Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I have strayed from abstraction. I wonder if it is a change in approach due to the normal changes in the course of a painter's life, or if it is a change in response to popular opinion. I am concerned that I'm leaning from the pressure of positive responses to the images I've created where people can say, "Oh, that's a nice _____." With the abstracts, most comments I receive sound like, "Wow, that's really beautiful. What is it?"

The "What is it" is getting me. When I painted "Life's Little Irritations," I simply named the title for what idea I was translating into an image. How do we answer the question as abstract painters: What is it? My most accurate answer would be that it's a combination of oils and pigments that I placed on a prepared cloth using a bunch of hairs held together on a stick. That's what all my paintings are, with sometimes a shell or tile or something glued to the surface as well.

I'm really liking the idea of adding a dimensional inclusion to the paintings for one reason: it makes giclees clearly less than the original. In the movie Multiplicity, the copies got weaker. I remember in my office days putting a sticky note on my master copy so that I wouldn't use it to write on and end up having to copy a copy. I'm using the tile, shell, bits of something unphotographable to make a sticky note on the master. Copy away, but the original IS different. The original is different if simply by the answer to What Is It? A copy is a mechanically printed facsimile on paper or canvas. Not oil, pigments, hairs, stick...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been painting.

I finished Life’s Little Irritations.

And quasi-finished Regrets Vanish.

I started painting a horse in fog on Mana Road, from photos I took some years ago. It will be interesting to paint all in greys.

And I started a coffee farm for a fellow who wants to buy the painting with Kona Coffee. YEEHAW. I painted fast on this one.

And here is the beginning of a piece that I didn’t know what it was about, so I just got started. Come to find out, it’s about Generosity of Spirit. I’ve had my share of miserly older women in the shop this past week, and it started me thinking about my own penny-pinching ways. The opposite of generosity must be fear, because I see such fear in myself and these mean-spirited people. One woman had a well-defined list of supplies to get for her husband. He was in a car accident some time ago, which she told me repeatedly, and they didn’t have money, also told repeatedly. I didn’t want to sell her anything because her objective was very clear: she didn’t want to spend any money on art supplies. We ended up with no sale because she requested assurance that she could return everything she had chosen to purchase, very little of which matched the list. I told her not in this case: I would accept no returns. She dropped her shopping basket and left. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Her mana (energy or demeanor, spirit) was poison to a place of abundant creativity, and she was immune to any comfort I would hope to offer her. I saw much of myself in her and hence am thinking about how to curb that tendency while still in the earlier years of my life. I’ll think about it while I paint.
The biggest question about this painting now is “What will her hand hold?” At first I thought about a gold coin, or light. But maybe an abstract symbol, an assemblage to represent generosity of spirit? What symbol can communicate this?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I didn’t get to paint today. It’s like saying I didn’t get to see David today. It’s not a pleasant feeling for me. If I manage to paint every day, the flow is quite manageable and pleasant. When I stop, even for a day, it is unnerving and uncomfortable. I sound like an addict. But seeing David is an apt comparison. I love David. And it is love that informs my activity of painting.

You could also ask David, “Do you like her better on days she paints?” In fact, do that for me and let me know what he says. I’ll bet you lunch it’s yup.

I certainly like me better when I paint. I’m more fun to be with, because I’m engaged in doing something fun! No brainer...

Wading For You All My Life:

This new painting is about myriad irritations. I was immediately surprised by how appealing and inviting the starting sketch and underpainting came out. I expected it to look, well, irritating. If this painting comes out attractive, it will be a testament to the transmutative power of creating. It will also be a strong argument for working on “off” days, since it could prove that any circumstantial/emotional condition is bark for the chipper.

Today I did the underpainting and then the daubing of loose colors for Regrets Vanish.

Later I succumbed to popular opinion and blended the pointillized colors.
I wanted to regret that move, but it doesn’t fit the title of this piece for me to do so. Besides, I can recreate my intended pixelized effect later as I adjust the colors and get the focal point targeted.

I envision the focal point at her forehead, just between the eyes and above a bit. I want to pixelize at the fringes, at least, to give the feel of disintegration, vibration across time. This “person” is representing a mote, an atom, which when observed is not where it was supposed to be because I’m observing it’s past in targeting a space in which to find it. Said another way, to paint this image with the intent I have in mind, I need to anticipate only a second after the time of doing, to paint the next moment and thereby capture the now and immediacy of the gaze. Was it Rodin that achieved movement in his sculptures by placing anticipatory postures in the forms? This is what I am trying to express.

With how I have talked around these ideas I wish to portray, I am even more grateful for the wordless medium of painting to express this for me. Call it what you will... I just hope I can capture what I mean to.

Today’s painting is going to be called “Regrets Vanish.” This is the sketch for the idea... not exactly an abstraction, but somehow it is. The look in the eyes of the reference photo were so refreshing, so of the moment. Out of everything I portray in this painting, I want to capture in the eyes the sense that the old is gone, the new not a concern, and a moment of being is enough to erase all the should/would/could have’s. Wouldn’t that be nice? For regrets to vanish...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When we paint and draw, we simplify objects to lines and shapes. Later, we make them look less flat by creating the illusion of form.

When we abstract something, we use lines, (like sticks, swirls, curves, and dots); shapes (like circles, triangles, and squares) and forms (sphere, cones, and cubes) to create an image of something unseen. Abstract paintings capture a sense, a feeling, an intent.


Some artists say that figurative art is more difficult for them to do because the artist is trying to make it look “right.” Other artists say abstract art is more difficult because the artist has nothing to look at to follow. (Not all figurative work is photo-realistic, and not all abstraction is without reference.) I think that they are equally difficult, or easy, depending on how you look at it.

I prefer the struggle involved in creating abstract art because I am eager to see what emerges, what this invisible thing looks like, and what I can learn about me and my beliefs as I work to create. In a way, abstract art helps me to see more clearly what I think of something.

When others view abstraction, the most common response is to try and see Something Recognizable. We might hear, “is that a nose?” or “I think I see a face there, no, well, part of one.” We do like to see the human form. Whenever we look we are matching curves and lines to our interests. But abstract art only works like that in small measure. Too much trying to “see something”, and you’ll give up in frustration (try a Pollack). The easier way to view abstract art is to soften your focus from the details for a moment and get the emotional gist of the piece. Does it remind you of anything? What does it move you toward or away from? What draws you in, and why?

So, words other than “nose” and “face” now apply. Even “I see ____” doesn’t really work on a literal level. With abstract art, it makes sense to say “I feel, I like...” and “this is uncomfortable, it feels like...” or “I just want to stay here, it gives me a sense of...” If we use “I see” in reference to abstract art, it makes the most sense meaning “I understand.”

If we look at a painting with the question, “What is it?” in mind, then we have already narrowed the field of possible experiences from the viewing. Some questions open the view, and are just like the conversational skills we know to use when we want more than one word answers.

Try using open-ended questions when you view a piece of art. Ask, “How do I see this differently from another person?” Or maybe, “What do I see in this painting?” You could ask “What is different from how I would have viewed this 10 years ago?”

Yes, these questions are all more about you than about the work of art... which is actually what any work of art and your response to it was about anyway.

The Space Between:

Self Portrait:

There are as many means of making abstract art as there are artists. An understanding of the process can greatly enhance your visual experience of the resulting product.

My first official abstract was done as an assignment. I had no clue where to begin to generate the painting, so as my professor talked, I did some sketches of a brochure she had for a new vehicle. I used the ellipse of a tire, the parallel lines of a side window, and then stared suggesting movement with shapes and lines. From the starting suggestions of a concrete image, I was able to extract some basic shapes and go from there.

Other paintings have arisen by thinking of an abstract noun such as the idea of joy, or inspiration. I then drew sketchy lines on my canvas with charcoal, holding the seed idea in mind. I later chose paints and techniques to finish the painting consistent with the initial idea.

I have also painted pieces of music, strong emotions, or any unnameable difficulties in my life. Abstraction is ideal for these processes because it bypasses our symbolic system and touches those spaces within us that are wider than words, deeper than designs, and more insistent than photo-accurate images.

Abstract art: Yoga for the mind. Aka: what do I say about That???

“Whoa, that’s so good!”

“I don’t like that.”

Such comments abound when viewers see a piece of art work. There are problems with such analyses, however. Unless you purposely want to tend up in a debate, you might consider some other comments. It may seem strange that a person might not automatically say “whatever they want” about a work of art, but consider for a moment that the works are an artist’s creative brain child. Just as, even with your right to freedom of speech, you wouldn’t blurt, “That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.” Or “I don’t like her.” you do well to moderate your opinions on art.

The benefits are manifold. Your own perceptions can expand with a more gracious vocabulary. Other shy, blossoming, or practicing artists are surely within earshot and will be either inspired or discouraged by your contribution. If a butterfly on one part of the globe affects winds on another part, our words have even greater ripple effects. Additionally, the artist of the work you are evaluating could potentially hear or read your comment. So, to help the arts develop, even through baby stages and awkward growth phases, you need some words that will help and not harm.

Here are some seed ideas that you can use to grown your own phrases:

“I see _________________ (eg: reds, resting/fighting, in a dark surrounding)”
“I like how ________________(eg: the lines move/don’t move; the colors blend)”
“This makes me think of ______________” or “...feel ___________”
“I wonder how this painting developed.”

Questions are always helpful because they open the mind to the possibility of not-knowing. We usually want to know, so practice this posture for a stretch!

“Does this qualify as an abstract?” My artist friend asks me. He wants to enter the piece in a juried show – for abstracts only. At first look, his paintin of surfers reclining on a beach doesn’t seem astract. After all, I just told you what the images are. I went to the internet to find definitions of Abstract Art and foudn the since the surfers, beach and water are loosely depicted more as simple shapes and lines with the emphasis on overall design, that the painting could be called abstract.

The definitions of abstract art are as various as the form itself. In a very broad definition, all art is abstract, since line, shape, form, and color are the elements of the designs no matter how representational a piece is intended to be. At the other end of this continuum is non-objective art where the representation of “real” objects is completely absent.

The most helpful definition I found from tvdecorators.com where abstract art is said to be an art expression in which the artistic values reside in the forms and colors rather than in the reproduction or presentation of subject matter. Where the expression resides...

Abstract Art

The abstract work of art is participatory. The artist has given the audience a gift of trust. The creator trusts the viewer’s individual perceptions. No one, creator or receiver, need say “this is This” because abstraction shows the illusion. We may look at a painting of a farm working pitching hay into a pile and say “this is farm life” or “this is hard work” or whatever. The illusion has been so complete that no one undoes the contraction to say “This is a stretch of canvas, coated with various colors of paint to represent ______.”

But in abstraction, we are uncomfortably reminded that the medium is just a messenger, not life.

We want so badly to believe our ideals and romantic notions of life that we would find a work of art using manure, straw and splinters unappealing – although it is a concrete representation of farm life than a contented farmer bathed in warm light with a gentle kitten nearby and no odor, no blisters, no fatigue or grimaces.

This is, in part, why abstraction feels so raw. It is.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kanvas Karma

There's a self-determination about a canvas that the artist cannot go against. It is like the grain in wood. It is a direction the canvas will take, and I am bound to work with it or ruin it.

Ruin means, simply, that I don't like the end result, or the progress, or the process required of me to engage this particular canvas. I have learned to tell which canvases will not take to my re-visions. It's my ultra-experimental canvases that balk at being reinvented.

I tried doing a plein air painting on one canvas, at midnight, with a full moon over our town. It was a great adventure. It was a lousy painting. The midnight painting itself was done over a cast-off painting I did inside a coffee mill, trying to capture the essence of the place... So it was already a do-over. My final revision was overpainting in rich blues with magenta blends on the surface. Later, I painted calligraphic strokes of fluorescent yellow and something else. My husband said it looked like a cocktail party. A loud one. I hung the canvas for a while, seeing if it would grow on me.

One veteran painter told me that the painting cannot be easily parted from its frame, that a marriage results which we do well to honor. The same can be said for the original painting and the canvas. Do-overs cause a multiple personality in the canvas that mirrors its deepest schizophrenia.

My latest do-over involved the experiment of gesso, then sharpie marker writing of poems, then an over-painting of whatever image I choose. I did two of these, intending to do more if they came out with a pleasing result. The first I tried with pastel in the image, got the proportions wrong, hung it for a while and watched people wince... and moved on to the second which inspired several others to paint. So, back to the first with gesso, and I intended to paint a "spear" to go with the painting of a "shield". The motivation was certainly contrived. I don't care for spears, weaponry, or such arts. I'm bigger on the defense arts. So, the spear went south on me just after the gesso and sculpting medium dried. I tried underpainting to give it a chance and it grew more hideous. It was, after all, just a do-over and it would not take on the mask I was hoping to impose.

Some of the paintings I'd like to do over are redeemed by time. If I can tuck them away for long enough, I see them in a new light. But most just find their way to the rubbish. There is nothing for it but to start afresh. It's the way of those canvases to find their homes with the mold sooner than others of their generation.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Getting started.

How do I start an intuitive painting? I follow my bliss. I start with what canvas or surface pulls me to create something on it. It's like an undertow, and I just let go and ride it. Then I start to get clues as I progress.

On one recent painting, I got the canvas as they arrived at the store and one in particular just called to me. Next I got the color scheme while resting in the office, my feet up, and the phone sitting nearby with its metallic greys and black. So, I did the underpainting as far I knew to go. Then I felt stuck.

A customer came in and asked for sinew to stretch a hide on a shield. I realized then that I was painting a shield! It was a mystical shield and a symbol of protection, using many different motifs from many different cultures.

That's how it is for me: all suggestions and hints. Then when I get my trickle of clues, I jump in with me and who I am and all of a sudden, I'm painting.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I know nothing about nothing. I just paint.

When I write about intuitive painting here, I'll be telling about the process that I use to get past my analytical mind and evaluations in order to create from my gut and heart. It's also my belief that any creative endeavor can be done intuitively.

I chose to call this method of painting intuitive because it is not guided by a visual or symbolic logic as much as an internal directive, a sensing, wondering and questioning.

My focus is on the process. I end up with paintings at the end of the cycle of creation, which is bewildering to me. What next? So, I keep three or four paintings going in the circuit so that I don't end up with all completed at the same time and the starting gate before me again in full force. I've found this a very effective way to keep the intuitive pump primed.

Please enjoy my random thoughts on creating intuitively.