Friday, February 20, 2009

Seeking series: "Rootless"

oil on linen, 20x16 in.

I've been working on this one off and on for about two weeks, a layer of glaze or scumble at a time. Nearly done yesterday, but I felt the tree still needed depth and structure. Late last evening, in my nightclothes and ready to go to bed, I visualized something and took a palette knife to the tree, scraping away lines to reveal a skeletal interior. Too late to really see how the results looked, I went to bed, and this morning rubbed a very thin layer of medium into the tree with a sturdy brush to soften the scrapings.

Now it is done. (Well, probably.)

Because it is so fresh, the photo has a bit of glare where I reworked it. That will matte out in a day or so. When it is time to varnish, I will use a non-glossy varnish for this one.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seeking series: "Passage"

" Passage"
watercolor on hot press, 7 x 9 in

I decided to explore this particular spatial arrangement for a while, to see what I could do within its constraints. I'm finding it very freeing, actually. I have a sense of seeking when I am painting them. I know my mind is deriving the forms from my environment, but they are going through some interesting permutations before they emerge into my awareness. Sometimes that doesn't even happen until the paint lets me know what it wants to do. It's not entirely unconscious: more like going with the flow.

At some point during the last several months, I began recognizing that a certain feeling of frustration begins to set in just as I am about to make a major shift, and increases the longer I work at it. For a long time, I thought that feeling of frustration was because I did not have the slightest idea what I was doing. Which in a way is true, but is actually beside the point. I finally realized that the frustration is both inevitable and necessary. It means I am going in the right direction and am seeking the path: I just don't see it yet. I have learned to look forward to that feeling: it is exhilarating if I stand back and let it happen.

I have three more of this configuration in various stages of completion: looks like a series of something. Maybe I'll call it the "Seeking" series.

The watercolor came about because a painter friend of mine mentioned that she has been working in watercolors after working in soft pastels for a while. Last night, needing to leave off the oils, I wondered if I could do one of these in watercolor. There it is.

Time to take the bread out of the oven and put another log in the heating stove.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Today's Part 2... an experiment

Yesterday I gessoed a scrap of watercolor paper, about 4 by 8 inches, to try an experiment. I have used soft pastel to add detail to oil paintings in the past, and have also at times used oil medium to give special effects to my pastel paintings. The pigments are soluble in oil mediums (they are, after all, exactly the same pigments used in all fine art paints). I wanted to see how it would work to put a thin film of oil medium on a gessoed surface and then paint into it with my pastels.

I picked out a few odd slivers of pastels nearly used up. I rubbed the flats over the surface, overlapped and blended edges, drew lines, used my painting knifes to make marks or to press the pigments down-- all kinds of things. It was not a masterpiece of painting, but a freeing up from the constraints of pastels, and an opening up of possibilities. I felt such satisfaction and delight. It makes me want to experiment with more media, look for ways to manipulate paints and pigments with other things in my painting.
Oh my, oh my.

Seeking series: "Settling In"

oil on linen panel, 12x9 inches

I've been experimenting on bits of paper and having a lot of fun. Gradually incorporating abstraction into my paintings. Now I'm starting to deliberately work in expressionist abstractionism (whatever that really is- I phrase it that way because it is really NOT what some people refer to as abstract expressionism-- whatever THAT is) on some of my linen panels and stretched linen. Building layers of paint, playing with how the different layers interact. Feeling what the paint is telling me. This feels right: it's where I've been heading all along. I'll be adding in other media along the way, too.

I'm not sure if this piece is quite finished. I'll set it aside and work on some other things, and then see if it is calling for more.
NOTE: I've now got several paintings in this general format, which seem to be forming a series for me. I'm calling the series "Seeking". And this one is, indeed, finished.

"Ridgeline" revisited

"Ridgeline" reworked
oil on linen panel, 12x9 in.

This is the same painting I posted on December 2nd (you can see it here). I did not like the perspective or the flatness, and so a few days ago I reworked it to introduce a more intimate perspective and stronger contrast. I like it better, but at this point I am moving so quickly into a more expressionist abstract style that I can't say it grabs me. Though I've found that if I let something sit around for a while, sometimes it will grow on me. We'll see. And then there is always the fact that what doesn't appeal to one person, really resonates for someone else. So perhaps out there is a person waiting for just this painting... or maybe it will eventually become a different painting.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ute Reservation Sentinal Tree

Ute Reservation Sentinel Tree (work in progress)
oil on canvas, 20x16 in

I drove past this tree any number of times, which is probably why I can't remember just exactly where it is now. Except that it is on the Ute Reservation in Colorado, just after coming into it from somewhere else on a rarely traveled back road (which is why it was my preferred route). The only tree on a narrow wedge after the road climbed onto the mesa, it was always like a welcome sentinal to me. And that is what I remember. I could figure out where by looking at it in context with the photos I took on the same roll (pre-digital), but it doesn't really matter. What matters is how this mesa and this tree are part of who I am.

Of course, being the only tree on a bluff accounts for its somewhat bedraggled appearance. It is, inevitably, a lightning tree. The inside is living, but the outer limbs are skeletal and reddened from weathering where the lightening traveled down the outside of the tree and killed the tips of branches.

It is to me, nonetheless, a beautiful tree. I hope to go back to that bluff and I hope it is still there to welcome me.

Of course I have photos as well as memories, and when I came across the photos one day last fall, I set them aside so that I could make a painting as well. It is coming slowly, because I wanted the feeling, not just an ordinary landscape. This canvas has been on and off my easel for several weeks, as I felt my way through how best represent it. It is still in progress, though I think I am near now. I ordered some zinc white to mist in the lower sky and below the bluff, and some terra rosa for the tree's "lightning aura". And that may be it.

This may be the last "realistic" painting I do for a while (though I do have one reworked that I will post after it dries). I have several other paintings in various stages, and all are explorations of shape and color and composition that draw on but do not represent real things. So freeing, so much fun. More in another post.