While I was not able to make it to any Hawaiian coast whatsoever during this summer’s vacation, I WAS able to live vicariously by painting one featuring this couple! I’m just wading back into my art life after being entirely consumed with purchasing a home, moving, and getting set up since mid-April. My studio only just came together one week ago! This was a fun portrait project to help get back into it after a long vacation from art. It also allowed me to deepen my skill in painting full-figure humans (versus dogs) in a natural setting.
Most enjoyable was the painterly, atmospheric background of clouds and waves in contrast with the meticulously placed daubs of paint here and there to capture the likeness of the subjects. I worked with a limited primary palette to mix all the colors, which I think lends a certain “pure” feel to the overall tone. This was the first painting completed in my new studio space, and I’m eager to move on to many more projects currently floating around in my head!
Check out the instagram posts below to see how this painting developed:
I haven’t posted much in the last few months as we have been completely consumed with the process of purchasing a home. That does not mean that I have not also been busy with painting! Over the next few days I’ll post a few of my recent painting milestones.
Our February trip to Oaxaca, Mexico inspired this self-portrait. The open-air courtyards familiar to Spanish colonial architecture were the perfect place to capture dramatic lighting. Many of the plants and cacti in our courtyard were wild and unruly, giving the haphazard space an “ugly-beautiful” feel, splashes of color surrounding us. From a technique perspective, I tried hard to paint in all the lights and darks, creating deep contrast, before I began working with color. Process pics below to see how the layers developed. Soon, the counterpart portrait of my devoted traveling partner will surface, but it’s still lingering in my imagination for now :)
Growing up, we spent two weeks every summer hiking in the Southern tip of grizzly country, the Mission and Swan mountain ranges of Northwestern Montana. Crashing through the mountainside bramble towards the high glacier lakes, we watched for the bear signs: slobber on the huckleberry bush, foul-smelling scat full of indigestible berry husks. We wore jingling bells to reduce the chance we might surprise a foraging bear, carried one loaded magnum in case the worst transpired. At the cabin, we devised an elaborate “bear escape” plan, should our homestead become the target of a hungry ursine burglar. Pervasive in our Montana stories, the grizzly bear was (and still is) a powerful and ominous force in the back of our minds. Luckily, we have not yet initiated the bear escape plan, nor required the loaded magnum on the trail! Continue reading →
Emerging darkly from the petrified air, a wooden plaque carved onto Smokey The Bear warned fire danger was “extremely dry, extremely high.” No campfires, no grills, no cigarettes, no huckleberries under the desiccating pines of Northwestern Montana. Grandma had texted (expertly, with many emojii) “we can’t see our mountains!” The drive up highway 83 this year, approaching our mountain refuge, was brimming with smoke. Flowing downwind from blazes in Idaho and Washington, the roil blotted out Montana’s Big Sky, tainted the Sun and Moon with toxic orange, and sent Glacier Park road-to-the-sunners scrambling back to the drawing board, travel guides and gas station free attraction brochure stands. Continue reading →
This monumental cranium, titled Eros Bendato Screpolato (Bandaged, Cracked Eros) by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj has rolled onto the front lawn of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (now referred to as “The MEE-yah”). Our plan to sketch a naked human in the drawing studio fell through, so we spent an afternoon on the wet museum grass, sketching Eros’ bandaged cranium in bronze instead. Continue reading →
Truth: it is hard to find time for painting in the crush of full time work and full time school. Fortunately, another truth exists: the harder it is to find time to paint, the more I want to do it, and I fantasize about long hours with my easel, surfaces, brushes… Knowing my capacity for hedonism, I shouldn’t worry about losing my craft. But starting this piece, I was more than a little wobbly getting back to the process. For now, this is just an under painting, and I’ll be working on layering in richer color, more exacting line work, a truer depiction of my friend in the foreground. The stiff, scary Chucky Doll face I unintentionally rendered will need to be worked over. The distinctive bridges in the background create movement and ground the portrait in Minneapolis and the Mississippi. Continue reading →
It’s been a daft time with moving my home to a new (and greatly improved) space, but my new art “studio” area is finally all set up, much more sunny than it was before, and I’m ready to get working on lots of new ideas. Turning 29 tomorrow, and a page is turning. Isn’t 29 supposed to be the best year? Here’s a quick sketch of my boyfriend catching some zzz on the couch, aptly titled “Coucher.”
Quick plug – checked out the Saint Paul Art Crawl yesterday for the first time, exploring the different artist lofts and studios in the Lowertown area by the old rail yard. We came across lots of interesting work (audience participation written prayer flags for endangered species, glorified crafts, etc.), and several really compelling things. There were some “street stages” which were essentially wooden soap boxes for the public to use in whatever performative way they wanted. I elected to squat and devour some ridiculously good food truck chicken wings. I spent a lot of time in Caroline Mecklin’s studio considering her work and what I could learn from it. Visit her here: www.mecklinart.com
In “The Raucous Group” I’m still exploring themes of human bodies in relation to space as in “Man with Drapes” and “Tuberculosis.” The figures find themselves in a somewhat neutral zone of abstraction, however in this piece their surroundings begin to take on a little more form.
While working on this painting I was trying to move away from these sort of amorphous, indefinite environments I was placing figures in. Realizing I was getting too comfortable with overworking the figures themselves and paying little attention to their physical “place in space,” I attempted to build the environment with as much intent and care as I constructed the figures. For me this was challenging – most of our structured human environments are rigid, geometrical, which doesn’t lend itself to the fluid energy-based stroke I was used to. I layered the interest in the background and foreground using a combination of color washes, “dredging” with charcoal and paint, and copious applications of medium with a palette knife.
“Ook-see-kook-see-koo-la-ma-vee!” Dad is yelling at our irreverent laughter, as we bounce along in his old truck, heading north into the pine lands above the prairie of my childhood. On our way to the Hiawatha Festival, the long, even Minnesota plains highway has buckled into sudden hills, the truck jaunting up and down, and my sister and I are throwing our tiny hands up – the family truck has become a roller coaster.
“Ook-see-kook-see-koo-la-ma-vee! The grasshoppers are gone, it’s Saint Urho’s day!” The legend of Saint Urho, as bellowed happily by Dad, involved an embattled plague of locusts pursued by a giant exemplar, armed with a pitchfork and some irresistibly humorous gibberish. Long ago, Urho drove the insect horde out of Finland because they threatened the grape harvest, and the Finns were so rapturously thankful for the salvation of their wine-making crops, they beatified the brute…or so the story is told by Dad. In other, more esoteric versions, Saint Urho was known to drink large quantities of pungent fish stew, which in turn gave him a supernatural vocal quality. Full of piscine broth and thunderous of voice , the great Saint yelled nonsense and rhymes, shattering the ears of the grasshoppers. They were sent swarming away, holding their heads, toward more quiet and hospitable crops. Still, other versions indicate Saint Urho was simply someone’s joke, a figment conjured from imaginations of some area drinking buddies, more out of jealousy for the Irish Saint Patrick than out of pious observance.
Quixotic, retired exterminator Saint Urho stands at the Gateway to the Pines in caryatid relief, gazing down the quiet highway towards those who approach Menahga. The blueberry town at some point adopted Urho as its patron and protector, and the story was passed down by the jealous Finns who may have dreamed him up. I think of him as a benevolent presence between the birch and pine woods surrounding these fading central Minnesota towns. In Menahga the veracity of the Saint’s tale doesn’t matter, only that his legendary protection is important, even though most everybody there is Lutheran.
Man with drapes is called man with drapes because there is not another good name for it. A man stands, picking up some drapes. This was one of the first of my “progressive painting” experiments, in which I worked primarily in charcoal, then liberally applied paint, then alternated back to charcoal, and so forth in a pattern cycle that eventually became “constant revision” and changing of position, color, etc. I searched for a surface full of movement, uncertainty, but also shape and form. Making art this way, it is impossible to know when to stop revising or beginning a new cycle for the piece. At a point, I believe the art tells you when to stop. If the artist feels it is unfinished, then it is up to the viewer to finish it.
Unfortunately for man with drapes, there were very few viewers. This painting featured in a solo show at the now defunct Pi Bar (a MPLS GLBT night club), then hung on my studio’s wall for awhile. When I went to France, the boyfriend of a friend threw it in a dumpster after they had a fight. A loyal girlfriend of mine drove to the suburbs to rescue the piece, which was returned to me upon my return from France, months later. Man with drapes hung happily on my studio apartment wall for a time, and it was the favorite painting of my then long-distance boyfriend. When we broke up, I was maudlin. I piled all things that reminded me of him into a box, including a tiny plastic christmas tree, and this painting. I had ripped it from its stretcher and rolled up the canvas, shoving all into a box. I was going to send everything to him, but instead the box sat in my closet for over a year. Much later, in a purging mood, I decided to throw out the box. I had forgotten man with drapes was there entombed, and didn’t bother to remove the layers of packing tape securing the carton’s edges. Ultimately, man with drapes met his end in a crappy neighborhood dumpster, and is now lying buried under a trash heap, I presume.
Reckless abandonment of art is a shame, I have learned, because instead of anybody finishing it at all, it winds up finished by a dump truck! This is the only surviving image of that painting left. Le sigh… Original size was 4 ft x 5ft, acrylic on hand-built and -stretched canvas.