at painting today, a huge amount of credit goes to her.  My illustration teacher was an innovator of American illustration (seriously, he's in the book "Innovators of American Illustration" by Steve Heller) and introduced us to the idea of art as narrative.  He gave me some of the best art advice I've ever received in my life, and I often think of his words when I'm particularly vexed by a painting.  His daughter was "into" horses, and she actually showed at Madison Square Garden (pony division, if I recall correctly), and so he and I spent a lot of time discussing horses.  He gave me hope that a career revolving around equine and wildlife art was possible and encouraged me to continue on that path, and I'm forever grateful to him.

I had other influential teachers in figure, printmaking, English lit, and computer illustration, but I will forever cherish the four years of art history we were required to take.  We weren't just taught art history with names of artists, dates and schools of thought, we were immersed in the time.  We learned how the art and the music and the fashion of an era went together, how politics, war, famine, wealth and industry affected not only the art of a nation but impacted the entire worldview of its people, and how such events spurred and nurtured - or stifled - the proliferation of the arts worldwide.  If I am ever fortunate enough to teach art history, that is the model I will use.  Art doesn't develop in a vacuum, and to teach nothing but dry names and dates robs the student - and the teacher - of the most compelling parts of the story.

New!  HoofPRINTS Notecard and Print  
"To the Jumper Ring" Pen and marker on bristol board 
© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I admit it.  Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.  There are lots of reasons for it - it is a secular holiday, so you don't have to worry about offending anyone or leaving someone out, it comes with yummy food and none of the calories, it brings back wonderful memories of my family gathered around the table when I was younger, and it reminds us to pause and be thankful for what we have.  Kinda like a kinder, gentler New Year's Eve... without the calories.

So, what am I thankful for?  First, I am thankful for this wonderful recording of Satie's Gymnopedie in my music library.  I'm not a huge Satie fan, but sometimes he has the perfect music... like for stormy November nights,  with icy rain sluicing down the windows and thoughts rattling against the inside of my skull like the leaves against the glass panes.  Satie is a lovely, ponderous, purple sound.  Maybe next we can segue into Copland's bright blue Saturday Night Waltz and take flight.  (And in fact, we have...)

I am thankful for this studio I sit in, surrounded by my paintings, all waiting to be finished, full of potential and possibility.  I am thankful that I was able to attend one of the best art colleges in the country, and thankful that enough people were terrified of my second year painting professor that they dropped the class, leaving a class of only four students to receive 9 hours of personalized instruction a week.  I am grateful the aforementioned professor made us learn to mix our own gesso and stretch our own canvases, and I am thankful that I can now buy that crap already done from the store.  I am thankful that my career path has followed my "artistic" path very closely, and that whatever I've learned in one field I've been able to use in the other.  I am thankful that my parents never told me I couldn't draw, and thankful that years and years of practice have allowed me to be able to fake it fairly well these days.

I'm thankful for my subject matter.  The horse for me is a neverending marvel, the perfect blend of power and containment.  I'm thankful that there have been a wonderful herd of horses in my life, and that my "first" horse was an ancient Cleveland Bay.  I've never looked at a "plain" brown horse the same way since.  I'm thankful for the miracle of birds, and it's nice that they so often tend to live in those other awe-inspiring things: trees. And speaking of trees and the inherent majesty of Spanish moss and resurrection ferns,  I'm thankful for literally the entire state of Louisiana.  I think I could wander the wilds of Louisiana and Florida forever, dreamy and dazed, and never run out of things to delight the eye and inflame the senses.

I'm thankful for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and thankful that a public school music teacher told me I could and would learn to play it, and then made me do so.  (And I'm thankful for this marvelous recording by the ever delightful Anne-Sophie Mutter.)  Speaking of Ms. Mutter, I'm thankful for Anne Rice, both in literary and "fairy godmother" form, and I'm thankful I've been able to give something back to her for all the enjoyment she's brought me over the years.

I'm thankful for Rembrandt, Sargent, Mucha, Magritte, Leyendecker, Audubon, Parrish, Toulouse-Latrec, Rousseau, Mehl, St. Clair, Brenders, Pratt, Forbes, Hopper, Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Gorey, Stubbs, Keane, Vettriano and Deja. And whoever came up with the whole Art Nouveau phase, Minoan art period and Byzantine iconography thing, you rock.  I love you guys.

I'm thankful for my best friends, for a litany of unsaids.  I'm thankful for my parents for their support.  I'm thankful for my family for their love.

And I'm thankful for my husband - artist/draftsman supreme, man of steel, head cheerleader, personal-demon slayer, and professional "pep talk" giver.  I'm thankful he knew me for 10 years and then decided he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

Finally, I'm thankful for you, whoever you might be, out there reading this blog.  Thanks for providing an audience, a challenge, a goal, a competition, an eagerness to share and talk and touch and explain and listen, and thanks for allowing me a platform to share with the world.  I was going to close with some crack about the pen being mightier than the sword but the paintbrush being mightier than all, and then I lost the thread.  So, instead, I close with what I am most thankful for - the art.  Happy Paintsgiving.

© Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bill, part II

Yesterday I posted a quick nothing on "Bill" my new, as yet unnamed and unidentified bird painting.  Since then, I've been both guilt-ridden over such a flippant blog post, and consumed with discovering the genus and identity of the aforementioned "Bill".  I've checked bird books, searched google, even drafted a letter to the aviary where the picture was originally taken.  All of which brings me to the question: why does it matter?

Because it DOES matter, at least to me.  Part of being a representational artist is that whole "representational" part- in other words, you should be able to identify the subject of your painting.  There are various arguments for and against this, ranging from freedom of artistic expression to the validity of photorealistic artwork to a postmodern deconstruction of the form.  All of those points are valid, and each artist interprets them in different ways.  In my humble opinion, you have to first prove that you understand a form before you can deconstruct it.  When people think of Picasso, they think of his heavily abstracted forms, his multiple povs and stylized figures.  What many don't know is that Picasso could draw like an angel by the time he was fourteen.  His early artwork was full of such fully realized nuance, technical skill and beauty that he was able to build on an absolute rock solid understanding of form to systematically blow it apart in his later artistic exploration.  Once you understand that about him, his artwork takes on added meaning.

We are taught as kids to color "inside the lines".  Trees are green, sky is blue, the sun is yellow.   (And there's a whole fascinating science to the progression of how children learn to draw, such as when everyone starts adding hundreds of fingers to hands or everyone is depicted on profile.  Absolutely fascinating stuff that follows a very set timeline in child development.)  As we get older, middle school art classes introduce the idea of photorealism, usually through he whole "copy half of a magazine picture" idea.  Your skill as a middle school artist is determined by how precisely you are able to mirror the magazine page, and some people become extremely accomplished at this.  (A big tip of the hat to my bff, whose graphite rendering of "Makeup Ad Girl in Sunglasses with Beestung Lips" on bristol board STILL hangs in a prominent place in my "memory" gallery.)  Some people take this photorealism to astonishing levels.  Carl Brenders comes to mind as someone whose artwork can literally make you weep with amazement and gratitude for his exacting "exactness" of hair and stone and grasses.  Unbelievable.

One of my childhood dreams was to be an animator.  Because of the demands of their work, an animator MUST have a rock solid understanding of anatomy to be able to move that character properly through space.  The work of really good animators (ANY of Disney's 9 Old Men or the newer greats like Glen Keane, Mark Henn, Andreas Deja, to name just a few) has such a purity of form and function to their line.  They can draw an anatomically correct arm in one line, with such fluidity and grace that it becomes the best one line rendering of an arm you've ever seen.  Animators know anatomy.

As an (primarily) equine artist, I know horses.  I also can look at someone else's art and tell immediately whether they know horses.  Whether they've spend time with a horse, laid their hands on a horse's neck, sat on their back, looked into their eyes.  That understanding of pure form transfers to the art.  Yes, some technical skill is required to accuratley depict the shading of bone and muscle, but the basic anatomy should still be seen to be correct.

So why all this fuss for "Bill"?  I've always loved animals, I've owned and studied and read about them most of my life.  My art has dovetailed (tee hee) perfectly with my desire to know and learn more about the animal kingdom, and part of that learning and exploring has been learning a smattering about my subjects.  Even if finding out what kind of food this bird eats (mostly fruit, is my guess) and where it lives (Central or South American temperate forest is my bet) doesn't have any bearing on the actual picture itself, I've learned something and added to the story behind the painting.  And that to me, is just as important as the finished piece.
Close up of "Bill- WIP"  ©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Friday, November 11, 2011


I finally got back to the studio today.  It's been a crazy few weeks, and unfortunately, when life interferes, personal work sometimes takes a backseat.  No crazy deadline to rush, no looming publication date, just a few weeks at the end of the year to work on "fun" stuff.  "Different" stuff.  Maybe "Next Year's" stuff?

Anyway, here is "Bill" (working title only) after about 2 hours of purely pleasurable work.  Small-ish (for me) board, manageable subject, just a chance to cut loose and have some Fauvre-fun.  Sometime soon I have to:
1) identify this bird, because I don't think "Bill" will cut it, and
2) come up with a real title for this piece.  I have an idea or two, but I'm holding off until I feel a little more settled in it.
Next blog article will have something of great substance and profound importance, I promise.  Thanks for reading anyway.
"WIP"  © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Today I had intended to write about inspiration - those artists whose work inspires, educates and inflames me.  But, as is so often the case, the best laid plans can go astray.  As I wandered the aisles of the art store this morning intent on spending my gift certificate (spoils from placing third in this year's Irving National Wildlife Art Show) I took in all the tools of the trade, those amazing but silent raw materials that allow artists to do what they do - create something out of nothing.

Rows and rows of paint tubes in every color of the rainbow.  Stacks upon stacks of paper in every possible texture, size and shade.  Displays of brushes poke their heads up vying for attention, all begging to be touched.  Pastels, charcoal, pens, ink, canvas.  All of it sitting mute on the shelf, waiting for someone to dig into them and make something.  I want to buy ALL of it.

So what is essential to me in my studio?  Understand, my current studio is not ideal.  My husband and I share a studio space, and both of us have a LOT of stuff, so it's a little cramped.  It's kind of dusty (despite my best efforts), the light is nice but uneven, and ... did I mention it was cramped?  But I have my half of the room and he has him, and we've each made the space ours and come here to do serious work.

The whole studio is dominated by a full wall of bookshelves.  All the shelves are overfull, so there are also books stacked sideways on top and lined up on the sides, sometimes two and three rows deep.  All our friends are here: Rembrandt, Sargent, Caravaggio, Audobon, Hogarth, Parrish, Wyeth, Rousseau, and Magritte.  There are shelves devoted to the wizards of Disney traditional (and CG) animation, Byzantine iconography, art nouveau, art instruction, art theory, art history, figure drawing and animal anatomy.  There are favorite books whose pages are smudged with paint or dusty with charcoal, and the books wear those marks like a badge of honor.  Inspiration lives on those shelves, and I cannot count the number of times that being able to reach over and grab a book has saved the day... and the piece.

My drawing/ painting desk is an old architectural drafting table.  The thing is massive, creaky and ancient.  It tilts back and forth and slides up and down, and the surface is a much written upon self-healing matt.  I've got all kinds of stuff scribbled on here, quotes from artists or authors, bits of songs or phrases that tickle my ear, admonitions and motivation.  Since the matt is rubber, the words eventually fade away, and I can either rewrite them or add something new, providing a continuously changing inspiration board.  At the moment, "The Wind of Heaven" is tacked to the board with snap clamps (another essential for me), along with a plastic glove from oil painting and a picture of my little sister.

Directly above my desk is more inspiration.  The cork bulletin board is almost totally covered in tear sheets, photos, show dates, reminders, and a few odds and ends that I rather like.  It's a huge mess, but whenever I try to clean it off all the empty space makes me uneasy, so back go the photos.  Some of these are future paintings, some of them are cool photos, and some of them are photos that would make wonderful paintings (or etchings), if only I could figure out how to do them.  They live above my desk as a kind of permanent "tickle board", and every once in awhile, I can pull a photo off and work a painting from it.

My oils live in a fishing tackle box, a holdover from college days.  Watercolors and gouache have their own boxes, since they don't play together very well, and my desk drawers hold a plethora of pens, inks, framing supplies, office stuff, oil pastels (I now have an entire drawer dedicated to my Sennelier oil pastels, and I am psyched!), painting mediums, and rags.  All of my brushes live on my desk, loosely sorted by size and medium.  My watercolor brushes are kept together in one of my water jars- an antique mason jar that has only gotten prettier with age, paint and use.  I have two good lights and a comfy chair.  The big Epson and my filing cabinets full of carefully sorted reference photos live on the other side of the room.

The only other thing that is absolutely integral to my studio is the dread machine I am typing on.  Not only for the computer-y goodness, but because it holds quite a bit of my music collection, and it has a neat "shuffle" button.  I can't work in silence.  (My husband, by contrast, works ONLY in silence, which explains why the two of us can't work at the same time.)  I listen to a wide variety of music when I'm working (or any time, really), anything from classical to Dixieland Jazz to Eminem.  Right now I'm rocking out to Clare Fader and Janis Joplin, and in awhile I'll pick up a brush and turn on Florence and the Machine and Muse.  (Of course now it just shuffled to Mozart's Requiem.  Of course.)

Today's art store haul included a bunch of yummy oil paints (and I even brought a list to prevent impulse buys!) and two wonderful new long handled brushes, both with excellent snap and a really nice feel in the hand.  I can't wait to dig into my palette later and try them out.  I've got a few paintings to finish (and they're so close to being done!) and it will be a great way to get to know these brushes and for them to get to know me.  I think we're going to be friends.

Turpentine and Ochre

All text and images © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best of Both Worlds, or fun/work/fun

I spent today doing art of a different sort.  My project still required an inspired use of color, judicious contrast and value control, a nod towards tactile pleasure, and a desire to produce the best art I was able to create.  But instead of paper and paint (or even pixels) today's art consisted of fine art inkjet printing.

The subject of creating a print from your original artwork could fill a volume - several volumes, in fact - and there are plenty of good books out there on the very subject.  There are also wonderful online communities full of dedicated users who spend countless hours discussing paper profile mismatches, black point compensation and the proper color gamut of alizarin crimson.  There are those who rail against any kind of commercial art printing as a snub to traditional lithography, and there are plenty of people who throw around words like "archival", "giclee" and "limited edition", without any real grasp of what those words truly mean to the artist or their customer.  There is a world of information out there, and it would take several lifetimes to learn all there is to know about this business of printing art.

This is what I do know.  I can finish a painting, photograph it, convert it into a digital file, proof it, color correct it, proof it again (repeat as necessary), and create a beautiful piece of affordable art to pass it on to my collectors.  They get a beautifully printed, high quality "copy" of an original they may not have been able to afford, and I make a little extra money.  It's a beautiful thing.

I'm fortunate that I have the ability to control every phase of my artwork, from conceptual idea to  finished product in the client's hands.  Part of my college schooling was dedicated to computer illustration, typography and design.  While I am by no means a computer artist (but my husband is! www.Gizmoart.net) I view Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Painter as tools in my arsenal.  In fact, most of my "professsional" life has involved those programs.  Over the past 10 years, much of my work has revolved around the world of fine art printing.  There is still art and artistry in this.  Creating a stunning fine art print is more than just running some great paper through a machine and pushing a button or two.  (And trust me, there's some really, really great paper out there.)  Granted, the technology has gotten much better since the first inkjet printers were introduced and today's machines produce great prints and are easier than ever to use, but an artist's eye is still required to create the perfect print.    

Why would that be?  Because an inkjet print is, at heart, a digital creation.  While the new printers are very, very good, there is still a huge difference between an original oil on board and a series of digitally controlled pigment ink droplets sprayed onto canvas.  The magic of what has happened on your board is digitized, crunched, converted to code and reassembled on a computer monitor with different light, different colors, even a different "white".  It's like comparing apples to... computer generated apples.  Once you've taken a good photo (another art form in its own right) and the image has been reassembled as a digital file, the real fun/work/fun begins.  When the image on your monitor finally matches the original art (variable 1), you must then print the image onto the chosen media (variable 2) and compare.  I usually do side by side comparisons with a red pen handy, and scribble cryptic notes to myself like "not jello-y enough" or "perfect shade for murder".  Then I sit back down at my computer and make my color adjustments, going for a nice refined claret instead of a "homicidal" red, for instance.  After I've corrected the image and saved my corrections as a new file, I print again and compare.  That's the process I repeat as long as necessary.  Simple?  Yes.  Easy?  No.   At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to me is the piece of canvas that comes out of the printer.  That is what is going to my client, and I want it to be the best print I am capable of creating.  

Tonight I'm heading to a gallery opening for a customer of mine.  He knows me from my 9-5, where I work with artists and photographers who print their own stuff, answering questions and giving advice on  papers, printers, varnishes, ICC profiles and color corrections.  On Sunday I have a gallery opening of my own to attend, with two of my paintings (well, a painting and a scratchboard) up for juried awards.  In some ways, it's the best of both worlds, and I am looking forward to both shows.  But right now I will take my freshly created print and inspect it one more time, looking for any flaws.  If it passes final inspection, I'll number it (1/60, for a brand new edition) and finally sign my name, signifying that this, to me, is art.  I made it, I created it, and I am proud to send it out into the world.

"Only the Lonely"  
Limited Edition giclee inkjet print from an original graphite by Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011. 
  © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.
 Limited Edition of 60, signed and numbered by the artist on 100% cotton rag paper, 18 x 24

Friday, August 5, 2011

How compass success?

The envelope was the first sign.  I've been on the receiving end of enough rejection letters to know that those are always thin.  After all, it doesn't take much paper to say "Dear Ms. Quentin, After careful consideration we regret to inform you..."  blah, blah "You suck"... "Sincerely, X"  Usually one single spaced sheet of paper will do it.

But this envelope was thick.  Not Birds in Art thick, where the forms come in a mythically huge 9x12 envelope (or so I hear), but weighty.  Several sheets of paper inside.  And we all know art shows require an absurd amount of paperwork.
So I was feeling pretty good as I started to open the envelope.  At least one of them got in.  I bet it was...

... not at all the one I was expecting.

That's the second time that's happened to me now with this show.  I send my 2 picks, Steve chooses a third, and voila! the third pick is the winner.  Maybe I should just let him pick all of them from now on!

But I am now preparing a piece of art to ship to Kentucky, to the American Academy of Equine Art's Fall Open Juried Exhibition.  The AAEA is one of my personal "Triple Crown" art shows.  AAEA membership is limited to those who are juried into three of their yearly fall exhibitions, and the fall exhibitions are usually very heavy on the applicant side.  To be juried in two years ago was amazing.  To be chosen twice, after only the third time I've entered, is awesome.  Assuming I ever get juried in again, I can then submit my body of work for review and possibly be inducted as a member.  Heady stuff.

There are a few shows to my mind that establish you (me) as a serious artist - the AAEA, Birds in Art and Arts for the Parks.  The Arts for the Parks show is sadly defunct, and that is a true shame, because the caliber of landscape and environmental art produced for that show every year was phenomenal.  I am not and have never been a landscape painter, but it was always something I wanted to try.  And Arts for the Parks was the pinnacle of landscape painting.

Birds in Art originated as a tiny exhibition at a small museum in Wisconsin, and over the years has grown into possibly the finest avian art show in the world.  Competition is insane to be juried into each year's show, and they often have hundreds or thousands of entries from all over the world.  I've only entered once (got the thin envelope) but every year I prepare to submit a piece.  I never actually DO (it's a lot like my attendance record for the (former) Budweiser Grand Prix in Tampa, in fact) but I always WANT to.  I will one of these days.  Got the entry deadline (tax day, in fact) already on my calendar.  I've got time until April, right?

And then there's the AAEA.  When I was younger and decided I wanted to try this whole "painting horses for a living" thing, they were the group whose name came up constantly.  With a strong emphasis on realism, traditional works, accuracy and excellence, the AAEA show every year is a special treat for an equine artist.  The artists in the AAEA shows are some of the very best in the field, and the quality of work is always spectacular.  To have a piece hanging at this show is a huge honor, and I am very grateful.

So... what does all this mean?  I've already learned that I don't consider myself an artist just because I do art.  I have to be doing good art, apparently, and in order for it to be good, it has to be appreciated by someone else.  It'd be phenomenal if it was appreciated with large bills of currency, but, failing that... does this count?  People put art in shows for lots of different reasons.  Exposure, sales, collector value, CV and resume pumping... all those things.  I do it for all those things.  But I also do it because I believe in artistic excellence and personal vision.  No one else has your voice, not in writing, or in speech, or in art.  And the ability to show your voice on a gallery wall with others whose "voices" are judged to be excellent, well... that puts you in pretty good company, doesn't it?  And maybe, for some of us, that provides validation.
Now, on to the SAA, the Draft Horse Classic and the new bird painting!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Branching Out

I draw and paint horses.  My business cards say "equine artist".  I consider myself an equine artist.  (Actually, I consider myself a representational/ American impressionist painter heavily inspired by the Fauvre movement, who focuses primarily on the equine form... but who's counting?)  The point is, much of my work over the past 10 years has been about horses and the world of English discipline riding.   And much of my childhood scribblings were horses as well.
Well, horses and birds.  In fact, my parents still have my kindergarden fingerpaintings, in which I did a whole series of ducks in a pond.  (They're actually a lot of fun!)  I remember an owl phase too.  But the point is, chances are, if I wasn't drawing a horse, I was drawing a bird.
I did birds for my senior thesis in college.  Scratchboard Indian hornbills, in fact - birds I love to look at.  My first published artwork was an egret.  My first professional sale was a macaw.  Birds seemed a very natural Florida thing, with their bright tropical colors, lush environments, dappled shade, and giant tree branches wrapped in moss.  Plus, I could walk outside most days and be inspired by the flora and fauna of Florida's Gulf Coast and her effortless beauty.  When I moved to Texas, bright tropicals didn't really seem to fit the landscape so much, so I put the birds away and focused on other things.
Last week, for the first time in a long time, I did (read: finished) a bird piece.  It was for a charity event here in Dallas, an exceedingly worthy cause, and I was honored to be asked to participate.  The canvas was small - 10" square, and I wanted to do something different - a throwback to some of my earlier bird work.  Plus, I've been on a gold leaf kick lately, and I knew I wanted to incorporate gold leaf into the piece.  After reviewing my reference photos, I pulled a handful of bird pics and started to visualize a painting with each of them.  One picture of Gouldian finches that I took at an aviary years ago jumped out at me, and the title of the piece practically fell in my lap.
Here is the result:
"As Gouldian as it Gets"  
Oil and gold leaf on canvas   
©Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.

The floodgates have now opened.  I've got birds on the brain.  Toucans and cranes and parrots and pelicans, oh my.  I'm wrapping up a few big pieces in my studio today and then hoping to start on one of the new bird pieces this weekend.  They are fun and fancy free, and it feels really good to (pardon the pun) stretch my wings and move back into a genre I haven't worked with for awhile.
PS- "As Gouldian as it Gets" was quickly purchased by a lovely woman who planned to hang it next to a large painting of macaws she had at home.  It's always such a pleasure to be able to meet collectors, those wonderful people who allow me to keep doing what I love to do.  I hope that she enjoys the painting as much as I enjoyed making it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pulling out the orphans, plus.... dressage!

One of the advantages to being able to pursue both commissioned and self generated work is that I get to start on a lot of really cool paintings that I might never get the chance to work on if I were relying on a client commission.  Many clients want a carefully controlled painting, starring themselves, their horses, their dogs or cats, their subject, etc, etc, etc.  Since this is exactly what a "commissioned" painting is, I'm perfectly okay with that!  If you as a client have the idea and the concept (and the money), I will paint whatever you want in any way you may desire.  And hopefully at the end of the (painting) day, we both go away happy.

On the other side, there's self generated work.  This is work that is done either as a self promotion piece or a learning curve or to fit a possible show theme or simply because you have an idea that you want to try and capture in an "artistic" way.  Since there's no client looking over your shoulder, there's no pressure to get it done a certain way, and lots of happy accidents can occur.  On the other hand, unless you are shooting for a predetermined deadline (upcoming show, advertising, etc) there's no real incentive for you to finish the thing quickly.

Sometimes these paintings sort themselves out wonderfully.  They practically paint themselves, and at the end of the day, you have a nice new piece of art to hang, sell, use, enter, etc.  And sometimes...

... there are the orphans.

Every artist knows what I am talking about.  THOSE paintings.  The ones that are just too cool to throw away, or the ones you've invested too much time/work/paint/frustration in to walk away from (or slink away in defeat), or the ones that are really kinda sorta NICE... if you can just figure out 1) what the problem is and 2) how to resolve it. Sometimes I'm rapturously in love with a single square inch of board, and that square inch is the sole reason for the painting's continued existence.

This is one reason why art studios are usually pretty cluttered, by the way.  It's very hard to give up on a painting or drawing, and so they get stored away, tucked into portfolios and behind cabinets, and then they multiply like evil little failure rabbits.  But every once in awhile, it's nice to unearth them from the clutter, dust them off and see if you as the artist (and master of your own destiny) can make some magic happen.

I've got a bunch of show deadlines in the next few weeks.  A ridiculous amount, actually, the kind of number that drives me from my bed at 4:00 in the morning to come into the studio.  (Hello everybody!) And this is where the orphans come in handy.

As I write, there are 9 paintings/ drawings hanging out in the studio with me, propped up against walls or scattered on the floor.  After carefully reevaluating them with fresh eyes (some of them have been in an unfinished state for several... years (sigh) now), I think there's enough promise here in a few of them to pull out the old paintbrushes and make a concerted effort at finishing a few of the damn things, thus putting me at least a few hours ahead from the dreaded "blank canvas" stage I'd be in otherwise with deadlines looming and panic attacks and all that.  Huzzah!  So now instead of having to start and finish a few paintings by... oh, let's say April 15th... now I only have to FINISH three of them.  And that is much more workable.  (And then start on May's deadlines!)


Here are a few of my (favorite things) orphans that came under review this morning.  If all goes well, hopefully you will see these guys in their completed incarnation this year in various and sundry venues.

All images © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com

And then, just for fun, here are a few of the almost 800 (yes, 800) pictures that I took at a dressage show today.  The weather was nice, the horses were gorgeous, the drive was peaceful... not a bad way to spend a Saturday.  These are the moments that make life as an equine artist worth living.  Enjoy!

All images © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  www.MoosePantsStudio.com