Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Painting with Watercolor or, How Control is an Illusion

Watercolor Tonal Studies

If you ever needed evidence that control is an illusion, try working with watercolor paints. These are a few tonal studies that I was working on the other day.

I began drawing mandalas and experimenting with different art supplies at the beginning of 2007. The painting below is from March of 2007.

Watercolor Mandala inspired by Rachel

Student grade watercolor sets like this Winsor and Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers' Pocket Box  are fairly inexpensive and is almost identical to the set I used to create the image above.

I believe that it's all fun and games for anyone who wants to play with watercolor paints - until they decide they that want to make the paint actually look like something. That's when all hell breaks loose - unless you are my friend Andrew Kish, an amazing watercolorist who makes everything look easy.

Seriously though, there is a lot to learn with regards to watercolor paints. To me, the most challenging aspect is knowing how much water to mix with the paint (or load into the brush) to get consistent results. The fact that wet watercolor paint dries significantly lighter is something that drives me bonkers. (The acrylic paints I work with tend to dry the same color as when wet.)

Some paints are permanent, others fugitive. Some are more transparent that others, etc. Artist grade paints cost more and are typically purchased by the tube or in cake form. They contain more pigment than binder and mixing colors are a little less challenging than with student grade paints. I personally like the brands Holbein and Daniel Smith. The website Handprint contains a tremendous amount of information about watercolor paint. If you are new to the medium, I suggest starting there.

Over the years, I've mostly moved away from watercolor and work primarily with acrylic paint. Similar to the studies in the image at the top, the image below depicts one that I did with acrylic paint earlier this year. One of the reasons that I moved towards acrylic was the opacity of the medium - I could work with it over black if I wanted to. (And I wanted to.)

Acrylic tonal study

There was another route that I could have chosen instead of acrylic, and that is gouache. (pronounced "gwash") Gouache is an opaque watercolor which has a matte finish when dry. I've since acquired a few tubes but haven't made a concentrated effort to work with them. I think part of me prefers the permanent nature of acrylic paint.

In the end, if you are looking for an immediately accessible and fairly inexpensive way to create expressive art, by all means, grab yourself a set of watercolor paints. If you'd like to become a realist and get more serious about the medium, it wouldn't be a bad idea to work with a teacher that has a style you would like to emulate.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Metamorphosis in Part 1 of the 2014 Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

Each year, the resident artists at the Banana Factory Arts and Education Center in Bethlehem, PA have the opportunity to display their work as a group for two months in the large main gallery on the first floor, (The Crayola Gallery)

For the first time ever, this year's show was split into two separate exhibitions, with each group having their work up for 1 month. This permitted each of the 30 artists to have a larger space in which to display. (Overall, I thought each exhibit looked, *amazing!*) 

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

I opted to submit a single piece for this exhibit entitled: Metamorphosis 

This is the piece that I started on First Friday in December of 2013 during an evening of "Live Painting" in my studio. I never had any idea how this piece would look when it was finished, as this was one of my very first geometric mandalas and I was seriously swimming in uncharted waters.

While it's common for me to start something and come back to finish it at a later date, this was the first time I worked on something for so long, (8 months!) a little bit at a time. I'd usually see one new element at a time and how it would fit, and then I'd execute it. Sometimes I'd play around with the image in the Procreate app but mostly I'd just sit and look at it until the next bit was revealed.

A few things I learned during this process?

  • I really enjoyed discovering how I could create a sense of push/pull using color, patterns in combination with the black lines. Staring at the finished painting, certain elements seem to come off of the canvas then fade back as others pop forward and take their place. That's just so cool!
  • I learned to let go. When I initially used a ruler and compass to lay out this piece, I did so really quickly. (because the Live Painting was about to begin and I didn't have anything started) By not taking my time to lay it out, the geometry isn't exact and as a result, the painting isn't perfectly symmetrical. Rather than redraw/rework major sections once I'd started painting, I instead chose to use creative thinking to problem solve design issues when one area inadvertently overlapped into another. While many of my previous paintings were completely spontaneous, with "mistakes" commonly made part of the design, (generally seeing all mistakes as learning opportunities) I'd specifically avoided working geometrically because I'd felt that there needed to be a certain amount of precision and attention to detail for a piece if it was going to "work". Working on Metamorphosis, I can't tell you how frustrated I'd get at the imperfections. One of the ways I think I was able to let go was by seeing some of the "creative decisions" made by the Modern masters at MoMA. Sometimes I can get way too caught up in how I think something should be which is probably both my greatest strength and my biggest flaw.
  • One coat of paint isn't enough. (Or 2, or 3) I love working over a black background and this piece was reading really dark until I realized that I had to keep adding more layers if I wanted to even out the tones yet still make the whole thing pop. 
  • While I didn't set out to use any specific design elements from any culture or time period, it was really interesting in the end to see all of what showed up. 

Overall, this was a monumental learning piece for me

If you'd like to see the piece from start to finish, please see this set on Flickr. Part 1 of the exhibit was on display through the month of September, 2014.

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Orbit" on Display in NYC for the N.A.W.A. 125th Members Exhibition

Visit my art in New York City! From now through October 30th -

October 3rd-30th is the 125th Annual N.A.W.A Members Exhibition held at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery, 417 Lafayette St. in New York City. I became a juried member of - N.A.W.A (National Association of Women Artists) earlier this year and my piece "Orbit" is currently be part of this historic exhibition. (Think about what rights women had, or didn't have 125 years ago!)

"Orbit" can be seen in the upper right of this image at the Oct. 9th  opening of the exhibition

This year’s exhibition features the work of over 290 member artists in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, mixed media and computer/digital-based art.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Answering Your Questions About My Art

Selfie with WIP painting
In preparation for a recent artist talk that I offered at The Banana Factory, I asked my Facebook friends what they would most like to know about my art. Their questions and my answers follow below. Have a question for me ? Please leave it in the comment section of this post.

Q: How do you keep creating on the days when the inner 3-year old is shouting, "I don't wanna!" (Do you even have those kinds of days?)

A: Unless I have a deadline involved, the hardest thing for me to do is trust that if I don't want to be creative today, that it doesn't mean that I'll never be creative again. It's in my blood - I'm always going to be expressing myself in some creative way. If I'm not painting or drawing, I'm researching something to inform my abilities or I'm reading, or I'm talking to other artists, or I'm contemplating new ideas.... If I'm on deadline, I push myself and allow any discomfort to fuel my efforts.

Q: Is there a sort of conversation with the work as you are creating it? What do you listen for, look for, ask, try to intuit, etc....

A: My number one answer is BALANCE. It's like tasting a soup as it's cooking to see what it needs - to enhance the flavor, to balance the flavor, etc. I look for balance with how the paint is applied to the canvas as well as with the chosen colors and the imagery.

Q: When you start a new piece, how clear are you on what it's going to look like in the end?

A: I consider myself to be learning, learning, learning and that means that I"m not often sure how things will turn out because I don't really fully know the potential of a piece or what I'm yet capable of. It's really only been the conceptual figurative pieces that have even had any lead in on what I want them to be. I usually just take an idea to the canvas and allow it to evolve. With the abstract pieces it could mean just grabbing colors that I want to work with or a rough quick outline on a canvas. Many pieces end up surprising me.

Q: How do you stay connected to your creative process?

A: I'm always connected. If my eyes are open, if I can hear, if I can smell - information is always being processed and gathered. If I'm not actually making something, I'm thinking about making something. The harder question for me is how do I disconnect from my creative process. (I'll answer that in a few)

Q: Do you ever suffer from painters block and if so how do you get past it? 

A: I don't really think about creative blocks in that way. If I don't want to paint, I'll draw, or look for inspiration on Pinterest, or read about a favorite artist or take notes for a future workshop or clean my studio or look through my inspiration/color books or, or, or.... see where I'm going with this? When stuck, just shift gears.

Q: What kind of things (music, activities, books, film, etc) inspire you to create? 

A: Funky groovy music - Afrobeat, jazz funk, world percussion, (African and Middle eastern mostly) - especially instrumentals or if there is singing, it has to be in a language I can't understand. I've been listening to a lot of jazz from the same period that the Modern artists were creating...  Sometimes complete silence, in my house at night - I feel like I'm isolated from the world - when it's really quiet so I can HEAR - that's a crazy creative time for me. Books? Oh yes. I've got at least three dozen books going at any one time on a variety of subjects that inspire me - especially right now, all of the books on Modern Art that I've been studying. Film? I don't watch as much as I used to. I like documentaries and cooking shows. I like looking through Pinterest - I've used it extensively to study art history.

Q: Do you worry about how to bring across a message, or theme or saying something with your work?

A: I've come to believe that it doesn't matter. I'd create my conceptual pieces and people would come in my studio and I'd immediately launch into the stories and it took me a while to realize that they need to see the work in the way they need to see it. If there meaning aligns with mine, that's great, If not that's great too. If they want to know more, I'll tell them. If there are messages that I feel compelled to express in my work, it's usually for a higher purpose and I try not to be attached to the outcome.

Q: How do you prioritize time to create?

A: The better question would be how do I prioritize my time to get everything else done. Creativity has been my priority for the last few years, Other areas can often get neglected as a result. I am very aware of this and would like to be better organized over all. I don't think it ultimately serves me to continue living in chaos. (or in a dusty house. lol!)

Q: How to you let go, even momentarily, of problems in your life TO create?

A: This is an easy one. Creativity IS the letting go. Everything around me, (problems, frustrations, etc.) are the fuel for my creativity.

Q: What other things do you do to support yourself, your spirit in your work? What would you recommend that others find to support their longevity?

A: This is a really good question because I consider my art making to be a major part of my spiritual practice, And by spirituality, I mean knowing myself and thus knowing god - so everything I do is serving a much higher purpose than just making something for the sake of making it. (Though that kind of work can serve the soul in other beneficial ways I'm sure.) I don't think I'd be the artist that I am without my constant search for knowledge - of self, etc. It's taken me a long time to find a belief system that suits, serves and supports my growth and what's been working really for me are the Yoga Sutras. (Some might know these as Raja Yoga or Astanga Yoga) Prior to my discovering the sutras, I used reiki as a self-disciplined spiritual practice which I believe the benefits of such also helped to greatly support and sustain my growth. (I am still using reiki in this way) In short, when the going gets tough, it helps to have something like a trusted belief system and a somewhat stable mind to fall back on. (All of which for me, is a constant work in progress.)

Q: How do you keep your inner critic from passing judgment on a piece, creative process, yourself and derailling you from continuing on?

A: Great question. Here's what I got: In the beginning, we've just got to tell the inner critic to f*ck off. Trust me when I say, that THAT voice is offering UNINFORMED and UNHELPFUL feedback. I'm not talking about the voice that tells us to stop buying so many art supplies, or the one that tells me that I should put the paint bush down and clean the bathroom... I'm talking about the one that tells us that we aren't GOOD ENOUGH. That we aren't WORTH the TIME we are spending to do the thing that brings us satisfaction. That's the voice that's crucial that we learn to ignore. Why? Two reasons: 1. EVERYONE is entitled to, and DESERVING of the benefits of creative action and of a creative mind. 2. VERY FEW PEOPLE are born with a creative "edge" in most cases, creativity is a LEARNED skill. Like walking. Would you be harsh to a baby that's just learning to walk? Not likely. Create because it feels good. When YOU (and no one else) decides that you want to increate the quality of whatever it is that you do, you seek out a teacher that can offer INFORMED feedback to get you where you'd like to be. After that, it's just practice, practice, practice. Don't have the time to practice or the discipline to practice to get "better?" Then just be ok with exactly where you are because it's the perfect place for you to be.

Q: Is it you or the work who decides when it is complete, ready to stand on its own? or How do you know when a painting is finished?

A: I'll offer a two-part answer here. 1. It's an intuitive process and most times I feel as though I get it right. Sometimes I feel like I hold back, (See my piece "Resonate" as a good example of "playing it safe") other times I overwork a piece to the point of breaking it. I sense a balance has been achieved and I stop. I don't know if it's me stopping of if its the piece stopping me. 2. Sometimes I find that I stop because there's nothing more that I can add at that time - and I am not always conscious of that decision. I'll stop because I think I'm finished, but then months or years later I find myself making small tweaks to a piece that totally punches it to a whole new level. Other times I stop because I know I need to do more studies to achieve the desired result. The new piece I'm working on, the three females, (Tentatively entitled, "Evolution MMC") is an example of this. I'm just not ready to paint the faces. Maybe I should just do it anyway, so I can learn, but right now, I'm just not ready to do that.

Q: What spirit/soul work did you experience/do to give you the courage to create art?

A: I don't think I've ever needed courage to be creative, the courage I needed was to put myself "out there' as an artist. Aside from the (literally) thousands of mandalas I've drawn since January of 2007 as part of my spiritual practice, I've learned two levels each, of two different reiki lineages (and continued extensive self-studies about reiki in general) and have practiced self-reiki every day for over 3 years. I attended 8 years of transformational retreats and several dozen personal growth type workshops facilitated by my friend Jim Donovan. I worked closely with Jim in a variety of capacities for about three years and I can't begin to express the depth of what I learned & experienced during that time. It wasn't always easy, but I am a better person for all of it.

I've participated in shamanic journeying visualizations, walked over fire, broken an arrow with my throat, driven solo across the state 4 times to participate in additional similar transformational retreats, (camping solo on three of them.) I have also worked with numerous alternative healing practitioners over the years.

Discovering and studying the yoga sutras has been huge for me as well. It has shed a lot of light on the interconnectedness of the collection of universal truths I'd been carrying around for a long time. Reading and listening to books by Alex Grey, and spending a week with visionary artists Alex and Alyson Grey at CoSM really ignited a few fires within me.

More recently, I've come to learn more about myself by discovering that many of the early Modernist painters were also creating art for spiritual purposes. I've been reading lots and lots about that.

As much as I've listed here, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the work I still must do to discover my whole self....  Have been practicing a physical yoga practice for the last two years - that's been monumental in helping my mind/body/spirit to grow -practicing mostly on my own since the beginning of this year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Upcoming events: Featured Artist Exhibition 10/03, Artist Talk 10/08 and Creativity Workshop 10/10

I wanted to share with you several events and exhibitions that I have going on during the month of October: 

On First Friday October 3rd I will be a featured artist at The Banana Factory with an exhibition of my work in the 1st floor lobby. Visit the opening from 6-9pm and be sure to stop up to my studio #250 on the 2nd floor where special guest Kell Morton will be on hand to discuss our upcoming workshop "Tapping the Source" (My lobby and stairwell exhibitions at the BF will be on view until Nov. 3rd.) Facebook event details can be found here. 

On Wednesday October 8th I am offering a free artist talk entitled "Metamorphosis” at The Banana Factory from 7-8:30pm. I will be discussing influences, artistic processes, and my evolution as an artist. This event is free and open to the public. The event will begin with a slideshow and talk in the Banko Gallery at The Banana Factory and end with a visit to my private studio on the 2nd floor where light refreshments will be served. Facebook event details can be found here, 

On Friday October 10th I will presenting an all-new workshop entitled "Tapping the Source" with Dr. Kell Morton - an expert in the field of transformational healing and personal growth. This experiential workshop is designed to help you awaken, access and nurture your full creative self. See the attached flyer for full details or visit the Facebook event page here. 
October 3rd-30th is the 125th Annual N.A.W.A Members Exhibition held at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery, 417 Lafayette St in New York City.  I became a juried member of - N.A.W.A  (National Association of Women Artists) earlier this year and my piece "Orbit" will be part of this historic exhibition, 

I currently have openings for private students. Classes can be repeating or set up as individual consultations. While my speciality is creative empowerment, (I work with you to build confidence regardless of abilities.) I am able to support your artistic growth in many different ways. If you think I can be of service to you, send me a message to discuss pricing and availability. Classes will typically be held in my studio, but may also be structured to suit your individual needs.

Please feel free to contact me for more information regarding private lessons, workshops, interviews and motivational speaking opportunities.

Do you know any enthusiastic college students that would be interested in working as an intern/studio assistant with me? Send them my way

The Banana Factory is located at 25 W. 3rd Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Free on-site parking is available, additional metered parking is located on 2nd street and in the Riverport parking garage directly behind The Banana Factory.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...