Tag Archives: painting

Hunting the Unseen

A few days ago we had a low, low tide- the kind of low tide that only comes once in a blue moon (literally, this time…), and so we all bundled up and headed for Maverick’s beach by the harbor. The sky was dark, the clouds low and threatening. It was windy. But I was so glad we went out.

There is so much beauty in these gray and blustery days, and this particular day, we had the pleasure of seeing what is usually hidden by the sea. We walked on rocks usually submerged. We could see the kelp anchored to the rocks, starfish clinging, and crabs backed into the deep cracks, staring out at us, as if we had crashed their party, and they were utterly annoyed. The beach becomes unfamiliar, foreign, and all the more beautiful for it.

It occurred to me that this is often the work of the artist- hunting the unseen; making it seen. Finding unnoticed beauty, and bringing it to the light. And sometimes a low tide is just what we need…

Here’s to 2010, a new year, and a new decade. May it bring you all light, love, and prosperity!

Long time, no write

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been writing a ton. But I certainly haven’t been writing here, have I?

It’s been a wonderful, yet incredibly busy fall season for us around here, meaning me and my family. I continue to struggle, as we all do, to fit it all into these 24 hour segments we call days… and have yet to find the formula that allows me to do it all and stay present enough to enjoy it.  Such a work in process… and I guess that’s where I’m at these days, trying my best to give myself to the priorities that I’ve set for myself and then seeing the beauty and accomplishment in the messy incoherence that ensues. I figure if I can do that, I’m in pretty good shape.

Well, this is my habit, to take stock toward the end of the year. Not a bad habit, but it can turn melancholy if I let it, so I won’t. A few of my favorite things that I did this year- that sounds more cheerful.

I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel Valley… What a fantastic group of artists. Such a beautiful place.

I developed a body of work that I am in love with… a rare thing for me; I am so critical of my own work. The slow down in sales has facilitated my spending more time on and with my work. So there is a silver lining.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November… 50,000 words in thirty days, with only a few vague ideas in my pocket- it felt like jumping off a cliff, and I survived! I created my parachute on the way down. Challenging, invigorating, terrifying. I’ve never written that much in my life. My daughter did it too- I couldn’t have been prouder.

So what did I learn the most from? Definitely NaNoWriMo- hands down. I’ll be taking every skill I practiced back to my studio. For example: you don’t always need to know where you are going to get somewhere. Let surprises happen. Let the work take charge instead of bending it to my expectations. Spend time with the work every day. Sit down and work, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. Trust that I have something to say. I usually just have to get quiet enough to hear it myself.

I’d love to hear from you- what did you do that was new this year, and what did you learn from it?

Catching Up

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We don’t get a whole lot of fall color here on the mid-California coast. But I am savoring fall, anyway. This is my favorite time of year. 

After a long bout of illness this summer, I “came to” sometime in early October, and realized that my blog (among many other things) had been sorely neglected. So in the spirit of catching up a bit, here are some things I’ve been up to. I somehow managed to pull together my show here in town at Enso; we had a wonderful opening and I received loads of positive feedback. I’m now busy preparing for another show coming up in February. So, I’ve been working in my studio, if somewhat sporadically. Earlier this month, I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel, and got some wind in my sails. The retreat was wonderful, and I met many other artists from all over the country. The speakers were great- hearing Tony Scherman speak was definitely a high point for me- and members demonstrated techniques, which was also interesting. I came away inspired and full. On my drive home, I pulled over several times, because I had to write down everything I was thinking before it got away. Just download into my notebook. Somehow, talking with and listening to other painters helped me crystalize some of my own goals, which have been fuzzy for a while. 

And now, after the buzz has worn off a bit, I realize that it is fine and well to think about painting, but a time comes when it is painfully obvious that I’m doing more thinking than painting. And that it is time to shoehorn painting back into my life, an hour at a time, and re-set some priorities. It’s never ending- the process of picking oneself back up, brushing off, and walking back into the studio.

Encaustic Technique #7: Smooth Surface Tips

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It seems that for many encaustic artists, the smooth surface is like the holy grail. Beeswax painting lends itself to almost instant surface texture. Wonderful, to be sure, and fun to exploit, but sometimes we want something glassy and smooth. Developing a smooth surface especially on any piece over, say, 12″ x 12″, takes patience and restraint. Although I cannot boast a perfectly smooth surface on my paintings, and in fact don’t aim for that, they do fall in the category of smooth rather than textured. I tend to use the smooth texture to contrast with the final touches of paint that I use to create a subtle relief (see above). Here are my tips for working toward a smooth surface in your paintings:

1. I use a heat gun to fuse, and am very careful to not over-fuse. The wax should not be blown around, or you will create a wavy surface. I’ve also read that torches can work well.

2. I use a wide (4″) hake brush to lay down layers of clear beeswax. The hake brushes are inexpensive, and have a fine texture that lays down smooth, thin layers of wax.

3. Scraping the surface from time to time with a razor blade will even out your surface and encourage subsequent layers to go on smoothly. If you use intarsia in your paintings, this will be a built-in texture regulator.

4. When I want to lay down a smooth layer, I turn the heat up on my wax slightly. Usually I keep it at 200 deg. F., but I’ll turn it up to 220 or so for brief periods. The hotter wax is more likely to smear color directly beneath it, so use this tip carefully.

5. If I am putting down more than one layer of smooth was, I alternate the direction of my strokes with each layer. I load my brush, keeping it nice and hot, then use one sweeping stroke to cover the entire width of the painting. Then I apply a stroke beneath that one, etc. When that layer is done I turn my painting a quarter turn, and put down another layer, etc. I fuse every two thin layers as I go.

6. Many artists use a “pour” method for their paintings. They tape the edges of their painting to create a lip that comes up to create a clean edge. Then pour the hot wax onto the surface. The drawback is that this can melt and/0r pit the surface of any painting beneath the pour. This is worth experimenting with, though, as I’ve seen some really beautiful work done this way.

6. Some artists use a solvent at the very end to smooth the surface. You can put a bit on a rag and rub the surface. What I’ve noticed about this technique it that it creates a matte finish. The painting must be buffed periodically to maintain a glossy finish.

7. Which brings us to buffing. You’ve created your smooth surface, and you want to make it look glassy? Clean, lint free rags work. I like to use white t-shirts that I get from the thrift store, wash and dry, and then cut up. Another option is to use chamois, which is completely lint-free, and can work up a high shine. You don’t need anything but your buffing rag and some patience. Work on small sections at a time, rubbing lightly in small circles. This is a great way to “polish” your finished piece.

What about you? do you have any smooth surface tips you’d like to add? Leave a comment, and add to the list.

Inspiration: walking and seeing

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“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”   -Rumi

One of the trickiest things, I’ve found, about making images is the simultaneous need for experience and innocence. On one hand, we want to bring our years of experience to bear in the studio. On the other, we want to be able to see as if for the first time; an adventurous and inventive eye must not be hobbled by what it thinks it knows and sees.

This summer, I’ve been walking the same route through the fields, almost daily, and like to practice seeing things with a fresh perspective. A few times, I’ve taken my camera, and it has been so fun to look through that magic window and see how limiting the view can sometimes expand how I see. 

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Artistic perception is this great elastic thing that must be exercised to stay limber and responsive. Ironically, doing something repetitive is sometimes just the thing to practice keeping things new.

New Work #14: Acrylic, Etc.

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Challenging work, this. I’ve been trying to translate some of the same ideas I’ve been exploring in encaustic into my acrylic mixed media work. The pieces seem related, but distinct as well. The same problems come up, but I have to solve them with a different language of solutions, as I move between the two mediums. I feel as though each new painting progresses the conversation a bit further, without a whole lot of repetition from piece to piece. 

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You can only faintly see the embroidered word “Begin” in the painting above.

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It is difficult to see in the above image (these are large-ish paintings, and the low res image doesn’t quite do them justice), but I’ve started using tiny dots of paint (the black circles above) much like I use in the encaustic pieces, but to different effect.

I’m off to the redwoods for a week of camping, swimming, sunning, and hanging out with good friends. Have a great week!

New Work #13: Encaustic

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Things have been productive around here, if a bit intermittent. You’ve seen peeks of these works in process these last few months. Here are the finished pieces. The above piece is encaustic, measures 30″ x 40″, and is titled “Winter #14”.

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“Winter #10″, 28″ x 28”, encaustic mixed media.

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“Winter # 6″, encaustic mixed media, 28″ x 25”. 

I’ll update with the latest acrylic mixed media work tomorrow.