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It’s talking to me …

Any artist worth her salt will say the painting “talks” to her. No beginning artist really understands. “Talks?” But it’s true and I have a current example. It’s talking to me …

I have a photo taken in Antigua which I love. I’ve wanted to paint it for years: the shadows on the path, the light shining through the trees … It’s a very complex landscape so I decided to do a sketch to try and avoid some of the pitfalls. Here’s the cropped and greatly simplified sketch.

Without thinking about it too much (my first mistake), I sketched it very lightly on a 18×14 piece of raw canvas taped down to a larger piece of foamcore. Using fluid acrylic only slightly thinned with water, I started to paint the land next to the path and noticed that getting hard edges was going to be difficult. Well, duh. The painting was already starting to “talk” to me.

But I was committed, so I started on the trees with fluid acrylic thinned with a lot more water, since I wanted it to be fairly light to start. I would make it darker with additional layers of paint. By now the painting is fairly “screaming” at me.

What should have been nice smooth edges simply weren’t. Taking a deep breath, I decided to “listen.” I stopped and let it dry.

Background: I paint on raw canvas with thinned fluid acrylic because I like the soft- (in some cases non-) edges, the atmospheric effect. And because I wanted that effect for the leafy part of the trees, I ignored the difficulty I was going to have with the branches and tree trunks, the ground and path, and the shadows.

So this isn’t a made-for-tv story with a happy ending … at least not yet. I confess I kinda like this jagged edges effect and I certainly right now have no idea how I’m going to make this work. I could continue as is with all the edges being jagged, and see how that turns out. Or I can try to “fix” the edges, but that involves matte medium and a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of thought (what I should have done at the beginning, since I know how unforgiving raw canvas is and how hard it is to correct mistakes).

So I’ll think about it over the weekend and then decide. It certainly would have been better/easier if I’d “listened” to the painting at the beginning.

I’ve been busy

I seem to go in spurts. It’s been almost a month since I last posted but it’s not like I haven’t done anything. Actually, I’ve been busy.

From an artist friend (who also happens to be a cousin), I accepted a 10-day challenge on facebook: post one image a day for 10 days, starting with the oldest and ending with the most recent. You would think that since I didn’t have to paint anything new for the challenge, it would be easy to do. But you would be wrong. Rather than just bragging about my best work, I decided to use the occasion to review my progress over the last 20+ years, and my conclusion: not bad. Starting with my very early watercolors, I gradually learned composition and technique. A little over 5 years ago I moved to acrylic and had to start all over with technique and learning the materials. Two major take-aways: my paintings kept getting better (although not always in a straight line); and no matter how happy I was with a painting, I would later always see some way in which it could be improved. So the 10-day challenge was both encouraging and sobering.

And I’ve done 7 paintings in the last month, most of them small sketches often on canvasboard, some in preparation for larger work later. During the Pandemic, I’ve mostly been painting on gessoed canvas or canvasboard (it’s what I had available), so my paintings have been experiments.

Lately, I’ve been focused on sunsets. They are beautiful and it’s what I see outside my window every night. Living in a high-rise apartment overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades offers constant inspiration.

Just a few examples …

Palisades Sunset 6×6 Acrylic on canvasboard

Sunset Tree 5×7 Acrylic on paper

Sara’s Sunset 6×6 Acrylic on canvasboard

The process of creating the 10-day challenge has influenced how I look at my work. I’ve always been critical, but now I look for progress in a more specific, intensive way. The next time I paint this subject but larger, what do I have to change and how. Will I paint it on the same kind of surface or will I do something different, like going back to painting on raw canvas? Each painting has it’s own requirements and I’m still learning.

Spring’s last gasp

I know, it’s still April … so it’s still Spring. But I’m tired of trying to paint Spring paintings. So this is Spring’s last gasp, at least as far as my paintings go.

Spring 9×12 Acrylic on canvas board

Finally, a Spring painting I really like. [You’d be amazed at how many of my paintings I don’t like. They get gessoed over.] These colors really speak to me of Spring.

So far, this is my 4th (and last) Spring painting. So I guess I’m not going to create a Spring series afterall.

I know, it’s Spring

The weather has been weird lately, warm then cold, then warm then very cold, then very warm (almost balmy), then … well, you get the picture. I know, it’s Spring.

So it’s definitely time for me to stop my Winter series and try something new. Maybe a Spring series? Well, so far I’ve done three mini 6×6 Spring paintings, but my heart is not in it. I don’t like the first one at all, so I’m going to gesso over it.

Spring 2

Spring 2 is the second of my Spring minis, acrylic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. Not sure what to say about it.

Spring 3

And Spring 3 is the third (duh). Also acryllic with a palette knife on a 6×6 art panel. The yellow does make me think of forsythia, of which there is lots outside, but I’m not sure the rest of the colors are very spring-like. Somehow it’s much harder to paint “Spring.”

I may just have to move on to something else.

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…

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’t 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.

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.