Saturday, April 23, 2016

Non Dominance, A New Series

How to Start a New Series of Paintings

In this series I was looking to do something different; I wanted to go back to painting with oil bar.
I started by attaching paper to a hard surface and painting the paper with gesso and pink acrylic.  I then covered it with another layer of clear acrylic medium. 
As I was doing this prep work I was contemplating life and the idea of doing things the same way again and again with no better results.  At that point I chose to paint the series with my non-dominant hand, something I had never done in the past.
I began each session by practicing moving my energy out of my head and into my heart.  You can learn more about that meditation practice here: Rohini Ralby's Practice For Us. The overall design and subject emerged from this practice.  
The entire painting is done with oil stick, oil bar, painting knives, putty knives, razor blades and occasionally a brush.  The diagonal line was created by snapping a string covered in oil paint.  There is layer upon layer paint applied over 5 weeks.  Texture was created by applying oil paint and scratching and scraping the surface when wet as well as when dry.

Oil Bar Painting Steps

Below is the progression of painting from start to finish:
Click on any picture to see a close-up


Some detail photos:


This is the first in the series Nondominance,  To see works from previous series, On marriage, click here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to Paint 3: No Judgment

Paint Without Judgment

It is my job to live the life I was meant to live and to learn from my experiences.  For me that means expressing myself and my tools are paint and paintbrushes. I also believe that I have to paint in the face of all the "reasons" that I concoct to not paint: I don't have a good idea, I don't have the time, I don't have enough talent, the end result won't be any good.  I believe I have to paint what I am capable of painting today and to tell the story I am capable of telling today from my own unique perspective.  I communicate with paint and it is not by job to decide (judge) whether a painting is good or bad.  It is my job to paint until it is finished and then start another one.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

How to Paint 2: The Art of Staring

Why a whole post on staring?  Well, because staring is underrated.  I used to think I was a weirdo with the amount of time I spent seemingly doing nothing but staring.  Having been taught to work hard, staring made me feel like a wastrel.  I would sit hours and stare and stare and stare.    Sometimes a blank canvas would await me, sometimes not. 

Imagine my surprise when I read these words:

  • "But as for the rest of my time, the activity I'm most likely to be engaged in is staring.  If staring were an Olympic event I'll be bringing home the gold.  While other people go to work, I stare out the window.  I stare at my dog.  I stare at the blank pieces of paper and paragraphs and single sentences and a buzzing computer screen.  Hours of my day are spent with my eyes glazed over, thinking, waiting, trying to figure things out.  The muse is a sweet idea, like the tooth fairy.  The muse supposedly comes down like lightning and fills your fingers with the necessary voltage to type something up brilliant.  But nobody ever made a living depending on a muse.  The rest of us have to go out and find our inspiration, write and rewrite, stare and stare and stare until we know which way to turn." Ann Patchett from What now?

Validation from a kindred spirit in the act of staring; for it is an act- an active pursuit.  Now there is all kinds of staring.  The purposeful staring I am talking about is goes beyond non-purposeful, diffuse staring with a flurry of random thoughts and ideas and memories and hurts and joys and wants and regrets and to-do lists and, and, and.....

Purposeful staring is more disciplined and more one-pointed...a concentration...a waiting.   A good illustration of disciplined concentration:  Balance Goddess, Lara Jacobs at a TED talk (click here trouble viewing video below) from  TEDx

There is a quietness of the mind (I talk about this here).   This takes practice like anything else; it takes disciplined concentration and control.  Purposeful staring takes this same disciplined concentration. 
The Art of Staring is critical to the act of creating.  It is allows the space for the work to present itself.  It allows us to wait and perceive what comes next.   

Saturday, December 19, 2015

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Writer, Ann Patchett's, collection of essays gives insight into her creative process of writing both fiction and non-fiction.  Although specifically about her experience with writing, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage speaks to me as a painter.  Today I was specifically struck by a passage in the essay, The Getaway Car, a Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.  She states, "Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?" 

And, "If you want to write, practice writing.  Practice for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say."   Patchett elaborates, "Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama.  We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath."  Now she of course has a whole lot of compelling metaphors in between those statements above, and they illustrate her point well: That becoming good or great at anything requires learning the craft and practicing the craft. 

I believe Patchett is spot on.  Why do I trust Ann Patchett?  She does not give advice for the sake of the advising, she writes about the process as she has lived it.  And her words speak to what I know in my heart to be true about finding the good paintings that exist under the cruddy ones.  I believe most of us have some terrible paintings that we have to get out of our system---by painting them.

Patchett's collection of essays are witty, fresh and insightful.  Her writing connects the reader with the human part of him/herself by exploring her own humanness.  She reminds us of things we have suspected or known about ourselves as well as gives us a new perspective by tossing us morsels of wisdom.  And she does it all without pretension or elitism.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is for anyone questioning the way forward or seeking to learn more about themselves through their experiences.  It is especially beneficial to those of us who have creativity as a central theme in our lives. Loved it!


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oil Painting Mediums: Safflower Oil

Paint can yellow over time.  This is more of a concern lighter colored pigments.  As linseed oil has a tendency to yellow as it dries, artists and paint makers have found alternative oils for oil painters.  One of the most popular is Safflower Oil. 

Safflower oil is considered a reliable, pale drying oil.  Because it has good color retention and is believed to not yellow over time some prefer its use when making whites or light colored paints.  It is said to give oil paints a satin finish and buttery feel.

Oil Paints Made with Safflower Oil

  • Blick oil paints from Dick Blick are primarily made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil (there are 4 exceptions). High Quality Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Sennelier are made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil. High Quality Artist Grade Paint.
  • RGH Paints have Cremnitz white made with your choice of 4 different oils: RGH Cremnitz White.  They also make pure Titanium and will custom mix with the oil of your choice.  High Quality Hand Made Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Winsor and Newton (W&N) have some lighter colors made with safflower oil.  For example Titanium white and Zinc white.  But be careful if you want pure titanium white, W&N's is not pure.  (I talk about that here:  Paint Ingredients: Which White is in the Tube?    Read about the paint labeling inconsistencies: Oil Paint Ingredients.  Read more about choosing white paint: White Paint Ingredients: Lead, Zinc, Titanium).
Not all share the opinion that light colors are best mixed with Safflower Oil: Regarding Safflower Oil and Poppyseed Oil, R&F, the maker of pigment sticks, website states: "But those oils are very slow drying and prone to cracking, whereas linseed oil dries to a tougher, more flexible film."

Artist Jonathan Linton in his 5 year study,  has made some interesting observations about yellowing here: White Test.

Why Oil Paint Yellows is addressed in next month's post.

Artist Grade Safflower Oil vs Food Grade Safflower Oil

You may ask, "Can I use safflower oil from the grocery store?"   This is not the best choice due to the way in which it is produced.   First, there is a question of kitchen oils' purity; there may be additives, such as vitamin e which can hinder or prevent drying.  I recently read a journal article that points to contaminants as the the primary culprit in yellowing (2).  In addition, there is apparantly a wide range of drying ability in safflower oil.  Food grade safflower oil may have an an iodine value (correlates with oil's ability to dry) of as low as 87, where 130 or greater is preferred (1).

1. Knowles, P.F., Variability in oleic and linoleic acid contents of safflower oil, Economic Botany, , Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 53-62

2. Mall├ęgol, Jacky; Lemaire, Jacques; Gardette, Jean-Luc, Yellowing of oil-based paints,
Studies in Conservation Vol. 46, No. 2 (2001), pp. 121-131



Monday, August 3, 2015

Art Nerd; Check Out This Great Art Website

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Art Nerd  City Guides: New York · Chicago · Los Angeles · San Francisco · Seattle
Founded by Lori Zimmer, Art Nerd New York has piles of eye candy for artists and art lovers.  
Why (one of my) favorite Art Nerd features is ON THE INSIDE TIP: Studio Visits;  I love seeing what other working artists are doing now!
And check out Lori's new book The Art of Cardboard: Big Ideas for Creativity, Collaboration, Storytelling and Reuse It's 160 pages of cardboard heaven and looks totally irresistible (I couldn't).  And if you hurry, you may still be able to get a signed copy!!    

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wedding Party

Wedding Party Painting

Wedding Party was completed after many layers of oil paint using glaze technique.  From the series about marriage.  Below is of unframed diptych.

Wedding Party, 12" x 24" x 1/4", oil on masonite, © 2013 julie susanne

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