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.

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.

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




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. 

White Noise Follow Up..

Lizzies Dream.jpg

I finished the Dream Painting... called it Lizzies Dream. I am not so interested in cute philosophical names and titles these days. It takes a lot less energy to just call it what it is. This I find is true for all of my artistic pursuits.  The transitional aspect of the painting was a nice little break from my routine. Painting with a brush on a flat canvas.. and today... I am back to a more distressed work surface, painting over old canvases. I have a lot of old work that needs to be recycled. No use wasting good canvas, particularly when it comes ready made with a great under painting. In all this little experiment with the dream painting has re set my texture meter. I am happy to do a little brush work here and there, but no more polymer sub layers of texture build up. I will save that for the day when I am back in my big studio where there are several large pieces in progress. Sitting there just waiting for ten years... Time really does fly. Today's work is all about the blues. Perhaps longing for summer with it's bold blue skies and happy colors. Also, stripping things down...more... More than Lizzies Dream, to a suggestion rather than an explanation.

recycled canvas

recycled canvas

recycled canvas

recycled canvas

With the recycled canvas much of the work is already done. I like how both of these play right into my landscape/seascape mindset. Keeping them sparse and gestural is always the test of good art. That old adage of knowing when to quit. Possibly the most important thing to learn and do.. It's not good enough to just know it, one has to do it, and always be thinking about it. Like meditation and the flow of thoughts. Let the thoughts come and go but never lose sight of the moment. Once the moment has been compromised the gig is up.

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.


Since last summer I have been creating small canvas landscapes. Studies really. Jotting down a thought or idea with paint. Nothing too involved. Just trying to capture a fleeting emotion or set a mood. Paving the way for bigger things like Impress Me. I am now adding them to the website for sale, and will be offering some of them as prints. The sizes range from 5x5 up to 12x12.

The one constant in all of these  pieces as well as the larger landscapes is static... There is a fair amount of static, muttled color, and a general sense of impatience and intensity. I am not sure where all of this is coming from, maybe my desire to paint more with less time to do so. Anxiety over the changes to my creative structure over the past two years. whatever it is, I can't seem to move past it, so I will just ride it out and see where it goes...

Vignette # 6  sm.Liz Zorn ARt, Painting.jpg