Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The empty canvas...

Aargh! The empty canvas. Tonight I built frames for two paintings to drop off at The Wooden Cow Gallery (I just got accepted as a consignor). After framing I thought about painting and felt resistance. I began reading Yve-Alain Bois's "Painting As Model".
From The empty canvas
From The empty canvas

First in-studio meeting with my mentor, Page Coleman

Last Friday Page came to my house (my studio).

The main thing she notice was that the paintings are screaming for more: more depth, more layering AND more simplifying. She suggested that I think about making marks look far away and closer (smaller to larger?). To think about warm and cool. Could I enhance the dimensional qualities of the brushstrokes (Brice Marden, Richard Hogan, Raymond Jonson). Even the dry brush (think how Lichtenstein actually painted the brushstroke).

She suggested that I might think about how some of the strokes occupy space and whether there could be casting of shadows. Is there a light source? Could you play with distorting the light source.

Color came up. She suggested using my color wheel. Trying out admix colors (maybe start with phthalo blue, red napthol, yellow cad medium -- I'm thinking about the Golden website exercises, which I haven't done yet). How about starting dark to light, using an admix black or gray as the underpainting? How about black and white?

I have got to force myself to keep going back in. Really push myself and not be afraid to mess things up. [She also suggested I relax a little; I've got a bit of performance anxiety (my words)].

Page asked me why I am painting. Could I see myself doing something else? This is a complicated and loaded question for me. For some reason, and I haven't figured out the personal source, it's been ingrained in me that being a painter is not a legitimate occupation. Perhaps for other people, but not for me. My answer was that no, I cannot see myself doing anything else, except perhaps also writing. And teaching. I see myself as a painter who also teaches and writes.

So, from there we talked about my "job". And whether I could cut back my hours. She is concerned that in juggling so much and having so little time to actually paint, let alone read, research, and go look at art, that I am cutting myself short. That the two years will go by quickly, and I might not be positioned where I want to be to take the next step. She also expressed concern if I keep up this schedule that I might get sick and the whole thing will fall apart.

But, the money...for my daughter, for school, for travel, for supplies...

Dave said something on Sunday that I've been chewing on. He said that when he chose to be a chiropractor, he didn't say he'd try it out and if it didn't work, he'd be an electrician. That if you are a doctor, you're not a doctor because of your training. The core of who you are is oriented toward healing, diagnostics, everything that is a "doctor". You gain knowledge and training and skills in school -- but it's not the training that compels you.

Page and I are meeting again on Friday, Sept. 11. My goal is to have a minimum of 4 paintings to show her, including more work on both of the paintings are started last month. [oh, and no titanium white].

Monday, July 27, 2009

Residency Summary #1

Here is the summary for the first residency (just e-mailed off to my advisor today).

Jill Christian
Residency Summary - June 2009 - Group 1
Advisor: Laurel Sparks

The themes of this first residency are: increase my vocabulary, simplify, do a lot of painting. The main formal issues I need to work on for this semester are to vary my mark-making, refine my color, and explore spacial relationships. More open-ended questions were about my subject matter. As an abstract painter, what is it that I am trying to express and communicate? What is it that compels me to make this particular kind of painting? This semester my goal is to select a handful of the ideas for shaking up my current process and to explore color and mark-making. I approach my paintings intuitively, and I believe the discipline I impose will help me grow my understanding of the processes I use and that through working I will discover my subject matter.

My first group crit was with Michael Newman. He felt that the paintings are generic in that they show a “certain facility within already established limits.” This feedback was challenging for me to consider objectively and rattled me a bit. At the same time, it is important for me to separate myself from the work during the evaluation process (as separate from the painting of it). I believe this assessment is valid, and I need to think about what makes the work generic and how I might change this through interrogating my process and what interests me about my source materials.

Tony Apesos agreed in that my painting vocabulary feels “circumscribed” (I interpret this as meaning I’m using a limited, narrowly restricted mark-making vocabulary). He said that there is a way that I’m painting that reminds him a bit of Cecily Brown; maybe de Kooning. It’s not bad, but the important question is what do I do with that and where do I go next?

Tony thought that my paintings seem to be about an overlay of mark in “a kind of thicket of paint” and how that creates a sense of space. If the mark is the subject, I should explore varying my marks (1).

While I got positive feedback about my sense of color and the energy of my gesture, the feeling was that I should explore restraint. In other words, I should be more deliberate and selective, not only in mark-making but in color and composition. There is an all-over quality (and maybe a “horror vacui”*see note) that can be confusing and end up being a “knot of color” with no place for the eye to rest. The massed marks were most successful where thin and fat co-exist, with things escaping out of the edges.

Suggestions for pushing my mark-making included:

• Try oils (2).
• Push the size of the strokes. Get big house brushes, squeegees. Try really small brushes. Think about those two things next to each other.
• Vary the type of mark-making. There’s a lot of thick stuff going on. Try more subtle applications, through glazes and other methods.
• Spend a month on one canvas. See what happens to the energy of the piece. See what happens if you use panel and you don’t have the give.

I start a painting by selecting a photograph or sketch and draw right on the canvas with paint, usually with the primary color I want, and then rough the composition in with bigger shapes. At the same time, I begin to build up brush strokes. I was asked if I’d thought of further abstracting the photos I use as source material. For example, overlay the photo with velum to obscure the image -- “dumb it down” to force me to start big rather than with lines.

I stop the painting when it’s the end of that session in the studio -- when some other commitment makes me stop, or I run out of energy. I struggle to maintain the same energy and perspective when I try to go back in on a different day. I was asked to consider setting specific time constraints for a painting, for example, give myself a half hour to do one painting. Another day carve out six hours and stay with the painting -- no matter what. Laurel said to look for an uncomfortable place to stop.

• Set up arbitrary rules to break habits and expand vocabulary. Use a timer.
• Start opposite my convention.
• Experiment with proportions, distortion, asymmetry.
• Journal. Track my states of mind and emotions as I am painting
• Spend a month on a single piece. See how that varies the energy over time.

As with my mark-making, I need to be more definitive in my color choices. Using only my intuitive sense of color inhibits the development of a larger color vocabulary. The paintings with a narrower color range read better, and the group felt that I would benefit from using more grays and mixing more. Heather thought that the colors are all very “high” and sweet. It was suggested that the high color might be the result of working in acrylics and not using wet on wet techniques(3). I also got feedback that the palette was borderline “pretty” and that there are too many jewel tones competing. I need to pay attention to variation within a color and the overall tone of the color range. A lot of color washes out to peach, and I should look at how colors can be used to create illusion and depth, since a lot of my paintings read as flat. Jan asked me to think about what compels my palette.

Color recommendations included:
• The paintings are chalky (through the use of white). Try transparency/glazing instead of using white to mix lighter colors. Create translucency.
• Look at the Golden website color mixing section. Do color exercises (e.g., paint with a “dead palette”: Venetian red, yellow, ochre, black, white). Use some "school" ideas such as the use of complementary colors to achieve push/pull. Look at how Hans Hoffman does this.
• Fully research and work with value relationships of one color.
• Make my own “Pantone forecasts” to develop my color sensibility. Pick colors I see off the street, etc.
• Look at art just for the color palette.

It was suggested that I reconsider my use of standard size formats. I seem to be hitting the edge of the canvas and the paintings feel like they want to go beyond the borders of the canvas. I was told that it feels like my full body is involved. When I paint, the physical energy of my body to energizes the brush on the canvas, and I like to move while I paint, which I would like to maintain. Body position might be an issue and it was suggested that I change things so that I have to change my body position.

Recommendations included:
• Work larger.
• Open up the format. Work in three formats and do 3-4 paintings in each: just off square horizontal, vertical, and square.
• RJ suggested that when choosing size, I first consider the context of my subject, rather than get a bunch of 40x40s and start painting. The size is a huge way of how we experience the painting.
• Put the canvas on the floor see if it changes my engagement with the work.

Composition / Space
In the context of my mark-making and color, I received a lot of feedback about how space is or is not created in my paintings. There was an overall sense that my paintings sit on the surface and need more depth. A number of people wanted there to be more locations for the viewer to enter and they were most engaged where there is contrast, figure-ground, and spacial relations. The mark-heavy paintings seemed to hold the viewer on the surface.

I feel that the suggestions about mark, color, and format will help me work with this. I feel the biggest impact will come from me following the suggestion to spend more time returning to the same canvas -- going back, simplifying, and making decisions. My studio practice this semester will include longer sessions and multiple sessions. I want to explore how I feel about spacial issues: am I working figure-ground? Am I working with attmosphere? What is form and what is gesture? Do gestures become form?

Observations and recommendations included:

• Imagine the surface as a stage with different ways to enter. How do I want the viewer to experience coming in out and around? Colors and lines can be characters and have a presence. Think about the way a color shape sits in relationship to other characters.
• Make bolder decisions (see Philip Guston, Cecily Brown).
• Use a viewfinder to look at compositions as I am working.
• Play with the ambiguity of what is closer and further away in the picture plane.

Content / Decision making
Tony asked me “What are these paintings about for you?” He said that if I am making a mark, I am making decisions. That content helps you decide which marks to make and how to make them. Also, you can’t know if you’re done with a painting without some kind of criteria in mind. In the critique, my group talked about how the criteria for what you do usually comes from content, or something that you are trying to express – the thing that is giving you the push to make the painting, even if it not visible(4).Similarly, a lot of discussion in the Critical Theory One seminar was about an artist needing a bigger reason to paint than mere self-expression.

In my artist statement I say that I am expressing emotion and energy that I see and feel in response to something I am looking at. It might be something in the landscape or my environment, a figure, or a photograph. When I spoke to Melissa Kulig, she summarized my process saying, “So you’re referencing something and you’re wildly abstracting it and you’re trying to express your interpretation of the thing -- something different than the original -- that being…?” The answer to the question, “what is it that is different from the original” is what I need to explore this and future semesters by thinking more concisely about what it is that I am trying to express. One suggestion was for me to document and journal about my process, and I believe this will help me be more self-aware and clarify what about painting is important to me.

Suggestions for exploration were:

• Explore my “oddness” as opposed to my generic/gestural style.
• Reproduce paintings. Study paintings. Put my work in dialog with the history of painting. For example, notice how Titian uses a particular color. Set up tasks.
• Try to render an illusionistic still life and then obstruct it. Go into it, over it, and through it.
• Think what it would be like to look from the inside of something out instead of outside in.
• Nourish my interests outside of painting. Feed the soul, do outside reading, and let it seep in and percolate. Readi about nature, Emerson, Thoreau, Transcendentalists.
• Discover my “taste” and where my taste comes from. Identify artists who I like. Identify artists who I don’t like and figure out what gets under my skin.
• Do a lot more painting. Develop a daily practice.

This semester I am going to focus on what I am putting in to my paintings – the marks, the color, the tools, and the process. I believe that discovering what my paintings are about will come through exploring my process, pushing my use of formal painting elements, journaling, and paying attention to what interests me. As part of that discovery, it was suggested that I explore the “lineage” of the artists that I look at and research this semester.

Note: horror vacui. The fear of empty spaces (cenophobia) is the filling of the entire surface of an artwork with detail (see wikipedia).

Artists to research
• Amy Sillman (esp. First Person Singular. Look at range of marks and space.
• Josh Smith (look at for collage, lush lines)
• Charline von Heyl
• Jacqueline Humphries
• Mary Heilmann (for nuance)
• Elizabeth Neel
• Albert Oehlen
• Cecily Brown
• Philip Guston
• Rodin (figurative watercolors)
• Turner (Slave Ship)
• Francis Bacon
• Marlene Dumas (painting of her daughter)
• Barbara Takenaga (for her use of movement, depth using a limited vocabulary)
• Elinor Carucci’s portrait of Cecily Brown (art andcommerce.com)
• Late Picasso (John Richardson’s Picasso biography, 17th c. portraiture, Catalog for Picasso: Mosqueteros show at Gagosian)
• Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, late de Kooning
• Brice Marden
• Terry Winters

Reading list
David Batchelor, Chromophobia
Briony Fer, On Abstract Art
Gary Garrels Oranges and Sardines
Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as Model
Vicky Perry, Abstract Painting Concepts and Techniques (for vocabulary)
Barry Schwabsky, Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting
Raphael Rubenstein, Provisional Painting. Art in America, May 2009
“Parkett” (www.parkettart.com)

Other recommended reading
Klaus Kertess (curated the Whitney Biennial)
Maurice Tuchmann, et al. The Impact of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943): de Kooning, Pollock, Dubuffet, Bacon
Margaret Livin, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing
John Hyman, The Objective Eye
Karsten Harries, Meaning of Modern Art (SPEP)
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
James Elkins, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing
Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1960-1993
Barry Schwabsky, Alison Gingeras, The Triumph of Painting, The Saatchi Gallery
Merlo Ponti, Phenomenology of Perceptions
Frank Stella, Working Space
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Harold Rosenberg, The American Action Painters” (1952 essay, out of print)
Maurice Tuchmann, et al. The Impact of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943): De Kooning, Pollock, Dubuffet, Bacon
Hans Hoffman (Small book, on moving in and out of space. Search for the Real?)

(1) In the small group critique on June 21, we discussed mark-making. Tony Apesos asked, “what happens when mark contradicts meaning?” He went on, saying that we like pictures; more than real things, in a different way. The way the objectness of a painting separates us from imageness of the picture—the flicker between image and object. It’s there and not there at the same time. Mark making both shows us the thing we are looking at – it describes the form – and at the same time pushes us away and establishes the materiality of the painting. There’s a tension of creating the image within the structure that’s containing it. Tony talked about how 16th century Venetian painting does both: there’s richness of paint and richness of imagery. They were experimenting with paint for the first time. And, Tintoreto and the others were training their audience how to appreciate this new type of painting.

(2) Tony Apesos thought I would like the mark-making possibilities of oil. When acrylic dries through evaporation, the mark relaxes and actually loses volume. Oil expands as it dries and absorbs oxygen. He thought that would be a difference I might like. Impastos will stay crisper. But it would require some changes in strategy like working more paintings at once because I won’t be able to pile up paint. I’d need to wait in order to do wet over dry. But, it would allow me to do something I’m not doing, which is wet on wet. If I stick with acrylic, look at Golden retarders; open acrylics.

(3) A number of people (RJ, Heather, Brenda, Tony) suggested trying oils. (Laurel says maybe not). The idea was that oil would allow me to mix on the canvas. It would slow down my decisions.

(4) Tony said that it’s important to distinguish what you are trying to express from what gets communicated. They are not the same thing. What we express is not necessarily what the viewer sees. As artists the only thing we can really care about is expressing. The viewer cares about communication. If as an artist you start caring about communication, that is when you start doing propaganda or kitsch.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

30 Day Painting 7/25/09

From 30 Day Painting #1 (June/July 2009)

This is the latest incarnation of my 30-day painting. I am documenting my process on a single painting. This was one of my assignments as I tend to knock off a painting and never go back to it. I am forcing myself to spend lots of time with one painting to start playing with mark, spacial relationships and color. If you click on the link below the image, you can see what's happened over the last few visits to the canvas.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Palette collecting

Yesterday after work I stopped at a local used bookstore. I found an unbelievably pristine (and cheap) copy of Rosalind Krauss's "The Originality of the Avante-Garde and Other Modernist Myths". Then, I stumbled upon a book on Rubens (below is a pic of The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus) and a book on Indian miniatures. I've been thinking about Michael Newmann's suggestion to repaint paintings, and the idea of borrowing a color palette from another artist (thanks Jeffrey!). I love Ruben's luscious use of the paint. It's delicious and sensuous. And I love the brightness and purity and vibration of the Indian miniature paintings.

This weekend I plan to work on a color palette and trace the images on to mylar or tracing paper like Heather suggested. I would like to merge these paintings.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Biltmore Blue Revisited

Finally got to paint tonight (thank you life!). Ran to the rental after work and painted the back bedroom, picked Kiera up at 7:30, ran home, quick story, lullaby, night-night. Thank god Dave made some salmon and veggies (thank you!). Paint. It's 11:00 and I know I have to get up at 5 am for work...
Tonight I painted two quick sketches on paper from the Phoenix photos. I also went back to my 30 day painting (I switched my 30-dayer to the square painting 'cause I'm liking the horizontal painting). I am not sure what on earth I'm doing. I painted out some big areas and then felt like I needed to slap on some white with a palette knife. Didn't quite look right, so went in with gray on some edges. I like complexity, but I am not sure I can handle it. I've been looking at the Pollock monograph and wonder who says your eye needs to rest?

This weekend I'm hoping to get up to Santa Fe to see a show of Dirk De Bruycker. I need to run up there first thing...I've got to pick Kiera up at noon. On Sunday I want to take Kiera to the Art Santa Fe art fair. [Didn't end up going. Wasn't finished with my paper. On Sunday we had the kids fill bags of stuff to donate. Now you can actually see what is in their rooms. How do kids collect so many trinkets? And Halloween candy from last year?!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Biltmore Blue

Spent the weekend in Phoenix. Hot. 114 degrees. The pool felt hot. As you walked anywhere near asphalt, the temperature assaulted you. Lungs felt hot. Smells were stronger.

Saw a great dance band Cold Shot and The Hurricane Horns at The Rhythm Room on E. Indian School. Stayed at an outrageously expensive hotel (The Phoenix Biltmore) for like $80.00 (thank you, Dave and Kayak.com alerts). Got to meet up with great friends for brunch today at the Grande Orange. Saw an incredible dust storm at sunset fill the horizon with purple orange gray. Hung out in the art section at Borders and purchased three books: "Pollock" (Emmerling), "de Kooning" (Hess), and "Why Art Cannot Be Taught" (Elkins). Read "Oranges and Sardines".

For some reason I was taken with the pool furniture and the blue and tan everywhere. I liked the way things were left by people: crumpled towels; two cups with red straws; two chairs facing each other. The presence still there but the people gone. And something about all the blue. Maybe because it was so hot and blue is supposed to be cool. The sun was so intense it created hard shadows and vivid colors. In Borders later in the day, I picked up a David Hockney monograph. I love the blue. Blue is so hard.

Friday, July 17, 2009

First meeting with mentor, Page Coleman

Over lunch today I met with Page Coleman, my mentor for semester #1. I am so excited to be working with her. She was a great choice. Here's a summary of some of the things we discussed.

- Schedule. Not ideal; challenging. So, how about getting up a little early (4:30-ish -- Dave's right eyebrow rises...4:30?..."Separate beds, maybe?") and using early morning to do quick painting work. Get some ink, some cheap paper. Start slapping stuff around and see what happens. The work you do that isn't supposed to be a finished object is as important as, if not more important than, the finished, polished piece. Page noted that she thinks art students are forced into "the series" frame work. Oh, and no excuses. We set up a very generous schedule of meeting every three weeks. There's NO WAY I'm going to embarrass my sorry ass by complaining to Page. She has worked very hard and juggled a lot of different things to make her art. Page seems very empathetic, but all of us are juggling this thing and trying to make it work. I get no gold stars for kvetching. I'm very grateful for a challenging schedule to keep me on track. I want to be pushed and challenged.

-As yin to the yang: Go back, go back, go back. I think Page was perhaps a bit dismayed(?) that I finish my paintings in one session. She encouraged me to keep working on the same paintings for multiple sessions with an eye toward the following:
  • Eliminate information. Many artists will work around a favorite area that's become precious to them. Sometimes the painting is stronger without them. She told me about a painting she was doing in school -- a figurative work. The figure held a fan. And she loved that fan. It was gorgeous and carefully worked. Her professor told her to get rid of it. She did and suddenly all kinds of areas started to pop and things started to happen.
  • Get out my old rolled up paintings. Paint over them, again, eliminating and simplifying. The eye needs a place to rest.
  • How do you make a quiet area interesting? It's much harder to work with quiet areas than with the gestural brushstrokes.
  • Try to stop thinking of this work I'm doing as finished pieces. Get rid of the preciousness. Don't be afraid to mess things up.
- Try working in different formats. Work some things flat (Heather at the residency recommended this).

- Go out and see other artists. Visit galleries, talk to artists, see if you can visit their studios. Page told me about an organization I'd never heard of before: The Contemporary Art Society (here in NM). I'm sending them an e-mail tonight to get on their mailing list. They're a non-profit and sponsor visits to artists' studios, collectors' homes, museums and other institutions and events with visiting artists and critics. Who knew? In tracking down their e-mail, I discovered "Friends of Contemporary Art". I love the description: "A support group of the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe with the primary mission of supporting the contemporary art program of the museum..." The next studio tour with foca is Sat. Sept. 26 (Nic Nicosia, Forrest Moses and Zachariah Rieke and Gail Rieke).

- Explore the history of contemporary art in New Mexico. Here's a start with an article in the New Mexico "Collector's Guide."

So, in summary, as Jan Avgikos suggested: daily practice. Nothing substitutes for time with your materials. I love the morning painting idea...groggy, grumpy, before the dawn, pushed by the first caffeine jolt of the morning. Sandwiched between situps and PB&J sandwiches... MESSY ART.

Oh. Almost forgot. Page said (when I squirmed about painting a painting in more than three hours, and maybe destroying precious "historic" (i.e., musty rolled up) paintings for the hell of it): it's supposed to be uncomfortable. Note: the things that feel most uncomfortable are probably the things I need to do most.

So, oh hell, bring on the discomfort. Hopefully I can make some really ugly paintings this semester that my mom would never want in her living room.

Addendum: How could I forget? Page loved the annoying assignment of setting a kitchen timer and changing brushes and paints when the bell goes off. Aargh. It's my destiny this semester.


I went out back before sunrise this morning to find some peace. I'm gripped in a bit of a panic. I know that I will make this work. But this morning I'm overwhelmed with the realities of working a 40 hr/wk office job, an hour drive each way to do school drop off/pick up/get to/from the office, prepping my old house for new tenants -- oh, and the studio. I goofed off Wednesday and came home last night at 8:00 pm thinking I'd have the evening to work: power outage. So, having no light to work by, I joined Dave and a friend of his on the candlelit patio. Nice. The power came on about 10:00 pm. So, here I am at the end of the week a wreck and frustrated about being away from the studio. Since the residency, each weekend (which is my only real time to work) has been sucked away -- 4th of July, maintenance work on the house. This weekend I've been surprised with a "mystery" trip. Then I miss two weekends in the studio while we go to Boston for my brother's wedding. I will bring some reading and painting materials with me. It will actually be great sketch and get ideas for a next series of paintings. Maybe instead of fretting about missing studio time this weekend, I'll see what ideas come up while I'm traveling.

Enough kvetching. Today I make a big bold calendar for me and my family showing when I am available and unavailable. I know I will figure this out. I have no choice. For the moment, it just feels so big and daunting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movies and books this week

Dave and I rented "Revolutionary Road"(here's the NY Times movie review) over the weekend. It left us both a bit despondent. We talked a lot about the characters and the historical period the movie was set in... The beginning of the mass market and the American consumer culture. I picked up the book (Richard Yates) and started reading it last night. I thought of Heather and her big green painting with the Plasticville house.

Tonight I am playing hookie from MFA work I should be doing and watching "Inkheart" with Dave. I'll make it up tomorrow night and Friday. I *love* Cornelia Funke and we both devoured the series. I love reading kids lit... love Ursula LeGuin, C.S. Lewis, "The Little Princess," "The Secret Garden." My daughter gives me an excellent excuse to indulge in all these wonderfully nostalgic literary experiences.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Painting Notes - July 11 (2)

Second painting worked on today. Working off two photo references. Tried to focus on using large brushes, minimizing palette (yellow ochre, burnt sienna, alizarin, black, white--couldn't help putting in blue/green. I am not so happy with the mark making in this one [7/15 edit that: I am trying out some new things; some of which will really suck :-)]. It feels like I've substituted one form of "generic" for another. I think I've seen a painting almost just like this somewhere... I think in part the quality of the marks is impacted by working larger with larger brushes. I really need to change strategy as far as how much paint is on my palette (threw away the muffin tins for large rectangular cake pans). I need to mix a whole clump of nice paint at once, or else I end up with these scratchy, washy, patches. On the other hand, I'm relearning my materials.

I also realized that I rely on references as I paint much more than I'd been admitting. Part way through the paintings I realized I was craving some imagery to work off of. I sifted through my photos and found the right images. Having that base allowed me to be much more spontaneous and free. I'm not interested in reproducing what I see -- in fact I like combining different photo references at different points in the painting. But I like responding to something visual/physical.

In my first crit at AIB, my painting was assessed as "generic". That I'm operating in this already established framework. That's been on my mind. I don't want to obsess about it, but I think it speaks to me still searching for my own voice.

Painting Notes - July 11

Session 2 7/11/09

Session 1 7/4/09

Paint Made Flesh

Image: Jenny Saville. Hyphen, 1999. Oil on canvas, 108 x 144 in. Private Collection, Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
While researching Jenny Saville, I ran across what looks to be a fantastic traveling exhibition, put on by the Frist Center in Nashville. Paint Made Flesh will be at The Phillips Collection (Washington, DC) from June 20-Sept. 13, 2009, and at Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester, NY) from Oct. 24-Jan. 3, 2010. Wish there was some way to travel to see this show! Looking at the images reminded me of how much I love working with the figure, though I've moved away from figurative work over the past few years.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Painting Notes - July 4

Started three paintings today. There were five things that were recommended during the residency that I tried to keep in mind: state of mind/barometer; larger format; larger brushes; limited palette; one canvas to work on for long period of time.

Barometer: Rushed, "perfectionist", annoyed with working space.
Size: I picked 52x52, 42x63 (long painting); 42x34.
Brushes: Ran into some issue with the brushes -- I have one decent large brush, and I have been using muffin pans to mix my colors and need bigger containers
Palette: It was HARD to restrain myself. I felt hesitant.

So, the big successes were getting started, re-organizing my studio (removed the L from my office desk and a storage cabinet to give me another wall for painting), managing to find 3-hours on a holiday weekend while spending time with my family, prepping for a cookout, and showing my rental home to potential tenants.

It was harder than expected to "follow the rules". I work so intuitively, and I felt a little blocked and rebellious. That's okay, though. I'm just trying some different approaches to see what will happen. I usually finish my paintings in one or two sessions. I'm interested to see what happens to these three paintings as I go back to them over the next week or two.

Here are the results:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Laurel suggested that I check out http://a.aaaarg.org/. Here's what the site is about:

AAAARG is a conversation platform - at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal. AAAARG was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new architectures between them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Back to life...

Wherever you go...
Back to real life in New Mexico after an incredible first residency at AIB. I'm still absorbing the experience -- loved meeting the other artists in the program and was absolutely amazed at the incitefulness and willingness to be open and helpful. I am excited to get into the studio this weekend. But first, I'm typing up notes so that I can write up the residency summary (I very much want to get it in ahead of schedule since I'm back to Boston August 1 for my brother's wedding).

Balance of theory and feeling
One theme I felt weaving itself through the residency was the push and pull between theory and emotion. In one camp the insistence that an artist (particularly a painter) needs to be able to articulate (and justify perhaps?) the meanings and reasons for their work, in the other the assertion that an artist needs to be free of the paralysis of overthinking in order to express. Not sure I quite captured this idea completely, but good enough for now. I think it's perhaps the themes of modernism and post-modernism still gutting it out.

Right now I'm thinking about something that was said during one of the crits. Tony asked us the question, "what is it that moves you to paint?" For all of us, there is something that motivates us to paint and to paint certain things and in certain ways. There's something we want to express. So I've been thinking, what is it that moves me to paint? Because there's a reason that I feel the need to paint (and paint abstractly) as opposed to do something else.

What I think I’m trying to express is the energy that I feel when I look at something. I’m moved by something and I’m trying to capture that response, or maybe capture a little bit of what’s going on with the thing I’m looking at. I'm usually looking at something: a figure, a landscape, and interior, a photograph... something. So I think about why I am looking at a vase of flowers for example. Is it about the objects? Or could I just completely go more abstract -- not even look at the vase. How important is it for me to actually have that literal subject? My hunch is that it's very important.

I started reading "Chromophobia" and "Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing". I like the idea of pairing a book that looks at the cultural meanings and history of color (that's my inept summary for now) with a book describing the nuts and bolts of how humans perceive color.

I've got an assignment to not forget to feed my soul in all this. So far on the music front, I'm listening to the soundtrack from "Barbie and the Diamond Castle"--over and over and over--hopefully my 6-year-old will move on soon.

Still looking for a mentor in New Mexico and in the processing discovering some very interesting artists right in my back yard.