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September 2009

August 2009

Perception and Imagination

Smith Three Creeks Lake copy
Three Creeks Lake
16 x 20

I have been getting ready for a solo show in October, titled "Perception and Imagination,"  an exhibition that will range from abstract to realism. Most of my work has a basic inspiration that comes from the landscape, and with this body of work I will be trying to connect the different styles.

DSC04417 copy
 "How The Light Gets In"
12 x 36

Here is a portion of my artist statement:

I came late to the idea that I could paint.  I started working in multiple directions because there was so much to learn and explore, and I wanted to catch up with those artists who had been working for years.  Soon it became natural for me to take an idea and explore it in multiple styles, trying to work out what it was I was really responding to and trying to communicate.

My work ranges between abstract and realism, but texture and color function as the real subject matter.  The result is a balance between recognition and mystery, color and light, blending the visual/emotional experience to invite contemplation.

With "Perception and Imagination" I am prying open that window between what I perceive visually and what I can imagine.  The landscape has always been the inspirational foundation, but my work is not about topography - as beautiful as it is; it's about being "alone" but not "lonely," about venturing into the unknown and about what I might find there.  It's about courage and accepting the invitation to explore.

I am very excited about this opportunity to show a large body of cohesive work.  If you are in or around Central Oregon, here is the information:

High Desert Gallery & Custom Framing of Central Oregon
Redmond Gallery
453 SW 6th Street
Redmond, Oregon 97756

The Show runs from September 28 through October 30, 2009

Aaaarrrrgggg and other Pirate words

Okay, so I never claimed to be a technical whiz.  Unfortunately, there are several "feedblitz" powered feeds which would not be served if I cancel using them, so I have decided to reinstate the service rather than risk loosing the connections to some of the sites that syndicate Ancient Artist.  You should still be able to receive your updates by email or - if you've converted to an RSS feed through a reader, then you can pick which one you prefer and unsubscribe from the other. 

It's one of those situations where you can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em.

Now, as long as I can continue to write content that you want to read we'll all be fine. 

Well...maybe almost fine.  There's that old age thing we have to consider...

Changing the way you receive Ancient Artist

For years I have included feedblitz email distribution as a method for readers to receive the new posts to this blog. When they began imposing ad copy as a way of monetizing their service, I upgraded to a paid distribution but the costs did not seem to merit the service.  Unfortunately, when I "down-graded" my distribution to what I had before, I discovered that there would only be a 30-day "ad-funded" service provided and then...nothing.  Not only that, but some RSS feeds may be disrupted.

If you have been receiving Ancient Artist through email, I would encourage you to subscribe to the feed, where posts can be seen in your reader ( such as Google).  I have appreciated the support that my fellow artists have provided over the years through their comments to things I have written, and I hope to continue the relationship. 

Yes, the posts have been less frequent this summer.  This has been a great time of reflection and change for many of us, but also a time for re-thinking our goals and priorities.  Art-making isn't something we only do when times are good.  For most artists, it is as necessary as breathing, and finding ourselves in a world that seems to be holding it's collective breath for the third shoe to drop, these weeks and months can feel suffocating. 

But it is also a time of renewal, of reflection, and the gift of time to experiment, to grow, and to emerge refreshed and with a solid body of new work. While it might feel impossible to maintain enthusiasm right now, perhaps it is an enthusiasm of a different sort that we could be cultivating - enthusiasm for the wisdom and instincts that we all have to move beyond this period of apprehension and embrace the possibilities in tomorrow.

Thank you to all the readers who have been with me these years.  Those of you who have become discouraged and unsubscribed, I would wish only that you reclaim your dream in a new form.  I hope others will continue on this journey with me. 

I will also have to try to figure out if I need to do anything else with Google in order to get the feed to work properly.  I vaguely remember something about if it wasn't set up right it would just loop around - which is what I'm afraid will happen now that I've taken feedbliz out of the picture.  So we'll just have to muddle through...maybe you should bookmark the site just in case...

The Creation of Visual Content

When I was in art school, we learned to paint alla prima - all in one session.  Wet-in-wet, three hours max.  The reasoning was to train the artist's eye and hand, to quickly decide upon an approach and composition, and to finish by the end of class.  Coming back to a semi-dry painting two to five day's later had it's own set of problems, like remixing colors and changes in the model or still life set-up.  It worked in the academic world, but does it work as well in real life?

I'm not one who works out detailed compositions before hand - I prefer to let a painting idea develop  as I go along.  This is fine for abstract work, but recently I've been experimenting with expressive representational styles where my preference for alla prima was preventing me from developing content and visual weight.

Hidden smDSC04173 copy
Hidden, First Version

This is the first version of a painting I originally called "Hidden."  It's large - 24 x 36, oil on linen. I was pleased with it at the end of the alla prima painting session - which lasted 6 hours instead of 3.  My concept developed around the division of space, the Golden Rectangles, plus spatial effects front to back and combining realism with abstract. 

But the more I looked at this version, I recognized a hard-to-define weakness, a sense that it wasn't finished.  What was going on here?  I'd captured emotion in the face, but as my husband (as well as a few others) asked, why did I choose to cut off the face like that?

Gradually I understood that I'd set up two centers of interest - my eyes jumped from the ear on the left to the face on the right. It wasn't clear where the figures were in space and how they related to each other.  I had to decide which center of interest was going to be dominant - the face and expression that began to tell the story - or the beautifully painted ear placed in the sweet spot.  (The face is also in a sweet spot.)

Demeter's Garden new  
Demeter's Garden
@the artist, 2009

So, taking my courage in my hands (and Liquin, poured over the top of the dry painting) I risked ruining something I really liked in the hopes that I could make it better. Since I'd been working on a new Ancestors Series, exploring mythology and Native American influences, the story of Persephone "attached" itself to the expression on the face.  Here, on the left, was the goddess Demeter, hiding her daughter Persephone (on the right) in a garden to avoid Hades' perfidy.

Now I had a story to develop through detail.

As hard as it was, I reduced the visual impact of the ear (my favorite part). I added more of the translucent gray ribbons, which tied both sides of the painting together visually.  Developing the leaves around the face increased the visual importance of Persephone's face, while the mystical detail in Demeter's hair moves the eye away from the cheekbone; we're not wondering why I "cut the face off."  Finally, I evaluated the composition in terms of the grid used by many of the Classical Masters,  discovering that nearly all the major points lined up, containing the important elements in the painting.

These adjustments required careful study of the composition - at least for me - contemplation that often doesn't occur when I'm focused on starting and finishing all in one go.  There is a certain lushness when painting wet-in-wet, an immediacy that produces a freshness that I strive for - but it's just as important for me to learn how to go back to a painting that I've not developed fully.  Sure, there are elements here I wish I'd rendered more skillfully, but that's true for most artists.  We always see our own faults and are seldom satisfied.

So for now I'm happy with Demeter's Garden.  Those areas of less than perfect draftsmanship?  Well, maybe I'll be brave enough next week to go back into this painting. Or maybe not.

While it's important to know how to go back to a painting, it's probably more important to know when to let it go.