New Painting: Trial Separation

"Trial Separation" Oil on canvas 12" x 12" © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
“Trial Separation” Oil on canvas 12″ x 12″ © 2011 Marilyn Fenn

I have a few paintings from a couple years ago that never really worked, so I painted over one of them a couple months ago, but never got it to a finishing point.  Last week, I reworked the painting one more time.  It’s a bit rough and looks slightly different and much better from a distance, so I may either re-work it (again) or paint what I like from it in a larger more intentional work.  However, some of my friends like it just like it is, so I have decided to live with it for a bit first.

New Painting: It’s Awash

"It's Awash" Oil on canvas 12" x 12" © 2011 Marilyn Fenn

I love how the visual ideas one entertains in the course of being an artist may lay dormant for a time, and then return as a nice surprise.  🙂

Last Wednesday night, with a head full of visual ideas, I entered the studio and started trying to get those ideas out on canvas.  This is the first of 3 paintings I did in less than 24 hours.  While this is not exactly what I envisioned I would be creating, so far, I’m very happy with the direction.

Painting abstractly, or non-objectively, is a much more intuitive process for me than the planned paintings from life.  I start with some loose ideas for shapes, colors, and composition, begin adding some patches of paint, and then follow the brushes to see where they lead.  In this case, they led back to some similar imagery I was exploring 2 years ago (see “Alien Kitchen” and Twenty-Sixth Day Plus 100″ from the Hot Hot Summer series of Works on Paper).

I don’t think these paintings would have taken shape the way they did were it not also for my 2-month excursion back into representational paintings.  I learned a lot from seriously concentrating on making brushstrokes (and I still have a lot left to learn), but I was champing at the bit to get back to abstraction.  In just over 4 days, I’ve now created seven new small abstract paintings and started a couple of others.  I’ll be posting one a day unless something (like work, illness or social life) causes me to take a break.

I intend to continue painting my new abstracts alla prima, or “all at once,” as I did with most of my recent still life paintings.  What this means is the painting is started and finished in one painting session, while the paint is still wet.  It lends a freshness to the work, in that my visual ideas of that day are transmitted to the painting in that session, but more importantly—at least when working in oil—the paints and paint strokes flow very well into, over, around, and through all the other paint strokes on the canvas.  The other main option is to work in layers (“indirect painting”), where new paint is laid down over dry paint from a previous session, rather than becoming physically integrated with the earlier applications of paint.  Plenty of artists work by painting in layers, and it’s an equally valid way of working, but alla prima is my preference.

New Painting: “I Got My Easter Egg!”

"I Got my Easter Egg!" - Organics Sketch 23 Watercolor crayons on Stonehenge paper 7.5" x 7.5" © 2011 Marilyn Fenn
“I Got my Easter Egg!” – Organics Sketch 23 Watercolor crayons on Stonehenge paper 7.5″ x 7.5″ © 2011 Marilyn Fenn

The title of this painting is from one of my favorite stories about my husband.  At his first Easter egg hunt, being quite little and new to this tradition, he found his first egg and declared, “I got my Easter egg!”  He didn’t realize he was supposed to keep looking to acquire yet more eggs.  This story is illustrative of the kind of person he is: never greedy, and always satisfied with just enough.  🙂

The Challenge of Becoming a Non-Representational Painter

"State of Mind" Oil on Canvas 16" x 12" © 2009 Marilyn Fenn (work in progress)
“State of Mind” Oil on Canvas 16″ x 12″ © 2009 Marilyn Fenn (work in progress)

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. – Jonathan Swift

Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. – Josef Albers

I am getting very excited about my upcoming solo show. I’m painting like mad, and I’m beginning to be very happy with some of the results. I think I may just have a future in this wonderful world of painting!

Continue reading “The Challenge of Becoming a Non-Representational Painter”

Looking Back at 2008

Looking Back at 2008

This is that time of year when I think it’s natural for us to look back and see what we accomplished (so we’ll know what to focus on next year, and what to pat ourselves on the back for). This has been a really good year for me, artwise, and I think–even with this sucky economy–it’s only going to get better. Call it faith, call it hope, call it what you will. It’s a great feeling that has eluded me for far too long, so I hope to hang on to this feeling.


This year I painted about 50 paintings — which for me is a lot, as I also freelance as a designer/illustrator, and my clients have kept me very busy for the past few years!


I began the year with the small 12″x12″ succession paintings, in oil (back to my old favorite), in which each new painting evolves from the edge of the previous painting. These 20 paintings constitute one large–60″x48″–piece, which you can see here. You can read about the 7-month process beginning here (all links in this post open in the same new window or tab).


A few pieces I painted for the succession series didn’t make the cut, but may go into another multi-panel series. I also did another 24″x24″ oil painting, which was a bit of an experiment, though I’m thinking of working on it some more — there are a few areas I feel I’ve never resolved to my satisfaction. Also began about 3-4 other related works.


In May, I did a couple of 5″x7″ acrylic paintings to donate to the 5×7 Show at the Arthouse, seen above. 


Just before I finished the Succession series in July, I whipped out the ten blue encaustic paintings, some of which are here.


At this point, I still wanted to paint fast, as one does with encaustic, but with more control, as with oil paint. So I started working on a 36″x36″ canvas in acrylic. Yowza! It felt great! I was very energized by the speedy process, and pretty happy with the result. So I did eight more over the next few weeks, and two more within the next couple of months. Woo-hoo! And there are actually several more that I’ve started but haven’t completed yet.


Well, I tried to do five little (6″x6″ and 5″x7″) paintings on the train to LA, which I am reworking now that I’m back on steady land. Here is the first one completed.


2008 Exhibits


    • I began this year working with four other Austin artists to prepare for a group show we had planned for October in Fort Worth. If you’ve done a show, you know how this goes. We met monthly, we had to figure the dimensions of the gallery space, how many paintings of what size would fit and look good in the space, how our diverse works could be made to look good together, and come up with not just our paintings for the show, but also postcards, press releases, statements, resumes, price lists, guestbook, images, etc. It is a great idea to start a year ahead of time when you’re planning a large show like this. We did well in our planning and execution; the show looked great, and the only downside was that the date of our opening coincided with the largest to date drop in the stock market. So here’s my list of exhibitions for the year:

    • 5×7 2008 AT THE ARTHOUSE

The 5×7 show at the Arthouse had a happening opening in May (view pics here).


I was invited to participate in the Texas Kaos/Netroots Nation After Party and Art Exhibit at Bay6 Gallery and Studios–political art for a political conference. My pieces went over very well with the Netroots Nation crowd. You can view pics of the opening here.


In August, I showed many of my ten new encaustics works in a show of Texas Wax Artists at Jerry’s Artarama.


For the month of October, the Real and Imagined show mentioned above was on display at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in Ft. Worth. Pics here.


Also in October, one of my new acrylic paintings was selected to be in the AVAA 2D Works Exhibit at ABIA (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport). It will continue to be on display until the end of January 2009.


View the pics of the November opening of works by Texas Wax artists here.


My last show of the year, the East Austin Studio Tour, during which I open my home and studio for art lovers to view my art…me and 200 other artists on the East side of town, that is. You can see pics of my open house here.


Looks like a lot; feels like too little.

  • Austin Art Start and Metrohouse: Artist Talk by Andrew Long, Steven Dubov, Roi James
  • “20 To Watch” at Austin Museum of Art
  • “Double Identity: Works by Andrew Long and Michael Long” at the Dougherty Arts Center
  • “Fresh Hell” by Susannah Blanton at Bay6 Gallery and Studios
  • “Big Head” Liz Penniman and Sharon Kyle Kuhn at Bay6 Gallery and Studios
  • “Phoenix: Rising from the Ashes” at Studio2 Gallery
  • “Marcel Duchamp Redux” at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
  • “On the Enlightened Path: Jain Art from India” at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
  • “Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image” at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
  • “Under the Influence: Art-Inspired Art” at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
  • “The Art of War: American Posters from World War I and World War II” at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
  • “Cut: Makings of Removal” at the Vincent Price Museum, East Los Angeles College
  • “Oranges and Sardines” at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
  • “Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now” at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
  • Aaron Curry at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles


  • Sold more original paintings than during any previous year(!)
  • Helped organize group show “Real and Imagined”
  • Designed and printed postcard for “Real and Imagined”
  • Designed and printed several new business cards
  • Joined Texas Wax Austin group of very cool encaustic artists
  • Organized my art “brag book”
  • Rewrote my artist statement and bio…twice
  • Updated my website on a regular basis; redesigned it a little. Streamlined it a bit.
  • Added a News Archive to my website.
  • Created an Etsy shop for some of my paintings (now closed).
  • Compiled my two art blogs into one, and renamed them (this one).
  • Added a billion networking gizmos to my blog; still evaluating which ones to keep.
  • Joined Facebook and Twitter.