abstract expressionism

Terra Animam

This is the time of year that resets my body clock as well as my soul clock and reconnects me to the land. I love autumn I don't love winter. I love the crisp thin air and unfiltered sun, the shadows the angles of amazing light, the colors, the sounds and the smells.

It is a time for soups and sweaters and deep complicated poetry. It is a time for examining subtext and metaphor.

Terra Animam: oil/cold wax on cradled birch wood. 16x16x2

Terra Animam: oil/cold wax on cradled birch wood. 16x16x2


I am still working from home mostly to finish some small paintings, and in the middle of it all I am changing up my palette to one that is warmer, earthy and soulful. The switch back to oils has been a bit of an up and down, but now I am in my groove and feel good about moving on to larger pieces. Going back and forth from canvas to wood has also been a yin yang of indecision. I think with the more washed out paintings I like canvas and for the textured pieces with a lot of wax I am leaning towards the wood. We are in the process of building some large cradled panels for the studio in the city and I am about two weeks away from having all of the smaller in progress pieces finished. This will also get me beyond a deadline that I have for the end of October. After that I will have a nice stretch of time to finally move things back from home to the city and take a few days off before starting on the new work.



I am not sure why people get all worked up at the start of a new year. Vow to do some otherwise impossible things and never follow through.  I too have taken the plunge and am in the process of successfully completing my task.

Near the end of the year I had started work on some new paintings that did not involve modeling paste, heavy layers of texture and razor blades. Instead I have reintroduced brush work to my process along with a return to mixed media acrylics, ink, pencil, dry pastels and paint markers.

I had been right in the middle of a very large canvas, and decided somewhere near the end of it's completion that I did not care for it at all. I painted over it several times and eventually set it aside. I did the same thing to a couple of other in progress pieces. To say that I was frustrated would be an understatement. I was furious with myself. I was moving into a new thing and nothing was working, so I did the only logical thing an artist can do. I started fresh. I committed myself to painting ten small 25x25 studies. A primer to get me going with the new work. I am five paintings in now and starting to feel my direction more clearly.

Moving away from a bolder look with black outlines to a more organic look similar to my most recent works on paper. It's like I am finally starting to get on the same page with all my work and the work I see in my head. It would seem that after painting for half a century I would have figured some things out by now. Apparently not. Everything comes at a snails pace, one step at a time. Some things flow and are easy, others are extreme in their difficulty and still others are not worth the fight. I guess if anything is learned over time it is to know when to toss things on the junk heap and let them go.

A Thousand Points of Light: 5-10 Acrylic, ink, paint marker, pencil on hand stretched linen. 25x25

Number five in my study series seems to have me at my eureka moment. It pleases me and it makes sense; artistically and emotionally.  I will finish the series of course, before starting on anything large. If the next five pan out I will surely be onto something.

That Was June

Bulldogs Beach: 30x30 acrylic on canvas

June came and went in a flash, but not before I sold three paintings from my Saatchi Art Portfolio.  Three nice sized pieces too. It leaves my studio walls a bit bare, but I will fill in the spots.. I have not been painting as much lately and really need to spend some serious time in the studio. Lots of things in progress, doodles and the like, but nothing serious or ready to go. Besides the doodling, working on new things like this. Aside from the fun little landscapes that break the flow of the larger more intense pieces, I really like this gray on gray  of Bulldogs Beach, and have one on the easel at home. I will probably go more in this direction once I am back in the studio downtown. I had been playing around with the gray with blues and greens as in the Queen City painting. As well as gray and purple, violet and other colors in that range.

Queen City: 24x24 acrylic on canvas

I missed the Final Friday at the studio this month, so next month I should have a lot of new things on the wall. Getting back to painting full time is the goal. It may take a little longer than I had anticipated as my other work is also demanding. I set myself a two year time goal and I am about six months in on that. It would be nice to come back here at the end of that time frame and say, yes I did it.

Landscape 2015

After rubbing a couple of nice blister on my hands with my cutting blade (blade paintings) I am taking some time to catch up on those landscapes that have been on the back burner. Not to mention the challenge of a commission in this style after not working this way for over a year.

Vignette Series 2013-14 acrylic on canvas

Vignette Series 2013-14 acrylic on canvas

The real challenge for me is in taking away the hard edged horizon line. I usually either have one like in the painting above, or I eliminate it completely while trying to maintain a landscape feel to the piece. With the new ones that I have been prepping canvas for, I am doing my best to remove that hard line and replace it with gestural lines while working the composition out and painting with a loose stroke using a Catalyst wedge. I like them better for softer strokes, better than the metal trowels.

New work in progress, acrylic on canvas 2015.. landscape art

New work in progress, acrylic on canvas 2015.. landscape art

I also feel like I need a break from the hard edge altogether. Something is pulling me to a more organic flow, and honestly I welcome it. Welcome the idea of letting the paint do the work, because those blade paintings are a workout. They have also been on my easel almost non stop for over a year, so it's time for a change. Feeling very relaxed and ready to dive into some color.

Process In Pictures

How do you do that. Is the question people most ask about this technique of working with a textured surface. How is it created, how do you paint on it, how do you get it so smooth, etc.. Lots of questions in this vein last Friday night at the Open Studio. I also have several of my older works on display so the contrast from those works and the new style were evident. Particularly where color is concerned. 

Here is a progression of a piece that I started yesterday. You can see that things move along quickly. The initial layer is the one with the texture. After it dries overnight I sand down the rough spots before applying additional layers of paint. With this piece I am using earth tones. Two different shades of Ochre, a Buff Titanium, Ivory Black, Burnt Umber. Yellow Oxide and Titanium White. The colors in the texture base are Raw and Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna and Black.

Process #1 - sanding the base layer before applying more paint.

process #2 adding more layers of paint to the canvas

process #3 - adding more layers of paint and beginning to scrape through to reveal some of the deeper layers.

process #4 detail of the scraping process of  the 'SKIN"  

I missed a couple of the layering stages in the photos, but you get the idea. Now that I am about seven or so layers into the piece I am beginning to scrape through the layers to reveal the initial composition that I laid in with black and ochre paint, as well as cutting into some of the texture layer. The grid element has been part of my work for as long as I can remember and still have no idea why it appeals to me. It just does and I am ok with that being enough. Do not like to over think it.. 

This canvas is 24x18 so not very big at all. Easy to work on a flat surface. People say they see industrial decay in these works as well as ships on the ocean. I do not generally have anything like this in mind, but can see that some of the work does contain structural elements of those things. I am mostly working intuitively and in the moment, so I try not to make it about any particular thing. It isn't until I am well into the work or even finished before I title or not title the piece. Sometimes as with the Vignette paintings of landscapes I just title it with the date finished such as Vignette 4-20. with the new series being called "SKINS" perhaps there will be a lot of Skins: 8-15, etc... 

FOLLOW UP - the painting is now finished and on the website. Titled: Prussian Blue, 24x18.

Direction Home

Moving from one place to another in a zig zag fashion, circling back around and then moving ahead. This is how I would describe my last few months. In the studio yesterday I was just about to finish the new painting "The Long Goodbye" when I realized that I had left my sanding block on the kitchen counter. Perhaps a good thing as it gave me extra time to examine this work.

Detail: The Long Goodbye

This is another piece that runs through the line of thought that created paintings like Memoriam, Impress Me, Plenty, the new Satellite Blue, Violet, etc... It is a deliberate layering and removing of paint and texture. This image detail shows a textural element that is being worked. It is very rough to the touch which is why I wanted to sand it down a bit before adding another color wash. When I get to the final layers they are very thin washes that give the painting an almost leathery appearance. When I am back in the studio tomorrow I will finish it and move on to another larger piece. This one is 40x30 vertical. I liked the detail shots of this piece so much that I used another of them to create a new postcard. Now that I am heading in the direction ahead of me instead of the one in the rear view mirror, I am happy to announce that this is what I will be doing more of, or what you can expect from me as an artist, as every piece in progress right now seven in all, are in various stages of completion in this style. Not that I will not slip in a few totally unrelated pieces from time to time. We all do that. But this color palette is very pleasing to me as the larger areas are more subtle and muted and the scratches into the layers reveal many different colors. 

New postcard featuring a detail from the painting "The Long Goodbye"

Flash forward: I finished The Long Goodbye today and almost refinished Out On The Town... I had signed out on the town back in april, but the more I looked at it the more I wanted to make some changes, so I did and I am happy about it. I have been spending a few Sundays in the studio but may head down there tomorrow to finish Out On The Town while it is fresh in my head... I will need to photograph some of the new artwork anyway, so charging up the Nikon just in case..

ok, flash forward again it is now Saturday morning and I have a few changes to make to this painting before it is finished. Nothing major just an area where I want to enhance the grid... I kept thinking about it after I got home from the studio, so to quiet that nagging voice in my head I will make the changes....

New Paintings

Having a few things on a rotation it can be like clearing the desk of clutter when a painting or two are finished. Not that the work is clutter, but having things stacked around the studio in various stages of completion can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. With these two pieces finished, I will be chilling back for a week or so to work on other things.


Plenty: acrylic on  1.5" gallery wrap canvas 24x24 2014 Liz Zorn

Plenty: acrylic on  1.5" gallery wrap canvas 24x24 2014 Liz Zorn

Plenty: Detail

Plenty: Detail

Winters Bone: acrylic on 1.5" gallery wrap canvas 2014 Liz Zorn

Winters Bone: acrylic on 1.5" gallery wrap canvas 2014 Liz Zorn