Thursday, January 10, 2019

the ollas

I was deeply engaged in my "olla" series as Winter Solstice and the Christmas holidays approached, but I was still working at the level of probing materials and techniques, leaving the search for any deeper meaning to evolve on its own. The painting at left, 24" x 30", most successfully achieves abstraction while still leaving the figure detectable.

Since I first began to paint (yikes! it's been more than twenty years!), I have been aware of a desire to communicate through my work. At first, just communicating the fact that I was painting a rural landscape was achievement enough. But as my own style evolved, I found that I wanted to portray landscapes that had meaning. Hence my "Colorado Plateau" and subsequent series.

As I moved further into abstraction, my goal remained to communicate something positive, to bring some beauty into the world. My work remained largely landscape-based, but with the addition of this conscious desire to evoke calmness, peace, and even contemplation. Stillness amid the chaos of life. Then preparing for the "Nest" exhibition pulled me away from landscape themes and into a different series, attempting to portray what the concept of "nest" meant to me. It was a more direct attempt to paint feeling than anything I had done before, and it is interesting in retrospect to see that I used a figure (which represented an abstract nest shape to me) on which to base abstract paintings.

My work between the nest series and the move to Tucson roamed around looking for a direction, and to me it is nothing memorable. The fact that I have returned unintentionally to figure-based abstraction, as I attempted in the nest series, may mean that I am back on my path. We'll see. More thoughts to come.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

getting underway

As I settled into my new home and my new studio last fall, I took advantage of the opportunity also to seek freshness in my painting. Acting instinctively, I returned to the early days of my cold wax work, recalling the basic techniques and attitudes. The image at the left shows one of my more successful creations (20"x 24"). I love the softness and the color transitions that took place.  It was the result of a largely organic process, which also pleased me.

Once I felt comfortable with my materials and processes, I looked for a way to move forward into something more reflective of my own self, of my own intention and approach in making art. My first attempt was to ground my work in representations of actual objects, to give myself a shape from which to abstract. I chose to represent ollas, which seem iconic of southern Arizona.

The choice was a good one. Using old boards already layered with various hues of oil paint and cold wax, I ignored what was already there, drew in various large "container" shapes, and proceeded from there, still conscious of orienting myself to specific cold wax techniques, reinforcing them. It was a bit like taking a refresher course. The piece represented at right, 24" x 24", is one of the four that grew out of this effort. I enjoyed working with a limited palette of brown and white, with touches of blue here and there. But, in retrospect, I did not take full compositional advantage of the vessel shape, and that is something that I want to explore in my next group of paintings.

I was still finishing the last of the "olla" series, when I had some new insights that coincided with the winter solstice, interestingly enough. But I will save that story for another post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

new year, new impetus

A new year begins, after another of many changes. There is so much to write about that it is hard to begin. But if I don't start, somewhere, there will just be more.

My "somewhere" has changed; we have built our new home in Tucson and are fully moved in and settled, though we have completed the process only recently. Of more relevance to this journal, my new studio is complete and I use it on a daily basis. The difference between the studio being a hundred yards away, outside, across the yard, as it was in Torrey, and it being literally just down the hall, as it is here, is only beginning to make itself felt. But as one might expect, it is much easier for artmaking to be an integral part of my daily life when my studio is an integral part of my home. My desk, my books, my meditation cushion are all in the same space, and I can't help but stop, look, and consider my work every time I walk into the room. It is pure joy.

It didn't take me long to being to paint again, once the studio was set up. At first, it was enough to reestablish the familiar techniques, habits, and rhythms, to renew my supplies and re-familiarize myself with my tools and materials. I had several old half-painted boards, and it was easy to clean them off, scrape them down, and make new beginnings on top of the old.

The first thing that changed was my palette; without necessarily trying to, I virtually eliminated any orange. Rose, blue, brown, white, yes, but the warm side of the color wheel eluded my grasp. I have had to deliberately re-introduce it. The second change was the elimination of any concern about the finished work; I let myself engage the process itself, regardless of outcome. When it felt right to stop, I did. But, because I could look at each piece at any time, in any mood, for as short or long a moment as I wished, I gradually began to interact with even supposedly finished pieces, fine-tuning edges, enhancing texture, adding pigments, softening or strengthening the composition. This now has become a rich habit.

All this was, in a sense, biding time, letting things evolve, giving myself a chance to breathe and to settle and, perhaps, to find a new way of being in my paint-world. And, as the year drew to a close, as we passed through the solstice and the calendar page turned, I did find a new perspective and a new insight or two, and even a new approach. The image above is the nearly-finished first product of this revolution and evolution, 24" x 30", as yet unnamed. I'll save further narrative for the next entry.