Sunday, December 22, 2013

Less Is Not Always More

 Whose Woods These Are
54 x 72
(click for larger view- pardon the homemade photography)

Sometimes it's just less. One of the great challenges of this project is to find a way to convey the Woods in a way that is authentic but still suggestive and full of mystery. And to do that in sizes ranging from 12 x 16 to 72 x 96.  In a 12 x 16 you can use one brushstroke to describe what requires a complicated passage in a larger work. But more importantly, you have to find the right balance between what Asher B Durand called imitation and representation. There are some things which can be imitated and some things that can only be represented (I would use the word suggested perhaps). The right balance is essential to capture a sense of place and yet retain the mystery and mood you want to convey. I wanted the paintings to look like the Woods without being literal portraits- to convey a palpable sense of what it feels to be in this place. That requires something more than suggestive generalization and less than simply copying what you see.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spreadsheets. Really?

48 x 64
(click for larger view)

Spreadsheets. Not a word I would have ever included on a list of things I might learn about over the course of working on my solo show. But, here I am two years later finding myself creating spreadsheets to keep track of and organize over forty paintings for the show.

The exhibition will hang in two separate venues (Galerie Kornye West and The Botanical Research Institute of Texas) and is organized around the theme of the four seasons in Lennox Woods. Early on, I worked out the number of pieces I would paint for each season and the size ranges and how many in each range, and roughly how many of each would hang in each venue.

As the work begin to take shape, other things needed to be kept track of- what pieces had been photographed, what was finished and what was work in progress, how many of each group still needed to be started, and the frame status for each piece.

Then, some pieces were sold and others left the studio for the gallery. Some pieces were varnished and others had not been (making it easier to work on them again if I wanted to).

When we started working on the catalog I needed to keep track of what information had been given to the designer of the catalog and what was still needed. And, of course, the deadlines to get the work finished, photographed, framed and delivered.

It turns out, spreadsheets are a great way to organize all that information in an easily accessible and organized way. Spreadsheets. Who knew?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Might Have Been

What Might Have Been
48 x 40
(click for larger view)

Lennox Woods is a 300+ acre oasis of old growth forest surrounded by fields, pastures, third or fourth cut woods and pine plantations. Driving down the dirt road to its unassuming entrance one can immediately see the change in the landscape. The fact that the Woods exist today is because from the mid 19th century, the Lennox family preserved them, protected them from logging and then gave them to the Nature Conservancy to be protected in perpetuity. It could have all turned out very differently.

I thought a lot about all this while I worked in the Woods over the last two years. But, I also came to understand the idea of "what might have been" in much more personal terms. When I first came to the Woods I had certain ideas about how I would paint them. Although I spent several months just looking and drawing, I did have some preconceived ideas of how I would approach the work. Over time, many of those ideas dissolved and reformed into new ones- influenced both by the Woods themselves and the rhythm of my own life. Those things combined to produce a very different body of work than I would have produced in a shorter span of time or if my own life had not been upended in various ways during the process. I don't know what that work would have been like, but I feel confident that the body of work that I will exhibit this coming March will be stronger, better, and deeper. That is something else I learned in the Woods. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

What I learned in the Woods

Summer Respite
42 x 24
(click for larger view)

Now that I am closing in on finishing the work for the Lennox Woods show, I thought I might do a series of posts about what I have learned during this two year process. There are all sorts of things. I have learned a lot about my materials that I did not know. I have learned about patience and frustration. I have learned about the challenges of working on a large scale and of working on a long term project. The list goes on and on. So, I am going to tackle this one little piece at a time, and in no particular order of importance.

I have learned to slow down. To those who know me, I can hear your snorts of laughter! Yes, I do have a reputation for "being in a hurry, multitasking, getting a lot done in a short period of time and generally living by the "to do" list. But, exactly because of that, learning to slow down has been an important lesson, both in how I create my work and in how I approach it. Over the last ten years, the techniques I have adopted have necessitated that I slow down. Gathering field reference, eschewing photography and working indirectly have all made it necessary for the actual making of art to be a much slower process than it was when I was an alla prima, direct painter.

But now, I have slowed down in other ways. Spending time in the Woods has led me to a much slower, contemplative way of approaching Nature. Simply sitting on one spot and listening can lead to all sorts of things. In the end, that experience ends up on the canvas.