Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Bookish" at The Arts Center in Orange

My painting Closing the Book will be featured in the show "Bookish" at The Morin Gallery at The Arts Center in Orange from August 4, 2016 to September 30, 2016. The show features book-themed art in 2D and 3D media by artists living and working in Virginia. 

Closing the Book

Closing the Book, 36"x24", acrylic on canvas, 2016.

"Closing the Book" is an acrylic painting that I completed over three years. While in progress, this painting traveled with me through four moves and some rough times. I originally intended it to have a much smoother look, and to apply gold leaf to the book in the model's hands, but finally deciding to accept and embrace its rough, "unfinished" appearance was cathartic. 

In hindsight, my progress on this painting paralleled my life while I worked on it. In the beginning, I was uncertain of what direction to go, but started off happily, and things seemed easy. I enjoyed the challenge of painting in a medium I don't use very often, and painting a model I hadn't painted before. 

My favorite challenges were the slender stripes of shadow and light across the model's face and the cracking, peeling leather and soft, battered edges of the books. 

I had a migraine while I was working on this part of the painting. I remember it distinctly. Trying to paint the faded cover of Grillparzers Werke (ca. 1880) while half-blind with a scintillating scotoma is a challenge unto itself (Mayo Clinic has a very accurate animation of what migraine with aura does to your vision.)

The painting became a technical and psychological struggle as challenges arose in my life. As I became overwhelmed with life, I became overwhelmed by the painting, and simply set it aside; in both cases, it was easier not to face the problem than to fix it. But the painting was never far from my mind. 

Finally, the opportunity arose to enter a show whose book theme fit this painting perfectly. That was the kick in the pants I needed. The timing was perfect, because over the past year, I have been rebuilding my life, reclaiming things that I had lost, and rediscovering myself. I am in a much better place and beginning a new journey, but I realized I had not brought this painting with me, so to speak. 

This time, when I looked at the painting, instead of seeing an overwhelming hurdle, I saw my life, my painting. I saw that I needed to bring this painting with me into a better place. I decided the painting was perfect as-is and embraced its rough appearance. Accepting the appearance of the painting was also accepting myself; adding the finishing touches became an act of reclamation and closure.

As I added layers, smoothed over lines, and coated the sides of the painting, I thought about the past four years of my life, how they effected this painting, and how this painting--and the three-year lack of paintings--reflected my psyche. Painting the sides and installing hanging hardware were happy and satisfying acts--I had already retaken control of my life, but this was like planting my flag in the ground. This was closing the book on one part of my life and opening up a new one. 

I started this painting because I wanted to combine several of my interests into one project: portraits, kimonos, antique books, metal objects. Now, this painting means much more to me than I ever thought it would. I look at the well-worn books in this painting and I see a past that is a little bit battered, but well loved. 

The book contains a difficult chapter, but the obstacles have been overcome and the story arc has lead to a happy ending. Now, that book is closed, and blank pages lie before me to write the next book in the series. This painting speaks to me about independence, self-respect, acceptance, closure, and hope. "Closing the Book" is about new beginnings.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Painting in Progress - Roman on the Beach 2/3

This is a time lapse of about 30 minutes' work. I was working on building up shadows and adding definition with purples, and adding other cool colors to the background. 

The ocean presented a special challenge. I never use white paint--for whites, I use the white of the paper (glazed over with very pale washes if needed, depending on what I'm painting). So I used frisket to mask parts of the background, in order to paint broad washes across the ocean without loosing the white frothiness of the waves. I removed the frisket after a few more washes, and after letting the painting dry. I don't use frisket very often--in fact, the last time I used it was in 2010 for my painting Solitude. The frisket I use is Winsor & Newton colorless art masking fluid, which is a latex product. Once dry, it rubs off with a fingernail or paintbrush handle and does not damage or stain the watercolor paper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Painting in Progress - Roman on the Beach 1/3

Time lapse of about 20 minutes of work. I work systematically from light to dark, starting with a base flesh tone (already laid down before I started filming), then working through pinks, oranges, and yellows. Each layer is allowed to dry before the next layer is added.

After these warm colors are down, I start adding light blues, lavenders, and greens, before moving into dark tones. The light-to-dark progression prevents colors from muddying or bleeding as I add layers. The next video I post will be a time lapse clip of the cool colors being added.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Roman on the Beach

Roman on the Beach, 10"x8", watercolor, 2016 

I completed this portrait commission in early June. I used a variety of reference photos provided by the client to capture her grandson playing in the sand. He is engrossed in his work, digging in soft sand that reflects the oranges and blues of his toys, while the waves roll in behind him--a serene and fleeting moment captured in watercolor on paper.

Roman on the Beach (Detail), 10"x8", watercolor, 2016

I would be hard-pressed to say what my favorite part of this painting is. I loved painting the delicate lavenders, pinks, and yellows of the shadows on his left arm; I enjoyed playing with the frothiness of the waves behind him; and I loved using the clear, saturated oranges, yellows, reds, purples, and blues to show weight, depth, and texture in the bucket and sand.

I took some videos as I worked on this painting and will be editing them together soon to post here.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Concert Sketches

I went to a koto concert recently and filled a good half a sketchbook with drawings of the audience and the performers. Here are just a few. I still need to scan the others, and I'm thinking I may add some watercolor washes to a few of the sketches...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Plein Air

Compton's Gap #1, 12"x9", ink

I went hiking and plein air painting in the mountains this past weekend and loved it. The weather was perfect and the views were gorgeous! Working with a brush and ink and focusing so much on contour lines was very zen. I enjoyed painting the rock formations most of all. I can't wait to go on another trip.

I think my next several landscapes will be ink and watercolor.

Anyway, I had a blast, I have some great pictures that I might work from, and I'm debating whether to keep this one for myself. 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Zombie Ornaments 2016

Zombie Ornaments are back! 

Zombies in Winter #1, acrylic on 80mm glass ornament, 1/24/16

Since December/January, Sundays have been my official painting (or art) day. And one of the things I've been dedicating Sundays to is zombie Christmas ornaments. 

Zombies in Winter #1, acrylic on 80 mm glass ornament, 1/24/16

Watching the snow fall during Snowmaggedon gave me the desperate need to paint SNOW. That Sunday, in about 6 hours from start to finish, I completed the first zombie ornament of 2016.

Zombies in Winter #1, acrylic on 80mm glass ornament, 1/24/16

The woods in the foreground add depth to the scene, while zombies crawl from the churchyard to lurch between the trees on their way to the distant village. 

The trees, shadows, and colors are based largely on the view from my studio. I coated the ornament in gesso first before painting, sanding between coats. In the past I've painted directly on the glass, but sometimes the paint slips on the surface as additional layers are added. The gesso provided a nice tooth that made it much easier to paint. 

I'm currently working on building an inventory of zombie ornaments in preparation for the next holiday season. I plan to list these on Etsy as soon as I have a small inventory available. The next two ornaments are already in progress. Both will have clear blue skies--one at midday with billowing cumulus clouds, and one with the beginnings of a sunset. As obsessed as I was with snow a few weeks ago, I'm thinking the next two ornaments will feature new spring grass and hazes of pollen. I'm looking forward to spring!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Portrait of a Boy (Complete)

Portrait of Briggs, 14"x13"

I finished this portrait commission in late November. This is the third and youngest child of two longtime clients; I've also painted his sister and his brother with their mother. This painting traveled with me through two moves and took a total of 18 weeks to complete. I had so much fun working on it! It was the first portrait commission I'd undertaken in quite some time, and it was very refreshing to once again be doing what I love. The family wanted the painting to capture their son's unique smile, including the little gap between his baby teeth. I enjoyed capturing the sparkle in his eyes, his bright smile, and the serene park background. The painting was complete and delivered in time for Christmas, and now joins the portraits of his brother, mother, and sister in his family home.