Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to Choose Artwork

I will be taking a short break for the next few days. Final Fridays always wipe me out!

I did want to share a helpful resource that I have often referred people to. Often, during my Open Studio, I hear people talk about how difficult it is for them to decide whether a particular piece of art would look right in their home or office. The artist Kim Johns has posted a very helpful article about this very subject. I posted the article below.

by Kim Johns
How do I choose artwork for my home/office?
There are many approaches to choosing artwork, particularly abstract art. Some methods include: incorporating art into the existing room color scheme, creating a new decorating scheme based on the chosen work, selecting a piece to contrast existing decor and create a focal point, or falling in love with a piece and making the art and the space work together.
How do I incorporate art into the existing room color scheme?
When looking at pieces to work within an existing scheme, it is important to note the key colors of the room, the overall style of the room (classical, contemporary, minimalist, baroque, etc.), and the size of the space you are going to fill.
An ornate reception room may not be the best solution for a minimalist sculpture piece. However, a contemporary living room with a few bold colors provides the perfect environment for a large abstract painting with similar colors. A large space begs to be filled with an eye-catching centerpiece for the room. Smaller spaces work well for accent pieces. Colors make or break a room. Select a work with similar colors and consider allowing one color to stand out in the work.

Figure 1
Figure 1- “Duet” works well with the reds in couch and the yellow walls. It fits the space nicely and adds a cool gray to the room. (Baby furniture, such as the bouncer on the right, never matches anything.)
Can I use a piece of art as a starting point for new room décor?
This is easily done. Once you’ve found a piece that represents your basic idea (i.e. colors or a style such as modern), start shopping! It’s a good idea to research styles if you are unfamiliar with them. The Internet and design books (often available at your local home improvement store) provide great examples. Take details into consideration, light fixtures, rugs, and accent art should be consistent with your theme. Remember to spice it up! The artwork represents a focal point, so choose something that will hold attention.
If I want to add something bold in an existing room, how do I choose the right piece to offset everything else?
When choosing art to contrast an existing room scheme, you can select a piece that totally contrasts everything else (this is more effective if the room’s design scheme is very consistent) or select a piece that has one thing in common with the room (a color, a style, a theme, etc.). The example below shows a completely different painting added to an almost monochromatic scheme. It instantly captures the viewer’s attention. Imagine this room with a simple red painting and you can see how much more interest this piece brings to the room. This is a great method to “reinvent” a room on a budget. Instead of changing everything, select one piece that will stand out. This will give the room a totally new context if the change is big enough.

Figure 2
Figure 2- This painting definitely captures the viewer’s attention. It is a nice contrasting focal point to the smooth furniture and rich reds. Image: interior-design.htm

I found a work of art that I love, but it doesn’t go with anything in my house! Is there anything I can do?

Don’t worry! You can bring in a different piece with a few small changes. Find accent items that have the same colors as your artwork and place little touches of them throughout the room. That will balance the colors and/or the style. Also consider allowing the work to contrast the room, as in the example above. If the artwork is a completely different style, (such as modern art in a baroque room), see if you can alter the style a bit with new fabrics and textures.

There are many ways to enhance your living space through art. The tools of décor do not have to be expensive. When considering making changes, don’t forget texture. Artwork can be smooth or rough in texture and utilizing this fact can help you subtly tie everything together more completely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interview with Hobbyhorse Cafe

I wanted to share with you a wonderful interview I had with Hobbyhorse Café.
Hobbyhorse Café is a virtual online café for visionary people. It is a website with an inviting atmosphere and no advertisements, designed for the listener and viewers‘ enjoyment. The site features the musical duo Hobbyhorse as well as a wide array of guest musicians, artists and poets. One of the interesting features of the Hobbyhorse Café is the Conscious Choice Pricing system. Like me, Hobbyhorse Café believes that music, art and poetry are not ordinary commodities. The arts are expressions of the Spirit, and how can anyone reduce such things to a commodity? However, artists need to make a living, and it is so important that the arts be supported so that artists can continue to gift the world with their creations. At Hobbyhorse Café they ask: What do you want to pay? With Conscious Choice Pricing they let YOU decide. I echo Hobbyhorse Café's vision with my own Patron Program, which I am continually working on developing. It is our way of helping others to understand the importance of art, without the pretention.

To view my interview with Hobbyhorse, please go here. It is worth the visit!

Also, if you have any suggestions for how the Patron Program might work for you, please share your ideas with me!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Environmentally Safe Canvases and Paper

Here are a few sources that I found that sell organic cotton and hemp canvases. With the exception of Signature Canvas, these mainly come in rolls, which would need to be hand stretched and gessoed by the artists themselves. However, many artists prefer to stretch their own canvases, so these alternatives may not be that disagreeable.

Earth Friendly Goods: Hemp, organic, sustainable materials.

Signature Canvas doesn't sell organic canvas, but they incorporate Green ideals in the creation of their canvases. You can learn more by going to their website.

Silk Road Fabrics: US Grown organic cotton canvas.

NearSea Naturals: Organic cotton and hemp canvas

Here are some companies that use Environmentally friendly papers or incorporate some kind of Socially Conscious practices:

The Natural Zone: Hemp paper

Indian Village Handmade Watercolor Paper: Handmade by and directly supports rural Indian villagers. This is part of a movement began by Mahatma Gandhi, in which he encouraged small villages to create employment and improve economic conditions. Papermaking was one of the major activities in this program.

Daler Rowney supposedly creates environmentally friendly papers and boards. I found this information on another site, though I could not find anything on the Daler-Rowney site nor have a received a response from the company itself. I am not sure if this is completely accurate, but I thought I would post it just in case.

"Wood pulp used in the production of Daler-Rowney paper and board products, comes from managed forest estates in Europe and North America. These estates harvest and replant trees specifically for paper and board production and annually plant more trees than are felled. No trees from South America Rainforests or endangered hardwood species are used. All our paper and board purchases are produced from either Oxygen or Chlorine Dioxide bleached pulps and as such can be classified as Chlorine free."

Strathmore Artist Papers produce a line of papers made using windpower. That's kind of cool!

I hope this helps to get other artists thinking about how they can begin to incorporate some "green" practices into their own art making. Just one little change can be a good start!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Call to Action for Artists and Non-Artists

For all artists, and those who appreciate the arts, I implore you to take a few minutes of your time to read about the proposed bill described below,. It has the potential to ruin the careers of many artists in America, and it is very close to being passed. Submitting the response form is simple and so important. Time is running out before this bill is presented to Congress. I know you all very busy, but this is so important to many people in the country who already struggle to make a living as an artist. Please don’t wait! Please, pass this on to everyone you know.
Thanks so much for your help!

Orphan Works Act of 2008

On April 24, Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced legislation (S.2913, HR 5889), which is now being referred to as the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008. It is virtually the same bill that was presented in 2006, and subsequently rejected by Congress. But now, they are trying again.

If passed, the Act would radically alter copyright laws, taking away the automatic copyright now guaranteed to artists of all types who create any type of work. Right now, under U.S. law, artists are automatically guaranteed copyright on everything they create, from the sketches in their sketchpad to their best paintings and sculptures. Under the Orphan Works Act, every creator will be required to register everything he or she creates in a private registry system, requiring a fee of course, and supposedly to make it easier for the “public” to search for works and contact the creators if they want to use the works for some purpose.

Everything created in the last 30 years will need to be registered through this as-yet nonexistent system, including those works already registered via additional fees with the copyright office. If they aren’t, and some member of the public makes “due diligence” to find the creator of a work and can’t find him or her, that member of the public is entitled to use the work without any limitations, and artists will have no legal recourse. That means every piece of work artists have out there, especially online, would be open season for use by major publishing houses and businesses (Microsoft — who owns one of the largest online image databases — and Google have already voiced support for the bill and indicated they will use thousands of images) and everyone in between. Proponents of the bill say it will assist the public in identifying and contacting creators of works and going through the proper channels to contact them to ask for permission. While we understand the need for an organized system of search, there are MAJOR FLAWS in the proposed bill that need to be addressed before any such proposal should take place. Here are a few points:

Under this law, artists would need to register EVERY piece of work they create, including those works that you have already registered with the Copyright Office officially, in some system that does not exist and would likely require them to pay to do so. The time and cost to do this is going to be prohibitive for visual artists.

While this is meant to apply to all types of creative works, including music and literary, visual artists will be impacted the most because of the sheer volume of work they create, making it very expensive to register everything they have ever created or will create.

For the visual arts, there would still be little protection for them and their work, even if it is registered, because search tools would rely on names of artists or titles of work, and not image recognition tools, which are still in their infancy of development.

Under this law, if artists register their work, they would have to respond to EVERY inquiry sent to them for use of the work. So in other words, if an artist has a work out there in a registry system, and some person contacts the artist and says he or she wants to use the artist's work for free on his or her Web site or in his or her new catalog, the artist would need to take the time to officially respond to every inquiry within a specified time limit, letting him or her know if the artist doe not want to have him or her publish the artist's work for free. This will take a lot of time and effort that professional artists do not have.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill, and yesterday, May 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee did as well. This means the bill will be presented to Congress, likely before the end of May.

We need you to write to your representatives ASAP and let them know that you do NOT want this bill to be expedited, as it is now. Tell them we need a better solution, or tell them you don’t want it at all: Just be sure to tell them something soon.

Click the links below to get more information on the bill, including a video that gives you a great overview of the artists’ concerns:

Click below for several options of pre-written and editable letters that you can fill out, and that will automatically identify and send it to your representatives when you enter your address.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Raven: Healing and Initiation

Recently, I have been having several dreams featuring ravens. This painting represents an image from one of those dreams. This was one of the only images that I could paint as a representational image as the rest of the dreams are very abstract. I am working on attempting a painting exploring the more abstract dream imagery.

After doing research into Raven mythology, I found I had gathered enough information to create a lifetime of paintings! There are so many wonderful stories from many many cultures dealing with the Raven. You can be sure that you will be seeing much more of the Raven from me in the future. In the meantime, here is a description of just the small bit of info that I have worked into this painting.

The Raven symbolizes the dark and difficult aspects of life, which is a part of life we often misunderstand and rarely effectively deal with. The dark aspects are not bad or evil, as it is necessary to go through a process of darkness in order to emerge in the light. Dark comes before light, healing is preceded by illness, the storm eventually transforms to calm and so on. The Raven reminds us of the need for this balance, and that without accepting the full integration of the cycle of dark and light, we cannot truly heal.

The Raven is also a messenger between two worlds: the living world and the twilit Otherworld or spirit world. By connecting these two worlds, the Raven initiates us into a new way of being. The Raven travels from this world to the next; accessing the darkest regions bringing back visions and instructions for the seeker and the healer. Often, before advancing in any spiritual growth, one must sacrifice or let go of old ways of being. The Raven gives us insight into what old patterns must die in order to make way for the new.

In this painting, the Raven flies at twilight, the time when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. It flies over an ancient megalithic mound, where one can access the Otherworld. I didn't paint the Raven feathers simply black, but are actually made of layers of blues, violets and greens. I did this to symbolize that all possibilities exist within the void of darkness, just waiting to emerge. In Eastern and Celtic traditions the Raven is a solar symbol. In my dream the Raven flew beneath a full moon, which I have interpreted here as the night sun, illuminating the landscape. But, traces of the setting sun are still visible in the horizon and limning the edge of the mound and distant trees and hills.

I am by no means and authority on the Raven mythos. Feel free to interpret your own meanings, and, please share them here if you like. It is always fascinating to hear how others interpret such powerful archetypes.


(The Raven: Healing and Initiation, 5 x 7", ink on textured clayboard)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Environmental Consciousness: Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton produces the tube watercolors, brushes, and watercolor mediums that I use. I am happy to report that I will continue to be using their products, as they have very strong environmental policies in place. Here is what I found on their website:
*We are holders of the manufacturing environmental British Standard 14001. This is an international standard and certification for environmental systems and we are committed to achieving the targets which allows us to keep it.
*We have achieved significant improvement in reducing waste (reduction at source, alternatives to landfill and by recycling.)
*Our factory machinery is monitored for energy usage and has been upgraded to improve efficiency.
*We have reduced the amount of water usage in our factory and have invested in an improved effluent treatment plant. This has enabled us to recover 30% of water resulting in a saving of 1.2 million litres of water per year.
*Our packaging recycling facility enables us to reduce landfill disposal by 180-220 tonnes per year.
*Our office's new individual heating and cooling system has greatly reduced our energy consumption.
*Our cadmium levels in our waste is dropping by about 80-90% year on year which is a clear reduction in our hazardous waste. This is due to improved processing, not a reduction in the use of cadmiums.
Natural Resources:
*Our policy is to use suppliers who can source FSC wood for all our brush handles, easels and canvas stretchers.
*Where this isn't possible, for technical or quality reasons, we ensure that our suppliers prove that the wood they are using is legally sourced and harvested.
*We also ensure that we work with suppliers who have the same level of commitment to environmental issues.
*All our natural hair products are obtained from sustainable sources and are by-products of other industries. Animals are not sourced for the sole use of our brush-making.

*Winsor & Newton is an equal opportunities employer and provides a safe and healthy environment for all its employees.
*We are all committed to reducing our impact on the environment through numerous office policies including recycling policies and water and energy reduction policies, which focus on how we use paper, lighting, temperature control and electrical appliances.
*We give our employees the opportunity to reduce their environmental impact by providing a government-backed policy to save tax by cycling to work along with a company car policy that reduces emissions.

In addition, Winsor & Newton provides tips to artists on how they can reduce their own environmental impact. Since I may not be able to use the Dr. PH Martin's Hydras Watercolors due to their lack of response to my inquiries, I may begin using Winsor & Newton tube colors more often. Please visit their website at Winsor-Newton to see all the great products they make and to learn more about their environmental policies.

Coming on Sunday's post, my latest painting: The Raven. I hope you check back. Or better yet, sign up for a free subscription and never miss a single posting! Just see the link at the top right of the blog page.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Environmental Consciousness: Derwent

In the continuing examination of the products I use to create my art, I am pleased to announce that Derwent is a company whose products I will continue to use. Derwent produces a large array of artist pencils and related products. Aside from the usual drawing and colored pencils, I also use their watercolor pencils, graphitint (colored graphite) and inktense pencils (ink in pencil form!) to create my art. I went to their website to find out about their environmental policies and here is what I found:

Our factory is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of
England, in the heart of the Lake District National Park. We are therefore
probably more aware than most how important it is to protect the world around
us. We comply with the internationally recognised environmental management
standard, ISO 14001 and are committed to ensuring that our materials,
processing, products and services have minimal environmental impact. For
example, in 2002 we were awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for developing a unique, solvent free paint application system which has greatly improved the air quality in this production area. We have also been awarded the BOSS (British Office Supplies and Services) Federation Environmental Award for the past 11 years.This comprehensive award scheme covers a wide range of environmental issues, such as reducing energy consumption and improving our employees’ working conditions.

The health and safety of our employees
is, of course, paramount. In 2006, we were awarded the prestigious RoSPA (Royal
Society for the Prevention of Accidents) President’s Award for Occupational
Safety and Health. The President’s award is only open to those companies who
have already achieved 10 consecutive RoSPA Gold Awards. The RoSPA awards scheme covers all aspects of health and safety, including good health and safety
management systems, compliance with legislation, continually improving health
and safety performance, employee training and commitment. Actively involving our employees in these issues through training, health and safety audits, meetings
and regular communication is one of our greatest strengths.
Please check out the Derwent website for more information about the company and their products!

I have not heard anything from Frederix (Tara Materials) who makes the canvases I use, nor have I heard from Dr PH Martin's, or Daler Rowney, both of which make the inks and watercolors I use. I have contacted them twice now. Unless I hear back from them regarding their environmental policies, I will use up what I have of their products, and will not purchase any new materials from them. It is a shame, because I really like their products a lot. Let's hope they come through sometime in the future.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Goose: protection, creation and community

The Goose is a continuation of a unofficial series that I started with the Fox paintings I completed at the end of last year. I had thought it would be interesting to do a painting representing the animals that have served as guides and symbols for me over the years. These animals have repeatedly shown up in dreams, journey work, or through unexpected situations. The Fox has connections to place and home for me, which is why I created four paintings representing the four seasons that my home passes through.

The Goose represents my own spirit. You could say it is kind of a personal totem for me. I read a lot of folklore and mythology associated with the goose. Before I stated this painting. I wanted to allow the information to simmer a while so when I began the piece, I could tap into the qualities of the goose that I connected the strongest to. However, because I let the information fill my subconscious, I believe that the painting can be viewed by many different people and each person will connect with an aspect of the Goose that doesn't necessarily represent my relationship to it.

In this painting, I focused on the qualities of the Goose that represent protection, creation, and community.

I have a Goose standing on an overlook, keeping an eye out for danger. The Celts associated the goose with war because of its watchful nature and aggressive temperament. Geese will vigorously defend their territory and warn of any visitors with their loud honking. If you have ever experienced a territorial goose on a farm, you will know they are very effective! There are stories about how geese saved the Romans with their warning cries when the Gauls attacked the citadel of the Capital.

I depicted a goose on land, one swimming in the water, and another flying in the air. Because Geese are equally at home in all three environments, they represent the integration of the physical (land), emotional (water) and spiritual (air) spheres necessary for creation. The main goose is standing on one leg, which represents the goose's ability to travel between the three spheres. Standing on one foot, in ancient tradition, was a technique for accessing the Otherworld. In Ancient Eqypt and China the goose was considered a messenger between Heaven and Earth.

In the foreground grows a blackberry bush. The blackberry is associated with the goose, probably because it is a plant that is protective and also serves as a portal to the Otherworld. I have the canes of the blackberry growing in the shape of an infinity symbol, to represent how the integration of the three spheres is a never ending cycle. The leaves on flowering canes always grow in threes. The number three is a sacred number, which is reflected in the triple nature of the Goose.

Geese are never alone. Community is everything to them. Geese mate for life and will never leave their partner behind. If one of a pair is sick or wounded, its mate will stay with it. When migrating, geese work together, flying in a V-formation to help save energy in their travels. In China the goose is a symbol of marriage because of their life-long pair bond.

Even though the Canada Goose is more common around my home, I chose to depict the Greylag Goose because of my years practicing Korean Buddhism, which uses gray robes for its dharma habit.

There are many ways to view the Goose. Don't let my interpretations limit your own. Go ahead and explore how you might relate to this fascinating bird.


(The Goose, 5 x 7", ink on clayboard)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

On Monday morning Lian and I took a walk to the park. It is our morning routine. It gives me some time to wake up, enjoy the quiet of the neighborhood and observe the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes in nature. For Lian it is a chance for exercise and to see if this would be the day that one of the neighborhood kitties would finally stay and play with her, rather than high-tail it into the bushes. She is always hopeful.

This morning, when I stepped outside I noticed a very peculiar smell. The sun had only been up for about an hour, and there was a very heavy dew covering everything. The air was still, with no discernible breeze, and this scent was thick and cloying. Now, for me to even notice a smell means that it had to be very strong. Ever since I suffered a concussion a few years ago my sense of smell has become rather unreliable. Many times I can't smell a thing. But this scent was one I couldn't ignore.

My first thought was that there was a fire somewhere, because the smell was everywhere that I walked. It didn't seem to dissipate as I continued to the park. It also made me think of the way that smoke from a house fire seems to hang low when there isn't a breeze to whisk it away. However, I realized that there was a sweetness to the scent, which is not something I would normally connect to a fire.

It wasn't until I arrived at the park that I began to suspect what the source of the smell might be. I noticed an enormous number of honeysuckle bushes lining the park, all in full bloom. There were many of all sizes, some as big as small trees. I realized, that there were also several growing all along the route that Lian and I take to get to the park. I walked up to one of the bushes and took a sniff of the delicate white flowers. That was the scent! Sweet and delicate. But when the scent is multiplied by thousands of had become rather over powering.

It was a moment of joy for me, as it was one of the few times that I could actually smell something. I find now, that because my olfactory sense is quite diminished, when I do actually smell something it becomes a moment of minor celebration. Back when my sense of smell was normal, I don't recall thinking much about my sense of smell other than this thing smelled good or that thing smelled bad. Now, I can totally relate to the phrase: Stopping to Smell the Flowers! There is sound wisdom in that phrase.

By doing so, I got to enjoy a moment of pure sensual delight that I rarely get to experience. And, while we were stopped by the bush, a small purring kitty came out and actually brushed up against Lian. She was so happy! So happy in fact, that her excitement sent the cat fleeing back into the bushes again. Oh well, it was just a moment...but no less meaningful!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stages of Creation: Part 4

Step 4: The Creation Stage

I have done the research, come up with the image, mediated, and completed the drawing, and planning. Now I am ready to really bring the painting to life. This process is the least complicated, but often the most demanding.

Before I start painting, I get the colors together that I selected from the previous stage. Then I use the tracing paper and transfer a very light tracing of the drawing on the painting surface. In this case, it is an Ampersand Clayboard Smooth board.

Then I might play some music to help connect me to the energy of the painting and to set a creative atmosphere. In the case of the Goose painting, I listened to a lot of medieval music, with a tendency toward heavy drums. The band Corvus Corax became a favorite while working on this piece. The music helps to connect me to the painting, which is beneficial when I have to stop and start painting many times.

When I actually start the painting, a curious thing tends to happen, I find myself entering a meditative state, similar to when I am creating the drawing. I have a tendency to lose track of time. In fact, I often can paint for five or six hours straight, thinking when I have stopped to take a break, that I have only been working for an hour or two. When I am working on the beginning stages of the painting I need to be sure that have a good chunk of time in which to work. If I have a place to be or have a job to go to, it is not a good idea to start painting, or I will end up missing the appointment or being late for work. If I wait until the end of the day, after I get home from work or my appointments, I might paint until the wee hours of the night and end up losing precious sleep! At later stages when I am doing detail work, I can start and stop more easily. So, sometimes I can paint for an hour before work or after I come home, without fear of disappearing from the world for too long!

Where do I go when I paint? If any of you meditate, you might relate to this experience more easily. I practiced very serious sitting meditation for over four years before I began shifting my focus more heavily on painting. To me, there is little difference between sitting meditation and painting. The only difference perhaps is in the posture. In both instances my mind is open, my thoughts are focused, but not fixed on any one thing. I am connected to the present moment. Suddenly, I am aware of no past, present or future, perhaps, I am aware of them existing all at once. I believe this helps me to create a painting that is connected to universal energy. It helps to keep my artwork authentic, which I hope, in turn, helps my work to reach people on a deeper level.

The tools I use here are:
(clockwise from the bottom left)
--The drawing from which I refer occasionally as I paint, mainly for the finer details that come later in the painting.
--The color sketch and color palette
--My laptop, which I use to view reference photos (I try not to print too many of my photos to help save trees and reduce waste)
--My tracing of the drawing (beneath that is a composite photo I created in Photoshop to use as a compositional reference)
--My cup of tea (now it is white or green tea, since I need a steady hand at this stage)
--My inks for painting
--Blending medium (for extending the drying time of the inks)
--Masking Fluid (This is a special liquid use to mark off areas of the painting that I don't want the ink to cover. Perhaps I want to reserve white in places. I can brush the masking fluid on and let it dry. Then I can paint all over it. When I am done, I simply rub the masking fluid off and the the area it covered is untouched by the ink. I can paint that area or leave it white.)
--Spray mister (to keep my palette wet so the inks don't dry out)
--Jar of water with my brushes in it
--Small jars of mixed colors
--Watersoluble Ink Pencils (These come in handy for very tiny details, as this painting is only 5 x 7")
--My mixing palette
--Paper towels (These are made from 100% recycled materials. I try to reuse them many times. Since once the ink dries it is permanent, I can re-wet the paper towel and don't have to worry about the ink running.)

The length of the Creation Stage various depending the painting. Some paintings can take weeks or months to complete, others only a few days. Usually, the smaller pieces take less time. But, if I am doing a lot of glazing work, the time to finish a piece can be significantly longer due to the drying time required between layers.

I am adding the finishing touches to the Goose painting now, and I will be posting the final piece in a few days. Be sure to check back to see the result. At that time, I will also share the background information about the Goose and why I chose it as a subject.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stages of Creation: Part 3

Step 3: Cultivation Stage

Now that I have the idea or concept and a composition is drafted, I can explore color! Color is a very important factor to my paintings. It is probably the main thread that connects all my varied styles of art. I am drawn to saturated colors. I like rich, vibrant colors that are still natural and not too garish. This is probably why spring and autumn are my favorite seasons, as they tend to be the two most colorful seasons.

The purpose of this stage is to determine the color palette that best suits the piece. The colors I choose are not only part of a visual aesthetic, but should also match the theme and concept of the particular piece. Color not only reflects the world we see, but it can also evoke mood, create atmosphere, and act as symbols. I try to incorporate all these in varying degrees in each of my paintings.

In this stage, I will create a color sketch of the painting. First, I transfer the drawing onto paper, then I will start to paint the image using the colors I think will work best for the piece. I am not as concerned with detail or exactness of the image. I am focusing mainly on color relationships. While I am painting, I keep track of the colors I use and think are right for the piece by making a small color palette on a separate sheet of paper.

One of the side benefits of doing a color sketch is that I get a second chance to see if the composition works. In the case of the Goose painting here, I realized once I started adding the trees in the background, that the painting was feeling too cramped. So, in the final painting, I will get rid of the trees and leave an open sky with a low horizon. Now the goose can breathe!

Often, while I work on the color sketch, I make notes to myself about the piece. For example, on the Goose painting, I didn't like how dark the grass was behind the black-berry bush, so I made a note to lighten the green in the final painting. I might make suggestions about altering the composition, adjusting a color, or adding or subtracting details.

The tools I use here are:
On the left side:
Colored pencils for coloring small details or fine lines
Permanent marker for writing comments on the color test.
Paper for testing out colors.

In the Center:
Bottles of Ink.
Bottle of blending medium for mixing with the ink to keep it from drying too fast. (Once ink is dry it is permanent and nearly impossible to make corrections.)
Color Palette of selected colors for the final painting.
Color Sketch.

On the Right Side:
My cup of tea. (I am back to black tea here, as this part of the process doesn't require any careful brush strokes.)
More bottles of ink.
Jar of water.
Small containers for storing newly created colors. (Sometimes I have to combine two or more ink colors together to create my own color mixtures. It is much easier to make large quantities at one time to make sure the color is consistent in one painting.)
Dropper for mixing colors.
Ceramic palette for mixing colors.
Paper towel for absorbing excess water and pigment from brushes and for clean-up.

Once I get the colors right and have a good color palette created. It is on to the next step: the Creation Stage


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Stages of Creation: Part 2

Step 2: Growing Stage

After the idea or inspiration for a painting begins to take more solid form and substance in my mind, I can begin sketching and working out the composition. Here the previous research and meditation have its greatest influence as the image begins to appear on paper.

I usually make several drawings, some will be simple line drawings, others will be value studies. I will play around with compositional elements as well. I use many different pencils for doing the drawing and value studies. I use tracing paper to trace over my drawing and then use the tracing to reposition the drawing. That way I can experiment more freely with the composition and save time from having to redraw the entire thing from scratch. The rubbing alcohol is used to fix the graphite on the tracing paper so it doesn't smudge all over the paper when I am transferring the image. I use the colored pencils for tracing so I know what part of the image I have already traced. For example, in this drawing I have the main goose in the foreground and two other geese in the background, one swimming, one flying. I can trace my drawing, then transfer it to a new composition, moving the flying goose higher or lower to create a stronger composition.

Often, when I am working on the drawing, I lose awareness of time and my surroundings. When that happens, it is only when I step away from my desk to stretch or refresh my tea that I notice fully what I have been working on. I may decide to do some refinement at this point, or perhaps follow up with some further research. Occasionally symbols or images appear in the drawing that correlate with a deeper meaning from what I had originally intended. This happened recently with my drawing for the painting Boann: Transformation of a Goddess. After several hours working in the drawing, I stepped away and noticed that I had drawn a fish. I did some further research and found out about the powerful connection between Boann and the salmon. The information was very likely in my mind from previous research, but it was stored somewhere in my subconscious memory, because I wasn't aware of it. The trance-effect of the drawing process tends to bring the subconscious material out onto the paper.

The other valuable tools I use are erasers. I use the white nylon eraser for getting rid of large areas completely. The kneaded eraser (that knobby grey item) is used to lighten areas without erasing the pencil completely. The electric eraser (the thick pen-like object) is one of the most fantastic inventions! I use this as another drawing tool, erasing areas to shape and give form and depth to the drawing. The power of the eraser lets me erase fine areas all the way to the white of the paper. Sometimes drawing is more about subtracting pencil marks, more than making marks!

The tissues are for smudging the pencil on the paper to create more gray tones I also use the tissues for applying the alcohol to the tissue paper.

You can see some field guides and some photos for some quick references, in this case, to make sure I get such things as the number of leaves on a blackberry branch or the pattern of the goose feathers correct. Even though I am working with myth and folklore, I like to have some aspects rooted in reality. I would prefer to have most of my information come from direct observation, but unfortunately, until I can become a full-time artist, I often have to rely on other sources like these.

And lastly, my faithful cup of tea! By this time, I am beginning to move away from the black teas, into black tea blends and oolongs. Soon, I will be breaking out the greens and whites.

During this step, I might take breaks and, weather permitting, go for walks in the park. I usually bring my camera and take pictures of things that inspire me, or catch my eye. If I have time, I might bring my sketchbook and do some quick observational drawings. Usually, however, the walk is more about stepping back from the drawing process. I might need to clear my mind or settle my energy. This part of the process tends to raise my energy and I find that once I get up from my chair, I feel a bit antsy and hypersensitive. Walking outside helps to ground me once more.

Once I get a feeling that the drawing is ready, it is time to move on to the next step: The Cultivation Stage.


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