Paintings not about water
I promised to show the 5 paintings I’ve been working on for most of the summer at The Art Students League. They’ve taken a long time because they each have many layers of acrylic wash and 4 of the 5 used masking fluid. All of them were based on my memories and some photos I took of the water churning next to our boat on a New Zealand lake the beginning of the year. But although water is the inspiration, the paintings are not about water. They’re about space and depth and mystery. At the end I’ll include one of the photos.
So in no particular order, here are the 5 paintings.
First is Passage, the only one that didn’t use masking fluid. Many many washes of ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, teal and titanium white. Only a very little bit of this image comes from the photo, although that’s how it started.
Second is Jacob’s Ladder, which started as a very pale blue wash with masking fluid on top. I made the “mistake” of standing the paper up before the masking fluid was dry, so it ran down the paper in several places. Once I got over my horror, I ended up liking the “ladder” effect, and then building on it. This reminds me of the hymn I sang as a child, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I certainly don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the feeling of awe and the mystery of climbing to heaven.
Third is Celebration. As with the paintings, Passage and Jacob’s Ladder, this started with the color patterns in the churning water next to our boat in New Zealand. And the colors and painting process used are the same as in Passage.
But what a difference. This painting is playful, joyous, dancing. It’s a quiet celebration of life in all its complexity and wonder. Somehow this painting insists on being happy.
Fourth is Beyond Beyond. Of the five paintings based on the churning water next to the boat in New Zealand, this is the one that looks the most like water (though not at all like the water seen from the deck of the boat).
The painting process was the same as with Passage and Celebration; even the red and blue colors are the same. But in this painting I feel like I am swimming underwater. Everything is vague and fluid, gently moving. You think you see where you are going, but you could swim forever and never get there.
And finally, Almost There. I’m aboard the Enterprise, heading to an unknown nebula.
And, here is the photo …
What can I say? I can’t really explain how one photo and my memories yielded five such different paintings. Although superficially similar (color, pale washes, masking fluid), each painting has a completely different feel to it. As Frank O’Cain (my instructor at the League) says: “The painting tells you what it needs.”
Experiment gone wrong
Okay, so this isn’t about the work I do at the League (as promised in my last post). It’s about the different work I do in my studio at home: specifically it’s about an experiment gone wrong.
It started out well enough. I decided to do another ocean meets the beach painting by dripping paint onto a small canvas and moving it around with a palette knife.
I liked the initial result, but left it to dry over the weekend, since the paint was very wet. But who knew that acrylic paint would continue to move around as it dried? Argh! All the subtlety in the ocean disappeared leaving it an almost uniform dark blue. The white expanded a little and became a uniform pearlized blue-grey. It was entirely too blah for my taste.
So I set about to try and recreate what I had liked in the initial painting, with varying degrees of success. And, for some reason, it really doesn’t scan well.
Ah well, it was just an experiment, an experiment gone wrong.
I’m a little schizophrenic
It’s true. I do very different work when I’m at home in my studio and when I’m down in class at the Art Students League. I’m a little schizophrenic.
Nine months ago I got two 2.5 x 3.5 canvases at a Gala event for the Art Students League. 2.5 x 3.5?!? What can you do with anything that small? Well … experiment, what else? So instead of doing the kind of work I do at the League, I decided to try something new. I made monoprints of my acrylic palette with both canvasses … and really hated both of them (well, one more than the other, but it doesn’t matter). Neither was any good.
So I dug out some fluid acrylics and dripped them on the canvas and started pushing them around with a palette knife.
Very short story later, I liked them. The one on the right looked like a waterfall; the one on the left, well, I didn’t know what it looked like. But it still appealed to me. So I decided to do more of this kind of work and upgraded to a slightly larger canvas: 5×7.
So, this is my idea of where the ocean meets the beach:
My next post will be about the very different kind of work I am doing at the Art Students League.