Positive from Negative

 

neg.space1
Unfinished paintings making positives using negative space.

“What do you do with everything that is cut away?” she asked Tilman, thinking now about the negative space of stone sculpture, the stone that is discarded, thinking too about how she had thrown away huge pieces of her own early life…”
from The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.

 With both my only parent and only sibling ill, there is a lot of sadness in my life right now, weighing me down, making it hard to focus on anything—even art. But because art keeps me sane, I have turned to it in bits and pieces, usually ending up in a mess of color and movement. For days I let these paintings on paper lay around, but this past week I decided to find out what if anything was important in these painted, collaged pieces.

So I started with grey paint and the basic rules of visual composition, reminding myself that positive space was the primary focus of a picture and the negative space was the background or the space between objects. I had always thought of negative space as quiet space, but obviously less important than the positive shapes.

But the more I painted, the more I wondered: Should there really be a difference between positive and negative space in importance? Can you have one without the other? In order to tell a complete story, don’t you need both? None of the pieces that are pictured are finished or may never be, but the exercise reinforced to me how critical negative space is in my paintings and how it can highlight the positive.

 

 

 

Separating the Parts

holdingfastside
“Holding Fast,” 10″ x 10″, mixed media on wood

Lately I’ve seen some artists admonished on social media for posting comments or links that reflect their “politics.” I interpret this to mean there are those who believe an artist can separate their art from their “politics.” Perhaps there are those that can, but I cannot.

Here’s why: My art is a reflection of who I am—my joys, sorrows, experiences. When I create a painting it has many meanings. It may be inspired by nature, a beautiful piece of architecture, a poem. But always, there are deeper, more complex questions and emotions. There are bigger pictures. Some the viewer will never see.

Because it is not a party I vote for, but rather for my values and beliefs, then my “politics” will surely be incorporated into my work and my life.

It’s A Wrap

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rCoND8EooA

 My first video is complete, and I feel much like a five-year-old who has finally learned to tie his shoes—though not without tears.

Since I have no technology genes, it took almost two weeks, off and on. Yes, I still remember typewriters and have even used them. So while the video doesn’t have the detail I would like, I’m ( we’re) feeling rather proud. My partner in this venture was my partner in life.

May I also say thank you to those whose posted “how to’s” on You Tube.

Striking the Drum

watertimpani2side
“Water Timpani II: Striking the Drum,” 18″ x 15″ x 3,” Mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artfinder.com/manage/patricia-raible/product/water-timpani-ii-striking-the-drum/

Moore Cove Falls in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is certainly not as spectacular as the cascading Looking Glass Falls nearby—and it’s further into the woods. But all along the trail you hear water, soft little gurgles, then stronger burbling as you are forced to hop, skip across the stream. It is a beckoning that reminds me of the Rumi quote that begins, “Come, come whoever you are.” Then when you reach the bottom of the falls it is almost an anticlimax. There is no roar. The fall is a simple horsetail waterfall, mostly maintaining contact with the rocks. But I am strangely satisfied—content to stop and look and just be.

For what fascinates me even more than the sounds are the shapes and textures of the falls. It becomes a puzzle to reduce such an intricate picture into shapes, textures, a few colors, and hopefully feeling. Is this fall square or rectangular? What about the fallen limbs that come out from each side of the creek or the rocks that have settled there hundreds of years before? And what would the markings look like?

A timpanist will beat the head of the drum approximately 4 inches from the edge, knowing this will make the best sound. And that is my job, to find that point, the one that visually communicates whether it is in the center or close to the edge. So painting after painting, I keep trying.

 

When Words are Boundaries

settingboundariesiiweb
“Setting Boundaries II,” 11″ x 14″, mixed media on canvas paper,  https://www.artfinder.com/product/setting-boundaries-ii-3ee0/

For someone who spent a lot years working with words, I find that many,many times what I tried to say was not what was heard. Then every once in a while, I stop and say nothing, and my silence is taken as acquiesce as if I don’t care. When considering the vitriol of our current elections, I can’t help but wonder if the Saxon derivation of much of our language has somehow imparted a measure of staccato belligerence into our speech.

Words are certainly powerful. They can divide us or bring us closer together. They can draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed—at least not without anger and resentment. Of course our world would be less civilized without some verbal and physical boundaries, but the question is whether those boundaries can be crossed to pull us together as communities. Clearly we can’t do this without the appropriate words. Learning how to communicate what you mean and what you feel is not something that happens when we reach some magic age. We must continue to learn, change, and occasionally question the wisdom of our boundaries.