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a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art

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Just ignore the cat

Sometimes it’s best to just lay in bed, even through the cat is meowing and there’s no chance I’m going to fall back asleep. The reason being is that’s when it occurred to me that the homebrew medium I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks is way too oilly, and what I’ve been struggling against. Great for making paint, not so great as a glazing medium. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out, well I know why…it’s not like I’ve been a regular presence in the studio with a brush in my hand painting every day. Also when I don’t label my jars it’s hard to remember which one is damar and which one is the homebrew. So when you guess wrong and pour damar into the cup instead of homebrew and it suddenly works better…I become a genius and master and craft.

So the moral of the story is to ignore the cat in the morning and just lay there with your eyes shut and the answers will come.

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April 3, 2011   No Comments

Trial and Error


It’s a challenge to come into the studio, work for a bit, struggle,p and after a few hours realize that really all I did was make a mess and figure out what not to do. Well that’s been the state of affairs over the last few weeks when I’be made it unto the studio. It also doesn’t make it any easier to pull myself in here after 8 hrs of office drudgery.

As much as it feels like a waste because I have nothing tangible to show for my efforts (in fact a particular voice in my head keeps whispering that I’m not really painter because I haven’t produced any paintings really for over a year), I certainly know that I grew closer with my materials and have a better feel for the medium, pigments, brushes, and canvas I am working with. I just wish I had something tangible to share. Something I could see.

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April 2, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 02142011

This bucket of gesso has been hibernating for some years now. Asleep in the storage box, awakened every now and then for some project or some passing thought. A canvas here and there. I noticed tonight I’ve never really payed you much mind. After a long hiatus you are sluggish, thick, sleepy, stubborn. You need some coaxing into the empty greek yogurt container. A splash of some water and some rigorous poking, prodding and stirring will awaken you to fulfill your purpose.

Three sessions of laying down layers of gesso and I’m just starting to get the feel for the paint again. Figuring out the proper consistency. Paying attention to how it feels in the bowl, on the brush and spread out on the canvas. Slowly building up layer upon layer of gesso till I get a nice smooth ground. No Rush. Paint, blow dry, sand. Paint blow sand. Three or four coats tonight. I’ll return to the studio on Wednesday for more of the same.

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February 15, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 02092011

Last week was pretty much a fail as far as painting and drawing was concerned, couldn’t focus and get myself down into the studio. Saturday I started building a structure for the first painting in the series and gessoed a sheet of paper to do some colour studies with paint. Was thinking about materials and decided that given my studio schedule that I would give alkyd resin a try again as a glazing medium in order to maintain the luminosity and viscosity of oil but speed up drying time so i don’t have to wait days/weeks for layers to dry.

Monday and tonight I work on CMYK gradient studies in paint. Out of practice with the brush and feel of oil. Struggle to do the 10% value without adding white. I experimented with making a transparent paint with marble dust and glass dust. I can use this as a base and add tiny bits of pigment to be able to do transparent layers of the tints.

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February 14, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 01222011

Is there a benefit to layering colour? Optical mixing on the canvas as opposed to pure pigment or mixing the colour on the palette? Will the layered colours have the luminosity I am hoping for? I want there to be a depth and luminosity in each chunk. Pure or mixed colour may have more saturation but I can see it just lying flat on the canvas. There is something more interesting in the layered translucent colours. A subtlety.

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January 25, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 01192011

Time feels too short in the studio tonight. The first hour or so my mind was distracted with the annoyances of the day and I was kind of stewing. Maybe I was rushing or not paying as close attention to laying in the tones. But it didn’t seem to affect the work too much. Eventually I was able to concentrate a bit better but my mind was still kind of all over the place. Towards the end I was wondering if this exercise is about trying to squelch my emotions. But as I think this now I realize that’s quite the thought that popped into my head, but something sort of like it that I can’t articulate.

Thought about egg tempera. What would this be like in lots of thin thin layers? Of course I was originally thinking about acrylic fo the ease of use in the limited time I have to work each week. But the egg might be an option to come back to. Need to think about it some more. Kind of an interesting juxtaposition, the really old technique with the digital/pixel imagery?


Cyan and Magenta layering (detail)

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January 24, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 01172011

I keep thinking tonight about creativity. Questioning myself if this disciplined process, doing these color studies as opposed to going into a painting straight away, is somehow less creative. a way for me to hide from being creative because I am scared. Scared of failing of not being creative. I’m not even sure what that means exactly, inventive? I also keep coming back to reminding myself of Sonny Rollins blowing horn out on the bridge, or Coltrane practicing arpeggio after arpeggio over and over in order to enable his ability to imporvise on stage. Hours and hours of practice. There’s this voice in my head that keeps telling me that art and painting are different. That you just step up to the easel and do it and if you don’t or you can’t then you are not an artist or not creative. I remember having similar feelings when I was young in elementary and middle school. It’s why I always was convinced that I was not an artist. It’s a big part of why I gave up on architecture in high school. That somehow creativity and art flow naturally and don’t require work. And since it doesn’t flow naturally for me I’m not a real artist. Just someone trying too hard and just not getting it. That’s what I’ve been thinking about tonight. That a real artist wouldn’t do these studies. Even though I’m having fun. I’m enjoying the challenge. It’s certainly not all that interesting for someone to look at. But it’s that kind of craftskill that I love to struggle with and try to perfect. There’s nothing intellectual or theoretical about it.. It’s just layering cyan and magenta prismacolor to create a tone map. There’s absolutely nothing inventrive or expressive about it. It’s just rigorously mechanical. In many ways it’s actually more mentally challenging to work on the study than it is to actually build up the tones.

The question that comes to mind is would I do these colour studies if there wasn’t a utility? I keep telling myself that it’s practice for analyzing an layering comyk tones to create the colour values when I get to the paintings. but if there wasn’t that goal or reason would I still do them for the hell of it? Does doing the studies necessitate that I go on and do the painting in order to justify the time and energy put into these drawings? Maybe they help provide the motivation and energy to work through to completion with the paintings?


Cyan and Magenta layering

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January 23, 2011   No Comments

Studio Notes – 01162011

No more counting days. I know I’m getting tired now as my concentration is really wandering. Got pulled out of the studio yesterday and didn’t get to write. Was thinking a lot about layering paint, pigment. Again sitting down to do blocks of tone is a mechanical practice I fell into pretty easily. Watched an interview with [Arshile] Gorky’s wife Agnes “Mougouch” Magruder before I came down to the studio. I haven’t looked at his work in a long time. I love it. The beautiful arabesques, moving shapes, the geometry of the compositions. She talked about how hard he worked which helped me get off the computer and come down here. Even if only to do these color studies. I don’t know if this is just… I don’t know if I’m just torturing myself by not allowing myself to jump in and work straight away on a painting. But then again is the discipline of drawing and painting. Or the finished product. I mean I love dragging the pencil over paper. At one point while I was working today I was just aware of the rough resistance of the paper as I repeatedly stroked it with the cyan prismacolor. And it’s a pretty smooth drawing paper, but I could really feel the friction as the tip of the pencil lightly brushed the surface. It’s a focused, concentrated way of working. Not that the way I worked before was unfocused. It’s not that there was anything wrong the the old way. Just time to move on and try something new. A feeling that I just couldn’t bear to stand in front of the easel  working that way anymore. No specific reason why other than a feeling. I was talking about why I’m doing this to Tone like I had to have a reason other than some amorphous unarticulated feeling is pushing or pulling me in this direction. My mouth was moving and words were coming out and it was just hot air. I could feel myself grasping for a reason. But do I really need one?


Easel with gradient studies

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January 22, 2011   No Comments

01/12/2011 – Day 4

Stopping a little earlier than I wanted to but I can really feel my concentration wandering as I am getting more tired. Finished the yellow gradient and started the black. Can see my pace and comfort with the tones is picking up beginning to know wha the tone is based on the fill of the square. Not that there is dot gain with the coloured pencil but the subtle texture/grain of the drawing paper picks up the pigment of the prismacolor. For 100% I make sure no grains of paper show through. As the tone lightens more paper shows through and I can recognize almost the percent of paper for the corresponding tone. I imagine this will be more important as I increase in size. It’s different than stepping back, observing the colour and adjusting the tone based on the relation of one pixel to the next. Note quite sure ho to put it into words yet.

Again the mechanical/disciplined process worked for me. Not sure where it is headed. Which is an emotional challenge to be ok with and not get anxious or force something. Started thinking about working on a full piece while simultaneously doing the colour studies. Idea was to warm-up. Jump around, combat bordem. Though I may just be getting ahead of myself and wanting to have a “finished” piece. A real “work-in-progress” as opposed to just surrendering to the process and focusing on one piece at a time. For now I’m not going to change anything.

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January 19, 2011   No Comments

01/08/2011 – Day 3

About to start, been angry and irritable all day, see how it affects my work.

So the mechanical and deliberate work of building up the tones calmed my mind and emotions. I was able to focus and complete the magenta gradient from start to finish in three hours. I feel good about my effort. Maybe a little less angry and crazy than when I started. Certainly not more.

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January 18, 2011   No Comments