Winters Work

We are in the second week of September and the temps are still in the 90's here in the little river valley. I had hoped to be back in my downtown studio this week and had already moved a lot of things down there, but the weather has me still in my sun room studio at home. As I am nearing some deadlines I had to go ahead and start work on my oil pieces. Oils are such an adjustment from working with acrylics (and vice versa) that I am still wrapping my head around the drying time. I am taking paintings out to my old studio building to dry. I still need to get things moved around so that I can get back into my old building.Never quite got things back to normal after the rain damage and roof repairs. Hopefully next spring we can do that. I will still keep the space in the city because it has such great light and the energy of that old warehouse is not replaceable. I have looked at other spaces in other arts complexes and nothing has appealed to me.

My work will be featured as Artist of The Month at the art center at the end of the month. For as many years as I have had space in the building this is the first time I put my name in for an artist of the month spot. This is also the month of the buildings 25th Anniversary Silent Auction. Lots going on.

 

Affinity I: oil, cold wax, graphite on textured canvas 12x12x3

But back to the oils, I am really excited to be back to this work. I got distracted last year working on the oils and a couple of other opportunities had me staying with acrylics. Now my path has been cleared to work on these most of the time. I first learned to paint with oils and they are really my first love when it comes to materials. I get anxious working with them after being with acrylics for an extended period, but am starting to find my groove. I also wanted to take some of what I had been doing with acrylics and carry that thru into the oils. In particular with the color field paintings and minimal works. Working with oil and cold wax, I build some under layers with acrylic and clear gesso, so getting the best of both worlds.

The Great Divide

I seem to always be at this place. Dividing line or not. A dividing line often implies landscape, even when this is not the intention at all. I think more in terms of planes and fields. The sort of thing one is taught in beginning painting classes. Not necessarily based in representation or abstraction, but rather a gesture, a thought blip. It can be stark like a complete mood change, or subtle as in casually mulling it over. When it is all said and done, I really don't think about it. I can name it for the outside world, but the outside world usually finds the reference point all on it's own. Based on the experience and circumstance of the viewer, it is futile to put so much energy into how one might be perceived in an unknown future.

Having said all of that I find myself working on a project for mid autumn that has me back to my grid mentality and lines, dividing lines and nebulous ramblings. The kind of work that usually plays out better on paper (for me) than canvas. I am taking from my old playbook with the textures and application of paint and graphite (lots of graphite) and a precise color palette for the entire series. With the smaller ones like this one shown (there are nine). Two of them are finished and two more are in progress. Another large piece, a test run for site specific project that I may or may not get the go ahead on is also in the works. With the color palette chosen for me, I was able to work things around so that I could use the same palette for both projects. This is good because it was chosen based on some other completed works. Keeping me (mostly) in my comfort zone.

So two things: a project for a show and a project for a commercial space. Fingers crossed that it all comes out a win win.

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.

What Does It Mean

At the last open studio I was feeling a bit under the weather, so what I thought was going to be a long night actually turned out to go fast and was quite nice. I sold three paintings early on and as my partner reminded me, if I had stayed home I would not have sold anything. Point taken!...

I doubt that realists get this question, or maybe not so often. "What Does It Mean".. People think that abstract art has to mean something or that there is a subtext or message in the paint. Not true, at least for me. I try to approach each painting like it is a new day, clean slate, no baggage. Sure it will take on a personality as I work it. It will take on a life that is made up of moments and sometimes powerful moments. But not always. Sometimes I just paint for the pure visual joy of it. For the love of color, texture and flow.

With the new work and the mark making, I get a lot more inquiry as to what it means. I try to be as honest as I can, but mostly I just don't really know the answer. or maybe the answer would never live up to the expectation.

Sometimes I wish I could bring more of this existential hypothesizing to the table, and then the thought of it wears me out and I need to conserve my energy.. :)

art-liz-zorn.jpg

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.

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.

10-25

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.

Open Studio - New Work

The fall season at the art center will kick off this friday Oct 30 in full gear. Aside from hosting two charity events,  beer tasting and raffle, this will also be the Halloween art walk. Being an artist in the building I rarely am able to check out what is going on elsewhere at the PAC, and surrounding campus of studios and galleries because I am in my own studio greeting guests and friends throughout the night. I will likely be going solo this week, with family and the like staying home.. So getting down throughout the week to set up and hang my show before Fridays mad dash. Each of the eight floors of studios in the warehouse (my space) will have their own events and set ups. We on the 6th floor will have a treat table in the community area just off the elevator and hopefully lots of open studios for people to visit. Hours are 6-10 Pendleton Art Center OTR Cincinnati. Street parking is free and available to early arrivals, as well as a valet parking service provided by the PAC for a fee. I bought enough candy for an army so please come down and take a handful :)...

I have a new layout in the studio with more wall space and quite a few new pieces. Very excited as well to be getting so much great feedback on the new work. If I can find the time I will go through my art storage, because some of my work from many years ago is very similar to this new work. A really big circle I have been rounding. One that has an arch of well over thirty years. I don't really have a lot of old work, but at least have been able to keep a few things, dating all the way back to my first art instruction classes as a kid.

I think looking back, all those years of doing constructed works and found object art really boxed me in. It has taken me some time to get out of my head and just paint again. I also think that when we are younger we are more insecure about the work and trying to fit into a category. At this stage in my life I just want to be in the moment. If I am thinking about something, listening to certain music, hear a siren in the city, or gunshot... whatever. I am now happy to let all of that be part of the work. I am finished (at least for now) planning my art or thinking ahead. However the paint falls it how it will lay, and stay.

My Heart Belongs to Daddy: In progress 30x30. mixed media on canvas.

This piece in the photo is now finished. I have received more feedback on this than everything else I have done over the past year combined. I know artists like to play it cool and close to the vest, but I feel that if I can stay the course here I will be in good shape. Basically, screw being cool and acting like I have everything under control. I am totally owning my sixth decade on this planet. No excuses, no apologies.

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.