Saturday, May 9, 2015

How'd You Do That? Part One

I am in the throes of working on a new series of paintings based on gangly, gnarly, and craggy trees. It's taken a while to get here, with lots of experimentation. I've started two other series that I still want to pursue at some point, but I feel positive that the trees are what I am meant to work on right now. Oh what a feeling!

Reference Photo
I thought it would be fun to share my process as I make a new painting. I have already shared my "complicated and grueling" process once before for the New American Paintings blog, so instead of going into the technical stuff here I will be sharing more of the "why."

I have looked at the reference for this painting every day for seventeen years. There are three old crepe myrtle trees in front of our house that I have always loved, but have now taken on a new significance to me. These trees, with their twisting limbs resemble hands and fingers reaching to the sky. This is significant because as an artist, my hands are my lifeline and the thought of losing use of them is a scary prospect.

Sketchbook Drawing
With just about all of my paintings, I work from reference photos. I would love to be able to work directly from the source but I live in Houston. It's hot, there are mosquitoes, and did I mention the heat and mosquitoes? I'm tough in many ways but not that tough! I use the reference photos to do my initial drawing and decide on a composition. Next I have the drawing enlarged and then transfer it

Enlarged drawing with "Paint by Numbers"

onto my canvas. (There are a number of complicated sub-steps in between which were covered in the New American Paintings article!) I'm sure that I could simplify the process and make my life easier. What fun would that be though? I did finally stop growing and harvesting the cotton, spinning the yarn, and weaving the fabric into canvas that I stretched on my hand wood-worked frames.

 Next time, I will share the final steps of color picking, color mixing, and painting the painting, and why I continued to make things so complicated.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Joy of Slogging

Fallen, 2015
Sometimes the act of creating is effortless and pure joy and sometimes it's a slog through the mud. It seems to me that those slogs are a necessary part of the process and help you appreciate the moments of flow. The past several months haven't necessarily been a slog but more of a time to experiment and let my art lead me where it needs to go. 

I started a series of industrial paintings based on the corrugated metal buildings near my studio and stopped after the first painting. I also began a series of abstracted rice silo paintings and finished two and a half of them. The reason is that I couldn't get another theme out of my mind: the crepe myrtles in front of my house. When I look at these gnarly trees, I envision fingers and limbs reaching toward the sky, calling out for me to paint them. And once I started, work seemed to be less of a slog.

As I was finishing the painting shown here, I turned it on its side to finish some details and then sat on my couch to rest for a moment. When I looked up, I realized that it was it was finished, thanks to this new orientation.

I will get back to those two other series' in a while!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Studio Music

My Messy Studio Table
Half of the battle of getting to work once I've finally made it to the studio (after getting caught up in distractions like cat feeding, email reading and the vortex of Facebook) is choosing the perfect soundtrack to complement my practice.

This usually involves scrolling through my iPad and not being in the mood for ANY of the 3,989 songs on there. Eventually I will hit on something intriguing that I haven't listened to over and over again, or find something that I have listened to over and over again but can't get enough of and the music and work will finally begin. No more excuses!

My playlist is eclectic. I am a punk rocker from way back but have gotten old and less angry so my musical choices are mellower these days. At the moment I am on an country-ish jag and am listening to the Avett Brothers, Gillian Welch and a couple of songs from the soundtrack of "Nashville," a TV show that is my current guilty pleasure, solely for the music I swear! Also on heavy rotation are: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Fleet Foxes, Joy Division, Florence + the Machine, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, the Shins, Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi, and when I need a serious pick me up, Wild Flag and Flogging Molly.

I can't imagine painting without musical accompaniment. Since I'm also a lapsed musician, it's like the best of both worlds. Now if I could also write while painting and singing, my head might explode!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Precise Women

Work in Progress and Electric Substations Behind
I've started a new series of paintings based on industrial scenes. There is an abandoned rice silo next to my studio that is my latest inspiration. A few years back, I did a series of electric substation paintings and I found all the mechanics and wires oddly intriguing, probably because I was looking at them from an artistic rather than a functional standpoint. I'm equally intrigued by industrial sites and rusty warehouses, and have been looking at the work of the "Precisionists" for inspiration. Precisionism was a painting movement in America from about 1915 to 1941. The best known Precisionist was Charles Sheeler, whose work I love, others include Charles Demuth, Ralston Crawford and Joseph Stella. What surprised me was that there were several female Precisionists as well including Elsie Driggs, Virginia Berresford, Imogen Cunningham, and most notably, Georgia O'Keeffe, before she moved on to her more famous organic themes. From what I've read, Elsie Driggs wasn't concerned about the politics of the time or the "masculinity" of her subject matter but rather the stylization and the shapes that could be found in industrial scenes. I can definitely appreciate that.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Anyone?

Cool Looking Crepe Myrtles
The time after my first solo show has invoked what I imagine what most bands feel like after they release their first album. They have spent their lifetimes building up to that big break and once they have released the album and it's successful, all they hear is "when is your next album coming out?" and "what are you working on now?" While I didn't spend my lifetime preparing for my show, I was immersed in the series for three years. I went through the during the show publicity and chatting it up period, the post-show exhaustion period, the post-post show giddiness of "that was a really cool experience" period, and now I am in the experimenting, exploring and figuring out what am I going to do next period.

Life and its various curve balls have come at me while I have been working on ideas, sketches and studies. I have begun teaching at the Art League, which I love, and I've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which is just bullshit and has me an alternately stoic superwoman who isn't going to let a stupid disease stop me from doing anything to a bawling mess trying to pull it together so I can leave my car to go into the grocery store to buy a dozen eggs.

The good news is that this bullshit disease has been caught early and I'm not dying and it's chronic but treatable and it could be very much worse and I can still paint and draw with minimal pain and I know that I should be very grateful because other people are going through much worse shit than this, but all the rationalizing in the world doesn't stop the fact that I have to process this before I can move on. Don't worry, this will not turn into a "why me" or disease chronicle. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't give up easily or ever, so I'm sure that this will eventually register as just another minor blip on the radar. Right now though, it's fresh and I've gotta get it out so I can get back to painting those pretty pictures!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What's Next?

 The past couple of months have been a whirlwind as I got ready for and had my first solo show. While it was a pretty exhausting, the entire experience from start to finish was absolutely perfect and I am immensely grateful. So many friends came to the opening, the show looked fabulous in the gallery, I met many new people, sold several paintings, and even had my picture in the paper! I am an optimist by nature but even I wasn't expecting that much good stuff.
An A-Mazing Maze

The dust has settled and I am now pondering my next move. I've loved working on the Neighborhood Series but I saw the show as a culmination of that work and I'm ready to move on to new things. It's an exciting place to be and there are so many possibilities. I even have an inkling of an idea and direction...

I was fortunate this weekend to hear a talk by one of my favorite Houston artists who does amazing graphite drawings that involve family narratives. He said that when he started art school, he tried to do abstract expressionist work but it didn't feel right. Then he started mining his personal history and everything fell into place. I could very much relate. The major revelation I had in doing my show is that my work is rooted in my family and childhood experiences. Since I don't paint figures, it's not easy for others to understand this or for me to translate it, especially when I paint buildings and electric substations. Since my inkling of an idea and direction involves buildings once again, my challenge will be to continue to make my paintings feel human without including any signs of life in them. Should be interesting.

To gain some inspiration, I am taking a trip to the Big Apple to see American Modern at the Museum of Modern Art and every other museum and gallery that I can squeeze into two days. I've got my walking shoes and sketchbook ready!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Art, Could You Please Make Yourself?

Part of Giant Untitled Painting, 2013
I haven't been writing in this blog because I have been working nonstop to get ready for my very first solo show that opens August 23rd at Lawndale. I just finished a 4.5' x 15' painting, that is a diptych, i.e. a painting in two parts. I feel very relieved to have that monster done!

Getting ready for an exhibition has a way of taking over your life. You spend many of your waking hours looking at the calendar to see how much time you have left to finish everything and then as you try to fall asleep you worry about all the stuff you still have to do, remember that you should be writing about it in this blog, and then thinking about what you'll work on the next day. When you get to the studio and have been there for what you think is an hour, days and years have actually passed. I'm slightly exaggerating on that last one but I am amazed at how quickly time passes when I'm in the studio and how it seems to stand still when I'm at my day job! (No offense day job, I love and need you.)

When I am not painting, worrying, at the day job, or trying to fall asleep, my husband and I watch a lot of those "survival" type shows on TV. Seeing people who are dropped into the middle of nowhere without food or clothing makes me feel a little less whiny about having to spend all my free time painting. It also gives me great ideas for television programming. My idea is to have a reality show about an artist dropped into the middle of the Amazon jungle by themself, who must make fire, gather food, build a shelter, find water, AND prepare for a solo art show. That would be awesome.