mid-lothian

22 December, 2013 at 12:09 am (art, blue-eyed crow, books, life, work) (, , , , , )

BF_fernbirds sketch underpainting a

Revisited an old composition this afternoon and started the underpainting in oils. The materials have that lovely ‘library smell’ and are nice because they dry slowly (the drawback also being that they dry slowly).

I listen to fluff mystery books while painting and picked the audio of Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds’ because it doesn’t involve murder and I was surprised by some coincidences. In the book are musings on Georgian architecture, which I’ve been reading up on, the art expert in McCall Smith’s story is a controversial figure in a non-fiction book I’m also reading (about a set of possible forgeries), the family in the story lives in a country house in the exact area of Scotland that I’ve been researching for genealogy, and their ancestors were also Jacobites (I only recently found this out about my family).

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fountains

8 November, 2013 at 8:04 am (art, blue-eyed crow, life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I grew up on the water but now, living a few miles inland, I miss the sound of it.

The angel above is on the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, NYC, the dolphin baring its teeth below is part of a fountain in the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, California.

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façade

29 October, 2013 at 1:39 am (art, blue-eyed crow, family, life, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Here’s what’s on the easel right now, a façade from Lille, France. After a while of working those teensy door and window frames though my eyes feel dazzled and it’s time to work on some drawings.

Most of my pieces are small but this one is even smaller than most at about 3″x5″. It may get bigger, I haven’t decided how to finish it yet.

Occasionally I pick up pieces of old lace when I go with my mom to vide greniers in her area but I haven’t been using them lately so they were scattered, bits tucked away here and there along with other flotsam and jetsam. The other day I thought maybe I’d use some precious sunlight hours to re-organise the studio but after working away for a couple hours it didn’t look terribly different so I abandoned the effort and went back to painting.

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blue wip

19 October, 2013 at 6:42 am (art, blue-eyed crow, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

WIP. A smaller variation on a previous piece. Mixed media, 8″x8″ on wooden panel.
In the studio are a few pieces I’m having trouble finishing, the biggest one because I’m not sure which way to go with part of the composition, and a few smaller ones like this that just need some final tweaking.

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statue

16 October, 2013 at 6:09 am (art, blue-eyed crow, work) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Work in progress, acrylic on canvas. The actual statue playing the lute stands at the entrance to one of the mazes at Hever Castle (where Anne Boleyn grew up).

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pages

27 January, 2012 at 9:56 pm (art, books, friends) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Although I have a hard time even writing in the margins of a book I love book art. Add a hint of mystery and I’m enchanted, so I was thrilled that although all ten of the secret paper gifts to Edinburgh’s libraries have been found the anonymous giver left the option of future gifts open. I was surprised to read that the artist had not made paper sculptures before, the sculptures were so different than each other and so imaginative. Isn’t the texture of the feathered cap below (found in the Scottish Poetry Library) gorgeous?

Then there are Brian Dettmer’s book autopsies, I was initially conflicted because they’re made from older books, but the look has since won me over:

Finally today a wonderfully creepy video my friend in the belfry found for a wonderfully creepy nursery rhyme book:

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ghost

11 April, 2011 at 7:20 pm (art, blue-eyed crow, work) (, , , , , , , , )

Before I spend endless amounts of time painting (because I am the slowest of all painters) I spend endless amounts of time deciding what to paint. My paintings are layers of images, and I draw, paint and photograph all the components separately then occasionally sift through the piles looking for pieces to combine.

This is the palest-green butterfly that flew in to the house one evening last summer and was caught under a wineglass before being released back outside. I love the way the insect floats, seemingly unsupported, but I don’t know yet how I will use it.

To go with the butterfly I’ll need a sample of handwriting, which will be disguised so most words cannot be read.

Some architecture, or maybe part of a map?

Background colour.

Or maybe toss all that and go with flowers and a fragment of handwritten poem or a letter?

While I am combining the visual pieces, their meanings also come together in a narrative which determines subsequent choices and also what part of each image will be obscured. It tells me which words should be legible, and the title. Nothing of this is recorded, because I think each viewer develops their own relationship with a picture, and knowing the artist’s ideas is not necessary.

With all the parts chosen I sit down to make sketches until the pieces knit together, then it’s finally time to start painting.

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sequestered

8 April, 2011 at 7:30 am (art, blue-eyed crow, life, Uncategorized, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I love looking at other people’s studios and hearing how they work. Blogs like from the desk of…, and Terri Windling’s ‘On Your Desk’ posts are always interesting, also books like ‘Artists’ Houses’ and ‘In Artists’ Homes: The Living Spaces of Contemporary Artists’ and, of course, artists’ own blogs, like Rima Staines’ Into the Hermitage and this multi-talented artist who experiments with making her own iron gall ink and sculpting from the skeleton out. Harry Ally so impresses me in this video, working quickly among all those other people *and* in front of a camera.

It’s amazing how different artists’ spaces are, and their ways of creating. Actually, I think part of my fascination with Harry Ally is precisely because he works so opposite from how I do, his paintings and drawings are so free and large.

So, here is where I work (you can click on the photos if you’d like to see more detail, hopefully I dusted well enough!):

Sketches strewn over an old suitcase (because if I put them tidily away I forget about them), a couple paintings-in-progress, a little house my mum built (a simple one, most of the ones she makes are more complicated, she also does lovely water-colour paintings of bits of architecture), and to the left the door to the teeny balcony (it can fit either one chair or a pot of jasmine, I chose the latter).

The work table: more sketches, bits for some boxes and tiny shrines (underneath the bank bag are the littlest micro-bits hiding from the dusty winds that sometimes blow in even when the door is closed), a tiny village a 6-year-old and I are slowly constructing along with mini paper dolls and their even smaller clothing, and a wind-up toy I love that throws off sparks as it rolls around. I found the table itself on the street, it has lovely barley-twist legs but a sheet of plywood on top (with ‘danger’ still on from its former life) so I don’t have to worry about protecting it. Note the lovely view of stucco – nothing to distract me there! (The view from the balcony is more treehouse-like – hibiscus, palms and jacaranda, a fountain down below and over the trees distant skyscrapers.)

Some possibly finished pieces hanging out on the built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (I love these shelves!), another old suitcase barely visible bottom left.

The rest of the tour would include a small easel, an antique Arts & Crafts style table I use as a desk, an ancient cloth-covered trunk (all three found on the street), a chest of drawers with old fruit crates (avec labels) stacked on top as shelves for supplies, and bright silk longyis from Burma and cotton sarongs from the Philippines, gifts from a sister and a friend, covering big cushions on the futon because this is also the guestroom.

Also, numerous postcards and other flotsam and jetsam from vide greniers, gifts, and scavenged and found bits on the desk and shelves and tucked away in the drawers.

I feel very lucky to have this room, and I am completely dependent on it because I can’t work around other people. At all.

I don’t know whether it’s because I am too distractible to create around others or too self-conscious, probably both, but it makes art classes and retreats awkward (I practice the techniques but can’t actually make a piece of art) and group paint-outs or sharing a studio impossible.

And I can’t work in short bits of time, or with interruptions. Portions of an hour are useless to me, especially when I am doing the initial sketches for a painting. Sometimes I work for hours before I start to get what I want, then when I do I don’t want to stop for more hours until I’m finished (which means if I start in the evening it can be early morning when I finally put everything down). When planning the moving parts or secrets of the boxes I build it’s like I’m making an invisible path in the air, so as soon as there is an interruption it’s completely gone and I have to start at the beginning. And unlike the wonderfully free Harry Ally with his big brush and crowbar my paintings are built slowly, in layer after layer of washes and detail.

So, back to work here…

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the cause of my unhappiness as I sit in a garret without a glass of wine

2 March, 2011 at 11:57 pm (art, blue-eyed crow, life, Uncategorized, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

at this stage I still hold out hope

here I'm fatally unhappy with it and call it terrible names

Okay, you probably guessed I’m not really in a garret. But I am sitting in a little upstairs room stewing, without a glass of wine. And can’t step out on the miniature balcony (3′ x 2′) for some fresh air and sprinkling rain because I’ve not tidied and some panels are blocking the door.

Is it bad to post frustration on an artist’s blog? When I read other blogs there are pictures of lovely new works and happy news of openings and sales, which is always nice to read (especially in difficult economic times!).

But tonight I am too irritated to post about the piece I worked on yesterday that I am happy with, because of this blue roof-scape.

It’s not even from a sketch that I was really wild about, I just wanted to complete it to work out some things before I start a piece whose sketch I do love. And after a day out and about I was looking forward to an evening of progress and foolishly put off a friend’s weekly visit to get to it. So instead of pleasant conversation over warm bread, cheese and a glass of wine in the dining room I am grousing over a painted wooden panel and haven’t made so much as a cup of tea.

Part of the frustration, I suppose, is trying to figure out when to give up. I spend a lot of time on colour sketches and usually know for certain when I finish whether I want to go on to paint something or not, so I normally do not find myself spending time on I am not fond of.

And I paint in many layers, so working on something means I am spending a lot of time with it. (I was very happy when I learned that an artist I love (Vija Celmins) works so slowly that museums wait decades to get enough of her work together to put on an exhibition.) By the time the first image above was taken this panel had gone through many incarnations and could still conceivably surpass the original sketch.

But now it’s murky, it doesn’t look like the sketch but is not an improvement on it, and although I have a bit of Renaissance script that was supposed to be the finish it’s currently dark enough that I think I’d have to do too much to make the final layers work.

So, devote more time to this piece? A look at my tiny supply of panels makes me feel less than generous to the uncooperative. But limited time means I don’t want those hours to have been unproductive.

I’ll look at it tomorrow after working a while on another painting, maybe the mood will change.

Edit: Below is how it looked last week, I have since changed it some more.

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post

22 February, 2011 at 6:56 am (art, blue-eyed crow, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve actually had both a computer and internet access for a while now but was feeling intimidated about blogging again after being away for so long. It’s even more ridiculous than that though, I kept running across fabulous things and thinking I can’t wait to post this on the blog, then I didn’t. Okay then, enough wallowing.

I inherited quite a few old postcards but I still get weak a few times a year and comb through what’s in the stalls at the flea markets looking for ones with ruins or any sort of Gothic bits. Then I look for an(other) old suitcase to carry them in.

This piece is one of a series that I’m working on that was inspired by some of my favourite postcards. So far I’m just doing small pieces, which is good because I haven’t re-organised the studio in a while and space is getting limited.

So, back to work. Wouldn’t want to write too much on my first day back or anything.

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