Monthly Archives: March 2015

Joyce Howell’s trip to India

Mar 31, 15

Every time I talk to Joyce Howell she is coming back from an exciting trip like flyfishing in Alaska with her daughter to her most recent trip of traveling around India.  Artists are constantly looking for inspiration and I wanted to see how Joyce’s trips inspire the colors in her abstract paintings.  Also India is on my bucket list and I am extremely jealous of her photos so I wanted to share this upclose and personal blog about one of our top selling artists!


I live in Kingsland, Texas,  a small town in the Texas Hill Country, on the bank of the Colorado River.  My studio overlooks the water and I work with that view over my shoulder.   Depending on the time of day the water can be silver, blue, black or pink.  When the wind blows I get the texture of moving water and the dappled sunshine moves across the windows and yard. That being said, painting, even in the midst of a beautiful natural setting, is a solitary, often lonesome activity.



I spend hours and days alone in my studio making paintings.  At least once a year, sometimes twice a year, I buy a plane ticket and go somewhere to recharge.   I take tons of photos, eat everything that looks good, wander, poke and prod, and absorb.


I went back to India in January, my second trip there and I love it so much I’ll probably go again.  It’s a country of contrast.  It’s a country that offers the best and worst, the most holy and the most horrible on the same platter and I live on sensory overload the whole time I’m there.  I love the saris, the vegetable markets, the cows that sleep in the street, the food, the crush of people, the temples and the belief system that recognizes the presence of God in everything.


I started the trip in Chennai, on the Eastern coast of India.   Dipped my feet in the cold water of the Bay of Bengal.  Proceeded South to Pondicherry and Tanjore.   Continued on to Madurai, Periyar (the mountain region), moved up the western coast to Cochin (a wonderful art Biennale there – fabulous international exhibition), Mysore, Bangalore, Goa, then finished up the trip in Mumbai.

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It would take days to tell you everything I did and saw.  Sightseeing at the wonderful temples, perused many vegetable markets, ate Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner, drank a lot of Kingfisher beer.




I had a wonderful guide who took us along back roads into small villages and schools.  Saw some fabulous roadside temples – they are everywhere!!!   Our guide told me that when you live in India you need God every 100 yards or so…



We stopped at every festival along the way.  The pilgrims were fabulous – many men dressed in black dhoti with bundles on their heads – loved them.

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Stopped to watch farmers putting their grain in the middle of the road to let traffic grind it for them.  Everytime a vehicle or an oxcart passed by, they would sweep it back up into the pile. Dodged camels, cows, stepped over and around many dogs – all of whom liked napping in the street.



Watched parades of people carrying the God of the village through the streets.  I guess you don’t have to go to church – they will bring God to you.  Saw beautiful children.  Watched India bring in the new year and saw mandalas that were painted on stoops and streets in celebration of the new year.

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I had a love/hate relationship with the traffic.  I was fascinated by the chaos that amazingly did not end in daily carnage.  There is a white stripe in the middle of the road, but I think that’s merely a suggestion.  Traveling is one big game of chicken with semi’s, buses, cars, vespas (thousand of those), oxcarts, bicycles, sheep and pedestrians all claiming the road.


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Each town had a central vegetable/flower market, but people sold produce and goods on the street everywhere.  The flower stalls were beautiful.  Big market for strung flowers to drape around your religious statue, your home or business altar or to drape across the top of your front door.

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Found a silk cocoon market where cocoons arrive daily and are auctioned off.

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Lastly I wandered into a beautiful marigold field.


There’s a line in the movie Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that says,  “Everything will be alright in the end.  If everything is not alright, then it’s not the end.”  I love that saying.  I find it very reassuring.  And that’s the feeling I get amidst all the chaos that comprises that beautiful confusing country.  I come home calm, recharged and ready to go in the studio and close the door.


Up Close and Personal with Sarah C. Ferguson

Mar 23, 15


Name:  Sarah C. Ferguson

Hometown: Austin, TX


Best Restaurant: The Steeping Room – Austin, TXsteepingroom

Favorite Place to Travel: As a child, my family lived near Siena, Italy for a while. We resided in a castle known as Costello di Spannocchia. It is now the Spannocchia Foundation, an educational center that promotes sustaining cultural landscapes for future generations. I was very young, but the memories of our time there remain quite vivid.


Cocktail of Choice:  Vodka with blood orange Italian soda.


Favorite Recipe: Cheese Tortellini Soup with Cannellini, Keilbasa and Kale from Bon Appétit Magazine.

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces fully cooked smoked keilbasa sausage, thinly sliced
1  onion, chopped
1  cup fresh fennel bulb, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
10 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 15oz. cann cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1 9oz. package cheese tortellini
1 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add next 6 ingredients and sauté until vegetables are soft and kielbasa is brown, about 12 minutes.  Add broth and bring to a boil. Stir in kale and cannellini. Reduce heat to low and simmer until kale is wilted, about 4 minutes. Add tortellini to soup. Simmer until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite, about 5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve, passing cheese separately and enjoy.


Favorite Book:  Just Kids by Patti Smith and Georgia O’Keeffe by Roxana Robinson.


Daily Inspiration: Time with my family and friends and long walks, meditative walks.

Influential Quote:  “Our todays and yesterdays are the blocks with which we build” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Most influential person in your artistic career: There is not one person who holds the title of “most influential” in regards to my artistic career. Rather, I have been influenced by many over the years – family, friends, teachers, other artists. They have all inspired me through both example and encouragement. Not long ago, I discovered Carmen Herrera’s work. I was struck by her outlook and approach to her work and found it not unlike my own. She painted in anonymity for the majority of her life and sold her first painting at the age of 89. She paints everyday and will turn 100 years old this spring. How can anyone not be inspired by her!

Studio Location:  My dining room.


Commonly asked about object in studio:  People always comment on my work table (which is also our dining room table) and my artist’s smock. The table is an antique Irish wake table we inherited from my grandmother. My smock is the result of ten years of meticulous color mixing and is a constantly evolving work of art in and of itself.


Moment you realized you wanted to be a full time artist:  There was never a moment. Art is just something I’ve just always had to do.


Influences your Work: Color, light and geometry – from both natural and man-made sources.


Cause Close to your Heart: I recently added textile designer to my résumé through my work with SYDNEY PAIGE Inc., a school gear company with a buy/give business model. The goal of SYDNEY PAIGE Inc. is to help lower income kids stay in school by giving them the confidence and tools they need to learn and thrive.



Mar 19, 15

When Audrey Hepburn said “Paris is always a good idea” in the movie Sabrina she wasn’t kidding.  When the opportunity to head to Paris during fashion week with your best friend arises, and you have an amazing boss like Anne Neilson who lets you take 10 days off, it’s a no brainer.  You book your flight and hotel room, plan out a list of museums to visit, and pray for great weather with anticipation of pastries and wine!

I was the largest child playing with bubbles outside of the Eiffel tower.


Had to go into the Musee Picasso which just reopened after three years of renovations.  The building is gorgeous with black and white checkered floors, light blue doors, and of course beautifully curated works of Picasso and a few other artists scattered around.


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Loved eating in the beautiful cafe’s which provide plenty of people watching during fashion week, especially this La Creperie’s  with it’s delicious toppings.

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Ran into some editors from Vogue, most noticeable by her hair, Grace Coddington.

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Loved walking the gardens of Musee Rodin.


Didn’t want to leave, I’m pretty sure Anne thought I would never come back but London was calling.

Borough market which has some of the best food especially chocolate chip cookies the size of your head and the most delicious curry.

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Visited the Saatchi gallery’s exhibition of The Legacy of WWII in Russian Art.  Loved this piece by Gely Mikhallovich Korzhev called The Reunion.

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Best record store and book store in all of London, Rough Trade!

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Loved this little area of town, Shoreditch, definitely make a stop to Blues Kitchen for live music if you are in the area!

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Until next time Europe!

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Up Close and Personal With Jhina Alvarado

Mar 3, 15


Name: Jhina Alvarado

Hometown: Born in Los Angeles, lives in San Francisco.


Highly Recommended Restaurant: PPQ Dungenes Island, home of the garlic roasted crab and the best garlic noodles I’ve ever had.


Best Vacation Spot: My husband and I went to Italy as a belated honeymoon a little over two years ago. Since we were jet lagged and getting up at 4am, we were able to wander around Venice just as the sun was coming up and no one was out. It was pretty amazing!


Favorite Cocktail: I love ginger beer so I’d have to say a Moscow Mule is my favorite at the moment.


Collectable Item:  I love collecting children books, especially ones illustrated by Lane Smith. Now that I have seven-week old twins, I have even more reason to buy children’s books.

Best Book:  I love books by Amy Tan and Jodi Picoult. I don’t think I could just pick one book as my favorite but I have read books by these two authors multiple times.

Studio Location: I have a home studio. The first floor of our house is where I paint and do anything creative. There’s a ton of natural light and the commute is awesome!



Most commonly asked about object in your studio:  I use a blow torch to smooth the wax on the panels. A few years ago my husband found me an antique blow-torch.


The  moment you realized you wanted to be a full time artist: I’ve always been creative, even as a kid people were impressed with my artistic skills. Despite having always dabbled in making and showing art, it wasn’t until around 2006 that I decided I wanted to try and make a career out of my art. It took three more years after that for me to come up with a cohesive series that I thought was good enough to show.

Daily Inspiration:  Being a new mom, I’d say my little boy and girl (Sam and Norah) inspire me. Watching them grow and learn new things is incredible. I also love looking at other artists’ websites. Some of my favorite artists are Michael Cutlip, Jane Hambleton, Nicholas Wilton, Alex Kanevsky, and Squeak Carnwath.

Inspiration: I find inspiration in old photographs. I love the way people dressed and did their hair in the 1930s and 1940s especially.


Night On The Town

Creativity: I do get stuck and sometimes find that I don’t want to paint. I used to get very frustrated and make myself feel guilty for not painting. A good friend of mine once told me that creativity ebbs and flows and I can’t do one without the other. I can’t flow without having periods of ebb and that’s just going to happen occasionally. So now instead of getting frustrated, I try and remember that this will pass and once I am done ebbing, the creativity will flow once again. It’s hard to just trust that it will happen but I’m getting better at it!


It’s All Business

Memorable Quote: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners.  I wish someone had told me.  All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.  But there is this gab.  For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.  It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.  But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.  And your taste is why your work disappoints you.  A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit.  Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.  We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.  We all go through this.  And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.  Put yourself on a deadline so that ever week you finish one piece.  It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.  And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s gonna take a while.  It’s normal to take awhile.  You just gotta fight your way through”

– Ira Glass