Liz Zorn Painter

The Fix Is In

TECH TALK - The past few weeks have me back with my mixed palette of inks, acrylics and graphite. It feels good working with these materials and I can go as abstract expressionist or minimal as I like, depending on the way the piece is moving along. I posted a piece the other day on social media, mentioning that the graphite needed to be fixed before the painting could be varnished. Someone sent me a message asking what I mean by "fix" because they had not heard that term before. I guess if one does not work on paper, use charcoals or pastels, maybe this term would never come up. But even for a painter who creates washes on canvas with watercolors or acrylics, a fix can save the layers from being smudged or compromised. A fix is when one uses a fixative to seal a layer so they can keep building more layers. I use (more often than not) a fixative designed for charcoal and pastels. I will spray a very thin layer over the canvas to set the inks and pencil markings on my painting so they do not wash away or smudge when I add more layers.  I use both aerosol and pump versions. I use Spectrafix; This fixative is non toxic and archival.

In this painting (the one that was featured in the social media post mentioned above) I have added graphite in various stages of the color washing. With some of them I want it to fade and smudge a bit, but for others I want it to remain untouched, and this is where I will give it a little spray. When I get to the final layers and when the painting is finished it will get a light overall fix before it is varnished. I usually wait a few more days to varnish it. I use a satin varnish, Liquitex. For smaller paintings I usually apply the varnish with a brush. For large paintings I use a sponge. A satin varnish will pull the colors up and even out the tones across the canvas. It has a more natural look.

playing fast and loose: acrylic and graphite on linen 48x40

THE BIG FIX - I am packing up a lot of my materials to take back to my larger studio in the city. This painting here is the last large piece painted in my home studio. I feel like the winter was a great teacher for me and I am on my way. I am feeling better overall this past week and hopeful that I will have a few good weeks ahead, or at least before another relapse or super hot weather. The heat really takes a toll, so I am hoping to get a lot of work done before I have to deal with that. It's such a game of Russian Roulette, spinning the wheel each night in hopes of having a good wake up and the ability to walk to the bathroom... I am a tough cookie, so whatever comes my way I will deal with it, and hopefully a good liar when it comes to my work, keeping it on the brighter side of reality and not plunging down into despair or ugliness. or at least most of the time.. Some things do need to be expressed and I am cool with that too.


In relation to other winters ours was not all that bad, it just ended on a cold and dreary note which made it seem like it was overly cruel and lasted forever. Now we are getting the wind and rain of spring but I am not going to complain, it is warmer, enough for sandals and t-shirts, my kinda garb...

This also marks the beginning of my art season as I am inspired to create a new body of colorful paintings. I have been dividing my time between the studio in the city and the small space in my home sun room. Hopefully I will be able to get my real home studio back up and going now that we have a new roof on it. Lots to do this year. I plan on keeping the city space and have even entertained the idea of opening my own gallery (again) but this time with only my work and perhaps a few guest artists from time to time. It would be a working as well as exhibition space, and I have been thinking more along these lines since learning that several of the artists on my floor at the art center will be leaving. My space is really too small and it doesn't look like I will be able to get anything larger for awhile, even after being on the waiting list for almost a year. All of this of course will be in direct relation to how well I am able to juggle the work load of my Artisan Fragrance line against the greater demands of creating and marketing art... Not bad problems to have, but still trying to make the best decisions.

Reflecting Pool, in progress, acrylic on canvas, 24x30

Tangerine Pussycat

What does that mean???...... A few weeks ago I was flipping through the TV channels and stopped at a repeat episode of CSI. One of the characters was named Tangerine. I thought to myself I love this word, the way it sounds when you speak it out loud, the color, the fruit the song (old song) and a zillion other things. I could not get this word out of my head so I decided it would be the focus of a series. Pussycat, well....... that's a given, particularly if you know me. I have been doing cat rescue and living with cats my entire life. So this new series is an homage to tangerine and cats.

If you are thinking that art must have some deep meaning or that every artistic venture must come from the depths of the soul, sorrow, loss or struggle; It just ain't so. Most of my inspiration comes from everyday stuff. I am a pragmatist. I try not to get too insane about why I do what I do. I just do it because it feels right at the time, and Tangerine Pussycat is right for now.

These first canvases are looking pretty bold at this stage of the layering but will be toned down a bit as I begin to lay in more opaque/matt colors in the form of washes. the bold under painting is there because I use a razor blade to scrape down into the paint to reveal what is underneath. Like carving out the composition, but on a canvas instead of a lump of clay. The base layer is made of modeling paste, gels and color, so there is texture at the core. Depending on the depth of paint layers much of the texture can be covered over with only the cut areas revealing texture in strategic places.

Beginning: Textured layer with color.

Beginning: Textured layer with color.

Canvas #1 first layers of color.

Canvas #1 first layers of color.

Canvas #2, first layers of color

Canvas #2, first layers of color

As these paintings go through the stages of completion more of the original blue will be pulled through. Adding dashes of color in specific places will allow me to come back to it, even though for a time it will be covered up.

At the end of the day these will be landscape paintings similar to works like Red Sail and others from last year.

Red Sail, acrylic on canvas 2014

Red Sail, acrylic on canvas 2014

The Humble Soul

Lately I have been paying more attention to my approach to painting. The feelings go here and there, back and forth from committed to a cause, to just enjoying color, to go with the flow and to awareness of the moment.  There is always this thing in the back of my mind that I can't quite shake. The being original, making ones mark, thinking outside the box etc... It's easy when one is trained in the fundamentals to copy a lot of different styles from the past. It isn't always easy to set out on a trailblazing journey of original achievement.

The other night I was watching Charlie Rose interview Helen Mirren. He asked her a question about of all people Francis Bacon the painter and his influence in her work as an actor. An odd pairing maybe, but when she started talking about Bacons philosophy on technique and how it must become second nature before one can move on, pushing the envelope so to speak. I knew exactly what she meant. It wasn't just Bacon, yet maybe he framed it in a way that really spoke to her; but for all creatives who strike out on their own.

adding colored texture to new canvases

I remember back to when I first discovered acrylic paints, I had been trained as an traditional oil painter and the fast drying time of acrylics was hard to get adjusted to. I was a teenager 14 or 15 maybe and by that time was already very interested in abstract art. Almost immediately I made the connection about technique. It was the same really. The basics of painting a landscape were the same regardless of whether that landscape was traditional realism or abstract. I later learned in my work as a perfumer the same rules applied. It didn't really matter, the basics were the same. It all boiled down to the "second nature" aspect of technique.

As I experimented with acrylic paints I became very interested in textural surfaces. This would turn out to be a life long love affair, and one where the trial and error of learning the materials and developing a technique and later many techniques would involve a lot more time than creating the actual work. I won't say that I was a perfectionist, I am an Wabi Sabi kind of perfectionist. I see the beauty in the flaw. I am not always so quick to eliminate it, but let it live. Sometimes I am the only one who sees it. Probably most times.

We tend to be on our guard when we think we may be found out. Like a criminal trying to tell a convincing lie to avoid incarceration. But with Wabi Sabi there is the element of simplicity and humility that are sometimes in conflict with ego driven artistry. I try to avoid that and stay humble. I am better at it now that I am older; and at the same time it does not mean that I think wisdom comes with age. Some people are complete idiots at 80 while others are sublime at twenty.  I am just at a place where I see the value and beauty in a lot more things than I once did.

Wisdom I think... is in being able to find value in many things and appreciate the beauty that exists in unlikely places. Where as Helen Mirren may find value in the words of Francis Bacon, we can all have that kind of connection. Personally I find that the designer John Saladino has indirectly influenced my choice of color. When you see a dash of lavender in one of my paintings it is probably an unconscious gesture, tribute to John, as he is able to drop a lavender sofa into a rustic earthy and mostly white setting and make it work. It is absolutely brilliant his composition, his use of color, texture and mastery of space. I see the same brilliance in the first crocus of the year, as their beautiful purple heads push through the brown earth and open to reveal a bright yellow stamen. All of these colors and the splendor of them, regardless of setting are beautiful sacred things. When a human creation pays homage to the flower, the tree, the mountain or sky, it doesn't matter whether it is the masterful juxtaposition of furniture in a room, a painting or a plate of elegantly prepared food. What matters is the truth that exists in the soul energy that was inspired to create it.

To be the humble soul in a world that rewards bravado is the thing isn't is. To seek out beauty,  to speak softly and have a noble intention. We are all seekers of something, we are like that flower pushing through the earth in search of the sun, climbing inch by inch to reach higher ground.

Connecting The Dots

We were just remarking the other day at our good fortune in repairing the roof on my home studio. I had discovered a lot of water damage last spring after a heavy rain, and many things were damaged. Some salvageable and some not.

I knew that I had a lot of paper out there, Watercolor paper, printmaking paper, etc.. So I was thinking why not use it. I ended up getting about ten sheets of hot press watercolor to work with. Every sheet had water stains and rusty looking edges. Nothing that a couple of coats of gesso couldn't fix. So I started priming the sheets to use for the series of paintings that I was working on.

in progress: acrylic on distressed hot press paper..

in progress: acrylic on distressed hot press paper..

It was spooky how similar the water stains were to my current color palette and how easy it would be to incorporate them into a painting. It was like the past had reached through the fabric of time and pulled me back to the days when I was working on those same papers, with that same palette, in that same studio fifteen years before. I spent the rest of the day mulling over time space continuum theories, back to the future theories and how even if we have no religion or follow no mythology, the synchronicity of life and the time loop of familiarity can create it's own dogma in each of our lives. So I look at this paper and see an entire chunk of my life and I wonder about the meaning of it being here now, again. Perhaps there is no meaning, and the meaning is in what I make from the paper. How I react to it once the paper has all been used.

Connecting the dots... I think about these things, not because I am looking for some kind of singularity to merge and make it all make sense; and surely not because I want to find some sort of art speak meaning to it all. That is just a myth. More than anything I like the way things drop into my life. I like how even the smallest thing will spur me to deeper thought. I think that I just like to think...

Snow Days

Made it down to the studio on Saturday to pick up some supplies and water my orchids. After being teased with potential blizzards over the past weeks we finally got our boat load of the stuff and as a result I opted for setting up a makeshift studio in the sunroom (at home). There isn't a lot I can do in this space so I have opted to do some works on paper. Moving from palette knives and masonry trowels to essentially finger painting is a bit of a curve, and I am always surprised at what comes out of me when I switch from textured canvas to paper. But with this work I must be channeling my palette switch from last summer when I went from the bright colors and lots of blue to this limited earthy palette.

I don't really have a plan other than just painting, and this is fine with me. In the past I did a lot of paper studies that I would transfer (style wise) to canvas. Not sure where this will go or if I will even continue it once I am back in the studio on a regular basis.

New: acrylic on gesso textured paper. 12.5x19.5

New: acrylic on gesso textured paper. 12.5x19.5

New: acrylic on gesso textured paper. 12.5x19.5

New: acrylic on gesso textured paper. 12.5x19.5

Occasionally I will sneak a landscape in there (hehe..)  but for the most part I am still where I left off with the acrylics on canvas last year. Even the new in progress works in oil and cold wax I have going at the studio are in this limited earthy palette. Funny how consistent color can make a mish mash of half baked ideas look like a cohesive body of work...

Untitled: 2014 acrylic on canvas 12x12

Untitled: 2014 acrylic on canvas 12x12





Was a good day at Studio Lizzie... I started working on my series. Inspired by my growing collection of tree bark and the need to loosen up my composition. I realized that much of the work that I was already doing fit this profile and that if I were to take a detail and enlarge it, I would have what I was looking for in the new pieces. I spent much of my time over the past days in the studio priming and getting my canvases ready to paint. Now that i have a few of them ready I can paint for awhile without having to stop and prep new canvas.

I laid out several works on paper from my portfolio as inspiration for the new paintings. Many of them are white with a little color, and these were the ones that I referred to the most.

This is a work in progress (mostly finished) from the new series. It is the first piece and I actually like it. I will know if I really really like it when I go back to the studio on Monday and look at it with fresh eyes.

Closer Series: Acrylic, Mixed Media on  canvas 24x20

Shades of Black and Gray

Taking a day off from the studio today to give my body a rest.. Spent yesterday working in color on three larger canvases and finished another 36x36. With the broad swipes and all of the scraping with a large masonry trowel, my studio sessions leave me feeling (the next day) like I was in the gym lifting heavy weights. A stellar upper body workout!!

Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the new work because I have not taken my phone with me to the studio the past couple of days. Completely forgetting it on the charger.. Which is not such a big deal as I have around eight canvases laying on the floor in various stages of drying. Layered with black, white and gray with acrylic matte medium and modeling paste. These are the first new canvases that do not have preliminary layers in bright colors and impastoesque textural gestures. They are the first pieces to take the new working style into a series based on my new muse. This lovely piece of tree bark from an ancient Red Bud tree in my back yard. This image has been altered slightly. The actual bark has specks of green lichen gray, dusty mold and various shades of brown, black and white. and as I am not even thinking in minimalist terms, I do see this going in that direction more and more.


I am also tempted to overlay with oil bars and charcoal and maybe soft pastels. The work already has an encaustic feel to it, and many people think it is encaustic when they first see it. But it is just a technique created with acrylic paints and mediums. As much as I love the look of real encaustic paintings, I also like the immediacy of acrylics and the ability to do many more things with them.

I will be back next week with some photos of the new work and works in progress. For now the bold and the colorful are on the back burner and my tree bark muse has center stage..