Analog: a new series emerging

“Analog #1,” oil on canvas, 30” x 30”, ©2018 Julia Rymer

“Analog #1,” oil on canvas, 30” x 30”, ©2018 Julia Rymer

Painting is slow. It requires time, and attention, and engagement. Painting is without algorithm or artificial intelligence; rather, it is the most human of intelligence. It is the oldest intelligence, begat from the hands of ancient peoples, tens of thousands of years ago, on cave walls.

There is something pure about paint on a surface, something primal that speaks to this origin of the first homo sapiens and Neanderthals painting with earth pigments and animal fat in hidden passages. It is this ancient quality, and its slowness, that attracts me to painting. The images I create are not a far cry from those ancient paintings. Their work was a response to the world they lived in; so is mine.

Analog, the series, emerged out of a need to slow down, to simply work and be, like the ancient paintings. Contemporary life is fast, and electric, and I often feel as if I have been propelled down a highway at 70 miles an hour because I have. I am the mother of two young children, and I work as an artist, art educator and entrepreneur. This is the reality of my life, and it does not filter into my work so much as marinate me in it. After years of working intensely, I recently got to a breaking point—I couldn’t make art that was agonizingly hard anymore. I needed time to think about the painting, to love the creation of the work, and embrace it where it is. I needed to eschew content and subject matter and go back to the essentials of creating: to simply make colorful, soft, emotive abstract paintings that reflect the wonder I experience as a human being and in nature.

“Analog #2,” oil on canvas, 30” x 30”, ©2018 Julia Rymer

“Analog #2,” oil on canvas, 30” x 30”, ©2018 Julia Rymer

This body of work comes out of considering the place of art and specifically, painting: to be analog, in a digital world. “Analog” in this sense refers to a return to older technology. Do not forget that there was a time when a paintbrush was technology. It holds the same power now; it simply requires a different kind of interaction with the viewer. It holds true in much the same way that a record requires more physical engagement: the listener cannot simply tell an AI to play a song, they must find the record, place it on the turntable, gently lay the needle on the record, and then, after one side has played, do it again for the other side. The act of listening is slower, requiring effort. Such is the act of looking at painting. You can look at a painting in passing, but you won’t get much from it. That’s why staring at artwork on Instagram can feel empty in a way that going to a museum, gallery or artist’s studio does not. For the latter, effort is required, making the experience more meaningful.  

The same could be said for the act of painting. Taking time with the paint, the shapes, the color relationships, the structure of the work, makes the painting feel more meaningful and authentic. It is slower and takes more attention for me, because I am not an automaton pumping out identical paintings. Each piece is a journey, a discovery, an iteration on a theme. I think of my work as research; as Josef Albers spoke of his work, “All my painting is actually study. The longer I do it, the more and more it is endless.”

“Blueness,” oil on canvas, 36” x 36”, ©2019 Julia Rymer

“Blueness,” oil on canvas, 36” x 36”, ©2019 Julia Rymer

My work is a reflection of all that I am, all that nature is, and all the wonder that exists in our universe. But, I boil it all down to an essence of mark and form and color, leaving only trace references to nature. Everything is abstract. That is the point.

This concept is big and broad and transcendent (a word the art critic Jerry Saltz said specifically not to use when describing one’s work) but that is the authentic truth of my work. I’m tired of apologizing for it. Make of it all what you will, as they say. 

We live in an overwhelming, over-connected culture and react to it daily, hourly, in minute increments, constantly. Everything is curated for us, and demands our attention, and we have no time or place to just be. Our newsfeeds never reach the end, as there is no end to the scroll.  

This body of work has led me to question the conventional wisdom of the current trajectory of art. I am asking if all art that is made should or must be reflective of contemporary society. In other words, must art replicate the digital overload we already experience on a constant basis? Instead, because our world is connected and fast, could art possibly exist in contrast of that experience? What if art was a break from that speed and intensity of our everyday, over-connected lives? What if art gave you the same sense of peace as you feel after a yoga class or meditating or walking in the woods? What if art was a place to diffuse, rather than jar your senses? What if art embraced you as you are? What if art was softly feminine, unapologetically?

These are the many questions I now ask as an artist existing today. This body of work comes from my own needs as a human. My work is contemporary, even if it uses slow technology, even if it is analog in a digital world. They harken back to a primal, rooted part of we human animals, a part that is still there, but buried by evolution and speed and technology. They transcend time and space, and center themselves in the human essence of existence: slow, deliberate, and real.

 

Story of a Commission

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by a client in California to create a large oil painting. It was a piece in reference to one I had completed earlier that year. Here is the process from start to finish. 

If you are interested in commissioning a custom work from me, please contact me here and give me some details on your project. 

Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Before the start of a project, I ask the client a series of questions about their project. Specifically, I ask for color palettes and compositions they would like to see, plus size of the work. This client wanted a piece with lots of light blues, pale teals, and greens, with accents of yellow and orange. This project was based off of a previous painting I had done that they enjoyed, so I had a good jumping off point. I cannot create the same thing twice, but can work "in the style" of an older work.

The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

This piece took about 4 weeks to complete, with another 2 weeks needed for the oil paint to dry completely. Project completion varies by size and materials used.

Installed in the client's home.

Installed in the client's home.

It was a joy to complete this special piece for the client, and I received a message after installation of the work that warmed my heart:

Your beautiful piece was installed yesterday, and we are all just crazy about it. The kitchen truly is the center of our home, and we spend hours here every day. It’s such a treat to have this special piece in our home. Thank you again for sharing your talent with us!

I look forward to future custom projects! Let me know if I can complete one for you. :)

Every painting is a journey.

One of the most common questions I am asked as an artist is how long it takes to complete a painting. This question does not surprise me. The process of making art is foreign to many. And abstract art, despite existing in the cultural lexicon since at least the late 19th century, remains mysterious in its meaning or worth, leading to the dreaded declaration, "My kid could do that."

It's true. Kids make great art. But, I'm going to show you how I make art.

I don't know how a work starts. Something strikes me- a word, a color, an image from nature, a shape I feel like making, a composition that has been flashing behind my eyes as I drift to sleep- that incites a need to create. I head to the studio. I prep the canvas or paper, lay it out on table or easel. I mix up my color, dip my brush, and I start. Immediately I react to what I just did, adding new color, a charcoal or graphite mark, or a shape, repeating the process until I built up to a composition that feels like it has balance.

The process can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. I never really know. Sometimes I sit with a piece for months, photograph it, market it, and then a few months later, paint over it.

This is a painting I began months ago. I painted it at the same time as two other pieces, and had some extra paint to use up from those paintings, so I quickly did began this one. Then it sat in my studio until two days ago, when I finally decided that it wasn't finished.

I initially liked how fresh it felt, and the lightness of the marks. I love simple paintings. But this one didn't last as a design. It needed more. Here is the story of where it went from there.

 

At first, I added some drawn charcoal lines and shapes, and started painting in more colors: turquoise, green, navy blue, gray. I turned the piece upside down to take a look at how the design drew the eye through it, and how "balanced" it seemed (did the parts on one section relate to parts on another section). Did the parts relate to the whole? Did some stick out, or become distracting? I decided to keep going.

I actually forgot to photograph the step in between these two steps, but no matter: it was terrible. WAY too much pink. I had nicknamed the painting "Miami." Yikes. Here's where I went from there, subduing the warm colors, and building up the surface more.

More blues, more grays, more greens, more layers. I turned the piece around again, and covered up quite a bit of the underpainting with cool colors. Shapes begin to connect through the middle, creating relationships in the composition, moving the eye around the piece like guideposts or bridges, from one section to the next.

I felt like the piece was at a stopping point, or almost. I just needed one more thing...

BitsandPinks-Progress3.jpg

More blue.

Where will it go from here? I'm not sure. I'm sitting with it for awhile longer...

What do you think?

Harnessing Chaos

AtWork-1 Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

For the past month or so, I have been wrestling with a painting. I tried all my usual tricks- sneaking up on it with white paint to "cover up" the parts that were not working, simplifying it, making it more colorful, making it more complex- none of which worked. I ended up with a bit of a mess.

OK, it was down right ugly.

The colors were, frankly, atrocious: acid yellow with earthy teal green, pale pink, weird beige (is beige ever weird? Well, I figured that one out!) and baby boy blue. Their dissonance haunted me for days. In yoga class I would find solutions to the problem, only to not have time to act on them. Finally, this past weekend, I attacked the piece. I knew it needed red, but not just any red: CORAL. That almost-orange-and-almost-salmon color that is gracing all the home decor blogs and catalogs this season.

Oddball

 

So there I was, painting some circles on this piece, with each one thinking, oh, crap, there's another thing I'll have to fix.

But I kept going. Trying to relate the halves of the work, add points of connection, reference and movement, and balance the color scheme so it stayed weird, but not unnervingly so.

This painting is really about trying to find structure in chaos... at some point making peace with the chaos. Therefore the work is not "pretty," but it has a jolie laide quality that makes it work. It is not at all what I set out to do, but somehow, I found a way to harness the chaos and coalesce it into a loose sort of structure. That's why I named it "Oddball."

 

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Elemental Beauty: Line and Texture

Relic, mixed media on paper, 30" x 30", ©2013 Julia Rymer Whenever I think of line- in the design sense- I think of the word mark-making.

Mark-making is one of those art terms that you hear in art school as an artist, but it doesn't really mean much to anyone outside the arts. (Frankly, it doesn't always mean much to artists!) However, it is a term that encompasses what creating with line means: the primal instinct to leave one's mark somewhere. It is this very human urge that compels one to "art"- to use art as a verb- to create, build, make, craft- to say with the hands, rather than the voice, "I was here."

Texture goes with line. Rough, smooth, silky or crisp, texture is the design element that relates most to the physical world- often coming from it, with the materials reacting to the surface on which they are used.

The piece above, Relic, was created by layering watercolor on paper. While the paper was still wet, I drew into the work, activating the charcoal and deepening the black, giving the marks depth as they melted into the paper. While the paper dried, I sprinkled salt and old paint granules on the paper, so that when it dried there was a mottled look, like stone or rock. The marks in this piece are primitive, simplistic, inspired by seed pods I've been collecting from my garden. The title of the work refers to history in the geological sense.