Friday, November 29, 2013

A New Day

Today dawned brightly sunny and crisp, setting the perfect mood for celebrating the one-year anniversary in our new home. Sitting in our living room, flooded with natural sunlight, while sipping my early morning coffee, I was inspired to finally christen the little Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I picked up at Art of the Carolinas using a mini portable watercolor pan paintset. I hope you enjoy this little landscape as much as I enjoyed painting it!
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - A New Day - watercolors on paper 5.5" x 8.5"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Enjoying the Journey

Having been involved in competitive ventures of some sort for most of the past 20 to 30 or so years of my life, whether in horsemanship, bicycling, tennis or other sports, I had grown to believe that success was determined solely by how well I scored, as judged by other people or a timer or some other such external measure. Not being very athletic by nature, this generally did not end well for me, as I never measured up to the others in my field, and I've spent far too much of my life feeling "less than" or inadequate. Never would I have believed something as simple as picking up a brush, pencil or pastel stick and putting it to canvas or paper would have had such a profound impact on me and how I view my world and existence. Nor would I have ever considered that being an absolute unskilled beginner at something with no real aspirations toward ever trying to measure up to anyone else's idea of "success" would have given me so much joy within myself.
I've only been painting for about five months now, but through the world of art, I feel like my mind's-eyes are already opening, allowing me to truly see for what feels like the very first time, every time I paint. For once, I'm not concerned with whether I'm "good enough" or "successful enough", or what anyone else thinks I should be or do to be "enough". When I paint, I am myself and that is, simply put, enough for me, right here, right now and it feels like home. There's a special kind of magic I feel when painting my own personal visions, whether from my dreams, the beauty of Mother Nature all around me, or even the quirky personality and lively spark of a precocious dog.

My artistic clumsiness is rivaled only by my enthusiasm for painting, but surprisingly enough for someone who has spent decades trying unsuccessfully to "measure up", I find an incredible sense of childlike abandon when I paint, no matter how the results turn out. And I feel like I truly am standing on the shoulders of giants when painting the magically wondrous natural world as I see it. Reveling in the pure joy of my oblivious beginner naivete, unfettered by worries about whether I'm "doing it right" or not, one thing I am learning firsthand when I paint is that the journey really IS the destination.
© 2013 Tammy Kaufman - On the Shoulders of Giants - soft pastels on 1000 sandpaper 4.5" x 5.5"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In My Dreams

I often find inspiration to paint from the hidden sanctuaries visited in my dreams. It is intriguing to me that these frequently have water elements in them which I find very calming during my dreams, yet in reality I have somewhat of a fear of large bodies of water. Color is another prominent component of many of my dreams. Sometimes they are soft and muted.  In other dreams, colors are abundant and vivid, almost to the point of harshness. Sometimes I dream of calm and serene locations, and other times of chaotic and visually noisy areas. And then other times, the scenes contain both chaos and calm. One common thread I find with most of the places I see in my dreams, though, is a tendency toward symmetry - perhaps a nod to obsessive-compulsive tendencies? Whatever my dreams may - or may not - mean on a deeper level, it's still always a joy to try to capture those flights of imagination by painting them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Dog is Awesome

My dog is awesome. He's paws-down the absolute best, most encouraging cycling coach ever. When I go too slow up the hills, he gives me that "hurry UP" look and sticks his tongue out at me..
He's happy to play in the creek when I want to take a short break from climbing...
Fry truly IS my "Cycle Dog".

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

True Grit

I've been trying out some of the Uart sanded pastel papers I got at Art of the Carolinas, and have really been enjoying them. I've also happily found that blending stumps perform quite nicely to easily work the pastels into the sandpaper, as does just a simple foam brush, with the added bonus of sparing my fingertips from the grit. On a whim, I've additionally been trying the pastels on plain sandpaper, which works well in a very, very fine grit, although it is not quite as sturdy as the Uart. Regular sandpaper is probably not pH-neutral and acid-free like the Uart paper, either, but for the little thumbnails I've been creating, it's not that big a deal. And it's been a lot of fun experimenting with all varieties of surfaces.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gimme Shelter?

Today's post is just a link because, frankly, if I think too hard about it, my heart will break and I'll start crying - again. And besides that, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. But I hope you'll visit Shannon Johnstone's site, take your time and look around it and really think about what these photos represent...

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Mom and I spent all day yesterday at the Art of the Carolinas expo, followed by a tour of several of the local art galleries at Art After Hours here in town. It was like a dream come true - entire days of painting, shopping for art supplies and visiting art galleries.  But it gets even better! While touring one of my favorite local galleries, Sunflower Studio, the owner asked Mom, Steve and me if we would be interested in being featured artists at a show there next fall! I nearly fainted because Linda's artists are truly talented, and doing a show at her gallery would be such an unbelievable honor. Luckily, my Mom (who is a lifelong professional artist) patiently went through all 150+ of my paintings today and helped pick out several that she considered "show-worthy" now, and also gave me some honest and helpful critique and tips to use in creating more work that will hopefully be even better by the time our show date is set.

In light of the potential show next fall, I'm really glad I made a few purchases at the expo - some more pastels, pastel surfaces, a drawing board and blending tools, and Mom even got me a fabulous tabletop easel box which will be perfect for classes and workshops! While at the expo, we also had a blast visiting the various vendor booths where we were able to try all kinds of media and surfaces, and were kindly given several samples of products including Prismacolor pens, Strathmore papers, Cretacolor pencils, and Sennelier watercolor paints, among others. I got so inspired with days of art immersion that I decided tonight to try my Mungyo Gallery Artist Soft Oil Pastels on the Strathmore Paper mixed media samples.

The oil pastels seemed to glide surprisingly easily onto the mixed media paper. But I am thrilled I decided to go ahead and buy the set of size 0 firm Colourshapers, as these were invaluable in blending the very small areas. They made easy work of precisely blending the pastels, especially on these small surfaces.

I still have so much to learn and a long way to go to feel really ready for a show, but fortunately my artist/musician mother and my photographer/framer husband will be the obvious Lead Artists, letting me share just a bit of the limelight. LOL. And hopefully by the time next fall rolls around, I'll be able to look back to where I am today and see tremendous improvement between now and then.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Out of My Comfort Zone and a Word of Thanks

So far most of my painting has focused more or less on landscape type subjects since my home is surrounded by many lovely natural spaces which afford an endless supply of spectacular scenery. And although my skill level is clearly not yet up to the task of doing the local landscapes justice, it is certainly fun to practice trying.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, another reason I've tended to focus on landscapes is because I've been a bit afraid of attempting to paint animals. It's scary thinking about trying to capture the personality of a living, breathing, sentient being, and up until now I've avoided trying to tackle such a difficult subject. However, there is no time like the present, so I decided to just go ahead and give it a try. Expressive, beautiful and mysterious, cats are also, I believe, an extremely difficult subject to paint. My own kitty, Venus, watched over me while I painted today (as she always does), and being able to watch her while I worked and catch the nuances of her expressions and movements was a huge help to me. I'm very excited to continue practicing sketching and painting animals, and hopefully eventually gaining the ability to truly capture the expressiveness and spirit of these wondrous beings.

As for the Word of Thanks - It was pure serendipity that I discovered the website of an author and artist located thousands of miles away. I have never met Robert Sloan and likely never will, but his kindness and willingness to help a struggling beginner artist has given me so much. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support, providing useful and compassionate critique along with expert advice and suggestions. His reviews on art supplies have helped me figure out the best and most cost effective materials for my current skill level, and his kind but honest feedback is invaluable in helping me grow as an artist. I'm sure I also speak for countless other thousands of artists who have benefited from his willingness to share his knowledge, both through his website and on the Wet Canvas forums when I offer Robert a tremendous and heartfelt Thank You!

Now in my fifth month of drawing and painting, I've found both the art community and especially creating art itself to be such a source of joy. My only regret is missing out for over 50 years! Now that I've discovered the world of art and how wonderfully therapeutic it is, I can't imagine letting a week go by without drawing or painting. And even if everyone in the entire universe should feel that I'm the worst artist ever, that is totally okay with me - yes, I'm having that much fun!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


The past couple of weeks have been more or less a blur, as I've been painting like a woman possessed. It's been so liberating to just let my imagination loose, with permission to be the total clumsy beginner that I am, having no expectations of creating a "masterpiece" and thus no disappointments. Slowly I've been adding to my pastel collections as I've discovered they are a beautifully expressive medium - I only wish I could afford all the colors! Of course, I've continued also to work with acrylics, watercolors and the various watercolor, pastel and colored pencils. I've even been working on learning how to create Notans using brush pens, and sat on the front porch swing sketching in between visits by trick-or-treaters on Halloween since it was such a nice evening to be outside.

Skill - or lack thereof - aside, drawing and painting have given me a whole new appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me everyday. I'm fortunate to live in an area abundant with preserved natural spaces, and I have such a sense of wonder and awe when I see what a master artist Nature herself is. My very limited talent clearly is no match for the glorious natural world, but there is so much joy in continuing to try to give my own clumsy interpretation of her raw beauty.

Perhaps someday I'll learn enough and develop sufficient skill to be considered a "real" artist, but in the meantime I'm enjoying being a total amateur beginner with no current aspirations toward becoming a professional or creating gallery-worthy works. I'd certainly love to find a local art instructor, however, especially for pastels, just to help refine my technique so I could create artwork a little more worthy of the beauty I see.

But in the end, drawing and painting currently, and probably always will, serve primarily as a peaceful retreat for my own soul no matter how amateurish and technically lacking the resulting works may turn out. And that's okay by me. :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Years

It seems like only yesterday when, still grieving from the loss of my precious Spyder, I learned of a cute little hound who had been rescued from a starvation/ abandonment situation and was in desperate need of a permanent home. I really thought I'd be able to take some time to process both my loss and my readiness for a new dog, but barely managed to survive a week in a dogless house. So on November 4, 2010 Steve and I drove to the foster's home to meet Fry, and it was love at first sight. That sweet face and gentle nature! Something in my heart softly said "yes" and I knew adopting Fry was what Spyder would have wanted me to do.
It's been three years now, and Fry has solidly wedged himself into my life, his little pawprints permanently etched on my heart right next to Spyder's. For me, a home without a dog is just a house and I don't ever want to live in just a house. Fry has settled into our little family as snugly as can be, and his whole-body-wag greeting at the end of a long day at work makes my entire spirit smile.
He's my companion, my guardian and my friend, happily accompanying me everywhere from the hiking trail to the lake to the bike trail and back again.
Just like Spyder before him, Fry makes our family complete. 
Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!