Working in Series

Mesa Night Sky, 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. Ann Painter, 2015

Mesa Night Sky, 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. Ann Painter, 2015

Over the past 4 months, I have been painting non-objectively with oil paint and cold wax medium. I have been exploring and experimenting in ways that were new to me. There have been successes. do-overs and several out and out failures in this process. Finally, after many hours of work and 25 paintings, I started to notice that things seemed to be coming together in terms of my ability to work with the medium.

This past week. I found myself working on a small square piece that I had painted twice after scraping it back to the board. I realized I was trying too hard to make the painting work, which is always a mistake. I made an impulsive decision to make the center of the painting my compositional focus and work only with a simple square shape, texture and color. In the second painting, I continued this approach and in the process, realized I was working in series and would continue through the next several pieces until something else called to me.

Mesa Sunset, 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. Ann Painter, 2015

Mesa Sunset, 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. Ann Painter, 2015

The third painting is the most intuitive, inventive and painterly. It is also the more personal in some way because it seemed to come out of me with very little thought. I find the value of working in series is that it forces me to push beyond what is comfortable if I am to create works that are relational and at the same time unique. It is exciting to feel like I have a direction and that the process is coming together to produce work that I am happy with.

When All is Said and Done. 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. 2015, Ann Painter

When All is Said and Done. 6 x 6 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. Ann Painter

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | 3 Comments

“Feeling the Love”

Heat Rising, 5 x 7 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. 2015. Ann Painter

Heat Rising, 5 x 7 inches, oil and mixed media on panel. 2015. Ann Painter

Some time ago, I had a student, Lori Elliott-Bartle, who said she knew when she had found the “right place to paint” because she could “feel the love” when she saw it. I have used this story many times when trying to talk with beginning artists who often wonder where to start and what to paint.

When I first came back to non-representational painting in February, I felt very uncertain. The painting process was new and the idea of creating a successful composition without a recognizable subject, daunting. I looked at lots of non-objective paintings and read everything I could find on the subject of composition. Of course the elements and principle are the same with abstract work as they are with realism, but a long time of not painting left me feeling uncertain. I admit, I was searching for some kind of formula. They exist; the rule of thirds, the golden mean, the cruciform composition and more.

In the early paintings where I felt particularly lost, I tried these methods but found the process was too mechanical, too formulaic. Through it all though, I kept painting. Rebecca Crowell talks about her small paintings as “quick studies”. None of mine were quick, in fact, some of them were prolonged struggles. I have been working almost every day since February (4 months). I finally feel like I am developing a technique that is my own although it seems to deepen and change with each painting. In the last week or so, I noticed I have stopped worrying about whether the composition is working or not. I am trusting myself more and everything I have learned and known is coming together.

I realized this is not an intellectual happening. I really couldn’t think my way out of my struggles with where to begin and how to proceed. I had to relearn how to listen in and let go, but more than anything, I needed to remember to trust the feeling in my body that lets me know when something is working and when it isn’t. This is what Lori was describing when she spoke about “feeling the love”, a simple yes or no that can be trusted and acted upon in all areas of ones life. 

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | Leave a comment

Painting Practice

Small Painting Explorations, oil and mixed media, Ann Painter 2015

Small Painting Explorations, oil and mixed media, Ann Painter 2015

Since February, when I took a workshop from Rebecca Crowell, I have painted almost every day. Before the workshop, I felt like I had lost interest in painting. Since I took it, all I want to do is paint. Returning to oil and cold wax after the 50/50 where I used this medium to create 50 paintings in 50 days, has been an entirely different experience. I learned a lot doing the 50/50 and definitely saw the value in painting every day. By the end though, having to produce a finished painting every day for 50, was a burden. My work became product rather than process oriented, and not fun.

Painting practice is very different. I am painting every day because I want to, not because I have to. There is a big difference and the paintings reflect that. A body of work is being created, but this is not about that. This, like music or meditation is about going deeper and letting the way show itself rather than trying to figure it out. The more I paint, the more the painting speaks to and through me. Each one is different, and I have no idea when I start, where I am going or where I will end up.

Wax medium is very forgiving and versatile. With some paintings, I scrape away more paint than I put down and often feel ready to put the painting in the trash by the end of the day. I walk away and remind myself, this is a practice and I can do anything I want. There are no rules, and because the wax can be applied in so many ways, and textures as well as pigment can be added to it, I can experiment with all sorts of approaches. I didn’t realize this about the medium when I did the 50/50. It was Rebecca’s workshop that opened me up to the endless possibilities inherent in using this medium. Below is my most recent painting where I began manipulating the surface with a brush in addition to all the other tools I am using.

Between Heaven and Earth, 5 x 7 inches, oil and mixed media on paper. 2015

Between Heaven and Earth, 5 x 7 inches, oil and mixed media on paper. 2015

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Abstract Painting

Untitled Abstraction, digital painting 4.16.2015

Untitled Abstraction, digital painting 4.16.2015

In the last weeks, I have spent a great deal of time looking at paintings and at the work of many other artists. I have saved some of the images that I felt particularly moved by, and felt troubled by how many paintings by different artist working in oil and cold wax, look very much the same. Many of us have learned techniques under the tutelage of master painter, Rebecca Crowell or from artists who have studied with her. I know Rebecca’s intention is to encourage individuality and personal vision, but the technique itself, lends itself to a certain kind of sameness once mastered. I wonder, have we as artists reached the end of real innovation? Maybe the focus on using new materials is taking away the need artists have had over the years to push the materials they had to say what they wanted.

In earlier movements, artists have searched and struggled to find and express personal meaning in their work. O’Keeffe decided at one point early in her career to give up painting if all she could do was the same as what had been done by others before her. She wanted to express her own essence and not that of other artists or movements. She threw color out and went back to basics, working only in black and white for several years until she felt she had something to say that was uniquely her own. I have, in my life as a woman artist, admired O’Keeffe for her commitment to personal expression.

Decorative art has its place, certainly. On every TV show where an interior is shown, the walls are adorned with beautiful decorative abstract paintings. They are not controversial, they go with the stage set and don’t distract from the story line. Suddenly, abstract art is selling and almost anything will do. It is tempting, I admit, particularly if one has to make a living as an artist.

I made my living doing other things until I retired and could devote myself to my own art. Having worked as a commercial artist for years, I knew I didn’t want the need to make money influence what I did with my painting. I have known always, that if I couldn’t make art that was uniquely my own, I would not be satisfied. I suppose this goes back to the question about when do we know a painting is finished? Agnes Martin said she waited three days after a painting was taken off the easel to decide if it was “done”.

Digital painting is forcing me to confront the issue of uniqueness and personal expression. I am trusting that whatever comes through me is uniquely my own. After I get most of that down, I can step back and evaluate the painting in terms of elements and principle of design but even then, if my gut says something else, it is in charge. For me, this is being a great way to practice image making without focusing on an end product.

Untitled Abstraction, digital painting 4.16.2015

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Digital Painting, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | 1 Comment

Painting on Vacation

I have been in California visiting my family for two weeks.  I didn’t bring art supplies thinking there wouldn’t be time for painting. As the time grew near to return home, I came down with the flu. Two weeks has turned into three and my longing to get back to my studio to paint intensifies with each passing day. I started playing around with some of my painting programs on the iPad. I thought if I could work in layers on the computer, I could possibly get close to the look of layering and texturizing  that I had been trying to create with oil and cold wax in the studio before I left home. The results are quite different, but the process of creating is the same. To do this, I used a program called Artrage. 

Arizona Sunset, digital image

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Knowing When a Painting is Finished

Coastal Abstraction, 6 x 6 inches, oil and cold wax on panel.

Coastal Abstraction, 6 x 6 inches, oil and cold wax on panel.

All artists asks themselves this question.  In the end, no matter how many opinions I solicit, I am the only one who can really know when the painting is done. Until the painting releases me, it is impossible for me to let it go and move on. I thought I was there several times with this painting, and then I would find myself drawn back in the studio late at night to work some more. I dreamed about working on the painting and woke with my hand actually making painting motions.

There was a moment when I was close to putting this piece in the trash. I felt angry and frustrated. Each change I made left me feeling more lost than I had before. It was at that point, without thinking, that I ripped into the painting cutting through layers of carefully applied paint and wax. When I am finally able to surrender my will to the painting’s, it speaks to me and shows me the way.

While simpler than earlier ones, I think the final version (above) is the most powerful. As I look back on earlier ones that I painted over or scraped away (below), I can see where several of them were probably “good enough”, but not enough to let me go on to the next. Now I finally can.

IMG_1967IMG_1966IMG_1969IMG_1972IMG_1176IMG_1180

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | 1 Comment

Abstraction 3.9.15

12 x 12 inches, oil and cold wax on cradled panel

12 x 12 inches, oil and cold wax on cradled panel

The biggest challenge in doing these new paintings, is to stay out of my head and in the place of not knowing. It is really hard for a controlled person like me to do. I am someone who likes to know the destination before I get there. I am good at figuring things out and mapping a course of action.

these paintings are about experimentation and pushing beyond my personal limits. I want to break out of the box that I found so confining after years of living.  I have flying dreams sometimes. I always wake up feeling so happy after one. In the dream I know that all I have to do is spread my arms out wide and believe I can fly and I climb into the sky,  high above everything. These new paintings are the waking experience of my flying dreams. Believing makes everything possible.

This painting has many layers of wax and media. Lots of trial and error preceded feeling done. I realized today that a painting is done for me when I can leave it and not feel called back to try one more thing. The painting lets me go, and I am free to move onto whatever comes next.

Posted in Ann Painter Abstraction, Oil and Cold Wax Painting | 2 Comments