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?

Celebrating Women Abstract Artists

Pictured here at the Denver Art Museum, in front of Joan Mitchell's painting, from left, some amazing women artists: Bonnie Ferrill Roman, Danielle Hicks, Julia Rymer (and baby Liam), Tonia Bonnell, Mindy Bray, Veronica Herrera, and Anna Kaye.

Pictured here at the Denver Art Museum, in front of Joan Mitchell's painting, from left, some amazing women artists: Bonnie Ferrill Roman, Danielle Hicks, Julia Rymer (and baby Liam), Tonia Bonnell, Mindy Bray, Veronica Herrera, and Anna Kaye.

I just returned from a lovely trip to Denver, CO, visiting family and friends, and checking out galleries and museums. Many were exhibiting women artists in celebration of the Denver Art Museum's Women of Abstract Expressionism show. A large group of my friends and I met up to see the DAM show and revel in the magnificent work (pictured above).

Some of the most influential artists of my work were on display, including the inimitable Joan Mitchell. At the Center for Visual Arts, "Colorado Women of Abstraction" featured good friends and artists Amy Metier, Tonia Bonnell and Skyler McGee. It was lovely to see the work of so many strong women artists on view.

It is wonderful to see the women of abstract art recognized for their work, from the trailblazers to those working today.

 

Learning to See Color- An Exhibition

Is color the same everywhere for everyone?

What does color “mean”?

How have artists attempted to control color?

These questions are just a few of those posed by a rich and varied exhibition at the Victoria Myrhen Gallery at the University of Denver’s School of Art & Art History, opening next week, January 14th.  Contemporary artists from throughout the United States as well asmodern masters like Josef Albers and Helen Frankenthaler will have work on display that explores the complexity and nuance of color in art.

This show is co-curated by Jeffrey Keith, a renowned visual artist, color theory expert and University of Denver professor (and my former mentor), and Dan Jacobs, the Director of the Victoria Myrhen Gallery.

For those of you in the Denver area, or with plans to travel there soon, this show is a must-see! For more information, go to http://vicki-myhren-gallery.du.edu/.

What is Color Identity?

(Or, what makes a color feminine or masculine?)

My former mentor and art professor once gave me an exercise to push through a painting block I was experiencing. He said, “Make two paintings that are the most ugly paintings you have ever seen. Use every color you hate, and put them all into the same painting. Really go for it- try to make these paintings so hideous you cannot stand it. Get ugliness out of your system.”

I love color challenges. This was not my first from him- I had studied with him for many years by that time, and was fresh out of graduate school, stuck in the series of paintings I was working on, and needing something new. His challenge propelled me into another series, one very different from the work I had completed for my master’s thesis.

Years later I learned to pose color challenges for myself on a regular basis. I usually do this by limiting the palette I am working with, or trying to create a “mood” through my color choices in my work.

The past year has been an exploration of feminine and masculine color schemes.

As an artist I bristle at being called a “female artist”— why is there an indicator of gender needed; no one calls an artist a “male artist” — yet we live in a culture that places meaning on color. I call these Color Identifiers, also known as Color Analogues. Color can identify as masculine, feminine, or it can be both, depending on the contextual colors around it. This dichotomy compelled me in the studio, and my work evolved largely because of it.

After making what I call “pretty paintings”, which felt incredibly feminine, I found myself pushing into the masculine world of color in 2015. I noticed that so-called “male artists” that I admired had very different approaches to color, allowing the ugliness of colors to co-exist with the beauty of color— and within the same piece. This is a complex and sophisticated undertaking, and a huge color challenge. As examples I look to artists like Tim Hussey, Brian Coleman, and John Wood, whose works dance that line of beautiful and unattractive, a visual exploration of the French term “jolie laide,” in which a person is seen as “attractive but not conventionally pretty.”

Interestingly, I am not the only one exploring the color juxtaposition of “male” and “female” colors. Pantone chose two colors for the Color of the Year in 2016, a pale rose pink and lavender blue, to express our culture’s current obsession with gender identity and dynamics.

What also interests me about this process is the relationship I have with "feminine" colors as light, pale, pastel, warm, beautiful or pretty, and "masculine" colors as harsh, dark, muted, cool and unattractive. Where does that subconsciously come from?

Let me know what you think of my work- does it seem “feminine” or “masculine” to you? Does it bridge that gap as I intended? What are your “color identifiers”?

New Endeavors

While working on a recent commission, I was given a challenge: don’t use the color blue. Or purple. OR PINK. Let me tell you, it was not easy! My first 15 paintings were absolute failures. On the first go around, I created paintings with purple in them, and on the second, the red paint I was trying to use bled terribly and dried in strange ways. (Between the technical and professional failures, I was grateful for patient clients!)

But then, after a reboot with supplies and direction, I got it together, and created a strong series of work inspired by the colors and memories of New Mexico. The project was a great exercise in restraint, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had so much fun, I thought, why not do an entire series of paintings exploring my memories of the natural world?

And that’s what I am working on right now, along with furthering the Entanglements series.

All before my second child is due in one month!

Gotta keep it interesting, right?

Southern Exposure

The fabulous painter Britt Bass at Gather Workshop in Atlanta

The fabulous painter Britt Bass at Gather Workshop in Atlanta

The past year has been one of serious ups and downs, personally and professionally. The life of an artist is never easy, as people LOVE to tell me, but there are times when one needs guidance. As I searched for artists I could connect with online and in real life, I discovered a workshop for creative professionals called Gather. It seemed like such a special program that I signed up for it as soon as possible, and my husband and I planned an entire vacation around a trip to Atlanta and the Southeast for the workshop.

Gather is an intensive two-day experience that aims to inspire, educate and connect creative professionals of all levels and backgrounds. It is the brainchild of branding and design master Mattie Tiegreen of Green Tie Studio and photographer Kaitie Bryant in Atlanta. But it is so much more than branding, design, social media management and business practices. It is connection with other creators, people working with their hands and minds to create lovely images and objects. It is learning about how to transform your passion into a business- and how to set boundaries and manage it so you still have a life. It is encouragement to keep trying new things, exploring new ideas, and taking risks to become a better artist.

When I arrived in Atlanta for the workshop, I had been feeling pretty down about myself as an artist. I wasn't sure that what I was doing was the right "type" of art for success (whatever that means). As one of only a few working artists I know in California, I was feeling isolated and alone. When I left the workshop, I had new friends and connections; I had gained wisdom to help build my art business; and I had renewed inspiration to keep making abstract paintings and sending them out into the world.

On top of all that, I just had a lot of fun.

And Atlanta is a wonderful city to visit. We loved visiting the High Museum of Art and the Aquarium, and spending time at Gregg Irby Gallery as well! There is amazing food there too- we had our welcome dinner at Sun in My Belly. It was YUM.

After Gather ended, we (meaning my husband, four year old daughter, and father) road tripped to South Carolina for a week at the beach. We rented a place on Seabrook Island, and swam and ate ourselves silly, with a couple of days for sight-seeing in Charleston as well.

Charleston is fantastic. It is filled with history, beauty, and if you look in the right neighborhood, killer contemporary art. We visited the oldest Reform Jewish synagogue in North America, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, wandered around the gallery district, and ventured to midtown to see Redux Contemporary Art Space and Studios, The George Gallery, and Mitchell Hill Gallery and Interior Design. The food at Lowcountry Bistro and Virginia's was excellent as well.

I really enjoyed visiting the Southeastern United States. I hope I get to return soon. It was a trip that renewed me and inspired me as an artist, and fed me, body and soul.

The Entanglements: a series of paintings

For the past several months, I have been hard at work on a series of paintings I call the "Entanglements." These paintings on paper and canvas were inspired by my discovery of quantum entanglement theory, which posits that when any two particles come into relationship with one another, they become irrevocably “entangled.” Even after they separate, when one particle is observed, it begins spinning clockwise, while the other begins spinning counter clockwise at the same time, no matter how many light years apart they may be.

This scientific theory is- for me- a metaphor for human connection and interaction over space and time. It is the idea that we- humans, flora, fauna- are interconnected no matter our distance from one another.

I have put this ongoing series of paintings together into book form, which I invite you to download, enjoy and share. The link to download it is here. It is free for now- I just want to get it out into the world.

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."

 

***********************************************************************************************

I've got a lot in the works right now that I'd love to share with you! Join my newsletter to find out about my latest work, art shows and events, and get tips on beautiful art to check out in person and on the web. I would love to connect with you and deliver beauty to your inbox. Sign up here.

 

(I promise I won't share your email OR send you millions of messages. Expect them about once a month, actually.)

Buy some art. Hang on your wall. Enjoy.

Illuminate Recently I was approached by the startup Artify It about offering limited edition prints of two of my original works on paper. I am pleased to say they are now available for a short time (one week to be exact)!

I am not going to bore you with the fact that limited edition prints are a wonderful way to start collecting art affordably (they are). But if you were to look at buying art because it is affordable, why not just buy it at a Big Box Store? Then you can get all the "paintings" you need, on sale and in the designer colors that will exactly match your couch!

Instead, I prefer to think of buying my work through Artify It as more about buying something special and adding uniqueness to the space you frequent. Or perhaps you know an art-lover that will get a total kick out of the work too, so you buy them a gift. What a nice way for someone to "live with beauty"!

In any case, if you are interested, click the photos and they will take you to the website for purchasing. I hope you enjoy!

 

BloodEarth