Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On saying goodbye

Tonight I am boxing up my aforementioned commissioned piece of the Chicago city skyline. If you don't remember it, here she is:

Chicago city skyline - Chicago, Illinois; Acrylic on stretched canvas; 48" x 24"

I created this piece upon request for a fantastic customer and patron of my work. This isn't his first rodeo with Heidi Keyes Art, as I did another commissioned piece for him last summer. He lives in a 'burb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is just a short jaunt down to Chicagoland. We agreed upon the perfect size; otherwise his only request was "the Chicago skyline at sunset". From the last piece I did for him, I knew what colors he likes and what he values in a piece of art. I ran with it. 

It thrills me when customers come back to me for repeat work, and it's been happening quite a bit lately. You can't please everybody, but dammit I try, and having folks sign up for round 2 means I must be doing something right.

I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn here, but I ended up loving this piece. I loved the colors we chose together and how spontaneous but calculated the skyline ended up. I can't even take credit for that; I mean, I hold the paintbrush, but a lot of the successful aspects in my work are left to chance and riding on a feeling. I experimented with some new techniques and materials, and added some metallic acrylic paint to really highlight the "setting sun" effect. At the risk of sounding like a lonely and pathetic person with numerous cats (I only have one), as I work on a piece, it becomes like a child to me. When I work on a commissioned piece, I know I'm giving that piece up for adoption as soon as I'm finished, but I cherish it none-the-less. Here's the thing: when I successfully complete a piece, I feel like a little bit of me exists within that completed work that wasn't there before, and I can't remember how it was before that time.

It's really strange; the whole thing is. It doesn't change, no matter how many pieces I sell. I'm like a mother rabbit, just popping out baby bunnies.

Here she is, getting into her box for her big trip across the country.

Farewell, my heart.

Seriously though, my customers are awesome. My mind is blown with the support that surrounds myself and my work, and I have commissioned pieces to work on and contracts to fulfill through the end of the Summer. This is so awesome, sometimes I find myself smiling when I'm staring up at the ceiling in the dark before I fall asleep.

Another awesome thing is that the music video I live-painted in with singer/songwriter (and my adoring boyfriend), John Statz, was RELEASED TODAY. I knew this was coming to fruition, but I actually found out because I woke up this morning to realize that my mother had re-posted the vid on Facebook. She was the first one. I'm not sure how she found it, but I like to think she woke up at 3:30 a.m. to frantically check YouTube for her daughter's name, like a kid on Christmas. Maybe she stayed up all night; I'll have to ask her when I get a chance. My mom is my number one supporter, and I know this because she uses at least 5 exclamation points when she posts anything about my work. The amount of exclamation points Mavis uses on Facebook is directly related to her passion for the post.

Here's the video. Take a look-see; I think it ended up pretty great:

John Statz - Distance from Matt Woods on Vimeo.

Also, thanks to my mom for being a good sport when I make fun of her extravagant punctuation. I love her! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A very Wisco birthday celebration, and how best to cure the cheese hangover afterwards

I turned 26 last week. My dear friend, Angelica, also celebrated a birthday this weekend, and my boyfriend John has one in the beginning of May. Therefore, we put our noggins together and decided it would be a great idea to have a joint birthday celebration.

Angelica happens to hail from Wisconsin, as do John and I, and she is an avid themed party planner. We always throw these parties at our place, as we have a large apartment with balcony space and a great view. She is a spectacular hostess and always makes sure our guests are happy and enjoying themselves, and I typically drink and eat as much as I possibly can. We have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to planning parties, and so far, it has worked out very well for us. We toyed with the idea of having a "sinking-of-the-Titanic-themed" birthday party, but decided that finding a chandelier would be a pain in the butt, and also realized that none of our friends have period-style clothing. Eventually we decided on theming our party as a "very Wisco birthday celebration (don'tcha know)".

We highly encouraged our guests to dress in what they deemed to be Wisconsin wear and bring classy Wisconsin-made beers, such as PBR, Hamms and Milwaukee's Best. Luckily, Angelica had just returned from a Wisconsin trip and had brought a significant amount of cheese back with her, including a large bag of cheese curds. For the very first time in my life, I cooked tatertot casserole, a classic Midwestern staple. We love our casseroles in the Midwest (my mom, Mavis, makes a delicious egg souffle with Special K cereal sprinkled over the top).

Tatertot casserole consists of beef, tots, cream of mushroom soup,
milk, and lots and lots of (cheddar) cheese.

John also cooked up about 30 delicious beer-boiled brats.

You can't see it here, but John was sporting cut-off jeans
that reached mid-thigh, tall white socks and hiking boots.
I couldn't take my eyes off of him all night.

We played some classic Wisconsin drinking games, like "shotgun a beer" and "slap the wine bag". Perhaps you've heard of them or experienced them yourself in college.

Here are a few of the fine get-ups my friends procured for themselves, and deemed to be appropriate to celebrate Wisconsin and our birthdays:

 Jake & Courtney just scream "north woods".
Courtney made an inventive choice by pairing her 
striped button-up & collared tank with high-waisted 
white jean shorts.

This hat is ingenius. It shields both your face
and your neck from the harsh rays of the sun.
You can't see it in this picture, but it also has
a fishing lure casually hooked through the brim.

If you're going to cut off a pair of jeans, you might as well
do it up right and cut them short enough to expose the pockets
and let your thighs breathe. This also gives you a full range of motion
and does not inhibit your movement as long jeans often do.

I love Wisconsin; I really do, and I'm proud to call it my home state. In some states, it's just not socially acceptable to eat a brick of cheese as a snack, and that is something I love to do.

I had a slight cheese (and Franzia) hangover today, and I would have been content with napping intermittantly and watching Anthony Bourdain all day, but John coaxed me off the couch and up to Mount Falcon in Indian Hills for a great hike.

Indian Hills is an awesome little town some 30 minutes outside of Denver. I could definitely see myself living there in the future, in a cottage on the mountainside, with a small flock of hens and a goat or two. If I hadn't still been full of brats from the night before, I definitely would have wanted to stop at the Sit N Bull Saloon. We also passed the Mirada Fine Art Gallery, named Best Art Gallery in 2010 by 5280 Mag. This won't be my last time in Indian Hills.

The hike was pretty easy starting out; there were lots of families with kids, mountain bikers, and riders on horseback. 

 There was a pretty big fire here a few years ago, so some parts of 
the trail are rather barren. The views were amazing, though.

 The story is that the Mount Falcon open space once belonged to John Brisben Walker (former owner of Cosmo Magazine!) in the 1800s; he built his home here, and also began construction on a "Summer White House", which was intended to be a vacation home for US presidents. 

The Walker home was struck by lightning and burned to the ground
in 1918. Here I am, checking out the ruins.
The "Summer White House" was never finished, and honestly I'm 
not sure how the presidents were expected to make the journey up there
in the first place. I feel like Pres. William Howard Taft would have complained 
significantly about the change in elevation and rugged terrain on this hike.

All in all, this was another fantastic weekend full of great weather, hilarious friends, and some really innovative dance moves. Thank you to everyone for coming out last night, and thank you to John for pulling me off the couch and into the great outdoors today. Oofda!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things you learn in the biz world/acting like a painter

I learned a very valuable skill about running a business as an artist this month: never mark a piece as "sold" without a down-payment or a vile of blood. I have a tendency to assume the best of people, customers especially (I assume we are kindred spirits because you like my work; therefore I think that you are awesome; you rock my world, you really do!), and I've had the pleasure of working with so many amazing buyers so far.

This piece is currently back up for sale and on the market; it's boxed up and waiting to be shipped, and READY TO ROCK in your home.

"Untitled tree"; acrylic on stretched canvas; 20" x 16"

Let me know if you dig.

In other news, I had the wonderful new experience of live painting for a video camera yesterday. My boyfriend, John Statz (yes, I am dating a musician, and he lets his hair grow long) was filming a music video for his song "Distance", and myself and my work are going to be one of the main features in this sweet vid. This is not my first time being a muse; John sings me sweet songs he has written about me almost daily. I am probably the only girl that has ever yelled at him to shut up and stop singing about me so that I can concentrate on "The Biggest Loser". Poor John. I just really like that show; it makes me cry and then I get angry at myself for being such a pathetic baby and crying at The Biggest Loser. What a good sport he is.

This is my big break.

It was a big budget film; our friend Matt, who really knows his way around a Mac product, filmed me frantically painting a landscape piece from start to finish. The subject was the drive down I-70 through the mountains. I then walked into our kitchen and made a pot of coffee, also part of the video. The making of the coffee was the hardest part; I struggled with the filter for some time like an incompetant nincompoop who doesn't know how to make coffee. That can of Yuban really got the best of me. You'll see it in the video, or hopefully it will be edited out.

I don't want to toot my own horn, but I think the painting turned out pretty sweet.

This is a horrible picture, but I was pressed for time this morning.

I was also rewarded with a 6-pack of Strongbow Cider and white pizza with tomatoes from Sexy Pizza (my favorite!); all-in-all, a great little Sunday afternoon.

By the way, it's been brought to my attention by Blogger stats that almost 250 people have read my blog in three days. I had no idea people would be so interested in my life, my work, and the fact that my good friend nearly soiled herself at Casa Bonita. You guys are great!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Casa Bonita-- in all of its glorious-ness, and also its dark, dirty underbelly

I had my very first experience with Casa Bonita last night for a dear friend's birthday. I was very excited about it, as I've heard tales of the legendary Casa Bonita for years, with it's cliff divers and mariachi bands and diarrhea-inducing vittles. You probably have too, if you watch South Park.

Kyle's parents are taking him and three friends to Casa Bonita, 
Colorado's version of a Mexican Disneyland. When Kyle chooses to invite Butters 
over Cartman, Cartman arranges to have Butters go conveniently "missing". 

I had high expectations, and Casa Bonita did not disappoint. The first sign that all of my wildest dreams were coming true was that we parked next to some sort of extremely-lifted monster truck. I just knew that if the owners of that truck were patrons of Casa Bonita, it was just my cup of tea. I couldn't wait to start gathering material to blog about.

Now, everyone over the age of two is required to purchase a meal at Casa Bonita... they don't want you taking advantage of the cliff divers and mariachi bands for free. That being said, Casa Bonita has really figured out a great way to expedite its service. You must order your meal upon entering the dining room; just select one of the delicious options from the glowing menu on the wall. Naturally, I got the "all-you-can-eat chicken dinner". I didn't want to leave hungry, and I wanted the most bang for my buck. There was a wealth of other options, however.

Not shown here, if you did not want to "Taste the Magic
of Mexico", you had the option to enjoy a fried chicken patty,
which was listed as one of the "Gringo dinners".

Look at the ease and efficiency of the food line. You simply grab your choice of serving platter and worn napkin and wait for your food to come out. I really did feel like I was being catapulted head-first into childhood again. 

Let's take a closer look at the "Gringo dinner" with fried chicken patty. I've never had green beans "melt in my mouth" like that before, but the most disconcerting thing for me was the texture and sheen of the buns.

The oranges were so fresh and authentic that the
sticker was still there.

I will say that there were several redeeming qualities to dinner, one being the great company, also the fact that we purchased the birthday girl a bubble gun, and that you could get a hearty glass of wine for $3.29. These were not piddly pours, and although the wine was disgusting, we ordered two glasses at once just to keep the night lively. It was about ten minutes into our meals that we started to notice an ominous rumbling in our tummies, which was clearly a warning signal. Unfortunately one member of our party, who will remain nameless, did have to leave in the middle of the meal and hurry to the bathroom to prevent an explosion. I can't make this stuff up.

The place really came alive after dinner, when we were several glasses of wine in and had the opportunity to experience Casa Bonita in all of it's glory. The place really is very cool, and the diver, who was about fifteen and clearly trying to impress a group of twenty-something women and two gay gentleman, did a "special dive" for the birthday girl. I'm sure he'll brag to his friends about it on Monday morning when he's on the bus to school.

Seriously though.. he was really sweet.

I had a great time at Casa Bonita, even though we were too late to dress up like bandidos and take a photograph in the jail. Dammit. Next time...

In the studio 1.0

I love doing commissioned work. At this point, creating pieces for customers per their ideas, constraints, and color choices is my primary source of art sales. Some artists don't like working on commissions because they feel that it inhibits their creativity, but on the contrary, I find it pretty damn rewarding to be able to take an image that only exists in somebody's mind's eye and turn it into an exciting piece of art that they have been picturing all along. I also find that it often forces me to get outside of my comfort zone and explore subject matter and mediums that I never would have considered before. I almost balked when a customer asked me to work on a piece that he referred to as "a big gay stallion of a painting", but that piece is actually turning out amazing. Don't fret, you'll see a tidbit of it sometime soon.

Whenever I am working on a piece for a customer, I send updates of the piece's progress to ensure that I am going in the right direction with it. The one downside to this is that even if I'm on a roll and things are going great, I need to stop working until the customer gets back to me and gives me a yay or nay on the new work. Sometimes that is a few minutes, and sometimes it's a couple of days. 

Here are the WIP pictures of my last commissioned piece, which I finished this weekend. The buyer is Erik, a great guy who is very easy to work with, and who has always been very supportive of my work. He actually purchased a painting from me last summer, as well-- a repeat customer means I'm doing something right, which is a good sign in my book. He wanted a landscape of the Chicago skyline at sunset, and I know from the last piece I did for him that he loves bright colors. That's my style, so that's great for me.

Outline in Sharpie marker, pthalo blue to create 
dimension and add shading.

Mixing up some greys and browns for the cityscape,
as well as using my newly-purchased metallic acrylics, 
which are super cool.

...and the finished product, which Erik approves of and I can't wait to ship off to him. At 48" x 24", it's going to be a bear to package and ship across the country.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh god, yum - "Linger" in Denver, CO

I had my 26th birthday dinner on Wednesday at "Linger" in the Denver Highlands. The place is a reformed mortuary-turned-tapas restaurant, and focuses on small plates for discerning faces. The food is absolutely delicious and the prices are reasonable, which is why it's always packed even at 9pm on a Wednesday.

If you happen to finish dinner and are still hungry, you can always stop at the "Little Man Ice Cream" shop, which is the shape of a gigantic milk jug. I have never been there because I typically stuff my face full at dinner, and am too bloated and guilty to consider dessert afterwards.

..and if you do go, you should definitely try the "duck
 bun", a warm pita full of teriyaki delicious-ness. You
will be thinking about it the entire next day, I swear
to you. I was.

Intro 1.0

This blog is a little ramshackle right now. I've been working on it for a couple days now, and for some reason I'm struggling. Every time I've attempted to edit my background, I have had the urge to retreat to the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm". To my awesome web designer, Justin Self.. help.

Just to introduce myself briefly, if we haven't had the pleasure, I live in Denver, Colorado, but am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am a good Midwestern girl and am true to my roots, meaning that I do know how to drive a tractor, and I don't feel guilty having a beer in the morning-times. For two years after graduating college, I was an international flight attendant for a charter airline, so three weeks out of the month I would wake up in Bulgaria, eat a brat in Germany, drink a beer in Poland, and hit the hay in Kyrgyzstan. These amazing opportunities have greatly affected my creative work and what I want for myself in my day-to-day life. I now live in Denver with my boyfriend, John Statz, who is an amazing folk musician and a much better and more patient person than I am. How he deals with my antics is honestly beyond me.

This is a lovely photo of John and myself during a recent BBQ on our patio. We love to BBQ. John apparently wore these glasses when he was 15. I have never known him to use corrective eyewear.

Some of you may already be familiar with myself and my work, in person, or via my Facebook personal page or my art page (facebook.com/heidikeyesart). I started this blog for two reasons. First of all, I'm not only an artist; I try to surround myself with interesting people who do really hilarious things. We eat, we drink, we hike and travel, and we take lots of cool pictures. Secondly, I'm working on making my great escape to a more creative life. I graduated with my degree in Fine Arts in 2009, and since then have been a slave to the working world and an artist on the side, even though I would always consider myself a painter first and foremost. I'm at the point where I am selling enough work and doing enough commissions that I need to be able to devote more time to my undying, crazy-for-it passion, and my ultimate goal is to be making art full-time by this Fall. This blog, and sharing it with you, forces me to own that decision.

Welp... here we go.