Posts tagged ‘Iceland’
A Labor of Love…?
This waterfall has been two years in the making (started in 2019 and finished 2022). Was it a labor of love? Or something else?
In 2019, I went on a safari trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana and came back incredibly impressed with Victoria Falls and enamored of waterfalls in general. Based on some of my many pictures, I started painting. At first, two small paintings, which were okay but more representational than I wanted. I thought of them as practice … getting the kinks out.
With them behind me, I was ready for a bigger waterfall. My biggest canvas (at the time) was 30×20. Vertical, it seemed perfect for a waterfall. Ahh, hubris! My first attempt was fortunately lost(I didn’t take a picture and barely remember what it looked like). My second attempt (painted on top of the first) went from the rack at the Art Students League to my easel at home during the Pandemic, where it languished, untouched, for about a year. I had no idea what to do with it. It was okay. It even looked like a waterfall … just not the one I wanted.
When the League reopened, it returned along with my hope that I’d figure something out. Two months later, I decided the solution was to paint the underlying rocks first and then the falling water on top. So I painted the rocks.
The middle of June, I added the water.
But everything was vertical (look at a real waterfall…it’s not just vertical). It needed a diagonal somewhere.
Fast forward to early July (I’m skipping a few steps) …
Skipping a few more steps and putting the finishing touches on at home, et voila! The final version, or The Nth Waterfall.
So it was definitely a labor of love. Though in the middle there was a lot of frustration and certainly a lot of temptation to gesso over it and start fresh. But the waterfall in my mind just wouldn’t give up.
Why should waterfalls be so hard?
I’ve been fascinated by water for years: water flowing around rocks in a stream, waves and ocean currents, foamy water alongside a boat … and ever since my trip to Victoria Falls in Africa in 2019 … waterfalls. But none of my waterfall paintings are satisfying to me. The effects I want continue to elude me. Why should waterfalls be so hard?
I started with a fairly representational painting of Victoria Falls in 2020:
Next came a bigger painting of Victoria Falls, more abstract, just focusing on the movement of the water itself. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never took a picture of it and it has undergone several iterations since then. It’s still not finished.
Then I decided to test some different techniques in smaller paintings, just to see what might work. In one, I put the rocks down first using a palette knife and molding paste, then added the “water.”
That didn’t quite do it. It wasn’t clear if it were snow or water.
So I tried again, and this time it looks more like Victoria Falls, more powerful, but still not abstracted enough, still not what I wanted.
So I decided to try to really paint a more abstracted waterfall, more like the beautiful ones I saw in Iceland. Having used most of my creativity for the painting itself, I simply called it Falling Water.
This is much better, but still no cigar.
And, of course, the 3rd (but not final) version of my 2020 waterfall painting is still sitting on the rack at the Art Students League waiting for me to finish it. One of these days (months? years?) I’ll know how to do that.
In the meantime, I don’t have the answer to my original question: Why should waterfalls be so hard? (shrug) They just are.
Moving beyond sunsets
Sunsets still fascinate me, especially the subtle or not so subtle gradations of color and their (often) reflection in the water. But I’m moving beyond sunsets to try using the same medium and techniques on abstracted landscapes at other times of the day and often without water. The colors are different but moving from one color to another, where to add a hard edge (or not), what to include (or not) continue to challenge me.
I started painting this with the gold on the bottom. It was going to be called “Fields of Gold.” However, once I realized it worked much better with the gold on top, I decided to just call it Gold. I wanted to escape my typical colors and go with the complementary colors of yellow and purple. So what started as an exercise ended up as a real painting. Sometimes you have to abandon your own judgements and let the painting tell you what works.
Remembering some of the vast landscapes I saw years ago in Iceland and a little over a year ago in New Zealand, I wanted to capture the wind sweeping over the plain. The details don’t matter. The feeling of it does.
I wanted to do a landscape with mostly blues: ultramarine, cerulean and a little ultramarine violet. Better than gray.
Painting on raw canvas really allows me to convey the atmosphere that can happen after a storm. You don’t have to worry about foreground, middle ground, background … it’s all misty. The colors blend into each other with just a hint of what’s there behind the veil.
It’s the mystery of it all that fascinates me.
Iceland continues to inspire
It’s been five years since I visited Iceland, but I keep creating paintings that are based on that trip. With no conscious desire to do so and no matter what the medium, I nonetheless find paintings emerging from my Iceland memories. Right after my 2012 trip, my paintings were all in watercolor; now I’m painting with acrylic. I remember thinking how beautiful but alien parts of the country were. Well, Iceland continues to inspire.
Two recent paintings, both acrylic on canvas created in my home studio, are perfect examples.
Lava Flow started as a painting about water. But when I didn’t like it and took a pallette knife to it, Iceland emerged. I can’t explain it any better than that.
Fire and Ice took almost no time or conscious effort. I put the colors down, didn’t like the result and, as with Lava Flow, started fixing it with a pallette knife. Again, memories of Iceland surfaced.
When I first came back from Iceland and started painting, I remember thinking how my abstract paintings were really awfully representational (parts of Iceland were that strange). These two aren’t representational, but they do really remind me strongly of Iceland. I think Iceland will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.
Start with a memory of water
I’m not sure I understand why, but something about the ever-changing nature of water fascinates me. Maybe it goes back to my ever-changing childhood (we moved a lot) .. or maybe not. But all my recent paintings at the League start with a memory of water, in California, in China, in Japan, in New Zealand, in Iceland. No matter where I go, I am captivated by the water. Lakes, rivers, oceans, beaches, you name it, my paintings start with water.
Many don’t end up looking like water. Some even look like the sky or outer space. But they all start as water.
In no particular order, here is a small sampling from the Fall of 2017 at the Art Students League.
I wanted to convey the depth of the water. Lots of layers of blues and white. This was on Lake Ashi in Hakone, Japan.
Yet another painting inspired by the water outside our boat in Japan.
Water is fascinating: how it moves; how it changes color; what’s on the surface; what’s down deep. You get glimpses, but you’re never really sure. It’s always changing.
This started to just be about water. Then I started seeing seals … or fish … or maybe birds. Ultimately it’s about migration.
I’ve done several paintings based on the water churning next to the boat … in New Zealand, China, Iceland, you name it. Sometimes it ends up looking like water; sometimes it looks like outer space. Sometimes I don’t know what it looks like. It’s hard to pin water down.
This painting took forever. I started it shortly after I came back from New Zealand. Four months, roughly 24 layers of very thin acrylic paint, almost as many layers of masking fluid applied and later removed … it doesn’t look anything like what I was originally aiming for, but somehow does remind me of New Zealand.
My most recent painting at the League is based on my oldest memory of the Merced River in California. Many layers of green, viridian, purple and white. Years ago, my husband and I visited Yosemite with friends and we stayed in a little inn next to the Merced River. I remember the hummingbirds, the delicious breakfasts, the sunlight and the water rushing around the rocks.
Water is ever changing, but my memories are preserved.
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Reflected Glory at St. Francis
Reflected Glory, my watercolor based on the waters off Iceland combined with the winter colors I saw this year outside my window at Spuyten Duyvil and the Hudson River, is showing at the 1100 Watercolor Society “Imaginings” exhibit at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. The reception is next Sunday, April 12, 5:00-7:00pm. Hope you can make it.
Reflected Glory, 20×14, $1000
All four of my paintings in the show are based on the Breiđafjöđur waters off Iceland but, at different times of day and even different times of the year, the colors and the effect of each painting are very different. In each I made extensive use of masking fluid and over 20 layers of watercolor. Reflected Glory is definitely a winter sunset painting.
St. Francis College is located at 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201. If you’re coming by subway, it’s the Court St./Borough Hall exit on the 2 or 3 line. Hope to see you there on Sunday, 5:00 – 7:00 pm.
My view of Spuyten Duyvil and sunsets over the Hudson River and the Palisades is often nothing short of spectacular…but not always. The reflected glory of the winter sun in the cold Spuyten Duyvil waters where the Harlem River and the Hudson River meet can vary from steely grey to a bright vibrant orange red, depending on the weather.
This particular painting of that reflected glory actually started with my memory of the sky reflected in the waters off Iceland. To the complicated movement of that water I added the colors I’ve been seeing out my window this winter: peach, a little green and many shades of winter’s blue.
I’ve done brighter paintings based on the Breiđafjörđur waters (there is a lot of green in All the Sky’s a Stage, deeper colors in Ebb and Flow, and in Breiđafjörđur the blues are cleaner), but Reflected Glory really is a winter painting.
An artist’s work is never done
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “A woman’s work is never done.” Well, it just became really obvious to me that “an artist’s work is never done,” and not, perhaps, in the way you might expect. It’s not that creating art is so much work (though it is) that you’re never done. And it’s not that you (I) have so much art to create that you’re (I’m) never going to be done … though that is true also.
It’s that you’re never really finished with a work of art; it’s never really “done.” A painting’s doneness lasts either until it is sold or until the artist looks at it again and discovers something that needs fixing. That’s why many artists don’t sign their paintings until some time has passed. If they still like it a month later, then it’s done … unless they suddenly look at it six months later and discover something that needs fixing.
So here is a painting I “finished” in December. I put the finishing touches and my signature on it the beginning of January and even blogged about it on January 3rd. But I had an artist friend over yesterday and when I pulled out the painting to show it to her, lo and behold my eye instantly went to something that needed fixing. Of course, once I started to fix that one thing, my eye noticed other things.
So here is the painting I thought was finished.
What bothered me was that almost straight line down the center between the dark blue-green on the left and the light green on the right. It needed fixing. So I fixed it, and then fixed some other things. And here is the newly finished painting.
The changes aren’t huge, but they eliminate the straight lines that caught my eye and stopped it from moving around the painting.
I think it’s finished now but, hey, you never know. If an artist’s work really is never done, this just might be the painting that proves it. I hope not.
Painting titles are hard
There’s a lot of advice out there about how to name your paintings. Problem: it’s often contradictory. Painting titles are hard.
First piece of advice: describe the painting in the title. If it’s a red barn along a country road, don’t call it Serenity, Call it Red Barn on Country Road. Or, if the painting is based on a bay in Iceland, call it Breiđafjörđur. Okay, I’ve done that.
Second, call them all Untitled, because it doesn’t matter what the artist intended. What matters is what the viewer (hopefully, buyer) sees or feels. And the artist can never know what that will be. Sorry, but I’ve never done that (although I’ve been tempted). It just feels like a cop out.
Third, name the painting after the feeling it evokes (hopefully). I’ve tried that. When what I captured is a feeling of mystery and there are no words to adequately describe it…
Finally, you just do what you think makes sense. Painting is hard. Titles are hard. You go with whatever works. And sometimes your first choice doesn’t work and you have to change the name.
I just finished two paintings: one I really like, one not as much. The not as much one I was going to call Ebb and Flow. It was based on rain water washing across a concrete surface. The first, the one I really like, I couldn’t figure out what to call (Untitled did come to mind). Actually, the more I thought about it, Ebb and Flow made more sense for the first painting. But then, what to call the second? So I asked my husband what it made him think of and he said, Asia. I decided to call it China Flow. And here they are:
Do you have better titles?