Monday, December 18, 2006

A day I didn't believe was real.

I feel as if I need to post actual pictures of what I saw this past weekend. I wanted to just post my watercolors, but as I started to put together this most unfortunate blog, I realized how unreal this whole event was. I hardly believed it myself, and I was there.

At the memorial mass of Captain Jason R. Hamill, there was a group of protesters. This did not surprise me, but the nature of their protest did. As I walked to the road, I saw what was written on their signs and I couldn't believe what I saw: "God Hates Your Tears", "Fags Doom Nations", and "The Only Good Soldier is a Dead Soldier", among other nasty sentiments. They stood there, singing the most awful songs, screaming the most hateful chants. Who were these people? Why did they come?

As I stood there, in awe, cop approached me.

"I'm just looking," I said.

"Are you related?" he asked.

"No I knew his brother."

I tried to say "this is awful," but instead I burst into tears.

The cop told me he was in the marines for 10 years, and his son was in Iraq. He was pretty upset too. I tried to say something, but instead, I hugged him, sobbing. To my surprise, he hugged me back. An act of defiance.

There was also a group of High School kids, standing with a big flag and signs that said "Peace" and "Love Our Troops". I thought they were cute and idealistic. I remember feeling like I too could change the world. I stood next to them, waiting to see the motorcycles. I knew they were coming and I wanted to see.

They came like a thunder storm, and for a few minutes, the sound of about 100 motorcycles drowned out the awful chants and songs. They parked their bikes and stood around the entrance. They called themselves the Patriot Guard Riders.

I walked up to them and asked them where they were from. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, they came from all around to deflect these awful people. They were a tough looking bunch, all in leather, some missing limbs (probably from Vietnam). I wasn't afraid of them though. I thanked them for coming. I then walked down to the Memorial Mass. This is what I saw on my way down the driveway:

I sat through the mass, my mind racing. I decided to paint some pictures. I hurried through them for the next couple of days. There has been an urgency about this whole group of paintings. I needed to finish them fast, and put them behind me. Can you tell it's been a a while since I've painted with watercolors?

Here they are:

By the way, if you'd like to know more about the protesters across the street, I will be happy to send you a link, just send me an email (put "protesters" as the subject). I will only reply to people I already know. I chose not to mention the name of the protesters on my blog, for fear of harassment - they are a nasty bunch, and I don't know if they seek out web pages that mention their name.

Also, here's the website of the Patriot Guard Riders: www.patriotguard.org - they'll come to any funeral they're invited to.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A drive around Lebanon

Inspiration is fleeting. Especially when there are distractions in life, pulling me away from making art, causing me to pace around the house like a caged lioness instead of sitting and focusing.

I've been wasting most of my day, nervous and upset, debating whether or not to go to an acquaintance's funereal this weekend. I barely knew him, my sister was friends with his twin brother. He died in Iraq, a roadside bomb, on his way to go home. I'm sick to my stomach.

I decided to take a drive around town, and visit the places that sooth me. I took pictures. I really don't know what else to write, this all seems so pointless, but here's they are:

There is an oak tree in Lebanon, CT, that used to have a metal yellow ribbon tied around it. It was put up five years ago. Now, all that's left is a small piece of metal and a dark band across the tree's trunk. After five years, the tree outgrew it

I think there was a purple ghost following me around today. It kept showing up in my pictures. This is a three-way stop. I really don't know why I like it.

There are a lot of pretty views of Pride's Corner Farms around town. The hundreds of greenhouses look like snow on the hills. There are thousands of plants in that place: azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese maples, andromeda, dwarf alberta spruce, naming the plants somehow helps, I think...

I've almost hit that tree many times while driving too fast. It's always full of crows. I think they like to look out at the corn.

The corn is all done for the year. I can't believe, in the middle of December, how green the grass still is...

Over the hill, among the power lines, there is a dirt farm. Yes, they do actually exist.

I don't know what business this is. Maybe an orchard. I think it is both funny and sad that they're closed this season due to poor pollination. Farming is a fleeting and difficult profession. I respect it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Holidays! (The Making of Mr. Fish)

About 5 years ago, I caught my first bass. It was a tiny bass, just a baby, and it had a big chunk on his back missing (a long-since healed battle wound probably from a snapping turtle). I looked at its ridiculous face, huge, gaping mouth, fat, portly body and thought, "you're the cutest fish ever!"

I threw it back, and cast again. I wanted to see another one.

"Mr.Fish" is no particular fish, he actually seems a little whale-like. But he is a fish (I didn't draw lungs, did I?) and in this case, he's cold. As am I.

Here is an over-wordy description of how I painted it.

Each painting I make starts with a pencil sketch. I start with light pencil lines, building up to darker, more definitive lines, and then traced over with black pen (to show the sketch who's the boss). I then transfer the drawing to my painting surface (usually bristol board, but in this case, canvas board).

I then paint a ground onto my painting surface (fancy term for painting the board all one color). I chose lemon yellow for this ground.

Once I have a ground down, I can start to paint. I chose a color triad this time: blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange. I start with the background first, working my way towards the foreground.

Once all of the basic color, shadows, and highlights are down, I create deeper shadows and slight outlines on, and around the fish. I use a pre-made mixture made of blue and brown, watered down.

This is the final result. I left out the ice fisherman from the original sketch. I decided I didn't need him. Sorry, man.

I got more work online! www.portfolios.com/nancymichaud

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And now, for something completely different...

It has been a long while since I've posted something new. I have been in a sort of suspended animation, carefully planning and thinking out my next project: my first paying illustration job! Gasp...

I wanted to post a few of the thumbnails I've done, I am about spring upon the real meat of the project: final sketches and paintings. So I guess this is all a tease, a teensy preview of what's to come.

In future entries, I'll show some artwork that's further along, and write more about the book itself.

Here's a link to my (first) client's website (and yes, she is aware of this blog).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Child’s Illustration

The story of these paintings begins in two places: Eagle Lake, Maine, and Lebanon, Connecticut.

I have very little possessions left from my childhood. Between having a large extended family to pass things down to, and several moves, I lost every drawing, every toy, every item of clothing.
There has been one item, however, I have managed to keep all these years: a small, red book. The book itself doesn’t matter all that much to me. The drawings on the endpapers, however, matter very much.

I was about five years old , living in Eagle Lake, when I drew them, during a commercial break for “You Can’t Do That on Television”. I still remember the epiphany I had that inspired these drawings. I’d realized for the first time, how movie film worked, and I decided to “illustrate” it for future reference. Hence, the worm eating an apple. The keys were an homage to the person who wrote the book I defaced, Frances Parkinson Keyes.

I’ve cherished this book for twenty years, as a reminder of the dream I have had since then: to be an artist.

The part of the story that begins in Lebanon starts, innocently enough, at an estate sale. My mother and I were returning from dropping off my car at the shop on a Saturday afternoon. We saw a sign for an estate sale and decided to check it out. My quest was to find picture frames, my mom’s quest: craft items.

We found ourselves in a house, ransacked by time and years of not dusting. There were collections everywhere: collections of Avon perfume bottles, magazines, and books. The most striking collection was a collection of hundreds of owls. They were all grouped together on a wall, their hundreds of eyes staring at me. It was quite intimidating.

But I did find some frames, a whole box of them, and I bought it for $3. Many of the frames were too small, and I was tempted to throw them away, but somehow, the dead person who collected all those owls haunted me, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

So I did what I have thought about doing for a long time. I traced my twenty-year-old drawings, and painted them, special for those old, tiny frames. I repainted the frames, so they would look a bit more sophisticated (as sophisticated as cheap brass frames can look), and I adjusted the backs so they can be hung on the wall. Voila!

Thank you, dead pack rat, for haunting me and forcing me to use your old frames.

Thank you five-year-old Nancy, with your painfully introverted personality and your funny northern Maine accent, for drawing such fun pictures.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Quilting Action

Three more quilts...The more I continue on this little project I've made for myself, the more I like it. The whole process for me has become very meditative.

Actually enjoying painting with oils is a very new experience for me. In college, I associated any painting class with frustration and headaches. Frustration came mostly from the extremely slow drying time of oil paints. I can be very impatient when making artwork, that's why I don't like making computer artwork. The headaches came from the overwhelming smell of paints, mediums, and mineral spirits. The other students were often careless, leaving jars open, spilling things on the ground, plus the ventilation was terrible. I hated painting with oils.

Working by myself, in my basement, has proven to be a much more comfortable way for me to make artwork. I keep my workspace clean, I can watch TV as I work, and there are no distractions like gossip, complaining, or techno music.

The top painting is titled "Green Quilt". It is a study of contrasting colors. Red and green are tricky colors to work with, since they have a strong association with Christmas. I hope I did okay. The middle painting is titled "Sunflowers", and is an abstract study of the sunflowers left in my garden - as well as a study of the color yellow. The bottom painting is called "Stars" and is made from both recycled paintings and some pages from a hymn book. I have been hanging on to those pages for over a year. I am so glad I found a use for them. "Stars" is a study of the color blue.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Craft Work At Wild Geese

As promised, here are a few samplings from my second batch of signs for Wild Geese, a gift and home decor shop in Colchester, CT.

I am now working on my third batch, which will include some more "rustic" pieces. I recently acquired some heavily weathered wood from my local lumber lard. It seems they had quite a bit of wood sentenced to death by burning. I saved what I could, loaded it in my Hyundai Accent, and took it home. I will do my best to see to it that these pieces of wood will find good homes.

Meanwhile, I have also been working diligently on my paper quilts. I have three new pieces to post. As soon as I have taken some decent pictures of them (and decided what else to write about them), I will post it on my blog. Oh, how seemingly important this all is!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Waste Not Want Not

Being a recent collage graduate, I am accustomed to not having much money to spend on the things I’d like to have. Being a bit of an art dork, all I want to spend my money on is art supplies. But with more pressing expenses, such as my big fat student loans and my car loan, I must resist the urge to spend every Saturday at my local art supply store, buying expensive papers and paints, tools and gadgets.

I have been focusing my time trying to make money off of my hard-earned education. Making artwork, however, costs money, and the prospects of making money from your artwork when you’re a lowly twenty-something with no connections or artistic reputation is somewhat bleak. I have one solo exhibition lined up for next June (oh so far away!), which will be at the Jonathan Trumbull Library in Lebanon, CT, and I’m working on setting up another solo exhibition in Avon, CT. At the Crown and Cringle, a coffee and pastry shop in Old Wethersfield, CT, I have two limited edition prints for sale. I haven’t made any money from my signs at Wild Geese, in Colchester, CT, but it’s only been a short while. Throw in a few small commissions, and I’ve made a few bucks here and there, but not all that much.

Long story short, my artwork is not making me nearly as much money as my day job. I must be frugal.

Here is where the “quilts” project came into play. I wanted to do a study on pure color, and I have been fascinated with American quilts, primarily Amish quilts. for the past few years. I wanted to make a few abstract pieces where I could look at different color relationships, in the hopes of improving my illustration skills. I didn’t want these painting to be just color studies, however, so I decided to piece together quilts from paper.

In the spirit of American quilting, I used “recycled” materials: my leftover figure paintings from my figure painting class last fall. Out of a whole semester of paintings, I really only painted two or three that I wanted to keep. Rather than throw them away, or let them collect dust for the rest of my life, I gave them new life, by cutting them up and sewing them into quilts. Once sewn together, I painted over them with oils. The translucent quality of the oils allowed the figures to peek through and the layering of colors brings another aspect of texture to the paintings.

I’m not sure how far I’ll push this project, but I’ll let it develop organically and see what happens. The nice thing is, it doesn’t cost any money, and my old artwork is not going to waste.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Squirrels on the loose!

This spring, I had the opportunity to create three sample black and white illustrations for a possible book deal. While the book deal fell through, I did create some nice black and white illustrations, an area that I do not specialize in. I later decided to re-paint my favorite illustration in color. This illustration, titled “Persistence” demonstrates the clever persistence of our little gray furry friends; squirrels. If you’ve ever had a bird feeder, you have seen it. A squirrel’s determination is only surpassed by its cuteness.

Monday, October 02, 2006

More Sick Day Nonsense

This may be a bit too personal, but last night, I sketched the teeth I had extracted last week. They were quite interesting, almost anthropomorphic. It was like being in a figure drawing class again.

My original intention was to look at the teeth and then throw them away, but I may hang on to them a little while longer. Perhaps they might inspire a series of watercolors...

Aside from sketching bloody teeth, I also worked my next collection of signs for Wild Geese, which I will post soon.

I also continued working on a project I have been toying with for a while: paper quilts. They are recycled from my figure drawing and painting classes - the work that was not up to par for a portfolio, but was on nice paper. It seemed a shame to let the paper go to waste, so in the spirit of "waste not want not", I conceived this project. I hope to finish in the next month or so.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sick Days

This past Thursday, I faced something that I have avoided for five years - getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. The actual act was not as bad as I thought it would be, but the pain afterwards has been pretty debilitating. I can’t drive, because of the pain pills, I can’t do anything too physical (I almost fainted doing laundry). Bored out of my mind (and somewhat foggy in the brain because of the pain medication) I have taken up two temporary hobbies: pumpkin painting and soup making.

I actually found that I am good at making puréed soups, and the dread of eating everything out of the blender for the next week is no longer crippling. My pumpkin painting skills, however, have proven to be a bit less adept. I think the combination of pain, vicodin, and insomnia was not the catalyst I needed to create a successful composition on a giant, orange vegetable.

Oh well...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nancy Michaud's Craft Work Accepted at Gift Shop in Colchester, CT

Starting this week, Wild Geese Gift Shop in Colchester, Connecticut will be carrying my hand-made signs. They are country-themed signs, painted with acrylics on wood with hand-carved lettering. They are sealed with an oil-based polyurethane for durability. These charming signs are very affordable ($8.99-$24.99) and one-of a kind. If you happen to be in the Colchester area, Wild Geese is a worthwhile stop - it’s a very lovely shop!

I will post my next collection of signs as soon as they're done (probably in about a month). Also, Wild Geese is located at 191 Broadway Colchester, CT 06415. For directions, go to www.mapquest.com .

Thursday, September 21, 2006

This image is titled: "Sad Bear", I painted it this past winter as an homage to my hibernating friends. While I have only seen a wild bear once in person (only briefly while riding in a car), I feel a strong connection to these incredible, intelligent animals. Perhaps I was a bear in a past life. I am obsessed with salmon, and I prefer to eat it raw (mmm...salmon...).