Friday, July 31, 2015

The Commission Process Step 6- Balancing, Fine Tuning: Shirley and Roger

So I was really hoping that I could show you the finished piece today, but that's not going to happen.  I am SO close, but I hate to release something before it feels perfect- especially a commission!   The change of pace in working really hit home today. I was at the studio for seven hours, and yes I worked on a couple of other pieces- but not for any great length of time. But when I look at what I did that day- it does not seem to add up to much.  Find tuning, adding, subtracting, guessing, second-guessing, hesitating- and then acting. I know that these are not nearly as exciting as the earlier stages, but I am trying to be accurate and truthful about my process. And the truth is there are times during the process that that are just slow and tedious. But the reward is a piece with many layers of thought and detail and delicious visual surprises! At least that is the goal.

Here are some highlights of what happened this week:

This step scared the hell out of me. It's all about balance, and I felt it was getting too tight, and wanted some loser and lighter areas. So to counteract all the careful contemplation I did earlier this week, I poured and splashed wax on these pieces. I did "warm up" with smaller works, which were much easier. Once again, larger pieces proved to be a wee bit more difficult because wax cools it drips as you're trying to get it to the area you were shooting for across a large surface.

Next day- came back and stared it down. 

Realized I needed to carve away some areas, but wanted others to blend and feather a bit. So after carving some areas and applying pastel to others- it was time for the torch!! I got my mojo going by warming up on smaller ones again, and liked what was happening. I was just about to torch the delicate tricky parts for the commission, and thought about changing the soundtrack, but once again the music gods intervened to help reassure me on my path J. The song “Dance along the Edge” by Concrete Blonde came on, and I thought- that's exactly what I am doing right now! Gonna let it play. 

And it was the perfect soundtrack. Fire can be your friend or your enemy as we all know, and it’s a very delicate balance to harness it and get it to work with you to get just the right amount of fire to do what you visualize in your head. But I love what I am seeing. I can only hope that Shirley end Roger will as well.


Next day- more torch work- fire gods weren’t with me, left it alone, and concentrated on texture.  Applied medium to some areas to get some surface texture going- then covered it with oil paint! 

Staining is one of my favorite processes.  Reveals every little edge and nuance of surface- but looks scary at first! Love the result though.


Getting close, but still needs …..? That is my next challenge…

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Commission Process Step 5-Imagery and Details: Shirley and Roger

Some parts of the process are exciting and quick- like the pour. But some are slower, more meticulous and exacting.  This week was one of those times.    I spent several hours two days in a row fine-tuning some areas of the painting, adjusting color, eliminating details I didn't like, accentuating those I did. Once I got it to the point that felt right- I the continued on with the next step- the grasses.

It was important to Shirley that the grasses retain their original “straw” color. I was going to use actual grasses- but during the process of attaching them, their color can become obscured, (or scorched by the torch!).  So based on feedback from Shirley on earlier pieces, I opted instead to silkscreen them on.  


I still wanted to use some actual botanicals in the piece, so I chose leaves in their color scheme, some dollar plants, and Queen Anne’s lace to incorporate.  Once again- I am very slow and deliberate about placement.  Composition – or the arrangement/balance of a piece- is very, very important to me.  I spent a good chunk of an afternoon going through my collection of pressed botanicals to find a good range of size and shape, and then laid them on in various configurations.  When I finally thought that I had a good arrangement- I left. ! Yes, I wanted to wait and see if I felt the same way the next day, looking at it with fresh eyes.  The next morning- I made some small adjustments, but went with the plan. Now to attach in the exact configuration I’d decided on!

I have done this process with with the encaustic wax on a smaller scale, but the larger scale here caused a couple of difficulties.  You must heat up the surface before applying wax, and to do so requires the use of a heat gun or blowtorch- both of which will blow all of my fragile and very light arrangements right off the panel!  I take a picture with my ipad so I can refer back to it- but then I weighted down the ones not being worked on to keep them in place while I heated and applied hot wax to attach the leaves or pods or flowers. It took all afternoon to attach them- but they are exactly where I wanted them :)

In the home stretch now- I hope! I think I am clear about the next step- 
but want to take a break and come back and look and see…
Here it is in its present state hanging on a small piece of studio wall painted in Shirley and Rogers colors....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Commission Process Step 4- Jumping in! Shirley and Roger

So my panel is finally done and I get to start!  I gesso up the sides of  (2) 30x30 panels, say a prayer to the art gods, and dive in!  (I am working on two of the same size simultaneously).

What’s in my head before I start?  Well based on a rough sketch, I have an idea of where I want to put in the grasses and other botanicals, so I need to consider these areas and what colors would show them up best while working.  Light grasses need a darker background so they don't blend in, so using a shade of their green for that part. Queen Anne’s lace needs a contrasting background, and want to use those. Need to balance all these colors out- with a loose hand…

The process:

Post pour: 


Now comes the sitting and contemplating and “simultaneously considering” all the things that have to happen here.  So some lightening up and editing is needed.  I leave everything to dry overnight, adjusting tilt of panel as needed, then take another look the next day.  Using an absorbent gesso, I erase/lighten/remove some areas.

Then- using pan pastels- I introduce the rust/Indian red color subtly to some areas.   

  Next step- grasses….

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Commission Process Step 3-Practicing the Pour....:Shirley and Roger

So while I was patiently waiting for the custom panel to be built  (or maybe not so patiently), I thought I’d start “practicing” for the pour, or the first step after gessoing. I love and hate pours-they can be so fun, freeing, and immediately gratifying once you are done with the mixing and set up. It’s kind of like painting room-many times it takes longer to prepare the room than to actually paint it. This is definitely the case with pours.  They can be really really fun and beautiful with all sorts of different viscosities of paint and pigment branching and flowing into one another, or they can go really really badly, ending up with one big muddy runny mess.   Or you can leave come back the next morning and everything has migrated to a completely different part of the painting than where you put it initially. So pours are exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. It is controlled to a certain extent- and the rest relies on instinct and gravity.  At any rate, the following is a video of me doing a pour.  It was preceded by three prior pours, which were less than stellar. Those could not be used due to the many obscenities uttered in the making :) 

I do want to stress that this is the very first FIRST step of many in the process of making a painting.  The next step requires a lot of sitting and staring, nail biting, fretting, and pacing deciding what to keep, what to delete, and what my next step will be.  That, however, would make less than stellar video, so I’ll just give you the fun part here: