Monday, April 27, 2015

New Work: Refuge

acrylic on paper image size 12" x 16"
Over the weekend I worked on the above piece. I was inspired by this piece by Matisse. The coloration was very appealing to me so I adapted it for what I wanted to do. I took an idea from my Lake Alpine sketches done last summer and gave some thought to the shapes and colors that I wanted to use. I am surprised more and more by my willingness to use the phthalo blue and green in my paint box. I like to knock them back with other colors but sometimes, as above, I use them straight. I guess it is always a matter of balance. The big surprise was a yellow-orange color that I had sort of abandoned. It turned out to be just the thing for what I wanted. I continue to pry at the blues on my palette, trying to make them work. I haven't quite gotten there yet but give me some time I guess:) I do like the feeling of the above piece. I picked the title based on the name of a location on the island of Hawaii (Place of Refuge). Seemed just right.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Work: Span

11" x 14" Acrylic on wc paper matted to 14" x 18" available

When I was a kid, my mom took a class in making stained glass. This was back in the '70's and there may have been some macrame in there as well. I seem to recall going somewhere with her and looking at pieces of glass and little colored pebbles. To the best of my knowledge she made and kept three pieces. They are geometric for the most part with a few curves here and there. The colors are pretty too. One depicts a stylized flower, another shows a leaf design and the last one shows a bridge. 

I mention the stained glass pieces as a way of introducing the above painting. It was made because of a confluence of coincidences. The first thing is that I went to UC Davis several weeks ago. On my walk through the arboretum I took lots of photographs of the various bridges spanning the creek. Secondly, I have the stained glass pieces that my mom made. The one with the bridge sits on my desk. Lastly, May 1st is coming up which is the 1 year anniversary of my mom's death. So, a series of confluences as I mentioned above. 

I can't say that this was exactly the idea that I wanted to get out but it's out and I don't hate it! I am most pleased with the brushwork, particularly on the lower right shape. I did the strokes one way and then went back in and created a kind of cross hatching. I have been experimenting with directional texture using the brush. I like the idea a lot and am wondering about tone-on-tone possibilities using texture. Kind of exciting.

Hope everyone has had a good week so far. If you don't already know, I started a new blog. The link is here. It's intended to be an uplifting and brief read.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Work: Time on The Putah

Time On The Putah
acrylic on wc paper image size 10.5" x 13.5" matted to 14" x 18"

My recent trip to UC Davis keeps on giving! Walking around the campus on the Arboretum Trail was very inspiring. I took lots of photos for reference and generally soaked up the atmosphere. I made a few sketches as well and noted some colors. Places like this one, with water and creek banks and trees really are alluring. An Internet search turned up lots of information on Putah Creek. I am learning that the fragmentation of this waterway over time and the re mapping of its flow is very typical of water sources here in CA. The hierarchy of water management is also interesting in that I am turning up information on lots of irrigation districts in our state. They are part of the structure of resource management. 

From an art related standpoint, I wanted to work with a different section of the color wheel for this piece. I thought blues, greens and purples would help me to convey some coolness and some warmth all at once without being super obvious. This end of the spectrum is challenging for me because of its duality of temperature. Is purple warm or cool? what is it next to? Is that blue green cooler or warmer because it is more green than blue? Perception of hue itself is challenging but throw in temperature on top of that and a person can feel confounded. Ultimately what matters the most to me is that I got the idea that I wanted.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Work: The new Normal 2 and Thoughts on Color

The New Normal 2
acrylic on wc paper image size 10.5" x 13.5" matted to 14" x 18"
One of the reasons I stopped painting architectural pieces was because of having to manage the straight lines. Using contractor's tape helps but I still find the tediousness of the process frustrating at times.

For the above piece I used a similar idea to the first piece seen here. I like both outcomes which are slightly different from one another. It's funny but even though I use the same 9 or so tubes of paint to mix all of my colors I often feel like I never get the same color twice. There is quite a bit of variation even though the tubes of paints are limited. 

I have started re-reading Betty Edwards's book on color. Last night I read the section on color harmony which was sort of short. She talks about the three attributes of color: hue, chroma and value.  She suggested that for each hue selected, several chroma and value levels of that hue could be included in your piece. Additionally she mentioned also hue relationships: analogous, complimentary, etc.  Finally she mentioned adding an additional color to the scheme for surprise and variety. 

Color is so tough. I respect the fact that everyone sees it differently and that each person will have their own ideas about what constitutes color harmony. Formulas and plans work but with an underlying caveat: proportion is the driving force behind what works, at least for me. I find that I am happiest when chroma is kept in check perhaps with only a few small areas highlighted. I like value shifts and a greater range of values, possibly 4-5 but no more. And I am partial to some color combinations that most reflect my environment: red- oranges and blue-greens plus golden yellows and violet blues. These are just preferences for now. The possibilities are endless and can be fun to explore so long as it doesn't hurt my brain:)

OK, hope everyone is having a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Work: The New Normal and Some Thoughts on Differences

The New Normal
10" x 13" Image size-Matted to 14" x 18"-acrylic on wc paper
The above title was selected while I was sitting in the water seminar at UC Davis last week. The first speaker was talking about the history of water as a resource in building and expanding much of the Western United States. He made an offhand comment about how our collective love of green lawns couldn't be sustained for much longer and how brown lawns and different types of low water usage landscapes would be the "new normal." I visualized a piece of work that for me, would represent that idea.

As I was sitting there listening I was also thinking about what I was learning-how it might be incorporated into my paintings. I am envious and in awe really of other artists who can take a vague idea, something that is difficult to literally represent, and turn it into art. Trying to represent something, to get an idea out, is always a dicey proposition. The results can be misinterpreted or worse, not even understood! But perhaps that is a good thing. When I was in high school I remember being frustrated on many occasions. I would read something and have an idea of what it meant only to find out that my interpretation was "wrong" somehow. How could I not be smart enough to grasp what the author was trying to say? Years later, I have come to think that it is this "misinterpretation" of things that makes each of us unique somehow. Different ideas add flavor and variety to the mix. And different ways of understanding things can prompt other ways of thinking or problem solving. Yes, it would be nice if we all understood what the author (or artist) was trying to say but other ideas and ways of looking at things have validity too. It is important (my opinion) to honor that difference. And so with that idea in mind, I made the above piece. I chose colors and shapes and proportions that for me, could represent things such as water, dirt, lawns and "cookie cutter" approaches and structures. I have one more version of this idea planned also so stay tuned!

Hope everyone had a nice weekend and that Monday is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Trip to UC Davis and Some Thoughts

On Monday I drove to UC Davis to attend a seminar on water scarcity in the West. The seminar was on Tuesday and so on Monday I walked around the campus. I had read that the Shields Library had a solid collection of artwork, most notably for me some work by Wayne Thiebaud, who taught at the college. The campus also offers a wonderful arboretum complete with what seems like several miles of pathways through beautiful gardens and a slow moving creek. 

First off, the above photos. The first shot shows one of my favorite things about these types of spaces. It's possible to feel enclosed and surrounded somehow by the foliage and water. By not including the sky in the pic and by just literally focusing on the water and trees, I got this wonderful idea that it was just me and the environment. The remainder of the pics show various places along the creek. There are several bridges crossing from one side to the other. They all reminded me of Monet's bridge of course! 

The library visit itself was quite incredible. Because of the Internet and all of its attendant mobile devices, it's easy to forget about libraries and all that they offer. Here is a whole building devoted to the storage of information in one form or another: books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, microfilm and microfiche, and all sorts of other types of publications, including an entire map room. To top it all off, there was a wonderful selection of artwork on the walls. What more does one want? I wandered around sort of systematically and still managed to miss quite a bit. I loved too that there were a ton of spaces for the students to hole up in and study fairly privately. It reminded me of my time at CSUH only WAY better! 

With regard to the seminar, I chose to attend because of the potential for learning about the history of water in the West. As a citizen, I see that the area where I live is heavily affected by the management and distribution of water and the potential for a shortage. As an artist, I just participated in a show featuring work based on the Mokelumne River. The river is both a habitat for wildlife and a source of recreation for the people who live in CA. The river is also a key source for consumers who depend on its water. There really is a connection for me between my work and water and I thought that the seminar would help me to be better informed. (There is no way you can say that something "informs" your art if you don't know about it more fully.)

One last reflection. I like to consider the potential meaning in most everything that I do, including this trip to Davis. This month I have a birthday. I will be 45 and I couldn't be more pleased. It seems a perfect age. I walked around the campus with this idea in mind and reflected on the fact that I could certainly have had a child attending the school. In fact, had I gotten started early, I could have had a child who graduated! I also thought about some of the things that occur as a person ages. One of the best things about getting older is the development of a kind of "elasticity" to your way of thinking. My observation is that some people get set in their ways as they get older. Often times, new thoughts and ideas and ways of looking at the world around you aren't successfully incorporated. As I approach my birthday, I am very aware of this in myself and as a result am trying to approach things that make me bristle with the view of , "OK, what about it? Why am I resisting?"  I am finding that it pays to consider a viewpoint or concept that I find alarming in order to see what is there. Am I missing something that will allow me greater understanding? I realize now that my trip to Davis helped me to solidify this approach. Time to simply walk and observe is an invaluable gift that I unknowingly gave myself.

OK, hope everyone is having a good week. I have been sketching and working on some ideas in between being in the car! Lots of driving for me so far!

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Work and Size Matters!

Behind The Scenes
Acrylic on paper-image size 10" x 13" matted to 14" x 18" 
This piece was finished over the weekend. The shoreline at the lake that I visit is very accessible and can vary in its terrain. On one side of the lake, there is a flat "beach" area where people can sit out and enjoy the sun or put their kayaks in the water. Around the other side of the lake, the vegetation gets much more dense and the rock formations get much, much larger. The formations are huge piles of granite. In many areas, you can scale the rocks to get a panoramic view of the lake. In other areas, you have to weave through the outcroppings to get a view of things. This piece is based on that idea, of going in and out through the huge rocks to get a view of the far shore.

Size Matters:
Recently a family friend asked me if I was ever going to paint anything larger that 9" x 12". I told her that I was planning on that very thing. I ordered some larger paper and so will now be able to paint a little bigger: 11" x 15" and 11" x 17" (image size) and matted to 16" x 20" and 18" x 24", respectively. This isn't a lot larger but a couple of inches isn't bad. Storage of the resulting pieces is always an issue. I soak the paper in water too and staple it to a board which means that I need a bigger board. Using a different substrate is a possibility also. I have three larger boards that I can try. It's funny (and I wonder if other painters experience this also) but the issue of painting larger has a very real psychological component to it. Is my idea worthy of a larger space? If I keep things small no one will notice that the work isn't good or that my concept isn't right. (I am actually not so sure anyone is paying attention anyway!) It's really a fascinating discussion. Larger work has an inherently larger presence but does that make the work better? I have seen plenty of very small works such as photographs or drawings that use the smallness of the space to deliver a powerful impact. Small works grouped together can also be very strong. I have also seen a room full of incredibly large pieces of photo realistic artwork-it was extremely disturbing both in content and size. I still carry some of these images in my head. I have to believe that selection of scale is integral to the art making process. Size does matter:)

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