Friday, March 27, 2015

New Work: Spiritus Deus

Spiritus Deus
acrylic on wc paper image size approx 10" x 13" matted to 14' x 18"
About a month or so ago Rich and I were driving back from Murphys along highway 49. I was looking out the window at the hillsides which are incredibly green right now. During this time of year we can get a lot of fog and the scenes can be quite dramatic with the mists weaving in and out of the mountains and hills. As I was looking around I thought about this weaving of fog. I drew a quick sketch to capture the idea. When I got back to my studio I tried to recreate my sketch and found that I was just complicating it too much; I was losing sight of my original idea. I put the sketches aside, thinking that my idea was too silly. A couple of weeks later I was listening to some "New Age" music while I was working. I looked over at the title of one of the pieces that was playing. It was either the title of the song or the group playing the music that caught my attention: God's Breath. That image seemed incredible to me. I wrote it down and squirreled the idea away for another time. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I put that idea together with my sketch of the fog weaving in and out of the mountains. Roughly translated, the title of my piece means "spirit of God." What else might God's breath be other than his essence being interwoven via the fog and mist through the landscape? I love the imagery of this. Talking about religion and belief is very new for me and frankly I am uncomfortable with doing it in a public forum, such as a blog. I will say though that it occurs to me that for many of us, we search in all of the wrong places for God's presence in our lives, expecting to see it in some unique way that is miraculous, and being disappointed when the miracles don't appear. While something akin to a miracle can happen (and those instances should be looked for and noticed), I also believe that the obvious and mundane hold meaning too. Those events and happenings make up the length and breadth of our days; why not pay attention?  

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Work: All at Once & Acrylics and Watercolors Together at Last!

All at Once
10" x 13" approx matted to 14" x 18"
Over the weekend I worked on the above piece. My goal was to use warmer colors with contrast to create a sense of light and heat. The green sky is very new for me and felt a bit odd at first. I like for the colors and shapes that I chose to paint to have some basis in reality, no matter how small. I hung my hat, so to speak, on the fact that on my drive to the Bay Area the other day the sky was indeed a strange shade of warm green. The structure of the piece is based on some photos that I took last month at Hogan Lake here where I live. I got down close to the shore line and took lots of different shots. I rearranged some elements for this piece to sort of get a view of the lake from behind some structures.

I also did some experimenting this weekend with some of my supplies. Late last year I purchased a good array of watercolors. While I love the colors, love sketching with them, I don't care for painting actual pieces with them. Being wasteful though doesn't appeal to me and so I thought about how I might use the paint differently and  more permanently. I did some tests using different acrylic mediums. I think I now have a way to put down a more permanent base coat of color that won't lift when I apply additional coats of color. It's crucial for me to be able to put down different layers of paint because I don't always get things right the first time and often change my mind once I see everything together. So, stay tuned. I hope to work on a piece this week using what I learned.  

The garage also got an overhaul on Thursday and I now have a new space in which to photograph my work. Direct sunlight is not conducive to getting a crisp image with a painting but you do need enough light (no flash). The garage allows me to set up a tripod and to place my painting on a ladder thereby giving it some height. I have high hopes here so I will continue to try out this setup. I haven't worked out all of the variables yet-photography is hard for me to grasp-but as I said, I will continue to try.

OK, I have a busy week ahead. Hope everyone's Monday is off to a good start. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Work and Put On Your Thinking Caps

I'd Rather Be
acrylic on paper
 image size 10" x 12" approximate matted to 14" x 18"
The Work:
Last year my girlfriend and I went kayaking. The idea of being so close to the water, sitting on it actually, and the possibility of overturning or of getting so far out that I can't paddle back, sort of terrifies me. Equally frightening is being in the water and somehow not being able to get back into the boat. Panicking I guess. However, with my friend there, I managed to get in and not only that, enjoy myself in the process. We are now both thinking about buying kayaks. The Husbands have approved so this might actually happen.

The above piece is inspired by one of those trips. I bent down low on the beach, in front of the kayaks, to take the source photo. Everything in the photo got positioned and reduced down to the simplest shape possible. I followed the perspective of the scene as much as I thought was reasonable but tried not to be tied to it in an exact way. My tolerance for this sort of thing is expanding, I think. The idea of the boats as a unit, balancing on the ground, with the sun in the back as another balance sort of makes me really happy. I picture things in my compositions as if there is a teeter-totter present. Or scales. Something like that.

In Other News:
Do you think that you want enough for yourself? Are your art related expectations low? I do a lot of Internet surfing in the morning as I am having my coffee and waking up. During those searches I come across artists whom I have never heard of, whose work I either am drawn to or not, and whose resumes are impressive and seemingly endless. Looking at their accomplishments (and also noting that many of them are younger than me) reminds me of the smallness of the context in which I operate. Small town, small pieces, small showings, small audience, etc. What do I want for my art and myself and on what scale do I want those things? It's a question worthy of intense consideration especially given my age. And I would go so far to say that anyone doing something creative should ask this question first. What do you want? (And please, be advised to look for an internal rather than an external response.)

OK, thanks for reading and commenting. Hope everyone has had a good week so far.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Work: Someday Soon & Product Review

Someday Soon
acrylic on paper
Image size 10" x 13' approx matted to 14" x 18"

This piece could have easily been titled Dreaming of Lake Alpine. Now that the weather has been warmer for awhile I have a strong desire to go hiking. We call it "going upcountry" around here and it means you are heading up highway 4 towards the mountains.

There is no doubt either that I could sorely use an indoor photography setup. My camera is good but my photography habits are bad! I just haven't applied myself to the task.

For the above piece, I used something a little new. I have always though acrylics were a little "gimmicky" because of all of the things that can be done with additives. Pastes, and gels, and thinners and extenders: they all do something different to make the paint behave differently. Stiffness, silkiness in blending, texturizing, and transparent effects. If you can dream it up, there is probably an acrylic medium for it! A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was time to order more paint. I chose to order paint from a fairly new-to-me company down south called Nova Paints. I switched brands because of cost.  M. Graham, Golden, and Utrecht brand paints are rich and creamy but in greater quantities than what I currently use, they are also expensive. So, trying to be economical, I ordered from Nova. The paint arrived and I was surprised that it was so thin. I was a little bummed but perked up when I realized that I probably had something that I could add to the paint to thicken it up. The consistency doesn't matter for me anyway until the final layer goes on. (I work in washes until I get the color and value right.) The paste works wonderfully to add body to the paint. It also extends the quantity of the paint quite a bit which is another bonus. And cost-wise, you need very little of the paste which gives you more bang for your buck.  So, win-win for me! 

OK, hope the week is off to a good start for everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Work: Coming and Going & Living With Your Art

Coming and Going
Acrylic on paper image size 10.5" x 13.5" approx matted to 14" x 18"

New Work: Coming and Going
The above piece was completed on Thursday. It was inspired by one of my recent trips over the Altamont Pass. After exiting the freeway just before ascending the summit of the pass, I pulled over and sat for a minute in my car looking at the freeway I had just gotten off of. I saw trucks coming and going in both directions, east and west. My idea was born!

The 580 freeway runs east and west and can be exited at either side of the pass. The road curves through the mountains and travels by the small town of Altamont. There are evidently two sections to the road; one which was part of US highway 50, the famed Lincoln Highway and the other is the connecting route which was in use prior to the building of the 580 freeway, roughly. I admit to having an inordinate interest in California history. Of course, what is happening now is important but I am most drawn to the history of the state from its earliest formation to the mid to late twentieth century. I don't know much but I love finding out about things that used to be: roads that were important but were made obsolete by general advancement in technology, for example. Towns that used to exist, places and people that used to hold interest, and the ways in which progress and human attitudes have shaped and changed our mutual landscape. Something that I see or find out about will grab my attention. I'll start to wonder about the thing and before I know it, a painting idea has taken shape. And it doesn't seem to be important to me that the painting depicts the idea absolutely and that the viewer knows precisely what I am talking about. It just seems to matter that I had an idea, an interest, and was able to express that. That disconnect between my idea and what the viewer perceives seems to be important also; call it obvious but maybe it has to do with our current day disconnect between all that we have and the cost at which that comes to us as a population.

Living With Your Art:
My friend Carol asked me the other day if I had any of my new artwork hanging in my house. The work is on the walls of my studio of course but I hadn't yet put it anywhere else. I would argue with anyone any day of the week that if you make art of any sort, it has to be lived with in some way. People at shows have commented to me that they like my work but don't have any room for new art. What do they mean I wonder? It's important to consider this.  At the most basic and personal level, do I live with what I make? Does the work go with my decor? How can I ask anyone to buy the work if I wouldn't buy it myself? These are questions worth asking if only to decide that you make something in a certain way because you love it and that is enough. No sense in loving something and not living with it actively. So, I thought I would show pics of several of my pieces in situ, so to speak.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Work: Lenten Moon

Lenten Moon 
Image size 9" x 12" acrylic on paper
For the record, I can't get Blogger to upload my photo without the distortion of color. The sky is actually a little lighter than shown above and the moon is a little more of a red-orange and not a golden yellow. 

The above piece is based on a quick glance out of my window that I took the other morning. The moon was quite full and just in passing, the morning sky was a sort of bluish/lavender/gray. I simplified everything down to straight horizontal shapes to represent hills, ground and the base of the sky at the horizon. I love that the moon shape is smack dab in the middle of things. Who says that you can't do that?

The title of the piece is the actual name of the moon that appeared around March 5-6. It's a Lenten moon, so called by early Christians because it appeared in the time of Lent. It also goes by the name of Worm Moon which didn't seem so great for a title.

OK, hope everyone is having a good week so far. Beautiful weather here with a chance of sprinkles later this week. Not much but it is something.

Friday, March 6, 2015

New Work + Perception and Expectation

Out of Stone
10" x 12" acrylic on paper

Where the Bees Live
9" x 12" acrylic on paper
New Work:
The above two pieces were completed this week. Both pieces are ideas that I had either while driving or from memory. The first piece, Out of Stone, is based on a scene that I see nearly every day on my way back from my walk. There is a quarry off to the left as I drive home and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the hillside and the piles of gravel. The Calaveras river runs right next to the quarry and the mountain (from which I assume that they mine the rock) is in the background. I brought those elements together, flattened out and redid the perspective, and generally used some of the available local color. I made the piles of gravel bigger than they are to emphasize them.

The second piece is an idea that I had about the flowering cherry trees in my area. These trees all have a range of white to pink to purple blossoms. They could be cherry trees or they might be something else. I don't know. Trees like this are also down in the town of Linden. I believe them to be some kind of fruit tree like pears or cherries or almonds. Something. Anyway, I imagined an orchard at night where boxes of bees might be set on the ground. The resulting piece shows what I thought about the trees and possible shadows and boxes. I had no idea if those curvy lines would work but I really like them-the shapes-quite a bit.

Perception and expectation:
My friend Cate asked me about one of my previous pieces, Moon Rise and Fall. She mentioned that the towers came forward (rather than appearing as if they were in the distance as I had described). Perception and expectation play such a crucial role in viewing art don't they? I find that when I look at a piece of art, no matter how open my mind is to things, I always seem to be looking at the work through a kind of rule based prism. Letting go of what  you think should be there and simply being open to the emotional interpretation of the work is difficult. Doing that is rewarding though both in making the art and in viewing it. I find myself now thinking of the elements of design, the limited amount that I know about, and trying to put those rules aside to make a piece that I enjoy; to get my idea out. I hope this is progress.

OK, hope everyone has had a good week. I have been in the studio for four days in a row which is great but I admit to being a little stir crazy. I am going to lunch today with two girlfriends that I don't see very often. I am a blessed and lucky person! 

Thanks for reading and commenting,