Here’s a link to the video that Stan Bowman made for the exhibit Turning Points at the State of the Art Gallery, where I am currently showing my paintings.
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The euphoria over “finishing” the Jillian portrait was short lived. No sooner did it go on the wall than I saw a glaring flaw in what had been, moments before, the triumphant solution to the problem of the cheek in shadow. It needed a coming forward color – warmer in hue and lighter in value than the surrounding cheek in shadow, but still darker and cooler than the illuminated cheek, and still being close enough to all the other colors so that it looks like the same person on both sides of the face. This patch of paint did not fit those requirements, and in fact looked like a patch of paint, lovely in itself, but not this person’s skin. . You may wonder if I think like this when I am mixing color. Not on your life. That is way too complicated and way too right brained. I may know this technical stuff about color before I paint, and after I paint, but while I am painting it is all happening in another part of the brain unconnected to words. That’s why there is such a need for total involvement in the painting process and reflection after the painting process. Seeing the painting in another location, for me, does the trick; although sometimes, it also needs the element of time, gazing at other paintings, and a fresh start on some other painting. So, on to another painting. The tedious endless casting about for what to paint. Of course, there is a pretty long list of images in my mind that I intend to get to, and actually, two faces that I stretched canvases for, and yet my wayward mind is now yearning for a completely different type of subject. The problems of the face seem insurmountable today and suddenly I have a yen for the figure in an interior, or a grouping of multiple figures. Back to my camera and I take photos of Andrejs fixing a bicycle tire in the sunlit dining room. Another wad of time also spent in searching my recent images. Non of these appealing images yields a composition in a proportion matching existing canvases, so I would have to find stretchers, cut canvas, staple, apply gesso, coat with a toned ground – I wouldn’t be painting for days. Ridiculous. But, such is the wayward mind. Then I get a desire to do some pen and ink wash studies. That leads to an argument with myself about what kind of paper to work on. Another dead end. At least I am not baking a cake or cleaning the kitchen in order to procrastinate. So, back to the original images that were lined up with canvases prepared for them.One good byproduct of this indecisive casting about is that I have a work plan for the next set of paintings, and will be able to prepare the canvases in between painting sessions. So I start Susan at McCormick & Schmicks. I have put this portrait off for a long time and it is with some trepidation that I embark on it. Two days later, I have scraped her face for the second time, still need to adjust the alignment and placing of the features, but I understand something about the modeling of the cheek in shadow. The same blue, red, yellow and white, in different proportions, with a rich intensity and deep value, suddenly bounce off of each other. and create an exciting dimensionality. Thomas Dewey really had a good idea when he urged teachers to let kids learn by doing. I mucked about with color and had an important breakthrough in understanding. Along the way I also reinforced something that I believe about learning. I suppose someone could have told me about swinging the blue/ yellow continuum in an extravagant manner around the red axis, but it might not have led to being able to do it. And of course,right now there is no guarantee that I can do it again. So, back to some repeated practice.
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Andrejs and I spent a couple of days in Washington DC, It was good to leave the studio and get out of my own head – to recharge my batteries so to speak. The goal of the trip was to see the Diebenkorn retrospective at the Corcoran which will close very soon, but side benefits were a great George Bellows retrospective at the National Gallery, and several hours at the National Portrait Gallery.
Bellows’ work at the National Gallery was extensive, and included his early works, and portraits. I had not known the full range of his work:. New York harbor scenes, and the excavation of Grand Central Station, compositions of massive forms, a study in scale; NYC crowds and mischievous street urchins; sedate traditional portraits – from the painter of bloody boxing scenes?
The Diebenkorn collection was impressive. There were a tremendous number of paintings, drawings and prints, ranging from huge to tiny. They were equally impressive in whatever medium or size. It is one thing to see paintings in books or on the web, another experience entirely in person.
After a couple of hours in the National Portrait gallery and American Museum I begin to understand and appreciate the tremendous range of choices that artists have today. I browsed room after room of portraits that, with minor variations, pretty much had the same range of tone and color, and the same three quarters (7/8?) perspective. Then in the late 19th and early 20th C there was an explosion of different styles, choices of color, ways of breaking up the space.
Back at home again, and ready to face the impasse with the Jillian portrait. Suddenly it is clear what color needs to surround the eyes, how the tone in the dark side of the face needs to deepen. The joy of getting close to the resolution of a painting, Then, the question of what to do next.
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I am at the gallery this afternoon, until 2:30. It is quiet and peaceful after the crowds and noise last night. What a gratifying turnout. I didn’t have even a minute between conversations as old friends and new came in. I am so grateful for all the work my fellow members of the gallery did to help produce this show. Some people I want to thank are Diane and Alyssa Newton for the work on the card and poster, and publicity. Sheryl Sincow also helped with publicity. Thank you to The Hanging Crew – Eva Capobianco, Patty Porter, Marian Van Soest, James Spitznagel, Margie Nelson, Jane Dennis, Ilene Kaplan for doing such a great job of making everything look so good. It was quite a busy crowd, and I am afraid I might be leaving someone out. On the night of the reception, the reception committee did a great job of providing the punch and snacks – and I have to confess that aside from Terry Plater and Jane Dennis (who was pinch hitting) during the second shift, and Gurden Brewster at the desk, I am not sure who helped out in the early shift, having run in, late and frazzled, after a somewhat frustrating tick removal detour. Patty Porter and Diane Newton surprised us with the beautiful flower arrangement that graces the desk. I also want to thank Marian Van Soest for her collaboration and helpful critique of the portraits. I am also grateful for my husband Andrejs who keeps me sane during hectic times, does the photographing of paintings, built this web site and introduced me to blogging, and much more.
Anyway, thanks to every one who made this show possible. Pulling a show together at a great gallery like this requires so many people doing important but often unseen tasks besides just the work that the painter does by painting.
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The show is up and ready to be seen. I spent some time at the gallery last night, watching the experts decide where each painting should go, and learning a little from them about how to make those decisions. That is a skill that is beyond me at this time. The hanging crew, meanwhile, was busy milling around in the background, taking out the hangers and nails left in the wall from the last show, spackling the holes smooth again, and taping up the string that marks the viewing line, which becomes the mid-point of each painting. Some day I will learn how to be a useful part of that job, but for now, I left before they got underway with the hanging, so I wouldn’t be in the way. I haven’t personally been there yet to see the results of the hanging crew’s hard labor, but I hear from Marian that it looks great.
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