As I conceptualize this new series I've started ("To Have and To Hold"), I'm playing with different media and approaches. In the last blog, I showed you a work in progress ("My Cup of Tea") using layered acrylic and Inktense crayon on panel. I've gone in a different direction with today's painting - "Hand Me Down."
In this painting, I wrote the story in graphite, then drew and painted the subject over it. You can still read and get the gist of the story even though some of it is obscured by paint. I've often admired artworks that incorporate handwriting, but I've not tried it until now. I don't like my handwriting...could I hire someone with better handwriting to write my stories? I guess not. Anyway, I do like the texture this gives the background. And, being a lover of line, I enjoy the combination of drawing and painting.
On the other hand (pun intended), I like the vibrant color in the previous painting - My Cup of Tea. So my next step will be to combine some of the elements of each painting and see what I come up with.
I'll welcome comments about what you like or don't like about each approach.Comment on or Share this Article →
As promised in the last blog post, I'm sharing the beginning of my new "To Have and To Hold" series. I worked on this one today...working title "My Cup of Tea." I like it so far, but I don't think it's finished. I might set it aside and start another one. I think you need to build a rhythm through several pieces until you find your groove.Comment on or Share this Article →
I always start a new series with a spirit of hope and optimism that the process will be stimulating and joyful and the results will be interesting, beautiful and highly collectible. Now, that's not always the way it works, but why start if you don't have that hope?
So it is with two new series I have in my head. The first is "Early Spring" - a evolution of my Bleak Midwinter series. My hubby and I drove to eastern Washington for a family visit at Easter and I took lots of pictures out the car window. The trees were starting to get that early spring fuzz of color, and the grass was beginning to turn that bright spring green. It will be great to change my color palette from midwinter to spring. And for this series I will continue my evolution toward more abstraction. Some people look at abstract paintings and think they are a bunch of weird marks and spashes that even a child could do. But it's not that easy. Especially if you are naturally drawn toward painting more or less what you see. It helps to squint so that you see mostly shapes and colors and less detail. Not good for the wrinkles around your eyes, but great for your painting! You can see an early example here.
The second series is one I'm calling "To Have and To Hold" - still lifes that incorporate a hand. Exactly what form these will take remains a mystery until I actually put paint and other media on canvas. But I'm thinking they will be impressionistic and/or abstracted. In a way, they will be self-portraits because the objects will be those that have particular meaning in my life. They are things I've collected or things I use almost daily. They are the kinds of stuff I may have to get rid of at some point when I start downsizing, but it will be sad because I find them beautiful. Maybe the paintings will be good reminders and make it easier to part with some of this stuff.
I did my first photo session a few days ago. This photo of a favorite tea cup is one example. Though this is on a dark background, I also photographed it against one or two other lighter backgrounds. I'll post some works-in-progress as I get going with this. Meanwhile, I'm still gazing around my house at all my stuff (a.k.a. treasures) and deciding which are good candidates for models in this series.Comment on or Share this Article →
As we mature as artists, we all want to develop a distinctive look and feel to our work so that someone entering a gallery and spotting our work across the room will say, "Oh, I'll bet I know who that artist is." Just like you can tell a Monet from a Van Gogh, and a Picasso from a Cezanne at a glance.
Some would call this style, but I prefer to call it "visual language." You could say that shapes are nouns, lines/direction are verbs, and colors are adjectives. Maybe value or contrast are adverbs. Anyway, the various ways we put those parts of speech together to create meaning will distinguish our art from the next artist's.
Along the path to maturity as an artist, we likely try dozens of permutations and combinations of these elements until we find what is most satisfying. Satisfaction comes not only from the aesthetic of the finished work, but also from the process we use to get there. For example, I greatly admire highly realistic paintings, but I think it might kill me to paint that way.
Finding what works may take a lifetime for some of us who seem to want to experiment continuously. But here's an idea that may help you get on a productive path to that satisfying destination.
1. First, analyze your process. Do you work from life or photo references or imagination? Do you sketch or do a thumbnail first? Do you do a color study first? Or do you work more intuitively?
2. If you want to change your outcome, change your process. You know the old saying...if you do the same thing over and over, you can't expect a different outcome.
3. Once you've made a change, stick with it for at least six paintings. You know how uncomfortable change can be. And who likes to be uncomfortable? So, rather than rushing back to the comfort of your old process, force yourself to stick with the new process and see if it becomes more satisfying with time and practice.
4. Analyze your finished work, not in terms of "good/like" or "bad/hate," but in terms of language. What elements tend to stand out in your paintings? Is it shape, color, line/direction, value? Or is it concept/content, such as the ironic combination of objects or figures to suggest a narrative?
5. At this point you could gauge your satisfaction level - both process and outcome. Then ask, how could you tweak the process to get a different outcome? Which of the visual elements are absolutely essential to your satisfaction level? What might you do to emphasize those elements more?
And, of course, while you're doing all this, also look for role models, both masters (the dead ones) and contemporary artists you admire. Ask yourself what are the most dominant elements of their visual language? How might you adapt those elements to your way of painting?
As for me, I'm in love with line. I love seeing line and paint combined, and I love scribbling all over my paintings. Recognizing this, I make that an essential part of my process, but I continue to tweak it for a higher level of satisfaction.Comment on or Share this Article →
I've been teaching an ongoing Saturaday afternoon art class to a small group of ladies for a couple of years. I just started offering 2-5 day workshops; I taught the first of these in March. It's not for the money that I teach, but for the joy of seeing other people find joy in the act of creating.
Creating - in any of its many forms - is the way that we use our gifts and skills to make something that is, in small or big ways, unique to us. Our DNA is in the kinds of lines, brushstrokes, colors, and shapes we make. With practice, our art begins to express our unique way of seeing the world or expressing something that is inside of us. When students learn to turn off their inner critic, which often wants to see things that look "real," and learn to accept and love what they are able to create, they find that joy and I share it.
When a student becomes so hooked on the joy of creating that she rearranges her time and space to create more outside of class, I know I've contributed something of value. The student is feeding her soul by taking time for herself. The dishes and dirty floors, even dinner, can wait. She'll be a better wife, mother, or partner by taking that "C" vitamin (creativity) on a regular basis. Her joy will be contagious. The universe needs more creative people.
Here's a painting that I did in my recent workshop. I was demonstrating ways to use different media and tools to create your own visual language. I call it "Peppers and Pods."Comment on or Share this Article →
I just returned from a 3-day workshop taught by Maggie Siner, one of my favorite contemporary artists. It convinced me once again that you just can't get enough of the basics. I produced nothing that was remotely frame-worthy. But the practice - value and color studies - was just what I needed.
You'd think, having just graduated with a BFA degree, I'd have all the principles of art down pat. But Siner teaches in a different way than other people I've studied with and the different perspective on the same old principles really helped.
My advice to you, dear reader, is in three parts:
1. Take every opportunity to go back to the basics, preferably studying with a variety of artists.
2. Practice the basics in your studio, in addition to the paintings you hope to complete and frame.
3. If you can't afford a workshop, get a painting "how-to" book out of the library and actually do the exercises in it.
Here's a 3-value study of a still life set that I did in the workshop. I think I did 3-4 of these, using the same set but focusing of different parts of it. We were challenged to see shapes, not nameable objects, which is harder than it looks.Comment on or Share this Article →
The Alamo - painted on site in San Antonio
As a maker of art, and a collector, I must keep up with what's happening in the art world - locally, nationally, and in the places I often visit. That's why I subscribe to several art magazines and occassionally buy a few others on the newstand. And I've also learned to use the Internet to research art events before I travel to a different city.
For example, here in Utah, Artists of Utah (.org) publishes a monthly ezine, as well as more frequent blog articles, about exhibitions, featured artists, and many art events throughout the state. The monthly ezine - 15 Bytes - is also a market research tool for me since I live, work, and sell art here. And it's a very classy publication, which makes me proud to occassionally write for it.
Since I often visit family in Atlanta, I also subscribe to Burnaway (.org), which contains news and event calendars for the Atlanta art scene. It's also a good way to research potential galleries that might want to carry my work.
If you keep up with art events online, I'd be interested to know your resources.Comment on or Share this Article →
...waiting for the right gallery
When I was younger I auditioned for plays. Sometimes I made it, sometimes I didn’t. Later, I interviewed for jobs. Sometimes I made it, or I didn’t. I managed projects. Sometimes they were executed almost flawlessly, and sometimes I made mistakes that brought the wrath of the boss down on my head. Can you see the pattern here?
Why should I, or anyone else, be surprised that disappointment and rejection is such a normal part of life. Yes, it sucks. But, if we didn’t put ourselves “out there,” we’d have no opportunities for those rare victories. If we keep our art in the closet, never attempting to show it or sell it, we may protect ourselves from the sting of rejection, but we also limit the possibility of sharing our creativity and our message with a world that’s hungry for a good dose of soul-enriching art.
This is the pep talk I give myself on a regular basis when a painting doesn’t make it into a competition, or I have no gallery sales for the month, or an exhibition proposal is rejected. I can’t deny my disappointment, but I can choose how it will affect me. Will it keep me out of the studio? No way. Will it make me shy about entering competitions or applying to the next gallery? Not on your life.
Most artists I know tell me that “art is life,” or something similar. In other words, creating means so much to them that nothing can stop them from doing it. Well, a house cluttered with hoarded paintings might stop me from creating/hoarding more, which is why I will lift up my chin, gather my courage, say a prayer, and head back out into the marketplace. Gotta make room for the next series of paintings.Comment on or Share this Article →
Sometimes people wonder why I begin most paintings with an underpainting or a textured or patterned surface. It has a lot to do with my desire to be original and to have my own recognizable style. It also suits my personality, which craves some excitement in the creative process. And it has to do with my taste in art, which craves evidence of the artist's hand.
So by doing an abstract, colorful underpainting, before I even know what the subject of the painting will be, I set up a problem for myself. If I paint more or less realistic objects on top of it, I will be responding to what's underneath. I can't help but have an original response. On the other hand, if I start with a white surface and try my best to draw and paint what I see, being faithful to perspective, color, light logic, etc., many other artists can follow the same process and our work will probably be somewhat similar to nearly identical.
There are also other ways to set up problems for yourself:
- Start with a blind contour drawing
- Hold your brush loosely, at the very end, so that you cannot be precise
- Build up a textured surface with gesso, soft gel medium, or modeling paste
- Periodically destroy a portion of your painting by rubbing, spraying, or brushing over it, then find your subject again
- Use collage more or less randomly and let your subject respond as it will
Now, anyone can use these techniques, but no one will respond and solve the problem you've set up exactly as you will.
Of course, there are other ways to establish a unique style, such as the brushstrokes you use, or your particular color palette, or the way you use line, or your way of flattening shapes, or the ironic content of your painting. But these techniques, too, are more or less a departure from reality. The results may be representational and beautifully "real," but your painting will have your recognizable stamp on it.
In case you haven't guessed, I think highly realistic painting is highly overrated. But, if that's what you aspire to do, go for it.Comment on or Share this Article →
I'm having so much fun with this series of paintings inspired by my December road trip from East Coast to Utah that the paintings are almost effortless. I love it when I get on this kind of roll!
I've discovered the "Inktense" water-based crayons, which I'm using to draw with as I paint with acrylics. So, each painting typically starts with a textured application of acrylic soft gel on a gessoed surface (canvas or panel). When that dries, I do watery acrylic washes in colors that are more intense than those of my final painting. Then I do a rough pencil sketch of the basic composition. Next I get the basic colors down using the biggest brush I can, because I want it to be loose and gestural. At this stage, I'm also paying attention to edges, sometimes spraying with water to soften edges and cause drips, and sometimes brushing the edges with a dry, soft brush. Once it's blocked in, I begin using thicker paint in some areas, and I start to use the crayons to draw some of the details and texture. If I spray the Inktense with water, it darkens and melts/runs, an effect that I love. If it runs too much, I may have to let it dry, add more paint, and maybe more crayon, too. It's a process of construction and deconstruction until I find the balance.
Most of these new pieces have been fairly small - from 9x12 to 20x20 - so my next evolution will be to work larger. I'd like some 36x36 paintings in this series.
The Sundance Film Festival is in town and I'll be going to films instead of painting next week. I'll post another blog at the end of the month.
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