Coltrane in the studio today, seems appropriate, as I am starting on my 16 x 20 sheets now, another milestone. I woke up this morning thinking that some monochromatic painting would be a good thing to do, since the black and white drawings have been so gratifying and fun. With the fall colors fading to black and brown, the landscape is increasingly graphic and basically monochromatic on a gray overcast day. I over-painted on two 13 x 16 paintings that were leaving me feeling ...meh. I kept more or less the same composition, same mountain sides, just re-focused. Here is one:
Painting larger is new ground for me, and going there has meant embracing uncertainty and the feeling of being lost. But it's good to be lost! I am learning that working larger entails detaching from the "observed" landscape where the painting began. Inside the studio the landscape is no longer in front of my eyes. Instead I have drawings to look at, and memories, and photographs. More new ground, working from reference images and memory. And not only that. The light is constant, no issues with wind or rain... new ground working on a painting over several sessions, days, maybe weeks. Where am I? Here is a drawing of a mountain side I have studied, painted and drawn many times already, and it is my jumping off point for a studio painting. Below it is the painting I am working on, about 14x18. (I know what you're thinking, but remember, "big" is relative, and size isn't everything.)
Here is a pic of the small relief print, 5"x7" that I am sending out to some of my wonderful Kickstarter supporters. I printed an edition of 40 by hand about 10 days ago, and now they are dry and ready to go. I'll be mailing these in a day or two.
To achieve consistency in the printing of the gray clouds, that was a little printing slight of hand. I inked the plate evenly each time with the right amount of ink to achieve a rich black when rubbed down with my hand printing tool of choice, a bookbinder's bone folder. But before printing, I printed off the clouds onto a piece of scrap white paper, and then a second time, so 2 layers of ink were removed. Then I placed the actual paper for the edition, I used Nideggen, and printed in the normal way. Only a trace of ink was left on the clouds, so those appear as a consistent gray.
Below are pics of my studio corner, with SOME work up on the walls. There are many more paintings stashed away in a folder. In the far corner is a view of the small sketches I have been using as reference images for my paintings. Many of these small sketches will be mailed out to another group of my Kickstarter patrons in a couple of weeks. I have selected a few of these to show here, just a teaser.
It bears repeating: Kickstarter is a powerful platform to help creative people reach a specific goal. It connects the artist with a world of people who are open minded, willing to make a leap of faith, and eager to support the creative process. I am over-awed at the gesture that total strangers, as well as friends and family, have made by responding to my project. In exchange I can offer these pieces of artwork, all offshoots of my creative process during this residency. As I am breaking new ground in my landscape painting, these small works have helped me to understand and interpret the forms I am fascinated by. I'm working with an enormous amount of energy and focus, thanks to this gift of time. I hope every one of my Kickstarter backers will appreciate these tokens of my sincere gratitude.
The Great Blueness and other Predicaments, a book from my childhood, is about a colorless, gray city. When colors spilled from the cauldrons of a magician/chemist, the population was in turns blinded, agitated and depressed by the introduction of the colors yellow, red and blue. When the 3 primaries were carefully blended, harmony was restored and the city bloomed with color. But imagine if the colors kept on blending, and blending again, their world would be restored to a nuanced, liminal, dreamlike gray. That is the world I am living in right now.
In a different world, five hours East of Laugarvatn, I saw the otherworldly blue of glacier ice floating in a lagoon. This is a small quick sketch of the ice, with the glacier in the background, about 8"x 6".
It was incredibly exciting to sit with this view and try to capture some of the colors. It was also a deeply peaceful moment, time frozen, with silence all around except for the muffled sound of dripping water. I am hoping for two days of good weather in the forecast for October, then I can go back to this site for a two day ice-painting marathon.
More WCW today. Here, I'll just copy down the whole thing: William Carlos Williams, "Lines" (1921)
Leaves are graygreen, the glass broken, bright green.
Just a reminder to myself to be concise with selection and editing as I paint, and precise with color.
Alas, I bought a huge stash of Icelandic Lopi wool today, so it will take all my willpower to not get sidetracked with knitting hats.
The poem Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams was with me as I sat alone in the studio, enjoying the silence. As a creative person I often crave solitude, and even the complicated and conflicted moments of loneliness that solitude brings with it. That is the emotional space I look for when I paint. In this sparsely populated country you don't have to wander far to find yourself completely alone in the world, physically anyway. Not a person, not a car, at least for as far as the eye can see. Here is the view from a lovely quiet hillside, in a valley protected from the wind, on an unusually clear and sunny day.
I did a few paintings over the last three days, around 10"x12" or 9"x9" in that range. I painted the one below from that quiet hillside. It was a rare treat to sit comfortably outside and paint for a couple of hours, instead of inside the car.
This is a studio painting:And here, my biggest painting yet, ever. Really. It was one of my goals of this residency to push my work to a larger format. It's about 16" x 14", so this is progress. I'm still tweaking it here and there, but this is what it looks like right now:
I am thinking about Walt Whitman, as you can probably guess by the title of this post. (I posted about the ModPo MOOC recently.) My barbaric yip is taking the form of 6x8 inch mountain studies in acrylic on handmade paper. Small studies, so not quite a Yawp, but still, for me, barbaric.
I used a limited palette, just to keep things from getting completely out of control. Working in sets of 2, the first painting is based loosely on a photograph or a sketch, and the second painting is based only on the first. I will probably keep working on them, but for now this is how they look. I have 2 other sets in progress.
I had a lot of fun with these today, cozy and warm in the Gullkistan farmhouse while the gale was blowing outside, working at the living room table, reading poetry and painting, relaxed, slow, and steady.
Today I feel like I REALLY painted. I mean really flinging the paint around (lol), and creating a juicy loaded surface. Well, everything is relative I guess, but it was a breakthrough for me and I was having fun: looking and looking, mixing the colors I needed, and getting them onto the panel. Basic, right? How satisfying to just work. I may feel differently about these paintings later, they can use some tweaking here and there, who knows I might end up scraping them all off. But for now I'll let them live as witnesses to a good day of work.
Anyway, how can you go wrong in a landscape like this?