Thursday, December 16, 2010

Watching Paint Already Dried

Elkins makes some interesting observations here.

He's always an interesting read. I remember watching a video of Willem de Kooning painting. He would go to a chair, sit back and Look as if his eyes were boring though the canvas. I think that artists, need, above all to Look.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Being Lost

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renenwed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.”--J.R.R. Tolkien

Being Lost can mean many things.  It can mean being trapped and unable to proceed.  Or it can be a voyage of discovery, of openness.

Since I paint outside, this weekend was rotten, because it has been raining.  So I decided to do some non-painting painting, as it were.  About 25 years ago I used to do collage and color xerography, and would sometimes move pieces as they were being scanned to create interesting effects.  (Sadly, the three color pass copiers are a thing of the past so you can't get the interesting out of register effects you used to be able to get.)

It suddenly hit me that with some newer technology, namely an HP Photosmart printer/copier/scanner, I could easily transfer similar effects to paintings by combining them with acrylic transfer.  I had been curious about trying acrylic transfer, but I wasn't really interested in doing it with recognizable imagery.

I tried an experiment with wiggling a colored image (the cover of a phone book, actually) to get the kind of gyration or rhythms that I am using in painting, and I got some painterly watery effects.  I liked what I saw, in some cases made multiple copies and then cutting out parts, covered them with Golden tar gel, flipping them over and rubbing them to get good adhesion, pasted them onto a primed canvas.

I had prepared this canvas with an underpainting of Liquitex clear gesso mixed with a tint of phalo green about a month ago. There's a point where you can start peeling the paper, and then, when dry rub off the little bit of paper left off the canvas.

Anyway, I am going to be adding traditional acrylic painting to it and unify the parts, but I don't really know where I am going with this.  

Here's some process photos:
The canvas, with the first piece applied and partly removed.

One of the "paintings" I did by moving during the scan.  I made several copies.

Cutting out pieces. Adhering passages.  Covering with another sheet of paper.Rubbing with spoon.  Trick I figured out is is to have a book underneath exactly as thick as the stretcher bars are deep so the rubbing doesn't make the canvas sag.

This is a pretty early state still, I haven't removed all the paper yet, so the colors appear muted in parts.  I don't know where I am with this, but some pretty exciting things seem to be happening....

Cleaning it up a bit...

Here's after removing as much paper as I could, leaving the color embedded in the dried clear Golden tar gel layer. I then coated with clear Golden tar gel, sanded it down, and then put an even coat of Liquitex gesso (I actually was going to do something different, I grabbed the wrong bottle, but I decided to try it, after I poured it on!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Painting of the Long Weekend

I just finished up with the last large sheet of my Canson watercolor paper on Sunday--beautiful day.  I brought it in to my wall so I could live with it and make final adjustments and reworked it for a couple of days.  So this would the the tenth, so I guess it's Ecstatic Off The Wall X.  This is the series that involved taping onto the door of my garage, and doing a gouache vertically, allowing the paint to run a bit.

I wanted to record the process on this one so I took state photos, as I am doing a lot more layering than I have ever done before (successfully anyway) with gouache.  It seems very ordered in retrospect, but it was actually planned as I went along, and I didn't know exactly where I  was headed.

Somehow I pressed the wrong button or something, so I missed getting the underpainting.  The underpainting contributed to making the white much richer and more complex, yet only slightly different from the original white of the paper.

So the first photo is fairly well along, you can see the orange and green rhythms partly blocked out:
State 1
(You can see how the paper is mounted with blue painter's tape against the chartreuse shed door.  There's a large sheet of cardboard underneath to catch the drips.) 

Now I lay in some outlines in charcoal to suggest locations for the next color, which will be a lavender.

State 2

The lavender added.
State 3

The lavender was getting too dominant.  I wanted to keep a balance between the secondary colors. at first glance, the painting looks about the same, but you will notice that I pulled in more oranges.
State 4

I dialed back the positive forms somewhat bringing in more white....

State 5

OK kid, now the rubber meets the road.  The theme is set, there's just a bunch of junk that interferes.  Wipe it out!  Thank goodness I bought all that white!  And I just found out I have to leave sooner than I thought.  Quick now, rough in the start of the new forms for the lower right....

 State 6

At this point, I was satisfied that the painting had its basic character.  I knew I wanted to refine it but only slightly.  I signed it--to let myself know that I should stop messing with it. And let it incubate.
State 7

I incubate by pinning it to my bedroom wall and stare at it, looking for tiny areas that need adjustment... ...and as I come in and out grabbing a little tiny bit of paint to refine the curves and rhythms bit by bit, I get to spend a lot of time with it and see it under different lighting conditions in the morning and night....

...sometimes this process goes on for a month on a painting that originally took only an hour or two...

This one I knew what to do pretty fast... did a little painting at night...a couple of days...

Ecstatic Off The Wall X
(final state)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Two new paintings I did this Thanksgiving Weekend

The first one, continuing in my Ecstatic Off the Wall series of 22"X30" gouaches done vertically mounted outside on my shed door, was started out based on some colors in my bed (burgundy pillowcases and sheets, orange hand dyed sheet, chartreuse and light blue reversible blanket, and chartreuse bolster), the colors somewhat drifted while I was working on it.  

Sad to say it is raining cats and dogs today so I can't work outside.

In the last few, I am becoming aware that you can put really strong underpainting with gouache, as long as you have sufficient white to reopen areas; I did a an "emergency" run to pick up 5 tubes of white in preparation for this weekend.  I started out with washes and loose brushstrokes of cadmium red and hansa yellow, and two greens, and then mixed those "bedroom colors) to start with.  It ended up drifting into fall colors, dominated by orange, and a particular fall color mood:

two details:

And here's one I did yesterday:
This one I started out primarily with yellows and whites and worked from there.  For the white I mostly used a tiny bit of gamboge in the white, so it is a little creamy colored. The yellows and white were very lovely and frankly a little superficial and unformed.  I took a deep breath and put in some strokes of wet drippy cadmium red and ultramarine blue and blew it all to hell.  I certainly had something, but it was all off kilter.  There was a certain raw charm, but it didn't satisfy me.

Unless the rhythm flows though the painting endlessly, unifying it I am generally dissatisfied.

After several hours of working back in and making micro adjustments with cream white (the gamboge and white) I had it looking as you see it now with a fairly wide variety of somewhat gamuphing and very developed rhythms--leaving some of the sloppy paint peeking though to for a foil to them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Van Gogh Museum - Bedroom secrets – The painting

Van Gogh Museum - Bedroom secrets – The painting

It appears that geranium lake ( a fugitive pigment ) was used in the red floor and the lilac color van Gogh speaks of with Theo. Geranium lake is an eosine (from the coal tar group) color which is rather fugitive and fades too much in strong light.

Here a conservationist recreates a (tantalizingly small) portion of the painting in the original colors:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two new paintings I did this weekend

It's an interesting thing, mood.  Often, after, I do something really tight or really graceful, I want to do something really raw.  Or if I do something really worked out I want to do something direct.

It's interesting what changes and what stays the same.

I've been doing a series of large watercolors, taped vertically rather than laying horizontally, and letting it drip a bit if it wants to.

The first one, I was really seeking fairly light colors and I started off with tints.  I brought the painting inside as I often did, pinned it to my wall and whenever I went into my bedroom did little refinements.  I guess I'd say it is tight, without being prissy, and fairly sweet and warm in its mood.
OK, now I sometimes like to play against type and force myself to do something I don't normally do, sort of wreck things for myself and sort them out again.  So, instead of using some transparency, and the reserve of the white paper (more or less, this is after all gouache and not traditional watercolor), I started out very dark, using a tube of Windsor and Newton black and throwing in violets and greens etc. I laid in some shapes with charcoal and had at it.

Now perhaps I should say, I never use black, and I never work from very dark to light, although I sometimes incorporate charcoal in my work.

Well at first it looked like nothing, but I started bringing in some cool and somewhat somber colors, dark greens, some purples and so forth (I don't usually do somber) accented by cadmium red.  The dark underpaint sort of pulled the color down a bit and added to mood, the colors were predominantly cool. And then, using a liberal amount of white (tinted a teensy bit with a gamboge yellow to warm it up), cut the negative space out and established the rhythm.  Boy it took a lot of white.  

Gouache always tends to pull in the color from the underlayer, so you have to account for that (that acrylic doesn't is one of the things I like to take advantage of with acrylic.) I've wrecked a lot of paintings where the underlayer is just not salvagable. Eventually, it started to come together, I kept it pretty loose, added a few brighter accents. I think that helped lighten the mood and keep a balance, the colors are a little more austere, so there is a lot of cream white and grey white around.  

Now if you compare this painting, I wonder if you will conclude I am bipolar, or perhaps, that even coming from this different direction, that the same themes keep coming back.  What do you think?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?: On the Modern Origins of Pictorial Complexity by James Elkins - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?: On the Modern Origins of Pictorial Complexity
by James Elkins
 50 illustrations.
Paperback, 302 pages
Published May 28th 1999 by Routledge (first published 1999)
ISBN 0415919428 (ISBN13: 9780415919425)

A somewhat ironic and self-parodying questioning of why artistic criticism in the present age has spun monstrously out of control, and why ambiguity is so important in post modernist criticism.

Review: Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation by Irving Sandler

Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation

What this is and what it is not. What I liked and what I did not like as much.

Well, rather than a defensive or triumphalist work, this time Sandler tries to recover some of the interior considerations and motivations of artists in the period. There's no need to defend the reputation of a Pollock or a de Kooning, there place in art history is secure, whether you like them or not.

So what this book does is to attempt to recover the Zeitgeist of the time, and attempt to answer the question as to why a small group of New York Artists decided to all work in a bold abstract improvisational manner, and eschew finish and prettiness, when there was absolutely no market for such work, and there was no real conviction that America could even be an art center. When he does that, even though other books cover the same facts, he does it really well, taking you inside their minds. Sandler knew many of the artists involved.

What this book will not do is provide large numbers of color illustrations, or full chronologies.

I found the last two or three chapters, which discussed rather idiotic postmodernist revisionist critics and refuted them to be far less interesting. There was little intellectual substance there, not because Sandler is unintelligent, but because the positions that he is attacking are rather silly. They seem to belong in a different book, and if they were replaced by more primary material about the art and Sandler's reflections I might have found the book more complete.

A couple of recent paintings

I've started doing some larger gouaches vertically.  
A little more looseness, allowing some dripping and layering,

Santa Cruz Art League Exhibit Schedule

see SCAL Schedule for updates

Exhibition Schedule


Open Studio Preview
Sept. 25 to Oct. 17, 2010, Reception: Sun., Sept. 26, 3-6pm

“Go Figure!” National Figurative Exhibit  (Juried)
Oct. 23 to Nov. 21, 2010, Reception: Oct. 30, 3-5

Luck of the Draw
Preview Nov. 27 to Dec. 5, 2010,
Drawing and Reception: December 5th, 2:45pm

“This is Santa Cruz”
Dec.11 to Jan. 9, 2011, Reception: Dec. 11, 3-5pm 
How to enter: Print, complete, and mail-in the Entry Form / Prospectus 


Local Essence  Members’ Exhibit - Part I (A-K)
Jan.15 to Feb. 6, 2011, Reception: Sat., Jan. 22, 3-5pm

Local Essence  Members’ Exhibit - Part II (L-Z)
Feb. 12  to Mar. 6, 2011, Reception: Sat., Feb. 19, 3-5pm

Open Exhibit (To be announced)
Mar. 9-20, 2011, Reception: Sat., Mar. 12, 3-5pm

Watercolor “The Best of The Central Coast”
Mar. 26 to Apr. 17, 2011, Reception: Sun., Apr. 3, 2-4

56th Annual High School Show
Apr. 30 to May 22, 2011, Reception: Sat., May 7, 3-5pm

81st Annual Statewide Landscape Exhibit (Juried)
May 28 - June 26, 2011, Reception: Sat., June 4, 3-5pm

International Society of Acrylic Painters (Juried)
July 1 - 31, 2011, Reception: Sat., July 2, 3-5pm

Mix It Up! Mixed-Media (Juried)
Aug. 5 - Sept. 4., 2011, Reception: Sat., Aug 13, 3-5pm

SCCMS Physicians' Art Show
Sept. 7 - 11, 2011, Reception: Sept. 9, 5:30-8:30pm

Open Studio Preview
Sept. 24 - Oct. 16, 2011, Reception: Sun., Sept. 25, 3-6pm

Works on Paper (Juried)
Oct. 22 - Nov. 20, 2011, Reception: Oct. 29, 3-5

Luck of the Draw
Preview Nov. 26 - Dec. 4, 2011
Drawing and Reception: Dec. 4th, 2:45pm

“Small Wonders” (Juried)
Dec.10 - Jan. 8, 2012, Reception: Dec. 10, 3-5pm

More on Rothko

Looking at a book of reproductions.

I know this sounds really silly of me but I am starting to notice how he snuck in illusionistic shadows. Doesn't appear to be inconsistent lighting, as sometimes one part is cool and one part warm, but the value transition has been matched.

Hadn't really noticed that before. Unfortunately most of his work I have seen is in reproduction.

And why the heck do they reproduce some of the color ones in black and white and some of the almost monochrome ones in color? The latter is OK as they are fluttery-subtle. But why reproduce something with red and green in the title in black and white?

It's the library's copy--so cost is no object. :)

Review: The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko

The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Paperback)
by Mark Rothko

published March 23rd 2006 by Yale University Press
binding Paperback, 176 pages
isbn 0300115857 (isbn13: 9780300115857)

This work has an interesting history. It has been published postuhumously by his children.

Mark Rothko had a tremendous verbal facility and analytical and critical skills, and perhaps, for an artist, even too much facility, or pedantry, which can become paralyzing. Words are not, after all, paint. The book was written earlier on in his career, prior to his mature style, and reflects some of his searching for what, after all, is art supposed to be?

Rothko, as you know, committed suicide years later and it is perhaps too much to read this ultimate frustration with life into a much earlier work. He felt that publishing it would lead to critical confusion in his lifetime.

Given that, the most interesting portion and most clearly defined portion in my opinion, is his question of "plasticity", in other words, what makes a work of painting succeed as a painting? His answer is really that there are two answers. One is to choose the plastic values and emotional timbre in specific images chosen to fulfill them, as one sees in the extreme in academic painting. The other is to choose the plastic values of the painting _itself_ as one sees with the advent of modernism. Although a continuum does apply, people usually fall into one of two camps, and denigrate the other on the basis of applying the other standard. He also uses the words "visual" for the former, and "tactile" for the latter. His basis for the distinction was that the first kind of art wishes us to see beautiful objects and they are seen inside the painting not inside out actual space that we can touch, whereas in the second kind of painting, the painting itself is made to be a beautiful object and its space is touchable.

Marshall McCluhan used a similar distinction later on to establish what he meant by cool and hot, and confused everybody, but far before this book was finally published.

The latter part of the book was programmatic, perhaps OK for a critic, but not so fine for an artist, and it doesn't wear well with time (although it does point to some of the high-art existential angst that became evident in the abstract expressionist era, and a mythology that transitioned from the image to the act). He describes a search for a timeless, and yet contemporary myth, which reflects some of the concerns of his transitional work. His work ended up looking for the sublime in expansive, and solemn shimmering sheets of color, without a trace of myth in any direct sense.

Review: Vermeer and the Art of Painting

Vermeer and the Art of Painting
by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

There is a dual meaning in the title. The Art of Painting is the title of one of Vermeer's masterpieces. This explores his techniques, and his development as an artist.

Even though his work is very optical, the apparent reality is extremely manipulated, shadows and lights are where they need to be compositionally, and to highten the mood and theme. He used the camera obscura, but to research and create effects of focus.

In later years he generalized a lot, but still keeping the optical appearance.

Everything he did was very clever and under the radar as it were.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pollack's Paint

Art preservationists, have been very surprised by how carefully he planned the use of his media for permanency. They tried to duplicate some of his effects, like dripping one color wet into wet into another color to create a slight bleed around the line without the line disappearing, and they couldn't do it.

Review: Cezanne's Watercolors: Between Drawing and Painting

Originally posted Posted on November 10, 2009
Cezanne's Watercolors: Between Drawing and Painting
by Mr. Matthew Simms

Cezanne's Watercolors: Between Drawing and Painting
by Mr. Matthew Simms

A look at the more intimate medium of watercolor that sheds light on how the Master of Aix wedded color and form.

The tradition of medium specificity--that water color was intrinsically an unfinished medium, a form of colored drawing, with an emphasis on charm and direct revelation of the artist's character was a commonplace in French art criticism towards the end of the nineteenth century.

In Cezanne's case it became an explicit dialectic between pencil lines and color washes--between the visual and tactile qualities. The use of the white or background tone--the "reserve"--and the ability to render a complete theme as built up of a set of incomplete touches, are both qualities he carried over into his more complete rendering of his oils.

His oils were considered shockingly unfinished by less advanced opinions of the time. However, the watercolors allowed him to take the use of restrained partial touches to an extreme. In some cases, the consist of light pencil indications with the subtlest touches of a brush. When his watercolors were shipped to the United States, custom agents were loathe to consider them to be paintings, as they had "no" paint on them.

This book takes great pains to show the relation between watercolors and oils of the same themes, done at the same time; the oils tend to synthesize and refine the more immediate treatment found in his watercolors, with line like bush strokes that mediate somewhere between a drawn line and a painted area, and with some smaller amount of "reserve" of unpainted areas.

In his final watercolors, Cezanne took great pains to fragment color and look for the "envelope" of the general color impression; these are the works that show the greatest influence by Claude Monet. Monet, in his twentieth century works, in turn, was tremendously influenced by Cezanne to structure his sensations rather than make a direct transcription of his reactions, and to accept a more abstracted and generalized level of finish.

I also learned that you can actually see Cezanne's last work today, a still life watercolor
In his final illness, he got up from his death bed to work on it.

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