Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jumping the Gun

Ten days ago, I finished and posted a painting that I felt excited about. My joy was partly due to the fact that I had not had much studio time lately, but mostly because I loved the design, colors, and simplicity of the piece.

But as I lived with it and got comments from various people, I realized that I had missed the mark when the main figure did not read as feminine. Also people were seeing ethnicity in the figures, when none was intended.  One art friend said he thought the top chef was a Swedish man!

Since the idea behind the story is the fact that most top chefs are male. It is a difficult journey for a woman to get the same kind of recognition in the restaurant world. In fact, women represent around 19% of top chefs.

What did work were the colors, the design, the left white, and the idea. What failed was the main figure. I guess it is mostly androgynous. I wouldn't say that the painting failed, because I see it as fun and interesting, but it doesn't say what I meant.

So the last few days were spent with a redo. Let me know what you think. Below is the first rendition of Top Chef.

Top Chef
29 x 22 inches
Transparent Watercolor

And below take a look at version 2, "Nineteen Percent."






Sunday, July 10, 2016

Inspiration, Influences, and Interpretation

I've always loved alliterations!

Inspiration:  For a long time I have wanted to create a painting about my older daughter's love of cooking. From the time Meg won the grand prize at the Curry County Fair for a red velvet cake at the age of 10 or 11, until now, she has developed a reputation as a great chef. I have one photo of her where her smirky look really tickles me--it's the smile she has when her dad calls her to get her recipe for BBQ ribs. However, I am not into painting realistic portraits, as you readers know. ( There are so many wonderful painter friends who do that!)

The other inspiration comes from my recent interest in painting about women's issues. I looked into women chef numbers to find that in US hotels only 19% of top chefs are women. Also a woman needs the credentials of a culinary school, as opposed to men who more often climb to the top from experience outside of formal education.

The irony of this amazes me. Think of who prepared the vast majority of food you ate growing up and the generation before you and the many generations before that!

Influences:
I enjoy the simplicity of Toulouse Lautrec posters or Milton Avery paintings. I enjoy creating a flat painting without shadows and depth. Where the light comes from does not interest me.

Image result for milton avery


I have always liked leaving the white of the paper in a painting. It is so powerful, contemporary and brave in my mind. Last year in the Katherine Chang Liu studio workshop, I painted a piece with left whites and very little detail in a tee-shirt. I really liked the feel of this painting "Run," but I  did not enjoy the hard work and disappointment in creating a likeness of my younger daughter, Rachel.

Run
30 x 22
Transparent Watercolor on Paper
Interpretation:  
Now the trick is to come up with a simple design that puts the woman in the forefront, shows men's numbers much higher in the profession, captures the cute smirk of my daughter, uses the "19%" and leaves a lot of the powerful white. Add on, using my familiar kimono shape format. How did I do?

Top Chef (working title)
30 x 22 inches
Transparent Watercolor on Paper

                                                               

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Joys: Small to Large

As June comes to a close, I have a multitude of Summer Joys. Some are small:

Four o'clock flowers blooming in with my Asiatic lilies,



Swallows nesting, flying, and sitting on lines.








Some joys are lifelong: Family.







And some joys come from the fruits of my labor: I am honored and delighted to have my painting Life Cycle Imperative #8 accepted by my mentorKatherine Chang Liu, to hang in the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition. The show will be held in  Foothills Art Center, in Golden, Colorado this fall.












Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Thoughts


Every once in a while, in unexpected places, I find a quote that seems to be just what I need to contemplate at that moment. On a plane heading to the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Conference in Denver last week, I found such a quote in Southwest: The Magazine. The article was an interview with actor Patrick Wilson; but the arts are the arts, and all artists grapple with similar frustrations. He was referring to the many years he has worked toward getting significant acting roles.

You can’t look at the top of the staircase and want to be there. You have to look at the step directly ahead of you and ask yourself, “How do I climb that step?”
I had just been thinking about some of my long range goals: getting into shows, getting signature memberships, and earning various accolades-- you know, the pie in the sky stuff we artist dream of yet often find more obstacles than open doors. The top of the staircase. But this quote made me think about what is really right before me--the next step, which is the next painting. That is really what I can control and have power over. If I approach each next work with a passion for that piece of paper which I will adorn with paint, I have climbed the next step. When I take time to really “finish” a piece, I have climbed the next step. When I have the courage to put it out there for a juror to look at or the public to see, I have climbed the next step.

It is very rare to make a grand entrance into the art world right off the bat. Successful artists work very hard and very long for recognition. And it all starts from where you are now and the piece of paper in front of you!



The Watercolor Society of Oregon team in Denver
Ruth Armitage, yours truly and Anji Grainger

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Love, Honor, and Obey: Step by Step

It has been almost a year since I came home from Ventura, Ca. with a sheet of watercolor paper covered with torn newspaper.

In the back of my mind, I had an idea for painting a mid-century commentary about women for this sheet. Using a newpaper background suggest history to me: what was, rather than what is or will be. It's always a day or more later, right?

And I thought about a bride, and all the falderal  about getting married: the dress, the church, the audience, etc. And then the reality. Again, I'm thinking about the 1950's or so, before women were beginning to think about, want or demand changes in what was expected after marriage.

What happened after the magical day of marriage and the honeymoon?

I put veils of white gesso or acrylic paint over the newspaper. I didn't intend to have a viewer reading the torn pieces.





In my sketch, I had the iconic placement of the bride entering the church. I surrounded that with 4 windows to place some of the daily life of a married woman in the mid-century. Here you see her dusting. (this is a small study I taped on to see how it would work)










Next, I painted the bride. Notice that her expression is not exactly what you might expect. Is she questioning her future, her decision? Is she having cold feet? That is up to the viewer to decide.



After adding the details of the church, the doors, the stairs and windows, I thought about bringing the viewers interest up for a closer look. I searched the internet for old articles about being a "good wife." I found these articles both amusing and disturbing. I chose a few to collage on top and again used a veil of acrylic to make them fade into the background.








































After integrating all of these components, the piece sat in a drawer for a couple of months. Finally I came up with the finishing touches. I have placed a somewhat transparent older woman in the lower right-hand corner of the piece. To me she is looking into the past. Perhaps she is the bride, or was a bride like her. Other's have thought she is the mother or grandmother of the bride. What does she represent to you? What is she thinking? The finishing touch the painting was putting on the words, "Love, Honor, and Obey."



I'd love to hear your thoughts or reaction to the piece. As always, Comments are Welcome!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Women: My Current Topic for Paintings

After finishing my painting, "She's Allowed," I had an idea or inspiration land in my brain. I could create a painting about women that are not "allowed." And I loved my child image so much, and felt she had so much impact that she could be included with the question, "Will She Be Allowed?"

In these pieces the women are anonymous. Painting the clothing as one, and having suggestions of faces with no personality are all part of this exploration.

I am also enjoying flattening my painting, showing very little dimension which gives a painting a contemporary feel that I like.

In "She's Allowed," the shapes and lines are static. I've had fellow artists comment that it is perhaps lacking in design or could be more dynamic. As a response, I have adjusted the newer painting to have more broken up shapes. Does it make for a stronger painting? You be the judge as I take you through my process of creating "Will She Be Allowed?"

I love adding very individual components to my work. That often includes stamps that I make for a particular painting: hieroglyphics for paintings about Egypt or petroglyphs for river paintings. For this painting I chose Afghanistan as my backdrop. I have not been there, but I have been in other parts of the world where women wear burkas, minarets pop up in the landscape and sand covers the earth.

The stamp for this piece began as a web translation search. I wanted to use Arabic letters, but more than that, words. I do not put these down to be read, necessarily. For one thing, I am merely copying shapes, and they are probably not very well done for any Arabic reader. I use these as much for myself to remember the essence of my connection with the message I am working with. The English words I chose to translate were "women" and "Will she be allowed."



Oops! The first one is not going to work because I need a mirror image! You'd think I'd learn, but in my excitement to do something, I sometimes make twice the work! These are made with craft foam on blocks of interior insulation.


Next, I made collage paper by putting a blue/black gesso on newspaper, then stamping on it with acyrilic paints after it dried.



After all this preparation I was ready to draw and start the painting. The way I get the consistently flat look to the garments is with a number of high pigment washes put on with a sponge. A final step is with a mouth atomizer.


Everything I did not want dark blue is covered with masking fluid or clear contact paper.


My next step was to put color on the faces and background with watercolor and put on my first stamping, then covering with an acrylic veil.



Adding my collage papers was great fun. I had made so many pieces with various blues, that I had a lot of choices. My child got her costuming from more web research into clothing you can buy for children in Afghanistan.

The finishing touches:

  • Adjusting the colors on the minarets
  • Adding darks to and breaking up the sand with more stamping
  • Putting eyes on the women with hints of mesh over the open area

Will She Be Allowed
Mixed Media, 29 x 22 inches



Comments Welcome!



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Egypt Painting

Content and symbolism are components I work hard to put into my paintings. This is making me more aware of the process I use for creating a painting. This recent Egypt-inspired piece is a good example. Here is list the list of influences, thoughts, and sources that proceeded and were gathered while working on this painting.

  • A trip to Egypt last April--think hot
  • Several photos from that trip: columns, hieroglyphics, temples, me coming out of a tomb
  • A stamp of hieroglyphics I made for an earlier painting
  • Ideas for making the walls look ancient
  • Two small paintings (one of a figure, another of columns) I did in a Ratindra Das workshop in October
What I do over a period of time is gather source materials and envision what I want I want to say in a painting. The content and ideas I hope to communicate in this painting are: heat, the amazing architecture and art, ancient Egyptian communication, contrast of modern with old, and the transitory nature of being a tourist. All of these pieces are part of telling "my story" and my own experience of visiting this ancient culture.

To develop the aged walls, I used the following technique. After sketching in my composition, I tore up small pieces of paper towel, drenched them in watercolor pigment, applied them to my watercolor paper and let them sit for awhile. I was careful to remove them while still damp so they wouldn't stick to the watercolor paper.






I decided on a red sky and a dominance of warm colors for the painting to imply the heat of the Egyptian desert and to reflect the actual colors of the landscape. The painting began coming together as I used hieroglyphic symbols on the background building and left pillar shapes to be worked on later.


It was only after the painting was finished that I saw the connection of the small figure in the relief and the modern figure coming out of the tomb.


Once I got the painting to this point, it stayed like this for quite awhile. I was so in love with the figure being so 'Milton Avery-esque." After getting personal critique from Jeanie McGuire, emphasizing the importance of a paintings unity (how a painting must look like it was all painted by the same artist) that I let go of the white hat and coat.  I did a minimalist job of painting the suggestion of a face and a few clothing details.

I'd love to hear your comments on this painting and how well it communicates and resonates with you, the viewer.