"Sleeping Baby Bunny" by Gina Matarazzo (8" x 10" Oil on Clayboard)

“Sleeping Baby Bunny” by Gina Matarazzo (8″ x 10″ Oil on Clayboard)

Here is the final oil painting for “Sleeping Baby Bunny.” I’ve been sitting on it for about a week or so, and I’m ready to share. In retrospect, it was a good move on my part to work on this one first. I hadn’t painted anything in several months and I needed to get back into the swing of things with a smaller painting. Now I feel ready to take on the other painting, which is much more ambitious. The drawing is transferred onto the board, sealed, sanded and ready to go. Can’t wait to get started!

What's on my easel now...

What’s on my easel now…

Side note, MS and I saw “Maleficent” last night. Now that’s the Disney magic I remember! Just loved it. It’s so great when stories of familiar characters get fleshed out and you see a different side to the story (well, when it’s done as nicely as this, that is). All my needs were satisfied in the script too. I got worried a few times, but it turned out the way I had hoped. And BEAUTIFUL is an understatement. Just GORGEOUS visuals. Awesome creatures! Fabulous costumes! Do yourself a favor and see it if you have any interest in this kind of tale. Maybe try to watch “Sleeping Beauty” beforehand to see how it all connects. That’s something both MS and I want to do now, before we see it again to see how everything ties in. One of the cool little details is they play a new version of “Once Upon a Dream” after the credits and when you listen to it after seeing the movie, it really changes the meaning of the lyrics. Nice little detail. Here’s a link to the song.

Have you seen “Maleficent” yet? What did you think of it?

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

 

Birdy Drawing by Gina Matarazzo, pencil on paper

princebirdie

Prince Chubby Birdy by Gina Matarazzo, pencil on paper

I like when new information makes an impact on something major in your life in a way you didn’t expect. For example, there is one book I read recently called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” by Shunryu Suzuki which starts out with a very important lesson based on the title.

It goes on to explain that the beginner’s mind is the best mind to have in zen meditation, because it keeps you focused and open to great growth in mastering your mind. The basic lesson is that one should always approach meditation as if one was a beginner, even when one could say one is experienced and even accomplished. I think this translates into everything in life. When we approach everything with a beginner’s mind, we are open to learning and seeing things from a more objective perspective. The beginner’s mind learns at a more rapid pace. When we are experienced, we can sometimes have the “been there done that” mentality, often closing ourselves off from valuable insight and without knowing it, lose some of the love and raw enjoyment in what it is that we do. I’m sure you’ve had the experience at least once in your life when you learned a valuable lesson from someone you wouldn’t have expected had much to offer. How narrow minded that is, isn’t it?  Why do you think that happens? I think it’s because we often think a little too highly of ourselves. Being experienced and accomplished is a great thing, but not at the cost of forgetting where you started and the open enthusiasm you had for whatever it is that you do. When a beginner starts in a particular endeavor, he/she absorbs information quickly and can’t seem to get enough. When we open ourselves up to this “beginner’s” mentality, we start to see things freshly again and most likely, anything you thought you knew, you will see with a bit more depth than you had before. It’s quite an eye opening thing. And it makes you enjoy what it is you do much more. That’s another part of the reason why I’ve come back to basics in my artistic pursuits, doing studies, drawing in my sketchbook more regularly, drawing for the sake of drawing and going to open figure drawing classes again.

Fat Birdy Drawing by Gina Matarazzo, pencil on paper

birdy3

Handsome Bird Drawing by Gina Matarazzo, pencil on paper

So many artists start to lose the passion for what they do when they become professionals. It’s easy for work you love to become much more about work than enjoyment after a while. There is a misconception out there that being an artist is always fun or that work you enjoy is always fun. Working as an artist has never been pure enjoyment. It’s really often a lot of hard work. It doesn’t always go easy and you have to sometimes just grin and bear it when you produce something you aren’t happy with, but have to present anyway because of a deadline. This calls to mind how it always seems I’m having a bad night at open figure drawing when someone walks around the room to see how my drawings are turning out. Never fails. And I always want to turn the page to a better drawing to prove that I’m not always that bad.

chipmunkE

Chipmunk Cutie Drawing by Gina Matarazzo, pencil on paper

Anyway, that’s something big to think about, right? Open yourself up to being a beginner again. See what unfolds.

 

 

Sketch for "Sleeping Bunny" by Gina Matarazzo

Sketch for “Sleeping Bunny” by Gina Matarazzo

Above is the sketch for a smaller painting I will start soon. If you remember, it’s the conclusion to those animal studies from last week.

I guess I never explained why nature has become so important to me lately. Maybe it was partly the stark cold winter and loss of summer that brought it on. I’m sure it’s partly because of all the books I’ve been reading about zen combined with the loss of my Dad. It’s definitely a fascination with the natural world and how it goes on doing it’s thing regardless of how much we humans like to think we can control it. Flowers in particular are their own universe to me. See the first stanza of William Blake’s poem, “To See a World…”:

 To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

I keep these few profound lines at my desk to reflect on often. In flowers, I see the height of beauty. They are the embodiment of sunlight, water and earth. A symbol of the fragility of life. They grow and bloom and wane and shrivel and die as surely as we will someday. They do not boast–but are proud plants. And yet, flowers do not lament or complain their existence away. They just “are” and return to the earth as they are meant to do. They are a reminder that we will all die one day, so we should take advantage of our beauty while we are able. I have taken up the habit of always having flowers at my desk to take care of and enjoy. I even silently thank them for their service when they die. If you think that’s crazy, I also believe I want to live as nobly as a flower!

Flowers are too precious to be thought of as only sentiments from lovers or gifts for sick people. Buy yourself a little bouquet every couple of weeks. A mere $6.00 on a hearty variety can last a good two weeks. Money well spent, I say! And you’ll be surprised on how they affect more than just you if you keep them around at work.

Go forth and buy yourself some flowers! ;)

Because of various events and changes in my viewpoint the past year which I will explain at the end of the post, I feel quite attached to nature. Seen below are a few studies for a series of smaller paintings I will be working on. I love animals and their inherent innocence – they are truly superior to humans in their absence of malice. And in sleeping, are they not little angels on earth?
Study of Sleeping Squirrel, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Study of Sleeping Squirrel, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Study of Baby Bunny Sleeping, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Study of Baby Bunny Sleeping, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Baby Bunny Sleeping Study 2, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Baby Bunny Sleeping Study 2, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Study of Sleeping Mouse, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

Study of Sleeping Mouse, Pencil on Paper by Gina Matarazzo

I used to think Victorian specimen drawings like this (shown below) were so plain and blasé. Now I think they are absolute beauties. I once thought they were mere renderings, but on second look, I now know they are much more than that. They have a bigger than life quality kind of like how Norman Rockwell’s paintings, although very realistic, have a sense of life that is unmistakable. These images give me much more meaning than they ever did.

By Elizabeth Twining - Botanical Prints From: Illustrations of the Natural Order of Plants, Vol. ll.

By Elizabeth Twining – Botanical Prints From: Illustrations of the Natural Order of Plants, Vol. ll.

When you work as a commercial artist, you are forced to do work quickly and to make quick decisions and problem solve swiftly. If you find something that works, you go with it and hope the client likes it. Where I work, we generally don’t spend more than a couple hours on any one project. That can start to overrun your work and you begin to forget how an artist normally takes time to explore things, consider more alternatives, and take the time to enjoy every task. For reasons I will touch on below, I have been getting back to that in my personal work, drawing for the sake of drawing, and just enjoying the actual process and feeling of it, moment by moment. Drawing itself is a meditation for me.

And why is the present moment so important to me now? Well, there is more than just one reason for me, but one challenging situation in particular had a big impact on that.

I believe challenging situations are an excellent opportunity to learn and grow. Any situation, no matter how bad, can be turned at least a little better if you learn something from it. For example, for the past few years, I watched my Dad slowly give up all joy in life partly because the picture of his life didn’t turn out the way he’d planned and partly because years of not taking care of himself started to hit him hard. His tendency to be a pessimist made him unwilling to be happy with anything. There were about three years near the end of his life that he could have chosen some happiness, but it was as if he refused. In August, his illnesses advanced rapidly, and after a few extremely difficult months in and out of hospitals and the nursing home, he passed. Now, I had obviously always known that living in the moment was important, but watching his life tick down to the end the way it did, devoid of joy, was a huge lesson to be learned. I admit that my Dad had physical illnesses that made life really hard and I don’t doubt it was really, really hard to find joy and peace in the little things. But I think you have to try as hard as you can to see joy where you can find it, where it usually lives –  in the present moment. I don’t mention this news for sympathy or to get into details, I just mention it because we all need a little reminder that nothing is bad 100% of the time. We need to choose to enjoy the little moments in life as best as we can to get the most out of this beautiful, impermanent life.

Time must not be squandered away worrying, being miserable, being indifferent, or rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off. I want to be dedicated to making this very moment the most important moment, because that’s all we really have, isn’t it? Think about it. The you that started reading this blog post a couple of minutes ago is in the past already! I’d like to do the best I can to live my life to the fullest in honor of my Dad who for many reasons, didn’t have the strength to do it himself.

I leave you with this: Next time you peel an apple or butter a piece of toast, don’t just peel the apple or butter the toast. Hold the apple, notice its weight, smell it, really feel it while you wash it. Is it smooth? Feel the peeler in your hand as it revolves around the apple. Is the peeler cold? Notice how dry or moist the apple is.  Think about how many people were involved in getting this apple to you. Farmers, field hands, inspectors, truck drivers, grocery store workers. All that hard work for one little apple and it made it into your kitchen. Just go with it. It’s really fun to do and makes you appreciate every little thing. And I’ll bet it will make that apple taste a lot better too. :)

 Until next time, peace.

I dusted off some illustrations I did for licensing collections a few years ago and decided to make them available for instant download via my Etsy shop. They were just sitting there all rejected, doing nothing, so I thought I’d try to put them to work! So now they are all available in digital format. You get all the separate images as .jpegs and .pngs and PDFs and .jpegs of the page layouts if you just want to print them out and don’t really need separate images. Great for scrapbooking and digital design, including websites and other crafty projects! I have a lot of this stuff, so I’ll be adding more from time to time.

Introducing a trio of birthday collections!

Birthday Party!

Birthday Party Digital Collection by Gina Matarazzo

Birthday Party Digital Collection by Gina Matarazzo

Cupcake Party!

Cupcake Party Collection by Gina Matarazzo

Cupcake Party Collection by Gina Matarazzo

Cake Party!

Cake Party Digital Collection by Gina Matarazzo

Cake Party Digital Collection by Gina Matarazzo

No time to talk. Off to do some color studies. Don’t you just wish there were 36 hours in the day? Of course, to do personal and fun things and not 16 hours of work. That would just stink.

Next Time: Challenges (for real next time)

nestGinaMatarazzoE

The alphabet has burned me out even though I’ve only gotten to “J,” so I’m putting that aside for a while to do some other things.

Above is a new drawing for a painting I hope to start soon. And yes, if you remember a long long time ago, I abandoned the last painting I was working on. I was almost finished too. See below iPhone photo…

mouseparadiseGinaMatarazzoE

MS tells me I should finish it. I think I’ll finish it if I have a real need to…but I don’t have a real need to yet. I have too many problems with this piece. New one will be better.

I was thinking about how some people have a weird perspective of what an artist is or should be. MS and I have started going to figure drawing on a semi-regular basis and one night, an older artist came up to me and asked if I was a student and I told her no, that I went to UArts for Illustration in the mid 90s and I work as a Graphic Designer now. First thing she said was emphatically: “What a waste!” And I reversed my mind for a sec and thought… “Did I just say I drove a meat truck for a living?” And even when I mentioned that Matt went to Parsons and does illustration for Wizards of the Coast, that didn’t seem to impress her.

First, I wanted to say…um…I’m making a full time living as an artist. All of the money I used to pay off my “wasted” student loans was funded by making a full time living as an artist. I have some savings for retirement by making a full time living as an artist. If she’s scoffing at my major in illustration as if it’s wasted, because I’m a graphic designer, I’d like to mention not only do I do illustration work from time to time on my own, but also AT MY GRAPHIC DESIGN JOB. Many things I learned in college as an illustration student translate into working as a graphic designer. Both careers have similar outcomes: We make pictures and we communicate through visuals. Now I just happen to have twice as many skills as I had back then and twice as many interests. Every artist who wants to making a living as an artist has to make compromises. Just because I made different compromises than other artists, doesn’t make my choice less valuable. Many people I know think that working for a company full time is a horrible fate and they look down upon people who make that choice. But there are just as many advantages to working for a company as there are working for yourself. But that’s not what I’m really talking about right now. That’s another blog post in itself.

Much like I decided not to become an animation major, for various on the job realities, I became a Graphic Designer by choice as opportunities unfolded before me. I learned the computer mostly on my own, picking tips up along the way from others, and what I didn’t know, I learned on the job and I grew to enjoy it very much. And thank goodness for that! Had I gone with the original out of school plan, I would have pursued young adult novel cover illustrations and been out of work before I was in work, since photos and photo illustrations killed that market for the most part. Not to mention, I really could have missed the biggest boat by not learning how to work on the computer. It’s so important for all artists of all mediums to have solid computer skills on so many levels.

Most importantly, I’m not only an artist 9-5 or odd freelance hours. I thrive on creativity in everything that I do, whether it’s cooking a fine meal, planning a Halloween tea party that’s a feast for the eyes as well as the senses, dreaming about my garden, or decorating the house. I am always conscious of how things in my field of vision can look better like I have a tiny cinematographer in my head. When I write things down – even a to do list – often I’ll start over because I can slow down and make it nicer looking. Art school was the opposite of a waste. It was an extension and exploration of myself as an artist. Life itself is a creative exploration to me. All I ask is to lead an artful, creative life, to challenge myself and get better at everything I do, including being a better human being and exploring what life and the world has to offer. And when I’m not doing those things, I like to embroider and make things too!!!

And yes, that means I like the path I’ve chosen. And yes, lady…art school was not a waste, thank you very much. No apologies.

Next time: Challenges

Jamie the Jaguar by Gina Matarazzo

Jamie the Jaguar by Gina Matarazzo

“How many jellybeans are in that jar?,” Jamie the Jaguar wonders.

Been losing speed with this alphabet book, I know. I’m not even halfway there yet! Ugh. I’ll feel much better after “P,” I think. But here’s a look at what I’ve done so far:

By Gina Matarazzo

By Gina Matarazzo

I don’t know why, but ALL feline animals remind me of my cats. Silly, I know, but you could understand why, right? Even when my husband paints weirdo creatures that remotely resemble a feline, I say: “Georgie!” For some reason, I think he kind of takes offense to that. Haha.

On a side note, I have taken a couple weeks off working on the “Mouse Paradise” painting.  Everything is painted in, but a lot of it needs tweaking. I think although “MP” may not be my favorite idea/work to date, I’ve found myself repainting parts less than in the other recent paintings…which is good. I’m assuming I’ll always have to repaint something, but in the past I have tended to repaint lots of things in the same painting 4 or 5 times, tiring of the work really fast. Being tired of something you’re working on doesn’t bode well for the outcome.

Well. Time to practice my yoga so my body doesn’t seize up on itself!

See you next time! I think it will be sooner rather than later. Been having a personally challenging year and I think I’m rounding the corner…even despite having the biggest challenge brewing as we speak. How’s that saying go?  – “What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.”

So, I have actually been busy painting in dribs and drabs. It may not seem like it, but it’s true. Here’s an iphone photo of a work in progress of the Mouse Paradise piece. See…I’m sneaky…only showing you a part of it! I still have to do the flowers, the mice and finish the teapot. I might have to repaint the teacup. Then I’ll do an overall tweaking of everything and softening edges. Let’s just hope it’s tweaking and not a lot of repainting. For a reminder, here’s the sketch.

photo 2

I don’t think I mentioned it before, but the dribs and drabs are due to me having to do physical therapy and exercise every day. Now that I’m over the hump, I should be able to do more painting. I still have to do the PT and exercise, but now it’s down to only twice a day rather than three times a day. The third was a bitch because I had to fit it in before bedtime. And as some of you know, I tend to not sleep enough, so being tired and having to exercise was a rough combo. Fortunately it is mostly yoga related, so it’s relaxing.

On a side note, I’ve picked my embroidery project back up – the one that’s a replica of the embroidery found in the Monkees’ pad. See it in the background here. It’s gonna take a while. I’m only on the “O” in “Money.” Haha. But now the lines are straight and it will work out nicely. I had stopped working on it because I got the first word done and realized it was all crooked. Really burst my bubble. I’ve been enjoying leisurely embroidering on the porch and listening to the bird and trees. It’s probably the most relaxing thing ever. I don’t know why. Just something about embroidering. AND it somehow jumpstarts my creativity. I think of good ideas while embroidering. So that’s super fantastic!

Enjoy the weekend! See you soon!

Iggy the Iguana by Gina Matarazzo

Iggy the Iguana by Gina Matarazzo

I’m at “I.” After “J”, things will get better. “J” can be a difficult letter. At work, I hate when people request a script font for their name if their name begins with “J.” Often the typefaces have silly looking “J”s. Quite irritating. They often look like “I”s or “T”s, so I find myself adjusting the letter or adding a curly cue or whatever to make it look like the right letter. But I guess that goes the same for “T” and “I” names too. They all look like each other! Ah, a designer’s dilemma! The things we fight against on a daily basis. ;) What else do we fight against? Ugly titles. People ought to pay attention to how their titles look in type before committing to them. Haha. That gets me burned up too. But that’s another story.

I started laying all these out in book form with text, and they are looking quite colorful and fun. Will be great to see all 26 letters done! But I have no idea what the cover would be yet. Hmmm. We’ll see. The theory is finish this by the end of the year. Only 17 more to go! Doh! Better get ta workin’!

Have a good weekend!

Well. I admit it. I got stuck on “H” for a while. The symmetry was challenging me. Darned H. So strong, and sturdy. It needed an equally sturdy friend. Here we see “Harriet the Hippo,” trying to look light and feminine.

"Harriet the Hipp" by Gina Matarazzo

“Harriet the Hippo” by Gina Matarazzo

On the oil painting front, I’ve just started dabbling and hope to make real progress in the next couple of weeks. I’ve had some obstacles in my way that make the time I can dedicate to my personal work difficult at times, but I’m hoping as the painting starts to take shape, that I get momentum going. And yes, I will confront the next symmetrical letter “I” in the coming weeks as well.

About Me

Illustrator. Graphic designer. I have an Etsy shop, 2 cats and one husband. Not necessarily in order of importance. :)

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