January 14, 2017
These two images were a departure of sorts for me, they are based on some photos I took in high summer last year. I don’t get inspired much by the idea of painting landscapes, it feels too limiting. But these two small format pieces on panel were done with a large brush to keep from getting caught up in details, and I like their freshness.
Every day I walk through these wide open Dutch skies and fields. There is a lot of water where we live, giving movement and direction to the flat, spread out landscape. I am constantly moved by the land here, how the light hits trees and fields, the changing colours throughout the day. It would be a natural painting subject if it weren’t milked ad infinitum by good and bad local painters. I have rarely found an ‘in’ to painting my surroundings because I like to use lots of colours and I need room for fantasy as well as reality.
Here is another realistic one from the same series:
This piece, done more recently, is more in line with what comes naturally to me. I love how the landscape elements creep into the still lifes, or is it the other way around? It is also large, 50 x 50 cm.
This one below was more successful to my eye, I knew more about where I wanted to go with it.
I love the small boat in the upper left corner, floating on a sewn sea with little red stitches. These pieces definitely have their own rhythm and structure if I step aside and follow where they want to go.
The latest in the series:
There were lots of surprises here, it is quite large, 50 x 70 cm. The little boat has returned to a more prominent place. The beet is kind of archetypal and the spirals please me.(There are elements reminiscent of some of Bob Knox’s work. A fellow artist from Findhorn who taught me by example, just how fun art could be. If you google him you’ll probably come up with a lot of his beautiful New Yorker covers.)
Leading on from here, ‘Garden’ is my new theme, I think. I’m totally inspired by our community edible garden and the work of Fritz Haeg.
February 15, 2016
Well, I’m back. Words desert me when I try to say anything about the last 8 weeks. I came through a long and tough operation, and am recovering well, though more slowly than I would like.
My work mates in the municipal traffic project sent me a wonderful bouquet, but also a sweet card of a still life painting- by Matisse. I wasn’t familiar with this side of his work.
It is such a little gem that it somehow reached through the pain and leftover narcotic stupor to remind me that I was more than my physical situation. And I got the energy to get my paints out so I could copy the still life. I love that, like the original, it is kind of crudely painted (used palet knife on the background), but still holds together.
My painting was already undergoing some fundamental changes. I wrote about those in the last post. One current influence is Flora Bowley’s, ‘Brave intuitive painting’. After some free experimenting according to her suggestions, I find that my visual vocabulary demands a bit more structure than her layered free form approach. Still, I am learning a lot from trying some of her suggestions to free up the painting experience. Laying down a first layer, for instance, in cool colours, and painting on top with warm ones, letting areas of the underlayer show through. Also she encourages you to not get precious about what is already on the canvas, and to try new mark making on top of what you already have to push the painting in a new direction. Ruining the ‘good’ correct image to reveal more depth and expression.
That is what I’m in the process of doing with the painting here. It was inspired by a bunch of tulips wrapped in dark blue paper. But I felt the painting was a bit too pretty and confined by the realism.
So I’ve been breaking it down by using the palette knife in places and obscuring some of the bright colours and hard definition of form. It is still in progress.
One more thing I wanted to say about influences, I love the work of Jude Hill and am following a sewing, quilting, and appliqué course of hers online. It is all about layering there as well.
Her approach speaks to me- she doesn’t plan a piece out to the last detail, she has a spontaneous, ‘wait and see what happens’ attitude. It is really refreshing and something I could use more of. Also, she posts her work in progress and you watch it transform and grow. I could do that more.
And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the patchwork and painting starting to influence each other before to long.
More on other new paintings next time.
December 16, 2015
There is a lot of movement happening in my life, and it is reflected in my painting. I’m leaving old ways of seeing, and familiar approaches, and embarking on ‘The adventure of a lifetime’ (A plug for Coldplay’s new single YAY!!). The freedom I have in inventing when working in oil pastels has finally transferred to paint. I’m working in acrylics because I like layering and they dry fast.
I won’t take you on the complete journey, but this particular stream started months ago. I have mentioned that I do collages for relaxation and processing of any issues up for me. I always really like them, they surprise me and are fresh. So this one, with the painting by Alexey Kvaratskeheliya at center stage inspired me to try an oil pastel painting using the same kind of little shards of concentrated colour as Alexey K.
Which resulted in this piece:
Working with colour in this way feels very natural to me. (This piece is in our currently running show at Scherer design store. In a few days they will have our exhibit announced on the site.)
I wondered if I could work this way in paints, but it is different when you can reach for one of 121 concentrated oil pastel colours, or you have to mix them yourself and keep using clean brushes to apply them.
But one evening I took a little piece of cardboard, and intuitively began working in small colour areas. That freed me up to take another step- I took all the leftover colours on my palette and made a background on a previously painted canvas with the partly dried paint and palette knife:
Then I painted over it intending to work into the result below, but I like it so much I’m leaving it as is.
The next two happened around the same time:
They are both painted in acrylic over previous paintings, taking cues from the background and at the same time evolving their own unique forms.
This method of working really suits me. I work messily and spontaneously on an already painted canvas and things just happen.
Gee that Flora Bowley book mentioned in the last post must really work, I haven’t even read it yet and my work is undergoing a major reorientation! 🙂
All of the preceding are quite small format- around 30 x 30 cm. Then I retrieved one of the fairly free paintings from this summer where I was trying to lose form, and painted over it. The tree emerged, and I worked into it some, but not much. It captures the energy I need most to connect with now as I face major surgery tomorrow. Hopefully I can bring it into the hospital where I can see it.
July 21, 2015
This might look familiar to some of you, I’ve been working on a series of Rende’s photos of bottles in front of some of my still life paintings. I did 2 versions of this one, and the second is still in progress. This one tries to be true to the photo which I loved because of the contrast between the rich darks and glowing oranges. I took it with very little light in my studio, so it is hand held and out of focus (see the signature) . The bottles are quite clean and sharp in the original painting. I was especially happy with the right edge of the bowl seen through the blue bottle.
And now for something entirely different. I fell in love yet again with another of Ivon Hitchens’ paintings.
So I spent some happy days copying it. My version is a bit livelier qua colour, I like them both. Also, my canvas was a different proportion so I had to fudge the layout a little.
I just can’t imagine sitting in front of a vase, container (?) of flowers on a wood floor and producing something as gauzy and vague as this. It is a bouquet, yet there are hardly any greens except those nice two fresh strokes on the left.
What that shape is in the lower right corner, I have no idea. I can’t get inside this guys head in any way. If you see some of his other work, you’ll see that form isn’t the main thing with him. But I still love his nonchalance and in some of his other still lifes, the addition of scribbly outlines as well as decorative colour patches.
I’m getting up the nerve to do a painting of my own in his style; I’ve already done a preliminary watercolour study for it, but it is such an alien way of working for me. We’ll see.
April 16, 2015
This morning I woke up with a number of things I could do. I could work on my book. There was also a painting in progress on my easel after a small dry spell. And there were several small tasks I could do concerning two community projects I’m working on. So, avoiding all these worthy tasks, of course I started to collect materials to make a holder for nesting material for the birds in our garden. Obvious, huh?
Why, when I have been longing to get into working with my paints, do I often try to avoid it all day? Maybe it is still because I separate it from my professional life, I can’t see it as ‘work’, so try to get other things done first. Maybe it is the feeling of how when I’m into the painting, it kind of grabs me by the neck and won’t let go; and whether it is going well or stuck, simply demands all of my attention.
Or more likely, I think I love this stage of painting most- when the sketch is there, no commitments have been made, and everything is still possible.
Who knows? At least the birds will be happy this spring. I hung it near the bird feeder and so far they have only been sussing it out at a distance.
Making it was really fun though, so was the procrastination, so much so that I didn’t do anything much all day.
A few tips about providing nesting materials can be found here.
March 10, 2015
From the wood I turned south and began walking out along the sea wall. Swallows scudded overhead in twos and threes, moving with fast wing flicks…Inland were vast fields, on which three or four black barns sailed like barges. To the seaward of the wall were the marshes, tinged purple.
-Robert MacFarlane, ‘The Wild Places’.
It has been awhile since I was this moved by a non-fiction writer. Moved in the way the best art moves us: to quote Lewis Hyde, from ‘The Gift’: A work of art that enters us to feed the soul lets us experience a gifted state, and depending on our own abilities, we respond by creating new work (it doesn’t have to be art, but inspired by the artist we may find we can suddenly make sense of our own experience). The greatest art offers us fresh images that light up our imaginations and open up alternatives for our own lives.
The last time this happened I was in the middle of my career as an artist and calligrapher, and for years, I calligraphed one quote of Barry Lopez’s continually. Here is a straightforward handling of this particular quote-
But I also used the text as a starting point for work dominated more by imagery than by letters.
And I also did a series of collages, I think from the same book by Lopez, ‘Crossing open ground’.
So anyway, what I’m getting at, is that for the first time in years, I feel inspired by MacFarlane’s writing and sensibility to start to combine letters with my imagery again.
Anyone who loves walking, nature, history of place, or
good great writing should read this author. He sets out on these walks which take him and the reader to surprising places, both literally and internally. He’s exploring the theme of how landscape acts on us and we on it, and how outer landscape is formative for one’s inner psychic landscape. His experience resonates in a deep place with me, though I’m not drawn to emulating some of his other adventures – sleeping out on mountains and moors, by the sea and in dunes- sometimes in the winter!
I’ll leave you with some more of his words- here he is speaking about how being connected through technology has replaced and so robbed us of direct physical contact with the natural world:
We have come increasingly to forget that our minds are shaped by the bodily experience of being in the world- its spaces, textures, sounds, smells and habits- as well as by genetic traits we inherit and ideologies we absorb. A constant and formidably defining exchange occurs between the physical forms of the world around us, and the cast of our inner world of imagination.
The feel of a hot dry wind on the face, the smell of distant rain carried as a scent stream in the air, the touch of a bird’s sharp foot on one’s outstretched palm: such encounters shape our beings and our imaginations in ways which are beyond analysis, but also beyond doubt.
There is something uncomplicatedly true in the sensation of laying hands upon sun warmed rock, or watching a dense mutating flock of birds , or seeing snow fall irrefutably upon one’s upturned palm.