Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Work and A Follow Up

Last week, in a flush of inspiration and do-no-wrongism, I finished these two pieces within a half hour. OK, it might have been longer if I allow for fiddling time. But anyway, it was damn quick after these pieces had been kicking around the studio for a while and refusing to cooperate with me.

"In Transition", encaustic and mixed media on panel, 16" x 16", 2010

"Lying Beneath", encaustic and mixed media on panel, 16" x 16", 2010

So I sent images of them off  today to the Lake Oswego Art Show in Oregon that is happening next June. That is a big encaustic show that many members of IEA (International Encaustic Artists) are working on. Somehow they forgot to actually invite me, so the only way I can get in is to be juried in. It would be nice to be in the show because I have some relatives out there that might go to see it as they live nearby.

Along with the two pieces above, I added a diptych that I completed last year. I thought it rounded out the trio.

"Prologue", encaustic and mixed media on two 16" x 16" panels, 2009

A plethora of panels
Yes, it's true that I thought it would be a good idea to make my own painting panels, and I still do, but it turns out that I am a lousy carpenter. My table saw is too feeble for ripping (cutting lengthwise) in a sustained way and I am too unskilled or impatient or something to cut the cradle pieces so that they actually meet up or match up with the plywood on top. So I ordered a big batch of panels in different sizes and brought them up to my studio today. It's so enriching (I mean that I feel rich) to see them stacked there all ready to go, not needing cutting, gluing, sanding, etc, etc. What a relief! So it did cost me, but it was worth it. And to celebrate, I went ahead and started a piece on one of them as soon as I had unloaded everything. It was a pleasure.

No, no, Nanette
If you are a regular reader, perhaps you will remember back in November when I posted the three images of oil paintings that I had submitted to my alma mater, Mass. College of Art, for their auction. The auction is juried and you can submit three images for them to choose from. You blogees seemed to like them and selected your favorite, but unfortunately I learned tonight that the auction jury committee did not agree with you, and they rejected all three. It's never a good feeling to have your work be rejected - even if it's something that you are donating - because it feels like you personally are being rejected. In this case, I had actually thought that I would like to keep these three pieces because I liked two of them and one I wanted to repaint. So it really doesn't matter - except that it does.

These are the two I like.  The first one needs repainting. I hung it in my livingroom and I've been staring at it for months. It's always something.     

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bits and Pieces

No, I'm not still sulking over Martha's loss to the pickup-driving nude model. And neither am I over-bemoaning the opportunity for corporations to assume control over even more of our non-corporate world now that their purse strings can be totally untied to elect whoever or pass whatever serves their beastly interests. Nope. Not me. I'm keeping my mouth shut.

(These are not my lips. Matter of fact, they look kinda like Martha's lips.)

While not talking, I've been spending my time getting my computer cleaned of viruses that I picked up this morning when I was searching online for articles about the history of encaustic. I spent about four hours tonight chatting with the McAfee wiz in India who used Ice Sword software to cut out 9 pop-ups and 2 trojans that invaded my computer in less than two minutes this morning. BEWARE of these pop-ups that claim to be anti-virus software and scream at you that your computer is under attack. (Yes, it is under attack from you, you rotten bastard!) I knew it was fake because I already have McAfee installed and I went right there to stop the nonsense. The question is, why didn't McAfee see these things before I did?

Anyway, for a mere $89.95 and four hours of my time, I was able to watch while Unnikrishnan from McAfee took over my screen and cleaned out all the garbage those things put into my beautiful new computer in the mere two minutes before they were quarantined. If I hadn't caught them when I did and got McAfee to quarantine them, they would have proliferated throughout the whole hard drive. Scary and the first time it's happened to me. So be on the alert about this - but I guess it goes on all the time, just never before to me.

Today was a pretty good day in the studio although I have nothing to post here. I finished my 24"x24" piece for the New England Wax Exquisite Corpse project. This should be something to see when it all comes together. If nothing else, it will be really big.

Then I finished two painting that have been kicking around the studio for months. I worked on and abandoned them last summer, but I didn't strip everything down because there were things I liked about parts of them. They hung on my wall all these months until last week when I decided to give them a go again. I could not decide what to do with them last week no matter how I tried and I painted and scraped until I made myself crazy. Today I just picked up a brush and finished them both within half an hour. Crazy! I'll post pictures next week.

Just for something fun to look at - not mine, obviously, but Matisse's Red Studio.

After that success, I decided to tackle another project that I've had in mind for some time - to build a piece in a drawer taken from one of my mother's end tables. I had already worked on strengthening the drawer to get it ready, but what I had in mind turned into the worst kind of amateurish craft project when I tried to make it happen. Nope. Not gonna work. But not to worry, I have another idea to use the aged book covers that are inspiring this effort. There's always another way and maybe Plan B will work out better.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to Work With Paper

Encaustic painted on paper instead of wooden panels is another of the New England Wax projects we are currently undertaking. (I seem to have signed up for nearly everything - silly me.) This project has some restrictions (which I am choosing to view as guidelines) and it has a theme. The paper is supposed to be 300 lb watercolor paper, the size is 10" x 10", we are supposed to do four pieces and the theme is "Cycles." (The other theme proposed was Bugs. I liked that much better.)

I started right off by deciding to work very differently from the way I usually do and have some fun with ink on the paper.

Between Sea and Sky #1

Confession No. 1: I did not use 300 lb watercolor paper.
I used what I had, which I think was Rives BFK print paper, and I don't know what the weight was. First I cut some paper into 10" x 10" squares and then I messed around with brushes and pens and had a fine time. Then I cut up a bunch of old book pages and stuck them down with encaustic. Then I tore up a bunch of painted paper and stuck it down with encaustic. Then I painted over the ink with encaustic. Then I saw what I had and it was... not good.

Between Sea and Sky #2

Confession No. 2: I had no idea what I was cycling.
Well, I thought, if the whole is not good, maybe it will be good in parts. So I got out my knife and started cutting those 10" x 10" squares into strips. It was fun to arrange them in different sequences and maybe go back to the encaustic and paint a bit and maybe go back to the ink and paint a bit and move them around more.

Between Sea and Sky #3

Confession No. 3: I glued everything down on another piece of paper.
So I had all those strips and had to join them together somehow. First I thought of sewing them together, then I was going to overlay them with a thin piece of paper or cheesecloth. Then I thought of glue. Back to the cutting board I went to make more pieces of BFK, this time 11" x 11" so I could assemble the strips into the required 10" x 10" squares and have some room to overlap and let the glue seep out at the edge.

After I had glued down the four panels (a total of 20 strips), I weighted them down with the several copies of Jansen's History of Art that I keep for that purpose. The panels were mostly flat. I did have several strips that were pretty thick next to some that were pretty thin and this caused some problems, but I weighted them down again and left them overnight.

Between Sea and Sky #4

The next day, I removed the Jansen's and began filling in a few cracks between strips with encaustic. Then came my biggest and most tasking task - discovering the direction in which the panels should be shown and which sequence; I just had to find that Cycle.

I know you will concur that I have discovered the perfect sequence for these panels. I am calling it #1, #2, #3 and #4. Since they contain a lot of blue and white, I am calling them "Between Sea and Sky" and this is a perfect name for all the cycling.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Looking Ahead - Nothing Ghastly, Please!

New England Wax members are undertaking some projects to entertain ourselves and widen our horizons. Rather than work a project with another group as we did with the NEW/IEA Diptych Project of 2008, we're doing it on our own as mini-groups within the larger membership. I have signed up for Paper with Encaustic, Found or Salvaged Metal with Encaustic and Exquisite Corpse with Encaustic. Notice the common thread?

So today I received a jpeg image from Earl Schofield who first suggested and now is organizing our Exquisite Corpse (ExCo) project. Traditionally ExCo is worked on one folded piece of paper so that each participant does not see what came before or just sees the tail end of it so that it so that drawings can be joined. The way our ExCo will work is that Party A (Earl) will send a jpeg to Party B (me) of a work that Party A has completed in encaustic (or encaustic-plus) on a 24"x24" panel. Party B will send a jpeg of her/his own 24"x24" panel to Party C. Party C will send a jpeg to Party D and so on. Ultimately all the panels will be collected in one place and hung together in the order in which they were created.

So essentially you get to see the panel that will be hung on one side of your own panel, but you have no idea what will be on the other side. It could be fun to see how color, surface, texture and technique changes from panel to panel even if everything is abstract, but I'm sure there will be some landscapes or portraits or still lifes in the mix. I just hope that no one is is the mood for traditional ExCo with all those creepy bleeding skulls or bugs or enlarged genitals. Ghastly, I say!

A drawn ExCo and a collaged ExCo. Apparently the ExCo game first began with words and thereby received its name when the sentence "The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine" was created by several game-playing Surrealists who got together to experiment. Another example: "The dormitory of friable little girls puts the odious box right" and "The Senegal oyster will eat the tricolor bread."  These strange combinations demonstrated what Max Ernst called "mental contagion," apparently not a bad thing in his book. Images from

Not to change the subject, but here's the...
Holy moly! ONE day of registration for the encaustic conference and already ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE have signed up! That's incredible! And given the fact that enrollment is capped at 250, looks to me like it's a sellout. Between now and June 11th when the conference begins, there are 146 days. Maybe if only one person a day signs up, it won't reach capacity. (Or 146 more days at 100 people a day = 14,700 attendees. Quick, is Fenway Park available?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Count Down to Registration

A luscious selection of paint, tools, torches, brushes and everything you've always wanted to experiment with at last year's conference just before a demo began. (Photo by Sally Seamans from the conference blogsite)

Can you feel it? The air is starting to tingle as hundreds of rabid (or at least avid) encaustic painters flex their fingers, watch their clocks and GET READY TO REGISTER.

Whoo Hoo! Beginning registration for this year's Annual Encaustic Conference is mere days away on FRIDAY, JANUARY 15TH. Early registration gets you a reduced rate and first choice of the multitude of offerings.

the Hardie Buildiing where most of the talks and demos take place

First, check out the wonderful blogsite where you are sure to begin drooling (or at least salivating) over the magnificent selection of talks, demos, vendors and opportunities to network for several days in the warm and welcoming bosom of the encaustic world.

Next, keep clicking this link starting at midnight on January 14th to see when actual registration starts and you can sign in using the Magic Bright Yellow Box on the page.

Last year the college's new dorms were still under construction, but now they are shiny new and ready for encaustic conference residents.

This is the fourth year of the conference and every year it keeps getting better. The founder and Director of the conference,Joanna Mattera, also author of the encaustic bible, The Art of Encaustic Painting (but you knew that), promises to outdo even the fantastic event she organized last year. So, really, don't miss it and sign up early so you can get a break on the fee and a good shot at taking in the talks and demos you want.

Supria Karmakar, art blogger from Canada, and Joanne Mattera chatting at last year's conference.

I'll be there and talking about the Why, How and Who of Art Blogging. If you've ever wanted to promote your art with a blog, see how easy it can be to set one up and get rolling. You, too, can join the virtual community and share your intimate secrets with an infinite number of strangers across the world.

Scenes from last year:

A happy group of waxers outside the 301 Gallery observing Miles Conrad's window installation

A beautiful Beverly doorway on a side street near the college

Lunch outside - Cid Bolduc (left) and Sue Katz (right) engage in a deep discussion. (apologies to the unidentified gent in the center)

The lovely, personable and talented Kim Bernard at the opening of her show at the college last year. Kim will be teaching during the conference as well as at a three-day post conference session on Exploring Dimensionality.

Greg Wright, winner of the Conference Award at last year's juried show, with one of his amazing paintings. Greg will be teaching a 90-minute demo called Patterned Effects and Visual Texture - a must for those who wonder: How does he do it that?

And last but not least, I was so in tune with the waxy nature of the event last year that a giant bee landed on my shoe while I was having lunch. I think I heard it whisper "Mama" but I could be wrong.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Days Like This

Some days when I'm in the studio I make all the "right" decisions. Things just seem to go smoothly and I'm in the flow of it all, moving toward a conclusion or completion. Other days - such as today - I'm just in my own way and feeling too scattered to get anything done or even make a good start.

On the highway to studio hell (not really)

I began five or six different pieces today and was dissatisfied with all of them. I started building something and put two pieces of wood in the wrong place three different times! All I could do was laugh at myself and be happy that I had noticed before the glue dried and it was too late to move them.

One side wasn't talking to the other - or maybe they were both talking at once.

Days like today used to worry me because I thought I had lost "it" - that magical essence that allowed me to make art. But after many years I know that I was just overtired and unfocused. I started a new job (project) this week that drained my energy and took away too much studio time. And there was my poor brain today - stuck between hemispheres: the left brain being the bookkeeping I've been doing all week and the right brain being me foundering in the studio.

So I just kept going, moving from one thing to another, trying to make a good move. I was working on one of the special projects New England Wax has taken on: using encaustic with paper. I didn't like the size and the paper didn't allow me to work the way I usually do, so I had to invent something new and it just wasn't happening. Finally, when I was just ready to go home, I think I came up with something that had some potential. We'll see.

Some Good News: I was invited to participate in the 5th Annual Encaustic Invitational at the Conrad Wilde Gallery in Tucson, AZ in March. Wouldn't I like to take a trip out there for the opening! March is a great time to leave New England - for any reason, and I'd like the opportunity of visiting Tucson. I hear it's a great place.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Work Continues

The temptation exists to write about the whole resolution thing, the what-I-swear-(until a couple of weeks from now)-I'll-do in this bright new year, etc. I can't tell you how many times I've tried it and given it up as the newly-chosen behavior faded away from my active attention and lost its appeal. Back I was, right in my comfy bad habits until next January 1st arrived and I started resolving again. Anyway, Pam Farrell has already beat me to the punch on the resolution scene, and she's got lots of comments from people (including me) on the same wave length.

Finished today - "All Relative" - encaustic and mixed media on panel, 24" x 24"

However, I do think that reflection, intention and redirection are different from resolutions and part of the considered life. A commitment to making art is certainly choosing a considered life. The thinking part is the heavy lifting of spreading all that paint around.

Detail from "All Relative"

So I'm moving on in my work, continuing with a decision I began implementing in 2008 - to make larger work. Acquiring and then conquering my fear of using a torch (the Fat Boy) was part of that. This is the kind of resolution that makes sense to me. It's one that grew out of my process and that is a logical next step.

The Red Pair - each 24" x 24"

It's true that I had already begun making larger work. I made the work, had a show with it, and it didn't go anywhere. What to do but take a hard look at it and do some re-evaluating. I've decided to get rid of most of it by scraping down the panels so I can reuse them for new work. It's sort of like releasing the balloon on New Year's Eve with all the bad stuff attached. Bye, bye! I'm letting you go to free myself up.

Goodbye to all that - work now destroyed from the Physical Geography show last year

Last year was a hard one for me because I had to face my mother's mortality - and my own. It was very stressful, but that experience gave me a lot of insight into the human condition and some new ideas about ways to make art. I like the direction I'm heading in and have many ideas for new work. AND, I'm writing them down in my notebook/sketchbook so I'll remember them. (That was also a last-year directive to myself.)

I think (hope) I'm finally moving on a path in my work that will lead to a sustained vision. It's been a long time coming, but I think I'm finally seeing the way ahead. I could just break into song - of course it would be the blues.