Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Inner Fire

"Inner Fire", 9x9" mixed media on paper. Available. 

Somewhere along the line... and I think it was right around when I did the painting "In the Soul's Light"... my focus seemed to change. I'm still painting movement. I'm still working from drawings based on a living beings doing some kind of activity, lately humans dancing. But I've made a subtle shift... somehow I don't feel like I'm painting the exterior of these people anymore. I feel like what I'm digging for is inside. I watch and I draw, and then I try to take this intangible thing... that thing that draws me to certain people, certain movements, rather than others... and make it visible. Does that even make sense?

I like to watch people. It's a form of entertainment for me, as odd as that sounds. Even as a teenager... I would tag along with my friends to the mall, not because I had any interest in shopping whatsoever (still don't: hence, my wardrobe), but because there were always lots of people, and they were all interesting to me. I love watching how people interact. And while watching a group, I can usually figure out the dynamics within the group and how the social hierarchy is playing out. Work is an absolute treasure trove.... and it is about to get better as we move to a more open concept type of seating arrangement (any of my work friends who might happen to read this... just ignore me drawing away in the corner. I'm not doing anything interesting).

The thing for me lately, though, has been to take this interior tangle of feelings that has been dredged up by all the loss in my life recently, and attempt to overlay that onto this stranger dancing in the youtube video I just watched. In a lot of ways, this painting isn't of that ballet dancer,  it's me... my interior mapped on the moving form of that exterior. Or perhaps a combination of interiors, because I don't think I can obliterate their interior from their exterior... it always will show, because that's how people are. I'm painting the relative connection between myself and my subject. I know it seems like I'm babbling here... I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I am trying to do. I think this is going to turn into an actual body of work, which means I am going to have to write an actual artist statement, which means I really have to have clarity on what I am trying to do.

I have to keep going with this. I have other things on my list of things to accomplish in 2016, but this idea is nagging at me, so I will pursue it. That is, after all, what artists are supposed to do... right? Take that little quirky obsession, that one thing that captures you, and chase it down until you understand it. The final result may not be entirely wonderful (or sellable)... but in the end maybe I will have mended that break in my soul, and in some small way, managed to fix myself.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Under a Copper Moon

"Under the Copper Moon", 9x9" Mixed Media on paper. Available.

I'm tired. It's been a busy week. My boy is writing his first set of University exams, so he has been holed up in his room studying pretty much non-stop. Work has been insanely busy and I've been there late pretty much every night this week. My Christmas tree has about 5 decorations on it, and there is all of one gift underneath. In my normal life, I am one for planning ahead... and because I get freaked out in crowds, I have all my Christmas shopping done before December rolls around, my freezer is full of Xmas baking and I know exactly where we're going to be having dinner, or who will be arriving at my door.

This year, my life is chaos. I don't do well with chaos.

I'm doing my best to take a step back and not take on any responsibilities that are not mine. I'm trying (not always successfully) not to freak out about missed deadlines at work, because dealing with the deadlines is someone else's job. I have no shows planned, I have very little work out and about, and I am trying to make sure I get some exercise and outside time every day. I have until the spring to sort myself out... and by then I have to be back on my game. I've got classes to teach, I've got art fairs to attend to.

Anxiety has been one of those things that is ever-present in my life. Over the years I have developed strategies to cope with it. I plan for contingencies. I try to go with whatever is happening in the moment. I focus on letting go of things that aren't important. I try not to take on more than I can reasonably handle. Working in an art journal had seemed to help me sort myself out in the past... and yet that's the one thing I seem to be resisting this time around.

There it is.... Resistance rearing it's ugly head.

I know resistance is usually a signal that I'm heading in the right direction. Have you read "The War of Art"? It's an interesting look at the psychology of creating, from the point of view of an artist. Certainly worth a read... especially for anyone suffering creative block. Anyway... my point is that I need to get my shit together and do something that is going to help my mental state, and I'm pretty sure that should be starting a new art journal. Finding a book that speaks to me will be this week's project. I suppose. Even having said it out loud, I now feel the need to backpedal so I can procrastinate a little longer. Sigh.

Looking at the positive things... I now have a new-to-me vehicle. It's a little Mazda 3 hatchback, with plenty of space to haul around my gear. It has a few quirks... but all cars do when they get older. For the most part it's nice to drive, is pretty good on gas, has an input jack for my music, and is an automatic so my boy can drive it. Check, check and check. Thank goodness for something going right.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Fine Art of Screwing Up... the Evolution of a Painting

"Vein of Gold", 30x30" Acrylic on Canvas. Available.
The nice part about having a piece that has gone thorough as many transitions as this one is that the canvas is
now beautifully textured. And you can see hints of what has gone before... in many of the grey areas you can
see the green hiding underneath. Oh, and that browny looking colour is metallic gold, in case you couldn't tell.
I've been asked many times how I can tell when a piece is finished. Usually, it's not that hard to tell… or at least with the figurative pieces. If the people look "right", there's nothing there that bugs me, and the attention is in the right spot, then I'm done. It's not so easy with the abstract stuff… I'm not as well versed in the language of abstract art, and sometimes there will be something not quite right but I just can't put my finger on what it is. If I'm being completely honest, it also happens with the figurative pieces from time to time… sometimes I need a second opinion to figure it out, and that's where my artist friends are invaluable. I will struggle with something for weeks, and one of my friends will look at and say "it's the mouth", or something equally obvious. Pretty sure it has something to do with not having looked at it for seemingly endless hours at a time...
Lately I've taken to posting working photos online. It can be a bit daunting, since I know that every painting, without fail, is going to go through a phase where I want to toss it. I've been painting off and on for 20 years, and it still happens. All the time. I've been told that my honesty about this is helpful for beginner painters... they see someone that has more experience and still screws up, so they can be a bit more forgiving about their own mistakes.
I started this painting in August. It's now December and I JUST finished it. And it took a lot of twists and turns to get to where it ended up. I had some idea that I wanted it to be somewhat neutral with a hit of bright colour somewhere, thinking either a blue/grey or green/grey kind of thing. I'm more of an intuitive painter than the kind that plans every detail, but after years of classes and reading and looking at art, I have a pretty good idea what makes a decent composition, and I have fairly good colour sense... even if it doesn't seem to make it from my head to the canvas with any kind of predictability.
In the end, in order for me to get something I was happy with, I had to be willing to let go of the bits here and there that I liked, but weren't working with the rest of the piece. That is not easy. When I get something I like my instinct is to protect it at all costs, to the point where I'm afraid to do anything in case I wreck it. Problem with that is the piece never actually gets finished.

There are all kinds of articles online about how you should give yourself permission to make mistakes. I'm a bit of a perfectionist.... more than a bit, actually. I get frustrated when I screw something up, and then I will make an even bigger mess trying to fix it. It took me a long time to get to the point where I will just paint, and be ok... pleased even ...with the result. Especially if it wasn't what I envisioned when I started. Stepping outside our comfort zones and trying new things is how we grow. How we get better. Perfectionism is a mental barrier I had to get past before I could get to the next stage. I think over the last few years I've managed to embrace screwing up pretty well. And I've progressed. So to all you other painters out there, go ahead and make a mess. Screw up royally. Try something you've never tried, and push the limits. After all, it's only paint.