Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why, you might ask, am I up this late?
Well, I just finished working for the day, that being Monday because I'm still on Monday in my head. I got up at 5:15 am to go to Gypsy Caravan, the gargantuan annual flea market organized by the St. Louis Symphony. It was fun and rewarding, I found some cool stuff.

Ran errands for awhile, figured out more display options on the repros; printed the remainder of the repros; finished the big proposal I have been working on and also wrote phrases and finished all the 6x6's. Took a break to spend some time with John, had dinner, watch a bit of TV then went downstairs around 8:30. I am still not really tired but I know I need sleep so that is next on the agenda. I have gotten a lot done, but there is still so much to do. It is just endless. I am nearly to the stage where I need an assistant or maybe just somebody to help me out every so often.

We are supposed to be leaving Wed. am but that seems unlikely based on my present situation. I still have work for the show, not to mention the commission I need to lay out and do the background. All the paper work is done, thank goodness.

In the midst of today's madness I was overcome by this inexplicable need (?) to make a pair of earrings. Geez....starting on the second pair, I finally realized I needed to slap myself. Not that it does any good.

And ugh, I just glanced in the mirror - there is gel medium in my hair.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yes Virginia, it's true

The Princess set up her own tent last week. First time ever. This has always been "John's part." And he prefers that I stay out of his way.

But I wanted to at least know how to do it myself. I have considered going to a show or two with a friend which means I would need to know what I was doing. Plus it's just plain embarrassing that I've been doing this for several years now and don't even know how to put up my own tent.

So yep, I did it. John showed me how or better said, he facilitated in me figuring it out for myself. Which was a brilliant way to teach since I am so visual (thanks sweetie, U da man!).

And here is the result, a different approach than before, including an extra wall to allow for merchandising of my new repros. Which sold like hotcakes I might add.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I feel like such a doofus when I can't recognize the word verification letters on a blog. Like I just made a comment on someone's blog (OK, it was Heidi) and I entered letters and they were wrong. Twice.
I swear they looked Cyrillic.
Or maybe I just need more coffee.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Art on the Square

Well, the Belleville show met all the hype. Truly, I was a little hesitant. I rely on the Art Fair Sourcebook and the word of other artists regarding shows. The Sourcebook is so high on Belleville that it almost seems suspect. But then I know a couple artists who've done the show and sold hardly anything. So, I wasn't quite sure what to think.

But wowza! What a wonderful show. We were at the champagne artist awards breakfast on Sunday and someone said it's like a show with room service. That is such an apt description. The volunteer workers simply pamper the artists.

This started with lunch and dinner delivery the first day, not just for me, but also my devoted roadie, John. The pampering continued for the duration of the show; cold bottled water all day long; yummy pastries; fresh orange wedges; and various other snacks (healthy and not so healthy, we got to pick). The most amazing thing is this was all delivered right to our booths by the most gracious volunteer staff I have ever met.

Add to this super easy set up and load out procedures. Combine with perfect weather.

What more could you ask for?

Oh, you want sales? I can't speak for everybody, but the buying energy sure felt good to me. I had a very good show. Which means I am quite busy right now, getting ready for Summerfair. That is OK by me.

Other shows could take a lesson from Belleville. It was first class all the way.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blast to the past

Deb and Patti have both tagged me so I suppose I can no longer avoid this.....7 things that people don't know about me......how about some childhood stories?

1. I was a Junior Olympic archery winner when I was a kid. Yep, it's true. The chunky little girl with coke bottle glasses, the one who couldn't do anything athletic to save her soul. The one for whom the "mandatory 2 innings of play" rule (in softball) was surely invented.
My dad set us up with this, cannot imagine where he got the idea, but he took me and my brother to this archery place every Saturday morning. We had to get up really early to drive there. Dad was serious about it too, even bought bales of hay for our basement and set up a small range - we had a ranch house so our basement was pretty long and we could practice down there. It absolutely defied logic that I was good at this, truly I was such a clumsy backwards child. But my hand/eye coordination is still good as evidenced by my "shooting" on my nephew's Nintendo Wii. I stunned (and scared!) my husband a couple weeks ago when we were in Memphis. Ha!
2. I learned to play the cello between my sophomore and junior years in high school. I had always wanted to play a string instrument ever since the 4th grade when we were tested for musical aptitude. I apparently flunked the test and the school administrators told my parents it wasn't worth their money to provide any musical lessons for me. Can you imagine!?!? Lucky for me my parents didn't take kindly to hearing this and told me I could start with the piano since we already owned a really old one that had been given to us. So, in the first of my many defy the odds stubborn acts, I taught myself to play the piano using a key chart and a piano primer that I found in the bench. That led my parents to sign me up for private piano lessons. And then in high school the string instrument bug came back; I wanted to play the viola. I met with the orchestra director who told me he could really use another a cello player. I took a crash course with lessons all summer long so I was up to speed by the time the school year started. To this day cello music makes me swoon.
3. I raised a baby sparrow when I was 12. He fell out of the nest and was abandoned. I fed him by hand then released him to the yard when he was old enough, tried to train him to find food, etc. He eventually left our house but would visit and I could still get him to eat from my hand.
4. I had strange premonitions when I was young. One day I was walking home from the school bus and told my best friend I had a feeling something horrible had happened to someone in my family. When I got home my mother told me that my uncle (healthy, in his 30's) had a heart attack and died. I also have this really weird ability to find lost items. When I was in my teens I made a little leather bracelet for myself, just a strap of leather with one painted bead on it. I wore it to a concert in a park near our home. There were thousands of people there. Naturally I lost it and was simply demolished because I loved that bracelet so much. The next morning I told my mom I was going to go find it. She laughed about it, said I could make another one, etc. Basically told me to knock myself out but doubted I would find it. I walked the approximately one mile route to the park in an attempt to retrace my steps and easily found the bracelet nestled in the grass.
5. In the 8th grade I had the art teacher from Hell, Miss Siemer. She was a young teacher and very mean. Clearly she preferred the boys in our classroom. I was accustomed to getting high grades in all my classes, but especially art. She was horrid to me, told me I was no good, had no talent and should simply abandon any ideas of any artistic future. I was in a vulnerable awkward state that year and unfortunately I believed her. It destroyed my artistic notions for years and years and sent me in the direction of writing and music. But.....my last effort in her class was a pop art piece, a huge replica of a Kool-aid packet. My parents still have it, hung in their rec room basement along with some of my other early artistic endeavors such a painted plaque next to their pool table with some pithy "rules for play" and this fun "rubbing" piece I made in black and white. I love that Kool-aid packet and am so happy my Mom is a pack rat and keeps all this stuff.
6. Hunting for morel mushrooms was a family activity we did every year on Mother's day. My Grandpa Schaich had a secret spot, out in Indiana near a Dairy Queen because we got ice cream afterwards. Grandpa would walk with slow deliberate steps and would, without fail, find the first mushroom. He would leave it in it's place and call us all around so we could see what to look for. Once we saw that, it was easier to spot them and we would find lots of these decadent delicacies.
7. I hate raw onions. I mean I really hate raw onions. Like I will gag if one gets in my mouth. This stems from a Home Eck incident in high school. One where we were supposed to make potato soup yet we were not given enough time. It was a partner project and I cannot recall what went wrong. All I know for sure is the soup was not even remotely cooked and had way too many onions in it. Out teacher forced us to eat our own soup and I thought I was going to be sick there were so many raw onions in it.

Ok, that's it for me, probably more than anyone wanted to know, ha, ha.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I have finally finished my new reproductions, gorgeous (if I do say so myself, tee, hee, hee). They are signed giclees, 8x8 images matted to 14x14. Here are 2 of them; "Wear it like you mean it" (posted below) and "Don't fence me in" are the others. All girly themes - my mantras, my rules for life, the do's and don'ts that all live in my head. The pics are me because, well, you know - it's all about me. Ha, except when it's all about you of course.

$35 each or 2 for $60

Priority shipping $5, US only please

Email me mbshaw@mbshaw.com for details, I can take MC/Visa/Discover, check or Paypal cash.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Of artists and jugglers

I am at Belleville this weekend, Art on the Square. If you are anywhere near the St. Louis area, consider coming out. The Art Fair Sourcebook ranks this show as #5 best in the country. There is always a dispute as to which reference book is "right" but it doesn't really matter - the show is way up there on all the lists and I am thrilled beyond belief to be part of it. I am working my tush off this week so I have exciting new art in my booth.

I've been writing a lot of new phrases that I think are funny yet also thought- provoking. And images, do I have images!?!?! Many fun and hilarious photos. I can't wait to share them. Plus my brand new line of giclees are ready. They are bigger than ever before and offered at very reasonable prices. The last post (Wear it like you mean it) is one of them. It is an 8x8 mounted in a 14x14 mat priced at $35 plus $5 for shipping (US only). Just email me if you happen to be interested.

Along with working on new art and finalizing these repros, I am still busy entering shows for the fall plus considering a possible teaching gig. Add to that the new series, some other juried competitions, new ideas popping up all the time......I could go on and on....bottom line, I have quite a few balls up in the air. My friend Shari and I were talking about a juggling analogy recently and I told her I feel that I have about 8 balls in the air right now yet I can only effectively juggle 3 or 4. She laughed that she felt like she was also juggling a couple knives which totally cracked me up because it's so true.

My brother is in town for a few days and he visited my studio this morning. He was looking at all the art; on the wall; on the floor; in boxes; pieces in progress; works waiting to be varnished; commissions in lay out. I stepped out of the room a moment and returned to find him laughing and just shaking his head. I asked what was so funny and he said, "this is a lot of work......I bet you give more hours than you did when you were in insurance."

Well duh.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Birmingham

A lady I met in Birmingham has contracted me for a 30x40 commission - a gift to her husband for Father's day. Quite exciting and naturally I am thrilled to do it. Some artists do not like commissions. But for me it is quite the opposite!

For me, it is a true privilege to be chosen for a painting. It is such an important and personal decision. For a person to find art they resonate with is hard enough and then to take the very big step to commission a custom piece, well, that's a big deal and I take the responsibility seriously.

I am challenged by the task. Ideally, I crawl into the person's head a little bit, to find out more about them, the purpose for their piece, what they are hoping to depict. Typically someone has already identified one of my pieces that seems special to them. Or perhaps they have several pieces they like but want me to combine ideas.

Usually my commissions involve family photos. For a large piece such as this 30x40, I request lots of photos and materials for the background so I can pick and choose. I will only use a small fraction of what I received, but as I review the items, it seems I instantly gravitate to the ones that reveal some soul. I know it sounds really woo woo, but intuitively I know which photos and which pieces I want to use. To these parts, I add special items from my own collection of ephemera.

And then I layer, layer, layer. Paper, photos(copies, not the originals) and paint, all layered up. Some of the things will inevitably be hidden by paint and left with only parts peeking out. Clients will contact me months later and tell me how they continue to find hidden meaning in the piece, little symbols they didn't even realize were there at first. That is when I know I have really succeeded. To create a slightly mysterious painting, something so interesting, and with so many layers, that it warrants continued examination is a treat for me. I love to delight and surprise the client; that magic is priceless.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Brownie recipes

I have learned some things from all this brownie testing. First of all, I think that I have been overcooking brownies all my life. According to a couple sites I explored, brownies should be tested for doneness, not in the center, and not at the edge, but in the area kind of in between, if that makes sense. So when they are set around the edge and start to pull away from the pan, stick the toothpick in this mid-range area. If it comes out clean(or even with a few crumbs), they are done. Even if a toothpick in the center doesn't come out clean.

Also, all of them seem to taste better after sitting for a day(if you can wait). So I have been cooking them the night before and putting them in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend. Then they are perfect.

Here are the recipes I have explored thus far:

Yield: 16 brownies

For tan brownies:
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

For black brownies:
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Guinness stout

To prepare tan brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan. In a medium bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nuts. Batter will be thick. Spoon into prepared pan; spread evenly with a rubber spatula or with dampened fingers. Set aside.
To make black brownies: In a medium bowl, melt chocolate and butter over a saucepan of hot water or in the microwave. Stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, eggs, salt, flour and vanilla. Slowly stir in Guinness until smooth. Pour black brownie batter over tan brownie batter. Bake until a skewer inserted in center comes out almost clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then cut into squares.
My comment - I did cook these the full time and tested in the center - the beer content keeps them quite moist. The black batter is so runny (before cooking) you will swear you have done something wrong.

Serving: Makes about 1 dozen.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, and set aside.
Make batter: Put butter and chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside.
Put sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture, milk, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 27 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan.
Make topping when brownies are cool: Put chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate; let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Allow ganache to cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Pour ganache over cooled brownies in pan; let set, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Let brownies stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving. Lift out brownies; cut into wedges, wiping knife with a hot, damp cloth between each cut. Scatter sprinkles on top.
My comment: I think this is too much sugar so I would not use a full cup next time. These were very cakey and it surprised me. I wondered about the preparation as it seemed like too much beating? I also think I might have over cooked them. That being said, they were still very good and I want to make them again. What's not to like about ganache topping !?!?!?

Yield: 20 brownies

1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs, room temp
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Cooking Instructions:
Melt together butter, coffee and chocolate. Beat eggs and sugar until light. Slowly add chocolate mixture. With a spoon, stir in flour and walnuts. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil. Generously butter foil. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes or until just set around edges. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes. Cover pan with foil and chill for several hours or overnight.
Best stored in refrigerator.
My comment: These are divine, to die for brownies, the best I have ever made. They are like a cross between fudge and a brownie. The recipe was given to me by Tim from Peoria, a reader of my blog and apparently the one person in Peoria who looked at my art when I did the show there last fall (thanks Tim!). The only thing I would change is the sugar - I think I used about 1 cup but I might reduce even further. I also used the Tollhouse chocolate chips because that is what I had on hand. Tim said his best result is with Hershey. These brownies got high points from some very discriminating tasters (thanks John, Claire, Karyl, Bart). They are excellent with coffee. For breakfast.....

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ok, scratch that. Whatever nastiness I ever said or thought about the St. Louis Art Fair, I didn't mean it.

I got a letter today and found out I am waitlisted!!!! Woo hoo!!! I can hardly believe it. In fact, I am numero uno on the old waitlist. I sooooooo hope I get in.

Friday, May 04, 2007

JOLAF.com Artist of the Month

Well, this was kind of exciting......I was apparently selected as artist of the month, silly me didn't even know there was such a thing! But it's awfully nice. If you click over to their site, it is easiest to start at the JOLAF home page amd you can have a look around.

It was a good day to receive special recognition after having another day of rejection (ugh, St. Louis Art Fair). In as much as misery loves company, none of my friends were accepted either, hardly any St. Louis artists at all this year.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Keeping the faith

We are back home.

The show ended up being just fine. Quite honestly, I expected more, especially for my 1st art fair of the season, I wanted to come out blazing. Meaning I expected to make more money. It sounds so commercial to say that, but I do earn my living this way. The Art biz is the only business I know where it seems kind of "dirty" to talk about earning money; where the starving artist is honored while the financially successful artist (think Thomas Kincaid) is derided.

It seems that many people think an artist has "sold out" if they make money. That we are somehow pandering if we produce art that people want to buy. Art Fair artists especially get a bad rap when compared to artists featured in museums and galleries. I have had some snobbish types infer that my art is even on a lower level. I think about this a lot because I try to keep a foot in both camps. I am passionate about my work and want to be respected for what I produce, not just my ability to generate an income. I do not believe these things are mutually exclusive.

That being said, I was rejected from a show I really wanted. It is a local University exhibit showcasing 4 artists. I entered my new abstract series. The work means so much to me I am kind of babying it, trying to introduce the pieces in the appropriate venue. I thought this show would be perfect so I gave it my best shot.

I am bummed but I will try again. Because that's what I do. And I have faith I will eventually find the perfect place to launch my new work.