Friday, March 26, 2010

"Inside The Studio"

In Progress -- Mixed Media on panel (36x36)
(Painting Surface Zero)

The work lately is continuing in it's transition.  This painting is developing after 'taking it down'-- left traces of markings that engaged me again with using my range of materials.  The switching back and forth with mediums has been a time of learning and making decisive decisions -- knowing when to stop puttering and backing up when you know it's not taking you there.  

Stalking the accidents and giving myself to the process is a lot of things right now.  Creating and developing new techniques, waiting around, getting motivated, doubting, patience wearing thin, time-consuming, staying focused, etc...  

It's no mistake that life collides or colludes with your work as an artist.  If you track what's going on in your reality and notice what's happening in the studio -- truthfully, it's no surprise that you are working things out.  But, being there, in the Studio requires discipline to shut out the yammering going on in your head so you can face the demands of what the work is demanding of you.    

Another painting undergoing 'surface zero'

The feel good moments happen when I can open up and go with the flow, staying with and watching my work going through a change.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about and have gone and come back from that place many times!  And, the times that it takes you somewhere is what keeps motivating you to go there again and again.  It definitely produces anxiety when you experience doubt or fighting with yourself.  When your mind is telling you what you think you want to paint and then you let your instincts drive, it can be an unpredictable ride.  You may not know where you're going exactly, but it's great to understand how your work patterns manifest.  The work is always ahead of you!  

Whatever is happening with the's got to keep you interested to make you show up.  Whether it's  successful or not, the engagement is what counts with my working sessions.  Pushing and pulling the work right now is what draws me back into it, but it is also exhausting and lots of hard work during this phase of change.  

My love of color, composition and grid continue to keep me excited...that I know for certain.  So, leveling with the materials and staying long enough to work out the integrity is important... I think this is what gives space for making work that is yours and not like anyone else's, right?  

Taking down the Wax of another painting (48x48) using the Iwatani Torch.  

There are several processes going on in the studio this month.  I don't like waiting around and I usually work on 2 or 3 paintings at a time while prepping and making encaustic paint and medium.

My handmade Encaustic Paints 
(Beeswax, Pigment, Damar Resin)

In Progress - Acrylic on canvas (36x48)

 In progress...Encaustic Oil Sticks, graphite and Wax on panel  (24x24) 

Haven't finished a suite of paintings lately so no slacking off allowed!  Thanks for stopping by to follow me on what's happening "Inside the Studio"!

           You approach both a new work and a revival 
        with the same amount of integrity and hard work.  
       __Pamela Reed       

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Painting Surface Zero"

Process shots (thanks for the phrase Kirk) of a reworked painting  "in process"  from traces and markings of a closed form grid - 36"x36" on panel (2006)

Working on this painting is producing a renewed cycle of motivation that I have been missing and craving.   Haven't had much studio time on a regular basis and the absence of being absorbed really started draining me.  

I need the balance between the outter and inner life.  Lately, life's been very engaging on multiple levels...but I know for me, I have to return to the work pretty regularly every day.  I have goals and they seem to be getting further and further away as life spins new journeys/choices on a daily basis.  

Taking risks with materials has been my process the past few months.  There's a part of risk-taking that is maturing with me as I stick with learning how to listen.  Are you familiar with gutting it through when deep down you know it's time to make that "U-turn" or maybe it's a matter of turning a 'new' corner?  

I found this excerpt from a Brice Marden book, "Plane Image" --  Artists take risks to fight the threat of a creative death, Pollock once told the painter Peter Busa, "Go ahead, make a mess.  You might find yourself by destroying yourself and by working your way out of it."

This absolutely speaks to me very loudly at the moment.  I have enjoyed making a mess with changing mediums and destroying a few paintings by taking them down to the surface.  In working with wax, it's easy to take it down.  The butane torch, ceramic triangle and my power sander!  

The messing around with one medium at a time along with other depth-building materials didn't take me where I thought I was going --- "ding- ding- ding!!!"  Are we surprised?  Not really.  Of course not!  The disappointment was felt but I pushed forward.  

In pushing forward, I decided to go backwards and take a few paintings to 'surface zero'....destroy and rebuild!  So, the work above is a continuation of what's still in progress with an older painting.  Due to the surface markings and traces of what remained, it has me working very intimately with all my materials again.  

Yes, for me -- much about the "surface" and working with integrating the materials -- wax, pigments, resin, acrylic, graphite and gel mediums.  The grid obesssion continues.  Stalking the accidents has been riveting and the happy accidents pull me in to make it happen again!  

I feel like an architect  restoring an old damaged building.  I love the traces of what was and creating wax-infused smooth finished surfaces.  Something about creating depth with transparent volume, layering, leveling and manipulating the materials to relate to one another in harmony.  

Please don't ask me to identify which parts are wax and which are acrylic!  You'll just have to see them up close and in the flesh real soon!  Will continue on this one tomorrow and will start another surface zero panel that I prepped late today.   My mantra for March is "Rock It" in the studio and don't let frustration get you down!  Maybe it's time to make a mess and working your way out of it?  I tend to work myself "inside" my paintings and have to figure the way out!  

"There's no such thing beneath the heavens 
as conditions favorable to art.  
  Art must crash through or perish". 

                          ____Slyvia Ashton-Warner 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Taking It Downtown"

"A Painting in Progress"
(relating to what was)

Taking it "downtown"  this week in the studio has definitely got me dealing with the core.  Actually, the real heart of my matters ( I know -- so transparent for my therapist -- I'll stay in denial until my morning session)...The down and dirty decisions have been made and I'm sticking to them. The progress above is happening slowly as the materials have kept me dancing back and forth.  A very nice dance  I'm enjoying and rocking with .  (If you're a mixed media painter like I am-- you'll understand how one can become scattered like a feather!)

This new painting is going to be one of 3 large pieces with a vision of joining an existing body of work.  That impulsiveness to follow a random urge can be overpowering at times.   I'm finding more comfort in the "focus" zone and listening to meaningful and practical decisions. It brings you back around to discipline or what I call "holding" some of those impulses at bay.  Maybe that's not how you work or what you need in the studio, but the longer I paint and show up, it seems to be the deal breaker when I ignore what I know.  After a while, the consequences of laziness, impatience and skipping steps backlashes.  

It's not about being too rigid and uptight with experimenting, instead a finer ability to listen, act, look and wait.  I'm excited about this cycle of intimacy in working with my materials, and how they are relating and reacting to one another.  Integrating graphite, wax, pigments, oils, resin, acrylics, and polyurethane on various grounds and substrates turns me on!  

This painting is changing as the materials relate to one another within the geometric grid.  What's happening right now is the beginning...  my intent is to allow the materials to adapt individually and yet push them to the limits to reach the same level of integrity for what it can do as an integrated whole.  

Here's a peak at the next painting that is in the process of being taken "downtown".  This was a mixed media  encaustic painting with graphite and encaustic oil sticks (48"x48" wood panel).   As I've talked about in an earlier post -- I always begin with the grid and here you see an incomplete gestural abstraction obscuring the truth.  

The Iwatani Butane Torch

A 48"x48" Encaustic Painting in 2D!

Taking it to the Core!

As you know, it's often real easy to throw up your hands and say, "you can't make the cut to committ to this artist life" -- but you gotta do it!  There have been the ups and downs in this process to arrive here,  but a good leap in every step.  And, the steps will keep coming because that's what it's about.  Whichever way your work leads you, it's the reason for being in the studio.    

Enjoy what keeps you showing up!  Music is my best friend-- it energizes my body to move, sing, swing, rock and feel good! Yeah, sometimes too much reality crushes your confidence and ability to participate in artmaking.  So, try some bite-sized goals when it feels dry.  Make some "down and dirty decisions" and take your work "downtown"... It's the human condition to feel depressed about how little we feel we accomplish.  Don't let the outter conditions punch a hole in your dreams!  Get inside them and see what happens!  

MARK ROTHKO - "I Paint Very Large Pictures" (1951)
I paint very large pictures.  I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous.  The reason I paint them,  however---I think it applies to other painters I know---is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human.  To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view with a reducing glass.  However, you paint the larger pictures, you are in it.  It isn't something you command.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Down & Dirty Decisions

Back to the Studio after 10 days in Hawaii has motivated me to focus and kick myself back to work!  But, not in the same way.  Do you ever wonder why the months of January and February leave you feeling somewhat unfocused?  Today this little quote fell out of a random sketchbook --- 

"To lose focus means to lose energy.  The absolutely wrong thing to attempt when we've lost focus is to rush about struggling to pack it all back together again.  Rushing is not the thing to do.  Patience, peace and rocking renew ideas.  Just holding the idea and the patience to rock it are what some women might call a luxury.  Wild Woman says it is a necessity!"  
 (Women Who Run With the Wolves - Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.)  

As a painter, there is anxiety to make paintings-- hoping whatever you're doing is successful.  Something we live with daily and cope with in our own personal and private ways.  There's nothing more important than to know how to work with anxiety, a slump, and making firm decisions.   

For some of us, the automatic response is to rush around trying to pack it all in by painting what you think you should be painting.  It isn't working and it sometimes turns into a shitty studio day.  We all have them more than we'd like to admit.  But, stumbling around with our materials often brings magic!  This could be called 'rocking it'.   And, returning to the studio to "rock it" is what it's really about.  Hanging with the process.  

Losing focus can also signal the need to 'loosen up'!  This packing things all back together feels right at the time we're doing it, but it makes things tighten up inside ourselves and shows up in our studio practice as well as the work.  Rearranging art materials and OCDing around for a particular brush, X-acto blade or sandpaper gets old.  Figuring out new strategies is key and I'm always discovering new things about myself every week.  

I was happy to have 2 projects to participate in --- "Mail Art 2010/Prison Library Project" in Claremont, CA (thank you Anne Seltzer) and Alex Brown's "Under The Influence" for a show in Pomona, CA.   There --- a "focus" both fun and took me out of my head!  After pieces went to the post yesterday, I got down and dirty today!  

You know those stacks of paintings that you think you're going to get back to someday... but they're really in your way?  And, they sort of lay a little bit of pressure way way back in your mind?  If you believe in Feng Shui (Chinese art of placement etc.) you'll know what I'm talking about.  Ed Moses talks about 1 out of 100 paintings and the 99 go straight to the morgue!  Yes, we all have a morgue and mine is a temperature controlled one that costs me money every month and is 45 mins. away!  No more keeping this packed together!  

So, today I got seriously down and dirty by grabbing a 5 year old painting that I love but never could finish.  I made a firm decision. I built this birch panel myself  (36"x36"x2"- mixed media painting)  and was in complete self-trust mode of destroying it today.  It felt great and I sat with it for a long time in between the deconstruction to listen.  This is cultivating patience in the studio --   (every Facebook notification of someone's new work, show or recognition registers inside you... and living with keeping peaceful with where you're at right now is part of an artists' life --- 'what separates the amateurs from the professionals'...(my friend in art gently reminds me)... 

It was truly a down and dirty day.  Scraping away layers of black wax, encaustic gesso, and acrylic had me covered in layers of flakes, dust and stickyness!  What you see left are graphite lines that have been inlayed into the panel.  Tomorrow we'll see what happens with more down and dirty decisions.  I have 3 other large paintings to take down to the bare wood this month -- 2 at 48"x48" and 1 at 60"x60".   

The month of March is to get 'down & dirty' whatever you're doing -- making terrific paintings, exhibiting your solo show, finding a new dealer,  or  breaking out of staying safe!  So --- go and "Rock It"----it's a necessity!!!