Twiddle Dee & Twiddle Dum

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So . . . I’ve been working on a new group of paintings, started in the last month or two. Because I had a three month hiatus, didn’t paint at all (rare for me), it feels like I could have a fresh start now, a new view. I’ve been asked a few times if these paintings are different and if so how. I can’t really answer that question. I don’t know. I’m continuing on, hoping that I am progressing, discovering, learning, growing. All of that. But I just don’t know.

I would like them to be more open, to be stronger. But at the same time, they must be subtle and suggestive. Again, I just don’t know if they are changing. Maybe I need an outside eye or probably, just to keep going. From experience, that works best. I have to trust myself and so painting more will tell me what I am doing.

One thing I am discovering is that I am finding the high contrast paintings, ones where the “field” is more muted, a pale color, come together more easily. I feel more “satisfied”. I am struggling mostly with the “beautiful” colors, the blues and the reds. But I keep going and I will get there. I don’t know how, but I will.

Because the high contrast ones are working so well, it makes what I usually do not work, not as satisfactory. It never ends!

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Constructing composition

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Last week when I was walking in the woods with a neighbor and our dogs, I mentioned that I had been awake part of the night planning the exercise I was going to use in my painting class that morning. She wondered what it would be like to be “creative”. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine life otherwise, but just said it’s a twenty-four hour, non-stop way of being; it just is. Keeps me wondering how to approach all kinds of things. In this case, it’s the importance of composition in abstract painting.

A student once asked me what makes a good abstract painting. I had to think about it over the week, then came to the understanding it is how the work is organized, the composition. So I have been teaching a six week workshop on composition and will teach the same material, more or less again in Annapolis Royal in October. This current group is my set of guinea pigs. They actually are enjoying my experiments.

The project I worked with in the class last week revolved around using line to begin and or organize the work. Previously we had, among other things, used shapes. The challenge for me, as always, is how to communicate about a non-verbal process and awaken ideas in the students that they might not have had otherwise. Yes, creativity. It’s fascinating to me, developing ways to express ideas. Even on the way to the class I change the project, expand, revise it. In the end, the exercise was successful for everyone. And I slept well that night!

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Suppose We Do

The last exhibit I had at the Orange Gallery, I called Coincidentally. The current one is Suppose We Do. These phrases are born from the way I work. Not planned, just accidents, possibilities, suggestions, choices. If I did know what I was going to do, how the painting would become, it would lose what makes it vital. There is no certainty, just the search.

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At the Orange Gallery in Ottawa

Before the crowd arrived.

 

Just got back from an awesome trip to Ottawa. Well, actually I came back a week ago but it has taken a week for me to arrive in full emotionally.

I have an exhibit up at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa. If you are in the area, it will be there until April 7. I went for the opening reception and gave a talk the following Saturday. The show looks very good and was well received. Ingrid Hollander, the gallery owner, has a wonderful way of displaying the work, encouraging the paintings to have conversations amongst themselves. Matching them in select groups. Then I come away seeing them differently as well.

It always helps to see the work on clean white walls, outside my dirty studio. I have tunnel vision when I am working, see only what is in front of me. But still, the paintings look so different in a clean space. Sometimes when I think I have finished a good piece, I take the work upstairs, put it on the wall in my living room. That’s when I can really see if it needs more, or possibly less. Even putting a painting on a different wall to work on it in my studio makes it look different. And I do know the changing light over a day changes how the painting looks. Just like people, paintings change by how and where you look.

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Handsome

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At ten months, Romeo is a beauty. My opinion!

 

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Beauty

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One of my constant obsessions has been thinking about what makes something beautiful. People tell me my dog is beautiful. He’s just a puppy still, but he magnetizes other beings, all ages, sizes, species. He has a dignity in how he holds himself. That is, when he isn’t acting like a goofy nine-month old puppy. He has a basically lovely personality and that makes him beautiful. Or maybe it’s that he is well proportioned, has beautiful hair, sweet eyes, etc. I don’t really know, but it all adds up to a beautiful dog.

And then there is handsome. Maybe he is handsome. Handsome is not beautiful. It is more sturdy. A woman can be handsome but can a man be beautiful? Baryshnikov dancing is beautiful. Grace and strength.

I think my house is beautiful. But a few people, ones who prefer a more traditional style, find it odd. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. My mother always said “Beauty is as beauty does” but when I told her she was beautiful, she said I was only saying that because I wanted something from her. Not very beautiful.

I’ve had students from all over the world, from many different cultures. Most often, the artwork reflects their culture. African students, unaware of what they were doing, drawing figures that look like the sculptures I’ve seen; Native Americans painting in the traditional Native style, Middle Eastern students drawing with the measured visual depth of their culture. In each case, working unintentionally within their own cultural vision. I have a Western aesthetic, perceive as I have been trained from birth. Who is to say what is beautiful.

Pretty is not beautiful. Pretty is nice, good. I think beauty is beyond words, thoughts. Beauty. I used to want beauty to have some abstract, universal continuity, be appreciated by everyone, everywhere. A gold standard for beauty. Plato’s Absolute Beauty. Of course, that thought just leads to disappointment. Still I have yet to find someone who doesn’t admire a beautiful sunrise. Maybe a sunrise is less personal than appreciating a painting. So many people feel they have to know something to allow a painting to talk to them. A beautiful painting just is.

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Under the bed

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Impossible Possibilities, no.9; 42″ x 42″

Recently I was visiting a friend who has a couple of my paintings in his living room. As we sat talking, I realized one of the pieces, although created a couple of years ago, was exactly what I am trying to achieve in my work now.

When he chose this painting, I wasn’t sure it was finished but I also wasn’t sure there was anything else I could do to it. As I sat looking at it that day, I realized it was already ahead of where I was comfortable at the time. I could have done that painting today and been very happy with it.

It never ceases to amaze me how the realization and understanding often comes long after the event. I’ve often told students to put it under their bed for a few months, not look at it. Too bad I can’t follow my own advice, do that with paintings.

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