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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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…

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

a thousand apologies

8 November, 2010 at 3:36 am (art, life, work) (, )

Apologies for the extended absence, I have been living a computer-free life (not by choice).

I hope this will change in the near future, but whilst not blogging-and-reading-other-people’s-blogs I have been travelling (not where I thought I would be this fall though), and experimenting with other ways of creating layers in my paintings (there is much destruction in the studio), so hopefully I will have something to show and write about once I return to the century-currently-in-progress.

Permalink Leave a Comment

waves

30 May, 2010 at 10:06 pm (art, blue-eyed crow, life, local, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

What a great weekend – it was all about the water. Yesterday I floated for three hours in a friend’s pool while we talked – so unbelievably relaxing. Today I breathed salt air and listened to the sound of the surf, and this evening I’m working on this piece with colours from the waves.

Permalink 2 Comments

auditory

8 May, 2010 at 8:30 pm (art, books, friends, life, local) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I just finished with the flame-thrower and am waiting for the encaustic to warm up again so that I can pour yet another layer on to the piece I’m working on, while I wait I thought I’d post what Ron Black, who takes great nature photos, just sent me – pictures of our brand new pond, it’s just a baby, less than a year old.

Standing next to this pond, a small cone-shaped hill lurks in the trees to the south-west, there are acres of forest on all sides and unless a small plane flies over head you can’t see anything man-made here, even the part of the trail that is visible was made by animals. It is also the quietest part of the property.

Sometimes, standing there, I think about how much industrialization has changed the sounds we hear almost every moment of the day, even in the quiet of the night I can hear human sounds I couldn’t hear over the noise of the day – vehicles on a distant road, a train on tracks eight miles off.

I love human sounds, I live in more than one place and where I sit writing this now I can hear my old clock ticking, the neighbours to the east singing prayers, and the girls to the south happily shooting hoops. But just as looking at the ordered chaos of nature is somehow calming and energizing at the same time, the layers of sound around this pond make it hard to walk away. The soft natural sounds (when there are no tractors growling downstream) are meditative and somehow invite further listening.

As a kid I always wondered why sounds can affect the mind and emotions so much, why can music make us feel triumphant or despondent? I was reading an article about preserving areas of natural sounds, and some book reviews about silence (also this) recently, and, predictably, I thought about noise a lot when I stayed in this Buddhist monastery for a while, but this Radiolab show is my favourite exploration of sound. The range it covers in one hour is incredible, and the part where they talk about why there were angry riots when Stravinsky’s ‘Rites of Spring’ was first performed but adoration when it was performed a year later is amazing. I haven’t been able to embed the program for some reason, but here is another link, there are three parts (‘Behaves so Strangely’, ‘Sound as Touch’, and ‘Musical DNA’), they are each fantastic.

Permalink Leave a Comment

blue

2 May, 2010 at 11:05 pm (art, blue-eyed crow, life, work) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This is the current stage of the center of the piece I am working on, it is going slowly.

I’ve been off my groove lately, this has somehow been a very complicated year, and I’ve let things eat away at my work time – a dangerous trend especially since technical problems are also hindering productivity.

These last few days I’ve been re-inspired and mad to work, but found myself instead enjoying spending time and eating (a lot!) with family and friends. Saturday I ate each meal with different people (ending up in an incredibly atmospheric old building full of wandering passages for a delicious dinner), but after lunch today it was time to get serious and focus, which feels great and frustrating at the same time.

The first few hours in the studio I generally spend flailing, the longer I’ve been away the longer I spend lost and wandering before I find the path, but I even resisted the holiday parade going down my street this afternoon and am finally making some progress.

Tomorrow I’ll be getting my little flame thrower fired up, it’s time to layer encaustic.

Permalink Leave a Comment

work

27 April, 2010 at 6:01 am (family, life, not so ancient devices, work) (, , , , , , , )

Instead of working on art I am being a dutiful child and scanning ancient family photos, which takes a lot of time but is interesting. I hadn’t seen steam-powered tractors before, I like how complicated this one looks. And what is flinging that hay, a haybuchet?

Apologies for the terrible joke, just one of a zillion things that go through the mind during hours of scan, label, file, repeat.

There is also time to think about how different my life is from theirs. Some years before these photos were taken some of the people in them walked 2400 km to a new life, then there was another big shift to another new life, the one I am looking at. I can’t even imagine co-ordinating walking entire families that far, through whatever weather, eating only bread, cider and sour milk offered by strangers along the road. And how to even find the right roads, without all the handy street signs we have today?

Besides a good map I think I’d want a series of serious foot massages.

Permalink Leave a Comment

navigating

24 April, 2010 at 2:20 am (art, blue-eyed crow, life, work) (, , , , , , , , )

I love all kinds of maps, and I have been fussing with this one off and on for a while without being sure where exactly to go with these constellations. They may be put aside to be part of a series of maps and charts that has been in the back of my mind for a while.

It’s hard to concentrate lately because of some frustrating technical problems, I love solving problems when it comes to building the metal boxes, figuring out different ways of making hinges and new hidden compartments, but when it comes to materials difficulties when I’m working with the 2D pieces I have no patience at all.

Sometimes when I am working out how to build one of kinetic pieces it makes me sad that my grandfather died before I could show him the things I make. Pictures weren’t his thing, although his family included many artists he was an inventor, and when he saw problems and inefficiencies he automatically started coming up with solutions. When I’m building something the technical difficulties are often my favourite parts of the process, various solutions are getting worked out in the back of my mind day and night, and I love the continual challenge after challenge until the let-down when it’s completed.

Permalink 2 Comments

« Previous page · Next page »