Oil on Panel
This is white charcoal on black paper - a really interesting exercise we did in class recently. You have to kind of put your brain in reverse - pulling out the highlights instead of the shadows. What I'm enjoying about these studies is that it's really challenging me to rethink what I 'know' about drawing, and I'm learning so much through the process of experimentation, doubt, failure and success (not necessarily in that order).
Something I was thinking about today was how hard, even in an academic environment, it is to not to contrive a narrative of some kind into my drawings. I do have something of an active imagination, it must be said - I have very vivid dreams and nightmares, and my brain rarely stops for breath, so to speak. Maybe that's a female thing, maybe an artist thing, or both. I've talked before about my habit of anthropomorphosising inanimate objects I paint in still lives - same thing.
Anyway, I thought this model had a kind of medieval quality about him, with the beard and earrings, which lent him a kind of dignified authority - like a king or a warrior from ye olden days. I liked that idea, it gave the drawing an energy I think. We were drawing a female model who fell asleep today, and the character was completely different. I think it's important to tap into what's going on around you to channel into your art - as long as it's stuff you can handle. Sometimes I think that kind of sensitivity can make you vulnerable if you're not aware how much you're taking in.
I so enjoyed painting this! It's a study for a large oil on canvas - part of a new collection I'm dreaming/obsessing about right now. I want to integrate elements of design and drawing with painting. I'm also into the idea of big hair and kooky hats for these...such fun! My classmate Kristin Boles posed for this, such a pretty girl - and willing to let me mess up her hair in a cross between Amy Winehouse and a 60's Prom Queen..much back-combing and hairspray to create this huge style - Thankyou Kristin!
I'm learning so much by doing research and preparation for the class I'm going to teach - so many gaps are appearing in my knowledge, it's a little unnerving. I am able to take a step back from my ego and say to myself that this is all part of the process of growing as an artist, but I can't help feeling that the shaky foundations upon which I've built my craft all need to be ripped out and replaced. This is OK though, a bit of updating is long overdue, and I think I'll come out the other end with more confidence.
The process really started back in April, when I did the workshop with Carol Marine in Santa Fe. She took us through some colour theory and a practical application of its principals. I realised with a little shame then that I have very little real knowledge of colour. I work intuitively, and this gets me by - I kind of 'knew' how to mix colours, in a really basic way which I couldn't explain. Carol's demonstration was a real eye opener, and the resulting works I did with my new visual vocabulary were by far the best paintings I'd ever done. There were still problems with my technique though - I was still flying by the set of my pants really, and today I found out why.
I painted a colour wheel for the first time today.
I've got a degree in art, and have spent the past 15 years making a career from painting, and I can't believe I somehow missed out on this really crucial lesson. I know a lot of artists I can engage in mutual bitching sessions about the quality of art education - both in Britain and America, and yet nothing really makes up for the idiotic ethos many art schools uphold regarding basic skills. So much emphasis is placed on being the most shocking 'artist' that people like myself who actually want to learn the traditional skills our forebears spent their lifetimes perfecting, don't get the opportunity until they leave school - and find a workshop taught by someone who cares enough about art to pick up the 'creative baton' and run with it some more.
And whilst I'm ranting, I would like to point out that the lack on instruction we had as regards health and safety practice in the studio, was not just ignorant, but dangerous. I'll be the first to admit that my cavalier attitude to safety is probably hard-wired into my personality (I'm also a rock climber) but when we were introduced to oil painting on the good old foundation course at Parc Menai - we were never warned about the perils of inhaling turps, or the cadmium and lead in our paints. We didn't have good ventilation, and weren't told that eating your lunch or smoking with oily hands was perhaps not a good idea. I realise that common sense should have prevailed, but excitable 17 year olds rarely think about their own mortality in that way.
My Environmental Scientist husband is probably going to read this with some relief, and wry smile, as he has been horrified at my appalling ignorance of safety in the studio. He built me a great ventilation box which attaches to my easel (thankyou Carol, again), and gently reminds me about safety when I'm caught up in the moment. I'm very stubborn though, and it takes some tact and patience on his part. I'm coming round to the concept of altering my practice to accomodate good healthy habits step by step. So much is ingrained in my artist behaviour that it's really hard to maintain my motivation when things aren't organised like they were. I've just moved into a new studio too, and I feel like a cat padding round and round until I'm ready and comfortable to work again.
I'm not going to start painting in gloves though - old habits die hard and I can't bear the lack of contact with the wood of my brush. I also refuse to wear a helmet when I'm climbing. I know that seems stupid to some people, but I've actually given up the type of climbing where it's most likely I'll sustain a head injury.
I've always been a very tactile artist, enjoying the mess and chaos of the creative whirlwind. The trick now might seem to be to find a balance between intuitive chaos, and considered, skillful markmaking.
The colour wheel was fun, in a slighty nerdy way. I'm not very adept at left-brain activities, but I find the challenge stimulating if it's on my own terms. The turquiose I was finding it impossible to mix in Santa Fe just came right out, and now I know how to mix it and many, many other really beautiful colours, I can feel the creative block I've been fighting with for the past few months lifting....right , I'm off to paint - yipee!!
Wow, it's been a long time since I posted on here! We've been moving house, and had no internet for ages - but all's almost back to normal now. I have a lovely new studio looking over the Carson Valley. It floods with glorious sunrise light in the morning - my favorite time to work.
I've also been attending a figure drawing class with Phyllis Shafer - a real treat for me. It's a much more academic class than I've ever attended, and I feel like I'm getting something of the classical education I always dreamed of. It's really helping me to loosen my drawing style, and I feel like I'm learning to look and make marks from scratch. I think I've said before that I regard my art career as a lifelong apprenticeship, and taking this class is a humbling reminder of the skills I have which need refinement.
I'm going to be teaching a class at Lake Tahoe Community College in January, entitled 'Discovering and Developing Creative Imagination II'. The course is an exploration of the creative process, including sources of inspiration and developing an idea. It is an introduction to art through two and three dimensional experiments in drawing, design, ceramics and sculpture. I'm really excited about teaching again - it's been a while! If anybody is interested in taking the course, you can visit the college website: http://www.ltcc.edu the course code is ART 105.
Ah broken promises...well better late than never! Here's some more photos from Burning Man...
I'm sure there's hundreds, nay thousands of pics of people standing in this sculpture..
These gigantic sculptures were made entirely of cables - pretty amazing eh?
Today is day 4, and there is a dust storm. It’s been crazy so far, what with building the sculpture and the challenges of heat, time and limited materials and resources. The guys did an impressive amount of preparation for this project – having componants such as LED’s and voice recorders designed and manufactured in advance, as well as welded steel structures and fleece sheep coats. There is still a huge amount to be done on site though – 17 sheep need to be made from steel strips: drilled, riveted, bent into shape. It’s a lengthy and repetitive process, requiring cooperation, patience and hard work - far removed from my creative process.
It looks to me like they’re going to get this thing finished in time, but they’re not so confident. The heat of the day is oppressive, too oppressive for hard manual labour, so jobs need to be done in the shade. The actual site of the installation is about a 10 minute bike ride from camp, in the middle of nowhere at the moment.
The city is growing day by day, and other weird and wonderful installations are popping up around us. A giant Hummer is being constructed nearby, and the industrial lighting they use to work at night is almost enough for us to work by. There’s also a temple being made out of wood, which I haven’t been close up to yet. It looks phenomenally complicated. It’s a real eye opener how much work these people put into their camps and artworks, for no profit apart from the pleasure of making. It makes me feel slightly ashamed of my increasingly career driven artwork. Many of these pieces will be burned at the end of the week, like the temple – and this again reminds me of how attached I am to my work, and how driven I am by my desire to sell my work to buy the things we want to furnish our life with – a house, kids, a garden…It’s hard in the ‘real world’ to separate the necessity of the fiscal with your creative drive, unless it’s something you do on the side, as well as your ‘money work’. I guess this kind of event presents people with the opportunity to be childlike in that sense, making for the sake of making, with no other reward than the reactions of other people to your artistry.
The people I’ve met so far are quite odd, as you would expect in a place like this. My social ‘antennae’ feel malfunctional, and I’m not sure what people are saying to me. I think we’re the ‘square kids’ here: we’re not naked or outrageously attired, and that singles us out as outsiders. I think we might be regarded with suspicion. It’s like the reverse of what normally happens in society – the strange and unusual folk are alienated from ‘normal’ people, and are regarded at best as quirky individuals other people secretly want to be a bit more like, and at worst, as freaks of nature people are frightened and resentful of because they’re so far from the norm, and it’s imagined they might be depraved and insane, and capable of anything. Actually I’m starting to think that might be the case, there’s certainly a lot more deviant sexual character to this festival than I imagined. A quick look at the program of events is a shocking experience already.
"Pyramid Lake Reflections," since it has several levels of meaning: an image given back, like a mirror; a thought or idea formed as a result of meditation; deep consideration of some subject matter. "Pyramid Lake is part of the Native American Paiute Tribes' Reservation land, and is a located in the stark desert mountains of Nevada. The name of the lake comes from the impressive pyramid shaped tufa formations which protrude out of the water.
A pluot (plü-ot) is a tradename for a fruit developed in the late 20th century by Floyd Zaiger. In the United States, the fruit is known by most regulatory agencies as an interspecific plum. It is a complex cross hybrid of plum and apricot, being ¾ plum and ¼ apricot in percentage. The pluot, like the aprium, is derived from the half-plum–half-apricot hybrid called the plumcot.
The fruit's exterior with smooth skin closely resembles a plum's. Pluots are noted for their sweetness (due to a very high sugar content), their intense flavor, and juicy pulp. Pluots are also rich in vitamin A.
I was looking for more dark red fruit to paint, and came across these in the supermarket. They're a bit more 'engineered' than I like, a bit too perfect, but they are a cool heart shape and I like the colour.
"You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."
"The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies everything placed in front of it without being conscious of their existance."
This was actually done at Valhalla during my residency - I've been too busy to post much work lately. I was showing my work at the Art, Music & Wine Festival at Squaw Valley last weekend, and it always takes longer than I think to prepare for it.
I swore off outdoor shows last year, and somehow managed to convince myself that it would be ok to do just this one....well, will be my last unless I take the plunge and invest in a proper heavy panel set up. Taylor and I made concrete weights for my tent, and I thought I had it wired so that the wind wouldn't destroy everything, but that was just wishful thinking on my part. A huge gust hit with a woman inside my booth, screaming "I didn't do it, I swear!" as glazed paintings smashed to the floor from both sides. We ran in, trying like cheap entertainers spinning plates, to catch all of my precious artwork as it flung from the walls like a scene from The Exorcist. It was rather stressful to say the least, and my husband is a saint.
It rained on day two, the tent leaked, and the resolution was complete - never again.
I'm the 'artist in residence' at Valhalla Historic Monument this week. I've got a beautiful little studio looking out over the lawn and the Great Hall, with french windows. There's a huge stone fireplace behind me, and it reminds me of being in Wales. It's amusing to me that American tourists come in to the studio just to look at the dry stonework - beautiful and rustic though it is - they're pretty common where I come from, in fact most of the houses I've lived in are about the same age as this! I really get a perspective on how 'new' America is at times like this.
A little bird came and sat on the tree you can see poking through the window yesterday - I feel so close to nature in there. I'll post the painting I did yesterday later, the bright apple one you can see in progress in this photo. I don't want to leave this studio already, they'll have to evict me by force if I stay too long!