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It’s still winter

The weather outside has mellowed a little, but I continue to paint these simplified winter scenes on mini (6×6) canvases with a palette knife. In my head it’s still winter.

Winter 5

Winter 5 is fascinating to me. Seen up close it’s just a mess of pale colors and raised paint ridges. When you pull back a little it becomes an abstracted winter scene. There are bands of clouds in the sky, trees and even a path or two. At the time I painted it, my nose was about a foot from the painting and yet I was painting the scene you can only really “see” from a distance.

Winter 6

In Winter 6, I simplified the colors, modified one of my favorite trees a little and placed the land at an angle. I’m starting to like the way my shaky hands and the palette knife create the texture.

Winter 7

I brought back the yellow oxide for the clouds just over the top of the hill, but now that I re-examine it, Winter 7 doesn’t look like much of anything real. It’s the most abstracted of these mini paintings so far. For years, I struggled to abstract from the model, or from a real scene. Here it just happened.

Winter 8

And last but not least, Winter 8 is a little more representational, but still pretty abstract.

So with all of these Winter minis, I couldn’t create what I was trying to (smooth expanses of snow with muted, vague shapes). The palette knife made that unrealistic. Instead, I’ve created mini abstract paintings with a lot of texture. And I like them — some more than others — but I like them.

But in my head, it’s still winter, so I think I’ll try to recreate these scenes using my preferred acrylic on raw canvas. To be continued…

Experimenting with Winter

Well, it’s cold … and bleak … and the colors have disappeared (like New Jersey, normally seen from my window). Winter is here, and my attempts last month to dispell some of the gloom by painting summer colors just didn’t last. So this time I’m just going to wallow in it, paint winter scenes, some from childhood memories, some from photos. I am experimenting with Winter, using a pallette knife (instead of a brush), on mini (6×6) canvases, gessoed (not raw canvas) and with a very limited color pallette (white, blue, brown and varying shades of gray).

It’s been a challenge, but that’s what I needed. I’ve never used a palette knife before and I admit it’s been hard to get the effect I want. These canvases are small, so the compositions are very simple. Since these are all experiments, I haven’t given them names…

Winter 1

Not that it matters, but the hill is based on a childhood park hill I used to ski down, and the tree is based on an old NYT photo. The more I look at it, the more I think it could be a summer beach scene (wishful thinking?) the snow is more beige than white. City snow does tend to get dirty fast, but …

Winter 2

Well, the snow is still beigey, but it is smoother. Maybe the pallette knife was the wrong choice for the look I’m trying to achieve.

Winter 3

This is clearly not a beach scene and it reminds me of the view I had in Patagonia from the top of the chair lift. I did a very different painting on raw canvas right after that trip. That was in the summer, of course, so it’s interesting I used that memory for this winter scene.

Winter 4

This makes me think of a fairy tale. I think I still need to soften the path leading up to the little house in the trees. Not sure where this one came from.

I have four more litttle mini canvases so there will be a sequel to this post. It’s still winter, but the weather is not bothering me so much now.

Good news vs the news

One piece of good news: I and my husband have gotten our second Moderna doses (we are both over 75). Halleluia! But it’s still not a free pass to visit our new grandchild in California. We’ll have to see what the CDC and Dr. Fauci say about whether we can shed the virus…

In the meantime, it’s been snowing in NY and I’ve been trying to paint what I am remembering (rather than focusing on the news I am seeing on TV). So two of my snow scenes…

Winter Sunset 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

Winter Sunset II 24×30 Acrylic on raw canvas

Clearly these are both idealized winter scenes, vaguely remembered from my childhood in Canada: wide open spaces, lots of snow, some trees and a beautiful sunset.

Unfortunately, all of this is not completely distracting me from what is happening in the impeachment trial on TV. And really unfortunately, although the House Impeachment managers did an amazingly convincing job, Trump’s defense attorneys were anything but convincing (we all saw the whole thing unfold on TV) and we all know Donald Trump is guilty, he was acquitted. Mitch McConnell tried to have it both ways: Trump is guilty as sin, but I (Mitch) voted for acquittal. It’s enough to make you tear your hair out!

But I’ve been called the eternal optimist (among other things), so …

My snow scenes, I think, are peaceful, calm … rather than bleak.

Life can be grim; paintings can be happy

Well, things haven gotten any better since my last post: the pandemic is raging more out of control than ever, and the more we learn about the break-in and riot in the US Capitol the worse it looks. To try and cheer myself up, I have been painting “happy” paintings. If life can be grim, paintings can be happy.

I’ve actually made some small improvements to the two paintings I posted on Dec. 16, 2020 and added a new one showing where I’d like to be (rather than in my NYC apartment with a TV set showing all the grim news).

So, the latest happy painting where people don’t get sick and democratically elected Presidents don’t reveal themselves to be autocrats:

Hopefully 16×23

And the two earlier paintings with some minor improvements:

Wishful Thinking 15×19

Fall Dream 16×22

All of these paintings are acrylic on raw canvas which allows me to be as misty and atmospheric as I want, without worrying about hard edges (realities) and specific details (often depressing).

In these paintings I am where I want to be: in a warm, colorful, happy place.

No picture today — just horror

I’ve just been listening to Trump’s hour-long phone call asking the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes so he can overturn the November election in that state. Although as a New Yorker I have had no illusions regarding Trump’s narcissism and blatant disregard for anyone other than himself, this is nonetheless appalling. I can’t tell whether he is sicker than I thought and actually believes his nonsense (in the face of judicial decisions to the contrary and correcting statements from the Georgia official) or is so self-involved and arrogant that he thinks he will get away with it. Clearly, the lesson Susan Collins thought he had learned after his impeachment wasn’t what she thought it was.

But in addition to Trump’s criminality, the craven sycophancy of most of the Republican senators and congresspeople is equally appalling. The cynical lying of these people on TV turns my stomach. The damage to our democracy includes the millions of people who believe this nonsense because they don’t hear the truth … not from their elected representatives, and not from their chosen news or social media outlets.

Today’s explanation from a state official describing in detail Georgia’s election process and his resulting rebuttal of each phony claim was really impressive.

Thank goodness Georgia elected officials know right from wrong and how to say no to pressure that appears to be blatant criminality.

Compensating for the gray weather

It’s just started to snow so, of course, I’m compensating for the gray weather by painting bright colorful paintings.

First: a sunset. I’m not sure it’s finished so you can still see the staples holding the canvas flat.

My Sunset 16×20 Acrylic on raw canvas

Next: some Fall foliage (strictly from my immagination, since it doesn’t exist out there anymore … at least not anywhere near me in New York City).

Fall Colors 16×22 Acrylic on raw canvas

Actually, I’m not sure either one is finished, but they are definitely making me feel happy. What would I do if I couldn’t paint?

Wildfires: horrible yet beautiful

Just when I thought the wildfires on the West Coast were over for the year, a house caught fire and started another wildfire. And I wake up in the night thinking about how I will paint it. Skies at noon looking like sunsets. My son and his family living in their two rooms that have air purifiers. Wildfires: horrible yet beautiful.

Blazing 16×20

Blazing is acrylic on raw canvas which allowed me to blend the red and yellow of the fires and show how the colors blur over the hills. Beautiful, though deadly.

On Fire 14×18

On Fire is the raging inferno blazing across a lot of the West Coast. Intense and horrible. Destroying everything in its path.

Fires are horribly fascinating

Red has never been my favorite color. But ever since my son told me about how the fires in California were making the air unbreathable … and ever since I saw the daytime photos of San Francisco with red skies … I’ve been painting red paintings. Fires are horribly fascinating.

My first attempt was also an experiment with using a lot of fluid acrylic on raw canvas and I named it Intense, because my feelings were and the painting was.

Intense 14×18

The intensity carried over into my next painting, Rage. All about the red sky, the air pollution, and my son and his family trying to breathe.

Rage 14×18

My next painting was my attempt to calm it down a little, to almost make it a beautiful sunset. Aglow is still mostly red, but not so violent.

Aglow 16×22

Finally, after hearing that the fires on the West coast seemed to be slowing down, I managed my most serene “fire” painting yet.

Blue Ridge 16×22

Blue Ridge started as a painting about the fire just barely visible atop distant mountains, something I visually remembered from a years ago trip to the Rockies. Somehow in the painting it became quieter, more peaceful.

Unfortunately, I haven’t banished the demons yet, because I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the fires and how I want to paint them. My next two, though as yet unfinished, are more red, more violent, less peaceful. The fires are still horribly fascinating.

Let the experiments continue

My studio isn’t huge. That’s the bad news: it restricts what I am able to do. It’s also the good news. Because I have minimal storage space, my recently completed paintings are often propped up against the wall, here and there, forcing me to look at them, reminding me of what I’ve done and what I was trying to do. It’s motivation to keep trying. Let the experiments continue.

My two most recently finished paintings, although very different in technique from each other, are very similar in style and technique to experiments recently started.

Blue Ridge is a continuation of my desire to combine the atmospheric effects of acrylic thinned with water on wet raw canvas (wet-on-wet) with some harder edges achieved by putting the thinned acrylic down on dry raw canvas (in which case I have to put the wetting agent directly in the paint … and remember to let the previous layers dry).

Blue Ridge 16×22

Blue Ridge is a wonderful combination of soft and hard edges, both atmospheric and stylized.

It’s all rather complicated and fraught with peril. My initial attempt, Intense, was a total failure in terms of the technique, although I liked the resulting painting. (You can read about it in my Oct. 7, 2020 blog post.) My next experiment, Just Glow, was more of a success with the hard edges, although it doesn’t look like anything I normally should have produced.

My second painting, Aaah, is the result of a totally different experiment: painting with unthinned fluid acrylics on textured canvas (light molding paste added to gessoed canvas).

Aaah 12×12

In my earlier experiments with painting on textured canvas, I created the texture by simply gessoing over previously awful paintings. With Blown, the texture was used to help show the force of the wind. In Aaah, the wind and the clouds are more chaotic, less unidirectional.

I seem to be making some headway. My experiments are a little clearer and I’m remembering what I did and why I did it … and most importantly, what did and didn’t work.

So, let the experiments continue…

Blowing in the wind

Painting alone in my home studio (rather than at the Art Students League) for so long has left me a little adrift. Instead of having a plan for a particular painting in mind, I’m just sorta, well, a leaf blowing in the wind.

Just Glow 14×18 Acrylic on unstretched raw canvas

For Just Glow, the only plan I had was to a) work on unstretched raw canvas, b) cover it with white first to provide a base, and c) paint on dry canvas so I’d have some hard edges. I had some vague idea of painting a really abstract sunset… Once the the yellow, orange and red were down, I added the blue in varying intensities. Finally the (yellowish) white. The major difference here is that I didn’t wet the canvas first. So … Just Glow is another experiment.

I Wish 18×24 Acrylic

I Wish is a variation on my painting from early April, Almost Clear. Both are acrylic on gessoed canvas with the focus on brush strokes to try to convey the wind. Both are painting over earlier paintings I didn’t like (don’t ask, they were really bad). And the colors are similar.

But I Wish is more similar in style to my “normal” atmospheric paintings. Even though you can see the individual brushstrokes to show the wind, there aren’t a lot of hard edges.

The three paintings I’m working on now will probably be very atmospheric as well, although the judicious addition of a hard edge here and there is appealing.

My experiments seem to be narrowing down a little. No promises though. If experience is any indicator, I’ll get comfortable with whatever the new technique is and then want to mix it up and try something new. The difference now that I’m just working from home is that it feels like one experiment after another. So far it’s not gelling into anything that resembles a “comfort zone.” We’ll see.