I was happy to be invited to participate in this show. It's a great space and one of the newer Gallery/studio complexes in Cincinnati. Located in the niche' community of O'Bryonville just off Madison Road. If you are in the area please stop in.
I got sidetracked yesterday but am back in my lane now... I decided that I would make a commitment to blue, and the first thing I do is rebel against my own decision. Typical me.. Not to mention that those 10 - 25x25 studies were a complete waste of time.. I know what I want to do, I just need to strong arm myself into doing it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is turning out to be a productive month for me. Not that I have a lot of finished work, but I know better where I am going. It's always hard to shift from one thing to another and start down a different path. It appears that I have circled back around...again... to a place where my paper works and my canvas paintings are back in synch. I don't show a lot of paper, mostly because it is such a pain to photograph and format everything. Paper is often a study, as are the small canvases that I paint over and over until they are useless.. When something does feel worth keeping I am often more in love with all of the layers and incarnations on the canvas than the finished painting.
Having (for the past two years) escaped my palette of earth tones, I am finding my way back to them. Again with the paper, but I always go to this palette for works on paper. For the new canvas pieces I am finding a happy medium for some and embracing my gray and sienna self with others.
I spent a couple of days earlier this month rearranging the furniture in my studio. Moving my big shelving unit to the front of the room and opening up my work area, giving me more room to roll the easel around to catch the great northern light that I get from my windows. Even abstract painters love natural light for painting. The whole room feels different and I am really enjoying this new burst of energy I get when I come into the building and open my door. Can't wait to have my first open studio with this new layout. More wall space for hanging art, particularly larger works.
I will be back with the fall schedule for the art center in a few weeks. Still not sure of all the dates.
Moving from one thing to another. Sometimes it's hard to leave a comfort zone. I needed to leave my comfort zone. Some of the struggles I have had with my health in the past couple of years along with a desire to stop forcing square things into round holes has led me to make a clean break with my work. Stop attacking the canvas like it is my enemy and just let the paint flow. This new work is bringing brush work back into my life and I am even buying new brushes. Good ones and not just the utilitariandisposable fare. I am also making a pact with myself to go easy on the black and stop digging into my paint with razor blades.... well at least.. mostly!!
It's like baby steps but I am getting a glimmer here and there of what I really loved about painting when I was young. In those days before I started planning everything out, creating detailed constructed pieces; when I felt more like a true abstract expressionist painter rather than a plumber or accountant, meticulously calculating my end game...