River Dogs

River Dogs. Acrylic on canvas. 14" x 11"
River Dogs. Acrylic on canvas. 14″ x 11″

My parents have always raised Golden Retrievers as family pets, pretty much becoming third and fourth children. In our family, they are hunters, rough-housers, mattress hogs, spoiled brats, and friends.

Painting from a photograph on this one, but trying to keep it as lively as possible with light, natural color quality and vibrating brushwork. I started with a pastel lavender under-painting and I’m slowly building up the other colors around it. Water is always challenging, but a great exercise in color and motion.

“Wild Things” to “Lisa Frank-enstein” – Dynamo II: The Epic Journey

Dynamo II. Acrylic, charcoal, aquarelle, collage on canvas. 36" x 60"
Dynamo II. Acrylic, charcoal, aquarelle, collage on canvas. 36″ x 60″

Migration, exchange, transformation, and natural cycles all take central roles in this new large piece I just finished. I’m feeling good about the final composition/content, which seems to be a sort of “Lisa Frank-enstein” multi-phased inner tube journey through dream territory, symbolism, and imagination. The loon and the salmon both make epic journeys during their lifetimes, interacting in a larger wheel that mills out change, promotes adaptation and learning.

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Dynamo I: All My Relations

Dynamo I (All My Relations). Acrylic, charcoal, ink, collage on canvas. 36" x 36"

Here is where I’m leaving this painting for now. Dynamo I is the first stage of a three stage project I’m doing on large canvases that emphasize nature, color, and increasingly concerned with the concept of “energy exchange” – in natural systems and in organism interactions. There is a little bit of my bio-nerd coming out in this theme … It’s fascinating to observe the world this way and to recreate the exchange of energy in the act of painting, which is itself a form of exchange and re-genesis.

Why “dynamo?” Strictly speaking, “dynamo” indicates a generator of some sort, which converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. I once came across this word in a short story, used to describe a dark forest ravine. I never got away from the imagery of this ravine filled with the energy of frog croaks, insect whirrrs, leaves rustling, water flowing etc. Earth/Nature as limitless battery, endless potential for conversion, transformation and sadly, exploitation …

I finally put the “legs” on this painting last night, which means I painted the canvas sides, and I’m ready to table it for now and see where the next two canvases go before I decide that it’s work ready to show. That being said, it’s neat how complete the piece feels when the sides are actually filled in … :)

Dynamo Closeups

Just a couple quick photos from painting session a few nights ago. The sheen from my acrylic extending medium gives some unexpectedly rad effects on collaged cutout embellishments … Qué rico … Publishing from phone for first time … XD

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Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis

Scaturiginichthys vermeillipinnis. Mechanical pencil, colored pencil, gel pen on card stock. 5.5" x 4.25"
Scaturiginichthys vermeillipinnis. Mechanical pencil, colored pencil, gel pen on card stock. 5.5″ x 4.25″

The Red-Finned Blue Eye, one of the most threatened species on the planet, inhabits just four springs in Australia and is preyed upon by invasive species. It was discovered and described in 1990. There may be only a few thousand individuals surviving today.

Made this post card to participate in the Wet Paint Summer Post Card Project.

A Total Ecology of Painting

Work in progress. Acrylic, charcoal, compressed ink on canvas. 48" x 48"
Work in progress. Acrylic, charcoal, compressed ink, aquarelle on canvas. 48″ x 48″

“Wandering” / “Exploring” / “Essaying” / “Probing” … These are just a few ways I could characterize my approach to painting, especially when working in a relatively larger format. I don’t rely on a lot of planning but rather sort of let my process guide me through the work. In this piece, there are several overlapping sketches and paintings … you can see the initial stages in my previous post “About: Color.” I work through these quickly at first and then slowly consider what is emerging, making decisions on the fly. In this way, the different levels of the painting tend to merge and present themselves all at once, which for me is a potent way of tying time together and presenting this work as an idea/process that may suggest something pointed or simply observe in a non-linear fashion. I often feel my role in a painting, and certainly in large works that fill my entire scope of vision, is that of the explorer, as ready to discover as I am to make formal decisions about the direction of the piece. Central to the way I work – and to the practice of painting itself – is the idea that whatever happens remains visible … Decisions made in the past remain in existence and are presented all at once to the viewer, which separates painting from most sculpture, video, performance, etc.
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Color Calisthenics no. 2 / Zamioculcas zamiifolia

Color Calisthenics no. 2. One hour color study of Zamioculcas zamiifolia houseplant. Concentrated ink stick, aquarelle, acrylic on mixed media paper.
Color Calisthenics no. 2. One hour color study of Zamioculcas zamiifolia houseplant. Concentrated ink stick, aquarelle, acrylic on mixed media paper.

Continuation of series of color “calisthenic” exercises. Finding it easy and freeing to refuse commitment and have fun with the possibilities. Focus of work here is exaggerating unlikely colors perceived in the subject and extending their range using wide artistic license and some imagination. Trying not to get too hung up on details, suppressing analytic sensibilities while working the surface. Side note: Zz plant is toxic to kitties meow.
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Color Calisthenics

Color Calisthenics no. 1. Acrylic, aquarelle, ink on mixed media paper
Color Calisthenics no. 1. Acrylic, aquarelle, ink on mixed media paper. 40-minute exercise.

An artist friend, Anna, told me – making resolute eye contact – that I need to electrify the apparently drab color palette I have allowed myself to succumb to. We were having an “art day,” which means we get together on her covered patio with Molly, her incredibly cute dog, chat for awhile, have a coffee, spend way too long getting our works space and materials set up, and try our damndest to advance our current projects while sort of cheering each other on. Anna was flinging colors around on a silk canvas in wide bars so vivid you could have mistaken it for a black-light luminescence poster we all know from our teenage years or stoner friends. I, five feet away, was scribbling blue ink into a tiny patch of bare canvas and diluting it with medium-heavy titanium white, carefully planning which color will come next, wincing at the surface like a math problem. I wasn’t having any fun with that, and predictably, I found myself staring at the colors an hour later and wondering how I had come up with such a stereotypical, elementary pairing of orange and blue without much else going on. Anna was right, I think, as she hands me a white wine spritzer (choice Art Day drink – or we are just women-around-thirty). My color capabilities have become flabby. Glug.
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Art and Kung Fu … Tiger Style! (Rawr!)

Tiger Claw
Charcoal and conte crayon on Strathmore drawing paper. 14 x 17 inches

“The Year of the Hobbyist” – a personal auto-characterization of my last approximately twelve months. My sister has made plenty of snarky comments about the several pass-times I have picked up and tried to juggle, not without mocking for the ones I have let fall into the dirt. She’s right, though … I recently bought a guitar and I was good about breaking into it, practicing for the first few weeks, only now for the last several months it has been leaning against my living room wall like another still tableau instead of an instrument. I purchased a French-made tagine with (feebly sated) ambitions for Moroccan cooking, a fishing pole hungry for more fish, running shoes that could at this point have seen a little more pavement, and a small fish tank with five tiny tropical fish (to whom I will say I am hopelessly devoted). However, one new thing in my life that has persisted is kung fu. Today, after nearly one and a quarter years training at the local dojang, I am fairly obsessed with it.

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Des couleurs, des corbeaux

Color and form progression
Color and form progression

In my relationship to color, I have never been careful.

I’ve just arrived at the end of my next session on this painting, and I can see some rudimentary color “themes” coming forward and some birdlike things happening with form. I began developing the color fields and establishing the noisy, frenetic lines of the tree branches – the painting has begun to take on a more significant weight. The experimentation with hue usually takes place right on the surface of the canvas, and if I don’t like what is happening, I treat it as a challenge that must somehow be incorporated or subordinated.
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About: Color

Initial color progressions
Initial color progressions

Starting a new painting is exciting. There are so many possibilities to consider, and watching where the piece begins to move, stepping back every twenty or so minutes, helps decide whether the formal decisions are beneficial or useless. The composition of this piece comes from a photograph I took in a friend’s backyard after I helped him dig a ditch for a French drain at his new house. I was exhausted and sweating, and looked up to see sun filtering through the changing leaves of Minnesota’s autumn. I snapped a quick picture and translated the tree forms onto this square canvas.

My formal goal with this piece is only to explore the possibilities of color, starting with stark fields in a slightly geometric formation, and build them slowly to maximize subtleties. I have a lot of ideas for how to proceed as the colors develop, but for now I’m enjoying the simple rapports between the hues and tones cutting up the white space.

White space can be intriguing in its absence (as I wrote in my last post) however when I start again with a solid idea, it’s a race to get rid of it, to fill up that void with something physical, workable, without destroying the potential of the surface. The image is taking form and life and breathing all that open, white air to begin its own progress towards something unique in its own. The artist is the image’s careful guide, in this case.