Saturday, July 19, 2014

Who's it for?

Promarker and Ink

My friend was being helpful. She flipped through my sketchbook (something I rarely let people do) and looked up at me and said, "Who's it for?"

I often ask myself who I make the art for, who's my audience? It's another way of asking 'why do you make art?' Implied in all of the versions of these questions is -- 'why create it if you aren't trying to sell it?'

The truth is I'm not one of those artists who will say I only make things because I am inspired and feel compelled to create. It's true, I do often create just because, but I can't deny that part of my making is social. I want other people to see what I've made, to own it for themselves, to enjoy what I've created. Sometimes I need to be compensated for it (art is expensive) other times I need to just give it away. 

When I am in an inspiration slump I ask myself 'who's it for?' Most times that get me going. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On the Easel...The

It was nice to get back to the acrylics.
I've been away from my acrylics for a while. It was nice to get some time to paint today. My studio is a mess. Funny, I haven't been able to work in the room and the rroom has gotten more cluttered. Go figure. 

I love my markers. Watercolor and ink speak to me. But acrylic paints are my first love. 

Here's my latest painting. She's a multilayered reworking of a painting gone wrong. I still have a lot to do to finish her, but I love the way she's turning out. 

I look forward to more time at the easel and sharing more paintings soon. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Marker Mixed Media! Eureka!

After taking a month off to let my tendons rest -- I am happy to report that I can get back to work! I'm obsessed with my Letraset ProMarkers.

Stay tuned for new work!

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Inspired by my kiddo. Mother's Day 2014

I don't usually draw happy, smiley people but my kiddo requested a Mother-Daughter painting and I can't help but smile when I think of her and how wonderful she is.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slowly But Surely

Watercolor and ink. WIP. 

I really want to be painting with acrylics and on a large scale, but my thumb still isn't better. But never fear, I can hold a pen! So, I've started on a new series. Using watercolor washes and inks, these new pieces are really speaking to me. I am excited about exploring with inks. I can't wait until my arm and hand are 100 percent so I can try out the ink with the large scale painting. 

There will be new prints in the shop in the next week or so. Hopefully, I'll have a few of these new pieces finishes to offer. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Left handed and Inspired or Why I'm hoping for the best on Wednesday!

left handed ink sketch
I've been wearing a splint on my right thumb and wrist for just about 2 and a half weeks. It's been hard.

Is it just me or does inspiration always seem to strike when you can't act on it?

Since I put the splint on all I've wanted to do every day and night is draw and paint. It's not happening with my right hand. I'm already pushing it -- I take the splint off when I eat. I just can't manage feeding myself with it on. Plus, I'll be honest, the thought of getting food on the thing makes me hurlish (yes, hurlish). I have visions of mushy, unidentifiable food stuck to the Velcro. Hurlish.

One night I nearly cried -- this is saying a lot -- I'm not a crier because all I wanted to do was go into my little studio and paint. I dragged myself out of bed and instead of tempting fate and re-injuring my hand -- I tried painting with my left hand.

Left handed woman #1

I actually liked the way the painting turned out. She has no fine details but I like the gesture of the face. So, you're thinking it's all good, right? She'll just paint with her left hand and keep it moving.

Well, actually not quite.

My left side is considerably weaker than my dominant right side and my shoulder just couldn't take it. Not only did the left handed painting take longer. I spent the next two days wondering if I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Soooo.. what am I to do?
Well, I have hope. I hope ---that even though I've cheated a million times and taken the splint off instead of wearing it 24 hours a day  --- when I go to see the doctor on Wednesday, he'll give me a thumbs up and say that my hand is all better.

It's wishful thinking... But hey...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Left Handed Painting

Left Handed Painting
So, my right wrist and thumb are in a splint. I've got to rest my poor tendons. Everything is harder to do with my left, nondominant hand. Well, today, I had to paint - just had to. I tried painting with my left hand and was surprised at how much I liked the resulting portrait. It took a long while and I had to fight shoulder fatigue. Funny how I didn't realize how much stronger I was on my right side.

I'll try it again tomorrow. It was a fun experiment and I love the resulting picture.

The print from the giveaway is on it's way --- all the way to Poland!  So cool to think that my art will have a home across the world.

Stay tuned, I'll be giving away a special print (not yet in the shop) in March for Women's History Month.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And the Winner is...

I used to pick a random number from the 4 eligible entries and...


I have sent you an email from vdjames10 (at) gmail (dot) com !

Thanks again for those who entered. 

More giveaways next month for Women's History Month!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shop Opening Giveaway -- Enter Here

Win this print in two easy steps!

As a thank you to my friends and family who've been encouraging me to sell my art, I'm giving away this print. Go see the shop at

The giveaway runs today through 11:59pm 2/23/2014.

Here's what you have to do to enter the random giveaway. 

1. Go to ArtbyVDJ Facebook Fan Page and like the page. If you have already done this, no need to do it again. 

2. Come back here and leave a comment on this post that says you want the print and have liked the Facebook page!

That's it. I'll put the number of comments in a random number generator and the person whose comment corresponds to the number picked will win the print. 

Specifics --
You can only enter once. 
You must respond to my notice that you've won (posted at this blog) within 72 hours of my trying to contact you. If I can't reach you, I reserve the right to choose another winner at random from the eligible entries. 
I will ship the print anywhere the US mail goes. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Patiently Waiting...

Ladies in Waiting

It's snowing and the low outside temperature and the hot inside temperature of my little studio is wrecking my schedule. My warm studio means that the paint is drying both too fast and too slow depending on which paint I'm using. I varnish in the garage with the door open because the sealer has strong smell. It's too cold to even attempt to varnish. Humbug.

These three portraits are in various stages.

Left - "The Overlooker" still needs lots of work. But alas, the paint is going on inconsistently right now.

Middle - "The Waiter" has most of her outlines and just needs some shading and details.

Right - "A. Beyond" is done. She needs to be sealed...but alas.

Each of these paintings will be available for sale as one of a kind originals. They are painted on 16x20 canvas sheet and look good framed with or without a mat. I'm sort of excited to send them off to new homes. I have As soon as I can figure out how to finish them given my weather constraints -- I'm opening up shop!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy Dancing... and painting.

Prints Galore!
I did a happy dance on my icy sidewalk this afternoon when I saw the package on the stoop.
Do you ever do the happy dance?

I spend so much of my time being serious, sitting still, acting appropriately --- I appreciate every little moment I can get to cut loose and be silly. Sure, some of the neighbors may have seen me breaking it down about a USPS box and they probably think I've lost it -- but who cares? I have my prints and it was so much fun to dance around for no good reason.

Soon, I'll be posting the new shop info AND two giveaways!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Somewhere There is Summer

Acrylic on Black Canvas Paper
It's snowing here. It's been so cold lately. I just shut down my work email for the night and came to sit in my studio. The painting above is actually quite big (16 x18) and is laying on a shelf waiting for ...well, I'm not sure what she's waiting for... but I looked at her just now and thought, perhaps she's waiting for summer. Somewhere it is summer. Maybe I should send her off to someone who lives somewhere there is summer so I can live vicariously through her.

Monday, February 3, 2014

And we're almost in business!

Business Cards.

This afternoon I finally printed up my business cards and made the Facebook page for the new print and art shop. All we need now is the prints.

The business cards are miniature works of art themselves. I plan on sending different paintings out with each print order.

At this rate, the shop will be up and running by this weekend.

You can like my art on the new Facebook page at

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Prints ordered!

This one didn't make the first round, but it isn't because I don't love her.
Mixed Media. Acrylic. Water Color. Pen. Goache. Digital.

While noshing on nachos and watching the first quarter of the Superbowl, I decided it was now or never and hit the button to order the first run of prints! The online shop will be up and running by next weekend.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Print Proofs, Oh My!

Giclée Proofs

It takes a lot to make me nervous. Sharing my writing with others is one. Sharing my art with others - for the them to keep- is apparently another. 

Last summer a friend and I started talking about my many hobbies and I confessed to her that I spend lots of money on the materials. I'm a crafter, too. I spend money on beads and paint and sewing materials and yarn and ... well, I could go on. While I'm fortunate to be able to afford my supplies (perhaps at the expense of building a good savings account!), in every other part of my life I've become much more budget conscious.

My friend in passing said what friends have said to me before -- "you should sell some of the stuff you make, pay for the materials, at least."

I thought about it for the better part of 6 months. Most of the paintings I make are deeply personal. I paint through a whooshing ear (shout out to my sigmoid sinus diverticulum sufferers!) and insomnia. These paintings are therapeutic. Most of them were painted before I had any intention of sharing them with anyone but myself. 

But at her urging and with the desire to show friends what I was up to, I started to share a few of the finished pieces with family and friends. Positive responses, some of them surely too kind, made me look into selling a few pieces. 

So, I decided to start small with a few paintings that I like aesthetically and that I believe would look good as decorative art in someone else's home or office. I've omitted the ones that I think are too personal or too introspective to be of interest to others. 

I ordered test Giclée prints on art paper and on textured art paper over the last two weeks. 

The corrected prints of a few I intend to sale came today. WHAT! OH NO! Not only do they not suck or look amatuerish, but they look like art prints for sale. Suddenly I have to face the prospect of sending them out into the world. 

We'll see how it goes. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Painting Myself? or how Art Journaling became Imagined Portraits.

So, the selfie isn't the most becoming picture. But it's the only one at the right angle I could find!
A friend saw my paintings and asked a good question.

"Are you painting pictures of yourself?"

Now, at first, I was confused. Most of my paintings don't look much like me. I mean, sure, they are usually paintings of brown women, most often with big, natural hair and huge earrings - style characteristics I share. But when I look at them I don't see me. In fact, I don't really think of who they might be until after they start to form on the canvas or paper.

But after she asked, I took the question and interrogated why I started painting these imagined portraits in the first place.

I was suffering (do suffer) with insomnia and a vascular issue that made it ten times worse. I was already painting abstracts in the middle of the night to quiet my mind. I found painting, as opposed to reading  or writing  (which I do a lot of professionally and personally), relaxing.

One of the other things I do in the middle of the night is surf the internet and look at craft and art blogs. There is this huge online community of women mixed media artists who use art journaling to create diaries, understand the world, vent frustration, and quite a few create awesome art. Faces figure largely in the genre.

What I noticed when I tried to replicate the many techniques and tutorials was that my imagination was decidedly darker. I wasn't interested or motivated by beautiful flowers or butterfly fairies (don't get me wrong I like that sort of art, I just don't make it). And my faces were always dark faces. So very few of the art journal/mix media types on the net right now are women of color who paint women of color in their work. The craft meets fine art elements of art journaling appeal to me.

So, my paintings emerged as failed attempts at art journaling - inserting brown faces into the themes and canvases typical to the genre.I ended up imagining portraits of dark women as decorative, interesting, both deep and frivolous. I started imagining these as pictures on my fantasy gallery wall (one day, I will have a house full of art!).

Now, does it mean that all my paintings are pictures of me, because I paint them with similar themes and and they are black women that share features? Nope. Not at all. But I think I am compelled to paint them because I have a deep need for a widened imaginary when it comes to the decorative art I put in my own home and that my daughter sees.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Early selfie. 
Some of my friends (and internet snarks at-large) hate selfies.

 Half of the haters are hypocrites. While they talk smack about duck-faced teens and muscly guys with dirty mirror selfies, they routinely post pictures of themselves in more "respectable" poses that I'm certain -- because I have taken my share of selfies-- that they took of themselves although they pretend that they did not take them.

Half of the selfie haters are just clueless about why someone would take a photo of themselves. The assumption is that we only take selfies to show off how cute we are through a filter (argh, Instagram). And while that maybe partly true, as a selfie-lover I can think of lots of reasons to take a selfie. I was taking selfies while working at a computer support center in the early 2000s and that was before social media made it the norm.

When I look at myself through my own lens (whether it be my expensive digital camera, my iPhone, or my webcam) so many things are going on. Sometimes I really am like my duck-faced peers. I want to check out how cute I am. I want to take a picture and show my friends that I'm doing fine and looking fine.Other times, I'm trying to figure something out. I have this expressive hair and sometimes I can only figure out what to do with it (or if what I've done with it has worked) through a photo.

Then there are the times when I feel like I share something with the woman in the early selfie above. I don't know anything about her. We can assume she was a photographer. Look at the photos on the shelf beside her. Her face in the camera is contemplative. She's an artist trying to figure something out. Maybe it's something about the camera itself. Maybe it's something about posing or timing. Maybe it's something about herself. Her dress is pretty fancy. Maybe she wanted to document it.

I take lots of pictures of my face. I look at myself and imagine how others see me.I try to figure out if my internal view of myself is what I present to others. I wonder if I can actually stare in my own eyes. I have existential moments when the photos I take of myself serve as studies of my own existence. Am I here? What am I? Who am I?

Selfies help me document moments in my life that would otherwise pass without reflection. Before my own lens I become a subject of my own regard. Overtime I can see how I have changed, what has remained. I am able to know more about me.

Is it vanity? Certainly it is sometimes. I'm cool with that.

Some selfies are just for myself (r) and others are for mass consumption.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fayum Portraits

Fayum Mummy Portrait (source)
I am obsessed with pictures of faces. I love portraits. Self portraits taken with bad phone cameras in mirrors (see my next post on selfies). Portraits painted by classical Western master painters. Cheezy head shots. I love them all. 

There is something about representations of the human face as imagined by humans. I don't care if the result is photo realistic or the squiggly chaos of a child's crayon drawing. Faces mesmerize me. 

Take the Coptic era Fayum Mummy Portraits from ancient Egypt. These busts of long dead women, children, and men painted on wood boards to adorn the mummies of upper caste members of society are distractingly beautiful. While they have elements of realism - each portrait suggests the character of the person depicted - they share a set of conventions. The length of the neck, the roundness of the eyes the shape of the face are similar across the portraits and we can assume that these people didn't all share these characteristics.

 And yet, it is because they share these details that somehow these portraits seem more real to me, suggest that those ancient people were really people with lives and hopes and dreams before they were laid to rest. There is a sense of recognition of kinship, of humanness that these mummy portraits bring to mind for me. 

If you haven't seen the wide variety of these portraits - Google Fayum Mummy Portait and be amazed. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Like MahMah, YahYah...

watercolors fun at every age. 
I usually paint in the wee hours of the morning. When the kiddo is tucked in bed, dreaming of cookies, pirates, and unicorns (actual description of a recent dream!), I am in my little guest bedroom turned home studio painting.

But weekend mornings, the YahYah wakes up and wants to know if it's a school day and if it isn't, she wants to paint. So, we sit at the dining room table and paint. It is the best of times.

I paint because I love the feeling I get from making things and painting these days quiets my hyperactive mind. I would paint whether or not anyone else ever saw anything I made. My kiddo, on the other hand, exclaims every few minutes as we paint - "MahMah! I am a great artist! I make great paintings!"

Yes, YahYah, you do.