Sunday, December 29, 2013

year-end reflections

As the year draws to a close, I still feel that something has changed as a result of my residency at the Centre d'Art i Natura last fall. I'm still not sure what that something is. The sensation of being in transition that I referred to in my last post continues, and not only at the easel. (Actually, I have spent very few hours in the studio since I last wrote: Painting just isn't on my daily agenda at the moment.) I am seeking and reaching new ground in playing cello and in studying Buddhism, both reflecting a deeper understanding of some basic principles: being in the moment, acting mindfully, treating myself and others with kindness, respect, and compassion.

My motives and my orientation seem to have shifted. The principal activities of my life, especially these three most personal ones, are becoming integrated as diverse expressions of a single, coherent perspective. My attention is turning outward rather than inward, toward the expression of beauty, gratitude, and joy through personal action whether at the easel or music stand, or in encounters with other people.

2013 is ending for me with a sense of completion. I am tired of being introspective about painting; it is time to glean what I can from this most recent period of reflection, and get on with things. I am comfortable with adopting the values of Abstract Expressionism, with being non-representational, spontaneous, and emotive in my art. The Colorado Plateau remains my motif and my muse: the landforms, the skies, the space. Other than that, it is time let the big questions lie, and see where my materials and my process take me.

The image above is a 12"x 12" piece started last summer and finished last month.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

processing change


Ten days after arriving home from Farrera, the results of my artist residency are as unsubstantial as my project proposal was. Yet I would term the experience an unqualified success. It is as hard to describe the outcome as it was to describe the original idea that I wanted to pursue. Yet after four or five studio sessions here at home, it is clear that I am painting from a different place than I was before the challenges and discipline of the residency.

I am more relaxed, less hurried, more involved in the process and in small refinements. I have a sense of more resources at my disposal, and a greater awareness of the variety of techniques available to me. I am glad to get back to cold wax and oil, but am also glad to know about the possibilities of acrylics.

I have reacquainted myself with my studio and my materials by finishing up some old pieces such as that above (8" x 8"), and have put initial layers down on two large fresh panels without any specific plans or ideas. I just want to get my hands wet, as it were. I have a sense of waiting for something, whether inspiration or energy, I am not sure. I can't just pick up where I was before the residency, because something has changed. But I am not clear about what it is, and it feels right to just take some time off and let whatever it is come into sight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

coming to a close

My last day in Farrera. I have been painting spontaneously these last few days, using up materials and just letting process flow. The last trio of pieces is unfinished (the one at left, 16"x 20", is definitely a localized palette), but I am pleasantly happy with where they are going. I asked Phyllis, to whom I sent photos, if she thought they looked like "my" work, and she said yes. And when Lluis came to choose the piece to be donated to the Center, he also chose from this final trio. Both of these responses seem to validate my own satisfaction with them.

Phyllis asked me if I feel that the pieces look like my own. I'm not sure. Certainly they have characteristics similar to to other work I've done, yet they are the result of a looser and more casual process than I usually undertake. Part of what I like about them is their very looseness and informality. On the other hand, these are certainly not definitive pieces, and are almost throwaways. Indeed, I probably won't finish them, but will take them home, as reminders of what I've done here.

So after literally weeks of pushing my own limits, and of questioning nearly everything I do in the studio, it is hard to come to any conclusions. I have recognized that my orientation is toward abstract landforms rather than close-up details, or surfaces, or actual landscapes. I like to have structure and shape in my paintings, but these are referential rather than representational. I have gained strength from my experiments and from the persistence of showing up every day and keeping going. I think that the conclusions, if any, will come later, after I have returned to my own studio and my own environment, and can explore where this experience leads me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

mid-residency report

Most of my time here in Farrera has been spent exploring the moods and emotions that I bring to painting, and that painting invokes in me. I spent the first week of my residency trying hard to paint from a place of emotion, and just got frustrated. I don't paint emotionally, but rather from responses and impressions to what is around or in front of me. Music contacts my emotions; visual art fills a different role and expresses a different side of me. The image at left is one of the works, 16" x 20", that resulted from that first week of work.

My second experiment, inspired by my recent contact with Diebenkorn's work, was to paint from representational compositions, approaching them abstractly and trying to express an emotional response to the original scene. The emotional aspect again did not work, and after struggling for a few days, I also realized that I was dividing my process into two parts, starting a piece figuratively and then abruptly switching to abstraction. The transition occurred when I got frustrated or bored with the restrictions or misdirections of the figuration. At that point, however, I would resort to compositional knowledge, seldom referring to the initial scene, and working randomly rather than following a plan. Working from representation doesn't seem to work for me, just as planning the process in advance does not work.

My overall project here is to bring increased personal meaning into my work. The question remains, how to do that? I thought to take as my model abstract expressionism, which is non-representational, seeks spontaneity, and looks for emotional intensity. My finished work is definitely not representational. Since a strong element in cold-wax painting is to let the process lead, it also invokes spontaneity. The remaining issue is that of emotional intensity or, put another way, personal meaning. But it is not working to try to force that.

Where to go next, in my final week here? What do I want my paintings to convey? I still want to find a theme that is mine, a vocabulary that is mine, an internal geography that is mine. Perhaps I should work instinctively and responsively, and not try to force “meaning”. My own vocabulary/geography will evolve naturally.

During the first part of the residency, I've tried to (a) work from emotion, and (b) work from figuration. Neither has worked very well, but they did lead me to the insight that I was dividing the process. Yesterday I started three new pieces, neither trying to define what I was saying nor consciously using any internal geography or vocabulary. Just painting, seeing what comes from the momentum of the past two weeks. The experiment continues.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

world enough and time

My thoughts about being in Farrera are evolving with time, so I thought to capture some before they morph into the next iteration.

An early reaction, not unexpectedly, was an appreciation of the luxury of time and place.
I have no obligations beyond studio activities, and the Centre is isolated amid natural beauty, which encourages a continual focus on making stuff. I have all the time in the world to follow a creative spark, to nurture it into flame, and to bank the fire and let it rest until later if I want to.

After a first few days of excitement and adjustment, I could feel myself beginning to relax into the flow of time and process, letting go of cares and worries not related to painting. I realized that this time is also an opportunity to let go of tensions that I carry around about painting itself: the fear of losing an idea, of trying to control the process, of pushing production. I made a resolve to use my time here to sink more deeply into the flow, to explore, not to worry about finishing anything, to trust myself to move in the right direction.

This all sounded wonderful, and I have let myself relax quite a bit. I even have spent time just sitting on my little balcony and enjoying the view. In the studio, however, I find that at least some of my demons have accompanied me here. I'm writing this partly to remind myself of what I said above, because it is too easy to slip back into old patterns once I settle down to work.

When I am not in the studio, I take walks, meditate, listen to music, cook lunch, but nothing that really takes me away from the creative process. I muse a lot. I breathe. I feel as though I am still trying to slow down. After sort of letting go of any structure to my day at first, I now have imposed a tad of discipline, to keep myself in the studio and engaged with the materials rather than letting myself avoid them.

The isolation of Farrera helps: there is literally nothing else to do, in the sense of places to go or people to see. Until we gather for dinner at 9 p.m., everyone here is working on his or her own projects. As my paintings progress and need time to dry, or need time for the next idea to come along, I am unpacking more and more of the peripheral materials that I brought, and playing with them. I am sure that this is a good thing, and something that I hardly ever take the time to do at home. My studio is so lovely and big (see above) that I can have everything out and visible. An initially empty space except for tables and chairs, it is slowly filling with works in progress. The more it fills up, the more fun it is to come in, because there are so many more possibilities for exploration and development. All my media -- acrylics, watercolors, pastels, crayons, pencils, ink -- and all my tools are spread out where I can see them and reach them. It becomes easier and easier to spend time working, because I have a greater variety of things to work on. And because I have let go (well, almost) of the requirement that I take home finished pieces, I can work in the moment and not worry about the future. I think. I am going to try.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

transitions

After an uneventful, if long, journey from Bilbao by train, bus, and taxi, I am in Farrera, Spain, at the Centre d'Art i Natura for the start of my three-week artist residency. Farrera sits at the head of a valley high up in the eastern Pyrenees, as the photograph at left attests. The scenery is dramatic and all-encompassing, and as summer winds down, the first signs of the transition to autumn are evident in the trees and shrubs. There are still plenty of wildflowers to attract butterflies, but the wild berries are also fully ripe, and the birds are constantly in and out of the thickets.

Just as the seasons are in transition here, so this has been a transitional day for me. I unpacked and settled in, and could feel myself shifting from vacation mode into studio mode. By the time I took a walk in the afternoon, I could be fully present in the shifting sunlight and shadow, listening to birds and lizards rustling in the bushes, feeling the soft air on my face. I had spent much of the morning reviewing my thoughts and notes about the residency and the things that I would like to explore while I am here. I reveled in the luxury of not needing to turn my attention elsewhere: What a gift.

True to my intent to pay more attention to my inner state, I did sort of a mood assessment as I walked, and the main things I felt were peace and sheer pleasure in being here. I didn't try to take it any further, artistically. Although I spent the late afternoon getting my studio space organized and some panels ready to paint, the real work begins tomorrow. I have set up a few different projects, ranging from full-blown 16"x 20" acrylic paintings, to daily drawing exercises, to small watercolor impressionistic postcards. I want to give myself some choices of activity as I work my way more deeply into painterly expression. I also want to feel free not to need every piece to be successful, and the multi-project approach should help that. If I can keep my attitude one of curiosity ("what will happen if...?"), I should be able to avoid too many moments of discouragement. This is not the be-all and end-all of my painting life; it is just an opportunity to investigate deeply what I love to do.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tito Bustillo

The Tito Bustillo cave complex on the Atlantic coast near Ribadesella, Spain, contains works of paleolithic art on a par with those of Altamira and Lascaux. Horses, reindeer, bison, aurochs, female figures, each drawn within its own space according to the artist's intent. For these clearly were not casual or amateur works: They are too sophisticated, and the caves are too deep and too dark. Meanings about which we can only speculate. Layers of paintings on top of one another in the largest cavern: sequential interpretations of the human world across the ages? The continual improvement of the cathedral? Commenting on previous work?

The most important material -- the human figure, sexual symbols -- is hidden away at the back of the cave, in side caverns, hard to find but indicated by discreet marks in red, painted along the passageway.

The creation of these paintings captured my imagination as I stood before them. To paint within a circle of light, when all around you is silence and darkness, except perhaps for the murmur of the subterranean river. To render not from a live model but from your imagination and memory, and to do so so accurately. To not have a flat surface but rather the irregular and quasi-three-dimensional surface of a cave wall curving upward. The  dim firelight from the lamp in your hand wavering in the air, unsteady, flickering, making the image move even as it is created.

Red dots and outlines of hands dating back 40,800 years are records of the human (neanderthal?) instinct toward pictorial creation. These are possibly the beginnings of recorded communication. But the animals in Tito Bustillo signify much more, being truly artistic renditions. A male and female deer face each other, intertwined. A curve in the rock face is used to emphasize a neck or a haunch. Using color: black, red, white, even purple. Painting images on top of images, not obliterating but enhancing, interpreting. Leaving pentimenti.

My reaction is not so much awe as confirmation. The instinct to communicate through painting. The fascination with the materials and means at hand. The desire to improve, either one's own work or that which has come before. The joy of a curve. The creativity of a dot. Realism, impressionism, minimalism, abstraction, all present so long ago.

Friday, September 13, 2013

the matter of time

Jerome and I are in Bilbao, on vacation prior to my residency in Catalonia. At the Guggenheim museum here, I was captivated by the Richard Serra installation "The matter of time". It consists of eight elliptical pieces of torqued steel that each must be at least twenty feet tall. I had seen a film about its creation; to walk through it in person was an extraordinary experience. The photo at left shows one of the eight pieces, with a second in the background. It scarcely does the work justice, but may give a sense of its form and color.

The museum displays a statement by Serra about the installation:


The torqued ellipses, spirals, spheres and toruses exist in the polarity between the downward force of gravity and their upward rise in elevation which attempts to attain a condition of weightlessness. The sculptures are not objects separated in space but on the contrary they engender the spatial continuum of their environment. They impart form to the entire space, they shape the space through axes, trajectories and passages between their solids and voids.
I titled this installation The matter of time because it is based on the idea of multiple or layered temporalities. As one experiences each work in the context of the entirety of the installation one will become aware of the obvious diversity of durations of time. The meaning of the installation will be activated and animated by the rhythm of the viewer's movement. Meaning only occurs through continuous movement, through anticipation, observation and recollection. However, there is no prescribed view, no preferred sequence, no preferred succession of views. Each person will map the space differently. There is an unlimited range of personal experiences, but they all take place over time. When I talk about time, I do not mean "real" time, clock time. The perceptual or aesthetic, emotional or psychological time of the sculptural experience is quite different from "real" time. It is non-narrative, discontinuous, fragmented, de-centred, disorienting."

I read this as true, but to me it does not express adequately the experience of walking around and through the different works. I was very aware of the moment in time as I paced through them, yet there were other more salient, and perhaps more subjective, reactions that stay with me even now, hours later. The primary memory is that, for all their grandeur and monumentality, there was a curious sense of intimacy within and around the pieces. The sensuality of the curves and of the textures of the rusted steel seemed to embrace me in a very physical way. The installation invited slow and mindful movement, and there were moments when the particular shape of space, be it an opening, a passageway, or the end of a path at the middle of a piece, invited pause. The light on the surfaces shifted, and was sometimes matte sometimes lustrous, sometimes warmer sometimes cooler, sometimes lighter sometimes darker. The changes led one onward, to see what would happen next. In fact, curiosity is a major factor in experiencing the whole installation.

I wondered what it would be like to experience The matter of time in the open air rather than inside a building, and what effect weather and time would have on it. I decided that it would be a very difference experience to explore it outside with only natural light, and that while it would be interesting, there was something about it being inside that was part of its definition. Perhaps the ceiling and walls added to the sense of intimacy that was so strong for me. In fact, experiencing it outside could detract from much of its fascination. I wonder if this was part of Serra's reason for deliberately putting it inside.

All in all, this was an interaction with a work of art that was profound and, I think, lasting. It was such a physical experience, in addition to the psychological one. I wonder if a painting could achieve a similar effect.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

making a commitment

Here is the proposal for my residency project that I finally submitted today. Better late than never! At left is a photo of Farrera, the town in which the Centre d'Art i Natura (CAN) resides.
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The project that I plan to pursue during my residency at CAN is an introspective one, and I don’t know where it will lead. It has been difficult for me to define.

My desire is to develop the meaning that lies beneath the surface of my multi-layered abstract paintings. A scholar described Richard Diebenkorn’s work as having a “tension beneath the calm”, which comes close to what I mean. I want to explore the interior, subjective world from which I can create unique and personally meaningful work. The Abstract Expressionists used non-representational, painterly means to express individual spiritual and emotional themes. I want to explore for myself the “expressionist” side of that aesthetic.

I don’t really know what this means in concrete terms, except that until now, my work has consisted of interpretations of the external world around me. Clearly, these interpretations have my personal stamp on them, but they are created from an outward orientation and could be seen as merely artistic attempts to portray the beauty of the world around us .

I want to use the time at CAN to turn inward and paint from my own internal geography. I don’t know how I will do that, nor where it will lead me, but I do know that I need the extended period of solitude and focus that the residency will provide.

My rough plan is to begin by working both figuratively (drawing) and abstractly, and to focus on expressing mood and memory through those processes. This was the idea behind the theme of “raĆ­ces y tempestades” that I originally submitted. I want to explore questions such as: How does mood affect my choice of subject matter? And how can I portray that mood – through what medium, composition, palette? How do I react to specific subject matter, and how can I portray the reaction rather than the subject?

I need to allow mood and memory to play an explicit role in what I do. In the past, I have treated my work as more of an academic and intellectual exercise than an exercise in self-expression. I want to experience portraying a subject such that it reflects my own internal vocabulary rather than someone else’s.

Until now, I have referred to the external world and to other artists’ work as I developed my skills and visual vocabulary. I want to use the residency to refer not to external sources but to my own internal patterns, and to begin a new phase of work rooted in more personal terms.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

more on Diebenkorn

I have been thinking more about Diebenkorn's work, thanks in large part to the excellent essays in Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966, published to accompany the DeYoung exhibit. One writer remarked on Diebenkorn's "long and thoughtful evolution" of a painting, working on it until it was right. I do this, too, but not necessarily consciously or systematically. My criteria have tended to be visual and surface-related. Yet the process offers an opportunity to have my ideas "worked on, changed, altered" by the figurative/natural side of things, by what is out there, rather than by going more deeply into my own mind/imagination. To finalize a work by rechecking it against the real world and my reaction to it, rather than a somewhat arbitrary aesthetic finish, would be a different practice that would bring more depth to the work. As the same author said, Diebenkorn resolved the abstract values of pure painting in tension with nature/reality. The materiality of his abstract work is in tension with the “presentness” of natural form, so that imagination and observation somehow merge.

How do I interpret natural forms in relation to my own feelings? The horizon is important to me: It offers stability and a sense of distance, of objectivity, of calm. The Colorado Plateau, in its flatness, offers these qualities. These are things that I seek to render, emotionally, in my paintings. But there are so many other emotions to explore. How can I pursue them through landscape, since that is what I am drawn to? I could use my list of emotions/concepts to seek in the actual reality around me things that "say" that emotion, and paint them (abstractly, of course). Or, coming from a different direction, I could look at a landscape that attracts me and ask my self why it does so before turning to paint. In both cases, to find a landscape or still life "thing" that speaks to me of an emotion, then go beyond the specific forms and colors and transform them so that they disappear and leave the mood/emotion, the way a physical page disappears when you read a book.

This means reacting to the local earth forms and atmospheric conditions such as I find them at a certain moment, noting their emotional resonance, then using that actual landscape as both a source of inspiration and a point of departure. In Diebenkorn a sense of place is merged into the use of the actual moment and/or environment to provide a source for the projection and expression of thoughts and emotions. This takes the sense of place to a psychological or imagined level, where abstraction makes sense. Over time, a vocabulary develops, of subjects, themes, motifs, that are not specific to any given moment but are still grounded in an environment that is physical, specific, and real and that is reflected in the painting through light, color, composition, and other painterly qualities.

Another thought from the essays: If reworking a canvas, as Diebenkorn did, can be seen as a process of externalizing ideas and feelings, then leaving visible the evidence of that process in pentimenti gives extra meaning to the work. This reinforces my practice of leaving hints of lower layers visible, but it also refines it and gives it more meaning and purpose: that of externalizing the internal. It also justifies my tendency to slow down, even in sketching, to rework, take time, revise. I will do so with a greater and more conscious sense of purpose than I have before.

Diebenkorn himself emphasized that "all paintings start out of a mood, out of a relationship with things or people. This refers to another type of reality, beyond the figurative, that is external but also subjective. This seems like a good starting point for a painting, and returns me to the idea that I should think about the mood/relationship with the landscape or object that I am addressing before I start to paint it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

revisiting Diebenkorn

The work of painter Richard Diebenkorn has held meaning for me since before I ever picked up a paintbrush. His work has continued to inspire me as I develop my own painting career (see, for example my post of May 3, 2010).  During our recent trip to the Bay Area, we had the chance to see an exhibit of his work at the DeYoung museum in San Francisco. The exhibit focused on his years in Berkeley, CA, when he developed a strong abstract expressionist style (for example, Berkeley #19, 1954, at left), before turning to figurative painting. Later, living in southern CA, he returned to abstraction and produced his remarkable Ocean Park series.

What is it that draws me so to Diebenkorn's work? In part it is because there is a figurative reality beneath his abstraction, as this exhibition emphasized. Diebenkorn himself said that figuration gave him "something to come up against." This is like a clarion call to me, especially after my summer of study with David Dornan, when he forced me to ground myself in the reality of bricks even as I explored abstraction (September 24, 2010 post). Another aspect of Diebenkorn's work that speaks to me is that each painting, even the most abstract, tells a story. Storytelling as a part of abstraction seems almost an oxymoron, and yet, and yet, I think that the emptiness I have perceived in some of my own paintings is exactly the lack of a story. David Dornan also talked about telling stories, including about making the story one of an emotion, such as the tenderness of a mother and child referenced by a single rock at the bottom of a cliff. Diebenkorn said that working from a base of figuration not only provides external constraints compositionally, but also provides something to push against in terms of an emotional response.

I would like to incorporate more storytelling, which conveys emotion, in my work. In Diebenkorn there is a sense of tension between the two aspects of figuration/representation and emotion/intuition that I can sense but not articulate. In my own work, I have addressed the representational side, in terms of its abstraction, far more than I have the emotional, storytelling side. How to represent emotion, must less make it abstract? Or maybe abstraction is the vehicle to expressing emotion. Or maybe one begins with the story, then considers its emotion, and in making the story abstract, portrays its emotion.

How to approach this? I have an impulse to return to drawing (figuration) for a while, for inspiration, relaxation, and encouragement. It would be a welcome break from, as well as a complement to, working abstractly. Rendering the correct angles of a mountainside is a piece of cake compared to interpreting the mountain abstractly, yet it may also provide a doorway into how to portray that mountain on an emotional/intuitive level. Similarly, I think that for me still life could be a doorway into exploring the interior, personal world on a more accessible level than through the grandeur of a desert sunset. Still life can emphasize emotional states and intuitive perceptions (among many other things) in a close-up, careful way that invites compositional invention such as cropping, or skewing traditional linear perspective (i.e., abstraction) while still dealing with figuration. One quest is to find objects that resonate for me, as bottles did for Morandi.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

studio space

Summer schedules are made for interruptions, and although I've managed to put in regular studio time this month, it has been one to two hours a day rather than the three to four that I love. As is evident, blog posts have gone out the window.

I have been able to play some cello, though I am still strengthening my wrist. Out-of-town visitors have come and gone, a seriously ill friend needed help (she is better), gallery duty took up a week, and music festivals, barbecues, and a cycling race for which I volunteered all interrupted the daily flow. It has been a busy August.  Most recently, Jerome and I took a ten-day trip to northern California to see family and friends. It is all welcome as we celebrate high summer, but I am ready for quieter times.

Among the many activities of our time in California -- days filled to the brim with good socializing, good food, good wine, and general fun -- was a visit to my brother and sister-in-law's home on the north coast. There I visited Meg's new studio space for the first time, and was immediately taken with its roominess. She can have two or three work areas set up at once, and still have storage shelves, desk, and room to breathe. The ceiling is high, which adds to the sense of spaciousness.

I have always loved my little 12'x16' studio, and it has been more than adequate for my needs. Perhaps I should say, until now. It is beginning to feel cramped, especially since I usually work on three or four pieces at a time. As I also move to larger pieces, it is hard to have everything out at once, never mind with room to look and contemplate. And I have a feeling that I will want to continue exploring acrylic paints in addition to my oil and cold wax. It would be nice to be able to have both media easily at hand.

So I am actually thinking of looking for a space to rent where I will have some elbow room. There are two or three possibilities locally that I am aware of, and I haven't begun to ask around. I will see how I feel when I return from the residency in Spain. But the whole idea is contributing to my sense of new horizons, new possibilities. The photo above of the Pacific Ocean near my brother's home, and Meg's studio, alludes to that sense of expansiveness.

Friday, July 26, 2013

anticipation

I move through my days with the feeling that something special is happening, and it is clearly the anticipation of the residency in Farrera that is causing the mood. I have seldom in my life done something so forward looking, on my own, in a blatant and direct attempt to explore myself and my self-expression without impediment. Far from feeling narcissistic, the sense is rather a combination of opportunity and curiosity and excitement. A chance to be free for a while of the demands and expectations of others. To have the time and space to focus on my own demands and expectations, to reflect on my life and what I am doing, to celebrate existence and all the wealth that it contains. To not need to play external social roles that take me away from the centering sense of who I am and how I express my self. To come home to myself over a length of time that allows me, I hope, to arrive at a new level of understanding of how I relate to the world around me. Not the social world, but the natural world, and the spiritual world (for lack of a better term). The latter two come first, and the social world follows their dictates, in my little hierarchy of life.

That said, I came up against the proverbial wall today (I knew it was coming, though I'd hoped against). I am experimenting more freely with the various media that I plan to take along, and I'm feeling more comfortable with them, but I ran into barriers today that are not the materials but rather my use of them. In other words, signing up for a residency and playing with new paints has not answered the question of what I want to say and how I want to say it.

Still, those larger questions are what I hope to address in Farrera, and the fact that the same issues are cropping up in mixed-media-on-paper just as they did in oil-&-cold-wax-on-board should not surprise me. I guess I had hoped for a miraculous little leap over those same old difficulties that would leave the road wide open and unencumbered when I get to Spain.

Monday, July 22, 2013

preparations

Much of my energies over the past few weeks have gone into the practicalities of preparing for the residency at the Centre d'Art i Natura this fall. Just the logistics of getting myself and my materials to a tiny town high in the Pyrenees has required a certain amount of thought and research. I have finally determined that I can get there fairly easily by an early train from Bilbao, where Jerome and I will end our vacation, to Lleida, and then by bus the same day to Farrera.

Then there have been the hours in the studio working with acrylics, watercolors, pastels, and ink on a variety of supports, first to determine what materials most adequately produce the effects I want, and then to practice enough to feel comfortable with them. The last little project was to figure out how to transport those materials from home to the Centre safely and without too many separate pieces of luggage. The suitcase shown at left is inexpensive but well suited to carrying all my tools, paints, and supports together in a manner that I hope will fairly sail through customs. Then I can just leave it closed until I get to my temporary studio.

I want to spend more time in my studio here working with the materials, but I am less concerned about them than before, and will be ready to place an order for the supplies I will need in the next couple of weeks, giving them plenty of time to arrive before our departure on September 11th. This coming week I hope to clear my mind of this clutter of practicalities and shift my focus to the creative aspects of my time at the Centre. I have read a bit about artist residencies, how to organize them, and what to expect, and I am delighted to find that the common wisdom is, one, to stay loose and not attempt too well-defined a project, and, two, to focus on the broader opportunities that a residency can afford: solitude and distance from the routines of home, interaction with other artists from other backgrounds with other perspectives and goals, and time to explore, day after day, one's own artistic calling and the new directions in which it might develop. Other than the general adventure of just going on the residency, this is what really pulls me to the Centre: being able to live and breathe those things that matter to me (not only painting but writing, meditation, and perhaps some dance movement), over a fairly long period of time (three weeks), with no interruptions and distractions other than those I create myself. I'm glad to have the practicalities nailed down enough now to concentrate on these other things.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

new website

After many months of thought and many communications with John McCallum of Ogden, Utah (www.mccallumdesign.com), and with several interruptions for illnesses and broken wrists, a new version of my professional website is finally launched.

I had been wanting to redesign my site for a couple of years, ever since I started producing a fairly coherent body of work in oil and cold wax that I feel is my stable and continuing milieu for painting. The old website was creatively designed by John to fit the production that came from a diverse and ever-changing artistic development. Now that I have settled down into a more stable style and methodology, I felt it was time to change the site to reflect those aesthetics. I also wanted to modernize the design of the site, and to give it a more contemporary appearance.

I am very pleased with the results, which can be seen via the NGreen Studios link at the right side of this page. Not only is the look more contemporary and clean, but the navigation is easier and, I think, friendlier. In addition, John's reprogramming is such that, with careful written instructions from him, I can make changes to the content of the site without needing to go through John to get them made (I haven't tried this yet, but hope to do so in the next couple of weeks).

As a result of this investment, I no longer feel that I need to apologize for my website being out of date when I tell people about it and give them the link, and I am happy to have it out in the world for people to see. And it will be easier to keep it current, adding new images and other adjustments. Future considerations are whether to make use of it as a more active marketing tool, for example, to offer paintings for sale through it. My inclination is rather to sell only through galleries, but perhaps with time that will change. For the moment, I have the satisfaction of having completed a long-outstanding project and being thoroughly pleased with the results.

Monday, July 8, 2013

getting to know india ink

I have never stopped to explore in depth the use of ink in drawing and painting. I liked what it offered the few times that I played with it in some workshop or another, yet I couldn't see how it would work with oil painting. But one of the goals of my residency project this fall is to explore more deeply the use of line in my work. Since I am painting with watermedia rather than oil, I decided to revisit the use of ink. Last week, I pulled out the dip pen and nibs that I stored away years ago, and purchased a fresh bottle of India ink. It is delightful stuff, and complements the effects I am beginning to achieve with acrylics and watercolors.

India ink has been around for thousands of years. Cave painters used ink made from carbon back in the neolithic era (2500 BC). India ink was so named because the ancient Chinese traded for its ingredients from India. It distinguishes itself from other carbon-based inks by incorporating lampblack, a type of carbon traditionally produced from the soot of lamp oil. Ancient Buddhist scripts and Talmudic teachings were written in ink, as were the Dead Sea scrolls.

I began with dip pen and ink bottle, and at some point in my sketching found a kind of thoughtful rhythm: dip, pause, stroke, dip, pause, stroke. I liked the interruption of the drawing process that the dipping required. I loved the different marks made by the different nibs, and the way the ink flowed off the point, and the way that the pen responded to the pressure and movement of my hand. For contrast, I tried commercial markers and technical pens on another work in progress: I had perhaps more control over the placement of the ink, but I felt less connection to the marks I made.

Then I moved to brush work, using both a fine brush for lines and a hake brush for washes. The image above is a detail of a wash of quite diluted ink on a surface partially primed with light molding paste, a Golden product. The combination -- but mostly the ink -- created a unique texture and mood. I look forward to exploring more such effects.

On another occasion, I used the handle end of a small brush to draw back into a wash of ink; in the areas where the underlying surface was absorbent, this produced an interesting effect. Where the surface had been sealed, the ink did not cover well enough to draw back into. This promises interesting results when I can apply and manipulate the ink more deliberately on absorbent and non-absorbent surfaces. For the moment, I am very much in an experimental mode; I may understand India ink fairly well after all these tests, but its interaction with all the other watermedia pigments and mediums that I am exploring is still unknown.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

comfortable discomfort

With a couple of weeks of experimentation under my belt, I am feeling increasingly comfortable with and intrigued by acrylic and watercolor paints, and increasingly curious about using them in a "cold wax" style. My first effort, 20"x16", is shown at left. It is not a total success, but neither is it a complete disaster.
I have a lot more to explore about the way that these water-based paints interact with each other and with the various mediums that are available. At the same time, I am using pen, pencil, charcoal, and chalk pastel in ways that I never have done before, and in ways that oil paint does not welcome. This is encouraging me to return to my fascination with mark-making, about which I've written before

I am remembering things I used to know about water-based media, as well as learning new things. Acrylic revolution by Nancy Reyner is a very useful reference for how acrylics work and what the mediums do, all new territory for me. I'm using Multimedia Artboard rather than paper; the artboard is paper impregnated with resin to make it stiff and resilient, and I like its similarity to my usual Gessbord panels.

So a studio session these days is an interesting blend of the new and challenging, and the old and comfortable. Rebecca Crowell recently posted a thoughtful essay on "the comfort zone" (see her blog of June 23d), and its relevance to my current circumstances resonated. I am quite deliberately pushing my discomfort in terms of materials while I am still within the comfort of home and routine, so that when I get to my residency at CAN, away from home, I will have attained some level of comfort with my materials. I hadn't really thought about it in those terms.

Rebecca delves deeper into the topic, asking "what is home in terms of painting?" and suggesting that it is what feels honest and right, and true to oneself. She adds, "Home in any sense is a source of joy and comfort, and there is a place for this in our work." This also resonated: My first approach to experimenting with acrylics and watercolors was to pull out the "beginners" books (for lack of a better term), how-to guides that I purchased twelve years ago when I was just beginning to paint. I obediently began to do the exercises prescribed. It felt all wrong, as though I were trying to do someone else's work. I put the books away, heaved a sigh of relief, and painted from my own center, as it were. The painting above is the result of my first experiment done without "help", using my fledgling knowledge of and comfort/discomfort with the materials in a way that answered my own inner voice.

So I am using the opportunity afforded by the residency this fall to push my comfort zone, and it feels like exactly the right thing to be doing at this stage of my painting career. I am feeling my own way, in my own fashion, keeping to my path but opening myself to new ways of exploring it, not through anyone else's instruction, but on my own.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

medium explorations

As I begin the preparation for my residency at CAN (see my post of June 4), I find myself working on least two levels: Conceptually, I mull over my "roots and tempests" idea and probe it for both integrity and depth, while on a more practical level I contemplate getting myself and all my art supplies from here to there. The Centre d'Art i Natura is in the tiny town of Farrera, in the Pyrenees mountains close to the French border. The final stage of travel, after various flights and a two-week car trip with Jerome around northern Spain, will be a five-hour bus ride from Barcelona. In terms of what to take, lightweight and compact would be two good qualities.

Following Phyllis's example when she flew out to Utah, I easily decided to use paper rather than board as a support. Following my colleague Rebecca Crowell's suggestion, based on her numerous residencies in Spain and Ireland, I've also decided to use watermedia (fluid acrylics and watercolors) rather than oil and cold wax. There are acrylic products now that can simulate the oil-and-cold-wax process, allowing for layering and texturing. Water-based media are lighter in weight than oils, and they avoid the airlines' prohibitions against carrying flammable materials on board.

So I have pulled out my old acrylic and watercolor paints as well as my drawing supplies, and have retrieved from my flat files a variety of papers that I have accumulated over the years. I am reacquainting myself with the paints and their properties, and pushing them beyond where I took them back when I was just beginning. At the same time, I am testing the various papers, from 140# cold press watercolor paper, to the same paper in a heavier 300# weight, to a supposed "multimedia" paper, to an innovative "multimedia artboard" that is as thin as paper but has been impregnated with resin and is stiff.

I have always enjoyed water-based painting, although it is oil paint that resounds most strongly with me. To undertake to express myself in fluid acrylics and watercolor is an exciting and intriguing challenge at this stage in my work. As I remember how to manipulate the paints, and explore the various gels, pastes, and mediums with which I'm not familiar, my compositions remain based on my Colorado Plateau concept about which I've written here in the past. The concept, and the cold wax process, guide my experimentation. If I can be satisfied with the use of the new (to me) materials to express a concept with which I am so intimate, I will be ready to use them to explore the "raices y tempestades" concept that I have proposed for CAN.

So far, I haven't played with all the different papers, so I haven't decided what I prefer. None that I have tried (the 140# and the multimedia papers) stand up to the type of layering and texturing that I hope to do. Fortunately, I have about two more months before I need to purchase what I am actually going to take. A summer project!

The image above shows the final version of Soundings (30"x24") that I didn't quite finish in Helper last month. Along with Passages, it will go to the gallery next week for our 4th of July open house on the 6th.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

more assemblies

During the week in Helper last month, my friend Phyllis worked on paper rather than board, to avoid the need to carry heavy and awkward supports on the plane from Oakland. She cut the paper into 12" squares, then taped them together, overlapping, into a 30" square, and painted them as a single piece. The interplay between the whole and its parts was charming, and the finished pieces are lovely.

Inspired by her adventure, and wanting to paint something big without a huge investment in a single support, I am trying an experiment. I have nine (as it happens) 12" x'12" uncradled  panels that I have carried to various cold wax workshops over the years, in order to have inexpensive surfaces on which to play without committing to a "real" painting. None are finished pieces, and most only carry two or three layers of paint. But I like all of them, for one reason or another, and can't bring myself to throw them away. Nor, it seems, can I bring myself to paint over them individually. They have been languishing in my studio, moving from one dusty corner to another, each carrying fond memories. So there is an emotional investment in them as well, come to think of it. No wonder I don't want to toss them.

After I left Phyllis at the Salt Lake airport for her flight home, and before heading home myself, I stopped at an art store and purchased a large piece of lightweight foam-core board. Over this past week, I fashioned it into a 36"-square, and glued the nine tiles onto it. The result is shown above. Unfortunately, the foam-core board is not strong enough to be completely rigid, so the assemblage feels a little wobbly, but a second piece of foam-core glued onto the back should cure the problem. I have to wait for a trip to a big city to purchase that, and I don't want to work on the whole until I have reinforced it, so nothing is happening with it right away. But I think that the wait is a good thing: For the moment, I am so captivated by the piece as it stands that I am loathe to paint over it. By the time I get it ready, though, I will be happy to cover up and unify the conglomerate of ideas and impulses. And I look forward to working with the built-in grid lines, to push and pull against them, to counteract their straightness, to play with the compositional fact of their existence.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

roots and tempests

Looking out the window above my desk, I see the stable, rusty-pink wall of sandstone cliffs that line the north side of our valley. Above them, in contrast, shifting thunderheads gather in advance of an afternoon storm. This contrast between the solidity and depth of the earth and the instability and storminess of the sky is one of the things I love about living on the Colorado Plateau.

I like to feel my feet on the earth, to feel its support against my weight. At the same time, I like to watch the sky, to see it change, to watch storms gather and disappear, to send my spirit outward. Just as the contrast in the natural environment fascinates me, so too am I intrigued by the contrast between the core solidity of my life (my feet on the ground) and the series of events -- some tempestuous -- that mark its history. Two aspects of myself: Continuity and change. Earth and sky. Roots and tempests.

I have been thinking a lot recently about how to bring a greater depth to my painting practice. My current work engages me technically and intellectually, but I would like to feel more deeply involved at a personal level. When I paint what I think of as "land", I feel its solidity. When I paint what is in my mind "sky", I feel its transience and lack of substance. What if I added to that my personal sense of roots when I paint "earth", and my personal experiences of tempests when I paint "space"? What if I just painted my own roots and tempests?

These themes are the substance of a project proposal that I submitted for an art residency this coming fall at the Centre d'Art i Natura in Catalunya, Spain. I will have nearly three weeks on my own in a small community dedicated to "art and nature" to explore new concepts as well as new materials (I plan to paint on paper and/or lightweight artboard, given the travel involved). I feel as though I've been given a gift. More to come!

The image above is Passages (24"x18"), which I finished in Helper. It is headed for our local Gallery 24.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

back at the easel

I am just back from a long-planned week of painting that became a kind of retreat for myself and my friend and fellow cold wax painter, Phyllis, at the Studio Group facilities in Helper, Utah. With rooms and studio space of our own, we shared a communal kitchen and lounge with a group of five artist interns studying with David Dornan for the summer. The entire building, once a hotel in the old railroad days of the town, lives and breathes art. There are few distractions other than the beauty of the country and the small river that runs through town. It is hard to imagine a more nurturing environment for getting back to painting. Almost overnight, the rhythm of my days changed from those of convalescence to those of creation.

Each day we woke early, breakfasted, took a walk along the river or through the town, then settled in to work, sharing thoughts as well as adjacent studio spaces. When it seemed time, we broke for lunch, then returned to work until late afternoon, when it usually seemed time to do something else. We watched videos (Andy Goldsworthy's Rivers and tides, Paula Roland's Encaustic monotypes), interacted with the other residents, talked art, and generally relaxed. Dinner, then a DVD film or game of cribbage, although since the living quarters are on the second floor and the studio space on the first, it was easy to run downstairs to contemplate work or get another half hour of painting in before bed.

The multiple fractures of my right wrist last February had prevented me from painting until this past week. Even three months later, the wrist and hand are not back to normal, and every hour of work in Helper consisted of 40 minutes at the easel and 20 minutes elevating and icing the arm. Still, I did this for about six hours a day for six days, and was able to function normally at the easel. I completed one painting, nearly completed a second, and halfway completed a third (all shown above, in the studio space at Helper). I am more than pleased. It feels as though my winter has ended.

Friday, April 26, 2013

a different rhythm

I had assumed that when the cast came off of my broken wrist, I would quickly return to normal activity. Alas, recuperation is slower and more complicated that I had thought, and although daily progress in flexibility and strength is encouraging, regular use is still a long way off. The rhythm of my days, so different from pre-Pecos times, has assumed a kind of normality now that allows me to relax into it and maintain patience and kindness toward my arm.

The challenge of physical therapy is balanced by the luxury of catching up with books and videos that have been waiting on my physical and digital shelves, some of them for years. Among the art-related books: Inside the painter's studio (Figg), A memoir of creativity (Halasz), A Giacometti portrait (Lord), Color: A natural history of the palette (Finlay), Seven days in the art world (Thornton), A painter of our time (Berger), Daybook (Truitt), The creative habit (Tharpe), The age of insight (Kandel).

Although my left hand is proving remarkably adept -- I can even write legibly with it -- occasional attempts to paint are met with pain and frustration. So, as the weeks roll by, I stoke the fires and cultivate mindfulness.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

medical leave

The rhythm and tempo of my days in the studio have been seriously interrupted, first by a ten-day midwinter vacation in early February, and then by a broken right arm on the next-to-last day of the trip. It was a gorgeous winter day in Pecos, NM, when I broke my arm, as the photo here attests. We were exploring the ruins of the historic Pecos pueblo outside of Santa Fe, and I lost my balance on the uneven ground. That was four weeks ago, and although we came straight home, regular activities have been on hold ever since, including writing here. My right arm is in a fiberglass cast, and two-finger pecking at the keyboard with my non-dominant left hand is slow at best. I cannot write longhand at all, nor paint with any worthwhile results. But the cast comes off in another two weeks, and I shall happily get back to normal routines, with some help from the physical therapist. Meantime, lots of reading, and planning, and rest.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

assemblies

The philosophical resolution of my small painting angst (see previous post) was all well and good, alleviating the"product" dilemma, but it did not help the "process" aspect that had been bothering me. This was confirmed in the studio, since I continued to be frustrated working with the 6" x 8" panels. No matter how I approached the little things, I felt constricted by the edges. I had a vague idea of recreating my larger pieces in miniature, but in addition to the fact that this would be difficult in the physical sense, implying tiny strokes and miniature marks and little bitty patches of color (not exactly the free and easy approach that I am trying to cultivate), it also seemed inappropriate. But, how to be free and easy within a 6" x 8" parameter?

Once again, talking with a fellow artist brought the gift of a new idea: connect the small boards together and paint them as one larger board. The issue of confining edges disappears. The image above shows the four 6" x 8" panels, now taped together to create a 12" x 16" expanse. I did the same with four 8" x 10" panels that have been plaguing me, creating a 16" x 20" surface. All of the smaller pieces already had five or six layers of paint on them, but I scraped them back, arranged them in a pleasing manner, taped them together, and now have two larger surfaces rather than eight small ones on which to work.

I liked the fact that the smaller pieces were already underway: Although I could tape together blank boards and start from scratch, the colors and textures already existent provided something to react to and build upon. My expectations are open-ended. Although I have promised my galleries some small pieces, I have not been specific. If these assemblies come apart and provide viable small paintings, that is fine. But I am also aware that they might end up staying together, either bolted edge-to-edge or floating in a frame with space in between. Who knows? Part of the joy is that the outcome is unknown -- rather the opposite from the hemmed-in feeling of painting an individual itty-bitty board. It is an experiment!

Friday, January 25, 2013

large and small

Sometimes I get myself tied up in knots over questions that, in the end, seem pretty simple. Much of my thinking in the past couple of weeks has been almost Gordian in nature. It all started with a simple question from a friend to whom I was describing the challenges posed by working small (I was working on some 6" x 8" panels). What, she asked, is the difference between your small pieces and your large ones?

How are small pieces different from large (other than the obvious fact of size)? I had never stopped to ask, at least in terms of my present work. There are clearly two parts to the question: differences in process, and differences in product. It was the former with which I had been concerned, but the latter came to mind almost immediately.

Researcher that I am (25 years as a librarian doesn't fade quickly), I turned to my favorite sources of art wisdom to see what they had to say. Robert Genn has addressed size in his twice-weekly newsletter, but from the opposite end of the process: choosing the right size of canvas for the subject matter. In my case, the subject matter (such as it is) grows out of the process, and there is no predefinition to determine what size of panel to use.

I then searched Rebecca Crowell's informative blog for related discussions. In February 2008, she addressed the topic of size:

When I paint something large, I love the sense of being surrounded by the paint...while the challenge is to make something that justifies its own scale. I feel there needs to be something monumental about the piece, that will hold up in its largeness, over time and repeated viewings. 
Very small paintings have to be intriguing enough to withstand close-up viewing -- to have presence though occupying little physical space. It's really pleasurable for me to give due importance to slight shifts in color or texture, or to a few lines or some interesting mark -- and to bring that appreciation to viewers, whose faces will likely be inches rather than feet away from the work. 
In between these extremes are paintings (with) medium dimensions (30”x28”). I think the challenge here is to rise above what seems an ordinary or expected kind of scale. To stand out in a world of objects of similar size -- not just other works of art, but all the things in ordinary homes and buildings that vie for visual attention -- windows, computer screens, furnishings. While this presents a challenge, it's also a strength -- this is an accessible scale, that requires no special exhibition space, and feels comfortable to people as an object to contemplate. 


Rebecca's thoughts were helpful, but I still felt caught up in questions such as, can small pieces be anything but decorative? Small paintings have to relate to their surroundings in a way that a large piece does not, precisely because the edges are part of the viewer's experience: A 6"x6" panel cannot surround anything. Can I create a small abstract painting that also has meaning?

It is perhaps part of the phenomenon of midwinter blues that I let this whole subject bother me probably more than it should have. (It didn't help that I wasn't happy with the 6" x 8" pieces.) How could I avoid small pieces being denigrated from "art" to "decor"? Then finally, walking back into the house from the studio yesterday, I realized that I was letting "product" get ahead of "process" and intent, and it all became quite simple. If my intention, with all pieces of all sizes, is to fulfill my artist statement (see post of October 17th), then the product will flow from that intention, and although Rebecca's points remain completely valid, as does the "decorative" issue, my purpose/intention remains primary, and the other issues secondary and, with luck, not dominant.

I'm still not happy with the 6" x 8" pieces, but I've set them aside for the moment. The image above is of my most recent finished piece, 24" x 18", as yet untitled.


Friday, January 11, 2013

scraping back

In a moment of impatience this morning, I employed my painting knife, which I was using to mix some fresh paint on my palette, to scrape off a lump of oil stick from the panel I was working on. The knife -- a blunt, triangle-shaped metal blade angled down from its handle -- left an ugly mark, at which of course I scraped some more. Apparently I used a different angle with the knife, because the mark it made was completely different from the first. My attention diverted, I forgot the paint on the palette and continued to scrape the panel with the painting knife, investigating the effects on the semi-wet surface. The angle of the blade was critical to the result, as was the pressure used against the surface. I spent the next several minutes exploring this new (to me) phenomenon.

The use of the smaller painting knife produced more subtle transitions than broader-bladed scrapers (see post of November 1, 2012), and allowed for blending as well as separating the semi-wet paint. With appropriate pressure, lower, drier layers could be removed as well, producing a rich and complex surface that revealed hints of the history of the panel. I had gotten into the habit, as my technique to reveal lower layers, of dissolving applied paint with mineral spirits and then smoothing or lifting it off. This scraping with the painting knife provides a completely different effect.

To the experienced artist, this revelation will seem simplistic, since scraping with a painting knife is assuredly neither a new nor a sophisticated technique. I felt a little silly at it being a "discovery" for me. But it is not a technique to which I've paid much attention in the past, for whatever reason, and I was intrigued by the difference between the effects it produced and the effects that scraping back with wide flat-blade metal scrapers produces. In my exploration, I put down more paint and more oil stick, and kept scraping. The result, shown in the image above, was a more active, more colorful surface than I usually create. It is not a final surface, but it is a lovely preparatory expanse for some calming top layers. And in taking the time to follow my curiosity and experiment, I found a new way to develop the lower layers of my work, one that complements my intentions and goals. Scraping back is certainly a geologic phenomenon of the Colorado Plateau, if on a somewhat grander scale!

And I learned another lesson, which is how unconsciously entrenched I can become in habitual techniques, and how valuable it is to follow a serendipitous discovery no matter how seemingly simple and basic. My painting process, and my finished work, will be the richer for it.




Saturday, January 5, 2013

color play

Four small (8" x 6") panels are developing together but as separate pieces, in part so that they are coherent with the rest of my work (I tend to wander off on tangents with individual small panels), in part so that I can try different techniques across similar compositions, and in part with the idea that they might end up for sale as a group. I am not forcing the latter idea, but I also am interested in the idea of series of paintings, and this seems a good opportunity to investigate it.

Working small is a welcome change from my recent struggles with larger boards, and is also educational: For example, perhaps one way to address a large board is by dividing it into smaller sections for detailed work. Also, it is less intimidating to experiment with techniques on a smaller piece; one has less invested, especially at the later stages.

I had conceived of a theme of the four seasons as a way to approach the quartet of panels, to differentiate among them while at the same time relating them to each other. As often happens with what seems like a good initial idea, the theme didn't take me far except in the area of color, since I differentiated among spring, summer, fall, and winter in terms of hue. In terms of marks and composition, my actions were fairly random, and I couldn't identify lines, shapes, or divisions that self-differentiated as seasonal.

This morning I explored color interaction among closely related hues. I was partly inspired by a 2013 wall calendar of Rothko's works that I recently hung on the studio wall. I knew that I was not yet at a final surface, which gave me freedom to play and to steal ideas from the calendar. My main purpose was to create four surfaces that reinforced the color ideas that I was developing for each "season". I also used the opportunity to experiment with creating deliberately shaped patches of color with deliberate edges, whether sharp and well-defined or blurred and fuzzy. The image above is the result for the "spring" panel, which I find particularly pleasing.