Friday, July 27, 2012

About the Answers

Oh, dear! What about those starts? How do I justify this move into new when the old and unfinished awaits? I can't.
I said in two separate posts, recently, that I would mend my ways and go back to the old “starts” since I know now how to move on with them. This is not happening and I need to search my soul to understand why and to determine if it’s a good thing or not. A “good thing” would be that I am using my time well now and bringing to fruition new work superior to anything I’ve done before. That’s the whole point of this operation. Nothing like getting clear about how one is spending one’s life.

I wrote the words above last week as a beginning to this next post as I realized that I had changed course — again. I planned to title the post “About Betraying the Self”. Unbeknownst to me my mind went to work, and somewhere in its depths found the answer. The question is about why, when I am so disciplined about everything else in my life, is my studio process so devoid of order. The space is organized but the process is not. Other areas of my life run like clock-work: I exercise, brush my teeth, eat the vegetables, and make my bed with military constancy; I never forget to put the garbage out. I have missed writing this blog only once and that only after careful deliberation.

The difference lies in (this was the truth uncovered) curiosity. I am eager to get to work and totally delivered unto the operation when there is something I am looking for. Or something I want to test. Like: How about a sheer glaze of this red over that yellow? Or, suppose I paint on this wallpaper sample and let some of these silly little birds come through? Or, as I am doing now: Let’s see now if this dark grey with a black layer over it will give me the quality I want for the stripes. Oops, well, that didn’t work. But crayon might help. Or pencil. Okay, that’s more like it. Or “Wowie! Look at that!” And then I call my daughters and tell them that I must be some kind of genius. They don’t hear about the forays that look like I was trying to paint mud.

But the older starts are not the place to experiment. I have a planned vision for each and must move into them with confidence, not questions. Of course there will be hang-ups and mud along the way. But when I move ahead and test the new applications on new works (which will later become starts), then I can go back to the older unfinished work a little more prepared and better equipped to make the vision visible.

I have explained the disorder. I will keep it.

The images above are partial views of the studio as it stands now. The pieces tacked to boards, on lightweight paper, will be mounted in groups of four on canvas. Those on the wall (the older “starts”) will remain as works on (heavy) paper but are also meant to be hung as groups.

Friday, July 20, 2012

About Dots and Stripes

The world turns in its crazy loop and I am thinking of dots and stripes.

I have painted dots and stripes many times in the past but this is new. The paintings pictured above, Hydrangea and Nocturne, are from the nineties. I am inspired now by the sets designed by ceramicist Jun Kaneko for  Madame Butterrfly. He uses stark whites and unrelenting blacks and clean color to dress the performers. So I am making black grounds and white grounds for my dots and stripes, and panels of from-the-spectrum hues for the color panels. The stripes I make now are softer and the effect less structured than before. As the painter changes, so does the painting.

The whites are not difficult. So far. But the blacks are a true challenge. I can get them right on the larger panels by layering and reworking until they glow. But black stripes on white tend to die. The stripes just lie there like corpses. So I go back into them with greys and overlay with transparent glazes and sometimes get some help from an intensely black pencil. It’s working but I thought it would be easier. The nice thing though, is when it’s finished, the labor is not apparent. You don’t want your viewers to suffer the travails but rather to enjoy the part where you finally get it right. If that happens.

Right now I have faith. The beginnings, as documented below in the first tentative joining of some panels, look good to me. This process, of first painting on paper and then composing the panels into groups and mounting them on canvas, leaves a lot of room for mind-changing. It is a system of trial with much error that works well for me. Nothing gets committed until it passes muster. So mistakes happen but are whisked away unwitnessed except by the perp. 

I wonder sometimes just how interested my readers are in this painting soap opera. I also wonder how it can obsess me as it does while the world warms and massacres happen. Or maybe it is because of that.

Below are the costume designs by Kaneko:

Friday, July 13, 2012

About the Gains

Yesterday I pulled out an old drawing pad, one that I started in 1985, to make some plans for the work I am inventing now. I make diagrams which sometimes amount to drawings, often in color, which are meant to determine the format of the work I need to clarify. These are like mini-maps. Not sketches. I don’t like the word; it sounds like something indecisive. I want clarity.

I begrudge the losses incurred as aging progresses. The memory, the physical energy, and the rest of it. But I saw clearly demonstrated as I browsed through the drawings that in the twenty-seven year trajectory, plainly visible there, I had come a long way towards strengthening the vision and at the same time being constant. How nice! A gain! I do what I do better now. Well, I did know that. My painting is now far closer to the vision. It only required developing the sureness and the abilities to make it visible. Okay, wait a minute. I’m not there yet. When I look around my studio at the work waiting to be resolved I think: “Another twenty years might do it”.

I Googled losses and gains of aging and learned a bit more. I’ll put some of it here to encourage my younger readers to move fearlessly onward and to, I hope, comfort the older ones for the losses. Here’s a direct quote: “at any given point in the life span, some abilities are increasing, and others are decreasing. Moreover, the life-span perspective does not posit a specific goal for development, other than successful adaptation to the environment in which a person lives.”So what else is new? Here’s one I didn’t much like: “Fluid intelligence, or problem solving skill, declines in old age.” So we are losing that when we really need it. “Crystallized intelligence, which includes knowledge that has been acquired, such as vocabulary and general information, continues to improve across the life span.” I can vouch for that one. I surprise myself with the words at my disposal as I write. On the other hand, I am often at a loss for the names of things as I speak. Go figure. And I used to be a good speller. Word processor to the rescue.

So it is not a uniformly negative loss-ridden time of life. Personally, I notice a gain in emotional stability and a sureness in the decisions I make that are pleasant improvements. And I am a better painter and much aware of how I continue to learn. Very grateful for that.

Still, while there might be a gain or two, golden it is not. From Mark Twain: Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. 

The images above are pages from my drawing pad done twenty-one years ago.

Friday, July 6, 2012

About Fame and Fortune

"Fame, for a painter," said Pablo Picasso, "means sales, gains, fortune, riches. And today, as you know, I am celebrated. I am rich." 

I let my mind wander down that lane.

It is a difficult topic to approach with honesty. One could take the “sour grapes” stand, or express disappointment or pretend to have no feelings at all about it. I have heard talk on the subject from artist friends, mostly desirous of imagined great success. Artist Elmer Bischoff once commented “Success begins and ends in the studio.”

My usual response when the topic arises is to say something along the line of “What I want is, above all, to get up every day and go to my studio.” There are of course a few other things I want. I want my family and friends to be well, food in the frig, a warm and comfortable home to go to when the work is done. And more. Peace in the world around me. An end to the warming of the climate and the deterioration of our planet. Maybe a few other things that I’m not remembering at the moment.

So what would fame and fortune bring that could possibly enhance so perfect a world? Well, the above desired utopian scene is not going to happen very soon. I can’t even arrange my life so that I can be in the studio every day. My children are grown, the husband is history, the grocery shopping done, but still there are chores and obligations and commitments and appointments. Fame would add to those diversions; just imagine: the television and radio interviews, public appearances and paparazzi trailing after one. I do love my privacy. 

Ah, but fortune. Now there’s an attractive scenario. I could have people to clean the house and do the laundry. Someone to do landscaping and yard care to make lovely the lot my house sits on. I would have the dull details of bill paying and checkbook balancing and such given over to a trusted accountant.

But would I be in my studio as much as I would like? Would I not be tempted to visit all the museums of the world and some of the wonders that I have read of? And wouldn’t that defeat the intention I began with? Kind of misses the point, doesn’t it?

So my conclusion here is: If fame and fortune were to come my way (and it would be a little late, I’d say), I would suffer accepting such fate.

The image above is Suffice ©1998, Acrylic on Paper on Canvas, 23" x 87"