Given the huge amount of snow we’ve had in NYC lately, I’ve been fascinated by the discrepancy between the way our city snow looks and beautiful snow scenes on TV or in magazines. I’m particularly interested in the patterns the dirt makes in the snow and pondering how to accomplish that in a painting.
So I think I’m into the start of a new series: City Snow.
My first abstract painting shows the occasional large clump of still white snow surrounded by patterns of blue, gray, green and brown dirt … just two blocks from my apartment.
Then I wondered how it would look if I sprayed the paint instead of splattering it … again within two blocks of my apartment. A little darker and the spray makes a much more even pattern.
While thinking and working on the first two City Snows, I started noticing the beautifully abstract patterns of the snow and cloud shadows on the rocky cliffs along the Henry Hudson Parkway. Every Friday on our way down to Fairway and back for our weekly food shopping I’d think, “That would make a great painting.” Finally, I made my husband slow down so I could take some pictures.
I’ve done four versions of this next painting, some more abstracted than others, but this is my favorite.
I think I’m on a roll. And it’s snowing again.
In the class I take at the Art Students League we are charged with looking at a model and creating an abstract from him/her. Lately, I’ve discovered it works better for me if I first create a fairly realistic sketch of the model (I think I just have to get it out of my system) and then try to abstract from that. Here’s how I came up with this epiphany.
A week or so ago, I created the following quick watercolor sketch from the model:
From that (but still looking at the model), I tried to pick some particular elements to feature and created a few abstracts, including …
(I should mention there was a large terra cotta round vase at her feet which I had left out of the initial watercolor sketch.)
I showed these to an artist friend of mine who said, “You’re trying so hard to create an abstract, but you’re ignoring the abstract lines and elements in your initial sketch. Exaggerate the curves and lines that are already there.” She further suggested that I create four drawings incorporating those lines. Another artist suggested I paint the colors first and add the lines later.
We (the five artists who meet regularly at Wave Hill to paint and talk about art) all agreed which of my four line drawings was the best, and I then started to create small watercolors incorporating that line drawing.
The process was informative. If you compare the following two paintings to the initial watercolor sketch, you can see where the lines came from (a small exaggeration here, a little artistic license there…).
And wonder of all wonders, when I showed them to Frank (my teacher at the League), he liked them. He had a couple of suggestions, which I then incorporated.
So maybe I have a viable process here for abstracting from the model: do a quick realistic sketch, identify key lines and shapes, and paint based on them. And, I have lots of material for future “Cathy” abstractions.
The Riverdale YMHA has selected me to be their Artist of the Month for February. I have 18 paintings ranging from a representational landscape from 2007 to five abstracts from 2010, and including paintings based on travels to Peru and Ecuador as well as many based on views of Wave Hill and upstate New York.
You can see my paintings by visiting the Riverdale YMHA at 5625 Arlington Ave., Bronx, NY 10471. Hours: M-Sun 8-8 (Friday close one hour before sundown).
When I look at my own work displayed like that it hits me how much it has changed even just over the last five years. For many years, my work was very representational: a lake looked like a lake and the hawk looked like a hawk.
And I’d have been tempted to say the biggest change occurred last year when I became interested in abstracts as a result of taking an Abstract Watercolor class at the Art Students League. But over the last couple of years my representational paintings were starting to look more and more abstract anyway. Croton, the plant, is still recognizable, but I didn’t paint it sitting in a pot.
But that Abstract Watercolor class was a game changer. Monster in the Gulf clearly deals with my feelings about the burning of the Deepwater Horizon last year. No representational stuff here.
And Noise Machine, well you might recognize the drum but the painting is certainly not representational.
Moving to abstract has reinvigorated my painting. It’s a whole new set of challenges and a ton of fun as well. It’s what gets me up in the morning and wakes me up at night.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who knows what the next five years will bring?