Pear bowl

July 19, 2013

Sunlit pears in pear bowl

Sunlit pears in pear bowl-  oil on canvas board, 50 x 50cm

This is the latest in the Anne’s kitchen series. My friend had a wonderful big painted bowl (blue painted with pears and raspberries) filled with fruit, this time pears.

Mango and eggplant  - Oils on canvas board

Mango and eggplant – Oils on canvas board

Still on the journey in paint here.  This one is a continuation of “Anne’s kitchen series’, the first one was Pears in sunlight a few posts back. My friend Anne’s (and her husband Jim’s) kitchen in Pittsburgh was a place I felt instantly at home. Visually, I loved the richly decorated ceramic bowls from all over the world, and how Anne loaded them with whatever fruit and veg were at hand. The bowls regularly caught the sunlight streaming in from the windows.

My challenge here was to keep the spirit of the first sketch I did with oils directly on the canvas. I loved it and for awhile didn’t want to do anything to it at all.

'Mango and eggplant' sketched in

‘Mango and eggplant’ sketched in

Painting is continually teaching me. In this case, the sketch was telling me it was fine just as it was. That in a sense, that first spontaneous response to the subject was already enough. That the loose, unselfconscious sketching in, which part of me says is ‘not finished’ and messy, is actually lovely in its own right. If you don’t compare it to an image of a finished work, it has its own appeal. And many artists,the Impressionists come to mind, have used this thinly painted rendering as their style.

The reason I returned to it and began to develop it anyway was because I loved the richness in colour of the original scene. So I went for that but promised myself I would do everything I could to preserve the freshness of the sketch. I’m happy with the outcome because, although it looks ‘finished’, I worked on it with the same looseness and enjoyment as the first stage.  It was very different from working on this one below, which made me tense throughout, trying to get things ‘right’.

Classic still life Jan 27, 2013

Classic still life Jan 27, 2013

What my painting is teaching me as I move out of an overly perfectionist, into a more playful, inexact rendering, is that I don’t have to try so hard. And that some things do really take care of themselves, I don’t have to plan and control everything. I don’t have to explain every little detail, I can leave room for people to fill in their own impressions, both in the painting and in relationships.
I can play and experiment to see what happens without worrying so much if it is ‘right’.  Things can be suggested, other areas can be left raw, the process itself has an intelligence I can trust.  And this applies to life off canvas as well!

A journey in paint

July 6, 2013

No, the title doesn’t refer to keeping a visual travelogue. Rather it is about discovering painting and discovering myself through the process.

I’ve been drawing and painting since childhood, and seriously pursuing oils during certain periods of my adult life. Previous to now, I’ve always hit a wall technically and quit.

But when I saw the Jeroen Krabbé retrospective in 2008(?) I decided to commit to painting. Once again, however, I hit a wall copying another artist and couldn’t move forward to find my own work.

The Elizabeth Blackadder show in 2011 was decisive. I made a promise to myself to not quit again. Both of those shows rang such a deep resonant bell in my artist’s soul, that I knew if I didn’t commit right then to my own painting I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

The first year  (2011-2012) was almost continuous frustration as I made myself learn to see not as a draughtsman but as a painter. My first paintings from this period are still exact renderings, or they are attempts to imitate the easy-going fantasy of my oil pastel work.

Dozens of canvasses and new insights later, the painting itself has led to discoveries not only in technique, but intent.
After 2 years of consistent work I am getting glimmer of what my painting wants to be. Instead of the search to get the subject on the canvas and solve the most immediate problems like composition, light and dark, perspective, etc., I’m getting a sense of where the colour could go, how the shadows could be handled for a more dramatic effect, how forms can be related, emphasised or diminished in service of the whole composition.

I think a lot of painters make these decisions intuitively, subconsciously, even. But as you work, your work teaches you. For example, I used to wonder why painters had so many brushes in different shapes; now, when I’m working, I reach for a round brush for one kind of stroke and a flat brush for a more blended colour.

Also switching media was a challenge. I was used to having a box of 121 oil pastel colours at my fingertips- at first I got frustrated at having to mix each colour and use separate brushes to apply them. But now with oils, I feel I have an infinite variety of colours at hand, and the unexpected mixtures which happen when a brush picks up a neighbouring colour or mixes with the colour underneath, only add excitement to the work.

How I paint, the decisions I make in the work also reflect to me where I am inside. Looking at earlier work, not just painting but design and drawing, there is a strong perfectionist streak in how things are rendered. The fight to let go in my work, perfectly reflects my life- the need to learn to trust more and not try to control everything.  As I let go more in painting- ie suggest an area instead of draw every detail, that same relaxation is evident in my life. And vice versa. It is hard to say which comes first, but I think they both influence each other.

It is 2 years since I saw Elizabeth Blackadder’s retrospective in Edinburgh and was struck not only by her work,-the whimsy and freedom and mastery, but by the dogged commitment to painting radiating out from the entire body of work.

I love setting out my paints, putting on my husband’s old shirt as a paint smock, and settling in for a session. The smell of the oils, the sight of the colours, the feel of the material, all of it.

The work is its own reward.

Latest painting:

Pears in sunlight    Oil on canvas board

Pears in sunlight Oil on canvas board   SOLD

Are You My Typeface?

July 5, 2013

The "Where's Helvetica?" poster

“Where’s Helvetica’ Poster by Jesse Austin Breneman                     source : Kickstarter site

A friend in my online artist’s group sent me this Kickstarter  link and I signed up as a donor right away. I just love this project and Jesse’s energy.  He is approaching this so professionally, and the idea, design and execution are just wonderful.

He’s close to his goal, whoops, I just checked, he is over it! Yippee, but it is such a cool project, I’d become a donor anyway and be assured of getting one of these great little books. Go Jesse!!