Monday, July 27, 2015

Packing Up...Westward Ho!

      I'm about to drive across the country. Half excited, half dreading the long journey, I'm making decisions of what art supplies to pack. Really, you'd think this would be a simple task...just bring everything! Of course, I envision stopping roadside to capture every new plant life, river & mountain.
I will be resting along the highways & byways to picnic in a bucolic setting watching the sunsets as I go west, painting en plain air.....ahhhhno.
Recently I returned from one trip to New Hampshire & Maine and another from the Adirondacks of New York. I am more fully aware and at ease with the methods and habits of my day as an artist that have worked for me over the years. Always changing as I've added new skills, I've also learned to be kind to myself and not beat myself up when that gorgeous sunrise was not captured, brush in hand at that moment right there on the spot or sketched in newly purchased journals.
       You see, I was present, but I had a  nice hot cup of coffee in hand and felt the chill in the fresh mountain pine scented air. I watched the sun peaking through the trees and sparkling on the water. I absorbed my colors and my hand would sometimes trace in the air the movement of the trees in the breeze. I silently  watched ...the birds flying through the mists, the gentle ripples of landings on the water that made the reeds sway......and then I painted, after arriving home, in my studio.
From these moments observed, felt, ingested, my painting has evolved. Fascinated by textures on the surface of my canvases the rock that I saw is now collaged in 3D on my canvas. The waterfalls cascade in abstract shapes. I am true to my vision, my painting.
 I'll bring my sketchbook, make some notes, splash some paint ......maybe they will get used. I know with all certainty that the paintings I do in the near future will be the rocks I climbed and skittered down.  The trees that shade me (and I sneakily climb) will appear in textured surfaces of paint. Observed, inhaled, skinned knees and all, the West will become a part of this Eastern artist's vocabulary because I lived it ...not just recorded it.
 past work...observed, absorbed ...and lived

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Daily Rhythm

   My day has a certain flow to it. Habits and patterns have been established over years. I must admit it probably reflects a little OCD also! I don't think about it much until it's not there. I know that this week,  traveling, catching up on the mundane house chores, paying bills...  I've lost my rhythm.
My paints have dried on the palette, a painting that I'm stuck on remains untouched on my easel and I'll find every reason not to walk into the studio. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter all beckoning with feeds that distract me...even a good book. It is depressing and I need to follow my own past advice.
Just start...scribble, throw paint and play. 
In the past this has always lead me out of my doldrums. When the colors hit the paper or canvas I start to feel better. Just the pure activity of painting, since I was a child, has brought back my joy, and minimized problems real or imagined. I think perhaps the resurgence of coloring books that now fill adult book store shelves "get " this idea. Color,form,movement is the rhythm of life.
Go doodle... Helen

Friday, July 17, 2015

Going Home

This past week I enjoyed a trip away from my studio. I revisited my home in upstate New York, near Albany.  I had a wonderful time revisiting the fields I ran in as a child, the hills I flew down on my bike and the lakes where I  learned to swim. While  catching up with a childhood friend, a suggestion to go see a Van Gogh exhibit at The Clark Museum in Williamstown, MA became an exciting unexpected side trip.
As we drove up Rt.43 from NY state to MA, I recalled the source of  my paintings! I had absorbed that land as a child and never left it behind.  More gently rolling mountains than the soaring ones I saw last month in New Hampshire and Maine, expanses of pastures broken by the now green swath of ski runs, with glittering lakes tucked into every turn. My head was on swivel as my hands painted the air.
   I entered The Clark and walked the Van Gogh exhibit. Painting after painting I saw work of this artist that I had never seen before. Sketches were next to paintings working out the rhythms of his brush strokes. I recalled a teacher once telling me that as students we never used enough paint and were afraid to leave a brush stroke. Van Gogh's work was stunningly the opposite of that!
As this exhibit ended I turned to the permanent collection. Homers, Sargents, Renoir,The after gallery and I experienced a strong deja vu . I felt another pull of childhood long forgotten, as if these paintings had been my playmates, I smiled and enjoyed my renewed wonder of each piece. A quick text to my brother, and he  explained that I had visited this museum as a small child, with family long ago...perhaps the first thrust into my life as an artist recalled by going home....Helen

My favorite work by Van Gogh:
The Cypress

Thursday, July 9, 2015

So you think you got it right...this time?

On January 1, 2015
I wrote and posted the following:
"So each of us start out with that same clean canvas or paper. We attack it with all our gusto. Paint and brush fly to the rhythm of our music and ......blah. Does your canvas get relegated to a dark corner of your studio?  Do you actually convince yourself that it is an ok painting ....even frame it?
Do I hear a mumbled  "Yes!"
I know that I've sat staring at an unsold work on my living room wall debating ..leave it and just go from here, throw it out, hide it and pretend it was from your first year of painting....or learn from it. Unframe it, rework it, draw on it, wipe out whole areas.
Use this effort to move forward and rejoice that you have come a long way least far enough to be your own critic!
This is YOUR painting until it is sold."
(Click on this link to see the the unsold original painting which I reworked and then sold!
Crystal Lake Falls)

Well it has happened ...again ...this original version has languished in my darkened studio and dare I say on brightly lit gallery walls. Hung once again at home, where I pass by each day. Let the muttering begin. As the muttering grows louder, my hands begin to gesture in the air ...repainting. Then that little voice starts "Leave it alone. It's done. It's even framed! You've already put it up on Facebook.....bbbbbbbuuutttttt...
and so my day begins again, humbly, fearlessly, working, learning.
Taking the bones of a dead piece and breathing life back into it. Of course I could lose the whole piece along the way (lol...and that's another story!) but that's the risk I must take to go beyond what I already know...and now, I simply know more...Helen
North Creek...Revisited
North Creek
original version

Monday, July 6, 2015

Do I need a bigger studio $!?

  I have found myself muttering to my canvases lately. Stepping back, tripping over my desk chair, backing into book cases and knocking over my water containers. What had been a comfortable,well lit studio space for my watercolors has become a very uncomfortable and too dark space for my acrylics!
  Just as I found out that I could not think watercolor and then paint with acrylics, so it follows my physical surroundings have been slowly changing as I paint in acrylic each day. It was a slow adaptive change, nothing sudden, just a slow incorporation of different tools, timing, lighting and attitude toward my subject matter.
Did I need a bigger space? Increasing the footprint of the room was not possible, using a different
room did not solve the lighting situation. What to do, what to do?
rearranged studio space

  Solution! I rebuilt my old classic drafting table into a full size easel. Used upright now for acrylic canvases rather than flat for watercolors giving me the added foot space. I enlarged the surface area on top and frankensteining a tray from the smaller easel I had in the room which I could now eliminate. The tray can move up & down, with a system of well placed holes and pegs, allowing for larger formats beyond the size of my watercolor papers.Shifting this new easel to face my windows gave me better overall natural lighting, and now my computer  no longer has window glare. My library of art books are within easy reach in a simply built book case rather than a pile. From here it was just fitting pieces of the puzzle while  eliminating any clutter. Repurposing every day items from milk containers to baskets and furniture I already had gave me a whole new studio @ $ 0.00 cost.
I took a fresh look at how I function in the room and what was it's central function...painting on an easel. I made everything else support that main goal....I even got this blog written!
Enjoy your day ...painting......Helen