"Tamias Striatus" (Pencil study for new painting by Gina Matarazzo)

“Tamias Striatus” (Pencil study for new painting by Gina Matarazzo)

I have been studying rodents lately and I have come to dislike that they are usually vilified by humans as “pests.” Since I’ve been trying to see everything from a different point of view these days, I’ve come to believe that they are not in our world, messing our gardens and homes up. We are in their world, interrupting their natural lives, covering up their burrows, making their already dangerous lives more dangerous with traps and poison or scaring them off. If they are able to think in terms of society, I think they surely think that humans are pests.

We have been putting up what’s called a “Big ol’ Kob” in the backyard since late spring, and it’s been quite a display, watching all the yard animals fight over it. And they aren’t really fighting over it at all–which is the funny thing! They are mostly sharing. One morning, there was a big squirrel on top of it, shaking it and trying to knock bits loose, while a couple birds, another squirrel, a bunny and a chipmunk were on the ground around it, picking up the kernels and generally waiting for their share. Really looked like something out of a Disney cartoon. That afternoon I was inspired to look up information about chipmunks and I learned how important they are for the ecology. Among other things, their natural way of life (collecting nuts, seeds, etc.) helps to establish seedlings in the forest. If you look at the “Ecology and Life History” section of Wikipedia, it gives a little insight into this.

So, here we are, thinking of these little fellas as pests who dig in our yards, messing our grass up, when they most likely do more for the world during their brief lives than most of us ever will! And this of course, inspired me to portray a chipmunk as a little saint or angel in his natural habitat.

I hope to do color studies in the next week or so and start the painting in November. I’m not sure if I’m excited to do that frame or worry that I’ll be kicking myself over it. Haha. Time will tell. I had a fun time creating it, so I think painting it will be fun too.

See you soon!

 

"The Nest" by Gina Matarazzo (Oil on Clayboard, 14" x 16 1/2")

“The Nest” by Gina Matarazzo (Oil on Clayboard, 14″ x 16 1/2″)

Finally finished this thing. If any of you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you were seeing sneaky peeky iPhone photos with glare on them. So here’s the final scan with no glare! Imagine, I thought this frame was a lot of detail to paint. Wait until you see the final drawing for the new painting next week! What am I thinking?!

My new studio setup.

My new studio setup.

On a side note, I’ve been super stoked about my new studio space. Early August, I got the urge to move stuff around so I can use my space more efficiently, utilizing my computer as an aid for painting and drawing instead of struggling with my phone and printing out reference photos. This make for piles and piles of paper all over the place and it was hard to keep everything organized. Now, when I find photo reference, I can keep it right on the computer and open it up in photoshop and zoom in/compare/contrast, flip things. It’s really silly that I waited so long. MS always bragged about how he liked having his computer so close to his easel. So now I have everything at my disposal. I can turn one way and draw at my drawing desk and turn the other way to paint. And what’s very nice is I can now look out my window too! Much better than the view of the railing and the air conditioner. Doing this freed up a lot of the space and now there’s more room for the printer and scanner and the peripherals are hidden behind my computer. The only flaw is that there is a drawer in my main desk…but I forgot and it’s against the wall now. Ha! There isn’t much in there, but there are some drawings. Ooops! But anyway, it’s so much better. And now it’s like…my stuff/MS’s stuff. Rather than my stuff, his stuff, my stuff, his stuff. If you get the picture.

So, this is an excellent time to take a break while we go back to the Norman Rockwell Museum tomorrow. We decided in July that we’d go back in October, and so off we go! We hope to do some hiking in the peak of Autumn in the Berkshires, weather permitting, and soak up some fun vibes at a Fall Festival and recharge. I don’t know about you, but I am still in disbelief that summer is over. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in front of the easel.

See you next time!

Below is a shot of my work in progress. I bet it seemed that I haven’t been doing anything! Lazy girl, you say! Not so, not so! I’ve been plugging away at the new painting a couple hours per day, four or five days a week. It appears I’m working my way from the outside in. It’s kind of a concentric image, so it’s just been kinda happening that way. Also, I like to work on the tedious things first, like the frame, so that when I’m done the rest of the painting, I don’t groan at still having to paint that part! So you can’t see it all (I’m sneaky that way!), but everything around the nest in the middle is painted in. Not that it’s all final just yet, of course. And you can see my inspirational Beatrix Potter reference in the background.

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A few weekends ago, we took a trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It’s such a beautiful area – part of the Berkshires. Seeing his paintings in person is always such a treat, and this time was no exception. In fact, MS and I noticed a lot more things in his paintings this time. I don’t know if it’s because a different set of paintings were on display than when we were there 10 years ago, or what, but there were little details we never noticed before. For example, if you are familiar with “Art Critic,”  you might get a kick out of this photo:

Detail of Norman Rockwell painting "Art Critic"

Detail of Norman Rockwell painting “Art Critic”

Check out those globs of paint on the palette. That isn’t a rendering of globs of paint, THEY ARE globs of paint! MS and I mused that there’s probably a speck of paint in that massive white glob that may still be wet! I can’t even imagine how he got it to Saturday Evening Post like that! Maybe he had it photographed in his studio? I wonder if anyone at the museum knows.

I remember hearing once that as an illustrator, NR knew that if a job had to get done and he couldn’t possibly meet the deadline, he’d just make sure he got the important parts finished. I had noticed that about some paintings in reproductions, but there were quite a few in person that I never realized had “unfinished” parts. Here’s the full painting of “The Boxer.” Notice the boxer’s robe. It is plain white with the underdrawing lines showing. I never noticed that before! I’m really enjoying looking at paintings more critically again. For so long, I’ve just enjoyed them more as images, but taking a second, third and fourth look to see how they were painted has been very eye opening.

Detail from "The Boxer"

Detail from “The Boxer”

After you see the exhibit, you are invited to walk over to his studio which is on the grounds of the museum. It was moved here from its original location in Stockbridge. Here’s the back view. Quite a nice set up. We both decided we’d take it, if given to us. ;)

Back of Rockwell's Studio on Museum grounds.

Back of Rockwell’s Studio on Museum grounds.

Since my Dad has passed away, I’ve noticed a lot of things about death (to say the least). One of which is how until you lose someone very significant in your life, you don’t quite realize how much their presence can be felt without them being here. Sometimes it’s almost as if they are more alive in some way in death than in life. I’m not talking ghostly apparitions or anything. For example, when I hear my Dad’s voice or the sound of his trumpet on a recording, he is SO real to me. In fact, when a song of his pops up in my shuffle, I say “hi” to him in my head. So it wasn’t really surprising when I saw this empty chair in Norman Rockwell’s studio, after seeing so many of his paintings, that it gave me that same feeling. It really felt like he was there. We have been so lucky to have met so many wonderful illustrators over the years in person. I would have LOVED to ask him questions about his work and just jabber over a cup of tea with him. But I’m pretty sure he’d get up pretty soon and tell me he had work to do.

In Norman Rockwell's Studio.

In Norman Rockwell’s Studio.

Here’s a couple new animal studies I’ve done lately. I’m liking tiny animal kings, for some reason.

"King Mousey" pencil study by Gina Matarazzo

“King Mousey” pencil study by Gina Matarazzo

Pencil study of chipmunk standing by Gina Matarazzo

Pencil study of chipmunk standing by Gina Matarazzo

I’ve decided to be a little more proactive about selling some of my artwork. I’ve put some of my original drawings up on Etsy. MS was kind enough to cut me some special custom mats the other day. Check the shop to see the drawings available! I haven’t put all of the available drawings up yet. I plan to do that in the next week, so stop back soon! Lesser expensive prints will be available too.

On a side note, I just can’t believe how fast this summer is flying by! Can you?! Some kids have even started school already! And what with this mild weather we’ve been having, it will be that much more difficult to know when to switch over to the fall clothing!

See you soon!

 

"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

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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.”

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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