Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Painting Makeover

This is a followup of my recent post about taking apart frames, unearthing paintings, and general reorganization of my old art. Thanks to a nudge from a couple of my readers, I decided to take an old painting and give it a makeover. This painting looked like this about a year ago. Kind of nice, and I was trying new things, so it was a true learning piece, but I didn't love it.

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More learning--this stuff I tried to improve the painting with didn't work!

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I'd heard of "gesso soup" which award winning artist Kathleen Conover uses. Then a recipe for it was published in the WSO Watermark newsletter, so I was handed a new way to have fun with this piece of paper. (Ask me and I'll share the simple recipe.) With a few tools and a batch of "soup" I was good to go.

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Here's what it looked like after my application of "soup."  I left a couple of areas from the original, but mostly just slathered it on. I also lifted some of the goop with stamps.

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I had not been thrilled by my original color choices--too cool and too reminiscent of the Southwest colors. 
So part of the makeover was to warm it up with colors inspired by the Columbia River Basin where the petroglyph of tsagaglalal--She Who Watches-- was carved. The new surface took on the watercolor paint in a surprising way and I began to see a wonderful weathered and ancient look to the surface. 

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By scraping a bit in the soupy stage, using watercolor pencils, enhancing patterns and lines with paint, and using more stamping (If one reflection is good, why not three?) and warming the entire painting, I've given this painting quite a makeover. 

As always, I love comments!

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Columbia Basin Reflections,  mixed media, 22" x 15"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Herons, Herons, and More Herons

First I want to post the link to the Fallbrook Art Center's Signature American Watermedia Exhibit. I am so honored to have a painting in this show. If you scroll down, you will find the online catalog, where my "Blue Moon Heron" is shown among many wonderful paintings.


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But my journey with my heron totem on the rivers of the Northwest is far from over. In the last few days I've worked on a new piece, this time putting two herons in the top of a pine tree. I used the same method in painting this as I did in "Blue Moon Heron," however, in this new piece the watercolor paper was covered with a metallic gold gesso, rather than beige gesso, before I applied the opaque watercolors (gouache.)

Here is the beginning of the new piece. Covering a 22 x 22 inch piece of paper with paint, can seem somewhat daunting. But I kept at it, not feeling very confident that I would end up with a decent painting. I kept reminding myself that it is always a learning process. In "Blue Moon Heron" I had totally wiped it clean after my first attempt, yet persevered  with the painting until I ended up with something very successful. What this takes is fearlessness and acceptance of the unknown.

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I had struggled with dominating the paint in "Blue Moon Heron." I worked on making smooth and consistent areas. The difference this week, was that I started to appreciate what the paint wants to do, which is puddle and run and look quite messy. Instead of fighting it, I went with it. I accentuated the very interesting textured areas, allowing the puddling to create an aged effect that I started liking more and more. 

So here is "Taken Under the Wing."  I'm interested in all your thoughts and comments.

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Taken Under the Wing
20" x 20"

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Skills Meets Subject Matter

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Years ago I took my first rafting trip down the Rogue River's Wild and Scenic section and was struck by this fascinating tree perched high on a monolithic rock, its roots reaching many feet down to find a source of nutrition. Since that first trip, I've witnessed the continued struggle of this wonder of survival each time we raft the river. And several times over the years, I've tried to paint this in a way to convey it's impact on me as an artist, but I have yet to do it justice.

I once took a workshop from fellow artist Michael Schlicting where he said that sometimes we are just not ready to paint a certain subject matter, but our skills will build and at some point we will be ready. And so I've been waiting to be ready.

I have been working with adding rice paper and gesso onto the surface of my paper before applying any paint, then using transparent watercolor which gets absorbed and resisted, creating very interesting textural effects. And so I started this painting.

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I continued with some new colors I'd bought and ended up with a purple and yellow competition of colors that I did not like. This version did not convey what I wanted--for one thing the tree and it's roots have been lost. So I took it to the sink and washed off all the paint that I could. After it dried I started over.

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This time around, I emphasized the tree and roots. I had lost what was really one of the main points of this subject matter. I also added a story line for the herons, instead of a single sentinel, I creating a pair interacting with one another. I was frustrated with the blandness of the watercolor, so started adding collage to give the painting some oomph. It was overbearing, so I moved on to painting some gouache on top of the collage to  create more unity and harmony. Also, I wanted the tree to be the most exciting part of the painting.

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In this final image, I have hopefully unified the background and foreground, while letting the tree stand out among the rocks. I have yet to have the skills to entirely meet the subject matter, but it's much closer than earlier attempts, and I know I will keep at it. What I can say is I am not totally unhappy with this piece.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

This Artist's Dirty Little Secret Places

Ten or twelve, maybe more, years ago, Mike and I put a shelving unit up in our garage to house my paintings. At this point I was more actively trying to sell my art at local fairs, coffee shops, offices, etc. With a plastic table cloth thrown over the front to keep dust out, it became camouflaged in the garage with so many "maybe I can use that later" items. 

There is has been sitting through many art stages of my career. I left for Hawaii, two years later I returned, there it sat. I moved on to my "River Series," there it sat. I am embarrassed to say that I have not even looked at the paintings and prints in there until shortly after New Years. As I was spending more money on framing new art, I suddenly got it that I had a lot of resources ($$$) sitting in my Dirty Little Secret Place.

I wish I'd taken a photo before I started clearing it out, because it was a trash heap. I even found mouse turds! Here you see it as a relatively organized space. However, all these frames are coming out to be disassembled and repackaged.

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I have a table set up for my project. What I thought would take an afternoon or two is now approaching week 2. One excuse is that the garage is 32 degrees F. until a wood stove heats it up to 45 degrees which takes a couple of hours.

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And here is the final step of my operation. The metal frames are neatly wrapped and labeled with the size, colors and damage. The glass is wrapped according to size and shelved beside the frames. But the truly hard part is ahead of me. Please help!

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I know I'm not the only artist (or other hobbyist ) with this problem.

-What do I do with old paintings that no longer represent the artist I am now?
-Can I restore scratched up metal frames?
-Is there a market for any of this stuff?
-Should I just have a giant bonfire?

I am anxiously waiting for some helpful suggestions, as I freeze my fingers to the bone out in my garage. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

More Preparation for Hanging at Zenon's Cafe

I have spent time the last few days looking through my paintings to determine which paintings I will hang at Zenon's Cafe. I have decided to hang only recent work from my River Series. The piece below, Convocation II, was an attempt to create a transparent version of my original Convocation, which is mixed media. The translation was much more static and less interesting to my eye. I also could not create the effect I wanted in the top center piece that connects the top to the rest of the piece.

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Convocation II--Before

Here is the original, mixed media piece so you can do your own comparison.

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Convocation, 17 x 21 inches

Of course, I was not looking for a copy of the original, but I did hope for more complexity and excitement. So I started to edit and enhance Convocation II (the top image). I attacked the area I felt the most frustrated with first--the background. I took a piece of corrugated cardboard, stripped the outer cardboard off, dipped the now ribbed cardboard in red/orange, and went to town adding texture to the background. I then took a Native American patterned stamp I made, dipped it in the same red/orange and added interest to the rocks. Finally, after lifting all the paint off the top lacy part, I decided I just couldn't achieve what I wanted with transparent watercolor, so I put a piece of similarly colored rice paper over it. Then I was freed up from trying to keep it a transparent piece. I made a new stamp for this particular purpose and used acrylic paint to create the effect I wanted. 

Do you think it is improved?  It is one of the pieces I've framed to hang later this month.

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Convocation II, After
17 x 21 inches