I took last week off, so I don't have any work to share. Instead I'll share the vacation photos I took to fuel my inspiration. The kids and I stayed in Michigan City, Indiana where we found the most wonderful airbnb that we have ever visited. From there we visited: 4 beaches on Lake Michigan including one in Indiana Dunes National Park, we went blueberry picking at Billy Boy's Blueberry Barn, we visited Friendship Botanic Garden and took the South Shore Line into Chicago twice – once to see the Shed Aquarium and once for Chicago style pizza and a visit to the Field Museum. So now I am home and I need to rest.
Enjoy the photos. You may see them pop up as paintings in the near future.
Last week I blogged about my process creating 2 abstract paintings – 'Fire' and 'Water'. I ended by saying that abstract paintings require a lifetime of research. This week I am sharing photos of the finished paintings and providing the explanation of that crazy sounding claim.
When I was a child, my family did not take fancy vacations. If we went somewhere – it was camping. So those fun, carefree times with family and sometimes friends were spent outside. My family had a 18' boat, the kind that was good for skiing, tubing and fishing, so there was a lot of time in and by the water. Evenings were spent by the campfire until your eyes practically fell shut. Perhaps you are starting to understand where I am going with this.
I create abstracts by relying on my memories and feelings of those times. I don't need a reference photo because I have seen these images, meditated on them without realizing I was meditating on them, for years. Add in that abstract do not have to look exactly like reality and I have all the information I need stored in my brain.
When we weren't camping, my brother and I were begging to for a walk in the woods. Our dad would take us for a walk on trials in a nearby greenspace. We could have stayed there till sundown if my dad would have let us. Looking at paintings in the Forest/Woods section of my gallery I see the influence of these times. The light shining through the leaves, a curve in the road, a distant light beckoning you forward.
This is the lifetime of research I bring to my work. I keep my certifications current with hikes in local parks and nature reserves and vacations as wild as I dare to make them. Truth be told, I stopped enjoying tent camping when I was the grown up in charge of the kids. Now I understand why my mom was never as excited to go as we were! I still get us into the woods, but we come back to an Airbnb.
We've all done it, walking through a gallery or art show saying, “I could do that”. An abstract seems easy. It doesn't HAVE to look like anything. Anyone could do it. Well, anyone can make a painting that doesn't look like anything, that's true. However, the rules of good art still apply, and you might be a little more likely to pull it off if you know something about what you are doing. So I, respectfully suggest – Maybe, you could not do that.
This Saturday I am debuting 2 large abstracts at Thoughtrobbers Gallery, at the Artsy Fartsy Market. In this blog, I will share some of the work in progress photos and information about my process. You can be among the first to see the finished paintings by attending on Saturday.
So how do you do it?
First you need a concept. Abstract yes, but usually an abstract about something. Recently, I was inspired by the 4 elements of matter. Fire, water, wind and earth - I am starting with Fire and Water. I completed a gorgeous fire motif 2 weeks ago, so I planned to use that technique again. I started with 2 small studies of 'Water' to decide which technique would go best in the series. Once I decided which look I wanted to use, I had to practice making it work across a wide expanse. Watercolor dries quickly, so I had to work quickly to ensure success on the final piece.
At some point you have to decide on a color scheme. Throwing all the colors at the paper can quickly result in mud. Even if you do want to use all the colors, you'll want to consider which ones you will allow to mingle and blend and which should be kept apart. I mentioned that I had completed a successful fire painting – It was vivid and bright! However, I wanted to use a color that I could repeat in all 4 elements, and that brilliant orange was not what I had in mind.
For this series, I chose rust and turquoise hues. These will be the only 2 pigments for all 4 paintings and the color scheme will tie them together. Turquoise and rust for earth you ask? Why yes, mix them together and you get gray. That gray will harmonize with the turquoise and rust pigments because those colors are mixed to create that gray. A photo of the color swatches and my studies are in the gallery below.
I'll spare you the rest of the endless details that went into this 2 artworks. Hopefully, you get the idea that a bit more goes into an abstract then you may have thought. Not to mention, things that I can do quickly and consistently are a result of years of practice. If an artist makes it look effortless, chances are a lot of effort went into all the stages you never got to see.
You still don't like it? - That's something entirely different. You won't like it all and that's okay. That still doesn't mean you could do it.
One more ingredient in a successful abstract – A Lifetime of research – Wait, say what?
Final photos of Fire and Water and an explanation of this outrageous statement next week.
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Info about the show on Saturday below.
Back in March, I wrote about the Hazards of Scaling Up, meaning that a successful small painting can be difficult to replicate in a larger size. You can read more about that here.
I have an example of successful small motif that I have not yet scaled up with equal success. Looking at it now, I see that it is not cohesive. It needs more overlap among the elements. Making everything even bigger than I did might have helped too, but that is hindsight. Also I think the charm of the small scale paintings is the fresh, simple look. Making the painting larger, I got much more literal and detailed, it was not the same.
So now what do I do? I made lemonade out of this lemon. Since the main issue is that the elements look separate, I decided to separate them. I made 8 small paintings out of this large one. Initially this painting was on a full sheet of watercolor paper, which measures 33 x 22. The daisies pulled out were an obvious choice. I then looked at what was left. I enjoyed adding elements to grassy sections, I am especially happy with the sea turtle! I rarely paint sea creatures, so this inspiration opened a new door for me. Can you find where the little paintings came from in the first try?
Find me in the court yard July 23 at tHOUGHtROBBERS
This week I am Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse's Artist of the Week! I am thrilled to be recognized for my work using reclaimed campaign signs and compact discs in my art. PCCR is a great source of materials and inspiration. You can read more about it my recognition by clicking here. (posted July 3, 2022).
Friday, July 8, I will take part in the Farmer's Market at the Block Northway, through I Made it Market.
Saturday, July 9, I am participating in the Lawrenceville Art Crawl. This is my first year for this event and I am looking forward to it. It's a crazy long day, so if you attend, please stop by to say Hello. I'll be there from 2-9, and you can find me outside of Vestige Concept Gallery. The gallery is having an opening reception that evening as well.
Below is “Let It Burn” or “Landslide”. I wired the painting so that it can hang 2 ways. I'll have it at both events (unless it gets purchased). You'll need to click the images to see the whole painting - it's tall, 44 x 21".
A huge Thank you to Tristan McClelland for PA for 2 boxes of campaign signs! I'll put them to good use.
When I took up watercolor as an adult, I dutifully bought what the instructor put on the supplies list. It cost a small fortune – more than the class. I totally understand her point. Using better supplies yields better results. I dutifully did the exercise (not paintings, exercises) on my top of the line paper with my top of the line paints. I was a bit salty about it, but I did it. So in the end I had the best results possible from very expensive paints on very expensive paper. Paintings of my car keys, and a still life that has been pulled out of the closet religiously since 1978, and a color wheel. You get the idea. I did what I was supposed to do. Class ended, so I carefully placed my precious treasures in the closet.
When I thought about painting, all I could think about was not wanting to waste anymore of these supplies. This mentality did me a lot of good as I am sure you can imagine. I left my paints, and my inspiration, and my guts in that closet for a long long time.
Now, I love the good stuff supplies, but it took me stumbling upon some good supplies at clearance pricing to be willing to play again. I needed to not worry about the cost and about the idea of 'wasting' it. The truth is, painting is learning. Even if you don't love your results you learned how to get those results. It can be a cautionary tale, or it can be a result you will use in the future, or maybe it will work out beautifully. Whatever happens - it is learning.
Now I see using only professional supplies as an investment. If I want the best results, I invest in the supplies to get them. I have found that having abundance of supplies available helps keep past 'waste worries' away. I spend big several times a year, so that my coffers are full and I do not have to worry about it.
So I tell my students – buy the best supplies you are willing to fail with. Be willing to experiment and be playful. Often the magic happens when you let your guard down, when you are no longer laser focused on producing a masterpiece to hang over the sofa. Let go of those expectations. Be willing to just learn and have fun.
Better supplies will facilitate better results. However, the best supplies in the world don't do any good in the closet. You should make the best choice for you.
I am pleased to announce that I have original watercolors for sale in the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve gift shop! Of course Beechwood was interested in my reuse of corrugated plastic election signs. All 7 works are mounted in this Eco-Friendly way. You can see them pictured on display. It is no small feat to gain wall space in this delightful but crowded space. I am honored that they squeezed me in!
I recently made a huge purchase - a roll of watercolor paper. How big is a roll you ask? Just 55” by 11 yards. Yes, 11 yards. I am having so much fun with these large scale works. I am sharing a photo of a work in progress photo of 'Iceland', a large abstract. This 45" x 21" monster will be mounted on reclaimed elections signs. I am still refining mounting large pieces, since it requires connecting multiple signs into a seamless finish.
I am trying a new brand of paper on the roll. This is a big investment for an unknown, but I am confident in my decision. First, I know many professional artists use this paper, so I believe the product is sound. Also, any new product or supply will have a learning curve, so as long as I commit to allowing myself some time to master this product, I can use it with the same success as the more expensive brand. I think too many artists give too much credit to supplies – they are overly concerned about which brand, pigment, brush, etc. another artist is using. Trust me, if you are using professional grade materials, everything else comes down to practice.
Next week I'll share my philosophy on investing in art supplies.
Don't forget, 11 works are on sale (clearance sale pricing, I do not want to bring these home) at Ruckus Coffee Gallery and Café through June 28. Most are framed works from 2017-19. They represent some of my best works from that time period (hence they were framed).
Like everyone else, the pandemic turned my world upside down. Fear, anxiety, denial, frustration... Changes in household, kids home all the time. My art career was ideal for being a mom. I could work while the kids were in school, making my own hours with flexibility when necessary.
Well the flexibility came in handy, but the work went to the back burner. In winter/spring of 2020 my kids were suddenly home and needing help. We did it, we made it through.
Summer of 2020 I came back in force. The kids were still home, but did not need the help. They are old enough to play with neighbors and entertain themselves. I finally started my Etsy shop. What a great education. With that under my belt, I created a shop on my own website, which is my only on-line store at this point.
Artistically, I was obsessed with a theme I call the Imagined Woods Series. I painted colorful skies and atmospheric backgrounds. Once that dried, I added a forest of bare branch trees and ground foliage. I could not get enough of this idea. Some were dark and foreboding, others were bright and hopeful. The spontaneity of the process was just what I needed during this time. They spoke to others as well. They were instantly a best seller and are still popular today.
I often start with a wet into wet background. Sometimes I have a plan – areas I will leave lighter so I can paint the main subject later. I may also create an atmospheric effect by adding hints of a color, suggesting more of the same in the back. Wild Salvia, pictured, is an example of this method. The background flowers are hinted at by the soft focus purple in the distance.
Other times, I will start the painting with no end in mind. Usually this is inspired by playing with new pigments or new tools. It's an opportunity to learn the new materials without the pressure to have a finished product. These backgrounds may go on to be a finished painting and sometimes they do not. Below is A Moment's Rest is an example of a painting that was born out of playing with new materials with no plan.
See me at The Block at Northway on June 17, July 8, July 15, Aug. 12, and Aug 19.
I'm excited to announce: