Friday, December 25, 2009

About Rules

I have learned about painting by looking at paintings and I learned about painting at school.

But mostly I have learned about painting by painting. In order to make paintings that meet the need that provokes the output, I have to put aside most of the rules and learning that have come from outside of myself — except for the purely technical information. It is too easy to make a painting that looks like a painting and therefore is a painting. When I was at school, there was a lot of talk, when “critiquing” a painting in progress, about depth. Paintings had to manifest an illusion of three dimensions. We didn’t need that deceit when we were in the classroom of Two Dimensional Design, nor when we were learning calligraphy.

Space was an essential consideration in the architecture classroom and the sculpture lab, and definitely to be desired in a painting. I was halfway through my life (assuming I will last until eighty or ninety), when I realized that I hated that deception. I love the flatness of a canvas or a sheet of paper. I do not want to destroy it with a mirage. I want to consider the entire rectangle, (or square, don’t like circles or triangles or any other roundish or angular shapes for paintings), and keep every bit of it looking as flat as it is to start with. I was so accustomed to envisioning object and background, or foreground, middle ground and background, that I had to struggle to see differently and work differently. That struggle is behind me now; I see and paint what I consider realism: paint and/or other media on a flat surface, no illusion of depth intended. I have no quarrel with seeing space in other painters’ work, just don’t want it in mine.

At my last show, a number of people commented on the depth they saw in my paintings. Well, what do you do? Paintings are for the eye of the beholder. I am comfortable with whatever it is that viewers bring to my work and very often surprised and enlightened.

The image above is the Nostalgia Quartet, acrylic & mixed media collage on archival board, 19.5” x 14.5” each panel, painted in 2008. For information about any of the paintings seen on this site please email Joan.

Friday, December 18, 2009

About Words

The artist is required to speak and write about her work. I am asked: “What kind of painting do you do?” An artist’s portfolio must include an Artist’s Statement. We are told to speak of the why and wherefore of what we make visible with our tools and materials. As the artist changes and grows, so must the statement.

Needless to say, for most of us the written word is a greater challenge than the art we produce. Especially when the words are meant to give understanding to what we have already made visible. We want the work of art to speak for itself, to stand alone, strong, needing no props.

But we are told that the words are necessary so we write them and insert them into the packets we present to the galleries and art consultants that we want to connect with. We print out the words and hang them on the walls of the galleries when we exhibit the work. We use them for press releases and other kinds of promotional outreach. And we revise and revise and revise. We change; the work changes.

I recently found in my files a statement I wrote I don’t know how many years ago. It might as well have been written by somebody else. I am no longer that person nor am I that painter. From that old statement: “My painting is about some of the things I find beautiful. Mostly it’s a shape, a mood, a human gesture.” From a later statement: “My painting is about color. I present it without reference to anything outside the painting.” And from the statement I am using now: “The focus of my work is luminous color. I paint on paper which I assemble into paintings by composing the panels into groups and adhering them to canvas or board.”

Same painter metamorphosing into the painter she wants to be.

The image above, The Good Apple, painted in 1978, is of the same mind as the oldest statement excerpted here. I still like the painting and am proud of it. But I don’t want to do that kind of painting now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

About Scale

TIME OFF, pictured here was photographed before completion. If you look closely you might notice that a lot of the elements are taped in place. It was finally mounted on canvas and measures 62 x 198 inches.

At a very pleasant dinner party recently, my friend and hostess Jane, asked me to address the subject of scale. I have worked from tiny (3.5 x 2 inches) to very large (62 x 198 inches) but I have not given a lot of thought to scale. While I have heard it said that small is as much a challenge as large, there is definitely some contrast. What is the same (and I speak only from personal experience) is the attention. The involvement with the project at hand, that effort to “get it right” seems the same. The difference lies in seeing the work — how far from it you need to get to see it and then how to keep that image in mind when you are close up and nose to the canvas (or whatever the surface) again. Therein lies some of the greater challenge of a large work. And then of course there is the pure physicality of working on something really big — just getting from one part of it to another and —  yikes! Moving it! The canvas pictured here was stapled to the wall; my son helped me get it up there; my daughter watched over me as I adhered the painted squares in place (using a diagram to be sure I was putting each where it belonged), and a group of talented young interns from the First Street Gallery took it down, rolled it and rehung it for the show I had with Humboldt State University. I was totally daunted by the process and amazed at how well these young people handled it.

So why work that large? Well, mostly for the presence and majesty that something that large can have, though clearly not all big paintings make the grade. Robert Motherwell translated a very small gestural sketch into an enormous painting that hangs at the National Gallery in Washington DC. The original little one had the energy of his hand and the life in him. The big one, which I raced up the stairs to see when I got to the museum, was totally dead. A zombie. In the next room was a huge painting by Mark Rothko that caught me by surprise and brought tears to my eyes. It was wonderfully beautiful. Rothko said he wanted his viewers to enter into his paintings and so made them large enough for that. This one sucked me right in. The large size in Rothko’s hands and in some of Motherwell’s more successful works, becomes heroic. There’s a power to command your attention when the artist deals well with that scale. So why work small? The answer for me is for the intimacy of the process and its result. You must stay close as you work; you can always hold it in your field of vision, and the viewer must get close to see it. I like all of that.

There it is, Jane. I have addressed the subject of scale, a personal view. Comments always gratefully accepted.

P.S. If you haven’t already subscribed to this blog, please do. Just go to the Feedblitz icon in the sidebar, put in your email address and follow the instructions. You will then receive the posts as email with the images and links back to the blog. I really like writing it and want to have an audience for my prattle. It is the best remedy I have found so far for the loneliness that can come from so much working in solitude. And any comments you are inspired to leave (where it says “Comments” below the posts) are truly welcome.

Friday, December 4, 2009

About Beauty

The topic chosen for discussion by a group of artists I will meet with soon is “beauty”.

As my thoughts turned to the subject of beauty, “ugly” came to mind. As there are many variations amongst cultures and within cultures, and within the history of one culture, about what constitutes beauty, the same is true for ugly. I have stopped watching a number of television series because of scenarios too ugly for my taste. I have gotten used to violence on the screen but some shows became too graphic for me while they continued to be popular. Some people's thresholds for ugly are higher than mine. I read a book recently by an Afghan who described a beautiful woman whom the protagonist loved as having a most graceful hooked nose; one that might have seen the cosmetic surgeon’s hammer had she wanted to be found attractive in this culture that I was raised in. Marilyn Monroe would not be slim enough by today's standards if they are to be judged by clothing models.

My mother made me a dress when I was a very little girl of a fabric called “dotted Swiss”. It was printed with small, delicate and pale violets. More than anything else that I remember wearing, I loved that dress. And today when I see something — a wrapping paper, wallpaper, a painting, anything that looks like those violets, not only do I find it beautiful, I find it movingly beautiful.

I am going to refrain from drawing any conclusions here, and I will not write much more as I like to keep my posts appealingly short. I might go back to this one day because the thoughts about beauty (and ugliness) keep coming. For now I will leave you with some favored quotes:

Francis Bacon (the philosopher/writer, not the painter): “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”.
And along that line, Havelock Ellis: The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw.

Anais Nin: We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

Petrarch: Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.

Buckminster Fuller: When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

And finally, Jean Kerr: I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?

Allegiance, the collage/painting pictured above done in 2000, is about putting two oranges together to make them appear even more beautiful than they could be on their own.

To see miniature paintings available for sale, please click on Tinies and Butterflies.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

About Collage

ROMANCE, pictured here, is a different kind of collage operation from the miniatures I have been posting up to now. It’s a lot bigger, 50 x 38 inches, and painted first before anything was adhered to its surface. The other collage mode is assembling separate pieces to form a whole and then adding paint or some other medium to enhance the array and make it cohesive and coherent.
For the process that produced ROMANCE, after the heavy etching paper was painted and some materials applied to add texture to the surface, the collage application began. It consisted of a variety of materials, some of them new and experimental for me. These included acrylic skins which are delicate films of paint that are removed from the non-stick surface they were painted on and transferred to the painting. There were also elements painted or printed on tissue paper or other transparent materials. And there were image transfers. To read more about how some contemporary technology gets integrated into this mix, go to TheStudio. Another material that was melded into this painting was cut-outs made from painted paper or printed paper of my design and fabrication.
After all the collage pieces were adhered using an acrylic medium, more color was applied in the form of pastel, oil pastel, powdered pigment , colored pencil, graphite and more acrylic paint. This final embellishment is required to make it become one unified whole.
Romance is one of a series of five works I named The Piante Five that were painted for an exhibition at  Piante Gallery earlier this year. Click on Pianteshow to see the rest of the group and read about what sparked their birth.

Click on Butterflies and Tinies to see miniatures available for purchase.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


POLYDAMAS, the image pictured here, is one of a series just uploaded to the web at Butterflies. I took the names from a list of butterfly names as the colors are so festive.
These little mixed media paintings are a departure from my accustomed painting style. I started using pattern in high school for an art class assignment and was taken with it. I go back to it from time to time for the pure joy of the tedious repetition. It is the kind of work that calms the troubled mind. There is comfort in the order and pleasure in the color and sparkle.
Some of these paintings have bits of glass or glitter in them. They are signed and dated, and matted and ready to frame. The dimensions with mat are approximately 12x14”. They make very special gifts. They could even be accompanied by a gift certificate for a frame available online from American Frame.
Purchase these little paintings for $125 (includes shipping) through PayPal using your credit card, PayPal account not necessary. Contact me if you prefer to use a check or for questions and comments.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Modus Operandi

Anyone who has visited my studio will tell you that I am very organized. A place for everything and everything in its place. But my collage operation is about disorder. There has to be a visible profusion of possible options; there has to be an opportunity for accidental juxtapositions of color; the brain must be forced to consider heretofore rebuffed marriages of colors. There must be every possible version of orange (or blue or red or green or yellow) (never  happens), a variety of line thicknesses, diversity of pattern - I want and need it all.

I put together a collage painting from this treasure-trove of materials - all of my manufacture - and then put it in the pile of  “resolved, waiting for review”. After some time goes by, months, sometimes years, I look them over again and polish them. Some don’t make the grade; they are taken apart and the parts returned to the “pieces” bins. Some are ready to mount as is, and some get a small revision or an additional “piece” and take on the radiance that I am working toward.

The objective is order; the process is chaos. It is an amazingly pleasurable and totally absorbing operation.

More photos of the work in progress at Modus Operandi. See some of the finished work for purchase directly from me at Tinies and at Butterflies.

Press Release

Friday, November 13, 2009


There are minis and there are tinies. Vega is a tiny. It measures 3.5” x 2” and is mounted in a 5” x 7” acid free white mat, ready to put into an easily available standard sized frame. Oddly enough, paintings in this size command attention because they are so small and intimate. I have several hanging in my home and often notice guests surprised by their size, getting close for a better look.

Vega is a mixed media collage made of archival materials, mostly acrylic paint and collage elements that I make in my studio. It is signed and dated. Little paintings like this are delightful hung on narrow walls, standing on tables or shelves, or hung in a group of paintings of different sizes. Click on Tinies to see more of them.

I have chosen to show the tinies as we enter the holiday season because they make lovely gifts. They could even be accompanied by a gift certificate for a frame available online from American Frame.

Friday, November 6, 2009


This little painting, titled Talitha, is about yellow. Yellow can be tweaked to have many moods. Medieval painters used it to look like gold. Van Gogh made stars, interior light and sunlight with yellow. It can be sunny and cheerful, or with a touch of green, it becomes sour. And it can be tawdry. I like how rich and lush it can be and how it is visible at greater distances than other colors.
Talitha is a one-of-a-kind original, measures 9 x 7” and is mounted in a 14.5 x 11.75” acid-free mat. It is made of archival materials, mostly acrylic paint and collage elements that I make in my studio. For information on framing, please see "Framing Notes".

Friday, October 30, 2009


As anyone who works with color knows, red gets redder when it is seen close to a cool color in the blue-green range. This little painting, Saiph, is about red. I find it easier to put a painting together when the objective is to play up a color. To quote Matisse: “When I put colors together, they have to join a living chord, like a musical chord or harmony.” I think of what happens when the painting becomes “right” is that it takes on energy. I like to believe that is a kind of human energy made visible. And that might explain why some literature or music or other kind of artistic expression can bring an emotional response to the listener or reader or viewer.
Saiph is a one-of-a-kind original, measures 9 x 7” and is mounted in a 14.5 x 11.75” acid-free mat. It is made of archival materials, mostly acrylic paint and collage elements that I make in my studio. For information on framing, please see "Framing Notes" in the sidebar on this page.

Friday, October 23, 2009


 I paint little houses now and again. Memoir was part of a quartet painted in 1996, now long gone. There were four little houses painted on paper and mounted together on canvas.  I painted them because I needed them and then sold them because once they were painted I didn’t need them any more.

I wrote about them for a show in 2008:
The Little Houses are safe places. I started making them when my mother left me at school and walked away. I was on my own in kindergarten amongst strangers.
I have gone back to making them to comfort myself at various times in my life and they have always provided solace. They have brought comfort during times of grief and loss and loneliness. They mean home, always the best place to be.

I am away from home now which is probably why the little houses came to mind.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Alcor is named for a star as are all those in the series of miniatures which I will present here. I make small collages for the pure pleasure of the process. I have a large inventory of collage materials in my studio, some of it in small pieces that are great fun to put together.

Alcor is a mixed media collage painting, measures 4” x 6” and is mounted in an 8” x 10” acid-free mat. It will fit into a standard 8” x 10” frame. It is made of archival materials, mostly acrylic paint and collage elements that I make in my studio. It is signed and dated. Little paintings like this are delightful hung on narrow walls, standing on tables or shelves, or hung in a group of paintings of different sizes.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I choose titles to name my paintings as you would name a baby or a pet animal. They need to be identified so when the name is mentioned, the being or thing referred to comes to mind. I choose words that I like as I did in a series that had titles that ended with “ion”: Anticipation, Coronation, Innovation, Recreation, and Conception were some of the titles. I did not choose words like defamation, fumigation, cancelation or the like. For another group of paintings I used the names of flowers. Since I tend to produce large groups of works with a similar vision, there must be a great variety of names to work with. The names of stars that title the miniatures I am exhibiting here are particularly pleasing as they seem to me to be as abstract as the little paintings. The names can be translated but I prefer to keep them as devoid of meaning as are my paintings. Stars are wonderful to look at and that is what I intend with my work.

Monday, October 5, 2009


For paintings that do not fit a standard size frame you might want to consult a professional picture framer. Another option is an easy and inexpensive frame kit that can be purchased from American Frame. “Choose your frame, mat, glazing, etc, then submit your dimensions. An easy-to-assemble frame kit will be on its way”. They cut everything to your specifications and include simple instructions for assembly. For gift-giving, American Frame offers gift certificates.