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Pressing Matters


Pressing matters
 
Watercolor, my preferred medium, likes to be free.
            And so, I’m always looking for new ways to loosen up, stay fresh and become more intuitive in my painting, Recently, I’ve been playing around with a technique I discovered in a terrific book, Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour by British artist and author Ann Blockley (http://annblockley.com/).
            The basic technique is quite simple: Find some interesting leaves, twigs or other plant material. Place a piece of watercolor paper on a bed of paper towels. Spread some rich, juicy paint on the paper (all over, or just in particular areas). Press the plant material into the wet paint. Top with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper (crinkled up, if you like). Top with a piece of Plexiglas. Put something on top – like heavy books – to press it down. Wait for a few hours (the paper doesn’t have to be completely dry).
            When you lift everything off, the paper will hold some interesting textures and impressions. It’s really impossible to predict – or control – exactly what you’ll get. I love that!
            After the paint has dried completely, you decide how to proceed. This is where you put your imagination to work. What do you see? Where can this go? You could draw and paint a composition, or complete the painting freehand, finding shapes as you go. It could move in a completely abstract direction, or you could find a landscape, a still life, maybe even a portrait. I don’t want to try to be too literal, though. I love the fantastical, impressionistic feeling this method offers.
            As for what to use, here’s a tip: Sturdy, waxy leaves work really well. Small twigs, stems and seeds are good. In the accompanying paintings, you’ll see ferns, which are wonderful. The foreground leaves in In the Pink are sweet woodruff, (my favorite ground cover). The background textures in all three paintings comes from crinkled wax paper and plastic wrap. You can also try cheesecloth, net, gauze, lace, etc.
            Now, when I’m out in the garden or off on a hike, I’m looking for textures and shapes that I can try in a painting.
            I’m seeing the world in new and wonderful ways. And that is the great gift that art brings to us all, always.
– Kathy Lindsley 

 

Memories, Feelings, Interpretations, and Truth

Are the marks, composition and color harmonies in our artwork influenced by our relationship to the subject matter or concept? Should they be? Are the proportions and placement of images and shapes directed by the attachment we feel, and meaning we consciously or unconsciously assign to them? How important is our personal connection to our subject matter? That is what I’ve been pondering during the creation of my last four pieces. Is the integrity and quality of my art even linked to the answers of the above questions?
               Then again, maybe I already have my answer. I am so grateful for artist Brian O’Neill and his abstract workshop I took this past year. One of my finished paintings had visual bits and pieces, elements that were a synchronization of the reference photos I had brought in, portraying glimpses of home, family, mood and relationship. I felt this was one of the more successful paintings I ever did. It wasn’t forced, and I didn’t over think it. I didn’t have to make any conscious decisions about the positive and negative space. I wasn’t deliberately or consciously trying to create a metaphor using design elements . . . no commentary on mood using color, or distance between shapes revealing a hidden meaning of my feelings of closeness to someone or something. With the help of a meditation exercise, I could just let it happen. Yet, that painting spoke everything I needed to know about my subject, and I welcomed the revelation.
               These past five years have been a test of my physical, mental, and emotional endurance.
               I left a career I loved, teaching elementary art, in order to explore and facilitate how best to care for my mother as she progressed through the stages of cognitive decline. As her memory failed, I wanted to capture in my art those things which once held special meaning for her. She had never moved my father’s jacket from where it hung in his shop in 1986, at the time of his death. She could look at it frequently, as his shop was on the same property as her house. This building is where she then began to store her gardening tools. I created a pastel portrait of my father’s jacket which I titled  Still. A part of my mother’s iris garden, which hugged the white painted concrete foundation of their home, was also captured in a pastel titled Remains To Touch. The dirt around the once so lovingly cared for irises was now speckled with crumbs of debris and decaying organic matter. As I gazed at these images during the process of getting what was once their home ready to sell, I felt deep emotion and a connection to what was symbolized there. I took many photos.
               Prior to participating in O’Neill’s abstract workshop, I probably would have tried to force a metaphor of these subjects to which I had a personal connection: my father’s jacket, left behind and slipped out of at too young an age, and my mother’s nurtured irises, abandoned by their caretaker who at some point could not even remember their name. Though the subject of jacket and iris are recognizable, and deliberate, I thoroughly enjoyed the freeform abstract approach I took with laying out the subject and putting down the color. Referencing my first paragraph – “the importance of personal connection” – I’ve come to this conclusion: Though personal connections make for a great launching pad, I would never want them to define the perimeters of the journey.  Personal connections should motivate, but never limit.  
– Jackie Lippa


 All artwork by Jackie Lippa

Finding Color in Black and White














Finding color in black and white
 
Remember that feeling you got when you were a kid and opened a new box of crayons? All those colors? All those possibilities? Every color held a world of describing the things around you and the ideas yet to come.
            Every spring feels like that for me. Opening the shades from the long winter of monochrome to spring’s blast of light and brilliance of hue, I am in awe every year by the pinks, purples, yellow greens and blues.
            This winter I decided to challenge myself and take on the formal study of drawing under the tutelage of Brian O'Neill, one of Rochester's finest painters. We work strictly in black and white in order to train the mind and eye to better see and interpret value. Being able to see objects and the reflection of light with the subtle changes of value from darkest dark to lightest light and how to render those components makes the artist’s  ability to express what she sees in a believable way much more accurately. And I am finding that my appreciation of color is expanding as a result of this challenge to work only in black and white. I am beginning to not only see a pink as pure pink but its relation to its origin and the colors next to it.
            In his teachings on color theory Josef Albers says “In our perception, juxtaposed colors  change each other in two ways, on the one hand in regard to light, on the other in relation to hue.
As there is nothing large or small in itself but only in relationship, so any color appears lighter or darker and brighter or duller in connection with other colors.”
            The ability to see the relationships of colors to each other and how the eye perceives this is therefore the real skill. And how to affect another’s way of seeing and feeling is the magic of art.
            Of course as a viewer of art, you are not always aware of what it is that is pulling your eye. Or what that feeling is that you get when something pleases you. Or even disturbs you. You are not aware of the principles that go into making a piece work or not work. For me as a viewer, I am drawn to light and rich colors. Paintings that loudly pronounce when a blue is the main attraction. Or when a yellow wants to shine the brightest. So when making art I tend to let colors perform to their greatest capacity.
            It is ironic that what seems the exact opposite is the very thing that makes an artist’s ability to say something about color can be said most accurately by her understanding of black and white. I’m not sure to what degree my understanding of this concept can be reflected in my work yet, but I can say that my eye is definitely improving as well as my patience for the process and my deeper appreciation of color. Though I am still in the beginning phases of learning through this particular challenge, I am excited to see what I will be able to say when I apply what I am learning to whatever approach taken to create a painting.
            My hope is that whether it is with charcoal and white pencil or with pure color pigment, the person seeing the outcome is somehow invited to see and feel something new and inspiring. And just like the joy that the colors of spring brings after a long monochromatic winter, so too is one’s deeper understanding of color when black and white is studied and understood.
            Without dark there cannot be light. Without winter there can be no spring.

– Linda Cala



To What End Paint

To what end paint?
 
            Fame? Not likely in my case, for a variety of reasons. My mother wanted me to paint, but my father would have insisted on perfection, whatever that is, to exploit any talent the kindergarten teacher told my mother I had. It took me until I was 30, after years of therapy, to have the courage to express anything at all on canvas,
            Wealth? By the time I was 35 I realized I could never support myself with art. I needed a profession to pay for painting, so I went to medical school. At a recent show, I sold four paintings. After the gallery takes 40 percent, I might rather have kept the work for the fee, which hardly compensates for the effort put into it. 
            Self-publishing is a very expensive business. In 2013, I published my first children's book, Froggy Family's First Frolic. Although we have sold most of the books we had printed, we still took a considerable loss. I don’t enjoy marketing that much, but reading the first book to children and hearing parents describe how much their offspring adore having it read to them brings me great pleasure. 
            Glory? One of my teachers kept telling me I had to get my work out there, so I entered shows. Some I have gotten in, some I haven’t bothered with. One of the pieces rejected, TWICE, is a small painting that our daughter Helen Mirra, a world-renowned artist, said is the best I have ever done. It is my favorite. Only a few members of Main Street Artists wanted a print of a painting based on an ambitious collage honoring them.
            Power? Actually, yes, making art is healing, and it has taken me through a number of very rough times. Art brings me power by the necessity of practicing non-attachment. Now it is keeping me alive. For each of the last three projects (my first book, Froggy Family’s First Frolic; the Main Street Artists collage and painting; and my current book, Froggy Family’s Fine Feelings) I have said to myself, “God, please let me live long enough to finish this project.” 
            To what end paint then, if not for Fame, Wealth, Glory and Power? Ultimately, as the fox said to The Little Prince (Antoine de St Exupery, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1943):
             “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
            My motto in life is “Love God, and waste time. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” 

– Margot Fass  

Top to Bottom:  Final cover in oil, acrylic color study, first study in charcoal

Rejection/Acceptance

Rejection/Acceptance
"Galleries are going to reject you, people are going to say insensitive things about your work, critics are going to ignore you and family members are going to plot to steal your painting time but you have to pick yourself up and go back at it.” ~ Cathie Harrison    


     I am just coming off of another show that required entries and paintings being juried. It is always a tossup…will they like my paintings? Or not?
     I understand this process is subjective and beyond my control. Once you fill out that entry form, pay the fee and send it in, you are putting yourself out there. You hope that your work will be worthy enough to be a part of the show.
     A year ago this same show ended with all three of my pieces being rejected. In days past this might have devastated me. I did have a momentary thought that I might need to change my painting style in some way. Silly! My studio mates, a constant source of critique and support, reminded me of that. I paint what I see as beautiful or interesting. I don’t necessarily follow composition rules but, what I paint is all me. It is a “Norris.”
     There is this dichotomy. I paint because I have to. I also paint because I hope that my paintings will evoke an emotional connection for someone else. If someone purchases one of my paintings, that is a bonus. I am just happy if it makes them feel something or if we can have a conversation about a shared appreciation for a special place.
     This brings me to the current show. Two of my paintings passed muster. They were rejected from last year’s show. They got a second chance.
    There is a fine line between rejection and acceptance. You cannot let it rule you. Just keep painting.

~ Christine Norris


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