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?

Finally, a New Painting!

Composition Number 10 2013 Acrylic on panel 9x12 inches copyright 2013 Marilyn Fenn
“Composition #10, 2013″ Acrylic on Panel 9″ x 12” © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

It seems that there will just be times when life gets in the way of creativity.  🙁

My past two months have been full of all kinds of activity — too little of which has been painting, but I finally cleared out my schedule and the studio enough on Sunday to get back in there and paint, and man, does it feel good.

The painting I spent the most time working on Sunday afternoon is still a mess.  I think perhaps some canvases are just cursed, as that one has been ~20 different paintings over the past few months, and I’ve not been happy with any of them!

This one, on the other hand, came together fairly quickly and directly.  I may do a tad more to it; haven’t decided yet, but I can say I’m fairly happy with most parts of it, and with the whole.  Yay!

“It’s Spring!”

"It's Spring!* Watercolor and ink on Portofino paper 6" x 6" © 2013 Marilyn Fenn
“It’s Spring!” Watercolor on Portofino paper 6″ x 6” © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

I usually consider that spring has arrived when our neighbor’s gorgeous saucer magnolia tree blooms, and that happened about February 7th this year — a bit early, I think.  That’s also usually the same time that the redbuds start to bloom, and they bloomed beautifully, but now the blooms are gone.  I didn’t even take any pictures of those this year, for no good reason(!).

But it has seemed to be cooler this spring than other years of late, and I know some of you have still been getting some snow!  So, in celebration of a gorgeous spring for everyone (in this hemisphere), here’s another new painting.

60th Painting of the Year

“Not-So-Daily Painting 2013-60” Watercolor on Portofino paper 6″ x 6” © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

OK, so most of them are small or very small little watercolors on paper.  I am trying to do one every day, but sometimes, the larger works (and life, too) consume me completely.  Still, I find doing one of these almost every day to be a very good exercise.  I have to keep finding new images, new arrangements, new palette choices to put on paper.  Invention happens.  🙂

Start of a New Series: “Fragments”

"Fragments 001" Oil on canvas 5" x 7" © 2013 Marilyn Fenn
“Fragments 001″ Oil on canvas 5″ x 7” © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

This year (so far), I am experimenting with lots of ways of finding images and lots of ways of painting them.

This is the first of my “Fragments” series — favorite snippets from larger works repainted on smaller canvases.  I think I prefer this in the horizontal orientation.  They look like snuggling friends to me (I see lots of characters in my abstract paintings.  Do you?).  What I was exploring here was painting in very thick paint over previous layers of thick paint in different colors.  I still like it better in the larger painting this was drawn from (“Comin’ Through!”), as I think some even cooler brush accidents happened in that one, but this one is sweet, too.

New Watercolor: “Splat!”

"Splat!" Watercolor and gouache on Sennelier cold-press watercolor paper 12" x 12" © 2013 Marilyn Fenn
“Splat!” Watercolor and gouache on Sennelier cold-press watercolor paper 12″ x 12″ © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

I thought I’d try out the Sennelier watercolor block I discovered the other day buried in my studio.  Watercolor is a medium I’m not terribly familiar with.  I did maybe 10-12 large watercolor still lifes back in the late ’80s, but otherwise, I have mostly avoided it — except for small watercolor pencil drawings (paintings?) over the last few years — until just a few weeks ago.

This time, I soaked the paper pretty thoroughly, taped it down, and started to paint.  Hours later, the paper was still mostly wet, and the colors were still bleeding.  So, this is messier than I’m completely comfortable with, but there it is, FWIW.

They Can’t All Be Perfect

"Wheeeee!" - Watercolor and gouache on heavy Raffine paper - 5.25" x 5.5" - © 2013 Marilyn Fenn
“Wheeeee!” Watercolor and gouache on heavy Raffine paper 5.25″ x 5.5″ © 2013 Marilyn Fenn

From earlier this month — I almost had to throw this one away, but I think I more or less saved this watercolor with the judicious addition of a bit of gouache…and more stuff!