Saturday, November 21, 2015

New Work: Altered States

Altered States
12" x 16" acrylic and painted paper on wc paper

This piece was finished on Friday. It's a spin off of the last piece that I did and blogged about here. I wanted to continue the idea of the original sketch, hopefully getting a little closer to that layout but also leaving my options open. I wanted to see what else might develop, if that makes sense.  

I had several ideas in mind while making the piece. I live in Northern CA so Southern CA is foreign territory to me. We have a two state mentality here though, that much I do know. We have a lot of resources here and everyone everywhere wants them regardless of where they are located. It's almost a feeling of possession and I imagined the state splitting in two (which will never happen). With that in mind, I thought about those divisions, and money flowing through the state, water, mountains and crops of oranges. California was a dream for so many during the 1800's and 1900's. A great marketing plan.

Design wise, I followed shapes and sizes and placement more closely this time, using some tracing paper on top of my background to draw my shapes where I thought they should go. I turned the tracing paper over and used that reverse image to cut my painted shapes. I have cut things freehand often enough which produces good (and sometimes unexpected) results. This time though I tried to be more precise. It took me awhile to arrange and glue the various parts. Lots of trial and error and reassessments.  I did learn some things. Maybe they will be helpful. 

***Many small pieces together can act as one big shape, particularly if they are similar in size and color. I tried to use this idea with some areas. 

***Balance and weight: There are lots of rules about these things which I do think about but have trouble fully understanding. Colors that are dark in value seem heavier to me; they seem to have a greater presence. I tried to put those on the bottom, using them as a kind of anchor. 

***Negative shapes: using the leftover bits was a good way to learn about what I call "continuity". (I don't know what it is actually called in design-speak.) I also tried to continue the same hues throughout the piece but also to vary those values and temperatures.

***Surprises: The best part though, for me anyway, was deciding to make the green shapes in the middle. I knew that I was going to use green to represent the flow of money in California. Straight lines seemed like a good idea but didn't look right. Then I thought about dollar signs and how to arrange the idea of that along a straight line. I came up with the circles, suing the negative and positive pieces of each cutout. 

Lastly, I added the yellow shapes as a kind of "buttress" or mitigating shape to those right angles. And I loved using the thin blue lines to connect the aqua squares in the upper left corner. That's an example I think of connecting shapes and lines to get a larger overall shape rather than little bits and pieces.

I will also say that the whole deal with these pieces started with the idea of the larger white circle. Could that big white circle be balanced somehow? That was my original challenge. I have one more piece planned which is to be a duplicate of my original sketch (famous last words as my Mom would have said). We will see how that goes.

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment if you can.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Train Museum and Developing Your Own Voice

Leland Stanford's train

Art Deco style radio

model train display

model train display

model train display

I had the most wonderful day yesterday so I want to share. We are so lucky. Our area here in California is rich with history. It's close by too and so yesterday I hopped in my car and drove to Old Town Sacramento. The train museum is an historical state park located right downtown. The setting is a crazy mix of old and new, freeways and cobblestone streets, rail lines and lots of traffic. The museum itself is beautifully done with clean and well lit displays, informational signs that are mostly easily read by older eyes, and several floors of exhibits. While I enjoyed the trains and all of the paraphernalia, I was mildly creeped out by the mannequins. It has got to be one big scary thing when the lights go out!

While I enjoyed learning about the history of railroads in California, I also enjoyed something else. There was such a great mix of colors. Everything that I looked at was a wonderful combination of neutrals (browns, blacks, grays) and bright hues of cobalt, navy, deep blue greens and wonderful sunny yellows and oranges. In the 30's and 40's some subtle color came into play too with minty greens, softer blues and accents of gold and silver. I learned that as train travel gained momentum, companies coordinated their cars' interiors with their advertising. It was a complete marketing package. 

So, here is the art portion of this post. I have a tip. It's probably obvious and maybe you already do it. Pay attention to trends in your observations or activities. Or whatever it is that you do. I have read so much that many people at my same level of experience struggle with developing their own style of art. I don't have an artistic background and so it has been difficult for me to even begin to develop my own "voice"; my own tastes. I have gotten some clarity though by noticing what I really like and then analyzing those things. For example, I have visited three historical places in the last several months. Each time I have been drawn to the colors: a mix of neutrals with clean, bright color thrown in for contrast. Lots of simple shapes of circles, squares and rectangles. It tells me something I think. (I would add too that by figuring out what you like and by letting go of what someone else likes or expects, you can gain some direction in your work also. It's incredibly hard to hear yourself think sometimes, for whatever reason.)

OK, I have a piece in progress and it is nearly done. I hope to show some pictures in a day or two. And I know that there are lots of ways to develop your own style or voice. If you have an idea let me know!

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Work: Dream State

Dream State
12" x 16" acrylic and painted papers on wc paper
The inspiration for the above piece comes from several sources: my reading and some recent videos that I have been watching as well as some recent news events. California is a complicated state both literally and figuratively. We are excessive in so many ways, running amok since our inception as a state. I had aquifers and the transportation of water in mind as well as what might happen in the event of an earthquake.

It's hard to say if things are getting easier or getting more difficult. This last piece took me about a week, give or take. I was gone several days during that time but still. 

Each time I do one of these pieces I feel like I learn a lot. It's sometimes mentally painful though! I can remember being in school (college-the second time when I managed to finally graduate) and having to write a report or a paper. I loved getting organized, preparing and doing. Step-by-step was how I did things. I was good at it but oh, it hurt! Cost me a lot of mental energy. The way I am working now is very similar. And the process really causes me to think. The picture below of Matisse reminds me of how I feel. Sometimes I do hold my head in my hands and sort of just try to squeeze out the right answers! He looks a little cranky doesn't he?
I frequently feel like this!
What did I learn this time? I learned that there is no right answer and there actually is one right answer! There are probably hundreds of design solutions to whatever questions I am posing. I wait though to see which solution feels like there couldn't be any other solution other than that one. Then I think that yes, there was only one answer all along. The best moments come though when I see something I did and say to myself, "I sure didn't see that one coming!" There is no way that I could have planned for some of the outcomes in my work. There is no serendipity though because honestly, as I said above, every previous move leads to the next move. It's at these moments that I feel most creative. And this just takes time.

I'll say too that I paid much more attention to negative space this time around. All shapes come from somewhere, whether they are representational or not, and looking at the negative spaces created by my other shapes is one such place to draw inspiration. 

The second thing that happened came about from putting my painted papers up on the wall to examine chroma and value prior to cutting and gluing. This worked well. I think it's analogous to trying out colors on your canvas and correcting as you paint.  For the most part it worked well. I didn't catch however how bright two of the colors were that I had originally chosen. I thought they would work but when I got them on the final piece, not so much. So, I abandoned that idea.

The last thing that happened is something that always seems to happen. I have a tendency to add small pieces and details too soon. It comes about if my larger shapes aren't working and it's always a desperate fix. I tried to catch myself this time early on. I really like the idea that every piece is there for a reason and could be a piece all by itself.

OK, I have some ideas brewing about how I use color. I am also starting another piece which is a continuation of this last piece. It's actually a rendition of my original sketch. The above piece deviated quite a bit from my source sketch and so I want to get back to that first idea. Anyway.

Hope the week is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Work: Round The Clock; Computer Sketches

Round The Clock
12" x 16" acrylic painted papers on wc paper

The first piece shown was completed yesterday. I had the idea originally about farming at night. That idea got combined with some other imagery from my trips up and down several roads that run through the orchards here. The idea of contrasting the white with the darker colors appealed to me. The color scheme is somewhat new to me and I am not sure how well I organized my ideas. Rich came in and said that the leaves looked like Spring to Autumn. Alright then. Ever forward.

I have also been doing some sketching on the computer using the simple MS Paint program that came with our initial package of software. The first two images are me thinking about placing one color next to different colors, in different proportions, to see what happens. The remainder of the sketches are meant to help me work out ideas regarding composition. From a visual perspective, I am interested in the "weight" of shapes and colors and how those things combine to create push and pull. Can my eye see something?

 I also read a blog post recently about older artists and the physical demands of creating, such as standing at your easel or sitting for long periods of time or even of how your hands can hurt while using your materials. Like it or not, we will all get older, God willing. What happens when things begin to be physically uncomfortable or if the space in your home becomes limited? The computer or phone could be the answer. I felt every bit as creative making these sketches as I have felt painting actual pieces. The same decisions are involved; the same considerations of color, shape and line selection. The creative process and its physical demands is something to seriously consider. I am not planning on laying down and being frail anytime soon but why shouldn't I exercise all of my options to create work?

OK, hope the week is off to a good start for everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, November 2, 2015

New Work: Industry

12" x 16" acrylic painted papers on wc paper
Finished Piece: 
The above piece was completed yesterday after what seemed like an eternity! I wasn't sure that I was going to get out unscathed. 

The idea of irrigation ditches had come to me a while ago and I had made a sketch illustrating a loose concept. I pulled some imagery from my sketch book and notes. The problems began I think because I started a mock up of the piece using 5 values: white, 3 grays and a black. No color. When I started to paint the papers for the final piece I hadn't really considered color too closely-just the values-so I wasn't quite in tune with what I wanted to say, color wise. Each time I start one of these pieces I do things a little differently. I try something new that I have been thinking about or try to fine tune my existing routine. This works well most times but some days I really need something that is a little more set. No matter though. I just picked away at this when I could. On Saturday I described this mental state to my husband-when the tumblers click into place and I know that everything is going to be OK. I was almost there that afternoon and by Sunday morning, when I really got into the details, I could feel those tumblers clicking away! I can literally see this in my mind's eye. Crazy but true. 

Talkin' Color: 
The other thing that has come up lately for me is using color. Anyone want to discuss this? I have only been painting for about six years but I started things with learning how to mix my primaries to get my secondaries and neutrals. For awhile I had several earth colors in the mix but gave them up when I was more confidant in my mixing skills. Being able to use a limited palette of warm and cool neutrals has probably been one of the most important things that I have tried to learn. Mixing color is an invaluable tool to acquire. Using that color successfully is another matter! I guess that will be ongoing for me. 

Lately though I have been considering what I normally do with color which is to either neutralize it (mix all 3 primaries) or warm it up or cool it down, temperature wise. (I should add that I have pre mixed secondaries available and use them on occasion for neutralizing other colors or adjusting temperature, etc.) It's occurred to me that I might just consider lightening or darkening existing colors. Maybe expanding my palette. I have ventured here before-it's sort of a colorist approach I guess. Using a greater temperature range of each hue could be one idea. Using pre-mixed secondaries is another thought. Placement is always the issue too since no color exists by itself in a vacuum, even when compared to white or black. But, I am interested in design and so I am thinking that a restricted set of colors (no matter how they are achieved) that work strongly together is possibly the right answer. I'd like to learn to be clever about things. Anyway, these are my thoughts.

OK, we have rain! Actual rain falling for an extended period of time. Imagine that! Hope the week if off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October 2015 Wrap Up Post

1. Conversion
12" x 16" acrylic and painted papers on wc paper-NFS

2. Epicenter
12" x 16" acrylic and painted paper on wc paper-available

3. Up, Down and All Around
12" x 16" acrylic and painted paper on wc paper
October is over and November is here! Time for some colder and hopefully wetter weather. And time for some turkey too pretty soon:) October was a good month for me in the studio. Here are the highlights:

1. Conversion: Earlier in September, I took a trip to the historic Folsom Powerhouse State Park. Over this past year I have developed a real interest in our state's water system. It's a very complex subject of which the generation of electricity is just one component. Visiting the park was a chance to get up close and personal with the beginnings of power delivery in our state. I was particularly taken with the generators which were massive! The piece shown above depicts some of the images and ideas inspired by my visit to the park. If you can, I highly recommend a trip to Folsom to see this historic site. The exhibits were very informative and would be fun for school age children and adults alike.

2. Epicenter: Over the summer I read several books, one of which was The Seven States of California by Philip Fradkin. One of the chapters in that book dealt with earthquakes here in California. The author described how Mission San Juan Bautista was built directly on a fault line. I remember reading that chapter and being both amazed and inspired! I wanted to depict the idea of fault lines and of buildings made off kilter by the movement of the earth. Having lived through several earthquakes, I find them to be disorientating for awhile afterwards. That idea of disorientation is what I think finally emerged in my finished piece.

3. Up, Down and All Around: Not long ago it was walnut harvest time. We live right next door to San Joaquin County and the small town of Linden where there is a lot of growing and processing of walnuts. I frequently take drives to this area to get inspiration. On this particular trip I was lucky enough to see some actual harvesting of walnuts taking place. Lots of equipment and machinery, and lots of people in the fields dealing with the walnuts. Trucks just kept going up and down the roads and there seemed to be a lot of back and forth type of activity. I became really taken with the old style ladders that I saw as well as all of the carts and crates and wagons used to haul the walnuts. The resulting piece, shown above, contains some of those images and ideas from my trip.

Though I produced fewer pieces this month, rest assured that I have been busy sketching and doing research. I find that doing a variety of things in addition to the actual physical act of painting helps me to stay centered, interested in my craft, and happy! I frequently write about the above things as well as other topics related to art making and composition. If you don't already follow my blog, why not give that a try? The link to the blog is here. Simply follow the link and check out the right hand side of the page. There is a little box where you can "click" to enter your information to follow by email.

Shop Locally For Art This Holiday Season:
Do you know someone who might enjoy some art as a gift this Christmas? Why not find them something special that is made locally? I would suggest your local Arts Council as a great place to start. Our Arts Council is located in downtown San Andreas and will be featuring new art starting in early November. I would also suggest the gallery in Copperopolis at the Town Square and the co op gallery in downtown Murphys, Art on Main. Try looking for prints or cards as well as original art. There should be something for every budget.

As an alternative, if you find an individual artist whose work you like but aren't sure about buying a specific piece, why not ask that artist if they sell independently and if they would consider a time specific gift certificate? It's a little different but it can be done. Many artists, myself included, have a website or sell online through a third party host. This is another way to buy as well. My site is located here.

In my last newsletter I mentioned having sold two pieces in September through the Agricultural show at the Madera Arts Council. In addition to the sales, I won a first place ribbon for the category I entered in that show! Very exciting!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read these newsletters and for supporting my art making efforts. It's appreciated.

Monday, October 26, 2015

New Work: Up, Down, and All Around

Up, Down and All Around
12" x 16" acrylic and painted papers on wc paper

The above piece took a little while. On Tuesday I started gathering my thoughts. I am reading a book by Carey McWilliams, the late journalist, author and social reformer/advocate/historian. The book is a compilation of some of his articles. He frequently wrote about the overlooked population of minorities in California.  Coincidentally, I have started shopping at a sort of local fruit and vegetable co-op. My drive to the co-op winds through lots of farmland with acres and acres of fruit and nut trees. At this time of year the walnuts are ready for harvesting and processing. For me, there are lots of things to see: old style pruning ladders, fields, collection equipment and trucks, sprinklers, pumps/wells, irrigation ditches, walnuts, and orchards.  It's all of the stuff I like for some reason. 

On Wednesday I started to make some notes. I began with the idea of the hidden agricultural workforce in our state. I also wanted to somehow bring in the idea of winding roads and the back and forth nature of hauling the walnuts from orchard to processing center. I made a short list of words and phrases to help me imagine some shapes. As I started in making those shapes with colored paper, somehow the color white became symbolic for me of this hidden workforce. (I know it makes no sense since the white really stands out. This is just my idea of things.) Using white against a colored ground really appeals to me too on a design level. I used as much white as I thought I needed but kept the buckets the bright yellow color that they are in real life. You can't miss them. 

Prior to any painting now, I am cutting out my shapes in colored paper and arranging them on a board. I use a frame around the piece in process to visualize how things look. I also use my camera on the black and white setting to continually check value range and placement. (I try and analyze this with my eyes of course and use the camera as a second opinion type of thing.) Once things are arranged how I want and I have finished editing, I go in and mix my paints and paint the papers. This can take awhile as I strive to get the colors, value and chroma that I want. Everything needs to work together. 

Once these papers dry, I am ready to start cutting and pasting. Arranging things can be a challenge. I have to remind myself to be flexible; my initial sketch is just a guide. This part of the process is very fun. It's slow and methodical and I really enjoy that aspect of things. My goals were to use just one shape idea but vary the size and placement or the color. I kept the color of the buckets as-is but tried to make a pattern. I also tried using the negative part of a cutout (that's what I did for the green and white "tree" shapes.)

The finished piece makes me very happy. I have some other ideas percolating but need to tend to organizing the closets first. Housework calls!

Thanks for reading and commenting.