December 31, 2012

10 Things I will stop doing in 2013

Instead of a well-intended list of New Years resolutions, I wrote a list of the things I will stop doing in to sabotage myself 2013.  I had to dig a bit deeper and get down to specifics.  I took a hard look at myself and my bad habits personally and professionally and the impact they have on everything I do.  Hey, nobody is perfect, but it's time for me to kick the bad habits.

10.  Buying unnecessary stuff from Target, CVS and especially Sephora.

I mean, do I really need a heated eyelash curler?  A hundred lip glosses? I'd save so much money if I controlled my impulse purchases... and we all know what it's like to walk out of Target with $100 in purchases when all we needed was toothpaste.  I'm saving that extra $$.

9.  Forgetting to redeem/submit my miles on airlines.

This is me being lazy.  Free flights and upgrades are waiting.

8.  Stop watching dumb t.v.

Dumb t.v. can be a time-sucking brain cell-killer.  I'm a bit ashamed of the many times I have been flipping through the channels and catch two seconds of KUWK and it turns into two episodes.  I'm going to start watching more TED Talks instead.

December 11, 2012

Good Morning from Miami!

Good morning, sunshine!  I'm sitting at a Starbucks in Miami beach with my computer settling in for a morning of after-Art-Basel work (not such a bad office).  But first, I wanted to write a quick post about how Art Basel went!  It's so great to be in Miami, however I don't want you to think that your girl has been hanging by a pool or relaxing in the sun (although I probably should because my skin hasn't seen the sun in a couple months)!  It's been a whirlwind, fast paced and exciting week with another one ahead!

In front of Tosca with my sign!
I was originally scheduled to leave this morning, but I've had to extend my trip an extra week for work.    Aside from Art Basel, I met with a potential new agency, MC2 Miami when I landed last Tuesday.  They told me everything I wanted to hear and more. I signed. Within 24 hours, they had my comp cards made, a big job booked, online portfolio up, and had me submitted for a bunch of other big bookings that are perfect for me.  They don't mess around!  It's so refreshing to be with an agency who is on top of things and I've heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone who has worked with them. 

Back to the topic of Art Basel.  First and foremost, I need to thank every single person who came to support me at my show.  To be able to share my work and passion in such a big way is my dream come true.  The feedback was reinforcing and positive.  Thank you to my supportive boyfriend who surprised me and showed up looking handsome as ever, three nights in a row.  He is my biggest fan who encourages me to make art even on days I feel like I can't.  

I couldn't not have done this show if it weren't for the help of Stephan Fortier, whose beautiful new restaurant, Tosca (that had only been open three weeks), made for the most magical setting for my work.   I knew Tosca was going to be a beautiful restaurant, but when I came down to Miami and saw it first hand, I was blown away.  Then to see my work hanging in the garden area... it took my breath away.   If you ever should be so lucky to make a reservation here, be prepared for a night you'll never forget and have all of your expectations exceeded.  Tosca is, without doubt, the finest restaurant Miami. I am honored to have been the featured artist!

The beautiful garden area of my show.
I also need to thank Arron Rimpley from the Gallery of Amazing Things for organizing my show.  He and his team helped with the shipping of my artwork from Minnesota to Miami... which by the way, is no easy task!   The garden backdrop was his vision.   

And of course, my show was an even bigger success because of the supporters who loved my work enough to buy it.  It was so encouraging for me that they would pick my work to take home with them when there are hundreds upon hundreds of other talented artists down here to choose from. Thank you to the supporters who talked to me and let me share my story of my art and passion.  You've given me the fuel I need to keep moving forward.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I met so many inspiring and wonderful people.

December 9, 2012

A quick Art Basel Update!

Hi All!
It's the last day of Art Basel Miami  and I am writing just before I head out for the special closing party at the beautiful new James Royal Palm Hotel.  (I am also lucky enough to be staying here).  This hotel may be my new favorite place to stay in Miami.

This whole weekend was a tremendous success and I can't thank my supporters enough.  I sold two paintings and two prints!  Wow!  I met so many inspiring people.... from other artists to famous faces who all came through my show and saw my paintings.  I have so much fuel for my next show and what happens next.

I was so pleased to see myself on this weeks Huffington Post already... be sure to click this link to see the photo and credit!  Alright, I am going to get ready and head out for the last big night of Art Basel!  I don't want it all to end.

December 1, 2012

Come see me during Art Basel Miami next week!

The big week is finally here!  I've been preparing like crazy for the last two weeks getting everything ready for Art Basel Miami.  For those of you who haven't heard of what Art Basel is... well, it is THE biggest art show in all of North America.  To call it an art show is a quite the understatement... Miami turns into a whole different universe during Art Basel weekend of every top artist, gallery and "who's who" in the art world.

Yesterday, I shipped six paintings from my studio and also made prints of my favorite pieces.  I'll have something for everyone to take home! One of the paintings I shipped has not been shown to anyone yet, and I am excited to reveal it during Art Basel!  This is the biggest week of my career as an artist.  To say the least, I am pretty excited.  I am pretty lucky.

My Miami show, "Lust" will take place at the exclusive and beautiful new restaurant, Tosca, located in the epicenter of Art Basel and South Beach.  Tosca will be holding its grand opening celebration during Art Basel, so this is a great opportunity to check out one of the most anticipated new restaurants.  The event is open to everyone from 5-7pm Wed December 5th through Saturday December 8th and will take place in the garden area- which is truly a paradise come to life.  I'm welcoming everyone to come by and say hi to me and see my work.  I am very excited to share it!  We'll have cocktails and hors d'ouvres, and it will surely be a sexy night in Miami!

BIG thanks to the Gallery of Amazing Things (Dania Beach, FL) and Stephan Fortier (Fortier Creative Group) for all of their hard work coordinating my show.  

Looking forward to seeing you there! 

November 13, 2012

New Painting for Art Basel Miami

Good morning and happy Tuesday everyone! I recently finished a new painting that I am excited to share with you!  It's a large 40x60" acrylic on canvas and would look great as a focal piece in a living or dining room. The original will be going to Miami and offered for sale during Art Basel December 6-9th.  I can also make prints of in any size up to 40x60".  Email me for prices!

Here is my process for making this piece and this one... enjoy!

October 24, 2012

My acting debut...

This past weekend, I was asked to take on a new challenge: an acting role (I know, right?!) for a short film to be submitted to the 2012 National Film Challenge.  I warned producer, Justin Dehn, that I am not a professional actor, but he took a chance on me anyways. The result?  Well, you'll have to see for yourself!

The  Film Challenge requires competitors to write, produce, film and edit a short film within the 48 hour time restriction using a given genre, character, prop and dialogue line.  Thousands of people submit their short films from around the country each year. Our given genre was dark comedy, the character was a park ranger, the prop was a telephone land line and tagline is "it was like that when I got here".  It was all written, cast, produced, shot and edited (complete with special effects) in one weekend.  Many of the scenes were done in just a couple takes.

What you don't see in our film is the incredible amount of planning, effort attention to detail and people involved in making something like this- even if it is only under 8 mins long. Major credit is due to everyone who nailed their parts n front of and behind the camera on this project.  I feel so hopeful for our film and I hope it does well in the competition!


October 18, 2012

Art Basel Miami! It's on!

Last year, I wrote a post about my experience attending Art Basel in Miami where I became seriously inspired.  For those of you not familiar, Art Basel is one of the world's most premier art shows showcasing leading galleries from around the world, holding events and exhibits that left an impressive impact on me and what it means to be an artist.  After that weekend, I wanted to figure out how to earn my way into Art Basel, but I knew it would likely take 20 years of blood, sweat and tears!

Today, I received a phone call confirming that my crazy dream to show at Art Basel came true.  I am showing my work in the epicenter of Art Basel this year!  Today marks a major milestone for me as an artist! I couldn't be more excited.

I wrote in a blog post once about how when a door of opportunity opens, walking through it often provides the greatest reward, even though it may seem like a risk at the time.  I's better to have taken that chance towards something greater than to always have wondered and wished you had.  I walked through several doors this year that had "risk" written all over them, but I am glad I did.  One opportunity led to the next, which led to the next, which led to the next...

I cannot even begin to express enough gratuity to those who believed in me on this journey.  I have so much appreciation to my supporters who have helped me open doors and build a career I am proud of and love.

Alright... time to plan for Art Basel!

October 14, 2012

Larger-than-life girls are on their way to Miami...

I've finally finished these three paintings for the beautiful new restaurant, Tosca, located in the heart of South Beach.  These works are some of my largest to date- each one is about six feet tall.  I've also shared the evolution of how I made each one... they went through many dramatic changes until I was happy with them.   I was given the task of using the words "seduction", "romance" and "lust"as my inspiration behind the meaning of these paintings.
Tosca will be opening in mid-November.  I can't wait to see my work in this beautiful space... I hear it is paradise.
"Lust" 34x70"
"Romance" 34x70"
"Paradise" 34x70"

The creation process involved in making these paintings is different for each one.  I use inspiration photos to help me with the anatomy of the figure, but mostly make up the colors and texture as I go.  Along the way, I photograph each change where I am able to see the painting from a different perspective.  Sometimes I notice things in a photo that I wouldn't necessarily standing in front of it. I completely change colors, shapes and sometimes the entire subject until I am happy with it.

The evolution of "Lust"  I did not like my first attempt and started over.  I kept the background texture of vintage postcards and papers, but that's it.

The evolution of "Paradise".  

The evolution of "Romance".  I used an old photo of Cindy Crawford as inspiration- you can see it taped to the top of my canvas.  The background is a collage of vintage postcards and papers. 

October 4, 2012

New Photos by the amazing Kevin White!

Modeling is in some ways like acting... you really have to believe you are someone else for a minute and let go of what you think might look "pretty" to get a killer shot.

Thanks Kevin, Terra and Sarah.  I loved shooting with all of you! xoxo

Click first image to see them all larger in portfolio view.

Photography: Kevin White
Hair and Makeup by Terra Henrichs.
Styling by Sarah Cochran

October 2, 2012

Can summer stay a little longer?!

I just received a few images from a shoot with photographer Jeff Johnson which reminded me of how great my summer in Minnesota was.  I am in denial that summer is coming to an end, but I can feel the winter creeping in already!  If any of you reading this has ever experienced a winter in Minnesota, you probably understand my nervousness towards winter.  I am going to miss running around Lake Calhoun!

Photo by Jeff Johnson

Instead of allowing myself to be depressed about the winter that is inevitably coming, I thought I would take a moment to reflect upon my summer and share gratitude.  I reached some milestones this summer!  I got an art studio, had a successful art show in NYC and am maintaining my work as a model while living in Minnesota... I am so grateful for this and I'll admit, some days I get scared it will all come crashing to an end. This summer was also full of personal growth and future planning for me.  I guess everyone goes through this in their mid-late 20's.  It was a time to dig deep into my soul and figure out how I want to spend my time on this earth.  Right, like I will ever have that totally figured out.

This summer, I focused on surrounding myself with wonderful people (made some new relationships and even rekindled some old ones) that have undoubtedly made my life richer in ways I can't describe.  I've practiced being a better listener and a better friend.  Good relationships are key.  We are all a reflection of the people we have around us... so pick your relationships wisely!

Happy Fall!  Get out and enjoy this weather before it's too cold...

August 29, 2012

Your greatest gift...

I woke up at 6am this morning, an hour and a half earlier than usual, but not because I had do.  I had no booking to rush to, airplane to catch, casting or meeting to attend, just a day working at my studio on my own schedule (which is baffling to some people, I know).  Mornings are my most creative and ambitious time of day. As l lay there in bed in the dark, a million thoughts came flooding into my brain.  For whatever reason, today I decided that successful people don't waste time asleep, and closer to 6am would be my new wakeup time. The truth is, no one is making me wake up this early, but why wouldn't I? And why did it take me so long to realize this?!  I took a moment to reflect on my life and the opportunity I have to wake up at 6am to pursue my dreams and goals on this planet.  I had a bit of an epiphany: this might be one of the best gifts I can give myself: to get up and take full advantage of the most ambitious time of day!  Let me explain.

Perhaps my trips working in very poor countries and traveling the other parts of the world has made one thing very clear to me... in America, we are so undeniably lucky and anything we want to do and achieve is possible.  People from certain other countries would do anything to live here and have the opportunities you and I have, and we get that opportunity freely each day.  Today I decided that sleeping past 6am wasn't taking advantage of my opportunities... and any other successful person in this country wasn't sleeping.  They are running businesses, changing the world, have families, teach, give, contribute, create.   Every second we are put on this earth is a new opportunity for change to happen, new doors to open and new relationships to be made.  I concluded to myself that the only reason a person can't be successful in this country has to come down to one thing: pure laziness.

I also took a moment to ask myself if I was contributing anything meaningful to the world and how I could be doing more. I decided that I could be a better friend, a better girlfriend, share my gifts (art) with others and give more to others- in fact, I am sure we all have room for improvement! We all need a sense of purpose and meaning, and I think this happens best when you find a way to contribute to the world or someone else's life.  I am reminded of those in my life who do this daily and I admire because of their contributions: my boyfriend- the professional speaker who changes people's lives each day with his positive words. My nutritionist: who educates hundreds of people around the country to make healthier choices ultimately saving their lives. My friend who owns a St. Paul dog shelter and finds innocent animals loving homes. Our educators, mentors, inventors, givers, role models of the world... our next President Elect. My point is- it's our privilege as human beings to help others and make a change. 

Lastly, nothing bothers me more than someone who gives up and can't stay committed to their goals and dreams.  I have a hard time understanding how people can accept mediocrity in life and throw in the towel when things get uncomfortable. Your achievements and goals are supposed to be tough and uncomfortable.  It is a part of the victory once you get to the top of where you are going.  There is no excuse to not wake up each day and be persistent with your dreams and goals.  If you want it, get it! Quitting: never acceptable.

So, here's a quick recap of my morning epiphany:
The greatest gift in life is not one that anyone else can give you, but it's one that you can give yourself.  It's the feeling you get when you take full advantage of life's opportunities, accomplish something meaningful and refuse to give up on your dreams.

Oh, and for the record, I will not be voluntarily waking up at 6am on weekends.  A girl's still gotta get her beauty rest!  
"...for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" -Steve Jobs

July 16, 2012

Why is our food killing us?

This is a new kind of post for me, but a topic I'm obsessed with.

I've recently embarked on a journey to get into the best physical/mental shape of my life.  Why?  Well for one, there is no better time than right now, two, it's part of my job, and three, I am frustrated by some physical "problems" that I couldn't ignore any more.  The mental fog, lack of energy, blood sugar highs and lows, cravings, having breakouts in my late-er 20's.  I couldn't help but notice that my physical "problems" always were made worse or better by the foods I put into my body, but there is so much misleading information out there that I didn't even know what's good for me anymore. Organic, natural, gluten free, Paleo diets, South Beach Diets, Atkins diets, preservatives, antibiotics, chemicals...does it even make a difference?  Ah, it's all enough to make your head explode. So, I've made a huge effort to figure this out. I have read about 15 books in the last few weeks, met with a nutrition counselor, three doctors and took a nutrition course and spent a lot of $$ to get to the bottom of it. What I learned changed my life, and I feel it's my duty to share what I learned!  I will quickly write about the biggest changes I have made that offer a solution to my healthy journey.

Two of my biggest personal problems were keeping my skin clear (while piling on tons of makeup for my job) and keeping my blood sugar stable so that I don't have so many ups and downs in my mood. Most of us have swinging blood sugar, but we are so used to it that we think it's normal.  We drink coffee to compensate or reach for sweets when we crash.  That was me.  I met with a dermatologist and two doctors to find the answer to my problem.  One doctor's solution was "Oh, you have  ADHD, we should put you on drugs to keep your brain "balanced and normal" like everyone else.  Oh great, so now I am not normal? One doctor said, "You have a hormone imbalance, so lets put you on synthetic hormones (birth control), but there are some serious side effects, but don't worry". Sure, add more hormones (synthetic, foreign unnatural ones) to an already unbalanced problem... right.  The dermatologist suggested the last two antibiotics that I hadn't yet tried over the years... which to my own personal experience only makes more problems.   Nothing was ever mentioned about my diet... in fact one doctor flat out denied my diet had anything to do with my moodiness.  I did not fill any of the suggested prescriptions.  Drugs were a band-aid to cover up the real problems that have been plaguing me for years... which prompted me to my next move.

Deeply frustrated, I met with Darline Kvist , founder of the Nutritional Weight and Wellness Center in St. Paul.  Darlene is a licensed nutritionist specializing is complex health problems, a book author, the host of a popular radio show on nutrition and a nutrition educator.   Lots of people in my shoes come to her when they are fed up by conventional medicine. More than any other doctor I have seen, Darlene has actually, truly helped me.  She talked with me for an hour and a half (she stayed an extra half hour when she didn't have to) and asked me all the important questions: about my family history, what I eat, what I don't eat, what kind of drugs/supplements I currently take and what kind of stress I have in my life.  She concluded that I do not have ADHD, nor is there such a thing, I simply was intolerant to a lot of the foods that I thought were so good for me which caused the mental fog (ADHD).  One doctor was right, I do have a hormone imbalance, but in order to fix it, the body would need to balance on it's own... not by use of pumping more synthetic hormones into it. My hormone imbalance was brought on by my sugar and carbohydrate consumption and some other avoidable mistakes.  The best part is, all of this can be fixed...without drugs.  My diet got me here, my diet can get me out.

The first thing Darlene told me is that I have a gluten sensitivity.  I needed to cut it out.   Little did I know, cutting this out of my diet would be the most significant change I've made for my health in my life. In fact, many of us need to cut it out of our diets, but no doctor will ever tell you this. What is gluten?  A naturally occurring protein found in the wheat grain.  So why is it so bad?  Because the wheat we consume today is nothing like the wheat our great-grandparents used. Modern wheat has been so genetically alerted that it is nothing like original wheat grains- it's a whole new species of overly processed, nutritionally void, super-carboydrate. Modern wheat is such a simple carb that it rushes into your bloodstream faster than pure white table sugar.  Yup.  It is true, my slice of so-called "healthy whole grain" bread was spiking my blood sugar twice as fast as a Snickers bar... ultimately sending my insulin levels through the roof creating hormonal imbalances, stress on every organ in my body and showing physical signs in the form of a pimple right before a photo shoot.  Consume wheat products regularly, and your body is on a constant roller coaster making it impossible to stay focused, lose weight or control cravings.  And, wheat (gluten) is in EVERYTHING, so our bodies are having to process an excess amount of this simple-super-carb when it wasn't made to handle this.  If you want an EXCELLENT read on what wheat is doing/does to our bodies, read Wheat Belly.  Darlene recommended this and it changed my view on food forever.

Another killer, which most of us know, is sugar.  High fructose corn syrup, sucrose, "raw sugar", honey, etc.  It's all the same.  It spikes your blood sugar and it is inflammatory in every organ of your body.  It's a foreign substance that the body has a hard time processing.  Sugar is in everything, too. Carbs turn to sugar in your bloodstream, as most of us know, but this fact is interesting: for every four grams of carbohydrate you consume, it equals to one teaspoon of sugar in your body.  Unfortunately, much of the modern American diet seems to consist of mostly processed carbs and sugars which is why the obesity and diabetes epidemic running parallel to our diets.  We need to change this.

In my particular case, I have chosen to cut out soy, dairy, gluten and sugar, but I believe that the gluten and sugar were the two most evident health killers.  If there is anything most people should change in their diets if they want to lose weight, feel better and look better, it would be these two things above all.  Sugar of all kinds, all processed foods made of any kind of flour and even diet sodas are killing us a slow, fat death.  

So why, even though people have more access to healthy food and unlimited resources to educate ourselves, are we still poisoning our bodies with the bad stuff?  Well, for one, I think advertising has much to do with it.  We are confused.  Take McDonalds for example.  They quickly adjusted their menu to offer "healthier" versions of their consumable product. And, it's cheap! At the end of the day, it's still a bad product loaded with simple carbs, bad fats, sugar, highly processed and low quality meats, but those fluffy billboards and cheery commercials help us to associate McD's with something better than what it is.  Another thing that gets me is when a product slaps the label "natural" on it.  The USDA does not regulate the word natural (so that places like Wal-Mart can label their processed foods with a healthy claim) and you can be tricked into thinking it's organic and healthy.  Read the ingredients label and make sure everything is natural. To be truly natural or organic, a product must include this official seal:
If there are any two things you choose to buy organic, it should be your meets and eggs.  It's better for you and better for the animals. If you choose to consume dairy, buying this without added hormones and antibiotics is wise.

As for me and my new journey?  Well, I am not a doctor and I don't have scientific evidence to prove this, but what I am experiencing right now is truly incredible.  I'm talking, life changing incredible. It's been two weeks since I have switched to a high protein (free range eggs, grass fed meats) and veggie diet with lots of good fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil etc).  I've also supplemented my diet with Omega 3,6 and 9, good bacteria, a multi-vitamin, zinc for my skin and vitamin D, per Darlene's request. Within three days of removing gluten, a mental fog I'd been living with for years went away.  I am sharper, more creative and have so much more energy than coffee ever gave to me.  Two weeks later and physically I can see my body changing more rapidly than ever before. I was at a physical plateau before, but just this little diet change has made the biggest impact on my physical appearance- the stubborn "problem areas" melted away.  I have much more endurance when I run and I recover twice as fast. The puffy feeling I had from eating wheat carbs was no joke!!  My eyes are brighter, skin is better, I sleep better and I have zero mood swings or sugar/carb cravings.  Why did I ignore this for so long?  Because I, like many other people, was tricked into believing I needed my "whole grains" as a healthy part of my diet.   

So why would we keep manufacturing food products that are killing us, but market them as healthy food product? Financial gains, for one.  Kelloggs would be out of business if people knew that buying Trix is no different than buying Wheaties.  If we want to manage our health crisis (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc) we need to stop tricking our people into eating poisonous foods that doom their chances for health, but we know this isn't going to happen. We need more education programs about making healthy food choices. Our doctors need more education on nutrition, not drugs, because I truly believe they just don't have enough education on nutrition. It seems like an impossible task, I know.  Share this post if you're on the same page.

Education is key.  These are great reads that will change your lifestyle:
The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Sugar Nation, Jeff O' Connel
Medication Madness, Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
Wheat Belly, William Davis, M.D. 

July 12, 2012

New Cover, a TV Show and a new agency!

I am keeping optimistic about what's about to happen in the next couple months! I am looking forward to elevating my modeling career by adding a new agency very soon!  Once contracts are in place, I will tell you which agency I sign with.  I had to make some changes to my representation this year (which was hard to because I truly loved my old bookers), but necessary to keep moving forward.

I am also so excited about a t.v. show concept that I've been in the midst of working on over the last couple months.  I've kept it quiet until now, but things are coming into fruition which means I can mention it!  I am working with the very talented group of people at Match/Cut Productions in Minneapolis who are best known for their work producing the popular show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.  The show concept we are working on was actually their awesome idea, and all I can tell you is that is is a meaningful docu-series. It is willfully entertaining at my expense but mostly aiming to be inspirational and empowering.  We filmed the sizzle and it's being pitched soon. Fingers crossed!

On the art side of my world, I am working on having another big show at the end of summer.  This time I am bringing it all back to my home state of Minnesota.  I'd love to have any of my blog followers come as well as all of my fellow Minnesota friends.  Location is still being locked down, but it will be in Minneapolis. I am trying to think of a great charity or foundation tie-in right now.  Thoughts on your favorites?  

Lastly, if you happen to be near a newsstand this week, look for me on the cover of First Magazine again this month (wink)!  I also have some new photos peppered into in my "model book" page on my blog.

July 2, 2012

Random Acts of Kindess

Every once in a while, a complete stranger restores my faith in how there are really good people out there in this world. When someone does something nice for me when they didn't have to, it gives me the duty to then return the favor to someone else out there.  Here's a recent story about a stranger who was exceptionally nice to me, which in turn began a chain reaction.

A brilliant young writer, Casie (follow her @KaceeMaree) reached out to me from my blog and asked to meet with LittleOldMe to write a piece about my artwork.  Of course, I would be happy to meet with her and talk about my artwork (duh). We sat at a coffee joint and had the most pleasant conversation- I started by warning her she could stop me if I began rambling on too much.  As I was about to leave, she handed me a box with a gift.  Wow! She actually took the time and thought of giving me a gift in exchange for listening to me blabber on forever about myself.  Who does that?  I was blown away. The gift itself was even more special... she saw from a recent tweet that my favorite coffee shop was the Bad Waitress in Uptown, so she stopped and bought me a gift card (which I promptly used).  Thoughtful and unexpected!

Casie didn't have to give me a gift. But because she did, she filled me with a renewed desire to do good to strangers in my life as well.  Gifts and good deeds are truly genuine when the giver expects nothing in return and aren't seeking recognition for what they did.  Often, the best gifts are anonymous.

I believe, the best gifts you can give don't even have to cost you anything: letting someone in a hurry go ahead of you in line at the airport, complimenting a stranger on how much you like the way their style, calling someone just to tell them you miss them, a hand-written note, emailing someone to tell them you admire their work. It just feels good in your soul.  Think about it, you can make yourself feel good by making others feel good!  Don't be afraid to do it.  What's to lose?

Lastly,  I just received the draft from Casie, and I am thoroughly impressed.  I'll post her article when it's published. 

June 26, 2012

Eight tips for taking GREAT photos-every time!

I received a tweet this morning from  @goshery who prompted me to do this post after mentioning her fear of having to do a company photo shoot today. Have no fear!  I hope this post gets to her in time.  For @goshery and everyone who dreads taking photos or for those who want to take a more flattering vacation photo, here are my tried and tested tips:

1. Angle hips away from camera. Avoid taking a photo straight-on as this makes you appear wider than you are.
2.  Tall people have long necks, so fake it if you're not tall!  Elongating your neck makes you appear thinner and taller. Avoid hunching or hiding your neck in your hair or a big collar.
3.  To avoid that "tortured, fake and unnatural smile" because the camera is taking forever to flash, look away from camera, and when it's about to flash, quickly look back into lens for more natural smile and facial expression.  Don't try to hold an awkward smile for a million seconds while the camera operator is fumbling with buttons, unless you're really good at smiling like Miss America.
4.  Ever wonder why we say "cheese" and not "potato" or "happy birthday" when you're taking a photo?  Because when you're saying "cheese" it appears you are smiling naturally, tightens your vocal cords in a flattering way and allows you to hold what looks like a smile while waiting for the camera to flash.  Even the Grinch can look happy.  And if you don't want to actually say "cheese" out loud, just go through the action without the sound and you'll get the same effect. Try it in a mirror!
5.  Watch your arms!  Be natural. Don't over-pose (hand on the hip, trying too hard) especially when you're standing next to grandma- it just looks silly.  Don't crush arms into your side making them appear larger.  Let them hang naturally and hold them slightly away from your body and angle your thumbs towards camera to make your arms thinner. Put one hand in your front jeans pocket for a relaxed look if you don't know what to do with your arms (but keep a thumb out or you'll look like you are missing a hand). I bet you will notice this trick next time you look at a model in a magazine.
6.  When taking group photos- add some interest!  Direct everyone to look like they are "the best of friends and ready to have the best time of their lives!" which always works to get everyone a bit more energetic and engaged with each other in the photo.  In my opinion, group photos are the perfect opportunity to take a funny or goofy shot... always winners.
7.  Choose your background wisely- it seems obvious, but avoid having a bunch of clutter or distracting objects in the background.  Photo-bombers can ruin a great photo- unless the "bombing" is intentional!
8. This one is my "advanced" tip that I suggest you try with people who don't think you're insane first. For a more natural and energetic photo with movement... try taking one step forward into the camera.  It might feel awkward and unnatural, but your body will fall into a natural movement that won't look too posed.  Ever notice how much cooler photos in magazines look when the figures are walking forward? You might even catch a breeze under your hair which adds great movement to photos... double bonus!

I even did a quick sketch of a bunch of pretty safe poses for y'all! Click to view larger.

I leave you with a few awesome Awkward Family Photos.  There are more here.   For now, happy photo-taking!

June 4, 2012

A wonderful published article in NY's Faster Times

It is always a bit scary at first to read what someone else has written and published about something as personal as... oh... say your own self.  And your artwork.  But, this article left me happy.

I was interviewed by NYC writer Kyle Kouri for the Faster Times just before my art show. He came over and saw my work on display, asked me a bunch of standard and personal questions and then we ended our conversation by taking a quick stroll outside as I was going back to my hotel.  We happened to pass one of my favorite cupcake shops in NYC, where of course I raved about my obsession.  Little did I know, this would get written about too!  Yes, I love cupcakes.

Here is the link to the article.  It's a very wonderful visual of the event and my story through someone else's eyes.  The style of writing makes makes me feel like I am re-living the event all over again.  Love it.

Art Show: Valerie Carpender and the National Foundation for Veteran Redeployment

Let me know what you think!

May 31, 2012

Just the beginning... my first NYC Art Show & Fundraiser for the NFVR

THANK YOU, thank you, thank you to everyone who came to see my artwork in New York City last week.  It was such a tremendous honor to be able to meet so many new faces and share my passion with everyone while supporting a foundation that is important to me, the NFVR.  Half of all sales from the night were given to veterans facing the current unemployment crisis.  Everyone felt good about being there.

Having the show in NYC last week was probably one of the more profound and incredible experiences I've had in my life.  I will never forget it!  I found myself leaving New York energized and excited about the next event.   To everyone who took home a piece of art, you took home a piece of a very special moment in my life, and made a difference to a deserving veteran's life.  This is just the beginning of taking small steps towards something greater.

I learned a highly valuable lesson on authenticity from sharing my artwork with an enormous room of strangers.  People connected with, talked about and bought the pieces that (to me) were the most vulnerable, raw and unapologetic in their message or subject matter.  Allowing myself to create such vulnerable and real artwork is not easy, but it really is the key to making a great painting- it's the key to being a happy person in general. Authenticity requires no explanation or justification, it is universally acknowledged and understood.

Typically when trying to pull off an event of this scale for the first time, a million things inevitably go wrong.  Somehow, we pulled it off.  This wouldn't have been possible without some extraordinary people who deserve major thanks. Here I go:

Thank you to Ryan Estis, for introducing me to Scot Cohen, founder of the NFVR and host of the event which opened so many doors for me. Thank you to the veterans who attended (in uniform might I add) as the night was as much about you as it was about anything else. Thank you to Rajiv Srinivasin, CEO of the NFVR, Max Teicher for pushing me to produce the best art I've ever made, Molly Harris, our event coordinator who made the night flawless and to the beautiful models who elegantly talked about the theme of my show as it relates to them and helped sell my work.  Thank you to the writers who took the time to get to know me and share my story.   And of course, thank you to those who bought art from me, to my friends who came from afar, and to the new friends I met. Thank you all for sharing such a special night with me.

I am truly blessed.  My journey in this life is not one I take for granted.

To enjoy photos at full size, click on the first one and use arrow keys to navigate.

The incredible space.

Rajiv Srinivasan, CEO of the NFVR (right)

Tom (left) was the first to purchase a piece of my art!  Martha (right) came all the way from Miami.

Champagne for everyone. Awesome.
Scot, Rajiv, Max and I talking during the event.
I am glad I spoke before Rajiv, because he did such an incredible job talking about the NFVR that no one would have listened to me had I gone after him.

One of the best things anyone has ever written about my artwork!  Thank you, Ryan.

Molly, you did a great job coordinating everything!
Rebecca, Scott, me, Ryan and Rajiv. 
The first painting(s) of the night that were sold.