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!