Sunday, April 28, 2013

Return to Watercolor and Clocks, but a First Trip to Oz

Value control is always an issue--I find it difficult with all media, but especially when switching back and forth between watercolor and acrylic. Watercolors dry about a value lighter and acrylics dry nearly a value darker. And my brain just dries period.

Of course I squint and all, trying to see true values, but an artist friend recently suggested I use a "transparent red-something" to help. I rummaged through my father's old camera case and found this red filter. 
It's been an amazing help!  So thanks, Ruth (and thanks, Dad)!

 It also helps me to scan the work as a greyscale when I think I'm nearly finished. I can use all the help I can get.

 Here's the initial wash on the drawing--the final choice after the seventh approach. 
(approaches 1-5 here:
I used a mix of burnt sienna and burnt umber, then dropped in cerulean.

Face for Wicked Witch of the West clock (detail).
 Developed the painting with a variety of mixtures, but lots of sap green--a favorite.

I've never tried my own versions of  the Oz characters. It's been a blast! This old witch is complete, as are Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Oz the Great and Terrible. Only Tin Man remains to be painted.  Then they will take their places behind glass crystals in a bunch of old clock cases--and eventually be available for sale.

You can see other, random clocks at my Pinterest page:

Thanks for your support, and for checking things out!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Broken Clock, Finished

Broken Clock (detail). 
The top section of the painting from the previous post--I took the photo in full sun, hence the glare. I'm not even gonna give an excuse for my photo skills/knowledge and lack thereof.
But the painting is complete.

Broken Clock. Acrylic on cradled hardboard, 6" x 18".
This is the complete painting. This time photographed in open shade. The top one is the most accurate color-wise though. 
For me, photographing my work (and learning about it) is about as painful and joyless as my 9th grade algebra class. I wasn't successful at that either.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Process: Drawn From Life, Sorta.

Broken Clock (detail). Acrylic on cradled hardboard.

The complete pic shows the whole bookcase and a little metal clock that my parents bought for my birthday some years ago.
Still mulling this painting over--letting it sit for awhile. I'm fairly certain it is finished, but a few days in cold storage always helps me make up my mind.

But I wanted to talk about a process, (because it's process--ever-changing process) that keeps me going:

For me, there's no one way to do or be anything (including being influenced/inspired): 
Drawing and painting from life is my least favorite way to work, but that doesn't mean I don't like it at all. 
I always learn a ton from it, but I make art using photo refs too. 
Nature is a constant influence, but my ol' Muse is also hyper-stimulated by the artworks of others. 
Is drawing from life better than drawing from imagination? They are both awesome tools for progressing where I think want to go with my work (at any given time).

So I try to do a lot of all of those things. And I get it mixed up.  And I try to ignore the rules and the "shoulds" that some artists and schools want to prescribe. Sometimes I fail miserably at the doing and the ignoring. Sometimes I fail at the doing precisely because of the ignoring.

I awoke the other night and had to draw. What you gonna to do when The Muse calls--even at 2 am?
So I went downstairs and drew this little clock on a small bookshelf in the extra room, from life. Had a good time, and like the little sketch quit a bit. And I wanted to paint it. But didn't think my vision would work if I painted the bookcase from life. Plus, the guest-bed is in the way.
So the next morning I took photos of the bookcase. Here they are:

Using the photos and the sketch and my imagination, I did the painting, of which the top pic in this post is a detail.

(This is what the first stage of the top of the painting looked like.)

So that's a part of the process--for this painting anyway. I'll post more next time.
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Small Spiritual Work

The Angel Gabriel. Acrylic and mixed media on wood.

We were fortunate to find a great show by five local Santeros a few weeks ago. The works were fresh and inspiring--lots of very exciting paintings and carvings. Some of the retablos were painted with the traditional methods--natural, hand-made  pigments, gesso, and Pinon sap varnish. I admire that so much, partly because I know I'd never have the patience to make my own materials, and muchly because those handmade materials result in such beauty.

Here's the link--you have to scroll down the page for info on the CHAC exhibit and the artists:
If you are in Denver, it is definitely worth a visit!

I have my own approach and need to create spiritual images. Being of Italian descent, I grew up around many images of saints. They were common in the houses of my relatives, and I looked at them very carefully as a child. For a look at an antique print from Italy:

Completely inspired by the CHAC show, I used up some blocks of wood from the garage, and am trying a couple of different approaches on a crop of new saints. This one is painted on a dull red ground. The others are on natural wood, but they're not finished.  This one probably is. I will live with it for a few days before the varnish is applied.

I have a good time using combinations of media, and really like this part of the painting.

Thanks for checking this, and the CHAC show, out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Origins, Influences, and Not Quite Symmetry (revisited)

 I have a difficult time verbalizing the imaginative origins of my individual works.

I can easily discuss the influences though.  Illustrators past and present are always at the top of the list, as are objects from the natural and man-made world. And then there's music. I'm no different than any artist I know; the influence list goes on and on.
In this case, one of the the stimuli for Distrust--of which these are details--was symmetry. 
Well, not-quite-symmetry. I love it.

 I also love wood and wood carvings.

Distrust (unfinished). Watercolor, 5" x 8".

The only thing in this photo that's not completed is the bird's walking stick. I didn't realize that when I took the pic.

And the reason I uploaded this painting as unfinished? I seem to have lost every image of the finished work. No kidding. So sometimes I can be pretty good at painting watercolors with not-quite-symmetry and carved wood.  I am never good with organization. Technology has only made it worse, and that's a fact.

As always, I appreciate your visit!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Process Sequence that isn't working yet.

Witch sketch 4.
I'm working on a project that entails stuffing a front view of the Wicked Witch of the West's face into a circle. The final, when complete, will be in watercolor.

Witch sketch 1
When the project first arrived, I sketched, without really thinking, this small pic while sitting around in the living room. The resulting jumbled mess only enlightened me on how difficult putting a pointed hat on a head--limited by a circle--would be.

Next, I researched a few images of the old hag, from Margaret Hamilton's iconic visage in the movie, to Denslow's work, to the amazing John R. Neill illustrations for the Oz books.

 Witch sketch 2. 
Then I sketched some more. This masculine, very un-witch-like drawing was the consequence. Ugh. Certainly my fault, not that of the resources.

Witch sketch 3.
I decided to put down the research, and focused on a variety of approaches--most in very rough shorthand. This one seemed promising, until I realized that it (and the top sketch) resemble an insane morph of the Quaker Oat-man and Cotton Mather.

The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Oz the Great and Terrible were a bit easier. 
The Tin man?  Not so much. 
I'll post some of them in the near future. 

Until then, though, I'm going back to the studio--hopefully to do the Wicked lady some justice.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hamlet, Sort of

Soliloquy. Acrylic on canvas, 8" x 10". Private collection.

There is something very appealing about the stage. Not being on it, for crying out loud, but me in a safe seat, studying the stage sets, costumes, and make-up artistry. That generally gives me a bunch of new ideas. Watching the movie Amadeus, Terry Gilliam's genius-work in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and reading Nicholas Nickleby all put the stage set for this painting in my head.
The original sketch for the main character came from my sketchbook.

The water and the curtains came from the aforementioned movies. I very much like the type of sets that look good but don't approximate contemporary ideals of reality or slick, modern special effects.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Re-opening the door, again and again.

Creativity, imagination, freedom, excitement, and the unknowns; those good and exhilarating things which are not yet, but might be.
These are all things I love. Buoyant and powerful concepts which give me some of my greatest joys as a person and as an artist, and the things that I suspect give others--many who may not consider themselves artists--some of their greatest joys.

Anxiety, fear, control, rules, the desire for certainty--for safety.  
These are the elements which can drain the color from life, and close the door to imagination. I am not immune--I fight with them constantly. Being true foes of creation, they are the enemies of my joy.

Those who value personal gain over all else, and fundamentalists--political, social, religious, academic--people who have capitulated to their fear and want to control others know that the quickest method to paralyze imagination is through anxiety.

 Historically, these are the people who have built organizations, institutions, and industries which persecute, demean, and destroy creativity. They hate, fear, imprison, and kill the prophets, artists, and visionaries who recognize that fear is the true prison and "safety" is a myth. These would-be-controllers are afraid of those who know that mankind's freedom to imagine, create, and take risks is the gift from God which brings peace and contentment.

It's pretty easy to recognize those in our lives who seek to close our doorways and bind us. When I'm feeling anxious, I look for the source. It's usually coming from someone who's trying to control me--from an ad man, a news reporter, a politician, a bishop, or a pundit--but it's not coming from a source that wishes to set me free.

When Jesus, advising against worry, asked, "...can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" and when he taught us to become like little children, he was showing us the doorway into freedom; into the "space" in which to be creators.
When Robert Kennedy said "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" he was not stirring our anxiety, but inviting us over the threshold into our creativity. 

I'm gifting myself this spring--re-ignoring those would-be controllers, re-identifying with those who've sought to free me, and re-opening the door to a creative space.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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