Sunday, December 20, 2015

The path to abstraction . . .

Smokehouse #3  14 x 22  oil pastel on paper

Smokehouse #4  14 x 22  oil pastel on paper

As artists, the pursuit of art, as we think it is or should be: 

 . . . honest, satisfying, true, unsentimental or sentimental, direct and clear, strong, powerful, well-executed, good or bad or ugly, important, visionary, banal, old school, new school, trite, Kinkadian, amateur, sweet, sour, relevant —words for the weary painter. 

It’s very often true that artists hate their work, or at the very least question if it is . . . whatever—fill in your own word.

This week for me has been a mind-numbing exploration of

What is Abstraction, and how do I achieve it?

In the abstract (haha), the answer to both questions is not that difficult, but in application, I’m struggling over issues regarding procedure.

Smokehouse #3 and Smokehouse #4, both oil pastels, are examples of my efforts this week to cross over to abstraction.

My dilemma:

If I start a painting with a given subject as my reference, in this case “smokehouse”, I end up with a clear, non-abstracted, hard-edged image of, yup a smokehouse, regardless of my intention to abstract this subject into a nearly unrecognizable form.

If I start a painting without a given subject as my reference, I can and do happily achieve abstractions, but I am NOT able to express my IDEA of a smokehouse in any satisfying way.

In short, I’m stuck.

I consider both of these paintings okay as paintings, but utter failures on the thorny path to abstraction, although I think #4 has better abstracted elements in it.

Who ever said painting was easy?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Co-Art Mini Canvas Sale

It's a 2-day PARTY!  Don't miss it!

Mini samples from a previous year

Co- Art's Annual Mini Canvas Sale is coming to Staunton, VA on Saturday December 5, with a Preview Party the Friday evening before.

Look at all that original artwork - just a few of the total framed minis - previous year
I completed 18 mini canvases for this year's event, and based on last year's big sale, I can tell this is going to be an awesome happening for all involved, especially the Preview Party, Friday December 4th from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., plus a giveaway drawing at 7:00 p.m.

Be sure to bring your up-close spectacles--these minis measure only 4" x 5".

Look for me--I'll be there both days, enjoying giggles, grog, and holiday sweets.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thinking small is a big idea!

SOLD   Intersection #11  24" x 28"  Oil and wax on canvas
(click on image for larger view)

I'm back with renewed enthusiasm for oil and cold wax medium in this latest addition to my Intersection series.

I recently completed 18 mini canvases for Co-Art Gallery's Annual Mini Canvas Sale coming up next month. The exercise taught me tons in the loosening up department and in the make-fewer-marks school of abstraction. The mini canvases I did measured 4" x 5", and think about it--you can only apply so many strokes in that small space, which practically forces one into abstraction. I worked the minis in oil and wax, and I used only oil sticks and palette knife--no brushes, to apply rough, larger marks in paint. The work was extremely liberating, fun, fast, and satisfying. I turned some of the minis into printed greeting cards, and I took photos, which I'll share with you around Christmas time.

Well, I've been noodling around the studio for weeks since the minis, doing watercolors and drawing and experimenting with oil pastels, working small and tight, and feeling anything but inspired.

Completed this week, Intersection 11 (above) felt great to paint! Finally! It is larger than I've worked in years at 24" x 28". It's painted entirely with oil sticks, palette knives, and old credit cards for scrapers. I used lots and lots of Dorlands Cold Wax medium with my oils, and I'm thinkin' this is the way I should feel about painting. 

I highly recommend this exercise for painters whose work is too tight and hard edged. Try creating big images and big impact on a tiny canvas and see what happens.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Waynesboro Blue

Waynesboro Blue  7"x9"  Watercolor

Another work resulting from my recent rainy-day outing into Waynesboro, Va. A combination of memory and a photo was enough to complete this image.

I recently joined Co-Art Gallery in Staunton, Virginia, and there is a niche display within the gallery for smaller, unframed works in a browsing file where all member artists contribute paintings and drawings. My watercolors will fit nicely into this niche.

Over my painting career I've not done many watercolors. Generally, watercolors are worked light to dark, whereas oils and pastels are painted differently, and pastels are definitely worked dark to light, so watercolors are a challenge of process. Although I'm more at home in oils and pastels, I welcome the challenge. 


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Beverley to Baja

Beverley to Baja   7.5x10  Watercolor SOLD

Here is a small watercolor I finished this morning, from a reference photo I took on a rainy day last week. The large black canopy shapes give it an element of abstraction. We see a local approaching the entrance to Baja Cantina in Downtown Staunton on the left.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Train Alley - Enjoy the Ride

Train Alley - Waynesboro East 5x11 gouache 
No. Commerce Ave, Waynesboro East

I have been promising myself that the next time it rains I will take a drive around east Waynesboro and take a few reference photos to draw from. The rain makes surfaces crisp, clean, and reflective. It rained a good bit Monday and I kept my promise.

The above painting is a rainy-day gouache on Strathmore 500 Bristol—Plate Surface. I used mostly black with minimal additions of blue, violet, and green. In hindsight, I wish I had used more restraint and limited my palette to just black, or maybe a blended raw umber and black. I’ve included the reference photo.

My mantra has always been render less, suggest more, and it’s the goal I work toward. 

I love to look at monotypes. I believe it is because a black and white image offers less absolutes/fewer clues to us viewers who automatically strive to define what it is we are looking at. Over a grayscale painting or drawing, I think our eyes wander just a little longer and our right-brain enjoys the journey—I know mine does.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mermaid in the Room

Mermaid in the Room 12x12 pastel on panel

I've been trying to work models and other people into my paintings. Here is one such effort.

We recently added a second model to our Monday night drawing session--a kind of experiment and a way to train our new model.

Note to self: Must work in bigger format so I don't have to labor and stress over tiny facial detail with big fat pastel stick.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Philip Geiger and Titles

3rd-Place Award  "Sailors" 18x24 oil and wax

I took home a 3rd Place award last night for this painting. The Beverley Street Studio School Juried Show in Staunton, VA was well attended. All the entries were very good and prize worthy which makes a win all the more unexpected and appreciated.

Artist Philip Geiger was the juror and to win his favor is meaningful to me. Here is a painter and teacher worth noticing. His talent is universally acknowledged. He's enjoyed a long career of excellence as an artist and as a University of Virginia professor, with an extensive list of noteworthy collectors. I found a terrific YouTube video wherein Mr. Geiger discusses his work, his process, and his thoughts. It's well worth watching . . . Philip Geiger's video.

I was asked a number of times last night how I arrived at the title of my piece--more on that in a minute. If you Google the idea of titling, you'll get lots of ideas on how to, and my way certainly is not the definitive way to do it. But I will share with you how I title. As in painting itself we are often after an impression of an image rather than depicting the literal image. The above painting, Sailors, started as an abstract painting of canning day--strawberry jam, and so I could have titled it Canning Strawberry Jam, but as I worked, the objects soon appeared to me as sailors at the bow of their boat weaving to-and-fro in an effort to keep their balance lest they be cast overboard. This was my impression, and I referenced it in my title. What's also the case is I often take a devilish delight in testing the viewer to see if his/her impression matches mine. Am I being obtuse? How do you title your work?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pie and Pastels

Pie Watchers 9x11 pastel

The last couple of weeks I've been working through some ideas in pastel with new tools and techniques. Although this kind of segue slows down productivity (quantity), it's a worthwhile practice (quality). 

This pastel painting is an abstracted version of shoppers gazing at seasonal sweet treats. It’s a reminder that I once sold mini fruit pies at our local farmers’ market.

On a related note, I purchased my first set of Schmincke soft pastels this week, creating a marked dent in my wallet. Schmincke pastels are in another class of pastel--upper class. They are noticeably buttery and rich on the paper, nearly 100% pure pigment, and they crumble easily, so note, apply a light touch if and when you first try them. They are the “fat over lean” cadillac of pastels and the last layer you’ll use in your painting. Schmincke's colors are vibrant and beautiful, and it’s a joy to work with them. The best deal I could find on Schmincke this week was Dakota Art Pastels out west. Prices can vary quite a bit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blues and Contours

Blues    9"x12"   mixed media

Completed another pastel-over-carborundum print today.

I am especially pleased with the effect of the marble powder (carborundum) process on the mountain in the background, and found it does make a difference using an old flat brush and applying directional strokes. Notice how my directional strokes make the mountain appear to have a rounded mountain-like shape (the black and white bits are all ink and non-inked paper). And then I did apply a little blue pastel on the mountain peaks, providing a little foggy appearance. 

As you experiment be aware that the higher the ratio of carborundum to glue or acrylic gloss medium, the darker the print and the more likely you'll get variation in black and white, like what I experienced in this print.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Colored Inks

Observance  9"x12" mixed media

I set out today to create a 9"x12" multi-colored print. There are some beautiful examples out there in Google-land to drool over, and I thought I'd give it a try.

In the first pass I applied raw umber to the plate in an all-over application, wiping out all but what was captured in the drypoint scribes and that held throughout over carborundum areas which I painted on with a thin mix of fine pumice powder and pva glue. So far, so good.

I then did a second pass through the press with other colors applied to the same plate: a blended blood red, a dulled-down yellow ochre, and a mossy gray-green, each color in its selected area.

The result wasn't what I hoped for--weak coloration, patchy colored areas. I wasn't happy, and I ended up completing the piece with soft pastels on top of the print. I'm new to printmaking. I have a lot of techniques to try and a long way to go, but at least I'm enjoying the ride.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How do you get there?

Intersection 9   6"x8"  mixed media

I sometimes wonder if we are on a mysterious but well articulated path, thinking, believing, making decisions, solving problems according to a plan and a path that awaits and anticipates our future steps.

Too cosmic and incredible! Who's to say, but I never feel the existence of a phenomenon more than when I'm resolving a painting. How do I get from choosing a photo, to a sketch, to a changed sketch, to deciding on hundreds of available materials and techniques, to applying endlessly specific formulas, to selecting a myriad of printing methods, to applying other mediums, to reviewing, to deciding, deciding, endlessly deciding, and ending, knowing somehow that I'm done. And look at it. It is the sum total of me and no one else. We are all different and have a visual signature.

How do you get there? Ever wonder?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Technique and Inspiration

SOLD   Intersection #8   8"x12"  mixed media

A couple of weeks ago I took a workshop with artist/instructor Jan Olsson at Beverley Street Studio School (BSSS) in Staunton, VA. The course title is Modernizing the Techniques of the Masters. I had heard what a terrific teacher and artist Jan is, and yet this is the first opportunity I’ve had to take her class. She lives and teaches in both Paris, France and Staunton, Virginia so you have to catch her when she is in town. 

Jan’s technique involves a two-step approach and acrylic paints, a monochrome umber-like underpainting, followed by colored glazing layers, and finally and optionally light opaque details.

I loved the class, learned a lot, and produced something that I was satisfied with as a first effort.

So here I am. It’s August—a new month, and me enamored with printmaking processes. I have in front of me a less-than-successful shades of gray drypoint carborundum print experiment, and I’m about to dispose of it when I realize that perhaps all that is standing between me and true happiness is my soft pastels readily available and within reach. An hour later plus an added layer of pastels, I have a mixed media piece I’m happy with, Intersection #8, and thank you Jan Olsson.

Take a look at Jan’s website. Her paintings are inspiring as was her class.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Black and White

. . . and shades of gray.

I'm finding printmaking processes very compelling, and I anticipate a long stay in this medium. As I write many ideas are rumbling around in my head. It feels like I've jumped off a tall building, eyes wide open into a new world, and I like it.

Here are two first proofs I completed yesterday. If I decided to edition either print, there would be more copies of these with slight variations. I could even add color in a number of ways if I want.

703 Reference  6"x8" carborundum drypoint on plexiglass  1/

Corner Hupman  9"x12" carborundum drypoint on acrylic  1/

A couple of Intaglio subset techniques I tried in these first efforts are.

Carborundum: A rock hard mineral ground down to various grits (fine, medium, course) used to achieve texture, detail, and darker darks. The tiny spaces between pieces of the grit hold onto ink and create darker textured areas. I've used here fine grade marble powder as an alternative because it is what I had in the studio. I mixed the powder with a PVA glue and diluted the mix slightly with water to ease the flow onto my acrylic plate in one case and plexiglass in the case of my smaller print, 703 Reference.

Drypoint: A method of Intaglio printing where lines are scribed with cutting tools into metal, plexi, or other surfaces (even mat board), creating gullies with furrows where ink rests and is subsequently pressed into paper with hand tools or by using an etching press. Scribing lines can be seen more readily in 703 Reference in the house roof and in various other clearly lined areas.

Let me step back a moment for anyone who does not know or has forgotten. There are basically two printmaking systems, RELIEF and INTAGLIO (pronounced intalio, tal like pal). A relief print receives the ink placed on a raised surface of a plate, as in a woodblock print. An Intaglio print receives the ink from the carved out areas, recessed areas, or etched areas. That said it is not entirely that simple, and a combination of methods can be applied to a print.

More to come from my new home print shop in the coming days.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Shifting Seats

First of all . . . happy news for me. My two entries into the BSSS Juried Exhibition: Interiors and Still Lifes were accepted--both of them. That show will take place in mid September, and I will post more information and photos on that event when it takes place. You can see my two entries if you take a look at my last post, Love is Blind.

Shifting Seats  6" x 8"  drypoint and pastel on BFK Rives 

I'm teaching myself printmaking, specifically, Intaglio drypoint, using a water based Akua Intaglio ink and Akua plexiglass printmaking plates. I have a small etching press I purchased from Dick Blick and a couple of scribing tools. And off I go into a whole other world of image making. Like so many art forms or life's ventures in general, there's more to it and more to know than is initially apparent. It's safe to say I'm working my way along a huge learning curve. But I have wanted to learn printmaking for some time and there have been no classes available locally. A first effort, above, marks a start. Technically this is a mixed media work as it includes both a print and soft pastels applied over the print.

As a general aside, history has taught me beyond a doubt that when I want to learn to do something bad enough, I can and I do--especially these days with internet and YouTube it gets easier and easier. Never short change yourself or your ability to accomplish a difficult task. In my life it's been raising dairy goats and other livestock, hand spinning yarn from my own sheep and llamas, building fences and pergolas, growing lettuce hydroponically (and this from a then 50+ year old city girl.)

I could go on and on with more examples of nailing that learning curve, but for now I have much more to learn and do in printmaking before I can produce satisfactory work.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Love is blind

Sailors  18"x 24"  oil and cold wax on canvas

The deadline for submissions to the BSSS Annual Juried Art Exhibition - Interiors and Still Lifes here in Staunton, VA was today. My abstract still life was completed and submitted in the nick of time.

There is this thing painters do to themselves all too often--they fall in love. They fall in love with their painting, and like falling in love with another human being or a pet, or a new couch, love often blinds us to an important overlooked truth. Like, this painting isn't really all that successful. or I can't keep a cat--I'm allergic to cats. or I don't need a new couch nor can I afford one.

Is this a successful still life or is love blind? We'll see. There is also one other overriding truth in the art-competing-with-other-art arena . . . the jury, or in this case, the judge. And in every case humans, like it or not, naturally harbor preferences, biases, likes, dislikes.

I submitted a second, smaller pastel in addition to the oil.

Light Reading  10.5 x 10.5 pastel on sanded paper

Updates on the competition will follow in early July. Wish me luck.

Friday, June 19, 2015

More than the sum of its parts

Jackson Art Supply has published a terrific article about repurposing a painting that just isn't performing as hoped. You can create something surprisingly successful using this technique.

Read Jackson's article on how to revive your painting

I'm just now finishing up an abstract still life using this technique. The BSSS Gallery is conducting their 2015 Annual Juried Exhibition: Interiors and Still Lifes, and I'll be submitting this oil and cold wax painting for consideration. More on the painting soon.

Mary Echols -- a gifted friend

If you are in the vicinity of Staunton, Virginia between now and July 19, 2015 be sure and visit the Beverley Street Studio School Gallery for Mary Echols' current exhibition of recent works. The show is titled Mary Echols and Friends.

Mary has a gift for capturing the human form like no other artist. She sees the human landscape foremost as light and shadow and captures each in curious, magical relationships to other forms and additional figures. Mary's spirit is light and playful and is realized in her finished work, fully sublime.

Read more about Mary . . .

Fortunate to be one of Mary's Friends and fellow students, I was invited to exhibit one of my Intersection pastels along with other friends. Thank you Mary.

Intersection #4  10.5"x10.5" pastel 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The good, the bad, and the successful

When you tell someone you are a painter or an artist, the first question he or she asks is, "Have you sold anything?" Why do you suppose this is the case?

I think people, myself included, are accustomed to labels. Labels are comforting, defining, organizational. I'm not sure how we acquired this tendency.

Well, I have sold paintings, so does that mean that my paintings are "good"? Does it really? I'm not sure it does. Does it matter and to whom does it matter?

As a continuing student, one who spends time in real classrooms with other real students, I meet painters, beginner through advanced, at all levels of artistic development. In that setting, learning new or old techniques, I often find it impossible to create anything I like--boohoo. And at the same time, a new fresh beginning painter will create something fine and beautiful. So how does this inform our belief in what is good art? Am I now a creator of bad paintings? Okay, yes. And is this fine example on the part of a new painter good? Well, yes. But this does toss us on our ear doesn't it? It barks at our beliefs. What about labels? What about, hello, I sold paintings in the past?

In the end what I think is this . . . What is good? . . . making paintings. What is bad . . . labels.

Nowadays, when viewing art, when considering my own art, and when discussing an artist's work, I try to think and speak in terms of success and a painter's own feelings about their art, rather than labeling them good or bad. Who am I to judge? Who are you to judge? Truthfully, I work with the realization that I will likely throw away thirty percent of my painting efforts because they just don't work for me or I judge them unsuccessful.

Here's my latest, and it's one that might not make the cut, or maybe I'll work on it some more. In the final analysis it's about what I think and what I like.

Intersection #7  12"x12" Oil and wax on Masonite

What I see is what you get!

If I learned anything important in 2014 about painting it is this . . .

  1. VALUE 1st, last, and always is the most important consideration. It has proven to be very helpful to me.
  2. Learn the basics--the rules of color, perspective, VALUE, and so on. And then use them when you need them.

    My philosophy is this . . . photorealism in painting is a beautiful thing. It demonstrates in the creator a tremendous talent, vision, patience, and determination to portray truth as it is perceived. I can't paint that way. If I could I wouldn't.

    Clint Eastwood, artist/actor/filmmaker, says it like this. "I make movies I want to see, and I figure if I like them other people will like them too." Well, I paint pictures I want to see--pictures that are more about a personal vision of the world--my vision of the world as I have come to see it, and hidden, or perhaps not so hidden in them is all I've been, done, felt, and seen. Also, what I decide to paint is a big part of that equation. And in summary, in 2014 I learned to throw out the rules and be myself. How liberating is that?!

    By example, here is a side-by-side photo and painting I did in October 2014. 
Photo of my smokehouse (center) and back of house (right)

Smokehouse #1 16"x20" Pastel on Pastelboard

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Land Art

There is a new art documentary out there, "Troublemakers" of Land Art". Artists of the 60s and 70s making anti-authoritarian statements on a grand scale. Watch the trailer for a preview of what you can expect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vistas and Vanitas

While you're out and about in Staunton, don't forget to get over to Ox Eye Winery and upstairs Gallery to see Virginia and Jennifer Deane's exhibition, continuing through June 30, 2015.

A fantastic collection! Vistas and Vanitas, don't miss it!

Also, coming up this weekend, Saturday/Sunday May 23/24 is Art in the Park. Our own excellent Open Session model Jen Kidd will be singing/performing at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Don't miss her performance.

Art in the Park at Gypsy Hill has grown into a two-day festival of quality fine art and fine craft every Memorial Day weekend (May 23 and May 24 in 2015). The exceptionally beautiful municipal park provides a tree-lined, intimate setting for participating artists and artisans as well as for area residents and tourists attending the event. There is no admission charge. Visitors linger as they admire the artwork, chat with the artists, listen to live music coming from the bandstand every hour, and enjoy the food provided by a variety of vendors.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Landscape Studies with Pastel (Day Two)

I did more work on my copy of Degas. Here is a side-by-side comparison. Oh dear, I didn't finish the chair. 

Degas' Le Bain 1886 Pastel
Copy of Degas' Le Bain

A rainy morning dictated our painting schedule. We started off with a still life. 

I learned from Linda that a heavy handed pastel painter like me can mitigate this problem/tendency by using a hatch-mark style of applying pastel, and so I tried it. My efforts along this path produced this work-in-progress still life. 

Still Life (work-in-progress) 5.17.15

I learned or rather was reminded that palette colors applied in multiple spots in a painting makes for a more harmonious outcome—spread it around!

And, as always, we were reminded that GETTING THE VALUE RIGHT is the most important first step, perhaps every step, in a painting. 

As a group we agreed on what would be the best procedure . . .

BEFORE beginning a painting, set aside a likely palette into GROUPS: darks, mid-tones, and lights, putting your colors in their appropriate value group, and remembering that ONLY a color within the same VALUE group can be used on any spot of color—dark-for-dark, light-for-light, etc.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Landscape Studies with Pastel (Day One)

I'm taking a weekend workshop with artist/instructor Linda Carey. Check out this Painting Perceptions link to see some of her work and on the side bar a Recent Comment by much admired BSSS artist/instructor Ron Boehmer on artistic process.

Day One: Linda asked us to duplicate a Degas pastel of our own choosing using a limited palette on toned Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper. I'll post my effort alongside the original when I finish it--a truly humbling experience. There's nothing you can attempt artistically that is more illuminating than copying a Degas. I've heard more than once that the best way to learn pastels is to copy Degas, and the best way to learn color theory.

Linda introduced us to one book in particular I want to add to my shelf, Degas: The Nudes by Richard Thompson available at Amazon--lots of beautiful images.

Two new things I learned about Degas on Saturday:

  • He liked to draw the figure on tracing paper and use it in multiple drawings/paintings.
  • He sometimes started a representational figure painting and later turned it into an abstracted landscape or totally non-referential abstraction. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cold Wax Medium

Recently I attended Astrid Tuttle's opening at the Shenandoah Valley Art Center in Waynesboro, VA. She has been working with Dorland Cold Wax Medium and oils the last couple of years. Her exhibition is a testament to the vibrant effect wax medium can have on oils.

Because I can't pass up an opportunity to try a new medium and do more work in oils, I had to give it a go. Using a familiar image I recently painted in pastels, eliminating the angst of starting a new image, I'm recreating it and focusing only on the new medium's behavior.  I have to say I'm really excited about my first exposure to cold wax. The wax seems to "dry up" the oils, making them less viscous--a big negative for me and why I prefer soft pastels. Using a 1:3 ratio wax to oils, no other medium, drying time is nearly cut in half.

Variation on Intersection #5  12" x  12"  oil and wax
As an aside, I enjoy looking at shadows in paintings when the source of the shadows is outside of frame. The enjoyment is in the imagining of the thing unseen. Here is the original image referenced above. 

Intersection #5 small mixed media w/ soft pastel SOLD

Thursday, May 14, 2015

White Space

What is it? 

As it applies here specifically white space is that sweet spot of non art in a painting--the undrawn, unmarked part of a painting that can be remarkably beautiful, even poetic, in its context.

In contrast, for a painter there is perhaps another definition. Consider that white space might be the waiting room for beauty, the negative awaiting an artist's positive, the conscience of a procrastinating artist, but in the least it is a painter's extraordinary creative opportunity because anything is possible.

This is an account of my extraordinary opportunities.

Yesterday was installation day at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, VA where I submitted two pastels (below). It is a great pleasure to provide artistic distraction to those who really appreciate it. The installation will remain until early July. There are a dozen artists represented in the exhibition. We are all members of Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton, VA

Intersection #1 10.5 x 10.5 pastel

Intersection #2 10.5 x 10.5 pastel