Friday, May 22, 2015

Painting Small, A Big Adjustment

The Man Across The Aisle is looking like the man across  the aisle. Not as good looking as when I started,  but the reality was I wasn't looking at a good looking guy across the aisle. 

Using three pieces of masking tape rolled, (Julie Oliver's keep it simple method), I stuck him up on a Masonite board, once the top of an old paint box. 

 The tape connection held and with hands free,  I was standing again, free to back up and squint and use my long handled brushes. I used the smaller numbered brushes  to see just how small I needed to go and how big was okay. I figure I have to do a few more of these little sketches to get the hang of handling the small format.   I still appreciated the effect I got with a swipe of my index finger or pinky and a scumble with a clean, dry brush.  I regard these little paintings as sketches, thumbnails, a exercises in simplifying.  This first attempt was over worked. Brush size and stroke was  my main interest. I had to see what I could do with what and the colors got somewhat muddy.  I always did like playing in the mud.

NOTE:  I found an intriguing setting on my camera. PC.  I don't know what that means in camera talk, but to me it meant Personal Computer.  Having been less than satisfied with photo reproductions on the AUTO settings, I took this photo on PC.  The colors are very close to the colors in the painting.  Now, I'll read my camera manual to see if I'm guessing right?  Watch PC will mean Perfect Color--that would be okay too. :-))

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Bygone Years,  oil, 16" x 10"  (Working Title: Stilettoes)

 Titles of Paintings by Robert Genn, was reposted in The Painter's Keys newsletter this last week.  It pushed one of my buttons.   Having always labored over titles, I was interested in what another artist had to say about them. In a nutshell: titles are important; they are one with the art. They help the viewer make a connection. Sounded reasonable to me.  So I  jotted down a couple of quotes from the article in my journal:

"There are five main kinds of titles:  sentimental; numerical; factual; abstract [poetic in my interpretation]; and mysterious [something I am not]. --Brevity is enigmatic [mysterious. something I am not]."--Robert Genn
When I initially title a painting, I go for the factual--Zinnias, The Man Across The Aisle, Stilettoes.  Those "working titles" tell me exactly what the paint was and I can picture it without having to find it and look at it.  Enigmatic, albeit a fancy word for mysterious, isn't me.  Yet Robert implies that one word titles are mysterious because they don't really reveal anything personal about why the subject appealed to the artist.  That's true.  Zinnias, The Man Across The Aisle and Stilettoes told me succinctly what the painting was, but the titles didn't tell viewers anything about why I chose to paint them. 

The truth of why I painted the Zinnias was that I like the flower and I especially liked how I had mixed them up with marigolds in my planter pots.  Now, that's pretty unexciting.  The Man Across The Aisle  was the man across the aisle from me on our return plane from Vegas.  Purely factual.  Yes, I had been fascinated by his gold jewelry, but it wasn't visible from where I sat.  Viewers might not have got the title King Midas--and in time I would have forgotten too how much I loved his chunky gold bracelet. As for Stilettoes, I just gathered up all the spikey high heels I hadn't worn in years and arranged them on a platform to serve as a still life.  I chose the shoes over the lemons in the fridg or a bunch of cut flowers because they wouldn't wilt or rot; they would stay put. I'm a practical gal, seldom romantic, never mysterious and rarely a poet. Robert got me thinking maybe I should change my simple approach to titling my work.   

 --Classifying and numbering them was out. It's a good way to keep records, but would I really recall #38 flowers in three months?  No.  My titles have to remind me of what the picture was. I could care less how they appealed to the viewer.  Having been a frequent viewer of art, I realized it's not the title of a painting that pulls me across the gallery floor to take a look, it's the image or the painting style.  If really impressed when I get up to it, then I bend and read the title and the artist's name.  Some of the titles are far out.  some are right on.

Looking for the Yellow was right on.  It was the title of  an abomination of an abstract--an energetic black and yellow finger painting of smears and scribbles I can see clearly in my mind today that brought me across the room for a closer look.  The painting up close was as messy as it looked across the room. It was one of those everybody would say, "I can do that." It was such a mess, I had to see the title.  Straightening up, I thought Looking For The Yellow was brilliant and  the artist was a poet. The frantic painting and the clever title spoke volumes. Together they struck a chord in this artist who has often experienced frantic anxiety when a painting didn't go well and has struck out at it viciously before dumping it in the trash..Yellow's artist didn't destroy it. She gave it a brilliant title and entered it into the competition. The woman had balls.   But would I buy it?  No. As much as her painting amused me, it wasn't a chord I wanted to live with. I prefer inspiration. Besides, I have looked for the yellow in many of my own messes.

Genn got me to think about titles.  Sun Worshipers, King Midas and Bygone Years tell the truth about why I chose to paint the Zinnias, the man across the aisle and my stilettoes and how I felt about those subjects, but they are vague, poetic, mysterious and totally confusing.  After a while I'd have no idea what those paintings were--and either would a viewer.  Each of us brings our own life experiences to the art gallery.  It's those experiences that draw us to one piece and make us walk by another.  If you have to bend to read the title, you don't get the art.

Our language is line, shapes, colors, edges, the stuff of paintings.  Best we speak it fluently in our preferred medium. 

Below is Summer Shade.  The truth behind that painting that took two years to finish could be described better with a title like The Dark Side, a title full of ominous mystery.  It was a painting I started the summer after my chemo treatments.  It was very dark.  Over the two years, it  got darker still, then started to lighten up as I  relaxed and life became secure.  The wild flowers, symbols of relief, were put in last.

Summer Shade,  Acrylic,  36" x 36"

What's your take on titles?  A literary  tool to better connect the viewer to the art?  Or secondary and/or unnecessary if the images "speak" clearly?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Man Across The Aisle

The Man Across The Aisle, In Progress
He photographed a lot bluer than he is, but the values are balanced.

Remember those six inch by eight inch canvas boards I primed with Hogarth pink? I put one to use for this character study, The Man Across The Aisle. On a long flight, his glitz caught my interest. He wore lots of gold jewelry--rings, necklaces, bracelets that reminded me of the character Mr. T on The A Team in the eighties. I wondered if  he had beat the tables this trip or the tables beat him; he was missing the earrings.

I had a lot of difficulties handling this little canvas.  I painted it laying flat.
I need some way to paint it standing upright so I can go back to long
handled brushes and being able to back away.  I need a mounting board for
these thin canvas boards; they slip and slid on the big easel ledge.  Peg
board mounted to a frame to give it depth came to mind.  hen, of course,
the question became how to secure the canvas to the peg board?  Long screws and bolts on a stretch of framing material  is as far as I got.  If anyone has a better. easier idea,
I'd love to hear it. I'd like to  do quite a few of these little gestural studies.

First painting effort in weeks!  Applause please.