Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Women: Another Painting

"Lightly Beaten" is my working title for this painting. Being an idea driven and symbolic painter, I could not get the piece I heard on the radio out of my mind. Did I hear right? In Pakistan, a law has been proposed that allows a husband to lightly beat his wife.

That sent me to the computer to verify and read more about this. Here is a brief quote from the Washington Post: "The head of a powerful Islamic council is refusing to back down from a proposal that makes it legal for husbands to "lightly beat" their wives in Pakistan."

My brain started churning. How could I paint this story? I started looking at the attire of Pakistani women and children (my theme in this series). I looked at photos of Pakistan and a painting began to take shape in my mind. The mosque became the backdrop for the figures as a symbol of the extremist religious leaders proposing such a law. The women are in a posture which says, "what can we do?' And the child is jumping away. What will her future be?

I'd like to share the details of the actual painting of this piece. As I took on the large task of simplifying the architecture and decoration of the mosque, I found I really enjoyed creating the detail and patterns in the mosque. It was painted with admiration and respect for the beauty of the building, despite my symbolic use of the structure. 

As I painted the women, I thought of them as gems. The colors they wear and poses as they sit are so feminine. 

And the child--I painted her leaping into an unknown future. But I hope it is a future of more freedom!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Thinking Ahead--Upcoming Workshop 2017

If you are like me, if I don't put something down on the calendar, I miss opportunities. And if the post-holiday blues get you down, here is a great art workshop to brighten up February.

This is a new workshop I'm presenting, so take a look and sign up early, as there is a limited class size. The 4-day workshop will be held in Portland at the Oregon Society of Artists. And feel free to contact me with any questions:

Oregon Society of Artists
2185 S.W. Park Place
Portland, Oregon 97205

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!

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.

30 x 22
Transparent Watercolor on Paper
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!