Hustle and Flow

Hustle and Flow 1
Acrylic on canvas

Hustle and Flow 2
Acrylic on Canvas

Hustle and Flow 3
Acrylic on Canvas
Typically I don't produce for the sake of production, but sometimes you gotta produce. At the request of a good friend, who also happens to be an art broker, I produced some small works for an upcoming show in Nashville. I've been steadily working on a large piece that I wonder if I will finish by year's end.'s nice to start and finish something. I wanted them to be exercises in energy. Just let it flow and see what happens. So here you have it. Three small pieces that I just let emerge on their own. A little hustle and flow. 

©2014 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved


"Broken" Acrylic on Wood (24x36)

Paintings…Acrylic on Wood. I’ve mentioned before that I hate acrylics…right? It’s a lot of work to get them to do what I want them to do what oils do naturally which is flow and flow and flow. ( on sentence was deliberate.) I learned a lesson with this piece. Stay small when working with acrylics. Small small small. Regardless, I’m a believer in working in other mediums. They challenge in ways you can’t anticipate. 

Anyway…this piece is an encapsulation of most of 2011 and all of 2012. The sins of my youth…the psycho nut jock, basketball player, mountain biker, cyclist, etc., etc., finally reared its head. Apparently, it takes about 25 years for the damage done to break down and I understood what so many adults told me when I was very young…that all this was going cause me pain in my 40’s. Yep. So I had a breakdown of sorts in both knees, which hastened the final breakdown in my back. Despite an adult life lived with knee and shoulder injuries and their itinerant aches and pains and arthritis, I had not known real pain until the L4-L5 nerve root was cramped to near oblivion. Yes, there was sciatica, but that was joined with numbness, loss of control in my left leg and an unstable joint that slipped and danced and ground  on the nerve. I descended to a world of immobility. Pain and immobility. 
2012 ended with spinal fusion surgery (one of five surgeries in less than 12 months) and much of 2013 has been spent getting my body functioning again. You know all the horrors people like to share about back surgery? Yeah, in my case it gave me my life back. No horror. Just joy and gratitude. I have a physical job that I can now do no problem, I am in the gym lifting weights, kayaking, cycling, walking and walking, doing yoga, cooking, basically leaving the house and socializing, and yes…PAINTING. In all of this, I feel more like myself than I have in many years. 
I’m grateful for my back injury because it gave me the benefit of perspective. In a flash, all that you know, your livelihood, the roof over your head, your very identity can be stripped away. So…I take so much more in stride. I laugh more, cry more, breath with relish in a way I did not before. Perspective is a powerful gift. I am grateful for it. 
This painting is a tribute to feeling the fire of pain of 2012. If you look closely the central core of the painting is built around the number four. There is much I like about this painting, but from a critical perspective it feels out of balance compositionally. I struggled with that problem most of the time I worked on it, and seemed never able to resolve. I wonder if it needs to be out of balance as a depiction of the experience that had me out of balance. I don’t know. I deemed it finished and took it off my easel. As I am on the eave of the one year anniversary of my back surgery, I’ve started a new piece. 
Pardon me while I go live the life I’ve regained. 

©2013 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Party of One

Party Of One
Oil on Wood
Yep, It's been forever. Some paintings take forever because they just take hours and hours of work. Some because the outside world is an intrusion, a constant intrusion. 2012 has brought seemingly stable employment along with months and months of persistent, intense physical pain. A little good a little bad. All of which has made time at the easel quite the challenge. Sometimes you just gotta battle through. I had intended to post this with a written companion, but the written piece is a convoluted mess hampered by all the starts and stops of getting "Party of One" finished. I'll spare you the tragedy. 

So here it is: A victim of starts and stops and mistakes and mistakes while correcting mistakes, but I'm pleased with the final outcome. The best part is that my mind and easel are free to start something new. ©2012 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Changing Minds

The last several weeks...months have been a flurry. I had a significant step up in contract work that started in August of last year. Then juggling this with some part-time work at the local LGBT community center. All this juggling of various part-time work came with long hours and a crazy schedule. Lots of work. Some money. Now, full time engineering work. More money. Lots of engineering brain time. Not much rest. Not much easel time. Not much artist brain time. And yes, it is as difficult as you might think to shift from my engineering brain to my artist one, especially when stress starts to run amok. Changing minds is never easy. 

Anyway…I started a piece while working on Requiem. Steps 1 and 2 were great and had me excited about where it would go. Steps 3 and 4 basically fucked it up and left me stumped. I spent weeks staring…trying to find a pathway to rework the disaster zones until I finally resigned that I just needed to paint over the trouble. So I did, but that tub of white paint I grabbed wasn’t primer. It was bright enamel. A fuck up to correct a fuck up that took several layers of paint to get back to a workable…paintable surface. We won’t discuss the other two items that were improperly “primed”. Those await my attention for a later date. 

So, I promise a finished piece is coming soon. I’m down to the nitty gritty details and am happy with how things are progressing. The photo is a little tease…a proof of life if you will. 

©2012 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Where There's Smoke

"Where There's Smoke" Pastel on Paper (12x12)
My little fingers have been itching for a little grit and grime that is the joy of working with pastels.  

It's been months since my last since January.  This was in part because both of my easels were occupied with paintings and I felt like I had begun to repeat myself.  Sometimes a little break is a good thing. 

A little time, a little cleared space and a blank sheet of paper.  There you have it.  ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

In My Lair

"DragonFire" Watercolor and Ink on Paper (9x6)
A sucky day full of sucky memories
So I hide in my lair...head down...hand on brush
Avoiding direct pain...your pain...our pain.
Pain of bewilderment...collective loss...grief
The school yard bully unleashed.
A decade of fear and hate has...unraveled us all.
I fucking hate this day.
©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved


"Requiem" Oil on Canvas (42x72)
Here it is.  This painting and I have been working together since the end of May. Really much longer, since early February when I had the dream that has become the subject. A dream I remembered, which I rarely do.  A dream that had me twisted about. A dream that needed to be studied and painted so I could release it.  

I pulled up in a car with three or four other people and we were about to board a helicopter. There were problems. The helicopter wouldn’t start and as we were waiting we hear a commotion in the distance. Gunfire. People fleeing. People dying. 
As I run, I scream, “We’ve got to go. There’s no time. Run!”  
The area now morphs into what looks like a shopping mall parking lot and I reach the outer edge. I find a barrier where I take cover. The others did not come with me and they are not to be seen in the distance. The car is gone. I don’t know their fate.
There are screams and more gunfire. The gunman is moving closer to where I am, but I dare not move. I’ll surely be shot like all the others. 
I hear footsteps and know the gunman is only feet away and then he steps over the barrier. There is no escape. The barrel of the gun is placed to my head and I am calm as I accept my fate. My only thought is that now I will know what happens.  What happens when we die. I feel two bullets pass through my brain, 
And I wait…
And wait…
Nothing happens…only darkness…only quiet. 
Then…I woke from my dream.  

I’ve said that sometimes I cry when I finish a painting. With this one, I cried when I began and a couple of times during. Release comes in its own way and its own time.

Here’s a little slideshow to show you the progress…the steps and missteps along the way until I finished. 

Nervous Energy

Cabinet Door 6 - "Breathe"
Acrylic and Spray Paint on Wood  (16x27)
Yesterday was an antsy pantsy kind of day.  Far too much nervous energy to be trusted on the large painting that is down to the nitty gritty fine details.  The angst energy evident in yesterday's post loomed from the very first waking moment and I was in a "must make art" state all day.

These are the days that I most like being in my metal workshop where I can bang away at some steel, be loud, aggressive and get absolutely sweaty stinky filthy in the process. Alas, I've been without a metal workshop since unloading my house last year so this is what I did. I had to do something. I had to. 

It all started with spray paint...a medium that I still pretty much suck at, but love. This is also done in acrylics which I generally hate using, but they are fast and allowed me to push and fight without a consideration to any patience whatsoever. I have a very limited array of colors of low quality paint and really crappy brushes. Who cares? Right? I'm the artist. Not the paint.  Not the brushes.

I "finished" things up today. Even still, it is a rough, thrown together painting frenzy and I fully intend to leave it that way. ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Art is Ugly

"Angry Bitch" Mixed Media on Board (12x12)
Not all art is good. Not all art is pretty. Sometimes it just is. You can let it live or you can toss it out.  Who knows what the fate of this piece will be.  I surely don't. 

If you're interested, click read more to see the text:

After a year + 5 I’ve been granted reprieve. 

A quick right then left from desperation to redemption. 
A light at the end of the tunnel and I wonder…if…I am…
The punchline for the oncoming train.  

First elation…disbelief and then…Relief
But now? ANGER. Like I skipped my Kubler-Ross. 
A grief incomplete
A redemption not so…sweet. 
More like sellout than salvation…
A bargain with the devil to fill my belly and roof my head
Doing my best Penelope Pitstop across the tracks of acceptable life. 
Acquiescing to the left brain ego that counts 1...2...3...
Calculating rate of change on the exponent of my lost nerve.  

So now…ANGER…a rage at my inner soul…my weak resolve.
Another working stiff doing my best Temple Grandin elliptic…
Stepping…stepping peacefully to a stun and slit throat. 
Fuck. Fuck me. Off to work I go. ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Nail Biter

Nail Biter - Watercolor & Pen on Paper (5x7)
I’ve been dancing on a threadbare tightrope...Center ring of a cliffhanger circus.  The abyss that lies beneath is hungry and I smell of a tasty meal.  

Sleeping in a bed of quicksand is dangerous business. Be still…you sink fastest when you squirm.  

I’ve chewed my nails bloody, gnawed back to the bone.  The handwringing worry a slight breeze will tumble my house cards. 

Homelessness looms.

Something’s gotta break soon.  Maybe...something is me. 

Maybe not…at least…not yet.

A final hour rescue…a job…even if only temporary…I’ll take it. 

My art needs a roof, my head needs a pillow, and my lungs a full breathe of air.  

Plop...Plop...Fizz...Fizz.  Oh what a relief it is. 

A job…even if only temporary…I’ll take it. 

©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Sore Neck

"R" Stage 13 Oil on Canvas (72x42)
The large piece has made it past the halfway point and I'm pleased with the progress. My neck is sore from the 5+ hours yesterday very close to the canvas...head tilted back as I was in bifocal range most of the time. The pains of a middle aged artist. :)

The work from here is about details, depth, and refinement. Sounds like tedium, but it is really about bringing the core expression to the forefront. There are technical rules and procedure on how to do this, but I constantly violate rules of perspective. Allowing the violation was quite the growth experience for me as an artist. It required accepting and embracing this very spontaneous action as a quality of my own style. So now I will acknowledge the rule, nod my head and continue on my own path.

As my external world is rapidly crumbling, time at my easel is the only place of sanity for me.  Working on this piece is my freedom, my only time of true reality.  At this pace, I expect I will be FINISHED by the end of the month. I can't wait to share the final piece.  Oh the irony.   ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Shut the Fuck Up

Spiral Eye - Block Print and Watercolor on Paper (4x5)

Tricky Tricky…keeping it real without really being real. Sterile delivery when the truth just beneath is too ugly for a public meal. 

We have…

An unspoken agreement to...not to...speak.  

Silence is golden. So suck it up because there are no painkillers for this demise. A display of success covers the wall and sings loudly of relentless failure. I am too big for my britches and there is no turning back from here. 

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other fucking side. What happens in between is, well…none of your fucking business. Reality is a mess without a maid and only a broken broom held in a broken hand. We love the before and after, but the nasty middle is saved for…something else…the triumphant memoir…the movie of the week…the dirty little secret never told. You don’t really want to hear it, now do you? No one likes a scared angry bitch.

Claims of envy from a place of privilege rings sanctimonious bullshit of freedom.  Life under house arrest, a thousand hamsters on a thousand wheels cannot…do not…generate peace.  Please, Oh Please! Send rescue from the well meaning masses. Only a rare few will shovel the shit when the stench is neck high. Love measured by the grit under their fingernails. The rest…squirm in their squeaking chairs because too much has already been said. I am mid-scream with the volume turned way down. A motherly protection for sensitive ears. 

Not all art has meaning but the only breath I breathe streams from paintbrush to canvas, pencil to paper. A blissful denial from the failure of being and not being because I cannot fucking be. Some may be good. Some absolutely sucks. All of it is all of what matters and is better left unsaid…you kill the art by saying too much...and I have already said too much. 

©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Pretty Picture?

Untitled - Oil on Wood (11x20)

A name without naming.  I don’t particularly like leaving a piece as “Untitled”, but I dislike arbitrary bullshit even more.  I’ve been working on this piece alongside the large canvas.  A redo of a redo.  If I don’t like you I will paint over you.  Remember? 

On occasion, I paint straight from the tube, holding the tube like a brush.  When it works, it is a high energy, very fast attack that rises from the surface.  When it doesn’t, there’s a lot of paint sitting unanswered.  The underlying shape was formed this way…before I painted over it…covering the scars left behind from previous failure.  I’m pretty okay with this version.  Though I am not prone to simply pretty pictures, that is what has emerged.  Just a pretty picture. 

Still, it is “Untitled” and will remain so until this pretty picture shouts out its name©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Step by Step

I don't want to give anything away so this is just a few very close shots of my progress on the large canvas.  I've had three sessions with it thus far. I'm pleased with what is happening since the source/thought/image is something very specific. More on that later...  

Lots of detailing at very early stages, which is unusual for me. Sometimes the paintings dictate their own process.   ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

The CHAngE


The hardest thing about changing the direction you’re headed is that virtually no one wants you to.  Even those you don’t know want to solely define you on where you’ve been.  

I have an assigned box.  
You have an assigned box.  
Exchanging boxes is…
frowned upon.

I stand at the top of the hill. 
It’s a midlife crisis without the fancy car.  
My retreating youth lay behind and an unknown future lies ahead.  
I seriously wonder if I can get there from here. 

‘cause I want a new box. 

©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

One Little Shoe

One Little Shoe
I walked behind this dangling foot as I left Santa Monica Pier.  The little girl was hanging in complete surrender.  Exhausted from her day in the sun, arms and legs flopping about within the perfect security of her father’s embrace.  ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Blank Slate

I am often asked, “What is the inspiration, the driving force behind your work?” It’s an answer I find difficult to articulate. People want specifics. They don’t want, “That’s how I felt on Thursday.” Some can be downright pesky with their questions and don't respond well to a smart ass pretentious artist answer. The problem grows in that it’s not always the same from piece to piece. Sometimes there is something very specific.  Sometimes it’s just a state of mind.  Sometimes its a physical energy.  It’s never the same and it can change between start and finish. It’s hard for me to explain, but I’m accepting that people viewing my work want and need to know more. 
So here is one version…

72x42 Canvas

A very large canvas sits on my easel.  It’s white emptiness is glaring at me and I can’t turn away.  This is how it starts.


Just a lot of nothing.  A lot of staring, building images in my mind, gathering an emotional state until the urge to grab a brush is overwhelming. This is my favorite beginning.  It is raw and pure expression. I can stare at the white expanse for days and even weeks before the right moment emerges.  When it does, I am consumed.  Long sessions at the easel followed by even longer sessions of more staring.  Then there is the day after.  After I’ve stood for hours in constant connection.  I am exhausted.  My spirit is drained.  When it is finished, I’ve been known to spend the day in tears. Holding onto so much for so long needs release.  So I cry. 
This intense connection doesn’t happen with every piece, but I can tell when it is.  This very large canvas has been prepped for many months.  It has sat patiently by the wayside as I finished up other pieces…as I readied myself. I often ran my hand along it’s face as I entered my studio.  Just connecting with one another. I’ve thought long and hard and waited.  Even as I sit at my desk with my easel to my back, I feel it behind me.  It is a beckoning urging me to put myself in it. There is this consumption of spirit that is akin to a depression, but its the blank canvas wanting a piece of my mind, wanting me to retreat within. When things go well, I look at a piece and know I translated the image in my head, the feeling in my gut. When things go poorly, I paint over it and start again. 

And sometimes…

I just fucking paint.

 ©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved

Thin Man

Thin Man
Oil on Canvas

I've been working on this alongside the Set of 9 from the last post.  My way of using a piece of scrap canvas, which will most certainly be a pain to properly mount and frame for sale. Regardless, this is an unusually playful piece for me and he and I've had fun getting to know one another.

I'm back to unemployment status again, which is great for my easel time.  Not so great for my paying rent and buying groceries effort.  There are some leads on the horizon. One is a stop gap, the other an absolute perfect, really really really want it kind of job.  On all accounts I have friends stepping up and doing all they can on my behalf.  So despite my quickly emptying bank account, I am heart full of gratitude.

I'm changing things around a bit on the blog and contemplating some changes in the posts.  As in adding some other elements....maybe.  We'll see.  The art will keep coming, but I want to keep the blog more active when I am working on pieces so there's not as much down time.  Stay tuned.
©2011 Cindy K. Shaw All Rights Reserved


Artist --- Engineer --- Cook.

Certifiably addicted to and Giant Robot.

Everything else you'll have to figure out.