Monday, March 11, 2013

My Klimted Life

Morning coffee in the studio with my recent bird series, 
no coincidence that I love the spiral in my work

Artist Kimberly Kelly Santini and I decided to give ourselves a challenge a few months back. We set out to paint an image in the style of an artist that we admire, married with our own subject matter and techniques. February, the month of love, was set aside for my favorite artist, Gustav Klimt.  Kim's Klimted version of my dogs Sam and Bella is stunning. As Kim put it, we are going to "wallow in artistic brilliance and see if by chance a little of it might rub off on us."

Speaking of rubbing off, or not...

My Klimt tattoo, (Fulfillment) circa 1990
from the Tree of Life

I have studied the work of Gustav Klimt nearly all my adult life. I have admired his gold leaf, his symbolism, composition and above all, his combination of flat patterning and design elements with amazing lifelike portraiture featuring beautiful and delicate modeling and brush work. Being both a graphic artist and a painter, this combination in Klimt's work resonates with me on two different levels.

My first exposure to him was in college, while on a semester abroad in London, UK through Syracuse University. I had a fellow student in my illustration class who was from RISD on the SU program. She was goth, black hair, heavy black makeup, combat boots, listening to GNR on her headphones. Claire and I hit it off, I loved her look and she loved Klimt. She showed me photos of a dining room she had painted in his style on commission. I looked him up and poured over library books for hours, It was true love, and that love never faded for me.

My bedroom room rug, inspiration at my feet

My Maternal Great Grandmother's name was Emily. My Mom always told me that if she had another girl after my sister (I am the oldest of five kids) the name she had waiting in the wings was Emily. Alas, she had three boys after Aimée, and we are all glad she stopped after that!

Emilie Louise Flöge was an Austrian designer, fashion designer, and businesswoman. She was the lifelong companion of Klimt. Her youngest sister was married to Klimt's brother Ernst. Klimt portrayed Emilie in many of his works. My first child, a girl, we named Emilie Elizabeth Nelson

I read this book to both my kids when they were small, 
Emilie loved that her name was spelled the same as the girl in the book. 

Gustav Klimt was born on July 14th (and I was born on the 13th!) (1862 - 1918) His genre is Symbolism and Art Nouveau. One of his most famous paintings is "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1"  This painting sold for $135 million in 2006, which made it at that time the most expensive painting for about four months. I was lucky enough to see this painting before it was sold (along with 10 others) in the Österreichische Galerie Vienna, Austria. I traveled to Austria solely to view the original works of Klimt. I went alone, and I enjoyed every minute of my time in front of his breathtaking originals, taking copious notes in my sketchbook. As the shift change of the museum guards took place, I realized I had been there all day. Adele Bloch-Bauer commissioned her portrait to be painted twice by Klimt, lucky woman. I have always wanted to be in her shoes...

 My "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" Klimt slides at the base of my easel, 
crown jewel of my shoe collection for many years

For the Klimt Challenge, I couldn't think of a better subject to tackle than my own self portrait (which I have never done in collage) as Adele Bloch-Bauer in the famed gold portrait. I would have my golden portrait, even if I had to paint it myself!

In progress, underpainting and sketch on wood panel

My Klimted self portrait is 24x30 and that's pretty big! The intricate patterning took me a while to collage. On the left is my homage to Klimt's "Tree of Life" where I updated the bird to be a modern day painted bunting, he's got my colors! I love the spirals Klimt uses in much of his work, you can see that influence in my collages.

While Kim was visiting FL and working on her Klimted piece, my friend and fellow artist Robin Maria Pedrero stopped by and started working on her own Klimt inspired still life, "Tea Party with Klimt" Her piece was started in my studio and it was wonderful for three artists to be working on a Klimt challenge in one space!

Friend and fellow National Collage Society member Alyson Champ said our Klimt challenge influenced her raven piece. 

Self Portrait as Adele Bloch-Bauer with Painted Bunting
©Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson / 30x24 / collage of hand painted papers on panel

For my portrait, I felt that the black hat was reminiscent of Adele's hair in Klimt's rendition. I wore the glasses to give me a more modern look, but I kept the concept of a collar that separated my head from the rest of my body and the patterning of design elements, both in metallic gold and in color. 

This challenge was not so challenging for me, since my life has always been Klimted (a term coined by Robin, by the way) and I have had the amazing opportunity to see his work in person. Something I'll never forget. 

for an really visually stunning film of Klimt's life, starring John Malkovich, check out
KLIMT available on DVD and Netflix

Monday, March 4, 2013

Life is Truly a Journey

Mutt Lynch Winery "Rusty" 2008
©Kimberly Kelly Santini

With an Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Hands

Last week I had the pleasure of a long overdue visit from friend and fellow artist Kimberly Kelly Santini. Now Kim will tell you that the pleasure was all hers, as she came to Sunny Orlando, FL from Almost Canada, MI. We had an amazing week, packed with fun, lots of rain, and some sun. When it was time to bring her back to the airport, I just kept saying "Can't you stay longer? I have so much more I want to show you!"

Me: OMG What's THAT? 
Kim: Um, That's your finger.

Open Your Hands - Generosity

My DVD and Book and workshops have been my way to open my hands and share my papers, my knowledge, my techniques and experiences with others. I hand over what I know and have gleaned from other artists in these publications. Fellow artists have shared with me, and I share with others. This is good karma, it comes back to you two-fold. Sharing with other artists will actually help you to learn and grow, reaching new heights in your work and on a personal level. Nothing compares to the appreciation of others when you teach them something new.

For those of you who don't know, I met Kim right here on this blog in 2010. One morning I was catching up with email over coffee and my iPad when I noticed an email from someone with whom I was unfamiliar. She introduced herself, admitted she had stalked this blog but NEVER commented. She went on to say that she was toasting me with her OJ that morning, because she had used the techniques she had gleaned from my DVD and book to create "Rusty" a dog portrait which had won first place and the honor of donning a Mutt Lynch wine bottle label that year. Sweet, love winning, but more importantly.... "you stalked this blog for years and NEVER made a comment?" That's just wrong.

P!NK in concert in Orlando, you don't get any closer than the PIT!

Me: This was going to be a surprise but you can't leave the pit once you're in and I figured you might have to pee first. 
Kim: What? Are you kidding me? And yeah, I gotta pee.

Kim, My crazy teenage daughter Emilie, and Yours Truly at the concert
Emilie: My mom and her friends are so cool
(that may have been taken out of context)

One email lead to another, one text lead to another, one phone call lead to another, and good karma brought me an amazing friend who I was lucky enough to spend last week with. We took in a LOT in a few days, and we had a ton of laughs. At the P!NK concert, we laughed SO HARD when I couldn't figure out WHAT was over the lens of my fancy iPhone camera. (Kim says she's never been photographed as much as she has been with me) Turns out it was my finger. Thanks Kim. We are still laughing about that.

Kim has opened her hands to share marketing tips with me, to trade a painting with me, and to help me through a few artistic dilemmas along the way. "Um, is this too colorful? have I gone over the top? I mean he's supposed to be a BLACK turtle and he's now PURPLE!" Kim, the voice of reason, gave me advice and talked me down from the ledge of the varnish table.

L to R Kim, Robin Maria Pedrero, Yours Truly
In my studio, painting together

Robin at the varnish table, she works flat

Kim at the table top easel on my fancy new countertops

Kim simultaneously painting and blogging
Me being impressed with her multitasking 

Open Your Heart - Friendship

As artists, our daily painting is a solitary pursuit. We are in the studio alone, we don't talk to anyone while we work, there is no water cooler to stand around and gossip about the weekend with co-workers on Monday morning. A good friend, and especially a good artist friend, can really warm the heart of a solitary painter. She can relate to your struggles with commissions, your challenges in capturing a likeness, and your obsession with keeping it fresh.

Kim and I have become fast friends since 2008. Orlando artist Robin Maria Pedrero and I met at Gallery on First when I was dropping off work one day a few years before that. She came running out of her studio and said "Hey! I've always wanted to meet you." And we've shared many a lunch, glass of wine, and even exhibited together (twice) since that day.

It was wonderful for me to be able to introduce Robin to Kim, as they too had come together online via Yours Truly. Robin drove a long way up from south Orlando to come and spend the day painting with us in my north of Orlando studio. ALL the way out of her zip code, that means a lot to me. After all, I have a 3-mile radius.

 Kim, "I have no upper body strength" paddling away from alligators 
along the Wekiva River and 3-miles from my house (well within my radius)

Open Your Mind - Life is a Journey

You never know where life is going to take you, but you can't get on that train if you don't have an open mind. I mean really, "The Polar Express," people!

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?" I saw that quote embroidered on a pillow at an antique shop in Upstate NY last summer and it really resonated with me.

Last year I was contacted by the Traverse City Art Center and asked to teach there. My geography stinks and I'm usually too lazy to look things up. So I called Kim, "how far is Traverse City from Almost Canada?" Basically she said "I'll pick you up at the airport and we'll drive up together." We did, and she took my class to boot. That was the first time we met in person.

I told kim she could bunk with me while we were in TC. She told me I should not agree to share a room with a total stranger, and that she might murder me in my sleep. I assured her that I'd probably be able to over power her, or get to her first.

Agreeing to spend that weekend together in person was a leap of faith and that leap required an open mind... and a little bit of a death wish, after her threatening me and all.

Learning Something New

What experiences have you had in this journey of life because you have been wiling to take a walk outside your comfort zone? Sometimes that includes taking an art class in a medium your not familiar with. Like art journalling. I was way out of my element at Kim's class she taught here in Orlando at the Craft Shack, but boy am I happy with the journal I made! And it was super nice to be a student for a change.

Kim, Yours Truly, and Maggie Weakly, a wonderful woman I also met online, who took my Craft Shack 3-day workshop and then came back for Kim's journalling class. Of course they met online too!

Inside the Craft Shack, my new favorite place to teach
probably because it's within my 3-mile radius, despite being OUT of my zip code

My handiwork with stencils and magazine letters

Open to Inspiration

Speaking of something new, we took a road trip to the Salvador Dalí museum in St. Petersburg while Kim was here. What an amazing collection of work in a visually and architecturally stunning building. I love visiting museums and galleries because at the end of the day, my mind is typically whizzing and whirling with ideas and possibility. I'm very motivated and inspired by other artists.

Geodesic glass dome combined with concrete, amazing architecture

A Wishing Tree in the garden of the Dalí Museum. 
Patrons remove their admission wrist bands, 
write a wish upon them, and tie them to the tree. 

My Wish: A Longer Journey

Friday, March 1, 2013

Workshop Fun

Hand Carved Stamps

Blick Carving Pad

I carve my own rubber stamps so that they are unique and different from anything you can purchase in the store. In the old days we had to carve linoleum or wood block, which was difficult, slow going, and often resulted in cut fingers!

These days there are a number of soft carving materials that cut like butter with traditional carving tools. 
Above is Dick Blick's Readycut. This product is very affordable, flexible, easy to cut down into small stamps from the large piece (6x9) with an Xacto knife.

Blick Carving Pad stamping effects

Speedball Speedy Carve Block

My second choice to the Blick material is good old Speedball Speedy Carve Block. This pink carving pad is also soft and flexible and carves like butter with traditional linoleum tools. 

I've been happy with both products, so it comes down to personal choice. But there's nothing more fun than sitting at the kitchen table with kids or friends and passing out the carving pad sections and the linoleum tools and having everyone make their own stamp (which you then collect at the end of the evening for your own purposes!). You'll be surprised at the variety you get when you recruit others to help!