Sunday, February 26, 2012

glitz without futz

Snowed all night and day. Over a foot but it blew and drifted, was deeper in parts. All the more beautiful for not having to work/drive in it. Everyone was excited to witness an ordinary Vermont snowstorm, the first (even here) and possibly my only one of the season, and how it transformed our surroundings so quickly.

Where artists go to release all their built-up energy from being in their studios all day. I belted out a few songs, shook my hair around and followed up with a 2 a.m. round of snowball-slinging.
This is the glitz. I wanted to see if I could get the gist of a disco ball without getting too fixed on the details. I sketched it in acrylics, was disappointed by its flatness and put it away for a couple days, then went in and attacked it with oils, brush brush brush, to get the spontaneous light/dark from the photo I'd taken. Then to stop. I liked painting the different shades of white squares (whatever it was reflecting) while the white snow swirled outside. 11"x14" on panel. Enjoying texture of oil paint on smooth surface. I hope it appears basically glittery in a painterly way.

Friday, February 24, 2012

graphic content

At last it is really snowing up here in Vermont. Big white flakes, the kind that pack a mean snowball, though I use my creations for good not evil. Snowman tomorrow, and a field trip. This called for some snow tunes:
The above is 9"x12" oil on canvas. Partly based on a tiny collage I made. Red record player originally found in 1970s magazine ad.
Before that I'd done this Chevrolet night sign last week, 9"x12" acrylic on canvas. I am sliding into the flat, graphic look lately, but hopefully with a sort-of depth of field.
Tropic Cinema, painted over a week and a half here. From one of my photos during our afternoon in Key West. 14"x20" acrylic on canvas. Also flat (am I also achieving that depth or is it in my head?)
And another figure drawing that I am quite proud of, this was a long (almost 2-hr) pose and I had time to spend on both hands and feet and face which I usually must only hint at. Not too graphic though. Pretty, right?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

oil be all right

I started working with oil paint this week after not using it since October or so. Before that, not since June. And before that, it had been a couple years. In between all these breaks, the tubes I so lovingly, hopefully selected, mesmerized by the wider array of colors, often dry out or get gooey. I'd left my paintbox in the car trunk during a couple of cold nights too, so that didn't help matters. But once I dug in, I was so happy! I forget how satisfyingly buttery they can be, how effortlessly I can blend and how convenient that I can go off to dinner and the palette will still be wet.
I thought to myself (ok, I said it aloud, but quietly), "Why do I stay away from oils? This is gorgeous! The way I paint, they are rich and opaque, and if I mix in some drying medium, it will dry in a day or two and I can go back." Then, several minutes later, with wet paint smeared on my sleeve and a formless blob on the canvas, I mutter, "Argh, oils! They take forever to dry and by the time I can go back in I've lost my momentum on the picture, and I get paint everywhere and everything looks blurry." Then, a bit further along, I beam at my work and sing their praises once more. It is a relationship of great passion.
As with people, you need to know how to work with 'em. I always have to re-familiarize myself with oils; we have the initial awkward conversation, and then we're laughing and chatting easily again. There's only a few subjects that we can't really talk about, so after trying to cover up my inevitable misstep, I resolve to enjoy the time we have together and save different techniques for when I'm back with acrylics. I may be getting carried away with this metaphor. Too many hours alone in the studio.
It can be energizing to work on 3 paintings at once, bouncing between them while I wait for various parts to dry. Two are 9"x12" canvases, based on recent tiny paint-collages; I liked the images I'd assembled and wanted to draw them bigger, plus there was the 'exciting' oil factor. The other is on a 23"x23" panel that someone discarded. I think it all fits in with the idea of continuity. Twice, I spent 3 hours on an idea that just didn't work, which was annoying, but I had plenty of time and wouldn't have known if I hadn't given it a go. Learning some things. Maybe the heart is not so much a suitcase as a paintbox.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

down to size

Oh. I haven't posted since Tuesday. There was activity, but nothing I could describe until I thought about it more. In the past few days there were more 5-min resident slide presentations, including my own. We scrolled through 16 images, but because they were all at least a couple of years old, I felt more detached from them than I thought I would. I had lazily used the CD returned to me that I'd submitted with my application last year as I couldn't figure out how to re-size my more recent images. I'm glad it feels to me that I've made certain progress in the past year in my treatment of subject matter and ways of creating a composition. Painting in different places contributed to this, as well as the plain fact of getting to paint more regularly. Considering how much I like old things, I am often more excited to show my newest work. Maybe many artists feel that way. I tried to give a quick 'overview' of my work as the images flashed past (15 seconds each), but this proved elusive and I was getting distracted by the sight of my small paintings blown up to billboard size, or so it seemed. This did show me what jurors see when they review my work, for I had never seen it that big. Startled, I kept interrupting myself, exclaiming, "Ah! This one is really only 9"x12"!" (or 6"x6", or 11"x14"..) and the next day people asked if that made me consider working bigger after seeing that. It did, but then I crept back to my studio and started 3 more small canvases.
We also opened our studios to each other this week, doing a tour of all the buildings, and received visits from the 'visiting artist' ("I thought YOU were the visiting artists," my friend emailed me when I told him, to which I replied- or did I?- "No, this guy knows his stuff, he's a longtime working painter and critic, etc.."). It was indeed a constructive visit, as much for what I said to him as for what he said to me. These things do get me to try and articulate things about my work that I don't often get to do. I may stammer, but I still have an idea that what I'm saying makes sense, even if only to me.
I learned of some new artists whose work people told me mine brought to mind. This is fun and sobering too. I read a thoughtful review of one artist's show that, if it'd been written about mine, I'd have felt like they completely nailed what I was going for, except that this has not happened yet. It's a nudge towards finding new venues... but also just simply to keep at it.
I am feeling the push and pull of new ideas and information, ah, let's say, lapping against the shores of my consciousness, I am receptive and focused and hopeful, but February is just a cloudier month than others, inside and out. And even though I was right about this VSC experience helping make this gray month productive and extraordinary, I am still quieter, still coping.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This is what I made for the valentine show in Beacon, and realized that today I had planned to post a photo of it. A room turned inside out.
ceiling= metallic gold= radiance, strength, wisdom
red walls= heat, passion, vitality
knitted net= able to hold and cradle, but things grow entangled or fall through
night space skyfloor= the 'burden of starlight' inverted, another sort of net
hearts, caught or falling= love, of course, also bits of self, vulnerability, sweetness
Not that I mind if none of this comes through in the looking; I don't often make conceptual work and so my perspective might make more sense inside my head (as so many thoughts do, before they come staggering out blind and wet into the fresh air), but I am not particular as to interpretation. Happy valentine's day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

chilled and bottled

Here are several watercolors I did in the past couple days.
An ice machine which is actually in Beacon and which I photographed after the October snowstorm, shortly before it was plastered with stickers, so I'm glad I caught it.

Four little glass bottles of maple syrup, different grades. No pancakes here so I'll just have to drink them straight. My car will be predictably weighed down with maple products when I leave.

My studio is inside this former church on Main St, a short walk from the other buildings. This morning it snowed, but only an inch.

Another figure sketch, from this morning's drawing session. I like the terracotta pencil on green paper.

Friday, February 10, 2012

dream workweek

Wrapping up my first 5 days at VSC. I'm still needing (or wanting, anyway) more sleep than usual; maybe it's because I CAN sleep, in my little world here bounded by rejuvenation and productivity. That's how I felt in NM & at the farm, except I didn't need so much sleep then, I rose with the sun. Now I'm on my winter clock. I still awaken early (particularly on the mornings I have kitchen duty).
I went to a life drawing session today and here's a 20-min 12"x18" sketch. Hadn't done this in a few years. It's available to us here every weekday.
Here is the finished adding machine painting! I must say, I think it looks good.
Also finished the small one I showed 'in progress' the other day. Still simple. Recently bought two tubes of cadmiums red and orange, the real deals. No 'hue' about it. Want to use them in something bigger. Such vivid pigment. The kind of paint that spoils you for the cheap stuff, like most things.
Charcoal sketch of the old Carvel sign I'd seen. I bought a pad of brightly colored paper which startles me every time I open it, the colors go against my grain but that's why I thought I'd try drawing on it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

progress report

I usually forget to take photos of paintings in progress. I am working on a couple of pieces at the moment, and have also made a few small ones in the last couple days. Above, a 4"x4" 1st (or 2nd, if you count the black ground) layer, sketched in white. Cruise night. This is a simple one based on a photo I took a few months ago and I couldn't stop thinking about the colors of these cars (coming soon).
I started feeling better and made these 2 tiny collage-paintings. (These photos are not really in order)

I painted this my 1st full day here. It's only 5"x7". From a photo I took while driving (don't ever do this!) on the bridge over Lake Champlain, to VT.
Another painting in progress, a 2nd 'adding machine', but larger (16"x22"), and attempting to paint it more loosely. It's closer to done than not. Had started this at home and brought it with me to finish, thinking I want to enter it in a juried show in Woodstock, deadline this weekend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I feel too dazed by this point in the evening for my own words to make much sense (why don't I post in the morning more often?), so here are the words of another, an artist I've written about before, Alex Kanevsky, in a recent interview I read. I think it will be obvious why this struck me, particularly now as I have 4 weeks of painting time ahead of me, and no clear idea of what happens when it's over and my triad of residencies is complete.

"A little more than 10 years ago I won a Pew Grant that allowed me to do nothing but paint for almost two years. Doing that, I discovered continuity. Being able to come back in the morning to the painting I left last night, the memory of the work still fresh, and the sense of flow uninterrupted. It made a big difference to me, probably because I am not a fast painter, so I can never start and finish anything in one day. Usually, the paintings stay with me for weeks or months. The continuity was addictive. It gave me the taste of my personal right modus operandi. When the grant money ran out, I realized that I was now committed to this kind of life and would rather be very poor, but paint every day than return to the part-time world. For a while that is what I did, and later the paintings began to sell in the galleries, so I was able to go to my studio and paint every day ever since. That was my personal mini-revolution: the understanding of how I need to function as an artist and the commitment to do just that regardless of the circumstances."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

to vermont

I'm here!
VSC's Red Mill building on the Gihon River.
the knitted sweater-vest, such as it is.
view from the 2nd floor of the art barn at Better Farm in winter.

Today I drove to Johnson, Vermont from northern NY, an uneventful 4-hr journey along open roads through snow-covered fields and small towns. I'd driven up to Better Farm, site of last June's residency, for a short visit before coming here. I am lucky to feel welcome and at home in several different places. I finished (for now) the garment I'd been knitting, which I recently referred to as a vest but is more of a funky torso-warmer with shoulder straps. I arrived at the Vermont Studio Center late this afternoon and have settled in.. I'm in awe, rather happily delirious, and tired too, which is usually the case with so many new things to take in. The next four weeks are going to be great. As I'd expected, this place is amazing. I was right about it functioning as some kind of reward for myself after a long work season. The fellow who works in the office here remembered me from when we spoke on the phone last winter, greeting me with, "You're the wood stacker, aren't you?" Later, as we began the tour, he mentioned that it was nice to meet the artists and writers with whom he'd spoke with and to put the names to the faces, and how you find out all sorts of interesting details about people. This he said while smiling in my direction, adding, "And then you see, for example, THIS is what an Erica Hauser looks like." I may be paraphrasing but he did say that last bit. I blushed and mumbled, "well, this one, anyway." I wonder if they will need some wood stacked while I am here. I'm sure I'll need the exercise if all the food's as good as the first meal was. After dinner I fled to the little art library and looked at books for awhile, slightly overwhelmed by the sudden social scene. I know it will be invigorating, I just need to ease into it, or maybe I'm just sleepy. I already like the feeling of being here in winter.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

elbow room

Note to self and whoever else might think it was fine idea to throw paint bottles, imperfectly closed, haphazardly into a suitcase: NOT advisable. I get a few points for having put them in ziploc bags first, so the mess was not as frightful as it could've been, but still.
If I continue to travel like this, with paints, I'll have to come up with a better packing plan so they remain upright. I am glad I noticed before several more days had elapsed. I also discovered this spillage at the same time that the dog came roaring into the house, all muddy paws and exuberance, fresh from outside.
At the used bookstore I found a vintage (50's or 60's?) guide for "Unspoiled Vermont", assuring me that surprises and thrills await me in this country made for happy motoring. I've never been there, but I have a feeling that it's still fairly 'unspoiled'. "Elbow room to move about.. a scenic paradise that somehow defies a close comparison with any other American region.. there are few acres that would not make a worthy subject for the artist's brush". And glowingly it goes on. The other image is a magazine cover I also found, and liked the illustration.