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?
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
past five years have been a test of my physical, mental, and emotional
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.
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
– Jackie Lippa
All artwork by Jackie Lippa
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
dark there cannot be light. Without winter there can be no spring.
– Linda Cala
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
motto in life is “Love God, and waste time. It’s never too late to have a happy
– Margot Fass
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.” ~
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
There is a fine line between rejection and acceptance. You
cannot let it rule you. Just keep painting.
~ Christine Norris
Early last summer my
family and I visited the Lockport Caves and Museum in Lockport, N.Y. The old
entry door to the museum, with its rustic locks and weather-beaten facade,
became the inspiration for my next painting that I would work on most of the
summer. It was very important to me to capture the essence of this antique
The door itself tells a story with its iron hardware and the many layers
of peeling paint. It has withstood the heat of summers and the harshness of
My granddaughter made a comment when she saw the finished painting. She said
she loved the contrast between textures and light . . . smooth and rough. Vintage
and antique “treasures” often have these contrasts and characteristics. Old
houses and old things have been a continuous inspiration for my artwork.
If doors could talk, this – one would have a lot to say. It certainly called to
– Eleanor Milborrow