CPS Studios-Summer 2010

MN Women's Press-Oct 09



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Entries in Painting (10)


Why Abstract?



This past year my work has become increasingly abstract in nature. It is what speaks to me. But as I approach the opening of my two-person exhibit Vantage Point, I have been thinking more and more about how to talk to others about abstract work in general and my abstract work specifically.

I understand that abstract art is not for everyone. Some folks feel they just can't make "sense" of abstract work. I think it can be more difficult for viewers to understand abstract work when they stand in front of the piece and look for something they can readily identify--a face, an object or perhaps a landscape. Some may say it is "human nature" for people to look for that recognizable object, but I would challenge you to look at abstract work, and really all art, in a different way. 

My suggestion when viewing abstract work is to "step away" from looking for that landscape, or recognizable form. Instead focus on colors, shapes, energy, movement... Notice the brushstrokes or how the paint is applied to the canvas/panel. Pay attention to layers of paint and texture.

How does the painting make you feel? What kind of emotional response do you have to the piece? Does it convey a dark, somber mood? Or is it filled with light and energy? 


In my abstract work, I am trying to explore moments/events in life that are emotional in nature, but difficult to express or explain with words. We have all experienced significant life events that burn an impression in our memory. I hope to give a creative voice to those moments of despair, terror and even joy that we carry deep within.

And how do I do that (or try to do that?)

When I am painting, I feel as if I am communicating very intimately with the paint and canvas. Often times it is as if the painting reveals itself as I work. Sometimes that happens very quickly and sometimes it takes a great deal of time--it can be a back and forth process.  Working with a palette knife or a brush, I lay down many layers of color and texture, often using a cloth or even my fingers to blend or wipe away colors to reveal the mysteries of what lies beneath.




Morning Exercise

Just a little morning "exercise"/experiment that I did earlier this week. The experiment part was using Ambersand's Aquabord as a substrate. I wanted to see how it worked as a watercolor surface, so I picked up these small 4x4 flat 1/8" panels. Interesting. I want to play with them more. I don't think they would always work for what I want to do, but I liked it for this little piece. The first thing I noticed is that the board has a gray undertone, which can be a good or bad thing...but is something to keep in mind. There are times when that aspect of it would be an interesting alternative to using white paper. While it is absorbent, it isn't as absorbent as watercolor paper (in my mind). The claysurface also has a very fine texure to it, which I like.

Doing this little exercise/experiment was a little like visual journaling for me. In fact, I thought it might be a nice daily exercise for me....paint one 4x4 every day for a month maybe? 



Painting spring dreams...


Sometimes when I just don't have the time (or energy) to pull out the big canvases, I sit down with my watercolors and paint away in whatever time I have.  Sometimes I might have just 20 minutes. Other times I might paint for hours at a time. Sometimes I might just be working out some ideas, experimenting/playing with the paint. Other times I have a very clear image in mind of what my finished product might be (although it doesn't always turn out the way I intend it to...and working with watercolors is all about "going with the flow").

 On this particular cloudy day last week, I took the opportunity to explore some ideas that have been floating around in my head.  I often have images swimming around in my head...images/ideas for paintings. Normally the images in my head are very vibrant...even when I feel very "blah" on the outside. So I have had this idea of painting a "container" or "pod", as I think of it, that reflects the thoughts/images in my head. The pod contains these vibrant images, nourishes them even when, or maybe especially when, I'm feeling a little gray on the outside.

It has been unseasonably warm here in Minnesota the past few weeks...we've even reached 80 degrees. It's like we fast forward past spring right into summer. There has been lots of sunny days--but on this day when I sat down to paint, it was gray. Just like that, my sunny mood evaporated. 

So in my little "pods" I painted dreams of spring. Still working on the concept. What do you think?


Hit or Miss

Hit or Miss, 36x36


Thought I would post an image of my most recently finished canvas (at least I'm thinking it's finished).

It's a large canvas--36"x36".  That's a lot of surface to cover, but lately I've been finding the larger pieces easier to work on than the small. 

It belongs to the same series as the last one I posted.  Again, a primary palette of Payne's Gray, with Alizarin Crimson. I think it has a very atmospheric feeling to it.  I was trying to communicate a sense of foreboding, of possible turbulence within. I was thinking of those moments when it feels like life is about to blow up in your face.  Sometimes you ride out the storm without incident. Other times, it does feel like the grenade you've been holding has just detonated.

I'm interested in how in those moments you strive to find calm in the presence of terror. Have you ever been aware of those moments? Do you know what I mean?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


And here's a detailed image that gives you some idea of the texture in the piece:




Working in gray...

Why Does It Hurt So Bad,  30x30, acrylic on canvas

 One of the things I've learned over time about my painting habits is that my color palette changes with the seasons--at least the dominant colors that I work with. As the fall turns into winter, I start using more gray. It's been that way for three years now.

It's sort of an instinctual that I initially resisted, because I generally work with a lot of bold colors. But I've learned to trust my instincts and I feel that as a result my work has become much richer. 

But why gray? When I look out my studio windows, during the all-too-frequent cloudy days we endure here during a typical Minnesota winter, I see gray cloudy skies. So it is in part a reflection of the natural world that surrounds me. (Sometimes I wonder if I lived elsewhere, would my color palette change. I think it absolutely would. When I visited Santa Fe in December I couldn't help but notice the beautiful blue skies so different from our Minnesota skies...and knew that if I lived there, there wouldn't be so much gray in my work).

Winter and its gray cloudy skies feel dreary (to me). I much prefer sun. But winter also seems like a natural time to hibernate a bit and struggle with life's darker side. And that has been part of my work in gray--giving creative voice to that inner struggle with some of life's darker issues. Sometimes I think by painting in gray I am trying to find the beauty and grace in not just the color, but the struggle. 

As I wrote earlier, I have been returning to this gray palette for three winters now. There are several different "series" within my gray abstractions work (check out my Portfolio). As I start to work more intentionally on building a body of work for exhibition, I am looking at current and earlier work...deciding which series to expand and build on. I'm also trying to "think" more about what this work "means" and how to "talk" about that with an audience. 

I hope to share some of my thoughts here and will gratefully welcome feedback.