Painting What You Sea

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I often ask my students what subject matter they would like to paint and living in Rhode Island, of course the subject of ocean came up.

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Here is the tutorial I created on the subject.  The key to painting waves is to think of how the sun is hitting each and every wave.  There are dark areas and there are light areas.

I had to paint this painting twice for class.  Both came out a bit different.  One is more pastel and detailed and the other was created with a larger brush and bolder color.  If I painted it three more times, I could paint it three more different ways!

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This in there lies the key to finding one’s own artistic style.  I highly recommend trying the same subject matter multiple times.  As you become intimate with every nuance of an image, it becomes easier to manipulate.  You can make changes based on the insight you’ve gained.

The more you truly understand, the stronger your artistic muscle.

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The Sunniest of Flowers

    • In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.

I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.

Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.

Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly.  I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?

This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress,  artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.

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I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students.  Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher.  Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages.  It helped me understand the process.

The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class.  There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love.  It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience.  I always wind up loving the second painting more.  I’ts like catharsis.  I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.

 

I say it over and over again to my students.  I tell them go home and try it again.  Not many do.  But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.

As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet.  It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)

Little Paintings

In between larger works, I’ve been working on these smaller pieces. They are roughly between 8×10 – 11×14. They allow me to play without too much investment in time.

I am also currently working on large watercolors. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that my strengths seem to be better suited towards traditional watercolor still-lives (as opposed to acrylic abstracts).

What sort of stinks about this realization is that I have spent the last 6 years working tirelessly on abstract painting ! – and also constantly feeling frustrated.

Ahh…I am sure the knowledge and experience will be good for something… I just don’t know what that is yet.  Now, to be patient and present enough to let life unfold…

In the upcoming week or two, I will post my bigger more serious paintings.  And then you’ll get an idea of the direction I’m going…

Here’s to Life and Learning!

 

My new painting called “Close to Home”

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Let me show the progression of this painting before I start talking about it.

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I have this terrible affliction called insatiable stimulationWhat is this you ask?  

OK. I made this up but let me tell you the symptoms:  If my surroundings are not well-lit, sunny, happy, colorful and changing every 2-3 months I get agitated, depressed, restless and I want to physically move to a new home.  More poor husband.  Can you imagine your wife asking to move every 2-3 months?  He has learned to nod, smile and pretend he’s listening. I know he thinks I’m crazy and yet he still sticks around -God Bless em’.

So, it’s probably not realistic to move every 2 months.  I have had to create coping mechanisms to trick my system into thinking it’s in new surroundings without actually moving.  What I do is I gut my living room.  I empty it of everything and then I refill the room with whatever I own in a very different way.  For instance, this was my fireplace mantle at Christmas and this is what it looks like in January…

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I change the pillows, blankets, nick-knacks, table.  Everything.  And for about two months I lose that itch for new surroundings.

I tell you this long winded-story because it is the muse for my new painting.

I feel like I have kind-of run out of inspiration for a new room given my same-old tricks.  So I said to myself, “You’re an artist.  Create a new painting to give you inspiration for a new room”.  Duh, I can actually do this!

Now this new painting is a bit weird I know.  It’s incredibly bright.  A bit naive. And a bit wonky – (In a nutshell it’s me!). I had a hankering to cut paper like the artist Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar child’s book.  Cutting paper is very physical and in reality it is carving away at negative space instead of creating a positive image.  Paper arranging allows you to move your composition around so that you can work on the spaces in-between images and make sure those spaces are just as interesting as your true subject matter.  Now when I say it’s me, what I mean is that it is incredibly personal.  I live in a little yellow house, the 4 birds represent my family unit, I am an avid gardener and environmental advocate, the two people represent the long hikes I take with my daughter and dead center is our lovely kitty-cat Willow.

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After painting all of the paper cut-outs, I truly had no idea what I wanted for the back-ground.  I sat with it for about a week and then I took a deep breath and decided to start with a grayscale under-painting.  My idea was to paint color over the under-painting but the black and white had so much energy to it I stopped.  It sort of reminds me of when the Wizard of Oz moves from B&W to color.  That is the most magical part of the movie. So I kept it black and white.  About 6 layers of varnish later and it’s one cohesive unit.

The painting is large. It’s 48 inches across.  It will be the focal point of my room.  But not until I become stir-crazy sometime in March.  I am content with my current living space, so I better not push it -LOL.

When that day comes, I will post a picture :)

 

I’m walking Away

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 I’m at that point.  The point of giving up.

I’ve been incredibly frustrated lately.  Mainly, the ideas in my head aren’t matching up with what’s physically manifesting on my canvas.

After six months of painting abstract acrylics,  I can look at this body of work and say:  It’s not translucent enough (the pieces are kind of muddy in color) and they don’t really communicate a significant message to my viewer (I don’t know what they communicate!).  These were some of the goals I had set for myself and I sort of fell short of them.

With that said.  I’m ready to walk away.  Throw in the towel. Maybe even create a giant pyre and throw all my paintings in it.

Ok. That might be a little dramatic.

I’m not feeling that bad, but I am frustrated darn it.

I am walking away, but really I’m just walking into a different room.  A room filled with watercolors and paper as opposed to acrylics and canvas.  My hope is that if I walk away, I can let everything I learned in the last 6 months synthesize into my brain somehow.  I’m hoping with time I will be able to mentally separate the processes I liked from the ones that didn’t work for me.  Or who knows, maybe with a little bit more time I can simply check acrylic-abstract-painting off my list.  – Check.  That one’s not for me.  Let’s go try something else.  That could be the case.  I don’t know.  Hopefully time will tell.

I do know that I love painting.  I can’t quit.  I won’t quit.  You’ll have to pry that paint brush from my cold dead hand.  I do sure hope I figure out where I shine technically before I am cold and dead.  Gulp.

So here’s to another go.  A different go.  Wish me luck :)

No. Seriously.  I mean it. Right now.  I wouldn’t mind a little prayer.  You could send me some positive Ju-Ju.  I’m a believer of that kind of stuff.  Send it my way right now I’m waiting!!!

Here were the last paintings I finished in this series:

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These canvases were roughly 16×20 – 18×24.

It’s hard.  I feel like I would NEVER bring one of these paintings to a gallery or art association for exhibition.  Mainly because they don’t look like ANYTHING I see on their walls.  Mine are playful and crazy where as everything I see there seems so serious.  That definitely weighs into my cruel critique. I don’t feel like these are “show”-able.

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I do have to say though, when I hang them in my house, I very much like them.  They are colorful, happy and create a cheery atmosphere.  That puts me in a strange conundrum.  I want to make art for the world not simply for myself.  Will I ever get there??? 

Deep exhale….. I hope so.

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As we speak, my brand new set of watercolors has arrived.

My old set is probably ten years old.  It’s been on rocky car rides where the pigments got mixed all together.  It’s filled with cat hair, mainly because my cat won’t leave me alone! It’s a complete mess.  Ta Da.  A new set with new paint brushes.  It’s like artist Christmas.

Well here I go.  Off to give these new puppies a try!  Hee Haw! Yipee!

Losing My Religion

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Here’s a painting that evolved from random abstract mark-making.

Somewhere within the chaos I saw a church and from there, all my thoughts on the current state of religion in the US came to mind.

Of course religion in America is loaded.  It’s political and something most people would choose to avoid discussing. Nevertheless, It’s what came up in my painting.

I guess for me, I feel a bit of anger at the indifference some people find towards the First US Amendment – Freedom of Religion.

I can remember my earliest encounter with other faiths when I first went to kindergarten.  My little class had Christians, Jews and Vietnamese Buddhists in it.  I didn’t even really know what that meant, but I do remember that it was a lesson. Through school I learned that many people believe in many different theories of God and in America you can practice any religious faith you’d like. Or none at all.  There is room for everyone.   That was about it.  Sweet and simple. Oh, and there is church and there is state.  Church is your own private choice and state is where everyone agrees to respect everyone else’s choices.  To a small kid, I remember thinking that sounded pretty fair.

A decade later I was in high school. For the first time in over a decade we were told they were changing our morning routine. The Pledge of Allegiance had always come onto the loud-speaker. We stood up, said the pledge and were then told to sit down for a moment of silent prayer.  But, for now on, there would simply be a moment of silence.  I don’t think us kids had ever thought about it before.  We just did what we were told. We put our hand on our hearts, stood, recited, sat down and stayed quiet until we were told we could speak.  On this day, I can remember the teacher explaining why the government was doing away with the word “prayer”.  Prayer had come from the fact that our country was predominantly Christian for hundreds of years, since most people were Christian, no one really minded if there was Christian religion in the public schools.  But now, people were becoming more observant of the fact that not everyone is Christian.  Perhaps a moment of silence to whomever your God is might be better than the Christian idea of “prayer”.  I remember thinking this was amazing.  Right in my little classroom we were discussing the First Amendment again and how as a country we really needed to hold true to our word. There is freedom of religion and separation of church and state.  You believe whatever you want outside of school, but when you are at school, we respect that everyone may have different beliefs. We focus on learning at school. That’s it – period.

I got it.  I got it at every age. We Americans are free because we respect everyone’s right to freedom. That’s how it works.

Now, I’ll admit it. I haven’t been in school in a couple of decades.  But the talk I now hear goes against everything I was taught in school.  Things like “Finally, we can bring back prayer to the classroom.” and “Bring back the Christmas pageant”. Things that sound incredibly CHRISTIAN to me.  If these same people found out the school was pausing to face towards mecca to pray 5 times a day they would go berserk.  Perhaps there should be no school lunch as all kids should fast during Yom Kippur?

You can’t have it both ways. If  you don’t want someone else’s religion shoved down your throat, then you can’t shove your own.

The other thought that came to mind as I was painting this little church is acceptance.  I am pretty sure every faith has some form of “Love All” in their tenants.  This caused me to draw all sorts of symbols.  Religious ones. Feminine vs Masculine. Patriotism. Rich vs. Poor. Educated vs. Illiterate.  Citizens vs. immigrants.  Who does America belong to? All or some?

Me. I believe in the freedom to mind one’s own business.  You leave me alone.  I leave you alone.  Mutual respect = Co-exist.

Call me a snowflake.  A flaming idealist-liberal.  I’m OK with that.  I’ll own it.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but guess what? I’m not the only one!

Feeling the Blues

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Not feeling like I have any control over the subject matter, composition or colors, but I’ll show you how I tamed this wild beast from some dots and crosshatches to at least something… Negative painting (painting the background instead of the foreground) seemed to go well.  It’s how you edit the mess and I’m finding it’s the key to creating the composition.  I will take what I learned and move forward.

Blue Still Life

11×14 acrylic and charcoal

Little Field Study

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So let me quickly explain what “mixed media” means to those of you non-painters.

 When it comes to art galleries, museums and art publications, an artist needs to very specifically categorize their art. Here are some classic examples.  Oil painting, acrylic, pen and ink, gouache, watercolor, pastel, … you kind of catch my drift…

Well “mixed media” is the term the industry has coined for any artwork that uses more than one medium.  I don’t know where in my schooling I got this notion, but I was always made to feel like mixed media was a lower, non-purist, uneducated art form.  That’s pretty loaded huh?  Some artist/teacher/adult taught me that and like Adam, I bit that apple.  I think in art there is this “purist” thing which now that I am getting a little older, I would like to re-term an “ego” thing.  If you can put people and their work in a category, then you can compete against one another. Then you can have “the best” in show and don’t we all want to work so hard to compete with our peers to be the best???

Ugh, I’m exhausted with this premise and I’m only in my forties.

Now, when you go to art shows and you see “mixed media” near an artwork title, pretty much it’s a lump word that  means – more than one medium.  Think of all the categories above. If you simply add a tiny bit of charcoal to your acrylic painting, you are – mixed media.  If you add a tiny bit of gouache or acrylic to your watercolor painting – you are mixed media. God forbid you glue anything to your artwork, you are mixed media.  Of course any type of collageis – mixed media. This leaves all of these artists lumped into the “we don’t know what to do with you category”. For award giving,  “purists” are being compared apple, to apple, to apple, to apple…. For mixed media artists, award giving is comparing apple, to orange, to pineapple, to egg…. No one fits per say. Maybe that’s what gives the industry it’s uneasiness. I also  think there’s a rich vs. poor thing going on too.  Poor people can’t afford the best art supplies nor can they afford the proper education to know the rules. Great industry to be a part of right?

I mention this because for me, wanting to work in “mixed media” obviously has loaded negative connotations.  But guess what?  I LOVE MIXED MEDIA. I really love artworks that use ALL THE ART MEDIUMS ALL AT ONCE.  Why not?  Who says you can’t?  I want to use charcoal, paint, pencil, gold leaf, and spray paint all in one work of art.  Why is that such a bad thing?  Why do I feel like I will be judged poorly for doing so?

I think of the most famous mixed media artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.  I am pretty sure he wasn’t thinking “Gee, what are the leaders of my industry going to think about my art and art practice? Hmmm?”  Nope. He was a street artist, a gritty-city graffiti artist who used whatever he found on the streets to get his vision across.  Racism, poverty, segregation, social inequality.  He was feeling it and he was expressing it.  When you look at his work, it is raw.  It is loaded with power, anger, inquisitiveness and humor.  Somehow mixing all the art mediums, packs this visual punch.  There’s so much to look at.  In this genre, there is a contemporary mixed media artist I love and admire, Mitsi B Kral. Click on her name to see her work.  Mitsi has these great YouTube videos.  When you watch her, you clearly see she doesn’t give a crap about being a “purist”.  She is just blasting music, scribbling, painting, gluing, spray painting, pretty much going nuts on a canvas. Her work again is raw and expresses so much emotion to me.

I love mixed media. It’s crazy and free.

But, Just when I think I am crazy and free, I find that really, I’m not.  I have all these rules in my head and I don’t even know where they came from. They’re clearly un-examined.  So for me, wanting to be wild and free at least when it comes to painting, is going to take a lot of practice.  First I have to challenge every preconception I have.  I have to undo every classicly-trained art lesson I’ve ever had. Dump all of it and try to uncover what’s under there.  What is my raw unexposed self?  Beats me.  What do I care so strongly about that I find ways to express it through my art and share it with the world? Beats me.  But it sure seems more interesting than painting a still life of some grapes.

So this is a little taste of the mental garbage rolling around in my head.  I am such an over-thinker/over-analyzer. My step-father used to ask me how I could even wake up every morning?  He’s got a good point.  Maybe if I go to a therapist, they can teach me how to stop over analyzing and then I will be the best painter in the world.  I’m thinking world-domination good! Mhew Ha Ha Ha Ha <- that’s an evil maniacal laugh by the way.

OK. I think I’m losing it. Something tells me I need to stop.  I should step away from the computer and simply just try to make a little more art.

OK… OK … I’m going… I’m going…

 

Mixed Media Painting

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I’m going to begin to show some of my mixed media experiments.

My thought is to skip the critique  because I don’t want to come off as complaining.

However, I have plenty of insight. Learning what to do – what not to do.

So, if you want to hear me complain – Oh, I mean give a critique  of my works, send me feedback. Yea or Nay?

If not, I’ll just post some of these pieces I’ve been playing with…

Off to throw some pots.  TTFN