"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.

May 19, 2011

A Post Without a Picture

  I do not paint by (or live by) any hide-bound formulas. I cannot copy someone else's color palette or mixing formulas and make it work for me. I find that my paintings cannot come from the outside --  they must come from the inside – from what is not entirely visible to anyone else. What I have learned over the years has now become second nature, and much of the time I could not begin to tell you what I am doing as i paint or why. And absolutely whatever I have learned and internalized is the result of MANY failures, which still happen with much regularity, probably because I do not use any formulas!  I paint like I cook.  My color awareness is intuitive. I would be hard pressed to write down any formulas or exact proportions.  It's like cooking to taste rather than following a recipe.

Perhaps because I am so recently returned from the red rock country of Sedona, I am feeling the need to play around with earth tones in the studio this week. I have not yet begun a painting of the scenery we saw in Arizona, but I am working with  that palette in my latest  painting which is an abstracted close-up composition of unglazed terra cotta ewers and pots.

I am reaching back to what I learned in my color theory class those many years ago at Skidmore (most of which I have forgotten)  as I mix my terra cotta  reds and the complimentary greens and blue greys ---  one pot will be a warm, dark earth red with a tendency towards blue; another with hints of viridian in it, and another almost white. You can buy pre-mixed tubes of paint with names like red ocher, red oxide, Mars red, terra rosa, red earth, but I am just using cadmium red medium cadmium yellow medium for a warm oranges, and adding hints of ochre or burnt sienna, and using complimentary  greens to pull out the brightness of the terra cotta. 

For this painting, I have on my palette a warm red and a cool red (Cadmium red medium and Alizarin); a warm yellow and a cool yellow (Cadmium Yellow Medium and Light and also Ochre); a warm blue and a cool blue (warm is Ultramarine, and cool is Cobalt) as well as staples Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Titanium white. But then I added a few more --- as far as I am concerned, using only a few or using a lot of paint colors is neither a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes a few extra colors already in the tube can help you save time you need to get a painting that really sings. In this case, to my basic palette I added Viridian green, Old Holland’s warm grey, a translucent lake orange and before I end this painting I will be mixing something to get black--- maybe two complimentaries like Alizarin and Viridian, or Phthalo blue and umber, not sure yet, but I will be needing some very dark  “lowlights,” as my hairdresser says, in this painting. I find I'm constantly discovering more nuances and colors with my mixing, and I begin to think after 55 years of oil painting that the combinations and possibilities are inexhaustible!

I like to use a lake paint for the final glazing.

I most often build my paintings from dark to light because I find that applying purer light colors over the darker glazes, when done successfully, creates a warm luminosity in paintings and makes them zing.  However, in this particular painting, the white pot was done just the opposite--- dark over light. I guess I am not very good at living by rules. The result is a continuous accidental learning which constantly shapes my life! Many of my successes I term "happy accidents."

The painting is not yet ready to show by a long shot. But it will appear here in due time. Because I am going down to Connecticut to a family wedding this weekend, and because the gardens are needing me right now whenever it does not rain, it may be a while before I have progressed enough on this painting to show it to you.

May 15, 2011

Building A Faery House With Nate

Gramma and her youngest grandchild.
After Arizona, we traveled to New York for a long weekend with old college friends of mine, and then spent a little time with my enchanting five-year-old grandson Nate. One of his favorite things to do is build faery houses, and we did just that ... 

We situated it nestled  in between a tall tree and a large rock. First he collected small flat stones for the floor which we "grouted" with his sandbox sand. Then came a wall, and then the roof made of bark and twigs.
We stacked some wood outside for their fireplace, which still has to be built.

Taken by holding camera INSIDE the house!

 That night while Nate slept, the faeiries came to occupy their new house, and guess what --- they brought a tiny rocking chair which Nate discovered in the morning. 
The trip to Sedona and this little jaunt is why I have not been in my studio for a few weeks. I hope to remedy that tomorrow. The gardens here are beckoning, but the rain is supposed to continue, so tomorrow will be a painting day.

May 11, 2011

Arizona Highways

Until he died when I was 17, my grandfather lived with me, and my parents when I was growing up in Essex Fells, NJ. One of the things that endeared me to Pop, along with 1,000,000 other things about that dear man, was that he got a lot of great magazines which he shared with me ---  Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, and Arizona Highways. I  remember sitting in a big comfy chair in the living room of our tall-ceiling-ed old house, pouring over the slick covered magazines, especially the beautiful photographs in AH of what looked like cowboy-land to me --  full of cactus and red, gold and purple rock formations, desert blooms, Native Americans -- and hoping that someday I would get to see it.

Well, it took me 60 odd years, but I finally got there. My husband and I spent a week in Sedona, AZ in red rock land to celebrate my birthday. We had a stupendous time amidst the magical rocks and high desert country. I did not paint while there, but took a lot of photos -- I have been ruminating over how to attempt to translate this glory of color, form and texture onto canvas.

We walked among these monoliths on the Broken Arrow Trail (Jeep access only)

Schnebley Hill Road if you can call it a road had magnificent views
Almost more amazing to me was the day we spent among the Sinaguan Indian ruins, cliff dwellings, and rock sites where they lived over a thousand years ago.The Sinaguas were excellent weavers and successful farmers, occupying the area of central Arizona between Flagstaff and Sedona from 700 - 1400AD, when a drought may have forced them to leave their pit house villages and cliff-side dwellings. Thus the name Sinagua, or sin agua, Spanish for “without water”. However, they are still among us, having blended with the Hopi, Mogollon and Pueblo peoples. These drawings are located within what they believe was a ceremonial fire pit under a rock roof. I stood there with just a few other people gazing at them, and felt so connected with the people who had stood there and made these drawings. It was a very spiritual and emotional moment for me.

Experts claim that the figure upper right is a female fertility symbol giving birth to all of the depicted animals.

Of course these pale besides the French cave paintings. The earliest European cave paintings date back to  32,000 years ago!. The purpose of the paleolithic cave paintings is not known. The evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas, since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation. Also, they are often in areas of caves that are not easily accessed. Some theories hold that they may have been a way of communicating with others, while other theories ascribe them a religious or ceremonial purpose. I suspect they were also a way for these long ago ancestors of ours to express their creativity. (See samples below of this magnificent artwork.)

The level of artistry in these cave paintings has always astonished me. I would so love to see these, but I do not think they let tourists in anymore.

I have to believe that what made these ancient people draw and paint is the same thing that makes us do so today.