There's a lot to be said for contentment. Yet when it comes to my art I am never content. As soon as I figure something out, instead of being satisfied, I am out looking for the next puzzle to solve. And I can't seem to let go of this theme of abstracted landscape, nor do I want to. This puzzle is about the challenge of the elements of composition and color from an intuitive inner landscape that is influenced by the landscape of my home in these mountains.
Landscape has a secret and silent memory, a narrative of presence
where nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
~John O'Donohue~ Anam Cara
This summer I did a total studio clean out and reorganization in preparation for hosting a few private students here in my cozy studio space. Just one of the many benefits of cleaning and reorganizing is finding long forgotten items and seeing their potential relative to your current process of working.
Long before the use of digital photography I kept a tin box as storage for potential reference photos. I organized them into broad categories - water, sky, and trees. Anything else was just dumped into the box.
It's August already! There is something special to me about August and to celebrate I have something special to share with you. (To find out what that is read to the end of this post.) July was a busy month for me in my studio. I am still adjusting to the new routine of having private students one day a week. It is so inspiring to be teaching again, especially such bright and eager learners! And while I have been working out the details of teaching art I have also been exploring working methods for myself, as the process of creating is never stagnant. One solution only leads to more questions, a curiosity that I never seem to satisfy.
I felt I needed to step back from larger works and works on canvas and spend some time in exploration of process. For me that involved working on paper with various mixed water media along with acrylic paint. With each painting I tried a little something different, whether materials or simply the application, I changed something with each one.
I did paint one canvas along with the paper series, however I kept my inspiration the same throughout. My paintings are responses to these Blue Ridge Mountains, the changing color of the undulating landscape, it's foliage, including, of course, the Christmas tree farms dotting the hillsides.
I spent the month of June working with ideas, sketches, color palette, and shapes gathered from our stay at Edisto in May.
I set up a special project for this year's Edisto stay. With a Strathmore 500 series softcover art journal I had a plan to create a kind of resource book that I could reference throughout the year. I had no set goals for what it would include in terms of the type of images, only that I wanted to use it to collect visual impressions of that island environment.
With the goal of two page spreads per day I wanted to completely fill the book during our two week stay, which I did. I used a variety of media for this book, watercolor,watercolor pencils and crayons, graphite, grease pencil, white gouache, and a bit of ink. In places I intentionally left space to paste in small photos once we returned home.
We spent a wonderfully recharging two weeks at our beloved Edisto Island. In order to share all of the images from the trip that I would like, I will divide them into two posts. This first group features plein air watercolor paintings. For these paintings I had with me a 10 x 14 inch Arches watercolor block and a 9 x 12 Kilimanjaro watercolor sketchbook that had only a few pages left unpainted.
The painting above was done at Edisto Beach State Park. Although the campground is still closed due to last fall's hurricane damage the park itself is still a beautifully peaceful place to spend an afternoon.
This is one of the many marsh views from a small park on Jungle Road.
. . . or how my sketchbooks evolve with my art.
Last month I completed ALL of the pages in a 190 page Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook. I had not kept this sort of "studio" sketchbook in a very long time. When I discovered this sketchbook last fall it was in a way like returning home. Although I have been keeping sketchbooks forever I spent many recent years keeping visual journals, where I practiced drawing and painting from life, honing my skills.
And not unlike the way sketches in my visual journals helped me define my representational painting voice, my experiments with abstraction combined with sketchbook explorations helped integrate and define for me a process for developing an abstract visual language. This sketch above was inspiration for the painting below.
Appalachian Spring, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches
(this is one of my favorites from my Mountains Abstracted series)
It's been a while since I got out the watercolors to make a painting. Have I missed painting with watercolors? Probably a little. There is something so satisfying about watching wet pigment spread and mix on the paper's surface. Yet it's a daring adventure too, bordering in the edge of chaos, as you never really know exactly what you'll get. Last week's delightful visit to a nearby farm inspired me to get out my watercolor palette and load up my brushes once again.