Progress on Fantasy Cover

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Hi guys! Thought you might enjoy a progress pic of my cover for the fantasy novel I’m working on. When the cover is complete, she’ll be clothed. Right now I want to focus on light, and capturing the eerie glow. I am LOVING my Painter!

My horror collection received its first review, five stars! Take a look, if you want to be scared! 😉


Beginning “Darkmother”

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Hello, all! I wanted to share the very beginning, a loose sketch, (detail) for what I think will be the cover painting for this sword and sorcery book I’m working on. I have a co-writer by the way.

I plan to continue on with the oils in my new painter 17. I am finding it a breeze to use, and it’s fast! Therefore, inspiration! If I can ever find someone or something that can keep up with my brain…then you people will really see some art! Ha ha! Anyway, hope you like this, and that you have a good day! More soon! Buy meh book!

I’m Not Uptight, I’m Radioactive…

I actually made it to the drawing class last night! It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to work in a big open studio space with real models. The class was very small, I think I only counted five artists (including yours truly) and the instructor. Last night we had one model for three hours and he was very good. Models just aren’t appreciated enough…it’s harder than it looks. 🙂


I did about ten drawings…the first several were…well…dreadful, I think, would be the right word. It’s funny how we are so rarely satisfied with our own way of doing things. After a while, the artists began walking around checking out the work of others, and I noticed my work is certainly different from all the other sketches in the studio. I admit, I find myself feeling a bit weird about the great freedom I saw expressed by others. I think I’ve figured out the cause of the weirdness. Here’s my theory…

My mother never understood art at all. My dad appreciated it, and encouraged me. God bless him, he liberated a lot of office supplies from his job when I was a kid, and in an odd way, the C&O Railroad was my first, albeit unknowing, benefactor. I learned to draw on the company stationery, with pencils that were plainly stamped with railroad safety slogans. The problem began once I realized that it was time for me to branch out and learn to use watercolors, oils, pastels…all the things that a growing artist would take a normal interest in.

Mom was just frankly afraid of anything she didn’t understand, and sadly for me…she didn’t understand much. And if she feared it, that meant it wasn’t going to be in her house. This greatly limited the sorts of things I was allowed to have. Popular toys such as Lite-Brite, Easy-Bake Oven, the Operation board game, and anything else that had a battery or, God forbid, a 5-watt light-bulb, were either chock-full of radioactivity or were government listening devices, depending on the day of the week. Anything at all that was a particular shade of bright yellow-green was radioactive. And if a toy was titled “Day-Glo”? Well, Katie, bar the door. There’s all the proof you need that it’s some sort of plot. Barbie, however, remained innocent of any wrong-doing, and I could have all the dolls I wanted. Didn’t really want any, but by golly, I was welcome to’em.

What I DID want…was paint. As a teen, I started sneaking paints and brushes and the like into the house. That was my rebellion. Art supplies. It was as difficult and stressful to paint in my house at age fifteen as it was for my schoolmates to sneak a beer or cigarette. I discovered punk music and began to snarl quite a bit. Safety pins appeared. I began to openly wash sable brushes in the kitchen sink. I began to pour jars of watercolor rinse water down the drain right in front of her. I was that much of a badass. She would scream for hours that it was going to destroy the household plumbing.

So…there’s the reason I didn’t get to use oils until I had a place of my own. There’s the reason I evolved into the kind of artist that is most comfortable working…very small. Because I grew up hiding it. There’s the reason I have a lot of difficulty working large. Even the grocery market pencils and paper I cajoled out of her were so precious and expensive that they MUST NOT EVER be wasted because if I wasted them by making loose, relaxed, free looking lines, (“just scribbling”), well, I certainly wasn’t going to get any more, because I didn’t take care of them the first time. If you’re ever curious about how to create a three-year-old neurotic with OCD, insisting that they never scribble is a great place to start. In grade school, I could not bear to share my crayons, because the clumsy  little twerps would blunt the points. Why could they not color with them the proper way? Wasn’t it obvious that if you consistently rotated the crayon as you worked, you would maintain a fine point? Could they not see that?? Kids learned quickly that if they “accidentally” broke one of my crayons, they would be treated to watching me have what amounted to a complete emotional break-down.


























So that’s the gist of my theory about why I feel an odd sense of dissatisfaction sometimes when I compare my sketches to the much more open and free work of so many others. I am envious of their drips and blobs and splotches. A little jealous of the spatters on the floor around them. They are not concerned at all, it seems, with who’s going to have to clean up that mess. Because for them…it doesn’t matter. They are Artists, with a capital “A”, and the work they do is important. Every stroke is about emotion, personal expression. While my own work seems to so often express an illustration of another’s idea. It isn’t often that I make a mark that I feel is visceral. On the occasions that I do, it produces my highest feeling of satisfaction as an artist. Hopefully, this class will help me make a breakthrough toward something more powerful, if I do the work.

Thanks for reading, looking at my work and supporting me. Find a kid and paint with them. Let it drip on the floor. One day they’ll thank you.

Letter to Holland (In Progress)…

I know you guys pine for my longer posts, but I am so busy today! I’ve got a Jan. 6 deadline for a new client and I’ve put all other projects on hold until I’m finished. Hopefully by mid-February I’ll be able to share the big news about this latest job!

But I haven’t forgotten you, and I thought we could all use a breath of Spring, so here’s a quick look at an oil painting I’m trying to finish before the crocuses peek up from the snow!

I call it “Letter to Holland”, it’s 16×20″ on canvas. I’d say I’m half finished.

Here are some details…


©Kathy Ferrell and “Big Cup O’Blog” (blog about Cup O Swank Studio), 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kathy Ferrell and Big Cup O’Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Verdant Premonition

"Verdant Premonition" (detail, in progress) 16x20", oil on canvas ©Kathy Ferrell


Here’s a little preview of one of many oil paintings I’ve got going at the moment. I work on several at a time, because of different stages of drying. Feedback is welcome, as always!




©Kathy Ferrell and “Big Cup O’Blog” (blog about Cup O Swank Studio), 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kathy Ferrell and Big Cup O’Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Alice Neel: Some Kind of Artist…

Over the years, I’ve gradually made it my policy to never trust any one who looks me in the eye and says, 


“I am an honest person. I never lie.”


  Just a dead give-away for a bullshit artist, right there.



 I want to be very clear in this post. I will confess here and now that I completely believe, to the core of my very being, that there walk among us today…honest people. There are people who really don’t steal, cheat, lie, or manipulate others even if no one would ever know. It is my belief that they are incredibly quiet, rarely seen, and to some degree, avoid the company of most people. My readers who are familiar with gambling odds will understand that the opportunity to spread bullshit increases with wider exposure to others. The more one interacts, the higher the odds are that one will act badly.


  This past week I began reading Phoebe Hoban’s recent biography “Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty”, St. Martin’s Press 2010. I’m nearly finished, and since my legions of adoring fans have been clamoring for a more in-depth post than the sporadic bon mots of recent days…here goes.

  I well remember the first time I became aware that there was an Alice Neel. A brooding high school student, I came across her “Self Portrait” 1980 alice-self-portrait.jpg and thought “Now that takes guts.”  I cannot recall exactly what publication in which I found the image, but I do remember noticing that only she and one or two other women artists were mentioned among a forest of men. 


 Younger artists may be surprised to hear that in the 80’s, it was standard practice on the network news to regularly feature the latest tidbits from the current art scene. I remember seeing the work of Judy Chicago, Keith Haring, Laurie Anderson and many others in tiny, exciting snippets at the end of the nightly news. I was a devoted admirer of Warhol and a faithful purchaser of his magazine, “Interview”, as a teen. (thanks, fake-art-friend from 25 years ago who “borrowed” my entire collection. Good luck on eBay). I read everything I could get my hands on about the New York cultural movers and shakers in the Reagan era. To me it was fascinating, and I read and viewed all I could find about any artist who was “making it” in Gotham, Alice Neel included. One is left to imagine how popular this made me in a West Virginia high school.


  I had seen Andrew Neel’s 2008 documentary about the life of his grandmother last summer, and had not forgotten the striking disparity between her chosen lifestyle and the one chosen by her two adult sons, Richard and Hartley. Alice, (according to Hoban), a proud-and-out Communist, complete with surveilling FBI agents, produced two sons who are remarkably staid. They became a lawyer and doctor, respectively. One gets the impression from their interviews in the film and quotes from the book that one would be hard-pressed to find a huarache between them.


  Hoban’s fairly well-indexed and thoroughly foot-noted tome describes a woman born to paint…and not much else. Reading it this past week has given rise to memories of long ago, when my only responsibility was to my art. No one depended on me, and I depended on no one. I lived alone, I worked various jobs (three at one point), and my entire home was my studio. If there was an easel in the living room, so be it.  I still feel that I produced some of my very best work during those alone years.


  As I “matured” (and I use that term loosely), I began taking the traditional route…wife, mother, Barney-song-vocalist. I continued to create, but adjustments were made. I was an adult. Adults adjust. 


  But not Alice. Hoban’s book gives the reader a shocking blow-by-blow of a painter that lied, manipulated and used practically everyone with whom she came in contact. The responsibility to adjust was placed squarely on the shoulders of everyone else, including her very small children. Alice was painting. To Hell with everyone else.


 The biography covers Neel’s regular habit of multiple, often concurrent sexual relationships, often with the understanding that there were “expenses” to be covered in exchange for her company. It tells of heartbreaking abuse heaped on her children by the men Neel allowed into her home. Her boys grew up malnourished, threatened and battered by “intellectuals”. 


  This writer was not surprised at a passage early on in the book, in which Neel recalls the home in Cuba in which she lived with her first husband Carlos Enriquez in the 1920’s. 


  “You can’t imagine how they lived…they had seven servants…His (Carlos’) mother as a girl was dressed by slaves. And they lived in this white palace…My God, it was fantastic.”


  One cannot ignore the fact that Neel was not so pro-proletariat that she turned up her nose at riding in the Enriquez’s chauffeured Rolls-Royce.


  Later, living in New York with some of her children (a daughter had been handed over to her Cuban in-laws), Neel clawed out a life, taking in sketchy boarders, shoplifting, and hiding assets from the Welfare caseworker who occasionally visited, because of Neel’s WPA employment. Assets hidden include a television, a phone and the eyebrow-raising summer home at Spring Lake. Viva la Revolución.  


  Ms. Hoban’s work depicts a character that is not nearly as unusual as I am sure Neel imagined herself to be. I don’t need to spend much time recollecting my own early years as an artist to bring to mind dozens of people I once knew. Geniuses, every one. Painters, writers, poets, and all so damned angry that their genius was going unnoticed by every one but themselves that they were convinced that this oversight by humanity gave them some sort of free pass to use, steal and hurt.


 When I was young, sheltered and idealistic, I genuinely believed that artists could produce only good in the world. The stories of suffering, madness, addiction, suicide…all of those tragedies were only brought on by the public’s failure to comprehend. How little I knew.


 It has been my past associations with self-proclaimed artists that have put me in the victim’s chair more than once. Cheated, stolen from (both of simple lucre and credit for work), taken advantage of and physically struck. Decades later, I can plainly see that when I was mingling with them, I produced no work of any merit, and on one occasion several of my early paintings and brushes were destroyed by an acquaintance.


  Are we, as creatives, freer than other beings? Have we some “extra right” denied other men? How literally are we to take the phrase “Art at any price?”


  Alice Neel’s complete oeuvre presents the viewer with a staggering wealth of portraits and other paintings. A great many are very, very good. Some are pretty bad. In this writer’s opinion, the vast majority of them are done with the skill that a reasonably intelligent person would be expected to develop after 60 years of constant, daily work. One has only to refer to the “Infinite Monkey Theorem” for support.


  There are thousands of painters in America right now who paint with the same level of skill that Alice Neel possessed. Most will die unknown. This writer proposes that Neel’s eventual, long sought-after fame was due far more to the showmanship of the woman herself, who, habitually playing the “mistreated dotty little old lady” card, created  a kind of glamour through which lesser mortals could not see. Her calculating manipulation of people, more than the paintings, is what made her famous.


  In conclusion, “Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty” has up to this point been a very stimulating read. Does Neel’s work deserve to be shown in museums? Absolutely. Was she a fitting symbol for the second wave of U.S. feminist art? Unfortunately. Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty …

 Except for the brief Alice Neel quote from Phoebe Hoban’s book, all words are ©Kathy Ferrell and “Big Cup O’Blog” (blog about Cup O Swank Studio), 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kathy Ferrell and Big Cup O’Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shameless Self Promotion

Guess who just added a bunch of art to their shiny new portfolio?

Kathy Ferrell Illustration / Cup O Swank Studio