Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gyro in Several Formats

"Gyro" 22" x 46" with surface carving
 I am almost finished carving "Gyro" before sanding more of the surface. I may darken some of the painted areas with small amounts of paint and perhaps add a small amount of  transparent white dry-brushed over some of the carved out areas. I want to retain the roughness of the wood as the main feature. I should say dry-swiped as I will be using a piece of dish-cloth instead of a brush. It works for me!

I will also try the panels upside-down and turned different ways. I tried arranging the panels in a vertical format for this frottage and I like the contrast between the horizontal and the vertical grains in the wood. I will try this with the panels as well. Perhaps I will not be attaching spacers behind two of them, but attach the same spacers behind all three panels. It does set the piece off from the wall and cast shadows which function as a sort of frame.

"Gyro Frottage"  wax rubbing stick on mulberry paper
I decided to see what the frottage would look like attached to canvas, so I made a sample. This is pre-primed canvas, but I prefer the natural side of the weave. I wet both sides, then removed excess water with a sponge and stapled the canvas to plywood. On a clean piece of newsprint, I placed the frottage face-down and sprayed it with water to dampen it. Next, I coated the canvas with acrylic matte medium with a large flat brush. I applied the frottage to this, smoothing it right-side up with a large, clean brush. It adhered perfectly and I am anxious to see the result when it is completely dry.

The canvas could be lightly stained before the frottage is glued on. There is also the possibility of collaging other materials as well. I prefer to use restraint and to keep in mind the aesthetic of the unfinished.

Sample frottage adhered to canvas.

"Bric-a-Brac" in development.

"Bric-a-Brac" again.

I can't seem to decide which arrangement I prefer, so I aim to drill holes for bolts which will allow the pieces to go together several ways. This will be a new challenge, but perhaps I will find a new arrangement!

I am also working on the spacers and the hanging system for "Curves" and the paperwork for shipping my work to AIB for the January residency.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Treasures and Weeds

"A Weed is a Treasure"  72" x 40" Acrylic on canvas
On this canvas, I used flexible modelling paste in some areas, applied with a large palette knife to suggest the texture  and veins in leaves without depicting them in detail. I sanded the surfaces lightly to remove sharp points and edges and began using a rag to apply thin layers of acrylic paint. I used a calligraphy brush to sketch the plants, keeping in mind the objective of letting the materials speak for themselves and leaving a somewhat unfinished state so the that the work breathes and suggests its concept rather than portraying a literal rendition of it. I am happy with the result and I will leave it alone for now!

Below is a detail photo showing some of the textures achieved with the modelling paste.

"A Weed is a Treasure" detail
 The title of this piece in progress comes from  Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. The chapter or mini-lesson is called "Calmness," a quality which visitors to my exhibitions ascribe to  much of my artwork. This 'American Classic' about Zen teachings is clear and helpful, in spite of the difficulties of translating Japanese concepts and the Japanese language into English.

While contemplating the role of entropy in the natural environment in my last essay, I came across a seeming paradox in a simplified scientific explanation of this concept, which reminded me of Asian ideas. Entropy can be seen as the amount of energy available to do work, but not yet used, and it is also the tendency of a closed system to move from order to disorder. The paradox develops when a closed system becomes so perfect that it never changes, recouping a maximum of entropy, energy which is never used.

Such an idea of opposites in tandem simultaneously reminded me immediately of a text I had read on Japanese aesthetics. It also occurred to my faculty advisor, Peter Rostovsky, who suggested that I research the Japanese concepts wabi  and sabi. This brought me back to my adolescence when I had studied Japanese ceramics and learned about the tea ceremony. Peter suggested that I think of my work as a pursuit of unfinishedness. My mentor, Suzanne Gauthier had already talked with me about letting the materials speak and forgoing much of the control I was imposing on them, a remarkably similar discussion I had had years before about my stoneware pottery (which I usually overworked)!

"Curves" about 32" x 24" Acrylic on plywood panels
 I decided to embrace entropy and act on the materials as if I was wearing them away or eroding them in the exterior environment. I had applied glossy paint to my "Curves" project, but it was not working well. After sanding the panels with coarse sandpaper, I began to be more satisfied with them. Some of the earlier drips I had rejected as being too busy reappeared in a more interesting guise as faint stains.

I have put the router away. I prefer the natural grain of the wood and the roughness of ordinary wood chisels to help keep me from overworking the wood on the next projects.

"Autumn" Stage 6 Acrylic on canvas 48" x 36"
Although I succeeded in suggesting light, I am not satisfied with this canvas. Another one of my tendencies, besides overworking, is to use directionals going only one way, or an overall pattern which can become monotonous. Time to move on!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Halifax Visit and Exhibitions

Please note that I was not able to copy photos from the exhibitions mentioned in this post, but I have included links to the artists' web sites.

I was happy to be able to see several exhibitions, attend an opening and visit another grad student last weekend in Halifax while also meeting with my mentor, Suzanne Gauthier.

I returned to see "Canadian Pioneers: Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, J.W. Morrice and the Group of Seven, Masterworks from the Sobey Collections." The works in this exhibition are on public display for the first time. The list of prominent Canadian artists is much longer than the title of the show implies. The painting that impressed me the most is a large oil study of a grey rock outcrop, with several brilliant red maple saplings in front of it and mist blue hills barely visible in the background. Almost the entire composition is in shadow, with subtle gradations and variations of grey modelling the rock face in large brushstrokes. The color relationships are outstanding, The red is brilliant, but judiciously used against the nuances of the stone. I sat in front of this work for at least twenty minutes absorbing it as there are no reproductions of it available.

There were other fantastic paintings as well. High Water by A. J. Casson is very memorable also. I always enjoy seeing work by Emily Carr. I think I have adopted some of the greens she used in her paintings of the forests of British Columbia.

After Suzanne and I discussed my current work, we headed downtown to NSCAD to visit another grad student in his studio. Conor Fagan was working on a new canvas and a small study in preparation. He uses man-made and organic small objects under spotlights and creates whimsical scenes where ceramic boiled egg-holders become floating ducks or laughing monks. It was interesting to talk to him about his work and then show him my blog.

The gallery, Studio 21, has moved to a new and much larger location. The opening on Friday night was very well-attended, even crowded and I ran into two friends from my undergrad years whom I hadn't seen for a very long time. One was Susan Wood, one of the featured artists in the new Studio 21 exhibition. Her drawings are sensitive, beautiful and restrained. Susan has developed her own way of using collage under her drawings, which seems to convey a sense of timelessness and nostalgia.

Another show I was fortunate to see is "Synchronicity" at the Secord Gallery. I particularly responded to Leya Evelyn's abstract paintings. Suzanne had recommended that I look at her work online, which I had done during the summer. It is never the same, however, as seeing the actual artwork. Leya creates textures on her canvases with what seem to be sand and fibrous materials as well as rectangles of canvas. Over this surface, she adds small accents of collaged patterned fabric and paper and rich, textural colors in oil paint. 

I wanted to rush home and take out my oil paints right away. Never mind the odor or the slow drying time! I will put up with it. I haven't been able to duplicate the subtlety of oils using acrylic paints. Hopefully I will be able to work in oils without aggravating my asthma.

Sculpture by Brad Hall was also interesting. Brad combines several elements together with ease, such as wood, copper, steel, and aluminum, utilizing their individual textures.

View the show online at:

On the way back home, I stopped at a metal recycling establishment, otherwise known as a junkyard! My next painting may have bits of discarded machinery amongst the lush undergrowth of my imaginary back yard. Suzanne sent me there and along with directions from the gas station attendant and my GPS, I arrived at the right place. The yard is open on weekdays only, so I took a few photos. Maybe next time I am passing by, I will stop in and pick up some rusty treasures for my studio. I find having a few concrete objects in front of me while I am painting to be extremely useful. There are also the junkyards of Moncton to explore, a little closer to home.

Jones & Son Metal, Truro, NS
This place has a huge metal crusher. I was kind of glad it wasn't in operation while I was there! It does create some interesting folds and permutations in the metal, however.

Harmony Acrylic on Canvas 8" x 10"

I stained the canvas with acrylic inks, and then interrupted the strokes with black paint. I like the contrast between the watery pigments and the thick paint.

Aqua Dream  and Pink Flow Acrylic on Canvas 8" x 8"

Here I was trying out several ways of applying opaque acrylics over a medium grey. I probably need to work on these more. Perhaps I will experiment with oil glazes over the acrylic.

Today I began working on my 72" x 40" canvas, applying modelling paste in some areas and texturing its surface by patting it with a large palette knife. I am planning to sand down the spiny points a bit before washing pools of paint over the canvas. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Curves, Dwelling and Gyro Projects

"Curves" about 32" x 24" acrylic on plywood panels
This project has been challenging, frustrating and fun at different stages. I have tried to differentiate each panel with its surface treatment. I poured paint over the rear panel, only to quickly wipe it off. There were some faded bits of white paint clinging to the wood, so I decided to sand it. I liked the effect so much, that I sanded the rest of the panel. This was done with a piece of coarse sandpaper held in my hand. I avoided using a sanding block so that I would not have lines etched into the wood, although there are a few small ones here and there.

The back of each panel is painted flourescent orange and there is glow cast when the piece is in front of a white wall. I may use a small light bulb behind the project to heighten the effect of the orange glow. The holes bored through the panel are painted orange inside to create a link between the front and the back of the sculpture.

Pieces of 2" x 4" wood painted to match the panels create spaces between them, and allow the piece to be free-standing. All of the pieces come apart and go back together again with nuts and bolts, so they will all fit into a 24" x 24" box for shipping.

'Curves" Frottage, previous stage.

This frottage was done before I bored more holes into the large curved panel. Next time I take "Curves" apart. I will make a new frottage and see what the new piece looks like. I used a rubbing stick this time instead of graphite. It is cleaner than graphite and reveals more detail. It is actually a square of dense black wax, like a big, flat chip of children's crayons melted down and re-molded. I like the way you can build up darker areas with several careful layers.

"Dwelling" (below) is an assemblage of scraps and bits I have collected in my studio. A piece of shelving split at the lumber depot, and the pieces were being thrown out, so I grabbed them. I like the waving grain patterns in the split areas contrasting with the evenly sawed and sanded sides. The rotted wood and bark pieces are sealed with "Clear Coat", turning them a rich dark hue. They need a couple more coats to preserve them as I am finding little bits of them around after working with them. 

I haven't attached any of the pieces together yet. I am still mulling it over. The piece looks like a maquette for a larger, outdoor work. Perhaps I should make a small figure or two to give some scale to it. 

While working with the pieces, I was reminded of the hours I spent as a child building towers and castles with two sets of wooden blocks.

"Dwelling" Wood scraps about 16" x 18" in total.

"Dwelling" from another angle.
I have just begun "Gyro" after creating a series of thumbnail sketches and finally coming up with the germ of a workable image in my sketchbook. I used a big brush to create the main shapes in thin Payne's Grey and liquid medium. I rubbed out one shape with a damp cloth and discovered the staining effect on the wood grain. I will enhance the effect later. When I took the photo, the wood was still wet, but once it dried, the stain turned a light grey. I am planning to carve some texture into some areas of the plywood, and I will use spacers to have the middle and right-hand panels project from the wall.

"Gyro" will be a low-relief painting on plywood. My sketch has transparent violet, blue and yellow accents along with the dark shapes. I plan to keep the paint transparent over the stained wood grain areas and I want to vary the mark-making on this project.

"Gyro" - This is the beginning of the project!  22" x 44"
I also began a large canvas this week (72" x 40"). The second coat of gesso is drying as I type this blog entry. I am still working out the concept and experimenting with collaged paper to create texture before painting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why plywood?

"Curves" in progress.
"Curves" with 2x4 spacers in progress.

People often ask me why I use plywood as an art material. For me, plywood represents various aspects of humanity's relationship with the natural environment.
It's form contrasts with its texture, the wood grain from its source, live trees. Plywood, like most art materials available today, is one of many commercial products which are formed through the manipulation and control of a natural resource. 

A natural material transformed into a product by an industrial and technological process, plywood is easy to use and readily available, as well as economical and durable if treated properly. 

A disadvantage for me is the high cost of shipping it. This semester I am exploring ways of using small segments of plywood, measuring 22" or less, and attaching them together in order to save on shipping costs. 

My last show of plywood projects was very well-received, so I will continue to work with it in addition to painting on other surfaces.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mixing It Up

"Autumn" Stage 4 Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 48"

"Autumn" Stage 3 - Acrylic on Canvas 48" x 36"
Stage 3 - This painting actually looked more successful reduced to the small dimensions of the blog photo than it did in the studio!

Stage 4 - I  developed the diagonal shafts of light with more gradations. This began as a sketch with the idea of dripping on the diagonal, but I decided to use brushes to apply the paint. I had printed a photo of the canvas in its previous stage and then used colored pencils to suggest the diagonals. Soon I had the suggestion of light filling the central area of the painting.

In both of these works, I am interested in the vitality of the plants growing in neglected areas among abandoned junk. In "Autumn," I used the shape of an old oil tank, often found in rural areas where people leave their refuse. The other item is an old tire, which is still in my back yard. It is waiting to be taken away for proper recycling. The old boards are another feature of the former 'car port' which we had taken down a few years ago. A few of them have rotted nicely into interesting textures for my wooden projects. The garden has been neglected, yet it is furnishing me with material for explorations of humanity's relationship with the natural environment. I have come to a new appreciation of the plants which thrive in the flower beds and the lawn on their own.

"Pods" Stage 5 - 36" x 48" acrylic on canvas.
"Pods" Stage 4 Detail, Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 48"
"Pods" began with horse chestnuts I collected from my neighbour's yard. The green pods are spiny and sharp, but they spring open when they fall to the ground, releasing the shiny, smooth nuts inside. I left them on the window ledge of my studio for a few days and discovered that both the pod shells and the chestnuts dry out and shrink over time. In the painting, I want the pods to seem eccentric and sharp, even "creepy," resisting the touch of people and animals. The leaf shapes are based on the horse chestnut branches I brought into the studio and observed as they dried out and curled up.

I had to leave this canvas on the floor overnight so that it would dry without the splatters moving around. The drips have added energy and vitality to the composition, which was beginning to descend into dark, predictable forms. I have created some vertical drips running down over the upper part of the painting, mostly in the sky. When this doesn't appeal to me, I can wipe them off quickly and add more drops of paint to build up the sky area and the verticals in the background. There may be more work to be done on this painting.

This reminds me somewhat of Lynn Foulkes' use of wooden pieces, although what I have here is just a beginning. Nothing is glued or attached together as I am still developing the idea.
Wood Pieces1 - Natural vs. Industrial (kind of static)
Here I have collected tree bark and rotted wood from my yard. I sealed them with 'Clear Coat' plyurethane. Hopefully no critters from the outdoors have moved indoors from them! I also have a few 'craft' blocks of whittling wood which form a contrast with the rough, natural textures. I'm not sure if this arrangement is dynamic enough to pursue.

Here is another easy landscape use of the bark (too easy perhaps). I would carve into the plywood, perhaps glue some textural material onto it, and treat the surface either with paint or by leaving the project out in the weather on my patio. The bark would need at least one more coat of 'Clear Coat' as it breaks very easily.
Wood Pieces2 - Easy Landscape (too easy?)
I will forage in the yard again and see if I can find some larger pieces of debris. It would be great to create a three-panel project.

Plywood Project - "Curves" with 2" x 4" spacers
Suzanne Gauthier, my mentor, suggested that I use pieces of 2" x 4" as spacers. I agree that these pieces add interest and solidity to the project when it is viewed from the sides. There will also be a couple of spacers on the back of the quarter circle (on the floor) to push it off the wall when the project is hanging. I will sand the edges of the spacers, drill holes in the right places for bolts and paint the pieces to go with the plywood shapes. I will try the same glazes, but I may paint them black instead. I still have the florescent paint in mind for the back, so we'll see what happens!

This relief sculpture also alludes to the natural vs the industrial. The plywood is highly industrialized, but it shows the grain of its original tree trunks. I have modified the surfaces with my router and my paint, which are both technological processes. The black bolts will refer to our desire to contain and control the vitality of natural forms from our environment.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Autumn, Pods and Plywood

Plywood Project "Curves" apr. 22" x 22" when assembled.
Yesterday I painted the panels for my plywood relief project with three glazes. I tried Turquoise mixed with  Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. I was surprised that the Turquoise behaves as a powerful green. I added Cadmium Red Medium to counteract the intensity, but I still had a strong green. I painted it on and wiped the excess off with a cloth. The next layer was a thin brown; Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue, applied with a dry brush and rubbed with the cloth. Finally, I created a bluish glaze leaning towards violet to cool down the brown. The panels seem to be a cool brown from a distance, but when you are closer, you can see the color and grain variations in the wood.

I roughed up the ends of the carriage bolts with coarse sandpaper and painted them black, so that they are still a part of the project, but not quite so dominant. Next I should decide what to use as spacers in between each panel. My mentor was not impressed with the wooden spools I was using. She suggested blocks of wood instead, which seem to look less noticeable. I have decided that this project will hang on the wall as a relief as I did not spend enough time considering what it will look like from behind or even from the sides.

"Autumn" Stage 2 - Acrylic on canvas 48" x 36."
Today I took the plunge and went back to work on "Autumn," covering most of the background with a thin glaze of white and Naples Yellow to soften and warm it up. I worked on the greys, using brown to pinkish tints, blue-grey and browns. A soft green adds a bit of contrast to the yellow and orange leaves. This is an improvement, however, there is still more to do on this before it is finished. I want to keep the loose approach. Perhaps I will add some judicious drips and splatters.

"Pods" Stage 3 - Acrylic on canvas 36" x 48."
As you can see, I have warmed up the tones with Naples Yellow and white, and added more foliage in the middle ground of "Pods." In addition, varying the greys results in hints of greenish-grey, pinkish-grey and orange-grey. There is a significant amount of thin brown glaze in the dark area in the lower right-hand corner, but it looks densely black in the photo. I may use some drips and spatters on this canvas, but I am undecided. When I see what happnes with "Autumn" I will decide! I am trying to make each project different from all previous ones. I don't plan to drip and spatter on everything this semester.
"Pods" Stage 3 detail
In these details you can see the sketchy application of the paint. It is still quite thin on the canvas surface, leaving the open for adding textures in the paint.
"Pods" Stage 3 detail.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pods and Whisperings

"Pods" Stage 2. Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 48."

"Pods" detail. I like the looseness, but the color is still too strong.
 The paint in phase 2 of "Pods" was loosely applied while observing horse chestnut pods, nuts and twigs in the studio. The leaves were slowly drying out and curling, creating swirls and calligraphic lines. I worked over some of the intense orange leaves to subdue them a bit. The central glowing sun area needs a middle ground in front of it. I may paint some amorphous leaf shapes with less detail than the chestnut leaves in the foreground. More subtlety is also needed.

The verticals in the middle ground could use some textural elements to suggest tree trunks perhaps. Light could be coming from street lamps as opposed to the hazy sun, which seems quite cliché and sci-fi. The greys need more variation; tints and shades with other colors cooling and warming them. Suzanne, my mentor, suggested mixing black and grey from other hues and putting aside the black and white paint tubes. This painting and "Autumn" are the first I have done with Mars Black as my darkest hue. It was an experiment, but I think I went overboard. However, what is on the canvas is only the beginning of the project!

On Friday, while in Halifax, I attended a talk given by artist Rick Leong at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. It was very interesting to see how Rick takes inspiration from his Asian background and transforms it into his large, whimsical paintings of imagined landscapes. Often he creates an illusion in blades of grass, reeds or twigs, which become hidden images. He also paints misty, amorphous dream landscapes which seem to come from a different stream of consciousness. Much of his work is determined by detailed linear drawings which he transfers to panels and then paints. I found that they reminded me of a lavishly illustrated book I had as a child of Japanese fairy tales.

Rick is artist in residence at NASCAD for the next month or so. I am looking forward to seeing his current projects on exhibit when he finishes them sometime in November. It is so much more informative to see the actual work than to look at digital images or a web site.

Whispering Grass and Silent Water by Rick Leong. 6' x 9'   2011

Curves and Bolts

"Curves" Carved Plywood, Free-Standing 22" x 22"

"Curves" side view

"Curves" Sketch for possible placement of holes and bolts.
The dark dots represent possible holes drilled through the plywood.
The white circles represent the metal bolt ends.
My latest three-dimensional effort in plywood has presented some interesting challenges. I had to work with the materials directly to develop the project and it is still in flux.  After discussing various ideas with Suzanne Gauthier, my mentor, I decided to take the pieces apart. The smallest quarter circle swung down and around on its last bolt, and I was able to stand the whole construction up to be free-standing when I tightened the bolt. If I decide to stand it up, I will need to create some interest on the back of each panel. I have been thinking of it as a relief sculpture hanging on the wall up to this point.

Suzanne felt that the bolts were too much in evidence, but I think this arrangement is an improvement. I may paint the bolt ends in subdued colors, and perhaps drill extra holes in the wood to break up the linear patterns of the grains. I may change the wing nuts I have been using on the back of each panel to a less noticeable type of nut. I am planning to paint the panels in transparent layers of blues and browns until the wood grain is almost submerged under the glazes. All sides of the work will be painted.  I have purchased some florescent paint to use on the back of a plywood project in order to cast a pink or orange glow on the wall behind it. I am not certain whether or not I will use it on this particular sculpture.

I like the contrast of the metal with the wood's surface as well. I think of the bolts representing humanity's efforts to control "nature" and organic processes. The wood grains I have enlarged with the router tool seem to resist the bolts.I hope that there will be some tension created between them. Hopefully I can make it work. If not, there are always dowels and plastic wood paste I can use to fill in all the holes I have drilled! 

Commercially produced wooden spools function as spacers. With this arrangement, they seem to work. I may also try cubic blocks of wood. One of my objectives with this project is to create a sculpture which I can take apart for shipping and reassemble easily. If all of the pieces can fit into a 24" x 24" x 24" carton, so much the  better as I will save substantially on shipping costs.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Symposium d' Art Nature 2012

Michael Belmore with "Residual."

"Residual" seems to glow and flicker in between the stones.

"Pawakan" by Ned Bear.
Paul Griffin discussing "Sarcophagus for an Elm."
The third Symposium d'Art Nature took place in Moncton September 28 - October 7, 2012 at the Parc écologique du Millénaire, adjacent to the Université de Moncton campus. Although I was not able to take in all of the lectures and activities offered during the week, I attended the artist talk given by Rose-Marie Goulet who works in conjunction with architects in designing large public art works. Her most well-known piece is "Nef pour quatorze reines," the memorial to the fourteen women killed by an armed man in their classroom at the École polytechnique in Montréal, December sixth 1989. Another notable work was installed in the Palais Montcalm and Salle Raoul-Jobin, featuring lettering and musical scores. It was interesting to hear the process of planning at the initial stages, when the architects are developing plans for the project. This way, the cost of materials, production and installation are included in the overall budget for construction. It seems that many of Ms. Goulet's projects are funded through the 1% regulation for public buildings in Québec.

Following the lecture, I visited the nine sites outdoors where nature art projects were underway. On Saturday, I returned to see them finished. I was very impressed with the subtlety of Michael Belmore's "Residual." On an overcast day, the effect is more pronounced, as if the stones are glowing with magma inside. Michael creates this with copper leaf, a material he has used on at least 19 other previous projects.

Ned Bear has carved directly into the living tree, which has become somewhat controversial. he has been making these carvings for some time in different locations, presumably the trees are not harmed as long as he doesn't carve too deeply. I am interested to return after the winter to see the effect of weathering on the exposed wood.

Paul Griffin's elm tree trunk is encased in roofing nails, totally changing its appearance. The plan was to set it up vertically once the nails are complete. I fund it more interesting when part of the trunk was exposed without nails. The bark of the tree had been removed prior to hammering in nails. Paul described how his studio had burned down and the wood he salvaged actually led to a new body of work.

Gilbert LeBlanc created a labyrinth based on the maze in Chartres Cathedral, using straw found on site and clipped grass. The idea is to follow the maze while contemplating or meditating. It is fascinating because you cannot see where each path will lead you, although there is a concentric symmetry to teh whole.

The permanent installation by Bob Verschueren is also very captivating. The official unveiling of "Renaître" was taking place with a crowd, so I plan to return to take photos. White stone os various dimensions has been carefully arranged in a low hollow with a pathway through it. When you descend the path, you are enclosed in this mini-environment.

Other installations from previous years encourage contemplation and meditation within the park.

I have also been trying out my new camera at the nature park and in my back yard. I must read the detailed manual before going out again with it, but I am pleased with the results so far! In my studio work I am finding that I am more successful if I use my sketches and drawings as sources. However, I enjoy photography, and sometimes it serves to bring ideas to the fore which I later pursue in drawings and sketches.

Wood has been rotting away in my back yard, becoming an art material!

Peeling paint creates interesting shadows.
Next summer we will have to have this part of the exterior basement wall re-painted!

I've always been fascinated with horse chestnuts and their strange casings.
This one looks like an alien being springing from its interstellar pod.

Butternut trees are a protected species in New Brunswick, Canada.
If only I'd known when I pulled a few out of our lawn!
The neighbourhood squirrel has been busy planting nuts.

Ivy again and peeling paint.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pods 1

"Pods" Phase 1 Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 48"
Tangled undergrowth and strange, spiny pods in an urban vacant lot form the beginning of this painting. I think of it as an under painting, laying the main tonal areas and suggesting colors which I will subdue with transparent layers subsequently. I want to create the impression of light bathing ambiguous forms  with a few splashes of color. Originally, I planned to paint the spiny seed pods in detail. We'll see what happens as the painting progresses. The orange and pink are too flat and bright, but this will illuminate the shapes from inside through multiple layers of paint as I model them.

I have been working on my latest plywood project, but I need to buy a 3/8 " drill bit in order to proceed with it. Today I purchased wooden spools which will function as spacers between the layers of plywood. I have enough bolts and wing nuts to attach the project together. It will be interesting to see how it balances! Stay tuned for a photo of the carved panels set up with spacers. After drilling holes for the bolts, I can proceed to paint the panels. I bought a new camera today, so I am able to take photos again without resorting to my basic mobile phone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Plywood and Pink

"Autumn or the Power of Pink"  48" x 36" Acrylic on canvas - phase 1.

Mock-up for the next plywood project.
Each piece measures no longer or wider than 22".

Mock-up with plant forms.

Original Sketch which changed during the process!

After a bout with an abscessed tooth, I am back to the studio. The other day I began working with the cardboard to develop my next low relief project, and I began playing with the shapes. I decided to make some changes to my original idea. I am still interested in showing how the plants resist containment and do their best to break free of the geometric shapes which contain them. The finished project will be bolted together with spacers between the pieces to cast shadows. I decide to use ivy as the inspiration for the leaves as the ferns were too complex for the shapes I have had cut in plywood. Perhaps I will use fern-inspired shapes on a future project. Today I picked up the plywood pieces cut out and nicely sanded at my local frame shape. I admit to feeling ill at ease using power tools. We don't have any at our house anyway!

Today I began a new canvas as well. I like the sketchy quality of the shapes, even though abstraction is not evident. I painted the canvas white to grey to dark grey to begin with. Then I sketched the stems and leaves using segments of ivy vine I brought from home. Next I began thinking of an old oil tank left outdoors in the weeds. The composition needed another vertical, which could become a tree trunk or a square post. I used brilliant magenta at first on the leaves. It really turns me off as a color, straight from the tube, so I washed some yellow over it in places which works better for me. I like the effect, but I will probably work more on it without losing the freshness of the sketch. It felt good to make a picture without over planning it. I have thought about this canvas a great deal before beginning it, but as it formed in front of me, I made new decisions.