Thursday, June 14, 2018

Getting my Bearings

The problem with stepping out of blogging for a while is it feels impossible to catch up.   I've been on a whirlwind of travel and art classes and my thoughts are swirling.  In brief, I took a beautiful cruise in the Mediterranean with my mom, came home and took a quick trip to California for my niece's graduation, and now I hope not to leave home until next fall!  

One of my big objectives for summer is to try to absorb what I've been learning in Nicholas Wilton's CVP program.  I wasn't able to finish the last three weeks because of travel, but we have access to the material for a whole year, so after I finish the remaining lessons, I think I'll go back slowly and revisit exercises and lectures.  There is such rich material in the course, and so much of it, that I still have quite a few hours of video to finish and a bonus 10 hour documentary of Nick painting one of his large paintings from start to finish.  What a heavenly treat for summer afternoons!

The course was so profound to me, and I want to talk about it, but I still need to do a little digesting.  Nick is so generous with his knowledge, you really do feel like he holds nothing back.  Usually I'm hesitant to share what I've learned in classes, thinking that belongs to the teacher.  At the end of the CVP course Nick said, if this was valuable to you, share what you learned with others!  Who does that???  I've never had a teacher say, "go out and share this information that I make a living on" before.  So as I start to settle back into painting and have time to reflect, I will be talking about the course more.

Right now I want to step back into painting and need to loosen up.  Working in class and trying to balance all the principles Nick was covering, left me painting very self-consciously.  I'm hoping the material will be absorbed soon, and I'll not be thinking so much as I paint.  I decided to return to black and white, as that always feels like a relief from too many color decisions, and paint as freely as possible.  Now I can go into analytic mind and come in and make some corrections, but try not to lose that spontaneity.

Another nice outcome from CVP is I felt encouraged to show some of my work.  I am thrilled that I applied to two juried gallery shows and had work accepted in both.

These two pieces are currently on show at Gallery 114 in the Pearl Dist. in Portland, OR, and up through the end of the month.  1100 NW Glisan St, right across from Dick Blick.  They made a video of the show, you can see here.  

The theme is "Everything is Music".  Music often plays a big role in my painting and can determine the energy of a piece.  These are inspired by songs that make you want to dance.  This first one is called "Every Little Thing's Gonna Be Alright."

 And this one is "Blame It On the Bossa Nova."

This next piece will be in Verum Ultimum's "Living Mark" exhibition.  The show opens June 30 with a reception from 6-8, and runs through August 11th.  I'm planning on being at the reception, so hope you can stop by. 3014 NE Ainsworth, Portland, OR 97211.

 "End of the Day" was inspired by a winter's walk at sunset.  Everything was drab black and gray, then the vibrant colors of the sun poked through.

Friday, May 4, 2018


It was texture week at CVP.  Since we are working on wood panels, there are lots of opportunities for scratching, sanding, gouging and scraping.  I don't know that I'll be doing any of those regularly, but I did fall in love with using a trowel to put on thick, smooth layers of paint.

And I do love the depth you can get with some texturing techniques.  This first piece had sanding and glazing and scratching.  Those opaque white areas were put on with the trowel.

I probably went a little trowel crazy on this one, but I adore those smooth, creamy surfaces, and they are perfect for drawing back into and for revealing bits of color underneath.

I'll be away traveling for a while and won't be posting until the end of the month.  I'm sad I have to miss the last two weeks of CVP, but we have all year to revisit it.  I'll be catching up then and reflecting on what I have learned from the whole thing.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Rest Week

We were given a week off from CVP to rest, catch up, explore, whatever we wanted without any new lessons.  It was a much-needed break from having something new come at you almost every day, as much as I love that abundance.  It was a good week for me to sit and absorb some of the lessons we had been covering, revisit a few things, and mainly think about my direction.

I played with more layers on my larger panels, without giving much thought yet to the principles I need to incorporate.

I continued working on the smaller ones.

Mainly I took some time to think about my own voice and what is important to me.  As much as we are encouraged to work in our own style, it's a little hard to know how to do that from Nick's demos.  His work is so shape heavy, and that forms the basis of his lessons.  It's easier to see his principles at work when you are working with clear shapes, so I've tried to do that in my panels, even though they often don't feel like me.

This week I went through all my Pinterest boards, and my old work, and made notes about those things that resonate most strongly with me.

I do like a fair amount of structure in my work, and it's easier to see the principles of differences and value shifts at work in a more structured piece.

My big challenge now is how to keep that raw energy I love while also working with some underlying structure.  I love the random marks and brushstrokes, but it's easy to muddle up the piece with them.  I think this next piece starts to incorporate both randomness and structure.

So many things to ponder along the way!  And today we add the whole new element of texture to the mix.  I imagine many of my earlier pieces will be due for a total makeover.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Good Days and Bad

One of my favorite parts about Nick Wilton's Creative Visioning Program is we spend lots of time talking about the process and how to create a sustainable art practice.  We have some fantastic coaches who delve into the psychology of art making and address all the ups and downs, the fears and the enthusiasm, the progress and the set-backs.  We are encouraged to journal about what works for us, what we love, what we resist.  And over and over we talk about the good days and the bad ones.  For me, the bad ones occur about every other day, and I'm starting to find ways of accepting that and moving through it.

Nick's whole approach is you bring to the canvas whatever you are dealing with that day, so if you are bored, your paintings are boring.  If you are excited, your paintings are exciting.  The trick is to move on if you are not loving what you are doing.  By having lots of pieces going, there should always be some pieces you are not too attached to, low stakes pieces, that make it easy to go in and make big changes.  The deeper into this program I get, the more I am loving that approach.  It makes it so much easier to get to the studio when I know there will be something there that I enjoy doing.

Right now, I have these low stake pieces on my easel and started making big changes to them.

I have 3 bigger panels with 3 layers of paint troweled on, a very soothing process when nothing else is working.

I have a few pieces I just covered in gloss medium and am debating if I want to call them done or add some glazing to soften them.

And I am trying to rescue a favorite brush I forgot to wash.  Damn!  Again!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Taking It All In

I have turned myself over to the twelve weeks of my Nicholas Wilton Creative Visioning Project class, and now that we are in week 7, I'm wondering how much more I can hold.  My sketchbook is full of notes, ideas, inspirations, practical advice.  I watch the videos of everything from cleaning a paintbrush (who knew you should always dip it in water before you begin painting?) to showing up fully and revealing yourself in your paintings.  I'm obsessed and even lose sleep over it.  Thankfully we get a week long break after next week.

Right now we are in a deep experimental mode.  Here are the boards I posted last week:

And those same boards this week.  Better?  No.  I probably don't even like them as well as last weeks, but we are experimenting, trying to find differences and building up layers for future work.  

 While I've been working on the lessons, I've also been painting in my usual style and seeing how much I've absorbed without giving it a lot of thought.  The lessons we get over and over are about creating high value contrasts, moving the eye, and creating lots of differences.

It's challenging to move back and forth between keeping fresh and spontaneous and being analytical.  There are so many things to keep in balance that I never seem to be fully satisfied.  There's always a bit more tweaking to do.  I'm excited that we move on to glazes and creating depth this week.  O1ne more challenge to add to the equation!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Series in Process

I have a feeling I'm not going to have any finished pieces to show for quite a while.  Part of the process in Nicholas Wilton's Creative Visioning Project is to work on a series of panels for weeks, letting them build up as we learn new material.  I've gotten used to working in series, but Nick has a little different slant on it that I am really enjoying.  He had us start with 3-6 panels.  Being an underachiever, I started 3, but I'm already regretting not having more going and will be starting 3 more.  

When I've done series before, I might start 6 at a time, work on all 6 to get them going, then settle into finishing off one or two at a time.  Nick's approach is to bring up all 6 of them at the same time.  You work on each panel for 10-20 minutes.  As soon as you start feeling stuck or bored, you move on.  He believes you should always be working from a place of joy and enthusiasm.  How wonderful is that?  He says to go in and work on your least favorite board first, since you have nothing to lose on it.  By bringing that up to a higher level, you raise the bar for the other panels and then bring them up too.  I really love his approach of focusing on what you love, what delights you and moving from there.  It makes it so much easier to get to the studio when you know it's focused on fun and staying engaged.

Here is my first pile of starts.

Then another round of layering on top.

We are instructed to keep being aware of those areas that we love, even though there is a good chance that we will be covering them.  We keep letting those things sink in as they determine our interests and our personal style.  Right now I love the mark on the white area in this one.  I'm sure I'll lost it, but can always do it again elsewhere.

We'll start shaping these up with more focus on value and design soon, but always coming back to having a very playful spirit to our approach and a willingness to let go.  In case it isn't obvious, I am loving this program!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Balancing It All

My online class with Nicholas Wilton is so intense that I am actually dreaming about painting revisions in my sleep!  Nick provides many hours of image adjustment videos each week, in which he, or the other coaches, take student paintings and revise them in Photoshop to show how they could work better by applying the principles he's teaching.  Yesterday alone, we covered 150 paintings in a session.  The guy has endless enthusiasm and energy for the course!  It's really a fantastic way to learn since people paint in so many styles from realistic to abstract, and it's fascinating to see how the principles apply to diverse paintings and a great way to drive those principles home.

I find, though, that I don't always agree with changes he makes.  He tends to like things a lot busier than I do, so I'm trying to find a balance of taking those elements he teaches that are very powerful and applying them to my own work.  Right now I feel like I'm plodding along and analyzing every brushstroke.  I know that's necessary to absorb the info. and I'm hoping that eventually it will feel like second nature.

One principle Nick emphasizes is getting the eye to move all through the piece by having lots of high contrast elements in every part of it.  This is a painting I did before thinking about that principle.  It would never pass his test because the lower right corner has very little contrast to draw the eye down there.  But I like it this way.  I'm a big fan of breathing space in painting.

This one, done for class, shows the principles at work more with the eye pulled to every quadrant and side.  I like this approach too, but don't think it's a requirement for all paintings.

Funny he is having us use the Zorn palette (black, white, cadmium red dark, and yellow ochre) for our limited palette.  I never even heard of it before a couple months ago, and here it shows up in two classes.  I do love the range of colors from it!