First, the undercut question. I carved Braddan Flame earlier in the summer and it’s been sitting on the front porch where I can see it from my desk for a few weeks, sanded and finished and just about ready for color. Last Sunday morning, it struck me that the braids would be more clearly defined if I undercut the crossings. Wow. Showed a friend what I intended to do and he nodded but clearly didn’t see the potential impact; guess that’s why I’m a sculptor and other people aren’t. We may or may not have discussed the impending deadline and when does one call a work done because it has to get into the show? My experience with Centerfest and Work in Progress does not incline me to try that experiment again–the public does not respond well to work that’s not finished all the way.
So I carved more. Didn’t take long. And the braids absolutely JUMPED off the wood, with MUCH greater impact than any of my previously-carved knot work. Wow. I’ve been carving knots for two years now and I only just saw what else the carvings needed? Sigh. So I ground the new cuts and sanded and finished and sat the carving where I could see it, and then again this Sunday, another modification jumped off the wood and into my eyes. More piercing. Could well, in hindsight, have skipped this step–I used a drill and the piercings are too obviously round. Killed a die-grinder in the effort to make the holes flow with the carving and two days later, I can see where more adjustment is needed. Next time, use the saw from the get-go. Progress. Nevertheless, openwork makes the carving come alive. Still need to figure out the color scheme for Braddan. Want to carve this again, too, with more arcing in the knots.
Took $400 and a week’s vacation to indulge my color addiction with Bob Burridge‘s Loosen Up and Paint Like Crazy class at Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh last week. I had tested my reaction to Bob with two short classes at the Art Expo in November last year and knew the full-week class would be good; didn’t expect the results I discovered.
One: Came out of the November class all charged up with color and ability and tried to paint little pictures of chainsaws and bombed. Chainsaws are tricky; many more surfaces and angles than coffee cups and if the parts aren’t right, the painted sketch doesn’t read as a chainsaw. Suspect I got distracted by the Tour and then Christmas and didn’t paint that much.
Two: Read an article by Betsy Stroud in Arts Calendar about her response to the truism that one has to paint 1000 paintings before really feeling comfortable with paint; if so, then paint small because you’ll get there faster. The article reminded me of Bob’s admonition to paint six 5x7s every day as a warm-up, and I realized I needed to be practicing or I’d likely waste much of the full-week class getting used to paint and paper again. I set myself a goal of painting 500 5×7 paintings by August.
Somewhere after 130 paintings, I found myself stalling and bored. Wasn’t sure what the problem was but I certainly wasn’t enjoying painting anymore and I didn’t like the work. Thought maybe I was just being resistant to the path and reread George Leonard’s Mastery. Got distracted by summer and Blues festivals and then there was Moscow and there are always reasons not to paint, if you want to find them. Forced another 30 or so out of my brush and onto the boards just before class so I wasn’t stone cold, but still no great paintings.
Three: Class week. The 8-hour Loosen Up class devoted roughly two hours each to hearts and coffee cups, florals, landscapes and abstracts; the week-long class devoted a day to each with the addition of a morning on marketing and an afternoon on collage. (Bob also teaches week-long classes on each segment, or at least abstracts and collage.) Monday was mostly settling into class and playing with the sample paints and figuring out what else I should have brought from home; didn’t care for much I painted. Bob talked about value–1-10, light to dark, and gave us red plastic to check the values in our paintings; I realized this was one of the problems I had with my work. Sure enough, checking my inventory showed I’d completely missed value contrast–lots of color, but when viewed through a red filter, it all went to one tone. Oops.
Started working in black and white on Tuesday, with color overlay, and gained a bit more insight into moving the eye around a painting. Showed a few of my paintings to Bob and talked about the troubles I’d experienced; he suggested working with palette knives because I wasn’t doing very well with brushes and sometimes people who are sculptors underneath do better with a more physical approach to paint. By the end of the day, I was working as much with my hands directly as with the knives, and much happier with the work.
Something shifted in the course of our work on Wednesday and I realized I didn’t much care for painting landscapes, and if I was having trouble fitting my florals on the page with enough room left for a vase and tabletop, then I just didn’t have to paint a vase and tabletop. Wow. Why has it taken this long to see that? Class got more interesting again, and I started a series of paintings about hooping; swirly things with sparkles and lots of movement. Will do more on this. Bob recommends working in series, even on bigger paintings (not just the daily six 5x7s), to keep an idea moving and allow oneself room to play with variations without fear of ruining any one expression of an idea. Observe how my sketch starts out puny and as I add more and more paint, the movement gets bolder and fills more of the page. I have seen this happen before. With paint, one CAN add more. Doesn’t work with carving, but now that I think about it, my carvings are often improved by removing more. Interesting. Clonmacnois is much better today, thinner, than it was when it left Ridgway in February.
Friday was supposed to be collage day and I found myself increasingly miffed as the morning was lost to marketing talk, most of which I knew well enough to know it didn’t yet apply to me. I am placing all the 3D work I can create, so finding galleries is not yet a problem; no body of work in flat are (yet) so I can’t do anything on that front. Swallow irritation at people asking the merit of gallery vs. street fair when they’ve never sold anything.
After lunch, a few of us turned to collage but most of the class spent the time finishing up paintings they’d started, and Bob spent his time circulating rather than teaching. I forged ahead, playing with tissue paper I bought, running out into the store for acrylic gel (have a gallon at home and didn’t think to bring it; borrowed my bench-neighbor’s clear gesso but it quickly became apparent I would use her whole bottle), tearing up the paint-stained paper towels I’d saved all week. Bingo! Created more work (square-inch wise) with more fun and more energy in two hours than I had in any half-day all week, and I like the (not quite yet) end product much more than anything else I did.
Someone asked, Have you done this before? and I said, Not since third grade. It was Saturday before I looked at my collection of idea books and color play and realized these are essentially collage, and the need to make collage has been bursting out of me since June 2002. Wow. Suspect the impulse originates from the same energy that makes me a sculptor; I do not do flat art but am still constrained by the tremendous amount of effort that goes into carving and preparing a surface to take color. Plus, I just can’t carve on Sunday mornings (three churches abut my property) and I need a quiet art form.
Where to from here? Don’t know. Waiting a day or two and then registered for Patti Brady’s class on collage at the next Art Expo. Patti works for Golden Paints and she’ll be teaching how to use the various materials Golden makes for collage. Also signed up for Jeanne Carbonetti’s class on creativity; have taken her courses before and like how she teaches. Need to make more collages in the next three months so that I arrive at class with good questions; don’t see making them at a 5×7 size and don’t know what will turn up. Played with adjusting the color of tissue paper and Nigel got into the act by shredding my colored paper towels for me. Today, I am full up with show prep–three shows to install over the first two weekends in September, and nothing finished today. 95 degrees on the front porch when the sun is out so I’m coloring in the dining room. Stay tuned.