When “It” Strikes You Down

It can happen any time these days!  Viruses are lurking everywhere!  Not the digital kind, the ones that actually affect our physical health.  The effects they have on our art can seem far worse than those on our health!  At least to us artists anyway.

You don’t have the energy to do much but your mind is still inspired and rearing to go.  Often there will be little things you can do as you laze around lamely awaiting your emergence “on the other side”…. ways to maintain contact with your art spirit. 

During down periods there are several, not so innovative, ways to keep going regardless.  Well, some of the time at least.  Things that help maintain the art spirit while the body navigates the virus.

Sketching is one thing that only requires the amount of time and energy you are prepared to give.  There are a few scattered about here from a trip made while accompanied by “it”.

Another thought that emerged was books.  (There are plenty on the shelves!)  So, bearing the current state of art affairs in mind they presented themselves for selection.  My art life is several decades long and the shelves are many.  There’s a lot of already covered material in there, but plenty of new stuff too.  Mind you, I’m never one to shy away from going back to basics.

This is what jumped out.

Colour:  It’s been on the “get better at this” list for years, so out came a few books to sift through for interesting stuff.  I’ll just admit first up that there won’t be any formal colour mixing exercises happening!

“Colour Choices, Making Color Sense Out of Colour Theory”, Stephen Quiller – I might try using pure colours with semi neutrals! There’s a section on inner vision where he says “each painting and each inner vision must follow its own course”.  Does that mean I can just throw paint about?

“Color Harmony in Your Paintings”, Margaret Kessler – It seems I’m interested in intensity at present.  There’s also some planning stuff here that makes sense if you aren’t up to flying by the seat of your pants!  Maybe there is a happy place somewhere in between planning and complete freedom?

“Confident Color” and “Exploring Color Workshop”, Nita Leyland – These two books are similar.  They both look at various palettes and how to use them.  My favourite parts were those dealing with contrasts and unifying colour and design.

Content:  More particularly emotional, personal content, which is what I think is needed in abstract art. 

Gerald’s book takes you on an indepth study of how to access emotional content in landscape painting.  However there’s a lot there that you can interpret from an abstract perspective.  I wonder, can it be applied retrospectively.  That is after I’ve had my frenzied play sessions!  The key takeaway seems to be – really feel what you’re trying to communicate.

Abstraction:  Just doing it is ok, but that can feel a bit shallow or unskilled, even when backed up by your past art experience.  This book takes you through the principles and elements of composition as they relate specifically to abstract painting.  It’s an indepth look at how to go about learning to paint abstracts.

There are sections on working from reality to abstraction and the other way around.  Rolina writes that, with abstract painting, there are two places to start:  content with no relationship to reality and content that is related to reality.  She talks about “stock in trade” which is your store of visual information (visual memory).  It allows you to work from your imagination while having a solid background to draw upon.  I’ve definitely felt a lack in that regard before!  Is that why it feels like I’m winging it sometimes?

Videos:  You don’t even need the energy to hold a book and turn pages!  But, be warned it can go on forever!  However, there are gems to be found, which is why down time helps.

Ok, so I have a secret yearning for printing.  I like the vitality and fun feel of FroyleArts videos (gelli printing, art journaling etc) (still from the video shown above). The ideas are yet to be used, but they’re there!  Plus she cheers you up when you’re feeling unwell!

(Still from the Ryan Jensen video, link below)

I stumbled upon “Art School Live with Eric Rhoads” and this video featuring Ryan Jensen.  Loved it!  It’s not short (about 50 min) but he has some great advice to offer.  How can anyone paint such paintings so nonchalantly?  He really does make it sound and look easy! 

Free workshops:  You can just watch if you choose.

Judy Woods’ stARTs course  Judy runs a free taster which I have participated in previously.  This time I wanted to look at it more from my own perspective.  You know, change a few bits and pieces.  But … enter a virus, which turned it into more of a watching exercise where I generated ideas to try later.  I did, however manage to do some of what was on offer while adding my own touch.  It certainly encouraged ideas and I’m looking forward to working more on the “starts” that were made.  I think the stARTs course sounds great, but, just not for me at the moment.

These two images (above and below) are stalled at the second stage of proceedings while the other brownish one (above) is still at stage one.

When I look back at all this perusing, I feel like good use was made of the down time.  There’s quite a bit to explore as a result!

Now, all we need is recovery with plenty of energy and action.

New listing on Bluethumb.

Exploration in Blue and Yellow” 40cm square

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Start Strong and Follow Your Intuition

Enthusiasm is usually pretty high when beginning new work.  That was the case with this painting.  Let’s see what happened along the way and what seems to have eventuated.

It started with some fun wedge marks using “in your face” Indian yellow. Cheerful, but a bit much all over things eh!

Sticking with “in your face” colour I applied red gold and white, along with some graphite lines. Scratching about to create some texture seemed like a good idea too.

I couldn’t get away from the strong colour so I thought, ok, stick with it. On went some pthalo turquoise and white in a frenzy of mark making. Oh well! That was fun, but mmm? What now?

No! I thought. That’s enough killer colour! So, now, how to deal with it? Easy option …. wedge on some white, not to thickly cover it, but to take the edge off. After that it cried out for some glazing. So, I obliged using a little red gold, not much, and some Indian yellow.

When I say not much red gold I mean only a little glazing-wise, but those stronger lines were added as well. It was a risk I took and I think it paid off. The lines provide a nice structure.

It might be finished (above) but I’m going to wait a short time to see if my completion comfort level changes. It’s a fairly busy painting which feels a little unsettling.

(Detail)

If the painting sits well after a break it’ll be declared done and take its place on Bluethumb. There’s a slight question in my mind about whether to highlight or push back some parts, or perhaps a bit of both.

(Detail)

The beauty of waiting a while is that, usually, as soon as you look at it again, you know exactly how you feel. The break provides a bit of emotional distance and allows you to view things objectively as well as letting your intuition have a say if it feels inclined.

Ok, what’s next?

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