Monday, March 30, 2015

Exploring (combining the old and the new)

It has been a little over a week since the Skip Lawrence workshop. It's taking a while to figure out how to take what I learned there and apply it to what I feel is mine.

The work I was doing before was fun. I liked it, but I felt it needed to go further. Working with the idea of texture in the workshop felt like the next step that was needed. So now, as an exploration, I'm staying away from my "default" landscape with trees format and thinking of depth and texture first. Then going back to my favorite imagery to add details without making the painting about that.

This painting is 14" X 20". For most of the time I was working on it I didn't know if I was going to get to where I liked it. I left it for a while and did another quick silly cat painting and when I came back to this one I did just a few more things to it and felt quite satisfied. Of course I like the texture and depth. There are many layers, the first being gesso which I scored while it was still wet with the end of a brush, so that when it dried and I painted over it and scrubbed the surface, the scored lines appeared and determined where I painted in the other details.

I'm happy with this direction. I feel more involved with the process than with the earlier work, more invested, more authentic. I have a bunch more paintings lined up with scored, textured backgrounds waiting for their surface details. I'm just going to go with these experiments and see where they lead.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Skip Lawrence Workshop Conclusion

I spent the last two days of the workshop on these two paintings. They are both 20" square. 

This first one has at least 10 paintings under it. Again, I was thinking mostly about texture, but also about creating space within the plane of the painting and being "involved" with it, if that makes any sense. My favorite quote from Skip for the week was "If you have nothing to say you'll say it". I wanted to say something. 

Like I said, I tried over and over to get this painting to work (and figure out what it wanted to say), layering one attempt over the other. At the end of the day of working on it I was frustrated and grumpy and drove the 60 miles home in a daze. On that drive, however, I was reminded that my eye is often drawn to the black spaces in walls and buildings created by windows and doors, particularly large garage or barn doors. That day at the retreat center where the workshop is being held I had picked out a small, smooth stone from a basket of giveaways at the front desk. The stone had the word "refuge" hand lettered with gold paint. The idea for this painting came to me before I got home. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was so excited about it I could hardly sleep and got back to the workshop as soon as I could the next morning. The painting came out just as I had hoped. I like the depth, the texture, and the black shape that can be anything you want it to be, you the viewer. For me, it represents a place of refuge. The beginning of a series, maybe? 
This second painting was created without as much angst or stress as the first. The blue line is an experiment. I used slightly warmer colors. There are still many layers under the top texture, so that there is an illusion of depth within the plane of the painting. I like this one, but I think I feel more connected with the first one because of what it demanded from me.
The workshop was very good for me. Skip's insights at the beginning and guidance throughout and support at the end was so helpful for getting me going on a track that I feel is somehow more legitimate than the one I was on. I don't feel I was in a bad place before, but I do feel more focused and clear about what I want to do. I have lots of ideas for new paintings! I'll keep you posted, for sure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 3 Skip Lawrence Workshop

Skip had me change from a rectangular format to a square to get me away from depending on a horizon line and landscape for composition. Then he had all of us thinking about what the emphasis of our painting is. For example, do we work mostly with white or mostly dark colors or mostly red, etc. I wanted to concentrate on texture as my emphasis. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

7 drawings 3 14 15

I did these 7 drawings for the Drawings and Prints show opening at the Bridge Gallery (Shepherdstown, WV) on March 21st. I've been painting so much lately that getting back into making successful drawings was challenging. For one thing I wanted to start them the same way I start my painting which is to coat watercolor paper with gesso (often tinted). This determines the palette and value range big time. And I hadn't intended to depend so much on recognizable imagery, wanting to work in a more non-representational way with the medium, but these little figures and plant forms kept popping up and I couldn't seem to get away from them.

This drawing of cat and birds is the only one on paper without gesso. I drew the images first leaving white paper for the light areas, but it looked too plain, so I smeared the charcoal on the paper and erased to get the lighter areas. I found the worked surface to be more satisfying. Color is hinted at here and there with colored pencil. This drawing is 20"X 26".
These two drawings are twins (what I call the pieces I do side-by-side at the same time) and you can see that in the common palette. Each has been added to since I took these photos, emphasizing the colors and value range. It often helps to photograph my work and put it on the computer to see what it needs. They are both 14"X 20". Not sure where that weird bird came from. She started as a path in front of the house and then emerged, carrying her pearl.
The next 4 drawings are 8"X 12". Like the two above, they were started on gessoed paper. I used different tints on each one; some grey, some warmer browns. They are primarily black and white charcoal with pastels and colored pencils used to add accents and details.

For this drawing of the 4 birds I cut out the bird shapes from label paper and stuck them on the surface, then covered the exposed areas with black charcoal. Peeling up the shapes left the color of the grey-tinted gesso underneath. The "wing" feathers are made with the side of an eraser. The shapes are enhanced with white charcoal and color is added with pastels and colored pencils. Do try this at home!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2 paintings 3 3 15

These two paintings, both 14"X 20", were worked on side-by-side at the same time. They started out as landscapes with trees. I had painted the watercolor paper with gesso tinted blue. I drew in curved horizons and lined them with trees. They were landscapes for quite a while until they weren't. I just couldn't get excited about them. They were pretty, but that was about it.
So, I brushed over the surfaces with diluted gesso, leaving traces of the previous paintings, and started again. This time I played, had fun, scribbled in my cats and birds and I was happy. You can see traces of the horizons with trees behind the images that are there now.

The French on the bottom of the cat painting translates to That I did always love. I have a book of Emily Dickinson poetry that I got on a college art history trip to Rome a million years ago. It has her poetry in English and French and this is a first line of her poem #549.
I paint from my head, which is probably obvious, but I do use images I see and remember. The doe I saw the afternoon I painted this. I was walking my horse and the doe was standing with her back to us, just like this, making this wonderful shape. The bird is an image I've repeated a number of times in other pieces.

I often work on two paintings together like this and they usually end up with the same palette, sort of like fraternal twins or soul mates. Each set is very unique, though, and very different from the others. The sets are often bought together, and when they aren't I feel sorry for their separation. Silly.