"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Jan 22, 2011

"Tell It Slant"

Sunrise After Storm 12" x 12"

Long ago, Emily Dickinson write “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” That has stuck with me in my career as an artist. I want my work to be honest, but I want it to be bathed in “a certain slant of light” that makes it my vision. I thought of this a lot this week while working on a small  oil on clayboard piece tentatively titled Sunrise After Storm

It is a piece from a Nantucket photo I started months ago, last summer, and never got anywhere with. But this week, by sanding it, reworking it, putting on and scraping off paint with a painting knife sometimes just scratching into the top layer of the paint to reveal areas of the surface underneath. (called sgraffito) and finally glazing it for the past few days, I am getting it to where I want it to be. Sadly, once again, the computer does not do the colors justuce: for instance, at the upper left of the sand, atop a dune, there is a brillant slash of pale green, picking up the kiss of the sun.  The painting knife (as opposed to a palette knife)is a great tool. In a few swipes or lots of scratching, you can wipe an area of a painting clean, creating another perspective or dimension and begin again. 

The resulting distressed backgrounds can provide fascinating remaining pentimento to build upon. To achieve any kind of similar effect with brushes, I would have to paint a section and allow it to dry and maybe sand it to keep the impasto from getting too thick before applying the next layer, and so on and so on. I DO do this sometimes, an d also do layer after layer with the glazing, of course, which I why I usually have two or three pieces going at once. I once heard Eric Aho say at a talk at Spheris Gallery that sometimes he takes more paint off the canvas than he puts on. That stayed with me, I get it.

My husband says this painting it looks like something from outer space -- certainly NOT what I saw with either my exterior or interior vision! But his art taste skews far into the side of realism, and if something is somewhat abstracted, he does not often love it. In museums, we do not stand in front of the same paintings for long periods of time. Still, he is my most constant and immediate critic. But I would appreciate comments from some of you here, and after other blog entries!  


  1. I think your painting is creative and fluid and I appreciate your sending out reminders to check in on your blog. I like your attention to the surface which works well with a seascape. I am so glad you are back at your painting - so good for your painters soul.
    I am also painting water, frozen and flowing in the stream across the field. I am trying to stage the water in the picture so I make it clear how I feel about it. Its hard not to feel sort of removed when with the cold and I am all bundled up in winter clothes. It would be fun to walk along your the beach you have there!

  2. I want to pick up the water..it seems to have very real substance. Your small paintings have great presence...I'm always surprised (as I was here) to discover the dimensions...I instantly envisioned this painting in the 3' x 3' realm. I'm not sure what that says about the translation from reality into the digital realm. Regardless, this is a lovely & very tactile painting.

  3. lddana51@gmail.comJanuary 26, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Comment A: if you ever get the chance to entertain them, the Reeses are great guests.

    Comment B: Sgraffito, while not easy to pronounce, is an invaluable technique to have in one's toolkit.

    Winslow Homer used it to great effect in his watercolors: slather on rich, dark color, then with a knife and fingertips rip great white highlights into the brackish waters of an Adirondack swamp or the brilliant turquoise(?) Caribbean.