This June I’ll have four pieces displayed at George Billis Gallery in Culver City - opening June 29th. To say I’m excited is putting it lightly. GBG is in the Culver City Arts District - where I used to work (and in another life, blog for). Whenever the Cityscape show rolled around I stopped by to drool over the artwork, grab a post card and add it to my collection of artist postcards I found inspirational / aspirational. It blows my mind that my newest piece (see below!) will featured on this years printed cards. Like I said, beyond excited.
One of the most interesting / challenging / fun things about taking commissions is when the client has an idea for a piece that literally never crossed my mind. This past month a couple from Georgia contacted me to do a custom bridal bouquet painting, but wanted it as a set with the boutonniere as well. I’ve never even considered painting a boutonniere, let alone doing a sort of ‘his & hers’ set from a wedding. It was such a charming idea, with the added bonus of it being for their anniversary AND that it was decorating their newly purchased home. You cant get any sweeter than that.
The biggest challenge was how to balance out the complexity of the bouquet with the simplicity of the boutonniere. The solution? Painting the boutonniere on a fabric (dark blue linen) that mimicked the color & texture of the groom’s suit from their big day. That, and I adding much more detail and subtlety to the boutonniere, drawing the eye in, even though it was a simple composition. In contrast, bouquet was kept loose and gestural, letting the broad paint strokes do the talking instead of a tightened up interpretation. The result? They loved it! Incorporating the base magenta into both paintings helped tie it together and now it gets to help make a house a home out in Georgia.
Here are some of the (gorgeous) reference photos from their wedding, along with the finished pieces!
Interested in your own bridal bouquet (or any bouquet) painting? I made this handy form you can fill out for a custom quote OR you can shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Saturday, I'll be showing two of the LARGEST pieces I've created to date at the Huntington Beach Art Center as a part of a group show, all focused on color. I am beyond excited to show with the group of artists that are also taking part in this. Stop by and say hello!!
COLOR VISION at the Huntington Beach Art Center
Opening Reception 5/5/18, 6:30 - 9:00pm
538 Main St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
I've been painting a floral every week for a few months, which means my apartment is very well decorated. And bonus! a bunch of the originals are for sale on my Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/vmacmillan
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of teaching a group of enthusiastic high school students. One of the group leaders also participated in the workshop and sent the most encouraging email afterwards, thanking me and asking how she could 'move forward with paint since I've never had the opportunity to paint before.' Best. Email. Ever.
This wasn't the first time I've been asked 'how do I start?' and as I was crafting my response, I realized it might be worth sharing. Please enjoy.
Hello! Ho-ly smokes I'm so sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I was SO thrilled to get your email & hugely encouraged that the workshop was a good experience for you.
As for what I'd suggest you do to move forward, here's what I'd do -
- I'd start here - https://www.artsupplywarehouse.com/ If you live even within 30 minutes of this Beach Blvd haven of affordable art supplies, it is worth the trek.
- Paint - while I adore working with oil, it can be cost prohibitive and ho-ly smokes it dries slow. Acrylic dries so fast that you can make mistakes & paint right over it in a few minutes. It's great.
- Brand - I'm pretty OK with student grade stuff. The Blick Studio Acrylics or Liquidex BASIC stuff is tempting, but the texture is funky. If you're desperate to paint go for it, but I'd stay in the Winsor & Newton or Grumbacher brands (student grade is fine. I hope none of my old professors are reading this).
Starter Colors -
- Titanium White
- Two kinds of yellow (one that is warmer & what that is cooler...they'll probably say something like, 'Cadmium Yellow Light' and 'Cadmium Yellow Medium')
- Two kinds of red (my favs - Alizarin Crimson as the cooler option & I'm digging the Grumbacher Red for the warm option)
- Two kinds of blue (again, one that is warm & one that is cool. Ultramarine Blue for the warm & Phalo//Thalo Blue for the cool wont steer you wrong)
- Play with with a Phalo//Thalo green as well.
- Don't use black. Mix Phalo Green, Alizarine Crimson and Phalo Blue instead. It will blow your mind.
What to paint on -
- Paper - try working on paper to try things out. Paper is less intimidating and you won't feel sad if it doesn't turn out well. I'd always suggest doing a solid wash of a color first to seal the paper so the paint doesn't soak right in (fun fact - you can use house paint to seal the paper. I buy the Home Depot 'Ooops' paint that is discounted to experiment w/colors). A hearty water color paper with a coat of paint or gesso often does the trick for me.
- Canvas - check out what is on sale & make sure they're not warped. Go for the thicker stretcher bars, staples on the back and if you paint the sides a solid color (*cough* house paint *cough*) they look great to just hang on the wall instead of having to frame (cause really, who has time for that?!).
Last thoughts on supplies -
- Experiment with color mixing.
- No black. Avoiding painting on straight white.
- Cheap brushes are fine so long as the bristles don't go falling off everywhere.
Now. What do you want to paint?????
I started with plants for the workshop because organic shapes are forgiving & exploration friendly, but you don't have to start there. What I would do is start noticing the things in your life you gravitate towards (hence the suggestion to start a Pinterest board - here is mine). See what catches your (plants, buildings, light & dark contrasts, people, faces, hands, shoes, clothes, textures, fashion, patterns, umbrellas, cats, lips, brickwork, Italy, yada yada yada).
The more you add on Pinterest, the easier it will be to start seeing your sense of style and personal preference emerge. You're making a mood board for your artistic ventures. It is so much friggin fun.
From there, start with copying things that you admire to learn from them. Try working 1/2 from photos or artwork you admire and 1/2 from real life things you gravitate toward.
Just start making stuff & when your internal voice starts to tell you it is a waste of time, it isn't turning out well or that you don't have what it takes, let me know & I've got some choice words for that internal voice. You may have to wrangle it some, but know that it is worth the effort. Once that internal voice is quieted, you can start making things for the joy & experience of making them.
Hopefully this is not overwhelming. I was mostly writing this to myself toward the end there, but perhaps it can be of use to you as well.
Its now in the third month of the year and I’ve not written a word about 2014. Like, what exactly am I doing? Yes, I will concede that last year took the cake in terms of productivity & shows & new work - but now what?
The question of ‘now what?’ is terrifying. It creates space for 1) opportunity and 2) failure. Rather than do the emotionally courageous thing of allowing myself to sit in that space and be at peace with myself & my work - I decided to take an art class! It started in February and was maybe the smartest thing I’ve done this year.
The class is ‘Painterly Painting: Impressionism to Expressionism.’
Which my mind translated to: ‘Copying styles of good painters from 80+ years ago.’ That is pretty much the opposite of what I’d normally do in my studio - and I wanted a class to challenge me - so 2 days before the first meeting I signed up.
What the class turned out to be was a group of 10-12 women with some of the most amazing backstories. Some are photographers, some are world travelers, (1 works in advertising like me!), but we’re all in this studio to discover something about painting & the world & ourselves and that is such a beautiful thing.
I don’t think I realized this in my undergrad experience. Not because my professors didn’t tell me. I just probably wasn’t listening.
Best thing about the class? After a few hours of painting, before we all clean up and go home - we spend a few minutes talking about each of the pieces we’ve created.
The teacher asks us what we liked, what we struggled with, what we’d do differently...and after talking about it for a few the class applauds you and your work. Being in a space with supportive, enthusiastic women who are excited to share with you what a few hours of painterly exploration has looked like & wrapping the whole experience up with applause?! I don’t remember the last time I felt so affirmed.
Applause aside, I’m shocking myself with what I’ve been creating. A few weeks in and I’ve done 1) the first abstract piece I’m not embarrassed by (this is a really big deal) 2) a cityscape//street scene that blindsided me with color//texture//movement. I can honestly say I didn’t see either of these coming.
More stories of continuing education classes to come...
Note: This will probably be the last of my recap posts. I’ve moved on from the whirlwind that was 2013 and am excited to start building this next year into something worth writing about.
Some of you know I used to do a lot of commissions. Like, for a good year I painted photos of people’s homes//spaces from all over the country. It was always an amazing experience to be trusted with documenting a time and place that was meaningful to the commissioner even though we’d never met and they had little to go on in trusting me. This past year I received a commission that took that trust to the next level.
One of my coworkers’ cousin had been struggling with heroin and tragically lost the battle a month shy of his 29th birthday. My coworker wanted to gift something to the family - with whom he was incredibly close - and asked if I’d consider doing a portrait. Because my style tended to be colorful and celebratory, he thought it’d be a good fit - celebrating a life even though it was cut short.
My knee jerk reaction was to say no.
- I’ve not done portraits in years
- I’d be horrified if I wasn’t able to represent his likeness in a way that felt honoring
- I had no idea how to start a project like this
I’m still blown away that my he put his faith in me to give it a shot. I only agreed if I could do a drawing first and have him approve the concept before I’d accept the commission.
Even today, looking back at the drawing and painting that resulted, I’m still at a loss for how it came together, (I mean, I prayed a lot through the process & I can only assume the universe was on my side for this one). According to my coworker it was incredibly well received and the family ended up displaying it for the service.
I have a hard time coming up with a take-away from this experience. Like, what the lesson was or what I should remember for the next time I’m commissioned to do something scary and outside of my comfort level. Ultimately, I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was trusted to capture a really beautiful life for the family and friends to remember. That'll be a good enough take-away for now.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m recapping some highlights of 2013 and trying my hardest to keep it art related and not over-share with the internet (it’s not my fault that art & relationships are often hand-in hand, is it?).
Last September I heard about this giant Diebenkorn retrospective at the De Young Museum highlighting his Berkeley years (1953 - 1966...aka, the best years for this guy). As a N.California native & Diebenkorn fan-girl, I made a trip of it. I packed my field easel, grabbed a friend & hit the road. The plan was to stop at two Diebenkorn-eque locations along 1-5 and paint from the side of the road.
This worked out shockingly well and I was able to spend a few hours near Pyramid Lake making this gem (probably not finished, so don’t judge too much).
Nearing San Francisco I stopped off to try capturing the aqueduct...which didn’t work out so well as it was 1) nearing sunset and the light changed every few minutes and 2) it was windy as all-get-out and I had to go quick. The results were...less than impressive.
Fortunately for painting on location, it rarely matters (to me) what the results are in the moment. Being able to spend 40 minutes on the side of the road, watching and responding to changing light & color, like, that is huge. And (not to get too meta) I think that is what art is supposed to do anyway - if not for a viewer, at least for the artist. It’s a practice in being aware of the world around you, taking it in and responding to it in a potentially beautiful way. I think that is why I keep doing these side-of-the-road pieces, either from scenes I see on my commute or by literally stopping the car on the side of the road and getting out the paint and brushes.
To wrap up this post - I drove, I painted, I saw Diebenkorn’s work at the De Young and pretty much had the best weekend ever.
October - Beverly Hill Art Show
I heard about the BHAS a few years back as an interesting outdoor exhibit with a lot of good work and unlike Unique - a lot of paintings. I’d never attended, but after the high of being accepted to Unique, I figured I’d keep up the momentum and apply.
For anyone (hint: other artists I went to school with) who think their work isn’t good enough to apply to something like this - it is competely not the case. I uploaded a few images, wrote a quick artists statement, sketched out a simple booth design and viola! I got my second acceptance email. Learning from the mistake of my last show, I didn’t freak out about my work or my self-worth as much. I’d take the experience in with open arms, and whatever the show was going to be, I’d be proud of it.
(I may or may not have been reading a lot of inspirational memoirs and getting over a break-up at the time, so this sort of Oprah-esque language was well infused into my life by this point. Good times)
Favorite moment: when asked about my background by the man showing one booth over, I explain I live and paint in a studio in Manhattan Beach. That no, it isn’t my full time gig, that I work in advertising - but I’ve managed to keep painting on the side and yada yada yada, I can't really complain.
He pauses and asks rhetorically, ‘You live and paint by the beach. So, you are pretty much living the life?’
I pause and realize he’s probably right.
2014 is well underway, so its about time I do a proper 2013 recap. Last year was out-of-control productive, but went through in such a blur that I’ve not really stopped to think about it all. Here is a recap of the shows I was in with a few pithy insights -
July - Unique LA Summer Show, Santa Monica Barker Hanger
I was a vendor at this crazy awesome show in Santa Monica. It was the first time I’d applied to be in anything like this and holy smokes getting an acceptance email was one of the most empowering moments. I was told I’d receive a notification of my acceptance on June 3rd and the day progressed like so:
- 6am - 11pm check email every 3 minutes, try not to look like a nervous wreck in the office
- 11pm - convince myself that I am still an OK artist and person even though I didn’t make it
- 11:45pm - get this email. scream. scare the living daylights out of my boyfriend.
- 11:45pm - 12am - cry. thank Jesus a lot.
- 12am June 4th - 8am July 13th - Freak out that I don’t have enough work. that my work isn’t good enough. that I am not good enough.
Insight about the process - I am shocked at how quickly the initial joy of being accepted into a show turned into absolute terror that I wasn’t going to make it. And the crappiest part? Terror isn't particularly motivating. It stagnates creativity and production. No bueno.
Insight about the show - I was the only painter there and my price points were a little high for the crowd, but it was still crazy awesome and I met a whole slew of people that I am so honored to work alongside, selling things that we cared deeply about & were excited to share with the world. Totally worth every moment of freaking out.
Lesson learned - remember that everyone else is just as nervous about stuff like this and holy smokes having a support system of friends to tell you you’re going to be OK makes a world of difference.
This page will be chocked full of fabulous thoughts and paintings. just you wait.