As most of you know, my blog is on hiatus. I now write a monthly newsletter. You can see examples of it under the sign-up section on the left. So join and get involved with the fun.
And you also have access to all of my past posts. I always appreciate feedback.
If you read my blog with any kind of regularity, you know that I sometimes think a painting is finished, live with it awhile and then decide that it has some kind of major problem. I have just come to the point on the painting below that it is time to just stop and take a long look at it before proceeding.
Fortunately, next week I start an abstract painting class where I can work on what I want including getting feedback from the teacher Janet Bothne. If I feel stuck or think that I don’t know what to do next, I can get advice. So this class sounds perfect for me.
In addition, this class includes a critique time with the whole class where I can get or give feedback. I have been looking for an artist critique group for several years. I am excited about the idea that other people will be giving me opinions about my work.
I have friends who do not like to have their work critiqued. According to artist and blogger Sharon Hicks, “Some artists cringe at the mere thought of having their work critiqued. The very word ‘critique’ is based on the word ‘criticism’, and in our culture that word has taken on a negative connotation, since to criticize something usually means to point out its faults.”
According to the dictionary, however, the word critic derives from the idea of someone who judges, evaluates, or analyzes literary or artistic works, dramatic or musical performances. To me this is a neutral statement. Ideally a critic can give both positive and negative responses. It relates to the idea of useful criticism.
For me, good and useful criticism serves one purpose: to give the creator of the work more perspective and help them make their next set of choices. I like the idea of having a set of choices.
I am also open to critique right now. If anyone has ideas of where this painting needs to go next, I would be delighted to hear them.
This week has been a frustrating one for me because of trivial obligations like an annual doctor’s appointment and buying food. Activties like this cut into my painting time. So I have not finished the Irish painting that I am working on.
Since I frequently think of my journey from never having painted to now, I thought I would write about a painting that I did three years after my first painting class in France. This time the painting class was again in France, but not where I had originally painted. It was in Collioure on the Mediterranean where it meets the Pyrenees.
Collioure is a very picturesque small town that has drawn many painters including Matisse, Derain and Dufy. It is referred to as the birth place of the Fauvism movement in painting. This class was taught by the same teacher I first had in Soréze, France. She considered herself an Fauvist painter. She was responsible for my first exposure to Fauvism.
As you can see from the above painting, my drawing skills were still lacking as were my use of brush strokes and layering color. I had not yet mastered the idea of perspective. Fortunately, it is a very colorful town so some of the colors were representative of what I saw and some were colors that were already a favorite part of my palette.
This painting was done in plein air, while I was sitting on the steps of a lovely house that looked down into the town and surrounding hills. It was an ideal place to paint.
Although today is the first time that this piece has been photographed, I see it every time I walk into my studio because it is hanging on the side of a cabinet. It reminds me of how I started and how far I have come. I have kept all of my drawings and paintings over the years. The only ones that I don’t have are sold.
It is important to me to be able to look back on all of the work I have done. They always make me smile.
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.
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.
When I was in California last summer doing an artist residency I was called a tonalist painter for the first time. My work had never been referred to that way before and I recognized what association was being made.
I very frequently will tone down my colors with grays or sometimes with a color’s complement. For example, I don’t like phthalo blue by itself, but I do like it with some value of gray. Here is an example of a painting that I just finished.
Traditionally, tonalism (1880-1915) involved creating a painting permeated by a dominant tone and in a limited color scheme. Often, at least historically, painters worked mostly in earth colors so black would have been a common color on their palettes.
In tonalism, the palette is minimal, characterized by warm hues of brown, soft greens, gauzy yellows and muted grays.
Here is an example of a painting by the tonalist artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903.)
According to Stapleton Kearns, “Usually the goal of tonalist painting is the production of a mood in a painting rather than the representation of any actual place. The color, design and the mood were the subject rather than a unique and spectacular location.”
Many of my paintings are similar in color to a traditional tonal style.
• I eliminate details for broader brushstrokes and subtle transitions of tone.
• Frequently I use a neutral palette-mainly cool colors: green, blue, mauve, violent, grays, to produce similar tones.
• I also sometimes like high horizons to bring focus to the foreground.
• I like to use glazing techniques, layering thin layers of color over underlying colors
• I like to paint wet on wet.
• I like to start with a warm undertone even if I use black gesso and then layer cool overtones to achieve some tension of color.
• I like the idea of the “lost edge” technique which results in flow of color and atmospheric quality.
• I don’t like to paint specific, recognizable locations, but rather my impressions of a place or scene.
Will I continue to paint in this style? It appears that for my Ireland series I will. After that who knows.
I finished a painting this week that I have been working on for a while. It has had many lives. Here is some the history of a painting.
As some of you know, I sometimes think that I am finished with a painting and feel comfortable about presenting it to the world, or whoever is looking at my work.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a small study I did for a larger piece. I liked the way it looked and proceeded to start a somewhat large 24×30-inch canvas inspired by the small painting.
I finished it and I thought it was interesting. I displayed it. I lived with it about two weeks and then I started to analyze why it was not making me happy. The problem was then glaring. What were all of the rose forms at the bottom of the painting and why did it look so stiff and out of sync with the series it belonged to?
I knew something was going to have to change in a big way—the bottom of the painting. I studied it again and decided that the middle of the painting had some interesting aspects and I liked the colors that I had used.
So what to do? Turn it upside down? That’s what I did. I added some yellow accents. I then painted over the rose color which was at the top with a gray-blue. I didn’t like that and by now I had so much paint on that section of the canvas that the texture looked out of place.
I was not going to give up. I called on the assistance of an art lover who had much more arm muscle than me to sand down the top of the painting. He did a great job and now I had a smooth surface again.
Now what color to paint the sky? This time I choose a tint of Naples yellow and created a transparent glaze with a gloss medium. I painted the sky letting the gloss dry for a day before adding a second and third layer of paint. By then about five days had gone by.
A few days ago I decided the yellow in the middle made the painting too cool so I dragged some red oxide chalk over the yellow, wiped most of it off, and sealed it with gloss medium. Finished!
I have started on my next painting which looks like it goes with the series. I will see how it progresses.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.