Lately I find myself asking why keep a sketchbook? My work has changed, evolved, over the past year and I sometimes wonder whether a sketchbook is still relevant to my creative process. When I painted from a representational perspective my sketchbooks served as a visual journal keeping my observational skills sharp. However, now that I am painting from a more intuitive place, where does a sketchbook fit in to my studio practice? To address these questions I took a quick tour of my more recent sketchbooks to see if I could identify what value they hold for my art making.
For some time now my method for working on paintings has been to allow the composition to develop intuitively on the canvas. Choices of color happen naturally as well, perhaps influenced by the color of the season or even just the weather that day. And what has been happening in these compositions are vague references to landscape, particularly mountainous landscapes. At the outset of this exploration into abstraction I attributed this to my many years of living in these mountains and that these land forms have crept into my visual vocabulary. Now I am beginning to wonder if it doesn’t go even deeper than that. Perhaps it’s in my DNA.
I began the month of October with the goal of completing a series of small abstract paintings that celebrate the color and texture of Autumn. I also had in mind to experiment with process.
After a base coat from my "gray jar" onto the six 8 x 8 inch panels, I then applied vibrant color to serve as a contrast for further layers.
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.