Saturday, May 19, 2018

New Work: Mountains of Strawberries; An Article

Mountains of Strawberries
20" x 20" acrylic on canvas
I almost titled this piece, Where to Next?  For some reason making color decisions just didn't come easy this time around. And although I am happy with the results I am just not entirely sure about what I will do next. 

The pieces are all started the same way. I have a design and it is drawn onto the canvas. I have a loose idea of the colors that I want to use.  I start placing colors and pretty soon, I am off the grid! I have deviated from The Plan. Generally this is fine but sometimes it produces a crisis of faith. Should I be doing something else? Will I always produce this type of painting if I am always starting in the same way? Are my color decisions stale? What if I just completed one section at a time? Would I just have 5-6 different sections that didn't relate to each other? One of the things that I think makes these pieces cohesive is that the same color is scattered throughout the piece-I vary the position, size of the piece, and chroma/value. What if I didn't do that? Ack!

I really like the random outcomes of these pieces. I have no way of knowing what the final piece will look like. No idea how the shapes and colors will look next to each other and in the context of the piece as a whole. If I change my process then what?

Anyhow, this is what I was thinking about as I made my piece. The bottom line is if you think you are having some success (or having failure) should you switch things up? Have I mentioned The Helsinki Bus Station Theory? It's from an article titled The Proven Path to Doing Unique and Meaningful Work by James Clear(It's OK, I didn't know who he was either. Take a minute to read about what James Clear does.) The Bus Station Theory is a good one. It addresses the question many of us artists have about doing unique and meaningful work and what can happen when we let the work of others lead us astray from doing that work. It's a good read for anyone thinking about copying someone else's work and how NOT TO DO THAT! It's also a good read for those of us who feel insecure or doubtful about our creative paths and look to others for guidance. Honestly, a person needs this article (and the theory). 

What about it then? The upshot of this article is that every time I think about switching up what I am doing or if I look at someone else's work and think Could I do that too? I remind myself about staying on the bus. My bus. My own bus line. (Hint, hint. James gives the answer about how to make your own work unique.) I specifically ask myself if I am about to get on a different bus. Lots of times I can answer no, I am not getting on another bus. But, I know it was a close call!  I almost did.

So, read James's article. He is a good writer with a reasonable and measured voice. The theory is sound too. And good luck! 

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Work: Wish Upon a Star

Wish Upon a Star
20" x 20" acrylic on canvas
Although I haven't been writing about my work too much lately, I thought I would mention some things about this piece as well as the last several pieces that I have made.

For one, I have come to accept using brighter colors-within reason. I like balance and so I try to even out those chromatic hues with tints and neutrals and even shape size and placement. These pieces are really like literal puzzles to me.

The other thing is inspiration. I found myself relying on this book I have. It's a book on decorating with color. The color suggestions and themes have served me well but it's possible that I was limiting myself, maybe getting lazy, with relying on something set rather than asking questions as I paint. Questions like, "Why this color? What is it doing for that color over there?" Stuff like that. So, I put the book aside for the time being just to see what might happen. 

What happened was that I got a crazy notion about making a rainbow painting. Growing up, rainbows were all the rage. Stickers, toys, drawings, whatever, you name it. Rainbows were everywhere. At some point though, the rainbow symbol got kind of co-opted. Rainbows became representative of other things and I guess I grew up a bit also. (Not much, OK, just a bit!) Rainbows kind of fell off my radar. Until the other day. I thought to myself that boy, would I like a pretty rainbow painting to call my own. Could I get away with that, artistically? I vowed to use all of the colors, judiciously of course, but all of them. So there! And that is how the above piece, and the last several ones, have come to be. Rainbows are indeed liberating on many levels.

The last thing I would comment on is something that some very well meaning people have assumed. I think many people, myself included, are under the impression that artists of all stripes must constantly find inspiration in everything they see and do. I suppose that some do. Good for them. For me, my brain is pretty fuzzy, like a cotton ball, so I am not always focused. Certainly not always focused on making art. Most of the time, when I get an idea, I am not even in my studio. I am somewhere else entirely, not even thinking about art at all. That part is critical. I am not thinking about what to do but just sort of listening. I am listening for my inner voice. My inner voice is always talking. It NEVER stops. So, I listen. And sometimes it tells me to make a rainbow painting. It doesn't tell me to paint a picture of a tree or something. It doesn't say that the landscape is my inspiration. It says "rainbow" loud and clear. It says "make a collage" and it says "go back to painting directly" and it tells me how to solve design problems. I just try to listen and interpret and apply. It's really that simple.

OK, that is it. The piece above is part of a series that is loosely based on rainbows, specifically that song Somewhere Over the Rainbow. We recently went to a lovely memorial service for a friend of my husband. The man passed away from ALS, a terrible, terrible disease. He was just a year younger than me. He, God rest his soul, selected the above song to play along with a photo montage that he put together. It was a tear jerker, I can tell you that much. What a life.

Thanks for reading and having a look. Take care!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

New Work: Desert Seeker

Desert Seeker
18" x 18" Acrylic on canvas
This weekend I was lucky enough to have a new acquaintance ask me about my art. I applaud people who do this, who bother to ask, because for most people the question is fraught with anxiety. Anxiety about what to ask and a little embarrassment because generally, the person feels they don't know much about art or that they don't "get" it somehow. My new friend readily admitted (after some hesitation) that she often doesn't understand art; she feels like she is missing whatever the artist is trying to say. (I assured her that often, I am in the same boat!) I explained that my artwork these days is very simple. It's all about lines, shapes and colors and whatever significance I attach to them. The meaning for me happens when I am working and directly reflects whatever I am thinking about. I assured the person who asked me the question that whatever she saw in my work would be just fine-there was nothing to really "get" in other words-and that if she liked the colors or shapes or whatever and they reminded her of anything, that would be just great. (I also told her what I was doing, what my own purpose as an artist is and what I want for my artwork to be.) And she could tell me and that would be great too. And furthermore, if the art matched her sofa or went well in her bathroom, that would please me too. (In the past, my work has been very big in people's bathrooms!)

So, what exactly then does the above piece mean? A clue could be in the title. I am beginning to really love the desert. Not the nitty gritty I-live-in-the-desert-every-day kind of thing but more the I-want-to go-to-the-desert-and-just-absorb-it kind of thing. When we were in Nevada two weeks ago, I loved the views of the mountains which are both near and far; the endless creosote bushes/sagebrush and seemingly endless sky. There is greenery where you least expect it, blue sky peeking out from a slot canyon, and astonishing rock forms in an unbelievable array of colors. The desert is formidable too-lovely, beautiful and deadly. (I saw more people set out for a walk/hike with no water, clothes coverings, or hats.) If the desert doesn't put the fear of God into a person I don't know what would.

So yes, this is a simple geometric piece that might not scream immediately "desert love" or may not even obviously convey what I was thinking when I made it. No matter. If you like the colors and it matches your sofa, that's a win-win!

Happy Easter to everyone (or Passover or Spring or what have you). Thanks for reading and commenting. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New work and Studio Redo Pics

Easter Parade
acrylic on canvas 18" x 18"

The Quiet Conversation
acrylic on canvas 18" x 18"
Boy, they don't write songs like this anymore and what a pity that is. Give a quick listen to Bing Crosby singing like an angel to Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday Inn. It will make everything better, trust me!

The first piece started out just as a color idea and when I finished there was really no title still. Usually something comes to me during the process but not this time. So, as I was getting ready to photograph the piece, for some reason I thought about Irving Berlin's song Easter Parade. The colors just remind me of Easter I guess. (And Springtime too if you really want to know.)

The second piece also started as a color idea. I had seen the cover of a Via magazine featuring a shot of Yosemite. Blue skies, green trees and some orange lettering for the magazine title. As I added colors, at one point I thought about the Bark Beetle blight that we have here in CA (and the West) in our forests. I liked the idea and even for a short time I liked the colors I chose. But, after a bit I realized that I just had a collection of colors. Not very exciting. Then, as I started adjusting colors, things began to get toned down and to fall into place. I ended up "graying down" all of my colors until I felt things were harmonious. I was reminded of what Nicholas Wilton calls the "quiet conversation." He means, I think, that not every element of the painting can be the star of the show. All elements in the piece, such as color, shape, and line, shouldn't be given equal weight otherwise nothing will stand out as the main idea. The piece will just be sort of shouting at you. That was how I felt about all of the saturated colors I initially had. Judicious adjusting and editing was called for!

Speaking of editing, I revamped my studio a few weeks ago and started to put things back. Not everything made it! Rich did put up shelves for me and I have been slowly populating them with current work. And bears. And stuff!

Current pieces 2018 and my "thinkin' " corner.

Too many bears for a 47 year old woman! (These are from my childhood, OK? Mostly!)

Some earlier pieces along with books and painting supplies. Gotta have books and lots of them!
So, good news I think. Rich was a real sweetheart and helped me make my studio space into a very special room with many of the things that I love. Those teddy bears have been with me since I was a child. My mom put them aside for me until I got a house and could collect them all in one spot. They have been waiting patiently in the inferno/frozen meat locker that I call our garage. I have some special objects too that I amassed over the years. They are placed lovingly on my shelves so I can see them. When I look at my stuff in this studio space I am reminded that I am an individual (apart from being a wife and daughter and friend) and that I am loved. Really, my wish would be for everyone to have this type of feeling in some way.

Alright, enough nostalgia. I hope everyone is having a good week so far. We have beautiful weather here. I was nearly too hot on my walk this morning!
Thanks for reading and commenting,

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New Work: Cameo

18" x 18" acrylic on canvas
This one was started while the studio was being painted. I set up my easel in Rich's office, adjacent to the kitchen, and got going. The painter interrupted me several times over the course of a few days. It was actually fine. I can kind of hone in on what I am doing sometimes if there is noise around me. It just depends. I chose the title because some of those reddish-mauveish colors reminds me of a cameo pin that I have from my mom.

Today I have been working on a new design and thinking about colors that I may want to use. I don't have a particular idea in mind just yet but I do have a design so that is good. 

Rich is working on the shelf situation in my studio. Honestly, I don't even want to put a thumb tack or nail in the walls but I need to be able to display my art so I can at least see what the hell I am doing or where I am going. 

Alright, it is quite windy here today and I understand that we are in for some colder weather. Maybe not precipitation in my area but certainly some snow up country. I'd like to do some hiking next week but I'll have to watch the weather. It isn't too fun hiking around in the cold much less the cold and the wind. 

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Work: Uplift 1 and 2

Uplift 1
18" x 18" Acrylic on canvas

Uplift 2
18" x 18" Acrylic on canvas
Recently I mentioned on FB that I was going to have my studio painted. The painter, the same one who painted the outside of our house, came over about a week or so ago to assess the damage. My artwork was still on the walls and as we stood there talking, he remarked that the paintings would make good "sound proofing tiles" like they have in movie theaters or on ceilings. I chuckled a bit (inwardly). Nothing like being put in your place by the guy that is going to paint your walls. 

I have been busy with one thing and another. Most of what I have been doing is voluntary. There have been a few obligations here and there. Painting the studio was a big deal. I hate having my house in disarray. I have been hiking a lot and cooking. Rich had a colonoscopy on Monday (all is well) and there is always grocery shopping and hair cutting. I have had lunch with my two aunts and cousin (always nice) and I like to do my reading in the afternoon. Somehow, the art production has declined a bit. I figure though that as long as I am thinking about things, generating ideas and feeding the creative drive here and there, then I am fine. 

The above two pieces weren't really inspired by anything to begin with. I find that if I set out to "represent" something, that it then becomes a disaster for me. It's much better if I pick a set of colors and think of things along the way. For these two pieces, I was reminded of land forms and how they rise and thrust and move about. I learned a new word today too. By searching through some geology terms, I came across the word "uplift." It means this: A structurally high area in the earth's crust, produced by positive movements that raise or upthrust the rocks, as in a dome or arch. This idea of rocks and earth being moved about over unimaginable periods of time is quite interesting to me. Unfathomable really. And I think that these last geometric pieces that I have done which don't use right angles help to convey an idea of movement. The forms are irregular and regular all at once, somehow. So while I didn't originally set out to do this, to present that idea of geology intersecting with art, I think maybe these pieces, for me anyway, help to support that idea.  

Hey! I have a piece in process. I started it when the studio was being painted. (My painter gave me tips on what to do!) I'll be able to show it shortly. In the meantime, I hope everyone reading is doing well, being creative, and is happy and healthy. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Work: Green, Green Grass

Green, Green Grass
18" x 18" acrylic on canvas
I was on my walk the other day when a set of colors kind of popped into my head. I could see the greens and the blue violets together on a canvas somehow and knew that I wanted to paint those colors for my next piece. It was funny but I also saw the shapes as "angular" somehow and knew that I wouldn't be painting them on a regular grid. (For me, a grid is a bunch of squares with 90 degree angles set up in an orderly fashion.) There wouldn't be any 90 degree angles if I could help it. I had done some sketching earlier and had taken a few of my regular grid designs and had sort of "distorted" the squares and rectangles into other shapes while still being mindful of proportion and repetition and line direction. I like that some of the lines meet, that some have implied meeting, and some of those implied meetings are slightly off. I feel like all of the little shapes are pushing and pulling on  the canvas against each other. 

Getting the crisp lines ended up being quite easy if not a little nerve wracking at first. I had read some time ago about using an acrylic medium to "seal" the edge of the tape to the surface of the canvas. By laying down the medium first and allowing it to dry, a barrier is created between the edge of the tape and the canvas and in theory, paint shouldn't "bleed" underneath that seal. The method works very well, say about 95% or better, so long as you are patient and let both the medium and the paint dry. The medium doesn't take long to dry but the paint is another matter. Acrylic is dry to the touch quite quickly but even though it feels dry, it is still "curing." Allowing about an hour for the acrylic to set up seems pretty reliable. Once the time is up you pull off the tape carefully and slowly. I pulled in both directions, towards the new paint and away from the new paint. I didn't quite detect a difference in results though I read that the tape should be pulled towards the newly painted color.

It's a lot of technical stuff and boring if you aren't in to acrylics but honestly, the solutions that I employed have made a world of difference to me. I actually really like the orderly nature of taping and sealing, having to wait, painting and having to wait some more. The whole process slows you down, which is good, but also forces you to really know your medium well. Knowing how acrylics work, what their properties are, and all of the different variables is really helpful.

Alright, enough of that! I have another design in mind and have my canvas prepped. No colors have solidified in my mind just yet but I will be working on that shortly. Hope everyone is having a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.