My Artist Muse

Yesterday I finished a painting that I had been working on for some time. So today the question was what should I paint next? I have been primarily working on medium-large canvases, 24×30-inches. It takes me about a week to finish this size painting if I get to the studio almost every day.

Today I felt some pressure to think of what I wanted to paint next. It does not work very well if I am feeling pressure when I paint. And I had no inspiration for the next painting.

So instead of starting on another large canvas that would take some planning, or at least giving some thought to an image, I followed by friend Dotty’s example to do a small format painting in a day. It actually took me less than an hour and I am happy with the results.

Ann Hart Marquis-How artist muse helped create My Mind's Desire

My Mind’s Desire, acrylic on canvas panel, 8×6-inches.

There was certainly no pressure involved. My process included finding a sample of coarse molding paste, letting it dry, having some lunch, then going back to my canvas. I then applied random paints that were in the same palette as my last painting and very loosely applying them.

So this brings me to thinking again about inspiration, motivation and the muse. By the way, I don’t think I have an artistic muse. Unless I think of the word as a verb: chew over, contemplate, excogitate, meditate, mull, mull over, ponder, reflect, ruminate, speculate, think over.

 I do sometimes need to wait for inspiration. I have been thinking a lot about how I get inspired to paint a certain scene. I think that it comes down to thinking about a place I have been or perhaps looking at a photo of a place that brings forth some kind of feeling in me.

It also may involve including some sort of paint or medium that I have not used for a long time or maybe never—like coarse molding paste.

So I have been contemplating, mulling over and reflecting what I will do next. It may be a larger version of the one above. I am still pondering, but with no pressure.

Do you ever feel pressure to be creative? Do you have a muse?

Landscape Seascape

Although I have painted many scenes that include lakes and rivers, I have painted very few seascapes or paintings that included the sea. When I was in Ireland, I spent many hours looking at various views of the Atlantic Ocean. In the back of my mind I was frequently thinking about painting a seascape.

Most were from high cliffs looking down at crashing waves hurling themselves into caves and onto rocks. There were a few times when I was on a lovely beach or standing on a small hill looking at a quiet tide.

Regardless of the location, I was fascinated by the continually-varying mood of the water and its great force. I was also intrigued by the ever-changing colors of the sea.

Although I experienced little rain while I was there, I was impressed by the moody skies and how the grey clouds affected the water. Sometimes there was no difference between the colors in the skies and on the water. Sometimes both contained light and dark greys, violets, blues and greens.

alt="Ann Hart Marquis-paining of a seascape and and abstract landscape painting"

Futile the Winds, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches. Ann hart Marquis

Since I love to play with color, it was my goal in this painting to capture all of the different grays of the sky and water and the vibrancy of the surrounding landscape. The entire painting has many layers of color from bright and light to dark and somber in both the seascape and landscape.

I would love your critique.

Creativity and Travel

Do creativity and travel change how I paint? As I have been working on the second painting of my Ireland series, I keep thinking about how traveling to places away from home influences my work.

That certainly was the case for me for years in France. Whenever I was there, I not only was affected by the scenery, I was also influenced by the age of the country, the people, the food, the quiet country roads and the lovely village in which I worked.

Spending a month in California at an artist residency last year allowed me to experience living in an old farmhouse in the middle of a vineyard and seeing how old, gnarled vines tangled around each other.

I have also painted a short time in Italy and Chicago. So I ask myself, have all of these experiences actually changed the way I paint and the way I see the world?

It is something for me to ponder since I first started painting in the southwest of France. After I came home, I painted what was in my environment or from photos in a painting class. At that time I was just trying to learn to paint.

Neuroscience

Not long ago I read that “In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change.”

Ann Hart Marquis Creativity and Travel

First Rose of Spring, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 x 1.5 inches

Which brings me back to Ireland. I love France, but it doesn’t seem to have the spiritual punch for me that Ireland does. I am not really sure yet what that means.

I didn’t paint in Ireland, so I am relying on my memories and impressions for subject matter. I haven’t painted from photos. It is a very rural country. It is perfect for painting abstract landscapes. But creating a lovely landscape painting is not how or why I paint.

I paint in order to express the feelings inside me of something that inspires me. This series has a different feeling for me, but I can’t tell you why yet.

Here is a quote that I came across today by Miriam Beard about creativity and travel.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living

Painting Series

Painting  series is something I started doing about 5 years ago. It took me a long time to realize the significance of doing a series instead of random subjects that appealed to me.

Before that, in my mind I was painting series because I was painting landscapes. All different kinds of landscapes with different colors, sizes and sometimes style.

I have learned that if you make art for yourself and no one else, then you can paint whatever you want. If you make art to sell or gain the attention of collectors or galleries and you’re interested in having people appreciate and understand what you are trying to convey, it is better to let others see where your attention lies.

According to Alan Bamberger at Art Business.com, “the easiest way to do that is to work in series– to create unified, cohesive, coherent, related bodies of work. Many artists aren’t fully aware of the advantages to creating multiple works of art around the same idea, theme, philosophy, concept, topic or subject matter. Instead they produce what I call “onesies.”

painting study of western Ireland

Ireland study, acrylic on canvas, 8×10 inches.

I have learned that painting  series is a way of exploring several different variations of an idea or theme. There are many benefits to creating a group of similar-styled artworks. Related paintings look a lot better on a website or in an exhibit rather than a mixture of different looking artworks. I did my first painting of Ireland last week and it was posted on my last post. Above is another study I just did for my second painting in the series.

However, it can also be challenging to work in a series. I started a series several months ago, sold one, painted a second and then went to Ireland which completely consumed all of my attention. I want to work on a series of Ireland. So now I have one painting that I did for a previous series that goes with nothing. I think that is the nature of creativity. Our attentions can change.

But I have made a commitment to myself to finish my Ireland series. I have never felt as strongly about a series. It will be interesting to me to see how many I will do.

Black Gesso Drama

At the beginning of last week, I had been back from Ireland for about two weeks. I was anxious to get started on a series of my experiences, but I couldn’t quite get to any concepts that called to me.

Also, right after I got back, my classes at the University of New Mexico started, including one new class involving texture and different mediums.

Black Gesso

One of the products that I wanted students to try was black gesso. I hadn’t used it for quite a while, but I thought the students would find it interesting. After demonstrating the use of black gesso, I realized that it was just what I could use to represent the enigmatic energy and mystery that I felt in Ireland as illustrated in the photograph, below.

photo showing how black gesso could enhance this photo

Down Patrick Head, County Mayo, Ireland. Photo by Tim Anderson

Here is a little description of black gesso: Historically, it is for oil painting. It was traditionally used to prepare or prime a surface so oil paint would adhere to it. It is made from a combination of paint pigment, chalk, and glue binder. Gesso would protect the canvas fibers, provide a nice surface to work with and give a little flexibility so the canvas wouldn’t crack if it was rolled.

Acrylic gesso doesn’t contain glue. Acrylic paints are non-corrosive and stable over time, so you don’t need to worry about the paint damaging the canvas, and therefore, you don’t need the glue in the mix. So in making black gesso for acrylics, out went the glue.

painting showing how black gesso adds mystery to an image.

Ireland (unnamed), acrylic on canvas, 24x30x1.5 inches.

I use gesso on all of my canvases before I paint. It makes the canvas ready to accept acrylic paint. Without gesso, paint can soak into the weave of the canvas.

So this past Monday I began a canvas prepared with black gesso. I wanted to use it to let it show through in random places. I liked the effect. So off I went getting a feel for how to represent the beauty and power of the Atlantic Ocean, the breathtaking cliffs and all of those shades of green that I saw. The above painting is the result-the first in a series.

I would love your critique.

The Creative Use of Photography

Guest Post by Tim Anderson

Throughout the years I have had my photography used by artists for many purposes: sculpture, painting (from watercolor to oils and just about everything in between), graphic design, etc. It is very gratifying, indeed, to have another artist think enough of your work to want to emulate it.

Irish Waterfall in County Connemara Ireland by Tim Anderson

Waterfall, County Connemara, Ireland 2016, ©Tim Anderson 2016

Such is the case with the first image illustrated here. I took it while on vacation in Ireland recently. It was in  Connemara  along the western coast. It was a day of scenic beauty, no matter where we went. Most of the time in situations like these I photograph what looks good, with little regard to settings, although I do a basic setup before departure for a day of photographing.

While in Ireland I captured almost 3,000 images of landscapes, portraits, birds, ancient ruins, and monolithic remains.  Each evening, back at the hotel, I downloaded the day’s images to my laptop, in the proper folder. I find if I don’t do this daily, I get “lost” immediately when beginning the editing process.

Upon first edit after returning home this image immediately grabbed my attention. Guests who came over for dinner last night agreed by saying it should be a painting. With that in mind I thought I would play with it a bit.

I took it into Photoshop and played with a few filters, and finally settled on the second image in the post. The filters were canvas and splatter. I could have spent much more time on it, but I was just playing, trying to see with a painter’s eye.

Irish Waterfall by Tim Anderson, edited

Waterfall, County Connemara, Ireland 2016, ©Tim Anderson 2016, edited

Well, what do you think? I have often said that to be an artist is a multi-disciplinary creative pursuit and that some of the best artists see much more than the “normal” person. If you are a painter and you view the photography of a friend, do you envision what you could do with that same print?

If not, you might want to try it.

Impressions of Ireland

I have been going through all of the images that my partner Tim Anderson took while we were in Ireland. It helps that he is a professional photographer. He did all of the work, I just soaked up what I was seeing a experiencing. With every photo I am taken back to that spot and the way I felt while being there.

photo showing waves and ocean

Photo by Tim Anderson of the Atlantic

Although there were indeed 40 shades of green, we spent much of our time on the west coast near the Atlantic so there were also many shades of blue. I have seen the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, but the waters on the Irish Atlantic were very vivid and distinct.

Sketch showing Ireland.

Ann Hart Marquis-Painting sketch, acrylic on paper.

There were also shades of red and orange and tones of violet. Those colors were lovely also, but they didn’t impact me like the blues and greens.

I saw many places like stone circles and standing stones and 12th century abbeys, where grey stone was the predominate color. I haven’t processed grey as possibilities for a painting, but I like the idea of using greys and tones of color.

This week I have finally had a chance to do a little sketching with paint to just get a feel for what colors would come out. I played with many colors, just letting my imagination take over without doing any pre-planning. I felt like I was painting my impressions of Ireland. I like that feeling. I like to pick up a paint brush and just start putting down color.

Picture showing expressions of Ireland.

Ann Hart Marquis-Impression of Ireland, acrylic on paper.

I still went for layering paint the way that I have been doing. I do like to see under colors peeking through. The paint sketches in this post are a start to bigger paintings that I hope to get to soon.

Irish Color

We just got back from Ireland. I am full of images of Irish color, cliffs, water, trees and too many other sights to name. I just soaked it all in. Although I didn’t take my paints, one of the things on which I concentrated was color. It was indeed so green. They were vivid, intense greens.

photo describing Irish Green

Irish Green

I have a tendency to paint with a more muted palette, so I am not sure yet how I will translate these images onto the canvas. I plan to start trying this week.

picture of Irish Green

Irish Green

If I was still at a place where I wanted to paint landscape, Ireland was the place to see. But I am an abstract landscape painter, so it is all a mystery to me at this time because I haven’t started to think about mixing paint. There is still a part of me that is processing all that I experienced there.

photo showing Irish Yellow Green

Irish Yellow Green

Ireland was magical and spiritual for me. Part of the reason that I found it so compelling was the beauty, but since we visited many megalithic sites, I was captivated by the mysteries of how and where people lived and expressed their creativity 5-6 thousand years ago.

photo showing Irish Red color.

Irish Red

Ireland is also being overwhelmed with invasive rhododendrons. Since they are so lovely, people don’t seem to mind these invaders.

photo of Irish Rhododendrons

Irish Rhododendrons

So you may be able to tell that I have no idea what I will paint when I am completely back from Ireland.

Leaving for Ireland

Tomorrow, I will be fulfilling a dream that I have had for a long time. I am leaving for Ireland for three weeks. The trip will consist of four days in Dublin, five days driving around the south and then twelve days touring the west coast.

photo showing how it feels leaving or Ireland

Dublin

I have had a provocative relationship with Ireland for many years. It has been calling to me through books, movies and stories for at least two decades. I am adopted and it was about that long ago that I found out that my father was Irish.

I have put the trip on the back burner for a long time, but about six months ago I decided it was time to go.

photo showing part of Ireland

Dingle on the west coast

So this will be part soul journey for me, part just exploring a very interesting culture and being curious how the wet and green environment there will influence my painting.

I really want to pay attention to ancient symbols and figures that I will see. I want to look at Irish art, the landscape, the sea and the cliffs. It will be a total contrast to New Mexico.

Newgrange is part of Ireland

Newgrange, built about 4000 BC.

I don’t plan to paint while I am there. I just want to absorb everything that is around me. And I want to be an adventurist.

The photos on this page are some of the sites I will be visiting.

This will be my last post until I get back in June. I will let you know how it went.

The Metaphor of Ladders

I have a thing for ladders. I am not as intrigued by ladders as much as I am by trees, but I do find it somehow fulfilling to paint a ladder. I have done it many times, and have found myself thinking about painting another ladder or perhaps incorporating it into a painting.

painting depicting a ladders at night.

Red Ladder at Night, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2006.

So being a curious person and liking to do research, I set out to investigate their symbolic meaning.

The first article I read suggested the ladder is rich in symbolism and metaphor. The horizontal rungs represent progressively higher levels of consciousness and the two vertical uprights, represent the symbol for duality.

painting showing how a ladders are used.

Waiting for the Lion—Viewpoint, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2010.

According to Josepk Panek, since the ladder has no moving parts, it symbolizes ascension by way of personal desire and effort. “The Ladder also reminds us that reaching the highest realms of consciousness is not a short, swift journey. Each rung represents a gradual ascent whereby wisdom, knowledge, enlightenment and perfection are earned by us one step at a time.”

a painting showing a ladders leaning on a tree.

Precarious, acrylic on canvas, 20×24 inches, 2011.

Well, I have to say that my journey upward has been long and slow. Before I started painting I read about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I think it influenced my journey to becoming a more aware, perceptive and perhaps even a more creative person. When I first learned about the theory, I was probably struggling to get to the third level. I spent a great deal of time in the second rung. Today I like to think that I am integrating the top level, but i suspect that is a life-long project.

chart showing ladders of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchyof Needs