Saturday, March 26, 2016

The stuff I made in the Studio this week

So I watched a news clip of a friend and colleague of mine Martha Russo and I loved one of the comments she made during the interview "I make stuff", it reall stuck with me so much so I adapted it to my blog post title this week! My studio days were a little wonkie this week due to the blizzard and snow days. I worked on the big painting which I think I blogged about earlier and then Wednesday we were snowed in and our respective schools were all closed for the day so I took and advantage and did some drawing, continuing to experiment with my tin of graphite.

Then on Thursday which was actually my studio day the girls had a second snow day so I spent most of the day with them, but near the end of the day I went down and puttered around... I watched some more Youtube videos on book making and decided I'd use that bit of knowledge combined with what I learned at the workshop I attended recently to make myself a new sketchbook for my abstract drawing experiments and idea recording. I had ordered a screw punch to drill holes into the book binding boards that I use for the cover and the back so I actually won't be able to complete the book until that tool arrives. I actually used one of the sheets of paste paper I made for the interior sides and I made a small abstract drawing on a piece of scrap paper from the paste paper and attached it to the cover of the book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Large Scale painting (in progress)

Sadly I didn't get as much time in the studio as I would have liked between taking Tess to the Doctors and dropping of my CCCS paperwork to the HR department my studio day was more or less shot. I did get a couple of hours in though, first gessoing some paper in preparation for more dark mark drawings and then working on my large scale painting.
The important thing I accomplised today is I got the color scheme right this time! No more yellow and orange... that just did not feel right for this piece. Now it needs to sit for a few days so I can study it and observe and decide if I want to add the dark marks in oil paint so the texture is consistant with the other paint or do I want to use an oil stick which would add an new texture and make the lines stand out. Sadly I had a black oil stick at some point that I picked up for another painting experiment a few years back but now I have no idea where it is! Ugh so that means another trip to the art supply store! I'm liking this painting so much better than the one that was underneath it! That one was Kim as Jesus Christ and it was terrible! I will say though it has been a bit of a challenge painting over an old image. It will be interesting to see if there really is a difference in painting abstractly on a fresh canvas verses a recycled one... but I have a number of canvas already stretched with images that I want to paint over so that will just have to wait for another time!

I also decided today that I need to make myself a sketchbook for this exploration so I have a place to sketch out random ideas as the come, that way I don't have to wait for the gesso to dry! I try and have a seperate sketchbook for each concept. So I have one for the cupcakes, one for my research into book making, one for random ideas, one for the mirror/male gaze exploration and now or soon to be one for the dark mark ideas! I need to research where I can pick up an awl though so that I can make a proper sketchbook with a good solid cover. I found a great YouTube video that helps explain the coptic stitch which is what I learned at a workshop a while ago but it was complicated and I couldn't remember how to do it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What I've been up to in and outside the studio over past couple weeks

Even though I haven't posted in a while, I've been busy in the studio! I'm continuing to work on my process and the dark mark concept. I'm in the process of gessoing some more paper in preparation for more drawings and paintings on paper. In addition, after looking at a stack of old paintings that weren't very good and just taking up space, I decided to sand them down and start a new painting over them... something worth looking at and showing. I started with the biggest one figuring it would be a challenge to see if I could continue my dark mark exploration in a larger scale!

Of cource once I got started I decided the orange and yellow just weren't working for me.... these colors just didn't feel right sooooo... I spent 2 days painting that out. The more I looked and contemplated the more a pale blue seemed to call to me. So once the paint dries I will rework the image incorporating the blue into the black, gray and white composition. I'm thinking about picking up a black oil stick to help me capture the black marks I'm looking for... I think that medium will  help me create a more defined mark with stronger edges and directional force.

In addition to painting, I've also been experimenting with alternative bookbinding processes. One day I was looking at an empty match stick box. The more I looked at the box, turning it over in my hand the more I wondered, could I use this structure as a template for an artist book? The result:

It worked perfectly! I still need to draw on the cover, decorate it if you will. Once I had the box structure made I decided to fill it with miniture drawings ... these are all created with liquid graphite (actually the graphite wasn't liquide but rather a tin of solid graphite power) I used a wet paintbrush to apply it to the paper using my photographs of cracks on concrete as my inspiration. There are 8 drawings in total housed in the box.

Since graduate school, I've always been fasinated by the 'artist book' or 'alternative books' as they are often called. So when a couple of bookbinding classes came up at the Art Students League I decided to sign up.  The first one I took was called Paste Paper, Bookbinding and Doodads.  I signed up for this one because it was short (3 hours) and it had bookbinding in the title, plus I was curious to know what Doodads were! Sadly the only thing the instructor covered was 'paste paper' .... although I ended up making some really cool paste paper I would have loved at some point in the 3 hours if she would have at least showed us how the paste paper was used in bookbinding... some kind of coverage of that part of the topic as well as the 'doodads' part would have been nice but alas it was not to be! Boo...

The next workshop I took was a few days later (same instructor so I was a little worried) was on Tunnel books. I was not disappointed with this workshop as I did learn how to make a tunnel book! I wasn't really interested in making a beautiful work of art in this class but rather learning how to make the book and understanding how to design it... I figured once I had that knowledge I could take my time and really develop a concept, spending quality time designing the book (the book artist equivalent of 'process').... loved the result and now I have a great visual reference!

So the way a tunnel book works is like this... first think accordian with an opening in the middle (in this case my openings were circles that got smaller with each page moving back). Some openings are round, others are square depending on what you are doing with the imagery.  Each image is on a different page... the first is the cyclist (a woman), the next is an image of a female artist - the abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell (I think, either her or Helen Frankenthaler) and a section of her studio. The one after that included a cut out of flowers and a dragonfly, then writers from the 1920's sitting at a cafe with koi fish above them. The back panel was a collage image of the Eiffel tower and the boulevard and gardens that lead up to it. Sadly I did not position the images correctly so the viewer can really see the tower! That's Ok though as this was a learning experience so going forward I need to take this into consideration when I'm designing my next book! Happily... I've already got a few ideas floating around in my head!

The same instructor is leading a 4 week class on other types of alternative bookbinding but I'm still taking my hand building sculpture class so I can't sign on for that one... but what I did do was I googled via you tubed all the types of books she had listed that they would cover and I've found 'how to' videos for most of them and I've bookmarked them! I'm still looking for one on the 'Chinese Sewing Book box' but I've been assured by one of my workshop class mates (who also happened to be the Executive Director of the League) that there was a youtube video on it as she has seen it herself... so I will continue to search! I also ordered 3 used books from Amazon on the subject! Did I mention... I love making stuff!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


So today was another fantastic studio day. Last week I took a walk with my camera and took a series of reference photos of the lines and marks that I've been observing when I'm out walking Molly. I printed a number of them and tacked them to one of the walls in my studio for inspiration. Then I started experimenting with what I'm calling my cloudy Day series. It is a total of six drawings on paper with charcoal and oil paint.

On My Walk I Saw Many Things

Marks of Nature and Man


Subculture Rising

Time Passing

Growing Shadows without Light

In addition to the drawings which were on gessoed Lithograph paper. I did a brief experiment using charcoal, graphite and oil paint on ungessoed paper. I'd been studying works on canvas and paper by Helen Frankenthaler earlier in the day and among other things she is known for her paintings on unprimed canvas so I thought why not try unprimed paper (I think Robert Motherwell also did this.)

I Climbed the Mountain to See the Bear
(the color is off slightly on this one - the paper is too warm in this image)

After this, I moved to painting on six by six gessoed masonite panels that I had, adding a more vibrant color (Hot Pink although in these photos it reads as red) to the black, white and gray... granted in the Cloudy Day series and this drawing I included small amounts of pale blue which I decided was a subconscious reference to the pale blue sky that occasionally peeked out through the gray clouds. Working subconsciously or more intuitively is one of my goals in trying to develop a better understanding of process and tapping into a higher level of creativity which I hope will perhaps break the chains that bind me too tightly to my ideas and observational imagery. I think its the observational component... having a visual idea of what the outcome will look like that is confining to me.  I still have a concept, in this case it is the dark mark, but I've intentionally kept it very open and ambiguous which I'm discovering really opens up the possibilities. These next two paintings examplify what I mean by this.

Red Stain

Orifice with Dark Mark Inside

Actually I'm a little out of order, before I moved to painting I created a second larger scale drawing that was intended to be a mate for the large scale drawing I completed last week. I don't really see them as a diptych persay but more as companion pieces (can see them hanging together in a room).


Of course when I was looking for this image to upload, I discovered I'd missed the first drawing experiment I did today which was actually a continuation on a drawing that I started last week. I didn't care for it when I finished it last week and decided this gave me an opportunity to experiment with adding something to it... this is the result.


Again the color is off on this image as the paper is too warm. I think in the future I might have to do some further exploration into circles. One of my favorite contemporary artists Hung Hui often incorporates circles into her imagery.

(that's her with me with my cheezy ass smile held over from college fraternity/sorority party smile days...) 

So there you have it, when I wasn't drawing or painting today, I was studying paintings and prints by Helen Frankenthaler (although I think I said that earlier in this post). One of the things that is brewing in the back of my mind is exploring the dark mark in printmaking. I'm studying up on the different techiques used in printmaking and I am looking forward to seeing how the dark mark translates in that media!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dark Mark exploration continues

Today was a fantastic studio day! I've decided to continue exploring the dark mark and focusing on the process of making a mark in different mediums. I started out experimenting with graphite in both pencil and powder form painting the graphite onto the paper, making repetitive marks, and exploring the value contrasts of the marks. Then I combined the graphite with gesso, didn't like that so much. Then I moved back to the powder, used both a flat and a round brush to vary my marks and then drew with a smaller graphite pencil breaking the planes of the larger brush marks. I liked the outcome of that experiment.

Next I decided to try the same experiment only with oil paint. I started out using black, white and gray paint, experimenting with the negative space and hard and soft edges. The painting reminded me of Franz Kine's work so I took a break and looked up some of his paintings as well as that of Helen Frankenthaler. After looking at their work, I studied my little painting for a while and decided it needed a touch of blue and so I added a bit with a blue pastel and went over it lightly with gamsol to soften the texture of the pastel.

After this I took a lunch break and went out and picked up another memory chip for my camera. Each day as I walk Molly I've been noticing marks and lines in the environment in which we walk and I decided perhaps I should start taking some reference photos I can use as inspiration for my marks. 

Of course, even though it is 70 degress outside, it was cloudy when I took my photography walk! I'm thinking the top photo might look better as a vertical. The bottom one I really liked because it had a natural hint of blue. Its funny how you can find interesting compositions in the cracks and debry that are found in and on the side walk on which you walk. I think I will continue to take photo references, next time on a sunny day so I can photograph the shadow marks/lines that appear in the environment.