Walking Into a Painting With My Imagination

As I was studying this painting, deciding if it was done and trying to think of a title, I had an interesting experience. I felt pulled into the painting. I wanted to walk through the grass and see the Irish Atlantic Ocean that I imagined was on the other side. I felt like walking into a painting.

Ann hart Marquis showing walking into a painting

A Place in My Imagination, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches.

I am sure I have had this experience before with one of my paintings, but I couldn’t remember one that was so compelling to me. I have certainly had similar feelings with other paintings that I have seen. I once found a painting at the Louvre that was so captivating to me that I stood in front of it for 15 minutes.

I think that imagining walking into a painting somehow is related to the general wanderlust I am feeling at this time. It is possible that I need to go back to Ireland—or another Celtic place.

On the practical side of this painting, I approached it differently than my other Irish paintings. I didn’t put any medium on the canvas except black gesso. Previously for added texture, I used some type of molding paste on the others before I painted.

This time the painting had little texture except for paint when it was finished. Since I like texture, I applied an extra heavy gloss gel to the canvas and roughed it up to give the kind of texture that I was looking for. I like the effects although they can’t really be seen in the photograph.

I haven’t used heavy gloss gel much before. It was an experiment. When it is applied it looks like it is going to dry white. However, regardless of how thickly it is applied, it dries totally clear. The gel I was using was Liquitex Super Heavy gloss gel. I like the look and may try it again from time to time.

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

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.

The Mystery of Time, 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.

Painting Titles

For the last two weeks I have been writing about metaphor and how a creative work can have different meanings to different people.

Coincidentally, several days ago I posted an announcement for my upcoming exhibit at the New Mexico Cancer Center on Facebook. The announcement also contained this painting.

Ann Hart Marquis- how painting titles influence a viewer's response

The Ravine, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches, acrylic and charcoal on birch cradle.

I gave it no title on my Facebook post and said nothing about it. Within two minutes my friend Robin Sanders, an ex-Marine who lives in Texas, made this comment about the painting. He obviously didn’t give it much thought, he just pulled an association from his life.

“The struggle is real for these surviving five lone trees. Set among the desolate but green hills, they are what’s remaining… SURVIVORS.”

This is not what I was thinking as I painted the scene, but because of this young man’s experiences, he came up with a different metaphor than I would. He probably would title this painting “The Survivors.”

This painting is part of a series that I did at my artist residency in Healdsburg, CA in June. I could have called it Hill Oaks, or Looking East, but I chose to look at the painting from a different perspective. My metaphor? Perhaps looking into the future, being in awe at all of the open space or wondering what was beyond my sight.

Titles

Which brings me to painting titles. With some paintings, the title reflects the metaphor that I am trying to project. Some paintings just get a descriptive title. In any case, I think that titles or art work deserve a little thought or introspection. I don’t title a painting until after it is finished because I don’t know where it is going or how I will know when it is finished.

In Lisa Pressman’s art blog  she says that painting titles “are crucial—not only for the viewer but also for myself. They are a suggestion, a signifier, an open door, a thread, the light: to a way to approach the image.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Do painting titles influence you?

Palette Cleaning

If a painter uses a palette to hold paint, eventually it probably needs to be cleaned. Since I am an acrylic painter for the most part, I like to use a palette that stays damp so I can keep my paints damp from day to day.

My preference is Masterson’s Sta-Wet Palettes. Their palettes come in various sizes from 8 x 7 inches to 16 x 12 inches. My favorite is Masterson’s Painters Pal which is 12 x 13 inches and I like it because it has the best seal.

Since I like to mix colors on my palette, I do my palette cleaning approximately every month or two depending on how many colors I have used. This week it got cleaned, but I still had a little paint left so I found a sturdy white painter’s cardboard and created a small abstract.

Molding Paste

I protected the cardboard first by putting on a heavy layer of molding paste. I haven’t used molding paste in my paintings for some time. This medium is not particularly absorbent, so the paint can slide around when held at various angles.

After the molding paste dried, I thought of a very loose composition, perhaps representing an abstract landscape, put a little water on the molding paste and then applied the paints. Here is the result. The dark color is a chromatic black made up of odds and ends on my palette.

An Hart Marquis-Oh Happy Day-palette cleaning

Oh Happy Day, acrylic on cardboard, 8 x 6 inches.

Although at this time I don’t use molding paste, I have used it extensively in the past and I like its effects. As mentioned below, I used it basically to add texture, but I have also used it to cover texture in a specific section in a painting that I didn’t like.

According to Golden Paints, molding paste can also be used to create foundations for painting either to create texture over a smoother surface, or to smooth out a textured surface. It dries to a hard, yet flexible, opaque film and blends with colors to tint and extend paint.