Monday, February 28, 2011

Mistakes are all part of the journey!

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful day and is ready to jump into a new week.  This has been an interesting week for me with my painting.  Although I did not get a lot painted, what did get painted took a lot more time than what I had originally thought it would.  I was not sure what the problem was at first.  I was concentrating.  The subject matter interested me.  I knew what it was that I was trying to accomplish, but it just was not translating clearly onto the canvas.  I could not be decisive and make the final determination of what it was that I was trying to lay down on that particular piece of canvas.  I thought that I had the bones of a good painting and just had to flesh it out and finish it.  Those were my famous last words!

I could put all this down to just being one of those weeks when the paint brush is not connected to my brain.  But the truth is that I was working on something that was more complex than I had originally thought it would be.  Marking out segments on the canvas and deciding what colour would go into each one seemed a simple enough task.  But, once I started painting, my decisions concerning my colour choices haunted me.  I was not happy with the colour palette.  What was I going to do?  Then, to make matters worse, I questioned my choice of the way the segments were laid out.  This is not a good way to work on a painting.

Knowing that I want the three paintings to relate and hang in close proximity to each other, I know that the subject matter needs to be somewhat consistent.  The colours used on each canvas should flow from one to the other and so on.  I should be able to look at the three paintings and feel good about what I have painted.  But, I am not happy with the way the second painting is developing.  I like the first painting very much.  It almost feels like my "break through" painting, the one that defines my style, my ideas, and where I want to go with my art, or at least one area of my artistic desires.  The second painting changes every time I pick up my paint brush and work on it.  I enjoy working on it and I do not feel desperate, sad or even the vaguest sense of melancholy about the way it is progressing.  This part of the journey is the challenging part, the time when you make mistakes with your choices of colour, direction or whatever.  The point is that you realize that you have a problem and go about finding a way of solving it.

It would be so easy to put the canvas under the bed and pull out a fresh one to start over.  But, I am stubborn and determined that this painting will eventually work out and be one of my better ones.  I am not giving up on this part of my journey.  All this is happening for a reason, that being to teach me patience, perseverance and the realization that I need to hone up on my techniques.  I am not a professional painter by any means.  I am going to be learning new aspects of the craft for a very long time.  I expect that I will learn something new with each and every painting session and I do.  It may be a minor achievement like blending colours or putting more texture into my work.  The point is that I am learning and the more important point is that I can openly state that I make mistakes and need to rethink what it is that I am trying to achieve on this particular canvas. 

Canvas #2 is not a write off, nor will it ever be.  I am also thinking of the various canvases hidden under my bed or stashed in various places in my flat.  I need to honestly take a look at each and every one of these and see where I went wrong and then find a way to remedy it.  So, I am putting up a picture of how the second of the three paintings is progressing and although I am not satisfied with it, I do need to be honest with you and show you the rough, raw stages a painting can go through before it turns that corner and the end result is as you hoped or even better.  It would be wrong of me to say that I just could not find the time to paint and had nothing to show you.  So, I would be really interested in your comments on what you see and what you think in this case.  I know how I plan to change what is on the canvas so far.  But, for the moment, I need to stand back and look at it some more and make notes on what it is about this painting that bothers me,

What else will I do?  I will probably grab another canvas and paint just for the joy of painting.  I will not try to make this painting part of a series.  It will be a one off, just a single painting, something of no real significance or that has any hidden meanings in it.  That is what is running through my mind right now as I write this post.  But, you know artists are known to change their minds frequently and take a turn to run down another road in their journey.  It may mean another stab at something along the same theme as my original trio of Art Deco paintings or it may be something radically different.  But, the main point is that I am not quitting.  I am not going to toss all my paints, brushes and canvases into the trash bin and consider that experiment done and over with.  This is not an experiment for me, this is my life and I take it pretty seriously.  I love painting.  I love the way I feel when I am painting.  If I were to give all this up, there would be a huge void in my life that would not be easily or possibly ever filled.

Where does all that leave me?  Well, it leaves me with a lot of thinking to do before I work on the second canvas again.  I need to rethink the layout, the design, the colour palette and a lot of other things.  Monday will probably find me sanding down some areas of the canvas, sketching out possible solutions in my journal along with working on the colour palette using coloured pencils.  I am not someone who easily gives up.  I can be quite tenacious when something is important to me.  And, it is not just important to me, it is important for you as well.  I want to be honest and tell you when I have messed up with a canvas and that I am working on corrections.  This journey did not guarantee me a smooth trip and for you the reader, I am giving you a stroke by stroke accounting of what is going on and what is not happening.  This is called accountability, being honest, being truthful and more importantly, that it is more than okay to make mistakes.   I have to expect to make mistakes on this journey.  It is how I handle them that is more important.  Once I have found a way to correct the mistake, I have learned a new lesson in this journey.  That is the key to evolving and becoming the artist that you want to become.

Have a great week!  Hopefully, by Thursday I will have something more complete to show you with regards to my Calla Lily #1 painting.  By then, I may have learned many lessons.  At least I am hoping that is so!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And the beat goes on . . .

It is Thursday, a lot later than usual for me to be writing my post.  Life seems to be moving at warp speed and my body is reluctant to follow for some reason.  I am fine, there is nothing that a few more good nights of sleep and eating some regular meals might cure.  I suspect that a lot of my energy is being eaten up by all the planning going on right now for my move.  There is a lot to plan for, but at the same time, I cannot ignore my painting.  Painting soothes my soul and keeps me grounded.  If I am feeling unsettled as I have been for the past few days, I pull out the paints and work until I think that I will fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  Unfortunately, right now, I have had to use a lot of my painting time to take care of the paperwork linked with moving.  I had forgotten how time consuming it was to purchase a new place to live.  It has been over 18 years since I bought this flat.  I have never sold property before, so this is all new to me and when added on to the work of making the offer, then purchasing the property, I have doubled the amount of paperwork and then some with my solicitor taking care of a few other things for me.

But, right now, my focus is on art.  Art Deco seems to have captured my attention right now for some reason.  I have gone through my country look in my decor, and right now I seem to have transitioned over to a quasi Oriental/Modern look.  I like the way these two go together.  My wicker furniture provides just the right setting with select paintings of my own along with some wonderful pictures, taken from a calendar, taking ownership of the walls.  At this point, I am not putting up any more paintings as I do not want the new owner of this unit to have to deal with any more holes in the walls than necessary.  My new flat will utilize floating shelves to display my paintings.  This will give a much more consistent look throughout the flat as well as keep the newly painted walls looking their best.  I will do my best to think twice before any nail is put into a wall.  I am hoping that I will follow through on this promise as well as the one to keep the art clutter confined to the studio room.  That way, I'm not scurrying around to hide all the detritus of my daily life when I get word that someone is on the way for a visit.

So, you might ask, what have you been up to this week?  Well, I am still working on Art Deco themed paintings, three to be exact.  I still have to finish "Lady with Attitude" shown on the right.  There will be two other paintings which will be part of this series.  Both will have a background reminiscent of stained glass with the center panel containing a vase of flowers, calla lilies to be exact.  Calla lilies seem to be one of the flowers associated with the Art Deco period.  The natural length of the stem along with the wide open flower lend themselves nicely to the period with their graceful shape being found in wall sconces, vases and detail work seen in wood work as well as other pieces.

I am putting up one of the two panels that I am working on that will involve a vase of calla lilies.  I am having a great debate with my muse about the look of these vases of flowers.  My muse is telling me to keep them both the same, but I am inclined to have subtle differences in the canvases.  I will not tell you what those might be as I want to see who can pick out those differences.  The two canvases are identical in size and both are painted to the same stage as the one to the right.  I still want to work on the black lines a bit more and polish up some of the areas where the "stained glass" panels are shown.  The inner section requires one more coat of white paint before I go for the impact part of each painting. 

Truthfully, I am surprised at the amount of time it has taken to get these two canvases to this stage.  I like to mix my colours and I suspect this is where I am losing the time.  I am concentrating a lot on obtaining the correct shade for the panels.  This is critical or to me it is since there are not too many panels on the canvas.  I suspect that four more panels will appear, but I will not guarantee that point.  I will have to sit down quietly and map out one such scenario and see what colour could go in those panels and how it will affect the overall painting.  I know of a painter who paints one complete painting each and every day.  These are not small canvases, they are a good size and have a lot of impact and detail to them.  I do not know how he does it.  But, I suspect he does not have a litter box to clean, carpets to hoover or does much if any cooking.  That would free up a lot of time and maybe if I could ignore these chores a bit more, I might be more productive with my painting.  But, I doubt it.  I do like to read, run out to have a coffee with a friend, or just look around the mall at different displays to get ideas for future colours to try out.

However, I will put all nonsense aside or as much as possible over the next few days and try to finish the two paintings that are going to be almost duplicates.  If I can persuade myself to really push the envelope, I might even finish the painting that started this Art Deco fetish.  I know how I want to work on the tattoo.  It is the woman's face that is still vague in my mind and I think a few dry runs in a journal, set aside for this purpose, will be necessary.  I am in a quandary about how to approach the colouring in her face.  I really have to give it some thought whether some subtle colour is required or whether I should stay true to the nature of the painting and keep with the colour palette as it stands now, with the flesh tone being the only other colour outside of the black, grey, Payne's Grey, white and the blue that was added to the black/white combo.  Again, this is something to work out in my journal and then transfer the resulting decision to my canvases.

I cannot wait to see how this all turns out!  I type that and it strikes me as being very amusing.  I am the artist who is painting these three paintings and I do not know what the end result is going to be as yet.  Oh well, maybe that is part of the fun of this journey.  I never know where it will take me or what I will find or learn in the process.  One thing that I do know, I am never bored. Each day and each painting sets me off on a new adventure.  What more could one ask of life?

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Monday, February 21, 2011

How did I get here from there?

Okay, I will be the first one to admit that I am a creature of habit.  I tend to feel more comfortable following my own little routine where I do any household chores first, run errands if necessary and then work my way over to my art table and see where I want to take my journey that day.  Sometimes I will be inclined to finish up some pieces that I have started and on other days, my muse stops me and pushes me to a fresh piece of canvas and flashes images or ideas through my mind to gently push me towards a particular subject.  How can I refuse?  By this point, my mind is racing and the ideas are generating so quickly that it is almost impossible to jot down the impressions so that I have a general idea of where this piece of art is heading.

I was tidying up the kitchen the other night and picked up a rubber stamp that I have recently acquired.  It shows a woman, face on with her left arm extended over to her right shoulder.  To me, the stamp has an Art Deco feel to it.  At this point, my muse jumped in and propelled me towards my table and the next thing I knew, I was working on a piece of canvas 16" x 16" and had the outline of a woman painted towards the center of the piece.  I knew from what my muse was telling me that the only tubes of paint allowed on the table were to be titanium white, mars black, Payne's grey and another tube of a neutral gray.  I argued with my muse about the colours and we finally agreed that I really did need a bit of yellow and just a touch of a portrait pink to make the proper skin tone for my subject.  No point having her skin showing if I am not going to paint the flesh tone as accurately as possible.  Even though my muse objected, I did add a touch of blue to grey in some areas just to make a subtle change in the colour.

I have painted a simple black dress for my vintage lady with a black piece of fabric used as a scarf billowing out behind her.  The painting has a simple elegance to it.  I left an area on the woman's upper arm for a bracelet to be painted in, but both my muse and I feel that a bracelet is just a little too common for the lady in black.  I imagine this woman to be full of life, someone who seeks out adventure and might be described as a naughty young woman.  I do not have a problem with that, but I still need something to put on her upper arm in place of a generic bracelet that one might see on a debutante's wrist.  The muse and I scored the idea at the same time with both of us yelling "tattoo".  I wonder what my neighbours must think when they hear me, if they do, holler single words out loud?  They must be thinking that the crazy artist down the hallway is painting again or that I have a mental impairment that causes me to yell out random words. 

So, now I need to decide on what type of tattoo my naughty art deco lady might have had inked onto her arm.  I can imagine a tattoo parlour being astounded at the sight of a woman coming in to have a tattoo during that era.  Not too many women would have the attitude necessary to carry off such a project let alone have the tattoo on view for all to see.  But, my lady would.  She is everything that I am not.  Maybe that is why my muse is pushing me towards her in hopes that some of this woman's take charge, devil may care attitude will rub off on me.  Well, I am not running out to get a tattoo, that I can guarantee you!  Not that I have not thought about having one, but since I tend to get infections a little too easily, I do not want to risk the chance and have my upper arm infected.  I will leave the devil may care attitude to my lady in black. But, truthfully, just between you and I, I really have not totally discounted the idea of having a tattoo.  Shhhh! That will be our little secret.

As I sat back and thought a little more about the tattoo, thoughts of flowers started popping images in my mind.  For some reason, the thought and image of a calla lily captured my full attention and I sketched out a simple one on a scrap of paper.  To me, a calla lily has a simple air of elegance surrounding it and seemed appropriate for my painting.  So, I painted in the outlines of two small calla lilies where the tattoo is to be on the subject's upper arm.  It still needed something to give the tattoo an edgy feel to it.  But what could I add to the small area that would have impact on a viewer.  I did not want the tattoo to be the focal point of the painting, but I wanted a viewer to enjoy it once they discovered it.  I wandered around the flat for a bit, scanned my e-mail accounts and looked at some Art Deco web sites.  I was still at a loss for how to complement the calla lilies until my muse kicked in with the image of a spider web.  The lady is the spider and needs a web on her arm and so if you look closely, you will see the two calla lilies surrounded with a black web. 

I still have a lot of work to do on the painting.  The background is far from finished as is the face of my young woman, my lady of attitude.  I am putting up the painting in its unfinished state so that you can get an idea of how my muse and I have been communicating this week.  The two paintings to go with this central one have not been started as yet other than the concept of what each painting will contain being jotted down on a scrap of paper.  Let me know what you think.  I rather like the image even now in an unfinished format.  This painting intrigues me for some reason and I think there may be others done in a similar fashion, limited colour palettes and a combination of elements that one might not normally see together.  I think I can safely assume that not too many young women had tattoos during the Art Deco period, but then, maybe I am wrong.  But, is it not fun to think about this type of incongruity and then paint it?  I have had more fun with this painting despite the time it is taking to finish it. 

Hopefully, by Thursday, I will have finished this painting and made some headway with the two to accompany it.  This week should be a little less frenetic with no appointments and just time to sit down, paint brush in hand and let my muse whisper interesting thoughts or flash images through my head.  We make a good pair if I do say so myself.  I do tend to have a quirky sense of humour and my muse seems to be encouraging me along with suitable prompts.  It is a little scary to think of a muse as a person or presence in the room.  But, as long as this presence is on the same wave length as myself, then we should get along quite nicely. 

I hope your muse is encouraging you in your quest to find a journey of some sort, artistic or otherwise.  Have a great week and make sure you allow yourself time to just be yourself.  Take that time, use it lovingly and wisely, making the best use of it to further your dreams, whatever they may be.  If you do not try, you will never get.  Take that to mean whatever you want it to.  For me, it meant taking the time to paint and make art a constant in my life.  What I got from following this dream is a lot of new friends, a chance to work on new skills and an enjoyment of a part of life that I knew existed, but really thought of as being off limits.  The only reason it was off limits was because I did not believe in myself and was not willing to just take a chance on a journey in which I had no idea of where the destination might be.  Maybe, that is the best kind of journey.  Take a chance and see where yours takes you!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A journey down two floors

It has been another crazy few days.  For some reason, my muse is working overtime and not wanting to allow me the luxury of sleeping for more than three or four hours consecutively.  This makes for a lot of time when I am awake with my mind racing.  I have always been one to jot down notes in a small journal type book which I keep with me all the time.  Later, the notes are transcribed into the appropriate notebook set aside for the aspect of life dealt with in the original note.  Yes, I realize this sounds like I am thinking and organizing myself beyond what is necessary.  But, the problem is, I need to write things down in order for them to stay in my memory bank beyond a few hours.  Maybe I have come to the point of mental overload.  But, at least by writing things down, I have a better chance of knowing when I need to be some where, what I intended to purchase when I headed out to shop and why I sat down in front of the computer. 

While art is a major part of my days, I also have a new project at hand.  I alluded to some upcoming news in my last post and let the cat out of the proverbial bag when tweeting.  I am moving to a new flat in about six weeks.  This is beyond my wildest dreams as I will then have an actual room set aside as a studio.  While the flat is not large by any definition, it is a size that is very suitable and manageable for me to keep in good order.  Especially, since the art supplies will all be in one room rather than scattered throughout the entire flat with canvases propped up against every available portion of wall space as well as hanging throughout the flat.  This is a good move for me.  The dining area will remain just that, a place where one can sit at a table and have a meal.  The front room will be a place to entertain friends who drop by and the bedroom, a place where I will at least rest if not sleep.

Storage is abundant in my new home.  The studio is actually supposed to be the master bedroom and has a large walk in closet.  To use all this space just as a bedroom would be a waste of space, so much wiser to use this room to work in with all my supplies housed in the closet.  The smaller bedroom is more than ample for my needs as the amount of actual bedroom furniture that I own is minimal - a bed, a dresser, a small bookcase, and a small table that holds a boom box.  Do we still call them boom boxes?  I suppose it would sound more impressive to say "sound system", but the truth of the matter is that this piece is basically a component to play CD's and listen to the radio.  Hardly a sound system of any sustenance.

The best part of all this is that I now will have more wall space to house my paintings and collages.  Since the walls have been refinished and painted, I am reluctant to blemish them with nails and hooks.  I like to move my paintings around and that would make the walls look like a small war had taken place in my unit.  And so, I discovered what I refer to as floating shelves.  The hardware fastening the shelf to the wall disappears into the actual shelf which then appears to just "float" against the wall.  Various sizes and finishes are available with me thinking that the espresso colour might look impressive or maybe I should paint the shelves the same colour as the walls.  That would make it appear as if the paintings were hanging in the usual manner, but without all the nasty hardware.  I quite like this idea, but I will keep an open mind until I think about this a little further.

All this information plays over repeatedly in my mind which leads to thoughts of subject matter and colours to be used in future forays into the acrylics.  Little sketches are quickly pulled together and filed for future reference.  I am thinking of having a theme to different areas of the flat.  The bedroom will have a zen feeling and so the paintings should be simple, clean lines, not too many colours.  I am inclined to think that I should be researching feng shui to get the setting just right which I am certain will address the nature of paintings to be displayed.  The loo has charcoal coloured tiles in the shower/tub area and the room is very small.  Only one painting will be able to go on the wall and so that one painting has to have the "wow" factor.  Not "wow" that is so wrong for this room.  I think I would like to aim for "wow" that painting really is the finishing touch to the room.  I have not decided on other themes for different areas, but I am sure the upcoming sleepless nights will provide me with an ample supply of ideas to test drive on my supply of canvas. 

With all this information floating through my mind, I am pretty sure the paintings I put up in my last post showing them in their raw, initial stages, will make the final cut and appear on a wall somewhere in my happy little home.  Molly Cat has not seen her new residence as yet, but I am certain that with three windows and the patio slider, she will have ample view of all the birds that hang out in the trees that are in full view.  Since the couple living below me feed their feathered friends every day, I can imagine that Molly Cat will have a very busy day viewing the spectacle of the flock in a feeding frenzy.  I am also told that there is a cheeky little squirrel who makes a regular appearance.  This little fellow is so cheeky that he bit the kind man's finger as he was offering food to the little devil.  Joe is fine, his finger is healing, but I have not dared to ask if his furry friend is welcome to visit any more.

I will keep you posted on new paintings as they come to be.  The friends helping me move may be aghast at the quantity of paintings to take down two floors.  But, then again, they know that I want to be prepared and have a quantity of paintings to choose from when I make the final cut as to which one will be displayed.  At least with the floating shelves, I will not be making countless holes to test out where the art work will make the most impact.  Once I have the new studio room in working order, I will post some pictures of it so you can see where the majority of my day is spent.  I think I have even more reason to paint now.  With the dedicated space, painting, collaging and dreaming will provide even more pleasure than they already do for me. 

I know my mind is racing faster than my fingers can type or get to my notebook to jot down notes.  This is evidenced by the fact that on a race through the shops this morning before meeting with my lawyer, I neglected to pick up batteries for my camera.  So, next trip out, tomorrow I hope, I will pick up the batteries so I can take pictures and show you what I am currently working on.  Now making that notation and placing the notebook in my shopping bag.

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Art as a form of therapy

It is another Sunday morning, and very early as I write this.  I have been painting for several hours and lost track of the time once again.  This happens every time I pick up a paint brush.  I might only think that I will paint for two hours, but when I look up at the clock, I find that the two hours has been expanded somewhat.  That is generally not a bad occurrence in my life.  My days are pretty flexible and as long as Molly is happily snoozing at my feet whilst I paint, everything seems to be well in our little world.

Art is a way of losing myself when I need to distract myself about something that has caused me some concern or worse.  When I paint, my mind is free of worries and sees only colours, textures, contrasts and the cup of tea just to the right of my water jars.  That can be dangerous and more than once I have found myself swishing a brush in my tea.  Luckily, I notice this and dispose of that cuppa and make another pot to keep my energy flowing.  I am fortunate in that I am able to dispense with the woes of everyday life and put them on hold during a tryst with my paints.  Admittedly, there are some days when I am not quite able to put all problems on hold and head straight for a canvas.  Those days come and have to be dealt with.  Generally, I like to mull over a situation before making a final decision.  Again some paint therapy comes to my aid.

There are times when I am painting that I am able to mull over a problem whilst painting.  I can debate different sides of the issue as well as deciding whether to use cobalt blue or a blue violet.  This is multi tasking at its finest.  The motion of moving the brush over the canvas is soothing to me.  This helps keep me calm whilst dealing with something that might have my emotions running overtime.  I take out my frustrations on the canvas, splashing colours without worrying about the end result.  I only wish that splashing my emotions in the same way would help solve whatever problem has put me in such a state of frenzy, but although painting does not solve the problem, it often leads me through the process of thinking it through from different points of view.  With this added perspective, I can often resolve the problem or come to a decision as how I should proceed, what steps to start off with and how to follow up depending on what scenario plays out.

I have read that some therapists use art therapy in their practice.  But they are looking at what their patient is actually putting down on the canvas or paper.  This may very well clue them in on what the underlying problem might be, but I would hope that they ask their patient what they were thinking as they were completing their piece of art.  Did the patient know ahead of time that their painting was going to be analysed?  If so, I wonder how many patients edited what they put down on the canvas rather than go about painting whatever came to their mind or actually depicting the scenario that troubles them.  It has to be difficult for the therapist to get a grip on wherein lies the problem from a canvas that is dripping vast quantities of lemon yellow, forest green and bleached titanium.  I know that I could not hazard a guess as to what the artist was concerned about by looking at these colours tossed about in an abstract fashion.  More importantly, I do not see how a therapist could make any conclusions on watching while the painting was being done or by looking at the colours chosen to make this abstract.  Only the artist/patient might have a clue what it all means or what it does not mean.  In this case was art therapy a valid form of treatment or was it a wasted session? 

For me, art is always a therapy, in a way, a form of meditation.  Nothing else exists outside the visual field of where I am working.  I always have the radio playing when painting, usually light classical and progressing to some middle of the road rock and then on to a few hours of jazz if I am painting during the evening.  I know when it gets to the point that the music is irritating me to the point of distraction that it is time to put the paints away and head off to bed.  Please do not worry!  Molly is not neglected and sitting forlornly watching me paint.  I do take breaks and play chase with her, encourage her to run after her stuffed toy or on  occasion whilst putting the garbage down the chute, I let the wee feline run freely up and down the corridor to stretch her legs and use up some of that energy.  Molly is the love of my life and I would never see her lack for attention or any of the necessities of life.  Our day ends in the same way every night.  We have our little routine of having a little treat, pulling down the covers on our bed and once I have crawled in and gotten myself comfortable, Molly joins me and curls up in my lap.  We fall asleep together and wake up in pretty much the same positions.  We are creatures of habit. 

Going back to my version of art therapy.  I have to tell you that it is as good as if not better than spilling my thoughts out to a doctor who really does not know how to respond to what I tell him.  Some weeks my life can play out like a soap opera with pipes bursting, rodents scampering and a Lebanese mama pounding on my door.  She could not understand why the laundry machine would not work.  The ones we use are a newer version and instead of taking coins to run them, you use a card very much like the gift cards you purchase.  Their is a certain amount of money on the card and the cost to run the washer or dryer is debited from the balance on your card when you insert it in the machine.  Mama does not understand English and I tried my best to pantomime what her problem was.  I am not sure that she understood me and I am pretty certain that she rang up her son to question him about the problem.  At any rate, it seems to be resolved for now. 

But, this is a new week and I am certain that with it will come some new problems, maybe a bit of good news here and there, but I can guarantee that it will include a lot of art.  It might not be the therapy type, but then again, all art is therapy for me.  It makes me feel good and I am always happy when I have a paint brush in my hand.  I have to wonder if everyone made time for a hobby of their choice, something that they have always wanted to make time for and work on, if we might have a happier society in general.  I will toss that thought out there and maybe we can get a discussion started on the merits of hobbies or crafts.  How do you feel when you work on your embroidery, stained glass pieces or sewing?  Does working on your favoured activity give you comfort?  Do you feel less stressed at the end of your session?  What is it about working on your hobby do you enjoy the most - is it the time to spend alone with your thoughts, is it the anticipation of the end result or do you get together with others with the same interest and make it into a social evening?  I would love to hear your thoughts on all this!

I am putting up four incomplete paintings that got started this week.  As you can see there are two sets being done.  One set is two paintings of orchids that will be potted up the next time you see them.  The other set will be more in the genre of folk art with lilies to the sides of the canvas and I have not quite committed myself as to what else is going to appear on the canvas.  Hopefully most of these will be done by Thursday!  I have a number of appointments this week that cannot be delayed, in fact, the more quickly I get to them, the sooner I will have some good news to share with you.  But all in good time.  For now, I am just happy that today is Sunday, there is nothing requiring my attention other than some dishes in the sink.  That means Molly and I can play some more little games to use up some energy and then, with a happily tired kitten at my feet, I can again pull out the paints and work away until I become aware of either a hungry tummy or some extremely tired eyes.  And so it goes, another typical day in my week.

I hope your week is full of all you are hoping for and that Cupid spreads a little love for everyone to indulge in and enjoy.  You never know, that artist buying some paint in the next aisle in your art shop just might be someone to chat with about the quality of one brand of paint over another.  I am just saying that while it is good to focus on the task at hand, do not be so intent on what you are doing that you miss out on an opportunity to make a new friend.  Maybe there will not be any romance, but what more could you ask for than another friend who shares your passion for art or whatever craft you practise.  I hear there is often some pretty neat people in the candle supply aisle.  Might be worth a jaunt over there whilst you are out and about.  ;)

Have a great week!  And, Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

Monday, February 7, 2011

Size does matter in most cases!

Wow, I bet a few people choked back a laugh when they read that title!  I am talking about the size of art work though, not the size of um, well [blush], something else that you might have had in mind.  Yes, the size of the piece of art work that I am working on does make a difference in the way that I approach it and the time it takes to prepare and execute the painting, collage or any piece that I am working on at any given time.

Last week, I did up five collages in two sessions that were carried out over two consecutive afternoons.  I was feeling pretty good both days and felt able to stay with my collage work and keep my focus.  I had not expected ahead of time that I would be working in that medium and so when I was looking at my art supplies for inspiration, it was my supply of Japanese paper that caught my eye and pulled me in the direction of doing a collage.  Looking through my supply of paper, there were a few particular pieces of paper that kept reaching out to me.  That may sound foolish to others, but other artists who work on collages will agree that at moments, it will be certain  pieces of paper, certain colours, certain patterns that capture their eyes and their heart.  These pieces of paper may be very small or very large, it does not really matter, the point is that there is something in them that demands your attention and you just have to start working with them, to use them in some type of art piece.  That is the way it is with me.  I will not rest, at least not easily until I have done some work using these pieces. 

When I did those collages, there were two sizes, three were 12 inches by 11 inches, and two were 7 inches square.  As you would think, the two smaller pieces took significantly less time to make.  But in retrospect, the five pieces did not take as long as I thought they might have.  I was completely oblivious to time as I worked away at pulling the pieces together, finding the appropriate stamps to use, doing test stampings to make the decision as to what colour of ink to use.  Once I had all the pieces selected and knew what I was going to use and the colour palette, I could start the actual cutting and gluing.  It was the preparation to do the work that used up a lot of time, more so than the actual execution of work.  That being said, time flew by and I was amazed at the time on the clock when I finished.  But, in hindsight, I completed five pieces of art in a not too significant allotment of time.  At least for me, using two afternoons to work on these pieces was not unusual.  I will often work away, generally taking a bit of a break to make more tea every couple of hours, and use up the later part of an afternoon right through the evening until it is quite late.  Many times, it will be long after midnight when I decide to give it a rest and call it a night.  I might not be finished with the piece that I am working on, but with the collages, I was done after two average sessions.  I was not tired beyond belief; I was feeling satisfied, content with what I had accomplished in those periods of time.

I am putting up a picture of a collage that I started over a year ago and I do not feel that it is quite finished.  What you see was done in an afternoon, using about three or four hours.  While I like what I see, am happy with the colours and design, I still feel that there is something missing.  I have the piece set out where I can see it every day.  I move it around from one room to another so that I see it in different settings and in different lighting.  I know that there is something lacking, but I just am not able to put my finger on what that something is, whether it is a texture, a colour or a particular image.  I will keep looking at this piece wondering what I need to do with it until I get that flash of inspiration that sends me rummaging through my supplies looking for that element and finish off a piece that I started with so much enthusiasm, believing that I knew exactly what the finished product would be.  This is not a large piece.  The canvas background is only 10 inches square.  One would think that such a small piece would not take any great length of time, but it has taken a lot of time and despite my best intentions, is still a work in progress.  I am hoping to put those last finishing touches to it in the next few months.

What you will see at present is that I coloured the background of the canvas with a peach coloured chalk which was rubbed onto the surface and then buffed until most of the colour was taken off leaving the colour much more muted.  I then glued on an ivory coloured paper with a gold metallic pattern, the piece of paper being about 8 inches square.  At this point, rummaging through my treasured paper stash, I found the perfect piece of ivory paper with a butterfly pattern on it.  This was glued on the collage on a diagonal so as to maximize the amount of pattern showing from the previous piece of paper.  I then cut strips of a cinnamon coloured 1/4 inch ribbon to surround the perimeter of both pieces of paper.  This strong coloured ribbon seems to set off each piece of paper, making them float on the peach background.  I then glued on the faux Asian coins at the corners of the papers, using two sizes of coins for more contrast.  My final embellishment was to add two small strips of Japanese paper, one to the top and one to the bottom of the gold on ivory paper.  I suspect that this is what has stalled the process.  The addition of this paper brought in more colours, which although they tie in with what had already been glued down, they add more colour than I had thought would be in the final piece.  Here is where I learned to be very sure and pick out all the papers that I plan to use and lay them down to see how all the colours and patterns look together before gluing them into their final position.  I could try to pull these two strips of paper away, but that would damage the peach canvas and to try to facilitate a repair that would not catch one's attention would be next to impossible.

Now, as a contrast in size and time, I have put up a picture of a painting that I completed in one evening. Saturday evening to be exact.  I have been longing to use one of my 24 inch square canvases since they arrived about a month ago.  Well, famous for my courage, I was determined that Saturday night would be the night to experiment with one and I had a wonderful time working on it.  Despite my conscious decision to not paint too many florals, I thought that a large poppy-like flower would be just the subject to start off my attempts to transition to a larger canvas.  In fact, I hope to do two more canvases using a floral theme to complement the poppy painting.  Now, a canvas this size is something to wrestle with for a not so tall artist using their dining table as their work surface.  I find that I do not like to work using an easel for the most part.  I much prefer to lay the canvas flat on my table or to prop it up a a very minor angle to work most efficiently.  This canvas completely covered my table.  Famous for my courage, I continued setting out my paints on my palette which was then set on a side table along with my jars of water and selection of brushes much the way a surgeon would lay out their implements on a surgical table.  I started by working on the poppy gradually building up the intensity of the quinacridone magenta centered by a patch of deep violet in the center.  Then, I was on to working on the background.  Using bleached titanium and Naples yellow, I dabbed the colours throughout the background and on all four sides of the canvas.  I like the way that the poppy is offset by the textured background.  To me, the way that the colour went down in the background is reminiscent of an old cement wall, perhaps in an old village in France or Italy.  The colours are warm and inviting and although the poppy is bright in its colour, it does not hit you in the face with its brilliance.  At least, this is the way that I see it but I might be a little off kilter here.  The magenta is by no means an insignificant colour, especially since it covers so much of the canvas.  However, the background colours are quite noticeable as well and I feel that they help to mute the poppy colour to an acceptable level of intensity that does not overwhelm the viewer.

I thought that this canvas would take a appreciable amount of time to complete.  So, it was to my surprise that I had it completed within a four hour time span.  That is a fair amount of time and I am quite certain that a more experienced painter would have taken even less time to paint such a simple subject.  But, for me, I was quite pleased with the expenditure of time and the execution of labour to produce the finished piece.  It is complete to my way of thinking as I wanted the painting to be simple and not over done.  I have accomplished what I set out to do and am pleased with the result.  I hope that the next two experiments of this size using similar subjects will produce a trio of paintings to put up in my front room where they will add a fair dash of colour against a solid background of my beloved blue green walls.  However, I must confess that there may be a change in the wall colour in the near future, but that is a tale for another day and once I have finalized my decision.

So, we have three different sessions producing very different results.  Five collages being done in two sittings means that those pieces really did not take that much time to complete.  The largest pieces were only 12 inches by 11 inches.  It was the painting of these three backgrounds along with the drying time that took up the most time.  At one time, I truly felt that to complete any piece of art that was almost a square foot in size would take a fair amount of time.  I now realize how small that size is compared to a monster canvas (or at least it was for me) that was 24 inches square.  That monster did take more time to complete, but not as much time as I thought that it would have taken me.  I do not like to rush through the process of creating something.  I like to take my time to think about what I am doing and I will not rush when I am in actual painting mode.  It just does not seem right to rush at something that I enjoy and so I could rightly be accused of prolonging the process because it is so enjoyable.  That being said, I will not say that I was dismayed at the collage work being completed in the length of time that it took.  I was eager to see the completed work and I think that spurred me on to get on with it and keep working until every last bit was completed to my satisfaction.

The verdict - yes, size does matter to the artist.  A larger piece of art work will take more time in most cases, but when you are enjoying what you are doing, the length of time to produce a work will not matter.  As long as you enjoy the process and are happy with the end result, the expenditure of time is not something to worry about.  You do what you have to do and take the amount of time necessary to get a particular result and life moves on.  For me it generally moves slowly, deliberately, but it does move on from the completion of one piece to the beginning of another and so on.  As long as I have something to work on, beginnings and endings really do not matter.  What does matter is that I am enjoying myself and feel that my time is well spent.  That is the way my journey plays out.  I am never at a loss for something to do, but I never feel pressured to move on to another juncture before I feel the need.  My journey is slow, with measured steps, but it does move me forward because I learn something with every piece that I work on.  As long as you are in the process of learning, you really cannot complain.

I would love to hear what you think about the amount of time it takes to complete different sizes of art work.  Do you take longer on the larger pieces because of the size, the amount of concentration it takes to paint such a large piece or because you are justifying each stroke of the brush against the canvas?  Do you try to be economical on what you are working because of the expense of large canvases and the cost of using significantly more paint on them?  Does a collage take you less or more time than a comparable sized painting?  All questions to ponder before you start your next project.  One thing I will point out about working on larger canvases is that you do want to be sure about the amount of paint you will be using for the most important parts.  Nothing is more frustrating than to run out of the paint you are using for the main subject and then when you rush to your favourite art supply store and find out that they are out of stock on that particular colour.  I strongly suggest that when you find a sale on your favourite paints that you stock up on an extra tube or two of the colours that you use the most.  I guarantee you that I will be buying an extra tube or two of Naples yellow the next time that I am out shopping.  I can guarantee that you will be seeing that colour in more than a few painting over the next few months!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A twist in the road leads to a new adventure

It is Thursday, a good day in the week.  Close enough to the weekend to spur on optimism, yet still enough time to finish off goals set for completion by end of the day on Friday.  Thursday is one of my favourite days.  I have enough time after my post on Sunday to really dig into some art and hopefully come up with something interesting to show to you on Thursday.  This has been a good week for art.  When I sat down to work, I could actually focus on just what I was doing and work to completion on one piece at a time for the most part.

I had a craving to do something other than painting this week.  Not that I am bored with painting.  Truthfully, I could paint for hours every day and never get tired of it.  But, I need to challenge myself to shake things up a bit and try to do something different.  I have a stash of lovely Japanese paper that I keep hidden away as if it were some special treasure.  To me, it is a treasure trove when I open the box holding all sizes of wonderful paper, rich in colour saturation and patterns that beg to be used in something eye catching.  I ration my use of this paper as it is not inexpensive and I only buy some once or twice a year.  Every scrap is used, no bits are tossed into the bin.  Little scraps often decorate cards or journal pages.  Or, I might glue a little scrap in my notebook that I carry with me in case I run into some ribbon or more paper that might coordinate nicely with the scrap.  Always on the lookout for any materials that might be worked into an art piece, I carefully peruse the shelves at craft shops, rubber/clear stamp supply shops or shops that carry only the finest papers available.  These shops are hazardous to my budget!

So, this week, I felt inclined to dig into the box of lovely paper to see if anything called out to me.  For some reason, I felt that black needed to be a grounding colour for the work that I wanted to do.  Needing a good piece of paper to layer the entire composition on, I cut some watercolour paper to a manageable size and using a piece of plastic mesh from a fruit crate, I dabbed on various colours- Naples yellow, Bright magenta, Hooker green.  While some of the ivory paper is still visible, the majority of it has been covered with splashes, dabs and swooshes of these three colours.  While adding colour to the paper, it still appears muted and not inclined to compete with the Japanese papers.

I then added a layer of Japanese paper to the three larger art pieces.  Feeling that this needed a little something to set it off, I placed a border of 1/4 inch beige ribbon around the patterned paper.  Into the center of this, I laid down a piece of black card stock and then stamped various images on the pieces using a gold ink pad.  I looked at the three large art works and felt that something was needed.  And, digging through another box of embellishments, I found an envelope holding different sizes of faux Asian coins.  One side of the coin has two dragons on it while the other side has four kanji symbols equally spaced around the coin.  There is a center cut out in the shape of a square on the coins.  One of these at each corner of the ribbon was just the right touch to finish off these pieces.

I do not like to leave small pieces of paper to add to my ever growing box of bits and pieces.  Looking at what was scattered on my work table, I felt that there were enough scraps to make two more smaller compositions.  This time, I used black card stock as the base for the layers and added another patterned piece of Japanese paper.  On top of this, another piece of black card stock was added and then stamped on using other stamps from my collection, but continued with the gold ink for the actual stamping.  In order to keep some consistency to the art work, I again used the border of 1/4 inch ribbon with the accents of the faux coins.  These two smaller pieces are about 7" squares and complement the size and colours of the three larger pieces.

For some reason, these five pieces went together easily for me.  I often have to think and rethink about what papers to use, if embellishments are needed or will make the final piece look too busy and so on.  This time, I seemed to just gravitate to the papers I needed, pulled out the embellishments without anguishing over my decision and worked with an idea of how I wanted the end result to turn out.  In terms of time spent making these, the actual work time would be about 8 hours.  I had to leave the three pieces of watercolour paper to dry once I had splashed the colour on them so that was done one afternoon and the actual layouts put together another afternoon. 

I like these pieces, but I cannot really say what it is that I like other than the combination of elements just seems to work.  The colours are bright, brighter than what I generally use in my collage work, but I can live with those colours.  I think that the use of the black card stock grounds the brightness and keeps it from taking over.  To my way of thinking, the five pieces will need to be hung as a grouping once they have been framed.  I would like to see very simple frames with thin black wood or plastic around the edge so not to take away from the collages at all.   I can picture these on a wall in a hallway or entry way, in a straight line.  But, I would like to play around with them and see if I can find another way to display them so that they do not take up as much precious wall space which is at a premium at this time.  Once they reach their final line up, I will take a group photograph so that you can see how they ended up.  Or, maybe they will end up living with someone else.  I just never know how long one of my pieces is destined to live with me or to go to another good home, somewhere that they will be enjoyed each and every time they are viewed.

Take a good look at these and let me know your thoughts on the composition and colours used.  Do they look finished or is there something that you think could be added to them?  I am always interested in what others think about the finished piece.  This often provides a jump off point for me when I start another piece as I keep the comments in mind and try out suggestions that have been made to see if the ideas work for me.  Sometimes I can work with the comments to come up with another view of the original piece, but other times, I just do not seem to be able to put the comments into the context of the original works and come up with an alternate view.  That is the beauty of art, you make something and there really is no right or wrong, but there is often another route in the journey that could lead to a pretty amazing alternate version. 

The journey never ends.  Once you have taken that first step, you have to keep on moving.  Every bend in the road leads to a new challenge.  I love these challenges!  This is what makes me want to get up each morning and start to work on a new piece or to continue on with a piece already started, but see what changes evolve on that particular day.  What is it that draws you to the art table?  Is there something that you just have to work on each day or for a set period of time each week?  I would love to hear what you are working on and where your journey is taking you!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac