Sunday, January 31, 2016
20" X 26" Acrylic, charcoal, oil pastel, Yupo paper with ink, Bristol board, Pellon
I didn't struggle with this one. Although there are many other paintings layered under it, once I got here I was happy. Fun with the incongruous imagery and details hidden in the surface. It came together for me in a pleasing way.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Today I prepared two 40" X 40" potential paintings.
I cut pieces of 140lb Windsor Newton watercolor paper from a large roll, soaked each in the bathtub and stapled them to homosote boards. When they were dry I applied a rough layer of gesso, the more brush marks and cat hairs, the better. Tomorrow they will be flat and ready to start their journey and then we will see what they become.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903) believed that a painting "is finished when all trace of the means used to bring about the end has disappeared...To say of a picture, as is often said in its praise, that it shows great and earnest labour, is to say that it is incomplete and unfit for few...Industry in art is a necessity - not a virtue - and any evidence of the same, in the production, is a blemish, not a quality; a proof not of achievement, but of absolutely insufficient work, for work alone will efface the footsteps of work."
I LOVE showing all the layers upon layers and marks and scrapings and WORK! It is my first intention that you see "all trace of the means used to bring about the end." I find all the raw applications and stories of the build-up in the image quite exciting and beautiful. So, call me insufficient; I'll embrace the term.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
You know how sometimes you walk by the bookcase and a book jumps out at you and you leaf through it and seem to find the answer to prayers.
The book was one I hadn't noticed or looked through in years - Master Paintings from the Phillips Collection. Beautiful reproductions of fascinating works from Milton Avery to James Whistler.
AND with every painting, a wonderful quote by or about the artist. I perused from the back and found Mark Tobey. Here is something he wrote in 1958, "We hear some artists speak today of the act of painting, but a State of Mind is the first preparation and from this the action proceeds. Peace of Mind is another ideal, perhaps the ideal state to be sought for in the painting and certainly preparatory to the act."
There were many other things I found as I looked further and chose to try to remember at least this from Tobey as I painted today. Doesn't come instantly, Peace of Mind while painting, but something to aspire to.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Enough with the whining about how much I suffer for my art.
It's not like I wake up in the morning and have to worry about whether the brain surgery I'm going to perform will be successful. I don't need to put on a bullet-proof vest to go to work.
I wake up and take care of my animals, go for a walk in the countryside I love, eat a bowl of oatmeal, make a cup of tea and walk into a bright studio with the day ahead of me to do nothing but play.
Reality check, Bec!
Instead of cringing every time I make a mark on a painting, I have the choice to rejoice.
It's ART, for crying out loud. "The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects." Mr. Webster
That's my job.
Attitude in everything.
Above is a detail of a painting I started today (happily). Acrylic, Bristol board, Yupo paper, ink.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
I think this painting is finished. After the initial struggle, I've grown to love it as I've watched its personality unfold, all the little details and textures. It really is piece you have to meet in person to appreciate, I think. Here are some details.
20" X 26" Acrylic, black and white charcoal, oil pastel, Pellon, gauze
Maybe you heard on The Writer's Almanac this morning that it is the birthday of cartoonist Jules Feiffer who said, "... I would sit down and say, 'I'm not qualified to do this'. And then I'd have to prove myself wrong. Every day was an act of excitement and an act of terror."
I can relate.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Good grief, what a struggle today. Staring, trying things, painting things out, painting things back in, tempted to paint over the whole thing with gesso and starting fresh. But, I remind myself that if I do that I will just get to this point again and have to deal with the same problems of resolving it.
This is a detail of the painting in progress I posted yesterday, the upper left corner (I decided to keep it in its original orientation - for now anyway.) It's the only section of the painting that is even halfway working.
So, at the risk of being accused of foolishness for even putting myself in his company, here is an apt quote for this day of painting from Richard Diebenkorn - "When I am halfway there with a painting, it can occasionally be thrilling, and I can stop and say 'Gee, how lucky I am to be doing this activity that I like to do!' But it happens very rarely; usually it's agony. If it doesn't come out looking agonized, it's because I have a dread of that appearing in the work. I go to great pains to mask it. But the struggle is there. It's the invisible enemy."
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Here is the painting I'm working on now, with a composition influenced by the Lyonel Feninger painting below. The most obvious copied elements are, I guess, the blue area at the top, the lighter area at the bottom, and the strong vertical in the center. To start this painting I added the strips of Pellon and some gauze to give it texture. It was originally a horizontal, and I had used the composition of a Milton Glaser drawing of a woman in a hat leaning on her elbow. Very little of that is still visible.
The red areas, suggested by the Feninger, are mono-prints using acrylic on Pellon. I've only just started to add details that I feel make it my own - the areas of light blue over the dark.
I'm also thinking of turning it 180 degrees. A good composition should work from all angles and I think this one does. In its original position the image is grounded and suggests some kind of landscape. Flipped over I think it becomes lighter and more full of movement.
The next time I post this I'm pretty sure it will look quite different, but I thought you might like to see it at this stage. Now I will spend a bit of time staring at it and trying to see what it wants.
I posted a detail of this painting yesterday and I think it is finished now. It is 20" X 26", acrylic, black and white charcoal, oil pastel, Pellon, ink, black gesso.
I've been thinking about creating an image that is not chopped into sections, for example, that doesn't look like two paintings butted together, but rather has an integrated composition, so that all parts are equal in strength and compliment each other. This is hard to do (for me). I study other painters' work that I think does this. The composition of a painting I'm working on now is influenced by a work by Lyonel Feininger, who was a master at integrating imagery in a cohesive way. The painting above was easily in danger of being cut into two sections, with the strong "horizon" line two-thirds of the way up. The black and white striped lines in the top right quarter, which are painted Pellon that was cut into strips and appliqued on, I continued with charcoal pencil down into the ochre bottom to attempt to connect the two sections. This still isn't a strong solution and I'm hoping to show a better job of integrating in the next painting, and improve more on this in the paintings to come.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
This is the upper left quarter of a 20" X 26" painting - the most resolved of all the quarters. Still working on the rest of the painting, which I thought was finished last night, but when I looked at it again this morning I could see it needed more attention. It had too much white ... maybe I was reacting to what is happening outside my studio windows, which are getting rather frightfully covered with snow.
This painting has acrylic, black and white charcoal, oil pastel, and painted Pellon, so far.
Friday, January 22, 2016
These two paintings are each 14" X 20". There are all kinds of materials on both - acrylic, charcoal, gauze, raffia, Pellon, ink, Bristol board, colored pencil.
They took me a long time, struggling with getting them to work. I had a great conversation with my friend and brilliant sister artist Judy B in the middle of this process. We talked about how hard it is to be an artist, a painter. How vulnerable one feels putting such a personal endeavor out there for all to witness.
Judy gave me a collection of quotes from artists, past and present, from a book called Artist To Artist. The section was on Fear and Doubt. Every word struck me as truth AND let me know that I wasn't alone in this work.
I could include many of the quotes here that would share what I feel, but here is one from Louise Nevelson : "I was discouraged about life...but I don't think I had a day that I ever questioned creativity. There has never been a day like that."
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
This is the top right hand corner, about 3.5" X 5", of a larger painting, 14" X 20", one of 3 I'm working on this week.
I usually have more than one painting in process at a time. When I get stuck on one, or it needs to "rest", I look for something to do on another. Sometimes what I do on one helps me see a solution to another. Or sometimes just stepping away from a painting for a while is needed, so that I can come back with fresh eyes.
I've discovered a technique that I think gives an interesting effect. I use Pellon, a sewing material, as a printing medium by painting a mark on it with acrylic and transferring the mark by applying the Pellon, paint-side-down, to the surface of my paper and burnishing the back. It makes a rough print that I like. I used it to get the black area on the little "hill".
Also in this small section is some gauze, and a sort of raffia material. I think that's what it is. My friend Fran gave it to me. I smoothed it out and attached it to the paper with matte medium. Made for some interesting texture.
Monday, January 18, 2016
This is the same detail as yesterday with the changes I made to it today. The additional materials include Pellon painted with ink and black gesso, secured with matte medium.
"The peace of mind I found, largely alone, on that white-water mecca, convinced me that life was capable of exquisite pleasure and undefinable meaning deep in the face of failure. The experience itself is the reward". Dick Conant
From an article in the Dec 14, 2015 New Yorker. Mr. Conant was an avid long-distance canoeist.
I put this quote here because I identify with it, as I paint and fail, and keep painting, trying to remember that the joy is in the process. In addition to this, I do seem to be able to keep the faith that I will eventually come up with something that works.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Another detail from a painting I worked on today. This is a 5" X 7.5" section of a 14" X 20" painting.
Acrylic, charcoal, graphite, Bristol board, ink, white and black gesso, gauze, all on watercolor paper
I've been into these blue brick/stone structure things ... (?) go figure
Saturday, January 16, 2016
The work I did today was on some other, larger paintings. That is the goal of these daily exercises, after all, to get me back to my paintings. This is a detail of one, an area about 2.5" X 4" in a piece that will be 22" X 30" when finished.
Acrylic, graphite, charcoal, oil pastel ... so far.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Colored pencil, 3.5" X 4"
It was night. I was at the barn. Bela and I were walking in the back when the fire siren in town went off. We stopped and listened, because mixed in with the siren howl were other sounds we hadn't heard in many years - the calls of coyotes, at least three voices.
But, if we heard the coyotes, so did the farmers and the farmers will kill them like they did when the coyotes were here before. They will poison the pups in their dens and shoot the adults on sight.
We will stop what we are doing and listen to the coyotes for now.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
You've got to be wondering what on earth this is.
On this day I was fulfilling my monthly staffing obligation at Foundry Gallery, the co-op I joined recently. I found the card (below) with this work by another member of the gallery, Kathryn Wiley. I just love this piece. For the day's drawing I wanted to see if I could animate this creature, which already had so much character just standing there.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
On the long lane to our house, there are many potholes, as it should be. When there is a hard rain and then a freeze, these potholes turn into intriguing mandalas of dark swirls frozen in a round of dirty white - all of them very different. I studied one with a complete spiral and drew it here from memory. Colored pencil, 3.5" in diameter.
We went to Georgetown today to hear a panel discuss the state of the DC art market. As much as we love our little piece of heaven here in West Virginia, it is always inspiring to be in the city, particularly the beautiful downtown. It was a clear day and the light on the truly striking and varied architecture there was just, and I mean this in the old sense of the word, awesome.
In today's Post I found the picture below of some new, modern buildings in DC and I was drawn to the shapes. It seemed appropriate to make today's drawing an inspiration from these experiences of all the buildings I'd enjoyed seeing.
The drawing is 3.5" square, graphite. It might get colored in one day, but for now it is giving me ideas for a larger, looser painting. That means these small exercises are doing what I want them to do - that is, push me back to my real work.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Just wanted to color, mindlessly, and listen to the TED radio hour. Came up with the composition from a 1" square of a newspaper photo,,,very loosely based on it, that is. And with some added details, made up. 3.5" square, colored pencils chosen randomly and blind. Relaxing to do.
A quick sketch of Cooper while he was eating his dinner (I sit with him because Lily finishes hers much faster and will eat Cooper's if I don't oversee.) I used a wonderful new charcoal pencil that Judy B gave me - smoooooth?? oh my goodness, lovely. Then I messed around with the drawing in Picasa to get the color effect.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
A challenge to limit the palette to black and white. No depending on color to create a focal point or visual flow. Each of the small pieces (3.5" X 5.5") were worked (and I mean worked! - not easy) on together over the past few months. I'll list the media below.
Ink wash, acrylic, black gesso, black and white charcoal, colored pencil, sgraffito
Ink wash, acrylic, black gesso, black and white charcoal, colored pencil, graphite
Ink wash, acrylic, black gesso, black and white charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, paper collage
Ink wash, acrylic, black gesso, black and white charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, paper collage
Ink wash, acrylic, black gesso, black and white charcoal, colored pencil, pastel
Texture created by placing plastic wrap on gesso and letting it dry, black gesso, white acrylic, charcoal, sgraffito
This wasn't a one-day drawing. I've been working on it, along with 7 other small black and white pieces, for a few months. They will be in a show I'm curating called "In Black and White" - a collection of work by 14 artists using a variety of media - at the Ice House Gallery in Berkeley Springs, WV - opening Jan. 15th and there until Feb. 28th.
Black and white is a challenge if you are used to being able to grab a color to solve a problem. I struggled mightily with this one in particular because I just could not get the top half to work with the bottom.
On this day I was able to complete the painting to my satisfaction by adding that component of what looks like a pile or wall of rocks. I had spent the morning hiking with friends on the Appalachian Trail. Around here there are a lot of massive limestone formations, as well as structures built with the stuff. I can't help but be drawn to it. And it solved my problem.
The painting/drawing is 3.5" X 5.5", ink wash, charcoal, acrylic, colored pencil, graphite and probably some pastel.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Instead of depending on a 1" square cut from another picture, for today's drawing I was inspired by a visit to the Renwick's "Wonder" exhibit ~ a collection of amazing works that truly represent the concept of the show's title. This composition came to me spontaneously in reaction to the experience.
One of the most fun parts of the visit was watching all the people in the museum responding and interacting with the artwork. Photos were encouraged - lots of selfies with the massive pieces of sculpture. I think I enjoyed it even more because of the crowd, which made the exhibit sing.
This colored pencil drawing is 3.5" square. No white showing (except for those little circles), very opaque, dense color. That's how I like it! Some areas are layered with more than one color. Some colors bleed into each other.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Composition abstracted from a 1" square of a newspaper photo. Drawing is 3.5" square. Colored pencils, layered and scratched.
The reference, cut randomly and blind from the newspaper was of a close-up of the top of someone's nose with glasses. Finished, I preferred it rotated once counter-clockwise. Colors chosen randomly, without looking. Found I wanted to add pattern and textures to the large spaces. Left one part of the border broken open on the right edge.
Wasn't as impatient with this one as I was with yesterday's. More into the play of it. Thinking while I was working on it that another big reason I need to do these daily drawings, besides using them as a way to combat creative inertia, is that I need to connect with an audience, you, my appreciated interested person. What would I do without you? Good question. Maybe nothing? Not sure. I think I would still need to create, but it certainly wouldn't be as fulfilling.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
I felt impatient working on this, afraid I was wasting time. But I think I need to trust that this is a necessary exercise, doing these daily drawings, that something beneficial will come of it, in the long run. At this point, at least it has me in my studio, working, thinking, experimenting.
The composition was from a 1" square cut from a newspaper photo. Colors were chosen randomly from my considerable stash of colored pencils. There are many layers of different colors, mostly light over dark, before and after the scratching.
Friday, January 1, 2016
I can't believe I haven't posted a new painting on this blog since early October. I knew I was busy with other things, like portrait commissions and orders and holidays, but I didn't realize it had been THAT long.
That explains this inertia I've been feeling.Why I keep getting distracted by the empty bird feeder or cookie making or the laundry or anything else that seems like a worthwhile, productive activity that I can use to justify not being in the studio, so that I can ignore the fear of starting up again.
And the longer I procrastinate, the harder it is to get back in there. (That nasty little voice that tells me I'll never have a new idea gets louder.)
It's not like I haven't been painting at all, I have. There are about ten pieces started and sitting around the studio in various stages. I just haven't been getting back to them.
So to get back in the groove, I'm thinking about doing a drawing a day. Something that, for those of you who know how I work, is not a new thing for me. I figure if I start my day with this simple exercise it will help me summon a new confidence.
There is the lovely ritual of beginning a project like this. (We could consider this another way to procrastinate, but it feels important and enjoyable nonetheless.) I start by cutting a 3.5" square piece of mat as a template. I find the center of the 8.5" X 11" card stock and trace the square.
I erase the centering lines.
I cut another 1" square from a piece of card stock and use it to trace a section of folded up newspaper.
I cut out a number of layers...
...and see if I have anything interesting to use as an abstract composition.
The one I choose has a figure on it. I don't do figures very often. I turn it sideways so that it looks like a mountain reflected in a dark lake. I draw it that way with colored pencil.. When I'm finished I prefer it turned right side up, to read like the figure again, I scratch into it with an X-acto knife.
It's a start and maybe has helped with getting those creative juices flowing again. We'll see how I feel about what I do tomorrow, and the days after that... a happy new year.