"Making Room" - mixed media on board, 16" x 20".
This piece is another paint over from the stack I created by tidying the studio. You may remember the patchwork horse from the 30 in 30 challenge? All his vibrancy and refusal to follow the crowd is underneath these many layers. And as with the last paint over, I like it much better now.
The inspiration for this piece came from a book I returned to over the weekend. 344 Questions: The Creative Person's Do-It Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment. This one was a gift from a dear friend some time ago. It's a wild workbook which either makes me laugh or cringe (depending on the page) but always makes me think. It was time to pull it out again and work a few pages. There were two questions which made me run to the studio and make this piece: What is sexy about your life? What is sexy about your work?
Initially, these questions made me cringe! Sexy? Hmmmm. For many decades, there have been children, grandchildren or parents living in my house. Sexy seemed to be a long way from my life. But the question was valid and so I pondered some more. And within a few hours, I could see the sexiness...this pale yellow orchid on the table, tibetan prayer flags gently beckoning in the breeze, sandalwood oil gently misting in the bedroom. A bowl of pink apples on the counter, soft lights glowing in the yard at night...I felt like the boy in A Christmas Story, dazzled by the electric sex of a leg lamp in the window. Suddenly, sexy was everywhere!
And somehow, the mere pondering of the question and noticing of the elements in my surroundings translated into the piece and brought the sexy into my work. Pay no attention to the bomchickawowow music now stuck in my head.
"Abstract Landscape VII" (a study) - ink on aquabord, 6" x 6"
Daily Paint-a-Thon and back in the studio with landscape studies. This one emerged after two others today. The others? Already in the paint-over pile. Were they failures? Absolutely not! They brought me to this piece and another valuable lesson in studio play: when something isn't working, let it go. Letting go makes room (in my head, in my heart, on my work table, in the studio) for better things.
Too many times, letting go brings thoughts of loss. We've had a lot of letting go in our family this past year. Letting go of people and pets we love, letting go of homes and neighborhoods and surroundings, letting go of plans and aspirations. But with the letting go came new things - opportunities, amazing surroundings, inspiration and rejuvenation. Letting go made room for situations and experiences we could not have otherwise enjoyed.
Yesterday, my dad and I were making our daily outing (part of his world tour and bucket list extravaganza as we let go of a certain future and make room for seizing every day instead), this time to Home Depot. This is one of the places he loves to go when his energy is low but he wants a little something exciting. We putter around from aisle to aisle, reading labels, commenting on gadgets, people watching - as long as he has a cart to lean on, he is a happy camper. Yesterday our goal was orchids. We spent 45 minutes examining every orchid and deciding which lucky plant would grace the table for Thanksgiving. Ultimately, two orchids and a bromeliad came home with us. It was a lovely afternoon, and my dad was quite tickled with our purchases.
If it were not for the letting go this past year (of my mom, of my dad's independence, of our lives north of Florida) this sweet moment - and the many more we've had in recent months together - would not have happened. There would have been no room for little adventures and shared outings, no time for orchids and candy stores and our weekly trip to the movies.
So from now on I think I'll refer to "letting go" as "making room". Making room for something else, which just might be something especially wonderful.
"Abstract Landscape VI" (a study) - acrylic and ink on aquabord, 6" x 6"
The Daily Paint-A-Thon continues today with another small landscape study, this one inspired by a fiery sunset over water. I am still in groovy-land over these re-inkers on aquabord, and am contemplating a larger piece in this series. Hmmm.
Today I spent some time re-reading one of my very favorite tiny books. You know, the kind of book you can read in an hour, but leaves you thinking and thinking and thinking? Making Your Life As An Artist by Andrew Simonet is just such a book. I've dog-eared 90% of the pages, scribbled in the margins and highlighted most of the text. For creative people, this is THE BOOK! He understands the insides of an artist, and how to talk to creatives and make them smack their heads and say "DUH!" because his wisdom is so obvious! One of my favorite quotes is "Protect the wildness of your art practice." Oooooh, I get giddy just typing those words.
There is wildness in making art. Some days it feels like a huge adventure to unexplored wilderness - very exciting, and also very frightening. So much risk. So many predators. So much randomness and so many elements out of my control. But also so untamed and beautiful.
How do we protect the wildness of our art practice? For me, it means pushing boundaries. Trying things I have no experience with or knowledge of. Pushing past what I did last week (month, year) into something new. Playing with colors I despise (just to find out I really love them) and letting go of some things which just can't be tamed (like my watercolors. They have a mind of their own, and I just go with that.) It also means painting angry. Painting sad. Painting ecstatic. Painting bored. Accepting challenges, even if they seem daunting. One sage advisor suggested painting naked (which I have promised myself to do one day - watch out, family!)
But just the thought of my practice having wildness makes me catch my breath. Even here, in this place of exploration, thoughts matter. I'll be making a new sign for my studio door. This one will read " WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE".
Through November 30th, bring home a little wildness! Take 30% off at the etsy store with code GOODMOJO30.
"Tuesdays Are For Painting Thoughts" - mixed media on canvas, 18" x 24"
There is fresh energy and excitement in my studio! Decluttered, rearranged and refreshed. It always amazes me how a space can change the way it feels just by moving things around and getting rid of the objects which no longer bring joy. Once I'm surrounded by joyful things, my whole mood (and my art) changes.
Part of tidying an art studio is moving some art to the "paint over" stack. Today's canvas is a result of just such a paint over. It took about ten days to finish and frame this one, but I am pretty tickled with the result! And you can still see the original painting peeking through (just a wee bit), so the love I infused in the original piece is still there and is now one part of the many layers you see here.
So this got me to thinking about how layered we are as people. We aren't a simple image, painted once and never again altered. We are painted over and over and over again, every day for all of our lives. Our experience and our thoughts shaping us every day, until what we see in the mirror is a many layered and nuanced piece of art.
Even the experiences of our families and ancestors shape us through our DNA, coding our responses to the world without our conscious knowledge. This also adds to the many layers of mystery and complexity in who we are. I had my own DNA decoded three years ago, and recently ran it through some software which tells me things I never imagined knowing about myself. For example, there is a gene mutation for heroin addiction, and I have that gene! Fortunately for me, heroin isn't part of my life, or my life would look very different! I also have a gene mutation which shapes my reaction to the modern world - chemicals, toxins, fragrances and so forth. This shapes the way I interact with the world (avoiding most of these things) and therefore my experiences and thus the layers in who I am. DNA is no longer so much of a mystery, and yet I find it more fascinating than ever before.
It's all a bit mind-boggling, isn't it?
So when you look in the mirror next, take a moment to appreciate how beautifully layered, nuanced and intricate you are as a piece of art. You are the ULTIMATE of "paint overs", a human being, a piece of art continually in process, ever changing and transforming into something more brilliant than the day before.
"Abstract Landscape VI" (a study) - acrylic and ink on aquabord, 6" x 6"
Another fun day in the studio as part of my daily paint-a-thon! This little landscape brought into play a couple of new ink colors, but I am sticking to the aquabord as the foundation for now. Watching the inks blend and meld to form horizons and new colors is mesmerizing!
After painting, it was framing day. This happens once a month, where I tackle new aspects of the process of framing. Most of my work is sent out for someone else (i.e.: a real professional!) to frame, but I decided this year to learn the basics and so I devote one day a month to creating the final home for a piece of art. Today's efforts went extremely well - everything worked the way I hoped it would, and there weren't any nasty surprises. Hooray! But it got me to thinking about framing.
Have you ever had a friend who helped you frame your thoughts? You know the one - when you've had a little meltdown or stumbled over an obstacle in your day and you're feeling really self-critical and blue, this friend helps you take a long view, frame the event in a way that makes it seem ok and a little less disastrous. This is a most amazing and wonderful thing! Recently, I was having a chat with just such a friend. During the conversation, I was a little hard on myself for not getting some things done or meeting a goal or something (see how good this friend is? I've already forgotten why I was upset with myself!) and this person paused, reminded me of how the month had gone, things I had accomplished, etc, and really put the whole thought in a new frame. Suddenly everything looked quite nice! Not something to be down about at all. The whole picture was pretty in that frame. I didn't need to look at just that tiny spot on the left, so to speak.
So today I say THANK YOU to all the friends out there who are professional "framers"... people who help others get a much better perspective on things and make everything look better. You're the best!
"Abstract Landscape III", "Abstract Landscape IV", two studies. Acrylic and ink on aquabord, 6" x 6"
A wild and wacky weekend art festival has come to an end, and I am back in the studio experimenting with landscapes again. This time I decided to create two pieces using identical inks, paints and schematics but using entirely different surfaces. On the left, the piece was created on untreated aquabord. On the right, the piece is build on top of many layers of ephemera and gesso on hardboard. As you can see, the results are different (even in color intensities) on each piece. The first piece resonates with me more than the second, but the experiment itself was quite satisfying.
So lately I've been doing a lot of reading about and mulling over the way my thoughts work. And I think perhaps my thoughts are much like the foundation to a piece of art. If I can keep them consistent from day to day, I may get pretty similar results despite what the day throws at me, and despite what action I may take to try steering the day one way or another. If I perceive the day as wildly wonderful - then it will be. And how can I perceive it as wonderful? By thinking that it is. Thought by thought, all day long. Even if the dog throws up while I'm cooking dinner. Even if the garage door won't open when I'm in a hurry to leave. Even if there is bad news in the world. If I decide to think the day is wonderful, it will be.
I am not implying this is an easy feat by any means! But it is frankly astonishing how a really crappy day on the outside can truly be a marvelous miracle of a day on the inside, just because I think it is.
As with my art, this process of painting my thoughts is a work in progress. Just as I practice creating art each day, I am practicing choosing my thoughts. They say after several hundred paintings, you get good as an artist. Perhaps after several hundred thoughts, I will achieve magic in my thoughts as well.
"Abstract Landscape II" (A Study) - acrylic, re-inkers and glaze on aquabord, 6" x 6"
Day 4 of the daily paint-a-thon and another abstract landscape. This one with a small abode illuminated from the sky. While painting this piece, I began reminiscing about the musical theater production "Into The Woods." Surely you've seen at least one production of this glorious hodgepodge of fairytales? It is one of my all time favorites.
My first introduction to this piece of masterful performance artistry was my son's middle school production of the junior musical version. I saw the performance about one million times (ok, maybe it was just four times) and the songs are now forever stuck in my head in a kind of happily ever after soundtrack of make-believe. The plot was fascinating - weaving together seemingly unrelated stories into a whole new level of tale. The characters, their motives, the horrible disasters and dramatic love scenes...and Milky the Cow, magic beans and a mesmerizing wolf.
So a tiny landscape with a nondescript house brought my mind to fairytale musical theater which takes place in the woods. And it got me to thinking. Fairytales are so deeply woven into my psyche. The archetypes of princes, villains, evil witches, damsels in distress and poor peasants are a part of the narrative by which I compare and contrast the real characters in my life and many of the inner parts of my self. And the mere glimpse of an implied cottage in a meadow near the woods can lead me down a mental path strewn with the potential for bean stalks and giants. I am instantly enchanted.
And this, this, instant enchantment is what makes art an irresistible journey for me. Just as the Baker, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel's prince were drawn into the woods for their own adventures, art lures me in to see what is over the next hill just beyond the trees. And hopefully, home before dark.
"Teatime" (A Study) - acrylic, re-inkers, metallic, glaze on aquabord, 6" x 6"
Day three of the daily paint-a-thon brings a little play with etching and aging. Beginning with a pristine white board and using layers of paint and ink to age the painting, along with carving into the board and removing pieces to add texture and dimension.
Notice how the wording of this technique makes aging and lines sound purposeful - something to strive toward and master, something desirable and elevated. Now compare this with how we feel about aging and lines when it comes to our bodies...somehow our approach is completely the opposite! I decided to try on the painting approach with my face for a minute.
"Hello, face! You began as a bland, colorless surface with nary a blemish or line - a little bit frightening, if you ask me! How plain! How uninspired! You must have craved some color and texture to make yourself beautiful....we worked hard together to arrive at the deeply textured and aged look you have today. Think of the years we spent covering you with layer after layer of paint - beiges and ivories, bronzers and blushes, shadows and liners, creams and lotions. Not to mention the special applicators to get the look just right...and the rough spots you managed to bloom over the teen years. Those were quite masterful, dear face! We added a little bit of sunshine and wind, a heap load of stress and about a million smiles to get the lines deeply etched and elegantly curved. You are on your way, face! Perhaps we need a few more lines around the eyes and mouth, and a dark spot over on the left cheek just to add some interest to that side? Keep up the good work, dear face!"
Now you may find this humorous, but my face felt pretty proud of herself after this little conversation! Suddenly, things I saw in the mirror as unwanted are masterful creations resulting from years of hard work and dedication. All this from a wee little painting exercise of a scratchy cup of tea...
"Abstract Landscape II" (A Study) - acrylic, re-inkers and glaze on aquabord 6" x 6"
Day two of my daily paint-a-thon with small abstract studies. So I find this process to be quite interesting. Giving myself a short time-frame to complete a small piece requires the mind to let go of so much...focus is on the basics of shape, color and composition while resisting the temptation to get lost in small details. The result is so much looser (and less stressful!) The inner critic never gets a chance to butt in and start wagging her finger - she is shut down by pure concentration and being in the moment.
This painting reminds me of long drives through the countryside in Bucks County Pennsylvania years ago. Barns, old buildings, rolling hills and meadows. Something I don't see much of here in South Florida! But it is serene and reminiscent of those drives, just enough to make me smile when I glance at it.
One of the rules of this process is that you cannot go back and make adjustments to the piece the next day. If there is something you don't like, either paint over the piece or make sure you don't repeat the mistake in the next piece you paint. No hanging on to paintings you don't like. This greatly appeals to the part of me who feels the weight of pieces I've kept which I never truly loved, and never felt inspired to re-work. Yesterday, this resulted in my tackling my art inventory with a ruthless eye and creating a pile to be painted over in the coming weeks. It was much like a tidying exercise for my closet (which I absolutely love doing) and I felt immediately lighter and more motivated to create.
Of course, my husband gets a little nervous when he sees me on a tidying rampage, and I am certain I saw him hiding a bunch of baseball hats in the back of his car yesterday - just in case I was heading to his side of the closet.
"Abstract Landscape" (a study) - acrylic and ink on aquabord, 6" x 6"
The last few days I've been reading a book called Daily Painting by Carol Marine. It was recommended by a friend long ago - one of those books I bought and placed in my library, but forgot I had. Why on earth would I read a book about painting every day after just completing the 30 in 30 challenge in September? And why during one of the busiest weeks ever? The muse laughs at me as I question her timing, because I was instantly smitten with the book and couldn't wait to start painting. To further clarify, dear reader, I am in the midst of two large canvases and a slew of small works for an upcoming show. I DO paint every day. But generally with a plan in mind, a project in process or a show coming up. Something about the philosophy of this writer got me feeling like playing without a plan immediately.
So here I am beginning a series of small studies. Just for fun, just to explore, just to follow the muse (who is amused with me, I think).
This is an abstract study of a landscape using mostly re-inkers and a little acrylic. It is on unframed aquabord (one of my favorite surfaces), and will look perfect in a float frame. The simplicity of the lines and texture was blissful to my eyes and calming to my spirit. I can't wait to paint another...
Jen Walls and her imaJENation