Sunday, November 24, 2013

Musical Interlude...

Did you realize there's only 4 and a bit weeks left until Christmas? I think I clued in around Wednesday... I'm usually REALLY organized when it comes to Christmas, 1. because I seriously hate crowds, and shopping in the malls around here in December vaguely resembles roller derby, and 2. it's a month that is usually insanely busy at my day job. This year I'm not so organized... somehow the time has managed to slip by without me noticing, and here it is one week till December. Yikes.

What have I been doing? Well... painting. I did my class with Gwen Tooth, worked on a couple decent sized abstract pieces, and finished off a large musician piece that's been hanging around my studio for a few months now. I got an amazing book out of the library, "the Jazz Loft Project"...  Its based on the photographs and tapes of W. Eugene Smith, from 1957 to1965. There are some fantastic photos in this book, and I used one of Thelonious Monk  as a jumping off point for this piece. I try to alter my drawings so they don't actually look like the photos... I will draw from the photo, put the book away and draw it again a couple times, and each time it gets further away from the original, and I learn enough about my subject to be able to paint it with minimal detail and get the "feel". With this one, I was going for the atmosphere of the smoky bar, with the jazz band in the spotlight, completely into the music.

"Straight, No Chaser"  
30x36" Acrylic on Canvas
This is the largest piece I've done in a while. I love painting large, but storage can be an issue... my house is small and I've got art up on pretty much every available wall (not all my own... I have a small but growing collection of works by artists I admire). If you are interested in the various stages one of my paintings will go through, I sometimes post working photos on my facebook page. You can check it out there.

In other events, last weekend was the opening reception for the Colour and Form Society's annual juried show. I hadn't entered many juried shows over the past few years. Time has been limited and I really thought my energies were best spent elsewhere. This year I've been in a few, but they have all had specific size requirements. This show was open, and apparently I had forgotten something i had previously learned about juried shows... if I enter a small piece, I might just have a hard time finding it when the show is hung. That's my little one on the end... the far, far left... actually the end of the hallway. See where all the people are? Yeah. That.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Abstraction: Part 2

So, here's my second attempt at a non-objective piece... I kept with the same colours as the first one, figuring I would probably hang them side by side. This one is a little busier... not sure if it's any more successful. It certainly is fun to paint this way. I will do more, but not just yet. I've got a pile of canvasses I've started that I need to finish, and a bunch of reference photos that are calling to me. Maybe I will do a small series in the new year.

Out of the Darkness: 2
24x24"  Acrylic on Canvas

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Theories of Abstraction

Out of the Darkness: 1
24x24"  Acrylic on Canvas
Last week I spent a day painting with Gwen Tooth, a Toronto artist whose work I have seen around for years. When I was looking for a class in non-objective painting I was thrilled to stumble upon her listing... classes in any kind of abstraction seem to be few and far between around here. Apparently, they are not in demand. I can understand that I guess... once you get to a certain point in your painting, most people will stop taking classes and just work away on their own. And most novice painters are more concerned with acquiring technical skills than branching out into the abstract genre.

My day with Gwen was informative and fun. It was a small class of only five, so we each got a fair bit of individual attention. And all of us were experienced with acrylics, so we could focus on expression and emotion rather than technique. Everyone brought images of their work, a differing starting point for each of us. I already have a firm grasp of colour theory... my main issue is that I can't get my compositions to hold together. They always look too busy and not unified... a problem I solve by working in a figure as a focal point. With non-objective work, the entire piece is the focal point, so the challenge is to move the eye around in the piece, and the best place to start, says Gwen, is with big shapes.

Another thing I had to get over was my complete avoidance of black. Since I started painting in my late teens, I've been told that black is a dead colour. Don't use it. And many of my teachers didn't. So neither did I. Gwen is my second instructor to disagree with that theory. Go ahead, she says... there are no rules. So I did... and I have to admit, it worked. Instant contrast. I went over the black areas with transparent colour to liven it up a bit, but it is still really dark, and I love that. Overall, I found the class to be really fun, and I think my finished painting was successful. I've got another canvas the same size, so I am going to do a companion piece in the same colours.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Way to Happiness

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project". It's an interesting book with a lot of great suggestions to make an ordinary life a little happier. Nothing big, like running away to a different country, but things to help the right here, right now. A couple things she suggests struck me... fostering an atmosphere of growth is important, and to do that you have to try new things. And for that, you really have to get over failing. Failing is productive. I knew that, but still.... it's a tough one. The other thing that she repeats continually is to be who you are... know your likes and dislikes, and be honest about it. You like what you like, and just because you "should" like something doesn't mean that you do. Also a big one for me. I've spent most of my life trying to make other people happy and letting others make my choices for me. Not necessarily ideal, for someone trying to live a creative life.

I can draw. I'm good at drawing. It's easy for me to stick to what I know and have a subject in my paintings, something I can draw and make convincing even if I abstract it a bit. And I like drawing people. I like trying to get their expressions and nuances right, to get their hands just so (I think the hands are almost as important as the face in conveying emotion).

But I've always envied the way some artists can convey a feeling using just shape and colour. I've always loved non-objective art, but my own feeble attempts to produce a non-objective painting have failed miserably. So I've decided to try again. Keeping with the books resolutions to "enjoy the fun of failure" and "don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good", I've signed up for a workshop with an instructor whose work I like. I am going to go do a few pieces, sticking with them until I can get them to work. I'm going to post them here... and even if I can't get them right I'm going to post them here. By the end of November. Really. Even if they suck.