Tag Archives: Paint

Timeout for Art: Future Art

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Robert Genn was a prolific artist and mentor to thousands through his twice weekly “Painter’s Keys” newsletter. His daughter, Sara, a wonderful artist in her own right, has continued putting out the newsletter, since Robert’s death. She takes turns, offering her own insights and advice one day, publishing one of her father’s essays the next. Readers – artists working in locations all over the world and in all different media – discuss, in comments, the topic at hand. I value the connection. It has been a way for me, from this remote location, to get a sense of what is going on elsewhere, in the world of art.

Over the years, Genn gave advice on starting and finishing work, approaching galleries and pricing. One suggestion that has stayed with me is that one shouldn’t talk too long or too much about work that is still in the embryonic stages. Ideas need to be guarded and treated tenderly. A lack of enthusiasm in a response to sharing or – worse – a negative viewpoint can destroy a vision before it has a chance. Sometimes just the act of talking about an idea takes the energy away from it. With that in mind, I am cautious, usually, about talking about future work.

I have plans, though. In this last, dry year, with little time for making art, my mind has still been working. I have several large collage paintings in various stages of completion. The imagery still holds excitement and validity for me; I plan to finish them. Likewise, I have several collagraphs that have been waiting for final touches. I have a coupe large drawings to finish, and a few dozen clay bowls to fire. That would complete the work that is underway.

As for new work, I’ve been intrigued by encaustic painting since I studied the work of Jasper Johns. I have wanted to try it for years. It is a method that fits nicely with the collage/paint/aged surface way that I work. This year, I read three technical books on the encaustic process. I purchased multiple support boards in two sizes, tools, equipment and materials. In the next year, I will do some encaustic painting. In fact, with the idea that I have to leave room for learning, experimentation and mistakes, I plan to do a lot of work in encaustic next year.

There are more things that interest me, ideas I’d like to flesh out and materials I’d like to try…but that’s enough for now.

Another Day

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Another Monday, another week beginning.

Yesterday, I wouldn’t have counted on it. Disaster seemed to be waiting around every corner. Life seemed dangerous.

In the morning, as Darla and I walked down the Fox Lake Road, the cars (two) that we encountered seemed especially large and powerful as I walked in their path to retrieve my big dog from the middle of the road where she stubbornly insists on walking. The drivers appeared less forgiving than usual. Even little Rosa Parks – having forgotten, by the time we got back, that it was her own decision to stay home – took on a grumpy attitude about not being included in the walk.

At the hardware store, I continued my work in the paint aisle. I was climbing up and down ladders with heavy gallons of paint for five hours. Between stepping too high on a short ladder, leaning too far from the heights of the tall ladder or stepping down before I reached the bottom rung, an accident seemed imminent. After my helper left for the day, I courted catastrophe with every misstep. After running through several possible scenarios in my mind – all of which ended with my broken body not being discovered until the store opened Monday morning – I decided to call it a day.

Home, the dogs and I made the rounds to pick blackberries. After recent rains, the bushes are loaded. I especially like the canes that grow tall in the middle of wild juniper bushes…even if getting them is a guarantee of scrapes and scratches, and a risk of a turned ankle, or worse. The juniper branches grow horizontally and form an impenetrable snarl at ground level. To get to the berries, it’s necessary to walk on the springy branches, with nothing much to hold on to for balance or support. I was thinking of how a broken leg would alter my day-to-day existence as I pushed on to scale the rickety slab wood fence, to get to the bushes behind it. I gathered four cups of berries, safe and sound.

Later, as I was trying to go to sleep, I was plagued, as usual, with thoughts of unfinished tasks, and all the things I have to do. My worries were interrupted by other concerns. I became overly aware of my breathing (too slow? too shallow? is that a rattle in my chest?), my heartbeat (too quick?), every single ache (thrombosis? aneurysm? cancer?), and a sudden piercing pain in my head (am I having a stroke?). I filled my time until sleep came by plotting my funeral.

At five AM, I got up to take the little dog outside. Coming back in, I slid the door closed with – somehow – two of my fingers in the way. Ouch!! It was really painful! It still is! Both fingers are bruised; I may lose a nail. Was that the disaster that seemed to be waiting for me all day yesterday? If so, I’m glad to have it out of the way!

And here is Monday, another day.

The 52 Lists Project #11

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List the ways you can rejuvenate your space:

  • Oh, fresh paint would be so nice! I think white this time, all the way through, ceilings and walls the same. Not stark white, though…white with just a touch of warmth.
  • Flooring, to cover the painted particle board that has worn to show the paths I take from room to room and that holds on to sand and spills in every crack and crevice. When it was first painted, it was a wonderful improvement over the plain particle board which, when it was new, was a huge improvement over the icy cold, cracked and chipped, painted cement slab, which was a slight improvement over the plain old unpainted cement slab that filled the air with cement dust every time I swept it…but I’d like a real floor. Because the floor is “on-grade,” meaning no air space below it, hardwood flooring is not recommended. Because it isn’t level, sheet vinyl or tiles would require the added expense of plywood under-layment. Because the house is small, I’d like the flooring to be consistent throughout. That means it has to be suitable for bathroom and kitchen as well as other living spaces. That eliminates many of the click-together floors that have an MDF base.Carpeting would never be a good choice for me: too much sand, too many spills, and I’d never want a carpeted bathroom! Because there are probably no options that I can install myself, I have to figure the cost of a contractor, too. All of these things are contributing reasons why I still have no real floor, though this house is more than thirty years old. It sure would spruce the place up! I’m currently considering vinyl plank flooring.
  • Light fixtures. Right now, in the living room and dining room, there are rims to light fixtures, but both of the globes broke, so the twisty compact fluorescent bulbs are exposed…and not the most elegant look. The entry has a different type of fixture. It’s globe is intact, but its rim has totally rusted out, a casualty of the many years I used an unvented propane heater. It caused every bit of uncoated metal in the house to rust: curtain rods, hinges, door handles and light fixtures. Even the refrigerator shows rust, under it’s  white enamel. The kitchen and laundry room have simple porcelain light fixtures that hold bulbs.
  • Woodwork. Baseboards where floors meet walls, trim around doors and closets and windows…that would really spruce things up!
  • I’m thinking of painting my front door some unexpected color, just to liven up the entry.
  • Outside, this year I’m going for bales of hay and a big load of mulch to get my gardens back in good shape. Mowing, trimming, weeding and pruning will help, too.
  • Beyond that, I bought a new used tablecloth at the re-sale shop last week.It is washed, pressed, and ready to go.  As soon as the weather signals spring, I am putting it on the dining table, along with a couple bright candles in clear holders and a bouquet of the earliest daffodils. That is rejuvenation at its best!

Creative Fire Journal, Day #5

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“What an overwhelming lesson to all artists! Be not afraid of absurdity; do not shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the most unheard-of, the most dangerous, solution. Be brave, be brave!” ― Isak Dinesen

A dilemma I’m facing is:

Make a list of 10 unheard-of, dangerous solutions:

A dilemma I’m facing is getting my work space organized so that I can easily work in it.

It’s a small room, 12′ x 12′(the space under the eaves adds about 3′ x 12′ to either side, though it’s not high enough to stand in). When it comes to art, art books, art materials, beautiful papers and tools for working, I’m a bit of a hoarder.

If it were used only for art making, the room would already be crowded.

There is the very large yet very necessary drafting table, taking up a big block of space. It is used for drawing, adding watercolor to collagraph prints, painting, putting collages together, reading and – every now and then – as a dinner table. There is the big padded bar stool that goes with it, to get me up to the correct level to work. Next to the drafting table, a set of shallow shelves holds materials I use most often. There is a smaller desk chair. It is needed, too, for when Madeline (or one of the grandsons) is visiting, and we want to be in the studio together. I sometimes use it as an easel, too, and it’s always there when I need a place to drape a sheet of newsprint or fabric that I’ve used to rub a painting, until the paint dries. The printing press, if not in use so that the press bed can be centered under the roller mechanism, takes up a space 32 inches by 40 inches. More, when the press bed is off to either side. A short bookcase stands under each of the two windows. Their shelves house my art books; the top surface holds clay pieces, waiting for the kiln.

This is also the room where I keep my materials, and finished works in between galleries.

The space under the eaves is used for storage.

I have, on one side: two file drawers; a map cabinet for storing flat works; 12 storage totes labelled with the materials they contain and hung on rails between dividers, so that any one can be pulled out without moving all of them; 8 bus tubs for paper-making supplies, tucked in the same way. Behind the totes is a large vinyl lidded trash can filled with moist clay, several big bowls from an old commercial bread making machine, and a few rolls of bubble wrap. A shallow shelf above the totes holds moistened printing papers inside of large plastic bags when I’m actively printing. At other times, it tends to be a catch-all.There is an old TV with a built in VHS player hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes I put a movie in, for entertainment while I work.

The other side has a folding work table for inking printing plates. It holds pots of inks, boxes of latex gloves, and squares of dense cardboard for spreading the ink. There is a work light hanging above the table, and many lengths of starched cheesecloth hanging off to the side. Beside the table is a box holding collagraph plates and another holding lengths of metal frames, not yet assembled. Then there is a box of mattboard, and several packages of pre-cut matts. The remaining space has framed artwork, wrapped individually for protection from scratches and air-born paint spatters, stored standing up, in very tight quarters.

At this time, I have a half dozen finished or almost finished works leaning against the wall of storage totes, making them inaccessible without a major shuffle. I have gallons of gesso, polymer gel, polymer medium and glue under the drafting table. I have a large painting-in-progress on top of the printing press. I have small painted canvasses in various stages of completion on every available surface.

This is definitely a dilemma!

Possible solutions:

  • Pretend I’ve had a house fire, and clear out the studio entirely. Mercilessly. This is a fresh start.

[My heart is pounding dangerously at the thought!]

  • Get rid of everything that I don’t love right now. If it needs work or isn’t “quite there yet,” ditch it.

[No, I still can’t stand it!]

  • Toss everything I am not actively working with, or working on. Burn the drawings that I did twenty years ago in art class; dump the contents of totes that I haven’t looked at in months.

[I’m not up for these kinds of absurd solutions!]

  • Work larger; use stuff up.
  • Plan works using the materials I have on hand.
  • Spend more time in the studio, finishing things, using materials.
  • Use what I have; don’t bring any more materials in.
  • Quit saving every single thing.
  • Find ways to incorporate scraps into new works.
  • Perhaps make woven sculptures from old prints and papers.

That’s just about as dangerous as I can bring myself to be. It will have to do.

Taking Time

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When there is no time for art, but my spirit needs art, there are ways.

When there is no time for art, I can pull out my sketchbook where I have divided each page into small squares. With my fine point marker, I can fill in one little square…or two, if the opportunity presents itself. The squares are so tiny, no need to think of perspective or balance or composition…just draw.

When there is no time for art, I can cut papers for collage. I am collecting pieces for a collage painting. Quilt-like, it will be made up of squares – cut from old paintings, drawings and collages, each with a triangle of another paper glued on in. I have templates for each shape in sturdy board. I cut each square and triangle by hand. The base I have planned for this work is 2′ x 4′. I estimate that I need about a thousand small pieces. It is mindless activity, yet there is comfort in it. Some small pieces are amazingly beautiful…far better than the large work they were taken from. The thought process will come later, in assembly. For now…just cut out shapes.

When there is no time for art, I can pull out black and white images – collagraphs, run once through the press – and add color. I don’t do editions, so my color choices are fresh and intuitive each time. The lines are already there, I’m just coloring in. Later – when there is more time – when the plate is re-inked and run through the press over the painted image, colors will be highlighted, shapes will be accentuated and small flaws in the paint surface will disappear. Now, when time is short…just paint.

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