Returning to the Blog

Wall of Paintings in Progress

It has been quite a while since I last blogged here.  At some point around five years ago, I came to realize that the whole cycle of painting and posting on social media had gotten out of hand — posting for a virtual reaction too soon to properly evaluate my paintings.  I wanted to begin creating again without the pressure of responding to other people’s opinions, so I decided to quit posting my work online for a while.  That while just happened to last a few years longer than I planned.

I’m back now!  I have just redesigned and rebuilt my original blog which already contained 10 years’ worth of posts and pictures, plus I added quite a few new galleries of photos from various art exhibits from Austin, the US, and Europe (with more still to be added as I edit the files).  I’m truly glad to have my blog back.  There’s a lot of good stuff here!  (YMMV).  I do hope you find something of value.

Next, I must get my fine art site and my art shop working…bear with me; it could take a while!

Susannah Coffey at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects

Susanna Coffey – Elemental

Oh, how I wish I could see this show! Susannah Coffey was a professor at my alma mater, and I came this close > || to taking a class with her. It was Figure in the Landscape at Oxbow summer art camp, and she was to co-teach it with Dan Gustin, another great professor, but he showed, and she didn’t.

I did attend at least one self-portrait show of hers during my years in Chicago, and it was amazing. You can see her self-portraits here:

“Steve Locke wrote (from the show’s page below) that, “Coffey is painting a new kind of space… She is painting the interference, the attitudes, the obfuscations between the understanding of the self.“”

If you’re in NY, I hope you get to see the show. If you’re not, some night, indulge in a little sumpin’ and stare at her paintings online.

From Richard Diebenkorn’s “Notes to myself on beginning a painting”

  1. Attempt what is not certain.  Certainty may or may not come later.  It may be a valuable delusion.
  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued–except as a stimulus for further moves.
  3. Do search.  But in order to find other then what is searched for.
  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
  5. Don’t “discover” a subject–of any kind.
  6. Somehow don’t be bored–but if you must, use it in action.  Use its destructive potential.
  7. Mistakes can’t be erased, but they can move you from your present position.
  8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

from “The Art of Richard Diebenkorn” by Jane Livingston, page 115.

Art Crits

I had a great crit with artist friends yesterday.  There are 3 of us who have been meeting every few months for several years, but we hadn’t been able to meet in about a year-and-a-half.  It was so wonderful to get together again and see the major strides we’ve all made in that time.

Our work is so different from each other!  One artist’s work is figurative and all about ideas, with social commentary and great humor.  She’s working in collages and prints a lot right now and has a piece in this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.  Her work keeps maturing and the printmaking aspects are so beautiful: the textures, the colors, the delightful offbeat compositions, and imagery.  So good!

My other friend’s work has generally focused on the sky: clouds and landscapes, and he paints in an Old Masters style with layers and layers of glazes.  The finishes on his paintings are incredible.  His new work is a real departure from the work he is known for: he wants to get away from referencing the Old Masters by working more alla prima, in deeper hues emphasizing the bowl of the sky as one looks directly up, with bits of buildings or trees in silhouette around the edges.  I love the abstract shapes of the silhouetted bits.  I’m very excited by his new direction and look forward to seeing it develop as he works bigger again.

They haven’t seen my new work before, and I’m thrilled to say, they both feel I’m really onto something here.  In this work, I wanted to get away from the potential boredom of circles I was stuck on for a while.  I am aiming to push the compositions to the edges, beyond that center space I had become too comfortable with, which had become too static and predictable.

I am trying to create shapes that are made of more-or-less singular brushstrokes so that the shape and the brushstroke are one.  I’m also pushing the colors more than I have — sometimes in softer directions, sometimes harsher; more discordant or more harmonious, sometimes darker or lighter; all while trying to use only 6 or 8 tube colors.  These works are in acrylic as well, the medium with which I am least experienced and least comfortable.  🙂

And finally, as one of my friends noted, the move back from square to rectangular canvases seems to give a better arena for good compositions to happen.  Both of my friends had some great notions about how to proceed on a large piece I got stuck on before being distracted by all the remodeling efforts.

I really value my art crits with these great artists and even greater friends.  I always learn so much from their very different perspectives.

One thing I learned yesterday is that I cannot simply make a large painting of a smaller study, as my process is one of discovery, in which this bit of paint is on top of that bit of paint, and much of the beauty of the final piece has to do with the layers of history in the painting that, while you may not see all of them once the work is “done,” all previous bits still add so much to the overall piece.  Trying to blow it up bigger only makes for a facile painting — too easy with no struggle and no discovery.

Do you have crits with artists in your area?  How valuable do you find them?

What Does Paint Do?

Alan Gouk Laughing Torso, 2010-11 oil on canvas, 71 x 112 cm

I’m really enjoying the essays of Robin Greenwood.  This one awakened something in my brain that I think has been asleep since art school!  Not sure if I agree with it all, but it’s exciting (to me) to contemplate these thoughts, as well as the rest of the essay and subsequent comments.

“What’s missing from this, what makes it a defective raison-d’être of painting, is the recognition that paint can carry more potency and meaning through its use as a designator and articulator of form and space than it can by any literal demonstration of its real-world properties. To suggest that the literal ‘materiality’ of paint – or indeed the process of applying it as a performance – is truer to painting than the fullest, richest fulfilment of its potential as an illusionistic medium is to belittle and falsify it. Such a philosophy of painting (for such it is) exhibits a failure to recognise that the meaning in abstract art is not what it is, but what it does. Herein is both enigma and illusion, since what abstract art precisely does cannot be easily described verbally (if at all, and there would be little point to it if it were otherwise), and all painting contains illusion; all good painting contains a convincing matrix of illusion. Every mark on a two-dimensional surface creates an illusionistic (re)presentation of space. With figurative painting, no problem; but how do we reconcile illusion with being abstract?”

Read the whole essay at Abstract/Critical.

A Change in Direction…Three New Still Life Paintings

"Squidward Tentacles" Oil on canvas 6x6 inches © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
“Squidward Tentacles” Oil on canvas 6×6 inches © 2011 Marilyn Fenn

It’s been at least a decade since I painted any representational still life paintings.  I thought I had perhaps gotten past painting still lifes in favor of abstraction, but have recently found myself wanting to work perceptually again, only this time, with any luck (or should I say, with the development of skill), in a looser, more painterly way.

Here are the first three perceptual still life paintings I’ve done this century: Spongebob Squarepants was the first and is still a bit tight, then I painted Patrick Star and Squidward Tentacles.  I think they came out pretty well.  These are, of course, based on small plastic figurines of these characters.

Spongebob Squarepants | Oil on canvas | 6 x 6 inches | © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
Spongebob Squarepants | Oil on canvas | 6 x 6 inches | © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
Patrick Star | Oil on canvas | 6 x 6 inches | © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
Patrick Star | Oil on canvas | 6 x 6 inches | © 2011 Marilyn Fenn

I’m really enjoying working this way again, and hope to do more or less daily paintings if I can.  The intervening decade of pushing myself further toward abstraction has been a very interesting journey so far.  I plan to continue working abstractly as well doing the small still lifes; I don’t know yet if I will be doing both simultaneously or if I will do the still lifes for a while and then pick back up with the abstracts.  Stay tuned.

I’m Drawing, I’m Drawing Again

Drawing Media

I sure do love to draw!  There’s something about the act of drawing that’s so immediate, intentional and strong.  My urge to draw has been just huge for the past couple of years, and I’ve mostly satisfied it through sketching, or drawing with water soluble pastels or water soluble pencils which I then brush with water to make little painting-sketches.  Lately, though, I’ve been finding ways to introduce drawing into my painting process (again).

Today I’m starting a new painting which I began by drawing in some basic shapes with pastel, then adding a bit of oil medium, then some thin paint; now I’m working some oil pastel and oil sticks into the mix.  It seems to be going fast, though my plan is for many layers, hopefully creating a glorious texture, surface and image in the process.

No pictures of the work today; I will post some of today’s painting if and when it evolves into something I am proud of.

In the meantime, enjoy your holiday weekend; I am (doing my favorite thing—drawing and painting).