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to start

New year and new beginnings. The first week of the first semester has ended. I’m feeling a little bleary and smeared, so the out of focus iPhone pictures(what is the point of an iPhone if it doesn’t take crisp photos?) seem appropriate.

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I like beginnings. New year or not, it’s hard to feel like something is beginning during winter, but school is a better way to mark it. I think I’ll manage this semester better than the last because I’m not going in blind. I hope to fumble less.

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first semester: the end

Ooh, and 2016! Yes to the end of 2016! Let us construct a 2016 wickerman woven out of memes and broken dreams!

My first semester at PAFA is coming to an end. I must admit to being relieved. It’ll be nice to spend the next month not being covered in a fine grit of charcoal and pastel.

I am so grateful to be here, but, just as I knew it would, it has beaten me up. And that, of course, is all down to me. Nobody beat me up. I beat myself up. I beat myself up with school.

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It’s been weird to study under so many different teachers. I’ve realized I don’t always know what they’re talking about, and that I haven’t researched them enough as artists to be prepared for their point of view and vocabulary. I think I was hard to understand for my teachers as well. I’m hard to know(I’ve been told over and over again for years). I don’t have a traditional art college education background. I am not looking at the same artists as my classmates and instructors. I don’t have much art history education. The answer to that may be lurking more museums and galleries, getting over my social phobia in order to get out there, maybe even subscribing to more art publications and finding art history online video lectures(do those exist?).

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I was told that I shouldn’t look at art online, and while I understood the point(that it’s best to see paintings in person), the comment smarted, and here’s why: Up until recently, I have not lived or visited many places with lots of museums and galleries. The ones I had access to, I did visit, but in general, if it wasn’t for the internet, I would be even more in the dark. I’m lucky that there is so much content online, from blogs, social media to museum high resolution scan archives.

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I also struggled with some pain this semester, and found that incredibly demoralizing. My hands and feet ached constantly. I wake up to them stiff and swollen. It was like a constant poke in the side reminding me of my age. It caused me a lot of anxiety. Over the break I intend on attempting to get a hold of my health again. I’d hate to finally get HERE and then have my body fall apart.

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It is kinda funny. You want your teachers to care enough to criticize you. I found myself really courting crits, useful ones of course, as a form of approval. Does that make sense? If they don’t care, they won’t bother. If they don’t think you can improve, why spend time with you? But sometimes, deep down, I’m still just a little girl who wants to be patted on the head and told ‘good job’. It really, really is funny.

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I know I improved a lot! But I am not completely sure how. I’m a little dizzy! And that’s the beauty of it. I have no idea how I’ll come out of this. I don’t know what my work will look like, what it will be about, what it will be made out of.

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Now is also the time to start hoarding funds. I’m hunching over my computer researching grants and scholarships. I’m trying to remember how to write an interesting essay. I’m taking photos of work and trying to curate them into a compelling body of work. Art supply contests? Yes please! You want to license my image? Sure! Dumpster diving school supplies? Gonna try it. Filling out surveys? Sure, why not? I may even look into seeing if an affiliate link on my blog could work for me. It’s all about maximizing passive income. I have to. School has to be my job.

I’ve been experimenting a bit in my RedBubble shop, delving into the easy crowd pleasing world of cats! Below are two happy customers, Sparkles and Lydia Beans. The gist is that I requested friends send me pics of their kitties. I’d do an illustrated portrait of them in exchange for them then buying some stickers of the portraits out of my shops. I have many more to do, and it’s been some silly fun.

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the antique dress

The Antique dress by Thomas Eakins
The Antique dress by Thomas Eakins

When walking through PAFA’s museum this painting just about jumps off the wall and onto your shoulders. It hangs in a large room with walls covered in art salon style.

This painting is by Thomas Eakins, PAFA’s most celebrated former student and instructor.

I love it even though it strikes me as a little ridiculous. It’s eerie. The woman looks like a ghost out of an english horror story.

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Nesting in Pennsylvania

I’m here. I’ve landed. It’s happened.

I drove 12 hours with all my earthly belongings in a box truck while towing my car and with 2 cats in the cab with me. Aside from my calico exploding out of her carrier several times and almost killing us all, the drive was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t till I got to Pennsylvania that things got interesting.

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I wasn’t even an hour into the state when I experienced my first tailgating incident complete with middle finger. Thank you, PA. I’m glad to be home, too.

Once I reached my family’s compound out in the country I found myself unable to get my truck up their driveway due to the ice and snow. There was lots of sliding, face planting in the snow and cussing. My first 24 hours in PA I spent driving, shoveling snow, hacking at ice with an axe and then ate a cheesesteak stromboli. I am now one with the commonwealth.

I’ve been visiting new and old friends and am looking forward to next month’s First Friday art walk. I’m seeking a crew to lurk the galleries with. I love Philadelphia in all it’s grotesqueness. I love it. I love hating it. It’s horrible and wonderful. It’s home. I know locals can relate, but trying to explain it to others never seems to be successful.

I’m painting while staying with my family, working long distance on my computer, but soon it will be time to find consistent work and a place to live downtown. I’ve been told my best options will be South Philly or around Fishtown.

Next week I visit PAFA’s campus. It will be for the first time I’ve been in a traditional school for years, but I expect it to feel comfortable.

I’m here. I could kiss the concrete out of gratitude, but I won’t, because Philly.

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Weird Home Philadelphia

elizabeth levesque paintings in progress

Another year, another move. I am just a day away from moving from Asheville, NC back to Pennsylvania, and in the midst of a snow storm no less. So what I really mean, is that I hope I am a day away from moving. I’m already delayed by several. Am I too old for snow now? I despise winter, and here I am moving further north. When younger I hated the heat of summer, but now I crave hot moonlit walks and feeling coated in a thin layer of sweat.

I’ll miss the hills, the river, the people I’ve met here and small town character of western North Carolina, but I’m also ready to leave. I’ve lived and learned a lot in just under three years. I’ve broken my own heart, rode love to tops of mountains and sunk into the deepest and darkest parts of my own insides. It’s time to go. It’s time to get going.

Asheville has changed me in some silly ways. I am now the type of woman who makes her own deodorant and skincare products. I wash my hair less often. I do my best to eat simple raw fruit and vegetables and now have a taste for duck meat. I’ll try to garden once I’ve nested and resist keeping my own chickens. I’m bringing some hippy back with me to Pennsylvania. I’m happy about these changes, but they still amuse me.

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I’m ready to head home, and Philadelphia will always represent home to me, or it will till I put out more permanent roots of my own.

I’ve been accepted to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art this coming Fall. I’m excited and terrified! Half of my tuition has been covered by scholarships, so now I am on the hunt for more funding.

Museums, galleries, weird summer smells, pot holes, legit food and greasy concrete. I want it all back.

I will still be working long distance for artist and illustrator John Nebraska and looking for other works as well once I am settled in. If you have any tips I am eager to hear them.

I’ve also been working on a new batch of paintings, this time with alizarin crimson underpaintings. I can’t seem to keep myself interested in using more traditional colors. I’m not sure how successful they will be, but painting over intense underpaintings teaches me a lot about how colors interact with each other.

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