Please Don’t Feed Your Fears

Copyright 2013 Kate Forman

Copyright 2013 Kate Forman

I haven’t posted anything in a very long time. Also, I haven’t been painting very much. My wee baby girl just turned one, and I’m still learning the juggling act of being a mamma and an artist (not to mention all those other identities of wife, friend, etc.) This idea of painting sayings or phrases is something I’ve been kicking around for a while, and I’m planning on continuing it and posting them here and on my FB page. Hopefully they’ll act as a warm up and motivate me to get to painting a few other things that I’ve left on the back burner for far too long.


Nap Time

'The Start of Something New' Copyright 2011 Kate Forman

‘The Start of Something New’ Copyright 2011 Kate Forman

My daughter is sleeping. There are two very remarkable things about that short sentence. First, I have a daughter. She is gorgeous and strong, remarkably opinionated, stunningly beautiful, intoxicatingly huggable, endlessly kissable, and mine.

MY daughter. They let her come home with us from the hospital. No Doctor or Nurse asked as to my credentials, they weren’t concerned that I failed the high school Chemistry regents test twice. TWICE. Doesn’t it seem that a Mother should have a more basic grasp of Chemistry? I wouldn’t know an atom from  an ion if they offered to change a diaper, and yet, here she is. She’s mine to love, to hold, and to raise — Me, with all my imperfections, and short-comings, and history of goof-ups — I got someone in my life who is absolutely perfect.

Full disclosure: and my husband, she is also his, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on me. Me the mommy, me the humbled human, me the perplexed artist, me the admirer of this incredible baby girl.

The second remarkable thing about the opening sentence is that she is sleeping. Who said that infants sleep all the time? I’d like to call them up and give them a piece of my mind. My daughter sleeps, but not the long tranquil spells I’d imagined during my pregnancy, during which I day-dreamed of no day job and endless hours of nap-times in which to paint and market and even blog. Bwahhh-haaa-haa: that is the sleep deprived laugh I send back to my round naive self.

This fierce little lady and I already share some things in common, and one of them is: we’re kind of lousy nappers. She soaks up the room from the moment she’s awake to the moment she’s asleep, there is so much to see and focus on. In fact, watching her, those first few weeks, develop the ability to focus on our faces and other interesting sights was fascinating. I have trouble turning off my vision long enough to drift off to sleep too, it’s hard to let the room, the window, or the book go during the daytime. My daughter can be anything she wants to be, and I don’t want to push any career on her at all, but I expect that she is already a visual person — as shutting out the day for a nap seems a bit challenging for her too.

However: here today is a remarkable occurrence. We both slept well during the night, we made the coffee together, we had a few chats about things like patterns on pillows, and corners where things meet, and red stuffed animals, and then she drifted off to sleep, and I sat down with the end of the coffee and got things done. It is an amazing feeling.

I have a feeling that this blog will begin to be about being a mommy and making art. The balance of day-jobs and freelance art pursuits and the practical obligations of life is always on my mind, and this blog has frequently been a space for me to express my reactions to it…and now there is another piece to the puzzle. I’m already chewing on this quandary: being a Mom emboldens me, and inspires me, but also has already shifted the entire course of my day and my life, and I wonder how to continue to weave it all together. For now, though, I can hear my gorgeous girl’s soft breath and occasional whimpers and coos, and with that in my ears I’m going to go make some art.

Thankfully brushing the dust off…

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

So, it has been a very long time since I’ve posted anything here. Unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting this blog and my other on-line presences: the website… the twitter….and the Facebook. As it turns out, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to be distracted and even overwhelmed by an abundance of good things. I’m used to griping about the ick and the gook — they’ve been my standard excuses for not marketing-painting-hustling enough — but I didn’t imagine that loveliness could be a de-railer too.

Plus, full confession: I was always walking a line between keeping the super personal & the super professional clear…I never saw myself as a blogger who’d use this forum as a diary. I wanted to blog to refine my sense of my presence on the web, market myself, get new ideas and words back, be a part of the times, and get better at using words to describe myself and my art. And then I hit this obstacle: how to express the super personal, super wonderful, and concede that it meant re-creating how and when to make art…

In short order: when I started this blog, not too long ago, I was a single childless lady who made most decisions, including artistic, within the wide open space that description entails. Now I am (happily, over joyously, breathtakingly) married and 32 weeks pregnant. It turns my head around, it amazes me, it inspires me, and…it’s changed me.

On top of that: two really cool illustration projects fell in my lap. I’m not complaining about any of this, no sireebob, I’m kicking up my heels in joy (okay: metaphorically, as I’m not jumping around at all these days.) However, all of this good stuff overwhelmed me…and in an attempt to prioritize this blog, and the above forums, went by the wayside.

But that’s not what I want, what I do want, now more than ever, is for  my ability to create art and generate an income from it to be consistent. So, taking a deep breath, I’m waltzing into this Thanksgiving Holiday giving thanks for the amazing goodness in my life: for my husband — who emboldens me, for my growing baby — who captivates me, for my friends and family who’ve always believed in me, and for my capacity to climb back on the horse, again, and continue trying to make this thing of a working artist…work.

So, while I’m taking it easy, maybe you’d like to read this…

'Private Conversation' Copyright Kate Forman

'Private Conversation' Copyright Kate Forman

Hate Marketing, Love Your Business? |

I just started following the above lady on my Twitter account. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Twitter for a long time, but lately I’ve been enjoying it — I don’t know how it directly relates my marketing plan in any way that will directly generate illustration jobs, but I’m trusting the experts (like Cathy above) who describe social media as integral to an artists marketing plan. Cathy also makes the point that whatever your marketing plan is you should enjoy it. I get that — I like Twitter, way more than I thought I would, mostly because of the people I’ve “met.” So far I’ve made at least one friend and creative collaborator, lots of other cool artists and crafters, and one actual, real life art director.

As I’m still on vacation painting, resting and reading, I’ve got a lot of time to think, and I’ve been tossing and turning my “direct mail and cold calling campaign to art directors.” Sigh. It’s practically non-existent…largely because I don’l like making phone calls. Actually, “dread” and “despise” are probably more accurate emotional descriptions. So I’ve got some more thinking and strategizing to do on that point…I can’t imagine there’s anyway to make it enjoyable, but maybe I need to be more creative…

Artists need vacations too.

'Traveling Suitcase' Copyright Kate Forman 2009

‘Traveling Suitcase’ Copyright Kate Forman 2009

Yup: it’s that wonderful time of year, vacation time. I’m a big believer in vacations, and I find that they’re sometimes hard to define for a working artist, as we often spend our time between a day job & hours reserved for making art, so often time off is used as more time for the art making. That’s great, but I’ve learned that there needs to be a balance between many open days in a row that can be reserved for making art and many open days in a row that can be used to just relax.

Some years ago I read ‘The Artist’s way,” by Julie Cameron. My good friend Asta currently belongs to an on-line community organized around the concepts of the book, and her enthusiasm has made me think about taking a stab & working the book’s “program” again, especially as the first time around I didn’t devote enough time to it — though I really connected to its principles.

One thing that I remember the most about the book, and appreciated, were the author’s words on the importance of “refreshing your eyes,” and getting a different view — even by taking a new walk in your old neighborhood. My Grandmother had many sayings she liked to dole out, and one that has always stayed with me, and resonated as I read the book, was her admonishment to: “have a view you never had before.” It’s pretty wise, and can be applied profoundly or simply. As artists I do think it’s important to constantly refresh our eyes, we have a great capacity to find magic in the mundane, but sometimes it’s nice to stand in front of a new view & give our peepers a charge.

Right now I’ve got my feet up typing this in Norwhich, Connecticut — several hours away from my beloved Queens. I grew up in a place not too dissimilar to Norwhich: a lovely mix of beautiful old buildings, many of which had seen better days, some urban poverty, and a desolate abandoned industrial section. My hometown is currently undergoing a financial renaissance, but Norwhich is still struggling with the fate of many old river towns — its local industries have been strangled by the malls and big stores, and what commerce exists within a walk doesn’t offer more than corner stores and/or bodegas.

Personally, I have a love hate response to gentrification: there’s something gloriously sad about proud old buildings whose owners obviously treat them with a lot of love, standing side by side with former glories who’ve been chopped into many apartments…it seems a bit more honest than some of the overly “cutesy” stuff that seems necessary to sustain a small city’s economy.

However, this is about vacation — and I’m enjoying myself: I like the views, and getting a taste of suburbia is interesting — the house we’re staying in has a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, and a food disposal in the sink (which I’ve never, ever, used before.) It’s definitely a more convenient life, in some ways, but having to get in the car to get everything isn’t so great – I do miss the convenience of walking around my neighborhood.

On this leg of the vacation I’m combining rest and art making time, and getting lots of reading in as well. I finally read Camus’ “‘The Stranger,” but I also packed three disc world series books by the brilliant & dangerously funny Terry Pratchett. Someday I’ll do a whole post on him — he writes like I wish I painted. Meanwhile, though, I wanted to end on a paragraph of his I read last night, it made me think about missing NYC, and comparing it to this life style — love for the big apple often gets expressed tritely, but in the brilliant Mr. Pratchett’s words regarding a booming metropolis in disc world I found some of my emotions perfectly captured:

Poets long ago gave up trying to describe the city. Now the more cunning ones try to excuse it. They say, well, maybe it is smelly, maybe it is overcrowded, maybe it is a bit like Hell would be if they shut the fires off and stabled a herd of incontinent cows there for a year, but you must admit that it is full of sheer, vibrant, dynamic life. And this is true, even though it is poets that are saying it. But people who aren’t poets say, so what? Mattresses tend to be full of life too, and no one writes odes to them. Citizens hate living there and, if they have to move away on business or adventure or, more usually, until some statute of limitations runs out, can’t wait to get back so they can enjoy hating living there some more. They put stickers on the backs of their carts saying “Ankh-Morpork–Loathe It or Leave it.” They call it the big Whaooni, after the fruit.

from Moving Pictures, by Terry Pratchett

For now, I’m off to have a view I never had before.

Ooh la la: MacBook Pro

'Future Bathroom' Copyright Kate Forman 2009

‘Future Bathroom’ Copyright Kate Forman 2009

Right now I’m typing this on my brand-spanking-new MacBook Pro. It feels good — very good. I’ve been a PC girl ever since I won my first computer off of an Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice bottle cap. I was a decorative painter at the time and tired after a long day of glazes/faux finishes and climbing ladders, and it took almost the whole drive back from Greenwhich, CT to NYC to accept that I was a “Grand Prize Winner.”

That was three clunky, slow, virus ridden desk-tops ago, and making the switch to a Mac felt good. There’s definitely a different vibe going on at the Apple Store: even though they were busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger every staff member was polite, kind, and enthusiastic. It felt a little like meeting very accepting in-laws, they were nonjudgmental of my PC past, and referred to me as a new member of the “family.”

Usually, I’m a technophobe and I don’t bother to hide it. When I did the illustration assignment at the top of this post the art director of the kids magazine asked that I draw two kids interacting with some of the future technological advancements mentioned in the article, but the not-so subliminal drawbacks to a life of relentless technological innovations were all mine (no more faking a sick day if the bathroom mirror can diagnose you…)

In addition, I’m also pretty thrifty (such a nicer word than “cheap.”) So laying down a serious amount of cash for some slick machinery felt odd, but not unpleasant. I will never, ever, give up the feel of making art with my hands, but I have found that my marketing plan and business organization is conducted almost exclusively over the internet now, and having a computer that is as user friendly and as art-oriented as this one is lovely — I have not wanted to throw it out a window even once. Not like my old desktop which would have been sailing over the Tri-Borough bridge, except that it was so flipping heavy. I know, I know, this is the honeymoon period & I’m sure there will be glitches along the way — just like with any longterm relationship, but I feel like this one is starting off with a lot of trust, love, and a huge commitment — and that’s comforting.

Learning how to accept a compliment

'Harvesting Water' Copyright Kate Forman 2004
‘Harvesting Water’ Copyright Kate Forman 2004

A long, long, time ago — when I was deep in the throes of an extremely awkward adolescence — my Aunt Liz gave me the following wise advice: “you better learn how to take a compliment.”

 I don’t remember anymore what prompted her to say that, but I imagine that I was probably melancholy and morose at the time. The words had quite an impact on me — I still think about them. I’m not very melancholy or morose anymore, though I have my moments, I guess we all do, but learning how to take a compliment is still something I’m working on.
Maybe it’s a woman thing? Maybe it’s an artist thing? It still amazes me when people like my artwork, and compliment it — especially when they notice and then comment on something I was trying to articulate in a painting but thought I hadn’t expressed successfully — the attention feels like a gift, and often overwhelms me with gratitude.
Lately a lot of wonderful things have been happening to me, and learning how to accept good things — and trust the attention to my artwork and the new opportunities it inspires — has been a learning curve.
The one I wanted to write about today regards my Australian friend Asta Lander. Asta is an incredibly positive person: she channels her creativity — expressed visually and via writing — for personal health and good, but also for the “greater good,” specifically human rights and women’s rights issues. For some perspective on her thought processes you can check out her blog
She’s inspired me — and displayed never-ending faith in me, even when I dropped the ball the first time we discussed collaborating on a project together. Her kindness, and compliments to my artwork, are bolstering — but it took me a while to know how to accept it.
Accepting that my artwork is reaching someone also means accepting that I’m being seen — art can be used to hide behind after all, and there’s something comforting in that, though stifling (did I mention that my moody adolescence was spent scowling over intricate notebook drawings…and not math homework?) Being seen is liberating, and a little scary: someone saying “I love your artwork, lets…” means that pipe dreams become real, and so does the effort.
I mentioned in a recent post that Australia has been very good to me — and that I’m learning to trust that goodness and the paths it seems to be leading me on. My vagueness around my collaboration with Asta is intentional, I’ll write more on our project when we’re more underway…but for now I wanted to give a clear, and seen, statement out to her, and to the universe — thanks for the compliments!

Subway Sketches

'Traveling for Care' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

'Traveling for Care' Copyright Kate Forman 2003

Today I took a nice ride out to Flushing, Queens on the 7 Train. The 7 Train, in case anyone was wondering, is NYC’s best train line — and I stand by that argument based on the following:

1. By the third stop in Queens it’s elevated & affords gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline & the passing queens neighborhoods below, and

 2. It’s a little like taking a train ride around the world, or, at least, the world’s cuisine: in a matter of minutes the 7 Train passes over fantastic Irish pubs, Turkish Restaurants & classic neighborhood Italian joints (Sunnyside,) wraps around a bend and becomes “little Ireland” — dozen or so real-deal Irish and Irish-American pubs (beginning of Woodside,) keeps heading East & passes over Columbian, Mexican, Ecuadorean and Phillipino bakeries & restaurants (end of Woodside,) chugs on over Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani and several Argentinian bakeries & restaurants (Jackson Heights,) glides past the Met’s CitiField & ends in Flushing: home to hundreds of Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese BBQs, restaurants, noodle shops, bakeries, street vendors, etc. How many other modes of transportation can claim all that culinary divergence?
But I digress: I was on my way out to Flushing to pick up two paintings I had hanging in a group show, curated by the fantastic Cyn McClean, at the Flushing YMCA. It’s a pretty lengthy subway ride, and I like to pass the time by drawing
my fellow passengers.

'Subway Sketch Guy with the paper bag' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Guy with the paper bag' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

I’m always nervous at first, but by the time I was finished sketching the guy with the paper bag I was warmed up and enjoying the process.

'Subway Sketch Young Girl with her i-pod' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Young Girl with her i-pod' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

I’ve been busted plenty of times (the young girl with the i-pod totally knew I was drawing her) but I usually find that people don’t seem to mind. A long time ago I was drawing a man and when my view of him was obstructed the elderly lady sitting next to me made the people standing in front of us move so I could keep drawing (talk about pressure,) and the man I was drawing graciously pretended not to notice…so I kept drawing.

This might sound creepy, but in my opinion the summer time is the best time for subway sketching due to two facts: 1. I can wear sunglasses (the 7 is elevated & flooded with sunshine) which obscures my obvious gaze and

'Subway Sketch Sleeping Lady with Glittery Shirt' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

'Subway Sketch Sleeping Lady with Glittery Shirt' Copyright Kate Forman 2011

2. People tend to be sleepy and not as aware of being drawn. Wow…that does sound creepy…and true. 

I noticed that by the time I got back home I was very relaxed, and not that concerned about the heat — one of the benefits of devoting all that attention to detail.
It made me remember the first editorial illustration assignment I ever got (up at the top of this post.) When the call came in I was elated, and terrified. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to start, so instead I went out and drew on the 7 train. As a result, almost everyone in that painting is someone I sketched that day — just another gift from NYC.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

'Ribbon' Copyright 2009 Kate Forman

‘Ribbon’ Copyright 2009 Kate Forman

To quote my friend Debra — today started off with a flying flop. My allergies are in full force, and NYC has been H O T — neither condition helped my organizational skills, or motivation to do anything.

Mashed Potatoes

Cats Cradle Copyright Kate Forman 2009
Cats Cradle Copyright Kate Forman 2009

This past weekend I went out to dinner with my fella and my folks. It was lovely. My Mother was torn between two entrees, and made her decision after speaking with Stella, our patient waitress. The deciding question? My Mother wanted to know if the mashed potatoes were real.

 Now, I don’t know how you feel about mashed potatoes. My guess is that some of you are pondering the deep existential question: how can mashed potatoes not be real? Whereas quite a few others are nodding their heads sagely and recalling all the many times you ate out and had to clear up the same important point.
I’ll level the playing field, it’s not a nice topic, and it’s not always easy to talk about, but the reality is that some people, and some restaurants, actually use something called “instant mashed potatoes,” and then attempt to pass that salty mess off as the real thing.
This is a bit of a jump, but I promise it’ll all make sense in the end…I watched an interesting little video today, brought to you by the nice folks at Agency Access: Creative Collision: Is Print Dead? I knew I wanted to incorporate it into this blog, but I spent all day painting and kicking it around in my mind, yet still hadn’t been able to articulate what I wanted to say…until my Cousin Chrissi brought me dinner…aka: a big plate of mashed potatoes from Doc Watson’s.
Rest assured, they’re the real deal, appropriate texture, occasional lump to assure authenticity, but not to detract from the flavor, not too much butter, just right. To quote my cousin, right around the time I was having a party in my mouth I also had an epiphany in my noggin.
The video, “Is Print Dead?” features the divergent viewpoints of many people in the graphic arts industry — illustrators, designers, photographers, art directors, etc. — on what they think the future of print is. It makes sense, our worlds are increasingly digital, newspapers are gasping for air, and the kindle is now a household name. However, the folks spotlighted in the video who made the case for print still being a viable industry and source of income used the words “texture” and “tangible” consistently, and posited that those two qualities are inherently attractive to us, the consumers, and will never really go out of style or marketability.
I agree, but I’m biased: my work is hands on, and so is the artwork I’m attracted to. I appreciate slick digital design and animation, but then I stand in front of one of my sister’s paintings and am in awe — and I find that even holding a print reproduction is more satisfying than just viewing it on-line (though do check her blog out — you won’t be disappointed!)
Digital makes “sense,” it’s cleaner, faster, and more flexible. A lot like…instant mashed potatoes. It’s technology, and it’s efficient. The thing is, it’s not nearly as satisfying. In a pinch, fine — just add water and mix, but if it’s really special, or if it’s needed for comfort, or for emotional impact, or to mark some significant event, shouldn’t it be tangible and textured?
Unlike the many things that send me into cataclysmic doomsday prophecies, this debate isn’t one of them. I agree with the print cheerleaders in the video: how things feel matter, and for those who appreciate the feeling, they’ll always seek out the real thing.