Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Look, Line and Fun

We had a wonderful trip to Boston a couple of weeks ago. One alley combined all that I look for when I hit a city. What is NEW in that area's art? What can I learn from this art? How do they use line--my latest passion? 

This graffiti was a small part of a long alley full of great images. While I have rearranged many of the elements, some of them are developed from my studying the rest of the alley. The black lines, done with those large magic markers, they pull together a very disparate painting. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carl Sandburg's Pond

This is a test to see if you can enlarge a photo by clicking on it. And, yes you can, but I don't know how i did it. Sorry. No, this is not a painting, but it is a revelation to me. When I took this photo, I decided that I no longer needed to show "how an artist sees." Suddenly that seemed not only pointless, since a photo can do it for me, but it also seemed somewhat arrogant. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kai Althoff

There was one painting at the ICA in Boston that really caught my eye by Kia Althoff. Part of it was very flat and done right on the backside of the plexi, the rest of it was in watercolor. In looking on the net for this artist, I found that his choice of materials was nothing less than wild. There is much to learn from looking at what he makes his art out of. Anything can make art. Goggle him and take a look. I couldn't find any shots of the type of painting that caught my eye, though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Look Closer

  We spent the weekend in Boston with our new and only grandson. As much as I'd like to spend my time here pontificating on his wonders, I'd like to get back to our discussion on learning from all kinds of art.
We got to see Tara Donovan's incredible exhibition at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art.  The show, entitled "Look Closer" was a beautiful, undulating of translucent ceilings, walls and floors. When you "looked closer" you saw that the ceiling was a cloud of Styrofoam cups. Turning the corner there was a wall that was ten feet long and eight feet high and was created with drinking straws which were just stacked there--no glue. The floors were, in one case, wisps of Scotch tape that looked like valley fog, and, in the other, stacks of translucent drinking cups--and ethereal landscape. 
Donvan's 3 foot square blocks of toothpicks or dress maker pins were familiar to me. She had packed them in a box, removed the boxes' sides and they magically held the shape of the box. There was also a 3 foot cube made of safety glass. 144 sheet of glass were stacked up and then Donovan began tapping the corners with a hammer. The sheets began to fracture into tiny pieces--but the cube retained it's shape. 
These were 'on site' creations once there were gone--or fell--they would never be built the same again. Yes, they were literally and figuratively enthral
What problem did the artist set up for herself, as Marilyn Hughey Phyllis would ask? She wanted to use common, disposable objects to make incredible art. Did she succeed? You bet! How can I use her solutions in my own art? There isn't an easy answer for this one. I am a 2D artist through and through. Could I use common objects to print patterns on my paintings? Styrofoam cups, rubber bands, piles of toothpicks wet with paint? 
The intensity and consistency that she approaches this mystical feeling in her art is something that I need to explore. What feelings do I need to get into paintings? Can I become consistent enough to delve deeply into them?
Check out her work through the link to the right. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Imperfect Line

Although there is wealth of inspiration in Oliver's Folk Art Gallery, I was first taken by the use of line in one artist's work. Michael Banks  coats plywood with tar, and paints wonderful, imaginative l figures on these boards in oils. He then incises through the paint to make gestural and random lines and drawings. How can I better use line in my own work? What tools can I make them with? Can I be brave enough to slash a random line here or there? Can this be a break though? This type of exploration is what keeps we artists excited. What do you make lines with? What else can you make lines with?

My first attempt at my "perfect imperfect line" required that I move to canvas. Here I created lines with stitching.  My first few attempts were nicely crude and random, but I quickly got fancy. But as my embroidery improved, the rough look I was after began to fade. 

(Promises, 12 x 12, mixed media on raw canvas)

Switching back to watercolor, I was then was able to make headway with creative lines and patterns. But the pen was too easy, and after a series of 3 of these boredom set in once again, and I was ready to move on.

 (Imagination and Reality #1, 30 x 22, watercolor on paper)

So I dug out a ruling pen from my graphic arts' days. This pen allows me to fill it by running a brush loaded with watercolor across the dual points. Switching colors with this is easy. But it is a pen, and I quickly became too facile with that too. Michael Banks' gestural look was once again escaping me.  

Then I squirted some acrylic right out to the tube onto a sample painting like Laura Owens might do. That was cool. I will use this again some time. 

Next came an experiment with a hypodermic needle which clogged instantly. But Jane Filer mentioned a tool that reminded me of a big "hypodermic needle" that I bought years ago for monotypes. (Similar "bellows bottles" now available at http://www.waterbasedinks.com.) For now, I have found my tool!
I can squirt acrylic paint directly into the back of it, and hold it in my fist as I push the plunger with my thumb. With this awkward movement, I'm achieving a gestural line that has a life of it's own. I can "inject" any extra paint into back into its tube and flush it out with my paint water with a few pumps of the plunger. 

Where will this new line take me? Look where it took me at first. Where can I go from here? 
Write me about you experiments with line. We'd all love to hear from you.
(The Day the Ginkos Fall, 12 x 12, acrylic on raw linen)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Looking at all Kinds of Art

I once went museum hopping with Marilyn Hughey Phillis after a long day at a workshop. We were both exhausted, but she still had the stamina to look at each painting for several minutes. Finally I asked her what she was looking for, and she said that she looked for three things in a painting. 

1. What challenge did this artist set up for herself?
2. Did she succeed in solving her challenge?
and 3. How can I use her solution in my own work.

Look at all kinds of art. Check out my favorite artists listed to the right. Challenge yourself.