Saturday, July 4, 2015

New Work: Above and Beneath

Above and Beneath
11" x 14" acrylic on wc paper
While at Lassen Park Visitor Center earlier in June, we had a chance to see some of the underground pools of water. I think they are hot springs and they definitely have a sulfur odor so I am guessing that chemical is their main component. It's a wonder to me to know that this kind of liquid heat is just beneath the surface of where we live. I think sometimes that we forget just how varied the Earth's surface and interior really is. It's extraordinary.

So, the pools weren't precisely swirling around but I added that sort of motion with the brushstrokes. I also thought of the perspective as being of an overhead view rather than the head on view that we actually were seeing. It's probably a disjointed view of things but I enjoy the interpretation of hills and mountains as being both near and far. The flattening of forms appeals to me at the same time as the added texture. There is no shading for form but I used a little bit of contrast of value and temperature to suggest warmth, coolness and distance. It's all part of the general picture making experience for me.

Hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Work: Making Connections

Making Connections 16" x 20"
acrylic and paper on board

The idea for this piece came about not long after the water seminar at UC Davis in April. Water is a theme in my work and so some idea of it is always present. I found myself considering shapes and ideas to represent water somehow. At the same time, I discovered the work of Shirley Jaffe. Her work seemed to synthesize what I was thinking about using a set focal point in my compositions. (Shirley Jaffe is a contemporary of sorts of Etel Adnan. Both are based in France and both employ shapes, line and color in different ways to create their compositions.)

In any case, Jaffe's work started me on a sketching course, thinking up related and simple shapes to represent some facets of water and water distribution. I started drawing simple lawn shapes, then  houses, then the ubiquitous well pump and pipes which I see frequently on my drives. I included the sun shape that I love as well as a "bridge" shape. One of my goals was to not have an obvious focal point and to create what I think of as an "allover" composition, using the entire picture plane. I chose a little overlapping, varied my colors and values and shape sizes, and deliberately stayed away from the edge of the plane itself. I tried to mix up the direction of each shape as well. 

My other goal was to create the shapes via paper first and glue them to the board. In order to get crisp lines it is necessary to tape off areas and paint. My resulting edges aren't always crisp and repeated taping is necessary. Additionally, my shapes aren't always exactly right. I figured that cutting the shapes and then painting them once glued might work. It did and it didn't. Here is what happened:

1. The shapes looked great (accurate) but when I painted them they absorbed the paint like a sponge. Construction paper is absorbent so this makes sense.
2. The solution to the above was to use clear gesso on the paper. It helped to grab and hold onto the paint. 
*******It's incredibly important too to flatten out any air bubbles with a flat, hard edge instrument like a credit card or protractor edge. 
3. It was more difficult than I thought to paint the shapes and to paint around the shapes. I wound up taping quite a bit which sort of negated the time I saved with cutting the shapes from paper.
4. My solutions for next time will be to paint the paper prior to gluing. I did well enough with positioning each shape and deciding on the right spot prior to gluing. So, changing things up likely won't be a problem once things are glued down. However, I am willing to paint over a "wrong" shape if necessary and redo another shape. I would also paint the background fully first. And lastly, I like premixing all of my paints and this continues to make sense for this different type of piece. 

I strongly considered Matisse's paper cuts. I have read that he painted all of his paper with gouache prior to getting started. He arranged and re arranged before gluing anything down. Who am I to decide anything different here, honestly!

It's exciting to me, this new idea. The idea of having two streams of work has always been a big draw for me. Paintings and drawings; paintings and linocuts; painting and monoprints. Something along these lines in the way of dual work. It's important though that the work itself have a fine degree of finish, for me anyway and by my own standards. It can't feel or look like a craft project to me. I am also excited by the variability of using paper, of create more and more abstract compositions and by really exploring and varying color, shape and line along with all of the other facets of composition. (As I learn them of course!) I am just saying that one thing really builds on another to create the bridge to the next thing.

This piece took about 4 full days of work, on and off and in total. It's longer than what I normally do in a way. And while I love the bright colors against the white, I'd like to also try my usual colors which are always a mix of all three primaries to get subdued secondaries and neutrals. 

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015 Wrap Up Post

1. Close The Distance-acrylic on paper
12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"

2. Breaking Through-acrylic on paper
12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"

3. In The Canyon-acrylic on paper
12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"

4. Push and Pull acrylic on paper
9" x 12" matted to 14" x 18"
With the end of June, Mother Nature has brought us a heat wave! A perfect time to stay indoors and paint. June has been a productive month for me. Here is the rundown:

1. Close The Distance: While driving across Stockton one morning, I was stopped in traffic. I looked down, between the overhead roads at my eye level and saw a homeless encampment. The image morphed into this first abstract piece shown above.

2. Breaking Through: In our county, we have many rock formations locally called "tombstone" rocks. They are quite big sometimes, and thin, stacked together like playing cards. This particular formation is a conglomeration of rocks seen at Lake Hogan here where I live.

3. In The Canyon: Earlier in the month, my husband and I took a trip to Chico. We had the wonderful fortune of staying at the bottom of a canyon in close proximity to Big Chico Creek. There is a lot of inspiration in this area but I thought I would start with a generalized view of the creek area. The morning time is especially beautiful.

4. Push and Pull: For me, it happens sometimes that the finished image of the painting comes to me as a whole right at the beginning, before I even begin painting. Such was the case for this final piece. I so clearly saw the two arms and hands pushing down on an object. It's the lucky artist who sees such a clear image once in awhile!

What's Coming Up?
The summer months can mean vacations and outdoor events. Is anyone planning on attending a street fair, outdoor art show or maybe even visiting a gallery in another town or state? Don't know what to say to an artist whose work you  admire or maybe even would like to ask about purchasing? I have some advice based on my own experience as both the maker and the buyer of artwork. Here are some tips:

1. The artist is probably just as nervous as you are about speaking in public to a stranger. We often work in solitude and don't have a lot of practice talking about our work. If you are interested in looking at the work why not try an ice breaker such as, "Wow, your art is so interesting. Can you tell me about how you make it?" or "The colors are so vibrant. Can you tell me about what inspires you to paint such vivid images?" Try to ask open ended questions that don't require a yes or no answer. And don't worry about knowing technical terms or artsy-jargon. The artist just cares that you are interested in what they are doing.

2. Look for common ground.  Maybe the artist's work reminds you of other art that you have seen. You might try an opening statement such as, "Your work really reminds me of so-and-so's work. What artists are you inspired by?" 

3. Worried about having to buy something if you speak to the artist or even make eye contact? Don't laugh! This happens. Try to remember that you are welcomed to look and are under no obligation to purchase anything. True, the artist is there to sell their work but they are also there to make contacts, to explain their work and to get feedback on their art. You can simply ask to have a look. There is a big difference between "Your art is interesting." and "I am interested in your art."

4. Maybe looking at art pleases you but you don't know much about art history or styles of art or the mediums being used. That's OK! Why not ask the artist about what inspires them instead of asking a more technical type of question? Look for adjectives/phrases that are simple when you want to describe what you are seeing: peaceful, bold, full of motion, vibrant, colorful, lonely, calming. These are all good descriptors to use to get started talking. 

5. Lastly, if you walk into an art gallery, all bets are off! To my mind, this is a public space whose express purpose is to show and sell art. Emphasis on the word show! The art gallery owner and workers know that the number of people who actually buy art is pretty small, particularly if the pieces are pricey. They expect you to look. The clerks or owner should ask if you need any help and it is just fine to say, "Thank you. I am just enjoying looking at the work." 

Above all else, remember that looking at art can be a visual pleasure. It's fun to talk about that if you are an artist and really, it is why both of you are there at a show to begin with-to talk. (Hopefully!) But, there is also a business side to things and as a consumer you want to keep that in mind. The artist is a business person just like any other "store" owner and their time and energy is just as important. Lastly, buying artwork isn't just about the art. Many artists are looking to form personal relationships so that potential buyers will turn into collectors. Why not ask if the artist has a newsletter, Facebook page, or a website? This way you can keep up with what they are doing and if you become able to purchase, your comfort level will have increased through repeated contact with the artist.

As always, my art is available for viewing here : Libby Fife Fine Art. I am on Facebook also both as "Libby Fife" and "Libby Fife Fine Art". Please feel free to contact me: Thank you again for reading and commenting!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In The Canyon and Twyla Tharp

In The Canyon
image size 12" x 16" matted to 16" x 20"-available
It's important to point out that this piece, which I feel is successful, is painted over the previous piece which was not so successful. Goes to show you.

I based this idea on the photos that I took at Big Chico Creek a couple of weeks ago while we were on vacation. The original photos were closeups of the creek where it meets the bank. The creek area that we experienced was both small and large. I mean to say that the space was both intimate and expansive. My subsequent interpretation is of an entire scene, both near and far. I added my own idea of the bluffs of the canyon beyond the creek. 

Each time I draw or paint this area, I get a different idea of what to do. I am hoping that it is leading to some clarity since a lack of a coherent final image was one of the things that tripped me up with the first try. Sort of like writing I guess where you do several drafts and then finally decide on the one way to say something.

In other news, I want to recommend a book that I just finished reading. It's written by Twyla Tharp and is titled The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life. Now, prior to reading this book I couldn't have picked this woman out of a lineup. I was just looking for some help. I hadn't realized that she is very accomplished and driven.  So, I am listening. The book is a good read with chapters broken down into small chunks representing parts of the creative process. At the end of each chapter she presents some ideas for exercises that the reader can do. The exercises are meant to get you thinking and to get you going. Her examples of overcoming creative issues are both personal and also include other peoples' experiences. The woman knows some heavy hitters. The upshot for this book is that if you are looking to be coddled or held gently somehow, forget it. Her tone is kind enough but firm. Perhaps a blend of tough love and a mild kick in the rear end.  

OK, thanks for reading and commenting. Hope everyone is having a good week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sketches and the Tedium of My Studio Practice!

Warning! This post is likely to be deadly boring!

So, no finished painting this week other than what I have already posted. Why is that, you say? Because I fell into a hole and couldn't get out! 

Vacation was wonderful and it made me feel very clear headed about my art. I got back home however and quickly cocked that all up. I sort of know what happened. I like to work from my sketches and develop a color plan ahead of time. I like to have a value study also that gives me just a little hint as to which direction to go. I didn't develop a color idea but just relied on memory and my photos. Then, it was just down to the photos. Big mistake, for me anyway. I know other people do just fine but I don't, for whatever reason. So, I painted and repainted and repainted some more. I could have painted my front yard fence!  In the midst of this I was trying to get ready for a show. And, to get ready for a class. Big mistake! Happens every time. 

So, I abandoned the sinking ship that was my painting. I worked on some sketches instead and developed some color ideas. I went back to look at Etel Adnan's work again to get motivated and inspired. Rich and I went to Lowes and bought a patio set. I took a nap with Cassie and had a half a beer. We went for a walk this morning. These things all help to assure me that I am still functioning because frankly, I wanted to pack it in.

Alright, tomorrow is Monday and I can't wait. To read something more positive, go here to my other blog.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Work: Up and Down

Up and Down
image size 9" x 12"-acrylic
Making art is nothing if not personal. From the subject matter, to the materials that an artist uses, to the way the artist works, everything is grist for the mill of individuality.

While on vacation recently, I tried hard to relax. For a stay at home artist/housewife type,I guess I can be rather tense. Maybe it is because I am alone so much with my thoughts, I don't actually have any distractions to push the ideas and feelings away. That's both good and bad. Sometimes I am tense for sure but sometimes the creativity flows from having that kind of mental space. In any case, while sitting and thinking, I had a mental picture of two arms together, pushing down on something. That something was a cluster of repetitive, negative thoughts. I immediately drew a little sketch of what I thought that would look like. (I am a literal minded person as you can see form the above piece!) I chose colors based on their symbolic interpretations. Green for life, regeneration and renewal. Blue for wisdom and creativity. Magenta, I learned, has to do with transformation. Red of course makes me think of anger and fire and heat. The yellow circle has to do with balance (for me) in relationship to the blue colors. It also seems like a bright spot in the topmost portion of the picture plane, implying in my mind that things are on the way up and not down.

I tried some new things for this piece too. Those two strips of red and pink at the bottom are actually construction paper. Art is about emotions sometimes but it is also a great problem solving exercise! I love straight lines and rectilinear forms. They are a p.i.a to manage however. Lot of taping involved. I used construction paper to make more precise lines, glued those down and then put paint over them. It's very exciting too because I think this procedure solves some technical things that have been plaguing me, chiefly the taping and straight line situation. 

So, on to the next thing. I have some sketches going from our time at Big Chico creek. I also will be trying some paper pulp painting so stay tuned for that! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Work: Breaking Through

Breaking Through
acrylic on paper 12" x 16"
Before I left on vacation I completed the above piece. Because I tend to think all of the time about pieces I would like to paint I have in my mind that I have painted the Hogan Lake rocks lots of times! Not true! We have huge rocks here, boulder size and smaller that people refer to as "tombstone" rocks. I have written about them before and probably painted them at some point, I just don't remember. 

Anyway, I closed in on this set of rocks a few months ago while at the lake. I was taking lots of photos and since rocks and their groupings are a favorite subject I ended up with many different shots.  Though I am not sure about the results it's likely that I will revisit the rocks again. I am happy with the colors which I decided to push a bit. I stylized some of the green areas of growth that were still showing and also left out the far shoreline. The piece has a sort of circular feel to me and I like that. Lake Hogan is a giant bowl of sorts that was filled in when the dam was created. The place has a "scooped out" feel to it, for me anyway. And the colors are very red at times, very orange-red or yellow-orange at other times. But, if a person didn't know the area I think the idea of a place in general can come through.

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


Just a mid month announcement/reminder that I will be participating in the Art on The Lawn show at Hovey Winery this coming Saturday, June 20th. This art show is part of the larger event, Behind The Bottle, which is an annual food and wine tasting event here in Calaveras County. The event is a great opportunity to try local foods and wines and to get an idea of how fun our county can be. Additionally, there are lovely stores to shop in here at Murphys and of course, there will be art on display and for purchase at Hovey Winery. Along with many other artists, I will be set up with my paintings for sale on the grounds of Hovey Winery. Please consider stopping by if you can to say hello, to sample some wine and to enjoy what is sure to be a beautiful day. Ticket purchase information (the price is extremely reasonable given the wines you can try) is located at the link provided for the Behind The Bottle event. 

Thank you again and I hope to see some of you there!