In the Studio | House Portraits

I delivered another house portrait to a client this week! Such fun. I consider my house portraits to be little painted love letters. These homes shelter the hopes and dreams of the inhabitants and my goal in rendering them is to honor those dreams. They're are painted in acrylic on high quality archival paper, and they're usually commissioned to commemorate a new home, or sometimes even the selling of a home.  Learn more about my house portrait commissions HERE.

Storyteller Series | Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant has been playing in my house all week. My husband read a marvelous article about her in the New Yorker and we've been listening ever since. I am obsessed with her music, her tone, her wisdom, and her storytelling. And I have to also add that for me as an actor and theatre artist, I so admire Salvant's ability to completely embody a lyric and create a whole world with a song. Watching her sing is like seeing a masterclass in musical theatre. Wynton Marsalis said about Ms. Salvant, "You get a singer like this every generation or two." I must agree. She is a genius and I cant. stop. listening.

Dayspring: A new series

My solo art exhibition opens tomorrow! Its not in a gallery or in a traditional art space. Instead, the exhibit is being featured in a Unitarian sanctuary - a first for me. And as many of you are not local to the DFW area, I'm sharing the work with you here.

If you are in the Dallas area, please feel free to some see the work in person and attend an artist reception next Sunday, May 28th from 3-4pm. We'll be in the sanctuary at Horizon UU Church in Carrollton and its open to the public. The pieces are all for sale and can be purchased in my online shop. Here are my artist's notes for the new exhibition, DAYSPRING:

In his poem simply entitled "Spring", Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, 

"Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
What is all this juice and all this joy?" 

Each year, spring's special magic renews the human spirit on a cellular level - no one, no matter their origin, habitual proclivities, religion, or state of being, can escape it.  

Thank you to Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church for creating a contemplative space for my newest series, DAYSPRING. The pieces included in this exhibition celebrate the spiritual nourishment - all of the juice and joy -  that comes from living in right-relationship with nature. 

DAYSPRING is a meditation of color and pattern inspired by the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and landscapes from both my native Central California and Ghost Ranch at Abiquiu, New Mexico. Inhale the smell of verdant earth and listen deeply for what Hopkins calls "A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning." Heaven is not in the hereafter. Heaven is HERE and NOW. Walk softly.    

"Let Him easter in us, 
be a dayspring to the dimness of us, 
 be a crimson-crested east."  
- Gerard Manley Hopkins

WHERE: Horizon UU Church
LOCATION: 1641 Hebron Pkwy, Carrollton, TX
DATES: May 21 - July 2, 2017

Time's Vast Womb  |  36 x 36 inch acrylic on canvas

Dappled Things  |  24 x 48 acrylic on canvas

Sun-steeped  |  36 x 36 acrylic on canvas

Kingdom of Daylight  |  24 x 48 inch acrylic on two canvases

Deep Decree  |  36 x 36 acrylic on canvas

Bent World, Bright Wings  |  24 x 24 inch acrylic on canvas

Her Earliest Stars  |  24 x 48 acrylic on canvas

Morning Mesa 1  |  36 x 36 acrylic on canvas

Morning Mesa 2  |  36 x 36 inch acrylic on canvas

Settling Into My New Studio

It's been crickets here on the blog. I've been single-mindedly moving into my new studio and prepping for my upcoming solo art show. As of this week, I'm all moved into the studio. I cannot quite express the feeling of having my very own space. It has been delicious. Yes... delicious is the word.

Tomorrow, I'll be loading in my exhibition at the Horizon UU Church in Carrollton, TX. But tonight I thought I'd check in here at La Maison Boheme and share some snap shots of the studio and some of the paintings that are part of the show. If you're in the Dallas area, please come see the new work! The church is hosting an artist reception for me on Sunday, May 28th from 2-3pm. Its open to the public and you can read all about it HERE

Studio Work Table

I'm looking to build a studio work table. I want something that's waist-height and provides plenty of storage bellow for canvases and materials. However, I'd also be open to something that resembles a big long farm table. And of course, it must be on casters for mobility around the studio. There seem to be a million ways to accomplish this task, but I thought I'd start with inspiration photos that look functional and generally attractive.

Painting Live During Easter Services

This weekend I tried something entirely new for me. I painted live during Easter services at First Unitarian Church of Dallas. For the past few weeks our ministers have been delivering sermons that focus on creativity. Our need to process life's experiences - the joy and the pain, the abundance and the lack - by transforming it into something expansive and filled with beauty and meaning, is what makes us human. So First UU decided to put an artist on the chancel for Easter to bring that message home. It was a thrilling experiment. 

My paintings were made in tandem with gorgeous hymns from our Sanctuary Choir and also some poetry readings, one of which I've included below. I painted a 48 x 48 inch piece for each of the two services during the hymns. While it's difficult to "finish" a huge piece of art in 30-40 minutes, I enjoyed the freedom of knowing that it was, by nature, an impulse-driven exercise, more concerned with process than product. Many of those in attendance filled my inbox and Facebook feed with kind messages about the service. I'm so grateful to First UU for asking me to the party. It was an Easter I won't soon forget.

Easter Exultet 
By James Broughton 

Shake out your qualms. 
Shake up your dreams. 
Deepen your roots.  
Extend your branches. 
Trust deep water 
and head for the open, 
even if your vision 
shipwrecks you. 
Quit your addiction 
to sneer and complain. 
Open a lookout. 
Dance on a brink. 
Run with your wildfire.  
You are closer to glory 
leaping an abyss 
than upholstering a rut. 
Not dawdling. 
Not doubting. 
Intrepid all the way, 
Walk toward clarity. 
At every crossroad 
Be prepared to bump into wonder. 
Only love prevails. 
En route to disaster 
insist on canticles. 
Lift your ineffable 
out of the mundane. 
Nothing perishes; 
nothing survives; 
everything transforms! 
Honeymoon with Big Joy!

Here are the pieces I created during the first and second services:

Here All Along, 48 x 48 inch acrylic on canvas

Trust Deep Water, 48 x 48 inch acrylic on canvas

Feedback from Congregants

I can't begin to tell you how privileged we felt this morning watching Sarah paint during Easter service. I admire her courage, generosity, inspiration, and talent. What a beautiful complement to Daniel's sermon. ~ Janine Fields

Watching Sarah work today was the greatest gift. We don't make it every Sunday but when we do it's always very worth the trip and the crazy... On this Easter Sunday...I am being gifted the privilege of watching Sarah Greenman create and that renews and lifts my soul in a way I didn't expect today. ~ Barrett Nash

Sunday morning was an artistic wonder - painting, music, and a sermon that was poetry. Life does not get much better than that - nor does an expression of spirit that reaches depth and wonder. ~ Charles Vorkoper

We were treated to the beauty of live painting during the service from Sarah Greenman today and a wonderful sermon about becoming awakened and "woke" and how that can change lives and the world for good. ~ Shelby Eidson

ARTWORK as a part of Easter! I can't find the words to express how much I LOVE this, so I'll just explain what it is: Sarah Greenman is painting a new piece in each of the two services this morning - painting during the musical portions of the services - whatever inspires her, and improvising. All of this is an incredible example of the creativity, openness, and joy within First Unitarian Church of Dallas and the people who are here. Huge bonus: The rich, powerful, gorgeous singing of Jonathan Greer in the solo portions of "Easter," from "Mystical Songs" by Vaughan Williams. His voice and Sarah's art are both such a treat for the ears and eyes and heart. ~ Dana Lynne White

8 Must Haves in the Studio

It was almost a year ago that my studio mate asked me to share a space with him at the Continental Gin Building in Dallas. Before that time, I created a studio space in my own home. Having my own dedicated studio, separate from my home, has been revolutionary for my art practice. When I sit down to work now, I'm more focused. I'm able to approach the work with greater clarity. And when I'm painting, I can completely disengage with the narrative of wife, mother, house-manager, schedule-keeper... it all just fades away because I am literally in a different space.

Now that I've been in my studio for 11 months, I've become dependent on a few key elements. For some artists, they need a certain amount of light or square footage or a particular kind of brush. Today, I'm going to outline some things that have become my "must haves" in the studio.

1. White Walls

I only have a couple of windows in my studio and they are covered with vining foliage, so to better reflect the natural (and artificial) light in my studio, I think white walls are best. 

2. Storage

I like to keep things tidy in my studio. I work quickly and I like to have all of my tools within reach. I don't have a fancy set up like the one below, but I'd like to!

3. Rolling work space

The table legs pictured below are from Ikea and they are the same ones I use in my space. All artists need a workspace, but it also needs to roll out of the way for studio visits, classes, and art openings. Putting your work table on wheels is the easiest way to accomplish this.

4. Task lighting

My studio, while well lit, doesn't always fit the bill. I use clamp lights and swing arm lights to illuminate spaces on the fly. My studio mate also uses this kind of lighting to light models when he hosts figure drawing classes in our studio.

5. Protective clothing

I am a super messy painter. I spatter and drip and use my fingers and wipe my hands on things. So, I need protective gear. I use good old fashioned canvas aprons while working in the studio. 

6. Golden Acrylic Paints

I work almost exclusively with Golden Acrylic paints I like both the fluid and heavy bodied paint textures. My favorite colors are always on hand.

7. Dark accent wall

I know, I know. Number 1 above was white walls. But I also like having one dark wall to provide contrast for my artwork. I like placing my work on a dark wall for perspective. I have one black wall in my studio and I love it!

8.  Space to hang my work

Its also really important to me that my studio be a place that clients and students can visit and view my work. I don't need a ton of wall space, but I need at least one clean white wall to display my work. Here's a shot of my display wall in my studio.

A Video About Art Commissions & Process

I just completed a commission for a family who was interested in creating an image of the Milky Way over a mountain pass. They enjoy hiking and getting outside - so I began thinking about the kind of vistas only available to those who seek out isolated and wild spaces. I wanted the piece to match my client's vision, but also to evoke the mystery of a night sky and the luminosity of a deep starry night. Here is the completed piece:

Last month I launched my PATREON page as a way of staying better connected with my community and my supporters. One of the perks of being a patron of my work via PATREON is that I share patron-only posts and deep-dive videos about my art process. My patrons pledge a certain amount per month and also receive art care packages, invitations to art events and more! 

For the piece above, I decided to film my first day of painting to share with my patrons. If you like the video below and want to see more like it, please come join me via PATREON


In the Studio | I Work In Layers

I paint in layers. And recently, a client who was watching me paint asked that I stop after the first layer because she liked the way it looked. I had just started, but to her eye it was finished. I had to agree with her.

My first layers are always highly intuitive and tend toward the abstract. It's mostly a simple combination of color choice and line quality. So I thought it would be interesting to share the four layers of my last painting so that you can see what happens in each stage.

With the second layer, I like to cover more of the canvas with color. And I also like to come in with white paint and block out some of what I painted in the first layer. I also start to use my fingers in creating the little circles of paint that show up in most of my paintings.

In the third layer, I like to come back with some of the colors from the first layer and build up the structure of the image I'm creating. I also add details that appear in the foreground - if there are any such objects.

And the final piece usually includes all of the little finishing touches and detailed mark making that help to bring my vision for the work into focus. Sometimes this means calming the piece down with lighter colors to create a sense of space or sometimes it means adding more marks. (I'm a hopeless maximalist when it comes to pattern.)

Here is a detail shot of the lower part of the painting.

Here's the original photo I used as inspiration for the painting. 

Oh... and surprise! I made two!

Bay Area Premier of "Leni"

Today, I'm off to California's Bay Area for the opening weekend of my play Leni currently in production at Aurora Theatre Company. I began writing this play in 2002 and completed the current version in 2006. You can read more about the play HERE.

Director Jon Tracy was interviewed about Leni this week on KDFC's State of the Arts. You can listen HERE. Also, Oakland Magazine featured the production this week with an article HERE. I'll be away from the blog for a few days, but in the meantime, wish me luck! I'm so excited to see this new incarnation!

Martha Brigham (left) and Stacy Ross (right). Photo by David Allen.

My Artwork on Redbubble

Hey friends. I've embarked on a new venture - to make my artwork available via Redbubble. Redbubble is a marketplace for independent artists to make their designs available on bags, clothing, decor, and more. I originally went to Redbubble to print one of my pieces on a throw pillow (pictured below). 

I liked the quality of the pillow so I decided to make it available to YOU as well!
I'll be adding more artwork as I go, but in the meantime, 
here are some of the product categories on offer:

Spring Open Studios

This is an exciting time in the studio because I'm preparing for Spring Open Studios on March 24th and 25th. If you are in the Dallas area, I encourage you to join me and 30+ other artists at the Continental Gin Building.

I'm also excited to tell you that Oak Highlands Brewery, a local brewery and tap house in the Lake Highlands neighborhood, is sponsoring a variety of hand crafted beers for this event! FREE BEER and awesome ART! What could be better? My studio is on the third floor (3E3) and will be open Friday, March 24 from 6:00-10:00pm and on March 25 from 2:00-6:00pm. I hope to see you there!

Investigating the Muse

I've been a painting machine these past few weeks. And I've been thinking about the nature of "inspiration" and the concept of "muse". Of course I'm familiar with the nine muses of Greek mythology. I remember as a young woman praying the to goddess Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, while writing a letter to someone I loved. I mean, how was I going to be persuasive, if I didn't invoke the muse?

I think every artist (writer, musician, etc) has their own muse. And at the rate that I've been working lately, I wondered if my muse might be tired of me. I began to think of her as overburdened, weighed down. So she showed up in a painting this week.

But no... I've changed my thinking about my muse. I don't think inspiration is exhaustible. I think more is better. One thing begets the next and begets the next and the next. There is always more to draw from. The artist need only show up for the moment, approach her canvas, and invoke the muse. Showing up is my responsibility. What comes next belongs to the muse.

The painting below is available HERE.

You can see some footage of me painting this piece in the video below:


When Artists Buy Art

I am an artist. But I'm also a collector of art. I have a very small collection, but that is mostly due in part to my budget. A few months ago, my studio mate created a piece that made my heart stop. Truly, the second I saw her I wanted her - like that sappy love story where your grandfather saw your grandmother at a Sunday luncheon and said to himself, "That is the girl I'm going to marry".

Well today, after many weeks of saving my pennies, I married my sweetheart. She is now mine and hanging in my bedroom. Now, I realize that this is an unorthodox way to hang a piece of original art - over top of an Indian embroidered textile. She is so minimal and the textile so detailed. But it feels right.

The piece is entitled Admiral by Jay Bailey

New Work & Art Influences

My work often looks like other people's work. And I'm okay with that.

I am influenced by everything I read, see, hear and experience. But I'm also heavily influenced by other artists. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I think its the nature of the process. Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Everyone has influences.

Some of my influences include Expressionists from the beginning of the last century: Pablo Picasso, Franz Marc, and Paul Gauguin to name just three. My influences also include modern abstract expressinists from the midcentury period: Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, collage genius Conrad Marca-Relli, and in her own category, portraitist Alice Neel. I also love the work of my contemporaries like Michelle Armas, Cecily Brown, Jenny Andrews AndersonMarta WhistlerGwenn SeemelFlora Bowley, Jackie Leishman, and most recently my studio mate Jay Bailey. The artworks created by these lovely people are always a part of my inner landscape.

These artists are all very different from each other. But they all end up in my own work in one way or another. Every time I step to the canvas, I feel them with me in some small way. This gives me courage. Am I borrowing from them? Absolutely. Am I copying their work? Absolutely not. I understand it as a time-space-warp-dialog. They are my helpmates.

Here is my latest piece from the studio. The image is from a live model I sketched two weeks ago during Jay's bi-monthly Drawing Club. Its entitled "Liminal" - 36 x 36 inch acrylic on canvas.

With this post, I simply wanted to acknowledge that I come from a 
lineage of art makers who keep me engaged and seeking as I make my own work. 
I am always filled with gratitude that I live in a world filled tip-top with art.

Who are your influences?
Who keeps you hungry and engaged?


Last night I attended another live drawing session with my studio mate, Jay Bailey. I cannot express how much I love drawing from a live model. It's really a beautiful and rare experience. When I started, a few months back, I had absolutely no training with the human form. But I'm starting to get a handle on it - mostly by watching the other artists in the room render the same model in such different and effective ways. Here are my best three from last night's gathering:

You can see the progression of my work HERE.

New Work | In the Studio

Hello dear readers. I've been busy painting and have three new completed pieces to share with you today. These past few weeks have been a strange and dark time for the United States. My response to the chaos and uncertainty coming from the white house has been to make art. The pieces below are all a kind of protest, I suppose. But the core theme is, as always, human interconnectedness.

I hope you all have a beautiful Valentine's Day. 

Las Hermanas   |   36 x 36 inch acrylic on canvas

Joan  |  24 x 24 inch acrylic on canvas

Seraphim   |   30 x 30 inch acrylic on canvas

In the Studio | Work in Progress

I've been having a difficult time processing the presidential election and inauguration. So, my prescription for handling anxiety, disappointment, and fear of the future is to paint and to read. Ive been in the studio all week working on the lovely ladies below. These pieces are still in process and part of larger compositions. I've also been reading "Meditations", by Marcus Aurelius. Both are helping.

New Work | Uprising

We have a big week ahead of us. The Inauguration is tomorrow. Then on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women and men are expected to attend the Women's March on Washington. Thousands more will join them in smaller marches around the country.

Are you going to the march? I really wish I could go. But since I can't, I'll be supporting the effort in other ways. It is in the spirit of solidarity with those marching that I painted the piece below. Entitled "Uprising", it's painted on a 24x24 inch canvas in acrylic.

Stay safe.
Stay strong.
And know that we're with you!

Art Studio Spruce-Up

I'm back from the holiday break. My blog analytics tell me that I still have readers - dear, committed readers - who are here reading away during my absence. I've been blogging here at La Maison Boheme for eight years (Eight!) and some of you have been readers from the beginning. Thank you for being here, friends.

Our family holiday was calm and uneventful, which is exactly how I wanted it to be. I hope you and yours had a lovely, peace-filled day or two as well. I returned to my studio yesterday to work on a few pieces and re-organize my space a bit.

I've introduced a few sword plants into the studio not only as a way of greening up the space, but to add some natural air filtration and oxygenation. The Continental Gin Building is old and our windows don't open easily.

I also received a beautiful hanging Ganesha for Christmas that now hangs in my personal studio space. Those of you who are longtime readers know that I have a thing for Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles. He is always with me - even in my car. The next large form series that I'll be working on has some serious Ganesha inspiration and energy, and I'm so happy to have such a large and colorful depiction of him hanging in the space.

Tomorrow, check back in for my annual "Year In Review".