This week's blog was written by painter, John Stephenson. John shares his fascination with water as one of his subjects.
If I look back over my painting, drawing, and other work I find that I have developed a fascination with water as a subject or crucial element in my art. This appears in images of fish swimming deep in the ocean, scenes of water flowing through cities, forest waterfalls.There are many reasons for this interest. I have spent so many hours by the water, in the water, on the water that my experience has penetrated deep in my imagination. I have never lived far from the water and as a child was excited by the pounding of waves on Southern California coast, learning to swim in the ocean, awed by the vast expanse of the Pacific.
Water also has physical qualities that make it attractive to a painter or other visual artist. The constant flow and free movement of water, its shape-shifting qualities from mist to liquid to solid ice or the way water covers and penetrates everything. It changes the appearance of objects by making them shiny and reflective or by deepening their local color. Water interacts with light creating wild and interesting changes as light shines through vapor making rainbows, darkening as it penetrates deep water, distorting but transmitting an image of a rock on the bottom of a stream.
Water also has a long history of symbolic significance for ancient cultures and religions. It has been drawn on for this ability to signify and metaphorically stand for experiences and values that are hard to express directly in language. Traditionally water has stood for purity, healing, cleansing, and spiritual values. It is associated with life forming and life giving powers that are central to our sense of vitality and growth.
All these elements and aspects of water including my experiences as a child have entered my consciousness in ways I only partially understand. But they are there and get expressed when I paint. In part it is the physical act of painting: moving paint around, watching it flow, smear, moving around in the passive way that water does. Yet it creates a hard and fast image when it dries. Often I play with paint the way I might play with water.
My response to waterfalls or the ocean or rain is conditioned by all the underlying meanings that water has had in my life through religion, literature, and art…from the great floods of Bible stories to impressionist views of the sea shore…probably the greatest being the sense of freedom, movement, life force, that I feel when I watch ocean waves, feel and hear the rush of a mountain stream, coming on a tiny pool of water and patch of wildflowers after half a mile on a dusty trail. It works most forcefully when I translate some memory of these experiences to the imagination in the act of putting paint of varying hues and dilution on canvas. Watching my brush make marks and constantly change the effects of the medium actually creates the feeling and sound of water. It is an uncanny but exciting process which seems to free me up from the often fussy and picky mindset I can find myself in when I paint. It is a profound sense of freedom and painting is a way to express that sense of freedom.
This week's blog post was written by painter Jennie O'Connor.
Today, I thought I would write about getting a new painting started. Before putting brush to paper or canvas, many artists have a plan, they have made many decisions, including what they are going to paint. For instance, they may have a photo or an outdoor scene they want to paint by perhaps starting with several thumbnail sketches, working out the design, values, shapes, and color choices, etc. That, however, is not how I work. Sometimes I wonder if I might be in the minority but probably not. First, I create chaos and then I must create order by making a painting that appeals to the senses.
This brings up something I should explain. Almost all of my paintings begin with an underpainting or start (see above); which means I have applied paint and texture covering the whole canvas. The planning for me begins when it comes to creating a painting over this underpainting. I should also mention that I have an immense number of starts in my studio just waiting for the muse to strike. Really what I decide to paint over the underpainting is determined by how it has turned out. In fact I sort of wait for the underpainting/start to speak to me. Yes I know, I’m a bit crazy. It may take weeks or even months of studying a piece before it speaks to me
Below is a completed painting resulting from the above underpainting.
In my process, every painting begins with color. It’s kind of like getting dressed in the morning and deciding what I will wear by first choosing the color I want to wear and then looking in the closet and picking an outfit that fits with my color mood.
Now that’s an interesting phrase, “color mood”. What the heck is that? I just made it up but I’m pretty I’m sure it isn't anything new. I sort of like the sound of “Color Mood”!
So anyway, there I am in my studio, staring at a blank canvas or canvases, as the case may be, because I often work on several starts at one time; wondering what the heck I’m going to do. Then about that time I usually start looking at my tubes of color, picking them up, sometimes I open a few, I may even squeeze out a bit of pigment. Once I’ve come up with a color that suites my mood, or color mood if you will, I’m ready to start.
But that brings up another problem: Where on the canvas should I put this color? Should I begin doing a classic design, or do I feel more like just applying the paint loosely around the canvas, adding other colors as I go along. Sometimes, I may just paint the whole surface with one color. I also may choose to add collage papers that I have previously created, or stamp on texture, or even add other texturing material. The thing is, I love texture and color, and it’s so freeing to work without any plan at all, which is what I usually end up doing when I am creating my under-paintings.
Freeing myself up, creating chaos on a blank surface, that’s the fun of it!
This week's blog post is written by local painter, Jennie O'Connor.
How do I know when a painting is finished? That’s a question I ask myself repeatedly, as do many artists.
“For some artists, a work is done when it leaves the studio. Others keep tinkering in the galleries. One waits for a piece to ‘cry uncle.”- Author Unknown
Making a painting is unlike most other tasks where there is a distinct beginning and end to a project. For example, I know when I’ve finished the dishes or finished writing a letter; however that may not be so true when I am gardening. After all gardening is an art form.
I find that as much as I may want a piece of art to be finished, it may not be so. I stress over what the painting needs to be spectacular, because, oh my gosh, all my paintings must be spectacular. I find it helps to poke fun at myself because of the need not to take myself so seriously is important in my process.
I think every artist, or at least most artists, want each piece to be great. However, in the real world it doesn't happen that way, at least in my world. I’d like to say one in three, but in reality it’s probably closer to one in ten paintings end up as ‘good enough,’ and the really great paintings are few and far between, if ever. That’s just my guesstimate anyway.
Getting back to the problem of when is a painting finished, sometimes I think a piece is finished, only to set it up for a day or two and realize, no, there is more work to do. That shape or color isn't quite right or I need to add bit of color in another area. Too much texture, not enough texture, too dark, too light, or oh no, have I overworked it? This is a very real problem. I find that the best paintings have a certain freshness and spontaneity to them which is easily destroyed. A saying I once heard was, “It takes two people to make a painting: The artist and someone to kill the artist before he ruins it.” It’s not hard to become obsessive over a painting, worrying that maybe I just need to add or take out something. That’s when deciding whether or not the painting is completed becomes even more difficult.
Looking at the image of the painting above, is it finished? I’m not so sure, but I haven't decided how to change it yet, or if I should.
Peer groups are wonderful help dealing with this issue. I belong to a couple of critique groups where I meet with my artist friends to talk about our paintings. Each of us brings some of our current work to be critiqued by the others in the group. Having one’s art viewed with fresh eyes can be so helpful in identifying areas of a painting that are not working and getting suggestions. And once in a while, the blessed words, “Don’t change a thing” are spoken.
Knowing when to stop is a very real talent, and hopefully a skill that can be learned over time. Sometimes I know just what a painting needs as a finishing touch, but other times it just not so easy. And so I struggle along with this age-old problem.
“You can paint only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. [...] For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life." — Dale Carnegie
This week's blog post was written by Ben Gilbert of Crayons and Cardboard.
The latest direction my art is going is capturing the image of an image. I paint flawed photographs trying to capture the blur. The static snow, the electromagnetic lines in photos taken in a second by phone. Easy to do when one does not have to worry about wasting film... Sometimes I use the Photoshop app to alter the images in interesting ways.
"Windows 10 Distortion Wave Field Test 1 " this was made from a Windows 10 screen saver.
I continue the Portland in the rain studies with "Mild Front" with a delineation of wet and dry bricks...
I have tried to begin a strain of subtle horror with the "That House" piece and in the future "Crystal Geyser Stack."
"Predator Becomes Prey" and "Temple of Meat" are pop culture primary color works...
As is "Daedon of Nylar" where one of the lovecraftian icons meets a prehistoric pig...
Snake Berm... An abstract involving sprinklers a snake and oceanic contour lines...
Besides the continuing use of photos I have been continuing down the path of using mostly primary colors in abstracts.
One cannot use a light touch with crayon and cardboard... The surface does not easily accept the wax... One must plow one’s way across the harsh field to soften up the area... While being careful not to cake the wax on too much lest it start to flake...
On the Nature of Crayons...
Taste... They may be waxy but they are not full of the body defiling bitterness that one finds in most of the paints...
Touch... They are smooth and cool... Like sturdy solid stalks of cress or carrots... Nothing to complain about there...
Smell... Pleasant yet with enough crayons enough to overwhelm the accumulated body odor of a sweltering Portland summer...
Sound... No scraping... I suppose if you use the wax to remove hair they could collect the screams of agony involved in such a venture...
Sight... The best part... Over a hundred vibrant colors in the wheel package...
I'll probably do an octopus next.. More cats more dogs... Maybe giant space hamsters... Fantasy creatures... Creatures small and creatures of the deep... Stay tuned…
In the near future my work will be at Dark Star Tattoo, another Pancakes and Booze on Hawthorne and Refuge PDX for the June Fourth Friday. Send responses to these blog posts to Vdrak80@gmail.com.
This week's blog post is written by local painter and Co-op member John Stephenson.
I have always been intrigued by the infinite combinations of colors possible in my paintings. The mystery of how color changes with the slightest adding of one color to another and to what degree to do this is exciting and often frustrating. These minute changes will ultimately determine how a painting, a piece of jewelry, a fiber artwork, or just about any type of craft will look in the finished product. This includes working with glass, pottery, wood and metals. I have no formula for how to solve the chanciness of color except to apply my past experiences and experiment with the new. It is a challenging and creative process for me.
Fortunately there are some guidelines that help when you experiment with the colors. We have learned in our early childhood art classes that mixing the primary colors blue, red and yellow plus using black or white will make or tint new secondary colors. Many artists and some scientists have studied color and tried to devise laws that govern the effects of mixing and placement of these colors. The untrained human eye cannot easily discriminate differences enough to name and describe a large range of colors. For example, although there is a large range of mixes between red and white, we usually come up with the name “pink”. But when fine gradations are placed next to each other, depending of the shape and size of the patch, we can discern which patch is more pleasing to the eye. It is also true that the eye mixes colors when the patch is small and placed close together. The impressionist used this phenomenon to create paintings closer to our experience of light on surfaces of buildings, trees and people. They mainly used pure paint right out of the tube. Our imagination takes over to create colors that aren’t placed there. For me this means we can let go of the compulsion to try and mix every local color we see and instead let our imagination take over. I think this enhances the enjoyment of the paintings and other art objects.
Another consideration in painting is that using pure colors of a rich blue, for example, grabs our attention in contrast to more tinted or shaded colors. Thus space or distance can be created by placement of these brighter colors with muted ones. In landscapes this produces the illusion of background and foreground
Our emotional state or makeup is important as well. We react to colors differently depending on our personal and cultural history. Some colors evoke a more upbeat response associated with bright sunny days. Other colors evoke sadness, excitement or anger. This applies to many artists who have strong associations with certain colors that for them produce excitement or feelings of purity or grief. I think of expressionist painters of the past such as Wassily Kandinsky, Edvard Munch or Emil Nolde who made emotional response to color a major focus of their creative process, not only for themselves, but for the viewers of their art as well.
Knowing these factors doesn’t give a blueprint for using color but helps in considering how we react to colors and how our viewers may react. I’m sure that every artist in our Co-op is well aware of the influence of color and uses it as an essential ingredient in the art he/she creates.
This week's blog post is written by Marianne Wilson Stein of Gifts from the Earth.
German artist Gustav Klimt is one of my favorites. He was born on July 14,1862 and lived in Baumgarten, Vienna, Austria. He was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art.
What inspires me about Klimt’s work is his use of repeating patterns and designs. His paintings were organic in design and filled with symbolic shapes. He was also a master of use of color, not afraid to create bold color combinations. Bildnis der Adele Bloch-Bauer
He painted various subject matter. I think I love his paintings of women the most. Klimt was not afraid to paint a woman’s body in all stages of life, like that of The Three Stages of Woman and Death and Life Completed. He loved the erotic and painted his subjects with a very feminine touch.
His work is sometimes ethereal leaving me with a haunting feeling. His body of work is bold and timeless. Irrlichter (Will-O’-The-Wisp)
One of my favorite periods of his work is his Golden Phase:
I have studied his body of work and I bet he was a man who loved and appreciated beauty in the world. What are your thoughts about his work?
This week's blog post is brought to us by Ben Gilbert of Crayons and Cardboard ...
Names. I don't really think too deeply about them. I try to be clever and make each name an in-joke or unusual or a light teasing of the artistic nomenclature. Is there actually one? Or is a lot of it made up as the creator goes along? It amuses me so the answers do not really matter.
'Stache Momentum" Mustaches are a trend. I figure I had to do one as a matter of course, a base touch as it were... Perhaps it's tied in with the ebb and flow of the trends. The surrounding black lines delineate movement and also could be said to represent shaved facial hair the Stache bulls through as it screams its way through our collective unconscious.
"The Yawn" had to be done since "The Scream" was done already. I don't think it's my best work but it amused me. Life is tiring and boring sometimes, and it is an unstated snapshot in time.
"Martian Luna See" What happens when your take off your helmet in the wrong place. Asphyxiation does funny things to people.
"Elevations" Perhaps not the same as those British buses... But there are levels... Oh who am I kidding... It's a study in beauty…
Red Dwarf Falling into White Dwarf... A tragic spacing and flensing of a member of a mountain clan…
After this we come to the psycho squirrel series... three paintings of very bad rodents.
Before that there was a Maneki- Neko, a bucolic looking surveillance camera, A lady in black leather, and my cousin as part of a homage to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
I am able to [----what verb?] to all of this and more because I don't have any commissions and creating is not a part of a job with any deadlines... Having a job with free time helps also. I'm always looking for unusual images to capture and will continue to try and improve and punctuate the mundane reality of existence with quirky points of fun.
This week's blog post is written by Co-op member and painter John Stephenson.
I have found that music is often an experience that adds excitement and helps form ideas to some of the images I create as a painter. This is rather mysterious and hard to pin down in many ways; but it makes sense to me as someone who greatly appreciates and is moved by many forms of music. The emotional intensity and excitement that music brings often helps me break out of the “static cling” periods when I get too caught up in overcautious or too detail-oriented painting - or when I am tempted to depend on some form of copying what I see and lose the imaginative aspect of image making.
Stop by Artistic Portland any day of the week 10 am - 6 pm (noon-5 pm on Sundays) to see and purchase John's work in person.
This weeks blog post is written by Co-op member and painter Marjorie Henderson.
Creating an inspiration board is something I create and update every few weeks to help keep inspiration fresh and ideas flowing. I occasionally hear from other artists about how they encounter artist’s block every now and then, and having an inspiration board that speaks to what is floating around in your mind can be helpful. However, this can also have the opposite effect. It can be over stimulating and overwhelming to others.
Being an artist and creating in different environments, I have noticed I respond really well to a clean, organized work area that is brightly lit, with my inspiration board right above my desk. I also enjoy having art and pictures around me that I cannot stop staring at which trigger ideas to no end and bring me a sort of joy. This environment does not work for others. A stark work area devoid of pictures and bright colors, maybe even dimly lit with a desk lamp, is the perfect ambiance needed for other artists. It clears their mind and helps them focus on their creative projects.
Another aspect of the artistic environment is audio stimulation. Do you listen to your favorite rock music from high school while you paint, or do you have to listen to classical music to get you in the groove of drawing? Others crave dead silence. I find it interesting to know how fellow artists work and to see how different we all are in our approach to making art. I personally prefer a mix of upbeat music for painting and more mellow, acoustic compositions while I draw and make jewelry. It’s also amazing how the music can influence your body of work!
What kind of environment helps you create? Share in a comment below.
Stop by Artistic Portland any day of the week 10 am - 6 pm (noon-5 pm on Sundays) to see and purchase Marjorie's work in person
This week Co-op member Ben Gilbert of Crayons and Cardboard takes us into his creative mind, sharing his current artistic thoughts and musings.
Today we talk about ideas and surfaces. I'm thinking about shaping and painting corrugate gliders, frisbees and throwing stars.. Got to figure out how to cut without shredding or peeling as well as waterproof finishes. Each type of corrugate works well with different media. Red Bull corrugate with its thinness and ridges goes well with watercolor pencils... The big smooth bread cover corrugate works well with gel sticks. Crayon works well with any kind. Pepsi, Coke, Dasani, Gatorade etc... one must apply medium pressure... Too light and it doesn't apply well... Too hard and it bruises the corrugate...Pastels are okay though with a sort of caked-on look.
The output has slowed as life has been getting busier and demand has dried up even though everyone seems to like it... Insidiously delicious video games do not help. Once in a while I consider chucking it all but that passes quickly... Though spreading pieces of my spawn throughout the city as part of an art abandonment project does appeal to my chaotic side... More animals is an answer I believe.
A gallery owner in Grants Pass has shown an interest. It might be a good short break I need. I don't suffer from a creative block per se. It's more frustration... Life in the Milepost is quiet and peaceful... I must admit I didn't start creating with the most noble of purposes. I wanted to capture the essence of the body on paper from screen shots from Netflix... I would not fit in many a heaven... I've given up on the mad scheme across the Pacific for the time being.... Any unfortunate to actually fall for me would be horrified by the state I live in and quickly look for better prospects elsewhere. Plugging along seems a better bet. Introducing myself to more and closer gallery owners and people…
Yes people... I probably should talk more. Brief flirtation with Twitter seems to have gone nowhere... Kim Kardshian has yet to say even one word with me. I try the new selling apps on the phone but none have worked beyond the 1 sale on Offer Up! The November show at the North East Community Center should go well as such shows usually do. Hope to beat the regular goal of 6... Who knows how much appetite my one fan from the car dealership has…