Friday, October 31, 2014

October 2014 Wrap Up Post

Back of Beyond
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Transition9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Still Full
8" x 8" acrylic on wc paper matted to 12" x 16"

Sense of Place and Space
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

Fall Flow
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted to 12" x 16"

October was a productive month. The palette knife paintings have continued and I am learning a lot from doing them. It's a different way of working for me that yields different results. Each piece has a story too and I'd like to share just a snippet of each one. 

Back of Beyond: This piece was inspired by one of the views in my back yard. Having three acres is a blessing but not all of that land gets attention. The very back is quite wild and while back there just recently, this view caught my eye.

Transition: We took a trip to Chico earlier in the month. The creek that flows through town is beautiful. You walk to the creek through a jungle of trees and bushes and when you get there you are entirely enclosed in this clearing.  The reflections on the still water create an illusion of there being no horizon line. My interpretation of that space was distorted and that experience brought about this piece.

Still Full: Lake Tulloch is not far from where I live and during a recent trip south on highway 49, I stopped by the side of the road to look at the water. The lake appears to be full. Ownership and distribution of the water in California is of interest to me and this piece of the lake was made in response to that interest.

Sense of Place and Space: This piece is a second work in response to the Chico creek visit. Another aspect of that creek area is the wildness and entanglement of all of the various trees, bushes, and plants. I hoped to capture a little bit of that disorder with this piece.

Fall Flow: The Calaveras River flows close by to where we live. It's easy to get down to the riverbank to take a look at things. I have visited here often and taken lots of photos over the past 4-5 years. The water, trees and bushes all have a much different look during the winter. That impression was used to make this piece.

Upcoming Events:
Staring in November, the gallery store in San Andreas will be hosting the Affordable Gifts of Art show. The Arts Council puts on this event every year and it is always quite a draw. It's a great way to shop locally and to support local artisans. I hope to have some work in the show. If you are in the area be sure to stop by and do some shopping.

Beginning again in January, I will be offering more classes through the Arts Council in San Andreas. The color wheel/6 color split primary palette class offered in October was very successful. I will probably offer this again in addition to a basic drawing/observational skills class. I am hoping also that one of my artist friends will be teaching a class on basic perspective. Things will be worked out soon so stay tuned!

I love this time of year and am hoping for a good month coming up in November. Please feel free to email me with any questions regarding the above pieces:  My website is updated and can be found here: I am also on Facebook under Libby Fife/Libby Fife Fine Art. And I refuse to Tweet so no joy there!

Thank you to everyone for reading these posts and supporting me and my art making. It means a lot!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Work: Transition

9" x 12" (roughly) and matted to 12" x 16"; acrylic wc paper
The Work Above:
This was completed on Tuesday. It nearly got away from me. Painting in the afternoon for me is always a dicey proposition. I tend to get tired and when that happens I stop making good decisions. The results here though feel good to me. The piece is based on a photo that I took while in Chico a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned earlier that the creek that runs through the middle of town is amazing. You literally step inside a large stand of trees and brush that surround the creek. The experience was other-worldly. It's literally like you are standing inside of something, looking out, rather than just looking at something in a two dimensional sense. I didn't think I could necessarily recreate that but I was able to hold onto those ideas as I was making t his piece.

Technical Stuff:
I used the palette knife again for this piece. The reference photo was turned upside down in order to get rid of the horizon and the idea of it being a landscape. My initial drawing was also done upside down using the photo which I turned into a black and white image. Those two things helped me to just focus on shapes and values and direction of line. I started with a 3 value under painting done in a cool blue. Using just one color made it easier to see the overall pattern of shapes and movement. As I added the green colors, dark to light, things weren't making a ton of sense. I added the muted purples and browns and then the idea of what I wanted solidified. I also broke down and added the suggestion of a horizon line. At some point I'd like to not use a horizon line in my compositions but honestly, I am not there yet. 

OK, I had stuff to do earlier this week and haven't been in the studio too much.  However, there are groceries in the fridge now and a meal planned for tonight. I am good to go! If you think I just get to be arty all of the time, think again! 

Hope everyone has had a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are You My Mentor?

Copy of Cleve Gray-Untitled

Copy of Linda Geary-Black Blue 0

Anyone remember that book? (Actually titled Are You My Mother?)

Recently a friend and fellow artist, who had heard that I was teaching a class, asked me if I would give a class in creating my figures without faces. She and I had talked about the figures one other time. She liked the "no-face" look and felt it added interest to the composition. As I was talking with her, I thought to myself that honestly, I wouldn't know where to begin. Then, because I am me, I thought maybe she was just being kind. She is a pretty honest person though so I eventually felt that she was expressing genuine interest and the desire to learn something new; something that she perceives to be new anyway.

The "no face" thing is not new or unique, however. After I had done several of the pieces I looked around for other work like this. People do it; it's common. And frankly, other people do it better than me! 

I won't be giving a class about this technique. There isn't much to say about painting this way. It's just some simple modeling of a face form with some line work for the subject and the gathering in and simplifying of shadows and light. Mostly though there is no class for this "technique" because it's my point of view; it's my preference for figurative work that I do. And I guess it falls under the heading of style. How do you teach that idea?

My point with the above story is this: how can you help someone (or be helped yourself) to develop a style? After all, wasn't my friend really asking about how to get that look? How could she learn about that? I am guessing at her motivation because it is my own motivation too for asking questions . What is the artist doing, how are they doing it, and moreover, why are they doing it? Can I learn to do it too and is it important enough to me to incorporate into my own work? In other words, how do I develop and solidify my point of view in making art?

This all brings me to the work above that I did over the weekend. I decided to do two copies of work that I admire. (I have given links to both artists, one who has passed away and one who is still very much alive and working in Oakland.) I did these copies first and foremost to figure out what the artists were doing. What the order of business might be. Secondly, is the process something that I think I should incorporate into my own work? And lastly, I NEED SOME GUIDANCE, COUNSELOR!!!! Honestly, I do. Excluding all of the above wondering and musings, I think this is at the root of the problem (and maybe even the deeper meaning of my friend's question). When you work alone and don't have a clear vision and are unsure and fairly uneducated about art (but are trying very, very hard to get there) it's inevitable that you will reach out in some way for help. Ideally you would like a mentor who can help you get your act together; tell you what to do next even. 

I understand that this is all one, long process. I've liked much of what I have done so far and think that the palette knife work I am doing currently is a big leap forward. (I enjoy it a lot also.)  My drawing is improving and I am learning a lot about art history as well as current art being made right now. The above pieces felt really great to do. There were some wonderful "ah-ha" moments. I admit from time to time that I just don't always know what I am doing. And if I have learned anything in the time since my mom died I have learned that there is no shame whatsoever in not knowing something. The only shame is in not wanting to learn. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Work: Fall Flow

Fall Flow
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper-matted-available
This week has been busy for me. Earlier I worked on the first version of this piece. It didn't come out how I wanted and so I redid it. For this piece, I laid in the drawing and then turned it upside down. I also turned my reference photo upside down. I found for the first piece that I had too much of a "Landscape" idea in my mind's eye and so was painting in a set kind of a way. Turning everything  upside down helped to shake up that set idea. Also, it remains a little surprising that this knife work and heavier application of paint is appealing to me. Acrylics can be so plasticky that I have been stopped by their feel in the past. For this piece things are OK with the tactile nature of the heavier paint strokes. 

I received a new knife yesterday and wanted to try it for this piece. It has a squared off end much like a "bright" style brush. Brights and flats are brushes with a squared off end as opposed to rounded or tapered or angled. This knife is the same idea as the bright. I was looking to make longer, more rectangular passes of color. The pointed and triangular knife I have seems to encourage me to be fiddley which is not what I want to do. I feel like I want very general shapes and marks organized into an idea and so I hope I am getting there.

The class on Monday went very well. I do love interacting with other people, talking about painting and pigments. The second class is next Monday and so I am looking forward to that. I have other ideas for classes kind of gelling so I will be working on that this weekend. I also received a large wood painting panel in my shipment yesterday. It is 24" x 30" which is big for me. It's for the River Reflections project and so this weekend I will gesso the board and get going on my drawings. I have my idea but need to do the drawings, the transfers, and the painting. Good stuff.

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Work: Passage

acrylic on wc paper-matted
9" x 12"
Over the weekend I made myself crazy with this little number, pic shown above. I have a series of upcoming water scenes that I will be painting and really, I am interested in bodies of water, how they form and their movement.  It seemed like a good idea then to revisit this subject. I decided to start with another version of Junction shown in this post here. I did learn that for me personally it didn't pay to try and recreate the first piece, as much as I really liked it and felt that it worked well.  Because I didn't stop to consider what made the first piece attractive to me, I had a harder time with things because I was just trying to recreate something.  As good old Heraclitus said, "You cannot step in the same river twice." My husband came in to to get me several times during the course of the evening. Things weren't right with the painting and I couldn't let it go before I settled down. I finally solidified my thoughts and got what I wanted. 

Our weather is finally going to cool down a bit. I am looking forward to some gray days, as strange as that sounds. I looked at the last 4-5 paintings that I have done and they are all very green. Nothing wrong with that but I need a switch. I have two pieces in mind and have done a preliminary drawing of one of them. I have also been working on my figure drawing. Our TV system has a pause button and so I use that to freeze a figure in motion in order to study it. Picking figures that are grouped together is helpful for working on placement and relationships of negative space. I have also been doing a lot of lookey-looing on Pinterest. In addition to finding my own pins, I love following other pinners around. Randall David Tipton is a favorite for me as his pins not only provide insight into what he likes but also provide me with a springboard for finding other artists. I am like a terrier on the guy's pant leg with these pins too! I am surprised I haven't been nabbed for some kind of Pinterest cyber-stalking!

OK, I have a class today at the Arts Council. I'll be talking about a split primary color scheme and why painters might want to try it. The rest of the week looks busy. Hope everyone has a good Monday. Thanks for reading and commenting.Libby

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Work and Chico Road Trip

Place and Space
9" x 12" acrylic on wc paper

Beginning of above piece-white and black gesso
On Monday Rich and I took a drive to Chico for a road trip. Rich graduated from Chico State back in the early 1980's and has not been back since that time. Sierra Nevada Brewing is located in Chico as well and so it seemed natural to pair up a trip down memory lane with some beer drinking. 

We had a spectacular lunch at the brewery. I am very picky about food, how it is prepared and presented and really, the freshness of the ingredients. I would have eaten the entire portobella mushroom burger had I been able. Sadly, I left some on the plate. The beer was quite good as well. We enjoyed a lovely tour and tasted some good beer afterwards. The next morning we drove to town. Chico is kind of a mix of Berkeley and some indeterminate rural area. Down at the heel but with some very real aspirations. We visited Bidwell Park and it is a gem! It's a real oasis in the middle of an otherwise non-oasis sort of a place. Green, lush, and with a gorgeous creek flowing through the middle. I imagine that on a very hot day this would be a wonderful area to visit. (And Chico does get very hot and very cold.) 

The above piece is inspired by the many photos that I took while standing at the water's edge. The vegetation and creek taken as a whole present the strangest illusion of there being no defined space. The water was as calm as a piece of glass-clear and reflective. I found that there was very little horizon line and because of that and the reflections, the sense of space became flattened out, vertically, like it was one dimensional or something. I am not even sure I am describing it well or accurately. I did what I could with the paint and my idea of what I saw. I'd like to have another go at the same idea but with a different aspect of the creek. The reflection is an important part of what I felt but it isn't the beginning and end to expressing the idea. 

I am including both the finished piece and the picture of the beginning of the piece. Thanks to Julie Ford Oliver and her tutorial, I was able to make a good place to start with this semi non representational piece. I squirted black and white gesso onto my pane of glass and then took that and mono printed it onto my paper. I admit that I knew beforehand that I wanted to work with the above idea so I didn't totally follow her suggestion. It was a great way to start though and I will be doing it again for the next piece. My feeling about the creek is that it is both up and down, space and non space, and green and full of life. I will see what comes of that in the next couple of days.

OK, nattering on again. Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Monday, October 6, 2014

New Work, Water, and a Teensy Crisis

9" x 9" acrylic on wc paper

The above piece was completed over the weekend and is based on a photo that I took Friday while on a little road trip.  Driving down to Mariposa (located on the outskirts of Yosemite, southeast of me), I crossed over the O'Byrnes Ferry bridge. The bridge is very small and quite old and spans the now defunct Lake Tulloch rec area. I have a real affinity for water in all of its configurations: lakes, streams, puddles, rivers and oceans. Not being a strong swimmer or even someone who loves being in or on the water, my interest in bodies of water is curious to me. Water seems mysterious somehow; something to be feared even. It is no doubt a life source in every sense of that phrase. Some of the reading that I do helps me to understand a little more about water both as a resource and as a living entity. As a theme in my work, I expect water to continue to make an appearance. (As a side note for all of you arm chair astrologers: I am an earth sign, Tauras, and so I always associate myself with solid ground. Not sure at all how the water enters into the picture.)

More work with the palette knife in the above piece. It's possible to get very, very fiddly with this tool so I have to be careful. I much prefer larger swathes of color and think I can do this by adding more water to my paint mixture. I do really like how the colors can be blended together or left quite separate prior to application. And there is something about the knife that encourages the use of color straight from the tube so I want to be cautious about too much color. Your color aesthetic should still come through regardless of the tools used. (My opinion of course!)

Lastly, I am having a teensy painting crisis. Making art is about expressing something right? Either it's an idea, a concept, a feeling, an image, whatever. Something is there and the artist is trying to bring it out. I am having difficulty defining just what it is that I want to bring out and how I want to do it. Looking at different types and styles of work has been helpful. Learning about different art movements has also provided some guidance. Sketching and doodling is happening. And now? Doing needs to be begin. 

Hope everyone has a good start to the week. Thanks for reading and commenting.