Friday, September 27, 2013

Inspiration or Motivation? What drives us to make art?

At a recent gallery talk I was asked: What inspires you?  A very common question at a gallery talk!  I was surprised to find myself momentarily stumped. I had never thought about! I just love to paint. My answer was: "I just really love the physicality of rich, juicy oil paint and the way it reponds on the canvas, or panel, or paper. It doesn't seem to matter what I paint. It's the joy of doing it that drives me."

Hmmm. So I've been thinking about that ever since. Then I read a Painter's Table interview with artist Joanne Greenbaum . She says:

"Inspiration is not a real word for serious artists, they don't get 'inspired,' they just work. Ideas come from actually working for me, so even if I have an upcoming show, my work may be more intense but all in all, I keep regular hours each day, working until I am tired.   ...I am one of those people that likes to work with no goal or specific ideas in mind, I like to just play with my materials and something always interesting comes of that."

What she said really rang true for me. It felt good to know that such an accomplish painter also worked that way. When I play with my paint something interesting usually comes from it. If I start with a kernel of an idea, it is usually evolves into something completely different. Even painting outdoors, I start painting a view but then lose track of any specifics and let the painting take over. Even those familiar with the location are often hard-pressed to identify the spot.

I'm motivated by the inner feeling of joy doing it, rather than inspired by some influence outside of me.

Painting above: These rocks, they whisper to me, 19 x 25", oil on yupo. Painting en plein air at Stonington, Maine's Sand Beach.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The power of place for artists

Mid-winter," oil on canvas, 33 x 48" 
Reading about new separate exhibitions of works by painters Agnes Martin (1912-2004)and Robert Diebenkorn (1922- 1993), I was struck by how profoundly each of these painters were affected by place. Martin is best known as a New York City artist making works using a minimalist delicate grid. What I didn't know is that before she arrived in NYC in her fifties at the urging of influential art dealer Betty Parsons, Martin was working in Taos in a semi-abstract, biomorphic style. The work has figurative qualities and is congruous with the regional work of "Taos Moderns" in the 1950s. Interestingly once she hit her stride in NYC (she was in her late 50s) with the "New York Grid," she became determined to literally destroy all of her earlier work. She actually made efforts to find sold pieces and buy them back in order to burn them. Those early Taos works are the subject of this exhibition at Harwood Museum of Art. 

Read a review of the exhibit and an account of Agnes Martin's determination to destroy her early works in Wall Street Journal

I have to say that not only do I prefer her early works, but this story has started me to consider how the place I live, Maine, informs what and how I paint.  Wondering how it would change were I to move to NYC, as I often dream of doing.

Credit: Mid-Winter (top)  Taos Municipal Schools Historic Art Collection, Taos, NM, copyright Agnes Martin/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Grid painting:  I could not find the title or collection for this piece.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Monotype workshop encourages experimentation

We experimented with the "anything goes" free-style of monotype printing yesterday. Using the sensitive gelatin plate enabled the production of prints without need of a printing press....easily done at home. All attendees were first time printmakers. We used a variety of papers and noted the differences in how each paper received the ink. We also had a variety of inks and textures to play with...and enjoyed printing as the gelatin plates became marred, with some actually splitting into interesting shaped pieces. Samples show the wide variety of effects. Thanks to all for sharing the day.

Nancy L

Nancy T
Gail's print (top) illustrates a texture (dried lemon cross section in black) that made a permanent mark in the plate because the dried lemon slice was kind of sharp. So that image/texture was on every print afterward. This print was the result of adding other impressed textures and painting directly on the plate.

Wayne's plate had actually split into 4 pieces by the time he made this print. The lines made by the broken sections are key in making this an interesting in successful print.

Everyone went home with at least a couple dozen nice prints!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not Representing Anything

I enjoyed a brief little article in ArtSlant about painting abstract works (link below). It may be especially interesting to people who find abstract work intimidating because there appears to be nothing concrete to get one's head understand. But this article points out that even when the artist tries to be completely abstract there is always an element of "representation" meaningful to the artist...even if he doesn't realize it is happening. We paint who we are, can't help it.  Likewise, the viewer can choose to interpret the work in response to his own life experience. It becomes an interactive experience from all perspectives.

ArtSlant:  On Not Representing Anything

The painting above is an abstract work done progressively by 5 different painters in one of my Tao of Painting Workshops. The paper had marks on it to start and each painter took a turn at responding to what was in front of her, so there are 5 personal commentaries in this work.
What does it communicate to you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An alcohol-induced accident...

Reflecting.  12" x 12"  Pastel
This pastel had been hanging around the studio for months. It was started as a snowy landscape. I disliked it very much. Often with such problem pieces done on Wallis paper like one I just rub out the image and start painting again. The ghosting left from the first image is often inspiring and leads to something exciting. On this one I decided to drench it with alcohol spray...what possessed me I don't know.

I've long used alcohol to set a first layer of pastel. It does a nice job and dries quickly and takes a new thick layer of color beautifully. Sometimes I will put lots of alcohol to turn the pastel the consistency of paint and then paint into it with a brush. But this time I turned the piece upside down and just kept spraying and spraying until the colors ran together, dripped and splattered. The paper was buckled and warped. It was soaked and took nearly an hour to dry.

Hmmm. In addition to the dripping and running of colors, the texture of the Wallis kind of lifted in places. It looks and feels very sandy, not buttery like a normal pastel. I went into it gently with soft pastel in just a few places to accent a line or a shape, but mostly this is as I found it when dry, with just a tad of cropping.

I love abstractions but keep flip-flopping about whether this is anything beyond just interesting. Comments are welcome.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When a Painting Connects

A Monet Day, 24" x 24", oil on panel
It's such a joyful experience when a painting connects with someone. Such was my experience at a recent artwalk in downtown Bangor which resulted in the purchase of this painting:  A Monet Day.  The buyer is a friend of a friend who has recently moved to Maine. While I had met her before, this visit to my art walk exhibit was the first time she had seen my work. She asked for the full tour, painting by painting. She is an art collector and especially loves to own works by artists she knows. When we arrived at this painting, she really responded to it: the colors, the fluidity of the marks and glazed areas. I told her that last summer I had spent a few days painting at the Lily Pond in Stonington, Maine. I had done several paintings on site, one from which this larger one was conceived. She knew the place. While new to living in Maine, she's had a brother here for years, and on her very first visit years ago, he took her to the Stonington Lily Pond, his absolute favorite place. She had been looking for a very special birthday gift for him, and this, she decided, was it!  I took it back the my studio to frame and now it is in her home, waiting to be delivered to him.

I learned how important it is to talk about a work. Prospective buyers like to hear the story of the work, the place, the process. You just never know how the story will resonate and make a connection.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Painting with Abandon at the Tao Workshop

 The Tao of Painting Workshop yesterday was such fun. Lots of energy with everyone looking to work with the natural flow of creating art works. The morning was spent working in group exercises designed to relieve all painters of the potential for judgment and comparison, the fear of the blank canvas, and rules. For the paintings shown here, each participant was given a sheet of multi-media board that had random painted marks (each board different). They were instructed to focus, react and respond to the marks presented with their own addition of color, line, or texture in any medium. A variety of painting tools and media were available and had been experimented with in an earlier exercise.  After  +/- 5 minutes of work, the boards were passed to the painter to the right, and this "round" continued until each board had been worked on by each painter.  We all liked the results of this particular exercise so much that we decided to donate the set of 5 to the Bangor School Department fundraiser for Japan relief. Kal Elmore, a workshop participant and art teacher at Bangor High is facilitating this donation. Participating painters in addition to Kal: Christine Swersey, Deb Jellison, Linda Miller, and Darlene Smith.

The afternoon was spent applying the experiences from the morning exercises...painting a still life, and finally to a work from memory or imagination.