Friday, May 29, 2015

New Work: Across Town

Across Town
acrylic on wc paper image size 12" x 16" approx-available

The title is a play on words. When I drive to the Bay Area, part of my route is on highway 4 or what is known as "The Crosstown Freeway."  Fairly frequently, in the morning, I will see a plume of smoke as I approach the highway 5 interchange. The other day, as I was coming home, I chanced to look in the rear view mirror and I saw the plume again in the afternoon. Seems like that needs to go into a painting!

I actually tried another version of this piece but gave it up in frustration. I am willing to call a spade a spade and even if my design is good, by my standards, I still may not be able to execute it. Or have the patience for it. I had way too many fiddly areas that needed to be taped in order to achieve straight lines. I felt like I was going back to what I used to do and that felt all wrong. I want to go forward, not in reverse! So, I gessoed over the thing and started again.

I referenced this piece here by Etel Adnan. I added my own "motifs" of the plume of smoke, the Delta, a conglomeration of the buildings that you can see from the freeway, and the ubiquitous sun/moon. The building color actually references a building that is in my hometown where I grew up. So, a melange of things. The blue rectangle is referencing the Greyhound Bus building in Stockton which I believe is now defunct. This is all stuff that nobody but me would know necessarily. I look around for things in my past though to form my own narrative for these pieces. It's OK if no  one else knows what they are unless they ask me. Hopefully another person would see their own things in these pieces.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Work/Josef Albers

acrylic on wc paper image size 11" x 14"

The above piece was completed yesterday. Check out that texture!

I am still reading through my Josef Albers book, The Interaction of Color, and I wanted to try out one of the ideas. Let me say first though that the book, while extremely helpful, is not a manual for how to paint using principles of color interaction. Various scenarios involving color interaction are presented along with solutions to those problems. Colored paper is used to illustrate the examples but the examples themselves, while interesting, are not traditional landscape paintings.  So, while I have learned a few things I really haven't any idea yet of how I might apply them in my work.

One of the things that Albers discusses is how one color that is one value and one hue can look differently when placed against two different valued and different hued grounds. Clear as mud? Here is what I did: I took the same pile of mixed color and used that one hue to paint the two moons above. Each moon is placed against a different valued background as shown in pic 2. It is a little more noticeable in the b/w image but the moon in the sky is perceived to be darker than the moon on the water even though in fact they are exactly the same color and the same value. (He refers to these two things as hue and light intensity I believe.) It's a nifty trick no?

Perception is key here and in fact, Albers stresses this point throughout the book. He presents some opinions about working with color theory, about developing your own color aesthetic through experimentation, and how students can be stifled when they start at the "wrong" end of the teaching spectrum, i.e., they skip this important experimentation stage and fail to develop an informed aesthetic because they are following a set color formula. It's fascinating actually for me to consider this because, frankly, I can relate! Being a newbie artist myself, I understand about clinging to formulas of any sort. Painting can feel like drowning at times.

The book is a real gem of a read if you can get past some of the flowery language. (Why did they feel the need to write like this back in the day?) I am reading it again so that I can get a better grasp on things. Much of what he has written sounds like the manipulation of values and hues and chroma, no matter how he expresses his theories.

OK, hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Work: Follow The Leader

Follow The Leader
Acrylic on wc paper image size 11" x 14"

The following observations are part of my thought process (and just my own opinion, applying only to me!) for making the above piece:

One of the main problems I am finding with being inspired by someone else's work (or of even copying it to learn) is that you have no idea what the person was thinking when they made that piece of art. Reproducing something from a purely visual standpoint isn't terribly difficult. But then what? Where is your own voice in this process?  In the absence of any real knowledge of what another person was thinking it's hard to know what to do next. You get stuck just copying.

Why mention this at all? It seems self evident and sort of like a dead end question. The potential to learn from asking is pretty strong though and here is my reasoning. Because you don't know what that artist was thinking (what skills or theories or plans they were using) you are free to interpret the construction of that work in whatever way you want. In other words, you can look at that person's work and think in your own terms, based on your own efforts and learning, what that artist may have been doing. You then could possibly have a new idea for your own work.

Take the above piece for example. For the past 5 months now I have been inspired by the work of Etel Adnan.  Her work speaks to me in a serious way. When I first viewed her paintings I thought to myself that here was a person painting exactly in the way that I wanted to paint-simple and uncomplicated but kind of complex also. With the exception of my palette knife pieces, my own work felt stiff and stilted and repetitive to me. How could I go on? I saw exactly what to do when I viewed this painter's work. Looser shapes, looser interpretations of the landscape and all of its attendant paraphernalia, plus color, color, color! I felt like I had been given permission to change. I started studying her color combinations but I had no idea what she was doing. None of the limited interviews that she has given over the years gave me any kind of a clue to her thought process. I couldn't figure out what all of her shapes referenced either. So I made it up and filled in the gaps! And this is what I alluded to above. In the absence of a solid explanation, I was free to take what I knew from my own studying and to guess and to come up with my own ideas. Kind of like making sourdough bread. You need a starter mixture right?

And I am still learning from her work and making things up. The whole process has helped me to look at my environment differently, to sketch differently and to think about color and design much more than I ever did before. It's been an invaluable experience so far. (If the woman had an email address I would send her a thank you note!)

A person can come at art making from many, many angles. All you have to do is find the right angle:)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blue Ribbon

Spiritus Deorum
Thank goodness for friends like Julie.  In my previous post I mentioned the blue ribbon from the Fair for the above piece but neglected to show the piece! Doh!


Monday, May 18, 2015

New Work: From Here to There

From Here to There
Image size 11" x 14" matted to 14" x 18"
(image based loosely on a sketch from the Putah Creek at UC Davis)
Over the last several days I have been slowly picking at this piece. I had a hard time to begin with not being able to nail down the shapes and colors. That mostly has to do with muddy thinking and inattention on my part. (I do so wish I could blame the materials!) For me, there is most definitely a point during the painting process when I feel that I have nailed down what I want. It can take awhile though but it includes colors, shapes, and values. The remainder of my time is spent carefully mixing each color to ensure that I have the hue that I want as well as the value. It's always a happy moment when I have that "ah ha!" feeling and I know that I can wrap things up.

For anyone interested, I used a new tool for this piece to create some of that texture. 
Catalyst Blades
See that little orange tool that looks like a fork? That is the one I used. The link for the info is here. After I saw the marks that it makes (see the green shapes above) I realized I may have been able to use a plastic fork. I could use a toothpick too I suppose. Any number of pointy objects would do. I like the uniformity though of the "fork" tool. If you scrape hard enough you will go through to whatever color is below. I haven't quite thought out the solution but it occurs to me that you could easily create tone-on-tone texture. Very exciting.

OK, I am off today to pick up my entries from the Calaveras County Fair. I saw on Sunday that one of my paintings received a blue ribbon. The day that I don't get excited about something like that is the day that I chuck my brushes and paint!

Hope everyone's Monday is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

New Work: Linked

acrylic on wc paper 12" x 16" image size-available

close up for texture marks
What started out as an experiment in balancing shapes and values turned into some ideas about color placement and relatedness, for lack of better terms. For this piece I had a certain feeling in mind first of all, and so I worked on that through color. Good. Then, as I was working on color I got to thinking about how all colors are mixtures of other colors. I also considered how primary colors which are single pigments have underlying color tendencies. As an example, the color red can lean towards blue (purple). It can also lean towards yellow (orange).  Many mixtures have a common primary base color too. Greens, (made up of blue and yellow), and oranges, (made up of yellow and red) both contain  yellow, a common primary base color.

So, long story short, the above painting "contains" my ideas about the color yellow that I used (which leans towards green) and the greens that I mixed (leaning towards yellow or blue) and the blues that I used (leaning towards red or purple). How would the underlying color tendencies of those single pigments and mixtures relate to each other and then how would the colors placed next to each other look? If my yellow was next to that violet blue would it appear to be more of an orange yellow? Could my yellow greens make the yellow seem more green or more yellow? How would the warmer greens do with the violet blues? This is probably one of the first times I have become consciously aware of color temperature (which to me means underlying primary color as well as a temperature feeling) and placement of colors next to each other for influence. I certainly consider temperature when painting but am not sure that I actively and consciously try to manipulate the feeling of it. I can't say I have a handle on it but it has me thinking.

Happy Mothers Day to everyone! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, May 4, 2015

New Work: Edge

11" x 14" acrylic on paper-available
Inspired by this piece by Milton Avery, I adapted the coloration and design. I pictured a pier of sorts sticking out into the water-just a very basic side view. I wanted to see if the structure could feel supported with the other shapes.

Hope everyone's Monday is off to a good start.