Fired up!   Leave a comment


This month I start the final year of my Artist Residency at the South Shore Arts Center. Since every artist residency is its own animal, I’ll tell you what mine entails. Each Wednesday morning, throughout the school year (into May), a different group of 3rd, 4th, or 5th graders takes a bus into Cohasset for an adventure in art.

They enjoy (I believe) a 45 minute presentation on my travels, some of the science of the arctic and Antarctic, and why (and how) I paint these areas. Then the students head over to tables that are set up for their own watercolor adventure. We work wet-on-wet and the results are wonderful. Success, as I describe it, is learning how to mix the colors on the wet paper instead of the palette, letting the water do most of the work. Every kid is successful even if none of the paintings look alike.

Last year, I created this program with the coordinator. She helped me create a great powerpoint presentation, encouraged me to create a book to accompany it, and helped work with the volunteers to make this the success it became.

She left the position in June. We all felt that she had left the program in good shape with what was a presentation that was humming.

The new coordinator, Alicia Herman, came in and began to add ideas, asking questions of how we could make this even better. I’ll admit, change isn’t always easy. Last week, we gave the first presentation of the year with the changes and additions.


It’s so exciting to see how someone can take what you’ve started and make it grow exponentially. Now the kids walk into a darkened room when they arrive – the Northern (or Southern) lights shining onto the ceiling (above). Now, in addition to the painting project, they have a Discovery Table with items loaned from the New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center. A walrus tusk! Baleine! A bottle of disgusting, smelly krill! Perfect!


And we still include the “iceberg” created by the original coordinator. I was nervous before the first group, but now, with two under my belt, we’re back to humming along and I’m fired up for the rest of the year!

No Summer Respite   1 comment

Studio 2Studio 1The summer months seem specifically designed to keep me from inspiration. First and foremost, there’s no ice to be found anywhere except in my photos or on the internet! Second, my studio is on the third floor of a Victorian – no air-conditioning and the eaves come down making it seem even closer on hot days (see my studio above). Finally, it doesn’t help when your family is in “summer mode” and each day is different, making it harder to plan.

Oh, and the news….

In the past few weeks, I have been working with 5 other artists on a show that will be presented in October. “Flux: Six Artists Respond to Uncertainty” is a show that we have put together where we each address our own understanding of the word, “Flux.”  I connected to the use of “flux” to indicate instability. My paintings are about both incredible stability (ice that is thousands of years old) and incredible fragility. Every painting I create based on a Polar vision incorporates both of these ideas.

Moving Forward

I didn’t start out to be a political painter – I just wanted to share my vision of the Antarctic and then the Arctic. The politics came to me. I believe that by sharing the beauty of these places that most others won’t get to see may encourage people to want to save/care/visit. So, in these times where our environment is under attack, my response is to show what we need to save.

And THAT’S how I stayed busy this summer. Inspired and angered and frustrated. But still working.

Antarctica Rocks.jpg

A Dozen+ Comments   3 comments

Swiss Glacier from Space

This morning I opened my email to find more than a dozen comments from many of my older (and newer) posts. It doesn’t seem possible that, all of a sudden, I have become much more interesting to people all over the world and in four(!) different languages. It looks like the comments had been trapped as spam and then suddenly released to me all at once.

I had been thinking about writing a new blog for a bit. It takes me a while to figure out the subject and then how I’m going to present it. Some people say that blog writing should be quick and spontaneous, but that’s not the kind of writer I am. In addition, the writing of a blog means (I think) that you understand that someone is actually going to read it. Now that I have this newly increased audience, it’s time to write again.

This year, I was the Artist in Residence at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA. The program consisted of me presenting about 45 minutes on my travels and art, then about 45 minutes of painting, and then a final wrap up that could last 15-20 minutes – mostly questions and answers. The kids who came were 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, depending on the week. Of course, working with kids, you get the best questions – things I’ll be mulling over for a long time. Here’s one – Why do you paint this subject if it is so sad?

That’s a big one. I was talking about my paintings of whalebones which are from (mostly) my photos from an abandoned whaling station in Antarctica. I spend a lot of time talking about blue whales and why they were so voraciously “harvested.” At the end of my slides of blue whales, a 4th grader called out, “That’s really a sad story!” Yes. It is.

I was listening to a podcast from Fresh Air, where the subject was a photographer who took pictures of animals in captivity. He said that by making even “icky” animals beautiful, maybe we’ll be inspired to save them. In addition, I think that the way we think about whales (for example) has changed and our art has reflected that. “Moby Dick” describes a very different animal that the one you hear about when you go on a whale watch.

Whale Bones, Antarctica Whaling Station #5

So when I paint the beautiful ice that I have seen, it is to show the world how beautiful this part of the planet is and, perhaps, encourage people to want to save it. And when I paint the bones, it is to encourage the viewer to see the beauty of the whale, even from what’s left over 50 years later.

Glacier in Motion, Artist Board

It was a great question.

Working through this   Leave a comment


(“The Strength of the Snowflakes, Antarctica”)

What is “this”? I have been painting and working for the past 10 weeks and beginning to see some pieces come to fruition. But unlike before, I am angry and sad every day.

I am not a person who can just sit and watch events go idly by.


I read a moving piece by a woman who had been called a “snowflake” multiple times in her life. Through abuse, divorce, and cancer. So how is it that this term has been used to dismiss a woman? I paint snowflakes. Or rather, I paint the cumulative effects of snowflakes. Glaciers that have been here for tens of thousands of years. Icebergs that can punch holes in a ship. Frozen expanses of water that can be walked or even driven over.


And so I mulled and chewed the information. I have felt dismissed and diminished by the election in the US. And I’m not alone. We’re Snowflakes together. So I started a project. I have been making snowflakes for people to wear at the March on Washington (Boston, NY, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and more). Wear a snowflake to represent your power. Wear a snowflake to show that you’re willing to organize. They can all be different, but wear a snowflake to create awareness and recognition. A snowflake means you’re willing to organize, step up, work together to lift us all. Make your own – or look for people who will have them at the Marches.

And awareness isn’t enough. I’m working on a project with t-shirts and buttons where all the money raised (every penny) goes to Planned Parenthood. So that you can buy a snowflake pin or shirt and feel even better and stronger. The website is



Look at this! Could anything be more beautiful and amazing?

By describing us as snowflakes, I take no offense. We are strong, powerful, snowflakes.

Part of the gathering storm.

Posted January 6, 2017 by lisagorenpaintings in Uncategorized

Four Big Pieces Completed   7 comments

glacier-in-motion-wall-size(Glacier in Motion – Wall Size)

It has taken nearly a year but I have finally finished a series of very large watercolors – all of them are nearly 5 feet wide and either 5 feet tall or about 3 feet tall. They’re unwieldy, heavy, and hard to work with. Of course I love them!

In the process of working on these paintings, I had to rethink the way I paint. I paint very wet but it was nearly impossible to wet the entire paper, or even large chunks of it, without using a bucket. And then, it was difficult to get enough paint on the paper to have it move around, just using the paint I had squeezed out onto the palette.

I ended up taking the paint directly from the tube and squeezing it directly onto the very wet paper and then using the water to spread it throughout the piece. What made it exciting is that the watercolors I use interact very quickly once they hit the water – they’re “spreaders” is a way I like to describe it. So it became a dance to manage the action of the paint and the placement of the water.

Now that I have a series, I’ll start looking for places to show this work. I’m not able to frame the pieces – too expensive AND I wouldn’t be able to fit the pieces in my car if they were framed. So for now, they’re placed against my wall and kept steady by using clips (not directly on the paper, but with bubble wrap between the clips and the painting).

Here are my newest works!


(Iceland Glacier with Lines)
(Lava Formation, Iceland – Wall Size)

(Arctic Ice Reflection – Wall Size)



Posted October 18, 2016 by lisagorenpaintings in Uncategorized

Hanging in Other People’s Houses   Leave a comment

Yesterday I received a text with a recent piece of mine that had been framed and hung (bottom right). This person has two of my pieces next to each other – they look great! All of these photos are examples of paintings hanging up in peoples’ homes. This is probably the most exciting part of letting the works go – seeing how other people envision the work within their lives.

It’s such an honor to have my paintings in another person’s home because I know how important the art is in my own home (which, perhaps surprisingly, is not my work).

While I may have other goals (be in a museum! be in a large public space!), to me this is the most personal and I love seeing the photos as they come in.

I have Jamaica Plain Open Studios in two weeks and I’ve been working hard to get ready so that I have a lot of new pieces to show. Even though this is my home turf, I always want to make it special. In a way, this show in September, is my “grand opening” for the fall and I often have lots of new paintings that I have been working on for months. I look forward to seeing the next set of photos where my paintings have found a new home.

Jamaica Plain Open Studios: 11am-6pm, September 17th and 18th. I’ll be at the group site, The Footlight Club, 7A Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain. See you there!

“Minor” Details   3 comments

Seam in Glacier, Alaska.jpg

Last week I taught a class on how to create an Artist Statement. It had been a while since I visited mine, so I thought a good way to prepare would be to revamp my own statement. Of course, as soon as I looked at the statement, I knew that I had a lot to do.

At the same time, I was working on my newsletter/email and MailChimp advised me that I shouldn’t use a return address with a ending because it might be spamblocked. This means that even if someone signed up to receive my emails, they might not get them due to the settings on their email server. In truth, I knew that it was well past time for me to have an email associated with my website. So I called Godaddy (where my website’s address is registered). I created an email address, But, apparently, I had to change some settings on my website. I did that…sort of. I’m pretty good at computers considering that they are not my career, and that I wrote all of my papers in college longhand and typed them on an electric (fancy!) typewriter. Still, I had to be talked through some things. More than once. At one point I even said to the helpdesk, “I know you’re trying to help me but repeating what you just said isn’t going to do it, it’s not my language.” (I was nice about this, I swear.)

It doesn’t seem like some of these tasks should take a long time. Create an email address! Fix an artist statement! I know what I’m looking to do and it’s pretty simple. But what I find is that the simple things can really throw you off balance and the hard things are often much easier than you think (build a website! drag and drop!) Minor is major and major is minor. Welcome to Alice in Computerland.

In the end, after many days (yes days), I now have two new emails to put on all of my official correspondence, marketing materials, etc. and will lovingly be forwarded to my regular email (ok, maybe not “lovingly”). And I have a new version of my Artist Statement, thanks to my class and students, because I had to get off my duff and take a look at this thing. Artist Statement 2.0. Just another work in progress. Suggestions welcome!

Artist Statement May 2016.jpg


Posted May 25, 2016 by lisagorenpaintings in Uncategorized

Getting back from vacation   Leave a comment

Broken Shards on the Shore

School vacation week always seems to not actually be that. We don’t get to sleep in, we don’t get to watch tv, and I didn’t even get to eat much garbage. Oh right, it’s my kid’s vacation week. So I don’t get much art done. I try to keep up with emails and apply for a few things here and there, but there’s definitely a lull in my painting.

But the most important thing I’ve taught myself is that this is the way the year goes. As an artist, there are too many ways to punish yourself and it’s a real time suck.

So I started three paintings and will cut another huge swath off my roll of big paper tomorrow. Here are two that I just finished before vacation. Both of these paintings are 24″ x 24″, 300lb watercolor paper glued to board. This is another way I have used my big roll of paper as they don’t make watercolor boards (aquabord) in this size. Back to work so that I’ll have more photos in a week or two!

Ice Piling up on the Shore

Helsinki! (World Domination Tour continues….)   10 comments



(I had this news before Paris but got the contract afterwards.) About 3 weeks ago I got a note through my website saying that Art in Embassies was interested in a particular piece. Of course, being cautious about contacts through the site, I had to check that the phone number and website were real.

Once I determined that this was an actual person contacting me, I responded pretty fast. Basically, the new ambassador to Finland is moving into his residency and wanted to have Arctic art throughout. That’s me! They found me through the New York Times article which a representative from Art in Embassies saw in the spring. Clearly, this is the gift that keeps on giving.

What’s crazy (beyond the fact that I’m talking about sending a piece out to Helsinki) is that when I was contacted by Paris, two days later, one of the two pieces they wanted was the same one. Here is the sentence I never, in my life, thought I’d say. “Funny story about that piece, but I just promised it to the Ambassador to Finland two days ago!” Luckily, I had another piece from the same series in the works and they were excited to take this substitution that was hot off the press.

These past few weeks have been a flurry of shipping, contracts, and all sorts of European focus. Even though I have no plans to go to either Paris or Helsinki in the near future, I’m crazy excited that my paintings will be there to represent me!

PARIS!   11 comments

GAIA Exhibition poster from Paris!

GAIA Exhibition poster from Paris!

I have been sitting on this information for a while because I wanted to wait until I had a contract in hand. I’m incredibly excited and honored to have been chosen to be a part of the GAIA Exhibition in Paris. It is a show of women artists and their works reflecting our views on the environment. Even more exciting, this exhibit is to run concurrent with the Conference on Climate Change and will have openings during the events.
Ok, I’ve written that last part very calmly. But I am screaming inside! For those of you who don’t know, I spent my junior year of college in Paris. I LOVE Paris. The last time I was there, my first thought was, “Why have I been away so long?”
So, my first international show, at the same time as the Conference on Climate change, in one of my top two cities ever, is AWESOME!

These are the pieces that they have chosen, “Arctic Ice, #4” and “Mushroom Iceberg, Antarctica”. I got the contract today and I’m heading over to FedEx this afternoon to set up shipping. I’m just over the moon on this one!

Arctic Ice #4

Arctic Ice #4

Mushroom Iceberg (Clayboard)

Mushroom Iceberg (Clayboard)

12 Paintings   3 comments

Boston Ice: The Slippery Path - 10" x 10"

Boston Ice: The Slippery Path – 10″ x 10″

So this is how this conversation went – I brought a small painting that I was working on to my gallery, PEG, in Newburyport and Paula loved it. So she asked if I would be a part of a small works show and could I have, say, 12 paintings done by then? And I always, always, always say yes even if I’m not sure because I think that I just have to find a way to do it.

All summer I worked on this series. I was super-disciplined with a schedule on my calendar. But this paper is very difficult to work on. It’s incredibly absorbent and anything you paint becomes permanent. It’s somewhat like painting on fabric, as soon as you touch the paint to the paper it begins to spread. This is the paper that should be “Exhibit A” when people say that you can never change anything in a watercolor once you’ve put brush to paper. The paper is handmade and I had bought a sealed stack of 30 pieces from my favorite paper store just to try it. So I definitely had enough paper, the question was whether I had enough time and patience.

Generally, I worked on this series an hour a day during the summer. And it took me until a week before they were due to finish them all. In the meantime, I had to find the correct frame and then frame them. I was still framing until the morning before I drove them to Newburyport. Here are a few of the paintings and the last one is a piece that is in the frame.

Finally, the show will be up this week and I have the opening on Friday with two other amazing artists, E. Tobin Eckian, and Sam Buck Rosen.

A lot of work, but fun to have a goal and it feels great to have finished so many pieces! I’ll be at the opening on Friday from 5-8pm.

Boston Ice: Delicate Streaks, 10" x 10" available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Delicate Streaks, 10″ x 10″ available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Kaliedoscope, 10" x 10" available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Kaliedoscope, 10″ x 10″ available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Broken and Bonded, 10" x 10" available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Broken and Bonded, 10″ x 10″ available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Frozen Ghosts of Autumn, 10" x 10" available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Frozen Ghosts of Autumn, 10″ x 10″ available at Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport

Boston Ice: Streaks of Beauty (framed).

Boston Ice: Streaks of Beauty (framed).

Gearing up for Open Studios/After Open Studios Evaluation   5 comments

JP Open Studios - my booth for the weekend

JP Open Studios – my booth for the weekend

Today is actually the day after Jamaica Plain Open Studios. So it may seem odd to write about “gearing up.” However, I was working hard to get ready all week for the event on Saturday and Sunday and was kind of in a “zone” – super focused on the event. Early Saturday morning, I got an email that one of the artists on our floor had cancelled due to an accident (he was ok) and wouldn’t be showing. My mind went into overdrive – what to do? How to compensate? In fact, this was the only artist who wasn’t exhibiting 2-dimensional work in our space and not only is he a nice guy, but his work complemented the rest of ours very well.

All of this craziness in my head was based on the idea that I could somehow CONTROL the outcome of this event. It’s a nice thought but not really true. There are lots of elements that I can control (Is my space neat? Do I have my best work? Have I sent out a lot of announcements? Etc.) but there are a LOT of elements that I can’t control – the most important being that someone who likes my work actually walks into my area. I’ve had people really like my work, start talking to me about a particular painting and asking questions about pricing or size – and then they get a phone call. And they’re gone! A potential sale can vanish just like that!

On the other hand, I’ve done this enough to actually know, deep down, that much of my understanding of the outcome of Open Studios depends on my approach. I may not be able to control the event, but I can control my attitude and how I approach the weekend.

Not enough sales? Then change the goal in my head to creating as many connections as possible (get emails!)

Not enough traffic? Change my goal to talking to the other artists to try and find 2 or 3 new venues or ideas.

My neighboring artists are selling tons more than me? Watch, learn, and try and get at least 2 new strategies that I can use next time.

Basically, make lemonade. Always. Because if you always think you have lemons, you can become pretty down (believe me, I’ve gone in that direction – it’s not worth it).

So, on Saturday morning, I stopped myself. No, this wasn’t going to be an issue. I wouldn’t let it be. I would work with what I got. And I thought that I like to have some music before I go to the site. It was then that I realized that the person who usually brought music wasn’t there either. So I packed up my ipod and boombox with the goal of filling empty space with good music. And then on the way, I played some music in my car, very loud, and sang along. Yes I was the one in the yellow VW Beetle basically screaming along to U2.

Silly as it sounds, it worked. I had a great time. And my sales were reasonably good. And even more important, even though I didn’t make as much money as some others, I sold all of my work to complete strangers (with the exception of one piece). I collected email addresses. I talked to interior designers. I talked to gallery directors. And I worked out which pieces would be going to a gallery show with the curator. AND I had fun. We had good music both days (Angelique Kidjo, Afro-Celt Sound System, John Coltrane, and various blues artists).

Today I’m beat. I have to work on follow-up and get moving on my next show which opens October 9th at the Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport.

I feel pretty good about this past weekend. So that sets me up to feel positive on my follow-up. I’m refusing to be “Debbie Downer” – I’m done with her.

"Polar Vortex, Boston (Small)" SOLD! Gone to a good home.

“Polar Vortex, Boston (Small)” SOLD! Gone to a good home.

"Blue Seam in Alaska" SOLD! Gone to a good home

“Blue Seam in Alaska” SOLD! Gone to a good home

My Favorite Shows (Autumn Version) – Jamaica Plain Open Studios/Roslindale Open Studios   Leave a comment

Jokulsarlon, Iceland. Watercolor on paper - 16" x 20"

Jokulsarlon, Iceland. Watercolor on paper – 16″ x 20″

In the past year, I have spent a lot of time figuring out which shows I want to participate in and which shows I need to drop. Generally, this is not so much about the show itself (often many of my favorite artists participate in them), but rather just a need to focus my efforts and time. Right after I got back from my trip, I labeled the following year, “The year of YES” because I basically said yes to any opportunity offered. Last year I started backing down from that mountain of overcommitment and here is where I landed.

Mostly, I had to drop the shows where I was there for an entire weekend, and those where I couldn’t commit to being at the opening. I have focused my efforts on group shows where I can (for the most part) show up and participate in the show’s success. And I have kept three shows that are full weekend commitments. These were hard decisions as every time you drop a show there is (in the back of my mind) the potential for lost opportunities.

Two of these shows are in the fall and the first of them is this weekend. I love, love, love participating in Jamaica Plain Open Studios. I’ll be at the Footlight club along with many great artist/friends. It’s a fun event where almost every hour someone comes in that I know. I love showing my new work here because many people are repeat visitors/customers and have great input on where I’m going with my paintings. This is usually the first place where I show the work I’ve been doing all summer and so there’s the added element of excitement to finally get these pieces out in the open! The paint is barely dry in the work above.

Roslindale Open Studios has a similar feel but as it’s in November, the added “beginning of the holidays” atmosphere is really fun. Last year it snowed during the weekend – a plus for me!

Both are near my house and so they are my “hometown faves.”

The weather this weekend looks great and I’m excited to be back out in public. Having only two weekend shows this season makes them both more special!

Framing – argh.   Leave a comment

10" x 10" watercolor, available at Paula Esty Gallery, Newburyport

10″ x 10″ watercolor, available at Paula Esty Gallery, Newburyport

I am now back from a great summer where, in addition to doing fun things with my family, I did get a fair amount of painting done. However, today is the beginning of “pedal to the medal” time. I have Jamaica Plain Open Studios in two (!) weeks, a show in Ipswich at New England Biolabs, and a shared show at the Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport.

For this last show, I’ve been working on small pieces that are based on close up shots I took of ice formations in Boston. These pieces are 10″ x 10″ on really cool paper and I will have 12 of them in this show. So now (and I mean NOW) I have to get on the stick to get them framed. I’ve already researched prices at my local self-framer and I think they’re too high (I may go back, however once I’ve checked around).

Mostly, people don’t frame pieces all the time, so when it comes time to frame something, there can be real sticker shock. A good frame is an elegant edition to a piece. It doesn’t take away from the art but also helps focus your attention. I’m not a huge fan of the white wood frame for everything, but in this case I think it’s the appropriate approach.

I just got back from a vacation where I did get to spend some time in museums and I often look at the framing of a piece. Sometimes I’m shocked to see how badly framed something is, especially in a museum. But I like to give the piece some breathing room when it’s on paper (don’t bring it right up to the edge, for example). Maybe I’m out of step on this as well as my lack of love for the universal white wood approach.

Today I need to do some web research as well as check out one or two art stores. Premade frames really won’t do it. In the next few days, I’ll begin to post some of my newest work on my website.

A big fall ahead!

Small painting in a series of works of the ice in Boston from 2015 (10" x 10"). Available in the fall at PEG

Small painting in a series of works of the ice in Boston from 2015 (10″ x 10″). Available in the fall at PEG

Pricing!   3 comments

I'm already tired of summer - take me back to Cape Cod with Ice!

I’m already tired of summer – take me back to Cape Cod with Ice!

When I teach my marketing class, one of the biggest sources of stress is how to price your work. Mostly, I’m pretty relaxed about this. However, I personally have come to a place where I have to reevaluate my pricing strategy. And so here’s my thinking.

I was told by someone incredibly smart who runs her own marketing sessions – Jessica Burko (take her marketing class!) that there are two things that might make me think about raising prices. The first is if you sell out of most of your work and are bringing out new pieces. The second is if you get a gallery or some other representation where there is a piece of the total taken out as commission.

Both of these are true for me. I have sold through a lot of pieces in the past few months after my New York Times article and, in addition, several of my other pieces have been taken on loan so they are out of circulation. I have been working feverishly to replenish my “stock” but now I have to think about whether they should go out at the same price point.

To add to this, I’m trying to get my work into NYC more often and have been continually told that my prices are too low for this market.

To make things simple for me (and for the viewing public), I price by size. In fact, there are pieces that are the exact same size that may take very different amounts of time. So it can be frustrating to have them priced the same (from my perspective). But another teacher told me that you have to come to a place where the price works for both pieces. You may lose something on the piece that took “forever” but you’ll gain it on the other piece. And I think that works for me as well.

I read elsewhere about an artist who automatically ups their prices %15 every year right after their big annual sale. Their customers know that the prices are going up and they take advantage of the opportunity at the big sale.

Because galleries take between 40 and 50 percent of the total price of the piece, if I were to receive what I’m making now on my work, I’d need to raise my prices that much. And to raise my prices to the NYC market rates could price myself out of the Boston market. Neither of these seem like workable options. So I have to find a happy medium.

I am looking at the 15% or 25% raise at this point. So after Jamaica Plain Open Studios and Roslindale Open Studios in the fall, all of my prices will go up. I don’t know what effect this will have but I will certainly write about it. During Open Studios, I’ll have a sign saying that the prices are going up in November. For my smaller pieces, a 15% difference won’t really be that dramatic ($100 would go to $115, for example). But for my larger framed pieces, it will be noticeable ($1100 to $1265). If I bring the raise up to 25%, the larger pieces go from $1100 to $1375 which doesn’t seem that much in comparison with other paintings of the same size. So I’m going back and forth on it. I don’t think I’d do a 25% rise annually so that may factor into the decision.

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

Finally, in Boston it’s over 900 degrees. Come back winter!!!

Gallery – Part 2   2 comments

Large (30" x 40") watercolor on paper of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. On view now at the Paula Esty Gallery

Large (30″ x 40″) watercolor on paper of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. On view now at the Paula Esty Gallery

I went to a reception at the Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport 2 weeks ago. I was there to represent my work and to just talk to people. This isn’t too difficult for me – anyone who knows me personally knows that I don’t have a problem talking. I met some people, handed out business cards to two or three when I wanted to direct them to my NYT article.

One of the other artists came and talked to me for a few minutes and really spoke about how important it is that the PEG is focusing on contemporary work. It had dawned on me that I really liked all the other artists who were showing at the same time. I really understood what he was talking about and felt happy (and grateful) to have landed in a place that felt so “right.”

When I teach marketing for artists, many people have the goal of “getting into a gallery.” But it’s a fairly vague goal. The assumption is that once you’re “in,” you’re done.

So the first thing I ask my students is what gallery they want to be in. If they’ve done some research, they might have a couple of names. Or they’ll mention a gallery they’ve heard of. Or, they’ll just say that it’s important to be in a gallery – any gallery for a start.

It’s a huge deal to get into a gallery that you like. It can take a lot of work. But the more you take the time to “find your people,” the better off you’ll be.

This means, for example, that my paintings of ice and snow don’t really belong in a gallery that focuses on Fantasy art (that seems obvious). But also, even if the gallery is really successful, I probably don’t belong in a gallery that focuses on artwork depicting local scenes (the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, or the iconic views of Boston). Ok, my new series of Cape Cod ice could go in a gallery with a local focus, but the rest of my work, maybe not.

It’s not that people who like one kind of art won’t like another. For me, it’s more that the person who runs the gallery knows what they like and what they want to promote. You need to find a person who likes your work enough to champion it along with the other work in the gallery.

And you need to help them. So my going to the opening was a way to be there to talk up my work and be present beyond having my paintings hanging up. What I ended up learning was how great it felt to be among a group of artists who I really respected and responded to. I didn’t anticipate that “bonus” of being in a gallery. Something else to bring to my marketing class!

Check out the Paula Esty Gallery in Newburyport. If you like contemporary art – do yourself a favor – it’s a gem of a gallery in a great town. I’m honored to be a part of the group!

Small painting in a series of works of the ice in Boston from 2015 (10" x 10"). Available in the fall at PEG

Small painting in a series of works of the ice in Boston from 2015 (10″ x 10″). Available in the fall at PEG

Vacation/Interruption   2 comments

A recently finished painting! "Hurley Glacier 2, Antarctica"

A recently finished painting! “Hurley Glacier 2, Antarctica”

I just came back from a great and relaxing vacation with my family at the Cape (Cod). Once I started working for myself, painting and marketing my work, vacations seem different. “I should be attending to that….” or “I had a sense of what I was painting but did I lose it?”

My first day back I took up my brushes but for a good 1/2 hour they just felt “sludgy.” I felt like I was trying to move the paint through thick layers of mud. And I just couldn’t remember how I was going to move towards the finished piece I had in my head.

Practice, practice, practice. Or paint, paint, paint. The more I do it, the easier it is to focus. It’s not that my work gets easier so much as I can start where I left off instead of futzing around until I find my way. So I’ve been extra disciplined about working each day since I got back. It’s not always pretty, (especially in a third floor studio without air conditioning) but I’m getting work done and feel like I’ll have a lot of new pieces for my fall shows (JP Open Studios, Roslindale Open Studios, a show at New England Biolabs, a potential show at the Paula Esty Gallery, and the 125th Anniversary show for the Rockport Art Association).

The piece above is an example of something I’ve finished in the past month.

Slowly but Surely, Bit by Bit….   Leave a comment

Vik Rocks, Iceland (clayboard)

I have started teaching a course about building a watercolor painting. Because it can be a complex task, we have two or three classes. It’s not because it’s so super complicated, but rather, because it’s helpful to see what works, and to get past the point of discouragement. Generally, my paintings don’t look like much for quite a while. And it has taken me years to realize that my paintings often don’t look anything like what I want them to be until I’m really close to finishing.

I got a commission because someone really liked one of the paintings that was featured in my NYTimes article which I had already sold. So I said I could do another from the same set of photos, it wouldn’t look exactly the same but it would be similar.

Day one. Lay down the foundation colors. Cut the glare of the white paper.

Day one. Lay down the foundation colors. Cut the glare of the white paper.

So the first thing I had to do was to put in some colors and some general washes. The paper I use is very, very white (Fabriano Artistico Ultra White – 300lb hot press), so it needs to be covered up even if only by a little bit so that it’s not so glare-y.

Day 2 - Add in the shapes, put in the sky.

Day 2 – Add in the shapes, put in the sky.

On the second day, I realized DUH I had forgotten to put in the sky (background). A really beginner mistake and something I do ALL THE TIME. Because I start a painting because I’m interested in painting something in particular. So that’s what I want to start right up on. But I got the sky in early (earlier than I often do) so I felt good about that.

Of course, with watercolor, you have to stop and wait for the paint to dry (some people use dryers, I don’t like the noise). So I worked on something else after I got to a stopping point each time.

Day 3, Shapes are more realized

Day 3, Shapes are more realized

As I move forward with the piece, I start putting in the darker areas to give me a sense of what the shapes will look like. Because this piece was on hot-press paper, I could change things if I didn’t like them. I love the ability to lift and reshape the watercolors as I go along. Even if my initial drawing is good, sometimes the shapes have to be changed to make the painting look better. So if the painting ends up not looking exactly like the photo, it’s not such a big deal for me.

In the next two photos, you can see how I took my time putting in different elements. This was a very small painting (I think 10″ x 14″), so I was able to move a little more quickly, but it still took days and days to get the painting right.

You can see, for example, in the next two how I changed a shape at the bottom left.

Day 4

Day 4

Nearly done!

Nearly done!

And then the final painting which was shipped out a few months ago to a happy client!

Arctic Ice 4 - Final

Now I’m working on another piece which is much larger (24″ x 24″) and taking forever (or what seems like forever to me, I started it 3 weeks ago and I’ve been working on it daily).

Two pieces, weeks apart. What will the final piece look like? Something like the piece at the top (although larger and more colorful).

Large Vik Rocks - day 1

Large Vik Rocks – day 1

Large Vik Rocks, weeks later and weeks to go!

Large Vik Rocks, weeks later and weeks to go!

Gallery Representation!   2 comments

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 24" x 30"

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 24″ x 30″


Paintings on the wall at PEG

PEG (Paula Estey Gallery), 3 Harris Street, Newburyport, MA.

PEG (Paula Estey Gallery), 3 Harris Street, Newburyport, MA.

So, is gallery representation the holy grail of the art world? Maybe. But I haven’t been pursuing it. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. I’m generally doing well enough on my own.

2. My prices are low so that it would significantly hurt my bottom line to give 50% to a gallery (that’s the percentage in most cases).

3. I haven’t found a gallery where I feel my work would fit in well.

In the past few months, however, I have placed a few pieces at the Paula Estey Gallery in Newburyport. In this case, the gallery compliments what I’m doing on my own. They have been enthusiastic about my work – especially the bones, and I feel that the paintings fit in well with the other artists. This gallery has many more abstract and “modern” paintings (as opposed to those galleries which do very very well with more representational work) and my work doesn’t look out of place. The artists who show here are really excellent and I’m honored to be in their company.

The whole experience is a new one for me. I know that I have to work to get people to visit the gallery (who doesn’t want to go to Newburyport, right?) But I love seeing how they present my work and tell me when visitors get excited about the paintings. In the fall, I’ll have a series of paintings of ice in Boston that will be available exclusively at the gallery – it’s something I’m working on now.

I can’t tell you how many people asked if I got gallery representation since the NYT article. And in each case, I said that it really wasn’t a goal. In addition, PEG approached me before the article and the piece was just a bonus for them. So all of a sudden, I’m being represented by a gallery. And it feels kind of cool.

In the end, it was about connections, following up on interesting trails, and creating relationships. I’m thrilled to be at PEG. GO VISIT!

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 24" x 24"

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 24″ x 24″

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 30" x 24"

Painting of Whalebones from abandoned whaling station in Antarctica, 30″ x 24″

Watercolor on 300lb paper mounted on to board (2" deep), 36" x 36"

Watercolor on 300lb paper mounted on to board (2″ deep), 36″ x 36″

How long did that take you?   Leave a comment

Vik Rocks, Iceland (clayboard)

Yesterday I taught a class that was focused on beginning and completing projects. Because I think a lot of people believe that any watercolor painting can be done very quickly. But actually I spend a great deal of time building the painting. The painting above, took about 2 months. What? That seems like a long time.

First, I can’t paint full-time. I try to paint daily during the week but I’m not always 100% successful. More importantly, I paint very wet. This means that I can’t actually continually work on a piece if I’m waiting for an area to dry. Generally, I work on at least three paintings at a time. I start with the biggest, or the wettest work I’ll be doing that day. I’ll use my bigger brushes and most likely I’ll be standing throughout the painting (even though my pieces are always painted flat on a table).

Once I can’t do anything else because I don’t have an area to work in that is dry or I don’t have an area that isn’t next to a wet section, I’ll head on over to the second painting. Often, I’ll still be standing and working with bigger brushes. Sometimes I spend a lot of time lifting (meaning taking paint away from areas to great better shading or depth). Then, I’ll usually keep working with the middle painting (because lifting doesn’t leave the paper or surface sopping wet usually). But my brush will get smaller. I’ll start working on details.

Finally, when I can’t look at that painting anymore, I’ll go to my last painting. At this point, I’ll work on a very small area, usually with a small brush and by now, I’m sitting down. So, even though the above painting took about 2 months, I’ll have 3 finished within the same amount of time. And even though I did a project with “a painting a day”, I never did only one painting at a time. I couldn’t have possibly started and finished anything in a single day.

Here is a photo of my most recent “lineup” of paintings. The two on the left are nearly done (this was taken yesterday) and the very small one on the right is about 1/2 way. A bit squished (I usually move the big one away once I’ve finished with it for the day). But this is so you can get the idea….


Artists Supporting Each Other   2 comments

Margaret Rose Vendryes in front of the Child's Gallery, 169 Newbury Street, Boston

Margaret Rose Vendryes in front of the Child’s Gallery, 169 Newbury Street, Boston

This week I went to two great shows by friends of mine. The first, Ginny Zanger’s show at the Copley Society in Boston, and just across the street, Margaret Vendryes at the Childs Gallery.

I’m totally happy for both of them and wish them a bucketful of red dots (symbol for Sold!) for the show.

I have been in other businesses where support is not necessarily the default. But when I entered the art world, I was greeted with support, advice (helpful and needed), and friendship.

We’ve all had our ups and downs. Rejections that don’t seem to make sense. Slow or no sales at a busy show. A passerby who says just the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It’s true, someone has actually said to me, “my kid could do that.” Luckily, I was with other artists who laughed out loud when they heard it.

I belong to a group of artists that meets once a month and we have watched each other move forward and progress. But as important, we have been the support group when the times have been tougher. I don’t believe that it is easy to quantify who is your “competition” in the art world. What strikes one person as awesome one day may not even work for the same person on the next day. I generally prefer not to be with too many other watercolorists, but actually, that doesn’t really make sense as some of my best shows are in groups with 4 or 5 other watercolorists. My work is different enough, I try not to worry about it too much. Maybe if they were all painting ice….

I hope that if you’re nearby, you get the chance to see both of these shows on Newbury Street in Boston. And if you have the inclination and the income, buy something! You can never have too much art on your walls, right?

Ginny Zanger at the Copley Society - 158 Newbury Street, Boston

Ginny Zanger at the Copley Society – 158 Newbury Street, Boston

30 Paintings/30 Days – Days 18 and 19   Leave a comment

Iceland Landscape

Iceland Landscape – sold!

Painting Blog – 30 Days/30 Paintings – Days 18 & 19

Ah yes, that’s right, she was supposed to be working on a blog!

I’ve decided to continue my blog up to the 30 painting point. And after asking some very highly regarded artist friends, my blog will now come out when I actually finish a piece instead of every day.

One of the goals of this blog and of my return from the Arctic, has been to take my work more seriously as in treating painting like my actual work. So, for me, this means, painting every day. And no matter what, I’ve done it. Even if it’s only for a half hour, every single week day I have gone up into my studio/garret and painted. This has been a real victory and I can see the progress I’m making.

Thus, while you won’t see the blogs as often, you can know that I am actually working. My bigger pieces are taking time and I’m excited to see them emerge. I’m taking photos along the way so that I can put a series of photos in when I finish a piece.

Recently I finished two pieces. One is one I had already posted but I wasn’t 100% happy with it.

In the first photo, I’ve circled the area that I felt needed some more work. Basically, the lines heading downward were too uniform and “hard” meaning that they were very solid and unbroken. Also, the first photo was much more blue than the original. In some ways, that photo will make a better print, but in real life, the painting is more subtle.

Pyramiden Mountains #1 area fixed

Pyramiden, fixed up1

The painting at the top is the other painting I finished this past week (bringing the blogs up to day 19!)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 18   Leave a comment


(Longyearbyen Mountains)

30 paintings/30 Days – Day 18

Today I sent out a notice on Facebook that I had made the cover of a local art center/school’s catalog (the New Art Center, I was surprised at how many people responded. The cover looks great and they did a nice write-up inside, so I’m pretty happy about it. The bigger thing is, however, that I’ll be giving my first (hopefully of many) talk about the residency to adults. The date is January 22, at 12:30pm and it’s free (I believe that there is a voluntary donation to the Art Center but I’ll know more in the next few days). I’ll have a slide show as well as some of my newer pieces so that should be a lot of fun.

Today’s painting is one of the last rewards I have left. There are 3 outstanding at this point and those people know who they are. I plan to get to them this week and finish most of them. From now on, the paintings that appear here should all be for sale (with the exception of those 3, of course). If you are interested in any piece, please get in touch, I’m happy to discuss it with you. Also, if there was a piece you liked which was already spoken for, you can ask me if I’d be willing to do another (the answer is pretty much always, “Yes!”)

So this is a painting of the mountains in Longyearbyen. This is from a photo taken at the very beginning of the trip because the mountain is not covered in snow. I have other photos that I’ll be painting of the same scene but that look very different once the snow arrives (2 days after we got there).

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 17   Leave a comment

Pyramiden Mountains #1

Pyramiden Mountains – watercolor on paper 20” x 30”

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 17
Well, I finally have a large piece completed. This is on paper and it’s part of my series on the Pyramiden mountains. As the days have accumulated, I have been able to work for small bits on larger pieces. It’s harder to work on the large pieces exclusively because once an area is wet, it’s generally wet for quite a while (for instance, the sky took an hour or two to dry, thus making it impossible for me to work on any part of the painting that touched that area without getting a “bleed” of color into it). So if I’ve been painting for nearly a month, that’s about how long this took. On the other hand, it took a month for the images to implant in my brain as well with ideas on what to do and how to do them. So, this piece, and this series has been brewing for a while.

Yesterday I wrote about getting a show at a Scandinavian center without being sure of having all the pieces. I don’t want people to think I was cavalier about this. First of all, I did discuss my concerns with the person running the show well before I put anything in the blog. Second of all, I had already come up with a solution before I agreed to dates, etc. Yes, it’s true, I’ll generally say yes to any opportunity even if I think there may be a challenge or two. But I do take my job as an artist seriously and try to run it like a good business. It’s important to be adventurous, but those opportunities dry up pretty quickly if you get a reputation of not being able to deliver the goods.

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 16   1 comment

Rocks at Vik

(Rocks at Vik, Iceland)

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 16

Well, half way, right? Actually, at this point, I only have one or two new paintings to do as a reward for the Kickstarter. So I’ll be starting bigger pieces (I already have) and these will be more about what I’d planned to do once I got back. I also got a show in a Scandinavian Center which is supposed to be entirely paintings of Iceland. To be honest, I don’t have that many available. Some are already out at other shows, some are promised to shows that are coming up in January, and many are sold. So I have to paint quite a few of those as well. Words I’ve been known to live by, “Get the gig, then figure it out.” While I don’t do that all of the time, I’ve certainly done it enough!

This piece may not be 100% finished because the paint isn’t quite dry. Once it’s dry, I’ll be able to see if the values (dark areas vs. light areas) work. Otherwise, I’ll have to go back and darken some areas. But I think it’s pretty close.

30 Days/30 Paintings – Days 14 and 15   Leave a comment


(Mountains in Longyearbyen)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 14 and 15

I’ve been faithful about getting to the studio every day, but writing the blog has fallen by the wayside. Apparently writing (for me) is much harder than painting. I would have thought it was the other way ‘round. Oh well.

We’re experiencing cold days here in Boston and I’ve been enjoying the weather. It’s definitely uncomfortable standing in the dog park in the near dark when it’s below 20 but otherwise it’s fine. 20 degrees seems to be my comfort cut-off.

These two paintings are of the mountains. One is from Iceland and the other from Longyearbyen. As you can see, there was much more color in Iceland. Leaving Longyearbyen and then arriving nearly anywhere else you can be a bit blown away by the colors. I hope that this newly discovered “sensitivity” stays with me for a while.

Tomorrow starts the Thanksgiving weekend and though I’ll try, I can’t imagine I’ll have time to get to the studio/garret. Luckily I make the rules on this blog so I’ll get back to the next day on Monday. Have a great long weekend!

iceland mountains

(Iceland Landscape)

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 13   Leave a comment

          Iceberg, the Arctic

(The View from Our Zodiac – 6” x 8”)

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 13

Yesterday I met with the head of Funnelcake Marketing. This is the second time (the first time was on the boat in the Arctic) where I was really encouraged to think bigger about my work. Not just a few inches – WAY bigger. And to think of myself and my work as swimming in a much bigger pond. My head is still exploding a bit from this meeting. I’m going in many different directions at once. I really enjoy talking about art and marketing – I feel like it’s a bit back to my old days in the music biz. But also, the structure (and recent fluidity) of the way art is sold is incredibly interesting to me.

Right now, it’s about getting my work into better places. So even though I’m painting every day, in the morning, before I head upstairs, I generally work as long as I can on the computer to follow up on, or create new opportunities. Yesterday I was described as “relentless” when it comes to marketing. That, along with “badass” (for having swam in the Arctic Sea), make me seem very tough.

However, right now, I have to head downstairs and make a terrific snack for my kid who’s had a long week. So much for badass and tough!

This painting is the last for a while of the blue paintings on clayboard. I’ve started some others on paper and some darker ones for the clayboard. It is from when I was in the Zodiac photographing icebergs from a very close distance.

(Beginning the View from our Zodiac)

Iceberg - the arctic, draft

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 12   Leave a comment

Abstract Glacier

(Arctic Glacier – 5” x 5” on clayboard)

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 12

Today I finished a small piece that’s on true clayboard as opposed to aquaboard. In reality, most of the pieces I do are actually on aquaboard (which is a type of clayboard made for watercolor. Clayboard is really for acrylics or oils. However, it does work interestingly for watercolors.) Today’s surface is very smooth and painting on it presents different challenges. First and foremost, the paint never really sinks into the surface. Similar to Yupo “paper” (which is essentially a sheet of plastic), the paint pools and dries in interesting ways but needs a fixative of some sort so that you can’t just wipe the piece off with a wet rag. (Before the fixative is applied, you mostly can wipe the surface clean. Usually there’s just a shadow of color from one or two of the stronger colors.)

One of the traps you can get into when painting this way is that you may never feel like the piece is finished or good enough so you wipe an area away (or the whole piece) and start over. It can be a never-ending cycle.

This is from a photo of a close up of a glacier. By the time you get this close to the ice, it’s incredibly abstract.

30 Paintings/30 Days – day 11   Leave a comment

Vik landscape

(The Ocean at Vik, Iceland, 6” x 8” on clayboard)

30 Days/30 Paintings Day 11

Today I was hoping to get a lot of time painting as I went back to my class for the first time (the one I take, not teach). Today’s class, it turns out, was a crit lesson. Of course I didn’t have any work to show as most of my new pieces have already been shipped off. Still, it was great to see what my fellow artists were doing in the class and my brain was definitely fired up afterwards.

However, I did get a chance this afternoon to finish a small piece. This is my first Icelandic painting from the trip. As much as the northern Arctic inspires me, I have to say that I’m nearly as excited by my few days in Iceland. I had never been to the town of Vik before (one of the few Icelandic towns I can actually pronounce) but the drama of the ocean and the rock formations was amazing. I did take quite a few pictures and now I’m just scratching the surface of what I’d like to paint. Today’s piece is a seascape.

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 10   Leave a comment

Moss on rock

(Orange Moss on Rock, the Arctic – 5” x 5” on clayboard)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Blog Day 10

One of the things I try and teach when I’m talking about watercolors is the idea that you’re painting with water first, and then the paint. This isn’t always the easiest lesson for me to remember especially as it’s very tempting to plop your brush into the beautiful paint and then onto the surface. Yes, you’re supposed to do that, but I like to have an area wet before I paint there and then I try hard to move the paint around within the water.

Another challenge.

But today’s piece is the finished piece I’d started a while ago. I’m putting both the early piece and the finished one up on the blog. You can see that I was able to get rid of the “bleed” that had happened in the earlier shot. Mostly this was done by lifting (wetting the brush and pulling the paint off with water), rubbing water in (to lighten the darker paint), and finally by some painting over the area.

This is also an example of a piece that’s very small but took a long time. At just 5” x 5” (smaller than some paperback book covers), it still took several sessions with lots of thoughts in between.

Second moss 5 x 5

(First days of work on the piece)

30 Days/30 Paintings – Day 9   Leave a comment

Crazy Alaska Glacier

(Crazy Alaska Glacier – 14″ x 11″ on Clayboard)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 9

After today’s teaching (two classes of third graders) I wasn’t sure I could make myself work. But I knew that I had to have done something. It turns out the one thing I couldn’t manage was posting the blog. (I have to post in several different places and each one requires a small tweak, takes me about ½ hour for each post.)

The first thing I did on Friday that was art-related (aside from teaching, of course) was that I brought in and washed off a piece of paper that I’ve added bleach to. I’m trying to figure out a way to create hollows in the paper without cutting them. I think if I can burn them in and then wash it off thoroughly, it might work well. This is all part of my big project on paper that I’m going to hang as “quilts.” Once I washed the paper, I brought it to my studio/garrett to dry.

Then I worked on one clayboard and finished it. It is an older piece but I’m glad to have it done as well.

More later today so there will be two blogs even though I did this part on Friday.

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 8   Leave a comment

             Just Ice

(Just Ice)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 8

Teaching was really fun today. I’m always inspired by kids who are excited by my travels and my work. It’s important to me never to say that I like their work until I find out if THEY like their work. So I always go around and talk about how awesome their color work is, how they understood the lesson, or how they could use more water/paint/etc. And when they ask me, “Do you like this Ms. Goren?” I always answer, “Do you like it?” And if they say yes, then I say I like it too. If they say no (which happens more than you might imagine), I always ask what it is they’d like to change, how to manage it. No such thing as mistakes, just learning.

That is not always the easiest lesson for me sometimes! But I’m working on it.

Today’s piece is, “Just Ice” one of my first glacier pieces from the trip. It can be hard to capture the feeling of the ice, it is both cold and hard, and (from a distance) can also look like soft fabric. I have trouble telling when these are done.

30 Paintings/30 Days – day 7   Leave a comment

Pyramiden mountains 2

         (Pyramiden Mountains, #2)

30 Paintings/30 Days – Blog Day 7

I’m continually surprised by the positive responses I’ve had to these recent works. Each time I post something I think, “Hm. I wonder if this one will go over.” It’s not always the same people (which is actually cool because that means that my paintings appeal to a variety of tastes).

Today’s piece is another of the pieces from the mountains of Pyramiden. I will probably be doing many different versions of these for a while to come. The combination of very wet washes with ink-like dry brush works well for this subject on the clayboards.

I’m mailing two rewards out today and that will leave only about 4 left. So if you haven’t gotten your painting, hang on, it’ll be there soon.

I was going to print out the prints today for the $75 reward, but I’m having some small printer problems. The mats aren’t here yet so it’s not that big of a deal. They should arrive in the next few days, by then all should be back to normal (fingers crossed!)

Tomorrow I’ll do my first class since I’ve been back. I’ll be working with three third grade groups in one school. In this particular instance, I’ll be talking to an art class that is doing a workshop on cool vs. warm colors. So I’ve printed out many of my photos (either cool or warm colors) and they’ll be doing watercolors based on them. I’m sure they’ll be great – I love watching how kids take in all the lessons I’ve done. I’ll start with a globe, outlining my routes north and south. Mostly I’ll talk about the north and show photos of polar bears and reindeer (no Santa), and I’ll talk a little about the south (penguins and seals). Honestly, most public schools don’t have too much time for art so I’ll have to be a fast talker so they have lots of time to paint. My understanding is that this will be the first of two classes where they can work on the project so they will have some time.


30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 6   Leave a comment

Iceberg in the Arctic

(Iceberg on the Water, the Arctic)

Day 6
For any of you in the art world in the NYC area, you may recognize this packaging. It is from New York Central Art Supply which has a ton of paper on its second floor. I bought some fantastic, LARGE, pieces of watercolor paper and am going to start on a big project for some shows in January.


Some people have asked about my statements of getting the paper out from under the frame. This is part of my big experiment. I’m going to make a series of four fairly abstract pieces based on my photos of moss growing under (and inside of) ice in the Arctic. These will be square pieces about 3 ½ feet on each side. Once they’re done, I’m going to spray them with a matte fixative for uv protection and just for general protection. After that, I’m going to take them to a framer and have them hung like quilts, with a bar in the back so that they will hang against a wall but somewhat away from it so that you can see the paper move a little and it will create shadows. I have to do some more experimenting with the paper but I plan to start the project tomorrow.
My theory, which some of you have already heard, is that great quality watercolor paper is made entirely out of cotton. So it’s fabric. So why can’t it be hung anywhere you would hang a piece of fabric art? I think the fixative will solve some issues (might it fade? Will it run?), but it will still be somewhat fragile. I can’t send this to a restaurant or library, it has to hang somewhere that people won’t touch the pieces. So, since I have two shows in January at different galleries, I have a place that they can be without being in too much danger. Hopefully, I can have them ready by then. If not all of them, then maybe 2.
Today I try and finish some more pieces for the Kickstarter. Here is one of them – it will be mailed out tomorrow afternoon (once the fixative – the same as above) dries.



30 Paintings/30 Days – Day 5   Leave a comment

Pyramiden final 75 reward

(Pyramiden Mountains, on paper)

30 Paintings – Blog Day 5

Today was a quick visit to the studio but I finished a few pieces and then started one more. I felt a little bit stuck for a moment but shifted my focus to another piece and then kept going.

I sent out two rewards today and then will get to some others next week. The painting above is the reward for the $75 donation. Everyone at that level will get a matted print, and one person – drawn at random – will get the original. I’ll probably do the drawing tonight. I’ve given away two originals so far and it’s pretty exciting to tell someone they’ve won. The prints will start being mailed out next week.

I’m really amazed at the difference in working on paper. Because I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few weeks on the clayboard, I forget how dramatically different your approach should be. Generally, I’d say that it’s so much easier to create solid lines on paper. Once the clay has been wet, even if has since dried, there’s a greater tendency for the paint to bleed into another area. So you have to be careful in different ways.

On the other hand, it’s generally true that I can remove paint much more easily from the clayboard. When you compare the board to hot press paper (paper that has been pressed so that the fibers are closer together), that’s less of a truism. But until the clay has fixative on it (once the piece is done), you can almost wash the entire piece off and start again. Almost.

I won’t post again until Monday, so I suppose the 30 days, 30 posts won’t be strictly true. But it turns out, even painters need a break!

Second moss 5 x 5(Early version of a second orange moss piece. Note how the black has bled into the orange just above the middle of the work even though I painted that black days after I put in the orange. I have since “erased” some of it and used some as well. Next blog will have a more finished photo.)

30 Days of painting – day 4   4 comments

        Moss on the rocks - Arctic final

(Orange Moss on Rocks, the Arctic 6” x 8” – sold)


Blog day 4

Today’s lesson is “Show Up.” I had a hectic morning and didn’t know if I’d get to the studio for much time. But I remember what my excellent roommate, Laura Petrovich-Cheney said in one of her blogs of last summer. She said that she made a point of getting to the studio every day. At the end of the summer, she didn’t think she had much work for a show but then looked and, in fact, she did. Just showing up and making a point of getting some (any!) work done is important.

So I’m trying. Today I finished this piece which is very abstract. Interestingly, I spent quite a bit of time lifting color up (this is contrary to what many people think can be done with watercolors). If you look at the first workings of this piece, below, you’ll see how much heavier the paint is before I finished the piece. I also took the finished picture with a better camera so there’s more detail that you can see. A large part of my time with this piece was spent figuring out where to take away and where to add small bits of dry brush (something that looks more like ink than a watercolor wash). This is another reason I have to leave the piece alone for some time rather than finishing all at once. I have to think about it and figure out my “action plan.”

Moss on the rocks first image

So, now that I showed up, I have this piece finished and some more begun. This piece gets sent as a Kickstarter reward too. Once those are done, most of the pieces will be available. But if you like a piece and may be interested, definitely tell me, even if it’s sold.

30 Days of painting – day 3   Leave a comment

            Beige pyramiden mountains - final

(Beige Pyramiden Mountains – 6” x 8” on clayboard, sold)

Blog Day 3

Much of these days are spent dealing with details that I need to fix after the trip. Yesterday and today, it’s taxes. I’m meeting with someone now so that I don’t have to deal with all the complexities of the trip and the Kickstarter campaign when they’re much further from my memories. My understanding is that Kickstarter contributions are NOT tax deductible but if that changes after my meeting, I’ll make sure to post it.

Anyway, it can be more than a real relief to head upstairs to my garret/studio for whatever time I have scheduled to work. Not only do I get to paint, but I can put the taxes and currency conversions out of my head for a little while.

The message for today is STOP. One of the biggest challenges of painting watercolors is resisting “overpainting.” Many people who have met me at open studios or other events point out that watercolor painting is difficult because it can’t be undone once the paint has hit the paper. Even though that’s not 100% true, there is a point where there’s too much paint and the piece has lost its delicacy or transparency. It’s one of the reasons why I have to work on several pieces at a time – I often need to walk away from a piece even if it’s close to done. This way I can make sure that I don’t give it that “extra touch” that overwhelms it. The piece below is nearly done but I had to stop so that I can look at it tomorrow and see if this is truly the case. The piece above, a similar subject, is done and ready to ship off as a Kickstarter reward!

Pyramiden mountains paper, nearly done

Pyramiden Mountains (on paper), nearly done.

30 Days of Paintings – Day 2   Leave a comment

Pyramiden clayboard 5x5

Pyramiden Mountains, clayboard, 5” x 5”

30 days of paintings – Day 2

Already I’m having trouble getting the time to write this blog and it’s only day 2! It seems like “real life” is injecting itself big time into my writing schedule. I’m still making the time to paint, which is really the point. But some of these posts will clearly be fewer words, and more images.

Today’s completed image is one that I’m already going back to. I have started several of these paintings of the mountains near Pyramiden. The lines of the dirt and mountain formations combined with the sky were tremendous. So above is a very small clayboard that is finished and two below that are in progress. The second piece, which will take a while, will be the basis of the print for the reward for the $75 level. As much as I like painting this piece on the clayboard, once I started it on paper I was again reminded why I love working on paper so much. It’s a different tool and responds in a way that I love. I’ll be buying some very large pieces of paper this weekend in NYC and will do a large series of these mountains. I was totally inspired by them!

Beige pyramiden 6x8

Beginning of Beige Pyramiden Mountains 6″ x 8”

pyramiden 75$ reward

Beginning of Pyramiden Mountains (on paper)

30 Paintings/30 Days- Day 1   2 comments

Moss growing under the ice - final

“Moss Growing Under the Ice” 6” x 8” watercolor on clayboard (sold)

30 Paintings/30 Days

This was my commitment to my Kickstarter donors and also to myself. Just to be clear, it is not possible for me to paint “a painting a day,” because my paintings take a while. However, I have started many paintings recently (all based on my travels), and I can finish a painting a day, as long as I keep working on new ones as I go along.

So I’ve started five pieces, with more to begin today. And I have finished my first piece that is a Kickstarter reward (which will be sent out tomorrow). I’m trying really hard to make sure that I work in the studio every weekday. So far, this has worked out.

I’ve been asked a lot how it is to be back and what’s different to me. First, the sun is blaringly bright! I didn’t even really wear sunglasses in the Arctic.

When I was driving in Iceland, I was told that the sun would rise about 9:30. But when I left at 7am, there was light peeking over the mountains. In Boston, when I drive to the dogpark, it is dark. By the time I get there (15 minutes later), the sun is ready to go “POP” and light up the whole park. In Iceland, it took nearly two hours for the sun to make an actual appearance, while it teased at the edges of the sky. Even though this seems like a crazy comparison, I liken the autumn Arctic sun to a sick child. Just like a sick child, the sun takes forever to get up in the morning and may stumble around a bit until it lands on the couch. But then your kid smiles, and even though it’s weaker than usual, it’s so, so, so welcome. Soon, however, your child has to go back to bed because they’re too tired. And it’s dark again. That may not make much sense to those of you without children, but that’s how it felt to me.

Another difference is the brilliance of New England’s autumn. Trees, leaves, and colors everywhere. We’re spoiled here. I would take a photo of a small piece of bright orange moss in the Arctic and be totally excited. Here, I step on 100 different yellows and oranges when I walk out my door.  I don’t seem to see them as much. Hopefully, I’m more observant now.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these paintings as they emerge. I’ll post them daily during the week. Many of them will be for sale but those that aren’t will be marked as “sold” in the title. Please contact me if you’re interested in any of them. I’m just beginning to paint from my photos so I will paint many pictures from the same image, so if you like one that is sold, there’s an excellent chance I’ll do another that is similar.

Some pieces I’ve started:

Orange kelp Arctic - beginning                                1st piece Pyramiden mountains

Moss Growing on a Rock in the Arctic 8” x 6”                    Mountains in Pyramiden 5” x 5”

Final blog of the trip – Iceland   1 comment


(Rocks that look like bones in Vik.)


Flying over Iceland and the terrain is black from the volcanic rock. It’s hard to imagine a place where the ground is blacker. But then you get to add on the beautiful glaciers and green covered hills and the colors are everywhere. Just with a lovely black background.

When I was landing I realized that, once again, no trees. This is not because Iceland is above the treeline. Nor is it above the Arctic Circle. In fact there are a few trees, here and there. But Iceland used to be covered in forests and in the years of the Vikings they were all cut down. Because it is so windy here, it has been hard for trees to take root, so to speak. So there are small groves (maybe 30 pines) every now and then when you’re driving along, but for the most part, I’m back in a treeless landscape.

There are two main reasons that I came to Iceland (ok, to visit my friends is the third reason). I have been painting lots of Icelandic lava formations using the two or three pictures I took the last time I was here. Now that I know that this is something I want to work on, I rented a car and drove for hours this morning to get to the “town” of Vik and the beach with the phenomenal rock formations. I’m exhausted but I walked up and down the beach and climbed above the cliffs, snapping the whole way. They were just as impressive as I’d hoped and I’m really looking forward to working on these.

Vik rocks

(This formation is real, like a necklace of rocks created by the sea.)

The second reason is that I wanted to spend some time at the geysers and hot springs where the sulfur makes the soil yellow and the water is blue. I haven’t seen those in about 6 years so I’m really looking forward to driving there early tomorrow morning.

On the way back from Vik, I was able to see just…one…more…glacier.


(Myrdalsjokull Glacier in Iceland. The ice is blacker than those in the high Arctic due to the volcanic landscape.)


(One last shot with the blue of the ice shining through.)

And when I started walking away, I thought, “THIS is the end of the trip.” Not the hurried goodbyes to friends (who I hope to stay in touch with), and not the flight out of Longyearbyen. It was this last view of a glacier. I don’t know when I be able to see my beloved ice again. I hope soon. But it may be a while – this was a big trip, a special occasion, and I’ll have to have a “normal” life for some time. So I will visit the ice in my studio and try to bring it to everyone else.

I’m going to end my blog here for the next few days and post once my “painting-a-day” has begun. That should be in about a week.

Thank you to everyone for following and liking/commenting. I was glad to be able to share some of this experience with all of you.

  Leave a comment


Our last night in Svalbard was a dinner for about 27 people at a Thai restaurant. We sat at one long, long table and enjoyed our meal. Then many of us headed out for a drink at a local whiskey bar. After one drink, I decided to walk back to the hotel. This wasn’t late but it was, of course, dark out. Svalbard is very well lit at night (and all winter). The lights are strong and very high up in the sky so that they shed light for a fair distance. Of course, much of this is about polar bears.


(The only polar bear in Longyearbyen where I felt comfortable being up close and personal.)

I walked back to the hotel alone. Svalbard is very safe. But it’s definitely a funny feeling when you’re heading out to think that the bad thing out there is not a mugger but a huge polar bear. Once I was outside, it was very nice out and I encountered people walking back and forth in town nearly the entire way. I’ve lived in many cities and I have a basic sense of when not to go out alone, but I have to say, I have zero clue on this one. It was more than a bit creepy. I think the word “terrifying” comes to mind.

We said our goodbyes the next morning and there were lots of hugs and some tears. Many of us were on the same flight to Oslo so we were still functioning as a group, even though it was smaller.


(Final photo in Svalbard. At the airport, goodbye polar bears!)


Upon landing in Oslo, the first things I noticed when the plane touched down were the trees. In fact, I hadn’t seen trees in nearly 3 weeks. I’d forgotten how they fill a landscape up. Oslo is flat and warmer than Svalbard, and in the midst of fall. Very pretty.

I spent the day walking around from museum to museum. The one museum I really wanted to see was the Fram museum, home to the boat that took Amundsen south to his discovery of the pole. I was amazed that we could go into the boat and all through it. After having been on a boat so recently, it was a fantastic comparative journey. Our boat wasn’t quite as big but it wasn’t so much smaller. And on the Fram, they had supplies for two years+ AND dogs. WOW. It was a really well done museum.

All my other efforts were somewhat in vain as the Munch museum was closed due to a changing exhibit and two other museums I had on my list were closed because it was

Finally, I have spent the day in near silence. This is after 2.5+ weeks of near constant talking and listening. It’s actually a wonderful contrast.

Tomorrow Iceland!


(Pretending I’m in Amundsen’s exploration suit at the South Pole at the Fram Museum.)

Day 3 on land   1 comment

_EDM6885 - Version 2 (1)(The entire cast – minus 3 people – in Longyearbyen)

Third day off the boat

Yesterday and today are days of shedding. We have lost a few people who have left early. I have packed my muck boots. I have walked to town for the first time without my goretex wind pants on top of all my layers (note: they were becoming too bulky and hot, but also, they had a huge hole down the side of my thigh because I’d ripped them on a rock when I was painting outside. At least they made it all the way back to Longyearbyen. I’m super thankful for LL Bean’s return policy.)

It seems much warmer (woo-hoo 20 degrees!) Today I went down to town in 3(!) layers. As opposed to 5 or 6. And even wearing a balaclava with a hat feels oppressive. Wow. That’s just such a huge difference for me.


(A street sign in Longyearbyen. As warm as it is, no one’s really dressed like this. Don Draper?)

We have all spent some time alone here because we have different things we want to do and the entire town is a designated “safe area.” Many people (including me sometimes) bristled at the dimensions of the “safe area.” Intellectually, we all knew that it was for our own good but after 2 weeks on a boat where we couldn’t go anywhere without a chaperone, it’s nice to have some say in our destinations.

Also, people are packing up, exchanging email/facebook information and photos. We still have one night together at a restaurant.

I had a lovely time visiting the Airship museum which was a great small museum. It was filled with lots of primary sources about exploration. There was a lot of stuff on Amundsen, Peary, and Cook. And much of the focus was on Umberto Nobile’s attempt to fly over the pole in an airship (and Amundsen’s attempted rescue of Umberto which led to Amundsen’s disappearance/death). I love looking at old newspapers, diaries, and film footage. It was the surprise of the day.

Afterwards, a few of us went to a hotel bar and had a great time. More than anything, it’s the people I’ll miss. All different, all interesting.

Plane to Oslo tomorrow. Big goodbyes then.


(The sky over the “big city.”)

Back on land – day 2   2 comments


(The sun over the mountains in Longyearbyen)

Blog second day back on land.

Interestingly, I had my first feeling of land-sickness this afternoon when I was standing at a store. I didn’t really think I would get it but a lot of people in the group had trouble sleeping because the bed wasn’t moving or else they felt something moving and it wasn’t. I had no idea that “getting your land-legs” was a real thing. It was just a moment, but a very funny feeling.

Today I headed into town, got some groceries for lunch and then walked towards the mine so that I could get some pictures of the sunrise over the mountains. The light, as they are losing it daily, is incredible. Very flat and colorful. Earlier, when it was snowing, the light was very grey and dull, but for the hours when it has been clear, there are a lot of pinks and yellows in the sky. There’s a sensation that we’re always fairly close to dusk even if we aren’t.

After that we met as a small group to head to the International Seed Vault. If you want to define a side trip as a “nothing” this might be it. You’re only allowed to go up to the door of this underground complex. The door is a small opening in the mountain. At present, there isn’t anyone there as there are some problems with the vault. There are also some issues with the temperature stability in there so it’s not even sure that all (or even any!) of the seeds are ok. So basically, you’re at the door of a place where no one works and there may not be a reason for this place’s existence. Plus it was cold and windy. I got the obligatory shot, but still!


(The “big” attraction. The door of the Global Seed Vault.)

Finally, back to the hotel and dinner with some friends. The group is beginning to get smaller, already 4 people have left. Tomorrow’s dinner will be our last hurrah and then I’m off on my own the next day. As much as I love my roommate, it will be something to have a solo hotel room and shower!

Day 14 – Last day on the ship   Leave a comment

Rock formation on the mountains.

Rock formation on the mountains.

Blog day 14

Today is our last day aboard the boat. We got to be near a glacier for our last time and it was cold and grey. Still, I wanted to stand outside as long as I possibly could to soak up whatever last bits of the glacier I could imprint on my memory. It’s funny because before I came here, I thought about the blues of the glaciers and the icebergs. All of these have been fantastic, but I’ve also been so struck by the lines on the mountains. The light here is so flat that everything looks a bit like a Japanese woodblock. Also, the top of these mountains have these crazy formations that look like Mayan castles or ancient ziggurats. Really, some of them look like they were built by aliens, they’re so beautifully formed.

The light goes in and out with pinks and blues. Today was a bit bluer because it was snowing. I am really drawn to these lines that go horizontal and then run down the mountain in these crazy long streaks.

Our last stop of the day was one final beach where we got to go fossil hunting – I found 2! I didn’t stay on the beach too long because it was hard to take pictures during the snow storm.

On the boat, people are beginning to exchange emails and phone numbers. We still have 2 more days in Longyearbyen and there will probably be groups of people doing things together, but we all know that the “spell will be broken.” There’s supposedly a big dinner tonight and lots of final farewells. We’ll all pack this evening and tomorrow morning. I don’t think we get to Longyearbyen until lunchtime. Then it’s back to the hotel. And the internet. I will start posting my blog (day one) tomorrow and it will be neat for me as well to see what I wrote (I haven’t looked at them since I wrote them). In the meantime, I still have a couple of projects left to work on.

I tried hanging my GoPro from the mast but it didn’t really work because the battery would run out so quickly. Luckily, another great artist, Marianna Williams, had a kite that she was flying from the boat. So, she borrowed the GoPro to take pictures from the air. Enough of those came out great. She also used the camera for one of her projects as well. Like I said, there’s been a lot of collaboration on this ship (did I say that already? I meant to.) People have found interesting ways to work together and/or share their information and talents.

When asked to give one word to describe this trip, I’d probably go with “challenging.” On all levels, this has been a challenge. I have been challenged by the work of the other artists in that I feel like I have to bring my best to each encounter. I have gotten up every day to be challenged by the amazing landscape (what will I do with it?) I have been challenged by living by a very rigorous schedule that had to be followed absolutely. I have been challenged by living in a bunk with a roommate for two weeks (although she has been the greatest roommate ever – go Jersey!), it’s just not what I’m used to. Finally, living in a group where you can’t really hide has been a challenge as well. Most of us work alone during our regular lives and I think all of us have really had a big adjustment to this life aquatic.

But I’ve grown tremendously. I have lots of new inspirations and friends and colleagues. I’ll write more tomorrow, of course. But I wanted to put in some final words about the ship before we leave it.

Sunrise from the bow of the boat - my favorite time of day.

Sunrise from the bow of the boat – my favorite time of day.

Blog day 13 – An Abandoned Town   5 comments

Blog day 13

Once we got past the rough waters (about 6 am), we were able to sail into Pyramiden, an abandoned town owned by the Soviets/Russians.

Welcome to Pyramiden - abandoned in 1998

Welcome to Pyramiden – abandoned in 1998

Initially, this wasn’t really what I was that interested in seeing. But here’s where being with all these other artists really helps you see things anew. Another artist on the ship, Kaisu Koivisto, does these fantastic rubbings, photos, and videos of abandoned weapons silos in the former Eastern bloc. She sneaks into these places and takes photos of the place. They’re mostly very overgrown and falling apart. I asked her if she saw her work as basically hopeful (which is how I see it), and she definitely agreed. I love that she’s finding these places that were initially designed specifically to house killing machines, and that are now totally overgrown and being taken over by the earth. This, to me, is incredibly hopeful.

Pyramiden was a mining town and was abandoned in 1998. The major industry was coal and it’s the northernmost Russian town (which surprised me). All of the buildings are abandoned and some are falling into disrepair. We were able to go into the cultural center where time has really stopped. There were advertisements for concerts that were due to take place in 1998. Lots of other memorabilia as well. I’m not that interested in the photos of the place and I felt it was a bit creepy. However, I’m totally looking forward to what Kaisu (and the other artists) do with this place.

The inside of the Cultural Center. Photos and ads for shows in 1998.

The inside of the Cultural Center. Photos and ads for shows in 1998.

In the afternoon, we had the option of going back to Pyramiden or staying on the ship. As there was a glacier in the distance, I stayed to try and paint it. Interestingly, I have been more and more focused on the lines on the mountains. The shapes and colors are really great. This next picture is a photo, not a drawing or painting! And this is where I got inspired. I took many pictures of these crazy lined mountains and clearly, I’ll be painting these as soon as I get back.

The sky and rock formations at Pyramiden

The sky and rock formations at Pyramiden

Tonight we had the last night of our presentations, Tina Kohlmann, Jane Isakson, Hannah Campbell, and Sarah Gerats (one of our guides!) This was a night of art ranging from not-entirely-traditional landscape painting (Jane), to video (Hannah) to the very conceptual (Tina and Sarah). It was a great ending, showing the breadth of the work that was represented on this boat.

[Reading this later on, before posting, I realize I left out two nights of presentations. I can’t forget to mention the great work of all these artists – the previous night: Marianna Williams, Chris Blade, and Joyce Majiski. And the night before: Kate Puccia, Jolene Mok, Laura Petrovich-Cheney (my roommate!) and me. When I signed up to give a presentation, I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Once I saw what everyone else was showing, I realized (and should have before this point) what a great opportunity this was to really explain who I am and present myself as an artist in this world. So, for the few days before my presentation, I spent many hours creating a power point presentation with the entire range of my work. I was really pleased with how many people came up and offered ideas and suggestions when I talked about my desire to get the paper out from under the frame. I felt that these people were colleagues and a new support system. It was exciting (especially once I’d finished) and I’m so glad that I signed up to do it.]

Day 12 – Reindeer!   Leave a comment

Reindeer, just walking by.

Reindeer, just walking by.

Blog day 12

In the morning, we visited the same place twice. A short visit in the morning and then a longer one in the afternoon. Again it was really cold. But I decided to draw outside during the afternoon outing. I couldn’t paint because, even if my paints didn’t freeze (which I’m not sure they would have in that amount of time), it was painful to keep my mittens off for too long. So instead, I did some drawings with my mittens on. Let’s just say that they came out very loose and somewhat abstract. Still, it was nice to try it.

After that (during the same landing), some of us went on a short hike. This was really the first time I was able to venture out past the “safe zone.” We had an armed guard with us, of course, but we were really out in the wilderness. Earlier that morning, I had noticed small bits of droppings that basically looked like coffee beans. I asked what they were (couldn’t be polar bear, too big, but I thought maybe Arctic fox?) Turns out that they were reindeer droppings. And what should we run into but a family of reindeer walking along the same area we were hiking in!

They actually came up really close to us and sniffed us out (maybe 100 feet?) It was really cool and I felt like I was solidly in the Arctic environment.


And in this cold, even with the snow, I still found ridiculously colorful plants that were kicking butt by surviving in this environment.

Moss growing on a rock in the snow.
Moss growing on a rock in the snow.

Once we left here, everyone wanted to get back on the ship and be toasty. We had a long sail, leaving in the evening, sailing through the night, and arriving early in the morning. When I say “sail,” this was actually the first time that many of the sails were hoisted. We’ve been going on diesel engine for much of the time. They probably used half the people on the ship to help haul up the sails.

At the same time, we were told that we were, once again, in for a rough sail. Most of us (those who didn’t haul up the sails), headed straight for the bunk. I surfaced for dinner (fish! Who could eat that when the sea was rough – not me!) and then headed back below. Another bouncy night.

Day 11 – Northern Lights for sure   Leave a comment

A view of a glacier soon to "calve" from the boat.

A view of a glacier soon to “calve” from the boat.

Blog Day 11 Because I had previously been in a zodiac tour, I didn’t get to go on the one that left this morning in front of the glacier. You might think that would be an issue but hardly! The boat was surrounded by icebergs that kept me constantly occupied. Also, because we were directly in front of the glacier, we got to see a lot of calving. As the pieces would fall of the front of the glacier, you’d hear a big groan, explosion, and then splash. Having heard other glaciers calve (in Alaska for the most part), I would have said that it sounds a bit like a shot and then rumble. Now, I think it sounds more like someone is moving furniture above my head and then the splash. I didn’t hear the break as evenly. If I lived in an apartment building I might think I was with the glaciers again anytime someone moved. After the morning with glaciers, we headed to another stop which had much more cultural heritage. It was a mining camp. I saw lots of little bits of poop and was told that this was from reindeer. I didn’t see them though, only their “leavings.” It’s become very cold and staying on the beach in the afternoon was a different experience. My glasses froze to my face (just the part where they attach to my nose). I have to wait until I get in to have them warm up. (Meaning it can hurt if I just pull them off.) We had presentations again this evening, Marianna, Chris Blade, Elaine Spatz, and Joyce. Also today at our information session we were given our first information about when we’re getting off the boat. There’s a Waterboys song, “Strange Boat,” which I’ve personally dubbed the song of the trip. “We’re living on a strange boat, Sailing on a strange sea.”

Light on the water
Light on the water

It’s been a crazy trip with each day being different and interesting. Finally, at night, after the amazing presentations by Claire Lieberman, Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz, and Marlene Nichols, we saw the northern lights for the first time! They were much more subtle than I expected and I kept having to wipe my eyes to make sure I was seeing them. All green at the horizon and moving very slowly and faintly up and down. In a way, they were harder to watch continuously because it didn’t seem like they were moving, but then, given a few moments, you’d see something different out of the corner of your eye and by the time you looked back, they had changed. I expect/hope to see more of them in  the nights to come.

Day 8? Day 9? I can’t tell anymore!   3 comments


Blog day 8

We are pulling up anchor and leaving this fjord which was the northernmost point of our journey. I wish we could keep going north but we are now heading towards the second half of the trip. It has seemed warmer than I thought it would be and yesterday during one of our information sessions, one of the crew members told us that because we are on the West coast of Svalbard, we are on the Gulf Stream. The East coast and other islands on the East are already much more frozen in. I imagine that we might not even be able to do this journey if we were over there. We are travelling during the day specifically because the captain needs to be able to see the ice in the water. So, much colder and I think it would be more treacherous.

Later that same day:

How much time can you spend in a bunk during a day? Apparently quite a lot. We pulled up anchor right after breakfast and started heading south. And as soon as we started moving, it got rough. Really rough. Most people didn’t leave their cabins all day.


Nemo gets a special zodiac ride so he can go to the bathroom!

At one point, the boat slowed down and stopped and everyone was thrilled. We rushed out and onto the deck for fresh air and to see where we had arrived. Unfortunately, the only reason we stopped was so that the dog could go onto land to go to the bathroom. Honestly, everyone was thrilled to have that moment.

But then the boat started up again. Really, we were thrown back and forth and up and down. There was a lot of rolling from side to side on the bunk which was not in any way preventable.

Lying down didn’t really feel too bad but I didn’t get to see much scenery (you couldn’t see through the porthole in my cabin anyway because it was covered in water! There wasn’t a lot of artist work done by anyone. When the boat stopped again during dinner, everyone applauded like crazy.

Here is a picture of all the cabin doors closed today because no one came out.

Behind these closed doors? A lot of queasy artists.

But we’ve landed with lots of optimism for tomorrow’s outings. I’m glad to have stopped. Big time.

Day 6 – Northern Lights?   2 comments

Blue glacier on a grey day.

Blue glacier on a grey day.

Blog Day 6

Today was a long day. We were docked for the whole day in Raudfjorden. In the morning there was a trip in the zodiac but because I got to go the day before, a different group went. Everyone wants to sail up close to the icebergs. However, I’m thrilled that I got to go the day before because today, almost as soon as my group landed and started walking around the safe zone, it began to snow. And not just pretty, fluffy flakes, but big fat blobs of snow. Of course I had tried to start painting again. Someone suggested that I start a reality show, “Extreme! Plein Air.” Really, the only two times I’ve painted outside, it’s either been raining and close to freezing or snowing.

It’s hard to paint on the boat even though I have photos that I like and know will find inspiring when I get home. The light isn’t great in the lounge area and it can be hard to be comfortable with everyone watching. Ear plugs and an ipod are helpful to keep you focused.

During the landing, it was really a white on white background. The mountains are now snow covered and the sky is a white/gray. I was just really focused on the slash of blue that was the glacier.

Snow falling in the Arctic
Snow falling in the Arctic

In the afternoon, there was supposed to be a hike to go to walk on the glacier but the snowstorm moved in and we were, for the most part, kept on the boat. There was another small landing later in the day but many of the people who went were the people who didn’t go in the morning.

However, later on in the evening, after dinner, one of the people on deck spotted a polar bear sniffing all around where we were. This was the first one we saw that really moved much and so it was exciting. Clearly he was very interested in our activities. I wonder if we left anything on the beach – we try very hard not to.

Yes, you can actually see the bear here.

Also, speaking of the beach, this was the cleanest beach we’ve visited so far. It’s very disheartening to walk along these beautiful stretches of isolated beaches only to stumble on a plastic cup or some piece of plastic string. One of my roommate’s projects is to collect all the garbage we find at each landing. The last one was a gold mine in that she found some balls, nets, and more. I found the sole of a shoe. We have to be careful that the garbage is not “cultural heritage” meaning that it’s from after WWII. Generally, things left before then were part of the trapping/hunting culture. But for the most part, anything plastic is fair game. My pockets are often full after a landing.

We had another set of amazing presentations. Today it was video (Han Sungpil), installations (Kaisu Koivisto), painting (Lauren Portada), and poetry (Ari Belathar). Usually, there’s some time afterwards and we all get together and talk about the work. But the captain came in and said that the Northern Lights were shining. This is something I’ve been waiting to see. I ran downstairs (carefully as possible) and got my outside gear because I thought that I’d be standing outside for a long time. Unfortunately, it was a false alarm, just light from the sun that doesn’t rise or set in the same way I’m used to. We all ran out onto the deck and by that time, around 12:30 am, it was time to get to sleep.

Svalbard – Day 5/October!   2 comments

Iceberg - very clear this time.

Iceberg – very clear this time.


Today is the first of October but it took me a while to figure it out. We’re definitely losing track of time on the boat. Mostly our days are scheduled around landings, when the ship is moving to a new location, and mealtime. Clearly, mealtime is very important. Luckily, the food is excellent which is very much appreciated after a cold afternoon in the Arctic.

Today it snowed for the first time but not until it had rained for quite a while. The light is amazing here and somewhat off-putting because you expect that at some point the sun will rise higher in the sky and make it warmer. Of course, the sun never really gets to the middle of the sky, a kind of high noon if you like, because it is going around the top of the planet instead of from one side to the other. And as it is going around, it’s never getting much higher than what I’d think of as about 10 oclock in the morning or 4 or 5 in the evening.

We had two landings today, one was actually not a landing per se in that I was once again in the zodiac going around the ice. We saw several clear icebergs and one or two really blue ones. Still, there definitely isn’t as much ice here in the water as I’d seen in Antarctica.

Our second landing was to see whalebones. There was just one set of bones from one whale that had beached long ago. Still they were very beautiful. On the other hand, I also got to take lots of photos of kelp and plants, again finding many bright colors in unexpected places.

Moss on the shore
Moss on the shore

At the same site, there was a hut that whalers and trappers sheltered in. I’m sure I can’t do the surrounding landscape justice in either words, photos, or paint. But to take a stab at it, it looked like the remains of a large battle that had been lost. Barren, huge rocks and some wood. Very flat and leading to the sea.


Finally, we had our first presentations by four of the artists in our group (Diane Burko, Deborah Hamon, Tom Snelgrove, and Karen Power). I’m incredibly impressed and even more honored to be in their company as these artists do a presentation to their peers. My presentation isn’t for 3 days (although, if the seas are rough, they’ll postpone the presentations for an evening). I’ve been working on a powerpoint presentation and looking forward to feedback.

Curating my Fame   9 comments


(“Lines of Ice on Mars”)

I sometimes run into people who say how my career is really moving forward and congratulating me on my most recent successes. This is, of course, great to hear and I hope that I’m always gracious and appreciative.

There is an element, however, of this image of an “overnight success.” Because if you read my emails, social media updates, or the blog, it looks like I’m going full-blast all the time. It’s just that I only publish the news, not the grind.

Basically, every day I work hard to make sure I have something new in the pipeline, or that I’ve written to another potential contact, or perhaps even that I’ve updated my website. The deal is that I work every day on my business.


Two weeks ago, I saw “Eight Days a Week” which was the movie about the Beatles’ touring years. First of all, it was just great – a totally upbeat movie. But one thing that becomes really clear is that they weren’t actually overnight sensations. They worked hard. For a long time. And they worked constantly at their art.

In NO WAY would I compare myself to the Beatles. But what I did notice is that the idea of an overnight sensation is pretty much fiction. While the fame itself might be “overnight,” in reality, the hard work needs to be done. Every day.

What do I do every day? I work at my computer, take care of my kid, take the dog out, take care of the cat, try to be an activist…oh yeah, and I try and paint every day. So if I’m caught off-guard by the notion that I’m “all of a sudden” really doing well, it’s because it’s just part of my daily work. But that’s the picture I throw out there because there’s no point in boring everyone with the daily details!

Posted November 3, 2016 by lisagorenpaintings in Uncategorized

Trying to be the gold   2 comments


There’s a Japanese form of pottery which I love. It’s called “kintsukuroi”. I don’t  know too much about pottery but my understanding is that the artist takes broken pottery and repairs it with gold. I’ve attached a couple of photos that I got from the web (from Lakeside Pottery The artist takes something broken and makes it more beautiful than before by incorporating gold between the cracks of the broken pieces (as opposed to hiding them) and restoring the piece to its former shape.

You can see that the piece was broken but its future has been transformed. Out of the broken body of the original rises something new and even more beautiful.

We’ve had some terrible weeks, both here in the US and in the UK. Things that have happened can’t be undone. Things that have been said can’t be unsaid. It’s heartbreaking and it’s also easy to feel helpless. I certainly feel that way.

I went back to my studio after weeks away. And I worked for a long time. Yes, I write letters to officials, to newspapers, to candidates. But it was the art that was the most healing for me. I won’t give up on my activism, but I truly believe that we can’t, anywhere on earth, move towards peace and understanding without bringing our broken pieces back together. Art is my “gold” – it is where I can find some peace. And I create my works to bring more beauty into the world from the beauty I have seen and processed.

It’s not enough, but it’s not nothing. I hope that we can all find our own way to “be the gold” and bring our broken pieces together. However you do it, I appreciate it. Whatever it takes….


Pack Ice 4, Antarctica