The Year the Cherry Blossoms (mostly) Quit

Tidal Basin’s Cherry Blossoms on March 16, 2017

Well, it seems that this year the national cherry trees and mother nature got into a nasty battle, leaving the cherry trees a bit worse for the wear.  A warm winter led to early blooming and a mid-March snow crushed the blossoms.  What does that leave?

Less cherry blossoms.  Only half the blooms survived and should (hopefully) peak later this week.  They are inspirations and money makers for so many sectors of Washington: from cupcakes to tourism to bars.  Is the cherry blossom spirit dead?

Cherry Blossom season is a big deal in Washington, DC!  Everyone looks forward to the arrival of the pastel, pink flowers, signaling spring and the warm weather to come.  A huge festival even celebrates the gift of the cherry blossom trees from Japan, who graciously gifted us  the 3,000 cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin in 1912.

“Cherry Blossom Squared,” 2016. Oil on canvas.

The cherry blossoms have been a huge inspiration to me, as well as many other artists, so I thought it appropriate to pay homage to them in this post.  Looking for a cherry blossom fix?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Pop-up Bar dedicated to everything Cherry Blossoms: Cherry Blossom Pub (1841 7th Street, NW)

2.  My favorite flavor Georgetown Cupcake:  Cherry Blossom and Cherry Cheesecake

3.  Drink of choice: Cherry Blossom martini

4:  There is a macaron for that too:  check out @BettyRockerSweets and Olivia Macarons

5.  Artwork:  Cherry blossom season can last all year with a bloomed cherry tree on canvas

DC’s Notorious Cherry Blossoms, 2016. Oil on Canvas.

I am a Washington transplant  and one of the reasons I bought my house was the 4 cherry trees adorning my front yard.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will bloom this year, as they are later bloomers than the type on the Tidal Basin.  As the snow melts and the buds form, watch my instagram page for pink updates: @jkb.art.

 

In the meantime, I was lucky to be invited to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Pink Tie Party Fundraiser, celebrating all things that (should be) pink in DC right now.  I will leave you with some pics of the awesome event.  Viva the cherry blossoms!

Packing my Bags and Moving to Napa!

I am moving to Napa Valley.  Or Sausalito.  I have been very fortunate to have been to many beautiful places in my life (South of France, Italy, The Algarve, Crete) and now I have one more location to add to the list: Northern California.

For my big birthday, I was so lucky to celebrate, first in the the hip city of San Francisco and then on to Napa Valley.  Amongst the wine tasting and great meals, I truly fell in love with the landscape.

The blue/purple mountains surround the warm, rust branches of the grape vineyards, and then are set against the chartreuse green grass.  It was truly breathtaking!!  I spent most of my time painting the landscape in my mind.  And it was not even peak season.

No, no, it was not the wine talking!!  As anyone who knows me well, probably finds great humor in me vineyard hopping, as I am not a big drinker, to say the least.

The artist in me is ready to pack my easel, palette, and canvases, and move to Napa.  I would retire my still lifes and reinvent myself as a plein air painter in order to soak up the glorious scenery and enjoy each season of the wine making cycle.  The East-Coaster in me might even get past the fact that it rains and its sunny at the same time.

For now, I dream.

Western Excursion by Slidely Slideshow

March 13, 2017

What is your Favorite Hamantaschen Filling?

What is your favorite flavor hamantaschen?  Traditional (apricot, raspberry, prune, poppy seed)?  Creative, modern twists (cookie dough, chocolate, dulce de leche, savory)?  ‘Tis the time of year to seek out the best hamantaschen or try your hand at making them yourself (although I will admit, I paint them much better than I bake them).

Hamantaschen are triangular cookies made out of a delicious shortbread or cookie dough and filled any or all of the fillings mentioned above.  Hamantaschen cookies help celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews.  The three corners of the cookie resembles the three cornered hat worn by evil Haman.

I painted my first Hamantaschen in 2014 and, clearly, I was not finished with the subject.  From the same bakery as before, Flakowitz Deli of Boynton Beach, FL, I chose the rich, jewel tone filling of raspberry, for the appropriately named painting “Raspberry Hamantaschen,” 2017.   Yes, both times I asked either my mom or grandma to carefully wrap them up, put them in their carry on bag, and fly them to me.  They must really love me, as they never asked questions.  Good thing they both love to share good food!

Purim is a festive, fun holiday filled with costumes, food filled baskets, and lots of hamantaschen.  This year, 2017, Purim begins at sundown on Saturday, March 11.  Therefore, you only have a couple days left  to find these delectable treats in bakeries near you.

Diving Off A Cliff at Forty

This week I enter into my 40s.  My big birthday feels momentous and perfectly ordinary at the same time.

As a child I can’t recall ever thinking past being in my late 30s.  Perhaps, at the time of me wondering about the future, my mother was nearing 40.  Regardless of the reason, before I turned 40, I hoped for a family and to have some sort of successful, artsy career.

Age Forty and after, I come up blank.  No childhood expectations or dreams.  I feel like I am diving off a cliff with no preconceived notions or pressures.  It is exhilarating.

There is nothing like a big birthday to make you reflect your life, and with that I am no exception.
My first decade, allowed me to learn the ways of the world, social graces, and literally how put one foot in front of the other.  My teenage years were was spent tackling a chronic, autoimmune disease and dealing with teenage angst.  In my twenties, I was still finding my footing, graduating from college, moving to DC, finding my life-long friends, and eventually meeting my husband.  Then, my thirties were are all about babies:  infertility, miscarriages, (very fortunately) child-rearing.

So, where does that leave my FORTIES?  I am not exactly sure, but I do know it is blissfully wide open, without preconceived notions.  No more teenage angst, my health is good, and I know who I am.    I look forward to focusing on myself, my art, and my family and seeing where this next decade leads!

Geronimo!

Hmm..now that leaves me with a very important question…what kind of birthday cake do I want???

 

Can you Flip It?

Two months have passed since the end of ‘Capital Palette’ at The Mansion at Strathmore in Rockville, MD.  The exhibit then moved to its new home in the Comcast Lounge at Strathmore’s Music Hall.

The nine months leading up to the opening were such a whirlwind that even two months later, I am still digesting the experience and all the lessons learned.  In order to summarize the exhibition and place my efforts into one digital place, I created the an e-Flip book.  It was so fun and satisfying to put together.

The burgeoning DC food scene is growing wider and more vibrant every day and I am thrilled that, as an artist and oil painter, I got to play a part in culinary DC.   Spreading the foodie love is what it is all about.

‘Capital Palette’ will be up at in the Comcast Lounge through June 2017.  However, my quest for awesome foods in DC is ongoing, so if you have a great suggestion, don’t keep it to yourself!  Please share.

How Do You Manage it All?

‘How do you manage it all?’  This is probably the most asked question by people who know me well.  My answer?  Not always elegantly.

I am a full time artist and also a full time mom.  My kids are still young, 8 and 5, and still require lots of hands on attention.  In addition, my hard-working husband travels 30-40 percent of the year so much of the home dealings fall on me.

I do have some tricks and tips to keeping it all together:

  1. I look at my schedule each week and pick 3-5 days (depending on what is going on that week) that will be painting days.  On these days, after I drop the kids off at school, I head directly to my studio and usually don’t surface until it is time to pick them up from school.
  2.  I keep a monthly calendar to plan out my blog posts and Facebook posts, along with show entry information and exhibition schedules.
  3. Lately, I have been experimenting with buffer.com and other scheduling tools, so I don’t have to be glued to my computer the moment I want a post to go live.
  4. At the beginning of each week, I write down the goals I want to accomplish for the week.  These goals can  include anything from which painting(s) to work on to creating my monthly newsletter.

As I mentioned, it is not always an elegant process and there are definitely set-backs.  I try to remind myself that my kids are only young once.  I need to stay organized and ahead of myself, because I want to enjoy both my amazing jobs – artist and mother.

“Broken Dreams,” 2014 was inspired by the notion that my children had pushed over my precious French Macarons. The original set up for this painting had kids toys in the background.

 

Valentine’s Day Junkie?

I am not a Valentine’s Day junkie.  It may seem from all my posts lately and my affinity for painting sweet treats that Valentine’s Day is my favorite day of the year. Actually, quite the contrary.

While the 8 year old girl inside me loves the bright, warm colors and glittery hearts everywhere, Valentine’s Day is just another day.  My husband and I never have really made a big deal out of it.  I don’t need romance or roses (however, I never will say no to a good box of chocolates).  This past Saturday, we were able to grab a quick dinner, just the two of us with no kids to whine or complain while we chewed our meal, and as we left the restaurant he half-joked, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

For me Valentine’s Day 2017 will be all about my kids.  I want them to feel a day of magic, love, glitter, hearts, and treats!  I will shower them with affection and tell them how much I love them.  I will attend my daughter’s class Valentine’s Day party, which is one of the highlights of the year for her.  And I will give them small, fun gifts and, yes of course, some candy.  Hopefully, they will repay the love and share the candy with me.

And my husband?  Well I don’t fully subscribe to the notion of Valentine’s Day romance, but I do think it is a great reminder to pause and tell those around you how much they mean to you.  Days in my household are busy and I definitely forget to stop and say, “I love you” as much as I should to him.  Yes, it is sad that I need a Hallmark holiday to do just that, but sometimes I need a big, pink glittery heart to hit me upside the head to get my act in gear.

However you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), Happy Valentine’s Day.  Enjoy.  Then go to the store tomorrow and buy your favorite candy, at a discount.

valentine video

Top Online Sweet Treats for your Valentine 💗 (expanded)

My newsletter readers got a preview of this special list last week.  Here is an EXPANDED version…

“Take A Chance,” oil on canvas, 18×24. Inspired by Anna Shea Chocolates.

In case you have missed the flower commercials, drug store candy displays, or Hallmark ads, Valentine’s Day is ONE week from today!!

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was a special day in our house.  Our parents showered us with kisses, cards, presents, and, of course, sweets!  It was always a bright spot in the middle of a dreary, cold Boston winter.  For us, Valentine’s Day was not associated with romantic love interests; it was sharing a little affection and treats with those around you.

Why not continue the tradition? I have composed a list of my favorite online sweet treats’ stores, so you too can indulge someone you love – no trip to the store necessary!

  1. Olivia Macarons – Gorgeous macaron gift boxes
  2. Anna Shea Chocolates – Attention Chocolate Lovers! Tasty & gorgeous (see inspired painting below)
  3. Baked By Melissa – Cutest thumbnail-sized cupcakes, muffins, & macarons
  4. Junior’s Cheesecake – Straight from NYC -cheesecake lovers rejoice
  5. The Popcorn Factory – Don’t care for sweets?  Flavored popcorn rocks
  6. My Grandma’s Coffee Cake – A bit unconventional, but who doesn’t love a coffee cake?  And this is hands down the best (sorry, mom).
  7. Shari’s Berries – Chocolate covered Strawberries SCREAM V-Day and YUM!
  8. Sugarfina – Candy Bento box?  Yes, please!
  9. Wild Blueberry Bakeshop – The most PERFECT and delicious custom cookies
  10. Wicked Good Cupcakes – I have only had their pie in jar, but I can’t wait to try their cupcakes in a jar!!

“Bathing Strawberry,” oil on canvas, 11×14

Make a special one’s day and indulge them with messages of love, hearts, and perhaps chocolate!

Happy Valentine’s to All!

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“Decadence,” oil on canvas, 12×12

Haven’t Seen ‘Chef’s Table’? Maybe you should.

Attention foodies, artists, visionaries, story-buffs, and pop culture addicts – ‘Chef’s Table’ is for you!

Now you don’t have to be all of the above to enjoy and appreciate Netflix’s documentary series, ‘Chef’s Table,” you just need to fall into one category.  Honestly, if you don’t care for food and fine dining, this show is still deeply moving and inspiring.  If you don’t care for art, enjoy the food.  Each episode of the series (season 3 begins February 17) profiles a single world-renowned chef.  From Dan Barber of Blue Hill Restaurant in New York to Francis Atala of D.O.M in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  This series spans the globe and you will meet chef’s from the top restaurants in the world.

Each episode chronicles the life, journey, inspiration, trials, and influences of each top chef.  These chefs are not the made for tv, game-show chefs, they are the real deal.  Each episode inspires me be become a better artist, as these culinary artists share their paths to success and sometimes failure.  The common thread amongst them all includes grit, aspiration, and love of food.  Each amazing chef has a unique message and brand they embody, which in turn is passed on to their cooking and restaurants.

Clearly, I can not taste the food through the television.  However, based on the description of some dishes, I have NO interest in tasting; however, on a visual level they are works of art, the color and texture sings.  Some dishes should be mounted on canvas and hung in a museum.  The precision in plating and the complex decisions that go into making the dishes look like works of art are extraordinary and something to revere.

Have you seen ‘Chef’s Table?’  What feelings does the show leave you with?
Not seen it yet?  Watch it and get back to me. 🙂  Here is a sneak peak at the original trailer here.
It’s worth it.

 

Black Salt DC’s Pastry Chef, Susan Wallace hard at work in “Childhood Dream Realized,” 2015.

 

 

Can Art Bring you to Tears?

Almost every art lover can name one: the exhibition that brought him or her to their knees and tears to their eyes.

They will remember the location, works of art, and circumstances that surrounded their visit.  It will have crept into their soul and they would have left slightly transformed.  Regardless of the medium, the message, or the venue, the exhibition will stay with them forever.

In summer of 2002, after 2 years of practicing soul-sucking transfer pricing, I was luckily laid off from the obliterated Arthur Anderson.  From there I embarked on a European journey with a friend and a rental car.  After time in Italy, France, England, and Switzerland, we found ourselves on the northern coast of Spain.  Where does an avid art lover go when they are in northern Spain?  The Guggenheim Bilbao.

We had no knowledge of what exhibition was on display when we arrived.  We had no cell phones and only occasionally came across an internet cafe (remember those?), so everything was blind luck.  Honestly, I just wanted to see and witness the incredible architectural marvel that is the building of the Guggenheim Bilbao, everything else was bonus.  Boy did I get a bonus!  The current exhibition upon our arrival was “Paris:  Capital of the Arts 1900-1968.

“Henri Matisse” 1905 by Andre Derain

The exhibition “traced the major developments in painting and sculpture that took place in Paris throughout the first seven decades of the twentieth century, and reflected the narrative of historical and political events that changed the character of the city during this period.”  according to the official literature.  The Fauves, the post-impressionists are amongst my favorites and they were all there, in this spectacular building, showing how the history of one of my favorite cities shaped these incredible and historically significant artists and their art.

As the icing on the cake, the painting “Henri Matisse” a portrait by André Derain, the famous Fauve was included in the exhibition.  I had spent weeks copying this exact painting, as a culmination of my studies of the Fauvist* movement for my high school AP art class.  Upon seeing this painting in person, after examining every last detail in print for weeks on end , tears poured down my face and the years between the two instances faded away.  It was one of the most moving artistic experiences I have ever had.

To remind me of that inspiring, earth-moving visit, even 15 years later, I still have the exhibition poster, framed, hanging in my house.  I hope one day my children ask me about it.

Have you been moved to tears over an exhibition?  Or perhaps a performance?  I would love to hear about it.

 

*Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for “the wild beasts”), a loose group of early twentieth-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism, as defined by Wikipedia.