Where Am I Going?

MendingFencesinsert
“Mending Fences,” mixed media on board, 11″ x 20″
journal
Journal entry “Mending Fences”

 

Sometimes I just put paint on paper, moving it here or there, adding a bit of this or that. Sometimes it works out. Most of the time, not so much.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone. Plein air painters produce their best work onsite. And I’ve seen some other wonderful painters who seem to start with one element and just take those twists and turns in the road one at a time until bang—they are in New York or Los Angeles.

If I do that I’m in the middle of no where in Iowa (and yes, Iowa can be lovely), but it’s probably the middle of winter. And while it may be beautiful, it has no focus. I’m one of those artists who needs to have some idea of where they are going, just a bit of a road map. Otherwise, I wander off tract. I see that nice tree over there or perhaps a lovely lake and take a hike. I know that many artists do studies, and I’ve done a few. But the best method for me seems to be a middle ground.

I’ve found that working on ideas in my journal helps me solidify placement of elements, color, markings. With a few little things worked out, I can concentrate on the idea behind the painting and on the emotions and feelings. Hopefully, this produces better strokes, more complicated markings. Doing this also helps when I am in a period that I feel stuck. “I am working,” but because it is in a journal, “I am not exactly working.” Somehow this frees me.

This method has its drawbacks. I can’t be as spontaneous. And don’t think it doesn’t mean I won’t have to redo a painting—but it is a place to start and a way to keep on track.

So what’s your successful method?

 

Covering Everything With White

seeinginadifferentlight3detail
“Seeing In A Different Light III,” (detail of 4-sided painting 36″ x 8″ square), mixed media on wood

As I painter I know that if there is an area I don’t like in an artwork, I can cover it with white and begin again, another chance if you will. Here in the South of the US, January seems to be symbolizing that chance—a bit of a “do over” if you will. But the interesting thing is that no matter how much we cover, what is underneath is still there. A snow-covered roof may look beautiful, but if it leaks; it leaks. There is only so much covering you can do.

In my artwork I have found that after a while the paint won’t stick very well, and you have to dig deep and sand carefully to get solid surface on which to build. Perhaps it’s time to take stock, to use this as an analogy for my life as well as my work.

What Painting and Listening Teaches

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, and the time I’ve spent lately has included more listening. That means I’ve heard the difference in the sounds of water—depending on whether it is a small stream, a river, or a waterfall.

The connection between timpani or kettledrums came when viewing a PBS film on crafts that talked about how different drumsticks change the sound of the drum. Some sticks are made with harder tip, others have more, and softer felt. This last trip to the woods I’ve tried to notice why the sound of the water might be different. Is it the force of the water, the height of the waterfall, the number and type of rocks below the water, or even how those rocks or logs lay in the stream or river?

So the start of the 4-sided painting has become the first in a series about the sound of water. I love what painting and listening teaches me. Even a small waterfall can rumble.

 

Let Your Paintings Lead Another Life

On the left, a detail of my 4-sided painting “Seeing In A Different Light III,” in early 2016. On the right the same painting with a bit of “collage” paper created by an archival copy of another small painting.

What I’m doing today: using materials I already have to make an earlier painting better. I was cleaning up today, getting ready to work on another large piece when I spotted a color copy (archival) of a painting I had just completed. Looking at the colors, I realized I could use it to make another painting or when I looked across the room, another painting better. You know the feeling, that painting was one that was “finished,” but I wasn’t quite happy with it. Well, now I am because it has the perfect detail.

By using pieces of this “collage” paper, an image I had already created, I changed a painting. Of course, I added a couple other bits and pieces when I got going, but I’m finally happy with the painting months after “completing it.” The other alternative would have been to use that color copy as the “jumping off point” for a new piece.

So if you have paintings you love or portions of paintings you love, let them “dress up” and lead another life!

Which Is the Right Path

 

WhichIstheRightPath
Which Is the Right Path

This 30 paintings in 30 days is a difficult challenge. So much so that I’ve lost my way a couple of times.

That has also happened while hiking in the woods. Sometimes there is no blaze or your path is not obvious. Standing still is just not an option because the right path will not reveal itself from your vantage point. You must choose a possible path and take a chance or turn around. Painting is the same way.

“Which Is the Right Path,” 6″ x 8,”mixed media on deep wood cradle, $120

My Road Is Bumpy

{"focusMode":0,"deviceTilt":0.3286837637424469,"qualityMode":3,"macroEnabled":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0}
Still working hard.

Wish I could tell you that the painting I was sanding in the last blog worked out the way I had planned, that it was finished and hanging. But it is still not complete. I feel like I’ve had a blow …well not to the stomach but to the heart. So I sand again. I start again.

I often think I’m the only one that can’t get it right the first time, or the second time, or sometimes even the third time. I know they (who is “they”?) tell you not to post anything that is not finished, but here it is anyway, just a germ of an idea.

If art is about the journey, then right now my road is bumpy.

Another Do-Over

"In the Beginning," 36"  x  36"
“In the Beginning,” 36″ x 36″

I was recently reminded by a nonfiction book called DO-OVER! by Robin Hemley, of how lucky we are to be able in most cases to paint over wood and canvas—to change things even after it has been in a show. Hemley apparently tried to do-over kindergarten and a few other life events, but it didn’t work out so well.

Of course, when we do-over a painting we always run the risk that we won’t improve it, but more and more it is important that I am happy about my work and confident that I have done my best. “In the Beginning” has been changed a little  before, so this is the “third times a charm” version.

Let’s hope so.  But it’s on wood, so there is always sandpaper.