Thursday, February 19, 2015

Where to Hang Your Art--"The Leg Bone's Connected to the Hip Bone"

There are so many opportunities out there for hanging one's art outside of galleries. As an artist, I debate over which display of my art might generate interest and sales. Also there is the issue of how much energy it will take getting the art to the location, the difficulty of hanging (I hate brick and concrete block walls) and how long the art can stay at the location.

At one time I adopted the idea that it was pointless to hang my art anywhere except where people would go to buy art--but that didn't last long.

Before the holidays I was invited to hang my art in a church for a one month display. I might have said no, except that my sister prompted the invitation, and I always enjoy a one-person show. Seeing several pieces of my art up on a well lit wall is always encouraging to me--they seem so much more powerful.

I was really pleased (and surprised) to sell one large piece from that exhibit. And further down the road, I was invited by the curator of the David Joyce Gallery at Lane Community College to hang two pieces in the current show there. She happened to attend a meeting using the church space, and liked my work enough to remember my name and contact me.

David Joyce Gallery Opening

Food Web
The curator, Susan Detroy, is also involved in hanging art in hospitals, so I may be invited to show my work there as well. "The Leg Bone's Connected to the Hip Bone."

My point is, you never really know what exposure might lead to more opportunities.

If you are an artist, what connections have surprised you? Where is the craziest place you've hung your art?

If you are an art lover, where have you seen compelling art outside of a gallery?

Before Columbus

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Creating Art is Personal

 'Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.' — Henry Ward

Perhaps not all artists, but many of us are telling stories. I have been working on telling parts of the 
story of my younger daughter's last year getting a stem cell transplant to cure her multiple sclerosis. It is my story also, as I cared for her in the hospital, throughout the treatment, and as she recovered. 

The painting I'm featuring today is a departure from most of my work because it is acrylic, because it is totally from my imagination, and because the colors are quite neutral. The theme is hair loss, something all people going though chemotherapy experience, but it is more traumatic for young women, I think. 

I asked my daughter to come up with some words for me to incorporate into the painting.

Without Hair
30x22, Acyllic on paper

The symbolism in this piece came throughout the process, and some things I discovered after it was finished.

  • The central figure stands alone without color, except for the flower, petals and shoes (Rach loves shoes.) 
  • The small figures are colorful with plenty of hair, a symbol of what was and hope of what will be again.
  • The scissors imply that the loss of hair was by her choice. (She chose this radical treatment.)
  • The hair at the feet surprised me--they also could be sunflower petals--an unintended piece of symbolism.
  • The words (Rachel's words) frame this situation, closing it into an isolated time of her life. 
I would love to get some feedback from you, the viewer. Does the painting speak to you? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

One Way to Create a Transparent Deeply Colored Wash--Step by Step

Recently I've been working on being a less impatient painter. I find that certain results I want in dark colors are much more entrancing when done in transparent watercolors. Sure I can use other mediums, acrylic or gouache, but the depth and slight variation of a dark done with layers of staining transparent watercolor is hard to beat.
The finished piece from a couple of weeks ago and a close-up of the richness and variation of the background.

All paper I want saved has been protected,
and one coat of Payne's gray has been applied to the
wet surface.
I'm sharing this as a work in progress since it is now sitting in my studio waiting for me to paint the rest of it. (Is this posting a way a avoiding the possibility of ruining this stunning water which took a week on layering?)

I'm using a method that my friend Geoff McCormack shared with me. Step one is to protect and mask off the area's you want to save as white paper which will become the subject of the painting. I've used green painter's tape, burnished down, clear contact paper for the large space and frisket (masking fluid to seal the edges of the contact paper. This is done on 300 lb. arches cold press paper.

After 3-4 coats of a mix of Windsor Green
 and phthalo blue.
First I wetted down the entire area that was to become water. I put a first wash of Payne's gray in the area I wanted to become darker. Geoff showed me how an ordinary house sponge soaked with the highly pigmented water can be put on the paper with hardly leaving any lines or smears.

Each layer has to dry completely before applying the next, so it is a time consuming process. This example is after 3 or 4 layers have been applied. The heavy paper does not ripple, but the edges do come up. You have to use a very gentle touch with the spenge and make sure your paper gets a complete soaking.

I continued this process until I had the depth of color I wanted somewhere around 6-8 layers. My very last coat was done with a good spraying of my mouth atomizer, just to make a very consistent coverage.

I wanted to have some light and create a watery feel to the upper portion of the painting. I created that movement with sprays of window cleaner onto the painting and blotting it with paper towels.

After peeling off the tape, contact paper and masking fluid, my painting is now waiting for me to create the rocks, gravel, salmon eggs floating down, the salmon skeleton and dead salmon adding nutrition to the stream for the developing eggs. It's all part of the "Life Cycle Imperative" series. 

Waiting for the rest of the story.

Monday, February 9, 2015

David Joyce Gallery Installation

If you've been in the Eugene Airport, you've seen the inspiring work of David Joyce. His photos of people flying down the hallways to the gates is fun and memorable. He is now deceased, but his art is still in the hearts of Eugene-ians and Lane Community College has a gallery named after him. I was fortunate to be asked to hang my work in the David Joyce Gallery for their upcoming Exhibit, The Tale of Two Palettes/Palates Colorful Historical Stories. 
Last Friday I spent some time helping to hang the show, which has many beautiful pieces of artwork. I learned a lot about hanging art on very long walls without using any pencil marks. I also met some wonderful artists who were also donating time to get the show installed.  
I was delighted to find my artwork featured on the invitation. Before Columbus is one of two paintings I have in the show, both with the Food Web theme. 

If you live near Eugene, I hope you find time to drop by the gallery to see the show which will be hanging until the end of Spring term. With luck, I'll see some of you at the opening reception on February 18, 4:30 to 6:30.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

With a Little Help from my Friends and More Niggling

Before            Life Cycle Imperative #6       After
30 x 22
After my first little bit of a love affair with LCI #6, I saw some things that were less than perfect. I consulted with 2 excellent artist friends, Kathy Tiger and LaVonne Tarbox Crone, and took their advice in 3 areas. See if you agree with the critiques and the adjustments.

  • In my excitement and enthusiasm for creating the rocks dancing in light, it was overdone. The rocks competed with the true story of this piece, which is about the salmon and the eggs. The solution was to tone down some of the rocks and soften more edges. Do you see how the rocks now enhance the salmon eggs rather than cause the eye to bounce around back and forth?
  • The eggs needed just a bit more depth in color, so a wash of a transparent yellow pigment gave them a richer orange tone that compliments the reds in the salmon, and reduces the pink.
  • The salmon in the back had a muddy tone, which I found unattractive and amateurish looking. Also the half fish on the far left had an indistinct lower body. Although it is scary to lift off paint with a sponge, when there is so much dark color to be careful of, but that is exactly what I had to do. I lifted off the muddy colors to put on a layer of a fresh pigment of the red/orange. Can you see that the murkiness has become brighter and more in keeping with the rest of the painting?
Now that these improvements have been made, I feel this is a truly finished work. And as much as I drag my heels to spend so much time on one piece, I do think this one was worth it. Lessons are learned with each painting and I am still a humble student.

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Painting of the New Year--Many Lessons Learned

In the past year, due to family health issues and needed support, my time in the studio has been limited to an afternoon here, a morning there, and a painting always waiting for the next step. I am not the most patient painter. I like the spontaneity of creating with plenty of surprise elements to keep me interested.

However, I also paint ideas, which has been a good thing for this period of time. Why? When I paint with spontaneity,  in the problem solving mode, the 2-month long painting (such as the one I'm writing about today) would find me confused every time I got to the studio to paint. I would waste precious time trying to get back into the painting, trying to figure out where it was going.

This latest painting was definitely inspired by ideas, both in its content and execution. I took a fresh start on a similar painting that recently sold. I had a few ideas of how to execute the same subject matter in a different way.

Step one (which was many steps) :  In the previous painting I used black gouache to create a dark and dramatic background. In this painting, I wanted to create a dark background using transparent washes, rather than an opaque black, so I consulted with a couple of painting pals who do this sort of thing on a regular basis. I used clear contact paper to cover all the area I wanted to remain white and used frisket/mask to protect the edges because color will seep under the contact paper. I then proceeded to make a very heavily pigmented wash of very transparent watercolors to apply with a sponge. I used mostly blues, but some red, yellow and green in other layers to get a more interesting depth of color. I must have repeated this process 8 to 10 times over as many days since the paper must be completely dry to put on the next wash.

The things I learned in this process:

  • The repeated wetting of the paper creates a lot of buckling on 140 lb Arches paper. I'm not a fan of stretching and stapling paper, so I would use 300 lb. next time. After several sessions, I began to place the damp sheet of paper under weight to flatten it for the next round.
  • Some paints pick up each time you apply the next coat, so I consulted with another friend to get recommendations for a better paint choice.
  • My very last application was done with a mouth atomizer, which really made the most consistant covering of the dark.
  • Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is an almost black background!
  • Even with the most careful masking and protecting of the paper, there will be some seepage which will need careful lifting.
Step two: In painting the rocks under the fish, I used many different colors, mostly wet into wet, and sprinkled salt to create texture. After the salt and colors were dry, I used a credit card to remove all the crystals. Next I began a process of disguising the "gimmicky" salt look to the rocks, while leaving a very textured appearance.

What I learned:
  • Be sparing with the salt and only apply it on individual rocks rather than a sprinkling.
  • Apply the salt onto very damp paint.
  • Let is all dry before removing the remaining salt crystals carefully with a credit card or other scraper.
  • Rewet and apply more opaque paints to calm down the texturing.
Step three: Carefully place the hatching salmon eggs among the rocks.

After placing the very "living" eggs among the rocks, the rocks looked "dead." I've peered over a raft often enough to know that rocks look very animated in the river with motion and reflecting light.

What I learned:
  • Using a small scrubber I could bring interest into the rocks.

Step four: Paint the group of salmon swimming through the water and over the rocks and eggs. 

I had to figure out how to make the background fish recede without looking muddy or faded out.
  • To tone down the colors, I started with a light blue wash, rather than washing over at the end.
  • I had to add color. As the paint dried, I saw that the first application of blue toned things down more than I expected.
  • To make the entire painting more color harmonious, I added more purple and violet to the rocks to repeat some of the colors that developed in the fish.
  • In the end, I also came back to the eggs with more red/orange to make them pop.

And here is the finished piece. I'd love to hear what you think!

Life Cycle Imperitive #6
30 x 22
Watercolor on paper

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A December to Remember (Thus Far)

UUCE Exhibit
Although the month is not over, it has certainly been memorable. On December 1, I took down an exhibit of my paintings that had hung for a month in the Unitarian Universal Church Eugene.

Although the viewers of such a show is limited, it was a lovely space and rewarding for me to see so much of my work hung together. Thank you to my sister Janice, who is a member of the congregation, for arranging this event for me.

Life Cycle Imperitive #5

Janice relayed many positive comments regarding my artwork and I was pleasantly surprised to sell a painting. Someone is going to be very surprised and happy to find this under the Christmas tree!

After taking down the show, the first week of the month flew by, as we prepared for the send-off of the Carter family to Arizona. After Mike and I were the primary caretakers for Rachel and two of her three children for the months of February through May, then having Rach and all 3 children live next door to us for the following six months as Rachel recovered, we were restless and at a bit of a loss for how to get ready for their departure.
Hannah making muffins

Marin with her wreah
I used some of the time doing the rewarding and fun things with the grand-kids. Hannah and I made muffins and all three kids made their own Christmas wreaths for their new house.

Knowing that the move would interfere with many of the Carter Family's own traditions, Mike and I tried to fit as many things as we could into their last few days with us, including decorating our Christmas tree.

The Carter children decorating the Blue River tree.

Finally, the departure date arrived. In the early morning of Friday, December 5, with a car chuck-a-block; Rachel, 3 children, a cat and a dog drove out our driveway. Destination: Gilbert, Arizona.
But wait: there's more . . .

Noah, Hannah, Rachel and Marin ready to load up!
We got a call from our older daughter Meg, letting us know that she had an immediate need for abdominal surgery scheduled for December ninth. Since Mike had a minor surgery scheduled on his hand, I was the obvious choice for going to Camas, WA to support her and granddaughter Angelica through this period. (Are you laughing yet? Not at the surgeries, but at the irony of life!)

Meg before surgery
Meg heading home.
I spent December 8 through 19 in Camas. Meg had her surgery, Angelica continued to go to school, and I bounced back and forth between the hospital and Meg and Angelica's Camas home for 3 days until Meg was released from the hospital.

While Meg was in the hospital, I got the word that two of my paintings had been accepted into two different  national shows. "Herons' Winter Dreams" will be in the 6th annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition at the Fallbrook Art Center, Juror Stephen Quiller. "Taken Under the Wing" will be in the 31st Annual Juried National Painting Show 2015 in  Redding, CA, Juror Vinita Pappas.
Herons" Winter Dreams
Taken Under the Wing
Now I am back in Blue River scurrying around preparing for Christmas. Most of my shopping is done. Meg (with a healing incision)  and I managed to shop, package and ship gifts to Arizona before Angelica was out of school for Christmas vacation. I am finishing the decorating of the house and looking forward to a lovely Christmas Eve gathering with our friends and family.

Since the first part of December reads like an entire year in review Christmas letter, I wonder . . .
what will the last 10 days of December bring?