Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sisters and Serendipity

Here are the photos of my sister that I mentioned in my last post.  These are the images I'm using for the Birdwoman series.  I draw them on vellum and layer them over painted images of birds so that it looks like the figure is in the process of transforming.  Melanie makes a fabulous model because 1) she just does exactly what I ask and never complains, and 2) does a really, really good job at whatever I ask her to do, and 3) she's free!  She also pointed out to me recently that she doesn't ask questions.  I'd never thought about this before, but she's right.  And not having to explain myself is comforting, particularly when I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing!  

I'm taking a monoprinting class at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, in the room right next to my studio.  This was my favorite print that I made today.  I've always avoided printmaking because I tend to be more comfy with direct processes like drawing and painting, and also because it looked like a whole lot of cleanup.  But my studio neighbor, Deb Putnoi, was making some really amazing images using some monoprint techniques, so I decided to take her class.  For me the process is a complete mind trip, and I love it.  When I'm painting, I oscillate between wild, impulsive experimentation and tightly controlled, hyper-realistic rendering.  I relinquish control, take control, relinquish control, and finally take control to resolve the image.  In printmaking I feel like I NEVER have control over the image.  It's really interesting for me to make something without expectations, to just submit and see what happens.  This print was the result of a series of accidents.  I think I said, "Oops," about four different times while I was inking the plate.  Serendipity!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Getting back in the groove

Yesterday I started one of my wild background washes on paper.  I love this part of these big watercolor and gouache pieces--the process is really fast and completely unselfconscious.  I slosh, I drip, I splash.  I dig the juxtaposition between the loose abstractions I create in this stage and the tightly rendered gouache figures I will layer on top.  

here's a before picture 

and after!

This piece is going to be divided into sections and used in my Birdwoman series.  I'm really excited about this series, which so far consists of (cough) one painting/collage (see my blog header).  The creation of this first piece was both painful and thrilling.  I had been struggling with a huge painting (by watercolor standards) for a couple of months, when I realized that I would never be able to successfully resolve the composition.  So I tried to crop it a little.  And then I cropped it a little more.  And then a little more.  Until it was spread across my studio in a hundred pieces.  Oops!  But it turned out well in the end.  I took some of the pieces, added bits of other rejected paintings and combined them with a little vellum drawing that had been kicking around my studio for years.  Some more drawing, some more painting, some sewing....and my little Frankenstein was born.

Here's a detail from Birdwoman where you can see the stitches around the drawing.  The drawing, which is graphite on vellum, is based on a photo of my youngest sister dancing.  I took a whole series of these pictures 5 years ago, when Melanie was 13.  In grad. school I made some monster oil paintings of these images.  They weren't very good, and they were on 3/4 inch birch panels, so they weighed about a thousand pounds.  I abandoned them in the Donnelly Building for some other Museum School student to scavenge.  

Yesterday I made this little drawing to sew onto the next Birdwoman piece.  The series is inspired by transformation fables and myths.  I took a picture of the original Melanie Dancing photographs to post, but it disappeared into the ether!  According to the finder on my Mac, it simply no longer exists.  So I will take another one tomorrow.

Today I painted more birdcages!  Here's a close up.  Only one more to go for this painting.  I LOVE repetition, but after painting 19 birdcages, I'm ready to finish number 20!  

Here's a picture of my beloved bean plants.  They're growing much, much slower than the ones I grew last summer (and killed last fall).  February just isn't giving them as much sunlight as they would like.  As soon as they get taller they will become the models for my next beanstalk forest painting.

I recently discovered a fantabulous bit of inspiration: My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  I took it out of the library for a kid's class I'm teaching on manga drawing, and I fell in love with it.  Anime is new to me, and now I'm really excited to watch Spirited Away, also by Miyazaki.   There is this absolutely delicious scene in Totoro where the protagonists, two sisters, perform this kind of little ritual with the Totoros, who are three fuzzy forest spirit type creatures.  They all dance around a moonlit garden to make a giant tree grow in the yard.  Then they all go for a ride on a kind of magic spinning top hover craft thing, which makes the wind blow.  They end up at the top of the giant tree where they hang out and make owl sounds by blowing into what appear to be gourds.  The whole thing is genius and I can't do it justice with a verbal description.  

Monday, February 25, 2008

Look at me, look at me! I'm blogging!

Into the Wood, 2007
watercolor and gouache on arches
41" x 25"

After mulling it over for a while, I've decided to start this blog to supplement my more old-timey art writing practices.  So here goes:
I spent all last week away from my studio, teaching at a school vacation arts program.  A studio hiatus is always a bit nerve-wracking for me, no matter how much fun I'm having.  Will I return to find that my work is ugly? Or formally irreconcilable?!  Or trite?!!  I never know how my perspective will change with a little distance.  I had also been feeling a little uncertain about the work the previous week.  I was feeling kind of all over the place, like I was slowly, aimlessly picking away at too many ideas at once.  AND I was too close to the work to be sure if I liked it technically.  So imagine my relief--no, imagine my ELATION when I returned to find that I really, really love how my current pieces are coming along so far.  Here's one example (pardon the poor photo quality):

this one is going to be part of the "Into the Wood" series.  All I need to do is add a few more birdcages on the left and paint bean plants growing up out of all of the birdcages.  I'll also add some critters, like the key deer in "Into the Wood."  I think this one will have a lot of luna moths.  And birds, of course!