Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Continuing to build the surfaces . .

So here are some pics of the last paintings . . still evolving. I've let these rest a while to see where I want to go next. Looking at art on the web always helps me. When I see a painting that draws me in, I get ideas for compostion, tonal value, line, etc. I never copy. I examine what it is that I like about it, store it somewhere inside, take some time . . then . . "bam!" as Emeril, the chef says, something clicks, and I know where to go next. I will describe some of the mediums I've been using with the wax. The pic below has rubbings of oil pastel and oil pigment stick . . 

. . and some encaustic paint

The next image of the above has some verticle lines at the top and bottom in grey oil stick and graphite oil stick . . . 

BUT . . I didn't like these

I could have scraped them back (wax surface), but as they were rubbed into the surface and the underneath is a combination of wax medium and wax paint, I decided to go over the top ones in a warmer color . .

In this photo I toned down the brown in the top and bottom with clear encaustic medium and rubbed oil stick into the top vertical "lines" that were grey. I plan on "knocking" this back a lot, it's got "too much" for me.

The warmer oil stick I used looks like yellow . . but . . not in person. Coating an encaustic painting that has color on the surface with clear encaustic medium, depending on how thick of a coat is put on, starts to mute the surface. This is where much practice with applying the wax comes in. Too much wax will start to take the image away. Even though it's described as "clear" and is a vehicle for the paint, it is not totally clear when it's hardened (cold) . . kind of a slight haze. The beauty of working with this wax medium, to me, is that I can scrape back areas where the medium is too thick. It isn't easy to apply a smooth, thin coat of the medium. When I start a painting I have to decide how "bumpy" I will allow the surface to be, as I think of how I want it to look when finished. There are many, many decisions and techniques that are involved. But I love the tactile and reductive possibilities of this medium. It showed me how much I love process and actually showed me that I may get into assemblage at some point or perhaps a more 3 dimension surface.

I haven't worked on this next one as much as the one above. But I have decided where I will go next. This was the one I had used a tack iron on, then rubbed graphite oil stick into the surface.

This image shows some tan encaustic paint and more graphite oil stick.

The verticle section is encaustic paint and the hard edges are done with graphite oil stick. Anything that goes on the surface, from oil mediums to the wax paint and medium must be heated, or fused, into the surface that accepts it. I've found this is an art unto itself. It doesn't take much for the flame to alter the surface where no alteration is wanted!

I plan on muting the second horizontal line at the top as I explore altering the composition. Both will have one or more circles when done. To me, less is more, and it is a struggle for me to not add a "this" or a "that" . . "here" or "there."

Again . . just letting you in on the evolution of these two painting processes. In doing this, I realize I may risk the fact that what I consider as an unfinished surface may be more appealing than what the final result is. I consider this an exercise in artistic vulnerability . . something I value in other artists but find difficult to do. I've always been one to test the "edges of my safety zone". I so value vulnerability in others and the generosity of other artists sharing their process, that I have chosen to start pushing myself.  :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The beginnings of two encaustic paintings . . .

I've had a painting block for a while. My knee "went out" after I completed my painting wall (also decided to finish some painting on the studio walls and shelving) and was moving/organizing things in my studio. The next step I had planned was to paint the floor. That thought must have been a little overwhelming. So I just shut down for a while. Painting with hot wax is enticing to me, so I pushed on. I usually don't post my process, as the finished piece is SO different from the beginnings. But I know how much I enjoy it when others show their process. So here goes . . The following are the beginnings of two paintings . . each 16 x 24. The colors are not accurate, as "I" am photographing!

After priming and fusing (butane torch) the wood surface with clear encaustic medium (beeswax & damar resin), I painted two layers of white encaustic paint and fused. (From now on I am creating a background surface . . far from the finished painting). Then I rubbed some brown pigment oil stick into different areas. At the top I rubbed in some black oil stick. After very lightly fusing I let it rest 24 hrs.

This next picture is after I started using layers of encaustic paint mixed with medium (this is like mixing acrylic paint with water or oil with solvent). Some colors were tan, some rust, some brown, fusing between all the layers. I am fusing very lightly, as a heavier fusing would distort the surface. 

The beginnings of my next painting . . .

On this wood surface I did many overlapping layers of beige, tan, and grey paint. This time, as I was fusing, I purposely used the flame of the torch to move the paint around.

In this image (above) I used a heated tack iron to flatten some of the surface and blend some of the colors.

This next step (above) changed the more golden tones to greys and charcoal. As you can see in this next detail shot of the above, the iron left the kind of surface texture that happens when an iron is used. I had decided to rub the surface with graphite oil stick to bring out this surface texture.

This last detail show shows the oil stick that is "caught" in the wax that was created from ironing the surface.

This paintings will most likely be entirely different as I progress. I also thought I'd show you the fans that are running as I paint with the molten wax. The first pic below is a fan that was original to the 1932 building. No air conditioning then, so this sucks air from the inside to the outside. It is on the wall just below the ceiling.

Originally, when I moved in, the wiring had been cut. After getting it rewired, I discovered that the suction wasn't strong enought to pull the fumes (when the surface is fused, it goes above 220 degrees and creates fumes that need to be ventilated) out of the room. I was going to create something to direct it out toward the exhaust fan . . a pretty daunting task with dryer duct over the work area to the ceiling and into the fan. But I tried directing the fumes away from the work table with a floor fan directed toward the exhaust fan . . and it worked!!! Whew!! Much easier!

So when I paint with encaustic I have two fans going at once. The large old one near the ceiling is pretty loud, but when I'm working I don't notice it and have gotten used to it. It works!

So there you have it. Aaahhh . . . the little "extra" steps that involve creating art!!!! That's why they call it "WORK"! . . but . . fun work!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Building a painting wall for large paintings

I had been planning on constructing this painting wall for a few years. My home is the upstairs of a former hardware store (before that a meat market) built in 1932, and the main floor is my studio. It was built for a family business, and so the upstairs is like the home of an  old house rather than a commercial area. There is 24" shelving all round the base of the room, and about 7ft above that is another shelf. I finally figured out how to make myself a painting wall (for large paintings) without taking out the very sturdy and well constructing shelving. Here are some pics . . haven't finished yet. I have to wait for my aunt to come by and hold the lumber and sheetrock while I drill in the screws. I realized I couldn't do it myself. So I must wait until she can come by to help.

I also made a great 4' x 6' table with two hollow core doors and four saw horses. I love it!!!

As I seem to be mostly right brained, I am going to feel very proud that I have constructed this on my own. I don't like working with numbers (I like them in paintings!), so instead of trying to figure it out by calculation (which wasn't working . . have to have a visual), I purchased an 8', 2 x 4, put it up against the shelving, and realized from that what direction I needed to take (won't go into a long explanation!). I will post pics of the completed wall. I have decided to use cradled wood panels instead of canvas for oil painting. It's necessary for oil and cold wax and encaustic, but I'm also drawn to go back to just oil, and this way I can really attack the surface with subtractive techniques. Wow . . that word "attack" is pretty strong! :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On the Circle and I . . my conundrum

(I had completed a whole post, somehow mistakenly pressed a button, perhaps "delete" (which is also the backspace button), and the whole post disappeared!) I've been having some uncertainty with my painting surfaces, and my tendendcy is to withdraw and not work. So I thought I would post about what has been going on. IF you scroll down old blog posts of my paintings, you will see that I have circles in all of them. The following are images I have seen on Tumblr, that my eye is drawn to . . all with circles. The first ones are old diagrams. The later ones are works by artists. I don't know if what I will write will be understandable, but I thought if I post it, and "put it out there", perhaps this will propel my evolution in discovering why I put circles in my work . . why I have this . . compulsion . . and even why I have to "know" why.

? . . found on Tumblr
(probably a depiction of someone's idea of the "cosmos")

Robert Fludd (1600's)
This has symmetry, geometry, yet because
of the tonal differences in the surface.
I see this as more "organic".

Something to do with astrology . .
the cosmos . . ?

Alchemical (spiritual) chart?

Come type of astrological chart?

The next ones are images that I find organic but based in a kind of geometry (grid, circle, intersecting lines, symmetry). 

Eva Hesse drawing

another Eva Hesse drawing

artist unknown to me . .
. . getting closer to the more
"organic" geometry I'm speaking about.

Jose Antonio Fernandez Muro (1920-?)
(this is based in geometry, but I see it as
much more organic)

What I know and experience intuitively doesn't always pass my intellectual "judgement." In other words . . what on one level comes from my "gut" . . on another level, my analytical, thinking process  "steps in" and negates it. So there continues to be a dance between a knowing, that following my intuitive sense
(e.g. allowing the symmetry, lines, and circles to be in my work) is the real answer, which contrasts with my thinking, analytical mind, as it searches for an explanation as to why . . what's happening . . where does this "compulsion" to put in circles, etc. come from (?).

My experience with math, geometry, algebra, and most technical, mathematical information (e.g., the workings of my digital camera in a recent photo class, high school algebra, geometry) is that my right brain can't process them, and therefore my mind goes into a "haze".  This "mind-haze" has prevented me from understanding books (and the web) with explanations of quantum physics, the golden mean, the fibronnaci numbers, sacred geometry, etc., etc. and led me to feel like my left brain doesn't work very efficiently! I have always had a strong curiosity about what underlies the order or structure of all existence (Truth), but I've not been able to understand the technical (i.e., metaphysical) explanations. So when an artist uses the terms: based on "the golden mean" or "the fibonacci numbers", this "mind-haze" occurs. I can visually picture a diagram of the golden mean and understand the fibronnaci numbers in a very simple way, but how this is connected to the artist's work . . or mine . . I'm clueless.

I very strongly believe that art comes from inside. I have seen over and over again, that a finished painting of mine, months later, was indeed an expression of something that was within myself; that I wasn't aware of at the time I was creating it. My recent thoughts about why these circles, lines and symmetry "want" to be in  my paintings is that perhaps some childhood experiences (fear and chaos) may continue to reside within my personal energy field, and that there is a need within me (that I don't understand) for an expression of organization and/or structure.

Below is a photo of a part of an encaustic and collage that is unfinished. It may be part of a series of four that were inspired by African kuba cloth patterns . . 

As much as I'd like to post successful, completed paintings . . one after another . . on this blog, I am exploring my own evolution in painting. I'm reminded of the Emerson quote on the upper right . . "Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The "People's Art Fair" in Detroit and some wood assemblages

While visiting the People's Art Fair in Detroit last week-end, I came across some wood assemblages that I had seen on Flickr. The artist is Chad Davis and the link is to his flickr site is here. I asked him where he found his wood, as there is no beautiful driftwood to be found in this part of Michigan (possibly on Lake Michigan). He replied . . "oh, on the street, dumpsters, garbage cans, trash pick-up sites." I love the symmetry and symbols (circle, cross, star) . . and the combination of weathered wood and rust.

Chad Davis

Chad Davis

Chad Davis

I may have first spotted them on Robyn Gordon's tumblr site (and followed the link to Flickr), which I thoroughly enjoy following. I'm becoming more and more fascinated with wood. When I first spotted them, my mouth dropped open. "I saw those on Flickr!", I thought. It made all my internet art viewing (which seems a little de-personalized) shift a little . . to see one of the artists behind all the art I view on flickr, in person. I can sometimes spend an evening (instead of watching tv) wandering through flickr images. 

These are some pics I found interesting at this fair . . very colorful. The people were also young and very colorful (hair, piercings, attire) with colorful art and LOTS of loud music. The fair was situated between three old industrial buildings that house artists' studios.

hhmmm. . .quite a statement

These assemblages appear to be
drums with celtic designs. The
wood pieces are drumsticks . . some
wrapped in black tape.

Part of a booth display

Another booth display decoration . . a "kuba-like" pattern

There were a number of booths similar to this
in support of Detroit. Unfortunately Detroit has
suffered a lot in the past 40 years due to crime, drugs, and automotive layoffs. There are many people committed to revitalizing Detroit . . and there are feelings of defensiveness with Detroit's current image.

I was born and raised in Michigan but lived in two other states for 30 years. After I returned I drove up and down the main street in downtown, Woodward Ave., with tears in my eyes. I have memories of working in Detroit during the summers, when I was in college. Unfortunately, the decay was overwhelming. It seemed as if I was looking at a city that had been bombed. I did not live in Detroit or close to the city, but one thing I remember, and still love today, is the music of Motown, then called "the motor city." This music most likely paved the way for my love of jazz and the blues. Having moved back rather recently I'm starting to learn about the artistic and cultural "goings-on."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SOLD! . . Two encaustic paintings

I just found out that the two encaustic paintings (below), that I had in an exhibition at River Gallery in Chelsea, MI, have sold . . BOTH!!

No. 1, Semiotic Series
14 x 14 encaustic, oil, and mixed medium on panel

No. 2, Semiotic Series
12 x 12 encaustic, oil, and mixed medium on panel

As a re-emerging artist (relocating from the east back to my "home and birthplace" state) this is just the "shot in the arm" that I needed. I sold work when I lived in the east, but have only been really active (working daily) here in MI for the past year. I've realized that it will take me a while to get the kind of painting I want on oil and cold wax. Somewhow I've been having an "inner urging" to go large in encaustic, and I think these sales may be a kind of confirmation to act on that "inner urging".

I wasn't able to finish the collage and acrylic I had been working on (24 x 24) for entry into another show. I have SO many ideas brewing in my head fueled by viewing a lot of art on the web. I just got a book on using plaster on panel (encaustic can also be painted on a plaster surface) and other surfaces. Paintings with cement have intrigued me. I had thought plaster might be a good substitute. 

So . . back to encaustic. My last encaustic post here will probably be one of a series of at least 4, but I have a BIG urge to tackle the large cradled panels, that have been propped up around my studio, with encaustic (beeswax, resin, and pigment).

Monday, August 15, 2011

New encaustic and thoughts on editing an image

This encaustic was inspired by the black and tan palette sometimes used in kuba cloth. Everything except the circles, which is encaustic paint, are collage elements (pages from an old book, and strips of black asian paper).

Trying to find a spot outside that didn't produce glare on the surface, I put it on a rubber mat near the back door. I really liked the juxtaposition of the "iron gate-like" design behind it, when I looked at the photograph, so I didn't crop it. The curves and symmetry of iron gates have always fascinated me. Perhaps I'll use a suggestion of these curves in a surface at some point.

. . . and a closer, cropped view

Images don't come fast to me. I have to sit with them a while. I thought of putting something else on the surface to break up the symmetry, but I decided to leave it as is. That brings me to another "dance" I have with editing a surface, not putting too much in. I am usually drawn to paintings that have space combined with interesting things, and I am drawn to symmetry. I know this dance will come to resolution at some point as I work.

I have about 23 surfaces on cradled panel with oil and cold wax that I've been letting sit a while. Occasionally an idea of what to do next pops up. Then comes the feeling of whether it will be successful to me if I leave it as it is. And then comes the thought of whether it will be successful to others. I suppose this is where courage comes in . . to forget about others and go with my gut . . another dance (probably originating from art school!). What is enough and what is too much? When does "a lot" work in an image and when does it not?

So when I'm stuck (as with the oil and cold wax surfaces), I go to the encaustic. It's fast (hardens quickly) yet can be removed with scraping and collage elements are easy to incorporate.

I'm also working on 24 x 24 panels with collage (old papers) and acrylic to hopefully finish for a submission deadline to a gallery show. I'm so used to taking a lot of time with a surface . . . most likely, they will not be finished. It kind of feels like something created in a short time is cheating. Where did THAT irrational thought come from?!?!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inspiration from African Kuba Cloth or "organic geometry"

After my last post, and in contemplating how to combine "geometric" pattern, line, circles, squares, etc. in an more organic and less hard edged way in my painting, I came upon a Tumblr image that was described as "Ceremonial Cuban cloth) . . .

Image from Tumblr and it's link here.

This started a contemplative "journey" in my mind's eye, as to how to incorporate what I call "organic geometry" into some kind of abstract compositions on my painting surfaces.

Many, many years ago (I won't say how long ago!), I saw a piece of what was described to me as "bark cloth", which had been brought back with a couple from their trip to Australia. I think that was probably the first time I had ever seen anything like that. It was very large and the texture was wonderful and the designs were amazing. I never forgot it.

When I started seeing examples of a type of these designs on Tumblr from the Hamill Gallery in Boston, I learned that it is called "Kuba." Here are a few more examples from the Hamill Gallery, and in their description, they use the words repetition and rythym.

My very favorites are the patterns and repetitions in black and tan . . .

It wasn't until I decided to do this blog post, that I found out a little more about
the story behind the making of these beautiful designs, which I found on this African imports site. This link to this page on their site has a youtube video (that I don't know how to post here . . still learning) about the meaning of the cloth, which I find amazing . . .
The Meaning of Kuba Cloth
 African Kuba cloth is just starting to become popular in the United States. Using the leaf of the raffia tree, the Kuba people of the Congo first hand cut, and then weave the strips of leaf to make pieces of fabric, often called raffia cloth. There are several different sub groups of the Kuba people. Each group has different and unique ways to make the fabric. Some make it thicker, longer, shorter, or with different patches. Each patch is symbolic and many times a piece has many different meanings. When Kuba cloth originated there were probably no patches used, but as the cloth is brittle it is quite likely that the patches were used to repair the frequent tears. Later each patch developed a meaning, many patterns are uniquely arranged to tell a story. 

      TheMaking of Kuba Cloth
The process of making Kuba cloth is extremely time consuming and may take several days to form a simple placemat size piece. The men first gather the leaves of the raffia tree and then dye it using mud, indigo, or substances from the camwood tree. They then rub the raffia fibers in their hands to soften it and make it easier for weaving. After they've completed the base cloth the women embroider it. They do this by pulling a few threads of the raffia fibers, inserting them into a needle running the needle through the cloth until the fibers show up on the opposite end. They then take a knife and cut off the top of the fibers, leaving only a little bit showing. Doing this hundreds of times forms a design. The designs are seldom planned out ahead of time, and most of the embroidery is done by memory. 
The Kuba people, who developed this and many other fabrics were very resistant to using European cloth; and for many years seldom used machine made fabrics. When researching this and other cloths that the Kuba people developed, it is not hard to understand why they resisted the change so much. Each fabric, each pattern, and each design in traditional Kuba fabrics has great meaning. On the basis of what a person wore; you could interpret much about them. Social status age, marital status, and a person's character were just a few of the things a piece of cloth symbolized to these people. 

When I found this painting, by Kelly Marzycki, on her blog "Aesthetic Work", which, to me, reminds me of, or has the "flavor" of, Kuba cloth . . . well . . .viewing this piece was the synchronicity that drew me toward an inner reflection process that I write about here, how much I loved the organic nature of Kuba cloth . . organic yet with structure. Her painting is less structured yet still has that feel.

Kelly Maszycki, The Earth Forgets Nothing
(Acrylic on nujabi paper)
Now I know that the patching results in the combination of seemingly dissimilar patterns, which I love visually (reminds me of Asian boro cloth), yet it also has symbolic meaning. The following are images of kuba inspired patterns in my living room. I also love zebra patterns, although that may come from liking a black/white palette, but the pattern is also organic.

A wall hanging in my living room

Pillow from Ikea on my couch

This cloth covers my piano

Another pillow from Ikea . . although not organic, I like the repetition

Not Kuba . . but here's the circle!

Detail of my living room rug (wool not zebra!)

This juxtoposition of pattern, rythym, repetition, grids, yet so organic fascinates me. I don't know at this point, where this all will take me in my painting, but I wanted to share with you what is feeling very exciting to me. All of you don't know my "story", but there is a whole lot that has "percolated" within me thoughout my life, that I am discovering, and it seems to be, at one time . . erupting . . at another time . . a quiet blooming . . . and . . rather late in life. It has been feeling lately very rich and deep, and I'm having thoughts that all this may be fodder for a book. Ha!!! . . who knows! After all . . . one never really knows what tomorrow will bring, as long as one keeps moving and doing . . and paying attention . . not remaining rigid and opening to new possibilities . . and, I believe, the Universe does the rest.