Quit Playing Games (With My Art)

As you may have heard, I was recently promoted at my day job. I have officially been an Underwriting Assistant for about 2 months now. And might I say, I'm pretty flipping good at my job. It just makes sense to me and I genuinely enjoy doing it. I've become an insurance nerd.

Little did I know, that in the promotion there would be an added bonus I could not have foreseen: I would develop a friendship with one of the coolest people I have ever met, the enigmatic Kyle H. Seriously, he is one of the coolest dudes I've ever met. Together, with the lovely Jennifer Rose, we have formed our little unit of awesomeness. We are the Teen Royalty of Markel. How fetch.

One of the many things I really admire and like about Kyle is that he tries to find the good and the interesting in everyone. And its not like he tries to be-friend strange people out of the novelty of it, he really genuinely cares and knows all about these people. He takes a personal interest in their lives and he impacts everyone he knows in a very positive way, myself included.

The point of bringing him up - aside from the fact that I love to brag about my awesome friends because I think it makes me cooler by association - actually has to do with art and my plan to deal with my feelings of desperation in regards to inspiration.

It all started with this painting:

Weighing the Gold, Watching You Sink 2010


Kyle moonlighted as my “Titler” on this piece. This is a job that is normally held by my brother Ellis, but for this particular piece it was Kyle. 

Now Kyle has AWESOME taste in music and has made me some kick-ass mixed CDs. One of them contained the song “Fools Gold” by The Stone Roses. I this I was subconsciously influenced by this song. I never paint with gold, EVER. Yet one day I felt I HAD to. So I did. The entire time I felt drawn to this song and eventually wanted to name the song “Fools Gold”. That seemed too obvious though, so I instead took lyrics from the song, naming it “Weighing the Gold, Watching You Sink”. The next day at work, I emailed Kyle informing him and sending him a picture of the painting.

Kyle loved it and loved his role as my official painting Titler. He proceeded to forward the picture to a painter friend of his down  and eventually told me to said an email to this individual, one Jared Gaines. I had seen his name pop up in bind requests being routed to the Casualty inbox and was immediately intrigued. Kyle informed me that not only did Jared paint, but he liked zombies too. I was sold. I checked out his artwork (which is awesome and can be seen HERE – my favorite is the wolf on the porch) and emailed him. 

After a couple weeks of emailing back and forth – me recommending he read the Walking Dead comics, him recommending the TV show Adventure Time - Jared made a couple comments about how some of his friends go about their art. He said they just accumulate pieces all year and then do one big show at the end with all of their pieces.

So simple, yet it never occurred to me. I was too wrapped up in the idea that if I wasn’t getting out there I was wasting exposure opportunities. I cannot think of a better approach then that. No more playing games, I'm getting down to business in a totally de-stressed way. I don’t need to worry about having one show one month, selling several of the pieces and then having nothing for the next month's show. That is exactly what happened and made me kind of crazed. Selling a lot of my pieces in March really messed me up.

Plus, I know my friends and family support and love me, but who honestly wants to be going to an art show every other month, looking at the same pieces? It’s my work and I don’t even want to be doing that. 

So I’ve decided for the time being, I’m just going to take it slow. Summer is about partying and I am going to paint when I want to and not stress myself out that I don’t have enough pieces for an upcoming show. I’ll just wait and accumulate another 20 or so pieces and then have a huge show, where people want to attend because it is new art to look at and it isn’t the same event over and over and over again.

And I already know where I want to stock up on art and display – Asbury Lanes. The ambiance is perfect and totally my laid back style. I’m feeling better about all this already. I’m almost done with my Charlie Kelly “Wildcard BITCHES!” painting and bought about 24 new canvases. I’m ready to roll and have a blast this summer partying and relaxing and creating.

Also, totally unrelated to painting, I learned how to open a beer bottle off a ceiling:





Dream Enablers

Photograph from Thesis shoot 11/2009Last night Gus and I held our Investor's Dinner at my house. We invited our families (and Megan) over to view our completed short film Wreckage. We wanted them to be able to meet us, talk to us about what it is we had been working on for past year and three months, and then ask them if they wanted to invest in our dream. 

That is what Thesis is. It is our dream. Our dream to make films and be the deciders of our own destiny, to be able to do something creative every day and love every minute of every day. It is something we have been working on for a year and three months now, incorporating all our passions into. Something that we have poured our blood, sweat, and tears into. 

Showing our short was nerve-racking. Wreckage was my muse in January. It was the beast mask made by Paul, Gus, Mike Bruno and Paul's friend Kat that inspired the idea for Mother. I had the emotions and the strife boiling within me, I was just lacking the focus. Wreckage gave me that focus.













Yet I didn't have the emotional or time investment in it that Gus had. Poor Gus. It was not easy for him to show it to Matt, Pat and I. We were harshly critically, but Gus took it well. He took it and Paul and he created an amazing film. One I was proud to have my name attached to and couldn't wait to show to the people who were important to me.

Despite my excitement, as Gus and I stood in the back watching everyone watch it I broke out in a full sweat. It was gross, but I just got so nervous and so scared about what everyone would think that I couldn't control it. What if my family thought I was wasting my time? That we didn't have anything worth while here? What if they hated it?

Luckily, that is not the reaction we received. In fact, the complete opposite. From their words, questions and their investment (we raised 88% of our set goal in one night) it was clear that we were doing the right thing.

The question arises though, how do you repay someone for essentially making your dream possible? Without the contributions of my family members and Gus', making Thesis would be extremely difficult. All the members of the crew have already contributed to the film financially as much as they can, and several of us have pledged to invest more when the time comes, yet that last chunk was going to be difficult to come up with without the aid of others.

Knowing that these people - my Aunt Kathy, Aunt Sue and Aunt Judi, Paul, my Grandma, Matt's parents, Megan, and my Dad - believe in us and are willing to help us in this way, is overwhelming. What they have given us is unbelievable. And the only way we can show our gratitude to them is for us to do it, really do it, to make Thesis, and make it AWESOME. We will achieve the dream that they believe in and that we believe in.  

The pressure's on, and we will definitely rise to the occasion.


Always the Tortured Artist

"Tyrone" 2010I feel like this is more a diary and at times think that is weird, that I am putting my life out on the Internet for anyone to read.  Yet chances are if you are reading this you know me and if you know me, you essentially know everything I write about anyway because I talk about everything that goes on in my life to everyone I know. I am a total open book and I talk a lot.

As anyone who knows me knows, I had an incredibly difficult time getting over my ex Bryan. It’s been a two and a half year epic saga that produced a ridiculous amount of artwork. Seriously, this dude had been my muse since the day a met him.

Yet lately I have acquired a new muse. And this is news to no one, especially Ty, because I told him. He has “muse”ified me twice now.   Yet his musings have been completely different from Bryan’s. Bryan’s were more along the lines of “I’m dead on the inside and am going to die alone because I will never meet any one and he’s destroyed a piece of me forever”.  Not such a happy muse and one I am glad to be rid of.

I’m just going to go out and say it, since I met Ty at my Jamian's art show I have been substantially, exponentially and noticeably happier. Not to give him more credit than is due, but essentially he gave me something to get excited about (even if it didn’t work out so well, darn those ticks!). For a month and a half there I was really excited about dating him and hopeful that I would soon have a new, closer than the Philippines, boyfriend.

Due to life circumstances that isn’t quite what happened. And last week, on Cinco de Mayo, I got upset. As most girls in life do, I build things up and create scenarios that may be an incorrect extrapolation of the dating data that is presented to me.  It also did not help that the Friday before Cinco de Mayo, Ty had hung out with me at the gym and had provided me with many statements that facilitated and perhaps perpetuated that extrapolation. Thus, like the petulant child I can sometimes be when I don't get my way, and due to the 5 Coronas I drank in very quick succession, a massive amount of beer tears ensued. 

Oh and the puffiness. I think this is the worst part about me crying and why I try to avoid it so much. My eyes puff up like you wouldn't believe. Kara and Megan witnessed it. I look like I have been beaten severly. And it happens the next morning, always the next morning, so if I have to do anything involving seeing other people, i.e. work, I have to wake up mad early and ice the shit out of my eyes to make them go down. And they only go down a little. And I look like I'm on drugs. And WORSE, this particular day, I happened to get freezer burn on my cheeks from the ice packs. God help me.

Side note: the beer tears were a combination of the beer, not getting what I want, PMS, and wanting to find someone who treated me like Bryan did when he was in the states, because for all Bryan's faults in the whole ceasing to talk to me when I really needed him, when he was here he treated me like a princess, and I have yet to find another guy that has made me feel that important and special.

Needless to say, Thursday I felt a little weird. I felt embarrassed that I reacted so over the top to something I knew wasn't going to work. And the thing is, in Ty's defense, he pretty much told me that it wasn't going to work right now, but I really didn't want to listen. I want what I want when I want it and I better get it or I'm probably going to cry about it. That's just me. I own it.

So I was going through Seis de Mayo with my freeze burned cheeks, when I had to get something updated on my computer. Someone from IT came up and took over my computer. I sat on the side of my desk and reflected. Then I looked over at a picture I had on my desk and instant inspiration. A painting totally emerged in my mind and immediately when I got home, I had to paint. So I did. Pictured above is what it produced.

This thing just flowed too. I was out of work and home by 5:11, set up, painted and was at the gym by 6:07. It just was a purging of hopes and disappointment and confusion. And I love it. It's very reminiscent of
Lily Pads, except way bigger and more purple. I felt good getting it out. It was the first thing I had painted that I liked in about a month and half. It was the first thing I had painted since The Doctrine of Manifest Danger, which was also Ty inspired.

And the great thing about it was after I painted it, I ran into Ty at the gym. And we were just fine. We walked on the track a bit together and I told him that he had become one of my muses. It was all good. No weirdness, nothing. Which is awesome, because I do feel fortunate to have met him. He's helped me move on in a way that no one did. And who knows if it was just the timing of meeting him, or specifically him. I don't know.

Then friday night I texted him, asking if he thought it was creepy/weird or awesome if I entitled the painting
Tyrone. It seemed only appropriate, but I do prefer to keep my creepiness to a reasonable level. Ty's response "I think awesome if its sweet". Naturally I only paint sweet paintings, so I sent a picture and he concurred saying it was "freakin awesome sweet".

So there you have it. I went on Friday evening to have a wonderful time with awesome friends, glowsticks, hot tubs, bubbles, T-Pain audio tuning and other ridiculous acts and a lot of booze.
Then the next day, Ellis and I started working on a painting together. I don't know where that one is going yet, but it feels good to want to paint again. It feels good to feel good again. And I would like to thank my two time muse. 

Who will inspire me next?


Atlantic Artisans Art Show

Last night was my 2nd official art show. It was held at Atlantic Artisans in Atlantic Highlands and was completely different from my Jamian's show. It was in a really cool shop attached to the restaurant Zoe (which apparently has phenominal breakfast). At Atlantic Artisans, they do framing and support local artist and the two women who run it are UBER cool. I had a blast hanging out there.

I was really nervous going in. For Jamian's, well, I already knew how to hang out at a bar. I've had 4 years of practice at that. Plus I had an entourage of people at Jamian's, about 20 people deep that night.


Last night, it was a totally different event and I was flying solo. It was just me, with my art, waiting for people to come up and talk to me. I think I did moderately well but I need to get better at selling myself. It seems the past week I've been in several situations where I feel shy and timid and just out of my element. Time to make those places into my element.

The steps up to the show have all been about me branching out of my bubble too. I got the show through Ty, who I met at my first show and broke many hearts by buying Mother. He works at the Y (where I used to never talk to anyone) and introduced me to another woman who works there named Tony. And Tony's neighbor was Nance, the owner of Atlantic Artisans. Networking, networking, networking. 

Now I talk to lots of people at the Y. Sometimes I forget though, and I walk in with my headphones on and no doubt snub people I say hello to. That's the problem with branching out. 

I digress (this is probably one of my favorite things to say). The show was fun. One woman I met also has a daughter named Julia who likes to draw and she wants to hook me up with Middletown library to talk to kids about art. Maybe that is my next niche, get into painting for kids. I think a lot of my art does speak to kids and I like making kids happy and hopefully encouraging that would be a win-win.  

And, if I sell nothing else, I hope to sell this painting:



BAR NONE (A video & a painting)

Doreen Goes On Vacation: A Cautionary Tale from JuliaDennebaum on Vimeo.

On May 14, 2007, I started my very first job at Markel Corporation as a File Associate. It was my first real job ever and I was one of the few 2007 graduates who had a job I started three days before I had officially graduated. I lucked out. I also lucked out in that my co-workers, Kris, Jack and Becca, were awesome. Not too long after I started working there, Becca was promoted and replaced with an equally awesome co-worker Melissa. Together, Kris, Jack, Melissa, and I, under the fearless leadership of our boss Doreen, formed the file room dream team “Bar None”.

Doreen, Our Fearless LeaderEvery day I looked forward to going to work because it really wasn’t work. It was me hanging out with two of my favorite people and completing necessary daily activities with them. It was great. We had so much fun together every day.

For any co-workers reading this, let me just put a disclaimer forth: at this time in the file room, in the pre-scanning era, sometimes there really wasn’t that much to do. Doreen was aware of this and we did a great job, always completing what was required and more, but there was goofing off at times. Okay, disclaimer done, continuing forth.

I made several rubber band balls and we had some rousing games of chair basketball. This consisted of us rolling around on our chairs, chair checking one another, bouncing the rubber band ball, and slam dunking it into the Iron Mountain box which served as our net. It was hella fun.

Kris and the accursed RicohKris, Melissa and I became awesome friends outside of work too. There was a sense of comradery in being one of the over-looked File Associates. There were several times we busted our butts completing projects and doing more work on it then almost anyone else (ahem, when we moved about 150 boxes of files from one building to the other and the vice president sent out an email thanking all the men who helped move computers one day). But we’d get over it, because our boss Doreen knew how hard we worked and that she could depend on us to get the job done with integrity and efficiency. We were “Bar None”. Plus, Jack provided us with fresh fruit and crude comments daily. No one else was so blessed.

One fine August day, it occurred to us that every other department had artwork decorating their respective areas.  Yet ours was completely devoid of anything colorful. This HAD to be corrected. As the resident artist, naturally the task of painting fell to me, but what would it be of? The brainstorming commenced.

We reminisced about the time when we were told to destroy Brittany property policies. We could not believe we actually got to destroy policies. ItOur stud Jack keeping us healthy with fruit was the most exciting thing we had ever heard of. Destroying things? And getting paid for it? We couldn’t wait to start.

That excitement lasted about 5 minutes. After you try and rip mounds of paper in half for any length of time, your hands start to cramp up something awful. And we had thousands of policies to destroy. It was terrible. Thus, Melissa riding a cart down a hill punching a Brittany (BPE) policy.

We joked about the accursed Ricoh copy machine. This thing was pure evil. It jammed all the time. And please let me illustrate that when I say jammed all the time, I mean ALL the time. Literally every document you tried to print or copy would jam, and sometimes it would jam in multiple places and you’d have to open the entire thing up and then you’d clear the jam but it would still be jammed and you were only trying to print ONE page and you just wanted to light the machine on fire and push it off a cliff. Ergo, Kris, our resident black belt, is taking a bat to the Ricoh machine. 

We then wondered what should I being doing? I mean, Jack was easy. He was our buff stud who provided us with fruit every day.

And naturally Doreen was the face our emblem. She was our leader and purveyor of free lunches, overtime, and free vacation days. 

Melissa defeating the Brittany PolicesBut Julie? What funny thing could I be depicted as? As I asked this, Melissa and Kris started teasing me. Logically, they brought up, I would be wearing a dress as I had frequently been caught crawling around on the floor of the shelves filing away drop mail into the claim files. At one point we had tried to put in a supply request to Dolores for knee pads for me. We were denied. They also mentioned that I didn’t get the name Julie “Boy Crazy” Dennebaum for no reason – I had previously brought in a list chronicling all of my crushes by year (which in 2007 was up to like 64 over the course of my 22 years of life). In my short span at Markel I had also had many crushes on many co-workers.

Thus the painting was born.

I started my sketch, and then followed Melissa and Kris to their evening softball game and sketched on the bleachers. Each inning they would come over and check out the progress and we would giggle about how awesome this painting was going to be and how jealous everyone at work would be.

Me, wearing a dress, what I do bestFor this painting I was still working off of Romero Britto’s style. Any one familiar with his work can see the influences heavily throughout the painting. The people, with their triangular faces, as well as the design patterns of the background, are direct re-imaginations of his work.

I went home Friday night after the game and started painting. And I kept painting all weekend, only stopping to eat, use the bathroom, and sleep. Otherwise the entirety of that weekend was spent hunched over the canvas. I wanted it to be completed by Monday so badly. We needed that artwork!

And it was. I brought it Monday morning and mounted it on the wall. Kris, Melissa, Jack and Doreen loved it. Everyone at the company was jealous. It lead to me getting 4 more commissioned artwork jobs: Special Programs: Before the Fall, OnBase 2008, Maitland the Mermaid, and several space themed paintings including Alien Perspective and Star Nebula and a mural, all of which will be getting their own write up soon.

It is bizarre the timing of these things, and maybe half the reason I wanted to write about this painting is that I am retiring from the File Room. I am relinquishing my title of file associate and ending my reign over my file room fiefdom. I had a great time, wonderful memories, lasting friendships and 2 phenomenal films. One of which I will leave you with. It may not make sense to everyone, but it does capture a moment in time of my life that I will only look upon with complete fondness. Now, upstairs I go into my own little cubicle and the world of underwriting assistance!

The completed project