minimalist art

Minimalist At Heart

I have all but one of the ten studies completed and I find that, with them all in the studio next to each other, there is a clear pattern. Some of the elements, I do not care for (at all) and others just confirm what I have always known. I really love layers. Layers of color, organic shapes, subtle shapes, natural tones and values. What I do not like are the heavy handed colors.

I am thinking of this painting Bulldogs Beach, from last summer. All of the unstretched canvases that I have been painting since summer seem to be moving more in this direction and I am happy with that.

Bulldogs Beach: acrylic on stretched canvas. 30x30x1.5 - 2015

I also find that I work completely different when my surface is a stretched canvas or a canvas tacked to the wall, or when I am working with paper. I work differently when something is laying flat on a table, on an easel or hard surface like the hard board that I use for works on paper. I know this, I have always known this, yet it is the kind of thing that never really gets more than a passing thought. Right now I am thinking about it... a lot. My next move will determine the work that I do for the year. Stretched canvas or unstretched canvas. After spending some time at Fridays open studio, painting.. I have decided to take that canvas off the bars and finish it tacked to the wall. This is where I am with the work. I like what happens when I am working on a surface without resistance. Without having to straighten the canvas on the easel or tighten the cloth because I am pushing too hard into the paint. Every time I go back and forth, from easel to wall, the work changes. That was not really a problem for me before, but now it is. I even have a piece of hard board in my home studio to work on now, so everything will be consistent.

I am always talking about change. Now I can change and stay the same all at the same time.


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.

Transition-Squashing The White Noise

Last night I had a dream, I was painting. I was painting on canvas with a brush... I have not so much as lifted a brush to paint since I started painting again last year. I paint with a series of palette knives, spatulas, cut edges of old matte board, almost anything but a brush. I have no prejudice against brushes, I used them quite often in the past, but for some reason I had not felt a need to swath paint on a canvas, but instead felt more like jabbing it on and scraping it on, and it shows in the work. The work is transitional, not quite what I want it to be, as I am not sure what I want it to be. Sometimes transitional work can be the best of an artists career. Something other, divorced entirely from organized patterns and the dreaded series... I have worked in series much of my life but have resisted the urge to do so with any consistency since my return to painting. In my dream the painting was vivid, colorful, color field, landscape-ish. Non objective and very much what I wanted to be doing. My brain just would not let me do it, as my brain has been in some sort of White Noise mode for the past couple of years. Whenever I think the words white noise I am usually reminded of the DeLillo novel of the same name. A boring novel about boring people who do not really want to be who they are and have no idea who they want to be. It's about the second life that lives in the back of our brains, the one that sizzles like old television fuzz late at night when there's nothing left to watch. That sizzle of white fuzz that keeps us from clarity, keeps us from breathing easy. The thing that has us always holding our breath and gritting our teeth.

Transition.white noise. liz zorn.jpg

For much of my life I have been good with the White Noise, I have learned to use it and live with it and most days ignore it. In my painting I have not been able to ignore it, so much of the work has been busy, jumpy, nervous and filled with the sizzle of white fuzz. Today I decided to recreate that painting from my dream. No prep, no textured layers, no palette knives jabbing at the canvas, just paint and a brush. This is the first layers of paint. Setting the tone for the piece. I will not be adding a lot to it, just some overlay of color to open it up, brighten it up.. This is where I wanted to be a year ago, but just could not get myself there. I had a few pieces that came close to this minimalist ideal. Aqua, Bloom, some of the canvas pieces. All created without the help of a brush. Brush work is different and I am different with a brush in my hand. So putting the panel pieces aside for now and seeing where this dream leads me. Pushing the noise to the edge of my Universe and doing a cha cha cha... a little back step remembering earlier works in this vein and a few steps forward to a new intention.