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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tracks and Visions

Sketch 14 - Tracks,  Acrylic on Saunders Paper 22" x 30"
Garden flowers gone native in various stages of bloom and decay resist the passage of vehicles. The  the tangled organic forms of the plants and the ordered precision of the tire treads reference humanity's indifference to the vigour of "weeds," escapees from neighbourhood gardens. This sketch began as a detailed drawing of the stalks, flowers and leaves in a tangled corner near my front door. The tire treads and the concrete form in the background were included to contrast with the organic chaos of the plants, setting up a visual dialog between the two elements.

While working on this piece, I was thinking of Robert Smithson's "dialectic of nature." In this sketch, the dialog references humanity's interaction with the natural environment. I have yet to fully understand Smithson's concept of "entropy," however, the plants in bloom and decay indicate an awareness of the "order to disorder" principle and the idea of "dissipated energy."

This week I also worked on Visions 1 and 2 in preparation for my show in September at the Moncton Gallery, Moncton City Hall. I will be exhibiting work from October 2011 to May 2012. Two canvases will be included, but the rest of the work consists of plywood panels.

Vision 1 Reworked 24" x 24" Acrylic on Plywood
Vision 2 Reworked 12" x 16" each panel Acrylic on Plywood
Transparent geometric shapes add interest and contrast to the organic dripped shapes I first created last winter. I could probably edit out more of the "baroque" swirls, but I would rather move on to other projects.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Revisiting Older Projects

Vision 6 "Flotsam 2" acrylic and oil on plywood panels
about 24" x 40" both panels together

Vision 6 during the last Residency

Vision 6  elicited many comments and suggestions during the last residency at AIB. I realized that the original panels were too busy and lacked focus. With the encouragement of my mentor, Suzanne Gauthier, I used Photoshop to decide how to improve the panels. Then I used a great deal of masking tape to cover certain areas of each surface before painting with oils and big brushes. I may soften a couple of edges here and there after the paint is completely dry and I have had a chance to reflect and study the work for a few days.

Vision 8  "Night Tree" Final Version
Acrylic on carved plywood  22" x 32" oval

Vision 8  "Night Tree" acrylic on carved plywood  22" x 32" oval
Vision 8 during the last residency

Using Photoshop, I determined the quadrilateral shape which could create more interest and contrast in this piece. Suzanne  suggested that I consider the square inside the circle and this led me to the distorted square. I used acrylic glazing medium and a small amount of paint to darken the area outside the quadrilateral. I practiced the hard edge masking tape technique on the small sketches I worked on following the residency, so I was able to complete the work in two steps. This piece is fairly reflective on the surface and it is a challenge to take a good photo of it.

Sketch 11 "Leavings" acrylic inks on Saunders paper 22" x 30"
We find so much trash thrown and blown into our yard, that it was not a stretch to imagine cling wrap landing on top of ground cover in a forgotten corner of the garden. The contrast of textures and material adds interest; the highly processed petroleum-based, convenience material amidst the ivy vines going "wild." The dark circles and strips could suggest other pieces of plastic and metal left behind.

Frottage Yields New Work

Vision 6 - Graphite and colored pencil frottage on mulberry paper about 60" x 40"
The Plywood panels are actually upside down here, but I prefer this arrangement as it seems to suggest landscape forms. Right-side up, the effect seems busier and less cohesive. I may do a bit of shading in between the two small shapes at the top.

During the last residency at AIB, several people suggested that I try frottage using my carved plywood panels. It certainly produces a very graphic result which I then touch up with some shading and drawing. I like the idea of creating the frottage drawings and the plywood panels as finished pieces. It would be interesting to carve plywood with the main objective being the frottage, and then see how the panels develop on their own afterwards.

Vision 7- Graphite and conté frottage on mulberry paper

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sketch 13, Stage 8  "Intrusion" 22" x 30" Acrylic on Paper
This seems to be a good place to stop working on this piece. I am moving on to another project, perhaps doing more work on Sketch 11 as I have had an idea how to improve the lower left-hand corner of it. It looks fine as a small image, but when viewed at 22" x 30", this corner lacks interest.

Sketch 11  22" x 30" Acrylic Inks on Paper

I also have two plywood projects to add to as well, after exploring a few alternatives with Photoshop.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Organic and Hard Edge - Stage 7

Sketch 13  Stage 7 -  Looking more promising with cut paper and Photoshop to help.
Integrating figurative work with abstraction is proving to be very challenging! My intention is to represent the vital energy in plants and humanity's tendency to frame and control 'nature'. We digitize pictures of 'nature', we use its contours to create flattened shapes, but do we really know or understand it?

I have arrived at an arrangement I am satisfied with enough to proceed with the next phase of the image. I will use tape to mask out the white squares and the background squares in the grid. On the leaves, I will paint squares  free-hand with flat brushes. If this does not succeed, I will move on to something else! Enough time has been invested moving squares of paper around!

The image is open to interpretation, in spite of what I may write about it!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Intrusion into the Romance of the Garden

Stage 4 - Adding the checkerboard could be dramatic.
Paper squares taped to acrylic painting on 22" x 30" Saunders wc paper.

Stage 3 - An intrusion into the romance of the garden;
an experiment with abstraction in the form of a checkerboard.
Not quite where I want it to be. I can re-arrage the paper squares.

This week I have been working on a composition featuring close-ups of garden leaves. I brought ivy into the studio for first-hand observation, which helped enormously. The photos show the painting with various arrangements of cut paper taped to its surface. I was looking for a satisfying way to express the notion of humanity's mediation of 'nature' with studies of the ivy interspersed with intrusive geometric shapes. I was reminded of M.C. Escher's work while placing the black and white cut-outs. (Scroll down to begin with Stage 1 and work your way back up!)

I was also concerned with suggesting different levels in space. At one point I realized that I had created a romantic sky, suggesting the heroic nature of the main leaf! I subdued the intense blue in the sky and began to work on squares combined with circular forms, another pre-occupation of mine since April or May this year. The earthy, natural colors needed some drama, so I tried orange, along with yellow and red. Paints would be more intense than the construction paper.

However, A combination of Stages 3 and 4 appeals to me as well. I would leave the large black squares in the foreground and the smaller squares in the right-hand sky and try Stage 4's arrangement over the leaf, adding orange as an accent, perhaps with Photoshop.

Stage 5 took quite a while to accomplish and it would take doubly long to reproduce. It is beginning to look too fussy to me. Reflection is always a good policy; plus I am remembering Peter Rostovsky's advice to use "the simplest means possibie." Although cutting the 1 cm squares and sticking them on kept me out of trouble for a couple of hours, I will explore Stages 3 & 4 again.

Several hours later, cutting tape and tiny squares! I could mask with tape and paint
with opaque acrylic for the black, yellow, orange and red bits, but do I really want to?

Stage 5 - Busy! Busy!
Stage 4 - Small squares seem to work better in the middle ground.
Stage 3 - An intrusion into the romance of the garden.
Stage 2 - Attempt at integrating white areas.

Stage 1 - The Heroic Plant!
Too much intense turquoise and vapid leaves!
Not to worry- transparent inks can be painted over easily.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


"Fremd" Watercolor and Acrylic Inks on 22" x 30" Bockingford paper
A tiny plant growing out of crevices in a rock face was the concept I had in mind for this piece. I began with watercolor, painting into wet paper. When this dried, the grey brushstrokes were so regular and flat, that I decided to drip acrylic inks down them. As I turned the paper at different angles, the ink flowed in strange shapes reminiscent of seaweed or of cactus. I worked on the drips, transforming them into odd plants and I worked over the "rock face" which began to resemble weathered planks of wood.

"Fremd" is an archaic word for alien or strange. I think it describes the plants I have created! I am satisfied with the loose quality and the suggestion of forms. This is my first piece since the residency which does not appear to be overworked.