Somehow, I’ve never managed to come up with holiday art gifts for my friends in time for the holidays. I always seem to think of it the day before: clearly not enough time to create the gift, let alone give it. This year is different.
In the past four days I’ve managed to create 10 (so far) mini (4×4) canvases and have already given one to a friend. A small sampling:
Now all I have to do is figure out how to get them packaged and into the mail in time.
The wild flowers growing by the rice paddies in Japan were really beautiful: many shades of pink and red and yellow, lots of different greens (grasses in front of and behind the flowers), stems and grasses at all different angles, and lots of depth. But how to paint those wild gardens…
My first attempt didn’t work very well, but in my frustration, I smooshed it (don’t you love it when I use these technical art terms?!?) and inadvertently created a painting that did work. That was my last post, but I knew I had to go back to my original idea of how to paint those wild gardens and try to create something I liked.
So voila; here is my second wild garden:
This is definitely better than my first attempt (the pre-smooshed version). But the pink flower in the upper right corner is the wrong color and way too big. Instead of pink this needs more varied reds. And ditto for the greens. I am starting to get the hang of the push-pull though.
So I said to myself, “Self, the next one will be better.” And so it is.
Hopefully, the next one will be even better.
Well, we’re back from Japan, I’ve organized my receipts/photos, etc., and started painting. At the League I seem to still be fixated on the patterns in the water next to the boat on Lake Ashi. In my home studio, I’m moving along, playing with my fluid acrylics and dripping them onto canvas and moving the paint around with my fingers or a palette knife. It’s a whole new way of using acrylic and, so far, I’m loving it.
Once I did Mt. Fuji and a few of the flowers I saw in Japan (my last post), I decided to paint the wild flowers I saw near the rice paddies using a similar technique. The goal was to show the intermixing of the flowers and the tall grasses, the push-pull of grasses behind flowers behind grasses behind … you get the picture. I wanted to create some depth, but not too much.
The first Wild Garden clearly was an experiment. I put down the yellow-green background and moved it around with my fingers to cover the canvas. Then I dripped the green stems, used the palette knife to create leaves and branches, dripped red flowers, blew on some to make them a little bigger, and finally moved some of the green stems over the flowers to create that feeling of depth, that push-pull.
Unfortunately, after all that effort, I didn’t like the way it looked. Fortunately, the paint was still very wet so, in frustration, I just took my palette knife and smooshed everything vertically on the canvas. The end result was definitely weird, but promising. So I added some more red flowers of varying sizes, moved some green stems/grass on top and added yellow dots for the centers on a few. Still weird, but I liked it. So this is the end result.
But I’m not giving up on my original idea of how to paint those beautiful wild flowers. Stay tuned.
We came back from Japan on Oct. 6. I t was a fabulous trip. Japan is an inspiration. Japan is organized, orderly, clean, pristine, everybody operating on the same page. The subways are spotless and the opposite of New York, which is chaotic, dirty, disorganized. People line up at the appropriate places (where the doors will open), wait until the people on the train get off, and then move into the train in a relaxed orderly fashion. No rushing, no crowding, no elbows, no pushing. Just calmly moving in and waiting for the doors to close. Amazing.
The toilets are equally amazing. Like the subways and trains, they are clean (spotless), and without smells. The signs are in Japanese and sign language (pictures) telling you exactly what to do (or not). Simple, easy, painless, and odor free. My husband says that if you like to go to the bathroom, or you have to go often, Japan is the place to visit. He’s not kidding.
Meanwhile, as an artist, I’m impressed by the gardens, Mt. Fuji, the museums, modern and ancient art, marquetry, gold leaf art, the tea ceremony, shrines everywhere, ground minerals and glue making incredible paintings, noren (doorway hangings) designs, the way outside fire escapes are made architecturally interesting, thatched roof villages, the way narrow streets are somehow free of cars at night so people can easily walk from subway to restaurant to whatever, the harvest moon reflected in the river seen from the restaurant. You name it, I’m impressed.
So I’ve started trying to paint some of my impressions.
First Mt. Fuji, the world-famous symbol of Japan. We saw it from the highway and from the lake.
It’s clearly not exactly what Mt. Fuji looked like, but rather my impression.
Then, the flowers seen against the mossy ground in Ainokura.
The same inspiration, very different paintings.
I promised to show the 5 paintings I’ve been working on for most of the summer at The Art Students League. They’ve taken a long time because they each have many layers of acrylic wash and 4 of the 5 used masking fluid. All of them were based on my memories and some photos I took of the water churning next to our boat on a New Zealand lake the beginning of the year. But although water is the inspiration, the paintings are not about water. They’re about space and depth and mystery. At the end I’ll include one of the photos.
So in no particular order, here are the 5 paintings.
First is Passage, the only one that didn’t use masking fluid. Many many washes of ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, teal and titanium white. Only a very little bit of this image comes from the photo, although that’s how it started.
Second is Jacob’s Ladder, which started as a very pale blue wash with masking fluid on top. I made the “mistake” of standing the paper up before the masking fluid was dry, so it ran down the paper in several places. Once I got over my horror, I ended up liking the “ladder” effect, and then building on it. This reminds me of the hymn I sang as a child, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I certainly don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the feeling of awe and the mystery of climbing to heaven.
Third is Celebration. As with the paintings, Passage and Jacob’s Ladder, this started with the color patterns in the churning water next to our boat in New Zealand. And the colors and painting process used are the same as in Passage.
But what a difference. This painting is playful, joyous, dancing. It’s a quiet celebration of life in all its complexity and wonder. Somehow this painting insists on being happy.
Fourth is Beyond Beyond. Of the five paintings based on the churning water next to the boat in New Zealand, this is the one that looks the most like water (though not at all like the water seen from the deck of the boat).
The painting process was the same as with Passage and Celebration; even the red and blue colors are the same. But in this painting I feel like I am swimming underwater. Everything is vague and fluid, gently moving. You think you see where you are going, but you could swim forever and never get there.
And finally, Almost There. I’m aboard the Enterprise, heading to an unknown nebula.
And, here is the photo …
What can I say? I can’t really explain how one photo and my memories yielded five such different paintings. Although superficially similar (color, pale washes, masking fluid), each painting has a completely different feel to it. As Frank O’Cain (my instructor at the League) says: “The painting tells you what it needs.”
Okay, so this isn’t about the work I do at the League (as promised in my last post). It’s about the different work I do in my studio at home: specifically it’s about an experiment gone wrong.
It started out well enough. I decided to do another ocean meets the beach painting by dripping paint onto a small canvas and moving it around with a palette knife.
I liked the initial result, but left it to dry over the weekend, since the paint was very wet. But who knew that acrylic paint would continue to move around as it dried? Argh! All the subtlety in the ocean disappeared leaving it an almost uniform dark blue. The white expanded a little and became a uniform pearlized blue-grey. It was entirely too blah for my taste.
So I set about to try and recreate what I had liked in the initial painting, with varying degrees of success. And, for some reason, it really doesn’t scan well.
Ah well, it was just an experiment, an experiment gone wrong.
It’s true. I do very different work when I’m at home in my studio and when I’m down in class at the Art Students League. I’m a little schizophrenic.
Nine months ago I got two 2.5 x 3.5 canvases at a Gala event for the Art Students League. 2.5 x 3.5?!? What can you do with anything that small? Well … experiment, what else? So instead of doing the kind of work I do at the League, I decided to try something new. I made monoprints of my acrylic palette with both canvasses … and really hated both of them (well, one more than the other, but it doesn’t matter). Neither was any good.
So I dug out some fluid acrylics and dripped them on the canvas and started pushing them around with a palette knife.
Very short story later, I liked them. The one on the right looked like a waterfall; the one on the left, well, I didn’t know what it looked like. But it still appealed to me. So I decided to do more of this kind of work and upgraded to a slightly larger canvas: 5×7.
So, this is my idea of where the ocean meets the beach:
My next post will be about the very different kind of work I am doing at the Art Students League.