The weather is hanging in a weird limbo. The air has become thick and heavy. In moments when the clouds can fight the sun no longer thermometers shoot up all over town. There is a precarious feeling hanging around as though anything might happen.
I find the slight shimmy of leaves tickles me and awakens my senses. The gardenias and jasmine are in bloom and the breeze caresses the cream petals sending a noxious perfume into the air. It's so wonderful I want to bathe in it. I try to capture the charm of these moments in my work. I'll sit with my sketchbook on a small wooden stool in front of a flowering bush and hungrily collect the soft curve of the petals and the sharp points of their leaves. Sascha, our Australian Shepherd is generally laying down nearby in the slightly overgrown grass or on the old brick patio to keep cool. Oftentimes the neighbors' Yorkie Ally pops over and the two chase each other, tumbling all over the place. I'm pretty certain Sascha actually thinks that Ally is a sheep she needs to herd.
The images that I hoard away in my sketchbook are laced with the energy from these moments in my life. Every morning I pour myself a cup of black coffee and walk around our yard with Sascha. In the earlier hours the few boats on the canal are quiet. The occasional tug will hum by or a sailboat will silently cut through the still water that mirrors its bright white being. I slowly make my way from plant to plant, inspecting all of my green babies. Each morning is a surprise, good or bad, normally a healthy mixture. Sascha will chase the squirrels who have yet again been digging in the garden while I take in the sight of fuzzy bees visiting the zucchini flowers. Tight buds on a rose bush are a good omen and I can hardly wait for them to bloom. The finger-like curl of the spiked leaves beckon. Out of the corner of my eye I see a red cardinal, the presence of my Grandfather whom I never met.
Have I mentioned that this is my Secret Garden? The land we live on was once a part of a large estate from what I am told. The bricks I mentioned earlier are part of the old infrastructure and I cannot dig in the yard without unearthing some. I have found pathways in the lawn that lead to nowhere. There is a courtyard with bricks that have been smoothed round by the years as though they were cobblestones. Everywhere there are threatening thorny vines and glorious ivy. I am slowly making my way through the tangled mess. It has only been a year since we first moved in but I have come to see some of the original vision for the grounds marked by towering camellias, dozens of azaleas, and broken borders of bricks. To add to it all, there is a shed that is completely collapsed on itself, a wooden water tower sans tank, and a cattle guard that bangs every time someone enters the driveway. The original house is no longer to be seen. Rumor has it that it burnt down at some point. Ours is a humble one-storied abode clad in cypress nestled among grand oaks and cedar trees. There is a majesty to it all. As the sun slips downward the light will glow through the pathway to the old shed and the headlights of my husband Kenny's truck will appear making their way down the limestone driveway to greet a barking Sascha.
The change of spring has made me restless and I have found it difficult to sit still or even remain indoors. I have found the best chance I have at rest is to move my work into our sunroom and sit at the petite antique pine table in front of a vase of roses and to just begin sketching. The elegance of the roses engage me and keeps my pencil scratching. It dances all over the page as I dive deeper into the smallest details. As I pull out the watercolor and my favorite gold inks I try to capture the faintest touch of deep pink that outlines a petal. The gold ink itself is intoxicating. Swirling like an alchemical wonder in its bottle and before me in this work that I've created. Inevitably one of our cats sits in the adjacent chair and Stella Bear, my first born, will wallow in my lap occasionally blocking my view of my work. While some may consider it to be decorative, I cannot help but to add constellations of stars, sparkles, and polka dots. It's just the overflow of my enthusiasm for these moments and it keeps me in this euphoric place. I suppose it is my own way of meditating. I can sit for hours just creating these little habitats.On the nights when we are going to be indulging in the previous night's bounty (pasta is always better on the second day) Kenny will come home and find me here, hunched over the table. Maybe I will have grabbed a glass of wine or have a sweating bottle of beer sitting near by but other than that, I won't have shifted. I have to get up when I'm ready, otherwise something in me just feels wrong, like leaving church before mass is over. Eventually I become restless and can no longer concentrate. The cats will be play fighting and the dog will start staring me down for his dinner. All of it is just part of the natural cycle of my day. I leave the table newly energized, ready to create something indulgent in the kitchen while Kenny sits on the other side of the island. I love to light candles and watch their light slowly become more dominant as the twilight sets in. If I run out to the garden for herbs I can usually smell the roasting chicken or stewing sauce from outside the kitchen door. Cats sit in the bay window watching me as I gather my provisions. When I come back inside Sascha will jump excitedly as though we hadn't just spent the whole day together. Kenny will open up a bottle of wine, Apothic Dark if I'm lucky, and we will cheers to another day well done. As I sip the rich wine, trying not to let it slip out the side of my smile, I save one more magical moment.
Art is a luxury. The thing of it is, being an art collector is not something that has to be reserved for those that sit in the front row at Paris Fashion Week. While a pair of Louboutins may be out of your reach, I promise you that you can afford to build an art collection that rocks. Here are a couple of tips for starting an art collection on any budget.
Tip #1 Who the hell are ya?
What kind of artwork do you like? It is incredibly important to purchase artwork that you are in love with. Think about your life. What is important to you? What are your interests? Do you have a fondness for lawn gnomes? I guarantee you there’s an artist out there that does too. Search for artists who have similar passions as you.
Also important is to trust your instincts. Art is not just visual; it is emotional. If you get butterflies when you look at a piece, chances are you are indeed ready for a committed relationship with it. You will have to pay for the first date but that painting of a cat riding a bicycle will put out.
Tip # 2 On a tight budget? Think small!
Small works are a great place to begin your collection. Sometimes I find petite paintings to be even more precious than larger pieces. They are like little magic totems. Grouped together you have your own little curiosities cabinet.
It’s easy to build such a collection over time and you don’t have to spend a fortune for each piece. There are little gems all over the place. Etsy is a wonderful source for original art. There are so many artists out there just waiting to be found. Do them a favor and seek them out!
Tip # 3 Be Patient
Building a collection takes time. It is a hobby after all. It won't really be "You" if you go out and buy 10 pieces at once. Take your time to find those pieces that are super special. Sorry for the cliche but it's all about quality not quantity. It's very much the same thing as taking the time to decorate your home over time with carefully curated items. These items help make a house a home because they carry emotional weight as well as physical. If you have one really awesome painting hanging in your living room that you cannot stop looking I'd say you've done well. Over time your collection will grow into a beautiful bouquet of works which will most likely all compliment one another in some way.
O.K. I've got the gist. Where do I start?
To give you a jump-start on your hunt I give you the Surly Siren Art Collector’s Starter Kit. What is it you ask? It’s a place to begin your foray into building a killer art collection. For you I have curated an Etsy Treasury List with works under $350 by some talented contemporary artists.
I encourage you to not only look at these 16 pieces that I have put together but to dig through all of the works by these artists. Use it to start figuring out what you like. Think of the questions from above as you click through. You may find something that speaks to you even more than what I chose, but that’s the point. Art is for everybody!
I will be creating these lists monthly (or perhaps even more often). I want to share the art love! I will also have future posts more specific about navigating art galleries, art fairs, etc. If you want to receive the updates in your inbox type “UPDATE ME” on my contact page. I’ll let you know when I publish a new list or blog post. There may even be special promos.
Now here’s a sneak peek at a couple of pieces you will find in the Starter Kit! Click their photo to go straight to the listing.
I used to write all of the time. Notebooks of stories and petite poems fill aging cardboard boxes in my mother’s basement. These days my sketchbook is brimming with random observations and musings dancing in between my drawings. When I work in my Moleskine I feel as though I am a witch at my spell book. Candlelight flickers and the subtle scratch of the pen sends me into a tizzy as I create something new.
You will learn that I am an unapologetic romantic. That candlelight I mentioned is a constant in my home. I plan meals based on the weather forecast. I get excited over the slightest swelling bud in my garden. I collect vintage furs and skull sculptures. There is gold leaf and glitter all over my studio. I believe magic exists all around in many costumes
As an artist, I am always seeking to create something beautiful. Simply put, that is my mission. Every action I take is in pursuit of making the world a more beautiful place. I don’t just mean with my artwork either, though that is certainly probably the epitome of it. This blog is about celebrating beauty and sharing ways to make it a constant in your life whether it through is painting, printmaking, gardening, cooking, traveling, or decorating.
In Italian “La Dolce Vita” means “The Sweet Life.” It’s about enjoying the simplest of pleasures and indulging your hopes and dream and is the inspiration for my “Dolce Vita” series of paintings. While the specifics of The Sweet Life may look different for all of us, the concept is the same. I want to show you my favorite flavor and all of its ingredients.