Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Work: Sharp as a Tack

Sharp as a Tack
paper collage-15" x 18" approx

Back from vacation and back at it! Hope everyone is having a good weekend so far.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Study/LaChance/Thoughts on Copying

An addendum to the below commentary:

After receiving a comment from a trusted source, I decided to remove the image of the copy that I did. I'd like my few readers to focus on what I wrote and not the fact t hat I showed a semi-copy of something. My original argument remains below and I truly hope that people will read it.

Original post:
I completed a study yesterday. It is a riff on the work of William LaChance.I found his work several months ago in my travels on Pinterest. His style and designs and color choices all really appeal to me.  I felt like I might be able to learn something by doing a copy. So I did it. Sort of.

This particular work appealed to me because of the perception I have about using compartmentalized spaces versus allover spaces, if that makes sense. How to use the picture plane is always a challenge for me. How much space does any one thing get? Is the design an overall design? Lately I have been gravitating towards more compartmentalized spaces. It feels like an offshoot of my love of the hard edged shapes but I want to be careful that things don't end up looking "quilty."  This piece caused me to think about how I see color usage with regard to hierarchy and proportion. 

There were some sticking points. I struggled with the colors and shapes themselves. Normally I wouldn't want to use that pink color. And those shapes down towards the bottom are new for me. I found that some of the shapes he used just weren't natural for me to make so I made ones that seemed more like me. I also swapped out the circular organic shapes in the upper right. His shapes look more like commas to me which is another shape that I don't make naturally. 

As I completed the piece, I realized that LaChance's work is a direct reflection of his individuality and experience. That's hard to duplicate. It's like trying to copy his signature or to replicate his thumbprint or something. Since I couldn't get in the man's head I had to rely on my interpretation of what I thought he might be doing based on the things that I know, limited though they may be.  That was the learning that took place and from my experience with the process, I drew some conclusions.

First, copying doesn't concern me because of moral reasons. Moral arguments don't carry much weight with me to begin with. (Unless of course you are talking Ten Commandments type of morality.) So, copying under certain circumstances isn't always a problem. Copying can be and is a useful learning tool. I concede that point but with several caveats! 

The biggest drawback for someone like myself with a fragile artistic self esteem is that direct copying takes away one's independence. Being creative has a lot to do with individual decision making and a reliance on an innate sense of  right and wrong. Using someone else's work as a yardstick for measurement in one's own work is in effect saying that the other person's judgment is inherently better. It's almost like seeking permission. One's own judgment can't be trusted. Ultimately, this permission seeking (or looking for guidance) can delay personal artistic development. Individual ideas can't really flourish because of reliance on someone else's ideas. One's own ideas don't develop so speedily. 

Some clarity is needed here. I am in no way indicating that inspiration can't come from someone else's work or that a person's work doesn't build on the work of previous artists. There will always be people who are naturally gifted, who have put in the time, and who simply have more skills and more experience. There are always predecessors. Why not learn from them? To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous and a little ridiculous. I am  suggesting however that direct copying can result in giving up one's own power to create something honestly, to make independent  decisions, and to trust personal judgment. 

These ideas crystallized for me (finally) with the above study. The upshot is that I have been questioning my own abilities for a very long time.  I am probably not done doing so either. I found that through copying I was in effect telling myself that the other person's work is somehow better than mine. My work can never be as good so I better duplicate their work. It's some stinkin' thinkin', to be sure.

This essay started with the idea that copying can damage one's self esteem. At the risk of being dogmatic, and after analyzing my own experiences, this is what I think copying does. It's an insidious practice too. We make "studies", reverse engineer paintings and try to figure out the "secret" to other's success. Sometimes some of us pass that work off as our own. It's harmless right? It's just learning isn't it? It's OK to share and have freedom in our creative culture. Be careful though. Woe to the creative type that doesn't consider the impact over time of copying. Look inward to see what is really happening and proceed at your own risk!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Work: Well All Right

All Right Then
15" x 18" paper collage
For the past week or so I have been listening to the Big Band/Swing station on Comcast. Rich was nice enough to install a TV in my room some time ago and though I don't watch the TV per se, it's nice to be able to listen to music through it. The title of the above piece comes from a song sung by The Andrew Sisters. What is it about music from this time period I wonder? It makes me nostalgic somehow though I wasn't alive during that time. 

Funny how when you switch one thing other things can change too. I have been mixing more triad colors lately which I think caused me to go back into a more rigid color scheme idea. What I really want is to focus more on the proportion of one color to another and then use several color relationships (opposites).  I have recently started to consider hierarchical color relationships too which would mean I could juggle all sorts of stuff. So, just sort of thinking out loud. And while I don't love the above piece, I can live with it and will just start over with another idea.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

New Work: Going in Circles

Going in Circles
collage on paper/15" x 18"
When I finish a piece, I like to kind of do a little mental high five with myself, congratulating myself on some good results. That doesn't always happen right away though. Sometimes seeing the piece after a day or two or viewing it on the blog helps to solidify things. 

Such is the case with the above piece finished yesterday. I am lucky to have gotten out alive! I have been working on covering the entire paper first with colored shapes and then going back in to "reclaim" white or light space. I also try and add smaller accent shapes at this time. I have also been trying to work with positive and negative shapes in reverse colors and also the repetition of shape groups. And lastly, because that all isn't enough, I am trying to develop my ideas about making "sections" and in general, using the entire picture plane in an even and balanced way without appearing too obviously "matchey-matchey". (Thanks Julie!) I always want restraint-a kind of quiet shouting if that makes sense. 

I just really had a hell of a time making decisions this week. We had a lot going on at home and the distractions were, well, distracting! In any case, next week is similar so I am just going to have to power through things until the schedule settles down. I am not a big fan of being busy on purpose; I don't have a crazy busy life for a number of reasons. Anyway.

Today I am helping out a friend who is participating in this year's arts tour. This is the first year since moving here that I won't be participating. I hope the tour is successful for everyone. And lastly, I delivered two collage pieces to the Madera Arts Council this week. That upcoming show starts September 21st. Oh, I am also painting papers today in preparation for a new piece. More triad mixtures on the way!

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New work: Crossover

collage-image size 15" x 18"
When I started painting, I chose to focus on landscapes. I thought it would be easier than portraits and more exciting than a still life. Ignorance is bliss! As it turns out, painting landscapes, for me anyway, is very difficult. Apart from my lack of experience and technical issues with materials, my landscapes always felt "off" somehow. It felt like I always missed the mark.  That target too was always changing. As I viewed the work of others and read about what they were focusing on, I tried to focus on those things too.  Show a sense of place, bring out light and shadow, showcase my area, make a statement about the landscape in some way, etc. I never quite got it. And I got sick of searching out new compositions. Just tired of it. Something was bound to give.

So, I stopped making landscapes. I couldn't make another one. I remember thinking that the last one I made was stiff and awful and that if I had to paint another one, well, I would just quit painting altogether! I am glad I didn't listen to myself! I didn't quit but dug in and retrenched, as they say. Today I went back over some of my notes for the last two years. It's obvious that I have been searching, trying on new ideas and new ways of working. And although I feel firmer in my resolve to pursue collage, I can't say that I am finished with anything else that might be out there. I am open, in other words.. 

What I can say is that now, with the above piece, I feel like I have come sort of full circle. I still have the hard edged shapes that I love so much (I used those in my landscape work also) and I still employ a kind of patterning, to my mind anyway. And now I have tried again to reference the colors in my immediate surroundings. I've done this by going back to making triad mixes (previously I had somewhat abandoned this practice). In my mind's eye, I can see the way my landscape looks, the colors that I want. The  triad mixes are just the method to use to get the right color idea. 

I am really pleased with the above piece, both because of the colors that I chose but also because I employed the "question and answer" method of problem solving that I have been trying lately. Finishing the piece was a little easier. And I called the piece Crossover because of the way that I think I went back and forth between things that I have done in the past, such as quilting and landscape  painting, and things that I know about now such as color mixing and conveying my own idea of something.

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

New Work: Getting There; Design Findings

Getting There
15" x 18" collage on paper
The above piece was completed earlier this week. I have been trying for more of an "overlapped" feeling with these pieces as well as trying to use larger pieces to begin with. The colors are different for me too. 

For the past several months I have been recording some things as I have been working. Just observations but I will pass them along. Who knows? Maybe someone reading will get an idea. Here they are:

* comparison of scale: is one piece really larger than another piece? I have trouble seeing this and that trouble shows up with lots of smaller pieces that are basically the same size. I think a landscape painter would have a similar issue. How much bigger is the foreground bush than the background bush? Are all of those potted plants really the same size? The whole problem speaks of proportion and variety.

* connecting values: Even for an artist working abstractly, connecting like values can be a factor. I am finding that if I am not careful, my pieces can look "spotty" and I think this is due in part to lots of different values scattered around the page. There isn't anything wrong with this but for me, it isn't what I want. So, I have been focusing on connecting like units of values to get a larger pattern when seen from a distance. Just backing up from the piece and trying to discern the pattern has been helpful.

* viewing positive and negative space: I have had some great comments lately about what people see in the positive and negative spaces within the work. It tells me that those two spaces have a combined and separate energy level, making the piece active and not static. 

* Group shapes together: You could argue both sides of this. One dark valued shape is more powerful maybe than a lighter valued shape. But, my thought is that when you group like sized and like valued shapes together, they act as one unit and carry greater weight. I have certainly seen this in my own work lately and I think it speaks to the concept of weight.

* hue relationships: I found a couple of times now that placing complimentary colors next to each other can be really dynamic-nearly too dynamic in some cases. The other day I minimized that relationship by having one high chroma color of the complimentary pair and one duller color of the pair next to each other. It worked well in my opinion and again, speaks to weight and dominance

Some thoughts

During the course of the last couple of months, I have largely abandoned having any set preconceived notions of what these pieces are going to be. Looking for subject matter was causing me great anxiety. It caused me to get hung up on starting. Now, I start with a color scheme idea (loose) and a directional sketch and one simple shape. I may have a design idea I want to explore but I will abandon that if necessary if the piece takes on an interesting direction. 

Additionally, for now, I have put aside the idea of an overt and specific narrative. I love the pieces I have done that seem to tell a little story. And I have received great feedback on those pieces. But, just like looking for specific subject matter, having to have a specific narrative stymies me. It's difficult to start. I want to start without being anxious and I want to make lots of work. I can't do that if I am having an existential angst fest every time I begin.

The last thing I would mention is that I have been working in a question and answer style format. It's been very helpful and though I am still developing it, I will pass along what I know. I think any painter could use the idea or modify it in order to problem solve.  I start with one thing, say a shape or color. So, one large square medium valued shape of a red orange, low chroma color. Then I ask myself what the next opposite move could be. How about a smaller, dark valued high chroma shape such as a circle or rectangle? Where could I put that? I just keep going in this way, making one move based on the opposite of the last move, all the while trying to connect those moves on the page. I made a list too of different moves and their opposites. The whole thing has expanded my thinking a bit and made the possibility for problem solving a little easier.

OK, that's enough! I hope everyone has had a good week. Please let me know if any of the information above is useful.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2016 Wrap Up Post

1. Like Two Detectives
15" x 18" collage

2. Time's Intersection
15" x 18" collage

3. Abbey's Desert
collage 15" x 18"

4. Back To Basics
15" x 18" collage

5. Forest Future
15" x 18" collage

6. What's it All About?
15" x 18" collage
Since August is almost over I thought I would do a wrap up post. It's amazing to me sometimes that some months are very productive. Here is some detail on the pieces shown above:

1. Like Two Detectives: My husband is notorious for getting the lyrics to many songs wrong. During the 80's there was a song by the band Devo called Whip It!. Rich misheard one of the lines and repeated it to me (..."like two detectives...") and of course that isn't what they are singing. It stuck with me though and when I added the yellow piece in the lower left hand corner, those lyrics came to mind. What can I say?

2. Time's Intersection: This piece was somewhat inspired by the four corners area of the country where 4 western states come together: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. I have been doing a lot of reading lately centered on the western US desert areas. Some of my ideas came through with this piece.

3. Abbey's Desert: Similar to the above piece, this one was also inspired by my reading. Edward Abbey was a writer and activist. For part of his life he worked as a park ranger in the Arches National Monument Park in Utah. His book, Desert Solitaire, is a very good read and I recommend it. Be forewarned, Abbey was a bit of a pill. His ideas may not have pleased many, but his love of the desert is evident in his writing. If you can get past his faults, you will enjoy the book.

4. Back To Basics: About midway through this month, I decided to change my approach to making these pieces. As I was working and when I finished, I noticed that the collage took on a "quilty" aspect. Relating the work to a quilt helped me to see where to go next with my work.

5. Forest Future: For this particular piece, I selected colors I saw on a recent road trip through the sierras. In our area of the country we have had a lot of trees die off due to pest infestation. The infestation are due in part to the drought. As I worked the piece I considered the future of our forests.

6. What's it All About? Recently, my hairdresser was nice enough to ask me about my art. While explaining to her what I do, I realized how important it is to be able to talk coherently about your creativity, even if your ideas about what you do are in flux. Moving forward with your art involves consistently thinking about and evaluating your creative efforts.

Upcoming Show:

I will be participating again this year in the Madera Arts Council's Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts show. It's a juried exhibition and I was happy to be accepted in for a second time. The dates are 9/21-11/2 and the exhibit is to be held at the Circle Gallery in Madera

Upcoming Post:
During the month I took a fair amount of notes about what I was learning while I was working. I think I will be doing a separate post for these ideas so if you are interested check back in a day or two for that information. 

I have two distinct types of work shown above. If you have a comment let me know! Thanks again for reading!