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Thursday, January 7, 2016

There's More To Painting, Than Linseed Oil

Judith Bernstein, American Abstract Artist, feminist, born 1942,
 and chose Fine Art as her lifelong career, see Note below).  A new hero of mine,
and subject for my first daily drawing of 2016.  When your
studio is too mess to paint in, draw.

After a crappy last half of 2015, I was bummed out and painting was the last thing I wanted to do. Yet, it was always  nagging at me even though  I could support my lethargy by the fact that I had indeed run out of linseed oil and couldn't paint without it. I kept talking about linseed oil all the time.  Whining really--till it drove my mate mad and he threw on his parka and, for the first time in his life, went to the art store, got the oil,  drove home and gave it to me. He told me he didn't want to hear another word.  "Paint!" he commanded.

Feeling obliged--he did go out in minus ten Celsius to get it--I trudged down the basement stairs,  and entered my painting haven. From the mess I'd left, I saw there was more to painting then linseed oil.  My haven was the pits,  Tranquility couldn't be found in all the clutter.  More than a Swifter was needed. 

While it's true that art comes out of chaos,  I don't believe the chaos 'they' are referring to is a messy, cluttered studio space.  I believe the chaos is in the artist and is released by the art she feels compelled to make.  Art is a release, an act of balance--and you cannot achieve balance when you're sitting in schmutzich. 

Back in my studio with the means to paint, I began by clearing the space.  I struggled for a half hour closing up my plein air easel. (I really give credit to the plein air painters who drag these contraptions out into the wilderness. For me, the patio will be plein air enough).

Then I tackled the lopsided tambour. I had never tightened the bolts when I bought it and the more paint I put in the drawers, the more it leaned like the tower in Pisa. Bolted properly, it now stands solidly upright and out of the way.  My floor space is open. 

A clear head  excels  in a clear, uncluttered space.  Where once I had three easels erected, I now have one plus  ample open space to pace back and forth and side to side, to see what I've accomplished and what still needs doing.  Today, the sink and cleanup station need elbow grease; I need uncluttered countertops there too. That done, tranquility will be restored in the most important room in the house.

While you can go to the store for a can of linseed oil, organization and cleanliness is the stuff of tranquility, the stuff of art.


Before I left on holiday, I was researching American Women Artists born in the 1940's.  I was curious to see how many woman of that time, my time, chose the very risky career path of Fine Art over the norm:  husband, home and children.  That's how I came across Judith Bernstein.  You can read about her here. She is a feminist on  par with Judy Chicago. She calls her work vulgar, but representative of vulgar times.


  1. 'schmutzich' sounds like the sort of word I wish I'd invented.

    I tend to live in a sort of controlled chaos and occupy three areas and so I have three chaotic situations, studio, boathouse and workshop.

    I begin really tidy but I think the like talking - having thought the thought converting it to words can be a bore - I don't have time to tidy behind as me the next exciting step in the project is too seductive. But yet, I really like it all to be neat & tidy and organised ... so there is always a conflict of interests.

    I couldn't get anywhere with the link you gave.

    Stay out of the cold, you don't need to catch a chill. Keep warm, take your medications and behave yourself this year (a first time for everything!)

  2. so many typos in this, it's almost unreadable, sorry

    1. Didn't see a one! Besides, spell correct can change what you write into goobledegook. Schmutzich I think is Yiddish--or German? But it means what it sounds like: indescribable substances you really can't decide what it is on surfaces.
      The link was suppose to take you to Wikipedia. I'll recheck my work.

      Organized mess is fine when working on a project, but when I start new, I like the space clean and fresh. While I am not starting a new painting, it's been such a long time since I worked on this painting, I want to renew the space. Straightening up, albeit cleaning, rejuvenates my creativity.

      Meanwhile upstairs in my drafting studio, there is a film of graphite covering everything that needs tending to as soon as I finish the new drawing I started.

      A healthy New year to you too John. I shun the bitter cold and am not a snow bunny. I am not fond of mobs of coughing, sniffling humanity either. I'm one of those who carries sanitary wipes in my purse. No need for concerns. Take care of yourself. If it looks wet, it could be black ice.

    2. OKay, I fixed the link. Did I tell you I downloaded Queen of The Desert? Haven't started it yet. Thought I would read it on the desert like beach (as long as you didn't look at the sea), but I couldn't take my eyes off that gorgeous water.

  3. .I was grinning from ear to ear reading about Ellis going to the art store out of what sounded like self preservation! What a guy.
    My studio gets very messy while i am in the midst of a painting binge and I have to clean it up to be able to start fresh again so I was totally with you on this post.
    Your wonderful drawing of Judith captures something of a rascal. Not sure I have heard of her before I am off to read all about her. Thank you, Linda.

    1. I fixed the link. He did just want to shut my mouth; it was self preservation, but romantic none the less. I still have the clean up counter and sink to go. Luckily oil paint doesn't make as gross a sink as acrylics. Easy to do. Your roses make me want to paint. Beautiful work Julie.

  4. What a great drawing! You just nailed the resemblance. I will read about her. I can relate to needing a relatively uncluttered space. I let it get messy and then straighten it out over and over instead of keeping it uncluttered. I vow to do better this year! Ellis is a very cool guy. "Paint"! hahahaha! Maybe you'll do one of those awesome pattern paintings that you do. I love those!

    1. Managed to clean the studio, do a little drawing I just posted and plan and draft a large construction project over the last week. Now to get back to painting. Louise Nevelson RIP was my most favorite feminist and Judy Chicago came second. This gal's work is new to me. Her expression speaks volumes.

  5. Love the drawing - it shows so much more than a likeness. Bravo, Linda! I had a rather "crappy last half of 2015" to quote one of my favorite artists, as my husband battled health issues as well. Struggling to deal with everything and still retain an enthusiasm for painting was among the most difficult things I have tried to do. But ahead looms a new year with new possibilities and I intend to dive in head first. Here is hoping you do as well. Happy painting, drawing, sketching in 2016, Linda - I look forward to seeing your work.

    1. Thanks Susan. I was hoping no one had as crappy half year as me. I am still struggling to get over it, but all I can manage right now are these little heads. I hope both of us can pull ourselves out of the darkness that serious illness throws over us.. I hope your husband is well on the way to full recovery and the scare is past. I know I am fine, but my enthusiasm and energy has suffered--but I have deep cleaned my studio and that's a good sign. Another good sign is I know what I want to paint and what I want it to look like. That's a start. Hopefully, you are seeing signs too. I look forward to seeing your work too. Happy new year.