Tuesday, February 26, 2008

current mood: encaustic

After a day of being especially hard on myself for being "unproductive," I shall now post the results of said unproductivity, some small-ish collages that were really just an excuse to try out a new hot wax technique:

I have been meaning to try encaustic for what feels like years, and have always balked because of my utter lack of know-how. I love the look of it when I see others use it, a semi-transparent waxy coating that blurs what's underneath and makes what's on top look like it's floating.

I didn't quite get that look, but for a first try, these aren't bad.

And it turns out that electric stoves are good for something after all! I put the wax in a tin can and put the burner on simmer. Aside from the kitchen not being a good place to make art, it was a fine set-up.

I used a brush to spread the wax around evenly, and afterwards I didn't like the brush marks, so I took to the surface with my hairdryer. (You think I can wait until I have proper tools like a heat gun? No.) It melted the wax and pushed it around in interesting ways, smoothing it out how I wanted.

I guess it's hard to see in the pictures, though, being as it's clear. Trust me, it's there. It collected all kinds of fuzz and lint from the carpet.

I think next I'll try some smaller pieces and see what happens if I just pour the wax on. Back to the drawing board!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

hippie legacy

My mom made this awesome African safari hooded muumuu shirt when she was pregnant with my older brother in 1974.

I can distinctly remember a picture of her wearing it, on the farm where she & my dad lived when they were first married. I also seem to remember stories of her killing & plucking chickens when she was 8 months pregnant on that very farm.

She didn't wear it with me because I was a summer baby, and as she likes to remind me, it was HOT that year.

I inherited it, though, since my brother's not getting pregnant any time soon. It was perfect timing, as I'm running out of clothes that fit.

At first I wasn't sure I could rock it... J laughs at me whenever I wear it, but so far I've gotten nothing but compliments from everyone else. I'll wear my hippie legacy with pride, thank you very much.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

I deal in possibilities

While I wait for my oils to dry, collage materials come out from tidy file folders and litter the floor of the studio in piles of potential.

This is usually a grounding exercise for me, to allow myself to be less cerebral about creating things. I can let the materials determine my direction, let each piece find its place in one of a thousand configurations. The sheer possibility of it all is invigorating, and somehow less daunting than painting.

If I listen to music while I make art, there is a point at which the notes and words and trajectories of songs start to mesh with the hue and composition of my own work. At least, I find myself noticing the substance of music -- the raw materials that musicians use to build something out of nothing -- and suddenly it's like there's no difference between the way music sounds and the way a painting looks.

My boyfriend in college was a musician, a guitar player. He had a natural, fluid talent that seemed to flow effortlessly through him, even his gestures and the way he walked. I remember being awed just watching him tune his guitar, his long agile fingers adjusting nuances in pitch that I couldn't perceive.

Now I think about that when I mix my colors: how is this orange? Too sour? Add a little red. Too flat? More yellow. Too hot? Temper it with some blue. My own hands are less than graceful most of the time, but when I'm weilding a palette knife, they have their own intuition; sublties of color emerge on my canvases, enchanting me. This piece is moody and layered, like Cat Power; that piece is bright and ironic, like the Magnetic Fields. See what I mean?

I used to wish I was a singer. Actually I still do -- I wish I had the kind of raw power in my throat, like Neko Case or Bjork, the power to carve a feeling out of a string of words and a swath of silent air. How do they do it? Do they make mistakes? Do they doubt their whims?

Once something exists, it's hard to believe it wasn't always there: this melody, this combination of colors, this baby growing in my belly. Something out of nothing, the ultimate act of creativity.

And so, before the piece is finished, it's all possibility. I am not the agent of choice so much as just another piece in the kaleidescope.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

orange flowers

It feels so good to finally have studio space. I can leave my paints and my books strewn about, my easel always set up and waiting, my canvases crowding all the available wall space...

I have about five pieces in progress right now -- one of which is actually four separate 18 x 24 inch panels. It started out years ago as a final project in one of my painting classes, and was so hideous that I covered everything in these fetching shades of gray in order to start over:

I was originally aiming for the sort of pale mottled concrete texture that I find so appealing, but Southern California is so blasted sunny that I felt kind of guilty painting in just gray and taupe. I decided to challenge myself to use some bright contrast-y colors that I don't normally use, namely orange. I was looking through a book of Odilon Redon's works, and was so inspired by his dreamy flower-scapes, and particularly this one, that I mixed up a bunch of paint and set to work:

I have also been inspired by byobu, Japanese screen paintings whose subjects range from the Tales of Genji to seasonal flowers and birds. So I had that in mind when I assembled these peonies, poppies, anemones, dandelions, and nasturtium... though I'm probably breaking all kinds of rules putting those flowers together, dismissing seasons like a Californian.

Once I had the flowers on there, the composition looked too symmetrical, too formulaic, so the next day I scraped the paint off and had at it again, also refining the poppies a bit:

It's moving along now, with some more depth of color at the bottom of each panel. Next I plan to lighten up that gray background and even it out a little more -- keeping the dappled texture, but making it more subtle. Better get to it before I loose my light.