Pleasure of the Dance and Keeping Time are two more mixed-media paintings that started as something else and were completely re-worked. I'm so glad I went back to what was there and started again! Allowing myself to "ruin" pieces often frees me to create things I really like so much more. This has become a pattern for me, and an important part of my practice.
These paintings began as collages using gel-printed tissue papers left over from when I made my daughter's chuppah (wedding canopy). These were the brighter pieces that didn't fit into the subtler color scheme of the wedding. The chuppah was really beautiful! But the afterthought collages? They just weren't working for me after a while.
So I took a deep breath, drizzled on some white paint, and then painted over it all with gesso. I freely dragged an implement through the wet gesso, which formed the "grasses." (Are these grasses in snow? Are they in the sea?) While the marks may look painted on, what you're actually seeing is the collage paper from underneath. I did add some glazing to both the background and the vertical strokes, but primarily what you're seeing is the color in the tissue paper below the gesso.
Here's a detail of one of the original collages, so you can see what the strokes are actually made of. I hope you get the chance now and then to make something new out of the old and enjoy the transformation!
These paintings created in June are visually quite a contrast to the quieter, whiter pieces of late. I'd like to share their story with you.
Each of these started one way and evolved completely differently. Did I know in advance where they were going? Absolutely not! That's part of the joy and fear of art making.
I began in April by making and completing three collages using gel-printed papers I'd created. Collage was my intention, and they were quite pretty, but there was something very...placed about them. They were clearly organized and consciously thought about and I liked them, but didn't love them.
After a while, I decided to use those collages as the basis for the three paintings you see here. I didn't know what I'd do with them, just that I would use paint, and so I began! I went with the intuitive flow, working around some parts of the collages and over most of them.
What emerged are these somewhat intense pieces that are open to interpretation of a personal nature. They are stronger and deeper now because of their evolution. The names were just what I saw emerging from the paintings — I wonder if you would name them differently?
A Wishful Garden
I'm really enjoying watching the little bit that's happening in my flower garden. I say little bit, because the deer love all my daylilies, and the rabbits love the Black-eyed Susans. And I love the animals, so we have kind of a disappointing agreement every year.
That means these paintings are a lot of wishful thinking of what my garden may be someday... the buds will be allowed to thrive, and even open! As the summer progresses, the colors will get stronger and the green will, of course, become unruly. By August, if I'm lucky, there will still be a lot happening, just in a fading, browning kind of way.
So far, my solution to the animal problem is to let our purple blazing star (liatris) spread as much as it likes — deer don't like it, and I love it!
Back to the paintings, in case you're curious, they were done in a similar way to the very white ones I recently shared — lots of textured gesso, then raised areas highlighted with wax pastels. I was definitely conscious of creating botanical forms, but didn't know what would actually emerge. I'm really pleased with the results!
Before we part, here's a picture of that blazing star from a couple years ago. I hope you're getting pleasure from some blooms in your vicinity, too!
Over the last year or so I’ve been slowly increasing the white in my paintings. I’ve always worked with lots of color as part of my personal artistic joy and as a vehicle for creating art that’s uplifting to others. Now I’m experiencing how white in a painting can also hold a lot of power to affect feeling. Not a new concept for artists, I know, and not even new to me personally, in terms of my home decorating style. Yet it is new to my actual art practice. These paintings are the latest incarnation.
A Little Waltz and A Little Jig began with a focus on creating an underlying texture over which I expected to create dancing, swirling, very colorful pieces like my most recent ones.
I worked with gesso (and a little paint) thickened with medium, and used color spreaders to swirl the mixture around. I pressed paper into the mixture and pulled it off to add more texture, and so on. Then I hung the two panels on the wall and stared at them. I stared at them for weeks! They had such a lovely appeal as simple bas-relief, white-on-white paintings. I knew they weren’t done, but also couldn’t touch them.
Details from gesso stage
Finally, I did what I often do when I’m scared of ruining a painting… I said a little curse under my breath and took a marker to it! This time instead of a big, bold, black marker, I respected the quieter nature of what I was liking and used a light grey marker. This broke the ice and the dance resumed.
I used wax pastels to draw in botanical gestures. (Wax pastels are essentially high-quality, well-pigmented crayons.) And then I used them as you would do a coin rubbing, following the lead of the underlying gessoed texture, and was very excited by the result. I love the serendipity of this process: there’s a randomness to the underlying texture, and yet there are forms that can be pulled out and emphasized.
Lastly I collaged in some amber gel-printed tissue paper. I’ll always love collage and the way it can interact with the design of a painting.
Capturing images of largely white paintings is challenging. (Credit to Rich at Jet Art Photography for his fine work). I hope you’ll take the time to explore these two in a larger format so you’ll see the energy that went into them. (On a Mac, you can drag the image onto your desktop and double-click it). If you’re nearby, I’d be delighted to show them to you in person!
This painting practically danced itself onto the panels! It began with some rather smudgy pencil work laid down to music...
...which I overlaid with some Haring-like bold lines. I really liked these! It was hard to paint over them...
... but then I took the plunge and painted in some green. Not my favorite stage — yuck! Artists have to go through some pretty ugly stages to get to something they like.
And it all started getting more interesting when I used wax pastels to draw in some botanical, vine-like markings and some of my favorite Indian yellow hue. (Still clearly a mess, though).
Many steps later, I lightened things up with more white, off-white, and turquoise, with additional textural elements. And I kept shuffling the panels around to see which way I preferred the flow. It was starting to come together!
For me, the high point was collaging in the red elements. They're made of hand-printed tissue paper, and I love the little transparent parts and how they interact with the rest of the painting. Plus, just that pop of color! Here's the first stage of that addition, before I emphasized the red even more:
Before the painting was finished, I added in some smaller detail of upwardly-mobile green splatters and broken up white, and shifted the panels again. This helped lift the whole painting! Here's the finished piece again:
Hope you enjoyed this inside peek into process — thanks for reading about it!
These two panels have a fun history. They were the first panels I worked on after we got back into our house/studio in the winter of 2021. After not having painted for 14 months, I gave myself permission to use them for experimentation. Over many months I painted, repainted, and then collaged over that until I thought I had something I liked, both geometric and abstract, with a feeling of things on edge.
I let those sit for quite a few months, decided they were done, and even published their photos last spring. After that, I moved on to larger pieces with a much freer kind of painting and found my groove.
Last month I looked back at those early panels and had no interest in them whatsoever! My painting style had moved on. So I took what I had created a year before and started over again. This time things flowed quickly. I loved the new color palette, and the past life of the panels gave these paintings extra depth and richness. I found the same dancing feeling I've been enjoying with my larger paintings, and voila! Starting Fresh 1 and 2 were born.
Windswept 1 (Process)
Coming Home — Windswept 1. (30" square, mixed-media on cradled wood panel)
Windswept 2 (Process)
Coming Home — Windswept 2. (30" square, mixed-media on cradled wood panel)
I'm happy to say I've been busy in the studio. Below are two of my latest paintings, Windswept 1 and 2, part of my Coming Home series. For me, they feel like an early autumn day when the sun's shining strong and wind takes off in a swirl, carrying leaves and twigs and anything else light with it. As an intuitive painter, I never know where a painting will end up. That's what's so exciting! You can see a bit of my process in the slide shows above.
We had our first snow in New England this week! A wonderfully ironic time to share Summer Days from my Coming Home Series.
One of the surprising things about our house/studio fire in 2020 is the change in my perspective on earlier paintings. Summer Days is actually a painting over a mixed-media painting called New Ground that survived perfectly because of its location. It was a piece I really enjoyed, but after the fire it felt too... controlled. I wanted to paint something freer!
I decided to use it as the underlayer for a new painting, so I took dark blue and black and fluid white paint and began making loose marks over the original. Then I followed the feeling of those and added more high-contrast forms. I liked the texture of the collage and all the paint existing under the new work.
Here are a few process photos to show you what that was like, including the ugly stages!
When I thought the new painting was almost done, I tested out the balance by making these black and white images (eliminating color saturation). I turned Summer Days various ways to see how it was working best. I thought all the directions were interesting!
The painting shown at the top of the post and below is what I finally decided on after many turns on the wall.
I'd like to share these three smaller paintings with you. They're mixed-media works that feature several textural elements, including the brown accordion packing paper found in so many boxes!
The paintings didn't start out the way they ended up at all, and that's fascinating to me. At some point pretty far in, my husband Jeff said "what would those look like upside down?" and oh what a genius question, because flipping them before completing them was just what they needed.
Clearly they evolved into pond flora and reflections on water — their botanicals remind me of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings I've loved. I'd like to say that was my intention, but my process is much more intuitive and spontaneous than that. Each time I create, something flows from me to the painting surface and back again, and it's always a different experience. It's that exploration and unknown that keeps me so hooked!
I don't think that experience is unique to the visual arts, despite how magical it sounds. I think it's especially true of what we call "creative," but also any process that isn't rote, that has various avenues one can take in many situations, where one has to think creatively and on the spot about how to solve something or make something better. Maybe you've experienced something similar yourself?
I'm excited to share with you three more colorful mixed-media paintings in my Coming Home series. Each is unique, and they are connected through the joyful spirit that infuses them, as well as the free-flowing method of creating them. They are each acrylic paint plus collaged, hand-printed tissue and other papers. I hope you enjoy them!