abstract art

According To Plan

When everything is going right and the stars are in alignment, my work looks something like this.

Building a history that start with a layer of modeling paste, colors and textures, usually ending with a thick layer that is left to partially dry, cut into with a razor blade or the sharp edge of a palette knife. This reveals the layers of color, color that creates a contrast,  a push and pull of energy. Although it may seem so, nothing is really planned. The colors are chosen according to my mood and the lines, pencil marks and gestural color a moment by moment act, carried out more in regards to emotion, sound and smell. Each color has a different smell, and those smells can change or become more intense depending on my ability to focus on the moment. To me it is like a vast microbiome of sensual influences. Having an synesthetic ability that runs through my visual art as well as my work in a scent lab, It is a peculiar set of circumstances that inform me in my work. I embrace it, mostly. Sometimes it drives me crazy, because the overlap and overload can be too distracting. This is why when things do turn out somewhat according to plan, I do my little happy dance and continue on, knowing that it is never, and never will be easy.

Open Studio

Every month the Pendleton Art Center in downtown Cincinnati has an open studio event. I have a studio in the building and try to be there each month if I can. Often times I am in the middle of work and just do not want to move things around and clean up the studio so I do not open. It is strictly voluntary on the part of the artists, yet most do open for the monthly event because it is well attended with crowds of up to 800 or so stopping in during the four hour window. There are eight floor of studios in the main warehouse building (where I am) and more in the annex buildings and galleries within the complex that includes buildings across the street and up the alley. They have live outdoor entertainment in the summer months and people will come from the neighborhood to sit and listen to the band. Food vendors are always on site and each artist has their own mini reception and sometimes big events where galleries in the building or complex coordinate with their own openings.

Yesterday was one of those days where I had a lot of things out and works in progress that I did not really want to move, so to take advantage of the open house, I spent some time yesterday changing out the artwork I had on my outside walls. Artists can hang work on the wall space outside their studios, and I am lucky to have a nice wall for display. If someone were to walk by my studio when I am not there they will see the current long wall with seven paintings, two more on the door and three on the area next to the door. A nice selection of my work. I have a rack with business cards next to the door, so with little effort I can be contacted and make arrangements to meet up at the studio.

This usually works out well, most people are good about keeping their appointments. /Some as I found out last week are not reliable at all, so it is a live and learn experience. Still in all it is a great way to have work on display without having to be there all the time. On several occasions works on the outside walls have been sold on days and nights when I was not there.

I do however love the interaction with the public and try to be there when I can. I am working currently on new things for a fall project and am putting a lot of my focus on the coming months and year. I have finally gotten back into a groove with my work and the only thing to do now os move forward.

Thanks to all who support my work, visit the studio and share your enthusiasm for the creative process.

Necessary Detour

Sometimes it takes awhile for things to come around. Looking back over the past two years I feel like I have been in a strange kind of funk. Things will look up for a time and with no warning fall apart or cease to have meaning. I have continued to hold on to my use of a textured surface in my painting, and after thirty years it is like a reliable old friend. Preparing a canvas with a layer of bumpy, scratchy terrain to serve as somewhat of an unspoken element lending to the overall piece.

I find that it is time to let that go for awhile and focus on something different. Not necessarily new, but vital to me moving on with my work.

When I walked into my studio yesterday I knew that I had painted on my last traditionally prepared canvas, at least for the foreseeable future. Stretched gesso primed canvas. The kind that is available ready made at art supply stores, and even the ones that I stretch myself.

I have prepared a wall in my studio to staple raw canvas. Raw unbleached canvas that I lightly prime with a clear gesso/medium.

One of the reasons that I want to work this way is to create really large intuitive paintings, and worry about all the other stuff later. I find that when I have invested a lot of time in the prep work of stretching and priming a canvas, I feel obligated to have it turn out a specific way. I don't want any of that getting in my way, so I am going back to the process I used when I was creating large works on paper. One never knows how these things will turn out, but it is nothing without taking the risk. Nothing without being ok with failure or wasting materials, or any of the things that create doubt in an artists process. There's always something. Like that bad hair day that never ends. Eventually it must not matter. Must not be a self conscious act, or be tied to ego.

Detail: acrylic, ink on unstretched clear primed canvas.

In the studio: in progress 60x80 acrylic, ink, pencil, charcoal on unstretched clear primed canvas

I am really excited to see where this all goes. I am happy with the choices and very happy with the work so far. I know I said that I wasn't going to work in series. But something happened in my life recently and I really want to document my personal feeling about it through this work for awhile. Not in a premeditated way, but in a way that allows me to let go and move on. If that is even possible.

Cross Over

As always I am living up to my title as a mixed media artist. It isn't often, but occasionally my art life and perfume life have some crossover. I recently relaunched one of my perfume collections, and with the relaunch came a redesign of the packaging. I have always designed all of the packaging art for the brand, and now have chosen some of the images for the new labels from my original paintings in the Landscape Studies (and others) series.

It took me awhile to get these online. But now most of them are online and available for sale. For the most part they are small 10x10 and 12x12 l acrylic landscape studies. My aim has been to get in the flow with this work and carry through with larger works in oil.

As can sometimes be the case, things have not gone according to plan and I am still not working on the larger pieces. Instead I have spent very little time in my studio painting, and most of that has been to finish up things already in progress before moving on.

The new studies are in the studio, but with me not being open during the art walks this summer they have not been seen, or sold, so they are all still available. I do plan on being open for the September Art Walk on the 25th, and I usually have a few sales during the art walk. September is also the month of our Anniversary Auction at the Art Center, so we will have a larger crowd, not to mention that September usually kicks off the fall art season.

Not all of the artwork on the perfume labels is available, but some is, and it is here onsite.

PINK RAIN artwork used on the Violets & Rainwater perfume label

Anyhoo... for those perfume folks interested in the art, it is here. All original pieces on canvas.

Perfume Site: Soivohle

2015 Back To The Future

As good a time as any I suppose... To once again take a look back and pull those old thoughts out of the attic and revisit unfinished business.

It was almost a year ago that I had some old mixed media paintings on paper hanging in my Middletown studio. I found them while looking for something else in my home studio. They were the last pieces I painted before embarking on an olfactory adventure that pulled me into another world. Now I am teetering back and forth between these two worlds, spending about as much time with one as the other. It's a good fit for now, and then there is this unfinished business.

These paper pieces were done from late 2001 to spring of 2002. They were my last work after 9/11. My last show was in October of 2001 and as the entire country was in shock I, as an artist was trying to wrap my brain around it by pouring my feelings into the work. At the time  9/11 art was popping up everywhere and it seemed odd to me at the time how quickly galleries and art centers jumped on the bandwagon to exhibit this art and in many ways exploit a tragedy for financial gain and attention.

Mixed Media on paper: 2001-2002

Mixed Media on paper: 2001-2002

I never showed this work at the time or had it for sale, I was just working through my feelings and after I completed the last pieces, I tucked them away where they stayed for twelve years. It was a time where I felt like exploring some of the other things that I loved so I spent more time on my music and writing and I launched a small collection of natural perfumes that to my surprise became a huge success.

In the past two months I have had these paintings on paper out in my Cincinnati studio, Out where I can see them everyday and remember how much I love doing this work. Seeing them also brought into contrast the new work that I had been creating. Somewhat angry by comparison with all of the scraping and sharp lines, defiant slashes of color. If I were to analyze myself and this work I would have to wonder what all of the angst is about. Maybe I am angry at myself for not painting all those years, or maybe I am still working things through. The thing is, I like both for different reasons, and at the same time I do feel a bit exhausted and want to incorporate more of the past into the future works.

recent in progress, acrylic on canvas 2014

recent in progress, acrylic on canvas 2014

At the end of the year I was all set to get back into the studio and take the work to that new place, but just as we were saying goodbye to 2014 we were ringing in 2015 in bed, hit by the flu bug. I am the one who rarely gets a cold or flu, so it drives me nuts when I am unable to function. This past Thursday January 15th was my first day driving into the city to my studio. Mr Z. took me down last Sunday, but it was too soon and I was back in bed for another two days. All of my big plans and ideas had to be put on hold while I recovered, and... while I ran it all over and over in my head.

Now I look at the work in the studio with new eyes. My intention is the same but my feelings about this new year have changed. I am thinking about my health and my family and how quickly things can go wrong. A recent death of an acquaintance who was my age, and the recent loss of close family have put me on a path of greater awareness. I am feeling more grateful for the things I have, my health and those close to me. There is a quote by the writer Claudia Black: "Surround yourself with people who respect and treat you well"  This has always resonated with me, so much that I still have it tacked to the wall in my old home studio. The paper yellow with age, but still relevant. In the coming months I wish to honor this quote, and put the important things on the front burner and toss out anything that doesn't live up to that standard. I also feel that it is important to do the same with my work, all of it.

Wish me luck, the month is only half over and I am already working on Plan B....


Thinking back to the first impasto works of this new train of thought I am finding that the preconceived horizon line is becoming very distracting to me. Not that I want to eliminate the gesture, but would rather not start out with it in mind. In a way I want to just scrap everything and start over with this in mind. Start over where I left off with the grid paintings in 2001. Not that I want to continue with the grid paintings, I do not as they were built entirely of texture and painted later in oils. I want to continue in that I am building the texture primarily out of paint. Being a year back into a daily painting routine I am happy that this work is finally starting to make some sense to me. I know I have said that before and at the time I was feeling much the same as now. How to know when it will lead to something is the million dollar question. It can take years to find a groove or purpose in the work, and then again the work can dictate the flow and learning curve. Last night I was working on a piece and realized that I wanted to paint over the horizon line. I left it so that I could look at it with fresh eyes this a.m. Having done so I am certain that I want to open up the field. I am also applying paint as a transfer, as I do with works on paper, and using less texture in the base that outlines the composition.

detail from grid painting: autumnal 1999

detail from grid painting: autumnal 1999

detail: work in progress, today 2014

detail: work in progress, today 2014

I am excited about the rapid changes in the work, it means that I am going to get where I want to be sooner rather than later. It will also be helpful in setting up my new studio. Still no real word about that, although I did hear that there may be an opening at the end of May. Not the exact space I am looking for, but one that I could move into while I wait for a larger studio in the building.

Breaking old habits can be hard, but I am going to give myself some time to work this out without the premeditation of something being a landscape, seascape or anything remotely related to a horizon line. If one should find it's way in, fine, I can deal with that. It's the initial thought process that I am more concerned with. I do not want to limit myself, which is exactly what I have been doing.

Regression Therapy

Life is a circle... One of my favorite sayings, and it is true...... really... Looking at canvases in various stages of completion I decided to adopt a color theme.. at least for the next few pieces. Blues, grays, reds, ochre, sienna and black, lots of black... As a young art student one of the first things taught to me was NEVER USE BLACK straight out of the tube... make your own black with other colors, it will look more natural.. That's all well and good for learning how to paint portraits and traditional landscapes, and it is a very useful approach for such things, but for me I really like black, the blacker the better.. I admit that my blacks are often a combo of Paynes Gray and Mars Black or Graphite Gray and Black, yet in the end am left with various shades of black. The canvases already had several layers of color and I went in and gave them all a shades of gray block out followed by a white wash that was rubbed into the gray, washed off and scraped off. This is the fun part because some areas will come off easier than others and some will not come off at all. The end result is often not up to me entirely, unless I opt to go back in and build up more layers of paint. I do this sometimes, but most of the time am happy with my initial choices. It is never 1, 2, 3... and we are done. There are always decisions to be made, even in a heated moment, or trying to scrape down a particular section of a large painting before the paint dries too much. Action painting...literally!!

So today I finished a smallish piece 24x18 and found myself back in circle mode. As I have mentioned before, circles have been in my work from the beginning. Not in every piece, but in a great many of them.  I thought it would be fun to show a comparison. Two paintings with circles painted twenty years apart. One in acrylic, the other in oil. One on cotton canvas, the other on linen..

Blow: 24x18, acrylic on canvas, Liz Zorn 2014

Blow: 24x18, acrylic on canvas, Liz Zorn 2014

Relix Series: 10x10, oil on linen, Liz Zorn 1993

Relix Series: 10x10, oil on linen, Liz Zorn 1993


Memoriam is the painting I have been working on for a couple of weeks. Not steady as other things have been on the calendar, but now down to the final details. I had no idea where this under painting would lead me, and at one point regretted my choice. I continued on and am now almost ready to call it finished. While working on it I was casually flipping through NPR on flipboard when I saw a story on people who had left us in 2014. This list was not a who's who of the celebrity circles, but instead one that included scientists, teachers, writers and folks who had made a great contribution. Folks that you would walk right past on the street because their fame was greater than the fame of celebrity.  At that point I knew where the painting would go, I went downstairs to my makeshift studio in the sunroom and wrote the title on the back of the very unfinished canvas.. At another point along the way I began to think a lot of my grandfather. He was an inventor, a machinist and in his later years after being bored from retirement he opened a hardware store and built the most amazing Willy Wonka style workshop in the back room. As a child my grandmother and aunt were my daycare givers from birth until I began school. I spent much of that time hanging out in my grandfathers store and workshop. I have always considered that this was the spark that set me on a lifelong journey down the art rabbit hole. So as I have been adding little bits to this painting I have thought of my grandfather. He was one of those folks who did some amazing things in life and had several patents for his inventions, yet unless you knew him you would pass him on the street and not think much of it. As you would probably pass me on the street and not think much of it. We are all unique in some way and each of us has the potential for greatness, so perhaps this is an homage not just to those who have left us, but to us all, always and everyday...


under painting for Memoriam

under painting for Memoriam

Memoriam in progress, almost finished..

Memoriam in progress, almost finished..

Historical Accuracy

Impress Me: Detail

Impress Me: Detail

It's hard to argue with abstraction. Criticism is another thing. It's easy to be critical of abstraction and the process of abstraction in painting. How it speaks or not, to the individual is a learned behavior/reaction. As I move closer to my beginnings with my new work I find that it is much more difficult to pull off. People will look at a painting of a tree and evaluate it in relation to an actual tree. People look at abstraction and evaluate it in relation to their ability to translate emotion; or at least that is how it should be. That is what it is about, at least to me. It is about my ability or lack of ability to translate my emotion, feelings, moods and day to day existence to a tangible surface. A blank slate to be filled with color and action. Throughout the history of painting abstraction has been there. A gesture, a  color field background, a hazy horizon, a blob of  gradient darkness behind a spray of detailed flora; and in more recent times a painterly indication an impressionist swath or intentional distortion. The distillation of abstraction in the 20th Century and the Abstract Expressionist Movement paved the way for the total distillation of emotion and it's symbiotic relationship to color and spacial tension. I was very young when I started painting and I was always more interested in abstraction than recreating nature. Even though my formal instruction had me painting trees and flowers and people and all things representational, I never enjoyed it. The last time I painted anything remotely representational was a painting I did of my father shorty after he died many years ago. I have since created several pieces that tap into that emotion of loss, as the losses have been many. Standing before a blank canvas deciding how to begin, how to react, is not an easy thing (most days). It requires often, a period of trial and error, layers of feelings, layers of release, until finally it all starts to look a certain way, radiating a certain emotion. I have reached a point in life and a point in my development as an artist where this process of truth telling is more important than any aesthetic floweriness or glossing over. If I am feeling a brightness and lift in my step, surely the work will tell that truth. If I am feeling frustrated, angry, happy, sad, sexy, sorrowful or any other emotion, surely the work will tell those truths. Hopefully the work will tell those truths. This is my aim.