The Lady and The Tiger

This is a drawing that I did over a month ago. I plan to turn it into a painting but I was so intrigued… [more]

The Lady and The Tiger The Lady and The Tiger

Starting Over

Starting a new painting can be like starting over. The last two painting that I posted, “Floating Underwater”… [more]

Starting Over Starting Over

Abstraction 3

  Themes of water and powerful currents are  recurrent in my recent, unplanned paintings. Here… [more]

Abstraction 3 Abstraction 3

Painting a Story

I wrote about this diptych a couple posts ago. It's called, "Floating." I painted with the intention… [more]

Painting a Story Painting a Story

Sunday Drawing 8 May 2011

The group of artists seemed more chatty and distracted than usual. It was the second to last session… [more]

Sunday Drawing 8 May 2011 Sunday Drawing 8 May 2011

The Lady and The Tiger

This is a drawing that I did over a month ago. I plan to turn it into a painting but I was so intrigued by the automatic process of recent paintings that I wanted to continue along those lines rather than work with a predetermined image. I drew this after seeing a friends facebook profile picture in which she was holding an tiger cub. I have recurrent dreams about meeting wild animals. There is always some trepidation. The animal is unpredictable, dangerous – it’s wild! Then I either fight it off, avoid it, or get over my fear and make friends with it.  When we make friends, I always wake feeling that I must be in a good psychological space.

Starting Over

Starting a new painting can be like starting over. The last two painting that I posted, “Floating Underwater” and “Big Waves” gave me immense satisfaction to complete. I really like them, feel good about the new direction they are pointing to and I’ve been inspired to get started on the next painting. In fact, in my mind, I had developed a whole system of starting new paintings based on my success with these two. Much to my chagrin, the process of starting has all the uncertainty and angst that it always had. Now that I am actually working, I have no idea where I want to go. I am making sketches and small paintings and each interests me in some way but none are the painting I want to do next.

I always seem to rebel against doing what worked in the past, and it pisses me off. For example, my latest successful work was done with thick, opaque paint. So of course I would need to go back and experiment with translucent washes using acrylic and oil paint almost like watercolor.

I just re-listened to a wonderful interview with writer, Nicole Krauss about her creative process. In it she says that once when she was having a hard time starting a new novel, she talked with the seasoned novelist Phillip Roth. He told her to resign herself to the fact that starting a new novel is always hard, it never gets better.  This isn’t a bad thing. In the interview she talks about starting in the dark, not knowing how things are going to come together and the process of discovery.

Nicole Krauss Interview

Here are some of my starts from today and yesterday:

In this sketch I was planning to build up a piece with with and burnt umber but there was something about the lightness of the touch and the way the paint sinks into the paper that made me stop.

 

Here is the next attempt. I was attracted to same qualities of paint, but I think I will continue with white and go opaque.

 

 

Here is a color study using thin washes of oil paint. I almost forgot that there was a theme that emerged from this – fertility. There was a figure resembling an ancient fertility sculpture (it got painted over). Then the colors that emerged made me think of fertile ground, mountain sides planted in tea, lush growth. I’m glad I remembered this!

 

I think this was influenced by photos of the space shuttle launch.

 

A swan – what else to say? I find it interesting that the composition is so clean and clear.

Abstraction 3

 

Themes of water and powerful currents are  recurrent in my recent, unplanned paintings. Here I see a structure, a focal point overwhelmed by floodwaters. It is holding its ground for now but it’s uncertain how long that can last. The structure has integrity and a sense of place but there is no way to know if it will stay or be swept away. In a sense that’s insignificant as the emphasis is on the energy and movement of water – that is the focus of the painting.

Painting a Story

I wrote about this diptych a couple posts ago. It’s called, “Floating.” I painted with the intention to let a story emerge even though I had no idea what the story was – and a story did emerge. I have been hesitant to show this kind of work in the past because I was never sure if there was a real story or if the images had meaning, so this time as I worked with an awareness of meaning and the developing narrative and now I know for sure that the images do have meaning for me. What I would like to know is whether the painting is intriguing or meaningful to other people. Please leave a comment and let me know if there is a story or meaning that emerges for you or if you would like my interpretation of the painting.

Sunday Drawing 8 May 2011

The group of artists seemed more chatty and distracted than usual. It was the second to last session before the drawing group breaks for summer so maybe everyone wanted to get in some social time. We were comparing graphite drawing tools and Sally asked if I had ever used powdered graphite with rolled up felt; I hadn’t so she handed me some. It allows you to cover large areas quickly and it is easy to make smooth tonal gradations. It felt best to dip into just a little graphite and start very lightly, gradually building up value. I used a thick woodless pencil to add some lines and worked a lot with my eraser.

What’s the Story?

Click thumbnails for description and larger image…
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Back from a brief sojourn into landscape painting, I find myself returning to the question that has taken center stage in the creation of my current body of work. What is the story behind the painting? I love stories and the way I am using the word, it can refer to a meaning or something that the painting is about.

My brief return to the landscape illustrates what I am getting at. I love painting the landscape and in a way it also has an inherent story or meaning. A good landscape painting exudes life and vitality and can also radiate a sense of calm. When I paint the landscapes I first choose a scene that awakens in me the feeling of being fully alive. After that I focus mainly of the composition, the color relationships, and textures that express this feeling. In my current exploration, however, I find myself reaching for something else – a more specific story, with people – characters in situations.

I have always come back to techniques developed by the Surrealists and Dadaists of drawing from the subconscious through automatic drawing: drawing that allows unplanned images to emerge. I begin by making seemingly random marks and wait until I find an image that intrigues me, then I develop and add to it.

The work that comes from this type of practice is unusual. I do find it intriguing and sometimes quite powerful, but I wrestle with the question of whether other people find meaning in it. I also find that I, myself often have little more than a vague idea of what the peace is about and I wonder if it is fair to present work that I don’t necessarily understand. For these reasons I have shown very little of this work and focused efforts more consistently on landscapes and non-figurative abstract paintings.

The intent in my current exploration is to bring the story out into the open. In some work I will start with an idea, a specific image that I want to create (see ‘Rooftop Dances‘) and in other pieces like the above I will work with automatic drawing and painting, but will make the effort to find the story and understand it myself. The challenge then remains to communicate my sense of meaning while allowing space for the viewer to bring in her own interpretation. One method could be a tablet or phone app, in the gallery, that gives viewers my write up on the piece only after they have submitted their own.

Cloud Shadows

It looks like not much has changed since the last post. Besides the clouds, I also worked on the leafless trees. The painting still has the clarity of light that I was afraid to lose. I love it, but I’m tired of thinking about whether there is anything else to do. I’m getting it out of the studio… at least for a while.

How to Make Room Temperature Water

What You’ll Need

A glass of room temperature water
Hot and cold running water
An empty glass

Steps

1. Turn on the hot and cold taps to make warm water. Feel the water coming out of the taps and make further adjustments until it feels like room temperature, then partially fill the empty glass.

 

2. Put your fingers in room temperature water. Swish them around and leave them there until you have good sense for the feel of that temperature.

 

3. Put your fingers in the freshly filled glass of water and move them around to get a feel for that temperature.

 

4. If the freshly-filled glass is too cold, add more hot water. If it is two warm add more cold water.

 

5. Put your fingers in one glass and then the other and compare their temperatures.

 

6. Continue to compare and add more water until the freshly-filled glass feels exactly the same as the glass with room temperature water. Now you have two glasses of room temperature water!

 

Once upon a time, long ago, I helped a friend change the water in his fish tank. We used the above method and it brought about a realization. Temperature is a number, right? That’s how I usually think of it, but it is also an experience. Each temperature variation is actually a distinct experience, just as different colors are distinct experiences. When we compare colors on the canvas with each other and with the colors of object or person we are looking at, we naturally experience the colors more fully. I sometimes find myself looking for a technique to make this process foolproof, but I always come back to working in ways that bring me to a fuller experience of what I am seeing. When artists experience life fully and communicate that experience, it is always more interesting than when they “get it right.”

If you liked this article than I really encourage you to actually try the technique above. That’s the point – you won’t know what I am talking about unless you do it. If it doesn’t work for you, or if you want to have even more fun, then try this alternative. Fill five glasses with tap water ranging form very hot to very cold. Order them by feel from hottest to coldest.

 

When is a Painting Finished 2

I looked at the painting in the mirror, as I often do, and it just worked! There were so many details that I wanted to straighten out, but I was afraid to continue because the painting was working as a whole.

I have been working on this rescued painting for a little over a week. It has been a nice process. I haven’t gotten uptight about it and have proceeded freely, with a sense of experimentation and have been pleased with the results. The last thing to tackle was the sky. The blue needed to be unified and even though I liked the play of shapes in the clouds, they felt, and to some extent still feel, contrived. (Anne informed me, as went out, that they look like floating turds.)

Today is a beautiful spring day. It is about the same time of year as when I took the original photo and started the reference painting. The clouds today are like the ones I wanted to paint, so that is auspicious, but when I finished with the blue I had to stop. I looked at the painting in the mirror, as I often do, and it just worked! There were so many details that I wanted to straighten out, but I was afraid to continue because the painting was working as a whole. Any little change could take away from that magic.

I think that I will have to forge ahead and trust that I will be able to keep the “whole” in mind while I adjust the details. Still, I had to at least stop for a little while, take this photo and write about what was going on. Have you had similar painting experiences? Let me know. Also visit again and tell me if you think I was able to finish work on the details without losing the overall light and unity of the painting at this moment.

Saving an Abandoned Painting

After finishing “Rooftop Dancers,” I wanted to continue with another large, figurative painting. I had an old canvas that was the size I wanted. It was a piece that had been sitting unfinished in the basement for several years. I was going to take the canvas off the frame and re-stretch it, but I couldn’t quite do it. I had to give to painting another chance.

I started the piece in winter from a photograph and a smaller version of the same scene. I was a bit stuck and was having a hard time with color, so I painted the whole painting with white paint, bringing out the image solely through texture. The plan was to bring in delicate, translusent color glazes, but I have no experience with glazing and it didn’t work out the way I had hoped. I wished that I had left it white, because it was quite nice at that stage.

I decide to go back into it and just paint leaving the underlying texture as I could but not worrying too much about preserving it. I took this photograph after playing around with the sky and a few other areas. I am also including a close-up to show texture.

The smaller version of the scene was published last summer in Shambala Sun Magazine.