Virtual Open Studios Stop 3: Blue Çay

This is a painting that I’m actually still working on and might change later; but it’s giving me so much life right now that I really wanted to share it. It feels personal, almost like a journal or a scrapbook, so I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that will resonate with anyone besides me. But I’m still so excited about it that I don’t want to keep it inside.

I’m kind of thinking of it as my covid-19 isolation inspiration board of sorts: what I’m thinking about, praying for, what’s making me happy.

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It’s in the loosely abstracted cityscape form that I’ve been trying to leave behind actually. I did a lot of these collages of sort of city skylines with lots of high rises and sky scrapers, sort of to evoke the idea of a dense city rather than actually representing any real city, and also because the visual pattern of overlapping right angles is something I really enjoy (and often paint fully abstracted too). But sometimes they feel too Coruscant to me and not grounded enough in a real place. So I’ve been trying to try other things instead! But it’s a comforting habit of mine, and I’m being generous with myself and letting myself do something comforting.

The color palette feels really soothing to me too–it’s different for me to do so much blue without lots of brown or orange but I like it.

What is most unique about this painting, for me, is that normally I kind of downplay the text in my collages. I want it to be there more for texture and as a background pattern, not for content. But this time I leaned into the content, giving each building or skyscraper at least one word, providing contrast and energy to the painting but also meaning

IMG_20200423_162708I’m going to go through all the black on white visible words and explain why I picked them. Some are obvious, others not so much. 

Please note: The white on black Urdu text I did not pick for meeting but rather because the black added some nice visual contrast. It’s from what I think is the classifieds section of the New York Pakistani newspaper and most of the text seemed to be the names of businesses when I checked it with Google translate.

  1. Top left: “Coragem” = courage in Portuguese
  2. Chinese characters, second from left. I used Google Translate and it seems this either means “beautiful/livable city” or the name of a specific place/city. I don’t completely trust Google translate but I just like that it has a reference to a city, any city.
  3. 3rd from left: “encontrada” = encountered or met, in Portuguese. I like the suggestion of discovering something new and unexpected.
  4. Below “encontrada” is the word “Bangladesh” in Bangla. My husband’s family is originally from Bangladesh so it’s a word that holds a lot of meaning and memories for some people I love very much. 
  5. 4th from the right: “Sagar” is the name of a Bangladeshi take out restaurant in Queens, New York. Their food is delicious and I really hope they are still in business after this shutdown. 
  6. Next to that is “Nuevos trenes de la” which connects to the “linea roja” further down–from an El Mundo (Boston’s local Spanish language newspaper) article about new Red Line trains. It just makes me happy as very Boston reference–new trains on the Red Line is absolutely big news!
  7. The biggest word, “Çay” = tea in Turkish (it’s pronounced chai). I have a dear friend who lives in Istanbul and I’ve been lucky enough to get to visit her a few times. Every visit has included lots and lots of delicious Turkish tea. I included this word both as a way to celebrate what I love about Istanbul and my friend there (and because it’s one of the few Turkish words I can actually recognize) but also because Istanbul has indirectly inspired a lot of my paintings. There is something about the way the light hits the residential neighborhoods in the very hilly Asian side of Istanbul which has been a sort of visual refrain inside my head and has influenced almost all the cityscape paintings I have made.
  8. Next to “çay” is “Somerville”, where I live!
  9. Below that is “saude” = “health” in Portuguese
  10. And below that is “realiza” = “realize” in Potuguese, but in the sense of “make it so, make it true, bring it to life”
  11. Starting at the left again we have: “ajudam” = “they help” in Portuguese. So many people are helping right now!
  12. Next, “Vocé” = “you” in Portuguese.
  13. Then, the word “kemon” in Bangla = “how”
  14. Above that, “Trabajo” = “work” in Spanish
  15. Next, “Amor” = “love” in Spanish and Portuguese
  16. Next, “mulheres” = “women” in Portuguese. Because we kick ass, right now and always.
  17. Next, “projecto” = “project” in Portuguese. Let’s get to work!
  18. Under that, in Bangla characters, “New York”. I love this because most of the time when I spend time in New York, it’s in a very Bangladeshi neighborhood of Queens. And, especially in these coronavirus times, I’ve been thinking about New York a lot, especially my family members who live there and work in healthcare. 
  19. Finally, “quem” = “who”, in Portuguese.

Virtual Open Studios Stop 2: Halal Fried Chicken

I’m a landscape artist but what I love about painting buildings and streets is that those were all built by people and lived in by people and used by people. My art tries to use the physical cityscape to represent and celebrate the people who spend their lives in those spaces and give them meaning.

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I call this painting “Halal fried chicken” and it gives me so much joy. Through many visits to family in Jamaica, New York over the years I have come to love the messy and complex energy of Queens. And it feels down to earth and it feels…real? 

This little grouping with a church, two restaurants, a corner store, and a salon is the perfect example of what I love about Queens. I snapped a photo of it years ago and it’s been stuck in my head like a visual refrain for a long time, long before I ever thought of painting it. Here’s the photo I took in 2017:20170403_105651 (1)

And visually, it’s something completely different from my Somerville, Cambridge, or Boston landscapes. Building and neighborhoods here tend to be more monochromatic. In Queens, every shop, place of worship, dentist’s office, or restaurant has a huge, colorful awning out in front on the sidewalk telling the world what it is.

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When I set out to do this painting, I knew that featuring the awnings and the lettering was going to be the major focal point of the piece, which meant a whole new approach for me. Trying to recreate fonts in paper is interesting, to say the least! Also, I rarely use true to life colors and instead kind of create a palette that works for me. But the signs and the colors are my favorite parts of this piece. It’s also less representational than most of my landscapes, at least of the ones that are of real places. I tried a stylized approach, playing up funky lines and edges and trying to de-emphasize the right angled grid that is so easy to get from a row of buildings with windows and doors. But I did try hard to match true colors for the most part.

I did simplify the names and signs; the Greek Orthodox church on the left had a much longer name, but I only had room for the word “Saint” in Greek. The spelling of “Halal Fried Chiken” is just like that on the real store front. The “My City” sign is actually “My city deli” but leaving off most of the “deli” felt right. 

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I don’t think it’s perfect; I’m constantly wondering if I should have abstracted it further or gone with realistic perspective and proportions. Also trying to match real life colors when they are a series of signs and advertisements rather than colors occurring in nature came out a little weird and off to me? Color balance is something that I usually feel like I do pretty well but this didn’t feel quite right to me in terms of the color relationships.

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I’m still over thinking it–I’ve covered over these yellow patches with warmer orange-y brownish tones. But maybe that was a bad idea?? Now I miss the yellow!

But nonetheless I’m really proud of this piece because it was a totally new style for me and I learned a lot through doing it. It genuinely and respectfully celebrates a place that I hold dear. I think what I love most about it is the energy and sense of momentum that I got while working on it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and any time I was away from my studio I couldn’t wait to get back. It gave me this sense of hope and purpose which was really exciting.

My art business learning process: Artist associations

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Three years ago I started trying to turn the art-making that I’ve been doing on and off my whole life into an art business. And it’s been kind of overwhelming–there is sooo much to learn about every aspect of this process. But it’s also been really exciting! I figured I should start documenting some of this process, both for myself, to keep track of what I’ve learned, and so I can share it with others in case it’s helpful for someone else someday.

At the beginning, I took some basic steps like creating a website, Instagram account, and getting business cards made. Then, I would try to get my art shown but that turned out to be a lot harder. I participated in Somerville Open Studios (that should be a whole other post!) and also had a few local shows like at a coffee shop and the public library, but trying to randomly submit my art to shows I found out about online was a really discouraging process.

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Finally, just about a year ago, I stumbled across something new. Another local artist I follow on Instagram mentioned an artist association she was part of. I had never heard of such a thing, and at first I assumed you had to be some super talented and famous person to be a member.

But I did some more research and I discovered that’s not the case!

Turns out, an artist association is a type of organization in which artists pay an annual membership fee (the lowest I’ve seen is $50 but it can be much higher) which usually guarantees them a spot in 1-2 gallery shows per year as well as the chance to submit for several other shows with discounted submission fees. There are usually other benefits too–like free or discounted access to workshops and artist talks.

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Photo credit: Michael Flanary

The other useful thing is that most of these organizations have newsletters (which you don’t have to be a member to receive) that have all kinds of useful info about upcoming shows you can submit art to, classes, films, and talks, and art related grants or fellowships to apply for.

So, last winter I researched a few different artist associations in my area and decided to join two of them: Brickbottom Artist Association and Cambridge Artist Association. I’m not going to lie, this was mostly because they had the cheapest annual membership fees and were the closest to me geographically.

Brickbottom Artist Association is a really cool place–a former factory building in Somerville which is now a collectively owned live-work space for artists. I’m an affiliate member, meaning while I do not have a studio there I can still participate in some of their shows. Their main event of the year is Open Studios in late November, but I also got to participate in one or two other themed group shows. The annual membership fee is $50, and while there are minor additional fees for submitting art to shows or participating in Open Studios it’s still by far the most affordable option in the area and you get great value for your investment. Furthermore, everyone I met there is very welcoming and eager to meet new members. If you are an artist just starting out and you live in or near Somerville, I really recommend joining the Brickbottom Artist Association.

I also joined the Cambridge Artist Association. They have two gallery spaces and have more shows overall than at Brickbottom. They have a couple of member shows a year (that every member can participate in) and also have frequent juried exhibitions (meaning someone looks at the submissions and chooses what they want in the show, rather than everyone being automatically included). They also have a lot of different types of events. For me, the most helpful have been a collaging class I took there which actually gave me a lot of useful tools and techniques to apply to my own work, and a group critique session they have periodically called Feedback Forum. Membership is $85 annually, and the various other shows and opportunities tend to have higher fees than at Brickbottom, but there are also a lot more opportunities available.

In addition I signed up for the mailing list of a number of other organizations in the area, because there is often info about shows and opportunities that are open to anyone, not just members:

I’m sure there are many more in the greater Boston area but I’m still learning about it myself. If you know of a great local organization that I missed let me know!

In conclusion–artist associations are a thing! And anyone can join them. If you are just starting out but have art you want to show and hopefully sell, I really recommend joining one or more of these organizations because it is so helpful for meeting people and getting your work out there. And of course, if you live in a different area, there are probably a completely different set of artist associations available. But now you know it’s a thing, so you can do some research!

Do you have questions about artist associations? Insights or information that you want to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email.

New studio and new paintings!

 

I’m a little late announcing this, but in July I started renting a shared studio space! It’s been amazing to be no longer working from home and having the extra space to spread out all my materials and scraps of paper while I’m working on a project. I’ve been busy and productive since then which feels SO good. AND I have lots of new exciting collage paintings to show for it!

I’ve been doing more newspaper collage cityscapes as well as branching out and experimenting with more abstract pieces. For a (mostly) complete list of my new pieces, check out my portfolio here.

This weekend, November 23rd and 24th, I’ll be showing off my new paintings at Brickbottom Open Studios. The Brickbottom Artists’ Association is a very cool live/work space for artists in Somerville. I’m an affiliate member, meaning while I don’t have a studio there, I get to show my paintings there when they have events.

The event is from 12pm to 6pm both Saturday and Sunday at 1 Fitchburg St, Somerville. There will be dozens of artists showing their work all around the building, as well as musicians and dance performances happening in the lobby. I’ll be set up in the hallway on the second floor behind the elevators! I really hope you can stop by–it sounds like a very fun event and I’m excited to have an opportunity to show off work that I’m really proud of.

As a teaser, here’s a triptych of Somerville Ave that I just finished:

Somerville Ave Sunset, mixed media on canvas. (11 by 14) x 3

 

Newspaper collage cityscapes

For a long time I’ve had this image in my head, of a city–Mass Ave in North Cambridge, to be exact–where all the buildings were made up of words in different languages: Somali, Bengali, Haitian, Spanish, Portuguese, Amharic, Chinese. And I wanted to create that image. To somehow, imperfectly and clumsily, show my love for the diverse and messy and exciting community where I used to work in North Cambridge. And more generally to show my support for immigrant communities in cities everywhere who work so hard to literally and figuratively build cities and communities. I had this sense of longing, a need to make it happen. But I left it alone because I just couldn’t figure out how to make something that felt right, that felt like it had any integrity, that wasn’t forcing something to happen.

I started collaging, with paper and acrylic paint, and I could feel myself getting closer to satisfying the quiet buzzing in the back of my head. Finally, one day, I went out and collected newspapers from immigrant grocery stores all around Somerville and Cambridge. I didn’t get all the languages I wanted, but I found Bengali, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese. And I went to the public library to get Chinese and Spanish. And I started to collage with them and it feels so right and so exciting.

My first attempt felt hard and messy and all awkward and rough edges and painful and I kind of hated it but also…it came out better than I had imagined or planned it!

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We Built This City, mixed media with newspaper and acrylic. 18 by 24 inches. SOLD but prints available.

My next one was a long time in coming since some life stuff happened (new baby!) but I love it too, in such a different way:

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Now I have two more newspaper collage works in progress and I can’t wait to see where this goes!

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Work in progress

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Work in progress

Photos from reception at the YWCA

 

 

This month, August 2018, my paintings are on display at the YWCA Cambridge, where I’m Artist of the Month. I’m calling this collection “We Built This City”. I had an opening reception for the show on Sunday, August 5th, and it was so much fun!

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The reception was a wonderful opportunity to connect with people through my art.

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My favorite wall of paintings.

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The digger wall!

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My wonderful husband Tay was in charge of snacks!

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My kids came too!

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Thank you to the YWCA for hosting this show!

 

 

Finished two new commissions!

 

I finally finished my two main commission pieces for this fall, the painting of the Brown House for the UEP Department at Tufts and a portrait of a fire hydrant for a friend. Feels good to finally be done with two projects that I worked on (and, let’s be honest, obsessed over) for so long. Prints of the Brown House painting will be up on my Etsy page very shortly.

I’m actually especially proud of the fire hydrant–this was my second attempt at painting the same fire hydrant. I completed the first whole painting and finally admitted to myself that I hated it and started over from scratch with a completely different style and approach and now I really love it, and the process of creating felt really good. So glad I didn’t settle for the first one!

Painting outside

I forgot how much I love painting outdoors! For most of the year, I paint indoors and work from photographs for my landscape paintings. And I always enjoy that just fine. But during the summer, when I have time and the weather cooperates, I work on paintings from life, outside, on site. I’ve only been able to do a couple like that this year, but it’s always a great experience.

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Last month I did a small palette knife landscape of the beach at Arlington Reservoir, which is a popular summer destination for kids and families. I had so much fun talking with the kids who came up to me to ask me about my painting, comment on the colors I was using, and tell me how they thought I could do it better. Then while I was in the process of packing up, some sand got kicked onto the still wet paint, which actually ended up adding a really cool texture and color and the perfect amount of messiness to the finished piece.

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Photo credit: Sindia Foster

Currently, I am working on a commissioned piece on campus at Tufts University. One of the days I was onsite working recently was freshmen move-in day, which was a lot of fun–so many enthusiastic new students and their parents to talk to! This is a larger piece which will take several sessions to complete, so it feels like a chance to be an ongoing part of the community.

What I love about painting on site in a public place is that it’s a unique opportunity to interact with strangers in a very positive and warm way. I’m sure there are people who don’t like my paintings, but usually the people who stop to talk to me are the ones who do like them. So it’s always encouraging to have positive feedback from strangers. But it also makes a connection–the fact that I’m painting bridges the gap of silence that is usually present between strangers (at least in Boston). People ask me for directions, talk about what they like about the place where I’m painting, or talk about their own artistic experiences. For me, all those conversations and interactions get embedded in the painting itself in some way. The finished result feels like a collaborative work, rather than something I created out of my head, in isolation. When I look at the painting, I see something layered with experiences that much more fully sum up the sense of place in the landscape than a mere two-dimensional image. I also imagine and hope that for the passersby I get to talk to, seeing me painting in a location helps to deepen their experience and appreciation of it as well.

For me, on site landscape paintings of urban spaces are special because they both celebrate specific settings and communities, while also helping to create a sense of place and community.