Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Abstraction: Learning without Judgement

Week two of Jane Davies' Composition class just started, and I'm loving it. It's great to have a group of people holding me to task to get my work done each week. It's also great to have my mind pushed and pulled with the weekly abstract challenge. And to me, abstract is a challenge.

Abstract Art holds a funny place in our hearts and minds. It's the thing non-artists like to mock about the art world. "They just painted it all white. Big deal." So it starts at a disadvantage.

But abstract art is problem solving at it's finest. And for an artist of any level, the lessons found within that problem solving spreads out to all other art forms. Abstract art teaches us to listen to our inner voice. "Should this go here? How about here? Does it look better there? Why? How could I adjust it so it's stronger? Why?" It's a circle of constant inner questioning. We have to trust ourselves but also have reasons for the trust. "It's stronger over here because the balance is better. It's better over there because it draws the eye in and around." It's a questioning without judgment. Whether or not I put a square of color on the left or right doesn't feel like high stakes. I don't declare myself a bad person and an incompetent artist so quickly when it's just a matter of squares. But the lessons I'm learning in that time are invaluable. And I can't wait to see what week two brings.

Image note: The lesson was to stay within a color family in a grid layout but use various values and include a non grid shape (in my case a circle) to focus they eye's attention. My first pieces used hardly any layering, but seeing the beautiful work of my classmates encouraged me to try and slap a few more pieces on top of each other. I still didn't go that deep...but I'll take any progress I can get.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jane Davies Composition Class

The wonderful (wonderful) Jane Davies is teaching an online workshop concerning composition. I had the opportunity to work with Jane when I was at Creative Catalyst and to say she's been an influence is putting it way too mildly. I missed her color class in January and instead of waiting for it to come around again, I'm jumping in to composition.

Am I terrified? Oh yeah. Even more so by seeing all the amazing work done by my fellow classmates. But you know what? You don't get better by sitting in the corner hoping to get better. This is exactly the kind of fear that you feel right before you learn a whole lot. It's the kind of fear we should all be running toward.

So, on your marks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Material Lessons

We learn by doing. And it takes time with the materials on your hands to understand the best way you work. Here are some of the material techniques I've learned. These are specifically for paper painting, although they may apply to the faces a bit.

Tall Bottles:
I have a bunch of 8oz plastic squeeze bottles. They are filled with paints and mediums that come from unwieldy jars. I label them, although sometimes that's not enough like when I grabbed white gesso thinking it was matte medium. Surprise!

I work pretty fast, and I find the idea of putting down my paint brush, using both hands to open a jar, and then somehow transferring that jar's insides to a palette really cumbersome. (Also messy.) Doing the squeeze bottle transfer every couple of weeks (or months) makes life a lot easier. Sometimes the tips get clogged, but it's worth the cleaning time for the time spent not frustrated about jars.

For getting mediums/paints from jars into tall bottles, it's good to have one. At first you'll think, "Oh no. My aim is just fine." If you find yourself thinking that,  at least allow yourself a piece of plastic under your aim. I'll report back on how important it is to have one funnel for clear mediums (matte medium, self level gel, etc) and one for dark colors (like black gesso.) Also, when pouring through that funnel, work in small batches. That is unless you are really really good at translating funnel volume to squeeze bottle volume. I, as it turns out, am not.

Used Up Paint Bottles:
I paint with two types of soft bodied paint: expensive Golden paints and much less expensive craft paints. While I was bemoaning the fact I hadn't purchased more 2oz squeeze bottles at Dick Blick to make glazes, I realized I had a bunch of bottles all ready at my disposal. I just found my craft 2oz paint bottles that were almost empty and added matte medium (or white gesso that time I wasn't paying attention) and suddenly I have access to all those glazes!

Image Note: I put a G on the tops and bottoms of paints I've turned into glazes. The colors inside never match the color that has been stained onto the plastic. I always forget this simple fact.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Good Day

When you go into the studio for a day of art and your work space *starts* like this, you know you're in for a good day.

Image note: No I did not have beer for breakfast. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tuesday Night Trivia (Not Really)

Tonight before knocking all the spare eyes and wings I had carefully organized into a tidy and meaningful stack, I pulled out some of the layered pieces I was working on last week. This week I didn't touch them at all, and it was nice to see them with fresh eyes. The layers felt satisfying in a way I couldn't perceive when I was looking at them day after day. It inspired me to stay up too late and add another level of gel to four of them. It also reminded me that if I had actually been attending to them every day, they would be finished by now. An important lesson: If you do nothing, you make no progress. Hardly anything is waaaaaay more than nothing.

Lesson acknowledged universe. Acknowledged.

Another fun piece of art learning trivia: One of my pieces of material is rusting under the medium. Rusting might not be the correct chemical term but something akin to that process. At first I noticed a few spots at the edges but I thought there might be a chance I was making it up. No indeed good people. No indeed. And isn't it a good thing I used large swaths of this material in a body, a head and a beak of three separate projects. They are all going to turn a strange translucent green, which, lets be honest, wasn't a part of my original color scheme.

Another lesson learned: If you use recycled materials, you'll either need to test how they'll react to chemicals (in this case self leveling gel) or risk that they will once you've started your piece.

Image Note: This is clearly the trouble piece.